No doubt that Google's current click fraud problems have left the SEM industry in a temporary state of disarray. Amidst the confusion of the whole click-fraud settlement matter, there are a number of equally serious lawsuits which are pending that allege Google's complicity in serving up such things as child porn ads. And although it appears that the whole click fraud controversy will ripen into major disappointment for Google's shareholders, it may also present a perfect opportunity for a viable competitor in Microsoft to sift through the rubble to make sense of what it needs to do to overthrow the current AdWords despot.
Despite the fact that a cloud of suspicion looms over corporate marketing initiatives, and that Microsoft is entering into a space during a turbulent and uncertain period, it does stand to benefit greatly from Google's blunders. More specifically, Microsoft's AdCentre can incorporate into its vision a degree of lattitude that will allow them to determine which hill they want to die on.
I had a chance to sit through an AdCentre demonstration at a recent SE strategies tradeshow held in Toronto. On the surface, their approach to audience intelligence seems to take their reporting on web traffic analytics to a whole new level.
I've even recently signed-up and have started using their AdCenter product. The console is certainly more polished than Google's, and their reporting seems to allow a level of interpretive capabilities not afforded through Google's AdWords console. But some may speculate that Microsoft sold their souls once again by compiling their demographic data through years of data-mining efforts (ie. hotmail) and/or through its numerous affiliations/partnerships.
I think that if Microsoft is to take SEM to the next level, they will need to incorporate a more meaningful way of delivering web conversion data, and they seem to have taken a step in the right direction with their approach to audience intelligence. Advertisers and publishers won't be willing to sympathize when a viable alternative fails to learn from the hard-lessons of its predecessor.
Another suggestion in its approach to becoming a viable competitor is to seek out partnerships, and learn from the Yahoo/eBay partnership. That lesson -- that it sometimes makes more sense to hang together than it does to hang out to dry alone -- a fate with which Google has developed some familiarity.
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Below are some links to product or company mentions in mainstream media:
Protecting the firm’s name on the web | Law Times
Safeguard Your Brand Reputation Online | Inc. Technology
They’ve got their eyes on you—are your ears burning? | ComputerWorld Canada
Blog author threatens to go "on a killing spree" | CNW Group
Blog author threatens to go "on a killing spree" | PR Newswire
Tips on Safeguarding Your Online Reputation | WSJ Startup Journal