A few short months ago Microsoft quietly introduced adCenter, their Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising platform. My first impressions of adCenter are relatively positive. Based mostly on the setup process here are my thoughts on the newest player in the PPC industry.
Signing up for a new account is quite simple. There is a $5 sign up charge though, so take note, you won’t get a look at the inner workings unless you are willing to spend a couple bucks. Years ago when I first looked at Google AdWords, I loved the fact that you could create an account, and go in and play with everything and look around. You didn’t pay a dime until you were ready to have your ads go live, that is when the setup fee of $5US or $10CDN (not sure where this exchange rate came from?) was charged.
One thing worth noting that I found amusing, was when signing up for a new account you can select your “secret question” and provide an answer. I selected “Spouses middle name”. I entered her name, which is 4 characters long, and received an error. “Secret answer has to be at least 5 characters long”. Say what? It’s a name? How many people out there have 4 characters or less in their names? Well, of the StepForth staff 60% alone do! Anyways, I misspelled her name to add a 5th character and continued on.
adCenter is following in YSM’s footsteps in that it requires approval before going live. This is one thing that I had never liked about YSM. I prefer the Google model where you submit your ads and they are generally live within minutes. The waiting game is a bit of a pain.
Ads are set up into campaigns and orders. An “order” with adCenter, is basically the equivalent of an AdGroup in Google. Campaign creation is relatively easy and straightforward.
Ad length is limited to 25 characters for the title and 70 for the description. You can also add dynamic text to your ad copy such as the keyword used ie: “{keyword}”. MSN makes adding this dynamic variable quite simple with a basic dropdown that will insert it, or selected dynamic text for you, so there is really no need to remember the exact syntax, although it is straightforward. Ads are ranked based on bid, click through rate, and relevance… very similar to how Google ranks their AdWords ads.
The GUI is quite user friendly. Anyone who has used Google AdWords should not have too much trouble finding their way around in this system. As it stands it is certainly more advanced than YSM, however, the new YSM interface should be live soon and available to the general public. I will comment on it once it goes mainstream.
Billing is done on a post click basis similar to that of Google. No paying in advance for clicks, that you may not receive. If you are setting up a small test account, it just doesn’t make sense to put down a $50 deposit when, depending on your keywords and goals etc, may never reach that amount.
Overall the system is quite easy to use, although when searching the help it is difficult to find the information one is seeking. For instance, try looking for their ad distribution list. I am sure that in time their help feature will improve significantly, but for a new system, things look pretty good thus far.