Sizing Up Competitors' Paid-Search Campaigns


What does it take to budget a successful paid-search campaign? Allocating budgets can become daunting for search engine marketers, but Lori Weiman, CEO at The Search Monitor, offered up ways to maximize returns by determining what competitors spend on paid-search campaigns. During a joint webinar Thursday with comScore's Search Evangelist Eli Goodman, Weiman stepped through sizing up the market to help marketers focus on budgeting resources and recognizing important channels. 

Typically, the formula might mean counting the ads and costing them out using a published rate card. Weiman suggests looking at the bid amount times the quality score that impacts the actual cost vs. the competitive factors in the cost per click. She also suggests analyzing the click-through rate times the search volume and impression share. Piecing this together also means determining the position in the page.

Marketers can consider clicks and impressions, but sizing up the market makes more sense when looking at ad dollars spent across vertical markets, Weiman says. Look at the converting keywords in any vertical market and take into consideration a competitor's dayparting, ranking and impression share strategy. Once a marketer has that information about a competitor, it's easier to formulate a more effective strategy.

It's also more important to locate the opportunities, so look at frequency and average rank around certain keyword terms.

Weiman says these are important because they point to the company's exposure online in search rankings. Take away some of the unneeded variables. "You no longer need impression share, which is unique to the advertiser level, and rank is less important," she says. "From a click-through rate standpoint, the creative influences are no longer important. Nor the targeting influences."

Getting hold of good data will always remain important. Goodman shared comScore's stats related to the size of the search market and paid-search advertising trends and spends. Data allows marketers to size up a market and support budget strategies.

Goodman says search activity continues to rise 15% year-over-year, with a 3% rise in new search activity attributed to children, late adopters and older mature adults. comScore estimates 26.7 billion searches performed in January 2011, up 15% compared with the year-ago month. In aggregate, comScore estimates searchers made about 120 searches in the month. About 34% of searches occur on non-traditional search engines such as YouTube or Facebook.

Total paid-search ad impressions on Google, Bing and Yahoo account for 31 billion as of January 2011, Goodman estimates. Google served 18.1 billion paid-search impressions in January 2011, down from 22 billion impressions sequentially. Both Yahoo and Bing were about flat from December 2010 to January 2011, serving 8.2 billion and 4.9 billion, respectively.

When looking at non-traditional search engines, Amazon served 1,022,029,940 -- the top paid-search advertiser by impressions in January 2011. Ask, which only advertises on Google, served 815,652,243 ad impressions. served 533,038,348.

On the traditional search engines, top search terms by paid-search ad impressions served in January 2011 were "Google" -- served 30% more than any other term -- followed by eBay, Bank of America, Weather, White Pages, MapQuest, Games and Craigslist. Top paid-search clicks were eBay, Netflix, MapQuest, Google, Yellow Pages, Verizon, Sears, Macy's, MapQuest Driving Directions, and Google Chrome.


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