Google's new premium advertising program is poised to dramatically influence the paid placement game for all search engines, with positive implications for advertisers and searchers alike.
AdWords Select is an enhancement to Google's current AdWords program, with a number of notable twists. AdWords text ads appear on search result pages when a query matches the keywords purchased by advertisers. They appear to the right of search results, in small boxes labeled "sponsored links."
The AdWords Select program gives webmasters an unprecedented level of control over both placement of an ad, and the amount of an advertising budget spent to maintain that placement.
The program uses a cost-per-click model, similar to other paid placement programs offered by Overture and other services. However, unlike other programs where the highest bidder takes the top placement, Google measures clickthrough rates, or popularity to help determine the position of an ad.
"If advertisers are paying the same rate, the more relevant ad as judged by users will rise to the top," said Omid Kordestani, Google's senior vice president of worldwide business development and sales. In essence, this means that if one ad is twice as effective as another ad, Google will rank the first ad as if its maximum cost-per-click were double what the advertiser actually set, but the advertiser still only pays the amount originally chosen.
This gives even the smallest business a fighting chance to compete for visibility with advertisers with huge budgets, by factoring popularity based relevance into how ads are displayed.
Keywords that receive less than 0.5% clickthrough rates are automatically disabled. This benefits advertisers, who previously had to pay to display ads based on ineffective keywords regardless of whether they were clicked on or not. But it also benefits searchers, by culling irrelevant ads from search results.
Google is providing other tools to help advertisers manage ad campaigns. One is the AdWords Discounter, which monitors all bids placed for keywords, constantly on the lookout for changes. If a competitor's bid drops on a keyword, the discounter automatically lowers your bid -- after every search, according to Google.
AdWords Select ads go live instantly -- there is no delay while ads are editorially reviewed. And webmasters can make unlimited number of changes to their ads without charge.
Google's AdWords Select program raises the bar for search engine paid placement programs. Given Google's popularity and increasing reach, competing paid placement programs will be forced to react, or risk losing significant business to Google. This is good news for advertisers who will gain more flexibility and control over their campaigns.
But it's especially good news for searchers. By establishing a new performance-based standard for relevance in advertising links, and by clearly labeling ads as "sponsored links," Google is setting a powerful example for all search engines -- namely, that paid-placement result links are fine as long as they're clearly labeled and potentially useful for the searcher.
Danny Sullivan will be taking an in-depth look at Google's new AdWords Select program in the upcoming Search Engine Report -- if you're not a subscriber, sign up for your free subscription using the link below.
Google AdWords Select
Information about Google's new AdWords Select program, including a link to try out the system with no obligation to buy.
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MSN Search Search Preview in Beta
MSN Search is rolling out the beta of its new Search Preview feature today. Search preview displays standard text search results with thumbnail images of the underlying pages. This is a great feature for those of us right-brainers who remember pictures better than words -- with Search Preview we can now "see" results much more clearly than with simple text titles and descriptions.
MSN Search Preview beta is being rolled out gradually over the next few months, and only a small number of queries will return results with thumbnails. Until the feature moves out of beta, your results may or not display thumbnails. It also works only with Internet Explorer 4.0 and higher.
To try MSN Search Preview, simply click the search icon in the Internet Explorer browser and enter your query. If your search is one of the small percentage that's automatically routed through the beta test, you'll see the top six results and their thumbnail images open in the right browser pane.
If you don't like the image previews, or are on a slower dialup connection, you can easily disable the feature by clearing the "Show search preview on the right" check box at the bottom of the search pane.
NOTE: Article links often change. In case of a bad link, use the publication's search facility, which most have, and search for the headline.