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How To Waste Your Search Budget

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Companies that buy search advertising may be flushing away part of their budgets as they bid on brand keywords they probably don’t need.

How To Waste Your Search Budget
How To Waste Your Search Budget

It’s always seemed strange to look for information on a brand, and to see it appear both in the organic search results and at or near the top of the paid listings. Why spend money on a brand term that’s going to deliver a top five organic result for the same query anyway?

An Adweek report cited Microsoft-backed research by its Atlas Solutions group into brand spending. Atlas suggested marketers waste about half of their budgets buying keywords that they don’t need.

"What you’re really paying for is a glorified Yellow Pages listing," Young-Bean Song, VP of analytics for Atlas, said in the report. Atlas studied 30 campaigns reaching some 120,000 people on Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft.

They found almost half of the clicks on ads were from previous advertiser website visitors. Also, about 60 percent of visitors arrived from branded keyword ads for company names or products, while 29 percent came from generic searches where paid search is expected to perform.

Atlas had been working on their survey before Microsoft declared it would acquire aQuantive, Atlas’ parent firm. Song also said they weren’t being critical of Google, but highlighting an issue for advertisers.

Google has enjoyed a dominant position in search advertising, but it permits bidding on competitor keywords as long as they don’t show up in the text of an ad. That combination likely contributes to the spending issues cited by Atlas.

How To Waste Your Search Budget


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  • http://www.reliablecontrols.com Kent Gorrie

    Interesting read. I am one of the advertisers you note. We have top organic and paid search listing for a number of keywords (through a number of PPC services, that brings up a question how may I else be throwing away my money with these services? where are the duplications? where may my ad money be spent better?). In my opinion, marketing is about first and foremost exposure. Get yourself in front of your target audience as much and as often as possible. Then ensure you have quality inside of your ads, whichever shape / format they may come in. I believe a number of advertisers have this mindset, going back before the ages of search engines. Soooooooo, after all that it may not be a waste. That’s my two cents… Webmaster K

    • David A. Utter

      Search advertising companies want advertisers to believe a top five (or higher) organic rank is not enough for a brand. Imagine if every brand with a top organic listing dumped paying for that brand keyword as an ad trigger.

      I think the problem stems from Google permitting competitive keyword buys. Yahoo doesn’t permit buying someone else’s trademark, and Microsoft is going to restrict that if they haven’t already.

      If Google were to give up allowing competitor keyword buys, I can only imagine what their next earnings call would sound like. Ka-ching isn’t the sound that comes to mind, either.

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