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Microsoft Adds LinkedIn Data to Their Audience Network


LinkedIn Data Joins Microsoft Audience Network

LinkedIn joining Microsoft's Audience Network has been in the works for a while. May 3rd, Microsoft made an announcement about the addition of LinkedIn's professional profiles to the Audience Network in a move that has been anticipated since Microsoft acquired LinkedIn in 2016. Adding LinkedIn's targeting to Bing's already robust data sets is an extremely powerful move. But what does it mean for advertisers? Will Bing Ads and AdWords see a jump in viable metrics like conversions? It will take some time to really flesh out, but with advertising revenues increasing for Microsoft, Amazon, and Google we should see targeting from Bing Ads get very good very quickly.

LinkedIn Targeting

While Bing is still a way back from Google in terms of search share, and LinkedIn is nowhere near Facebook in terms of monthly users, the merger of these two data (Bing and LinkedIn) sets is remarkable for a couple reasons. LinkedIn user data is extremely robust and it represents a focused segment of the market (business folks talking about business things). The data that LinkedIn users share already operates under the assumption of professional interaction, which removes a lot of mystery about intent from data. Bing, on the other side of the coin, has been collecting data just like Google and using machine learning to help its own algorithms become more and more refined all the time.

In combining the power of Bing's algorithm and the social aspect of LinkedIn, Microsoft in effect takes two very popular user networks (search and social) and adds them to the Audience Network.

In terms of marketing and paid advertising on Bing, the move adds several levels of depth to targeting while making it easier for advertisers to reach their segments.

Depth of Targeting

Previous to the integration, Bing advertisers could target users based on age, gender, location, and device. Now, advertisers can target based on industry, job function and company as well. The addition of these three metrics is incredible for a couple reasons. By adding three more metrics, Microsoft has increased the amount of targeting configurations by nearly 20 time. That targeting is now much more refined on account of those three professional metrics.

Let's take a look at the limits of targeting without LinkedIn's three additional layers. As an example, we want to target our ads for a business card printing service to small business owners in the Portland Metro area.

We'll start with age group demographics. Bing lists these as 18-24,25-34,35-49, 50-64, and 65+. While small business owners exist in each of these groupings, we will assume that the majority of small business owners, especially those looking for business cards (i.e. new small business owners), are between 25 and 49.

We already have a geographic target in the Portland Metro area, so we can look at device next. We are going to heavily target desktop users as there is some business card design required and that experience doesn't translate well to mobile. So there you have our target: men and women aged 25-49 in the Portland metro area on their desktop computers. The wording of our ads, time we display them, and most importantly keywords will take this targeting a step further, but as far as the target of who will be seeing our ads, that is very broad indeed. Those four demographics are also all you have to use with Google's AdWords.

Add in industry, job function, and company to our targeting and now we can serve our ads to C-suite executives and founders between the ages of 25 and 49 in businesses with between 1 and 50 employees in whatever industries we choose - we will say web development for this case - in the Portland Metro area. Suddenly our target area shrinks and gets much, much better. Microsoft has also stated that there will be more professional metrics coming soon.

So What Does this Mean for Digital Advertising?

We have recommended that B2B companies advertise on Bing for years. The PC is still the workhorse of offices around the world. Not only is Windows still the dominant force in operating systems, but that means Microsoft software is preloaded on PCs with Bing as the default search engine. By acquiring LinkedIn, Microsoft more or less announced that they were going to move into the professional sector and own it. Adding professional demographics to Bing intensifies this stance.

If we look at the 4 main players in the digital ad space, we come away with Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft/Bing. We are already seeing lots of moves by Microsoft and Amazon away from Google. Arguably, the introduction of Bing was the first major play. If we look into these companies, we can already see the division of the digital ad space that is playing out little by little.

Recently, Amazon stopped buying product ads from Google and started advertising off of its own site and on partner sites. Amazon already sees more product searches than Google (around 60% of all product searches begin on Amazon now). Amazon is making quite the statement: they are going to own the ecommerce ad space.

Facebook has been close to Google for the last few years in the digital ad space. But Facebook also has some rather granular and powerful demographic segments that allow advertisers to target based on Facebook user interests. These interests come from both self selected categories as well as any information offered by users. Say a Facebook user asks for a recommendation about a certain type of shampoo. Facebook adds that user to a group based around that shampoo brand. Ads are then targeted to this user based on their question. We call this social advertising and Facebook is very good at it.

Google has always made strides to be a resource, rather, the resource on the internet. As such, advertising through Google has always taken a more research based approach where advertisers are trying to answer searchers' questions and anticipate their needs. Question based queries have always been powerful, but they predominantly take place on search engines like Google or Bing. "Where is the nearest barber?", for instance, is not a query that would occur on Facebook or Amazon.

For years, Bing has been attempting to compete with Google in this research search engine space, and while it has pushed Google to adapt in some ways - pictures inside of businesses, for one - it has simply never been able to steal a massive amount of users from Google. However, by adding LinkedIn and doubling down on professional demographics, Microsoft/Bing looks to be attempting a grab on the B2B side of search. It makes a lot of sense, in the end. Microsoft, instead of trying to compete toe to toe with Google is basically telling Google, "You can have the personal, casual, civilian users. We are taking over search from 9-5."

It appears that if you are going to want to do business with other businesses, the Microsoft Audience Network is going to be the path forward as it allows much more specific demographic targeting especially in terms of professionals. We will be paying close attention as Microsoft and Bing continue to roll out more professional metrics (salary? experience? skills? certificates?) that attempt to make Bing the search engine for B2B marketing in the future.

Our team of digital marketers are always looking for what is next, and there are currently a ton of exciting changes happening in search and elsewhere. Let us know if you have any questions regarding targeting, demographics, or who your business' core customer is!

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