A while ago I made a blog entry about pay-per-click, talking about some of the alternatives to Google Adwords . I want to talk a little more about one alternative to Adwords that I think is going to play a much larger role in future. Drumroll please.... MSN search advertising!
Now, if you take a look at search statistics, you can see that MSN doesn't have a HUGE slice of the search pie. Google is by far the leader when it comes to percentage of searches made, accounting for about 49% of all searches made in the US market. That means that half of all the searches made on the internet by US users are made through Google. Add to this the fact that both AOL and Ask use Google's Adwords results as their sponsored listings. So when you add Google, AOL and Ask together, you can see that by using Adwords for your pay-per-click advertisements, you're effectively advertising to 58% of the searching population. (Of the United States. Other regions might have slightly different statistics.)
So it's no wonder that a lot of advertisers have Google tunnel vision. It's hard to get excited about MSN's 10% share of the searches when you've been looking at Google's 58%. I'm not saying that you should be using MSN as an alternative to Google, but I AM saying that there is a lot of potential for marketers to get in before everyone else wakes up and notices, and that it needn't take much more energy and research. If you can boost your earnings without much more effort or spending, then wouldn't you like to give it a go? I thought so.
MSN's PPC engine is in many ways just a baby. MSN used to receive its sponsored listings from Yahoo Search Marketing/Overture , but struck out on their own after their contract with Yahoo expired last year. MSN launched its PPC service in June 2006, and it seems to be taking internet marketers quite a while to cotton on. One thing I've noticed about MSN is that the competition for competitive keywords seems to be much lower, as if the big affiliates haven't all jumped on board just yet. Campaigns seem to be a lot less sophisticated than what you see in the more mature PPC markets.
For instance, I'm writing this from New Zealand -- a reasonably wealthy, English speaking country, and a good country to target your PPC ads to. A search for "Learn Spanish" from New Zealand returns a page that doesn't even have a full quota of ads, despite this being an extremely competitive market in the other search engines. Either there are very few people competing for this very competitive search term, or the people who *are* competing aren't particularly savvy, and are excluding NZ in their geographic filtering. In any case, it seems like a very good opportunity for a clever affiliate to swoop in and grab their extra piece of the pie.
So, how does one go about advertising on MSN?
If you're currently advertising on Google or Yahoo, the process will seem very similar.
> Visit: http://advertising.microsoft.com/
> Click "Discover search advertising"
> Click "Register Now"
> Fill in the form.
You need a credit card and (like Google) you need to pay a one-off $5 fee. Easy as that. I recommend first trialling some of your already-profitable ads from Google or Yahoo, rather than using MSN as a testing ground for new ads. (Although with a 5c minimum CPC makes it a more appealing prospect than experimenting with Yahoo's 10c minimum CPC.)
Early next month in the Affilorama members area we're going to be adding a section on making money from MSN, in addition to more guru interviews (guruviews?), site critiques and other resources. So if you're interested in jumping into this new market before it becomes mainstream, be sure to stay tuned!
All the best!