Advertising Will Stall Search Quality

There I said it.

I’ve been working with Thomson Reuters on a sponsored series of pieces on the Future of Search. The latest post is John Battelle’s thoughts on Microsoft’s Cashback initiative. Then today a post by Mike Troiano about how Google Sucks. The posts got me thinking about the relationship between search engine quality and monetization.  I think the two diverge pretty radically and I think we are getting there quickly. 

Google doesn’t suck. It is an amazing business made by people who had the discipline to focus on building a great product and then married it to a business model that scaled like nothing seen before in advertising.

In the process of Google creating a market cap that rivals small countries one thought has surfaced over and over in my head. Search quality will almost certainly suffer as search advertising revenue growth rates slow (and they will.) The best search experiences will not surface the most monetizable ads. Ultimately, search engines will need to cede more and more pixels to the ads and the user interface will require designs that maximize ad performance. If a search engine really does its job, learns what I like, who I am, where I am, etc. the organic results should always outperform the paid results. Always. Period.

The future of search will require different sources of monetization. Think I’m wrong?

4 Responses to “Advertising Will Stall Search Quality”

  1. 1 daniel rueda May 28, 2008 at 2:43 pm

    if the founders of the internet were only thinking about location as opposed to search we would not be in this algorithim cyberblah fiasco were in now. can anyone here say “LocationEngine”. future of search wont be search at all. it will be Location. users will burn out g00gol and yoodle and move on to a more entertaining simple personalized vertical location based catalog navigation. wont even need a keyboard or have to type something in. just mouse around and click on vertical icons. pay for click falls through the floor and gives way to radically transparent pay for conversion system. in the end which is only 5-10 years away the most efficient b2b b2c c2c vertical channels will take over. integration is everything. easy prey. who knew?

  2. 2 miconian May 30, 2008 at 1:48 pm

    But are organic results and paid results necessarily direct competitors? I often do a search, open a link to one result in a new tab, and then select a different result to view first. Sometimes one of those results is paid, and the other is organic.

    It’s true that quality organic search will necessarily be better at serving up exactly what the user was asking for. But to me, one of the great things about paid results is that they can serve up something that the user wants, even though it *isn’t* what they asked for. And maybe they wanted it more than they want what they’re seeking.

    Yes, quality organic results will always get more clicks than paid results. But as long as their purposes are orthagonal, and there are Adwords copywriters who know what they’re doing, there will also be successful search campaigns.

  3. 3 continuousbeta May 30, 2008 at 2:04 pm

    miconian – don’t disagree that ads can add value on search results only suggest that serving two masters will ultimately require choices that will impact the quality of the orgainic search experience. As revenue growth stalls with adwords and other search options, the innovation will almost certainly focus on ways to improve that business. There are only so many pixels on a page and only so many engineers (even at the major search shops.) As search evolves to a point where the quality of the result produces one or two results rather than 1000s this will become an issue.

  1. 1 Advertising Will Stall Search Quality Trackback on May 28, 2008 at 1:16 pm

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