Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Search Insider: One Keyword, 909 Advertisers

One Keyword, 909 Advertisers

There have been many search marketers (including myself), who have long been saying that the search space is going to get very crowded in terms of competition in both paid and natural results. As evidence that this trend has hit -- and maybe even passed -- the tipping point in certain competitive keyword spaces, I typed "coats" into Google and checked out "view more advertisers."

The result? There were "about" 909 advertisers for the term "coats" alone.

The details of how and why so many ads are showing up for the term is worthy of a much longer column. Some are aggressively bidding to own the term from a branding perspective. Some have calculated a true ROI, and are appearing in their sweet spot that makes this very broad term profitable. Others have no idea what they are doing and are bidding blindly, staying visible until their budget flames out. And even more have their campaigns set to broad match for the term, which may be done with or without much thought (my match for "coats" with quotes yielded 734 advertisers).

"Coats" is certainly not the only term with this type of volume, and many other broad related terms have similar volumes of competition. For example, check out "shoes" (566), "books" (931), and "college" (808). This high volume is not just limited to single-word terms. "Apply for a credit card" yielded about 281 advertisers, and an even lower volume financial phrase, "savings account" had more than 200 advertisers. "Mortgage refinance" had 202 advertisers.

Even some local searches have a lot of competition. "Dallas home for sale" had more than 40 competitors, and "Southlake Texas home for sale" had 17 matches. The implication is that advertisers in competitive keyword spaces are going to have to be very smart about their campaigns on many different levels (again, the topic of a much longer column).

The volume of ads also brings up other questions. Is it a sign of how the economic climate has driven more and more advertisers to search? When will some of these newer advertisers become more sophisticated with their paid search campaign strategy, in terms of developing keyword lists and matching options? Realizing that the paid space is expensive and crowded, will any of these advertisers shift budget into developing natural search traffic, where the majority of clicks occur? With limited SERP real estate, can one engine's paid search space truly support this much competition at the keyword level?

Again, too many questions to answer in a short and casual column such as this, but to get a perspective on the volume in the mix for a single term, I'll leave you with the first 75 or so advertisers listed in Google Adwords for the exact term "coats", by display URL: coats North Face Coats Womens Coats

Rob Garner is strategy director for digital marketing company iCrossing and writes for Great Finds, the iCrossing blog. Contact him via email at

Search Insider for Wednesday, February 11, 2009:

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