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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - June 2009

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

This month we look at latest quarterly Internet advertising figures published by IAB Australia, which show continued strong growth in the sector, despite the growing economic pressures on business. We also review the new Search Options Panel which has just been introduced by Google to add new filters to their search results. Finally we cover the launch of the new Wolfram Alpha search tool and why it isn't trying to be a direct competitor to Google, yet still provides an impressive search service.

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...

Latest Internet Advertising Trends in Australia

The latest quarterly report from IAB Australia was released last month and shows that the national online advertising market continues to demonstrate a good rate of growth - despite the economic downturn - with a year-on-year increase of 14%. Search and Directories advertising has also established more than 50% of the total online advertising sector for the first time.

Using data compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the IAB report says that online advertising expenditure in Australia for the first quarter of 2009 came to $439.5 million, the largest first quarter figure recorded so far, even though the industry is expected to be impacted by the effects of the global financial crisis and the lowering of consumer and business confidence. The first quarter figures for 2009 were down 5% against the last quarter of 2008, yet this was anticipated due to the decline in activity that's usually seen after the pre-Christmas period. Despite this, the online advertising sector continues to maintain a strong year-on-year growth each quarter, unlike most other advertising media that are reporting negative year-on-year revenues.

The continued growth in this sector has been largely driven by the Search and Directories sector where the further migration of revenues into this sector saw it push past 50% of the total online advertising revenue for the first quarter. General Display advertising accounted for 24.9% of the total advertising expenditure for the first quarter, with a small decrease from the previous quarter as expected due to the trend of previous years. The Classifieds sector comprised 23.9% of the overall market with the impact of the economic slowdown having the greatest impact here, as the sector showed the first decrease in year-on-year expenditure since record keeping commenced in 2002.

More details on the IAB report can be found here. If you'd like to know more about these trends and what it could mean for your online marketing strategy, please contact us to find out more.


Google's New Search Options Panel

During May, Google's search team announced the launch of the new Search Options Panel within Google's main search results. This gives the searcher the ability to filter, refine and further explore the standard search results to help them find exactly what they need. These options are very useful to 'slice and dice' the search results for greater focus.

The new search options panel has been launched with limited fanfare and has probably been missed by most Google searchers. It can be accessed by clicking on the "show options" link on the top left hand side of the standard search results and reflects the type of filter options seen in Google News.

The main search tool options now allow users to break the results down into smaller categories of videos, forums or reviews. Other options include looking at results by recency, using a number of different date ranges, or by looking at the images from pages of results. There are also several more in-depth features such as related search, the "timeline" and intriguingly named "wonder wheel".

The related search option displays other possible search phrases that the user might want to consider and extends the range beyond those now usually displayed at the bottom of a search results page. This function can also be used to check possible search terms for SEO or PPC campaigns, at a very basic level.

The timeline search option enables the selection of a time frame for results so that the chronological order and numbers of documents relating to the search can be viewed. This would be useful to examine the timeline and size of a news article, or how events have proceeded on a particular story. The wonder wheel is an excellent visual map for exploring related topics. It's also possible to view topics related to the original search not by a visual representation, but by related searches by clicking on the link on the left hand side.

These changes appear well timed by Google to provide more search options in the face of new search engines from Wolfram Alpha (below) and the imminent launch of the new Microsoft search engine - Bing - which we will review next month. It also gives searches new functions to improve the range of results being displayed, although Google should probably do more to raise awareness of this new function. They have apparently put considerable resources into researching eye-tracking and usability studies about how people understand the options in the panel and interact with it, so it is a well-researched, user-friendly method of searching which aims to benefit the user by allowing a much greater level of depth into search results than was previously attainable.

To find out more about the Search Options Panel and how it can help to increase the marketing opportunities for your website on Google's search results, please contact us now for more information.


Introducing Wolfram Alpha

Last month also saw the much anticipated launch of Wolfram Alpha, the new "computational knowledge engine". There were the inevitable comparisons to Google, but the creator of this new search tool - physicist and software entrepreneur Stephen Wolfram has discouraged these types of comparison as the new website serves a different purpose. Regardless of this, it's an impressive new resource.

Despite all the press hype, Wolfram Alpha isn't a traditional search engine. You can't use it to find any type of web content online, but instead it can be used whenever you might be looking for a direct answer to a question. Stephen Wolfram has said that the site's brain is built on content sites like the CIA World Factbook, US Census reports, Wikipedia, and "about nine-tenths of what you'd see on the main shelves of a reference library."

The Home Page of the site provides example searches that can be done on Wolfram Alpha, plus there is further page of examples to give users the idea of its strengths. The team behind this search service have done well to collate all the data that it draws upon, but it's only a small fraction of what's available on the whole of the web and it may prove to be initially confusing or disappointing to people who are now so used to Google to find information online.

Wolfram Alpha's main target audience will be mathematicians, engineers, and scientists as well as students or journalists - because it's based on Wolfram Mathematica, a software package that can do complex calculations. And being a "computational knowledge engine", rather than a pure search engine, there are 5 main things that it can do better than traditional search engines, namely performing complex queries; localisation; precision; calculation and comparisons.

This is its main advantage, in that is can make calculations on the fly and present results based on the requested search. It can solve difficult equations and makes decent graphs for lots of specialised enquiries. This can also be its 'Achilles heel' however, as it encourages specialised search queries and it takes a bit of practice learning how to phrase queries so the engine understands the input.

Although it's still early days and will surely improve, it's currently too picky about syntax and not intuitive to work with. For example, if you enter a query it doesn't understand, it just returns the text "Wolfram Alpha doesn't know what to do with your input."

Therefore despite exhibiting some interesting new technology, Wolfram Alpha isn't intended to revolutionise search engines. Instead, it aims to add a useful new layer to them, not by trying to beat Google at its own game, but by complementing the traditional search engines and providing an alternative, specialised service to try bridging the gap between search engines and reference libraries.

If you'd like to know more about this new search engine, please contact us for further information.


Book Review - Small Business Web Sites Made Easy

As part of our series of book reviews featuring Internet marketing books, we look this month at Small Business Web Sites Made Easy, by Stephen Holzner. This is a wide ranging title that covers aspects of web design, search engine marketing and social media marketing techniques for small businesses.


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.