The
media spotlight that shines so brightly on Google may be blinding many
observers to problems that lie ahead for search marketing.  Great stats.


There is no question that Google rules the search market. Back in 2004
— the year that Yahoo! bought Overture, the company that originated
paid search advertising — Google garnered "only" a 32.9% share of total
US search ad spending. Its slice of the pie increased by nearly 16
percentage points last year. eMarketer projects that more than 57% of
all search advertising dollars will go to Google this year.

As the Boston Globe wrote in May 2005, "How do you compete with a rival whose name has become synonymous with Internet search?"

In fact, according to a recent survey from Ponemon Institute, nearly three-quarters of US Internet users literally ‘google’.

"It’s a rare day when no news or feature about search engines
appears in the trades or mainstream media. Much of the attention
involves Google, its video search site, its toolbar, its legal case
against the Federal government or its controversial project to index as
many of the world’s books as possible," says David Hallerman, eMarketer
Senior Analyst and author of the new report, Search Marketing: Players and Problems.
"But search is more than Google — or even Yahoo! and MSN — more than
sponsored link advertising and more than direct response marketing."

As
popular as search might be, more Internet users spend time
on content and communications sites than on search sites. Ongoing
research from the Online Publishers Association (OPA) and
Nielsen//NetRatings show that in Q4 2005, search had a 77.3% reach
among US Internet users. That was a 1.1% increase, however, from Q1.

The key difference between search and the other three site
categories comes down to engagement — people spend far less time with
search than with other types of activities, only 4.7% of their total
time online in Q4 2005, according to the OPA/Nielsen data — or a mere
215 million hours versus nearly 1.9 billion on communications sites,
for instance.

As David Vice, author of The Google Story explains,
"Google’s business model is to get you off Google’s site as quickly as
possible and on to whatever it is you are looking for on the Web."

"All is not rosy in the search business," says Mr. Hallerman.
"Concerns about click fraud and privacy are two sticking points that
will potentially chip away at, if not halt, the growth of search engine
marketing."

Measured not by a count of clicks but by companies, 42% of all
advertisers told SEMPO they’ve been victimized by click fraud,
surpassed by 51% of agencies claiming the same problem.

If not brought under control, click fraud could challenge the
basic business model of paid search, since "fraudulent clicks don’t
convert," as Matt McMahon, executive vice president at Fathom Online,
told MediaPost. Disenchanted search advertisers would follow, leading
to lower bids, smaller paid search campaigns, and — among savvy
marketers — greater investment in search optimization.

Just last week, to settle a class-action lawsuit over alleged
click fraud, Google said it would offer $90m in advertising credits to
marketers who claim they were charged for invalid clicks and not
reimbursed.

"And if government demands for search data — such as the
federal request that Google is currently fighting in US courts —
continue, that could undermine the trust that most Internet users have
in search engines," says Mr. Hallerman. "Disenchanted individuals would
lead to fewer searches, fewer clicks (on both paid and organic
listings), fewer dollars for the search engines, and fewer reasons for
marketers to include search in their online campaigns."

More here.

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