Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Search Advertising

why search advertising works


With search advertising, marketers have finally realized the marketing potential of the Internet.

Search draws a huge audience of Internet users (only email is used more), each with a specific and active focus, clearly expressed in the search keywords they've entered. The universal need for trusted, relevant Internet search creates an enormous opportunity for businesses to reach with precision people who are actively seeking information at that very moment about the goods and services those businesses provide. In the words of The Wall Street Journal, keyword-targeted ad programs "are finally delivering the benefits that Internet marketers have long been promising from online advertising: measurable results and finely tuned targeting."1

Why search advertising works back to top


The power of search keywords

Search-driven advertising is delivered by means of a trigger: keywords. Keywords are the advertiser's window into the customer's thinking – the most important basis for directing an advertising message to precisely those people who want to see it.

A keyword declares a motivation, describes an interest, and implies an intention to take further action – action that will be based on the result of the search that keyword defines. A list of keywords is, in turn, a snapshot of the people who will use them – incomplete, to be sure, but also uncannily accurate in its ability to bring buyers and sellers together.

Just as important, a keyword is the beginning of a conversation between you and your prospective customer. Significantly, this is a conversation that the customer initiates.

How does this work? Let's say someone is doing a search for "polymers," or "German shepherds," or "surgical tools." If an advertiser offering one of those things (or something related to them) has chosen those keywords, their ad appears along with websites that correspond to the user's search.

A responsive audience

The audience thus sees this ad as a response to a question – to which the ad, they quickly realize, provides an answer. At this point, something interesting happens: They become receptive, even enthusiastic. These precisely targeted, pre-qualified prospects become the kind of customer marketers dream about – excited about what's being offered and eager to act on that excitement.

Their responsiveness derives, in part, from the relevance of the ad to their query, which keyword targeting makes possible. It also derives from the setting in which they find it. At which point we have to speak not about search in general, but about Google in particular.

A trusted source

Google, the global leader in search, serves more than 59 million unique visitors each month2 and performs more than one-third of all searches worldwide – more than 200 million per day3– referring more traffic than any other search engine4. Google, the #1 U.S. search engine5, is growing fast, having gained 27 million unique global visitors in just a year6. And Google has ranked highest in consumer loyalty among all online brands for two years running7.

Why do people choose Google instead of some other search tool? Because Google delivers the information people want, quickly and accurately. With the industry's most advanced search technology, Google is the fastest and easiest way to locate relevant information on the Internet. Google's search index contains billions of web documents8, and gets bigger and better all the time. And because Google refuses to sell its search results under any circumstances, the objectivity of those results is unquestionable.

Google's straightforward, clutter-free pages also deliver information in a form that people can understand and use. The clear distinction in the Google user interface between unpaid search results and paid advertisements (however relevant) adds to the credibility of every element on the page and inclines users to trust what they find there. The objective importance of this clarity was noted by the Federal Trade Commission in its June 27, 2002 response to a complaint by consumer watchdog Commercial Alert against deceptive advertising by search engines — a complaint from which Commercial Alert specifically excluded Google. In a story on the subsequent warning issued by the FTC to the search engines named in the complaint, the Associated Press cited Google as "the only search engine [of 12 they surveyed] that appeared to meet all the criteria laid out by [FTC] regulators" for unambiguous labeling of paid search results, a.k.a. search advertising9.

Why is text more effective?

Further increasing the user's confidence is the format of the ads themselves. Ads on Google are clear, simple text messages, straightforward in their language and without images or animations of any kind – yet Business 2.0 rated Google more effective than any other form of online advertising10. Why do text ads outperform expensive animations and flashy graphics? Because like the rest of the Google interface, they don't try to bludgeon the user into noticing them. Instead, they offer a clear choice in a trusted environment, inviting the user to continue the conversation that began with the initial search query. And users do, at levels so consistently high that 85 percent of current Google advertisers renew11.

Bringing people together

Google's ad programs are founded on the same premise that has made Google search the fastest and most effective way to find information on the Internet: Focus on the user and all else will follow.

The simple fact is that advertising works best when the customer wants to see it – when it answers a question or solves a problem. That's exactly what Google search technology does so well. And that, in turn, is why Google ad programs work so well.

In effect, Google technology makes markets work better. The "invisible hand" that Adam Smith said would guide a market toward an optimal result had a prerequisite: that the actors in that market make their choices on the basis of full and accurate information. Without a way to share that information – transparently and in real time – markets would always fall short of that ideal. In fact, an essential attribute of any successful marketplace – whether of information and ideas or of goods and services – is that people find what they're looking for efficiently, and know what it means once they've found it.

Bringing people, information, and ideas together is precisely what Google does best. Google presents relevant information to search users who ask for it. Some of that information is advertising – but advertising that's fundamental to the overall search experience, advertising that the user wants to see. When you combine relevant search results with relevant advertising, the sum is a superior search experience.

Google's approach means advertisers and search users both find what they want – and that's increasingly true as the number of advertisers, users, and searchable documents on Google increases. All this goes a long way toward explaining why the number of Google users is growing so fast, and why Google advertising is so successful.

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