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Search - Who has the power?

InfoSpace (Social Media Portal) - 15 January 2007

Search - Who has the power? Is it with the user the search provider or the advertiser?

Gavin Somers, marketing director at InfoSpace Europe discusses another prolific year in search and who hold the power; search engines or the advertiser.

It’s been another magnificent year for search with a raft of great advancements to set the scene for another enterprising year in 2007.  Paid search continues to grow in popularity for brands, with advertising again reaching record spends.

The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) predicts that the internet advertising market will be worth £2 billion in 2006 and is expected to overtake national press advertising which accounted for 11.4 per cent of total UK advertising spend in the first half of 2006. Photograph of Gavin Somers, marketing director at InfoSpace Europe

Research by the IAB states that Internet marketing grew by more than 40 per cent in the first half of 2006 to £917 million, compared with the same period a year ago. The bottom line from the IAB is that online advertising in the UK is expected to overtake television by the end 2010, but what about the part played by search?  Well, figures from the IAB suggest that search advertising in the first six months of the year grew by 58 per cent to £531.3 million from a year earlier, and represents 57.9 per cent of total online advertising - a huge slice.  

Research from the usual suspects doesn’t tell us much more than we already know in terms of the proliferation of brands reaching more audiences through the take up of broadband and better hardware to service and store the content.  We know more people are using search engines and that they are now an integral part of everyday life.  Are users changing the way they interact with engines?  Well in many ways the answer is yes - we now have a better, more intuitive and broader spectrum of services being offered now especially with the massive interest in social media and the arrival of video search.

Search engines are certainly more visible with many undertaking more above-the-line advertising; MSN’s is just one example, running full page offline advertising across London papers The Metro and The London Paper.  We’ve seen the uptake of more search services such as the maps services from Google, MSN and Yahoo – and more recently Google CSE and Yahoo! Search Builder that allows building on site search.

But what services are available to the brands and advertising? What services can be bought from search engines? The more prominent are naturally Pay-Per-Click (PPC), contextual search and yet to be proven Pay-Per-Call.   The portals can also offer banner advertising, page/s sponsorship and so on – giving greater reach and flexibility to suit the demands of certain campaigns to drive traffic. Now that search has driven traffic to a site, what about the relationships afterward?  The challenge is most definitely about delivering more than search, serving consumer needs after their destination has been reached is critical – creating superior usability, brand loyalty and therefore sustained revenue is paramount.    And this is where metasearch comes into it own, by servicing these requirements and creating a strong relationship with content, search and users so that users do not need to leave the brands in order to service additional requests that they may have.

The creation of dedicated search departments by larger advertising and marketing networks is a clear signal that search is a top priority and is a main driver of traffic for them.  Brands need to be search visible, so they are tied into the services that search engines can deliver?  With the amount of traffic and the spend exercised for this medium, it appears that if some brands didn’t address this need, it could result in a very bumpy ride for them online.  So who yields the power, search engines or those that use their services? And are brands and advertisers beholden to them?  Advertisers are indeed servicing more integrated campaigns and now incorporating search in all facets of marketing into what they are doing, so where would the revenue be if brands were not spending with them?

Engines hold much of the power due to their proven ability to deliver traffic and the fact they are replied upon for business and consumers alike.  A day on the Web without them is unimaginable.

The advertiser holds the budget, and indeed they determine where it goes – their engine/s of choice - and we are unlikely to see them cut off their noses to spite their faces by not continuing to embrace search.  

Search is an integral part of our lives and advertisers need to connect with audiences and the way they lead their lives.  Search is the ideal medium to do this.  Like it not, to a certain extent, we have become too reliant upon search – it’s here to stay and the hook that the advertisers, brands, audiences and engines have, is only going to becoming more potent.  These parties enjoy a symbiotic relationship and it would be hard to imagine them operating successfully without each other.  As for who holds the power; experience shows us – the user.

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