Searchfeed.com is one of a large group of so-called "second tier" PPC (Pay-Per-Click) search advertising networks - others include Kanoodle, InfoSeek, and Looksmart. SearchEngineWatch lists some more on this page (nb: it's 3 years old, but I couldn't find a more up-to-date list). The first tier services are Google AdWords and Overture - in which Google is a clear leader.
Searchfeed has just announced its latest Network search figures, which claim an increase in total searches from 2 billion per month in December 2005 to 6 billion searches per month in November 2006. The company noted (in an email I received) that this is in line with general online advertising trends:
"This increase mirrors overall 2006 industry growth as U.S. Internet advertising revenues reached a record $4.2 billion in the third quarter of 2006, representing a 35% increase over the $3.1 billion figure posted for the third quarter of 2005."
The growth path of Searchfeed - and other second tier search advertising networks - is to provide web publishers with co-branded search solutions. In other words, second tier search engines have to somehow convince web publishers NOT to use Google Adsense or Overture - or at least pick them to run ads alongside Google or Overture. At the same time second tier networks must entice advertisers on board with their Pay-Per-Click solutions (also known as CPC - Cost-Per-Click).
However there is ongoing concern with click fraud in PPC advertising. As the website Search Engine Roundtable reported back in June, click fraud is an issue that particularly dogs the second tier players:
"There is a thread on SEW Forums about click fraud and second tier PPC companies that has been going on for well over a year now. The creator of the thread, posts some data in regards to the companies whose traffic is rampant with click fraud. The rest of the thread follows with people giving input on the data and their own experience. The result: People hate second tier search engines. They simply don't trust them to not fraud them out of their money."
[ref the forum thread]
It also is a question that Google and Yahoo/Overture find themselves addressing on a regular basis - how can advertisers be sure click fraud isn't corrupting their PPC results? Both big companies have specialist teams that tackle click fraud and they generally make all the right noises in public to assuage concern about click fraud.
But stories continue to emerge about click fraud - and the second tier networks are particularly vulnerable, as it is such a competitive market. It's likely that a few bad second tier apples are engaging in click fraud in order to get ahead, which of course reflects badly on the others and PPC as a whole.
I guess the true question here is: when will we see some innovative CPM or CPA search advertising networks? That would be the best way to move beyond PPC click fraud. At the Web 2.0 Summit we saw an interesting company doing CPA called Turn, which looks promising. What other networks do you see tackling CPA and/or CPM solutions, that might be worth R/WW looking into?