Category: Search

Paid Search FTW

Needle in a Haystack
Image by naughty architect via Flickr

Over the weekend I was out on Long Island and in need of a home service provider, specifically an exterminator. I setup an appointment and quickly realized my problem was “wildlife” and not “vermin” and needed a new provider. I was told to check the “phone book” and look for a specific company that could deal with the raccoon who moved in.

I consulted all kinds of variations of Yellow Pages online, phone books, yellow business directories – you name it, and I searched it. I found plenty of providers, but all of them did not service my area. I wasted a ton of time and phone energy calling these places only to be told that my area was outside of where they would travel. I soon learned to check the service area first…

Fast forward to my Google search and I found a few paid SEM ads that all seemed relevant. A few calls later and I had two prospects and finalized on a totally qualified company.

I clicked a paid SEM ad, found a provider, and signed up for business.

This is an activity that happens all the time, but it was still light years ahead of the targeting, comprehension, and experience of using a traditional yellow pages, or other online business directory.

Paid search continues to deliver the right contextual message as long as there is enough intent. The rest was generated through geo-targeting, keyword broad matching, and budgeting.

Many people ask me about customer acquisition costs through banners, email marketing, and all other forms of advertising. My answer back is always to force them into a cost-per-customer model so they can track and document what it takes to get a new user and assign them a lifetime value.

For me, paid search continues to be what I recommend the most.

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The Google Superbowl ad

Google aired its first ever Superbowl ad using a video that resonated with many folks called Parisian Love.  The video is embedded below.  Search Engine Land has an excellent write up of all the details, including the fact that it had over 1MM views before the event – will be interesting to see how much that grows.

It is also interesting that they took out SEM ads for most of the auto complete searches that came out of the video.  This is the type of SEM drafting you hope to see whenever any messaging is put into a search ad.

Google placing this ad in such a mainstream location is a big move and I wonder if we will see more of it.

As a Company that is so focussed on data driven results – I hope they publish their findings about searches, responses, and results from this placement.

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Google Zeitgeist 2009

I love looking at the data disclosed in the yearly Google Zeitgeist and the 2009 data is no exception. I seemed to have missed posting about it last year, but mentioned the 2007 Zeitgeist.

zeitgeist2009

Below are some interesting lists I found from the latest data.

Internet Memes of 2009 under Entertainment

1. kanye west
2. xzhibit
3. courage dog
4. three wolf moon
5. gentlemen
6. keyboard cat
7. candlejack
8. csi miami
9. lolcats
10. i accidentally

Here is a local favorite – searches by city New York, NY

1. cuny portal
2. duane reade locations
3. mta trip planner
4. seamless web
5. conedison.com
6. hopstop
7. hale and heardy
8. shake shack
9. nyu home
10. queens library

I would love to see Google to a Zeitgeist of all their properties such as Google Trends, News, and others – obviously they have this data.

Find something interesting? Let me know.

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Does Page Rank matter?

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

When consulting with companies about “how their website is doing” one of the first things people checkout is the Google PR or Page Rank of the site.

To check the PR of your site officially you have to install the Google browser tool bar which will show you a small green bar from 0-10 with a black box algorithm used to calculate your score. The interesting thing that has happened in the past few years is that this score has become default off with the toolbar, little mention from Google, and an industry directing people that your PR is no longer that important.

What matters is real original content, solid back links from relevant websites, incoming search traffic, rankings on SERPs for specific terms, and referral logs for your site.

How does Google PR play a role in the SEO ecosystem?

It used to be that you could calculate your page rank by the volume of inbound links from other high page ranked sites. For example if many PR 5 sites were linking to your site, your score would increase. I am not sure this is case any longer, nor am I sure that it even matters.

In the past few weeks I have come across benchmarks from a few SEO projects that show an increased number of inbound links, an increase in SERP rankings, and a higher volume of quality content – but a decrease in overall page rank. The net affect of all this is that the webmasters remain happy because “progress” is being made from their SEO efforts – but the only number Google has given them to “score” their site is flat or decreasing.

The lack of cohesion around a metric of success has limited the marketing efforts of many SEO shops and consultants. I think that PR matters to marketers, decision makers, consumers, but not to SEO consultants or agencies.

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Google Dashboard

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

The amount of services I use through Google is now summed up in a simple dashboard showing everything. They sum it up as transparency, choice, and control which is a nice way of softening the realization of how much data Google actually collects about you.

Here are the services they list and my usage:

Account – Yes
Alerts – Yes
Blogger – No
Calendar – Yes
Contacts – Yes
Docs – Yes
Friend connect – Yes
Gmail – Yes
Health – No
iGoogle – No
Orkut – No
Picasa – Yes (Paid)
Product Search – Yes
Profile – Yes
Reader – Yes
Talk – Yes
Tasks – Yes
Voice – Yes
Web history – Yes
YouTube – Yes
(other – 30 not yet in dashboard)

So that is 16/20 services that I use, some on a daily basis, and one that I pay yearly for (Picasa).

Like many things, this data has been out there for awhile, just never compiled in one place. The same is true for public records (think real estate transactions) but rarely is it organized and show in one place.

I think there will be the initial reactions to this that Google is collecting too much information. Once the dust settles on that argument, I think people will start to better understand their collective data exhaust from one company, and appreciate it all being organized.

You can easily see your active involvement, or lack thereof, in any service and control the settings for each. Obviously this is something you could do before, but I feel people respond to a centralized dashboard much better than a “settings” area across 20 different applications and services.

What do you think about the Google dashboard? How many services do you use on that list?

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Working towards the Triple Play (the last mile problem)

Three Scoop Icecream
Image by LonelyBob via Flickr

It seems to me that more and more companies are working towards what the cable and phone companies are calling the triple play package. This is where you get phone, Internet, and TV service all from one provider all with one bill, hopefully lowering the overall price and making things less complicated.

I have found recently that this convergence is starting to happen (or at least trying to happen) in the world of online advertising. I think the three plays in this case are Search, Display, and Other (which could be video, audio, etc…)
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SEO is like Art

blankcanvas
masterpiece” by 415style

I was talking with Amanda Peyton who I met after the Internet Week version of the NY Tech Meetup about SEO and gave my thoughts on why and how it is important. This was following another great event showcasing 50+ companies in the first NYTM Showcase demo room.

She asked “does SEO even exist?” to which I replied with what I believe is a very good analogy I will use going forward to explain my thoughts on SEO.

Seo is like Art

The gatekeepers who decide whether or not your page is “optimized” are the search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. This is done via a blackbox that people have tried to game, crack, follow, and abide by for many years.

The analogy holds true for art as well as the gatekeepers who decide whether or not your work is “art” are the major museums such as the MoMA, the Met, and the Guggenheim (at least here in NYC).

Each group is similar as they have different specialties and themes, and their own flavor of what works and what does not. They are curated and handled differently, but ultimately have the final say.

People spend vast amounts of time arguing whether or not something belongs in a museum or not, and one of my favorite examples is the painting Blue Monochrome by Yves Klein which is one color on the entire canvas.

I will avoid the argument for the moment of whether or not this is art, but clearly it has some foundation as it is hanging in the MoMA.

The same holds true for websites. You can build a site, optimize it, and throw it online and call it “optimized” but only the engines will determine if this is really the case. Your reward for optimizing towards the guidelines set forth by these gatekeepers is ranking. This is now heavily influenced by outside links coming in, but still determined by the engines.

So I challenge anyone who really questions the validity of SEO and so called SEO-experts, and use my analogy of artwork. If it were that easy, everyone would pickup a blank canvas, some paint and brushes, and create a masterpiece – whatever that may look like.

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Just Bing It


bing

Bing is the new launc of search engine features from Microsoft rolled up into Bing.com. In preview for some time under the name Kumo, Bing has integrated a number of features including travel, local search, maps, health, and other results pages based around the structure of your query. Microsoft of calling it a decision engine and has a video to explain it.

You can clearly see the integration of many services such as Powerset, and the pay to search functions that are features of the previous live.com search service, now rolled up together.

Being announced at the All Things Digital Conference by Steve Ballmer, Microsoft is hailing Bing as The Sound of Found. While I have not had a chance to try out Bing myself, I have been following Kumo for some time.

I also see that if this is to be successful that typical phrases such as “bing it” would have to become a colloquialism just as “Google it” has today.

Until I have had a chance to dive into this new search effort I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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Copy and Paste is the best Social Media Tool

I believe that copy and paste is the best Social Media (or cut and paste) tool that is available today. The simple act of a few key strokes can generate more viewsactionsclicks that just about any other method or distribution strategy. (I knew someone had come to this realization before me and with a quick search I found it at Broadcasting Brain – if there are more let me know!)

Fred talked about the power of passed links in a recent post and it was the catalyst to this thinking.

As people and companies hype the latest “Social Media” tools and websites, they forget that the most important action or referral comes from someone you know – and online that comes in the form of a link that has been cut and pasted into an email, an IM, passed via Twitter, or included in a document.

There are certainly ways of looking at this fundamental behavior of passing links around and wrapping them up for better accountability.

One of the tools I use regularly for just about every link I cut and paste around it Bit.ly which allows ATLAS and DART like tracking – without all the fuss and its free. Simply cut and paste your url into Bit.ly and you can easily track information about how many people clicked on it, how it was passed, and most importantly figure out what systems your link now exists on. (I am staying out of the debate on url shortners for now.)

I digress to my main point, the method of cut and pasting your content is happening by your potential viewers, customers, and users – even by the person seeding your content into networks. This means that you need to make things easily shareable. I am not saying the latest widget company cannot help in this process, but I am saying that the ultimate real value comes from people sharing with each other. On the web that happens when people share links together – via cutting and pasting them around the web.

It took a few years, but Google Reader now has the ability to automatically email your friends from within the Reader “sharing” the post you are reading with them. This is a direct result of a behavior that was happening (outside the GReader experience) of people opening links in another tab, copying the url, opening up an email client, pasting in the link, and then sending it off. The solution to this problem came in the form of a built in system (note: not behavior change) by Google Reader. To me, that is a powerful observation and reaction.

Conclusion:
Think about how and why you are sharing links, and as you prepare to “seed” networks think about how people can further share this data with each other. As buzz words and tactics come and go, its important to pay attention to the behaviors that never change. Cut and Paste has been around for quite awhile, and when the dust settles on the latest “tool to get content viral” I think we will still be using the original 4 viral keystrokes of copy and paste.

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Relevancy in advertising (not cookies or behavior)

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase

Most people think that a cookie is a delicious treat – not a file on your computer that tracks where you have been, what you are doing, and other attributes about you. Behavior is what you do – not something quantified in a profile.

That is why with the recent announcement by Google to provide “more interesting advertising” you only see the mention of cookies twice towards the end of the post and behavior not mentioned once. The reason for this is because at the end of the day that is what people want – more relevant ads, without knowing much else.

From the post:

That’s why Google has worked hard to create technology that makes the advertising on our own sites, and those of our partners, as relevant as possible. To date, we have shown ads based mainly on what your interests are at a specific moment. So if you search for [digital camera] on Google, you’ll get ads related to digital cameras. If you are visiting the website of one of our AdSense partners, you would see ads based on the content of the page. For example, if you’re reading a sports page on a newspaper website, we might show ads for running shoes. Or we can show ads for home maintenance services alongside a YouTube video instructing you on how to perform a simple repair. There are some situations, however, where a keyword or the content of a web page simply doesn’t give us enough information to serve highly relevant ads.

This is a great way of introducing the idea of controlling your interest meter or define to Google exactly what you are interested in. You can do this if you are logged into your Google account at the Ads Preferences Manager (must be signed in to see full features)

Via this interface you can add interesting categories and topics that give Google a better idea of what to show you. Since you are going to be seeing ads anyway, you may as well have them tailored towards what you want, and exclude more of what you don’t want.

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