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The End of the Beginning

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New search, old search, revamped search, universal search, three dimensional search, Live search, Kumo search, optimized search, paid search, natural search. As the world economic conditions continue heading south, the search world continues climbing up and reinventing itself.

The business of search has been a source of nonstop excitement since the notion of organizing information found on the World Wide Web first came about. Today's melodrama includes one company having a monopoly in one area while the other seemingly can't figure out what's happening.

The first generation of search tied to an advertising model has passed. The next generation of search advertising and natural search will take some of the power away from the elite few who have worked out how to manipulate popularity rankings in favor of placing the tools in the hands of the people, en masse. Before we see the next generation rise, we'll have to pay some dues.

Ranks and Files

Every iteration of search has its quirks. Google's amazingly friendly interface and powerful monetization system for sponsored listings has trumped both Yahoo and Microsoft in their efforts to endear themselves to the plebs of the advertising world.

Ask any account manager in the search world and they'll tell you the Google interface is the easiest and friendliest to use. Sadly, the decision to advertise on Google is an arbitrary one and, for most advertisers, comes down to a question of budget limitations.

The thought process goes a little like this: How much can I afford to spend? I should be spending more.

Not long ago, those who would build tools to facilitate the management of paid search touted the benefits of third-party reporting and management across multiple search advertising vendors. As Google's better-built (mouse) trap continued its rise in power and audience share, the selling proposition for a third-party tool became more about integration and monitoring touch points than managing search advertising spend multiplicity.

Government Intervention

As I've said once or twice before, it's only a matter of short time before Google is chopped up into little pieces by the Justice Department. It's a simple equation that I introduced early last year:

Media + Cloud OS + Search = Government Intervention

It was either a blessing in disguise or a carefully orchestrated action for Google to pull the plug on print and radio products. If the experimentation across traditional media had been successful for Google, the success alone may have sealed Google's anti-trust fate.

We've been tossing around the monopoly phrasing in search for quite some time now and it was nice to get an affirmation from Christine A. Varney, President Obama's nomination to head the Justice Department's anti-trust division, when she compared Google's monopoly to Microsoft's monopoly.

Of course, having a monopoly isn't illegal; using it to stifle competition is. I would argue that leaving advertisers little or no choice is, in effect, stifling the completion. When was the last time you negotiated a contract with Google?

The biggest complaint I hear from advertisers falls in the vein of their lack of control and any sort of leverage in negotiating. Advertisers are forced to take it or leave it, and that level of control has a finite lifespan.

Blog New World

We wanted change and we're getting it. The middle generation is paying for the sins of our fathers with big government and even bigger taxes. Now isn't the time to be working hard and making money for the scrappers who somehow managed to buy a house they can't afford and achieve a level of income now targeted for gutting. The functionally well-off in these States United are getting the shaft once again.

Likewise, the working stiffs -- the functionally well-off and white-collar ditch diggers in the search world -- are getting the shaft as well. The running argument for "zero monopoly" is based on the assumption that switching from Search Site A to Search Site B is quick and easy. While it may be "easy" to switch, the tendency and impetus to do so is nonexistent, and new players in the information retrieval universe are battling impossible odds.

New Hope

Yahoo is restructuring its management team to be more streamlined and effective. In spite of nasty reviews and angry shareholders, Yahoo managed to grow its search volume last year.

Microsoft is calling on its people to help structure its latest approach to search dubbed Kumo. Little pieces of what Kumo looks like have been leaked and new promises are being made.

The one advantage Microsoft and Yahoo have lies in their vast audience. Before they work on stealing market share, they should focus on expanding volume from within. Yahoo has achieved marginal success in utilizing in-network social constructs to expand volume.

Once the volume starts to ramp up, searchers will adopt the tools and advertisers will suddenly have more choices in how and where to spend money. Win. Win. Win.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies New York March 23-27 at the Hilton New York. The only major search marketing conference and expo on the East Coast, SES New York will be packed with more than 70 sessions, including a ClickZ track, plus more than 150 exhibitors, networking events, parties, and training days.


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