Why Marketers Should Tap Into the Potential of Bing Ads, the Dark Horse of the Search World

With the introduction of the Microsoft Audience Network (MSAN), enhanced AI capabilities and increased partnerships within the last 12 months, Bing Ads is becoming an even more advanced channel that should be tapped to effectively reach the right audience at key moments.

Bing has often been an overlooked publisher in the search world, left in the shadows of its older rival, Google Ads, and simply not given the credit it’s due. However, marketers shouldn’t overlook the dark horse that is Bing Ads. With the introduction of the Microsoft Audience Network (MSAN), enhanced AI capabilities and increased partnerships within the last 12 months, Bing is becoming an even more advanced channel that should be tapped to effectively reach the right audience at key moments.

Partnerships and AI

The long-standing partnership between Microsoft, AOL and Yahoo continues to evolve; starting in March 2019, Bing began exclusively servicing Yahoo Search traffic, which included traffic currently acquired from Oath Ad Platforms (previously known as Yahoo Gemini) and other search platforms. With Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn came the ability to target LinkedIn users based on job function and title, an exceptionally important development for those in the B2B sector, and a feature that Google simply cannot match.

A few key placements and sites unique to Bing that marketers should consider adding to their advertising efforts include the trifecta of MSN, Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Edge. This trifecta enables marketers to deliver high-quality native ad placements across devices regardless of audience, while benefiting from Bing’s promise never to show ads next to sensitive categories such as tragic current events to help protect brands. Bing offers two layouts for native ad formats: image-based ads and feed-based ads. Imaged-based ads are highly visual and appear across multiple types of platforms. Plus, a big bonus to marketers is the ability to import their current assets from what they’re already running on the Google Display Network (GDN) or Facebook. Feed-based ads are product-based and require the use of product audiences which retarget customers on products they’ve already viewed or even added to cart but didn’t finish the check-out process.

Chatbots offer another great way to provide on-demand answers to customers, and Microsoft and Bing stand are at the forefront. This real-time ad extension format can inspire users to purchase an item or answer specific questions to help better service their needs. In fact, Bing projects that 95 percent of customer interactions will be powered by AI bots by 2025. This is something that Bing has been testing for some time now, but Google has barely set in motion.

The MSAN Factor for Bing Ads

There’s been a lot of talk about keywords becoming a thing of the past and looking toward audiences as the means to effectively reach consumers in the future, causing a ripple effect across the industry. In fact, Google AdWords dropped ‘Words’ from its name last June (announced at Google Marketing Live 2018), as the company transitions its focus to the ads themselves. But what does Bing have going for it in this aspect that Google doesn’t? The MSAN component. MSAN is powered by AI and machine learning known as the Microsoft Graph. This intelligent tool contains search and web activity and helps isolate trends to help reach a marketer’s target audience. Bing does not allow for commercial data contained in the Graph to be used for targeting ads; any data is privately stored, owned and anonymized by Bing — a critical factor in a world where privacy is at the forefront of both consumers’ and marketers’ minds.

MSAN and Google Ads’ audience network have similarities like remarketing, in-market, custom audiences and product audiences. Additionally, advertisers can target by age, gender location and device. But the real shining star of MSAN and Bing Ads is LinkedIn profile targeting. This unique feature allows advertisers to apply LinkedIn targeting to campaign and ad group levels and target by industry (with up to 145 unique industries), by company name (over 80,000) and by job function (26). Marketers can apply these targeting settings for text ads, shopping and dynamic search ads.

Artificial Intelligence Ethics

Marketers are not the only ones watching Microsoft’s next move. In a surprising revelation, the Vatican is teaming-up with Microsoft for a prize to “promote ethics in artificial intelligence.” Pope Francis even met with Microsoft’s President Brad Smith on Feb. 13 to discuss the Catholic church’s position on AI. The person who best defends their dissertation on ethical concerns involving AI will win a trip to the Microsoft headquarters and a prize of 6,000 Euros.

With all the recent talk around privacy concerns and the role tech giants play, it’s a smart move for Microsoft to approach the apprehensions head-on. It’s particularly timely since President Trump announced an executive order earlier this month outlining a plan on how the country will get ahead of AI and how the government can work directly with AI companies. However, with the public scrutiny of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica data leak scandal and Google’s share of privacy concerns, Microsoft is proving its reputation with no major incidents top-of-mind. The Microsoft Graph provides   another layer to help reassure their commitment to protecting consumer data.

If marketers have been on the fence about tapping into Bing Ads’ potential, there is no greater time to start acting on it than now. Bing’s increased partnerships, addition of MSAN and intelligent solutions, and commitment to ethical responsibilities shouldn’t be underestimated. The odds may not have favored Microsoft products like Bing in the past, but these innovations mean marketers’ investments now will pay high dividends in the future.

The Triple-A Approach to Succeeding at Digital Marketing in 2019

While it’s impossible to predict the new innovations advertising platforms will release in the year ahead, there are three trends and tactics marketers should be aware of that made a big enough impact in 2018 that are likely to be the cornerstones of digital marketing in 2019, and they all begin with “A.”

While it’s impossible to predict the new innovations advertising platforms will release in the year ahead, there are three trends and tactics marketers should be aware of that made a big enough impact in 2018 that are likely to be the cornerstones of digital marketing in 2019, and they all begin with “A.”

The triple A approach to succeeding at digital marketing in 2019: Amazon, Audiences and Automation.

Amazon Advertising Reaches the Big Time

Rumors circulated for years that the online retail giant could become one of the biggest media companies, yet advertisers just recently started taking these rumors seriously and jumping on the bandwagon. After an initial uproar when Amazon began showing up in Google Shopping results in Q4 of 2016 causing competing advertisers’ costs-per-click (CPCs) to spike, many retails shifted gears, choosing to partner with Amazon rather than compete against it, making Amazon’s growth inevitable. In fact, Amazon has already become the third largest digital ad publisher behind Google and Facebook, and according to a recent survey, 80% of advertisers plan to increase their budgets on Amazon in 2019.

For those advertisers who haven’t yet dipped their toes into Amazon advertising, it’s time to explore the self-service Amazon Marketing Services. Sponsored Products are usually a good place to start since the ads go live immediately, appear organic, and don’t require images or custom copy. Automatic targeting that adapts dynamically to trends and seasonality is available, eliminating the need to manually select keywords. Combined, these options make for a relatively simple process. Of course, an agency can help fine-tune an Amazon advertising program; especially if they completed Amazon’s power training which grants them assigned dedicated support.

Audiences Become the Priority

Having been a hot topic for some time now, in 2019 audiences will become unavoidable. While many advertisers already applied audiences to their advertising programs, not many have done so strategically. Imagine if step one of any digital program was building an audience to target with your program rather than building a list of keywords. Keywords would be supplanted as the most important aspect for paid search, replaced by audience targeting to positively impacting a client’s bottom line with a much more refined approach.

Refining an audience approach will be the single most effective tactic to win at customer-centric marketing; by focusing on the right person at the right time, with the right messaging, marketers set themselves up for victory. By focusing on audiences, marketers can move beyond the all-too-common channel-approach that limits cohesiveness in campaigns and limits effectiveness. The audience approach enables refined targeting, eliminating waste and delivering deeper, more meaningful insights.

Both Google and Bing have already made advancements in this area. Google expanded its audiences beyond website visitors and customer lists to in-market, custom intent and detailed demographics. Bing followed suit and introduced its new Audience Network which uses artificial intelligence to connect Microsoft data insights with LinkedIn’s to deliver the right message to the consumer. Advertisers can then target these audiences on Microsoft’s premium properties such as MSN, Outlook and Microsoft Edge.

Automation Enables Marketers to Get Strategic

Marketing automation tools maximize efficiency and increase revenues; they also eliminate tedious tasks, freeing up marketers to focus on strategic growth for their clients. While bidding automation has been adopted by most marketers at this point, Google has taken automation a step farther, introducing multiple fully-automated campaign types that require very little, if any, intervention during its Google Marketing Live in July 2018. The first campaign type was automated feeds for Shopping campaigns that get products online faster and simplifies maintenance; second was Hotel campaigns that simplify management and optimization; third was smart campaigns for small businesses, that are designed for local and small businesses that might not have the staff to focus on management and need an easy solution instead.

This continues a trend for Google, which already utilized automation in Universal App Campaigns and Universal Shopping Campaigns; these campaigns do not allow for marketer intervention beyond creative asset upload and budget changes. With the continued deployment of new fully-automated campaigns that rely on machine learning for optimization and management, Google has established a clear direction. It seems possible, if not likely, that Google will eliminate its manual offerings for Shopping campaigns and text-based campaigns the way it did with App campaigns. After all, Google is already testing responsive ads, which dynamically combine headlines and descriptions based on performance and the advertiser’s goal. There’s a possibility that completely automated campaigns will be the new normal for advertisers sooner than we think, once Google works out the kinks.

By understanding and adopting these trends and tactics, digital marketers should be able to deliver an A across the board on their campaigns, keeping clients happy and budgets flowing.

5 Multichannel Video Marketing Tactics to Engage Holiday Shoppers

Utilizing a multi-pronged holiday video marketing approach enables marketers to take their seasonal performance to the next level by increasing visibility through social media platforms and search, while also boosting the brand’s and its products’ popularity among shoppers during the critical holiday season.

It’s the time of year again for marketers to kick their holiday marketing efforts into high gear. As consumer buying behaviors and media consumption continue to change, it’s crucial for marketers to understand that shoppers increasingly use a variety of channels to find inspiration and make purchases, and therefore marketers must align their messaging across channels to effectively engage customers at optimal touchpoints along their purchase journey. Once they grasp the basics of these channels, marketers can start to utilize more advanced strategies as part of a holistic approach during this critical time of the year.

Among the channels consumers seek out when considering purchases, social videos have become a staple of product research and consideration. Social media marketing puts products right where consumers spend their time, and consumers expect product videos from brands, with many shoppers searching for a product video before visiting a store. Marketers often use social video ads to capture demand throughout the year, but during the holidays, they should be more proactive. By leveraging a multi-channel approach with targeting precision to be more assertive, they can take greater control in driving demand and expanding their results.

Retail marketers should consider the following tactics for developing a multi-channel holiday marketing strategy centered on social video ads to better align marketing with the customer journey.

Utilize Video Across a Variety of Social Platforms

There are many places marketers can reach their target audience, so investing holiday budgets by leveraging video ads across multiple channels generates more opportunities to create impressions and engage with shoppers.

After establishing which social channels target audiences frequent most, marketers can better determine what type of content and video ads to plan and post to offer a seamless experience between preferred platforms and capitalize on different stages of the holiday shopping experience.

Fostering Interest on Pinterest

Pinterest remains a popular destination for consumers to visually interact with brands and discover new products. With many users flocking to the platform to create lists for the holiday season and aid in their gift purchasing decisions, it’s vital for marketers to get their products and brand on the platform immediately.

The ability to showcase branded videos on the platform received a boost just in time for the holidays with the rollout of wide-format promoted video ads, driving efficient costs-per-view and lifts in brand awareness. With 67 percent of Pinterest video viewers saying videos on Pinterest inspire them to take action, there’s ample opportunity for marketers to capture interest for their products heading into the holidays.

Pinterest users’ inspiration period can start up to three months prior to an actual purchase; therefore, it’s important for marketers to reach customers early with video ads to cultivate their interest and move users toward conversion. Marketers looking to land on shoppers’ holiday radars should utilize Pinterest as a visual catalog. For example, a toy retailer could leverage video ads on the platform to reveal the hottest toys of 2018 or a clothing retailer might showcase their winter apparel line as customers look for inspiration for their holiday party attire.

Once they’ve captured interest through Pinterest video ads, marketers need to consider engaging customers by retargeting and remarketing to push their customer even further than the purchase funnel.

Tap Into the Enduring Influence of YouTube

YouTube continues to be a driving influence when it comes to making purchases, especially around the holidays, with mobile watch time for product review videos on YouTube growing each year.

As part of marketers’ holiday strategies, they should leverage YouTube TrueView followed by bumper ads to target prospective audiences and new customers. The best part is marketers only get charged when a user chooses to watch the full 30 second ad – a win, win!

Utilizing companion banners to drive click through rates (CTRs), bumper ads exist as a reminder to customers to purchase specific products. These products should be served via remarketing lists and similar audiences to maximize efficiency and reduce cost per impressions. Additionally, with Google’s mobile-first focus, these ads will serve in a format that is easily viewable for customers on-the-go.

Marketers should also consider running a brand lift study alongside these video ads to measure impact on metrics like brand awareness, ad recall and purchase intent. By doing so, marketers can tweak their strategy within the first week of results to better connect with audiences and more effectively drive results throughout the holiday season.

Leverage Facebook and Instagram for Merchandising, Not Just Branding

Aside from being among the most popular social networks, Instagram and Facebook both command a greater interaction frequency than YouTube. Undoubtedly, video ads on Facebook and Instagram serve the purpose of effectively stimulating a marketer’s target audience on highly actionable and engaged channels. On Facebook alone, views on branded or sponsored video content increased 258% in 2017, with the highest numbers generated around the holiday season as shoppers sought inspiration for gift ideas. Facebook Carousel ads are a favorite among retail marketers because they encourage consumers to interact with their ads and allow greater opportunity to showcase products through images and videos with the potential for several different calls-to-action.

Instagram also recently expanded its ad offerings to more marketers with its Collection ad units, enabling online retailers to add the Shopping Bag icon within their Stories for the holiday season. The images and videos used within the carousel display can link to the brand’s site or product pages to drive e-commerce purchases.

Targeting users that have shown an interest or interacted with holiday topics across Facebook properties should be a key consideration in marketers’ holiday strategies. Marketers can utilize dynamic product ad offerings as an effective way to get in front of new customers with specific product sets or SKUs; for example, targeting users interested in a holiday sweater, gift wrap or children’s toys, or leveraging parental or relationship targeting to hone in on those most likely to convert.

Complement Video Strategies With Highly Relevant Keywords

Driving the desired targeted traffic that converts requires a varied strategy designed for a marketer’s specific brand and product set. To capitalize on the demand social videos generate across channels, marketers should create highly-relevant holiday-specific keywords as consumers who watched a video and are searching for the brand or products by name are likely deeper within the sales funnel. Marketers should develop and expand coverage on relevant keywords that reinforce messaging from their videos to include search terms like “gift ideas,” “best,” “kids,” and “holiday deal,” along with brand and product-specific terms.

Likewise, leveraging remarketing lists for search ads with proper messaging helps ensure marketers can reach customers in their exact moment of need to foster engagement and move them through the purchase funnel with greater precision to drive better results.

Utilizing a video-centric, multi-pronged holiday marketing approach will better enable marketers to take their seasonal performance to the next level by increasing visibility through Pinterest, YouTube, social media platforms and search, while also boosting the brand’s and its products’ popularity among shoppers during the critical holiday season.