This week, the internet marketing community was buzzing over a battle between the leading search engines, and conversations about quality content continued.
On Tuesday, leaders from Google, Bing and Blekko came together for a Future of Search event. Google's Matt Cutts and Bing's Harry Shum went head-to-head over accusations that Bing copies Google's search results. Cutts addressed a story Search Engine Land had published earlier about Bing mimicking nonsensical search results planted by Google engineers. He claimed the company has screenshots that prove Bing is a copycat. Bing responded by arguing that Microsoft was guilty of nothing more than using “collective data” to provide optimal results.
The back-and-forth between the two search engines (including Bing's denial and Google's rebuttal), as well as comments from industry analysts, has fueled conversations about whether or not Google owns the web index.
The Future of Search event also proved a forum for debate about whether or not search leaders, including Google, Bing and Blekko, should standardize quality measures to ensure that only content of the highest caliber gets top rankings. Blekko's Rich Skrenta used the event as an opportunity to say that he believes it's time to bring humans into the quality control process. His statement followed earlier news that Blekko has banned certain low-quality sites from its search portal altogether. The removed sites were frequently cited as spam by Blekko users.
Speaking of controversy over quality content, AOL generated ample buzz this week when Business Insider leaks the company's master plan – The AOL Way. In The AOL Way, the company outlines a plan for a search-driven approach to content. The leaked document has sparked debate about whether or not content farms are taking over the web. MediaPost wrote a notable piece about the difference between content farming and publishing, and Brafton also addressed this issue in a blog article about how AOL's strategy can be validated by good writing.
Marketers may be interested in following debates over online content in light of research that reveals consumers prefer organic results. As Brafton reported, a survey from User Centric reveals that consumers spend a significantly longer time perusing organic search results than paid search results displayed on the top of the page. In terms of paid search, the survey found that Google ads were more effective than Bing ads.
With that in mind, marketers may be glad to hear that Google announced an update to its paid search ad headlines this week. The company will be expanding the information that appears on the top line of ads, saying data reveals more headline information generates more clicks. This news is especially relevant as Brafton reported that internet marketers say internet ads are a top focus for 2011.
Though Google ads may boast the highest levels of consumer engagement, marketers may want to turn to Yahoo for insight when planning internet advertising campaigns. The company announced that it is launching an AdLabs center to help marketers boost their ROI. To demonstrate the efficacy of the AdLabs approach, Yahoo released insight from a new study that shows hyperlocal campaigns generate more revenue per ad spend than local campaigns.
Another local development this week: LivingSocial is officially gaining ground on Groupon. Brafton has reported that LivingSocial generated a lot of buzz for its Amazon deal last month, and new Hitwise data shows that the startup is catching up to Groupon.
Local marketers may be excited that Google launched Hotpot for standard search results this week. The feature brings social recommendations to locally oriented searches, and it will also customize results based on what users have liked through Hotpot in the past.
Google also announced check-ins for Latitude this week, and some say this could give foursquare a run for its money. Earlier in the week, Brafton reported that foursquare saw more than 3,000 percent growth in 2010. But the recent development of Latitude check-ins could still help the search giant rapidly gain ground on foursquare.
Google made other mobile news this week when it launched Honeycomb – its new operating system for tablets. The company announced that in-app purchases will now be possible, and it also launched a web-based mobile app site. News of Honeycomb for tablets accompanies news that Google's Android is poised to be the top smartphone platform.
Not to be outdone by the search giant, Blekko announced that its search services are now available to mobile users. The slashtag search engine released mobile apps for the iPhone and Android devices this week.
Yelp also made mobile news, when the business review service announced that more than one-third of its searches now come from mobile users. The firm said that more than 3 million consumers used Yelp Mobile to decide where to shop in December 2010.
Also, data released this week suggests mobile shoppers are increasingly ready to make on-the-go purchases. Marketers may want to invest in updated mobile marketing strategies accordingly.
While mobile purchases are on the rise, Facebook is trying to push purchases on its site. The company announced new Facebook Credits social buying options that may be Liked by users and marketers who have branded games on the site.
Mark Zuckerberg's social site may want to keep focused on ecommerce options. News broke this week that CTRs on Facebook ads declined in 2010. In spite of the fact that Facebook is supposed to drive social ad spend in 2011, falling click-through rates may give marketers pause before they invest in ads for the platform.
Next week, we might expect more news about Bing versus Google, as well as more mobile developments from Google in light of its brand new Honeycomb operating system. Internet marketers, stay tuned.