AOL Wooing Users to Portal, With a Little Help From Its Foes from the New York Times looks at how AOL is ironically turning to search ads on rivals Google and Yahoo to attract people to its new public portal offering. The story notes how $50 million intended for television ads is instead going to search because AOL realized search was already the biggest driver of traffic to its free music site. Here's a quote to warm the hearts of search marketers over the years who've had to scrape, lobby, beg and plead for more spending on search:
"We started seeing the results and said, 'Oh, my God, what if we took this money and put it into search engine marketing,' " Mr. Miller said. Now more than half of AOL's marketing budget for the portal will be used to pay for ads on search engines and formatting Web pages so they appear in the free search results.
So there you have it. Search, which I called the Rodney Dangerfield of no respect in terms of online advertising in 2001, gets an endorsement from Time Warner. If you're still dealing with some marketing department that remains dubious about search -- despite the continued rise in spend -- despite the fact that for a tiny, tiny amount of traditional spend they could discover the power of search themselves -- point them at this quote.
And hey, point the Penn State to it, as well. Gary noted recent research from Penn State yesterday, on how consumers are found to head primarily to organic listings. Yes, search marketers have known that for years. But to say about ads:
According to recent reports, businesses spent an estimated $8 billion to sell their products and services via sponsored links in 2004, despite little evidence that such advertising successfully directs traffic to Web sites. More likely to hook consumers are the organic results or those results returned automatically by the algorithmic operations of the search engine, Jansen said.
I bolded the key part. Little evidence advertising successfully directs traffic to web site? Please. Search is one of the most heavily measured advertising venues. Advertisers are spending because they know they are getting traffic to their web sites, and traffic that converts. The rising spend is direct evidence that it successfully drives traffic to sites. Spend wouldn't be rising otherwise.
Organic, of course, remains important. If anything, organic search is the new Rodney Dangerfield of search. Despite bringing in more traffic than paid search, advertiser spend on paid search dwarfs organic, as SEMPO stats showed last year.
But maybe organic will get more valuable. At the very least, note that AOL didn't say it would spend only on paid search. "Free" search results were deemed important, as well.Postscript: Paid Search a Footnote in AOL.com Push from ClickZ is a brief story that organic listings will be the big push in AOL's campaign.