Google Adwords
Now the leader of the ppc market, better than the Overture-Yahoo system. Comfortable user interface, easy bidding, fast editorial review, good tracking tools (Google Analytics - free 'Urchin' service online), fair bid system, first-rate relevance testing, original ad evaluation, efficient reports application, important quality score measurments, fast adsbot feature for testing website content.
You will not ignore this marketing channel, since it is offered by the world's most powerful search engine ever.
However, don't fall into the "contextual ads" option in the settings option (AdSense) - they are still not converting as well, compared with the Google search network.

Overture (Yahoo Search Marketing)
No longer the leader of the pack. Alongside the famous Adwords program, Overture (now Yahoo-Search-Marketing, and originally offers a reliable PPC system, huge traffic volumes, excellent editorial review, fair bid method, exact reporting and flexible applications. My campaigns there have worked great all the time, even outside the US. Avoid the "content match" and stick to the search-based ads. Never ignore this channel of digital advertising.

Ask Jeeves Sponsored Listings
New player in the PPC market. Uses the same system as LookSmart's, but offers much better conversion rates and better ROI (Return Over Investment). Big surprise for search engine marketers in the field - good competition for all the smaller services outside the "Google-Overture" giant traffic mass. The AJ system is a bit slow and tedious, but the quality of traffic is worth the time & effort. Recommended.

FindWhat (also known as "Miva-USA")
Nice addition to any PPC campaign. The quality of traffic is not up there with Google or Overture, but it provides considerable amounts of traffic to enhance most keyword advertising efforts. It's worth using only if you're willing to hire an account manager to handle it daily or weekly. The "Miva" system is not the best in the field of human interface design, but it's fair enough. Overall an important channel, worth encouraging in order to support "under-dog" competition.

LookSmart LookListings
Only if you really need the extra traffic. The quality of clicks is not always ideal, and the conversion could have been better. The system looks identical to AskJeeve's, but AJ has far better conversion rates, better ROI and better quality of clicks. The company has its long-standing reputation as a search powerhouse, but it's no competition to the big ones (Google & Overture), nor it is superior to Ask Jeeves or even FindWhat in the USA.

Enhance (formerly A-HA)
Not bad, but could have been better. Offers some more traffic for your campaign, but the bids aren't that cheap, and the quality of traffic is not the highest in the field. Good for expanding your reach, but not essential if you're happy with the amount of traffic from other, bigger or more converting market channels. Enhance is doing nice work and have good customer support, but it's not an amazing find.

Avoid this one. Quality of traffic is low, and it seems that this service is far from offering a reliable service for long-running advertisers. I would stay away from Search123 after burning some cash there for traffic that didn't do well at all.

Small service with an OK traffic quality. The volume of clicks is not substantial, but this could work for some campaigns. They're not very picky with editorial review, and some of the bids are really low. However, it's not worth your time if you're running a big campaign with major players in the market. All said, their traffic still converts clicks into purchases, so 7search can't be totally ignored.

Big disappointment. Very low quality of traffic. Many advertisers waste some cash there and have to act quick in order to refund the rest of it. Even when trying the small players in the PPC online market, you should be very catious when choosing this channel. Rumors of click-fraud and non-converting clicks are warning signs you shouldn't ignore. Kanoodle may cost you too much if you're not careful with daily monitoring.

Much like Kanoodle, ePilot offers low-quality traffic with dubious customer service and suspicious conversion rates. After trying it out, the conclusion is "stay away". This PPC channel is better avoided, although some may find the low bids appealing for initial try-outs. The system isn't very impressive, either.

eSpotting (also known as "Miva-U.K.")
The most well-known European PPC service offers decent traffic and nice conversion rates. When planning an ad campaign in countries like United Kingdom (U.K.), Germany & France, you can't ignore this channel. The system is friendly, their reputation is high and the amount of European PPC traffic is substantial. Please note the currency differences (British Pounds) and monitor closely for performance, since the European traffic has different behaviour, compared with US traffic.

Another European PPC service, expanding well beyond the U.K. to include France, Germany and more EU states. Their "featured sites" PPC program offers decent bids, fair system and OK conversion rates. Prices are not low (it's Europe!) but it's an important source, albeit inferior to eSpotting in size & scope.

Keyword Marketplace
Although it's not really a search engine, it's still a PPC that some SEM people try out. Well - don't! quality of traffic is low, and it seems like a company that does not have the right knowledge or reputation for PPC marketers to deposit their client's cash there. Try to stay away, or start with small amounts and small traffic volumes. Not recommended.

Lycos Insite AdBuyer
Merged with Sponsored Listings program on November 1st, 2006. No longer a unique ppc program.


What is Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising?
A search engine advertising method in which payment is based on the number of times the link to the advertised site/page is clicked from the search engine results list. You don't pay if the user hasn't clicked on your ad. The click price is usually set by bidding online. It's used in paid placement advertising and paid inclusion.
Also known as cost-per-click listings (CPC).


Recommended Books

Search Engine Marketing, Inc. : Driving Search Traffic to Your Company's Web Site
by Mike Moran, Bill Hunt  (2005, IBM Press)

Comprehensive work, covering most aspects of SEO work for big corporations or medium-sized firms. Although long & heavy, it does a good job of adhering to organizational pitfalls that might jeopardize the project. It's not the only book you should read on the subject of search engine marketing, but it's still very useful. Moran & Hunt use a conservative writing style that is appropriate for most marketing personnel, as for high executives. It takes a while to complete the reading, but you can't ignore this title when compiling a reading list for your next weekend.

Search Engine Visibility
by Shari Thurow (2005, New Riders)

High-value handbook that uses short paragraphs for fast reading. Easy reading for most people. Offers swift solutions for most SEO problems, but doesn't delve too deeply on technical issues. Based on an ethical approach, Thurow is careful not to support dirty tricks or spam methods. Recommended for people in a hurry, and still a worth-while purchase for beginners. Proffesional folks might not learn too much, and yet - it's a popular title, selling well for more than three years.

Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
by Steve Krug (2000, New Riders)

Not at all related to search engine marketing whatsoever, it's an essential usability book that complements Jakob Nielsen's work on the subject. Very easy to read, extremely useful - the bottom line is this: Test your site with real people, watch what they do (not say - do) with your site, record their action and make improvements. Test - refine - then test again. It's a pragmatic approach that really works, but most people are not smart enough to use it. Highly recommended.

by Aaron Wall (eBook, constant update)

Wall's capacity to promote himself and his clients in search engines has made his eBook very popular. An expert on link building and link popularity, he doesn't expose all his trade secrets, but lets you understand where the wind is blowing. His book is straight-forward, concise but not as methodical as you would want. Most of his tips are useful and valueable, but it seems that he's holding his most important SEO cards very close to his happy chest. Still - a good read.

All reviews by Uri Breitman
SEO & SEM specialist in Israel

Last updated: 30-Nov-2006

Uri Breitman - Back to Home Page
Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Advertising
Search Engine Reviews - Historical Major Players
Reviewed by Uri Breitman, Israeli SEO & SEM specialist
Updated: November 2006
Search Engine Markeintg Inc. by Moran & Hunt - IBM Press 2005
Search Engine Visibility - Shari Thurow
Don't Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability - Steve Krug