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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - August 2005

Over the past few weeks there have been a number of significant developments with Google which we have covered below, although we are conscious that this could easily become a Google-focused newsletter! However, if you’ve not already tried it, we have to tell you about the new Google Earth product which provides a fascinating view of the world!

For those using PPC advertising, you are probably aware by now of the latest changes announced by Google to revise the keyword status and bid structures on AdWords campaigns. And finally we report on a more detailed report that has just been published on the way users view and respond to search engine results, with a particular emphasis on those displayed by…yes, you guessed it, Google!

To find out more, please read on below. You can also browse through previous editions and if you would like to subscribe to the newsletter, just submit your details using the form at the side of the page.

On to this month's news...

‘Planet surfing’ with Google Earth

Following hard on the heels of Google Local and Google Maps (May newsletter) comes Google Earth. This new product requires software to be downloaded for free to your PC (as well as a broadband connection) and combines some practical search functions with some amazing quality satellite imagery. Together, these offer a powerful and fascinating view of the world.

When you first start up Google Earth, you’re presented with some search option panels to the left of the screen, some control options below and a large image of the world (centred on the US of course!). But by typing in the name of a city you’re suddenly swooping around the world and down to the selected destination.

As the ‘flight’ slows and you get closer to the ground, the blurred image begins to clear into - in many cases - a highly detailed aerial photo of the city. You can then zoom in and out, rotate the image or tilt down towards ground level. The default setting displays the landscape in context and for many of the cities in the US, you can also select the 3D buildings option to view representations of all the buildings standing out from the ground.

As a search tool Google Earth offers many of the functions provided by Google Local, so you can identify hotels, restaurants, schools or different businesses, then find directions and distances between 2 points and save locations for later reference. You can also overlay roads onto the images. But as a global view, this product excels by providing some excellent high quality images of many places around the world.

Coverage is far from complete, however, and the search results don’t always work too well. For example, the satellite images for London are not as sharp as for other cities and the coverage of the rest of the UK is poor. However, you can sweep across the Golden Gate Bridge into San Francisco, see the water taxis on the Grand Canal in Venice or take a flying tour across Hong Kong with some incredibly detailed images – see some examples here.

At the very least Google Earth should become a standard tool in geography classes at school. As a vision of a search tool in the future, it’s made a great start and will no doubt improve and develop over the coming months.

In an amusing twist to this product, Google also introduced Google Moon last month, to mark the anniversary of the first moon landings. Based on the Google Maps format, you can zoom in to the moon surface to view the landing points and information on each of the missions between 1969 and 1972. If you then go to the full magnification of the image, you can see what the astronauts found!

If you’ve installed Google Earth or intend to do so and have any questions, please let us know and we’ll be pleased to help.

New bidding system on Google AdWords

Google recently announced a significant change to their Google AdWords activity which will be introduced in August and revises the way that keywords are managed. The changes are supposedly to provide advertisers with more control over their campaigns and to provide users with more relevant results, although cynics might also say that it's a way to increase the overall bid rates and spend by stealth!

The AdWords tool has always been a system that benefits more relevant or better performing adverts with high clickthrough rates, so that an advertiser can rank higher than a competitor - even with a lower bid cost - if the advert is attracting a better rate of visits. Combined with this, Google disables keywords that aren't performing well, which is determined by a number of performance factors.

The new system that has been announced will help to simplify the management of keywords but will mean that there are more calculations that determine advert positions (the 'Ad Rank') going on in the background. Essentially, Google AdWords are introducing a new rating system for every keyword called a Quality Score. This is based on a range of factors including a keyword's clickthrough rate, the relevance of an advert's text, the historical keyword performance among all advertisers and for each individual advertiser, plus a number of other relevancy factors that Google will not reveal.

This Quality Score will be combined with the maximum cost per click level to determine each advertiser's Ad Rank. However, it will also be used to calculate a minimum cost per click for each different keyword, which could be higher or lower than the current 4p minimum. This will be constantly updated, so the minimum bid for a certain keyword could change over time.

So what does this all mean for advertisers who are running a Google AdWords campaign?

We can't answer this with certainty yet as the impact will become more apparent over the next few months. However, it will mean that advertisers will probably need to make changes to their account and closely monitor the activity over the next few months as the system is introduced. The change is designed to reward highly relevant adverts, whilst placing a higher cost on speculative adverts which are not so relevant to a keyword - it will still be possible for advertisers to target these more general keywords, but the cost per click is likely to increase.

This change may affect your AdWords advertising if you tend to bid close to the current minimum bid rates on keywords, or if your advertising tends to have a low clickthrough rate. It will also be possible to target keywords which would have previously been disabled, which may be of use in some situations. We’ll be keeping a close watch on the effects of these changes over the next few months and reporting on them to our PPC advertisers.

If you would like to know more or have any questions about these changes, please contact us.

Tracking the behaviour of web searchers

A report published recently by Enquiro in Canada adds a more detailed level of analysis to the research conducted by Eyetools that used eye-tracking software to identify 'hotspots' on a page of Google search engine results (see April newsletter)

The study, across 300 sessions, identified the way that searchers viewed the page of results once it was displayed, represented as a 'golden triangle'. In fact, the shape tended to represent an F pattern with the eye travelling from the top left (organic and paid results) to top right (paid results) and then down the results on the left (organic results).

The new study provides more in-depth findings that indicate that searchers tend to react differently to natural listings compared to the sponsored results. It describes the process of 'semantic mapping' which implies that many searchers will look for the best match in the results between a search listing and their concept of what the most appropriate result will be.

In such cases, a searcher will respond to those results, regardless of position, that match their concept most effectively. Therefore the eye-tracking sees users jump around the page looking for direct matches, as well as having peripheral vision to scan all the information on a page.

The study analyses other factors that influence search behaviour, such as emboldened terms, demographic differences, and a user's confidence in the results between listings they are seeing for the first time against ones they have seen previously. To read more about this report and to view some sample pages, or to buy the report, please click here.

If you would like more information about using eye-tracking software or how this survey impacts your search engine listings, please contact us for more information.

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.