Search Campaign 101

For those in the advertising business who haven’t run an online search campaign—and that is most of the industry—here’s a quick guide to how to go about it. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll look at Google’s advertising product, AdWords, using the launch of a new hybrid SUV as an example. Products from Yahoo! and Microsoft work in a similar way.

The marketer might start by developing a list of keywords, or search terms, that users would type into Google search if they are in the market to buy a car. Those words can range from the very specific (“Mercury Mariner Hybrid SUV”) to the incredibly broad (“cars”). These lists can go into the thousands; the maker of the hybrid SUV may want to buy “hybrid SUV,” “SUV hybrid” and even misspellings such as “hibrid SVU.”

An advertiser’s text ad appears when users type in its designated keywords, with the advertiser only paying each time its ad is clicked upon; the advertiser determines how much they are willing to pay. That pricing unit is known as the cost per click, or CPC. Google provides guidelines on cost per click for different keywords, but doesn’t divulge individual advertiser information.

Although it would make sense for any advertiser to consider search terms that are more specific to its brand as being more valuable, generic terms such as “cars” can get bid up by major advertisers who want their ad to land on the top of Google’s sponsored links.

The other factor determining ranking is the Quality Score, based on an amalgam of criteria such as the relevancy of the ad’s text.

A complementary program from Google, AdSense, can distribute AdWords advertisers (including ads with images) to the sites of publishers who are signed up to AdSense. Ads can be targeted around content and, if a site carries a Google search box, search. Advertisers can also customize Google’s content network, which is priced on a CPM basis, to meet their needs.

Though AdWords can’t work precisely the same in TV or print, it is Google’s hope that it can bring a similar model to other media. —CPT