How do you find something on the Internet? You Google it.

The fact that Google’s brand name has become interchangeable with the word “search” in the context of the Web is a big problem for Microsoft Corp. It launched Bing in 2009, with hopes the name would elicit association with finding the right answer (like buzzing in on a game show). Today Google search still dominates the Canadian market, with 67 per cent market share according to comScore Inc. Bing has improved Microsoft’s market share since replacing its Live Search brand, but still doesn’t claim even half of what Google delivers.

So when deciding where to advertise online, it seems like Google is the obvious choice for marketers. It has a larger audience, so it can deliver more clicks to a given keyword campaign, right? Well not in every situation, it turns out. Plus, there are certain circumstances where Bing Ads can cost less than Google’s AdWords and still get you the same results.

Microsoft has been working to improve the Bing advertising experience. Microsoft says it seen a 25 percent increase in click volume to Bing Ads globally in the past year. It’s also been investing in advertising the platform on TV and online, challenging users to compare it to Google’s results in a blind test.

But is it really worth spending your search engine marketing dollars? We asked Scott Wilson, CEO of RankHigher.ca if there were any advantages. RankHigher.ca has certified 14 of its staff to be Bing Ads Accredited, more than any other Bing partner. It’s no secret that he likes Bing, and he gives some examples of where advertisers can get more bang for their buck using Bing Ads instead of Google AdWords.

You’ll pay less for the same keywords

First of all, if you already have a Google AdWords campaign running then you can migrate it to Bing with a simple import tool that’s offered. In the past, the process to set up a campaign was overly complicated, but Wilson says those days are gone.

“The labour cost to get a Bing campaign up and going is less than one hour,” he says.

Because there are also fewer businesses advertising on Bing right now, you may get a lower price point on the keywords you’re targeting. Just like on AdWords, Bing Ads awards the display of an advertisement based on which advertiser is willing to pay the most for the keywords at the specific time a user conducts a search. Advertisers are competing to buy keywords by bidding against each other.

“If less people show up at an auction, then things get sold off at a lower price,” Wilson says. “The cost per click is significantly less.”

The other upside of fewer advertisers is there will be less competitors showing up alongside your ad on the results page. That means a higher chance of seeing a click-through by a searcher.

There’s enough inventory for small-budget campaigns

With improvements made to Bing and a concerted effort by Microsoft to advertise it, it has been gaining more market share. That means that there will be enough traffic to meet your quota in many situations.

Wilson gives an example: say your search advertising budget is $1,000 per month. Bing will easily deliver that amount of traffic, just as AdWords can. If the keywords you want cost less on Bing and there’s enough traffic in your industry on Bing, then put most of your budget into Bing Ads. You’ll get a better return on investment.

Still, don’t expect you can scale the results on Bing without limit. Wilson saw one customer wanting to spend $2,000 per month unable to buy that amount of clicks.

More improvements to come

Bing is continuing to improve its service, Microsoft says.

Ads targeting Canada will see Sitelink Extensions available in mid-2013. This will allow advertisers to display up to 10 more pages from their Web site at the top of search results pages. Pilot markets have seen a 15 to 25 per cent increase in click-through rates using this, Microsoft says.

Also coming soon to Canada will be the opening of Bing Ads to online gambling customers, such as lotteries, online casinos, and sports betting. This will be a new market for Bing Ads.

Best to take advantage of less expensive keywords on Bing while you  can, Wilson says. The situation may not last forever.

“The better natural organic results that Bing gives, the more people will use it,” he says. That will drive up the cost of keywords as more advertisers jump on board.

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