Mon, Nov 15, 2004 - Page 11 News List

Internet searching creates new market

As searching the Internet has lately become the most frequent online activity, it has created opportunities for new Internet marketing tools besides the well-known banner ads. Pam Thompson, vice-president of international operations at Overture Services Inc, a US-based paid internet search firm that entered the Taiwan market last month, talked with 'Taipei Times' staff reporter Jessie Ho about the outlook on and trend in this exciting market


Pam Thompson, vice-president of international operations at Overture Services Inc.


Taipei Times: What business opportunities do you see in online searching?

Pam Thompson: Analysts suggested that by the year 2008, there will globally be roughly 11 billion Internet users, and searching among Internet users is also growing at great speed. We see people are becoming more sophisticated on how they use search. They started by searching the URL and a single word, but now they are a lot more descriptive, which suggests how well the searching tool works, and how the tool is becoming more relevant to them. As they continue to use it, growth opportunities in the search industry rise.

What we are seeing is that people use the Internet and searching as ways of research to make purchasing decisions, in particular more complicated purchasing decisions like choosing a digital camera. They'll search online as well as going to stores. It's becoming an integrated process between online research, online purchasing, in-store research and in-store purchasing. Therefore, we feel there are a lot of opportunities for us to create value for advertisers by allowing them to have more targeted messages, and for subscribers to get access to relevant information to make purchasing decisions.

TT: Marketing via search is a relatively new concept to the Taiwan market. Can you explain how it works?

[Editor's note: Sean Wu (伍臻祥), general manager of Overture Taiwan, who joined the interview, answered this question on behalf of Thompson.]

Sean Wu: If one company becomes our customer, it gets to choose what key words they want to bid on, for example, PC and printer. So when end users or subscribers type in these key words in the search box, the company's specific search listing will show up at the top of the results list. Our customers only need to pay us when subscribers actually click on the links and go to their Web sites. If two companies both choose the same term, whoever pays more gets the first position in the results. It is up to customers to decide what costs they are willing to pay for this particular sales prospect.

A special feature is that this marketing tool is not just for big enterprises, but also small and medium-sized companies, because they only need to pay a few dollars to direct customers to their Web sites.

TT: In your experience in the US, how do your customers like the results they get with this marketing tool?

Thompson: I think they like our service very much. Advertisers in the US all have a certain percentage of their marketing budget that goes toward online spending. We are excited to see that online spending is growing. In addition, the percentage of online spend leans more and more toward the search tool. The trend is occurring in other markets as well. So it's a question of maturity. Customers have to use it to see and appreciate the power it has. Gradually, our customers have been seeing increasing click-through rates and purchases. It's not hard to convince advertisers to use our tool because they need such a small amount of money to get started, not a huge ad campaign. It's a very simple and low-cost way to see how it works.

TT: Will the service provided by Overture reduce the accuracy of search results? If it does change the results, how do you balance customer interests and user satisfaction?

Thompson: The listing page that pops up will show whether the listings are sponsored listings or "pure" listings. This is a dynamic marketplace, so users can either submit the search subject again or go to the relevant pages. It depends on their preferences and the nature of their searches. Our job is to work with advertisers to make sure that we really understand and help them to develop listings that are truly relevant to the search.

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