In your search for the most profitable structure for your online campaigns, it is very likely you have considered, or ventured into the land of Pay Per Click Advertising. You may have even enlisted the assistance of a Pay Per Click Management Company in your quests. But regardless of whether you manage your campaigns, an in-house marketing manager takes care of it, a campaign manager with a pay per click agency, or firm takes care of your pay per click, you could potentially be missing out on potential overall profitability if you simply stick only with Google AdWords only. Not to say the Google is bad, because in all reality it is not, and it IS a great starting point for PPC advertising. Here we will review each major search engine and some important facts on each:
Google AdWords is the king of all pay per click search engines, and is quite profitable for many, many businesses. According to ComScore, which is a search market research company, Google had approximately 65% of all US based searches in June 2009, versus about 20% for Yahoo, and about 8.4% for MSN. Obviously if you are going for sheer volume of searches, Google is the way to go and you should continue to leverage Google.
Also, Google AdWords, also displays ads optionally on their "Search Partner" network, which is comprised of many, smaller, "second tier" search engines such as Ask.com, AOL.com, Shopping.com, and many others. In the AdWords platforms you can also analyze the results based on which networks your ads displayed in, identifying where your conversions are actually coming from, utilizing their "conversion tracking" system. You have the option of opting in or out of this network by campaign.
Google also has an extensive network of "content" websites that have joined the "Google AdSense" program, in which an advertisers ads can be displayed adjunct to the content on a website that is directly related to your website theme. Google uses a display algorithm to determine where to show your ads on their "content network", OR you can optionally select the exact websites you wish to display your ads, and display your ads either in text or banner format. The content network in Google is the only major search engine that provides self managed banner advertising such as this.
Biggest downside to Google is some of the click prices have inflated over the years to astronomical amounts, upwards of $ 20 + per click in the most cut throat, competitive markets. This is usually the exception, however $ 1- $ 2 per click in a large majority of markets for 1st page placements is not. The more specific the phrase is, and usually the more valuable it is in terms of conversion rate, usually the higher the overall cost. You can sometimes find some relief from this in Yahoo and MSN / Bing. Additionally, competition is overall more fierce in Google and so your conversion rates overall can tend to be a bit lower in this search engine, but that DOES depend on your market and target demographics.
Yahoo Search Marketing
Yahoo Search Marketing currently displays ads in a similar way to Google. They have a Search and Content network also. However, their search network pales in comparison to Google and their content network is even worse when compared to Google. Nonetheless, Yahoo does take about 20% of the US search market, AND it actually can be MORE profitable than Google from the standpoint of total% of ROI achieved. Sometimes conversion rates, especially in B2C markets can be much higher in Yahoo. That means if you have an ecommerce store it is well worth experimenting with in Yahoo. It IS the 2nd largest search engine in terms of sheer volume available, and can provide SOME relief at times in terms of cost per click prices. Demographics tend to be more mature in Yahoo versus Google and so if your target market is a bit older, this could be the search engine for you. Yahoo Search Marketing is absolutely worth a test run for a number of weeks at least to gauge it's profitability. Like Google AdWords, they also have a "conversion tracking" system which should be used to identify # of sales and leads generated, down to the individual keyword and AD copy.
MSN AdCenter – Bing, MSN
MSN AdCenter is MSN / Bing's pay advertising platform. As mentioned above, MSN and BING capture are currently about 8% of the total search market in the US. This may change in the future as Yahoo and MSN are working on a search advertising partnership in which MSN may display all ads for MSN, Bing, AND Yahoo. But that remains to be seen. For right now, Yahoo, is separate from MSN and Bing and are controlled in their own respective PPC platforms.
In any event, obviously at this point MSN and BING's search volume is minimal in comparison to Google and even Yahoo. However, it still remains the third largest pay per click search engine in the world, far above any 4th, 5th, or 6th on the list of search engines in terms of volume. The major pros to MSN are similar to Yahoo, in that you have a unique demographic, potential for lower overall cost per clicks, and normally an overall higher conversion rate in many markets, once again opening up for very cost effective search advertising overall. Of course, do not fool yourself into thinking you will get many many clicks from MSN at this point, because you may not. But the few you may get, may more easily lead to a sale than the same amount of clicks in Google. In other words, what 50 clicks in Google would do, 10 clicks in MSN may have the same end result / effect. Of course this is not ALWAYS the case, but again, well worth a test run. Again, like Google and Yahoo, MSN also has the conversion tracking system which you should leak. Without it, it will be hard to differentiate which search engines are producing sales / leads, unless you leverage Google Analytics Conversion Goal system as an alternative to conversion tracking.
Other Search Engines
Well between the three above search platforms, we cover Google, Yahoo, MSN, Bing, Live Search, AOL, Ask, and a bunch of others. That covers about 95% of all search traffic in the US. But there ARE hundreds of other PPC search platforms. Feel free to experiment with as many as you wish and you may find a few jewels among them!
Best of Luck!