Microsoft AdCenter Content Network Placements Keep us Guessing

If you’re using AdWords and your target keyword cost per click (CPC) is rapidly approaching the price of a case of beer, it’s time to consider PPC optimization services or branching out to different networks.  One way to explore lower cost options is to begin a campaign in Microsoft’s AdCenter.  With its lower traffic totals drawing fewer bidders, there are a bounty of keywords going cheap.  But while targeting Bing and Yahoo search is a safe bet to capitalize on cheap traffic, the AdCenter content network is another story.

The best way to highlight this issue to to begin with content network placements in AdWords.

AdWords Content Network Placement –  Use the Placement Tool

If you’re running an online advertising campaign, the decision to target the content network vs search network (or both) depends on the  goals for the campaign.  If you are using AdWords and are targeting the Content network, Google provides options for placements:

Google AdWords Content Placement Options

Not sure what to do? Google provides a “Want Ideas?” option so you can search for placements using the placement tool:

AdWords Find Placement Tool

Enter your target keyword phrase, and a list of matching sites is displayed. My favorite part? The Placement Type column has a link to show demographic and traffic information for each placement listed.  Once you’ve found something worthwhile, you can add the placement directly to your ad group.

Microsoft AdCenter Placements – Take your best guess

While Google provides layers of information and tools to help you make the right placement choices, AdCenter is an entirely different beast.  There seems to be little to no effort put into allowing the user to proactively select relevant content placements.

AdCenter Placements Do Not Provide Enough Information

When you choose to target the content network, AdCenter will load the ‘Microsoft Media Network’ by default.  If you’re interested in adding placements, select the tab ‘Websites’ as indicated in the screen shot above. One problem – unlike Google’s Placement Tool, AdCenter provides the user with no such tool.  You are left guess at which sites you might want to target and have previous knowledge that the site you entered is within the Microsoft network.

Note: ‘View All Available Placements’ is the submit button. You are required to enter a web site to get results. Nice try.

If you’re unlucky enough to enter a site that’s not in the network, please try again:

Sorry, that site is not within the Microsoft Network

Where do you go from here? You can select the link to the Microsoft Placement Reporting Tool, but this will only display sites where your ads have already displayed. If you are setting up a new campaign or want to proactively target placements, the reporting tool doesn’t do you any good.

According to Microsoft, the placement reporting tool should be used to identify placement exclusions.  The best practice is to allow your ads to run, then run the report to identify sites where you don’t want your ads to appear. This isn’t good enough. If  I’m  managing a campaign, I want to minimize low-quality views and clicks. If I’m dependent on the placement tool to clear out low-quality sites, the damage is already done.

Lessons Learned 

Google remains the dominant player in online search advertising and it shows in the increasingly expensive minimum 1st page bid estimates.  Expanding your PPC campaigns to other networks should be a part of any well-rounded campaign strategy.  If you are considering an AdCenter campaign, stick with the search network because  the content network remains speculative.  Microsoft certainly has the capability to address this issue.  I hope for the sake of healthy competition, they give the campaign manager more control over content network placements.


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