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February 21, 2006

MSN Team Gives First Public Demo of MSN adCenter 3.0 presented to DFW SEM

On Tuesday night Feb, 20th MasterLink and other attendees of DFW SEM's Monthly Meeting were treated to a presentation of MSN's new Adcenter Version 3.0 (which of course is still in Beta and just released on Saturday which made this 3.0s first ever public showing by Microsoft) Quite a few members of the MSN staff came out to present the new PPC Option from MSN but the presentation was given by the two ladies in the picture to the left (Celena Kingson, Search Marketing Specialist on the left & Robyn Raybould, Search Marketing Analyst on the right) who flew in from in from New York just to meet with our group.

Overall Mark Barrera and I both felt that MSN adCenter is going to be a great new source of traffic. I have already gone on record stating that MSN seems to be getting the organic results right with my article (Is MSN Building a Better Mouse Trap), now it seems they may be on the way to a better PPC Mouse Trap as well.

Here is some of what we learned straight from the MSN folks about the new adCenter.

1. The new adCenter has dynamic parameter options beyond just dynamic keywords. Much like with Google Adwords you do dynamic keyword insertion. You can also however set up to three dynamic parameters that allow you additional control over your ad copy and even allow for dynamic destination URLs. Due to the fact that adCenter enables you to insert keywords into each creative, they are even more relevant to every search and when used properly should have a dramatic effect on CTR.

2. In addition to key word research that is similar to the adCenter system (shows terms based on a website or terms related to terms you provide) you can view extensive demographic data which is gathered primarily via Microsoft Passport users and includes things like, basic traffic trends, age and gender, geography, wealth index and lifestyle. This allows you once again to tailor ad copy and landing page messages to the most prominent demographic for your terms.

3. adCenter also offers a tool called incremental bidding allowing advertisers to bid a higher rate for specific groups. For instance if you wanted specifically target 26-35 year old males and felt that traffic from that demographic was worth more then your base bid you can add a incremental bid for that demographic. Say you were bidding 1 dollar max bid on a key word or group of words, you then could say 26-35 year old males are you most likely buyers so you could set an incremental bid of 20% for that group and when searched for by a user in that demographic your higher bid of 1.20 max would be applied automatically. This opens up a lot of options that we will have to research a lot further to fully exploit, however it takes targeting and spit testing to a new level.

4. MSN has also noticed what Google did right and Yahoo has done wrong when it comes to ranking ads. Unlike the wide open show all bids system of Yahoo MSN adCenter simply asks for your max bid and shows "estimated average position" for your terms. You can then write multiple ads per ad group (called orders in the adCenter system) and split test them. In doing so you can spit test and find the best CTR. Also much like adwords you are not ranked based solely on your bid but on a combination of your bid and CTR.

5. This next feature we feel is a huge benefit and it makes one wonder exactly what is wrong with the folks at Yahoo and Google and why they have not provided it long ago. This feature allows you to only display your ads on specific days of the week, specific times of day or a combination of each. For instance if one of your key word groups always converted best on weekdays during business hours you can set that group to only display during those times and there spend your monthly budget fully during the times that have proven to convert best for said group.

Overall our opinion is that Microsoft has gone out of the way to give marketers what we most want when it comes to targeting and budget optimization. That being more ways to control our budgets and maximize them by demographics, geography and time of day or week.

Two additional notes...

First, when questioned about a possible entry into the content advertising business (i.e. Adsense and Yahoo Publisher) Robyn and Celena declined to comment on a timeline and only stated that it was being discussed.

Second, When asked about analytics no time line was given but we were told that one of Bill Gates' special research groups was currently working on a very powerful analytics system for use with adCenter. That was all the information we could get on that subject. Of course standard conversion tracking is available already.

We look forward to working with MSN and our local Account Executive Juan Garza as well as Robyn and Celena to learn to maximize adCenter. In any event 3.0 is a clear improvement over 2.0 and we are greatly looking forward to the next rev being even better.

Jack Spirko
Search Marketing Specialist
The MasterLink Group

February 10, 2006

Search grows by 75% Google's share tops 48%

Yes once again the totals for the past year are in and again Google has increased its' market share to a now whopping 48.8% according to Nielsen/Net Ratings.

The standings in 2004 were

1.  Google 43.1% of all search traffic

2.  Yahoo 21.7% of all search traffic

3.  MSN 14.0% of all search traffic

The new standings for the year ended 2005 are

1.  Google 48.8% (up 5.7%)

2.  Yahoo 21.4% (down .3%)

3.  MSN 10.9% (down 3.1%)

It seems pretty clear that Google grabbed most of the market share increase from MSN, (my guess is it has a ton to do with the growth of the FireFox browser just watching web logs I have seen 5+% growth of FireFox in 2005).  While many may look at this and see that it is just another indication that Google is winning the war that is a short sighted view.

The real story here is the total growth of the search market.  While MSN may have lost 3% of the market share you can bet they even at the bottom saw tremendous growth last year. 

Looking at it another way the market as a whole grew 70-75% so by loosing 3% MSN had to "suffer" with a growth of only say 65-68%.  Or another way to see it is that MSN at the bottom of the heap only had a "tiny" 590 Million Searches last year.  (that would be about 10% of 5.5 Billion Total Searches)

What does this tell us?  It tell's us that search engine marketing and website optimization is now more important then ever.  A growth curve of 75% makes search and search marketing the most rapidly growing market in existance today. 

It is also important to understand that this growth is really about people using the internet more not just growth of users.  There was only a gain of  3% of total internet users so clearly what we see is existing users moving more of there entertainment, research and shopping online.

Jack Spirko
Seo Specialist
The MasterLink Group