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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Tracking Your eBay Auction Sales? Now that's Highly Sophisticated

Recently, Nate Elliott of Jupiter Research released a study indicating that three-quarters of search marketers -- primarily in-house marketing managers of small to mid-sized companies -- are "unsophisticated." Some indignation made the rounds of the forums as those with poor reading comprehension believed Elliott was engaging in snooty name-calling. Really, all he was doing was original survey research that divided marketers into two camps based on levels of experience. One might quibble with his assumptions about what makes a marketer more or less sophisticated -- buying a large number of keywords, for example, can be a security blanket covering other weaknesses in campaign strategy, and is hardly a "sophisticate's" tactic as it stems from the problems inherent in GoTo's original lack of matching options (now rectified in Overture's contemporary offering) -- but there is no question most online marketing professionals remain somewhere in the early phase of the learning curve.

A group even more likely to be tagged with the stereotypes the media reserve for "unsophisticated marketers" are eBay sellers. But this is rapidly changing as they adopt the same kinds of tools that we see other online marketers using. Because eBay sellers' pages are uploaded by them (and thus controlled by them), it's not a huge stretch to insert code in those pages that facilitates some forms of user tracking.

eBay sellers are learning what many webmasters learned years ago -- you can't run a competitive business with just a hitcounter. At the very least, you need to know what kinds of searches are generating the most sales.

One company offering an eBay traffic analysis tool is Sellathon, a Kentucky-based company run by former Trafficology editor Wayne Yeager. We also know Yeager as the individual who founded a service called UnclaimedDomains.com, selling it to Internet.com in April 2000.

Sellathon isn't the only entrant into the eBay tracking tool business. I recently met someone at an industry lunch who was close with the founder of an early entrant into the same field. It also seems like there are eBay-specific constraints which limit one to certain types of interesting data... the data provided by Sellathon, as far as I can tell, wouldn't measure up to powerful "conversion tracking" tools like ConversionRuler, because, after all, a lot of the activity is taking place on eBay's site, not the seller's site.

But it's an idea whose time has come, and Sellathon's solution is being adopted quickly by a mix of small and large companies.

Here again, it must be emphasized that the market is at an immature stage. Those who operate in the "eBay support industry" have done a great deal to help, but sometimes the focus of all the "help" seems misplaced. Why are we not doing more to help sellers with basic web analytics?

Scanning through the 100 items in the O'Reilly book eBay Hacks, for example, I see a number of highly sophisticated tricks for sellers to try, but nothing like what Sellathon's offering.

In the Hacks book, you get tricks like offering a 360-degree view of your item with a photo album and some Javascript code. Neat stuff. I love that when I go to the infiniti.com site. But the fact that sellers are going to so much effort without tracking that effort seems odd.

It's as if cavemen had been bestowed with major motion picture studios to help them make commercials ... before learning to count.

The days of "unsophisticated" marketers comprising a majority of search engine marketers or eBay sellers will soon be over. In the meantime, those who currently do fall into the unsophisticated category should spend less time feeling indignant about the label, and more time doing something about adopting the tracking, bidding, and analysis techniques that will help them compete.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Saturday, October 30, 2004

FireFox Supports RoboForm After All

Not sure if this is a recent development or not, but FireFox actually does support RoboForm's password-keeping tool, via an extension you can download here. I guess prayers are answered!

So, let's see. FireFox is:

1. more secure than IE
2. faster than IE, by most accounts
3. more compliant with CSS, by most accounts
4. remembers passwords and form fields
5. works with RoboForm
6. has tabbed browsing capability
7. has embedded RSS feed-reading capability
8. possesses the allure of the underdog opposing Microshaft

I can't tell exactly, but I think I just made the switch for real!

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Phishers Beware

Count Floyd here; welcome to Monster Chiller Horror Theatre. Phrightened by phishers? Well let's hope they become extinct soon. Can we get John Kerry out here to make a really hawkish statement on this matter? Something like "we are united in our determination to destroy, capture, kill all phishers. They are barbarians," would be about right.

Checking my GMail tonight I noticed a new option next to the "report spam" link -- "report phishing." Opening a separate pipeline of communications with GMail users so the authorities can keep tabs on emerging phisherpersons? That's got to be a good thing. Let's hope it gives the bad guys a phright.

["Igor, haven't you fed the cat yet? No, not that one, get the diet stuff, down in the basement!]

We're back. Where were we?

Phishers, you can run, but you can't hide! Howooooooo!!!!!

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Friday, October 29, 2004

Optimization Run Amok

For a pathetic example of Google manipulation at its worst, check out this site about migraine headaches:

http://www.migraine-headache-medication-treatment.com/migraine_headache.htm

I won't actually link to this site to avoid giving it another inbound link. Read it through the copy on this page and see if it makes any sense. Pretty "useful" stuff, huh?

I've seen several sites like this one in recent days, where it's obvious that the site owners wrote some bogus copy and filled it with common keywords, and *poof*, now they're in the top 10 search results for prime keywords. How can these guys pull this off?!

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




AdWords Diagnostic Tool Unravels Ad Delivery Mysteries

I frequently receive questions about why certain ads might not be showing up in readers' Google AdWords campaigns. Unfortunately, to this point, the explanations one necessarily fumbles for tend to be spotty.

Back-and-forth with Google support is one way of handling such queries, but one has always wondered whether that's the best way. One might receive a verbal explanation by phone or a canned email. As of now, we have access to much of the same information that the support staff do as part of our user interface. It seems so silly in hindsight that a person might have had the job of cutting and pasting the boilerplate explanation for the ad's delivery issues, since nearly every delivery issue, even in the most byzantine of accounts, is logged.

We are, after all, dealing with computers here.

In a move that seems to be a rather bold form of advertiser glasnost, Google's turned some of the information over directly to their advertisers in the new AdWords Diagnostic Tool (you'll only be able to look at this, likely, if you actually have an account and are logged into it!). The tool seems to be aimed at those advertisers who frequently type in keywords and then don't see their ads showing up. There could be any number of reasons for this, as I found out when I quickly accessed the tool.

Because advertisers are trying to push the envelope in a competitive environment, many have built complex accounts with "keyword overlap." Keyword overlap isn't recommended, as it's messy, but some have legitimately used the tactic of duplicating keywords in order to tap into content targeting at a lower price. Messy, messy, messy.

Anyway, there are two typical reasons an ad doesn't show for a given keyword query, it seems: (1) "another ad in your account is showing for this keyword" ; (2) delivery of this keyword has been slowed for poor CTR.

The diagnostic tool provides advanced advertisers with information that is probably supposed to deter them from calling Google AdWords customer support to wonder about ad delivery. It can also be helpful for advertisers or consultants who want to do "cleanup" on accounts that have keyword overlap or are just generally messy. However, one suspects a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, so Google should prepare for a flurry of hand-wringing and misinterpretation of the information shown in the interface. Once again, if you're keeping score, the average IQ out here in advertiser-land is about 78 points lower than that inside the 'Plex.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Wednesday, October 27, 2004

New MSN Search to Have "Personalization Sliders"?

(via John Battelle's SearchBlog, by way of Search Engine Watch):

Gary Price apparently stumbled on an MSN Search interface before it was fit for human consumption.

Apparently (and he has the screen shots to prove it), this search engine will allow users to alter the rankings by tweaking the weighting of different factors.

Of late, Rich Skrenta has been nice enough to say that I thought of this. Obviously, I'm not the only one who has.

In short, then, this is the "bake your own pie" concept of search -- the notion of putting the user in the same cockpit as a search engine engineer with regard to determining the weighting of factors which affect rankings. In the screen shots captured by Gary, only three weighting factors could be adjusted: the importance of page freshness; popularity (how accurate this might be is in question for now, and there are privacy issues to consider); exact match vs. fuzzy match.

The long-term significance is that we would transcend the concept of "the" index's ranking algorithm. There might be tens of thousands of "algorithms" in force depending on users' settings. Among other things, this would keep spammers and optimizers off balance, and improve the user experience.

Lest we think that users don't like to twiddle dials, how many audiophiles thought it was cool to play with the equalizer on their $89 Sony boom box in the '80's? Even your average tone-deaf jerk liked to twiddle the dials.

To be honest, I thought this kind of functionality was going to take years to be released. If three dimensions are user-tweakable, is it far off before power users are given the option to tune their search on fifty or a hundred different dimensions?

Down the road, users could also save different "suites" of weightings depending on what kind of search they were performing. Search engines could offer a dozen or two "pre-sets" with cute names. Each would be like a different search engine within the search engine.

If MSN Search really does roll this out soon, it will vault to the top of my list of favorite search engines. And I'm not kidding.

The question is, will MSN users get it?

An alternative question: are they just messing with us?

Related Traffick article: Google's Personalization Merely a Taste of Things to Come

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, October 25, 2004

Copernic Finds a "Seam" in Enterprise Search

In the next couple of days, search technology company Copernic will announce major progress in its efforts to sign up enterprise customers for its Copernic Enterprise Search product, and will unveil a new integrated product.

To better serve that market, a separate company, Coveo, has been created. Copernic will continue to focus on consumer search products.

"The noise being made by companies like Google and Microsoft about searching the desktop over the past little while has really benefited us," says Eric Negler, VP of Sales for the newly-formed Coveo. "You can't buy that kind of publicity. It's brought enterprise search needs back into the spotlight."

Coveo's desktop search is only part of its offering, and shouldn't be confused with the more consumer-oriented desktop search initiatives of companies like Google, argues Negler. Coveo's desktop product is "designed to integrate with our enterprise search." This, of course, means an "interruption-free experience" in the process of scouring corporate intranets for documents.

A key area of concern for corporations is privacy. According to the company, Coveo's latest version of the enterprise search product, to be released Wednesday, "does not collect or record any user activity or data and maintains the highest user privacy standards."

Although divisions of larger companies are on their client list, Coveo's customers are mainly companies like small law firms with fewer than 50 employees. "If a small law firm wanted its eight partners to be better able to search their document repository -- our product allows them to do that without adding a whole lot of features they don't need. For such companies, time is literally money," says Negler. "Many lawyers," he points out, "probably bill more per hour than you or I could spend in a day."

Part of the time-money equation is getting the product installed without a huge hassle. Copernic (now Coveo) Enterprise Search is relatively easy to deploy, and piggybacks on widely known Microsoft standards.

In the forthcoming press release by Coveo, they cite an IDC analyst who believes that their entry into the enterprise search market might be "disruptive" to the enterprise knowledge management sector. Negler modestly allows that it "might not be quite disruptive," but affirms that "we do put a lot of price pressure on the competition, and that has to be good for us at this point in time."

Posted by Andrew Goodman




iPod Hot, Hegel Not

So I'm doing a little e-commerce background research at the moment. The interesting thing about this project is that I'm able to see not only what people are searching for in high volume, but also the kinds of things that they actually buy. Sometimes, they buy them after looking for something else.

Currently hot: iPods, infant formula

Not: Books about G.W.F. Hegel

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Sunday, October 24, 2004

FireFox is Looking Foxy

FireFox, the Mozilla-based, open-source web browser "that could," recently achieved the magical plateau of version 1.0. Although it's still a beta release, FireFox has received a measure of credibility that finally made me stand up and take notice. So, lest I become one of the uncool kids, I decided to install it and gave it a whirl. My verdict: not bad indeed.

FireFox is also getting loads of positive press, thanks in part due to its relative immunity to the many recent security threats that have plagued Internet Explorer.

The up-and-coming browser also earned a prominent write-up in the latest Business 2.0 magazine, with the plucky headline: Microsoft's Worst Nightmare.

While that label might be a tad melodramatic, you might be forgiven if you got the sense that this thing just might be for real and could very well slice into Microsoft's share of the browser market. Considering that IE has been dormant for at least two years, and might be dormant for another two years until the next Windows is released, it's beginning to seem that FireFox has some real momentum.

I'll keep playing with it, and write up a full-fledged review in the coming weeks.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Friday, October 22, 2004

Judge Not

GOOG's strong third quarter may be setting an unattainably high standard in the minds of investors and armchair critics. How would you like to be an Internet startup right now, generating losses, being judged based on some freakishly profitable model that one company stumbled into half by accident?

Google's own early balance sheets probably didn't look all that pretty, either. But what they did for the first four years of the company's life (and oh what a first four years they were) was to focus on building a company that mattered to people. Google's search market share appears to be over 50% in every market in the world. Without that, none of this would have happened.

Right now, there are tens of thousands of startups working away, innovating, trying to build companies and products that matter to people. It would be a shame if investors and observers tried to rush them to maturity or profitability.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Fraud, Schmaud

It's official: click fraud is now a "scourge". Of course it exists, but the extent of the problem is being blown out of proportion. It's easy to see why. When you're busy building campaigns, you don't have time to fixate on issues like this. You take care of a lot of annoying problems and roadblocks in the process of building something that works. When it's your job to write about business, on the other hand, you can skim the surface and refer generally to trends, unwittingly magnifying their importance to the casual observer.

The level of outrage that companies are spending "tens of millions of dollars on customers that don't exist" is something to behold, especially given the long history of advertising methods which are completely unverifiable. What about those piles of free newspapers you see in lobbies? Might those be added to "circulation" figures? Are people really watching TV ads nowadays? How can we be sure?

I'm going to start a new service (let's call it AdNazi) designed to put a stop to all this "attention fraud." When one of my AdNazi(TM) spies catches a motorist not eyeing a certain billboard with interest, we'll force them off the road and scream: "Look!!!!!"

We at AdNazi(TM) feel your pain. Attention fraud is costing America's corporations billions of dollars. It must be stopped.

Malicious and fake clicks are indeed fraudulent, and their perpetrators ought to be jailed. But let's not be too amazed by the notion that advertisers are flushing a lot of money down the toilet on methodologies that might not be 100% bulletproof. Next to "shooter girls" offering test tubes of colored liquid to already-inebriated males in dimly-lit clubs, paid search advertising is the most trackable, targeted form of marketing ever invented.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, October 19, 2004

You're Either With Us or Against Us

Google AdWords, which is already partnered with AOL for sponsored listings in North America, will displace Overture on AOL Europe. The deal is for "more than one year."

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Through AJ Interactive, Ask Jeeves Offers 'Premier Listings'

Ask Jeeves' reorganized sales unit, AJ Interactive, will begin selling ads in a number of formats and attempt to grow its current advertiser base of 1,000 (relationships formed earlier by Jeeves' recent acquisition, ISH Holdings).

In reviewing the available ad exposure, the first thing I did was check out their PDF on 'premium search listings.' It appears that these will be keyword-triggered ads featured at the top of the search listings. A single "premier" listing will appear above the sponsored Google AdWords results, which in turn appear above web results.

Jeeves management expressed what we were already thinking... in the form of a denial that there is any competition with or change in the relationship with Google. According to the DMNews story, the new head of the division, Jim Diaz, had this to say:

"I'd like to see us grow as a percentage of revenue of Ask Jeeves over time. Does that mean we have to take money away from Google on the search pages? We don't have to do that at all."

Since the top listing gets clicked a high percentage of the time, and carries the highest cost per click, of course this move will "take money away from Google on the search pages."

The impact on advertisers is slightly annoying in that it adds another vendor to deal with. But larger advertisers may like it because they can lock down top spot.

It's tough to speculate what this says about the relationship between Google and Ask Jeeves. But what it does suggest is that Jeeves management is trying to make the best use of personnel they picked up in the recent acquisition. Ad salespeople had to be tasked with increasing Jeeves' revenues by working directly with more advertisers.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, October 18, 2004

Or They Could Be Just Surfing for Porn

Some observers would still like to believe that Google people are burning the midnight oil working on a browser.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Sunday, October 17, 2004

What's Selling, Where -- Amazon's Micro-Bestseller Lists

It's like open-sourcing market research. Like psychographics for the masses. It's Amazon's new "What's Selling, Where" lists.

Not only can you get bestseller lists for certain locales by geography (states, cities), but also (if enough data are generated) specific organizations, businesses, and university campuses.

A quick peek at what the kids at UT Austin or the University of Wisconsin are buying indicates that they're interested in politics, weight loss, and popular page-turners... not necessarily in that order.

A bit more research reveals... that's pretty much what everyone else is interested in, too. (Check out Dallas, for example.)

To get additional insight, one can click on "uniquely popular" as opposed to top-selling, which presumably highlights books that are considerably more popular in a certain subgroup than they are everywhere else.

A peek inside the federal judicial branch's buying habits suggests that while they're as happy to guffaw along with Al Franken as anyone, and do enjoy a good page-turner, they're feeling the middle-class pinch, being uniquely interested in a book called The Two-Income Trap by a Harvard law professor and bankruptcy expert and her daughter, a former McKinsey consultant.
Overconsumption is not blamed for the current squeeze on middle class and upper-middle class cash flow. Rather, it's the "ferocious bidding wars for housing and education" that are causing a cash crunch in America's suburbs. While lower income earners might run up the credit card for nice-looking "stuff," and get into trouble that way, the two-income "achievers" find themselves underwater because of their insistence on living in status neighborhoods so that they can send their children to better schools. Probably a book that takes on magnified significance in a credit-boom time where an unprecedented number of gainfully-employed middle-income earners have had no trouble finding a bank to help them buy "too much house," and then find themselves facing bankruptcy when unexpected costs or job loss crop up.

But that's neither here nor there. I think I'm supposed to be making a point about what might be significant about Amazon's initiative. In keeping with the way Amazon has always worked, the micro-bestseller-lists release us from the shackles of the Big Bestseller List or the Anointed Book Reviewer, allowing one to browse what people are buying in different circles, and being offered peripheral recommendations to related books as always. Reading real people's reviews, and possibly reading other reviews by those reviewers, allows one to probe a topic deeply in the space of a couple of minutes. And you can, of course, search inside the book. In a word, the buyer is empowered.

By comparison, most of the bookstores I visit seem almost embarrassed by books. I mean they carry so few of them. Unlike most people, I don't find the process of visiting today's bookstore soothing or retro or quaint. It's just a lousy user experience. Most recently I had time to kill before a party, so browsed the business area of a Chapters. I couldn't find any of the titles I'd been considering buying, and, of course, there was no *context* in the form of reviews, rankings, and other information. But I did buy some chocolates to bring to my hosts.

Amazon's practice of displaying these various consumer tastes to the world in such a "micro" way might raise privacy concerns for some, especially those whose purchases are clearly identified with their place of work. It will be interesting to hear that debate.

All in all, a tour around what's selling on Amazon.com is heartening in its diversity and richness... until you realize that the sample is restricted to people who actually buy and read books.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Google Launches Froogle UK

Google announced today it had officially launched Froogle UK – in beta, of course.

The UK specific version of Froogle features prices in UK Pounds and AdWords ads from British merchants. The company said it hoped the launch would offer a “better online shopping experience” both today and during the upcoming holidays. As with the US version, users can see product photos and links, and can also submit a data feed.

Because of the size of the market, the UK was a logical next step for Froogle. But when the company will continue into other European markets for Froogle, like Germany and France, is still somewhat of a question mark. As this Reuters article points out, heading to Europe means competing with Kelkoo – a comparison shopping site that is one of its largest advertisers. Kelkoo has been buoyed over the past three years by skyrocketing sales as e-commerce finally gains traction in Europe – something that will likely help Froogle UK, too.

Posted by Adam




Come to Don Mills, Get a Free Prize!

Next week (Thursday, Oct. 21), the Canadian Marketing Association is putting one a one-day Digital Marketing Conference. Heady-sounding name, but as far as content goes, it promises to be all meat, no fluff. The a.m. keynote is by John Tory, leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party and former CEO of Rogers Cable (the wonderful company that is making it possible for me to be connected to the Internet as we speak, while selling the little box that lets me watch Curb Your Enthusiasm and 238 other shows in that other room, somehow managing to fit all those various charges on the same bill).

At lunch, bestselling author Seth Godin is giving the luncheon keynote, which should be worth the price of admission in itself.

Sandwiched in between those are some more detailed sessions. Patrick Keane, head of Google Advertising Strategy, speaks on "The Search Economy," promising to provide solid data and actionable strategies for marketers.

Following that, some panel sessions break out. I'll be moderating "Search Marketing in Canada." Successful e-businesses like Tripcentral.ca will talk about how they aggressively pursued search marketing to achieve rapid growth, and will take questions from the audience.

In the afternoon, Stuart McDonald, a senior VP at Expedia.com, will share insights about fast-growth segments like online travel, but also promises to provide insights as to the overall vision behind Barry Diller's Interactive Corp.

If you are (or plan to be) in the general vicinity of Toronto, and are one of those people who doesn't miss an opportunity to learn more about what makes the Internet economy tick, check it out. Remember, that's the Westin Prince in Don Mills, not the Westin Harbour Castle.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Zawodny: Taking Names

Already, Yahoo Jeremy Zawodny has violated my moratorium on Yahoo people declaring that their products "kick ass." I knew it couldn't last!

Back in May, Zawodny declared the Death of Pagerank. Hardly original, and slightly premature, but holy geez do a lot of people read Jeremy's blog, as they continue to comment copiously and link to it lovingly all around the big ol' family we affectionately know as the dubya-dubya-dubya.

Elsewhere, Steve Jurvetson comments on Jeremy's "contextually relevant belly." Anyway, that's nothing, you should see the beta-test we're doing with Walter right now! I can't reveal all the details, but I will hint that when he opens his mouth to meow, instead what comes out is an ad for "tough-actin' Tinactin"... unless someone outbids them or is more relevant.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, October 11, 2004

Mark Cuban, King of Babylon

Reading this interview in Red Herring one can't help but imagine Cuban on a "Trash 80" playing Hammurabi. Look out, world.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Sunday, October 10, 2004

SEMPO: Can't Get No Respect

Search engines are good for a lot of things. One of them is protest. In a free society, search results support healthy diversity of opinion. Of course the odd "Google bomb" is also fun for a lark.

This activist site against Coca-Cola comes up sixth when you type "coke" into Teoma, for example. Google also ranks it sixth. The top five listings are all Coke's, so the anti-coke site is just barely above the fold.

Not unexpectedly, searches for "bush" and "kerry" turn up similar ferment. After the expected official Bush sites, the first page of "bush" results is littered with protest and parody, including "Billionaires for Bush." At votetoimpeach.org, it appears some basic lessons in optimizing for search engines may be in order. The page's title appears to be "your browser does not support frames."

Kerry's getting an easier ride, algorithmically speaking. The gentle johnkerryisadouchebagbutimvotingforhimanyway.com is one of the most innovative uses of the new longer domains that I've seen. I'm sure kerrymayberichbutlookhowkeywordrichthisdomainnameis.com is not far behind.

Two anti-Kerry sites come up on the first page of results: vietnamveteransagainstjohnkerry.com and a page from the National Review site providing running commentary on the TV debates. A small proportion of the mostly partisan commentary is critical of Bush, though. For example, the writer is embarrassed that Bush cited "rumors on the Internets." ["(sigh) Internet. Singular, Mr. President."]

Some related AdWords listings are getting in on it, too. At us-election.org, the world is encouraged to vote in the US Election, just to see how it would turn out if anyone around the globe were allowed to vote. It's worth noting that you aren't limited to the Republican and Democratic Nominees. Why not burn a vote on the nominee from the Prohibition Party, Gene Amondson?

Anyway, onto more mundane matters.

A parody site called SEMPO-Tahoe has risen all the way to #2 on a Google search for "SEMPO." A PRWeb press release touting the would-be search engine marketing industry advocacy organization's accomplishments has sunk to seventh place.

In a terribly earnest age, it's gotta be comforting to Gen-X'ers that irony is making a comeback. It's like rock-paper-scissors. Ironic beats earnest; cute beats ironic. Women tell me this is why Jon Stewart is cleaning up in the ratings.

And on that note we wish all the best to Ms. Smudge and Mr. Finster, who are heading up SEMPO-Tahoe's Asia-Pacific Committee.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Friday, October 08, 2004

The Vision Thing

Just catching up on what little coverage there is of the Web 2.0 conference. Stefanie Olsen (CNET)'s coverage seems to be the most hard-boiled of the lot, and why not? With speakers like Mark Cuban showing up to make comments about the current re-bubble making for "great theatre," experienced reporters may feel like it's deja vu all over again. What's next, a Trump cameo where he mugs for the cameras and tells IE it's "fired"?

The concrete details of Cuban's speech sound breathtakingly pedestrian when compared with the big picture stuff - sort of like the Seinfeld episode when Elaine drops by the fake J. Peterman's pad and it's all cheap potted plants, leather-and-chrome "guy furniture," "let's get a pie," and "they moved the cable channels again."

Cuban mentioned that he got out of his investment in tiny search engine company Mamma.com as soon as he found out they'd completed a dilutive private placement of shares and warrants to raise cash in June.

At the time, the company said they'd potentially use the cash for acquisitions. Recently, they initiated a share buyback program with the available cash. Were they, in essence, shorting their own company?

Although you'll see him sporting pink hair this fall, Cuban's actions are rarely as random as they appear to be.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Gmail Notifier Updated

I haven't heard about this anywhere else, so might as well share it with you all. When I rebooted this morning, the Gmail Notifier icon in my system tray was different. Apparently the little app that could had updated itself! This new version is v1.0.23.0.

Gone is the "oo" Google-style icon, replaced by a plain-looking envelope surrounded by a light blue glow. Now, when you get a Gmail message, it will change to a dark blue glow.

Also, you now have an options box where you can tell Gmail to use itself as your default e-mail application, and to specify which browser you want to use to read your Gmail. That's been a thorn in my side ever since installing the Notifier. Until now, it would always open Gmail in my IE instead of my beloved NetCaptor, which is still the best browser in the world, IMHO!

Is anyone else seeing this updated version?

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Saturday, October 02, 2004

Yahoo as Desktop: Then and Now

Never underestimate the power of a user interface.

When we started chattering about this stuff in '99, there was excitement in the air about the whole notion that portal companies like Yahoo! might come to replace Microsoft, the OS giant, as the primary navigational method or starting point on your computer.

This week, stories have been flying fast and furious about Google and the browser, but with the release of an upgrade to My Yahoo!, users are getting a concrete reminder that Yahoo has a longer history as an integrator of search and web services. Not only that, but they've been the most skilful integrator of them (Microsoft has been through many hiccups on that front). Yep, they're just a lot better at it than anyone else. You can access a lot of Yahoo! Stuff with a common login.

So why is Google getting all the ink? Yahoo's long been working on companions, toolbars, and various "meta-level" initiatives "on the desktop." Why hardly any stories about a "Yahoo browser"? (No, I don't mean IE optimized for Yahoo, as offered through certain major ISP's.)

I'm one of those weirdos who uses Yahoo! Mail as my email client to retrieve all the email from my POP-based accounts, and to send, receive, and organize information. (I also use GMail -- who could resist?) It always took a bit of hunting on My Yahoo page (or typing of the URL or accessing a bookmark) to actually fire up Yahoo Mail, though. The new-look My Yahoo! is clearly moving in the direction of a desktop-like interface with a big button for email that makes it easier to fire it up.

If everyone's talking about a top-secret Google browser project today, maybe that suits Yahoo! just fine. They can be the $47 billion company that flies under the radar.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Friday, October 01, 2004

Contextual Advertising on a Tear

(Via SearchEngineWatch Blog:)

FindWhat rolls out a publisher program for contextual ads called AdRevenue Xpress.

Good. This gives publishers yet another option for monetizing their content and should strengthen FindWhat's hand as a solid #3 in the paid search brokerage business. Overture's Content Match and Google AdSense make up a growing proportion of those companies' overall revenue picture.

No one knows how big this market will get, because it's tough to draw boundaries around contextual advertising or Internet advertising. With converging media, any type of growth is possible here.

Having the option to pit the revenue performance of various advertising networks against one another, and to place "never-ending" targeted campaigns on websites in fully automated fashion without negotiating with "media buyers," is something akin to nirvana for the smaller publisher. Competition is good.

For advertisers, it's a mixed blessing. As long as the program is administered responsibly, an influx of new publishers should even out the overall click quality. While ROI from this program might not be stellar in absolute terms, there may be more consistency to it as the publisher pool is deepened.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Synchronicity

Some days, seemingly random events swirl until they start to form a pattern. What's in these tea leaves, do you figure?

  • The name "Red Hat" seems to be popping up more and more often lately. It's a cutting-edge technology company with a market capitalization 7% the size of Google's (thus easily absorbable), and a roughly similar price-to-earnings ratio. There are precious few such companies around. What if...?
  • When Cory blogs an item about Internet Explorer, this site is besieged with a veritable avalanche of traffic! Must be a love-hate thing going on out there.
  • Some of Google's beta projects are still unknown to most members of the business and technology press ("they do? what's that?"), but clearly the Wall Street analysts who upgraded the stock this week were privy to some of them, and have let their imaginations get ahead of them, for fun and profit. Perhaps it's a good thing Google's hiding some of its stuff in plain sight, since features like Google Groups 2 are not ready for prime time. Right now, judged by the standards of a "portal company," Google resembles the demolished Christine before she summons her mystical powers and cobbles the chrome together into a nice shiny package. A lot will have to happen before Google "gets it all together." This seems like it will require bold steps, which means it will be impossible to keep it all under wraps forever. For now, getting Froogle, GMail, Groups 2, and Personalization out of beta might be steps in the right direction, but I'm not holding my breath.
  • On a relative basis, Hotmail has been downgraded back down to "sucks."
  • Mary Meeker is speaking in tongues again.
  • I'll be holding a seminar on how to stuff popular keywords into blog entries. Upper floor, third couch, Bloor Street West Starbucks, tomorrow between 10:33 and 10:35 a.m. Door prizes: Britney Spears wedding photos, "Osama sucks" t-shirts.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




So Many Blogs, So Little Time

Lately, the topography of my My Yahoo! page has been altered significantly as I'm now adding RSS-syndicated blogs by the bucketful to go along with the usual news sources.

Old favorites like Seth's Blog and EGR have been joined by John Battelle's Searchblog and the latest gem, Bnoopy, by Joe Kraus, one of the founders of Excite. Hearing all these voices has a way of filling in the blanks in our short Internet history. A lot of what happened in the past decade isn't written down anywhere. Yet.

Like me, Kraus is a big fan of Michael Lewis' Moneyball. :)

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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