Letter From Australia

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I was in Sydney last month for the Search Engine Strategies conference, and in this article, I thought I'd share a few things that stood out in my mind as I listened to the various local speakers discuss search engine marketing. Not all of this is Australia-specific, so even if you don't target the region, give the rundown a quick skim. In particular, there's a mention of how Google AdWords may now be shown in the Premium Sponsorship area.

LOOKSMART AUSTRALIA announced at the conference having closed another deal for the distribution of its local paid listings, "LookListings," this time on ninemsn, the local MSN site in Australia. This, on top of previous deals with AOL, Yahoo Australia and other important search sites, gives LookSmart a paid listings reach in Australia comparable to the dominance that Overture enjoys in the United States.

While Overture built its paid listing base on the back of small and medium-sized businesses, LookSmart aims for the big budgets. You won't be getting into the top three listings distributed to other search engines for only $0.05 per click here. Instead, you'll be paying a minimum of about US $500 per month, with CPC prices ranging from $0.75 to $2.50, depending on industry segment.

LookSmart Australia LookListings

In contrast to LookSmart Australia, GOOGLE does allow those smaller businesses in Australia to get affordable paid listings through its Google AdWords program. A hands-up question from Google to the audience of one of the sessions at the conference showed that the vast majority of those in attendance were making use of Google AdWords.

While they may be using the program, the audience did have one big complaint: minimum bid amounts based on the US market. Several indicated they wanted to purchase terms that no one was bidding on, but that Google had set a price based on US traffic. With the Australian dollar fairly weak at the moment, audience members indicated that the US prices were too high. In response, Google indicated that "geopricing" might be rolled out for various countries in the future.

Google also announced that in situations where only one Premium Sponsorship has been sold for a key term -- those "text banners" that appear above regular results -- the first ad from the Google AdWords area rises up to fill the second Premium Sponsorship position. This has been happening for about a week or two now, Google said.

Google Adwords Select

ALTAVISTA had questions for the audience about the use of local sites. AltaVista was finding, through its questioning, that many people were going to AltaVista.com to conduct worldwide searches because they were afraid that the AltaVista Australia site was not going to give them complete coverage. In reality, when searching "the world" at any AltaVista international edition, one should get the same results as when searching at AltaVista.com.

Displeasure was also expressed over the use of redirections by AltaVista, forcing someone trying to reach AltaVista.com to go first through AltaVista Australia. The company said it would examine the issue and see if there was a better way to alert users to the local site while not irritating them.

AltaVista Australia

GOOGLE has its own issue in having a local Australia site. The company is trying to obtain through legal channels the google.com.au domain name, which is owned by someone else. This is why it hasn't yet launched a Google Australia site, something the audience said it definitely wants, for it would make narrowing searches to Australia information easier.

The .com.au domain is the equivalent .com in the US -- many in Australia will guess that a company web site would be found at companyname.com.au, for example. Given this, the audience did agree that Google should try to get the domain name, but they also indicated that launching the site with any domain name would still at least meet demand.

The audience also had questions for search engines, as to whether they find a difference in searches conducted at their "world" versus "local" Australia site. Not really, came back the answer. People search for the same things. However, audience members themselves did seem to indicate that including geographical terms in their pages or paid listings was important to help capture local users, as they tend to add such locations in order to help eliminate non-Australian material. For example, "web hosting Australia" or "buying new homes in sydney" illustrate how users might add such terms.

Returning back to LOOKSMART, the company also said that since April, it has been showing LookSmart Australia paid listings not just on Yahoo Australia but also on Yahoo.com, to those reaching Yahoo.com from Australia. This is a hugely significant move for Yahoo. To my knowledge, it's the first time anything other than Overture ads have been shown on Yahoo.com.

Remember, the Overture deal is only for the Yahoo.com site as viewed by those in the United States and Canada. People beyond these countries still come to Yahoo.com, rather than their local sites, in droves.

Until recently, I would have expected Yahoo.com to soon display paid listings from Espotting to its European visitors, since Espotting powers Yahoo's paid listings in Europe. However, Overture's recently won a big client away from Espotting. Now it appears to be putting pressure on Yahoo. Recently, Yahoo.com has begun showing Overture UK ads to those from the UK accessing the site. Overture won't confirm that a deal has been arranged -- so it could be a test, or the press releases may simply not have been written yet.

The article below has more information on Overture ousting Espotting from Lycos Europe. UK listings from Overture will begin next quarter, then Germany and France come online after the new year. Espotting had promised Lycos Europe $9.2 million over the three years that its original agreement, started last year, was to run. Overture won't say how much it is promising, but to win the deal, no doubt major truckloads of cash were dumped on Lycos Europe.

Overture Signs Lycos Europe
SiliconValley.internet.com, June 11, 2002

Also keep a close eye on Google. With the ability to target paid listings to any country, Google can not only offer any local Yahoo site the ability to carry paid results, but it can power those for visitors coming from different countries to Yahoo.com.

Sadly, I can only report on interesting items that I heard of out of the sessions that I moderated. However, if I see more coverage, I'll run an article in a future newsletter. There is a thread at Search Engine Forums that developed when the conference first was announced that I found, and an initial post-conference comment from the forum moderator is now online. Perhaps more comments on other sessions will be posted there.

Australian SE Strategies Conference

In addition, I'd recommend reading The SearchLight by Kalena Jordan, one of the speakers at the conference and a close watcher of all things search in Australia.

The Search Light

A longer, more detailed version of this article is
available to Search Engine Watch members.
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