Microsoft adCenter was officially launched in May 2006 after a nine-month beta period in the U.S. Surprisingly, however, many business owners and advertisers are not aware of its existence, and, among those who are, some are hesitant to try it out.
While Google and Yahoo! have had pay-per-click programs in place for years, relative newcomer adCenter has several interesting features deserving attention.
For example, unlike its competitors, adCenter lets advertisers customize ads by various demographics. Demographic information is pulled based on a user’s Microsoft Passport account (Passport is a single sign-on solution that powers many Microsoft services, including Hotmail and MSN Messenger, and is integral to the new Windows Live services).
With demographic customization, if your product is targeted at middle-aged men, you can target your ads to show up only for searches conducted by users in that demographic.
Taking it a step further, adCenter recently added behavioral targeting, where a user’s search history and the sites he has visited are scrutinized for information on likely interest areas. There are 18 different audience categories based on search behavior, including mobile users, Internet power users, gamers, movie watchers, new/expecting moms and business categories such as travel searchers or those researching or looking to buy a car.
adCenter certainly has the features needed to provide marketers with control over targeting of ad campaigns, but what about the traffic itself?
According to a September 2006 round table discussion by a group of adCenter advertisers held at Microsoft’s headquarters, the traffic quality is perceived as very high. Many reported consistently good results from their campaigns.
The major complaint that advertisers voiced concerned the quantity of traffic, which is still quite low compared to Yahoo! or Google. Keep in mind, however, that these two search-engine powerhouses have had years to build traffic for their advertisers. Once Windows Live Search is firmly established as the adCenter search-engine platform, its tight integration into all Windows Live applications should solidify traffic.
Despite its relatively short online tenure, Microsoft adCenter deserves a closer look and is worth trying out.