Friday, June 23, 2006

SEM Competition Is Fierce

Much like in nature...

Viruses, Viruses, Viruses Everywhere

No, not computer viruses - I'm talking about real ones.

I've been telling folks since 2 years ago that this avian flu thing is going to get real ugly sometime in the next several years, and still believe that's the case.

Read this article on similarities in how the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic (which killed ~50M worldwide) and the current avian flu have evolved; then read this article wherein WHO scientists confirmed yesterday that the recent Indonesian outbreak which killed 7 people was the result of one of the key mutations having taken place.

Read enough on the topic and it'll become clear that scientists feel the avian flu is one or two mutations away from becoming a true pandemic. When that happens, get ready to say goodbye to a good number of people you know, and be prepared for 3-6 months of disruption in food distribution, civil order and access to healthcare.

If you have children, take solace in the fact that the pandemic is likely to target healthy adults more than the young.

As pertains to search, do a search on Google for 'prevent avian flu' and you'll see Lysol advertising, as if spraying the countertop will have any effect, Sharper Image pushing its ion air filters, and many others similarly preying on human fear.

As far as I can tell, your best bet is to:
-Get your doctor to prescribe Tamiflu, which can help the body's immune system better fight the virus. Shelf life is 6 months, though, so you'll need to restock from time to time
-Store 6 months of non-perishable food
-Create and communicate your emergency plan, and create/update your will (LegalZoom is great for online wills, and much cheaper than a lawyer)
-If you do any of the above you'll probably make the mistake of telling others about your food stock, in which word might get out and someone desperate will try to poach your stash. Buy a gun for situations like that, but only if you know how to use and store it

I know, I know, I sound alarmist, but when did "Better safe than sorry" go out of style?

French Internet Trifecta

I've been spending some time with my good friend Olivier Moinecourt who runs OMWave, a firm that makes a sleek all-in-one digital entertainment device.

Olivier is an incredibly smart, ambitious, forward-thinking Frenchman, and has been explaining to me lately the reasons why France is the #2 paid search market in Europe after the UK. The reason, it turns out, is that telecom deregulation in France has proceeded much faster than in the U.S. or any other major country for that matter, resulting in competing trifecta offers from the likes of Iliad and others for ~$25/mo bundled high-speed internet access, 200 TV channels and unlimited IP telephony.

That helps explain why Google gets more revenue from France than even Germany, and why the average French internet user conducts ~72 searches/month to 45 in the U.S.

I think there's a misconception in the U.S. that the French are far behind, but the reality is they're in almost all respects further developed in search and ecommerce than the U.S.

Allez les bleus, les bleus, les bleus!!

Reading SEM Tea Leaves

I think you can tell a lot about a company from who's trying to glob onto their brand keyword traffic. My latest perousal of SEM firms' brand keyword searches revealed the following:

SEMs bidding on AtlasOnePoint
Atlas itself (positions 5 & 7)

SEMs bidding on Efficient Frontier
SearchForce (stopped since this blog posting)
SearchRev (stopped since I asked them, thanks!)

SEMs bidding on Did-It
Did-It itself

SEMs bidding on BidBuddy (UK SEM tool from The Search Works)

I applaud Performics, Did-It and my own firm Efficient Frontier for being the only major SEMs not resorting to such dishonorable tactics. We SEM's should be the moral compass in the unpoliced world that is search engine marketing, not spineless jellyfishes like the firms listed above.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Political/Social/Environmental Issues & SEM

I've written a couple times in the past about how great I think paid search can be as a way for individuals to express their viewpoints on political, social and environmental issues to a wider audience.

Currently I'm running a PPC campaign - as always out of my own pocket - in a protest of sort over Gore's 'Inconvenient Truth'. What doesn't matter for this blog is what my particular viewpoint is; what *is* interesting, however, is that I'm getting very good CTR on this campaign. Maybe it's because it's me sticking out like a sore thumb against a ppc backdrop consisting of nearly every major environmental group, but I actually think it's because it's still rare for searchers to see individuals running ppc campaigns.

I'm still wishing & hoping that the search engines realize what a great opportunity they have to a)contribute to democracy by facilitating citizens' use of paid search; and b)educate the untapped consumer market about the opportunities for them to get involved in search not just as searchers but as buyers.

I'll say this - in 5-10 years' time we'll look back and wonder why it was only people selling something who bought PPC ads.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

European SEM, Can You Please Explain This?

At the SES show here in London recently, Bob Ivins of Comscore showed two sets of statistics that I found very interesting:

Percent of online population using search
U.S. = 86%
Europe = 90%

Searches Per Searcher
U.S. = 44/month
UK = 65/month
Germany = 72/month
France = 73/month

While I think I understand why more European internet users use search (answer = more broadband), I'm not sure why they perform more searches on a monthly basis. Anyone from the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, etc care to respond? My only guess is that because Google has so much more marketshare in all major European countries than in the U.S., their faster search experience leads to more searches.

[Ben] Dover Beach

I read about AdContext, eBay's planned contextual advertising network today, and then got into a short email discussion with Vinny Lingham, whose blog I read and opinion I value. My feeling on AdContext is it won't be as good of a thing for eBay or as bad of thing for Google as people are likely to say over the next week. Here's why:

1) AdSense publishers know their traffic sucks. When GOOG started to allow advertisers to bid its contextual (AdSense) network separately from its search network, AdSense publishers groaned en masse. Why? Because they know their traffic doesn't convert. So why would they want to give up part of a CPC for a revshare on... nothing?

2) Most of the contextual inventory that is high enough value to be better monetized via an affiliate relationship already is. EBay's affiliate program has been around for years, during which time publishers have *already* found the right balance between Adsense and affiliate links.

3) This will not give EBAY's Skype unit the big entre into pay-per-call that some will expect. From these ads EBAY may enable buyer-to-seller calls via Skype, but there's no reason to think AdContext will be any better served by phone calls than EBay's current affiliate program.

Vinny certainly hopes that AdContext brings us one step closer to "The Future of Search Engines", but a) this is contextual advertising; b) eBay is already for the most part a CPA-based search engine; and as I say in my points above, there's just too many people with an incentive for the CPC status quo.

Vinny called me a cynic, which brought to mind the end of 'Dover Beach', a poem by Matthew Arnold. I've replaced 'love' with 'affiliate', 'world' with 'PPC' and changed the title to 'Merchant Ode To An Affiliate':

Merchant Ode To An Affiliate
Ah, [affiliate], let us be true
To one another! for [PPC], which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

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