SES – Meet the Search Ad Networks
Just got out of the search ad session, and here’s my liveblog (on tape delay, I guess; no wifi). The panel listed at the beginning is the expected panel, but things didn’t quite turn out that way (and I’m not sure if I heard everyone’s name right).
Doug Stotland, Director, Microsoft AdCenter
Gretchen Howard, Online Sales and Operations Manager, Google
Dan Boberg, Senior Director, Sales Technology and Programs, Yahoo! Search Marketing
Amit Kumar, Engineering Manager, Yahoo! Search
Rebecca Lieb, Moderator
Dan from Yahoo gets up to talk Panama. Says Panama is the worst code name ever, especially since everybody knows it and uses it. Says advertisers really like Panama so far, especially the features. They like geotargeting, and a feature that lets you pull sliders and see how that change will effect your campaign and your results.
Talks about some new research. The research talks about advocates, people who are very loyal, use search a lot, do a lot of research, and tend to be extremely loyal once they choose something. Statistically, advocates are more open to influence than non-advocates, you just have to put a lot of work into it, but the results are worth it.
They are committed to traffic quality, including appointing Reggie Davis to VP of Marketplace Quality. They are now revealing that 12-15% of clicks (on average across all clicks) are not billed for, in the interest of quality. Not all are click fraud, but are removed because they are not quality in one way or another, and thus should not be billed.
They are announcing today a multi-year deal to exclusively provide contextual ads to Viacom sites, including BET, VH1, MTV, and Comedy Central.
Doug from Microsoft is introduced as not having Ms. Dewey’s neckline (apparently she made quite the impression at the keynote. Doug is talking AdCenter. Announced that yesterday AdCenter finished first in a Rock N’ Sock ‘Em robots deathmatch, beating Google and Yahoo, which proves Microsoft can win in the search game (see trophy in photo).
AdCenter has had a lot of work, releasing in new countries, upgrades and features. Advertisers say their clicks are of very high quality, but there aren’t enough of them, and the interface needs to be easier. Clicks from AdCenter tend to convert higher (see slide in photo). They do better in most categories, but not financial services.
They are working on doing content ads on content sites in order to provide more ad inventory for their advertisers. For now, the pilot is only on Microsoft sites, they are not ready for publishers yet, but it is planned. They are working to make AdCenter easier to use, so there’s a beta site at beta.adcenter.microsoft.com (it even supports Firefox). They know there are issues, but they are knocking out problems one at a time, based on user feedback. You can now import campaigns easily from other companies, faster and more automated.
Jim Spear from Ask gets up (not listed in program guide). He says it is unfortunate that Ask wasn’t asked to participate in the robot deathmatch. ASL (IAC’s ad division) is the 3rd largest search network, reaching 35% of all searchers (Google reaches 58%), and Ask is only 20% of the network. They continue to diversify and pick up new small search engines.
They do some cool things by tracking advertiser conversions, and standardize the cost per click so that the cost per action is even across different advertisers. It’s a really interesting idea, and I’d love to hear more about it. They also develop pacing rules for all advertisers, so they get a broad selection of ads, and advertisers don’t max out their campaigns too early in the day/month, and they are working on ways for advertisers to customize their pacing rules.
They are announcing today more control over their campaigns, including a new way to completely block certain referrers for a campaign. Advertisers can see certain referrers that don’t work for them, and just block it. Customers testing it say their click rate dropped 4%, and their sales per click rose 50%, an obviously successful feature. Good for them.
Next up is Brian Schmidt from Google (again, not in the guide, guess they are changing on everybody). Says Google has two parts, connecting customers to their information and “more important” (his words) connecting marketers with those customers. They are working on increasing control and providing more inventory.
They have Google Analytics to help see what is going on, and now also the new website optimizer tab to do testing at see what changes to their web pages that will improve conversions. Says the Google ad network is the largest ad network in the world. Talks about their new ad options: Pay Per Action ads, and Cost Per Click for site targeting. Also mentions offline efforts like Google Audio Ads, print and television ads should bring increased efficiency, relevancy and accountability to offline advertising.
With Audio Ads, you can actually go in the interface and hear your ad as it played on the radio, to make sure it actually happened.
Google has nine notions of innovation (see photo).
Next up is John Kannapell from AOL Search (again, the guide fails me). He says if you have any questions, just ask Valleywag after the presentation. Says they have the second-fastest growing ad network. Says advertisers are looking to take advantage of brand advertising from other channels.
Says that the Google logo on their search engine is a big plus, letting users see the trusted brand.
Says AOL users convert better, and are higher quality users, than from any of their major competitors. A study of conversion rates put AOL at 6.17%, MSN at 6.03%, and Yahoo at 4.07%. They are announcing the AOL Search Marketplace, a brand within the Google paid search network, letting advertisers advertise at the AOL segment of the Google network, targeting their ads to a more specific and higher quality segment than they might get with Google.
They are also talking about a behavioral targeting technique that sounds interesting, and I will make sure to check out.
Asked by moderator why advertisers should choose them. Answers:
AdCenter: Highest quality clicks, and things you can learn on AdCenter to understand your audience, things you learn and can apply to campaigns on other platforms.
Yahoo: Says it isn’t a competition between the people on the panel, but online and traditional media, that online is proving a superior product.
AOL: Consistent message, highest quality clicks of all
Ask: It is not a zero-sum game, people are buying clicks from everyone, and they all provide something useful, but IAC does provide better support and guidance.
Google: Reach (large audience), innovation and options, and support and usability (they put users first).
Fun fact: You see a lot of computers around me rebooting, a lot of Windows XP startup screens. Why does everyone have to reboot right not?
Question: It is crippling to do ad campaigns in AdCenter, because you have to deal with a dedicated account rep. Is Microsoft doing anything to fix that? Answer is that they are working on improving the UI, nothing specific.