Microsoft Advertising, formerly Bing Ads, is a PPC, or pay-per-click advertising service offered by Microsoft. Similar to Google Ads, Microsoft offers two types of ad campaigns–text-based search ads that appear inline with results, and image-based shopping ads that appear in the carousel at the top of the results page. When you sign up for an advertising account you’ll be offered a lot of options and presented with a ton of information. If you’re new to online retail, online advertising, or both, it can be very confusing and a bit overwhelming. Here are eight beginner’s tips I wish I’d had about Microsoft Advertising when I started!
Microsoft Advertising Tips
1. Make sure you have a budget in mind, even if it’s an estimate, because PPC advertising can get expensive quickly. The ad site will recommend raising your budget (never lowering it) to get more impressions and more clicks, but even if you’re using the ROAS (Return on Ad Spend) strategy it’s not perfect and you’re not guaranteed to get your money back. Think of this as an expense, not an investment.
2. You’re paying per click, not per conversion, so make sure that you’ve got something for the user when they get there. Do the work and really tighten up product descriptions, because if you’re running shopping ads the people who click are already interested. They’re likely only going to see your product page, so each description has to close a sale when you’ve got a skeptical customer giving you ten seconds of attention. Part of this is really solid pricing, something I’ve written a little bit about. For search ads, there are a number of additions you can tack on to your ad that present links to specific parts of your site or show additional sales copy. For any of these things to be effective, you have to have something compelling for the customer to find when they follow the link.
3. Understand the difference between a Search campaign and a Shopping campaign. Search is text-based, shows up in the returned results, and allows for several “extensions”, or additional text or links in the ad space. Shopping is visual–the panel ads you see at the top of the search page–and is specifically for advertising products. If your budget is limited, skip the Search ads and stick with the Shopping ads.
4. For a new campaign, stick with ECPC, which will allow you to set your target audience, specify locations and products, and set some baselines and limits on bids. It takes at least a month to get enough good data to use any of the automated bid strategies, and if you use one before you have that data (especially conversions) the algorithm will do things like exhaust your budget bidding on particular high-value keywords in order to dramatically increase your conversions, for example. Besides which, ECPC will force you to focus on setting up and getting familiar with a solid base for your campaign. Once you’re seeing results there, consider an automated strategy, but not before.
5. Speaking of bids, resist the urge to open with a high default bid. Unless you have the budget to handle it, start lower so that you can sustain a steady stream of ads. The ECPC algorithm will try to keep close to your daily budget on average and try not to exhaust it early, and it will do this by bidding for so-called “long-tail key phrases”, which is a common SEO strategy. Long-tail key phrases are longer search terms that are less popular than shorter, less specific searches. This makes them cheaper, since there’s less competition, and less competition means that you’re more likely to convert.
6. Consider running a separate campaign for each group of products you want to sell. By separating products into separate campaigns you’ll be able to tailor those campaigns to target demographics, specific locations, customize bidding, schedules, etc.. You’ll also have an easier time doing things like A/B testing, and you’ll make it easier on the algorithm if you decide to go to a fully-automated bidding strategy.
7. Budget and overall bidding strategy is set at the campaign level. Bid adjustments are set at the ad group level. You can create a full-catalog campaign and break it down into ad groups based on product groupings for a more tailored ad strategy or to test certain products or product groups. I have one “Everything Else” campaign that runs along side specific campaigns and I use it both as a catch-all campaign and to suss out which products seem to attract the most attention and might benefit from their own separate campaign with a larger budget. If you do this, be sure to set the general campaign to Low Priority and exclude items in specific campaigns, otherwise you’ll compete against yourself in bids.
8. Advertising is only one part of a successful marketing campaign. Of all the beginner’s tips for Microsoft Advertising this might be the most important. Paid advertising should be one of the last things you put time and money into when starting your business. If you don’t already have traffic to your site, focus on that first. Organic traffic, or direct traffic (people visiting your site directly) and search traffic (people finding your site in search results and clicking the link in the results) should be your focus. That’s “free” traffic, in that you don’t have to pay for it, and all it takes is really solid conventional marketing work. This includes SEO marketing, something I’ve also written a little bit about. PPC advertising can only do so much; without a strong foundation you’ll never recoup your advertising costs.
The wrap-up, and one final tip
Advertising is a vital part of marketing. For online retailers especially, PPC advertising campaigns can be a valuable asset. It can also be a costly and overwhelming experience for beginners to the online retail space. I hope you’ve found these beginner’s tips for Microsoft Advertising helpful. In closing, I’d like to offer one last piece of advice.
I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to get your business fundamentals right before paying for advertising. PPC advertising should be an investment that takes you over the finish line. It can’t run the race for you. So before you start paying for advertising make sure you’ve done everything you can to make your site professional and user-friendly. Check your product lines. Are you confident in your pricing? Do your product pages really make the sale? Look at your SEO. Are you generating traffic from search engine results? What’s your social media presence like, and are you using that to generate interest? These are all fundamental marketing requirements that need to be in place. If they aren’t you won’t see any benefit from paid advertising. If they are, paid advertising can take your business from good to great.
So get to work! And good luck!