Type a query into a search engine and one of the answers is likely to be the exact product or service solving your question, ready for you to buy. But this isn’t a spooky coincidence, it’s search advertising.
How it works is that brands bid on keywords and phrases for the opportunity for their ad to show on the results page of whatever you happen to be searching for. Because it is based on the explicit need of the customer, the likelihood of clicks and conversions are higher than other forms of advertising.
“Search is this incredible database of intentions,” says James Murray, Europe product marketing lead at Microsoft Advertising. “When somebody makes a search, they’re giving you access to what they’re thinking at that particular moment in time and what their intent is.”
A third of people click on a paid search ad because it directly answers their search query
Market studies show one-third of people click on a paid search ad because it directly answers their search query.
But there’s a way to do it right, and a way to do it wrong. Here’s how to nail search advertising for your business.
Know your niche from the beginning
For Murray, search advertising is one of the first types of advertising startups should consider investing in, because search advertising allows smaller players to compete with large brands without having to spend big bucks on a TV or social media campaign.
“Search is an incredible leveller that reduces the barrier of entry for startups and allows anybody to advertise in whatever their particular niche is,” he says. “If the relevance of what you have to offer is sufficiently high, then you still have the ability to compete and show up against the biggest brands in the world.”
To increase relevance and your chances of showing prominently on the search results page, Murray says startups should aim to keep their websites and ad copy simple and direct.
“The best thing you can do as an advertiser is know what you are selling and then to be as simple and true to your brand and to your product as possible,” he says. “If you have a really well laid out website that’s simple, easy to navigate, that talks about the product you’re selling in an authentic way, and you have ad copy that mirrors the authenticity of your website, that will raise your relevance.”
Get help from digital tools
To help further increase your brand’s relevance in searches, Murray says you can use a keyword planning tool to understand how your target audience searches for products or services.
Microsoft and Google both have keyword planner tools, but Murray also recommends third-party resources like Answer the Public, which maps out the questions people ask about certain topics.
The best thing you can do as an advertiser is know what you are selling and then to be as simple and true to your brand and to your product as possible
“You type ‘xbox’ and see all the questions people are asking about Xbox like ‘which Xbox is best?’ or ‘what Xbox games are cross platform?’,” he says. “This is useful for both keyword selection and content planning for your website. Your FAQ section should look to answer the top questions people are asking.”
You can also import existing ad campaigns from Google Ads, letting you reach 427m monthly searchers on the Microsoft Search Network in the UK.
Microsoft Advertising’s Learning Lab is one resource where you can watch tutorials about search advertising fundamentals.
Automate and use algorithms
Another way to boost relevance on search pages is using smart tools which use machine learning and algorithms. Accu, a UK-based business specialising in manufacturing components, employed a "smart shopping campaign" from Microsoft Advertising and doubled its conversion rate.
Another way to reduce manual work and save time is with automated bidding strategies, says Murray. So instead of manually bidding on keywords, a computer can do it for you.
German door manufacturer Hörmann used automated bidding strategies to build more efficient campaigns. It not only saw up to 20% higher conversion rates, but also found the time saved freed up time to come up with even more creative solutions.
More providers mean more range
Of course, the verb "to search" can often be replaced with "to Google", but Murray says this can lead advertisers to miss out on Microsoft Advertising’s reach. According to media measurement company Comscore, Microsoft Advertising has 144m monthly searchers in Europe, 19m of those in the UK.
“When it comes to starting with search advertising, the obvious answer is to go with Google,” says Murray. “But the obvious answer isn’t always the right one.”
Murray says Microsoft gives companies more flexibility to try different services. He adds you should “test everything” and use A/B testing to find out what’s working and what’s missing from campaigns.
“You have an opportunity and a freedom to play in a slightly less crowded marketplace,” he says. “What we find is, when people are just starting out and they start with Microsoft Advertising, they can get a better return on their investment and their budget goes further because fewer brands are competing for the search terms.”
When it comes to starting with search advertising, the obvious answer is to go with Google. But the obvious answer isn’t always the right one
But Murray also says it’s important to give your campaigns time to breathe.
“People new to search advertising can often be over-enthusiastic in the early days of new campaigns and make tweaks and adjustments all the time. It’s better to set up your campaigns and then take a step back and let them run for at least 4-6 weeks,” he says. “If you make changes too early you can hamper the progress of your campaign before you have given it a chance to take off.”
If you are looking to scale your business and want to reach your target audience at the right moment in their customer journey, then sign up now and receive free 24/7 support from Microsoft Advertising experts.