Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Adwords Reps Moving in the Plex

This past weekend my company ended up moving offices here in Austin. Ironically, our Adwords reps also ended up moving to a new building in the Googleplex.

Supposedly it's a brand new building a little ways off the main campus. There is no restaurant, but there are snack areas and the chefs from the main restaurants in the plex make food in advance and bring it over. Gotta love those Google perks.

Yahoo Talking Smack About Google's Usability

Considering my disdain for Yahoo's usability on the PPC side I find if very funny that they're giving Google lessons in usability. People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw rocks.

Here on some of my thoughts on Yahoo's PPC usability in particular...

"You can't open up campaigns, ad groups, or keyword settings in new tabs. I love being able to go into Google and open up multiple adgroups in new tabs in Firefox. This is a great way to quickly make tweaks on problem adgroups. Thanks to Yahoo's Flash based interface this isn't an option."

"Editing your campaigns through spreadsheets is a pain. Google has given us a nice tool in the Google Adwords Editor where we can easily paste in cells from a spreadsheet to update things like ads, adgroups, campaigns, and keywords. Generally there are no more than 6 or 7 rows needed to update any element. In Yahoo, I have to enter 30 rows of information for every element. I also have to make sure I upload the spreadsheet in a specific format. No easy cut and paste here."

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 Down?

Just got back from lunch and noticed is down. The problem seems to have been resolved after about a 20 minute outage.

I wonder what an outage costs's customers in terms of lost productivity. Millions? Tens of millions? Hundreds of millions?

What about all those missed conference calls caused by not having access to conference numbers or direct phone numbers stored in SalesForce? Have you ever missed a meeting or call because your CRM system was down? Did it cost you a deal?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Google Hijacking Unresolved Domains & 404 Error Pages?

As recently announced in the New York Times, Google will start reporting sites sending traffic to Adwords customers utilizing the Google content network (Adsense).

"In the next few months, Google’s advertiser reports will begin listing the sites where each ad runs, Ms. Malone said. She added that advertisers on the Google networks would soon be able to bid on contextual ads on particular Web sites rather than simply buying keywords that appeared across Google’s entire network."

This is an important step for Google because advertisers can easily identify sites which either don't convert well or convert very well. This allows for a much more targeted approach to CPC bidding. These reports will come in very handy in combination with Google's recently announced support for CPC in site targeted campaigns.

Now, I have already seen the reports for my content campaign, and I noticed something very strange. My own domains (not running Adsense) were appearing in the reports. So why is Google charging me for clicks from a site which was not running Adsense?

Basically what's happening is that on certain Dell and Gateway computers where there are pre-installed Google Toolbars, unresolved domains and possibly 404 pages are redirected to an Adsense ads page.

This is also happening with AOL customers, but I'm not clear as to whether this is tied to the Google Toolbar or if this is some DNS based redirect in place by AOL.

If the domain that the user received the error on is your domain (possibly through a 404 message) or "close" to your domain (via an unresolved domain) then your domain will show in your content network logs if the user clicked on your ad via the Adsense page served in its place.

Since a good number of people bid for their own brand through the content network it is probably safe to say that many advertisers will start seeing their own domain in their Google Content Network site reports regardless of whether they run Adsense or not.

Now I have some problems....

Problem 1 - 404 Hijacks:

I have no direct evidence that 404 pages are being replaced with Adsense pages, but the fact that my own domain is showing in my logs makes me think that this a 404 hijack situation. If it was simply a misspelled domain (unresolved domain) why wouldn't the misspelling be represented as a non-resolving domain in the reports? Furthermore, I do see misspelled domains in the report which are only one letter off from my primary domain. Why wouldn't that show up as coming from my primary domain?

I'm curious to see if evidence will surface that Google, Gateway, Dell, and AOL replace 404 pages from a domain with Adsense pages. 404 pages are designed to show the user that they have made a mistake and to offer them additional navigational options. Replacing 404 pages with Adsense ad pages borders on low brow adware techniques and would be a big black eye for everyone involved.

Problem 2 - Unresolved Domain Hijacks:

At the very least Google, AOL, Dell, and Gateway are inserting ads on unresolved domains. Sometimes domain owners want to purchase a domain and leave it unresolved. Now this isn't the greatest approach from an SEO / Internet Marketing point of view, but that's the domain owner's prerogative. This is a good strategy to lock in valuable domains (or misspellings) so your competition can't utilize them.

Now, in some situations your unresolved domain is being served Adsense ad pages without your permission. Of course, your competitors can bid on your brand name through contextual advertising; so in effect your competitors can show ads on your domain without your permission and without you even electing to have Adsense hosted on your domain.

Furthermore, if you advertise through contextual advertising on your own brand you are paying for clicks being generated by someone who entered a domain you own to begin with!

If Google is showing ads on domains without permission (either through 404 hijacking or unresolved domains) will you be able to target that domain through a site targeted campaign? Is it time to start buying site targeted campaigns for misspelled unresolved domains?

I do not think that any ISP, toolbar, or search engine should replace the content on a domain with ads. In the era of net neutrality I'm surprised that Google would participate in prioritizing and inserting content onto properties they don't own. At the very least I think it's time to take a second look at what you're doing with your unresolved domains.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Click Here for Googlebombs

Back on January 25th the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog announced "By improving our analysis of the link structure of the web, Google has begun minimizing the impact of many Googlebombs."

Googlebombs as you may know is the practice of linking to a specific site using specific link text (anchor text). The most well known case of Googlebombing involved George W. Bush's site ranking for the term "miserable failure". Of course the term "miserable failure" was never mentioned on his site, but because enough sites linked to his site using that term his site ranked for it.

In Google's blog post they stated that they are trying to stop this practice algorithmically.

"Algorithms are great because they scale well: computers can process lots of data very fast, and robust algorithms often work well in many different languages. That's what we did in this case, and the extra effort to find a good algorithm helps detect Googlebombs in many different languages."

So the question persists did Google change the results by hand, implement a limited filter on the sites they knew were being bombed, or did they implement an overall algorithmic change?

I have a few examples which seem to indicate the changes were either done by hand, or the filters were only applied to sites they knew about.

Example 1 - "Click Here"

As you can see the top 3 results are for Adobe, QuickTime, and RealPlayer. None of these sites have the phrase "click here" on their web page yet likely have thousands of sites linking to them with the anchor text "click here". You could argue these sites were Googlebombed for the phrase "click here".

Example 2 - "home"

Now the top two results here are the New York Times and the LA Times. They do have mentions of the word "home" on their home pages, but there is no significant keyword density or specific information on the site which would indicate the site is about the topic "home". The reason I included this example is because I would suspect that this Googlebomb was caused by internal links (thousands of articles on their sites with "home" links pointing back to the main page).

Example 3 - "This Site"

Again, the top three results don't have any mention of the phrase "this site" on their home page. This is likely the result of other people linking to these sites with the anchor text "this site".

My conclusion from all this is that you can still get away with Googlebombing, but as soon as Google finds out they're either adding that site to a special algorithmic filter or they're changing the results by hand. I do not believe there is an overall algorithmic filter which prevents sites from ranking for terms merely by the anchor text pointing to them.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

10 Things I hate about Yahoo Advertising

1. Only 10% of my search traffic comes from Yahoo. I know Yahoo has a larger market share in search than 10%, but most of my advertising is done for very technical terms and Yahoo represents a very un-technical audience.

2. You can't easily (or at all) opt out of sites in their search network. Yahoo's "search" network includes arbitrage sites which really should be included in their content network. I've complained about this at the very highest ranks of their advertising group and the best response I've received is "this is something we're looking at".

3. You can't open up campaigns, ad groups, or keyword settings in new tabs. I love being able to go into Google and open up multiple adgroups in new tabs in Firefox. This is a great way to quickly make tweaks on problem adgroups. Thanks to Yahoo's Flash based interface this isn't an option.

4. As I write this my Yahoo login page isn't loading.

5. Load times in general are very slow. Again, this is largely in part to the Flash based interface.

6. Editorial hypocrisy. When I change one word in an ad or a bid on a specific keyword the editorial team rejects the ad or keyword even though it has been running for months or even years. If an ad or keyword was good before why reject it now?

7. Editing your campaigns through spreadsheets is a pain. Google has given us a nice tool in the Google Adwords Editor where we can easily paste in cells from a spreadsheet to update things like ads, adgroups, campaigns, and keywords. Generally there are no more than 6 or 7 rows needed to update any element. In Yahoo, I have to enter 30 rows of information for every element. I also have to make sure I upload the spreadsheet in a specific format. No easy cut and paste here.

8. Cost per conversions are too high. The traffic I get from Yahoo is mostly trash. I'm not sure if it's their user demographics, click fraud, or what, but it's much harder to get good ROI from Yahoo for me.

9. Yahoo only supports Advanced and Standard key phrase matching. I like having three options for keyword bidding with Google (phrase, broad, and exact matching). I don't like the all or nothing approach with Yahoo. I'm sure this approach is good for their bottom line, but it seems like it takes a lot of bid control out of the hand of the advertiser.

10. Lack of response to common problems. I'm involved with roughly 6 betas at Google right now. Every time I have an issue with Google I complain, my account rep takes note, and eventually I get included in a beta to address the problem. Yahoo's biggest achievement recently has been supporting multiple ads per adgroup and algorithmic based PPC ranking. This is something that's been available through their competitors for a long time now and really should be a standard part of a search marketing network. I have yet to participate in a beta or see a release from Yahoo which I felt raised the bar.

What's your biggest Yahoo advertising gripe?

Google Supports CPC for Site Targeted Campaigns

Google is now running a beta for CPC bidding in site targeted campaigns.

Google Site Targeted CPC Announcement

Site targeted campaigns allow you to advertise in Google's content network (websites running Adsense) on a site by site basis. The idea of site targeted campaigns is that you can more easily manage your bids. If a particular site is performing very well you can increase your bid without increasing your bid on all the other trash sites included in Google's content network. You can also walk down bids on under performing sites without removing the site all together from your campaigns.

Up until now the only bidding option for site targeted campaigns was CPM (cost per 1000 impressions). The biggest problem with this is that you're paying for people to see your ad rather than clicking on your ad. CPC (cost per click) bidding allows you to only pay for people who click on your ad. This gives you a much better chance to track your advertising spend in relation to actual visitors to your site.

In my industry a lot of the sites with Adsense ads on them have unusually high "impressions to unique user" ratios. This means that only a hand full of users create a large number of impressions. For me, paying for impressions is an incredibly inefficient way of bidding as impressions do not accurately represent the potential for sales. Furthermore, as time goes on many web users will start to develop banner blindness to Google's Adsense ads. This means that impressions will start to represent fewer and fewer clicks.

CPC bidding allows me to manage my bids in relation to actual traffic. In the case of sites with high impressions to unique user ratios, CPC bidding allows me to keep from paying for my ad to be shown to the same person over and over again.

I welcome this development over and Google and I have already signed up to become part of this beta. If I get in I'll post my experiences here along with another beta I'm part of (site performance reports).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Google's Master Plan Video

Interesting perspective on the growth and direction of Google in relation to relevancy. Does absolute power corrupt absolutely?

Translating a Website - Keyword Analysis

If you've ever translated a website you probably know that it is at the very least a daunting process. I've been through this several times and have a few pieces of information which should prove helpful related to keyword analysis and translation. Getting this part right in advance can save you a lot of headaches down the line and can improve the overall quality of your translations.

Keyword Analysis

Don't trust your translation company to translate your primary keywords. Many keywords which may be specific to your industry may still be used as the English word vs. what ever translated version your translation company provides. There's nothing more frustrating than finding out you translated primary keywords only to see your foreign customers use the English version once you've launched your site.

1. Make a list of primary keywords or difficult to translate keywords (industry specific terms) and translate just those terms into your target languages.
2. Perform searches on the English and translated terms in the appropriate language specific search engine (,, etc.). Make sure you limit the search for pages in the target languages.
3. Use a machine translation tool to translate these pages into English. Review the site and see how the site uses the word in context and make note of whether they use the English or translated version of the word. Also see if the site is relevant to your business and if they're using the words in the same context.
4. Poll your customers, send an email announcement, create a blog post, or create a translation wiki. A little debate and feedback can go a long way in helping you decide what the best version of a term is.
5. Buy PPC on both the English term and the suggested translations in a new campaign. Limit that campaign to just your target language. Start counting impressions on your ad. Don't worry too much about translating your ad or website at this point (especially in western languages). English ads and websites on foreign language search engines are quite common. This is by far the most accurate way to measure the use of words in a specific language.
6. Make sure to keep an eye out for "anglicized" translations. Sometimes neither the literal translation nor the English version is used. In these cases your customers may be adding language specific extensions to English words to make them easier to understand when reading. Ask your translation company to check for anglicized versions of your keywords.
7. Provide a glossary to your translation company for hard to translate words so they're aware of the exact meaning of specific words. Make sure to include any specific research you've already done.

If you follow these steps you can get a good idea in advance as to whether the literal translation, English version, or anglicized version of a keyword is used. This will prove very valuable to your PPC and SEO campaigns, and will greatly improve the quality of your translations overall.