Position Auctions with Consumer Search

Susan Athey, Glenn Ellison
Quarterly Journal of Economics.
2011, Vol. 126, Issue 3, Pages 1213–1270

This article examines a model in which advertisers bid for “sponsored-link” positions on a search engine. The value advertisers derive from each position is endogenized as coming from sales to a population of consumers who make rational inferences about firm qualities and search optimally. Consumer search strategies, equilibrium bidding, and the welfare benefits of position auctions are analyzed. Implications for reserve prices and a number of other auction design questions are discussed.