Thursday, 28 February 2008

Cross-submissions enabled for Sitemaps

The Google Webmaster blog reports that the Sitemaps protocol - enabling webmasters to submit their sitemaps directly to the main search engines - has now been further enhanced so that webmasters can now place Sitemap files for multiple hosts onto a single host location and then notify Google and the other search engines about these by including their location in the appropriate robots.txt file.

This move allows for greater flexibility for website owners who have multiple domains but find it easier to edit robots.txt files rather than load Sitemaps files on each of the sites, plus it can improve centralised management of these files. It's therefore important to use a robots.txt file on each site and to indicate in each of these where that host's Sitemap lives - in this way, it proves the webmaster's ownership of the host for which they are specifying the Sitemap file.

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Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Microsoft launches 'Engagement Mapping'

Microsoft have announced the launch of a new tracking system for advertisers called Engagement Mapping. They claim this offers a new approach to managing and measuring the effectiveness of online advertising campaigns that goes beyond the current 'last ad clicked' standard that associates sales, leads or Web traffic simply to the last click or ad exposure. The Engagement Mapping system now takes into account all the various online 'touchpoints' and interactions a consumer experiences before an eventual sale.

They will be beta testing the new Engagement ROI tool, which is an online campaign reporting and optimisation solution, with a number of their large advertising clients and agencies in the US so that they can evaluate and assign measurable values to a consumer’s interaction with ads, thus giving advertisers and publishers a more complete picture of online behaviour.

This tool appears to answer a need within the online advertising field to understand the process that consumers take towards an eventual action and the role that different forms of advertising may have. Value is assigned and measured on a real-time basis and takes into account the impact that recency, frequency, size and ad format (such as rich media and video) have on a consumer’s online path to action.

Engagement ROI is designed to allow advertisers and publishers to manage their campaigns with greater insight and control than previously available through third-party ad serving. The tool has been developed on the back of Microsoft's acquisition of AQuantive last year and also gives them a platform to challenge - and criticise - the role that Google's dominant search advertising system offers to advertisers.

The beta officially begins on March 1, with results expected to be available towards the end of the year.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Online shopping goes social

The Financial Times has published an article about the new growth area of social shopping, where the popular trend of social networking is being combined with shopping websites so that new trends are generated by peer-to-peer recommendation. Dubbed Web 3.0, to take the current Web 2.0 trend a step further, it describes the increasing focus of social networking activities to create a business purpose and focus within 'vertical' markets.

Amazon has been developing 'recommended' shopping links for years in an attempt to cross-sell to online customers, plus it publishes user reviews. However, new shopping community sites are taking this a step further to that their active user base will drive product sales and recommendations in the same way that many music sites are now using this technique.

This use of community activity is a natural trend in the way that the Internet is being used, yet it has inherent risks for companies that manage the sites and who may lose some element of control over the way the site (or product range) develops, and for suppliers or marketers who may want to manipulate the sites to their own ends, or respond to negative trends.

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Friday, 22 February 2008

Facebook showing signs of decline?

A report by the BBC says that Facebook has shown a decline in users in the UK for the first time, dropping 5% to 8.5m users in January. Data comes from monthly research by Nielsen Online who started tracking usage of this popular social networking site in July 2006.

Analysts say that is was inevitable that the site would reach a peak at some point and the UK version now has 700% more users than a year ago. However, others say that the appeal of Facebook is starting to wear off as its popularity grows and becomes more ‘mainstream’, driving regular users to other newer sites. In the same period, UK users of MySpace also fell by 5% and Bebo by 2%.

This changing trend may just be a short term ‘blip’ and more will be revealed over coming months. This story also comes out at the same time as concerns are voiced about the inability to remove user profiles from Facebook and concerns about privacy are voiced as data is used for advertising purposes, even if a user no longer wishes to participate in the site. There's more coverage of this story from the New York Times here.

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Monday, 18 February 2008

Google gains dominance of Japan's mobile market

Business Week have reported on Google's huge gains in the Japanese mobile market where deals over the past year with the country's two biggest wireless carriers - NTT DoCoMo and KDDI - has given their search technology a dominant position on this massive market with as many as 82 million mobile subscribers.

In contrast, Yahoo! lags behind with coverage on around 18 million mobiles despite owning the most popular web portal in Japan. Google is likely to benefit from far more search traffic now that DoCoMo's and KDDI's mobile subscribers will see a search box and the phrase "enhanced by Google" when they first go online from their mobiles. To quote the example used in the article, this means that someone in Tokyo's Shibuya shopping district who wants to find a store selling vinyl records no longer has to type in Google on a numerical keypad to gain access to the company's search engine, but get taken directly to the service.

Japan's desire for technological advancement has placed it at the forefront of many computing and mobile developments with Government data showing that the Japanese are as likely to go online from a mobile handset as they are from a desktop PC. Data from comScore also indicates that when the Japanese search the web they are likely to look at maps and check train timetables after e-mailing and reading news stories. Google's mobile services cover all of these activities and their experiences from Japan are likely to be used in other countries as these trends are taken up elsewhere.

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Friday, 15 February 2008

Online advertising stats for 2007 released

The latest Internet advertising figures for Australia have been published this week by the Internet Advertising Bureau, using data compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers. The new data shows that overall growth in this advertising sector has slowed over the previous year, yet there was still a 34.5% growth to $1.34 billion, with the market on course to achieve sales of $1.7 billion in 2008.

During 2007 the report says that the search and directories category - which is dominated by Google - has increased its level of spend at a rate that's double the figures seen for display advertising and classifieds. Although these figures remain an estimate since Google refuses to reveal their numbers, the search advertising sector was reported to have grown by 56% to $622.2 million, compared with a growth of 21% for display ($367m) and 19% for classifieds ($356m).

All 3 sectors are still showing good signs of continuing growth, although the search sector demonstrates the ongoing recognition of this market as a powerful marketing technique and a popular method of online advertising for many companies. Despite previous annual growth rates of around 60% for the Internet advertising sector as a whole, the increase of 35% in 2007 is seen as a slowdown for the market but still a healthy and sustainable growth pattern.

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Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Google to tackle Baidu's dominance of Chinese search

A recent report by the Wall Street Journal says that Google is continuing with its efforts to gain more market share in the massive Chinese online sector by planning a joint venture with a locally based online music company that would enable them to provide free (and licensed) music downloads within China.

This move is the result of the market leader in Chinese search - Baidu - building and maintaining its dominating of the market, in part, due to a controversial and potentially illegal offering of searches for free, unlicensed music downloads. Google's new service is intended to counter this advantage and could start in several weeks according to the article.

China is one of the few countries where Google doesn't claim market leadership and, what's more, Baidu is expected to surpass Google's figures for overall numbers of worldwide users this year, such is the size of the emerging Chinese internet market. Baidu has used its advantage of being a 'homegrown' service and has also gained share of the market through its knowledge of China and the Chinese language.

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Monday, 11 February 2008

Yahoo! rejects Microsoft's offer

After a week of speculation, the unofficial word from a meeting at Yahoo! on Friday was that the offer from Microsoft would be rejected for being too low. This was confirmed today. This could be the first stage of negotiations that will eventually result in the hoped for sale to Microsoft, or the software giant will eventually lose interest if the required price goes too high.

Yahoo! have said that the initial offer is far too low and that Microsoft are clearly trying to take advantage of the recent poor results at Yahoo! and claim the business at a bargain price. In return, Microsoft says that they will continue pursuing the business through all possible channels and are likely to make more approaches to Yahoo!'s shareholders to gain acceptance of a strong offer.

This story is likely to run and run and be one of the main developments in the Internet and search market during 2008.

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Friday, 8 February 2008

Microsoft-Yahoo! bid dominates news

The media has been stirred into a frenzy over the past week since Microsoft launched its bid for Yahoo! and news stories have been dominated with speculation over the future direction of both companies and regular updates on the progress of the bid, although this story will run for months yet!

The New York Times reports on Google's likely opposition to the move, in return for Microsoft's action to stall their takeover of DoubleClick last year. Google clearly has big concerns about the move and the additional market reach and technological power this could give to their main rival, whereas Yahoo! could also try to avoid the takeover by looking for alternative suitors, or as reported by MarketWatch, outsourcing its search advertising service to Google. However, this would probably be a short term fix and also, from an advertiser's point of view, place an even greater monopoly of this sector in the hands of Google - an issue that the Washington Post covers here.

For all the latest news and comment on the progress of this story, check Google News. We'll also continue to cover any major developments here that will impact the web marketing and search advertising sector.

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Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Implications of a Microsoft/Yahoo! merger in Australia

With a frenzy of press comment and speculation following Microsoft's bid to buy Yahoo! last week, the Sydney Morning Herald reports on the implications of such a move in Australia between the 2 search portals. Both sites are in 50/50 joint ventures with fierce TV network rivals, as Yahoo7 is a partnership with Seven Media and NineMSN is a partnership with the Nine Network.

Should the takeover succeed in the US, then the 2 search portals in Australia will come under the same owner and, according to analysts, would be an untenable situation, so that at least one of the partnerships would need to be disbanded. This relationship between the 2 search portals and the TV networks is unique and enables the sites to enjoy the use of content provided by the networks but will be one of the many issues that will need to be reviewed and resolved should the acquisition eventually take place.

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Monday, 4 February 2008

Microsoft bids for Yahoo!

In an audacious move at the end of last week, Microsoft has made an offer to buy Yahoo! for $US45 billion. This comes days after Yahoo! announced that they would be cutting around 1,000 jobs and reported a 23% drop in profits, so clearly Microsoft see this as a good time to make a move on a key competitor and to help them gain some additional share against Google. This story is likely to run for some time and much speculation is sure to be made about what Microsoft will do if they succeed with this acquisition.

At the same time Google was reporting fourth quarter figures that fell short of analysts' expectations, despite income still rising by 17% to $US1.2 billion for the period. Combined with the poor figures from Yahoo!, this may show signs of the Internet advertising market starting to slow down, particularly in light of the problems in the US economy and talk of a possible recession. Online search volumes in December were down and rising energy costs and a slump in the housing market may be starting to affect consumer confidence.

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Friday, 1 February 2008

Web marketing newsletter published for February

The latest issue of our monthly newsletter covering some of the recent stories on web search and marketing trends has been published today. This month's issue looks at some of the common errors that websites include that can have a negative impact on their search engine optimisation potential. It also reviews some recent research into the search patterns and related buying behaviour of travel consumers in the UK, plus it considers the role of social networking and search engine results with some new developments from the past month.

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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