Microsoft Advertising helps companies reach their potential. Through cool tools like the Microsoft Audience Network (MSAN) and Microsoft Advertising LinkedIn integration, you can make 2021 your year of growth.
A Word On Our Microsoft Advertising Experts
Tess Milligan is a Senior Account Executive at Microsoft Advertising. Lance Wilson is a Senior Account Executive for MSAN at Microsoft Advertising. Both Tess and Lance have worked for the company since 2015.
Ignite Visibility just so happens to have an in with them, and we’ve been able to get the latest tips for making the most out of Microsoft Advertising in more ways than one.
How Do Microsoft Ads Work?
Microsoft used to have a honed-in partnership with Yahoo, but they changed up their model in 2015 to begin servicing other advertisers as well. Basically, their network and marketplace share have grown exponentially.
Just take a peek at some metrics. Five years ago, they held 31% of the US search share. In 2020, that number has gone up to 37%. Microsoft has also raised their search share in the UK, Australia, France, and Germany.
The network is more than just Bing.com. While that’s a huge part, there are also extensive partnerships with various properties across different media platforms. Microsoft owns and operates:
- Microsoft Edge
Plus, they’re in cahoots with third-party search partners like Yahoo and AOL, as well as properties like DuckDuckGo, CBS Interactive, The Wall Street Journal, WebMD, Forbes, Dictionary.com, and thousands more.
As a business, it makes sense to get your ads out to audiences who live on platforms like these. If someone performs a search on The Wall Street Journal, well—that’s powered by Bing. So if you want to advertise on WSJ.com, Microsoft ads are the way to do it.
Check out these PC paid click shares across industries:
For verticals with higher PC paid click shares, Microsoft actually over-indexes to foster an even bigger audience for specific types of searches that are already successful.
How (& Why) to Use Microsoft Advertising LinkedIn Profile Targeting
Microsoft announced its LinkedIn acquisition on June 13, 2016. Since then, they’ve developed a holistic approach to the Microsoft Advertising LinkedIn partnership.
Microsoft’s LinkedIn integration allows targeting based on LinkedIn profiles. It does this through a tool appropriately called LinkedIn Profile Targeting, which just so happens to be the only integration of its kind.
This feature was in pilot for a while, but it came out of beta mode in the fall season of 2020.
During the trial, the tool had no trouble proving its effectiveness.
In fact, ads shown to audiences using Microsoft Advertising LinkedIn Profile Targeting saw their click-through rates jump 16%. Meanwhile, conversion rates increased by 64%.
Simply visit your Microsoft Ads search campaigns and bid boost (AKA modify your bids) on audiences you may be targeting.
What’s a bid modifier?
If you want to target people who work at Microsoft based on their LinkedIn profile, you may be willing to pay 20% more than your bid for that particular customer.
You can go into your campaigns and modify the bid with a 20% increase. Bid modifying just means adding on a percentage level by whatever you think it’s worth to help you score a particular audience.
A lot of B2B advertisers are really taking advantage of Microsoft Advertising LinkedIn Profile Targeting. As a business, you’re able to target in three key ways:
- Targeting based on companies
- Targeting based on industries
- Targeting based on job functions
You can provide Microsoft with a list of companies, industries, or job functions relevant to your business. Layer these audiences in and boost your bid for the most targeted options.
Plus, as holidays roll around, Microsoft opens up the opportunity for businesses to target audiences related to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and more.
Say someone searches online for an office chair. Advertisers can go in and increase their bid by, say, 20% for certain audiences who they think are most likely to convert.
The cool thing is you have a lot of different options when it comes to LinkedIn Profile Targeting. These include:
- 80,000 companies
- 148 industries (like law practice, retail, and financial services, to name a few)
- 26 job functions (such as marketing, accounting, and healthcare)
How (& Why) to Make the Most of the Microsoft Audience Network
Microsoft Audience Network is a new way to get inventory for Microsoft Advertising through native ads.
Joining the MSAN provides businesses with premium placements on Outlook.com, Microsoft Edge, MSN, and select publisher partners.
There are three types of ads in the network:
- Product ads
- Text ads
- Image ads
By and large, image-based ads are the largest in volume.
According to Lance Wilson, these premium publishers actually make up half of the MSAN network. There are strict publisher standards for these native placements—there’s no user-generated content, and Microsoft only goes with hand-selected articles.
All of these are brand-safe experiences, which means transparency and control for advertisers, including site performance and exclusion. Plus, they’re highly contextual ad placements based on Microsoft’s first-party intent data, available only through Microsoft Advertising.
With Microsoft Advertising, strong industry ad performance is driven by leading AI technology and exclusive audience data. There are 242 million unique monthly US-based visitors in the whole network. That’s 92% of the nation’s population. And MSAN uses 10 billion daily cross-screen data signals to target its users.
If you’re wondering, where do advertisers start with MSAN?
Lance points out that business would typically have their search campaign already up and running. MSAN is a different approach to get you on native ads, so it’s usually an expansion from search tactics. After all, audience-specific campaigns aren’t driven by keywords, but rather lists.
On MSAN, there are numerous targeting options. You can choose one or more profile, user, and intent targeting tools to reach your ideal customer:
- Dynamic remarketing
- In-market audiences
- Custom audiences
- Product audiences (dynamic remarketing only for retailers with feeds)
- Similar audiences
- Customer match
- Custom combinations
- Location targeting
- Device targeting
- Linkedin Profile Targeting
- Age and gender targeting
There’s one cool feature, in particular, you ought to know about, and it has to do with image ads.
Within the user interface, you can review your images in ad previews. That image needs to be a particular size (1200 wide x 628 high, to be specific). Microsoft crops your image for you and repurposes it for other placements.
If there are issues in your ad preview, you can re-crop your image, upload a new image, or select a different image for an individual aspect ratio. You can add just one image, but Microsoft recommends using four images and changing them frequently for best results.
Because of the data unique to MSAN, Microsoft is seeing better performance on partner sites. This includes a doubled CTR on MSN, 1.2x greater CTR on Outlook, and 3.5x greater CTR on publisher partners.
Here’s one more feature that proves Microsoft Audience Network goes above and beyond:
Within your Microsoft Advertising search campaigns, the LinkedIn Profile Targeting feature is only a bid modifier. You can gather the data, layer on the audiences, and bid up or down based on the relevancy of that particular target. However, you can’t exclusively target people through search.
However, you can exclusively target those audiences through your MSAN campaigns.
Remarketing Is Awesome—But for Expansion, You Need More
Remarketing is key. Sometimes, as long as a business can get a targeted first click on a subject, remarketing pays dividends. This rings true in terms of leads and conversions.
With this in mind, should remarketing be a part of every advertiser’s strategy?
Whenever Microsoft Advertising launches with an advertiser on MSAN, their first step is to get their remarketing lists up and running. This helps companies re-engage with consumers.
There are a lot of different strategies to approach these particular ads, like unique copy and assets specific to remarketing. Plus, there are a lot of other nuances like bids so you can get that specific performance.
Dynamic remarketing is especially powerful.
Currently, only retailers who use feeds have access to dynamic remarketing. In 2021, MSAN plans to expand its dynamic remarketing feature to other verticals that also use feeds (like real estate and automotive industries, for example). Businesses have to add a snippet of code to their site so they can track product IDs and page types from their site.
It may be a bit of work, but as Lance says, “The juice is worth the squeeze.”
With all this in mind, it’s worth noting that targeting and remarketing only helps if people have already been to your site. If you need to grow your business, you need to expand through those in-market audiences and other avenues like LinkedIn. You need to fill your funnel, and Microsoft Ads’ other features are going to be you’re in.
Are Audiences the Future of Advertising?
With all this progress for audience-driven campaigns, I can’t help but wonder, Are audiences the future of advertising? Will they replace the keyword more and more?
According to our expert Tess, the keyword isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. But she does have some pivotal advice:
“Make sure you have an audience strategy in place. Know who your audience is and who you want to target. Even if you’re not going to go in and dedicate a specific portion of your budget to audience targeting, at the bare minimum you should be layering them onto your campaigns so you can collect the data of who’s interacting with your ads.” – Tess Milligan
Those are some wise words, if I do say so myself.
Looking to the Future with Microsoft Advertising
Microsoft ads are great because they’re rooted in seriously impressive data. With what went down in 2020, the company wanted to visit some trends from past financial crises.
“After the 2008 financial crisis, consumers predicted they’d spend 29% less during the holidays. In reality, retail sales only dropped about 4.7%.” – Tess Milligan
Tess adds that we can expect retail to maintain its health, particularly in the areas of food and beverage, hobby, personal care, office equipment, and others.
Search volume will likely continue to increase. Cost-per-click values have decreased during the pandemic, but experts expect them to bounce back.
With so many folks working remotely, desktop and tablet use continues to grow. Meanwhile, weekend volume and non-business hour volume are both growing by 11% and 12%, respectively.
Whatever you choose to do. One thing remains true:
“Know your audience and target them with intentionality.” – Tess Milligan
If you’re not being deliberate with audiences and you’re not in MSAN, you’re missing out on a good chunk of revenue. There’s a ton of value here and a lot more coming in every single day.