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How Will Social Impact Paid Search?

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While the jury is still out on whether or not social will impact paid search, a heated discussion at the Search Insider Summit in Park City, Utah, on Thursday gave some insight as to how marketers will think about combining the two mediums in the future.

It seemed a bit more difficult for panelists to wrap their heads around the concept of combining social and paid search, compared with social and organic search, but some gave it a try.

So, will social relevance have an impact on quality scores? Social has a different impact for paid search at marketing firm aimClear. "Say you blow up 10 million impressions at a 21 to 26 cent CPM and you get a third of a percent click-through ratio. Use it with the understanding you'll get ASAP in the attribution cycle that doesn't cost much, and imagine the lift and direct response CPC.

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The opportunity for paid and social will become an "unbelievably inexpensive opportunity" to brand companies in demographic segments and lift direct response search, Weintraub says.

Facebook ads can now help marketers prove branding, so the click-through ratio for paid search can rise a point and a half, and conversions two. Weintraub suggests marketers use paid search to seed virtual content to determine if it can keep working.

But ad spending on social networks still has some catching up to do. U.S. advertisers will allocate only 6.7% of all online ad spend on social networks in 2010, accounting for an estimated $1.7 billion, according to eMarketer.

In 2010, eMarketer estimates U.S. advertisers will spend $12.37 billion on paid search, compared with $8.88 billion for online display ads, including banner, rich media and video formats. Search will still command most of the budget in 2014, about $18.84 billion, but display will rise to $15.92 billion for that year.

Google, Bing and Yahoo seem to try out in organic search any elements that influence the quality score and paid search. Google did this with image search and video search, according to Kristine Segrist, search managing director at MEC Interaction. Segrist doesn't know to what degree the search engines will integrate signals into quality scores, but if it influences click-through rates it will affect quality. The engines would not look at monetizing the aspects if they didn't see positive click-through rates in organic because they will not mess with anything that works, she says.

David Szetela, founder of Clix Marketing, couldn't make the MediaPost event, but threw in his two cents in late November as the planning committee shaped the discussion for the panel. "It's conceivable Fan page owners will buy PPC ads on Google and Bing to increase the number of Likes," he says. "All of this will become essentially similar to 'like-buying' and, at least in the near term, legal."

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