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In the B2B market, an efficient PPC campaign needs to capture and motivate prospects throughout the decision-making and sales cycles; while always understanding that intent and CTR are not always uniquely matched with either the research or buying phase.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Microsoft Video Hyperlink Innovation

Yet again Microsoft is too busy trying to come up wit the coolest marketing innovation to worry about trying to build up market share by getting real search volumes. It seems like they are trying to build the best search engine for advertisers to play with; with adLabs and now the Video Hyperlink capabilities. But nobody is using MSN for search - well, only 10% of people. And honestly, the embedded advertising in videos or the new social video sharing is really only cool to advertisers, people might get a kick out of it, but it isn't cool enough to get the masses off of YouTube.

I like all of Microsoft's API tools - they are vastly more innovative than alot of the other engine's tools in development, but for right now, I'm using them as an instrument for tweaking my Google and Yahoo! campaigns. Because no matter what I do, I can't seem to get enough action in MSN. My CTR and conversions are great, but my impressions suck in comparison to the other engines strictly because of available volume.

These tools have the advertsier in me excited, but the consumer in me is pretty dulled by the whole thing. I can't help but feel like a frosted shredded wheat commercial.

You know that Microsoft is obviously worried about being number three in what seems to be a 2 man race, but why then are they focusing all their R&D efforts on the advertisers and not the consumers - it's basic marketing gone backwards - for god's sake, give us poepl willing to buy and we'll advertise anywhere, cool tools or not.

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Free Analytics from MSN

In another attempt to steal market share, MSN is setting itself up to release a beta test of their own free analytics - code named "Gatineau" - the home of MSN's latest acquisition Deep Metrix, an analytics company. (All along the same lines as Google's acquisition of Urchin to later become Google Analytics.)

In the coming months, Microsoft expects to launch an invitation-only beta to test the tool says Ian Thomas, who heads the Gatineau project for Microsoft's Digital Advertising Solutions team. "We hope to release this product during 2007; however, we're extremely keen to avoid a repeat of Google's experience with Google Analytics, so we will be ramping up our user numbers gradually to make sure everyone has a good experience from a performance perspective."

After its release, Google Analytics was so inundated that it stopped accepting new users - making hopefuls wait for months for an accepted invitation. MSN wants to avoid this turmoil, and position itself for the inevitable onslaught of users. This has to be making such giants as WebTrends and Omniture a little worried; as it is almost certain that MSN and Google will divide the entire small business market and at least be a secondary resource for online giants to cross compare analytics suites. (Want more information? Look at Manoj Jasra's take on the analytics game.) I know that that when I look at analytics packages, there is always a rather large discrepancy across the board; and in my experience, Google provides the best data in relationship to Adwords and website activity.

However, MSN will still be under the same pervading thumb - it may be coming out with very cool and effective tools for marketers (adCenter Labs, etc.), but what it doesn't have is the necessary market share for advertising. Sure the CTR might be strong, as well a the conversion rates for e-retailers using adCenter, but the search volume isn't there to make MSN a player in the search game. Tools be dammed, the people have to be there first!

What will Microsoft's answer be? Watch for them to start talking to the falling and C-suite shuffling Yahoo! - might be the biggest M&A market grab since Coors and Molson.

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Content Match in Long Consideration Phases

Lately, I have been testing the value of content matching for a B2B client with a very long consideration phase - in excess of one year - and with a product\solution valued deep within the six figures. What I am finding is that content match is generating far more leads than traditional SERP advertising.


My theory is that PPC ads are perceived as more relevant and trustworthy when embedded in the content of a relevant website.

It seems to make sense.

The user is already in a research frame of mind as they are looking through forums and other content when they see your ad. From a branding perspective, the peripheral ad is linked to the relevant content, and even though your company may not be officially sponsoring the forum, there is a natural affinity between your brand and the content the user is engaged with. What this translates into is a higher CTR, but more importantly, a significantly higher conversion rate.

The test continues...

But there is a vast difference between a lead and a sale - this is why I am taking my tests another step forward to identify that content conversion and continue to watch it through to a final sale. This means taking the analytics offline and integrating online marketing with sales - seems like a no brainer, but this doesn't happen very often. More than likely it is because of the scope in question, but I think the lessons learned from watching a few sponsored leads will be worth the extra effort - the client thinks so too.

As well, we need to determine what it is in the content ad that anchors a user - what draws the eye away from the website and towards the embedded ad? Is it because the placement of the ad is not as determined as it is in a SERP? Is it the messaging and the factor of relevancy to the website the ad is displayed on? Or is content matching better at capturing those early stages of the buying funnel that SERP ads, or even better than leader boards and banners? These are questions that deserve some further research, and ones that we at Enquiro will be putting on the docket very soon.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Sponsored Predictions for 2007

I would be entirely remiss if in the first week of the new year I did not write a post on my predictions for the upcoming 361 days - at least in so far as they apply to Sponsored opportunities. (Maybe I should post a follow-up in mid-year to see if I was on the level?)

  1. Google will, by year end, open up its test of graphic ad insertion to the general advertising public - meaning content matched graphic ads will allow advertisers to create a larger brand blanket, displaying ads in smaller, more regionalized pages to more effectively target niche consumers. As well, websites will be able to display a higher caliber of graphic ads without having direct relationships with larger brands - think of a Nike Golf ad on a local course website.
  2. The major search engines will integrate more and more customization for the end-user, making behavioral targeting more and more effective; however, this is entirely reliant on the search engines pushing not only all the extra tools linked to a MyYahoo! or customized Google - but also creating some type of incentive strategy for getting users to impart actual personalized information to the engines. Microsoft has probably made the biggest inroads in using the Messenger database to enable behavioral targeting - but they have yet to link that information with some form of IP recognition and a "critical mass" in MSN Live. Think of these as the baby steps, by the end of the year - because of the push for more and more relevancy - this behavioral baby will be running and tearing up the living room like all toddlers do.
  3. Cell phones and social networking have reached a critical mass - by the end of the year these tools will be more and more integrated. Imagine a MySpace profile merged with a cell phone number and contract information... throw in triangulation capabilities and open CRM and real-time inventory.... By year end you will have the ability to target a specific mobile user walking by the GAP in downtown San Francisco on Friday with an ad/coupon for buy 2 get 1 free on all screened baby-t's, because according to her shared MySpace profile she loves vintage tight t-shirts and her favorite day of the week is Friday (payday).
  4. Research will focus on how to reach users across multiple touch points with sponsored advertising, and not just focus on the ready to buy consumer. Consideration phases have been stretched, and in addition, competitors are constantly mugging your Brand - as a result, sponsored strategies need to look at reaching a Researcher, Window-Shopper, and Follow-Up Customer by behavioral intent. In order to do this though, more research has to be conducted and analytics have to become more robust to track assists, various conversion types, and life-time value of a single initial visit - it will happen - even if we have to lead the way in making sure it does happen.
  5. Video, Video, Video. Popular culture is shifting away from television sets and onto the Internet. The two technologies are already merging with digital recording and pay-per-view, not to mention the cross-over between desktop and big-screen TV - for those of us that have 36" plus monitors. Currently, sponsored video ads are glossed over by frustrated surfers, but with more and more popular online video content and the focus on having highly relevant ads - the effectiveness of sponsored video will grow - in other words, get in now. However, always keep in mind that a user is a person that is motivated by emotions... try video ads that are humorous, even if you are selling EDI - even IT Managers have senses of humor.
There are so many more... to quote Hamlet, "there are more things in heaven and earth than are ever dreamt of in your philosophies" - but I am trying in the new year to make sure my posts are less than 5000 words. Maybe tomorrow I will put up some more.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New US Stats for Online Activity

On December 15th, the US Census Bureau released some new statistics about online user activity; namely:
  • That adults and teens will spend nearly five months (3,518 hours) next year watching television, surfing the Internet, reading daily newspapers and listening to personal music devices.
  • Among adults, 97 million Internet users sought news online in 2005, 92 million purchased a product and 91 million made a travel reservation. About 16 million used a social or professional networking site and 13 million created a blog.
  • There were 278 million debit cards in U.S. hands in 2004, with 22.2 billion transactions amounting to more than $1 trillion.
  • Over $300 billion worth of consumer transactions were conducted online in 2005.
Pew and Associates have noted that there has been an over 500% increase in social networking in 2006 above the previous year. This means that over 80 million users are creating content through blogs, forums, or other social networking avenues - what's more, these social network websites are being used for research and purchasing. More so, all of these social avenues have an element of sponsored activity, be it through content ads, blog sponsorship, or leaderboards - what's more, there is an inherent ability to leap frog consumer touch points to shrink the consideration phase.

If you are not paying attention to social channels - you should be... $300 billion worth and growing...

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