The phrase "ping golf" today has 19 advertisers on Overture. The top bid is only 26 cents, so this is probably still a cost-effective lead generator for advertisers such as TGW.com. In August, there were no companies bidding on this phrase on Google AdWords. Today, there are two or three Google advertisers on this term, which means premium placement on AOL Search (for the third spot) is still available without even getting into a bidding war.
Itís actually harder to run a test on Google AdWords advertising, since advertisersí daily budgets may mean that ads are only shown intermittently on their chosen keywords. And if you arenít located in the country the ads are being shown to, you canít see them. Sneaking around inside the Google interface also provides inconclusive evidence about your competition. Anyway, we focused on the US market and did as much checking as we could to get a sense of the current advertiser competition on some popular industry terms on both Google AdWords and Overture.
Conclusion: the volume of unsold and uncompetitive search engine keyword inventory is still surprisingly high, especially on Google AdWords. Before long, though, the smart advertisers will see the value.
Here are a few examples:
"Skylights" has 19 bidders on Overture, and one or two on Google AdWords (depending on the time of day, whether you count premium advertisers, etc.). This means again that premium placement in the top three positions on AOL Search (powered by Google & Google AdWords) is available for a few pennies. The top bid on Overture (which displays results on Yahoo, MSN, etc.) is $1.05, and the third-place bid is 51 cents, meaning that Google would be much more cost-effective! I also noticed that while one or two Google advertisers were advertising on the word "skylights," none were advertising on the word "skylight." Talk about missed opportunity. Thatís exactly how you get into bidding wars Ė through a failure to consider all the keyword opportunities that are available in Googleís huge keyword inventory.
"Buy US flag" has 11 Overture bidders, and the top bid is 22 cents. On Google, there are about six advertisers. Googleís matching options actually allow advertisers to cover more keyword combinations without separate editorial review (eg. they could simply use the keyword flag to cover all flag sales), so in areas like this, it makes sense that Google advertisers will catch up to Overture more quickly, and eventually surpass them. I also noticed that the term "bid laden" or "bin laden sucks" has one advertiser on Google, and none on Overture. I donít have any explanation for the discrepancy.
"Radar detector" has 40 Overture bidders all falling over themselves to help drivers put one over on Smokey. So far, only about 10 of these same advertisers have found their way onto Google AdWords. The top bid on Overture is $1.86! Itíll be cheaper on Google - and more so if your ad copy is well written, since a higher clickthrough rate "makes a small bid bigger" on AdWords Select.
"C++" - a popular computer programming language - has 28 Overture advertisers and a top bid of 65 cents. The same term has no advertisers on Google! Is that because no techies use Google AdWords (unlikely!!), or because Googleís interface forbids funky characters like the + sign? If the latter, itís time for an upgrade to that AdWords interface! Let me tell you, Google.com is a lot better place to find qualified prospects than AOL Search if youíre in the computer programming business. Opportunity lost - for now.
"Bulk candy" has 17 bidders on Overture and a top bid of 42 cents. On Google AdWords, the same phrase has about 8 bidders. (I did notice however that in Canada there are zero Google bidders on this phrase, which illustrates just how much opportunity there exists for non-US advertisers to bid on Google ads very cheaply without getting into any bidding wars.) It looks like nine Overture advertisers are blissfully ignoring the sweet tooths who are searching on Google and AOL Search.
The true nerds have it really good. The term "compiler" only has five bidders on Overture and a top bid of nine cents. It would appear that none of these super-smart programmer types has yet gotten around to showing their ads on Google.com, where much of their target market is likely performing keyword searches.
"Olympic memorabilia" has only three advertisers on Overture, with the top bidder (eBay) at only 6 cents. On Google AdWords? You guessed it, no one has yet taken the trouble. A juicy little niche opportunity for whoever gets there first. Itís almost worth building a whole online retail business around opportunities like this. Then again, maybe by 2004 a few more people will have figured this stuff out.
"Executive doodads" - and for that matter, the single word "doodads" - has zero advertisers on Overture, and zilch on Google AdWords. That seems mighty strange to me. A purveyor of executive doodads, or gift doodads, could surely turn a profit by putting their offer in front of people typing that keyword or phrase, and paying only five cents when a prospect clicks on the ad (and nothing if they donít click). Do you think that nobody out there is searching on phrases like "executive doodads" or thousands of other word combos with "doodads" as one of the words? Think again! If I sold gizmos and doodads, Iíd for sure be all over those five cent keywords. I might even throw in "thingamajig," "whatchamacallit," and "whosits" just to be comprehensive.
Irish Rovers fan? There will be four Overture advertisers to greet you as you search. As for Google: "It went zip when it moved, pop when it stopped, and whirrrrrr when it stood still. I never knew just what it was and I guess I never will." Translation: the only Irish-Rovers-savvy advertiser on Google.com is eBay, whose premium ads often show up for all manner of gizmos, doodads, and marvelous toys.
November 26, 2002
Andrew Goodman is co-founder and Editor of Traffick.com, a popular guide to search engine and portal trends. He has published articles in publications such as Internet Markets, The Globe and Mail, and Yorkshire Post Magazine, and is regularly cited in business and technology publications such as Business Week. In 1999, Andrew left his burgeoning academic career in political theory and policy studies to found a private consultancy, Page Zero Media, which offers search engine marketing services and strategic advice to companies seeking an online presence.
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