by Steve Smith

We’re all used to patting down Google, Yahoo!, or MSN for relevant information, but what if they started frisking us first? What if the search engines we’ve all come to rely on started examining our online activity, or our frequently searched terms, and used that information to determine – say – how close we were to making a purchase, and which brands we were considering? Would marketers pay for such information? If so, how much? Would consumers accept this degree of targeting, or would they resist it as an invasion of privacy? And will search marketing, which has worked so simply in the past, be able to absorb this new level of complexity?

This week, OnlineMediaDaily presents a three-part series that explores the future of behavioral targeting. Today’s installment examines the upcoming entry of search engines into behavioral targeting.

Advertisers already pay to match their automotive ads with searchers typing in “cars,” but what if the engine also figured out which searchers were the potential high-end buyers–more likely to respond to a pitch for Lexus RX than for a Chevy Cobalt?

The prospect raises a host of questions: How much more would marketers pay for this level of intelligence? How, exactly, would search engines provide such information? And, assuming the technology exists to glean this level of detail, will consumers acquiesce?

We may know some of those answers sooner than you’d think.

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