Microsoft Ads: The Ultimate Campaign Management Guide

The frieze of a Microsoft store with the classic four square red, green, blue, yellow logo illuminated at night.

KLIK Staff

March 25, 2022

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Microsoft Ads

What is it?

Often neglected when discussing digital marketing mix due to the dominant shadow cast by its much bigger counterpart, Microsoft Ads (formerly and colloquially Bing Ads) pertains to three search engines that you’ll nevertheless still recognize: Bing, Yahoo, and AOL. 

While you may be able to count on one hand the number of your contacts who still employ an @yahoo.com or @aol.com email address, you may be surprised to hear how many of your other contacts still use these Microsoft products every day. To name a few, those who use Edge as their default search browser or fall into the 1% of Mozilla users who have been defaulted to Bing thus far. Not to mention your professional friends who use the search features of Microsoft products like Outlook, Teams, and Skype for work, or their kids who type or shout in a search query on their Xbox. And let’s not forget voice queries with major products such as Alexa and Cortana utilizing Bing for their search as well.

All this to say, while Microsoft Ads may sit in Google’s shadow, with the right amount of nurturing and attention, it can still generate a significant amount of traffic and therefore potential awareness, engagement, and revenue for you to harvest.

Microsoft Ads vs. Google Ads

It can feel so easy to put these two channels against each other. And when you look at the overall reach and volume that each can provide, you’re likely to side with Google every time. However, if you take some time to consider what Microsoft can offer as well, you may find that changing “versus” to “and” means that you can gain an even greater share of your market, often with fairly little input or investment needed.

To begin, consider the placements for each platform. For search ads, Microsoft utilizes the Microsoft Search Network, consisting of the Bing, Yahoo, and AOL search engines to display visual and textual ads on the results page, akin to Google’s search results page. Next is the Microsoft Syndicated Search Partners Network which entails a handful of preselected websites with whom Microsoft partners. Unlike the Google Search Partner Network, advertisers are able to maintain a greater degree of control and visibility with the Microsoft partners. And finally, there is the Microsoft Audience Network. Unlike the Google Display Network which consists of millions of sites where ads could show (often with little control from advertisers), the Microsoft Audience Network enlists only “IAS-certified brand-safe properties.” In other words, what you may sacrifice in reach with the Microsoft Network, you’re likely to make up for in brand safety and quality.

Looking at your or your client’s bottom line, Microsoft also displays some additional advantages over Google to offset reach concerns. First, with a less crowded marketplace, auctions on Microsoft’s platforms are less competitive than Google’s. This typically leads to cheaper clicks and consistent or improved conversion rates. In other words, if you’re debating spending 10% more of your budget in Google or allocating that spend to Microsoft, chances are that you’re going to get stronger returns investing into Microsoft.

Ultimately, by combining your digital marketing mix to include both Microsoft and Google, you’re likely to find incremental value that you would otherwise neglect by sticking to Google alone.

Configuring Microsoft Bing Ads

Account Structure

Account structures for Bing Search Ads closely resemble those of Google Ads. First, the structure of campaigns is identical with the hierarchy following as such: accounts house campaigns which house ad groups. Ad groups house keywords and ads. Targeting capabilities vary between campaigns and ad groups and are covered in more detail below. Extensions are also available in Bing and can be associated at the account, campaign, and ad group levels. Notably, however, imagery-based ads and extensions such as multimedia ads and image extensions must be created in the Microsoft Ads site at the campaign or ad group level and are not available to create, import, or post from Microsoft Ads Editor.

Campaign Setup

While campaigns may be created in either the Microsoft Ads UI or in Microsoft Ads Editor, we’re going to focus on creation in the UI since it provides a much better walkthrough when creating your first campaign. Once you’re more familiar with the campaign types and settings that you want in your account, Editor can be a much more useful tool for creating many campaigns at once.

To begin, log into your Microsoft Ads account, navigate to the campaigns tab, and click on the blue “Create” button. You’ll then be taken to a page that prompts you to select the goal for your campaign. At this point, you’ll notice that under the “Research and other tools section,” you can select to import campaigns from Google or Facebook. Please see below for tips on how to use these features. 

As we at KLIK are focused on driving revenue for our clients, we’re going to proceed with the goal of driving conversions, but many of the following steps are consistent with the other goals that you could select. In this case, we will also focus on search ads, but once you select your goal, you will likely be prompted with creating either Search or Audience campaigns. 

In our search campaign, the first component is naming your campaign. Next, you’ll enter the daily budget for your campaign. Like Google Ads, Bing Ads will flag when your campaign is limited by budget, so you can always adjust your campaign budget at a later time. You will want to give it some room to spend based on the CPCs that you predict you’ll encounter. 

Then you’ll have the option to add in locations. Note that the default setting here is for both the United States and Canada (as opposed to just the US in Google). As such, you’ll want to be mindful of where you’re looking to target. You can consult our blog post on location targeting tips to help you best align your location targeting with your marketing strategy. Be mindful of the next setting which has to do with how you’d like your location targeting to operate. In most cases, you’ll want to uncheck the setting that would show your ads to “People searching for or viewing pages about your targeted locations,” as this could risk showing your ads well outside of the locations that you include in your targeting.

Finally, you’ll select the language of the websites where you want your ads to appear. Bing will not translate your ad copy to the languages selected, but rather your copy will show as written to anyone whose browser is set to the languages that you select. In most cases, you’ll likely only want to select the one language that aligns with your copy. Next, you have the option to include a disclaimer if applicable to your business or product. Note that if you remove this disclaimer at a later point, your ads will no longer show. Lastly, you’ll have the option to employ dynamic search ads. You can find more information on this ad format in the Ad Types section below. 

Ad Groups & Keywords

After creating your campaign, you’ll move on to ad groups and keywords. Microsoft offers some tools to help you create keywords that align with your product or site. You will also have the option to employ standard or dynamic ad groups. For most purposes, you’ll likely want to utilize standard ad groups as these allow you to retain more control over your ad groups and ad copy within your campaign.

Ads & Extensions

Next, you have the ability to add ads and extensions to your ad groups. Please note that you need to add at least one ad at this point. You can always add more ads and extensions later on from the ads & extensions tab. For more information on the ad types available, please consult the Ad Types section below.
In regard to extensions, you will notice many similarities to extensions available in Google such as sitelink, callout, structured snippet, promotion, location, price, review, and call extensions. In addition to these, you will also see the option to add action extensions which allow you to add a call to action to the end of your ad. Filter link extensions are also available. These are essentially structured snippets with clickable links for each field under the header.

Budgets & Bids

In the final step, you can review and adjust some miscellaneous settings for your campaigns, ad groups, and ads. At this stage, you can select the bid strategy for your campaign. For more detail on the different options and which may be best for your campaign, please see below. You can also select the minimum ad group level bid for your ad groups. We recommended setting a low bid amount ($0.05 as the absolute minimum allowed) since keyword bids take precedence over ad group bids once live.

In the campaign targets section, you can click the “Edit target categories” link to view all of the different categories on which you may adjust your targeting such as location, age, gender, device, company, industry, and job function. Note that you do not need to select all of these categories to show your ads to individuals who fit into these groups. Nor does selecting certain categories guarantee that your ads will only be shown to searchers who fall into those groups. You can also apply bid modifiers to certain groups, however, we’d recommend reading your data first to determine what types of bid modifiers make sense based on the conversion rates that you witness after testing your campaigns.

Finally, you can click into the advanced campaign settings section to apply the finishing touches to your campaign. This is where you can apply ad schedules and modifiers for days of the week and times of day. The other settings will depend upon the ads that you added or plan to add to your campaign. We highly recommend reviewing the final setting on ad distribution. The default selection in this case will show your ads on all search networks and syndicated search partners. If you only want to show on search results, you’ll want to select the second option that will limit your scope to search engines only where you have better control over where and how your ads are served.

Campaign Bid Strategies

Microsoft Ads provides options for a number of bid strategies. You can find an overview of all bid strategies on their site, but we will cover the most common bid strategies below.

Enhanced CPC

Unlike Google Ads, Microsoft Ads does not provide a traditional manual CPC option. Rather, it employs Enhanced CPC which still allows advertisers to set bids, but Microsoft may adjust bids up or down slightly based on the chance that it predicts a keyword will convert in an auction. For more information on Enhanced CPC, consult our blog post covering Microsoft’s migration from manual to Enhanced CPC bidding.

Maximize Conversions

The maximize conversions strategy operates in line with its name. Advertisers set the budget for their campaigns and Microsoft Ads sets the bids for keywords in order to maximize conversions. Please note that this bid strategy requires UET for the strategy to understand what conversion action it will work to maximize. Advertisers are able to maintain some control in setting minimum and maximum bids as well as adjusting bid modifiers for certain categories.

Target CPA & Target ROAS

Target CPA and Target ROAS operate very similarly. In both cases, advertisers set a target cost per acquisition or ROAS value for the bidder to optimize toward. Similar to the maximize conversions bid strategy, Microsoft Ads handles all keyword bidding. Best practices for these bid strategies can be found in Microsoft’s bid strategy overview.

Search Ad Types

Microsoft Ads offers a variety of ad types. Some are nearly identical to formats available in Google Ads, but Microsoft offers some unique ad types as well. Information on all available ad types can be found in Microsoft’s ad type overview while common search ad types are covered below.

Expanded Text Ads (ETAs)

ETAs allow advertisers to manually input three headlines, two descriptions, two paths, and a display URL that are shown on the search results page. Note that Microsoft Ads refers to headlines as “titles” and descriptions as “text.” If you are duplicating ad copy from Google Ads, you will want to adjust the headers of your import or choose to import in the Google Ads format. Like Google Ads as well, advertisers will no longer be able to create or edit ads of this type after June 30, 2022.

Responsive Search Ads (RSAs)

RSAs appear in the same format as ETAs above. The primary difference is the number of inputs for these ads. Advertisers can include up to 15 headlines and 4 descriptions in these ads. Microsoft will then select 2-3 headlines and 1-2 descriptions to show in each auction. If you have compliance concerns, you are able to pin assets to only appear in the title, title part 2, title part 3, text, and text part 2 ad asset slots.

Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs)

DSAs are similar to ETAs and RSAs in regard to their appearance in search results. However, the input process is much different. Rather than advertisers including the copy that they want to show, Microsoft creates the copy in each auction to best align with text from your landing page and the search that your keywords map to. The drawback is that advertisers have very little control over what is actually shown on the results page.

Bing Smart Search Ads

Bing Smart Search Ads leverage copy from other ad types as well as extensions to create a modern-looking ad. Often, this will include a preview of the landing page.

Multimedia Ads (MMAs)

MMAs incorporate imagery to showcase your product in a visual fashion on the results page. Imagery can either be added manually or Microsoft can scrape images from your landing page. Note that multiple images are needed, and only one MMA will show in a given auction. However, MMAs show alongside other ad types and do not replace them on the search results page.

Product Ads

Product Ads leverage imagery from your business’s Microsoft Merchant Center as well as promotional text, prices, and seller details to showcase your product alongside other ads on the search results page.

Key Bing Ads Tips

Align Google and Bing Strategies

The primary reason that Microsoft Ads make a good complement to Google Ads is that Microsoft has made it easy to align strategy between these two platforms. While advertisers likely want to align their time and attention based on the spend associated with each platform, they can leverage resources like Microsoft’s Google Ads import feature to easily create campaigns in Bing Ads without needing to go through the entire campaign and ad creation process. This time saving allows advertisers to more quickly align Google and Bing strategy and leverage insights from performance in Google Ads to inform strategy in Bing Ads where data may not be as sufficient given the smaller market and reach associated with Bing.

While the actual settings to do this can be difficult to find, advertisers can reach out to Microsoft Support to have their campaigns removed from Suggested Search. This targeting often generates many impressions and clicks on mobile devices that do not tend to convert well. Moreover, advertisers do not have much visibility or control over this feature, so it’s typically safest to avoid it altogether.

Beware of Keyword Mapping

In practice, exact match keywords tend to map closely to the queries on which they are served. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for phrase and broad match types in Bing Ads. Advertisers will want to closely monitor search terms for phrase and broad match keywords and reach out to Microsoft Support concerning instances of very broad keyword mapping to see what tools or resources may be available to improve mapping. Negative keywords can certainly help, but sometimes entire terms may be dropped between a keyword and query which is an issue that negative keywords can’t solve.

Utilize Imagery

Perhaps the biggest advantage that Microsoft Ads has over Google Ads is in the appearance of ads and ad types on its sites. Image extensions, multimedia ads, product ads, and Bing Smart Search Ads are great examples of visually appealing ads available only in Microsoft Ads that can have a large impact on the chance that an ad is shown and clicked on. Incorporating imagery into ads provides a better user experience and increases the likelihood that searchers click on your ad.

Do you need help building out your Microsoft Advertisements? Find out how KLIK can assist you.

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