Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Search Engine Advertising

It has to be said, search engine advertising is the next big thing in emerging media. But, did you know that search engines are 15% commercial and companies such as MSN and AOL are not exactly honest about their use of “sponsored” sites throughout their search results?

Further, 70% of searchers don’t look past the first or second page of search results; this number is astonishing especially considering all the ads that are probably located within those first two pages.

When ethics are considered, I don’t find it unethical to post information that is paid as long as it is clearly identified in the search that it is in fact an ad. What’s interesting is that a simple search for travel on AOL and MSN delivered remarkably different results. Each company listed their travel service high on the first page of results and on MSN’s results page, AOL was no where to be found. This is concerning because as a consumer I want search results to contain unbiased information that yields results that I can trust and use. When I hear that companies such as the aforementioned are acting without scruples, then I begin to become concerned about the reliability of search results.

Google did score high in both the McLaughlin’s article and the National Public Radio segment. A Google search gives the consumer unbiased, honest search results with the obvious sponsored links on the top and side that are differentiated by a different color background. In fact according to McLaughlin, “Google deliver(s) exceptionally relevant matches and it’s also the best of the bunch at identifying ads” (2002). The company holds such high merit that it received two awards at “PC World’s 20th World Class Awards.” I think that companies should use Google as a model in applying ethics to search advertising.

I also think that internet search advertising will be a benefit in the long run in that it inspires competition; companies bid on how much they are willing to pay each time a consumer clicks their ad and the biggest bid gets the highest spot. Also, a plus for marketers, internet advertisers are reaching only those already interested in that they are already searching for the product or service. It has the ability to reach a highly targeted audience. Additionally, search advertising has encouraged spending by small business and it has been identified as the fastest growing medium of all time.


McLaughlin, L., & Spring, T. (2002). The straight story on search engines. PC World, 20, 115-122.

National Public Radio news segment.

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