RealTime IT News

Holding Google Accountable?

UPDATED: Google might find it a bit harder to justify how much it charges for keywords.

Two new solutions are hitting the market today that will help companies track the effectiveness of their search-driven, online marketing campaigns, even when prospects complete their transactions off-line.

Both sets of solutions use link and cookie tracking that is standard online marketing fare, as well as equally standard customer relationship management (CRM) features.

The novelty is that both solutions correlate information garnered through the online campaigns.

They capture lead information separately in a lead management system so that companies can make the connection between a prospect and a particular online campaign.

This tool will become increasingly essential as the market for this kind of activity blossoms from $5.75 billion in 2005 to an estimated $11 billion in 2010, according to the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization.

Customers pay search engine providers such as Google and Yahoo so that their Web sites are returned for given keyword searches.

In some cases, they pay for thousands of keywords without knowing which, if any, of those keywords are being converted into sales.

"Any money you spend on Google ads is like playing the slots," Rebecca Wetteman of Nucleus Research told internetnews.com.

"A lot of companies are spending a lot of money without being able to evaluate whether it's worth it."

Wetteman said that this type of solution will help companies justify the cost of keywords.

"This is going to make it easier for folks to have a basis for negotiating a price with Google," she said.

One of the solutions being introduced today is from leading on-demand CRM vendor Salesforce.com.

The other is from NetSuite, an on-demand vendor of ERP  solutions.

Adam Gross, vice president of developer marketing for Salesforce.com, told internetnews.com that Salesforce for Google AdWords is a logical extension of previous solutions.

"This is about being able to tie very specific information about a Google campaign all the way through to the opportunity closing, even if that's nine months later on a golf course," he said.

The solution is based on technology acquired from Kieden, a former Salesforce.com partner that developed the technology for AppExchange.

Salesforce.com acquired Kieden earlier this month for an undisclosed amount.

AppExchange is an ecosystem that encourages partners to create new applications to use in conjunction with Salesforce's on-demand CRM solution.

Kraig Swensrud, founder and CEO of Kieden, gave a presentation here to demonstrate how customers can create an ad campaign using the Salesforce.com user interface.

The solution communicates with Google's AdWords platform in real time, so a user is immediately informed via the Salesforce.com interface if the ad copy violates one of Google's editorial policies.

Users also include their daily budget and how much they are willing to pay per click.

New prospect information is added to the user's lead generation engine, and salespeople can see the ad copy and keyword used to lure the prospect.

"It's a business process mash-up between Google business practices and Salesforce.com business practices," noted Swensrud.

The NetSuite flavor, Keyword Marketing, is being introduced as an additional feature to the San Mateo, Calif.-based company's ERP suite.

According to Jay O'Connor, NetSuite vice president of worldwide marketing, the solution, developed internally, works with both Google and Yahoo.

According to NetSuite, Yahoo represents 30 percent of the market; Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff said Yahoo represents just 20 percent of the market.

Gross said that Salesforce.com is also working on developing a solution for Yahoo, but would not say when or if that would become available.

However, neither of these solutions addresses the fact that a certain number of customers never identify themselves on a company Web site, making it impossible to correlate a purchase they may make off-line with a particular online campaign.

To further complicate matters, there is no clear idea of what percentage of prospects that might involve, Wetteman agreed.

But the solution offers at least a starting point, she said.

Benioff told internetnews.com that companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on this type of marketing without having any idea of what works.

"I don't know what percentage [of leads] fall through the cracks, but with this system, we can have much greater efficiency."