Defining Paid Search Networks

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Reading any of the major search engines’ explanations of their paid search networks and where they will display ads is at minimum misleading. The leeway given is vast and the statements made are vague. I feel for any new advertiser getting started with pay-per-click advertising without the help of an agency or at least an analytics tool. The potential to increase site traffic and boost conversions is definitely there, but when the most basic segment of the paid search advertising system is not clearly defined by the search engines, it’s a bit frightening.

The question is simple, “Where will the ads be shown?” On the two major PPC engines, Yahoo! Search Marketing and Google AdWords, advertisers can choose to have their ads shown on search or content networks. Each network has its value and can be very effective, but it would be nice to see the engines give their advertisers more control over where their ads are shown.

Simply working to better define the search network would be a great help to many advertisers.

The search network on Google AdWords gives advertisers the option of having their ads shown solely on Google or they can expand the coverage to include the network. The Google network is defined as being “made up of sites and products who partner with Google to publish targeted AdWords ads via their site or product.” This means advertisers can opt in to the entire Google network, therefore increasing the reach of their ads, but will have limited control of where ads will be shown and knowledge of whether or not those sites and products are truly relevant? Sure, Google will throw you a bone and share an abbreviated list of partners, but as Google points out, “[they] are constantly expanding the number of sites and products in [their] network.”

Yahoo! Search Marketing doesn’t even go as far as to give advertisers the option. When ads are run on their network the advertiser has no choice whether or not to be shown on partner sites. Yahoo does post a list of its search properties where ads will potentially be shown, including MSN and InfoSpace, however, the list is also abbreviated.

What’s with the secrecy? If someone wants to run paid search ads shouldn’t they have the right to know where their ads will be shown? I can’t think of any other form of media where this occurs. As an example – your company wants to run an ad in the local newspaper, so you pay a predetermined amount and voila, your ad appears in the location of your choosing. In comparison, PPC ads can appear on a host of different sites, but with limited control given to the advertiser.

Most advertisers would be more than happy to have their ads widely distributed if they were seeing good results. Therefore, it would be helpful if the engines could pass along more data and give advertisers more options.

Currently, Google Sitemaps provides stats on top search queries that direct traffic to the site from a natural listing. This type of information would also be helpful to paid search advertisers. Giving advertisers the option to eliminate specific partners or referrers from ad distribution would also be beneficial. In the end the more targeted the traffic, the more advertisers make, the more advertisers spend. It’s a win, win.

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