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In my ongoing attempt to spread joy and goodwill throughout the search engine marketing community, today I offer Yahoo and MSN a priceless gift – free advice on how to destroy Google!
Let me first start with a caveat – I don’t hate Google and I don’t have any special love for Yahoo or Microsoft. I know a lot of folks at all three companies and I like almost all of them (there’s always going to be a few bad apples everywhere of course).
Every search engine marketer worth his salt, however, has to admit to a love/hate relationship with Google though. On the one hand, Google basically pays my salary. Without AdWords and without Googlemania, we search engine marketers wouldn’t be able to generate millions of dollars of revenue a year, and we wouldn’t be in as high a demand as we are today.
On the other hand, Google sometimes acts like a monopolistic ogre reminiscent of the Standard Oil Company. I’ve started jokingly suggesting that every new SEM contract I sign contain an “Act of Google” clause, basically stating that the contract is null and void if Google makes some drastic change to their rules that makes it impossible to fulfill the contract as originally written.
So, the problem I have with Google is not the people, nor the product (hey, let’s face it, AdWords is so much easier to use that Overture (now Yahoo Search Marketing) or MSN), nor the business they drive my way. The problem is that any monopoly is always going to end up bad for business. I don’t want to be beholden to one big company for my livelihood. If Google one day arbitrarily decides that they don’t like my company or they are going to double their CPC prices, I want to be able to shake my head in disbelief and be able to replace Google with the same volume and quality from another source.
At this point, the most likely candidates for the role of Google-replacement are Yahoo and MSN. For that reason, I am giving these two companies my gift: a four step program (saving you eight steps over a classic 12 step program!) to making search engine marketing a three horse race. Due to the length of this post (and to add suspense), I have decided to break it into four parts. So, part one starts now!
Step 1: Beat AdSense
Google makes a huge amount of money from AdSense, the distributed ad network that shows up on this blog and thousands of Web sites across the Internet. AdSense has many flaws that Yahoo and MSN can attack. First, the revenue sharing structure is cloudy to say the least. Web publishers don’t know exactly how much they are getting compared to Google’s share. Second, Web publishers generally don’t complain much about this lack of transparency because there are really no good alternatives to AdSense in the first place.
Yahoo has recently launched the Yahoo Performance Network (YPN) as an alternative to AdSense. MSN should launch a similar service. Both companies should then do two things: 1) tell each Web publisher exactly how much their revenue share is; 2) make sure that the revenue share each publisher gets will always be more than what AdSense would have paid.
In fact, if I was Yahoo or MSN, I would look at these contextual networks (as they are called) as loss-leaders. Like WalMart selling plasma TVs for $500, the point of these networks – at least right now – is not to make a lot of money, but rather to take away a lot of money and business from Google.
Imagine the impact to Google bottom line and distribution network if Yahoo announced that they were giving all new publishers 100% of revenue from contextual advertising on YPN for the first 12 months, and that going forward each publisher would receive a report that details exactly how much revenue share they are receiving. Two things would likely happen. First, thousands of publishers would instantly switch from AdSense to YPN. Second, Google would be forced to up the ante as well and increase their payouts to publishers and provide more transparency.
If MSN also provided such a service (and an incentive to join), chaos would ensue at the AdSense building at Googleplex (Building 41?). And perhaps the biggest jolt would come to the Google stock when Google announced quarterly earnings a few months later.
Tomorrow: Part Two on Destroying Google