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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - July 2006

This month we consider the issue of 'reputation management' on search engines, whereby individuals and companies can face negative comments or publicity within search results, blogs and community sites, with the consequences of searchers 'Googling' them and finding information that can't be controlled. Whether comments may be truthful or not, reputation management is now a growing business sector for PR and search marketing companies and we look at ways to monitor search results and tackle defamatory websites.

We also review 2 new search tools that have been launched in the past few months - one offering a new approach to web search results and the other focusing on the global business market. Plus we report on the new 'ad scheduling' tool that has just been launched by Google AdWords to help advertisers gain more flexibility over their PPC campaigns.

To find out more, please read on below and follow the links to the full articles available on our website. If you want to refer to any items included in previous editions, you can find them here.

On to this month's news....

Online Reputation Management

The growth of blogs, forums and community websites like MySpace and Bebo allow individuals' opinions about your business to become highly visible in the results of the main search engines. Here we summarise some simple steps you can take to monitor what people are saying, action you can take, and what to avoid!

When it comes to checking what people may be saying about you, or your business, here's a rundown of the most useful research methods:

1) Searching Google and other search engines for your brand name is the simplest way of monitoring the most visible content - to make sure you don't miss any changes, setup automated Google Alerts to notify any changes by email.

2) To dig further, try searching news, blog search tools, and popular communities - here are some useful links for this:

3) Use RSS feeds to make monitoring simpler - tools such as RSS Mix allow you to merge several feeds into one - so you can have a single feed monitoring a range of sources for items containing your company name, or another phrase of interest.

If you do come across negative comments about your business or actions online, here are some steps you can take:

Saturating a search for your brand - Issuing regular, optimised press releases or writing articles on other websites is a great way to 'saturate' search engine results for your brand name. This makes it difficult for negative content to achieve a good ranking. Press releases can also be used for other purposes such as improving your credibility, or targeting time sensitive searches generated by news coverage, or a product launch - we provided an introduction to online press releases in our June 2005 newsletter.

Stopping negative comments advertised with PPC advertising - If someone is using Google AdWords or another pay per click network to advertising negative comments about you, it is possible to make registered trademark a 'reserved keyword' that advertisers cannot target with their keyword lists or advert text - we discussed this in more detail in our May 2005 newsletter.

Contacting the individual - Although this often increases discussion, there may be times when you do want to contact the individual making the comments. Whether an informal note, or a cease and desist letter, the most appropriate way to send this is through a private channel - phone, post, email. Keep your communication polite, and think about how your comments may look if taken out of context and posted online.

When attempting to counter negative comments to it is also very easy to 'put your foot in it', such as:

Joining the public argument - Joining a negative discussion about yourself in a forum is a great way to light its fire - with the volume and intensity of discussion likely to build following your entrance.

Pseudo posts - It can also be tempting to add some positive spin to a discussion through a make up character. This technique is used successfully by skilled PRs, but you need to carefully consider you message and character, plus many communities have user histories, without which your character may look suspicious.

If you would like to find out more about online reputation management, or have a problem you would like us to review, please contact us now for more information.

New ad scheduling from Google AdWords

Google AdWords launched their new ad-scheduling tool in June, enabling advertisers to develop 'day-parting' strategies, which can increase the targeting of core markets and provide improved cost-effectiveness. If you know that your target customers are likely to be less active - or more active - on different days, or times of the day, then this tool now offers greater flexibility to manage your PPC campaigns.

As we previously predicted, Google AdWords have now introduced this advert scheduling tool in response to the range of services being offered by the new Microsoft adCenter PPC tool (which has also had its 'soft' launch in the UK during June, with a full launch due in August). Google AdWords are calling their new feature 'ad scheduling' and, like Microsoft's version, gives advertisers the ability to automatically adjust their bids, or pause and resume their campaigns based on times of day, or days of the week.

Google claim that this is consistent with their ongoing strategy of the past year, to deliver increased control and flexibility to advertisers. However, it's no coincidence that Microsoft's new adCenter has always listed day-parting as one of its key features and Yahoo! is also expected to offer day-parting when it releases its upgraded PPC management tool for Yahoo! Search Marketing in the autumn. Marvellous what a bit of competition can do!

Google's new tool is a valuable new feature for businesses whose target market may show some temporally predictable or routine behaviour, so that advertisers may wish to only bid at times when their target customers are online, or may wish to raise their bids at those times. Campaigns can now be paused for selected hours of the day, or for complete days during the week, plus the advanced option allows bid levels to be increased or decreased by any level between 10% and 1000% within 15 minute segments of any day.

This may have the effect of raising bid prices at peak times, which may lead to particularly prudent advertisers avoiding peak periods if they do not rely on reaching customers at those times. It is certainly too early to tell what the long term impact of day-parting may be on the paid search landscape, but it's likely that more options will be introduced soon to match Microsoft adCenter's geo-demographic targeting capabilities.

If you know your ideal customer behaviour patterns or want to test day-parting on your Google AdWords campaign, contact us for help or more information now.

New search engines set to challenge existing tools

There are 2 new search engines of note this month that are starting to attract press attention. Snap is a relaunched version of an old search tool, now offering a range of interesting features and display options. Zibb is a new business search engine developed by Reed Business Information and an example of a search tool focused at a 'vertical' search market.

Snap is a resurrected name in the search market and could just as easily be featured in our occasional 'what ever happened to..' articles. The original Snap was launched by CNET in 1997, initially as a search engine and then as its own directory of human-edited listings. Eventually renamed as NBCi to reflect its new owner, the site ultimately failed and was closed in early 2001.

Relaunched at the end of 2004, the 'new' Snap has been developed by a team headed by Bill Gross, who was the original founder of Overture and was also involved with Picasa before Google purchased the company. After a period in beta and undergoing a series of changes, Snap has now been launched as 'the other way to search', combining a search index from a number of sources, together with some original search features.

The main differences offered by Snap are that it anticipates the user's search term by offering a drop-down list of suggestions. The results page is also more interactive and very visual, with images of the websites available to enable users to decide whether to visit them or not, either within a search window or in a new window. There are also a number of other tools and 'widgets' offered, which may prove too 'gimmicky' but ultimately the quality of the search results will count if it wants to build market share. Snap claims to achieve more relevant results by using an algorithm that reviews past behaviour of millions of users to tell which sites are visited more often, the average time users spend on each site, and whether or not they took any action.

Zibb is currently in beta format and is described as the 'global business search engine'. It has been developed by Reed Business Information in partnership with FAST Search & Transfer, the Norwegian company behind the respected All The Web search engine that was taken over by Yahoo! in 2003.

The search index combines the extensive business data sources published by Reed, together with crawled data from other publishers' content and other web content, so that data is ranked according to relevance. There are options to search within news stories, as well as products and suppliers (taken from Reed's Kellysearch and Kompass databases) although the range of advanced search options are currently quite limited. Sponsored listings are included from Google.

If you'd like to know more about either of these new search engines and how the could be used to market your online business, please contact us for more details.

Book review - Search Marketing Strategies

This month's book review is Search Marketing Strategies by James Colborn. One of a growing number of new titles that focus on this fast growing sector, this book is aimed at marketing professionals who want to understand, plan for, and implement marketing campaigns through search engines, using both optimisation and paid search techniques.

Read the full review of Search Marketing Strategies.

We hope you've found this month's issue useful. 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.