to Expand Keyword Matching

Paid search provider plans to expand its keyword matching this month to help advertisers capture more search queries in a move that could drive up the cost of some keywords.

Starting Jan. 10, FindWhat will match advertisers' keywords with similar search queries, including misspellings, plurals and different word order. The Fort Myers, FL, search company said its technology and editorial team determine the keyword variations based on user search behavior. The matching feature, called IntelliMap, resembles those offered by larger paid search providers Google and Yahoo's Overture Services.

“The goal is to provide our advertisers with the most conversions and best pay-per-click advertising tool set available,” said Jason Williams, FindWhat's vice president of strategic planning.

Williams said IntelliMap would remove the guesswork from figuring out every variant of a keyword, ensuring advertisers' links are shown on a greater number of relevant searches. For example, a pet store bidding on “cats and dogs” would not need to bid on “cat and dog” or “dogs and cats” or “ctas and dogs.” IntelliMap in some cases includes synonyms for keywords, he said. All variations are automatically grouped in the same bucket, with the top position going to the highest bid.

“All the search engines have a similar goal: Match up the intent of searcher with intent of marketer,” said Kevin Lee, chief executive of search firm

IntelliMap is likely to raise the price of some keywords that are grouped with a more popular (and expensive) term. Advertisers will be able to click on keywords for a pop-up window listing the terms that have been mapped to the master keyword. FindWhat determines the master keyword as the one in the group with the highest bid price.

Advertisers cannot opt out of IntelliMap or use negative keywords to keep their ads from being displayed in response to certain search queries.

“It should not compromise relevancy at all,” Williams said.

Some low-priced keywords will see a price increase, including those grandfathered at below 5 cents when FindWhat upped its minimum bid in April. FindWhat expects IntelliMap will lower the number of keywords for many advertisers but not affect their conversion rates. Though advertisers may spend more, Williams stressed that they should see more leads and save time managing the bidding process.

“The goal is to simplify campaign management, increase the number of qualified leads, while working to increase their conversion rate,” he said.

FindWhat's move follows similar tools from Overture and Google, in an attempt to increase the number of search queries that yield advertising links and make search campaigns easier to execute. In October, Google expanded its broad matching for AdWords to include many new variants to a keyword. An advertiser with the keyword “cashmere sweater” could be matched to searches for “cashmere cardigan” and “cashmere turtleneck,” for example.

Lee said such programs help search engines make money off more searches and provide more inventory for advertisers now that paid search has boomed.

Some smaller advertisers claim the move discounts keyword research in favor of advertisers with big budgets. Google has said simplifying the bidding process will help all advertisers.

While Google and Overture have slugged it out for big distribution deals, FindWhat has carved a niche as a second-tier player, distributing its paid listings through more than 230 partners like Dogpile, Webcrawler and Excite. It recently put off a decision until at least the end of January on whether to complete its troubled merger with European paid listings company Espotting.

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