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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - March 2006

Welcome to the latest edition of our monthly newsletter on web search and marketing issues.

In this issue we look at RSS feeds - what are they and how can they be used, either as an information source or as a marketing tool. RSS is now becoming a common technique on the web and can be considered as a potential new marketing channel.

We also offer a sneak preview of the new MSN pay-per-click advertising tool, which is expected to launch in the UK later this year. In the month when Overture has rebranded itself as Yahoo! Search Marketing, the new MSN adCenter will offer a new challenge to the established players and a new opportunity for search marketing.

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...

RSS Feeds - the new online marketing tool

RSS Feeds are essentially lists of links or articles which you can subscribe to, in order to check for updates and new content across a range of websites, without needing to waste time visiting them all each day or week to keep track of new content. They can therefore be useful as an information source but also as a potential marketing tool.

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication and is the fastest growing source of web feeds, although other methods also exist, such as Atom, XML or RDF feeds, as well as more traditional syndication of material. Any type of content that is regularly published or updated, such as newsletters, blogs, press releases or job listings can be included in an RSS Feed.

In order to view Feeds, you need reader software, which is available in a number of different formats:

As a web user, feeds are useful for keeping up-to-date with the latest news and content in a particular interest area. They can also be used for other purposes - for example, using an online bookmarking service such as del.icio.us to create a feed of you favourite bookmarks to access from any computer, or creating a feed showing the search engine results for a particular term to monitor, such as your brand name.

As a website owner or marketer, RSS Feeds allow you to 'push' your latest news and content to users who choose to subscribe, helping to keep your website and offerings at the front of people's minds, and to encourage repeat visits to your website.

This 'push' attribute is also applicable to email marketing, although feeds give users control over whether they subscribe or not, making them less obtrusive. Users like to have this control, but it does mean that you need to create content or offers that will be of interest to them - as with any form of promotion!

If you'd like to know more about RSS feeds and how they can be used to the advantage of your business, please contact us for more details.

A sneak preview of the new MSN adCenter

Following initial trials in France and Singapore, the long-awaited MSN pay-per-click advertising service (called the MSN adCenter) is currently being offered to US advertisers on an invitation-only basis. However, MSN has already provided some detailed information about what the new service offers and we can look forward to this being introduced in the UK within the next 6 months.

MSN's own pay-per-click advertising service has been expected since 2003, when one of its main search competitors - Yahoo! - acquired Overture, which MSN has a partnership contract with until June 2006. MSN has also seen the revenue potential from PPC advertising displayed by Google AdWords and by Overture and, not surprisingly, it wants a slice of the market. And that slice will be a large proportion of Overture's market, as MSN is currently one of their main search partners, both in the US and the UK.

So what can we expect to see with the new MSN adCenter? Those familiar with setting up and running PPC advertising campaigns will see a lot of similarities, with the account management and bidding processes closer to Google AdWords than Overture (now called Yahoo! Search Marketing). However, in order to lure advertisers away from Google and Yahoo!, MSN hope to improve on the service the big two offer, particularly by increasing the scope for differentiating market segments and the ability to target those segments more accurately.

This is the main difference and potentially a valuable new tool for PPC advertisers. By using the data from MSN's numerous registered users who have signed up to Hotmail, Passport and Messenger services, MSN will use this data, when available, to provide demographic data to their PPC search market management and response data. Advertisers can place higher bids to boost their listings if searchers match their selected market profiles and although this data won't always be available, it could prove useful.

The other main advantage offered by the MSN adCenter is the ability for 'day parting', whereby you can stipulate at what time of day your adverts appear, or on which days of the week if these can affect the responsiveness of your campaign. This can potentially give the advertiser much more control over their spend and a greater ability to test the responsiveness of their advertising programme. We expect Google AdWords and Yahoo! to introduce similar features by the end of the year.

The current fees to set up an account with MSN adCenter are a $5 sign-up charge and a minimum bid level of 5 cents. If this level of pricing is offered when the service launches in the UK - and there is no minimum monthly spend level, unlike Yahoo! Search Marketing in the UK where the £20 minimum spend level still exists - MSN will compete with Google AdWords to attract smaller advertisers who may want to test the market or specialise in niche markets where the search volumes are quite low.

We look forward to the MSN adCenter being offered to UK advertisers and we will be at the forefront of test users to track the effectiveness of the service for our clients. To find out more about MSN's new PPC tool and how this could be used to market your business online, please contact us for more details.

Book review - new guides on PPC advertising

For this month's book review we have looked at 2 titles covering PPC advertising. The first is a good general introduction to this form of paid search marketing - the Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Marketing Handbook. Written by 2 US advertisers it does have a strong bias to US services and tools, but it still provides a clear and concise introduction for anyone wanting an overview of PPC, how it works and how to use it effectively. There is also a useful chapter on the issue of click fraud and how to combat it.

Read more…

The second title is a more detailed book that just focuses on Google AdWords. Winning Results with Google AdWords is not an easy read but an essential one if you're spending significant budgets on Google and want to get better results. There are lots of hints and tips here to ensure a quick return on your investment from buying this book!

Read more…

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.