Maine Munchies Ad

Monday, September 29, 2008

financialservices.house.gov - Why No PPC Ads?

financialservices.house.gov is the site where people can go to see the bailout bill text. Recognizing that many people type domain names into search boxes, it was interesting to see the financialservices.house.gov domain name at the top of the Google Hot Trends list yesterday (I like to see the top 25 charts on one page via TagTrends):

financialservices.house.gov search trend

Knowing people are searching for that domain name to find out details of the economic bailout bill, coupled with the fact that the presidential candidates are actively buying PPC ads on the issues, I wonder if we'll start to see some PPC ads on a Google search for financialservices.house.gov? As of this morning, I don't see any PPC ads for that particular search:

financialservices.house.gov Google search - no PPC ads

That's clearly a missed opportunity!

Related Post:
3 Secret Tools for Presidential Election Advertising Campaigns

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Why Small Advertisers Should Fear the Google-Yahoo Ad Deal

Clearly, many publishers fear the Google-Yahoo ad deal. Many large advertisers oppose the deal. But what about small advertisers? Isn't Google a friend to small business? Perhaps. Based on an example Yahoo provided about how it will use Google advertising technology, though, I think the deal could hurt small business. From Search Engine Land:
As part of the press day presentation, Yahoo executive vice president Hilary Schneider showed how few ads Yahoo returned for a search on [red roses in birmingham alabama]. In contrast, Google's search results page was loaded with ads. By partnering with Google, Yahoo would thus be able to supplement its own ads with these additional ones that it lacked.

Sure, Yahoo had fewer ads. But that's not because it lacked advertisers that Google has. It's because Yahoo's ad targeting system is pretty lame.
Does the real difference between the success of Google AdWords and the failure of Yahoo Search Marketing come down to ad targeting technology? Is Google expanded broad matching really superior to Yahoo's advanced match, from the point of view of the advertiser? Let's see what Google says about the deal (emphasis mine):
Question: Will the Google-Yahoo! agreement raise ad prices?
Answer: Neither Google nor Yahoo! set ad prices. Ads are priced by an auction where an advertiser only bids what an ad is worth to them. Furthermore, ad price is only one part of the story. A more important measure for advertisers large and small is the return on investment of their advertising dollar. The Google-Yahoo! agreement will help advertisers convert more clicks into customers by showing more relevant ads on Yahoo!, giving advertisers a better return for every dollar they invest.
I'm not convinced that the deal will result in more *relevant* ads on Yahoo. Clearly, it will result in *more* ads on Yahoo, served by Google. Let's take the example Yahoo provided. A Yahoo search for [red roses in birmingham alabama] currently shows zero ads. That same search on Google shows ads, but most of them appear to be triggered by expanded broad matches:

broad match ads on Google

How relevant do those ads look to the original search query? Roses are flowers. Sure, but these ads all look pretty generic. These ads will work for the advertisers in this case because most florists carry roses. But, what if they had paused roses ads while out of stock? Google would take the liberty of taking their flowers ads and using them for roses queries. For more background on why Google's matching can hurt advertisers, read: Purple Flowers Are Not Pink Despite What Google Might Think.

Notice, too, that most of the ads in the above example appear to be from large advertisers - ProFlowers and 1-800-Flowers are not local florists. They are not small businesses. My concern is that small companies who have taken the time to purchase standard match keywords via Yahoo Search Marketing will find their targeted search results flooded with Google ads from less relevant matches from large companies with large budgets.

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Google Ads Perfect? No. Flawed But Not a Monopoly.

Google ads are certainly not perfect. However, the Google advertising system is far better than those of its nearest competitors, Yahoo and Microsoft. Google benefits from a network effect, not a monopoly. Because it has the best search engine (at least the perception thereof), it has attracted the most users. That has attracted a large number of advertisers to use AdWords. Since AdWords is also distributed on content sites, that large advertiser base has attracted a large number of publishers. Because of that large publishing base, Google can attract even more advertisers. See the network effect? Google's dominance, then, has been achieved by creating the best advertising system (both in terms of ad management via AdWords and ad distribution via AdSense).

Where is the monopoly? Users are free to use other search engines. Advertisers are free to use other online advertising platforms. Publishers are free to monetize through other advertising networks. Google might be the best choice for advertisers and publishers, but that does not make it a monopoly. Now, before anyone reading this thinks I'm a Google fanboy, I think serious flaws exist in the Google advertising platform. Over the years, I've written about some of these flaws. Examples:
  1. Contracted Matching Flaw - description of the problem and some solutions
  2. Domain Parking Flaw - a distinctly non-Googley design
  3. CPC Flaw - expanded matches should have different bids (this might be changing soon)
What's impressive about Google, however, is the rapid pace of the evolution of the AdWords/AdSense system (case in point). Their innovation is what has left both Yahoo and Microsoft in the dust. Now, Yahoo is seeking a bailout - from Google. And Microsoft is, in essence, seeking a bailout - from the DoJ. I'd rather see Yahoo and/or Microsoft (or a new company?) innovate to compete with Google. Advertisers and publishers need viable competition, but not government intervention.

BTW, writing today reminds me of this old idea:
back to overture

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Did Microsoft Help Write ANA Letter Opposing Yahoo-Google Deal?

When I read about the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) letter opposing the Yahoo-Google advertising deal, I wanted to read the letter. I can't. It's private. Note the update at the bottom of this Search Engine Land post:
Those looking for an actual copy of the letter can keep waiting. I contacted ANA for it and was told the letter was sent out "privately." When I pointed out that a letter sent to a public body was going to become part of the public record, I was told that this was up to the Department Of Justice to do. Strange -- why doesn't ANA just publish the letter?
Then I read SearchQuant's caveman post where he notes that Microsoft has three employees on the ANA direct marketing committee. Hmm, Google and Yahoo don't appear to even be members of the ANA. Today, in fact, that committee has a member open discussion with this topic:
In June 2008, Google and Yahoo reached an agreement that allows Yahoo to run ads supplied by Google, alongside Yahoo search results. It is estimated that Google's share of searches is 60+%, and Yahoo draws about 17% share of searches. Yahoo expects the agreement to generate an estimated $250-$450Million in incremental cash flow. The deal is currently in front of the Senate's Antitrust Subcommittee. What will the impact of this partnership be to advertisers?
Why would the ANA have an "open" discussion about the Google-Yahoo ad deal when they've already sent a "closed" letter to the DOJ arguing against the deal? Perhaps Microsoft is using the ANA to push its agenda? If large advertisers fight the deal, that might be more convincing to the DOJ than Microsoft complaining. Note this quote from a WSJ article:
As they weigh comments from outsiders, regulators often discount the views of competitors who complain about a deal, as Microsoft has done. They are likely, however, to listen closely to customers, in this case major advertisers, so the association's letter could be a significant hurdle.

Microsoft and Michael Kassan, a longtime advertising and media executive who is now consulting for the company, have been lobbying Madison Avenue's advertising and media-buying executives, as well as marketers, to oppose the Yahoo-Google alliance, according to ad executives...

Mr. Liodice says that while Microsoft raised its concerns about the deal, that wasn't the reason ANA chose to scrutinize the agreement. "We don't want to have anyone think that Microsoft was the instigator or influencer" of this action, he said.
Did Microsoft help write the ANA letter? I think it's a reasonable question. What the ANA says about the letter on its site doesn't sound very persuasive. It states (emphasis mine):
ANA google yahoo ad deal letterThe ANA has sent a letter to Thomas O. Barnett, Assistant Attorney General, U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), citing its objections to the announced Google-Yahoo search advertising partnership now under review by the DOJ. In preparing this letter, ANA conducted a comprehensive, independent analysis, which included input from the Board’s members and face-to-face discussions with Google and Yahoo.

The letter, authorized by the ANA Board, notes that a Google-Yahoo partnership will control 90 percent of search advertising inventory and states ANA’s concerns that the partnership will likely diminish competition, increase concentration of market power, limit choices currently available and potentially raise prices to advertisers for high quality, affordable search advertising.
The keywords in that statement are "likely" and "potentially" which makes me wonder what they really know. Also, how "independent" can the ANA be with Microsoft as a member but neither Yahoo nor Google listed as ANA members? Hmm, I'm not even sure that Google or Yahoo are eligible to be members. What about Microsoft? Particularly since they bought a digital advertising agency, do they fit the criteria? Regarding membership eligibility, the ANA site says:
ANA membership is corporate, not individual, and open to client-side marketing corporations only (advertising, promotion, PR agencies, media companies, and consultants are not eligible for membership).
How much influence did Microsoft have in writing this private letter? I'll be curious to read the letter when it becomes public. If anyone's at the ANA meeting today, let me know how the discussion goes.

Final note: Re-reading SearchQuant's insightful post, I was curious about the Microsoft employees on the ANA direct marketing committee. One's title is listed as: Director, Global Agency Management. Another recently wrote an article entitled Why Search Doesn't Really Matter. O RLY?

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

google.com/chrome (browser) = mojo

Google is launching Chrome, a new web browser (announced via comic book, no less). I think it's safe to say they haven't lost their mojo. See google.com/chrome later today. Here's what I currently see in my browser (Mozilla Firefox):

google.com/chrome

The Google Chrome Browser will, undoubtedly, be the big story on Techmeme today. Look, too, for insight from Google software engineer, Matt Cutts. Google must not be content with the state of Mozilla Firefox, despite the close partnership between Google and Mozilla.

While not a transformational event like the Netscape IPO in 1995, the development of a new browser by Google is a big deal. Google stock is up over $10 in pre-market trading. This is an important development for anyone that works on the web. More later...

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