About Microsoft Advertising
Microsoft Advertising was previously known as Bing Ads, and is still often referred to as such. However, I’m going to stick with its correct name going forward in order to avoid any confusion.
Bing is a search engine owned by Microsoft and is one of the most used in the world, second only to Google. Microsoft Advertising is Bing’s answer to Google Ads. You set up adverts through the platform and these are shown to people when they use the Bing search engine.
If you’re completely new to Microsoft Advertising, I recommend that you read my Introductory Guide, which goes over all the basics. It will take you through setting up your account, types of advertising available, and how to place your first ad.
Once you’re done, come back here to take a closer look at one type of ad: Shopping Campaigns.
What are Shopping Campaigns?
Microsoft Advertising Shopping Campaigns allow you to put your products in front of potential and existing customers.
A campaign is made up of individual Product Ads that showcase which items you have for sale. When a user searches for a related phrase on Google, these Product Ads show up at the top or side of the organic results.
What makes Shopping Campaigns and Product Ads different from other Microsoft Advertising options, is that they include images and useful information such as price and even your company name. They’re more visually appealing than most other ads available on the platform.
How to Run a Shopping Campaign
If you haven’t already, you will need to create a free account with Microsoft Advertising.
Set up Merchant Centre
Once you’ve logged in and entered your details (you can skip creating a campaign for now if you prefer), select Merchant Centre in the top menu.
Choose Create a Store and then enter the requested details. Pick the name of your store carefully, as you can’t change this later on.
You will be asked here to validate your domain, either via a UET tag or via Bing Webmaster Tools. If you’ve already set up tracking using my Microsoft Advertising Beginner’s Guide, then you should be able to select UET right away. If not, from the top menu, select Tools > UET Tag. On the next screen, select +Create and follow the instructions.
Be aware that you may need the support of a developer to insert the tag into your website.
Once a UET Tag is set up, it has to register 50 events (such as page views or purchases) before you can use it to validate your site.
Alternatively, if you have already verified your website via Bing Webmaster Tools, you can verify your Merchant Centre account through that instead.
Once you have created your store, you will be shown your store status. Some may be approved automatically, and others may need to wait for manual assessment.
There are some common reasons your store may be rejected:
- Your domain has not been properly verified
- A checkout that isn’t secure (i.e. not encrypted with SSL)
Create a Feed File
A Feed File holds all the attributes of each product you are advertising. If you’re already using Google Shopping Ads, then you can export the information from there and import it directly into Microsoft Advertising. If not, you’ll have to create a Feed File manually.
Open a spreadsheet and across the first row add the titles of all the attributes of your product. Check against Microsoft’s Feed File guidance to make sure you include all the required attributes. You will then need to populate the spreadsheet with your data, adding each new product and its details to a separate row.
Amongst the attributes, you need to include a product title and a description. Think about these carefully, as what you write here can affect how well your ads will show up in search. The title should be short, accurate, and to the point, while the description allows you to highlight some other important details of your product. Think about the main selling points and use these, with the most important descriptors at the start of your text.
For example, the description of a laptop could include features such as amount of storage, touch screen capabilities, and brand.
Once you have added all your products, save as a tab delimited Excel file (*TXT). Other formats are not supported by Microsoft Advertising.
Set up a Shopping Feed or Catalogue
Once your property is verified and you have a suitable Feed File, it’s time to create a Shopping Feed (also known as a catalogue).
From Merchant Centre, select Create feed. Give it a name and select Online product from the Feed type.
Follow the instructions and add all the information requested. If you deliver to multiple countries, you should add all eligible locations here (if you have the option – it’s not yet available to everyone). If not, just choose the UK.
The option for Input method is how you intend to add your Feed File. If you’re taking it directly from Google, select Import. If you have created a file manually, select either Manually upload (for files smaller than 4MB) or Upload via FTP/SFTP (for files smaller than 1MB). You will need to be comfortable with FTP/SFTP to use this method, and the manual upload will be suitable for most users.
Finally, select Create feed.
It can take up to three days to process your file, so don’t worry if you don’t see anything straight away.
Create a Shopping Campaign
The final step to getting your product advertisements out there is to set up your Shopping Campaign.
From the left menu, select All campaigns > Campaigns > + Create. When prompted, select Sell products from your catalogue > Standard Shopping > Search Ads.
Follow the next instructions asking you to choose settings. You might be unsure about which settings are best for you at this stage so, for now, choose what best matches your goals. You can always adjust them later as you gather more data from active ads.
Create Product Groups
When you first upload your Feed File, all items will be placed in a single Product Group. To make the most of your advertisements and help them display in front of the right people, you will need to break down this single group into more focused ones.
From the left menu, select All campaigns > Product groups, then choose the relevant ad group. Select the ‘+’ sign to sub-divide your group based on various product attributes. You can add up to five levels per group, so can really niche down.
Update Your Feed
Your feed will expire after 30 days if it’s not kept up-to-date, and your products will stop showing in advertisements. In order to avoid any down time, you should update your Feed File at least once every 30 days. Microsoft Advertising recommends that you update daily, but you may not feel the need to do it so often.
Check your Feed File to see if any details need updated and make all necessary changes. Even if you don’t change anything, you still need to re-upload the file to Merchant Centre.
To upload, simply go to Tools > Merchant centre > Feeds and choose the store you want to update. Select the Feeds tab, then the relevant feed, then Update feed. You’ll be prompted to upload your file.
You can also automatically update some information, which is taken directly from your website. Select Tools > Merchant centre > Settings and toggle Automatic item updates to on. You’ll have the option to choose exactly what updates automatically: price, availability, or both.
Remember that you still need to re-upload your Feed File every 30 days, even if Automatic item updates are switched on.
Shopping Campaigns and Product Ads are an excellent option for any online store owner. Though not as popular as Google, Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, and its search network, offer a large audience, as well as less competition from other advertisers. They’re a good choice and worth trying, particularly if you don’t have the budget to advertise on Google or if your ideal client is more likely to use Bing.