According to recent comScore data, Microsoft’s adCenter currently holds approximately 30% of the search marketplace. This fact alone should grab the attention of all online marketers. Couple that with recent improvements in ROI and campaign efficiency and it is clear that we all need to start paying more attention to adCenter. But where to start?
Microsoft has made great strides in recent months to bring parity between their platform and Google Adwords. If you are comfortable navigating your way around Google, the switch over to adCenter should be relatively painless. However, there remain some important differences between the two platforms that all search marketers need to be aware of. All too often I have seen marketers simply port over their Adwords structure and strategy into adCenter and then forget about it. This is a strategy that is doomed to fail. The two platforms are still distinct and need to be managed accordingly.
I have worked closely with the adCenter platform over the past few years and have become well versed in the common complaints that exist. A quick internet search reveals numerous articles and blog posts detailing the shortcomings and outlining why Google Adwords is so much better. Today, I would like to take a different route and call out an area where Microsoft is actually outperforming Google by providing greater control and flexibility.
In adCenter, you have the option to separate search traffic between Owned and Operated sites and the Bing and Yahoo Search Partners into separate campaigns. In addition, Microsoft gives you the flexibility to exclude individual partner sites that are either not performing or are of low quality. Both of these features are not available on Adwords and represent an opportunity for marketers to exercise greater control over their campaigns.
One of the first and most basic things I do when taking on a new adCenter account is to separate Owned and Operated traffic from the Search Partners into separate campaigns. We do this by creating an exact replica of the existing campaign and naming the new campaign with the convention “Campaign Name_Partner”. You can then control the settings under the Ad Group Settings>Advanced Settings>Ad Distribution field. The existing campaign should be set to ‘Bing and Yahoo! search (owned and operated) only’ and the “_Partner” campaigns should be set to ‘Bing and Yahoo! syndicated search partners only.’
This set up allows you to manage the two traffic paths separately. The major advantages here are around bidding and budget. Often times, the bid required to hit a certain position or revenue target will be lower on the partner network than on Yahoo and Bing Traffic. If you are using an Automated Bid Tool, such as the one that we use here at Webtrends, this allows the system to have that extra level of granularity in hitting your revenue targets. If you are not using an automated tool, these changes can still be made manually. In addition, this set up will allow you to shift budget and focus to the channels that are bringing in the best return.
The next step in this process is to monitor the performance of the Publisher Network and exclude any sites that are not performing. This is where using the adCenter conversion script comes in handy. In the Reports Tab, pull a ‘Publisher Performance’ Report for the past 30 days. Export the data into a Bulk Sheet and pull out any URLs that are not hitting your conversion targets. Add those Domains to the Exclusions section of each campaign. Screenshots below. I would recommend adding this to your routine account maintenance procedures and pulling no less than once per month.
For many Online Marketers, adCenter represents an untapped stream of traffic and revenue. The potential exists for up to 30% of your overall return on Search Marketing to come from this platform. While adCenter is very similar to Adwords, they are not the same product and should be managed accordingly. Understanding the various features and nuances is imperative in your quest to unlock these opportunities.
For more comparison info, see article on Search Engine Roundtable, 5/14/12.