Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Efficient Frontier - European Launch

In case your office didn't come to a complete standstill when this press hit the wires, EF officially announced its European launch today.

European PPC is growing faster than in the U.S. and the arbitrageurs - perfect indicators of opportunity - are much more active in the UK and Europe than they are in the U.S.

What's different about PPC in Europe?

1)There is no Europe, but rather 15+ different countries whose users must be targeted separately. There may be one currency, but that's where the similarities stop.

2)There's more broadband adoption in Western Europe, leading to higher connection speeds and thus more searches per month per searcher.

3)Google dominates search to a much greater extent than in the U.S. Their European marketshare is 75-85% vs 58-60% in the U.S. Google being the opaque marketplace that it is, this presents a great opportunity for EF to do well there because - unlike all the rules-based systems littering the SEM market - our portfolio algorithms work well in modelling traffic and conversions despite Google's opacity.

We've hired a great team to sell and service our growing European client base, and I fully expect EF to be managing more PPC spend that any other firm in Europe in 2 years' time.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Clickprints: A Means of Online Identification

Out of UC Davis comes a pretty interesting piece of research suggesting something the AOL search history leak already tells us must be the case - namely that browsing behavior can be used to identify individuals online.

The researchers introduce the concept of 'clickprints' -- "a unique pattern of web surfing behavior based on actions such as the number of pages viewed per session, the number of minutes spent on each web page, the time or day of the week the page is visited, and so on. The authors conclude that by observing these patterns, an e-commerce company can distinguish between two individuals with nearly 100% accuracy, sometimes with as few as three Internet sessions, and potentially use that information to deter fraud. The number of sessions needed to identify an individual rises with the number of unique users a site has because there are more people to differentiate."

In an interesting discussion on the topic on Webmasterworld, one poster talks about how during WWII Allied forces used a similar approach to identify individual telegraphers using Morse code:

"I am reminded of a description of Allied communications staff intercepting Nazi messages being sent by Morse code in WW2. They were able to identify the "voice" of individual telegraphers; even when the message itself was encoded and unintelligible, they could identify the sender by the timing and pauses in their dots and dashes."

I wonder if there's a unique clickprint for terrorists?

Monday, September 25, 2006

My blog's worth $4,139.98

I happened upon a site called Blog$hares which attempts to track blogs and assign a value to them based on traffic, link structures, etc.

Apparently mines worth $4,139.98, which is crazy. I won't sell for a penny under $5K.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Oemji Conversion Value

As many of you know, BusinessWeek's cover story this week is a detailed look into click fraud. In it there's a smaller piece on, a Yahoo search distribution partner whose traffic is described as suspect.

I looked at our own data which captures site-specific conversion rates, and Oemji shows a conversion value only 15-16% less than... AdSense. AdSense itself is 1/4 to 1/5th straight search traffic.

Friday, September 22, 2006

ClickZ Podium Slimed By Jumpy Frog

If you've been reading my blog, you'll know I like competition - it's part of any good market, and without it working wouldn't be nearly as interesting, nor would customers get as much value out of vendors.

Recently I blogged on portfolio algorithms in search marketing, and how competitors grasping for straws in the face of our success have alternately 1)copied our message; 2)attempted to dilute its meaning; or 3)discounted - without any substance I might add - the effectiveness of applying portfolio algorithms to paid search campaigns.

Around the same time, I responded on SearchEngineWatch forums to someone who wanted to know how portfolio optimization applies to search marketing. Interestingly, the CEO of a firm we've for the most part crushed in the marketplace poked his head in to the forums he previously had never participated in, using his position of standing in the SEM community to try and undermine our firm's unique, advantageous portfolio algorithm approach to SEM.

Faced with such a vague, imprecise attack on the fundamental advantages of our well-established portfolio algorithms over the rules-based technology he and other firms currently employ, I put his obfuscation to rest in a subsequent post.

The saga continued today when said CEO used his ClickZ podium to repeat his arguments. Interestingly, he chose not only to ignore the reason he wrote the article in the first place, but also to address my response which, as I said, pretty much blows his arguments out of the water. That said, let me clear the record for my [limited] readership:

1)Neither man nor amphibian has been able to rationally argue against the overwhelming advantages of portfolio algorithms applied to paid search campaigns.

2)In light of the soft & easy-to-pierce underbelly of rules-based SEM firms and my firm's success in leading the market because of it, competitors really have no choice but to:

-speak mumbo-jumbo
-cling to research firms' whose opinions have never mattered yet always been up for sale

When I first learned about my firm's unique technology and approach to maximizing large search campaigns, I *knew* it was something that would help advertisers do better than the rest. Through hard work that continues to this day, that has come to pass, and seeing once-mighty competitors thrashing in vain only makes victory all the sweeter.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Gucci knock-offs, SEM-style

Because VC's are awash with money and because search is the new Comstock gold mine, lots of firms have been getting funded in the SEM space that really have no business existing. This is a testament to the me-too nature of most VC firms and ultimately the desperation with which larger investment firms, retirement funds and the like are trying to achieve return in a target-poor investment environment.

Take SearchForce, for example, who by all appearances has built their entire business model around copycatting Efficient Frontier. For over a year the CEO was buying EF's brand name on Google and Yahoo, and for as long as they've been around their marketing message has been an EF knock-off. Case in point:

Do a search for "maximize the effectiveness of millions of keywords" on Google and you'll notice that results 1-5 and 7-10 are EF press releases going back to 2004, before SearchForce even existed.

That, my friends, is plagiarism, and pretty blatant at that. At least some of our other competitors like 360i/SearchIgnite take the time to change a few words here and there rather than steal our marketing message outright.

Fortunately, it's not possible to copy EF's technology, experience and world-class team. As is the case with Chinese rip-offs of designer hand-bags, the sophisticated buyer will know the difference, hopefully before buying.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Edelman Chomps On Cookies At Vinny's Expense

Cookie deletion is something advertisers ask us about from time to time, and there's not much in the way of impartial data out there on the topic. Below is a study by Ben Edelman on the subject of cookie deletion by anti-spyware programs, which was sponsored by Vinny Lingham's Click2Customers, a 50-person search affiliate arbitrage firm out of Cape Town. Hopefully it helps advertisers for whom this is an issue. (study) (study summary by Vinnie Lingham) (ClickZ review of study) (cookie deletion revenue effects calculator)

Great Services I Learned About Through Search

Back in 1999-2000 when paid search was in its infancy and most of those now on the ppc bandwagon were poo-pooing the idea of paid search ads as relevant, a small startup named eBay was among the first to buy massive amounts of keywords on Y! Search Marketing (then GoTo) as well as RealNames (who had Google, AltaVista, MSN, Excite and others as ppc distribution partners back then). Most people first learned about eBay from continually seeing them in paid search results, proving just how important paid search can be in building a brand.

Fast forward to 2006 and there are a number of interesting firms whose services I first learned about through their paid search ads:

LegalZoom - I first found them while researching wills, and their business model is providing legal services - primarily legal documents such as wills, trusts, DBA's and incorporation - online and at a fraction of the cost of a lawyer.

ServiceMagic - I wrote about them before; they're the eBay of home services. Most recently I used them to find a firm to stain our house; given the high price of such a service I really wanted to look at multiple providers but didn't have the time to find them. ServiceMagic did that for me, putting me in touch with 5 providers in the space of 30 minutes and complete with customer reviews.

Wolfgangs Vault - if you like rock and roll memorabilia and search for it online, you often see, a site marketing a unique, near-priceless collection of rock & roll concert memorabilia collected by concern promoter Billy Graham (nee Wolfgang) during his 40 years of promoting everyone from Pink Floyd, Hendrix, Joplin, The Stones, LedZep, etc. The story behind this company is really cool.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Greeks - a dominant force in basketball

The Greek national team thoroughly outplayed the American team in the FIBA World Championship semi-finals today in Japan, sending the message that their numerous recent 2005 European championship was not a fluke.

I'm 100% Greek (dad born in Athens, mom born in Chicago but of Greek natives), and for today I am conveniently basking in the glory of all things Greek. It's also great to see the following names on a hoops roster:

Sofoklis Schortsianitis, aka "Baby Shaq"
Vassilis Spanoulis
Theodoros Papaloukas, aka John Stocktonopoulous
Mihalis Kakiouzis
Dimitris Diamantidis

We Greeks have more to offer than gyros, armless statues, shipping magnates and hairy chests...

Christophoros Georgilakis Zaharias

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