Searching Beyond the Paid

Friday, February 18, 2011

Microsoft's AdCenter Continues to Flounder

The Microsoft/Yahoo Search Alliance has been live for a few months now here in the US, and frankly, I'm unimpressed with it. Our Fluency Media clients are not getting nearly as much traffic from adCenter post-Alliance as they were getting with adCenter and Yahoo Search Marketing combined; we've ended up spending significantly more with Google just to keep volumes up to their pre-Alliance levels.

Back in October, I expressed concern over traffic quality losses with the launch of the Alliance. Luckily, that hasn't happened - conversion rates and cost per conversion are nearly the same as what we saw with adCenter, so that's a positive. But the kudos end there.

Jonathon Hochman wrote a great article for Search Engine Land yesterday about missed opportunities in adCenter, where he outlines a number of billing and customer service issues - all of which we have experienced, as well.

The troubles don't end there, though. Did you know that if you set your PPC account credit card billing to "auto fill," it will automatically charge your credit card even when the account is paused? Yep, that happened to us just last week.

Did you know that if you're using auto-fill, and you experience problems with your credit card (which is not uncommon), adCenter won't bother to notify you, but will just deactivate your account? And when you resolve the card issues and re-enter your billing information, the account is still inactive and you have to call your adCenter rep to reactivate it? Yes, this is an actual issue that keeps advertisers from spending money with adCenter.

Did you know that if you're an agency, and you get a new client that wants to use adCenter, you can't just open a new account yourself under your agency's umbrella account? Oh no, you'll need to again call your adCenter rep to do this for you - and wait a week or two for them to call you back, and then another week or two for them to actually do it, and then call them again after you've entered your payment info to get them to activate the account, and..... well, you get the picture.

Add all of these issues to a slow, un-intuitive, user-unfriendly online interface and an equally slow and user-unfriendly desktop editor (which, by the way, takes about an hour to download because it has to install Silverlight and SQL and a bunch of other insane peripherals; compared with a 5 minute download for Adwords Editor), and the pathetically low traffic levels, and you end up with virtually no desire to waste your time and effort.

Here's another example. (Warning: Rant Ahead!) Back in October or so, we received an email from Microsoft about a holiday promotion they were running, offering a certain amount of free clicks for advertisers who set up a new holiday campaign. We were quick to take advantage of this for one of our e-commerce advertisers who does a brisk holiday business. This advertiser was already getting significant traffic on their Adwords holiday campaign, but the CPCs were high - so we jumped at the chance to try adCenter, with their lower CPCs and cost per conversion.

Guess how many clicks we got from adCenter? 10. Yes, 10. I am laughing as I type this - I honestly didn't think it was possible to get that few clicks on ANY PPC campaign, much less a holiday campaign! I'm not a PPC newbie, as most of you know, and in the 9 years I've been doing this I don't think I've ever seen a campaign get that few clicks. What a joke.

Even though the campaign didn't cost us anything CPC-wise, we spent significant time setting it up. As an agency, we're paid to work on the client's behalf, and we pride ourselves on using our time on the most highly-leveraged aspects of their online marketing campaigns. To spend time setting up a campaign, only to see it get 10 clicks, is downright embarrassing.

I find this very sad. I truly like and respect everyone I've met from the adCenter team - they're a conscientious, dedicated group of professionals, and they really do know and understand search. But for whatever reason, adCenter isn't delivering the goods. It's a shame, really. To quote Dr. Seuss, "what a shame, what a shame, what a shame shame shame shame!"

Updated at 9:45 a.m. EST:

It looks like adCenter is on everyone's mind today; check out this post from the good folks at Rimm Kaufman for more on adCenter's woes.

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  • Melissa good post on adcentre. In India, blokes are hardly aware of Adcentre/Yahoo Search Marketing programs, Adwords has also not been able to penetrate the vast potential. I think we need agencies like Fluency Media to be present here

    By Blogger IV Displays, at 8:20 PM EST  

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