Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Google Announces Local Search

A Google blog has announced that it will begin showing local business results every time a you search for a local business or information. In addition, they will begin showing ratings and other information about that business. Here is what they said...

From now on, you'll see this every time you search for a place, business, or other local information. In addition to providing the basic contact information and map locations for several choices at the top of the page, we also show ratings and provide one-click access to reviews on the search results page so that you can make more informed decisions about where you want to go.

The ability for local businesses to harness the power of the Internet has been a growing trend for years now. However the problem was always the same. Either they didn't want to do eCommerce or their business wasn't suited to eCommerce or they didn't know how to get people to view their web site if they invested the dollars into building it.

There was nothing I could do for the first problem, either you wanted and could do eCommerce or you couldn't. However for a few years I worked around the second one by utilizing local offline advertising outlets to advertise a client's site. This worked well and still continues to be a tool in the box for promoting a local site or for a business with a local only business.

However with this new feature, Google, which is arguably the best search engine, is making the ability of people doing local searches to find a business without spending piles of money in pay to click advertising. Now the announcement doesn't say it will specifically list a URL of the company's web site, but if it doesn't do it now I am confident it will soon. Google will begin listing this URL for some type of fee and the rest will be history.

For a local business this is very powerful. You could advertise in the Yellow Pages and for a large color advertisement pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars per month, but now with this tool you can create even more powerful advertising, i.e. color pages, photos, testimonials, product or service information, etc. for a fraction of the cost of putting even a limited amount of this info in the Yellow Pages. Now that is power.

While I use and still advocate traditional advertising channels like direct mail and others I also tell clients the flexibility of being able to add or change your "advertisements" on the web per se and still have it be in full color with all the power of full multi-media features like video, audio, etc. is really incredible for the small business. Add the new feature from Google and small and even medium sized businesses have capabilities that only very large companies with big marketing budgets had 15 years ago.

Michael Temple

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Yahoo Follows Google in Ad Quality

Yahoo announced yesterday that on Feb 5th they are rolling out a new advertising system that will among other things base the price of advertising on both bid price and quality/relevancy of the advertising. This follows Google's strategy to do the same thing. You can read the press release here.

As I wrote before upon Google's announcement this will force advertisers to use more talent in creating an ad, which even if they don't agree today is a good thing for them as well. The new technology will use the relevancy of an ad as well as its historical performance in arriving at a "quality rating".

The relevancy is really a key because with so much information on the Internet misleading ads causes people to waste a lot of time by clicking on ads they think is about one thing, but it turns out was simply a bait tactic. That creates a very poor prospect for the company and causes them to lose money. Therefore, choosing relevant key words to your product or service and writing good advertising will help create a better prospect.

The next grade is determined by effective advertising. Just like in normal direct advertising a compelling headline or opening statement that gets a prospect's attention is key. Using solid copywriting that builds your case to the customer is the next most important item. Finally, you want a compelling call to action. As with any direct marketing if they don't take action you have lost a lead. Using these principles in both the ad as well as the landing page will not only boost the conversions from the ad, but also the quality score that Yahoo is going to assign it.

Once you think you have developed a winning ad you are going to want to test it with an A/B split test at a minimum, but now there are tools on the Internet that will let you test multiple variables in your advertising at once. Test, Test, Test is an old rule in direct marketing and now it appears Internet marketing as well.

If you are running an online advertising campaign or considering one it might be very beneficial to hire a good copywriter and/or Internet marketing expert to help you get a quality ad campaign off the ground. With Yahoo's new search technology going into effect it will save you both marketing dollars, by helping to lower your cost of advertising, but also make each marketing dollar you do spend work harder by creating more conversions from the ads that are placed.

Michael Temple

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

SAP Feeling Pressure from Slow Growth

A story this morning in the WSJ illustrates a good point. SAP is suffering from slowing growth in the business software market even though the industry of business software is increasing and spending in this area is on the rise.

The article illustrates a good point that smaller and more innovative companies are creating better applications and getting them to market faster. It points out that businesses aren't spending large sums on new enterprise wide applications as readily as they did a few years ago.

I have often thought that companies like SAP, Oracle, and when they still existed independently, Siebel would run into a wall. There are only so many huge companies in the world and they are only going to spend or upgrade so many times. If you don't have really good mid-market and even small business solutions you might miss an incredible growth opportunity. All of these companies to a large degree have ignored the small business and even mid-market solutions. Unfortunately new and small business is where most of the job and economic growth is coming from and the smaller software companies that can roll out solutions to these markets in a cost effective way are going to beat the big guys that are still chasing huge fish.

The other point along this line is the ability of small companies to simply out maneuver the big software companies. We have all heard the jokes about big companies holding meetings to decide if they need a meeting and having tons of committees and hoops to jump through to act on anything. The large software companies that based their early growth on being quick and nimble are now HUGE companies that can't move as fast or innovate as fast, which is a big weakness in the technology industry. Take a look at Microsoft. They are a good company, but their stock price reflects investors skepticism that they will be able to grow as fast as they did 15 years ago.

One of their greatest strengths of the large technology companies 5-6 years ago is now gone. The growth in Internet technologies and innovative software is not a market that can allow huge companies that can't move quickly stay in control. It is too easy for 2 guys in a garage to start a software company and launch it to a worldwide market over the Internet and start eating the lunch of the big guys.

In addition, being able to create small business and mid-market applications and solutions that can be rolled out quickly and cost effectively without huge specialized teams of developers and high priced consultants will be more attractive to the larger and growing small-mid market companies. If this market is where job and economic growth is at doesn't it make sense this is where business software spending might be occurring at as well?

Guerrilla style marketing and economics is alive and well on the Internet and in technology. Those companies that still practice this will continue to grow. Those like SAP and Oracle, while still very powerful companies with a lot of capabilities, will be having more of those uncomfortable shareholder meetings to explain their lack of performance.

Michael Temple

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Local Internet

To me the word "local Internet" is somewhat contradictory, but more and more people are starting to use the Internet for local marketing and what some are calling micro local community news as discussed in this NY Times story. I came across the story this morning and found it interesting to individuals and businesses trying to find a way to do local marketing and communication via the Internet.

I believe local Internet marketing will become wide spread as time continues, but it does create an interesting paradox. Sometimes people simply like the experience of going into bookstores to touch and see books they are buying or into a unique gift shop. To these people it is as much about the experience of shopping as the actual act of purchasing something.

This particular article discusses the web being used as the virtual town square. Now the question is will people truly use it or is the physical experience of walking through and enjoying the real town square what people enjoy. I guess time will tell.

If this trend continues it will be interesting to see how individuals and businesses find ways to create money out of these virtual "local" experiences. After all the original town square was often where merchants and farmers set up booths and shops, hence creating money in a prime location. Will the same thing happen on the Internet's local town squares and shopping centers?

Michael Temple

Monday, January 15, 2007

Market Killing SPAM Protection

Over the last couple of weeks I have been helping some clients with email issues. They weren't getting certain emails from clients that were sending very important emails with contracts attached to them. After doing some research I discovered that the sender's domain had been entered on a SPAM list despite not ever being used to spam or even send automated emails.

This spam protection as it turns out was being applied at the server level of the hosting company. In otherwords the customer never even received the email - even in their personal spam filter - or had any opportunity to accept or reject this message. For all intensive purposes they did not even know the message had been sent.

I realize that ISP companies are involved in a never-ending battle to stop a tsunami of spam, but killing off email before the customer even has a chance to see it or somehow ok it is going a bit too far.

For email marketing providers this presents an even bigger problem. If your clients or customers have opted in or even double opted into your email marketing list then they should receive those messages. It shouldn't matter if the provider sends them with an automated system or if they have HTML in them or any of the other long list of things that ISPs will reject an email for.

My suggestion is that once an ISPs is contracted to provide services for a domain that the client should be allowed to upload some type of "white list" to the ISP. This list should be able to be updated quickly and easily by the client to adjust for continuing email needs. If the ISP chooses to run server level spam protection is should be secondary to the white list of the customer. If a domain is on the list they get through, period. If they are not on the list then the ISP has a right to do some spam filtering.

I know such a suggestion is more work for ISPs, but it is wrong to simply eliminate all emails based on some set of criteria that the ISP sets. Not allowing the client to have some say in what comes through at the server level is denying them control over their own email management and what they choose to get.

I have found spam protection companies that ISPs can hire that allow clients to log on and list people they want to get email from or domains. If an email comes from that domain the ISP using the service lets it go through even if it would have been stopped for some reason before, such as having HTML in the message or coming from an automated server.

If you are a client that is not getting your email because the provider, i.e. GoDaddy has decided to kill your email prior to you ever seeing it then you need to find a new provider. There are solutions out there and not using them is an injustice to the client and the marketers that worked so hard to gain their trust and permission to send them messages.

Michael Temple