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The business of search advertising is booming.

Most interestingly, this boom does not appear poised for a reversal anytime soon or even a slowdown. Granted, no boom can last forever and it is always wise to be looking toward the future, however, Microsoft’s recent comments regarding search advertising that, “In the next several years, it will not be as much of a driver [of growth],” seem suspect. Microsoft’s Senior Vice President Brian McAndrews recently stated that the focus of online ads will be slowly shifting away from search and onto more display-oriented ads.

The landscape of online advertising is ever-changing and there is merit that the display market is ripe for expansion, due, in part, to the growing ubiquity of programs like Adobe Flash that provide an excellent vehicle for display ads. Despite all this, though, there seems to be overwhelming evidence that search advertising is here to stay and, at best, will coexist alongside a growing display advertising market. Though the search advertising boom may slow down, the amount of people in the US and abroad using the search engines is likely to continue to expand in the coming years. Additionally, there has yet to be an adequate substitute for the search engines when it comes to finding what you want online, be it information, services or products.
The always even-handed and intelligent guys over at Search Engine Land ask an insigthful question:

“Is this a sign of Microsoft giving up on competing with Google in the search ad space?”

Perhaps Microsoft isn’t counting on the demise of search at the hands of display after all. Could it be that Microsoft is simply waving the white flag in the search advertising arena and touting the inevitable emergence of display advertising in hopes of generating buzz? After all, they do have an advantage over Google in the display advertising market. This is hardly the case in search, where Google bolsters it dominance with every passing day. Is Microsoft just praying that people will buy into this announcement simply because they are Microsoft?

It’s difficult to say for sure, however, I, for one, am still bullish on search. My job does depend on it. Even still, I feel that an objective analysis would rule in concert with me. There is still no viable competitor to the concept of search. At best, display advertising would be complimentary to search ads; there is no reason to believe that the rise of the importance of display ads would supplant the importance of search ads. Couple this fact with the rapidly increasing population of search engine users and search advertising appears guaranteed to remain an important medium of marketing for years to come.

Business may not always be booming, but without search advertising, it will be tough to get your business to boom on display ads alone.


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