Web search expert authors new book on sponsored search, keyword advert

According to a new book by Jim Jansen, an associate professor in the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State, the success of sponsored search has dramatically affected how people interact with information, websites, and services on the Web. On July 24, Jansen’s book “Understanding Sponsored Search: Core Elements of Keyword Advertising,” one of the first academic book on sponsored search, will be released by Cambridge University Press.

“Understanding Sponsored Search” addresses the underlying foundational elements, both theoretical and methodological, of sponsored search, a practice in which search engines allow advertisers to bid for placement in the paid listings search results on terms that are relevant to their business.

Rather than focusing on the ever-changing implementation aspects of technology, the book examines core issues such as why certain keywords work while others do not, the components of successful advertisements and pricing of key phrases. The book also addresses consumer behavior, analytics, branding, marketing and advertising, integrating these separate components into an incorporated whole.

“It’s not a how-to book. Rather, it looks at the theoretical principles, the constructs,” Jansen said.

The author of more than 200 publications in the area of information technology and systems, with articles appearing in a multi-disciplinary range of journals and conferences, Jansen is an expert in web searching, sponsored search, and personalization for information searching.

Jansen is also co-author of the book “Web Search: Public Searching of the Web” and co-editor of “Handbook of Weblog Analysis.” He has been researching the area of sponsored search for 10 years, and “Understanding Sponsored Search” is a collection of his research and observations, insights, talks with sponsored search practitioners, and consulting work. In the book, he said, he tried to integrate academic theory and practitioner models.

“Hopefully, this book will be that bridge between those two disciplines,” Jansen said.

According to Jansen, without sponsored search, “the web would look totally different.” Keyword advertising provides a business model for search engines that allows them to offer free services, and has generated billions of dollars for businesses and search engine marketing firms. Approximately 15 to 30 percent of clicks on search engines are on keyword ads, Jansen said, and Google generated about $24 billion in keyword advertising revenue in 2010.

Despite its success, sponsored search has also drawn its share of criticism. Jansen cited concerns such as commercialization of the Internet, privacy violations, and the fact that the algorithms behind sponsored search are really a black box. In other words, advertisers have no knowledge of the internal workings of sponsored links and are expected to trust that search engines are charging and ranking ads fairly, and not revealing too much information about the searchers.

Looking toward the future, Jansen said, he predicts that the trends of sponsored search will be increased personalization and cross-channel advertising. Geo-location -- identification of the real-world geographic location of an object, such as radar, mobile phone or an Internet-connected computer terminal -- “can really change local advertising and e-commerce.”

According to Jansen, the basic principle of advertising—“right information to the right person at the right time”—is also the key component of successful sponsored search.

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Last Updated July 28, 2011