Several search marketers agree that if IAC can grow traffic to a respectable level, the new paid listings may prove to be a worthwhile ad vehicle.
Tier-two search engine Ask Jeeves' new sponsored listings product is drawing cautious interest from search marketers. By and large, they welcome the new paid search alternative, but worry that traffic volume on the site and its syndication network may not be high enough to warrant the complexity it will add to their search buys.
Marketers surveyed by ClickZ News all said they would try out the new auction-based listings, which Ask Jeeves unveiled Monday. Whether they continue to invest time and money into them is another matter, and will depend on how much traffic Ask Jeeves can generate, as well as how easy the ads are to manage.
The ads will appear on search results pages on the Ask Jeeves site, as well as on its syndication network. That network includes several properties owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp, which completed its acquisition of Ask Jeeves last month. This should help solve some of the volume issues, according to Chris Churchill, CEO of Fathom Online and former product manager at Ask Jeeves.
"There's always been the problem of going through a lot of work and having everything convert, but having only a limited volume. This gives us much better reach and volume," Churchill said.
Another improvement the sponsored listings have over Ask Jeeves' premium listing offering is the auction-based keyword bidding model. Auction-based bidding fits into what SEMs are doing with Google and Yahoo, so adding another marketplace to monitor with existing tools is easier than dealing with the manual processes Ask Jeeves previously used, he said.
For SEMs with existing technology and the money required to integrate it with Ask Jeeves' platform, the addition of another paid search offering is good news, according to Fredrick Marckini, CEO of iProspect. Marckini said iProspect's iSEBA bidding agent will integrate with the new listings.
"It's about complexity competing with volume -- a marketer has to determine if the volume is worth the additional workload to manage," Marckini said. Marckini doubts Ask Jeeves' volume will warrant manual management of a multi-keyword campaign, at least at launch.
"The most brilliant technology without significant traffic won't attract advertisers," he said. "Marketers will be paying close attention to the volume it drives to determine whether they'll stay in the game."
The prevailing attitude seems to be to test the waters, but not to dive in too deeply until Ask Jeeves has proven its worth.
"Ask Jeeves appears to have the highest volume of searches compared to other tier-two networks, so it will certainly be worth a test," said Dana Todd, executive VP of SiteLab. "It does add to the overall workload and cost of managing the campaign, but it might be worth it to find the market value of the keywords."
At launch, the listings are integrated with Atlas' OnePoint bid management product. James Speer, VP of marketing for IAC Advertising Solutions, said the company is currently in talks with other ad management vendors to integrate with their tools as well.
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Kevin Newcomb joined ClickZ in August 2004, covering search marketing and other online marketing topics. He has been reporting on web-based businesses since 2000.
Before the bubble burst, Kevin was a marketing manager for an online computer reseller, handling copywriting, e-mail marketing, search marketing and running the affiliate program.
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