A Deeper Dive Into adCenter

This column is coming together during a business trip to Dublin, Ireland. Dublin is kind of like a European capital for search. Google has its data center here, and Microsoft has a research facility here. At this time, Microsoft’s slaving over the next iteration of adCenter Analytics, previously known as Gatineau, and other marketing support tools and services.

Mel Carson, adCenter’s European community manager, started his search marketing career with LookSmart as a shopping and travel editor. He made a short stop on the agency side with 24/7 Real Media before joining adCenter.

As part of the team that rolled out adCenter in the U.K., Carson acts as an evangelist to build relationships within the adCenter advertising community and to support search marketers across the board. I bump into Carson a lot on the conference circuit, but we’ve never really had a chance to chat until now, while I was in town attending Search Marketing World 2008.

Having been on both the agency and media sides, Carson has empathy for people working in each. A lot of what’s been achieved so far with adCenter’s evolution is based on what he and his team hear from search marketers.

“We pay great attention to the comments and suggestions we get from direct feedback and also what we pick up from the industry blogs,” he says, adding, “The way that adCenter is developing and evolving is based on listening to what the industry wants and needs to improve their performance and ROI.”

As it progresses, adCenter will become a one-stop shop for online marketers, assisting with display advertising, paid search, SEO (define), analytics, and a movement toward mobile.

Of course, adCenter is still in its early days compared to Google’s Webmaster Central. But as Carson points out, “A lot of tools which we’re developing right now can be used in conjunction with every thing else available to search marketers.”

Demographic targeting is something he’s keen on, citing successful case studies in both the travel and finance sectors. Personally, I think the adCenter Add-in tool (beta) is a very cool tool.

“Simply go to adCenter and download it free,” Carson enthuses. “It plugs into Excel 2007 and you simply put in a couple of keywords into the keyword suggestion tool, and it’ll bring back related keywords. Directly into the spreadsheet. Using the tool, you can quickly and easily build out or expand keyword lists.”

This really is a useful tool that takes a lot of the donkey work out of planning keyword strategy. The tool builds in cost history, volume, demographics, and geography. It’s great for working on monthly forecasts, daily keyword impressions, and future trends.

I should add that at this time the tool only works with Excel 2007. But Microsoft is working on a version for Excel 2003. Also, the keyword data is based mainly on U.S. searches at this time. But again, regional keyword databases are likely to evolve.

AdCenter isn’t just about paid search. It provides great insight and opportunities for SEO professionals, particularly if you’re building a site from the ground up. This kind of research is the foundation to build your site on.

Add to that the new developments in adCenter Analytics, which includes a new type of visualization presenting data in a new graphical format. This is good for analyzing all your on- and offline marketing efforts by having data on how your e-mail marketing performs against your search or how a particular TV campaign may affect online activity.

Although Carson points out that adCenter is still in its infancy, he and his colleagues are on a high about the tons of feedback they’ve had and the new developments they have planned.

Since adCenter’s inception, Microsoft has been acquiring technology companies aimed at providing new tools and services.

The final word from Carson is about customer support and feedback. Support is an area they’re particularly proud of in terms of industry feedback. But they want more. “Sign up for your account at adCenter, take advantage of the suite of free tools and services, and then get in touch and let us know what you think.”

I’d certainly recommend taking the adCenter Add-in for a test drive. It really is a very cool tool.

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