When it first rose to prominence as a search engine alternative to Google, Bing became something of a punchline among Google devotees. But the search network didn’t go away. In fact, the opposite happened: Over the years, Bing has managed to grow its user base to more than 116 million people, claiming 11.22% of the market share among U.S. desktop users.
That volume of search activity has been a boon for its Bing Ads product. Bing Ads, which was recently rebranded as Microsoft Advertising, offers a major marketing opportunity that most businesses would be reckless to ignore.
If you’re a U.S.-based company, ignoring Bing and its advertising network means closing yourself off to a significant portion of your potential search-based audience. Put in those terms, most marketers are eager to get on board and find out what they’ve been missing with Bing’s ad products — including how they compare to Google Ads, and how to leverage this technology to drive marketing ROI.
Here’s what you need to know to get started using this ad solution.
Comparing Bing Ads and Google Ads
If you handle search marketing in any capacity, you’re already familiar with how Google Ads operates, including its strengths and limitations. That offers an easy frame of reference for understanding what Microsoft Advertising has to offer.
The differences between Bing’s and Google’s ad platforms are best broken down by analyzing the platforms from two different perspectives: the user base, or audience, and the function of the platform itself. Let’s look at each to understand what Bing offers marketers.
In terms of size, Bing’s advertising network is much smaller than Google Ads, given that Google remains the unchallenged leader in the search market. That volume offers certain advantages, especially when it comes to refining your audience targeting and reaching a niche audience. If you’re a business that serves an extremely small customer segment, it’s possible that Bing doesn’t offer the scale you need to deliver the kind of value you’re looking for.
For most businesses, though, the size differences of each ad platform are a nominal concern. In fact, the smaller user base on Bing may actually offer some benefits to certain businesses. The most notable differences between Bing’s audience and Google’s audience relate to age and income level: Bing’s users tend to skew older, with the typical user being more than 35 years old, and the most common age range landing between ages 55 and 64, according to search marketing research.
These individuals are more likely to be parents or even grandparents than the search users on Google, which can make the platform more attractive to businesses targeting these consumer groups. In addition, the household income for the average Bing user tends to be higher than what Google offers: Nearly one-third of all Bing users have a household income above $100,000. And Bing desktop users spend about 35% more on online shopping than the average online search user.
However, Bing’s user base tends to be largely concentrated in the U.S. For brands targeting a global audience, Bing may be an effective tool to engage U.S. consumers, but it probably can’t help you spread your message to all corners of the globe.
In the past, Bing Ads had a reputation for offering only a limited selection of advertising tools, which limited the value of advertising through its search products. But the platform has greatly expanded its offerings in recent years, and Microsoft Advertising now offers a wide range of search ad tools that rival what Google is able to offer.
In addition to a wide range of targeting tools, Bing’s ad solution also features Microsoft Shopping Campaigns, which integrates with product listings managed through the Microsoft Merchant interface. Businesses can also leverage the Microsoft Search Network, which delivers search-based advertisements to a number of syndicated web properties, including MSN and Yahoo. This is similar in design to what Google offers through its own search network.
More recently, Microsoft integrated artificial intelligence capabilities into its platform, making it possible to track audience behaviors and generate deep insights from the trends that emerge. Again, this product is closely mirrored by Google Ads, which means that the only significant difference is the overall potential reach of any ad campaigns you create.
Although the size of the audience may have a small impact on the functionality or value of various platform features, the platforms themselves have much more in common with one another now than in years past.
Pros and cons of using Bing Ads
Like any digital advertising channel, Bing isn’t perfect — although there are some strong reasons to get on board with what it offers. Here’s a brief breakdown of the pros and cons of using Bing instead of, or in addition to, Google’s search ad service.
- A lower cost per click, thanks to less competition: If you’re struggling to afford keywords that offer high value to your business, Bing might be a low-cost alternative to Google that can still deliver excellent results.
- User-friendly functionality: Bing makes it easy to manage your Search Partners, incorporate multiple images into a single ad, and consolidate ad groups into campaigns to more effectively manage those campaigns based on performance.
- Easy setup for Bing campaigns: Bing makes its platform just as easy to use as Google. And, if you already have a Google Ads account, you can import campaigns directly from Google, and then set custom budgets based on the costs within Microsoft Advertising.
- A larger character limit for ad titles: Bing allows up to 40 characters for a search ad title, compared to 25 for Google.
- Slower rollouts for new search advertising features: Although Bing’s offerings are similar to Google’s, Microsoft is often slower than its competitor when it comes to releasing new features and capabilities. This means you’ll often feel like you’re marketing ahead of the curve on Google, while waiting for Microsoft to catch up.
- Global reach limitations: As mentioned before, Bing isn’t widely used outside of the United States. This could create unpleasant constraints if you’re marketing to a global audience.
- A less diverse overall audience: Although Bing can be great for targeting affluent, older users, it may offer less value if you’re marketing to a younger audience or users with lower household incomes.
- Less robust tracking tools: Bing offers decent performance tracking tools, but it’s still behind the standard-bearer in Google. This can limit the insights you’re able to pull from your campaign performance metrics.
Ultimately, your marketing team will have to weigh these pros and cons to determine whether Bing advertising makes sense for your business.
Setting up Bing Ads
Because Microsoft is eager to increase search-generated revenue through Bing, the platform is relatively easy to use if you’re just getting started. It’s also similar to the process used to set up an account and start advertising through Google Ads.
Here’s the basic process, in five steps:
- Create a Microsoft Advertising account. Visit the main Microsoft Advertising page and create an account to gain access to the platform. If you’re doing this on behalf of a business, make sure to correctly enter all of that business’s information.
- Import Google Ads campaigns, if desired. If you’ve already created Google Ads campaigns that you want to import, you can do this as soon as your account is set up. A tip for the newcomer: Importing an ad can be a great way to test its effectiveness and compare your results to what you’ve gotten through Google.
- Conduct keyword research via Microsoft Advertising. The keyword research you’ve done through Google won’t carry over, so you’ll have to repeat this process to get accurate information about competitiveness and bid amounts.
- Set your ad spending budget. It’s best to wait until you’ve done your keyword research to set your ad budget. This allows you to adjust your budget based on your estimated spending and ROI.
- Create a campaign. If you’ve imported a Google Ads campaign, you can go ahead and launch it via Microsoft Advertising. Or you can create a new, custom campaign developed specifically for Bing.
After this initial startup process, you’ll want to monitor campaigns, analyze performance data, and make adjustments to your strategy to maximize your ROI through Bing. Look for instances where Bing’s performance seems to differ from that of Google, and note this in your paid search strategy to drive better results in the future.
Once you’ve maximized impression share on your most profitable keywords in Google Ads, the logical next step is to duplicate some of your top-performing campaigns to see if those keywords perform similarly on Bing.
Bing offers a distinct approach to search marketing that could improve the outlook of your paid search campaigns, increasing ROI and helping you improve your engagement with your target audience. Given its low initial cost and competitive targeting tools, it could be a worthy new wrinkle to add to your existing search marketing strategy.
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