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Why Google Panda is good for online advertisers

20 Mar

It’s been almost a year since the much vaunted Google Panda update received its global rollout, during which time industry professionals have at length covered the various winners and losers in the SEO rat race. More recently, however in an update rolled out in late January Google could have just created the biggest winner of them, online advertisers. Here’s how…

Top Heavy Ads

It’s been no secret that the Panda update has been quick to penalise sites which, in Google’s own words “display a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads.”  Essentially Google argue that if a site is too ‘top heavy’ with advertisers, or dedicates too much of its space to ads over content then the user will suffer. While Google has claimed the impacts affect less than 1% of search results, many publishers are claiming it to be much further reaching. With an additional 500 updates to Panda scheduled for 2012 alone, Google has recommended that publishers focus on improving the users overall content experience and make it as easy for them to find and enjoy the content they are looking for.

Where did all the ads come from?
Research from Metric Science, a media evaluation company, suggests that the average number of banner ads on a page now sits at just over 5, a pretty sizeable amount for just one page of content. Add to this more interruptive formats such as contextual ads (those annoying hover overs), site skins and interstitials and you get a pretty cluttered and congested environment.  But it wasn’t always like this….

It was only sixteen years ago that online saw the sale of the very first ad banner on HotWired. Back then online was new, exciting and expensive. Fast forward to a decade later (and a dot com crash in between) and prices had begun to decline dramatically. Online display had become a more mature market, one in which existed unparalleled supply. There were more media owners and networks than ever before – everyone was rushing to monetise their online content.

While the industry continued to grow rapidly and advertisers shifted more of their budgets online, the pace of growth could not keep up with the increased availability of advertising inventory.

Naturally as CPMs (cost per thousand impressions), the defacto standard for buying and selling banner ads, began to fall, media owners looked to ways to maintain revenue levels. For many the answer was to simply put more ads on their pages, squeezing as many ads on to their already congested sites as possible. Ofcourse, the reality was that this only further devalued CPMs – more ads = more competing messages = more ineffective ads.

Re-Defining Advertising Quality

There is a somewhat famously overused advertising quote from John Wanamaker  – “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.”

For online advertisers, this statement couldn’t be more true. You may be surprised to hear that on average over half of the banner ads served on the internet are never seen – some such as Realvu claim that this figure is as high as 90%.

Ad serving and reporting technology has for years not been able to catch up with the growth of the industry as a whole. Thankfully, this is now changing – and using freely available solutions advertisers are now able to better understand the advertising that they buy. Consequently they are beginning to ask, why they should have to pay for ads that are never seen? And rightly so…

Those networks and media owners who move quickest to adopt these new technologies will prosper, while others will continue to sell congested ads on congested pages without being able fully demonstrate their effect and relative value.

Google and the latest Panda update is one step closer to improving the overall quality, as opposed to quantity of online advertising. Hopefully the rest of the pieces will also fall into place sooner rather than later.

Some campaigns I’m working on…

30 Nov

Just wanted to share a couple of cool campaigns I’ve been working on @ work this week – Asus/Intel’s WePC.com & Vodafone’s Live Guy.

See my writeups on both @

WePC.com – http://www.netcommunities.com/blog/net_communities_and_wepc_com

Live Guy – http://www.netcommunities.com/blog/find_live_guy

Both are really good examples of conversational / social media in action. Check ’em out!

Nike UK’s 40% discount code – innocent leak or first class guerilla marketing?

30 Nov
40% off these? Dream on...

40% off these? Dream on...

I spent a fair whack of my Saturday parked @ Nike.co.uk’s online store. Why oh why? Well, just like a fair bunch of like minded folks, I was there to scoop my generous 40% discount across the full online range…or so I thought…

Late last week news started to spread online about a code which enabled this massive discount – details were vague about exactly how the code was obtained, but it was claimed that the code was ‘leaked’ by an employee, and the code itself – UKEMPL1115 – seemed to suggest that it may be some sort of staff discount code. By Friday afternoon the deal had very much gone viral – see Google or forum threads @ HotUKDeals & MoneySavingExperts.

By Saturday night the code seems to have stopped working altogether, and people who had successfully placed orders before began to receive emails informing them that their order had been canceled.

Had we just all been punk’d? No doubt in my mind!

Thinking rationally the whole Employee code leak just sounds full of holes. The voucher code just seems so flakey – would Nike really offer a discount code online for employees? I sincerely doubt it – surely its just asking for something like this to happen. Also, IF they did would it be so obvious as that – it’s not very cryptic is it? And 40%?!?! Have Nike employees really got it that good? A bit of searching online proved inconclusive, with some placing Nike employee discount at 20%, others at 30% but none quite at 40%. I really doubt its as high as this….

What was it mum used to say – If it sounds to good to be true, then it probably is…

To me this just sounds like a crafty guerrilla marketing ploy – the glue being the unbelievable offer, and the purpose being to get us to the Nike site and wet our appetite. You think you are getting something, then it gets taken away from you – you then want it back (even if you never had it in the first place, and in order to get it back is going to cost you considerable more ££). That’s exactly how I feel – thinking rationally, I’d never thought about getting those running shoes (cost v benefit), until I thought that I was getting them for 40% off. @ 40% off I sold myself the benefits of having these shoes, but when this discount was taken away I still harboured the desire to own these shoes.

Anyone else come across a similar guerilla marketing ploy, or have more on this story?? Thoughts / comments welcome…

Intrusive ads are brand suicide…

23 Jul
Intrusive ads really tick punters off...

Intrusive ads really tick punters off...

HOT OF THE PRESS:- Apparently theres new research to suggest that intrusive ads annoy people, and annoying ads are not good for your brand rep…

Excuse me for being a Mr know it all, but isn’t this bleedin obvious. Everytime I tell someone non-digital that I’m in online advertisng they reply – “Is it you who make those annoying smiley faces pop up on my screen.”

Although it’s not the first piece of research on this matter, (others here, here & here), hopefully those marketeers still spending their ad $$ budgets on ‘intrusive’ online ads will wake up and stop giving the rest of online advertisers a bad name. Who are these brands who continue to bug us all? Well the report highlighted 888.com, Dulux, Ford, Garnier, Halifax and L’Oreal as being among those with the most mentioned…

In my opinion, Online advertising should always look, where possible, to add or enhance the users experience online. It should never look to detract from it or hinder it in any way, and ad formats such as pop up / overlays / ads with sound / and to a certain extent certain expandables can never be seen to be adding to the users experience.

Yes – some ad vendors / media owners may argue that as a method for getting infront of targeted audiences it’s second to none. And sure, they may remember you alright, but for all the wrong reasons.

So for those of you who knew it already, pat yourself on the back. For those that didn’t, heed advice from above otherwise you could soon be walking the plank with your brand…

Fancy an iPint?

16 Jul

Yes the launch of the iPhone hasn’t escaped my notice, and finally after much resistance here is an iPhone 3G related post.  It was announced today that Carling’s innovative iPint has reach numero uno on the iTunes free app downloads chart.

For those of you who dont know (where have u been…???!!!?), with software 2.0 iPhone users with both new and both existing iphones can download specifically created aps. There’s both paid for and free apps, with the majority of branded content being distributed for free. When Apple opened the app program for developers back in Oct 07, those companies that were listening saw the chance at some great exposure and branding across the iPhone user community. And Carling certainly saw this opporunity alright! Their app acts a reacts like a real pint – See how it works here!

The whole concept of the iPint is brilliant – can you imagine the sheer level of interaction with this thing? The app for sure has enjoyed a great viral uptake and you can expect this to continue in the short term at least. So well done Carling – I think the iPint is a stroke of genius. Shame the beer still tastes crap though…

Other iPhone branded apps include lastminute.com’s travel phrasebooks, BA.com’s arrivals checker, TripAdvisor’s restaurant app, as well as numerous RSS news based apps.

Stay tuned as in the coming week’s I’ll be reviewing my favourite branded apps! In the meantime, anyone have a favourite branded app? Thoughs…

‘Natural Born Clickers’ – the end of CTR as the industry standard?

14 Jul

So finally there’s some research to support the notion that CTRs are not a good ‘sole’ indicator for an online campaign’s sucess…

Why? Because if recent-ish research (February to be precise) from StarCom media is anything to go by then just 6% of the online audience account for half of all clicks for online graphical advertising units. The report entitled “Natural Born Clickers”  argues that these heavy clickers distorts the reality of display advertising click-through metrics, and suggests that “the click is dead” as go-to measurement of effectiveness for brand-building display advertising campaigns.

So who are these heavy clickers? Well the report state that they tend to skew towards Internet users between the ages of 25-44 and households with an income under $40,000. Ouch! Not the most affluent of target markets then hey…! Apparently, heavy clickers are also relatively more likely to visit auctions, gambling, and career services sites – a markedly different surfing pattern than non-clickers…! So if you are in any of those industries keep counting those clicks, otherwise listen on…

The above research forms part of a wider call from industry leaders (such as EVP of Com Score) for a new set of metrics that can better demonstrate the effects of banner advertising for branding campaigns online (see also Impact Blog). As While CTRs may still offer a useful measure of sucess for some direct response campaigns, clearly they are the wrong measurement for brand-building advertising and consideration/preference campaigns online.

So the dialogue begins – some bloggers have argued that the online people clicking on ads are those that are small site owners looking to boost their CPCs and generate small bits of revenue, whilst some even claim that they may be proffesional ‘clickers’ employed by media owners to boost CTRs of underperforming campaigns. In my opinion this is a particuarily pessamistic and over the top view on things – just because some of the online audience may  have banner blindness and may never click on a banner ad, this shouldn’t mean that others who were presented with a highly targeted ad with a strong call to action wouldn’t click throgh.

And what are your thoughts? Is the overreliance on CTRs a thing of the past?

A new brand way – New York!

13 Jul

The Conversational Marketing Summit

So yes it was over a month ago now, but hey I’m catching up so bare with me. It was great to be over in New York for Federated Media’s summit on coversational & social media, and ways brands can engage audiences in these new mediums online.

I particuarily found it refreshing to hear from marketing execs for some of the worlds biggest brands (particuarily tech focussed brands) showcase how they had been utilising social media platforms as branding excercises. Andy Lark from Dell discussed the ‘Regeneration’ graffiti ap campaign which they ran on facebook, Marcy Shinder of American Express discussing the OPEN online resource centre while Mike Hoefflinger from Intel discussed their plans to increase the online portion of their budget to at least 50% by 2009.

You can get a decent round-up of the conf from Tim Leberecht’s post on Cnet. If you fancy checking out some of the sessions, you can get full length videos online. Also if you are interesting FM are running another conference on CM, this time it’s in San Francisco (November 2008 ). See you there!

Best Session:- There was a panel discussion on ‘Measuring Conversational Media’ and how marketers should measure whether their campaigns are sucessful. It was wholeheartedly agreed that clicks and ctr as metrics are simply not a good indicator of campaign performace, although the industry has propogated this for so long. Some interesting research was discussed regarding CTRs / clicker profiles thanks to a fascinating recent report conducted by Starcom entitled ‘Natural Born Clicker,’ (more to follow). All parties agreed that their needed to be more concise co-operation between media owners, agencies, advertisers and the IAB to establish a set of better metrics, and place pressure on agencies to facilitate a shift away from an over reliance on CTRs.

Best CM Campaign Example:- Dell’s Regeneration campaign that ran on facebook was a great example of marketing in social media at its very best. The campaign recieved a massive response rate, and most alarmingly the interaction time with the Dell brand was remarkable – some users spent hours creating their pieces of art for the Dell competition.

Though to take away:- Right at the start of the summit John Batelle announced Federated Media’s new CM tracking toolkit – which should go some way to helping advertisers monitor the sucess of their campaigns, other than standard clicks and CTRs. More to follow on this…

And so I conclude...

Everyone seemed to clear off as I took to the floor...