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Sponsored Search Auctions for Markovian Users

Martin Pál
S. Muthukrishnan
Fourth Workshop on Ad Auctions; Workshop on Internet and Network Economics (WINE). (2008)


Sponsored search involves running an auction among advertisers who bid in order to have their ad shown next to search results for specific keywords. The most popular auction for sponsored search is the “Generalized Second Price” (GSP) auction where advertisers are assigned to slots in the decreasing order of their score, which is defined as the product of their bid and click-through rate. One of the main advantages of this simple ranking is that bidding strategy is intuitive: to move up to a more prominent slot on the results page, bid more. This makes it simple for advertisers to strategize. However this ranking only maximizes efficiency under the assumption that the probability of a user clicking on an ad is independent of the other ads shown on the page. We study a Markovian user model that does not make this assumption. Under this model, the most efficient assignment is no longer a simple ranking function as in GSP. We show that the optimal assignment can be found efficiently (even in near-linear time). As a result of the more sophisticated structure of the optimal assignment, bidding dynamics become more complex: indeed it is no longer clear that bidding more moves one higher on the page. Our main technical result is that despite the added complexity of the bidding dynamics, the optimal assignment has the property that ad position is still monotone in bid. Thus even in this richer user model, our mechanism retains the core bidding dynamics of the GSP auction that make it useful for advertisers.