You Know Who Loves Google’s Ad Buy? eHow.

Oh my gosh.  I can’t believe I haven’t posted in so long.  The hangnail situation from last time?  Well, it got even more out of hand and it’s really been taking all my time.  The good news is I have some new people in place and things are looking really squared away now– nice trim cuticles, shiny nails, smooth skin.  I’m kind of starting to get veiny old lady hands like Madonna, but that just comes with the territory of impending middle age.  My overall plan for all things related to aging has been to try to redefine beauty standards so that age spots are desirable.  We’ll see how that goes.

So!  Some men in tiny pants played a game on Sunday to great acclaim and huge audience (I say that all casually as if I wasn’t down on my knees the entire 3 hours praying to the gods of jambalaya, voodoo, and whoever else would listen for a Saints win).  In fact, preliminary results say that the broadcast became the most-watched program in US history, with 106 million viewers.  And, being the marketing geek that I am, I of course looked up from my prayers at each break to check out the ads.  This won’t be a “Best and Word Ads” post, although suffice it to say that I’m certainly never purchasing a Dodge Charger nor doing any business with GoDaddy any time soon.  But my heart did an embarrassing pitter-patter when I saw the Google logo and realized they had done a Superbowl ad buy.

Because Google, of course, does not do ad buys.  Seeing a Google ad is like seeing J.D. Salinger out at the grocery store (and I’m keeping that in the present tense on purpose, because Salinger lives 4eva).  I was also intrigued to see that it was an ad for what most would assume they do not need to advertise at all, their core search product.  I’ve seen their billboards for other products, which make sense as they try to extend their tentacles across your entire online experience.  But core search product is what they pushed, which tickled my special geek place even more.  I yelled out to my husband to draw his attention to the ad, which was completely unnecessary as he was sitting right beside me.  The excitement could not be held back.

It also helped that the ad itself was excellent, telling the story of a Parisian romance in about one minute, all through search terms from “impress a french girl” to “how to assemble a crib”.  It stayed true to Google’s clean and simple aesthetic while quickly showcasing a variety of capabilities from translation to mapping to flight tracking.  It also packed real emotional impact into a tiny space, reminding me of what I always love about doing keyword research, which is thinking about the real people and real stories behind the queries.  I’m a romantic, dammit, and the ad made my eye glisten a little.

So today when I hopped onto eHow to do a little research, the top tip of the day really stood out to me:

ehow post on crib assembly

Look!  There it is!  How to assemble a crib!  Aww.

Now, there’s nothing that indicates why this is a “top tip”– it is very likely that the clever editors of eHow just took advantage of the Google ad buy to boost traffic.  But they wouldn’t be doing that if they weren’t getting some good traffic on the article, I would think, and the eHow listing does come up tops when you put that phrase into Google.   This is another listing on the home page:

ehow how to date french girls

Which is also a top Google search result if you enter “impress a French Girl” into Google.

Are there millions of new hits coming to eHow because of Google’s ad buy?  Doubtful.  But increased traffic is increased traffic, and it’s even better when someone else paid for it.

Man, I gotta figure out how to get on that plan.


Powerset: Worthy Of The Hype?

Whew, I haven’t posted in months.  Sorry, I was doing my nails, and I had a tricky hangnail situation so it just took ages.

So, Google.  You’ve heard of them, right?  Apparently they make a dollar or two here and there by selling ads alongside search results.  And anything that makes a dollar or two is going to spawn a host of other businesses looking to carve off a little pie for themselves.  The past couple of years have seen a brave army of search engines trying to capture just a little bit of that Googly magic for themselves; here, for example, is a list of over 40 social search engines.  There are image search engines, people search engines, and capturing a lot of late-breaking buzz, natural language search engines.  In particular, tech reporters across the country have been getting a tingly feeling in their special places over the premier of Powerset, a search engine that promises to truly understand what a web page is about and thus to find answers to queries quicker.  The site they have just premiered indexes Wikipedia only as a way to showcase their user experience; more in-depth indexing is to follow.

So is this the company that will lure the searching public away from Google and spawn the next set of millionaires?  That all depends on if it truly offers a different and better result.  As you’ll see from the link above, lots of people have tried Powerset out and reported back.  I personally like to test new engines with questions that Google has either performed really well or really poorly on in the past, so I gave it a try on a few phrases of my own, comparing Powerset, Google, and a site search of Wikipedia:

1) Which god gets his liver eaten out each night?

Powerset returns a reference to the correct answer in one below-the-fold result.  Google returns a correct answer in 3 of the top 5 results.  Wikipedia nails it in the second result, meaning that for some reason Powerset wasn’t able to correctly grok the results of the only data source it looked at.  Google was the winner here.

2) My friends and I were trying to recall if there was an earthquake in Manhattan around the time of 9/11.  So which search method does best on “New York City Earthquake”?

Neither Wikipedia nor Powerset had anything helpful at all to offer here.  Google nailed it in both its first and second results.  So once again, Google was the winner.

3) On a cross country road trip you start to see the same names over and over.  Search engines, can you reveal the “most popular town name in america”?

Wikipedia offered nothing at all for that search term.  Powerset offered nothing useful.  Google’s #5 listing points to an article on, interestingly, Wikipedia, called “list of the most common US place names”.  Google, you clever bandit!  You win again!  (It’s Franklin, which pleases me, as he has always been my favorite Founding Father.)

So my own experience with Powerset does not have me excited yet.  It wasn’t as effective as Google in returning the information I wanted, even when that info was actually on Wikipedia.  Wiki’s own site search didn’t do as well either.  So for now I’m going to stick with Google when Very Important Questions such as these arise.

Google + Performics = Conflict Of Interest

Tech Crunch notes in this story about Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick that “many have missed one part of the deal that may raise eyebrows: Google now owns SEO firm Performics.” Welp, as an employee of another firm that offers SEO and SEM services, I can say we sure didn’t miss that element. I’ve already felt that Google’s aggressive promotion of its free paid search strategy services offered enough of a conflict of interest, but as Danny Sullivan points out at length, they will now be accepting payment from firms wishing to rank well in their own natural search results. Google has long touted that they don’t have any connections to SEO firms…well, now they do. I’m sure they will pull out their “Don’t Be Evil” flag and wave it around, as if merely saying that that is their motto means they can do anything they want and it’s still okay. But selling SEO strategy is a clear conflict of interest and I agree with Danny that they should divest themselves of Performics as soon as they can.

Microsoft To Shun Last-Click Attribution. Searching Public To Shun Microsoft.

Microsoft, oh Microsoft. So full of clever search marketing ideas you are. Your keyword research tools are actually much richer than others on the market. And your newly announced idea to distribute conversion to all the clicks that contributed (search and not)— we likey, we likey. Now if only you had the volume to make it worthwhile. Continue reading

iPhone Changes The Mobile Search Conversation

Two recent related stories point to the continued flux in the mobile search market:

1. To the surprise of no one who has paid the least attention to the hype, the iPhone has increased its share of the US smartphone market quite rapidly for such a new entrant into the market. It is now the number 2 smartphone in the US, with a market share of 28% (compared to market leader RIMM/Blackberry with 41%). It also has a reasonably strong share of the global market; it comes in #3 with 6.5% (market leader Nokia has 53%). The iPhone is popular and its popularity is increasing; more importantly, the clamor over its user-friendly interface is having a big effect on overall smartphone design. And that brings us to:

Continue reading

Yahoo Users Tend To Spend Less: No Kidding!

A study released last Friday by Hitwise is causing lots of discussion: graphing search engine use against some of their demographic data, they assert that people who use Yahoo tend to buy less stuff online. To which anyone working in search replies, no duh!  Client after client, our data shows that while impressions and even clicks from Yahoo might be fairly even with Google, Yahoo pretty much never equals Google in what really matters: conversions.  People who use Yahoo just don’t buy stuff like Google users do.  Our intuition has always been that these users are younger (and thus less likely to be affluent); data like this backs up that intuition.

Microsoft Gets All Hostile On Yahoo!

Normally I am opposed to including the exclamation mark on the end of “Yahoo!”; I hate punctuation in company names and I just refuse to acknowledge it. Do you hear me Beverages, And More!? However news of Microsoft’s hostile takeover bid for Yahoo! this morning caused such a collective plotz here in Silicon Valley that I ran to stand in the doorway of my bedroom, thinking the Big One had hit. It’s worthy of gratuitous punctuation, is what I’m saying.

Microsoft’s offer is at a 62% premium over Yahoo!’s current stock price, and given Yahoo!’s seeming determination to screw the pooch I think if I were a Yahoo! stock holder I’d be saying, “Helllooooo, Master Bill! Come give me your filthy filthy!”

This development will be discussed extensively by all the usual suspects, so I won’t belabor it any further. Yahoo!