Microsoft adCenter: For SEM and SEO, Part 3

In part one of my interview with Microsoft’s European adCenter community manager, Mel Carson, he answers questions about adCenter and how it benefits searchers, advertisers, SEO (define) professionals, and Web site owners. In part two, he gives some great tips about how to get the best out of adCenter campaigns and how this data can help SEO efforts.

Part three addresses Carson’s role in the adCenter community team and how it supports adCenter customers through on- and offline programs and activities.

Shari Thurow: In part one, you talked a bit about your role at Microsoft as part of the adCenter community team. Can you tell us a little more about that?

Mel Carson: Traditionally, our online division, MSN, worked with a core group of big advertisers and agencies. When adCenter launched, a whole new service team was taken on and trained to help the thousands of new search advertisers we gained who wanted to capitalize on our high-converting traffic.

There were three key requests from our new adCenter customers: tools, insight, and great service. From a tools perspective, we provide the adCenter UI and API, which we continue to invest in and improve upon. The unique demographic data adCenter holds gives advertisers great insight into our users and their behavior, as do the tools at Microsoft adLabs. But it’s great service that’s really key to our advertiser’s success.

Search engine marketing is traditionally time-consuming, and with adCenter being a new product on the market with its extra functionality, it’s crucial we help our customers quickly, whether they have serviced accounts or call the free-phone number.

Another way we support advertisers is by harnessing the power of Web 2.0 through the adCenter Blog and adCenter Forum and the many third-party forums that exist to give people a helping hand, enabling them to ask questions and debate different strategies and tactics.

Our role in the community team is to run the adCenter blog and to act as official representatives on forums like Search Engine Watch and others. We use the blog to update our customers on any new adCenter features and to give tips and tricks and provide best practices to help them get the best ROI from their campaigns.

On the forums, we monitor what’s being said about adCenter and what kind of questions are being asked. If the community doesn’t respond to someone’s post, we’ll hop on as either adCenter411 or adCenterEU and help out where we can. Everything we read gets compiled and fed back to the product team so they understand our customers immediate needs when planning the next release.

ST: Do you focus your service efforts solely online?

MC: No, we also attend industry events such as Search Engine Strategies all over the U.S. and Europe, man the booths, meet and talk to customers, and engage in speaking opportunities. I’ve talked about adCenter and SEM in London, Dublin, Vegas, New York, Toronto, and Reykjavik. This summer’s pretty quiet for me, but I’m next up at ad:tech London in September, although you will see us all at Search Engine Strategies in San Jose, chatting to customers while sampling those delightfully tasty box lunches!

Our focus for the rest of the year will be the adCenter accreditation pilot that launched last week. We’ve named it the Microsoft adExcellence Program and will be rolling it out, hopefully, by the end of the year in the U.K. as well.

Now Shari, you’ve spent the last six weeks asking me a ton of questions, so let me ask you one: If businesses out there have blogs and forums in order to support, engage, and get feedback from their customers, what kind of tips or best practices can you give in order to make sure they’re accessible, usable, and optimized for search engines?

ST: Now Mel wants to interview me! OK, I’ll bite, as I’m generally not too fond of blogs. The way I optimize blogs is to keep the building blocks in mind: keyword-rich text, an information architecture that provides a sense of place and strong information scents, and high-quality link development.

That said, I think the most important optimization technique for blogs is categorization using the users’ language, whenever possible. People tend to create blogs without any categorization (and cross-linking) other than the typical time links (month, day, year). That format doesn’t help searchers find content easily.

My other big tip is to have a really objective, knowledgeable, and diligent blog moderator. Blog spam is very rampant, and a considerable amount of blog content is useless information. I’m not saying the blog moderator should exclude content she doesn’t want to read. A lot of times, that content is helpful for encouraging debates and finding solutions based on genuine user feedback.

Forums are a great way of communicating feedback to the adCenter community: positive, negative, and quite colorful. Can you give some tips about the types of feedback that are useful to the adCenter team?

MC: First, it’s OK to have a rant and let your feelings be known, but in order to help we need actionable specifics! What exactly is the problem, where in the UI are you, what were the steps, and what did you click on to get the error? Help us to help you with a bit more detail, then we can whittle down to the nub of the issue and give a more helpful response.

Second, don’t shy away if you know an answer or have an opinion. We know a large percentage of people that read the forums don’t actively participate; we’re keen to get as much feedback as possible but also to see our advertisers helping each other out, as so often is the case.

Third, call out to adCenter411 or me, adCenterEU, specifically if you want some engagement from us. That’s what we’re here for.

ST: Are there ways of contacting the adCenter team other than the forums and blogs?

MC: Sure. The Microsoft adCenter Support toll-free phone numbers:

  • US: 800 966 7361
  • CA: 800 985 4671
  • UK: 0800 633 5915

ST: Can you tell us more about the adCenter accreditation program that was recently launched? How will this benefit SEO professionals and search engine advertisers?

MC: AdExcellence is piloting now. It’ll be a series of online tutorials, followed by an exam, after which you’ll be accredited. The aim is to have provided our advertisers with some comprehensive self-learning on adCenter to help them understand all its great functionality and to give them a head start towards connecting with our high converting audience on Live Search.

I know when I did the Google Advertising Professional exam, I learned loads of new tips, tricks, and shortcuts I didn’t know existed. It made me a better marketer for my clients. It’ll also help SEO [professionals] understand the research tab, where you can get a wealth of information on the demographics of different keywords or keyword groups. Keep an eye on the blog for more information.

ST: Thank you, Mel, for a great interview!

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