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A Primer to Paid-Inclusion Advertising
Jeff Pasternack

Take it from me; looming deadlines strike as much fear into the hearts of columnists as they do editors. As this column's deadline approached, I was faced with an interesting dilemma: devote serious time to write an article on something new or quickly rehash something old and go to Playboy's 50th anniversary party in Las Vegas and report on the, ah, various technologies used at the event. Regrettably, the pending arrival of Hurricane Isabel (read: threatening, dagger-like glares from my wife who I love and adore) made my decision an easy one: I'd dutifully report on something new.

There's hardly a time when you'll do a search on Teoma, Google, Yahoo! or any other search engine that doesn't produce some type of sponsored links as part of the search result. Most search engines place a couple on the top of the screen and some down the right side. This type of advertising is called paid-inclusion and it can be a great way to drive traffic to your site.

There are two primary ad networks for creating, managing and placing paid-inclusion ad campaigns: Overture and Google. Here's the basic concept. You select a word or phrase that relates to the type of product or service you offer. You create an ad around your selection and determine what you are willing to pay for it to be placed on the search results page when someone searches on your selection. In most circumstances, you generally only pay when someone clicks on your ad.

The words you choose will greatly affect the success of the advertising initiative. For example, if you are a plastic surgeon located in Bethesda, Maryland, you may be tempted to create an ad for the phrase "breast augmentation." However, this phrase is very generic and global: it probably does you little good if someone from Houston clicks your ad and visits your site. However, if you create your ad on the phrase "breast augmentation Maryland," there is a greater likelihood that the person clicking the link will actually be someone who is able to visit your office.

Localization is a key tactic to creating ads when your offering is based on a local service. For example, a search for "breast augmentation Maryland" on Google produced 10 search results with links to sites such as and These sites simply serve as referral engines and neither is a physician's site. In fact, some sites like this require you to submit contact information to get the referral. More importantly, on the right side of the search results, the first two sponsored links are for local medical practices. So which link are you likely to click? The one to a dubiously named directory or one to a physician?

While providing the same basic service, Google and Overture differentiate their services when it comes to methodologies of campaign management. On Google there is no way to see what other people are paying. For example, using their estimator, I know that I will be listed first if I am willing to pay $1.25 per click for "breast augmentation Maryland." But what if the current first place company is only paying 88 cents? Why should I have to pay 36 cents more per click than necessary? So the only way to find out more or less for sure is by trial and error. Enter in 95 cents and see where that places me. Then try 94 cents and so on until I find the exact rate that drops me from first to second place. I only want to pay one penny more than the company currently in first place.

On Overture, you can see how much someone is paying for a particular ad, which makes it easy to set pricing. For "breast augmentation Maryland" I can see that the top seven ads start at $1.35 and drop to $1.25 per click. The current occupant of the 8th slot is paying 76 cents. If I wanted to be 8th, I could place my ad at 77 cents. Or, I could place it at 90 cents and use the Auto Bid feature, which will raise my rate based on what other advertisers are doing.

Overture also makes it easy to see the competing ads. This is helpful when it comes to creating my own ads as I can try and differentiate from my competitors. For example, if I'm going to localize my ads, I want my ad content to say "Maryland" or "Washington Metro Area."

Both systems also diverge when it comes to budgeting. Google allows you to set a monthly maximum; Overture requires you to spend at least $20 a month and if you don't, they'll charge you the difference between the charges you accrued and the $20. I prefer Google's methodology because if my ads are wildly successful, I won't be clicked into massive debt. Overture just keeps charging away and that scares me like crazy.

Online marketing and advertising should play a role in any organization's marketing efforts. Paid-inclusion ads are highly relevant to the content on which a person is searching and produce automatically measurable results. Speaking of automatically measurable results, I guess it's a good thing that I wrote this column and didn't go to Playboy's 50th anniversary celebration. Thanks Isabel!

Jeff Pasternack is the president of Dynamic Consulting Group and author of the TechnoPeasant Review. If you have questions about technology or comments about this column, please write to him at


Jeff Pasternack is the president of Dynamic Consulting Group, a franchise partner of 1-800-GOT-JUNK? and author of the TechnoPeasant Review.
If you have questions or comments about this column, please write to him at