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Thursday, September 23, 2004

Look at the Funny Bell-Bottoms!

Remember when lava lamps were all the rage? Yes, I do too. It was only four years ago, back when Google was still an upstart.

A fascinating San Francisco Chronicle article from August, 2000, reveals the following tidbits:

  • "Google faces strong competition from the likes of AltaVista Co., the Palo Alto Web portal, and Inktomi Corp., the Foster City firm that licenses search technology to Web sites such as Lycos and America Online."
  • "Both companies dwarf Google in size and experience, but still feel threatened." (You don't say!)
  • The company had 120 employees, indexed 560 million web pages, and processed 14 million searches per day on its own website (partners accounting for another 26 million).
  • "One thing Google's executives say they will not do is transform their company into a Web portal. While the firm may add capabilities such as online image and music searches, according to its co-founders, it will stay away from calenders, news and chat." (Now they have news, of course. And email, which is one step away from calendars. And with Groups, blogs, and orkut, they're getting closer and closer to the world o' chat. Things change.)
Ah, 2000. Back when Martha Stewart was an innocent flower. When 911 was something you dialed on your phone. And Google didn't even have news, let alone a browser. They recently registered GBrowser.com. They allow publishers to display simple graphical banners in their advertising program, the one called "AdSense." We're not in Kansas anymore.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Milestones du Jour: Topix.net/Jeeves, ResearchBuzz

Catching up on this one: ResearchBuzz recently celebrated its 300th issue. As online search hype has ebbed and flowed, Tara Calishain has been like a rock, if you'll excuse the Seger-sellout lyric. Moreover, she is one online research expert who has managed to stay out of the clutches of Search Engine Watch. (ha!) To coincide with this date she released a book, Web Search Garage. ("Prentice-Hall? Those bastards?") This is a woman who has evidently taught Tom Peters to search for stuff! And as we all know, when smart people start getting smarter about searching for stuff... look out!! In a somewhat unrelated vein, have you ever noticed how often her name is seen in the same place as Metallica? 17 times, to be exact.

In other news, Ask Jeeves PR kicks into overdrive (I received a postmark with a big question mark on it) to hype the launch of their new personalization suite ("save your search history" a la A9). News search service Topix.net is part of the fun, scoring their first-ever portal partnership.

As quoted in the Reuters UK story, Gary Stein's analysis of Jeeves' particular take on search personalization, though blunt, strikes me as right on the mark. People might be too lazy to try it. "Slightly better than bookmarks" isn't going to blow anyone's mind.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Monday, September 20, 2004

Eh-Per-Click

Overture is finally opening a separate office in Canada, along with Brazil, China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. (We presume this means Yahoo! will now renew its sometimes-wavering commitment to the Toronto presence.)

But as ever, the devil will be in the details. It will be interesting to see whether advertisers will continue to need separate accounts if they wish to run international campaigns. With Google AdWords, country settings (and for the bold, regional targeting) are consolidated in a single account.

The exact ad distribution pattern of, say, a Canadian Overture campaign will be interesting to see, as well. Many Canadian users who search on Yahoo would actually be using Yahoo.com, not Yahoo.ca. Presumably Overture plans to use an IP-targeting technology similar to the stuff Google uses?

Although there aren't many advertisers who would limit their campaigns to Canada, there are certainly enough to bother with. One we worked with -- a Botox-related treatment that you can currently hear on Toronto radio spots -- wanted to know how they could show up in those "Yahoo sponsored listings," but only in Canada. We couldn't do it for them because turning Overture on meant turning it on for all of North America, a cost increase of 10X at least. So having the ability to deploy Overture campaigns for Canada only -- and even for specific metro areas in future -- is a welcome development that will attract plenty of new advertisers to the fray.

Until Canadian Tire opens up stores south of the border, for example, they'd probably find it annoying to run an Overture campaign. The same goes for Tim Horton's (who should, I still maintain, absolutely OWN the PPC listings for donut, bagel, and, well, "Tim Horton"), the Rotman School of Business, Sheila Copps, The Loose Moose, and various other usual suspects. With the hockey lockout leaving local execs with more spare time, there's no longer any excuse. It's time to get off the collective national duff and get onto understanding how to target those search listings.

When it comes to easy targeting by country and region, Google's already there, of course. This was amply demonstrated in a slide shown by Google's Wendy Muller at SES Toronto last May -- with a sample regional-targeting "ad radius" that stretched around the 416 and 905 area codes.

It'll be interesting to see average costs per click for local businesses -- especially the lucrative ones like plastic surgery, fine furniture, donuts, business degrees, election-buying, nightclub-hopping, and so on -- creep up as the most entrepreneurial advertisers realize they can target highly captive audiences, paying only when the viewers live nearby and are actively searching for their products. Although some realize this today, it's still pretty wide open. In a normal market that "got it," advertisers in any given city would think nothing of throwing a buck or two per click at such a micro-targeted customer. But they still don't get it, by and large, so there are plenty of bargains to be had.

Thus endeth today's seminar on "trends in local search." And I didn't even once use the example "pizza place in Palo Alto."

The "what to do with local offices" type of problem used to beset LookSmart, which had some local offices (and "local submit" options) that seemingly languished when it came to giving any kind of compelling service to local advertisers. Many just dealt with US-based LookSmart.

There's enough money in the game that the two major PPC players can afford to plunge into new markets with both feet. With search advertising now representing 40% of online advertising spending, it's time to go big (and go abroad), or go home. Wherever "home" is.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Sunday, September 19, 2004

Google: The 'New Hotness'?

There is considerable current chatter on the blogs of Microsoft employees and their friends about the likelihood of Google soaking up the hottest programming talent, including some who formerly plied their trade in the browser department at Microsoft. (Should there be much doubt now that Google plans to get into the browser business in some form?)

Some have referred to Google as the 'new hotness.'

I've always looked at public companies (or any corporation) as structural entities first and foremost. As boxes, if you will, into which you can put things. Public companies can acquire other companies. They can attract additional investment. They can attract quality people. All due to their structure.

The fact that Google is constantly shifting its priorities as it becomes a major force in global technology is no surprise. As that momentum grows, its structure (including stock options and the other trappings) allows it to attract new people who are attracted by the opportunity.

As something of a black hole for programming talent, it may well be that the attractive environment and the people themselves drive Google's growth as much as any management strategy could. If you make cool things, and keep people around to look after their growth, some of these things stand a chance of uprooting the tired old things that the marketplace no longer wants.

Into the black hole goes the programming talent. We now wait to see where it all leads.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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