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Friday, May 14, 2004

This is a Test of the Blogger Commenting System

Readers with eagle eyes may notice that we have temporarily disabled our Haloscan comments while we test out Blogger's new comments feature. Please try it out and let us know what you think!

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses Their Rankings

So pustule-ware artists WhenU have had their search rankings, um, "re-evaluated" by Google and Yahoo because they were using cloaking techniques in an attempt to generate higher rankings for reprinted articles that gave favorable press to the company. Put simply, it's called spamming the engines, and you shouldn't do it. No matter how much the client pays you.

WhenU places the blame on the "New York search optimization firm" that did the work.

A question and a comment... (1) wonder who that company is? I suppose there are a lot of New York search engine optmization firms; (2) don't blame a contractor for doing work that you obviously approved of.

Too many companies seeking higher rankings in search engines are willing to look the other way at the tactics used to achieve them. Sorry, it's your responsibility if you fail to do due diligence on your vendor's tactics.

In most cases, though, it's being done with the full complicity of the client. Undoubtedly that's the case here.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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About Those Google Desktop Rumors

There have been various rumblings in different publications speculating that Google will target the desktop to take the battle for search dominance straight to Microsoft's home turf.

I'm not sure what this might entail, but think about this for a minute: What if Google launched a full-blown web browser, complete with all sorts of Google-only features built in? My guess is that Google could swipe at least 25% of the browser market share within one year.

Perhaps the Google Toolbar and Deskbar are merely tests for larger things to come? What do you think?

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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From the "Day Late, Dollar Short" Department

With its Windows XP Service Pack 2, Microsoft is finally going to rectify weaknesses in its operating system that allow unscrupulous jerks to install spyware (a.k.a. drive-by downloads) on unsuspecting users' PCs: Microsoft to Battle Spyware (Wired News).

Expected to be released this summer, the Windows XP Service Pack 2 update will contain no fewer than five new security features designed to ward off the unauthorized installation of software via the Internet, according to Microsoft officials. The company hopes the features will not only quell the growing number of complaints from consumers about Windows XP's susceptibility to spyware, but will also save businesses millions of dollars in tech support calls.

It's such a coincidence because Andrew and I were just discussing the fact that Microsoft could virtually shut down spyware if it would just get off its collective butt and fix Windows to prevent this kind of crap. This spyware nonsense just should not happen, and I blame Microsoft for wasting the time of probably millions of people who have been affected by spyware.

They've essentially sat on the sidelines for years and allowed this practice to persist without lifting a finger to help. It's about time they cleaned up their own mess.

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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All the News... And then Some

Thursday was a busy day for search engine news. CNET's done a nice job summarizing the day's news here: Net search wars heat up.

Let's see, we have Yahoo upping its free mail accounts to 100 megs with paid users getting virtually unlimited storage (ouch, Gmail!); Google launching Google Groups 2, a competitor to Yahoo Groups; Yahoo stealing CNN from Google; Google's debuting of image ads in AdSense; and more. I have to say it's a bit much to take in!

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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Thursday, May 13, 2004

Google. Banners. In the Same Sentence.

This is a very significant announcement, since, as most are aware, Google doesn't really do pictures and flashy stuff. Until recently, it's been pretty much all about text.

Yes. As of now, Google's into the rich media game. [Here's a look at the available creative formats now available to AdWords content-targeting advertisers.]

But let's get serious. Although this will shake up the media buying and selling business just as PPC text listings already have, it's actually somewhat evolutionary, and won't come as a surprise to anyone who's looked at the competitive realities of the online advertising business.

We've already seen Google's beta of Froogle. Pictures of products. We've seen what they do to spruce up the site on holidays. Cute drawings. We've seen Sergey and Larry in nearly every business magazine. Photos, photos, and more photos. And we've seen little graphics on the site to denote Google News items (stylized newspaper icons, etc.)

This tells me two things.

First, Google's "beliefs" and "principles" are adhered to more dogmatically on Google Search than elsewhere in their suite of products and services. This is as much for positioning and clarity purposes as it is about not "doing evil." (There's nothing evil about a graphic, just unstrategic and unwelcomed by search engine users.) In short, they're brilliant marketers. This became quite obvious to me when I observed the development of the Adsense program for content publishers. Google simply did not apply the same standards to that implementation as they did to the AdWords program itself. No minimum relevancy cutoff, no particular emphasis on the user experience outside of some vague sense that text was less obtrusive than a banner. Obtrusiveness was something that Google clearly cared more about vis-a-vis Google's own site than what happened on content partner sites.

After all, publishers need to make their own business decisions about how to sell media on their own sites. The existing AdSense program gave them few options, and trapped publishers in an orthodox, singular approach to listings which limited them to a smaller-than-optimal pool of potential advertisers.

Second, then, it proves that there were major shortcomings all along to the content targeting program. It was pretty good for users, but not much good to many publishers who still have plenty of advertisers who'd love to see their rich media banners up there. Some advertisers apparently still believe in branding by spending as much money as possible on campaigns that make an emotional impact. It shouldn't be the publisher's job to talk them out of that.

Bottom line: this is a step forward for Google's revenue picture and an addition of much-needed choice for publishers. It's a huge threat to some of the online ad brokers who currently trade in rich media. Some users may feel it is a step backward. So, you can expect the preponderance of early press reports to focus on the "critics" of the new program, claiming that it's a "step backward" for Google, when in fact it's quite the opposite. You might even hear some say that it's "evil." Since the "not doing evil" thing was actually balderdash all along -- more about clarity in setting the tone for Google Search and what users could expect from it (as mentioned above, arguably more marketing-driven than principled) -- this seems more like a much-needed injection of market choices for publishers and advertisers. They don't have to show the banners, and if the revenues produced by the rich media aren't robust, they won't. No one's holding a gun to their heads.

I'll change my tune in a second, of course, if they start to sell pop-ups.

As buyers of the ads on behalf of clients, we still have a wish list for the AdSense program. We still don't see the ability to control our ad delivery by publisher, by category, by channel, etc. When Google finally gets that figured out, they and their publishers are going to profit even more, because larger advertisers can and will outbid one another just to have their banner ads appear prominently on particular sites. This auction model, so profitable already for major players in the PPC space, is still only half-baked. There is still room for plenty of growth.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Yahoo WebRank Toolbar: A Bad Idea Whose Time Has Come?

Danny Sullivan is missed at SES Toronto (get well soon everybody), but according to our sources, has been making time to keep up with his usual busy writing schedule this week. And his past writings still come up on ClickZ when it's their time.

Today's ClickZ article expresses Danny's clear misgivings about the idea of a Yahoo "PageRank-tool-bar-like" feature. Webmasters spent far too much time obsessing about the PageRank meter in the Google Toolbar. (This article may be a republished version of something that previously appeared on Search Engine Watch.)

One thing about it: if you don't download the Yahoo Companion, or simply remove it due to desktop overload as I did some time ago, then you'll never see the page ranking meter even if Yahoo does proceed with it. How many toolbars can one person use?

Like Danny, I'm also very curious as to whether Microsoft will come along with a similar thing. As well, Netscape and Alexa (now owned by Amazon) are amongst the long list of other companies who have vied for attention in this "browsing companion that gives you info about the sites you're on" (how's that for mid-SES coherence?) market. There should be new ideas coming out here that might really help users quickly judge the worth or relevancy of pages.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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