To show how many options you have when pursuing a paid search strategy, last week I started listing industry players beyond those popular standbys, Overture and Google AdWords. Here is the continuation of that list, along with some issues to consider when planning your campaign.
Founded as BeFirst in 1998 and going public with its paid search network in 1999, FindWhat.com is now partnered with such sites as Excite, WebCrawler, and NBCi. Although the company requires an initial deposit of $25, which is applied to advertiser clicks, there is no minimum campaign spend. The minimum bid per keyword is currently $0.01, but this price will go up to $0.05 as of September 1, 2003.
FindWhat features a suite of automated tools called CruiseControl, designed to help planners and buyers manage their campaigns. From the more standard AutoBid and AutoReplenish tools to a Campaign Scheduler and the unique AdAnalyzer (a post-click analytical tool allowing buyers to calculate their return on investment), this series of tools has all the campaign management angles covered.
A division of Primemedia's About network, search results provider Sprinks has a campaign minimum of $50 and a minimum keyword bid of $0.05. Ads appear on About.com, Excite, Search.com, and others.
This engine gained some serious ground by recently introducing its ContentSprinks (content-based pay-per-click (PPC) placements) and DirectSprinks (email newsletter PPC placements) programs. These allow advertisers to extend their search results to partner content sites such as iVillage and Forbes.com. Sprinks has also just signed AOL in the same capacity, so contextually relevant links will now be appearing on Netscape, CompuServe, and AOL Instant Messenger content pages as well.
Business.com, "The Business Search Engine," provides paid search listings specifically for the business-to-business (B2B) set. This directory also takes a slightly different approach to paid search advertising; it doesn't sell keywords per se, but places advertisers in categories containing lists of associated keywords. When any of these keywords are searched, the advertisers' text links appear.
There are no set-up fees or minimum spends with this vendor. Rates start at $0.40 per click -- that gets you in at the bottom of Featured Listings. The rate then goes up by increments of $0.10 for higher placement (there's no price ceiling, which means the more advertisers there are, the higher the price will be to become number one).
There are other paid search engines, of course, including 7Search.com and LookSmart. Some portals have even started offering PPC results. But as many options as there are for running a paid search campaign, there are just as many potentially hazardous issues to consider.
One such issue is geotargeting, a major concern for foreign advertisers and those targeting that potentially lucrative consumer base to the north. Advertisers can always turn to Google for this valuable service, and smaller player Citysearch has launched a locally targeted paid listings product. Later this year, Overture plans to release local search. But if you aren't willing to wait or put all your eggs in the few existing baskets, there are a few things you should know.
Paid search reps from engines that can't geotarget will tell you it's fine to target country and even city-specific audiences by customizing your result listings and description titles. For this strategy to work, one has to assume consumers will read both title and description before clicking and that only those the message specifically addresses will respond. As any marketer will tell you, however, consumers don't always do as they're told. Attempting this approach could have you paying for thousands of unqualified visitors. Before you blow your budget, reflect on this: If your product must be geotargeted, perhaps a paid search campaign isn't for you.
ClickZ's Rebecca Lieb brought up another point in her recent column on this subject. She said the keywords consumers use when searching can indicate how far along they are in the buying process (the difference between typing in "cordless phone" and "Panasonic KXTG4000B 2.4GHz DSS"). Fellow ClickZer Kevin Lee has addressed this issue, too. Makes sense, doesn't it, marketers? So when was the last time you included such a technical, product-specific keyword in your keyword list?
A mistake many campaign planners make is assuming their consumers are search greenhorns. Search is still the second-most popular online activity; researching products and services is third on the list. By the time they get to the site on which your paid listings appear, consumers may already be well informed on your products and simply looking for the information needed to complete the transaction. Consider including some technical terminology in your keyword list and industry terms in related descriptions. Educated consumers may just appreciate your efforts to speak to them at their level.
Addressing these issues before launching a paid search campaign could save you money and improve results moving forward. These campaigns may seem straightforward from a distance. But they require knowledge and a solid strategy to make them work.
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.
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