Last Updated on October 16, 2019
This is a great topic as at first glance it seems they are the same. They both use keywords, they both use ads, they both have the same major functions. But that is about where the similarities end. There are a lot of minor differences, and even some not so minor, that make each platform quite unique in which they need to be approached differently for them to be successful. I will go over some of the variables and differences below. Keep in mind that there really are a vast number and may not be able to point out all of them. Also, there really is no bias here. Both are great platforms and work well for marketing, one may work better than the other for a certain industry, one may get better conversion rate, one may have cheaper cost per clicks, while the other may convert more often and generate more business. Even the way you manage the account is quite different as well, there are plenty of features on one platform that is not an option on the other. Sometimes even the structure of certain major aspects are quite different. There are many tools including offline tools that can assist in account management as well that differ from one to the other depending on if it’s Microsoft Ads or Google. There are pros and cons to both and not just in account performance. Let’s look at what some of these differences are.
Comparison and Contrast of Google Ads vs Microsoft Ads
Microsoft Ads has a vastly different user base that is significantly smaller than Google’s. That raises issues in of itself as keywords and even ads that work well in Google may not work well in Microsoft Ads, again it is two different audiences. We see this routinely in our accounts and, yes, you can set up the different accounts almost the same with the same keywords and ads but then it becomes different quickly as you optimize each account because of the differing audience. Microsoft Ads is integrated within any systems so it is natural for those industries that use those systems or software programs to get more use out of Microsoft Search. Some of those industries are government, both local and federal, financial, and healthcare. Those industries, in general, are quite unique and sometimes difficult to be effective in marketing towards, which makes Microsoft paid search a very valuable asset when your target audiences are within these verticals. Traffic volume may be lower in Microsoft Search but typically you have lower cost and better CTR, which then also extends to a better conversion rate. Which sounds fantastic as those metrics are exactly what most strive to excel in, except that the volume is far off from what Google can provide.
There are tangible differences between the two platforms as well. The offline tools for Google are much faster and easier to use and upload than Microsoft Ads. Microsoft Ads doesn’t even have some functions that Google has. For example, Google allows bulk changes to multiple ad groups and campaigns at once, Microsoft Ads does not. You have to go into each ad group and make the changes manually. This is the reason why you can break out keywords into many different ad groups and campaigns and have a very detailed account with Google but with Microsoft Ads most accounts are small with just a few ad groups that are more generalized.
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Other differences can make an impact as well. For instance, Microsoft Ads does not have a Display Network which is a big loss in content ads. Speaking of ads, Google has more ad extensions and, therefore, more opportunities to create the right ads for the targeted audience. Also, Google allows Dynamic ads and simple text ads within the same campaign, while with Microsoft Ads you have to create separate campaigns.
Microsoft Ads does have one thing in its favor. It has more control at the ad group level for scheduling, location settings, and language whereas Google only has that at the campaign level. This allows for precise targeting on an even smaller level. It also means creating more ad groups to take advantage of that difference. It’s a small price to pay for enhanced targeting which is key to really optimizing your accounts.
Another big visual difference is that Microsoft Ads still have sidebar ads! Google limits the initial exposure to the 3 ads at the top but Microsoft Ads still uses the sidebar so that 7 ads are initially visible. Now you don’t have to compete for the first 3 spots as hard as ever in the 4th or 5th spot you will be seen without the user scrolling to the bottom of the page. That means a different bidding strategy between the two platforms. That is one major difference: even bid strategies are different between the two platforms. Ad position is a primary metric we use in making our decisions. Sometimes you want to be the top dog for a keyword, sometimes you want to save the ad spend and be in a lower position. With Microsoft Ads, you have even more options to drop lower on the position to save ad spend yet still be relative when a searcher scrolls.
When Google made that change, as they used to be the same as Microsoft Ads, us marketers thought it was going to destroy everything we thought about bidding. It did hurt and the cost per clicks did go up, however exposure and click through rates didn’t suffer as much as we thought. But now Google is even going further and is trying to keep ad position bidding out of reach. They don’t want us to use ad position as a metric, which I personally think is a terrible idea. They seem to be wanting to keep us in the dark and turn the ad position bidding into a budget war, and something that we have no control over except by just throwing more money at them. That being said, there are so many variables that go into our strategies and even different strategies for different clients that are within the same industry. With the changes that Google and Microsoft Ads make, it seems to be getting harder and harder to keep up with them all. That is why you need someone dedicated to keep up with new trends and new tools to help streamline the process as well as implement new techniques that can make sure their clients are the most competitive.
As you can see, the account makeup between Google and Microsoft Ads are quite diverse. You really can’t just copy things from Google and move them over to Microsoft Ads like you could many years ago (at least when starting the campaigns). The techniques, tricks, and strategies that work with Google do not carry over into Microsoft Ads. What works for one does not really mean it will work for the other. Especially since there are contributing variables on how to optimize the account that make each platform unique. The things you do to one platform, you may not even have that option to do in the other. You must structure the accounts uniquely between the two platforms, as the differences really are more numerous than one may think.
Authorship: Marty C.