Searching Beyond the Paid

Monday, October 02, 2006

Ask Sponsored Listings' New Interface

Ask quietly rolled out a new advertiser interface, which was announced last week and went live today. While I haven't explored every aspect of it, I'm impressed with what I'm seeing so far.

The login page is the same as the old interface, but once logged in, advertisers will see a summary section for their account, with a drop-down menu where you can select Today, Yesterday, Last 7 Days, and This Month. It defaults to Last 7 Days, which is the view I usually like to look at. One great thing about the new interface is that Ask will provide real-time traffic and cost data - right up to the minute. None of the other PPC programs, not even Google, offer this feature.

Ask has also changed their account structure. Instead of having a long laundry list of keywords and associated ads, they've gone to the Google/MSN structure of Campaign, Ad Group, Ads and Keywords. (Yahoo will be going to this as well when Panama launches.) This is the best way to organize accounts, in my opinion, allowing advertisers to group similar keywords together with one creative for all of them.

Additionally, advertisers will now be able to test creatives - Ask will rotate creatives according to CTR, or evenly if you choose not to optimize by CTR.

Reporting functions are vastly improved over the old interface. Custom reports are available, and there's a handy menu of commonly-used "Quick Reports" on the right-hand side. I ran an account report this morning, and it took a fraction of the time it used to take - plus, I had data right up to the minute on my account.

A couple of flaws I've found, so far:
* The keyword search function still doesn't work very well. Entering a partial keyword will return an empty search result - the keyword must be typed in exactly for Ask's interface to find it. Searching in the old interface worked like this, as well, and it's *really* annoying. A search engine should be able to build a decent search function into their advertiser interface!
* I'm thrilled that I can organize my account into Ad Groups, but... who's going to help me rearrange my account?? Right now, I still have the laundry list of ads and keywords! I have yet to receive a response to ANY of the questions I've sent to Ask's customer service, so I'm not holding my breath that anyone can help me with this. For that matter, I asked several questions in Ask's webinar preview of the new interface that weren't answered, and they promised to follow up via email. No surprise that I haven't heard anything back from them...

All in all, though, the new interface is a huge step in the right direction for Ask, and a move that tells me they're ready to play with the Big Dogs of Search. Our results from Ask continue to be good, and with an interface that's more intuitive and easy to use, I'll likely be spending more money with them.


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