Microsoft's investment in Adchemy is proving that search intent could become the most important signal in online advertising.
The company led a $61 million investment in 2011, agreeing to a partnership that supports brands running Bing Ads. About 100 campaigns, from Overstock to Macy's, use it across the Yahoo Bing network.
Microsoft is not an Adchemy customer, but rather a partner. Brands that advertise on Bing work directly with Adchemy IntentMaps to build search campaigns based on intent gleaned from the search query.
ModCloth, for example, works with the company to reach prospective customers searching for vintage-inspired clothing and shoes. Some 86% of conversions are from new customers, according to Murthy Nukala, Adchemy founder and CEO.
"When looking out five years, I can't see it clearly without the kind of infrastructure that identifies intent," Nukala said.
Intent continues to become more than keywords. The average campaign using IntentMaps relies on about 430 intent signals, representing approximately 500,000 keywords, which simplifies the management of paid-search campaigns. Nukala explains that some clients increased keywords to more than 1 million, but they are managed by 1,400 intent signals. The average campaign has seen a 436% increase in traffic-generating keywords, he said.
Microsoft reported Thursday in its fiscal Q1 2013 results that online advertising revenue rose 15% -- driven primarily by improvements in search, but offset in part by a decline in display revenue. There was no mention of tools supporting the Yahoo Bing network.
Intent signals will become a substitute for keywords in what Nukala calls the "post-query world," where consumer behavior on mobile devices allows them to interact with content across the Web or in vertical engines, sites and apps.
"When people go to Pinterest and see red-leather boots they click or share the picture to show interest," he said. "Search harvests that intent, with the technology mapping the intent to identify words that help consumers discover the product."