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Thursday, April 28, 2005

But Is it Search?

Yahoo, unsurprisingly, is taking steps towards being a banner ad-serving company via its network of content publisher partners. Google recently announced their own progress in this area, which included allowing animated banners, and a new CPM-based pricing system.

Great, but is it search? No, but it is advertising. If "search companies" can take away so much ad-serving market share from companies who were supposedly expert in that, what does that say about how good those companies were at what they did? Or does it just speak more to timing (profit and loss at different points in this turbulent economy) and brand (Yahoo and Google leveraging their mystique to sign up advertisers and publishers)?

At a conference today I was chatting in line with a marketer with a large retailer. Like many, he had completely missed the generational shift wherein companies like Doubleclick had been surpassed in the online ad serving game by Yahoo and Google. (The combined market valuations of these two companies is $100 billion, which puts the recent buyout of Doubleclick for $1.2 billion into perspective.)

Doubleclick isn't a "small" company. But your Yahoos and your Googles are a lot bigger than many people realize, and doing a lot more things than many realize.

Another thing that few at the conference knew about was local search, and Google's and Yahoo's rapid strides in that area. I showed a slide of how it actually looks when you type "outdoor furniture" and "erie, pa" into Google Local. Only about 3% of the crowd had ever visited Yahoo Local or Google Local, which is probably right around the national average. :) (A wider definition of local search would possibly have generated more hands in the air.) Now that is search, and it remains an enormous potential growth area for search, if only because those outside the biggest urban centers and outside of net-savvy circles still have no clue what it is as users, let alone knowing how to approach it as businesspeople seeking targeted exposure. One thing is for sure. Big chains like Target will get this local search thing figured out to a 'T'. If you're smaller than them, you're courting big trouble if you wait two or three years to get up to speed.

As the luminaries of the online advertising industry convene to talk amongst themselves about advanced targeting methods, it might be a good time to reflect on the need to continue reminding early-stage online marketers (and they exist, even in larger companies) of the basics. The learning curve, and the growth curve, are at an earlier stage than you might think.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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