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Friday, August 08, 2003

AdSense Rolls Back One of the New Features

In response to swift publisher feedback, Google has taken down the "related searches" feature in AdSense ads, and informs us that it's now working on ways to allow publishers to customize this aspect.

Posted by Andrew
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Metrics: Best Left to Third (or Fourth) Parties?

Kevin Lee has just published an important column about Overture's move into the metrics/analytics business. This becomes even more important now that the Keylime Software group becomes part of Yahoo, who recently acquired Overture. Lee rightly points to the history of ad serving services like Doubleclick increasingly being responsible for the tracking of ad performance. Over the years there have been grumbles on all sides of online advertising transactions, and it doesn't seem to help if one of the parties is perceived to be loading the dice.

If the publisher is the "first party," and the advertiser is the "second party," then Doubleclick was the "third party," right? Perhaps, but here, third-party is still not independent, as the middleman is helping to sell ads and may well be doubly biased: wanting to charge advertisers as much as possible while paying publishers and affiliates based on a conservative assessment of performance.

I'm not throwing out any particular accusation here, and nor, certainly, is Lee.

But we've heard good arguments in the past that a "fourth party" is really needed to properly track ad results, or to audit the company that is providing the traffic. Unfortunately, on the audit front, there doesn't seem to be a huge market demand for services of this nature (which might have been effectively provided by an outfit like ABC Interactive, the online division of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, but some time ago the online division was "folded back into" the parent company, which implies its work was being de-emphasized).

But the good news is, advertisers by and large want to install their own tracking solutions from third (or fourth?) party vendors, and are actively investigating ways of effectively and accurately tracking the performance of their ads. Ultimately, self-interest is strong enough in this sector that firms will simply arm themselves with their own defenses against potential bias in analytics.

Posted by Andrew
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Thursday, August 07, 2003

And plus, if it doesn't work, you can always ask the Yahoo Customer Support person out

Interesting Newsfactor item today: Yahoo is using a third-party analytics tool to sense when subscribers are losing interest in their Personals service, and then phoning them to see if there is anything they can do to help.

Posted by Andrew
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AdSense Upgrade, Continued

Good spy, eagle eye Cory. AdSense publishers are supposed to be getting that memo this morning. In addition to "related searches," other upgrades include the ability to customize the ads' look and feel to a site, including the ability to have ads in several different colors to test the impact on CTR's; a feedback form so users can critique particular ads if they aren't relevant; and some reporting upgrades in the AdSense publisher interface.

One reason that Google is adding "related searches" to the mix is to have something to put on pages whose content doesn't lend itself well to any advertiser keywords - currently, we're seeing a lot of American Red Cross and other public service announcements. The other reason for re-emphasizing the search and navigation aspect inside this advertising space, says Google's Susan Wojcicki, is to "train users to see that space as relevant and useful." A third reason, not mentioned by Google, is to enlist AdSense publishers in the effort to send more traffic to the Google search engine. Possibly a fair tradeoff for the generous revenue share Google allots to these publishers.

The AdSense upgrade looks like incremental progress. Though not earth-shattering by any means, the changes suggest that Google is doing more than just dabbling in content-targeted advertising.

Posted by Andrew
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Google Tweaking AdSense Format

Quick! Look to your left, and you'll see Google AdSense ads in action. Now, look at the bottom of these content-targeted AdWords ads, and you'll see a new little box that reads "Related Searches." Click on whatever link is displayed, and you'll -- guess what -- be searching on Google.

Pretty sneaky sis! I don't remember being notified by Google about this, but maybe I missed the memo.

Posted by Cory
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Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Google News: Good; Google News Alerts: Not so Good

Google has made some noise in the past day or so about their free news alert service, which notifies you by e-mail whenever a particular topic you want monitored is mentioned in a news article. It's a fine concept, to be sure, but considering that Yahoo and MSN already offer such features in a more robust fashion, Google's service isn't too appealing -- yet.

The method by which you set up and manage news alerts is odd, in that you don't actually set up an account where you can log in and manage news alerts. Google's FAQ about the service does say that you can delete the alerts, but it all seems very convoluted, whereas Yahoo's service, for instance, is much more streamlined and powerful.

To be fair, Google's disclaimer admits this is a beta application, and it's an obvious fact, due to the limited functionality offered. However, once they work out the kinks and fine tune this feature, I suspect that with Google's superior indexing technology and commitment to quality, I'll be using it before too long.

Posted by Cory
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Did Someone Say Infinite Regression?

As always, this month's Search Engine Report is chock full of gems.

One of the interesting items: a heads-up on a new watchdog-watchdog site called Google Watch Watch at www.google-watch-watch.org. One article doesn't a website make, but anything that acts as a counterweight to Daniel Brandt's one-sided rants (which masquerade under the guise of public interest) is fine by me.

Posted by Andrew
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Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Finally, a Trustworthy Search Engine Optimization Forum

SEO expert Jill Whalen, she of the former RankWrite Roundtable newsletter and current High Rankings publication, has taken it upon herself to launch her very own SEO forum. It is professionally moderated, and seems to have a very low ratio of self-promotion and a high level of free professional advice.

It's a good place where experts and novices alike can share tips and not worry about spam, abuse, talk of cloaking and other nasty things. Register today. Tell 'er Traffick sent ya!

Posted by Cory
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Sunday, August 03, 2003

Keylime Acquisition a Key Part of Overture's Strategy

Overture finally announced plans that many in the Internet marketing community had been anticipating after its buyout earlier this year of web analytics company Keylime Software, as reported by News.com.

Keylime's products "provide real-time customer intelligence solutions enterprises need to optimize their Web visitor and customer interactions," according to its web site. While Keylime offers several varying products to track web activity, the recent announcement, as reported by Stefanie Olsen, sheds light on why Overture really wanted the company:

The latest Keylime software is built to help marketers manage and track bids for their sponsored search campaigns. The updated tool promises to connect the dots for advertisers by showing them how pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns relate to online sales, or return on investment.

I'll give Overture credit for anticipating the need for PPC advertisers to track the return on investment of paid listings. Given the enormous profits being generated by PPC ads, I'm surprised that it took as long as it did for the big PPC ad providers to offer these services, but now that they're coming, advertisers will surely rejoice when they can finally see the results of their hard-won and hard-spent advertising dollars.

Of course, Keylime wasn't the first and certainly isn't the only provider of ROI tracking software for PPC ads. ConversionRuler is an up-and-coming outfit that provides a reasonably priced, yet powerful solution.

But, with the big dogs starting to offer these services inside the friendly and convenient confines where advertisers manage their paid listings, it will be tough for the third-party services to compete. Still, with all the opportunity that lies ahead, there will undoubtedly be room for lots of players.

Posted by Cory
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