Microsoft adCenter works as advertised (as long as you have a Windows machine)

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Earlier this week, I discussed (or, more accurately, ranted about) Microsoft adCenter's incompatibility with non-Windows systems. While this is, in my opinion, a disappointing and inexplicable decision for a website, if one wants to advertise against searches on Bing, there aren't really other options. After tracking down a Windows laptop, I was finally able to try out the adCenter, and while it basically seems like a clone of Google AdWords, the similarity makes it trivial to port an existing AdWords campaign onto Bing (and, soon, onto Yahoo Search, according the website). While the real utility of the service will be almost entirely driven by the success and quality of the incoming traffic itself, such an easy setup leaves one with little excuse to not have a Bing campaign if you're already running one on Google.

Microsoft AdCenter is a Google AdWords clone, and that's OK

If you've ever spent any time in AdWords, the AdCenter interface will feel very natural and right at home. While there are some small differences, the core elements are very similar, including a series of panels for reports, and a hierarchical arrangement of campaigns, ad groups, and text ads. While AdWords has plenty of faults, it is the defacto standard in the field, and it's easy to see why Microsoft chose to provide such a similar interface.

Importantly, in addition to the interface similarities, the basic structure of text ads on Bing seems virtually identical to those on Google. As such, you're able to directly import an existing AdWords for use on Bing. The first thing that AdCenter encourages you to do is exactly that, with a step-by-step import:

Once you've gone through it, the import is a fairly straightforward process. Unfortunately, the help section is a little clunky, and at least in my case, it required downloading Google's AdWords editor to perform the export. Once the editor was installed, you just export your full campaign (or whatever pieces you want) to a CSV. AdCenter is able to read this CSV and, at least in my case, everything showed up exactly as it was in AdWords. The step-by-step was a little confusing as it walked me through "confirm matching", "compatibility check", and "resolve issues" steps even though everything worked the first time (so I basically just had to click "Next" a few times). I was a little turned off by the fact that you aren't able to make changes to the campaigns during the import. As such, I wasn't able to delete a campaign that I didn't want to move over to Bing, and I actually received a couple clicks on these ads before I could disable them.

All in all, though, the import process was pretty painless, and at the end of it, I had a fully functional Bing campaign ready to go. As you might have guessed from my previous paragraph, the new ads started showing immediately through Bing, which was a nice change from the occasionally lengthy review process that ads are put through in AdWords.

A few differences from AdWords

I haven't had a huge amount of time to delve into the differences between Bing and Google text ads, but there are a few things of note. First of all, my data are pretty slim right now, but at least for some keywords, Bing seems to be cheaper than Google. I noticed a few keywords that are very competitive on Google, in which our ads were placed in the top three spots for Bing. This may reflect some beginning pricing, a quirk from small samples, or some actual representation of the value of clicks on Bing, but it's certainly an interesting difference regardless of the cause.

On the interface side, I didn't notice any new features per se, but Bing does focus a little more on a relatively buried advanced feature of AdWords: dynamic text. This feature lets you write ads with variable text that changes based on search terms or other parameters. For example, by including {keyword} in an ad, the keyword used in the search will appear in the ad. Obviously, this can be a powerful (or dangerous) tool for writing targeted ads, and while it is available in both AdWords and AdCenter, Microsoft's interface makes a much stronger push to encourage its use. Either way, if you haven't been using dynamic text, you should certainly take a look.

Ultimately, the traffic is all that matters

As I said at the beginning, the success of an advertising platform ultimately rests on the quality of the traffic that it generates. We don't know the answer to that question for Bing yet, but even if we did, it may be a different result in your hands. As such, there's no way to know if advertising in Bing is a worthwhile investment without trying it out. What does seem to be true is that transferring an existing AdWords account is a piece of cake, leaving little reason for AdWords users not to at least test Bing out.

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