Display Network Success: Part 1 – Google vs. Bing “Content” Network

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This is the first post in a series called How to Succeed on the Display Network. This post focuses on comparing the Google and Bing “Content” Networks by exploring their similarities and differences.

The Display Network can be an intimidating place to advertise on. If you’re just starting out in PPC, or just venturing into advertising on the Display Network, you might be thinking: “How do I know what sites to advertise on?” “Can I use image ads or only text ads?” “There are so many ways to target, how do I choose the best options for my client?!” Well, we understand that this can be an intimidating process, and that’s why we launched this series!

In today’s post, I’m covering the similarities and differences between the Google Display Network and the Bing Content Network. For starters, if you’ve been in PPC account management for any amount of time, you know that the Google Display Network used to lovingly be called the Google Content Network (around our office, we still slip on that sometimes!). But, now that Google has transitioned to referring to it as the Display Network, Bing has taken up the mantel in calling their network the Content Network.

In essence, the Google Display Network and the Bing Content Network are the same: the goal is to place your ads on quality sites, next to related content, to help you expand the reach of your advertising by capturing leads from consumers who aren’t actively searching for what you (or your client) offer. Both Google and Bing have partnered with sites, on which your ads can show. However, reach of the Bing Content Network is smaller than Google – Google Display Network reaches 80% of global Internet users. However, this means that Bing offers cheaper bids and less competition. Additionally, the MSFT Content Network is the sole paid search provider for the Wallstreet Journal Digital Network, so if you want to target financial services keywords then Bing might be the better route.

Generally speaking, you should especially consider advertising on the Display Network if:

  • You have a client with a product or service that doesn’t have a high search volume
  • You have a client who is more concerned with branding than lead generation
  • You have the budget to launch some Display/Content Network campaigns and want to expand the reach of your advertising further than Search alone

Display/Content Campaign Optimization

Both Google and Bing offer reports which show the sites your ads have been placed on to help you optimize your campaigns, and both offer a site exclusion tool to help you eliminate the sites that aren’t performing well for your campaigns. In Google, you’ll head to the Networks tab and download a report for your automatic placements to view important metrics associated with each domain. You can also drill down to see data even deeper for the actual URLs; this makes it even easier to optimize your placements, because you can exclude only the parts of the site that may not be working well, instead of the whole site. In Bing, however, you can only view data for placements at the domain level, which makes optimizing a little more difficult. In terms of reports, you can run a Publisher Performance report, which will show data for your automatic placements. If you’ve chose specific sites to target, you can run a Website Placement performance report to view data for these targeted sites.

Below is a chart outlining the key differences between the Google Display Network and the Bing Content Network, which you can use to help you decide which might be the better option for you or your client.


We’ve reviewed some key similarities and differences between the Google Display Network and the Bing Content Network. We hope we’ve encouraged you to expand your advertising by launching some Display/Content network campaigns, and we hope that showing you the similarities and differences between the Google Display Network and the Bing Content Network will help you decide which search engine to launch your display/content network campaigns. Tomorrow, Bethany will be covering Display Network Management best practices, so check back tomorrow for some great tips on how to get the most out of your efforts!

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9 thoughts on “Display Network Success: Part 1 – Google vs. Bing “Content” Network

  1. Tiwia

    Thanks for this post. I didn’t realize that my MSN campaigns are running on both the search and content networks. I see an option when I create a new campaign, but when I went into settings of an existing campaign, I don’t see a way to turn off the content network. Is this not possible?

    1. Abby Henry

      Hi Tiwia! I don’t see a way in the interface to change this at the campaign level, but you can at the ad group level if you click on an ad group and then “change settings.” Then click edit next to “ad distribution.” …There might be a quicker way to do this within the editor, but I haven’t had time to explore that yet! Thanks for reading Tiwia!

      1. Tiwia

        Ahh, thanks! I don’t see a way to do it by campaign in editor but maybe I’m just not seeing it. Thanks again and looking forward to this week’s series.

  2. Aimarkwan

    Thanks for the post, i realized that MSN has the Content Network for long, however, it doesn’t like adwords which has tools help us advertisers to find content network placements. Or did i miss some settings where i can do so? 

    1. Abby Henry

      Hi Aimarkwan! Bing doesn’t have anything like Google’s contextual targeting tool, but they do have which shows what sites your ads are showing on. You can choose to target certain websites but they must be part of the Microsoft Content Network, however, to my knowledge there is currently no list of these sites available. What I recommend is not utilizing site targeting and just show on automatic placements at first. Then you can run a Publisher Performance report and add in the sites that are performing well for you as targeted sites. I hope that helps. Thanks for reading!

      1. Aimarkwan

        Thank you Abby, i will make a test and see whether it works. One more doubt, i.e. once i follow your advice, does it make any differences if i change bids for different key words on Microsoft Content Network? Does it affect the campaign performance? 

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  5. Gnosis Media Group

    Wow, I just realized Bing has no image/rich media ad formats for its Content Network? Is this still true?


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