Don’t Hate Search

I Hate Search
from David Cohen at ClickZ posits the self-admitted conspiracy
idea that if search engines made free listings better, then ads wouldn’t be so
lucrative. No, that’s not the reason paid ads are so effective, plus paid search
isn’t exactly the inhuman, uncreative open auction model that he thinks.

Let’s start with the conspiracy theory. Paid search ads are effective
because, as I’ve talked about before, search engines are a
broadcast system
where consumers are broadcasting exactly what they want to
advertisers. Search marketers are smart enough to tune in and deliver up
something that matches. It’s a connection unlike most other advertising mediums
except for really the yellow pages industry.

Yes, free listings can always be made better. But if you really wanted to
deflect consumers into paid ads, you don’t downgrade organic results. You simply
put more paid listings in the “main” column rather than on the side. Indeed,
Google just did that last month,
putting three
ads on top of free listings in certain circumstances, rather than just two.

But put too many ads up there, and unless the relevancy is always spot on,
you risk losing users. That’s one reason Ask Jeeves
recently cut
the number of ads it would display, sometimes up to 10 of them before showing
regular results.

So skip the conspiracy theory, at least the idea that regular results might
be reduced in quality just to push ads. That’s just going to cost search engines
users. Gary Stein does some further debunking


If you want a conspiracy theory, go with the one kicked off back during
Google’s Florida Update of 2003, where

some wondered
if Google was trying to make its free results more

Since that time, I’ve heard various search engines express the idea that they
would like to see the free results be more non-commercial, or at least more
about providing information rather than selling things. But it’s clearly not
completely that case. Take a search for
ipod on Google. Yes, I get
iPodHacks and Wikipedia and other news and information sites. But I also get
everythingipod, “The Superstore for your iPod,” coming up.

How about the concern David has that the open auction model of search means
anyone can outbid you, and the relationship/clout you have with other ad sellers
doesn’t mean anything.

Part of me thinks, “Too bad!” I’m sorry if you the advertiser don’t get to
shove yet another ad I don’t care about down my throat in search due to being
cloutly-challenged. I get enough of that when I’m at the supermarket, watching
TV, reading a newspaper and so on. You’re often wasting your money, and if
you’re an agency, wasting client money, doing this.

Beyond this, he writes:

I don’t know about you, but I always liked the “part art, part science”
section of the business. I don’t even want to think about being replaced by an
open auction.

That’s just not correct. Search is very much part art and part science. Doing
well with even showing up with a Google ad is not entirely down to just spending
enough money, since ads are not ranked solely on bid. MSN will be that way. Ask
Jeeves is that way. Yahoo’s going that way.

And what’s the pitch in the copy? What’s the landing page like behind that?
Because if you aren’t converting, you’re not going to have the budget to
convert. Again, as I wrote
before, it’s
not just math and machines.

Let’s be honest. I think what scares David and a lot of other non-search
marketers is that money keeps flowing into search, and they may not understand
the fundamentals of that medium.

Here’s the good news. Other media will continue to have money come to them as
well. Search especially isn’t a good branding venue, as I’ve written

Here’s the bad news. Those other media are going to be forced to be more
accountable and they will continue to give parts of their money pie to search,
since search remains largely undervalued and in demand. David understands this,
as he says at the end of his column:

Unfortunately, I’m going to have to get over it. Despite my protests, our
clients demand increasingly more of our digital media budgets go toward
search-related spending. As a company, we’re rapidly scaling our search
practice to accommodate increased need.

Overall, don’t hate search or be scared of it. Get educated and participate
in the space!

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