Is Microsoft Driving Low-Quality Traffic to its Search Ads?

Earlier this week, Microsoft updated its terms of service for adCenter, with some key changes:

Microsoft may use matching criteria other than keyword searches to display your advertisements.

Microsoft may display your advertisements on its network of advertising channels operated by the Microsoft network of participating websites and other distribution outlets.

In a thread discussing the changes in the Search Engine Watch forums, user Mel66 notes that she's seen some other uses of "criteria other than keyword searches." Apparently, Microsoft is running ads through IntelliTXT, the much-maligned inline text ad provider. Mel66 clicked through on the ad to find it pointed to a search results page with one of her PPC keywords on it, which she believes is related to a recent drop in performance of those ads:

I wondered why we had a pocket of keywords with huge leaps in clicks and no resultant increases in conversions. This sucks. Is MSN really so desperate for traffic that they've resorted to running crappy ads for their own search results???

What this amounts to in my book is MSN running their own garbitrage ads. You click on an ad and get a page with more ads on it. This is bad, bad, bad, folks.

Mel66, whose real name is Melissa Mackey, is the search marketing director for MagazineLine, the magazine subscription division of American Collegiate Marketing. Mackey happened across a publisher site running IntelliTXT ads, and one of the keywords was "magazine," which is one of the keywords Mackey targets in her adCenter campaigns.

The IntelliTXT ad included a Live Search box, with "magazine" pre-filled, which links to the Live Search results page for the keyword:


The ad is part of a campaign by Microsoft to bring new users to Live Search by highlighting the relevance of certain queries.

"We turned off Yahoo's content network over a year ago, partly because of IntelliTXT and its poor results," Mackey told SEW. "What makes this even worse than that is that it looks like MSN considers this type of ad to be search, not content. We have opted out of MSN's content network."

About the author

Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.

Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.

With a combination of real-world marketing experience and years of business journalism, Kevin brings to ClickZ a unique ability to deliver news and training materials that help online marketers do their jobs better.