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In this issue:

FEATURE:
Thirty Pieces of Silver

BACK TO BASICS:
SEO Competitive Research, Part 5

THE USUAL: Coverage of this month's
hot topics, shuffles, shindigs, attaboys and word on the wire.

BACK TO BASICS: SEO Competitive Research, Part 5: Data Collection

Well conceived, constantly maintained websites receive rankings that dominate competitors. Before this is possible, you have to do battle against top competitors that have spent time and money for high rankings. In this early stage, many are tempted to conclude that competitors' sites do not deserve high rankings. Data collection can make the difference between knowing why competitors are ranking and making brash incorrect conclusions. Easy reference to relevant information for your site and the sites of your top competitors takes away the need to make assumptions.



Hot Topics

See You In Court

FEATURE: Thirty Pieces of Silver



In February 2005, a suit was brought against Google in Arkansas. Filed by Lane's Gifts as a class action lawsuit, the suit alleged that Google had made billions by charging advertisers for fraudulent clicks on their AdWords network. Click fraud is an enormous problem for the pay-per-click market with reports that anywhere from 12 percent to as much as 50 percent of clicks on PPC ads are fraudulent in nature. Even at the lowest estimate this accounts for billions in earnings for the search engines at the cost of advertisers. However, the settlement for the class action lawsuit was measured in the millions and not the billions. What went wrong and what can advertisers do to avoid being trapped by this settlement?



There's just no question; May was a month of lawsuits -- old ones, new ones, trivial ones and the ones that just wouldn't die.

Google

Lane's Gifts and Collectibles vs. Google, et al: If you thought this one was going to go down quietly, you were severely mistaken. Months after the $90 million settlement was announced, came reports alleging Lane's lawyers accepted a sour settlement in fear that the case was about to be thrown out after being filed in the wrong jurisdiction. Instead of re-filing, finding new lawyers or going to trial, the lawyers involved (allegedly) decided to sell out the rest of the Internet marketing community and agreed to a trivial settlement that padded their own pockets, while leaving advertisers feeling cheated and insulted.

Early last week, Google sent an email to its AdWords advertisers notifying them of how they could claim 'their portion' of Google's settlement. We urge advertisers to write and object to this settlement which has no one's best interest at heart, except the lawyers. See our Feature story this month for more on how.

But that's not the only lawsuit troubling Google; in fact, it's only one of (at least) five.

Early in the month, a Long Island politician sued Google claiming they acted 'negligently' and 'intentionally inflicted emotional distress on the public'. How did it do this, you ask? Hurting small children? Kicking puppies? No, none of that. They harmed humanity by allowing a few questionable, dynamically created PPC ads to slip through the cracks and appear in its Sponsored Search. Bad Google.

In a similar suit, South Korean officials claim Google is exposing its children to 'obscene online content' by providing summary text that often includes offensive language and adult themes. This one doesn't sound too substantial if you ask me. But no one did. Or. Ever. Does.

Also suing Google - Belgium IT company ServersCheck says Google's Suggest feature reveals illegal copies of their software (which it does, accidentally) and wants any mention of the cracked copies removed. When Google said they couldn't do it, ServersCheck decided to sue.

Brazil's Attorney General was also looking to bring charges against Google after allegations that pornographic material appeared on Google-owned Orkut. Google has agreed to pull material that violates Orkut's terms of service, including material created for 'illegal or unauthorized purposes', such as drug selling and organized crime. With Google cooperating, perhaps this one has been resolved.

Yahoo!

Though Google is leading the pack in lawsuits, they're not the only ones under fire. Yahoo! found itself in some click fraud trouble with a suit largely based on Ben Edelman's Y!SM Spyware story. Edelman and the other lawyers in the case purport Yahoo! used its relationship with known spyware vendors to pad their wallets, purposely placing ads on low-quality sites and breaking promises to advertisers. So far no hints at a settlement, but we'll keep you posted.

Microsoft

Microsoft also managed to get sued this month. Symantec sued the number three engine claiming they violated a 1996 agreement with a Symantec-owned company that prohibits them from producing storage tech products that directly competed with Symantec's company. The offending product: Microsoft's Windows Live Vista.

Ask

What? No one's suing Ask?


Shuffles

There was even more moving and shaking this month as Google snagged Adam Lasnik of Bladam.com and deemed him MiniMatt. MiniMatt will act as Matt Cutts' right hand man, sharing some of the blogging duties and hanging out at a multitude of geek events. In sad Google news, one of its newly hired chefs has decided to seek employment elsewhere. I know, we were heartbroken too. Maybe he just couldn't keep up with the Googlers' vigorous eating schedule.

The Search Engine Watch blog welcomed some new family members this month, bringing in long-time Kelsey analyst Greg Sterling as SEW's Local Search Correspondent, I-Search's Detlev Johnson as SEW's News Correspondent and Phil Bradley as the resident SEW librarian. Moving on up was Barry Schwartz who was promoted to Chief News Correspondent and Jennifer Slegg who was promoted to Paid Search & Contextual Ads Correspondent.

Barry received another large promotion later in the month as he became Chief Husband to fiancée Yisha. Congrats!

In other news, Chris Boggs joined Avenue A; AOL's Executive Vice President Michael Barrett jumped ship to Fox Interactive; Tech Memeorandum changed its name, and URL, to Techmeme (easier to spell and remember!); Yahoo upgraded its Yahoo! Search Marketing service and joined forces with eBay to bring terror to Google and Microsoft's eyes; AOL acquired Lightningcase and laid off 1,300 employees; and the Associated Press and Topix signed a news distribution deal to 'guide users to the most authoritative sources of news'. Wheeew. Take a breath.


Shindigs

It was a busy month for SES, as conference locations spanned the globe hitting Tokyo, Toronto and Italy. If you weren't able to catch those, have no fear -- Barry and his boys are currently in London where SES runs until June 2nd. If you scramble, you can still make it!

Darlene Moore will be teaching a 6 week Learn SEO Online course starting on June 5th. The course will cover topics such as keyword research, page optimization, and link campaigns. Users can register via the eClasses Web site.

The O'Reilly Where 2.0 Conference, the one that specializes in mapping and local search, will be taking place in San Jose from June 13-14. Last year they toyed with building mash-ups on GYM platforms, this year who knows! Registration information can be found via the O'Reilly site.

The ClickZ Online Video Advertising Forum is taking place in New York, New York on June 16th. With Google now implementing video ads, and Yahoo! perhaps just steps away, now is the time to hone up on your video advertising knowledge.

And bringing it all to a close, the Web Analytics Association will end the month hosting the Web Analytics Forum in Houston from June 26 to June 27th

Looking ahead to the rest of the summer, the Web Analytics Association will be hosting several courses for the Analytics-minded, including an Introduction to Web Analytics course and a Web Analytics for Site Optimization course running from June 13 to July 10. If you're interested, we recommend you register soon, both are filling up quickly.

And of course, don't forget to mark your calendars for SES Miami happening from July 10th to 11th and SES San Jose from August 7th to 10th.


Attaboys

Do your part and hug a Googler to thank them for taking a stand and refusing to buy eggs from suppliers who cram their chickens in undersized cages. That's right, now Googlers can eat all those wonderful omelets and baked goods being whipped up in the Google Cafe without having to worry about the chickens. Assuming they have no guilt about, you know, eating them.

Google continued the good deeds by donating copies of Google Earth and SketchUp Pro to the Maine Learning Technology Initiative, an organization that provides computers to Maine middle schoolers. The donation makes Maine the first state in the US to have Google Earth, SketchUp Pro and the 3D Warehouse available to every student, teacher or administrator who wants it. Good job, boys.

The Bruce Clay, Inc. Search Engine Relationship Chart® has been updated to reflect all the crazy mergers, acquisitions and renaming drama the engines have found themselves in. So check it out, print it out and impress clients with the most up-to-date who's-serving-who relationship chart around.

A hearty 'congratulations' to the Inside AdWords blog who celebrated their first year of blogging, a 'thank goodness' to the judges who had the common sense to approve MSN Search as IE7's default search (despite Google's hypocritical claims) and a 'huzzah!' to newly released comScore data which named MSN Spaces as the most popular blogging service on the planet. Blogger, who?


Word on the Wire

Microsoft found itself taking the brunt of the rumors this month. There were talks of a 'cushy' Microsoft/ MySpace deal that would incorporate MSN Search into the vastly popular networking site, continued talks of a Microsoft/ Yahoo merger that Terry Semel not-so-politely denied, news that Microsoft was about to release a free analytics tool to complete with Google, leaked Windows Live Search previews, and claims that MSN was in talks to buy wireless ad provider Third Screen Media to start a full-scale mobile advertising campaign. And then of course there were the rumored Microsoft-induced rock beatings. That was my favorite.

Google also got their fair share of the limelight with rumors they would be offering free WiFi to the entire nation (nice!), were adding an additional 100K servers each quarter, and the continued rumor that they were looking to acquire Chinese search engine Sina.

On the 'when will Google learn' front, Threadwatch forum members discovered a '/music' command buried deep inside Google's robot.txt files. Thanks for the paper trail, guys. Do we hear GMusic? Or maybe Google Tunes?

Of course when we're not scouting Google's robot.txt file, we're researching patents. This month a number of patent applications were published, signaling potentially big things for all three of the major engines. We saw possible additions to Google phrase searching and predictive queries, a potential 'wallet' e-commerce system from Yahoo and a new Microsoft Answers system. Sometimes snooping produces interesting results.

See ya in June!



If you have any questions or comments on any of the articles above or if you would like to suggest topics for future search engine optimization articles, please contact us at Bruce Clay, Inc.