An Adaptive Algorithm for Selecting Profitable Keywords for

Search-Based Advertising Services


Paat Rusmevichientong

School of OR&IE

Cornell University


Increases in online search activities have spurred the growth of search-based advertising services offered by search engines. These services enable companies to promote their products to consumers based on their search queries. In most search-based advertising services, a company sets a daily budget, selects a set of keywords, determines a bid price for each keyword, and designates an ad associated with each selected keyword. When a consumer searches for one of the selected keywords, search engines then display the ads associated with the highest bids for that keyword on the search result page. A company whose ad is displayed pays the search engine only when the consumer clicks on the ad. If the company's spending has exceeded its daily budget, however, its ads will not be displayed. With millions of available keywords and a highly uncertain clickthru rate associated with the ad for each keyword, identifying the most profitable set of keywords given the daily budget constraint becomes challenging for companies wishing to promote their goods and services via search-based advertising.

Motivated by these challenges, we formulate a model of keyword selection in search-based advertising services. We develop an algorithm that adaptively identifies the set of keywords to bid on based on historical performance. The algorithm prioritizes keywords based on a prefix ordering -- sorting of keywords in a descending order of profit-to-cost ratio (or “bang-per-buck”). We show that the average expected profit generated by the algorithm converges to near-optimal profits. Furthermore, the convergence rate is independent of the number of keywords and scales gracefully with the problem's parameters. Extensive numerical simulations show that our algorithm outperforms existing methods, increasing profits by about 7%. We also explore extensions to current search-based advertising services and indicate how to adapt our algorithm to these settings.

This is joint work with David P. Williamson at Cornell University.