Search Ad Buyers Forum aka Search Marketing Style Council

Feb 28, 2006 - 12:53 pm 1 by

This session covers what's new in the world of paid listings and other search advertising programs with moderation duties handled by Dana Todd of SiteLab. Dana and the panel give this session a "fashion" theme since it was fashion week recently here in New York, hence the photo above. Speakers include: Misty Locke of Range Online Media, Brian Mark of, Michael Sack of Inceptor and Joshua Stylman of Reprise Media.

This session is very different in that it is a forum, with no PowerPoint presentations. Dana Todd starts out with "news" including, click prices are up, Ask is sexier, Looksmart says they're better, MSN draggin out launch, pay per call is getting some attention and no more trademark ads on Yahoo.

A SEMPO survey reported that only 33% of respondents were happy with their SEM agencies for PPC, down from 62% last year. 25% were unhappy and 42% report mixed results.

What's keeping Dana up at night? - Erosion of the search bubble, margins and SEM workforce - 2nd tier engines are losing the trust battle - Where is vertical search going? - Small businesses are underserved. Their budgets are too low for most agencies to be able to justify taking on. - A very large % of companies reported in the SEMPO survey want to take SEM in-house. Are SEM's better off being absorbed into agencies, companies? - Are SEM firms going to become the service bureau's of the future?

Dana now walks the audience.

What kind of ratings would you give search engines for their input?

Misty: Room for a lot of improvement. Overall, rates them a 6. Brian - a 6 is generous. We're not seeing a lot of service as an end buyer. No rep, no service. Dana - is no rep better than a bad rep? Michael - who's creating the strategy? Laments search engine ad reps, wet behind the ears, mis-advising clients. Gives an example involving Google. -1 Josh - Agrees that some "fresh off the boat" people at search engines are advising clients. Yahoo seems genuinely interested in SEMs buying their product. MSN is making an effort towards better customer service, their service "has been outstanding". Misty - AOL is actually making an effort. What is the "next level" of service we need? Michael - You should be getting your research from 3rd pary entities, not from search engines that have an interest in competitors bidding on the same terms.

Dana - What about the technical availability. Horror stories about systems being down, little lead time for system maintenance. Asks panel: Misty - How many of you use APIs as a way to upload mass updates. Yahoo has done well to communicate technical issues. Google gets negative points. They are still in the habit of making changes and not telling anyone. "Oops it didn't work". MSN gets five stars. Josh - Agree on Yahoo/Google communication. That said, Google's system is a more stable platform. Misty - When APIs go down, has anyone noticed that you can't update your bids for 3-4 days?

Audience: You mention Ask's API. The question about ASk is distribution. That's a difficult call because some ads will go out to tier one partners some to tier two. Ideally we would segment. Josh - Wonders wheather Ask will go the route of Google and allow advertisers to build their own ad network and cherry pick sites. "Ask is the RC cola of search."

Audience: Can you address the fee structure for clients? Misty: It varies, but flexible. It needs to be enough to cover of the assigned ad team. Usually % of media. Hybrid of % and flat fee. Hybrid of $, flat fee and CPA. Josh - We're a public service, we do this for the love of the craft - audience laughs.

Dana - We're in the communication industry. Are the search engines good communicators? Black box - when you're bidding in the Google system you don't get 100% disclosure of all data related to that ad and how the ad is served and when. Michael - When I think of paid search advertising, I think of it in terms of a calculated risk. When Google doesn't communicate how they are going to rank or serve your ads, you leave the realm of calculated risk and move into just risk. Josh - Google has made some controls available - separating contextual from search. It's the auction process that's the issue. The fact is, no one knows how Google works. It's a matter of time before Yahoo implementing it's own complex marketplace. Misty - Describes how when you upload terms to Yahoo, behind the scences, Yahoo relates some of your phrases behind the scenes to other phrases. Example: "travel" to "budget travel". For other media, you "know" where your ads are going to be placed. With search, you do not have those kinds of controls. Scores search engines negative 25. Michael - Being able to test all the intermediary variables that affect conversion is part of good marketing. Doing so is part of the value that SEM agencies bring to clients. Scores search engines a zero. Brian - Describes how he cannot control the ad placement is frustrating, particularly with Google.

Audience - I find it hard to believe that the companies and agencies don't tell the search engines about their disatisfaction and issues with "black box" ad serving. Misty - They do have advisory boards and councils. They are also running a business. There have been improvements.

Audience - I sit on one of those boards so this is good to know. Michael - Can you imaging what would happen to have a sit-in and pause your ad campaigns? They might listen when that happens.

Audience - I'm one of those advertisers that wants to bring SEM in-house. If your compaign cannot be executed according to the strategy, why would I outsource? Dana - MarketingSherpa did a study on agencies vs in-house. Agencies do it better because it's all they do. The other part is maximizing the campaing, the linguistic part of it. Those are not typically the skills of an in-house marketer. Josh - A lot of that heavy lifting happens through technology. Agenciesy can focus on analysis and getting strategic value out of the data. In house marketers do not always have access to that technology and do not get to spend the time on the strategy.

Audience - It seems last quarter Google's revenues were up over 100% and therefore your revenues are up over 100%, yet there is some disatisfaction in what you're saying. Josh - I don't think this is a concern about revenue slowdown. Our businesses are growing as fast as any sector. You're sensing frustration of the changing nature of the industy. Understand, PPC used to be about 5% of pages and now with contextual it's about 100%. Soon print and radio will come into the mix. Misty - Service has to set you apart. The fact that over 50% are not happy with SEMs, there's confustion about hwo you can trust.

Money Makeover - How do you think the search engines are doing handling your money, the advertisers' money? Who do you think is the best money manager? Panel- MSN

Click Fraud SEMPO just released info that the number of advertisers concerned with click fraud has increased substantially. Michael - Surveys audience 20-40% citing click fraud Josh - Yahoo and Goolgle do a tremendous job at detecting click fraud. We've seen an amazing response to detection and getting credited. Tier twos are not as responsive. Marketers need to account for a pecentage of their ad spend to click fraud. Michael - I have a friend that owns a sweatshop that has employees click on his clients' competitors ads. Search engines should get together as a consortium and share data anonymously and find the fraud.

Is it Google, Yahoo or MSN? Showed screen shots of anonymous search results pages - they seem very similar.

Dana - Is anything creative happening? Michael - MSN AdCenter people are saying AdCenter is "just like Google". It is exactly like Google. Where's the creativity? Josh - Brings up trends towards offline integration such as dMarc and Google print. Misty - Looking forward to enhancements such as display of the ads.

Audience: What about second tier search engines. Enhance, MIVA? Are they worth considering? Michael - There's a reason you don't hear talk about tier 2 engines. Josh - You can get value from tier 2 engines but be careful. Michael - Shopping search engines are a different category than tier 2 engines like Kanoodle, Miva, etc. Misty - Second tier engine campaigns are up/down up/down. Josh - To use the financial metapor, tier two engines are the "over the counter" stocks.



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