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Thursday, March 30, 2006

Google Local Gets a Nip & Tuck

If you're like me, you've been an early adopter of local search, and can't wait for the offerings to further develop. If you've played with Google Earth, a different sort of animal, you get a strange feeling that you'd better not go to Manhattan if you don't want to be accosted by 4,000 Au Bon Pains per block.

So I'm always interested to see what the next geo-search-listing-ad experiment will look like.

Rumors have been circulating that Google Local is undergoing tests that will include company logo enhancements. But the speculation (on the Barnes & Noble logo locations on the maps) wasn't clear on the "how do they do that?" side of things.

Google's going public with the announcement tonight. In a briefing today I was told that the special "map placement, text listing, & image enhancement" features will be accessible through Google AdWords, and available to any advertiser. I haven't seen it in action yet.

It'll be interesting to see just how cluttered the maps get. :) Presumably, only relevant advertisers would show up with these listings.

My take - without having really seen it, mind you - is that taking the trouble to enhance your listing on a local search, complete with correct info and your logo, will signal to shoppers that you have a beating heart. Nothing smacks of stubbornness more than that local lighting store or bakery who refuses to be visible online, and is content to let the Au Bon Pain's of the world clutter the virtual landscape. Small is beautiful, but invisible isn't.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Ships Ahoy!

Things are brightening up out there. I made my first post on Google Finance discussion groups.

What do *you* think about the prospects of IAC/Interactive Corp.? (See my review of Barry Diller's keynote conversation here at Search Engine Watch.)

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Whoopsy! (At Least They Don't Pilot Oil Tankers)

Now the question becomes: just how big a screwup can you gloss over with a simple "D'oh!"

"Mr. Fastow, what possible response can you give to the many investors who lost millions?"

"D'oh!"

World-leading technology company Google reportedly deleted its own blog yesterday.

And if the devil don't like it, he can sit on a tack!

Ouch!

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, March 27, 2006

Want to Sell Product? Take Clear Photos.

You got that right, Jakob.

On a related note, last week at ad:tech Impact Toronto I was lucky enough to take in a Jim Sterne talk on the top 20 things to do to make your website better. Some advanced material, and some very sensible, straightforward advice. Almost all of it routinely ignored by large companies and small.

As Jim pointed out, if you have the money, do user testing in a lab. If you don't, you can try the "Mom test" or the "five random guys test". In all cases, any kind of critical assessment of your site should reveal gaping holes in basic communications and navigation.

It's not all "anti-flash-and-dash," though. So don't misinterpret Nielsen and Sterne. Some sites become "physically addictive" to users, in that they harbor advanced functionality that entice users to return. It looks like Nielsen and Sterne might part company here -- 3d modelling or advanced schematics wouldn't be enticing enough even to a B2B customer to make up for the downside, Jakob might say; Sterne might disagree.

But at least we're talking about this. One of my clients mentioned yesterday: "we're one of the only sites that allows users to blow up to a detailed full-size image of (elaborate game product)."

Sterne's invocation of the running-shoe joke -- "I don't have to be faster than a tiger... I just have to be faster than you" -- is germane here. In response to said joke, my fellow Canadians laughed hard. Which leads me to think: my fellow Canadians need to get out more.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Sunday, March 26, 2006

Gator Loses His Teeth

Claria to give up adware.


...but it looks like his dentures may still be pretty sharp, so watch your step!

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Friday, March 24, 2006

Meta-meta-meta-

A professor has rated the ratings of local wine reviewers. Reviewer A got B- for the accuracy/quality of his reviews, Reviewer B got B+, Reviewer C got C+, etc.

I somewhat liked the review of those reviews, but didn't think it was quite right in places. I give it a B.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Filter Your RSS Feeds

There seems to be no end to the innovation in the RSS space. So, as I was reluctantly deleting several RSS feeds from Netvibes yesterday to avoid information overload, I was thinking, "It's a damn shame to delete these feeds; wouldn't it be nice if there was a way to receive feeds in a more limited fashion to focus on the stuff I like and toss the stuff I don't?"

I guess there is a God who listens, because now there is a way. And it only took a single day.

The solution to RSS overload is Feed Rinse. They offer a promising service that filters your subscribed web feeds any number of ways. Options include filtering based on keywords, tags, authors, profanity, etc.

Currently, there is a free option that limits you to three filtered feeds, with two affordably priced premium tiers coming soon.

Hats off, Feed Rinse. I'll give you 15 days before you're approached by a bigger company wanting to buy you out, probably a FeedBurner or a Technorati.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Thursday, March 23, 2006

The No-Fun Gang

Bad week for me trying to get stuff through the filters.

To christen a message board on Google Finance, I posted a "hello this is the first post" type of post. It wasn't approved -- I was directed to the "community guidelines." I moderate online forums, so I understand the need for community guidelines. Granted, I did mention I was writing a story on IAC/Interactive Corp. for SearchDay, and that's "promotional," but heck, I was just trying to say "welcome to the world of Finance boards, Google". GOOD LUCK trying to vet all the spam posts on your boards. You see, most of the content on these boards is crap -- it has been for years. So, now you're going to need a bunch of spam gatekeepers. What fun.

In other fun, I tried a test campaign on MSN AdCenter. I used Yahoo-related keywords to advertise the new Yahoo Search Marketing Handbook by Mona Elesseily. I am no stranger to this! I've had Google reject my Google keywords, Yahoo reject my Google keywords, and now, MSN rejecting my Yahoo keywords.

Eventually, of course, these gatekeepers are usually convinced to lighten up a bit. MSN AdCenter in particular is vexing. Because they're in beta, you're not supposed to complain about not being able to talk to a human about what you're up to, and you're not supposed to be upset that most of the staff know less about the PPC space than you do.

Editorial aside, AdCenter appears quite cumbersome to use in the real world, in spite of its cool "on paper" features.

It all does get better, but we waited years for Google and Yahoo to get better. Looks like AdCenter will give us plenty of growing pains over the summer.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'll check on the performance of my tongue-in-cheek "x-ray specs" AdWords ads. Ha, those weren't disabled!!

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Me, Too

I got interested in tech stocks and search engines well before I ever did a lick of business, and years before launching this site, as a certifiable, bona fide tech stock discussion (and sometimes trading) fanatic. As such, I tried everything as it came out: Motley Fool, Raging Bull, Silicon Investor, etc. One of my greater moments was shorting Zitel, a "Y2K stock," down to zero. A total scam, Zitel promised to fix companies' mission-critical Cobol problems better than the other Y2K companies could, because they had a "mobile code remediatin' something-or-other." Company insiders were seen proudly standing beside what looked like a big guitar amp with wheels on it.

So needless to say, I've used Yahoo Finance for a long time, and always appreciated its charms.

Though I haven't owned shares of anything for a few years, I am still excited about Google's new Finance offering. Rob Carrick's meticulous review reveals that the product is pleasing in that Free Prize Inside sense, doing a lot of little things better (soft innovation). Building a better product isn't always about having a better idea, it's about steady innovation, as Microsoft proved with Office and as Yahoo proved with products like Yahoo Mail. Now, Google's following on these trends.

As David Vise pointed out some time ago, Google is, in essence, a traditional Silicon Valley powerhouse. Google Finance shows depth, if not the kind of spark we might mistakenly confuse for improvement.

Like Matt Cutts, I like the search feature. It's the kind of "aaaah" feeling you look for in a technology product. The relief I felt in using GMail's superior and fast searchability (as compared with Yahoo's slower one), and G's Desktop Search, which gets everything to you fast (far better than Windows).

I almost always seem to search "wrong" with other Finance apps, winding up on two or three screens. Typing "Tucows," (a smaller company now traded on the Amex) brings up the correct company finance page... not even an annoying menu of options. Cool. I *do* feel lucky.

P.S. One feature many may not have noticed is that you can also pull up a summary page on private companies. I'm not sure, but I think it only works for U.S. companies. I'm guessing they're pulling from as many databases as they can, and will continue to build that out.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Why Hate the Game When You Can Hate the Playa?


And now for a dip into our Reader Mailbag.

<< OK. I may be a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal, but I've never seen your site or talked to you before.

I'll be hanging around for a while. There's plenty to read and learn.

Here's my deal.........................

I make decent money in a niche business that is totally Google AdWords and Yahoo Ad driven.

My CPCs are decent and managed well.

So here's my question(s):

1. On a small niche business heavily dependent on AdWords-type advertising, can I run 4 or 5 or 6 separate businesses and/or accounts that will all advertise simultaneously and thereby give me 4 or 5 or 6 ads running at the same time to increase my odds of landing the buyer?

2. Is there some handbook or guru for rent who can show me how to do this?

3. Will Google and/or Yahoo allow it if it is set up properly?

I know I'm not the first one to ask you this and I'm sure there are pleanty of entrepreneurs out there doing exactly what I'm talking about.

What say you? >>


Dear Australopithecus,

You are, on the contrary, slightly more evolved than your average garden-variety knuckle-dragger. However, your self-esteem problems concern me. You are one smart hairy beast who walks reasonably erect, so be proud! And not in that passive-aggressive way you've exhibited thus far, either.

Your question basically refers to running multiple AdWords or Yahoo Search Marketing accounts in an attempt to "double serve" (or quintuple- or octuple-serve) ads on the page. In essence this would crowd out competitors and raise your volume, while costing you not much more per click.

This is against the Terms of Service of both services. Some are able to make a case for two ads on a page for two reasonably distinct businesses. But what you're asking is closer to asking "how do I break the rules." As a consultant, most of the time I help clients do a better job of *following* the rules. If you wanted me to help you be evil, the premium on that service would be prohibitive. I can't even imagine the amount of money I'd need to be paid to help a self-professed "knuckle-dragger" succeed, given the additional counseling time that would no doubt come with the job.

Google has tricked out AdWords in a similar way, as you'll soon see. There is a hefty Evil Premium to pay if you want to try such shenanigans. After Google's algorithmic and human quality testers catch you, your minimum CPC's may rise substantially, and without warning. Google's founders set aside the extra profits to fund an annual executive junket (in a time machine they're working on) to watch Gary Glitter play Sun City.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, March 20, 2006

Targeting Brazilians Who Aren't Nuts


(Except about soccer.)

Now we know why we try not to post too much around here. Google and Nike kick off social networking site Joga.com. Social networking... centered around a single passion/vertical (one that's printable in a family blog, too). Cool! Now that's news!

How did they keep it under wraps all that time?

Let the crazy debates on Slashdot begin. Oh wait... they're already in full swing.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Sunday, March 19, 2006

Do You Lie for a Living?

I'm just flipping through Joseph Jaffe's excellent Life After the 30-Second Spot (the PDF version -- I hate to wait). When he still worked at an ad agency, Jaffe's 10-year-old cousin asked him about the long disclaimers and small print at the end of print ads and TV ads. The kid then asked Jaffe why he'd work in an industry that requires him to lie for a living.

Which reminded me of a recent trip.

Big splashy promo by EasyJet in a UK airport, where they'd set up a booth across from the departure area. Pretty aggressive marketing -- taking out promo space in the same airport you fly out of. Nice work. But the message itself got a chuckle from me.

UNLIMITED CARRY-ON BAGGAGE (Huge Asterisk)

* - Within reason. Subject to available space.

If the size of the asterisk in your marketing "communications" is literally comical, you've accomplished nothing but show people that ads are lies, no?

Or maybe you just need to make the planes bigger. Or the asterisk smaller.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




More Dumb Litigants

"The complaint accuses Google, as the dominant provider of Web searches, of violating KinderStart's constitutional right to free speech by blocking search engine results showing Web site content and other communications."

LOL. You mean their constitutional right to free advertising? Their constitutional right to be considered the only viable option in response to a consumer keyword search?

In the Yellow Pages, they drop you if you don't pay. KinderStart should be sending thank-you notes to Google for all those years' worth of unpaid leads they've enjoyed to this point.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Friday, March 17, 2006

Top O' The Mornin'

Perhaps the fact that I can't locate the four-leafer in Google's St. Patrick's Day logo is meant to be symbolic: it doesn't take luck to get a company to where Google is today. You've got to do stuff. Here's to doing all the stuff it takes.



Well, maybe a little luck helps. Google just got a favorable court ruling on caching. It probably helps that the litigant was one of those "seduction tips" dudes -- and among other things, didn't like the idea of other people criticizing him on Usenet newsgroups. Having a stupid litigant sue you is better than having a sympathetic, smart one that gets under the judge's skin. I know this because I watch TV court dramas.

It's not all good news for Google today here on Traffick, though. Yesterday, we were clicking on stories about the bust in a gruesome child porn ring. Unfortunately the wife didn't have time to take screen shots while viewing the articles on Canada.com, but I did see with my own eyes that some very inappropriate AdSense ads appeared near one article. One was about how to erase porn from your computer. Another was simply a porn site. The third: um, another porn site.

Canada.com is owned by CanWest Interactive, a division of a large media conglomerate. It shocks me to think that fully two years after these discussions started breaking out in panel sessions, and G&Y reps promised action on improving their means of blocking inappropriate ads near news stories, these things are still happening.

Of course, later in the day, the ads got a little less inappropriate -- eg. I saw one for a baby monitor and one for a device that will make sure you don't back over your kids in the minivan. Yeah, still pretty gross-looking. All advertising looks opportunistic next to some kinds of news.

Today, similar stories simply have a blank area under the "Ads by Google" notation.

What this looks like is that Google (and perhaps Yahoo) are content just to manage this situation as if they really have no control over it: wait for these little brush fires to erupt, then douse them.

It should also be pointed out that larger publishers do have an obligation to press the ad networks on such matters. If you're negotiating an ad serving deal, how about you build in some protections so that "adult" (porn) ads *never* appear in garden-variety newspaper stories? The title of one of the ads was something like "Porn Addicts Site". I mean, come on.

Although the dumb ads are now gone completely, even the ads appearing near the site search are gratuitous and silly. Search for "porn ring bust" and you get generic ads for "busts" and even one for "breasts":


Maybe we're just trying too doggone hard to cram ads in everywhere. Google has curbed somewhat these generic "spammy looking" ads in their search results, but it looks like partner sites are still getting the brunt of these.

If 97% of a company's revenues come from ads, and they want to be great at that one thing they do well (other than search, which is a cost center without the ads), then achieving greatness is more than about luck. You've got to work with your publishers, block the nasty ads, and... well... do stuff. At least they did something about it in less than 24 hours.

Prosit!

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Thursday, March 16, 2006

Yahoo Feeling Skypey

(via GigaOM) - Yahoo will soon push ahead with a Skype-worthy instant messaging option that offers new voice functionality. In partnership with AT&T, they'll also be pushing a phone device.

The ease of switching over from inflexible phone services to VOIP-oriented services is going to be good news for all of us.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Wednesday, March 15, 2006

More Mashup Trivia (and Ranting)

Thanks to Google Maps Mania - another slight rant over here in Traffickland. It's nice to see that the Westin Harbour Castle, Bar Italia, American Apparel, and the Guvernment nightclub are all flagged as gay-friendly... but maybe the fact that we are getting near to the point where every business in Toronto is on the map... just... might... be diluting the concept past the point of usefulness.

It sure is fun to play with maps, though. This one's kinda funny: Dude, Where's My Used Car? (Note: Zawodny-approved.)

Hot nightclub pics delayed due to a Blogger malfunction -- sorry!

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Nihilistic Gawker Stalker Maps Hits New Height in Post-Ennui

A pack of voyeurs gawking at celebs, but pretending not to give a shit.

Kind of like how your cat acts when he's not very hungry or cold.

A minor twister of controversy has dusted up in the blogosphere. Its humble origins appear to lie in some gentle street-level breezes known only to those who read blogs. Gawker Stalker (see this Mar. 13 entry) is a hypercaffeinated version of what people in cities have always done -- sharing celebrity sightings with pals. The sheer volume of sightings, and the organized manner in which they're reported, though, really does make it feel like the exercise has been escalated to the point of being some kind of stalking database.

The just-launched mashup that puts maps with these written accounts really does seem creepy. They also seem to have been working on forms of this misguided project for some time.

But it's all just data to the blog-reading faithful. As one commenter on Gothamist put it yesterday: "At least the map will give some chronological and geographical order to what used to be really disorganized." That reminds me of the time I was on the parole board, and this serial killer gave us a detailed map of where the bodies were buried, hoping to reduce his 38 concurrent life sentences down to 37. I sez at the time: "At least the map will give some chronological and geographical order to what used to be really disorganized." Then we high-fived!

To give equal time to the possible "pro-stalker-maps" arguments that may soon be coming to a blog near you: this is going to be far from the most intrusive type of mashup format you'll be seeing. Anytime you combine maps with other sensitive info, you could be accused of stirring up trouble. But the fact is, data that are "out there" really are out there. All you're doing is making it -- how does the phrase go? -- "organized and universally accessible?" In all seriousness, open-source maps do add an interesting dimension that makes the good and bad sides of "organized and universally accessible" info apparent. It seems like a bit of a new frontier. The mashup experts are going to have to delve into moral as well as technological issues.

Maybe you can do a lot of good by shedding light on reality (with a crime map, or a potholes map, or a map of where to get biodiesel fuel), but it's also common knowledge (to some) how to build a bomb, but that doesn't seem like you'd just be "passing along available information."

How close Denton et al. are coming to shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre is your call. But this critique certainly seems well-reasoned to me. Making SJP feel less safe as she roams the greatest city in the world? To what possible end? Envy? Self-aggrandizement? Hoping to be dragged away and institutionalized?

I do, however, agree that Kelly Ripa's skin looks funny... but my theory is this is not because she "wore no makeup and has jaundice." Rather, I believe she has some kind of permanent "makeup tan" base that reduces the need for heavy TV makeup on her tiny, shrunken head. I saw Ripa standing outside a theater last fall while I was at ad:tech, and pretended not to know who she was so I could walk by and get a real close look. Want a handy map of how to get from the Park Central Hotel to where Kelly was standing? Bah, who has the time.

I'm sure it's Gawker Editor Jessica Coen's fervent wish that someone will begin mapping her whereabouts so she can feel all celebb-y. Beware of fake "sightings" being used to prop up flagging stars' images, or to invent new ones. Maybe that's the next frontier.

Tell me Jessica, if Bonnie Fuller jumped off a bridge... hmm, never mind... this reference is too cryptic and time-wasting even for blog-land.

So who's the real victim here? Only your productivity. Which reminds me... I think they invented computers for something other than typing this dreck, and RSS for purposes higher than feeding it.

Damn Blogger's wonky today so I can't post the pic of Jessica giving you the finger.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Advertising as Pissing Contest

Excellent review by Greg Jarboe of the SES session on "Winning a Bid War". Panelists apparently spiced up their presentations with liberal references to Sun Tzu, "going for the heart," and bid "shadowing," a tactic akin to picking out the other team's best player and following him around the rink.

For every aggressive tactic, though, there's always a counter-tactic. Counter is also the prefix in "counterproductive." Shadow Gretzky, and he'll pass off and the other guy will score. Meanwhile you diverted your focus from doing the other things you needed to be successful.

See, war is the wrong analogy for an auction-based advertising system. It's math. It's business. It's not war.

I enjoyed Stanley Bing's book as much as the next meat-eating executive. But the whole thing was a sendup, people.

Plus, most of the advanced bid tactics won't work at all with Google AdWords, and will stop working the day Yahoo redesigns their auction. No longer will you have any idea what competitors are bidding, and "shadowing" or "jamming" them will be the least of your worries.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, March 13, 2006

Bliki?

No offense, but Web 2.0 appears to have jumped the shark in earnest.

"Riffs.com is part Epinions, part MySpace served on a bed of Wikipedia with a side of Del.icio.us."

Drenched in a Flooz sauce, presumably, with Sprinks on top.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Sunday, March 12, 2006

Practical Search Engine Marketing Professional Development

There are a lot of seminars going on this year, but few give you "semi-private lessons" with real hands-on pros of the search marketing industry, and none are as tight and targeted to the practical needs of search marketers as Jill Whalen's High Rankings Seminar. From copywriting, to usability and architecture, to tags, to the new rules of search engines, and even my nemesis Christine Churchill on pay-per-click (just kidding Christine, now give back that General Motors contract and we'll be even!) Jill's got a speaker to cover everything.

When: March 30-31, 2006.

Where: San Francisco (Walnut Creek, to be exact).

Deadline for 25% discount: March 15. (Cite code TRAFFICK to get your 25% off.)

I approve of Jill's format and think it's a very productive one for companies seeking to make real, practical strides in their online marketing in the coming months (as opposed to general big-picture theory). I teach a similar custom format myself. Sometimes I'll do the tutorial in the morning and the hands-on workshop in the afternoon. Or a half-day tutorial, followed by hands-on workshop, and then more hands-on workshop on Day 2. The difference: with mine, it's just me (arrgh that's tiring!), I charge more, I'm not available much... and the big one -- I don't do SEO (well, not that I admit to, anyway).

If you need SEO Immersion for your business, I can't think of a faster way to get the whole thing taught hands-on by a group of top industry speakers. Also, the secret password for prying secret info out of the panelists in the cocktail hour: APPLETINIS!

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Thursday, March 09, 2006

I Don't Have an "E-mail Invitation Problem"

Michael at TechCrunch is pretty darn excited about Skobee, a startup that promises to help you organize events on the web and through e-mail. I've taken a gander at Skobee's site, and the product does seem impressive.

But is an impressive product enough? As Godin states in his recent Google talk, before you build a product, you have to understand exactly what problem you are solving.

As I'm sure Godin would say, I don't have an "e-mail invitation problem," so I don't ever plan to use Skobee.

I'm sure some folks do indeed have such a problem, but these are people who plan events as part of their jobs. Special tasks always require specialized tools But for the average joe, all the extra steps you have to endure before you can ever hope to streamline your sporadic event planning nullifies the gains of getting everyone on the same page. It's not worth the extra effort to become 5% more efficient.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to invite a few people to a wine tasting...

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Google Launches Demographic Site Targeting for Adwords

Was the timing of this move affected by all the noise made by MSN AdCenter at the recent SES Conference? (These chicks would probably say yes.)

A box inside your AdWords account announces: "Want to reach 18-24 year-olds, or women with children? Site tool demographics match your ad with your audience. Available now for campaigns targeting the United States." The documentation further explains that the demographic information for sites is provided by comScore Networks. That likely means very little meaningful data will be available for smaller sites. Smaller sites make up the majority of sites currently being recommended by the site suggestion tool.

Essentially what this means is an improved functionality for the site selection tool, only applicable to content targeting of the "site targeting" variety. It's not a major foray into targeting search ads by demographics, then (yet).

The site selection tool has improved significantly. It now offers three ways of looking for sites to advertise on: by topic, by URL, or by demographics. Lists of sites now look a bit more structured in that they clearly display whether the site accepts image ads or not. I'm sure this will continue to improve.

Site targeting has not performed as well for us as regular content targeting, no doubt in part because of the difficulty of finding appropriate sites in the network. Hopefully Google will continue to improve both the network and the ability of publishers to communicate with advertisers, and vice-versa, so they can transact based on something closer to perfect information.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Why the Search Engine Marketing Conferences Will Continue to Rock

Once upon a time, in the period 1996-2002-ish, there were legions of bored, underemployed hackers toiling away at nothing in particular. Many of them discovered a fun game that could also make you money on the side: search engine optimization. The money part was cool, but for most, it didn't amount to much. What hooked them was the game.

A second wave of similar folks came along in the period 2002-2005. They figured out that you could optimize "paid search accounts" and do all sorts of interesting things with keyword arbitrage, affiliate programs, and so forth.

In both camps, a few began acquiring good clients, and/or good jobs. But the majority did not. For the majority, their fascination with keyword research, bid strategy, and analytics, far outstripped the dollar value of the work. In other words, they were so interested in this field that they essentially worked on one or two "practice accounts" endlessly, 12 hours a day. Or they built elaborate attempts to profit from inefficiencies in the marketplace. Again, working on them 12 hours a day, for minimal profit, just because they loved to do it.

One key point in relation to this: when traditional marketing agencies pronounce that today's hotshot Internet marketers don't have big clients, and don't know all the history of customer response, the criticism just rolls off the young hotshot's back. It's hard to take offence with the latter. Most of this new breed was choking on breadcrusts not long ago, so of course they are just happy to be doing so well now. They never wanted to be, or professed to be, a certain type of knowledgeable marketer. As for not having big clients, that criticism doesn't hurt either... because increasingly, they do.

So in any case, these first waves of experimentation spawned a small army of search engine marketing experts with few clients and not much in the way of business savvy... but with incredible raw skills. When the dollar value of those skills became apparent to regular companies with assets and customers -- especially large companies -- these experts found themselves snapped up and integrated into the mainstream workforce. It is getting to the point now where there is a bit of a labor shortage. The number of folks who are really good at SEM, but still content to mess around for hours on end with "practice accounts," is dwindling.

What that means -- the integration of a much larger number of search marketers into the mainstream operations of companies -- is that you don't go to a search engine marketing conference out of wonkish interest anymore, or in the hopes of "it paying off" by teaching you tips that will help you personally profit enough to cover the trip and the ticket. Instead, increasingly, these shows are more like traditional trade shows. Attendees go as a matter of professional responsibility, and their companies send people because Internet marketing (about half of which is search-based) is a core part of their operations (not a get-rich-quick scheme as it was at one time).

The program for Search Engine Strategies Toronto (April 25 and 26) is nearly finalized. Because I'm a local, of course I would love to see this show do fantastically well, and continue to grow year after year. But I realize that this is probably going to happen in part out of a growing sense that it's a professional imperative to attend. Whether or not the likes of me engage in shameless "promo" -- companies are planning to send their people to the show.

But you should know that the lineup is first rate. Danny will be giving a rousing keynote and many of the speakers will be sharing fresh material. I'll be moderating a roundtable of Canadian marketers, and speaking on Perfecting Paid Listings -- where I promise to share newer, more advanced material for those that like that sort of thing. Many of the top speakers at Search Engine Strategies are on the program, and there might even be a party or two for the all-important networking component. See you there! I promise it'll be more fun than a night in Kincardine!

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Google Solves Storage?

The xdrive guys must be yawning.

A place to "store all your files" online? Sure! I call it GMail.

Seriously, though, not to trivialize the issue. I find it irritating when I'm tied down to the particular copy of a file that is on a particular local machine or storage device. I guess those "mobile PC" and "briefcase" apps have been trying to make this all easier, but I would guess that a lot more people will take advantage when Google comes out with a slicker system.

[Hat tips to John Battelle, and to Greg Linden of the Geeking with Greg blog in particular, who first broke the item, after Wall Street analysts had already enjoyed the scoop.]

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Too Rational, Too Sceptical

Prof. Jean Veronis of the Universite de Provence is writing on an important topic: perceived relevance of search results as delivered by major engines. The main finding is that Google and Yahoo are about tied -- with Yahoo going into the lead when Prof. Veronis follows Jakob Nielsen's suggestion to look more closely at how users actually scan pages. But the other conclusion is that all the engines score remarkably low on perceived relevance. Further, perceived relevance is lower with "commercial" links.

All of this makes intuitive sense. It's for reasons like this that Google has been trying to weed out "commercial" links on non-commercial queries, ever since Florida and in waves ever since. It's also the reason Google has been working on ad quality initiatives that seem draconian to some advertisers, but are intended to address the perceptions of users.

The primary problem with the study is the small number of evaluators. A group of only 14 postsecondary math and science students from France doesn't represent the French population very well. And in my recent post about global values and how these might relate to consumerism and markets, it's pretty clear that French values might be outliers in terms of philosophical outlooks on knowledge and science.

In that respect, then, this study is even less useful than the Stanford web credibility studies of several years ago, that for some reason used 50% Scandinavian participants, and 50% U.S.-based participants, including a high proportion of advanced undergraduates or graduate students.

Let's hope Prof. Veronis secures funding to do a proper study that includes a diverse set of evaluators.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, March 06, 2006

RSS Marketing Options Explained

There seems to be a perception in the blogosphere that RSS feeds present severe limitations for advertising and promotion. In reality, as with any other form of communication, there are many different ways to approach feed monetization.

MarketingStudies.net has a quick, informative overview of some of the many options:
  • Insert ads in each feed item (usually contextual like Google's upcoming network)
  • Insert an ad that is a feed item itself (apparently these generate high clickthrough rates)
  • Promote yourself or your service (duh!)
  • Insert your own graphical ads (perhaps technically challenging for some publishers)
As the post makes clear, it's very short-sighted to believe that your choices are limited, when in fact the opportunities are endless -- if you know how to market your service. It's all about your approach and execution. When RSS tools increase in ease of use and usefulness, we'll likely see even more methods emerge that will change the game.

The post also argues for the use of partial-text feeds over full-text feeds, as a way to drive visitors to your site. I'm not sure about this one, and there are pros and cons on both sides. Again, it depends on how you monetize, your audience's preferences and the service you are promoting.

MarketingStudies.net: Monetizing Your RSS Feeds.

Posted by Cory Kleinschmidt




Sunday, March 05, 2006

MSN AdCenter Open Signup Period

Many in the search marketing community have been eagerly awaiting the day that MSN AdCenter goes live to all advertisers. Currently it is still in beta, but not all have been able to get invites to join the program.

For those who want to speed up access, word has it they're offering an open signup period Monday March 6 (that's tomorrow as I write this), from 9 a.m. - noon Pacific. Try it at the MSN adCenter BETA homepage.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Saturday, March 04, 2006

More on Rational-Scepticism vs. Faith

One need only look as far as the Clicktracks home page to see the importance of myth, even in raw numbers. One of their happy customer testimonials states: "Clicktracks is like a religion to us." Data -- a religion? Veddy interesting. (Yeah, us too.)

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Thursday, March 02, 2006

Google Now Has 41.4% Share (Or Possibly, More)

comScore's latest release shows Google with 41.4% share of all "searches" conducted in the U.S. in January 2006, continuing its trend of recent years. The comScore numbers have been inching up over that time, getting closer to the numbers reported by rivals Hitwise and Netratings, who have consistently given Google 50% share or more. Yahoo now clocks in at 28.7%. MSN comes in at a very respectable 13.7%. Sez comScore, anyway. What do your logs say?

When you break the numbers down even further -- either in your private data or by looking at more detailed reports from these agencies -- it gets interesting. Google Images often places #4. That probably means that Yahoo properties like Flickr (not to mention ordinary image search) are also surging. Other search categories, like news, shopping, blog, video, and local, are bound to follow as users get more sophisticated.

But users will be directed to these based on their initial choice of homepage or search box (or toolbar or...), quite often. Some users have preferences for, say, Google News, Yahoo Shopping, Google Local, or Flickr. But many don't, and need prompting.

So, Mr. Diller's recent keynote comment about Ask.com, that it "doesn't matter if we have 6% share or 2% -- what matters is relevance" isn't exactly true." This home page, direct navigation, and core search market share matters a lot. But we'll give him this point, because what he means is building a better product is the only way to improve share. It's not clear at all, though, that "no media business stays at 30, 40% market share for long," as Diller argued. Is search a "media business" in that way? Why isn't it more like an operating system or a browser (market shares for MSFT have exceeded 80% at times), a kind of standard? He acknowledges that it's a powerful "habit." Well, maybe it's somewhere in between, where 30-50% shares won't break down as easily as all that.

So if there's any way that the now butler-less IAC can make further strategic acquisitions to bring "searchers" in the back door -- as Yahoo has done with Flickr -- then now's the time.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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