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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Tagging as the Answer to Everything?

There seems to be a good reason why "tagging" works so well for communities like Flickr. Users assigning their own "loose" metadata to photos makes it easier to assign attributes on the fly. No particular knowledge or study required. The builders of the system don't have to anticipate any particular structure to the knowledge. No one needs to know anything about XML. A simple text search later on brings up a bunch of the stuff you want.

So, sure there are drawbacks as there are with anything. In public databases like Yahoo's MyWeb, as analysts like Danny Sullivan have commented, tag spam is the biggest threat as it always is with search related stuff out here in the open. But the power of simple tagging appears to have a bright future.

I'd like to tag parts of my AdWords account for reasons of my own. (I'd also like to annotate the account with a log of experiments performed and reasons why - so a commenting system beyond the simple system "activity log" would also be on my wish list for AdWords.)

Ad creative, in particular. In your tracking URL code nomenclature, you can come up with a way to measure everything. But that's actually harder than it looks. Running systematic tests is not something that you always plan for correctly when you're getting all those initial destination URL's set up.

With tagging, I could bring up a list of all ads (and the keywords they apply to) where I used a particular "attribute" - say I had a new type of free shipping offer that I wanted to compete against the old version of same. I might tag it with "freeshipitem". Further, let's assume that a lot of the ad groups (keywords) these new ads applied to were relatively low volume, but that they were directly competing against the older type of offer. Having thrown a bunch of those little tests up in relevant parts of a very large account, I would now have a difficult-to-follow mess of new ads being tested against the old, in a bunch of different places. To get some illuminating "across the board" answers about the effectiveness of all ads with that attribute, you could just pull up a specialized type of custom report within the AdWords interface.

In short then, you can track just about anything, and customize your ROI tracking in just about any way you like. But that's in theory. In the real world, tagging might allow for further customiaztion "after the fact," "on the fly," etc. - and one tag wouldn't need to compete with the other. The tags would be just a way of tracking down the parts of your account that you felt were significant or themed in a certain way, for the purposes of getting aggregate numbers on the whole group that matched that attribute. An analyst could even go in for you and "describe" your existing ads using tags - for example, if you used a special display URL with a keyword-rich subdirectory, you could have a person tag all these with "keyrichdir," instead of having to be aware enough to build these into your tracking code nomenclature at the start.

Hey, that's just an example. In general, I don't think we've seen the end of tagging as a practical "idiot's way" of pulling customized information out of a database.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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