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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - March 2010

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

This month we cover some more Google products, as we look at some recent releases of services and new features. Firstly, we consider Google's click-to-call phone numbers, which allow advertisers to target users of Internet smartphones, and what opportunities these create for AdWords advertisers.

We also look at Google's new social networking service called "Buzz", which was launched in February but raised privacy concerns with the way it was introduced. Finally this issue of the newsletter considers what a good month it has been for Microsoft, with the search alliance with Yahoo! being given the go-ahead, as well as the launch of its ambitious new mobile phone platform.

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's click-to-call phone numbers

At the end of January, Google announced the introduction of 'click-to-call' phone numbers as part of the AdWords campaign options, allowing advertisers to target users of Internet smartphones (such as a iPhone). This allows potential customers to phone the advertiser directly from the advert and for the number of calls to be recorded within the AdWords system.

After having been in beta for some time, Google is now rolling out the click-to-call facility to AdWords campaigns in Australia and worldwide. As our article in last month's newsletter noted, Google has recently been developing better options for AdWords advertisers to target Internet-capable mobile phone users, and the new click-to-call option recognises the fact that many mobile searchers would prefer to call from the advert, rather than visit the website to find the number.

To help better connect searchers with the right business, click-to-call ads and their corresponding phone numbers are based on users' locations based on the Google Maps 'My Location' feature. AdWords advertisers can add a location-specific business phone number in the mobile ads, so that users can click the number to call the business immediately. Ads can be served based on user location, so that for companies with multiple locations or stores, a potential customer will see - and can click to call - the phone number of their nearest location.

This new feature also makes it easier for advertisers to fully measure the results of their ads by allowing them to track how many calls they actually receive within the AdWords interface. Google says that the beta trial demonstrated that some of those advertisers who participated "saw the overall success of the ads increase dramatically and the click-through rates on search ads increased up to 30%". The advertisers' bid levels remain unchanged with this option so that the same cost-per-click (CPC) applies to both calls and clicks to the website, however with the more limited screen space for mobile search and adverts, it will benefit those advertisers who rank in the first 1-5 positions for a search term on AdWords.

Paid-search ads will become an increasingly important tool as companies attempt to gain space on the mobile screen. Mobile search traffic continues to climb, and more people have begun to use smartphones that allow them to browse the web easily from any location. Internal data from Google suggests that consumers with iPhones search 50 times more than those with prior-generation phones.

Click-to-call ads underscore Google's continued dedication to making money from the mobile web and it's likely that Google will offer additional ways to leverage mobile ads, such as through GPS and other location-based mechanisms, in the future.

If you'd like more information about how click-to-call phone numbers can help the marketing of your business, please contact us now.


Google's new "Buzz" raises serious privacy concerns

In February Google announced a new service that aims to compete in the social networking space, to take on the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Google "Buzz" has been initially launched for Gmail users or through a mobile phone application and aims to provide another communication method within social networks.

If you are a Gmail user then you will have seen a new option appear in your account, allowing you to share information with other contacts, including photos, videos and links, or you can follow the posts added by your chosen contacts. On mobile phones, Google "Buzz" adds the component of location to the information being shared, so that posts tagged with geographical information have an extra dimension of context.

There is an option to share information either publicly or privately, although when "Buzz" was first launched at the start if the month, the default option was set to publicly. This raised some serious privacy issues because if you didn't edit any of the default settings after you created your profile in "Buzz", someone could visit your profile and see the people you email and chat with most (provided you didn't edit this list during profile creation).

This enabled Google to present users with recommended comments or links from other people that are deemed to be relevant, but without clearly indicating they will be exposing that they might be following people they don't want the world to know they're following. For example, a couple of unwanted scenarios would be if a wife discovers that her husband emails and chats with an old girlfriend a lot, or a boss discovers a subordinate emails with executives at a competitor.

Blog posts and articles were quick to criticise the way Google has set "Buzz" up and the company was quick to amend the settings to address these concerns. The importance of making shared information always an "opt-in" rather than "opt-out" setting, should really be understood by web services providers by now, especially after valuable lessons have been learnt by services such as Facebook, and the backlash it faced from changes to privacy settings. It seems that Google initially ignored these guidelines to get "Buzz" into the market and to become an active social network as soon as possible.

Google has since gone through several revisions of the "Buzz" settings and now has replaced the opt-out feature and auto-following, with an opt-in feature and auto-suggesting. In reality Google probably rushed this product out too quickly and hadn't considered the serious privacy concerns that were raised. The impact of the publicity and subsequent changes has affected Google's attempt to compete in the social networking space within the first few weeks and the ongoing impact may well stymie any serious usage of the "Buzz" tool. Many people also question why they need another new service when they are already using Facebook, Twitter and other accounts.

However, if you have a Gmail account and you'd like more information about "Buzz" or how other social networking tools can help to market you business, please contact us.


A good month for Microsoft

During February the ongoing Microsoft and Yahoo! 'Search Alliance' was given the official go-ahead by both the European Union and the US Department of Justice. Microsoft will now acquire the Internet search and search advertising businesses of Yahoo! under a 10-year exclusive license and, soon after this announcement, the company launched its new Internet smartphone product onto the market.

Firstly, the Search Alliance between Microsoft and Yahoo! has now got the green light to develop new and better search services to try to take on the market dominance of Google. Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will manage the technology platforms that deliver the algorithmic search results (powered by Bing) and also the paid search results, which will be powered by adCenter. Eventually all of Yahoo!'s PPC search services will be managed through the better adCenter system and probably not before time!

Yahoo! and Microsoft will each provide customer support to different advertiser segments, with Yahoo!'s sales team exclusively supporting high volume advertisers, SEO and SEM agencies, and resellers and their clients. Microsoft will support self-service advertisers. The full impact of these changes are likely to be seen by the last quarter of the year.

When Microsoft and Yahoo first agreed to combine their search services in July 2009, the market share of Google went down to 88.95% while that of "Microhoo" went up to 9.12%. This was very encouraging for the executives at Microsoft and Yahoo!, but the real question is whether this combined force can make a bigger impact into Google's current level of usage and market share. There's no definitive answer to that, but in order to compete with and surpass Google at its own game "Microhoo" has to innovate constantly and learn from the changing search dynamics.

Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to enhance its mobile technology and attempts to defy critics who say that its days are numbered in the rapidly growing smart phone market. On 15th February Microsoft launched its ambitious new mobile platform that is a major departure from its existing Windows Mobile offering. The new platform effectively scraps Windows Mobile 6.x with a completely revamped user interface and more tightly defined integration with devices and network.

Analysts say that the new Windows Phone 7 Series as a radical departure for Microsoft in terms of user-interface design, while also bringing something different to the mobile market. The company wants to compete against the iPhone, and similar products from Google Android and Samsung, but they are taking quite a radical move away from these products in the hope to gain significant share of this market.

The introduction of the new Windows Phone 7 Series won't happen until the end of the year, and many have wondered whether Microsoft could become a factor in the mobile marketplace amid its declining market share. Observers said they were surprised and impressed by the progress Microsoft has made, but it remains to be seen to what level Microsoft will succeed. For this to happen they will have to prove that it's stable, works very well and delivers on the partner integration Microsoft have promised.

If you would like more information about how the Microsoft and Yahoo! Search Alliance can help the marketing of your business please contact us.


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.