Now some believe Google is leaving money on the table by not charging for impressions. Others argue that because of the searcher's mindset and the nature of working vs. long-term memory, the impression-alone has little value. Well, that debate will evolve, and I hope it does, because there is at least one reason why Google may be staying committed to the click.
It's the amazing potential that exists for our SEM landing pages to be more engaging, immersive and meaningful for both consumers and brands. And no, I'm not talking about deep-linking, or multi-variate testing.
Other tools are quite valuable and effective at delivering on a relevant search experience. Such tools include those for checking inventory, finding locations or customizing specific products.
But we also know that searchers don't just search once; they search, learn and search again.
Imagine if we could truly engage the customer so that they are able to learn more than what is possible to include on a landing page or even throughout the entire site.
Imagine customers helping customers, fans chatting with fans, and you laughing with your clients on the beach while listening to Radiohead playing on invisible speakers in the sky. Sound ridiculous? OK, it is, but it's also not impossible.
The latest example of what we're talking about is "Lively", Google's answer to Second Life, and it points to some of the amazing opportunities that continue to develop as we seek to better engage people and deliver meaningful brand experiences through search.
I'm excited to see which brand becomes the first to use Google's Lively to engage customers and prospects on an SEM landing page.
One of the benefits of this form of user-generated content is that it is real-time, allowing users to connect at the same moment in time. Integrated with an SEM campaign, this offers very interesting creative opportunities for the progressive-minded search marketer looking to enhance search's role in reaching and engaging the right people at the right moment - when interest and intent is high.
The second and potentially more interesting advantage, especially for online-reputation-conscious companies, is that this form of user-generated content is temporary. This means that if a rogue visitor says something offensive, it isn't spread across the web; it only lives "in the moment".
Of course, marketers should not consider this opportunity without committing the required resources, and should build a clear strategy and program around the idea, as well as commit the necessary resources to monitoring and ensuring an engaging, brand-relevant "in-world experience".
If you're looking for a low-risk way to test out this idea, why not try it on an SEM landing page, where you can easily control the flow of traffic?
And don't forget to ask yourself how you'll measure this new level of engagement. As most search-theory questions go, answering it won't be easy, but it sure will be fun.