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It has been a full year since the infamous Florida Update rewrote Google’s rankings with a massive pre-Christmas purge of previously well placed sites. The update, which caught virtually everyone by surprise is assumed by most to be the introduction of semantic contextualization software added to a variation of the Hilltop Expert Document Algorithm. It took Google about six to eight weeks to re-establish stable listings and they took a savage beating in the SEO press during that period. For a short time it looked like the shift was a failure with spammy sites and “big-box” stores dominating the Top listings but after a while Google’s listings began to make sense again. Read more…

Google ADWORDS

In a recent Google mail out sent to AdWords advertisers, Google announced that over the next few days they will be introducing changes to their AdWords program in an attempt to increase the relevance of targeted ads and increase conversions.

Google’s improvements will give them the ability to more precisely identify the most relevant ads for a particular query, which in turn may result in more qualified traffic for some advertisers and less un-qualified for others. Read more…

If you are looking to spend some of your advertising dollars on Pay Per Click (PPC), but don’t care for the high prices of Google and Overture, you may want to take a look at some of the other PPC engines out there.

Many PPC Engines charge set up fees and have minimum click through rates of 5 and 10 cents, along with minimum monthly spends. For a small business on a limited budget testing the PPC waters, this may prove to be rather expensive. goClick offers no set up fees or minimum monthly spend, and click rates as low as a cent. Read more…

Google has two major legal problems plaguing them this month. If I was Google’s lead lawyer, I would approach the administration with a simple question… Do you want the good news or the bad news first? The good news is that their first problem is not nearly as damaging as their second problem. That’s about where the good news stops.

Google, which has been in a SEC mandated “quite period” ahead of its pending IPO is being sued by a few large corporations for trademark infringement over its policy of allowing AdWords advertisers to bid on keywords containing the name of a competing company. For example, if Royal Tissue wanted to advertise their facial tissues, they could bid on the keyword “Kleenex”, which is a registered trademark of the Kimberly-Clark Corporation. The same can be said for Geico, the auto insurance company owned by Warren Buffet’s holding firm, Birkshire Hathaway. The major difference is that while the word “Kleenex” is almost synonymous with facial tissues, the word “Geico” is not necessarily synonymous with auto insurance. Nevertheless, both Google and Overture sold use of the word as a keyword to rival insurance companies. Now Geico is suing both search tools. Both Google and Overture (a division of Yahoo) make the vast majority of their revenues on the sale of paid-placement advertising. If Geico is successful in their suit, both Google and Overture will be forced to limit the scope of keywords websites can be advertised under.

The second suit on Google’s horizon is much more threatening and may make their IPO even riskier than it already appears to be. Overture is suing Google for infringing on their patented method of selling advertising based on bidding on keyword phrases. This practice is the basis of how Google’s main revenue generator, AdWords works. The suit, which was filed in April 2002 revolves around a patent filed in the spring of 1999 by GoTo.Com (Overture’s original name) for a, “system and method for influencing a position on a search result list.” The patent application details both the auction-bid system for determining placements, and the ability of advertisers to alter their bids and ads via a web-browser. The full patent was awarded by the US Patent office on July 31, 2001. About seven months later, in February of 2002, Google unveils AdWords. Flash ahead to today and we see that AdWords provides the major revenue source for Google, accounting for over 80% of income last year. Trouble…

…That’s trouble with a capital T, which rhymes with P and that stands for Patent.

(with apologies to Meredith Willson, author of The Music Man)

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Thursday, May 20th, 2004

PPC Tips : Google and Image Ads

For some time now Google’s publishing partners and advertisers have been requesting image based advertising through the AdSense and AdWords programs, and Google is listening.

Currently still in Beta, Google has introduced image ads into its AdSense / AdWords program. Read more…

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Thursday, April 29th, 2004

PPC for Local Brick and Mortar?

With Google’s new Local Targeting features, it is possible for a small brick and mortar business with a website to achieve relevant internet traffic from within their local area. For some time now Google has allowed for ads to be country specific. Now not only can an advertiser target specific countries and states/provinces but they can also focus on actual target cities. Read more…

If you have decided to start a PPC Campaign with AdWords and Overture, and don’t know where to start on selecting keywords, here are some ideas. Read more…

For those that dislike advertising and pop-ups Norton Internet Security 2004 is a dream come true, but for advertisers it could be your worst nightmare…

The newest version of Norton Personal Firewall includes a new web assistant that allows users to block ads and pop-ups, this setting is turned on by default and is stirring up some controversy, but how does this affect the PPC world? Read more…

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Wednesday, February 4th, 2004

Google Legal Battle Threatens SERPs

Google is being sued by American Blind and Wallpaper Factory Inc. for trademark infringement. The case, which was originally thought to only involve AdWords bids on terms associated with American Blind and Wallpaper Factory Inc., has now grown to cover the traditional (free) results produced by Google. According to EWeek, David Rammelt of Kelley Drye & Warren LLP, the Chicago based firm representing American Blind and Wallpaper Factory Inc. said, “Our concerns are not just limited to the paid, sponsored links. We are seeing competitors listed when our trademarks are being typed verbatim.” Terms that concern Rammelt include, “American Blinds” and “American Blind”. Oddly enough, the litigant appears in the Top10 under the keyword phrase “American Blind”, just below sites dedicated to visually impaired Americans and Helen Keller.

Chances are, Google will win this suit, at least as it relates to the traditional (free) listings. The case does open a dangerous can-of-worms however as search terms and target keyword phrases may need to be rethought to avoid any trademark infringement in the future. An interesting feature of this case may be the public airing of Google’s ranking algorithms as Rammelt and his team dissects Google’s ranking methods in open court. The SEO community will likely watch this one very closely.

The success of the litigant would make search engines as we know them, sort of useless. Imagine a search tool being able to guarantee corporate rivals creating similar products could not appear under related keyword phrases if one of the corporations owned trademark rights to those keywords and phrases. A note to greedy lawyers, Just do it.

The impact of Google’s Florida Update has not been fully realized yet but, with reports from some of our clients who have been hurt, the damage will be extensive. Literally hundreds of thousands of websites have seemingly disappeared from Google’s listings, most of whom enjoyed a Top10 placement before the massive update which started on November 16th. Like most retailers, ecommerce sites that have faded from the listings needed a good Christmas season to remain viable into the next year and many of them staked their sales plans on a their previously strong placements at Google. The fallout will be noticeable, particularly among small businesses who’s advertising options were limited by small business budgets. Small businesses, however, will not be the only companies facing an uncertain future because of the Florida Update. When the SEO community starts receiving calls from the mainstream media and people who are not clients, asking what is wrong with Google; one knows that Google itself has a problem that goes far beyond their data centers. As one of the pioneers of the web, Lee Roberts of The Web Doctor points out, “It was word-of-mouth that generated their popularity because people could find what they were looking for. Now, we only find sites with less quality content and less sites that offer what we want.” Read more…