Friday, March 30, 2007

GameFly, Video Ads, and

I received an email from GameFly today about a partner deal they have worked out with The offer was a discount on my GameFly membership fees if I joined Brightspot. To earn discounts on my membership I would have to view a certain number of video ads and earn credits which would then be applied toward my bill.

The signup process is fairly invasive requiring you to fill out first & last name, zip, email, birth date, marital status, education level, and income I'm not one for handing out that level of detail about myself so naturally, I lied.

The videos are displayed through Flash with most navigational elements of the video section also done in Flash. The first commercial pre-loaded and offered a $.50 credit on my account. The commercial was for AIG insurance and after the commercial the site cued me with two questions about my current insurance situation. I lied again.

After completing the survey I was shown various logos representing other commercials I could watch. I chose Mc Donald's and watched a 1:01 minute clip. At the end of that clip there was a survey about what sports I liked. I didn't lie there as my conscious was starting to get to me.

In the end I watched all 5 of the videos currently listed on the site and got a whopping $2.50 credit on my GameFly account!

Like most incentive based ad networks I used it primarily for the incentive and will likely not be influenced by the advertisements. I'm not a huge fan of these types of ad networks for this very reason.

If you're a GameFly customer and you want to burn about 10 minutes you can get a quick credit on your account by using's rewards based ad site. If you're an advertiser on Brightspot make sure you follow your ROI very closely ;)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Advanced Query Syntax Ban at Microsoft's Live Search

In my recent post "MS Live Link Command Broken or am I just Banned?" I pointed out that the "link:" command wasn't working over at MSN. After checking around on various search forums and blogs I discovered that this problem was something that was affecting all of MSN's users.

Well, yesterday Eytan Seidman the Lead Program Manager of Live Search over at Microsoft posted on the Live Search Blog that this was done on purpose and was not an error.

In the post Eytan states "We have been seeing broad use of these features by legitimate users but unfortunately also what appears to be mass automated usage for data mining".

If Live is experiencing automated queries (and I'm sure that they are) then this is totally understandable. Using "Advanced Query Syntax" to research websites is an extremely valuable tool, so valuable in fact that I'm sure there are a lot of unethical people out there who would want to leverage automated processes to gather this data.

These types of tools are for personal use and not an invitation for script kiddies to bombard Live's servers with endless automated queries.

Eytan goes on to state "We have a few good ideas up our sleeve on how to enable this, but want to make sure we are making the right changes that will give you the functionality you want and all of our customers the experience they deserve".

I wonder what methods they'll employ? Perhaps advanced query syntax searches will require a login? Perhaps Live will start aggressively banning IP addresses? Perhaps you'll have to verify the query through image verification?

In any case, I understand that the few will most often ruin it for the many so I welcome Live's efforts to put the breaks on abusive automated queries.

On some level I almost want to see Live start to sell this data. If there are rampant problems with people trying to harvest Live's data perhaps there's a market there? This might be a good way to engage webmasters with Live and perhaps drive advertising. Maybe webmasters could get a certain volume of link data once you spend a certain dollar amount advertising at Live?

By all accounts Live's advanced syntax query tools are very helpful. I think it's time Live started leveraging that value to drive advertising spend.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

David V's Blog Mentioned on Daily SearchCast

My recent post "10 Rules for Co-Hosting The Daily SearchCast with Danny Sullivan" was read in it's entirety on the March 27th, 2007 episode of The Daily SearchCast. As a long time fan I'm glad to get the mention and it seemed like everyone enjoyed the post.

You can download the episode here. The post is mentioned starting at minute 31:55.

Search Engine Smackdown

Online marketer Neil Patel recently released a great search trivia flash game called Search Engine Smackdown.

In the game you can select famous characters from the world of search and have them duke it out in a battle royale cued by whether or not you answer trivia questions correctly.

Pit your favorite characters from the world of search against each other with none other than Danny Sullivan as the referee. Have you ever wanted to see Sergey tap a keg of whoop ass on Bill Gates (other than in search market share)? Well dream no more because Search Engine Smackdown can make that a reality.

This is a fun game and a clever little piece of link bait. Hey, he got two links out of me.

Monday, March 26, 2007

MS Live Link Command Broken or am I just Banned?

Not sure if this is a problem with MS Live or if my IP is just banned, but all "link:" commands are coming up blank today at MS Live. Regular searches and "site:" searches work so it's pretty much just the "link:" command which is serving up blank pages.

This has pretty much been happening all day so I don't think it's a momentary glitch. I do a "link:" search every other day or so for various reasons, so I'd be really surprised if I were banned. Of course "link:" searches are the only kind of search I do on MS Live so I couldn't blame them if they did ban me ;)

#As I'm writing this I jumped over to WebmasterWorld to see people already talking about this. Guess it is a site wide issue. I hope they fix it quick. MS Live needs all the traffic they can get ;)#

Inside AdWords: AdWords Editor's "Top 10 Favorites"

Here's a good post from Google detailing a few of my favorite Adwords Editor Features.Inside AdWords: AdWords Editor's "Top 10 Favorites"

If you haven't played around with Editor yet give it a go.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Search the Web with Kevin Federline

Fresh from staring in a Super Bowl ad, Kevin Federline has decided to throw his hat into the search game.

That's right. Move over Google, K-Fed is running a search engine. Well sort of.

K-Fed's search engine is being powered by which basically is a search engine which pays users by offering prizes. The prizes are offered by non-profits to users and the non-profit gets a take from the ad revenue. Prodege seems to be powered or "enhanced" by Yahoo somehow.

In this case it looks like K-Fed is taking a cut of the ad revenue for himself and offering prizes to his dedicated fan (I know what I typed).

After a quick look at the "here's who's winning" board on his home page it looks like most people are winning "Entry into Autograph Sweepstakes", "B-Day Party Sweepstakes Entry", " Kevin Federline T-Shirt", etc.

While those prizes alone would make any red blooded American want to flood Kevin's search engine with thousands of queries for Viagra and pen1s enlargement I thought I'd take a quick look at the quality of Kevin's search engine by running a few searches for things I'm actually looking for right now....

Query: Plasma TV
Results: Yahoo sponsored ads

Query: Car Parts
Results: Yahoo sponsored ads

Well you get the point.

Some queries I tried did return definitions, but outside of that all the results are sponsored ads from Yahoo. Only displaying ads will of course help Kevin maximize the return on his revenue share and pay for all those "Entry into Autograph Sweepstakes" he's giving away.

After Dustin Diamond's attempt to get us to "Save Screeech's House" and now Kevin's foray into the world of search I'm seeing a nice little "save the pseudo-celebrity" vertical developing here. Speaking of, does anyone have Bobby Brown's email address handy?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

10 Rules for Co-Hosting The Daily SearchCast with Danny Sullivan

I'm a huge fan of "The Daily SearchCast" with Danny Sullivan and would recommend it to anyone wanting to keep up to date on the world of search. Danny Sullivan is great, yet I must say that the co-hosts leave something to be desired. As such, I've decided to write up a few quick rules for co-hosting "The Daily SearchCast" with Danny Sullivan.

Co-Host Rules

1. Let Danny sigh. When Danny sighs it means he's frustrated with Digg or Belgian newspapers. Just ignore the sigh and let Danny vent before he explodes Peter Patrelli style.

2. Let Danny rant. Ranting is Danny's small way of trying to change the world of search. If you don't let Danny rant then all of Google's products will remain in beta and every website will require a login to view articles.

3. Let Danny sing. Danny's singing is why most of us listen to The Daily SearchCast in the first place. Without a catchy tune most SEOs would lose patience and stare longingly at the Page Rank meter in their Google toolbar.

4. Let Danny talk about his phone. Danny loves his new smart phone and wants to share stories about it with his loyal listeners. Find at least 3 opportunities to bring up mobile search so Danny can talk about his phone.

5. Don't talk over Danny. This is the most commonly ignored rule by co-hosts. Danny likes to talk, and when he brings up a subject he's going to give you his take on it. Don't talk over Danny when he's trying to make a point. Dave Naylor I'm looking in your direction.

6. Help Danny with the chat room. Multi-tasking is something operating systems do. Danny is too focused on kicking ass with search commentary to be responding to questions in the chat room. As co-host it's your job to field questions and bring up any interesting information.

7. Translate Danny's Britishisms. Danny lives in the UK now and as such his brain is slowly being taken over by British culture. Be at the ready to let listeners know what a swimming costume, boot, and kit are.

8. Let Danny "Go with it from there". At the end of most pieces of commentary Danny says "and we'll go with it from there". That is your cue to drop the topic and prepare yourself for the next rant or sigh.

9. Don't disagree with Danny. SEO may not be rocket science, but hosting The Daily SearchCast is. If Danny says something just assume that it's true and post a link to it in the chat room.

10. Let Danny get to dinner. Danny records The Daily SearchCast right before dinner time, and if the show goes long he'll be in trouble with Mrs. King of Search. Sum things up quickly when Danny's wife is IMing him or pay the price.

I hope these rules will help future co-hosts of The Daily SearchCast live up to the high levels of professionalism and quality that Danny delivers in every single episode. Keep up the good work.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Optimizing for Quality Score Based Ad Ranking

As you've probably read in constant news reports and blog posts Yahoo released algorithmic based ad serving on its ad network. This has been available at Google for quite some time.

The idea behind algorithmic based ad serving is that many factors are used to determine how your ad should rank. These factors include bid, click through rate, conversion rate, ad copy, and landing page copy.

So why wouldn't search engines just use the highest bid to rank ads? I often use the following example when explaining this to people....

What is better for Google, to rank an ad with a $100 bid which has a 1% click through rate or to rank an ad with a $2 bid with a 100% click through rate? If they rank the $100 bid with 1% CTR they'll earn $100 for every 100 impressions. If they rank the ad with the $2 bid and 100% CTR they'll earn $200 for every 100 impressions.

By ranking the ad with the higher CTR they earn more money and provide more relevancy for their end users. Of course the real algorithm is much more complex than this, but you can see the basic logic behind algorithmic based ad ranking.

When you're looking into optimizing for algorithmic based ad ranking it's important to know the impact of making changes to certain aspects of your campaign. Since I am most familiar with this from a Google perspective I'll explain how things work over there. From my understanding most of these rules will apply to Yahoo; however, I make no guarantees.

Destination URLs

The three basic levels you can set destination URLs are keyword, Adgroup, and Ad.

Action: Changing Keyword & Adgroup Destination URLs.

Effect: The next time the Google ad bot crawls your ad it will go to your new destination URL and use on page factors to determine if your quality score should be changed. If the landing page has not changed then your quality score will not adjust and your ads should continue to rank as they have been.

Optimization: Try to set destination URLs on a keyword or Adgroup level. Only update destination URLs when absolutely necessary. If you need to implement new destination URLs create a test Adgroup.

(Test Adgroup: Pause the Adgroup you want to make changes to. Create an identical Adgroup and change the factors you want to test. If everything tests out okay update the original Adgroup and un-pause it. Pause or delete the test Adgroup.)

Action: Changing Ad Destination URLs

Effect: Your ad will be viewed as a new ad and all previous CTR history will be lost. The algorithm will still use factors like your keyword and Adgroup CTR history to help determine your quality score and your rankings, but you will lose data associated with the ad itself.

Optimization: Avoid changing destination URLs on the ad level at all costs. If you need to update the destination URLs on the ad level create a test Adgroup.

Changing Copy

Updating your campaign may also include updating your ad copy or landing page copy.

Action: Updating landing page copy or changing landing page.

Effect: Any changes made to your landing pages will change your quality score and possibly effect your rankings.

Optimization: Use a test Adgroup to check the effectiveness of your landing page changes.

Action: Updating ad copy.

Effect: All CTR history with the ad will be lost. CTR history on the keyword and Adgroup level will still be used to rank your ad.

Optimization: This can be the most frustrating aspect of optimizing for algorithmic based ad ranking. Even if you make minute changes to an ad like adding an explanation point or comma your ad is effectively starting from scratch. This can be especially problematic if you have to change a certain aspect of your ad from time to time.

Say for example that you are advertising a piece of software. Your ad reads "Comes with 5 features". As you ad features you need to change the ad accordingly ("comes with 6 features, comes with 10 features, etc.). Each time you change your ad the ad starts from scratch and you may have problems regaining ranking.

In these types of scenarios I like to create neutral ads in each Adgroup which don't include the variable ("comes with lots of features!"). When I update the ads that do include the variable I have to start from scratch on those ads; however, because I have a variable neutral version I have an ad with CTR history to help me rank for my target phrases as my variable based ads start to build CTR history and rank on their own.

Understanding how changes to your campaigns effect your ad rankings is an important part of optimizing how you manage your search CPC accounts. The key to updating any campaign is the test Adgroup strategy I described earlier in this post. Pausing a successful Adgroup and creating a test Adgroup allows you to back out of any changes and go back to the more successful model at any time.