Microsoft recently opened up AdCenter to allow everyone access. Previously one could join only by invitation. I liked this as I could play around with ads and due to the limited number of people, ad prices where lower than normal (simple supply and demand).
I have tried all 3 of the biggest PPC (Pay Per Click) Advertiser programs, Google’s AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing Solutions (previously Overture) and now MSN’s AdCenter. There are others out their but these 3 will be the biggest players.
Yahoo! Search Marketing Solutions
Right off the bat I found Yahoo’s service the most complicated. Yahoo has missed the mark on branding their PPC Ad Service. Originally this service was called GoTo which was good. Then it was changed to Overture which was equally good. Recently the name was renamed again to “Yahoo! Search Marketing Solutions” (Press Release). My personal insights tell me this is a major screw-up for Yahoo. They need a name to focus on. GoTo was fine, something better would have been GoToAds or something similar. People looking for Yahoo’s Ad Service may find themselves in front of incorrect products.
The user interface is by far the most complex of the 3. It is not straightforward how or where ads will be shown. The worst part was the budgets. As a test I setup an ad budget of $10/day for 30 days. Yahoo took this as I had a pool of $300 ($10 times 30 days). After one day I had spent $250. The life saving grace of this service is that Yahoo refunded the entire amount. If this service does well it will because the customer service was extremely helpful and prompt.
AdCenter has a pretty nice interface. However there is a little complication as to which campaigns where active/approved. Also each campaign was comprised of orders. Each order could target only 100 keywords. The other two services could handle much more for their equivalent to Orders. All 3 services had target locations but only AdCenter had target “times”. With Microsoft’s service you can target specific days or times. This could be greatly helpful if you really know your prospects well. Although there is a great chance of mishandling/mistargetting, those advertisers with proper skills could benefit from this extra targeting ability.
One last thing of immediate note is the ability to import and export the ads. A simple CSV file can be uploaded/downloaded. This is much easier than using the web based interface. If you are targeting many dynamic things this can be very useful and time saving however with the keyword limitation it is not as useful as it could be.
This is my preferred service. To be fair I have used this in the past and it was the very first service that I have used. I still don’t feel that the interface is as nice as it could be but it does seem the best. This is also the quickest interface and probably has the most hardware running this. This is also the most popular and most widely used out of the 3 services. It lacks an import/export interface but the estimation tools are more imbedded into a campaign’s setup. This is useful for targeting/pricing correctly. Since this is the most popular of the 3 services you may find yourself paying a little more for a keyword but can expect more visits.
All 3 of these services do a good job of getting targeted visitors to your site. Clicks will depend almost entirely on your ad writing ability and product/service.
You will however want to take a portion of your budget and compensate for potential “Click Fraud”. Click Fraud is where one the Ad Service’s affiliates is faking visitors. I know that Google probably does the best job catching this and may charge you less on suspect clicks but this is not foolproof. Budgeting 5-20% is not unheard of.
Ideally for all 3 of these services I would like to upload entire campaigns in text files. To me these always seem less complex and you don’t have to learn new verbiage and interfaces.