I’ve had three days to play around with MSN adCenter since getting into the beta during the open period on Monday, so I wanted to post my initial impressions for any of you who might not have had a chance to get in yet.
What I Like
AdCenter adds some nice features that weren’t previously available elsewhere, like demographic targeting. There are sites who will definitely benefit from being able to target a particular demographic, so this is a great feature. Google obviously thought so, too, as they just announced their own demographic targeting.
My favorite feature not available elsewhere, though, is day- and date-parting. That’s the ability to run your ads only at certain times of the day or on certain days of the week. Every site I’ve ever worked on saw higher conversion rates at certain times of the day and certain days of the week, so this will be a huge benefit to those running on limited budgets.
What I Don’t
The first, most annoying problem was that the site didn’t work in Firefox at all. I wasn’t the only one who found it annoying, either. Complaints were flying all over at Internet speed very early on. It doesn’t help any that Firefox usage is much more prevalent among those with Internet voices than with the Internet population as a whole. And of course, those who don’t use Firefox use a Mac, which didn’t work either. Firefox users already have a filter available that blocks MSN and Overture ads by default (but not Google) so this is just another black eye for MSN.
Turns out, the site doesn’t even work in the latest version of IE — Microsoft’s own product. Those IE faithful who had already downloaded IE7 were forced to find a way to drop back to IE6 if they wanted to get into adCenter.
More frustrating, when I finally got in, was that I couldn’t figure out how to import keywords. I uploaded a simple text file several times, and it kept telling me I was missing the max bid data but never told me where it was supposed to go. I looked and looked for a sample import file, but never could find one. I ultimately just ended up inputting my keywords by hand.
After I got through my list and submitted, I had entered some keywords twice (not surprisingly). I fixed those and entered again. More errors. Another fix, another submit. More errors. I went through that loop four or five times before my small list of 30 or so keywords was finally in. Why didn’t all the errors show up at one time?
Then I waited.
This morning, two and a half days later, my small list of keywords still had not been approved. Unbelievable. This is one of my biggest problems with Overture, too. Why in the world does it take two days (or more) for me to make a keyword change? When Google makes the change within minutes, taking almost 1,500 times longer really isn’t a good thing.
Around lunch, I see that a rush of leads has come in from MSN. Finally! I hustle on over to adCenter (after opening IE, the only thing I ever have to open it for) and find … nothing. It still says that my keywords are awaiting approval, so I assume the data just hasn’t been updated yet. Several hours later, though, it’s still showing the same thing. Disappointing.
(Another minor annoyance: I have to type my username and password every time I go to the site. There’s no way to remember my info or even for my browser to remember it, because of the way they do the form.)
So, high hopes but a very inauspicious start for adCenter. If they had the network to rival Overture and Google, you could overlook it. But they’re still in a distant third, so they have some real catching up to do if they hope to steal customers from the big two. It’s going to be interesting to watch.