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Mar 9 2006
Yahoo! Shines a Light on Subtleties of Search
I'm late writing about this but before SES I was in New York as a panelist in Yahoo!'s first Search Light Award event. It brought together four finalist ad agencies to show how they'd integrated search marketing into their broader campaigns and to discuss and answer questions about their efforts.

The event was organized by Yahoo!'s Ron Belanger, formerly of Carat. iMedia's Kevin Ryan has a very detailed write-up of the event here. The winner was RPA Interactive for its Honda Element campaign (I voted for this one but they still didn't give me the car).

This event was great and helped bring together a number of things for me and send me down a path toward more "nuanced" thinking about search and how consumers interact with it � and some of the implications for marketers.

Search has historically been perceived as a direct response medium. More recently there's been a great deal of talk about it being a "branding" medium. Some skeptics believe this is merely a ploy to lure ad budgets online. Some time ago I tried to characterize it as something in between true awareness and direct response. Two older, relevant posts along those lines here and here (forgive the formatting problems).

In my observation, a majority of the folks at SES still want to see search marketing as direct response; it's a much less complicated animal that way. Also, tracking and ROI are more straightforward in that context. But in fact search and the way consumers interact with it is much more dynamic and complex. Here's a previous post about how local and national campaigns can serve both direct response and branding objectives based upon user behavior and the different stages of the "buying cycle" they appeal to.

The "integrated" campaigns presented at the Yahoo! Searchlight event really helped demonstrate to me the way that search often sits in the middle between some stimulus (traditional marketing) and a buying decision that happens elsewhere (usually locally, in the real world). Yet measuring the efficacy of search as a quasi branding tool is fundamentally challenging and figuring out what happens "after the click" is also challenging. Indeed, search doesn't get credit for all the transactions it actually affects because the tracking isn't being done (one of the reasons calls are important).

But back to the campaigns. Two of the finalists, Chase and Honda, were actually able to create search "inventory" by building search campaigns around unique elements in their traditional creative � terms that no one was bidding for but them. This was a very significant "takeaway" for me. Rather than having to relentlessly bid on "credit card," Chase was able to stimulate consumer searches for unique terms that appeared in its print ad campaign that no other company was competing for and thus were cheap by comparison. The implications of this are immediate and obvious.

And there were many more interesting aspects to the event and the campaigns presented. Another thing to think about is how brand and direct response marketers might soon be bidding against each other for the same terms but with different objectives and ROI calculations. Very interesting to consider.

One thing that is now clear about the Internet and search in particular: Consumers hear/read about or see something and they immediately or ultimately wind up online looking for more information. Where do they typically start? Search engines. That's not going to change soon and it's true even if it's just to plug a company name into the toolbar or search box to go directly to a site (essentially a White Pages lookup).

Rather than fear search, traditional marketers need to see search as an inevitable part of consumer behavior and leverage that behavior to maximize and extend the value of their traditional campaigns. If they don't their competitors will.


Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  07:00 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 9 2006
Web Bests TV in the U.K.
Here's a MediaPost write-up (reg. req'd) of data from a piece of TNS research in the U.K. that shows people (almost all ages) are spending somewhat more time online than watching TV:

The study, based on a February survey of 1030 British residents between the ages of 16 and 64, found that the average Web user spends 164 minutes � or almost three hours � each day online, compared to just 148 minutes watching TV.

According to the piece, U.S. residents spend roughly eqivalent amouts of time online and watching TV.

In a way the U.K. survey is not surprising. It's even to be expected since people can "surf" while they work but few can watch TV � so the Internet is much more available to people throughout the day.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  06:26 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 9 2006
'Social Networking' Site LinkedIN Approaching Profitability
When we wrote our "social networking" White Paper back in late 2004, the question on everyone's minds then was, "but where's the business model?"

"Social networking" is a term that has less and less meaning now that "social media" is becoming quite mainstream (or at least a part of almost every new online offering). But one of the early sites, and something of a survivor in the space, LinkedIN announced that premium services had helped move the company toward profitability, which it will achieve very soon.

There were a number of sites in the business networking space, most of which no longer exist. Heavy credit must go to tireless (dare I say "relentless") :) marketer Konstantin Guericke, VP of marketing and cofounder of LinkedIn. And no, I'm not on his payroll. LinkedIN was quick and creative and able to establish critical mass. It's kind of like the MySpace of networking � although it existed before MySpace and right now that may not be such a compliment.

We use LinkedIN for our pre/post-conference networking and it has worked out nicely. If you're coming to Drilling Down and would like to take advantage of that, click here.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  05:22 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 9 2006
TV Ads, Call Tracking and Local Stores
Donna Bogatin, CEO of VIPOffers.com and a speaker at last year's ILM show on "hyper-local" sites, pointed out an interesting article on a TV campaign being used (and tracked) by eBay drop-off store QuikDrop to build awareness and drive inquiries to the local QuikDrop outlets.

According to the article:

Consumers can respond to the ads by calling a toll-free telephone number, then leaving a voice-mail message that is automatically e-mailed as an attached audio file to an eBay listing expert in the nearest QuikDrop store, who returns the call and offers advice on many types of household items that sell well on eBay. QuikDrop has franchised stores in 24 states.

Apparently the TV campaign has been very effective. One of the most interesting aspects of it is how phone tracking is tied in both as a functional element of the ad (and routed locally) as well as a tracking tool to measure success.

Ironically, as search moves out of a pure direct response model, TV and other media increasingly will incorporate direct response elements in order to prove their effectiveness or lack thereof � as the case may be.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  04:46 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 8 2006
Google Click Fraud Settlement
Google has apparently agreed to pay the equivialent of $90 million (yikes!) to settle a click fraud class action. Here's the AP story. According to third-party data compiled by eMarketer, SEMPO found that "the percentage of advertisers who say that click fraud, the artificial inflation of click through numbers, is a growing problem tripled in 2005, to 16%. Elsewhere, a survey by IntelliSurvey Inc. and Radar Research reports that, among respondents surveyed, 46% of all advertisers with 500 or more employees have been a victim of click fraud."

According to the AP story:

The proposed settlement ... would apply to all advertisers in Google's network during the past four years. Any Web site showing improper charges dating back to 2002 will be eligible for an account credit that could be used toward future ads distributed by Google.

This settlement must indicate that the case had some teeth because Google clearly has the resources to fight the case to the end. (Yahoo! was also a defendant and said it will fight.) This is also not a nuisance settlement at this dollar level.

One question is whether this settlement will bar future suits. There are a host of complex rules surrounding class-action litigation and who can be bound by settlements. It may be that this settlement was justified from Google's point of view because it will largely prevent � certainly at a class-action level � this sort of litigation in the future. (That's not entirely clear right now to me.)

The terms of the settlement appear to require actual proof of click fraud to get the credit and seem to extend to any Google advertiser over the past four years. So as a practical matter Google may wind up "paying" less than the stated potential value of the settlement.

And while this settlement may bar future legal action, it won't necessarily address advertiser concerns and complaints today; only an effective transparent policy on click fraud will do that. But Google knows that.

__________

Here's Google's official statement.

Related (only generally): Here's the SEW blog's nice roundup of tidbits released intentionally and otherwise surrounding Google analyst day.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  19:39 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 7 2006
MS Live Begins a Big Push
Microsoft is busy rolling out a flurry of search-related upgrades. A dizzying array of tools and features are coming via Live.com and Live Labs/Ideas. Also the company bought Onfolio and is going to integrate the functionality into a toolbar and more generally into the Live.com/browser/search experience. I haven't had a chance to "play" with any of these things yet (I just heard about them yesterday) and late today saw some screenshots, but they're provocative and interesting. I'm eager to see how these new tools function in practice.

In the abstract, most of the things that were described to me strike me as improvements that will probably appeal to sophisticated searchers but they may well have broader market appeal over time. It's difficult to tell entirely without using them. Along those lines, Live.com seeks to rival Google's Personalized Homepage and My Yahoo!. And I think there is an opening there for Microsoft if it can get the right mix of elegance, functionality and simplicity.

We'll see.

Another question is the relationship between the "Live" and MSN brands. Microsoft has too much traffic and too much invested to walk away from the MSN brand (one journalist asked that question today). Rather, Live and MSN will exist in parallel and we'll see what sticks. There will be some cross pollination of Live on MSN.

I think Microsoft also recognizes it now needs to create a new user experience to generate traction around search and related products. Search.msn.com has yet to "move the needle" in terms of market share. That's because MSN Search hasn't shown itself to be obviously better or otherwise differentiated from what's already out there. Despite conflicting data on this point, I believe that search engine user behavior is now habitual and that there is loyalty. In addition, Live Labs is part of a larger corporate initiative to be more competitive and nimble online.

_____

Here's Jeff Graham's story in today's USA Today. Here's the AP story. Here's the Reuters story this morning. Here Chris Sherman's write-up at Search Engine Watch.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  18:37 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 7 2006
In the Suddenly Hot Classifieds Space, Oodle Launches Partner Network
Classifieds aggregator Oodle has launched a partner network and API for syndication of its listings. The first two members are Lycos and Backpage.com, a group of community classified sites operated by local media, including weekly newspapers, radio and TV stations in 40 metro areas. (Backpage hosts classifieds on the SF Weekly and Village Voice, among others.) Publishers are free to prioritize their listings above those provided by Oodle.

Suddenly everybody wants classifieds and the space is red hot with lots of competitors offering free listings coming into the fray: MS Expo and Edgeio are only the two most recent providers to join a growing list that includes Craigslist (mostly free) and LiveDeal (free to individuals).

What's interesting about Edgeio and now Oodle's offering (LiveDeal has something generally similar for local media sites) is the idea of syndicating classifieds to overcome some of the fragmentation of the local market and the obstacles to getting local destination traffic.

I'm writing a roundup of recent developments in the classifieds marketplace in this week's Local Media Journal.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  14:36 | permalink | comments [5] | trackbacks [0]



Mar 7 2006
RSS: 'S' Is for Shopping
Bob Tedeschi's New York Times "e-commerce report" column (reg. req'd) yesterday highlighted the personalized shopping potential of RSS. We first wrote about the mainstream importance and potential of RSS and alerts as a shopping tool last year:

Paid search has been enormously successful. Yet click rates are at an industry average of just 2.6 percent, in part, because of the challenge of serving truly relevant ads against search queries. But what if there were a way for consumers to indicate very specific requirements to search engines or Web publishers and receive exact results directly in their e-mail inboxes or RSS readers? The clickthroughs and corresponding purchases would likely be many times today�s paid search response rates.

A system of alerts would boost the value publishers and search engines can deliver to advertisers by providing greater targeting and distribution. This �alerts� functionality exists today but is not widely used for commercial purposes. Though there are prominent exceptions, technical challenges and a lack of consumer awareness have so far prevented the widespread use of alerts as a commercial or shopping tool. It�s just a matter of time, however, before alerts functionality is built out on all the shopping engines and later on a broader array of sites, including classifieds.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Greg Sterling at  11:14 | permalink | comments [1] | trackbacks [0]





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