This past week, I’ve been reading with interest the latest coverage in the share battle between Microsoft and Google in online search and advertising.
This time, it’s not the same press coverage about which company they’ve snapped up or what anti-trust suit is being filed. Rather, Microsoft, eager to challenge Google's internet advertising empire, has hired Brian McAndrews from aQuantive as its general manager, in charge of waging war against Google. And this time – it’s on.
Since announcing the deal to buy aQuantive and recruit McAndrews last month, Microsoft has been expressing its online advertising ambitions more loudly. “We are hell-bent and determined to allocate the talent, the resources, the money, the innovation, to absolutely become a powerhouse in the ad business,” said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, at the company’s financial analyst meeting in July.
While Google has a big lead in online advertising, a field that is relatively new to Microsoft, McAndrews is seen as the right person to challenge the search giant. And it's in the area of search where McAndrews is planning to attack, by offering up Microsoft advertisers a system known as "conversion attribution."
Credit where it's due.
In a nutshell, the process of conversion attribution credits all the online ads and web pages a consumer has viewed along their personal buying path until they end up on a company’s website or online store. The system aims to give advertisers a fuller perspective on a customer journey and to give credit (I mean money) where it’s due.
With this new tracking power, McAndrews believes he will be able to seriously challenge Google by proving their advertisers are spending needless dollars on premium site locations, like top of page “Sponsored link” areas, to host web links – links that a customer was going to click on anyway.
Mr. McAndrews contends that search engines, which long have claimed credit for sending people to companies’ Web sites, do not deserve it all. “Google gets all the credit, and in fact, you might have just gone to Google to type in the U.R.L.,” Mr. McAndrews said, pointing out that people often search for companies’ names after seeing their ads elsewhere.
Using technology from aQuantive’s Atlas division, Microsoft will be able to provide advertisers with a log of all the places on the Internet where people see ads before going to the advertisers’ Web sites. The data is based on individual computers’ electronic signatures, not individual people.
More tracking means more computing power.
The new service will require massive server capacity and the ability to analyze billions of ad impressions every day. And Microsoft will be able to use the new tracking capacity to prove the value of its ad space, much of which is not directly related to search activities.
For the next generation of tracking technology, researchers are already figuring out how to measure the combined impact that online and offline media has on consumer awareness, interest and purchase.
After finishing this article, I got a chuckle....for when I typed in "aQuantive" in my Google search bar, guess who has both the top sponsored link and the first 'natural' result? I think I've found a way to save aQuantive some online media money by following their own advice.