Major Google Organic Keyword change coming

Been a while since i (@evankrob) blogged but Phil Mui (@philmui), Vp of Google Analytics just tweeted a MAJOR announcement regarding Google’s organic search.

Phil announced that all google searches will be redirected to SSL for users who are logged in to their Google accounts. Link to tweet

While this is good news on the user privacy front, he also reported that Google Analytics will no longer receive query data and keywords from organic searches will be reported as “not provided.” Link to Tweet This is a major change and will rock the search marketing world in my opinion. With the number or gmail and google account users out there and growing, SEOs are about to stop getting a huge chunk of data.

This brings up a lot of questions and based on Phil’s response to me it seems this is being done for user-privacy reasons although I think we don’t have the full picture. If GA only reports user data as an aggregate then where is the privacy concern? Will they continue reporting Adwords data? Where is the concern there. Unless we are about to see user level data in GA I’m really confused by this move from Google. I’m hoping I can get a more detailed response from Phil soon.

Do you all see something I’m missing?

Link Building with Sponsorships

I wanted to expand on the excellent SEJ post about link building with charities. There is another method that can also help people in need and help you build links as well, Project Sponsorship. I know the debate on buying links will not end until they stop working but Matt Cutts even mentioned sponsorships as a relevant link building technique in one of his Google Webmaster Tools videos (although I can’t find the video now).

Typical sponsorships with local projects, charities and businesses are not always easy to come by and typically cost a quite a bit of money or resources. Enter Kickstarter. From their website “Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative ideas and ambitious endeavors.” And build links! Click around kickstarter.com and read about the different projects people are hoping to get funded and see what interests you & who is offering links. Look around and you’ll see notes like “offering web credit” or some will outright say a link on their site.

Projects range from “Documenting the History of Maine’s Waterfront” (link) or helping a web series documenting the building of a new habitat for a Chimpanzee (link) to even funding a Facebook competitor (link) For as little as $1, but usually around $5 to $10 you can help fund a project that interests you and build links at the same time.

Like all link building it takes some time and effort but can reap rewards and you get the warm fuzzy feeling of helping someone reach follow through on their dreams. A win-win if you ask me.

The Browser Battle has gone Racial

I thought things would be different.  Our first black President is supposed to help us move past racial barriers not build up walls around our http-requests.  Apparently, the folks over at Black Bird Browser didn’t get the memo and have released a browser specifically for the African American community.  No, I’m not joking.

Blackbird is the web browser for the African American community.  Blackbird was developed by a team of African Americans to allow you to connect to what’s going on in the African American community.

As it appears to be a rebranded version of Firefox, the browser’s site states that it contains
“Black Search, Black News Ticker, Black Bookmarks, Blackbird TV..” as some of its African American focused features.

The racial browser wars don’t stop there as I have also stumbled upon White Bird Browser

White Bird is the web browser for the White American Community. White Bird was developed by a team of white people and is in no way related to the Blackbird project.

It’s obvious that the creator of Whitebird took quite offense to the Blackbird project and wanted to make a point. As I spent time investigating each site, i noticed something interesting. The Black bird browser was only available on Windows platforms, whereas, as if by design, the white bird browser was available on multiple, including windows and mac. Perhaps white people use both.

I will close with one final thought on this debacle, both are a proud people and seek to advance their own well being, at whatever the cost. Perhaps in this case, while the browsers are free, it is their dignity that was sold.

Google Sells Double Click’s Search Marketing Unit

Ever since Google’s official acquisition of DoubleClick Perfomics, lots of people in the search community protested about conflicts of interest on Google’s part. They also are worried about their competition, DoubleClick Performics’ Search Marketing, not playing fair. It seems like Google decided to do the right thing. They’re keeping the affiliate marketing side of DoubleClick, and selling off the Search Marketing unit.

This move is definitely good for Google’s reputation. But if Google didn’t sell off Doubleclick’s search marketing department, personally, I think the only “unfair” thing about them would be the fact that DoubleClick’s sales people can persuade potential clients to pick them over another major agency because they are the only search marketing company owned by Google.

But as far as the effectiveness of SEO goes, I don’t think they have a major edge comparing to other agencies. As I’ve stated a year ago,

So…….if you have inside knowlege about Google’s algorithms, spend
a year disecting every little line, what conclusion would you get?
“We need more quality back links with keywords as anchor text!”.

All is fair; SEO isn’t a “secret”, there isn’t much “insider
knowledge”, I think we know what it takes to rank well for specific
keywords for specific sites.

On the subject of “playing fair”, I don’t think Google will give
Performatics special treatment. Google refused “manual manipulation”
when “Miserable Failure” hype came around, it certainly wouldn’t
manually put their clients first for specific keywords.

Search Engine Watch: Hear MY Plea

I read this little piece on SEW today that was a complete blasting of Microsoft adCenter and in my opinion, completely unnecessary. Sure, MSN has had its ups and downs with the recently launched adCenter but don’t you expect that from nearly every early version of just about any product? I understand that it is slightly different because it is more directly dealing with money, but MSN has been quick to take care of any financial errors the system has encountered. Its growing pains 101. I’m sure that $500 Dyson vacuum you bought your wife 3 years ago had its issues, but did you completely throw it out the window? Why should Microsoft be held to any different standard? For people are who are the early adapters and must have the first generation everything, you’ve come to expect bugs and less then perfect performance. In an ideal world all first versions would be the final version but this is not the case and some things require a bit of patience and understanding.

Ahhh thats an interesting word, “Understanding”. Let’s take a look at Mr. Wright’s complaints and see if I can understand.

First MSN’s explanation:

* Microsoft may use matching criteria other than keyword searches to display your advertisements.
* Microsoft may display your advertisements on its network of advertising channels operated by the Microsoft network of participating Web sites and other distribution outlets.

to which Mr. Wright responds:

Ummm. Ok, let?s recap. Now AdCenter will be serving my ads based upon some mysterious criteria that is most likely top secret and designed to increase revenue for Microsoft ? and most likely decrease revenue for my clients. I have no idea when an ad is going to be served in AdCenter?s contextual network, and I have no control over the bids in this contextual network, nor the ability to track the effectiveness of the contextual ads. And I was notified of these changes on the day that the changes took place, leaving me with no time to consult with clients and make budget adjustments accordingly. And if I don?t like it, I should take my ball and go home.

Man, this really sounds shady, the search engine bidding on words for me that I have no control over, completely unfair. This does sound kind of familiar, oh yeah, Google has been doing this for over a year now. Like I always say about basketball refs, if you are gonna call a foul than call the foul, just call it both ways. If you are gonna call out Microsoft, be sure to point your finger at Google as well.

So we all understand what MSN and Google are doing, but what can we do about it other them e-complain on our blogs? Thankfully one of the search engines offers us a way to control this advanced keyword matching. In the reporting center, one of these engines offers you a way to capture the exact query a user typed in. Want to guess which one? If you said MSN you are correct but you don’t win anything. MSN allows a query string parameter that you can insert into your destination URLs in order to pass the query information onto your analytics software. This information can then be used to adjust your bids and campaigns in order to actually SAVE you money. Pretty nifty eh? I can’t wait for Google to offer us this type of information.

Regarding the second part of Mr. Wright’s complaint about MSN putting your ads on their partner sites and not having control over this, everyone does it. Google puts your ads in Gmail, Reader, among the millions of made-for-adsense sites in their content network (re: Google Loves Splogs). Yahoo puts your ads all over the place. And as for MSN, they put it on MSN controlled sites only. Maybe it is just me but that does not seem like an issue to me, at least we know the quality of the content is high quality and not splog worthy.

This post may seem like I am an MSN homer, but I am not. I have no affiliation with them and in fact have ripped them several times on this blog, but I don’t like to see anyone unjustly attacked in a public forum such as the SEW article. I applaud MSN for not taking the easy route that many have suggested and just mimic Google Adwords but have created a very powerful tool that will continue to mature and get better with age.

SES NY Coverage: Paid Search Tactics, In House PPC

Here is some interesting coverage from the Advanced Paid Search Tactics panel. This is interesting not only because it has some good information but particularly because I know how stingy ppc account managers are with their true “tactics”, not many of us like to give them out. While there is nothing ground breaking here, I will try to find more coverage on this panel. View Panel summary at SERoundTable

Here’s another session talking about the conflicts of internal PPC problems. It’s not too interesting to me but those at the agency level may want to check it out at SERoundtable.com

8 Not Always Obvious but Common Paid Search Mistakes

With the ever growing competition it is more important than ever to make sure your accounts are lean mean ROI machines. I’ve seen a lot of accounts that make very common mistakes that you just can’t get away with anymore.

Content Network management – I know I’ve beat the dead horse about my dislike for the Google content network but its the truth. It is one of the first things that I disable because without the proper attention, it is one of the biggest bloats to an accounts ROI. If you insist on using the content network than proper management is required. One of the first things you should do is modify your bids, by default content network bids are the same as your search network bids when in actuality the impressions can be had for a fraction of the cost. Lower the bid to the threshold where you don’t see any loss of clickthroughs and are paying a fraction of your initial bid. Another necessary management move is to selectively choose which sites your ads will show up on. This will help you avoid click fraud from splogs and unethical Adsense sites.

Failure to implement tracking – Google Analytics is free, use it! PS- the conversion tracking is excellent.

Not Utilizing a USP – Every company should have a USP, unique selling proposition, it helps you stand out among your competition. Whether it is Free Shipping, Easy Returns, or something else, conveying this in your paid search ads is ridiculously important.

Untargeted Keywords – When paid search first started it was pretty common thinking that you want to bid on as many words as possible and I saw tons of accounts that were bidding on completely irrelevant words. Well, that doesn’t fly anymore unless you don’t care about ROI. You need to be bidding very relevant words and the less broad you are, the more likely you will have a better ROI. I’m sure in your industry there are some broad terms that are highly relevant, I would bid on these with discretion. They are important but if not managed properly they can eat through your budget quickly.

Not Using Keyword Rich Ad-Text – Whether you want use keyword insertion or highly targeted adgroups/keywords/ad-texts, you will see far better CTRs with keyword rich ad-texts. Your ads will have bold text which will catch the users attention but it will also include relevant keywords which helps to build a trust with the user that your ad will deliver what they are looking for.

Not using proper landing pages – One of the biggest and most common faux paus possible is directing all of your ads to your home page. If you don’t have paid search specific landing pages, use internal pages that are relevant to your ad copy and the words you are bidding on.

One Campaign, One Adgroup – You wouldn’t organize all of your wardrobe by putting your clothes into one drawer, so why put all of your keywords into one campaign and ad group? Campaigns let you control your budget more precisely and multiple ad groups let you target your ads better to your keywords. Group similar keywords into specific groups and create ads that tailor to those keywords.

No Keyword Negatives – there is without a doubt at least one keyword variation of your broadest term that is completely irrelevant to your account and it wastes your money. For example, lets say you sell sport nets (Basketball goal nets, soccer goal nets etc), you probably don’t want to show up for people searching for the NBA team the New Jersey Nets. In this case you should include -New Jersey and maybe -New Jersey Nets into your negative keyword list. This will prevent your ad from showing on these irrelevant searches and save your budget.

The point of this post was to help you eliminate some of the common mistakes so easily overlooked by people new to PPC and Paid Search professionals.

Will Paid Search Live on the Mobile Internet? Google Phone?

While I was at the AlwaysOn Media conference I kept running across the question: “how will advertising live on mobile phones?”

Now, I maybe naive but I have a hard time believing that ads will be welcome on cell phones and other mobile devices. From a users perspective, data plans for cell phones are already extremely expensive and not very practical. Most data plans require a monthly fee plus additional fees for the data downloaded and I don’t see many people wanting to pay additional fees to download ads.

Eventually, these fees will come down in price or be free all together. The mobile Internet is the next frontier in Internet usage and where there are consumers, you bet their will be ads, so I have come up with the solution. An ad supported phone. Thats where Google comes in. They already offer a world of services that are ad supported which gives them another outlet for their advertisers. It’s a long shot but it really isn’t too far away from their core competencies . I haven’t done the math on it but I’m pretty sure Google could buy up a mobile phone company, charge people a nominal price for voice service, offer free data plans and still make big money.

Yea, its a rough concept but I don’t think its that far off. In fact I’m sure the Googlers are whipping up some evil plan right now.

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Yahoo Search Marketing's Panama Interface

I have been putting off diving into the new Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) for a while now, mainly because my clients rank well in Yahoo. But mostly because I fear change. I have been working with the YSM console for over 3 years now and have become pretty familiar with the clunky interface and like any old dog that hangs around long enough you learn to love’em. Sure she shed, was unreliable and slow when fetching but I loved her transparency. I bid where I wanted to appear. There were no quality scores or unknown variables, just a straight, bid-to-position model. Oh how I miss those days.

Recently, I’ve started toying around with the pseudo-new Yahoo! interface and I feel like a blind man without my guide-dog. There are certain aspects I really can see myself liking and I can see how it would be extremely easy for a new person who has never started had a paid search account, in fact much easier than Google’s Adwords Starter Edition. But there are some aspects that leave me asking WTF were they thinking?

Now I could be completely wrong and just not have discovered the right answer but doing things like attempting to delete multiple campaigns at once is impossible. Instead I have to go into each campaign and manually deleted them one by one? Thats ridiculous. Also forcing an advanced user to walk through the 8+ steps needed to create a campaign is kind of annoying.

Needless to say, I will continue banging around and posting my thoughts and hopefully I’ll uncover a useful piece of info or two or at least find a new man’s best friend.