- Biggest Online Growth. Online advertising continues its rapid increase, growing by 34% last year. By far the largest portion of online spending is devoted to paid search (pay-per-click), which now accounts for 42% of online advertising budgets.
- Click Fraud Concerns. Companies are becoming increasingly concerned about “click fraud” – repeated clicks by unscrupulous competitors or paid search program affiliates (distributors who receive a percentage of click-through revenue) for the purpose of driving up click-through charges. There’s no consensus about how widespread click fraud is.
Google and Yahoo! monitor programs for potential click fraud, and are always improving their proprietary programs for doing so. Independent online monitoring services, such as WhosClickingWho are also available, and often prove cost-effective for larger companies.
- Local Search. Yahoo! and Google have both introduced local paid search options. The programs are primarily designed for local retail businesses, especially those without web sites.
Now the market is clamoring for “geo-targeting” – the ability to target prospects in specific geographic areas. Yahoo! plans to introduce this feature in 2006, and we expect Google will too. This capability will open new opportunities for marketers looking for prospects that meet specific geographic criteria.
- Greater Use With “Natural” Search. At one time, when a client ranked high through “natural search” (versus paid search) for a particular term, we would exclude that term from our paid search program. We’re now rethinking that policy. Two-thirds of search marketers report that combining natural and paid listings for the same terms is beneficial.
- More Specific Search Terms. Someone who searches for “hydrangea macrophylla Nikko Blue” is likely to be much closer to buying than someone who searches for “perennial shrub.” Search marketers are now bidding on very specific search terms to reach prospects at the end of the buying cycle.