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Search Engine Advertising: Pricing Ads to Context

Each search term put into a search engine produces a separate set of results. Correspondingly, each of the sets of ads displayed alongside these results is priced using a separate auction. Search engine advertising prices therefore reflect willingness to pay for context, unlike traditional ad prices that reflect willingness to pay for audience demographics. A growing policy debate asks if this marketing strategy merely makes advertising more informative, or whether it also effectively extracts rent from advertisers. To inform this debate and to better understand search engine advertising more generally, we examine advertising prices paid by lawyers for 174 Google search terms in 195 locations and exploit a natural experiment in “ambulance-chaser” regulations across states. Where contingency fee limits exist, the relative price of advertising is $2.27 lower. This suggests that context-based pricing allows prices to reflect heterogeneity in the profitability of customer leads. When lawyers cannot contact a client in writing, the relative price per ad click is $0.93 higher. This suggests that context-based pricing allows prices to reflect heterogeneity in advertisers’ other advertising options, even within a given local market. Thus, our results suggest that search engine advertising does give market power to the media platform; however, this market power is mitigated by substantial competition from offline marketing communications channels.

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File URL: http://www.netinst.org/Goldfarb-Tucker_07-23.pdf
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Paper provided by NET Institute in its series Working Papers with number 07-23.

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Length: 29 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2007
Date of revision: Sep 2007
Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:0723
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.NETinst.org/

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  1. Meghan Busse & Marc Rysman, 2005. "Competition and Price Discrimination in Yellow Pages Advertising," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(2), pages 378-390, Summer.
  2. Anindya Ghose & Sha Yang, 2007. "An Empirical Analysis of Search Engine Advertising: Sponsored Search and Cross-Selling in Electronic Markets," Working Papers 07-35, NET Institute, revised Sep 2007.
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  8. Grossman, Gene M & Shapiro, Carl, 1984. "Informative Advertising with Differentiated Products," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 51(1), pages 63-81, January.
  9. Patrali Chatterjee & Donna L. Hoffman & Thomas P. Novak, 2003. "Modeling the Clickstream: Implications for Web-Based Advertising Efforts," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 22(4), pages 520-541, May.
  10. Michael R. Baye & John Morgan, 2001. "Information Gatekeepers on the Internet and the Competitiveness of Homogeneous Product Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(3), pages 454-474, June.
  11. Yongmin Chen & Chuan He, 2006. "Paid Placement: Advertising and Search on the Internet," Working Papers 06-02, NET Institute, revised Sep 2006.
  12. Ganesh Iyer & David Soberman & J. Miguel Villas-Boas, 2005. "The Targeting of Advertising," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 24(3), pages 461-476, May.
  13. Meghan Busse & Jorge Silva-Risso & Florian Zettelmeyer, 2006. "$1,000 Cash Back: The Pass-Through of Auto Manufacturer Promotions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1253-1270, September.
  14. Yuxin Chen & Jinhong Xie, 2007. "Cross-Market Network Effect with Asymmetric Customer Loyalty: Implications for Competitive Advantage," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 26(1), pages 52-66, 01-02.
  15. Kenneth C. Wilbur & Yi Zhu, 2009. "Click Fraud," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 28(2), pages 293-308, 03-04.
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