Online car rental bookings are expected to total $7.7 billion in 2005, according to Jupiter Research. Many of these reservations originate from queries made on search engine Web sites.
To grab their fair share, independent car rental companies must have a deliberate and varied search engine marketing strategy. All Internet marketing programs should include pay-per-click (PPC) search engine advertising.
PPC is an advertising payment model in which advertisers bid to have small text-based ads placed at or near the top of search results for a particular keyword phrase. These ads contain a provocative title about the offer, a brief description, and a link to the advertiser’s Web site. Advertisers pay per click — in other words, they pay based on how many Web visitors actually click through to their Web site. The desired outcome is a reservation.
Jupiter Research reports that from 2003 to 2004, spending on Internet advertising increased 27%. During this same period, the growth in advertising on broadcast television totaled 8.2%, cable television 14.1%, radio 7.0%, magazine 5.0%, newspaper 4.8%, and Yellow Pages 3.2%.
Jupiter also reports overall online ad spending increased from $3.5 billion in 1999 to $8.4 billion in 2004, and is projected to grow to $16.1 billion in 2009. Paid search marketing continues to grow faster than any other sector of online advertising, leaping from $2.6 billion in 2004 to a projected $5.5 billion in 2009.
Paid search listings generate substantial revenue for search companies. Without the paid search business model, the search engines could not offer free natural listings that are still the most popular with users.
Search engine users have accepted sponsored listings, but this trend in no way represents a threat to the popularity of natural or organic search. Sponsored ads (PPC) capture only one out of every seven search engine clicks. This represents 15% of all search engine traffic, while 85% of queries result in a click on natural listings.
Paid listings have been common since 2001. Their success can be attributed to their simplicity and how seamlessly they have been incorporated into the natural listings. Most consumers are not fully aware of what constitutes a paid ad. Paid listings are usually differentiated from the natural listings only by an inconspicuous “sponsored link” label. Because the paid ads stand side by side with the natural listings, they are generally viewed as equally relevant click options for the search visitor.
This intermingling of both natural and paid search listings is essential for paid search success because statistics show banner adverting is not a viable revenue model. Banner advertising is so clearly associated with paid advertising that most consumers develop banner blindness and simply “block out” the banner message and rarely consider it a viable click option. Unobtrusive text-based ads have become the standard for search engine advertising.
Major Pay-Per-Click Networks
There are hundreds of pay-per-click search engine networks doing business on the Internet today. The networks providing the most ad exposure are Yahoo Search Marketing Solutions (formerly Overture) and Google Adwords. In March of this year, MSN announced plans for a PPC service that will debut before the year’s end.
On Google, the paid search is found in the right-hand column titled “sponsored links” and on the top in a colored box also titled “sponsored links.” Like Google, Yahoo Search Marketing Solutions displays results on the right and top in colored boxes identified as “sponsored results.”
Although these sites draw significant traffic, they recently broadened their reach by engaging in contextual advertising. Contextual advertising, or content-targeted advertising, is the delivering of paid search ads to content-specific Web sites where the ad delivered matches the contextual theme of the page content.
For example, a travel Web site participating in Google’s content-targeted advertising program may contain a page about traveling to New York City. As an advertising partner, this site can generate a relevant paid search ad on such keywords as “New York Car Rentals.” If the visitor clicks on the ad, the advertiser pays the search company, which in turn pays a small portion to the content travel site owner.
Both Google and Yahoo Search Marketing Solutions (YSMS) have extremely large networks of affiliated sites that expand their reach with these types of relationships. YSMS calls its program Content Match. Google’s program is known as Google Adsense.
YSMS distributes its results to a wide variety of sites, including AltaVista.com, Excite.com, Go2Net.com, InfoSpace.com, Sympatico.ca, Yahoo.com and others. Google’s partners include America Online Inc., Ask Jeeves, AT&T Worldnet, CompuServe, EarthLink Inc., Netscape Sympatico Inc., HowStuffWorks and many more.