Letter From Australia

I was in Sydney last month for the Search Engine Strategies conference. This week, I thought I’d share some notable issues that arose 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 mention of how Google AdWords may now be shown in the Premium Sponsorship area.

Paid Listings for Large and Small Companies

LookSmart Australia announced at the conference it closed another deal for distribution of local paid listings, “LookListings,” this time on ninemsn, MSN’s local 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 Overture enjoys in the U.S.

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

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

Though they use the program, people did have one big complaint: minimum bid amounts based on the U.S. market. Several indicated they wanted to purchase terms no one was bidding on in Australia, but Google had already set a price based on U.S. traffic. With a fairly weak Australian dollar, audience members felt U.S. prices were too high. In response, Google indicated “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 to fill the second Premium Sponsorship position. This has been happening for about a month, according to the company.

Local Site Usage

AltaVista had questions for the audience about local site usage. It found, through questioning, many people go to AltaVista.com to conduct worldwide searches because they’re afraid the AltaVista Australia site would not provide complete coverage. In reality, when searching “the world” on 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 first go 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.

Google has its own issue with its local Australian site. The company is trying through legal channels to obtain 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, to make narrower searches to Australia information easier.

The .com.au domain is equivalent to the .com in the U.S. People in Australia will guess a company Web site would be found at companyname.com.au, for example. Given this, the audience agreed Google should try to get the domain name but also indicated launching the site with any domain name would at least meet demand.

The audience had its own questions for the search engines. People wanted to know whether they find differences in searches conducted at “world” versus “local” Australia sites. Not really, was the answer. People search for the same things. However, audience members did indicate that including geographical terms in their pages or paid listings was important to help capture local users. They tend to add location-specific information to help eliminate non-Australian material. “Web hosting Australia” or “buying new homes in Sydney” are examples of how users add such terms.

Yahoo’s Paid Results Deals

Back at LookSmart, the company said that since April, it has showed LookSmart Australia paid listings not just on Yahoo Australia but also on Yahoo.com, to surfers reaching Yahoo.com from Australia. This is a very 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 Yahoo.com’s site as viewed by users in the United States and Canada. People outside these countries still go to Yahoo.com, rather than local sites, in droves.

Until recently, I would have expected Yahoo.com to soon display paid listings from Espotting to European visitors, as Espotting powers Yahoo’s paid European listings. However, Overture recently lured a big client away from Espotting. Now, it appears to be putting pressure on Yahoo Recently, Yahoo.com began showing Overture U.K. ads to people accessing the site from the U.K. Overture won’t confirm a deal has been reached. This could be a test, or press releases may simply not have been written yet.

U.K. listings from Overture will begin next quarter. Germany and France come online after the first of the year. Espotting had promised Lycos Europe $9.2 million over the three years the original agreement, started last year, was to run. Overture won’t say how much it’s promising, but to secure the deal it no doubt dumped truckloads of cash on Lycos Europe.

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 can also power listings for visitors coming from different countries to Yahoo.com.

If you’re searching for more search engine information from Down Under, I recommend The Search Light by Kalena Jordan, a speaker at the conference and a close watcher of all things search in Australia.


* Danny Sullivan’s premium content newsletter contains a more detailed discussion.

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