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Shopping – The Dynamic Frontier Of Search

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Now that Google has achieved complete dominance of the web search market, things seem pretty stale in search engine land. All initiatives from MSN and Yahoo to reclaim market share have failed and Google’s dominance is now accepted as inevitable. Fortunately for those of us who do not like monopolies the world of shopping search provides a rather more dynamic landscape.

As more people seek out bargains new models are emerging to cater for the demand.

The pioneers of shopping search such as Kelkoo, Pricerunner Pricegrabber and shopping .com remain strong. These sites typically compare prices from a narrow range of retailers who pay for the traffic on a PPC basis. The layout of these sites tends to follow a uniform format with, pictures, price comparison and a bit of review content bolted on for SEO purposes.

A recent innovation is the appearance of aggregation sites such as shopcompare.eu. These blend feeds from some of the other providers to deliver a more comprehensive service.

More interesting has been the explosion in Voucher and coupon sites. These collect the latest discounts from retailers and publish them in a searchable format. Voucher sites are essentially an affiliate play focussed around coupons which direct users to specific offers. Voucher sites have been the fastest section of online shopping in the UK with the following players dominating the UK Hitwise charts:

Myvouchercodes
Vouchercodes
couponmountain

Such has been the enthusiasm for voucher sites that the bargain hunter’s bible, moneysavingexpert, now features its own voucher section.

One interesting innovation for bargain hunters is Trialpay.com. Here you get a free product or service for buying or trialling something else. This is proving popular with software vendors who find it difficult to convert their trial users to paying customers. With Trialpay the vendor’s product is effectively given away as an add on to a better known product and the money that might have gone to an affiliate goes to the software vendor instead.

Cash strapped times have also seen a rise in the number of cashback sites with over 30 servicing the UK market alone. The competition in this space is so intense that many now refund 100% of cashback to users. They have to make their own money from any residual adsense or display revenue.

The undisputed king of the new thrift sites is hotukdeals.com. From the same stable as Quidco, Hotukdeals is based around a community of offer hunters who scour the web for deals and share them in real time with their fellow bargain seekers. At number 1 place in the Hitwise UK shopping rewards category it just goes to show that when it comes to online bargain hunting you cannot beat a bit of user generated content.

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Written by digitalcut

March 15, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Yahoo Closes Content Match Network

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The one party digital state took a big step forward recently as Yahoo announced that they are closing their content match network in Europe. The announcement was dressed up with the usual PR spin about how they want to concentrate on their search network advertising. However, cynics might suggest that Yahoo’s reach is now so poor in Europe that they decided to withdraw due to a lack of interest from advertisers.

Overall, this is bad news for the European content advertising scene as well as for the various resellers who promote the Yahoo service. The erosion of choice in the contextual market means that publishers will find their margins increasingly under pressure. With the weaker players in the market continuing to contract there is a serious lack of choice now available to publishers. This means that their bargaining power is declining and the choice they have is between a low margin from the one network with good coverage or a high margin from a network with no advertisers.

Written by digitalcut

February 8, 2009 at 5:48 pm

Sterling Collapse Hits UK Google Partners.

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It is not just British savers who are getting hammered by the recent fall in the value of the pound. UK based Google partners are also seeing their earnings evaporate as Sterling has withered against the US dollar. CPC rates for UK partners have collapsed by as much as 35% since the last quarter of 2008. Despite a small bounce in the pound’s value in the last few days the prospects for a meaningful recovery are thin.

In addition to the weakness of exchange rates, adsense and adwords partners have to worry what impact the collapsing UK economy will have on their CPCs. PPC coverage has held up well so far against other forms of online advertising, the decline in CPCs is largely down to the decline of sterling which has accurately tracked CPC erosion. However, with dark rumours about broad matching  relevancy and grumbles from advertisers about conversion rates, it will be interesting to see how many adwords budgets get pulled or reduced in the near future. If this happens publishing partners will suffer a double whammy to their Google revenue from both decreasing ad spend and unfavourable exchange rates.

One way that UK publishers can offset this problem is to try and get some exposure to other markets. The pound might have taken a beating recently but if you are harvesting a large number of your clicks from the Euro zone or US you will have been relatively unaffected by this problem.  It might just be time to hire some of those foreign language students to translate your site !

Written by digitalcut

February 8, 2009 at 4:47 pm