Archive for the ‘Industry’ Category

SMX West Update

January 13th, 2009 No comments

Sadly I won’t be attending or speaking at SMX West this year. 2009 marks my mother’s 60th birthday and she is an avid dog lover, so we’re off to the Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York to celebrate. Unfortunately its the same time as SMX West so this year I miss out! If you want to read a blog post about the dog show, I’m sure I’ll be posting one on the Viator Travel Blog once I return. I hope everyone has a great time, learn something new and have a cocktail at a networking event for me!

SMX London Thoughts

November 17th, 2008 No comments

As you might have seen I crossed the pond to speak at SMX London earlier this month. From talking to several UK SEOs there seems to be an impression that SMX is for more advanced search marketers, which probably explains why the boot camp track was sort of empty and the more advanced sessions packed full. The Fundamentals of Search Advertising panel was truly international consisting of me (USA! USA!), Ophir Cohen (Israel), Alan K’necht (Canada) and Richard Gregory (UK). Everybody had something a little bit different to say, but I think all the thoughts were very complimentary and I hope the audience learned a lot.

Most of the sessions I attended were fairly worthwhile, though I think it is worth noting that if you are going to attend just one search marketing event, SMX West is really where its at. SMX West is much, much bigger and more well attended and a better opportunity for networking. Also I think SMX West topics are more advanced and cutting edge. That said, I did learn things from SMX London and meet some new folks, so it was certainly worth the time.

One trend I noticed in presentations (and maybe it was just the sessions I was in) is that there’s a tendency to talk a lot about bad marketing tactics, and to do so at such a length that less time is actually spent on good ones and best practices, which I find much more actionable and useful. Telling me what not to do doesn’t really help me do anything (just helps me not do things). I concede that knowing where to draw the line is good and learning from mistakes is important, but I’d prefer to see more than half the content be about success than failure. In particular I found the Integrating Search and Display session to mainly focus on bad examples and very few actual best practices.

Enough on my opinion, I filled out my feedback form! See you all at SMX West in a few months.

Google SEO Guide

November 14th, 2008 No comments

Google released an SEO guide today – huzzah! While the SEO guide is very basic, it does have really good advice for novices to SEO and will hopefully serve as a great primer for folks getting started with their SEO efforts. Basic, almost common sense advice about meta tags, anchor text, site maps and content is the bulk of the guide. Kudos to Google for the clear and concise explanations and for finally giving some basic advice to the little guys who need help the most.

Get the Google SEO guide here.

Free the Airwaves

October 24th, 2008 No comments

Am I getting political for a moment? Maybe. Bear with me.

The FCC will soon vote on freeing up white space spectrum, essentially bandwidth that we could all use for better broadband access, but the broadcasting lobby would prefer not to see that happen. This reminds me a lot of cable tv back in the day – we could be living in a world where we pay just for channels we want on an ala carte basis, or from several providers, but we don’t have that choice because of laws made hastily and foolishly in the past. Don’t let that happen with internet access.

Bring wireless Internet to everyone, everywhere.

Sign the petition.

Want more info? Check out Google’s blog post on the white space spectrum vote.

2 Interesting Google AdWords Interface Enhancements

July 18th, 2008 No comments

I noticed a couple of interesting changes to the AdWords interface that are worth talking about.

1. Bye bye Site Targeted campaigns, hello to Site Placements. There appears to be no more need for Site Targeted campaigns, you can find and add sites to any adgroup opted into Content Targeting. Google expanded on the tabs structure at the adgroup level to accommodate the Site Targeting data. I like this enhancement as it makes management of site placements much simpler, alleviating the need to replicate adgroups to have site placements. All the tracking and reporting and targeting is still there, its just integrated with content targeting, which Site Targeting is just an offshoot of to begin with. So logical!

2. Google vs. Search Partners.

New search screen

Apologies for the blurry screenshot. I haven’t seen any data trickle down into these categories yet, but kudos to Google for increasing transparency in advertising. I’m very interested in seeing Google traffic versus partners, though I can get at some of this data now with analytics tools. I’d be in more interested in tracking and bidding on it separately, but baby steps, we’re getting there.

Try the New Google Template Ads

June 27th, 2008 No comments

Recently Google released a new ad type – template ads. I’ve been beta testing them for Google and providing advertiser feedback. While the system isn’t perfect yet, the template ads are a really interesting development for Google’s content targeting product, and I encourage other advertisers to give them a test.

Essentially template ads are the next step forward in Google expanding image ads for content targeting. Basically Google is providing functionality to allow advertisers to build their own rich media ads for use in content targeting. Eventually I assume they are going to let you just upload rich media ads, but for those who don’t have any in house design teams to develop the ads the templates provide a easy way to build some. There’s several templates to choose from (a pretty photo show, a coupon, a quiz), I’ve tested two that seems right for Viator’s business.

Showcase templates allow an advertiser to showcase up to 12 products in one ad. I have a problem with the minimum being set to 6 products, I’d prefer 5 since I am making ads that are like “Top 10 things to do in Paris”, 5 would be nice for shorter lists. A price is required to be specified in the price field, I’d prefer not to (or to upload several prices and have Google display the correct one for the geo location) since we show the same ads to multiple countries with different currencies. Basically I just show dollars now, which seems ok, but not ideal. But on the plus side, each product link can be separately tracked.

Vatican Showcase Ad


As you can see, the products display along the bottom and the selected product appears at the top with its image, description and price.

The other template I have tested is the slideshow template ad. Similar to the showcase template multiple images are loaded up with a slideshow fade out or wipe effect to transition between them. On the down side this template lacks the functionality to track the frames separately, there’s only one link for the template. But unlike the showcase ad the slideshow has can be set to play automatically whether or not a user interacts with it, so there is more of a rich media feel to this ad. Click on the ad below to see it in its full 728×90 size.

Slideshow Template Ad

The template ad creation interface is fairly straightforward, but it does take about 20 minutes to make a showcase ad — pulling the images, copy, links, and so on takes some effort. I begged for a save draft button since the ad creation is all on one page, I’d hate to lose half my work because of a short internet outage or something. I also like the color customization, but would prefer to the ability to just enter a hex code for the color I want versus picking from their few choices. Also Google resizes the ads to all the standard IAB sizes, and sometimes that looks a bit funky, it would be a nice feature to be able to clean up the funky ones to have less text or a better sized image.

The placement reporting for content targeting is not yet distinguishing between the ad types in much detail, but it does break out html versus text ads, so its possible to get some idea of the template ad distribution and performance. I’d like to see more, like placement reports on the sizes and the template ad type and link to have more complete detail on what is driving the traffic.

In general, I like the new ads, and they seem to be driving some quality traffic and decent conversions. Running rich media ads in the past for Viator showed that, in general, the rich media ads have a higher average order size than search marketing (but lower conversion), and that seems to be true for the template ads as well, they are tracking a higher average order size. The template ads also have better conversion rates than the rich media I’ve run in the past, its still not as good as search, but its better than other network ad buys, probably due to the high degree of targeting. Definitely worth testing out for any marketer having content targeting success.

5 Random Marketing Thoughts of the Day

May 19th, 2008 No comments

1. Does it mean I have looked through way too much search data if after two years I totally broke the scroll wheel on my mouse? Seriously, only the scroll wheel died, while I was scrolling through a big file of search terms.

2. I’m sad the Microsoft-Yahoo drama continues. I was hoping they’d just take no for an answer, but I guess that’s wishful thinking. Don’t be a stalker MSN. Yes, if you keep driving by their campus just to see if their car is there, you’re a stalker.

3. We’ve got a new build launching this week on, check back later in the week and bask in the newness, and leave me a comment if you love or hate something.

4. Don’t forget about misspellings – today I ran across this gem: “san francisco alcotars tours”. Do not underestimate your fellow man’s inability to spell. Buy those cheap keywords!

ps – alcotars = alcatraz. for reals.

5. I broke 60,000 keywords last week, which means I need to upgrade to the 100K limit Excel so I can keep on truckin’ in one file. I was surprised to find Google spreadsheets has an even more stringent row limit, you think they’d be all sky’s the limit, oh but no. Get on it big G!

Back from Vacation and Thoughts on Microhoo

May 5th, 2008 No comments

I’m back from a great trip to Ecuador, photos will be forthcoming to Flickr. I had hoped that the whole MSN-Yahoo business would be resolved by the time I got back, but it wasn’t, though now it might be. Latest I have heard is that Yahoo was able to fend off the invading hordes. I made no secret I was pulling for Yahoo all along, and frankly, I thought it would mean nothing but bad for Yahoo to be acquired by Microsoft. Mainly because I don’t think MSN would learn from Yahoo’s successes and actually improve upon or effectively utilize Yahoo assets. They’d be more likely to screw them up by trying to make them conform to the Microsoft way. Anyway, knock on wood, Yahoo weathered the storm as Microsoft has now withdrawn their bid.

In other random news, would anyone like to buy me the new electric Tesla? The one beef I’ve had about green cars is that they’re ugly, or at least, totally not sporty. Can’t anyone make an alternative energy convertible? How hard is that? Now someone has, I just have to find around $100K to buy it. Incidentally, two big investors in the Tesla electric car are the Google founders. Nice one.

I’m getting caught up on stats while I was out and adding lots of new keywords before high season (we’re going to pass the 60,000 keyword mark this month!). I like to check up on the tail terms I’ve add at the end of each month, and we’re still getting the one-two transaction adgroups happening at a pretty good clip, so more keywords it is!

And lastly, MSN actually assigned me an account manager and we may actually get our accounts updated and whipped into shape again, hope springs eternal. I thought this might be a product of my non-child safe video I made for MSN at SMX West, but apparently my new account manager hasn’t seen it, though he got a nice recap from me on its content (including the four letter naughtiness). He’s probably trying to track it down, though knowing MSN its still in editing somewhere two months later.

Argh, Why Can’t I find Time to Post? A Day in the Life.

April 4th, 2008 No comments

Apologies to all who have looked for a new post here and not found one in some time. Yeah, I have not been so good on the timely posting front lately. And its only going to get worse starting next Thursday, as I am off to the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador for two weeks. Let’s just make a date to meet up again here sometime in the first week of May.

In the meantime, I’ve been working on a massive project here to rewrite all (ok, not all, but like A LOT) of our product descriptions on the site. Why you ask would we undertake such a task? Well, the descriptions are ok for our customers, though not fabulous, and they are downright not great for SEO. And over the past two years we tried to get people to write better ones, or clean up bad ones, but frankly, they just all need to be redone and we weren’t getting very far at our current pace. So we hired a writer, starting making lists of relevant keywords for every product and getting some new descriptions made. So far the work looks good and we hope to be done before our high season this summer. As you can imagine, checking keyword data for like 2,000 products is a bit of a chore.

What else have I been up to? Reporting. More reporting. Affiliate stuff involving policies and coupon codes. If you don’t have a policy about only allowing affiliates to use coupon codes assigned to them, think about adopting it. I’ve also been looking into UK Media buys, we love our UK customers and their strong GBP, let’s get more of them!

To top it off our email system migrated to a new build, which is great, but a pain our a** since they broke all our dynamic content. Repairs are under way.

So such is the life of the online marketer. Will I miss it on vacation this month? Eh, maybe not so much. Will I be happy to get back? Probably, I will miss seeing the results roll in to Omniture and all my little keywords driving sales. But for now, yeah, we could use some time apart.

See you the first week of May!

Categories: Affiliates, Industry, Tip of My Hat Tags:

SMX West Wrap Up

February 28th, 2008 No comments

I am relieved that my speaking gigs at SMX are over, and I didn’t totally shame myself or my company. To read a rundown on the behavioral presentation I gave, check out Susan Esparza’s fairly comprehensive blogging of the session for Bruce Clay (despite her impending cold, she was all over it).

Today is the last day of the conference, and so far I think its been great, lots of great speakers and I’ve picked up some gems. Highly recommended whether you’re advanced or a beginner.

Categories: Industry, Tip of My Hat Tags: