Search syndication lacks transparency, as well as controls on pricing and placement through networks. But will companies change processes and add tools to give marketers what they want? Some marketers call syndication search's stepchild because they believe engines and companies have not focused efforts on offering and supporting enough products and services -- but folks from Microsoft, Yahoo, adMarketplace and others say that will change.
At the MediaPost Search Insider Summit last week, Stephen Anderson, SVP search engine marketing at AMP Agency, led panelists Andries de Villiers, VP of revenue at adMarketplace; Shawn Evans, publisher lead at Microsoft Syndication; Danny Huynh, senior partner, group director at Mindshare; Lindsay Johnson, search affiliate partnership and operations and optimization lead at Yahoo; and Micah Nyatsambo, director of emerging technology at Media Contacts.
It turns out that for years marketers didn't know how syndicated paid-search ads were priced or placed across networks. Companies needed good analytics and engineering on the back end to identify the origin of clicks and conversions. Some marketers believe Google made significant changes when it comes to domain parking, as well as offering tiers to pick and choose sites to serve up ads, but the tools are not perfect and many financial clients will not use the service.
Companies like adMarketplace -- which plans to release 3.0 in Q1 2012, taking "syndication to the next level" -- continue to work on increasing transparency and segmenting mobile traffic from traditional desktops to better identify who shares what topics with whom. An increase in transparency can clearly -- no pun intended -- provide better return on investment (ROI).
Yahoo now offers site search syndication targeting for its owned-and-operated properties. When domains don't perform well, the tool gives marketers the ability to block them. Yes, Yahoo has a 500-domain exclusion list -- but marketers say it's not enough. A search syndication tool also allows marketers to manage the bids separately.
In 2012, Yahoo intends to grow the network, giving publishers more than just ads or algorithms. The roadmap releases product and features to publishers initially built for Yahoo, such as contextual shortcuts on Yahoo News or Answers, or a hosted search solution. For publishers, the focus turns to "crush[ing] bad behavior" and diversifying services.
Managing the quality of these networks isn't easy, and it's an ongoing effort to police the ads and the sites that get penalized through declining traffic quality scores and other means any time Yahoo identifies fraudulent or non-human behavior.
Partnerships are sort of complicated. Microsoft formed an alliance with Yahoo to support search engine marketing through adCenter across its properties, but when it comes to search syndication the two compete for direct deals with publishers. Yahoo's Johnson calls the relationship "friendameaze," estimating that about "40% from the search alliance ad delivery comes from our search syndication network; about 5 billion searches per month," she said.
When it comes to mobile, depending on the vertical, publishers see between 15% and 20% of network traffic go through mobile versus traditional computers, Johnson said. It's about finding creative ways to monetize and maintain quality, so publishers don't serve "junk traffic" to searchers.
Search engines and companies providing search syndication services will need to spend additional resources in 2012, as publishers look for new ways to augment revenue streams. It will become a growth driver for both sides next year.
"Yes, Yahoo has a 500-domain exclusion list -- but marketers say it's not enough."
Since the Search Alliance the content network has been unusable in my opinion. But even if you could block unlimited domains, who has the time or energy to check the domains for conversions or 100% CTR and block them? I do some of it at Google and I can tell you it is mind-numbing at best, and invokes rage at all the obvious fraud going on. Best not to get me started on that aspect.
Google does have their "Conversion Optimizer", but I have been told be Google it will only help to get you more conversions at the current rate, not lower the cost of conversions.
So I told them, why don't you make a real optimizing that you can configure for cost limits when there are no conversions, and then block that site? If there are times of the day with no conversions or excessive cost, lower the bids for us or block the time slot. And if there are geographical locations that get clicks and no conversions then please turn those off for us based on some criteria that we can specify?
Yes, transparency would be nice. I wonder how many out there that do not use the content/display network realize that it is still possible for their ads to appear on sites that are part of the content/display network? Yes, I did not realize this either and I can explain.
Sites that use the AdSense program not only can put ads on their site, but also a search box. This search box is not treated as content network, but as part of the "search partners" program. So those searching on crappy content sites or those involved with click fraud can still have access to your ad inventory and if they click on an ad, the site owner gets paid not at the lower content network rate, but the much higher search partner rate.
If you did not know what I didn't, please post about it here or on your blog or site to let others know.
Disclaimer: about 2 years ago my AdSense account was closed after my being a publisher for many years. While I had a number of sites both good and bad, I NEVER did anything fraudulent. So why was an honest publisher dropped in favor of other more questionable sites? If you find out, please let me know because Google refused to explain. Yeah, non-transparent...