Contextual Advertising · Search Marketing

MSN adCenter : Content Ads, adCenter Beta and Demographic Targeting

Considering that MSN has only somewhat recently launched their PPC ad serving system, most folks agree that they are doing a good job. After all, MSN’s launch came out more usable than Yahoo’s existing system, or at least that’s the general consensus I get from those that use both, and my personal opinion.

That said, Yahoo has made tremendous strides in offering users an amazing amount of new resources ranging from all of the new panama functionality and API usage to the new Yahoo Pipes service.

MSN also beat both Yahoo! and Google to the punch in offering day parting. Day parting is when you select the time and days you want your ad displayed. As an example if you sell B2B software you might want to run your ads from 8:00-6:00PM, whereas a real estate agent might be better served running ads from 5:00-10:00PM. This gives us hope that MSN might catch up quickly to Google and Yahoo, at least in terms of Paid Search Technology.

As we see it there are 4 unique value propositions to the MSN adCenter model.

  1. Because they have far less advertisers than Google and Yahoo, the bid prices are still quite a bit lower in almost every category. MSN has also proven to sustain conversion rates in the same range as Google and Yahoo, often times higher in certain categories.
  2. MSN adCenter offers a very unique way to target specifically by demographic. This technology is still being enhanced, but initial case studies show that by setting demographics you are more likely to get clicks from those demographic profiles.
  3. MSN is great for newbies. Microsoft has done a good job of offering support for this project and just rolled out a new Quick Launch program designed for marketers spending $30 a day or more.
  4. It’s a natural carry-over for any old-school Yahoo! Search Marketing users. In many scenarios it just makes sense to add MSN into the mix since the same keywords you were paying for through Yahoo! when they powered MSN’s PPC results often be purchased for less money.

Microsoft’s Content Ad Network is different than Google AdSense and Yahoo! Publisher Network

While Content Ads is still in Beta the ads will only placed on Microsoft owned sites. This includes sites like MSN Health, Travel, Finance, etc. In the future I can only assume that MSN will adopt a similar model to Google and Yahoo. Get more on Content Ads.

adCenter BETA offers neat features

It’s really easy to do certain things with adCenter – as an example:

  • Turning conversion tracking on and off at the campaign level is easy
  • The interface as a whole is fast, but you may want to upgrade to IE7, as it pretty heavy on javascript. Advanced javascript can have problems with older browsers. That said, you should upgrade your browsers anyway, given the web 2.0 movement and the advanced JS usage we see now on most technology savvy sites.
  • You don’t have to generate reports to export data. It’s real easy to export any type of date with MSN adCenter.
  • You can turn on demographic targeting at the campaign level. Here you can select if you want male or female and you can target specific age groups. Obviously this is no exact science, but you’re going to get a better representation of those groups, which is certainly a nice feature.
  • MSN also offers a budget spread, so you can easily set a monthly budget, turn on the option to evenly spread your ad over the month, and sit back and watch your money go away evenly over the month and not all at once.

My overall take and the take of most of our clients is that MSN is making good strides in this space. Campaigns are easy to setup, and there are many options to control your bids. So jump on the bandwagon and setup and account. Just make sure you setup some Analytics.

Like most things related to Search, Google leads the pack here – if you haven’t already done so go get a free Google Analytics account and while your at it setup Google Webmaster Tools.

FYI, Google Analytics is the greatest thing since sliced bread and if you’re using any other free service, you’re simply missing out on the best free analytics tool online….period.

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Joe Griffin is a Vice President at Website Pros, and is the current acting President of Submitawebsite.com, a company he co-founded in 1997.

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6 thoughts on “MSN adCenter : Content Ads, adCenter Beta and Demographic Targeting

  1. That day and time setting is a neat feature really useful when your business only boosts on weekends or you have certain campaigns at specific time

  2. It is strange though the MSN Keyword program terms and conditions is shown in very tiny textarea, I thought it only had 1 line in it!

    They could easily get sued for such misleading design I presume.

  3. I agree. I’m fairly new to the ppc game and I find AdCenter pretty easy to get used to. Adwords on the other hand takes a bit longer to get used to and comfortable moving around. imho.

  4. I got encouraged by the review here about Microsoft AdCenter, even though I usually dislike Microsoft outcome.

    I tried to sign-up and could not find the information about what is the minimum pay-per-click cost, which is for some important. I have to sign-up first and pay $5 non-refundable to know it. OK I said, I will toss my coin and see. I was just about to complete signup, when I opened a new tab to read more. After I clicked Next to finish signup, I THINK this next button has something to do with session and I was taken to the signup page from the start, AGAIN!