Both Google and Bing are search giants that can drive a ton of traffic to my pillow/mattress affiliate site. In this experiment I determine if there are any differences in the kind of traffic and visitors I get from each search platform. I utilize this data for choosing my marketing orientation for future SEM (search engine marketing) based traffic.
Background Information: Why choose a marketing orientation?
If you are new to my series of blog posts on affiliate marketing experiments, I suggest you read these articles on why I chose affiliate marketing and how I am using data-based marketing experiments to slowly grow my business. A full list of experiments I have run is available on OneStopMarketer.com
In an ideal case, I want traffic to my mattress and pillow affiliate site to include mostly organic traffic (which is free). However, adwords and other SEM platforms provide more control compared to organic traffic. I wonder if it is feasible to utilize SEM as part of the different traffic sources to my site (my marketing mix) – hence there is a need to determine my marketing orientation. The potential strategy that I’m considering is illustrated in Figure 1:
- Determine if SEM can drive paying customers to affiliate site
- Optimize SEM campaigns to minimize CPC (cost-per-click) and hyper-target to customers that tend to convert
- If cost-per-click < revenue from affiliate sale, then scale SEM campaign budget
Is there room for SEM as part of the traffic sources for an affiliate site?
Confused by all the acronyms? You might like to read Digital Marketing For Dummies (For Dummies (Business & Personal Finance))
Figure 1. Adding SEM to a marketing orientation and scaling over time based on cost-per-click
Experimental Setup: Testing Google vs. Bing SEM
This experiment is a lot easier to design than the Facebook vs. Bing comparison experiment because both methods of advertising are virtually identical. I think Microsoft cloned a lot of the features and design of Google’s adwords platform when they designed Bing Ads. The settings for this experiment are shown in Figure 2. I minimized variation by running the two campaigns in parallel and matching keywords, budget, time-of-day for advertisements.
Figure 2. Adwords campaign setup to determine by SEM marketing orientation
Results and Discussion: Discovering SEM Marketing Orientation
As I expected, both Bing and Google SEM ads drove traffic well to my affiliate sites. However, there were some key differences between the two channels. Bing Ads are almost half the cost of Google ads and have far higher click-through-rates (CTR) than Google, as shown in Figure 3. This click through rate is notable especially since the keywords utilized in both platforms were the same.
Figure 3. Comparison of Bing vs. Google Ad words summaries
Taglogger results showed that conversion rates to amazon among the two traffic sources were very similar(Figure 4). Amazon, registered a TON of clicks for this experiment. I suspect that there were a lot of bots from both Bing and Google that ensured my website’s link quality.
Figure 4. Taglogger results demonstrate that Bing and Google ads provide similar quality of traffic. Amazon registered a ton of link clicks during this time however comparison to TagLogger data indicates that these clicks were likely spiders.
Timelogger (NEW tool!) shows that traffic from Google stayed as long on the pillow affiliate page as traffic from Bing Ads (Figure 5). Google Analytics for these pages showed a 95%+ bounce rate because they only measure a user’s session duration when they leave the page via a link (Analytics will have 0 data if a user stays on a page but doesn’t click a link to navigate away from that page). This topic is covered in Experiment 3: Comparing FB Ads vs. Bing ads.
Figure 5. Timelogger results show the difference in session duration between Bing and Google visitors. Google analytics shows a high bounce rate and only reports session data for visitors who clicked through to amazon. It misses session duration data from readers who simply read on the website.
Want more information about Google Analytics and how to use it? Take a look at this book: Learning Google AdWords and Google Analytics
Counter-arguments: Why this isn’t the perfect experiment
During this experiment, I tried to account for as many variations as possible between the two traffic sources. However, by choosing to display my advertisements at any time when there were searches, I introduced some experimental variability. It would have been better if I had set both SEM platforms to only display my ads at certain times and days.
Summary: Deciding on my Marketing Orientation
If SEM traffic is feasible based on Profit/Loss analysis, Bing Ads should be utilized to maximize value-for-money. Google Ads provide less value-for-money than Bing Ads.
Based on the above data, it can be concluded that Bing Ads provide better value for money than Google Adwords for my SEM strategy. Users from both traffic sources remain on the website for similar session durations and convert to Amazon at similar conversion rates. However, Bing ads cost only half of what Adwords cost. Perhaps this is due to less competition on the Bing platform, or it is due to artificial price inflation during keyword auction in Adwords.
You may also have noticed in Figure 4 that I received my first orders during the experiment! This means that my next step is to optimize the content of my pillow website along with the Bing Ads that point to it. This will help me minimize the cost of traffic while maximizing click-through rates, and hopefully also purchases.
Follow my affiliate journey and marketing experiments
Sign up on OneStopMarketer or follow me on LinkedIn to continue learning from my online marketing experiments. It’s a lot cheaper for you to read my blogs, so why not get notified whenever a new blog post is put up?
Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.