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Friday, September 28, 2007

AdWords Secret: Buy Domain Names as Keywords

As I've been tweaking AdWords accounts, I've noticed many companies overlook domain names. Reading a recent New York Times article, Microsoft Takes Aim at Google's Ad Supremacy, I found this quote very revealing:
Mr. McAndrews contends that search engines, which long have claimed credit for sending people to companies’ Web sites, do not deserve it all.

“Google gets all the credit, and in fact, you might have just gone to Google to type in the U.R.L.,” Mr. McAndrews said, pointing out that people often search for companies’ names after seeing their ads elsewhere.
It's really domain names and partial URLs that people type into search boxes. Now, why is this relevant to someone buying pay per click ads via Google AdWords? If people are typing domain names or URLs into search boxes, those domain names or keywords from the URLs can be purchased via AdWords. Click on the image below to see an experiment I ran awhile ago regarding this kind of strategy:

google adwords secret

I noticed that legendary domainer, Frank Schilling, also picked up on that quote from the NY Times article. He has a different perspective on what it means.

Perhaps you don't believe me, though, that lots of people type domain names into search boxes. Take a look at the Google Hot Trends data from this past Monday:
On that day, 3 of the 100 top searches (trends indicate spikes in searches more so than the actual top searches) involved people typing domain names or partial URLs directly into the search box. I've been calling this direct navigation via search. A competitor to Nissan could have bought this exact match via AdWords:

[nbc com nissan]

and had a spike in traffic for a few cents per click. Likewise, a company selling Halo or a competing game could have purchased this exact match:

[g4tv com halo]

You can enter exact matches like that instead of [] because the AdWords system ignores punctuation marks. Speaking of Halo, check out this superb hack by some pranksters from my alma mater:

mit harvard halo 3 hack

Related Posts:
Top Google Searches Tool
Google AdWords Tip: Direct Navigation via Search
Direct Navigation via Search Box is a Trend
Google Hot Trends + Domain Name Reputation Management

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Revolution Money Launched by Steve Case and Ted Leonsis

Having worked at AOL as a software developer from 1995-2001, I have a great deal of respect for both Steve Case and Ted Leonsis. They've just launched a new venture, Revolution Money. From the blog of Ted Leonsis:
Revolution Money has created the first Web 2.0 payment platform designed for a mainstream consumer audience, especially those who enjoy the convenience of handling their financial affairs and purchasing online. Its technology will enable account holders to do things that no single alternative has been able to do before - fuse all of the expected functions of a traditional offline credit card with a stored value card, and combine it with new online functionality.

Today Revolution Money introduced its first two flagship offerings - Revolution MoneyExchange, the first free money transfer service that powers online transactions, and RevolutionCard, the industry's first anonymous, PIN-protected credit card.
See these Revolution Money sites for more details: Revolution MoneyExchange, RevolutionCard. What are the implications for online payment services like PayPal and Google Checkout? What about the credit card industry? This will certainly be an interesting company to watch.

Related Posts:
How to Become a Millionaire
PPC Advertising Comedy

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Monday, September 24, 2007

XO Laptop Give 1 Get 1 (G1G1) at

xo laptopI've been thinking lately about how to combine business with charitable giving, so it was interesting to see xo laptop when scanning TagTrends this morning. The XO laptop was developed by the One Laptop per Child (OLPC) organization, started by the famous MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte. Looks like the program is having some difficulty raising funds and awareness, so they're trying a new approach: Give 1, Get 1 (G1G1). I wonder if this will be a successful marketing initiative for the program and how many XO laptops they'll sell in "developed" countries. To find out more about the XO laptop, visit one of the OLPC sites:
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Friday, September 21, 2007

Forbes 400 List

Noticed the Forbes 400 tonight when checking TagTrends. Interesting that 5 on the Forbes 400 list derived their wealth from Google:
  1. Sergey Brin
  2. Larry Page
  3. Eric Schmidt
  4. Omid Kordestani
  5. Kavitark Shriram
It's stunning how much wealth has been generated in such a short time. BTW, I mentioned Omid Kordestani back in January in this post: The Meeting Google Needs to Solve Their Click Fraud PR Crisis. Guess they never had that meeting. ;-)

It's also interesting that every person mentioned on the Forbes 400 list is a billionaire. Did you read my post about how to become a millionaire? Not a billionaire, though.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Google Gadget Ads are a Shiny Diversion

Google Gadget Ads are a shiny diversion. There. I've said it. As a former software developer, I must admit I'm intrigued by these new gadget ads. Nonetheless, they're a diversion for these 2 reasons:
  1. They divert advertisers attention from the true power of AdWords - search advertising.
  2. They divert AdWords developers attention from completing the AdWords features advertisers need.
Let me start with #2. Google recently launched some new report types for AdWords: the placement performance report and the search query performance report. These are both excellent new reports, and it's great that Google made them available for AdWords advertisers. However, these new reports are incomplete. I'd like to see Google developers finish the functionality that advertisers are asking for before jumping to shiny new diversions like Google Gadget Ads or AdSense for Mobile.

For example, take a look at this screenshot, excerpted from an actual placement performance report:

domains ads on placement performance report

Can you see what's wrong with that picture? Are most advertisers going to know what Domain ads are? Aggregating all AdSense for Domains clicks and calling them "Domain ads" defeats the purpose of the placement performance report. Advertisers need to know which actual domains, including parked domains, their ads are displayed on. For a company whose corporate mission is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" it seems rather hypocritical that they'd choose to omit this information from crucial reports. Advertisers should know what clicks they're paying for and where their ads are being placed. Does Google have something to hide?

Incidentally, noting that MySpace ads and Domain ads drove the most clicks in this particular example, it's interesting that Google has created AdWords help pages specifically for these distribution partners:
So, I'm not saying Google Gadget Ads aren't cool. I'm just saying that I'd like to see the AdWords development team finish features they've partially implemented before moving on to flashier projects. Since advertisers are collectively funding 99% of Google's revenue, is that too much to ask? ;-)

Regarding point #1, when something like this creeps its way into the search advertising side of AdWords, I'll pay attention. Yes, contextual advertising can be effective. However, having managed AdWords campaigns since 2002, I've found search advertising to be much, much, much, much more effective. For that reason, I've long been an advocate of splitting search advertising from contextual advertising within an AdWords account. The new Google Gadget Ads only run on the content network (contextual advertising). From the press release:
Gadget ads can incorporate real-time data feeds, images, video and much more in a single creative unit and can be developed using Flash, HTML or a combination of both. Designed to act more like content than a typical ad, they run on the Google™ content network, competing alongside text, image and video ads for placement. They support both cost-per-click and cost-per-impression pricing models, and offer a variety of contextual, site, geographic and demographic targeting options to ensure the ads reach relevant users with precision and scale. Gadget ads are also built on an open platform, allowing anybody from individual advertisers to agencies to set up and run ads on the Google content network, the world's largest global online ad network.
One of the examples they showcase states that "0.3% of those exposed to the ad interacted with it." What does that mean? I'd like to know about clicks more so than interactions. What was the CTR? Perhaps 0.03%? Search advertising CTRs are orders of magnitude greater than that. Yeah, for now, I'm calling Google Gadget Ads a shiny diversion.

If you want to know more about them, though, cutting through the clutter of Google Gadget Ads news via Techmeme, these guys have some fantastic insights: Niall Kennedy, Andrew Goodman and John Battelle.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Is AdSense for Mobile a New Google AdWords Hidden Network?

Today, Google announced AdSense for Mobile. The press release states:
As part of our ongoing efforts to develop new ways for users to find the information they need anytime and anywhere, Google announced today the availability of AdSense™ for Mobile, a program that contextually targets ads to mobile website content... With this new program, the unmatched reach of the Google content network is extended to the mobile platform.
A few days ago, they automatically opted in all AdWords advertisers into Google Mobile Search. That sounds like a completely different product from AdSense for Mobile. It appears as though there will be both search advertising and contextual advertising across mobile platforms. That's all well and good but why bury this within the existing AdWords system? I think this will cause confusion for AdWords advertisers. Why not create a separate network for mobile? There's already a hidden ad network. Advertisers don't need another.

Here's a suggestion for Google. Rather than force advertisers to opt in to AdSense for Domains and now AdSense for Mobile, give us some choices. Via the AdWords interface, we can opt in or out of AdSense for Search (search network in AdWords) and AdSense for Content (content network in AdWords). Why not make it explicitly clear to advertisers what they're purchasing and allow us to target campaigns for these different AdSense products? They are different enough to warrant more control in AdWords. I'd like to see ad campaign distribution options like this:

Google AdWords Network Choices

Such choice would minimize distribution fraud and would also mitigate the perception of click fraud.

More coverage of the AdSense for Mobile launch here and here. I'll post more about the AdSense mobile choices from the AdWords perspective when I understand it better. Subscribe to Apogee Weblog for future updates.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Google's Stunning Admission to Double Digit Click Fraud

Noticed a minor story on Techmeme today. It should be a major story! In an interview with Forbes, Shuman Ghosemajumder admits to double digit click fraud on the Google AdWords network:
Forbes: But click-fraud auditors argue that there's a discrepancy: They say you throw away no more than 10% of clicks, while they estimate click fraud rates at as much as 25%.

Shuman: That's just one particular set of numbers. The auditing firm, Fair Isaac, for example, estimated in May that on Google's content network, 10 to 15% of clicks are fraudulent. On ads placed next to search results, they said that there was a negligible rate of click fraud, less than 1%. That implies an overall click-fraud rate of around five to 7%. The number of clicks that we proactively throw out is less than 10%.
Notice the admission that "on Google's content network, 10 to 15% of clicks are fraudulent." That's phenomenal when you consider that a new advertiser, opening an account with Google AdWords is automatically opted into Google's content network! It's up to the advertiser to recognize that there's double digit click fraud on that network. There's no popup to warn a new AdWords user that they're exposing themselves to this risk. However, if they choose to opt out of the content network, Google does display a popup in a clear attempt to dissuade opting out:

Google AdWords content network

In case that graphic is difficult to read, here is what it says:
You are about to opt out of the content network. You may also remain opted in and try content bids, which allows you to set a higher or lower price for clicks coming from the content network. This can help you meet your goals while still getting broad exposure on content sites. Do you still want to opt out of the content network?
Don't you think Google should warn new advertisers about the dangers of being opted into the content network? At the very least, shouldn't they make it explicitly clear that contextual advertising is turned on, by default, as well as search engine advertising? This is why I've been talking about distribution fraud rather than click fraud. That's the real issue that advertisers are contending with. I left a comment on Henry Blodget's post because it's important that people understand that AdWords *is* AdSense. He states:
The most important point about click fraud at Google, which Ghosemajumder does not make, is that the vast majority of it occurs on the AdSense affiliate network, not the AdWords paid-search service. The latter generates more than 80% of Google's profit (profit, not revenue), so the threat to the company's core business is minimal. In fact, if click fraud on affiliate networks ever got out of hand, this might end up driving even more business to AdWords.
No! The most important point is that the AdWords system, by default, opts advertisers into the content network which *is* the AdSense affiliate network. How many AdWords advertisers know the importance of opting out and building contextual advertising campaigns separate from search engine advertising campaigns?

I haven't even touched on Google's implementation of parked domains which, in essence, places contextual advertising on the search network. That skews the less than 1% overall click fraud rate on the AdWords search network for many advertisers. Here's a case in point.

C'mon, Google. Let's have some transparency!

Update: Shuman was kind enough to send me an email with this clarification - "the main thing I wanted to clarify is that I wasn't saying that 10-15% of clicks on AdSense were fraudulent -- I just said that Fair Isaac said that."

Apogee Tags (made w/ TagBuildr): , , , , , ,

Thursday, September 13, 2007

How to Become a Millionaire

Want to know how to become a millionaire? I'm working for a new client, Life Calculator LLC. They're offering a Millionaire Makeover which includes:
  • one year of FREE financial advice provided by a panel of well-respected financial experts
  • a complete money makeover from those financial experts
Life CalculatorSign up by December 1st, 2007 to become a millionaire! While you're visiting their site, take a look at the Life Calculator, an online financial planning tool which creates a comprehensive and dynamic personal financial profile, complete with sensitivity analysis of unexpected life events that is essential for prudent planning.

The founder of Life Calculator LLC is Dr. Kathleen Connell, former California State Controller. She's currently a professor at UC Berkeley and author of the new book, Moving Up to Millions: The Life Calculator Guide to Wealth.

Moving Up to Millions Book Cover

Note to self: Pay more attention to the Google Book Search blog which was recently mentioned on the main Google blog. Prominent marketers have noticed Google Book Search links creeping into core Google search results.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

9/11 and Search Trends

I don't think anyone will ever come to terms with 9/11. On that day, my wife was home with our first child who was only 2 months old. I couldn't stay at work. I had to get home to see them. The normal road I took home was blocked, though, since it went directly past NSA headquarters. It seemed to take an eternity just to get home.

The next day, it was surreal to not see or hear a single airplane. We live about 30 miles from BWI airport and usually hear aircraft and see many contrails. The absence of air traffic was striking. When I did hear the loud roar of a jet engine, I raced outside to see what caused the noise. F-16 fighter jets were patrolling the skies. I waved to a pilot as he banked into a turn.

Looking at today's top Google searches (by fetching the hourly feed and searching for any keywords with "11" in them), many people are remembering 9/11:

$ curl -s \
|grep hottrends\?q= |awk -F q= '{print $2}' \
|awk -F \& '{print $1}' |grep 11 |sed 's/\+/ /g'
9/11 timeline
9/11 moment of silence
september 11 timeline
9 11
september 11 2001
remembering 9/11
9/11 video
9/11 victims
9/11 pictures
sept 11
9 11 01
9/11 memorial
september 11th
9/11 tribute
9/11 quotes
911 photos
september 11 video
september 11 pictures
9/11 facts
sept 11 2001
9 11
9/11 poems
september 11 quotes
9/11 myspace comments
9/11 anniversary
september 11 2007
september 11 memorial
september 11 activities
remembering september 11
september 11 victims
9/11 attacks
september 11 for kids
sept 11 timeline
sept 11th
9/11 lesson plans
9/11 times
september 11 facts
september 11 poems
9/11 activities
9/11 prayer
9/11 ceremony
9/11 conspiracy
9/11 images
september 11 prayer
9/11 remembrances
pentagon 9/11
september 11 powerpoint
9/11 events
9/11 wallpaper

Somber day. Strange to recollect. Sigh.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

General Petraeus Report vs MoveOn.Org

Based on the top Google searches, the Petraeus Report was a major event today. Since the TagTrends tool grabs the hourly hot trends feed (others are noticing this new feed), I thought it would be interesting to see how these search trends changed throughout the day. I'll list the timestamp (EDT) and those keywords related to the Petraeus event in the top 25 searches.

Before the Petraeus Report (Mon Sep 10 13:26:17 2007):
16. cspan
17. petraeus

During the Petraeus Testimony (Mon Sep 10 15:07:06 2007)
5. cspan
6. general petraeus
7. lantos
8. tom lantos
12. ike skelton
15. ros lehtinen
22. david petraeus
23. petraeus report

Shortly After the Event (Mon Sep 10 16:50:11 2007):
5. code pink
8. petraeus
9. general petraeus
12. cspan
13. tom lantos
18. ryan crocker
22. ike skelton
23. david petraeus

Into the Evening (Mon Sep 10 21:02:32 2007):
19. general petraeus

I suspect those liveblogging the House Armed Services Committee Hearing featuring General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker would have found a tool like TagTrends useful for knowing which tags to use while writing posts. I still think the presidential candidates should be buying keywords like these, in near-real-time, related to a current political event. Looking at the top Google searches, it's very interesting to realize the trend of people actively seeking information via search engines both during and immediately after a major televised event. Will any of the presidential candidates capitalize on this offline-to-online trend?

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Google Top Spots for Sale Down Under

Interesting story from Australia about the perception that Google's top spots are for sale:
The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) is taking world-first legal action in the Federal Court against Google Inc over allegedly deceptive conduct related to sponsored links on its websites.
I would have ignored this story as yet another frivolous lawsuit against Google, but I noticed this story on non-SEM sources (Techmeme and TechCrunch). Anyone involved with search engine marketing on a daily basis doesn't confuse paid links from organic search results. However, I can see how others might and that, rather than trademark issues, is the interesting part of what the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission is seeking:
  • injunctions restraining Google from publishing search results that do not expressly distinguish advertisements from organic search results
Considering that Google doesn't always display paid links above organic search results even when paid links exist might be causing confusion. Google has a separate algorithm for determining which, if any, of the paid links are eligible to be displayed above the organic search results. Since Google will now be generating more revenue from these top spots, this case will be interesting to follow.

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Saturday, September 08, 2007

Top Google Searches Tool

Now that Google offers an hourly RSS feed for the top Google searches, I've updated the TagTrends tool to use that information and to display some charts. Click on the screenshot to try the updated tool:

top google searches

The keyword research links, under the chart for each search, link to the free WordTracker tool. It sets up links both for the entire search phrase and also for each individual keyword in the search phrase. That should be helpful for anyone looking to purchase PPC advertising for the top Google searches. This is a method I employed recently in an experiment that was mentioned in the Wired article, "Which Presidential Candidates Have Mastered Google?" Read the 2 blog posts that were linked to from that article if you want more details on this kind of PPC advertising strategy:
  1. 3 Secret Tools for Presidential Election Advertising Campaigns
  2. AdWords Experiment Update #2: YouTube Debate Top 10 Keywords
Knowing the top Google searches can also be helpful when generating ideas for blog topics. The "Build Blog Tag" button under the keyword research links in the TagTrends tool uses TagBuildr to generate a keyword tag to paste into a blog post. (You can also use TagMuse to generate blog topic ideas. That tool uses Technorati top searches and tags data.)

Anyway, TagTrends is an ongoing experiment. I started off comparing top Google searches to Technorati tags data, but that didn't end up being all that useful. Realizing that I've been using the Google Hot Trends data primarily for either blog post ideas or PPC ads prompted me to change the tool to focus on keyword research for PPC advertising and tag creation for blog posts. The tool currently grabs the top 25 Google searches.

Try TagTrends and let me know if it's a tool you'd use.

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