While it’s considered the underdog of paid search advertising and can often fly under the radar, Microsoft is still an effective platform for generating conversions. Like any ad platform, the key to achieving high-performing campaigns is with optimization.
For over 10 years of running DataFeedWatch and having helped over 17k retailers optimize their product feeds for various channels - including Microsoft (formerly known as Microsoft Advertising), I’ve witnessed countless approaches to this marketing channel. Some less and some more successful. And today, I’d like to focus on the latter.
In this article, I am breaking down 13 tips on how to optimize Microsoft Advertising campaigns to generate the best possible results for you or your clients. The optimization tips will feel familiar for those experienced in managing Google Ads campaigns, however, there are subtle differences of which you must be mindful.
Why Microsoft Advertising
Microsoft's market share varies from country to county and can be anywhere from 2% to 25%. If you want to break it down by search engine, Bing accounted for 8% of the global desktop search market at the start of 2023, and Yahoo accounted for less than 2% of the global search market in 2022. While we don’t need to tell you who took the #1 spot for market share, 10% is still a lot of people. In fact, since launching their AI chatbot, Bing now has 100 million daily active users.
This is why including Microsoft Advertising in your paid search strategy makes sense…the actual volume of people that use the platforms has shifted significantly and seems to be growing. And the consensus among advertisers is that Microsoft's new features and placements make it a solid addition to your paid search strategy.
Some advertisers use Microsoft Advertising as a secret weapon in gaining a competitive advantage, especially if it’s a space where their competitors are less active. Others claim lower CPCs and higher conversion rates, which can mean better performance in comparison to Google Ads.
So there are a good number of reasons why advertisers choose Microsoft Advertising - the next question is, how to optimize those ads to ensure you are maximizing your ROAS.
13 Tips to Optimize Your Microsoft Advertising Campaigns
Let’s explore 13 practical tips on how to optimize Microsoft Advertising campaigns to generate the best possible results. Work through each of the tips below and prioritize them based on what will have the biggest impact on your account.
Import High-Performing Google Ads Campaigns
The vast majority of advertisers running Microsoft Advertising campaigns will already be using Google Ads. If this is you, then this step is a breeze. Import your Google Ads campaigns into Microsoft using the Import feature. It can be found along the top panel once you’ve logged in.
If your Google Ads campaigns are high performing and you are happy with how they are set up and structured, then even better. Go ahead and import your campaigns into Microsoft as soon as possible. If you anticipate some larger Google Ads campaign optimizations or structural changes shortly, it might make sense to import once that work is complete.
Having said that, this feature is extremely handy, and anytime you’ve made changes to your Google Ads campaigns, whether it’s adding in new campaigns or ad groups, or updating ads and ad copy, then import those changes straight into Bing in a few simple steps.
I recommend doing an advanced import to have more control over what gets pulled into your Microsoft Advertising account. For example, you can customize bid strategies, bids, budgets, and naming conventions (and so much more), tailoring these aspects to the individual needs of your account.
Right before starting the import, click on the advanced import button seen in the screenshot below:
You’ll then get the choice on a wide selection of settings:
Experiment With Bid Strategies
There are six bid strategies to choose from in Microsoft Advertising. The most optimal bid strategy depends on several factors and should be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Not only does your objective need to be considered, but other things such as conversion tracking set-up, how much budget you’re spending, and having enough data in the account for some bid strategies to work effectively should also factor in.
Here are the 6 bid strategies that you are currently available to choose from:
- Enhanced CPC
- Maximize Clicks (automated)
- Target Impression Share
- Maximize Conversions
- Target CPA
- Target ROAS
Three common scenarios that would indicate Enhanced CPC, Maximize Clicks or Target Impression Share would be the best choice are the following:
- The objective is brand awareness or to drive traffic
- Conversion tracking hasn’t been set up
- You have had less than 15 conversions in the past 30 days
If any of the above reflect your situation, then the first 3 bid strategies on the list above will likely be the best choice, but there’s still an opportunity to experiment with Microsoft Advertising bid strategies. If you start with Enhanced CPC, experiment with Maximize Clicks to see how an automated bid strategy impacts performance, or with Target Impression Share to see if that bid strategy drives an uplift in results.
If the objective is to generate conversions or you are working towards a Target CPA or Target ROAS, then the latter three bid strategies on the list above will probably be the best option. When starting, it’s recommended to use Maximize Conversions and allow the campaign to collect as much conversion data as possible. Following that, experiment with Target CPA or Target ROAS, which are considered more optimal, taking into account your goals.
Track Your Conversions
Microsoft Advertising tip #3 follows nicely from the previous tip on bid strategies. Setting up conversion tracking is a key way to improve the performance of your Microsoft Advertising campaigns. Not only will this allow you to use the more advanced bidding strategies - Maximize Clicks, Target CPA, and Target ROAS - it’ll provide you with more optimization options.
For example, without conversion tracking, you can still optimize your campaigns and keywords to drive as much traffic as you can. However, with conversion tracking, you’ll be able to pinpoint the exact campaigns and keywords that drive action on your site, whether that’s sign-ups, purchases, or other actions, and double down on those keywords and campaigns. It’ll also enable you to reduce waste in the account by pulling back from areas that are underperforming from a conversion perspective.
Although setting up tracking requires some initial analytics work, tracking conversions will make all the difference when it comes to your Microsoft Advertising optimization.
Optimize Keywords Using Data
Keyword optimization on Microsoft Advertising is really important and something that can be added to the weekly to-do list. Some of the key metrics to keep an eye on are CTR, average CPC, impression share, quality score, conversion rate, CPA, and ROAS. This sounds like a lot, and they may not all apply, but being mindful of these metrics and striving to make them as efficient as possible is a great way to optimize your account.
Here are some practical steps I follow when optimizing keywords in Microsoft:
- Navigate to the keywords section of the left-hand panel, either on a campaign-by-campaign basis or looking at all campaigns
- Choose a date range. When choosing the date range, ensure there is enough data to make well-informed optimization decisions.
- Add the key metrics you are monitoring to your columns so that you can view these metrics on a keyword-by-keyword basis
- Filter keywords either by ‘keyword text contains/doesn’t contain’ or by metric, for example, ‘Quality Score is less than 6/10’. Doing this will allow you to single out the best and worst-performing keywords based on your criteria
- Once keywords in need of optimization have been identified, take the necessary steps to optimize them, whether that means adjusting bids, pausing or moving them, qual. score work, etc.
Following the above process regularly is a surefire way to optimize your Microsoft Advertising keywords using all of the data that’s available to you.
And should you want to skip the hustle of manual keyword optimization of your search ads, DataFeedWatch's Feed-Based Text Ads software will soon be able to do that for you. It’ll automatically pull in the keywords from your product feed and create unique ads for each and every product you have in your store – even if you sell thousands.
Monitor Search Terms
Search terms should be monitored and optimized in the same way as keywords, detailed in the previous tip. Follow the same process, this time in the ‘Search Terms’ section of the account, to find non-relevant search terms that can then be excluded from your ad groups and campaigns. Doing this will focus your budget on more relevant searches, have higher intent, and are more likely to drive better results.
For example, in the screenshot below, for a pet-friendly holiday business, searches relating to ‘home rentals’ and ‘houses to rent’ are not relevant and are a waste of budget. Filter by ‘Search Term contains home rental/houses to rent’ to isolate all search terms that relate to this, and then exclude them from your campaigns.
This is also a great exercise to uncover new keywords that can then be added to ad groups and campaigns accordingly. For example, let’s say the ‘pet-friendly travel lodges’ search term is showing up in a ‘Pet-Friendly Hotels’ ad group. This term could be added as a new keyword in its own ad group, which means it can be better managed, and the ads and landing page can be tailored to this specific search.
Add Negative Keywords
Negative keywords are a vital way to optimize Microsoft Advertising campaigns by excluding certain words and phrases that are not relevant. Doing so will mean saving budget, reducing waste, and instead focusing on only relevant searches. Adding negative keywords is especially important for phrase and broad match keywords, in fact, they are a good optimization technique for any campaign and campaign type that doesn’t use exact match keywords.
Start by blocking out keywords you know are not relevant from the start. It could be a particular product or service you don’t offer, competitor brands or other non-relevant searches, such as people looking for jobs, or people searching for locations you don’t operate in.
Next, following on from the search term analysis, identify new negative keywords that can be added based on non-relevant search terms that are cropping up. Using the example in the previous section, ‘home rental’ was identified as a non-relevant search term, so this could be added as a negative keyword in phrase match to block out any future searches that include this term.
Monitor/Improve Quality Score
Your Microsoft Advertising quality score indicates how competitive your ads are by measuring keyword, ad, and landing page relevance concerning customers' search queries.
The quality score can range from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. You can see the quality score on the Keywords, Campaigns, and Ad Groups tables. If your keywords, ads, and landing pages are particularly relevant, you can expect a higher quality score. If they are not relevant, it’ll be low. As a general rule of thumb, a quality score of 1-5 means you are underperforming, and it could be improved. 6 is competitive but still fairly average, and a quality score of 7-10 is highly competitive and what we should aim for.
Improve quality score by focusing on three key areas - improving expected CTR, ad relevance, and landing page experience. Practically speaking, this could mean enhancing ad copy to improve expected CTR, or making the ad more relevant to keywords and searches. Separate keywords into ad groups by tight themes to improve ad relevance. Or make improvements to your landing page, such as page speed, including keywords on your landing page or page navigation.
Quality score optimization will translate to more competitive CPCs and ad delivery, helping to drive better results.
Write Effective Ad Copy
Writing impactful ad copy plays a crucial role in optimizing your Microsoft Advertising campaigns. The primary objective of ad copy is to capture your audience's attention and increase the likelihood of them clicking on your ad. To achieve this, address your audience's needs while highlighting the unique aspects of your offering.
Make sure to incorporate attention-grabbing headlines that clearly communicate the value your product or service brings. Emphasize the benefits and USPs to entice your audience and then prompt them to take action with clear call-to-actions. Finally, including relevant keywords throughout your ad copy enhances its relevance and quality score, as discussed in the previous section.
To further improve the effectiveness of your ads, use as many ad extensions as possible, such as site links, callouts, and structured snippets. Ad extensions provide searchers with additional information, making your ads larger in the SERPs and enhancing their visual appeal.
Use Bid Adjustments With Targeting
In Microsoft Advertising, a bid adjustment is a percentage you want to increase or decrease the bid for particular targeting elements. Bid adjustments are a handy way to optimize Microsoft Advertising based on performance and finetune how your budget is spent.
Bid adjustments can be applied to audiences, demographics, locations, ad schedules and devices, and within these categories, there are a lot of things that can be adjusted. For example, you may have identified that desktop devices far outperform mobile and tablets. Therefore, it could make sense to add a +50% bid adjustment to desktop devices, to increase competitiveness for that device since it performs so well. Or perhaps a particular age group, day of the week, or in-market audience underperforms. In this case, use a negative bid adjustment of -20% (or how much makes sense for you) for these elements, so that when someone who’s part of this target searches, you’re spending less and bidding less competitively.
Bid adjustments provide an extra layer of Microsoft Advertising optimization and are considered an effective way to enhance performance.
Experiment With All Match Types In The Same Ad Group
Mixed-match type ad groups are now the recommended approach to structuring your campaigns. Historically, separating ad groups by keyword match type had been the recommended approach, to better manage spend and keep a close eye on phrase and broad match searches. However, a lot has changed. Thanks to machine learning, phrase, and broad match keywords can perform just as well as exact keywords, and in some cases, better.
If your ad groups currently contain single match type keywords, try broadening them out by adding in other match types. Remember relevance is key, so ensure the keywords are still really closely related.
A final note on this, proceed with caution. Phrase and broad match can quickly spend your budget on things that are not relevant. Therefore, ensure you use a robust negative keyword list and monitor search terms daily when experimenting with phrase and broad match keywords.
Maximize Your Impression Share
Impression share is measured as a percentage. It’s the number of times your ad is shown out of the total available impressions in the market you were targeting. In simple terms, if there were 100 impressions available, and your campaign achieved 80 impressions, you would have an 80% impression share.
This metric is important because it highlights how much visibility you have relative to your market. As well as that, it tells you how much growth potential there is. 80% impression share perhaps means you are really competitive, but there’s also an opportunity to achieve another 20% impression share. Optimize your Microsoft Advertising campaigns by maximizing impression share for the top-performing campaigns, ad groups, and keywords.
Use Ad Recommendations
Navigate to the ‘Recommendations’ section of your Microsoft Advertising account. Here you will find a list of recommendations relating to repairs, bidding, budgets, keywords, targeting, ads, and extensions. It’s essentially the same tool that’s used in Google Ads, for those that are familiar with Google.
Consider each of the recommendations that are provided and work through them based on your account. Not all of them will be relevant, but apply those that are. For example, in the screenshot above, setting up conversion tracking would hugely benefit performance, so this recommendation should be actioned to better optimize campaigns. However, fixing campaigns that are limited by budget essentially means increasing campaign budgets, which isn’t possible due to the fixed monthly budget that’s in place.
Although a lot of the recommendations won’t be relevant and applicable, some of them will be so it’s a great way of staying on top of housekeeping tasks and discovering new ways to optimize your Microsoft Advertising account.
Optimize Your Landing Pages
Last but not least in our 13 tips on how to optimize Microsoft Advertising campaigns is landing page optimization. Campaign set-up and management can only go so far. The effectiveness of a landing page has equal importance in generating conversions and will therefore impact performance. Therefore, landing page optimization can help in the following 3 ways:
- Improve user experience by providing them with a seamless and positive experience
- Increase conversion rates, which will in turn, improve CPA and ROAS
- Improve quality score and ad relevance, as discussed previously
Poorly designed, slow, and tricky-to-navigate landing pages will more likely lead to poor performance, and vice versa. Although this tip doesn’t relate to Microsoft Advertising itself, optimizing landing pages will improve the performance of your Microsoft Advertising campaigns.
Here’s a list of some potential landing page optimizations to consider:
- Clear and compelling headlines
- Persuasive messaging and the use of keywords
- Strong call-to-actions throughout the page
- Visuals that resonate with your target audience
- Mobile-friendly landing pages
- A streamlined conversion funnel or form
- Testimonials, reviews, and ratings to build trust and authority
- Page loading speed
A final thing to consider when optimizing landing pages is setting up a/b testing and experimenting with various elements from the list above, as a way to get better results.
By following the 13 Microsoft Advertising optimization tips in this article, your account will be in with a good chance of successful results. Take the time needed to go through each aspect of account optimization, and remember that optimization work is ongoing. It’s vital that weekly, fortnightly, and monthly processes are in place and strictly followed, to stay on top of performance and to ensure your campaigns stay healthy.
Jacques van der Wilt is a guest contributor to Marin Software's blog.