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Tuesday, December 31, 2002

New Year's Resolution: No More "Little Billy"

You know what I mean? Lovable "Little Billy" in Family Circus has a short attention span. His meanderings through the house, up a tree, onto his bicycle, through a neighbor's yard, over hill and dale, and into a snowbank have been lovingly illustrated over the years by Bil Keane and his famous dotted arrow Little Billy diagrams.

Sort of remind you of your work day? You start out by going to Hotbot so you can see what a search of the Inktomi database produces for the phrase "Google." (Just to see, you know?) Then, some inexplicable Little Billy force takes over. Instead of searching Inktomi, you decide to click the radio button to try a search on FAST instead, and instead of the phrase you meant to type, you type in some sexual gibberish like "Alyssa thong nude Tonya Harding Tonya Harding Michael Jackson sex video free" (just to see, you know, for comparative search engine research purposes only).

Then, you get a phone call and (mercifully) forget what you were doing online, but the phone call reminds you that you'd better check on a domain name idea you had. You spend the next 20 minutes looking up domain names. The confounded "domain name suggestion tool" actually piques your interest even more. Eventually, someone comes to shut off the gas, hydro, and phone service, so all you're left with is a few tins of beans and your cable Internet service and a computer system running on the handy generator you set up in preparation for just this sort of thing.

Um, er, anyway, my resolution is "no more Little Billy in 2003."

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Thanks for Nothing Dept.

I've finally figured out what to do with the stylish Yahoo! picture frame given out as a gift to attendees of Search Engine Strategies Dallas this year. I'm going to make it into a trophy for the winner of my Yahoo! Fantasy Football pool. I'll put an old white t-shirt on, write "Congrats ____" to the winner in black magic marker (Sharpie brand), then have a photo taken with me in the shirt holding a football, then put it in the frame, and present this prestigious prize to the champ. Overly complicated? A pointless waste of good brain cells? Perhaps. But then again, so is fantasy football.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




One good blog deserves another

This is a very illuminating interview with Danny about the past and future of search engine marketing.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, December 23, 2002

Yahoo Buys Inktomi!

End all the speculation about the future of Yahoo's relationship with Google. Yahoo has just acquired Inktomi in a $235 million transaction.

Although Yahoo had gone back with Google as its search provider in September in a "stopgap" renewal of their previous relationship, it looked to us then ("Will Google Defend its Yahoo Turf?," June 24, 2002) as if Inktomi was a logical second choice. Indeed, other than protecting the status quo, we thought Yahoo had "no reason not to" sign Inktomi. All the others (FAST, Teoma, AltaVista) were longshots.

During the fall, Google's power continued to grow to the point where it not only became a threat to all others in the business of providing Internet search, but it started looking like it was in the business of driving traffic to multiple Google-branded entities. That is to say, Google was becoming a portal.

Thus, the "stopgap deal" will now be wound down to ward off competition from a legitimate competitive threat. Yahoo has decided to take the logical tactical step of acquiring the #2 provider of crawler-based web index search, Inktomi.

Earlier this week, a prominent industry exec suggested to me that a company like Overture should buy out Inktomi. I didn't agree, citing the fact that Overture's ad-serving culture would not integrate well with that of a search technology provider. But it's safe to say that the Yahoo buyout took all of us by surprise.

Also recently, Inktomi's Ken Norton intimated to me that Inktomi would win an old distribution partner back from its competition next year. I'm not convinced that this buyout has been in the making for a long time; rather, I suspect that Inktomi was in the process of successfully wooing a distribution partner, and more recently, the deal was escalated to a buyout. On the other hand, Inktomi shed its non-core assets and downsized the company on more than one occasion this year. The goal might have been to achieve break-even to avoid bankruptcy, but the result was that the company became a much leaner and more attractive acquisition target.

Given the yet-again-changing configuration of Yahoo Search, will they now renew their focus on directory results while making Inktomi paid submission virtually impossible to ignore as well?

It's obvious now who is in the driver's seat here: the portal. Yahoo. (Portals are important? Portals have leverage? Go figure.) They've played search partners off against one another again, and now find themselves in the position of monetizing search in (at least) three ways:

  • Sponsored listings from Overture - prominently displayed since the most profitable of the three

  • Inktomi paid inclusion & Index Connect

  • Directory submissions.


There is now virtually no "unpaid" search on Yahoo! Will this hurt their credibility? Or is Inktomi's product good enough to satisfy consumers in spite of the paid inclusion model?

If portals have all this power, and Google is becoming one, how will they start to throw their own weight around? How quickly will Google hurry to consummate its long-delayed IPO given that the company could be weakened irreparably by further delays in this new "everyone against Google" climate?

So many questions. So much fun.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Friday, December 20, 2002

Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool Notes

Do you think Google is screwing with Overture by allowing the Search Term Suggestion Tool (a heavily-used tool that puts a load on Overture's servers) to rank second overall on a Google search for "Overture"? Or is Overture just dumb for not putting a no-index tag on this page?

Speaking of The Tool: last month there were nine times more searches for the term "FindWhat" than there were for "adwords" and "Google AdWords" combined. It makes you wonder about the painfully slow recognition on the part of many Overture advertisers that Google actually has a competing program.

On the other hand, close to nine million people searched for the single word "google," (20,000X more searches than for "adwords" or "google adwords").

Conclusion: any data emanating from Overture's tool fall squarely in the "FWIW" category.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Echo and the Money-Men?

Best title of the day honors go to Len Ellis.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, December 16, 2002

How's jail, dude?

How incongruous to see that large-scale embezzlers, just like regular folks, maintain cheesy Geocities homepages.

The one I linked to above is an older version, presumably when he was at the petty theft stage. Here at Traffick, we dig deep.

If you look for the current version of Daniel Feussner's web page (another cheese-o-rama site hosted for free with his ISP), you can still see a lot of what's left (for now)... some folks are saying the content is blocked, but not all of it is. When I looked I was able to click on some of the links and view the great pictures of his fleet of pricey vehicles (which would put Jay Leno and Marlon Brando to shame). Sadly, neither the "cat-cam" nor the "embezz-o-meter" are in operation.

Next time a guy introduces himself to you as "Director of Information Retrieval," get a good grip on your wallet before shaking his hand.

Perhaps a little fodder for Robert De Niro's next wacky mobster vehicle? Coming soon to a theater near you: Retrieve This. Or how about: Dude, I Lost My Car So I Stole Another $Mil!

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Friday, December 06, 2002

"We Are! We ARE! We ARE TOO Crappy!!!"

Although this story isn't hot off the presses, just a friendly reminder that when a big company decides it's time to sue little old you, chances are, they're completely full of it. "Cybergriping" is allowed, you know. WIPO sez so!

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Another Kick in the Teeth for Web Measurement Standards

The Audit Bureau of Circulations is folding its online unit back into the parent company's operations. Although this is probably a minor reorganization, on the whole, we don't seem to be moving in the right direction when it comes the auditing of web site stats. The adoption of clear standards is as far off as it was three years ago. And is it just me, or has anyone else noticed too, that small independent publishers starting up again with the old trick where they fool a newspaper reporter into saying they get "a million hits a month?" or "100,000 hits a day"? Come on, people! Hits? Grow up.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Google the Shopping Engine?

According to a study just released by StatMarket, Google edges out Yahoo, AOL, and MSN as the #1 destination for consumers looking for shopping sites.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Erratum

Traffick's never-ending pursuit of accuracy requires me to admit that in this satirical August 2001 article by John Molson, we left out the "oxy" in "deoxyribonucleic acid." In addition, we probably could have included detailed information about polymers, and video clips of the low-speed OJ chase, but let's not get silly about this.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, December 03, 2002

AdWords Keyword Adoption Even Slower than I Thought! Are Distorted Minimum Bids to Blame?

Stumbling on a Sprinks sponsored ads pop-up box while surfing About.com made me realize just how surprisingly slow Google has been to sell its keyword inventory. The Sprinks box that popped up was associated with the Volleyball site at About.com (I had been looking for something else entirely, but clicked through to this site from a Google search). There were eight advertisers for volleyball-related products. Hmm, I thought. That's quite a hefty bid for the first-ranking ad considering how poorly (in my experience) Sprinks converts to sales. So I did some checking. There are over 30 Overture ads for the term "volleyball." There are over 20 FindWhat ads for this term, for heaven's sakes! So to see how Google AdWords were coming along, I looked at AOL Search, and did a search on Google itself, under the term "volleyball" (OK, I also threw in "beach volleyball" and "nude beach volleyball" for good measure).

And how many advertisers show up on AOL Search or Google for the terms "volleyball," "beach volleyball," and "nude beach volleyball"? None, nada, zip. I wonder if Google's sales force is being too polite. Perhaps it's time to go for the jugular, and approach these advertisers more directly, even if at one or two removes. I know Google will figure it out, but I'm surprised at the slow pace of advertiser adoption. AdWords has much bigger reach and considerably higher quality traffic than Sprinks or FindWhat, yet many advertisers are unaware of this.

You know what's probably causing some of this advertiser reluctance? Google is still perceived as a search engine, and many companies still think they deserve to get all their traffic from the regular search results (viz. Bob Massa). This is shortsighted, in my opinion. Those same advertisers will overpay for Overture keywords, but don't even bid on comparable Google AdWords keywords that are available for much less. Doesn't make sense.

Another reason for the reluctance is tied to Google's prohibitive "bid minimums" - which are often much higher than the formal five cent minimum. That skewing of the marketplace (artificially and arbitrarily setting prices high, rather than leaving them low to attract early entrants and letting the auction process mark prices up) does Google no favors in the long run, and hurts advertisers in the short run, because it deters them from giving Google AdWords a fair shake to see if it performs well.

Real estate agents know this principle well (just ask any home buyer who recently bid 15% over market on a home). In a hot market, instead of trying to squeeze people by setting a prohibitive price, you generate action on a property by setting it a bit lower. When all those bidders get to see what a great property it is, they start fighting amongst themselves, mind games take over, and the seller makes out like a bandit. IMHO, Google should create action on its keyword properties by dropping the artificial keyword bid minimums immediately. With all minimums set at the true minimum of five cents, some advertisers will get ridiculous bargains and ridiculously good ROI from their ads, which will create positive word of mouth.

Anecdotally, Google has already had to move in this direction in markets like Japan. Bid minimums are still high there, but they were even higher at the beginning (probably Overture's presence there had something to do with it). So nothing says they're incapable of seeing the light and allowing market forces to operate for the benefit of all participants.

None of Google's direct competitors (Overture, FindWhat) have distorted their minimum bids the way Google has (although Sprinks, Business.com, IndustryBrains, and others have set high fixed prices per click - on Business.com, it's an average of 61 cents).

I think I speak for all advertisers when I say "let Google AdWords be a true auction where the market sets prices on its own." In keyword areas where Google has left the minimum at five cents, the market seems to be working perfectly well.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Sunday, December 01, 2002

Spam "Avoison" Tip #1: Change Your E-mail Address

Sometimes, if you can't beat 'em, you have to... um, change your e-mail address. That's just what I did with my Traffick.com e-mail last week. As any other web site publisher can probably attest, the spam epidemic is just spiraling out of control, and once your e-mail address has been captured by one e-mail pirate, you are doomed to receive pitches for human-growth hormone, Viagra, and low mortgage rates -- forever. And don't get me started on the "new concept for giving!" (Although, I must admit to being amused by the trusty Nigerian-guy-needing-money scam; I laugh every time I read those!)

Spammers use special software to trawl the web and scrape as many links as they can that start with "mailto:" (which denotes an e-mail link). Then, they categorize your site based on theme, save your e-mail address to a database, package it into a categorized list, and then sell it to anyone who is willing to fork over a few hundred bucks.

So, if you're caught between a rock and a hard place like I was, your only option might be to change your e-mail address and only give it out to friends, colleagues, clients, etc. That way, spammers can still merrily send their spam to your old address, which you can either continue to receive or send straight to the trash using filters or Outlook rules.

And here's another piece of advice for web publishers:

Don't ever list your "real" friggin' e-mail address on your web site! Either require inquiring parties to use a web-based feedback form, or put up a fake one and use filters to ensure that legitimate correspondence reaches you. And, one more thing: Stay out of my booze!

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




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