Archive for the ‘General search’ Category

Kenshoo Debuts ‘Call Conversion Optimization’

June 8, 2010

Search and local search platform provider Kenshoo, which competes with Marin software in the general paid search segment and Clickable, among others, in the local search realm has introduced what it calls “Call Conversion Optimization.”

The company has integrated call tracking from several providers into its automated paid search platform. Call Conversion Optimization, according to Kenshoo, automatically adjusts bidding in response to ads that are driving calls rather than resulting in mere clicks. (This theoretically could capture ads that contain phone numbers and deliver a call without generating a click.) The system thus learns to optimize bidding for those ads and keywords that are generating the phone calls.

This was something that Who’s Calling was seeking to do a long time ago, but they never brought it fully to market. Otherwise Kenshoo told me that they believe this capability is unique. Here’s how the press release describes it:

Designed specifically for organizations managing high volumes of SMB, regional, store or dealer campaigns, KENSHOO Local simplifies and automates client on-boarding and ongoing campaign management. Focusing on SMBs, who typically measure ROI from paid search campaigns by actual phone calls received, Kenshoo now empowers agencies to maximize return on the spend of their SMB clients.

Filling the gap between online optimization and offline conversions, KENSHOO CCO allows IYPs, CMRs, agencies and retailers to apply search marketing to the real world interactions of selling their products and services. By integrating with industry-leading call tracking providers, KENSHOO CCO creates a unique closed-loop feedback mechanism between the online PPC campaigns and the phone calls they generate, continuously optimizing keyword bids to maximize the number and effectiveness of phone call conversions . . .

And here is a slide provided by Kenshoo that illustrates the process (click to enlarge):

Todd Herrold, director, product management for Kenshoo Local told me that call tracking can be integrated at “any level,” from ad creative to individual keywords. I pressed him for specifics and metrics, but he said the company wasn’t quite ready to release that type of information about its clients or the product.

However he did describe some pretty interesting work the company is doing with at least one of its clients to integrate with the latter’s CRM system and factor information gleaned by live agents into the process — so moving beyond the call into a subsequent interaction with a sales or customer service rep.

MyYahoo an Unleveraged Product

May 31, 2010

I keep thinking about My Yahoo! and ways that Yahoo! might develop it into something really useful and compelling. The day of the “RSS reader” has come and gone. Though many people use Google Reader or iGoogle or Netvibes these products have failed to break through into the mainstream by and large. My Yahoo! was/is the leader in the category.

When Yahoo! updated its homepage to make it capable of customization it made My Yahoo! less relevant, although the latter has many more features. My Yahoo! is in need of an update and could become a very useful and strategic product for the company — with a few tweaks and a redesign.

Why not make it a personal dashboard where users can see and update social network news feeds, read news, take notes, send email, conduct local searches, save websites and so on. It can do many if not most of those things today but the UI is not very friendly and it’s not simple enough to accomplish these tasks.

Internet users are often seeking to accomplish concrete tasks and My Yahoo! could be a kind of personal assistant in the process; this is how people generally use search today but search is an incomplete tool.

Mike Arrington of TechCrunch asks “But Seriously, What Is Yahoo?” coming off his expletive-tinged interview with Yahoo! CEO Carol Bartz last week. In his article, Arrington contrasts AOL CEO Tim Armstrong’s one line answer about AOL’s new identity vs. Bartz’s laundry list of features and capabilities.

As embattled as it is Yahoo! still has a trusted brand (among mainstream Internet users) and it presents a central place where people can access lots of online content, tools and information.

My Yahoo! could quite easily become a kind of “personal dashboard for the Internet.” But it would need to be pre-configured, simplified and redesigned to do so.

Yahoo! Lets Users Search for Menu Items

April 28, 2010

Are you hungry for a “Boston Roll” (as in sushi) but don’t know where to find one? Yahoo! is now letting people search for menu items and specific dishes and find where they’re served locally:

It’s quite useful and has broader implications in terms of how Yahoo might expand beyond restaurant menus. After all, menu items are just “unstructured data.”

I’ve got slightly more discussion over at SEL.

Google Certifications Musical Chairs

April 26, 2010

In light of the closure of the Google AdWords Reseller program I wanted to point out some of the changes that are going on in the Google certification world. Apparently Google is shuttering the “Google Advertising Professionals” program, which some saw as the alternative to Reseller.

It’s being replaced by a new Google AdWords Certification program. Search Engine Land has more detail; and so does Google.

One question I have is: how much do SMB advertisers (or other clients) care about these designations?

Promoted Tweets: ‘Pull’ and ‘Push’

April 13, 2010

Twitter’s business model has emerged. Ironically, yesterday, Bill Gross of IdeaLab (and founder of Overture) announced TweetUp, a keyword-based search marketplace built on a proposed better search engine for Twitter and a group of syndication partners. Last night Twitter announced its own, very similar idea with Promoted Tweets:

Q: What are you launching? What are Promoted Tweets?
A: We are launching the first phase of our Promoted Tweets platform with a handful of innovative advertising partners that include Best Buy, Bravo, Red Bull, Sony Pictures, Starbucks, and Virgin America — with more to come. Promoted Tweets are ordinary Tweets that businesses and organizations want to highlight to a wider group of users.

Q. What will users see?
A. You will start to see Tweets promoted by our partner advertisers called out at the top of some Twitter.com search results pages. We strongly believe that Promoted Tweets should be useful to you. We’ll attempt to measure whether the Tweets resonate with users and stop showing Promoted Tweets that don’t resonate. Promoted Tweets will be clearly labeled as “promoted” when an advertiser is paying, but in every other respect they will first exist as regular Tweets and will be organically sent to the timelines of those who follow a brand. Promoted Tweets will also retain all the functionality of a regular Tweet including replying, Retweeting, and favoriting. Only one Promoted Tweet will be displayed on the search results page.

Image source: AdAge

The NY Times echoes how this will work:

When a Twitter user searches for a word an advertiser bought, the promoted message will show up at the top of the results, even if it was written much earlier. The posts say they are promoted by the company in small type, and when someone rolls over a promoted post with a cursor, it turns yellow.

This is paid-search advertising around keywords (though pricing is apparently CPM to start). Ads will also appear in third-party clients and syndicated streams.

This is all very familiar, well established, no big deal. That’s the “pull” dimension. But there’s another “push” (AdSense-like) dimension to all this (per the NY Times):

In the next phase of Twitter’s revenue plan, it will show promoted posts in a user’s Twitter stream, even if a user did not perform a search and does not follow the advertiser.

For example, if someone has been following people who write about travel, they could see a promoted post from Virgin America on holiday fare discounts.

Anyone who uses Google has grown accustomed to seeing ads alongside their search results, but Twitter users could resent seeing promoted posts in their personal content stream.

Twitter is aware of that risk. It is still figuring out how to determine which promoted posts should appear. It could be based on topics they are writing about, geographic location or shared interests of people they follow.

This second, “involuntary” dimension of the program will apparently roll out later and very carefully. Though all the ads are substantially text-based, what you’ve got in the two components is direct response and awareness ads.

Predictably there’s positive and negative reaction to the second part, which is premature. We can’t begrudge Twitter a way to make a living.

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It’s worth revisiting the Twitter “business model contest” that happened a little over a year ago. Search and contextual advertising are of course among the many suggestions in the submissions.

Local, Mobile Hot Areas for SEMketeers

April 2, 2010

I finally got a chance to take a look at this year’s SEMPO survey, based on responses from 1,500 advertiser and agency search marketers from 68 countries (most respondents were from North America and UK). The breakdown of responses was: 64% agency, 36% advertiser:

The report features a good deal of data across a broad range of questions. However I found most interesting the fact that the areas that respondents identified as most significant were local, personalized search and mobile.

The results varied somewhat depending on whether the respondent was an advertiser or an agency (click to enlarge):

Companies:

Agencies:

Notice that the question asks not whether these are areas of future opportunity but inquires about the “impact” of these trends.

‘Detect My Location’ Part of New Google UI

April 2, 2010

Some people are seeing the new richer Google UI (three-column format). Among other features it has a “detect my location” pull-down that allows for transparent automated detection of location or for manual input of location. Here’s a screen from Barry Schwartz’s story at Search Engine Land:

This means that content can get more locally relevant and more precise location (perhaps) can be factored into ads. Google is still testing this UI reportedly and isn’t yet rolling it out for the rest of us.

Facebook Passes Google: What Does It Mean?

March 16, 2010

Hitwise (though not comScore) now says that Facebook has passed Google to become the largest site on the Internet:

But the figures above don’t include all Google properties. And Yahoo + Yahoo Mail are larger than Facebook and Google.com. So these numbers can be massaged and manipulated to make various claims.

I want to ask: Is this merely symbolic or does this event suggest a material change in the nature of the Internet and the way we discover information online?

My view is that something has changed (over the past 18 months) and that social networks, user-generated content and social communication — extending into mobile — is part of a new Internet paradigm. Search remains critical but social is an alternative or counterpoint.

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Here are the Nielsen top sites data for February (which contradict the Hitwise data above):

What’s Wrong with Search?

February 16, 2010

Occasionally I run into search results pages that seem to capture what’s wrong with search. This morning is a case-in-point.

I was trying to find video of Eric Schmidt’s keynote at the Mobile World Congress. The “Mobile World Live” site (that was supposed to show it) just “blows,” to use the vernacular. So I was looking for alternatives. And here were the results of my query just 20 minutes ago for “eric schmidt keynote” (click to enlarge):

Most of the results were blogs or sites trying to capture AdSense clicks by excerpting a paragraph and an image from the Engadget story (with a link back), the only one with any real content. The other substantive results were older keynotes (two YouTube thumbnails and a TechCrunch piece). Of 10 or so links above the fold the majority were essentially spam.

This is back to the days of the travel affiliate sites.

Compete: FB Driving More Traffic than Google

February 15, 2010

Coming off my post about Yellowbook’s remark about Facebook being a larger traffic driver than Google there’s this item:

According to Web measurement firm Compete Inc., Facebook has passed search-engine giant Google to become the top source for traffic to major portals like Yahoo and MSN, and is among the leaders for other types of sites . . . 

Using a snapshot of Web traffic from December, Compete’s director of online media and search, Jessica Ong, found that 15 percent of traffic to major Web portals like Yahoo, MSN and AOL came from Facebook and MySpace. The lion’s share of that traffic, 13 percent came from Facebook

What the article doesn’t discuss is how the “quality” and purchase intent of that traffic may be quite different on a search engine vs social media. But the volume is undeniable.

Twitter ‘Local Trends’ As ‘SEO’ Tool

January 25, 2010

As was reported late last week and today by Barry Schwartz at SEL, Twitter has launched “local trends,” which break down and reflect trending topics on Twitter regionally and by city. Here’s a screen capture by Lisa Barone at Outspoken Media:

What it shows is different topics trending in different cities/areas. It doesn’t show up for everyone yet, including me. For example, after yesterday the trends in Minnesota and New Orleans I’d imagine would be quite different.

This is very interesting of course, as Twitter becomes more “geo-sensitive,” but what will it mean at a practical level?

There’s an SEO strategy not-too-buried in here of course. And if Local Trends can be filtered at an even more “granular” local level that would be really interesting (i.e., zip, neighborhood). Indeed, as Local Trends rolls out it becomes a potentially effective way for a range of local businesses, local publishers and media companies, event promoters, and so on, to gain exposure and help people discover things in their areas.

Imagine a compelling deal at the local level, retweeted multiple times to become a trending topic in a particular area. I think there are many such possibilities like this. So rather than simply “narrowcasting” to a list of followers and hoping that they in turn promote the offer or event to their lists, Local Trends becomes a discovery tool for local users more broadly and a potentially effective marketing tool for sellers and publishers of various stripes, as mentioned.

We might also see this (Local Trends) picked up by Google for even more, traditional SEO value; we’ll see.

Search Grows Globally by 46% YoY

January 22, 2010

This comScore data was put out a couple hours ago:

Picture 275

Globally the search market increased its query volume by 46% from a year ago. The US saw query/volume growth of 22%. Russia, France, Brazil and Japan were the top growing markets where volume increases ranged from 48% to 92%. 

Roughly 53% of Google’s revenues come from outside the US; however, those numbers should climb because most markets outside the US are less mature (save the UK) from an advertising perspective. Ad dollars will follow consumer growth.

No More Censorship: Google’s China Turnaround

January 12, 2010

Google has said, after an attempted and potentially government sponsored hack into dissidents’ GMail accounts, that it will no longer comply with government censorship guidelines in China. Danny Sullivan has an extensive write-up at SEL.

There’s also a Google Blog post explaining:

In mid-December, we detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. However, it soon became clear that what at first appeared to be solely a security incident–albeit a significant one–was something quite different.

First, this attack was not just on Google. As part of our investigation we have discovered that at least twenty other large companies from a wide range of businesses–including the Internet, finance, technology, media and chemical sectors–have been similarly targeted. We are currently in the process of notifying those companies, and we are also working with the relevant U.S. authorities.

Second, we have evidence to suggest that a primary goal of the attackers was accessing the Gmail accounts of Chinese human rights activists. Based on our investigation to date we believe their attack did not achieve that objective. 

Here’s the key paragraph:

These attacks and the surveillance they have uncovered–combined with the attempts over the past year to further limit free speech on the web–have led us to conclude that we should review the feasibility of our business operations in China. We have decided we are no longer willing to continue censoring our results on Google.cn, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all. We recognize that this may well mean having to shut down Google.cn, and potentially our offices in China.

Bravo Google!

This act of fortitude and integrity deserves a standing ovation. It also should be a model for other US companies doing business in China. 

Stepping back, it also changes the narrative about Google instantly.  It transforms Google from the “unstoppable, monopolistic juggernaut,” the “steamrolling giant” back into the “different kind of company” that people fell in love with years ago. 

Let me be clear: I don’t think that Google has done this for any other reasons than it’s stating. Should it “hold,” this is a move that people will cheer and celebrate for some time.

Nielsen: YP in Top 10 for November

December 17, 2009

We may have an apples to pomegranates situation here but Nielsen is showing this search volume/share data for November:

At number 10 is “Yellow Pages Search.” But what does this mean?

I’m too lazy/busy this morning to pursue it directly with Nielsen. Is this an individual site (i.e., YellowPages.com) or a type of lookup that Nielsen is designating as “yellow pages.” Everyone above yellow pages is a brand/individual site or network associated with a brand so that suggests this is YellowPages.com.

But see this:

What do you think? And what does it mean?

Hitwise Top Sites and Search Terms

December 16, 2009

Here are Hitwise’s top sites and search terms for the year, with a comparison to 2008. Facebook gains on both counts, reflecting the rise of social media and Facebook in particular.

Another striking thing is the strength of Craigslist. Finally look at how Yahoo! mail outranks Yahoo! itself in terms of search queries (navigation).

The pattern revealed above is: People start on Google and then navigate to Facebook.

What will next year’s list look like? Will Twitter be there? Will Facebook still be as strong? I predict that eBay will be entirely gone from the queries and sites list.

Bing’s ‘Pepsi Challenge’

December 4, 2009

I spoke with Microsoft during the Bing launch period about the iconic “Pepsi Challenge” ads of the late 1970s:

Now it would seem Bing may be about to embark on a version of the same thing (we’ll see). Without much context, we learn about a study that involved a kind of week long “Bing challenge.” Reportedly 10 out of 15 users who participated would switch from the “leading search engine” to Bing:

Is Answers.com about to Take a Nosedive?

December 4, 2009

When I look up definitions or check my spelling I usually search Google for the word in question and then click the “definition” link in the upper right of the SERP (ignoring the myriad organic links on the main part of the page):

But when I did that earlier today (not for “haberdasher”) I noticed that the usual source, Answers.com, had been replaced by Google’s own dictionary:

Answers.com has lots of traffic and offers a range of features/services, but this development is probably going to have a material impact on its traffic:

I don’t know when or why this change occurred but it’s not good (and could be very bad) news for the site, which is public.

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Speculation: This may be tied into the new, improved Google Translate features announced today.

Study: Local Search Used by 81%

December 1, 2009

SEMPO and Advertise.com have put out findings from a study of online marketers. Survey respondents indicated the following about their campaigns (sample size not provided).

  • 81.7% of participants indicated that they implement local search advertising campaigns online.
  • Best ROI:
  1. Search – 70.7%
  2. Cost-per-action (CPA) – 14.6%
  3. Email – 6.1%
  4. Social – 3.7%
  5. Other – 2.4%

Used display:

  • No – 69.5%
  • Yes – 30.5%

What Do Longer Queries Signify?

November 27, 2009

Hitwise again reports growth in search query length. The greatest growth is coming at the high end: seven and eight or more words. Does this reflect:

  • Greater user sophistication
  • More directed and specific user intent
  • Greater task orientation
  • All of the above?

How Much Do You Care about Newspapers?

November 23, 2009

There’s lots of discussion and controversy stemming from a report that appeared in the Financial Times yesterday. In the article Microsoft is said to be seeking News Corp’s participation in a plan to withdraw content from Google:

Microsoft has had discussions with News Corp over a plan that would involve the media company being paid to “de-index” its news websites from Google, setting the scene for a search engine battle that could offer a ray of light to the newspaper industry.

The impetus for the discussions came from News Corp, owner of newspapers ranging from the Wall Street Journal of the US to The Sun of the UK, said a person familiar with the situation, who warned that talks were at an early stage.

However, the Financial Times has learnt that Microsoft has also approached other big online publishers to persuade them to remove their sites from Google’s search engine.

News Corp and Microsoft, which owns the rival Bing search engine, declined to comment.

One website publisher approached by Microsoft said that the plan “puts enormous value on content if search engines are prepared to pay us to index with them”.

Essentially then Microsoft would be paying newspaper publishers to allow indexing of content in Bing and de-indexing that content from Google. There’s lots of discussion on Techmeme and Danny Sullivan at SEL has a long and thoughtful article about why this wouldn’t work. By contrast, some like Mark Cuban think it’s a smart plan.

I’m going to take a much cruder approach to this debate and argue that newspaper brands have generally become weak and news content available from multiple sources. Accordingly the strategy wouldn’t help Microsoft as much as the report impliedly argues. People care less and less about newspaper content (per se), as a practical matter. They care about content and information not that the information came ultimately from Source X or Source Y (e.g., newspaper vs. directory or portal). Brands do matter, but this is a more nuanced conversation.

If Microsoft were to create a “kick ass” online news experience with exclusive content from top publishers it might gain usage as a destination. It wouldn’t impact Bing search volumes in any material way however, in my view. Furthermore, it also wouldn’t impact Google usage in a material way either.

If I want the score in the Cal-Stanford “Big Game,” from Saturday I could still get it on Google. If I want news headlines, there will be enough sources indexed to get the information. Google’s deal with AP would cover most national news and its AFP deal would do the same for international news.

More likely people will navigate to those news sources/aggregators that they like and trust to get news content. For example, I go to Yahoo! News and the NY Times for most of my news checks during the day. I don’t really look to search Google for news, except to do a quick navigational lookup for a specific story. (I suppose this is the Bing plan, pulling that from the Google index.) As a practical matter content that isn’t indexed will simply fall off the radar screen for the majority of the online audience.

Do you disagree? Let me know what you think.

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Update: There’s plenty of research and data that says people go to newspapers sites and care about news content. According to recent Scarborough data:

  • 79% of adults in white-collar jobs read a newspaper in print or online.
  • 82% of adults with household incomes of $100K+ per year read printed or online newspaper content.
  • 84% of college graduates or those with advanced degrees read content from either the print or online version of a newspaper each week.

I’m arguing that people don’t necessarily care that news content shows up in search results, nor will they miss any particular publication in search results if it’s removed.


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