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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Long Overdue Blogroll Updates

I noticed yesterday that my blog had been added to Frank Schilling's Seven Mile blogroll (yes, the Frank Schilling recently mentioned in Business 2.0):

Frank Schilling's Blogroll
This made my day. It also reminded me that I needed to update my blogroll. A link from a blogroll is, in a sense, a vote of confidence. This is more important than the SEO benefits of a link, IMHO. So, today, I've completely revamped my blogroll to include more sections and more sites. I subscribe to many more blog feeds via NetVibes but wanted to highlight some of the blogs I "vote" for. Do check them out.

First, I renamed the "Blog Trackers" blogroll section "Blog / Meme Trackers" as these sites track more than just blogs. Existing sites included BlogsNow and Techmeme. I added Threadwatch. It's now a daily stop for me.

To the "AdWords Help Blogs" section, I added eWhisper.net (Brad Geddes) and shumans.com (Shuman Ghosemajumder). Shuman is a fellow MIT grad and works at Google on click fraud issues. Maybe once he's solved the click fraud problem, he'll tackle distribution fraud on the Google AdWords PPC advertising network(s).

I added a handful of blogs to the "Search Engine Marketing Blogs" list: Tropical SEO, SEO Refugee, SEO Book (way beyond SEO), Small Business SEM, Marketing Pilgrim, Traffick, Search Marketing Standard (also subscribe to their SEM magazine).

There's a brand new blogroll section "Domainer Blogs" which lists some of the domain industry blogs I've recently started reading: Seven Mile, Domain Editorial, Conceptualist, Domain Tools, Domain Name Wire, Whizzbang, The Key (Paul Sloan of Business 2.0).

Last, but certainly not least, I've created a "9rules Blogs" section for the blogroll. Since joining the 9rules network last year, I've found some terrific blogs on a wide variety of topics. In the blogroll, I'm including a few that might be relevant for readers of this blog: 9rules Blog, Marketing.fm, MindValley Labs, Andrew Wee, ExperienceCurve, Emergence Media, Influential Interactive Marketing. Visit the 9rules Business and Marketing communities for more great blogs.

Well, perhaps I'll make somebody else's day today. Enjoy these blogs. ;-)

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Comment on The TechnoPinkos Are At It Again

I left the following comment on Sahir Sarid's post entitled The TechnoPinkos Are At It Again:
Sahar, I think Google and Yahoo have created a problem for the domaining industry. Think about this from the other side - who is ultimately paying domainers? Yes, PPC advertisers. Here's the problem, though. PPC advertisers have no idea their ads are being placed on parked domains. Google AdWords has a "search network" and a "content network" while Yahoo! Search Marketing has "sponsored search" and "content match" but no mention of parked domains. You have to read the fine print (and/or log files) to find the truth.

PPC ads running on parked domains are not contextual advertising. There's not content on these sites. A domain name in and of itself is not sufficient content for their algorithms. PPC ads running on parked domains are not search engine advertising. Yes, you can make a case that some generic keyword domains are essentially the same as a search. However, much of the PPC traffic I see is NOT from generic keyword domains.

Google needs to create a "domain network" and Yahoo! needs to create a "domain match" so the parked domain traffic can stand on its own. If advertisers want it, they can choose it. If it converts well, they will keep it. To distribute search engine ads or contextual ads on parked domains is distribution fraud. This fraud makes domainers look bad, but the real culprits here are Google and Yahoo! themselves. It is in the best interest of both PPC advertisers and domainers to increase the transparency of parked domain traffic.

Somehow, though, I doubt most domainers welcome the idea. What do you think?
BTW, read Domain Speculation: Attack of the TechnoPinkos for background on the "technopinkos" meaning. Much like Google and Yahoo! now make it possible to separate search advertising from contextual advertising, I think they both need to take the additional step and separate domain parking traffic as a new distribution option. Arbitrarily deciding that some parked domains qualify as search advertising and others as contextual advertising doesn't cut it. It's neither. Slapping a search box on a parked domain certainly doesn't make it eligible for AdWords search network distribution. I think it's worth reiterating the fine print in the Google AdWords help page that answers the "What are parked domain sites? Will my ads show on them?" questions:
Users are brought to parked domain sites when they enter a search query or unregistered URL in a browser's address bar rather than in a search engine such as Google. Previously, parked domain sites were blank pages, which meant that users arriving at one of these sites had to renew their search query.

Now, parked domain sites offer ads that can be relevant to a user's search query. Some parked domain sites also include a search box, which allows users to further refine their search.

Depending on the design of the site, a parked domain site will be classified as either a search site or a content site. That means your ads may show on parked domain sites if your campaign is opted in to the search or content networks.
The problem with this approach by Google is that parked domains should not be classified as a search site nor a content site. They simply don't fit into the current design of AdWords. Because of this, Distribution Fraud is the Real Click Fraud. The creation of a domain network, distinct from both the search and content networks, would solve this problem. It would fix AdWords which is currently broken.

Reading Putting users in charge on the Google blog today reminds me that Google forgets who their primary customers are. PPC advertising accounts for 99% of Google's revenue. Google should think about putting advertisers in charge. At the very least, let them choose whether or not to display ads on parked domains. Let them track parked domain traffic in campaigns separate from search ads and contextual ads. No, I'm not a TechnoPinko, but I can see what has them all worked up.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Favorite Bloggers in Business 2.0 Magazine June Issue

The latest issue of Business 2.0 magazine arrived in the mail today. I was already aware of the cover story about domains, having seen a preview on CNBC TV. I didn't expect to see a couple of my favorite bloggers mentioned in the magazine, though. Domainer Frank Schilling is featured in the cover story (it's quite a popular story according to memetracker BlogsNow). SEO blogger Aaron Wall is mentioned in a different story (on page 52) about e-books. Here's the paragraph:
Take Aaron Wall, 27, a self-taught expert in the art of search engine optimization, or SEO. He sells his "SEO Book" for $79 and earns about $300,000 a year. He's even rejected an offer to turn "SEO Book" into an old-fashioned print version. "What's the point?" Wall asks.
Nice. I'm honored that my tracking script for Google content ads is mentioned in The SEO Book chapter on PPC, which is available as a free excerpt (PDF). Thanks, Aaron. Note to self: I wonder if it'd be worth expanding the Google AdWords tips, local advertising article, distribution fraud post and other AdWords content into an AdWords e-book. Even if I didn't sell an e-book, this might be a useful exercise. Hmm...

At any rate, if you're looking for an excellent SEO blog (the scope is well beyond SEO), read Aaron Wall's SEO Book. If you're curious about the domain industry (and many people will be after the Business 2.0 coverage), read Frank Schilling's Seven Mile. Oddly enough, Aaron recently interviewed Frank. It's worth a look.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Google Hot Trends + Domain Name Reputation Management

Looking at the new Google Hot Trends today, I wondered if it could tell me anything about direct navigation. It does. Consider these searches from their list of 100 hot trends for today:

31. whosarat.com
38. gethuman.com
68. yapta.com

This sort of data might be useful for domain name reputation management. If you like tools like Google hot trends, you might like TagMuse. It's a mashup that uses Technorati searches and tags data:

tagmuse technorati mashup

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Business 2.0 on CNBC: Domainers Like Ham Profit from Spam

I don't think domainers will be too pleased with this video segment from CNBC last night:
CNBC video

The CNBC title for the video segment is "He makes millions on typos" and has this description:
May 21: Kevin Ham registers common URL mistakes and redirects those making the mistake to his all-ad site. And he's making a fortune doing it. "On the Money's" Melissa Lee reports.
Some of the domainer bloggers I read (yes, many of us in the SEO/M world respect some of the domainers in the domain industry) seemed quite giddy yesterday at the thought of having their industry profiled on CNBC:
  1. The Biggest Domain Story Of All Times
  2. Domainers on TV and Business 2.0 June Cover Story?
  3. Domainer Story in “On The Money on CNBC” now (7pm Eastern)
I watched the segment on CNBC last night and was a bit disappointed. Paul Sloan's a great reporter. I subscribe to Business 2.0 and particularly enjoy his articles. They seem more like William Gibson short stories than business articles. CNBC chose to focus on one aspect of the story, how some domainers profit from typosquatting. If I wasn't already aware of the domain industry, I would have been left with this impression: Domainers work with Yahoo! and use typosquatting to make money off the backs of unsuspecting online advertisers.

I suspect there's some consternation both at Yahoo! today and in domainer circles. I'm quite irritated with Yahoo! for lumping this kind of traffic in with their Yahoo! Search Marketing traffic. That's part of the reason I dropped out of the Yahoo! Search Marketing Ambassador program (it was funny to be mentioned in a WebProNews video update). I don't expect a Yahoo! blog to mention the CNBC video, but domainers seem a little bit uncomfortable under the microscope today. Here are some reactions from domaining bloggers:
  1. Frank Michlick
  2. Jay Westerdal
  3. Sahar Sarid
  4. Frank Schilling
What's your take? Is the .cm typosquatting agoga.com redirect trick a clever hack or more search engine spam?

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Universal Search for aQuantive

In Google Killed the SEO Star, I commented on the real time nature of universal search. Interesting to see it in action. Consider the current Google search results for aQuantive:

aquantive news in google search

When I posted about the aQuantive (AQNT) stock price earlier today, this is what the same Google search looked like:

aquantive google universal search

The rank for the block of news results has changed from #4 to #1. From an SEO perspective, it's worth noting that only 9 spots are available for web pages. As Google incorporates more of its content sources into the search results, there will be even less room for "normal" web pages. This is partly what I meant by Google Killed the SEO Star. Matt McGee has an alternate view of universal search (and its impact on SEO) which is worth reading.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Flabbergasted by aQuantive (AQNT) Price

I could not believe the news this morning that Microsoft (MSFT) was buying aQuantive (AQNT) for about $6 billion. Here's why I'm flabbergasted:
  1. I sold AQNT shares in March for $26.38
  2. Acquisition price is about double what Google (GOOG) paid for Doubleclick (DCLK)
  3. Microsoft is buying an SEM firm (Avenue A | Razorfish)
The first item is what annoys me the most. I bought some AQNT stock in 2004 @ $7.58 so was pretty pleased with a 248% gain on my investment when I sold AQNT @ $26.38. Seeing the jump in the stock price this morning was exasperating. Sigh. The second item is pretty amazing. Clearly, they were in a bidding war. The third item, though, makes me wonder what they're really after.

Interesting to note, too, when doing a Google search this morning for aQuantive, I saw the new universal search UI in action:

aquantive google universal search

Note that the fourth search result is a collection of news results and not a web page.

For more details on the MSFT-AQNT deal, see TechCrunch. I wonder what SearchQuant will think of this latest SEM valuation. Well, congratulations to Chris Boggs!

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Google Killed the SEO Star

Yes, Google killed the SEO star. Sing along:
In my mind and in my browser bar,
We can't redirect we've gone too far,
Universal search came and broke your heart,
Put the blame on Mayer
You are an SEO star
You are an SEO star
Google killed the SEO star.
(If you're too young to understand the reference, see here.) Did Google just kill SEO? Or, did it suddenly create brand new opportunities for SEO specialists? John Andrews thinks so: "What does it mean for search marketers and SEO's? More business, of course. More specialization, as well." Sahar Sarid suggests Map Engine Optimization (MEO) as a subset of SEO (See my previous post, 3 Steps for Inclusion in the New Google Plus Box, which is related to MEO).

I think universal search creates more of an opportunity for PPC specialists than SEO specialists. As Google search results fluctuate and change more frequently, the paid ads (AdWords) will actually become more "steady" than the SERPs. Regarding the fluctuation of Google SERPs, Steve Rubel notes:
What you might have missed, however, from the official word is this nugget. The giant web index that some 60% of online world uses to search is now assembled in real time. This means your search results could change frequently depending on the daily impact of live web content.
This sounds quite a bit like Technorati's notion of "Live Web" results. Perhaps "Google Killed the Technorati Star" would have been an equally apt title for this post. Then again, Technorati's managed to survive even after Google launched their own blog search and then incorporated those results into core search results. I wouldn't count Dave Sifry out just yet.

There were a couple of items from the universal search press release that I think are worth noting. First:
Google is also in the process of deploying a new technical infrastructure that will enable the search engine to handle the computationally intensive tasks required to produce universal search results. The company is also releasing the first stage of an upgraded ranking mechanism that automatically and objectively compares different types of information. As always, Google™ search results are ranked automatically by algorithms to deliver the best results to users anywhere in the world.
Since the AdWords ads are a "type of information" I wonder if we'll eventually see inline ads? The sponsored ads at the top (up to 3 are shown) are already inline, in a sense. With the switch from blue to yellow, those ads blend in more with the core search results. Will the Google algorithms eventually decide that a PPC ad is more relevant than other forms of information and insert an ad in the middle of a page? After all, Google distributes PPC ads via domain parking. Those pages are often 100% ads. No, I don't think Google should treat ads like content. I'm just pointing out that they already do. But, Google is not search engine spam, right?

The second item I found interesting from the press release relates to the context of search keywords. This aspect of universal search might prove the most useful:
New dynamically generated navigation links have been added above the search results to suggest additional information that is relevant to a user's query. For example, a search for "python" will now generate links to Google Blog Search™, Google Book Search™, Google Groups™, and Google Code™, to let the user know there is additional information on his or her query in each of those areas. As a result, users can find a wider array of information on their topic, including data types they might not have initially considered.
Webmasters who rely too much on traffic from Google will likely be rather worried with the universal search changes. The Google Webmaster Central Blog was quick to offer the same, generic advice they always provide: "create valuable, unique content that is exactly what searchers are looking for." Yep, Google killed the SEO star. Sing along...

Apogee Tags (tags for SEM stars - geez, now I'm humming Moby's "We Are All Made of Stars"): , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monday, May 14, 2007

Howto: Block Google's Hidden Ad Network

Someone left me this anonymous comment over the weekend on my post about AdWords garbage traffic:
Hi, were you ever able to block domainsponsor traffic using the site exclusion? I read your posts here and on the search engine forum where the Google rep replied how to do it. Can you just post your answer so we all know if it works!
The solution does appear to be working. Read Blocking Parked Domains on the Search Network for a full explanation. I applied the fix to several clients' accounts early on 3/26. Checking server log files, the last activity I saw from Google's hidden ad network (I'll explain this term later in the post) was on 3/25. More than a month with no garbage traffic across client accounts. I'd say the solution is working.

The traffic in question is parked domain traffic that is appearing on the search network and not the content network. It all appears to originate from searchportal.information.com which sounds like a legitimate domain name. However, if you visit the actual links, you'll realize you're on a vast network of garbage sites. These are NOT high quality generic domain names (that post mentions "Direct navigation had a 4.2% conversion to sale rate, while search engine clicks lead on average to 2.3%" which is just plain wrong). Here are some examples I've found while sifting through clients' log files:

baikunthresorts.com
bottleboss.com
bushherp.com
cfta.ca
climetecrisis.net
goatlocker.com
millerecettes.com
thankgcollection.com
theedgedaily.com.my
vstoregifts.com
westernnuts.com

I can see why Google would want searchportal.information.com to appear in the log files and not the actual domain name sending the traffic. No, these sites do not belong on Google's supposedly high quality search network. They'd be a stretch even on the content network. How on earth do these sites generate traffic? Spyware? Arbitrage? This is the kind of traffic that led me to declare Distribution Fraud is the Real Click Fraud.

Now, why am I calling this Google's "hidden" ad network? On the advertiser side, Google has AdWords. On the publisher side, Google has AdSense. They don't quite match up. AdWords has a search network and a content network. However, on the publisher side you actually have AdSense for Search, AdSense for Content AND AdSense for Domains. So if,
  1. AdSense for Search == AdWords search network
  2. AdSense for Content == AdWords content network
why is there no AdWords "domain" network? Instead, the domain traffic is routed through *both* the search and content networks. This is the hidden ad network. Here is Google's explanation:
Depending on the design of the site, a parked domain site will be classified as either a search site or a content site. That means your ads may show on parked domain sites if your campaign is opted in to the search or content networks.
Couple that with the fact that clicks are routed through sites like searchportal.information.com, obscuring the actual domain sending the traffic and you start to realize the existence of a hidden ad network. Is it really spinning straw into gold for Google? Will Google ever create a domain network for AdWords? In the meantime, since this traffic isn't from high quality domain names, save yourself some money and just block it. (If anyone from Google ever happens to read this post, shame on you guys. Seriously. I'd put you on a "time out" if you were my kids.)

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Is Yahoo! Making a Vertical Search Move?

Is there more to Famous Landmarks Get the Flickr Treatment in Yahoo! Search than simply integrating Flickr into Yahoo! Search for a limited set of queries? I think this is a big move for two reasons:
  1. Shows that Yahoo! is serious about finding synergies between existing properties
  2. Creates a subset of Yahoo! Search that is a step towards a travel vertical search engine
Both of these are significant in that they could help Yahoo! take market share from Google. I argued last year that Yahoo! should integrate another of its properties, del.icio.us, into search results to build a better search engine than Google:
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?
Since then, I've seen others (like Fred Wilson and Rand Fishkin) suggest that del.icio.us could be leveraged to defeat Google. The power of both del.icio.us and Flickr is in the network effect. Instead of relying largely on the interlinking nature of sites to determine relevance, these Yahoo! services depend on the actions of people. In a sense, they serve as collaborative filters. Consider the explanation for Flickr's interestingness:
There are lots of things that make a photo 'interesting' (or not) in the Flickr. Where the clickthroughs are coming from; who comments on it and when; who marks it as a favorite; its tags and many more things which are constantly changing. Interestingness changes over time, as more and more fantastic photos and stories are added to Flickr.
So, combine "interesting" photos of a famous landmark (Flickr) with travel ads (Yahoo! Search Marketing) and information sites (core Yahoo! Search) and you're starting to see a vertical travel search engine when performing a simple Yahoo! Search. Consider a search for Chichen Itza, one of the examples from the Yahoo! Search Blog:

chichen itza yahoo search

Notice that before you even get to the core search results, you see travel-related search refinements like "chichen itza tours" and then some PPC ads that are travel-related and then the Flickr photos of the destination (landmark). Contrast this with the identical Google search:

chichen itza google search

That's just plain dull in comparison. Notice that the top 2 core search results are the same, albeit in different order:
Does the Yahoo! SERP look something like a travel vertical SERP? Even if I'm reading too much into this, it does look like a better (at least more "interesting") search experience than with Google. Perhaps that's what's important here, for Yahoo! and its future. I'll be curious to see if they cultivate more synergies between Yahoo! Search and their web 2.0 properties.

BTW, if you found this post dull, perhaps a game of Flickr TagMan will help. ;-)

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Top 5 Ways Ignorant Advertisers Lose Money to Google via AdWords

I honestly think Google is profiting from the ignorance of its advertisers, who supply approximately 99% of Google's revenues. By using Google AdWords without understanding how the underlying AdWords system works, many advertisers are transferring wealth to Google at a phenomenal rate. These are the top 5 ways advertisers lose money when using AdWords:

1. Not understanding that contextual advertising is NOT search engine advertising
When most companies think about Google AdWords, they think they are buying keyword ads on Google. That's not the case. By default, when creating a keyword-targeted advertising campaign, the campaign is set to deliver ads on Google, the search network and the content network. Keyword ads displayed on the content network are a form of contextual advertising and not search engine advertising. While it is convenient to create a single keyword ad via the AdWords system which can be used for both search advertising and contextual advertising, tracking results is more practical when separating these very different forms of advertising. For advertisers who don't intend to purchase contextual ads, I recommend opting out of the content network by editing the "Networks" settings (at the campaign level) to look like this:

adwords networks settings

2. Not recognizing that broad match is actually expanded broad match
Advertisers who are not savvy enough to use phrase matches (keywords surrounded by double quotation marks) and/or exact matches (keywords surrounded by [] brackets), simply enter keywords into their ad groups. By default, these keywords are broad matches which are now actually expanded broad matches. Anyone using broad matches has no idea what they're actually buying. I've seen firsthand the dangers of expanded broad matching. To be fair to Google, when I explained the expanded matching flaw in that particular case and the temporary solution I devised, they did credit my client for the untargeted traffic.

To deal with broad matching flaws, I've adopted an exact match bidding strategy for AdWords. The basic idea is to bid on both the exact and broad matches for a given keyword and to bid more for the exact match. Why? Because you know precisely what you're paying for. This strategy can be extended to phrase matches, as well. Example of what an ad group keyword list might look like:

foo bar ** 0.07
"foo bar" ** 0.31
[foo bar] ** 0.55

Note the text in parentheses from this AdWords help page:
Also, expanded matching only applies to broad-matched keywords. The system won't create expanded matches for any of your phrase- or exact-matched keywords. Therefore, if you don't want expanded matching on any of your keywords, you can simply turn them into phrase or exact matches. (Keep in mind that narrowing your advertising focus with phrase or exact matching may decrease the number of ad impressions you receive. However, because your ads will be more relevant to target users, your clickthrough rate may also improve.)
Ah, but isn't that what an advertiser wants? Ads that are more relevant. A higher CTR.

3. Not implementing negative keywords
Keeping in mind that impressions are the denominator in the CTR calculation, it's essential to utilize negative keywords which will reduce unwanted impressions and thereby improve CTR. A list of negative keywords can be created beforehand from keyword research tools. It's also crucial to track the actual keyword searches from search engine traffic on an ongoing basis and to feed those results back into Google ads in the form of negative keywords.

4. Not realizing that the search network includes more than search engine advertising
I don't think most advertisers recognize that the search network is not pure search engine advertising. For example, Google runs a program called AdSense for Domains which "delivers targeted, conceptually related advertisements to parked domain pages by using Google’s semantic technology to analyze and understand the meaning of the domain names." Hmm, when I see the term "AdSense" in the name of a Google product and phrases like "conceptually related advertisements" I think contextual advertising (on the AdWords content network). That's not necessarily the case as evidenced by search network garbage traffic I've seen and this Google help text:
Depending on the design of the site, a parked domain site will be classified as either a search site or a content site. That means your ads may show on parked domain sites if your campaign is opted in to the search or content networks.
I'm not saying all parked domain traffic is garbage. I'm simply saying all of the parked domain traffic on the AdWords search network that I've seen is garbage. Frankly, I don't believe the domain parking traffic conversion myth. Additionally, if an advertiser is opting into (or not opting out of) the search network, their expectation is that they're purchasing search engine advertising. In many cases, they're not. Google could solve this flaw in their AdWords system by creating a "domain network" as a distribution option in addition to the existing search and content networks. If the traffic converts well, advertisers will choose this network. More importantly, advertisers will be able to track search engine advertising more accurately.

5. Not hiring the right search engine marketing firm
I often find myself in the role of AdWords Tweaker, going in and fixing accounts that a bigger firm has implemented poorly. It's amazing how many AdWords accounts combine search engine advertising with contextual advertising, only use broad matches and don't employ negative keywords. (No, I'm not recommending my search engine marketing firm.) Many small advertisers don't even need a search engine marketing firm to handle their AdWords spend. If they have someone on staff who is Internet savvy and can take the time to study the AdWords Learning Center, from what I've seen, they might be better off DIY. Whether AdWords management is done in-house or outsourced, though, someone at the company should understand the AdWords system well enough to make sure the advertising is meeting the company's goals. Comparing this to another industry, I trust my CPA, but I want to understand the tax returns before I sign them. ;-)

NOTE: This is my entry in the Problogger "Top 5" Group Writing Project.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Microsoft to Buy Yahoo! to Battle Google?

Wow! Just saw on Bloomberg TV that Yahoo! might be bought by Microsoft:
Shares of Yahoo! Inc., owner of the second most-used Internet search engine, jumped 17 percent after the New York Post reported Microsoft Corp. asked to start talks about a possible takeover.
The Wall Street Journal also talks about a possible merger. This is going to be a hot topic in the blogosphere today. It's a bit ironic since before Yahoo! acquired Overture, Overture supplied paid listings to both Yahoo! and Microsoft. After that acquisition, Microsoft built their own platform. Clearly, that hasn't succeeded. Google continues to grow, leaving both Yahoo! and Microsoft in its wake.

Will a combined Yahoo! and Microsoft company be able to compete? I'm not so sure. Having been at AOL when they merged with Time Warner, combining two companies with very different cultures doesn't always result in the synergies seen on paper. I'd think they'd be better off just partnering on a PPC advertising platform. Kill off MSN AdCenter and have both Microsoft and Yahoo! use the new Panama advertising platform. If this deal does go through, I think it'll benefit Google here. They'll continue to be nimble while Yahoo! and Microsoft will become mired in the difficult task of merging clashing cultures.

If I were a stock analyst, then, I'd say buy GOOG and sell both YHOO and MSFT on this news. (Full disclosure: I'm hedging my bets and currently own all three. Since I'm not a stock analyst, I'm going to continue to hold them all.) It'll be interesting to see what the analysts on CNBC and Bloomberg recommend regarding these three stocks today.

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Average Spend for Mothers Day Gifts

I find this hard to believe, but the Inside AdWords blog anticipates an average Mothers Day gift spend of $140. (Have you set May 13th in your Google Calendar?) The study they mention also indicates that 72.4% of that money spent for Mothers Day gifts will go towards flowers. Hmm, since I have a client who's an online florist, I thought I'd point you to some interesting Mothers Day flowers that are less than $140:

I like this one because you don't have to choose between Mothers Day flowers, plants or gift baskets. You get all three, a different gift delivered each month for three months. This is a clever idea that I don't believe the bigger online florists have copied, yet. ;-)

You can never go wrong with a flower basket. This one's less than half that average Mothers Day gift spend of $140. If you don't want to send flowers this year, consider a healthy gift (from a different client) with a little bit of chocolate:

Apart from the chocolate covered coffee beans, the other items feature dark organic chocolate, the "healthy" kind. I actually ate some Blue Loon Munch yesterday.

All right, I better stop with the gift ideas. I genuinely enjoy talking about my clients, particularly when they have innovative products or services to offer. At any rate, don't forget to send your mom something nice this year!

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Trail Mix for Business Travel

Last year, a Business 2.0 article about high energy foods for business travel stated, "A prepackaged trail mix with both nuts and dried fruits is a perfect (and portable) high-energy combo." Yesterday, The New York Times published Trail Mix Isn’t Just for Hikers which recommends emergency food kits for business travel due to increasing "tarmac-sitting stories." Trail mix is a great office snack, too. I just ate a bag of Blue Loon Munch (from Maine Munchies®):

organic chocolate in trail mix

Doesn't that look yummy? Dark organic lavender chocolate, dried wild Maine blueberries, roasted almonds - not your ordinary trail mix. (Yes, Maine Munchies is a client.) Now, get yourself some trail mix for business travel or as an office snack. It takes energy to read/write blogs, after all. ;-)

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

iGoogle - Google Now a Portal Like Yahoo!

It's strange to see a Google page (iGoogle) looking like a Yahoo! portal page:

iGoogle

With the launch (re-launch?) of iGoogle, Google is now a portal! iGoogle is the new name for the Google Personalized (Personalised for some) Homepage. The iGoogle name is interesting considering that Google CEO Eric Schmidt is on Apple's board. I'll stick with NetVibes for my start page. I don't want a portal like Yahoo! or iGoogle. I just want a quick way to catch up on my RSS feeds. I'm not sure if iGoogle is more of a threat to older portals like Yahoo! or newer start pages like NetVibes and PageFlakes.

Although it seems peculiar to see a Google portal, I can see why they're going down this route. How many people have switched to customized start pages and moved away from a search engine as their default homepage? There's another reason, though, for this move. This might be even more relevant. Steve Rubel calls it iAdvertising:
Google and other publishers desperately want you to personalize your experience so they can serve you the right mix of relevant content/ads. However, only a small few want it. That's a direct clash in interests.
Think about it. Where does Google's revenue come from? Yep, 99% from ads.* If they can create more targeted ads on iGoogle, how much more advertising revenue will they generate?

For other perspectives on iGoogle, see what the bloggers who were invited to an iGoogle workshop are saying. Also, there are some funny but relevant comments on TechCrunch like this one: "from now on, i-anything is just gay unless it comes from Apple."

*Source: Google 2006 annual report 10-K filing says "We generated approximately 99% of our revenues in 2006 from our advertisers."

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