Searching Beyond the Paid

Friday, July 25, 2008

Over A Year Later, MSN Still Doesn't Get It

Back in April 2007, I wrote about MSN not getting it when it comes to PPC and search in general. Here we are almost 1.5 years later and they still don't get it.

I work for an online marketing agency with lots of clients. Many of our clients use MSN. More clients would use MSN if we could get a dedicated rep. Both Google and Yahoo have agency teams who specialize in working with agencies handling multiple client campaigns, and we've had dedicated reps with both for a long time. MSN is another story.

So, at SMX Advanced, I asked the MSN rep at their booth about getting a dedicated rep. He indicated that they have minimum spend levels, but based on our conversation, we should qualify. He gave me a phone number to call.

I called the number and talked with someone who, by the way, has been very professional and helpful during this entire process. He indicated that we'd be getting a rep and began the process. Or so I thought.

This morning, I got an email from him saying that we didn't qualify for a rep after all. Apparently the minimum spend is per CLIENT, not per agency. Argh. The kicker is, the entire reason we don’t have more clients using MSN and spending more money there is because of the amount of time it takes to set up and manage the campaigns in the adCenter interface, as well as low overall search volume from MSN. We have at least 2-3 clients who would gladly spend $3K/month each with MSN if the volume was there. But the volume just isn’t there. And it’s too time-consuming for us to try to expand their campaigns when it will only get us $50/month in additional clicks.

Again I want to stress that the MSN rep I've been dealing with has been helpful and professional, and even offered to try and get the decision reversed. Still, I'm disappointed that MSN doesn't seem to want to give better service to their customers. They are way behind their competitors in this regard.

I shouldn't be surprised, given their history. I guess I just want to root for the little guy; and, MSN's results continue to be good. They just need better tools and more traffic. But at this rate, that won't happen any time soon.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

YSM Minimum Bids - A Usability Nightmare

Not long ago, Yahoo implemented minimum bids based on Quality Score, a la Google Adwords. The good thing about Yahoo's system is that they warn you ahead of time when keyword minimum bids are increasing, and they actually give you time to make adjustments (unlike Google). Yahoo also has a section within the YSM interface where you can edit your CPCs on these keywords all in one place. It's great.

Except for one thing - that section sucks, usability-wise. I recently had a client with several minimum bid updates that needed to be made - like, a few pages' worth. I followed the handy link from the client's account Dashboard to the page to edit the bids. I wanted to update some, but not all, of the keywords on the first page to the required minimum. So, I used the radio buttons near the middle of the page, and hit Save Changes. The page refreshed, and voila! Wait. None of my changes were reflected on the page! OK, I thought - I guess I have to use the check boxes on the left-hand side. Checked the ones I wanted to update and hit "set keyword bids to minimum." OK, great. Went to page 2, did the same thing, went to page 3, and so on. Hit "save changes" when I was all done. Whoops - now only the last page of changes were made! Everything else was lost in the shuffle.

By this time I've spent 30 minutes and have gotten nowhere. I finally realized that I needed to (1) expand the number of results on the page so I could see ALL the keywords at once; (2) I needed to use the dang check boxes to set bids to minimum and (3) I needed to save changes before moving on to something else.

It took me close to an hour to do something that should have taken 5 minutes with a more user-friendly page. Don't get me wrong - I'm glad Yahoo has this feature. They just need to make it a little more intuitive and/or add some instructions to the page!


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Google AdWords Shuttering PPA Program

Just saw this notice in one of our clients' AdWords campaigns this morning:

Pay-per-action beta is ending
The pay-per-action beta will be discontinued the last week of August 2008. After this date, your pay-per-action campaigns and ads will no longer be active. If you wish to retain permanent records of your pay-per-action data, please export it from the Report Center before all pay-per-action campaign data is removed the last week of October.
Apparently, Google will be using the Performics' affiliate program instead.

I'm not sure this is a big deal - I heard from very few advertisers who were happy with the PPA program - volumes were low, and fraud was surprisingly high. Still, it's an interesting move.