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Preparing for tax time returns Tax season insights for digital marketers
Tax services is a $9.3 billion industry, growing at an annual rate of 2.2% 2015 products and services segmentation SOURCE: IBISWorld Industry Report 54121d, Tax Preparation Services in the US, Gavan Blau, April 2015.
Taxpayers often turn to the IRS for assistance Each year, the IRS receives more than: SOURCE: 1Data analysis on IRS Weekly Filing Season Statistics, 2013, 2014, and May 15, 2015; 2IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service, Press Release: National Taxpayer Advocate Delivers Annual Report to Congress; Focuses on Taxpayer Service and Taxpayer Bill of Rights, January 14, 2015.
IRS resources are strained to respond The IRS workforce is down by nearly 12,000 employees since FY 2010.1 SOURCE: 1IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service, Press Release: National Taxpayer Advocate Delivers Annual Report to Congress; Focuses on Taxpayer Service and Taxpayer Bill of Rights, January 14, 2015.; 2IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service, National Taxpayer Advocate Reviews Filing Season and Identifies Priority Areas and Challenges in Mid-Year Report to Congress, July 15, 2015.
Will your campaigns help taxpayers get the assistance they seek?
SOURCE: IBISWorld Industry Report 54121d, Tax Preparation Services in the US, Gavan Blau, April 2015. Factors affecting this tax season
Less than 6% of Americans are unemployed1 SOURCE: 1IBISWorld Business Environment Report, National unemployment rate, June 2015; 2IRS, IRS Filing Season Statistics for week ending May 15, 2015. Tip Have a local office? Use Location Targeting, Location Extensions, and Call Extensions to capture nearby taxpayers searching for help. With low unemployment rates for the next few years, filing volumes will stay high.
Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), healthcare coverage is now a part of tax returns 2014 tax returns processed by 6/25/15 Form 8962: premium tax credit For taxpayers claiming a tax credit (aka “subsidy”) in the federal and state exchanges. 3.2 million $3,400 average credit per return Form 8965: healthcare coverage exemptions For taxpayers claiming exemptions from the health insurance requirements. 12 million Individual shared responsibility payments For taxpayers who do not comply with the health insurance requirements (aka the “tax penalty”). 7.5 million $200 average penalty per return Health care check box For taxpayers who have health insurance coverage. 102 million 1 in 5 taxpayers will do more than check a box. SOURCE: IRS, Letter from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to Congress, July 17, 2015.
The premium tax credit may come with a surprise Taxpayers need help estimating their annual income when they apply for an advanced tax credit through the federal and state exchanges. SOURCE: IRS, Letter from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen to Congress, July 17, 2015.
SOURCE: 1Healthcare.gov, The fee you pay if you don't have health coverage, accessed March 27, 2015. The tax penalty will more than double for 2015 Be prepared to help taxpayers calculate the individual shared responsibility payment. Tax year 2014 Tax year 2015 1% 2% $95 $325 $47.50 $162.50 $285 $975 Percentage of their yearly household income (above the tax filing threshold, about $10,150 for an individual). Penalty per adult for the year. Plus, penalty per child under 18. Maximum household penalty. Uninsured households will pay the higher of two amounts:1 240% OR
SOURCE: Accounting Today, Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Has Major Tax and Financial Planning Implications, June 29, 2015. Marriage equality is now the law of the land With the U.S. Supreme Court’s latest decision, married same-sex couples can now file both joint federal and joint state returns. Other tax benefits include: Making unlimited gifts between spouses without gift taxes. Inheriting a spouse’s property without paying estate taxes. Allowing a surviving spouse to rollover their spouse’s IRA. Expect newly married couples to have questions about the new tax benefits available to them.
Since 2009, electronic filing has grown by 30% Meanwhile, the share of self-prepared e-filed tax returns has risen by 21%. Will your ads entice searchers to try your software or services? SOURCE: Data analysis on IRS Weekly Filing Season Statistics, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and May 15, 2015. Volume of e-filed tax returns (2009–2015)
SOURCE: Data analysis on IRS Weekly Filing Season Statistics, 2010, 2014, and 2015. 2015 breakdown of e-filing between tax professionals and individuals 6 in 10 e-filers use tax professionals or software They often search for brand terms. Make sure you’re bidding on your own brand terms to grab attention and keep competitors at bay.
SOURCE: Data analysis on IRS Weekly Filing Season Statistics, 2015. 2015 volume of taxes filed weekly E-filing and manual filing peak at different times Plan your budget accordingly to keep it from running out before the tax deadline. E-filing experiences two peaks—at the beginning and end of the tax deadline. Manual filing experienced only one peak at the end of the tax deadline.
Taxpayers are also getting help from mobile apps SOURCE: PC Magazine, The Best Tax Software for 2015, February 10, 2015. Tip Use App Extensions to highlight your mobile offerings for tax assistance, calculators, return filing, and refund status.
SOURCE: eMarketer, The U.S. Financial Services Industry 2015: Digital Ad Spending Forecast and Trends, May 2015. Financial services digital ad spending will grow to more than $8.1 billion in 2016 Expect competition to increase with ad spending. U.S. financial services industry digital ad spending (2015–2019)
SOURCE: Hitwise, Ratio of paid to organic traffic generated by all variations of tax for the 12 weeks ending April, 2015. More tax searches are resulting in a paid click Tax search trends: paid versus organic Tip Set up automated rules to help you adjust your keyword bids and campaign budgets automatically during search peaks.
Bing Ads search performance trends
Make sure your budget is sufficient to cover the entire filing period, with peaks at the beginning and end. Tax-related searches align with e-filing trends and timeframes Tax-related search volume for the filing season rose 25% from 2014 to 2015! Search volume starts increasing from the beginning of January, before the filing period begins. Start early and use this time to optimize your campaigns before the peak hits in late January/early February. The 2015 tax season began slightly earlier than the 2014 season, and the corresponding search volume reflects that. Stay informed about the filing season dates to prepare for both peaks. Search volume for top tax-related searches (Jan 1–Apr 30: all devices) SOURCE: Microsoft internal data.
In line with Bing Ads searches, people visit IRS.gov at the start and end of the tax season Visit to IRS.gov during tax season (2014–2015) SOURCE: Data analysis on IRS Weekly Filing Season Statistics, 2014 and 2015.
The IRS doesn’t advertise—this presents a unique search advertising bidding opportunity, as 35% of the top 20tax search terms were IRS-related. SOURCE: Microsoft internal data.
SOURCE: Microsoft internal data. Brand terms and refund-related terms top the list of popular tax-related search terms PC/tablet searches are heavier on brand terms, while smartphone searches lean more towards tax refunds. Popular queries on PC/tablet Popular queries on smartphones
Competition and increased interest drive up clicks and bids Make sure your bids are competitive during peak periods, but also take advantage of untapped opportunity while cost-per-click is lower. CTR and CPC for top tax-related searches (Jan 1–Apr 30, 2015: all devices) Click-through rate and cost-per-click also followed e-filing trends, with both competition and search volume driving rates higher during peak periods. You’ll need to make sure that your budget and bid strategy can take on the competition! Start your campaigns early and take advantage of the relatively lower cost-per-click and high click-through rates in early January. SOURCE: Microsoft internal data.
SOURCE: Microsoft internal data. The ACA tax impact receives greater attention early in the tax season Popular queries on PC/tablet: penalty (for) not having health insurance health care taxes penalty (for) no health insurance tax penalty (for) no health insurance affordable care act taxes obamacare tax penalty obamacare penalty tax penalty (for) not having health insurance obamacare taxes fine (for) not having health insurance Search volume for popular searches on tax and ACA (Jan 1–Apr 30, 2015: PC/tablet)
Take advantage of high search volume to bid on branded terms and gain visibility for your own brand. Prominent brands experience greater lift during search volume peaks Search volume for tax preparation brands followed the same trends as overall tax-related searches. However, TurboTax-related searches experienced higher lift in volume than those of other brands, likely from greater brand recognition. This is a potential opportunity to bid on competing or complementary brands and use your ad copy to gain visibility with a larger audience. Search volume for top tax brand-related searches (Jan 1–Apr 30: all devices) SOURCE: Microsoft internal data
Cost-per-click follows search volume trends while click-through rates remain steady. Brands enjoy high click-through rates throughout the tax season Click-through rates are consistently high regardless of search volume, indicating that ads are aligned with what searchers are looking for. Cost-per-click fluctuates more with search volume, and fierce competition among brands may be a significant driver behind increases. This is a chance to bring visibility to your brand at a lower cost-per-click during less competitive periods. Click-through rate and cost-per-click for top tax brand-related searches (Jan 1–Apr 30, 2015: all devices) SOURCE: Microsoft internal data
Mobile search performance trends
Tax-related searches on smartphones follow e?filing trends, with an eye towards refunds Tax filers use their smartphones to look up tax refund status and timeframes. Smartphone search trends were similar to those on PC/Tablet, but with slightly different top search terms. The term “where(‘s) my refund” was one of the most popular search terms and experienced the biggest lift during peak search periods. The 2015 tax season opened earlier than the 2014 season, and the corresponding search volume reflects that. Stay informed about the filing season dates to prepare for both peaks. Search volume for top tax-related searches (Jan 1–Apr 30: smartphones) SOURCE: Microsoft internal data.
Refunds are top of mind among searchers on smartphones Terms related to refunds, brands, and the IRS top the list of smartphone searches. Top tax-related searches (Jan 1–Apr 30, 2015: smartphones) SOURCE: Microsoft internal data.
Smartphone searchers are more likely to click on ads early on in the tax season Fantastic opportunity for campaigns in early January when click-through rate is high and cost-per-click is at its lowest! CTR and CPC for top tax-related searches (Jan 1–Apr 30, 2015: smartphones) Click-through rates for smartphones remain fairly high throughout the season, but are the highest in the first half of the tax season. Cost-per-click starts off low but quickly spikes by the end of January. Reach your audience at great value early on in the season with high click-through rates and low cost-per-click. SOURCE: Microsoft internal data.
Some tips to consider for tax season 1 2 3 4 Align budgets and bids to search trends. Plan for the two search peaks and keep your bids competitive throughout the tax season. Test ad copy early in January before the first peak and run with the best performing ads. Target mobile searchers at the beginning of the tax season with refund-related ad copy and appropriate keyword bids. Align your search campaign timing to the service you’re offering. Brand name searches spike early and late in the season, and vary by tax professional services and self-serve software.
Effectively reach your tax audience with Bing Ads
SOURCE: comScore qSearch (custom), US, March 2015; industry categories based on comScore classifications. tax searchers not reached on Google. total tax searchers powered by Bing. total tax searches powered by Bing. of all tax paid clicks. Bing Ads delivers value for tax 4.9M or 48% 5.2M 12M 53%
Our audience has a higher propensity to own personal finance/tax software Compared to Google, the Bing Ads audience is: SOURCE: comScore Plan Metrix, US, March 2015, custom measure created using comScore indices and duplication. March data was used to reflect the month before tax filings are due.
SOURCE: comScore Plan Metrix, US, March 2015, custom measure created using comScore indices and duplication. March data was used to reflect the month before tax filings are due. Compared to Google, the Bing Ads audience is 8% more likely to have bought personal finance/tax software offline in the last 6 months. Connect with your target audience
SOURCE: comScore Media Metrix, US, March 2015. March data was used to reflect the month before tax filings are due. U.S. Census Bureau, Income and Poverty in the Unites States: 2014, Current Population Reports, September 2015. The key is to more effectively reach the tax audience Bing Ads over indexes on household incomes $60,000–$74,999 and $75,000+ compared to the overall Internet population. Est. 9% of pop. 36% of the population Tax advertiser target market
2 in 5 tax website visits come from those 45 years and older and Bing Ads has a higher index than Google on individuals ranging from ages 45-64.1 Age distribution of tax website visitors2 SOURCE: 1comScore Plan Metrix, US, March 2015, custom measure created using comScore indices and duplication. March data was used to reflect the month before tax filings are due. 2Hitwise, Demo Report, January 2015.
Words that work Top tax ad copy
M M M M M M Here’s how to read a heat map SOURCE: Microsoft internal data. 16,000 ads and 45 million impressions analyzed. Analysis period: January – March 2015. In this example, a tax ad with “tax calculator” in the title and “tax refunds” in the description has high ad quality.
M M M M M M Tax Ad Copy Research Heat Map SOURCE: Microsoft internal data. 16,000 ads and 45 million impressions analyzed. Analysis period: January – March 2015.
M M M M M Top Tax Ad Copy Combinations SOURCE: Microsoft internal data. 16,000 ads and 45 million impressions analyzed. Analysis period: January – March 2015. People conducting tax-related searches want reliable information from trusted sources – likely why including Official Site (e.g., “official”, “site” or “official site”) in the ad copy improves ad performance. The best-performing ad copy combination was Official Site in the ad title, and IRS (“online irs”, “irs tax”, “irs form”, etc.) in the ad description. Further analysis found that this was true regardless of device, whether PC/Tablet or Mobile. Ad performance is also boosted by using terms in the Tax Calculator group (e.g., “calculate tax”, “estimate”, “estimator”, “calculate”, “tax calculator”). This is aligned with our search trend performance analysis which found that “tax calculator” and other variations of the term were among the most popular search terms.
M M M M M Sitelink Deep Link Analysis SOURCE: Microsoft internal data. 16,000 ads and 45 million impressions analyzed. Analysis period: January – March 2015. Opportunity: Tax Calculator was a top performer when featured in Sitelink Extension ads and is a relatively untapped opportunity. Returns (e.g., “tax return”, “returns free”) and Income Taxes (e.g., “income”) also perform well, but were underutilized by advertisers. Take the opportunity to stand out from the crowd and boost your sitelink clicks by including terms from these high performing categories in your Sitelink Extension ads!
Should I bid on my brand terms? To bid or not to bid?See what our Bing Ads research study reveals
More clicks? Let’s break that down. Wouldn’t I receive some of those clicks anyway if I didn’t bid on my brand terms? Yes, however, 32% are incremental clicks gained as a result of brand term bidding. SOURCE: Bing Ads research study, January - March 2014. Study looked at the financial services industry and captured 50 million impressions. Note: Brand Ads are in Mainline Position 1. No brand ad in this case means organic only listing.
Bidding on your brand terms reduces opportunities for your competitors to capture your customers or their mindshare if they bid on your brand terms. 2 Brand term bidding means fewer clicks to competitors To learn more about the value of bidding on your brand terms, check out the complete Bing Ads research study and white paper. Companies that bought their brand terms reduced competitors’ share of clicks from 24% to 7%. SOURCE: Bing Ads research study, January - March 2014. Study looked at the financial services industry and captured 50 million impressions. Note: Brand Ads are in Mainline Position 1. No brand ad in this case means organic only listing.
Why advertise on Bing Ads?
Access searchers not reached on Google SOURCE: Audience data represents Bing Web and Yahoo US Web Search from comScore qSearch (custom), US, March 2015. Industry categories based on comScore classifications. Automotive Business & Finance Education Telecom Travel Retail 51M 24M 12M 25M 16M 21M
Bing Ads is more cost effective than Google AdWords Automotive Education Financial Health Home and garden Legal Shopping and classified Tele-communications Travel $1.57 $0.93 $4.30 $2.69 $2.61 $1.65 $2.16 $1.60 $1.30 $0.50 $5.82 $1.76 $0.77 $0.39 $1.35 $0.73 $0.91 $0.55 SOURCE: AdGooroo, Google Adwords vs. Yahoo Bing Network – Average Cost per Click by Industry, Q1 2014.
Sitelink extensions Location extensions lift in click-through rates (CTR) Call extensions Improve click-through rate and conversions by providing direct access to site content and purchase pages. Drive more in-store conversions with store locator, click-to-call, merchant ratings, and click-to-direction. Connect customers quickly to your business with click-to-call. Drive even better performance with Ad Extensions 20% 10% 13% SOURCE: Microsoft internal data.
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