Whizbang Technology Not Enough to Help Microsoft Compete with Google

The Mercury News takes an in-depth look at the lack of ROI Microsoft is getting from its investment into web technologies, especially search.

Despite introducing a bunch of new products, including a new search experience, online video and Virtual Earth, Microsoft just can’t seem to keep up with Google’s explosive growth.

The result: The number of visitors to Microsoft’s sites has not budged, while the amount of time they have spent there has dropped. Advertising sales have fallen. Meanwhile Google’s traffic and advertising have continued to surge.

I’ve long said that the race is no longer about technology, but brand perception and user experience. Google has done such a great job of capturing mind share that it will be hard for a company such as Microsoft – with their perception of being a controlling company – to ever topple them in the minds of the consumer.

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More Spam Control Needed With Akismet

Marshall Kirkpatrick’s post about the amount of spam getting thru his Gmail filter – 19 of 26 emails were spam – has a comment from blogging buddy, Jeremiah, that reminded me of an issue I’ve noticed with Akismet.

While Jeremiah’s finding Akismet to be reliable, I’m finding it to be less so. With the number of comments increasing on Marketing Pilgrim, I’m thankful for the spam filtered out by Akismet, but I’m having to spend too much time “de-spamming” false positives.

This was magnified with the Digging of a recent article, resulting in many comments. I found many legitimate comments appearing in Akismet – including some from people who had commented before – and I had to manually de-spam them, often the same person multiple times.

Google Domain Parking Arbitrage

Richard Ball has a great write up concerning Google’s Adsense for Domains program and potential abuses. He is concerned that certain keywords being bid on through Adwords are producing garbage traffic.

A whopping 72% of clicks for a single exact match keyword originated from the searchportal.information.com domain. Investigating this domain, it turns out to be owned by a company called Oversee.net that owns DomainSponsor, a parked domain operation.

What Richard seems to miss is why the traffic is garbage. It’s because Information.com is one of the largest arbitrage 1.0 operations around. The reason it doesn’t convert is because Information.com bids on long tail search words for cheap and then send the clicks to ads targeted at the high paying general search terms. Terms which may be related, but are not actually what the user was searching for.

Maturation of Paid Search Means the End of the Free Lunch

There’s certainly been a lot of noise being generated by medium-sized companies, complaining they’re no longer getting the same ROI from paid search – especially from Google AdWords.

I’ve been taking a look at the trends and believe this is simply the continuing maturation of the paid search channel. Here’s how it’s developed thus far.

  • Stage 1 – Medium and Large companies spend huge amounts of money on banner ads. Small companies can’t compete, so they start experimenting with paid search and get great ROI with little effort.
  • Stage 2 – Medium companies start experimenting with paid search. Their campaigns are not very targeted but they’re able to get great ROI with little effort, so they start pumping in more money. Meanwhile, the small guys find that they can no longer compete for generic keywords, so start targeting the “long tail” and find there are great returns to be had from more targeted keywords.

Exclusive – Yahoo Using Dirty Tactics to Switch Google & Firefox Users?

UPDATE: Here’s the official word from Yahoo spokesperson Terrell Karlsten. They’re claiming they don’t upgrade users to IE7 and their reasons for switching your settings? Everyone else does it.

Yahoo! Messenger’s update process does not download IE7 to a user’s computer. As part of the Yahoo! Messenger update process, people have the choice to download Yahoo! Toolbar, set Yahoo.com as their homepage and set Yahoo! Search as their search engine. This is an industry-wide practice….IE7 is not bundled into the Yahoo! Messenger update process.

UPDATE 2: Jarrod’s added a comment that suggests that IE7 was not added as part of the download, as he first described to us. All other aspects described below are known to be accurate, including changing the default browser to IE, changing the default homepage to Yahoo and changing the default search engine to Yahoo. The post has been updated.

Offertrax Allows Online Merchants to Use RSS to Connect With Customers

According to Springwise, a new company called Offertrax is launching a service that will help online merchants implement RSS feeds in an attempt to better connect with customers.

By letting merchants use RSS to distribute updates on products, Offertrax aims to bring visitors back for future conversions. How it works? The web-based application creates RSS feeds for entire online catalogues. Retailers just add a ‘track this’ button to each product page….Consumers can then subscribe to a product’s feed. As soon as a product’s price changes or a retailer announces a special offer, trackers are notified. Merchants can also send notes and deal alerts directly to trackers.