I have been using Google Adwords since I launched PerfectTablePlan over 2 years ago. I started using Yahoo Overture (as it was then called) at about the same time, but gave up on it due to the lousy user interface and the poor return on investment. Always on the lookout for new ways to promote my product I recently decided to investigate the new-kid-on-the-block: Microsoft AdCenter.
My first impression is that Microsoft have copied Google Adwords. Badly. All the standard Adwords stuff is there: campaigns, adgroups, exact/phrase/broad match, negative keywords etc, they haven’t even bothered to change the terminology in most cases, but it feels clunky compared to Adwords. Wherever they have made a departure from the Adwords model it appears to be a change for the worse.
- Negative keywords appear to be associated with phrases, not adgroups or campaigns. I might have 100 negative keywords and I don’t want to record them separately for every phrase!
- You have to choose a single language for a campaign and you can’t change it. English-UK and English-US are counted as separate languages, so I have set up a UK+English-UK language campaign and a USA+English-US language campaign. Presumably people in the UK with their computer set to English-US won’t see my ads at all, but I can’t be bothered to set up another whole campaign just for them.
- It confusingly mixes together campaign and adgroup properties in the interface.
- The user interface is quite monochrome and poorly laid out compared to Adwords.
- Everything has to be approved before it goes live. It took over 12 hours in my case (with Adwords it would be live in minutes).
- It is set up so that you can’t store the password in the browser (in FireFox anyway) and times out quickly. Continually re-typing the password gets old quickly.
- I tried opening AdCenter in 2 browsers so I could compare campaigns. It didn’t handle this well.
- The minimum bid is £0.05. This automatically makes a whole swathe of keywords uneconomic for me.
But it gets worse. They rejected some of my phrases due to ‘Landing page content not relevant‘. One of the phrases was “seating plan” with a landing page The easiest way to create seating plans. How much more relevant can I make it? This sort of arbitrary interference was one of the things that made Overture so frustrating.
The number of impressions are much lower than Google, but there are also fewer advertisers, so my ads rank higher. Overall AdCenter clicks are currently running at about 10% of what I get through AdWords. It is too early to say how conversion rates compare. But if the profit is only 10% of what I get through Adwords it might not be worth the effort to maintain.
It would be great to have a real contender to Adwords to keep Google on their toes. I’m not a Microsoft-hater and I really wanted to like AdCenter, but my first experiences are not favourable. To be fair, it is early days for AdCenter and I am still learning the ropes. I’ll let it run for a while before I make any decision about pulling the plug.
Microsoft have a reputation for bringing out a lousy version 1.0 and then continually improving it until it crushes all opposition, so it would be unwise to write them off this early in the game. But I think they have got a long way to go before they catch up with where Adwords is now.
 I have a lot less phrases in AdCentre than Adwords, but I do have all the most important phrases.