8 things Microsoft can do in 2006 to better compete against Google search and Adsense

MakeYouGoHmm

Being the end of the year is list time, it’s my turn to weigh in. The following are 8 things Microsoft could do in 2006 to better compete against Google in the advertising and search space:

  1. Launch Adcenter for websites worldwide ASAP (no beta invite only garbage). Why can’t I sign up for this and add to our websites now? Why is Adcenter still in pilot status? If this isn’t done in Q1-2006, they can pretty much forget about this doing anything unless their pay structure blows away all competitors. Adsense and YPN are gaining market share that MSN loses every day. Also, please make sure Adcenter works in competing browsers! The newest version of Opera says: “Please Upgrade Your Browser” when navigating here.
  2. Make Adcenter a one click install to any and every MSN Spaces blogger who wants it. Google made it painless adding Adsense to every Blogger blog — yes, even splogs sadly — and add they did.
  3. Offer how-to guides on how to add Adcenter to every other popular blog software. Google has a bit of Microsoft in them as they release stuff that puts a huge spotlight on their own stuff. Case in point: Google Reader which has a post to blog function that only works with Blogger. Microsoft needs to add similar functions and also use the MetaWeblog API so that users can post to Wordpress, Movable Type, TypePad and other popular blogging platforms. MSN Spaces already allows this, but how about built-in blog integration a la Flock inside Internet Explorer 7?
  4. Adcenter API from day one public release with no usage limits or restrictions — yes, even commercial use. Tieing the hands of third party developers isn’t a wise move. Empowering them, however, can lead to some exciting creations. And don’t just make this API .NET-friendly like Microsoft does with everything and forgets that other programming platforms actually exist and developers like. Make sure real world examples exist for competing languages like PHP, Python, Java and Perl.
  5. Fix the MSN vertical length issues — use less than Google — so that they stop making users scroll in MSN searches. Aesthetically, Google search feels cleaner than MSN, and if they want to start fighting the aesthetic battle they need to clean up the search clutter today, not tomorrow.
  6. Close a significant deal with Yahoo or another major internet force. We already know AOL is out, but that leaves other choices. #2 and #3 banding together to fight #1 makes a more formidable #2. A post on MSN Program Manager Ian McAllister’s blog suggests some intriguing deals could be under consideration:
    At the end of the discussion one of the people I was meeting with threw out a blanket offer to brainstorm other ways in which our companies might work together. He then stated that his company was willing to entertain ideas for working with Microsoft that would help our Search and/or advertising business, with one of the goals being to prevent Google from dominating those spaces even more than they are now. He was essentially saying that his company would help Microsoft level the playing field with Google in search and advertising.
    The question this immediately raises is what about YPN vs. Adcenter? I think this could be one part of a deal that means a partnership with Yahoo does not make sense, but wouldn’t it be something if Adcenter and YPN joined forces? The possibilities! And let’s not forget the wildcard: Amazon. Is it possible Amazon and Adcenter could cross-pollinate somehow?
  7. Listen to Scoble and get the freaking checkbook out and buy some dominant websites/services/products and then don’t ruin them before the ink is dry. Digg and Memeorandum are there for the taking if the price is right. Another relatively small player that isn’t on many folks radars but would fit in nicely with their blog search and the webmaster space: think Adcenter (sorry I promised not to mention these folks in 2005 again, but they just fit this post too well). I’m talking about BlogExplosion (referral). One of the first things website owners and bloggers want to do is increase their site traffic and BlogExplosion is currently leading their niche market, which would give Microsoft an edge in an area where they are weak and Google is strong: delivering traffic to third party sites that are not paid advertisers.
  8. Sex. Destined to be laughed off as a ridiculous notion but think seriously about where a lot of internet revenue goes. Blogger allows adult sites while MSN Spaces doesn’t. Google has found a way to backroom adult content instead of completely shunning it. Microsoft doesn’t seem to want anything to do with it. So if Microsoft started allowing more adult content in protected areas where content was monitored then they would flirt in a space that Google has quietly been enjoying success. So how can they do this without offending existing users? Easy, buy companies which already have a roped-off adult presence and don’t change them. I’m not suggesting Microsoft should get into the porn business, no way, rather I’m suggesting that they create and allow adult content on their sites instead of treating sex like some sort of cancer. If Google can do this, why can’t Microsoft?

The waiting gameOne of the biggest problems Microsoft has is they keep making us wait too long. It seems no matter what they are working on, they are always working on something. I’ve ranted on this before, but it is probably the biggest problem they need to address in 2006 and beyond. If this means buying into smaller companies and letting them innovate and launch under the umbrella then they need to do it. We all know Vista isn’t coming until late 2006 and it might be 2007 before Microsoft can re-emerge as a now company instead of a coming soon company.

For all its strengths, Google has this edge: they are seen as a now company, not a yesterday or coming soon company. Microsoft isn’t going anywhere of course, but if they want to be a player they need to be on the court, not in the dressing room.

To change that perspective they should plan and actually execute launching something significant and new at least once every week. That means 52 key launches a year. A new product/service/upgrade every week. Yahoo has been on that pace and it has helped to resurrect some of its image problems. Hasn’t helped their stock price much though, but I believe that will come around.

I’ve got many more ideas, but am still holding out that I might possibly be invited to Search Champs v4, so for those with the invite power, consider this merely a taste. If you know someone with invites, then please send a link to this post.

Now, I’m curious what readers think would make MSN search and advertising more competitive vs. Google in 2006? Do you think my ideas suck? Why? Why not? Have at them. The comments/trackback area is ready.