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"Pay Per Click Advertising with Microsoft adCenter"

Microsoft, not to be left out of the pay-per-click race, followed on the heels of Google Adwords and Yahoo Search Marketing with their own program
called "Microsoft adCenter". While you may experience higher conversion rates than with Google or Yahoo, you'll also find less traffic. On the plus side, it can be less expensive.

According to ComScore in Feb 2008, MSN sites had only 7.1% share of total Internet searches, compared to Google's 53.5% and Yahoo's 16.4%.

You can choose to just participate in "search ads", (your ads are displayed on MSN and Live Search), or "Content Ads", (your ads placed on various
information based websites in Microsoft's partner network), or both. By default, both are turned on automatically when registering. We'll talk more about Content Ads a bit later.

With Search Ads, your ads will be displayed on MSN's search results pages, reaching a potential audience of 49 million people every month.

The adCenter offers a clean interface that's simple and easy to use. Write your ads, pick your keywords and set your minimum bids. If you already use Adwords or Yahoo's Search Marketing, you can easily import your existing ads and keywords. If you need help getting started, there is a "QuickLaunch Program" available to assist you. See:

http://advertising.microsoft.com/microsoft-adcenter/quicklaunch

When setting up your new account on adCenter it will cost $5.00 charged to a credit card. After that, you only pay per click and your card is charged monthly. Of course, you can set a monthly budget of what you'd like to spend.

As soon as you've finished the registration process, it's time to set up your ads. Here's the format: Ad titles can be up to 25 characters, ad text 70 characters, display URL has a 35 character limit. A minimum of six words is required in the title and description. The destination URL is not shown in the ad and can be up to 1,022 characters. This is the page that people will be sent to when clicking on your display URL.

Here's a brief overview of some of the rules. Your landing pages cannot contain pop-ups or be under construction. Your ad copy and landing pages must be relevant to your keywords. There can be no duplication of your ads, no using trademarks that belong to others, cannot use a "nonspecific" call to action such as "click here". You'll also need to pay attention to grammar and punctuation. You cannot repeat punctuation marks, cannot capitalize entire words, and there is no use of exclamation points in your titles.

Before your campaigns go live, MS conducts what they call an "Editorial eview". This is done to make sure your ads and keywords are relevant. If not, they'll be disapproved. Ads can be active, inactive or disapproved.

Following this, it's time to select your keywords/phrases. There is a "keyword research tool" you can use to help with brainstorming. You can type in a URL and it gives suggestions for the page. Again, two or three keywords will work better than singular.

If you'd like some software help, there's a keyword research and optimization tool that's based in Excel. It helps you to build keyword lists quickly and easily and keep precise metrics. You can download it at:

http://advertising.microsoft.com/advertising/adcenter_addin

In addition to choosing your keywords, you'll also want to select the "match types". There are three available.

1)Phrase Match: Any phrase that contains even one part of your keyword will display your ad. For example: your phrase is "new homes", the searcher types in "Chicago new homes" and your ad will be displayed.

2) Exact Match: Your ad only shows up when the searcher types in your keywords exactly. For example: Your phrase is "new home" - they must type in "new home" exactly or your ad will not show up. This is more targeted but you'll get less traffic.

3) Broad Match: Your ad will display if someone types in even one of your keywords in their search request. For example: Your phrase is "new homes" - your ad will display for a search of "new" or "homes".

You can set separate bids for all three match types. Some match types don't apply to "Content Ads". You can also make a list of "negative keywords". These are words or phrases you don't want your ads displayed for.

Now that your ads and keywords are in place, let's talk about the bidding process. There is a five cent minimum bid. In addition to regular bids, you can bid an extra amount above your keyword bid to target customers by demographics. This is optional.

If you're not using "incremental bids", your keyword bid amount is the aximum amount you will pay when your ad is clicked. You pay one penny more than the next highest bidder, all other factors being equal. So, you could potentially pay less than your actual bid amount.

You can also set separate bids for "Content Ads" and "Search Ads". Microsoft does not allow you to see what others are bidding. Your ad ranking can be improved by increasing bids or improving your ad relevance.

So how are ads ranked? Ranking includes: highest bid or incremental bid, greater relevance, and click-through rate.

As mentioned earlier, advertising on the Content Network is optional. Your ads will appear alongside information based pages that contain content that is related to your keywords. Content Ads appear on a select network of high-traffic pages such as MSN Money, MSN Entertainment, Fox Sports, MSN Tech & Gadgets, Windows Marketplace and other participating partners.

Microsoft makes it easy to target your audience with what they call "Intelligent Targeting". With this advanced targeting, you can select the target markets you want to reach by age, gender, location, etc. If you know your target market only goes online during certain times of the day, you can even pick the days of the week and times of day that you want your ads to run.

Conversion tracking is available and with the in-depth reporting function, you can easily keep an eye on how well your campaigns are doing. You can track click-through rates, impressions, and more.

Some excellent resources for further study are:

MS adCenter Labs: http://adlab.microsoft.com/

adCenter Community: http://adcentercommunity.com

If you're already using pay-per-click marketing in your online marketing efforts, you might want to take MS adCenter for a spin. With their advanced targeting, you'll be given the ability to hit your target market with more precision, and expand your reach and on-line exposure.




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