Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Microsoft using Hotmail to Sell Targeted Ads

In the Wall Street Journal reported today that Microsoft is using its Hotmail email system or rather the data it represents to sell targeted "behavior based" ads. The article states that the data users put in when the set up the account along with their search habits will be used to sell ads that can be very targeted to the user... or will they?

You basically are going to quickly develop two groups of people here. The first are people that put in real and honest data about themselves and will consider this a HUGE violation of privacy and they should. This is data that they willingly gave up to get an email account, not give marketers an edge in marketing to them. If they wanted to let marketers have this information they would have given it to them.

Microsoft should be ashamed. If I found out my dentist or doctor or anyone else that I provided personal information to sold my information to make a buck to other marketers I would be very upset and probably take it out on the marketers trying to contact me as well as the company that violated my privacy.

Now Microsoft says that they don't give personal information just general info, but the important thing here is they shouldn't be giving anything without my (or your) permission.This is the reason why trust continues to be an issue on the Internet and makes it harder for legitimate marketers to get people to give up information on themselves. Once they give it up, presumably for one purpose they find later it has been sold or used for another purpose they wouldn't approve of.

In addition, you have the added benefit of continual spying by Microsoft by monitoring your search habits. Next we will hear that they are reading the contents of the emails and presenting ads based on the types of emails you receive. Way to go Microsoft! Now that is a strategy to be proud of...full sarcasm intended!

The second group of people are those that provided totally false data when they set the account up to insure that if such a day would come like this that their information wasn't at all representative of them and what appeals to them. Yours truly falls into this category. Now Microsoft is out there selling my data along with everyone else's the problem is that the marketers that use it aren't getting a picture of the real person so the ads they present to me will be seriously off the mark. What do you think the chances are that I will correct their assumptions for them?

Building trust with customers is a very hard thing to do both online and off, but why you would deliberately violate that trust is beyond me and I believe Microsoft is on the verge a serious back lash from customers over this one. Those that gave real information will be angry and those that gave false info will have even less trust than they had before and will be even more wary of online marketers.

Michael Temple

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Google Docs

Google is really starting to score some kudos these days. I just started playing around with another one of their free tools, online document collaborator. Now similar systems sell for three times this price, but act today and you get it for the low, low price of nothing!

Ok, I couldn't resist my info commercial routine, but seriously this is a neat tool and in the past you did have to pay for software to help you do online collaboration of documents, but now Google has added it to their suite of free portal applications.

As a business model Google is moving more to the portal model, which is what Yahoo did a number of years ago and it appears to be working for them. The danger of course is that they begin to dillute their core competency of being a search engine. However for the moment the tools they are creating are useful and this is one I would recommend if you need to share documents and spreadsheets with people to do online collaboration. Check it out here.

Michael Temple

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Google Conversion Tool Beta Launch

Google is working to be the greatest asset on the Internet to marketing professionals. They have just announced the beta launch of their Website Optimizer tool. The tool is designed to help marketers test different elements of their landing pages. In my last post I wrote how Google was going to start grading landing pages for ad word sites and those sites the provided "poor experiences" were ultimately going to pay more for ad word purchases.

It now appears that Google is going another step forward and helping marketers build those great landing pages. In the old days when we used direct mail...you know the stuff in envelopes that goes through the post office and has been called "snail mail".

Well for those of that do remember scientific advertising using things like split A/B tests have been around almost as long as direct mail marketing. The problem was that a true A/B test could really only allow you to test one variable at a time against another. Using mail this was obviously a slow and expensive way to develop the ideal marketing message.

What is exciting about Google's tool is that it allows you to perform
multivariate tests. Which is a fancy way of saying you can test multiple variables about your landing pages at once, i.e. two headlines, two sets of introduction paragraphs, two offers, etc. all at the same time and according to Google their tool will keep track of the performance of each of these tests and help you narrow down the most effective message and landing page quickly. When you combine such a tool with Internet speed you get very fast test results.

While I have a love/hate relationship with Google I have to really give them kudos on this one. I am really impressed with the free tools they are developing and making available to help move Internet marketing to a more mainstream advertising medium instead of the lawless wild west.

However please remember the tools are only useful if you are putting the quality ingredients into the marketing campaign, i.e. strong headlines, powerful copy, calls for action, strong offers, etc. If you develop a poor marketing piece and use every tool Google has it will only tell you that you have developed a crappy piece of marketing that is causing your marketing budget to vanish faster than an Arizona frost. The first step will still be finding the right marketing consultant to help you identify the target market, develop the message, and improve upon it once Google's tools start giving you information about results.

Michael Temple

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Google Landing Pages Requirement in Force

Google has started their new requirement for an improvement in the quality of landing pages for Google ad words. As I have said before, it is about time. Creating ads that actually lead to informative pages for the purposes of creating leads and buying opportunities hasbeen sorely lacking since Internet advertising became the "in thing" to do. Now Google has actually gone so far to make this a part of their ranking system. I thought it would be interesting to go and see what Google thinks a "quality" landing page is.

As you might expect they are a bit vague, probably on purpose. However one thing they say is...

Openly share information about your business. Clearly define what your business is or does.

While this isn't very specific it does say one thing loud and clear that a well written page, i.e. good copywriting and solid communication skills is going to play a role in the quality of a landing page. Bravo Google, welcome to the club, to those of us in Internet and direct marketing this has pretty much been rule forever now. Better late than never I guess.

If you want to get the most from your advertising dollars online you should have been doing this all along, but if you weren't well now you have even more reason to join the rest of us in land of sound marketing principles. If you need help figuring out how to write good landing pages and copy for your pages please contact me or another competent copywriter because it now counts in more ways than one. If you want to see what else Google has to say about what a good landing page is you can read it here.

Michael Temple