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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - August 2009

Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter covering web search and marketing news, trends and advice.

This month we look at Microsoft and Yahoo!'s new partnership which combines their search technologies and market reach with the aim of taking on Google search at its own game. We also review the Search Query function in the new Google AdWords interface and how to use it to refine campaigns and save money. Finally, in our continuing series on Google Analytics reports, we have a look at Custom Reporting and how this can be used to personalise reports more precisely to include more relevant data.

Read more about these stories below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subjects covered. If you'd also like to keep up with the latest developments during the month, don't forget our web marketing blog - we've included a summary of some recent stories from the past month at the end of this newsletter. You can also now follow us for regular updates on Twitter.

On to this month's edition...

Microsoft and Yahoo team up to take on Google

In the past few days, Microsoft and Yahoo! have finally struck a deal to combine their search forces against Google. This much anticipated and expected move has been dragging on for over a year and the final agreement just involves the search side of Yahoo!, rather than a full takeover of the business, but it still results in a significant change in the search market.

The 10-year deal will mean that Microsoft's new Bing search engine will now power the results on Yahoo!, although Yahoo! will retain control of how the search results are displayed. Microsoft will gain access to Yahoo!'s search technology and the PPC advertising platform will move to Microsoft's AdCenter system, but Yahoo! will retain responsibility for selling the search advertising across both networks. Display advertising will remain under the control of each company.

Yahoo! will receive 88% of search ad revenues generated by Yahoo! sites and, together, the 2 companies hope that by combining their technologies they can make a greater dent into the search dominance of Google.

So what does all this mean? Probably very little in the short term as the deal needs to be approved by the authorities and also there will be a major logistical challenge to transfer Yahoo!'s PPC advertiser accounts across to the Microsoft service. However, in the long term this should benefit advertisers who have found the Yahoo! PPC service slow and hard to use, whilst Microsoft's service has been praised, yet limited by market coverage.

In the long term the combination of these 2 search services will mean a further focusing of search through a few routes. The impact on the search market will be mostly felt in the US, where the combined strength of these companies will impact nearly 30% of the market, yet in many other countries, Google's complete dominance of search activity will not be greatly affected.

The further reduction in search competition is a shame, but it should be a benefit for PPC advertisers to use the better AdCenter system for non-Google search services. It's also a tragedy for Yahoo!, one of the pioneers of web search and directory services, that it now seems to have finally lost its once powerful position in this market and will need to rely on its other consumer portal services. Over the years Yahoo! acquired some of the original leading players in web search, such as Inktomi and AltaVista, but some of this technology - if it was developed over recent years - may now help to evolve the quality of the Bing search engine.

For Microsoft, this move is what it has been waiting for and gives it the best opportunity to take on Google for greater market share of search. Whether they can use the share that they will get from Yahoo! in the USA to their advantage and to innovate and grow their user base remains to be seen.

If you'd like to know more about the implications of this move for your search engine marketing strategy, please contact us now for a discussion.


Using the new Search Query Function in Google AdWords

A useful and cost-saving new function which has been added to the updated Google Adwords interface is the integrated search query report pop-up screen. This provides advertisers with more detailed information on the search queries that their site visitors have used before clicking on their PPC advert and allows better targeting of the campaign over time.

Once advertisers are logged into their Google AdWords management interface they can click on the "See Search Terms" button that now appears at the top of each keyword activity report. This opens up a pop-up screen containing data about the actual search queries that have been used by searchers on Google which then lead to a clickthrough from the relevant PPC advert.

Advertisers can therefore now view the search phrases that generated clicks to their site and assess whether they are relevant enough. The detailed breakdown by search phrase will show the usual data provided by Google, such as the total impressions, clickthrough rate and average ad position, as well as the cost and any conversions generated from the clicks.

The power of this report is that it enables advertisers to identify the relevancy or otherwise of their targeted search terms, particularly if these are set at the broad level. It can demonstrate the wide variety of search terms that users input into Google's search panel and can either show high volume terms that should be specifically targeted if not already as well as phrases or individual words that should be excluded as a negative term to reduce impressions and clicks.

This data was previously available as a report within AdWords, but this new tool allows more immediate and flexible control of the keyword targeting within a campaign. It can sometimes mean that words or phrases are excluded after the click, but this can reduce future unnecessary spend. What it doesn't do is indicate where high impressions may still be generated from terms where the advert is not clicked.

However, this tool is one of the good improvements added to the Google Adwords management interface and allows campaigns to become more tightly focussed upon the most effective keywords, which should help to improve clickthrough rates and conversions.

If you'd like to know more about this function and how it can be used to help improve your Google AdWords campaign, please contact us for details.


Using Custom Reporting in Google Analytics

In our continuing series on the most useful functions within Google Analytics, this month we review the use and creation of Custom Reports. These are most useful when you have to combine metrics and dimensions that are not included in the standard report layouts, or when you want to simplify an existing report format by removing data that's not relevant.

Building a tailored custom report in Google Analytics is easy and means quicker access to the information you're more interested in, with less data overload and easy exporting. It allows you to create, save, and edit reports that present the information you want to see organised in the way you want to see it. A drag and drop interface lets you select the metrics you want and define multiple levels of sub-reports. Once created, they can be exported in the usual way of clicking on the export button on the top of the dashboard and choosing the format in which to export it.

It's easy to navigate to the custom reports by just clicking on the 'Custom Reporting' link in the menu on the left-hand side of the main dashboard. Then choose some of the Analytics data from the left hand side menu that can be classified in two simple ways: Metrics or Dimensions.

A metric is the horizontal column heading(s) in the report that is a quantitative measure of how visitors interact with your site. Metrics are always numerical and include things like page views, time on page and bounce rate (the percent of visitors that leave your site after only 1 page).

A dimension is the vertical row(s) in the report that is a characteristic of a visitor or a page on your website that you can use to organize your metrics. Dimensions are almost always text, such as "new" vs "returning" (visitor type) or "North America" vs "Europe" (region).

You can choose any metric to build your custom report with. You also don't have to pair them with dimensions, which means there are no restrictions to which metrics you can use. However, when they are paired with dimensions, metrics are subject to certain restrictions.

By using custom reports, it is possible to drilldown to five levels deep into the data or to keep the reports more simplified than the ones displayed on the standard dashboard. So the choice of creating simple or complex reports is entirely yours with the flexible and extremely useful Analytics Custom Reporting Tool.

For more information or help on the Custom Reporting function in Google Analytics, please contact us now.


The Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Optimization

As part of our series of book reviews featuring Web marketing & Internet reference books, we look this month at The Ultimate Guide to Search Engine Optimization, by Jon Rognerud. This is a comprehensive, step-by-step guide on how to build a fully-optimized website and a successful, traffic-driving SEO campaign.


Recent articles from The Marketing Workbench

The Marketing Workbench is our regular web marketing blog covering news and comment on Internet marketing events and trends. If you want to keep track of current stories you can visit this section of our website on a regular basis, or set up an RSS feed. These are just some of the items posted over the past month:


We hope you've found this month's issue useful. Please contact us if you need any more information 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 to us.