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Recently, search engine revenues have rocketed, with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising providing much of the fuel for growth. The other side of the coin: advertisers have been using PPC keyword advertising to meet their marketing objectives.

Most of the search engines are powered by auction-based systems: that is, advertisers bid for keyword placements. Accordingly, competition for keywords has become intense, driving up the average cost per click (CPC). A recent study indicates that advertisers plan to increase CPC spending 39%, on average, in 2005. (Source: SEMPO Study)

But even with such heightened competition, there may be untapped, hidden opportunities for online marketers interested in participating in PPC keyword advertising.

One of the greatest opportunities may be in the area of keyword breadth. This is measured by the variety of keywords and phrases that actually have advertisements displayed when a search engine user conducts a search. In the search engine industry, this is known as keyword coverage.

Narrow Focus—an Opportunity Cost

Examining the keyword coverage of the Accoona search engine over a three-month period provides an excellent view into marketers' missed opportunities in PPC keyword networks as a consequence of not expanding the breadth of the keywords they are bidding on.

Accoona is a new search engine that launched in December of 2004. It has since generated much interest and a rather large search base. Accoona is ranked in the top 1,500 sites on Alexa and has been one of the steadiest climbers in traffic ranking. It has an exclusive partnership with Yahoo Search Marketing Solutions (or YMSM, the artist formerly known as Overture!), so all of its PPC advertising is served from the YMSM network. YMSM has over 100,000 advertisers and is considered one of the two largest and most diverse PPC advertising networks.

Accoona statistics since its launch show that its breadth of search matches that of all search engines. The most frequently searched Accoona terms list bears a close resemblance (92% match) to the top 100 search terms across the entire Web. (Source: MetaCrawler Word Tracker Report.) In short, the users of Accoona closely match the users of the other major search engines.

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Tom Kuegler is cofounder of TargetFirst (www.targetfirst.com), a contextual ad network that concentrates on ROI delivery. He can be reached at tom@targetfirst.com.