Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Blog Analytics - I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watchin' Me

Remember that Michael Jackson song 'Somebody's Watching Me'? The paranoid lyrics from that song come to mind as I look at the data Statcounter collects for me on visitors to my blog. More for learning and curiousity's sake than anything else I put Statcounter in place several months ago, and it has since blown my mind to see what people search for who end up at my site; some choice examples of queries people have recently searched to get to my blog:

'Efficient Frontier Chris Zaharias' - someone from Basra, Iraq oddly enough
'Adwords haiku'
'GOOG's accounting' - I had written about Google mistakenly inverting exchange rates in international AdSense payouts
'sem-tea' - probably someone looking for 'stem tea' & who made a typo
'zidane head butt' - I wrote an entry on Zinedine Zidane's head-butt in the World Cup final, and that entry got more hits than anything I've ever written on SEM
'Chris Zaharias married' - maybe my wife's checking to see if I have a 2nd wife overseas...

With access to data on what was searched for, what geography, what search engine and what pages were viewed I can sometimes even figure out who the individual person was who came to my blog if I had a conversation with that person recently. It's a strange yet satisfying feeling to have that kind of data, and I can imagine how 5-10 years down the line individuals with MySpace pages, blogs and the like will make personal web analytics a killer app of sorts.

After all, don't we all feel like we're being watched? And don't we all want to know who's watching us?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Slowing search query phrase length growth

I've seen search query length trend data on a couple occasions previously (June ’04 and August ’05); in both previous cases the trends were clearly positive for the search engines. I just saw July '06 year-over-year data from OneStat, though, and I see clouds building in terms of intrinsic query value; the rate of growth of longer phrase queries has started to slow for the first time ever. Below is a breakdown of absolute growth or decline in queries of different lengths over the last 3 years:

Length '03-'04 '04-'05 '05-'06 (all %'s are Y/Y and absolute)
1 Word (23.2%) (19.2%) (14.8%)
2 Word 11.5% (1.6%) (2.3%)
3 Word 5.3% 2.7% 1.0%
4 Word 4.0% 9.3% 5.6% (deceleration in '05-'06 growth)
5 Word 3.9% 12.1% 8.8% (deceleration in '05-'06 growth)
6 Word 5.0% 14.2% 14.6% (growth rate unchanged '05-'06)
7 Word 4.3% 18.6% 18.7% (growth rate unchanged '05-'06)

[Sorry for the crappy formatting, I'm hopeless]

Keyword phrase length is one of the most important metrics to track, as it is a leading indicator for search monetization. Better defined searches convert better than 1 or 2 word search phrases, and therefore advertisers are willing to pay more for longer keyword searches. The above data, then, is telling us that the search engines’ inventory is not going to continue increasing in value to the extent it has previously. Our message to the market; if the value of queries starts to level off, better optimization becomes all the more important.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Search Engine [Party] Strategies San Jose

The past four SES San Jose conferences have been fun events, both because it's the largest SEM conference in the world, and because of all the opportunities to socialize with clients, partners, friends, competitors, knuckleheads, geeks, marketing & sales hey-guys, industry pundits, VC's, Wall St investors, affiliates and journalists.

Some of my favorite things to do at SES:

1) Attend Google's Tuesday evening party at their HQ, known as the Google Dance. There will be 3000-4000 people there this year (and that doesn't include the 1000-3000 Google employeers who will attend as well). Immense amounts of chatzki, beer, games, karaoke, music, scooters, Googlettes, product demos, whirling rumors, vieled pitches, spammers who know too many people from Google, and drunks making fools of themselves.

This being The Last Great Year for Search, the Google Dance will peak this year, followed by a slow and steady decline thereafter - so get jiggy wit it while it's hot!

2) Follow Joe Morin after-hours. He's got a thread on SEW listing SES-related parties. Follow the thread and you'll know what's going on in the evenings.

3) See how desperate some SEM firms are getting. Rule of thumb - if an SEM firm has contortionists, animal mascots as chatzki, free beer or iPod/car/vacation raffles, you can bet they have nothing of value to offer you. And if they have a kick-ass after-hours party, then you can be certain they're hurting - but you should attend all the same.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Impact of Google's July 11th Quality Score Change

Google unleashed a major change to its AdWords Quality Score system, whereby a Google algorithm/bot assesses quality of an advertiser's landing page. Here at my firm we've seen only a minimal impact on all but a couple of our advertisers; the couple who were affected have business models that are akin to affiliate marketing or search arbitrage.

Many AdWords advertisers who are engaged in click arbitrage more directly, however, reported huge rises in minimum bids and many had to kill their 2-3 year-old AdWords campaigns altogether. Perhaps the best piece of data on this comes from Michael Gray (aka Graywolf), one of those SEM/SEO long-standing wizards who knows his s#!t. Check out his great blog post which includes graphs charting CPC, profit and volume from his campaigns pre and post 7/11. Below are two very revealing charts from his post:

As you'll see, for some Google's 7/11 has become their own financial 9/11.

The [Short] Story of Google's Maximizer

Those of you in the search marketing industry know about the group of people within Google who are called 'maximizers'. Their role is to provide assistance in helping advertisers maximize the success of their AdWords campaigns. Like me, you probably assumed that the name 'maximizer' was coined to reflect their functional role.

Guess again. I met with a Google maximizer recently who told me that way back when Google was a baby there was a guy named Max who was the only/primary person providing optimization assistance to Google's early advertiser base. As that role grew and many (now probably 100+ worldwide) more people performed that role, the term 'maximizer' was coined, based on the guy Max who held the original role.

Now you know.

Chris Zaharias
aka 'The Cliff Clavin of SEM'

Monday, July 10, 2006

Zidane's Righteous Head-Butt

For those of you wrapped up in the World Cup as I was, the biggest story of last night's game wasn't France losing, but rather Zinedine Zidane's head-butt of Italian defender Materazzi.

Word here on French TV is that the Italian called him a "filthy terrorist". If that's true then Zinedine did the absolute right thing, and FIFA would do well to ban the racist Italian from competition forever.

Actually, Zizou should've head-butted him in the face...

PS - For those of you interested in the SEM angle to this story, 90% of my non-repeat visitors today are coming from outside the U.S., proving that non-U.S. soccer-related searching is minimal.

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