February 1, 2007

Google pushes maps into search

Link: Google pushes maps into search

Filed under: Business, Internet, Search Engines, Webmaster, Google, Marketing, Ecommerce by Brian Turner


Google has announced that it’s featuring the use of Google Maps more prominently in many local searches on the search engine.

The result is that when searching for services located in major urban areas, a section from Google Maps will be displayed, showing key locations.

The results had already been spotted by some keen-eyed searchers.

The key locations appear to be drawn from results from Yell, the company behind Yellow Pages, but there are already complaints that some Yell customers are heavily involved in spamming Yell’s results.

However, despite the objections, it shows that Google is keen to further push on integrating existing Google services into Google Search.

It’s also worth pointing out that Local Search is a major market place that search engines are keen to push into - and that the continuing use of mobile internet access means this could become a much more important feature to be considered for all businesses.

January 10, 2007

Microsoft Gatineau analytics in development

Link: Microsoft Gatineau analytics in development

Filed under: Internet, Microsoft, Webmaster, Marketing, PPC by Brian Turner

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft are apparently are developing a website analytics program called Gatineau.

The analytics program is rumoured to be a free offering to compete with Google Analytics, a free program supplied by Google.

The public aim of analytics programs is the ability to provide very detailed visitor information to websites, especially for tracking conversions.

Privately, though, there have been repeated concerns about the extent of data that Google Analytics may provide to Google, and how Google may use this data across it’s other commercial services.

However, whatever the concerns, analytics programs have become essential in PPC management programs - Pay Per Click campaigns that publish ads on search engines and other publisher websites.

If Microsoft can roll out Gatineau for free, it may present a serious rival to Google, but otherwise empower the internet marketing sector - providing Microsoft actually get it right.

December 28, 2006

Microsoft bodges Vista promo to bloggers

Link: Microsoft bodges Vista promo to bloggers

Filed under: Internet, Microsoft, Webmaster, Marketing, Blogs by Brian Turner

Microsoft Windows

Microsoft sent bloggers a laptop installed with Vista for Christmas - now these bloggers are outraged to find they are being asked to get rid of them.

The ruckus was caused by a marketing promotion partnered by Microsoft and AMD, and managed by PR firm Edelman, which saw prominent bloggers provided with free Acer Ferrari 1000 laptops.

Bloggers sent the 12.1 inch laptop included Scott Beale, Barbara Bowman, Brandon LeBlanc, Mauricio Freitas at Geekzone, Mitch Denny, and others.

They also reported they were sent a note “from Loki”, which identified the gifts as part of Microsoft’s Vanishing Point Game - a viral marketing campaign intended to promote Microsoft Vista.

However, a comment by Aaron Coldiron, from the Vista development team, stated that these were review copies only, and that these should be returned or given away, rather than kept.

The suggestion was that this was made clear to the bloggers - but the bloggers disagree, and report that no such statement or request came with their gifts.

The result is that a high-flying promotions campaign is fast turning into a public relations disaster.

The bloggers who received the gifts are being perceived to be taking bribes to post positive reviews - something ex-Microsoft employee Robert Scoble also made clear at first.

The bloggers are also angry that they felt improperly informed about the purpose of the gifts, especially that they are now no longer part of a viral marketing campaign, but instead simply “reviewers” with no brief on disclosure.

The overall effect is that the marketing campaign has backfired quite badly.

Additionally, it has also raised an important case study for marketers on the issue of sending free gifts to bloggers for promotional purposes.

December 27, 2006

Google fails to find own software

Link: Google fails to find own software

Filed under: Internet, Webmaster, Google, Marketing by Brian Turner


Google is showing ads on its homepage for people to download the Google Toolbar - even if they have already installed it.

The ads are being shown to users surfing with Internet Explorer, which is the only major internet browser compatible with Google’s toolbar.

However, Google is failing to run simple checks on users to see if they already have the toolbar installed.

The result is that the company is left targeting a product at users who already have it.

It’s a curious marketing faux pas - the Google Toolbar, with all features enabled, allows Google to record which websites users are visiting.

It has been suspected for some time that Google may then process this data to help improve it’s other products and services.

The blanket display of the toolbar advert suggests that Google are more aggressively trying to get users to download the toolbar, in order to collect more extensive behavioural data.

However, it remains a curiousity that a company famous for trying to target the right information at the right people, not least via search and Adwords - is unable to target users on the basis of whether they are actually using Google products or not.

Google Toolbar

December 14, 2006

Norway tests Minority Report ads

Link: Norway tests Minority Report ads

Filed under: Internet, Technology, Marketing, IPTV, Mobile by Brian Turner


The future of the internet is moving closer to scenes in Minority report, as Norway tests contextual advertising for mobile TV.

The trial involves at least two TV channels, and will serve ads according to what viewers watch.

The move is being labelled as “proof of concept” on an advertising ideal, that envisages a future where individuals can be served ads wherever they are.

This is especially the case where local services or products may wish to target potential customers passing by.

The vision is reminiscent of a scene from the film Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise, which involves personalised adverting - such as from Lexus - holographically projected at him as he walks along a corridor.

Whether or not this specific Norwegian trial succeeds, the one thing you can bet on is that it won’t be the last.

December 12, 2006

Google says clickfraud less than 2%

Link: Google says clickfraud less than 2%


In an interview with Google business product manager, Shuman Ghosemajumder, finds that invalid clicks detected by Google were less than 2% of total..

This means that Google currently detects that on average, around 2% of clicks purchased by Adwords advertisers as potentially fraudulent, and therefore invalidated before the advertiser even sees them.

The interview also showed that Google has four levels of fraud detection:

1. Search & Adsense filters
2. Adsense flagging system
3. Manual review
4. Requested investigations

where the first two are automated procedures, and the last two performed by Google Staff.

While there’s a lot of contention over the figures - after all, Google cannot state how much clickfraud they can’t detect - it does provide further transparency on the PPC process.

This is important because a key concern of advertisers is that search engines are not being transparent enough about how they handle clickfraud.

However, while PPC fraud still offers lucrative incentives for organised groups, especially via botnets, advertisers should always remain aware that there could still be fraud problems.

Therefore it remains a point of common sense that business owners with a large PPC spend should apply strategies and tools that may help not simply clickfraud, but also their PPC spend.

November 15, 2006

Video viral marketing proves a marketing failure

Link: Video viral marketing proves a marketing failure

Filed under: Marketing, Web Development, IPTV, PPC by Brian Turner


Marketing Experiments (ME) - who recently acquired Marketing Shrepa - released a study that claimed that viral marketing via videos proved an incredibly cost-effective way to get conversions.

However, the study has proved to be controversially flawed.

In the study, the researchers spent $9600 creating 28 videos, which were then syndicated on YouTube, Google Video, and others.

Each video was simply a non-promotional video, with a link to a website at the end.

According to ME, over a 60 days period they videos were viewed over 300,000 times, and generated over 4,000 visitors to the targetd website, by clicking the link at the end of the videos.

1.49% of this traffic was then converted into newsletter subscribers.

ME then claim this as far more effective than PPC, citing PPC as requiring around $20 spend per subscriber.

The problem is, ME claim that the advertising and cost per acquisition (CPA) cost of the video marketing experiment was zero.

However, then failed to factor in their initial $10,000 spend on producing the videos.

Additionally, converting 1.49% of 4,162 visitors means they only got 62 newsletter subscribers. For a cost of almost $10,000.

Which leaves a CPA of $161.29 per newsletter subscriber. Far more than the estimated $20 CPA through PPC.

Overall, the point is that syndication of content - whether via YouTube, Google Search, or news services, can provide a free source of traffic.

However, the cost of the development of that content still needs to be factored into acquisition costs - something Marketing Experiments obviously failed to do.

November 12, 2006

Four seconds to sell online

Link: Four seconds to sell online

Filed under: Business, Internet, Marketing, Ecommerce by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

A study by Akamia and Jupiter Research found that slow loading websites were a major reason for shoppers to abandon them.

Although product and shipping prices were a key reason to shop - or not - at an ecommerce store, page loading speed was the second biggest factor.

The study interviewed 1056 internet shoppers over 2006.

They found that four seconds is the maximum length of time an average online shopper will wait for a web page to load, before abandoning an ecommerce store.

They also found that those who spent the most money online were the least patient, and more likely to abandon a website faster.

Other key factors influencing shopper decisions where:

- rapid checkout process
- simple navigation

Websites that performed well were most likely to be revisited.

Overall, page loading speed has always been highlighted as an important factor for online sales.

However, what this study additionally illustrated were the consequences to branding by poor loading, with poorly performing websites likely never to be revisited.

November 9, 2006

PPC advertisers complain on new quality scoring

Link: PPC advertisers complain on new quality scoring

Filed under: Business, Google, Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC by Brian Turner


Google Adwords have introduced a new system of “quality scoring” which has resulted in complaints from advertisers.

As marketing manager Micheal Gray illustrated, costs for successful keywords have been seen to rise without apparent justification.

Other PPC managers have complained that the complete lack of transparency on so-called “quality controls” means it’s hard for some to perceive this as little more than milking the advertisers.

Some are concerned that the provision of data to Google via free tools such as Google Analytics are being used to increase pricing where possible.

However, it could also be possible that because the system is completely automated, that advertisers are simply seeing bugs in the system.

Overall, at a time when headlines about clickfraud are common, and PPC advertisers are concerned about getting real value, the continued lack of transparency in the quality scoring critieria can only serve to aggravate PPC advertisers.

ADDED: Jeremy Shoemaker posts that Google’s quality changes are especially intended to hit arbitrage users - ie, a business model that relies on paying for low-cost PPC keywords, to direct traffic to sites displaying high-paying PPC ads.

November 2, 2006

Google threat to TV revenue

Link: Google threat to TV revenue

Filed under: Business, Internet, Search Engines, Google, Marketing, Ecommerce by Brian Turner


Channel 4’s Chief Executive, Andy Duncan, has said that online advertising is a threat to TV revenues.

He highlighted this by pointing out that at the current rate, Google’s revenues will outstrip Channel 4’s revenues by the end of the year.

Andy Duncan has already approached Google to discuss syndication of Channel 4 programming online, as well as lobbying Parliament to allow Channel 4 access to digital distribution.

According to Brand Republic, online ad growth has risen by more than 40% in the UK in the first half of the year to £917.2m, and is now just a percentage point behind national newspapers in terms of market share.

Google is a major power behind online advertising spend in the UK, and the recent comments and statistics help enforce that.

However, while Google’s position in online advertising is without contention, the fact that Google is currently valued on the stock markets at over $140 billion suggests that investors are vastly over-estimating its potential.

I mean, seriously - if Google’s revenues are equivalent to Channel 4’s, then would Channel 4 be valued at $140 billion?

While online advertising still has growth left in it, it remains to be seen whether Google’s presence in the increasing online advertising market will actually justify such a market cap.

November 1, 2006

Ask and Lycos join PPC forces

Link: Ask and Lycos join PPC forces

Filed under: Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

Ask and Lycos have signed a distribution deal to provide a new tier of content for PPC advertisers.

However, Ask has recently come under fire for providing PPC traffic of little value to advertisers.

It comes at a time when advertisers are increasingly concerned about the quality of sites and traffic they gain through PPC advertising.

Most seriously, the issue of Clickfraud remains a spectre many PPC advertisers dread - and recently Business Week highlighted some of the ways in which clickfraud operates.

Overall, it remains to be seen whether the Ask/Lycos partnership can deliver value traffic for PPC advertisers.

In the meantime, though, it remains a point of contention that PPC providers ensure that they provide quality traffic on quality sites, in order for advertisers to feel they’re getting a real deal.

October 27, 2006

Google to reorganise PPC accounts

Link: Google to reorganise PPC accounts

Filed under: Business, Internet, Google, Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC by Brian Turner


Rumours are circulating that Google are about to announce a major shake up of their Google AdWrods management structure.

Not only will this lead to a dedicated accounts manager for each account, but this manager will also push for inclusion on new audio and visual contextual advertising projects.

Google Adwords is already an extraordinarily popular PPC program, that is already estimated to take around 25% of all online advertising spend.

Additionally, Google have been developing advertising channels in Flash, Audio, and Visual media.

The recent acquisition of both YouTube and dMarc means that along with print media, Google are now positioned to fully exploit an incredibly diverse set of advertising channels.

Overall, it has to be said that it’s amazing that major competitors - not least Microsoft and Yahoo! - have allowed Google to get so far ahead in terms of PPC management.

However, Google are certainly not allowing themselves to stagnate in a similar manner and the movement into new media advertising formats for existing Adwords customers can only be an exciting development.

It remains to be seen, though, how successful any potential can be tapped into - but in the meantime, Google are not simply playing ahead of this game - they’re writing the rules.

October 16, 2006

Help for small business continues as Platinax celebrates 2 years online

Link: Help for small business continues as Platinax celebrates 2 years online

Computers & Internet

Platinax is a free business resource and mentoring service that celebrates 2 years helping SME’s this month.

Based in the Highlands of Scotland, Platinax is run by a volunteer staff of company directors from across the UK.

The key aim of Platinax is to help other SME’s work better with the internet and increase profitability.

This is namely due to the fact that the majority of businesses in the UK are still failing to overcome basic challenges in technical, presentation, and marketing areas. Challenges that can be easily solved with a simple awareness of the issues involved.

Platinax offers help through these key main areas:

1. Business Forum

The Platinax Business Forum is a place where business owners seek free solutions, learn tips and tricks, and network with other business owners.

Key discussion areas include:

Business planning, Accounts, Legal compliance, Marketing, Advertising, Search engine optimisation, Internet technology, Website management, Webdesign & development, Server hosting.

2. Business Directory

The Platinax Directory is rated as one of the internet’s best quality directories.

It’s also one of the most active areas of the website, and can help provide national and local listings to drive targeted sales.

Simply click through the directory links to a suitable category for a listing in local, national, and international business categories.

3. Small Business News

Platinax News provides latest business & technology information for SME’s in the UK, and is syndicated by Google News:

4. Business articles

Platinax offers an exclusive reading list of articles, tutorials, and interviews for those willing to take on the technical challaneges of the internet. Key subject areas include internet marketing, website management, and business practices online.

5. Advertising

Platinax receives an average of between 350,000 - 400,000 page views per month.

You can reach this audience directly with an advertising space on the left of every page, containing both a banner and direct link to your website.

Through October Platinax is offering a special promotional price of just £79.95/month - but only 4 advertising spaces are available.

- According to Dave Ashton at lead generation service Bizal Ltd:

“From the new business enquiries received to date over 70% have been genuine opportunities that have been able to quote for either a lead generation solution or sales development services i.e. sales training and hence are delighted with types of companies that see our banner advert.

We are also delighted with the level of customer service and hence look forward to continuing a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Platinax intends to continue to provide free help and support for SME’s in the UK, and looks forward to celebrating the next 2 years on the internet.

September 27, 2006

Report says organic listings as valuable as paid search marketing

Link: Report says organic listings as valuable as paid search marketing

Filed under: Economy, Business, Search Engines, Webmaster, Marketing, PPC by Brian Turner


A study by internet marketing firm WebSideStory has found that strong natural listings on search engines are almost as effective as paid search marketing for making sales.

The company tested more than 57 million search engine queries to client sites over the first 8 months of this year, and tracked the conversion rates from organic (natural) search listings as opposed to paid search listings.

WebSideStory’s research found paid search listing converted into sales 3.4% of the time, but natural search listings scored nearly comparably at 3.13%.

The story underlines the need for companies to seriously consider their online presence not simply in paid advertising markets, but also simple search engine visibility issues that can also bring in real sales.

While the industry that focuses on delivering sales from natural search results - Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) - has a somewhat grey reputation, the bottom line is that this is a key specialist industry that can deliver real returns on investment and shouldn’t be easily discounted.

August 29, 2006

Media stupidity - Inscisive to kill SEW

Link: Media stupidity - Inscisive to kill SEW

Filed under: Business, Search Engines, Marketing, Companies by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

As an example of corporate stupidity, Incisive Media are not renewing their contract with Danny Sullivan, editor of SearchEngineWatch.

SearchEngineWatch, founded by Danny Sullivan, has been the definitive guide to search engines - latest news, information, and guides - for the past 10 years.

It also developed a huge conference - Search Engine Strategies - which does 6 shows a year around the world.

Bought by Jupiter Media in 1997, SearchEngineWatch was sold again to Incisive in 2005 - but they have failed to renew Danny Sullivan’s contract.

According to one marketing consultant:

media companies have a tendency to think that, “It’s the property, stupid.” But sometimes, “It’s the personality, stupid.”

In few instances is that more apparent, especially as Danny Sullivan as a tour-de-force in search, and SearchEngineWatch as a brand, are so closely linked.

And to add to the rank stupidity, Danny Sullivan doesn’t even have a non-compete agreement with Incisive - leaving him open to simply migrate his brand and the search conferences to a new banner.

Which would leave Incisive Media with little more than an empty website with no real energy behind it - while Danny Sulivan rebuilds and rebrands himself however he wishes - and taking the major revenues with him.

August 23, 2006

Google Checkout unwelcomed by retailers

Link: Google Checkout unwelcomed by retailers

Filed under: Internet, Google, Marketing, Ecommerce by Brian Turner


Google Checkout has seen major retailers drop the product, while others refuse to use it.

Launched at the end of June, Google Checkout marketed itself as a solution that big stores and little stores alike could use.

Retailers such as Levi Strauss, who originally signed up, have since dropped the checkout gateway for unspecified reasons.

However, merchants have generally complained of slow order processing times, and especially complained of an over-zealous approach to credit card transactions, that repeatedly flags a significantly high number of false positives as “fraud”.

Additionally, a PiperJaffray study found online retailers had serious concerns about transparency, and the fact that they would lose control of marketing and customer data to Google ment that many could not envisage signing up to the service.

Google have also been criticised for displaying a “Google Cart” icon on Google Adwords advertising next to adverts from retailers that do not use Google Checkout - including by major rival eBay, who owns the Paypal processing gateway.

Overall, Google’s attempt to move into the financial transaction processing market seems to have been a stumble more than bold step, and at present Google’s inexperience in this area is causing real problems for users.

However, no doubt Google will continue to push and refine the process, due to the immensely lucrative returns from owning marketing and customer data directly.

Newspaper media moving online

Link: Newspaper media moving online

Filed under: Internet, Marketing by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

A number of US newspapers have begun dropping staff, as online editions prove more popular than printed copies.

Companies involved include the Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times.

The movement is part of a general trend that has already impacted some niche markets, and could see UK newspaper publishers following suit.

A key problem for many publishers - newspapers not excepted - is that they’ve existed with a self-belief in their own publishing format, and treated the internet as little more than a technical curiosity, with many putting up poorly implemented online editions.

However, the ease and relatively low costs of maintaining online editions, couple with their accessibility and popularity, means that publishers are now taking the internet more seriously.

A key change with this is the movement of resources away from traditional print media to the internet, bringing with it inevitable job cuts in the printing industry.

The fact that the UK very much lags the US in terms of internet usage and integration, means that changes happening stateside are almost certainly to apply here over the next couple of years.

August 8, 2006

AOL’s huge data blunder

Link: AOL’s huge data blunder

Filed under: Internet, Search Engines, Webmaster, Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet


AOL have released a big chunk of user data to the internet in a huge blunder.

The data was a record of 20 million searches on the AOL search engine, carried out by 650,000 AOL users over March to May of this year.

The data was provided in the form of a 400+ MB zipped file, which showed AOL user IDs and the searches each user carried out over that period.

Although AOL later pulled the data from the internet, by then the damage had been done - nerds around the world had already copied the data to their servers to ensure it remained in the public domain.

The public publishing of the data is not simply embarrassing for AOL in terms of user privacy - it is also exactly the sort of data that the US government had taken ISP’s such as MSN, Yahoo!, and Google to court over in order to access.

AOL has now published an apology admitting their “screw-up”, and revealed that the data only covers around 0.3% of searches made by AOL users in that period.

However, despite assurances that no directly personally identifiable data was released, the amount of detail revealed about users life is startling.

Insomnia blog went through some of the data and published a mixture of search records that moved between the endearing and the frightening.

Also, as Techcrunch points out:

The most serious problem is the fact that many people often search on their own name, or those of their friends and family, to see what information is available about them on the net. Combine these ego searches with porn queries and you have a serious embarrassment. Combine them with “buy ecstasy” and you have evidence of a crime. Combine it with an address, social security number, etc., and you have an identity theft waiting to happen. The possibilities are endless.

The blog Plenty Of Fish helps underline this by pointing out search queries that suggest someone may have been thinking of killing their wife.

Some existing AOL users are so concerned about the data release that they are calling for a boycott of AOL - something that comes on the back of extensive bad publicity over AOL users unable to cancel accounts.

Meanwhile members of US rights and liberties groups are underlining the extensive breach of privacy in this deliberate release of user data.

The data is also a massive catch for search marketers, who previous had to use a mixture of luck and guesswork and persistent hard work to generate any kind of real data on actual search data from a major ISP - and now they have it in nines.

One enterprising webmaster has already imported the data into a SQL database that can be easily searched.

The size and scale of this event is unprecented, and the ramifications for AOL are damaging in every regard.

We can only wonder what Google - who bought a 5% share in AOL last December - can be wondering.

July 27, 2006

Google shows invalid clicks - but clickfraud still an issue

Link: Google shows invalid clicks - but clickfraud still an issue

Filed under: Business, Internet, Search Engines, Google, Marketing, Ecommerce, Legal by Brian Turner


Google this week announced that they would be showing Adwords advertisers how many clicks are not being charged to them.

The move is in response to growing unease among advertisers that anywhere between 10%-30% of their PPC spend is being wasted on fraudulent clicks - known as clickfraud.

Although the move by Google should be welcomed, advertisers have complained that it simply shows how many “invalid clicks” that Google is actually able to detect - without actually showing how the invalid clicks were determined.

Even more critically, advertisers are still complaining that it does nothing to show how much clickfraud is still getting through.

The issue of clickfraud is very serious for advertisers, not least because ISP’s such as Google that provide Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising benefit from clickfraud directly in terms of extra revenue generation.

Many advertisers therefore feel that PPC programs have a conflict of interest in terms of delivering fraud-free advertising.

Although the move is another step towards greater transparency on PPC issues, the overall complaint remains that ISPs that supply PPC programs are not being open enough on the issue of clickfraud to properly reassure advertisers.

However, Google has already stated that the more information they provide on their clickfraud detection, the more it can only help clickfraudsters develop more robust and less detectable programs.

In an attempt to be more transparent about clickfraud issues,

Teen mags move online

Link: Teen mags move online

Filed under: Business, Internet, Marketing, Web Development by Brian Turner


Teen People, teen magazine that launched both print and web editions, is closing down the print edition because the internet version is much more popular.

It becomes the latest in a string of teen publishers who have found that teen audiences are much more interested in online content than printed content.

Earlier this year Smash Hits magazine, aimed at the teen popular music market, announced it was closing down because of loss of sales to its print magazine, because its audience was looking for the information online instead.

Overall, it shows that publishers absolutely need to keep an eye on the impact of the net on their audiences, and that the overheads involved in print runs can often fail to justify themselves in the face of online publishing.

Next Page »