Optimising Microsoft Advertising Shopping Ads

Often overlooked in favour of the more popular Shopping Ads from Google, Microsoft Shopping Ads can play an important part in sales for both an e-commerce website and a bricks and mortar store.

Offered by Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads), this style of ad lets you share your products directly in the feed for relevant searches. They stand out from the standard text-only listings thanks to the use of images, promotions and product details, giving searchers enough information to capture their interest.

But, like any kind of Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, it’s important to optimise your Microsoft Shopping Ads so they bring you the best Return on Ad Spend (ROAS). So let’s take a look at getting started.

Shopping ads for laptops on Microsoft Bing

Table of Contents

Microsoft Shopping Ads vs. Google Shopping Ads

Although Google no doubt has the wider reach, Microsoft is still a worthwhile competitor and could even work out cheaper thanks to a less competitive advertising landscape. Fewer business are advertising here and so there is less jostling for ad space. In fact, thanks to this, Bing Ads can work out at 33% cheaper per click than Google!

Google and Bing (Microsoft’s competing search engine) also have different audiences. So you could find that your ideal customer is more likely to be using Bing. If this is the case, then Microsoft Shopping Ads could be a much better option for you.

Finally, like Google, Microsoft has its own network of partners that you won’t reach without using their marketing platform. This includes sites such as Outlook, msn.com, and Xbox.

Ultimately, neither Google nor Microsoft is overall better than the other, but if your goal is to obtain cheaper advertising and a more focused audience, then Microsoft is a great alternative (or addition) to Google advertising.

Getting Started

Before you can optimise your ads, you need to create them. That starts with creating a free Microsoft account and then either setting up campaigns from scratch or importing campaigns from Google Ads. Fortunately, I have a simple guide on getting started.

Keep the Microsoft Product Feed Up-to-Date

The Product Feed is where all the information about your products is stored. This can either be linked to your website to draw details (and future updates) automatically. Or you can manually upload a file with the relevant data.

Remember that, with a manual upload, you will have to regularly check details are correct and amend them each time there’s a change. If linked directly to your website, updates will be transferred automatically over to your feed, making it much easier to ensure everything is accurate.

If you already have a well-optimised Google Ads product feed, you can import data from there too.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is often associated with SEO, but it’s equally important in ads that show up in search feeds, like Microsoft Shopping Ads. If you know the kinds of keywords that you want to trigger your ads, then you can optimise descriptions, categories, titles and other details to indicate to Bing that your product is relevant to particular searches.

Keyword research will also help you identify if you’re missing any key information. For example, if there’s a lot of search traffic for white laptops, and you don’t include colour anywhere in your product description, it would be good to include that information.

Read my full guide to keyword research.

Product Details

The more detail you can share about your products, the better. Detailed specs, engaging descriptions and descriptive titles all help your product stand out and move searchers on to become customers.

The closer a searcher is to making a purchase, the more detail they want to know. By providing plenty of information, you not only help them find what they need, you can get ahead of your competitors who aren’t going into as much detail.

Imagine if you’re looking for a laptop with particular specs. If you have all those detailed, and a competitor doesn’t, your product is more likely to a) show up as an ad and b) entice a user to make a purchase.

Microsoft will give you various fields to complete. If you can fill them all – or as many as possible – your ads are likely to do much better.

Even if all information isn’t shown on an individual ad, including these details creates signals to Microsoft that will help match your products with searchers.

Categorise Products

Examples of Shopping Ad Product Groups

Categorising your products keeps things neat and helps searchers find more specific products. Often, the more detailed you go in your categorisation, the better. For example, categorising products into laptops, tablets and phones is good. But sub-categorising into Windows Laptops, Chromebooks and MacBooks is better.

Of course, don’t overdo it. Work out what level of categorisation makes sense for you.

When a product is hard to categorise, it’s tempting to but it into a Miscellaneous category, but this should be avoided. It’s better to have a single product in a clearly defined category than to have several unrelated products lumped under Miscellaneous or Other.

If you’re struggling to think of relevant categories, get some inspiration from websites like Amazon that make good use of categorisation.

Product Images

One of the biggest advantages of Microsoft Shopping Ads over traditional PPC ads is that you can make use of imagery.

Images and video make your product stand out from the crowd, but they must be the right kind of images. There are certain standard recommendations for imagery, including:

  • Make sure the image is clear and high-quality.
  • Ensure it shows the product accurately.
  • Avoid distractions within the image.

On top of these basics, Microsoft has its own image rules that you should follow in order to best optimise your ads:

  • Images must be 220x220px or larger.
  • Do not cover images with watermarks or promotional text.
  • Avoid placeholders.
  • Reduce whitespace around the border of your product.

Unlike Google, Microsoft also allows you to use multiple images of individual products in your shopping ads. This is a great way to give searchers different views of your product.

Highlight Promotional Features

Free Shipping and Eco-Friendly tags on Microsoft Shopping Ads

Promotional Features help you stand apart from your competitors, so it’s important to make the most of these where possible. Fortunately, Microsoft Shopping Campaigns allow you to highlight elements of your service and products that could make you stand out. Add a Free Shipping tag if relevant, or shout about your Eco-friendly products.

Get an Elite Merchant Badge

An Elite Merchant Badge is a small tick on your product ad that shows you’ve built up a positive reputation amongst your customers. Microsoft decides to award this by collecting merchant rating scores from across the internet. Make sure you collect positive feedback from customers to improve your chances of seeing this badge on your adverts.

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive way to ensure you get this badge, and just because you have lots of good reviews doesn’t mean it will show up. However, the better your reviews, the higher your chance, and collecting good reviews also has plenty of other benefits.

Add Negative Keywords

Keyword research will help you identify words and phrases to use in your product details. However, it can also help you identify the keywords that you don’t want to trigger your ads. Add negative keywords to your campaign to avoid spending money on searches that are irrelevant to your product, or that have a low ROI.

Increase Bids on Higher-Value Products

Diagram with arrows pointing up and down, demonstrating increases or decreases in budget

Setting bids let’s Microsoft know how much you’re willing to spend on actions for each product. For example, you might use higher bids on products that have more competition. An increased bid can improve your chances of being seen (but isn’t the only factor that comes into play).

You can leave your bid level as a default across the board, but for better results, try adjusting your budget based on results and value. If a product does very well, you can increase your budget to make sure it’s seen by more people and therefore gets more conversions.

Product value can also affect how much you bid. A low-value product with low profit margins would require a lower maximum bid. But if you have a high-value product that generates more profit, it’s worth considering spending proportionally more on advertising it.

Review and Adjust

As always, no PPC optimisation is any good if you don’t continue to monitor and review the results. Keeping an eye on the analytics helps you ensure you’re not throwing away money, and lets you make micro adjustments to improve results.

Some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can include Click Through Rate (CTR), Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) and Conversion Rates. Though remember that the exact KPIs you track will depend on your advertising goals and strategy.

Get your Campaign and Ad Structure Right

Ad Campaigns are broken down into Ad Groups, which are further broken down into individual ads. There’s no single ‘right’ way to structure these, but some form of structure can help you optimise your Microsoft ads more effectively.

One way to structure a campaign is in the same way you structure your product feed. That is, by product category. This is helpful if you want to promote different categories at different times, or to analyse product performance based on property.

Another option is to group products by their value. Grouping high-value and low-value products separately makes it easier to adjust budget across a set of products based on their worth as income generators.

Prioritise Campaigns

Diagram demonstrating priority of one Ads Campaign over another

Microsoft Shopping Ads also allows you to prioritise your campaigns as High, Medium or Low. By utilising this function, you can tell Microsoft which ads should show if a search is likely to trigger both of them.

For example, if you have a Campaign targeting on-sale laptops, and a Campaign targeting laptops at their standard price, you can mark the on-sale laptops as High Priority, and the standard price laptops at Medium priority. When a searcher enters a phrase that could trigger either result, they’ll be shown the on-sale campaign because it has a higher priority. That way, searchers may be more enticed to click through to your website due to the reduced prices.


Microsoft Ads, though not as popular as Google Ads, has many advantages, especially around reduced costs, limited competition, and targeted audiences. While easy enough to set up for a beginner, the real benefits of these ads come when you fully optimise them. Optimising your ads through keyword implementation, campaign management, good imagery, and other factors, allows you to reduce spend and increase sales.

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