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Friday, April 22, 2005

Stunning! Or Not.

Apparently the Google quarterly results left Wall Street stunned.

However, we were not stunned.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Yahoo Mail vs. GMail: Head-to-Head

Quick one-feature comparison of Yahoo Mail vs. GMail:

Yahoo Mail: Rich text compose functionality not available in Firefox

GMail: Newly-released rich text compose functionality works fine in Firefox

Time to catch up, Yahoo!

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Tracking 001

Do you get the feeling this page on Webmonkey, about tracking for e-business, might be a bit outdated?

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Google Earnings Predictions Anyone?

A quick look at Yahoo Finance indicates that to this point, Google has exceeded analyst earnings estimates by an average of 22%. You really have to wonder about the consensus estimates. Am I reading right or do the analysts estimate that Google will bring in less revenue this year than they did last year?

Anyway, the average estimate for the current quarter is that Google will bring in $729.8 million in revenues and earn 92 cents a share. Applying the "22% formula" to both, they should come in at $890.35 million and earn 1.12 a share.

This still seems low, at least on the revenue side. For the simple reason that "you're not going to be a Fortune 100 company at this rate unless you pick up the pace," my guess is $1.15 billion in revenues and earnings of $1.08 per share.

If you want to play the home game, you know where the comment button is!

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Google (AdWords Dept.) Groks Ecosystem... Film at 11

The early version of the Google Advertising Professionals program was a start towards recognizing third party consultants, but it was pretty limited.

Tonight across the wires comes an announcement of an enhanced version of the program. Some of the new benefits to those who become qualified in the program includes advertising credits to offer to clients.

To me, the biggest step forward is Google recognizing not just "individual professionals," but those entities called "companies," aka "firms," aka agencies (be they large or tiny). There are new provisions for collectively qualifying staff under the agency banner for firms employing five qualified Google Advertising Professionals or more. This is the beginning -- and I stress beginning -- of the possibility of cementing more consistent relationships in this corner of the online advertising business. For now, company status in the program is only available in the U.S. Kinda sucks for me and my company -- 80%+ of our clients are located in the U.S. but we are duly incorporated in the province of Ontario. But what are you gonna do. It'll be another few months before we get to put the pretty logo on our site.

It is interesting to watch how far Google has evolved since they released AdWords (version 2) in 2002, full of hope of near-total automation. Since then they have learned that running a $5 billion / year ad operation requires massive amounts of people power and the care and feeding of the company's global army of heretofore-unpaid evangelists. More and more, you get the feeling Google is comparing its own evolution to that of Microsoft, and realizing that certain strategies are necessary for long-term survival.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Yahoo CFO: The Sky Wasn't Falling

Yahoo's Susan Decker talks to about the robustness of the search advertising market. Probably the most important trend she notes is the confidence gained as advertisers do a more careful job of measuring their returns. On the supposed dropoff in keyword pricing, she said:

"It's really hard to make conclusions by going out and sampling prices and keywords, which is something that happened last quarter. There was a bit of an intraquarter discussion and a little controversy over whether pricing was falling off or not."

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Monday, April 18, 2005

Don't Believe the Skype?

Although I haven't yet tried Skype, I believe in it. There's something about "the world's big, free Internet telephony company" that sort of makes you sit up and take notice. As so many already have, Skyping happily away and avoiding silly roaming charges. Sunday's mention by James Fallows is another boost for the company.

As far as I can tell, there are a few possible reasons why none of RIM, Yahoo, Google, Apple, major phone companies, Palm, or Microsoft have acquired Skype. Pick yours.

  • They're working on their own, better version
  • They are planning to become road kill
  • They're hoping the other guys will do it, to help them time their "second mover" strategy
  • They're too busy working on annoying commercials
Maybe this is the problem. There are a lot of alternative telephony companies right now, slicing and dicing bandwidth, offering forwarding, extra numbers, calling features, and an array of better deals than last year's better deals. But nothing that just seems to go "Yeah, Baby!"

If Google or Apple haven't bought Skype yet, it's probably because they think that Google Phone or Apple Connect or what have you will need to be another notch or two better than Skype, and they're working on it now.

Fine. But isn't it high time a company like RIM diversified?

We, the humble screwed phone company victims, anxiously await the coming fireworks.

Posted by Andrew | | | Permalink

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Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Search Advertising Story and the Quest for Balance

Lisa Baertlein of AP weighs in with another story about the growing interest in paid search ads. The piece seems balanced and accurate. Not so for all recent coverage of paid search, some of which has focused nearly exclusively on click fraud.

Now the little "good Gazoo" is floating over my shoulder, saying "control yourself," since I have enormous respect for most of the analysts and consultants who are close enough to this action to be able to write or speak about it. I consider them all friends.

"Bad Gazoo" as usual wants me to write a few paragraphs more. And promote my new book. I think Bad Gazoo just won.

David Vise's most recent piece in the Washington Post, quoting Jessie Stricchiola extensively on the issue of click fraud, seemed to me to be a bit too much tilted towards "scandal"... is it merely representative of what we can expect from the print media when it reports on new media companies? As far as some newspaper publishers are concerned, everything in the new media is a suspect, a scandal. I suppose Google's honeymoon had to end, since it went public and lost its innocence.

But I'm a bit surprised that a reporter of David Vise's caliber is feeding into the "new economy porn" level coverage that we see so often. Jessie's and the others' comments on the click fraud problem are sensible for the most part. I like the fact that David exposes the actions of actual fraud perpetrators and points out that Google is suing them. No one with a shred of common sense (as the product from manager from Yahoo points out) would minimize the fraud problem. OK, so why do Vise and Stricchiola turn around and accuse Google of this, while exonerating Overture? So the issue I take is not with Jessie's admirable holding of Google and Overture to account on click fraud and other issues of importance to clients. I take issue with the specific quotes "sometimes Google does not even look at the data" and "Yahoo tends to be more proactive." That's true. But it would also be true if you wrote it this way: "sometimes Yahoo does not even look at the data" and "Google tends to be more proactive."

Nothing at these companies is static, but if you look at how the two (behind the scenes) have innovated and tried new things to help advertisers better manage their accounts, Google wins. Both mix good traffic in with the bad stuff. But you'll pay more per click for content clicks on Overture, and ... well... the list of quirks of both programs would be long, and I'd rather save it for a staff meeting. That's where we swap stories about this stuff all the time. Unfortunately, the public just reads the story in the Post and remembers "Google bad."

It may well be that Jessie has experienced better service from Overture than from Google, but I'm here to tell you that both companies have been responsive some of the time on click fraud issues, but in other cases -- *particularly* with Overture -- complaints have been met with a shrug. I've conveyed at least one of my experiences to John Battelle, a frequent writer on this topic, in hopes that he'll write it up soon (hopefully in a balanced way). I have been contacted less and less by reporters on the click fraud issue, probably because I'm not willing to help them fill up column inches with salacious anecdotes designed to make Google look bad. In case anyone hasn't noticed, the slander isn't hurting them. Their stock is still up there and the financials still look good, probably because advertisers love and need Google.

This brings us to the next point. Well known speakers like Jessie and myself may not have an accurate picture when it comes to the level of service offered on certain glaring click fraud issues. I had one client receive a sizeable refund based on our careful analysis of the case (some nonconverting content traffic), but then again, I presented some details of that case publicly. Not exactly a fair test. And I'm sure Overture people know Jessie and want to ensure that her clients are treated well.

That may actually be one of the emerging secrets to Overture, and to a lesser extent Google. On click fraud refunds, your powers of negotiation may come into play. These are *not* directly proportional to your ad spend, necessarily. I've seen advertisers who qualify for Overture's "Diamond Service" receiving Dumpster Service. Google salespeople work in mysterious and inconsistent ways. Depending on the day, it might actually be better that Google has an engineering culture at the back end, since a well-presented fraud case based on good data will be taken very seriously. It shouldn't be about backslapping (at least not entirely).

These search companies have plenty of money. In a lot of ways, Google couldn't give a hoot about money as long as there are four or five good blue chip advertisers available to bid up the top spots. So, at this stage, this business is about relationships. Which makes it harder and harder to get unbiased information. Those who have some kind of relationship with Google or Overture may have special insight, but also bias. Those who work in traditional news organizations may be shut out to some extent, so they may have less bias, but no insight.

In any case, some of those being quoted on these issues begin to be pigeonholed (or at least suspected of being) "Google people" or "Yahoo people" etc. I think that's a real danger.

We know David Vise isn't a "Google person," so we'll be prepared when his book The Google Story comes out in the fall.

As for whether operators of consultancies are pro Google or pro Overture, etc., I don't think any of us can afford to be unduly either pro or against them if we're to be effective for our clients. We can't alienate them or point fingers unfairly, but we must advocate for our clients first and foremost. As these firms grow in size, this balance becomes more apparent. Kevin Lee has written many columns for ClickZ and although at times in the early days he might have seemed "pro" at least one vendor, the evolution of the business means he works closely with both companies, and it shows in his writing.

When my book, Winning Results with Google AdWords, comes out in a few weeks, I urge you to read it and decide for yourself. Am I pro-Google? Anti-Google? Or just pro-advertiser? At least one other how-to of this nature has come out by now, but these are sometimes done in close cooperation with the vendors themselves. This can lead to a rather "canned" experience. My publisher, McGraw-Hill, decided it would be best if my material was written independently, and I'm very happy with that decision. I work closely with Google in my day-to-day job, but did no book research with them, and received no official sanction or advice. In other words, we just called it as we saw it. If you read the book, you'll see that I'm critical of Google in some places, but I don't think unduly so.

Balance is possible, even when evildoers are out there clicking on our ads.

More than balance, though. Writing the book excited me because search excites me. Each individual chapter posed a different challenge, and the final one, an opportunity to think about the future of online targeting, reminded me of how far we've come and how many new targeting opportunities advertisers will need to experiment with in the next five years. So if being a little fired up makes me "unbalanced," guilty as charged.

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