Eatin' bugs and blogging... what a great life.
But poor Walter is going to have to put aside his life of leisure for the rest of the day, I'm afraid. I've become so busy, and my Page Zero Advisor newsletter is so overdue, I've hired him to write the next issue. As there have been so many developments with Google paid search lately, I have plenty to update you on. I've fully briefed my feline friend (some of the stories I told caused him to make growling noises and shed huge chunks of fur, but all and all he seemed unperturbed), and he intends to write it all up in the next 48 hours. Beats a thousand monkeys.
Subscribers already know that the only way to gain access to a subscription is to purchase the Google AdWords Handbook here.
Walter has also nagged me to offer a price break for the next 48 hours. So when you go to make the purchase, you'll get the Handbook and subscription for $55, not $69.
Yahoo, unsurprisingly, is taking steps towards being a banner ad-serving company via its network of content publisher partners. Google recently announced their own progress in this area, which included allowing animated banners, and a new CPM-based pricing system.
Great, but is it search? No, but it is advertising. If "search companies" can take away so much ad-serving market share from companies who were supposedly expert in that, what does that say about how good those companies were at what they did? Or does it just speak more to timing (profit and loss at different points in this turbulent economy) and brand (Yahoo and Google leveraging their mystique to sign up advertisers and publishers)?
At a conference today I was chatting in line with a marketer with a large retailer. Like many, he had completely missed the generational shift wherein companies like Doubleclick had been surpassed in the online ad serving game by Yahoo and Google. (The combined market valuations of these two companies is $100 billion, which puts the recent buyout of Doubleclick for $1.2 billion into perspective.)
Doubleclick isn't a "small" company. But your Yahoos and your Googles are a lot bigger than many people realize, and doing a lot more things than many realize.
Another thing that few at the conference knew about was local search, and Google's and Yahoo's rapid strides in that area. I showed a slide of how it actually looks when you type "outdoor furniture" and "erie, pa" into Google Local. Only about 3% of the crowd had ever visited Yahoo Local or Google Local, which is probably right around the national average. :) (A wider definition of local search would possibly have generated more hands in the air.) Now that is search, and it remains an enormous potential growth area for search, if only because those outside the biggest urban centers and outside of net-savvy circles still have no clue what it is as users, let alone knowing how to approach it as businesspeople seeking targeted exposure. One thing is for sure. Big chains like Target will get this local search thing figured out to a 'T'. If you're smaller than them, you're courting big trouble if you wait two or three years to get up to speed.
As the luminaries of the online advertising industry convene to talk amongst themselves about advanced targeting methods, it might be a good time to reflect on the need to continue reminding early-stage online marketers (and they exist, even in larger companies) of the basics. The learning curve, and the growth curve, are at an earlier stage than you might think.
Monday, April 25, 2005
In the coming weeks, Google will be rolling out a significant change to the content targeting side of its AdWords program. These changes do not affect "search" ads on Google and other search network partners.
The first major change: pricing is on a CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) basis, not cost per click.
Apparent rationale: (1) big companies and agencies understand CPM better; (2) fraud is a bit easier to police with CPM, though of course no system is bulletproof.
The second major change: a clever device to allow advertisers to target specific sites. This is what we've been asking for since the day AdSense rolled out. Many of Google's critics adopted a sort of fatalistic attitude towards the prospects of improvement in the AdSense program, since this upgrade took so long to arrive. I was a bit more optimistic that they would do something about it, but the release of such a comprehensive new offering now catches me a bit off guard. (They would have had us believe they were going to do it piecemeal.) Looking closely at various ways they could have designed the "publisher specify" feature, it always struck me that it could get incredibly data-intensive depending on the degree of control and reporting given to hundreds of thousands of advertisers interacting with tens of thousands of publishers.
Sure, a few smaller PPC's offer what amount to prototypes of similar functionality, but the pricing is prohibitive, the volume is low, etc. Google's real-world solution understandably took longer to build.
Is it a tacit admission that the content program wasn't working? Sure. It's tough to stack up the lip-service pro-AdSense statements of dozens of Google product managers and execs over the past year with the reality that they knew full well they were designing a complete overhaul. As so often happens, their pretend-clumsy schtick (akin to having a chef present in a quarterly earnings conference call) was really just sandbagging to throw competitors off the scent. My favorite one, overheard as recently as March, is "we don't think it's best to think of targeting at the site level - we think it's better to think at the page level." This of course because that was the kind of technology Google acquired and developed. "We think the status quo is best," is what that essentially said. They had to say it louder after they acquired Sprinks and then got rid of its people and site-targeting capabilities. In any case, they must no longer think any of this, since they're completely changing that assumption in the new version of the program.
AdSense was ill-conceived from the start, but the fact is (as you know from reading Google's latest quarterly report), it helped Google grow quickly and surpass rivals. (For cautious advertisers, there was also measurable ROI from the program, in spite of its drawbacks.) Now Google can afford to design a better program. It's a happy day for advertisers and reputable publishers alike.
And a happy day for me, since I no longer have to give that same old presentation on contextual ads. Something new to talk about for SES San Jose! :)
What stays the same? You need to look at measures of ROI to gauge the effectiveness of your campaign. You should take a professional approach to determining the effectiveness of your campaign with web analytics that make sense for your company, or you should hire a pro to do so. Brand lift, latent and offline purchases aside, in most cases there is simply no longer a need to "guess" whether your campaign is working. Don't guess. Measure, test, and measure some more.