Evaluating Search Syndication Partners

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Clicks delivered by your search marketing campaigns don't always originate from your ads displayed on Google and Yahoo. Both major engines have a network of syndication partners they use to generate additional traffic from keyword searches.

Some of these partners are well known like AskJeeves, quality partners that bring "grade A" traffic. The lesser-known partners deliver clicks that advertisers might think are not of similar quality to the major search engine traffic, but the cost per click is the same. In an industry so direct-response oriented, the desire to track every aspect of a click is going to create demand from advertisers for the ability to opt out of certain undesirable partners.

Presently, if a search affiliate partner loses traffic quality it can hurt an advertiser's return on investment without offering the ability to opt out of that traffic. Google has put a premium on this functionality branching out from its AdSense program, which lets an advertiser buy site-specific ads on a CPM basis.

These search syndication partners deliver traffic from a few types of sources that are variations of the search traffic we commonly know. The most popular is direct navigation, which are typed-in domain names that act like search queries. Instead of typing in the keyword on one of the engines, consumers type the exact search queries into the navigation bar in hopes of finding the information they seek.

An example would be if you typed "marketingdegree.com" in the address bar of your browser and an advertiser's search listings targeting the "marketing degree" keyword phrase appeared on the home page of that URL. This is a trend in search marketing, as consumers are searching from the browser bar and more impressions are being derived from the direct navigation of the URLs. With our internal tracking system, we selected the education vertical to analyze where traffic originates from, and noticed that directional navigation is 5 percent of the overall syndication of the major search engines.

Further analysis of the search traffic shows an increase of distribution coming from third-party search toolbars, which do not include Google and Yahoo's own efforts. Our tracking system shows, from the same education vertical, that search toolbars deliver 3 percent of the major search networks' traffic with acceptable conversion percentages from those efforts.

These search toolbars deliver targeted search clicks when a consumer enters keyword phrases into the browser toolbar, and results pages are delivered with sponsored listings from the likes of Yahoo and Google. As we analyze the traffic further, we see clicks coming from vertical engines and from directories. With low volume from these channels, and the time-consuming process of starting a campaign with limited traffic volume, it makes sense for firms to use the larger engines to get their ads on these niche partners.

As companies continue to allocate more budget to search marketing, businesses will track and analyze their ad spends more diligently. They will learn that making the needed optimization changes to ad copy, landing pages and keywords will not cover all the parameters for a campaign.

The traffic distribution of these search networks is changing, which can affect your bottom line positively or negatively. Will there be a day soon when advertisers can opt in for this traffic on a partner-by-partner basis?

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