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Friday, November 30, 2007

"Charlene Li bought a table" no more: Facebook retreats

So Facebook has revamped the workings of their Beacon. To all you bloggerati and digital doomsayers (like me) who raised a stink about this, looks like your sense of smell wasn't wrong. Some things need to be opt-in, not opt-out. Looks like "Charlene Li just bought a table" showing up in a newsfeed is in the former category.

Aside from the unwanted privacy invasion and the possibility of people's unusual personal buying habits being broadcast ("why is Joe buying infant formula? he has no kids!"), broadcasting some movements would be akin to giving too much business intelligence away. It's one thing to tell everyone what business books you're reading right now, but I'm sure you can imagine how letting some of your subcriptions, research, and software purchase slip out might give more away to your "Facebook business friends" than you had intended. And so forth.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Google Maps for Mobile - A GPS Replacement?

Google's news today is that their My Maps for Mobile technology will pinpoint your location based on cell tower signals, even on phones without GPS capability.

That's certainly useful, and I was wondering whether this really would be an alternative to GPS. Om Malik is typically on the ball when it comes to this story, and he's already given it the provisional thumbs-up. One point of confusion for me, though, is that he's saying it works best on newer generation phones like the Blackberry 8800. But the Blackberry 8800 already has GPS. What'll be interesting is if the tech works on my Blackberry 8700r, which does not have GPS. Stay tuned (literally).

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Structured Search and Chicken-Egg

Barry Schwartz reports that Yahoo plans to roll out a "structured search" functionality in the near future.

The example Barry gives of existing forms of structured search currently available - a Google search for "apartments for rent in Manchester" that brings up dropdowns and drilldowns facilitated by Google Base - illustrates both the challenge and the promise of search as it moves into an era of greater richness and user control. The main challenge is in terms of adoption by information providers. (Back to the metadata issue. Who puts it together? Who bothers to participate? Is Google Base weird for allowing any old protocol to rule? Who decides which protocols get featured in raw Google queries?) Google Base hasn't been widely adopted as a repository of data, so until it is, experiments in presenting info to users will be halting.

I'm looking forward to discussions of these and similar issues on the Orion Panel on Universal, Blended, and Vertical Search, next Monday Dec. 3 at SES Chicago.

Another can't-miss panel on that day explores privacy and community in this emerging phase of social media.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, November 26, 2007

"I Am Not a Target Market" ... Grokked.

Yes, overeducated Gen-Xers, can you believe it, it's been 16 years since Douglas Coupland Published Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture. And you've been gainfully employed for probably 10 of those years. And cruelly busy, not slacking as you once did, for at least five of those ten.

So you might have forgotten that Chapter 4 of the Gen X book was titled "I am Not a Target Market." That vague protest stuck in my mind. From time to time I've wondered exactly what it meant, whether it was a vain sort of protest, etc. And I also wondered how in the heck could I convey that sentiment to others, if I myself couldn't quite get a handle on it, especially in the midst of an industry (online marketing) where we're supposed to figure out our targets and hit them with increasing precision.

I think Rohit Bhargava hits the nail on the head in his post Why the Future of Online Advertising is About Identity. But by "identity" he can't possibly mean "my identity as a woman" (definitely inaccurate for myself and Bhargava, but I think you get my actual point); or "my identity as a person who lives in X neighborhood, age xx, with x income". By sheer statistics, yes, maybe you could predict that I'd be more likely to want to buy beer, razor blades, an iPod, etc., than someone else. But using that logic, you'd include my name and address in a direct mail blast to receive a cash prize for test driving the glorious Volkswagen Phaeton sedan with the V10 engine. Huh? Now granted, like many small boys, I want a lot of things. I want to be a rocket ship pilot! But no way in hell I'm buying a Phaeton. Nice try, though?

Demographics might be predictive, and marketers would be hard-pressed to give them up. But they can also be a little bit insulting. So what to do about that? I mean, beyond sprinkling in a number of "younger looking" folks in the brochures for the luxury retirement condos sent to someone because they are, well, getting old.

So the real problem, if you self-identify only in the advertiser camp, and never ever think of yourself as a human, is that demographics just isn't correct often enough. It isn't as efficient as, say, search marketing, where you know exactly what someone is looking for. And the latter wouldn't be as efficient as, say, combining the two, and also following them around and finding out about their behavior, and then following their friends around and cross-referencing that behavior. Hmm, come to think of it I think I see some pretty interesting parallels between how they catch terrorists, and how advertisers think about selling an energy drink to a 21-year-old Ivy Leaguer.

So toss out those anthropology courses you took in that Ivy League school. Nope, the real trick to identity is figuring out how real people *think*. Identity, not just demographics.

Ethnography? We'll hire those professors to unlock the meaning of why someone should buy quilted toilet paper. When we run out of those, we'll find some pretentious French-American guy, who can pass for educated.

So: there's the rub. What does "identity" really mean, to an advertiser waiting for those last barriers of ignorance about their prospects to fall? It means an even deeper, more data-intensive approach; as Bhargava puts it, "the future of online advertising will be about enabling an extreme targeting..." ... and of course, we're talking about Facebook and its latest rumblings about such an offering.

So: advertisers didn't just get nicer, and advertising pundits didn't really decide this week that they want to get to know the real you. As before, they want to sell more stuff, better, by knowing more about you than you would probably care to share, if you understood the value you were transferring to them. In light of all that, will we see any type of rebellion?

Well, we're sort of seeing some now, but it's at the same genteel level of Coupland, the chronicler of our loss of independent identities as non-consumers. The Coupland who himself gently reported on the spectacle, for considerable profit. I think a lot of us are chroniclers much like Coupland. Ironic to the end. Profitable, yet conscious of the irony in that.

I just ordered Coupland's next-to-latest. For good luck. After working hard on the Biggest Cyber Monday Ever (though when you're in my business, that's Mostly For Other People), I had to get a little something for myself.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Olsongay Oglinmay Ixnays Campaign

Too drunk or too young to understand my headline? Then you might have been the target market for Molson's recent Facebook contest, now pulled in response to "bad publicity." As usual, a beer company's gaffe seemed to be connected to the taboos on actually promoting drinking, enforced by social critics and government regulators. So I guess it's back to the "cold never tasted so good" pablum...

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Sunday, November 25, 2007

Techniques that Always Work?: Who Uses Dynamic Keyword Insertion?

One puzzle facing many novice AdWords advertisers is - what is this {Keywords:} notation we often see colleagues using in ads? And, should I be using it?

Well, first up, I'm not about to get into a whole lot of exotic tricks that might help an affiliate bidding 5 cents on 50,000 different keywords to eke out a living based on slightly higher CTR's. Those individuals will be far more motivated than I am to run tests on exotic uses.

But what about the basics?

How it works: As many of you know, using the notation {KeyWord:Alternate Text Here} in, say, the title of the ad, will put whatever the user typed in as the title of the ad. So if they typed in "green snowboards" the title of your ad becomes Green Snowboards. If they type in something that is too long, contains awkward punctuation, or is otherwise unsuitable for an ad title, your alternate text (in this case it might have been Snowboards for Sale) would show up.

Why would you do this? I've been stunned on a least two occasions to hear experts telling large crowds of people that this method "always" "works." Note I put the scare quotes around "always" and works" because of course it doesn't always work, and you need to define what "works" means. (Or what "performs better" means.)

This is often most effective for lowball bidders who need high CTR above all other considerations. CTR's often do rise when ad titles and text seem customized to the user's exact need, but this situation is fluid.

Put simply, it's not a "yes or no" proposition, but just another testing element. An A/B test might test one fixed headline vs. one with dynamic keyword insertion. A multivariate test might include this test in the batch of other variables being tested.

And what are we testing? Usually it's an ROI-related measure such as cost per acquisition. Quite often, at least half the time in my experience, dynamic keyword insertion hurts ROI, because Pavlovian clicks are actually bad - they cost you money by being too attractive to impulsive surfers, while no more attractive or appropriate to actual buyers. Try to look past CTR's alone.

Exactly matching your copy with users' queries also leans heavily in the direction of treating the web merely like a commodity catalog ("I want two-by-fours! I want model #134454AA512!"), with no brand differentiation. While I do firmly believe that at this stage of evolution, our task if often 60-70% navigational and only 30-40% persuasive, that balance will tip over time, to 40% navigation and 60% brand identity and persuasion. Advertising is a persuasive medium that persuades integratively over time across multiple channels. Even AdWords isn't pure direct response.

And hey, if you've got a lot of tightly built ad groups, shouldn't the title match or closely match your keywords anyway? Yes it should!

So this method is typically a "cleanup on Aisle 7" type of fix for certain campaigns, or parts of campaigns, that you've built lazily or in the sense of "here's a bunch of miscellaneous extra stuff in the industry I'm working on."

The one-word advice that "always" "works": TEST.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Salesy Enough For Ya?

Recently I re-read a business book (written by some PhD's who counsel people to improve their careers), and each chapter struck me as salesy -- as if it were primarily crafted to speak to the 1% of readers who might be likely to follow up as consulting prospects.

The first time through, though, I had not felt that way. It was a good read: they'd offered numerous cautionary tales and case studies along with ways of remedying certain career-killing bad habits. In short, they were dishing the dirt and it was an indulgent exercise in career suicide voyeurism, etc.

That must mean they got the balance about right. The first read didn't trigger any defense mechanisms in me; it was only the second time around that I realized how shamelessly they were plugging themselves.

Now turn your attention to the articles you typically read in a trade magazine or online property in your particular niche. Know any authors who completely disregard the need to strike that balance? Authors who never add any outside perspective and who simply beat the drum tirelessly for their particular model, client list, technique, etc. are a tiresome read. You also wonder - if they're so transparent about the sales pitch - whether they aren't hurting business more than they're helping.

So let that be the acid test. If some piece of writing seems to be a hard-hitting sales job on the first read (or, in a related vein, an exercise in treacly ingratiation), it's akin to a spammy search result sneaking into the otherwise-organic paradise of SERP's. It's the type of thing that should be weeded out by editors and publishers, or at least subject to a degree of self-censorship. Time for some early New Year's resolutions? "I shall write and publish as much content as feasible."

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Wednesday, November 21, 2007

TheStreet.com Surging

Here's something we haven't seen since the last bubble: TheStreet.com with a stock price over $12. A sign of steady growth and progress, rising subscription and ad revenues, and a dogged desire to mine one's Hedgehog Concept? Or proof that American business loves a showman? Jim Cramer seems determined to prove the latter. Take that, Jim Collins and your Level 5 Leadership?

But all kidding aside, some of the recent surge in revenue comes as a result of a savvy acquisition of a financial social networking site called Stockpickr.com. Of course! The stock discussion board mania ported over to 2.0 functionality! It makes a ton of sense.

Devil's advocate position: you could easily take this strength as a contrarian indicator; technically, the chart shows an ominous double top.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Counterpoint on Google-DoubleClick

As is often the case, Danny surprises us with a level of detail in his rejoinder to Senators Hatch & Kohl about the impending Google-DoubleClick merger.

The short answer seems to be that Danny defends Google's position against certain distortions.

I'm not sure I feel as certain about the issue, but Danny has certainly clarified the logic. Antitrust legislation probably needs to ask whether it would be legitimate and likely that the company under review would grow into a dominant position in a new area even without the acquisition, or if this event would "make" the new entity into a monopoly where it was once a "player" in a more competitive environment.

Based on global economic precedent, you have to wonder what it all means. Does anyone regulate the consolidating beverage industry? Does Procter & Gamble get questioned for its massive reach and control of shelf space?

Did anyone question Quaker Oats buying Snapple? Sounds funny now, doesn't it? That's an acquisition that didn't lead to global dominance. In fact, Snapple tanked as a brand. Some acquisitions can just be expensive failures.

Here, the acid test needs to be how dominant the acquired company is - what it really controls in the industry it operates in, and whether that will lead to total dominance for the acquiring company. Google overpaid for DoubleClick based on the momentum of the industry and Google's favorable stock price and cash reserves. If they'd picked it up for $500 million a couple of years prior, no one would have whispered anything about regulation.

You could almost look at the parallel with Google Analytics and Google Website Optimizer. Google acquired Urchin, transformed and integrated the product, and moved into an increasingly dominant position in web analytics. With Optimizer, they developed a product in-house, fast gaining market share -- rather than acquiring Offermatica or similar software companies. The point is, none of these acquisitions arguably create a "closed territory" for a regulated service or something built on scarce public resources, such as may exist in banking, telecommunications, or transport. They still operate in the software industry where buyers have many choices, and there are no serious barriers to entry.

Until you get to Microsoft's size and level of dominance at the behavioral level, that is. And that's the territory Google's moving into. So literally taken, no move by Google is technically afoul of the law, but eventually, as with Microsoft, it all adds up. And then the feds will go looking for faults. And they are sure to find many.

To restate: the fact that the impact of all of Google's integrated activities is to give it massive control over multiple industries, enjoy monopolistic advantages, and become a leading repository of business and personal data, does not necessarily mean that a particular acquisition like DoubleClick conflicts with the letter of the law.

I guess the question will be, is this the straw that broke the camel's back?

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, November 19, 2007

Please Google, Bid on Canadian Spectrum Rights (if you can)

Momentum seems to be building towards a spectrum auction in Canada that would potentially open the door to serious competition in a wireless communications market that is by many accounts the most overpriced on the market. Notwithstanding the fact that Rogers Communications has set aside up to $1 billion to bid on all or most of it, the opportunity for Canadian consumers rests squarely with the potential for foreign bidders to come in and disrupt the cozy confines of this monopolists' paradise.

This may not be as easy as it sounds, though. Although some mild deregulation has allowed Virgin Mobile to creep in here, for example, it's by no means a foregone conclusion that foreign entities will be allowed equal rights in the auction on spectrum rights.

I think I speak for most Canadian victims of overpriced wireless voice and data plans when I say: please, Google, please Microsoft, please, someone other than Bell, Rogers, and Telus bid on this spectrum and create new services to force the monopolists to compete. Heck, we'd even cheer eBay at this point.

I'm actually a happy customer of Rogers - cable, voice + data through Blackberry, home phone service over cable lines, and cable Internet at both home and work. Yep - the works! (I also listen to 680 News, attend several Blue Jay games a year at the Rogers Centre, have met several great Rogers folks at various networking venues, and have pitched at least one major division of Rogers as a potential client for our marketing services. O Canada!)

Rogers is a solid service provider. So it's not about bad service. It's about high prices. Pretty much the highest on the planet. Will someone in the government do something about this lack of competition... please?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




On the Road Again: I Drove to London





















London, Ontario, silly!

This is what it looks like when three ne'er-do-wells from a (somewhat) slick downtown Toronto search advertising shop take a day out to visit a college classroom at Fanshawe in London. As last year, the students in Liz Gray's Search Marketing class write ads and work with real AdWords accounts for small to midsized advertisers who volunteer to get involved. The practical experience no doubt makes the book-work more palatable.

We chatted with them on some of the cutting edge changes in SEM, and told them all about the fun things that have happened to us in the past year.

And then it was back onto the 401 to battle the gridlock and detours.

Left to right: Teran, Dave (untucked), me (tucked). What am I supposed to be now? Tucked or untucked? I can never remember. At least I remembered not to wear a suit. :)

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Saturday, November 17, 2007

Reminder -- GMail Storage Increasing

Like master of micropersuasion Steve Rubel, I use GMail as kind of a personal and business nerve center and intranet (though not to the same extent). One of the many life-saving attributes of GMail is that I can access my "sent mail" anytime, anywhere. So if I sent that vital proposal to a client, or a presentation to the conference organizers and myself... even if the version I sent to myself goes astray, the "sent" version is always neatly archived.

That may seem obvious to some users, but I was surprised to hear a colleague say he didn't like GMail because he needs a huge amount of storage. It seems I'm always hearing new (inaccurate) claims about GMail's shortcomings! In light of the fact that Outlook users have very large hard drives to store everything on their desktops, I suppose Google's former 2 or 4 gig limit seemed "small," especially in light of the fact that Yahoo Mail just went to "unlimited" storage.

But wait: Google not only increased their storage limit to 6 GB (by January 2008), but the "rate of increases" has gone up by 10X, meaning that you'll be unlikely to need more storage in the future as the amount you have passes 10, 11, 12, gig. But even there, if you need an industrial-strength 40GB mailbox now, it's not like anyone's stopping you. Google offers this. That'll cost all of $75.

I have to address another common concern among new Google Mail users. People are quite uncomfortable with the "threading" of emails into conversations, and the AJAXy presentation. Granted, it's a bit tough to get accustomed to, but the clear advantages in terms of recall, speed, and coherence are something I can prove to you -- because I still also use Yahoo Mail daily.

With Yahoo Mail (I admit I'm using the Classic version, but this heightens the contrast), a bunch of email replies to which I'm cc'd stretch down the page. I have to pick where to start following the thread, and potentially open and consider each new reply. Yecchhh. With GMail, I know where everything is in the thread, and can click through the steps much faster. This is particularly vital for anyone working with multiple constituencies on multiple projects.

I shake my head at all the GMail haters out there, but I guess that's just the way with technology, people are very particular in their tastes.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Friday, November 16, 2007

Go, Copper, Go!

GigaOM offers a retro-nouveau thought for the day: fast copper.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Thursday, November 15, 2007

Superstitions: Does AdWords Hurt Organic Rankings?

Perhaps more so than ever since there was a leaked screen shot of a search result screen showing internal "GG Scores" that assess the value of an organic result, observers/punters have speculated (for reasons I can't fully fathom) about the negative impact on your organic rankings that might come from advertising on paid search.

So does a heavy paid search campaign increase, decrease, or have no impact on organic standing, everything else being equal?

It increases it, indirectly.

Clearly, you don't get an *equal* number of new customers or readers from "organic only" presence vs. "organic plus paid." The paid media spend, quite simply, increases activity. It increases the number of people who buy from you, talk about you, bookmark your site, and so on.

Google can measure a surprising number of these signals... for organic ranking purposes.

Your paid media search spend is not wasted. And it doesn't subject you to some ridiculous process by which Google downgrades your organic rankings.

All my 2c.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Impending Paid Search Recession?

How did I miss this post by Steve Rubel? Tired of doomsaying in the Web 2.0 bubble realm, he recently predicted an impending recession for poor old Google, based on several factors. I'd like to address these as best as I can. While I don't disagree that any market can peak, I find it pretty funny to note how rapidly Google's revenues grew in the era *after* everyone started closely measuring their performance and *after* they began more carefully filtering click fraud and weak content partners. That rapid growth in 2004-7 came after many thought they saw click prices "leveling off."

The psychological reasons for these predictions are relatively simple: many people wish paid search would just go away. It's troubling to observers who don't like new things and want to turn the conversations back to older ad models. It's also troubling to people who, since the free lunch of organic search referrals and the odd viral success began, do not think marketers should pay for anything. (In this regard, see Godin's post of yesterday, Who Pays the Messenger?, which is a sensible reminder that bargains on marketing costs are for the rare few. The rest have to pony up.)

Rubel's recession factors are as follows, with my responses:


Clutter. Does Rubel understand search beyond his own reaction to a single SERP? Google monetizes less than 60% of all queries, and has a consistent place they slot ads: in the top premium spot and right-hand margin. By and large, users have been trained to see the sponsored results as commercially-oriented, and organic listings as, well, something else. The consistency of this method is such that users have been seeing fairly similar screen layouts for more than five years. Why call clutter on Google now? If it's a relevant listing, tailored to a potential searcher's needs, it isn't clutter.

The Traffic Has to Convert. Again, for more than five years, my firm and firms like mine have actively worked with clients to measure paid search performance, shaping the "cost per click" priced medium into a de facto cost per action medium. Part of that effort involves working with clients so that they "work backwards" - in fact in my "what's new with paid search" presentation, recently I've put that slide first on the deck. You don't have to "convert everything over" to cost per action. I'll argue that this will *never* happen en masse because it would shut down all big media players and eliminate their leverage and reasons for being in business, in essence making them pay-for-performance affiliates of increasingly lazy marketers. The onus has to be partly on the advertiser to shape and refine their use of targeted media so that they can acquire customers via direct marketing, at rates below their cost per action thresholds (if this is how they measure). The minority of advertisers are sending traffic to nonconverting pages. None of this has any impact on click prices because the majority are measuring and paying for clicks with eyes wide open.

Rising Costs. Rubel cites a Forrester study that shows CPC's rising 33% year-over-year from '06 to '07. That sounds like it might be in the ballpark. There's no disputing that many advertisers aren't getting any bargains, and in some industries, some players are priced out. So? It's an extremely granular situation, with the markets for certain keyword searches still finding their level. Yes, eventually the ceiling is reached. But how many advertisers have I talked to who are still getting a 10X ROAS? Cut that in half, and half again (in other words, double CPC's, and double them again), and they still wouldn't quit the auction. Growth will slow eventually. That's inevitable and pretty much a truism.

Marketers are Trying Other Things. People are discovering the online world beyond search. As they should. Whether this means money flees search (when the ROAS is locked in and screams "profit" to decisionmakers -- they're making money, not "spending" it) is an extremely dubious proposition. Likely this would be more than made up for by the declines in wasteful television, print, and other traditional, sometimes overpriced media.

Search Ads Are Untrustworthy? Trust and credibility. Indeed, that's Job 1. If you've had a front-row seat, though, you've probably noticed the incredible efforts Google's poured into challenging low-trust advertisers with poor quality scores and prohibitively high bids. Affiliate ads, false claims, arbitrage, hype, cheesy business models, etc. are all finding it harder and harder to advertise on Google. The standards bar is being raised month over month by a proactive, large scale initiative at Google that Yahoo and Microsoft are no doubt studying closely. That's a trend that isn't going away.

Search advertising is not a fad. It's hard-wired to results and amenable to intense scrutiny and analysis. That's why it thrived out of the gate in 2001-2004, while advertisers shunned the rest of the online advertising that had burned them so badly by not performing in the first bubble.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, November 12, 2007

I Really Just Wanted to Share...

Question for product managers of content sites: what is more likely to have your content viewed by more people, a "Print" link, or an "email this story" link?

Heck, it's easier to just blog about these fabulous food pairings, and point my friends to the blog!

Say, maybe that's MSN's sneaky way of getting links. By leaving off the "email this story" link.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Friday, November 09, 2007

New AdWords Content Targeting Opt-Outs in Beta

Nag incessantly, and ye shall receive.

I don't see this on Inside AdWords, so it must be new. I just stumbled on an opt-out functionality for the content network, being beta tested currently.

Two types of "content exclusion" have been added alongside site and page exclusion options: (1) topics; and (2) page types. Under "topics," advertisers will have the ability to opt out of certain types of content, like "edgy content" and "death & tragedy." More benignly, page types you can exclude include "image sharing" and "domain ads."

Wow. And in the opt-out interface, Google is really hitting me over the head with the recent conversion stats on some of the different types. In the campaign I chose, domain ads did just fine today - outperforming the campaign as a whole, in fact, from an ROI standpoint. There's no point in disabling something if it actually works, obviously!

So be cautious when this launches. If content is working fine for you, of course you'll want to avoid unduly limiting your exposure in the universe. In fact, if you can exclude unwanted content types, it might be wise to raise your bids on the rest.

For advertisers concerned about showing up in unwanted places, this is great news. Also great will be the fact that we'll be more armed with the facts about ad performance on different types of content. Heat gives way to light.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Thursday, November 08, 2007

Ask a Question, Win a Book ($89 Value!)

I've just been informed of something fun and timely being offered by Yahoo - a seminar on holiday advertising best practices. Stephanie Luttringhaus, avid bowler and communicator extraordinaire on behalf of Y!SM, writes:

"Pato Spagnoletto, Senior Director of Marketing at Yahoo! Search Marketing, is hosting a webinar on Wednesday, November 14, that I thought you and your readers may be into. It’s called “2007 Holiday Consumer Overview and Search Best Practices” and a ton of insight will be shared – from search best practices, to the impact of combining search and display, to 2006 holiday results/ consumer trends."

The fun part is that they're hoping for a lively Q&A component and they'd love your questions in advance, to spur discussion. Let's assume you're hoping for the best possible response from customers over the next six weeks. Do you have any questions for Yahoo? Anything at all about the best way to make some money from now until Xmas. Anything at all about consumer trends and patterns. What about worst practices? If you want to seed the Q&A with your custom question, send it on to me at [agoodman] [at] [my gmail.com address] and I'll pass it onto Stephanie and Pato. The best one will receive a free copy of Page Zero's very own Mastering Panama book.

The signup page for the webinar is here.

Speaking of which... Mastering Panama is really hard to do unless you've read Mona Elesseily's Mastering Panama! Go here to purchase your beautiful bound copy.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Spider Senses Tingling

I see that AdWords is going to be down for up to four hours this Saturday. Is this a harbinger of major feature releases, or just "routine" maintenance?

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Finally Someone Willing to Admit Facebook Has a Problem

When you have nagging doubts about the business model of Facebook, professionally it's often not a good idea to voice them. It takes someone very secure in his credentials to speak up. Someone like Seth Godin. In this post Seth reminds us that Hotmail was difficult to monetize after Microsoft acquired it for $400 million. Wildly successful in viral and user terms; unprofitable for many years. All because it was an environment that people didn't want to see ads in.

Yesterday I took a meeting with some consultants now billing themselves as "Facebook marketers". With all due respect to the parties involved, I wondered just how the world could possibly become as Facebook-centric as portrayed by this growing sub-industry. Assertions like "people don't want to jump out of Facebook" to do other things, made me want to "jump out a window."

The other thing that sprung to mind was definitely the advertising problem. The more Facebook becomes like a platform - a starting point or an organizing principle - the more it becomes like your desktop. You don't want ads on your desktop.

Of course, from the standpoint of the current shareholders in Facebook, the fact that your acquirers are going to stumble on monetization issues when it comes to your tens of millions of users is a good problem to have. Still, I'd rather be selling it than buying it.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




AdWords Slapped Me! Boo Hoo!

Yep, I've got another article about Ad Quality over there on Search Engine Land. Kind of a deep topic, a bit deeper than some newly minted guru with a scraped ebook and an autoresponder can fathom. My take on it is really aimed at the non-quick-buck-artists - hence the reference to the SMX Stockholm crowd.

Though I did tell that audience (in response to Google's recent FAQ on types of business models that often get "slapped" by the ad algorithm, a list that includes "get rich quick" sites) that I do have the utmost desire to see them all get rich, and I don't know why the process should be slow. :)

By the way, so much for the newly minted guru's wish to stay ranked #1 on the term "Google Slapped" or something like that. If I can rank on "Vanessa Fox Nude," I can rank on this. Organic, schmorganic.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, November 05, 2007

Google Gets Closer to GPhone (and so does everybody else)

In announcing the Open Handset Alliance today, Google and its partners (including T-Mobile, Qualcomm, and China Mobile) discussed Android, an open source platform for the creation of mobile applications. Android is under the direction of Andy Rubin, Director of Mobile Platforms for Google.

In the opening remarks prior to the press Q&A, special guest Sergey Brin remarked on his recollection of "ten years ago, sitting in a graduate student cubicle" where they were able to "build incredible things" because of all the great open source technologies they could work with (LAMP, Python, HTML). He drew a parallel with the innovation that will flow from having a platform that will allow any developer to create applications that will work on a wide range of mobile devices.

(In the Q&A, Rubin noted that the software development kit will be available to developers within one week.)

But what exactly is the problem with the current development environment? Part of the issue solved by the Android platform appears to be that it includes a "full-featured browser."

Asked if Google is announcing the GPhone today, an irritated (Google CEO) Eric Schmidt replied, "Well, the good news is we're not preannouncing anything today." But he added quickly: "If you were to build a GPhone, you would probably build it around this platform."

He also foresees the rapid creation of "very different types of mobile devices" directly as a result of the new open alliance.

Addressing the "what's wrong with today's phones" question, Schmidt replied: "The fundamental problem with mobile phones now is that they don't have full-power browsers. Android includes a full powered browser, so there is no need to shoehorn the applications in."

He cited games, social networking, and anything incorporating audio and video, that will be more accessible on new devices employing the Android platform.

It certainly sounds like a GPhone could be the next shoe to drop.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Thursday, November 01, 2007

Life's an Open Facebook: Google's OpenSocial Challenge

As reported in the New York Times, Google has cleverly brought several of the world's largest social networks on board of a new open standard for social networking apps. Bill Tancer of Hitwise expertly quantifies the current state of affairs, assessing Facebook's traffic to be 9X of the OpenSocial sites combined (these include Friendster, LinkedIn, and hi5). He also notes that trends can turn very quickly in this business.

While the combined effort to allow outside developers to power the platforms is interesting in itself, a separate but related competitive question is whether one or two of these networks will see a real surge in usage -- either because there are more open source apps available, or for some other reason, like people getting bored of Facebook. Some of them are obviously quite good -- I still think a lot of LinkedIn -- so there is still a chance a couple of them will race ahead and narrow that 9 to 1 gap.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




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