Digital Marketing with Microsoft
Such is Google’s dominance of the landscape that, for many of us, digital marketing is almost synonymous with Google. This isn’t surprising given Google’s overwhelming share of the internet search market, which stands at 90-95% worldwide. Of course, digital marketing comprises more than just internet search and any balanced digital marketing strategy should employ multiple elements working together. Let’s take a look at some of what Microsoft offers, as both an alternative and a complement to Google’s products.
What is Digital Marketing?
Digital marketing comprises a range of activities undertaken to promote a business or product in the online world. Normally a business’s home on the internet will be its website. As people visit the website, they are introduced to the business and its products, and hopefully converted into paying customers. Companies which don’t have a website may use a Facebook page, or such like, as their home in the online world.
However, no matter how great a business or its website is, potential customers need to know that it’s there and be able to find it. This is where digital marketing activities come in. These are likely to include a number of elements, some of which are driven by internet search, and some of which are independent of internet search. The latter would include things like Social Media Marketing and Email Marketing, whilst the former would consist of things like Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Search Engine Marketing (SEM) functions by the display of text or image ads on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP’s). When someone types a search term into Google, or Bing, or whatever search engine they’re using, ads are presented which are triggered by the search query. The advertiser is charged each time an ad is clicked and so SEM is also known as Pay Per Click Advertising (PPC).
Any PPC campaign requires a concentrated marketing approach. It’s necessary to define your target audience precisely and to use carefully chosen keywords which encapsulate the intent of the searcher. Loosely defined PPC campaigns result in wasted advertising spend through clicks which miss the mark and fail to convert.
When talking about SEM, in all likelihood most business owners and digital marketing professionals think of Google Ads, which used to be called AdWords. However, Microsoft has an equivalent offering called Microsoft Advertising.
Microsoft Advertising is powered by the Bing search engine which of course has a much lower share of the search engine market than Google. However, the costs per click (CPC’s) with Microsoft Advertising tend to be significantly less expensive than those with Google Ads and this fact alone makes it something worth considering. The Microsoft Advertising platform is similar to that of Google Ads and, in fact, Microsoft Advertising ad campaigns can be imported directly into the platform from Google Ads.
As far as my own business is concerned, I’ve been forced to focus on Microsoft Advertising over the last couple of years. Google implemented a policy change in 2018, preventing genuine local computer repair businesses from advertising using their Google Ads platform. This change was prompted by the prevalence of fraudulent operators promoting their activities using Google Ads and elsewhere.
At the time of Google’s announcement of this change, they had announced their intention to provide a verification program so that legitimate third-party technical support providers would be able to resume posting Google Ads. However, although they announced last year that they would be rolling out a verification program for all advertisers using their Google Ads platform, there has been no indication that this verification program will extend to computer repair and third party technical support businesses such as my own.
Bing Places for Business
Bing Places is Microsoft’s equivalent offering to Google’s Google My Business (GMB). As with Google My Business, Bing Places is totally free and any owner of a local business can add a listing.
The listing consists of a map with a number of business listings underneath. A prospective customer can then click into the listing itself, or go straight to the business’s website.
In terms of content, it’s actually easier to maintain a Bing Places listing than a GMB listing, as the features of the listing are more limited. All that’s really required is to keep the details and business description up to date. Since it is completely free it’s well worth taking the time to set up one of these local business listings.
Search Engine Optimization
More than any digital marketing tool, SEO is almost synonymous with Google. SEO involves the activities undertaken in order that one or more of the pages of a website should achieve the highest possible position on a SERP. SEO involves both on-page and off-page techniques.
On-page SEO involves creating the best possible quality of content on a website. The content should be engaging and compelling, both in the text copy and in the images presented. It should clearly articulate what needs to be communicated about a business and should captivate the reader so that they will want to engage with the business after visiting the site.
Off-page SEO activity relates primarily to the creation of inbound links to a website from other websites. Many of these links will happen naturally as a business is listed in search directories and social profiles are created. However, the most powerful links back to a website are those coming from other sites that have a good reputation on the internet. These backlinks are an indicator to the search engines that a website is worth displaying in a prominent position on the SERP.
Whilst SEO is usually carried out with Google in mind, it should also be borne in mind that the optimization is carried out is for search engines in general, not just for Google. In fact, there is no such thing as Google-specific SEO. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that the pages of a website are being indexed by Bing as well as Google, and that you are tracking search performance using Bing Webmaster Tools as well as Google Search Console. Of course the search algorithms used by Google and by Bing are not the same and you may find that your website performs rather differently on Bing compared to Google. This may be to your benefit or to your detriment, depending on the outcomes you’re seeing.
I’ve sought to introduce you to a digital marketing world beyond Google. Whilst Google’s search engine market share means that they are always likely to command the greatest focus, a balanced digital marketing strategy should also utilize Microsoft’s offerings. My own business employs each of the strategies described here and excellent leads are being acquired consistently as a result.
This article was written by Norm McLaughlin, founder of Norm’s Computer Services, a local computer repair and IT support business in Brisbane, Australia. Norm is a Google certified digital marketer.