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Pay-Per-Click Search Engines


The engines listed in this section are some of the biggest in the market, and thus are the most worthy of consideration in your media buying/direct marketing plans. In some cases, the engines have acquired their lead through a focus on the consumer experience - effectively becoming portals unto themselves. In other cases, the reach is achieved through a combination of strategic partnerships with existing portals and extended affiliate relationships with smaller publishers.

The value in engines of this type lies in the fact that marketers only pay for the traffic that they actually receive, and said traffic has already demonstrated an interest in the marketer's product by searching for that particular term(s). This is online direct-marketing at its best and arguably most affordable, which is helpful in delvering solid, measurable returns at minimal expense.

7Search was a very early entrant into the PPCSE market, and has remained highly influential despite its comparitively low brand recognition with consumers. The service has always operated a strong affiliate program, which has seen its results and search forms placed on literally 1000s of affiliated web properties and throughout the supplementary listings displayed by other pay-per-click search engines. In fact, 7Search results are said to appear in over 35% of the top 150 search engines that service English-speaking countries. Bids start at $0.01, and a variety of web and email-based bid management tools may be exploited in order to keep your listing exactly where you want it. Worth exploring.

Ah-Ha has, since its initiation, focused on the business of feeding results through to other portal services and affiliate programs (such as Standard Internt's TurboFind), and has survived well by maintaining a lean operation while offering advrtisers a simple bid management interface and a low $0.01 minimum bid expenditure. Worth exploring.

Miva (formerly is clearly the third largest player in this increasingly-competitive market, behind only Yahoo Search Marketing and Google AdWords. They cannot be ignored in an online pay-for-performance buying strategy. Miva's reach is achieved predominently through the licensing of its database to other search engines (including smaller pay-per-click services) and online content plays. The service processes several million queries daily. As with Yahoo Search Marketing, Miva enforces relatively strict relevancy conditions in order to preserve the integrity of its results. Being the third player means that bids are often lower and, possibly, more cost effective, when purchased through Miva rather than the two biggest players. Miva imposes no minimum monthly expense. Their minimum opening deposit is $25 and, for a limited time, they are offering $25 in free credit to readers of NET-ADS who sign up through this link. Recommended.

GoClick grew at an astral rate during the past 12 months after launching a much-celebrated affiliate program that incorporates text links, searchboxes and popunders. The company also struck licensing deals with several smaller engines and purpose-built affiliate networks, helping them to grow to the point at which they now reportedly process 80 million searches/month. GoClick's core failing seems to be in its link filtering, with pornographic and non-relevant results frequently appearing within the results of popular searches. Nevertheless, the service remains worthy of exploration for many.

Google AdWords enables marketers to place short text links alongside Google's popular results, and within the results of the company's syndicated portal partners. Bids start at $0.05/click, with placement adjusted both by the bid rate and click-through ratio in a manner resembling a CPM-based ranking model. Interesting features include support for geo-targeted placement, daily click-capping capabilities and the ability to have results distributed through a contextual advertising channel to affiliated content partners. Recommended.

IgniteSearch (Advance disclosure: IgniteSearch is operated by the same company that owns Net-Ads. For this reason, its listing here will not include an opinion rating.)
IgniteSearch was a late bloomer in the pay-for-performance search market, launching only this January. During its short lifespan, however, it has grown at a rate far outpacing many of its smaller rivals as a result of its many affiliate-level promotions, and presently processes more than 400,000 searches/month. A variety of bid-management and monitoring tools are available within the advertiser interface, assisting in the efficient control of one's listings, and all listings are manually screened by the service's relevancy team prior to activation in order to maintain validity of the results. Accounts may be established with a minimum opening deposit of $10 (paid via credit card or PayPal), and bids start at just $0.01/click

Kanoodle has struck up partnerships with popular portals NetZero, Dogpile, CNET, Metacrawler and Standard Internet's TurboFind, amongst others. This has assisted the firm in growing at a rate comparable to those operating under similar growth strategies. The Kanoodle domain in and of itself receives comparitively little traffic, though, which suggests that your bid placement will more often be weightd against those of competing engines (who also have partnerships with portals sch as those listed above), which could make the task of managing your exactc position slightly more challenging. The service is nevertheless well worthy of exploration.

Search123 was born into the consciousness of smaller web marketers through its hugely popular SearchReferral affiliate program (now shuttered), but quickly transitioned into the higher-margin business of feeding its search listings to othere engines. This strategy seems to have worked well, and Search123 continues to gain popularity, while maintaining its $0.01 minimum bid rate. Worth exploring.

Sprinks is's foray into the pay-for-performance search market, and is an engine that has established itself as a strong second-tier player. Sprinks results are featured throughout About's network of sites, in addition to being served through affiliate properties and other PPCSEs. Minimum bid is $0.01. Worth exploring.

Yahoo Search Marketing (formerly Overture) is the undisputed leader in the pay-per-click search engine market, and must be investigated by anyone looking to promote their wares via such an avenue. The reason for this is that Overture's listings reach millions of users monthly through placement on a number of powerhouse portals, including Yahoo!, AOL and MSN. The service is rather limiting to smaller marketers, however, in that advertisers must spend at least $25/month through the service - and do so with a minimum price per click set at $0.05 (most engines of this type support visitor-acquisition costs of just $0.01). In addition, the company's content review and relevancy criteria quickly whittle down the number of listings upon which an entity may bid. The flipside of this, of course, is that the search engine's results are said to be cleaner and more accurate than those produced by engine's without such limitations, and it is this relevancy that allows Overture to keep its portal contracts. Rating: Recommended (for large buyers), Worth exploring (for smaller or low-margin marketers).

The Rest

While managing accounts at 100s of pay-per-click engines would be seen as an undesirable and tedious task by most, the following smaller players are worthy of mention since they can still provide targeted leads at affordable rates. If, therefore, the time necessary to administer additional accounts fails to outweigh the advantages of doing so, these outlets are worth a look. Two other significant selling points associated with these other engines is a) the fact that many offer promotions, such as a free startup deposit or other credit bonus and, b) less demand means lower prices; where a top bid on Overture or FindWhat for a popular term could cost several dollars, the same position may be obtained on some of these engines for just a couple of cents/click.
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