Tuesday, March 27, 2007


One of our competitors issued PR today announcing that their SEM solution "is compliant with Google’s AdWords API terms and conditions."


-In order to be compliant they had to develop support for a minimum number of Google AdWords targeting features (geo-targeting, content bidding, negative keywords and site targeting, etc). Why, oh why, did they wait to build support for these important targeting features until Google told them that their continued use of the API was contingent upon it? [Hint: Google wants firms between it and its clients to actually do something of value.]

-EF built support for those features almost before they were even available via G's API. Why? Because we recognized our advertisers needed them.

Further in said PR, they state that their product "supports Google’s Quality Score by notifying users when keywords are not being served due to a low minimum cost-per-click (CPC)."


This means that the best the SEM firm in question's platform can do to 'support' Google's Quality Score is tell the advertiser that Google turned their oxygen supply off. Wow, thanks; now all I have to do is FIGURE EVERYTHING OUT MYSELF AS TO HOW TO DEAL WITH IT. [HINT: knuckling under to Google's monetization knob turning is not an option for many advertisers, but multi-metric, cross-keyword portfolio optimization is for some.]

If this is all they do to support Quality Score and they weren't doing it until recently, then what exactly were they doing on their clients' AdWords campaigns before?

Rain dances?
Witch doctors?

Tracking Data - Who Owns It

March 26th & 27th: someone from Google visits my blog twice, once after searching for 'QR Codes', and another time for "Onestat.com query 2,3".

March 26th: someone from Towerstream ends up on my blog after searching for "SEO SEM cannibalization".

March 26th: someone from Walgreens gets to my blog after searching for "keyword level tracking codes".

I own this data, but is it unlawful for me to take advantage of IP address knowledge to expose to the public what companies visit my blog? It's only a matter of time before web analytics will let us know who the individual visitor is, at which point things get verrrrry thorny.

Friday, March 16, 2007

SEM Solutions: Read the Fine Print

As more and more advertisers start to take search seriously and thus the need for SEM partners, there's generally more noise in the marketplace and less knowledge on the part of the buyer. One major, major point that I'd like to impart upon anyone considering SEM solutions, then, is to read the fine print.

For example, Aquantive's AtlasOnePoint might appear on the surface to be a passable SEM solution: it's available as a self-service ASP model which advertisers and agencies like, and works across all major search engines. Beautiful, splendid. Spend a little time reading their Atlas Search product brochure, however, and two deal-breakers emerge:

1) They admit it doesn’t work in opaque marketplaces. Check out the ** on page 3 of the product brochure (wherein on the right column they describe Campaign Optimizer, their ROI-based automated management feature) and the associated disclaimer at the bottom of page 3, which reads:

“Automated campaign optimization does not apply to engines with opaque bid landscapes.”

Given that 100% of the U.S. search market is now opaque (and 80%+ of the int'l market), that, folks, is all you should need to flush them out of the SEM consideration water. [Because virtually all SEM's are rules-based solutions, you should apply AOP’s admission to others as well.]

2) The core of their pitch (both for the entire Atlas marketing suite and any one component in particular), is that they can help the advertiser be aware of all the different components of their marketing efforts, and thereby properly attribute value to the appropriate channel. This sounds great, but the reality is that aside from providing a unified dashboard, they don’t actually do anything to enable the optimization or the advertisers’ use of that data. In the same way that you should ignore rules-based tools because they force infinite workloads on advertisers, advertisers should ignore cross-channel tracking/analytics platforms because they don’t do the math.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

French SEM Competition: The Trojan Horse

Today I was at Ad:Tech Paris where we had a stand and presented on keyword management. A recent Belgian-born London hire came with me for the trip and did the majority of booth duty.

And then something completely outrageous happened.

As I was walking by our booth with a guy I'm considering hiring to start our French sales efforts, I noticed two men sitting at the booth with my Belgian colleague; nice, I thought - a potential client interested enough to want to sit down and learn more.

Then the French sales candidate I was with says to me "Chris, do you know who that man is? He's the [Greek origin] CEO of eSearchVision, the #1 SEM in France."

Oh s#^t, I think to myself. So here's this guy claiming to be an advertiser interested in working with Efficient Frontier and who's really a competitor trying to figure out how we pitch and what we do. The guy does run an insurance website as a side project and for which he probably spends a few Euros here and there, but I doubt that's the reason he was pretty much asking my colleague to write down EF's secret mathematical sauce on a napkin, so to speak.

Unable to contain myself, I interrupted their conversation and asked these fine gentlemen if they would mind signing an NDA before continuing our discussions, at which point they looked like they'd just been caught cheating (they had).

Said CEO then told me that was unreasonable and they could just as well go talk to another SEM, at which point I responded by asking if one of them were with eSearchVision by chance. Proving once again that lies are like quicksand, the other guy said "eSearchVision, hmmmm, I don't know them. Aren't they based in London?"

CZ: "No, they're headquartered in Paris and will apparently be our biggest competition in Europe" [Due to their market lead, NOT technology or capabilities I might add]

At that point they looked ahead into space, then at each other, then got up and walked away silently.

Many of you have said in the past that you like hearing about what goes on in the SEM marketplace & including from a competitive standpoint, hence me taking the time write this down. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

When an SEM's leader has sufficiently little guts to do such a thing, how can you possibly count on him to manage your search spend?

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