The move will see the Ask Sponsored Listings join MSN and Live Search as distribution sources for Office Live customer search ads, meaning customers will be able to manage their search advertising campaigns on two of the top five search engines using a single service.
Ask Sponsored Listings is an automated open-auction system that allows search marketers to purchase, manage and optimize pay-per-click and contextual advertising campaigns on Ask.com and its publisher network, while Microsofts AdManager enables small businesses to buy and manage search engine-based keyword advertising directly from the Office Live platform.
The move is another step by Microsoft toward delivering on its overall Office Live vision of an affordable one-stop-shop to address the basic IT and sales and marketing needs of small businesses, Baris Cetinok, the director of product management and marketing for Office Live, told eWEEK.
"We are making keyword advertising simpler for very small businesses by creating a single user interface for those businesses to create and manage their campaigns. We are bringing keyword advertising to the millions of small business who may be intimidated by what is required to set this up under our AdCenter offering or those from other providers," he said.
The Office Live AdManager offering differentiates itself from others in that it is specifically targeted at small businesses, mostly with 10 or less employees, helps them design their campaigns, understand what bidding they need to do and what budget will be sufficient, Cetinok said. They can then, also, see how effective those campaigns have been across multiple search engines, he said.
With regard to its growth strategy, Cetinok said Microsoft will "partner, build or acquire companies that help our small business customers market themselves and sell their products in as many places as possible and that make sense."
The addition of Ask.com, which is one of the top five search engines, to the lineup is significant as the Ask Sponsored Listings search advertising network reaches close to 60 million monthly unique users, he said.
Ask.com has also been very active in innovating around search and how it markets its services to customers and consumers, and has a large network that it is empowering with IAC, Cetinok said.
"They are playing a great and unique role in how they have been carving out a marketplace for themselves and how they have been innovating. We are very excited to partner with them," he said.