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Marketers Google Themselves For ROI

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Marketers on the hunt for ROI are increasingly using the same tools everyone else uses to search for stuff—Google, Yahoo! and MSN.

The most formal and high-profile effort so far has been by Pontiac, which in January took the unusual step of tagging its ads with a plea to "Google Pontiac," in part so it could measure the reach of the ads. Mark-Hans Richer, director of marketing for Pontiac, said since the ads ran, the auto brand's search requests are up about 50 percent higher than anyone in the industry.

Such a stat is significant, Richer said, because "Pontiac" and related search terms led to a higher percentage of leads than third-party sites. "We were thinking, 'How can we drive more of this kind of behavior?'" he said. Tagging Google at the end of the company's ads not only accomplished this, but also associated Pontiac with a cool brand, noted Richter.

Despite Pontiac's claims of success with the program, no one has followed suit yet. But Yahoo! isn't waiting. The search engine has been offering advertisers data from its Buzz Index for years. Hunter Madsen, managing director for Yahoo!'s advertising products, said such data isn't free, but is usually part of a package marketers get when they buy ads on Yahoo! "To some extent, we stimulate that interest ourselves," said Madsen, who said the Buzz Index data is part of the pitch from Yahoo!'s ad sales staff.

Yahoo! plans to upgrade the Buzz Index over the next few months with a new tool that will let marketers compare results of their latest campaign with past ones.

Meanwhile, MSN last October launched adCenter, which in part was designed to provide marketers with better search results data. That information is available to all advertisers, starting with those who pay $5, said Jed Nahum, director of adCenter product management. "The data is so much more accessible and easy and also incredibly cheap that I think [marketers] are embracing it more and more," Nahum said.