April 3, 2014, 11:37 AM

Bing goes up against Google with its own Product Ads program

The ads, which looks similar to Google’s Product Listing Ads, let marketers feature product images and descriptions across Yahoo and Bing search results. Bing has tested the new ad format across more 140 million ads from hundreds of advertisers. It’s also launched a mobile version.

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Microsoft Corp. has upped its competition with search engine leader Google Inc. by launching Bing Product Ads. Those ads show product images and prices, similar to the Product Listing Ads that Google introduced in 2012. The Bing Product Ads, which may be image-heavy, can appear on the same web page as a marketer’s paid text ads and natural search listings on search results on Bing.com and sites owned by Yahoo Inc. Bing provides search results for Yahoo.

Marketing experts say Microsoft was smart to take a page from Google’s Product Listing Ads program, which also lets marketers run image-heavy ads along with other search listings. “In this case Bing and Microsoft have learned that it’s best to watch what Google launches successfully and be a fast follower,” says Kevin Lee, CEO of online marketing firm Didit.

“The Bing Product Ads are nearly identical to the Google product,” Lee says. “That’s good. It makes it easy for both retailers and their agencies to go live.”

David Pann, general manager of the search network at Microsoft, writes in a blog posted on the Bing Ads web site that Bing Product Ads were designed for easy deployment. “You don’t have to write ad copy and develop keywords for each campaign,” he writes. “Instead, Product Ads builds upon work that you’ve already done, automatically serving the appropriate image, price and brand name.”

Microsoft adds that marketers can pull content for Product Ads, including images, pricing and descriptions, directly from their company’s product catalog or from existing Google Product Listing Ad records.

One difference between Bing Product Ads and Google Product Listing Ads is that the Bing ads run on the right side of the search results page, where they appear separate from natural search listings. By comparison, Google Product Listing Ads appear in the center of the search results page, where until recently they appeared among natural search results.

When Google introduced Product Listing Ads in 2012, Microsoft criticized it in a TV ad campaign titled “Scroogled” for making it difficult for consumers to tell between paid and free listings.

A Microsoft spokeswoman didn’t comment on whether its new ad format might also tarnish Bing’s natural search results with paid ad listings. But the company asserts that it provides more useful overall search results to consumers buy continuing to provide natural search results along with the paid Bing Product Ads, she says. In contrast, shopping search results on Google are now all sponsored listings.

Pann reports that Microsoft also launched last week a beta test program of Bing Product Ads for Mobile. “More to come” on that, Pann writes, without adding details.                                   

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