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You don't really buy search terms, you bid for placement on them. People just refer to it as buying search terms because its faster to say. ;)
Tens of thousands is not unreasonable. The company I work for is middle sized and probably advertises on about 5K. A company of HPs size could well afford 100X that.
So I am asking myself "#*$! are these ppl talking about buying keywords up?"
I mean, I could simply "Buy it back" from them with higher bids... ;)
Editorial error I suppose, but I assumed the AdAge ppl were more SEM savvy than this...