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Search Engine Guide: Research: Obstacles, Opportunities on the Road Ahead

Trademark issues and new search engine advertising features rank high in importance with SEMPO survey respondents

The Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, a nonprofit association working to increase awareness and promote the value of search engine marketing worldwide, sees a need to address several critical industry issues, trends and challenges.

Many areas covered in SEMPO’s comprehensive research study “The State of Search Engine Marketing 2004” have gained in importance since the study was released in December. The following results are of particular importance for this year:

Increased spending for search. Eighty-three percent of respondents planned to boost spending on paid placement campaigns this year. At the time of the SEMPO study, research by Yahoo and DoubleClick suggesting an even greater value to search engine marketing had not yet been released. Given the additional data supporting the value of search, this estimate may be low.

Trademarks are an important keyword purchase, and though some litigation has been settled or ruled upon, there are still pending U.S. and international lawsuits. Trademark-related issues involving search behavior will stay a hot topic, as some engines will “map” trademarks to generic keywords or allow competitive bidding outright for trademarks.

The majority of, but not all, advertisers bid on their own trademarks as keywords, albeit misspellings less so. Larger firms generally appeared to be more focused on trademarks.

New ad features. Listing enhancements to pay-per-click ads or paid inclusion are a potential source of more revenue for engines, given marketers’ willingness to pay more to make their listings stand out. Small icons and larger fonts were the most popular ideas for premium features that would entice advertisers to pay more for paid placement keywords. Rich media also scored high as premiums advertisers would be willing to fund.

It is clear that the industry still has huge upside potential, and that two years from now the paid placement marketplaces might look very different than they do now. The convergence between what is considered “traditional search” and general online advertising is accelerating.

The research, conducted by Executive Summary Consulting Inc., was based on an extensive survey of 288 search engine advertisers and marketing agencies, executed via IntelliSurvey Inc., as well as in-depth interviews with 30 industry experts. A full copy of the research is available at www.sempo.org/research/sem-trends-2004.php.

For more articles from The Direct Marketer’s Essential Guide to Search Engine Marketing, visit www.dmnews.com/search .

A PDF of the guide is available at: http://www.dmnews.com/pdffiles/semguide.pdf

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