Ten more Internet marketing questions that keep me up at night (part 1)

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Thanks to all who responded to last week's article in DM News ("Five Internet marketing questions that keep me up at night"). It's clear that I'm not the only one being kept awake by these vexing questions. Here are some additional questions that are causing insomnia among thoughtful Internet marketers. If you've got the answers, please send me some e-mail .

1. Why aren't digital agencies just called "agencies?" Nobody calls old-school ad agencies "video agencies" or "print agencies." The term "digital agency" is a patronizing holdover from the days when ad agencies could afford to ignore digital channels, and it's amazing to me that this invidious distinction persists.

2. How can advertisers budget their media if they have to buy it in an auction? Media planners take a lot of heat for ignoring search, but buying media at auction is a nightmare for anyone planning a long-range campaign. Not only do you not know what the final cost will be, but your campaign can be derailed by some lunatic who's willing to outspend you to dominate search engine results page.

3. Why is it that nobody I know ever bought anything from a banner ad? We all know that banner ads are ineffective, with campaign click-through rates as low as 0.001 percent considered "successful." But I'm beginning to think that even this kind of low CTR is illusory. Could it be that the only people clicking on banner ads are doing so by mistake?

4. Why should I trust any online review of any product or service if it could be written by anybody for any reason? It's no secret that a lot of the product reviews you read on the Web are written by paid shills. In fact, there's a whole closet cottage industry of companies whose business model is based on pay-for-reviews. How they manage to convince marketers that paying people to write phony copy is a good investment is anybody's guess.

5. When will the person who invented the "view-through conversion" be given the Nobel Prize? Sure, agencies and publishers love View-Through Conversions because they massively inflate the apparent effectiveness of online ad campaigns. Why marketers put up with this obfuscating metric is beyond me.

6. Why does Google need so many salespeople? In its most recent annual 10K report filed with the SEC, Google reported that it had more than 4,300 employees working in its sales and marketing departments. In its most recent quarterly report, Google noted that its Q1 2007 Sales and Marketing expenses rose a whopping 81 percent over Q1 2006. Why does Google need so many expensive salespeople when its whole business is based on self-serve advertising?

7. Why do so many Google jobs require proficiency with Excel, Word and Powerpoint, instead of Google's own applications? Google's latest tagline is "Search, Ads, and Apps," and it's increasingly confronting Microsoft on its own turf: office applications. But in a recent survey of Google job ads, I didn't find a single job ad seeking candidates with proficiency in Google's apps: they all listed Microsoft's. Why should we take Google's applications seriously when its own employees aren't asked to?

8. We all know that panel-based media measurement systems are inaccurate, so why does the online industry still use them? Web-based advertising has been around for 13 years now and we've barely advanced in terms of developing meaningful metrics. At this rate of progress we're on course to get a resolution to the metrics morass sometime in the year 2525.

9. Why does Google have to subsidize its print ad effort? If the benefits that Google claims for this service (including giving advertisers "more time to provide strategic guidance and high-level service to their clients instead of spending time on execution, logistics, and manual tracking") are so compelling, why are financial incentives necessary?

10. Why did it take a subpoena from a state attorney general to force MySpace to admit that it's the preferred social network for nearly 30,000 convicted sex predators? The fact that My S pace didn't come clean on its own about the predators infesting its service is, in my book, a major industry scandal. But it begs a larger question: Can anyone in the online industry be trusted to regulate themselves?

I'll have more sleep-depriving questions for you next week. If you have the answers to any of these questions or have a good question that I've missed, please send e-mail .

Dave Pasternack is president of Did-it.com, a New York-based search marketing firm. Reach him at dave@did-it.com.


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