Saturday, 19 May 2012

Friday, 20 February 2009

Yahoo beta test "Universal Sponsored Search"

When Google introduced Universal Search back in May 2007, it was only a matter of time before the innovation moved over to the Paid Search arena. The only surprise is Yahoo have done it first....

Universal Search is the incorporation of non-text listings within Google search engine results pages (SERPs). For example - do a search for the darling of Hot Trends, Britney Spears, and you'll likely see news, image, and video results, right there amongst your regular old text listings. Basically any type of alternative search listing, previously found within Google's "vertical search engines" (the links you see on the top left of your SERP - shopping, groups, blogs, maps, news, images, etc).

This enhancement benefits the user experience by providing alternative, but highly relevant, types of listing for them to click through on and experience. Of course, being Google, relevancy remains paramount, and image, video, group, news, maps, or whatever other media it places within the SERP will always seek to provide the information relevant to the intentions of the searcher.

So now Yahoo is testing its own version of Universal Search, but in its sponsored listings. It's currently in beta in the US only, and by their own admission will only roll out fully (and internationally) if it is considered a success. It will allow advertisers to use images, videos and custom search boxes in place of their normal text adverts, appearing on regular SERPs. This last point is of course key, as rich media ads have been allowed within contextual advertising (e.g. the AdWords Content Network) for some time. It's the move over to search proper that makes this news so notable....

So will this innovation be a success? For me, the idea is a winner, and one I'm certain will become the norm for paid search marketing moving forward. However, as with any innovation, implementation is key - go overboard with this, and users and advertisers alike will fight against it. The beauty of Universal Search is it compliments, rather than obstructs, the search process for users, and Yahoo's new advertising formats will need to do the same....

Friday, 16 November 2007

Yahoo launches PPC Pricing Discounts in UK

I've just received an email from Yahoo regarding the rollout of the "Pricing Discount" feature across the Yahoo network. This feature will discount search and content traffic from Yahoo's partner sites, depending on the perceived quality of that traffic. So, in the case of a partner site Yahoo deems lower quality (in terms of the traffic it gives advertisers), you will receive a discount on your CPC for any traffic from that site.

Two important points spring to my mind from this:
  1. Yahoo will decide which sites deliver quality; they will do this based on "conversion rates and other measurements of a site's ability to deliver you more valuable customers".
  2. Pricing discounts apply only to sites on the Yahoo network, not Yahoo itself

The issue I have with point one is - how will they determine conversion rates? If they're using their own tracking tool data (Yahoo Sponsored Search Conversion Tracking or perhaps their Yahoo Analytics package) then their data sample will be very small, and perhaps not representative of a site's true "quality". If they're using other data, what data are they using?

The second point, to do with discounts only being applied to partner sites, and not or itself raises some questions. For example, if the main Yahoo search engine delivers low conversions for advertisers in a particular industry, should its clicks not be discounted also?

The move is however, on the whole, a positive one. Will it help Yahoo in its battle with Google? Probably not, but these kind of paid search innovations will definitely take them in the right direction.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Adwords Expanded Broad Match - Friend or Foe?

Back in 2003, Google introduced something known as "Expanded Broad Matching" to their Adwords advertisers. This Expanded Broad Match essentially replaced standard Adwords broad matching, and brought a whole new batch of search terms into play for keywords within advertiser accounts.....

Traditionally, back when things were simple and transparent in PPC, a search term had to include all the keywords within your Adwords keyphrase in order to trigger your broad match keyword. So, if you had the keyphrase "big red shoes" in your account, it would only be triggered if someone typed in a search phrase that included all three of these words. If they types in "buy big red shoes" your ad would show; if they typed in "red shoes" it wouldn't. Simple. However, somewhere along the line, the waters got well and truly muddied by Google.

Nowadays, your ads can show for just about any search phrase that is in any way related to your keywords. Sometimes, Google cutting you this kind of slack and flexibility is good. Take the example above. You would want your ad to show up if someone typed in "large red shoes", rather than "big red shoes", as they really mean the same thing. So this type of broad matching is good. However, Google have taken the idea of what is "relevant" too far.

I've seen some absolutely crazy examples of broad matching in my time. For example, the keyword "plane tickets" getting triggered by the search term "train schedules", the keyword "dyslexia" being triggered by "diarrohea", and even the keyword "kangol hats" being triggered by "san diego zoo".

Some have a very cynical view of expanded broad matching, feeling it's simply a way for Google to show more ads for more search terms, and therefore make more money. My grumpy side agrees with this. However, the happier, Friday afternoon side, thinks that the algorithm for matching keywords to search terms just isn't quite right. I think Google is trying to be helpful here, but has just gone slightly overboard with its matching formula.

They need to reign things in. At present, our ads are showing for too many irrelevant searches. Even if they don't get clicks, the low CTR is harming our quality score and effectively costing us money through higher CPCs. So, Google, can we please go back to just "Broad Match" and leave the expanded stuff to the lazy advertisers? Or, at the very least, allow us to opt out of the expanded broad match and defer instead to simple broad match.

In either case, something needs to change. If they don't, we'll spend our whole lives running Search Query Reports and adding negative keywords......