July 30, 2003, 12:00 AM

Search Engine Marketing

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Why all the buzz? The answer is music to the ears of online retailers fighting to grow business: search engine marketing works. 76% of marketing executives who used search engine marketing surveyed by Jupiter rated it more effective than online banner advertising, and 64% said they plan to increase their spending on it. That’s because increasingly, online consumers are finding the web’s search engines the quickest way to get to specific products and services, beating the effectiveness of even site search. Online marketers are feeding that with new ways to connect searchers with the searched-for even faster, such as with strategies that deliver shoppers directly to a relevant product page, for example, instead of a site’s home page. And online merchandisers are taking advantage of the fact that shoppers are delivered to product pages in a more ready-to-buy state by displaying relevant cross-sell and upsell opportunities on that page.

Greatest opportunity

“For consumers, web-wide search is more accurate than local site search 52% of the time,” says Jupiter analyst Matthew Berk. “Search is the greatest single opportunity to learn from and influence customer behavior.”

A survey by analytics provider NetIQ Corp. and iProspect found that 77% of online marketers are evaluating paid search strategies. Interestingly, the survey also found that 31% of those using search engine marketing don’t measure results, one reason analytics providers are growing. “Right now,” says Jeff Seacrist, group product manager for WebTrends analytics solutions at Net IQ, “search engine marketing may be the hottest tool.”

And that sets up perhaps the latest trend to emerge from search companies: going beyond search to find new ways to connect retailers and other online advertisers to new customers. Overture delivered some 2 billion clicks to advertisers from consumers last year, and to find even more, its paid placement now goes where it’s never gone before: directly to content pages. Advertisers using Overture’s new Content Match product bid on keywords that link them directly to relevant content on publisher sites that are Overture partners.

How does it work? Consumers logging onto MSN to find content about jazz singer Norah Jones, for example, might see ad links to related products such as Norah Jones CDs or videos. Clicking on that link delivers the consumer to the advertiser’s site where the shopper could buy the product; clicking on the back button gets them back to the content on MSN. Advertisers bid on the contextually placed keywords as they do on keyword positions in search results. The difference is that the link to a relevant shopping opportunity is delivered on a content page, to a consumer who’s chosen to view particular content but not actively looking to buy something.


“The links are done in a non-intrusive way so as not to hinder consumers’ experience with that content, but at the same time, they’re relevant to the story they’re reading,” says Bill Demas, senior vice president and general manager of Overture’s Partners Business and Solutions Group. “So there’s a greater likelihood they might click on that link.” Overture is already distributing the contextual advertising product to MSN and other content-oriented businesses such as the MyFamily network, which operates sites such as Genealogy.com. It’s also in talks with other content-focused sites that have participated in tests of Content Match over the past four months, including the auto and real estate sections of Yahoo, says Demas.

In addition to new opportunities for existing partners such as MSN, Content Match opens up advertising opportunities for content publishers previously unable to participate in the Overture network because they didn’t have search boxes, adds Demas. “Much of our existing network will be interested in this,” he says.

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