Friday, 30 November 2007

New features added to Yahoo! Search Marketing

A number of new features have been announced by Yahoo! Search Marketing to help advertisers manage their PPC accounts.

Firstly, a 'Campaign Tune-Up' feature is being introduced which will automatically review the performance of an account and suggest ways to enhance its performance. This is, of course, a copy of Google's 'Campaign Optimizer' tool - which provides some variable results - and the new Yahoo! option has yet to be tested to see how it performs.

The second new feature is one that will save your preferences when viewing an account, so that this format is retained at the next log-in, including any column sorting preferences. This is a feature that should have perhaps been in place from launch, but it's good to see Yahoo! continuing to tweak their new system and respond to user requests.

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Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Google plans online data storage

A report by The Wall Street Journal says that Google is planning to offer consumers a new way to store their files online, rather than on a single PC, in a move that could accelerate a shift to web-based computing and intensify the rivalry with Microsoft.

Google's massive data storage capabilities would be expanded to let individuals store their data on its computers, including word-processing documents, digital music, video clips and images. This would expand the range of services and users currently using Google Docs and this new service could let users access their files via the Internet from different computers and mobile devices when they sign on with a password, and then share them online with friends.

The article says that this new service could be released as early as a few months from now, although Google have not confirmed this. It is also expected to provide some free storage, with additional storage available for a fee, although no pricing information has been released. This would mark another step in Google's move to tackle Microsoft's monopoly of the PC market and will raise more issues of privacy, as well as the acceptance by many users of Google's expanding dominance across many online services.

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Tuesday, 27 November 2007

UK survey reports on wasted websites

A recent survey of 400 UK small businesses conducted by Microsoft and research company Vanson Bourne has revealed that 62% are not using search marketing and, of these, 33% of business owners thought that search marketing was too complicated, 44% thought that search marketing was too time consuming, and 55% thought it too expensive.

The report estimated that, as a result, UK small businesses could be wasting some £3 billion on websites that cannot be found in search engine results. So, having spent hard earned money on website development, many companies are failing to capitalise on this investment, even where they are aware of the need for continuous promotion and have some knowledge about how to go about it.

Unfortunately, it is not enough to build a business website in the hope that customers will simply stumble across it. There are billions of web pages on the web and each one needs to hold its own for specific content or else its presence needs to be advertised in some way. All small businesses in the UK - and elsewhere - should therefore ask: are we currently marketing our website effectively enough? Should we be testing PPC search marketing? And is our business website optimised and visible in search engine results pages, even for the most niche terms relevant to our market?

Small businesses can gain competitive advantage by building search marketing, website optimisation and other online marketing methods into their overall marketing strategy. Some 76% of the UK businesses surveyed that invest in search marketing do report an increase in sales. And, if done well, marketing through online channels can compare very favourably in terms of cost, return on investment and responsiveness with using traditional offline marketing.

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Thursday, 22 November 2007

Online ad figures released for Q3

The latest quarterly Internet advertising figures compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers on behalf of the Internet Advertising Bureau show that annual growth rates have slowed, as recently predicted, with the third quarter of the year seeing a record spend of $347 million, up 32% on the same period last year.

The past 3 years have seen annual growth rates of around 60%, but as the Sydney Morning Herald's report on the latest published figures rightly observes, the annual growth rates will inevitably slow down as the base value of the market increases, so that the actual increase in the dollar value of the market spend remains strong.

Search advertising continues to be the fastest-growing area in the latest figures, with growth of 53% on the same quarter in 2006. This is more than double the rate of display advertising - which grew by 24% in the same period - and online classified ads which grew by 13% over the previous year.

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Wednesday, 21 November 2007

'I'm Feeling Lucky' with Google

A short article and audio file on the American Pubic Media/Marketplace website examines the 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button on Google's Home Page. This search option has been part of the search engine since it launched in the late 1998 and takes searchers directly onto the first website that ranks for the chosen search term.

Google say that less than 1% of searches use this option and there is also a question about the usability of this button, in that many people may not know what it does (or don't want to be limited to the one result). Interestingly, the article also includes a quote from an 'advertising real estate' expert who has calculated that the channeling of this small percentage of users from the standard search results list could be costing Google $110m of lost revenue each year since the paid search adverts are bypassed using this option.

However, it appears that the button will stay for the time being because it's part of Google's original 'quirky' approach to search and continues to establish a human face to the growing corporation.

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Monday, 19 November 2007

Yahoo! Search Marketing's Quality Index

Yahoo! Search Marketing publish a blog with tips and advice on getting the most out of their (relatively) new PPC advertising system. One of the more recent additions to the blog is an explanation of the Quality Index which was introduced over the past few months and is a thinly veiled copy of Google's Quality Score system.

The Yahoo! Quality Index works in much the same way, whereby advertisers can benefit from higher ranking positions and/or lower costs per click if their adverts are more relevant - meaning that more people click on them and, of course, make more money for Yahoo!, as well as the advertiser, hopefully!

This entry offers a good summary of the Quality Index system and things to do in order to improve the graded scale against each advert. Also related to the whole issue of relevancy and increasing clickthrough rates, Yahoo! have also published an entry on how to improve your advert's copy by using their new tool that displays up to 6 relevant ads for each keyword to see what others are doing and therefore helping you make your own advert stand out from the crowd.

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Friday, 16 November 2007

VCard vouchers to tackle online fraud

The Sydney Morning Herald reports today on the VCard imitative in Australia to help tackle Internet fraud and to provide consumers with more confidence to shop online. Although having limited distribution at present, the VCard acts as a pre-purchase voucher that can then be used anywhere that accepts Visa card payments.

The article reports on market research by Forrester last April that found that 7.2 million Australians were online shoppers and forecast that that figure would grow by an average of 22% a year until 2010. In addition, a recent online shopping survey by ACNielsen found that "distrust in releasing credit card details" was the most common barrier to shopping on the Internet. It is therefore hoped that the new VCard will limit the exposure to fraud online and can also be used by those who might not otherwise have access to credit cards to pay for items online.

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Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Social networking creates changing trends

Following their early coverage of Nielsen's research on web advertising credibility last month, AdWeek have reported on another study that shows the importance of customer reviews on the web as part of the purchasing process.

The online 'Social Shopping Study by PowerReviews found that 2/3rds regular online shoppers almost always seek out customer reviews before making a purchase decision. Most of these 'social researchers' look for products online no matter where they eventually buy the product - whether a store, website, catalogue or elsewhere. Interestingly, the survey also shows that 82% of the social researchers said they found reading online reviews better than asking questions about a product to a knowledgeable sales associate in a store.

In a further move towards the use of social networking as a product and brand marketing tool, MediaWeek reports on the launch of Sprite's content page on Facebook, which possibly marks a move away from companies developing brand microsites.

Another good overview of the changing marketplace comes from CNN Money which compares the advertising models of Google (search advertising) and Facebook (social networking). It considers how these advertising channels differ and how the use of the web may change in the future to revise the core marketing models that have only just been established over the past 5 years.

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Monday, 12 November 2007

Google improves targeting for content network

Google's AdWords blog announced some further improvements to their PPC targeting tools for the third-party content network last week. With the newly named 'placement targeting', advertisers now have more control over which sections of the content website will display the adverts. The other new option is the flexibility to bid on a CPC (cost per click) basis, or to set up a campaign on the CPM (cost per impression) arrangement, depending on the type of campaign and the ideal pricing structure.

From a time when the content targeted network was first launched and provided advertisers with limited controls over what was happening with their adverts, Google has recently been developing a much better range of tools and reports to control this option, which should make it a more appealing route for advertisers to test and develop.

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Friday, 9 November 2007

Facebook encourages viral marketing

The Sydney Morning Herald reports on a briefing made by Facebook executives in New York where they announced that they intend to turn the 50-million strong user base into a powerful viral marketing tool for advertisers.

Companies can now sign up and create corporate profiles that other users can then link to as 'fans' and engage with the brand, so that their activities are then shown on their profile pages and passed to friends through the 'news feed'. Comments and reviews therefore become viral marketing from a 'trusted referrer' and add to the influence of social networking where user reviews and recommendations are seen as a powerful marketing tool.

However, not all comments could be positive and it's not yet clear what will happen to negative reviews or comments, which many large corporations are likely to attract. Also, if referrers will be given a share of any advertising revenue, will this unfairly influence the type of comments being made. The move places a further high profile on Facebook as a necessary marketing tool for many companies and confirms the trend that endorsements are becoming a valuable branch of marketing, and one that can be hard to control.

This comes at a time when Facebook 'flyers' and other advertisements are becoming more prominent and that advertisers are testing very accurate targeting of potential consumers through the profiling of personal data placed on users' profiles. This should make the advertising highly relevant but may also be a step too far for many users of Facebook who object to their personal details being used commercially.

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Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Google enters mobile phone market

Google has finally ended the months of speculation by confirming that it is entering the mobile phone market in a move to extend the reach of its advertising network. Not surprisingly, the announcement has attracted extensive press coverage, such as this report by the Washington Post.

Google will not be developing a phone, but is to partner with mobile phone networks, makers and software developers to create a new system for mobile phones that will make it easier for users to surf the Internet on their phones and to enable most mobile phones to work more like computers. By simplifying the process - and lowering the cost of entry - Google intends that a bigger mobile phone audience will generate more advertising spend from online access.

Google's new technology is being called 'Android' and they are working with a network of around 35 companies, including T-Mobile and Motorola, to design the system which is expected to be available to software developers within the next week. Mobile phone users are expected to have access to the specially equipped phones in the second half of 2008. The final agreements on usage still need to be agreed with the software partners but most are likely to revolve around revenue-sharing arrangements as Google aims to create a system in which the mobile service is subsidised through adverts, similar to the way many web services are now offered.

The Washington Post article says that this announcement could signal enormous change for the wireless industry and may have regulatory implications for Google. It also marks a strategic shift for mobile carriers like Sprint and T-Mobile, who are trying to keep pace with larger rivals as wireless consumers demand increasingly sophisticated services. The Google-powered software would also allow thousands of companies to develop new services, such as social-networking sites and mobile video portals, without needing permission from carriers.

No doubt there will be much more about this development over the coming months.

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Monday, 5 November 2007

PPC trends in the pre-Christmas period

The Google AdWords blog has posted an interesting piece about the effect of the pre-Christmas period on PPC advertisers. Not surprisingly during this competitive period, clicks and often costs will increase, either from increased bidding or higher than usual activity on the most common - and therefore most costly - search terms. However, as Google says, it can also be reflected in higher conversion rates, although this is something advertisers need to keep a close eye on what is happening and what competitors are doing, otherwise it can be an expensive campaign!

The most interesting aspect of this post, however, is the graph used as an illustration of the main points being discussed. This shows overall data from the 2006 pre-Christmas period from advertisers who were using conversion tracking (and mostly from ones based in the US) and it displays the trend of the median CPC (cost per click), the median conversion rate, and the median CPA (cost per acquisition).

The blog article includes an explanation of the trends seen on the graph so it's not necessary to repeat it here, but do take a look at the graph and see how the CPA reacts to the other metrics during the period.

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Friday, 2 November 2007

Australia's IAB reins in Internet growth forecast

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday reports on the more sober forecasts for Internet advertising growth made by the Internet Advertising Bureau. There have been some predictions that the $1 billion online advertising market will grow between 50-60% over the next year, yet the IAB predict growth will be half that figure.

The IAB figures are based on reported trends up to the end of June 2007, using the data collated from advertisers by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Based on those figures, the IAB expects advertising spend by the end of 2007 to be around $1.3 billion and $1.4 billion and that PWC estimates an annual growth of around 25% per annum until 2011.

The main issue with the IAB's figures remains the they can only be a rough estimate since Google continues to withhold their actual data, which is seen as an estimated 80 per cent of the $399 million search advertising category.

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Thursday, 1 November 2007

November's web marketing newsletter available

The new issue of our monthly newsletter covering some of the latest stories on web search and marketing trends has been published today. This month's issue looks at some new research data on global search activity and the dominance of Google. There is also an article on some of the ways that website marketers can build a strong link profile for their website, and finally there's a review of some of the new functions made available in Google's Webmaster Tools and how they can be used to improve the performance of a website.

If you want to sign up for future issues of this newsletter, please do so by using the form at the bottom of this page. To view back issues of this newsletter you can see the archive by date or by subject.

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