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The Game of Contextual Paid Search

The Game of Contextual Paid Search Kevin Ryan

The power of paid search in an undemanding, “Look what else I found” package conjures joyous images similar to the day I experienced what has to be every red-blooded American kid’s dream-- throwing out the first ball in a big league game with none other than the world champion Anaheim Angels.

Search, paid or otherwise, is causing advertiser and agency eye-bleeds of late with a transmogrification of biblical proportions. Big changes at .

Generally speaking, consumer opinion on pop anything is made clear with ISPs’ offerings of various blockers as major selling points. Though Gator must be downloaded, I can only offer the advice of my esteemed colleagues from the American Association of Advertising in its definition of pop-up boxes-- they should be used with caution, because users find them annoying. Given the amount of activity with Overture of late, attempting to speculate as to the delivery model would be exhausting, which means its time to stand up and take a breather.

Seventh Inning Stretch

Not to be overlooked, and long before Google, Sprinks, and other providers went contextual, there was Business.Com, which has built its model around relevant search in the B-2-B space. Its programs serve up PPC search listings on smart sites like FastCompany.Com, FinancialTimes.com (parent) and Businessweek.Com.

I spoke with Jake Winebaum, CEO of Business.Com recently and I asked him about the difficulties facing search providers as they move toward genuine contextual models. "As search is defined within true portals, users have a task in mind when they visit a site like Google. They go there to search, to find results for very specific queries, and to immediately connect to the relevant site or page. The problem with contextual links is that it is an attempt to place an action-orientated listing into a destination page. The user mindset is quite different when the person is using a destination site versus a portal or search engine. He or she is much less likely to be willing to click off that destination site to an external link. I have no doubt search results’ providers will try to create more relevant models in the foreseeable future, predicated upon advertiser demand."

Well said, but in the mean time we can only monitor responses, analyze content to the best of our ability, and hope for a miracle.

Walk-Off Home Run

An analysis of client click rates across consumer and B-2-B sectors reveal CTRs on syndicated search sites soaring into the 20% range in both contextual paid search and traditional paid search. Ubiquitous brand associated searches can run even higher in both areas.

While there are clearly a few wrinkles in the uniform yet to be ironed out, in the immutable words of Humphrey Bogart, “A hot dog at the ball park is better than steak at the Ritz.”

Kevin Ryan founded the strategic consulting firm Motivity Marketing in April 2007. Ryan is known throughout the world as an interactive marketing thought leader, particularly in the search marketing arena. Today's Motivity is a group of...

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