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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter: February 2011

Welcome to the new issue of our monthly newsletter, which looks at the latest news and developments in the field of web search and online marketing.

This month we begin a two-part look at Google Places and why this is an important feature for your business, particularly if you are targeting a local market. In this issue we cover the process of claiming or adding your business listing, and the verification process, while next month we'll look at the optimisation of your listing to add information for users and search engines.

We also cover 2 of the leading news stories from the search market in the past month - firstly, the introduction of Bing's search results on the Yahoo search engine, and also the surprise appointment of Google's co-founder, Larry Page, as the new CEO of the business.

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subject. We are also reporting the main news stories during each month in our regular web marketing blog or you can get the latest updates by following our Twitter account.

On to this month's edition...

Claim your Google Place!

The recent changes by Google to the way that local search results are being displayed has placed even more focus on the importance of the Google Places listings and, in particular, what local businesses need to do in order to increase their presence. If your business doesn't yet appear within the Google Places results, or you need to claim and optimise your listing, then it's time to act!

Google has been developing their local business listings over the past few years, providing searchers with a directory of relevant businesses in a local area. Initially the business listings are taken from Yellow Pages and therefore the information is dependent on what Yellow Pages holds (which can also sometimes be significantly out of date!). However, Google gives business owners to opportunity to 'claim' their listing and then to add additional content to help improve ranking visibility and to provide more information for users.

The best way to check how your business is being listed is to search for your business name and location on Google Maps. If you have some type of listing then your business should appear in the results to the left of the map. If not, it may mean that your business listing is not even on Yellow Pages or Google, or that the information is inaccurate or out of date.

If your business is listed, click on the 'more info' link to see the details being shown for the location, and then select the 'Business owner?' link to the top right of the listing. You need to sign-in or set-up a new Google account to access this, but once done, you can edit the information or add any new content. Before any of this information is then accepted by Google, you need to verify your listing via a mailing to your stated business address, or sometimes via an automated phone message - both of which will provide a verification code for you to input against your listing to prove that you are the rightful owner.

If your listing doesn't appear at all, then you can still set up the new details on Google Places, once you've logged into your Google account. Again, you will need to verify the details and, as a new listing, you will only be able to do this via a mailing to your business address. However, once done, your listing will be accessible from your Google account and you can add or update information as necessary in the future.

This is the essential first step to optimising your Google Places listing and one that should be done sooner rather than later. Next month we'll talk about the best ways to manage and optimise your listing, to help your local search visibility and to see how users are viewing your business details. However, if you'd like more information about this before next month, or if you need help finding our claiming your Google Places listing, please contact us now.


Yahoo7 takes Bing's search results

At the start of January, Yahoo7 in Australia announced that it would now be displaying search results from Microsoft's Bing search engine. The change happened soon after, so that the variety of search engines has been further diminished and the Australian market is now largely dependent on search listings from Google and Bing, with the former still being used by around 90% of the total search market.

This merger between Yahoo7 and Bing's search results (which are used by NineMSN) was not unexpected following the long-running merger between the two US search giants. In the US the change had already taken place at the end of 2010 and the roll out is expected to be completed globally over the next few months, with the UK and other European search engines to follow soon. However, it was expected that the Australian merger may take longer to implement due to the unusual partnerships between the search services and the Seven and Nine TV networks, although this is more of an issue with the advertising channels.

Yahoo7 sent an email out to companies to prepare for the changes. It suggested they compare their organic search rankings on Yahoo!7 Search and Bing to help determine any potential impact to traffic and sales, although for most companies this is such a small share of their overall search referrals! What it does mean, however, is that businesses should review their listings on Bing's webmaster tools and optimise their website for the Bing crawler, to ensure that their site is indexed and prominently listed in both Yahoo!7 and Bing's organic search results.

Yahoo originally developed as a web directory in the 1990's and became one of the leading resources for the slowly emerging list of websites that were starting up. However, as the size of the web grew rapidly in the 2000's, Yahoo's human-edited directory couldn't keep pace with the growth and Yahoo purchased a number of established search engines to integrate with their search service. Pioneering search engines such as Inktomi, AltaVista and FAST were acquired by Yahoo but the experience and technology behind these tools didn't help Yahoo grow as a search engine in the face of Google's dominance.

Now Microsoft has taken another step in their challenge with Google for market share, through their Bing search engine. In the US the market share of Yahoo and MSN is larger than in Australia and many other countries, and so the merger or 'alliance' between Bing and Yahoo has given Microsoft a stronger position to develop their search service and to compete for users. For Yahoo, it's another stage in an apparent downward spiral from the once dominant site, which is now essentially a partner for the Bing network of search results. For users in Australia, and worldwide, it's another stage in the growing monopoly of available search results with a limited range of options now available to find information online.

As a footnote to the recent merger, the transition of the Yahoo paid search services (PPC) to Microsoft technology is scheduled to take place in the second half of 2011. Outwardly this will show little change, since Yahoo currently supplies the paid listings to Yahoo7 and NineMSN, but for the advertiser it is hoped that the new platform will be more user-friendly than the existing Yahoo! one, and that it will help to give advertisers a more effective alternative to just focusing on Google AdWords.

If you'd like to know more about the merger between Yahoo and Bing's search results, and how it might impact your search engine marketing strategy, please contact us now.


Larry Page takes over as Google CEO

In a surprise announcement at Google's 4th quarter earnings review, Larry Page is to take over as CEO at Google in place of Eric Schmidt. Co-founder Page will take over the role in April and Schmidt - who has been in the job for a decade - will become executive chairman with a focus on "deals, partnerships, customers and broader business relationships". The news has led to much speculation about the reasons for the change and the intentions for Google's future development.

Page is the co-founder of Google with Sergey Brin. When they first established the company in the late 1990's they served as co-presidents until 2001, when Schmidt was brought in to bring some business experience and guidance to the growing company. As a veteran CEO, Schmidt created a 'triumvirate' with Page and Brin to lead the company and to drive the massive growth of the business that has been seen over the past decade.

This new change retains the triumvirate, as Schmidt remains as Executive Chairman with Google, but Page would appear to have a power shift towards him, which has surprised many who see him as the 'quiet' partner in the team. He will also lead product development and technology strategy, which will include Google's aim to become more involved in social media. It's not clear from the announcement whether any disagreements internally prompted the change, but Schmidt says Page is ready to run the company, while Brin will continue focusing on new product ideas, with the title of Co-Founder.

Schmidt said the management changes were part of a plan to "streamline" decision-making and create clearer lines of responsibility and accountability. Not surprisingly, the news has generated an enormous amount of comment and speculation on the change, with some commentators feeling that Google has become too corporate and the change is an attempt to regain the vibrancy and innovation that drove the business in the early years.

The news upstaged the earnings report, which showed that Google had a strong rise in net profits in the last three months of 2010, at US$2.54bn on revenues of US$8.44bn. The profit figure also compares well to the $1.97bn made in the same quarter the year before. Although there will be much speculation about the change in leadership, it appears that Google timed the potentially unstabling news to come out at the same time as the positive financial figures.

To find out more about these changes at Google, please contact us now.


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.