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Google Unveils New Ad Units: Email-able Ads

Over the past couple days, I have been seeing the following ad units in my GMail accounts:- the top sidebar ad is prominently separated from others - it is in an entirely different treatment that includes a branded image - and it has an email icon atop

When you click the ad, it opens into a full screen unit that is essentially an email. It appears in the GMail mail format with four buttons atop the screen: Return, Save to Inbox, Forward and Dismiss.

Google describes it: "It's a new type of ad you can save to your inbox and forward on. If you dismiss the ad, you won't see it again."

It is an interesting effort because it enables the small ad unit (no different than a traditional AdWords unit) to bloom into something shareable, potentially social and much bigger (from two lines of text into an entire, rich-content experience). While that is conceptually very cool, it puts a burden on advertisers to make content that is worthwhile of sharing / keeping. I have cycled through a handful of of these email ads and have found nothing relevant to me or worthy of being shared.

Google's Effective $75 AdWords Credit Campaign

I spend a lot of time talking about effective advertising and funnel optimization. Obviously, advertising often represents the top of the funnel (user acquisition) for many companies / campaigns. It is always worth watching respected brands' online campaigns because they usually undergo rigorous optimization testing and analytics. That is why I often point to ShoeDazzle, Groupon, LivingSocial, Amazon, etc - excellent, analytical marketers. And here is an example from Google that I think is well done and worth learning from.

The ad unit is simple. Bright color. Clear message. And most importantly, a reward / incentive: $75.00 credit:

Once the creative drives a click, the action is filling out a form (aka driving a lead)... and obviously the page's efficiency (call to action, form completion, lead collection, etc) is critical to making the campaign ROI effective. This what Google does well:

- Super simple, clean landing page

- Key action items and messaging: "Request a free trial" is both the message and the action button

- Only four fields are needed to get moving: name, email, URL and Country

- Two ways to get set up: Request via form or vial phone

- A big reminder of your $75 credit

- And crisp, clean language about why Google advertising works - with a < 2 minute YouTube tutorial

Amidst Facebook Places, Dont Forget Google Places (Now with Coupons)

Lost among the hubbub surrounding the similarly named Facebook Places is Google's local product: Google Places. It might not include check-ins, but it is a product aimed at local businesses and search queries... and tied to Google's core competency and model. Google Places is: Yelp + AdWords + Google Analytics + Groupon. It's powerful.

Tied to Google's local search - which is integrated into core search, mobile and Google Maps - Google Places allows businesses to create profiles of themselves. These profiles supplement search results with content, pictures, etc.

For consumers or searchers, this means deeper and more actionable content. For business owners, this means that Google can provide analytics about searches / searchers... and of course get you to advertise against them. This includes:

A business dashboard (analytics) and advertising / coupon center:

A communications platform to broadcast content / events:

And a mobile / print couponing platform - of course tied to Google's mobile and maps platform:

And of course, Google is capable of promoting Places heavily through their content network (below is an example ad unit from this blog) and through Google's other popular products:

The Changing AdWords, Paid Search Landscape - And What it Means

Interesting data out of Comscore and TechCrunch this morning that points to the slowing growth of paid search activity despite a rise in search activity. Comscore believes it is a consequence of longer search queries, but Michael Arrington has a larger picture answer (which I agree with):

U.S. Search queries are up 68% in the last year, but paid clicks are up only 18% in the same period...

he reason there are less ads on search results, I believe, is that there are, simply, less advertisers. Far less. Big spenders, the category leaders, are just gone. Sharper Image, Wickes Furniture, Levitz, Foot Locker, Wilson’s Leather, Ann Taylor, Zales, Mervyn’s, Macy’s, Circuit City and a ton of other retailers are either shutting down entirely or closing lots of stores. And more are on the way. All of these companies used to spend tons of money on paid search ads. Those budgets don’t exist any more.

Combine that with the fact that, as any paid search advertiser knows, it is downright hard to spend more money effectively. SMBs face the same problem: scaling paid search spend in both click volume and conversions.

And - let's not forget that the affiliate landscape is rapidly changing. Affiliates once accounted for a major portion of AdWords spend (either directly or by indirectly bloating the prices of keywords). As major affiliate programs have changed their policies (ie Amazin prohibiting paid search), an entire tier of sophisticated marketers disappeared.

So in a move that certainly is not coincidental, Google yesterday announced that AdWords advertisers can now bid on brand terms. Wow. That is a very significant change - both directionally and operationally (for advertisers and Google alike).

Brands spend countless hours protecting themselves. And that, until now, has included protecting themselves in paid search. Meanwhile, competitors or savvy arbitragers (affiliates, etc) have long capitalized on branded keywords. Early on at eBay, for instance, we had to specifically prohibit bidding on eBay's brand - which included numerous derivatives of eBay,, etc.

I am sure Google has operational reasons to allow brand bidding: it is both messy and intensive to protect the brand names (and not always accurate or fair). But this is clearly a move that is intended to drive revenue by reopening high-traffic keywords.

Expect related CPCs to rise, brands to complain loudly, and affiliates to scramble immediately.

PlentyofFish's Bizarre Advertising Practices

Most advertisers will preach best practices like: - deliver a clear and concise message - keep it simple and precise - make it visual and grab the viewer's attention

By breaking most common advertising rules, PlentyofFish's ads actually caught my attention (enough so that I spent a few minutes creating the images, blogging it, etc).

The ad flips through two units:

1. My name is Markus and I created; my site is completely free and we generate about 800,000 relationships a year. The majority of users are single professionals and users who are serious about meeting someone. Lots of text with lots of qualifiers. Just as you would find it off-putting if your date said "me, me, me" - the use of "my name" and "my site" is awkward.

2. If you are looking for someone you may as well join us; we have millions of people and best of all we're free! You aren't going to meet anyone trolling bars or supermarkets so... signup here.

My favorite part is the very strong call to action: "You may as well join us" [followed by a semicolon].


Google Print & Google Radio Closures Are Unfortunate

News arrived yesterday that Google is shutting down their Print and Radio ad systems. It's unfortunate news for brand advertisers and the traditional media formats. Google Print & Radio An ironic tag-line for Google's Print & Radio Platform

With eBay / Kijiji and beRecruited, I was one of the systems' early advertisers... creating multiple campaigns that ran across dozens of markets' radio stations and newspapers. Google made it simple to craft campaigns, connect with the papers / stations and find talent to create the ad units. Google's traditional media marketplace was as simple as AdWords - but across a far more fragmented, complicated landscape.

I was always wowed by the technology side. But more importantly - it drove results.

Measuring conversion and ROI is harder (obviously), but advertising in Radio and Print (via Google) enabled reach across users that AdWords simply doesn't serve - either via audience or ad format.

On a higher level, this marks an important moment because we are at the intersection of traditional and online media. And as the newspaper and radio worlds struggle with the online shift (and business models) - this was an opportunity to have these worlds meet together. Sure there are tons of issues (fragmentation, pricing models, and so forth) - but simply put, Google Print and Radio worked. And that means I was willing to spend money (and continue doing so) and the stations / papers had access to new campaigns and budgets (without a sales force).

Google Image Search: Now with Text Ads. Ugh.

Much has been made of Google's willingness - and now need considering the economic downturn - to monetize Google Images search. Google has even suggested that it may mean an incremental $200 million.

But they've been cautious to add AdWords to Image search - perhaps because it is a difficult balance between matching user intent and relevancy....

Until today - the first day I noticed prominent ads within image search. I don't believe that this implementation is effective - and certainly not capable of generating $200m. The trouble is that it does a poor job of matching ads with what the user is looking for: imagery. Even if the ads are interesting - my eye immediately seeks graphics... because that is my clear, stated intent.

Google has graphic inventory to leverage - from AdWords to DoubleClick to Froogle. There has to be a better solution.

Google Images with Ads Google Images AdWords AdSense

Long Tail Analytics with Quantcast, Google Trends & Compete - Who Wins?

Google entered the public web analytics game yesterday by expanding Google Trends beyond search queries and into web traffic. Just a couple years ago, we had two options for web data: - Comscore provided detailed analytics for the web's top sites - Alexa (inaccurately) estimated traffic based on their tool bar users / usage

Now, we have three major players offering analytics for the tail of websites: Quantcast, Compete and Google Trends. Quantcast is, at this point, the only player that enables publishers to add tags to their site (or media: flash, network, etc) that effectively share their stats and make them public. This gives Quantcast full information about the site and its visitors (the same way that Google Analytics collects their data); they then share a portion of that information publicly and, for quantified publishers, that data should be trusted: pageviews, uniques, visits, etc. The beauty of what Quantcast has built is that publishers are incented to 'quantify' their sites because it provides a trusted 3rd party representation of their traffic - and for the tail of websites, that's an important differentiator because Comscore only measures the web's top sites.

Meanwhile, Compete collects their data from a panel of users and releases monthly stats (for quantified publishers, Quantcast releases daily updates). Below, you'll see just how different Quantcast and Compete are for (who is now quantified). Quantcast shows 9 million monthly uniques and 1.4 million daily uniques - Compete shows about 1.4 million monthly uniques. Big difference:

According to the data (3m uniques vs. 1m) and all of my anecdotal Silicon Valley conversations, Quantcast seems to be the preferred analytics provider over Compete.... but the real wildcard is clearly Google. The Google Trends launch garnered huge buzz yesterday - but it's yet to be seen how big of a step Google is actually taking. You'll notice below that Google Trends shows 600k daily uniques for - which falls between Quantcast and Compete... which leads to me to ask the obvious question: Will Google open up Google Analytics publicly on an opt-in basis? Quantcast has pushed Compete aside by gathering real data provided directly by the website owner. Google already has a massive footprint in Analytics - by providing an option to "make your data public", they can create a consumer-facing analytics service and extend the reach of AdWords / AdSense by matching demographics and allowing direct ad-buying.

The integration is easy and leverages Analytics massive user base. More importantly, it delivers accurate data and makes Google Trends relevant - because, as it currently stands, the data is good just that: trends.

Pizza Hut Shows How NOT to do Paid Search

Yesterday, I wrote about the three keys to creating a compelling widget.

Tonight, I am moved to write about how *not* to craft compelling paid search campaigns:

There are so many things wrong with this ad that it's tough to figure out where to start... but we can start with the ad "title" - which is perhaps the most critical component. It's the first thing a user sees and it's typically the largest, boldest font. In this case, the word "widget" is neither relevant to the rest of the ad nor particularly differentiated. The title should showcase the brand, describe the product and/or have a call to action. A generic, bland word like "widget" does not incent me to click through.

Likewise, the ad body should have a call to action and, in the few alloted characters, give an overview of what to expect after the jump. Asking a user to "download" something is rather aggressive - particular when it has no mention of the aforementioned "widget". Similarly, the text has no relevancy within itself: the words widget, download, desktop, and shortcut are used... but there is no relationship to pizza or Pizza Hut. Huh?

My favorite part of the ad is how carelessly Pizza Hut uses each of the characters (typically a very precious piece of ad). 16 characters are dedicated to spelling out within the ad body - even though that exact same tagline is shown directly beneath it. Meanwhile, they have chosen to only utilize six characters in the title to spell out "widget".

I am guessing that it would also be a reach to assume that Pizza Hut is tracking the ad, the clickthroughs and the conversions (to an order or .com registration)...