Friday, 28 March 2008

More about widgets

Following the post earlier this month which reported on the counter arguments for and against the use of widgets as a marketing tool, ClickZ published an article earlier this week with examples of how big brand companies have been using widgets and the challenges facing companies to make these small applications as success in the face of many now being available online.

The article also points out that, although some widget applications can be expensive to develop, cost shouldn't be the core factor and more important will be the idea and tailoring this concept to a company's own target audience. Widgets can serve a variety of marketing objectives, from site traffic and lead generation to awareness building. A number of recommended best practices that are listed include keeping ads under 40K size, limiting any animation to under 15 seconds, creating an easy-to-click outgoing link, and underlining the link so it stands out.

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Thursday, 27 March 2008

Which way now for social networking?

As would be expected from The Economist, a recent article reviewing the current position and future opportunities for social networking sites provides an intelligent and perceptive assessment of this latest online trend, prompted by AOL's recent acquisition of Bebo, the 3rd largest social networking site.

It compares the development of social networking sites now with the advent of online email services a decade ago, and concludes that, although both provide an excellent utility that attracts millions of regular users, the opportunities for direct 'monetisation' may be more limited. The article also considers how the current format of social network sites is 'closed' to the outside web but that future developments are expected to make these more integrated with other online activities and so become a more powerful and effective utility for web users, whether or not they end up making the type of revenue expected from the current valuations of these companies.

From an alternative perspective, AdWeek reviews the growing activity of 'conversational marketing' through social networking sites and the difficulties currently faced by advertisers with how to measure the success of their campaigns. There are few accepted metrics in place to measure the 'success' of social media marketing and some advertisers feel that the way these sites are used lend themselves to less effective brand building through banner advertising.

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Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Google AdWords introduces demographic bidding

The Google AdWords blog has just announced the introduction of demographic bidding within the AdWords campaign - or to be more specific, this bidding option is available within the content targeted network and only for those sites where data exists to be able to offer this facility (such as MySpace, Friendster and others). All user data from these sites has been aggregated so that user privacy is protected.

This is a move that has been expected since Microsoft launched their adCenter PPC service in the US, which contained the option for demographic targeting by using data from Microsoft's network of online services. However, although Google was expected to introduce such an option themselves, their access to this level of user data has been more limited, so this introduction of bidding controls within the content targeted network is a good start.

It also helps to provide a further level of management within the third-party content network and should be a useful feature for advertisers who also have an understanding of the demographics of their customer base and target market.

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7 tips for bloggers

The New York Times recently published an article providing a number of tips for aspiring bloggers - whether business or social. Although there are plenty of websites and resources offering lists of tips on making blogging work, this list stands out as it offers some realistic and practical advice.

What it also states is that time can become one of the main factors in developing a blog - firstly from finding the time to post entries on a regular basis and then, should it become successful, having the time or resources to maintain and develop the blog, including moderating or responding to comments. Before even starting out with a blog, be clear on the objectives and don't lose sight of that, even when the blog begins to take on a life of its own!

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Thursday, 20 March 2008

Google confident of tackling a recession

Google's CEO Eric Schmidt has made a short visit to Australia and has said that the company has few concerns about the slowdown in the world economy and any recession which may affect the US and other leading economies.

As reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, Schmidt says that Google is well prepared for a recession and, since advertisers favour media where results can be tracked more easily when budgets are tightened, the search engine will continue to capture a greater share of the $1.3 billion online advertising market in Australia.

Google is also expecting to take a greater share of the display advertising market, following the completion of their year-long acquisition of DoubleClick. By combining the techniques from their search technology with the networks and applications provided by DoubleClick, Google is likely to develop new advertising opportunities that will link banner and video advertising with search queries to improve targeting and the effectiveness of online spend.

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Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Gender trends in online shopping

The Wall Street Journal reports that luxury retailers are finding that men make faster shopping decisions, spend more on luxury items online and are less likely to return unwanted items than women. As a result, these surprising results mean that some leading retailers are streamlining their e-commerce sites to enhance their appeal to men, who reportedly prefer to shop quickly, without doing much comparative research.

The study by Forrester Research seems to indicate that men may value their time more, or want to make decisions quicker without shopping around. They also estimate that men send back fewer than 10% of their apparel purchases, while women return more than 20% of the apparel they purchase.

The article also includes data from other retailing studies in the US and Europe which are showing different shopping patterns between the sexes and how some retailers are now developing their websites and product offerings to take advantage of these trends.

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Monday, 17 March 2008

Google completes their DoubleClick acquisition

Following the recent clearance by the European Commission to allow Google's acquisition of DoubleClick to proceed in Europe, Google has now cleared all the major hurdles in the takeover plan and the deal is now finalised. Now Google will need to begin the hard work of making the deal work, by combining the advertiser services into an integrated package and pushing new products into the market.

An article by Business Week sets out the implications for the online advertising market and how display advertising is expected to see a resurgence as new targeting tools and analytics enable advertisers to make better use of this medium.

The move also provides another setback for Microsoft and may precipitate a more urgent attempt to buy Yahoo! so that they can strengthen their position within the search market and avoid losing share in the display advertising sector. In a new move, AdWeek reports that Microsoft have just purchased Rapt, a company that enables advertisers to manage their online ad inventory - a further sign that this sector will become a new battleground between the two search rivals.

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Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Google adds page load times into Quality Score

The Google AdWords blog has announced that they will be extending the Quality Score feature of AdWords to incorporate landing page load times.

The Quality Score is the dynamic variable that Google calculates for each keyword used by an advertiser to determine where an advert will be displayed in the rankings, based on relevancy, clickthrough rate and other factors. By including the new factor of load time for a landing page, Google is giving advertisers another factor that should be considered as a potential way of improving the ad rank at a lower cost, so therefore it could be another factor in improving the ROI of a campaign.

Load time is the length of time it takes for a page to load in the browser, so it can be dependent on the size of the page, the text content, images and underlying page code. Google says that a faster loading page creates a better experience for users, and therefore pages that take longer to load will be penalised as part of the Quality Score ranking criteria.

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Monday, 10 March 2008

How important are widgets?

Business Week recently published two counterpoint articles on the use and value of widgets. The first piece was called Widgets: The Future of Online Ads and describes the ways that widgets are becoming an essential tool for web users to manage the massive amount of information available and for advertisers to make their brands more noticeable. It relates the current trend in widgets to the explosion of TV channels and the methods that viewers now need to use to identify and watch the programmes they want to see.

The second article challenges the first, with the title Why Widgets Don't Work. It argues that the current fad for widgets is over hyped and not the ideal solution for marketers to put their message across due to the different mindsets of user groups. Widgets may not serve a commercial purpose, due to the way that the article points out that 'A Google user is walking into a store. A Facebook user is walking into a bar'. It concludes that 'a clever widget is nothing more than a jukebox in the back of the social throng, a nice diversion, but really not part of the core conversation'.

There are probably elements of truth in both of these views and certainly the use of widgets needs to be creatively focused on a target market to achieve its objectives. They are also still in the development and proving stage at the moment, but potentially can still be used as effective marketing tools, possibly for brand building or for generating website traffic or even user loyalty.

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Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Google Analytics adds benchmarking option

The Google Analytics blog has announced the inclusion of a new benchmarking option, where site owners can compare their data trends against the averages for their own market sector, or for other industry sectors. The option has just been made available as a beta and the blog says that it may take some weeks for full data to be available. There is a new FAQ section added for this benchmarking service.

At the same time, Analytics users will notice a new option when they login to their accounts to share their data with other sources. This is the way that Google will aggregate data from similar market sector websites and so they are hoping that many websites will allow their data to be used in this way. For those who are already paranoid about sharing their traffic data with Google through the free Analytics service, this move will potentially be a step to far. However, Google stress that they aren't sharing individual site data with any competitors, but rather the information is being combined into broader industry vertical stats that anonymize and aggregate the data.

Analytics users can also now elect to share their data with other Google services which, according to the blog and accompanying FAQs, will allow Google to provide additional new features to the Analytics package, such as integrating the AdWords Conversion Optimizer data. As an extended information tool, this move appears to give website marketers more valuable data to support their online activity, although many may want to hold off for a few months to see the reaction and impact from this move.

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Tuesday, 4 March 2008

March issue of web marketing newsletter published

The new issue of our monthly newsletter covering some of the recent stories on web search and marketing trends has been published. This month's issue looks at Microsoft's bid to buy Yahoo!, which dominated the online industry news over the past month. It also reviews some of the latest research from the UK about social networking sites and ask the question 'have they now peaked in popularity?'. Finally the newsletter also reports on the latest Internet advertising figures for Australia which show further healthy growth during 2007, particularly in the search marketing sector.

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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