Google Adwords and Yahoo Sponsored Search Have Some Competition in the PPC Advertising Space

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A Couple of Chicks examine the changing Pay-Per-Click Marketing Landscape.

I just returned from the Search Engine Strategy Conference in New York was astonished at how many new pay per click program variations have recently been launched. All of the new players are challenging that they are able to compete against Google and Yahoo in providing you with ppc conversions. The two most notable new entries into the pay per click arena have to be MSN adCenter and Ask Sponsored Listings - formally known to us all as http://www.askjeeves.com. (not to change direction, but in case you hadn’t heard they have retired “Jeeves” now that IAC bought them, and they officially launched the new brand http://www.Ask.com at the SES New York conference).

Now anyway I find it interesting that these two new players have come into the scene as I have spent the last few years finally becoming an expert on Google and Yahoo paid search. I mean it is no easy task to grasp all of the fine details you need to know as I mentioned in a previous article “So You Want to Run a Pay per Click Campaign?” In fact, little known to a number of people (including some people who work at Yahoo and Google), both search engines have certification programs for pay per click advertisers.

I will say as grueling as it was studying for both exams, and honestly having to take both of them more than once before passing, I can proudly say I am a Google Certified Professional and a Yahoo Search Ambassador. With these “notches” under my belt I am beginning the education process to understand more clearly the differences, and perhaps advantages, of adding MSN and Ask.com to my recommended paid search channels.

It is not mandatory to pass certification to manage a pay per click campaign with either of theses channels, in fact, they are all more than happy to accept a portion of your advertising dollars.

I was fortunate enough to attend a session at the Search Strategy conference that Jed Nahum, Director of Product Management, MSN Search spoke at. The panel session was titled “Targeting Search Ads by Demographics & Behavior.” The title intrigued me as I have a passion for demographics and statistics, especially as it relates to emarketing. Little did I realize that even though it was a panel on this topic as a whole, the focus of Jed’s presentation was to introduce the new MSN product, adCenter.

I do have to say I found the product to be very interesting. Apparently, unlike other PPC programs, MSN adCenter has provides advertisers the opportunity to expose their business to the correct target audience by demographics.

Using adCenter’s targeting features; you can choose to have your ad displayed to audiences performing searches using your keywords who specifically fit the targeting criteria you choose; such as geographic location, day of week, time of day, gender and age. It is a bit of a mystery to me how they determine male or female gender or age, but it is certainly cool if they can. Do the search engines now have the ability to see through our computer screens – wow, that’s kind of creepy.

They did have a bit of a disclaimer that not all information regarding gender is 100% correct. In fact the whole program is only in the pilot stage. The MSN adCentre website states, “MSN adCenter is currently in pilot mode and participation in the pilot is by invitation only. If you are interested in participating, register to be considered for the pilot. If you are selected, you will be notified by e-mail to set up your adCenter account.”

MSN was nice enough to open the invitation for anyone attending the SES Conference to register for the Pilot Program. (Now there is some brilliant marketing…we invite you to spend money with us). As you have probably gathered, the lines were extremely long as everyone wanted a chance to spend money on MSN. I did sign up and am expecting my approval within a couple of days. Now I just need to find someone who wants to take a spin on the new MSN platform with a couple of chicks. Still kind of hoping that they can’t determine my gender and age.

The Ask.com model does not have any fancy demographic reporting; in fact it looks just like the big two. What intrigued me about this was the effect it will have on ad placement. On the old http://www.askjeeves.com site, the sponsored ads were powered by Google. What happens now is the top 3 positions on the new http://www.ask.com are their own advertisers, with Google results showing below the natural results. As e-marketers, what effect might this have on our Google Campaigns?

In conclusion, it looks like the pay for performance model is here to stay and there continue to be more choices on where to spend your online advertising dollars. I will keep testing and learning and keep you posted on my opinion about who is winning the “Pay per Click” Race.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I kind of miss Jeeves already.

Patricia Brusha is the co-founder of "A Couple of Chicks," an Internet Marketing, e-Distribution & Revenue Measurement Company. The “Chicks” specialize in using Creative, Distribution and Technology to bring clarity to marketing on-line.

To find out more about A Couple of Chicks Marketing and the tools and services available, visit http://www.acoupleofchicks.com.

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