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4 Critical Flaws in Bing Ads You Need to Know About


bing Ads LogoBing Ads (formerly Microsoft adCenter) has made great strides over the last couple years. I hate to slam what is an otherwise sophisticated system, which has proven itself a quality advertising platform. Its greatest flaw is that it just can’t deliver enough traffic. But, the problems I have experienced with it lately should not be happening.

Invalid Click Detection

I don’t normally like to brag, but I can’t help it this time. This is simply amazing. I have an ad group that had a 640% CTR earlier today – 32 clicks and 5 impressions. I have another ad group with a better than 250% CTR. That’s right, users love my ads so much they are hitting the back button and clicking on the ad over and over again.

I called Bing support. They tell me they have two automated click-detection systems. One checks and immediately removes bad clicks. The other one does a check before the client is billed. I told them anyone should realize this is fraudulent. They said they could put in a ticket, but unless I give them my client’s weblogs, we may not get approved for reversals.

That’s what they’re supposed to say, but even an intern could see the flaw in that logic. The only way to get 5 impressions and 32 clicks is for 1 or more users to click, hit back, click, hit back – at least 7 or more times in a row. I can see the occasional impression getting a 200% click-through rate, but 640%?! That’s transparent fraud.

I’m sure the claim will be approved, but the fraud used the entire budget for that specific campaign that day. This is awful and should’ve been fixed in the last couple of years.

Spam on Search Partners

This is another form of “click fraud,” and it has forced me to opt-out all of my clients from appearing on Bing/Yahoo Search Partners. We’ve gotten many phony leads and absurdly high conversion rates on multiple clients over the past couple years.

A long-time client of mine in the financial services arena gets spam every month. It is usually an absurdly high conversion rate on a keyword that blows up in traffic out of nowhere. These are usually originated from a whole string of out-of-state IP’s on different machines. I’m sure they’re running proxies, masking IPs or whatever.

The money usually winds up being credited back after an investigation, but I have to initiate it. Somehow, Google AdWords isn’t having the same problem. I’m not getting a huge number of bogus conversions from their system. No system can stop fraud, but it can be limited better.

In the meantime, none of my clients will be running on Bing search partners.

Bidding with No Competitors

Last week I found a quirk about Bing’s bidding. Bing simply says you will pay just more than your next closest competitor for a click, which is okay. I prefer AdWords Ad Rank auction system for improving quality in SERPS, but I don’t have a real complaint about Bing’s bid process. The problem occurs when you have no competitor at all on a search, which most often occurs on a partner site or for brand terms.

If there is no competition, you will pay your Max CPC instead. I didn’t realize this, and I find it astounding. The only way to handle that, to get the best rates for a client, would be to have the search partners in a separate campaign with lower bids.

Most advertising platforms realize that having lower CPCs encourages early adoption. Advertisers want to jump in while the clicks are cheap. The competition grows from that point as bidding increases to maintain position. This is awful, and it smacks of opportunism.

Missing Geography? Ads Shown Globally

Bing Ads has a wonderful import tool that allows an advertiser to pull ads, keywords, and campaigns from another source – most commonly Google AdWords. This works great and has saved me a lot of time in the past. Unfortunately, it has a couple of quirks that don’t work well.

Annoyingly, it doesn’t remove old ads or keywords that have already been deleted out of Google, but it handles pretty much everything else. I can’t really complain about that tiny little flaw, though PPC managers need to be aware of it to keep from bidding on keywords you don’t want any longer.

However, this post is about exposing critical flaws, and you might be in for a doozy. If Bing Ads doesn’t have the exact city from Google, or can’t match it up properly, Microsoft will give the campaign no targeting at all. Logic would suggest the campaign should not run until a geographic region is input, and it should prompt you with a warning. Logic does not apply here, though. Bing Ads defaults to running the campaign globally. Microsoft recognizes the problem and will likely refund your money up to 45 days after the occurrence. That’s good news, but it should be their top priority to fix the problem.

So, Microsoft, please fix these issues post-haste. As Google rolls out its Enhanced Campaigns, advertisers are getting upset with AdWords. This is your chance to win some love back. PPC Managers, be aware of these flaws so you don’t have to deal with the repercussions until they’re remedied.

Discussion

  1. I should add to this that after turning off search partners for our clients that almost all spam leads from Bing disappeared.

  2. I work for a PPC agency and I have experienced the same fraud for lead generation clients. The Bing /Yahoo partners will convert at 80% or higher in many cases… obviously fraudulent. If your conversion action is a contact form submission or anything else that is free / no risk to the user, then you should not use Bing search partners at all. For webstore clients, I have tried the partner network since they would have to complete a purchase (cost and risk to the user in this scenario). One of my webstore clients shows more than double the conversions in the Bing Ads interface than they show in Google Analytics from the traffic source (which that data is from UTM parameters on the Bing Ads destination URLs).

    I trust the GA data. I don’t trust the Bing data. After an hour on the phone with Bing Ads support and many false statements from them, it was obvious that they would be no help and that I know a lot more about Bing Ads functionality than they do. I have been troubleshooting this for a week. First I made sure that the conversion script is only on the order confirmation page. Now I just shut off Bing Partners and I will check back in a week to see if GA and Bing Ads conversion reporting start to align. Odd thing is that I have another webstore client that uses Bing Partners and they show the same # of conversions in GA as in Bing Ads interface. The only difference I can find between the two clients is that the problem client has Bing Ads “conversion period” set to 45 days while the accurate client has “conversion period” set to 7 days.

    I think this is another problem with Bing Ads conversion tracking. Bing Ads reports conversions for keywords even when the conversion did not happen on that session. Example, someone searches for “hats”, comes to your site, doesn’t buy, later sees your Google remarketing ad, comes back to your site, buys because of a promotion… Bing Ads will STILL show that the keyword “hats” converted. The minimum “conversion period” you can set it 7 days so as far as I can tell there is no way around this with Bing (if the two visits were to occur within a week of each other, as is the case in most webstore remarketing). Another example, if someone searches for “hats” doesn’t buy, later searches for your brand and clicks on your branded PPC ad and buys, I’m pretty sure that Bing Ads gives BOTH KWs a conversion. No deduplication whatsoever.

    Watch Bing Ads and don’t trust their conversion tracking or their partner network!!!

    One last thing, if you use Bing Ads Desktop Editor, every time you make bulk updates from Google, you have to go back and select all adgroups and change the targeting back to “Bing / Yahoo only” because they will keep opting you into their partner networks every time.

    • For whatever reason, Google is able to stop many of the false leads from even being clicked on. On Bing’s search partners, I would see them frequently convert absurdly high, or absurdly terrible.

      As for the conversion tracking, it sounds like the conversion tracking is working the way it is supposed to though. AdWords conversion tracking will do the same thing. However, the column for AdWords is ‘Conv. 1-per-click’ instead of ‘Conv. many-per-click’. You’re right though in that Analytics is the only way to properly separate this data.

      The Bing Ads Editor will update a lot. I am very selective which features I allow to be imported because of this.

  3. Invalid click detection is still alive and well on BingAds, unfortunately. We need to really contest this issue as I was told they were working on a fix a year ago, and was told it was fixed two years ago! Now if you run your own campaigns and you have a handful, these invalid clicks go into the $1000′s of dollars paid for nothing out of your pocket. I did an estimate calculation with 7 campaigns I run and over a year of this dung, it adds up to $750 – $1000 !!! That’s nothing to sneeze at. I think advertisers are really letting bing get a way with this too easily. I don’t want to ask for a refund for 45 days and to dig that stuff to process it faster, waste of a lot of money here and time…..Please complain about this more, unless you like giving free money away :)

  4. I noticed over the past couple of weeks that my Bing Ads will not show CLICKS, IMPR, CTR%, AVE. POS., AVE. CPC, AVG. CPM, and no Conv. Only in the evenings. I called Bing and the person seemed to be talking around my issue because at the time I called all data was showing. More than once I explained that I only notice this issue in the evenings. Unfortunately, I paused all my Campaigns because I do not want to waste any more money. Has anyone else had this same issue?

    Thanks

    • I have not experienced that problem so far. Is it happening every night?

      • Hi, yes. I notice it happening around 8:00 p.m. EST. Usually last for at least 2 hours and then current data shows-up. Thanks for posting the issue with search partners. I think I will turn off search partners and at least stop that wasteful spending.

  5. Thank you for posting on this issue. I had to turn off “search partners” today after getting a very high % of fake form fills. The referring sites were clearly Bing display ad sites listing all my competitor ads too. These sites must be engaging in click fraud to earn $. Is there a way to report these sites to Bing without having to go through contesting all the charges?

    • Every time I’ve called Bing about it, they ask me to send my web log files. It’s absurd. They have some good partner sites, but they have some terrible ones. They need to do a better job of policing it before I have any of our clients on them.

    • I occasionally follow up with them on sites that are non-performers. Most of them don’t even make an effort. I usually will use the monthly numbers to check and boot any site that is non-performing. if they get excessive I give bing support people the number breakdown and let them know they have a problem with the site.

      Recently I saw a lot of U.S. traffic with Chinese language for a specific group of cities with no follow through on their new Gemini platform and asked them to put a language filter in place to address that issue. It didn’t take them too long to add that to the filters.

  6. I’ve done extensive research and analysis using quality tracking software and other means and you would have to be utterly insane to allow the use of bing/yahoo search partners. Not just a little fraudulent, but 100%. Not even debatable. I know why they allow this, money of course, but they should do the right thing and not allow this type of thing.

    What else you need to watch for is a breach in their security. I have first hand experience. Never give them a debit or credit card with a large limit or available balance. Their supposed $1k max is not accurate considering I had nearly $9k taken out of my account in one day. I got it back, and it was a breach as they claim, which is mind-boggling, but the amount of time, effort, and aggravation I experienced over this was unreal.

    The other item that makes me insane and despise PPC, which I’ve again proven over and over, is that bogus clicks from competitors is massive in my particular area. A bunch of aholes just love to click other people’s ads. For the ones running ads too, they are so stupid to not realized they’re costing themselves money by driving up the click price.

    God, I wish there was was a better way.

  7. One more thing, bing and google know that if they do not show you clicks until later in the day, there is less likelihood that you will pause your ads or make changes. It’s simply a money issue. Of course they will tell you that they can’t do it more quickly, but they can if they wanted to. I have SW that will update and be accurate 30 seconds after a click. You really think they can’t do this too? You’ll go all day thinking that you haven’t spent much and check later on or the next day and they finally updated their system. PLEASE someone think of a better way. I tried yp and that was even a bigger waste.

    • I’ve always wondered why they took so long to update. I never considered that it would encourage you to spend more. I’d be curious to talk to one of Google or Bing’s developers to see what their answer is.

  8. Happening again! No stats after 8:00 p.m.! I PAUSED MY PPC FOR NOW AND DEPENDING ON HOW LONG IT TAKES I MAY NEVER ACTIVATE MY CAMPAIGNS AGAIN. THANKS FOR ALL OF YOU POSTING. NEED ALL THE INFO POSSIBLE.

  9. Sorry to re-open an old post but I’m trying hard to find a solution to this problem.

    Does any one know a way of merging the placement url in as a query string parameter on the ad destination URL? At least that way, I could capture the placement url and match it up with all the phony leads that have been generated and slowly remove all the fraudulent placement websites from my campaigns.

    • Miguel Angel Lazaro says:

      Hi Brad:

      I have the same problem. I need to track in Google Analytics, BingAds traffic origin/ referrers.

      Have you solved it?

      Thanks

  10. Wish I would have found this write-up before today. The “click-fraud” issue happened to me day 1. I’ll spare you the gory details, but the remedy suggested by Bings service rep was to only select MSN/Yahoo networks for every campaign. I hope this helps some first timers out there.

    On another note… why do they even offer third party networks when they know they’re “dirty”. Just sayin’. This whole ordeal has taken a pretty big chunk out of my workday today and yesterday.

  11. Few weeks back for couple of days, I saw a unusual behavior in my Bing ads account.. usually after pausing campaigns, it takes 5 to 10 mins to stop showing my ads on live Bing or Yahoo search, but one day when I paused my campaigns it took 5 hrs to stop showing my ads. It was the biggest fraud I felt on that day.

    And, when I contact Bing for this issue they just give me some unreal answer that I have paused my campaigns just few mins before.. but when I gave them a campaign history report showing that I have already paused all campaigns 5 hrs back. Again, they give me some other reason for that.. after a long conversation I came to a conclusion of not using that account any more.

    So I think there are some serious flaws in Bing ads that need to be changed.

  12. I just spent an hour messing around with Arvis in their customer service and having to wade through a ton of false statements. As a first time advertiser with Bing, it’s very hard to tell if your ad is getting no impressions or if they just haven’t approved it yet. After 20 minutes on hold, Arvis literally took the next twenty minutes confirming my account before he could even answer any question. Then Arvis tried telling me that my ads aren’t showing up because my landing page is not relevant to the ad’s search term. Excuse me, but the landing page is #8 in Bing’s organic results for the search phrase, so how in the world could it not be relevant enough! Their “preview’ tool also says that the page that is #8 in their organic search results is not relevant enough for advertising.

    I think the problem is that my bid is too low. After initially proposing a bid of 30 cents per click, the system is now saying that I need to bid 71 cents per click. Initially, the system even sent me an email saying that I would get about a click per day with the 30 cents per click bid. To now more than double the suggested price, that’s a bait and switch. I’ve wasted so much time with Bing!

  13. Ha ha! I just went into Bing Ads to increase my bid. On one of the search terms, it finally posted a warning that the bid they initially suggested was too low. The bid they initially suggested was 9 cents per click. That is low. Their pop up message now suggests I should bid over $11 per click!!! From 9 cents three days ago to $11 today! Talk about your bait and switch. Their system is hopelessly useless, and that renders their poor customer service agents just as useless.

  14. Another great source of multiple click is from the user doing a “double click” to click on the ad. Since it dual clicks come at a rapid rate, the inline javascript is executed twice giving the double click for the one impression. This is the current excuse I get from Google after the Back button.

    However look very closely at the logs, this equals about 9% additional revenue for the SEs. Anyone else doing this, it would be considered “click fraud”. Oh well, it’s their playground and their ball.

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