Top stories April 2009

By Greenlight | 02 Apr 2009

Google launches behavioural targeting programme

The latest development from the Google lab - a behavioural targeting programme that will display adverts across its AdSense content network and YouTube - was launched in test form on 11 March.
Internet Based Advertising (IBA) allows advertisers to deliver ads based on hundreds of interest categories and previous interactions with users. It tracks internet users' behaviour through their browser cookies as they visit sites that show adverts using Google's AdSense application.

IBA will automatically opt in all users. Those users who don't wish to receive targeted ads will have to opt out of the service.

The news coincided with the release of the official version of the SEMPO report, which indicates 'overwhelming interest' in newly developed behavioural targeting opportunities from advertisers. As many as three quarters of advertisers claim they would bid more for clicks targeted to in-market consumers, with two in five advertisers not currently targeting searchers but planning to in the next 12 months. 

Online ad spend up by 17%

Internet ad spend rose by 17.3% in 2008, despite the worsening economic situation and a 3.9% fall in total UK ad spend. 

The findings were published in the Quarterly Survey of Advertising Expenditure report, compiled on behalf of the Advertising Association (AA) by the World Advertising Research Centre (WARC). The report also found that online advertising spend increased by 17.3% to £3.3bn, newspaper advertising spend fell by 12% to £4.1bn, television advertising spend fell by  4.9% to £3.8bn and radio advertising spend fell by 8.9% to £454m. Online advertising grew at a stable rate throughout the year.

A recent report by the AA and WARC predicts that advertising expenditure in the UK could grow by as much as 52% in the years leading to 2020 after the current economic downturn.

Google and Louis Vuitton trademark wrangle continues

Google's lawyers went to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in late March to appeal the Louis Vuitton trademark ruling made by a French court in 2005.

The Paris Tribunal of the First Instance had ordered the search engine giant to pay €300,000 in damages. The court found that Google had infringed Louis Vuitton's trademark by selling the luxury brand's trademark terms to its rivals and counterfeiters.

Google introduced the practice of bidding on trademarked keywords in the UK and Ireland in May 2008; the system has been in place in the US and Canada since 2004.

The search engine's defence is that it isn't using the trademarks itself and, as such, there is no sufficient link between the search ad and products bearing the trademark for there to be an infringement.
The ECJ ruling is key for Google, as the verdict will apply across the 27 nations of the European Union. An outcome is not expected for months.

Meanwhile, the cost of applying for and opposing trademarks is to fall by 40% following a European Union ruling. In the UK the Intellectual Property Office proposes to cut fees for trademark applications made electronically by 15%.  

Half of all web traffic comes through search engines

Recent research by Hitwise UK indicates almost half of all web traffic is driven by search engines.

The internet traffic monitor reports that search traffic accounted for 40.5% of total web traffic in January 2009, whereas last year search traffic accounted for 37.1% of total traffic (January 2008).  

It is widely acknowledged in the industry that well-optimised sites should receive between 40% and 50% of their total traffic from search engines. So the current percentage of search driven traffic across the web indicates sites are becoming better optimised in general.  

Hitwise UK's Research Director, Robin Goad, said, 'You can't assume that just because you're a big brand you're going to appear high in search results. The increase in search-driven traffic offers a big opportunity for smaller brands if they optimise their campaigns effectively.'

Goad added that the figure is representative of a growing trend for using a search engine to navigate the web rather than typing in a website address.

The most popular subjects searched for were TV (14% of all searches), games (14%), travel (10%), sport (7%), finance (7%) and gambling (5%).

Google launches Street View amid privacy outcry

Google hit the national headlines in March when it launched its controversial Street View mapping service in the UK. Street View allows users to navigate 360-degree views of 25 major British cities from Southampton to Aberdeen simply by entering the relevant postcodes.

The search engine giant spent nearly a year capturing the 3D video imagery via a fleet of specially modified cars.

Some UK organisations, such as Find A Property, have welcomed the opportunity to partner with Google, even going so far as to integrate the maps into their own service.

However, Street View has attracted criticism in some quarters, with lobby group, Privacy International, calling for the application to be shut down while the Information Commissioner investigates the service. Privacy International says it can cite more than 200 cases of members of the public who can be identified in the street views.

However Google claims 99.9% of faces and number plates are blurred by its automated technology and point to their easy-to-use removals process for images people find inappropriate - simply click the 'report a concern' button.

Street View launched in the US in May 2007 and is already available in France, Spain, Italy, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

British search engine to take on Google

British physicist, Stephen Wolfram, is expected to launch a new search engine in May this year. Wolfram Alpha will be the first search engine of its kind, acting as what its inventor calls a 'computational knowledge engine' for the web.

The search engine will be able to compute real-world answers to factual questions from its users. Unlike Google, Wolfram Alpha won't simply return the most relevant web pages in which the answers are hopefully contained.

Instead, Wolfram has created a proprietary system that understands questions that users input and then calculates the answers based on its extensive mathematical and scientific engine.

Many details about Wolfram Alpha are yet to be released. However, search engine expert, Nova Spivack, who enjoyed a sneak preview, claims that the site works and could make a major impact on a similar scale to Google.

Wolfram says on his blog, 'I'm happy to say with a mixture of many clever algorithms and heuristics, lots of linguistic discovery and linguistic curation, and what probably amount to some serious theoretical breakthroughs, we're actually managing to make it work.'

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