Lately, there’s been a lot of talk about search without keywords. Recently, the topic came up again at SES San Jose in a keynote presentation from Nick Fox, Google’s business product management director for AdWords. In the presentation, Nick outlined where paid search could be in the next 5 to 10 years and covered two general topics—paid search without keyword terms and phrases and pay per conversion. In this post, I’ll cover the paid search part of his presentation. In my next post, I’ll look at the future of pay per conversion.
Why is search with no keyword terms important?
There are several important reasons why search without keyword terms has recently become important. Some of the reasons for this include:
Longer query length. According to a Hitwise news release, the number of 5+ search queries increased by 10% from January 2008 to January 2009. In the same time period, 2 word search queries decreased by 5%.
Unique search terms. According to Google, 20-25% of search queries in the last 6 months were new queries.
Increased searcher sophistication. In his keynote, Nick provided an example related to cashmere sweaters that demonstrated this point well. He stated in 2007, people searched for cashmere sweaters 47 different ways. In 2008, people searched for the same keyword phrase 73 different ways. It’s becoming a headache for advertisers to anticipate and react to so many different queries. Should advertiser prowess be measured based on mind-boggling attention to long query keyword detail?
Resistance to do-it-yourself advertising systems. Google recognizes that PPC advertising considerations (like keywords, ad copy, cost per click, etc.) can be cumbersome for some advertisers. New methods of connecting advertisers with searchers seem inevitable—especially for those advertisers who don’t like fiddling with self-serve systems.
What would no-keyword search look like?
In the keynote, Nick mentioned that keywords were used as a proxy for relevance. Conceptually, there is no reason an advertiser couldn’t achieve the same results without having to directly manage a keyword list. Down the road, Google wants to state outcomes and have machine-based learning and algorithms come up with the best method of achieving specific outcomes. In the case of no keyword search, an advertiser (like a retailer) would provide information on products, product descriptions, pricing, etc. and Google would use the information to find the most effective way to place ads in front of potential customers.
In his keynote, Nick provided an example related to plumbers: a plumber would provide a list his services and Google would figure out a way to appropriately advertise the plumber’s services. Here’s a possible example of a list of plumber services Google could draw from:
- Bath sinks
- Kitchen sinks
- Bathtubs and showers
- Water heaters
- Water softeners
- Drain pipes
- Sewer lines
- Garbage disposals
- Laundry centers
- Gas vents
- Gas meters
- Backflow prevention
The advantages of no-keyword search
All in all, there are several advantages of no keyword term search. They are:
- Efficiency for advertisers—there would be no keyword research component to a PPC advertising campaign.
- There could be better connections between searchers and advertisers on natural language queries.
- It would allow advertisers to better connect with consumers and capitalize on all relevant advertising opportunities.
These are obviously initial ideas and now Google needs to figure how to make no-keyword search work. According to Nick Fox, it will be some time before Google shares specific product details. Sharing the concepts with the advertising community at this stage doubles as a feedback mechanism and a trial balloon: if too many people hate it, Google can modify its approach. We sure look forward to hearing more on this.
If you’re interested in reading more or chiming in on this topic, check out the Google groups keynote forum.
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