There's more to search than just Google
It's no secret that the words “search” and “Google” have become synonymous in many peoples' minds. Frankly, I find this is a bit disturbing. Sure, Google has the biggest audience, and yes, its interface is arguably the most streamlined and intuitive. But just because Google maintains a significantly larger market share and might be a bit easier for users than the other engines does not mean it's the best at everything — which is why I'm interested in what everyone else is doing better than Google.
For example, though Google allows keyword insert in ad titles, the other engines take this capability and improve its application. Yahoo and MSN allow for customizing ad text by keyword, which is much more flexible than Google's first-to-market dynamic insertion option. While dynamic insertion is useful for lengthy keywords, it ultimately limits one's ability to customize ad copy for terms running in a particular ad group. As a result, you can fine tune cumbersome ad titles for maximum click thru.
We've all been in situations where a quick “mass-change” is needed across a certain account. While Google does allow a lot of flexibility through its API, sometimes you have to change things quick on the fly. Yahoo and MSN both provide more maneuverability in mass-editing ad group names, settings and parameters. While Google UI is strong on the ad and campaign level, ad groups are not as easily edited en masse. Having to download the entire campaign, make changes and re-upload is pretty unwieldy. From a management perspective, Yahoo and MSN's interfaces make fine-tuning a campaign on the ad group level more manageable.
Yahoo and MSN also have nifty features that make the close evaluation of an ad's performance easy. By using ad text IDs, advertisers can track their placements on a more granular level, regardless of potential messaging duplication. This feature eliminates much of the confusion typically associated with managing duplicate messaging across accounts or ad groups. While Google does utilize ad text IDs, on the back end, they are not available to the user, preventing their utilization in day-to-day creative management.
Remember portals? Portals seem to be on the decline, but they're great for behavioral/demographic search targeting, and Yahoo and MSN could definitely leverage this within their search products. Imagine the ability to target a female user who might be searching on a term like “running shoes” according to her past content consumption within the Yahoo/MSN portal. Women's running shoes landing page? Custom copy that features product attributes typically valued by women? Sounds good to me.
Now, before I am labeled a Google-phobe, Google and its staff are great. There is a reason why it's the leader of the pack, because it has revolutionized search and set the bar for interactive marketing. I'm just saying that people should look into the benefits of the other guys, too. And who knows — as fast as things change in this industry, one of these other players could soon be the big boy on the block.