Mapping Out the Non-Proprietary Search Space: Part III

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cartographerADOTAS – This is the last entry in a three-part series on the non-proprietary search space. Check out part one and part two.

As this series on the non-proprietary search market comes to a close, hopefully we have shed some valuable light on the broader search advertising industry, beyond the “big three” search engines — Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft.

In parts one and two of the series, we discussed what the non-proprietary search industry is, why it matters and what the challenges and opportunities involved really are. In this third and final portion of the series, we’ll explore specific non-proprietary search partners, how you can make the most of your ad spend with them and what to expect from the industry at large in 2010.

In past articles, we talked about the percentage of the search market where the non-proprietary players operate — monetizing traffic from queries that don’t originate on the big engines. So who are these “supplemental search networks,” as one ADOTAS reader termed them?

Notable companies in the non-proprietary search industry include our company, LookSmart, as well as companies like Ask, AdKnowledge, 7Search, and Advertise.com. Some of these companies, for instance Ask.com, have their own owned-and-operated search site, but the vast majority of their traffic comes from other sources.

So, how do you choose? Not all search networks are created equal. There are crucial questions one needs to ask when vetting potential search networks to partner with.

Here is a checklist worth exploring while you are evaluating non-proprietary ad networks.

1. Network Quality: Use the following questions as a guide to help determine if the ad network you are evaluating can deliver the quality traffic you are seeking:

How many years has the company been in business? Do they have the experience and proven track record to elicit your trust?

What safeguards does the company have in place to protect you from click fraud? Are there rigorous internal controls? Do they maintain any third party partnerships with traffic quality companies like Anchor Intelligence and/or Click Forensics?

Do they have conversion tracking capabilities?

Can they meet your campaign goals? Can they tailor your campaigns to help you achieve your specific success metrics (ROI, CPA, page views, etc)? Do they offer a customer support team that is geared toward helping you achieve success?

2. Power of the Platform: Make sure your non-proprietary search vendor has advanced targeting and tracking capabilities to help optimize your campaigns and reach your goals more efficiently.

  • Geo-targeting
  • Ad scheduling/day parting
  • Keyword targeting
  • Site-level targeting and budget capping
  • Ad rotation

3. Volume: We touched on this in part one of the series, but it’s worth revisiting. Managing a paid search campaign takes time, so if you are going to add an additional search partner, you need to make sure there is significant volume there to make it worth your while.

Syndicated networks can aggregate thousands of traffic sources together, making the move into the non-proprietary space more efficient. A couple questions to ask:

How many queries do you process daily?

Can I run a traffic test on some keywords to help determine the kind of volume I might expect on your network?

A lot of promising projections have been made when it comes to search ad spend in 2010. Efficient Frontier made an optimistic projection for the upcoming year (SEM is expected to grow 15-20% in 2010) and we feel similar positive sentiment.

Improved advertiser standards and continued technological innovation will continue to push the search advertising industry forward and, in our opinion, good things are to come in 2010 as a result.

Be on the lookout for more insight here on ADOTAS as the search industry continues to evolve in this coming year. We’re here to help you continue navigating it.

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