This is the third and final post in my series on important settings to check when setting up accounts in the “big three” PPC search engines. After detailing Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing, it was time to dive into Microsoft’s adCenter. There is a sickness infecting the search marketing community that keeps it from digging deeper into adCenter’s house of wares. I aim to cure this sickness by explaining those functions which make adCenter an interesting marketing tool and a could-be contender in the world of PPC.

  1. Campaign Monthly Budget: I’ll stick with tradition here and start with the budget. Within adCenter, the controls for setting your monthly budget can be found first at the campaign level, and again at the ad group level. However, the monthly budget will be distributed evenly to all ad groups within a campaign. I will once again mention that setting an appropriate budget lays the groundwork for a solid PPC campaign no matter what search engine you use.

    What makes adCenter’s budget controls unique are the two upfront options: divide budget across month or spend budget until depleted. To divide your budget across the month means that you will hand over control of ad delivery rate, timing and overall ad exposure to the wizards at Microsoft. Whether you allot $50 or $5000, the adCenter interface will control your ads in such a fashion as to make your campaign budget last the entire month. This means your ads will not be show at all times and will not be available for every relevant search query.

    Spending your budget until depleted is the most literal and punctual way of saying, “We’ll spend your money as fast as possible!” Something akin to Google’s “accelerated ad delivery” option, this setting will allow your ads to be available for all relevant search queries and will ensure that you remain competitive as long as you have a budget left to spend. In this scenario it becomes important to plan out your month to set an appropriate budget. If you plan too small, you’ll stop showing ads altogether before the month ends!

  2. Keyword Performance: Manipulating keywords in adCenter is one area that is reasonably tricky. When working with an ad group under the Keyword Performance tab, choose the edit keywords button. This will unlock several functions to use in managing your keyword list. The first is the ability to add or remove keywords from your ad group. Keyword entry is similar to that of Google’s due to the need to include all variations/plurals of your keywords.

    Beyond the act of entering your base keywords, this section allows you to edit the extreme details of your account. You can incorporate negative keywords for each keyword in your ad group. This is where you choose to utilize the broad, phrase or exact matched version of your keyword (or all three!). Where all of this gets tricky is when you see the {param} symbol appear. Instead of using the {KeyWord:Insert Text Here} method, Microsoft chose to invent a new system for dynamic keyword insertion.

    This is a three tiered system that allows you to dynamically alter the destination url and two different alternate text pieces within your ad creative. The {param1} function allows you to set a unique destination URL for each and every keyword. When constructing your ad, select Keyword Destination URL from the pull down menu to summon this unique identifier. The {param2} and {param3} functions allow you to designate two different text sets to be used either in your ad’s headline or body text. This could be very effective if you have an ecommerce site where different products (keywords) have separate sales going on at once. This would enable you to utilize a single ad to accurately describe and advertise multiple products/sales.

    Additionally at this level of management in adCenter, you can choose to perform all of the aforementioned actions in bulk. If you’ve constructed the “master ad group” that contains only the most relevant keywords, this will probably be your ticket to faster account management.

  3. Setting Bids: Now that you’ve set the perfect budget and have your perfect keyword list ready to go, it’s time to set bids. Much like editing keywords, when working with an ad group under the Keyword Performance tab, choose instead the edit bids button. This will open up a new section labeled Bid on keywords. From here you can do one of two things: either set a default max bid for the ad group or choose advanced bidding and choose bids at the keyword level.

    Despite the fact that the adCenter interface spells all of that out for you, it can still be easily missed. The keyword pricing page is very text heavy, and even to the trained eye the instructions can begin to blur together!

    So, you’ve set your default bid or keyword bids and you’re left wondering, “What’s next?” Well, I’ll tell you. One of the coolest things that Microsoft gave advertisers with adCenter was the ability to set Incremental bids for targeting. By utilizing the Microsoft Pass Network, the entire Live network tracks and records the gender and age of its users. The interface allows you to “incrementally” raise bids for one or both of those demographics in addition to your geo-targeting and time of day tactics.

  4. Content Network: Microsoft’s content network is a relatively new tool. Not all adCenter clients even have the service available as of yet! However, for those that do, it is a matter of great importance to understand how to manipulate this advertising channel. This service, known as Content Ads, works like any other contextual advertising program in that it places your ads alongside relevant content in the Microsoft Live network.

    You can activate and deactivate Content Ads at the campaign and ad group level. From the campaigns tab, select Bulk Edit. This will allow you to turn this service on or off for all campaigns within your account. Additionally you can edit account level negative keywords and conversion tracking from this same menu (but I’m talking about content here!). From an ad group, under the Ad Group Settings tab, select advanced options to edit content settings. Unlike the campaign level function, at the ad group you can specify ad distribution as search only, content only or both.

    Back under Keyword Performance, keywords being displayed on the content network will be listed as a separate match type. When you choose to edit bids, you will then be able to choose whether to separate content bids from search bids. Considering the distinct differences between managing a search campaign versus a content campaign, it is a very good idea to bid on those keywords separately.

This concludes our broadcast day. Knowing how to effectively use all three of the major PPC search engines is of utmost importance. The wise old saying goes “Never put all of your eggs in one basket.” In this spirit, knowing where and how to diversify your search marketing efforts is a definite advantage. Hopefully you have learned a little something about Google, Yahoo! and MSN’s various interfaces and will go forth with that knowledge a smarter advertiser!

I’d love to hear what you think about adCenter. What tools or functions do you most frequently check when setting up an account?