Google Search Network: See It & Weep, or A Renaissance of Accountability
About a week ago Google started, for the first time ever, to break out impression/click/cost data between Google and its Search Network, something many of us in the SEM community had been asking for for years.
Now that Google's providing this much asked-for visibility, advertisers are getting their first view into who exactly Google's search distribution partners are, as well as the conversion value of their traffic. Lo and behold, the results don't live up to Google's owned & operated search traffic. One poster from Webmasterworld said it best:
"Wow, just split stats on an account. Bye bye Search Network!"
A long, long time ago, in a world far, far away, Google didn't allow advertisers to view on or bid separately on Google Content; this led to a situation where most advertisers simply didn't participate in Google Content (at least until Google made it a default & hard to opt-out-of feature in the AdWords interface, but that's another story...). After pulling their hair out over this for 2+ years, Google finally had the good mind to break Content out separately for both reporting and bidding, and lo and behold - advertisers took up the channel. In the most recent quarter, Google's Content network accounted for a disproportionately large amount of the company's growth. Give people visibility and control and they'll bid to ROI, so it seems.
So now we're seeing this story repeat itself with Google's Search Network. Visibility is step one, but the ability to bid separately must not be far behind. With visibility, it'll be 'bye bye Search Network' for many, but once bidding separately on the Search Network is enabled, you'll see advertisers bid the Network to its own ROI characteristics, which should lead to a renaissance of accountability.
In the short term, though, I believe it'll be 'bye bye Search Network' for many, with some - but not all - of the savings being reinvested in Google O&O traffic.