Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising is the fuel that has powered the recent meteoric growth of the search engine world. Search engines are experiencing exceptional revenue growth, with the greatest portion of this revenue coming from PPC advertising. On the other side of the coin, advertisers are utilizing PPC keyword advertising to meet their marketing objectives. Most of the search engines are powered by auction-based systems, where advertisers bid for keyword placements. With these auction systems, competition for keywords has become intense, which has driven up the average cost-per-click (CPC) on almost keywords. A recent SEMPO research study
indicates advertisers plan to increase CPC spending 39 percent on average in 2005.
But even with this heightened competition, there may be untapped hidden opportunities for the online marketer that is interested in participating in PPC keyword advertising. One of the greatest opportunities may be in the area of keyword breadth. This is measured by the variety of keywords and phrases that actually have advertisements displayed when a search is conducted by a search engine user. In the search engine industry, this is known as keyword coverage.
By examining the keyword coverage of the Accoona Search Engine over a three month period, it is possible to get an excellent view into the missed opportunities that marketers may have in PPC keyword networks by not expanding the breadth of the keywords that they are bidding upon.
Narrow Focus – An Opportunity Cost
Accoona is a rather new search engine that launched in December of 2004. In this short period of time, it has generated a great deal of interest and also a rather large search base. It is currently ranked in the Top 1500 sites on Alexa and has been one of the steadiest climbers in traffic ranking. Accoona has an exclusive partnership with Yahoo Search Marketing Solutions (YMSM) (note: this is the artist formerly known as Overture), so all of its PPC advertising is served from the YMSM network. YMSM has over 100,000 advertisers and is considered one of the two largest and most diverse PPC advertising networks.
By doing an examination of the Accoona statistics since its launch, it can be determined that it has a breadth of searching that matches the general searching that is taking place across all search engines. The Accoona most frequently searched terms list bares a close resemblance (92% match) to the Top 100 search terms across the entire Web (Source: MetaCrawler Word Tracker Report). This means that that the users of Accoona closely match the users of any of the other major search engines.
Examining the keyword coverage within the Accoona paid search results shows that that 41.32% of the searches that are done by users have at least one paid result, or another way of saying it, 58.68% of searches do not yield any paid results. (Source: Personal Interviews with Kevin Shea, Accoona)
A further examination of the Accoona statistics reveals that for the searches that do yield a paid result, there are 4.24 advertisements displayed for each search. (Source: Personal Interviews with Kevin Shea, Accoon
a) This means that over four advertisers are competing (and paying higher CPC) for these impressions/clicks.
The combination these two statistics shows that there may be an opportunity cost being lost by advertisers. By competing for the same set of keywords that other advertisers are seeking, online marketers may be missing lower cost keywords and phrases where there is less competition. This may be especially true of words that could be tangential in nature, but connected enough to drive valuable qualified traffic.
To review a real world example of this type of keyword marketing examine two distinct searches in Accoona. For this example, two connected searches will be utilized. The criterion for selecting these examples was that they had to be actual searches that were conducted in Accoona at least thirty (30) times in a week. (Source: Accoona Query Terms Report 1/1 though 1/7/05)
The first search is: “ohmmeter”. For this search, there were five paid results from five separate advertisers.
The second search is: “how to understand an ohmmeter”. This search query returned no paid results. The five advertisers battling for attention on the term “ohmmeter” are missing an opportunity with an audience obviously interested in the subject. In addition, the first advertiser to bid on the second search query would get solo placement for the minimum bid.
Of course, smart advertisers would still review and monitor the ROI results of these tangential terms. But the terms should still be explored for there efficacy.
Conclusion: Think of Keywords as Content Channels
The rush of marketers to keyword search advertising has created a vibrant marketplace tool. But like any tool that is new and being adopted quickly, the nuances are often overlooked. Attacking the breadth of search terms is one of those items. Marketers should make sure they look at all of the connected keywords and phrases. Keywords and phrases should be looked at as content channels. Getting broad coverage in the entire content channel will create opportunities for the enterprising marketer.
Tom is co-founder of, TargetFirst Network, a value-based online advertising network and author of dozens of articles on numerous online business topics. He has also written or co-written three books, including the best selling Web Advertising and Marketing.