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Recently Forrester Research posted a “North American Consumer Technology Adoption Study” profiling social technologies used by a large spectrum of 10,000 online users.

The following are some screenshots from the Forrester presentation that I found particularly interesting. Why? Because they highlight the areas that may be best to direct my client’s social marketing campaigns or even areas where other forms of advertising may be worthwhile. Read more…

In a recent paid advertising deal to supply ads for Viacom giants including MTV.com, VH1.com, comedycentral.com, and 30 other web properties. Google has been left in the cold as Yahoo’s Panama platform was chosen. The deal could also expand in the future to include an additional 140 Viacom websites. Based on February’s figures, that could translate to around 90 million unique monthly visitors.

Back in March a lawsuit was launched against Google property YouTube over copyright infringement of Viacom owned television programs. Undoubtedly the lawsuit against Google was a large contributing factor in choosing Yahoo for the deal. As the next largest player in the game, with Google out, Yahoo is certainly the natural best choice.

The multi-year Search Marketing Deal was official announced Tuesday in a press release posted by Viacom.

Today Adobe unveiled the alpha release of Apollo which Adobe’s Mike Downey describes as a “cross operating system runtime that allows users to install desktop applications built using web technologies such as HTML, JavaScript and Flash.” In layman’s terms, Apollo enables web developers to create applications for your computer using the web technology they already know and work in. Read more…

Last week a UK guerrilla marketing campaign launched by ASK was photographed on a train on a London subway featuring ASK’s familiar oval logo background shown below the loudspeaker (photo credit Ben Werdmuller). The campaign has raised the ire of a few people and opened the eyes of some others. All-in-all, the campaign has been shown to be one hell of a news-making promotion… which has undoubtedly forced a grin from the staff at ASK. Anyway, here is a little run down on the events to date:

The advertisement is actually rather anonymous, merely suggesting that viewers visit www.information-revolution.org. Once on that site, however, if you look around the page you can ultimately tell it is a ASK website via the logo on the bottom right of the page. Read more…

You have probably heard a ton about Social Bookmarking or Social Media Networking, or …. it goes on; as within anything on the Internet there are a myriad of different terms to describe this phenomenon. What it comes right down to though are votes. Similar to a backlink to a website, social bookmarks are a method for the average joe to share a great online find with the rest of the world. As others share their favorite finds the bookmarked content has a greater chance of generating more and more interest. Content that gets the most interest will earn prominent visibility that can earn hundreds and even thousands of free backlinks. As a result, making it easy for users to socially bookmark your content is definitely in your best interest. From my experience the most popular bookmarking websites are Digg it, Reddit, and del.icio.us. Read more…

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Thursday, November 30th, 2006

Yahoo Search Marketing Bidding Changes

This change has been forthcoming for some time now. The new Yahoo Search Marketing
platform is available for some who have been chosen for early release, and for the rest, the new year will see the complete rollover into the new system. At the beginning of December, however, we will see the launch of the new bidding system at YSM and some recent changes to how you will manage your bidding. So what exactly is changing?

Top 5 Max Bids and Your Position

The current bids for the top 5 paid placements will be removed along with the your position column. Read more…

Search engine marketing has displaced every traditional media with the exception of television in relevancy and importance in the eyes of ad-buyers. With much lower costs and a much greater reach, online advertising makes up the second largest area in which advertisers spend money and marketers pass messages. There are a growing number of advertising channels available via the Internet and the major search engines are interested in acting as facilitators for as many of them as possible.

These channels or services, unlike traditional predecessors, are open and available to virtually anyone with a product to sell or message to communicate. Openness, ease of use, a sense of fairness and the global reach of the Internet are factors that make search marketing so popular. Ultimately, the versatility of the Internet combined with the much lower costs associated with online communications is what has brought search marketing to today’s prominence. Add the evolution of the medium and expanded accessibility and it is a safe stretch to say that search marketing will eventually surpass traditional television advertising by 2010 as the communications vehicle of choice. Here is a short list of what the search engines currently offer in the way of services to small business advertisers.

Organic Listings

By far, the strongest form of search engine advertising is found in the free organic listings, at least if your site is in the Top10. According to a number of studies, the most well known of which is Gord Hotchkiss’ Google Eye Tracking study , the vast majority of search engine visitors examine and select organic listings over paid listings.

Organic listings are also the least expensive form of online marketing. All that is required is a good website and information on items people are searching for. Delivering a bigger bang for less money, a strong placement at Google, Yahoo and MSN can provide dramatic increases in site traffic.

Ironically, organic search marketing is not seen to be nearly as sexy or interesting as its wealthier cousins from the paid-placement side of the family. The free, organic listings are the loss leader of the search engine world. None of the major search engines makes a penny providing free listings and the search marketing sector servicing organic placements is still seen as an arcane and murky world by many advertisers.

Pay Per Click Advertising and Placement

Pay Per Click or PPC is currently the most popular advertising service offered by the major search engines. Mainstream marketers love it because PPC is fairly easy to understand and not nearly as difficult to explain to others as organic SEO. Because of this, and the base fact that search engines make money hand-over-fist from PPC programs, the rise in interest in search by major advertisers mirrors the evolution of the various PPC systems offered.

Overture started the ball rolling with their original pay per click search engine GoTo.com. The model was copied and modified by Google and Yahoo purchased Overture, rebranding the service Yahoo Search Marketing. Overture was fairly successful in its early years, sticking deals with the search engines of the day to display paid results much in the same way Google and YSM do today but it wasn’t until Google introduced AdWords that mainstream advertisers took notice.

When they did, the sky was suddenly no longer the limit. (Google is actually working to send search services to space.) Mainstream advertising agencies and the absurd amounts of money they control started attending conferences and learning as much as they can about pay per click and other forms of search marketing.

PPC offers a number of definable results that organic SEO simply cannot. You can guarantee with absolute accuracy that the result will be visible on the front page as long as the money and effort is there to make it happen. Good SEOs haven’t made guarantees for a number of years now. PPC has another hidden advantage that makes it widely attractive to larger advertisers.

Contextual Ad Delivery is possibly the coolest thing since the automated bread slicer was invented, at least if you think like a marketer or a search engine financial executive. The delivery system works in two unique ways. The first is based on keywords entered by searchers; the second is based on keywords found on a page or document.

Many search engines display ads generated by a larger search tool. AOL for example currently runs ads generated by Google. The specific ads coming up to the right of the organic search results are placed there because they somehow correspond to the keyword query made by the searcher viewing them. That’s the basic form of contextual ad delivery.

The more complex form is found on non-search related documents. Next time you visit a website that is not a search engine, (perhaps even this one), take a look around the sides of the screen. If you see any ads by Google or YSM, you are looking at contextually delivered product. The ads appear on the screen because the website owner has partnered with Google or YSM. The ads are generated based on keywords found on the document on which they are displayed. Whenever a site visitor clicks on one of those ads, the site owner shares a percentage of the click-through bid. Similarly, users of Gmail have become accustomed to seeing paid advertisements generated based on keywords found in the text of their email messages.

Marketers see contextual delivery as the predecessor of personalized ad-delivery, a service MSN feels it is close to introducing when it takes adCenter out of beta.

Shopping Search

Another form of search service is shopping based search engines. Shopping engines deliver product information directly to consumers, and help them find online merchants to purchase from. They are not meant to be places people look for lost relatives or seek solutions to common health ailments but they would be glad to refer visitors to a good book or microwave oven.

Most shopping search engines receive information directly from the databases of merchants using their systems via an XML feed. Two well-known independent examples are Become.com and Shopping.com . They are not alone however as the major search engines know a good thing when they see it. Earlier today, another well-known shopping engine, PriceGrabber.com was purchased by London based GUS PLC for $485million.

Google, Yahoo and MSN all have their own shopping search engines. Of the three, Yahoo’s is arguably the most interesting application of Web2.0 philosophy, MSN is the most traditional and Google is the most comparative.

Yahoo Shopping has moved forward into the world of Web2.0 providing lists of products and reviews compiled by its massive user base. It actively promotes users to save lists to an area known as my lists, and to make those lists available to other users. Yahoo has tied Yahoo Shopping into Yahoo local search and provides maps to stores found through their shopping engine.

MSN Shopping is fairly traditional and straight forward with product listings by category and price range.
Google’s shopping service Froogle is actually more of a comparative price engine than a pure shopping engine but, in conjunction with Google Local and Google Maps, Froogle can provide directions to the lowest cost items near you.

Local Search

Perhaps the biggest marketing bonanza will be found in local search engines. Many search engine observers suggest local search will replace the Yellow Pages as users start to interface with search via handheld devices and cell phones. Most often used by consumers looking for a product or service near their own home, local search engines tend to draw information from the general search databases.

The types of search services mentioned above are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the full range of features, tools and services offered by the major search engines. For small business advertisers though, these are the services that are easiest to take advantage of and tend to return the best results.

Marketing in general has become more complicated and search marketing is becoming extremely complex. Small businesses that already have a relationship with an SEO or SEM firm might want to arrange a meeting with their search marketing vendor to discuss plans for the coming year. With or without the assistance of SEOs or SEMs all online advertisers have a lot to think about over the holiday season. 2006 looks like it is going to be wild and highly productive year.

Mondays follow weekends and a lot can happen over 48-hours. That makes a Monday morning a bit of a mash-up. As I scan article ideas from first to last, my mind keeps wandering to the middle. There must be a common thread uniting ideas found in the four pieces outlined below. The most obvious connection is that each relates to search marketing but perhaps if read collectively there is something a bit deeper, a signal of where the SEM industry is going. Read more…

It is twenty days shy of Christmas and Bill Stroll, our sales and marketing manager just spent ten minutes on the phone talking about Valentines Day. It’s not really a strange subject to come up in conversation at this time of the year. Valentines Day is the next major commercial marketing event. The nature of search marketing leads us to plan months into the future as seasonal and event specific content needs to be developed, posted, spidered in order to achieve eventual top10 placements.

As recently as three years ago, we would caution clients to expect a three to sixteen week turn-around time between posting optimized content and positive results. For some, that would mean the development of commercial content for Valentines Day might begin in late October and early November in order to have it ready for a post-Christmas shift in target audience. Now, content posted to established (long-term) websites on a Monday could appear in the Top10 before the following Friday, sometimes hours after it was posted.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that content creators and webmasters targeting a mid-February audience should wait until the end of January or early February to begin to develop Valentine’s related content though. As the years have gone on, a lot more information gets added to the web and much of that information is more professional, better written and far better optimized for search placement. For smaller businesses, this can mean long hours of writing, researching and designing in order to have a series of seasonal pages ready for posting in order to compete with larger websites.

Successful marketing is a process of long-term planning and execution of those plans in an ordered campaign. When designing a sales-orientated website, planning for annual special events is a good way to capture interest and increase sales. Search engine users are fairly predictable. Being the general public, they are interested in whatever is interesting at any given time. As search marketers, we know when search traffic will spike for specific holidays and events with a far greater degree of accuracy than the television and print media can offer.

Search marketers also know that seasonally topical information can be posted at any time of the year. Think of the search engines as a reference guide to a massive filing cabinet. There might be files about any number of subjects amongst the vast amount of information stored in that cabinet but its specific items are only accessed when needed. A Top10 placement can be achieved for products or services relating to Valentine’s Day in September and remain in place months after February 14th, provided the page is actively updated and not left static and stagnant.

Long term content is often much easier to get placements for than new content is. Documents that exist for longer periods of time tend to have more incoming links and are viewed as more “trusted” by search engines. As mentioned above, that content should change from time to time as a static page is not seen as favorably as an active one.

In previous years, search engines tended to put more emphasis on the Home, or index page of a website. That would necessitate seasonally topical content being inserted on the first page of the site six to twelve weeks before placements were expected, or the development of seasonal sub-domains. Now that search engines tend to treat all documents within a domain as equals, event or seasonal information can be an ongoing part of a much larger website. This again allows search marketers to view the web as a filing cabinet. It is a good thing to have information easily accessible at any time of the year and it is always a good time to promote seasonally topical information, even if the season or event is six months away.

There is a natural rush towards the date of the seasonal holiday or event that should be accounted for in search marketing planning. During the 2004 US elections, real estate in Maryland and Virginia was reaching a peak that tends to follow US election cycles. In the weeks leading up to the election, a massive rush from Maryland and Virginia based realtors flooded many SEO shops, even those of us a continent away on the west coast. Realtors who first approached SEO or SEM shops naturally tended to fare better than those who waited until mid-rush. (Many SEO and SEM shops offer exclusivity on keyword targets to clients and tend to not represent more than one client per keyword or keyword phrase).

A point Bill made in our discussion stood out. We should be telling our clients to try to envision their websites months or even a year in advance and asking questions about long-term marketing planning. What are our clients doing at various points in the year? Is there information on their websites that would be searched for with greater frequency one month over another? Are there products or services that have a seasonal tie-in?

In previous years, spiders drove the search marketing sales cycle. To get a strong Valentines Day placement, we would be working on optimizing content starting this week. Today, the search marketing sales cycle is much more similar to that of the brick-and-mortar world. For smaller clients and those with new websites, today is the time to starting to plan for next year’s Halloween to Christmas season, along with the dozen or so other consumer events of the calendar year.

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Wednesday, November 30th, 2005

Changing Faces of Search Marketing

A year of unprecedented change in the search engine landscape and online business environment has forced many SEOs and SEMs to alter and, in some cases, drastically rethink the services they offer and the techniques they use. For some SEOs, the changes represent a world of opportunities to expand their services and experiment with emerging techniques. For others, the changes in the search world have hit with the repetition and intensity of a series of destructive environmental disasters. Before getting into the changes to services and techniques, a quick look at how the search marketing sector has changed is in order. Read more…

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