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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - August 2008

Welcome to the new issue of our monthly newsletter, covering the latest news in online and search engine marketing that can have an impact on your business.

This month has been another busy one for Google, including the launch of their Knol user-contributed resource and further rumours that they will buy Digg. They have also added some new enhancements to their Google AdWords PPC tool and we look at how these can help advertisers. We also review Cuil, the much-hyped new search engine that has just been launched and lays claim to be a serious competitor to Google. Finally we look at the recent changes to the Australian domain name system and how this may affect the domain resale market.

Read more about these stories below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subjects covered.

On to this month's edition...

New Google AdWords enhancements

Google has recently introduced a number of new or improved features within the AdWords Account Management area which help to improve the planning and targeting of PPC campaigns.

The first new enhancement has been the inclusion of search volume numbers in the keyword research tool. Previously any comparison between search term volumes reported by Google was limited to a small coloured bar which was not particularly useful, other than to provide some rank between different terms.

Google is now showing this data as actual numbers, although each search terms is given a figure that isn't specific, it does give a better impression of likely volumes over a monthly period and allows for better comparisons between terms. The accuracy of the data against 'live' campaign information for the same period looks good for most terms although some variation is evident although there can be other factors driving this figure.

Since the demise of the old Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool, Google's Keyword Tool has become the best free source of keyword data, particularly as it is also coming from the most popular search tool as well. With the inclusion of trend date over the past 12 months and rough estimating tools for ranking position and average cost per click based on bid prices, Google is continuing to develop this as a good planning tool, whether you are running a PPC campaign or looking at SEO development.

The second development introduced in the past month has been Placement Targeting, which is now a more prominent feature of an AdWords campaign and enables more control over the Content Targeted network, so that individual third-party websites can be targeted with keywords to achieve better targeting and bid price control.

Placement targeting can either be included within existing AdGroups, or set up as a separate campaign. A new Placements tab in the AdGroup control panel provides advertisers with the option of including this feature and targeting specific domains, or even sections of large sites, through a number of selection tools.

The advertiser's advert will still appear within the content targeted network if this is selected, but with Placement Targeting there is now more control over bidding strategies on domains that are more relevant to their market. You can select sites by browsing subject categories, searching sites related to keywords, or by finding similar sites to known domains that are relevant.

The list of suggested sites that Google presents includes details on the ad formats available and the likely impressions per day. The focus of the tool does leave something to be desired in some markets, but by selecting specific websites and adjusting bid levels, advertisers can put more focus on this part of their AdWords campaign and combine targeted sites with specific keywords for greater focus.

We are now experimenting with this new service to get the best results for clients. If you'd like to know more about how Placement Targeting can extend the performance of your Google AdWords campaign, please contact us for more details.

 

Will this be the search engine to rival Google?

Every few months the press will announce the launch of another new search engine that 'may' challenge the dominance of Google. The end of July has seen the launch of Cuil which has got the press more excited than usual and is notably different to many other new search engine launches, due to the people behind it.

Cuil - pronounced 'cool' from the Gaelic word for knowledge - has been launched by a number of ex-Google employees who worked on the development of Google's search technology. The site already claims to be the web's largest search engine, with "three times as many (pages) as Google and ten times as many as Microsoft".

They are also standing out on the privacy stakes by saying that "we believe that analyzing the Web rather than our users is a more useful approach, so we don't collect data about you and your habits, lest we are tempted to peek. With Cuil, your search history is always private." This is clearly a dig at Google and some of the other leading search engines, and a clear point of difference that they are trying to promote.

Also Cuil says that rather than rely on 'superficial popularity metrics' they search and rank pages based on their content and relevance, so that when a result is found they will analyze the rest of the resulting site's content as well as "its concepts, their inter-relationships and the page's coherency". In doing so, Cuil will offer users more choices and suggestions to give them enough information to find the page required and other relevant information.

It certainly sounds like a great concept and the search engine looks pretty good as well, with a clean black search page (to contrast with Google's clean-ish white page), and search engine results being presented in 3 columns (or 2 depending on the user's preference) within a frame, with many sites also displaying small images. There are no sponsored ads showing at the moment although there is space for these to appear later.

There's a typically detailed and insightful assessment of Cuil by Danny Sullivan over at Search Engine Land. The much-hyped launch has certainly attracted attention from the industry media as well as immediate criticism about the claims being made and the quality of the search results. Although there are some good functions in place, Cuil does seem to lack some of the depth and variety of results that Google now provides through its 'universal' search listings.

Cuil has certainly attracted a lot of attention and discussion from this launch. The question is whether it will catch on with users, most of whom are entrenched as Google-searchers, and so break into the market through the same process that originally made Google so successful - quality search results and word-of-mouth recommendation.

If you'd like to find out more about this new search engine and how your site may perform within their rankings, please contact us for further information.

 

Relaxation of Australian domain name rules

The purchasing of .au domain names has been under some of the tightest controls but recent changes have enabled some relaxation of the rules about the sale or transfer of Australian domain names. However, what are the potential implications for the market now?

Since the start of June the Australian Domain Name Administrator (auDA) has introduced some relaxation of the rules through their Transfers (Change of Registrant) Policy. This has allowed owners of .au domain names to resell them to third parties provided that the original registration of a domain name is not "for the sole purpose of resale".

Previously, the sale and transfer of Australian domain names wasn't permitted unless in a "whole-of-business" capacity which meant that it was not possible for a business to sell its domain name without selling off the entire business. However, the new rules mean that businesses can now sell domain names in their own right, subject to a number of conditions that are included to avoid potential 'cybersquatting' and speculation-based domain name trading.

These conditions demand that domain name buyers must adhere to a six-month "cooling off" period after the purchase of a new domain name, in which its resale will be prohibited. This 6-month period won't really make much difference to domain name speculators and it's reported that a small industry in domain name trading has now started, so that by December this year more transfers will take place, so long as there are also buyers.

New domains tend to have less value in the market especially if search engine marketing is a factor and many of the core domain names have already been purchased. There is also a higher value in .com domains, so how large this resale market of .au domain may become remains speculation at the moment. Critics say, however, that loosening the restrictions will lead to more unethical practices and the potential erosion of user trust in the way the market works.

If you would like more information about the new rules regarding domain name sales and how this may impact your business, please contact us for a further discussion.

 

Recent articles from The Marketing Workbench

The Marketing Workbench is our regular web marketing blog covering news and comment on Internet marketing events and trends. If you want to keep track of current stories you can visit this section of our website on a regular basis, or set up an RSS feed. These are just some of the items posted over the past month:

 

We hope you've found this month's issue useful. Please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website's performance. Also, if there are any issues you would like to see in future editions of this newsletter, please submit your suggestions to us.