Microsoft had its official online search advertising launch party yesterday with a lot of glitz and glamour. Microsoft has made the move away from Yahoo's search advertising platform, once known as Overture, and created its own platform called Microsoft adCenter. Launched in the US in March of 2006, it is now available in Canada.
To compete with Google, Microsoft has partnered with Sympatico to obtain a larger piece of the online advertising landscape in Canada. If you are not sure what I'm referring to, it's the text based ads under the Sponsorship heading on the top and/or right side of your search results in any major search engine. Often referred to as Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or Pay-per-click (PPC).
Although Microsoft is a small player in the online advertising headspace, Sympatico has a strong penetration of subscribers in Canada - approximately 13 million, according to David Jakubowski, GM for adCenter. A lot of hype has been given to better target features within adCenter. Age, gender, geography and day/time parting are some for the key highlights.
Microsoft's audience intelligence data is taken from a variety of subscriber profiles including Hotmail (16.5m users), Messenger (13m users), Windows Live spaces (8m users) and Sympatico MSN (19m users). This audience intelligence and segmentation would in theory provide more opportunity to businesses and help improve conversions, but concern in the industry is on how valid the collected data is. How many of us actually use "real" data when setting up a Hotmail account? I think I'm 99 years old according to Hotmail!
During the launch party Microsoft focused on quality of searches and conversion rates. Beta testers mimicked the same thing reporting better conversion rates when compared to Google and Yahoo. We have seen great success using Google AdWords and Yahoo's Sponsored Search, Microsoft's adCenter is still in testing.
Since competitors bid on the cost-per-click for each keyphrase, which is part of the pricing model, early adopters will benefit from lower costs. I would suggest getting in on this early and test with your partner in Internet marketing.