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When Doesn't It Pay To Pay Attention To Search Quality?

By - October 08, 2008

Perhaps when the top result is the best result – and it’s a paid link.

Bad Results

Look at the image of my search results above.

I just now wanted to find the NLCS playoff schedule. I like baseball. I follow the National League, (NL) for the most part. Just about every fan of baseball (and there are millions of them) knows that “NLCS” is code for “National League Championship Series.

So I typed “NLCS playoff schedule” into Google. The results were terrible. The first result was for 2007, and it’s October! Playoffs, you know? Happening now? Google was pretty good at giving me the right results when I typed “Olympics” in last August. So I thought it was pretty safe to assume I’d get 2008 playoff schedules when I typed in that query. Alas, it was not to be.

So just in case Google was feeling a bit addled tonight, I added a “2008” to the end to clarify: NLCS playoff schedule 2008.

The results are above. Of the *organic* results, the first is a blogspot blog – not worth clicking on, I mean, I wanted the official sked, right?This one is just for the Dodgers, and I’m a fan of blogs but…I didn’t want the Dodger’s sked, I wanted the whole NLCS. The second result was worse – an article from a baseball site, and it’s about player health. Huh?

The third site is a attempt to sell me tickets.

Google, am I not being specific enough for you? I very much doubt that your algorithms can’t figure out how to deliver exactly what I was asking for, especially during the playoffs.

Ncls Paid

But, wait a minute, there is one result that, should I click on it, will give me the answer I wanted. It’s at the top, and hey, look, Google even HIGHLIGHTED it for me!

Oh wait, doesn’t that highlight mean it’s a paid link? Oh well, never mind that. It’s the first link, and we all know that everyone clicks on the first link. Google may have failed at organic search, but it saved its bacon – and paid for it – through AdWords. Let’s just hope for Google’s sake that folks continue to ignore that “I’m feeling lucky” button. Unless, of course, it’s routed through a paid link.

  • Content Marquee

Cesspool? Brands? Eric Talks Like a Marketer

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Listen to these quotes (from Ad Age):

“Brands are the solution, not the problem…..Brands are how you sort out the cesspool.”

“Brand affinity is clearly hard wired….It is so fundamental to human existence that it’s not going away. It must have a genetic component.”

Interesting. I wonder, does that mean there’s an algorithm for brand affinity? Hmmmm.

CM Conversations: David Rosenblatt

By - October 07, 2008

Speaker Rosenblatt Second up in my series of crowdsourcing the CM Summit conversations (first up was Laura Desmond) is David Rosenblatt, former CEO of Doubleclick, now a VP at Google. David is something of a DoubleClick lifer, having joined the company in 1997 and rising from tech lead to CEO of a company valued at more than $3 billion when sold to Google in 2007.

Readers of Searchblog will recall the industry charlie horse that the DBLCK deal caused – Microsoft lobbied mightily against it, US and European governments took their time approving it, everyone else went on a drunken ad network buying spree, and one could argue that the deal set the painful decline of Yahoo in motion – here was Google, taking square aim at Yahoo’s one remaining stronghold – display advertising.

It’s been so long since the deal was announced – a year and a half – it’s easy to forget it didn’t really get final approval till March of this year. The integration, in other words, is still in its first six months, and Rosenblatt took a portion of this summer off before rolling up his sleeves and getting back to work.

I’ve spoken to David several times since the deal closed, and like Laura, find him both candid and real – he knows Google’s strengths, and he recognizes the company’s weaknesses when it comes to the brand side of marketing – where DoubleClick has done the lion’s share of its business. So I’ll be particularly interested in his take on where Google might take its fledgling efforts in non-algorithmic media.

(To register for the CM Summit – nearly 350 already have – please head here).

My questions for David include:

- With YouTube and DoubleClick, Google’s spent $5-6 billion to get into the branded display business. Yet 98% of its revenue is in AdWords/Sense. How will that bet pay off inside a corporate culture obsessed with scale and algorithms?

– Google made its brand on not owning and operating media sites. But with YouTube, Knol, Gmail, and now apps, that seems to be changing. What does that portend for branded media plays in the future?

– What is his view of Yahoo and other competitors – Microsoft, AOL?

– The Yahoo/Google deal – does it have a display element? Will it clear the antitrust hurdle?

– Many in the advertising/marketing community call Google “frenemy” (Sorrell). What do you make of this reputation?

– Display is now about a $1bb business inside Google – in other words, very small. Where will Google be in terms of share of display revenue in five years? How will it grow?

– How will DoubleClick as we know it now change and be integrated with other Google products – analytics, apps, AdWords….and how will you deal with the issues of data privacy and transparency?

– Are you seeing the effects of the economy yet?

These are the first questions from the top of my mind. What are yours?

One Question, More Than 100 Answers and Counting…

By - October 06, 2008

It never fails to surprise me, though it shouldn’t, how a simple question can elicit amazing responses. Late last week, on the advice of folks at Linked In and as a way to help guide my work as program chair of the CM Summit, I asked this simple question:

What’s the smartest marketing you’ve ever seen online?

I didn’t know what to expect, I’ve seen these questions stream into my inbox from my Linked In connections, and honestly unless it hit a nerve with me, I didn’t really respond to them.

But clearly, this one hit a nerve. Not yet halfway through the seven days that questions are allowed to stay up, this one has 109 responses and counting. And the answers are really thoughtful, they range from Microsoft’s MVP program to Mini’s work, from subservient chicken to the US Army.

I’ve decided to take this list, which at the current rate will have 200 or more responses by the time the question closes, and chose ten finalists, then let folks vote on their favorites. Then we can announce the winner(s) at the CM Summit next week. It might be the start of something, who knows?

Know, Really

By - October 05, 2008

So many things to miss when you’re not reporting news anymore – some of these are old, but they stood the test of time:

Larry Page, Google, Watch these White Spaces, and Prop 8 in CA Is Deeply Dumb and cel phones suck, we can reimagine them, right because after all, we are already reimagining sustainability, see?

When Google starts arbitrating fact from interpretation, we must all think deeply. This is about Yahoo and Google. More here.

Yahoo could be the next platform. If only it could get out of its own way. Oh, and it should own display too, wait, doesn’t it already? After all, digital marketing is recession proof, right?

One man anecdote machine declares the storm of the century. Welcome to every seven years, Robert. Funny how Jason agrees.

Google Diaspora

By - October 04, 2008

Good piece on Merus Capital, started by folks who used to be in Google corp dev.

Merus Capital, as it happens, is itself a new Google product. Or, to be more specific, Merus Capital is the product of a new Google phenomenon. Call it the Google exodus, the Google diaspora, whatever–in almost any given week, blogs and business sections perk up with news that key figures at Google are leaving. It happened last October, the day word leaked about Salman Ullah: ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER KEY GOOGLER DEPARTS, read the headline on VentureBeat. Ullah and Dempsey, who resigned at the same time, ran Google’s corporate-development group. This meant they were in charge of buying and assimilating new companies, spending billions on YouTube and DoubleClick, among others. They also witnessed some of the initial stirrings of restlessness, the trickle of defections and departures that seemed to them a harbinger of the future. Since the late nineties, when they worked together at the top of Microsoft’s corporate-development office, they’d considered becoming venture capitalists. But the timing had never seemed right. By the middle of 2007, about three years after having joined Google, the timing seemed urgent. They became convinced that their departing Google colleagues were going to dream up some truly special projects, and they wanted in. So, along with Peter Hsing, who had previously worked with them at Microsoft and was currently that company’s managing director of corporate strategy, they abandoned some of the best corporate jobs in the world in order to go into business for themselves.

Merus Capital, both a product of the Google diaspora and an exploiter of it, has become an important node in the increasingly complex web ex-Googlers are weaving around Silicon Valley. The firm’s first entrepreneur in residence, and the first beneficiary of Merus funds, was Gokul Rajaram, perhaps the highest profile recent Google departure, a man whom Fortune magazine identified as “one of the godfathers of AdSense” for his role in creating the targeted advertising service that is one of Google’s prime revenue sources. Rajaram’s start-up, Chai Labs, which is still in stealth mode, was incubated at Merus. In just the past couple years, ex-Googlers like Rajaram and Ullah and Dempsey have started about two dozen new companies and invested tens of millions of dollars in other start-ups. As

Super Cool

By - October 03, 2008

Leopard-Thumb

Mac OS on a Dell. Wonder, does this fix all the poewr management and battery issues I have with my MacBook? (Thanks Andy)

CM Conversation: Laura Desmond, CEO Starcom MediaVest Group

By - October 02, 2008

Speaker Desmond FM’s third CM Summit is just two weeks away (register here), and as I have in the past (and will with other speakers as well as folks I’ll interview at Web 2), I turn to the collective intelligence of Searchblog readers to help me prepare. I’ll be having conversations with Evan Williams (co-founder Twitter), Gian Fulgoni (founder Comscore), David Rosenblatt (CEO DoubleClick, now at Google) and many others.

But first up in terms of thinking out loud here is Laura Desmond, Chief Executive Officer, Starcom MediaVest Group, a unit of the Publicis Groupe. For those of you who might not follow the world of marketing too closely, SMG is one of the largest and most influential marketing services companies on the planet, its clients include Kraft, Allstate, Kellogg’s, Walt Disney, GM, Coca Cola, Proctor & Gamble, RIM (Blackberry), and on and on. The company collectively controls billions of dollars of marketing spend, including a significant chunk of the monies that fuel the Internet Economy.

In other words, Laura is one Very Important Person in the world of the web, even if you’ve never heard of her.

Given what I do for a living, I’ve come to know Laura and find her extremely candid and refreshingly absent the marketing-speak that sometimes creeps into top executives’ vocabulary. GIven the economy, it’s an extraordinary time to have a conversation. Here are some of the topics I plan to cover:

– SMG’s clients represent a comprehensive sampling of the largest marketers in the US and global economy. Given the economic crisis, what are they saying to you now about their plans for spending? Are they going to continue to shift to digital, or are they going to pause or move spend to places where they’ve lived in the past (IE TV, print)?

– CPG (consumer packaged goods) brands are just starting to lean into digital. What have they learned, and how far do they have to go before they view online as central to their plans, if ever?

– How has the digital world changed how agencies within SMG do their work? (This in light of my writings on CPG vs. Conversational Media, here).

– Lastly, I’ve asked Laura to bring examples of work done by SMG agencies. I’m looking forward to the show and tell.

But here’s where you can help: What else should I be asking Laura? Chime in in the comments!

TweetSense

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Prmote Twitter

I think the business model at Twitter is going to be really, really interesting, and I think it’s going to leverage search, but search as a proxy for data and pattern recognition. We get an inkling of it at Election 2008, Twitter’s mashup of Tweets relating to the election, but there’s a lot more to think through. First off, Twitter is using its real estate to promote its deal with Current, which is a first, from what I can tell. The “ads” are on the right, right below each users’ profile. I remember covering every new pixel as the Google homepage caved to promotional reality, it’s interesting to watch it happen at Twitter, too, which I think has a lot of similarities to Google in terms of potential models.

Also worth watching is the hash function, where you can tag any topic (IE #redsox, as Churbuck pointed out). This function is not likely to catch on with my mother (I can’t imagine her adding hashes to her tweets, much less tweeting…yet), but what it enables certainly could. The problem is, when you create a site to pull hashed stuff out into a stream the result is often less than useful (as Churbuck noted in his post).

This is where the role of curation and editors is paramount. Voice, as Fred pointed out. There is voice in editing, voice in curation. And voice adds value. And where value is added, marketers can play, both on Twitter (imagine a cars.twitter.com, with auto advertisers on the right rail and at the top, perhaps using contextual TweetSense – yes, it’s owned, by…), and off (think about a feed of contextual Tweets and TweetSense next to conversational sites like Digg and, well, millions of others, as well as sites created simply from Twitter feeds on popular hashes…).

Just a (half) thought….

PS – why isn’t search.twitter.com, where you can see hash streams, even promoted on the home page of Twitter? Am I missing something, as I usually do?