Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Microsoft Pre-Fills Search Box

There have been reports at search engine land and Search Engine Roundtable that MSN UK has been pre-filling their search box with “The Apprentice BBC”. I went to to see for myself and sure enough, there it was:

I am not sure how I feel about this form of advertising, or how large of an impact it would have on searches. And what happens if the BBC Apprentice site slips from the number one ranking spot? Is their top ranking also being influenced by this?

I do not see this technique catching on as it would likely just irritate searchers forcing MSN to pull the idea. I for one do not want search engines telling me what to search for, but I am curious to know what the BBC has paid for this.

Okay, so I said it all in the title. Perhaps you need not even read this article as you may start off not believing it.

Today I read an article written by an unknown name in the SEO industry (at least unknown to me). It had a number of points focused on improving search rankings and provided a bunch of tips on how to improve the overall standings for a site. Sounds like a useful article, and for many who read it, I am sure it was – or at least seemed that way. Read more…

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Google Unveils Plus Box

More details are now available on selected searches as Google unveils “Plus Box”. Wherever you see the plus box icon “ ” clicking on it will provide you with additional information on the link. A search for Microsoft, with the plus box clicked shows the following:

Currently there are two types of plus box results being displayed. The above stock example for Microsoft, as well as maps for appropriate local results, such is the case with a search for “Babbo”, a restaurant in New York.

This information is not available for all businesses but Google is working on increasing its availability.

If you would like to find a search for your business including this extra information, ensure your full business address is located on your webs site in a textual format and then visit Google’s Local Business Center to add or update your information.

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Kinderstart, Google Update

Tuesday, Matt Cutts posted a status update for the KinderStart / Google lawsuit filed by KinderStart more than a year ago. The judge in the KinderStart cases granted Google’s motion to dismiss without leave to amend.

“The instant case has been intensively litigated for more than eleven months. Under these circumstances, the Court concludes that there is no reasonable likelihood that KinderStart will cure the defects in the SAC [second amended complaint] by further amendment. Accordingly, the motion to dismiss will be granted without leave to amend.”

The judge ruled that KinderStart will be responsible for some of Google’s legal fees, a practice common with frivolous lawsuits.

Last year KinderStart accused Google of “downgrading” its search-ranking without reason or warning.

Thursday, March 22nd, 2007

Google Themes

Remember way back when HotBot offered customized home page graphics? Actually, I believe it was HotBot, but it has been so many years since I have seen it, I can’t recall exactly. I tried to grab a screen shot but was unable to find it, so perhaps the option is long gone by now. At any rate, Google has now followed suit and added customizable themes for the personalized view of Google Search.

These screen shots have been taken from their beach theme. They offer a small selection of dynamic themes that change to reflect the time of day. Some selections include a bus stop, city, and seasonal.

These themes are available to anyone logged into their Google Account who selects “Personalized Search”. I for one prefer the basic simple interface. I am not much for all this customization as I personally don’t use these extra features.

It is interesting though that Google has taken an age old idea from HotBot and implemented it themselves. I guess making the theme dynamic adds a twist on this old idea. Will it catch on? I suppose only time will tell.

After publishing last week’s article on “Yahoo Panama – Pros and Cons” I have had a few readers contact me with notable “Cons” they have experienced with the recent upgrade process. While I know I had not covered all possible negatives to Panama in my article, these items are certainly worth adding to the list.

Keyword specific URL’s

Michael wrote noting that you can’t easily manage unique URL’s per keyword. This is absolutely correct. While the ability to specify a unique URL on a per keyword basis does exist, it would be quite a hassle to apply this to any large campaign.

Google has a very straight forward system for unique URL’s. You can bring up a list of all the keywords along with a nice simple field to enter the URL’s, hit submit, and they are all done. With Yahoo, you must do this on a one-at-a-time type routine.

To have unique URL’s per keyword in Yahoo here are the steps you will need to take (starting from your “Dashboard”):

  1. Click on the Campaign Name
  2. Click on the AdGroup
  3. Click on the specific keyword
  4. This will bring you to a page with specific stats on that keyword including a chart. At this step, click the edit link near the top of the page beside “Custom URL”
  5. In the pop up window enter the URL for the keyword and click submit.

After these steps have been entered, you will have to wait for an editorial review before the new URL will be put to use.

While the feature is available, the process is very cumbersome. This is certainly a ‘Con’ that needs to be added to the list. Perhaps the ‘con’ should be changed to include all the changes that require far more steps than are really necessary, after all, there are quite a few of them. This seems to be a common issue with much of Yahoo Panama and I anticipate these types of things will be much more streamlined in the future.

Brand Awareness Just Got More Expensive

The following comment was posted to our blog by ‘Paul’:

“On the CON list, you overlooked the adverse affect to brand advertisers who want to promote something unrelated to the search to create some buzz, awareness, or association with their brand (i.e. Jeep bidding on terms like “beetle” or “bug” to coincide with their ad campaign). The quality score, while beneficial to most, means those advertisers have to spend more to appear prominently where their ad is not relevant.”

I have to say I both agree and disagree with this. First, yes, this is certainly a big ‘con’ for any advertiser that fits into this category, no question about it. This has also been a reality for AdWords advertisers for some time now, and it makes sense that Yahoo would follow suit. If you want to bid on seemingly irrelevant phrases and have your ad appear, things just got much, much, more expensive for you. That said this is also a ‘pro’ in terms of relevant topical advertisements.

By having irrelevant ads essentially cost more, it can have the reverse impact on relevant ads. By driving irrelevant ads lower in the results, it will in a sense create less competition for relevant ads making the top ranking spots less expensive. Under the new algorithm Volkswagen could secure the rank for “beetle” at a lower cost than Jeep, and would have the potential to outrank Jeep regardless of bid strictly due to relevance.

From the perspective of advertisers trying to build awareness by bidding on popular, yet irrelevant terms, this is certainly a ‘con’, but from the perspective of the majority of advertisers, I would have to slide this over to the ‘pro’ category.

Note: I also want to say that for these purposes “irrelevant” refers to a key phrase not directly related to the destination URL. I do understand that while on the surface, a phrase may appear irrelevant, however, when considering target demographics, may make considerable sense.

Yahoo Not Prepared for the Upgrading of Very Large Accounts

I had an interesting letter from a Yahoo advertiser who had very big problems with the new Yahoo Upgrade.

With an annual advertising budget on Yahoo of between $150,000 and $250,000, he found the upgrade to be a complete nightmare.

Under the old system he was running hundreds of ads using thousands of keywords. Many of the keywords were geographic in nature very specific to the ad copy and categories being used. After the upgrade was complete, the account was a complete and total disaster. “Thousands of keywords and ads had been jumbled into completely nonsensical categories, all created by Yahoo.”

Not only were the keywords moved into inappropriate groups, but much of his ad language had also been altered. He estimated that this colossal rat’s nest it would take upwards of 80 hours to correct. As a result he did what any level headed advertiser would do, and called Yahoo.

While Yahoo certainly felt sorry for him and could sympathize, they did nothing to help solve the problem. Yahoo simply suggested that he do all the footwork himself to bring things back in order. For an advertiser with a monthly spend in excess of $15,000, he felt this was plenty of money for Yahoo to assign someone to sort this out for him. I for one agree completely.

After he started the process of re-organizing from scratch, ads which were previously approved were suddenly being disapproved. He called Yahoo again. After being passed off from one agent to another finally he reached someone who told him the ads were in fact running (which they were not), and that no one could tell him what the problem was other than it being a “computer glitch.”

Ultimately, to make a long story short, Yahoo has lost one good and high spending advertiser.

Panama Browser and Validation Issues

Susan wrote in with a few ‘cons’ that may cause smaller scale problems for some advertisers, but problems never the less.

The first is with browser compatibility. Now I don’t use any of these so I will have to take her word for it, but apparently Panama has some functionality issues when accessed using Safari, some older browsers, and is not at all compatible with Mac classic browsers.

She also noted that some of the problems with Panama and access via older browsers is due to the html itself. A W3C Validation check of the new sign in page shows items that are a miss, the most obvious being a lack of declaration of the doctype. While this is an issue common with an incredible number of websites out there, I am surprised to see it with a company such as Yahoo.
After signing on and noticing errors, Susan went on to check her browser error logs and found the following:
HTML error (5/16): The DOCTYPE declaration is missing.
HTML error (231/12): Illegal character ³/² in tag.
HTML error (237/25): Illegal character ³/² in tag.
HTML error (243/146): Illegal character ³/² in tag.
HTML error (249/73): Illegal character ³/² in tag.
HTML error (323/11): Illegal character ³/² in tag.
HTML error (345/15): Illegal character ³/² in tag.
HTML error (352/16): Illegal character ³/² in tag.
CSS Error (49/135): Unknown CSS property ³zoom².
CSS Error (79/77): Unknown CSS property ³zoom².
CSS Error (105/9): Unknown CSS property ³opacity².
CSS Error (114/9): Unknown CSS property ³opacity².

The server’s certificate chain is incomplete and the signers are not registered

“The certificate on the server has expired”

A script on this page failed to execute. This may keep this page from functioning properly.Statement on line 11632: Expression did not evaluate to a function object:0.addevevtlistner

Now I have to be honest – this goes beyond my level of expertise, however, it is still surprising to me for a site with such a large budget, name, and many months of testing. I would personally expect issues such as these to have been dealt with prior to launch. Perhaps solving these items will allow a wider array of browsers to function properly with Panama.

I am very curious to hear more comments on the new Yahoo Panama. Not only would I love to hear specific ‘cons’, I would also like to hear the ‘pros’. While I do not argue that this new system is certainly with its flaws, I see it overall, as being a positive step. What are your opinions? Please email them to me at I would love to write another article on the many positive experiences encountered by our readers; after all, there are two sides to every story.

Imagine what your life would be like if your annual salary was only a dollar. What would you do with your check? Perhaps buy a chocolate bar? Well, for the third consecutive year Google top dogs Sergey Brin, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt will each earn exactly that for 2007, a measly single dollar. Yahoo’s chief executive, Terry Semel, will also see a 1 dollar salary for 2007. Read more…

Last year they lost their case against Chinese search company, and this year they are at it again with a suit against Alibaba, the company which runs Yahoo China.

Plaintiffs Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Sony BMG Music Entertainment, and EMI have filed suit against Alibaba for the equivalent of $710,000 (RMB 5.5 million) in damages. They claim that Yahoo China is infringing on their Copyrights.

The complaint evolves around the music search at Yahoo China allowing users to find and listen to music the vast majority of which is pirated.

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

More on the Robots Meta Tag

I have seen many articles and the like discussing proper use of the Robots Meta tag. It almost seems common knowledge of the purpose of this tag, but every now and then you find some confusion over its purpose and how it works.

Recently Vanessa Fox over at the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog posted exactly how Googlebot interprets this tag, and what it will do if it finds tags conflicting with the robots.txt file.

For anyone who has any level of confusion over the robots meta tag, this is a great, explanative 5 minute read.

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

Yahoo Panama – Pros and Cons

Near the end of 2006 Yahoo officially unveiled the new back end for Yahoo Marketing Solutions, widely referred to as the ‘Panama’ Update. Since then they have been slowly allowing the upgrading of accounts from the old into the new system. While not everyone has had a chance to have their accounts switched over, it is expected that all will be upgraded by the end of this quarter.

After several months of waiting, this new backend is a welcomed change as Yahoo finally moves into the future but as with any new system, it is not without its pros and cons. Read more…