Pay-per-click or PPC is the fastest growing advertising segment in both traditional and online media. With this in mind, it’s absolutely vital that you understand exactly which PPC advertising platform is best suited to your business needs, or you risk being left behind. In this article, I will compare and contrast the three giants, Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing and the new Microsoft adCenter, to highlight the unique aspects and features of each platform. I will cover three main areas of each platform, namely ad distribution, demographics, and tools. By the time you finish reading this article, you will have the knowledge to make an informed decision on which marketing platform will be most beneficial to your business in order to launch a successful PPC campaign.
Google Adwords is currently the most popular of the three advertising platforms. They are constantly developing new tools and features that ensure their place at the top of the PPC marketing podium.
The Google network consists of thousands of web properties, including search sites, content sites, email services (Gmail), newsletters and discussion forums. According to Media Metrics Data, 80% of Internet users in the U.S. will see an AdWords ad within the next month. You can choose to display your ads on the search network, the content network, or perhaps both, depending on your individual needs. Examples of search sites where your ads will appear if you use the search network include the Google network, consisting of Google, AOL, Ask (formerly Ask Jeeves), Amazon and Shopping.com. Examples of places where your ads will appear if you advertise on the content network include HowStuffWorks, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Forbes.
The Google AdWords system allows you to target users in a variety of ways. You can target users by specific locations or by specific languages. This is done by determining the user’s IP address, the location of the search query, the Internet domain or the language preference set by the user.
Google AdWords is equipped with a robust toolkit that can streamline the management of your PPC campaigns.
The website exclusion tool allows you to block your ads on websites that you feel are not relevant or appropriate for your advertising. The keyword tool allows you to improve your keyword lists, estimate the traffic of your individual keywords or find new negative keywords. You can add your new keywords directly to your selected ad group or upload them to your computer.
You can make the most of the traffic estimator by using it to estimate your position based on your maximum cost per click (CPC), daily spend, impressions and clicks, and keyword status. My Chang’s History allows you to view all the changes that have been made to your account in a given time period.
Yahoo! Search Marketing
Yahoo! Search Marketing (formerly Overture) is the pioneer of PPC advertising and a global leader in commercial search.
The Yahoo Publishers Network is an amalgam of web properties including search sites, content publishers, email clients and more. As with AdWords, you can choose to run your ads on either search or content sites. Among the search sites that make up the Yahoo! Publishers Network include Yahoo!, Excite, iVillage and Sympatico. Content sites include Advertising.com, CNN, ESPN and National Geographic.
In my opinion, the Yahoo! search marketing platform is dead last when it comes to demographic audience targeting. The options available are very basic, but Yahoo! makes up for it with its sponsored local search options.
Sponsored local search allows users with a physical location to participate in search for users who prefer to search online but shop locally. Sponsored local search allows you to target visitors based on a specific area or service area within a 100-mile radius.
Conversion Counter is a tool from Yahoo! Search Marketing that allows you to measure conversions from your ad campaigns. All you need to do is install a small code segment on the conversion page of your website. Yahoo! breaks down the statistics into information that is actually useful for your online marketing success.
Easy Track helps you distinguish website traffic from search engine traffic, which is a direct result of your Yahoo!
Search Optimizer automates bidding strategies based on your keyword performance history. Yes, this tool has its time and place, but it does not replace manual optimization of your PPC campaign.
Microsoft adCenter is the newest competitor in the PPC advertising space. There are still a few glitches that need to be ironed out, but adCenter has the potential to be a real contender.
Unlike the previous two PPC platforms we reviewed, Microsoft adCenter only allows advertising on the MSN search engine. There is still a chance that your ad will be seen by a large audience, 40 million people per month to be exact. Of the 40 million people who use the MSN search engine, 93% have made purchases, and 81% of them have made online purchases in the US. I think it’s safe to say that adCenter’s ad distribution network will also expand in the coming months.
With Microsoft adCenter, you are able to know who searchers are, identify their geographic location, as well as get information about the time of day. adCenter takes time of day information to the next level by targeting ads by day of the week as well as specific times of day. The adCenter platform is the first PPC search engine that gives you the ability to target a select age group and even determine the gender of the searcher. The age and gender targeting feature can be very useful depending on your product or service. MSN is able to provide such accurate demographic data by pulling its information about people from Microsoft Passport accounts. This means that anyone who has a Hotmail or MSN Messenger account can be easily tracked.
adTracker is a mechanism used by Microsoft adCenter to track all clicks on ads served in MSN Search. adTracker measures the effectiveness of an ad by tracking clicks that lead to a visit to the site.
Bid Boost is a very interesting tool that is exclusive to Microsoft adCenter advertisers. The Bid Boost tool increases the value of a bid by a predefined percentage after recognizing that the person belongs to your optimal user demographic.
In conclusion, as you have read through this article, you can see that there are advantages and disadvantages that come with each of these PPC advertising platforms discussed. The purpose of this article was to arm you with some facts that will help you decide which PPC advertising platform is most beneficial for you to launch a profitable advertising campaign that generates highly qualified, relevant traffic with an optimal return on investment.