The Slowdown is Universal

Last month, I submitted back-to-back posts arguing against the widespread notion that a reduction in PPC clicks on Google was tied to our current economic “slowdown” -- or whatever Dubya is calling it these days.

Last week, news came out of SES New York reaffirming my take that the root of all this non-clicking may be as simple as the continued rollout of Universal Search.

Here’s an excerpt from Top Rank Online Marketing’s coverage of the SES panel in which comScore released new data on consumption of Universal Search results pages.

“Overall when reviewing universal search results, the study found less clicks from the consumer because the information they were searching for is now appearing directly on the results page such as maps, stock quotes and weather.

According to James, the two major implications of universal search include:
1. Organic search will become increasingly critical
- search result pages becoming the destination
- technology and content supercede marketing spend
- inherent ‘view thru’ value will challenge measurement

2. Paid search will become more competitive
- fewer paid click options on fewer pages
- consumer in control, not marketers
- conversion rates should increase”

Clearly, the SERP is no longer the bridge to 3rd party sites it once was and eyes are being drawn to the images and other advanced results. In my opinion, the best way for Google and others to combat this is to create advanced PPC listings, incorporating images and some of the same functionality of the fancy new natural results.

Google is apparently headed down this path, testing video ads in PPC listings. And with the DoubleClick acquisition now in the books, it has the platform to roll out display ads on SERPs -- something I’ve been predicting for a while.

Meanwhile, Yahoo recently introduced a plug-in for companies to create their own expanded natural search listings. I think it’s only a matter of time before it migrates this platform into the sponsored listing environment -- or at least blow out its paid inclusion product accordingly.

Regardless of what -- and how quickly -- innovation takes place in PPC, it’s comforting to know that the decrease in activity we’ve seen is part of a concerted effort by Google and others to improve overall user-experience and not tied to the problems with our economy.

Posted by: Aaron Goldman, VP Marketing & Strategic Partnerships


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