Digital Insights

Deep thoughts on the ever-evolving world of new and emerging media

Without search engines, you may find yourself singing a U2 song

This week’s discussion centered on the topic of search engines and whether their practices were in our opinions, ethical or not. This issue was largely a result of an article published back in 2002 on the subject. The piece raises the issue that most search engines—GoogleYahoo!MSN—actually make money through paid placement and paid inclusion. The debate really comes down to if these search sites—vehicles people use mostly to search for something, be it information, news, images, and so on—are making a concerted effort to demonstrate to online searchers which links are paid for, or “sponsored” and which links are not in terms of their ranking and placement.

Google heads the search party

Google heads the search party

Many of us argued that that there really isn’t an argument here and I’ll elaborate further. First, the ability to search on the Internet is fast, easy and relatively speaking, FREE! This is true, of course, minus the cost of your Internet access. But, to be able to get information—a commodity that was once upon a time unheard of in such a speedy fashion—has empowered consumers to be better, more informed buyers of products and services. And as the sophistication of search engine marketing (SEM) continues to develop over time, organic search results will only grow in terms of their relevance to each and every person based on such online habits/activity as a users search history, geographic location, as well as other demo/psychographics.

In such uncertain economic times, we shouldn’t be debating anything that offers a huge return on such low investment of our time. In this case, it takes virtually nanoseconds to find precisely what we are searching for online. And perhaps ALL search engines weren’t disclosing which links were paid for and which weren’t in a crystal clear way, well, I’d venture to say that was so seven years ago. Take any search engine today and more than likely, there will be some clear way where research results clearly yield a portion of sponsored links, say in a shaded color, for example, while the rest are your organic results. As one marketer put it, “Paid search’s effects are immediate, but marketers need to spend consistently for sponsored-link ads to appear in search queries. SEO takes time, and marketers need to constantly maintain their Websites to sustain high organic results. Customers are going to search engines because they are looking for better deals and marketers are going to search engines because that’s where the customers are.”

In my mind there’s little debate. Consumers are more Web-savvy than ever and they are increasingly relying on search engines to show them where the best deals are. And what better time than now to get the most for what we fork out of our pockets? If sponsored links appear in our net results when we search—much like a DVR device—we can either fast forward through the commercial (in this case ignore the paid links) and return our gaze on the organic, net result of our search. The difference here is that if you find yourself searching for something like say a new “coffee maker,” you might be interested in the discounted offers that Gevalia, KitchenAid, and Krups paid big money for you to see first.



  Christopher H wrote @

I use search engines all of the time. I prefer Google, and sometimes AOL, but I never use Yahoo. I think that there are so many search engines out there for no reason. Keep Google, get rid of the rest!

  Alex wrote @

I prefer to use google. It is the most helpful search engine. I find that the advertising is a big opportunity for businesses since so many people use google daily.

  David pari wrote @

Reply to blog

  Josh wrote @

I’m blogging, for marketing

  Ray wrote @

Ray was here. just trying it out

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