Search Engine Takes Pay-Per-Click Visual
The feature turns ordinary PPC text listings into display advertisements. Each provides a visual representation of the destination Web site or the splash page for the ad, similar to the results from search queries. Google's search engine Chrome also provides a graphic of the searcher's site history.
Rather than place a text ad on the same page alongside the visual search results, a graphic will appear in an alternating page, similar to a glossy magazine. "You'll have organic results and then relevant sponsored results that appear in a yellow frame to call attention to ads," Adams said.
The strategy is intended to give people more information about the product or service at first glance through a visual representation of the ad. The hope is that serving up a graphic of the site, rather than a text line listing, will convert more ads into clicks at a better return on investment (ROI) or higher keyword bid price.
Setting up a PPC campaign works similar to other search engines. The application requires a credit card number, name, title and description of the ad, URLs to pull the picture from, URL for the click destination, and keywords. Mountain View, Calif.-based Searchme also plans to offer a tool that helps marketers import campaigns from AdWords, for example, to Searchme in one click.
Still, all the bells and whistles may not offer enough to convert diehard Google fans. About five search engines own 95% of the search market--and the majority of the PPC campaign dollars remain with Google, according to David Hallerman, senior analyst at eMarketer. "Visual search might work well, but is it compelling enough?" he said. "The negative side to having a lot of graphics is it takes me more work to scroll through and see the results."
Sometimes plain and simple improves appeal. Pictures are helpful, but they also clutter the page. Hallerman said search engines only get one or two tries to woo consumers away from their habits. "I want to get in, find what I need, and get out," he said. "Search is not about hanging around."
Searchme, which launched in April 2008, has about 3.5 million unique users. From September through December 2008, the site doubled users monthly, Adams said. Search patterns suggest that consumers want to see a picture of the site in search results now that bandwidth can support larger files and traffic.
Slow bandwidth, old technologies and Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have conditioned people to accept line items in search queries, according to Adams. When asked whether Web site owners need to apply special search engine optimization (SEO) tactics to get the content picked up by Searchme, he said the technology calculates relevance for each site crawled, similar to other search engines. Searchme also has plans to launch applications for the Apple's iPhone, touchscreen mobile and video content.