“When they kick out
your front door, how you gonna come?
With your hands on
your head, or on the trigger of your gun?”
Last week Google confirmed changes to their natural Search algorithm. In short, by giving more weight to site authority in the algo,
long tail Search traffic should begin to rise for the top 1000 publishers. The majority of new customer and visitor acquisition takes
place in the long tail so this update might make as large a financial impact as anything since the
Florida update in November 2003.
Google also announced (maybe not so) coincidentally last week
a list of the 1000 publishers in the DoubleClick Ad Planner. What was most interesting to me was that in a
foretelling bit of metrics, publishers on the list are being ranked by UV
(unique visitors) and not PV (page views). The shift in thinking as Search
becomes Display is important for pubs to understand. The value of the media is
in the visitor, not the page they are viewing.
Ultimately, as all media becomes performance media value
will be determined by how well the interests and intent – Search keywords being
the best proxy for this – are matched with relevant ads and offers. In
response to this the past 24 months have seen a rise in publisher business
models leveraging long tail natural Search traffic from Google namely Demand
Media, AOL and now Yahoo with their purchase of Associated Content.
But there is an interesting publisher/advertiser symbiosis
in play here. Google strategy in case you’ve missed it the past 5 years is to
build an intent marketplace where they are the lone market maker — something
they’ve done with incredibly brilliance (helped by the ineptness of Yahoo and
Microsoft). By dominating Search ads (and soon Display) as well as publisher
monetization through AdSense, Google keeps the true value of the media opaque while
creating a market that keeps their partners “happy enough” but is optimized for
Publishers have few other intent driven monetization
options. Gripes about Google often belie the fact that 85% [PDF here]
of Google outbound traffic is directed from natural Search. Besides the
institutional cost of good SEO practices the cost to publishers for this mountain
of intent laden traffic is $0.00. Not a penny for what is undisputedly the most
valuable assets in online media – a search referrer! With Google embarking to
deliver more of this manna for pubs this should be the opportunity of a
lifetime for them. It is not. At least, not yet.
As someone who helped pioneer dynamic messaging and content
targeting from Search I’ve watched little technical innovation happen to target these valuable natural search referrers over the past
two years – critical years as Google’s own fortifications around Search monetization
continue to get stronger. Is Demand’s model the best we’ve come up with to
leverage Search? Is thinking about SEO in article headlines a revolutionary
tactic? Is retargeting someone who landed from a query that innovative? Are
contextual and in-text ads truly relevant? Outside of Quigo (in 2004!) nobody
has built any tech that truly helps the publisher make money from Search’s free
traffic except Google. So now publishers are helpless except to watch Google
give the gift of increased Search traffic back to itself while pubs keep
hitting the AdSense pipe.
The good news is it is far from game over. Huge advances
in APIs, analytics, data and semantic technology the past few years bring with
them great opportunity. Search is MASSIVE and contrary to people that want to
write it off Google’s natural Search volume is only rising (up roughly 10
billion queries YoY (comScore)) and even better for targeting the user queries
are getting more defined. New channels like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and a rise in
Mobile queries will continue to drive incrementally more intent laden traffic
across the web to publishers. Search has plenty of legs and it’s not just
publishers than can stand to benefit.
The long tail of Search is likely the most valuable marketing
channel ever created. The dynamic nature of the web allows publishers and
advertisers to roll it up so it can be leveraged it at scale but Publishers
need tools to catch the money literally bouncing off their site and out of
their hands back to Google. They need an endcap that allows them to both
understand the value of the traffic and capture it by deliver relevance to it. These problems are some of the problems we're working on at Yieldbot and if you are a publisher interested in monetizing
natural Search traffic I’d love to hear from you. Never has the opportunity been greater or more important.