It's no secret that Google dominates the search engine market, accounting for over 90% of searches worldwide. This has led to a similar level of dominance in digital ad spend as Meta has had on social media.
So, if Google drives such a high percentage of traffic, is advertising on Bing even worth it?
Microsoft Advertising Overview
Bing – owned by Microsoft – is the second largest search engine with a 3% market share as of August 2023. Microsoft also owns Yahoo and AOL, covering another 1-2% of the search engine market.
These search engines are included as part of Microsoft Advertising as well. In other words, if you run a Search campaign on this platform, you can reach people on Bing, Yahoo, and AOL (plus other owned properties).
Where Microsoft shines is on desktop devices, where market share triples. This is primarily due to Bing being the default search engine for Windows OS and Google's partnership with Apple to be the default iPhone browser.
So, while 15% of desktop searches and 5% of the total search engine market share might not sound like a lot in percentages, that translates to nearly 14 billion desktop searches per month globally.
In addition to Search, Microsoft Advertising offers campaigns on the Audience Network. This allows advertisers to reach people with more visual, image-based ads on sites like MSN and Outlook.com (similar to Google Ads Display campaigns).
Lastly, according to Microsoft's demographic data in 2021:
73% of Bing users are under age 45
34% have a college degree
35% have a household income in the top 25%
Benefits of Microsoft Advertising
Overall, there is a lot of potential to expand your coverage through Microsoft Advertising and reach a relevant audience. However, there are many other benefits outside of the general usage statistics above.
Ease of Use
For starters, the platform is easy to use. The UI is very similar to Google Ads, so there's less of a learning curve when you begin. You can also directly import campaigns from other ad platforms, including Google Ads.
This is a significant point because it means the entry barrier is relatively low. You can sign into Google Ads, import everything you're doing there, adjust as needed, and launch. You don't need to build out many campaigns and can start testing sooner – win-win!
Microsoft Advertising is usually less expensive as well. Wordstream benchmarks the average cost per click as 33% lower than Google Ads, primarily because Bing/Yahoo/AOL sees fewer searches.
There also tends to be fewer advertisers (and competitors) that focus on this channel. Despite lower volume, traffic quality is similar to what you'd get from Google. So you can reach your target audience for less, typically resulting in a lower CPA and higher ROAS than other channels.
Additionally, Microsoft campaigns have great targeting options. Outside of keywords, audiences, and lists (like remarketing), you can also take advantage of LinkedIn profile targeting by company, industry, or job function. This is especially valuable for B2B advertisers.
Some industries that require people to be on-site also tend to default to PC browsers and search engines. For example, a former client in the nursing industry saw better results on Bing than on Google because many default browsers in doctors' offices are Microsoft Edge (formerly Internet Explorer).
Commitment to growth
Another encouraging sign for the future is Microsoft's commitment to growing Bing's market share in digital ad spending to double their ad revenue. While the company has yet to specify when to hit that $20 billion mark, investments in AI, ad tech, gaming, and streaming have brought more attention to their platform and show they're taking the goal seriously.
One sign this approach could be starting to work is that Bing surpassed 100 million daily active users shortly after launching a ChatGPT / generative AI search experience. Search ad revenue increased 16% yearly in Q1 2023 due to higher search volume.
What to Watch Out For
There are some things to be aware of with Microsoft Advertising, like with any other new platform you want to test.
As mentioned, Bing/Yahoo/AOL sees significantly lower search volume than Google. Depending on your strategy, Microsoft might be better as a complement to other channels (like existing Google Ads campaigns) rather than a stand-alone solution to driving traffic and conversions.
Another important note is that Search campaigns automatically opt into the Audience Network as of February 2023. This change is like if Google Ads required you to include the Display Network for all Search campaigns. Not ideal.
However, you can combat this by adding up to 2,500 URL exclusions at the campaign level. You can add up to 10,000 website exclusions at the account level but remember that those exclusions would also apply to any Audience campaigns you run (which could hamper their ability to serve ads).
Lastly, keep a close eye on the Search Terms Report. Broad and Phrase match keywords tend to bring in a lot of irrelevant traffic that will leave you scratching your head, more so than I've seen on Google Ads. Google might not be much better at matching (especially because advertisers have less visibility in those STRs), but it's something to monitor and be aware of.
That said, I wouldn't let match types get in the way of testing this platform, and if you're hesitant, you could start with Exact match keywords only.
Is Microsoft Advertising worth your time and money? The short answer is yes!
Their network drives billions of monthly searches, which you can reach with robust targeting features. And if you're already running Google Ads campaigns, it's easy to start testing and expanding your coverage with direct imports from the platform.
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