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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Search and Direct Navigation Strategy

Most people think search marketing is only about paid advertisements (PPC) and organic listings (SEO) in search engines like Google. While search engines generate tens of billions of referrals across the web each month, there is still a huge amount of traffic that comes from direct navigation or browser type-ins. Direct navigation is largely ignored by search marketers, but some experts estimate that it makes us roughly 30% of all web traffic. In many cases, these users are indeed searching for something--they just don't use a search engine because they assume they will find it more quickly by typing a domain name or generic word into the browser's address bar. Companies that can capture customers that use direct navigation as their searching method can acquire huge amounts of qualified traffic at low cost.

Generic head terms face stiff competition in the Google auction so the advantage of owning a generic domain like Money.com or Clothes.com becomes obvious. These domain names can be acquired in after-market auctions like Moniker or Sedo.
The Direct Navigation Strategy of Big Advertisers
Many companies employ a simple transfer that takes the searcher from the generic type-in URL to their main website. Here are some examples of companies that employ a 301 redirect as the technical solution to this strategy:
Other employ a more subtle domaining strategy and drive direct navigators to either an informational site or a generic-inspired branded site:


Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Second Tier Search Engines: More Traffic

Nielsen recently released their MegaView Search data for the U.S. Out of the 10.2 billion search queries performed in January, 9.4 billion of of these were on Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft properties. The big three (mostly Google) get a tremendous amount of attention for the market share they command. This attracts thousands of advertisers in each vertical, making those auctions highly competitive and pushes up acquisition costs for advertisers. For affiliates and resellers, high CPCs squeeze them out of engines like Google.
Fortunately for some advertisers, there were 708 million queries performed on second tier search engines in January 2009 alone. In many cases, these alternative search engines offer much more attractive CPCs, sometimes as low as 1/20th of what an advertiser might pay on Google. Generally speaking, second tier engines are companies like Lycos, Excite, Info.com, MetaCrawler, DogPile, and InfoSpace. These provide limited total search volume, but can be extremely high ROI conversions simply because of the low CPCs. The biggest provider of search traffic other than Google, Yahoo, and Bing is probably Ask.com (IAC InterActive) which serves ads across general engines like Infospace and MySearch and also verticals like Indeed and CNET.
Companies like 7Search and AdBrite also syndicate text ads across an even longer tail of search engines to take advantage of the opportunity. During the first quarter of 2010, 7Search served advertisements against over 2.3 billion unique search queries. Because of the low cost-per-click, which according to 7Search, averages at 11 cents, these can be some of the highest ROI conversions in PPC. Beware that conversion rates may vary on second tier pay per click networks, and in some cases less information about network placements will be provided. Update 3/9: I'm running a few offers on 7Search in the personal finance space and have seen CPCs for head terms come in at 1/50th what I see in Yahoo.
Top 10 Search Providers for January 2010, Ranked by Searches (U.S.)
All Search10,272,099100.0%
1Google Search6,805,42466.3%
2Yahoo! Search1,488,47614.5%
3MSN/Windows Live/Bing Search1,116,54610.9%
4AOL Search251,7622.5%
5Ask.com Search194,1611.9%
6My Web Search112,3561.1%
7Comcast Search59,6080.6%
8Yellow Pages Search35,1010.3%
9NexTag Search34,7360.3%
10BizRate Search20,1230.2%
Source: The Nielsen Company