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.