Tuesday, 28 September 2010

IAB seeks online measurement system

The Interactive Advertising Bureau of Australia (IAB) has announced that they are searching for tenders from companies to develop an online audience measurement (OAM) system. The successful company will then be endorsed as the sole and exclusive preferred supplier for the planning, buying and reporting of OAM for an initial three year period.

Paul Fisher, the CEO of IAB Australia, said that the Bureau had "liaised extensively with our IAB cousins in the US, UK and EU to learn from their experiences regarding OAM technology, models and partnerships. It is clear that a standard OAM currency is one of the most significant contributors to the growth of online advertising and we have been working hard to assist industry to arrive at such a result."

Audience measurement is becoming increasingly vital in the expanding online advertising market and the hope is that Australia will benefit from more robust ratings, readership and audience data so that advertisers will be able to make better media-buying decisions. However, as has been seen in other markets, any primary measurement system for online usage will never be perfect and have detractors, but it is still needed as an industry-wide tool.

OAM companies must register their interest in participating in the process by Friday 8th October 2010 and the deadline for final submissions will be 17th December 2010. The winning bid would then be announced in the first half of 2011, with the new measurement system expected to be in place during the second half of that year.

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Friday, 24 September 2010

Nielsen tests new display advert metric

The Wall Street Journal reports that research company Nielsen is working on a new measurement service that would offer advertisers and website publishers a new stream of data to improve audience measurement for online advertising. As with TV ratings, the new service requires the participation of media outlets - in this case Web portals and other sites - and the firm has reportedly lined up Facebook as a participant. Other websites are expected to join as it moves out of the testing phase.

The new stream of data would be an "online GRP," which is short for Gross Rating Points - a formula that measures the reach and frequency of an ad, a method that has been used by the TV business for decades. To get the new data, Nielsen will blend its demographic panel data with information from participating online companies about the people seeing a particular online ad, according to people involved in the research.

Information will vary from website to website, but in general it might indicate the age group and sex of a particular web surfer and maybe even location. However, only anonymous data will be given to Nielsen for the service, according to several people involved in the process.

Marketers often use site traffic as a gauge when they decide to buy Internet display ads - the ads that include graphics and text and appear alongside the border of the page. But traffic alone isn't a perfect indicator of an ad's effectiveness. When people click on the ads, their specific actions can be tracked. But display ads are clicked on just a fraction of the time. That leaves room for an additional layer of measurement.

Media buyers say having an online GRP has the potential to give marketers a way to do apple-to-apple comparisons of media. Having the information, they say, could lead to advertisers shifting more of their ad budgets to the Internet from other media like television.

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Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Facebook's coupon advertising secrets

The ClickZ website reports on a recent study in the US into the "like" activity of 42.6 million Facebook users on 32,000 of its customers' Facebook posts, focusing on the pages for consumer packaged goods (CPGs) and quick serve restaurant (QSRs) brands.

For QSRs, they showed 62% higher engagement rates per post - which were calculated by combining likes, comments, and shares - than other brand sectors. Meanwhile, CPGs have garnered 41% higher engagement than the average brand.

In all sectors, images/photos outperformed video and text on Facebook by 22% and 54%, respectively, in terms of engagement. For CPGs in particular, the advantages to images are more dramatic, as they outdid video by 204% and text by 86%. For QSRs, the study showed that images got 136% more engagement than video and 182% more than text.

Other figures reported by the research showed that posts made before noon get 65% more engagement than ones posted in the afternoon. CPGs get 21% more engagement in the morning, while QSRs attracted 12% more.

In addition to this, data for all brands showed that the best day to post is Friday, with Sunday and Saturday being the worst. For CPGs, Thursday generates the highest engagement rates, while Wednesday creates the lowest. However QSRs should post every Wednesday apparently, which is the most successful in terms of response.

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Thursday, 16 September 2010

Microsoft launches new web browser

The BBC website reports on the launch of the latest version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. The company has released a beta, or test, version of Internet Explorer 9 (IE9), which it hopes will help revive its fortunes in an increasingly competitive market. Since 2003, Microsoft has seen a 97% lead in market share dwindle to 60% in the face of increasingly popular browsers like Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome.

The new IE9 browser contains a range of new features, many of which are designed to make the browser perform more like an application commonly found on smartphones, which offer a customised and intuitive way to interact with a website. IE9 is designed to help blur the boundaries between applications and the browser.

To do this, Microsoft has adopted technology that allows the browser to tap directly into a computer's graphics chip, rather than just its processor. This "hardware acceleration" makes web pages more nimble and behave more like software running directly on the computer. IE9 also supports forthcoming global web standards, such as HTML5, which allow web developers to create rich and immersive web sites with graphics and video.

The browser also introduces new functions, such as so-called Pinned Sites, a user's favourite websites that can be accessed directly from the Windows Taskbar, without having to open the browser. Other features, such as a combined search and address bar and a simplified menu, reflect the functionality already seen on Firefox and Chrome.

However, the new browser cannot be used with the Windows XP operating system which is still the dominant Microsoft version used by many computers. Therefore there is no firm release date for the full version of the new browser, which may allow competitors to gain an advantage, as this date may not be until sometime next year.

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Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Facebook shows highest time spent online

The Media Post website has revealed the results from a new comScore survey for August that shows Facebook gaining top position amongst major sites in terms of time spent, with a total of 41.1 billion minutes, with Google second with 39.8 billion minutes. Yahoo dropped to third, with 37.7 billion and this portal / search engine also saw its share of time spent in the third quarter drop to an all-time low of 9.3%.

The comScore report also says that Google's number of global users passed 1 billion for the first time last month, although Yahoo reportedly edged out Google to become the top site in monthly traffic, with 179 million unique visitors. Google had 178.8 million, followed by Microsoft with 165.3 million.

Facebook remained the fourth-ranked site, at 148 million, which was up from 145.5 million recorded in July. These figures of rising traffic combined with increasing time spent on the site bodes well for Facebook's efforts to monetize its vast inventory and user base.

Facebook has said it is adding new metrics to help advertisers measure the social context of ads by tracking the proportion that include endorsements from friends on the social network. That means telling advertisers what percentage of their ads people "Liked" or used to engage with a Facebook Page, event or application. Research company Nielsen reported earlier this year that people are 68% more likely to remember an ad and twice as likely to remember what it said when they see a friend has interacted with the ad on Facebook.

In a separate article by The New Yorker, a detailed profile on Facebook's co-founder, Mark Zuckerberg provides a fascinating insight into his background and the rise of this social networking phenomenon, in advance of a new Hollywood film that is soon to be released about the early days of the company.

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Friday, 10 September 2010

More about Google Instant

Following the launch of Google Instant earlier this week, the Google, blog has published more information from the search engineering perspective as to how and why the updated search engine was developed. It outlines how Google have changed the search process from a static HTML page into an AJAX application and the challenges that were faced in doing so.

The post says that the key design challenge was to make sure users would notice relevant results without being distracted, and the constantly changing results appearing as you type can take some getting used to. Google tested a series of prototypes and ran usability studies and search experiments to try different interfaces and search results as the user typed their search.

For the launch, Google decided on a single search model which includes the query prediction in the search box in gray text as well as results for the top prediction that update continuously while the user types. In user studies, people quickly found that they would type until the gray text matches their search intention and then moved their eyes to the results. The speed of the results changing wasn't seen to be a distraction but this can depend on the user's connection speed and browser.

The mechanics of Google Instant mean that the search engine is serving five to seven times as many results pages for each query performed, compared to the original version of Google. This required some increases to Google's servers and back-end capacity, but they also developed other techniques such as new caches that can handle high request rates, user-state data to keep track of the results pages already shown to a given user, and optimized page-rendering JavaScript code to help ensure web browsers could keep up with the rest of the system.

This is undoubtedly a major step-forward in search engine technology and throws down a challenge for Bing to match their search experience to this. The search process will continue to develop and potentially change the way that people will search and possibly rely on the predictions made by Google.

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Thursday, 9 September 2010

Google launches Instant search results

A big announcement from Google this week has been widely covered in the press (such as the BBC) and 'blogosphere'. Google Instant has been tagged by the company as "search at the speed of thought" and represents a change in the way the search engine displays results, so that now the listings are displayed as soon as a user types in a query, rather than waiting until the Search or Enter button is clicked.

The other main change with Google's search results is that the engine now tries to predict the likely query and need of the searcher, so that the search suggestion bar and results will modify as the displayed results as more letters are typed into the search box. Google estimates that the typical user spends 9 seconds entering a query and 15 seconds looking for answers, so that the new Google Instant tool could shave between 2-5 seconds off a typical web search.

It's another move by Google to improve their search performance over Microsoft's Bing engine, as well as deflecting the coverage away from Bing now powering the search results for Yahoo in the US. The new search results are now available in the US, using a larger search home page and a centred layout for the search results. Instant will then be rolled out to other regional versions of Google in the coming weeks.

The launch of instant has also created a lot of comment in the search engine optimisation (SEO) community, with some saying this changes the whole landscape. However, this seems an over-reaction as the underlying search results are still being generated with the same basic principles, and although this may start to change search behaviour over time, the ultimate aim of SEO to present a business in front of relevant searchers and so drive traffic to a website remains unchanged.

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Friday, 3 September 2010

10 Years of Search Engine Marketing

Following on from our last post, we first launched the Web Marketing Workshop business 10 years ago this month in the UK. It was first called Web Search Workshop and focused on SEO strategies for business websites, but this business then became a subsidiary of the main Web Marketing Workshop business, which was expanded to cover the growing needs of marketing a website to drive visits, enquiries and sales.

Over the past 10 years, this business has grown in terms of the customers supported, the techniques implemented, and the opportunities being targeted on the web. The online landscape has changed quite considerably, as have the options and challenges facing business websites, not least of which is the higher level of competition and the more restricted focus of search marketing through Google.

We've listed some of the things that were happening 10 years ago this month and we're looking forward to the challenges of the next 10!

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Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Web marketing newsletter published for September

The latest issue of our monthly Web Search & Marketing newsletter has been published for September.

This month marks 10 years since Web Marketing Workshop first started trading in the UK. In Internet years, 10 years has been a very long time and the online world has changed considerably since 2000. In addition to this, many companies now understand why they need to be marketing their business online, through search or related sites, and more recently through social media.

Back in September 2000, creating a website was the priority task, so that working out how to get visitors and what to do with them was not so important! The number of prominent search engines was higher then, since Google was still growing their market share following their launch in 1997, but optimising your website was rare and so those that did could get good rankings quite quickly and easily. Pay-per-click advertising had not really grown as a popular and commercial tool, and social media and networking was not even on the horizon.

We've listed a few other things that were happening 10 years ago – some may not seem that long ago, others might be a distant memory! To mark these 10 years, we've decided to change the format of our newsletter over the next few months and consider 10 of the most common questions that have been raised over the years about online marketing issues.

This month, we review 10 common questions about Search Engine Optimisation and link building, and we provide our answers and explanations for these.

Next month we'll look at pay-per-click advertising and Google AdWords. Then we'll consider 10 questions about website analytics and Google Analytics, and then our final issue in this series will look at the more recent trends in Social Media Marketing.

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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