This Town Ain't Big Enough for Both of Us

Late Tuesday evening, the annals of search engine history added a page when Google and Yahoo! ended a partnership that officially began almost four years ago on June 26, 2000. The search brand built by two grad students in a dorm room, Google, not only earned its stripes but the right to go out on its own -- leaving behind the portal partner that granted it much needed street cred before the search Googleopoly came to pass.

This move proved that Google has not only outgrown Yahoo!, but has become a major competitor in terms of search eyeballs and the highly competitive billion-dollar search engine marketing world. Of course, the question on everyone’s mind is: What is the fallout for my search engine marketing (SEM) program?

Pay-for-Placement

Pay-for-placement is still the most profitable aspect of search-for-site providers. There is relatively no impact for paid listing advertisers in Google’s AdWordsTM program, since Yahoo! has simply pulled the organic, or natural, listings below paid results. Paid or sponsored listings on Yahoo! will continue to be populated by Yahoo!-owned Overture’s pay-for-placement listings on the top, side and bottom of Yahoo!’s search results. There is, however, a large void to be filled within main body search results.

Paid Inclusion

The big hole in Yahoo!’s editorial results will now be filled in part by paid listings in the form of another Yahoo! property’s -- Inktomi’s -- inclusion listings. While paid inclusion listings are based on category relevance -- unlike keyword driven sponsored results -- there simply aren’t enough indexed sites for an inclusion product to stand on its own. Though Google does not offer an inclusion product, one could argue these listings provide a good middle ground for search providers, since they fall near organic listings while providing source of revenue for the site.

Organic Search

The biggest winner of any change in automated search technology is the optimization firm, since neither advertisers nor search sites profit from organic results real estate. On Monday, search engine optimization gurus had a whole new buzzword to learn. In order to provide a more comprehensive search result solution stand-alone, Yahoo! had to introduce some type of automated search crawler. Dubbed the “Yahoo! Slurp,” the new technology is designed to reach out to Web sites robot-style, rounding out Yahoo!’s results.

Search Behavior

Google is generally viewed as a search utility and Yahoo! as a multi-purpose portal. Is there a really a difference in how people use the two sites? One source of answers is comScore’s qSearch tool. Comparative search behavior data from December 2003 reveal that Google has the most loyal searcher, with more than 85 percent of visitors using Google as a search tool. Yahoo!, on the other hand, converts only about 50 percent of visitors into searchers, but reaches a greater portion of searchers.

Conclusions?

While Google is clearly viewed and used as little more than a search site, Yahoo! has destination portal clout. In the end, fellow search gunslingers, one more thing is certain -- life at SEM corral is sure going to be anything but boring.

About the author: iMedia search columnist Kevin Ryan’s current and former client roster reads like a “who’s who” in big brands; Rolex Watch, USA, State Farm Insurance, Farmers Insurance, Minolta Corporation, Samsung Electronics America, Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Panasonic Services, and the Hilton Hotels brands, to name a few. He is currently Director Market Development of IPG’s Wahlstrom Interactive where he provides guidance in directional online marketing to Wahlstrom’s prestigious list of clients and sister agency brands. Kevin believes in truth, justice and the marketer’s right to hype free online marketing journalism.

Meet Kevin Ryan at Search Engine Strategies on March 2, 2004.

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