Move over, text ads: How data feeds are driving new search experiences

Contributor Christi Olson, Search Evangelist at Bing, takes a deeper look at data feeds and their role in search (past, present and future).


If you haven’t done it already, now would be a great time to take a fresh look — or even a first look — at how data feeds can reinvigorate your online marketing strategy and prepare your business for an undeniable shift in the search space. Structured data feeds are the silent drivers behind a new search experience centered around more conversational, localized and personalized search engagements.

Engines are moving away from the “traditional” customer journey, where users search for a keyword, sort through text PPC search results and click onto a new website. Instead, structured data feeds front-load the search engine results pages (SERPs) with user-rich information, creating a new search experience for more personalized, localized and actionable results.

Data feed = information bus

Feeds, simply put, are mechanisms of structured data that enable either a platform or a person to take action. Some of the original uses of feeds were as mechanisms to automate the pulling of information to a centralized location. They helped streamline access to data and information.

We’ve been using structured data and data feeds without even realizing it. Think RSS and news feeds, weather and traffic reports or TIBCO (The Information Bus Company) of the early internet, which helped digitalize the stock market. Even your weekend “honey-do” list is a type of structured data.

Today, data feeds in search focus primarily on shopping, enabling merchants to structure their product catalogs into standardized file formats. Search engines are then able to access them, correctly understand their context and display them in visually appealing ad formats for consumers. Bing Product Ads, Google Product Listing Ads and Amazon Marketplace have all streamlined this process to make it easy for merchants to market their products online through data feeds. But this is just the beginning.

The better we can communicate and share information through data feeds and structured data, the better receiving platforms, such as search engines, can perform for us.

Advances in data feeds are being made each day to further performance, and also to automate previously manual/daunting tasks. Automation in search is everywhere:

  • In third-party tools to help search experts optimize their campaigns
  • In Bing’s merchant feeds to manage entire store catalogs
  • In Google’s business data feeds to automatically update ad copy

Expect new ad formats — Shopping Ads are just the beginning

As data feeds become more structured and standardized, search engines can better understand, compare and contextualize data, which is resulting in exciting new ad formats within the SERPs.

Movie times, tourist activities and breaking news are all displayed directly in the search engine results. Today’s searchers can comparison shop on Bing with Shopping Ads or book travel directly through Google Hotel Product Ads or through TripAdvisor.

The future of search will include new ad formats that move outside of the e-commerce realm to help simplify the process of consumers taking actions. Think of new ad formats that can streamline processes and tasks like making restaurant reservations, renting a car, getting insurance quotes or requesting information about B2B pricing and services.

Structured data feeds are helping to power this shift, as search becomes about more than just finding information. It’s about gaining knowledge, taking action and relying on the search engines as intercommunicative partners.

Get ready

The sooner you get on the data feed information bus, the better! Businesses across a variety of industries will benefit as search engines better understand, compare and display information for searchers.

At the forefront are retailers, trip planners, hotels and airlines, but it is easy to see how the benefits of structured data feeds will rapidly impact other areas like insurance, real estate, education and beyond. Way beyond.

Optimizing your Bing Shopping data feeds

Bing Shopping Campaigns make it easier than ever to connect with your customers and promote your products online through visually appealing Product Ads. In order to make the most of your Bing Product Ads, we recommend the following:

  • As you do not bid on keywords within a shopping campaign, you should utilize the optional 0–4 custom labels to segment your products into smaller groups so that you can bid strategically. Include a “top performers” group which will enable you to distribute a higher, more aggressive budget towards your top-performing products. Other attributes may include: Sale Items, Seasonal, Price Ranges, Profit Margins and Stock Levels.
  • Be sure to utilize negative keywords against all campaigns to minimize irrelevant searches.
  • Use images strategically by showing products in use, using multiple colors and providing high-resolution photos.
  • Be very aware of pricing and stay competitive, or add sale pricing to draw attention to your ads.
  • Use keyword-rich titles which include brand, product type, gender, size and a generic color. A good example: Patagonia Arctic Thermal Winter Jacket, Men’s Size L, Blue.
  • Refresh your feeds as often as possible, at least every 24 hours.
  • GTINs — Global Trade Item Numbers — should be added to any products that may be sold by multiple retailers. Google has set a firm May 16, 2016, deadline to include GTINs. Bing has yet to announce a cutoff date, though they promote it as a best practice.

[Article on Search Engine Land.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

(Some images used under license from


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