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					            WEB TECHNOLOGIES



                                                                                          feat for a model less than a decade old.

     Paid                                                                                 Without a doubt, paid search is now,
                                                                                          and will be for the foreseeable future,
                                                                                          the primary business model for Web


     Search                                                                               search engines.

                                                                                          A DYNAMIC PROCESS
                                                                                            Satisfying both Web searchers’
     Bernard J. Jansen                                                                    desire for relevant information and
     The Pennsylvania State University                                                    providers’ desire for targeted traffic to
                                                                                          their Web sites has become increas-
                                                                                          ingly complex. However, the core ele-
                                                                                          ments of paid search have remained
                                                                                          essentially the same throughout its
                                   With paid search, the content                          development:
                                   provider, search engine, and user
                                                                                            • provider content: a set of keywords
                                   have mutually supporting goals.                            associated with concepts along
                                                                                              with the associated URLs, titles,
                                                                                              and descriptions;
                                                                                            • provider bids: bids for specified
                                                                                              keywords that are a monetary val-




     F
             or many people, Web search        ORIGINS AND IMPACT                             uation of traffic to a particular Web
             engines are now the primary          Bill Gross of Idealab (www.idealab.         site;
             method for finding infor-          com) is credited with creating the           • search engine review process: a
             mation, news, and products        paid-search paradigm in 1998 with              method to ensure that advertiser
             (www.digitalcenter.org/pdf/       the launch of GoTo.com, which later            content is relevant to the targeted
     Center-for-the-Digital-Future-2005-       became Overture and is now Yahoo!              keyword;
     Highlights.pdf). Consequently, both       Search Marketing. Google developed           • search engine keyword and content
     researchers and the media have            its own paid-search technology,                index: a mechanism that matches
     focused considerable attention on the     AdWords, over which it settled a               provider keywords to user queries;
     speed, accuracy, and efficiency of        patent infringement lawsuit with             • search engine user interface: an
     major search engines such as Yahoo!,      GoTo.com in 2004. These two entities           application for displaying provider
     Google, MSN Search, and AOL.              account for the majority of paid-              content as links in rank order to a
       However, paid search—an increas-        search traffic today.                           searcher; typically, the interface dis-
     ingly important, popular, and uniquely       The economic impact of paid search          plays the sponsored links with non-
     contextual form of information inter-     is immense. In 2004, paid search was           sponsored links;
     action on the Web—has thus far            an $8 billion industry and already vital     • search engine tracking: a means of
     attracted less interest.                  to the success of most major search            matching keywords to queries,
       With paid or sponsored search, con-     engines—for example, 99 percent of             gathering provider content, han-
     tent providers pay Web search engines     Google’s revenue came from advertis-           dling bids, metering clicks, and
     to display sponsored links in response    ing, while Yahoo! received 84 percent          charging providers based on
     to user queries alongside the algorith-   of its income from paid ads (Terry             searcher clicks on their displayed
     mic links, also known as organic or       McCarthy, “Yahoo! Goes to Holly-               links; and
     nonsponsored links. This mechanism        wood,” Time, 21 Mar. 2005, pp. 50-53).       • searcher: a person or agent that
     plays a critical role in financing the       In 2005, paid search generated $10          clicks on a sponsored link deemed
     nonsponsored links upon which so          billion globally, a figure that is             to be relevant.
     many users now rely.                      expected to soar to $55 billion by
       A distinctive type of information       2010 (www.clickz.com/news/article.            Figure 1 illustrates the dynamic rela-
     push and pull, paid search also is        php/3574876).                              tionship among these elements in the
     increasingly important in locating           Although no published studies are       paid-search process.
     data on the Web. Because of the           currently available on the effectiveness
     uniquely dynamic contextual inter-        of paid search, anecdotal evidence         Keywords
     play among content providers, search      suggests that sponsored results are just     Content providers develop terms
     engines, and users, paid search offers    as relevant as nonsponsored results for    and search phrases composed of key-
     numerous unique benefits.                  search queries—if true, an amazing         words that

88     Computer
  • searchers are likely to submit,
  • are applicable to the providers’               Provider                             Search engine                             Web searcher

    Web content, and                               Content       Internet to provider      Tracking      Interface to searcher   Searcher actions

  • will link such content to searchers’         Title            Review process
                                                                                                                                 Form query
    underlying intent.                           Description
                                                                                                            Accept query         Submit query
                                                 URL
                                                                  Accept content
                                                 Keywords                               Keywords and        Match query
They also tailor the presentation of                                                    content index       to keywords
search results to conform to the tar-               Bid                                                                          Review links
                                                                                        Track bids          Display links
geted queries, possibly with several             $ range          Accept bid            Track displays
                                                 $/period                                                                        Click on link
variations linked to particular sets of                                                 Track clicks

queries.                                         Payment                                Bill provider       Display result       Review content
   Content providers pay the search
engines to present their tailored Web
results whenever a searcher submits         Figure 1. Paid search on the Web is a dynamic process involving numerous participants
one of these terms and clicks on the        and goals.
link. The provider can tailor this
matching algorithm from exact tar-          TopPayingKeywords.com, the most                       active participants in searchers’ infor-
geted matches to very loose matches         expensive keyword phrase at the close                 mation-seeking process.
to account for various spellings and        of 2005 was “Chicago personal injury
misspellings as well as term usage. The     attorney” at $50 per click, closely fol-              BENEFITS
search engine matches the searcher’s        lowed by “mesothelioma” at $42.57                        Most advertising models measure
query to the keywords that corre-           per click.                                            the cost of an advertisement based on
spond to the provider’s bid.                   From the content provider’s view-                  how often and when it is shown. For
                                            point, electronic paid-search auctions                example, broadcasting an ad several
Auctions                                    are a mathematical optimization                       times during the Super Bowl will cost
   The content providers pay the            problem. Bidders might face hundreds                  considerable money, while showing
search engine via a bid on the key-         to thousands of keywords that need                    the same ad once on a local TV station
word. However, multiple providers           to be priced. Bids aren’t static, so con-             at 2:00 a.m. on a Tuesday will be rel-
might want to pay a search engine for       tent providers must be ready to                       atively cheap. However, there are no
the same term or phrase. In these           change their bids quickly to exploit                  reliable mechanisms for translating
cases, an electronic auction handles        changes in consumer behavior and                      this “cost per impression” into sales.
ranking, typically in descending order      react to the competitive environment.                    In contrast, paid search makes it
according to the bid amount.                For this reason, researchers are devel-               possible to measure how many people
   Search engines also factor other ele-    oping complex machine-learning                        viewed a link as well as how many
ments into their ranking scheme, such       algorithms that more efficiently weigh                 “came to the store,” or clicked on the
as which sponsored link receives more       risks and attain maximal returns.                     link. It’s also possible to measure the
clicks. This helps prevent search                                                                 number of users who executed a trans-
engines from presenting less relevant       Searcher actions                                      action or took an action on the Web
content to the searcher solely for profit.      When a searcher submits a query,                   site.
In practice, though, the links with the     reviews the sponsored links, and                         Another benefit of paid search is
most clicks generally produce the most      clicks on a link, the searcher’s browser              that the content provider, search
revenue. All participants in the paid-      displays the provider’s Web page that                 engine, and user have mutually sup-
search process thus have a monetary         the link points to. The search engine                 porting goals. As in most forms of
incentive to strive for relevant content.   tracks this click and all others within               online searching, the user has some
   The more providers want to display       a given period; at the end of this                    information need bounded by cogni-
their links in response to a term or        period, it bills the provider and pro-                tive and situational factors, while the
phrase, the higher the minimum and          vides various statistics concerning the               search engine must service relevant
maximum bids. Usually, the minimum          provider’s campaign.                                  content to the user. What makes paid
bid on any keyword is about 10                 Based on these statistics, providers               search unique is that the content
cents—that is, the search engine gets       can choose to alter bids, maximum                     provider seeks via keyword selection
this amount from the provider every         costs per period, and keywords in real                to determine the user’s underlying
time a searcher clicks on a sponsored       time. They can also change terms or                   intent and attach some monetary
link presented in response to the key-      phrases, the price they’re willing to bid,            value to it.
word that the provider bid on.              the degree of term matching, and even                    Suppose, for example, a user
   For competitive markets, the bids        the price they pay in a given period. In              searches for “digital camera.” While
can get much higher. According to           this way, content providers become                    content containing this expression

                                                                                                                                          July 2006   89
            WEB TECHNOLOGIES




                                                 D
     might be relevant, a standard search              espite the many benefits of paid        This cross-medium linkage can sig-
     mechanism doesn’t address the rea-                search, concerns remain. One of     nificantly increase the synchronization
     sons underlying the query: Is the user            the fastest growing online prob-    of information pull and push, provid-
     getting ready for a vacation, taking up     lems is click fraud, which involves       ing more relevant content to the
     photography as a hobby, or looking          clicking on sponsored links—either        searcher. Certainly, the goal of all
     for a gift for someone special?             manually or via automated software—       involved is to get the right informa-
       Paid search enables the content           without any intention of making a pur-    tion to the user at the right time and in
     provider to make these connections.         chase. Perpetrators seek either to        the right form. ■
     The drive to understand the searcher’s      deprive a rival of advertising funds or
     intent and algorithmically tie it to con-   to direct phony traffic to a Web site to   Bernard J. Jansen is an assistant profes-
     tent is what separates paid search          boost pay-per-click revenue.              sor in the College of Information Sciences
     from traditional forms of metatagging          Nevertheless, the appeal of paid       and Technology at The Pennsylvania
     that focus solely on elements such as       search appears to be growing. The         State University. Contact him at jjansen@
     author, topic, creation date, and con-      major search engines continue to          acm.org.
     tent terms.                                 expand the basic model, linking paid
       For users, paid search also signifi-      search to other information media
     cantly reduces the spam that often          such as telephony and television. For
     accompanies organic results. Providers      example, both Yahoo! and Google            Editor: Simon S.Y. Shim, Department of
     have a cost incentive to present rele-      provide campaign management tools          Computer Engineering, San Jose State
     vant content, and search engines have       that permit providers to synchronize       University; sishim@email.sjsu.edu
     both automated and manual review            paid search with other online adver-
     processes to facilitate this process.       tising campaigns.




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