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October 2007 Archives

October 1, 2007

Mobile Search Marketing for Social Networking Sites

Mobile marketing has seen some important advancements within the last year especially within the United States. Recent advancements in phone technology like the iPhone has provided new growth rates and invigorated a market base for mobile search. The usual types of mobile search that is indicative of popular usage today is rapidly changing into a more well rounded search medium.

Downloading games, Ringtones, local search and text messaging are still very popular and with the recent movement by the MMA to create a unified mobile search standard and better phones with better mobile search technology we are starting to see more usage for other things like video searches, social networking sites, e-mail usage and more emphasis on local search.

Many social networking sites have crossed into mobile search with Myspace mobile. Recently there has been a sprawl of mobile social sites springing up across the net as well such as Gotzapp, Mobango, Meetmoi, Bluepulse, Icebreaker, Mocospace and Loopt.

These are all sites that have spring up over the last year and are getting a lot of attention from venture capitalists. Some of the sites listed above have closed between 2-8 million within their second round of funding.

These sites seem fun and a lot of them have a unique twist to them however you will see the heavy players in the social networking realm start to push more users to mobile devices and will virtually take out the smaller sites listed here.

Video search is also gearing up to take on more users within the mobile search realm. A site called MyWaves recently came out and was built specifically mobile searches to search for video clips. YouTube also released YouTube Mobile and now with the iPhone making video search so easy, we can see an increase in video viewership for videos on mobile phones.

M:Metrics says that the current state of mobile video is still very low however it is on a respectable climb.

According to M:Metrics “12.3 million consumers in the US and Europe accessed a social networking site with their mobile handset during June 2007″ which is a pretty impressive number for a trend that is still in its infancy.

This graph shows how many people sign onto a social networking site per day based on percentages of the total number of subscribers in a region. The majority of this traffic was directed to Myspace, Facebook and bebo and the age demographic of for this particular trend is reported to be 13 to 17 year-olds and 18 to 24 year-olds.

Emarketer said “The world’s biggest soft drink maker announced it was creating a mobile social network under the Sprite brand where members can set up profiles, post pictures and meet new friends”.

Mobile search marketing is one of the fastest growing trends in America and respectively has had some major set backs and consistent advancements in a short frame of time.

Joe Whyte is the President of HybridSEM.com, which offers quality Internet Marketing solutions at competitive rates, from social media marketing and reputation management to SEO and PPC.

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Microsoft acquires Jellyfish.com

We want to welcome some new folks to the Live Search family – we recently purchased a company called Jellyfish.com , based in Madison, Wisconsin. Jellyfish has done some really innovative work in comparative shopping engines. We think the technology has…(read more)

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October 2, 2007

Relevance, Relevance, Relevance!

In building 88 on Microsoft’s main campus in Redmond, WA there is a small, but growing group of us that think about relevance constantly. We eat, live and breathe ideas and technology that makes our relevance better. Having worked on this release for a little over 9 months we could not be more excited about the relevance of our new engine.  From our metrics, and more importantly our usage as customers, our new engine is so far superior to our old one.  Consider this post a little tour guide, if you will, of our new engine and the things you might notice when you use it.

Improved core relevance
Core relevance is a hard thing to quantify or qualify. I think of it as those real searches you do day in and day out.  When people do fancy demos they use searches like Britney Spears…which is an important search, but doesn’t really reflect some of the tough things the engine sees every day.

I was trying to think of a good example of this and just as I was writing, bam, a bunch of us decided to head to our favorite spot for lunch: the Microsoft taco truck.  I was kind of curious what would come up for Microsoft taco truck.  Sure enough, Live Search has good stuff.  The chowhound.com result in particular has some great commentary which talks about the “secret” location in the VFW parking lot. If you’re ever in the area, I highly recommend it.

This is core relevance.

Reduced spam
Spam is an arms race. A game of cat and mouse. We’re always going to be fighting people who threaten the integrity of our results by using illegitimate or malicious techniques. With this release of Live Search you should find the amount of spam is down quite considerably.

You might ask how we know spam is down?  Experts on our team take a “randomly selected and statistically significant” set of searches and measure the percentage of spam in the results. With this release that number is down in a non-trivial manner and we are excited about that.

Dramatically improved ”snippets”
One of the areas of search that does not get a lot of attention (but is incredibly important) are those little snippets of text or “summaries” for each result that describe the site you’re about to visit. Let me give you a flavor of some of our improvements in this area:

  • Muse Starlight: No more JavaScript issues

  • FBI: Notice we expand the acronym (to “Federal Bureau of Investigation”) and highlight it in the descriptions

  • Microsoft: Navigational links indented in the first result help you find what you are looking for quickly.

We’ll blog more about this topic soon. Stay tuned.

Much bigger index!
We are now searching 20 billion Web pages. This is 4 times the size of our previous index. Enough said.

Well, one more thing – we now have the infrastructure to easily add billions (yes, billions) more with relative ease.  This ensures we are always pushing the envelope with regard to the amount of human knowledge in our index.

Do what you mean, not what you say
Last, but not least, we want users to be able to search in the manner they feel most comfortable.  It’s our job to be doing the smart thing to figure out what people really mean.  Here’s an example search from a real user: nw coed soccer.  Previously we did not take into account that NW and Northwest are equivalents. Now we do. The result?  Better relevance.  See for yourself.

nw coed soccer, before and after

This post covered about some of the work we’ve done to improve our core web results.  Over the coming weeks we will talk these features in more detail. 

We’re very excited about the improvements and we hope you will be, too.  Thanks and please don’t hesitate to send us your feedback!

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October 3, 2007

Tracking Practical KPI’s with Web Analytics

In this article, we will dig into some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) in depth, focusing on the metrics that my colleague, Julie Mason of Kellysearch.com, wrote about in her recent article ‘A Practical Guide to Key Performance Indicators’ :

  • Visitors per conversion
  • Average page views per visit
  • Cost per lead
  • Stickiness
  • Percentage of new visitors

These are all great starting points for website analysis, but sometimes they raise more questions:

Visitors per Conversion

All websites should have a goal, even if it’s just a PDF download, and so tracking your conversion rate in this way is an excellent measure of your site’s success. But what if you know your conversion rate is low, but you can’t identify the reason? The answer lies in the customer’s journey through the conversion process and by configuring your analytics tools’ funnel analysis you can quickly identify problems:

Google Analytics Funnel

The checkout process on an ecommerce website is probably the most common example of a customer journey, typically catalogue -> product -> shopping cart -> shipping -> billing. In your own conversion process you may see 1,000 people visiting the catalogue page, but only one coming out the other end having made a purchase. This is probably because of a design or usability flaw that is creating a bottleneck at one of these steps. Funnel analysis can identify where that problem is by showing where users enter and leave the process at each step.

Funnels can be tricky to configure and analyze, but they are one of the most effective analytics tools for determining user interaction and generating genuinely actionable findings.

Average Page Views per Visit & ‘Stickiness’

These KPIs are typically for websites with content & advertising-based revenue models. The key here is to measure how well your visitors are engaging with your website. As Julie points out, you may not always want these numbers to be high – sometimes you want a user to get in and out of your site as quickly as possible, for example, when assessing the quality of an internal search function. One of our key metrics at Kellysearch.co.uk is how quickly users move on from our search results pages, i.e. how ‘unsticky’ these pages are. This is because we want our users to find what they want as quickly as possible, a common goal among search-centric websites. So we measure average page views per visit just for search results pages and we want to see low numbers.

There are also some new technologies out there that can disrupt these particular metrics. For example, Ajax is an increasingly popular scripting language that enables websites to, among other things, load new content on a page without refreshing that page. One page view of an Ajax page can actually mean the user has viewed multiple pages. Consider this when looking at your analytics data and you can use alternative measures of ‘stickiness’ such as time spent on the page.

Cost per Lead

Establishing the Return on Investment (ROI) of your website can be critical to establishing its success and if you are going to measure ROI then you need to understand what your traffic is costing you, i.e. what is the cost of your online marketing. Marketing is traditionally a difficult medium in which to measure ROI, but with the right analytics this can be much easier. For example, Google Analytics has the facility to import AdWords cost data into your analytics reports automatically. Add a monetary value to your conversion goals and you can have an automated calculation of ROI and Return on Advertising Spending (ROAS) for each visit.

Google Analytics’ integration with AdWords is seamless and ideal for the analytics novice, but most other analytics solutions can also import cost data for PPC campaigns in some way and therefore provide real world numbers that can justify a website’s existence.

Percentage of New Visitors

This is another great metric for measuring the success of your marketing, but there are two key points to remember in order to get the most from this KPI. First, make sure you are using your analytics solution’s tagging system to measure where these visitors are coming from and assess which elements of your marketing campaigns are successful.

Secondly, there some technical issues with this particular metric that every analytics user should be aware of. In particular, this KPI is (in most modern analytics systems) dependant on the use of cookies. Ideally these should be first party cookies (i.e. set by the website the visitor is on) rather than third party (set by a different site to the one currently being viewed) since first party cookies have a lower deletion rate and are blocked less frequently. But even these get deleted and every time a user who has ever visited your website deletes their cookies, they are labelled as a new visitor the next time they visit.

The solution is to use first party cookies wherever possible and, as with all analytics data, study the trends rather than the absolute numbers.

With the multitude of possible metrics that analytics systems make available, it can be difficult to select the right ones for you and even more difficult to interpret the results. However, once the basics are in place you can start digging deeper – and the results can profoundly change the way your business works online. One final tip: If you’re starting out in analytics you could do a lot worse than take the advice of analytics guru Avinash Kaushik, spend 10% of your budget on the software, and 90% on your analyst.

Jim Newsome is Kellysearch.com’s Search Marketing Manager. Jim has more than 11 years experience in the business of building, optimizing and analyzing websites. He has worked for small agencies as well as large multinational companies and his particular specialties include Search Engine Marketing and Web Analytics.

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Generate Backlinks with Custom WordPress Themes

Backlinks are the golden path to page rank. Building backlinks however, can be a slow and tedious process every blogger has to face. We constantly find information on the web telling you to “write quality content”, “get involved with social networking”, “establish relationships with readers and other bloggers”.

All of these are excellent points and hold a lot of truth, but what if you want to speed up the process? What if you want to build pagerank by the time Google’s next update comes around?

A quick trip to the theme viewer gives us the answers we are looking for. For example the WP theme “Networker 1.0” has received 4,174 downloads at the time of this writing. If you were the designer of that theme you would have your link in the footer, which means that as of right now you would have 4,000 backlinks give or take, depending on how many have left the footer intact after downloading. That would be a surefire way to get that page rank you are after, and all it takes is one good theme.

WordPress themes are probably the easiest and fastest ways to build backlinks to your blog, with little effort. They are free to download which means you open the doors to anyone interested, the millions of WordPress users are all looking for one and there is new bloggers setting up their sites each day so the traffic will continue to flow. When designing your theme you want to go for popularity so scour the Internet for popular themes, check the popular section in the theme viewer and use what you find as an outline for what others are looking for in a theme.

Some Good Ideas to Include in Your Theme

  • Search engine optimization is always a plus!
  • Add functionality for the most popular plugins. Nobody likes a theme that won’t work with their favorite plugins.
  • People love money! If you can add off the rack monetization people will thank you (Google AdSense ready)
  • Make it widget ready, there is no reason not to and everyone wants it.
  • Keep it light! Although there are die hard fans of dark themes they usually don’t accumulate as many downloads.
  • Add some flair to your theme. Give it something unique, maybe a recent posts box or a nice subscription form.
  • Offer support! This is very important, people will have questions when downloading your theme. Should you choose to ignore them they will find another theme, there is plenty of them out there.
  • People like options. Maybe you can include several header styles with the download, which will give them the opportunity to personalize it.

What if You Don’t Know Anything About Web Design?

Don’t leave this article feeling empty if you don’t know anything about web design, there are alternatives. Below are a couple of ideas you may consider when trying to jump on the backlink train.

1. Sponsor a WordPress theme. Many theme developers are looking for sponsors on their themes. This gives them a way to make a direct income on a free design and they love it. A typical sponsorship will cost anywhere from $15 to $400 dollars depending on the popularity and the designer. Theme sponsorship will give you a link in the footer, usually “Sponsored By YourSite.com”. This is a valid alternative to designing your own theme, but with all advertising efforts, check the fine print and know what you are getting into, before dishing out your hard earned money.

2. Pay someone to design a theme for you. The funny thing about this is, you can probably find someone to hard code a theme for you in the same price range as sponsoring one. Which would make this a more viable option for your consideration. Take a look at some of the freelance coding sites and forums to see how much you can get someone to do this for. Never pay for services up front, you should expect to see a fully functional theme before handing over payment.

Which option you choose to go with is up to you and your skill level. Never put your name on a poorly coded design, you want people to think quality when they think of you and the better the theme the more backlinks you are likely to generate.

Sujan Patel is Director of Search at Single Grain, which specializes in Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing

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October 9, 2007

Search Illustrated: Multiple Local Optimization Strategies

Search Illustrated - A Column From Search Engine Land
Once you’ve identified and defined the target markets for your search marketing strategy, you can employ a number of different optimization approaches to reach those customer groups.

Whether it’s making use of individual press releases, case studies, or blog postings, today’s Search Illustrated shows how to utilize a page-level localization approach to reach multiple targets:

Click to continue reading…

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October 10, 2007

Learning to Generate Fresh Ideas for Your Blog Posts

Anyone that has been writing for any amount of time has become familiar with writers block. Even the greatest writers in times past sometimes spent years in a creative slum, unable to find even the smallest spur of inspiration. Fortunately, we have so much information readily available that we are usually able to overcome this challenge rather quickly.

The Internet has proven to be the main source of inspiration for bloggers, as many of us spend our lives in front of the computer. With so many people staking claim in the blogosphere today, we find that much of the content out there has begun to be repeated over and over again, because many of us pull our ideas from the same group of places. The real art of writing is to create new, fresh material that has not been written before, or that adds new ideas to an already great article. This is the real challenge, anyone can rewrite what someone else has said, but to lead the pack in new thought will put you on a pedestal above the rest.

So how and where do you generate these fresh ideas? Writers are artists, and without your own creativity, I am sorry to say you will probably not go as far as you hoped. It would be virtually impossible to find a topic nobody has ever written about before, but if you take that topic and make it your own, you have done your part. For instance, lets say your surfing the web today and come across an outstanding article called “Is Facebook for Your Business?”.

Read the article and think of other ways you can use the idea, not the exact information, such as “Modeling Your Business Plan Around the Facebook Platform.”, and there you have created an entirely different article. Rather than helping someone determine whether or not their business will work with Facebook, you are now teaching them how to build a business plan that will work with Facebook. And keep in mind the first article would be a great primer for yours, so it is often a good idea to incorporate the link to that reference as an option for your readers.

Another example of recreating an idea would be finding an article like this, “Three Elements to Successful Keyword Research”.

Using this thought maybe you could write, “Why Researching Keywords is Important to You.”. Again you have built a new topic from an existing one, rather than teaching someone how to successfully research keywords, you are simply explaining to them why they should. The original article would be an excellent follow-up for yours, so at the end you can say now that you know why you should be using keyword research, check out this great article to learn how to do it successfully.

So where should you be looking for ideas? The best ideas often come from the strangest places. You should be open to ideas everywhere you go, if you are grocery shopping, using the restroom or walking your dog there are ideas around you. Lets say you write a blog about sports, take a chance and go to the game that weekend for inspiration. You should be able to walk away with tons of new articles if you have an open mind. Not only would you be able to write about the game itself, but what if at half-time you grab a hot-dog and ask the vendor, hey how many of these things do you sell a night?

That is an interesting fact that could be turned into a short story that would probably interest other sports fans, people like quirky facts. Now at the same time what if you find a couple die hard fans at the game and tell them about your blog and ask them a few quick questions, like an interview about what they expect from the team this season. Not only did you just advertise your business you also gained a new article and even better an interview, people love those.

However you find your ideas, keep them original and make them your own. Your readers will know your voice, and they will know a great read when they find it. Inspiration is everywhere, how you use it the challenge.

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