Importing your SEM campaigns into Microsoft Advertising can take a matter of minutes. But small mistakes can easily lead to thousands of dollars (or more) in wasted ad spend. If you’re looking for ways to prevent this, you’ve come to the right place.
Let’s get into it.
Pitfall #1: Ad distribution, beware!
While it might not jump out at you in your import settings, ‘ad distribution’ is one of the more important fields. What you do here determines whether your ads will run solely on Microsoft’s owned and operated sites or include its syndicated search partners.
As with other fields, ticking it means you want Microsoft Advertising to import your settings in this category. If you don’t run your ads on Google’s search partner network, then you wouldn’t tap into this traffic source within Microsoft Advertising, either. On the other hand, if you leverage it with Google, then by ticking the ‘ad distribution’ box you will also target search partners in Microsoft — unless you manually disable them.
There is a case to be made for select partner sites. If your target audience consists of individuals concerned about their privacy, then you could argue that there is no better placement than duckduckgo.com. If you’re trying to reach users with an environmental conscience, you might want to show ads on ecosia.com, the Berlin-based search engine that uses its profits to plant trees.
To sum it up: While other import settings affect small aspects of your campaigns’ structure, ticking this box will determine where your ads will show. Choose wisely!
Pitfall #2: Avoid UTM mistakes
When setting up your import, it’s easy to get caught up in campaign settings, match types, network distribution, and bidding strategies and lose sight of the small details. Your UTM parameters are one such small detail.
In their current state, these parameters are likely to identify the traffic’s source as ‘google’. They might even include the names of your campaigns, which typically show that those campaigns are located within Google Ads.
To make the necessary changes, you have two options. You can either:
- go to the “Other options” section and dynamically adjust what you import from Google, or
- untick all boxes, import the parameters as they exist in Google, and then adjust them manually
Pitfall #3: Broad Match = Broad Match? Not so fast!
Whether it’s combined with offline conversion tracking or not, Google’s Broad Match has become a power tool of Search Marketers. The reason is simple: as the capabilities of machine learning advance, Google is more and more aware of what you’re in the market for – even before you type into the search bar.
Signals ranging from your usage of Chrome, Gmail, YouTube, Google cookies, and even your Android phone allow Google to match seemingly distant search queries and show you exactly what you’re looking for.
Microsoft might be a giant in the advertising space, but it does not have the same depth of insight. This impacts its ability to tap into the full potential of Broad Match.
If you have set budgets and can spend those with exact match and phrase match, you might want to hold off adding broad match to the mix. How much is there to gain?
Pitfall #4: Do not ignore your device shares
If you’re looking at your Microsoft Advertising campaigns through Google Ads glasses, you might miss this one. But know this: with Microsoft Advertising, pay attention to how much traffic you’re seeing per device type.
Unlike Google, Microsoft sees a wide discrepancy between its desktop and mobile market shares. While sources locate the former north of 20%, the latter sits well below 5%. So you would expect desktop users to drive the vast majority of traffic. But in our experience, this is hardly ever the case.
You can run your ads without any control over device types and evaluate your results after the initial launch period. But it’s a prudent step to place certain guard rails that focus on desktop traffic. Even with the extra focus, those clicks are very likely going to cost you significantly less than on Google.
Pitfall #5: Careful with the audience network
Once you’ve successfully imported your campaigns and generated your first traffic, you might find that your ads have not only been displayed on Microsoft’s sites—and syndicated search partners if selected—but also on the audience network. This means that Microsoft has taken what was meant to be a Search campaign and run those ads on Non-Search placements.
If you’re looking for a Google equivalent, think “Display Expansion on Search campaigns”. Paid Search Marketers know that in 99.9% of cases, this is the last thing you want!
The old way to prevent this was to set the “audience ads bid adjustment” to -100%. But for campaigns that are newly created, this option was sunsetted in early 2023. To cut down on this traffic (it’s possible to effectively reduce it to zero), follow these steps:
- Go to Reports > Default reports > Performance > Website URL (publisher) and pull a report
- Identify the audience placements you’d like to negate
- Create an account- or MCC-level placement exclusion list and add those placements to it
- Connect your campaigns to this list
There is no doubt that Microsoft Advertising has a lot of potential. Almost without exception, it offers you the level of control you’re used to, tools and capabilities comparable to Google, and traffic that is often considerably cheaper.
However, to get the most out of Microsoft Advertising for your accounts and clients, you need to know its main pitfalls.