Let's be clear from the beginning — this is not going to be a post about Bing's sneaky run at the Google throne. Google is the search king. It's not even close.
Here's a chart showing search engine market share from June 2018 through June 2019, courtesy of StatCounter:
Google is the unwavering search engine champion. Bing has more or less maintained a “slow and steady” mentality over the last 2 years, only showing a few very slight changes.
So what’s a search engine with only 7.8% market share got to offer? Well, a solid 36% of its user base is in the US. It also has ad inventory on Yahoo, AOL, and its own syndication partner network composed of third-party publishers. These 3rd-party publishers generated 107 billion searches last year, which is not an insignificant amount of traffic.
Statista reports that there are 1.3 billion unique monthly visitors to Bing.com, accounting for 12 billion searches. Bing's monthly search volume in the United States is 500 million per month.
It’s still a drop in the bucket compared to Google’s share, sure. But those audience numbers — combined with Bing Ads' monopoly over inventory on Verizon Media's properties, which include Yahoo and AOL — make a case for rethinking your current Bing paid search strategy (or lack thereof). As a marketer, if you’re not using Microsoft Ads, these numbers should peak your interest as a huge opportunity to get in front of new users.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few reasons you should think hard about adding Microsoft Ads into your paid search search marketing mix.
The Pros, Cons and Future of Building Out a Paid Search & Media Strategy in Microsoft Ads
According to Microsoft, the Microsoft Search Network audience consists of big online shoppers -- 54% of users go to the search engine for product research. Additionally, 96% of its users visited an online retail store in the past 6 months.
Microsoft's users tend to be older and more affluent. Beyond retail, one area where this could play to your advantage is in B2B. Microsoft notes that 84% of their users in B2B are decision makers and 33% are senior decision makers. These are key buyer personas for B2B marketers to appeal to!
So when does it make sense for advertisers to dip a toe in the water?
"Most of our clients are open to spending wherever we are able to drive performance, whether that be Google or Microsoft Search," says Andrew Fuchs, director of paid media & analytics for Silverback Strategies. "Though we typically turn to Microsoft after maxing out volume on Google, some clients looking to gain any sort of edge want to test it out before maximizing Google Search. Personally, I see interest increasing in Microsoft's search tools if they leverage their ownership of LinkedIn fully."
Microsoft Ads + LinkedIn Targeting Integration for B2B Marketers
While we’re on the subject of B2B marketing, let’s take a deeper look at how MS Ads employs LinkedIn targeting on its search network. In 2018, Microsoft first rolled out LinkedIn profile targeting. Advertisers now have the option to target campaigns based on company, industry, and job function. In the feature’s current state, profile targeting will not narrow your ad’s audience, but rather lets you make bid adjustments and collect observational data based on LinkedIn targeting criteria. This is a huge competitive advantage over Google, where it can be tricky for B2B marketers to get their message in front of the right people.
Microsoft Ads as a Paid Search Value Play
There are specific scenarios that make the most sense for the utilization of Microsoft's network, Andrew notes. Facebook's play for intent-based users — traditionally the domain of search engines — has drawn in marketers with its sweet siren song of audience domination, flashy acquisitions and creative ad tools.
That potentially makes an option like Bing — with its fairly impressive audience and inventory capabilities — a nice value play.
"It is probably underutilized," Andrew says. "Facebook has grown so much in its ability to drive performance that it has eaten into search budgets. When some advertisers max out Google Search, I’m sure Facebook has risen in their minds to the next place to put budgets.
"In certain industries, we have seen Microsoft search lead to better performance due to lower competition and average CPCs — I have seen some ecommerce and local service campaigns on MS outperform Google."
Bing: Know Your Role
Like any second option, there's a caveat. A smaller audience means you can max out the relevant opportunities a bit faster. There’s a ceiling with search volume, so understand that going in. Adding Microsoft Ads to your marketing mix should allow for incremental volume but shouldn’t be positioned as a replacement for your existing Google search campaigns. Success on MS Ads also depends on your vertical and target audience. With Bing having a higher percentage of desktop traffic, we’ve seen lead form and ecommerce purchases perform quite well. If your main goal is foot traffic and phone calls, on the other hand, Microsoft Ads may not be the move for you.
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