Searching Beyond the Paid

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Traffickast: The Inside Scoop on Yahoo's Panama

Andrew Goodman and the good folks at Traffick have produced a FREE mp3 "Traffickast" discussing their experience with the new Panama interface. Andrew and a few other industry leaders got to visit Yahoo and demo Panama first-hand (lucky them!).

Disclaimer: I haven't listened to the podcast yet - I downloaded it, but haven't had a chance to listen (darn work, anyway!). That said, I'm confident it'll be good. Andrew's previous podcasts have been full of great information, and this time he's got a veritable Who's Who in search marketing participating with him, so I know it's a gem!

You can download the Traffickast here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Busy Week in Search Engine Marketing

The three major search engines, Google, Yahoo, and MSN, each launched something new and exciting this week - my head's spinning with all that's going on! (Or maybe it's just the cold I think I'm coming down with....)

Probably the biggest announcement was Yahoo's surprise launch of the Panama PPC platform, or as they're calling it, "The New Sponsored Search." Official details from Yahoo can be found here, but basically, this is the much-ballyhooed new interface to replace the clunky, buggy, and outdated Direct Traffic Center (DTC) advertisers are currently stuck with. So many people are talking about this, it's impossible to link to all the blog and forum posts; but here are a couple from Search Engine Watch: Blog post, and forum discussion. Traffick also has a couple of great writeups from Andrew and Mona's visit to Yahoo headquarters, where they were lucky enough to preview the product.

Google's latest toy isn't as exciting, but it's still very cool - a Website Optimizer tool. The tool will facilitate ad copy and landing page testing in Adwords, and will help advertisers determine which version is working best for them. More information here.

Finally, MSN launched their Content Ads program. Actually, it launched over the weekend. We're participating in their beta, and so far, it's pretty cool - the ads are showing on quality content pages within MSN, and, more importantly, conversion is decent. However, I have yet to see my ads at the top of the page, like the example in the AdCenter Blog. Ours are showing up at the bottom. Still, so far, so good.

It's been a pretty exciting week so far. This is one of those times when I feel extremely lucky to be a part of this new and exciting industry!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Descriptive Blog Post Headlines

Overall, I think I'm a pretty good writer. I wrote for my high school newspaper, and had the lead article 8 out of 11 issues my senior year. I took Honors Writing at Michigan State (and got a 4.0). I write killer PPC ads every day - ads that convert, no less. I know how to spell, my grammar is excellent, and I don't write if I don't have something interesting to say. Well, leave it to Danny Sullivan to burst my blogging bubble! His post on Search Engine Watch, about the terrible titles in the Google Blog, was a smack upside the head.

It was a smack in a good way, though. Danny is 100%, spot-on correct. Those Google Blog headlines ARE terrible. So are the subject lines in the emails from the Inside Adwords team. I almost unsubscribed from those emails because half the time, I'd open the mail, only to find it wasn't about what I thought it was about. It's annoying. (They have gotten much better about that lately, though. Maybe they read Danny's post!) My favorite SEM blogs use succinct, descriptive post headlines, as well - I find myself annoyed when I see a post in my Google Reader where I can't discern the subject matter from the title. Luckily, it's pretty rare - most of the blogs I read are written by pros.

Well, in my annoyance at the speck in the eye of Inside Adwords, I was ignoring the two-by-four in my own eye. After reading Danny's post, I realized that, on this blog, I've tried to be witty and creative with my post titles - many of which aren't very descriptive at all. Where are my journalism smarts? Where's my PPC ad-writing savvy? What the heck was I thinking, anyway?

Danny, thanks for the smackdown. Out with the witticisms - in with the straight scoop!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

More On The New Ask Sponsored Listings

Just a couple postscripts to my earlier post on Ask's new interface. I said in that post that Ask would rotate ad creatives, should you choose to use more than one. Wrong. I asked a question about that during their webinar, which wasn't answered during the webinar. I did receive an email from them today, stating the following:

Question: Can you have more than one ad per keyword / ad group? Will they rotate?
Answer: Yes, however, they will not rotate. Instead we'll select the ad with the highest performance (i.e. Max CPC * CTR).

Doh. This has been discussed on many blogs and forums already, but I have to say it again: Why, why, why do the engines automatically assume that the ad with the best "performance" (CTR, quality score, CPCxCTR, whatever) is the BEST AD??? Furthermore, how can I test ads for CONVERSIONS (which is what really matters, anyway) if the engine is skewing the ad serving with this silly formula? I already know the answer - they show the ad that makes them more money. Pure and simple. Well, that may not be the ad that makes ME more money. And that's what's really important, isn't it? Isn't it?

Oh, Ask's email also contained a phone number for their customer service department: 1-877-453-3837. I eagerly called it, hoping to finally get the answers to a couple of burning questions. Ha, I was a bit too eager, I guess! I got basically a trumped-up voice mail system, where I got to leave my name, phone number, account number, and question - and now I get to sit back and hope to heck someone actually calls me back. Oh well, it's a small step in the right direction, anyway.

EDIT: Hey! They called me back! Like, in 5 minutes! Big bonus points for you, Ask! Apparently they use some kind of "match driver"-ish tool for their exact match keywords, causing ads to show on common misspellings, plurals, and the other usual suspects. Problem is, their matching also includes the ".com" thing. UGH. I will say again that match driver really isn't the same thing as exact match - why not do it like Google does, and let ME enter the plurals and misspellings as keywords? But I digress. Ask's suggested solution, initially anyway, is to try making those single-word terms broad match instead of exact, and put in a bunch of negatives, including "www" and ".com." I'm reluctant to do this for a number of reasons, but I told them I'd try it on a couple of these terms. I'll report back on the results.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Ask Sponsored Listings' New Interface

Ask quietly rolled out a new advertiser interface, which was announced last week and went live today. While I haven't explored every aspect of it, I'm impressed with what I'm seeing so far.

The login page is the same as the old interface, but once logged in, advertisers will see a summary section for their account, with a drop-down menu where you can select Today, Yesterday, Last 7 Days, and This Month. It defaults to Last 7 Days, which is the view I usually like to look at. One great thing about the new interface is that Ask will provide real-time traffic and cost data - right up to the minute. None of the other PPC programs, not even Google, offer this feature.

Ask has also changed their account structure. Instead of having a long laundry list of keywords and associated ads, they've gone to the Google/MSN structure of Campaign, Ad Group, Ads and Keywords. (Yahoo will be going to this as well when Panama launches.) This is the best way to organize accounts, in my opinion, allowing advertisers to group similar keywords together with one creative for all of them.

Additionally, advertisers will now be able to test creatives - Ask will rotate creatives according to CTR, or evenly if you choose not to optimize by CTR.

Reporting functions are vastly improved over the old interface. Custom reports are available, and there's a handy menu of commonly-used "Quick Reports" on the right-hand side. I ran an account report this morning, and it took a fraction of the time it used to take - plus, I had data right up to the minute on my account.

A couple of flaws I've found, so far:
* The keyword search function still doesn't work very well. Entering a partial keyword will return an empty search result - the keyword must be typed in exactly for Ask's interface to find it. Searching in the old interface worked like this, as well, and it's *really* annoying. A search engine should be able to build a decent search function into their advertiser interface!
* I'm thrilled that I can organize my account into Ad Groups, but... who's going to help me rearrange my account?? Right now, I still have the laundry list of ads and keywords! I have yet to receive a response to ANY of the questions I've sent to Ask's customer service, so I'm not holding my breath that anyone can help me with this. For that matter, I asked several questions in Ask's webinar preview of the new interface that weren't answered, and they promised to follow up via email. No surprise that I haven't heard anything back from them...

All in all, though, the new interface is a huge step in the right direction for Ask, and a move that tells me they're ready to play with the Big Dogs of Search. Our results from Ask continue to be good, and with an interface that's more intuitive and easy to use, I'll likely be spending more money with them.