Friday, 29 June 2007

Consumer attitudes to mobile phone advertising

A survey published in the US this week shows that, despite the big opportunities currently being forecast for mobile advertising, there is still plenty of negative attitudes to these in the minds of consumers, so that advertisers will need to tread warily.

The research was undertaken by Harris Interactive for Ingenio and surveyed around 4,000 mobile phone users. It found that most consumers were ambivalent about ad-supported content and services on their mobiles but some types of advertising received more negative attitudes than direct advertising, such as promotional adverts when the phone was turned on, were deemed "not acceptable at all" by the majority of respondents.

From a range of different mobile adverts that were being assessed, search links came out as the most popular, with 33% finding them "somewhat" or "very" acceptable. However, a video clip from a nearby retail store did not do so well, with 84% saying that the tactic was unacceptable. Other forms of advertising that were surveyed included text messages from companies, voice mail messages from a celebrity or spokesperson and audio ads that play while a call is connected.

These results need to be studied by companies and agencies that are developing mobile advertising campaigns, although much of the negative response probably comes from unfamiliarity with this form of advertising and the way phones are currently being used. Only 30% of respondents said they had seen or heard ads on their phones and less than half claim to use their mobiles for anything more than calling.

As with all advertising, relevancy will be important to make advertising acceptable to mobile phone users. What is clear from these results is that advertisers will also need to plan carefully to avoid a negative backlash from advertising that is perceived to be intrusive on a very personal level.

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Tuesday, 26 June 2007

eBay ends spat with Google

The Los Angeles Times reported at the end of last week that eBay has decided to resume advertising with Google's AdWords system. The disagreement between the 2 companies, which has been widely reported over the past few weeks, was sparked off when eBay took umbrage at Google's apparent attempts to encourage eBay's customers to move their payment system from PayPal to Google's own Checkout system.

eBay is one of the largest advertisers on Google, buying millions of keyword adverts to promote its online auctions. Having pulled these ads for several weeks would have given eBay an excellent insight into the impact of this advertising on its traffic and usage, whilst saving significant amounts of money. There have been some unconfirmed figures on money saved and the changes to eBay's traffic, but interestingly, eBay is reported to have decided to increase their reliance on advertising through other services as well.

Whether this is the result of eBay's own conclusions into the effectiveness of such a huge campaign, or lingering bad feeling from the whole episode, remains to be seen. eBay will now be increasing their spend using other channels, including Yahoo!, MSN and Ask.

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Monday, 25 June 2007

How online video advertising works

The latest issue of Marketing magazine reports on a recent study by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) which looked into the key factors that drive a successful online video advertising campaign.

The survey tested a variety of adverts across different market sectors, looking at 4 main ad attributes and 96 combinations to see how they impacted the key advertising and brand metrics. The four attributes tested were duration (15 v. 30 sec.); placement (pre-roll and post-roll); companion ad (with/without); and advertising type (original online v. repurposed TV).

In 2 of the 4 advertising and brand metrics that were measured, ad length was found to be the leading factor driving increased response - 30 second ads outpaced 15s plus ad relevance and brand consideration also improved with the longer adverts. As with the recent search advertising study, brand awareness or affinity was also a strong factor in driving better results, although positive responses to the video content also helped in cases where there was neutral or negative brand affinity.

The study also showed that static companion ads can play a valuable complimentary role in lifting brand awareness. The most popular video content categories were found to be news/current events (14 percent watch daily), weather (11 percent watch daily) and jokes /funny clips (9 percent watch daily).

Perhaps not surprisingly, the research concluded that online video advertising leads to concrete results, with 52 percent of viewers that watched a video ad online having taken some sort of resulting action. From those consumers who made a purchase in the previous month, 48% said that the Internet drove initial awareness, 55% used the Internet to decide where to buy and 56% made the final purchase decision using the Internet.

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Friday, 22 June 2007

Google launches Pay-Per-Action beta

Google's 'Inside AdWords' blog has just announced the extension of their Pay-Per-Action beta test beyond the US, where it was first launched in March. This will be a new pricing model for Adwords advertisers who are using the Content network to choose, if they wish. Pay-per-action advertising (often known as CPA - cost per action or acquisition) allows advertisers to pay only for completed actions that have been defined (such as a lead, sale, or page view), after a visitor has clicked on the ad being shown on a publisher's site.

This is effectively like affiliate marketing and it may be a valuable option for some advertisers who have consistent conversions and know the value of these. With standard PPC campaigns, advertisers need to continuously monitor and tune their campaigns to meet their target CPA (cost-per-action). However, Google says that with pay-per-action campaigns, advertisers only need to set their desired cost-per-action and pay for completed actions to hit their CPA targets.

There is a gradual roll-out being planned, so that advertisers who currently use AdWords conversion tracking and receive more than 500 conversions in the past month will be invited to join the beta test. Eligible advertisers will receive an alert in their AdWords account informing them that they can now try the PPA beta if they wish.

This is certainly an interesting new development within Google's range of search advertising options and although there is no evidence of the success or otherwise from the initial trials over the past few months, it should be tested by advertisers when they have the opportunity.

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Thursday, 21 June 2007

Which way for Yahoo!

Following the resignation of CEO Terry Semel and changes in senior positions at Yahoo!, there's been much speculation on the future direction the company will now take. The New York Times thinks the unthinkable, that Yahoo! could outsource their search service to Google and then focus their efforts on developing their portal business and other online services, rather than compete, and fail, against Google's strong position.

One strong rumour is a merger with MySpace, which would give Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation a 25% stake in Yahoo!. However, the search business remains a core strength of Google and it seems inconceivable that they would throw in the towel and succumb to Google's dominance in this field. Having said that, the original Yahoo! product - their directory - has largely disappeared from view as the business has needed to adapt to the growth in the web.

For searchers, and companies trying to drive business from search, such a merger of search services would be a bad thing as the variety of search offerings and the opportunities to gain search visibility become more polarised. Yahoo! would also be likely to lose their PPC income since any deal with Google is likely to include PPC adverts. However, estimated figures show that Yahoo! would probably make more revenue by outsourcing search to Google, so perhaps hard cash will force the decision here.

Meanwhile Microsoft looks on, having recently been mooted as a partner for Yahoo!, so as the 'big 3' continue to manoeuvre for position in the search and online advertising market, it remains to be seen how drastically the landscape will change over the coming months and what impact any changes will have for users and advertisers.

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Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Yahoo!'s CEO resigns

Further to the speculation in May, a press release from Yahoo! has announced that their CEO Terry Semel has resigned. This is a sudden announcement following the recent Yahoo! AGM, but Semel has faced increasing criticism from investors that the company was not performing and that the gap between Yahoo! and Google was growing too wide.

His position is being taken over by Jerry Yang, the co-founder of Yahoo! and the person widely regarded to still have the passion and vision to drive the site and it's online services forward. However, whether he will want to hold the CEO position for long and deal with investors is another matter.

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Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Broadband to extend to rural Australia

With an election on the horizon, the Federal Govt in Australia yesterday announced a new grant of nearly $1 billion to help build a high-speed broadband network in rural areas. Business has been demanding improvements to the broadband infrastructure for some time in order to kick-start the online economy here, which is seen to be falling behind many other developed countries.

So this announcement is good news for Australia, but not so good for Telstra, the recently privatised telecommunications company, who have lost out in the bid to their main rival Optus, who are working in a joint venture with Elders. This group is also investing a similar amount of money into the project which expected to provide speeds of at least 12 megabits per second to people in rural areas within two years.

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Monday, 18 June 2007

Search advertising's impact overstated?

A recent piece of research produced by Atlas (part to aQuantive in the US) questions whether search advertising gets too much credit for converting online sales at the expense of other forms of brand building advertising. They based this finding on a study that tracked online user behaviour and sales conversion tracked by cookies for, apparently, 5 billion adverts and 1.7 million online sales transactions.

The conclusion was that, although search advertising displays a high sales conversion rate from users clicking through from ads which lead to a sale, around two-thirds of these customers who took action had actually previously reached the websites 2 or more times via ads on several sites. Therefore awareness plays a more important role in driving that final sale than some may think.

What this still indicates is that search is driving the eventual sales as users are looking to buy a product or service. However, in all forms of marketing, brand awareness can also be a strong factor in deciding a sale - a previous Atlas study has shown that brand awareness can lead to a 22% higher chance of a sales conversion. This latest research perhaps also indicates that many large brand organisations are also now embracing search marketing as part of their advertising mix.

In the data-heavy world on Internet marketing, this latest research provides an interesting slant on the way that PPC advertising works, based on a significant base of data. It also gives some additional measurement to the impact of brand advertising, the effect of which is often difficult to quantify, whether online or offline.

What's more, this trend will also build pressure on smaller advertisers who are using PPC as an effective marketing method, but who are facing increasing cost pressures from bigger companies who are using their purchasing power to bid high as a brand-building exercise as well as a direct sales tool.

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Friday, 15 June 2007

AdWords Business Pages launched in Australia

Google has just launched its AdWords Business Pages for small companies to use in Australia and New Zealand. This service was first introduced in the US in December 2006 and has now been extended to enable companies that don't possess a website to still take advantage of pay-per-click advertising on Google.

How it works is that a company can set up a free hosted page on Google when they open a new AdWords account, using the basic Starter Edition. If they don't yet have a website to link searchers through to, Google provides a template to allow them to create a basic listing about their business, together with a location map, if required. In some ways this concept is similar to pay-per-call advertising - yet to really establish itself - which also offers search marketing to companies who don't have a web presence.

This new option has some advantages in that companies can establish a presence on Google without developing their own website and it could be ideal for local search marketing. It also allows companies to test this form of marketing for a limited cost and, if all works well, can encourage them to take the next step into a more structured online marketing campaign, including their own hosted website.

The disadvantages are that the pages provided are very basic and may not convert visitors as well as other companies competing for the same search terms - consequently the results may not be as good, which can then discourage companies from undertaking more online marketing. These pages will not be visible through any other online medium either, including the chance to optimise the site, but it is a first step and another tool to offer the cautious!

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Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Google's Ad Preview tool

If you're running a pay-per-click advertising campaign through Google AdWords, a little known tool that's provided by Google is their Ad Preview tool. This enables advertisers to view how their advert will appear for a search in the ranking results, without impacting on the overall impressions counted against the advert/s.

This can also mean that adverts will be seen in their 'raw' bid position, removing any additional ranking factors based on a user's click activity, or personalised search patterns. You can also insert additional parameters within the search string to display how the advert will be seen by users within a specific country, region or city.

This can be a good way of checking your standard advert positions that most users will see and it won't affect the data being collected for each keyword, plus none of the PPC adverts are clickable in the preview view. Try it out here.

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Thursday, 7 June 2007

Ask takes on a new look

The Ask search engine (formerly Ask Jeeves) has launched a new look in a further attempt to attract more search traffic away from the 'big 3'. On the initial clean search page (which offers different 'skins' for added personalisation), there are 5 main search options - web, images, city (business finder), news and blogs - with some added options through an additional drop-down menu.

Once you complete a search the resulting page offers three columns, with the main results list bordered by options to narrow or expand the search to the left, and alternative results to the right, which for a general web search generates some images, news, possibly video and dictionary links if appropriate. Ask have explained that they are trying to move away from search as a simple linear process of moving from one stage to another, and instead want to make it more iterative so that the users has options and can develop their search results into the relevant outcome.

Ask are re-emphasising their 'pure-play' search model which, they claim, offers the best alternative to Google, rather than on MSN and Yahoo! where search is one part of the overall portal offering. The new look is also a move towards the 'universal search' style of results that Google is offering and it makes for an interesting search experience.

However, the key issue will remain the question of what is actually 'under the hood' of Ask. How relevant are the results compared to Google and what will the overall search experience be like for the average user? Will they find too much going on here so that choice becomes a barrier to finding the right information? Will Ask's search quality match Google's - we still find that Ask's results can be hopelessly outdated and the spider activity is wanting so that recency remains a real problem with this tool.

Ask have supported their changes with a big brand building campaign in the US, but it's going to be word-of-mouth that's going to help them make any inroads into the current search market. We'd like to see Ask become a bigger player again, but Google will remain a hard nut to crack for some time yet.

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Tuesday, 5 June 2007

The latest acquisitions

As expected, the rampant rumours about Google buying Feedburner were confirmed at the end of last week with another significant acquisition completed for an undisclosed sum. There's a small summary of this purchase on Google's official blog. This purchase sits well with Google's Blogger service but also gives Google access to more web traffic and user data, as well as further advertising opportunities.

In addition to this, last week also saw confirmation of eBay's purchase of StumbleUpon for $75 million. This is perhaps a more unusual purchase, but gives eBay access to the reported 2.3 million users of the StumbleUpon toolbar, which allows users to browse recommended websites within their chosen categories. It's one of the recent success stories in the Web 2.0 / social media category and eBay has got in there before someone else was likely to!

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Monday, 4 June 2007

Web marketing newsletter for June

We've just published the latest edition of our monthly newsletter, which was mailed out to subscribers last Friday. If you'd like to read this, you can find it here, with articles on Google's 'universal search', how you should be keeping in touch with your online competitors, and also getting a local business listing on Google Maps.

To view back issues of this newsletter you can see the archive by date or by subject. To subscribe to future editions, please complete the form at the bottom of this page.

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Friday, 1 June 2007

Internet advertising booming in Australia

New figures released for the first quarter of 2007 show that the online advertising market continues to grow rapidly, with spend reaching $294 million, up 50% on the same period in 2006. Spend was, however, down 7% on the previous quarter, although this would be expected following the pre-Christmas peak and the January holiday period.

Search engines and directories continue to be the biggest and fastest-growing sector, up 85% year-on-year to $139.5 million and comprising nearly half of the online advertising market. Display advertising and classifieds saw increases of around 30% year-on-year and held a similar share of the remaining spend within the total sector.

These figures have been published by the Internet Advertising Bureau and mark the first report compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers since they took over the contract from ABVS at the end of last year. Some of the data collection methods have changed and PWC do indicate that some figures could be conservative compared to previous reports. In addition, the Search and Directories spend sector continues to be an estimated figure, since Google doesn't disclose its figures, even though they are likely to account for 70%+ of this market.

Either way, the message is coming across strongly that there continues to be healthy growth in the online advertising sector and that this is likely to continue in the foreseeable future as more companies realise the benefits of this activity, particularly in search advertising.

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