Odds a new favourite at Google

Gaming ads are to make a reappearance on Google adwords. No doubt the rush of revenue this will bring as gaming brands, affiliates, gambling aggregators and consultants all rush to get a pieceof the traffic will provide a financial comforter when marketing budgets get cut.

It’s hoped that the more scientific approach to analysis of traffic sources and user behaviour will in some way curb the rush for gold in them thar Google hills… but there’s always going to be the chumps who throw money on the roulette wheel hoping that lady luck will shine on them.

How this will affect cpc rates is anyone’s guess but we’re betting on a big spike in competitive bidding for generics and some rather charred fingers as budgets get burned on injudicous kwyeord research and slack management.

Yahoo and MSN back in talks – Google looks on

MSN and Yahoo! are back in talks.  You’ll remember that MSN approached Yahoo! with a $40 billion evaluation which was later sweetened by $7.5 billion. On refusal Carl ICahn started getting vocal with his 4% of Yahoo! and a threat to depose 10 of Yahoo’s directors.

Google are in the sidelines watching as the number 2 and 3 in the market (leaving Yandex out of European figures for the moment) disuss becoming a possible number 2 with a third of search market share. something not to be sneezed at with the value of search valued at about $40 billion per annum and set to double by 2010.

It’s certainly all to play for. The test of Google adsense being used in a percentage of Yahoo’s paid search ads last month has attracted the anti trust boys so the previous avenue of a commercial agreement which would see Yahoo as inventory for Google sales looks like its being put on the back burner.

Where will it all end? Without Yahoo, MSN will struggle to grow or even to maintain marketshare with their search offering being so limited in comparison to the products offered by the other two goliaths. Will MSN pursue the social media route instead with it’s proposed talks with Facebook.

Exciting stuff.

SEO not Spam – it’s official

Matt Cutts has come out and said it.  Search engine optimisation is not spam. The white hat stuff that is. I’m tempted to download his presentation at the web2.0 conference, “What Google knows about spam” onto my iPod to play to those caught somewhere in 2000 who think that all online marketing is spam.

Nice presentation which covers some of the basics of protecting a site from web spam – worth a look.

GoCompare whopped by Google’s bad link big stick

Really good post on the Hitwise blog following up on GoCompare’s natural search visibility for the term “car insurance” plunge after being hammered by Google’s inward link moral authority. Great graph on the change in proportion on natural “free” traffic to paid traffic from PPC. That’s gotta hurt!

Insurance, as we digital marketers know, is one of the most competitive industries online, (should show you the proportion of insurance spam I get on this blog!) with profits being made generally on the 2nd or 3rd year of a policy, affiliate commissions have been squeezed over the last few years. Can any player in the insurance arena take the risk of getting into Google’s blacklist?

With natural search continuing to be provide the backbone of digital marketing activity, playing fast and loose with the Big G and it’s seriousness about linking is to be avoided.

Agencies and Paid Links

Links from a bad neighbourhood is a sure way to destroy a site’s ranking. Getting paid links (I have no idea if this is what happened to GoCompare) from 3rd party offshore organisations has been used by many SEO agencies. Highly profitable for the agency (i’ve heard of examples of at least 50% pure cream on 6 month campaigns with agency work limited to sending over a few anchor text variations to some link farm sweatshop in Asia.) and in the past it worked with these campaigns getting great results with linking shoring up some pretty pedestrian SEO campaigns.

Allelulia – that’s over!

Now we’re into a much more interesting times. The risks of bad neighbourhood liking is a reality which in-house marketers are picking up on. (Cue epiphany moments, shafts of sunlight and heavenly choruses).

Linking will always remain a challenge but, to state the bleedin’ obvious, the creation of valuable content (not hit and run link baiting) and utlising web2.0, and indeed 3.0, platforms responsibly will sort the men out from the boyos!

Bet Gocompare think so.

Yahoo & Google put one in the eye to MSN

The search giants are slugging it out and the action is heating up! Yahoo! has just announced that it will test the serving of Google Adsense on its Yahoo.com domain (reportedly 3% of US served results over 2 weeks).

The story so far

This is after a bitter exchange of letters between MSN and Yahoo! on MSN’s offer ($31 per share) for Yahoo! which was rejected as completely undervaluing the company’s worth. At the weekend MSN wrote a letter to Yahoo!’s board which expressed disappointment at the company’s failure to move on the offer and accusing them of being unfair to shareholders. Yahoo! replied with a letter that between the lines calls Microsoft disingenuous, predatory and expecting to pick up the Yahoo! brand at a drop down price.

Who to please – the searcher vs the advertiser

Yahoo!’s fortunes have been mixed, the brand was the search colossus, but while Google concetrated on refining its algorithm around relevancy, it can be argued that Yahoo! focused on portal content, building communities and advertising revenue. Google with its market dominance has in recent years turned its attention to community and web 2.0 through a mixture of acquisition and creation of easy to use, free tools ( google docs, igoogle, blogger, youtube). In simple terms Google’s eye was on pleasing the audience, Yahoo!’s was more traditional and on pleasing the advertiser; and Google’s focus won out.

Future Search Market Share

The time for a Google merger with Yahoo! is long since past. Together they would take about 81% of the US search market. MSN has about 9%; a Yahoo! buyout would give them around 31%. You can see why MSN is keen.

What are Yahoo!’s tactics? Running Google Adsense across Yahoo! platfroms and networks could net the company billions. Is this the plan or are they sticking it to Microsoft to get a better price for shareholders.

It’s like Wargames for search. Nobody wants to have limited choice but Google’s offering is so compelling and MSN has never lived up to it’s search promise with dancing algorithms and limited market penetration. Yahoo! on the other hand is a much loved brand and many in the search industry are rooting for it’s survival intact and ready to fight another day.

Google Search Protection Money – trademark term search

Merge of google and the godfather logos

“Are you looking at me?” Is it my imagination or if you stare long enough at Google can you see the fat cigar, fedora and highly polished spats. Is Google starting to resemble Don Corleone? By announcing it’s stopping its support of sponsored listing trademark protection in the UK and Ireland, Google is bringing in  the equivalent of brand protection money on search shopfronts.

The resulting is a free-for-all in the PPC field. A search for a trademarked brand will result in competitor ads being served as well as the brand owners. So what’s the fall out for the marketing family?

  1. We know that brand searches (goal oriented ones anyway) are usually associated with higher purchase intent. PPC campaigns which are measured by more short-term measures of ROI will certainly suffer.
  2. Brand reputation management is becoming increasingly mainstream. PPC advertising has it’s part to play in online brand protection. Google’s move shifts PPC’s role from marketing/PR glove to boxing ring.
  3. With the reported downturn in Google’s paid ad clicks for the first time, won’t this be a sweetener for those clutching their shares.
  4. It’ll encourage premium bidding with marketers looking to create “tipping point” ads to generate leads on the back of competitor keywords. Brands will be forced to bid on their own keywords to keep themselves at the top of the pack.
  5. Watch those affiliates go – “yehar, thar’s gold in them thar hills”. Watch brands become more vigilant with affiliate content and t&c’s outlining what keywords they cannot bid on.
  6. Search agencies will be conflicted in response – on the one had they can expect PPC spend to increase on accounts, on the other there’s going to be a lot more monitoring and disgruntled clients to deal with.

As is the case in the States for the last four years, trademarks probably won’t be permitted in the actual ads. The good news is that it doesn’t come into effect until May, then watch for turf wars and some smaller brands “sleeping with de fishes”. Capiche?

Universal search and CTR

Universal search is starting to shake up search marketing. The recent posting on the Comscore blog makes the interesting point that while CTR for paid search might decline, referrals from Google on the whole could increase i.e. Universal search has the potential to drive more valuable traffic to sites.

At first sight this looks like a very non-commercial move from Google that might have a negative impact on thier paid search revenues (shareholders will no doubt have another wibble). But Google’s success is built on it’s importance as a resource to consumers/searchers. By blending the results, Google is servicing the needs of their audience first, and as sure as a cat’s a hairy beast search marketers will follow. SEO will become increasingly vital.

Put this in the context of CTR for paid search now averaging about 0.2% and video CTR on sites like Youtube averaging between 1-2%. There is every chance that Universal Search will provide more relevant traffic to sites and with around 17% of all searches returning blended results search marketers need to rise to the challenge.

Watch out for the scramble to market as the reality of this filters down the marketing hierarchy.

Google and accessible digital marketing

Almost a year on, but Google can finally go ahead with the Doubleclick acquisition. You’ll remember that both Yahoo! and MSN argued that the purchase was anti competitive. Europe has ruled in favour of Google who has always maintained that display advertising DoubleClick was complimented but Google’s text ads.

On another note, Google has launched Google Ad Manager , a stripped back, easy to use ad server for publishers. From a digital marketing point of view, Google can only be applauded for their release of products which allow even the most neophytic online marketer access to tools that will help increase their effectiveness. In the last year or so Google Analytics with it’s joined up tracking, Ad Sense and AdWords interface changes, the expansion of webmaster tools, Google sites and docs has had a really positive affect on how site owners view digital marketing, making things less confusing, more transparent and reducing the barriers to marketing success for many smaller companies.