The State of Search – A Maturing Marketplace or Poised for More Growth?

March 25, 2009
By Lisa Barone in Internet Marketing Conferences

Hope your lunch was good because we’re jumping right into a big one. It’s time for an Orion Panel, my friends!

My favorite search hottie Kevin Ryan (move back to NY, Kevin!) is moderating a fine panel of speakers, including James Colburn, Robert Murray, Steven Kaufman, Jon Diorio and Jeffrey Pruitt. There are suits. Lots and lots of black suits.  And no ladies.

Kevin thanks the one guy in the back who clapped after the announcements. Heh.  Kevin’s cracking jokes. I love Kevin Ryan banter.  He’s a lovable goofball. Let’s get into it.

The Orion Panel

The Orion Power Panel – Photo used with permission by

Kevin gives us a rundown of the evolution of search and social media.  He then moves us into the mobile area and Jon from Google steps in.  They’re doing a lot of work to give advertisers measurable control over mobile. They’re also looking to see how mobile differs from standard desktop. 2009 will be an exciting year. Because we haven’t heard that before in regards to mobile.

Is mobile an arena where this year we’ll say that X is a significant number? There’s not a whole lot of volume there.

Jon: It’s [Mobile] still relatively experimental and in a recession that’s the stuff being cut. The slowdown may be an opportunity for people to cut out a little slice for themselves, though.

Can you give us a breakdown of your top of three clients and where they’re spending their money and how much they’re spending? [giggle] How are clients spending money?

Steven: On the search side, acquistion is still where the majority of the spend is coming from. Clients will max out as far as they can go on that.

Robert: The direct response nature of search is what has been driving it. What we’re seeing on top of that is that people are not cutting their search budgets. Instead, they’re trying to make search more effective. They’re using other forms of offline advertising to drive people back to search. What is going to keep driving search beyond that? What can we do to drive to search? That’s what people are asking themselves now. 

Jon: [In terms of knowing what the other parts of your organization are doing] You have to at least figure out at what creative is going on in TV. You need to increase budgets to capture that and ad copy needs to be created. Everyone needs to work together to create synergy.

Robert: Avon [their client] bought a SuperBowl commercial spot and we were able to build a creative around it. If we hadn’t run that campaign to target that ad, all that query share would have gone to their competitors instead.

Jeffrey: Only 25 percent of advertisers tracked brand impact last year, whereas 75 percent are tracking the conversion piece. The spending is going up in paid and SEO, but we all need to do a better job connecting that brand component.   We need to integrate that into search. And if we do that, budgets aren’t in silos anymore. They’re pulled together.

James: Search is one of those places that is user directed. As a search engine, they need to satisfy both the navigational and the information seeking, as well as those searches for advertisers that have a commercial interest. Helps them to direct people where they want to go. They also use that information to leverage other medias together. Search’s universal nature gives it an edge.

Jon: One way to strike up a conversation with your offline counterparts is by offering to use search to test their messaging.  You can use what you learn online and take it off so they can refine their efforts.

[Kevin’s ranting about life in an agency and Steven starts patting him on the back and rubbing his shoulders. Hee.]

Steven: Preach integration. If you don’t bring it to your clients, they won’t either. It only takes once for you to have the data and your colleagues not to for the client to slap you and get angry. 

Robert: When things are great, everyone’s happy to spend money. In an environment like this, everyone’s watching and trying to be more efficient so that dialogue is coming out more.

What about the disconnect between the digerati and everyone else?

Jon: He wants to move to Iowa once a year to bring everyone on his team on board. We’re seeing the search awareness be very high. His flight attendant was talking to him about PPC ads and she understand that they were ranked by spend and quality. That blew his mind. [No diss to flight attendants, natch.]

James: There’s a lot of opportunity for search and search advertisers to help budget be moved. You just have to get the brand value into people’s minds.

Jon: They’re doing a Brand Value of Search study. They got thousands of people together on a panel and asked them to do a search. They tested showing individuals showing them different variations of a SERP and then they asked questions to gauge awareness and propensity to buy.  Organic + Paid increases brand awareness, and it also DECREASES the brand awareness of others. Two percent of your ads get clicked and with the other 98 percent deliver a brand awareness.

Steven: You have to watch the branding element until the engines give us something to sell based on that.

The quality score for my client, who sells female sanitary products, does not mean the standards for Google’s Quality Score. What do you say?

James: One of the goals for a search engine is to get people off your search page and to their destination. One of your challenges is to addres the overall objective of  the person coming to the engine.  There’s a lot of variation of keyword search that results in different ads being shown. MSN’s goal is to make sure that search queries are answered as quickly as possible.

Robert: We’re really talking about attribution and understanding the full purchase cycle of a consumer and all the different touch points.

James: Their goal as a search provider is to provide tools to help advertisers keep up with trends and add new and different dynamic sets to certain key areas where they can encourage more searches in certain areas. As the market evolves, the opportunity for advertisers evolves.

What should you be paying attention to and what shouldn’t you be paying attention to? Social drivers? Search integration? Growth?

Steven: Social is going to continue to be a growth driver. Integration and growth – I think the product needs to evolve as well. If you look at what Yahoo’s doing with rich ads, all those things are going to bring more money. At the end of the day, I’m going to hit a ceiling. Not all those terms are going to drive conversions. What’s the brand value?

How would you describe the relationships with the search engines now?

Steven: It varies person to person. It’s evolving. We’d love to see more strategic partnerships.

Jeffrey: I’d say it’s a lot better.

James: The search world needs a playbook to give to the agencies. RFPs are a key component of where we are.  It’s about finding the right mix to solve campaign objectives.

Jon: The one last area for growth has to do with all those words that aren’t being monetized today. There are certain categories of keywords that they don’t do well on. They’re working hard to make that inventory more accessible. They’re seeing 53 percent of consumers are going online more to research products.

I hope you got something out of that. I have a feeling it was a hot mess. I had a bit of trouble following.

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