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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - August 2010

Welcome to the latest issue of our monthly newsletter, which looks at the latest news and developments in the field of web search and online marketing.

This month we review several new features that have been added to Google AdWords - firstly, Sitelinks which are designed to provide more entry points to a website and thereby increase the clickthrough rates from an AdWords listing. Then we look at how Google's new broad match modifier keyword targeting feature in AdWords provides advertisers with a middle ground between broad and phrase match targeting.

Finally in this issue we review how Yahoo! has begun testing search results with Microsoft, which will determine whether the search giants can launch their partnership later this year.

You can read more below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subject . We are also reporting the main news stories during each month in our regular web marketing blog or you can get the latest updates by following our Twitter account.

On to this month's edition...

Google offers Sitelinks in AdWords campaigns

Google AdWords has recently added a new feature called Ad Sitelinks that is designed to provide more entry points to a website and thereby increase the clickthrough rates from an AdWords listing. Up to four additional links can now be displayed as part of an AdWords PPC advert, giving searchers multiple options to enter the relevant section of the advertiser's website.

Google initially launched Ad Sitelinks in November 2009, but on a limited basis to some US advertisers. However, they have now launched this as a standard feature of all AdWords campaigns on the basis that the early tests increased click through rates by more than 30%. Google therefore hopes that the new feature will improve the performance of advertisers' campaigns, as well as increasing their revenues of course!

Ad Sitelinks are managed as a campaign-level setting, so advertisers can turn on this option within this section of the account. Up to 10 additional links can be added, with the title of the link and the direct URL to the relevant page chosen by the advertiser. It's important that the links created are also relevant to any advert in that campaign.

Once the Sitelinks have been set up, the advertiser can't control how these will be used, or how often they are displayed below their advert. However, the Sitelinks will only be displayed under one of the top positions placed the search results and ads need to have a very high quality score.

The links shown are not optimised based on their performance and Google says that the Sitelinks will rotate and be prioritised based on the order in which they are entered for the ad extension. For one line Sitelinks, shorter link text will be prioritised over longer link text.

Sitelinks are most likely to appear on queries related to an advertiser's brand. A high proportion of some companies' paid search budgets currently focus on brand name terms. Until recently, these advertisers had no choice but to go with generic calls to action and just one page as the destination URL. Now, large brand advertisers in particular have an opportunity to make those brand keywords work harder to produce more conversions.

There have been calls for Google to consider moving the Sitelinks into an AdGroup-level setting so they can be more precisely determined. There have also been criticisms that Google doesn't provide a separate report on Sitelink performance and that there is no information being made available on how many times Sitelinks get triggered.

At this stage, the effectiveness of using Ad Sitelinks is difficult to gauge, although the Ad Extensions tab will provide some data. Google suggests that advertisers review how often an advert was shown with Sitelinks, and then compare the performance statistics of the ads when shown with or without Sitelinks by creating two campaigns one with Sitelinks enabled and one without. It is likely that more functionality and reporting will be added to this feature in the future and it will become an important element in helping to improve click through and conversion rates.

To find out more about how the Ad Sitelinks could help the marketing of your brand or business, contact us now.


New keyword targeting feature in Google AdWords

In mid-July Google AdWords announced that their new keyword targeting feature would now be available to all advertisers, following a limited test in the UK and Canada. The 'Broad Match Modifier' provides advertisers with a middle ground between broad and phrase match targeting. Google claims that by adding modified broad match keywords to an AdWords campaign will help advertisers achieve more clicks and conversions at an attractive ROI.

To implement the modifier, all that is necessary is to put a plus symbol (+) directly in front of one or more words in a broad match keyword. This increases the emphasis in the search of the particular keyword that has the (+) in front of it. For example, formal +shoes, has to have shoes, but not formal in the results. Whereas, +formal +shoes has to have both formal & shoes in the results, but can have other words from the results between them (unlike phrase match types). The original expanded broad match type (without the modifier) could return something as broad as men's dress wingtips in relation to formal shoes.

Broad match modifiers are designed for AdGroups that contain mostly phrase and exact match words, so that the coverage of the campaign can be expanded without impacting the targeting too much. For those advertisers who are mostly bidding on broad match terms, the use of this modifier could result in a significant decline in clicks and conversions, since the display of their adverts will be more limited.

The general consensus of opinion is that the new broad match modifiers are a useful inclusion into Google's arsenal of AdWords features, as many people had been frustrated with the expanded broad match problem: this is Google displaying adverts to a very wide range of associated terms, that may not even include the original search terms. Now with modified broad match, the targeting is more precise, so it's possible to see a better CTR, conversion rate and CPA than phrase and exact match alternatives.

The main complaint is that Google needs to update the AdWords Editing tool so that it's easier to change lots of keywords to BMM in order to take full advantage of the new feature. In addition, downloading keyword reports into Excel results in the format of the terms being recognised as a formula, so that editing is required to display the keyword correctly.

To find out how this Broad Match Modifier could improve your AdWords campaign and ROI, please contact us now for more information.


Yahoo! begins testing search results with Microsoft

As previously reported in our newsletter, Yahoo! received clearance from both the U.S. Department of Justice and the European Commission for their search alliance with Microsoft in February of this year, which the two companies hope will reshape the search market in their favour. In mid-July Yahoo's engineers began testing keywords in Microsoft's search advertising system and these tests will determine whether the search giants can launch their partnership later this year.

The tests are being performed almost a year after the announcement of their search alliance and both companies hope that as a result of them they'll be able to successfully compete head-on with Google to gain more share of the search market. Microsoft hopes that the 10-year revenue-sharing pact will also help turn its ailing online services division into a profitable business.

The intention is that Microsoft's Bing search engine will power searches on Yahoo websites. The two companies' small and mid-size advertisers will use Microsoft's adCenter paid search platform to buy keywords and put ads on web pages, while Yahoo's sales staff will handle the larger display advertising accounts for both companies.

Since mid-July Yahoo! has been testing organic and paid search listings from Microsoft for up to 25% of Yahoo! Search traffic in the U.S. They also began testing the delivery of paid search results from Microsoft Advertising adCenter to Yahoo! Search, which began with a small percentage of traffic and may increase to include up to 2.5% to 3.5% of live Yahoo! Search traffic in the U.S.

So the primary change for these tests is that the listings are now coming from Microsoft. Pending the results, Yahoo! anticipate that their U.S. and Canadian organic search listings in both desktop and mobile experiences will be fully powered by Microsoft's Bing platform beginning in the August/September timeframe, and paid search in October.

From this point, it will be necessary to review the Bing webmaster tools and optimise your website for the Microsoft platform crawler, as Bing listings will be displayed for approximately 30% of search queries after this change, according to comScore. The project remains on schedule as engineers eliminate bugs in the system and they aim to gradually increase the volume of Yahoo traffic that passes through Bing.

The main questions remain unanswered, however. The most critical of which is whether the alliance will generate more revenue per search for the companies and greater profits for investors, as well as better returns for advertisers.

To find out more about how this search alliance between Yahoo! and Microsoft could affect the search marketing of your business, contact us now.


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.