MSN adCenter: WOW. I just acted on an invitation to MSN adCenter on behalf of one of my customers. We decided to try to enter the beta, since the Overture/Yahoo! ads are randomly not showing on MSN Search when MSN tests their new system, typically late at night. Since the site sells consumer goods, it is just as important that ads are showing at 9 PM as it is to have them up at 9 AM.

After the initial login, I was brought to an interface that just completely blew me away. Google AdWords and Overture/Yahoo! Both have cluttered interfaces. Google has an especially poor interface. The MSN adCenter interface is clean, fast, easy to use, well marked. I just cannot say enough good things about it. I have not reviewed all of its features, but it looks like it has everything that Google AdWords and Overture/Yahoo! have, while being easier to navigate.

Additionally, my customer in the MSN adCenter program is in love with the pricing structure, which is better than how they feel about Google AdWords or Overture/Yahoo! They are currently spending $150/month with Google AdWords, and they are hitting their daily budget cap by about noon everyday. We are not currently able to perform log analysis (the logs are not available through their current web host), but we are pretty sure that the clicks from Google AdWords are pretty useless. Indeed, we are pretty sure that many of the clicks from Google AdWords are actually click fraud, but without the logs there is no way to tell. They have the opposite problem with Overture/Yahoo! The bids are so cheap with Overture/Yahoo! That they are only incurring about $7/month in charges. But Overture/Yahoo! Has a $20/month minimum spend limit, so they are being charged for clicks they never get. Part of the problem is that this website is a Top 10 listing in the organic results for both search engines anyways for nearly every keyword they can think of. I know, it sounds crazy that being in the top ten search results (even for generic terms!) can be a “problem”, but as far as Overture/Yahoo! is concerned, it is! With MSN adCenter, there is a $5 signup fee, the minimum bid is only five cents, and you get charged at first in $50 increments (or every 30 days, whichever comes first); the $50 increment slowly goes up as your time in the program increases. There is no minimum spend limit, so you only pay for clicks you get. My customer is delighted.

My only complaint so far with MSN adCenter is the system for importing keyword information. It took me about fifteen minutes to find a link to the spreadsheet, and when I found it, it did not match the examples or the otherwise well written instructions.

The help system is very well done as well. It feels like a Microsoft Office application, by shrinking the browser window to have the Help window fill the remaining space, with a tight interaction between the two windows.

I was also surprised that MSN assigned us a representative to help walk us through the process and evaluate our needs. The representative is actually calling us by phone; it is nice to hear a voice instead of sending emails and waiting for two days like you need to do with Google or Overture/Yahoo!

Overall, with the exception of the speed bump caused by the import spreadsheet, I am extremely impressed with MSN adCenter, and look forwards to exploring it in depth as my customers’ needs require me to.