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In response to my photo of London, a reader wrote: “Very odd photo! Where is that in London?”

That photo was actually taken at the Tate Gallery. There was an indoor exhibit called “The Weather Project” by Olafur Eliasson. If you’d like to learn more about it, the New York Times wrote an interesting article about it.

Concerning my post on eBay and paid search, Blogation’s favorite reader “Steve” wrote: “Where are the tools that allow small businesses to manage SEM operations across disparate platforms? If they are out there, seems like that would be a good post topic. If not, sounds like it’s time to start coding up some kinda Web 2.0 super-app.”

Very perceptive of you, Steve – there is clearly a need for tools to help the rank-and-file PPC ad buyers manage the ever-more complex search engine marketing world. So far, there have been some tools released that make life easier – for example KeywordMax, AtlasOnePoint, and PPCPro. Sadly, these tools seem to lack two core components: 1) they require that you implement tool-specific tracking URLs and site-level pixels (both of which can be a pain to do and will likely confuse neophyte SEMers, and 2) these tools focus mainly on bid management. Granted, bid management is important, but this is just one part of the overall SEM work-flow. Others, like keyword creation, importing and exporting of data, ad copy creation and testing, and landing page optimization, still really haven’t been integrated into one killer app. There is clearly a need here!

On behavioral targeting and paid search: “Even adding a behavioral component to the existing adsense targeting algo will have a huge impact. Just make adsense show text ads for the last performed search . The data is already there in the google cookies so implementing this is very easy.”

Interesting idea – showing AdSense based on the last performed search. It does seem like it could be a short-cut to behavioral targeting, since the user has told you exactly what he is looking for. The problem I see is that this could lead to an infinite feedback loop. I type in “mortgage rates” on Google, find a page that looks good, click on it, and instantly see ads for mortgage rates, which I click on, that takes me to another page, which also has ads for mortgage rates, which I click on . . . etc, etc. At some point, a user is going to get really frustrated as he sees the same ads again and again. He may just switch to another search engine to avoid them! Nonetheless, perhaps there is some sort of hybrid solution that combines the prior search with the content of the actual page the user landed on. Seems like that could work well.

On SEMers getting respect from society: “In the era of opensource anything that promotes elitism is the enemy. Taking the internet and funneling all the knowledge, talent and information through 3 major portals is the antithesis of the spirit of the internet. The attitude displayed here is only to reveling of the worldview smugness of those organizations staffers. I suspect that if you could survey the true internet entrepreneurs SEM would have even lower numbers than societal dreg lawyers.”

Well, I guess you have to define “true Internet entrepreneurs.” If you mean the people that started non-commercial Web sites in 1992, simply because they thought the Internet was cool and new technology, and that it was a way to provide information to the masses without having to go through traditional, corporate media channels, then I agree with you; I’m sure these early pioneers were dismayed to see the rise of commercial sites, Yahoo being the first of these. But, if you mean entrepreneurs who see the Internet as a way to create a viable business outside of the offline corporate world, where a 20 year college kid or a work-at-home Mom can make a great living coming up with an innovative business, then I definitely disagree with you. If anything, SEM has made the Internet far more accessible to boot-strap entrepreneurs. The AdSense phenomenon enables content-writers to make a living simply writing about what they love. And AdWords and Overture (YSM) create a democratic marketplace where a small business has the same chance of showing up in front a consumer as the biggest business in the world.

On the Google click fraud settlement: “My general feeling is that CPC is a poor business model. It surprises me that as smart as the Google engineers are, they did not realize the potential for click fraud early out and take steps to at least limit advertisers’ exposure to it before rolling out their CPC services.”

In Google’s defense, I think they have taken a lot of steps to try to limit click fraud. But any new business model is subject to people who will try to figure out how to game the system. The Google natural search algorithm (Page Rank) was a great model and it worked really well initially, until people realized that simply by linking thousands of sites together they could push one Web site to the top of the rankings. So Google changed their algorithm, which worked for awhile, until SEO experts found a way to manipulate the new algorithm. Basically, whether from a paid search or organic search perspective, Google is engaged in a continual arms race – a cat and mouse game where Google tries desperately to stay ahead of the latest scams.

And finally this “comment”: “Time for an Advolution? Advertisers may wish to consider moving some of their ad budget to Advolution (“the benefits of pay-per-click, but without the actual pay-per-click” – and thus no click fraud)”

Well, normally I don’t respond to comment spam, but I thought this one was interesting. The concept behind this company is that you pay for placement on a search engine query, regardless of the number of clicks you actually get. So if I bid $5 for “mortgage rates” and you bid $3, I show up #1 and you show up #2. Even if I get 1000 clicks, I still pay $5. I guess this is an interesting idea, though I’m not sure you are going to make a business out of it. After all, it’s really just a pricing model – if Google or Yahoo wants to try this out, they’ll just do it – I don’t think you can patent what is essentially a bid-for-placement model (and I’m pretty sure it’s been done on other sites anyway). Congrats on some free publicity for your site!