Category Archives: Search Marketing

Google To Place Usage Limits on Maps API

Google Maps New York City Hotels
Last week Google announced that they would soon be placing usage limits on the Google Maps API beginning on January 1, 2012. This move is primarily targeted at larger sites in the travel and real estate industries that have come to rely on Google Maps as an integral part of their services.

To keep using Maps for free, your daily map loads must not exceed 25,000 per day and map loads using the custom map feature must not exceed 2,500. Google estimates that the new policy will affect only 0.35% of users and insists that the new pricing is necessary to continue Maps development.

Google has offered 3 different solutions for those that are exceeding the API limit, the first is to reduce your usage but if you can’t do that then you can either pay $4 per 1,000 map loads over the limit or purchase a Maps Premier License which will set you back at least $10,000 per year but will cover up to 100,000 map loads per day. Pricing also depends on usage so if you are, you will probably be paying a lot more. On the bright side, it looks like Premier members will have access to substantially higher resolution street view and larger static maps than those now available.

It really was only a matter of time before Maps adopted a pay to play strategy for big enterprise users as Google Apps and Google Analytics have done. I think we will soon see a similar strategy adopted for other Google services like YouTube and Translate. 

XXX Domains are a Cash Cow for Registrars

XXX domains released


The wait is over. XXX is here and the registrars are already ordering their solid gold toilets and planning their next elephant hunt. Each XXX domain will be selling for $100 to $200 plus $100 per year for registration. ICM Registry, the company behind the XXX push, estimates that over 500,000 domains will sell before 2012. This virtually guarantees the best GoDaddy Super Bowl commercial ever this year.

Not everyone is on board with the XXX. Many in the porn industry hate the idea because it makes it very easy to filter content. Porn haters hate it because they think it somehow legitimizes porn. Big brands and big porn sites hate it because they have to shell out more money each year on yet another TLD.

The registrars are not the only ones making money. Domains are a big business and there will be some major grabs by squatters. There are thousands of non-trademarked domains that will be in high demand. How about or I predict we will soon be seeing a robust secondary market for some of these obviously high-profile domains.

For the next 50 days, trademark holders can register the XXX equivalent of their .com. This goes for both regular trademark holders and for adult trademark owners. After these initial pre-sales, the domains will be open for general availability which means I will finally be publishing and adult version of ICM is calling this the XXX Sunrise. You can read the details here.

ICM has released several XXX domains as part of their Founders program to showcase the new TLD’s.,, and are all up and running but, be warned, they are NSFW.

Google Adwords Displaying Special Offers

I was searching for this domain name creator tool that is really awesome but has one of those goofy web 2.0 names that I can never remember. I think it sounds or looks like panda or pantera or panera or something. Anyway, I happened to come across a new Adwords feature by accident and not through the 500 SEO/SEM blogs I follow. Possibly this has been discussed somewhere and I just missed it. It has been a busy week.

It appears that certain advertisers are being given the option to insert a special offer or coupon into their text ads. As you can see below, this really makes that lower #3 position stand out. Of special interest in my own line of work is the way this particular advertiser is using the feature to encourage customers to call to take advantage of the offer.



Special Offers Displaying in Adwords


Once the offer is clicked, you get the details:

Adwords CouponsI assume this being offered as an ad extension to select Adwords users. I can see this drastically improving click-through in that less expensive #3 position. You can bet I will be getting in touch with my Adwords reps on Monday to get the details. By the way, I finally found that domain name generator I was looking for. It’s called Panabee and you should check it out.

Is Free Shipping Really Free?

According to a recent ComScore report, 61% of consumers are at least ‘somewhat likely’ to cancel their entire purchase if free shipping is not offered. This fact is certainly not lost on ecommerce retailers as illustrated by the 10% increase in free shipping transactions over the last 2 years.

Percent of eCommerce Transactions with Free Shipping

So how are online retailers able to offer free shipping and remain profitable? What does free shipping really cost?

Pass On the Cost

A recent survey of global retailers and importers by Capital Business Credit, showed that just over  1/3 of manufacturers were absorbing that added logistics cost brought on by the increasing price of oil. The other 2/3’s were passing that cost on to distributors and retailers who in turn are passing all or part of the cost to the consumer. This applies mainly to international imports but the ratio may be similar on the domestic side as well.

Minimum Purchase Requirements

A very common tactic is to require a minimum purchase requirement. This encourages customers to buy more to reach whatever threshold is set and reduces the overhead required to process multiple, smaller orders. In addition, accessories or other items with a higher margins are often added to pad the shopping cart and meet the free shipping threshold.

Free Shipping Holidays

Many of the transactions included in the ComScore survey are from the busy holiday season when retailers run free shipping promotions to drive volume. The increased volume means that they can afford a little extra overhead for the free shipping without having to raise prices.

Using Existing Distribution Channels

Many of the big box retailers offer customers a chance to pick up the product at the store and avoid shipping cost. This is especially popular with big ticket items like televisions or furniture. For companies that can handle the logistics, it is an obvious win. They make the customer happy and at the same time do not have extra product in the supply chain or on the shelves. Another important fact to consider is that while eCommerce is growing at a faster rate than traditional retail it still makes up less than 9% of total retail. This means the Wal-Marts and Best Buys can absorb online cost or raise in-store prices to stay competitive with pure eCommerce businesses like Amazon.


This one is pretty new and I am only familiar with one successful example – Amazon Prime. You pay for a recurring fee for a premium membership and receive free 2-day shipping on any orders that are fulfilled by Amazon. At $79 a year, it certainly could pay for itself quickly. I imagine the math works out in Amazons favor though since you are incentivized to purchase through them rather than elsewhere.

Keep these point in mind next time you take advantage of ‘free’ shipping.



Youtube Founders Announce Purchase of Tap11

Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, co-founders of Youtube, announced their plans to add social media analytics firm Tap11 to their new start-up Avos. According to the Avos press release, this acquisition complements the recent purchase of from Yahoo and is part of their strategy to  “..create the world’s best platform for uses to save, share, and discover new content”. And yes, I left the typo (uses) from the original press release.

It will be interesting to see what they come up with and if they can compete with more established analytics services like Omniture that are already incorporating social media tracking in their suite of tools. Interestingly, Avos stated that their tool will be the “Omniture of the real-time web” which I take to mean that it will be bloated, slow, and difficult to use.

I am really curious to see what Google has in the wings for social analytics. I don’t see them just standing still as all of their competitors roll out new tools to track social.

Changes to Adcenter Campaign Budgets

Microsoft has announced that starting as early as May 11th Adcenter will no longer require both daily and monthly campaign budget limits if you select the per day option when managing your budget. Currently, if you choose to manage your campaigns using a daily budget, you have the option of also setting a monthly maximum as well. I have always like this feature because you can set your daily spend at a higher level than if you divided your monthly budget by the days of the month. This keeps your ads going on higher traffic days during the week instead of just capping all 7 days at the same level like Google. Microsoft basically comes right out and says in their email announcement that they are doing this to emulate Google.


We’re excited to drive towards industry parity while helping to simplify your adCenter campaign budget management with this update.

Microsoft advises Adcenter users to start adjusting their daily and monthly budgets before “late summer” when they will automagically use the current daily budget to calculate a new monthly one.




What Does the Asterisk (*) signify in Google Analytics Reports?

If you use Google Analytics, you may have noticed an asterisk (*) showing up as a keyword in your keyword sources report. Apparently this started at some point in late March and, as you can see from this screen capture, it constitutes a significant amount of the traffic for this particular site. But what does it mean? I was unable to find out anything searching Google although there was a thread on the webmasters forum asking the same question.

Asterisk in Google Analytics Keyword Sources

So, I decided to email my Google Adwords team in the hopes that one of them would know the answer and I got a reply the next day telling me that this signified keyword referrals that clicked on Product Ad listings.
Google Product Ads Results

Product ads are those nice looking thumbnails on the upper right side of search results that can now be linked to your Adwords account and bid on like other search and content channels. You need a Base feed linked to an Adwords campaign for this to work.

I’m glad that Google is finally starting to separate Product Ads traffic from other Adwords traffic. Unfortunately, since this traffic is technically referred through a Google Base feed and is only linked to adwords there is no mechanism in place to track the exact keyword inquiries.

How To Sell (To Me) on eBay

As a long time ebayer (since before 2000) I have had my share of experiences good and bad as both buyer and seller. Most of my transactions are fairly smooth, mainly because I am careful about my bidding and because I have reasonable expectations for used items. It is rare, however, that I will go back to the same seller twice. So how does a seller successfully convince you to save them to your favorites and return to see their offerings when there is just so much out there on ebay? Well, my latest transaction illustrates what worked on me.

I was recently on a quest for a pair of Allen Edmond dress shoes and, since the retail price on a new pair is around $350 and up, I decided to do something I have never thought of doing before: buy a used pair of shoes. My reasoning for this is primarily because Allen Edmonds offers a refurbishing service at their factory. You send them any pair of Allen Edmonds, and they replace the leather soles and the heals and refinish the leather on the entire shoe all for $99. I figured that if I could score a used pair in reasonable condition for around $50 I could have a nice dress shoe at half the price that would probably last me 10 years or more. So, I start my hunt. I craft a special search and save it, I install the eBay app on my iPhone, enable push notifications, and I watch every pair of Allen Edmonds that are in my price range for about 6 weeks. Finally, the eBay gods smile on me and I find a pair that is both in great shape and in my price range.

The auction ended at an odd time and on a weekday which worked to my advantage and I snag the  shoes for just $36 with my first and only bid. I pay for the shoes and shortly after receive this message from Jon, the seller (click image for full size):

how to sell to me on ebay

So let’s analyze this confirmation for a moment and bask in the goodness of an ecommerce retailer who really seems to care about whether I give him my business again. Then, think about your latest ecommerce transaction and ask yourself if it comes even close.

1) He acknowleges my payment and thanks me. Pretty standard.

2) He confirms that the item has shipped and gives me the method of shipping, the tracking number, and even tells me how to track through ebay. He doesn’t assume that I know how to navigate the ebay interface. He also adds delivery confirmation, a good idea to head off any potential issues and something that, surprisingly, is not done by many who sell on ebay.

3) He tells me that he will be leaving me positive feedback and he did so the day he shipped the item. You would be surprised how many ebay sellers hold positive feedback hostage in case you ding them they can exact revenge.

4) He expresses that he hopes that I am happy with the purchase. Simple, I know, but it’s the small things right?

5) He states that if, for any reason, I am not able to leave a perfect 5 star rating that he wants to know. This is something every single retailer should include in email confirmations. This let’s the customer know up front that you are willing to help them if there is a problem. I imagine this guy does not have many issues with this kind of attitude. And yes, he does have 100% positive feedback.

6) He uses his real name. That’s something that used to be standard on ebay but most sellers opt for the automatic email features that ebay provides and few even take the time to personalize the robo-messages at all.

ebay thank you

After I left feedback, he sent another message thanking me again and politely suggesting that I add him to my favorites (I did) and wishing me a great weekend (I did have one, thanks Jon). By the way, the shoes arrived in 2 days via priority mail and are in great condition.

If you are in the market for a nice pair of name brand shoes, visit Jon’s ebay store The Blind Squirrel.

New Twist on Yahoo Search Assist

Even though it is my job to monitor search engine results pages, since the Bing/Yahoo merger I just do not make it to Yahoo more than once a week and then, just for a quick search or two to verify that the paid results are approximating what is showing on Bing. It is for this reason that little changes to Yahoo often slip under my radar and that’s a bad thing because Yahoo has always been and continues to be a commerce friendly engine. I am also happy that despite Yahoo’s recent troubles, and the merger with Microsoft, they have resisted the temptation to become a carbon copy of Bing. So, I was kind of excited when I recently noticed a change to the Yahoo Search Assist feature that is not only different than what Bing is doing, but is a definite positive for eCommerce sites. But the important questions is; will this change benefit the user?

The previous incarnations of Yahoo’s Search Assist emulated Google Suggest and offered alternate queries for your initial search. Now, it looks like Yahoo is trying to direct users away from non-commerce sites that may have a dominant position in the organic Bing-powered results. Sites like Wikipedia and Answers seem to be filtered out of these latest suggested results. In the example shown, the top ranking commerce and review sites are presented as suggested results for my digital camera query.

Yahoo Search Assist

As you can see, the suggested results have omitted sites that probably will not lead to some sort of conversion. Bing has not adopted this tactic yet.

Organic Bing-Powered Yahoo Results

So, is Yahoo actually leading users where they would have gone anyway or are they trying to improve their position as a viable portal for merchants? I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt here and say that most people searching for “digital camera” are probably not interested in the Answers or Wikipedia result and actually do want results that are  either reviews or products. So if this is true, are organic results becoming less relevant on their own? Will we see this tactic played out in other forms of search? My initial feeling is yes, most certainly.