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  • NorCalSEM 8:16 am on July 19, 2011 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , bid managment, , display, , , interface, microsoft adcenter, , , , search, , yahoo bing alliance   

    i bing. you bing? 

    Let’s face it, in search, Google is King.  And they have been for a while.  But finally, after Yahoo and Bing struck a deal to work together last year, a Queen has been crowned in search engine land.  Microsoft AdCenter is now a viable play for every serious search marketer and a great way to increase a brand’s share of voice across the web.  But it wasn’t always so.  For years search marketers paid less attention to advertising on (now)Bing and Yahoo than they did on Google’s AdWords.  Usually, marketers who could meet their traffic needs with Google alone would skip Yahoo and Bing.  Clunky UI’s, inept editing tools and small market shares just made the time spent outside of Google AdWords not worth the effort for some. If this is you, it might be time to give things a closer look.  You might just find that Bing is better than ever.

    i bing. you bing?

    Here are some of the reasons why:

    • Larger Market Share

    AdCenter now reaches nearly 30% of all web searchers.  With numbers like that it’s important for marketers to have a strong presence for their brands on Bing and Yahoo.  And remember marketers, not everybody is using Chrome and Firefox like you are.  Yahoo and Bing especially, benefit from being default search engines in web browsers, tool bars, and mobile devices all bundled on the latest laptops through Office and Windows.

    • Greater Control

    The alliance between Bing and Yahoo gives marketers a chance to manage both networks now through one UI, Microsoft AdCenter.  This helps marketers by reducing resources previously used across three separate networks.  With AdCenter, the functionality has been updated to make working in the UI easier than ever before.  Microsoft does offer an offline editing tool, AdCenter Desktop, but larger campaign managers may find this tool’s power, or lack thereof, a bit frustrating.  I’d love to see this upgraded to the quality of Google’s AdWords Editor.  I think this is the Achilles heel at the moment for this network.

    • Quality

    Like Google, AdCenter has implemented a quality score rating.  Where Google uses a scale of 1-10, AdCenter uses a 1-3 rating system.  The basic premise is the same, provide the user with a quality experience, including ad copy and landing page relevancy, load times, and various other factors.  It’s now more important than ever to start campaigns off right and watch them closely while new keywords and ads establish themselves in the network.

    • Mobile

    Device usage is huge and, according to most blogs out there, web searches on mobile devices should be eclipsing web searches on computers any day now.  It’s important to maximize the growing market share AdCenter offers on mobile devices. Bing offers the ability to target smartphones, as well as feature phones.  Tablets and other devices are part of the regular search option for now.  Smart marketers should segment their campaigns for even greater control and flexibility.  Here’s an example from an online retailer advertising on AdCenter’s mobile networks:


    • Display

    While both networks have aligned on search, which runs through AdCenter, Yahoo and Bing still compete for business in display.  Yahoo display is more robust than Bing, but both offer you a chance to target the entire network or select specific categories or domains.  Good marketers understand the value display can add to the overall marketing mix.  Display ads help increase brand awareness and drive users to search for your brand.  If users don’t click on your display you don’t pay.  If you look at it as really cheap impressions, it’s essentially free marketing.  Why wouldn’t you do it?

    • Good Service

    I think for the most part, the service is pretty good at YaBing, especially the Yahoo rep I’ve worked with for the last several years.  Because of the clunky UI and unpopular editing tools, I rely on the network reps to handle large tasks for me.  Save your own resources for things that are more important to your brand, like your overall strategy and subsequent micro-strategies.  Push those large uploads and bulk edit tasks to your reps, that’s what they’re there for.

    If you’re not extending and maximizing your brand’s digital footprint, then what are you doing?  If you’re not using AdCenter, now is a great time to start doing so.  Take advantage of the increased market share and traffic quality that AdCenter offers now, segment your campaigns by devices for greater clarity and control, and branch out beyond just search into mobile and display.  Your reps will be happy for the business and your brand will thank you for the exposure.


  • NorCalSEM 6:43 pm on March 13, 2011 Permalink | Reply  

    Lunch time!!

  • NorCalSEM 10:02 pm on July 29, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , microhoo, , , Search Engines, , yahoo   

    Yahoo reaches out. 

    logoIn order to help the interested better understand the new Yahoo! and Microsoft deal I am passing along an official letter from Yahoo themselves.

    The following is a letter I received from my Yahoo rep this morning:


    With the announcement this morning of a deal between Yahoo! and Microsoft, I wanted to reach out so you would have the latest news on the deal and how it will affect your accounts short-term.

    Essentially, we pretty much know same as you do from the recent press releases and articles online. You can read a little more about the deal at the URL below.

    There was also a webcast this morning that you are welcome to listen to. To access the archive of this webcast, please use the URL below.

    As you can imagine, a deal like this will take some time to take effect. Not only are there the questions of migrating systems, but the government still has to approve it. For right now, it is business as usual around here. As more details become available over the next few days, I’ll be sure to keep you updated.


  • NorCalSEM 5:07 pm on June 1, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , live search, , microsoft live, microsoft search, msn, msn live   

    Bada Boom Bada Bing! 

    …And just like that Microsoft is back in the search game!  Maybe.  Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine due out Wednesday, launched on Saturday.  Does anything not “drop” early these days?!  While Google Killer it is not, Microsoft says it is not intended to be.  I do think it offers a solid user experience though.  This should make current users happy, but the question is then how many new users will be happy about Bing?  Microsoft is planning to put a significant amount of money behind marketing Bing.  The goal will not be to compete with Google, but to offer something unique to differentiate themselves in the search market.  (a good strategy, and really all anyone can do at this point).

    With that said, it will be interesting to see how they market Bing to consumers. They are calling it a decision engine instead of a search engine, and Ballmer thinks that ditching the MSN Live and Live Search brand names in favor of Bing will create a better connection with consumers.  Time will always tell. If anything it should help to bolster a stale product, and give it a fresher look and some much needed media hype.  With the new breed (facebook, twitter, etc.) stealing the spotlight, some media hype couldn’t hurt.  At the very least, Bing should help to cement MSN firmly in its current third place ranking in the Big Three.

    Bing search results page.

    Bing search results page.

    I’ve tried a bunch of searches already this morning and I like how it builds a search history for you in the left side nav under the related searches area (which is also a nice feature to help you refine your search).  Also, as you scroll over the search results, an (ajax-like) window allows you to preview the page before you click on the result link.

    Currently the home page works to merchandise a particular search theme, or discovery topic.  One thing I didn’t see while searching on Bing were the Sponsored Links.  Which makes me wonder how Microsoft plans to monetize the search traffic on Bing.  I’m sure this is all part of the courtship and the ads will return soon enough.  Launching and marketing a new product like Bing seems ambitious given the fact that Microsoft will need to get behind Microsoft 7 any day now.  But the subject of how much money Microsoft has for marketing is another topic altogether.

  • NorCalSEM 12:40 am on January 21, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , click fraud settlement, content networks, miva, , ,   

    MIVA sets fire to 2nd Tier 

    miva_logo-thumbUnless you just haven’t been paying attention,  you already know that there’s a fire burning in the 2nd Tier.  These are the search firms that are outside the Big Three (Google, Yahoo, and MSN – who also syndicate search results) like Looksmart, Marchex, MIVA, Kontera, eZanga, etc.   Yes, I’m talking about the knee-deep web, land of bots, spiders and Indian sweat shops.  Second tier engines are more vertical, niche, and include things like local search sites.  If you’re a publisher looking to optimize your page views, then chances are you’ve probably tried the 2nd Tier by now.  Purchasing ad space on more than just Google makes good sense if:

    1. You need volume.
    2. You need low cost traffic.
    3. You have a CPM model in place.

    Good deals can be secured on these low cost, high volume traffic providers but only for the proper business model. I’ve used this traffic to monetize a CPM model, and it works great.  But at the end of the day, you are expecting that traffic to be legit, and so are your advertisers.   But at $.01, .02, or even .03 per click, you know you are taking the good with the bad and if you don’t, well…you’re just naive.  So for some it can be a necessary evil, with the power for good.  And to some, it can be a lifeline to riches – dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

    Here is an excepert from a former MIVA employee…

    “I used to work for Miva. The problem lies in the sub affiliates. if they have an affiliate that is supplying lets say 200 good clicks a day; they likely have a sub affiliate supplying another 150-200 bot- clicks. When you remove the sub affiliate from the net work.. it takes the primary affiliate that was supplying some decent clicks along with it.

    “Once you do get a campaign to convert; it has been optimized down to the point where there is simply put, no traffic, i.e. not scalable. aside from the management team being a joke; most of the players they are generating traffic with are disreputable and the type of guys you would like to kick the shit out of at the pub. I was there 7 months before resigning.”


    How do you think they fulfill large traffic volumes?  Well, if you are willing to pay $.03 and someone else can create the traffic for $.01, everyone gets paid.  To do this nefarious publishers and affiliates create bots that simulate real clicks, even performing actions once they land on your site so they appear to your analytics as human in nature.  As you can imagine if you are a spammer sending bots out and they are clicking on Google AdSense, which is a popular revenue stream for many, then money is exchanging hands at an alarming rate.  In other cases, there are reports of actual sweat shops where people are getting paid pennines to generate traffic by clicking on ads.  And also, your competitor can be clicking on your ads in order to spend your money.But some do their jobs very well, causing “spikey” activity, like abnormal high CTR on things like Google AdSense or banner ads.    On the surface everything looks copacetic, but an analysis of variance reveals the source.  A best practice is to channelize your traffic, so you can isolate sketchy activity.

    All of this is called click fraud, and we all know that your at risk of getting burned when you leave the Big Three.  And the content networks just can’t say no to money (who can these days?).  So they fill the requests, and then get busted.  Like MIVA – which ignites the whole tier.  MIVA’s $4MM click fraud settlement has sounded the alarms – We’ve got a full blown mess up here! (And this isn’t the first for them.) Now the engines will tell you that they are working to curb this type of activity, but the fact of the matter is they aren’t really.  Any smart player knows that these types of content networks are in the business to provide traffic, any which way.   If you spend significant money, you may not get the cold shoulder when you ask for a refund, but don’t count on it.  And since the people who profit the most from the fire are the internet lawyers, every engine that doesn’t start with the letter G better start forming a bucket brigade right now, because fires spread really fast.

    • Mike 5:23 pm on March 2, 2009 Permalink | Reply

      Just passing by.Btw, you website have great content!

      Don’t pay for your electricity any longer…
      Instead, the power company will pay YOU!

      • norcalsem 4:10 pm on November 22, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        Thanks for stopping by. New content coming soon. Come back now, y’hear?!

  • NorCalSEM 10:02 pm on September 5, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: bill gates, browser, firefox, jerry seinfeld, mac, mac guy, , new york giants, nfl, operating system, pc, seinfeld, washington redskins, windows, windows vista   

    Apple has the Mac guy, so they called me and yada yada yada…. 

    Microsoft recently launched a $300 million ad campaign in an effort to give its image a makeover. As of late, Apple has been dominating the ad side of things with their successful Mac guy, the hipper alternative to the dorky, stodgy PC. Charged with reversing Microsoft’s brand, the company has decided remake itself into a more family friendly company and also help consumers move past all the negative talk about Windows Vista. I personally don’t have anything bad to say about Vista, but then again I’m more interested in web browsers than operating systems anyway. (Go Firefox!) According to some things I have read, critics aren’t optimistic that Windows can remake its image. Well Microsoft isn’t drinking that Kool-Aid. As part of the $300 million they are spending on the brand, $10 million of that will go to comedian Jerry Seinfeld, one of the most popular television stars of the last couple of decades. The ads debuted last night during the first NFL game between the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. I think this was a great way to launch the ads in front a large captive audience, especially since both of those television markets are sizable, and the NFL as a whole is a national broadcast. In the commercial Jerry actually teams up with Microsoft’s own Bill Gates, who plays his usually nerdy persona to perfection with that type of deadpan acting that most non-actor types (athletes, ceo’s, etc) can get away with. I didn’t catch it live, but saw it on Youtube. I won’t tell you how it ends or what its about, its funny so I don’t want to ruin it for you. Check it out and tell me what you think about it?

  • NorCalSEM 5:57 pm on September 2, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , google suggest, keyword list generation, , ,   

    Wrapped up like a deuce…? 

    I just caught up on some reading and wanted to talk a bit about the new Google Suggest.  You’ve probably all encountered this technology at some point on the web while doing a search.  I’ve been using this for some time through the Firefox search box, but didn’t know the history behind it.   As you type the first few letters of a search query, a drop down menu appears offering you suggestions based on your intent.  This can be extremely helpful if your not sure on spelling, or if you are searching for something you’re really not sure about, like song lyrics or famous quotes.  And for those of you looking for an edge in your keyword list generation, you can add this to your list of suggestion tools as well.    After making its way through the Labs at Google, Google Suggest is now available on   I use iGoogle quite a bit and I don’t see that feature working there yet, other than showing you suggestions based on your search history.  Another great feature about this, especially for SEM/PPC folks is that it couples those query suggestions with an approximate search volume for each.

    Google Suggest in action

    Check out the Google Suggest feature next time you go to Google.  Do you think this is useful for SEM purposes?

  • NorCalSEM 8:01 pm on August 13, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , adsense, big lebowski, , google adsense, incentivized clicks, incentivized traffic, lebowski, , run of category, ,   

    Every business has its outlaws. 

    As of late, I have had a small love affair with getting large volumes of traffic from the 2nd and 3rd tier search engines.  If you are getting the volume you need from the Big 3 (no, not the US, UK, and Russia), then typically these engines aren’t worth the time.  But for certain revenue models they can be very handy.  By purchasing traffic products, such as run-of-network, run-of-category, or run-of-vertical I was able to lift my AdSense revenue by close to 500% !  Well now I am a man-scorned.

    Google AdSense has deemed a large portion of some of the traffic I have purchased as incentivized trafficIncentivized traffic is when people are paid to visit a site.  Typically you are purchasing traffic from someone who is also purchasing traffic from someone else.  As with any business there are outlaws.  Through no fault of the search engine, they are passing on incenitivized traffic to you.

    Well, the Google Bot will find you and destroy you.   Contractually, Google must protect people who are putting ads onto their contextual network and make sure that the clicks they pay for don’t come from bogus sources with no interest in their ads.  According to Google, they aren’t taking MY money back and keeping it, they are returning it to the advertiser, so that includes Google’s cut as well.

    Fine.  Great.  Grand!

    Well, shouldn’t the person who sold me the traffic be responsible for this?  I mean if I went out and bought a bicycle from a bike shop and then found out the bike was stolen, well I’d point the police in the direction of the bike shop.  Same deal here.  Only this is not what is happening because the incentivized traffic ends up on my site and leaves on an AdSense ad from my site.   Also, AdSense has been monitoring this for some time.  Hey Google, how about a heads up somewhere along the way!  That’s like firing someone at 5pm on a Friday.  At least let em go at 10am so they can catch a matinee or something, geez!

    Well, the Dude abides and will swallow this tough pill, but this aggression will not stand, man!  (dont you just love Lebowski quotes?!)  Me too!  You can’t beat Google though, so let’s just have a drink and try to forget about it.

    White Russians all around!

    • Ken 2:01 pm on October 14, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      I think I know what you mean. I was recently dropped from the eBay “EPN” network because I used some incentivized traffic. I don’t get it, the people went to eBay and bought allot of stuff but that does not matter…I bet most of the sellers don’t mind.

      • norcalsem 11:19 pm on November 19, 2010 Permalink | Reply

        It’s a sordid world when you are the middle man. That’s for sure.

  • NorCalSEM 11:32 pm on July 17, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: 501 (c) 3, 501 c3, acteva, auction, , charity, common grants, eventbrite, google checkout, google grants, keiretsu, keiretsu forum, keiretsu forum north bay, marin, marin wine, marin wine auction, marin wines, non profit, nonprofit, north bay, , paypal, , , , wine auction,   

    What if your conversion is a donation? 

    I decided to try my hand at interviewing…(let me know what you think). A friend of mine recently went into business for herself and her most recent project is working for a non-profit here in the Bay Area. I recently met with Elizabeth May, of eMay Services, to learn a bit more about non profits and online marketing.

    NorCal SEM: Hi Liz, thanks for taking the time to speak with me.

    Elizabeth: Thanks Clay for speaking with me.

    NorCal SEM: I remember a year or so ago you told me you wanted to work for yourself, and last time we spoke things were picking up for you.

    Elizabeth: Yes, a year ago at this time, I signed on my first independent contractor position with a start up called It was so enriching to use my background in online marketing to really help a new company get some traffic and measure their results. In fact, I kept talking about the online marketing visions I had for consumers and companies, and as a result, people in my network consistently referred more business my way. Clearly it was my passion for matching online consumers to what they were looking for through keyword centric paid traffic that allowed others to identify me in the industry as a good resource for search engine marketing in particular and online marketing in general. Eventually, after taking on a few more clients I had enough business to quit my full time job and work officially as a self-employed person. Working for myself has been truly rewarded and equally challenging.

    NorCal SEM: I understand you’re currently working with a local non-profit; who are they?

    Elizabeth: The local non-profit I’m working for and that I am chairing is the Marin Wine Auction hosted by Keiretsu Forum Charitable Foundation, the charitable arm of Keiretsu Forum, the largest angel investor network. Keiretsu Forum focuses on bringing angel investors together to invest in early stage companies in the high tech and consumer goods industries. I love that one of the four tenants of membership is PHILANTHROPY! In the past, the major annual philanthropic event has been a golf auction, and this year, to celebrate the launch of Keiretsu Forum’s North Bay chapter, we decided to showcase the Marin wine industry, who will be pouring together for the first time ever at our event, and help some wonderful North Bay 501 (c) 3 organizations. Complete list of beneficiaries and participating wineries at our website.

    NorCal SEM: That sounds really fun, but also like a lot of work. How have you incorporated SEM into your marketing efforts for the auction, or I guess, more importantly, what is your overall online marketing strategy for raising awareness for this event?

    Elizabeth: It is a lot of fun! The event will raise about $250,000 for local charities which makes me feel really good…so…I’m plugging for everyone who can to buy tickets to do so and make the Marin Wine Auction part of your 2008 giving plans…ok, no more shameless plugging. SEM for non-profits is difficult, but easier than for profit companies. There are plenty of companies that are willing to help.

    Nonprofit organizations and events can benefit from using savings discounts on the following helpful sites:

    4. google.checkout (NO FEES for transactions)
    5. – a wonderful program that allows nonprofits to use AdWords with grant money instead of cash/credit
    6. The list is endless.


    My marketing strategy for Marin Wine Auction was to build the site, include all of our information, include my contact information, make site navigation simple, and post our news. I like to write interested news and blogs in the local & wine communities to see who will write an article about our event or better yet, post our event flyer. A few best practices:

    1. Get to the Point: Polite, brief, and informative communication is key to win links to your site.
    2. Start a database: Keep good records to track how many people you’ve asked, and how many people have accepted to link to you or write an article about your site or event. This database will assist you with all future communications (creating your own PR listserv effectively), but it will also help you track conversion ratios.
    3. Make data-driven decisions: Use this conversion ratio to test different language in Press Releases or conversations in emails to improve your results.

    This experience has taught me that there are countless online marketing resources available to nonprofits. There is the opportunity to create strong partnerships between nonprofits and online marketers. What is great about online marketing is its transparency of results. Tracking results means that performance and efficiency can improve for profit in the case of regular businesses, for increased funds in the case of nonprofit businesses.

    NorCal SEM: It sounds as if you have it down…

    Elizabeth: I wish I could say that I am a pioneer in the “online marketing for nonprofits” space, but the idea is neither new nor unique. One of the best sites on the internet for nonprofits is Common Grants. Common Grants seeks to use the “common application for college admissions” process and apply it to simplify the grant application process for nonprofits. Effectively setting up nonprofits to find, win, and increase funding and eliminate the painstaking time and energy that goes into each new grant application.

    NorCal SEM: Thanks for all the great information. I know I’ve learned a lot. Keep me posted, I’d love to hear how the event goes. BTW, can I get some free tickets? ;o)

    eMay Services clients:




    • Elizabeth 4:02 am on July 28, 2008 Permalink | Reply

      Hello Clay! Thanks for the article! Best wishes to you and the family.

      Next idea: Would you please break down the hype about the bookmarking networks: digg,, reddit, magnoliacom, newsvine, etc?

      How can and how do individuals use these sites?

      What opportunities are available for business to use these sites?

      How many sites like this exist? Which are the best/worst?

      What’s the best method in setting up my own bookmark networks?

      Thanks again!

  • NorCalSEM 9:41 pm on July 1, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: excite, facebook, flickr, linkedin, mardi gras, myexcite, myspace, online branding, online networks, portals, professional network, social networking, social networks, spring break, twitter, web 2.0, web 3.0, you tube, youtube   

    It takes a village. How about a community? 

    I’ve been trying my hand at all the social networking sites that are available these days. I want to get a good understanding of how they work, how they benefit you, how to use them for business or branding initiatives and other things. Ya know, just see what all the hub-bub is all about. Now I boast several account profiles across many different types of social and professional networking sites. A person’s online identity and the identities of others he/she is connected to makes up the new community. Online communities are changing how we do things online.

    facebook logo

    As Web 2.0 sprints down the track, Web 3.0 is getting into the blocks and ready to run as well. Today’s web is, obviously, more interactive than ever. Maybe it all started with Excite’s MyExcite, but people want the web customized and personalized for them. They want it to belong to them and they want to belong to something as well. Enter Web 2.0, where you can literally live your life online.

    Now more than ever sites like YouTube, flickr, twitter , facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and others are changing the game and membership is growing at alarming rates. These new interactive sites allow members to engage, update, connect, share, and post; constantly changing, unique content. Although not quite ready to be considered portals (which is what is happening, I think), these sites are becoming the go-to home pages for millions of people. Some are social in nature and others, like LinkedIn, are for professional networking.

    It is important to make a distinction in your profiles on these sites to suit the intent of the community you are becoming a member of. That picture of you at Mardi Gras on your MySpace page might not look so good as the profile picture for your LInkedIn friends. Most of these sites allow you to search and connect with friends, coworkers, and people with similar interests and many have barriers in place to keep spammers from wreaking havoc over your profile. But as with everything, people only know what you tell them. If you want to live your life full-on, well then you can do just that. But play it safe, and keep those drunken pictures of spring break to yourself.

    There are alot of second tier sites that have sprung up in recent years. Social networking is on the rise and many sites are trying to cash in and raise membership levels. Alot of people flocking to newer sites do so for a couple of reasons; one, they are trying to increase their online profiles by branching out to more sites, or two, they’re bored of the MySpace/facebook experience and the are looking for things less mainstream. Alot of your early adopters will bounce to another social network once the buzz turns into something tangible. Some people have to be cutting edge. I’m that way with cell phones, so I can’t hate.

    …to be continued.

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