What Google Searches in the Blink of an Eye

I can remember the day I switched over to Google for my internet searches. Before that I had a number of favourite search engines – each with its own specialty. One I would use for searching forums, another I would use for question and answer content. Still another would be used for web page and blog searching.

I quite liked the feeling of control that I experienced in those old days. I knew which tool to use and when. I could find things that other people couldn’t. This made me valuable.

But this process was time consuming. Sometimes I would need to work through many variations of my search terms using two or three different search engines before I found what I needed. And all the while, the clock was ticking.

Eventually I began turning more regularly to Google. It started with a blog search here or there. A boolean search from time to time. But it wasn’t just the results that made me switch. It was the relevance. And it was the speed.

Google’s search far outstripped all the others for speed. The clean, white page offered by Google smashed the slow loading, ad heavy portal offered by Yahoo! It was easier to read than Alta Vista … and it was just more relevant than Ask Jeeves.

But how does Google actually find and return such powerful results so quickly? This infographic explains nicely. And you may just be surprised to know that since 2003 Google has answered 450 billion unique queries that it has never seen before. And only a small percentage are mine!

GoogleSearchInfographic1

Lots of Trends, But the Direction is Mobile

In the marketing world, we love trends. We use them to help us spot and understand what is happening in our marketplaces and what is shifting in the worlds of our customers. They can also be used to help us identify where we have gaps in our customer engagement strategy or where a competitive advantage is opening up.

But so often we focus only on the trend and miss the greater underlying movement that is taking place.

Take a look at this presentation from Edelman Digital. The focus is on trends across Asia Pacific – but the reality of this is, that the same can be easily applied to any country. We are, after all, globally connected. And when I say “we”, I mean “consumers”.

As the presentation points out, trends like “touch (see) and go” and “convergence emergence” are not just on the horizon – they are happening and visible in our marketplace now. And tying this to the Edelman Trust Barometer – a measure of the trustworthiness of our institutions – shows precisely why social networks and dominating the thinking of so many business executives.

But for my money, it’s not the trends that are important for us all to consider. It’s the direction. The report touches on this under “Trend 8: Device Freedom” – but reading between the lines, it’s clear that there is a substantial shift in consumer behaviour underway. And it will impact every angle, every industry, every message and every business – whether we like it or not. It’s the ever increasing ubiquity of the mobile phone (particularly the smart phone). It’s already changing the way we shop and the way we work, but it’s going to go further than most businesses are ready for.

Those that prepare and move earlier will be well placed to guide the customer experience and transform the notion of trust that is at the heart of our often fragile sense of brand loyalty. Those that fail to move may find that they fail in more ways than one. It’s taken well over 10 years to get to the year of the mobile, but the trending time is over – the direction is clear and it’s in the palm of your hand.

Five Social Media Tools I Use Everyday

Just when I think that the world of social media has settled down – that I understand the linkages, measurements, approaches and benefits – something new comes along to upset my apple cart. That means that I am constantly juggling old with new, testing and learning and attempting to map past successes against new tools and techniques.

This is, in part, why we see lots of “5 tips” or “10 must haves” style articles. Constantly.

But I have noticed recently that many of these articles talk about the “100 best” or “99 favourite” tips, tools or techniques. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time for 99 or even 100 anythings. But I do have time for five.

So I thought I’d share with you the five generally free social media tools that I use everyday. And if you have a moment, drop a comment below and tell me about your favourites too!

  1. SocialMention – as a general purpose social media monitoring solution, it’s pretty good. It comes with decent analytics, sentiment analysis and even RSS feeds.
  2. Topsy – want to know more about who, what and trends? This is where Topsy comes in.
  3. Google AdPlanner – what’s currently going on in the world of your contestable keywords? Digging around in the beastly AdPlanner can let you know what you are up against
  4. Posterous – even with its uncertain future (just been purchased by Twitter), Posterous is an awesome aggregating and distribution tool. You can bring content in and you can have Posterous auto-post out to many others. It’s your social media BFF
  5. Tweetreach – no doubt you want to measure your efforts, right? Tweetreach have just launched a new infographic-style reporting engine that tells you just how far, how quickly and how/who pushed your hashtag into the viral stratosphere.

But let's take this a step further … maybe we should use some social media tools to keep track of these and others! So here's a list that you can use:

Who is your Most Valuable Follower?

mvf Here is a nice web app for Twitter built by Alexander Taub and Michael Schonfeld. It’s very simple and straight forward, asking “who’s your MVF” – most valuable follower. You login via Twitter and authorise the app to dig around in your follower list, and after a few moments it tells you which of your followers has the largest following. OK, so it’s not necessarily your most valuable, but your most popular – even still, it’s an interesting question to ask of any audience.

Mine is @ONECampaign. Who is yours? Find out here.

StumbleUpon: Where Randomness meets Serendipity

When I first started blogging, every now and then I’d receive an avalanche of traffic. In fact, the first time it happened it crashed my server (I had been running the Servantofchaos.com blog on a server in my garage, and it just could not cope) – and I ended up switching to Typepad.

The culprit was StumbleUpon.

These days, social networks like Twitter or Facebook garner most of the attention, but this new infographic from column 5 media shows just how powerful StumbleUpon can be. In fact, it drives over 50% of social media traffic in the US. And the coolest thing is that while pages shared via Twitter have a half life of about 3 hours, stumbled pages are over 130 times more effective.

StumbleUpon also has a cool way of managing and scheduling your shared links. Called su.pr, it helps you optimise your shared links by time of day – I wrote about it here. And while many people tend to dislike the StumbleUpon toolbar, with a small investment of your time, the system can deliver you some great content and plenty of new on-topic information. It takes the randomness of the web out and replaces it with serendipity. What more could you ask for?

Stumbleupon-lifecycle-web-page-c5-1

Capturing the Mood of Your Content

Face-Recognition-on-Guardians-images-640x408 The web is a highly visual medium. It is also very text heavy, especially in the social media domain. And while there is a great deal of effort spent on delivering text and stories that resonate with audiences and help drive search results, I often wonder how much attention is paid to the imagery placed into our blog posts, articles and so on.

The Emotional Breakdown experiments with the 24 Hours in Pictures feed from the Guardian, analysing the images that are posted for emotional resonance.

More interestingly, you can also run this analysis across your own websites. Simply enter your web address and Face.com’s facial recognition API will give you a sense of the audience impact all those pearly whites will have on your readers.

And given that this “social web” phenomenon is all about people and not technology, you’d think this is a no-brainer for your web design team, right? But I wonder, will we see A/B testing on images in the near future? Will this help the web be more friendly, or just add another layer of weirdness on top?

I guess it all depends on your mood.

Optimise Your Website with NLYZR.com

“You don’t have to run faster than the bear, just faster than your slowest friend”

When I first started building websites, the web was a very loosely joined collection of sites, boards, pages and applications. It was hard work finding what was “out there” – and we all spent a great deal of time finding, collecting and curating lists of sites and bookmarks. And then along came Google and everything changed.

Suddenly you could search and find what you wanted.

Google’s search results were powered by a complex mathematical logarithm that calculated the number of other websites linking to each other, analysed the text on the page and the images that were shown – along with dozens of other criteria – and then sorted this list of websites into an easily navigable list. And in our impatient, time poor world, those websites that ranked highly – on the first couple of pages – received the bulk of search related traffic.

But just as the web became easier to search, it also became easier to create. With cheap or free blogging and content management systems, you can have a website up and running in minutes. Literally.

But having a website doesn’t guarantee traffic. Remember, there are millions of sites out there. The challenge is finding the time to not only update your website, but to optimise it so that it can be easily found by your customers.

The thing to remember about search rankings is that it’s like the quote above – you don’t have to rank #1, you just have to outrank your competitors.

The team at Newcastle digital agency, Sticky, have recently launched a tool – NLYZR – that helps you do just that.

This web based tool has been under development for over two years. I remember being excited to see a very early – and very manual – version some time ago. Back then, Sticky founder, Craig Wilson, knew he was onto something special, but has invested a great deal of intellectual and practical knowledge into the system. From the beginning the vision was to automate as much as possible – so that business owners and web masters could easily and quickly see improvements.

These days, you simply put your website address into the NLYZR site together with preferred search keywords and the system comes back with a ranking and some recommendations. From there you can change, tweak and update your site to improve your search results.

The thing I like is that it provides practical suggestions – like reducing the length of the titles in your blog posts or adding descriptions to the images on your website. And that’s just the free version. Those who want to dig deeper and optimise an entire website can subscribe to the service from as little as $149 per year. It may be just what your business needs.

Using Su.pr to Find the Best Time to Tweet

I can remember years ago, being obsessed with email marketing metrics. I loved experimenting with email blasts to see what would work – from subject lines and call to action messaging right through to the time of sending. And it was this last one – the time of sending that really made a difference. Sometimes the open rate would double within a 20 minute window (and the same with clickthroughs).

But what about tweeting? Is there an optimum time for sharing a message or a link?

A su.pr way of distributing and measuring your tweets

StumbleUpon is one of those social media platforms that have been constantly hovering in my consciousness for years, but it never really captured my imagination. Occasionally it would remind me of its presence with an avalanche of traffic hitting my blog after a well timed “stumble” from some generous soul, but it never made it into my arsenal of social media tools. Until now.

supr-clicks StumbleUpon is a social network that allows its members to rate and review websites. The underlying social network, recommendation engine and tags allow us to easily discover content that matches our own interests and tastes, and to share it with others who share similar interests. It uses the simple “thumbs up / thumbs down” mechanism and can bring your website to its knees if a well-connected SU member rates you well.

But like many people, I have been using Twitter for this sort of interaction and recommendation. Bit.ly – or sometimes Hootsuite – are my Twitter tools of choice to shorten long URLs and to provide metrics on clickthroughs. But what I really needed was a way to know WHEN to tweet. I didn’t just want analytics, I wanted insight. That’s where StumbleUpon’s su.pr comes in.

Su.pr combines the URL shortening and funky reporting of Bit.ly with the added depth of StumbleUpon. So now I can share a link with Twitter and ALSO share it with StumbleUpon. And in a relatively short period of time (even a few days), I have been able determine when the most effective tweeting times are.

supr-postingTimes

As you can see, the two most effective times appear to be just before 7am and just before 5pm. That means just before most people get to work and just as they are finishing up for the day (in Australia). The 7am tweets also correspond nicely with the afternoon on the west coast of the USA.

And I know this after using su.pr for just under a week. As more data is gathered, I am sure these suggested posting times will shift. But thus far I have been super impressed.

There is plenty more to learn about su.pr – and you can certainly dig down deeper into individual posts. But there’s also much you can do with StumbleUpon such as reviewing sites and building your connections.

But what are you waiting for? If you haven’t joined su.pr, do so. Install the bookmarklet to make link sharing easier, and connect up your Twitter account. Oh, and don’t forget to share this link and vote me up ;)

The Value of Conversion

chart-of-the-day-revenue-per-unique-visitor-google-facebook-ebay-jan-2011

I can remember way back in the early days of the web that we used to count hits. This basically meant that we would count every element on the web page as a single item and each time it was displayed, we would get a “hit”. So a page with ten items would rate as ten hits. This would get people very excited! “My page got 1000 hits” could translate to as little as one visitor if you have 1000 items on your page.

Of course, to the web novice, 1000 hits sounded great.

As we got savvier – and as the number of web users grew – we started counting visitors. And then unique visitors. And then repeat visitors. We started to think of our websites as destinations – as homes for our content, our ideas, products and services.

But, inevitably, someone asks about ROI. What is the value of the transactions that come in when measured against the money spent in creating, maintaining and improving your web presence? In the early days of the web, the cost of implementing a payment gateway was astronomical, so very few businesses could afford it. (These days, you can implement a PayPal gateway with a few clicks and a couple of hours!)

But those businesses that got involved in online commerce early were able to learn valuable lessons. The value to their business was not in the transactions that came through the web (as a channel). What they gained was an understanding of the web AS a business. They learned how to translate business models into the online space – focusing on the hard metrics (ie revenue) rather then hits, visitors etc.

In the online world – where attention is scarce – your challenge is to convert your website visitor’s attention, interest and trust into something more tangible for your business. Sometimes that is not transactional – perhaps you want to grow a community or position yourself as a thought leader (if so, think through the appropriate metrics such as subscriber numbers, inbound links, community membership).

Now – make the hard decision.

Divide those numbers by your traffic figures. What is the conversion percentage (ie how many “visitors” sign up or subscribe)?

Relentlessly focusing on that per-visitor statistic will help you improve your efforts and achieve your objectives. Just take a look at the graph above from the Silicon Alley Insider (via the Measurement Standard). Amazon drives conversion at every opportunity – and the results show. Make just one change to your site and see what impact it has. Keep refining it until you see improvement. And once your site is more relevant to your audience – and is easier for them to use – watch as your conversion rates improve.

Oh, and on that subject, be sure to subscribe here to my blog. Then there’ll be more branding, marketing and social media goodness coming your way.

Retro Fun “Interactive” Website

stopwilson

Do you remember when people used to talk about an “interactive website”? Well, in a nice find today via Twitter we have a website with an MS-DOS command line interface – stopwilson.com:

  • Just type blog to view the StopWilson blog
  • Type help to get help

Brings back all those lovely childhood geek memories! Get your geek on.