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Search Engine Gold, Knowing Where to Be

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By Barry Hurd

RISMEDIA, Dec. 11, 2007-Have you ever asked yourself how many valid eyes would visit your site if you had that coveted first spot on a hot keyword? If the first spot is good, how much does the second or third spot get? Where is the gold?

The truth of the matter is that it is very hard to find these answers. It is also changing with the evolution of the Internet. Search engines specifically want to keep you guessing the exact numbers to encourage you to buy pay-per-click advertising campaigns and give them control of your advertising budget. Many search engine marketers value the information of knowing where searchers are looking as “white gold” – but few of them actually update quickly enough to predict current trends in media. In Google, search marketers had referred to the top of the search results as the “Golden Triangle” as the very top left hand corner of the search sites represented the majority of viewers on the site.

Unfortunately there is an issue being caused by the addition and evolution of “blended media.” This is where images, audio, and video are slowly making a way into search results on various terms and different search sites. A year ago every business wanted to be on top of a search phrase in the results, and now that isn’t necessarily true.

The golden triangle where all the gold was, has moved.

A look at the real world past – when you look at a print magazine like Real Estate magazine, there are a number of viewing habits that publishers know exist. A reader’s eye usually follows a specific path starting at one point and moving to another. That creates high value locations in a print magazine where certain portions of the page have a much higher visibility and branding ability. This trend allows publishers to place specific stories and advertising according to the value of that location. Depending on the publication, these high value locations have different prices for advertising (front page, back page, banners, within the fold, corner ads, etc)

In the online world, blended media has created a shift in how, why, and where readers are expecting good information. Our eyes are specifically drawn to highlights on a page, and today that highlight may be on top, the right, the bottom, or the very center. As a society of users who have been educated on interactive advertising and information, a good portion of the population using online portals has shifted away from expecting the best information to be “on top.”

Google is a good case example: items are constantly moving around the search page of Google as they try to maximize where advertising makes them the most money. On what seems like a weekly or monthly basis, Google is moving around information as they maximize pay-per-click campaigns to drive revenue up for the advertising they sell. As items like maps and video elements are added to the search results, the focal point that has “free advertising” in the search results is shifting around it naturally. If Google directs 50% of viewers to look at a map, the next best place to have free organic advertising is right next to it. This is where the gold is.

This same scenario repeats over and over in a thousand different search sites and community portals. Many of you have probably seen the television commercial for Ask.com over the past few months that is trying to highlight and educate mainstream television audiences that good information is “no longer on top,” but rather they know what (and where) you are looking for. Search engines are trying to adapt as quickly to the changes in media and information as they can, and many are falling behind the trend due to the inefficiencies of large business.

Those inefficiencies of large business is where concentrated effort can pay off big. Any search engine is just like any other publisher: they can only sell so much advertising. After that advertising is sold, everything else has to be given away for free. The free information is what attracts people to the advertising they sell.

Understanding how search engine publishers like Google and Yahoo are changing their advertising structures is where smart and savvy business folk will investigate the hardest, by staking a claim on the largest pile of gold they can, they are creating incredibly valuable real estate right next to it that is often secured for pennies on the dollar.

About the author:
Barry Hurd is president of Social Media Systems, an online marketing and advertising consultant group working with search engine marketing and leveraging social media communities. He has over 15 years of entrepreneurial Internet and online marketing experience. As an author and prolific blogger, he has reached online audiences around the world. Since the mid-1990s, Barry has been involved in numerous efforts to bring forth technical innovation through online business models. Past projects have included NIKE, REI, TMP Worldwide, Monster.com, Verizon Superpages, Intuit, and RISMedia.

For more information, visit www.socialmediasystems.com.

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