Search engine advertising in web retailing : an efficiency analysis
Mokaya, Brian O.
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This study examines the efficiency of search engine advertising strategies employed by firms. The research setting is the online retailing industry, which is characterized by extensive use of Web technologies and high competition for market share and profitability. For Internet retailers, search engines are increasingly serving as an information gateway for many decision-making tasks. In particular, Search engine advertising (SEA) has opened a new marketing channel for retailers to attract new customers and improve their performance. In addition to natural (organic) search marketing strategies, search engine advertisers compete for top advertisement slots provided by search brokers such as Google and Yahoo! through keyword auctions. The rationale being that greater visibility on a search engine during a keyword search will capture customers' interest in a business and its product or service offerings. Search engines account for most online activities today. Compared with the slow growth of traditional marketing channels, online search volumes continue to grow at a steady rate. According to the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, spending on search engine marketing by North American firms in 2008 was estimated at $13.5 billion. Despite the significant role SEA plays in Web retailing, scholarly research on the topic is limited. Prior studies in SEA have focused on search engine auction mechanism design. In contrast, research on the business value of SEA has been limited by the lack of empirical data on search advertising practices. Recent advances in search and retail technologies have created datarich environments that enable new research opportunities at the interface of marketing and information technology. This research uses extensive data from Web retailing and Google-based search advertising and evaluates Web retailers' use of resources, search advertising techniques, and other relevant factors that contribute to business performance across different metrics. The methods used include Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA), data mining, and multivariate statistics. This research contributes to empirical research by analyzing several Web retail firms in different industry sectors and product categories. One of the key findings is that the dynamics of sponsored search advertising vary between multi-channel and Web-only retailers. While the key performance metrics for multi-channel retailers include measures such as online sales, conversion rate (CR), c1ick-through-rate (CTR), and impressions, the key performance metrics for Web-only retailers focus on organic and sponsored ad ranks. These results provide a useful contribution to our organizational level understanding of search engine advertising strategies, both for multi-channel and Web-only retailers. These results also contribute to current knowledge in technology-driven marketing strategies and provide managers with a better understanding of sponsored search advertising and its impact on various performance metrics in Web retailing.