Differences between Google AdWords and Microsoft AdCenter

Michael Poynter
June 9, 2011

In January 2011, Microsoft adCenter owned a 30.7% core search market share. (Comscore Jan ’11) With adCenter now being the gateway to such an extensive amount of search traffic, running on AdWords and adCenter is now a must for any serious search marketer. Running on both advertising platforms comes with a good amount of intricacies that marketers should be cognizant of. Below is a breakdown of a few of the differences to be aware of when running on both platforms.


AdWords and adCenter treat negatives differently. In Google you can implement negatives at several different layers. Google allows advertisers to implement exact, phrase, and broad negative match types. This allows for a significant amount of flexibility for the advertiser when optimizing their campaigns.

When implementing negatives in adCenter, advertisers are only allowed to submit phrase negative matches which inhibits an advertiser’s options. It’s important to be cognizant of this constraint while managing your account. If an advertiser transfers over a campaign from AdWords to adCenter and observes an unusual trend in traffic, it’s good practice to see if the campaign had a broad negative match applied in AdWords which is now set to phrase. The same holds true for any keywords that may have been set on exact match previously.

Another important distinction in adCenter is that when you apply negative keywords at the ad group level, the campaign level negatives will not be applied to that ad group. The group level negatives will override all of the campaign negatives. This differs from Google where the excluded keywords set at multiple levels work together cumulatively.

Ad Character Limits:

In AdWords advertisers are constricted to 2 lines of 35 characters. This requires some level of optimization to fully take advantage of the allotted space. Additionally having 2 lines of 35 characters means descriptions can be up to 71 characters (with an implied space between Google creative lines). With adCenter, ads are constructed in a single field instead of two lines. This makes creating ads easier to fully leverage the allotted space, however; adCenter descriptions lose that implied space resulting in a limit of 70 characters.

When moving campaigns to AdCenter from AdWords, ensure that your creative isn’t cut off with the loss of a character. When moving from AdCenter to AdWords ensure that your creatives can be split into two lines and still work with the 35 character limits on each line.

Match Types:

Both adCenter and AdWords offer broad, negative and exact match types. The difference is with Google’s new match type – modified broad. Advertisers can implement modified broad by putting a plus symbol directly in front of one or more words in a broad match keyword. Each word proceeded by a + must appear in the user’s search exactly or as a close variant. This modifier gives more reach than phrase and more control than just broad. This match type can prove useful for advertisers but unfortunately this match type is not offered in adCenter. This is important to be aware of when importing any campaigns from AdWords to adCenter. If you’re leveraging modified broad match in a campaign that you want to import to adCenter, you will need to make changes to match types. Advertisers will need to change their match type to either broad or phrase while considering the phrase negative option.

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