Point of View: Microsoft Search Engine Bing

What is Bing?

Launched in early June, Bing is the latest search engine from Microsoft and represents the company’s latest attempt to gain market share on competitors Google and Yahoo. From a high level, Bing is essentially a combination of MSN Search and Live Search, re-formulated and rebranded as a stand-alone search engine (previous versions of Microsoft search engines were bundled with online services MSN and MSN Live).

Look a little closer, and it’s easy to see Bing offers several new features that give the engine an advantage over its predecessors, and possibly competitors. The most significant feature is how the engine displays results; Bing organizes and categorizes results by topic and updates its navigation dynamically to help searchers find what they are looking for faster.

For example, search for ‘Alzheimer’s Disease’ and not only will you get the top Alzheimer’s sites, but you’ll also get top sites on Alzheimer’s treatment, symptoms, causes, diagnoses, and more, as well as links to related topics.

This categorization of search results goes to the heart of Bing’s efforts to brand itself as a decision engine that does more than merely provide searchers a list of links, but rather helps them make smarter, faster decisions online.

What’s more, the new search results page is not the only new feature Bing offers. The search engine also now features a unique home page design that changes daily, a site preview function to help searchers evaluate a site before visiting it, and a ‘Popular Now’ option that, in an apparent nod to Twitter Search, provides a handful of trending keywords.

How will Bing Impact SEO?

It’s still too early to tell what the answer to that question will be. Bing’s ability to impact SEO will ultimately determined not by its innovations, but how well it can grow and sustain market share. If Bing can steal searchers from Google and Yahoo and hold on to them, it could have a profound effect on SEO, not only because it will demand more attention as a search channel, but because it could change how searchers look for information online.

However, if Bing can’t succeed where MSN Search, Live Search, and other predecessors have failed, its impact on search and SEO will be negligible.

Microsoft is putting 80MM to 100MM in advertising to help with the launch of this new engine, so some growth should be expected. Whether or not Bing can hold onto that market share once the ad dollars dry up is the real question.

How will Bing Impact my Search Campaign?

Outside of the possibility of some minor technical changes and extra monitoring, the immediate impact of Bing on SEO campaigns will be minimal. We currently recommend a ‘wait and see’ approach with Bing on account that any actions taken before Bing’s impact on the search market and searcher behavior would be premature. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor the situation and will provide insight and recommendations.

For questions or comments regarding Bing, please contact Jason McGovern, Organic Search Director. Jason can be reached by email, jason.mcgovern@catalystsearchmarketing.com or by phone, 617-663-1164.

Point of View: FDA Search Guidelines

The FDA’s Division of Drug Marketing, Advertising and Communications (DDMAC) recently issued warning letters to fourteen leading drug companies for misleading and misbranded advertising practices on internet search engines for prescription medications. To date, this ruling does not impact over-the-counter medications or supplements on internet search engines.  This POV outlines guidelines to take in order to respond to the FDA’s actions regarding paid search engine advertising and organic search implications.

Paid Search Implications

The FDA warnings were the result of claims being made in paid search ads without corresponding risk information being provided in the ads.

Since paid search ads provide very limited space for communicating an advertising message (25 characters in the ad title, and 70 characters in the body of the ad), it is unfeasible to include all the necessary risk information in the advertisement.

The anatomy of a paid search ad:

Ad Title (25 characters)

Description Line 1: (35 characters)

Description Line 2: (35 characters)

Display URL:  (35 characters)

Therefore, paid search ads and keyphrases for pharmaceutical products must now follow very strict guidelines as outlined below:

Guidelines for Branded Paid Search Advertising:

Branded advertising guidelines apply to any paid search ad that meets one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Ad contains the brand name of the product (ex. Viagra, Crestor, Advair, etc.).  It doesn’t matter where the name appears in the ad, even if it’s only in the display URL.
  2. Ad contains the generic name of the product anywhere in the ad.
  3. The ad contains language that makes it possible to identify the brand name of a drug.  (Ex.  “The only infusion treatment for multiple sclerosis”).

Guideline 1:  Ad Copy

Branded ads should follow the FDA’s guidelines for “reminder ads“.  They can call attention to the name of the drug product but do not include indications or dosage recommendations for use of the drug product.  Reminder advertisements cannot make a representation about the product or suggest a use for the product.

In short, branded ads cannot contain the indication(s) of the drug.

Example of a Branded Ad in Compliance Example of a Branded Ad Not in Compliance

Viagra® Official Site

Get the facts on Viagra

(sildenafil citrate).


Viagra® Official Site

An effective treatment for

Erectile Dysfunction.


Guideline 2:  Keyphrases

The search terms associated with branded ads must be limited to branded terms.  No search terms that make a claim should be linked to a branded advertisement.   To control this, the match type for keyphrases associated with branded ads must be set to “exact” match only.

  • Do not use the following match types on Google:  “broad”, “phrase”
  • Do not use the following match types on Yahoo: “advanced”
  • Do not use the following match types on MSN/Live:  “broad”, “phrase”

Guideline 3:  Landing Pages

The term “landing page” refers to the website page a searcher is taken to when they click on a paid search ad.   A branded ad can lead to either a branded or unbranded website.   For example, the ad below could link searchers to a page on Zoloft.com.


Learn About Zoloft.  Find

Questions to Ask Your Doctor.

Guidelines for Unbranded Paid Search Advertising:

An unbranded paid search ad is defined as follows:

  • The ad does not contain the brand name of the drug either in the title, body, or display URL of the ad.
  • The ad does not contain the generic name of the drug anywhere in the ad.
  • The ad does not contain language that makes it possible to identify the brand name of a drug.  (Ex.  “The only infusion treatment for multiple sclerosis”).

Guideline 1:  Ad Copy

Unbranded ads may include mention of a condition, disease, or treatment, as long as they abide by the definition of an unbranded ad as outlined above.

Example of an Unbranded Ad in Compliance Example of an Unbranded Ad Not in Compliance

Hypertension Treatment

Learn About Treatment Options

For Hypertension.


Hypertension Treatment

Learn About Treatment Options

For Hypertension.


Guideline 2:  Keyphrases

The search terms associated with unbranded ads should be limited to unbranded terms. To control this, the match type for keyphrases associated with unbranded ads must be set to “exact” match only.

  • Do not use the following match types on Google:  “broad”, “phrase”
  • Do not use the following match types on Yahoo: “advanced”
  • Do not use the following match types on MSN/Live:  “broad”, “phrase”

Guideline 3:  Landing Pages

An unbranded ad can link to either a branded (using a vanity URL with safety information on the landing page) or unbranded website.   For example, the ad below could link searchers to a page on Zoloft.com, or to a page on an unbranded site such as www.depression.com.

Depression Medication

Learn About An Effective

Treatment For Depression.

Catalyst recommends linking unbranded ads to unbranded websites since searchers who search on unbranded terms are most likely looking for generic or unbiased information about treatments for a particular condition and the vanity URL will lead the consumer to believe it is an unbraded site. Leading searchers to a branded site, from an unbranded ad, will likely result in high bounce rates and thus lead to lower ROIs.

Business impact: This practice will reduce awareness, traffic to the site and engagement with consumers.

Consumer impact: Consumers will be less aware of pharmaceutical products to meet their health needs at a point of receptivity.

Next Steps:

As a result of the FDA’s recent emphasis on the enforcement of advertising regulations, Catalyst online is working with each of the major search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN) to determine if new methods can be developed for displaying  paid search advertising to enable risk information to be displayed.  Some of the ideas that we are pursuing, include:

  • The addition of an interstitial page that displays risk information immediately upon a searcher clicking on a paid ad (however, has an organic search impact).
  • A pop-up display containing risk information when a searcher moves their mouse over a paid search ad.
  • The addition of link within the paid search ad that will take the user to a page containing the risk information for the product.
  • And more.

Organic Search Implications

Guideline:  No change at this time for organic listings

In addition to the impact on paid search, which is a paid media buy, there is accompanying speculation on whether the recent FDA warning letters will expand to impact organic search listings. This is particularly relevant for brands conducting simultaneous paid and organic campaigns, as well as brands seeking to offset any loss in paid search traffic with their organic listings.

The current status is that the FDA HAS NOT sent letters to any company based on their organic listings.  And there’s good reason.  First, your organic listing is not a paid media buy.  Second, your organic listing is controlled, in large part, by the search engine’s (e.g. Google’s) algorithm, which decides who will rank for a particular search term and what is presented to a searcher.  Therefore, we would recommend brands refrain from changing their SEO campaign or search rankings until the FDA clarifies its position.

Recently we have received requests by clients to develop a scenario, including pros and cons, in the event internal regulation were to consider applying the new paid rules to organic listings. The following is our opinion on what that would look like and the business ramifications.

Scenarios for implementing paid rules on organic listings:

There are only three elements from your web page that appears on a results page of a search; Title, Description and URL (the domain and file name of the asset).

Enablex Description

Consideration of Title Tag:

HTML Title: Typically appearing at the top of the browser window, this text is commonly used in search engine listings as the link-text pointing to the page in question. It also displays in the Search engines result page after a search.

To match the paid rules, the generic drug name and brand name would need to appear together in the title, but the indication can not appear in the title.  You can control this by adjusting your title tag on the webpage.

Business impact: This has a negative impact on search engine results; sites will no longer rank for the indication.

Consumer Impact: The Search Engine Results Page (SERP) will be filled with non-pharma results, including herbal remedies and online drug stores.

Consideration of Meta Description in combination with title:

Meta Description:  A small piece of text that describes the page in question and often accounts for the ’snippet’ or descriptive text in a search listing.  Although you can try to influence it, the engine’s algorithm ultimately determines which text it will use for the description.

Again, to mirror the paid rules, if the name of the drug is used in the title or description of the URL, there can be no mention of the indications.  The example below shows two ’snippets’.  In the first you see that the brand Enablex is clearly coupled with the description highlighting its treatment for overactive bladder.  Google choose this information from the homepage.  In the second, you see that Google has decided to piece together separate sentences to create a description for Asacol.



Business impact: In this case, changing the description, even if possible, would dramatically affect the click-through to the site.  The description is usually the determining factor on whether you decide to click to a site or skip to the next listing.

Consumer impact: Confusion and devaluation of the SERP results.

Consideration of the URL (Branded vs. Unbranded):

In the paid ruling, the FDA stated that the URL, if branded, acts as brand impression and therefore triggers the need for either fair balance or the omission of the condition in the remaining copy.  In the following example the presence of Asacol in the URL www.asacol.com/glossary.jsp , would cause this listing to be questioned.

Colitis Glossary

Business impact: The only way to avoid this paid rule is to use an unbranded URL (e.g. www.UC-Glossary.com).  If you choose this path, your brand site would never rank for your disease state.  In addition, other OTC, mock-treatment or home remedies would replace your organic listing and harvest all of the traffic you were formerly receiving.  This is a critical issue.  Also, you would potentially need to build a separate non-branded site for each branded site, which is more costly to maintain.

Consumer impact: Consumers will be less aware of pharmaceutical products to meet their health needs at a point of receptivity.

Next Steps:

  • Until the FDA determines that the organic listing, which is controlled by the search engines, is an area of concern - our opinion is to maintain your organic listing as normal.
  • If you are going to apply the paid rules to the organic listing, please contact Catalyst online to ensure you are not inadvertently creating major site traffic or search issues for your site.

If you (or your regulatory team) have any questions regarding this POV, please contact Tim Breen at Catalyst online at tbreen@CatalystSearchMarketing.com, or at 617.244.6679.

Effective B2B Search Marketing

We’ve discussed B2C search often in this blog and in our newsletter. It is only logical that in order to increase your visibility, you need to be available everywhere your customers interact if you offer a solution or product. However, B2B search has become an increasingly important aspect of the marketing budget and businesses need to understand its benefits.

Like the B2C searchers, B2B searchers have specific information needs and seek this information online to supplement or often replace traditional sources (brochures and magazines). This is because B2B searchers know that the internet often provides more and the most up-to-date information than a traditional pamphlet or other paper collateral.

This month, Eddie Emmanuel discusses how a targeted and measurable search campaign works efficiently for B2B to reach their target audience.

Q: Where do you think B2B audiences are currently looking for and receiving their information?

Eddie: Most B2B audiences are looking for information online and from search engines. That’s why it’s important to make sure your site is SEO friendly. Search engine optimization efforts are an extension of a business’s existing marketing and messaging activities. When your business or brand becomes visible within the SERPs (search engine results page), it attains a visible status and awareness in the eyes of the users and search engines.

Q: Why have B2B advertisers been slow adopting this technology into their marketing budgets?

Eddie: I think some are uncertain how to target/segment their audiences because they feel they don’t have the tools to reach their audience and truly gage their ROI. Thus it’s hard for these businesses’ to justify spending their advertising budget online because they can’t identify their specific target markets, especially in this economic climate.

Q: What is the landscape online for B2B operations? Do you think this will change?

Eddie: As with B2C, businesses’ vying for other company’s online business is becoming increasingly more competitive. However, there are many search silos to make your business messages more readily available, be it in paid or organic search, banner’s or social media. It’s difficult to say when this will change as search is evolving all the time.

Q: If your target audience is resource managers, what would be some examples to optimize your search visibility for these users?

Eddie: The audience is likely motivated to find you in this instance, so optimizing your site with targeted keyphrases  is just as important for attracting this audience as it is for B2C, and it will help your company’s search engine position against competing sites. To help your audience find you, optimize press releases and digital assets such as videos and images; this will increase the visibility of your site outside of the traditional SERPs.  Additionally, leveraging your current B2B partners and employing localization tactics will provide an opportunity to maximize search engine listings of your site for related/important keyphrases.

Q: Are the top three engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN) where B2B advertisers want to gain top ranking? Or are there specific business related engines that should be more important to the advertiser?

Eddie: The top 3 engines will always be a desired ranking since they make up 85% of the search market share. However, by having your business listed within other business directories and niche engines, this will increase the opportunity to maximize your site’s visibility so that users can find you. Visibility should be a priority, whether it is a B2B Directory like Business.com or Jayde.com, or online yellow pages.

Q: What are some ways a company can optimize their news and leadership? (whitepapers, press releases, case studies)

Eddie: Optimizing all assets (as mentioned before) like press releases, white papers, case studies, videos, etc… will provide further information beyond your standard website’s pages for your target audience. This will allow search engines to find new content that is relative to your site.

About Eddie Emmanuel, Search Strategist, Catalyst online

Eddie Emmanuel is a Catalyst Search Marketing Strategist who is dedicated to Novartis and Amgen, brands. He has five years of experience in Search Marketing. Before joining Catalyst he worked as a Marketing Consultant at Shoebuy.com and an SEO Marketer at iProspect. He has a B.A. from Emerson College in Communications.

Using Social Media Search

This month, Josh Walsh reviews the importance Social Media has taken in the communication universe and details the relevance this impact has on Search Campaigns.

Q: Has the definition of Social Media changed in 2009?
Josh: Social Media, much like the internet platform where it resides, is a constantly evolving network of ideas and in the race to be the most popular means of exchange, Social Medias are always looking for faster and more effective ways to connect people. For example, it is no coincidence that recently we have seen Twitter, with its streamlined means of communication, come out as a major player on the field. So to more accurately answer the question, has the definition of Social Media changed in 2009? Yes, and the definition will be forever changing.

Q: How is Social Media being used in search campaigns?
Josh: Social Media is very much becoming an integral part of Search Engine Marketing campaigns. Savvy search marketers are beginning to use social media platforms to capture an entire SERP (Search Engine Results Page) for a given term. This is an effective technique because most search engines will only allow a website to rank no more than twice for a given term, therefore, to show up more than twice in a given SERP, more than one domain will have to be used, and Social Medias offer a perfect solution. This can be very helpful as an approach to reputation management as well as effective means to rank for unbranded, more competitive terms.
The key to utilizing social media in a search campaign is to optimize a brand’s existing assets (newsletters, podcasts, webinars, whitepapers, etc.) as well as possible. Use Social Media channels such as About, Digg and eHow to increase the visibility of these key assets which in turn improves brand recognition and gives traffic boosts to the brand’s website.

Q: Why is Social Media important to a brand/client?
Josh: It is important to acknowledge that huge numbers of people are beginning to take their conversations away from the more traditional means of communication, and bringing them online. Social Media is the platform that is housing all of these online conversations. It will be very important to understand how your customer uses Social Media, what they are discussing and to actively take part in the conversation. Brands will need to be truthfully represented in this digital world, and who better to act as ambassador than the brand themselves. These insights and branding opportunities are all made possible through participating on Social Media platforms.

Q: What are future trends of Social Media and how could they affect search campaigns?
Josh: As stated before, Social Media is always transforming to better fit what people want but also what people are comfortable with. In the late 90’s social networking sites such as sixdegrees.com were the first to offer such online communication services. These earlier Social Medias, unfortunately, only were used by early adapters and never made much headway. In 2001 sixdegrees.com closed its doors for good. However, it is no secret that sites such as facebook.com and myspace.com have  enjoyed enormous growth rates in recent years and are offering services not that different from there 90’s predecessors. If history is telling us anything it is that current niche forms of Social Media, currently only used by early adaptors, will be the new means of communication in the future. I believe future trends to look for will include mobile platforms and avatar forms of communication, similar to that in secondlife.com

Q: Any final thoughts?
Josh: As we marketers travel further into the information revolution it will be crucial to understand the importance of the free exchange of ideas and how Social Media is playing an integral part in shaping the information age. 
In a search campaign, Social Media is best utilized alongside Paid and Organic offerings. Taking a holistic approach combines traditional SEO rankings with traffic generated from the Social Media universe and works in concert with a Paid Search campaign, providing the best possible ROI and Share of Voice from the campaign.

About Josh Walsh, Project Manager, Catalyst online

Josh Walsh, Project Manager at Catalyst online, has developed four years of Internet Marketing experience and consultancy work throughout his career. Josh is an avid member of the Social Media community and enjoys speaking at local Colleges on the subject.

Search for Integration

In this post, Account Director Lesley Ross explains the importance of integrating online and offline campaigns to maximize budgets in an uneasy economy.

Q: Online advertising spending is projected to increase by 8.9% this year, how do you suggest this spending be used most effectively by Marketers?

Lesley: The necessity for a “holistic” approach to marketing has become over-stated, yet we (as industry professionals) still do not see the majority of brands acting upon this advancement. While online advertising dollars may be increasing, overall ad budgets are going to be scrutinized much more due to the weakened economy.  It is imperative that a brand integrate all of their marketing activities to align with their overall strategy and brand goals in order to provide the greatest return on these ad dollars. Each marketing effort should support one another so as to enhance the entire brand, driving a single integrated message to reach the same overall objectives.

Q: Why is this “holistic” approach, of integrating online and offline advertising channels within campaigns, so important?

Lesley: Simply put: offline drives online. This is old news. Yet it still is not fully embraced and leveraged for the most optimal campaign results. With search we have an opportunity to capture the furthest of the long tail queries  that may arise from curious consumers who have been exposed to offline messaging, now searching for further information online. Most importantly, any offline spend that is not supported by robust visibility online may effectively drive interested consumers to a brand’s competitor on the search engine results page when they are looking for more information. Therefore, not only does a holistic approach improve a brands visibility among competitors, it also helps to establish the brand as a category leader among target consumers.

Q: In what types of ways should Marketers consider integrating their search campaign within a larger advertising campaign?

Lesley: Marketers should include search in their overall brand plans, with the understanding that the larger advertising campaigns will drive consumers to search for further information. Therefore, the brand messaging should be carried from advertising campaigns online to the search campaigns in order to capture active information - seekers who have already had exposure to your messaging. An even greater opportunity is to reverse this process – use a Paid Search campaign to test various messaging. For example; how are your target consumers searching for relevant information to your brand? Can you incorporate these insights into not only the content strategy not only of the website but of all advertising messaging in order to further connect with your consumers?

Q: Should all campaigns in 2009 be fully integrated or should some search marketing campaigns continue to stand alone? Why?

Lesley: The most effective use of advertising dollars in 2009 will come from fully integrating marketing efforts.  It is imperative for brands to focus these dollars rather than investing in disparate efforts. While there may be opportunities for standalone search marketing campaigns – as we have many long tail opportunities that we do not have in other media – the brand’s search strategy should be driven by the overall brand strategy in order to align with overarching brand goals and objectives.

About Lesley Ross, Account Director, Catalyst online

Lesley Ross is an Account Director at Catalyst online who has developed over eight years of Marketing and Operations experience throughout her career. She leads her team with an MBA and MS in Information Systems and loves to follow the trends and best practices of both online advertising and search marketing.

Measuring Campaign Effectiveness

In this post, Vice President of Search Marketing Tim Breen presents a practical new way to assign value to your incoming traffic and measure campaign effectiveness.

Q: What do you recommend to search marketers in this economy?
Tim: When budgets are tight it becomes even more important to evaluate the success of your online marketing campaigns. To ensure that you’re making the most of your resources, you need to measure the quality of visitors being driven to the product or brand website from each online marketing initiative or channel.

One way you can do this accurately is to calculate what we call a “Quality of Visit” score by assigning a value to each activity on the site and tracking the number of activities each visitor completes per visit.

Quality of Visit score allows you to evaluate overall campaign effectiveness; to compare effectiveness of different channels and keyphrases; and provides data for campaign modifications required to achieve campaign objectives at the lowest possible cost.

Q: What is “Quality of Visit” score?
Tim: Quality of Visit score is a metric that measures the relative value of visitors being driven to your website based on what they do once they arrive. Visitors who do not complete campaign-related activities are considered low quality, while visitors who complete desired actions such as registering or making an online purchase are high quality.

For example, in a paid search campaign Quality of Visit score is used to determine the quality of visitors from each keyphrase in the campaign. Keyphrases that produce a high number of visitors but few conversions can be flagged and evaluated to determine if the ad copy needs to be changed to attract a more targeted visitor or if the keyphrase should be removed from the campaign entirely. The objective is to eliminate keyphrases that produce low quality visits while increasing visits from keyphrases that produce high quality visitors.

Q: How does Quality of Visit score differ from ROI?
Tim: Quality of Visit scores are primarily used when ROI data (for example the actual revenue associated with each registration) is not available.  When ROI data is available, the campaign should be optimized around the ROI. If multiple goals are involved, Quality of Visit score can also be used to measure objectives such as brand awareness or consumer loyalty.

Q: How do you get started?
Tim: To determine a Quality of Visit Score you need to do five things:
1.    Define the campaign-related actions (or conversion events) a visitor may take on your site.
2.    Assign a value to each conversion event.
3.    Track the activities each visitor completes once they arrive at the website.
4.    Calculate the Quality of Visit formula.
5.    Compute the cost per Quality of Visit point.

Q: How do you choose which activities to track?
Tim: The activities you select should be consistent with the campaign objectives. If the primary objective is to drive consumers to trial a product, then the activities should focus on coupon printing, coupon requests, registering for coupons, signing up for a newsletter, etc. If the campaign objective is to develop brand awareness then the activities might include the number of visits to a product page or the number of clicks on a brochure PDF for example. An important step in choosing the activities is to first make sure the activities can be tracked with Google Analytics or any other tracking tool you may be using.

Q: How do you decide how much these activities are worth?
Tim: Technically it doesn’t matter what scale you use, whether it is 1 to 10, or 1 to 100. It is best to use a scale that allows activities to be easily weighted against each other. For example, if your most valuable activity, an online purchase, is 100 times more valuable than your least valuable activity, someone viewing a product page, then your scale should be 1 to 100.  If the most valuable activity, a registration, is 10 times more valuable than your least important activity, a visit to the product tips page, then you can use a scale of 1 to 10.

Start by identifying all the activities you want to track. Then determine the relative value of each of those activities compared to each other. Typically a registration is going to be worth 50 to 100 times more than someone viewing a particular product page on the site. Printing a coupon may be worth 30 to 50 times more someone viewing a product page.

Q: How do you calculate the Quality of Visit score?
Tim: Quality of Visit score is the average number of points generated per site visit. The score is calculated by multiplying the number of actions times the value of each action, divided by the number of visits. Your goal is to identify the keyphrases or marketing channels with the highest quality scores.

Q: How does this help measure campaign effectiveness?
Tim: After you calculate the Quality of Visit score for each visit, you can easily figure out the cost of each point to determine the cost effectiveness of each keyphrase or channel. The cost per point is calculated by dividing the total amount spent on the keyphrase or channel by the total number of points for the keyphrase or channel. Your goal is to identify keyphrases or channels with the lowest cost per point and leverage those to get the most out of your search marketing budget.

About Timothy Breen, Vice President of Search Marketing
Tim leads the account management and paid search engine marketing teams at Catalyst.  He has developed the business units into an industry leader that produces extraordinary results for our clients.  Tim brings more than 24 years of business development and marketing experience to Catalyst including twelve years of Internet marketing experience.

How To Protect Your Domain Name

In this post, Organic Search Manager Rupali Shah discusses ICANN”s latest proposal to grow beyond 21 domain extensions and how you can prevent “cyber squatting.”

Q: How does the system of domain names and extensions work?

Rupali: To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your browser address bar - a name or a number. That address has to be unique so the computers know where to find each other. ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) coordinates these unique identifiers across the world using domain names and extensions relating to type such as .com, .org, .edu or country codes such as .uk, .fr, etc. Without that coordination we wouldn’t have one global Internet.

ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. Through its coordination role of the Internet’s naming system, it has an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.

Q: How competitive have domain names become?

Rupali: Very. Pizza.com was sold for $2.6 million, men.com for $1.3 million, business.com for $7.5 million and loans.com had the price tag of $3 million.

Domain name sales have become an industry with high returns for some cyber squatters. Cyber squatters are individuals that foresee the re-sale potential of a domain name before a company or person realizes the worth of owning it.

There have been famous instances of trademarks and names of celebrities becoming targets of cyber squatters in the hopes of making a quick buck. Two very famous cyber squatting incidences were: madonna.com and hotmail.co.uk

The hotmail.co.uk case was a domain renewal hijacking incident which caused the company some embarrassment as they missed the renewal date of their existing and working domain name. 

Q: How will ICANN address the competition for desirable domain names?

Rupali: With the Internet maturing and marketing on the Internet becoming more than a vanity based venture, the lawsuits against cyber squatting are declining in number. However, a recent announcement by ICANN may potentially cause ripples in the calm waters once again.

In June 2008, a proposal was approved by ICANN which will allow registration of unlimited number of Top Level Domains (TLDs) or extensions not restricted to the 21 familiar ones such as .com, .net, .gov and .org.  Think .microsoft, .dell, .cocacola 

Along with the brand names, ICANN has also approved geo-Top Level Domains such as names of cities and countries. This opens up the possibilities for all countries, cities and locations around the world. Think .nyc, .germany, .chennai, .timessquare. Generic terms are also included in the proposal such as .news, .sports, .weather, .travel.

Q: How can someone claim one of the new domain extensions?

Rupali: ICANN will organize a limited period during which applications will go through an evaluation process. The ICANN application period does not begin until the second quarter of 2009. To avoid cyber squatting and hijacking of Top Level Domains, ICANN will introduce an objection-based mechanism for trademark owners and relevant authorities. However, the most likely deterrent for cyber squatters will possibly be the price tag which will potentially be upwards of half a million dollars.

Although opening up the domain extension options seems an excellent way to prevent scarcity of domain names in the future, the price tag may prove to be too much, even for corporations who would be inclined to register product based brand names in addition to the main company brand name. Think .ipod, .windows, .dietcoke

Q: How can a company protect its domain name?

Rupali: Here are some effective ways to protect your domain name against cyber squatters:

1. Assign responsibility for domain name renewal and include it in the job description. To avoid cyber squatters gaining control of your domain name when it expires, assign someone to keep track of the registration.

2. Maintain updated technical contact information on the domain name registration. Many times the person who registered the domain name for the organization moves on but the name remains in the contact information with the registrar.

3. Be aware of phishing. Never share your account information on email as cyber squatters can pose as the registrar via email to access this information.

About Rupali Shah

Rupali is an Organic Search Manager. She works with large websites in a variety of sectors such as media, communication, IT and travel. Rupali has a post graduate degree in Computer Science and a degree in Commerce. In her international career she has also worked in software development and publishing. A regular conference presenter, Rupali most recently spoke at the PubCon Conference in Las Vegas in November.

The Brander’s Dilemma: Branding and Keyphrase Strategy

In this post, Catalyst Campaign Manager Mary Connelly discusses the intersection of branding and keyword strategy and three steps you can take to be successful.

Q: How can search marketing help brand managers meet their goals?
Mary: The brand managers we work with have two goals. They want to understand their target consumers’ needs and they want to convey the benefits of their product or service in meeting these needs.

With traditional TV, radio and print advertising, marketers build their brands and control the message. Search marketing represents a great opportunity for a brand to understand how their target consumer is looking for a product in their category. A campaign that integrates both elements – offline and online marketing – allows brand managers to meet their needs for consumer research while building awareness of a brand’s benefits.

Usually one of the first steps in search marketing is keyphrase research. Think of this phase as an opportunity to understand how a consumer is investigating a brand category.  Once you understand what they are looking for, and how they are searching, you can provide the appropriate information targeted to where they are in the buying cycle.

One example of this is the case of an assisted living facility that wanted to search engine optimize but believed their target consumer was not someone looking for nursing home information. Our keyphrase research revealed that prospects in the early phase of the buying cycle were not familiar with the term “assisted living facility.” Since they were fairly new in the marketplace they were searching online using the term “nursing home.” By omitting this term from their keyphrase list, the marketer would have missed an opportunity to present their information to almost 3 million prospects annually vs. the 150 prospects that used the keyphrase “assisted living facility.”

In order to capture this consumer demand, the facility’s website needed to do two things: 1) have enough relevant content around the keyphrase “nursing homes” and 2) present the value proposition for why an assisted living facility might be a better solution.

Q: Should you use brands as keyphrases?
Mary: You need to use a mix of branded and unbranded terms. With branded terms you can capture the consumer that is farther along in the buying cycle. It is also important to choose unbranded keyphrases to capture the consumer in the early phases of the buying cycle.  Brand managers must be aware of how consumers in their space are searching today and choose keyphrases and provide content to reach consumers in all phases of the buying cycle.

That is one of the challenges of launching an organic campaign. For some clients, developing a targeted list of keyphrases is the most difficult stage of the process. Brand managers typically have reams of data regarding their target market, and are making good choices for media buys. But they don’t have information yet on what the market is searching for online. You have to meet the consumer half way and get your related subject into that space.

Q: What are some common misconceptions about keywords?
Mary: Keyphrase research is the process of finding terms and phrases that are relevant to your site and frequently searched by your audiences. Because they have put effort and resources into developing a strong brand message, some brand managers continue to focus on the messaging rather than how people actually are searching online for their product.

Some common errors include the exclusive use of taglines, brand names and industry jargon instead of the language consumers are using to describe their needs, issues and problems.

Q: What’s the best way to use keyphrases to reach a range of consumers?
Mary: Four years ago, Chris Anderson, editor of WIRED magazine, wrote an article about what would become a very influential theory: The Long Tail. Search marketers have adopted the long tail as a way of segmenting their keyword lists.

A recent article on Search Engine Land described three types of keyphrases: the short head, the fat middle, and the long tail. You need to choose a mix of terms from each of these categories to reach people at different points of the buying funnel.

People at the top of the funnel use very broad terms. These are usually very high volume keyphrases and as a consequence it is a very competitive space. One example of a broad term someone might use when researching televisions is the keyphrase “TV.” This has a huge search volume of probably over a million searchers a month and seems like a very attractive keyphrase to target. But it is also very competitive and a site would probably need significant content to compete with other related sites.

To reach these consumers one option is to run a paid campaign and include this keyphrase while optimizing for some of the less competitive, lower search volume, more targeted keyphrases that often represent a more qualified consumer. For example, someone farther down the buying funnel may use the keyphrase “flat screen TV.” Organically, there is probably less competition for this term and more serious buyers use it.

A keyphrase even closer to purchase intent is called a long tail keyphrase like “32 inch Sony flat screen TV.” This phrase may have only 1,000 searchers a month but they are much closer to purchase and organically there is much less competition for this keyphrase. Even though it has a much lower search volume, it is probably a higher converting keyphrase.

To optimize properly, you need to include a mix of phrases on your site. You can go after the long tail and develop content around these phrases with the goal of eventually ranking for broader, more competitive keyphrases by adding more content. You need to start where you have the best chance of winning.

Q: What are three steps brand managers need to take?
Mary: First, they need to understand how consumers are searching online within their product or service category and be familiar with each keyphrase’s search volume. Then select the keyphrases that represent their short and long term marketing goals.

Next, marketers need to commit to a short and long term content strategy around these keyphrases. When you choose a keyphrase you are committing to building at least one page of content per keyphrase or you already have existing content you can use.

Third, continue to align and update your keyphrase strategy with your marketing and media strategy throughout the product life cycle. Keyphrase strategy sets the stage for understanding the consumer and how you are going to reach the consumer when they’re searching.

About Mary Connelly
Mary is a Campaign Manager at Catalyst, managing campaigns for pharmaceutical and consumer brands. She has over 20 years of experience in pharmaceutical sales and sales training. Before joining Catalyst she worked as pharmaceutical representative for a Fortune 500 company.

Getting to Yes: How to Sell Search Internally

Q: What are the typical internal challenges that marketers face when proposing a search campaign?
Rich: The most common challenge marketers face internally is convincing the budget committee of the value and need for search. One reason for this is that we are talking about an industry that is relatively new. Search engine marketing has only been an option for about ten years, while mainstream advertising started over 100 years ago.

Most upper level managers are used to approving advertising budgets for print, television or radio ads. They are familiar with the figures and with the objectives. This isn’t the case for search marketing. When a brand manager or a marketing professional wants to promote their brand via search, frequently they must do some education as part of their budget request.

This is a challenge when someone in the marketing department must pitch the campaign outside of marketing. For smaller campaigns, the brand manager may have the leeway within their budget to devote a portion to search marketing. But for more extensive campaigns, more often the marketing manager has to go outside the department to get their budget approved. And I’ve found that typically the higher up the ladder you go the less familiar management is with search.

Q: How can marketers make the process easier and get buy-in?
Rich: One way to make the process easier is to separate the education piece from the buy-in request. If possible, have a brief introductory meeting that outlines what search marketing is and explains the different benefits of paid and organic campaigns.

It is difficult to try to educate an audience and sell at the same time. If you try to do both at the same meeting, you’ll start by explaining what search is and then asking for budget approval – it’s tough to switch hats like that. Also, your management team will be in a different mindset if they know they’re attending an educational meeting rather than a pitch.

One thing you can say is, “In three months I’ll probably be putting search in our budget. Let’s set a time before that to explain search and why we want to do it.” Then at the next meeting you can remind them of the benefits of search and explain the budget request – “Here’s what we need and why.”

You’ll want to emphasize that with successful Search Engine Marketing (SEM) your company can increase qualified website traffic; track meaningful market data about your target audience; establish a formidable competitive advantage online; increase sales and maximize ROI; acquire new customers; generate leads; and build brand awareness.

Q: What should marketers ask their search provider for?
Rich: This is an important question. Often search providers are asked to come in and pitch their capabilities and then follow up that meeting with a proposal.  This is fine, but if marketers have to turn and sell this concept to get the budget, I think they can utilize us more in this process. You can either ask the vendor to attend the meetings, or you can ask them to provide industry-specific educational slides or information.

Q: What should marketers share with their search provider to help the process?
Rich: To borrow a line from the movie Jerry McGuire, “Help me help you.” If you plan on using our presentation or proposal to make your budget request, share with us the points that you feel would have the most traction with your management team. You know your industry and your target market better than anyone. To help us help you pitch successfully, share with us the particulars of your industry so that we can frame the proposal in a way that is most meaningful to your management team. Then you can design an industry-specific pitch with language you use to talk about your products and services.

For example, in the banking industry the emphasis is on growth through the expansion of brick and mortar branches. Use that analogy when making your pitch for search marketing. Instead of showing how the phrase “mortgage loans in Alabama” does not yield results on Google, you can describe a customer driving down the street, not being able to find your branch because it is underground.

In the pharmaceutical industry, sales reps make presentations in physicians’ offices. You could describe an imaginary situation in which the sales team only has a list of 10 percent of the doctors and doesn’t know about the other 90 percent. This means they will never be able to sell your treatment — the equivalent of not generating those leads and revenue online.

In the Direct-to-Consumer arena, shelf space is everything. For DTC we describe search as digital shelf space. Instead of saying that poor organic results have ranked your company on page 3 of Google, you can say, “Our product is on the bottom row, tucked behind three other products. We need to make sure our product has the same shelf space.”

You should also share the “hot buttons” of your superiors. For example, your manager may be really excited and knowledgeable about television advertising. If that’s the case, let us know that and we’ll provide you with compelling comparisons.

The final thing to share is whether your management team leans toward being numbers oriented or more interested in the big picture. For a number oriented audience, you’ll want to prepare all the data and statistics of the search landscape. For others you’ll want to pitch the concepts behind search. It depends on your group.

Q: What should marketers avoid?
Rich: Avoid putting yourself in an awkward position by educating your superiors before you’re ready. Make sure that you’re very comfortable with search marketing. If you’re not well versed in search, you may not be able to anticipate or answer questions. If you are a search novice, have the vendor give you a complete presentation on the fundamentals of search. If you’re more experienced, you might need a different kind of presentation. After that you can change from the student of search to the teacher.

Another thing to avoid, depending on your audience, is technical topics and jargon. Keep the focus on the basics and make the pitch more business-friendly rather than technical.
If you get too technical your audience’s eyes will glaze over and you’ll lose them.

Finally, make the analysis about the benefits of search. Don’t focus on how the search provider is going to implement the campaign. That is not what’s important. If you want to sell a Ferrari, don’t tell the buyer how the engine was made — let them drive it around the racetrack! For a successful internal pitch, take the CEO around the racetrack, and let us build the car for you.

About Richard Ezzo
Rich is the Director of Business Development at Catalyst. He has seventeen years of experience in sales and marketing. Before joining Catalyst he worked as business development manager of a prominent national law firm and spent 10 years in sales and marketing roles within the financial services industry. He has a B.A. in Economics from SUNY Cortland.

There is no place like Chrome

by Jason McGovern

Many of you have no doubt heard about Chrome, the new browser from Google. Chrome is billed as the first browser designed for how people use the web today. Since it launched early in September, Chrome has triggered a firestorm of questions from both bloggers and the traditional media. Is this the first step to a Google operating system? Is this a sign that Google is taking on MSN? Will this browser appear on Google’s cell phone?

Of course, there is also the question of how Chrome will impact search results. After all, this is from Google; it has to impact search, right?

Not necessarily. We’ve been monitoring Chrome since it launched, as well as the various blogs covering it, and there has been little talk of the browser’s impact on a website’s search engine rankings. There have been some rumors that Google is pulling usage data from Chrome and incorporating it into their search algorithm, but these rumors are unsubstantiated.

For now, it certainly appears that Google Chrome is having a negligible, if any, impact on search and that it is mainly a concern for those designing and developing websites. The introduction of Chrome is something to be aware of. But until we hear otherwise, if you’re managing SEO or paid campaigns, it’s business as usual.

About Jason McGovern
Jason is Catalyst’s Organic Search Director, leading SEO for high-profile brands including Pfizer, P&G, and Novartis. He has over eight years of search and Internet marketing experience and before Catalyst has served as a marketing manager, web developer, and copywriter. Jason has a B.S. in Biology from Allegheny College.