While the ultimate measurement of a search engine is whether it is profitable for your business, there are plenty of intangibles that also need to be considered. In particular, I consider four key metrics:

1. Traffic volume: does the search engine have the ability to deliver a lot of volume to you?
2. Traffic quality: what percentage of the traffic converts, and what percentage is click fraud?
3. Customer service: how responsive is the search engine to your queries. Do they make you feel like you are a valued customer, or just an invoice?
4. Technology and tools: Does the user interface make it easy for you to quickly make changes, or is it like pulling teeth. Is there a readily accessible API?

Traffic Volume: A+. The granddaddy of them all.
Traffic Quality: A. Pretty good, though there could be a little more transparency on the click fraud issue.
Customer Service: C-. Nice people, but I’ve never gotten the feeling that anyone really understands the significance of the millions of dollars I spend with them.
Technology and Tools: A. Leader in UI tools, slightly buggy API, but getting better.
Overall Grade: 3.66 (A-)

Yahoo Search Marketing
Traffic Volume: A-. Losing MSN hurts.
Traffic Quality: B. Pretty good, but it seems like there have been some click fraud issues as of late.
Customer Service: A. Excellent. Totally on top of their game.
Technology and Tools: C-. Terrible user interface. Promising it will get better . . . in August?
Overall Grade: 3.33 (B+)

Traffic Volume: B+
Traffic Quality: A+.
Customer Service: B. Nice people but they need to fix some tech issues (like their testing bot speed, which can crash servers due to the lack of a limiter).
Technology and Tools: B. The first version of the UI is pretty good, but I expect improvement.
Overall Grade: 3.33 (B+)

Traffic Volume: C
Traffic Quality: B – I think the value of Ask.com is high, but the distribution network is questionable.
Customer Service: A
Technology and Tools: C – Using the Looksmart UI wouldn’t be my first choice.
Overall Grade: 2.75 (B-)

Traffic Volume: C
Traffic Quality: C
Customer Service: A
Technology and Tools: C
Overall Grade: 2.5 (C)

Traffic Volume: B
Traffic Quality: F
Customer Service: D
Technology and Tools: C
Overall Grade: 1. 5 (D)

No one’s got a 4.0 yet, but hey, we haven’t even reached “mid-terms” for search engines, so there’s a long ways to go!

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David Rodnitzky
David Rodnitzky is founder and CEO of 3Q Digital (formerly PPC Associates), a position he has held since the Company's inception in 2008. Prior to 3Q Digital, he held senior marketing roles at several Internet companies, including Rentals.com (2000-2001), FindLaw (2001-2004), Adteractive (2004-2006), and Mercantila (2007-2008). David currently serves on advisory boards for several companies, including Marin Software, MediaBoost, Mediacause, and a stealth travel start-up. David is a regular speaker at major digital marketing conferences and has contributed to numerous influential publications, including Venture Capital Journal, CNN Radio, Newsweek, Advertising Age, and NPR's Marketplace. David has a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago and a J.D. with honors from the University of Iowa. In his spare time, David enjoys salmon fishing, hiking, spending time with his family, and watching the Iowa Hawkeyes, not necessarily in that order.