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Minor Differences: Google AdWords and Microsoft AdCenter

If you're doing any search marketing right now, chances are you're familiar with both Google AdWords and Microsoft AdCenter.  Both programs basically do the same things.  You put in ads, you put in keywords, then BAM!, you have traffic.  Once you get into the thick of things, you begin to realize that they are pretty different.  Here are a few ways AdWords and AdCenter diverge:

Keyword Normalization

You're not likely to hear about keyword normalization because it's not always talked about, but it has a profound effect on how you create ad groups in AdCenter.  The gist is that AdCenter removes things like punctuation and stop words from your keywords.  For example, if you have an ad group about 'cake baking', all of the following keywords would be the same to AdCenter:

  • bake cake
  • bake a cake
  • how to bake a cake

If you have a lot of duplicate keywords in your AdCenter account, normalization is likely the culprit.  In a recent blog post, Microsoft states that the benefits of normalization are less keywords to manage and that your existing keywords will match to more search queries.

More Options

AdWords is definitely the leader between the two platforms.  Not only is the interface quicker and easier to use, it also gives you more options.  Over the past few years, AdWords has rolled out Ad Extensions which help you improve your ad with things like maps and directions, site links, product listings, and more.  Using these extensions can help improve click through rate on an already effective ad.  AdCenter is slowly moving into this space as well with their recent announcement of location extensions.  Microsoft still has a lot of catchup to do, though.

Google is always experimenting and opening beta opportunities to users.  Although some experiments are available to small groups of select advertisers, Google's constant testing gives advertisers the chance to be an early adopter.  The best time to try new ad types or other things is in the beginning when it's still new to searchers.  That way, you can make the most out of the novelty of people seeing something new for the first time.

Modified Broad Match


Technically, this should go under "More Options", but I really like it.  Match types in AdWords and AdCenter are more or less the same.  You get broad, phrase, exact, and negative keywords.  AdWords, though, has a secret weapon: modified broad match.  Think of it as a partial phrase match.  In AdWords, when you place a plus sign (+) in front of part of your keyword, you are telling Google to only match that keyword to queries that include your plus-signed word.

Say you have the keyword 'breakfast restaurants'.  Normal broad match could match that to search queries like 'fast food restaurants' or 'japanese restaurants'.  When you add the keyword as a modified broad match keyword (+breakfast restaurants), the keyword will only match to queries that have the word "breakfast" in them

Ad Rotation

One of my biggest pet peeves in ad testing is not allowing each ad to have an equal share of impressions.  There's no way to tell which one works better unless the data set is similar.  In AdWords, you can set ads to rotate evenly, allowing each ad an equal chance to be clicked, or let AdWords optimize them based on click through rate.  The latter isn't helpful when ad testing for anything beyond click through rate.  What's worse is that AdCenter always optimizes to show the ad with the best click through rate.  There's no way to change it.

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