5 Ways adCenter beats AdWords

By Sam Owen | @SamOwenPPC | Associate Director of Paid Search at Hanapin Marketing

Microsoft adCenter is often dismissed in PPC circles as a much more cumbersome, AdWords lite. However, we’re here today to dispel some myths! While adCenter certainly used to be painfully slow to use, the latest iteration of the interface is a million times faster and more pleasurable to navigate. Sure, there are a few ways it still lags behind AdWords (which we’ll come onto in a minute), but the folks over at adCenter have most definitely upped their game recently.

A lot of our previous issues with adCenter stemmed from a lack of familiarity with the platform – when you only spend five percent of your time on something, of course it will feel counter-intuitive compared to the platform you spent the other ninety-five percent of your time on (reminds me a little bit of the Mac vs. PC debate). In order to give adCenter a fair shake, we’ve listed five things we think offer PPC users a superior experience.


Ways adCenter is superior:


Quality Score Reporting

One of my biggest gripes with Google AdWords is the relative lack of reporting options on quality score. When you consider how centrally important it is to know your quality score in PPC, you’d think Google would offer you a whole host of tools to diagnose and monitor quality score changes from day to day. They did add the keyword quality analysis speech bubble recently, but that data can’t be pulled and collated very easily, so its use in accounts with millions of keywords becomes pretty limited.

Google Keyword Quality Score Analysis Tool
Currently the only way to see why your QS is as it is in AdWords

Microsoft adCenter on the other hand, offers an historic quality score report that allows you to identify specific dates that changes took place – information you can use to help diagnose account issues. If you can tie a drop in quality score to the exact date you rolled out new landing pages it makes your life a lot simpler. To create an historic quality score report, go into Reports -> Create new report -> Select Campaign, Ad Group or Keyword performance report -> Set unit of time to Day -> Choose ‘change columns and layout’ and select the historic quality score metrics -> Create new report.

On top of this (oh yes there’s more!) adCenter allows you to diagnose the different factors affecting your overall quality score such as keyword relevance, landing page relevance and user experience – metrics which let you know where your account might have gone wrong recently.

Historic Quality Score Graph

Negative Keywords Conflict Reports

Another cool report in adCenter is the Negative Keywords Conflict Report, which will tell you the search queries your negatives are causing you to miss out on. By running this report you can see if your negatives are actually causing you to exclude traffic you might want. It’s a kind of safety check you can use every now and then to make sure you aren’t being too overzealous with your negative matching, particularly as important keywords might change over time.

Negative Keywords Conflict Report

Share of Voice Reports

Share of Voice reports allow you to see the exact reasons for losing impressions in your adCenter account: Budget, rank, bid, keyword relevance, or landing page relevance. To get this information create a new account report, set your unit of time to ‘Day’, and select all of the various impression share metrics from the ‘Performance Statistics’ menu. Once you’ve pulled this data you can create a pie chart in Excel to give you a nice overview of the areas you are missing impressions.

Share of Voice Report
Select the impression share statistics when pulling your reports
Share of Voice Chart
Once you pull your numbers into Excel, creating charts like this gives you a nice overview of your main impression share issues.

Search Partners Only

With AdWords you have two choices when it comes to using search partners: ‘Google only’ or ‘Google and Search Partners’. That doesn’t really do it for a lot of us in PPC who like our campaigns to be as segmented as possible. Most of us know that search partners perform differently to Google, so we’d like to be able to set our bids separately too. That really isn’t too much to ask, is it?

In adCenter you can separate search partners from Bing/Yahoo in order to set your CPCs just right! This allows for much more control with your overall bid strategy and makes it much easier to optimize for ROI. With AdWords, I often end up just turning search partners off if conversion rates are low. However, I’d much rather have them in their own campaign at lower bids. There have been other occasions when search partners have performed amazingly well and I wished that I’d had the option to bid them up separately.

Monthly Budgets

This is a relatively minor point, but being able to set monthly budgets in adCenter saves hassle of making tweaks month to month on my daily bids for when we have a short month like February. It also saves some, admittedly fairly basic, calculations – something which can be time consuming if you have to work out daily budgets for a whole host of AdWords campaigns based off your overall monthly budget.


Ways adCenter lags behind:


Ad Extensions

There have been some rumours that adCenter is looking to trial ad extensions soon, but considering how long it feels like we’ve had them in AdWords and how successful they have proved, it’s a shame how slow Microsoft have been to roll this out. There is an option to use Rich Ads In Search (RAIS) with adCenter, which enables you to add videos and images to be included with your search ads, but at present this is only available to premium advertisers and not your average Joe PPC.

20 Campaign limit per page

This might seem somewhat trivial, but it’s kind of frustrating and goes along with a number of minor UI issues I have with adCenter. In AdWords I can scroll through 500 campaigns on one page to quickly look at the data and make bulk changes. In adCenter it’s a total pain.

Traffic levels

There’s no two ways around this one – the reason we spend most of our time in AdWords is simply that there is much more traffic available. If Bing and Yahoo can start to win some traffic share back from the behemoth that is Google, we will inevitably start to spend more time in adCenter.

Lack of Remarketing

Google Remarketing has proved to be extremely successful in a number of my accounts – adCenter badly needs to implement the same options and functionality. I’d be much more inclined to recommend advertising on Bing/Yahoo to all my clients if I knew I could have AdWords-level remarketing functionality in the adCenter Content Network.

Lack of Analytics Integration

Let me start off by saying that this is not adCenter’s fault, but it is definitely something that holds them back. For eCommerce clients in particular, working to a specific return on ad spend (ROAS) can be frustrating. Having to manually tag all adCenter keywords with custom URLs in order to track sales data from Bing is much more of a pain than getting hold of the same information from AdWords.


As always, let us know your thoughts on the current adCenter in the comments below. We’d love to hear any other good things you have to say about the AdWords vs adCenter debate that we might have missed.