Nothing Personal: Why Personalized Search Never Really Arrived (and maybe shouldn’t)

With Google’s personalized search feature bringing a lawsuit to the Plex earlier this month, it begs the question, ummm what Google personalized search? It’s like the old ABC commercials, I can’t see the difference…

Back in early 2007 there were so many boatloads full of buzz about Google integrating more “personalized” results into the index, switching on a feature they called “Google Search History” by default for many searchers.

The ClickEquations July 2009 Release

The ClickEquations July 2009 Release is now live in all client accounts.

This release enhances a number of core ClickEquations capabilities and expands us into a few new areas. It includes a new  dashboard and performance charting, support for multiple accounts from the same search engine, a range of new campaign editing capabilities, enhancements to our bulk-editing features, more metrics, better Content Network Support, and richer options around our bid management capabilities.

Complete details are available in our Release Notes, but here’s a quick summary:

Enhanced Dashboard
DashThe ClickEquations Manager dashboard has been expanded and moved front-and-center in the web application. An enhanced set of performance metrics are now visible at-a-glance for each current engine account, and a new set of performance charts and graphics (covering costs, revenue, ROAS, ROI, Average Order Values, CTR, CPC, and more) are available. The new dashboard allows you to gain a quick yet comprehensive view of the performance of your paid search campaigns.

Multi-Account Support
Large advertisers and those with segmented accounts often have several AdWords or AdCenter accounts managing keywords for a single website. ClickEquations now supports any number of accounts per engine per client. Each account can be viewed individually in our reports or management interface, or you can view roll-ups of performance across multiple accounts. Detailed or aggregated reporting is also supported in ClickEquations Analys, our Excel plug-in.

International Character and Currency Support
ClickEquations can now be configured for any North American, Central American, South American, European and Australasian currency and date/number formatting system.

EditCampExpanded Account Management & Editing
A number of small and large enhancements have been made to how you can manage campaigns, ad groups, keywords, and text-ads within ClickEquations. For example, we’ve expanded our support for adding new campaigns and ad groups and setting options for them, and now allow Dynamic-Keyword-Insertion (DKI’s) in text ads added via ClickEquations. Bid changes and bid rule assignments can now be made across multiple ad groups at once, and we’ve rounded out our support for the content network with separate bidding controls as supported in all the different engines.

Improved Bulk Editing
The powerful bulk editing features introduced in our May release have been extended to cover bulk editing of text ads. In addition, you can now export keywords or text ads at the engine, campaign, ad group levels – so it’s easier to work in Excel to make mass changes (which can be re-imported in a single click) or copy campaigns or ad groups from one engine to another.

New Bid Management Options
Control over custom bid rules has been improved, with greater precision and flexibility over the lookback periods which define the data set any rule takes into account (including support for calendar or click-based ranges). This makes it easier to create rules which apply to a wider range of buying cycle realities. We’ve also extended support for our four revenue attribution models down to the bid rule level – so each individual bid rule can now use data based on either last-click, first-click, linear, or weighted revenue numbers.

BidOpts

New Reporting Metrics
Responding to customer requests, we’ve added the country name column to our Geographic reports, and the CPA (Cost Per Acquisition) metric to our Text Ad reports.

Updated ClickEquations Analyst & Templates
There is also a new release of our ClickEquations Analyst Excel Plug-in to accompany this release, and an entirely refreshed set of default report and dashboard templates. In addition, there are a number of brand new reports and dashboards including:

  • WeeklyDashboardAll Engines Dashboard. A detailed performance dashboard showing aggregated results for all search engines and for each individual search engine. Week over Week performance trends are noted, and key performance metrics are graphed.
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  • Match Type Analysis. Get an instant analysis of your keywords and performance based on your use of match types. A great way to see if you’re too ‘broad match heavy’ or how much greater your revenue-per-click is for exact match keywords.
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  • Keywords By Engine. Shows top performing keywords in each search engine, allows you to quickly compare how individual keywords are performing across the search engines. This frequently shows opportunities to add keywords to engines to expand traffic and revenue. (This one was featured in a post by Avinash and discussed in more detail here.)
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  • Keywords By Query Count. Shows how many different search queries where matched to each keyword, making it easy to see where you should expand keywords and add new match type coverage.

Following our last release by just over two months, this release expands and fill-in some gaps in our management and editing capabilites, adds key structural capabilities – namely support for multiple accounts and international organizations, and continues to add the powerful details like attribution control for bid rules that serious PPC managers seem to love about ClickEquations.

We invite all our clients to attend an update training webinar (first session today at 1PM), and everyone else to sign up for a full demonstration webinar for ClickEquations.

Full new video demo’s will be up soon and everyone is invited to come see us in person at SES in San Jose next week.

MicroHoo a Win-Lose-Win Deal

The deal between Microsoft and Yahoo is very good for the paid search community. It creates a viable #2 competitor with enough market share to matter and a single API for developers to exploit. And Yahoo gets a few dollars for their retirement fund.

Some quick initial thoughts on the impact to each player in the game:

Search Advertisers

Advertisers get a single channel with 20-35% of the search traffic (depending on what and how you measure, and who you believe) which is *nearly* enough critical mass to actually spend time on. The core economic problem that Microsoft, and to a lessor degree Yahoo had before was that they didn’t offer enough inventory to justify the effort of managing let alone aggresively managing large keyword accounts on their platforms. Many advertisers have 20% of their keywords or less running on these engines, and spend 10% or less of their management time on them. Bing and Yahoo still need to attract users or advertisers won’t care. But at their current market share, or better yet if they can pickup 5 or 10%, there’s enough there to be worth the effort to equalize campaign sizes and spend perhaps 30% of campaign management time on them.

Microsoft
Proof that being dumb and rich is a far better strategy than just being dumb. Nothing except their money has justified Microsoft’s existence in this market until recently. Bing seems a reasonable search engine, but the AdCenter platform is pure Microsoft, meaning anything-but-cutting-edge and won’t really offer even the baseline of what the market really needs until version 3.0. They seem to be trying, but in management tools, software and API features, and overall ‘state of the art-ness’ the teams over there need to re-triple efforts to deliver a platform and API set as rich as Google’s. If they don’t, users and developers who now have a large enough market share to bother, won’t have enough patience to work around the limitations it takes to do so.

Yahoo
Yahoo can now spend their time and energy on being second or fourth best at a wide variety of internet content and web-app plays, perhaps to eventually sell each of those to richer and dumber rivals. Or maybe the idea was to get out of search so Google would want to buy all their other assets. This is the Sarah Palin move of search – quit and declare victory.

Paid Search Platforms and Tools
For purely selfish reasons, we’re glad to see the Yahoo and Microsoft platforms consolidate. Every feature we add to ClickEquations that had to touch 3 different APIs took two or three times more time (at least) than if it only had to touch one. We can build more cool features to help advertisers faster now. As mentioned above, the AdCenter platform has plenty of Microsoft quirkiness to it, but we’ll hope and assume they listen to the market and evolve. But in the case of API vendors we can do more with less.

Searchers
I believe that search result quality has a long way to go, that the loyalty Google has is to the brand and therefore ultimately could erode quickly. The Bing/Yahoo platform will likely very slowly pick up steam, but MS has to go do some HUGE bus dev deals to buy more distribution (AOL?) and continue to innovate on the results. Over time, they could substantially erode Google share, but the road will be hard and long. In this case, a perfect fit for Microsoft BUT they need to earn it they’re not just going to be able to out-last the competition or wait for them to commit suicide this time.

Google
Enabling very weak competition to become marginally viable doesn’t hurt Google in the short run. The fear of actual competition and even market share loss could very well spur the very smart folks at Google on to deliver even better stuff faster, as competition always does. So in the short and medium terms I’d say this is good for Google (and helps get the Gov’t monkey off their back for a while). In the long run, I’d still bet on Google but Microsoft does have a lot of money and know how to compete.

But mostly, I’m just really happy we have one less API to support.

The Not So Great Search Engine Market Reach Survey

UPDATE – When I woke up this morning, after having published this post … ummm, really early this morning, Webmasterworld had to say this, quoting somebody else:

Yahoo! and Microsoft announced an agreement that will improve the Web search experience for users and advertisers, and deliver sustained innovation to the industry. In simple terms, Microsoft will now power Yahoo! search while Yahoo! will become the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies’ premium search advertisers.

So everything else in this post is now moot… or… maybe waaay more important. You decide (I’m too tired).

Back to your original post:

Pluto is no longer considered a planet. Microsoft has released a new search engine. A year from now, will either of these facts affect your day to day life? The North American search market has had a pair of hands gripped firmly around its gullet ever since Google rose to prominence in the first half of the shiny new, hard to pronounce dates from, decade.

With its hundred million dollar marketing budget, one of the richest companies in the world backing it, and billions of dollars of revenue at stake, is Bing the start of an industry segmentation, of some actual diversity in the search landscape? Meh prolly not, but what do I know? Not much! That’s why I put together a horrifically flawed survey to get to the bottom of the truth barrel!…

ClickEquations Q&A with SEMGeek

semgeekGreg Meyers, aka SEMGeek, posted an exclusive Q&A with ClickEquations President & Founder Craig Danuloff. Read the interview to Craig’s take on the PPC market and what differentiates ClickEquations from the competition.

Here’s a taste:

QUESTION #7. What would you say is the “secret sauce” of the ClickEquation’s Platform? Is it a specific tool or a combination of functions?

ANSWER: I think our customer base would tell you that our ‘secret sauce’ is our deep understanding and real-world experience as paid search managers. What people get excited about is how our interface and features address the real-world needs of full time PPC managers who are working hard to maximize their results. As you know, the truth is most search managers are massively constrained by the limitations of their tools. We’ve knocked down at least some of those limits, and have our sights on many more.

Already, our ability to match search query with the associated keyword and match type is one example. Or to show you all the keywords currently below the Google First Page Bid Estimate. Or to review top performing keywords on one engine and show which ones are missing or performing poorly on another engine. These have real world advantages and to me knowledge none of our competitors offer any of these capabilities.

Read the entire interview at SEMGeek.

If you’d like to interview anyone at ClickEquations, please contact Alex Cohen, Marketing Manager – marketing@clickequations.com

Quality Score: The Deep and Dirty Details on PPC Rockstars

ppc-rockstars-logoThis week on PPC Rockstars Mr. David Szetela and I get serious about AdWords Quality Score.

Listen in, but this one is not for the faint-at-heart.

Available at Webmaster Radio or on iTunes.

Paid Search Pros Video: Avinash’s Favorite PPC Analytics Tips

It’s a sad truth, but “most dashboards are on auto-delete” as our friend and Advisor Avinash Kaushik says.

Earlier this year, Craig had a chance to sit down with Avinash, Author of Web Analytics An Hour A Day, to get his tips for actionable paid search analysis and reporting.

Watch our first Paid Search Pros Video to learn:

  • Why the “What’s Changed?” report is so actionable
  • How to more effectively measure the Long Tail of search
  • Avinash’s favorite ppc analytics tips

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For more advanced ppc tips, sign up for our upcoming webinar, “Master Search Queries to Save Money and Increase Conversions” on Thursday 7/16 and subscribe to our email newsletter.

Multi-Variate Landing Page Testing for Beginners

That title is a trick, I’m mostly a beginner myself when it comes to multivariate – it was basically beyond my reach before Google decided to eviscerate the proletariat and release Google Website Optimizer tool (GWO) – killing offer all competitors with another amazing free app. Love to hate those guys.

I’d like this to be a follow up to my previous post where I tried to show the essentials of photoshop for beginners, specifically with respect to creating basic layouts for landing pages. It’s really intended for people who need to create (actually be the creative person behind) the landing page elements themselves, even if they can’t do the final design….

Avinash Revisited – Part II (What’s Changed?)

Last week in Occam’s Razor, Avinash Kaushik discussed our ‘What’s Changed’ reports, which make it easy to see which campaigns, ad groups, or keywords are doing better or worse than they were previously.

These reports showcase a core feature of ClickEquations, the ability to compare performance between any two periods and to very easily see the difference between performance in those two periods. It’s a feature that was actually inspired by an earlier post on Occam’s Razor, and was the direct result of a conversation we had with Avinash early last summer.

Avi2-YahooChanges(Click To Zoom)

In his original post, Avinash compellingly makes the case that top 10 lists are only of limited use. Or more accurately, they’re extremely useful but only for a limited time. Once you understand the top 10 of anything, it doesn’t tend to change so looking at the top 10 keywords or top 10 ad groups day-after-day really isn’t going to help drive constant campaign improvement.

But if you look at the top 10 keywords based on rate of change in volume, or based on delta in cost-per-click, or based on increasing ROI, then you’ve got some interesting and in almost every case actionable date. (Of course, 10 isn’t a magic number, it could be the top 25 or top X. If Letterman ran a top 11 list every night, would we all say Top 11?)

Prior Period & The Delta
Taking this insight to heart, we made it simple to pull two new pieces of data for any metric available within ClickEquations: the prior period version of that metric and the size of the delta between the current period and the prior period. So if you’re running a report for ‘this month’ and ask for the number of conversions for a keyword, for example, you also get back the number of conversions for ‘last month’ and the ‘delta’ between those two values.

Avi2-EngineDeltaWe use this in many default reports to conditionally format numbers and present the % change represented by the new value. So in the dashboard below we see that revenue is down 3% in Google. (Click Image to Zoom)

The full What’s Changed Reports that Avinash mentioned display results for many different metrics – Revenues, Profit (ROI), Average CPC are the defaults – sorted by the amount of change in the current period vs the prior period. Each report shows the top 10 for each metric by amount of change in terms of both increase and decrease.

Avi2-GrossRevenueGrowth

Each report also includes a handy bar chart showing the growth in revenue, in this case by campaign.

Avi2-CPCINcreaseDecreaseThe default reports provide all of the above for Google and Yahoo (on separate pages), and cover both Campaigns, Ad Groups, and Keywords. By default they’re month over month reports, but using our Quick Change Palette you run them for any time period with a single click.

Making more significant customizations is pretty easy. You can change the metrics to shift Profit (ROI) to ROAS, for example, or any metric to any other. You can even customize the dates of the ‘prior period’.

All ClickEquations Delta reports automatically calculate values for the mirror-image prior period of any specified date range. So if you request a report for yesterday, the numbers will compare yesterday to the day before yesterday. If you choose this week, the report will compare this week to last week. But you can elect to specify the prior period as any arbitrary period, so you could compare this month to last July, or Valentines Day weekend to Presidents Day weekend, or whatever you’d like.

What’s Changed Reports can easily be created for other aspects of your PPC campaign too. Want a report to show the top 25 products selling faster this month than last month? How about one showing the geographies where sales are dropping the fastest? Each of these and many others are rather quick customizations in ClickEquations Analyst – after which they can be refreshed with one button push anytime.

A Sneak Peak
We’ve come to think very highly of these What’s Changed Reports as action drivers for PPC campaigns. So much so that in the next release of ClickEquations, we’ve moved the core What’s Changed reports onto the main dashboard. In a new tabbed-reports interface, you’ll be able to see the campaigns or keywords which are ‘changing’ anytime, and quickly dive into more details or to take corrective action.

Watch for more news on our upcoming release in the next few weeks.