Paid Search: The Giant Focus Group

After a very long break for lunch, Jeffrey Rohrs is moderating this afternoon’s Giant Focus Group with speakers Tom Leung (Google), James Colborn (Microsoft), John Kim (Yahoo!) and Paul Vallez (

[I’m kind of sad. This is my last bloggable session of SMX. Tear. Matt McGee and I tried to get Danny to let us blog this afternoon’s Give it Up session but he threatened death. Would Danny really kill The Lisa? That’d be some stellar link bait for the BC blog. Maybe I should take one for the team? Thoughts?

While I have a chance, I’d like to commend Danny on the excellent music selection at this conference. Unlike SES, this music doesn’t make you want to die.]

Onto the topic at hand, Jeffrey is getting things underway and says this is a presentaton-optional panel. It’ll be mostly Q&A.

Up first is John to talk about some recent trends in search and what it means for advertisers.

We’re seeing more search tools are being developed to improve user experience. Search formats and types are changing. Best of breed is still king. Off-browser search could explode. Ranking and matching based on personalization and community factors are playing a stronger role.

What does all this mean? Marketers need more data. They need ads in multi-media formats, more vertical fragmentation, more experimental models to emerge and things are getting less transparent.

John says they’re following the user trends. They know they have to be there and they need to develop a different type of relationship with advertisers. By talking to people they’re seeing a lot more organization silos becoming the norm, increased bifurcation of advertisers into sophisticated and unsophisticated advertisers, no more time for experimentation and new tools, more fragmented and customized needs, and more focus on interaction effects and advanced analytics.

The new YSM Commercial API program has launched. There are no feeds for API access. It’s open and transparent.

Up next is James. Oo! James has an accent. Cute.

James is from Microsoft and will be talk briefly about adCenter and adCenter Labs.

adCenter Labs is a partnership between adCenter and Microsoft’s research team. James tells people how they can get in touch with Microsoft. And then he’s done.

He’s done? No more accent? Come back, James.

He’s gone. Up next is Tom. Let’s hope we get to spend more time with him than we did with James.

Um, nope. Tom stands up, says hi, and then sits back down.

Last up is Paul from Ask.

Paul says Ask’s focus is to make sure advertisers have the right efficiencies to work with Ask’s system and that Ask is exposing data in a way that’s meaningful and provides a transparent view. They’re looking at the difference between search advertising and display advertising, and ways to be more performance oriented. They’re combing ads with virtual creatives – logos, graphics, etc. It’s about making the offer more relevant. They’re trying to close the gap between search advertising and display advertising.

Ask is differentiating themselves by implement URL stuffing, which allows marketers to include various elements into the tracking URL. Examples of elements include campaign IDs, match type, raw query information, etc. Advertisers want more data in real time.

Ask is also working with publishers to define vertical relevancy thresholds. Meet strict relevance vs. coverage needs.

Time for question and answer:

Moderator Jeffrey asks the panelists about trademarks in PPC and the uneven enforcement of policies. Any chance of creating tools so advertisers can find people running ads on their trademarks instead of having to hunt them down themselves?

The panel is left silent and everyone laughs.

Paul recovers saying it’s a hard problem to solve in an automated fashion. They have people manually looking.

John comments that Saatchi & Saatchi was fired for using Kurt Cobain’s trademark out of the UK (what? Can someone fill me in on this?) There needs to be a way for advertisers and agencies to manage their trademarks.

James asks in his cute accent how many people in the room want further clarification on the trademark policy? [About a third of the people raise their hands.]

Tom agrees it’s an important issue. Thanks for playing, Tom!

Next question: Google, you’ve got bid to position. I’m curious why you haven’t passed us a position parameter yet that tells us what position we were in when someone click on our ad?

Tom: You can do that today in Google Analytics. Would it be more convenient to do in Google Adwords? Yeah, I think so too.

Paul: That’s one of the areas we’re looking at to stuff in the URL. Heh, that made me giggle.

Question: I would like to see Google have an alt text feature to give us some way to specify misspelled keywords or plurals vs nonplurals. Google’s kind of behind the curve in regard to that.

Tom: He’ll be emailing every product manager on AdWords after the session. More giggles from me.

Question: On the Yahoo side, can I get more than one or two account people? On Google I get 4 or 5 people who specialize in something different. I’m trying to ramp up my Yahoo spend but I don’t have the support level.

John: I can’t speak for the number of people. He asks the questioner to talk to him after the session so they can talk about what she’s not getting.

Statement from the audience: Impression share is in important to me. I’d love to get impression share data emailed to me.

There’s an Ad Preview feature in the diagnostic tools that may help you.

Panelists James asks the audience what other types of information (other than impression, click stream info) they want. They have different algorithms to find different data. What sort of info beyond the norm are users looking for?

Lots of answers to this one:

  • Anything that gives me some sense into how I’m doing relevant to my competitors. Right now I’m guessing at what’s good quality score and what’s bad quality score. I want something to show me where I should spend my time to prove. Some sort of benchmarking.
  • If you could set up a competitive set for industries. Maybe something users can create on their own. Something that says here’s where you fit compared to others in your industry. I get that from Yahoo.
  • I want to see custom reports from MSN. With all the info that’s out there, I can’t get it in one report.
  • I’d like to get average CTR for position and aggregated AdWords data.

The issues that Paul brought up in regard to the URL stuffing is helpful because there’s a different combo of all the variables that works for each keyword at any given time. We just need more information because we’re constantly evaluating it.

Nick from Bruce Clay is in the audience (Bruce sent him to watch me) and gives the reps things he wants fixed.

Things to fix:

From John, our Nick wants AB ad testing so he can say this ad converted better over that ad. I find it much easier to use the internal tracking because it’s a lot quicker and it’s all right there.

At Microsoft: You’ve done a better job at the spreadsheets but he still getting lost in the UI. If you want to import stuff you need two spreadsheets and you’re duplicating data.

Nick always wants an acronym database. James says there’s an acronym tool in adCenter. There’s one in Yahoo, as well.
And that’s it. Off to the super secret session that I’m allowed to take notes on but not blog for a whole 30 days. Thirty days? Danny’s trying to kill me.

Lisa Barone is a writer, content marketer & VP of strategy at Overit Media. She's also a very active Twitterer, much to the dismay of the rest of the world.

See Lisa's author page for links to connect on social media.

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Lisa, if you’re still wondering about the Saatchi & Saatchi reference, there’s some info here:


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