The Second Coming of MSN

Rejoice ye search marketing mavens; your reason for existence is on the upswing once again. Today's search marketing economy speaks volumes of the need for specialized providers to help with the process. Your future is certain and there is no end in sight for search diversity.

A complex offering across multiple search engines means staying power for specialized search marketers. Or does it?

You don't really need to have more than one search engine in your marketing mix. One might get by with buying ads on Google or Yahoo! particularly with new targeting features and ad channels that allow you to reach out to customers across multiple media outlets. MSN has always been a distant third, but it looks like all that is about to change.

Shipping up to China
Can you imagine how much fun you could have if there was only one television network? You wouldn't need an ad agency. If you want to know what that's like, simply move to China and join the fun. Or, you could just live inside the current search engine advertising world.

One or two campaigns with Yahoo or Google offer subsistence search marketing at best, but that seems to suffice for far too many marketers.

Yet, there are many choices in search engine advertising. Content targeted verticals, particularly in the B2B category with Industry Brains and Business.com, are just the beginning. If you're looking for alternative search sites check out Charles Knight's Top 100 list.

So maybe search engine advertising is not quite as simple as placing media near the "hit" show in China. Perhaps you should be reaching out to hundreds of search destinations. I wouldn't let that potential opportunity slide by for all the tea bags in China.
 
Advertiser implication

Microsoft's Vista platform has caused a resurging interest in MSN's search utility. Vista's search application is an integrated offering that completes the circle of desktop and internet search. A market shift means you can buy more search listings. Lot's more.

From January to February 2007, MSN Live increased its share of searching mindshare by 1 percent, according to the research and measurement firm Compete, Inc. MSN's gain has come at the expense of Yahoo and Ask, while Google continues to gain ground.

According to Compete data, Google's search share increased to 63 percent for the month of February, while Yahoo's search volume dropped 7 percent and its market share fell to 21 percent from 23 percent in the previous month. MSN's overall search volume increased a whopping 10 percent to 590 million searches in February.

Big gains equal big opportunity for advertisers, and as Vista adoption increases, I expect that search volume will continue to rise.

Target as ye may
MSN's AdCenter is the second coming of Saint Malachy. That is to say, every naysayer in the ad business who didn't think it was either possible or necessary to target advertising to a specific audience with search listings has been silenced. At least the ones that have adopted an AdCenter plan have been. 

While Google and Yahoo have gone the route of refining the listings bid process with a value-for-click frequency model, MSN has headed in the direction of building equity with targeted placements in directive search results pages (serps) and its own content network.

Vista is the second coming of Saint Patrick. Of course, the timing of Saint Pat's arrival on the calendar this year not only coincides nicely with holiest of Irish holidays but the resurgence of MSN as a possible player in the search category, as well.

Pas de psychologie, pas de psychose
No psychology, no psychosis is a running theme for search engine marketing or search engine advertising. Speculation and concerns surrounding potential problems with search activity consistently surpass logical explanations of consumer behavior. As with any other web activity, worrying about the future seems to drain more resources than simply living into the days to come.

If you haven't included MSN in your search efforts to date, you better get on it, folks. We have learned over the years that giants come and go and people generally follow the path of least resistance when navigating the web. MSN has been slow to increase its share and has experienced traffic ups and downs, but you can bank on Vista expanding search as we know it today.

Personally, I am waiting for the next time my harddrive commits Hara-kiri before I add Vista to my daily computing psychosis. Lucky for Microsoft, that should only be in about another week or so. For millions of others out there in computing land, the change will be happening over the next year or two and search adoption, it seems, will follow the platform.

Kevin M. Ryan is chief executive officer at Kinetic Results. Read full bio.


 

 

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