Late last year, Microsoft announced that it is launching a feature for its Bing advertising platform that will allow you to target users by their LinkedIn profile data – a move that will see them start to truly differentiate their offering to that of Google.
So what features are actually available, and why is it such an important indicator of things to come in search advertising generally?
Let’s start with the practical side of things. The feature is still in beta in the US and due to be rolled out to all accounts and territories in the next few months, so if you don’t currently have access, you’ll need to speak to your Bing Ads rep about whitelisting you. The targeting currently available is also restricted to three LinkedIn profile features:
Industry: 145 available
Company: 80,000 available
Job Function: 26 available
Bid modifiers can be set for these audiences via the demographics tab, in the same way as you would bid more or less aggressively for someone of a particular age or gender currently:
Bid modifiers don’t replace your existing targeting, they simply add another layer to it. I’ll use an example to help illustrate this:
- You target the keyword ‘recruitment specialist’
- You then set a bid modifier for anyone working in the sectors you want to focus on, for example education, based on their LinkedIn profile data
- This change won’t stop you appearing for other people typing in ‘recruitment specialist’, but it will ensure you have a better average position for those who are in your ideal sector
It will be possible to use the new audience targeting across Bing’s text, shopping, dynamic ads and pretty much anything search related. If you want to include the targeting within a new campaign, you will find the option under ‘campaign targets’ on step 4 of the new build process.
Why is this change so important? It’s giving Bing a first real unique selling point over other search providers as well as being another indication that advertising on search engines is moving further away from its historical reliance on keywords and more towards audience profiling.
We’ve seen this in the works for some time, with networks like Facebook and Google acquiring a number of businesses to help expand their targeting options for the future. It’s only a matter of time before we’re able to target users across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp all within one campaign, and Bing, Skype and LinkedIn in another. It’s not that keywords will become irrelevant, just that they will increasingly be viewed as one part of a huge user journey that crosses over multiple devices, locations and platforms.
So is it finally time to give Bing another go? From what we’ve observed recently, its demographic has shifted from being the stereotypically older, tech-phobic user base, and Microsoft now claim to have 20% of the desktop market in the UK, with over 30% in the US. With the addition of LinkedIn targeting, we think that could start to grow significantly, so it could be worth a trial once the new features are rolled out globally.