Reviewing AdCenter’s Recent Improvements

Last week, Search Engine Land reported that Microsoft is rolling out quite a few improvements to their AdCenter product. And that’s great! I love using AdCenter for PPC, but I feel like they’re light years behind Google in terms of providing a top-of-the-line pay per click ad platform.

But after reading exactly what the changes are, I felt a little…underwhelmed. Rather than recapping each change (Search Engine Land does a great job of that), I’ll provide my expert opinion regarding what each of these changes mean for those of us who do PPC for a living.

Broad Match Modifier

Yet another example where Microsoft is playing catch-up with a Google feature that’s ancient history. Still, modified broad match is a lot better than regular broad match, so this is a plus. However, there wouldn’t be a need for a broad match modifier if the search engines could do a better job of matching broad queries to relevant ads.

AdCenter Express

I’ve already written about how AdWords Express is a bad idea. And it sounds like AdCenter Express isn’t any better. Please, small business owners, don’t take shortcuts with PPC. Either learn how to do it right, or don’t do it at all. If you do a half-hearted effort at a PPC account (like through these “express” offerings), you’re going to get a half-hearted result.

Rich Ads

Interesting developments, but I’m still wary. I’ve done my own testing of rich ad formats in AdWords, and results have always been a little disappointing no matter what shiny new beta Google is pushing at the moment. And with Google Maps, Google Offers, star ratings, product feeds, and YouTube, Google has a whole host of in-house products that actually provide good value. Microsoft, on the other hand, is going to have to rely on partnerships with third parties to provide valuable extensions for rich ads. I’m a little skeptical that they can pull this off.

Dynamic Location Extensions/Sitelinks

Now these ad extensions I can get behind. Both provide value in terms of usability. But again, this is another instance where Microsoft is just catching up to Google, not truly innovating.

Improved Quality Score Data

You’ll soon be able to get quality score data for various match types and for mobile targeting. That’s useful, I guess. But I think that too many people chase quality score as a metric to optimize. Remember, quality score is the canary in the coal mine. It can help you diagnose a problem, but a coal miner’s job is to dig for coal, not keep a canary alive.

AdCenter Desktop For Mac

I’m not a Mac user (partly due to the fact that not all of my PPC tools are Mac-compatible), but I have to admit that it surprised me that there was still no AdCenter desktop tool for Apple users. Seriously, Microsoft. I know you have a grudge with your competitor and all, but have you seen what your advertisers are using to create PPC accounts? Apple may still only have a fraction of the laptop market share, but every time I go to a conference with my peers I feel like I’m in the minority as a PC user.

So my final verdict is that I give this round of improvements a resounding “meh.” The problem is that Microsoft is not an innovator in the PPC space. They constantly play catch up with Google, and often lag far behind in essential features. But I only say this because I truly want AdCenter to be better. Despite my griping, they really do offer a good product, and I think that it’s important that Google has a serious competitor in pay per click to keep them honest.

About Shawn Livengood

Shawn Livengood is a search engine marketing professional based in Austin, Texas. He has extensive experience managing pay-per-click ad campaigns for clients in various industries, from small home-based businesses to large international companies. You can connect with Shawn on Google+.
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