Taking the Microsoft AdExcellence Exam Part 1

Back in 2006 I took this little test for Yahoo to become a Search Ambassador. The test was pretty silly, a few of the questions actually required an answer that proclaimed Yahoo to be the greatest like “With the most searches globally, which search engine has more than X million searches?” Choose from Google, Yahoo, MSN or Ask. The answer of course, was Yahoo. I passed it, printed out my certificate and never looked back.

Well, that program has long since been discontinued, but because I have my fancy 2006 certification I was sent a code to try the AdExcellence exam as part of the merger.

OK, I like a challenge. Here’s what I learned on my AdCenter AdExcellence Exam Adventure!

Getting Started

There is a learning center that can be accessed for free. But it’s all videos. Every single lesson. Approximately 2hours and 35mins of this. Not counting load time or note time taking. You know what I can do faster than watch videos? Read. You know who’s probably pretty fast through this kind of thing? Advertisers that have been in the industry and used the interface for several years. Videos are great for the brand new folks, but what about those of us that are just trying to get through it? And this brings us to the reason behind the series.

First things, first- you have to to have a Windows Live ID to take the exam. And create a profile.
Benefits of passing the exam are a logo/badge to put…places. Companies with 3 more individuals that pass it become members of the adExcellence Membership Directory a very bare bones looking directory of 1,000 members. Only two total in Washington state and one works for Microsoft. (It looks like if you leave your company space blank it’ll sort you towards the top on the first page.)

The basics- it costs $50 every time you take it, if you need more than once. It’s 100 questions long over a 90 minute time period. A passing score is only good for a year and then you have to take it (and pay) again.

And what you really came for- how to pass this exam without having to watch every video, minute for minute:

(Warning! This is for paid search marketers that have been there and done that- as in they’ve been using adCenter, are AdWords certified and want to just get this out of the way. If you’re new to using adCenter, go watch the videos.)

#1 What is Microsoft AdCenter? (2:17)

This is a very basic- it’s what PPC is and how to make the most of your advertising dollars type video. Skip it.

#2 Editorial Guidelines (12:24)

The transition here is steep if you were new to PPC. Here’s 2mins of what PPC is and now here’s 12 minutes to scare the heck out of you. This video goes over a myriad of adCenter policies pertaining to:

  • Ad Content, style: can’t use “click here,” superlatives, slogans.
  • Spelling, grammar, abbreviations
  • Capitalization, punctuation
  • Character limits
  • Phone numbers
  • Duplication in ads and promotional ad copy: “free” is allowed if the terms and conditions are listed in the ad.
  • Disallowed content guidelines:
  • Hate speech, profanity and defamation: can’t say things like “view compromising photos of X here”
  • Religious and political content: has to be informative content about individuals or organizations.

Basically the same as AdWords here. Follow their character limits, capitalization, good spelling and grammar and you’re good to go. Also don’t call anyone’s mama a bad name.

The biggest takeaway from the 12minutes for experienced users: phone numbers in ads. They can only appear in if it’s part of the advertiser’s name and does not include a call to action. So 1-800 Flowers is OK to use in ads, but “call 1-888-123-4567 for more” is not allowed.

Mobile ads can have phone numbers in the ads, but no special characters.

What Can You/Can’t You Sell:

  • No “legally questionable” business opportunities (ponzi/pyramid schemes, chains or solicitation of funds)
    Downloads must be initiated
  • Ads ARE allowed for wine & beer and alcohol related items (shot glasses, liquor filled candy), smoking cessation and tobacco accessories.
  • NO ads for hard alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, electric cigarettes, nicotine cartridges, illegal drugs & paraphenalia, certain health supplements, herbs and at home HIV tests.
  • Ads ARE allowed for legal gun parts, paintball guns, stun guns, knives, traditional martial arts weapons, marked immitation guns. bows, pepper spray “as permitted by law.” (You have to check what the local laws are).
  • NO ads for knives as weapons (you advertising that’s what they should be used for), firearms, “integral parts,” militia ordinance, grenades, fireworks/pyrotechnics.
  • NO ads for bootleg products, fake IDs, devices to avoid traffic tickets, evade security systems, beat drug tests, receive free cable, webcams/surveillance equipment for “spying for pleasure.”


Hotels and Casinos can advertise but not for online gambling- promotions or links to online gambling must not present, no matter how many clicks away “it must be impossible for your site visitor to navigate from your website to any prohibited gambling or wagering content.”

In the UK- there’s a gambling addendum: as long as the establishment is registered with the UK Gambling Commission and does not accept bets from US residents, they can advertise. In fact, the UK National Lottery advertises on MSN.
Contests are OK to advertise as long as there’s no gambling, includes terms & conditions, complies with local state and federal regulations.

Pharmacy (including pet pharmacies)

  • Ads ARE allowed for information, over the counter drugs, insurance, medical supplies, healthy and beauty items, vitamins, weight loss aids
  • Online pharmacies must be accredited by the NABP VIPPS program or VIPPS, online Canadian pharmacies need CIPA approval.
  • Ads are NOT allowed in the UK for any prescription items

Adult Advertising Program

Requires an application with adCenter to participate, but once you’re accepted…

  • Ads ARE allowed for movies, books, toys, magazines, partial/complete nudity, sex scenes, porno names, porn star names, dating with intent for sexual encounters
  • Anyone can advertise for personals, dating, sexual health items/educational info- but links to adult materials must be at least 2 clicks away from your landing page.

#3 Landing Page Relevance and Quality Guidelines (5:21)

Pretty basic stuff:

  • Landing pages must work, not be under construction, not have session specific URLs, no frames or static/dynamic text URLs
  • Landing page guidelines CAN vary by country- you’ll have to check for yours.
  • Landing pages that are restricted or disallowed: all ads sites, misleading sites, must be able to click back, no fake windows, no pop ups, unders or auto downloads. (Pop ups for language and country preferences are OK)
  • Landing pages must have a privacy policy stated or clearly linked to on landers that collect information and opt outs must be available.

#4 Intellectual Property Guidelines (5:38)

These are country specific, so again, up to you figure out what country you’re in and what not to do.

  • No trademarks that “misrepresent”
  • Can be a reseller
  • Can use a trademark in a informative style- but it must be “truthful & legal.” Basically you can say Nike exploits child workers in Mexico, but you better be able to back it up.
  • Can use a competitor’s name if it’s for comparison purposes that has been verified by a 3rd party (just like Google)
  • Microsoft does not mediate trademark disputes, you can submit a “concern” online and MS will investigate from there.
  • Affiliates! Only one display from a URL will show at a time and the ad with the best CTR is the one that will get shown.

So if you have an affiliate direct linking to your site and their ad is kicking yours in the arse, you are out of luck with MSN. Solve it through the affiliate program.


  • No marketing for products or services that bypass copyright protections.


  • No exploiting a public figure or their likeness for commercial gain

#5 Click Quality (3:15)

The video change format here to a new one that doesn’t have the sidebar navigation to tell you which slide you’re on.

  • Advertisers are billed for “standard quality” clicks
  • Somewhere, adCenter finds “low quality” clicks that are “invalid clicks” and doesn’t bill you for those. They are from users that show low commercial intent, unusual activity or appear to be roboits/test servers.If you want to see how many of those you’ve racked up choose the “low quality clicks” segment to your next adCenter report.
  • Legitimate causes of a spike in standard quality clicks are seasonality, sales/discounts, news, trends.
  • Report click fraud by sending in the campaign name, ad group name and number, ad identification number, keywords affected and a brief description of the issue.

Whew! That’s it for Part 1: Introduction to Microsoft Ad Center

Move on to Part 2: Getting Started

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  1. HI Elizabeth
    I am using your guide to prepare for the microsoft exam, I find it so much better than watching the majority videos in the training hub 🙂 Thanks for taking the time to prepare it, much appreciated!
    Best Regards

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