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Insights to optimize for tax return season

The holidays are in full swing and good cheer is in the air. For tax software and services advertisers, now is also the time to prep your campaigns for the upcoming tax filing season.

Last year, the IRS received 138.2 million individual tax returns, including more than 120 million e-filed returns.[1] With a strong economy and low unemployment, a high number of returns are also expected between late January and April 15, 2016.[2] That’s good news for tax service and software providers, especially since 6 in 10 e-filers seek the help of tax professionals or tax preparation software.[3]

To stand out in this competitive tax season, there are a few critical tactics to leverage, including timing your campaigns, preparing for new search queries, bidding on brand terms, using the right ad formats, and targeting the right audience.

1. Use early January to optimize your campaigns

On the Bing Ads Network, tax-related searches, costs per click (CPC), and click-through rates (CTR) increase throughout January. Use the first half of January to optimize your ads and campaigns when CPC is relatively low and CTR is on the rise.

bing ads tax season

2. Capture early-bird and last-minute filers

Take advantage of the season’s two search peaks – first when the season opens, and again around the filing deadline. These peaks align with e-filing volume which starts strong in the  season’s first three weeks, sees steady returns in the middle, and surges toward the deadline.[4]

bing ads tax season

If you’re advertising relates to tax refunds, you’ll be happy to learn that refund-related searches follow the general tax-related search trends. People start searching for information on their refunds right after they file their tax returns. Furthermore, refund-related searches, like “where(‘s) my refund,” are popular on mobile devices. Make sure your campaigns and landing pages are mobile-optimized.

bing ads tax season

3. Expect some new questions

The Supreme Court made two big decisions this summer. First, they upheld the eligibility of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) premium tax credits (aka “health insurance subsidies”) nationwide. Second, they supported marriage equality in all 50 states. Tax service providers can expect taxpayers some questions about the ACA and marriage benefits.

The IRS made healthcare coverage and ACA tax credits and payments part of the 2014 tax forms. Although the majority of taxpayers simply check a box claiming coverage, one in five taxpayers will claim an exemption, calculate their individual shared responsibility payment (aka “tax penalty”), or claim a premium tax credit.[5] This presents an opportunity for tax and financial service professionals to help these taxpayers. Those taxpayers without health insurance may need help calculating their tax penalty and those enrolled in the federal or state exchanges need help estimating their annual income for the next Open Enrollment. (In 2015, only 10% of taxpayers claiming a premium tax credit correctly estimated their 2014 income when they applied for health insurance.)

bing ads tax season

Tax and financial services professionals can also expect questions from same-sex couples regarding the array of available marriage benefits. In addition to filing joint tax returns at both the federal and state levels, married same-sex couples will be able to enjoy other tax benefits, including making unlimited gifts between spouses with gift taxes and inheriting a spouse’s property without paying estate taxes.

Consider adding keywords or tailoring ads and ad groups to target these niche markets and help consumers get the assistance they’re searching for at tax time and throughout the year.

4. Play offense and defense

Tax advertising is a competitive market where you have to score against the competition while defending your own goal. Because many of the top tax-related search queries are for brand terms, a common strategy is bidding on conquesting keywords (that is, your competitors’ brand terms). This strategy may help you grab some clicks from competitors, but it’s also letting them take clicks from you.

Therefore, it’s important for you to bid on your own brand terms. Our crack team of researchers looked into it and found that financial services advertisers get 32% more clicks when they bid on their own brand terms.[6]

In addition, bidding on your brand terms reduces opportunities for your competitors to capture your customers or their mindshare if they bid on your brand terms. We found that companies that bought their brand terms reduced competitors’ share of clicks from 24% to 7%. Check out the complete Bing Ads research study and white paper to learn more about the value of bidding on your brand terms.

bing ads tax season

5. Take advantage of available ad tools and formats

To make the most of your tax season campaigns, take advantage of some of the tools offered by Bing Ads to give your ads greater impact:

  • To streamline campaign management, set up Automated Rules to schedule and automate your campaign management operations. Use these rules to enable and pause ads, ad groups and campaigns, to adjust keyword and ad group bids, or to change a campaign’s budget automatically based on the criteria you select. You can also use the Notify Me rules to proactively monitor your budgets and performance.
  • To highlight key information in your products or site, check out Sitelink and Enhanced Sitelink extensions. These additional links in your ads take people to specific pages on your website and can boost CTR by up to 13% over standard text ads.
  • To help drive foot traffic into your local office, use Call extensions in conjunction with Location extensions, which can lift CTR by up to 10% and 20%, respectively. Your phone numbers will be displayed as well as directions to help customers find your business. And don’t forget to layer in location targeting to ensure optimal customer experience and the most relevant leads.
  • To promote downloads of your tax-related app, enable App extensions to add an app download link to your ads. App Extensions help you meet two goals at once – boosting traffic and app installs – and work across devices including smartphone, tablet and PC.

6. Leverage the expanding Bing Ads ecosystem

To make the most of your tax season campaign, get to know the Bing Ads audience. Numbers show that about 5.2 million people used the Bing Ads Network for some 12 million tax-related searches, and accounted for 53% of all tax paid clicks[7] – at a lower average cost-per-click than Google. Compared to Google, the Bing Ads audience is more likely to have bought personal finance/tax software online and offline in the last 6 months.[8] For more insights on our audience, visit our Audience Insights page.

Furthermore, Bing Ads is constantly looking for ways to extend our reach and bring new opportunities to our customers. In July, Bing’s integration into Microsoft services increased with the launch of Window 10. Starting on January 1, 2016, Bing will become the exclusive provider of search and search advertising services across AOL properties. These engagements enable you to reach more consumers at the right ROI.

Interested in learning more? We’ve got more search trends and tax filing insights in our Tax Season presentation:


For more seasonal and vertical insights to help you make smart connections to achieve more, check out the Bing Ads Insights Portal.

[1] IRS, IRS Filing Season Statistics for week ending May 15, 2015.

[2] IBISWorld Business Environment Report, National unemployment rate, June 2015.

[3] Data analysis on IRS Weekly Filing Season Statistics, 2015.

[4] Data analysis on IRS Weekly Filing Season Statistics, 2015.

[6] Bing Ads research study, January - March 2014. Study looked at the financial services industry and captured 50 million impressions.

[7] comScore qSearch (custom), US, March 2015; industry categories based on comScore classifications.

[8] 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.