2009 marked a period of significant growth for search marketing traffic. As the internet grew more ubiquitous, recession driven advertising dollars were moved from offline to online outlets, just as bargain hunting shoppers put more of their trust in online stores. ECI leveraged this shift for its clients, adapting to the latest technologies and advancements in analytics to bring their Profitable PPC product to market.
The biggest news of 2009 has to be Microsoft’s long awaited and highly touted release of Bing. Not only did it gain immediate attention, it also showed tremendous sticking power and can even be said to drive the rapid pace of search engine development (or “Decision Engine” as MSN refers to it) throughout the year. Despite its clear position on top of the search market, Google felt challenges coming from Bing – both with its relentless appeal after a much celebrated launch, as well as with the merger between Microsoft and Yahoo to form a viable alternative to Google’s supremacy. This sparked a series of developments to Google’s SERPs & Sponsored Results that can be described as playing catch up.
Google’s SERPs grew more and more personalized throughout the year, culminating towards the end of the year when they made the switch to 100% personalized search for all users, regardless of being signed in and local privacy settings. Google also added many new perspectives to their SERPs including a slew of filtering options including time filters, as well as real time search results comprised of Twitter posts, RSS feeds, and Facebook Statuses for timely search topics. They also made efforts to incorporate multimedia and other elements beyond website links into the results.
All of these Google SERP changes seemed eerily familiar of another engine, the fore mentioned decision engine Bing. Though Mountain View scoffed at any comparisons, when 2009 came to a close the two engines looked and experience was very similar.
Google Sponsored Results
The Sponsored Results began to take on a shape all their own with the incorporation of different data elements to compliment the standard 4 lines of text. At first addresses and locality was established to provide relevance between the advertiser and searcher. Then, additional links became available for some advertisers when their ads show up in certain positions, allowing businesses to tout different pages that can capture more intention than just what is displayed in the ad. The biggest advancement for Sponsored Results in 2009 was the marrying of product feeds with advertising. For some retailers, Google allows the direct display of solely product information in the Sponsored section. For most advertisers, a collection of relevant products appear as a link below the ad, which can be expanded to show up to 4 different products, including their images and prices. As multimedia expanded in the SERPs, so did they in Sponsored Results. Now searches for upcoming movies and other relevant items will have ads with embedded YouTube videos.
A lot of these features stay just above the fine line of making the ads too gaudy and still deliver a positive user experience. They are positive advancements that do not take away from the advertising and compliment validating paid traffic. That said, there is still a lot of work to be done to measure these different elements and their effectiveness analytically. These hybrid advertisements need the same performance insight that standard ads have, similar to the maturity that came to Content Network reporting, before they can be fully relied upon to drive a store’s marketing campaign.
Google didn’t just spend 2009 looking back at the competition and refining their present search experience. They also spent resources (i.e. cash!) to cement their position as THE online advertising provider as well as looking forward to new markets. In ’09 Google acquired two advertising companies: AdMob and Teracent (lest not we forget the huge market share they gained with DoubleClick in 2007). This allowed for a more robust content network that can be precisely targeted, as well as a good foot hold in Mobile Advertising (with AdMob).
Yahoo & Microsoft Merge
As was already mentioned, Yahoo & MSN chose to merge their search share in an attempt to offer a viable second offering to Google’s advertising network. Though 2009 did not see the execution of the merger, the industry has lauded the move in anticipation of tougher competition between the search companies, with more benefits for advertisers. Though many benefits of the merger will be felt on the management side of PPC, eCommerce sites can expect to see more consistent performance coming from those engines, and a more uniform approach to PPC advertising as a whole. What will wait to be seen is the impact on the quality of search results being offered on the engines, and how that will effect click through rates and other search advertising behavior. In other words, will Bing’s engine improve Yahoo’s performance?
While 2009 saw many changes to the PPC landscape, ECI clients rest assured that they stayed on top of the latest advancements, though did not waist valuable resources with fruitless new gimmicks. Nearly all of our clients are tracking revenue that is generated by PPC traffic and having the campaigns managed for maximum profitability. Their search ads display product feed information, links, and other data (as it became available) to help qualify their paid traffic.
We are all excited to see what 2010 will bring, and ready to leverage our experience to our clients’ benefit. As we look out to the horizon we see more channels opening up and a growing adaptation of devices beyond the computer. We are ready to make sure your Online Store is ready to capitalize on these behaviors as they become viable!