A big "wow!" to Yahoo! being the first to overlay traffic information over Yahoo Maps. That's so cool.
Word has it that Google's acquisition of Keyhole may allow for some pretty amazing things in this area, too.
Just one more reason why I think many observers are underestimating the impact of local search. It's multi-dimensional.
Greg Boser of WebGuerrilla anchored the controversial "Black Hat vs. White Hat SEO" session at Search Engine Strategies Chicago this week. (These terms are shorthand for those who use aggressive search engine optimization tactics as opposed to those who use gentler methods.)
Boser made the point that many of the largest brand names in the world are the ones who request the most aggressive marketing tactics. Yet the perception in the public is that "spammers" (whether they're taking aim at your inbox or a search index) are exclusively small-timers.
While there are plenty of reasons why I personally think it's inadvisable to pursue certain tactics, many of the most recognizable brands have quietly disagreed.
(And if you read the previous post, you'll get the sense that I always advised clients of their option to advertise on competitors' trademarked words, if that's what they wanted to do. Those words nearly always return a strong ROI relative to the rest of one's campaign. If someone is hired to help you with your marketing, and your stance is an aggressive one, they probably aren't doing their job if they refuse to at least run down the options for you, disclosing risks and rewards.)
The point was hammered home for me again when I arrived back at the home office and noticed on my call display that "Sears Clean Air" had phoned, presumably to try to sell me duct cleaning services. Do I need that aggravation?
Big companies are the some of the worst "spammers," then. And as consumers, that means a constant process of ducking and hiding from irrelevant messages. The notion of a future do-not-call law in Canada makes me wince, because you can already run down the list of big diversified companies who will find ways to exempt themselves from the law by being able to claim a "prior business relationship."
And the kids at Sporting Life can't imagine why I balk at giving out my phone number for the privilege of buying jeans from them.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Google's lawyers threw five touchdown passes in a romp over Geico in the newly-renamed Yahoo Bowl (formerly Geico Bowl). Geico reportedly wasn't happy with the officiating. "But we have the hardware," jeered an imaginary Google advertising exec to loud cheering from an imaginary search marketing firm which has been taking Google's side on the keyword and trademark issue from the get-go.
Geico's PR department could manage only a late field goal in the form of a press release claiming that it might still go ahead and take action against advertisers who use Geico's trademark in their ad creative. The press release is rather misleading, indicating that Geico has won a small victory, when most news organizations got it right: Geico lost the case.
To be serious for a second: I've watched this debate evolve from a place where many advertisers and observers assumed the Geico's of the world (trademark holders who don't believe ads should show up that are triggered by trademark keyword triggers in an advertiser's AdWords or Overture account) were right and going to win, to a point where the debate was about 50-50. Thanks to Danny Sullivan, Jeff Rohrs, and a variety of informed panelists, the Search Engine Strategies sessions on this topic really contributed to carrying the debate forward.
I've always been to the extreme side of advocating the position that any keyword should be fair game to use in your account as a means of triggering targeted advertising. But to be very clear, this position is simply the position Google took and that the judge upheld: Google's method of displaying ads near SERP's is in line with legal forms of comparative advertising in the U.S. And never would I want to be misconstrued as suggesting that people should go around abusing others' trademarks. Improper use of trademark in ad copy or on a website is illegal. Attempting to generate consumer confusion by impersonating other companies, etc. is wrong, immoral, illegal, etc.
There will, of course, be more cases. Some will go over similar ground. At this stage, though, if you're an advertiser who receives a legal threat for using pay-per-click ad targeting in a perfectly legal way, your lawyer can fax the decision to "their" lawyers and induce them to agree to drop the matter. You shouldn't have to back down.
The remaining bit of messy business is that Google continues to sporadically block its advertisers from using trademark keywords owned by certain large companies like Amazon and eBay. In other cases, you as an advertiser might have backed down on certain profitable keywords because you received a legal letter and didn't want to go to court. It might be time to retry or revisit previously blocked words.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
It's sunny today in Chicago, but due to the fact that I'm at Search Engine Strategies, for some strange reason I'm in a bit of a fog. Couple of tidbits:
I picked up a print version (fancy that) of DMNews from their exhibit booth and learned that the DMA has dropped its Internet marketing conferences, and will simply add interactive marketing sessions to its regular conferences. The editorial by Tad Clarke noted that ad:tech and Search Engine Strategies are teeming with attendees, but the DMA's interactive show couldn't make a go of it. Probably it comes down to the emerging professionalization of search marketing. Those who attend SES are a mix of small SEO firms, pros who do work in-house for companies that rely heavily on search advertising, and so forth. Deciding to attend 4-5 conferences a year, or 6-7 at most, means many devoted professionals in the field will need to go to at least two SES's. When you're trying to do your job, after all, you go to the source, and network and learn from the best. I guess what I'm saying is it comes down to specialization. There is probably room for the DMA in the hearts and minds of many online marketers... but not in their schedules.
MSN Search has the most beautiful booth at SES. A grand, double-decker facade with lighting, tasteful wood tones, and built-in computer screens. To get the word out, they're handing out garments squished into the shape of a butterfly. When you open it, at first it seems that it's all wrinkled due to the squishing. Turns out though that there's some kind of raised spiderweb pattern on this black shirt - and it has long sleeves. It's a bit slippierier than a regular t-shirt, too. And the logo on the back sort of looks like a bat. And there are magnifying glasses up the sleeves. One thing about it -- if they ever want to sell this thing, I doubt they'll have any trouble running an SEM campaign for it. Not a lot of current competition for "lace henley" - or is it "velour henley." It's some kind of cross between Grandma's Couch and the Chris O'Donnell After Hours collection. Methinks MSN contracted a certain Danish design maven cum SEO expert but didn't pay his whole fee, so he gave them this.
Unlike Andy Beal, I doubt there is room for numerous desktop search products in the marketplace. I have Google's running on my laptop here right now. Does Ask Jeeves, or (!) Hotbot, really believe I'll be downloading their tool too? Isn't technology supposed to *save* us time? Remember the toolbar flurry of a year or so ago? Folks I talk to have Google's toolbar installed. A few have Alexa. I like the Firefox extensions that plug in versions of these quite seemlessly. But tell me, do you have the Dogpile or Hotbot toolbar on any of your machines? And so it will go for desktop search.
Well, no more time to waste. I'm presenting on the ever-fascinating topic of contextual ads this afternoon. And then, back to shaking hands. :)
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Google's been going nuts lately with all of these novel content-indexing ideas. You had the recent announcement of Google Print, and the latest is a major collaboration project with some of the top libraries in the world, in which the big G will index millions of out-of-print and copyrighted books for online searchability. Wow.
I've long thought that there should be no limit to the content that is available for searching online. Google plans to display AdWords ads next to such content, and this move is clearly a win-win-win for Google, book publishers, searchers and -- maybe -- for authors (Wouldn't it be nice if authors were able to get a cut of this?). There will surely be some vexing issues to solve as a result of this project, but if they can be worked out, consider the possibilities!
No one gains anything by having a dusty book tucked away on a neglected library shelf. This project will help ensure that the wealth of knowledge hidden in books is fully revealed to anyone with a web browser.
It will be interesting to see how Amazon reacts to this news. Their "search inside the book" feature holds much promise, but doesn't seem to have gained much traction yet.
This isn't related to the Internet, unless you consider that the Internet couldn't run without oil: The world's oil supply is peaking, and unless industrialized societies make massive changes to their energy infrastructure, we are headed for tragically tough times.
Thought you should know. Happy holidays!
Sometimes I'm ashamed to acknowledge that I read Search Engine Lowdown. If it's not the over-the-top self-promotion about MegaUltraCorporation -- I mean, WebSourced -- it's language like "How retarded is this?" I think we can do without the crassness.
(This post has been rewritten for clarification.)
Update: Now I see that the post has been changed to read "How crazy is this?", but my original point stands.