WTM 2010: Search is still SME-friendly, say engines

The major search engines have reassured smaller businesses they will not be left behind as paid listings become more sophisticated and more prominent on results pages.

Speaking at an ‘Ask The Engines’ session at World Travel Market, representatives from Google, Bing and Yahoo! said serving SMEs remained crucial to their revenue model, and stressed that it was not in their interests to allow organic search to be monopolised by major players.

“Our bread is buttered by ‘mom and pop’ enterprises,” said Nate Bucholz, travel industry manager for Google. “Commercially speaking we’re driven by small advertisers.”

He also emphasised Google’s ongoing commitment to high-quality organic results. “The mantra at Google is ‘What does the consumer want?’. If we do something that annoys searchers, we know there are alternatives and they’re just a click away.”

“If you get just the big players, users are quickly going to lose interest and switch,” he added.

Caroline Mastoras, travel category development manager for Bing, argued that the Microsoft-owned search engine’s underdog status in the UK gave it an advantage in terms of personal service.

“We have a small office of about 70 people in Soho. Because we have that centre in-house we can work together will smaller companies.”

Yahoo! and Bing recently announced a Search Alliance that will allow advertisers to manage their campaigns for both search engines from a single dashboard. They claim a combined UK audience of 22m searchers.

Yahoo! is also set to launch enhanced paid listings, which will include rich media such as streaming video, in the UK next year. The service is already live in the US, where Yahoo! claims it has increased clicks by 25%.

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