December Holiday Issue 2010-11 – Issue #65
Donny Simonton shoots straight. After trying to spin the horrible numbers domain owners were seeing from domain parking company Parked this past month he finally came right out and said it – “Bing Sucks.” (Read down this thread to see the transformation in his attitude.)
Domain monetization companies such as Parked (and WhyPark), TrafficZ, and SmartName, have depended on Yahoo’s ads to power their services. Yahoo switched their ad inventory to Microsoft’s Bing service in November and lots of problems cropped-up.
Domain monetization is new for Bing. They have had an AdWords-like platform for some time, but they have not worked with domain parking companies. It seems that their stats reporting system was not up to the challenge initially. They had to start from scratch figuring out issues like traffic quality – a multiplier they use based on how likely they think your traffic’s clicks will result in an actual sale. In most cases they seemed to estimate low, and there were reports that these quality scores would change on a daily basis for no reason.
I reached out to Parked and WhyPark, TrafficZ, and SmartName with some questions about their experiences to date. Only Parked and WhyPark have responded to date. Donny asked Craig Rowe of WhyPark to respond for both services, since they work together to optimize their Bing feed.
Here are Craig’s responses to my questions:
How are RPM numbers holding up?
We’ve always been sticklers on traffic quality, so fortunately our RPM has been holding up and increasing again in the past week or two. There were definitely bugs that impacted us late October and we notice when something new has been added. We try to adjust as quickly as we see data though. We’re fortunate that we’re a part of Parked, who really did all of the heavy lifting in the migration and Donny has been submitting feedback and bugs to Yahoo and Bing constantly. So, we’re in a good position that we have access to so much more data, and any changes that Parked makes benefit us as well.
I understand that the categories/keywords have changed too – and that this has impacted 2-click landers. Can you explain what you have seen here?
The way keywords are handled is another major change. With Yahoo, terms like “world maps”, “world map” and “a world map” would all be the same. For Bing, those are all different terms with different advertisers. So, it’s a matter now of finding out the best terms to display. For us and Parked, we had to ditch just about everything we had optimized over the years and start anew. We rebuilt our keyword matching completely using Parked’s new keyword data and then manually optimized tens of thousands of the top domains and continue to do more each day. So, we continue to see improvement as our systems learn more
What other problems have arisen?
It wasn’t a seamless migration by any means. It would have been nice to test smaller markets, certain customers or domains first and be able to provide more feedback. One issue earlier on that seems to be getting better is just getting access to the stats in a timely manner. It’s tough to make adjustments on our side when we don’t have the data to react to. It’s like hitting a moving target and doing a lot of guessing. With so many moving parts, it’s hard to tell if the change you made was beneficial or not.
What pleasant surprises have you seen?
We’re still in business.
Have things settled down to the point that you can make any generalizations about changes domain owners should make to maximize traffic under Bing?
It’s definitely settled down, but the TQ scores are still all over the place. I think it’s still a little early to say if this will bring in new revenue, same as before or a decrease. If your traffic quality is low, then you’ll definitely be seeing a decrease. We just continue to focus on quality since the traffic as a whole affects all of our customers’ revenue.
We’re quick to block any junk and dump poor quality accounts.
TrafficZ is one of the companies reeling from the drop in revenue associated with the switch from Yahoo to Bing. They recently announced a sneak peak of a new monetization model that will be less dependent on pay-per-click parking. Their new model includes
- CPA (Cost per Action) – “Clients get paid when a user converts on a certain action, such as submitting information via a form or making a purchase. The payout for CPA is generally a lot higher than standard PPC because the user is required to take an action.” This should look a bit like SmartName Shops, but the implication is that TrafficZ will actually only pay when there is a sale.
- Rich Content – A model that allows clients to create “robust sites with relevant information for end-users. This will enhance the landing page experience and lead to recurring visits”. Think WhyPark.
- Zero Click – A model that generates revenue by directing traffic straight to an advertiser’s site. Other companies provide similar monetization, but these are usually one-at-a-time deals and I’m not sure you can scale this across your portfolio.
Can you summarize what you are seeing at WhyPark and Parked with the new Bing parking? Anyone on a Yahoo feed over the past months would have noticed some turbulence for sure. It hasn’t been the smoothest migration and although it’s been stabilizing a bit recently, I don’t think we’re really through the full migration yet. In the past, Bing hasn’t had a syndication business working with parking companies. So, there have been a lot of bugs that we’ve all seen that have likely always existed in their systems. However, now you have a whole group of people seeing revenue declining and trying to figure out why. It’s amazing how closely everyone will look when it’s their money going away. So, some of this is likely because of Bing entering a new business. Bing has also changed the way TQ (traffic quality) scores affect the revenue being paid out and prices charged to advertisers. A customer with a lower TQ score will notice a much larger discount on their revenue and lower revenue per click. So, a customer with lower quality traffic is going to be hurting much more these days. Customers with the highest quality traffic aren’t necessarily seeing a boost though, but just are not seeing the discounting. The TQ scoring algorithm itself is also pretty different and incredibly inconsistent right now. We’ll see a trusted customer go from a TQ of 9 down to a 1.5 for a week and then bounce back up. I can’t understand how a large portfolio with consistent traffic could convert so differently on a weekly basis. I would guess they’re still tweaking that as they see data. I understand it, but it still sucks when the revenue takes a hit while they figure out the scoring. We don’t get too many details in terms of what is actually being adjusted, so a lot of this is just speculation.