How to master Microsoft Ads (beyond a Google import)

Lewis Griffiths,

Bing’s UK search market share has been growing from 6.85% in November 2018 to around 10% at the end of Q3 in 2020, with a big increase happening in recent moths. Given Bing’s heavy proportion of users towards desktop, this makes sense with people being indoors more and people working from home on laptops. It’s a far-cry away from Google’s mammoth 86.59% market share, but they’re starting to become increasingly noticed amongst marketers.

Microsoft Ads has really been stepping its game up recently with its new user interface and continuous lineup of new product features; it has come a long way from being an afterthought in marketers’ minds. Microsoft Ads even has exclusive features that really strengthen its claim to be treated as its own platform and deserves to be given time at the table when discussing future paid search strategy.

It is easy for many PPC marketers over the years to have fallen into certain habits that may not utilise Microsoft Ads to its true capabilities, so we're highlighting some features on Microsoft Ads that you can take advantage of that goes beyond your typical Google Import.

LinkedIn Profile Targeting

You're probably aware of LinkedIn Profile Targeting, but it is really important to emphasize how powerful this tool is (and remind you that this isn’t available in Google Ads). Targeting can be narrowed down by industry, and can even go as granular as a specific company or job function.

This matters because it allows you to create highly contextualized content in an increasingly competitive environment, allowing you to access audiences that you're unable to target in Google e.g. Military personnel.

Note: You can only set LinkedIn Profile Targeting to “bid only” on search campaigns meaning it won’t narrow your targeting and will only apply a bid adjustment. But because bid modifiers go up to 900%, you could set the regular bid very low and crank up the bid adjustment to direct the majority of your bids to the LinkedIn audiences.

Static headlines for Dynamic Search Ads

Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs) create ads with dynamically generated headlines and landing pages whenever someone searches a keyword related to your website. This can be a fantastic tool for two purposes:

  1. They can find gaps in your keyword lists
  2. You can create ads quickly at scale using your website’s content

However in some industries such as financial, legal, and the medical industry, strict policies and legal teams can deem DSAs too risky due to the lack of control over what headline could potentially be associated with your brand. This exclusive feature for Microsoft Ads now allows brands to tap into the benefits of DSAs without sacrificing their messaging by creating a static headline that will always show regardless of the search query.

Microsoft Ads also just released mixed mode campaigns so now you can import mixed Search and DSA campaigns if you want to use your Google DSAs as a starting point.

Note: These 2 features are currently in beta, so it's worth checking to see if you can request access from your Microsoft Account Manager if you can't already. We have access to these features already, which our clients are already taking advantage of.

Action Extensions

Whilst Google only provides call-to-action buttons on their YouTube ads, Microsoft lets you do this on search ads with their Action Extensions. There’s a list of 62 CTAs to choose from including “shop now”, “apply now” and even promotional related CTAs such as“See Offer” or “Get Deals” which are great for events like Black Friday.

They show next to the ad and can run alongside other extensions – it’s so simple to set up and there’s likely a CTA that applies to your business. It’s an easy way to make your Microsoft Ads stand out, and according to Microsoft it can improve click-through-rates by up to 20%. You could even set the Action URL further down the conversion funnel to get faster sales.

Ad Customisers by audience

I always try to make things simple when I can, but Ad Customisers are just one of those detailed intricate things that PPC nerds like myself love to dive into. In essence, you provide a spreadsheet called a “Page Feed” with the following information:

  • Custom attributes (e.g. product, price, inventory, dates)
  • Targeting attributes (e.g. keyword, campaign, location, audience)
  • Standard Attributes (e.g. device preference, scheduling, start & end date)

The end result is that your ads will dynamically insert data based on the criteria you set out in the page feed, transforming a single text ad into hundreds of variations tailored to customers specific needs. This no doubt increases relevancy and therefore drives better results with higher CTRs, and Microsoft take it one step further by adding targeting by audience.

With this you can create contextual messaging to different audiences, such as discounts for a remarketing list who viewed a specific product but didn’t convert. The opportunities are limitless depending on how granular you are with your audience lists and can provide significant uplift in conversion rates.

Microsoft Audience Network (MSAN) & Microsoft Audience Ads

The MSAN is very impressive with a large reach of brand-safe environment such as MSN, Outlook, Microsoft Edge and even the Xbox platforms. Microsoft carefully thought about delivering a blended ad experience (honestly they fit in seamlessly) into their native channels which is why it typically outperforms traditional display marketing that can fall victim to “banner blindness”.

This is powered by the “Microsoft Advertising Graph” which has a deep understanding of exclusive user behaviour by connecting web activity, LinkedIn Profiles, demographics and more. Microsoft is so proud of this technology that they’re currently the only major search platform to create dedicated native advertising solutions now known as Audience Ads.

Audience Ads can be used in 2 ways:

  • You can extend your search campaigns to include the MSAN and use the same budget
  • You create a separate Audience Campaign with it’s own targeting parameters and dedicated budget for further control and optimised performance metrics (this option is in closed beta)

Having more options with search partner targeting in Google would be so useful, so the fact that Microsoft Ads allows for such control and customisation of search partner options is a big win. And another thing – you know how I said you couldn’t narrow LinkedIn targeting in search ads? With ads on the MSAN… you can.

Audience Ad Campaigns allow for the addition of Responsive Ads which use either image-based ads or you can also use product-based ads for dynamic remarketing based on what products a user has viewed.

Roundup

Microsoft Ads has some incredibly useful features that are exclusive to their platform and I’m excited for the future state of Microsoft Ads. Perhaps it’s my relatively recent introduction to Microsoft Ads that gives me such optimism and desire to learn its nuances, as many experienced PPC marketers may overlook the true potential of this platform and see it as merely a tick on a checklist.

Even things like Responsive Search Ads perform differently on Microsoft Ads (if you have a “Good” Ad Strength on Google Ads don’t assume it will be the same on Microsoft – check it over and make adjustments).

I did an account build recently and it was intriguing to see how Google and Microsoft distributed spend across the same campaigns differently when setting up automated bidding. A truly great PPC team will master the nuances of both platforms and not just simply import from Google and call it a “job well done”.


I hope this was insightful. And as always, you can contact our team of experts for more information or support.

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