A lack of data in search syndication campaigns remains the biggest barrier to gaining exceptional return on investments, so marketers are calling for Google, Bing, Yahoo and others like adMarketplace to offer greater segmentation controls, reporting and transparency.
Search syndication company adMarketplace, which provides advertising to performance marketers from traffic sources outside of the major search engines, will step up its product road map in 2012. It will expand on real-time and detail reporting identifying valid and invalid clicks to offer up financial payment information on clicks and keywords, data classifying conversions and customizable dashboards with widgets that show potential key performance indicators and tools to manage yields.
The reporting will offer data on each keyword, as well as the number of times a publisher sent a signal on that specific term. It will provide insight into how many ads are sent back to the publisher, based on those keywords, and how the site can best match them with content.
It also will include an analysis of every click and provide reasons why it might have been invalid, and will help clients better optimize sites and campaigns.
"The fundamental difference between search result traffic and syndication traffic is that syndication traffic comes from thousands of different publishers," said adMarketplace Vice President of Revenue Andries de Villiers. "This means advertisers need to be able to score, price, and cap each source individually, if they wish."
While adMarketplace doesn't have a destination search engine, similar to Google, Bing and Yahoo, it does rely on between 500 and 750 publisher partners to pull paid-search ads to run on their sites.
The lack of attention to detail in the past gives search syndication the distinction of search's stepchild, although some marketers suggest it can produce better ROI than traditional paid-search ads. Still, de Villiers believes "Google and Yahoo have always treated their syndication business almost as a secret so as not to confuse advertisers who are expecting search result traffic."
It all comes down to having the analytics and reporting capabilities to determine where ads serve up and the quality of the click, according to Micah Nyatsambo, director of emerging technology at Media Contacts, a digital agency. "We need better scoring that identifies good-quality publishers," he said. "Publishers, marketers and agencies must be in agreement as to what they consider good quality."
Search syndication began years ago around the time Yahoo bought Overture. Industry executives estimate Yahoo holds the No. 1 title of having the most syndication partners -- between 1,200 and 1,500 -- that pull in ads through XML feeds. MSN supports a handful of direct partner advertiser relationships.
Google does not provide an option to target the syndication network separately from google.com, and neither Google or Bing give advertisers individual controls by partner, according to George Michie, co-founder and CEO at The Rimm Kaufman Group.
Both Google and Bing provide "smart pricing," which means they try to adjust the price advertisers pay either up or down by their understanding of the traffic value, but that value varies for each advertiser. For example, Ebay is a Google syndication partner. It delivers great-quality traffic for advertisers and very poor-quality traffic for many others. Smart pricing doesn't work, he said.
The trouble is, the quality of the traffic coming from these syndication partners varies wildly from what Google, Bing and Yahoo produce. Frankly, some are scam artists using bots to generate revenue, Michie said.
"Moreover, advertisers can't see what they're paying by partner domain, so we're asked to 'trust' that the engines provide appropriate discounts, when they clearly don’t," Michie said. "We need both transparency to see what we're being charged, and better controls to depreciate bids by domain based on each advertisers results, not some aggregate value."