Top Search Stories - February 2008


Google improves mobile search service

Google's recent updates to its mobile search service aim to deliver a faster and more intuitive mobile search experience. Instead of leaving users to sift through results from both the mobile and regular search, the new service trawls all sources - including web, mobile, news articles, local business listings, images, etc. and then lists the most relevant results. From a local search perspective, the service will now remember recent search locations of a user and factor this data into future results.

Steve Cheng, Google's mobile search product manager, commented: "With millions of mobile phones in use worldwide, our goal is to make the Google search experience even more useful and relevant for users on the go."

IPA forms new search group

The recent launch of the IPA Search Group promises tangible benefits for practitioners within the search marketing industry. The group, whose task it will be to help the sector mature, has marked its launch by issuing agency guidelines guarding against the use and mis-use of client trademarks in search engine marketing. Advertisers are becoming increasingly concerned that the misuse of trademarks is leading to a loss in website traffic and sales and is ultimately damaging brands.

Another key function of the group will be to push search engines for improved service levels, greater protections and increased clarity. Through talks with the major paid for search providers such as Google, the search group has compiled a document clarifying current and future policies. The document will remain under constant review to ensure it keeps up to date with any industry developments.

New online consumer study for travel sector

Google UK and ComScore Inc. recently unveiled the results of a study which looked at online consumer behaviour within the travel sector. The research has revealed that it takes the average consumer about one month, from the time the initial search is made, to make a purchase. During this process a prospective buyer will visit 22 websites and make 12 searches using travel terminology.

Another major finding of the research, which measured consumer behaviour through Q1 2007 across the major UK search engines, is that the majority of online consumers use generic search terms during their customer journey. The study goes on to highlight the potential of advertising against a generic search term.

Google UK's Robin Frewer, Industry Leader, Travel said: "The fact that users are using more generic search queries gives ample opportunity for brands to attract new customers and brands that are not present during these searches are missing out on sales."

Google tests bidding by demographics

Google is testing demographic bidding for AdWords on its content network in both the UK and US markets. A select group of advertisers will run demographically targeted campaigns during this phase of testing.

There will be two ways to use demographic bidding. Firstly, bids can be modified for a particular audience segment e.g. increasing bids for 25-34 year-old males. Secondly, advertisers can narrow ads by elimination, choosing certain demographic groups that they do not want to show their ads to (possibly based on prior knowledge that the demographic in question is not meeting ROI goals).

These changes are reminiscent of the demographic-targeting functionality of Microsoft's AdCenter, which featured heavily in the company's 2006 marketing for the release of the ad platform.

Google claims to be able to target the data from 'anonymised' user information and plans a full rollout later in the year.

Microsoft launches adCenter add-in for Excel 2007

The new add-in allows Microsoft to integrate several of its advanced keyword technologies and valuable data into Excel 2007. The tool, which will allow users to conduct keyword research within the Excel programme itself, is based on the Microsoft Keyword Services Platform (KSP). Microsoft plans to utilise this tool to enable third party developers to build applications with Microsoft keyword technologies.

Product features include:

·         Keyword Search Volume Historical and Forecast - daily and monthly keyword traffic data, including forecasting.
·         Keyword Demographic analysis.
·         Keyword Expansion - 3 different expansion algorithms: campaign association, fast contained and category simulation.
·         Keyword Monetisation - includes all monetisation information (CPC, CTR, etc.) for keyword lists.
·         Keyword Buzz - users can find buzz keywords in its 300+ verticals.
·         Keyword Geographic analysis.
·         Keyword Categorisation.

Microsoft Bids $45 Billion To Buy Yahoo

Microsoft Corp has offered to buy Yahoo for $44.6bn (£22.4bn) in cash and shares, in an attempt to create an online search and advertising group that can rival market leader Google.

The deal, which is currently being considered by the board of Yahoo, would unite one of the internet's largest and oldest destinations, Yahoo, with Microsoft's MSN platform in the biggest internet merger since AOL bought Time Warner for $112bn in 2000.

Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer sent a letter to Yahoo's board offering $31 per share in cash and stock, which would see Yahoo shareholders receiving either cash or Microsoft shares (0.9509 of shares per 1 Yahoo share).  Ballmer commented : "When you combine the strengths of our two companies the result will be an incredibly efficient and competitive offering for consumers, for advertisers and for publishers,"

The deal would mark one of the largest takeovers in American corporate history, and the largest in the technology sector. Yahoo shares have already risen sharply since the news broke on 1 Feb, climbing 48.75 per cent to $28.53 per share.

Google warns that the merger raises "Troubling questions" about the future of the internet. Writing on the official Google Blog, David Drummond, Google's chief legal officer has warned that a takeover would create a business with an "overwhelming share" of online communications services of web-based email and instant messaging.

The industry will watch and wait to see what happens next. Greenlight CEO, Warren Cowan said: "This acquisition would be monumental for the industry. It essentially means that a 3 horse race will become a 2 horse race.  Neither Microsoft nor Yahoo have been able to successfully compete against Google. Microsoft feel like they would be paying a fair premium for Yahoo and with a stake in Facebook and the acquisition of aQuantive, Microsoft might finally be a serious competitor for Google. It's about time this happened, they've been flirting with the idea for a long time."

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