Yahoo will be introducing the new sponsored search soon and with it Yahoo wants their advertisers to know about a few structural changes about to take place. In their latest monthly edition of “On Target”, Yahoo noted a few key points advertisers should know about.

1. Account upgrades are expected to be released in the fourth quarter of 2006. At this time some of the account terminology will be changed.

2. Listings will now be known as ‘Ads’ and will be joined into Ad Groups (not to be confused with Google AdGroups). This will allow for bidding based on the entire group, or by individual keyword.

3. Categories will now be known as ‘Campaigns’ which will consist of one or more ‘Ad Groups’. (This is starting to sound a lot like the AdWords setup.)

Once Yahoo has implemented the new structure all current categories will be moved into campaigns automatically. However it is advised that if you have not already done so ensure your current listings are added into appropriate categories. This is not required, but this extra step may help you with organizing your account after the switch over.

All in all the account upgrades are likely to make life easier and more structured. The one thing I wonder about is why it has taken so long to have them implemented. The changes have been in the works for a while now and it will be nice to see them in place. Hopefully they meet their projected Q4 deadline.

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Friday, October 6th, 2006

Yahoo on the Mobile Web

Yahoo announced this morning their beta launch of sponsored search results on their mobile web service in the US and UK. This will allow Yahoo! Advertisers to reach searchers on their cell phones and other mobile devices.

The beta launch will allow a select group of advertisers to post their sponsored ads to the mobile marketplace. While this service is not yet available to the general business person, it is certainly a step in that direction.

Ads will allow you to direct consumers to either a mobile landing page, courtesy of Yahoo which can display your company info and phone number, or to a mobile site of your own.

Yahoo already has a Mobile Web service available throughout the US and UK with a browser-based service designed specifically for the mobile market. Incorporation of paid ads seems like a natural progression. For more information on Yahoo Mobile visit http://searchmarketing.yahoo.com/mobile

While it is currently by invitation only, Monday night, Microsoft released a beta version of Soapbox to compete with the highly successful YouTube. Currently you can request an invitation; however, when clicking the link I was presented with an error “Oops. It’s not anything you did–it’s us. Our site’s down. Please try again later.” No real surprise here, after all it is a Microsoft Beta.

YouTube is the ultimate video sharing venue attracting 34 million visitors in August according to Nielsen/NetRatings. Users worldwide can upload and share their videos in just about every category imaginable. Read more…

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Wednesday, September 13th, 2006

Live Search Officially Launched

Microsoft officially launched its “Live” search Last Monday. Live Search, Live.com, and Live Local Search were officially released from Beta. Live Search will also be the new power behind MSN Search.

Live.com has been released in 47 worldwide markets. Throughout its Beta period users have sent in suggestions and complaints which have been used to refine the software in preparation for its prime time debut.

Live.com uses a very clean, easy to use, uncluttered design which is sure to attract those looking to simply perform a search. Live can be used to search for web, images, news, rss feeds, blogs and video according to the

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Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Search Engine SPAM Strikes Again

We were recently contacted by a client who had found a number of occurrences of search engine SPAM. What made this SPAM a problem is that they were targeting the clients business name and coming up in some of the top 10 rankings! The pages were littered with the company name, and appeared to have been created by a bot (which the majority of SPAM pages are).

The question we were presented with was: “These sites keep popping up, they are blatantly using our company name as an SEO landing page, do i have any recourse?” Read more…

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Thursday, August 24th, 2006

Ebay Hikes Rates, Where's Google?

Recently the world of online auctioneers saw the rates at eBay spike a little higher, and has a number of sellers very unhappy about the situation. This has also sparked a number of eBay listings surrounding this hike, like this T-Shirt “I survived the eBay Rate Increase of August ’06“. Wonder how many they will sell?

Finding information on the eBay rate increase was more difficult than expected. One would expect to find a press release, but a look at their PR page come up blank (). I’m curious, eBay sends out a ton of messages advertising free listing days and other various news to its users. I on the other hand did not receive a single message from them stating the rate increase. Would this not seem like a natural thing to do?

Many are turning to Google in hopes that the internet search giant will come out and develop a true eBay competitor. Today eBay has a virtual monopoly on the online auction business. While there are many auction sites on the internet, none can even come close to comparing to the immense power and spread of eBay. Where’s Google? Even Yahoo has an auction site, although I have to be honest, I have yet to try it.

This does bring up the question, why has Google not come out yet and created a competitor? Google seems to have a knack for this kind of thing. It seems to me that because of the power and revenue generated by AdWords ads, they could do quite well even offering a free online auction service. The ad revenue could far exceed the auction listing fees and combined with an even stronger online presence, Google could certainly overtake eBay and profit considerably.

A search of Google Labs, or even a general internet search doesn’t turn up anything official even suggesting that Google is thinking about going in this direction, but it does seem like a natural progression seeing as how they have roughly 50% of search already, and have developed a name trusted around the world.

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Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Google Sitemaps Changes Names

Recently Google Sitemaps has been renamed by Google to “Google Webmaster Tools“. Since its debut, the system has expanded to offer a lot more than just XML Sitemap submission and includes crawl, indexing, and query, page analysis, and more.

The name change was put into place to better reflect the scope of products and tools available to webmasters.

You can read more at sitemaps.blogspot.com

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Thursday, August 10th, 2006

Google XML Sitemaps – The Basics

Google XML Sitemaps have been around for a while now and many webmasters are starting to become familiar with them. They can help you to achieve up to date indexing in Google, and, in a round about way, play a small roll in assisting with rankings. Sitemaps are not needed by everyone, but can be of significant use for many website. This article will touch on the basics of what they are, who can use them, and how to implement them.

What is a Google XML Sitemap?
In short a Google XML Sitemap allows webmasters to submit a master list of all their site’s pages to Google for indexing. This information is stored in an XML file along with other relevant information where specified by the webmaster. It can be as simple as a list of URL’s belonging to the site, or can include, last modified date, update frequency, and priority. The purpose of this Sitemap is to have the most recent version of your URL’s indexed in Google at all times.

Who needs a Google XML Sitemap?
XML sitemaps can generally help any site needing to be indexed by Google; however, small sites may not see the need for this. For example, if you have a small 10 page website that seldom sees any of its pages updated and your entire site is already in Google’s index, the XML Sitemap is not necessarily going to help much. It is best used when trying to keep the latest versions of your pages current in Google. Large sites with an extensive list of URL’s will also benefit, especially if 100% of their pages are not appearing in the index. So a general rule of thumb, if you have either a dynamic or large site, Google XML Sitemaps just may benefit you.

Will using XML Sitemaps improve my Google Ranking?
In most cases this will not improve your rankings, however it can help. By having the most current version of your site in Google’s index, this can speed up your movement in the results pages. This is because if you make an update to a page for optimization purposes, Google’s index will have this page updated more quickly than without the XML sitemap. What this essentially means is that with more frequent spidering you can help influence what version of your site is in the index, and ultimately, help with rankings by decreasing response time.

How do you create the XML Sitemap?
If you have a very small site, or a lot of time on your hands you can create your XML sitemap manually, but for the vast majority of webmasters, automated tools are an absolute must. There are a number of available solutions for this. One of the simplest methods of creating XML sitemaps is through the use of VIGOS GSitemap This is a free, easy to use tool that will help you create your XML sitemaps with ease. There are also number of downloadable and online tools listed on Google’s site which cater to both beginners and seasoned professionals alike.

Submitting your XML Sitemap to Google is relatively straightforward. After the file has been created the first thing you want to do is upload the file to your server, preferably at the root level. Log into the Sitemap console using your Google account login. From here you can add a site to your account. Simply enter your top level domain where it says “Add Site” (see fig 1.0). This will add the domain to your account and allow you to then submit the XML sitemap

(Figure 1.0)

After this is done it will take you to a screen with the summary for this site. You will see a text link that says “Submit a Sitemap”.

Clicking here will take you to a screen to enter the online location of the XML sitemap. (see fig 1.1). Click “Add Web Sitemap” and you are on your way.

(Figure 1.1)

Once this is complete you have the option of verifying your Sitemap. This can be done by placing a specific meta tag on your home page, or by uploading a blank html file with a file name provided by Google. Verification will allow you to access crawl stats, and other valuable information regarding your Google listing.

Below is a basic example of an XML Sitemap.

<?xml version=”1.0″ encoding=”UTF-8″?>

<urlset xmlns=”http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap/0.84″
xmlns:xsi=”http://www.w3.org/2001/XMLSchema-instance” xsi:schemaLocation=”http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap/0.84
http://www.google.com/schemas/sitemap/0.84/ sitemap.xsd”>

<url>
<loc>http://www.stepforth.com/</loc>
<lastmod>2006-08-09T04:46:26+00:00</lastmod>
<changefreq>Weekly</changefreq>
<priority>1.0</priority>
</url>


<url>
<loc>http://www.stepforth.com/company/contact.html</loc>
<lastmod>2006-08-08T04:46:26+00:00</lastmod>
<changefreq>Never</changefreq>
<priority>0.5</priority>
</url>

</urlset>

Implementing an XML Sitemap is generally straightforward and worth the effort. Taking the time to implement them is well worth it as there is no negative down side to this tool provided by Google. Every little thing adds up in terms of obtaining site rankings and frequent spidering by Google is certainly one of them.

A few short months ago Microsoft quietly introduced adCenter, their Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising platform. My first impressions of adCenter are relatively positive. Based mostly on the setup process here are my thoughts on the newest player in the PPC industry.
Signing up for a new account is quite simple. There is a $5 sign up charge though, so take note, you won’t get a look at the inner workings unless you are willing to spend a couple bucks. Years ago when I first looked at Google AdWords, I loved the fact that you could create an account, and go in and play with everything and look around. You didn’t pay a dime until you were ready to have your ads go live, that is when the setup fee of $5US or $10CDN (not sure where this exchange rate came from?) was charged.
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Tuesday, February 1st, 2005

Why am I still using Google?

When Yahoo dropped Google results in favor of its own Inktomi generated listings, the search world expected Yahoo to gain some ground in market share. While this did in fact happen, the increase was relatively insignificant, and Google remained on top. Now that MSN has released its own search technology and no longer relies on Inktomi based results, will they see a significant increase in users?

My personal opinion is no. Sure their market share may increase, but I doubt, in the short term anyways, that they will make any significant increases to overtake Google. I’ll use myself as an example. I personally look at search results across the big three on a daily basis across a wide range of industries. In my opinion (and I am sure many SEO’s and webmasters will back me up on this) MSN now provides better, more accurate and relevant search results. That being said, I still use Google for my personal searching.

Whether I am at home, or in the office, Google is my search engine of choice. My wife uses Google, most of my friends and family use Google, and lets face it, the majority of searchers worldwide use Google. So why, if MSN is providing better results, do I still revert back to Google, knowing that I will most likely have to filter through a bunch of rubbish.

I think this is due to a number of factors. For years now I’ve been using Google, dating back to before I entered this industry, at a time when Google was providing relevant results. So a big part of this is habit. My fingers automatically type Google.com whether I like it or not. My default home page is set to Google. The only toolbar I have installed is the Google toolbar. This began for the checking of Page Rank, but now I use it almost exclusively for its search field.

Even though I know MSN provides better results (in most cases) I still use Google. This makes me think that the general public, many of which are unaware that MSN has changed, will also stick with Google. Behavior patterns are hard to break – although a month late, perhaps I will make it my new years resolution to stop using Google.

Part of the draw to use Google is the cleanliness of the site. Even though MSN has released, along with its new results, a new look and feel, it may still seem too cluttered, and many times slow loading, for users looking to simply perform a basic search.

The general searching public likely doesn’t realize that results from one engine are more relevant than that from another, or that the results generated in MSN were once duplicates of what you would find in Yahoo. Many tend to stick with what they know – they’ve always used Google, and as they haven’t “shopped around” so to speak, don’t realize that the other engines may have more to offer. Old habits are hard to break – and until such a time as a “quit Google patch” is invented, many may be there to stay.