Conferences on search marketing, such as the Search Marketing Expo, WebMasterWorld, Search Engine Strategies, & SEOmoz’s SEO Training Seminars. Competitive intelligence about signals the engines might use and how they might order results. The most famous is the system that spawned Google’s genesis – PageRank – documented as Patent #6285999 – Method for node ranking in a linked database. The original paper on the subject – Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine – has also been the subject of considerable study and edification under the Pew Internet & American Life Project (PDF Study in Conjunction with ComScore)
Google sells sponsored listings that appear above and to the right-hand side of its regular search results called Google AdWords. Paid search programs allow site owners to “bid” on the terms they wish to appear for. You agree to pay a certain amount each time someone clicks on your listing. This is why sponsored listings are referred to as “pay-per-click” (PPC) or “cost-per-click” (CPC) advertising. Google AdWords ranks sponsored listings based on a number of variables including the CPC (bid price), click-through-rate (CTR) and landing page quality. This page explains how ads are ranked in more detail.
If your goal is to build visibility on search engines quickly, then Google AdWords is essential to put you in the top results of many major search engines in a short period of time. Google distributes its paid ads to other partners, with some major sites listed on the Search Engine Results Chart. This provides you with exposure to more potential traffic.
When setting up an AdWords campaign, you may choose to have your ads appear in the Search Network and/or Google’s Content Network (AdSense), or you may opt-out of either. It is worthwhile for anyone to open a Google AdWords account and experiment with how paid listings may help drive traffic to a site, or use the service as a keyword research tool.
Google’s AdWords charges a per-click fee, a $5 activation fee, but there is no minimums monthly spend. You may find that the editorial or “free” listings generated by your submissions to directories and crawlers have kicked in. While some marketers elect to eliminate their paid search ad spend when this happens, you may find that you want to continue spending/increase budget to target terms for which you don’t receive good editorial placement. Search Engine Watch members have access to a How Google Works page that guides you even more through the process of how AdWords operates.
Yahoo Search Marketing
Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM), formerly Overture and GoTo, also allows sites to “bid” on the terms they wish to appear for. Up until the recent “Panama” improvement, YSM ranked sponsored listings based on cost-per-click.
Yahoo Panama brings YSM’s ranking algorithm for paid ads more in line with Google by considering additional variables such as click-through-rate and landing page quality. If your goal is to build instant visibility on search engines, Yahoo Search Marketing is an excellent option to explore, putting you in the top results of many major search engines within a short period of time. Open an YSM account with a $5 minimum deposit and experiment by setting your own daily budget.
By carefully selecting targeted terms, you can stretch that money out for one or two months and get quality traffic. As with Google, you may wish to eliminate your ad spend or continue for terms not receiving good editorial placement once your initial deposit has expired.
Microsoft adCenter launched in May 2006. Like Google and Yahoo, it allows advertisers to “bid” on the keywords they wish to have their ads show up for. The system uses what is called the “black box” bid and ranking method; similar to the way Google and now Yahoo determine Cost Per Click (CPC). The CPC is a combination of how much you are willing to bid (max bid) and your Click Thru Rate (CTR) in comparison to the others bidding for that particular keyword. Upon launch, adCenter distinguished itself from competitors by being the first to offer geographic, demographic and day part targeting. It requires a $5 service fee for account setup. After that, you pay the cost of the clicks. Bidding starts at $0.10 minimum. Sometimes $0.05 bids go through.
You can increase your bid to reach a targeted audience through Targeted Bidding. This allows you to target based on (1) users in a specific geographic location, (2) users searching on specific days of the week or during specific hours of the day or night, and (3) users of a specific gender or age.
Experienced Search Marketers also like the targeting tools. These tools allow them to narrow the ad buy, resulting in audiences that convert better, allowing marketers to put more of their budgets into other ad buys or into additional keywords with Microsoft. The help section is very detailed.