Microsoft's® recently released advertising platform, adCenter, gives pay-per-click advertisers yet another powerful avenue to penetrate the vast Internet marketplace with greater accuracy than ever before.

But is it strong enough to dethrone Google™ AdWords as the king of on-line advertising?

It's a loaded question. Answers definitely depend on an advertiser's specific demographics, target audiences and PPC strategy. But based on reach, functionality and cost, it's already clear, adCenter will be hard for any advertiser to ignore.

Since adCenter is new and still very much “in development,” to pass judgment would be premature. It already claims superiority over AdWords and Yahoo!® Search Marketing in targeting and analytics. Both of these features are a natural outgrowth of MSN’s potent database.

Targeting. Since MSN® stores accurate and detailed demographic information about its audience - obtained from subscriptions and registrations on its various Web sites - PPC advertisers can zero-in on highly qualified prospects. Targeting options are:

Geographic location;
Gender; and/or
Day part or day of the week.

Efficient targeting leads directly to more sales-per-ad-dollar spent. According to recent statistics, adCenter converts clicks to customers at a substantially higher rate than AdWords or Yahoo!®. Higher conversion rates stretch ad dollars because less money is wasted on click-throughs from unqualified traffic.

Analytics. Again, data sets adCenter apart. Because MSN® has so much of it, they can churn out reports and analysis to help advertisers evaluate and fine-tune PPC campaigns. Analytic tools include:

AdTracker, a system that measures ad effectiveness;
Conversion tracking;
Customizable campaign reports with a wide variety of sort options;
Invalid click identification; and
Ad, keyword, budget and Web site optimization.

These tools make it easy to achieve outstanding PPC results, in theory. Currently, feedback from advertisers and search marketers is mixed. Some complain that adCenter tools are counterintuitive, buggy and overly complex. For search engine marketing firms often managing hundreds of client campaigns, these drawbacks can make adCenter an inefficient and frustrating platform.

But Microsoft® hardly is standing still. In May, the company acquired DeepMatrix, a site-traffic measurement and analytics firm. When DeepMatrix is integrated fully by late 2007, Microsoft® expects better performance from existing reports and a host of new ones.

Time will tell whether Microsoft® can get ahead in the on-line advertising race. But whatever the outcome, the good news is advertisers can look forward to stronger PPC options and better return-on-investment in marketing.

About the author:Aaron Wittersheim is president of Whoast Inc., a suburban Chicago search-marketing firm. For more information, visit


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