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The Big Convergence Of Online Advertising

It’s hard to imagine a Web without onramps like search engines these days. They’ve become an essential part of the online experience. It may be equally as hard to imagine what the next phase of online advertising will be, as used to the sponsored links as we are.

That maybe part of the problem. Ad-blindness generally becomes the necessity of ad invention. Even as Google slays the competition in the search ad sector and takes in 40 percent higher profits quarter after quarter, there must be something to the company’s (and its competitors’) willingness to dole out heaps of cash for ad display companies and prime real estate like YouTube.

Google did, after all, start weaving video into AdSense, and overlaying ads on YouTube. (How are you dealing with ad-blindness? Comment.)

So there may be (okay, there is) some credibility to that the bulk of online ad spending in the near future will steer away from keyword advertisements. But again it is still hard to imagine too much of that bulk being redirected.

My teenager at home, Internet-savvy as he is, still uses the Google search bar to find YouTube and Wikipedia – even though I’ve fussed at him repeatedly to just type in the URL. He’s a good representative of the average surfer – the journey begins with a search engine.

Even then, and even though Google has prided itself (in the days of moving upwards from launch to national conscience) on its clean, unobtrusive interface with text ads tucked neatly to the sides or differentiated up top in the prime real estate area.

But don’t count on it staying that way. It’s not clear what Sergey Brin meant by “the convergent optimizer” that will be launched from beta-testing, but here is the context in which it is delivered, courtesy of :

Co-founder Sergey Brin talked about a new initiative rolling out this quarter, called the “convergent optimizer,” currently in beta-testing. (Sounds spooky.) It will allow ad clients to bid on how much a Web user is worth to them, and then Google will figure the math of how much that client should spend to buy a keyword. Brin said the company was seeing higher click-through rates than expected for ads it has been placing at the bottom of YouTube videos.

The mention of YouTube in that report is telling. Surfers are again blind to online advertising — just as we ignore banners, we’ve learned to ignore the right column as well as the ads above the search listings, even on webpages where we think ads are supposed to be.

Call it Google-operant-conditioning. And, as my teenager shows, it’s difficult to unlearn bad habits. In order to be noticed, online advertising will have to converge. Microsoft knows it, Google knows it. (Have you heard of this “convergent optimizer?” Fill us in with a comment.)

But it won’t replace search. Search is the starting line. Online ads will be adapting and changing, though, to catch the searcher in the SERPs, in the social network, the video site, the blog, wherever the searcher ends up after they’ve searched.

There is an imbalance on the advertiser side, though. Part of the necessity that is driving invention is that smaller advertisers are being squeezed out of the starting point, the SERPs by big brand advertisers, who not only drive up the cost of PPC, but also buy out the top ranking websites in order to appear in the organic results.

Small advertisers, then, are left to hang on to the long tail for dear life. Very soon, if not already, it’s Trickledown Economics applied to search advertising. The little guy gets the keywords left over after the bigger competitors buy up everything else.

So there is a necessity to provide more advertising channels, especially if Google and the rest want to maximize revenue. Maybe you can’t get a position you want on the SERPs, but if targeted well enough, your ad might be aptly placed in a YouTube or AdSense video, within a Facebook widget, delivered via geo-targeted text message, or maybe alongside a Twitter conversation.

Are big brands squeezing you out of the SERPs and good AdWords positioning? Tell how that affects your strategy in the comments.

That’s just the beginning. When television and the Internet converge, there’ll be whole new models to discuss.

About the Author:
Jason Lee Miller is a WebProNews editor and writer covering business and technology.