adCenter Search Partner Quality: Why You Might Be Wasting Money

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November was going great for my account. Leads in adCenter had doubled in the last month and since the CPC is much lower than AdWords, our cost per leads was significantly below goal. It seemed too good to be true… and it was. About half way through the month, the client reached out to tell me something very strange was happening with their Bing leads. When the sales team would call the phone numbers listed, one of 2 things would happen:

  1. The phone number was accurate, but no one by the name on the form lived there.
  2. The name and number were accurate, but that person had never submitted their information to the site.

Some “bad” leads are expected, with people submitting false information, but this was more than a rare occurrence. About 10 of these types of leads were coming in each day. Luckily, the client was able to track these leads back to the source: Bing Search Partners.

I’d never really given much thought to Bing’s Search Partners before, but I quickly reached out to our rep to see what was going on. They mentioned they’d been having some issues with click fraud but that was in the education industry. But this was more than click fraud, this was lead fraud!

I decided to dig deeper into the issue myself and ran a publisher performance report for October and November. What I saw was very disheartening:

Bing Search Partner LeadsNot only had the number of leads from search partners more than doubled from October to November, but they were making up the bulk of total leads, up to 90%! They were also incredibly cheap, so the main reason our cost per lead was looking so great in November.

So what did we do to correct this problem? Initially I would have the client send me a list of all of the referral sites for the bad leads. I would pass these along to our rep who would block our ads from showing on these sites. After 2 weeks though, there were so many bad referral sites coming through that we turned off search partners completely.

I reached out the Bing rep for more information about search partners and this was what I was told:

Our partner networks are very dynamic.  Daily we add and remove partners and those partners are adding and removing sites from their networks daily as well.  As a result, the sites your ads serve on across the networks do change over time.

 

That being said, in your case, there is probably something deeper going on with a partner other than that it is new (ie they added a site that is not providing quality traffic).

 

Our traffic quality teams have been notified of the issues… and are reviewing the partner traffic into the accounts.  Any traffic they identify as poor quality or potentially fraudulent will be refunded to you. Beyond that, while we will not be told of any additional action, they usually review larger traffic metrics from the “problem” sites identified and may take action to remove that partner or site from the network.

So while it’s good we will be refunded the money for what is deemed “fraudulent” clicks, I don’t think we’ll be getting back the full amount we spent on these sites. I highly recommend everyone check the quality of the Search Parnters sites you are appearing on in Bing.

How To Check Bing Search Partner Quality

  • Log into your account and go to the reports tab.
  • Click create a new report and select Publisher Performance from the Report drop down.

Bing Publisher Performance Report

  • Select the date range you want to look at. I suggest running three reports for the last three months so you can see how traffic from these sites have changed.
  • Select what data you want to include in the report. Remember, if you want to see conversion data you need to select it manually.
  • Once you’ve downloaded your report, the column you want to focus on is “Website URL”. Ignore anything that says Bing and Yahoo! Search Properties Only. The rest of the websites are your search partners. Below is a screen shot of the first ones on my list:

Bing Search Partners

Some sites look legit, like abcnews.go.com, but most well… don’t. Test your Search Partners by visting the URL. If you find many sites that look lower quality you can either exclude them or opt out of Search Partners all together. Search Partner options are set at the ad group level so it can be a pain to remove them manually. If you work with a Bing rep, reach out to them to exclude your whole account or do a bulk exclusion in the editor.

I wish I had noticed this issue with Bing Search Partners awhile ago so I wasn’t wasting money on bad clicks and leads. Hopefully this post has helped make you aware of this problem and save some of your ad spend!

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  • http://twitter.com/tysonkirksey Tyson Kirksey

    Thank you for posting this…it reminded me to check one of my larger accounts, and sure enough, search partner traffic account for 75% of clicks but only 10% of conversions! 

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  • Chelsea Davis

    We experienced the same with one of our adCenter clients in the education industry.  Click fraud AND lead fraud. We’re no longer advertising on the Syndicated Search Partners network, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

    http://www.SiteProPPC.com

  • Zach Rippstein

    Thanks for the heads up. I spent a few hours looking into this and there are some sure signs of lead fraud from the search partners. We’re going to opt out ASAP and look forward to the savings we’ll see on ad spend!

  • http://www.virtualsnipers.com Arvind Katke

    Thanx. It make me change my strategy and focus only on Bing and Yahoo! for quality traffic. :)

  • Adrian

    This has been happening for years on yahoo and msn inherited the mess they never fixed

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  • mwm

    great article, we found the same thing — MSN needs to do the RIGHT thing and FIX this — they clearly have the resources…

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  • http://www.triharyadi.web.id/2012/02/promo-member-alfamart-minimarket-lokal.html Promo Indonesia

    really nice information. I still try to figure out how bing works. Thanks.

  • http://about.me/yoetama yoetama

    bing is another best system way to improve the business

  • ppc guy

    This seems to be the only post I can find on this issue. I am dealing with the exact same thing. I get about 10 leads per day(form submissions/conversions) from MSN Adcenter and 2 or 3 are actually real if Im lucky. All of the info appears real at first look (area code matches the location, phone is valid, etc. Call me crazy but MSN must be paying people to fill out forms on our sites to make the stats look better then they actually are. Junk traffic and no conversions is one thing, but why would this junk traffic go to all of the trouble to fill out the forms entirely? That just flat out dosent happen. Something really stinks with this and it needs to be flushed out. PPC geeks unite and get to the bottom of this!

  • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

    Thanks for sharing, Nick! It may be frustrating, but the clearest way we’ve found to fight back against this is just to opt out of search partners. It limits your volume, but it also limits Bing’s revenue.

    I’m surprised by Bing’s response to you about it being within the terms of their agreement. Whenever we’ve complained to them in the past they’ve always been very forthcoming with credits and resolution. I’m not sure how long you’ve been having problems, but you should ask about recouping some of those expenses. It never hurts to ask. And make sure that you pass that site over to Bing’s team so that they can follow up. Even if you have to go to someone new over there, make sure that they hear your complaint.

    Thanks for reading, and good luck!

  • http://www.facebook.com/marty.weishaar Marty Weishaar

    I have seen this article before and it was helpful. Just realized that I was mysteriously auto-opted back into search partners. We had hundreds of fake leads from bing this month and they had no answers and couldnt investigate without a bunch of server data, which didnt help. Then googled how to remove search partners and this showed up. I had the same issue as we had in the past, unrelated sites with 100% CTRs and more conversions than clicks. Ill post instructions how to re opt out when the bing rep responds.

  • http://www.yepi250.com/ yepi

    Thanks.It make me change my strategy and focus only on Bing and Yahoo!

  • Jipped by bing

    I just got jipped out of $1500 because I imported a google campaign and it changed it all to search partners by default. Ok, search partners did have some conversions, but in no way did it justify what I was bidding :(. A better solution is to make 1 campaign target bing/yahoo and another target bing/yahoo search partners and set different bids for each.

    • http://www.hanapinmarketing.com PPC Hero

      That’s definitely something to keep an eye on when importing new accounts or campaigns. The workaround you propose is a good one, also! Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sangandhi Sanjay Gandhi

    thanks for this very useful post.

  • Denise Maier

    Pat yourself on the back bethany, you helped another PPC pro today. I had a customer tell me about fake leads for a while and couldn’t locate the issue. This was it, wasn’t an overly large spend that was going into the search network but the bogus leads were driving them crazy. Thank you for writing this post.