Back in the late middle ages when I was running a good part of one of the big search engines (before it was acquired by Yahoo) we had an interesting relationship with EBay. Back in these far off days they would send over vast lists of keywords which they routinely bid 5c on. These weren’t just obvious product lists there were exhaustive lists of terms which in many cased didn’t seem even remotely commercial. We used to joke that we’d always have one ad match for left handed Aardvark Taxidermists….as EBay would have it in their big pile of words.
So it was with some delight that I read a report today that not only had EBay continued their campaign of bidding on pretty much every word known to man and they were now using that research to attempt to discredit paid search as an advertising medium. Their conclusions were that paid search really doesn’t work because ads for left handed Aardvark Taxidermists aren’t very effective. Back in the day the E-Bayers claimed that their main reason for their strategy was acquiring new users. That makes sense as how often have you found that the only place online you can find that special thing is Ebay. Of course as the population of people who don’t buy on Ebay continues to fall recruitment can’t be as large a factor.
I offer you this story not because I necessarily agree with their findings but as an illustration of lengths that the behemoths of our new order will go to throw mud at each other and their respective business models. Of course Ebay would rather have you shopping direct in their ecology rather than clicking on Google or Bing or buying at Amazon. Collecting data from a decade of bidding on absolutely everything is fascinating…but it doesn’t account for the kind of real shopping searches targeted by advertisers and doesn’t take into account factors like ad copy or landing pages. So it’s probably all a bit silly…but still fascinating to watch.