Top Search Stories – September 2008

Google Google introduces changes to Quality Score system

Earlier this month, Google announced changes to its Quality Score metric, which is used to measure the relevancy of paid search ads. As part of the new metric, ad quality will be measured when a search is actually made, replacing the current system where the Quality Score is predetermined.

Another major change involves the replacement of the 'minimum bid' with a 'first page bid'. This estimates the cost of an ad reaching the first page of Google. The search engine claims that the changes will make the ads more accurate and relevant across the network. The new Quality Score system will at first only be implemented on a small scale, with a view to a wider rollout later in the year.

Greenlight PPC Director, Hannah Kimuyu says: "We believe this change to be a positive one. Although advertisers may see a temporary increase in cost-per-click, we expect the change to further encourage relevancy among paid search advertising, especially as the actual Quality Score measure will revert to a scoring system of 1 to 10. We believe this level of transparency will allow advertisers to work harder to deliver solid relevant campaigns to their desired markets and provide a better understanding of the score itself."


Hitwise Majority of UK internet users search for branded terms

New research by Experian Hitwise has revealed that the majority of internet searches in the UK are for branded terms. The report showed that of the 2,000 keywords studied, 88% were branded terms, up from only 20% in 2005.

Social networking sites were amongst the most popular brands searched for, with Facebook gaining the number one spot and Bebo, YouTube and MySpace all making it into the top 10. Shopping brands such as Amazon and eBay also fared well.

The report also found that portals, affiliate sites and blogs were benefiting from this trend, as a proportion of searches for top brands would lead to users visiting websites not directly owned by the brand itself. The research showed that blog traffic from branded search has increased by 185% since the beginning of the year.

Cuil New search site to rival Google?

Former Google employers aim to give the search engine giant a run for its money, with the launch of a new search site.

Cuil, pronounced 'cool' and meaning knowledge in Gaelic, claims to search more pages on the web than anyone else, three times more than Google and 10 times as many as MSN. 

Tom Costello, Cuil's CEO and co-founder, says: "The web continues to grow at a fantastic rate and other search engines are unable to keep up. Our significant breakthroughs in search technology have enabled us to index much of the internet."

Cuil uses a cool 120m-web-pages-plus to build up an index of the information it finds web-wide. Google has stopped reporting how much it indexes, but claims its index is still bigger.

Different to Google in several key ways, Cuil doesn't retain information about its users and displays search results in a magazine-style format.

www.cuil.com reported more than 50 million searches on its first day. But some analysts say the site will struggle to eclipse Google.

Danny Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief of Search Engine Land, feels the time may be right for a challenger, but cautions, 'Competing with Google is still a very daunting task…as Microsoft will tell you.'

Supermarket Search ad spending grows apace

A worldwide survey carried out in 2007 has revealed advertising agencies planned to increase their search engine marketing spend in 2008.  While an economic downturn was forecast for some countries this year, survey respondents had no plans to adopt more conservative spending policies than in previous years.  If self-predictions are correct, agencies will have spent more than advertisers by the end of 2008, according to the recently released report.

Meanwhile, advertisers indicated their intention to increase their paid-placement spending by more than one third. Agencies proposed to boost their spending in this area by more than a half.

Entitled 'State of Search Engine Marketing 2007', the report was sponsored by the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO) and conducted by Radar Research.

Yahoo Yahoo! share of UK search spend drops further
But Europe-wide ad offensive planned

It may seem Yahoo!'s fortunes are on the wane, according to recent search share figures. The internet company watched their share of UK search spend drop a further 1.3% to 10.6% in Q2. That's on top of a 0.5% drop in Q1. By comparison, Google's share of the market increased by 0.6% to 85.4% in Q2.

Tom Bennett, Marketing Director of Confused.com says, 'These numbers don't surprise me. We don't have a fixed search budget, so we look at purely where we get the best ROI. That's Google.'

But Alan Harding, Head of Search at Moneysupermarket, says, 'A tightly controlled campaign on Yahoo! or Microsoft converts just as well as Google.'

While Yahoo! may not be the search engine of choice for many advertisers, the company is due to launch a major pan-European marketing push towards the end of the year. This will follow a series of online and offline campaigns over the next few months, aimed at re-engaging with users.   

Ian Tait, planning director of the lead creative agency responsible for the campaign, says: "Yahoo! has a massive diversity of products and services that it needs to make more of. The opportunity is there for us to take it to the mainstream."

Ciao Microsoft acquires Ciao in £265m deal

Greenfield Online, owner of price comparison website Ciao, has been acquired by Microsoft for £265m. The acquisition comes as Microsoft tries to grow its search business to rival Google.

With over 25.5m unique visitors a month, Ciao allows consumers to search for and buy a large variety of tech products, while comparing prices across numerous retailers. The portal also allows users to compare and review products and operates in seven European countries and languages. Microsoft will integrate Ciao into its Live Search platform as the software company aims to make its Live Search service the leading destination for online shoppers. It is reported that after the acquisition Microsoft plans to sell on Greenfield's additional operations.

This latest deal follows the breakdown in negotiations between Microsoft and Yahoo earlier in the year. In July this year, Microsoft bought search company Powerset for a reported $100m.

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