Thursday, November 29, 2007

Quick Thoughts on the SEA Ad Networks’ New Features

Google continues to show why they are the market leader:

  • They’ve finally worked CPC bidding into their Placement Targeted (formerly Site Targeted) ad system. This is much more in-line with the rest of the AdWords program. I greatly prefer it to antiquated CPM bidding since you now only pay when someone clicks through to your site, and the price of that visitor is more controlled and predictable.
  • Speaking of their Placement Targeting- I haven’t had the chance to set a new campaign up yet, but I’m looking forward to trying it out and seeing the results. I think targeting specific pages and locations within sites will lead to big improvements in click-through and conversion.
  • The new reports and report options are fantastic. Impression share stats are probably my favorite new toy, as they show exactly how much traffic my clients could be getting. That’s incredibly useful in managing bids, and making budget recommendations. The Search Query Performance report is also rapidly moving up my list as I clean up campaigns. Being able to see the searches that triggered ads provides potential new keywords or negative keywords. Either way, I can use that information to refine the campaign to gain more traffic and higher qualified clicks.
  • The only new addition that I don’t care for is Cost-Per-Acquisition (CPA) bidding. I’ve spent months undoing the damage caused by the Budget Optimizer (or Budget Obliterator as I like to call it) and Preferred CPC bidding (which continually drove my average CPC up.) I’ve learned to not trust my clients’ accounts to Google’s automated management tools, so I have no intention of letting them position ads or back me into a CPC based on conversions.

Although still second best, Yahoo continues to improve:

  • Their recent changes have made account set-up a much faster and more streamlined process.
  • Managing spending limits and account status is also much easier.
  • With one exception, I love the new ad entry system which allows for quick composition and editing. The exception is their “ad name” field. If you didn’t name an ad, they used to take the ad group name and put a number after it. They’ll still do that for the first ad you write, but if you have multiple ads, you have to manually enter an ad name for each subsequent ad, and you can’t save your ads without it. It’s an unnecessary hindrance to an otherwise excellent process.

Microsoft’s AdCenter shows why they remain a distant third.

  • Their interface is slow, cumbersome, and unintuitive pretty much every step of the way.
  • 1. Create and run report. 2. Leave for lunch. 3. Come back and keep waiting for results.
  • However, I have to give credit where credit is due… I tore into a support rep a few months ago because their Keyword Insertion features didn’t support substitute text for keywords that exceed character limits, leading to numerous ad declines. It shows how poorly designed and implemented their program was. They took that feedback though, and have now added substitute text to the Dynamic Insertion feature. So kudos to Microsoft for listening to me and everyone else who no doubt was complaining. Now if they only would act on the other problems…

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