Whats Next for Google

By Evan Schuman  |  Posted 2007-09-28 Print this article Print

On mobiles potential, Armstrong said, "Every phone gets an individual ad, built on the fly." All of these factors combine at a time when consumers and businesspeople are becoming much more comfortable with Web searches. "People are getting much more sophisticated about how they search," Armstrong said, pointing, for example, to significantly longer average search queries. And the process of guessing what search terms people will use is getting more complex. The word "iPod," for example, is searched for using any of 7,000 words.
The biggest challenge in the near term for Google, though, is privacy. Googles current policy, for example, forbids the use of third-party cookies, said John McAteer, Googles head of retail. Thats an unusual stance to take for a company that is typically seen as pushing the privacy envelope.
In search engine ad placement, there are two traditional ways to sell ads. The first is contextual, where ads look at the page where its to appear, and behavioral, where it looks at who the site visitor is and potentially that surfers recent traffic. Googles self-imposed ban on third-party cookies would presumably take it out of the behavioral game, but non-cookie techniques are being explored. For that matter, all policies can be reviewed and amended. In theory, an advertiser should find behavioral ad placement more effective. After all, the reason the contextual ad is placed on a certain page is because of the kind of people likely to read such a page. A behavioral search could be more precise about delivering to those prospects, regardless of what pages they felt like visiting. To read about why one legal watchdog has targeted Google for piracy on Google Video, click here. But even behavioral cookies are not perfect, as people can accidentally hit irrelevant pages or perhaps are looking to buy a one-time gift for someone with very different tastes. The only ideal approach is to use both techniques simultaneously. Although the mobile phone offers the most specific geographic targeting potential, Google is experimenting with IP addresses and search terms to try and deliver very geographically localized ads. Using IP addresses to identify location is about 85 percent accurate today, said Brett Goffin, a Google industry sales manager in retail. Many things account for the 15 percent that is inaccurate, such as broadband ISPs whose locations appear instead of the address of the person surfing. Theyre often close, but not precise. Certain domains—such as AOL.com—are notorious for giving little hint as to a members location. VPNs also can wreck havoc with IP address location accuracy. There are still some sites that strongly suggest location, such as TV station Web sites, weather sites and the wording of the searches themselves ("furnishings in Austin," for instance). The amount of time people spend on the Web today is roughly equivalent to how long they watch television, McAteer said. Mixed in with all of that Web traffic are some 8 billion searches a day, he said. There is little doubt that the biggest potential impact on Web advertising will be merged channel retailing. McAteer argues that retailers have only begun to see the evidence that online ads can affect brick-and-mortar sales. An explicit example are sites that allow coupons to be printed and then brought into the stores. The retailer can track how many times those ads are printed (showing presumed interest) and how many times they are redeemed. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis about productivity and business solutions. Retail Center Editor Evan Schuman can be reached at Evan.Schuman@ziffdavisenterprise.com. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on technologys impact on retail.

Evan Schuman is the editor of CIOInsight.com's Retail industry center. He has covered retail technology issues since 1988 for Ziff-Davis, CMP Media, IDG, Penton, Lebhar-Friedman, VNU, BusinessWeek, Business 2.0 and United Press International, among others. He can be reached by e-mail at Evan.Schuman@ziffdavisenterprise.com.

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