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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas! Happy Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Happy Christmas!

christmas art
ASCII Art by Joan Stark

One of my kids reminded me today that we'll need to wish a "Happy Christmas" rather than a "Merry Christmas" when we talk to our British relatives. Nice that a 4 year old notices these sorts of things. Growing up, we'd listen to the Queen's message on Christmas Day. My kids might grow up watching that message on the new Royal Channel on YouTube. Perhaps.

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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Davos Question? Google? Mirror, please.

I honestly think Google's being a bit hypocritical and pretentious posing the Davos Question:
What one thing do you think that countries, companies or individuals must do to make the world a better place in 2008?
I bet most Googlers have no idea the company they work for is either actively engaged in fraudulent activities or, at the very least, passively allowing fraud on its own advertising network. I'd like to see Google eliminate distribution fraud in 2008. They've had all of 2007 to solve the problem and have not. I know they're well aware of the problem. If you're not familiar with distribution fraud, read these posts:
I included the dates to emphasize how long Google has known about the problem. They've actually known since 2005. Influential search engine industry veteran Danny Sullivan wrote a scathing article, Google AdSense For Domains Program Overdue For Reform, in 2005. He didn't use the term "distribution fraud" in that article, but that's what he was referring to. I learned of the very apropos term, distribution fraud, from this blog.

Anyway, I'm tired of seeing these kinds of garbage clicks from the AdWords search network in my clients' server logs:

google adwords click fraud example
(Click the above image for details.)
So, fetch that mirror Google. How are you going to answer the Davos Question?

BTW, it's great that you're devoting software engineering resources to projects like better flight stats, but it'd be even better if you could allocate some software engineers to tackle the problem of missing data from advertiser reports. This is one of the best quotes about Google from 2007, from Niki Scevak:
You can’t help but smile at certain comments by Google, home to the veritable oceans of Phd scholars in computer science research and highly skilled software engineers... Imagine the sophisticated the technology needed to split out direct navigation sites!
I hope for actual transparency in 2008 and the elimination of AdWords distribution fraud. Practice what you preach, Google. Please.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Google Knol Second Thoughts

Interesting comments on my first thoughts about Google Knol. On second thought, I wonder if Google will have second thoughts about launching the project. I certainly think they'll regret the first sentence from this paragraph (emphasis mine):
A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read. The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions. Google will not serve as an editor in any way, and will not bless any content. All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors. We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write. For many topics, there will likely be competing knols on the same subject. Competition of ideas is a good thing.
With collective authoring sites like Wikipedia and individual authoring sites like Squidoo, what's the value add of Google Knol? How does the creation of Google Knol help Google pursue its mission (despite already failing at that mission) to organize the world's information? If that information already exists on sites like Wikipedia and Squidoo and on blogs and any kind of web page, for that matter, what's the real point of Google Knol? Inevitably, a new service like Google Knol will lead to more duplicate content. Does Google really think webmasters will trust Google to NOT favor its own content? Think about that in light of the first sentence in the above quote from Google.

Is Google Knol a Squidoo Copycat?
squidoo knol
Source: Seth Godin's blog (see below)

I think Google will have second thoughts about launching Knol. They cannot be oblivious to the reactions in the blogosphere to the closed beta. I'm going to highlight three blog posts that cover the topic well. Note that all of these authors have listings on both Wikipedia and Squidoo (or SquidWho by Squidoo). Also, if you haven't already done so, read my original post about Google Knol and note the comments from a Google employee (who was kind enough to share his own opinions). Then, read these:
  1. Seth Godin (Wikipedia | Squidoo): Building a platform (and thinking about Google's Knol)
  2. Danny Sullivan (Wikipedia | Squidoo): Google Knol: Competitors Respond & Time To Limit The Aggregators?
  3. Michael Arrington (Wikipedia | Squidoo): A Few Thoughts On Google Knol
Will Google, indeed, have second thoughts about actually launching Google Knol? Or, is there a compelling need for the new service?

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Apogee Search != My Search Engine Marketing Company

Apogee Search is not related to my search engine marketing company, Apogee Web Consulting LLC. I'm not sure why there's any confusion. They're in Texas. My company's in Maryland. Here's an email I received from a blog reader:
Are you affiliated with Apogee Search Engine Marketing in Austin? If not, it's confusing as I've always associated your blog and your site with search engine marketing in the past.
Apogee Search was recently quoted in a Wired blog regarding PayPerPost. I want to make sure my company is not associated with PayPerPost. I'm not a big fan of that concept. Apogee Web Consulting was mentioned in a Wired blog about the presidential election and Google AdWords.

apogee search logoIf you're looking for Apogee Search of Texas, here's their blog. They are a Google AdWords Qualified Company. Here's their logo.

My company is called Apogee Web Consulting. You are currently reading my search engine marketing blog. I am a Google AdWords Qualified Individual. This is my company's logo (designed by Second Street Web Design):

apogee web consulting logo

Clear? Apogee Search and Apogee Web Consulting are unrelated companies. And, no, this is not a paid post. ;-)

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Google Knol Signals the Apogee of Google's Hegemony

Google has peaked. Their hegemony has reached apogee. (No, not Apogee.) I'm stunned reading about Google Knol today. Why? The Google Knol announcement means one of two scenarios for Google:
  1. They've failed at fighting spam. They need to own sufficient content in order to keep their search index spam free.
  2. They've decided to compete directly with web content creators. No company will trust Google going forward.
As a GOOG shareholder, I'm frankly a little disappointed today. I think the announcement of Google Knol (whether or not it actually sees the light of day) indicates either incompetence or arrogance on Google's part. Either the algorithm is broken and they can't fix it or they've decided that the existing content on the web is not sufficient for their search index. If the former, then Google will lose market share as users lose trust in the quality of the search results. If the latter, Google will lose market share as companies perceive Google as an enemy instead of an ally and work together to circumvent the search engine. Do you see how either case indicates a serious problem for Google? Is this an inflection point in the history of Google?

John Battelle understands the gravity of the Google Knol situation. In Google Takes Aim at Wikipedia, Is Now Officially a Media Company, he writes:
This one really blows me away. Everyone has noticed recently (over the past few years and in particular lately) how dominant Wikipedia is in Google results. Well, I guess Google's noticed too, and decided it wants to own the second click, as well as the first.
I'm noticing a mixture of reactions in the blogosphere. I'll list both some pro-knol and anti-knol posts. First, pro-knol:
I'm noticing more bloggers objecting to Google Knol, so I'll list more anti-knol:
BTW, does the Google Knol project even fit the parameters of the stated Google mission?

I wonder what Seth Godin thinks today about his recent post about the success of Squidoo:
Not only has the content grown, but our traffic has grown as well. We’re three to five times bigger than anyone else we compete with. Nobody else is even close in traffic, pages, users, etc. Google Analytics reports more than 6 million unique visitors a month and approximately twice that in visits.
Now, they'll have to compete with Google. If they recognize this and drop Google AdSense and many other companies follow suit and drop AdSense, what will that do to Google's revenue stream? I think Google Knol is more of a Squidoo killer than a Wikipedia killer. If Google Knol launches, will Squidoo see a mass migration of writers? Or, does Google's capitulation indicate the validity of Squidoo's business model? Not to mention Mahalo, but I'd rather not. ;-)

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Beating AdWords AdSense Nonsense

Beating AdWords? Nonsense. It's not about beating the system. It's about understanding the system first and then adapting to the ever-changing Google advertising (AdWords/AdSense) landscape. I don't think many people understand the difference between AdWords and AdSense. That's crucial for effective AdWords campaigns. Even elite marketers like Seth Godin recognize the confusion. In Meatball Mondae: Millions of channels on AdWords, he writes:
Google AdWords is a very simple idea that’s surprisingly little understood. On every page of Google search results, in your Gmail and your Froogle results, and more and more on the pages of other Web sites (like Squidoo or the New York Times), you’ll find these ads. The AdWords are smart. They appear based on the context of what you’re doing.
Is he talking about AdWords or AdSense? Both, actually. It's not so much that AdWords are smart. AdSense for Content (which is not the same as AdSense for Search which, in turn, is not the same as AdSense for Domains) is smart, in the sense that it uses contextual targeting. The primary reason, however, that AdSense (not AdWords) appears so smart is that a large inventory of keyword ads exist in the AdWords system which AdSense can use on other sites. Trouble is, many AdWords advertisers think they're buying only search advertising when they sign up for AdWords. They're actually buying three kinds of advertising, if they don't override the defaults. They're buying search advertising AND contextual advertising AND domain advertising. To avoid confusion (if that's possible), I'm limiting the scope of this post to keyword-targeted ads and am ignoring site-targeted ads.

Perhaps it will help to think of Google's advertising system in terms of ad creation and ad distribution. For the most part, AdWords involves ad creation while AdSense represents ad distribution. Ads on Google are the exception. Those *are* AdWords. Taking liberty with Seth Godin's Meatball Sundae idea, I think the meatball is AdWords. All the flavors of AdSense are the toppings.

The AdWords system I started using in 2002 was simple. Then they added the content network (AdSense for Content) and changed broad match to expanded broad match and started distributing domain advertising (AdSense for Domains) on BOTH the search network AND the content network. IOW, they kept piling on all this stuff to the core product. I think their goal was to simplify ad management. Advertisers would create a single ad that would run in many places. Advertisers didn't need to understand the differences between search advertising, contextual advertising and domain advertising. They'd simply get more clicks. Turns out, though, that advertisers want more control. They value high quality traffic over a high quantity of traffic. So, Google started to unwind some of the changes they'd made, which made the system more confusing.

I like to keep search advertising separate from contextual advertising and both of those separate from domain advertising. It's not yet possible with AdWords. What's interesting, though, is that people at Google recognize that it's crucial to isolate content ads from search ads. A recent post on the Inside AdWords blog regarding optimizing keywords for the content network had some great insights. Example:
We recommend keeping separate campaigns for advertising on content and search. Please keep in mind that these tips below are specific to contexual targeting and advertising on the content network and may be different from your search network strategies.
So, getting back to the title of this post, "beating AdWords" begins with building search campaigns that are managed separately from content campaigns:

google ad distribution options

Now, when you create a new keyword-targeted ad campaign, there's no indication that you'll be paying for contextual ad clicks as well as domain ad clicks. The onus is on you to edit the campaign settings. When you uncheck the Content network selection, ignore the scary warning from Google:

adwords popup

You really do want to opt out of the content network, at least for a search advertising campaign. As noted above, even Google recognizes this is the right thing to do. Unfortunately, even opting out of the content network, you still might pay for some contextual ads. What do I mean? Remember this whole Meatball Sundae idea? Well, since Google threw the AdSense for Domains toppings on, they kind of got stuck in the search advertising meatball. You can't separate them. Unfortunately, this poor implementation leads to this kind of click fraud. Aaron Wall laments that Google "has some of the dirtiest domain traffic partners (many cybersquatters)" on its ad network. Sadly, he's absolutely right. Make sure you know how to block unwanted domain traffic.

Don't get me wrong. I'd like to buy domain advertising. I just want to keep it separate from search advertising and contextual advertising. I'd also like some transparency as to where my domain ads would be displayed. PPC advertisers need to recognize that domain ads are about quality traffic and not quality sites. Many turn their noses up (I know I used to) at parked domains since they are undeveloped sites. But, think about it - what's Google? It's an ugly site with some good links and delivers high quality traffic. You don't want people to stick around. You want them to leave Google and go to the external sites. The problem is that PPC advertisers tend to think of parked domains in the context of contextual advertising. Implemented properly, parked domain advertising should be more akin to search advertising. I'm going off on a tangent, here, so I'll save these ideas for a future post. In the meantime, visit blogs like Seven Mile, Conceptualist, Domain Tools, Whizzbang, and you'll see what I'm referring to.

I was going to talk about a strategy for dealing with the various match types in the AdWords system in light of the expanded matching toppings being thrown onto the broad match meatball (which makes for a rather unpalatable combination). Rather than repeating ideas that I've written previously, though, look at the image below and click on it if you want those details:

adwords keyword matching types

Consider subscribing to Apogee Weblog if you've found this post helpful (and aren't already busy beating AdWords). Also, these posts have similar ideas:
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National Poinsettia Day is December 12

A year ago today (December 12), I was on Sirius Satellite Radio talking about National Poinsettia Day and poinsettia care. Here's an excerpt from my post from last year:
The owner of the company couldn't be on the phone at that time because his daughter had a concert. Gotta love these mom-and-pop businesses - they have their priorities straight. Anyway, since I've been working with them for awhile (since 2002) and am quite familiar with their products, he asked me to answer questions about www.plantrex.com on the air. I haven't been on the radio before, but have been on plenty of conference calls. Seemed just like one of those so I think it went pretty well. Will see if I can get a hold of some audio from the 10 minutes or so I was on the air. Was able to plug their monthly gift service and seasonal items like poinsettias. Hopefully, I helped them out.
poinsettiasWell, since it is National Poinsetta Day, why don't you send someone the gift of a poinsettia today? I know a place where you can order some. Choose red, white or pink. ;-)

BTW, my post from last year included a couple of small business marketing ideas, based on being contacted by Sirius Satellite Radio. Read the bottom of that post...

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Whopper Freakout - Funny Use of Meta Tags at Burger King WhopperFreakout.com

Type whopperfreakout.com into my firm's free keyword research tool and you'll see:

whopperfreakout.com meta tags

Pretty funny. Burger Queen?! Clearly, Burger King realizes that meta keywords are a joke. Nice to see this sort of SEO humor. I wonder if this was done in-house or if they have an outside SEO/M firm. Well done (pun intended).

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

Spamming Google via AdWords

More evidence of the Google dichotomy. In an attempt to limit search engine spam, Google's going after sites that sell paid links. At the same time, Google is accepting spam in its own paid links, AdWords. What's wrong with this picture?

google adwords spam

On a somewhat related note, I wonder if anyone's spamming sitelinks.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Google CEO for a Day

In my last post, I mentioned leaving a comment on Matt Cutts' blog. His response was interesting:
Richard Ball, thanks for the interesting comment. I’m not sure if you’ve seen these links:
http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/014378.html
http://www.seroundtable.com/archives/015287.html

and this post with screenshots:
http://www.redflymarketing.com/blog/adwords-content-exclusion-beta-a-first-look/

I honestly do appreciate the feedback and the honest criticism. I wouldn’t claim that Google is perfect, but I do think that we try to respond to feedback. For example, at SES San Jose we got some criticism for our stance on paid links while selling “buy PageRank”-type ads. Earlier this week, we disabled ads for a bunch of “buy PageRank”-type ads, and I expect us to do that for more such queries.

Is Google perfect? Nope. Do I secretly sometimes fantasize that Larry/Sergey would run a “CEO for a day” contest, I would win it, and I could change several little things about Google that annoy me? Yup, I’ve daydreamed about that more than once. :) But in the mean time, there’s a bunch of Googlers who try to do the right thing and try to make sure that Google does the right thing. That may be hard to believe, but in my opinion it’s true.

Richard Ball, if you’re going to be at PubCon too, please introduce yourself. I enjoy chatting about this more.
I like that “CEO for a day” quote. Hmm, if I were Google CEO for a day, I'd start with these 2 suggestions for Google AdWords...

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Is Matt Cutts Honestly Clueless?

Interesting debate between Matt Cutts (of Google) and Michael Gray (of Graywolf's SEO Blog) on Matt's Selling links that pass PageRank post. I left the following comment:
@graywolf - Hey MG, I don't think you're going to get MC to resolve the Google dichotomy. I honestly don't think he understand that it exists. Remember when AdWords changed color from blue to yellow? Was that to improve search results relevance or blur the line between paid results and organic results? That had nothing to do with anything Matt's team did. They seem to operate in a vacuum, unaware how the business side of Google creates a conflict of interest with what they're attempting to do.

MC, if you really want to tackle search engine spam, coerce the AdWords team to display the parked domains from the AdSense for Domains program in reports. For a company whose mission is to organize the world's information, those selective omission of that crucial information undermines your work. Think about that.

I bet you're not even aware that your company chooses to hide this information from advertisers, your company's core customers who provide 99% of your revenue. This is what I'm talking about:

[link]

Also, if your read the announcement about the launch of the Placement Performance Report:

[link]

you'll notice this section: "The report also provides a new level of transparency for traffic you accrued from sites in our network that are participating in the AdSense for domains program. Currently, AdSense for domains statistics are collectively reported, but we are working to give you site-by-site level statistics soon."

That was 6 months ago. How soon is that? ;-)

A more recent post on your company's Inside AdWords blog regarding invalid clicks (and I know you've posted about invalid clicks and Shuman's efforts in that regard in the past):

[link]

refers to the site exclusion tool which "can be used to prevent ads from appearing on certain Google content network websites that advertisers don't feel are appropriate for their ads. Advertisers can get an idea of where their ads are showing by running a Placement Performance report."

Umm, how can you block individual sites when they're lumped together into a single "Domain Ads" category? Yes, I know an AdSense for Domains opt out exists. That's not what advertisers or domainers need. Advertisers need to actually be able to see where their ads run and pick and choose individual domains to block.

Now, can you see why people are having a hard time listening to you talk about paid links and transparency?

Good luck. Seriously. Others at Google who aren't as honest and open as your are going to make it difficult for you to be trusted.
Will be curious to see a response from either Matt Cutts or Michael Gray. This is a complex situation. There are no simple answers. I do think this Google dichotomy exists. If so, can it be resolved?

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