I've been beta testing MSN adCenter (PPC Search) for quite a while and have not been impressed with the application so far. They've made tremendous improvements to the UI now that it is out of beta, but it seems that every feature that should be a positive tick for MSN works out to be a negative for the advertiser. It seems they're putting revenue potential ahead of their customer's requirements and expectations.
MSN has a great set of ad targeting options, at least they could be. One example is the demographics targeting or, "Incremental Pricing for targeting" as they call it. This sounds great. I'm in the golf industry so I would like to target the "Males" "35+" demographic.
At issue here is that AdCenter only allows a "positive bid increase" in multiples of 10%. Doesn't sound that bad at first until you think about the 10-100 or so keywords I'm bidding on within the same "order" (an order is the same as an adgroup on Google), all at varying levels of CPC. If I already know the maximum CPC I'm willing to pay for the keyword phrase "Titleist Pro V1", how do I determine what percentage to increase my bids for males only? For the 35-50 demographic? For the 50-65 demographic?
If I assume I can increase my bids 30% for the term "Titleist Pro V1" for those given demographics, how does that affect the keyword phrase "Titleist golf ball" that is also within the same adgroup and subject to the same increase? So if I increase bids by a percentage for a given demographic, then my individual keyword bids should be lowered to maintain my target CPC. What happens when MSN can't determine the demographics of the searcher? I assume I'll get outbid because my base CPC bid is too low.
It would be easy for MSN to offer "negative bid percentages" rather than forcing me to place positive bid percentages for the demographic options. This way, I could maintain my set Max CPC on the keyword level and decrease my bids by 70% for women and 18-25 year olds. No offense to women or young people… you get my drift.
Naturally that would seem to decrease my adspend on adCenter, but it would actually play in the inverse as the more optimal my campaign is running, the more money I'll throw at it. That's why Google commands over 50% of my Search budget and second tier engines get 0%.
One way to get to the true ROAS is to use adCenter's conversion tracking tool in addition to the Omniture Analytics package I currently use. This way, I could manipulate the incremental pricing and keyword CPC until I hit my target ROAS. Again, great in theory, but adCenter does not track conversion on the keyword level, but on the Campaign level. If you're not familiar with adCenter's heirarchy, it's: Campaign>Order>Keyword. So adCenter tracks at the most macro level it possibly can which is of little to no use to the advertiser, but good for MSN's short-term revenue.
MSN conversion tracking also advertises their adCenter services on all checkout confirmation pages, regardless of how the customer was referred.
So I won't be using MSN's new targeting options or their conversion tracking. Google will continue to dominate my adspend and I'll hope that MSN gets it together and builds their applications for their advertisers and consumers and not primarily their pocketbook, because when advertisers and consumers win, their pocketbook will follow.