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Written by Caroline Cox on Apr 8 , 2020

Because Google isn’t the only online search game in town…

Here, you’ll find:

  • How Microsoft Ads paid search ads work
  • How the platform stacks up against Google
  • What makes Microsoft Ads unique
  • The benefits of leveraging both platforms

Spring is the time for new beginnings. That’s why spring cleaning became “a thing” — there’s no better season to refresh your surroundings (especially now, with everyone staying home). The same can also be said for your brand’s paid search (or PPC) marketing strategy.

In the spring of 2019, Bing Ads rebranded to Microsoft Advertising. (Bing being Microsoft’s search engine — its own version of Google.) As Search Engine Land noted, with the rebrand came a larger emphasis on things like AI and personalization. 

Here’s a look at what Microsoft Advertising has to offer, whether you’re interested in leveraging the platform in your paid search initiatives or just want to know more about how they stack up against Google.

HawkSEM - Microsoft Advertising 101: What You Need to Know

Like Google Ads, Microsoft also has an offline editor desktop application for bulk changes and updates. (Image via Unsplash)

Getting started with Microsoft Advertising

The Microsoft Search Network reportedly reaches 5.9 billion monthly searches. (Yes, that’s billion with a “b.”) Its search ad options allow businesses to target those searching on the Bing, Yahoo, and AOL platforms.

Microsoft Advertising also offers its customers opportunities for training certifications, and expert webcasts, along with in-depth audience and marketplace insights. Of course, its platform has lots in common with Google Ads.

For example, it offers paid search ads that can work on multiple devices, and allows you to choose your reach — from a small radius around your brick-and-mortar location (if you have one) to a global scale. They also both have ad extensions, feed-based ads, and shopping campaign options.

Like Google Ads, Microsoft also has an offline editor desktop application for bulk changes and updates. (Amazon Advertising, as well as social platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn, don’t have these, which can make setup more difficult.)

Signing up for a Microsoft Ads account is free, and they’ve made the process pretty seamless. You create your ad with text, a URL, and extensions (which can include images, reviews, and the like). Next, determine your ad bid, budget, and keywords you want to target.

From there, track your performance, conversion rates, and goals, then iterate as needed.

Pro tip: Microsoft’s conversion tracking is set up using a Universal Event Tracking (UET) pixel, similar to the Google Ads global site tag setup.

Google Ads vs. Microsoft Ads

It’s understandable that Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising have plenty in common. After all, their offerings are essentially the same: to serve relevant ads to searchers using their platforms. The aim of search ads is to allow businesses to attract the right prospects and get more leads. But there are a few key differences between these platforms that are worth noting.

The Google Ads network covers PPC as well as display ads. While Microsoft Advertising also does this, their display network is much smaller, covering only their own consumer properties such as Xbox, MSN, Windows OS, Microsoft Edge, and Outlook.

The two platforms also use slightly different terminology in some areas. For instance, while Google refers to both cost of conversion and cost per acquisition (CPA), Microsoft sticks to CPA. While Google refers to ad headings as “headlines,” Microsoft Advertising calls them “titles.” 

In the fall of 2019, Google announced they were sunsetting its “Average Position” metric. (This shows your ad’s position in relation to other ads on the search engine results page, or SERP.) The metric is still available from Microsoft.

Pro tip: Both Google and Bing allow for up to 90 characters in their ad description fields.

HawkSEM - Microsoft Advertising 101: What You Need to Know

Microsoft Ads has partnered with LinkedIn in recent years to target groups of users based on information in their professional profiles. (Image via Unsplash)

What makes Microsoft Ads unique

A key stat that might interest companies: Microsoft Search Network visitors spend approximately 37% more online than the average web searcher. Not only that, but more than half of searchers have an estimated income of $75,000 or more, with generally higher household incomes and more high-level jobs than Google overall. 

While Microsoft searches account for just over a third of all desktop searches, brands are likely to find their paid search ads have less competition than they do on Google. As for mobile, Microsoft claims their average smartphone cost per click is less than 50 cents, whereas the industry average is $0.58.

The ad platform has also partnered with LinkedIn in recent years to target groups of users based on information in their professional profiles. This partnership is especially appealing to B2B brands looking to target those with specific job titles.

Microsoft Advertising has robust targeting options. Its user intent targeting includes:

  • Remarketing
  • In-market audiences
  • Custom audiences
  • Product audiences
  • Similar audiences

Other targeting types include:

  • LinkedIn profile
  • Age & gender
  • Location
  • Device

Pro tip: Fit Small Business reports that Bing (Microsoft Advertising) specializes in targeting for the retail and financial industries, which makes the search engine an ideal marketing option for brands in these industries.

HawkSEM - Microsoft Advertising 101: What You Need to Know

There are plenty of opportunities for reach, leads, and sales to be had from Microsoft Advertising.

Benefits of using both Google and Microsoft ads

Got a winning Google campaign? Then you’ll probably see success on Bing too. Why not do both? 

Microsoft makes it easy to import your Google campaigns onto its own search platform. Not only can this increase your exposure, but you may find a promising Google search campaign does even better on Bing. Plus, you can now schedule imports on a recurring basis so you can optimize in Google and carry the changes to Microsoft without doing double the work.

If you’re in a particularly saturated market or find yourself having trouble sourcing quality leads on Google, Bing could be the answer you’re looking for. Companies that are scraping the corners of Google trying to think of new keywords and ads to get new leads are the ones that often find that carrying over their branded ads to Bing results in more leads.

The takeaway

The Google brand is basically synonymous with online searching, especially in the United States. But there are plenty of additional opportunities for reach, leads, and sales to be had from the Microsoft side of searches as well. 

Particularly when it comes to exclusive partners, cheaper clicks, and getting an edge in a competitive industry, you may be surprised at the paid search results you get outside of Google’s platform. Your competitors are probably on Google, but they may not be on Bing. There’s certainly something to be said for being a bigger fish in a smaller pond. 

Ready to explore more paid search opportunities for your business? Let’s talk.

Caroline Cox

Caroline Cox

Caroline is HawkSEM's content marketing manager. She uses her more than 10 years of professional writing and editing experience to create SEO-friendly articles, educational thought leadership pieces, and savvy social media content to help market leaders create successful digital marketing strategies. She's a fan of seltzer water, print magazines, and huskies.

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