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Friday, March 30, 2007

Solution to Google AdWords City Targeting Flaw

I'd like to see Inside AdWords address this serious Google AdWords local advertising flaw which could be very detrimental to small business. The section in the AdWords Learning Center which describes how to deal with region and city targeting accuracy needs to explain how expanded matching impacts their example:
Campaign 2: National
Location Targeting: United States
Keywords:
- San Francisco car dealer
- San Francisco used truck
- San Francisco used car
- buy pre-owned car in San Francisco
BTW, don't confuse the "-" in their example for negative keywords. The problem with creating a national campaign to work around city targeting inaccuracies is that Google's expanded matching could cause an ad to be displayed for a search without the city. The advertiser's expectation is that having a long keyword phrase like "san francisco used car" in the keyword list means the ad will only show when the city "san francisco" is included in a search query. I've seen a situation where an ad is displayed for a "used car" query, on a national scale. Details in the original post. (I did promise to post a solution.)

There are a couple of ways to work around this problem. The quick fix is to employ embedded matching, to negate these unwanted search queries. Keeping in mind that expanded matching applies to all broad matches in an AdWords ad group, be sure to include both singular and plural forms of a keyword with this technique. For example, the following kinds of embedded match keywords could be added to the above keyword list:
-[used car]
-[used cars]
-[used truck]
-[used trucks]
...
Ironically, it's a high quality score that exposes this expanded matching flaw ("contracted" matching?) in AdWords. Longer term, a better option is to drop broad matches entirely in favor of exact and phrase matches. Here was the response I received from Google after I explained that I'd used embedded match to deal with the massive spike in untargeted (national not local) traffic this flaw caused:
Your strategy of embedded matching is one way to limit your exposure outside of your target area. However, it seems that you are more likely to find the results you want through the use of phrase matching. I recommend that you edit your existing keywords from broad matching to phrase matching. This will prohibit your ad from running on synonyms and related terms, but it will ensure that your ads are only showing on keywords that include local terms. In addition, use the keyword tool to find relevant synonyms and related terms, and consider including those terms under phrase match as well.
I think the best solution is to employ embedded matching to solve the immediate spike in clicks/impressions and then to track the actual keywords from search hits as well as keyword tools to build a solid list of phrase and exact matches. Long term, broad matches can be removed entirely.

Google needs to address this problem on their side, though. Small businesses that follow their advice in the Learning Center could be exposing themselves to spikes in traffic and ad spend that appear to be due to click fraud. That's what I thought when I first saw this kind of traffic spike. At any rate, I hope the above solution helps anyone who experiences this Google AdWords flaw.

Has anybody else seen this type of problem with expanded matching?

NOT Technorati Tags (byo w/ TagBuildr or TagMuse): , , , , , , , ,

Yahoo! Search Marketing Ambassador Termination

I'm choosing to terminate my status as a Yahoo! Search Marketing Ambassador:

yahoo search marketing ambassador

The Yahoo! Search Marketing sausage ingredients is a big reason. Too many low quality partners. Seems odd that you can't buy only search.yahoo.com ads via Yahoo! Search Marketing. You have to accept ad distribution to their partner network, which is rife with syndication fraud.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ignore This Search Marketing Domain Test

Ignore this test. Psst, Googlebot, read this list of SEMPO circle members: 247realmedia.com, acronym.com, apogee-search.com, avenuea-razorfish.com, bruceclay.com, doubleclick.com, evisibility.com, fathomonline.com, fathomseo.com, globalstrategies.com, iprospect.com, oneupweb.com, primevisibility.com, revenuescience.com, semdirector.com, sendtraffic.com, seoimage.com, seoinc.com, serr.biz, viewpoint.com.

You're still reading this? Ok, try these free search engine marketing resources:
What's that? You're more interested in tools related to keyword tags for blogs? Ok, try these:
  • TagBuildr (builds tags compatible with Technorati)
  • TagMuse (blog topic idea generator)
  • TagMan (game to explore web 2.0 tags)
Apogee Tags (why I doubt these SEMPO firms use Technorati tags): , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

AdWords Flaw Could Cost Small Business Millions

I have a different kind of Google blues. A recent spike in traffic in a client's account, which I had initially suspected was due to click fraud, exposed a serious flaw in the AdWords system. The problem occurs when a local business structures an AdWords account to adequately target a local audience as described in the Google AdWords Learning Center:
Some Internet Service Providers (ISPs) assign their users an IP address that masks the user's location. This excludes these users from seeing region- and city-targeted ads.

To reach these ISP users, we recommend you also create a nationally targeted campaign with region-specific keywords and ad text to capture additional traffic. Here's an example of a used car dealer in San Francisco that has created both region and city and national campaigns.

Campaign 1: Region and City
Location Targeting: San Francisco
Keywords:
  • used car
  • used truck
  • car dealer
  • buy pre-owned car
Campaign 2: National
Location Targeting: United States
Keywords:
  • San Francisco car dealer
  • San Francisco used truck
  • San Francisco used car
  • buy pre-owned car in San Francisco
It's the "National" campaign that causes the problem. Google's expanded matching algorithm is broken. I'm calling this flaw "contracted matching" as the AdWords system takes a broad match like /san francisco used car/ and displays an ad on a search for /used car/ (I'm using / instead of " to avoid confusion with phrase match). Ironically, it's a high Quality Score that contributes to the problem. Here's was Google's explanation of the 3396% increase in impressions for a single broad match keyword phrase that included region-specific keywords but was being displayed nationally for searches that did not include any region-specific qualifiers:
After reviewing your account with the technical specialists, we have found that the most likely explanation for your increased number of clicks in [snip] is that ads in your [snip] Campaign were in fact showing on keyword searches that did not include local terms because of the expanded matching system.

When you use broad matching keywords, expanding matching is enabled and your ad can appear on variations of your keyword. As your quality score improves, the number of expanded variations that your ads are eligible to run on increase. The large increase in clicks that you experienced in [snip] was due to the fact that the AdWords system allowed your ads to appear on additional expanded matching keywords due to good performance in the past.
Think about that. An improvement in quality score meant further expanded matching. When you take a keyword phrase like /san francisco used car/ and "expand" it to /used car/, that's NOT expanded matching. That's "contracted" matching. Imagine the impact this would have for any small business who creates a national campaign per Google's directions. Just to give you an idea, one of these broad match keyword phrases (that had 4 keywords in the phrase) saw a month-over-month increase in clicks of 980% and a cost increase of 1042% on an impressions increase of 3396%. Since the ad was targeted for a local audience and most of the clicks originated from national searches, there was no corresponding increase in sales. This is a serious flaw in the Google AdWords system that could cost small business millions!

In a followup post, I'll explain how I worked around this problem. Subscribe to the Apogee Weblog feed, if you don't already. ;-)

Apogee Tags (byo w/ TagBuildr or the NEW TagMuse tool): , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

ActivelySafe.com Lexus Ad Search Engine Visibility

I keep noticing these custom domains at the end of TV commercials. They should be visible in the search engines. (See previous coverage of the FedEx Kinko's NoMoreAllNighters.com search engine visibility). Let's look at ActivelySafe.com which appears at the end of a Lexus ad. It is visible on Yahoo:

ActivelySafe.com Yahoo Search

but has no search engine visibility on Google:

ActivelySafe.com Google Search

Looks like Yahoo has better search results. That was also true with NoMoreAllNighters.com. Is Yahoo quietly improving its search algorithms? Is Google focusing too much on ads and losing its edge in natural search? Why does this even matter? For Lexus and the ad agency who created ActivelySafe.com, it matters a great deal. Many people, out of habit, will type a domain name into a search box instead of a browser address bar. They're just so accustomed to starting any kind of web search that way. Doesn't matter if it's a domain name or a keyword. This "direct navigation via search" needs to be considered in a web advertising strategy.

BTW, for all you geeks that read this blog, note that there is not a standalone ActivelySafe.com web site. It's a standard 302 redirect to a lexus.com web page:

$ curl -I activelysafe.com
HTTP/1.1 302 Found
Date: Wed, 28 Mar 2007 00:36:38 GMT
Server: Apache
Location: http://www.lexus.com/models/RX/?launchGallery=true&afile=/lexus-share/gallery/models/activesafety.html
Content-Type: text/html; charset=iso-8859-1

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Domain Traffic Spinning Straw Into Gold?

Interesting to hear that SEO blogger Aaron Wall reads Frank Schilling's blog. If you don't know who Frank Schilling is, read this 2005 Business 2.0 article about domainers. Consider this excerpt:
In the meantime, Google and Yahoo are trying to keep the type-in business coming--and execs from both companies are using the Delray Beach conference to court the folks who control it. As the party at Delux winds down, 14 Yahoo executives pile into a stretch Hummer with a few of the domainers, including Schilling, who has an exclusive contract in which Yahoo serves all the ads for his sites. The limo heads 35 miles south on Interstate 95 to Scarlett's Gentlemen's Club. The men kick back in the VIP section, outfitted with plush booths and red velvet curtains.

When the woman in charge of the area comes by and mentions the cost of the booths, the Yahoo crew gets nervous. And in the end, no one wants to submit the $1,000 tab to the expense department back at headquarters. Finally, Schilling pulls out a roll of cash and pays up. Not a big deal for a guy who owns a share of a jet. But considering that Schilling's traffic generated more than 1 percent of Yahoo's $3.6 billion in revenues last year, you'd think one of those guys could have stood up and taken one for the team.
Reacting to Google's new pay per action test, I posted a comment on Frank's blog on this post:
I don't understand why Google doesn't create a "domain network" just like they have a "content network" for AdSense. If the "AdSense for Domains" program only applied to the "domain network" in AdWords, that would create a new level of transparency.

If traffic from parked domains really converts better than search traffic, then this would benefit domainers. Advertisers would opt into the "domain network" and would pay higher CPCs and increase budgets to target this traffic.

I suspect Google hasn't done so and continues to distribute "AdSense for Domains" traffic to both their search and content networks because they know a separate network would not be attractive to advertisers.
He was kind enough to respond and his response is pretty interesting (emphasis mine):
I welcome CPA because it proves to the world what I know about domains. The traffic is "better" than search engine traffic. Google probably won't seperate out domain channel because a lot of it converts at 300% of their search box search. How do you apply 'smart pricing' when Google's own search box is the 100% benchmark? All of a sudden you have domain publishers that convert better than Google.. does Google pay them 300% of bid price? Google makes "a lot" of money from its domain channel.. Your hair would blow back if you knew how much. Domain traffic is like the crazy aunt in the basement spinning straw into gold. Everybody wants one, nobody wants to talk about it. Large scale domain traffic shines the light of truth on the flimsyness of search engine traffic.
I don't think most Google AdWords advertisers realize that when they're buying either search ads or contextual ads, they might actually be buying parked domain ads. This traffic is neither search engine advertising nor contextual advertising yet is incorporated into the AdWords distribution network. Somehow, this just doesn't seem right. As a GOOG shareholder, I'm happy they have this "crazy aunt in the basement spinning straw into gold" but I'd rather they were transparent about this practice. I'm just glad I can block parked domain traffic for my clients when they want to buy pure search engine advertising. Doesn't anyone else find this PPC distribution fraud unsettling?

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Monday, March 26, 2007

When is Yahoo! Search Better Than Google?

Just two days ago, I blogged about the lack of search results for the NoMoreAllNighters.com domain. Notice the title of that post: FedEx Kinko's NoMoreAllNighters.com Domain TV Ad Oops. Look at a current snapshot of Yahoo! Search results for that domain:

NoMoreAllNighters.com Yahoo Search
BTW, think about the utility of blogs when it comes to SEO. Notice that search results #2-#5 are all due to a single blog post (hint: remember the blog post title). Two days ago, this was a blank search, as it was on Google:

NoMoreAllNighters.com Google Search

Whereas Yahoo! is currently showing 5 results, Google is showing more than 10, but the ranking is not as effective as the results on Yahoo! Search:

Google SERP 1-5

Those are the first 5 results on Google. Do you see what's wrong with the ranking of these results? The actual domain is not present. The original blog post I wrote is not present. The top 2 results are from a splog (spam blog) that scraped the content from my original post. Isn't that a bit ironic considering the Google Webmaster Central Blog recently said:
Purely scraped content, even from high quality sources, does not provide any added value to your users.
Since duplicate content is such an important issue for Google, I would expect their algorithm to handle this a little better, particularly considering the original blog post was written using Blogger, a Google property. The Google ranking algorithm should recognize a couple of things:
  1. when the original content was written (timestamp on original blog post)
  2. where the original content resides (links to original blog post)
Here are search results #6-#10 for a Google search on NoMoreAllNighters.com:

Google SERP 6-10
I don't often see people talking about the Yahoo! Search algorithm being better than Google's. In this particular instance, for whatever reason, that is the case. I realize this is one very specific example, but I think it also points out what a long way Google has to go with blog search. Perhaps there is room for a startup to take on Google regarding real-time search. Google's ok with stale documents, but these days you need a search engine that weighs temporal factors as well as linking factors. I don't want to go off on a tangent here, but perhaps Google should buy Technorati. Actually, it might make more sense for Yahoo! to make this purchase. Combining Yahoo! Search + Flickr + Technorati + del.icio.us + Yahoo! Answers into a comprehensive search engine might surpass Google's aging search platform. Hmm, I like that juxtaposition: Google aging.

Getting back on track, I think it's worth pointing out the value of blogs in relation to SEO. This was a pretty simple example since there were no existing search results before I blogged about it, which is the reason I did blog about it. The only search results currently present are due to a single blog entry. Still, that makes for a "clean" case study. It's a bit like dropping a stick in a stream and watching what happens downstream. I'll be curious to see how these SERPs change over the next few days. BTW, the MSN/Live search (whatever you call it) for NoMoreAllNighters.com is still blank. Is Microsoft's search solution obsolete already?

P.S. If you like Technorati, check out my TagMuse Technorati mashup to help generate blog topic ideas.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

FedEx Kinko's NoMoreAllNighters.com Domain TV Ad Oops

Dealing with parked domain traffic on AdWords has me thinking about domain names lately and this whole notion of direct navigation via search. Many people are so accustomed to using search engines like Google that they type domain names into a search box instead of the browser address bar. When I see a TV ad drop an URL at the end of the commercial, I wonder how many people type that URL into a search box instead of an address bar. Ad agencies should be aware of this user behavior, as well. Case in point:
NoMoreAllNighters.com FedEx Kinko's Ad
This FedEx Kinko's ad ends by mentioning a URL (just a domain name, really): NoMoreAllNighters.com. Trouble is, Google knows nothing about that domain:

NoMoreAllNighters.com Google Search

Looking up the whois record for NoMoreAllNighters.com (via DomainTools), I see this registrant:

AtmosphereBBDO
1375 Broadway
New York, New York 10018
United States

Looks like Atmosphere BBDO, the digital agency network of BBDO North America and a member of the Omnicom Group of companies, forgot about SEO when developing the NoMoreAllNighters.com site. You can't really blame them. After all, their expectation is that people will type the domain name into the browser and go directly to the site. My hunch, however, is that a fair amount of viewers of the advertisement will actually type the domain directly into a search box.

BTW, I used to be an Omnicom Group (ticker: OMC) stockholder, so I made sure to link to NoMoreAllNighters.com in this post. That will help them get this site listed in Google since Googlebot will visit this blog post a few seconds after I publish it and will find the link. I'm contemplating running a PPC ad campaign using an exact match on the domain name. Why? Looking at the impressions data would give me an idea as to how many people per day do, indeed, enter the domain name into a search box. If I create a campaign, I'll post updates to this blog. It might be an interesting case study of direct navigation via search. If I worked for an ad agency who had clients that compete with FedEx Kinko's, I'd be buying that domain name via Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing.

Anyway, check out NoMoreAllNighters.com (especially you, Googlebot). To the fine folks at Atmosphere BBDO, you are welcome. ;-)

Tags (byo w/ TagBuildr or the NEW TagMuse tool): , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

AdWords Tip: Blocking Parked Domains on the Search Network

It's taken a couple of months, but I now have a good answer from Google regarding how to block parked domains on the AdWords search network. The reason I asked Google is because of this garbage traffic from AdWords. To be clear, I'm not saying all parked domain traffic is garbage. I just don't think Google should be blending that sort of traffic with pure search engine advertising. Keep it all on the content network or, better yet, create a new domain network. Be transparent. Don't be evil. That's all. Anyway, here's the response from Google:
Currently, it is possible to exclude parked domain sites using the site exclusion tool. However, depending on the domain, the exclusion method will differ. While most parked domains can be excluded by adding the specific domain into the site exclusion tool, there is a fraction of domains in our network that involve a process of excluding the domains at the partner level, rather than the specific domain level, resulting in the exclusion of all domains belonging to that partner due to technical details of the implementation.

For example, the site in question, searchportal.information.com is a site that belongs to such a partner network more commonly found as domainsponsor.com. Therefore, to exclude this domain, along with other domains that belong to this partner, ' domainsponsor.com' should be entered into the site exclusion tool.

Now, that said, we do realize that identifying which domains belong to these partners can sometimes be difficult for advertisers. For that reason, we are working on initiatives that we hope will simplify the opt-out process for our advertisers in the coming months.

As always, we recommend that advertisers monitor their conversion rates when deciding to exclude sites from their campaigns. We've found that our partners' parked domain pages can convert at rates similar to other partners' search portals and content sites in the Google Network.
Interesting. For the distribution fraud (Google's practice of distributing search engine advertising to places other than actual search engines) I noticed, the bulk of the referring URLs came from searchportal.information.com which is a part of DomainSponsor.com which is run by Oversee.net. Listing the actual domain searchportal.information.com in the site exclusion tool did not work. Google is telling me to exclude the domainsponsor.com domain and this will block ads from searchportal.information.com sites.

Bottom line: If parked domain traffic converts for you, keep it. If it's not quality traffic, block the domains you see in your logs. If that doesn't work, contact Google and find out the partner network domain to exclude.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Google's New PPA Ads Won't Solve the Distribution Fraud Problem

The new PPA advertising (pay per action) option for Google AdWords is a fantastic idea. However, if I'm reading the press release correctly, it won't help with the distribution fraud problem:
Pay-per-action ads are only shown on Google AdSense™ for content sites. AdSense publishers are able to choose whether they want to serve pay-per-action ads on their sites.
Distribution fraud on Google AdWords is due to their AdSense for Domains program. Maybe I'm reading too much into the press release but that sounds different from the "Google AdSense™ for content sites" mentioned in the press release. Plus, since PPA is an option for AdSense publishers, I doubt many would go for it. They'll likely benefit more from CPC or CPM pricing. I wonder how many will sign up for the beta. Sounds like good news for advertisers but bad news for publishers.

There's some great insight into this new program on the SEO Refugee Blog (that's one of my favorite blogs in the search marketing space right now). Interesting, too, that Michael Arrington of TechCrunch (which normally discusses web 2.0 sites) has weighed in on the issue, arguing that:
Affiliate marketing networks like Commission Junction and LinkShare are screwed. These networks also operate on a cost-per-action basis, mostly with online retailers. Even though some of them have scale, they will not have the ability to compete with Google on sheer size of network.
Since we're talking text ads here, I don't necessarily see this as a direct threat. Has Google Checkout killed off Paypal? What is peculiar, though, is the announcement of a new format of text ads in conjunction with the launch of PPA ads:
You can create text ads, image ads, or our new text link ad format in your pay-per-action campaign. Text link ads are brief text descriptions that take on the characteristics of a publisher's page. These Javascript-based ads will display like regular hyperlinks and allow publishers to embed these links inline with other text to promote your product or service.
Hmm, blurring the line between content and ads. Hasn't that always been against Google's corporate philosophy? Note #6:
You can make money without doing evil... Advertising on Google is always clearly identified as a "Sponsored Link." It is a core value for Google that there be no compromising of the integrity of our results... Our users trust Google's objectivity and no short-term gain could ever justify breaching that trust.
Oops, scratch that off the list. Technically, you could argue that this still holds since the new PPA ads (and this new text ad format) will only run on the Google content network. This violation of Google's core philosophy won't exist on Google.com itself.

I think there's going to be some interesting discussion ahead. PPA sounds like a great idea for advertisers, not such a compelling option for publishers, and might be a questionable experience for the end user as the lines between content and advertising become blurred.

Apogee Tags (read why I don't use Technorati tags): , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Steps for Inclusion in the New Google Plus Box

Google has a new feature called Plus Box:
We're very excited to unveil Plus Box, a new search feature that lets you see more information about individual search results. Whenever you see the plus box icon - - click on it to see the additional rich data expand below the original search result. With Plus Box, you'll get a visual snapshot of related information, so it is faster and easier to find exactly what you're looking for... Right now, we're showing two types of Plus Box results: stock information and maps.
Here's an example of what this feature looks like, for a search on new school virginia:

new school virginia

Here are Google's instructions for getting listed in the Plus Box results:
  1. Ensure your address appears in your web site in plain text (not embedded in an image) and Google can crawl your site.
  2. Sign in to our Local Business Center using a Google Account.
  3. Provide your address information (so that it matches your web site).
I like this feature. It doesn't clutter up the search results. I'll be curious to see what other types of searches include Plus Box results.

Tags (byo w/ TagBuildr - or try the new TagMuse tool): , , , , ,

Sunday, March 18, 2007

AdWords B2B Newsletter Content Advertising Advice

Google recently launched an AdWords Technology Business to Business Newsletter. It's good that they're paying attention to B2B advertisers. This inaugural edition has some interesting advice about the content network:
  • Create a separate campaign for the ads you want to place on the content network. This way, you can allocate your budget and test out new ideas without affecting your search campaigns. If you’d rather run on the search or content only, you can easily edit your campaign settings.
  • Users on the content network are mainly browsing rather than searching, so it’s important to grab their attention with sharp and compelling ad text that reflects your keyword list. Include a call to action like “Start your free trial today!” or “Learn about our solutions!”
This advice conflicts with the AdWords Learning Center answer to the "Should I Write Different Ads For Search and Content?" question:
It is not necessary to write unique ads for search and content properties. Google's technology matches ads to relevant themes and monitors the performance of all ads on content pages. Effective text ads that are matched to relevant content will draw clicks wherever they appear.
This is bad advice. The B2B newsletter advice is better. I've been suggesting for a couple of years now that it's a useful strategy to separate search advertising from contextual advertising (see 8/1/05 Search Engine Guide article or updated version for more details). Good to see Google offer similar advice. While it is possible to re-purpose the same keyword ad for the content network that is used for the search network, it's not advisable.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

Yahoo! Syndication Fraud Class Action

Since blogging details about the high volume of garbage traffic on the Yahoo! Search Marketing syndicated network, I've found out about this Yahoo! Syndication Fraud class action litigation. Here are the key complaints from the case description:
  • Placing advertisers' ads into spyware programs.
  • Placing advertisers' ads into typosquatting web sites.
  • Placing advertisers' ads into "parking" and bulk registration web sites.
  • Charging Sponsored Search advertising rates for placements more properly described as Content Match.
  • Placing advertisers' "search" ads in random, untargeted placements, including in untargeted banner ads.
Those are some serious allegations. It is good that someone is holding Yahoo! accountable for this fraud. It will be interesting to see if any changes result from this class action. I'm well aware of the problems with low quality traffic from parked domains but I wasn't aware of the extent to which Yahoo! Search Marketing traffic comes from spyware. If you want more details, read The Spyware - Click-Fraud Connection -- and Yahoo's Role Revisited by Ben Edelman, one of the lawyers involved in the Yahoo! syndication fraud case.

Full disclosure: I'm a YHOO stockholder (a meager 610 shares which I've pledged towards this interesting YHOO shareholder action). I also manage Y!SM PPC advertising accounts, so I'd like to see some changes both from a shareholder and a customer vantage point. For anyone else buying keyword ads via Yahoo! Search Marketing, be sure to track your clicks and get refunds for fraudulent traffic.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Do You Need Topic Ideas for Your Blog?

I mentioned the TagBuildr tool in Why Do Search Marketing Blogs Use Technorati Tags? Now, I'm working on a new mashup called TagMuse. It pulls together various Technorati data (popular searches, top tags, related tags) and builds a list of tags that could serve as ideas for a blog post. Much like keyword tools in the SEO/M world exist to help figure out keywords to use in content for SEO or PPC projects, this sort of a tool could help decide what content to write for blogs. Maybe an example will help. Currently, TagMuse shows these popular searches from Technorati:

technorati popular searches

Note that these tags are in bold: , , , , , , , , , . Those are search topics that are not top tags on Technorati. The other topics (, , , , ) have a high volume of blogs already with that tag. The idea, then, is to write about a topic that people are searching for but other bloggers haven't yet tagged as frequently. For instance, if I know something about Dell, I might choose that topic and hit the "Get Tag Ideas" button which will fetch related tags:

dell tags

In this example, I'm then selecting the following tags: , , , , , , . Hitting "Build Blog Tags" will output html I can cut-and-paste into my blog post. So, instead of writing a post and then appending tags when done, I'm starting my blog post with a list of tags that I know people are looking for. I can then write a blog post, specific to that topic. In this case, I might write about Dell Inspiron laptops. I do actually own one. I might find deals on the computers, write about issues with the hardware, do some research to see why people are searching for these keywords, etc.

The point is to use data from Technorati to help bloggers figure out topics to write about. So, please give TagMuse a spin and let me know what you think.

Apogee Tags: , , , , ,

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Bad News for GOOG and MSFT

Went to check out the updated Google Finance and 2 headlines caught my eye (both from Red Herring):
  1. Is YouTube a Google-Sized Distraction?
  2. Microsoft Search Exec Resigns
Both would seem to indicate good news for Yahoo! (YHOO) shares. There's more coverage on the MSFT story from Search Engine Roundtable and this Seattle newspaper. I wonder if the Microsoft search executive leaving is an indication of an internal problem at Microsoft or simply a matter of him finding a better option externally. Either way, this cannot be good news for MSFT stock. Search marketing and contextual advertising is where the money is these days (at least in terms of growth). I don't think this is going to help Yahoo! as much as people think. They have their own internal problems. Consider this quote from the above story about Google and Youtube:
Some observers are now worried that top executives are becoming increasingly distracted by YouTube, just as chief rival Yahoo appears to be regaining its footing by revving up its new “Panama” search-advertising system.
The media seems to be all over this "Panama" story. What they seem to be missing is that fixing the PPC advertising platform on the back-end doesn't help YHOO with their front-end problems. They have 2 serious problems:
  1. They need to increase ad distribution for both search and contextual ads
  2. They need to decrease reliance on parked domains and 2nd tier search engines
Google has greater market share, both in terms of search engine advertising and contextual advertising (AdSense). How does Panama help Yahoo! distribute more ads? It doesn't. It helps advertisers create more ads. That's all. It doesn't improve ad distribution. In fact, their existing ad distribution network has too many low quality partners.

Apogee Tags (NOT Technorati Tags): , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Why Do Search Marketing Blogs Use Technorati Tags?

I find it strange that many search marketing companies use Technorati tags in their blogs. Haven't they read the Technorati tags help page? Note this text:
You do not need to include the brackets, just the descriptive keyword for your post. Just make sure to include rel="tag". You do not have to link to Technorati. You can link to any web page that ends in a tag - even your own site! For example, these tag links would also be included:
<a href="http://apple.com/ipod" rel="tag">iPod</a>
Search marketing firms understand the importance of links. So, why would they give links to Technorati when they can keep the links on their own site? Most search marketing companies (whether they focus on SEO, PPC or both) will have developers on staff who could implement an in-house tagging solution. I'm calling my firm's tags Apogee Tags. Here's an example:

300z tag

I've recently updated these tags to incorporate Flickr photos and the Technorati WTF feature. Details are here (that's on the TagMan blog). Also, if you want to implement a tag solution for your own blog, read this post for some howto info or read the FAQ. Try the free TagBuildr tool next time you're inclined to create Technorati tags for your blog post. Take a look at these example tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

I wonder how many SEMPO firms do blog but don't use Technorati tags. Since there are so many search marketing blogs and many of these bloggers are discussing SEO strategies related to blogging, I'd expect more of these bloggers to have adopted a tag solution to keep links on site. Anyway, if you haven't thought of it and you managed to read all of the way to this point in this post, I hope you find this idea useful. If you don't want to implement your own solution but would like to link to a search marketing firm instead of Technorati, feel free to use the TagBuildr tool. ;-)

Apogee Tags (spit out by TagBuildr): , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, March 05, 2007

Free Keyword Tool Update and the UPS Whiteboard

When I updated my firm's free keyword research tool to include Wordtracker, someone from Trellian Software left a comment that they now offer a free version of Keyword Discovery. I've been using it and it looks pretty good, so I've incorporated it into the tool. The free keyword tool is simple. All it does is grab meta keywords data from a web page and then sets up links for further research of those keywords on a handful of free keyword research tools. Despite the tool's simplicity, it can be pretty powerful to see what keywords your competitors use and to then either buy those types of keywords via PPC advertising or to incorporate them in your own firm's site using SEO techniques. Note this meta keywords advice: Don't use meta keywords tags. Do, however, use the meta description tag. Interesting that this Google Webmaster Central Blog post says, "Make sure each page has a unique title tag and meta description tag that aptly describe the page." Let's look at a meta keywords research example:

ups.com/whiteboard keyword research

Those are the results after entering ups.com/whiteboard into the keyword research tool. I chose this URL as an example, because I'm intrigued by this whole notion of direct navigation via search engine and am aware of others who have noticed this behavior where people don't seem to undersand the difference between the browser address bar and a search engine box. Since the UPS TV commercial displays ups.com/whiteboard at the end of the advertisement, I'd expect a fair amount of people to type that URL directly into a search box instead of the address bar. If I were competing with UPS, I'd make some PPC ad buys to show my firm's ads when people search for keywords related to the UPS TV ad. Even the Google CPG (Consumer Packaged Goods) Blog seems to condone this sort of practice:
Your competition is very likely advertising on your brand terms. If you’re not, and your competitor has an ad show up with a compelling offer, you could likely lose a customer.
Aren't domain names "brand terms?" Is "UPS Whiteboard" now a brand? People certainly are searching for it. Getting back to the above example, I clicked on the Overture link for "ups whiteboard" and saw:

ups whiteboard overture search

That's old data - from January. It'll be interesting to see the February numbers which will likely be available in a few days. Right now, the only ad I see on a Google search for ups whiteboard is a UPS.com ad (similar results on Yahoo!). They also occupy the #1 natural search result. Kudos to UPS for tying in their TV ad spend to their search marketing efforts. Now, who's going to occupy the remaining natural search results? Why aren't their other PPC ads for that search term?

BTW, came across the notion of Adversarial Information Retrieval today. Not exactly sure what it means but I do wonder if scraping meta keywords from competing sites and buying PPC ads for competing domain names and brand names is encompassed by this term. At any rate, try the updated version of the free keyword research tool. I do hope it's useful. I try to make good use of my firm's bandwidth. ;-)

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Google AdWords Invalid Clicks Numbers are Invalid

With all due respect to Shuman Ghosemajumder, Google's invalid clicks numbers are misleading. They claim that less than 10% of clicks are invalid and that those are identified proactively by Google's systems. Beyond that, they claim only a tiny 0.02% of clicks are invalid and that those clicks are reactively identified by Google after advertisers complain. I think that number is misleading. What this number really tells me is that Google dismisses all but 0.02% of the complaints that advertisers send in.

The real problem is with Google's definition of invalid clicks. I recently requested a click quality investigation which was summarily dismissed. When I filled out the form I was told to expect a response after a few business days. I included detailed information from server log files to support my claim that the clicks were invalid, of a low quality, and not from normal search activity. Did I get a response after a few days? No! The response came after only a few hours:
Our team received your report regarding suspicious clicks on your AdWords ads. Thank you for your patience while we researched this issue.

After thoroughly reviewing your ... campaign from January 1st through the 10th, we were unable to find any conclusive evidence of invalid clicks charged to your account. The clicks your ads received appear to fit a pattern of normal user behavior.

Our monitoring system is designed to protect advertisers' ads from unethical or automated activity. Multiple data points are automatically analyzed for each click, as our system aims to discard potentially invalid activity before it is charged to your account.

...

If you aren't satisfied with the value of the traffic from searchportal.information.com, please reply to this email. We can then assist you in preventing your ad from appearing on these pages.
With the amount of information I submitted when filling out the form, there is no way Google performed a thorough investigation. I expected them to request more information or ask for clarification on some of the details I submitted. They could have at least waited a full business day or two to respond to make it look like they actually investigated the matter. Clearly, the 0.02% number means that Google ignores and then dismisses click fraud complaints 99.98% of the time. ;-)

I contend that any click from searchportal.information.com for an AdWords account opted out of the Content network is an invalid click. This is distribution fraud (others are calling this practice syndication fraud) and this could be a bigger problem for advertisers than Google's definition of click fraud. Now, why do I think these clicks are invalid? Perhaps excerpts of the information I provided Google will shed light on the matter (I'm replacing my client's keywords with "Foo Bar" so as not to divulge my client's important keywords):
Trends: Anywhere from 10%-40% of the traffic was coming from searchportal.information.com. That's clearly artificial. More traffic from this domain than from google.com itself. Plus, all of the referer info had query data that had the first letter capitalized. Here's an example referring URL from the logs:

http://searchportal.information.com/?epl=[snip_long_string]&query=Foo%20Bar

Note that the actual "search" query was: Foo Bar

That's not normal search behavior. When people search, they don't take the time to capitalize the first letter of each keyword. Most searches are either all lowercase or all uppercase. So, these are clearly not searches. These are people clicking on links. That's fraud. Clicks from the Search network should come from searches, not people browsing links.

Data: See data from above. Let me know if you need further information. I request that you identify all clicks for the history of this account that ever originated from searchportal.information.com and you refund my client for those charges. Note that in many cases, these CPC charges were in the $2-$3 range so I'd expect a refund of thousands of dollars. Here's a count of hits from these parked domains from last month, for instance:

$ grep searchportal.information.com ex0612.log |wc -l
164

Figuring on an avg CPC of $2.50, that's $410 for last month alone. Also, what disturbs me the most is that this click fraud seems to be approved by Google. These parked domains should not be on the Search network. My confidence in the Search network is severely shaken. For this client, we have simply turned off the Search network. After you have issued them a clickfraud refund, I'd like to know one of the following:

1) How to block searchportal.information.com on the Search network (I tried site exclusion and that did not work - even though I've heard rumors that site exclusion works for parked domains on the Search network and not just the Content network)
or:

2) That searchportal.information.com (and any other domains owned by the parent company, oversee.net who owns domainsponsor.com) has been kicked off the Search network

If I get a satisfactory answer on one of those points, I'll turn the Search network back on for this client, either with that domain blocked or with confidence that they're not on the Search network.

Dates_Times: I will start with this month. They've hired me recently but I see the click fraud in prior month's log files as well. All of the click fraud is from a single domain: searchportal.information.com which appears to power parked domain sites run by domainsponsor.com. This campaign was opted into the Search network but out of the Content network. IOW, all of the click fraud is on the Search network. Timestamps (GMT I think) + IP addresses for this month (by keyword):

$ grep searchportal.information.com ex0701.log |grep Foo%20Bar |awk '{print $1,$2,$11}'
2007-01-01 07:00:17 68.62.110.159
2007-01-01 15:54:04 67.8.81.151
2007-01-01 17:58:51 70.143.52.149
2007-01-01 18:03:51 24.145.212.157
2007-01-01 18:04:40 70.143.52.149
2007-01-01 18:13:10 70.143.52.149
2007-01-01 19:04:07 64.12.116.11
2007-01-01 20:15:32 71.101.26.230
2007-01-01 21:35:48 199.126.188.14
2007-01-01 22:53:47 24.127.194.77
2007-01-02 03:31:41 74.225.65.47
2007-01-02 04:13:04 76.175.242.247
2007-01-02 04:13:55 68.160.60.229
2007-01-02 22:46:54 65.11.42.133
2007-01-02 22:51:30 65.11.42.133
2007-01-02 22:55:04 74.233.0.201
2007-01-02 23:34:32 66.213.126.226
2007-01-02 23:34:34 71.198.15.32
2007-01-02 23:34:42 71.166.143.94
...
(this goes on and on and on and on and on...)
I think it's worth stressing the point that the ads were not being displayed for actual searches. No one was actively typing keywords in a search box. All of these paid clicks came from people somehow getting to a parked domain and then browsing the navigational links provided by that domain. If these are not invalid clicks, then I don't know what a valid invalid click is. These parked domains do not exist to help people find what they're looking for. No, their goal is to drive traffic to pages with high pay per click fees. Here's an example of the "navigation" from one of these parked domain sites:

parked domain navigation
Notice how the first letter of each word is capitalized? Someone clicking on a link like these and then seeing an ad isn't even close to someone actively typing keywords into a search box and then seeing ads. This is clearly closer to contextual advertising than search engine advertising. Shame on Google for including these sorts of sites in their Search network.

BTW, it's only going to get worse. One of the bigger companies in the direct navigation space, NameMedia, just bought a domain parking company (Smartname) and announced a switch from Yahoo! to Google as their ads feed provider. This company has "quietly amassed more than 650,000 Internet domain names." If you use AdWords, watch your traffic carefully! Getting back to searchportal.information.com, the source of invalid clicks I identified and Google chose to ignore, if you look at this traffic graph, you should be alarmed. No, I'm not surprised by the 0.02% invalid clicks number reported by Google. That's simply the number of invalid clicks they choose to NOT ignore.

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