Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Services Comparison
In our book, we call Yahoo! Search Marketing and Google AdWords the “wonder twins” of pay-per-click. Read reviews and comparisons of the two major U.S. PPC services, and their newer competitor, Microsoft adCenter, here.
Yahoo! Search Marketing
Yahoo! Search Marketing (YSM) [Yahoo! Link] is actually a suite of several online marketing tools, including sponsored search, local advertising, and the Yahoo! Directory submittal. However, when people talk about YSM they’re generally referring to the sponsored search – that is, the pay-per-click service. Currently the #2 service in the U.S. (second to Google AdWords, discussed below). The service has a respectably large reach, including all the Yahoo! properties as well as many meta search engines, smaller search sites, and content sites such as ESPN (see partial partners list [Yahoo! link]). Advertisers can choose to be displayed on additional sites through the “Content Match” option.
YSM ad campaigns are generally considered easier to set up than Google AdWords campaigns, but lack some of the geekier (and fun!) features, like comparing performance for multiple ads and dynamic keyword insertion. There is also an editorial review period for new listings that can take a couple of business days. Conversion tracking is included.
Rumor has it that YSM will slowly but surely become more like Google AdWords in the year 2006. Changes may include: speeding up their campaign setup, implementing geotargeting and possibly other Google-like features, and changing the PPC ranking algorithm so that it takes more factors into account, rather than just the dollar amount of the advertiser bid. [Editors’ note: The late 2006/early 2007 upgrade, called Panama, reflects these changes]
- YSM’s Sponsored Search
- YSM’s Keyword Selector Tool
- YSM’s Listing Guidelines
- YSM’s Advertiser Workbook (PDF)
- All about the 2007 Panama upgrade from Yahoo!
Google AdWords [Google Link] is a PPC service with a fabulous, ready-made venue for advertisement display: Google’s own wildly popular search engine. In addition, Google offers advertisers the option of displaying ads on thousands of affiliate sites linked through the AdSense program and matched algorithmically with the ad content.
AdWords offers many helpful features for advertisers, including: quick campaign setup, the ability to rotate multiple ads for the same group of keywords, advanced keyword matching options and geotargeting. One disadvantage of AdWords is that advertisers can’t just pay their way to the top of the heap – rankings are based on a number of factors, including bid price and predicted clickthrough rate. Conversion tracking is included.
Future AdWords features may include behavioral targeting, in which searchers can be targeted based on past searches or other web activities.
- Google AdWords
- AdWords Learning Center
- AdWords Program Comparison
- The Maximum Effect, a 2003 Google AdWords guide to improving ad performance (PDF) (also mentioned in our article about dynamic keyword insertion)
- View Google AdWords’ most expensive listings as of March 2006, as researched by blogger Cyberwyre.
- Google Adwords Keyword Tool
- Aaron Wall’s free downloadable PPC report
- YSM vs. Adwords on seomoz.org
- Read Overture vs. Adwords originally published on Jill Whalen’s newsletter
- Yahoo!’s John Battelle on Google Adwords
- Bruce Clay gives further descriptions and comparisons of Google and YSM.
Microsoft launched its pay-per-click service, Microsoft adCenter [MSN Link], in May of 2006 to compete with Yahoo and Google for a chunk of the growing SEM/PPC advertising market. The Microsoft offering follows the same basic model of the other two: advertisers pay a per-click fee to display their listings above or near “organic” search results for chosen search queries. MSN differentiated its offering with more advanced demographic targeting options than Yahoo and Google, including the capability of adjusting keyword bid costs for differing demographics (for example, paying full price for female searchers and bidding at the 50% level for male searchers). The accuracy of these demographics has been debated. The adCenter control interface, while rather difficult to use, does offer a dynamic keyword insertion feature in the ad displays that vastly improves upon Google’s dynamic keyword insertion functionality.
In our experience of early 2007, traffic levels at MSN were still too low for it to be a primary source of PPC site traffic; however, per-click costs are also significantly lower than Google and Yahoo. We were also surprised at the very strict editorial reviews that our ads received.
- Microsoft adCenter
- A Sept, 2006 article states: “adCenter Advertisers Like Returns, Want More“
- Read the adCenter blog
- Read the adCenter FAQ