Yahoo Search Growth Beats Google

November 21, 2006

Yahoo’s share of search traffic has grown faster than Google’s in the last year, according to new data from Nielsen//Netratings.

Nielsen’s October U.S. search share rankings show Yahoo with 1.46B searches, up 30% from last year and representing 23.9% of all U.S. searches. Google was used for 3.02B searches, up 23% from last year. Google is responsible for 49.6% of all Internet searches.

MSN/Windows Live Search fell 8% year-over-year. IAC InterActive Corp.’s Ask.com saw search traffic jump 25%, although the search engine only accounts for 2.8% of the market.

If you look at the data over the last three months (charts below), Yahoo and Google’s share of searches follows the same pattern. MSN, meanwhile, has shown a steady decline in number of searches (slight bump in October), while both Ask.com and AOL report steady growth.


Barnett Takes 2nd Turn vs. Google

November 20, 2006

November 06, 2006
By Brian Morrissey

NEW YORK Jim Barnett knows the perils of competing with Google. He saw firsthand how the company’s mastery of search vanquished early leaders like AltaVista (where he was CEO) and Excite.

Now, he’s striving to take on Google in the online advertising realm, where the Big G boasts the Internet’s largest ad network via AdSense, a system that puts links and banner ads on thousands of Web sites.
Despite AdSense’s success, Barnett believes the system has plenty of flaws, and he’s betting his new venture, Turn, will be able to take advantage of those weaknesses.

“It’s exhilarating,” Barnett said of the upcoming fight against Google. “They’re very good competition.”

San Mateo, Calif.-based Turn in recent months has attracted $18 million in venture backing from Norwest Venture Partners, Trident Capital and Shasta Ventures. Turn has about 1,000 advertisers in its system, which displays ads on approximately 30 sites.

Unlike Google, which charges advertisers on a per-click basis, Turn relies on a cost-per-action scheme. It charges advertisers only if users take desired actions, such as filling out registration forms or closing on sales. (A marketer such as Starwood, for example, could bid $20 for each hotel night booked, $3 for every e-mail sign-up and 75 cents for each site visit.)

Turn hopes to appeal to advertisers unhappy with poor conversion rates from their contextual campaigns and frustrated by the complexity of compiling keyword lists.

Turn has another key point of differentiation: It analyzes 60 factors to decide which ads to show users, weighing variables such as past behavior, publisher demographics, copy contents and brand quality. The system shows either text listings or display ads, choosing the option likely to yield the most revenue, Barnett said.


How to Win Links and Influence People – Part 2

November 20, 2006

By Jennifer Laycock – July 14, 2006

Viral marketing is one of the most difficult, yet cost effective methods of marketing available to the modern small business owner. That makes it a pretty tempting area to start digging into but many small businesses still find themselves wondering just how to start a viral campaign. As with many forms of online marketing, it’s sometimes necessary to take a step back and realize that common sense is one of the most powerful weapons in your creative arsenal.

That’s what has led to this three part series that focuses on taking the common sense tenets found in Dale Carnegie’s best-seller “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and applying them to various forms of online marketing. In part one of this series I talked about how to apply Carnegie’s tenets to link baiting and link building. Today, in part two, we’ll be looking at how some of his tenets can be applied to viral marketing.

Viral Marketing

Almost any marketing site you visit these days is filled with inspiring stories of the creative little idea that sparked enormous increases in traffic and sales by spreading like wildfire across the Internet. With blogging, podcasting and social networking continuing to grow at staggering rates, viral marketing stands poised to continue to be one of the most explosive ways of driving traffic and sales to your web site without spending your way back out of the black.

With that in mind, it’s important to realize that viral marketing is about more than coming up with a hysterical video file that can be passed from friend to friend via email. It’s about understanding what it is that incites people to share their findings with others and using that knowledge to launch your own viral campaign. That’s where some of Carnegie’s common sense statements come into play.

Tenet #1: Talk in Terms of Other People’s Interests

One of the key points to remember when you’re coming up with and launching a viral campaign is that you have to be willing and able to find out what interests other people and that you must then play off of those interests. No blogger or forum poster out there wants to talk about you or your product just to help you make more money, they’ll want to talk about you or your product because they find it to be interesting.

That’s part of why the best viral marketing campaigns tend to be based around unique, innovative, or humorous offerings. People are interested in what’s new and different and if you can find a way to spark those passions with your offering, chances will be much higher than your viral campaign will take off.

Tenet #2: Make the Other Person Feel Important

This tenet plays a huge role in the spread of any viral marketing campaign. Everyone loves to be the person showing up at the party with the best story or the most funniest joke that hasn’t yet been heard. People also love to be the one to introduce their friends and acquaintances to things that those friends will love. Why? Because it makes the spreader of the idea look “cool.”

Think back to the days when Gmail launched. Invitations to Gmail were so sought after that they were selling for up to $100 each on eBay. Why? Not because Gmail itself was so special, but because those in the tech industry wanted the prestige of having early access to a Gmail account. Those that got Gmail accounts then got to feel special by offering up the chance to be “cool, but a little less cool” to the next person in line.

Tenet #3: Appeal to Nobler Motives

Not every viral marketing campaign is based off the “cool” factor or the “funny” factor. Some ideas and campaigns spread because people feel passionate about the cause. Think of the emails that show up in your inbox every now and then asking you to send a card to little Billy Smith to help him get into the Guinness Book of World records before he dies of cancer. Sure, we all know that the email is likely a hoax, yet people keep passing it on because they want to feel like they are helping someone.

Viral campaigns sometimes spread well because they appeal to people’s passions and ideas. Don’t be afraid to launch a viral campaign that focuses around support for your favorite charity or for a special cause. There’s certainly nothing wrong with being associated with helping others. Even if it doesn’t directly impact sales, it can impact your public image.

Tenet #4: Frame Requests in Terms of What Other’s Might Find Motivating

I’m pretty sure that Dale Carnegie never envisioned a world with the Internet and blogs, but this tenet delivers some pretty powerful advice when it comes to dealing with bloggers and viral marketing campaigns. Unlike traditional advertising, viral campaigns are not bought and paid for in order to gain placement. That means that you have to build a relationship with a blogger and plant the viral seeds in a way that gets them motivated.

Basically, you need to ask yourself “Why would this person do what I’m asking them to do?” If you don’t have a good answer, chances are that your campaign needs a bit more tweaking.

Which leads to my own personal philosophy of viral marketing. Once again, we’ll call it…Jen’s Tenet.

Jen’s Tenet: Ideas Spread Because They Are Important to the Spreader, NOT the Originator

This one really sums up all of the points made above and is probably the best single sentence of advice that I can come up with in terms of viral marketing success. Most people are not in the habit of going out and promoting companies just to be nice. That said, people as a whole DO tend to have the innate desire to pass on thoughts and ideas that are important to them.

That means that the most important part of creating any viral marketing campaign is taking a step back to look objectively at your campaign. If you can’t come up with at least a few reasons that someone who has never met you before might want to spread the word, then you need to go back to the drawing board.

In the final article of this three-part series, I’ll take a look at how some of Carnegie’s bits of advice can be applied to the concept of online reputation management.


Copywriting Makeover: Facts vs. Fantasy (Part 1 of 2)

November 15, 2006

By Karon Thackston – November 14, 2006

Time for a pop quiz! Name three products that sell better when a facts-based approach to copy is taken. Just off the top of my head I’d say computers, fax machines and microwave ovens. Now, name three products that sell best when the copy is romanticized. Travel, fur coats and jewelry are good examples. Knowing when to use facts and when to use fantasy was a problem JuliesJewels.com had on one particular website page. Let’s see how approaching the copy differently brought this e-commerce company greater success.

The Problems

One of the hardest things to learn as a copywriter is which focus or approach to take with copy. There are general guidelines to follow, but experience will tell you that there are almost as many exceptions as there are rules. However, in the case of JuliesJewels.com’s Moissanite jewelry page, it was obvious we had a clear lack of — and a clear need for more of — emotion.

For those who may not be acquainted with Moissanite stones, they were created in a laboratory by a Nobel Peace Prize-winning scientist. They are made of a replicated mineral that was originally found in a meteorite that crashed to earth thousands of years ago. However, unlike cubic zirconia (CZ), they are extremely hard and do not form a cloudy appearance over time. Moissanite offers the brilliance of a diamond without the flashy price.

Now, the guideline goes: If you have a product that is unfamiliar to the marketplace, you will want to educate your site visitors while you sell to them. However, sometimes “educate” gets confused with “provide facts.” This was one problem Julie’s page suffered from.

As I read the original copy (PDF) terms like “replica” and “lab” and “wholesale” struck me as cold and undescriptive. Yes, they were absolutely true, but they completely disregarded the wonder and enchantment brought about by one of these manmade diamonds.

While a few words like “beauty” and “lustrous” were included, they did little to help a man feel proud and confident that he was choosing a gorgeous piece his wife or girlfriend would swoon over. It didn’t evoke any emotions in women who lack the funds and the desire to spend thousands on diamonds yet still dream of jewelry that is as unique as they are.

Another challenge was the page’s so-so performance in the search results. Considering how horribly competitive most jewelry terms are with regard to search rankings, Julie’s positioning for this page wasn’t too bad. The Moissanite jewelry page usually bounced between positions 11 and 30 on the major engines. However, the goal was to push the page as high as possible while driving visitors deeper into the category.

The Solutions

The key points that needed to be made on the Moissanite jewelry page were these:

1) Moissanite is the next best thing to a diamond, closely replicating a diamond’s luster, vibrance and quality.
2) Unlike CZs, Moissanite jewels are rare, not a victim of a flooded marketplace.
3) While not considered “cheap,” Moissanite is definitely affordable.

To prepare myself for writing this page, I looked over the various other pages of the Julie’s Jewels site. I wanted to dream a bit about the earrings, rings, necklaces and other pieces I could find Moissanite stone in.

As I clicked from page to page, I took notes about what I saw, what I felt and how I reacted to the pictures of the jewels. I also went to various diamond websites. Since Moissanite is almost as hard as diamonds and since it so closely resembles the characteristics of diamonds, many of the adjectives used to describe diamonds would also be applicable to Moissanite stones.

Lastly, I thought about who would be buying these gemstones and why. Perhaps a man who truly wanted to impress his fiancé, but who didn’t have the money to pay for a one-carat or two-carat diamond ring. Maybe a woman who wanted a pendant that was truly exceptional, but didn’t care to pay the extensive markup usually found on diamond jewelry. While the reasons might vary, the common denominators were that beauty and quality mattered as much as price. Once I had a good grasp of the target audience and the products, I set out to write a new category page.


Google’s Schmidt Grilled At Conference

November 14, 2006
By Natali T. Del Conte

Eric Schmidt, chief executive officer of Google, sat in the hot seat at the keynote session for the Web 2.0 Summit on Tuesday. He was asked to explain moves such as the YouTube acquisition, the company’s employment strategy, and their “office suite,” which he does not like to call an office suite.

John Batelle, founder and chairman of Federated Media Publishing and author of “The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture,” got the rare privilege of being able to ask Schmidt whatever he wanted for a little over 30 minutes.

“So why did you buy YouTube? Was Google Video not doing well?” Batelle asked.

Read our review of the Google Docs & Spreadsheets app.

“Because we liked them,” Schmidt said. “Actually Google Video was doing extraordinarily well. It was growing fast but we went over and visited the YouTube group and their business was growing even faster and so we wanted to be a part of that.”

Schmidt admitted that even though YouTube has the right idea in terms of socially networking video, Google has the golden ticket for driving traffic.

When Batelle complimented Schmidt on the company’s office suite, including Google Docs and Spreadsheets, Schmidt took issue with the “office suite” moniker.

“The argument goes like this: For many people, it would be just as easy to have the computer in the cloud store the information that you use everyday. Furthermore, if you have that model, it should enable very rapid sharing so we embarked on a strategy more than a year ago to build applications that are focused on sharing and collaboration,” he said. “The sum of that is a different way of managing information and we don’t position it as an office suite. We position it as something you’d use everyday in everyday life.”

“Yes, but it is still a replacement for Office,” countered Batelle.

“We don’t see it as a replacement of Office. The focus we have is not the focus they have,” Schmidt said, referring to Microsoft. “Our focus is on casual sharing and casual collaboration.”

But Batelle was not having it. “But the benefit is that its free.”

“Well you could pay people to use your product,” said Schmidt. And that was the end of that.

Schmidt was further questioned about the company’s focus on radio, newspapers, and wikis.

“The company may appear to be chaotic but it is actually very, very coherent,” he said.

He also discussed the company’s challenge to the Patriot Act, an appropriate topic for voting day.

“We will do whatever it takes to follow both the law and the principles,” Schmidt said. “We have a system of law and we won’t win everything but we’re going to try very hard and we will follow the decision of a federal judge. There is clearly going to be somebody who tests the limits of the Patriot Act and its an important constitutional issue. If we don’t like it, we can replace the people that have made those laws.”

The Web 2.0 Summit began on Tuesday and runs through Thursday in San Francisco.


14 Tactics to Make Your Website Work Harder Right Now: Tactic 13 – Get Listed, Get a Little Bit Famous

November 9, 2006

Posted by Karri Flatla November 03, 2006
Without back links, your site is invisible to the search engines. Just remember to temper your link lust with the idea that, as with most things in life, quality trumps quantity. Pursue listings in popular directories as well as niche directories that have the ability to attract very targeted traffic. (If someone goes to the trouble to find you in Kudzu, he is probably looking for something very specific. He is also probably comfortable shopping online.) Ensure good returns on the time you spend trying to get back links and follow each directory’s submission guidelines to the letter.

Once you have a few directory listings, get in touch with some of your colleagues in related industries and see if they might be interested in linking back to you. One way links are generally best, but if your site is new and/or a relative unknown, a reciprocal link exchange with a reputable, high-traffic site will help the search engines find and index your pages. That’s important.

TIP: If you can’t get into Dmoz, relax. It does not mean you’re doomed to remain on the Internet fringe forever. Lots of fantastically successful sites are not listed in Dmoz. Keep in mind that such directories are edited by real people, usually volunteers (as is the case with Dmoz). Given the volumes of submissions these directories receive, many of which are poorly written or just plain spammy, it’s amazing anyone get’s listed before their funeral.


October 2006 Technorati Update

November 8, 2006

Posted by Matt Bailey November 07, 2006

David Sifry’s Updates released the State of the Blogosphere for the month of October.

Obviously, Blogging is still on the upswing. Technorati is tracking over 57 Million blogs (and growing).Interestingly, about 55% of blogs have been updated at least once in the past three months, which is an increase in the number of active blogs.

The was a slight decrease in the number of blogs created per day – it’s only a paltry 100,000 per day now. Part of this slowing growth in Technorati, as Sifry explains, is due to better screening of “splogs” or spam blogs. The algorithm has gotten much better at detecting and screening the massive amounts of blogs that spammers create. Most are being blocked before they even publish out to Technorati, simply because they are coming from known sources of spam.

There are a lot of great numbers for blog fiends. For one – the trend of blogs finding themselves in the top 100 media sites, which is growing significantly. Technorati is also working on developing a system to track authority bloggers – ones that have a good track record and analyzing their behavior.

This is a great report analyzing the continued growth and maturation of a young technology – a lot of great stuff for that next report or pitch.