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BizReport : Search Marketing : May 22, 2009

Are longer search queries reducing ad coverage?

New data from comScore shows that while the number of searches being conducted is up considerably, paid clicks have shown a much slower rate of growth. Why?

by Helen Leggatt

comscore.gifAccording to comScore's latest data, the number of paid clicks has grown three times slower than that of queries over the last 2 years - 18% compared to 68%. So, while more searches are being carried out this isn't translating into more clicks on ads. Why could that be?

Chairman and co-founder of comScore, Gian Fulgoni, has a couple of theories. One is that ad targeting and user experience has been tightened to show just the most relevant ads. The other is that fewer ads are being shown as a consequence of searchers using longer search queries. Recent Hitwise data also showed an increase in the number of words being used per search query.

"An analysis of comScore data shows that search queries are actually getting longer, and that as searchers become more experienced, they are using more words per search query," wrote Fulgoni. "And this apparently reduces the likelihood that an advertiser has bid to have his or her ad included in the results page from these longer queries, due to paid search-advertising strategies that limit ad coverage, such as exact match, negative match, and bid-management software campaign optimization."

TechCrunch's Michael Arrington doesn't see things quite the same way. He believes the reason there are less ads on search results is simple - there are less advertisers.

In a recent blog post Arrington penned, "Big spenders, the category leaders, are just gone. Sharper Image, Wickes Furniture, Levitz, Foot Locker, Wilson's Leather, Ann Taylor, Zales, Mervyn's, Macy's, Circuit City and a ton of other retailers are either shutting down entirely or closing lots of stores. And more are on the way. All of these companies used to spend tons of money on paid search ads. Those budgets don't exist any more."

Tags: ad targeting, advertisers, Arrington, comScore, paid clicks, search advertising, search marketing, search queries, TechCrunch

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