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Challenges with Microsoft adCenter Normalization

Here’s something we’ve seen recently in Microsoft adCenter’s ad serving logic. It appears that their system evenly rotates serving keyword duplicates (or normalized keywords seen as duplicates) regardless of CTR and max CPC bid differences.

Let’s break down the various aspects of what we’re seeing, and why we think this is a problem. Let’s assume that we have 2 identical keywords within the account ‘insurance quote’, clearly seen as duplicates. In most cases, the 2 keyword variations of ‘insurance quote’ would have similar CPCs and CTRs, so no real concerns with a 50/50 ad serving rotation. In some cases where you’re testing ad copy, or have ad level specific bids, those 2 parameters might be different, and the issue becomes appropriate position. Let’s assume keyword 1 has a CPC of $0.50 and a CTR of 3%, whereas keyword 2 has a CPC of $0.40 and CTR of 2%. Keyword 1 might appear in position 3 with its combination of CTR and CPC, however, keyword 2 finds itself in position 5. Since MSN is equally serving each instance of the keyword and your ads bounce from position 3 to 5 and back again. Might not be the most desired effect, but we can likely live with it.

Unfortunately, MSN has additional keyword logic, which calls upon canonical matches within the text. In MSN’s normalization process, Additional (stop) words in a phrase, such as ‘the’, ‘in’, ‘or’, ‘with’, etc. are ignored during ad serving. A phrase like ‘in insurance quote’ (abbreviation for Indiana) would be seen in MSN’s systems as ‘insurance quote’ after normalization. We think these normalized matches negatively affect campaigns. In our previous case if keyword 2, now being ‘in insurance quote’ had a CPC of $0.05 and a 1% CTR, then we may be alternating ad positions of 3 and 15 on back-to-back ‘insurance quote’ search queries!

Visuals:
Here’s a similar example where a ‘wall speakers’ search returned headlines of ‘in wall speakers’ ‘on the wall speakers’ and ‘wall speakers’. While I can’t tell if these advertisers had used these keywords exactly, or if they had any of the variations, you can imagine that if Pro Acoustics had any variations of the duplicate keywords, it could pose a problem.

We’ve seen this happen and are wondering if other advertisers are seeing the same thing? MSN has given us some mixed responses about the “real” behavior of their ad serving logic for these normalized duplicates. If you think you’re seeing similar behavior, consider asking your MSN rep for a list of duplicate keywords within your account (particularly those being normalized). From there, determine if it’s best to pause the keyword variations that are negatively affecting your ad positioning.

  • Matthew Mierzejewski
    Matthew Mierzejewski is EVP of SEO at RKG.
  • Comments
    One Response to “Challenges with Microsoft adCenter Normalization”
    1. Tim says:

      Also experiencing the same thing, and was told by the MSN rep “that’s just how we do it”. I’ve taken the tactic you called out above: pausing keyword dups.