AOL’s partnership with Bing affects your ad performance in Bing, whether you know it or not. I recently checked AOL’s performance in a Bing account and found some surprising data that I’d like to share. To say I was surprised at the results is an understatement. My AOL findings make me more confident that Microsoft’s more recent advertising move, acquiring LinkedIn, will also add value to my Bing accounts. Hopefully soon!
Bing & AOL’s Recent History
Let me start with a fact that might surprise some of you:
AOL still exists!
I would guess many digital marketers are aware, but the general population seems unsure. See Google’s “People Also Ask” section generated when I searched for some stats on AOL:
Now that we’re all on the same page regarding AOL’s existence, let’s review Bing and AOL’s most recent deal, made in 2015.
In 2015, after being acquired by Verizon, AOL made a deal with Microsoft to make Bing the search engine of choice for AOL, until at least 2025!
Since then, Verizon has also bought Yahoo and merged the AOL and Yahoo to form Oath.
Despite that merge, AOL’s PPC metrics in Bing Ads are still separate from Bing/Yahoo. Bing and Yahoo are reported as one item, as they have had a partnership since 2010.
However, you can’t exclude AOL from your Bing PPC targeting, even though they’re separate line items.
Bing, Yahoo, and AOL in Bing Ads
Bing, Yahoo, and AOL are all grouped in Bing’s network targeting options. You can only remove syndicated search partners, and you have to do that at the ad group level. See the screenshot below from the Bing Editor.
Given the reflective, nostalgic response people usually have when you mention AOL, you would think it is completely a brand of the past, adding no current value to digital media in any way, shape, or form.
I found that while AOL’s impact was still relatively small, it was mighty.
AOL’S Performance for an E-commerce Brand
AOL only accounted for 1% of impressions in a 45-day period. (That was honestly surprising. I would’ve expected a few tenths of a percent.) In that time, AOL generated 1.5% of the spend and 3.2% of the revenue! Put another way: AOL’s revenue/click was 89% higher than Bing/Yahoo! We’re not talking about a tiny Bing account either. The total revenue for that 45-day period was ~$250,000.
How does AOL do that? I have no idea. I can tell you that in this case, their conversion rate is higher. Why? I don’t know.
It’s not a gamechanger, but I’ll take a 3.2% revenue lift with above average profitability any day.
This post only demonstrates AOL’s efficacy for one brand. Maybe this was an anomaly. I’m not sure yet, but I will definitely review this data for the rest of my accounts.
Regardless, if Bing can find a way to make AOL valuable in 2018, at least for SOME advertisers, they’re doing something right.
The Future Value of Bing + LinkedIn for Advertisers
You might wonder why I care since we can’t optimize around AOL. (Again, it’s included in every Network setting.)
I care because the AOL partnership was one of the first of several large moves made by Microsoft since 2014. Since deals and acquisitions don’t always have an immediate impact, I use the results of the early moves to estimate the probability of whether or not later moves will work out favorably.
Microsoft’s more recent advertising moves have been led by their CEO, Satya Nadella, since he started running the show in 2014.
Nadella has made serious shifts in products and culture since 2014. One earlier result of the changing times is this AOL partnership, aimed at helping Bing fight Google for search market share. Based on the data I’m seeing so far, it seems like that move has provided additional value to some, hopefully many, advertisers.
That leaves me wondering if some of their more recent moves will continue opening up additional revenue streams for advertisers. Specifically, I’m anxious to see how Bing Ads incorporates LinkedIn data into the search platform. Bing has quietly admitted that B2B targeting from LinkedIn will be available in Bing. In theory, it sounds great. Pre-2014, I’m not sure that many of us would have had enough confidence in Microsoft to believe it would be a well-executed acquisition.
Now that I’m seeing Microsoft’s strategies, like the AOL partnership, pay off for their advertisers, I’m more confident that we’ll also reap the benefits of the LinkedIn acquisition!