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Search Engine Advertising: Pricing Ads to Context

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Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Avi Goldfarb & Catherine Tucker, 2007. "Search Engine Advertising: Pricing Ads to Context," Working Papers 07-23, NET Institute, revised Sep 2007.
  • Handle: RePEc:net:wpaper:0723
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    Cited by:

    1. Dirk Bergemann & Alessandro Bonatti, 2010. "Targeting in Advertising Markets: Implications for Offline vs. Online Media," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1758, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    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.
    3. Yi Zhu & Kenneth C. Wilbur, 2008. "Strategic Bidding in Hybrid CPC/CPM Auctions," Working Papers 08-25, NET Institute, revised Oct 2008.
    4. Anindya Ghose & Sha Yang, 2009. "An Empirical Analysis of Search Engine Advertising: Sponsored Search in Electronic Markets," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 55(10), pages 1605-1622, October.
    5. Kenneth C. Wilbur & Yi Zhu, 2009. "Click Fraud," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 28(2), pages 293-308, 03-04.
    6. Sha Yang & Anindya Ghose, 2010. "Analyzing the Relationship Between Organic and Sponsored Search Advertising: Positive, Negative, or Zero Interdependence?," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 29(4), pages 602-623, 07-08.
    7. Song Yao & Carl F. Mela, 2008. "A Dynamic Model of Sponsored Search Advertising," Working Papers 08-16, NET Institute, revised Sep 2008.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    search engines; advertising; market power; advertising prices;

    JEL classification:

    • L86 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Information and Internet Services; Computer Software
    • M37 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Marketing and Advertising - - - Advertising

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