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Saturday, January 08, 2005

Yes, but...

There's now the expected chatter going around that Google's new affiliate advertiser policy has "holes" in it. I certainly raised the issue when I talked with Google's Salar Kamangar about the new policy last week. Anyone who uses the AdWords interface is aware that one could theoretically display a false display URL coupled with a redirect, or something, to get around Google's policy. I'm sure one could come up with a million little loopholes if one tried.

The point about policies is, though: they all have holes. If you create a new speed limit, unless you have a device that controls the engine of everyone's car, you now need to enforce the policy. (I believe this is Policy Studies 101.) The fact that an editorial policy might have loopholes is a big yawn. Laws against murder have loopholes too!

As with all policies, there are instruments to enforce them, and a quantifiable percentage of cases (no doubt over 95%) will conform to the policy through automated means, and 95% of the remaining violators will be caught through editorial cleanup, leaving perhaps 0.25% of cases unresolved.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Friday, January 07, 2005

Google's New Affiliate Policy Benefits (Nearly) Everyone

Google has finally formally informed advertisers of a long-rumored change to its policy regarding affiliate advertisers. Where multiple ads promoting the same URL are shown for the same search query, Google AdWords will show only one -- the one with the highest AdRank (the combo of clickthrough rate and maximum bid that determines position on the page).

Why the change? Many users had begun to notice multiple ads for companies like eBay. These were largely driven by affiliates who used keyword replace techniques to show their ads as widely as possible.

Clearly, by restricting duplication of these types of ads, the user experience goes up.

But it's not an all-or-nothing change. I experimented a little bit with an Amazon Associates campaign on AdWords this fall, so I feel like I understand what is likely to happen. Instead of my affiliate AdWords campaign (which I had running on a wide variety of products, not altogether successfully, but it was very educational!) simply being "shut down," it will just be cut back a bit. Where no other advertisers are clever or bold enough to appear on a given query, it will be bombs away for my ad. Where multiple ones appear, I'll only get to show my ad if I've bid high (taking a risk) or written particularly compelling copy that pulls a high CTR, or some combination of the two that makes my AdRank #1.

That's what'll happen to all of the affiliates currently playing around with AdWords. No one is going to be shut out completely.

This will certainly make the economics of affiliate advertising tougher. Only a few really good ones will survive, since lowballing at five cents will be harder with the new policy. But that's just how it ought to be. There's no free lunch.

A nice side effect of the new policy is that affiliates will no longer be required to identify themselves with the word "aff" in their ad text. Again, that probably benefits users, since "aff" is ugly to look at. And it helps the more thoughtful and hardworking affiliate advertisers blend into the woodwork rather than being "outed" with an ugly-looking "aff" notation.

Finally, it takes the heat off some parent companies who don't like affiliates competing with them on keywords. Instead of needing to police those affiliates directly, they now have the option of bidding a bit higher, or getting off their duffs and optimizing their ads, or both. Most affiliates won't be able to compete.

For those affiliates who actually build their own websites, this policy change does not affect them at all. It's mostly aimed at the types of advertisers who are playing the "Google Cash" game of sending searchers directly from an AdWords listing right to a parent site, with an affiliate code on the URL.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Thursday, January 06, 2005

What's Wrong with This Picture?

The good news: Microsoft is finally doing something about the epidemic of spyware affecting its operating system by releasing a free anti-spyware utility called Microsoft Windows AntiSpyware.

The bad news: It's only free until July 31, when Microsoft will release pricing information for the software. Yoink! You just knew there was a catch, right? Furthermore, they scored a PR bonanza by duping many media outlets into calling it a "free" program. For instance: Microsoft offers free security program - Jan 6, 2005. Argh.

It's simply a joke that Microsoft plans to charge for this program, which wouldn't exist in the first place if Microsoft would actually build a secure operating system. At least Microsoft could take the classy step of donating all profits from their ill-gotten gains to the tsunami victims or perhaps offer a rebate toward the next version of Windows as an apology for forcing us to endure this unnecessary headache. It's time Microsoft stop paying lip-service to consumers and actually do us a favor, for once.

If it sounds enticing despite all this, please resist. Don't use it! Spread the love instead and get Ad-Aware. It's not evil and won't lead to a guilty conscience.

The idiocy doesn't stop there, however. Microsoft has a similar plan for their own anti-virus software, which will be out in the next year. Again, they should not make a dime off this thing. Sure, no one will be forced to buy it, but there are millions of consumers who will think that it's the only option.

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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The Big Guys Battle for Your Living Room

(via SEW) - Yahoo and Microsoft are collaborating on aspects of a "Digital Home Strategy." According to Dan Rosensweig, Yahoo's COO, "the world is moving from mass media to personal digital media..." He'll get no argument from me.

Is it just me, or is it getting hot in here?

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Monday, January 03, 2005

PCWorld Likes Thunderbirds

No, I'm not talking about the discontiuned Ford Thunderbird. This Thunderbird is an open source e-mail client developed by Mozilla that just hit version 1.0. Hmm, that reminds me... wasn't there another open source project from Mozilla that recently hit verison 1.0?

I've installed Thunderbird and have just started toying with it. If it's as good as the PCWorld review claims, I just might dump Outlook at the office in favor of Mozilla's latest toy.

Those Mozilla guys really know what they're doing! OK, time for a little prediction on this one. I don't know what kind of marketshare Outlook Express enjoys now, but I'm going to go out on a limb and predict that Thunderbird will capture as much buzz as FireFox has and will rapidly steal marketshare from Outlook Express, say 10% by the end of the year. Anyone have those stats handy?

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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Sunday, January 02, 2005

A New Year, a New Traffick!

Longtime readers of Traffick will have noticed by now that something seems a wee different here... OK, a lot different! We perform a complete overhaul of the Traffick site, including new content, a new design and new architecture. The new site launched on Jan. 2 whilst many of you nursed a hangover.

So what's changed, aside from the new look and feel?

1. Traffick Blog Archives. Now you can easily track down that post from three weeks ago without going insane. A link to the blog archives is now included with every post -- for no extra charge.

2. Streamlined Sitewide Navigation. We've consolidated our navigation options at the top of the page in drop-down menus, and switched to that hip micro-font for our navigation buttons that all the kool kids are using these days. You'll "ooh and ahh" at the semi-transparency of the menu items -- or your money back.

3. More Syndication Options. You're down with RSS right? Then you'll be glad to know that we've expanded our syndication options so you can get Traffick how you want it, when you want it.

4. Return of Haloscan. We tried Blogger's commenting system, but it wasn't flexible enough, so we're back to Haloscan. Feel free to comment early and often, sorta like Ohio in 2004.

5. New Advertising Options. Yep, we've officially sold out. For an un-limited time, our unique brand of internet search enlightenmentTM is for sale to the highest bidder. Assuming our negotiations do not fall apart, we will soon be having an editorial change of heart about Microsoft. (Hey Bill! 'sup Steve?)

6. New Internal Site Search. We've dumped Atomz in favor of Google for our site search box, which is accessible under our navigation bar at top. You can also search the web from Traffick with that same box. Of course, we get a little tiny cut of the action when you click on the sponsored links on the Traffick-branded search results pages. Just sayin'.

There you have it. We hope you like our new appearance. As always, let us know what you think.

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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Give Sage Some of Your Thyme

If you're a FireFox user looking for a simple yet elegant RSS newsreader that integrates into the Mozilla browser, look no further. Sage fits the bill nicely. Sage is an RSS newsreader extension that adds an RSS sidebar to FireFox, and enables you to get news and blog updates in a non-obtrusive window while you browse.

For many people, a browser-based RSS aggregator is superior to one that integrates into e-mail clients or standalone applications. It just feels right to get your newsfeeds while you browse, rather than firing up your e-mail or a separate program.

For Internet Explorer, Pluck is a similar solution, but I found it to be buggy and sluggish (sluggy?). Future versions will probably increase its stability and functionality, but for now, it's a dealbreaker for me.

The major features of Sage include:

Reads RSS (2.0, 1.0, 0.9x) and Atom feeds
Feed Discovery
Integrates with Firefox's bookmark storage and Live Bookmarks
Imports and exports OPML feed lists
Newspaper feed rendering customizable via style sheets
Technorati and RSS search engine integration
Multiple language support

Posted by Cory | | | Permalink

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