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The Mobile Search Advertising Landscape

msearchgroove.gifWith much of the mobile content action moving off-portal, the pressure is on publishers, now in command of their mobile content destinies, to take charge and proactively promote their mobile content and sites through paid mobile search, or top-notch placement in organic search results – or both. Must publishers choose between Google and Yahoo, or are there other alternatives?

By Peggy Anne Salz, founder, MSearchGroove.

peggy_ann_salz.gifWhile the search giants no doubt play a pivotal role in paid search strategies, clever publishers are taking a more hybrid approach, leveraging their brands – that in many cases have the reputation and the reach to rival any branded search provider – and white-label solutions to become mini-Googles and manage their mobile advertising and keyword auctions.

A prime example is CBS Mobile, which recently teamed up with white-label mobile search and advertising solutions provider Medio Systems to add search capabilities and search-enabled advertising opportunities to its CBS Mobile websites. The announcement marked the official launch of Medio Mobile Search for Publishers, an advertising-supported search solution designed from the ground up to put content companies in control of their mobile experience and ad revenues. (read an interview with Jeff Sellinger, CEO of CBS Mobile).

The aim is to improve the quality of the end-user mobile search experience and expand the menu of advertising options CBS can offer its clients. In practice, the Medio-controlled search box pulls relevant content from CBS’ site content as well as from the entire mobile Web. It also allows relevant ads – based on users’ search terms – to appear adjacent to the search results. Clicks on ads surrounding CBS content translate into revenue for CBS Mobile.

Medio tells me the next step is to provide its partner publishers such as CBS and mobile content companies that sign up for Medio’s Mobile Content Program, greater access to relevant content and inventory in the Medio index, which they can feature in their own search results as well as monetize through search advertising on their sites. This capability sits at the core of uSearch, a new universal search offering Medio is set to launch in the “next few months.” (I’ve been pre-briefed and can only describe it as ground-breaking.)

Another solution publishers can consider comes from Mobile Commerce (MC), a UK-based developer of mobile search facilities that recently took the wraps off its Monetised Mobile Search solution.

The solution allows any WAP site owner, regardless of network, to install a search box within their interface and manage a keyword auction. Users’ search queries entered in the search box are submitted to MC, which blends the search results from a number of different search pools and presents these relevant results in the format and context that is most useful to the searcher. Steve Page, MC CEO, tells me several major media companies and brands have signed up for the service including The Sun, The News of the World, and Carphone Warehouse.

At the other end of the spectrum, MCN – a provider of federated mobile search solutions featured in today’s MobiAdNews interview – has developed a real-time federated approach to mobile search that effectively connects directly to publishers and content sources to deliver relevant results in high value vertical content categories, such as music, in 2-3 clicks.

More recently, the company extended its mobile search value proposition with allwords, a vertical paid search program. This PPC mobile content promotion program allows companies to bid for all the keywords in a vertical category (music, shopping, games) rather than scatter their resources across individual keywords.

peggy_quote1.gifConnect the dots, and publishers are clearly examining their options and looking beyond the usual branded search engine suspects to develop their own branded capabilities, and ultimately reap the lion’s share of their advertising revenues. With more than half of all users going straight for the search box when they enter a website, a knee-jerk reaction that suggests the search engine brand may not be the main attraction, why should publishers give up and give in to Google & Co.?

My take: The recent introduction of flat-rate data plans not only boosts the use of mobile search services and potentially encourages more users to surf the mobile Web; it increases interest among content owners and publishers in implementing paid for search to monetize the new audiences they are building on-portal and off. More is better is my mantra when it comes to monetization. What used to be a choice between branded search providers (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft) is now a choice between branded search providers and a wide range of white-label and vertical search alternatives. The potential for paid for search is massive, and the market is wide open.

Peggy Anne Salz is the chief analyst and founder of MSearchGroove, an online network specializing in analysis and commentary on mobile search, mobile advertising and social media. (More information here.)

15.07.2008    Tags: , , ,
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