Alright, I saw Robert Scoble’s rather self-aggrandizing post about an ostensible April Fool’s joke at MSN search and did an MSN Search on ‘Dave Taylor’. Predictably with such an incredibly common first and last name, I am mixed in with various other Dave Taylor’s, including a trombonist, a hockey player, and one of the key programmers of the original game DOOM.
But check out the ads and you’ll instantly see why Google is still far ahead of MSN Search.
On MSN Search you see ads like this:
Now maybe it’s the case that these merchants have just blanket paid to have ads show up in every possible result, but that’s poor advertising and in this case it’s certainly poor targeting too: I am 100% confident that you can’t buy me or any of the other Dave Taylor’s at Dealtime, for example.
But that’s not all. There’s another set of ads that MSN automatically associates with this search that are equally far off target.
You might be thinking “so what?” but realize that the basis of Google’s massive market capitalization / value to the investor community is based almost completely on its ability to intelligently target advertising (through its AdWords program) to specific searches, thereby completely changing the dynamics of the advertising marketplace.
If MSN cannot match Google’s ad targeting and is actually polluting its search results with inane and offtarget results, it’s detrimental to both the advertiser (I’m sure “LowLender.com” and “Dealtime” are not happy to be displayed on an irrelevant search) and most of all the user of the search engine. If the results aren’t focused and targeted, users will just move along to a different, better search engine.
Oh, the ads to the right of the result for my vanity search on MSN Search are:
Now, to show you what I mean about Google doing such a better job, do the same search on Google and compare the results.
This time there are no “sponsored” placements at the top of the page (Google uses those, but knows not to target them with this particular search) and the sponsored ads on the right side? They’re far better targeted overall:
The third match for an eBay affiliate isn’t too great, but the other two are spot on and make sense. Two for three decent contextually relevant ads is a far better result than MSN’s two for seven, isn’t it?
I realize that this is just one search, and I also realize that I’m not Tom Cruise, George W. Bush, or even Paris Hilton in terms of popularity and the odds that a company would target advertising for people seeking me, but there’s a core lesson here nonetheless in our new digital advertising economy:
The site with the best ad targeting is going to win.
And at this juncture, I still see that Google’s the company to beat.