A Much Overdue Search Palaver

The recent qSearch and Marketer stats from comScore have helped to solidify some of my previous thoughts on SEM. All too often SEM (both sponsored and organic) is defined by and limited to the big five engines, but there is a vast amount of search occurring outside of these engines -- which means an array of opportunities for those smart enough to go after them. I have discussed these ideas with a variety of search experts who fully agree with me, but I have also talked with far too many who look at me as if I have lobsters hanging out of my ears. So I see a need for a wide-scale industry discussion to align the narrowly focused dogmatic view of SEM with a more ubiquitous approach. You know Google is aware of this approach -- that's why it rolled out its Universal SERP. But a "universal" approach doesn't need to stop with Google; all of us should use it in our search strategies.

In September 2009 there were over 21 billion searches across the Internet, but only 14 billion of them happened on the major search engines. This means that searching outside the engines' domains for maps, local directories, and video is not included. Think about it: The fastest-growing area of search, which represents 30-40% of total Internet search activity, exists outside of the big five's domains. We all preach the long tail, but mainly just on Google, Bing, Yahoo, AOL, and Ask. What about long tail search outside of the big engines? This is an important factor as growth within the core sponsored search business begins to slow and mature.



YouTube alone is a relatively untapped search opportunity, with 88 million unique searchers as of September, and a fairly uncluttered advertising opportunity. But why are advertisers so hesitant to get serious with video search? I think most fear losing share on Google. With searches on YouTube up 41% year over year, I think it's high time to rethink search budget allocations. Yes, many of the queries are general in nature, but a huge growing category is around branded commercials -- and whether it's about the general, early funnel, queries, or the branded queries, this has long tail written all over it. And this doesn't even factor in DailyMotion, Blinkx or any others.

It's not just about advertisers taking more advantage of video search, though. There is also an opportunity, both sponsored and organic, for secondary visibility. Look at the chart below from comScore Marketer, which shows the traffic the top five engines send to other properties categorically.


What's amazing to me here is the relationship between the traffic the engines send their own products versus the traffic they send to directories, retail sites, and local properties. Another amazing point to note is the large volume differential between organic and sponsored (or paid) clicks. So if you can't afford to duke it out for top placement on Google, why not target the sites they are sending millions of clicks to? Seems pretty logical to me.

Granted this only refers to the traffic the engines send their way, but this is important because this is how gen-pop (that's the general population) accesses their desired content. As for the early adopters and the tech-savvy lot, well just go look at a friend's search toolbar. Mine alone includes Creative Comillionons,, Wiki, Twitter, Yahoo Answers, YouTube, eBay, Amazon,, IMDB, etc. So the savvier searchers are still conducting searchers on these secondary sites, but are accessing their site-based searches directly. Either way, the search activity on these sites is nothing to ignore. The volume of monthly unique searchers on these sites presents a massive opportunity.

To illustrate my point, here are a handful of examples from qSearch:

Local: Craigslist (32 million), WhitePages (11million)

Social: Facebook (46 million)

Retail: (34 million)

Travel: (10 million)

Career: LinkedIn,, & CareerBuilder (4 million to 6 million each)


News sites are also huge benefactors of the big five, with millions of monthly unique searchers. That said, Google search is still the giant with 162.5 million monthly uniques. But as an advertiser how much of that is relevant to your brands and what do you have to pay to play?


So the parting question I want to send readers away with is this : "How can I recalibrate my SEM program for improved performance?" The answer is a brand-specific balance of the sheer volume from the big five, with an increased focus on secondary visibility on vertical specific search as well as paid and unpaid visibility on sites that receive millions of clicks from the engines. This not only improve cost efficiencies, it will increase your reach and visibility, as well as help improve your SEO efforts (especially if the organic opportunities link back to your main brand sites).

2 comments about "A Much Overdue Search Palaver".
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  1. Greg Hall from Yebol, October 20, 2009 at 4:52 p.m.

    I continue to suggest folks evaluate as a serious alternative to the majors.

  2. Megan Johnsson, October 21, 2009 at 4:57 a.m.

    Yes, I recently figured that out since new search engines are popping up like never before... here is a great list of search engines that we use...

    Europe & China are huge markets, China has a population of 1,333,650,000 that is more than 4 times the population of the US and India 1,170,480,000...

    Here is a great list of population ranked by Country


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