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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - September 2006

Welcome to the latest edition of our monthly newsletter on web search and marketing issues.

This month we share our initial experiences of using Microsoft adCenter, explore how video adverts are being introduced to search advertising, and provide an update on broadband usage in the UK.

To find out more, please read on below, plus you want to refer to any items included in previous editions, you can find them here.

On to this month's news...

Microsoft adCenter launched in the UK

During August Microsoft launched its pay per click advertising service adCenter, in the UK, replacing Yahoo's provision of adverts to the MSN search engine.

We have been busy setting up new accounts on this tool, which offers a good level of functionality, and the ability to target adverts by time of day, and demographic, through analysing details of Microsoft's Hotmail, and Passport users.

To give you an idea of the traffic that this new network provides, here is table showing the number of impressions (times adverts are shown) in the past week, aggregated across a small group of our advertisers who are now targeting the same keywords on Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing and adCenter.

Google AdWords Yahoo Search Marketing Microsoft adCenter
Impressions 148430 59994 18250
Percentage of group 65% 26% 9%

This shows adCenter takes a 9% share of this group, coverage of which is worth considering for many advertisers.

Beyond the coverage of adCenter, there is a lower number of advertisers using this system (for example there are over 30 advertisers targeting the term 'flowers' on Google AdWords, but 8 on adCenter), meaning traffic at a lower cost can be obtained.

You may find adCenter particularly appealing to use in comparison to Yahoo Search Marketing if you have a specialist offering that would not reach Yahoo's minimum 20 per month spend, or an offering that you cannot justify a high cost per click for (adCenter has a minimum cost per click of 5p, compared to Yahoo's 10p).

On the negative side, this additional service does mean more management time for advertisers, running campaigns on an increasing number of services, with differing features and functionality.

If you would like more information about adCenter, or would like us to set up a campaign for you, please contact us for more information.

Google Video Adverts

Following the success of the pay per click advertising model, the race is on to use auction based, pay for performance models beyond text adverts, with Google recently announcing the introduction of video commercials online.

Google plans to provide video adverts through its AdSense content network initially (other websites which syndicate Google adverts), targeted to the content of the pages that the user is viewing. Payment is made when a user clicks to view the advert.

The major impacts of the PPC model have been its accessibility, ease-of-use, and its accountability meaning companies have been able get involved in 'hands-on' advertising like never before. This has put pressure on more traditional forms of advertising where it is much harder to gauge the return on investment. TV advertising, worth around $38 billion a year in the US alone has become the obvious target - traditional TV advertisers have only limited control over targeting.

If successful the mixture of targeting and accountability along with the visual impact and flexibility of video is sure to be a powerful tool for some advertisers. Products which can sell visually like property, hotels or any 'physical' products will be able to make more of an impact on its audience.

The vast amounts of revenue to be made from attracting more advertising dollars away from TV is not the only incentive for Google - this also helps to widen their portfolio of advertising channels suitable for high profile branding campaigns and small advertisers alike.

UK Broadband Usage Grows

As the use of Broadband continues to expand in the UK, the use of the Internet is also developing at a rapid rate, with search traffic, website applications and all forms on online media (such as video) benefiting from this trend. A recent report by internet testing company Epitiro, on the top consumer ISP's in the UK provided performance data - which was previously unavailable in the public domain - that shows BT Yahoo coming out top in the period April to June 2006.

The recent research on the UK ISPs by Epitiro reported that the top 5 consumer companies are BT Yahoo, Virgin, Demon, AOL and Orange. Cable broadband services provided by the likes of NTL Telewest were not included in the survey as the technologies are not the same. Epitiro also reported that "BT was also found to provide the fastest service as a percentage of its theoretical maximum." Tests included how long it took to connect to a service provider, the time it took to download a website and the length of time it took to upload content to the web. The cost of the service and overall customer satisfaction is not measured in the survey. The survey indicated which ISP's are strong in different areas of broadband provision: "Virgin, BT and AOL were the fastest services to actually connect to the Internet, while Pipex, Orange and BT were up to four times faster than the industry average at delivering e-mail".

BSkyB have announced their intention to join the competitive broadband market - experts predict they will bundle the service with their television and home phone offerings in a similar manner to the Carphone Warehouse service. Times Online suggest the investment could cost in the region of 200m.

Whilst broadband provision surges and competition remains fierce, companies should pay heed to the Advertising Standards Authority's latest judgment on Talk Talk's (a subsidiary of Carphone Warehouse) claim to offer "free broadband forever". In reality, consumers pay 20.99 a month which covers a line rental and calls package and a one-off connection fee of 29.99. In line with the ASA's judgment, Talk Talk will have to re-position their pricing in order to retain the claim that broadband is free.

Still, the campaign achieved its aim - over 300,000 customers signed up for the service in 3 months and the company maintains that customers will be willing to pay 29.99 for the cost of the modem (replacing the connection charge) and a minimal 1 increase per month to cover free international calls. On the downside, the popularity of this offer, supported by an extensive advertising campaign, has led to complaints of delays and poor customer service as Talk Talk have struggled to cope with the demand.

Book review - Firefox Hacks

This month's book review is Firefox Hacks by Nigel McFarlane. This is one of the popular 'Hacks' series that cover a range of Internet and Search based topics. Firefox Hacks focuses on the fast-growing web browser that offers a wide range of applications and 'add-ons' to make it a very powerful tool for web surfers, marketers and developers alike.

Read the full review of Firefox Hacks here.

We hope you've found this month's newsletter informative. Please contact us if you need any more details 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.