Economy may be recovering, says Google

Search engines have access to tons of valuable information, treasure troves full of clues to human behavior and what their millions of search engine users are up to. That is why the big search engines have great power even beyond their new role as brokers of advertising spaces on the Internet.

Every day search engines analyze our behavior and collect data we generate, and which they then store in databases. I have often wondered what data they have exactly and what they're using them for. I've also known that professionals from dozens of industries are working at Google, for example, but what does an economist at Google do other than helping the company's management make better business decisions?

Well, a Google economist might just as well analyze the search engine's database, look at what people have been searching for and from that information infer that the economy is recovering. That is what Google's economist Hal Varian has done, as he told the Washington Post. Mr. Varian has observed that the search patterns for certain search terms have changed over the last weeks. For instance, the number of searches for unemployment benefits has gone down while the number of searches for real estate agents and homes for sale has gone up. This could be a sign of a healing housing market. Such patterns can be analyzed using Google Trends, although I believe Google's internal tools are much more powerful than the version of Google Trends freely available to the public.

So, could data collected from search engine queries be used to forecast the future development of the economy? It may be possible, although it sounds like a dream of the future. Because the popular search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing) are used by more than one billion users from all over the world -- and the number of Internet users will even increase as developing countries are getting better infrastructures and more advanced technologies --, the data gained from search patterns are highly representative, if you can derive the right conclusions from them. Access to this vast amount of up-to-date information has quickly made Google et al. maybe the biggest market research companies in the world. Search patterns are even better than the knowledge gained from opinion polls in many cases considering that the answers given in such polls are usually biased, whereas when people use a search engine they do not think about the fact that their usage of the search engine is precisely documented and analyzed in the background.

I'm not saying that we should rely on search engines to predict where the economy is heading. Far from that; search engines should not hold too much power. But it is interesting what Internet technology and modern online services, such as search engines, can be used for and what conclusions can be drawn from our usage of Google & Co. I believe statisticians have a bright future ahead of them with the increasing amount of data collected in our interconnected, fast-paced world. People will become more transparent, whether you like it or not, so you will be well advised to understand how to use that development for your own good, instead of having it used against you.

Changes ahead for Yahoo domain parking partners

Yahoo!Yahoo Search Marketing to change its payout algorithms and stop doing business with some of its direct partners. Overall, lower revenues for Yahoo's pay-per-click advertising partners are expected.

As has been reported by two blogs today, Domain Name Wire and Julia Mackenzie, Yahoo's search marketing division is going through some changes that are likely to affect the bottom line of the company's domain parking partners.

Yahoo (YHOO) already announced last month that it would change its payout algorithm, a change which will have a direct effect on the pay-per-click revenue that is generated through domain parking and that is paid out to Yahoo's PPC partners. Rumor has it that the new algorithm will evaluate all clicks even more strictly based on the quality of the traffic sent to Yahoo's advertisers. It might be that Yahoo is trying to increase the traffic quality of its search marketing network now that it will cooperate with Microsoft's Bing for the monetization of its search traffic. Whether Microsoft (MSFT) made it a requirement that the traffic quality may not be below a certain level is not known. Anyway, this change will definitely lower the cost per click for most domains and hence result in lower total revenues for domain name owners. Domain Name Wire has been told by industry insiders that domain parking revenue is expected to decrease by as much as 12% on the average.

In another related blog post today, Julia Mackenzie spreads the rumor that Yahoo is also going to stop working with some of its direct domain parking partners if their traffic score is below 7 out of 10. The traffic score is Yahoo's internal rating of traffic quality. This is a further step undertaken by Yahoo to improve the traffic quality of its network, and it will force some partners to go directly to Google (GOOG), if possible at all, or simply go to one of the many third-party domain parking providers like Sedo or Either way, they will probably suffer a severe loss in revenue.

Both Google and Yahoo have been working directly with holders of high-traffic domain portfolios to monetize their partners' traffic, which usually is a win-win relationship because the domain portfolio owners do not have to share their revenues with a middleman. But now, as it seems, Yahoo is going to decrease the number of its direct partners. Julia also writes, however, that the company's syndication partners (the big parking companies) will not be affected by this decision. That means that Yahoo and the syndication partners will be the winners here, while Yahoo's smaller partners or at least those with lower-quality traffic will lose out.

Domain parking revenues have been on a decline for a long time now and, honestly, I have lost faith in revenues ever going back up again. It is more likely that either Google and Yahoo or the third-party parking providers will try to get an even bigger slice of the pie in the future. What are the alternatives for domain name owners? Developing domains and then using AdSense for monetization is no real option, because AdSense is controlled by Google, too. I guess direct advertising deals is the answer, but that's material for another article.

SnapNames September Showcase Auction Results

Domain auction company SnapNames sells close to $47,000 worth of domains in its September online auction. is the highest sale at $15,000.

As reported by's public relations department, the SnapNames September showcase auction concluded today with a total of $46,930 in domain sales. Out of the 90 domains 23 were sold, namely: $15,000.00 $8,240.00 $3,950.00 $3,400.00 $2,950.00 $2,500.00 $1,650.00 $1,450.00 $1,210.00 $1,200.00 $1,180.00 $550.00 $525.00 $375.00 $350.00 $300.00 $300.00 $300.00 $300.00 $300.00 $300.00 $300.00 $300.00

Especially is a very good sale at a high price, in my opinion. Assuming no traffic, I would not have bid that high for it as-is, but apparently the buyer saw something in it that I don't see. I know a successful marriage broker from Switzerland who helps wealthy customers find the right partner. He is a multi-millionaire now, and every time he comes for a visit he either drives an old Bentley or a limited-edition Lamborghini Diablo. So lots of money can be earned when pairing millionaires off with each other, but it should still be difficult to make that much money on the Internet in this business, because there will always be something reclusive about upper-class dating that requires absolute confidentiality.

Google schlägt Bezahlsystem für Verleger vor

Der amerikanische Suchmaschinengigant Google hat Verlegern in den USA jüngst ein Bezahlsystem vorgeschlagen, mit dem es im großen Stil möglich sein soll, einzelne Artikel über das Internet zu verkaufen. Eine Chance für traditionelle Medien.

Einem Bericht der Financial Times Deutschland zufolge hat die Suchmaschine Google amerikanischen Verlagshäusern ein neues Bezahlsystem vorgestellt, das sich in naher Zukunft als sehr nützlich erweisen könnte. Die traditionellen Zeitungen und Magazine kämpfen nämlich seit geraumer Zeit mit schrumpfenden Abonnentenzahlen und haben bislang noch kein Mittel gefunden, um endlich im Internet Kasse zu machen und die dahinschmelzenden Offline-Umsätze auszugleichen.

Besonders interessant macht Googles Vorschlag, dass Google selbst von den Verlegern in der Vergangenheit häufig wegen des Nachrichtendienstes Google News kritisiert worden ist. Denn Google News sammelt zentral Nachrichtenmeldungen der wichtigsten Agenturen, Zeitungen und Magazine und stellt eine kurze Einführung sowie einen Link zu dem Artikel auf seiner Seite online. Vielen Verlegern gefällt dies nicht, weil sie ihre Urheberrechte verletzt sehen. Dabei muss aber gesagt sein, dass Google keine ganzen Artikel veröffentlicht, sondern nur wenige Sätze und dann, wie bereits erwähnt, den interessierten Leser zum eigentlichen Angebot des Urhebers weiterleitet. Von daher dürfte Google News den traditionellen Medien eigentlich gelegen kommen, stellt es doch eine wichtige Schnittstelle zwischen Lesern und Herausgebern im Internet dar.

Aber es ist nicht neu, dass die großen Zeitungen bislang das Geschäftsmodell von Nachrichten im Internet nicht verstanden haben bzw. nicht nachvollziehen können, wie sie mit ihren Inhalten Geld verdienen können oder diese überhaupt einem großen Kundenkreis zur Verfügung stellen können.

Ursprünglich versuchten die meisten Seiten, sich mit Werbeeinnahmen über Wasser zu halten. Die Werbeeinkünfte sind nun aber rückläufig, so dass nun eine bessere Quelle für Einnahmen gefunden werden muss. Rupert Murdochs News Corporation hat deshalb angefangen, ihre aktuellen Inhalte und Archive nur noch gegen Bezahlung verfügbar zu machen. Lediglich den ersten Paragraph kann man zumeist kostenlos "anlesen". Viele andere Unternehmen werden diesem Modell wohl folgen.

Google hat angekündigt, dass sein Bezahlsystem im nächsten Jahr fertiggestellt werden soll. Der Suchmaschinenkonzern möchte es dann, wahrscheinlich gegen eine Umsatzbeteiligung oder fixe Lizenzgebühr, den Verlegern zugänglich machen, damit diese im Internet sowohl ganze Abonnements also auch einzelne Artikel verkaufen und damit mehr Umsatz generieren können. Weil sich das System noch in Entwicklung befindet, sind bisher keine Details bekannt. Es ist aber damit zu rechnen, dass es sich großer Popularität erfreuen wird, denn die Verlagshäuser werden eifrig nach jedem Strohhalm greifen, der sie vor dem Ertrinken retten könnte.

Length of domain registration important for SEO?

The question whether the length of domain registrations had an influence on search engine rankings or not has been around for a while. But so far none of the big search engine companies has given any firm advice on this subject.

Today, however, I stumbled upon a post on Search Engine Land saying that domain registrations probably have a small influence on rankings in search engines, but that other factors (quality of content, amount of links, etc.) have a lot more weight. This isn't surprising to me, but I still believe that the age of a domain as well as its future expiration date do affect search rankings, even if only to a small extent.

Barry Schwartz from Search Engine Roundtable quotes John Mueller, a Google employee:

A bunch of TLDs do not publish expiration dates — how could we compare domains with expiration dates to domains without that information? It seems that would be pretty hard, and likely not worth the trouble. Even when we do have that data, what would it tell us when comparing sites that are otherwise equivalent? A year (the minimum duration, as far as I know) is pretty long in internet-time :-).

But another Google employee and SEO expert, Matt Cutts, gave less clear advice, as quoted from Search Engine Land:

My short answer is not to worry very much about that [the number of years a domain is registered], not very much at all.

In the same post, Search Engine Land says that when they had an interview with a Yahoo employee some time ago, that employee said that domain registration lengths did matter. So while most search industry insiders say that domain registrations have only a small influence on search engine optimization, none of them clearly states that they have no influence at all.

My interpretation is this: Concentrate on creating high-quality websites with unique content providing valuable information to visitors and that attract lots of incoming links. But if you ever get the chance to purchase an aged domain, go for it as it will most likely improve your chances of getting a better ranking in search engines. Also renew your domains well in advance if you already know you're going to own them for a long time, because this might have a positive effect on your search engine position as well. If nothing else, you won't have to worry about domain expirations for a couple of years anymore.