Monetization may not be such a new term (it was first used about 150 years ago), but the concept of searching online relatively new (Google was online invented in 1998).

Put those two together, and you have an idea that’s quite foreign to many people. Companies (like the aforementioned Google) make a lot of money by monetizing search.

But what does “search monetization” actually mean? And how do you do it?


“Making money from search” doesn’t really tell us too much, so let’s dig a little deeper: our goal, whether we are developers, publishers, or advertisers, is to make money from traffic. And one of the most useful, lucrative ways of doing monetizing traffic is by monetizing search.

Traffic Equals Potential Customers

When you hear things like “convert traffic into money,” it sounds rather abstract. But when you discover that “traffic” just refers to real people who could potentially buy from you or through you, it starts to make more sense.

People who use search engines are looking for an answer to a question, and if you can be the middleman who provides them with that answer, then you can learn how to monetize search.

Users Search for What They Want

Yes, that sounds pretty basic, but when you look at it from a marketing perspective, you can see that every search query gives you an excellent opportunity for research. If, for instance, you own a website that has an in-site search box, every search can tell you about your audience’s needs, their problems, and how you can adjust your content to solve their needs.

Likewise, if you have an app that has a search function, you can learn more about your users’ needs. Not only does this give you insight into your audience, which lets you adjust your products and services to better solve their problems, but you can make money while you’re doing it.

If you have neither of those, then there are plenty of tools online you can use to find out what your audience is searching for.


Give Users What They Want, Get Paid, Rinse, Repeat

Google’s entire business model is built around this concept. A user searches for “best pizza place,” and Google delivers geo-targeted results…along with paid advertisements. The ads generate Google’s income.

So how can you duplicate this? Monetizing search is a twofold process: research what users are searching for, and give them what they want. Don’t think of search engines as search engines, think of them as answer engines. People have questions, the engines have answers.

To paraphrase Jim Kukral’s words in a speech given at the Affiliate Summit, people use the internet for two reasons: entertainment and information. If you have a way to study your target audience’s search behavior, such as the Google Adwords Keyword Planner, then you can narrow down your focus, differentiate yourself from your competition, and provide unique solutions.

It’s unlikely that you, your app, or your website will be able to solve all your audience’s problems, so you can use advertising or affiliate offers to give them what they’re looking for.

Our product, MobileFuel monetizes search by integrating a recommendation engine within apps. SearchFuel and DisplayFuel also use search and recommendation to help developers, publishers, and advertisers work together to generate revenue. These products are search platforms designed to integrate with existing applications, and can generate recurring income through advertising revenue.


Understanding User Intent

As we’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog, certain types of advertising are more effective than others. In-app advertising, for example, tends to work better than banner advertising. Why? It converts well for the same reason that search ads convert well: the ads are more in tune with user intent.

When you understand the user’s intent, you can give them what they want, which is why search monetization is so effective. If an app user uses the app to search for local ice cream shops, then it’s pretty clear what their intent is.

A recommendation engine that operates with ad revenue doesn’t interrupt users’ experience in order to provide them with suggestions. On the contrary, users get exactly what they’re looking for, without feeling like they’ve been obnoxiously marketed to.


Improving the User Experience

Understanding user intent helps create a better user experience. In an age where we can get anything we want in an instant, interruption advertising only gets in the way. This type of marketing shows little promise when we can use technology to track user behavior and give them exactly what they want, instead of bombarding them with untargeted, irrelevant information.

Whether you’re using search monetization in a mobile app, on your website, or in a desktop application, keep in mind that using search effectively means creating a better user experience. This is the way to build trust, loyalty, and, ultimately, authority.

The best part is that search monetization lets us make money the entire time.