Maine Munchies Ad

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Client's Paint Remover On This Old House Blog

Eco-Strip infrared paint removerI always get a kick out of seeing my clients mentioned in the news or on prominent blogs. A few days ago, Eco-Strip was mentioned on The HardWare Aisle, a blog run by This Old House. It's a fantastic post in that it tells a story that demonstrates the utility of the infrared paint remover that Eco-Strip sells and also how helpful the company's owner is. Here's an excerpt:
Another person might have sued the contractor, but isn't this what insurance companies are for? I was willing to forgive an accident—as long as he finished the job on my terms. I called the nearest Speedheater distributor, Eco-Strip, and told my tale of woe to owner Catherine Brooks.

She zipped over to demonstrate the Speedheater 1100 infrared paint remover as well as a delicious array of first-rate hardened steel scraping tools and “hands-free” attachments. This electric tool uses infrared heat to penetrate through the paint into the wood, so multiple layers can be scraped off with little damage to the wood. Unlike a heat gun or torch, the rays evenly heat the paint to no more than 600 degrees—well below the temperature at which wood ignites or lead fumes are released. It also works well on glass putty and varnish. The tool, used in Europe for more than a decade, is available to rent (about $24 a day, 3 day minimum) or buy (about $400). Eco-Strip was local for me, but they ship anywhere in the continental U.S.
Congrats, Cath!

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Friday, April 27, 2007

MIT Dean Marilee Jones Resigns

Peculiar news story from my alma mater: Dean of admissions resigns. More details in this Boston Globe story. I noticed this today via TagMuse:

marilee jones on tagmuse
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Monday, April 23, 2007

Domain Parking Traffic Conversion Myth

I keep hearing arguments that domain parking traffic is better than search engine traffic. Based on the garbage traffic from parked domains I've seen, I don't believe it. I understand the concept of direct navigation and how someone typing a generic keyword domain like cellphones.com directly into a browser address bar could be just as desirable for an advertiser as someone typing "cell phones" into a search box. However, this is not the kind of traffic I'm seeing being distributed on the PPC advertising networks of the top platforms like Google AdWords and Yahoo! Search Marketing. Since recognizing the distribution fraud that exists on both Google and Yahoo! (sometimes called syndication fraud), I've been reading blogs of those on the other side of the equation, the domainers. I expected to find spammers but have, instead, found interesting and capable business professionals.

The problem, though, is that the search engines' (can we really still call Google and Yahoo! search engines?) lack of transparency coupled with some misrepresented stats has domainers thinking the traffic they're making a living from is useful for those that ultimately pay their wages, the advertisers. It's not. Perhaps it's the search engines, themselves, who are the spammers? This comment from my post about search engine spam bothered me:
Complain all you want, domain traffic converts better than your search engine traffic.

Direct Navigation (type in traffic) 4.23%
Search Engines 2.30%
Internet Links 0.96%
First, my complaint is that Google includes domain parking traffic on its Search network. I don't have a problem with PPC ads being present on parked domains. It should simply either be on the Content network or, better yet, on a separate Domain network. Don't be evil? Not relevant. Just be transparent. Second, the traffic patterns I traced didn't resemble the behavior of a search visitor. It was clear that these visitors were browsing from another site, not actively searching. Not all parked domains are generic keyword domains. Consider this navigation from a searchportal.information.com (which is run by DomainSponsor.com which is owned by Oversee.net who is partnered with Google) parked domain:

not very direct navigation
Does that look like "direct" navigation? Anyone buying PPC advertising knows that these types of keywords bring the high bids. No, domain parking like this is designed to steer "direct navigators" away from whatever their original "search" intention was and to click on high CPC ads. That's a problem for PPC advertisers trying to buy pure search engine advertising. Would you ever see links like that on a search engine? Nope. But, the search engines are happy to partner with sites that practice this form of spammy direct navigation. Can you see why distribution fraud is the real click fraud?

Getting to the title of this post, this notion that domain traffic outperforms search engine traffic by a conversion rate of 4.23% vs 2.30% had me baffled - until I realized it's simply NOT TRUE. It's either an honest misrepresentation or an outright lie. Not to pick on Sendori (I think they have a useful concept), but their footnotes exposed this domain parking traffic conversion myth:
Consumers who use direct navigation1 actively seek what businesses like yours sell. They are highly targeted and motivated to buy.

Direct Navigation Data

* Direct navigation traffic, converts into sales for advertisers at a rate twice that of search engines. A Q4 2005 study of Web traffic, revealed that direct navigation traffic converts into sales for advertisers at 4.23% of total visits compared to 2.3% for searches performed via the search box at popular search engines.2

1 - Direct Navigation Definition: URLs typed directly into the address bar
2 - "Search Engines ... Conversion Rate", WebSideStory, Jan 30, 2006
Reading the referenced "study" by WebSideStory yields a radically different footnote regarding the definition of direct navigation that had this 4.23% conversion rate:
Direct Navigation: Includes bookmarks and URLs typed directly into the address bar. Also includes e-mails from non web-based e-mail clients and poorly implemented redirects where the referring domain is stripped out or masked.
Hold on a minute! The 4.23% conversion rate statistic is a combination of:
  1. Type-ins
  2. Bookmarks
  3. Emails
  4. Redirects
You have got to be kidding me! This is a *completely* useless number. Of course bookmarks are going to have a high conversion rate. The question is what lead to the original bookmark? What percentage of the conversions from this "study" came from bookmarks? This 4.23% conversion rate is meaningless when talking about domain parking traffic distributed on a search engine advertising platform. Let's stop the pretense, ok?

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Google Likes Squidoo

I've been seeing Squidoo pages (they're called lenses) more and more in Google search results. Perhaps because of the collective approach, similar to Wikipedia, Google's algorithm "likes" Squidoo because of a growing amount of regularly updated content with a growing amount of natural (not paid) links from a wide variety of sites. With that in mind, Googlebot, please "read" these new or updated Squidoo lenses:
While Googlebot's busy doing that, enjoy a game of Squidoo TagMan:

squidoo tagman game

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Is Yahoo! a Google Copycat?

Interesting question posed by Ian Feavearyear: "Is it just me, or does Yahoo just seem to be copying everything Google does these days?" You have to admire the pace of innovation at Google. As soon as Yahoo! (or anyone else for that matter) catches up to Google, Google launches something new. For instance, they've just announced preferred cost bidding for AdWords. Is this another move to disintermediate advertising agencies?

But, wait a minute, perhaps it's Google and not Yahoo! who is the copycat?! After all, Google copied Overture, one of the original pay per click advertising companies (which Yahoo! subsequently bought and rebranded as Yahoo! Search Marketing). And, now, Google is copying StumbleUpon. So, let's just say Yahoo! and Google are both copycats and move on to a more interesting topic. ;-)

Digging through the FAQ for the new AdWords preferred cost bidding, I stumbled upon the question "How do I start using preferred CPC bidding in my keyword-targeted campaign?" which had an interesting component to the answer:
For the best results, we recommend preferred cost-per-click (CPC) bidding for campaigns that are opted into the Google search network only, or campaigns that have separate content bids for the content network.
I've been arguing for a couple of years now that it's good practice to manage contextual advertising and search advertising in separate campaigns. Fascinating to see this suggestion in an actual Google AdWords help document. This is how you configure an AdWords campaign for search advertising only (well except for parked domains):

google advertising network distribution

That "Content network" checkbox is checked by default. It's important to be aware of this fact and opt out of the Content network if you're interested in buying search engine advertising. If you really want to buy pure search engine advertising, you also have to be aware to block parked domains. It really would simplify things if Google would create a "Domain network" so advertisers could actually control the distribution of their ads. Sigh. That's a topic for another post, or perhaps a previous one.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Webhealth.com Domain AdWords Experiment Results

Hey Frank and Frank, this screenshot is for you (squint):

webhealth.com adwords ad group

For everyone else, my domain name reputation management post might provide some context. A few notes:
  1. Date range is Apr 6, 2007 to Apr 12, 2007
  2. Content network is turned off
  3. No broad matching (expanded matching, really) is used
  4. Campaign is only set for United States and Canada
  5. Low minimum bids due to "relevant" landing page (webhealth.com blog post)
Even with these restrictive settings in mind, I'm not sure that 167 impressions are all that significant. I'd have to have a look at the webhealth.com server logs to see whether or not this is a meaningful number. Still, add it up over 52 weeks and you're talking about thousands of people who likely intend to go directly to webhealth.com but are routed through a search engine (either by choice or ignorance) and might end up somewhere else.

Somehow I think it's funny that I spent 50 cents on this experiment. Note that the bulk of the impressions (157) and clicks came from the domain name without the leading "www" and was this exact match (punctuation marks are not necessary):

[webhealth com]

That exact match triggered an ad for a webhealth.com Google search. (I'm no longer running webhealth.com PPC ads - this was a quick experiment). That's the most important keyword you'll need in an AdWords ad group if you want to measure impressions for your own domain. Do you need domain name reputation management? You can always run a PPC test via AdWords to see how much direct navigation via search happens for your domain. Won't cost you much, as long as you have a quality landing page. Feed AdsBot-Google something yummy. ;-)

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Google's Advertising Hubris Reaches Apogee

The big Google advertising news of the day, of course, is the announced acquisition of DoubleClick. In The next step in Google advertising, Susan Wojcicki writes:
To that end, we are truly excited to announce our acquisition of DoubleClick. DoubleClick provides a suite of products that enables agencies, advertisers, and publishers to work efficiently, that will enable Google to extend our ad network and develop deeper relationships with our partners.
That "deeper relationships with our partners" statement contradicts this Inside AdWords blog post, also from today:
Recently, we've featured a series of posts on AdWords optimization tips for advertisers looking to tune-up their campaign on their own. For those of you who might prefer to receive customized help from one of our AdWords Optimization Specialists, we'd like to tell you about how you can request a free campaign optimization for your account.
I think Google having internal "AdWords Optimization Specialists" creates a serious conflict of interest. More on that at the end of this post...

Qualified Google Advertising ProfessionalAs a Qualified Google Advertising Professional, I'd consider myself a "partner" of sorts with Google. This move doesn't strike me as helping to "develop deeper relationships with our partners." On the contrary, is Google undercutting search marketing professionals by offering AdWords optimization services for free? For the search engine marketing industry, *this* is the big news of the day, IMHO. It will likely be ignored, however, by all the chatter about the GOOG acquisition of DCLK and its ramifications for MSFT and YHOO.

Google benefits when advertisers purchase as many clicks at as high a price as possible. That's certainly not in the interest of the advertisers. Will these "AdWords Optimization Specialists" tell advertisers about the AdWords flaw that could cost small business millions? BTW, here's a solution. Will they explain how to block parked domains on the search network? Will they realize that it's in an advertiser's best interest to separate contextual ads from search engine ads? For new advertisers, will they tell them that the AdWords starter edition is not a good option?

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Clickbot.A eh? Google's Handwaving Exposes AdWords Structural Flaws

Have you read The Anatomy of Clickbot.A by Neil Daswani, Michael Stoppelman, and the Google Click Quality and Security Teams? (Found via Inside AdWords.) While it might be pretty interesting for a dork like myself, it makes me wonder how serious Google is about protecting the interests of its customers, AdWords advertisers. It's about Clickbot.A, a "botnet operator attempting a low-noise click fraud attack against syndicated search engines by creating doorway sites that posed as subsyndicate search engines, and by entering into referral deals." Google is trying to distance itself from the problem. Look at this graphic of the click fraud money trail from the report:

google adwords click fraud

The accompanying text is quite telling:
It is important to note that in a Clickbot.A-type attack, top-tier search engines would not pay miscreants directly. Instead, they would pay syndicated search engines a share of revenue, and syndicated search engines would, in turn, pay a share of their revenue to doorway sites that posed as sub-syndicated search engines or referral accounts set up by the bot operator.
Sorry, Shuman. Google is culpable. Clean up your syndication network! Apply smart pricing to the search network. Mark as invalid clicks any that mask the referer. Fix your structural flaws. The Clickbot.A report didn't even mention whether these clicks were on the search network or the content network. That's important information that was left out. Move AdSense for Domains traffic off of both the search network and content network and build a new domain network. These options no longer suffice:

google ad network distribution options

Perhaps Google is afraid to show the world the crazy aunt in the basement spinning straw into gold? BTW, that "crazy aunt" quote cracks me up. But, distribution fraud is no laughing matter. Nor is the AdWords expanded matching flaw. These types of problems are more of a day-to-day concern for PPC advertisers than a botnet that's "attempting a low-noise click fraud attack." No, the handwaving doesn't ease any click fraud concerns. Instead, it exposes other AdWords structural flaws.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Slogan Domains to Propagate Advertising Slogans

If you read my last post on domain name reputation management, you'd realize I've been thinking quite a bit lately about the intersection of search marketing and domaining. Interesting to note there was a domaining session at SES NY (Search Engine Strategies - New York) today. In particular, I've found myself pausing TV ads to jot down "slogan domains" (custom domains often created for advertising slogans). I've been looking at them from the point of view of what happens when people type these domains into a search box instead of a browser address bar, hence the term domain name reputation management. Via Daily Domainer, I've found a creative domain marketing article which currently lists 174 such slogan domains. Here are a few examples:
  1. Federal Express - NoMoreAllNighters.com
  2. Lexus - ActivelySafe.com
  3. Nissan - Z.com
See my previous coverage of NoMoreAllNighters.com and ActivelySafe.com. I like the Z.com domain for its simplicity. Plus, I own a '96 Z (#207 of the last 300 made). I'm not as keen on the new Z but it is interesting that Nissan owns that single letter .com domain name.

cube emergency water storage containersI'd be remiss if I didn't mention that a client, Hedwin Corporation, engages in creative domain marketing. You wouldn't normally think of an industrial packaging company in this context, but they own Cube4Water.com to showcase their innovative Cube® Insert for emergency water storage (site design by Stingray Internet).

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Domain Name Reputation Management

Looking at this Google search result:

domain name reputation management search

I believe I'm the first to use the term: domain name reputation management. Since many people will type a domain name into a search box instead of a browser address bar, it's important to manage the search engine results for a given domain name. I consider domain name reputation management a special case of search engine reputation management.

I've been thinking about domains lately, primarily in terms of separating parked domain traffic from search engine advertising traffic on AdWords. I've also noticed many advertisements, on TV and in print, with custom domains. Consider the case of NoMoreAllNighters.com. When I first saw the Fedex Kinko's commercial with that domain at the end, this is what a Google search looked like:

NoMoreAllNighters.com Google Search
I wondered how many other people would type that domain into a search box, so I ran a PPC advertising test. The point wasn't to generate traffic but to measure impressions. Over the course of a week, from 3/25-3/31, that AdWords PPC test generated 203 impressions. So, 203 people searched for the NoMoreAllNighters.com domain via Google. While that's not a high number, it's not zero. It would be useful to compare that number to the actual number of people who typed NoMoreAllNighters.com into a browser address bar instead of a search box. Of course, I don't have access to the www.NoMoreAllNighters.com server logs, so I can't know that number.

Still, if I owned a domain name that wasn't showing up in Google searches, I'd run a PPC test to measure the impressions. I'd want to know how much "direct navigation" traffic I was losing to Google searches. That's a part of domain name reputation management - using PPC advertising to measure and/or influence search results. Standard SEO and "new" SEO tactics (social media) can also help with domain name reputation management.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Dorky Self on WebProNews

Funny to see myself featured in a WebProNews video update:

webpronews.com video

(Note to self: Get a better, more recent picture for the press.) Interesting that WebProNews noticed my Yahoo! Search Marketing Ambassador decision.

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Into the Blue. No, Yellow!

It'll seem strange to hear people asking how to get "into the yellow" instead of "into the blue" in Google search results. Recently, Google decided to change the background color of the top AdWords keyword ads from blue to yellow. I suppose this makes the ads stand out a bit more:

webhealth.com google search

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Is WebHealth.com Search Engine Spam or Domain Parking 2.0?

This WebHealth.com project is intriguing. I can't figure out, though, if it's "domain parking 2.0" or another form of search engine spam. A whole slew of previously parked domains are being redirected to the webhealth.com site which is using a wiki to build content. On the one hand, that sounds like a good move, to create some useful content instead of a parked domain serving ads with no real content. OTOH, seeing a wiki plastered with PPC ads (Yahoo! Search Marketing ads, in this case) looks kind of spammy. Here's a current snapshot of their "About WebHealth" page:

About WebHealth on WebHealth.com

Hmm, no content. All ads. Looks like spam. What else is in the WebHealth.com footer? Let's see:

WebHealth.com footer

Maybe they just haven't finished building the site and that's why the "About WebHealth" has no content (but why would it have ads?). Here's the "Disclaimers" page:

WebHealth.com Disclaimer

Why would they have created that page but not the other footer page? That's odd. Still, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt, here, and will revisit the site in a few weeks to see if the About page has been populated with useful content. It'll be interesting to see what search engines like Google make of the site.

Definitely looks like an ambitious project and will be one to watch. To give you an idea of the scale of the project, here are some of the parked domains that now point to this wikified site: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . I suspect that's just the tip of the domain name iceberg. Note how these domains redirect to the new wiki webhealth.com site:

$ curl -Is headcolds.com |grep -i http
HTTP/1.1 302 Found
Location: http://headcolds.webhealth.com/wiki/Sinusitis

So, what do you think? Is WebHealth.com "domain parking 2.0" or search engine spam?

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