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 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 13, 2006

Protx acquired by Sage

Link: Protx acquired by Sage

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

Computers & Internet

Populer merchant payment processing gateway, Protx, has been acquired by Sage.

It appears the giant of accountancy and money management is looking to integrate its software direct with online processing:

The sale will give Sage the capability to integrate the Protx secure payment systems with their business management software, opening up new possibilities for potential and existing merchants. In time, merchants will be able to link and integrate their payment processing with back-office accounting, stock control and CRM applications in one business solution.

Overall, it’s an interesting move, especially in light of how other companies are trying to integrate various online and offline activities - not least Google and Microsoft.

However, this could very much provide a taster of what Google and Microsoft may both be trying to achieve in the longterm.

After all, Google already has it’s own online office management software, but has yet to integrate it with with PPC marketing.

A glimpse of the future of online processing, perhaps?

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 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.

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 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 14, 2006

Google AdWords - changes bite advertisers

Link: Google AdWords - changes bite advertisers

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


Some advertisers have complained that recent changes to the Adwords advertising system are sending PPC budgets sky-high.

The changes implemented by Google include an unknown “quality rating” factor, which directly affects bid prices.

Where Google feels the page the ad leads to is of relatively poor “quality”, the bid price rises for keywords used to advertise that page.

A specific reason for the policy is almost certainly to help remove bottom-end affiliate bidders, as well as those using “arbitrage” - bidding on low-cost Adwords keywords, to send traffic to pages publishing AdSense for higher-paying keywords.

The impact has been variable, with some affiliates reporting a huge increase in prices, while users of arbitrage have reported little overal impact.

However, the most important change is how it will affect general ecommerce site budgets, and at present it’s difficult to get a balanced report on what effect it is having.

Some ecommerce sites are reporting suddenly inflated budgets, others are reporting no change.

While any change to the quality of the Adwords service is likely to be welcomed overall by advertisers, the concern at present is that the lack of transparency in the Adwords “quality” rating system may be hurting some advertisersunnecessarily.

In related Adwords news, Google is experimenting with radio format ads for advertisers.

May 26, 2006

Rogue ads plague search results

Link: Rogue ads plague search results

Filed under: Internet, Security, Microsoft, Search Engines, Google, Yahoo!, PPC by Brian Turner


A significant number of search engine sponsored listings link to sites containing spyware, viruses, or offer scams to defraud users.

That’s the claim of Ben Edelman who compiled a study for SiteAdvisor detailing which search terms were the most likely to call up rogue ads across different search engines.

Certain keywords were found to be especially vulnerable to rogue ads, with “free screensavers” and “music downloads” are particularly risky areas for being infected with spyware and viruses.

Some ads were little more than email harvesters, who would spam anyone who signed up to the service.

Other ads simply charged users for services which were already available for free, such as one site charging $29 for the free Skype VoIP software.

Overall, the study found that most of the offending sites were present in the sponsored ads, with far fewer such sites found in the natural search results.

Additionally, the study found that MSN was the safest search engine to use, with Google users almost twice as likely to be presented with rogue ads.

Key summaries:

% likelihood of being faced with rogue ads, by search engine:

  • 6.1% Ask
  • 5.3% Google
  • 4.3% Yahoo
  • 3.1% MSN

%likelihood of beig faced with rogue sites - natural results vs paid results:

  • 8.5% Paid results
  • 3.1% Natural results

The overall warning is clear - that search engines that offer advertising are not doing enough to protect their search users from unscrupulous companies.

May 21, 2006

PPC clickfraud botnet found

Link: PPC clickfraud botnet found

Filed under: Internet, Security, Google, Marketing, Yahoo!, Ecommerce, PPC by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

Security company PandaLabs is reported to have found a huge network of “zombie” computers - whose primary aim is to further clickfraud on Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising.

The size of the network is an astonising 34,000 computers, and reveals the degree of sophisitication that can be involved in PPC fraud.

Additionally, the report suggests that such networks are available to hire.

With the huge shift of online marketing spend moving to the internet, it shows a deeper level of corrupt business practices taking place.

Online advertisers are already concerned about issues of clickfraud, and lack of transparency at major PPC publishers - such as Google and Yahoo! - simply compound fears about wasted advertising spend.

In the meantime, it is unlikely to remain an isolated case - Platinax News reported last year about the use of botnets for PPC fraud - so expect to see further botnets for PPC clickfraud to be revealed.

May 18, 2006

Yahoo! still left behind on ads

Link: Yahoo! still left behind on ads

Filed under: Search Engines, Google, Yahoo!, PPC by Brian Turner


In the face of investor concerns and falling stock prices, Yahoo! has mobilised itself to re-assure them with the following message:

“We’re still going really slowly with ads, and plan to let Google dominate the advertising market for another year at least.”

Of course, that’s simply paraphrasing Yahoo!’s press release - but the message is essentially the same.

While Google continues to dominate the burgeoning search advertising market, Yahoo! has left itself over-stretched and unable to focus on revenue generation in one of the most lucrative advertising markets online.

While Google stocks are likely over-valued in the long-term, the fact that no-one is yet able to directly rival Google on their main revenue generation, can only be continued good news for Google and Google investors alike.

Meanwhile, Yahoo! continues to get excited about playing catch-up, even when done very slowly.

February 5, 2006

Amazon to launch contextual advertising program

Link: Amazon to launch contextual advertising program

Filed under: Webmaster, PPC, Amazon by Brian Turner


According to internet publisher Chris Beasley, Amazon are contacting partners for beta-testing a new contextual advertising network.

While originally thought it may be links to Amazon products, Chris Beasley was informed by the sales rep that Amazon are actually creating a full contextual advertising network - a clone of AdSense.

Amazon currently serve Google Ads to its own users, and it’s certainly not the only partner who may be looking to develop their own contextual advertising network.

However, with Microsoft AdCenter up for full release later this year, it remains to be seen what sort of impact Amazon can have on the contextual advertising market - both in terms of gaining advertisers and publishers.

One thing remains clear, though - Amazon have their own A9.com search engine, and by incorporating their own advertising program, they almost certainly intend to take a greater share of the search market.

January 23, 2006

Clickz warns on PPC strategy

Link: Clickz warns on PPC strategy

Filed under: Marketing, PPC by Brian Turner


Kevin Newcomb at Clickz warns that most advertisers are failing to utilise proper PPC strategies, resulting in higher than necessary PPC bills, without increasing sales conversions.

The warning comes as a number of studies show advertisers are simply burning cash on PPC spend, without getting the sales conversions they are spending for.

While many businesses attempt to manage PPC spend themselves, it remains a very specialised technical field that they may not be able to perform best at, with bid managers simply throwing money into top positions that cost more than the sales generated.

Some advertisers battle for top placement needlessly because they have not successfully defined search ROI, do not have a way to track, report and optimize search ROI, or because they suffer from ‘CEO syndrome,’ the desire to see their company name in bright lights.

The overall problem is highlighted of PPC marketers being unable to determine the worth of different strategies, and simply taking easy - but expensive - blunt approaches.

March 16, 2005

MSN adCenter enters paid-listing testing

Link: MSN adCenter enters paid-listing testing

Filed under: Microsoft, Search Engines, PPC by brian_turner

MSN is expected to announce tonight that the first stage of their online advertising and publishing network is undergoing live trials.

Known internally at Microsoft as “Moonshot”, the paid listings program is Microsoft’s answer to Gooogle AdWords, and is set to go live in France and Singapore, where markets are more tightly focussed for monitoring purposes.

Moonshot is the first stage in Microsoft’s MSN adCenter development, which intends to tap into Microsoft’s extensive metrics profiling of internet users and use.

Covered in more detail by Danny Sullivan in MSN To Launch Its Own Paid Listings Program, he describes how Microsoft plan to grant complete freedom of operation to advertisers, to advertise under their own targeting - whether it be based on time windows, gender groups, or other metrics that Microsoft can discern from its use of registered user information.

He also indicates that rather than abandon Google AdWords, or hurt Yahoo! Overture, advertisers will be looking to spend on all three advertising platforms.

Additionally, Microsoft are expected to develop the AdCenter project further into a similar scheme to AdSense publishing - which is an area that Yahoo! are already testing for their Overture program.

January 11, 2005

Google AdWords: Changes; then AdSense blocked by Microsoft

Link: Google AdWords: Changes; then AdSense blocked by Microsoft

Filed under: Google, PPC by brian_turner

At the end of last week, Google announced changes to their AdWords/AdSense program, which would effectively put a bottleneck on the number of affiliate advertisers. However, joy of stronger AdWords compaigns was muted this week by news that a new patch for Internet Explorer blocks AdSense from being displayed.

According to the AdWords release on Friday, the new rules effectively mean that affiliates bidding to send traffic to the same URL will find themselves cancelling each other out, as only the ad with the highest AdRank will be displayed..

General users of AdWords have generally given their approval to their changes: in Google AdWords Affiliate Ad Policy Change, Aaron Wall of SEO Book fame comments on how eBay affiliates had effectively been polluting the AdWords markets, and reprints the full AdSense changes.

However, in the latest patch for Internet Explorer, Jensense reports in Highly publicized Internet Explorer fix blocks Google AdSense from displaying that the new high security settings that Internet Explorer will be set to prevent display of AdSense adverts in Internet Explorer.

It is uncertain whether this is intended as a direct attack by Microsoft on its major internet rival, but Norton anti-vorus software has also been recently found to block AdSense ads from displaying.

This latest patch could prove costly, not only to Google, but also for the large number of small webmasters who effectively pay for their hosting fees via AdSense publishing.

ADDENDUM: Widespread evidence has yet to be seen that Internet Explorer is blocking AdSense publishing. Quite possibly, the original reporter was having problems with Norton. :)