Does Microsoft have an answer to Google AdSense? The two New World giants have open fronts in almost any field they operate in. From mobile phones through browsers and on to office applications. It’s a battle. But the golden egg is still online advertising and Google’s ability to grow fast and fight Microsoft on so many fronts is based on advertising revenues coming from the Google AdWords platform and its distribution through Google AdSense. If Microsoft wants to stand a chance in this battle of giants, it’s the online advertising distribution that needs to be targeted. And there’s no doubt that it’s on Microsoft’s map, but the focus on Search through Bing is not the only possible answer. There is another one.
Google still controls about 80% of the global search market. This is a major distribution channel for advertising and it’s Google’s main source of revenues. Microsoft has invested tremendous efforts in establishing and promoting Bing, with hopes to gain search market share, but this is and will continue to be a tough front. Changing the way people search is not easy. Google’s second distribution channel for online advertising is AdSense and it is there that it stands relatively alone as the leading contextual advertising platform. It is also exactly where Microsoft can fight back.
There are quite a few AdSense alternatives that also offer contextual advertising units for website publishers to include on the verge of the actual content. None of them comes close to AdSense. In fact, in 2010 Yahoo has shut down the Yahoo Publisher Network which was a direct competitor to AdSense. Why do all AdSense alternatives either fail or suffice with meager leftovers? It is because they are not real alternatives. From the publishers’ point of view, the AdSense unit yields the highest advertising revenues (except for complicated direct sales). Publishers would only consider alternatives when their Google accounts are suspended, which means they have low quality or fraudulent traffic, or as additional units where Google wouldn’t allow them to run AdSense. No wonder then that they fail to gain market share.
This mountain would be too high to climb, even for Microsoft. It doesn’t seem reasonable for Microsoft to run a direct competitor to AdSense where many failed before.
And yet, there is a real way for Microsoft to fight back – In-Text advertising. The rapidly growing method of double underline links that open an ad bubble upon mouse hover is unique in its positioning within websites and alongside AdSense. While Google dominates contextual advertising surrounding the content, In-Text ads run within the content where the readers focus their attention. And since these In-Text ads do not interfere with the reading flow they are much less intrusive than animated jumpy banners within the AdSense units. Publishers love them as an additional source of revenues on top of Google AdSense.
If Microsoft would have leveraged its advertising marketplace with flexible In-Text advertising technology, it could have placed ads within each and every website that has Google AdSense today. And guess what, In-Text ads have a much higher click through rate (CTR) than AdSense, which means they will be in position to present real competition. At Infolinks, the fastest growing In-Text advertising network where I work, we’ve managed to engage many thousands of websites placing billions of ads with many millions of clicks in multiple languages across the globe utilizing the newest In-Text advertising technology. Combined with a major advertising marketplace like Microsoft’s, it could do wonders.
Now, personally, I have nothing against Google. I’m a big fan. Also I don’t have any interest in Microsoft. But as a citizen of the world I’m looking forward to seeing a competitive market shaping a free and fast Web not dominated by one giant. If not Microsoft, there are a few other candidates that could also fight back and challenge the online advertising services to become even better. I know we’re trying.