Microsoft continues its push to change the rules of the online-advertising game

As Microsoft's search share continues to drop, the company is stepping up its campaign to change the way that the efficacy of online advertising is measured.

As Microsoft's search share continues to drop, the company is stepping up its campaign to change the way that the efficacy of online advertising is measured.

On September 22, Microsoft announced that the beta of its "Engagement Mapping ROI" reporting tool will now be available to all advertisers using its Atlas ad platform. Before today, the Engagement Mapping tool was available only to selected beta testers.

Microsoft's Engagement Mapping tool and philosophy is interesting, as it shows that Microsoft is doing more than continuing to pour money, time and effort into improving its search algorithm in the hopes of catching Google. Via Engagement Mapping, Microsoft is trying to change the perception of advertisers as to how important (or not) Web search results are when it comes to making a purchase decision.

Here is Microsoft's positioning of Engagement Mapping (courtesy of a "think tank" called the Atlas Institute, which seems to be part of Microsoft's ad unit):

"Typically, between 93-95% of audience engagements with online advertising receive no credit at all when advertisers review campaign ROI. That presents a substantial margin for missed opportunity.

"Unlike the outdated 'last ad' model that narrowly attributes 100% success to the most recent ad clicked, Engagement Mapping technology reveals the entire conversion funnel. This enables you to make more effective, more relevant decisions in your digital marketing."

Everyone's got an opinion as to what Microsoft should be doing in the online search space. Silicon Alley Insider pundit Henry Blodget recounted over the weekend why Yahoo should have sold its search business to Microsoft -- and why now that Microsoft is spending $40 billion to buy back its own stock, such a deal is less likely than ever. My ZDNet blogging colleague Garett Rogers suggested that Microsoft outsource its search business to Google.

But it looks like Microsoft is done with the idea that a big deal is the best strategy. Instead, the Redmondians seem to doing what its execs have been saying for the past couple of months: Continue to go it alone in search and make small, vertical, focused acquisitions.

In related news, Microsoft officially opened its 477,000-square-foot San Antonio datacenter on September 22. That's where $550 million of its online systems business budget is going.... No word yet on how much a Microsoft datacenter in a tent might cost.