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Saturday, May 31, 2008

LinkedIn Ads: I Love It!

In my LinkedIn account I just came across a nice-looking ad for Search Engine Strategies Canada Conference and Expo 2008 (Toronto, 5th year!) - way to go guys.

It got me to thinking about a conversation I had about Facebook ads. A friend got some pretty good response from some of Facebook's more expensive forms of targeting, after meticulous research and segmentation. But I sort of got the sense that was the 10% of the campaign that worked... and the rest of the effort... well, the usual "whoops no response, chalk it up to testing," or "awareness."

The potential for precise targeting in social nets surely must have some advertisers salivating, if they can just crack the nut of how to get in users' faces without seeming like they're interrupting.

Compared with Facebook, the LinkedIn precision advertising opportunity looks like fantastic targeting for the B2B community, with less expectation of wasted ad budgets. To be able to target based on things like seniority, job function, and company size is a contemporary way to unlock and personalize the "list" that old database marketers want to sell you. High CPM territory.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Friday, May 30, 2008

Trivial Friday

Since Barry Schwartz has escalated his Search Engine Roundtable post to a post over at SEL about Google's - wait for it - new favicon, I thought I'd provide a 10-of-you-need-to-know tidbit of my own, and unlike the lower-case favicon (which Barry doesn't like), it's been something I have been waiting on a long time.

For AdWords advertisers and agencies who have an MCC (My Client Center) multi-account dashboard, the global date range you could set for the initial "all accounts view" has been upgraded. Now you can look at "yesterday" or "past seven days" rather than that annoyingly long "past 90 days" view, etc. -- and so the rank order of clients on the spend front is also being upgraded daily instead of very seldom.

I'm not sure if this is just a coincidence that I saw the upgrade just a couple of days after editing some profile details and specifying a gmail account name for this particular Google account rather than using an external email address, upping my personal portfolio of Gmail addresses to a whopping four. Probably just a coincidence. There be gremlins. Have a great weekend.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Thursday, May 29, 2008

Your move, Facebook

So MySpace is integrating Google Gears into its messaging storage system.

It looks like a match made in heaven for MySpace. Gone are the days when finding a message from an old flame (not that you should be looking for those) meant manually trudging through pages of messages sorted only by date. For those who didn’t feel the need to delete old conversations, that could mean digging through thousands of messages. Now, Gears will help MySpace function like a traditional e-mail service, letting people sort by user, by date or even by keyword search. More importantly, the MySpace community can also now access the application offline – a significant upgrade considering we haven’t yet reached the era of hover bikes, telepathy and truly ubiquitous Internet access. An additional benefit to MySpace appears to be an immediate performance boost for users while offloading some of the hardware requirements for that boost onto users’ local machines.

Over at Facebook, Zuckerberg surely has to pause for at least a second in the midst of all the hubbub of taking over the planet as more or less the #1 social networking site. Popular-but-kitschy MySpace has finally answered with a decent counterpunch. Will Facebook jab back with alacrity, or keep users handcuffed with an inefficient old messaging system?

Facebook’s first inclination may be to shrug and say “big deal”; after all, its massive growth speaks for itself, it’s the online leader in photo uploads with roughly 14 million daily, and its interface is arguably much easier to navigate than MySpace’s. But it shouldn’t underestimate the importance of the mail and messaging systems in social networking sites today. Sure, the wall posts, games and photo albums are the “loudest” features, but an increasing number of users rely on applications like Facebook as a primary communication tool.

I, for one, probably did 60 per cent of my online messaging via e-mail, 30 per cent via instant messaging, and 10 per cent via Facebook two years ago. Now, my instant messenger program is practically fossilized; I probably do 30 to 40 per cent of my messaging via Facebook.

If social networking apps have become crucial communication instruments, won’t users flock to the one with better archiving and search capabilities? And hasn’t MySpace taken the lead after teaming with Gears?

Still, there’s hope for Facebook. Google sells Gears for its “openness” – it’s available on most traditional web browsers and not restricted to any specific number of third-party users – so the window remains open to implement Gears.

I suggest that Facebook does so sooner rather than later, before the new-and-improved MySpace starts to gain back the respectability it had lost among power users.

Posted by Matt Larkin




There's intent and there's INTENT

As some of you know, I work with a startup that brings in a lot of user-generated reviews. UGC completion in a complex field is not terribly unlike the shopping cart process for a purchase or a form process for lead generation. There are multiple stages, you may have to log in or enter detailed info, and it takes more than a single screen or stage to get done. Accordingly, it makes a ton of sense for anyone involved in anything of this nature (stage-based user completion funnels) to optimize and test how to get users from A to B without any significant loss of detail or prequalification requirements.

Abandonment rates depend to some extent on usability, to some extent on user error, but also on the nature of the intent they bring to the table. Uncommitted users who may have stumbled into a site from a search are much more likely to get "fed up" and "stop" in the middle of the process, but beware of taking that behavior of an indictment of your process. What happens to users who are a little more committed?

Recently we ran a loyalty promotion that galvanized and incentivized Charter Members to participate more deeply in our site. Many of those users came on friends' recommendations, bound and determined to complete the process. Accordingly, our aggregate funnel abandonment rate plunged from the 20% range to below 10%, and in some segments of users, near zero. On those days, aggregate completions were also way up.



As the promotion wound down, "normal" behavior returned and the less-determined behavior of the "average" web user kicked in once more.

But we now know how to trigger apparently "superhuman" behavior. For an ordinary user, the completion event was a faint barbecue smell wafting towards them from several acres away. The hot dog cart rolls up the street, and whammo, they stop searching for that far-off grill.

For a superhuman user who has decided to complete the task no matter what, it's more like a mouse just inches away from a particularly pungent piece of cheese.

If nothing else, this proves that nothing is necessarily inherently wrong with your cart, form, or process, as much as you should focus on making them smoother.

Lesson: don't trust aggregate numbers on anything to tell you a true story. Think about different kinds of users, and you may discover something amazing.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Obama Campaign Opens Vault for Google Ads

When a certain kind of data is really close to your heart and mind, you'd like to think that some leading indicators are just too blatant to dismiss.

To date, "Internet-inflated" political campaigns have often had that easily punctured quality to them. What turned out to be niche candidates had disproportionately strong donor bases and loyalties through cliquish but still impressive online channels. They got puffed up a bit in the early going, then proved to be paper dragons in the end.

The field is fast evolving, however. Top candidates today are employing real online marketing tactics to boost already solid campaigns, pushing themselves over the top with savvy, controlled, and tightly measured spending of campaign funds on the ads that we here know and love so well: paid search and contextual ads.

ClickZ News is reporting that the Barack Obama campaign spent a cool $1.7 million on Google ads in February alone.

I'll also go out on a limb and take this as a leading indicator for an Obama victory in November. It just doesn't seem that much different for me from customer acquisition in retail and B2B. Companies that are already strong, who add this targeted channel to their mix and pursue it aggressively before their competitors catch on, tend to pull away from the others. It isn't magic.

The only roadblock I see that could prevent this from happening would be a low turnout among youth voters. And by youth, I mean the entire 18-44 demographic that is currently most impacted by the online ad strategy. With unprecedented turnout in this demographic, Obama would win in a cakewalk. Without it, he could actually lose to McCain.

Hard to say what impact the wildly popular "Obama Girl" videos might be having on the candidates' fortunes, but again, if you compare what is happening -- and what *can* happen -- for McCain or Clinton at least in this social media realm... well... this Obama thing feels like a movement; yes, as some have stated, on a par with JFK (or PET for you Canadian viewers).

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, May 27, 2008

YouTube 10-Figure Lawsuit: Delayed Rebuttal

OK, if I've ever said anything to the contrary, I take it back. Americans are more litigious. But luckily, some of those being litigated against have the feistiness and bucks to counter-punch, as Google is now doing.

In my view, all this means is that Google needs to step up efforts to remove proprietary content. It seems unlikely that Viacom will win outright, so the final settlement amount, if any, was probably something Google budgeted for when it acquired YouTube in an atmosphere of "YouTube - you'll never get away with it!" rhetoric. (Remember how PayPal would "never survive"?)

Sad but true, Mike Masnick correctly observes that many old media companies still view the Internet as a "broadcast platform."

We'll take a brief recess to ponder the death of the TV-industrial complex...

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Friday, May 23, 2008

Seth (and Barista) Tripped Up By "Double Double"

Seth Godin posts an amusing tale of the lady who yells "double double" to an uncomprehending barista. Perhaps he is unaware that this construction is seen as "uniquely Canadian" and is sometimes found in dictionaries of Canadian jargon. So indeed, it is double cream, double sugar, and it is indeed a "regional" term. (To me, it's a way to ruin a great cup of coffee, but some of my friends, and most truck drivers, seem to take their coffee this way.)

Yelling more loudly definitely does not break through communications barriers, especially when the folks you're yelling at don't speak your language. I'll see your double-double story, Seth, and raise you a Sweet-N-Low story. My wife was working in Quebec City, where they don't always do the accommodating thing and immediately switch to English -- and definitely do not try to make sense of every quirky word in American culture. An older, impatient couple from the South wanted artificial sweetener for their coffee. As the uncomprehending barista stared blankly at the request for "swaytnlooow," they decided to up the volume level, chanting rhythmically "swaaaytnlooow, swayyytnloowww, swaaaytnlooowwwwww!!!" The coffee shop did not carry Sweet N Low.

Would a packet of sugar kill you?

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Thursday, May 22, 2008

Microsoft-Google Price War Already Insane-o

A few days ago when I posted about the "coming war of free," I really had no idea the competition could get as heated as Microsoft not just giving away search by monetizing less, but giving away search *ads* by passing pretty much all the ad revenue from certain search ad sales conversions onto consumers in the form of rebates.

In other words, Google spends huge resources on developing great search and other products to pour people into its Super Funnel. And they develop a huge exchange model with a massive number of advertisers which has been optimized to maximize Google's revenues from ads that sit near the pleasing search experience.

Microsoft's response? Minimize its own revenues from the ads, without reducing the amount of ad clutter. Make a tweak to the pricing model in an attempt to be competitive, in a bid to increase market share. Maybe it's logical given that minor improvements in search quality wouldn't pry consumers away from Google, but as logical as it is, it's a reminder that Microsoft is firmly entrenched as an also-ran. Pricing gimmicks tend to be signs of weakness.

Meanwhile Google, perhaps sensing blood in the water, gently posts something about its deep commitment to search quality.

This reminds me of the losing strategies of the North American automakers. You can discount and rebate yourself into the ground, or you can build a better product that commands high margins at the end of the day.

To turn to specifics, there are reasons why CPA hasn't taken over from CPC and CPM in Google's pricing models, in spite of the trial run. CPC auctions provide a major incentive for advertisers to measure, improve communications & relevancy, and the most efficient survive - paying strong advertising fees to Google. With CPA, none of these incentives exist, so a lot of ads get shown to users but not enough of them convert. Eventually, the publisher tires of the CPA deal and goes back to plain old advertising.

The premise -- that "commerce searches will flock to Live" because of lower consumer pricing on products -- is at least interesting. However, user behavior doesn't work that way, and I think, deep down, Microsoft knows it. A certain experimental phase is to be expected, but the power of the toolbar, recurring user habits, search quality, and a bigger, better digital funnel is not something that can be bested with a pure pricing move. In the classic economics sense of "search costs" and "transaction costs" relating to the overall reliability and flexibility of the search experience, Google users are still going to be plenty satisfied.

P.S. If I have misinterpreted the program and it's advertisers who set the rebates, I'll still go out on a limb and guess that the typical user experience won't improve (even with the cash) enough to cause users to alter their search behavior.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Testing at the Table: Another Great Geek Dinner

What better opportunity for another informal geek dinner, than having Mitch Joel in Toronto as program chair for this year's CMA National Trade Show.

At dinner we were surprised to see Bryan Eisenberg working overtime to explain concepts visually to Jeff Smith of HBC, right there on a paper placemat.

Google is known for its semi-tongue-in-cheek, time-efficient bulletins titled "testing on the toilet," but who knew that ordinary northeast retail drones like us would be just as obsessed. Obsessed enough to push aside the creme brulee to draw up a few plays at dinner.

Rumor has it that Mitch's company is opening an office in Toronto. Between Mitch, Richard Florida, Bryan Eisenberg's frequent visits, and an endless supply of restaurants, this town feels like it is getting smarter all the time.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Monday, May 19, 2008

Google Health and You

Far too much going on to pick out one development to blog about today, but particularly noteworthy is the launch of Google Health.

Notwithstanding the fact that my Canadian location makes it about as likely that I'll be able to use Google Health as being able to sign up for Google Checkout... if it were available up here, I wouldn't be using it anytime soon.

I feel strangely unreassured by the mention of privacy policies all in the same (breathless type) breath as "thousands of partnerships" and "moving petabytes of data around":

In addition to helping you get better control of your medical information, we've also put strong privacy policies in place to keep your information safe and private. There's a lot left to do in health -- literally thousands of partnerships to forge and petabytes of data to move around -- but we're looking forward to hearing feedback from early Google Health adopters about our first step.
For some reason the whole business leaves me feeling uneasy about my privacy. The centralizing impulse of these global info-organizers runs counter, perhaps, to more sensible old-school approaches to information and power: diffused and broken-up relationships of power & authority, while less efficient at times, safeguard us against an unhealthy concentration of power and panopticon-like effects.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Meet the New Boss, Google -- And the Coming War of Free

Henry Blodget's post on the impending crisscrossing of lines on Google's and Microsoft's core businesses is timely. In 2009 sometime, Google's search ads business will be larger and more profitable than Microsoft's core Windows operating system business. (If Microsoft is lucky, that won't be the day Google launches a hostile takeover bid for Microsoft, a development Sergey Brin slyly alluded to several years ago, when such talk could easily be dismissed as a joke, or painful delusions of grandeur.)

Cloud computing, and ad-supported online business models are assumed to be a new naturally dominant business model. Chris Anderson has begun talking about the "power of free," as he gets set to release a new book on the concept.

But I think many analysts fail to grasp the complexity of the scenario. (Well, maybe it isn't that complex, actually. My wife, who teaches labour market theory among other things, notes that China can win a lot of business by simply undercutting other companies in the garment sector. But then India, or somewhere else, undercuts them. The result isn't beneficial to the guys who did the first round of undercutting.)

Today, Google is very wealthy, from a core economic driver. It is so wealthy, it is able to give away many products and services for free - sometimes, after acquiring a leading paid or freemium player in a space. This activity has been rampant. Blogger was acquired and its premium version was given away for free. Google Analytics continues to grow in sophistication. It costs $10,000 - $200,000 less than competing products; i.e. it's free. Google Checkout simply undercuts the pricing of PayPal on merchant services. Google Docs and Spreadsheets takes aim at Microsoft Office, and again, it's free.

This is what Microsoft used to do. It used to take out whole lines of business by adding them as a "feature" to Windows or Office. Now, it seems, the tables may have turned. Microsoft could only do that when it had a natural monopoly. That's being whittled away by open source, cloud computing, and giveaways galore. Much of that competition is going to come directly from Google.

So why do some analysts feel that Google itself is immune from tit-for-tat, any more than China can lose garment trade to an even cheaper competitor?

As consumers find ways of getting what they need from companies who choose to make it accessible with no advertising, ad supported models themselves are shaky. Brin has often said it himself: a competitor is only a click away. I can't avoid all commercial messages: I can't drive on a different highway, use a different subway platform, or wriggle out of my airline seat. It's a bit difficult to miss the glossy ads on the magazine I choose to read. And some messages, I actively seek. Google's business isn't going away anytime soon. But the real heyday of Google from a consumer standpoint might have been in the years when expectations of future profit (and some funding still in the bank) were subsidizing a search site that showed *no* ads.

[And as an aside, it's essentially the same phenomenon and "ethos" (an "ethos" that is more of an economic model dependent on acquisition or massive funding) that drives many Web 2.0 companies. Many of them make the mistake of divorcing "the power of free" from the need to be acquired. Others are smart enough to know when to fold 'em, for healthy valuations.]

If "free" is so great, then isn't even freer even better?

There is a certain false cleverness, then, about business models that smugly give stuff away to put others out of business, based on the knowledge that some other parts of an enormous (and hopefully, diversified) conglomerate can subsidize the insanely great deal consumers are getting on the other stuff. It works as long as that profitable part is safe! For most companies, it isn't.

Make no mistake though, for a handful of gigantic companies, these models are *very* clever and they work very well. The overall profitability comes from bringing a very large number of consumers and businesses into the "fold," and figuring out how to maximize profits from the few areas that consumers will actually "pay" for. Yes, in an era when everything seems free, I even have to put "pay for" in scare quotes.

That's why today I dub the large Internet companies (we used to call them portals) Super Funnels. It's far more complex than just the rather simplistic idea that we can offer cloud-based services cheaper, or free, or support whole lines of businesses with ads. But it is all about the rampant amount of investment capital and cash flow that makes it possible to create amazing user experiences and products that cost very little... as long as some element of the whole process, and hopefully many elements, are wildly profitable. Achieving this is not like falling off a log. The funnel has to be very well engineered, and the pockets have to be very deep.

Connected to my analysis (which basically says, beware of "the power of free" if all that means is an ad-supported model that assumes x% of users will tolerate and act upon advertising) is the rampant assumption that display ads online are holding up well as an economic model. What are the CTR's and ROI on such ads? So poor, metrics gurus have to come up with new measures that disguise the lack of engagement. Where people are really going to share and interact - platforms like Facebook - will let you bother users for a $0.30 CPM... and this may be the high-water mark.

Search ads are largely safe, for now, because they are quasi-classifieds, and because Google engineers the ad program to make the ads and the sites they lead to actually as good as or better than the sites in the organic/blended index results. That leads to the question, won't somebody eventually come up with more pleasing organic index results? What if someone releases something very, very good, and makes it available without ads for three years? They'll need a few hundred million dollars to try that stunt on any serious scale.

Can someone out-Google Google? Eventually, someone will, but for now the discourse of "the power of free" will sync up well with the next 5-10 years of Google hyperprofits. It's just a mischaracterization that "free" has true power, divorced from its rare, Super Funnel context. Google is the most efficient Super Funnel today, which will continue to be very disruptive to former dominant ones like Microsoft (other targets will be phone monopolies and the list goes on). To get back to a scale that can challenge Google's dominance, Microsoft has been rightly looking to bulk up to achieve more scale in today's dominant ("power of so-called free") business model. Hence its interest in Yahoo, Facebook, and others. Can Microsoft "go it alone" in this quest, as the current discourse of Ballmer and Gates suggests? It's highly doubtful. If they do not return to several bargaining tables soon, the buildout will take too long.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




I'm a Criminal, But Please Take Me Seriously...

Some search marketers do protest their outlaw image too much. Others revel in it. Whatever, you comport yourself in this way, don't be shocked by the lukewarm response when you try to "go straight."

(P.S. The actual blog content is good, but do you really want those thread topics following you around for the rest of your 'professional' career?)

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Sunday, May 11, 2008

CMA National Convention, Monday May 12

Hi all,

I'll be speaking at the Canadian Marketing Association's annual National Convention and Trade Show Monday afternoon (today by the time you read this) at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. As usual my subject will be Mastering Paid Search - but also as usual, I'll disregard most of the bullet points I sent in months prior to the event, and instead will focus on the most cutting-edge info in the space (while being unable to resist a few digs at the slow Canadian adoption of cheap dirt cheap did I say super cheap get 'em while they're hot, paid search clicks).

This year's show looks like a winner. I'm looking forward to taking in Avinash Kaushik's keynote, and meeting Penelope Trunk, among other things.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Saturday, May 10, 2008

The Definitive Techmeme Leaderboard - Proof of Voice

This list of the top 100 Techmeme sites of all time (the site itself only factors in the past 30 days) is interesting fodder for tech meme junkies.

What strikes me in particular about the list is the prevalence of people like you and me (that is, if you and me were prolific a-list bloggers). There is a professionalism to many of these writers, but that said, they don't directly represent enormous news organizations. They just cover the space independently because they set out to do so. That, ahead of anything else, should put a cork in the usual mischaracterizations of the blogosphere as just a bunch of hacks spreading rumors and not checking sources.

Among the notable independents, small fry, and chums:

  • Techcrunch at #1. (Here's where I think it tends to be a bit self-fulfilling - too much so, perhaps. Arrington was on Charlie Rose talking about Microhoo, for heaven's sake.)
  • GigaOM at #7. When Om Malik rants about the death of traditional newspapers, you'd better listen! He's walking, talking, typing proof.
  • PaidContent.org at #11. Thus helping the present post qualify as a nominee for the 2008 "Super-Duperest Self-Referentialest Infinitest Regression Awards of All Time" Award.
  • Techdirt at #10. Just proving nice guys can finish tenth, if they work hard. The result is so counterintuitive, I actually ranked #11 ahead of Mike :) by accident.
  • The Register at #14. It seems there is a market for snarky comments, even about server hardware and encryption technology. It's good to see the blogosphere hasn't lost all its immaturity.
  • Search Engine Land at #25. Somehow, these types of people have a knack for getting high up on lists of blue links. I don't know what it is. Some sort of voodoo I hear.
  • Silicon Alley Insider at #28. I've no-followed (actually, no-linked) this one until someone can prove to me that a frequently-wrong, barred-from-trading analyst is more worth reading than a monkey throwing darts into a gently-used designer wastebasket. j/k Henry.
  • Search Engine Watch Blog at #30. See #25. Everyone knows the money's in the trade show business, anyway.
  • scobleizer.wordpress.com at #39. ... and falling.
  • Radar O'Reilly, #42. Add it to your feed reader for sure.
  • blogs.barrons.com. Falls into traditional media so it's miscategorized in the present list, thought I'd mention it as "a great short." Imagine if Barrons' bottom line were affected by all of the losses they'd have to incur, betting against America. Just don't try to time the market, like I used to.
  • Dave Winer, #50. Priceless. I can't believe we get to watch for free.
  • I forgot to mention Valleywag at #33. That's because it's owned by a giant blogging conglomerate, but I'm afraid of becoming a target so here ya go.
  • I'm getting tired of hyperlinking, so Google, just play along OK, for the rest?
  • mathewingram.com, #51. Quit your day job Mathew and I guarantee a rise of at least 10 points.
  • Steve Rubel, #52. Ditto.
  • avc.com, #53. And keep in mind - he's just a vc. Very few individual VC bloggers make it on the list. While you're at it though, check out a few of the other good ones, like Paul Kedrosky's.
  • BoingBoing, #54. Kinda nichey.
  • Calacanis, #67. Shameless self-promotion only gets you to #67?
  • BattelleMedia.com, #69. For some reason this guy jumped on the Search bandwagon. Six thousand's a crowd, John.
  • Valleywag.com, #79. Needs to be de-duped. Take that in any sense of the word.
  • Kara Swisher, #89. Day job getting in the way?
  • MarketingPilgrim.com, #91. Tricky search dude with a fantastic reputation.
  • Don Dodge, #95. Who? Oh I see, it's another "he represents bags of investor dollars so I'd better read this" blog. I like the recent post advising us on the ins and outs of deciding to sell for 9 or 10 figures. Hehe. Who wouldn't read that?
  • Philipp Lenssen, #99. The best blog "about Google" manages to transcend that niche. Who says bloggers don't produce news?
On the all time leader board, check out Gabe's comments about how certain sites have been "whacked" based on his editorial decisions?

For example, he notes: "Engadget and other gadget blogs like Gizmodo and CrunchGear have been whacked recently on Techmeme by my decision to reduce the amount of gadget blog type coverage (i.e. primarily cause #3)." #3 is "more weighting of original reporting, biasing for/against certain topics."

So when you read the disingenuous "The selection and placement of stories on this page were determined automatically by a computer program." message at the bottom of Google News, recognize that all search engines today perform an editorial function while still trying to achieve massive scale. By editorial function, we mean humans are involved in weighting and inclusion decisions, not just computers. And the next gen will surely do the same.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Friday, May 09, 2008

Page Zero Seminar Update - May 15 Event

If you've been considering attending the Page Zero seminar (half-day, includes breakfast, we'll go to lunch afterwards informally) on paid search at the Westin Harbour Castle in Toronto next Thursday May 15, now's the time to secure your spot. There are only four seats left - get yours ASAP to avoid disappointment.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Super Google Transparency: AdWords and Page Load Times

Google has announced that along with indications about keyword relevance and landing page quality generally, in the keyword analysis screen they now let you see whether any problems were found with page load times on the relevant landing page.

This takes away the guessing game to some extent. If you get "no problems found," chances are you should be looking to other factors if your keyword quality score is still coming in "poor."

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Thursday, May 08, 2008

Beautiful Woman Car Insurance; Traffick to Post More Often

On Tuesday at the eMetrics Summit in San Francisco, our good friend John Marhsall, now with Market Motive, gave a mildly technical but extremely accessible talk on the ins and outs of RSS and feed metrics. The best part, frankly, was that (unlike some of the other analytics chatter), I actually understood it! His incontrovertible takeaway (one and only one key point) was: "Use Feedburner."

Fortunately, thanks to Cory Kleinschmidt and his technological alacrity, we installed that baby a few years ago, so I was able to dig into some stats. I discovered something that may not shock you. People do consistently subscribe to feeds, on a really nice ratio to the number that actually visit the site on a given day. My analysis shows that we get a good number of new signups with each "significant" post. A "significant" post might be a post that would be read by more people than usual. For example, one that gets quality link love from a popular site that explores Memes in Tech (for example), particularly on a Monday. End result: we think we should post a bit more often, on topics of substance. So the posting renaissance shall continue until further notice.

We may branch out a bit, though. You get tired of posting on all the same topics, so we'll try to get back to some reviews and comments on the hot features and apps owned by the major portal (type) companies, and our sense of the user response & growth trajectory of same. Now that the search wars are in some sense drawing to a close, maybe the real action really is in the rest of the stuff, like Flickr or Google Docs, that draws people into the portal company's general brand & functionality vortex. Come to think of it, there is so much more of that stuff going on now than in 2000 when we used to write about it... , that's probably why we don't write about it. Anyway, we'll try.

Just for fun. No promises. And don't worry about search being one-sided forever. We know some real competition in the search space is bound to heat up someday.

--

In other news, glancing at the Blogger ticker that shows recently updated blogs, I noticed a blog called "Beautiful Women Car Insurance." "Beautiful Women Car Insurance?," I asked myself. "I don't know what that is, but I think it should be something I should learn more about." Said learning did not go so well, however. It turns out the site was just another "splog," also known as "scraping SOB's," or "MFA Mofo's," depending on your regional dialect. An excerpt from the gripping dialogue completely unrelated to anything, let alone this idea whose time has clearly not yet come, "Beautiful Women Car Insurance":

"Comments cattle were real estate market in the status quo in the card-telephoto DC has the strongest 10x optical zoom capability, while supporting wide-angle 28 mm and OIS Optical Anti-Shake shooting, with 3-inch 230,000-pixel LCD. Property Tax: Logically property tax levy is essentially Jiefujipin move. However, the property tax against the property market speculation and excessive investment and consumption market is fully into the basic premise, once the market level is not high, the property tax in the fight against speculation and excessive investment and consumption, while also inhibit the normal pattern of the market / High-end consumer, leading to stabilize housing prices in the property market at the same time, a structural surplus, and perhaps one day people suddenly discovered that the market in full transition product, the property market instead of restricting a well-off one of the factors. Full competition in the industry, implementation of corporate real estate distributed welfare system. Customers considerable speculation the Group of public investment to consumption and cost, high-profit sectors to promote enterprise through a number of additional benefits in high-grade commercial housing for ordinary commercial houses and public consumption. Equity funds and real estate, real estate only with the ideal of stored-value"

Well, I think you get the gist. Can randomly chosen splog names actually result in new business ideas? I'm still trying to work out this Beautiful Woman Car Insurance angle, but I think it's going to be for men in luxury cars who total them looking at beautiful women. And this Infiniti lane departure warning technology had better not spread, or it's going to kill my whole business. That, or the optical zoom technology referenced in the above paragraph.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




"No Plans" to Bring Yahoo Glue Pages to North America

At Yahoo India, product managers have created a variation on search results pages called Glue Pages. Instead of just search results, the idea is to put together a richer page of different kinds of info.

There's nothing particularly new in that. Companies like Ask, Mahalo, and... Google have experimented with how to present mixed or blended results pages.

It sounds somewhat exciting when you first hear about it, but there's really no evidence that such pages are in fact better, or what we as searchers are really looking for. So it's nice to hear that this will be a localized experiment. Experiments are great, but let's not get crazy and overestimate people's appetite for these kinds of pages.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman




Sunday, May 04, 2008

Ride Across Canada

Time out to publicize a good cause.

Ross Rader, an associate who works at Toronto-based technology company Tucows (and therefore a client; Ross was a co-founder of the company), sent around a message about his upcoming epic ride for children's cancer charities.

He's given me permission to reprint the message in its entirety.

Without any further ado - take it away, Ross.

--

Hello - sorry for the interruption (and the lengthy message to come!)

As you may know, I am very involved with the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation, a Canadian charity that raises funds for childhood cancer charities whose programs improve the survival rate and quality of life of children impacted by cancer. Since 2002, the Foundation has raised almost $5 million for Camp Oochigeas, Camp Trillium and Camp Quality - and other worthy childhood cancer charities. These summer camps provide hope and a sense of normalcy for thousands of kids affected by cancer each year.

In previous years, I have participated in their Ontario event, Tour For Kids - a 4 day, 800 kilometre bike ride. With your help, I've personally raised over $25,000.

This year, I've decided to up the ante.

On June 2, myself and 60 other cyclists will be leaving downtown Vancouver, British Columbia for a 19 day journey to Halifax, Nova Scotia. In that time, we will cover 7,600 kilometers, and with your assistance, will have raised an additional $5 million dollars for these incredible kids.

I have been training since November. Each morning, I get up at 5am and ride my bike. Over the winter I would ride on an indoor trainer for 1-3 hours. On the weekends, this increases to 3-6 hours. Three times a week, I attended spinning classes ranging in length from 1-3 hours, on top of which I ran 10k and did weights twice a week each. Now that the weather has warmed up here in Toronto, I have moved my training outdoors and I'm riding more than 700 kilometres per week and the length of my weekend rides have increased to more than 12 hours. I've drastically changed my diet - former luxuries like wheat, sugar and caffeine are strictly off limits. My training program runs 7 day a week - once a month, we get a day off. While I haven't kept strict track of my mileage, I estimate that I have already put in over 4000 miles to get ready for this epic adventure.

This might *sound* like hard work, it doesn't hold a candle to what each of these children go through after hearing that they have cancer.

The ride will take 19 days. During this time, 88 Canadian children will hear the words "You have cancer".

My goal is to raise $1,000 for each of those children and families, but I will need your help.

There are three ways that you can help:

1) Make a tax deductible online donation at http://2008.snkcr.com/ross/donate.html This is one of the few charitable donations that you can make that will guarantee that 100% of the funds donated actually go to the cause. Most charities have substantial administrative overheads that the Coast to Coast Foundation avoids entirely.

2) Tell someone about my ride and let them know how they can donate.

3) Help us find corporate sponsors. This is the first year that the Foundation is putting on the National Ride. It is a *huge* logistical challenge and we're looking for corporate sponsors to help us underwrite the cost of the trip. If you know of an organization that would like to make a contribution in exchange for the great promotional value that will come from being associated with this event, please let me know.

Thank you so much for reading this far, and special thanks in advance for your support and assistance with this endeavor. I am really looking forward to fulfiling what has been a lifelong dream of riding from sea to sea. Being able to do it in support of such a worthwhile charity will make it especially meaningful.

More information on this event can be found at http://www.searsnationalkidscancerride.com and details concerning the foundation are available at http://www.coasttocoastagainstcancer.org

Thank you!

-ross

My ride journal: http://2008.snkcr.com/ross
Make a donation: http://2008.snkcr.com/ross/donate.html

"This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized
by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a
feverish, selfish, little clod of ailments and grievances complaining
that the world will not devote itself to making you happy."
- George Bernard Shaw

Posted by Andrew Goodman




MicroHoo Deal Collapses: What a Mess

The following is just my take today. Others in my company, and me last week or a week from now, might feel differently.

In the wake of Microsoft withdrawing its offer, we're still left with no resolution on the matter. And that is what is most troubling about the charade we've just witnessed. Microsoft has not stated any intention to pursue a proxy fight. Logically, that probably means they're just playing it out in an attempt to get a better price, by hoping Yahoo will founder and need a rescue operation.

I'm not sure if I'm more annoyed by Yahoo not taking the significantly sweetened offer, or by Microsoft's high-profile approach to the prospect of combining the two businesses. This time around, it was a formal offer intended to generate all of the shareholder and media response that it did. The fact that it led to nothing suggests that it was a low-probability deal in the first place. Yahoo increased its counteroffer price so much because management didn't want to work with Ballmer and his colleagues; didn't want to be swallowed up by that enemy, in particular. The previous attempt to discuss the idea behind the scenes was probably the better way to go, but Microsoft knew that if it chose the polite route, the answer would always be no.

This morning, seeing the news, I went in search of analysis beyond the cursory regurgitations that we see on so many blogs. I figured, hey, I'm not going to stick my neck out and say "what a mess" on such a nice weekend morning, unless someone else does.

Thankfully Danny Sullivan is on fire today.

With respect, Danny reminds Microsoft that is has "no brand in search. It literally has no brand."

That, of course, is why it bid on a company that has a pretty good brand.

We're in the same place as we were a month ago, roughly. Microsoft still needs Yahoo; Yahoo doesn't really need Microsoft. Yahoo shareholders will nonetheless probably say yes to a deal if the price is high enough.

Here is where we get into a potentially long, dragged-out process. Microsoft lurking as a familiar, sinister force, hoping its acquisition target weakens further to increase the chances of shareholders agreeing to a buyout for the original offer price, or a dollar more.

If anything, though, this process has made Yahoo less likely to weaken. It will increase the company's resolve to innovate and to build its brand. Rebounding from a period of weakened morale, employees in various operating units will work harder, work smarter, work together towards tangible financial and audience-building results. Those who do not will be easier to identify, and top management will not even need an unusual degree of perspicacity or ruthlessness to cut loose the underperformers.

That all sounds good. In a normal world, that would be good. The #2 player finds its feet and moves forward. Unfortunately all that does is cause another impasse if the acquiring company returns with a hostile offer. The two sides will continue to be at least as far apart in their assessment of the value of Yahoo. Knowing how this scenario played out in the Oracle-Peoplesoft case, Ballmer already knows this. And knows that shareholders will eventually relent.

The scenario from there would be less than perfect, because a delayed hostile takeover takes on messy proportions once consummated. And the delay would probably be very long, and very costly on several measures. We have no reason to doubt that the Yahoo board will consider every form of legal poison pill clause to deter Microsoft and its own shareholders from doing a deal.

Yahoo's age and high level of institutional ownership certainly makes it more vulnerable than it otherwise would be. As autocratic as a dual-class share structure makes a company, they wouldn't be in the mess they are today if they had one.

Take comfort in this much, Yahoos. At least the Zapata Fish Oil Corporation hasn't bid on you.

Labels:

Posted by Andrew Goodman




Thursday, May 01, 2008

Sample Hypothetical John Battelle Tweets

So John Battelle is hopping on Twitter. I have yet to be lured, so bear with me as I attempt to satirize without deep first-hand knowledge.

Here are some samples of the types of posts we are likely to see in the coming months. It is tough to Twitterize these down from his usual blog posts... but here's a try.

  • "So Google just acquired Volvo! Cool for a number of reasons. I will have a *lot more* to say about this but right now I am slammed at SXSW and will be back up for air soon."
  • "Holidays. Just loading up the jalopy right now taking the family down to Panama - I sure picked a crazy week to take off what with Larry Page turning out to be Obama's surprise choice for VP... lots happening... back next week..."
  • Intrigued by the nonexistent Twitter ad model. More to come...
Just kidding around of course :) - and I won't be going from B-List blogger to C-list Tweeter anytime soon thank you very much... (I figure you drop a level as soon as you start to Twitter...)

Back soon!

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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