Maine Munchies Ad

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Google Concedes Yahoo has the Answers

Google gives up on its answers product while Yahoo integrates its answers product with search. Could this differentiate Yahoo's search from Google's or does Google recognize this is not an area they can monetize? Perhaps this is an indication that Yahoo is moving towards social search. They're already engaged in the web2.0 social media space with acquisitions like del.icio.us and Flickr. The Google blog refers to Google Answers as "a great experiment" and indicates that a little over 800 people participated over the last 4+ years. Because of Yahoo's Hollywood connections, they trump that with one answer (question posed by Oprah Winfrey). Try these examples to see answers integrated with search (scroll to bottom of search results page): best hybrid car, stocking stuffers, black friday.

I think Yahoo should leverage their del.icio.us property to improve their search product. They could tack on del.icio.us results, much like they've done with answers. Better yet, they could use the collective intelligence of social bookmarking to improve their search relevance algorithm. Google's big breakthrough was PageRank which uses links as a measure of a web page's relevance. Google looks at both the quantity and quality of links and treats these links as, essentially, votes for a site. I think a page bookmarked via del.icio.us could be a better indicator of the importance of a web page than links. Particularly as webmasters have caught on to this idea and links have been gamed to a large degree. If someone views a page as important enough to bookmark, perhaps that's a better "vote" than a link? If Yahoo integrated del.icio.us bookmarks in its search engine algorithm, could the results be more relevant than Google's?

Time is another factor. With current search engine technology, it can take weeks for a web page to show up in the SERPs (search engine results pages). It takes time for crawlers to find a web page and then index it. A new web page could be very relevant for a given search result but not be present. That new web page could propagate very quickly through the blogosphere and be bookmarked by a large number of people in hour or days, not weeks. If Yahoo leveraged that collective bookmarking, their SERPs could be fresher than Google's. If Yahoo updated their SERPs on even just a daily basis and included web pages from the del.icio.us popular and recent bookmarks, could their SERPs be more relevant than Google's? This might even obviate the need for a separate blog search engine (like Technorati or Google blog search). How about it, Yahoo? Use some of your peanut butter and stick del.icio.us to search!

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

New SEM Blogs Worth Reading

A couple of the regular contributors to the AdWords Help groups have launched new blogs. They're worth reading. See the Merjis marketing blog where most of the posts are written by Jeremy Chatfield of Merjis Web Marketing. Also take a look a the Internet Marketing & SEO Blog written by Ian Feavearyear who also runs AdWords for Profit, a site about making money from Google AdWords and AdSense.

If you want to see their AdWords Help contributions, use these queries via the AdWords Help Custom Search Engine: ianfusa, JezC. Note that you can build your own CSE (custom search engine) and make money via AdSense.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Cyber Monday Holiday Sales

Today is Cyber Monday. I'm anticipating a big day for our B2C (business-to-consumer) clients. It's going to be tough since more and more large merchants are aware of the importance of ecommerce for holiday shopping. Today, Google announced a holiday promotion for Google Checkout merchants, clearly timed for Cyber Monday. This could be a threat for ecommerce sites like eBay and Amazon as well as comparison shopping engines like Shopzilla and Shopping.com (owned by eBay).

Gift Boxes from Maine MunchiesForget about these big sites and big merchants on Cyber Monday! Buy something more unique this year. Our search engine marketing clients have plenty to offer. How about some gourmet goat cheese? Seasonal flowers, plants or gift baskets make an ideal holiday gift. Looking for a gift for him? Try a silent paint remover. Health conscious? Send a delicious, nutritious gift. Happy Cyber Monday!

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving! Happy Turducken Day?

dancing turkeyHappy Thanksgiving! Not sure how many of my firm's clients actually read this blog, but I'd like to wish them a Happy Turkey Day, in particular. I work with Google AdWords on a daily basis so I'd also like to wish the Inside AdWords crew and both the Googlemployees (nice contraction, eh?) and regular contributors to AdWords Help a Happy Turducken Day! I also work with Yahoo! Search Marketing on a regular basis, although not as much as Google AdWords. I anticipate more Y!SM work in the coming months as they upgrade from their legacy, Overture system to a new advertising platform. I wish the Y!SM blog team a Happy Thanksgiving as well. I suspect they're going to be awfully busy during the holidays.

So, enjoy family and food on Thursday. Skip the mania of Black Friday shopping, though. Instead, buy online from my firm's B2C (long and short term) clients. Don't forget our B2B (long and short term) clients, either! They might have something your business needs.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Is Google the Grinch Who Stole Christmas?

Google must recognize their latest landing page quality changes for Google AdWords are confounding their customers, online advertisers. They are now answering your landing page quality questions (part 1). Hmm, part 1 of how many, though? These are the questions they currently address:
  1. Why did you make this change right before the holiday season?
  2. Can a page that has a high CTR or conversion rate be considered a poor quality landing page?
  3. Will using Website Optimizer improve my landing page quality?
While answering the first question, they reveal awareness that the timing of the changes could cause a backlash:
To give a bit more background, we had an internal debate about when to release these changes. We ultimately decided that since our focus is providing the most relevant advertising, it was best to launch these long-planned improvements as soon as we were ready to go, technically speaking.
At least there's some honesty in the Inside AdWords corporate blog. I'm actually glad they've launched these landing page quality changes now. Why? I think it'll help my company's clients during the upcoming holiday shopping season. We've seen very little impact from the changes. Based on the number of complaints I'm seeing on other blogs and forums, though, many advertisers have been impacted. As the costs are driven higher for these advertisers, I'm hoping they'll drop out of AdWords. Such attrition should both drive down costs and improve ad rankings for my clients. On the downside, if advertisers bid higher to keep ads with a low quality score afloat, that could hurt ad rankings for my clients.

Regarding the second question, I think Google needs to tread lightly here. They can't use conversion data to assess landing page quality score. Yes, it would make perfect sense to do so. If conversions are high for a given keyword, then obviously the landing page that played a part in that conversion cannot be of too low a quality. Still, Google should avoid using this metric as feedback for the quality score. Why? First, conversion data should be private data. That's important business intelligence that Google should not be using for anything. Not even to help improve quality score for the business that owns that private conversion data. Second, not all advertisers choose to use conversion tracking. Should they be penalized for not employing this optional feature? Third, what if most conversions happen offline for an advertiser? There are some things Google can't measure.

I'm not even sure they should be assessing the quality of landing pages in the first place. How can you automate this? A crawler can't determine the quality of a web page in terms of how it relates to a given search. What was the intent of the search? When someone searches for "flowers" are they actually looking for information on how to grow flowers, where to buy flowers, where to find pictures of flowers? The quality of a landing page is in the eye of the searcher. Can Google read minds? No. Incidentally, if you're looking for flowers, you're looking for this flower shop. I'm sure. When you were thinking of "flowers" weren't you really looking for seasonal flowers? Yes, that's a high quality landing page. No? It's not a high quality landing page? Oh, well perhaps you're really looking for floral centerpieces. Yes, that's it. I don't know. Can the Google AdsBot know? Certainly not.

For a funny take on these answers from Google, read Inside AdWords Answers Three of the One Million Questions Asked About Quality Score (by James Omdahl).

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Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Big 3 Search Engines Join Forces

Quick note on an interesting development: Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! are collaborating on a universal sitemaps protocol. All three companies are blogging about this extensively. Google: Google Webmaster Central Blog, Official Google Blog. Microsoft: Live Search's WebLog. Yahoo: Yahoo! Search blog, Yodel Anecdotal.

The news is spreading quickly in the blogosphere: TailRank, TechCrunch, Threadwatch.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Delicious Food from Maine

Blue Loon Munch Consumer Packaged GoodsLately, I've been eating some delicious food from Maine. Picked up some Blue Loon Munch (pictured to the left) here in Maryland at L.L.Bean at The Mall in Columbia. Nice to see a client's product featured at such a prominent retail outlet. Online, this consumer packaged good can be fetched for $4.95 (on the dried blueberries page). At L.L.Bean, the price tag is a bit steep at $6.50. Still, with not having to pay shipping fees, it cost less to buy 5 bags in the store. I ate some straight from the bag, mixed with yogurt, on ice cream and on breakfast cereal. This is definitely my favorite of all the Maine Munchies I've tried. Blue Loon Munch blends roasted almonds and dark organic lavender chocolate with dried wild blueberries. It really is delicious. And nutritious. It's even an ideal high energy food for business travel. Anyway, try some for yourself. If you're near an L.L.Bean store, get some there. Otherwise order some directly from Maine Munchies.

gourmet goat cheeseI've also eaten some gourmet goat cheese from Maine recently, courtesy of Seal Cove Farm. They milk the goats. They make the cheese. How authentic is that? I'll be doing some PPC advertising for them on Google in the near future. Speaking of Google, they've launched a Consumer Packaged Goods Blog (News and Notes from Google's CPG Vertical). Their motto: all the news from Google's ad team that fits in your fridge or pantry...and maybe a little bit more. Should be interesting to see if they blog about anything that's relevant to clients like Maine Munchies and Seal Cove Farm who produce some unique consumer packaged goods.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Inside AdWords Outside Product Push

In this Inside AdWords post, they're pushing more products outside of AdWords:
  1. Google Checkout
  2. Google Webmaster Tools
  3. Google Mini
For most SMBs, it'd probably make more sense to just use a Google Custom Search Engine than a Google Mini. I'm still not sold on the utility of webmaster tools. I'd rather see Google improve support for its customers that actually pay for search.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Google Checkout Now Free for a Limited Time Only!

Wow! Does this mean Google's going to kill eBay's PayPal or does it mean Google's Checkout lags far behind PayPal and this is a move of desperation? Read Free processing for the holidays for more details (via the Official Google Blog). Note that the offer is good even for merchants who don't use AdWords.

Speaking of AdWords, I was pleased to see my Tweaker for Google AdWords lens on Squidoo climb into the top 100 for the first time today. I'm trying to build a useful resource there for the DIY TYOA community. I've recently added the AdWords Help Custom Search Engine to that lens. I think that'll be a useful tool for any AdWords user. If you're an AdWords advertiser, consider bookmarking the lens and/or the custom search engine.

Update: TechCrunch labels Google Checkout a PayPal killer. They actually use both services and make some interesting comparisons. With the poor customer service I've experienced with Google AdWords, I'm surprised to hear them say Google Checkout customer service is better than PayPal's. Then again, I've seen impressive responses from the Google Custom Search team. Perhaps each Google department is like a separate company and is not managed on a consistent basis, at least not in terms of customer service.

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Who Benefits from the AdWords AdSense Changes?

Who will benefit from the landing page quality changes? Google's AdSense customers? Google itself? Google's users? Google's AdWords customers? Google's users doesn't really make sense since we're talking about AdSense ads that run on content network sites other than Google.com and Google's search network. Google makes a point when explaining to its AdSense customers that it will become more "expensive" for advertisers' ads to show up on AdSense sites. My initial reaction is that Google and its AdSense customers will be the real beneficiaries of the landing page quality changes. If you read this excellent post, WSJ, Google, Content Match, Advertisers and Abuse (from the Merjis blog), you'd think Google would redouble its efforts on its own algorithm for matching AdWords customers' keywords to AdSense customers' pages. Sigh. If that match is not effective, then how can the landing page quality of the ad be assessed since that depends on the relevance of the AdWords ad to the AdSense ad in the first place? Are some Google customers more equal than others?

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Monday, November 06, 2006

Google's New Landing Page Quality Score Algorithm

I suspect there'll be a slew of new questions in the AdWords Help groups as Google rolls out its new landing page quality score algorithm. At least they've announced this update. Important points:
  • Landing page quality is now relevant to contextual advertising
  • Landing page quality evaluation algorithm has been "improved"
I think the contextual advertising change will boost Google's revenue. Most advertisers now have the default settings for ad distribution (Google + Search network + Content network). If they currently have low quality landing pages, their ads might be "inactive for search" but still run on the content network. Now, they'll have to increase their content bids. With all the concern about click fraud, I think Google should worry more about an algorithm to detect the quality of content partner sites. Such an algorithm could block ads from running on low quality sites. Again, though, how is quality determined? That's going to be more difficult to assess on the content network versus the search network.

I'm more concerned about the improvements to the landing page quality evaluation algorithm and how that will impact search ads. The latest Inside AdWords blog post is rather vague stating that "there's no one-size-fits-all approach to best create landing pages. We therefore encourage you to focus on building landing pages that are best for your users, whether they come from AdWords or other sources." How does an algorithm determine what's best for a given advertiser's users? They aren't "users" anyway, they're potential customers. Only a potential customer knows if a landing page is useful for them. Is Google taking automation too far?

BTW, do you like how I've sprinkled some links in this post to the AdWords Help Custom Search Engine? These CSEs definitely are handy.

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Friday, November 03, 2006

Custom Search Engine Mania

It's only been a few days, really, since Google launched Custom Search Engine (CSE). CSE directory sites are already cropping up. Examples:
Kudos to the Google Co-op team for their responsiveness in the Google Co-op Google Group. They've also recently launched the Google Custom Search Blog and are showing more CSE examples. So far, I've "built" one CSE, the AdWords Help Engine. Speaking of AdWords, I hope they keep their blog on topic, instead of trying to promote other Google products.

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

AdWords Trick or Treat

Yes, Halloween was yesterday, but it's worth reading Trick-or-treat with AdWords today. It states:
If you're trying to "trick" people by using keywords and ad text that don't speak to what you actually have to offer, you may find that users click on your ad, but don't do much else. Instead, try providing both your users and yourself with a "treat" by using relevant keywords and writing ad text that is specific to the product or service that you'd like to promote.
Pretty basic but worth a reminder. Here's my "treat" for the AdWords Help community - a version of the AdWords Help Custom Search Engine that lets you pre-populate the search form with keywords. Notice the difference between the pages delivered by these two URLs:

http://www.apogee-web-consulting.com/tools/adwords-cse.php
http://www.apogee-web-consulting.com/tools/adwords-cse.php?query=content+ads

What's the difference? If "?query=put+search+keywords+here" is appended to the URL, the page will include the search keywords in the html title (for better bookmarking), will include those search keywords in the search box and will include a del.icio.us link to save the specific search. Not a big deal, really, but this should come in handy for people answering questions in the various AdWords Help groups. Rather than having to either link to separate answers from sites like the AdWords Learning Center and Inside AdWords blog, posters can simply paste a simple, clean URL (the Google Co-op CSE links can get pretty ugly) that links to multiple answers. Since the AdWords Help Engine is limited to a handful of Google resources, the queries should yield useful results. Also, the searches can be bookmarked for future reference.

halloween pet costumes photoWhile I'm on the subject of Halloween, enjoy these pets in costume, courtesy of Retract-A-Gate. (Click on the photo to see more pet costumes.) Clearly, anyone who cares this much about their pets must want to buy a retractable pet safety gate. ;-)

Instructions for DIY SEO

I've been meaning to write a DIY SEO (Do It Yourself Search Engine Optimization) article (or blog entry) for a long time. Many clients ask about SEO for their sites. Most of the work I do these days involves PPC advertising, with Google AdWords in particular. As such, most of the articles I write pertain to PPC techniques. Reading Target visitors or search engines? (on the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog) today reminded me to write about SEO. A couple of important bullet points from that blog post:
  • Make good use of page titles
  • Make sure the text you're talking about is in your content
Solid advice straight from the horse's mouth. Thinking about my firm's clients, I realize some want a quick intro to SEO while others want to dive right in and understand more of the details. So, I'll provide varying levels of DIY SEO instructions. Keep this in mind while reading these lists: Search engines pay attention both to content on a page and the links to that page. Here goes...

Really Short DIY SEO Instructions
  1. Create good content
  2. Tell people about that content
    (If no one knows about a web page, no one will link to it.)

Short DIY SEO Instructions

  1. Create good content
  2. Structure that content for search engines as well as people
  3. Tell people about that content

Pretty Short DIY SEO Instructions
  1. Create good content
  2. Structure that content for search engines as well as people
    • Create unique html titles for each page
    • Create a sitemap that links to all pages on the site
  3. Tell people about that content
    • Tell them via email
    • Tell them by writing a blog

Not So Short DIY SEO Instructions

  1. Create good content
  2. Structure that content for search engines as well as people
    • Create unique html titles for each page
    • Create a sitemap that links to all pages on the site
    • Create unique meta description tags for each page
    • Make sure html title and meta description reflect content in body of page
    • Don't waste time with meta keywords
  3. Tell people about that content

DIY SEO Instructions (Including Paid Advertising)

  1. Create good content
  2. Structure that content for search engines as well as people
    • Create unique html titles for each page
    • Create a sitemap that links to all pages on the site
    • Create unique meta description tags for each page
    • Make sure html title and meta description reflect content in body of page
    • Don't waste time with meta keywords
  3. Tell people about that content
    • Tell them via email
    • Tell them by writing a blog
    • Tell them using master linkbaiting techniques
    • Tell them by incorporating SMO (Social Media Optimization)
    • Tell them by buying links from quality directories (good list here)
    • Tell them by buying short term PPC ads (keyword search not contextual)

Longer DIY SEO Instructions (Including Paid Advertising)
  1. Create good content
  2. Structure that content for search engines as well as people
    • Create unique html titles for each page
    • Create a sitemap that links to all pages on the site
    • Create unique meta description tags for each page
    • Make sure html title and meta description reflect content in body of page
    • Don't waste time with meta keywords
  3. Tell people about that content
    • Tell them via email
    • Tell them by writing a blog
    • Tell them using master linkbaiting techniques
    • Tell them by incorporating SMO
    • Tell them by buying links from quality directories
    • Tell them by buying short term keyword search PPC ads
    • Tell them by buying short term contextual PPC ads
    • Tell them by using Technorati tags in blog posts

Long DIY SEO Instructions (Including Paid Advertising)
  1. Create good content
  2. Structure that content for search engines as well as people
    • Create unique html titles for each page
    • Create a sitemap that links to all pages on the site
    • Create unique meta description tags for each page
    • Make sure html title and meta description reflect content in body of page
    • Don't waste time with meta keywords
  3. Tell people about that content
    • Tell them via email
    • Tell them by writing a blog
    • Tell them using master linkbaiting techniques
    • Tell them by incorporating SMO
    • Tell them by buying links from quality directories
    • Tell them by buying short term keyword search PPC ads
    • Tell them by buying short term contextual PPC ads
    • Tell them by using Technorati tags in blog posts
    • Tell them using any means you can think of (be creative but don't spam!)
    • Tell them using other paid advertising vehicles (AdBrite, BlogAds, Text Link Ads, etc.)
    • Tell them using humor. Like this: Don't read long lists!
These DIY SEO lists are by no means exhaustive. Plus, I should probably go into a bit more detail on some of these points, but this post is already quite long as it is. What's missing?

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