Chris Foti is a developer and agency owner specializing in delivering the highest quality websites and digital marketing strategies.More Articles by Chris Foti
Whether you're aiming for a wider reach or a more niche audience, our comprehensive analysis sheds light on the strengths and limitations of both platforms, helping you strategically allocate your marketing budget for optimal results.
As a small business owner, you’re probably well across the fact that Google is the world’s number one website. So when it comes to choosing between Google AdWords and Bing Ads, the choice is easy, right? Actually, it’s not that clear-cut. While Google does have the US search market covered, Bing is not as far behind as you may think. It also publishes some interesting data on user demographics and industries that can help inform your decision of where to get the most bang for your buck.
Search estimates for Bing and Google
As stated earlier, Google is the number one website in the world, and there are a staggering 3.5 billion Google searches per day worldwide. By comparison, Bing has about 160 million searches per day worldwide. However, in the US, Bing actually holds a 33.5% share of the search market. It also claims to reach 68 million US searchers who do not go search through Google – so if your ideal customer is in that group, you’d best be paying attention to Bing.
Who uses Bing? Who uses Google?
According to Bing’s own research, its average user is female, with a family income of $100K, about 45 years old, educated, and married with children. To break the data down a bit further, 30% of its target audience is on $100K family income. The gender split is 51% female, 49% male. Half of the audience is married or living with a partner, and nearly 40% is between 35-54 years old. Over one third of the audience has a degree.
Apple only holds about 14% of the PC/Mac market share, so of the 67 million units of computers sold worldwide last year, 90% of them are using the Windows operating system, which comes with Internet Explorer or Edge installed – and Bing is the default search engine. So unless a user is interested or savvy enough to change their default browser or search engine, they’re likely to be using Bing.
There is a lot of data out there on Google’s users, but as most of it is at least three years old, we’re not including it. It doesn’t publicize its own demographic information, though the general consensus is that Google’s users are likely to be younger, more tech-savvy, and white-collar.If your business is targeting customers under the age of 35, or tech consumers, you’re likely to want to focus exclusively on Google AdWords for your search budget.
Major Differences Between Bing Ads and Google AdWords for Small Business
REAL ESTATE (NUMBER OF ADS DISPLAYED)
There are more options for Bing Ads to display ads, as it still includes ads down the side of the search results page, whereas Google got rid of their sidebar over a year ago. So if you’re in a highly competitive industry, you’ve got more chance of your ads actually creating impressions on Bing than AdWords – but of course conversely, it shows more of your competitors’ ads as well.
All in all, the ad set up is more flexible in Bing, and allows you to make changes at an ad group level, which is more targeted than AdWords’ campaign level changes.
You are also able to adjust campaign time zones in Bing, which you can’t do in AdWords – if you’re in one time zone, you can’t specify that an ad appears in a different time zone, which can make campaign time targeting confusing (particularly if you’re working across multiple time zones).
While both AdWords and Bing Ads offer location targeting, in AdWords this must be specified at the campaign level, which would then apply to all ad groups. In Bing, you can specify the location at an ad group level, which means that you could potentially look at a state-wide campaign, but with city or region ads (to different landing pages or offers).
The set up of spending limits was, until April 2017, slightly different too – you were able to set a monthly budget in Bing, but it has since dropped that ability and now both AdWords and Bing Ads have daily limits only.
Visual sitelinks are currently in beta (testing phase) for AdWords, but essentially, it’s going to be a mobile-only carousel of images that relate to sitelinks advertised in the ad itself. Bing’s own Image Extensions are currently live across both desktop and mobile, and allows you to add up to six images. There’s no specific data for its effectiveness, but inclusion of “rich snippets” or images is generally known to increase click through rate – anything that makes your ad stand out from the crowd.
Google AdWords Image Extensions
Bing Ads Image Extensions
Within Google AdWords, adding in negative keywords means that searches that include those keywords will not trigger your ad to appear. This makes sense, as it means that you can exclude irrelevant searches and therefore they don’t cost you money. However, in Bing Ads, if a target keyword and negative keyword both include the same word (bearing in mind that a keyword can also be a phrase), your ad will still show – it’s as if Bing is giving your keywords the benefit of the doubt, whereas AdWords takes a more hardline approach.
Both AdWords and Bing offer options for tracking users’ actions after they click on your ad – AdWords lets you use your Google Analytics defined goals, which is quite straightforward, or you can use specific AdWords-only goals. But if you do go with the AdWords-only goals, you’ll need to create a tracking tag and place that on your destination page. With Bing, you need to add a site-wide tracking tag, then create the conversion itself within the Ads interface (which is useful if you’ve got multiple goals). This Universal Event Tracking tag also helps with remarketing, as it’s automatically set up within the tag itself.
Remarketing, which is when ads appear to users who have already visited your site or a specific page or product on your site, on Bing Ads is simple to set up, but it does require that you develop a list of at least 1000 people in a segment before your ads will be served to them. AdWords has a superior remarketing product. In addition to using its Display Network (showing ads on other websites as well as its search network), it also has more options than Bing Ads for remarketing. This includes customer list remarketing, video remarketing (for people who’ve interacted with your videos on YouTube, for example), the standard and search remarketing, and dynamic remarketing, which adjusts the ad headline based on what the user has searched for.
Which one is easier to use?
Google has recently updated its user interface, and it’s a lot more user-friendly. It’s clear, easy to use, and its Overview screen has all the information you’d want to know about your campaigns at a glance. It makes ad creation straightforward, and reporting and settings are in a more obvious section of the site than they were in the old interface. By contrast, Bing Ads is very much a mirror image of the old AdWords set up. With so much data to display, it can be difficult to design an interface that makes sense and brings the most important information to the fore, but hiding campaign information “under the fold” as Bing Ads does when there are alerts provides a subpar experience.
Does Bing Ads or Google AdWords produce better results?
Large US online advertising firm WordStream recently produced an infographic that shows click-through rates, cost per click, conversion rate, and cost per action across Bing Ads by industry that will be useful to benchmark your results. A year prior to that, they produced the same data for Google AdWords, which is included here.
Overall, though, their results show that Bing “wins” by having a higher click-through and conversion rate and lower cost per click and action. Its biggest downfall, is, of course, its reach – Bing just can’t compete with the sheer weight of numbers of Google searches. However, at about one-third of all US searches, it’s certainly worth a percentage of your total search budget, even if it’s just for testing purposes.
|Click-through rate||Cost per click||Conversion rate||Cost per action|
Source: WordStream (Based on a sample of 1,242 US-based WordStream client accounts in all verticals (representing $6 million in aggregate Bing Ads spend) who were advertising on Bing Ads between July and September 2017. Average figures are median figures to account for outliers. All currency values are posted in USD.)
Hallam Internet in the UK also recently ran a comparative study with a large client and used the same ads across both advertising platforms. Their results are below:
According to the data, it was 67% cheaper per acquisition through Bing than AdWords. The main difference was in the conversion rate, and the author posited that it may have been the characteristics of Bing’s users that was actually causing the differentiation in conversion rate.
In the end, what the results show is that if your target demographic isn’t a youth market, you should be paying attention to Bing. While Google dominates the search market, Bing’s published data shows that targeting the particular industries or demographics that are already using its search engine can lead to lower costs and higher conversions than using AdWords.
If you’re in a very competitive industry, or have a low budget, it’s worth taking a chance on Bing Ads. Your ads won’t reach as many people as they could using AdWords, but there is potential for improved results. Bing Ads also have more options for adjusting campaigns at an ad group level, so if you need to get really granular within your campaign (e.g. two different ads going out to one particular region but with different budgets), you’ll fare better with Bing – AdWords just doesn’t have the same functionality.
If you definitely need to reach as many people as possible (for example, you’re in a niche industry), or your audience skews younger, you should focus on Google AdWords. Similarly, if you want to use remarketing, Google has a much broader range of features than Bing, so you should stick with Google.
A time- and cost-effective way to test is to use the same ads on both Google AdWords and Bing Ads (you can import your AdWords content into Bing Ads), with your Bing budget being about 25% of your Google AdWords budget, and advertise on both for 30 days. It needs to be at least that long in order to give the ads a chance to work and settle down. After the month is up, analyze the results, and adjust your marketing. If you found that you got better results from Bing, put more of your budget into it and optimize for the Bing Ad experience (e.g. with image ads). If not, and AdWords was clearly outperforming Bing Ads, then at least you’ve tried it, found that it didn’t resonate with your audience, and you move on.
And although the user interfaces are now quite different, if you’ve used AdWords in the past, you won’t have any trouble navigating around Bing Ads. And the actual process of setting up an ad is very similar – you need a budget, targeting, content, including headlines, and extensions, so you’re likely to pick up how it works quite easily on either platform.
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