Deconstructing Microsoft AdCenter’s Missed Opportunities

I recently had an interesting conversation with Microsoft adCenter support which left me feeling sad about how Microsoft is missing out on opportunities to expand their market share in search advertising. Let me start by saying, I’m a fan of adCenter because it provides high quality traffic and a solid return on investment for many of my clients.

Some time ago, a client asked us to set up their adCenter account. It had been running smoothly with minimal attention. We do not spend much time with it because the spending is modest. Microsoft emailed us because the payment method was expiring. I forward the correspondence to our client with their login credentials, and ask him to update the payment method. (I prefer not to handle payment credit card info.)

My client attempted to update the expiration date on his card and succeeded, but somehow he accidentally de-activated the account. I spent a few minutes trying to re-activate the account. Apparently there is no option to do that. I then started an online chat with Microsoft Support and ask them to restart the account. Incredulously, support can’t reactivate the account. They suggested opening a new account.

We don’t want to waste the time or effort to open a new account. Nor do we want to lose ready access to all the account history. We decided that Microsoft adCenter is lower priority than other things we could now do to generate ROI, so they have effectively lost this client.

With any Web 2.0 user interface, users will accidentally hit the wrong button. It’s guaranteed to happen. Every action needs to be undoable for a reasonable length of time.  More significantly, when Microsoft is in second place, they cannot afford to offer bad usability and disempowered customer support.

Another challenge Microsoft faces is that their UI does a really poor job of supporting agencies. While writing this column, I wanted to login and get the specifics of what I don’t like about their system for linking client accounts to an agency login, but alas, I ran into this problem:

Microsoft adCenter is experiencing problems

Microsoft adCenter is experiencing a problem that prevents it from continuing. Information that can help resolve the problem is now being sent to the adCenter site maintenance team. You can return to the Microsoft adCenter sign-in page now, or sign in again later. We apologize for the inconvenience, and thank you for your patience.

More Ways Microsoft Can Improve AdCenter Usability

What I’d really like is for Microsoft to take a good look at Google’s My Client Center. I need to be able to easily link and unlink client accounts to my login. I need to be able to provide employees with an account that they can use to access all of my accounts.

As of now, when I add an employee to adCenter, I need to go into each customer account and give them access.  This is a huge pain, enough to make us not want to bother with adCenter for all our smaller B2B customers.

Microsoft adCenter has been in the market for years. Why aren’t these features available yet? Doesn’t Microsoft understand that most business owners don’t have the technical skills to set up their own PPC accounts? The path to getting all these small businesses to advertise is to make it frictionlessly easy for ad agencies and consultants to set up and manage PPC account for clients.

Over the years, I’ve put hundreds of clients into Google AdWords, but just a few dozen into adCenter. Until Microsoft improves their user interface, they will continue to miss opportunities.

Another peeve is that adCenter does not display cost per conversion. I have to run a report or put data into Excel and then cross reference. That’s hugely inefficient.  The cost per conversion data should be available in the management console on the same screen where I can change the bid. That is the single most critical piece of information necessary to manage bids.

How about ecommerce tracking? Why doesn’t adCenter allow me to track the value of sales so that I can discern the value per click? Does Microsoft not want me to be able to calculate return on investment (ROI)?

Google AdWords lacks this feature too; they’ll show value per click, but not ROI. Yahoo! used to show return on ad spend (ROAS), which was great. Microsoft, why don’t you leapfrog Google and show us ROAS the way Yahoo! used to?

Finally, Microsoft should support Chrome and Safari. It doesn’t help sell more ads when you disrespect the customers’ choices of software and hardware. A less fancy UI that is more solid and more widely compatible would be worth more to me, and I would bet, many other advertisers.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Features: General | Microsoft: Bing Ads | Paid Search Column


About The Author: has two degrees in computer science from Yale University and is a founder of Hochman Consultants, an internet marketing company, and CodeGuard, a computer security service.

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  • kpritch12

    This article touches on so many of the concerns and frustrations that I also have with AdCenter. Another one to add to the list though is the fact that you can’t utilize the desktop tool from a Mac and they have no future plans of making it happen. Therefore whenever I need to make mass changes I either have to manually do this through the UI or borrow a coworkers PC.

  • Simon Cooper

    Can’t believe you used the phrase ‘Web 2.0′.

    What gets me about Microsoft, is that their core competence as a business is making applications and software. Yet so much of what they do around adCentre lacks basic functionality and usability. It doesn’t add up.


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