The Anti-Spyware Initiative: Good Practices and Bad Practices

MediaPost reports that three leading behavioral targeting companies — Dynamic Logic, Revenue Science, and Tacoda — have joined in an alliance to develop initiatives designed to educate legislators and consumers alike on the different good and bad practices deployed by legitimate online marketers, differentiating them from spyware and adware developers.

The following is a summary of The Anti-Spyware Initiative document:
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Search Engine Blogs: Official and Unofficial

Official company blogs have become a great PR tool for many high tech companies, like Macromedia. As Tara Calishain reports in her ResearchBuzz, search engines do not waste time in deploying this cheap way to disseminate information, rumors, and anything inbetween.

Here is a current list of official search engine blogs:

And here, few unofficial blogs dedicated to the major search engines, added by me:

Forecasts: MSN Search Launch and Online Holiday Shopping

The Financial Times, NY Times, Reuters and the AP reported that Microsoft is expected to launch its new web search engine tomorrow, November 11, 2004. This is anticipated to be among the main challanges to Google’s dominance of the search engine market place. While it is expected that Yahoo’s subsidiary Overture will continue to supply sponsored search results to MSN Search, the organic search results will be provided by Microsoft’s own search engine rather than Yahoo! Search. This will further reshuffle the search engines market place which as of May 2004 looked like this (image by SearchEngineWatch):comScore Media's estimate of search engine market share as of May 2004

AOL continues to serve both organic and sponsored search results from Google’s search engine and AdWords pay-per-click program. In unrelated news, Google launched Google Advertising Professionals program and AdWords Learning Center in responce to Overture’s Ambassador program.

Online Holiday Shopping to Exceed $15 Billion This Year According to comScore Forecast

comScore Networks today released its forecast of online consumer spending for the 2004 holiday season. comScore reports that consumer spending on non-travel goods at U.S. Web sites will exceed $15 billion during the November through December holiday season, representing growth of approximately 23% to 26% over the 2003 season.
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Credibility of Search Results and Paid Search Awareness

A new report on the credibility of search engines called “Searching for Disclosure: How Search Engines Alert Consumers to the Presence of Advertising in Search Results” (PDF, 2.8MB) and released by ConsumerWebWatch examines how search engines explain business relationships with advertisers to their users. The study evaluated the compliance of 15 major search engines with the FTC’s guidelines on disclosing paid sponsorship of search results. The sites evaluated in the study were: 1stBlaze, AltaVista, AOL Search, Ask Jeeves, CNET’s, Google, InfoSpace Web Search, Lycos Network Search, MSN Search, My Search, My Way Search, Netscape Search, Overture, Web Search and Yahoo! Search.
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The Elements, Principles and Examples of Web Searching

How many of us browse and search the web for living? Tara Calishain, the publisher of ResearchBuzz, does and has been doing this for ten years now. Then, it should come as no surprise that she is able, in this fine new book titled “Web Search Garage”, to summarize the web searching wisdom she has gathered over the years and conceptualize something that by its nature goes against simple hierarchies.
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Yahoo! Shopping Kicks Off Holiday Season

Yahoo! launched a new version of its Shopping site bringing comparison tools to content and product search. In addition to its new Holiday Gift Center which officially kicks off the online holiday season, Yahoo! Shopping launched the so-called precision browsing concept — a combination of category browsing and keyword-based searching — which, Yahoo! claims, will bring better quality to product searching by narrowing results based on product attributes.

This announcement follows our recent call for optimizing e-commerce sites in time for an early holiday season, projected by eMarketer to reach $16.7 billion of online purchases.

Balancing Organic and Sponsored Search Results Essential for Successful Search Engine Marketing

A survey conducted by Enquiro Search Solutions and MarketingSherpa reveals the important role search plays in business-to-business buying decisions (PDF).

Among the findings of the research are:

  • Search plays a dominant role in decision-making about business-to-business purchases.
  • Google is overwhelmingly the search engine of choice in researching business-to-business purchases.
  • Search is most likely to be used during the early or mid research phase of the buying cycle.
  • Search engines will likely be used in conjunction with other sites primarily manufacturer’s sites. Budget for the purchase is a factor in the likelihood of this occurring.
  • Research (and search engine usage) generally happens at least a month or two in advance of the actual purchase decision.
  • Budget plays a part in this as well, with the gap between research and purchase decisions increasing with the amount of the budget.
  • Effective balancing of organic and sponsored strategies is essential: organic search results, depending on the search engine, draw anywhere from 70 to 80% of the click-throughs.
  • Position whether on the organic or sponsored side, is also essential: Over 60% of the click-throughs happen on the first 3 listings.
  • The way the users eye moves across the search engine page is a strong determinant in which listing will be eventually chosen.
  • Over 60% of all users make their decisions about which listing they will click on in a few seconds, after a quick scan of the page. This reinforces the importance and the significant advantage top sponsored locations provide.

Relying On On-Site Search Features, e-Commerce Visitors Spend More Dollars But Less Time Browsing

DoubleClick’s E-Commerce Site Trend Report for Q3 2004 (PDF, 60KB) reveals that “visitors are spending less time on e-commerce sites, but looking at more pages. Consumers are increasing usage of on-site search functions and spending more on purchases driven by on-site searches”.

Some of the key findings of the report follow:

  • Shoppers are spending less time during each visit, but they are looking at more pages during each visit. This translates to less time per page, and therefore less time for a site to capture a shopper’s attention.
  • Consumers are relying on the search
    functions of commerce sites more, and the conversion rates and order sizes driven by those searches continues to increase, but search-driven purchases are below average site transactions.
  • A majority of shoppers continues to abandon their shopping carts in a given session before making a purchase, although a sizable number return to buy these items in a later visit.
  • The biggest bottleneck of online sales is moving shoppers from “carting” items to
    beginning the checkout process, a conversion point merchants are gradually improving on.

Further analysis of this report:

Visual History of Web Analytics

Eric Peterson’s discussion group “Web Analytics Demystified” was the source for an early attempt to compile a visual history of web analytics (large JPG file).

While this timeline can be interesting, it would be even more helpful when other industry and functional milestones are added. In the meantime, nobody can argue with the increasing importance of scientific analysis of how web sites are used.

Another illustration of how visual demonstration can help with decision making is’s spoof on election ballot used as a navigation choice tool.

Optimize Your Site In Time for the Holiday Season

eMarketer projects online spending in the holiday months will grow 29.3% over last year, totaling $16.7 billion.
eMarketer projects online spending in the holiday months of 2004 will total $16.7 billion
This estimate, combined with data from a recent report commissioned by The Macerich Company, a major regional shopping mall developer in the USA, indicates that online retailers should prepare for the anticipated increase in web traffic earlier than usual. The report shows that US consumers are ready to shop early in order to avoid the long lines in the last days before Christmas. Specifically, 40 percent of the respondents said they would begin their “serious” holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. Almost 30 percent will shop on “Black Friday,” the day after Thanksgiving.

This translates into two important tasks for e-retailers:

  • Now is the time to invest in a dual search engine marketing strategy, combining organic search engine optimization, and measured, targeted pay-per-click campaigns
  • Along the push to increase search engine traffic, e-commerce web sites should invest in developing a set of key performance indicators to measure the success of their web site operations. Conversion rate should be among the most important metrics for success. Other indicators in the web analytics portfolio of an e-tailer should be shopping card abandonment rate as well as ratios of return to new customers.

A helpful set of ideas on how to prepare your e-commerce site for the holiday season is generously offered by 37signals, usability consultancy.

For more on how WebSage can help you with developing a comprehensive search engine strategy and web analytics methodology, contact us for a free estimate.