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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

A Critical Mass of Advertisers Makes Contextual Ads More Relevant

Organic search ain't all that, you know.

I can attest to having been extremely frustrated doing web searches trying to find things like software, templates, standard documents, and legal agreements to help me grow my business.

But when advertisers of such services start to put their little classified ads up next to those keywords, the process gets a lot faster. I still use PDF Factory Pro, for example, because I saw their ad on Google next to a jumble of useless results for my web searches on PDF publishing.

Finding boilerplate legal agreements has always been hit-and-miss. Now that advertisers understand that they need to put their products out into the marketplace with very granular keyword ads, it's getting easier to find exactly what you need, though, not just something vaguely similar. Most of us don't want to buy "something vaguely similar."

Someone asked me about a standard noncompete agreement in an email (GMail) today, and the contextual AdWords ads that appeared next to the conversation were for exactly that type of standard agreement! In the past, I would have said to myself "I wonder where I find that," and probably would have stumbled on a bunch of slightly-off, not-quite-right pages that somehow ranked high in the search results.

And advertisers -- AllBusiness.com in this case -- even know how to take you to exactly the correct landing page. They're even selling a practical guide to the correct uses of confidentiality agreements! Packaged information for the busy executive. What a concept. How far businesses have come from just blindly trusting "search" to do its thing and for visitors to "just find us." And how much better for the researcher to be able to pick up a practical guide by a trusted authority, as opposed to spending a week "reading up on a subject."

A critical mass of advertisers actually means an evolution towards improved search relevance, at least on commercial offshoots of common subject areas. Who would have seen that coming?

Meanwhile, back offline, the dreaded uber-offensive print ad for the Mercedes C230 coupe is back in today's The Globe and Mail: "Careful not to wet your lederhosen." Don't try this online, people. We're actually looking for stuff here.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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