Bing logo crashing on a barbed wired Google logo

Online advertising is a great way to drive traffic to your site and generate revenue. This is nothing new. The two biggest players in online advertising are Google and the Yahoo!/Bing search alliance. This alliance is somewhat new " having been made official in October 2010 " but the fact that Googles AdWords and Bings AdCenter are the top two shouldnt be surprising.

What may be new or surprising are some of the differences between the two online advertising tools, and how that may affect how you use each. The differences arent necessarily good or bad, better or worse; but they may serve certain niches better than others.

1. The biggest, and perhaps most significant, difference between the two is traffic. Google is still the search leader with about 65 percent market share (at least in the United States), which amounts to about 11 billion searches each and every month. Yahoo! and Bing have a combined 30 percent market share, which is a little more than 5 billion searches per month. Now, 5 billion searches isnt anything to scoff at; but these numbers mean a couple of things:

a. Youre going to get more potential traffic from Google AdWords. Assuming the distribution of types of searches hold true for each service, Google has volume on its side.

b. Because there is less traffic, there may also be less competition using AdCenter. This will depend on lots of different factors, but if youre not at least dabbling with AdCenter, you should probably look into it.

2. Geo-targeting is handled differently by each service. Google allows a lot more opportunities for your ad to show " taking into account IP addresses, search terms, and other related data. Bing and Yahoo! only consider the IP address of the search, meaning if someone outside the geographic area searches for something within the geographic area, your ads wont show. This can be a good thing, depending on what youre offering; if Im advertising a job opening and absolutely do not want to consider any candidates out the geographic area, AdCenter would be your best bet. Additionally, while you would have to create additional ad campaigns and include relevant geographic keywords with AdCenter, this does give you more control " instead of just leaving it up to Googles algorithms.

3. Demographics. Both tools allow for demographic targeting " allowing your ads to only appear (or never appear) for a specific age, gender, or other group. While there are some differences in which service offers which demographic targeting, the bigger issue is what demographics will actually be using the related search engine. For instance, Bing users tend to skew a little older " possibly because Internet Explorers default search engine is Bing and older people tend to use that browser. Details like these can help you shape your ad campaign and ad content to target a specific demographic, or may help you decide on which service to focus more of your energy on.

There are plenty of differences between Google AdWords and Microsoft AdCenter; and while its important to take into account the little differences and details, its also important to notice the broader issues " traffic, geography, and demographics. In doing so, you can become more familiar with the unique benefits each service has to offer and build you business accordingly.