Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Google’s IYP killer

October 6, 2009

In Google creates a new simplified ad unit for local business, Greg Sterling takes a new advert for small to medium enterprise, i.e. the Internet Yellow Pages market, through its paces. Google has been trying to enter the SME market for a while, but from everything we’ve seen their churn has been horrific. This means despite the numerous incentives that Google throws at SMEs to get them to sign up to start Adwords — normally anything from €25-€200 free ads — most SMEs quit within their first year. Google has hinted for a while that it will start a simplified approach that will appeal to small business owners, but has not done much in the market apart from some opening moves in the Local Business Centre.

The classical trifecta are all there: a great landing page, transparent reporting and the ability to buy additional visitors and leads. What makes this particularly interesting (and confrontational to IYPs) is that SMEs can buy traffic and leads based on a ‘cat-locale’ i.e. a combination of location (business or search) and search categories. In addition, typical IYP product add-ons such as a click-to-call are included, except now of course the call ‘whisper’ (the brief introduction at the start of each call before it’s connected) says “This call is brought to you by Google” and the delivered lead is reported in your overview. As you’d expect, reporting also means you see where your clicks and leads are coming from. Pricing is flat rate and contracts can be cancelled quickly.

Google continues to test whether (as IYP wisdom says) you require a real sales force to get SME market penetration. It is interesting that Google’s basic problem is less in sales and more in retention — i.e. customer acquisition seems adequate but their churn is painful. IYPs have started investing, and in a number of cases, succeeding with fully automated solutions to deliver guaranteed click and lead products (common in Europe, but for how long, we shall see) and budget-based packages. If they can do it without customer care, why can’t Google? It seems more likely that Google’s go-to-market and product approach was wrong. Whether they can achieve the penetration they want only with online sign-up, or whether they’ll need to take on a larger cross-media advertising approach, perhaps combined with T-sales, remains to be seen. One positive side effect of Google’s approach up until now (at least for Google) is that although SMEs may not have stuck with Google they are unlikely to have gone back to traditional IYP products since the perception is radically altered once you’ve bought a few clicks at €0.50 each, i.e. Google SME products accelerate the market fragmentation, even if they are not themselves successful. In this way, they become part of the baying pack of dogs trying to bring IYPs down, even if they don’t become the new top dog.

Although this is only a test in a couple of US metros, I can’t believe that IYPs will take this lying down. Google is still pretty dependent on IYP and telco feeds in the US, so I’d expect US IYPs to kick them back where it hurts: this means war.

Juicy link building

May 5, 2009

I saw Christopher Cemper’s presentation on juicy link building at Affiliates 4 U Expo in Amsterdam and I was very impressed. Some of the highlights:

  • Ignore page rank
  • Focus on natural link building the way that users would do it, from trusted and relevant domains

Particularly the one struck me as interesting. Two things Christopher highlighted as being red flags to Google’s spam fighting bull:

  • Using the best possible anchor text and keeping this same across multiple new links that go live around the same time
  • Having no nofollows in your links

The non-intuitive guidance that flows from this is that if you want Google to pay attention to the many links from trusted and relevant domains, you need add in some ‘fibre’ to the Googlebot diet. This fibre is what makes your link building relatively indistiguishable from the common-or-garden users who would be writing about and linking to your site. Crazily, this means that once you have found and persuaded trusted and relevant domains to link to you you actually need to ask some of them to use a nofollow or use anchor text for which you have no chance of being found in Google (like click here ).

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Voice activated Google iPhone app?

November 17, 2008

John Markoff, writing in the New York Times, says that Google is about to release a new version of their great mobile search app that allows voice-activated searches — any day now. Google has apparently released the app and Apple is now testing it before it will appear (for free) in the app store.

As Mr Markoff writes: “Users of the free application… can place the phone to their ear and ask virtually any question, like “Where’s the nearest Starbucks?” or “How tall is Mount Everest?” The sound is converted to a digital file and sent to Google’s servers, which try to determine the words spoken and pass them along to the Google search engine. The search results, which may be displayed in just seconds on a fast wireless network, will at times include local information, taking advantage of iPhone features that let it determine its location.”

It sounds pretty incredible — although folks like Spinvox have been talking about voice activated search, implicitly baked into voicemail for a while. Google has, not surprisingly, been thinking similar thoughts. In fact, Google rolled out voice search by phone a few years back, but found the integration between phone and desktop unsatisfactory (and probably the voice recognition was not as good then).

“This is an expansion of types of applications Google has already been developing,” stated Greg Sterling, an analyst at Sterling Market Intelligence. “Google has GOOG411, which is the underlying technical engine. They also have a voice-search client for the BlackBerry which is limited to maps. So this is an evolutionary step.”

“Google has confidence now that voice recognition is good enough to open it up to the full Web search as opposed to the much more structured search on GOOG411.”

Microsoft’s Tellme does voice-recognition by mobile for films or for directions. Yahoo offers some services through oneSearch.

“In one sense this is new, but it’s not new, because Yahoo and Microsoft have been doing versions of voice recognition — and so has Google — for some time,” Sterling said. “A company called Dial Directions was the first to formally introduce voice search for the iPhone, but it was limited to selected local sites through the Safari browser.”

Google’s AdManager comes out of beta to form a real challenge to OpenX

August 26, 2008

If it’s good enough for Google Suggest — Google has recently announced that they their AdManager has moved from private beta to a public release. AdManager is aimed at publishers with small direct sales teams. It includes some nice features out of the box, mostly focussed on tracking directly sold and network-based inventory, then enabling the sale, measurement and provisioning of this. Naturally, there is tight integration with AdSense and multi-lingual support is excellent. There is also reasonable third party network integration. Some of the time in beta testing has led to new features such as time dependent rollout and previewing of ads. A sophisticated inventory management and provisoning system like this is no small investment and it’s a classic Google move to make it free to level the playing field — or to raise the competitive moat to monopoly level, depending on how you look at it. In this case, existing competition gives away its software to advertisers, and makes money, just like Google does, from the advertisers.

It seems unlikely for competition like UK-based OpenAds (now called OpenX) to be running scared. With chairing by former AOL head Jonathan Miller, more than $20 million in backing and an impressive roster of customer names, OpenX may be just looking to take their 30,000 customers into the arms of a competitor. However, Microsoft got hold of Atlas when it acquired aQuantive, so why it would want OpenX is anyone’s guess.

Note that AdManager is fully hosted and a closed proprietary system, unlike OpenX which allows its publishers to host it and to extend its PHP code base. OpenX’s CTO, Scott Switzer has also pointed out that a good number of publishers may not want to add another piece in the Google monopoly puzzle. On the flip side, many small publishers may love the ease of how  software-as-a-service enables them to get live quickly.