As Google & Yahoo! tighten their grip on business services, can Microsoft withstand the pressure?.
Google vs Microsoft vs Yahoo! The $billion brawl for your business.
We put the big three companies in the search space head-to-head, and reveal the best tactics for using search and related services to your advantage. As Google & Yahoo! tighten their grip on business services, can Microsoft withstand the pressure?
Why does search matter to your business?
Search engines have a massive influence over how internet content, services and applications are found, used and shaped. They’re designed to deliver the most relevant content, based on the words you give them. In other words, what you put in will have a serious impact on what you get out.
Now here’s the challenge: if you want to attract people to your business online, you need to understand that most people only use the online search on a very basic level. They enter the words that are top-of-mind when they’re trying to find something.
So you need insight into how your potential customers, suppliers and partners think, to help them find you and then think of you positively when they do. If you want to step up a level, it’s worth testing the latest related offerings from companies in the search space, including plenty of useful content, services and tools that can give you a competitive edge.
We invited the top three companies operating in search in Australia to pitch their wares for small to medium businesses… and while we had them in that happy place, we hit them up for advice on how you can exploit their offerings to your advantage.
The Big Three of Search in Australia
Carl Sjogreen, Product Manager, Google Australia
Willie Pang, Head of Yahoo! Search Marketing, Australia and New Zealand
Harvey Sanchez, Online Services Strategy Manager, Microsoft Australia and Alex Parsons, Head of Search, Ninemsn
ROUND 1: What can the big players in search do for us?
Nett: Right now, what are your most popular search offerings in Australia, and how can small businesses benefit?
Google: AdWords (a pay per click advertising solution) is a system tailored to small businesses and niche suppliers, as it allows you to be introduced to consumers at the very moment they are looking for information. Businesses in Australia also get a free listing on Google Maps, which is part of our Universal Search.
Yahoo!: We recently launched a sponsored search platform codenamed Panama. Within minutes, a business ad can be online and generating sales leads. Local search helps small businesses with small budgets target customers in a specific state, city or suburb.
Microsoft: We’ve made improvements recently to the relevancy and indexing of the Microsoft Live search engine. On Ninemsn, we have mylocal.com.au and our shopping site, which has more than two million listings via Yellow. Advertising campaigns can be purchased through Sensis.
Nett: As small business owners, we’re a jack of being outbid on keywords by bigger companies. This has been a criticism of Google’s market-dominating AdWords in particular, though it’s relevant for all of you…
Google: We really believe in targeted advertising. If you can provide a targeted message and buy a targeted keyword, or combination of keywords, that are really appropriate to the product or service you’re offering, not only does it provide a better ROI (return on investment) for the business, but it is actually a very competitive price for small businesses.
The thing I’ve always found most appealing about Google’s model is that you only pay for what you get. You can spend $100 with us and see if that delivers results. And if that delivers results, then you can spend another $100. And if it doesn’t deliver results, all you’ve lost is $100. It’s an ideal advertising model for small businesses because it enables you to spend based on your budget and your goals, it’s not a long-term commitment.
Yahoo!: Our new ranking model is built to address that criticism by moving the focus off of just the amount of money you’re willing to bid on a keyword or how big your budget is, to focus on the quality of your search ads.
For example, what if you’re a furniture exporter based in a suburb outside the CBD and you have the hottest selling chair design in Australia? Right now what can happen is a major shopping aggregator such as eBay or Freedom or an Ikea can come in with their big media budget and buy all of the top spaces in the paid search listings. So you don’t appear, despite the fact that you have the best product.
But in the new ad-ranking model you may not need a large investment to appear at the top of the paid search listings because you have the hottest products. It’s far more consumer-driven on where you appear.
Nett: Okay, Yahoo! So what’s the actual influence of the person doing the search on deciding the quality of the rankings and ads? How do they come into play?
Yahoo!: The position will be determined by a combination of the base amount – you obviously can’t pay anything – and also what we call a quality sort, which is a combination of things such as click-through rate.
The new platform includes our Bid Tune-Up service, which helps small business advertisers optimise their results. It’s useful if you don’t understand what’s the best creative, or the best keyword because it shows you how you’re performing
on each one.
Say you’re a magazine publisher and have 100 keywords but 90% of your clicks are coming from 10% of your keywords. It will give you recommendations on how you should be
allocating your budget and how much you should be bidding on certain keywords, so there’s less wastage in the way you’re spending your money.
ROUND 2: Innovations
Nett: What’s the next big thing for you in Australia?
Google: Cloud computing: applications hosted online and accessible anywhere. Google Docs has word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, email, talk and other office tools. It is a free solution and is very attractive to small businesses. It’s based on the idea that, more and more, your documents, files, emails and other information are moving from an individual computer to something that’s stored remotely on a network. And the benefits that come with that are that it’s less expensive for you to maintain servers in your own business, and the information is now much more easily accessible. You can access it from any computer or any device, and it’s much easier to share with others.
Yahoo!: We’ve launched a new ranking model to determine the order in which search ads are displayed. In the past, search ads were ranked by bid price; the higher the bid, the higher an ad appeared. Now, the quality of both the bid and the ad together determine where an ad appears. This is great news for small businesses, which no longer have to worry about getting into bidding wars with the big players in their market who have bigger budgets.