Ari & Stephanie: The Newest Type of Google Advertising Professional

Earlier this year, Google gave Path Interactive employees the chance to help test Google’s AdWords Certification Beta exam.  Taking the two experimental exams (one for Beginners and one for Experts) would be an all day affair, so we only sent two of our campaign managers: Ari Berdy and Stephanie Scorziello.

We are proud to report that both Ari & Stephanie passed the exams with flying colors!  They are now among the first to be the newest type of Google Advertising Professionals.  Congratulations Ari & Stephanie!

Bing & Google Make Deals With Twitter

Bing and Google have both announced that they will incorporate tweets into their search results.  Bing made the announcement yesterday, and Google today.  The purpose of these deals is to bring real time search capabilities to the two search engines.  This will benefit people looking for updates on breaking news, reviews on just-released products, and any other situation in which information quickly grows stale.

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Does "Harry Potter" Draw More Than Clicks?

Determining Searcher Intent For Better ROI

When someone searches for “Harry Potter,” what are they really searching for? A bio of the character? An action figure?

If you sell action figures, but most of the people clicking on your “Harry Potter” ads are simply looking for information, you’re obviously not getting your optimal ROI. Conversely, if most of your clicks are precisely for the products you offer, i.e., Harry Potter figures, you’re doing well.

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Microsoft adCenter Tools Slowly Catching Up With Google

As I noted in an earlier post, although Bing represented a big step forward for Microsoft in user experience, it was a step back for search advertisers in terms of amount of traffic sent to websites through paid clicks. Even more annoying: because Bing quickly stops serving ads for companies on whose ads a searcher doesn’t click, advertisers had difficulty assessing whether their ads were even running. Bing wouldn’t show advertisers their own ads (unless the advertisers cost themselves money by clicking on their own ads), so how could they know what the average searcher was seeing?

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Google Broad Match Opens Wide

Broad to Begin With
Google recently expanded the breadth of searches that will match to broad-matched keywords. Originally, broad match would trigger ads when a searcher typed in misspellings of an advertiser’s keywords. A little over a year ago, Google expanded broad match to include synonyms of an advertisers’ keywords. While that did enable the advertiser to have his/her ads show for search queries that he/she hadn’t thought of, it also resulted in ads showing for unrelated queries. For instance, do you think that the query: “What is event marketing” should be matched to the keyword: “hispanic advertising agencies?” Me, neither, but Google’s broad match algorithm did. This expansion turned broad match into a very powerful, but potentially dangerous tool: It could deliver new customers, but it could also eat up your budget if you weren’t careful.

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Got An E-Retail Site? You Better Have A PPC Campaign

The results are in, and something we have suspected for quite some time has now been confirmed: Pay-Per-Click (PPC) traffic is 60% more valuable than organic search traffic for e-retail sites. Engine Ready just published a study based on traffic to 26 e-retail sites in a 12-month period showing that visitors from PPC ads converted at a rate of 2.03%, while visitors from organic links converted at a rate of 1.26%. Not only that, but PPC visitors also bought the most, with an average order of $117.06 versus $106.64 for organic visitors. Visitors who navigated directly to the sites or came in from other sites also bought less, with average orders of $109.27 and $95.29, respectively.

You Need Both SEO And PPC

We here at Path Interactive have always recommended that our clients run both PPC and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) campaigns in order to maximize sales and leads, and studies have been around for years proving the importance of this. The Engine Ready study is yet another proof that companies need both SEO & PPC; though they may get more traffic from organic links, the traffic from paid links is more valuable.

Microsoft And Yahoo Make A Deal

Microsoft and Yahoo recently announced a deal on search engine marketing. According to the terms of the deal, Microsoft is essentially acquiring Yahoo’s search business. Yahoo’s search advertisers will use Microsoft’s adCenter platform, and searches performed on Yahoo and its properties will serve up results from Bing.

Timeline
This deal will not affect advertisers or searchers for quite some time. The deal first has to gain regulatory approval, which it might fail to do given the denial last year of Yahoo’s proposed deal with Google. If the deal is approved, the issues surrounding such a massive integration likely mean that the deal will not go live before 2010.

Effect On The Market
According to the latest data from Compete, Google dominates the search market with a 73.9% share, compared with 16.6% for Yahoo and 6.5% for Microsoft. That represents an increase of 9.5 percentage points for Google over the past year, and a corresponding fall for Yahoo and Microsoft. It is very possible that this deal will slow or even reverse that trend. Yahoo gets incredible traffic to its various properties, and Bing’s search results have been competitive with Google’s in my testing so far, aside from a few hiccups in its first week. If consumers on Yahoo’s properties learn that searches done from those properties will match or exceed what they would get from Google, then Microsoft/Yahoo could definitely increase share.

What Does This Mean For Advertisers?
Until this deal is approved and put into place, nothing. If it happens, however, it will affect advertisers in a number of ways. First, advertisers will see Microsoft/Yahoo as a more viable alternative to Google, leading more of them to advertise on Microsoft/Yahoo. This extra demand might push up the cost-per-click currently seen on Yahoo & Bing, but probably not by much. Second, Microsoft’s adCenter offers better fine-tuning of PPC campaigns than Yahoo Panama, so search engine marketing experts will be able to create more effective campaigns than those currently appearing on Yahoo.
The most important effect, however, depends on how Bing evolves. As I noted in my last blog, Bing has effectively reduced available impressions by serving limited numbers of ads to searchers who tend not to click on them. This has reduced traffic for some of our clients, and we know that other SEM companies have seen this trend, too. If Microsoft doesn’t change Bing before the deal goes into effect, this impression reduction would change from an annoyance into a major problem. Path Interactive will continue to consult with Microsoft in order to prevent this from happening.

Not Seeing Your Ads On Bing? You’re Not Alone.

As you probably already know, Microsoft recently launched its newest search engine: Bing. Microsoft’s goal for Bing is to take share away from Google by offering more relevant results to the searcher, especially in the Health, Travel and Local verticals. Microsoft has done a good job in those verticals, and my experience with the engine in all verticals has been generally positive, though I have seen some hiccups (one recent search returned results in Thai and German-not very relevant to a guy in Brooklyn).

Too Focused On The User Experience

Unfortunately, in focusing so much on improving the user experience from Live Search (Microsoft’s old, unmissed search engine), the engineers at Microsoft have hurt the experience of its advertisers. Advertisers across the country, including our own clients, have seen declines in impressions and clicks since Bing’s launch. This is because Bing tracks its users’ behavior. If it notices that a particular user tends to not click on ads, it reduces the number of ads shown to that user. Also, if a particular user conducts numerous searches on the same or similar keywords without clicking on a particular company’s ad, Bing will stop showing that company’s ad for those keywords.

Those aspects of Bing’s advertising system are confirmed and well known. However, I suspect that if you don’t click on a specific company’s ads over a few searches, Bing will stop showing you ads from that company even when you search other keywords in a campaign. Microsoft’s account reps aren’t privy to all of Bing’s secret, so they can’t confirm this, but they think I’m right.

Help Is On The Way

Path Interactive is working to make sure that Microsoft fully understands the difficulty this issue can cause for our clients. Fortunately, Microsoft has heard our suggestions, and is now working on something that will allow us to confirm that an ad is live and active. Google has had such a diagnostic tool for a while now. We like it because it allows us to conduct searches without racking up impressions (thereby hurting quality scores), and we have been encouraging Yahoo and Microsoft to develop equivalent tools. Microsoft promises to finish its version soon. In the meantime, our advice is: STOP SEARCHING FOR YOUR ADS SO MUCH-YOU’RE HURTING YOUR QUALITY SCORES!

James Connell is Search Director at Path Interactive, a NYC-based interactive marketing firm.

2009 Watch List: New Generic Domain Names

On Our 2009 Watch List: New Generic Domain Names

Earlier this year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ( ICANN)  announced a plan to allow new generic level domain names (gTLDs) in addition to current ones like .com, .org, .edu, etc.  Under the plan, gTLDs would be virtually unlimited.  For instance, Ford could be not only ford.com, but also ford.cars, ford.auto, ford.road, ford.ford, etc.

ICANN states that “the expansion will allow for more innovation, choice and change to the Internet’s addressing system, now constrained by only 21 generic top-level domain names,” and considers this program to be especially important to its efforts to make domain names available that could contain non-ASCII characters or letters (for instance, Arabic or Chinese).

 

Generic Domain Name’s Don’t sit Well with Goverments and Large Corporations

There is significant opposition to the plan, especially from corporations and governments.  The opposing arguments mostly center around two issues: the potentially enormous additional cost to companies that wish to defend their trademarks and brand names, and the possibility that adding hundreds or thousands of new gTLDs could undermine the stability and security of the Domain Name System (DNS).

 

The Effect On Large Companies Can Cost

Large companies already have to buy thousands (sometimes tens of thousands) of domain names to protect their brands – buying not only their trademarked names, but also common misspellings across all 21 current gTLDs.  For instance, Google owns not just google.com, but also g00gle.com and google.biz.   Depending on the number of new domain names, the price companies pay to control domain names could definitely skyrocket.

 

So, How Many New gTLDs Will There Be?

No one can predict how many new domain names will pop up because it won’t be cheap to register a new gTLD.  Companies wishing to register new gTLDs will need to pay $185,000 to submit the application and $60,000 each year to run the domain.  In addition, if a company is not already a registry, it will have to pay $50,000 to be evaluated.  In other words, a company will need to be sure that there will be a lot of customers in order to apply for a generic domain.  That said, the way to make a fortune is to see opportunity where others don’t, so don’t be surprised if some surprises pop up like .crafts, .florist, or .pizza.

 

Next week: the proposal’s possible effects on search engine marketing.

 

James Connell is Search Director at Path Interactive, a NYC-based interactive marketing firm.