Microsoft Joins in the Favicons Trial

Reports on Search Engine Land this week suggest that Google isn’t the only one which is trialling the use of favicons in their PPC ads.  Matt McGee this week posted the below screenshot showing Microsoft displaying favicons alongside their PPC ads on Live search.  Apparently this is part of an internal trial and shouldn’t actually be seen outside of Microsoft IP addresses but a bug in the system has seen it shown to a lucky few in the outside world.

With both Google and Microsoft now prove to be trialling the use of imagery in their paid search listings it appears it should just be a matter of time before they become common place on the SERP.  Well, it should make for a more decorative and visually appealing search results page but, as mentioned in my Google post, I don’t envisage it affecting CTR in the long run as it will appear on all paid results once advertisers get the hang of it.  As a result, after the first few searches with the new results, users will become blind to the logos.  That is unless the great and the good of the search engine marketing world kind find ways of standing out from the crowd.

live search favicons

Google Trialling Favicons

The social world of Twitter and the Search Marketing blogging community has been buzzing today with screenshots of Google trialling the use of favicons in Adwords creative, presumably to judge the impact on CPC.  So far I have seen examples in the bingo and car insurance markets with numerous PPC. Ads showing a favicon alongside the display URL.  Que hundreds of search marketers testing positioning of favicons to try and get theirs included. 

Its an interesting test from Google but surely if it was to be deployed across Google Adwords companies would become wise to it and all 10 would have the favicon in place?  How about, as an interested alternative, allowing only the ads which achieve a CTR. above a certain threshold to show the favicon?  A reward for writing well targeted creative and following Adwords best practice, surely that’s more beneficial than introducing something which will become nothing more than decoration for the SERP in a few months.

favicon in google ppc

favicon in google adwords

Yahoo! Search Marketing Introduces Targeting Options

Yahoo! has announced on the launch of additional targeting across both its search and content network.  They are set to introduce demographic, geographic and adscheduling options to their search marketing portal which will bring them up to speed with the competition in PPC.

There is nothing too exciting about the functions they are introducing they are all available on either Google or MSN already, but they are the first to introduce them all in one place.  Google has geographic targeting and adscheduling, but no demographic.  MSN has the demographic targeting (for what it is worth).  But now Yahoo! will have them all in one place, and their additional volume over MSN should make their demographic targeting more useful than MSN’s has ever been.

Its nice to see Yahoo! pushing forward with releases like this to boost their search offering as towards the back end of 2009 it appeared they may have been giving up the battle in search engine marketing.  The functions arent yet available in Yahoo’s Search Marketing Center but it will be interesting to see how effective they are once they are launched.

yahoo ad scheduling

Paid Search’s Diminishing Returns: Nothing New!

There has been a lot of publicity in industry channels, and a lot of retweets on twitter, surrounding a search engine land article and the point of diminishing returns in paid search. The author, Josh Dreller, argues that, in world of holistic digital marketing multi channel media planning, sometimes the accountability of PPC only gets it so far, and with every campaign there is a point of diminishing return.

If I’m honest, I read the article after seeing it posted on twitter and was a little bit underwhelmed. Dreller pens the theory as something new, something never before considered, and that the paid search bubble has finally been burst! When really, any search marketer worth their salt was well aware of the point of diminishing return. Every campaign has one, and after a certain point, incremental traffic comes at a premium. You reach bands of cost in paid search which once breached, are unlikely to meet your ROI targets when analysed in isolation.

This isnt a new theory, this is something which has always been present. Whenever considering increases in PPC budget and advertiser should consider the incremental costs of the sales and the impact on ROI. It has never been a straight line equation where the more you spend the more you get, at the same cost per acquisition and if Josh Dreller has been running paid search campaigns on tis basis, Im glad I have never been a client!

Whilst the points made are true, the fact remains that in some cases, ROI isnt everything. Many industries need a critical mass of volume to stay afloat and so need to be willing to pay the additional price for the additional sales. PPC agencies should be presenting their clients with the right information and data to make their own choice. Invariably, in my experience, this is in the form of a number of forecast options for the client to choose from; x applications at x cost, or y applications at y cost. Or in the case of retail; a spend of x at an ROI of x, or an increased spend of y with a lower ROI of y, but increased revenues. I know this is what the top specialist agencies have been doing for years.

The other factor to consider is the options for the spend above the ROI threshold. Dreller mentions the alternative of spending the additional budget on other marketing, and whilst this is always an option the advertiser has, they must also consider the return they are going to get from these alternatives. For whilst the incremental PPC sales will come at an increased CPA, the chances are, this higher cost per application could still be way lower than could be achieved from other advertising activities. So whilst, in isolation, they may look expensive, they could well still be cheaper then the ones available elsewhere.

Don’t get me wrong, I am a full advocate of holistic, multi channel, media planning and effective allocation of digital budgets based on each channels merits. But the article portrays this theory as the downfall of PPC, when in reality it is something that has been present all along.

You can read Dreller’s article here

Yahoo! Wins Keyword Legal Case

Yahoo! has won a legal case in the US which puts a different slant on brand and trademark infringement in PPC, but also goes to show the search engines have covered themselves against such cases.

As reported in media post, Yahoo has come out on top in a case brought against them by Heartbrand Beef, of Yoakum Texas.  Heartbrand, who claim to be the only seller of Akaushi beef in the US, didn’t believe Yahoo! should allow their competitors to appear on the keyword “Akaushi” as it was misleading to their searchers and of the products their competitors provided.  This would have been an interesting judgment had it gone the other way.  It is different to other trademark disputes of past or present as it wasn’t actually a trademark or brand term owned by Heartbrand, just a product exclusive to them.  I can’t honestly see how Heartbrand thought they were going to win this case but the result does go to show that the search engines are covering themselves for any such cases through their practices and T&Cs.  Google, Yahoo and Microsoft aren’t stupid, they aren’t going to open themselves up for potential legal backlash through the changes they make to policies, they are going to be pretty sure they aren’t liable before making such as Google’s most recent changes to trademark bidding.

This is not the first time the search engines have come out in battles such as these, and it certainly isn’t the final say in the argument over brand and trademark infringement in paid search.  But the more cases like this which come out in the search engines favour, the less chance there is of one going the other way, which in turn means less companies will be tempted to try their luck in the courts.

I predict in 12 months trademark and brand bidding in PPC will just be a common practice, give it 2 years and search engine marketers will be reminiscing about the good old days when there was no competition on brand terms and you got all the clicks for next to nothing.