Google Outdistancing Yahoo! in Monetizing Branded SERPs

Yahoo! tends to be a bit more cautious than Google when it comes to allowing trademark related ads. That significantly suppresses their earnings because brand related search queries are often some of the most targeted, most commercial, highest converting, and most expensive keywords. Here is a snapshot of the current search results for SEO Book. Notice that the top 8 organic results link to SEO By loosening up on subdomains (displaying them more frequently) and providing a mini site map (called Sitelinks) in the SERPs it makes it much harder for affiliates or merchants reselling a brand to get exposure through the organic search results for the core brand name.

There are two pieces to that, as well.

  1. If the top 5 or 6 search results point at the official site searchers have to scroll down quite a bit to find commercial search results outside of the core brand. Rather than scrolling they may be more likely to click an ad.

  2. If the search results look highly informational in nature (by being harder to manipulate via commercial bias, and Google over-representing the official site) then merchants are more likely to buy ads.

The brutal part with buying the ads is that sometimes Google shows 0, 1, 2, or 3 AdWords ads above the organic search results. If the organic search results are somewhat irrelevant to the commercial intent of a searcher, those few ads at the top of the search results are going to get a high clickthrough rate. If you are a merchant who is not featured at the top of the results the right rail ads will bring you relatively little exposure. Thus a bidding war occurs for those top couple ad spots, and Google can control how many ads to show above the results to maximize earnings.

If you sell an ebook like I do, it is no big deal if one day your sales are high and the next day they are garbage, but if you run a business with fixed costs, a fixed marketing budget, and many employees then you may be stuck paying whatever it takes to be at the top of the results for brands you carry. The more dependant your business is on search the more they can bleed you dry!

While I used my brand as an example in this post, this brand factor recently played a big roll for a client, who even outranks his manufacturer for their official name in some major search engines, but is forced to pay much higher AdWords rates to get any exposure on Google. If he falls out of the top couple ad slots the right rail sends us like 10% the traffic that the top ad positions do. And I am probably going to have to bid bleed about $5 a click for a while to work that client back into the rotation of the ads at the top of the search results. And then if we knock a competing site out of position that may spur on a budget bleeding bidding war. Companies with a fixed marketing budget (my client has a variable budget based on market conditions) will suffer even worse by having to overpay for traffic until they kill their budget, and then not show up the rest of the time.

If the core brand term is priced out of reach it is important to

My client dominates the long tail, but for that particular brand he carries, most of the queries are for the official brand name. As a Google share owner and owner of a strong brand, I think they are brilliant. As a marketer who has a client getting screwed by their setup, I think a bit less of them. ;)

Also worth noting that Yahoo!'s search results are moving toward a more authority based algorithm, and they are starting to double list many brand sites, so this issue will likely rise again soon enough.

Published: October 14, 2006 by Aaron Wall in google pay per click search engines


October 19, 2006 - 11:47am

You are just right. I opened a PPC account two days ago on Yahoo following their $50 bonus. This is what i recieved back:

Account ID: XXXX
Account Name: ZZZZ

Approved Search Listings: 12
Declined Search Listings: 26
Pending Search Listings: 0

From 40 Key Words entered on the account opening, they declined 28 (the best ones). It took 2 days. All apparently due to trademark concerns. These KW perform on the other PPC vendors without problems.

It is not easy to increase reveinue with such policies. Or they think everyone will bid $5 per KW???

October 15, 2006 - 4:40am

Talk about not ranking for your own brand name. Aaron: did you ever here of the case: this guy (named coby) owns the domain name and coby inc. tried to sue him for the rights of the name. The results... coby got to keep his domain name.

This comes to mind because when you searc for coby in google: guess what... coby is literally right behind the giant electronic manufacturer's Web site-
Another Web site of the electronic manufacturer's is ecoby- and that does not rank at all for the the keyword "coby."

October 15, 2006 - 5:02am

Then I see you are correct about yahoo being less devoted towards brand names in the organic results because cobyusa does not rank in the firts spot of the organic results in yahoo, it ranks in the 2nd spot. Also in yahoo there are many more reseller/merchant related Web sites such as newegg showing and less coby related names shownig. In google on the other hand- there are definitely more "coby" related sites showing. I think that this proves that if one of the keywords of your site has the brand name that you are looking to rank for in it, then google will bias towards you- more than would yahoo.

October 15, 2006 - 7:50am

So is this an example of the strong getting stronger while for those new to the game it's going to be even more and more difficult to get noticed? Are new sites and businesses going to be forced to spend more in order to build their brand or get traffic from Google and now Yahoo?

October 15, 2006 - 7:58am

Well costs constantly increase so long as a market is underpriced and new competition keeps jumping in.

As much as anything, I think this post is just another example of why weakness in Yahoo!'s ad market may not equate to a bad quarter by Google, and a reminder to some marketers of how their marketing strategy may need to change if their search marketing is heavily reliant upon core brand related searches.

I get multi link sitemaps for searches like

  • seobook
  • seo book
  • aaron wall seo
  • aaron wall's seo

The branded multi link love will hit more queries over time.

October 16, 2006 - 12:41am

And in addition Aaron... you would most likely be dominating in more keywords if you would have had more anchor text variations earlier on in the game.

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