Five Pure-Play PPC Search Engines to Try

When pay-per-click (PPC) advertising came on the scene nearly 10 years ago, it changed how companies promoted their products and services for the better. PPC remains one of the default ways to generate traffic, but many advertisers ( to their own detriment) routinely limit their promotions to the big three; Google Adwords, Yahoo! Search Marketing and Microsoft AdCenter. Savvy advertisers understand that the inherent value proposition is not in clicks, but in return on advertising spend. Let's look at five pure-play search engines and why you should add them to your paid search engine advertising mix.

First let's explore why so many Internet marketers shy away from these networks.

One of the most pervasive and damaging misconceptions about most ad network providers is that traffic alone (number of clicks) is the best sign of value. That's a mistake. Just because a network like AdWords is sending lots of traffic, that doesn't mean it's the best quality. However, advertisers should focus on other very important issues concerning second-tier, pure-play PPC search engines before funding any account.

  • Conversion rates will vary (just as they do with Google and Yahoo!) as the traffic from partner sources are different for each network and vary based on time of day. Investing in a longer term campaign will provide a consistent view into how the individual network performs over the long term - not just on one day.
  • PPC networks often specialize in topical areas, not all areas (as do larger networks). That's not limiting however, it's actually quite a refreshing change. Much like you would make a media buy on a high profile site, PPC networks like those mentioned below should be treated in the same way - as one providing you with an opportunity to get in front of the network's partners (the network may never in fact ever be seen as most are just middlemen providing a valuable service to both publishers and advertisers).
  • The cost per action and return on ad spend, not total spend or total traffic, should be the reason to engage in second tier PPC advertising. Advertisers routinely look at their total number of sales or the total amount of traffic sent from networks to determine quality. What advertisers should be doing is engaging in granular measurement of their return on total advertising spend. There is no other way to know for certain which network provides the best ROI unless you look at campaigns in this manner.

Where Does Second-Tier PPC Search Traffic Come From?
Another very important question advertisers have about second-tier search engines is where these advertising networks get the traffic they send to the advertisers. The answer in short is... their partners including other search engines, niche content portals or individual Web publishers that integrate advertisers from the network into their own sites (through contextual advertising for example) or their own search result listings. It is important to note that this practice is completely standard in the online advertising industry.

Selecting just five pure-play pay-per-click advertising networks is like choosing a favorite child - impossible, but you wouldn't want to even if you could. In addition, the summations of the networks themselves are intentionally brief. Each of these networks is more robust than can be expressed in just a few words.

Let's look at five of the top pure-play PPC search engines now though, their unique value propositions and the traffic they receive to their individual sites (data from If you would like to add the pure-play PPC advertising engine you use to this list, simply sign in and comment below. Again, it's exceedingly important to remember that most of the "clicks" these networks generate come from their partners and not from the actual sites themselves - measuring them in this way is a disservice to them and to the advertiser paying for the clicks.

7Search: One of the original second-tier PPC search engines, 7Search specializes in serving website owners of "low profit margin" categories of business. Features of the service include fraud detection, geo-targeting, keyword suggestion, campaign conversion tracking, custom per-keyword listing modifications, email outbid notifications, direct navigation advertising and quite a bit more. Often referred to as the "little engine that could," 7Search is known in SEM circles as providing a medium traffic volume but of high quality (the majority of which comes from natural listings on popular search engines).
Part of the Internext Media Corp, ABCSearch is another provider using the classic pay-per-click advertising model. The network features geo-targeting (available for the US and Canada, as well as local markets), a proprietary click fraud solution in ClickShield, flexible bidding and many other features standard in second-tier providers such as auto-rebilling. The company's focus seems to be on distribution, featuring network partners such as Search123 and its own Scour property, publishers networks such as Bravenet Media, and direct navigation.

Findology: Founded in 2000, Findology Interactive Media is one network that many advertisers have tried at one time or another. The company's Pay-Per-Click Search network offers a minimum deposit of $25 with a minimum bid of $0.03, real-time click fraud prevention and some decent traffic reporting tools. Findology also has a contextual advertising program where bids start at one cent, offers URL/Keyword and category targeting, geo-targeting and a bidding auction model.

Local search and advertising company Marchex is known for making waves. The company purchased over 170,000 domain names for use in its OpenList local search platform. The ad solution provides advertisers with the ability to geo-target specific areas and topics of interest. A pure-play PPC search engine, Marchex has an impressive list of distribution partners including TheMotleyFool and RealtyTrac, advertising resellers such as and agencies.

Pay-for-performance provider Miva (formerly Findwhat) is known as much for its PPC service as it is for its ecommerce shopping cart solutions. Miva has been around in some iteration or another for many years and actually has two pay-per-click networks, the Core network features the company's standard bid-for-position technology, and the new Miva Precision Network enables advertisers to concentrate on specific business verticals. Miva has several interesting features including AdAnalyzer, to track the actual ROI on advertising investments.

Are you ready to try the second tier of PPC?
Should you opt to use second-tier pure-play ad networks such as 7Search, Miva, Marchex, Findology, ABCsearch or others, know at the outset that you will need a decent sample to determine statistical validity. That means you will probably be disappointed if you only fund your account with the minimum and expect big things to happen - much like any first tier engine. The best course of action is to leverage the keywords, titles and descriptions from existing campaigns and make modifications for each individual ad network that you add to your marketing mix. 

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