Give Me Media

How Google sent United Airlines stock plummeting
September 11, 2008, 2:45 pm
Filed under: Google, PR, search marketing | Tags: , , ,

I’ve been watching a fascinating story unfold in the US this week charting how a mixup on Google sent the share price of United Airlines plummeting by a massive 76 per cent. The event triggered an emergency halt in trading earlier this week as automated trading systems began a mass sell-off of United Airlines stock.

It all came about after a nearly six-year-old story detailing the airline’s bankruptcy filing in 2002 on the Sun Sentinel’s web site found its way back into Google’s news cycle which in turn was picked up by Bloomberg and the rest, as they say, is history. The Tribune Company, which owns the Sun Sentinel and other US newspapers has since removed the offending article from its archives.

I read the story before it was removed and despite it being clearly dated from 2002, and was clearly related to events in 2002 it still managed to wipe $1bn of the value off the airline in a matter of minutes.

Above all this shows just how important Google has become in the communications landscape today, and its no longer enough to simply assume that as long as your profile in the traditional media is good, that you can ignore what’s happening online, and in particular what Google thinks of you.

The United Airlines example will not be the last, and for people in the communications industry arguing over the technicality of Google’s algorithms that contributed to this, and how the story got republished is missing the point in a big way. What Google thinks of your brand, and how it is represented has a massive impact on your bottom line, so it’s about time you did something about it. Just ask United.


Does Google have the key to monetising online video?

Google CEO Eric Schmidt came out earlier this week saying that he hasn’t yet figured out the perfect solution for making money from online video. His comments come after Google’s earnings report revealed that the $1.65bn acquisition of YouTube is yet to reap the kind of financial rewards that were hoped for.

But across the board, advertising in online video is something that still hasn’t been addressed properly, and the PCTV market is going through an interesting phase. Lack of content has already forced the once heralded Joost to retreat to the US and niche content areas. Hulu is doing well with content, but finding many of the same issues with advertising as the rest of the market. Meanwhile others such as Vuze are hoping that a technology advantage in delivering high-def content will help them gain cut-through.  

But while different online video providers are fighting to carve out their own niche, none has yet addressed the major issue for driving advertising revenue – and that is finding a genuine format and solution that works for advertisers – and educating them about it.

Schmidt was typically cryptic about what answers Google has planned saying only that top secret new products would be launched this year and that the advertising format – whatever it is – will be valuable to consumers as well as advertisers themselves. He insisted they will go far beyond the in-line text ads, overlays and top and tail ads that are already common with online video.

 Until then, plenty of others are just playing catch-up and trying to squeeze more value out of a model that is far from perfect. Warner Bros has just announced that it will offer its DVD film titles online, on-demand on the same day they release the DVDs, which is progress, but a long time coming… Will Google come to the rescue?

What was Google thinking .com?

I stumbled across a great post on TechCrunch yesterday – an expose on Google’s astounding domain name portfolio that contains the obvious, the shrewd, the clever, and the downright baffling terms.

The analysis conducted by uptime monitoring service Pingdom exposed some very strange registrations for Google. Now before we go any further, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not unusual for a major corporation to have in excess of 1,500 domain names on its books at any one time – sure only 20 per cent of them are being used to market and the rest are a combination of defensive registrations and protection for future or past products and services.

But, in my opinion, if you’re so bad with a keyboard that you type, or when you’re trying to get to Google – you don’t deserve to find the right site. But somebody advising Google told them it was a good idea. Probably as good an idea as it was to make sure nobody else got their hands on

There were some worrying things in there too – Google is the overwhelming favourite search engine but Beyond the obvious product and service domains you’d expect Google to register, you have to wonder what, and are intended for. I know that the adult industry was one of very few that continued to flurish during after the dot-com bubble burst, but surely that will never be a revenue stream for Google, even in today’s economic climate?! 

Looking through the full list from Pingdom one thing is clear – a lot of Google’s domain name strategy belongs on The whole thing reminds me a bit of the time Microsoft tried to sue a 17-year-old schoolkid called Mike Rowe for having registered… I suggest Google puts in a call to a real domain expert like Jonathan Robinson at NetNames to make sure they’re protected without going domain crazy. 

Google trademark policy echoes domain name industry woes

Google’s surprise decision to change its trademark policy will effectively remove protection brands have from rivals, or impersonators bidding on their trademarked paid search terms. It’s also expected to have an impact natural search, but that will, naturally, take longer to be felt and may not be quite as obvious as you first think.

Google has justified the move as simply reflecting users’ behaviour, and that it will give the person searching access to far more choice, thereby improving the overall quality of results. However it will present a new brand protection nightmare for companies already facing more, evolving online brand threats than they can shake a stick at.

Having worked with a number of companies, specialising in various aspects of the online brand protection picture I can see a major similarity in what Google is allowing to what has existed in the ICANN governed domain names industry since year dot. There are currently over 150million registered domain names around the world and estimates I’ve heard suggest that around 25 per cent of all those registrations are speculative or opportunistic (by cybersquatters, domain name warehousers and those engaged in kiting). If that’s the scale of the threat, you can only imagine the scale of defensive registrations being made by brand owners where easily more than two-thirds of your portfolio of names could be purely to stop a rival or speculator acquiring it and doing your brand damage.

The domain names industry is that way for a reason – and that’s the relatively loose ‘first come first served’ principle of registrations (for search read: ‘highest bid, first listed’) but until now, with one very major difference – in domain names there is very little practical or enforceable protection for brand owners beyond being first up, whereas in search there was always Google’s common sense.

While Google’s move may help address the slow in growth of clicks on paid Google ads, perpetrated by the search engine’s bid to ensure more relevant, better quality results, it could all too quickly degenerate into the free-for-all model of the domain name industry.

Marketers are already struggling to keep rising paid search costs in check and if this plays out the way many fear it might then likely two things will happen:

1. The current increased interest in natural search will swell dramatically and impact investment in paid search – after all an increasing number of voices are joining the chorus that natural search delivers better quality leads at a fraction of the CPA

2. Major brands will need to agree a code of conduct between themselves to avoid needlessly burning budgets trying to outbid the other’s trademarks and instead focus on dealing with the far more serious threat posed to their brand value by counterfeiters, cybersquatters and impersonators who won’t think twice about taking advantage of the new system.

Yahoo!, Microsoft, Google, News Corp – a deal done in 3 weeks?
April 10, 2008, 3:42 pm
Filed under: Google, Microsoft, News Corp, search marketing, Yahoo! | Tags: , , , ,

The bidding for Yahoo!’s future took another twist today when it emerged that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp was trying to work with Microsoft to find a way they both could get their hands on Yahoo!.

Yahoo!’s rejection of Microsoft’s $31-a-share-offer earlier this week did not please a number of Yahoo!’s investors. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster asked 20 of Yahoo’s Institutional investors their opinion and the majority said they would prefer to deal with Microsoft on that offer, than do no deal at all. The growing feeling among Silicon Valley investors is that a deal will be completed in the next 3-4 weeks.

What that deal will be and what good it will be to whom, remains to be seen. Google is remaining omimously quiet although, Yahoo! is about to turn over three per cent of its US search queries advertising inventory to Google in a two week trial – clearly a little detail that – if you were cynical – might say is being done to annoy Microsoft during its pursuit.

Difficult as it is to keep up with all the twists and turns – Jemima Kiss over at the Guardian has summarised key events here in a neat timeline.

Yahoo! open to better offer, but is there any point?
April 7, 2008, 5:30 pm
Filed under: Google, Microsoft, search marketing, Yahoo! | Tags: , , ,

Yahoo! has responded bluntly to Microsoft’s three-week deadline to accept its $42 billion offer via a defiant open letter issued today saying the offer did not represent good value for Yahoo! shareholders, but that the company would be open to a better deal.

So why is Microsoft so keen on Yahoo still? Well its stock price has slipped more than 15 per cent since the start of the year an in a tightening market, search is one particular sector that is still thriving.

So that’s why the sector is so interesting – but what about Google, and if Microsoft and Yahoo! get together, do they really stand a chance? According to the latest stats from Nielsen, Google retains a 59 per cent share of all searches compared with 18 per cent for Yahoo! and 11 per cent for MSN.

Just because on their own, Yahoo! and Microsoft have failed to take make any impact on Google’s dominance, does not mean that if they get together they will miraculously make inroads. In fact, the cultures of the two companies are so vastly different that any alignment of the two businesses will take a long time to achieve and will struggle to become seemless. The real benefits of Microsoft and Yahoo! coming together will be beyond search, in terms of all the content and other services the two companies own, but that doesn’t address the sweet-spot that is search.

We’ll have to wait and see what Microsoft’s next move is, and if a hostile takeover attempt may be on the cards. Regardless, in the search sector both Microsoft and Yahoo will continue to struggle against Google. The secret to Google’s success has always been its simplicity and the fact that it was always a search engine and everything else has been built around that core, winning formula. Hard as they may try, Microsoft and Yahoo will always be coming at search from the perspective of a portal and content owner and making search the core of what they do is far easier said than done.

Google click slump means trouble? get real…

Google endured a second straight month of poor growth in paid search clicks, and that has brought out the usual scaremongers (the same that were predicting the end of social networks earlier this year when traffic growth plateaued) are saying it’s bad news for the market and showing that fears of a recession have truly hit online revenues.

Lets take a look at the facts:

1. The actual figures from Comscore show a 3% year-on-year rise during February in paid search clicks. The slowdown comes after Google began implementing a new system to cut down accidental clicks on paid search listings

2. Google’s move to stamp out irrelevant clicks is good news for the long term as it will increase the relevance of paid search and make it an even more efficient format.

So is the (non)recession having an impact? Well, traditionally in a time of recession marketing spend gets cut back to tried and tested methods that deliver strong and measurable ROI, such as direct marketing. Search marketing falls into that same category and certainly many of the people I’ve spoken to in the first quarter of this year can see certain aspects of their budgets being cut if times get tighter, but search isn’t one of them.

But beyond what Google has done, and all the scaremongering, there are still some changes afoot. Paid search costs continue to inflate and speaking to some search marketing firms, they are beginning to find – and some scared to find – that clients are looking more seriously at natural search, and increasing their investment in search engine optimisation.

There is an ongoing threat to the paid search market – not to its existence, but to the way it’s used – there has for some time been a growing school of thought that natural search delivers better quality leads to your site and Google’s latest moves can be seen, in part at least to be a clear attempt to arrest that movement and safeguard the quality of clicks on paid search. The short-term blip is nothing to worry about – a blip is all it is – and if there is a recession, it’s not search that should be worried about budgets.