Monday, 28 September 2009

Social networks display substantial annual growth trends

The ClickZ website has summarised new data released by The Nielsen Company which says that the time being spent on social networking sites has nearly tripled in the past year. In addition to this trend, the amount being spent on advertising on these sites has also increased at a similar rate.

According to the report, consumer activity on social networking and blogging sites comprised 17% of all time spent on the Internet in August 2009, up from just 6% a year ago. At the same time, advertising spend on these sites grew 119%, from an estimated US$49 million in August 2008 to US$108 million last month. As a percentage of total online ad spend in the US, these ad expenditures on social networking sites climbed from 7% to 15% year on year.

Not surprisingly, Facebook is the big winner from this growth, as recently reported, and as well as the number of users growing substantially, the time spent on the site has also increased, with the average user now spending 5 hours and 46 minutes per month on the site, up from 1 hour and 40 minutes a year ago. As a result, Facebook has reportedly seen a significant growth in ad impressions, accounting for a 14.7% share of US display advertising views last month, up from just 1.8% in January this year.

According to Nielsen, the spend by industry sector on the top social network sites has increased in all areas, with the entertainment industry showing the biggest annual increase, up by 812%, and travel advertising increasing spend by 364%.

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Thursday, 24 September 2009

Google Sidewiki launched

The Google blog has announced the launch of another notable new product, Google Sidewiki. This new feature allows searchers to contribute helpful information next to any webpage and can display a browser sidebar next to the web page, where users can read and write entries along the side of the page.

This is an extension of Google's personalised search and 'search wiki' option launched at the end of 2007, which allows users to adjust their own search results and add comments against ranked websites. The new Sidewiki tool now takes this a step further by giving users the chance to share knowledge, experience or advice against web content.

In developing Sidewiki, Google says that a priority was for users to see the most relevant entries first, so they have developed a system to rank the comments that are added in the 'best' order. So, instead of displaying the most recent entries first, the Sidewiki ranks entries using an algorithm that promotes the most useful, high-quality entries. It takes into account feedback from users, previous entries made by the same author, and many other signals they have developed and tracked.

This should help to address the obvious concerns of website owners that competitors will post negative comments and reviews against their web content, in much the same way that review based websites have been trying to deal with competitive 'spam'. There is also the ultimate question of how the tone of comments will be used by Google in the long term to have another impact on the relevancy of search ranking results.

Another feature of the Sidewiki is that the technology will match comments about a web page with other websites where the same content is displayed. This will help to broaden the value of the system and to reduce the need for duplicated comments or posts. Google is also going to use relevant posts from blogs and other sources that talk about the specific page of content so that users can discover their insights more easily, right next to the page they refer to.

Google Sidewiki is being made available as a new feature of the Google Toolbar so you need to download the latest version to access this sidebar and add or view comments. It's still going through a beta stage of development and Google will be improving and enhancing this feature in the coming months. You can also view more information about this tool here: http://www.google.com/sidewiki/intl/en/learnmore.html

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Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Conficker worm poses global security threat

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, the 'Conficker worm' remains the biggest security threat to the Internet at the moment, with the spread of the virus being almost impossible to stop. If has already infected more than 5 million computers and could be used to disrupt the Internet in entire countries, according to some experts.

The worm was first detected in November last year and spreads rapidly to computers through a security flaw in the Windows operating system.When machines get infected they are 'co-opted' into a viral network which can potentially be controlled and used by the hackers to launch unprecedented cyber attacks. Those behind the worm can reportedly do anything they want with the infected machines, including stealing users' banking details or flooding government servers to knock them offline.

The particular challenge of Conficker is that it contains built-in mechanisms to prevent people from scanning their computers with anti-virus software. Even for those who wipe their computers clean and start fresh, if they back up any important data on a portable hard drive, the clean machine is reinfected when the drive is connected to the computer. The worm also spreads automatically between computers on a network and infects machines without the user having to do anything other than switch their computers on.

As usual, security experts recommend that people who are not yet infected should ensure that they have installed the latest Windows patches and anti-virus software.

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Thursday, 17 September 2009

Facebook reaches 300 million users

The Wall Street Journal covers the latest announcement from Facebook that it has now reached 300 million users, another sign of the continued growth of this popular social networking site. This means that an extra 50 million users have been added since July, when the 250m mark was announced, so the upward growth curve continues at a rapid rate.

Of course all these users are not regular users of the site, but it still makes for an impressive user base of registered names, with 70% reported to be based outside of the US now. Facebook also claim to have moved into a positive cashflow situation now and are expected to earn more than US$500 million in revenue in 2009 - another significant growth in the past year, up more than 70% on the 2008 figure.

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Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Microsoft launches visual search option

Microsoft has announced a new feature for the recently launched Bing search engine. As reported by the BBC website, the new feature is designed to set their search experience apart from Google and will allow users to browse results using pictures instead of text.

The visual search option will initially concentrate on the four main areas where Bing has been providing specialised search options to date - namely travel, health, leisure and shopping. At the recent launch, Microsoft claimed Visual Search allowed users to conduct some searches faster than the "traditional image search" offered by rival Google and other search engines.

Microsoft say the new feature is "like searching through a large online catalogue". When a searcher enters their search term, a link at the top of the first page of results allows users to "visualise" what Bing has found.By clicking on the link displays a gallery of related images which the searcher can then scroll through and select to enter the relevant web content.

At the moment only a small number of search results will return a visual display and the feature is currently only available on the US version of Bing, but these categories and coverage are likely to be expanded as the tool moves out of beta.

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Thursday, 10 September 2009

Google launches new AdWords 'opportunities'

As part of their ongoing development of the new AdWords interface, Google has announced the roll-out of their 'Opportunities' function for advertisers. This is a new section in the AdWords account interface that is designed to give advertisers additional cost-effective traffic through search term suggestions based on the existing campaign structure.

The Opportunities tab can be used as a way to further optimise an AdWords account. It provides a quick overview of Google's customised keyword and budget suggestions for active campaigns and adgroups. Advertisers can also compare the potential impact of different ideas before they make any changes, so for example they can increase the keyword coverage for a specific product, or have adverts appear more often for existing keywords.

This is the type of strategy that professional AdWords advertisers should be using on a regular basis, but for others it brings to the fore some of Google's existing tools that can help a campaign, or if not used carefully, enhance Google's revenue!

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Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Social networking sites attract advertising share

A report by Reuters says that around one of every five Internet display ads in the United States is now being viewed on a social networking website, such as MySpace and Facebook. The data comes from a new survey by comScore which demonstrates the increasing importance of social media sites and the broadening acceptance of such sites by brand advertisers, as well as the challenge now being faced by the more traditional online publishers, such as Yahoo and AOL.

The new report says that social media sites represented just over 21% of U.S. Internet display ads in July, with MySpace and Facebook accounting for more than 80% of those ads. However, the question will remain as to whether these sites can be used as effectively for advertising, due to the nature of their usage. Also, because the content on social media sites is created by users, some have questioned the willingness of marketers to place their brands alongside that content and the potential risks that could bring.

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Thursday, 3 September 2009

Nielsen's new audience measurement

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald reviews the new Internet measurement panels being introduced by Nielsen, the recognised authority in data for online advertisers. The traditional figures for 'unique browsers' visiting a website are now being reconsidered as a misleading figure, to be replaced by 'unique audience'.

The change comes as part of the relaunch of the Nielsen NetView service, the measurement panel which provides audience ratings for web publishers as part of their advertising sales statistics. The panel has increased to a representative 7000 people, enabling a better view on work and home Internet usage, as well as eliminating the duplication of computers as web browser.

This was essentially the problem with the earlier figures, in that they double-counted people as browsers, whether they might be using the web at work, home or even on their mobiles. The newer unique audience figures will provide more credibility, but in the short term, publishers will see their audience figures decline with the new measures.

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Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Web marketing newsletter published for September

The new September 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 Google's announcement of their next-generation search architecture, dubbed Google 'Caffeine', and the implications for website rankings. It also reviews how Australia's Internet advertising sector continues to grow, from the latest IAB quarterly and annual figures. Finally this month, the issue covers the launch of the new Bid Simulator Tool for Google AdWords, which can be used by advertisers to view the potential impact of a different bid level within their PPC advertising results.

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 regular newsletter you can see the archive by date or by subject.

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