Thursday, 28 May 2009

Twitter not for sale, yet

As reported by The New York Times, Twitter's co-founders - Evan Williams and Biz Stone - have said they are totally behind the business and have no intention of selling, despite the recent rumours of Google, Microsoft and others showing interest in the company.

Of more interest were their possible ideas to monetise the service, although a firm business model is not yet developed. Possible options are to give companies and heavy users enhanced features for a fee, such as getting introductions to new followers or trying to authenticate a company or person’s identity which is becoming a key issue for users. Search is becoming another key issue as the business develops its real time search engine, using the technology acquired last year so that third-party Twitter services can also use it.

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Monday, 25 May 2009

Is there any mystery over Google's missing millions?

The Sydney Morning Herald has published a story about the apparently low revenues reported from Google's Australia business, despite the high estimated revenues being received from search advertising.

The article says that Google Australia booked just under $90 million for the year ending December 31 2008, according to documents filed with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. However, Google is estimated to have received $800 million in revenue from AdWords advertisers across the country, based on IAB figures.

Not surprisingly, Google has refused to comment about the article and continues to keep the details of its revenue sources secret.However, as most AdWords advertisers in Australia know, the billings for their campaigns are channelled through the Google office in Eire, where the revenues are going to be lost amongst the wider European income streams and, as far as Google is concerned, protected from the prying eyes of journalists and, more importantly, competitors.

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Thursday, 21 May 2009

Social networking privacy at work

The Wall Street Journal blog includes an article about the use of social networks in the workplace and how this growing issue needs to be addressed by companies in a clear manner. According to a recent survey in the US by Deloitte, a majority of business executives believe that they have a right to know what their employees are doing on social-networking sites. However, most workers - not surprisingly - say it’s none of their bosses’ business!

However, the margin was quite low, as only 53% of employee respondents said their social networking profiles are none of their employers’ business, which probably reflects the awareness of many that whatever they might think, these details are in the public domain and are likely to be viewed at some time. Regardless, 61% of employees said that they wouldn’t change what they were doing online even if their boss was monitoring their activities.

About a quarter of employees said they knew of specific guidelines as to what they could and couldn’t post on social networking sites and a similar proportion also said that their company didn’t have a policy, or that they didn’t know if their company had a policy.

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Monday, 18 May 2009

Twitter for local business marketing

An article by Advertising Age focuses on the potential use of Twitter as a local marketing tool. It uses several examples of companies in the US that have been using this 'micro-blogging' tool successfully to target their local market and to drive new business through specific promotions.

Twitter's real-time messaging service can be used to attract local 'followers' for a business and then to harness that potential customer base with short term promotions or announcements. The other key advantage is the low barrier to entry, as Twitter is free and quick to set up. It just needs the right stratgey and application to make the time spent on developing the tool worthwhile.

The article concludes with 5 tips for local businesses using Twitter - namely, track every sale; recognise the difference between the immediacy of Twitter and the use of other social networking tools, such as Facebook; create a conversation and avoid too much heavy promotion; use it tactically for short term promotions; and alert followers to any special events or activities.

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Friday, 15 May 2009

Google announces new search features

Google has announced a number of new search features in its Official Blog. The most notable is Search Options, which is a new panel that can be accessed from a link at the top of the search results and provides a collection of tools that let searchers 'slice and dice' their results to generate different views of the search listings. We will cover this in more detail in our June 2009 newsletter.

The second new development is "rich snippets" which are additional pieces of information that appear within a search result listing for a website to try to provide more details to aid the searcher in selecting the content they want. For example, for a restaurant search, these new "rich snippets" extract and show more useful information from web listings than the usual preview text and could include items like the number of reviews or the restaurant's price range.

However, these snippets can only be displayed if website publishers adopt microformats or RDFa standards to mark up their HTML to allow this structured data to be used. This can help people better understand the information contained within the web pages and will help improve clickthrough rates from Google's results. More information about using rich snippets can be found here.

The final new development is a tool called Google Squared, which is currently in beta. Unlike a normal search engine, Google Squared doesn't find webpages about a subject but automatically fetches and organizes facts from across the Internet - which would appear to be competing with the new Wolfram Alpha search tool which is due to launch shortly. Access to this new Google tool will be made available for review through Google Labs soon.

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Thursday, 14 May 2009

IAB publish click fraud guidelines

The PCWorld website reports on the new guidelines published in the US by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) to help define what 'click fraud' is within pay-per-click (PPC) advertising and to lay down basic procedures for determining when an advertiser should or should not pay for a click. Promisingly, Google, Yahoo and Microsoft all collaborated with the IAB on the production of these guidelines.

Click fraud remains a controversial area of PPC advertising, with different % levels claimed by various interested parties. The search engines say they have this issue largely under control but advertisers are often concerned about how effective these controls might be. The new guidelines - which can be downloaded here - now provide "the detailed definition of a 'click' and the standard by which clicks should be measured and counted, including the identification of invalid and/or fraudulent clicks".

This is a good move by the IAB and participants who created these guidelines and they should start to help the debate about, and the tackling of, the problem so that the PPC advertising market can move forward on a clearer understanding of the issue.

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Monday, 11 May 2009

Internet advertising in Australia continues to grow

The latest quarterly report from IAB Australia shows that the national online advertising market continues to show a good rate of growth, with a year-on-year increase of 14%. Using data compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the online advertising expenditure in Australia for the first quarter of 2009 came to $439.5 million, the largest first quarter figure recorded so far.

The online advertising industry is expected to be impacted by the effects of the global financial crisis and the lowering of consumer and business confidence. The first quarter figures for 2009 were down 5% against the last quarter of 2008, yet this was anticipated due to the decline in activity that's usually seen after the pre-Christmas period. Despite this, the online advertising sector continues to maintain a strong year-on-year growth each quarter, unlike most other advertising media that are reporting negative year-on-year revenues.

The continued growth in this sector has been largely driven by the Search and Directories sector where the further migration of revenues into this sector saw it push past 50% of the total online advertising revenue for the first quarter. General Display advertising accounted for 24.9% of the total advertising expenditure for the first quarter, with a small decrease from the previous quarter as expected due to the trend of previous years. The Classifieds sector comprised 23.9% of the overall market with the impact of the economic slowdown having the greatest impact here, as the sector showed the first decrease in year-on-year expenditure since record keeping commenced in 2002.

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Friday, 8 May 2009

B2B advertisers move spend online

New research published in the US and reported by MediaPost indicates that business-to-business (B2B) media is seeing a rapid shift of advertising revenue from the traditional print channels to online platforms. The research was conducted by Outsell Inc. also shows that overall B2B revenues have decreased since 2005.

The findings show that the print share of total B2B revenue fell from 58.3% to 40% between 2003 and 2008, as online revenues jumped from 18% to 33.9%. The remaining share came from events, which stayed around a quarter of total revenues. The main period of change happened between 2005 and 2007, when print revenue declined from 53.1% to 44.1%, while online increased from 22.1% to 30.2%.

The report says that a good part of the percentage shift from print to online simply reflects diminishing print revenues and although there is a changing pattern, there is no question that the future of B2B media lies online. Infact the article says that "B2B has been confronted with the same dilemma faced by other print media, including consumer magazines and newspapers -- online, while a promising area for new revenue growth in its own right, has so far failed to offset much larger losses on the print side".

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Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Google opens up trademark bidding

An article on Search Engine Land indicates that Google is to relax its trademark restrictions for AdWords advertisers across more countries. A Google representative is stated as saying that "As of June 4th, Google will no longer investigate complaints relating to the use of trademarks as keywords by AdWords advertisers. This means that in the affected regions, a company advertising on Google will be able to select trademarked terms as keywords, and a user searching with a trademarked keyword may see a greater number of relevant ads in the sponsored links section, giving them greater choice."

Google was already allowing this use of trademark bidding in North America and had also relaxed the rules for the UK and Ireland last year. This new move will mean that advertisers will now be able to bid against trademarked terms as a keyword, if desired. Google says that their aim is "to provide our users with the most relevant information, from both search results and advertising. We are making this change because we want to give users greater choice and to help them make informed decisions."

There will clearly be implications with this change, both for advertisers wishing to bid against trademarked terms as well as those companies wishing to protect their trademarks within the Google search results.

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Monday, 4 May 2009

Google's whitepaper on Content Network performance

Google recently published a whitepaper on the performance of their Content Network - where AdWords advertisers can extend their advertising reach to third-party websites, based on the related page content matching the targeted keywords.

Google says that the Content Network is the "world's #1 ad network" since it reaches more than 80% of global Internet users. Six billion ad impressions are served each day across hundreds of thousands of these Content Network websites and so Google has analyzed conversions, cost, and cost-per-acquisition (CPA) on the Content Network compared to the main Search Network, across thousands of accounts and many geographic regions.

The results from the analysis indicated that adverts on Google's Content Network can be an effective way to gain additional conversions beyond the main search coverage, with the median advertiser seeing a content CPA within about 2% of their Search CPA. Also the survey found that the Content Network drives nearly 20% of total conversions for the median advertiser, plus conversion rates were higher for advertisers who used either of two AdWords campaign management controls: the Conversion Optimizer and site exclusion.

Certainly Google's Content Network has improved its performance significantly over the past 2-3 years since Google started to provide more performance data and management tools for this channel. In a recent post on the Google AdWords blog, more information has been provided by Google as to why the recent findings reported such a similar cost-per-acquisition on the content and search networks, which is primarily due to the use of the smart pricing system - a feature that automatically reduces the price advertisers pay for clicks if Google's data shows that a click from a Content Network page is less likely to result in a conversion.

These findings have to be viewed with some care as Google clearly has a clear motive to promote greater use of the Content Network and their automated bid pricing system. Their tips and recommendations direct advertisers down this route and while the Content Network should be tested with tracking mechanisms in place, the results will clearly vary for different advertisers and markets, plus some good initial campaign management is required to get the best results possible.

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Friday, 1 May 2009

Web marketing newsletter published for May

The new May 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 three types of keyword matching in Google Adwords and the best practice on using them to save money in an online advertising campaign. It also reviews how Google has made changes to its search results in the past month, so that they now include 'sitelinks' for results below first position and also additional listings based on search locality, driven by a searcher's IP address. Finally, the newsletter considers how Google Analytics' Motion Charts can be used to give a graphical comparison between keywords, on up to three parameters, to analyse which are performing best over a specified time period.

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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