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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - December 2005

Welcome to the December issue of our monthly newsletter, covering events and issues involving Internet marketing and search.

As 2005 is rapidly coming to an end, it's been another eventful year in the search market, with the launch of MSN's new search engine and the numerous new product developments from Google. We'll take a closer look at the significant events from this year in next month's issue, but this month we need more space again to report on the latest launches by Google. And what a busy month it's been!

Firstly, we look at the launch of Google Analytics and the impact this may have on the website analytics marketplace, plus we consider what Google's intentions may be by entering this field. We also look at two additional new products that have just been introduced - Google Base and Google Book Search.

On the subject of books, we also start a regular book review feature this month, which just happens to be a recent publication about the growth of Google and its impact on the search market. Timely!

To find out more, please read on below. You can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter.

Finally, from all of us at the Web Search Workshop, we would like to wish you a happy and successful Christmas season.

On to this month's news...

Google introduces free website analytics tool

Google has just launched its new statistical analysis tool, Google Analytics, which allows users to see how site visitors interact with their website and how well advertising campaigns are working. Based on the Urchin web statistics software that Google acquired in March, this new, free tool will shake up the website analytics market.

Prior to November 2005, Urchin was a market leading software package providing in-depth data on website usage. It originally cost users $495 per month, which was reduced to $199 per month following Google's acquisition. It has now been made available free of charge!

Website owners can therefore now have access to a top-level full analytics package for free. It offers a host of features that allow site owners to track referral traffic, to monitor site visits, page views and length of time on the site. Google Analytics is available to anyone who can add the small piece of tracking code to each page of their website and then view that data online. However, there are some limitations to usage in this format and so to get the best from this tool, website owners will ideally be running a Google AdWords account.

In this format, a new interface allows AdWords advertisers to track their online advertising activity from all sources - including other PPC providers - and to differentiate visits and actions between paid and non-paid search traffic. You can also use cost data for these campaigns to calculate ROI (Return on Investment) from each source.

So why has Google introduced this product? Firstly, it wants to take advantage of its acquisition of Urchin. But to offer it for free? This will potentially destroy the market for established web statistics providers like WebTrends, LiveStats and ClickTracks as website owners migrate to this new tool. Google also wants to encourage more companies to sign up to Adwords and they are probably pre-empting the type of analysis tools that are expected from MSN's new PPC service next year. In addition, Google will also be collecting a huge amount of data with this tool, that can be used at the general level for traffic analysis, market profiling and further product development.

In the first week of this tool being launched, the service crashed through overuse, which was indicative of the tremendous level of interest Google Analytics has created. We are currently testing this new service for a number of clients and will provide more information to our customers over the next few months to advise on how this tool can be used effectively.

If you'd like to know more about Google Analytics and how it could be used on your website, please contact us now for more information.

Google Base appears in beta

Another new product launched in the past few weeks by Google is the new Google Base service. Currently in beta development, this is a broad ranging tool that allows users to post a wide variety of information that can then be searched and retrieved through this product. The role and usage of Google Base is not yet clear, but it is likely to become another key platform in this company's ambitions to 'organise the world's content'.

Google Base is much like directory, although you don't need a website to post information here. It's been compared to sites like eBay, Wikipedia, Monster and similar market leading sites. You can post information on pretty much anything and current categories include events, jobs, news, people, products and services, vehicles for sale or wanted adverts.

Each submission offers a range of associated product description and categorisation fields, so that users can attach a number of attributes to each entry that will then help with its organisation and retrieval when someone is searching. Google says that information posted here may be included within the main search listings, or on some of their specialised search tools like Froogle or Google Local.

However, at this stage Google Base lacks any clear structure or direction and it's not being promoted yet, so is unlikely to become heavily used for a while. There's also no community feel yet, like on eBay or Wikipedia, and it's unclear how effective the search results will be as the number of listings multiply substantially.

We'll be assessing Google Base in more detail over the coming months and will advise our clients how it may be used to support their search marketing efforts. If you'd like to know more before then, please get in touch.

Google Book Search appears within search results

In an exhausting month for new product launches from Google, the first results of its book scanning project have now started to appear. You may have noticed that at the bottom of the first page of search results on Google can now be seen a link to additional results from the new Google Book Search service, which leads you into a wealth of new information.

Google Book Search presents users with information from scanned book content that publishers have made available to Google. All the content from these books has been indexed and books that match search terms are displayed in a list, with the book jacket and sample text shown.

By clicking the link to the book, you can view a number of pages scanned from the book. However, if books are still under copyright then just a few pages are made available and Google makes it clear that they are trying to provide a sample to encourage users to then buy the book. There are already an impressive array of recent and classic books being included here and the participating publishers must hope that the spin-off will be from the extra book sales - either through the links provided to online stores such as Amazon or WH Smith, or via traditional 'bricks and mortar' stores.

There are fewer opportunities here for website owners to gain a marketing advantage, but we'll be keeping an eye on this service and will report further on any new opportunities or advantages that may arise.

If you'd like to know more about the Google Book Search service, please contact us now for more details.

Book review: The Search by John Battelle

This month, we're starting a regular feature providing a book review of a recent publication covering any aspect of Internet marketing and strategy. This month we stay on the subject of Google and have reviewed The Search: How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture, by John Battelle.

Read the full review on our website.

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.