It’s not Google, but it’s bigger and more powerful than you think.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How Microsoft Advertising’s 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. 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 is Microsoft’s search engine — its own version of Google.) And with the rebranding came a larger emphasis on things like AI and personalization, as Search Engine Land noted.

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 it stacks up against Google.

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 7.3 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. This gives Microsoft Advertising a combined 33% of the total U.S. search market share — even higher for desktop searches. Microsoft Ads also give you access to 63 million search users that can’t be reached via Google Ads.

Microsoft Advertising offers its customers opportunities for training certifications and expert webcasts, along with in-depth audience and marketplace insights.

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 to collect data for conversion tracking and retargeting, similar to the Google Ads global site tag setup.

Google Ads vs. Microsoft Ads

Both Google and Microsoft offer paid search ads that can work on multiple devices and allow 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.)

It’s understandable that Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising have plenty in common. They both aim to serve relevant ads to searchers using their platforms, help businesses attract the right prospects, and ultimately get them more leads. But there are a few key differences between these platforms that are worth noting.

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The Google Ads and Microsoft Advertising networks both cover PPC as well as display ads. While the Microsoft Advertising display network is smaller, covering only their own consumer properties such as Xbox, MSN, Windows OS, Microsoft Edge, and Outlook, it does reach nearly a billion unique monthly users based on the total reach of each platform. Plus, those channels have some of the highest visibility scores industry-wide.

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

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

What makes Microsoft Ads unique

A key stat that might interest companies: Microsoft Search Network visitors spend approximately 30% more money 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. Plus, Microsoft Ads can cost up to 70% less than Google Ads.

Microsoft recently rolled out a new feature that will automatically create new variations of your existing ads and apply the suggestions for you. This is a bit controversial, but you can opt out in your settings if you choose. They also recently introduced automotive ads (still in beta) in the U.S and U.K.

Plus, the ad platform uses LinkedIn data to target groups of users based on information in their professional profiles. This 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 the retail and financial industries, which makes the search engine an ideal marketing option for brands in these niches.

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.

In April 2021, Microsoft rolled out a bevy of new features, including the global release of API support for Google Import, countdown customizers for RSAs, 60 new in-market audiences and more, according to Search Engine Journal.

Pro tip: In May 2021, Microsoft announced that they’d begin to “expand phrase match to include broad match modifier [BMM] traffic,” according to Search Engine Land. They also report that “advertisers will no longer have the ability to create new BMM keywords beginning in August 2021.”

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. 

After all, 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.

This article has been updated and was originally published in April 2020.

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