Microsoft AdCenter Now Supports Negative Exact Match

Microsoft added a long-awaited feature to its adCenter search engine advertising service. Negative Exact Match, arriving as part of a larger set of improvements for adCenter customers, will allow users to more precisely control which of their ads searchers will see.

Crosby Grant reported on the news for Search Engine Land. You can also find Microsoft’s own blog post by Tina Kelleher on its adCenter Blog, explaining the change. The timing could hardly be more perfect. Some marketers might have wished for more time to prepare to before the rush of shoppers searching for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, but it shouldn’t take them long to get the hang of the new feature. After all, users of Google’s AdWords search advertising service have been able to make negative exact matches for quite some time.

If you use adCenter’s web interface, you can already take advantage of its new features, though Kelleher notes that you’ll need to upgrade to version 8.1.111 when you see the upgrade prompt in your tool. Keep in mind that this negative keyword feature only works at the ad group and campaign levels; the company stopped supporting keyword level negative keywords. But don’t worry; users won’t be left completely out in the cold. “In order to make this change a seamless experience for Desktop users, you can migrate your keyword level negative keywords to ad group or campaign level using the Negative Keyword Migration Wizard or in adCenter web UI copy and paste your list of keyword-level negative keywords into an Excel or .CSV file, then import the list at either the ad group or campaign level,” Kelleher explained.

At Search Engine Land, Grant is not overly concerned about keyword level negative keywords going away at adCenter. He noted that most advertisers try hard not to use them anyway. “The non-cumulative nature of adCenter’s negatives – adding a keyword-level negative would then ignore any Campaign or AdGroup negatives – along with the character limit (10,000 characters) have been practical barriers to managing keyword-level negatives for most advertisers,” he explained.

Grant also reported that this update will not include negative broad match. That should be good news for at least one poster on Microsoft’s Advertising forums. Back in September on the adCenter Advertiser Support forums, a thread focused on negative exact match came up. AlphaProject emphasized the need for a negative exact match with an example featuring two search queries, “ford mustang” and “2005 ford mustang.” As the first one converts poorly but the second one converts very well, AlphaProject wanted to be able to filter out the first one while keeping the second one. Negative exact match allows users to do exactly this.

Grant gave an example of how he uses negative exact matches to help target his ads more precisely. You can do the same thing, and you’ll probably end up with happier customers in the bargain. Grant’s example focused on keyword ads for mountain bikes. He noted that he liked to run ad groups that look like this:

Terrain(Mountain) Type(Bike)

Terrain(Mountain) Type(Bike) Accessory(Tires)

Someone searching for a mountain bike would not be interested in seeing an ad for mountain bike tires, since the bikes already come with tires. Likewise, someone searching for mountain bike tires already has a mountain bike, and doesn’t want another one; they just want tires for the one they own. As Grant points out, he can already prevent his ads for mountain bike tires from popping up for searches on mountain bikes: “We just add ‘tires’ as a negative-phrase match to the [first] AdGroup,” he explained.

Up until now, however, preventing ads for mountain bikes from popping up on searches for mountain bike tires when using adCenter wasn’t doable, and “leaks” were inevitable. With adCenter’s new Negative Exact Match capability, those leaks can now be prevented. “We can simply add a negative-exact match for ‘mountain bike’ into the [second] AdGroup, and voila!” Grant wrote. No more leakage, and no more potential customers staring in annoyance at your irrelevant ad.

One nice point about this feature is that a number of advertisers had told Microsoft that they’d wanted it; this is a good example of the company following through. “Microsoft says the adCenter team is doing their best to implement the features advertisers want the most,” Grant noted, and in his opinion, the introduction of negative exact match provides strong evidence that the statement is more than just words. Microsoft also cares about getting it right, as Grant said that the company told him the feature had been in beta with certain advertisers. Don’t bother trying to find out who, though, as they almost certainly can’t talk about it anyway. A company running closed betas of that sort usually requires the testers to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

The wider implication here is that if Microsoft’s adCenter lacks certain features that you’d really like to use, it’s worth telling the company that you want to see it working on them. You can even go directly to the Microsoft Advertising adCenter Feature Suggestion Forum and type a suggestion into the box. Microsoft notes that “Related suggestions may appear in the results area as you type, and you might find that your suggestion has already been submitted.” If that’s the case, you can add a comment and vote for the suggestion, letting Microsoft know how important it is to you to see the feature added. Under the suggestion titles, you’ll often find a word as to their status (such as “under review,” “started,” “planned,” etc.), and a more complete note from a Microsoft Advertising administrator that lets you know exactly where they are with the suggested feature. For a company known for being relatively opaque, this approach is remarkably transparent, and I think it’s worth encouraging – so if there are any adCenter features you’d really like to see, be sure to let your voice be heard at Microsoft. 

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