by Jeff Molander
We should be asking when (not if) RSS-powered technologies will be more widely adopted by advertisers considering Return Path’s recent study along with Lyris Technologies’ study... each citing large increases in “false positive filtering” of spam. In other words, the verdict is out on e-mail delivery: users’ desired communications (i.e. from marketers and other trusted senders) is, increasingly, not getting delivered, rather is being categorized as “spam” or “bulk email.”
“Hotmail’s rate of “false positive filtering” increased from 5.6 percent in 2Q05 to 9.4 percent in the third quarter, and Gmail’s from 4.1 percent to 7.17 percent...”
“21 percent of permission-based emails did not reach the inbox during the first half of 2005 because they were either blocked or filtered into the junk folder, according to a new email deliverability study from Return Path. Senders’ deliverability problems stemmed as much from their own practices (e.g., low list quality and number of complaints against the sender) as zealous blocking of emails by ISPs; blocking rates for individual mailers were as high as 54 percent.”
Jupiter Research received a fairly good dose of egg on its face when it published its widely criticized report on RSS earlier this year. RSS adoption among marketers has been slow in coming yet RSS is no longer poised to explode… it’s exploding, being integrated into everything from browsers to major portals and is beginning to catch on among marketers in terms of adoption... outside of inserting ads into RSS streams.
Considering all of the email headaches, when will we see marketers move in large numbers to offer RSS-powered communication devices to their valued customers? I, personally, envision devices wherein consumers willingly place icons on their desktop… doubleclicking to open an RSS-powered window that delivers and organizes order receipts, promotional offers and general communications with customers. A loyalty device that sits directly on the desktop and is distributed via a viral campaign to tech-loving customers who find it “way cool.”Close
October 12, 2005
by Marty Fahncke
MarketingSherpa held a conference call today to discuss the initial results of their 2005 Search Engine Benchmark Guide. You can download the slides from the presentation here.
As to be expected from MarketingSherpa, some very enlightening things came from this briefing. Just a few key points:
Eyetracking - A compelling chart to show what people are looking at on the screen when on a search engine. (In this case, Yahoo) I was surprised at how LITTLE the paid links were viewed and clicked vs. the organic listings. Contrary to what the PPC search proponents would have you believe. Also interesting to see the pattern of what searchers look at (upper left), and what they actually click on (middle left).
Trademark use by affiliates - Clearly, the practice of letting affiliate utilize your trademarks is becoming much less common. 39% of merchants no longer allow affiliates to use trademarks, vs. 21% just eight months ago. (Slide has a misprint, purple bar should be January 05, not January 04)
SEO Agencies - One slide I had a hard time believing was the one that showed companies who launch an internal SEO strategy see a 38% lift in overall traffic, while companies who use an SEO agency see a 110% lift in traffic. Now keep in mind, agencies responded to the survey as well as marketers, so who knows how accurate this might be. I’ve certainly never seen a 110% lift from any projects I’ve worked on where an SEO agency was brought in. Have you?
There was a lot more information contained in the slides, so I encourage you to check it out.
October 11, 2005
by Jeff Molander
Googlewashing is a new term used to describe a growing practice by the Almighty search engine (among others). In practical terms, it describes a cleansing process. You’re probably thinking. “how did Google get dirty?” In fact, its index has gotten rather filthed up over the years as many… ranging from outsourced SEOs to marketing affiliates… have tried to “game” its search algorithm by making commercial information look like non-commercial information and other technical trickery. It is critical for all marketers and publishers of original content to pay attention to this trend as early signs indicate that Google, itself, is having a difficult time keeping track of who to index and who to de-list/purge.
The latest e-plague, in the eyes of search engines, is being dubbed “duplicate content.” Recently, Google has begun to scrub itself clean of this unwanted phenomenon; hence, the term “Googlewashing.”
Duplicate content is largely what it sounds like: information that has an original source but can be found in many other places. Sound like plagiarism or “syndication gone wild?” For the most part you’re starting to understand the problem for search engines. In the simplest of terms, “too much of one specific thing in too many places” makes it difficult to distinguish the original, (hence, “good” or “high quality") information from the stolen or regurgitated stuff.
Who steals and/or regurgitates… and why? Yes, affiliates of all sorts have been known to. For simplicity’s sake, here’s the skinny:
1) Some Marketing Affiliates leverage data feeds provided to them by marketers (like you, perhaps). Do the the contents of said data feeds look similar? Most often they do… but do they look similar after your affiliates place them onto their Web pages? This is the key question. If they do look mostly similar you have, in effect, created your very own duplicate content machine - your affiliate program.
2) Some click-focused Contextual Advertising Affiliates (who make money from programs like Google AdSense or Overture ContentMatch) simply don’t have the time or energy to create their own original content… so they swipe it from somewhere else and slap it up on Web page(s). Mixing some AdSense advertisements that are contextually-based on the fake/stolen content gives users something to click on and the affiliate a revenue stream. But how do affiliates get users to the site? Three letters: SEO and usually not the pretty kind. As you can see, it’s easy to find. Here is an example of a headline/article used rather liberally across numerous sites geared to garner ad clicks via “content.” Heck, there’s a whole get-rich-quick-for-doing-nothing industry out there that has sprung up and, so far, Google seems happy to play along.
So what harm is there in this? That’s another debate entirely but in the eyes of search engines duplicate content is not desirable and is to be eliminated. Do the good guys (the original sources of the content… i.e. advertisers) ever get mistaken as the bad guys (the “content” purveyors)? You bet they do and would you believe me if I told you that one of Google’s own has gotten caught up in the mess? Indeed, the search Goliath recently Googlewashed a blog belonging to one of its own employees.
October 05, 2005
by Jeff Molander
If you’re like me, you buy advertising on Google AdWords and have opted out of having your advertisements displayed across Google’s network of syndicated affiliate partners. The syndicated product is called AdSense and features less tracking functionality than Google AdWords (i.e. you cannot track your ads to a conversion/desired action such as a purchase or sign-up). For this, and other reasons I won’t get into here, AdSense simply isn’t of value to me (for an interesting read on pros and cons check Mark Glaser).
Does this mean that my AdWords ads won’t appear on Web pages filled with real or “fake” content? No, it does not fellow advertisers and this means you too. Your ads may end up here, here or here just as mine are in the case of Yahoo! Search’s ContentMatch product.
What does this mean? Essentially, it means that our ads are not just showing up at Google.com based on keywords we’ve purchased. They’re ending up on these sites which Google’s affiliates use to fraudulently collect click referral fees. How might someone end up at such a listing of ads (including yours)? In any number of ways including adware but that’s another story. More common is the arbitrage game - affiliates themselves purchasing keywords at lower cost sources (i.e. FindWhat’s network) and sending the user/clicker on to their page - filled with more expensive clicks that YOU pay for yet which they split with Google.
What’s more frightening from an advertiser’s perspective, if a fraudster doesn’t wish to take the time to game Google or Yahoo, they (actually, just about anyone) can purchase Web sites with “content” (sometimes stolen news feeds… sometimes nothing but re-purposed ads). Shopping for one? Just click AdSenseSitesForSale.com.
So… how difficult is it for companies like Google and Yahoo to curb this kind of thing? Deadly simple as I see it. The likelihood of these companies taking any kind of action soon on it? Nil.Close
October 03, 2005
by Jeff Molander
Are revenues associated with affiliate marketing programs moving beyond flat-lining and actually declining among multi-channel online retailers? The answer would appear to be yes given my recent conversations with executive decision-makers at large and mid-sized marketers alike who, broadly speaking, report the below factors driving this phenomenon:
1) Decreased competition in organic/natural search engine listings (with affiliates; due to search engine algorithm changes that penalize search-based affiliates)
2) Increased competition in paid search advertising (with affiliates and competitors) resulting in new rules that decrease affiliate sales volume
1) Decreasing expectations of affiliate marketing programs
2) Decreasing funding of affiliate programs (shrinking budgets)
To be clear, my comments focus exclusively on multi-channel retailers and direct marketers… and conversations I’ve been having via executive level consultations and/or networking at conferences.
In summary, multi-channel marketers are reporting a decrease in expectation when it comes to affiliate programs as evidenced by Internet Retailer’s report released last week wherein they asked…
“How effective is affiliate marketing in generating online sales compared to other forms of marketing that you use to promote your retail web site?”
How did retailers rate affiliate marketing?
17% highly effective
20% somewhat more effective
47% about the same or slightly less effective (versus other online marketing strategies)
That’s only 37% of retail organizations suggesting that their affiliate program is more effective than other strategies.... leaving a clear majority suggesting otherwise. In fact, an equal number (37%) told Internet Retailer that affiliate marketing was “somewhat or much less” effective. What happened?! Needless to say this is being under-reported in trade media yet is dramatically “off” of countless surveys past where retailers touted the pay-for-performance model as the hands-down-most-effective.
Source: Internet Retailer Mag.
Catalogers Report Fewer Sales
Over half of marketers using catalogs report less than 5% of total online sales coming from affiliates and nearly 80% reporting less than 10% attributed to affiliates. This, again, is going largely unreported and pairs well with the private conversations I’ve been involved with that center on the above trends and are causing marketers to look more closely at how affiliates go about sending sales. Suddenly affiliates using paid search media, product data feeds and adware are coming into focus.
Yet other recently-released studies such as Marketing Sherpa’s Search Marketing Benchmark Guide confirm the same trend. The survey of over 3,000 marketers (not all of whom engage in affiliate marketing) reveals market realities that include:
There are more interesting data in this report that I may discuss at a later date.Close
October 03, 2005
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