Friday, March 28, 2008

Did Google’s Secondary Search Create Some Waves?

To this day my mom loves to remind me about her experience with greed: “Any time I have gotten just a little tiny bit greedy, it always backfires on me in the end.” Her point is that she has never and will never profit from greed, and neither will I. Maybe Google should have had a conversation with my Mom before rolling out their latest feature.

Recently Google introduced a new feature to their search results page called the “Secondary Search Box”. When you do a search on a trademark term for sites that have a large presence (i.e. New York Times, Best Buy, YouTube, National Geographic, etc.) you will notice that a “secondary” search box appears underneath the website’s organic listing which encourages you to enter another keyword to help narrow your search.

Like every new feature Google rolls out, the secondary search box was supposedly introduced to enhance the search experience and generate a more relevant search result for the searcher. In the past I have always felt that most new features that Google has introduced have delivered on that promise of enhancing the search experience, and therefore improving the experience for the advertiser as well. Lately, though, the features that have been rolled out have caused me to sense a very slight hint of desperation or maybe some greed from our friends at Google. On their Blog, Google provided the following explanation for the roll out of the Secondary Search Box:

"Through experimentation, we found that presenting users with a search box as part of the result increases their likelihood of finding the exact page they are looking for. So over the past few days we have been testing, and today we have fully rolled out, a search box that appears within some of the search results themselves. This feature will now occur when we detect a high probability that a user wants more refined search results within a specific site. Like the rest of our snippets, the sites that display the site search box are chosen algorithmically based on metrics that measure how useful the search box is to users."

Okay, sure, I could have been on board with this initial explanation. This new feature could have the potential to help narrow a searcher’s results which may lead to a better organic conversion rate. But, all of these benefits were quickly minimized by the fact that the secondary search resulted in a whole selection of paid ads associated with the secondary search term, diverting the searcher from the organic listing or the single paid listing owned by the brand.

So, let’s say you searched on New York Times because you were looking for real estate listings. The secondary search box appears so you enter the keyword “real estate”. Earlier this week if you had done this search, you would see organic results for the query “real estate”, as well as paid listings generated by the general term “real estate”. This was horrible news for sites that had these secondary search boxes associated with their trademarked terms. Before that secondary search box was introduced, the searcher was probably going to do one of two things when they searched a trademark term - click on the organic listing, or click on the one paid ad which was probably the ad of the trademark owner. But now, with the secondary search in play, the searcher is presented with a whole array of paid ads which are very likely to distract the searcher from clicking through to the site associated with that original trademark search.

Anyone who manages a PPC campaign knows how profitable those trademark terms are; especially for large, well-known brands. That’s one of the reasons why we go through the effort of submitting trademark letters - to prevent competitors from bidding on our trademarked terms. If you do a search on any trademark term owned by these large sites, you will probably only see at most two paid ads – the ad owned by the brand, and occasionally an affiliate. This is because these large brands have a trademark letter in place with Google. But the secondary search box was encouraging users to perform an additional search so that the trademark letter could essentially be bypassed, providing a chance for the searcher to click through on an ad associated with a more generic, higher cost keyword. Most likely a competitor’s ad. It seems to me that Google was utilizing the massive search volume associated with these “big brand” keywords, then converting those searches into more “general” searches, therefore driving clicks to higher CPC ads.

So, just today as I was doing some research together for my blog posting/rant about Google “using” the popularity of these huge brands to make money, I noticed something very interesting. All of the paid ads that used to show up as a result of that secondary search, are now gone. Now the secondary search only results in organic listings for the site associated with the searched trademark.

Another interesting thing I noticed – The Secondary Search Box associated with the trademark term “WalMart” is now gone! I am 100% sure it was there earlier this week.

So, the question is, did Google recognize their subtle greediness and “do the right thing” on their own, or could there have been a behind the scenes uprising from the big brands that forced them to make the change?

Post written by: Alison Ganz, Director of Marketing at Hawkeye Search - PPC Experts

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

How Target Is Teaching Us To Be Green - 10 Ways To Reuse Your Bag

From the looks of my account, it seems as if we spend a lot of time at Target or as some say Tar-shay. We enjoy our little trips to this big retail store; everything is always in the same place, it features great affordable designer brands like Method and you never leave without spending at least $100. The thing I never noticed was that Target was continuing the conversation with me in my home on my dinner table. Something caught my eye ... 10 Ways To Reuse Your Target Bag. You've all got that little stockpile of plastic bags stuffed into a plastic holder, in the shelf in a closet or maybe strewn about the floor because the cats love to play in them. Well, I bet you didn't notice the little top 10 list provided by Target on some of them. So here it is:

1. Tiny Trash Can Liner
2. Doggy Duty
3. Water Balloon
4. Road Trip Rubbish
5. Soggy Laundry
6. Ice Pack
7. Toiletry Tote
8. Kitty Litter Liner
9. Tomorrow's Lunch Bag
10. Care Package Padding

So then I thought about what else could you use that bag for and here's BJ's Top 10 Ways To Reuse Plastic Bags:

1. Makeshift Rain Hat
2. Convertible Car Window in the Summer
3. Storing Ex-Lovers Belongings
4. Socks
5. Fishing Tool When Stranded On Island
6. Gym Bag
7. Grease Collector
8. Multi-Plastic Bag Holder (string it through multiple handles)
9. Stuffing A Scarecrow
10. Diapers when you don't get on Ellen's Mother's Day Show

So if you have some creative ways to use those old bags, post them in comments here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

5 Classic Ways Companies Should Communicate With Their Customers

A company's success hinges on how it communicates, both internally and externally. Too much emphasis on interpersonal relationships can have a dire effect on outside interaction. Obviously, such a breakdown in communication between the company and its customers will greatly impact customer satisfaction and overall sales.

Businesses that regularly speak with their customers, whether it's directly or indirectly, will flourish. The advent of the Internet has obviously changed customer interaction for the better. However, one mustn't overlook some classic ways to touch base with customers, as some of them have certainly stood the test of time.

Below are the top five ways a company should communicate with their customers:

1. Telephone – No, I'm not referring to cold calls during dinnertime. I'm speaking of old-fashioned, remote customer service. When a customer has a question or concern, they will often want to personally connect with the company (and rightfully so). Whether this results in an inbound call from the customer or a friendly follow-up from the company, this keeps customer dissatisfaction to a minimum when executed properly.
2. Live Chat – Many people are glued to their computers these days, preferring digital communication to personal phone calls. A live chat option with a customer service representative is both practical and welcome in today's society, particularly if a company receives many inbound calls. No one likes to hang around "on hold," after all.
3. Newsletters – Newsletters are an excellent ways to keep customers abreast of new developments and, obviously, new products/services. Print newsletters aren't as common as they used to be, but they are still quite effective for small businesses. The electronic newsletter, however, is flourishing right now and helping many businesses to improve their customer relations. However, companies should make any kind of newsletter an opt-in service, lest it be viewed as "spam."
4. Company Blog – One of the newest successes in the realm of customer communication is the company blog. Often written by higher-ups within the company, it can make even the biggest corporations feel as if it's one with the people. Like a newsletter, it serves as a news service. However, it also encourages highly valuable customer feedback in the form of comments.
5. Customer Surveys – How will a company know what its customers want if it doesn't ask? Customers should be surveyed on a regular basis. However, companies should make this feel like a painless process for the public. Offering prizes to random participants is one of the most effective ways to garner a widespread partaking in a survey.

Companies should never stop experimenting with new technology, such as social networking sites and applications. However, the communication methods above are tried and true ways to keep communication flowing between a company and the widest audience possible. Perhaps older methods like the telephone really will become obsolete one day, but some of them are still quite effective.

Heather Johnson is a freelance business, finance and economics writer, as well as a regular contributor at Business Credit Cards, a site for business credit card and best business credit card offers. Heather welcomes comments and freelancing job inquiries at her email address

Monday, March 17, 2008

Conversations Around Twitter

Wow, I think I've been abusing my subscribers on here lately by not posting anything new or of value. Well, that's about to change. I'm working through a sinus infection right now, on Day 5, hopefully it will be over soon. I wanted to post a few interesting tweets I noticed today that are very relevant to this blog's purpose and audience. If you care about conversational marketing then you'll enjoy these and I'd love to get your feedback on what you think or some other great quotes about this topic.

"Communities don't build themselves nor do they get built. There are always catalysts and champions, but no directors." MissRogue

"I hope Flickr never adds video, sometimes communities are just fine having only one cool object" Blueace

"I'm not into Second Life, but I hope people who live their online personnas in forums and communities will discover SL and move there." Randulo

"SmugMug's employees are simply nicer to people. So are Zooomr's. Which is why both have fanatical communities." Scobleizer

"Communities work like clubs and are closed to many outsiders" - I guess this is why they work at all" NewConversation

"Publics are the communities themselves, I like that idea. especially because it brings it back to value systems" Brunoamaral

These are posts from that I found via MissRogue's tweet and searched in These are the very expectations that we have as users and that companies need to be aware of when engaging us with their push marketing tactics. What all of these conversations reveal is that communities that are value-based and have a simple set of features will continue to grow with the help of super-connectors, passionate members who feel the need to spread the community to their own network. You can't control a community, forecast its growth, tell members to spread the word; it just happens. You just better be ready for it.