Monday, 11 December 2006

Is it Better to Disable the AdWords Search Network?

A few months ago, I read an interesting post on the MarketingShift blog, entitled Think You Know the Google Search Network? At the end of this post, the author wrote "Notes: It maybe worthwhile for advertisers to test out displaying ads only on rather then its "Search Network" and see if you can capture a better ROI."

So, I thought I would test this out on three campaigns that were running at a cost higher than most other campaigns and that were using the Search Network. I removed the Search Network option so these campaigns are now only running on Google Search.

The test has only been running for a week but so far I have found the following results:

Campaign 1 - Before Cost 0.66; After Cost 0.73; Change +0.73 (10.6%)
Campaign 2 - Before Cost 0.54; After Cost 0.54; Change 0.00 (0.0%)
Campaign 3 - Before Cost 0.67; After Cost 0.71; Change +0.04 (6.0%)

So, thus far in 2 out of the 3 campaigns, the average cost per click has risen, and in one case, it has risen by over 10%. In none of the campaigns has the average cost per click actually dropped.

So now I need to determine how to turn off Google Search while enabling the Search Network!

Of course, this little experiment isn't of great scientific validity and we need to look at conversions rather than just the cost per click. We also need to see what happens when the Search Network is turned back on. You may like to try this experiement for yourselves.

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Sunday, 10 December 2006

Interesting SEM-Related Patents in 2006

As mentioned in my cyberlaw blog, the recent Search Engine Land post regarding 3 new patents that were just issued to Google, Yahoo and IBM, respectively got me researching what other interesting search engine-related patents have been issued in 2006. Well, it is nearly 2007, so what better time to take a look back over this year and the technologies that drive this industry.

If you are of a technological bent, these should be of particular interest to you and make for some fascinating reading if you really want to know what goes on behind the scenes of our favorite search engines and where they're heading! (Note: The three patents below are all assigned to Google, Inc.).

U.S. Patent # 7,136,875 - Serving Advertisements Based on Content

This patent is definitely the one of most interest to Internet marketers.

"The present invention allows advertisers to put targeted ads on any page on the web (or some other document of any media type). The present invention may do so by (i) obtaining content that includes available spots for ads, (ii) determining ads relevant to content, and/or (iii) combining content with ads determined to be relevant to the content."

Although it's also pertinent to search engine advertising, the patent seems to be primarily describing the functionality of AdSense/content network advertising.

U.S. Patent # 7,096,214 - System and method for supporting editorial opinion in the ranking of search results

At first sight, this patent seems to be concerned with simply integrating some kind of human ranking element into Google's search ranking algorithm. However, as you read, it seems to be more related to pulling search results, at least in part, from a web directory that has been created as a result of editorial review, such as

The patent itself describes it as "[a] system and method, consistent with the present invention [provides] a mechanism that enhances the ranking of search results by integrating editorial opinion."

U.S. Patent # 7,027,987 - Voice interface for a search engine

"[T]he present invention provid[es] a voice interface for search engines that is capable of returning highly relevant results."

This patent, as is pretty obvious, is concerned with producing a search query via speech recognition and then producing the search results from that query. This sounds like a patent concerned with accessibility issues but I wonder what other uses a voice-triggered search engine could be put to!

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Thursday, 7 December 2006

Free Hosted Business Pages with AdWords Starter Edition

Google is now making available a service whereby advertisers who don't have a web site can get a free, hosted web page with their AdWords account. The page requires no HTML knowledge to create and can be used as the landing page for their advertisement. As the Inside AdWords blog puts it

"A hosted business page is an informational webpage that new advertisers can create when they sign up for AdWords Starter Edition [which can be used] to tell people more about your business when they click on your ad."

This new feature is only available in AdWords Starter Edition for new signups in the U.S.

My first thought, is, so if they then upgrade to Standard Edition, presumably they then lose their landing page, so this feature is actually going to cause users to stick with the Starter Edition which, as we all know, is extremely featureless and inflexible compared to the Standard Edition.

My second thought is, given all the uproar that has occurred as a result of the AdWords algorithm changes that occurred this year, particularly with regard to landing pages, I can't help but wonder whether these free landing pages will somehow escape the same rigorous evaluation that everyone else has to put up with, so will these advertisers get an unfair advantage?

Also, it will be interesting to see, when and if the quality score is added to the ad group stats, as mentioned in a previous post, how these advertisers compare against those with their own web sites.

Note: More information on hosted business pages is also available in the AdWords Help Center.

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Wednesday, 6 December 2006

New AdWords Functionality

According to a couple of threads on, Google is planning at least a couple of new features.

Displaying Quality Score
Someone is quoted as having been invited by Google to "beta test the Quality Score Column in AdGroup Detail." If that report is true, it would certainly be a welcome addition as several people have requested such a feature.

Predicted Average CPC Bid
According to the author of PPC Blog, Google is "looking at introducing a[] predicted average CPC bid alongside the Max CPC bidding system already in place in Adwords."

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AdSense, a Bifurcated System

Now, I always knew there were two tiers of AdSense users, the "premium" publishers who have such benefits as Google Keywords (google_kw) and the rest of us, i.e. the average AdSense publisher. However, until today, I didn't realize (oh naïve me) that there are also two sets of rules (well, there's probably as many sets of rules as there are premium publishers).

I was aware that some rules in the AdSense Terms and Conditions, and Policies are not applied as written, but today I learned that AdSense is prepared to forgo entire rules for publishers that are in a special relationship. How did I discover this?

A few days ago I happened to be reading John Chow's blog when I noticed that his blog was displaying both AdSense and Intellitxt ads. Immediately I thought to myself, "Self! Intellitxt is a contextual ad system and you are not allowed to display contextual ads on the same page as AdSense ads, so something's up." (See the "Competitive Ads and Services" section of the Google AdSense Program Policies).

Being the curious type and one who likes to see rules being applied equally to all people, I thought I would write to AdSense support to ask if I, being a mere mortal AdSense publisher would be allowed to display Kontera ads (similar to Intellitxt) on my blogs alongside my AdSense ads. I also pointed out that was doing this very thing. I received an interesting reply:

According to our program policies, Kontera and Intellitxt ads may not be displayed on the same page as Google ads on your site. However, you are welcome to display those ads on pages of your site that do not include Google ads . . . Additionally, I understand that you've noticed is displaying Google ads. Because we respect the confidentiality of all publishers, we cannot disclose any details of our relationship with this site.

So, if you're lucky enough to be one of the John Chow's of this world, not only may you get access to premium features, but Google may also be prepared to break its own rules to have you use their contextual ad publishing service.

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Tuesday, 5 December 2006

NY Times: The Future of Web Ads is in Britain

The New York Times recently published an article entitled "The Future of Web Ads Is in Britain." The article states that Britain's online advertising spend, as a percentage of total ad spending, is the highest in the world at 14%, roughly twice that of the U.S. In fact, Terry S. Semel, chairman and CEO of Yahoo, Inc, is quoted as saying "The U.S. is so behind . . . [i]t’s certainly lagging the U.K. by at least a year or two."

The article goes on to emphasize the national nature of much British advertising, in contrast to the more regional nature of U.S. advertising. This struck a chord with me in view of problems that many users of systems such as Google AdWords have reported regarding their regionally targeted campaigns. Perhaps if there were a more reliable method of targeting online ads on a regional basis, U.S. online advertising spend wouldn't be so far behind.

In fact, I think the smaller marketplace available in the U.K. has enabled technological advances in other areas that have outstripped the U.S. such as interactive digital televsion and mobile phone services . . . but that's another story!

Monday, 4 December 2006

Small PPC Search Engines Revisited: A Recent Study has just released the results of an interesting recent study examining the effectiveness of various smaller PPC advertisement providers. The study looked at the performance of Enhance, Miva, Kanoodle, Mamma, GoClick, AdBrite, and Ask.

The main findings of the study were:

~Conversion rates varied considerably between the various providers
~The nature of the business being advertisement was an important variable
~The cost per conversion varied considerably between the providers

In addition, the study also found, not unexpectedly, that traffic volume from these providers was considerably lower than for the major providers.

The full results of the study make interesting reading and include tabulated results and more detailed commentary and analysis. Definitely worth a read.

As an aside, is an interesting site providing useful information on a variety of Internet marketing topics and also has an email newsletter and blog.

Update: has also made available online an audio recording of their clinic on this topic in Windows Media and Real Player formats.

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Sunday, 3 December 2006

Ted Leonsis SEO Contest

In case you haven't heard, ScoreboardMediaGroup is sponsoring an SEO contest officially known as "It's a very Ted Leonsis Christmas."

The sponsors are going to be giving $500 to whoever has the highest ranking Google search position for the phrase "Ted Leonsis" at midnight Central Time on Christmas Eve.

In case you're wondering who Ted Leonsis is, he is probably best known for executive role at America Online and is currently Vice Chairman of AOL LLC.

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Saturday, 2 December 2006

AdSense Publishers, Don't Forget Who Really Pays You

A week or so ago, I was rather frustrated by a poster on the official AdSense Help forum who wrote

"And I HAVE to ask - how on earth do you get clicks if you are not allowed to ask for them - I mean, REALLY!!! Come and look at all the beggars in my country who do better than I do begging on the streets than I do working my but [sic] off on ADsense!!";

This frustrated me because it highlights a disconnect that many AdSense publishers ("AdSensers") have regarding who exactly it is that pays them. The AdSense help forum is full of people, many from "third world" countries, who have heard how it's possible to earn more money from AdSense than many local people could ever hope to earn from regular employment and are desperately hoping to generate income for themselves. AdSense is seen as a way out of poverty and all you need is clicks. This has seen a tremendous rise in sites whose sole purpose is to generate AdSense clicks, with no intent to provide real content or any real usefulness at all, except to earn money for the AdSenser (which violates AdSense's Terms and Conditions, but that's another story) and this isn't just in "third world" countries, but throughout the globe.

What makes this situation worse is that these "AdSensers" only deal with Google, Inc., the fat, powerful, multi-billion dollar corporation in silicon valley. It's Google's name on the checks that arrive, it's Google's web site that they go to diligently to check their earnings . . . but it's not ultimately Google who pays them, it's Joe Advertiser, regular businesses and private indivuduals like you and me. It's our hard-earned cash that is funding AdSense through our AdWords advertisements, Google is just the middleman, the marketplace where AdWords advertisers and AdSense publishers meet.

Without AdWords advertisers advertising on the Content Network, there would be no AdSense. Those ads you're hoping for clicks on don't appear from nowhere, Google doesn't write them just so you can earn some money, they are paid for by someone just like you. Perhaps if every AdSense publisher spent some of their money trying to promote a product via AdWords, they would have a greater appreciation of how lucky they are to have such an amazing opportunity to earn money from people clicking on ads, people who may never even end up buying the product or service that's being advertised and each one of those clicks that earns you money, takes money from someone else . . . as the rule goes, "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction."

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