A guide to Microsoft Advertising

Magnifying glass over an iPad displaying a Microsoft Advertising website

Microsoft Advertising, can be a highly effective form of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Microsoft Advertising helps attract new customers to your website in a similar way to Google Ads – but often at significantly lower cost.

Although Google is the best known search engine in the UK, many people use search engines powered by Microsoft (eg Yahoo Search and AOL Search Network) and other search engines instead. Microsoft Advertising lets you set up a PPC campaign to reach these potential customers.

Microsoft Advertising vs Google Ads

Both Microsoft Advertising and Google Ads can be very effective ways of advertising your products or services. Understanding the differences helps you understand what each can offer your business – and why it may well be a good idea to advertise on both of them.

  • Reach. Most people in the UK search using Google - which means that Google Ads can reach the widest audience. But if you want your ads to reach people who use other search engines (somewhere between 10 and 25% of total searches), you need to use Microsoft Advertising.
  • Display ads. As well as search, you can use Google Ads to advertise on the Google Display Network. Microsoft Advertising does not offer the same, though you can use Microsoft Audience Ads on sites like MSN. But in any case, most small businesses find it more effective to focus their advertising on search engines rather than either of these two options.
  • Local. Adding a free business profile to Google My Business can help you stand out in local searches or when people use Google Maps. Bing Places for Business offers a similar free listing profile for people searching using Bing or Bing Maps.
  • Cost-per-click (CPC). Both Google and Microsoft Advertising are PPC – you only pay when someone clicks on the ad. In general, Microsoft Advertising costs are lower – sometimes much lower.
  • Ease of use. Both Google and Microsoft Advertising work in similar ways and offer similar tools. If you are familiar with Google Ads, you should find it relatively straightforward to start using Microsoft Advertising.

Microsoft Advertising is the only digital advertising platform (outside of LinkedIn) to offer LinkedIn Profile Targeting This allows you to target highly relevant audiences based on their LinkedIn profile information (eg company, job function and industry).

You don’t need to make an either/or choice between the two advertising options. You may well find that both work well for your business, allowing you to reach the broadest audience in a cost-effective way.

For a smaller business with a limited advertising budget, you may decide to concentrate all your ad spend on the lower cost option. While this means that your ads cannot reach the entire market of potential customers, your budget would not in any case be large enough to afford this.

Microsoft Advertising costs

Because Microsoft Advertising is less well-known, the amount you must bid to get your ad displayed tends to be lower. Typically the cost-per-click is 30-50% lower than for the same ad on Google Ads.

Of course, CPCs vary for different keywords. And what really matters is not just the CPC, but the results the ads get – for example, how many people not only click on the ad but end up making a purchase. The only way to get an accurate assessment of how well Microsoft Advertising will work for your particular needs is to try it out.

Setting up a trial will let you compare the bids that Microsoft Advertising suggests for your keywords with the bids suggested by Google Ads. Once the ads are live, you can also compare results – how often your ad gets displayed, what percentage of people click on the ad (click-through rate), cost-per-click and so on.

A trial campaign can be very low cost.

You should also make sure your business has a free listing profile on Bing Places for Business. You can claim the existing listing for your business if Bing already has one, automatically import your profile from Google My Business, or set up a new profile from scratch.

How does Microsoft Advertising work?

Microsoft Advertising works in a similar way to Google Ads. The key difference is that your ads show up on search engines that are 'powered' by Microsoft (eg Bing, Yahoo Search and AOL Search Network).

Like Google Ads, how well your ads perform will be affected by factors including:

  • how much you are prepared to bid for each click;
  • how relevant your ad is to the keyword you are bidding on;
  • how relevant the copy on your website is to the keyword;
  • how well the ad has performed in the past (eg how high the click-through rate is).

Starting to use Microsoft Advertising should be straightforward, particularly if you are already advertising on Google Ads. Microsoft makes it easy to import an existing Google Ads campaign.

Alternatively, you can set up a new campaign within Microsoft Advertising.

  1. Choose the keywords you want to bid on. You will probably want to use the same keywords for both.
  2. Decide what targeting options you want to use. For example, you can target your local area, different times of day, or different kinds of device (eg desktop or smartphone).
  3. Put together well-written ads for each keyword.
  4. Decide how much to bid and whether to fine-tune your bids (eg for different audiences or different times of day).
  5. Set a budget and start the campaign.
  6. Monitor ad performance to see which campaigns and which advertising networks are working best for you.
  7. Adjust your campaigns and where you advertise to continually improve effectiveness.

Microsoft Advertising offers a selection of tools to help you, including a keyword planner and a campaign management tool. As well as extensive online help, you can get free advice on how to make your ads work better.

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