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When does it make sense to use Overture?

Google AdWords is the default PPC network for most people - it's better known and many people find the conversion rate is better on Google. However, there are times when Overture can be a better option. Here are some of the reasons to use Overture:

How you get 10% CTR without a lot of work.

If you are one of the top two bidders for a given phrase, your ad is placed above the search results, in prime position for clicks. Ads in these positions look like the #1 search result on MSN and Yahoo. These ads are 10x more powerful than ads on the side bar when it comes to CTR. So if you are advertising for a search phrase that is not very competitive, make sure you bid to place in the top location, or 2nd place. If the phrase isn't competitive, you can often get these locations for 10 cents.

Who clicks on ads from Overture?

Overture ads primarily show up on MSN (and will at least until early 2006), and on Yahoo (Yahoo owns Overture.) Therefore, the demographics of people that click on Overture ads are a bit "softer" than Google's. Google searchers tend to be more technical, according to the 2003 Marketing Sherpa Search Engine report. Basically, the Google typical user is younger, more tech-savvy, a bit more likely to be male. MSN users are more likely to be on Windows 98, using the computer from home, they are older, more likely to be parents, and more likely to be women. Yahoo fits somewhere in the middle. What this means for your strategy is that Overture can be a good place to advertise products related to topic like: home, cooking, parental, health, education, etc. Overture of course has plenty of search traffic and users that fit other profiles, and shouldn't be pigeon-holed. However, it's a good idea to have a diverse approach (i.e. not just Google) when trying to build a campaign that reaches certain demographics.

You can write longer ads

On Overture, your ad titles can be 40 characters long. On Google, it's 25. The description for the ads can be over 100 charaters long, while Google AdWords limits you to 70 characters. This is an advantage if you have a hard time differentiating your product in a very small space. If you are not used to writing very short, snappy copy, Overture ads are definitely easier to write. However, it's good to develop the discipline that writing short headlines and description requires - since the average web surfer simply scans your ad for a very short time. You need a way to capture attention fast! Practice makes perfect, but until you develop that skill, Overture's longer ads can make life easier.

Overture can be less competitive

Overture basically doesn't allow affliates. (Google does, but has introduced restrictions to decrease the number of affliate ads) This means fewer 3rd parties buying ads which point to sites like eBay, Amazon, or Overstock. That can mean less competition if you are in a space where the likes of eBay sells a lot of stuff. There probably will be some competition, but perhaps a lot less than on Google. Here are some of the reasons affliates shy away from Overture:
  1. no ad split-testing
  2. no boost in impressions for ads with higher CTRs than their competitors'
  3. the affiliate-link domain shows in ads, not the client's site domain
  4. 10-cent minimum bids rather than 5-cent

It's easier to bid since Overture has a simpler bidding model

Overture's bidding model is open and your position for a given keyword is determined by how much you are willing to pay. Google takes the click-through rate of your ad into account whereas Overture does not. Google has other restrictions and approval processes that make it hard to get into the premium ad spots above the search result, while Overture will put you there every time if you are the top bidder. Overture is easier to understand for many people. Neither Overture nor Google AdWords is really easy to use, however. It can be complex and time consuming and most small businesses should at least get some help when starting out.

A few things to watch for

If you've never signed up with Overture, they usually offer a $50 credit for creating an account. When you sign up, you will be billed for approximately $70, but will get $50 is account credit. Overture enforces monthly minimums on account activity, usually around $20 a month. If you have low-volume keywords that don't generate $20 / month of ad spend, Overture may not be right for you. Overture's user interface can be confusing, so take some time when setting up your first campaign to familiarize yourself with it. However, there are a lot of screens and reports, and you don't really need to understand them all to be effective. So focus on say, the Precision Match campaign set up when getting started.


If you've never heard of Overture, or never given them a try, it's well worth looking at. It can be less competitive and easier to get traffic. If you have a target audience that fits more with MSN or Yahoo!, Overture is the way to reach them. Overture's longer ads and more transparent bidding system are easier to use, especially when just starting out.

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