Search Novice

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01 May 2008

Make Way for the Mighty Wren

In case you haven't heard, I've moved. You can find my new blog here.

As you may have guessed, this blog has been mothballed. That's why my last post was in February. However, this is not an exit from the web -- on the contrary, I'm making way for newer and better things.

The new incarnation of this blog will now be known as the Mighty Wren. Old posts will all be available there, and mirrored here.

So, click over to the new blog and enjoy.

28 February 2008

Going After The Ballmer

Google presents the economic/technology world with a very interesting question: How does a company benefit by making its key products available for free to consumers? And, does that company benefit more than a company following the traditional model of selling its products for a profit? Consider this latest article from the NYTimes Tech Blog:

Google Goes After Another Microsoft Cash Cow - Bits - Technology - New York Times Blog

Now, most of us know that Google Apps has a way to go before it will really be able to compete with Microsoft on an enterprise level. The tools offered are not quite comprehensive enough.

However, we have seen Google put something out there that - to the average consumer, at least - is adequate. Google Docs is completely adequate for the average consumer, who in most cases would consider the powerful tools offered by Microsoft Word to be overkill. What average consumer really needs to write VBA macros into their Word docs?

So, Google is good for the average user, especially when one considers the price Office. But what about all those enterprise users?

However big Google's plans are, the reality is that there have been free competitors to Microsoft's Office Juggernaut for several years (Don't forget Sun's OpenOffice), and they continue to be suites that ...nobody uses. Oh, I know - you can give me a few token names of companies that have taken the corporate stand against Microsoft and refused to use their products. But on a global scale, no one competitor has been able to unseat Microsoft from their throne yet, even when they give their product away.

What makes Google think they will be able to?

26 February 2008

Yahoo!: Bigger, Better After The Great Escape?

We have to wonder what Yahoo! is up to, after they turned down a buyout that was going to give them a 60% bonus over their market cap. Turning down the offer was one thing, but labeling it as "undervalued" leaves me with some expectations. Are they actually going to put feet under this claim, or are they just going to be content with the value they've gained from this arbitrage?

Enter company CEO, Jerry Yang:

Yang Breaks Silence on Microsoft Takeover - Techland | FORTUNE.com
Jerry Yang offers sneak peak of Yahoo’s future: Life! | Between the Lines | ZDNet.com

It looks like they were indeed working on something. Yahoo claims it is on the verge of unveiling "a next generation user experience that unites its various services in a social context". The web portal is also announcing the opening up of its search engine results, so that webmasters everywhere can offer users more options from the Yahoo! SERP.

Now, we have to assume that these developments were in the works before Microsoft made their offer. Could the Microsoft offer have been a signal that they knew what was up? Probably. However, could it also be a sign that Microsoft not only knew about these developments, but knew that they would vault Yahoo! to the top of the Internet world? Was that the basis of Microsoft making a $44 billion wager on the value of Yahoo?

Very interesting questions, indeed, which none of us can answer until we actually see all of Yahoo's cards.

Pandora Rocks, Apple Scrooge, and Other Thoughts...

I know - it's been almost 3 weeks since my last post. OK. I know, I'm an SEO junkie, and I ought to know how detrimental this is to my blog's prospects for visibility. But, alas, as I have failed so far in my attempts to make this blog into a net money-maker, my time has been used up with more profitable ventures.

Back to blogging, I must take a short minute and say something about one of the things I like. Pandora is amazing; if you've never tried it, take a quick detour right now (and then come back). If you don't know what Pandora is yet, just think "Internet radio" - except much, much better than our normal concepts of radio. The site is so user-friendly that spending any more time explaining it would be overkill.

Now for today's first news item: Apple’s cash: It’s one sour cider - Financial Week

It seems Apple is following a troubling cycle, and it goes like this:

  1. endure steady, light criticism from tech blogs everywhere for several months;

  2. announce an upcoming product release; ride an incredible wave of rising hype as the release date draws nigh;

  3. reap big profits from initial sales;

  4. endure steady criticism about the new product's shortcomings.
So, it appears we're in the interim period between #4 and #1, a familiar "dead zone", where Apple can't seem to do anything right, and we all wonder about the merits of their closed model of production.

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06 February 2008

SEO - It's in the (domain) name

I have to say, if your company is big enough to have offices in multiple metro areas or in multiple states, and your company runs commercials on television, then you're also too big to ignore the importance of optimizing your website.

Case in point - Morgan & Morgan Law Firm. It's one of those random TV commercials that you rarely seem to notice, especially if you're a young, healthy American with no traffic tickets. However, I noticed the commercial because the URL for their firm's website seemed a bit odd to me - www.forthepeople.com.

I finally got around to typing the address into my browser and seeing what's there. But my first thought about the website is, "why don't they have the company name in the URL?"

So, I decided to look up a few related to see if this firm had registered any of them. I tried the following:
  • morganlaw.com
  • morganmorgan.com
  • morganandmorgan.com
  • morgan-morgan.com
Somehow I wasn't surprised to find that none of these had been registered by our law firm in question.

The point of all this is, if you're a mid-sized business or firm and you want to register some idealistic URL for your company website, then go ahead. But, for goodness sake, also register a URL with your company's name in it!

If a potential customer hears about you, then goes home and blindly tries to guess your website's name, he's going to be unsuccessful in finding you. Fortunately for this firm, they have captured the #1 rankings on SERPs for their company name.

You don't see firms like Orkin or Terminix (pest control) with URLs like www.WeHateBugs.com!

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05 February 2008

Google's Campaign Against Microsoft

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Official Google Blog: Yahoo! and the future of the Internet

Above is a link to a recent post on Google's official blog that puts forth a very interesting viewpoint from one of Google's senior VPs, Alan Eustace. Here we have someone from Google's camp who is appearing to speak for the company, speaking out against their rival Microsoft.

This post is incredibly interesting, because it is not very often that we get to here one company voicing a profound distaste for another company on such a fundamental, philosophical level. Google is not just Microsoft's competitor - Google believes that Microsoft is actually bent on destroying what Google believes is great about the Internet, and even the world.

I imagine the guys over at Microsoft don't actually carry pitchforks when we're not looking. But I think they do see financial profit as their firm's foremost reason for existence. And who can blame them? This is Economics 101. Firms exist to make a profit.

Now, obviously, it's the way in which Microsoft makes its profit that Google finds deplorable. Google sees Microsoft as ensuring future profits by damaging the markets in which it competes. The obvious result is the current near-monopoly that Microsoft enjoys in the PC operating system market. Especially from Google's perspective, it seems like Microsoft doesn't just seek to protect its own interests, but also seeks to enforce its interests on everyone else. After all, it was just about one year ago that Microsoft decided to launch a massive attack on Google over copyrights.

If Google's perspective is accurate, then what kind of future would we see if Microsoft is able to buy out Yahoo! and start to work toward an Internet monopoly that mirrors its monopoly in software? Perhaps Microsoft would eventually produce an OS that would show heavy "preference" for websites in the Microsoft network of sites. Is it that hard to imagine a Windows message saying something like "You have attempted to access a website outside the Microsoft network. You may be opening your computer to unwanted security risks." Maybe below that box, we'd see a link to a quite imaginative list of advantages of working within the Microsoft network.

Would this be an accurate visualization of what Google is picturing?


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02 February 2008

Yahoo! / Microsoft Antitrust Approval

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San Jose Mercury News - Antitrust approval for Yahoo deal may not be a slam-dunk


Just for further reading, this is an article from the San Jose Mercury News about the antitrust prospects for a possible marriage of Yahoo! and Microsoft. As I said yesterday, I believe that, unlike the Google/Double-click deal, a Yahoo!/Microsoft deal may not get through antitrust scrutiny.

I think the problem with the "Google-click" deal was that the anti-competitive results of that merger were not obvious enough to the public, and therefore there was not enough incentive for lawmakers to block such a big deal. However, Yahoo! and Microsoft have both been household names for a long time, and even if people can't rationally explain why this merger would have some anti-competitive effects on the tech market, they will probably say that anti-competitive effects exist.

01 February 2008

Yahoo! Shares May Rise to Equal Offer By Bell

Yahoo jumps 53 percent after Microsoft offer | Markets | Hot Stocks | Reuters

Microsoft reportedly offered Yahoo! for $31 per share - a 62% premium over Yahoo!'s closing share price of $19 on Thursday. However, investors are so positive about the possible deal that Yahoo!'s stock is now up to $30.70 per share, or 60%, in pre-market trading.

By the time the bell rings to open formal trading today, Yahoo! might actually be worth what Microsoft has offered.

Yahoo!Soft? - Early reports say Microsoft to Buy Yahoo! for $44 bil

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Microsoft has reportedly made a bid to buy the struggling Yahoo! for $44 billion. Whether this goes through or not, this is the first serious attempt at formal consolidation among the major search engines.

Unlike the coming Google/Double-click merger, it's likely that average internet users will readily assume that this merger will have a huge affect on them. My guess is that, if this goes forward, this merger will get more anti-trust attention than Google's.

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29 January 2008

Falling Far From the Tree

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Fortune - Apple's $300 Million Gray Market Dilemma
AppleInsider - Steve Jobs to Apple investors: 'hang in there'
Gizmodo - First Proof Apple Making Near Zero on AppleTV (And Big Bucks on iTunes)


Looking out on the tech world today, I see one article about slashed prices on one big Apple product, another article about a gray market problem on another big Apple product (and possible slashed prices in the future), and a "please let us keep your money" letter from Steve Jobs. This Apple is falling far from the tree lately.

For a company that is supposedly on the cutting edge of consumer tech, there have been so many obvious features omitted from several products debuted in recent years.

It's no stretch to assume that these missteps have indirectly contributed to the recent free-fall of Apple's stock price, down $65/share (roughly 32%) over the last month.

The point I'm trying to make is that, while Apple and Jobs seem to be laden with an uncanny sense for creating those gadgets that consumers didn't even know they needed, there have been surprising oversights in their product releases. Too many popular, and sometimes necessary, features have been missing on their new products. These latest stories about subsidizing Apple TV and gray market iPhones seem to be pointing to one idea - Apple either has to shape up and read the tea leaves better before releasing new products, or they must embrace a more open model of production. The current closed model seems to make every move too much of a make-or-break moment - it's too risky. It may still survive for a while to come, but in order for that to happen, Apple's got to put better features on it's "it" products.

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24 January 2008

Microsoft Helps Us All... For Now

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» Microsoft earnings shine; Ups fiscal year outlook Between the Lines ZDNet.com

Microsoft just reported a company record $16.36 billion in revenues for last quarter, which was just above what analysts had expected. In addition, the outlook for the coming quarter is in line with analyst's expectations. The earnings report was strong all the way around. MSFT stock was up $1.58 per share today, or 4.75%.

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Hold Your Breath On The Gathering Gloom: Everyone Waits For Microsoft's Earnings Report

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Microsoft Earnings: They Really Are A "Big" Deal

The market seems to be back up, along with Google, Apple, and the rest of the technology world today, but everyone also seems to be waiting to hear what Microsoft has to say. Microsoft is up $0.56 per share today, or 1.75%, and it seems that everyone is expecting them to give a favorable earnings report later today.

Analysts estimated revenue of $16 bil for Microsoft for the quarter ending December 31st. Everyone apparently thinks Microsoft made that target. If they did, then the economic gloom may not be gathering so quickly after all.

If they didn't make it, then... Well, I don't really want to think about what might happen if they didn't make it. Let's just hope they did, for the sakes of our IRAs.

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23 January 2008

Breathe Deep The Gathering Gloom: GOOG Down 3.5% In Early Trading

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Are we seeing further signs in the Internet world of a storm on the horizon? Early reports indicate that Google stock is down 3.55%, or about 20 points, at $564 per share.

According to Google's own SERP, the Nasdaq info that came up in a search for "goog" is delayed by 15 minutes. Whether or not 15 minutes is incredibly significant, when I started to write this post, reports where saying Google was down 2.6%. It's 9:04AM now, and apparently, 5 minutes has been enough for the company to lose an entire percentage point.

Microsoft is also reporting a pre-market loss of 1.9%, or $0.59 per share, which brings them to about $31 per share.

And just to make it a tri-fecta, Apple is also reporting significant losses, down $17.5 - no... $17.6 per share. This is yet another stock that fell further as I was checking on it. That's a whopping 11.3%.

Actually, the consensus seems to be that Microsoft, Google, and the bulk of Silicon Valley's business giants are all being affected by Apple's disappointing Q2 forecast, just released. Apple reportedly thinks that revenue will grow only 29% in Q2, down from Q1's 35% in revenue growth.

It's amazing that positive reports are bringing the world down this fast, just because they're not positive enough. I'm no stock analyst, or prophet of doom, but from the looks of these falling stocks, we could be watching lights fade from every room.

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22 January 2008

What? No Matt Cutts Among 10 Fascinating Googlers

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10 fascinating Googlers - FORTUNE

All I have to say is, Where is Matt Cutts? So what if one of the ones that they did pick eradicated smallpox?

Obviously, I'm just kidding. This is an interesting article over at Fortune, highlighting 10 Googlers with fascinating backgrounds. Maybe they consider Cutts to be too much of the Computer-PhD-type to be a "fascinating" Googler. Maybe. But it's still a look at some of the faces behind Google.

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20 January 2008

Another bursting bubble?

Sprint to cut 4,000 jobs | Tech News on ZDNet

Tip: Yahoo May Cut 1,500-2,000 Jobs Within 2 Weeks

Here, we have 2 huge companies that may soon be laying off as many as 6,000 workers between them. Is this the beginning of a trend? Even as companies like Slide report venture capital funding of $50 million and Facebook is somehow valued at $15 billion (even without a clear way to make money). So, we have $500 million widgets and $15 billion social networks, and 6,000 people out of their jobs. I'm no analyst, but I can see a storm a'brewin'.

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16 January 2008

Save Scrabulous!

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BBC NEWS | Technology | Facebook asked to pull Scrabulous

Above is a link to today's article about the current situation of the beloved Scrabulous game, which now has more than 500,000 daily users on Facebook. Amid all the fan protests, Hasbro and Mattel, who jointly own the rights to the Scrabble game, have put together a joint case asking Facebook to pull the game.

Now, I don't know what everyone expects Zukerberg to do about this - being such a young buck, he may just try to say no to the big corporate um... game... lawyers... and attempt some sort of stonewall on his own. However, my thought is, why does he have to surrender something that has half a million people logging on to Facebook each day to play?

Here's an idea: why doesn't Hasbro buy the Scrabulous game? Why don't they offer the software developer brothers from Kolkata some nice sum of money that's comparable to the cost of waging this war on innocent fun, and then just own Scrabulous? Why is that so hard?

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14 January 2008

Google Bread

Alas, I am breaking my silence in the blogging world. This one I decided was just too juicy to leave alone - it's another article about another professor out there banning their students from using Google and Wikipedia. Here's the link:

Lecturer Bans Students From Using Google And Wikipedia (from The Argus)

In the article, the professor, Tara Brabazon of the Univ. of Brighton, labels Google the "white bread of the Internet", which drew a good chuckle from my lips as I read. However, the other part of the story that caught my attention was the fact that Prof. Brabazon is a professor of media studies who is banning her students from using a resource provided by the world's largest media company.

Now, I know what the professor is saying - that she feels her students are not properly researching their papers. They are probably not including enough peer-reviewed sources in their bibliographies. But my question is, why then doesn't she just require more sources? Why not give the students a positive admonition, rather than just a negative one that resembles a simple rant against the modern advance of technology.

My view is that knowledge ought to be fluid, open, and above all, free. Knowledge ought not cost us any money. We should not place restrictions on who gets to learn what. And those of us in influential places should work to make sure knowledge is not bound by time or place, either. In my opinion, that's exactly what Google and Wikipedia are doing - they are using technology to bring knowledge freely and quickly to everyone with access to a computer.

Now, obviously, it's what the owner of the computer does with the knowledge that counts. Regurgitating the top 5 links on Google's SERP or an article from Wikipedia is not necessarily good research, but neither is regurgitating an article from the New York Times. One is not worse than the other.

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08 November 2007

They took my idea! - How To Buy A #1 Organic Ranking

Look what I found over at SE Land:

How To Buy A #1 Organic Search Ranking On Google

So, here's one of the popular SEO blogs talking about how PPC ads and other paid material can benefit your organic ranking. I seem to remember writing about that recently - maybe they read this blog?

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06 November 2007

I have the new version of Gmail - finally!

Amid all the chatter online about Gmail 2.0, I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get to use it myself. It turns out that when I checked my email this morning, it was there - the link to the "older version" - and I knew that Gmail had quietly upgraded overnight for me. So now I can say with those great SEO bloggers that I read every day - "I have the new version of Gmail - do you?"

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05 November 2007

Link Text Optimization - Sunday SEO Series

Ok. I know - it's Monday. night. But since I didn't add to my current series of SEO posts, I felt that I should make up for it as soon as I could. So here we go...

Text Link Optimization.

The key word to focus on when thinking of Link Text Optimization is right there in the center. TEXT! That's right - text. No pictures, no JavaScript, no Flash. In order to properly optimize your website's links, the links themselves have got to be text. For this reason, we could probably refer to this as Text Link Optimization. Here's why:

How a search algorithm works.

Search algorithms go out and scour the web, taking in text and links. In general (this is changing every day, but this is still the general consensus), algorithms are not able to read pictures. Therefore, pictures of text do nothing to enhance your site's visibility in the eyes of search engines. When it comes to a picture link, the algorithm will see a link to some web address, but it will not see any text, even if the picture is of text.

Use text links in navigation, and picture links in content.

The basic practice that you should take away from this is to use all text links for site's navigation links. These are those important links that are on every page, and are always the same. Usually, you'll have a row of links across the top and a row down the side. Those are the ones that should be text.

You can use picture links, but you should use them in the content of the pages as you need them. This is the part of each page that is different.

"Alt" Text - a chance to double up.

Alt text is text that shows up when you place the mouse over a link. Specifically, in HTML markup, this is an example of a link with alt text:

Link text goes here...

This text is read by the search algorithm, and it can add to the visibility of your website. Therefore, you should always make use of alt text your navigation links. It's not always necessary to use this attribute of the link tag, but it will give your site a boost if you use it properly in your site's navigation.

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OpenSocial Hacked In Minutes, and Other Exciting News

Just to keep the pings going, I decided to post a couple of headlines from the feed world this morning.

Apparently, the first application to be launched on Google's Open Social / Holy Grail framework was hacked in just a few minutes after its launch. Interesting.
OpenSocial Hacked In Minutes
First OpenSocial App Hacked in 45 Minutes

Also interesting, someone is now claiming that P2P users actually buy more music - not less - than everyone else. Could this be the Copernican Revolution of the 21st century music industry? Yeah. Probably not. But it's a good read anyway.
Gov't Commissioned Study Finds P2P Downloaders Buy More Music

Oh - and this could be the announcement of the month - Google is planning to unveil its 'Android' phone software project today.
Google to unveil 'Android' phone software

And I know - I never posted a follow-up to last week's SEO series post. It will be coming soon. Stay tuned...

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28 October 2007

SEO Title Tags - SEO tips for a Sunday Afternoon

I've had several friends request advice from me on optimizing their websites for search engine visibility, and so I thought it was probably about time to start a series of posts on my blog about SEO. My goal is to provide some clear and quick tips that can get someone started on the right foot when it comes to search engine optimization (SEO). The first thing that comes to my mind is title tag optimization.

Make Title Tags descriptive and unique, but uniform!

For those of you who are new to the web design world, the "title" of a webpage is what shows up in the title bar of your web browser. Usually it is blue, since most people probably have Windows running on their computer, and the default color is blue. So, look in the blue bar at the top of the browser, and you will see the title of the page.

Planning for proper title tags - the step before the step. In order to have good title tags, you've got to have pages, and in order to have good pages, you've go to have good, well organized content. Don't place all your content on one page. If you do this, viewers will find it hard to sift through the content in order to figure out what they want to know about you. Here are some easy things to do that will help you figure out how to structure your site:
  1. Think about your business and how you might organize your information.
  2. Then look at some websites of similar businesses. Go to Google.com and type in your product or industry. How are those websites organized? Are there conventions that your customers might expect when they visit a site in your industry?
  3. Organize your content.
    • Create different "buckets". You'll probably have the "homepage bucket", then the "products bucket", then the "about our company bucket", then the "contact us bucket", then (if you're big enough) a bucket with information about applying for jobs at your firm, and so on.
    • Under the products bucket, you may have subcategories of products. Think about these things, then divide up your content and place it on corresponding pages.
  4. Chose titles for the content on each page. Do not make all titles the same. For example, don't just use the company name as every page's title. Chose titles that describe what the page is about.

The most common mistake - no variation. Most small businesses probably don't pay too much attention to the title tag, other than making sure it has the company name in it somewhere. The most common thing I've seen is to have all pages in the site have the same title tag. This is a mistake. You want the titles of your pages to be different.

But some uniformity is encouraged! If your company's name were ACME Inc., you would be alright to include ACME somewhere in your title tag on every page. The best way to do this is to add the company name at the end of your title tags.
  • The page that has most of the general information about your company would be titled, "About our company - ACME Inc."
  • Similarly, if you were a photographer, you could have a page entitled, "Jon & Trish's Wedding - Acme Photography, Inc."
The basic principle: Unique parts of the title should come first, followed by uniform parts. This basically means that, since all titles are to be unique, place the unique parts at the beginning, followed by the category name or company name. If you're a newspaper, you would place article titles in the front of the page title, followed by the name of the newspaper. For example:
  • Diplomat's speech stalled by talking donkey - The Bethlehem Chronicle
Also give the reader an idea of where they are in your site. If you have a site with lots of content and subcategories, it is a good idea to include the names of categories in the titles of the site. If you chose to do that, the above example could look like this:
  • Diplomat's speech stalled by talking donkey - Local news - Bethlehem Chronicle.
This simple example follows the format of [Unique article title] - [Section] - [Website title]. You can easily tailor this to your site.

The moral of the story - capturing a potential customer's specific web search. If you're wondering why these suggestions have been made this way, think about things this way:
  • Each search engine user out there is a potential customer of yours.
  • When a search engine looks for results, title tags are one of the most important factors in determining the relevance of a webpage.
  • If your page is relevant to the user's search, the first way you're going to tell the search engine that is by placing specific information about your page in your title tag.
Your company name might be important to you, but if your customer is looking for camera parts, they'll be more quickly drawn to a page that has the word "Canon" or "SLR" in the page title. If you've ever done online research about anything, just think about your own behavior when you search for something. "Smith Enterprises Inc." is not going to draw many people, if that's all your title tag says.

How to change the page's title with Notepad.
  • Open Notepad.
  • With notepad, click File, Open, and then find your webpage that you want to open.
  • You'll see confusing text that looks like web programming language. Press Ctrl and F at the same time.
  • You'll see a Search box. Type "<title>" and press Enter. (type it with the greater than and less than brackets, but without quotes.)
  • You'll see something like this:
    • <title>Canon Digital SLR Cameras - ACME Inc.</title>
  • <title> and </title> The stuff between is open for you to change. That's your page's title.
  • Change the text, save the document, then close it.
  • You have now changed the page's title. Open it in a web browser to see the new page.
I hope that was easy enough to follow. This is the first entry in a weekly series about small business SEO. Come back next Sunday for the next article.

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26 October 2007

Special Y! Ads Still Showing Up

I was just watching the morning news programs and happened to see an ad for Special K (the cereal), which at the end tells the viewer to go to Yahoo! and search for [special k] for more information. So, naturally my first impulse was to get back to the blogosphere and post.

Here are some comments from other bloggers about the ad campaign, which I'm dubbing "Special Y!".

Special K - special idea - Residual Media
Is Yahoo Selling Out? - Scott Hendison
Just What Kind of Ads are Running on Yahoo? - CenterNetworks

The biggest concern among these writers seems to be the fact that the ads that appear do not have the expected shaded box around them, so it doesn't follow Yahoo!'s usual method of displaying sponsored results. Therefore, the concern is that users are likely to not realize the ad is an ad.

However, my main interest would be to see if there is any research out there that shows the success (or failure) of the TV ad campaign in getting people to the web. It's interesting - usually, TV ad campaigns have 1 goal - get people to buy the product. With this one, we still have that goal as the primary one, but we also have another one in the effort to get Special K's people to Yahoo!'s website.

I would really like to see some research showing traffic increases or decreases after the placement of this tv ad. Do traditional media advertisements have the ability to get people to use new media, search, social media, etc?

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16 October 2007

Bricks and Clicks - Fewer of one means fewer of the other

Perhaps we shouldn't be so surprised at the announcement that AOL will be laying off 2,000 of its current employees. Here's the blurb over at SELand:

SELand: AOL To Let Go 2,000 Employees

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15 October 2007

Target Accessibility Case Could Be A Gain For Usability

I just read an interesting article at the SEWatch blog:

SearchEngineWatch: Don't Ignore Accessibility

The article is specifically about the class-action lawsuit that has been brought against Target stores by the National Federation for the Blind. Apparently, Target's website is not fully accessible to blind users, and so Target is getting sued because this oversight violates California laws protecting people with disabilities.

Most webmasters out there know that there are things you can do to make your website accessible to blind users. Proper CSS formatting, along with proper separation of content from design in each page is all part of the process. However, doing these things will not only allow your site to be accessible to blind users, but will also allow you to make many Web 2.0-type features available on your site easily.

My hope is that better accessibility across the board will also give basic usability a boast. Perhaps we will see some quasi standards evolve for usability aspects of a site - and perhaps we will see the already existing standards become more concrete.

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12 October 2007

I Beg to Differ! Buying Ads Just Might Be the Ticket To Better Organic Listings

Consider the following post over at SELand:

No, Buying Ads Still Won't Help You With Google's Free Listings

I know, I know. By even suggesting that I disagree with this post, I'm opening myself up to criticism. Let me say that I know, and agree, with the theoretical law of SEM, that Adwords spending will in no way influence one's natural rankings on Google. I know it, you know it, we all know it.

HOWEVER...

What if we look at PPC spending as part of the SEO effort for a webmaster? SEO focuses on increasing your site's visibility. Visibility is affected by several factors, but some major ones include internal accessibility, usability, and overall popularity.

How would you go about increasing your site's overall popularity? Why, you would do whatever you could to get your site's brand name plastered around the internet. You would talk to fellow webmasters about linking to your site, try to get listed on major indexes and directories in your industry, and just get your name out there. Why wouldn't you consider PPC ads as a way to "get your name out there"? Just imagine - someone searches for your product, and there you are, right in front of them, all because you spent a few dollars.

Basically, I'm just contending that anything you can do to increase the number of links to your site out there on the internet - that is a way to increase your site's visibility and influence your site's natural rankings. Increased visibility on a SERP will result in better branding, more link juice, and eventually, better rankings.

Now, we all know about cannibalization, as well as a slew of other issues that this post raises. I know that there are other issues involved, but all I'm saying is that it may be indirect, but PPC ads can eventually influence your natural listings, if they contribute directly to the traffic on your site.



More later.

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10 October 2007

A Beginner's Guide to Search

This is another useful post form the folks over at SEOmoz:

SEOmoz | Rewriting the Beginner's Guide - Part I: How Search Engines Operate

Above all, I like their frequently appearing cartoon characters - the Google robot and, in this post, the Yahoo! spider.

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04 October 2007

Yahoo! Search Assist as a Keyword Generator

This article by Rand over at SEOmoz got me to thinking about Search Assist, the new feature from Yahoo!:

SEOmoz | Yahoo! Leveraging "Content" for Queries

Can you tell I have SEOmoz in my feed reader? Anyway...

As a result of the article, I was looking at Yahoo! SERPs, wondering about implications for my company's PPC campaigns, when I realized that Rand's observations also apply to the entire Search Assist feature in Yahoo! SERPs.

Just to quickly provide some background, Yahoo! recently rolled out the new Search Assist feature, which is advertised prominently by a yellow "post-it note" graphic "hanging" down from the search bar on the Yahoo! homepage. On every SERP, you will see keyword suggestions closely related to your search term, displayed in a box that drops down from the search bar. Click any one, and you'll be taken to a new SERP that hopefully will serve your needs better than the one that you got from your initial keyword.

Basically, the article at SEOmoz was commenting on the fact that Yahoo! has started to place links to SERPs directly on their homepage, driving users to SERPs directly related to the content of the day. For example, one of today's blurbs on the Yahoo! homepage is entitled "Cleaning up 'Rat Island'". Below the blurb, there's a link that says, "find out how to get rid of rodents", which will take a user directly to a Yahoo! SERP for the keyword "how to get rid of rodents". Not surprisingly, the top ads that can be viewed here are mostly for pest control companies.

The thing that I noticed from this is how Yahoo!'s Search Assist feature also takes you to SERPs on pre-determined keywords. Rand rightly observes that if you want to beef up traffic on your blog or website, one good idea might be to keep track of what's showing over at the Yahoo! homepage, and bid on those keywords. However, with that in mind, my observation is that the entire Search Assist feature could be used as a kind of keyword generator for your PPC campaign. You should not only keep track of what SERPs Yahoo! links to from its homepage, but you should also keep track of what SERPs are possible from the Search Assist feature. For example, after looking at the blurb about rodents and doing a few clicks on the Search Assist feature, I was able to get the following 15 keywords:
how to get rid of rodents naturally
how to get rid of rodents rats
how to get rid of rodents bait
how to get rid of rodents in your attic
how to get rid of rodents in the attic
how to get rid of rodents home
how to get rid of rodents in attic
sonic mole chaser
mole chasers
solar mole chaser
windmill mole chaser
mole chaser windmill
electronic mole chaser
solar powered mole chaser
p3 mole chaser
p3 international mole chaser
Now, I know that some of these overlap, but most of them have no ads, or at least not very many. What's more, if there are ads, they don't seem to be that helpful. Basically, I'm saying that this is a new list of 15 keywords, and the ad space for all of them should be easy to penetrate. Savvy PPC managers should not only grab Yahoo!'s content-related SERPs, but they should also grab Yahoo!'s Search Assist-generated SERPs - which will probably guarantee a number of highly targeted impressions.

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01 October 2007

Gimme a Break, Microsoft: You'll Never be Something You're Not (Google)

It looks like MS is now trying to get on the online-documents bandwagon, with their beta launch of the new MS Office Live Workspace. See this article over at SE Land:

SELand: Microsoft Office Live Workspace To Challenge Google Docs

But, really - give me a break, Microsoft. Your online file-sharing is really nothing better than an FTP account if you must have already purchased MS software in order to use the service. This is no competitor to Google's Google Docs software, which plays an entirely different game by allowing users to use software that is completely free of purchase, along with a file storage system that is also free.

Stop pretending, Microsoft - you'll never be as good as Google!

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Search Volume is the Best Indicator of Satisfaction

Consider this article over at SEOMoz by Rand Fishkin:

SEOmoz | Yahoo! Is the Most Fulfilling Search Engine?

Rand acknowledges Compete.com's recent findings that say Yahoo! is the most successful major search engine at getting users to click on a result - in other words, Yahoo! SERPs have the highest CTR. However, Rand extrapolates from this that Yahoo! users are the most satisfied users. I don't know if this is the case - just because Yahoo! has a higher CTR on their search results, I don't know if that means Yahoo! users are more satisfied than Google users.

By contrast, I would look at reports such as this one and extrapolate that, since Google's market share is so large, that means Google is so satisfying that it gets everyone's search attempts - even the ones where people don't think they're going to find anything.

Obviously, there are some differences between SERPs on Google and Yahoo. At least, 7 of the top 10 sites will often be the same, though they may not be in the same order. These differences may be what gives Google its edge in market share.

I would like to see some data on searches per user. I know this would be hard to compile, but I think that would take us closer to knowing which SE is actually more satisfying. If a user identifies one SE as more successful, my guess is that the main indicator would be the return visit. And, based on Google's proven ability to steadily keep its market share up, I think the right assumption would be that Google is most satisfactory.

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25 September 2007

The New Official DMOZ Blog

The Official DMOZ Blog


DMOZ has launched their own blog now. i wonder if this has anything to do with the disappearing of the DMOZ homepage from the Google listings?

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Google Goes Outside

Google Uses Outdoor Billboards To Promote Goog411

Interestingly, Google has chosen to use outdoor billboards for initial promotion of its new 411 service. We'll see if this proliferates. Currently, I get the feeling that if you're not online very much, you don't have the same perception of the Google brand as you would if you were constantly surfing the web.

This has significant implications for the over-40, rural demographic that probably doesn't spend that much time perusing websites or buying adwords. Are those the people more likely to use 411? Or, as SELand observes, is this completely a location thing, an attempt to get people's attention when they're at the place where they're most likely to use 411?

I think it's a mix. Those getting their direction from billboards are more likely to be older, less online-savvy users, and therefore Google wants to not exclude those people. However, billboards are probably also more effective media for 411 ads, simply because of their location - people see them while in cars, which is the time when they're most likely to use 411.

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Google News Indexing Ads On UK News Site

Google News May Index Your Ads

SELand noted today that Google News has been indexing a certain Nationwide ad ("Nationwide" the insurance company) in actually SERP listings for news titles. It's very interesting, and bad, but for some reason the text of the ad is showing up under headlines on the SERP for things like the UK kidnapping of Madeleine.

I don't think this is a widespread danger, because it's only happening for one site - InTheNews.co.uk. Anyway, there is something screwy about the way that Overture has chosen to display the ads on the site's pages. It just doesn't seem like a good design choice. Plus, the width of the ad has made a scroll bar necessary in my browser. Check it out.

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The Changing Amazon

I'm sure I'm the last to notice this, but it looks like Amazon.com has done a pretty extensive redesign of their site. The ultimate useful site from the popular design book Don't Make Me Think! has made a major change to the tab-driven design that originally made the site so easy to navigate. They do acknowledge that their difficulty in designing their sight in a usable way stems from their expansion to over 40 categories of goods sold on their site. The new site, still in a testing, or beta, phase, does away with the old all-tabbed navigation and opts for a tidy pull-down menu.

I did take 2 minutes to look at the source code of the navigation elements of the pages, and it looks like a pure CSS and JavaScript pop-down menu. All of the elements are always present, and JavaScript changes the display attributes on mouse events. I'm sure you get the picture without me explaining it. In case you're interested, here's a cool example of a menu you can create with CSS and JavaScript.

We'll see how this affects Amazon's status as the most usable major Marketplace website out there. What will their customers and partners think?

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22 September 2007

Can't Ignore the Drama

YouTube - University of Florida student Tasered at Kerry forum



I decided that I just could not ignore the news that is going on in real life - a student gets tasered for being overly outspoken at a John Kerry event on the campus at the University of Florida.

Looking at it with social media in mind, it is truly incredible. Instantly, the Youtube video was posted by the Gainesville Sun, and in 4 days it's been viewed over 1.5 million times. It has 20,751 comments on Youtube. There are 70 video responses. It's a national media blockbuster on news channels.

My personal opinion is... well, I don't want to give people too many reasons to dislike me...

Going back to the 1.5 million views in 4 days... That's 375,000 views/day. That's about 15,625 views/hour. That's about 260 views/minute. And that's just with the 1 video from Gainesville Sun - I'm not even thinking of all the copies that are floating around the internet.

Since the video is about 6 minutes long, one could say that at any single moment over the past 4 days, 1,562 people have been watching the video from the Gainesville Sun simultaneously.

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21 September 2007

The Sens Take on the Googs

Google-DoubleClick Senate Hearing To Begin Next Week

As I said before, I don't think it's likely that the government will block the merger of Google and Doubleclick. I think the reasons for anti-trust action are too technical for the average person to care, and people translate to votes. This drastic action would not have a payoff of popularity with the general public, in my opinion. Even though the FTC is supposedly insulated from the voters, they still answer to politicians. And this is why I think that Google-Doubleclick will continue forward as the new organizers of the world's information.

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20 September 2007

Google Acting Screwy

Just now, I was trying to view the Adwords campaigns that I'm managing, and I got a page with the following message from Google:

The AdWords account interface is temporarily unavailable due to system maintenance. AdWords is expected to be down from approximately 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM PDT [?] on September 8, 2007. Please note that your campaigns will be running normally during this short period of downtime, which only affects your account management pages. We apologise for any inconvenience.

It's probably nothing, but I just thought it was worth noting, since today is September 20th.

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19 September 2007

Splitting Traffic, not Hairs

SearchEngineWatch: Split Traffic, Raise Conversion Rates, Repeat, Multiply

This is a very good article by Eric Enge over at SE Watch. It's very well laid out, and all the terms are defined for those of us that are still novices. As most PPC experts out there will attest, it is very important to segment your traffic, and find out what about your site is successful.

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17 September 2007

Superpages / Idearc Continues With Plans For World Domination

Superpages Parent To Acquire InfoSpace Directory Sites - SE Land

Lately, it looks like I could just start a Superpages/Idearc blog, and constantly have new things to write about. Idearc is poised to make Superpages into the world's largest online directory site with the just-announced purchase of InfoSpace's directory assets. That leaves the former online giant Infospace with just their search and mobile assets, raising questions about the company's future.

This also raises questions about the future of Superpages. The purchase was a large one - $225 million - an indicator of the big plans Idearc must have for its new acquisition. What sort of site can we foresee from Superpages? Or, is it more likely that Idearc will just continue the Switchboard site as it currently is?

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15 September 2007

Presidential Thoughts

Old Dudes Dig Fred [ClickZ]

This is an interesting, if brief, post over at ClickZ's blog about presidential hopeful Fred Thompson. Of note, though is the mention that Republican Ron Paul's campaign site has garnered the most traffic from social networking sites like Facebook, Flickr, and MySpace. Of course, Obama and Hillary are next in line, but does anyone else out there think this is strange? I would think the younger, more internet-savvy voters would be the ones visiting Obama or Hillary's sites - not those perusing the site of a libertarian.

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13 September 2007

All That Shift

The Online News Shift and Hyperlocal Content | Searchviews

A very interesting development - the LA Times, one of the big-time players in print media, is planning to eventually become a primarily online news source. This is at the expense of their print business. Seeing that the future of news will be in so-called hyperlocal content and other online media, they are saying that their print publication will eventually shrink considerably. This comes as some have labeled the newspaper as "web-stupid", possibly a very telling designation for our times.

I'll write more later - it's late, and I'm busy.

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12 September 2007

People at SuperPages / Idearc Read This Blog!

I just thought this was cool, so I decided to post about it...

After my morning rant about Superpages, I was surprised (shouldn't have been) to find evidence in my server logs that I was briefly showing up in searches involving the keyword "superpages".

However, I was also surprised to see that the people clicking through to this blog did so from the Idearc offices in Dallas, Texas.

[The screenshot of my analytics software, showing the ISP and location of this user, has been removed. I decided that was a little much.]

So, maybe that means that they'll change the entire layout and architecture of their website because of my previous post. Right.

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Superpages Keeps Making Me Think!

Superpages Acquires 'LocalSearch.com' Domain - SE Land

Interestingly, Superpages has purchased another locally-focused domain name. Superpages is interested in branching out, but I would like to see them do more for the discipline of vertical search.

In its present interface, Superpages, like YellowBook, does not do much for you that a plain old paper edition of the Yellow Pages can't. Whether you use Advanced Search or the plain old search bar at the top of the page, you are not taken directly to the businesses you want. I put in [HVAC repair] in my city, and was pointed to a list of categories that would "refine my search". There are 109 businesses listed for "Heating & Air Conditioning Service & Repair", but only 99 listed for "Air Conditioning Service & Repair". Aren't those the same thing? Are businesses cross-listed, or did the website somehow separate the two categories?

There are far too many questions here. Don't make me think!

Anyway, since it's 100 degrees outside, I'm not to keen on the category that begins with "Heating", so I click the second choice. Behold I have a list of contractors. But where do I click? The business names are red, italicized font, with no click-ability. That seems like it would be the place you would want people to click. However, the "Click Here" is hiding over to the right.

Then, after further inspection, I realize the "names" are actually titles chosen by each company. They're not actually business names, but rather catch phrases that are supposed to make me notice each one individually. What tipped me off? I noticed that "Home Cooling Estimates" looked like a pretty weird business name.

And then, lo and behold, some "business names" actually are click-able.

Evidently, usability is not the name of the game here.

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10 September 2007

Another Style Update

I thought I'd post just to say something about the obvious fact that things look a bit different around here. I decided to change the layout and color scheme - yet again. This time, I genuinely believe this look is better and more suited to the blog.

However, I didn't just decide to change things for change's sake - I was forced to.

"Forced?" you say. Yes - forced. While there was no gun to my head, some things I had done to the raw code in the layout of my blog were making the whole thing go haywire. I was unable to ad or manipulate certain widgets that should not have given me any problems at all. Without going into too much detail, I'll just say that it was a big enough nuisance that I just decided to start things over and give the thing a new look. That's the persistent person that I am!

Enjoy.

08 September 2007

Put Yourself on the Map, Google Analytics

Website Optimizer Gets an Update

Amid all the updates and fanfare for the steadily improving Google Analytics service, there is one glaring omission, and that is the Google Map. We have the ability to see a "Map Overlay" of our visitors, showing us primarily where the people came from, but the map lacks the functionality of Google's own maps, which would actually be useful in this application.

Maybe this is part of Google's agreement not to divulge personal information of website visitors, such as I.P. addresses. An exact location, I suppose, may also fall within that agreement. Who knows?

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07 September 2007

Selling Links what the worst that can happen

Selling Links what the worst that can happen

All I can say is, Dave, please read your posts before we do. That title doesn't even make sense!

He does raise some good questions, as always, though.

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06 September 2007

Finally!!! Search in the place you'd most expect it

Official Google Reader Blog: "We found it!"

It looks like the millions of pleas for a searchable Google Reader have finally reached the ears of the Google gods. At long last, we now have the ability to search within Google Reader.

When they label the post "We found it!", it makes me wonder what they are trying to communicate. Did they just now remember how to do the one thing that they are good at? Did they create the functionality, then lose it, and then find it again?

Anyway, it seems like this was one feature they should have placed within the Google Reader gadget from the start. Their post makes them sound oblivious to the fact that most people saw this as a glaring omission to this point.

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How Search Engines Will Grow

SEOmoz | Where are Search Engines Most Likely To Innovate?

Above is a very quick and interesting look at how search engines might change and grow over the coming years, posted by Rand over at SEOmoz.

Personally, I see vertical search as the area with potential that has been developed the least, and therefore has the most potential for growth. I say this with sites like Magicyellow.com, Yellowbook.com, and ServiceMagic.com in mind, because these are the big players in the game of "who-ya-gonna-call" in the online world. These are the cats throwing the most money into offline advertising and branding, in efforts to push people onto their sites and use their listings.

Basically, these sites are also the reasons that I say the area is under-developed. Case in point: if you need a plumber, and you want to find one online, these days you go to Magicyellow or Yellowbook (or place your own home-service-related website here). You plug "plumbers" into the search box, along with a location, and press Enter, and you are given a results page that has a long list of plumber-related services.

Sidenote: if you're on Magicyellow, you're only given a list of the categories that most closely match your search. Do you want "plumbers" or "Plumbing Drain & Sewer Cleaning"? Will one give you better results because it sounds more specific? Are they really different categories, or just different names listed for the same group of businesses? In spite of the poor interface, I click on "plumbers"... and get a page full of ads! What's the difference between "Premier Advertisers", "Preferred Advertisers", "Sponsored Listings", and "Courtesy Listings"? Did the courtesy listings people pay to get their business listed, or are they provided as a "courtesy" of some sort?

Anyway, when you do get to the list of plumbers, there is no added value - the experience gives you the same benefit as looking up plumbers in the phone book (on paper!). There's a list of companies, and you still have no idea which is best for you. As I said, you might as well just open the phone book.

And don't get me started on sites like ServiceMagic. Here, you don't even get to look at the list - you have to submit your personal information into cyberspace, then wait while the website contacts plumbers "for you". Are you kidding? That's not the internet! That's not what the internet is supposed to be. I want to pick the service myself! I can be my own 411 - just give me the required information!

More on this later... I'm at work, and this is starting to take up more time than I thought it would.

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05 September 2007

What You Say Is As Important as What You Pay

What You Say Is As Important as What You Pay | Modern B2B Marketing Blog | Marketo

This is a very interesting, and brief, post about the importance of targeted landing pages. I was very surprised to learn that only a quarter of all PPC ads take users to targeted landing pages.

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Japan Is Getting its Foot in the Door

Japan Begins Government-led Search Research [SearchEngineWatch]

This is an interesting development. Normally, I would be saying that any government-led foray into anything business is probably going to go very slowly and not do nearly as well as a private establishment could.

It's my opinion that governments are supposed to take us in directions that businesses will not be able to. There are several reasons that business communities don't do things - usually the reason is that there is not a good way to make a profit from providing a service. Other times, the service is something that everyone needs, and there is no business big enough to take on the task. Public transportation is a good example of a service that, in most areas where it is provided, fits these two characteristics.

However, governments all over the world actively direct their own economies. America has farm subsidies. There is OPEC. And Japan looks like it is trying to push its economy forward in the area of search. I think it's a good thing for them, because, at least from the looks of it, someone in the Japanese government has sat down and taken a good look at where the technology market is going. This is an intelligent move by government, and I hope it does well for Japanese businesses.

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23 August 2007

Changing the Blogger Title Tag

Changing the Blogger Title Tag ~ Widget-based

This is a great post. I recently read another article that said one of the biggest mistakes we bloggers make is letting the blog software automatically create page titles for us. It said to at least change the software code so that it automatically places the post title before the blog's title on post pages. Looking at Google's template, I was a bit clueless until I found this post from the Widget-based blog. This post has some very useful code that will do just what I wanted. It only affects post pages, so the index page of your blog will stay the same.

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22 August 2007

Print vs Silicon

A few times a month, I don't have time to read a really interesting article that shows up in my feed reader, so I go to the website and print out the article for reading later. I've definitely noticed that once I do that, it usually takes me 2, maybe 3 days to finish reading the article, and I generally read everything in the article. My behavior with reading articles on my computer screen is much different - I rarely read every word (or paragraph even), and I never leave the article until later, if I do decide to read it. Without delving too deeply into the issue (I'm pressed for time), I'm just wondering what the real causes are for the differences in behavior. Thinking of the two situations even more, I realize that I'm fairly likely to click on ads online, whereas I hardly ever pay attention to advertisements in a newspaper or magazine. There definitely are opportunities for exploiting such behavior for gain.

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21 August 2007

Another New Feature...

Just FYI, I have made another addition to the blog - I've added links to what I'm currently reading. This will be located in the sidebar, labeled "stack" (as in, the stack of stuff that I'm currently reading). I think it'll be a good addition.

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Will the Internet Eventually Close the Loop?

SELand: What Influences Online Searches?

OK, so this is not a link to the actual study, but iProspect conducted a recent study that says, according to SELand,

"...offline channels prompt two-thirds of online search. 37% said a television ad encouraged them to conduct a search, 36% said word-of-mouth initiated a search, 30% said a print ad, 20% said a physical store's location and 17% said a radio ad."
If it were me and I were an offline kind of guy, I'd be asking, "where'd that other third of the people go?" It used to be that all searches were prompted somewhere along the line by offline channels. But if a third of the people don't even get their search terms offline, then I am thinking that number is not going to get any smaller.

Is this an indicator of the power of offline channels, or an indicator of the growth of the internet?

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A Message to the TV Industry

BBC NEWS | The Editors' Blog: A Message to the TV Industry

If you read this blog at all, you're probably surprised that this post is implying that I've gotten at least some of my news from the BBC, given my recent post about how the news giant just doesn't know how to blog. But, alas, I did read an interesting post this morning in the editorial blog about the upcoming International TV Festival, to be held this weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Basically, the post is just brushing the surface with a couple of general questions about the industry, asking whether TV is trustworthy, and which direction the industry will take in the future. It's a worthy quandary, but I think there are also some other issues to consider.

Like, for instance, how is TV going to follow the example of the internet and become an efficient medium for communication, and a more effective place for investor dollars? It used to be that everyone watched TV at night when they got home. If a Presidential debate was on, or the World Series, or even just the Braves' game, you could bet that most people would be watching something between 7pm and 11pm. The Nightly News, with Dan Rather, with Peter Jennings, with Tom Brokaw... remember? "More Americans get their news... " Now, you can't really say that more Americans get anything from TV, any more than they get it from somewhere else.

But I think that the most important perspective is probably that of the advertiser. With the Internet, there is Cost-Per-Click, which gives you Click-Thru-Ratio, Impressions, and reports on spending categorized any way you like them. Basically, the idea is that you know exactly how much business you are generating from an Internet ad. And so you pump in more money - or, better yet, just the right amount of money.

With TV, there never has been that opportunity for measurement. Everyone just knew that, if you were big enough, you ought to advertise on TV, and in generally, you'll help grow your customer base. But is the ambiguity in knowledge of ROI enough to make people begin to see TV as a second-rate advertising medium, compared to the internet? These are the questions TV must grapple with, I think.

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17 August 2007

BBC NEWS "Blog" - How not to blog

BBC NEWS | The Editors

I subscribed to the BBC News blog weeks ago, and I really can't find a justifiable reason why. I think I did it mainly because they had a blog, and as I am always reading blogs, I thought it would be good to read one put out by a major news organization that is read by everyone - not just bloggers and SEO geeks (sorry everyone, but that's what we are).

What I ended up with was a bunch of blog entries that I now just gloss over in my feed reader without thinking twice. And why shouldn't I? Does anyone out there actually read the BBC Blog?

For starters, the posts I end up reading have very descriptive titles. That's what I need to get me interested, especially when I have 100 new posts to sort through every day!

Take, for instance, this title from SELand:

AOL's Truveo Introduces New Video Search Site And Consumer Destination


What do you think this post is about? It's a stupid question - the subject is in the title. Now, look at this title from the BBC:

Setting up camp

What is this about? After reading the first paragraph, I'm still not sure. This is how it starts off:
It’s a pretty quiet period for news at the moment - fairly normal for August though - and sometimes it can be a bit of a struggle to find enough stories from around the UK.
It turns out that the post is about climate change protesters setting up camp near Heathrow Airport. What's more, it doesn't say much, besides the admission that there aren't many stories around, and so they're just writing about things people can see from their office window.

And even more than that, only the first 2 lines of the post were visible in my feed reader! Why am I going to go out of my way, click on the feed, open it in another window, and read to the middle of the post, just to figure out what the thing is about?

Here's the lesson for bloggers - learn from my inadvertent behavior.
  • Make your titles descriptive and specific.
  • Subscribe to your own feed so that you know what it looks like in a feed reader.
  • Make sure people can read enough of each post in a reader to grab their interest.
  • And... write about interesting stuff - don't just write to be writing!

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Google Sued! By Idiots! With Lots of Money!

Google Sued For Trademark Infringement By American Airlines Over Sponsored Ads

Dude, this is amazing. This is just another example of big corporate lawyers making more work for themselves over frivolity. If they're so smart, they could put some of that brain power to use by solving the worlds problems, instead of creating new ones.

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Matching Keywords With Yahoo

Got Ads?: Yahoo Panama Tip: Advanced Match vs Standard Match Type - Advertising revolving around Google

This is a short but informative post over at Got Ads about the way to best optimize your Yahoo! keywords. Admittedly, I don't have very much experience with Yahoo search marketing, especially compared to what I have done with Google Adwords. This is one difference that just makes me think, "why couldn't they just copy Google?" Really. Why wouldn't they?

With Yahoo!, you have two options for keyword matching in your ad systems - Standard and Advanced. The two options are vaguely explained:
  • Standard match type – for exact matches of your keywords or their minor variations.
  • Advanced match type – for matches that use your keywords in various contexts.
That is not very helpful. In an apparent attempt to clarify, Yahoo added:

"When using Advanced match type, we also provide you with our Excluded Words option to help refine your matches by filtering out searches that do are not relevant to your business.

Standard Match Type The Standard match type displays your ads for exact matches to your keywords, as well as for singular/plural variations and common misspellings."


C'mon, Yahoo!, throw us a bone.

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16 August 2007

Where do you find a good plumber?

MagicYellow online Yellow Pages

Has anyone actually used MagicYellow.com? Basically, it's the phone book online. It's a bunch of companies that said, "hey, Mr. Yellow, let me be in your book. Here's $5." Basically, the point is that there is no quality control to these kinds of sites. There's also ServiceMagic.com, FindaContractor.com, and a handful of other websites that generate leads for the average contractor.

To the contractor, it's a risk, but not a high one. ServiceMagic sells leads in groups of 10, 20, or more per month, and the contractor simply pays a fixed fee.

For the consumer, the service is marketed as a way to find "pre-screened" contractors to work in your home, but in actuality, there's nothing "magic" about the service providers. They are just the ones that were good enough to pay ServiceMagic for the placement on the website.

So, again, where do you find a good plumber? The answer is, we don't know. At least, as far as the internet is concerned, we don't know. Nobody is taking full advantage of the abilities of vertical search or Web 3.0 in this realm on a large scale.

Essentially, MagicYellow is still in the age of Web 1.0, serving up big lists. There's not much of an algorithm to go with. We've got the resources to do much better than that.

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Using Vertical Search To Incite Market Upheaval

I was talking with a friend last night about ways to change marketplaces for the better, and we talked for a while about vertical search, and the potential to bring organization to disaggregated industries. How do I find a good web designer? There isn't a plethora of options. However, with the right website and programming, there could be a system that would bring the right person to your door (or to your phone) in a matter of a few minutes and a few clicks of the mouse.

I don't have that much time to write now, so this is it for now, but I will write more soon...

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14 August 2007

Changes in the Future

Just to let everyone know, I've made a couple of changes to the blog here. Nothing drastic, but if you really don't like them, or if they are harmful to your reading, then please let me know and I'll give your comments consideration.

Now that the site has had over 500 visitors and counting, I've installed some Google-ness between each post. I've given in to the urge to place Adsense between each post. We'll see where this goes. I think it breaks up each post nicely. (!) I don't expect to make much off of it, but I figured it couldn't hurt.

I've also made all the post titles bigger, something I should have done long ago. I'm a sucker for design - which you wouldn't know from viewing this blog - so I like to change things up if I think they will look better.

More to come soon...

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13 August 2007

JupiterResearch: Google And Yahoo Are Top Online Brands

JupiterResearch: Google And Yahoo Are Top Online Brands

This is an interesting look at brand research

A quick correction to the last post...

My apologies to Rand over at SEOmoz. I said in my post earlier today that he was the author of the post I commented on, when in fact, it was written by James C. Zolman (jameszol).

My bad.

And, according to Rand, the article was actually promoted from YOUmoz. So, it actually wasn't an SEOmoz opinion, I guess, though they did see fit to promote the article to their site.

I just couldn't help but set the record straight.

More to come soon...

JT

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SEOmoz Gets It Right, But Also Gets It Wrong

To begin, let me say that, while I have been posting, I have gotten busy and fallen behind on my reading. So my posts have not been much more than, "hey, look at this article." I haven't had much to say that's been my own.

However, today, I've got to say something about this article over at SEOmoz. I'll try to keep it short...

SEOmoz | The Economic Motive Behind Google's New Advertisement Algorithm

This article is of great interest to me, since I was once an Econ major in school. Rand gets the overall idea right by saying that demand has shifted solely because of Google's change in its ad formula. However, his graph is wrong.



He says that demand moves to the right, and he is correct.
However, this is what the graph ought to look like:



Supply does not change - it is the same no matter what demand is. In Rand's graph, supply has actually increased with the new demand, which would mean that there would be more advertising slots to sell than there were before. But in actuality, the supply of ad spots - or Impressions - did not change. There are still just 3 top spots - same as before - and 10 to 12 spots on each SERP.

Most people want to at least be on the first SERP, so that would mean that on each serch, there will also be only 3 top spots at the most, plus an additional 9 or 10 spots - a maximum total of 13. That will never change, unless Google overhauls its format.

So, supply is vertical. It never changes, which means that small changes in demand will significantly affect the price, as we will see here.

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10 August 2007

A Funny Look At The New Google Adwords Formula

Graywolf's SEO Blog: New Google Adwords Formula = Just Pay Us More

This post is good for a few laughs. Actually, I was reading about the new Adwords formula just yesterday on the Google Help Center, and briefly wondered how this would affect my current ad spending. It's interesting that Michael openly acknowledges that this is bad news, except for...
"except for you pesky blackhat ppc seo’s with two accounts …"
Those pesky people with 2 accounts, huh? Doesn't Google know how to sniff those people out? Seems like yet another thing that Google ought to be able to catch quite easily, but apparently hasn't.

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Shocking, but then again not so shocking - Gaming Google

Closed Loop Marketing Blog: Gaming Google - It Really Is That Easy…

This is a very good article from the blog at Closed Loop Marketing. Basically, they unearthed a very (obviously) blatant link-buying scheme, which basically amounts to cloaking (showing Googlebot something different than what the user sees) in order to place links on fairly prominent sites around the internet, thereby juicing up Google rankings for crappy pages like InkAndStuff.co.uk (no link there - they don't deserve any more than they have).

I'm surprised that the research was so obviously incriminating - there are no implications, just obvious facts. MyWebStats.org is using a link selling scheme to fund itself, making its users unwittingly involved in skewing of SE results around the world!

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09 August 2007

Welcome to Virgin America

Welcome to Virgin America

The newest American air line is here - it's Virgin America, which has started operations on this side of the pond, with its first hub at San Fran.

Anyway, they've got a cool website. I definitely like the flash video on the homepage. Very easy, and very inviting. I almost wish I lived in San Fransisco or LA.

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Don't Obsess Over Superficial Details

Don't Obsess Over Superficial Details

A very good article over at SELand. That's a good site they've got going there.
JT

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08 August 2007

The Real Big Brother

FTC Town Hall Meeting To Examine 'Behavioral Advertising'

It is very nice that the government itself is actually turning its eye to the world of search. This article from SELand is about the upcoming FTC open forum to be held this November about the so-called "Behavioral targeting." However, as we have often seen, the government usually only complicates things and generally slows the progress of innovation. What is a town-hall meeting going to accomplish anyway?

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07 August 2007

Search Illustrated: Search Engine Click-Thru Behavior; You've Got To Be In The Top Ten!

Something we all knew, but it is nice to be reminded by real data:

Search Illustrated: Search Engine Click-Thru Behavior; You've Got To Be In The Top Ten!

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FT article: Online ads will overtake newspapers in US by 2011

Financial Times: Online ads to overtake US newspapers

This article foretells something we all know is coming sooner or later. However, I wonder how the paper's source, Veronis Suhler Stevenson, came to conclude that we would have to wait 4 more years to witness this eclipse. It seems the prediction is based on the fact that growth in online ads has averaged 21% annually.

But if this has been the average growth, who's to say the revenues will increase uniformly along that 21% line? I would think there will soon come a "tipping point," after which we will see the vast majority of serious players shift the bulk of their advertising dollars to the online market. If that were the case, the growth could go to 25%, then balloon to 30, then to 40, and so on. And if so, we could see online ad spending eclipse the old newspaper guard somewhere within the next 2 to 3 years.

However, either way, we are probably only talking about a maximum difference of 12 to 18 months. The point is definitely that the shift is coming, whether it happens 2 years from now or 4 years from now. The important thing is to anticipate it, and use any foreknowledge to jump ahead of your competition.

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SEW Blog's Response to Matt Cutts's Blog...

SearchEngineWatch Blog: Google Indexing Near Real Time

Here is SEW's response to Cutts's post about real-time indexing on Google's spidering. It is very interesting as well, and points out that we need to remember that Cutts's post relates just to indexing and not necessarily to ranking. Rankings will change over time. However, indexing - according to Google - ought to happen real-time in the not-so-distant future.

It's not Big Brother, but it is Google helping create a more usable internet.

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Matt Cutts -- "Minty Fresh Indexing"

Check out Matt Cutts's blog: Minty Fresh Indexing

Nice to know that those guys over at Google are keeping it real.

This does kind of sound a little bit like Matt is saying, "I work for the greatest company ever" or "My job is better than your job!"

He's probably right...

Anyway, way to go, Google. It's like Google is the feed reader for the whole internet.

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06 August 2007

ConverStations: Facebook vs LinkedIn

ConverStations: Facebook vs LinkedIn

A very interesting post by Mike over at Converstations. I forgot to put this blog on my feed reader, after finding it interesting enough to put on my blogroll (to the right side of the page). I finally did put it on my feed reader, and I suggest you do the same. Mike is keen on blogging, especially for business purposes, as a way to create an ongoing dialog with the public.

Anyway, Facebook is an excellent online community for people to be plugged into. I finally took the Facebook plunge for myself about 2 months ago, and I am very happy with the site. I agree with Mike that opening up the platform to outside developers might be Facebook's trump card over other communities like LinkedIn.

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02 August 2007

Google Adwords statistics are going haywire!

Take a look here:




That's right, it says that I actually got more clicks than impressions! 5 clicks, in only 2 impressions, which makes up for the 0 for 3 on the first keyword!

Man, I must have been doing something right when I picked that keyword.

In case you're interested in actually using adwords, take a look at this latest post on the Adwords blog about the new Search Query Performance Report. It's a good addition, which should have been made long ago.

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28 July 2007

Updates to my favorite travel search engine

About Kayak.com

I just wanted to give some notoriety (and link juice, not that it means anything coming from my little blog) to my favorite travel search engine, Kayak.com, because they have recently updated their website, adding some very good improvements.

This is a site which I check regularly to see if it would make any sense to start planning that vacation to... wherever. The site has been updated with new "Matrix" and "Chart" views for search results, and the SERPs have received some graphical tightening. It looks great, and all the old functionality that drew me to the site in the first place is still there.

The attraction of Kayak.com is that you can use this one website to search for low fares across all the major travel websites (Orbitz, Expedia, Cheaptickets, etc.). Just query a destination and date, and it will search all of those engines for you at once. Very convenient.

So, if you're planning your next trip, I would say go to Kayak.com.

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25 July 2007

WebAnalyticsDemystified Report Says "Spend Your Money!"

New Report from WebAnalyticsDemystified [SearchEngineWatch]
WebAnalyticsDemystified: The Problem with Free Analytics

Over at SEWatch, they posted yesterday about this report, put out by WebAnalyticsDemystified, which talked about the "problems" associated with free analytics. More properly, the report ought to be titled so that its subject matter is made more clear: the report actually exposes some of the problems with how free analytics programs are used. It doesn't delve into any conspiracy theories about Google using all the data collected by Google Analytics, or anything like that. It just says that companies not willing to spend the money on analytics software are less likely to see high ROI on the money they spend paying an employee to track their website with free software.

*ahem*... Well, duh!

One thing I noticed in the findings of the report that seemed screwy was their finding about ad-hoc usage. According to the report,

"35% of free analytics users reort only an ad-hoc use of the tool, as opposed to less than 20% who used a paid for solution."


Hmmm... Did that say 20%? Obviously, if you don't pay anything for a piece of software, you're going to be less likely to use it in a productive, systematic way. I'm not surprised by the 35% number. But 20% of paying users report "ad-hoc" usage? That's atrocious. And, since the number is so large, I don't think it helps them prove their point. Rather, it just shows that most people out their don't have a very good idea of how they should use their analytics software, including those who pay for it. I would never have thought that 20% of people paying for web analytics would report just ad hoc usage. Shows what I know...

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23 July 2007

Google Wireless Phone

Google Wireless Phone

Dan Horton just posted about the coming Google Wireless Phone on DaveN's blog. Good post. And, I must add, Dan seems to be a much better writer than DaveN himself. I mean, Dave... c'mon. It makes you look bad when you use such bad grammar. Your sentences often don't even make sense.

Anyway, so Google might put out a phone that will finally liberate us from the wireless tyrants (ATT, Verizon, Sprint). I mean, nobody gets a good deal from these companies, and they all tailor their software specifically so that you'll have to buy more features on your monthly plan in order to do the things that would make your cell phone really useful. Like... send SMSs to your email box.

Anyway, Go Google! Great post on DaveN's blog.
JT



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21 July 2007

White Paper by Scott Cleland on the Proposed Google/Doubleclick Merger

Googleopoly.net

Yeah... I don't really know what to say about the whole anti-trust aspect of the Google/Doubleclick merger. This, even though I did minor in Economics in school, and Anti-trust Econ was my favorite class.

Scott Cleland has taken the time to give us a whitepaper on the proposed merger, basically detailing why he thinks that the FTC is going to beat Google down. I have not finished reading the entire report, but the gist of his outlook for the future is that Google is the next Microsoft: Cleland thinks that Google will displace Microsoft as the leading concern of the Anti-trust community.

While he may be right in saying that Google will get beaten down on this one, I don't know if we're going to see the displacement of Microsoft as the most evil monopolizer of the tech world. Basically, I think that everyone jumped on top of Microsoft because their actions were very obviously anti-competitive, and everyone could understand how. Microsoft had become the number 1 OS in the world, and it was actively trying to use that position to strongarm Dell and other computer manufacturers into placing other MS software on computers that came with Windows pre-installed, thereby reducing the chance that users would use software developed by smaller start-ups once they got their computers. It's obvious. Microsoft was the devil for doing this, especially since the software they were pushing was far from being the best out there.

However, I doubt that the public understands the anti-competitive aspects of Google's activities, and so my guess is that they won't care as much. Yes, some out there realize that Google is getting really big - they are presently the world's largest media company, valued at over $130 billion at the time of the YouTube merger. However, I doubt that most people really understand just how Google makes all of its cash. With Microsoft, it was easy - though they did pay millions to develop Windows, each unit costs them pennies to produce (the cost of a CD... and case... and that good-for-nothing manual... and a box), and they continually get hundreds of dollars per unit. With Google, nobody really sees them selling anything at all, except for the advertisers that buy ads. And, I think it's going to hard to convince the average person that someone can really make 100 billion dollars, just from the little ads on the side of a SERP, which really don't even... exist.

Basically, I'm not saying that Google isn't behaving in an anti-competitive manner, but I am saying that Cleland is wrong: Google will not displace Microsoft as the biggest concern of the anti-trust community. Why? Because I think Google will reach monopoly status before anyone realizes it, and will stay there without the public understanding. Without an outcry from a group that is at least somewhat representative of the general public, there will be no praise for bringing down Google. Without the public praise, there's no incentive, which means there will be more incentive to go do something else... like bring down Microsoft. Or, go fly fishing. That's what those DC-politician-types like to do, anyway, isn't it?

Because the anti-trust world is a political world - at least in some sense - the lack of public outcry over Google means that the anti-trust world will not be able to devote the time that will be necessary to bring down Google in the future. Though they might bring down this merger, Google will be fine. Doubleclick may be fine. Both will continue on, and Google in particular will continue to weave its lengthy fingers around us even further, waiting for the day when we may realize the control they have over us, but also realize that we actually gave them that control long ago, quickly and without consideration, and that dismantling it now would mean dismantling the whole world we have come to know.

Sounds like an old movie. That could never really happen!

FYI - This is what Google had to say about their proposed merger with Doubleclick back in April:
GoogleBlog: The next step in Google Advertising

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18 July 2007

Adwords reporting is ever more useful

Inside AdWords: Discover your share of voice with Impression Share reporting

One of the problems I had while doing initial research prior to starting my company's Adwords campaign was finding out how many searches keywords actually get each day/week/month. If the keywords don't receive significant traffic, which is usually the case for keywords that are regionally focused, it is often hard to find traffic statistics.

Here's an example of my dilemma. The number of people searching for [used cars] is going to be immense across the whole country. Bob Smith's Used Cars in Des Moines, IA, is not going to really benefit from bidding for that keyword phrase. He would benefit from bidding on a phrase that was obviously aimed at finding used cars in the Des Moines region. However, traffic on [Des Moines used car dealers] is going to be substantially less than [used cars], which is good, in this case. Bob wants to draw from the subset of people looking for the latter keyword, and he doesn't want to mess with anyone searching for the former.

However, what if the town is substantially smaller - like, say, a suburb of a metro area? What if you wanted data on keywords related to convenience stores in Riverdale, Maryland? I doubt you can find much data using whatever tools are available to the general public. Wordtracker and Overture will probably tell you there's too little data to make a calculation.

But now, I can use the Google's Impression Share data to see how often my ad is displayed compared to the total number of available impressions in the market. This gives me an exact idea of how much traffic my keywords get each day, which is exactly what I wanted on the front end. Yes, I did have to actually put the money down first in order to get this data, but it's still a valuable metric to have, and it helps me know what I had wanted to find out originally.

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