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Manchester Airports Group improve performance with Microsoft Advertising syndication

November 2019

Woman walking with laptop and suitcase

A stress-free digital travel experience

Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the UK’s largest airports group, serves 59 million passengers across three airports (Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands) and contributes £7.1 billion to the UK economy. MAG-O, the Group’s digital division, was created with one driving mission – to create the world's most customer-centric and stress-free digital travel experience. To help make that vision a reality they partnered with Microsoft Advertising.

“The support and enthusiasm from the Microsoft Advertising team has been amazing, and much better than what we get from other networks,” said Richard Banks, MAG-O’s Head of Search. It was through this partnership that MAG-O was able to grow their business, so that 15% of total search revenue now comes via Microsoft Advertising.

Since we turned syndication back on, we have seen more conversions at half the price of our normal search CPCs which is a great win.

— Hannah Perry, PPC Lead, Manchester Airports Group

Bringing digital in-house

Following a phase of intense growth for the business, MAG-O decided to take the plunge in 2018 to bring all digital acquisition channels in-house to be managed and optimised by a new team of 40 digital marketers.

“It was clear that the account wasn’t being optimised efficiently and we weren’t achieving the exposure we wanted,” explained Hannah Perry, PPC Lead at MAG-O. “Our team was challenged to increase visibility and revenue for the group, so we decided to get rid of our legacy structure and start with a clean slate.”

That clean slate meant a fresh look at the opportunity that Microsoft Advertising had to offer. As work finished on restructuring the Google accounts, the MAG-O team decided to use Google Import on all of their accounts, something that had never been done under the previous stewardship.

Optimised to the audience

Importing the accounts from Google to Microsoft with the new structure was an important first step for the MAG-O team but they were careful not to treat both engines the same. As Banks commented: “Having a mirroring approach with regards to account structure is important as it keeps things simple for us, but we optimise our campaigns very differently. We know that the audiences of both engines are distinct, so we optimise according to performance. In the US we now launch campaigns with Microsoft Advertising first as it performs better.”

Performance continued to improve with a solid conversion rate and lower than average cost of sale. Microsoft Advertising had proven an efficient and profitable partner, but the MAG-O team wanted more volume, and it was at this stage that the prospect of syndication traffic became an option.

Confidence to go back to syndication

When the MAG-O team brought search in-house, one of the first restructuring decisions made was to switch off syndication traffic. Syndication had been neglected for a long time and was not delivering any benefit to the account, so was deemed an unnecessary spend.

With the account performing again and increased confidence in the Microsoft Advertising audience and trust in their Account Manager, the MAG-O team reconsidered their position on syndication and decided to switch it back on. There was an initial period of cautious testing and learning, which required collaboration with the Microsoft Advertising account team. Performance was monitored on a bi-weekly basis, removing partner sites that were not delivering and optimising bids and budgets efficiently.

“It took a lot of work in the beginning, and we had to monitor the syndication reports carefully to make sure that the network gave us what we were looking for. But one of the benefits of the Microsoft Search Network is you get to pick and choose what’s right for your brand, and you can exclude the traffic from sites you don’t want,” commented Perry. “Now we know what we are doing, we are down to checking just once every two months.”

The results speak for themselves. In the five months between January and May 2019, syndication traffic has increased MAG-O’s overall conversions by 7% whilst lowering their average cost per acquisition by 6%. On top of that, the CPC’s for syndication clicks are 49% cheaper than their core search campaigns.

“Since we turned syndication back on, we have seen more conversions at half the price of our normal search CPCs which is a great win,” said Hannah.

Syndication is now a core part of the MAG-O strategy and as they continue to see value, they are looking for more ways to invest. “The year-over-year performance has been brilliant, now we are looking for every opportunity we can with Microsoft Advertising,” concluded Banks.

Download the infographic to take Manchester Airport Group’s success story with you.