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The Growing Importance of Search Networks and Partnerships

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Ever "Googled" something on Yahoo? I've been in lots of conversations where someone describes their search experience as "Googling." This is part of the reason Google's brand name has become as powerful as it is today.

However, and you might need to sit down for this, not all searches occur on Google, or Yahoo, or Bing. So where do these searches happen, and why should you, the search marketer, care?

These other sites are described as the Search Network. These sites have traffic they are looking to monetize, but they aren't interested in the upkeep and technology required to build their own search engine. These sites partner with an established search engine to power their results. The most common example is AOL leveraging Google to power their search results.

AOL Enhanced by Google

The search engines share a portion of the revenue generated from the click with those websites that generated the search. It's a good partnership from a revenue generation standpoint; however, the impact to your search marketing campaigns can be significant.

As the web gets more fragmented with social media, mobile, and applications, the reliance on search networks and partnerships gets more important. A look at some of our campaigns demonstrated search partners growing from 40 percent less than Google search traffic in Q208 to 62 percent greater than traffic directly from Google in Q210. This is occurring while Google's search market share continues to grow relative to its competitors.

Quarterly Impressions - Search Only

As you set up your campaigns, remember that these sites help get you additional reach and traffic, but are also earning additional revenue for the search engines. Many times these two goals don't work in partnership with one another.

Here are the key items to consider when determining your traffic distribution settings.

Understand What's Available

The basics in targeting your campaigns are controlled by the search engines. The basics of these options are listed below. You can only work with what you're given.

Campaign Targeting Options

Results are Very Different

In some engines, our clients saw a 10-times improvement in click-through rate (CTR) on the search engines direct website versus the search network, while CPAs were comparable. Some of our other clients saw two-times higher CPAs on the network sites, but much higher CTRs. This is why it's critical that you measure your results and understand how your accounts are performing at a granular level.

Budget and Goals Should Drive Distribution

Think of the network as a way to drive incremental traffic, or help in maximizing your budget. Understand your goals, and the relationships that these search networks have on your performance.

Many accounts are able to endure a higher CPA due to the overall portfolio view of results, and are grateful for the incremental traffic. Other accounts are budget constrained, and this is another way to control budget similar to pausing keywords, or changing bids.

When trying to maximize your accounts, it may feel like you've looked under every rock. But understanding the traffic sources, and how the engines are set up, can be yet another way to out-optimize your competition.

The search ecosystem is always changing. Deals expire and new revenue sharing models emerge. That's why it isn't fair to make any blanket statements about the search network for any search engine, and it's more important to focus on the additional data points you have available to optimize toward.


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