More Details On New MSN Keywords Program

Chris Sherman and I have been up at MSN today talking about a variety of things, including the new MSN Keywords program that Gary blogged about earlier. Here are some additional details on the launch, how things will roll out and so on.

  • The system is already live in France and Singapore, but in a closed beta. Ads come from MSN in both places, and Yahoo serves as backfill in France.
  • In October, a "holiday pilot" will begin in the US. This is the aforementioned program that will involve 500 of MSN's top advertisers and some others, such as key SEM firms, that have been approached. Ads from these advertisers will be "preloaded" in September.
  • Why "holiday pilot?" Because the program is designed to let MSN get started with some advertisers through the holiday period.
  • Over the weeks after October, more and more advertisers who have applied for the MSN adCenter program will be rolled in. Currently, there are over 5,000 people registered, MSN said.
  • Ads will follow a "Google standard" of being 25 characters for a title and 70 characters for a description, though descriptions will wrap rather than be broken up on two lines. Since Ask Jeeves is also following this standard, perhaps it would be better described as the "25/70 format" or "short format" standard.
  • MSN ads will be shown to a sample of those within the US. In other words, you might do a search and see ads only from MSN. Do it again, and it might be ads only from Yahoo. Ads from both sources will not be mixed, and when the program formally launches, there will be no backfill from Yahoo.
  • There is an API for the ad system, and MSN is working already with about 30 ad management vendors who will implement it.
  • MSN won't say when the program will formally launch, but it reiterated that it said in March that the program would go live within 12 months. So, expect it to happen by March 2006 or sooner.
  • FYI, "MSN Keywords" was also the name of a navigation system used for the MSN 8 browser that may still be in place. This ad program is something completely different.
  • Fake "MSN Keywords" were also sometimes pitched to companies by various third parties in 2002, something I've not seen happen for some time. Such pitches might reappear and should be avoided. MSN is selling these direct through its ad management system.

For more background on MSN's move into paid listings, see our MSN To Launch Its Own Paid Listings Program article from March. Want to discuss or comment? Visit our forum thread, MSN PPC Coming Next Week.

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Danny Sullivan was the founder and editor of Search Engine Watch from June 1997 until November 2006.

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