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  Google Q4 2006 Earnings Call

Very, very solid numbers from Google.

Google's Numbers for the Quarter

Google's quarter looks good numerically, especially compared to Yahoo and MSFT

Revenue breakout:

Germany, France were strong. UK declined modestly as percent $469M - similar softness in travel & finance as was last year. Happy with growth pretty much world wide (no mention of Africa, though.)

TAC costs : declined slightly to 30.7% from Q3, but may increase with audio & video ads

$1.2B non-gaap operating profit, non-gaap operating margins 37% down from 38% in Q3.

CAPEX - "A favorite topic" - $367M for Q4, $1.9B for 2006 - mostly spent on IT infrastructure, datacenters, servers, networking equipment. Expect to make significant investments in 2007.

Operating Cash Flow (OCF) was $911M, Free Cash Flow (FCF) was $544M.

The Conference Call

A rather boring call (transcript here), really. Here's a handy guide to interpreting Eric Schmidt's prepared remarks: Eric likes to say "very, very good" when he means "good".

Eric Schmidt Says:Really He Means:
GoodNot so hot.
Very goodOK
Very, very goodGood
Very, very, very goodPretty good.

Most of the stuff this quarter fell into the Very, very good category. An example of very, very good was mobile search. YouTube was very, very pleasing. Merely good to very good was Google Checkout, although it's still early on that.

The prepared statements were bland. Mostly they are happy with the growth and dominance of their industry. Yahoo and Microsoft seem very, very, very far from their minds right now.

Eric: "Gaining share in almost every country"
Eric: What is the key to our success? "I think it's search"
Eric: "Showing fewer ads per search, much better quality, much higher monetization"
Sergey: Sees Google as: "Complete sales and marketing platform for all advertisers"

Jonathan Rosenberg brought up some interesting points in response to the first question about the revenue growth in paid clicks (22%) vs gross revenue growth (19%). Comparisons are hard, due to growth in clicks from international, which is less profitable than clicks in mature markets.

Did you notice that comment about MySpace? Social network clicks are obviously less profitable than search clicks, and Google is increasing their presence on social networks.

The Google Checkout promotion costs also counted against revenue from the search site, which dragged the gross down.

Another suprising point was Eric saying that mobile ads have better monetization per ad.

Eric: It's clear 2007 will be the year that mobile search query traffic. Advertising RPS is gonna be higher on mobile. Not material today. Still emerging. They are making significant investment around mobile.

The analysts had a lot of questions about YouTube. They were mostly deflected and ignored. However, one of the odd things was how Eric believes that content owners should submit their copyrighted works to Google, mainly because Google "knows who their fans are".

Odd, because, Google's basically saying: give us your content, your copyrighted properties, and we'll tell you how many people watched it. I'm not sure why large content producers would do that, but if Google can monetize it in new ways, and return more money back to the producers than other channels, I guess they will...

Most of the analysts don't ask good questions, and Eric moderates nicely, waving his hand and brushing them off. Here are a couple examples from my notes:

Q: Did YouTube cut deals before you bought them, how are those accounted for? What about the $50m in total amount for the payoff.
Eric: Not gonna comment. Deals were accounted for in acquisition. YouTube doing a bunch of interesting deals. Next question.

Q: Asia performance questions. % of mix? YouTube vs Google video? Is Youtube the brand in video?
A: We won't break Asia share out. Pay attention dammit! They want to keep the Youtube brand. Taking time to do integration to preserve value for both (YouTube and Google Video). Probably keep both brands as long as Larry's in charge.

Google Still Has Big Advertisers to Conquer

One interesting observation about Google's ability to keep growing came to mind as Omid Kordestani emphasized that "Google has 20% of the TOP 500 advertisers" in their display business. That means there is lebensraum for Google to grow.

In other words, the area that Yahoo is strongest in - brand advertising and big advertisers, is Google's weakest area. Eventually, Google will get serious about that. They seem to think they are already, but clearly it will really come together when all the initiatives across all channels (radio, tv, print, internet, search) start to work together.

In summary, Eric's closing remarks:

We are very, very, very pleased with what's going on with Google.

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  Eric Schmidt v. My Dad

This old WSJ article detailing the legal fight between Google and the interior designer for their Boeing 767 has a funny quote from Eric Schmidt, as he mediates a fight between Sergey and Larry over whether they can have Cal-King beds in their suites on the plane.

Mr. Schmidt stepped in to resolve that by saying, "Sergey, you can have whatever bed you want in your room; Larry, you can have whatever kind of bed you want in your bedroom. Let's move on."

This rang familiar, cause whenever my brother and I would get into a fight in front of my dad, he'd say something like this:

OK, you two! Get outta here! Go into John's room if you want to fight. Fight away. Whoever kills the other one first can come out and tell me about it.

Now we see why Eric Schmidt makes the big bucks.

And with that, onto the earnings call...

  Yahoo Panama Branding
My contest to re-brand Yahoo Panama is still going on (vote here). I'll announce the winner next week.

If you doubt the need to rename Yahoo's ad system, take a look at this:

Thru Nov, 2006 after some of initial ballyhoo around the Panama launch, the odd construction: "Yahoo Overture" was out-trending the more normal sounding: "Yahoo Panama".

And Google AdWords dominates them both...

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  Setting SubIDs in Yahoo Panama Destination URLs

In Yahoo's new Panama ad system there is no easy way to include the keyword in the destination URL. You'd usually want to do this if you are sending a click through an affiliate network (like AzoogleAds or Commission Junction), so you can see the keywords that converted.


In Google AdWords, and MSN adCenter, you can use the keyword substitution macros when you set up your ad. You set your destination URL to look like this:

Google AdWords:{keyword:defaultKW}


AdWords and AdCenter will then insert the text the user typed that matched the keyword you specified, replacing the stuff in braces with the keyword.

Yahoo: Although Yahoo has keyword substitution, Yahoo's Panama system won't let you use it in the DestinationURL. However, you can achieve the same effect for tracking at the keyword level.

  1. Click on the Campaigns tab and select the Campaign you want to edit.
  2. Select the Ad Group containing the keywords that you want to set up destination urls for.
  3. On the list of keywords you can enter a url. Click on each keyword individually and select the edit "Custom URL". You get a little popup.
  4. Put your Destination URL in, like this:

In technical terms, this is a big, time-consuming Pain in The Ass (PITA). And as Panama has no API, there's no way to automate it through the API. But it may be worth if for certain campaigns.

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  Semel announces: Vista Shipping Early!

Today's the big day, and as part of their $500M ad campaign, Microsoft enlisted Yahoo CEO Terry Semel to tell analysts that:

We've very proud of the tremendously heroic team of developers and executives that have been dedicated to building Longhorn for the past 8 years. I'm also happy to announce, that due to their incredible efforts, Microsoft is shipping Windows Vista TODAY - a full month early, ahead of schedule!

In after-market trading, MSFT stock appreciated by 7% on this surprising upside in the schedule.

Um... not.

  Advancing Google Metaverse Rumors

GigaOM has a post on the rumored Google Metaverse, adding some interesting info about a China development team:

For instance, our sources in China say that Google has teamed up with a Chinese company to develop the “virtual people” or avatars, while an internal team develops the virtual world internally.

I've been big on the idea that Google will build or buy a Second-Life type virtual world, making that one of my predictions for 2007.

This China connection is interesting - because one of Google's more famous developers / bloggers happens to go to China regularly, and it's publicly known (though she's cleaned it out of her resume) that her current project is something in the social application space.


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  Brin & Page: Wishy-washy in Davos

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin admit ambivalence about their decision to cooperate with China in this Guardian report from Davos. Not that they plan to do anything about it, though.

Google's decision to censor its search engine in China was bad for the company, its founders admitted yesterday.

Asked whether he regretted the decision, Mr Brin admitted yesterday: "On a business level, that decision to censor... was a net negative."

They then proceed to hedge on whether any changes would be made with respect to China.

From what was said yesterday a policy change seemed unlikely in the near future. Co-founder Larry Page said: "We always consider what to do. But I don't think we as a company should be making decisions based on too much perception.

And then there's this odd comparison to Microsoft.

Since moving into China, Google has been compared to Microsoft because of its dominant position and power. "We are very sensitive to people talking about us in that way," said Mr Brin. Mr Page described the differences between the two technology companies by saying "we have very open partnerships, we are very clear about being fair with revenues."

Google is more "fair with revenues" than Microsoft!?! Where did THAT come from?

The rest of the article contains a touch of guilt over their private jet (a Boeing 767, no less)

"I was concerned about my private jet travel and whatnot ... I wanted to offset it so I did."

Mr Brin said yesterday that he would feel a "bit better about it" by doing something "more specific" but declined to outline what that might be.

This is really the first article I've come across where Larry and Sergey come across as sensitive limosine liberals.

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  Microsoft Live Branding - So Bad It Hurts

In a "dog bites man" story, and continuing my theme of dumping on Microsoft as of late, CNet reports on Microsoft's Live branding, rounding up a bunch of comments from analysts and some data from the recent quarter. The obvious upshot: the Live brand is going nowhere and hurting Microsoft in the search battle.

"Microsoft's Live branding has been tremendously confusing and has hurt the company, and it is very likely contributing to the situation they are in right now," said David Smith, an analyst at Gartner. "They've created another brand and have not differentiated it."

As I wrote last month, new MSN honcho Steve Berkowitz is not enamoured of the "Live" name, and I'd predict that the branding is not gonna stick past this year.

Another aspect that could be contributing to Microsoft's share decline is the different look and feel of Microsoft Live. The slate blue color scheme and non-Googly layout - what I call the "Neptune Morose" skin, might not be as cool as people think.

My sense is that the brand, the look and feel, and the lower relevancy are all hurting Microsoft's search efforts. Once you add in the biggest off-screen factor - Microsoft's inability to get any serious inventory deals done, you've got a real miserable failure on your hands.


  Woeful Q4 For Microsoft

Not that you'd know reading the Microsoft earnings release, but MSFT had a weak quarter, posting it's lowest growth Q4 in ten years (according to GigaOM).

Profit in Q4 declined to $2.6B from $3.6B in Q4 2005.

MSFT was quick to blame Vista slippage, and point to deferral of $1.6B(!) in revenue as the reason for the weak quarter. Be that as it may, Microsoft has a few key structural issues - namely their businesses besides Windows, Servers and Office:

Those are supposed to be the growth areas. At least in the conf calls, they do realize their complete and utter failure up to this point in search.

"On the search side you are correct we lost market share," Microsoft CFO Chris Liddell said in response to an analyst's question on the company's earnings conference call. He said he is "clearly not happy with that."

Not only is search share declining, but revenue per search (RPS) has GONE DOWN from what they used to get with Overture! In other words, their launch of adCenter has resulted in WORSE RPS than Yahoo's old Overture system. That's bad, especially since Yahoo has moved on to Panama, and expects improvements in RPS this year.

Microsoft's plight makes Yahoo look like Google in comparison...

Despite all the talk about "long-term investment", Microsoft has lost in search. They will never catch up. Google understood this phenomenon with YouTube, realizing they had to buy it, because Google Video would never be able to catch it with traffic growth. Search may not be as social or viral as YouTube, but it is self-reinforcing enough that with a 10% to 60% share difference Microsoft won't catch Google. BTW, search isn't over, but I am saying Microsoft has lost.

Seriously, if you ever want to be depressed about the nature of giant tech companies, just go read MiniMSFT and MSFTextrememakeover, both are insider blogs.

MiniMSFT covers the HR issues and management debacles, while MSFTextrememakeover is a bit more financial oriented - for example, you'll learn how Microsoft has lost around $5B on Xbox over the years..


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  Feedback on Panama

Yahoo's Panama ad system been talked about a lot lately, mostly by people (like Wall St. Analysts and Terry Semel) who've never used it.

I've been using it for a month, and from a usability standpoint it's not that great. Overall, I give it a C+. Considering the long gestation period, I thought it would have been better.

Google AdWords has refined its workflow and is very fast and easy. Plus I'm used to Google. I wish Yahoo had made Panama work EXACTLY like Google. They should have copied it more carefully.

Anyways, I sent a list of usability annoyances to Yahoo's feedback email address. Someday I'll write a detailed post on my experiences with Panama, but this punchlist gives you an idea of how Panama usability feels incomplete...

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  Yahoo Q4 2006 Earnings

Yahoo announced earnings for Q4 2006 today. It was a mixed bag. Lackluster traffic growth of 15% in an otherwise strong environment is a bad sign, and Yahoo also lowered 2007 expectations.

Disappointing things:

Nice things:

However, net profit was $269M vs $683M for Q4 2005. Sue Decker explained Panama will drag on earnings until second half 2007. Their outlook incorporates expectation of "double digit" growth gains in Revenue per search (RPS).

Financial services were strong during the quarter despite Semel's warning in October that there would be weakness in Financial Services and Autos. Basically Semel had lowered the bar, and jumped over it.

In her CFO mode, Sue Decker constantly refers to "O and O" properties, "O n O" revenue. That means Yahoo "owned and operated" sites. They see that business growing 20%, but once affiliate sites are included, that growth nets down to 14%. That's kinda disappointing, especially since Yahoo's traffic acquisition costs (TAC) is going up (while Google's TAC cost has been going down a lot).

Semel monologued a bit at the end of the conf call Q&A, asking himself:

Q: Why did your re-org the company?

Translation: Everything in that Wired Article - "How Yahoo Blew It" was pretty accurate...

Search Marketing Tidbits Gleaned From Q4 Conf Call

ComScore Playing Catch-up

Traffic growth was disappointing, but comScore numbers make it look better. From the CNN earnings article:

"And according to figures from Nielsen//NetRatings that were released Tuesday, Yahoo's search engine volume in December increased 30 percent from a year ago, a faster growth rate than Google, which posted a 22.6 percent increase."

Sue Decker said comScore's estimates were low a year ago, and have caught up this year. So comScores usage growth numbers look better than Yahoo's internals.

New Ranking Algorithm Coming

Yahoo announced that on Feb 5 there will be a new search ranking model in Panama. This probably means that clicks will get more expensive at that time, or at least be more fairly priced. (TRANSLATION: there are some cheap clicks out there right now, and they are mixing old / new system ads with lower efficiency).

Emphasis on Improving Network Quality

Components to quality improvement :

There was a clear focus on affiliates as a problem point on network quality. Obviously this includes all the ad arbitrage sites in the Yahoo Network which have an Overture ad feed. Sue Decker sounds like she's coming after those. We'll see how real that is...

Kedrosky points to a WSJ article detailing the painful road to Panama - and reporter Kevin Delaney basically pans Panama...

Later in the week, I'll post on my experiences with Panama. It's also a mixed bag.

UPDATE: Looking at Techmeme, the meme on the Yahoo announcement seems to be that the Panama rollout is happening faster that planned - and that's a good thing.

I find this interpretation quite odd, considering that Yahoo has been pointing to the Panama rollout since Q4 2005, even holding a special analyst day on May 17 2006 to talk about Panama to reporters. Beyond all this, Panama is 2 YEARS LATE!. So it's impressive if Yahoo can spin this rollout as happening earlier than expected.

I thought Sue Decker was pretty clear on this point when she:

At least Henry Blodget noticed the real news of the announcement: Turtle-like revenue growth... Sigh.

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  How to Apply a GMail Filter to Multiple Email Addresses

I use GMail filters to keep all the emails I get from Yahoo's ad system in one place.

To make a filter in GMail that handles more than one address, you can separate the addresses with a vertical bar - '|', but not a comma. |

Or you can follow GMail's help advice, and put them all in parenthesis, with an OR between addresses.

( OR

The OR technique doesn't seem to work without the parens, while the vertical bar does...

  Separated at Birth? - pt. II

Tom Waits

Aaron Wall


  Help Choose a New Name for Yahoo Panama

Yahoo needs our help. The world knows that their code name for their new ad system was Panama. However, Yahoo seems to obstinately cling to "Yahoo! Search Marketing" or "Yahoo! Marketing Solutions" as the name for their version of Google AdWords.

That's just crappy branding, and I'm sick of it - do you know how annoying it is to get email everyday from "Yahoo! Search Marketing"? Or to have to typein: several times a day?

So last week, I announced a contest to rename Panama. People commented and sent in some ideas for a new brand for Yahoo. So now, we refine. Here's a poll on the suggested names. Please vote.

Also, feel free to suggest a better name if you can come up with one.

After the results are in, the winner of the contest will get a $100 Amazon gift certificate. I'll use the poll winner and input from a panel of non-experts to choose the winner...

  Google's Data Center Expansion

Bob Cringely is on fire again, with true punditry - and I mean that in a good way. His speculative article on Google's new datacenters is fantastic to read and think about. Basically, Cringley reminds us that Google leases a ton of fiber rights, and predicts that they will use it to subsume ISPs, build a giant parallel internet with datacetners in every state in order to provide video delivery bandwidth for everyone in the US.

However, in this case, I side more with Greg Linden's view: Cringely's speculation that Google wants to build a separate internet is just not "Googly". Instead, Greg writes:

"Trying to build a world of infinite storage, bandwidth, and CPU power, that is Googly."

Greg had an earlier post about how many servers Google has, and I commented on how hard it is to bring say, 50,000 new servers a year online. Suffice to say, Google's appetite for servers is large and growing.

Whatever Google may be planning to do, it doesn't have to be a lot more than what they are doing today for them to need to build 2 or 3 major new datacenters per year.

Google's query growth is easily over 40% per year, Google's revenue growth was over 70% last year, and the number of people working at Google grew about 100% from 5600 to something like 11,000. As the Google 2005 annual report put it: "Huge Growth and We're Still Behind"

In other words, the major reason Google is building these new datacenters is simply that they need the computers.

Having said that, if one waits long enough, the Cringely prognostication will probably come true.

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  Google Gmail - XSS Fixes

Om Malik wonders if people are seeing Gmail outages. Yes is the answer.

The reason is that Google is feverishly working to patch Cross-site scripting(XSS) security problems - as reported by Philipp and Jeremiah Grossman.

People have no idea how insecure browser based apps currently are. Read this XSS / CSRF FAQ to start. I predict 2007 will see a massive increase in XSS security problems and awareness.

Simple rule in the meantime: Don't store anything really important on the internet. Seriously.

Update: I feel a little silly about that last piece of advice, since the internet is so intrinsic to business these days.

The CSRF threat is that someone could get a hold of Javascript data while your browser is logged into an app like Google GMail, or AdWords.

It struck me that Google AdWords, MSN AdCenter and Yahoo's Panama probably have a ton of interesting stuff sitting in Javascript data structures. That data was / is probably vulnerable as well. It's probably just a matter of time until someone exploits one of those.


  LowerMyBills in the NYT

Here's what you get for spending hundreds of millions of dollars on banner ads: an NYT article about your wacky, yet effective creatives.

I happen to like LowerMyBills' ads because I know how damned well they must work! And it's never easy to come up with the next concept - like, how about a rattlesnake protecting 53 eggs that direct you to the best mortgage rate for your state?

  Yahoo's Response to Blowing It

Yahoo's corporate communications team quickly responded to the Wired article detailing "How Yahoo Blew It."

The response pretty much validates all of your worst suspicions about the executive mentality at Yahoo.

"But what about Panama?" you ask. Sure, our timeline for Project Panama took longer than we had anticipated, but it's live now and we're very excited about it and the early feedback we're receiving. Most people outside of Yahoo! aren't aware of the tremendous - in fact, heroic - effort that has taken place in our search advertising business over the past 18 months. Engineers and technologists from throughout Yahoo! aligned to build the colossal "brain" that powers our new platform and will allow us to innovate in search marketing more rapidly than ever before.

That response is one of the saddest, most pathetic things I've ever heard from a company. It worries me that they are rationalizing the whole thing so much. "Sure it was 2 years late, and cost us well over $2B in lost revenue, while our stock languished, but it was really hard, and we were trying so tremendously heroically all the time... blah, blah, blah."

BTW, The Wired article went for the kill on Semel by claiming that he never really could grasp technology. Wouldn't having your press flack use the term colossal "brain" to describe your ad market software kinda reinforce that view?

Besides, I use Panama everyday, and it ain't all that. It's simply not as good as Adwords. And no UI will make up for the inventory advantage that Google has. Panama certainly doesn't put Yahoo at parity with Google in the ad battle.

In fact, if you refer back to Semel's earnings calls, you can find this angry denial / rationalization trend emanating from top execs at Yahoo. I think they really are smoking their own stash over there.

Negative press notwithstanding, Yahoo! remains a leading force on the Internet. We continue to grow at a pace (20% from Q3'05 to Q3'06!) that far exceeds that of many leading Internet and blue-chip brands.

When your corp. comm team is whinging about "negative press", something is very wrong.

This whole cocoon mentality is all very hollywood / political, and I continue to blame it on Semel!


  Top 10 Signs it's REALLY Time to Quit Your Job

I found a couple of articles on some social network about "Top 10 Signs You Should Quit Your Job." The reasons listed were complex and obtuse ("You are pushed into an unappealing position"), and sounded like they were written by HR consultants.

In my view, there's Two Simple Signs: You aren't learning anything and you don't love what you do. Those are key. Life's too short to waste it any other way.

To expand on those, here's my top 10 signs it's time to quit your job. I think these are simple tests and much more practical.

  1. You aren't learning anything.
  2. You don't love what you do.
  3. You spend more than 50% of your time bitching about your job.
  4. You are "Vesting in Peace", and just staying for the money.
  5. You work for bad people.
  6. You want to start your own company.
  7. You get crappy reviews and meager raises every year.
  8. You don't really need to work, but inertia keeps you there.
  9. You clock watch - can't wait for the day to end.
  10. Your job keeps away you from your kids / wife too much.

Any of those sound familiar? Now's a great time to quit.

  Wired: How Yahoo Blew It.

Wired magazine at its best - describing Yahoo's failure in competing against Google. Fred Vogelstein goes through the history, and gets in some hard hits against Terry Semel.

It starts by re-telling how Yahoo had a chance to buy Google back in 2002, but couldn't afford it:

Terry Semel -- a legendary Hollywood dealmaker, a guy who didn't even use email -- had not come to Silicon Valley to meekly merge with the geeky boys of Google. He had come to turn Yahoo into the next great media giant. Which might explain why the face of the famously serene CEO was slowly turning the color of Yahoo's purple logo, exclamation point included. "Five billion dollars, 7 billion, 10 billion. I don't know what they're really worth -- and you don't either," he told his staff. "There's no fucking way we're going to do this!"

Instead, they decided to buy Inktomi and Overture. Which was a great reaction, but Overture came with a lot of baggage. The climax of the story deals with Yahoo's inability to decide just how to integrate Overture - whether to keep it as a standalone division, or try to pull it into Yahoo's engineering culture.

Yahoo executives tried to have it both ways. They attempted to placate Microsoft by maintaining Overture as a stand-alone brand. At the same time, they planned an overhaul of Overture's technology, a project code-named Panama. It was a disaster. With no clear delineations, Yahoo and Overture executives fought over turf. Yahoo hired and fired a half-dozen engineering chiefs at Overture during the first year. Overture salespeople competed for business with Yahoo salespeople. And Meisel, Overture's CEO, was ineffective -- either inept or hamstrung by bureaucracy, depending on whom you ask. Decisions big and small, from trying out new features to agreeing on budgets, had to be cleared by committee after committee in Sunnyvale. "It was a clusterfuck," one of the participants says.

The denouement is a damning indictment of Semel, saying he might know how to do Hollywood deals, but he never understood technology and the Silicon Valley culture.

But the challenges of integrating two giant computer systems or redesigning a database or redoing a user interface? Many who have met with him at Yahoo say he still doesn't know the right questions to ask about technology. "Terry could never pound the table and say, 'This is where we need to go, guys,'" one former Yahoo executive says. "On those subjects, he always had to have someone next to him explaining why it was important."

All dead on. A must read for anyone who wants to understand the state of Yahoo today.


  Panama Naming Contest
A bunch of good entries so far for the Contest to Rename Yahoo! Panama. I'll keep the contest open for entries until next Monday.

People seem to have a wry sense of humor about Yahoo! You can still add your own entries, and have a shot at winning a $100 Amazon Gift Certficate. Just add your ideas as comments here.

Here are some of the entries so far.

Keep 'em coming! Yahoo is desperately awaiting the results!

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  Contest: Let's Rename Panama!

I'm starting a contest to rename Panama - Yahoo's version of Google AdWords. The winner will get a $100 Amazon gift certificate.

Yahoo's new ad system was code-named Panama, and as Andrew Goodman points out, that's becoming the de-facto name people use for it.

The reason people use Panama is because it's far more memorable than Yahoo's other names. Basically, since Yahoo decided to eliminate the name "Overture", they've had essentially no branding whatsoever.

Instead Yahoo decided to use the equivalent of internal business unit names for their outbound marketing. Is "Search Marketing Solutions" a brand? I don't think so.

Here's what you have to do:

  1. Come up with a good brand name for Yahoo's ad system.
  2. Put it in the comments of this post with your name or url so you can be contacted if you win.

If I get some good entries, I'll put a poll up which everyone can vote on, and I'll use the poll result as guidance for choosing the winner for Yahoo's new branding. The first submitter will get the prize. And then I'll forward the best choices onto Yahoo.

I know you can do better than Yahoo! Marketing Solutions and Yahoo! Search Marketing

C'mon - the bar is really low, and Yahoo needs our help.

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  Allchin: Vista is a Pig
Nearly retired Microsoft honcho Jim Allchin's infamous "I'd buy a Mac" email shows he wasn't totally asleep. He impotently laments to BillG and SteveB about the exact same problems that all the rank & file 'Softies over on MiniMSFT bemoan: bureaucracy, lack of passion, gold-plating, etc.

Just in case the recent media hype about Windows Vista has confused you, back in 2004, Allchin wrote: "LH is a pig". LH stands for Longhorn. Longhorn was the codename for Windows Vista. Ergo, Windows Vista was a pig back in 2004. And it still is - despite Allchin's attempt at revisionism.

Here's what Allchin - ostensibly in charge of Vista - wrote during it's development:

I think our teams lost sight of what bug-free means, what resilience means, what full scenarios mean, what security means, what performance means, how important current applications are, and really understanding what the most important problems [our] customers face are. I see lots of random features...

Just remember that when you go to upgrade. The guy in charge thought it was crap.


  Separated at Birth?

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Robert Scoble


  How to Tell if You Are a Apple Fanboi
"Apple Fanboi" is usually a derogative term for someone who constantly derides Microsoft and lauds Apple. However, since Microsoft pretty much sucks on every front these days, and Apple is kicking ass, I'm ignoring the perjorative sense of Fanboi.

Are you an Apple Fanboi? Do you bathe in the glow of the Jobsian Reality Distortion Field (RDF)? Here's how to tell:

  1. You own at least 3 iPods (i.e. Shuffle, Nano, 60GB Video), 3 or more Macs, and a 30" Cinema Display.
  2. You know who Hodgman and Long are. Also Ellen Feiss.
  3. You kinda look or dress like Justin.
  4. You've attended MacWorld at least once.
  5. You've taken a few laps around Infinite Loop, just for the experience.
  6. You know what order these go in: Jaguar, Cheetah, Tiger, Puma, Leopard, Panther
  7. You chuckle when you hear the name "Carl Sagan"
  8. You recognized Jonathan Ive's real phone number on the screen at the iPhone launch
  9. You tend to type Micro$oft, Microshaft or Microshit instead of, well, you know.
  10. You have a special fondness for Georgia, genuine Helvetica and Garamond...
  11. You can tell which apps are Carbonized, which are written in Cocoa and what runs under Rosetta.
  12. You're gonna buy an iPhone the day it comes out, even if you have to switch to Cingular.

If you answered Yes to any of those, well, you're pretty much there.

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  iPhone accelerates Mobile Trend #1
Steve Jobs elicited audible gasps, as per usual, in his introduction of the iPhone.

The sexiest parts of the phone, once you step outta the Jobsian RDF are:

The part I love best: it's a phone running on FreeBSD!

The downsides are the cost $500 + contract and the Cingular EDGE network being generally too slow for web browsing.

The phone is gonna be a hit, and apparently, chicks dig it already. But before Apple ships it in June, a ton of people are going to buy phones that have pretty much the same functionality.

My Nokia N73 already does all the web browsing, photo-uploading and MP3 playing the iPhone will do, but when those consumer features are married to a keyboard phone - like a Motorola Q, you have a recipe for mass consumer adoption.

The iPhone hype is only going to accelerate the most important trend of 2007. Phones with keyboards are going to proliferate like mad, now that they've entered consumer consciousness.

Get a keyboard phone now! And start developing.

  Top Marketing Lessons from 2006
Marketing Sherpa has a great giveaway - a "wisdom report" of online marketing tips and best practices culled from the best submissions by their users.

Inside the report are over 50 pages, and 110 tips.

Here's a quick summary of the top ideas. Get the PDF for all the details and stories that back up these points.

  1. Re-send the same email blasts, after a week to people who didn't open the original.
  2. Positive news in email converts much better than negative news.
  3. Have a blog, and participate on other blogs.
  4. Give customers a forum to voice opinions / complaints, and respond to them.
  5. PPC ads that go directly to a product page convert better than ads that go to a homepage or a catalog page.
  6. Press releases can be great link attractors.
  7. Small tweaks to landing pages can generate big returns. Test your own site.
  8. In-site Pop-up ads and signups still work really well.
  9. Short URLs work better in direct response.
  10. Your brand and brand story really matter.

  What Happens When You're Not a Startup Anymore
The first time I ever walked into Google, I thought to myself - these kids are lucky they'll never have to work anywhere else, because they won't be able to deal with real jobs.

Philipp at Google Blogoscoped points to a San Francisco Chronicle article that details the lives of 7 ex-Googlers. Most of them are crazy-rich, and they don't really work.

The big theme: Google got big, and was no longer so much fun. That happens to all successful startups. Google's culture isn't immune.

Someone calls it "Culture leak". Same thing that happens to social networks or forums when they get big.

BTW, the quote Philipp highlighted mentions the infamous shipping containers (which I posted about long ago, and people tended to doubt the veracity...)

One of the ideas he championed was to build portable data centers in cargo containers, a project Google tested in its headquarters parking lot. But managers were too timid to pack in enough servers, so the experiment was not cost-effective and was ultimately canceled, he said.


  Free Eyetracking / Heat Maps
Eye tracking allows you to visualize exactly where a visitor to your page is looking. Heat Maps show you which areas on the page generate the most attention. Greg Yardley proposes something like heat map weighted attention measures to replace the page view, which is becoming less accurate and less useful.

Real eye-tracking studies use special headsets to track where the user looks. However, you can do this virtually - by tracking the users mouse clicks. There's open source software to that will build a heat map for you, based on where users click.

It leverages Apache's mod_imap module so the server logs the click location that javascript passes up, and it can record any server header variable, like the referer.

I've run this on some of my pages - it only works on pages that are not completely fluid layouts (unlike GotAds, eg. where the page resizes to the whole width of the brower), but it is cool.

Two advantages to doing this on your own server side: it's faster, and you don't send your valuable referer data to anyone else.

Also, the javascript code has some issues recording Firefox clicks / referrers properly, but it's still very useful and can be set up in under 2 hours. The code that makes the heat map images requires Ruby (which ain't a problem for Yardley).

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  Tip: Avoid Business Phone Spam / Telemarketing
Here's a quick piece of advice that can save you from answering time-wasting phone calls at your work:

If you start a small business, Do NOT put your phone number on your business license application.

I'm sure there are other ways that banks, D&B, credit card companies, Pitney Bowes and others who sell to small businesses can get your phone number. But to start, just avoid putting your phone number on public records.

  Prediction: Google Avatar World
Here's a prediction for 2007: Google will release something like Second Life (if they don't buy Second Life first).

Google will build a avatar enhanced social / virtual world with 3-D Graphics.

Why do I think they would they do this? If you watch certain Google Tech talks, it makes sense that they'd have some Second Life envy. Google also would like to build services that are popular with the kids, i.e. the 15-22 year old demographic, which is one of their weaker areas.

When this service comes out, it will probably be panned, and disliked by the cognosceti who think Google should stick to its knitting. But I think advertising in virtual worlds is something they will want to figure out.

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  Google Finds Click Fraud for You
My 'invalid click rate' for December was: 4.46%. Up from 3.5% in November. That's what Google says, at least, for all my AdWords campaigns combined.

All of the measured campaigns run only on the Google site and Search network. AdSense is a click-fraud-wonderland, in my opinion, so I avoid it...

Interestingly, there is a correlation between campaigns which drive CPA traffic and increased 'invalid clicks'. Several holiday campaigns that generated affiliate leads had 8-10% invalid clicks, according to the Google report.

Perhaps that's competitive clicking? I need to investigate more, but it's barely worth the time.

Want to know what Google thinks your invalid click rate was? Google doesn't tell you this by default. You can find it by going to Reports, running a Campaign Perfomance report, and choosing the Invalid Clicks field under Advanced Settings -> Add or Remove Columns.

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Recent Posts

Google Q4 2006 Earnings Call
Eric Schmidt v. My Dad
Yahoo Panama Branding
Setting SubIDs in Yahoo Panama Destination URLs
Semel announces: Vista Shipping Early!
Advancing Google Metaverse Rumors
Brin & Page: Wishy-washy in Davos
Microsoft Live Branding - So Bad It Hurts
Woeful Q4 For Microsoft
Feedback on Panama
Yahoo Q4 2006 Earnings
How to Apply a GMail Filter to Multiple Email Addresses
Separated at Birth? - pt. II
Help Choose a New Name for Yahoo Panama
Google's Data Center Expansion
Google Gmail - XSS Fixes
LowerMyBills in the NYT
Yahoo's Response to Blowing It
Top 10 Signs it's REALLY Time to Quit Your Job
Wired: How Yahoo Blew It.
Panama Naming Contest
Contest: Let's Rename Panama!
Allchin: Vista is a Pig
Separated at Birth?
How to Tell if You Are a Apple Fanboi
iPhone accelerates Mobile Trend #1
Top Marketing Lessons from 2006
What Happens When You're Not a Startup Anymore
Free Eyetracking / Heat Maps
Tip: Avoid Business Phone Spam / Telemarketing
Prediction: Google Avatar World
Google Finds Click Fraud for You


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Google Q4 2006 Earnings Call
Eric Schmidt v. My Dad
Yahoo Panama Branding
Setting SubIDs in Yahoo Panama Destination URLs
Semel announces: Vista Shipping Early!
Advancing Google Metaverse Rumors
Brin & Page: Wishy-washy in Davos
Microsoft Live Branding - So Bad It Hurts
Woeful Q4 For Microsoft
Feedback on Panama
Yahoo Q4 2006 Earnings
How to Apply a GMail Filter to Multiple Email Addresses
Separated at Birth? - pt. II
Help Choose a New Name for Yahoo Panama
Google's Data Center Expansion
Google Gmail - XSS Fixes
LowerMyBills in the NYT
Yahoo's Response to Blowing It
Top 10 Signs it's REALLY Time to Quit Your Job
Wired: How Yahoo Blew It.
Panama Naming Contest
Contest: Let's Rename Panama!
Allchin: Vista is a Pig
Separated at Birth?
How to Tell if You Are a Apple Fanboi
iPhone accelerates Mobile Trend #1
Top Marketing Lessons from 2006
What Happens When You're Not a Startup Anymore
Free Eyetracking / Heat Maps
Tip: Avoid Business Phone Spam / Telemarketing
Prediction: Google Avatar World
Google Finds Click Fraud for You