Friday, March 10, 2006

Business Blog ROI

Katie Paine has conceded a point to Shel Israel: As cheap as they are to set up and maintain, there's really no need to measure the ROI of blogs.

Ed's note: How important is ROI when it comes to an active blog? Considering the lack of total costs, is this something that even needs to be measured? Share your thoughts at iEntry's newest forum, SyndicationPro.

After all, is it necessary to measure the ROI of your pants? (Shel denies he ever used this analog, but Katie remembers it.) There's much to be said of this argument. If a company installs the open-source Wordpress on its own servers, the cost is limited to bandwidth. For $14 a month, a company can have the top-tier Typepad service without concern for bandwidth use. When measured against cost, it doesn't take much to justify. One minor positive outcome can tip the scales and rationalize the cost of the blog.

It's even easy to extend the "pants" argument to higher costs, as Toby Ward does when discussing intranet ROI. Intranets, obviously, cost more than blogs, but Toby has asked if companies demand ROI justification for their telephone networks? Not even the bean counters insist on a tally of the ROI for phones because everyone knows the consequences of removing them.

Read the Full Article and discuss it at SyndicationPro

Google Drive Steers Theories

A section of text in a Google PowerPoint presentation described the concept of storing 100 percent of a user's data; what started as a one-off observation made by a blogger rocketed all the way to a lengthy mention in the Wall Street Journal.

Greg Linden posted his thoughts after taking a look at the PowerPoint presentation Google made available as part of its Analyst Day. One slide described the concept of a GDrive and the potential for Google to be the 100 percent storage solution for users.

Then, several things happened at once. Other bloggers picked up the story; ZDNet blogger Garett Rogers noted how GDrive could function as a network shared drive; the concept would be familiar to workers in a networked environment who use network shares every day.

After more commentary and wider coverage of the GDrive, Google made the comments in question disappear from the Analyst Day PowerPoint package. Google was its usual helpful self in clarifying that to the Journal:

A Google spokeswoman said the notes weren't intended for publication. "We are constantly working on new ways to enhance our products and services for our users, but we have nothing to announce at this time," she said.

Of course, placing something online and then removing it did not prevent the presentation from being downloaded and retained by other users. One commenter on Linden's blog posted the alleged comments from slide number 19, which contained the Store 100% reference. A section of that text shows what Google thinks it can do for users and their data:

As we move toward the "Store 100%" reality, the online copy of your data will become your Golden Copy and your local-machine copy serves more like a cache. An important implication of this theme is that we can make your online copy more secure than it would be on your own machine.

Another important implication of this theme is that storing 100% of a user's data makes each piece of data more valuable because it can be access across applications. For example: a user's Orkut profile has more value when it's accessible from Gmail (as addressbook), Lighthouse (as access list), etc.

The important thing to note here, though, is that other than Linden's blog, there is no way to confirm these notes were truly part of the original presentation, other than inferring from Google's comment to the Journal about them.

Slide number 19 has a picture and the words Store 100%, but no comments now. Google isn't talking about it. Analysts in attendance haven't mentioned this online. Maybe this will turn out to be another "Google buys Opera" prank and 'Golden Copy' is another way of saying 'Gotcha'!

Demographic Targeting with Google AdWords

On the heels of MSN AdCenter's demographic profiling aspirations, Google AdWords now offers demographic site selection with gender, age, and household income as the demographic categories available.

Ed's note: Because having control of where advertising appears is a crucial aspect of marketing, having the ability to demographically control where ads appear is absolutely key. Just ask the television marketing industry. Now Google has jumped on board. Do you see yourself using Google's new targeting system? Discuss at SyndicationPro.

The demographic information comes from ComScore. Additional info from:

JenStar: "It will be interesting to see if advertisers find that the profiles are matching the resulting traffic from those sites. And I am sure some publishers will reverse engineer an AdWords campaign to see what demographic profile their own site is, and if it matches what they believe their traffic to be."

Traffick: "Essentially what this means is an improved functionality for the site selection tool, only applicable to content targeting of the "site targeting" variety. It's not a major foray into targeting search ads by demographics, then (yet)."

Does this take some wind out of MSN AdCenter's sails? Well, that's the power of Google. Once the demographic site selection gets significant usage along with MSN AdCenter, there will be some interesting feedback I'm sure. Seems like a good session idea for SES San Jose. h/t Andy

AdWords Addresses Click Fraud Questions

Google's Shuman Ghosemajumder, Business Product Manager for Trust & Safety, provided answers for some common questions about click fraud after Google disclosed it was nearing a settlement in a lawsuit filed against it over the problem.

For one thing, Google isn't going to tell how they detect invalid clicks. Ghosemajumder noted in the Q&A posted at the AdWords blog that a lot of smart people developed the methods and technology used in tracking those down. "Doing so would make it easier for fraudsters to try to defeat our systems," he said. Google also sees a problem with all invalid clicks being called fraudulent. Many clicks happen due to other causes, like someone double-clicking on an ad. While Google can identify a click as invalid, it is "practically impossible to "prove" that an impression or click was caused by deliberate deception," Ghosemajumder said. There is a wide discrepancy between how much activity is believed to be invalid versus how muchreally is not valid. Ghosemajumder dismissed a report used in some places as a source for a click fraud figure of 30 percent.

"When invalid clicks are detected after an advertiser is charged, we reimburse for them. Because of our detection efforts, losses to advertisers from invalid clicks are very small," Ghosemajumder said. He also claimed that while some invalid clicks make it past Google's defenses, they believe that amount is very small. Two issues come to mind when considering these questions and answers. First, Google does not provide numbers to back up their contentions. The lack of transparency frustrates not only its advertisers, but also its investors. Google has plenty of motivation to continually improve their system for defeating invalid clicks, and will continue to do so. The other issue is the marketplace. The lack of transparency has begun to open a market for products that claim to be able to detect fraudulent clicks and clicks resulting from ad campaigns that need to be fixed. I spoke with a marketing executive from a well-known firm offering such a solution, and he flatly refused to answers questions regarding how much click fraud versus problematic clicks may be taking place based on his firm's research. That was unfortunate because it could have shed some more light on the issue. But it could also indicate Google's claims are correct, and click fraud is a small portion of invalid click traffic. Definitely not small enough to avoid a $90 million settlement for its click fraud case, though.