Monday, 22 December 2008

Local business search trends

A story by AdWeek reports on some latest research from the US into local business search behaviour. The survey by Knowledge Networks says that 77% of Americans turn to the print Yellow Pages and 48% said this is the source they use most often. Search engines were the runner-up, with 49% saying they use them to seek out a business or service, including 21% who use this source most often.

The only other resources to register in double digits in the survey were Internet Yellow Pages (36% / 13% most often), free or fee-based 411 services (30%, 8% most often) and newspapers (19%, 2% most often). However, for all the talk about people roaming the streets with mobile devices in hand as they seek stores and restaurants, just 5% of respondents included "mobile search" among their sources, including 1% who said it's the source they use most often.

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Thursday, 18 December 2008

Microsoft fixes bug in IE7

The BBC website is among many to report the serious security flaw discovered in Microsoft's web browser, Internet Explorer v7. This flaw could allow criminals to take control of people's computers and steal passwords - it has come to light with gaming passwords being stolen, but the vulnerability could present other security issues for web users.

Microsoft has moved quickly to issue a security patch to fix the flaw, which has reportedly already affected as many as 10,000 websites. Since Internet Explorer is used by a majority of computer users the flaw could affect many webs users and some security experts have suggested that users changes their browsers to Firefox, Opera, Chrome or Apple's Safari system which are not vulnerable to this current flaw.

However, Microsoft have also provided this patch through their automated download system to user's PCs and they recommend that users do have this option selected to happen automatically in the case of these short-term issues.

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Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Google outlines their stance on net neutrality

The Official Google Blog has posted a response to an article in The Wall Street Journal that claimed Google was trying to 'fast track' their access to the web, in contravention of the concept of 'net neutrality', whereby all providers have equal access to the web.

Google stresses that their support of net neutrality remains as strong as ever and the explanation of the moves reported by the WSJ were based on the reporter's apparent 'misunderstanding of the way in which the open Internet works'. The issue revolves around so-called 'edge caching' - which is designed to improve web performance through the temporary storage of data that is frequently accessed on servers that are located close to end users - and whether this violates the concept of network neutrality.

Google claims not and insist that their reasons for using this method are particularly for sites like YouTube that have high usage and bandwidth demands placed on popular videos that are regularly viewed. Google has offered to "colocate" caching servers within a number of broadband providers' own facilities to reduce the provider's bandwidth costs when the same video is transmitted multiple times. As part of the concept of net neutrality, Google says that broadband providers can engage in this type of activity so long as they do so on a non-discriminatory basis.

The original newspaper article has clearly raised the level of debate about these techniques which Google has quickly moved to explain and defend their position. The discussion is likely to now continue for some time.



Thursday, 11 December 2008

Microsoft agrees to reduce search data age

According to ChannelWeb, Microsoft has said that it will further reduce the amount of time that search activity data is retained, as long as their competitors - Google and Yahoo! - do the same.

This relates to demands by the European Commission privacy panel that search engines should not retain information on users' search activity, which are currently held for 18 months. Microsoft has said that they would be prepared to reduce this time period to 6 months to meet the demands for search anonymisation. Google curently holds data for 9 months, and Yahoo! for 13 months. Whether the other search engines will agree to this shorter period remains to be seen.

The main search engines retain information on users' online search behaviour in order to target advertising and, as persoanlised search becomes more active, to retain historical data to help imporve search results. However, privacy critics say that keeping these records raise concerns about identity and activity patterns, which should be protected. Most searchers are probably unaware that their data is being collected in this way and if they choose to use persoanlised search, they are agreeing that their historical data will be kept for a period.

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Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Google AdWords for the iPhone

Google's AdWords blog has announced a new campaign management option for advertisers who want to display their text and image ads onto the new range of phones that offer full HTML Internet browsers, such as the iPhone and the new T-Mobile G1 (Google's new application service).

This new option will allow advertisers to create exclusive campaigns for these new generation phone and view separate performance reporting. Google says that these new iPhone / G1 ads have many of the same benefits as the standard mobile-format ads - such as delivering mobile-specific calls-to-action and reaching an audience when they're on the go - plus they say that with more users now performing searches on these devices, these searches are likely to go up during the holiday season. According to the blog, the iPhone drove more traffic last Christmas to worldwide than any other mobile platform.

The other main benefit to advertisers is that, unlike standard mobile ads, adverts don't need to be reformatted to show them on these Internet phones, since as they operate with full Internet browsers, it's possible to display the standard AdWords ads and landing pages on these devices without having to modify them.

This is likely to become a much larger part of a PPC campaign for many local targeted advertisers over the coming years and the new option from Google recognises the need for targeting and tracking this new sector.

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Friday, 5 December 2008

Internet advertising in a strong position for the economic downturn

A recent article by The Economist is one of many that highlight the strength of the online marketing sector during the current period of economic crisis, with search advertising in particular looking to gain from the latest trends. Online advertising data from the US, the UK and Australia, all show that Internet advertising, and spend on search marketing in particular, continues to grow, although at slower rates than the previous few years.

Search advertising has become less of a speculative medium in recent years and instead provides highly measurable and responsive data from a focused marketing activity that gets excellent results for many companies. This makes it a surer option when advertising budgets may be getting cut back and therefore further growth in this sector is likely over the next few years.

The opportunities for advertising through video channels, like YouTube, and social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are also seen as good opportunities, although these have yet to prove themselves in the same way as search. That's because these channels are used in different ways to search - more for socialising and viewing content, where advertising may be seen as more intrusive. Yet these areas are still seen as a good opportunity for developing new and creative techniques that will become more acceptable with users.

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Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Facebook aims to spread across the Internet

An article by The New York Times reports on plans by Facebook to extend its reach across the Internet by allowing users to access other services with their Facebook login. Now described as the world's largest social network, Facebook has launched 'Connect' which gives users the chance to login to other websites and to see their friends’ activities on those sites. The new Connect service also gives members the opportunity to broadcast their actions on those sites to their friends who use Facebook.

Coverage on these additional sites remains limited at the moment and are mostly US-focused websites, but the intention is that major Internet properties will begin to share at least some of their usage data so that users don't need to enter the same identifying information again and again on different sites. Such programmes will help the emergence of a new “social web”, where interaction and 'chatter' amongst friends will infiltrate those sites that have been entirely 'unsociable' to date. It can therefore also be used as a way for recommendations to drive user traffic and activity across the Web in a more seamless fashion.

These moves raise the sensitive issue of privacy again with these services and how the data might be used by Facebook and the other partner sites to 'monetise' the traffic and behavioural data being captured. This remains new territory for the web whee boundaries are being tested and where Facebook has previously fallen foul of the privacy lobby with its 'Beacon' advertising network which was dropped in the face of criticism last year.

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Monday, 1 December 2008

Web marketing newsletter published for December

The new December issue of the monthly Web Marketing newsletter has been published, covering some of the recent stories on web search and online marketing trends.

This month's edition looks at the continued growth of Internet advertising in Australia and the reasons why search marketing will remain a popular form of advertising during the impending economic slowdown. It also looks at the Website Optimizer tool provided by Google and how this can be an effective way of improving online sales through the testing of landing pages. Finally this month's newsletter reviews the latest launch from Google with their new SearchWiki tool, which enables search results to be adapted within the personalised search function.

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.