This is the subhead for the blog post

Key Takeaways

  • Microsoft is investing in developing its own products and features, blazing its own path forward rather than following Google’s lead
  • Improving the reach and performance of its Audience Network continues to be a focus
  • A number of new updates for Shopping campaigns were announced
  • Several new management features to improve advertiser experience are on the roadmap
  • Automated account features are here to stay, and evolving

Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads) announced a slew of new and updated features during its recent Global Partner Summit at the Redmond, WA, headquarters, where we were in attendance. Some of these features follow the familiar pattern of catching up with what rival Google Ads is doing, though many features are unique to Microsoft. I’ve summarized some of the more interesting trends and new features below.

Emphasis on Microsoft Audience Network

Microsoft continues to place a heavy emphasis on its Native advertising product. The team highlighted inventory improvements and expansion, and resulting performance gains, with a leading automobile manufacturer who has seen CPAs on the Audience Network in line with Non-Brand search, while driving additional volume. Microsoft remains invested in this product and noted the importance of engaging users through multiple touchpoints as paramount to advertiser success.

Shopping Updates

The Microsoft Advertising platform continues to bring out new products aimed at specific verticals, namely Retail and Travel. The Product Ads format continues to grow for retailers, and Microsoft is committed to supporting the feature with a host of new and/or improved features.  The engineering team is testing up to 18 product ads at once on the SERP to grow volume; it’s also testing enhanced functionality on its Shopping tab.

Advertisers with Brand loyalty programs will be eligible to show their logo alongside a product ad, given the click leads to a page for said program. Retailers with physical locations will have access to Local Inventory Ads, as well as an in-store sales measurement tool in cooperation with LiveRamp. We also heard about a co-bidding product for Shopping ads that will allow manufacturers to put additional budget behind their products sold through retailers.

One of the more intriguing announcements for retailers was the Shopping Assistant browser extension. This extension will allow users to compare prices and receive alerts for price change data; it also provides smart product discovery served via Product Ads.

New Management Tools

Account managers will be getting a few new tools to aid their workflows this year. Reporting updates include an overview tab with actionable tiles, similar to Google’s updated “Recommendations” tab, and a very cool, AI-powered performance insights tool. The tool finds and notes changes in performance on a graph and displays potential underlying causes of a shift. Advertisers will also be getting an Audience Network Planner this summer that can predict potential reach based on audience set-up and budget. Enhanced script functionality, multi-account management in the Editor, and sub-accounts within an agency’s MCC are a few of the other updated features.

My favorite announcement, however, was around the Experiments tool. Like Google’s product, Experiments will allow advertisers to test out campaign changes in a controlled environment.

Developing Differentiators

Much of the former Bing Ads focus was gaining parity with Google Ads. We’re seeing more and more unique products added to the Microsoft portfolio recently, with more announced at last week’s summit. In addition to some of the ad types noted above, advertisers will see a few new extensions in their accounts. The below extensions are either currently in pilot or available:

  • Video Extensions
  • Dynamic Product Extensions
  • Dynamic Data Extensions
  • Action Extensions
  • Filter Link Extensions
  • Review Extensions
  • Flyer Extensions
  • Image Extensions

Automation

It shouldn’t be news to anyone that the search marketing space is continuing to move toward a more automated experience for advertisers. Microsoft confirmed the notion with some automated tools on its roadmap for the coming year, as well as updates to current products. The platform continues to invest in improving DSA performance and rolling out Responsive Search Ads; Bing will also launch additional automated bid strategies in the coming months.

The engineering team is working on an “include in conversions” feature, which will allow advertisers to select specific conversion actions to feed bidding, rather than relying on everything in the conversion column. This has long been a request for advertisers supporting conversions of varying value throughout a conversion funnel or product portfolio.

Perhaps the most important announcement was around Microsoft’s own Smart Campaigns. Similar to Google’s, these fully automated campaigns will allow advertisers to select a goal and get up and running with very few inputs necessary – taking control away from account managers.