The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Advanced Segmentation in Google Analytics: How to Set Up and Use Advanced Segments to Analyze Social Media Traffic


How to set up and use advanced segments in Google Analytics to analyze social media traffic.When I’m helping clients analyze website traffic and performance, I try and help them avoid the time-consuming process of “report browsing”. Instead, I emphasize entering the process with a very specific goal in mind. You need a purpose when diving into reporting or else you run the risk of spending hours scanning metrics with nothing to show at the end but a headache and a bottle of Visine. I also emphasize focusing on actionable data, or information you can analyze and then make decisions based on. This is why segmentation is so important. I’ll explain more about segments below, but for now think of a segment as a slice of your site traffic (based on traffic source, type of visitor, etc.) For the example I provide in this post, visitors from Social Media websites could be a segment of your site traffic.

Back to web analytics and actionable data. Aggregate data from a broad view of your site traffic doesn’t tell you very much. However, data related to specific traffic sources, locations, keywords, and campaigns can reveal incredible information (and you can act on that data). For example, an aggregate website bounce rate of 70% tells you almost nothing. You cannot take action from that metric alone, since you might have dozens of traffic sources all with varying bounce rates. Some may be low (15-20%), while others may be extremely high (90%+). If you just focus on the average bounce rate at the site level, you won’t be able to make an impact easily. On the flip side, if you had a 70% bounce rate for a specific ad group in paid search (which focuses on a specific theme based on your product line), then you know there’s a problem. That’s actionable data. You can then start to analyze the keywords you are bidding on, the ad text you are using, the landing pages you are driving visitors to, etc. And actionable data impacts conversion, revenue, registrations, and overall campaign performance.

The Social Media Segment
With all the buzz about social media marketing, many companies are trying to figure out how to effectively analyze traffic from social media sites. Sure, it’s easy to see visits from social media sites, but in order to understand the impact of that traffic, you need to dig deeper and have a clearer view. It’s sometimes hard to analyze the specific data you want when several sources of traffic are mixed in your reporting. It can get extremely frustrating to say the least. For example, what content on your site do social media visitors consume the most, how engaged is that traffic segment, how much revenue do they generate, do they return to your site, so on and so forth. So, wouldn’t it be great to isolate that traffic and then run Google Analytics reporting just for that custom segment? The good news is that you can set this up using one of the most powerful features of Google Analytics – Advanced Segmentation.

What is Advanced Segmentation?
Setting up advanced segments in Google Analytics enables you to analyze very specific slices of traffic. Instead of analyzing reporting based on major types of traffic, you can slice and dice the traffic to glean actionable insights. For example, you can set up segments for social media traffic, visitors from specific countries or cities, visitors that searched for specific keywords, campaign traffic, etc. You get the picture. It’s extremely flexible and the segments you choose to set up are based on your specific online marketing initiatives. Once you set up an advanced segment, you will only view data for that segment while you traverse your reporting in Google Analytics. Advanced Segmentation is incredibly handy, and again, you gain actionable intelligence from the reporting for the segment you are analyzing. You can view the Google Analytics help area for more information about advanced segmentation.

Setting Up Your Social Media Segment
Let’s say you’ve been focusing heavily on social media marketing and want to gain a clearer picture of how that traffic is performing. For argument’s sake, let’s say you have a Facebook page and accounts at Twitter, Stumbleupon, Delicious, and Digg. You hired a social media marketer who is managing each account and that person has started gaining traction. Based on your social media efforts, you want to find out as much as possible about how that segment is performing. Sure, you could go into referring sources and view some top-level data for each traffic source, but you want more. You want to drill into several more reports to see what content they are viewing, how much revenue they are generating, which events they are triggering, where they are located geographically, etc. Let’s get started.

How to Set Up Your Social Media Segment in Google Analytics:

1. Log into Google Analytics and find the Advanced Segments dropdown in the upper right-hand corner of your reporting. It will be located above the date range and the default segment will say “All Visits”.

Finding the advanced segments dropdown:
Finding advanced segments in Google Analytics.

2. Click the “All Visits” dropdown and find the link on the left-hand side that reads “Create a new advanced segment”.

Creating a new advanced segment:
Creating a new advanced segment.

3. Now you will see a slick drag and drop interface for creating your custom segment. I love that Google Analytics made this so intuitive. On the left hand side, you will find a list of dimensions and metrics that you can use to create your custom segment. On the right-hand side, you will find an area where you can drag those dimensions or metrics and then define them. Clicking the arrows next to each category on the left hand side will reveal all of the dimensions and metrics you can utilize.

Dragging metrics and dimensions to define a new segment:
Dragging metrics and dimensions to create a new segment.

4. For our purposes, we want to define several referring sources as our segment (various social media websites). Click the arrow icon next to “Traffic Sources” and then drag the “Source” tab to the area that says “Dimension or Metric”. The “Source” tab is located near the bottom of the list under “Traffic Sources”. When you drag the source tab over the box labeled “dimension or metric”, you will see the bounding box change from a light grey dotted line to a dark grey dotted line (indicating that you can drop it there). Once you drop the source tab in the box, Google Analytics will let you type the first few letters of the site in a text field to select the specific traffic source. Google Analytics will also auto-populate the field with your current traffic sources (as you type). So, if you start typing Twitter, you will be able to select Twitter.com. You will also notice a “condition” dropdown, which gives you the flexibility for setting matching options. For our purpose, we want to use “Matches Exactly” as we want the exact social media website.

Entering specific traffic sources to define the custom segment:
Entering specific traffic sources to define a segment.

5. Once you set up Twitter.com, you can add more traffic sources by clicking the “Add or statement” link and then dragging another “Source” tab to the dimension or metric box. Start typing Digg and then select Digg.com. Note, Google Analytics will only auto-populate sites where visits exist for your website. So if you don’t have any visitors from Digg.com, then it won’t show up. You will need to manually enter Digg.com in the field if that’s the case.

Adding more traffic sources to your custom segment:
Using the add or statement to include more metrics or dimensions.

6. Add traffic sources for Stumbleupon, Facebook, and Delicious as explained above.

7. Name your custom segment by typing in the text field below the drag and drop section you have been using up to this point. You can enter something like “Social Media Traffic” for this example.

Naming your advanced segment:
Naming your advanced segment.

8. At this point, you can click “Test Segment” to see the data that Google Analytics will pull for the segment. The “Test Segment” link is located on the right side of the screen next to your various social media traffic sources. It’s not required that you test the segment, but it’s always a good idea to ensure you set up your custom segment properly.

9. Finally, when you are ready, click “Create Segment”, which is located next to the Name Segment field mentioned earlier.

10. After creating your segment, you will be sent back to your Google Analytics reporting. Note, your new segment will not be active at this point. You will still be viewing “All Visits” until you manually select your segment. To do this, find the “Advanced Segments” area again in the upper right-hand corner of the reporting and click the “All Visits” dropdown. You should see your new segment titled “Social Media Traffic” in the list. You can click the checkbox next to “All Visits” to remove that segment from your reporting and instead check the box next to “Social Media Traffic” to include the segment in your reporting. When you click “Apply” at the bottom of the advanced segments form, you will be able to view only social media traffic in your Google Analytics reports (as defined by your segment). Voila, you’re done.

Now comes the fun part. Go ahead and browse your reporting to view data just for your social media segment. This includes the content the segment is consuming, locations they are visiting from, conversions, revenue, event tracking, return visitors, etc. Pretty cool, right? Note, you can also activate multiple segments at one time to compare them in your reporting. But, that’s for another blog post. :)

Go Ahead, Segment Away…
Although this was a quick tutorial, I hope you have a better understanding of what advanced segments are and how to use them to analyze specific slices of traffic. Based on how flexible and powerful advanced segmentation is, I plan to write more about the topic in future blog posts. So go ahead and log into Google Analytics and create some custom segments. Don’t worry about corrupting your reporting or messing up any of your data. Advanced Segments won’t hurt any of your current profiles or reporting. It simply filters data for you based on the dimensions and metrics you choose. It’s like a segmentation sandbox (less the shovel and pail of course). Have fun.

GG

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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Say Cheese Please - How The Right Marketing Campaign About Lactose Intolerance Could Add $1.8 Billion To The Cheese Industry Annually


Marketing lactose free cheese in the United States.Hi. My name is Glenn Gabe and I’m lactose intolerant. That’s right, me and about 40 million other Americans. Although it’s not the worst thing that can happen to you, it’s definitely a bit of a downer. I was 32 when I figured out that I was lactose intolerant, and that’s also when I learned how much of a nuisance it was to exclude certain foods from my diet. And those foods were some of my favorite things to eat, including milk, cheese, pizza, ice cream, to just name a few. Cheese, in particular, is in so many foods and meals that you eat on a regular basis, that it’s almost impossible to avoid. Now, that’s assuming that I really do have to avoid cheese. More on that shortly.

What is Lactose Intolerance?
For those of you not that familiar with lactose intolerance, here’s a quick rundown. Lactose is the sugar found in milk. Lactase is the enzyme that your body produces to break down lactose. Lactose intolerant people don’t produce enough lactase to break down the lactose they ingest. And if it’s not broken down, it causes problems (to varying degrees). For most people the symptoms aren’t horrible, but can be more of an annoyance. Since milk is a core ingredient of cheese, you would think that cheese would cause serious problems for lactose intolerant people. Not so fast...

Cabot is Sharp (And I Mean Smart)
I was making lunch about a month ago when it happened. I’m typically stuck using some flimsy science cheese for my sandwiches or choosing from the anemic selection of lactose free cheeses available. That day my wife ended up taking out her favorite cheese, which is Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar. By the way, that’s like dangling a gourmet sandwich in front of a person that’s been stranded on an island for 5 years. :) After a quick glance at the cheese, I wiped the drool from my face and went back to my science project, I mean lunch. That was until my wife glanced at the side of the Cabot packaging. She noticed a small message on the side of the package that read “Lactose FREE”. Huh? I dropped my sandwich on the floor and ran over. Was this a mistake? Are they messing with me? I checked to make sure I wasn’t being punk’d and then I started doing some research.

Cabot's Packaging Promotes Lactose Free Cheese:
Cabot Labeling Showing Lactose Free Cheese.

After doing some searches, I couldn’t believe what I was reading… It ends up that MOST aged cheeses are lactose free. From what I gather, the aging process yields cheese with either very low amounts of lactose or 0 grams of lactose. That includes cheddar, swiss, romano, provolone, etc. Needless to say, I was ridiculously excited. I’m not sure if all the cheeses listed have 0 grams of lactose, but most have such a low amount that they cause no problems for lactose intolerant people.

Where Were The Cheese Companies?
Then it hit me…why in the world aren’t cheese companies promoting this? Is there some reason they don’t want people to buy more of their cheese? Why didn’t I know about this? And why doesn’t the greater lactose intolerant community know more about this? I know quite a few people that are lactose intolerant, and I’m convinced that few of them actually know what they can and cannot eat! While doing my research, most of the search results were to forums and question and answer sites where people like me were asking questions about lactose free foods. Almost none of the major players in cheese ranked for the topic. Finlandia did have a page about how its cheeses were naturally lactose free, which is great, but I think more needs to be done…

The Revenue Implications of Smart Marketing
I couldn’t help but think of the massive revenue impact of effectively promoting this message to targeted people. How could cheese marketers get the word out via a number of channels?

A Target Market of 40 million lactose intolerant people…
I don’t know about you, but a target market of between 30 and 50 million lactose intolerant people provides a pretty darn good opportunity. And the fact that many of those people are dying to eat the foods they once loved (like cheese) makes it even a stronger opportunity. If cheese manufacturers or the cheese industry, decided to launch a thorough marketing and education campaign, I can only think they would strike gold. Simply getting the word out that most cheeses are low in lactose, and many are lactose free, could be a windfall for the cheese industry. There’s actually nothing to sell… your target market wants to eat cheese. They just can’t eat it (or so they think). A well-crafted campaign combining TV, Viral Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Search Marketing, Blogger Outreach, etc. could be huge for the cheese industry. It could be a cheese extravaganza!

Here’s an example of how simple it could be given the desperate eating state of most lactose intolerant people are. Jim and Laura work together:

Jim: Hey Laura, you can’t eat cheese, right?
Laura: Yes, unfortunately I’m lactose intolerant… Are you rubbing it in?
Jim: No, I just saw a video on YouTube explaining that most cheeses are low in lactose and many have no lactose at all… You should check it out.
Laura: WHAT?? Get out of my way! {She tackles Jim to get at his computer, clicks play on YouTube and shoots out the door to the store to buy 16 blocks of aged cheese.}

Revenue Lift: Now That’s A Lot of Cheddar
Let’s do the math. If you reached even 25% of lactose intolerant people in the United States, and they ended up spending an additional $15 per month on cheese, then you are looking at a lift of $1.8 billion per year. That’s a lot of cheddar, pun intended. :)

40 million lactose intolerant people in the US
25% = 10 million people
10 million x $15 per month = $150 million per month
$150 million per month x 12 months = $1.8 billion per year in additional revenue

Moving Forward
If I ran marketing for a cheese company and I was looking for ways to increase revenue, I would launch a killer campaign that engages the lactose intolerant market. Why try and get a .5% lift from the people who already buy and eat cheese when you can get a much greater lift from people that are dying to eat cheese, but just THINK that they can’t.

Now that would be sharp. :)

GG

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Monday, January 25, 2010

An Email, A Tweet, Some Retweets and A Sale - How Twitter Can Impact Your B2B Sales


Case Study - How Twitter Can Impact Your B2B SalesI think many heavy Twitter users hear the same jokes and comments from people not using the service. “I don’t see any value in tweeting my ideas”, “Why would I want tell people what I had for breakfast”, “140 character updates, I don’t get it…”, “Why do I want to communicate with total strangers?”, so on and so forth. After hearing comments like this, it usually only takes me a few minutes to give real world examples of how Twitter is NOT what they were thinking and how they could use the service to help grow their own businesses. Those real world case studies go a long way when you are explaining a service that can be foreign to other people (even for people in marketing who aren’t that involved with social media.) So, I’m always on the lookout for more great examples of how Twitter (and social media) can impact companies, marketers, customers, etc. As you might guess, I’ve a got a good one that I’ve decided to share. :)

The Social Media Chain Reaction Needs a Spark
A few weeks ago, a blog post was published detailing some of the top software applications for a niche in an industry. The post included a startup that had recently just launched their new application. The founder of the startup was proud (as he should be) and blasted out an email newsletter announcing that they were included in the list of top apps. I’m not sure how many people were on the email list, but I can only imagine it wasn’t a large list (as the company recently just launched).

It wasn’t long before a link to the blog post hit the Twittersphere. The company in question has a very small Twitter following, so blasting out an email could only help get the word out. A quick review of their Twitter stream shows they are doing the right things, but they haven’t reached critical mass to make a significant impact. Some of the tweets linking to the blog post were from people who definitely have a strong Twitter following. Retweets soon followed and the word started to get out about the list of top apps. By no means was this a retweet extravaganza that I’ve seen with other posts, but it did get passed around quite a bit.

The Results: Email, Tweet, Retweet, Sale
It's sometimes funny how tweets end up finding the right people. It's similar to WOM, where several generations of communication can occur (stemming from the initial tweet). In a nutshell, the startup ended up landing its first international client in less than 12 hours from one of the initial tweets. The new customer saw the tweet (either by directly following a Twitter user or by tracking keywords in Twitter), clicked through to the blog post, and then chose to learn more about the startup's app. They obviously took the next step and inquired about the service and then pulled the trigger (all in less than 12 hours.) Oh by the way, this all cost nothing for the startup, nada, $0). And when B2B sales can generate thousands of dollars per customer (or tens of thousands of dollars depending on what you sell), you cannot downplay how powerful this Twitter example is.

A Quick Tangent About Email Marketing:
I wanted to point out that an email actually started the communication process. There’s quite a bit of buzz about social networking (and for good reason), but I still believe a strong and scrubbed in-house email list is worth its weight in gold.

Seeing the “Twitter” Light
For the startup, they now see the power of Twitter (and social media in general). But in my opinion, the company was somewhat lucky with what happened. Don’t get me wrong, their software solution looks impressive (especially for the industry they focus on). But, having cool software doesn’t necessarily translate to business success, especially with all the noise in today’s marketplace. It’s great that the blog post made its way to the right people, but the startup could have better facilitated the communication on social networks. No, you cannot control where the message ends up and how it gets passed along, but you can help get the word out to the right people during the launch via followers, fans, influencers, etc. That’s where having a strong presence on social networks like Twitter and Facebook can be extremely powerful.

In order to maximize their efforts and continually engage targeted users, the startup needs to tackle social media marketing on several fronts. Although they saw some success due to Twitter that day, they had to rely on someone else getting the word out. Imagine if they already had a strong following on Twitter and Facebook. What if they already had a global readership on their blog, and had connections with dozens of powerful bloggers in their industry? It’s not a stretch to think that the startup could have landed five or ten new customers versus one. The problem is that it takes time to build up a following, which I have written about several times before. Currently, the startup is in the initial stages of launching their social media marketing efforts. They are fighting the black hole of blogging and Twitter, but they are doing the right things. If they don’t get frustrated and keep driving forward, social media could end up being very powerful for them. They could end up driving the communication versus hoping someone else drives it for them.

In Order to Reap the Rewards of Social Media, Make Sure You’re in the Game
In order to make sure you can benefit from a situation like what I explained above, there are some initial steps you can take. First, develop a strategy for utilizing social media to engage targeted users. This includes understanding the people you want to reach, which types of content they want to see, which social networks you should be active on, how to gain real followers and not just zombie followers, etc. Second, join Twitter. You need to take the leap and join in order to get things moving. Once you join, you’ll need to work through the black hole of blogging and Twitter (like I mentioned above). You won’t build a strong following overnight, but if you do the right things consistently over time, you can end up building a targeted following. And those followers could have a profound impact on your business.

Track everything you can. Track your tweets, follower counts, blog posts, website activity from social networks, and conversion. Note, conversion doesn’t always mean a sale or an email registration (macro-conversions). It can be micro-conversions like downloads, videos viewed, content viewed, email links, etc. You need to understand how your social media marketing efforts are performing in order to make adjustments and grow your following.

Form relationships and not just followers. Yes, that’s the “social” part of social media. I’m not saying you have to be best friends with every follower and fan, but there will be a subset of your followers that you will definitely connect with. Once you form those relationships, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to rely on some of your followers to help your business. And by the way, you’ll probably be just as willing to help them too. Trust me, if you participate in Twitter the right way, you can’t help but meet really cool people with similar interests. Then it’s just a matter of how you engage your newfound friends and contacts.

Twitter Questions to Ponder
So, if you are one of those people asking “Why would I want to tell people what I had for breakfast on Twitter”, please read this post again. Then ask yourself the following questions:

1. How many new customers am I missing out on by not being on Twitter?
2. Are my competitors already there and doing the right things to engage targeted users?
3. How much time can I carve out during each day (yes, that’s every day) to participate on Twitter and other social networks?
4. Am I ready to engage other people and provide valuable content? Read this bullet again. Valuable tweets are NOT about promoting your own service ten times per day. It’s about providing information that your followers would find valuable.

A Final Note
There you have it. A pretty cool example of how email marketing led to a tweet, which led to retweets, and then ultimately a B2B sale (all in less than 12 hours). After reading this case study, you have to ask yourself the following question:

Are you going to be one of the people sitting on the sidelines and making fun of Twitter, or will you be landing new customers and growing your business?

Good question.

GG

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Monday, November 09, 2009

FaceYahoogle – The Impact of Facebook, Yahoo, and Google on Website Traffic


The Power of Google, Yahoo, and Facebook on Site Traffic
It’s hard to get through a conversation about online marketing right now without bringing up Google, Facebook, and Yahoo (among other popular companies). However, if you’re not heavily involved in online marketing, and you’re not close to the actual referring traffic numbers from Google, Yahoo, and Facebook, then their influence can easily become nebulous. It’s easy to say, “Google is a powerhouse” or “Facebook has 325 million members”, and “You need to be there”, but how powerful are they really?

From a traffic perspective, the three companies are so powerful that I’ve given them their own combined name, or FaceYahoogle. The power of FaceYahoogle ends up becoming very real for my clients after I complete a competitive analysis (which includes identifying major sources of traffic for their company, as well as their competitors). The numbers I present across websites typically show extremely high referral data from FaceYahoogle, and by viewing the actual traffic numbers, you start to get a feel for how much impact the three entities have traffic-wise and potentially revenue-wise.

Digging Deeper into FaceYahoogle
If you’ve read previous posts of mine, then you already know that I’m a big believer in using data versus opinion to make decisions. The power of analytics in online marketing enables you to see granular performance data across a number of key metrics. And the more websites I analyze, the more I see a significant trend across industry categories. I see FaceYahoogle sending large amounts of traffic to a wide range of sites. The abnormally high percentage of traffic coming from Google, Yahoo, and Facebook is not only amazing to see, it’s actually scary. With thousands and thousands of potential referring sites on the web, to see FaceYahoogle send that high of a percentage of traffic is alarming. I think you begin understand how Google built up a $22 billion war chest! :)

I think many people would suspect Google being high on the referring sites list, based on having ~70% market share in search and also having Gmail, Google Maps, Google Docs, etc. However, I’m not sure many know how much actual traffic is coming from Googleland. Also, we hear that Facebook has over 300 million members, which is powerful, but are those members visiting your site via the social network? I’ll answer that question below via screenshots. And then you have Yahoo, with turmoil somewhat cloaking the power of its sites. How much traffic actually comes from Yahoo Search, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo News, Finance, Answers, etc?

So that’s my quick introduction to FaceYahoogle. Now let’s take a look at some numbers! I have provided Compete data (September 09) for a number of popular websites across a range of categories so you can view their referring sources. Note, I know Compete isn’t perfect, but it does provide a wealth of information to analyze for each website (especially for sites that receive large amounts of traffic).

Referring Sites for NYTimes.com
31% from FaceYahoogle (and 17% from Google alone…)

Referring Sources for The New York Times

Referring Sites for LinkedIn
36% from FaceYahoogle, and over 8% from Facebook.

Referring Sources for LinkedIn

Referring Sites for Weather.com
24% from FaceYahoogle

Referring Sources for Weather.com

Referring Sites for JCrew
31% from FaceYahoogle

Referring Sources for JCrew

Referring Sites for The Huffington Post
33% from FaceYahoogle (and almost 8% from Facebook)

Referring Sources for The Huffington Post

Referring Sites for Yelp
A whopping 55% from FaceYahoogle (and 43% of that from Google!)

Referring Sources for Yelp

Referring Sites for ESPN
25% from FaceYahoogle (and nearly 10% from Facebook)

Referring Sources for ESPN

Referring Sites for Amazon.com
25% from FaceYahoogle (cha-ching…)

Referring Sources for Amazon.com

Referring Sites for Apple.com
28% from FaceYahoogle

Referring Sources for Apple.com

Let’s throw in a military site to see how the 3 headed monster works here:
Referring Sites for AirForce.com
Over 40% of referring traffic from FaceYahoogle

Referring Sources for The US Airforce

The screenshots above make it a little more tangible, right? FaceYahoogle is accounting for 40%+ of referring traffic for some websites. If you analyze website traffic often, then you know how insane those numbers are… But that’s not the whole story. The downstream data is important too. It ends up that a large percentage of traffic from these websites is going back to FaceYahoogle. Let’s take a look at just a few from above.

Downstream Data for Apple.com
26% of visitors leave Apple.com and go back to FaceYahoogle

Downstream Traffic from Apple.com

Downstream Data for AirForce.com
31% of visitors leave Apple.com and go back to FaceYahoogle

Downstream Traffic from AirForce.com

I saw the same trend across the other sites.

So, FaceYahoogle is driving enormous amount of traffic, but it’s also the top recipient of traffic from many sites. In particular, Facebook provides some unique opportunities with regard to downstream traffic. Give your visitors something to take back and you can possibly end up with even more traffic (WOM-based or possibly viral-based). And with some Google and Yahoo traffic going to back to Gmail, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Answers, etc., you also have opportunities for spreading the word about your products, company, brand, etc. Let’s quickly take a closer look at each part of FaceYahoogle below.

Google
As you can see, Google is an absolute powerhouse, even showing 43% of Yelp's overall referring traffic. That’s outrageous! And it’s not just any traffic, right? Many of the visitors from Google just searched for specific products or services that each site provides (AKA, high quality visitors). Imagine the revenue impact of Google traffic for those sites. In case you are wondering, Google traffic numbers include Search, Maps, Mail, Docs, Video, etc.

Seeing the high percentages from Google across sites, you can start to understand why SEO and SEM have been incredibly hot in online marketing… Some companies survive based on Google traffic alone (via paid and organic search traffic). A slip in rankings can be catastrophic for some websites, with the potential of impacting millions of dollars of revenue. Think about it. If you have 40% of your traffic coming from Google and slip to page two, three, or beyond, you will lose many targeted visitors, and the money they would have spent on your site. So is Google powerful? You bet it is. The numbers combined with my experience tell me so. :)

Facebook
Facebook has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years and is estimated to have 325 million members now. Clearly people are signing up in droves, using the platform at a staggering pace (104 billion pageviews based on Compete September 09), and oh yeah, they are visiting websites from Facebook. As you can see in the screenshots above, Facebook ranks in the top five referring sites for many of the properties I checked. Actually, it was typically in the top three. And in case you’re wondering, Twitter is moving up the charts too. Depending on the focus on the site in question, I see Twitter sending large amounts of traffic (and that doesn't count desktop clients which many Twitter members use). On that note, to read an example of how Twitter can impact exposure, traffic, and subsequent SEO power, check out my post about the Twitter effect on SEO. It’s a great example of how Search works with Social.

So, if your company is ignoring social media, then go back through the screenshots above and take note of the percentage of referring traffic from Facebook again. In meetings, I find myself saying more and more that if you ignore social media (and especially Facebook and Twitter), do so at your own risk. Again, the numbers are pretty convincing.

Yahoo
Although Yahoo has taken a back seat recently, the numbers are still strong from a referring source perspective. Between Yahoo Search, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Answers, Yahoo News, Finance, etc. there are still millions of people visiting each property per month. And yes, those sites end up as top referring sources (impacting traffic, sales, sign-ups, twitter followers, Facebook fans, etc.) Yahoo consistently showed up in the top five referring sites, and often number one or two. Don’t count out Yahoo just yet. If you do, you’d be dismissing a huge traffic source (when you take all of their properties into account).

The Future of FaceYahoogle
I’m sure you are wondering which sites will be the major sources of traffic in 2010 and beyond? Will Twitter beat out Facebook, will Bing surpass Google, will Yahoo be non-existent? The beauty of the web (and technology) is that we never know. But the data does tell us something… don’t ignore Search and Social, and how they can work together.

People are searching and people are talking. And the people that are talking can impact how people that are searching find your website. And people searching can lead to sharing on social networks, based on what they find. Look at the numbers again. Don’t discount Facebook because you think people are tagging photos or playing games all day. You also shouldn’t disregard Google’s dominance. It is too powerful to ignore. And Yahoo isn’t dead yet. There are millions of people visiting Yahoo Sites on a regular basis.

Last, to emphasize that we never really know what will take off, I have provided Twitter’s trending below (Compete data over the past 24 months). I bet many people don’t even know that it was around in 2006 and 2007… and that it crept along until 2008 when it gained serious traction. So, is the next Twitter out there right now slowly growing and about to gain traction? Good question. :)

Click the image to view a larger version:
Twitter Trending 24 Months

GG

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

SES NY Series: Social Media Marketing for Brand Building, An Interview with Hollis Thomases from WebAdvangtage.net


Social Media Marketing for Brand Building at SES NYSocial Media Marketing is obviously a hot topic right now. It would be hard to attend a marketing meeting at any company and not hear about Blogging, Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, etc. But in my experience, many marketers are confused about how to proceed and have many unanswered questions. For example, how do you start? Who should be driving your social media initiatives? Should you just outsource it? How do you measure the results? What metrics should be analyzed? Like I said, there’s a lot of confusion about how to do this, especially from traditional marketers. That’s why many marketing budgets have a very small line item at the very end, so small you can barely make it out. It reads “Social Media”, and typically has less dollars associated with it than your bill for lunch! :) That will change, though.

I’ve been a part of many conversations with clients about social media marketing. I’ve heard a lot of concerns, confusion, and to be quite honest, fear… Since it’s so new and there are limitless creative opportunities, many marketers view Social as the Wild West. You know, gun-slinging social media mavens that are breaking bottles at the bar that somehow end up playing poker with your marketing budget. ;) Now, most of us know that’s not the case (for the most part), but marketers that haven’t participated in social media yet sometimes view it this way.

Hollis Thomases from WebAdvantage.net.Based on what I explained above, you can imagine that I'm very interested in the session at SES NY about Social Media Marketing for Brand Building. I’m sure many brand marketers will be attending the session looking for answers. As I reviewed the session panelists, I noticed that Hollis Thomases was on the list, who I actually met on Twitter by the way! (Ahh, the power of social media, right?) I decided to interview Hollis to find out more about what she’ll be covering during the session, which is on Wednesday, March 25h at 9:00. She was nice enough to take some time and answer my questions about social media marketing.

I’ve provided my interview with Hollis below. After reading the interview, don’t hesitate to post your comments or questions.

Glenn: What are the top things people will learn by attending your session?

Hollis: People that attend our session will learn how smart companies are using social marketing tools to promote brands and reach out to customers (and how it’s possible to do so without investing a fortune.) They will also learn the kinds of metrics being used to measure the success of social media initiatives.

Glenn: What are you hearing from clients and prospective clients about social media marketing? Are they deathly afraid of it, are they transparent enough for social, do they think it’s just for a younger demographic, etc?

Hollis: There’s a great deal of interest in social media, though most of our clients are simply trying to get educated so they can understand if it might be an area worth dipping a toe into. To some, it’s a pox to be avoided (and rightly so for regulation reasons); for others, they’re eager to get in on the action; a few are actually already successfully engaged. It’s really a question of understanding, “Is social media right for US?”

Glenn: Are you going to introduce popular social media sites and platforms, with a quick rundown of each?

Hollis: In my session, one panelist will focus on Twitter (me) and another on Facebook (Harry Gold of Overdrive), while a third speaker (Dave Evans) will discuss the mechanics and metrics of social media marketing.

Glenn: Do companies understand that social media is about connecting and engaging with communities or do they view social as a media spend?? I know many traditional marketers are trying to tie Social Media to older metrics that don’t make sense for the medium…

Hollis: IMO, the answer at the moment is NEITHER. It’s still too nascent of a field and clients are still too under-educated to really understand much about social media. Still, once I do a little education, yes, I constantly get the question about measuring ROI. I usually then use the public relations analogy, e.g. “Are you doing any PR? How are do you directly measure the ROI of that kind of tactic?” Of course, I can also help get them thinking about engagement and interaction metrics, but I caution that direct ROI is certainly harder to do and isn’t really the place for social media.

Glenn: What are some top-level recommendations for marketers with regard to participating in social media?

Hollis:
#1 - Get educated. Diving ignorant into social media is a recipe for disaster.

#2 - Plan to dedicate resources in the form of staff time. At least one human being is going to need to be behind this social media effort.

#3 - Get a thick skin. Social media is a place where your consumers are going to reveal the good, the bad and the ugly. If you can’t hack that and maintain a consumer and customer-friendly focus, don’t play here….but know that your consumers will still be in this space talking about you in all kinds of ways regardless.

#4 - Be authentic. Don’t lie, try to cover up some kind of bungle or make stuff up because you will be called out by the community quicker than a burning match. If your company has a mishap, acknowledge it, apologize for it, explain how you will rectify it, and move on.

#5 – Have a clear objective as to why you’re entering the social media space to begin with because it’s not for every company, and every social network is not right for every company. Social media, like any other tactic you might be investing time, resources and dollars to, should have clear objectives (or at least a roadmap to guide the process initially).

#6 – If nothing else, know that social media is a great laboratory to understand what your audience may/may not respond to. As you build relationships with your audience, you can also utilize them to help you “market research” in an informal way. Test out ideas, design creative, product trials, etc. with your crowd - many will leap on the chance to contribute to the development of something bigger than themselves.

Glenn: Are you going to explain the difference between quantity and quality of followers, friends, etc?

Hollis: For Twitter, I’m going to frame this from an opinion, but also from what’s going on out there and what restriction Twitter places on ratios (great read on this subject in case you didn’t catch it: http://www.twitip.com/the-twitter-numbers-game).

Glenn: Are you going to provide any case studies or statistics as part of your session?

Hollis: I think each panelist will probably cover 1 or 2 case studies/success stories, and we’ll cover as much as possible based on the time we have to present.

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As you can see, there’s a lot to think about when you start delving into Social Media Marketing. Like anything else in online marketing, there are some great examples of companies doing it right, and then some examples of companies that haven’t done such a good job (and I’m being nice here…) I think that’s why a session like this at SES NY is so important. One thing is for sure, Social Media Marketing is not easy. There are no shortcuts to connecting with people, providing value to a community, building relationships, etc. Unfortunately, I think many marketers have a hard time with that concept… My hope is that changes.

Again, Hollis’ session on Social Media Marketing for Brand Building is on Wednesday, March 25th at 9:00. I’ll be attending the session and tweeting the core points that each panelist covers. I’ll also be recapping my days at SES here on my blog.

Are you interested in Social Media Marketing, but confused with how to proceed? Post a comment below and I’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

GG

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

6 Questions You Should Ask During a Website Redesign That Can Save Your Search Engine Rankings


Questions to ask during your next website redesign or update.If you are currently involved in or are planning a website redesign, then I’m sure the title of my post caught your attention. I’m not one to strike fear into people about SEO, but in my experience, website redesigns (or even website updates) have a knack for hurting Natural Search rankings. It actually makes a lot of sense if you think about it. During website redesigns, many companies try to make noticeable and impactful changes. You might add more interactivity and rich media, you might use the latest coding techniques to enhance the user experience, you might remove older webpages that you don’t believe need to be on the site anymore, you might change your URL structure, so on and so forth. But, and this a significant but, if you don’t look at your redesign through the lens of SEO, then you have a distinct possibility of hurting your search rankings. Actually, you can crush your rankings if you aren’t careful.

So, I decided to write this post to help you stand out as the person that saves the day. The person that flies in with SEO on your chest, swoops down and identifies SEO issues with your redesign and then corrects a potential disaster in the making.
--BTW, these are actual SEO scenarios I have come across. Also, there are many more issues that can pop up, but I decided to focus on these 6 for the post. And don’t laugh when you read each item, this might be happening as part of your next redesign. :-)

Without further ado, here are 6 questions you can ask during your website redesign that can save your search engine rankings:

1. Are we using Flash in the right ways and only when we need its unique power?
If you know me at all, then you know I’m a big advocate of Flash (having developed with it for over 10 years). But, replacing HTML content with full Flash pages or a significant amount of Flash can really cause problems SEO-wise. Run a cache command on a full flash webpage and you’ll see the problem quickly. That is unless you want to rank for “big blank white space”! ;-) If you do add more flash content to your site, then definitely utilize SWFObject 2.0 to provide search engine friendly alternative HTML content. I’ve written an in depth post about how to use SWFObject 2.0 here. And for those of you that are saying, “We’ll be ok since the engines are now crawling flash...”, please read my other post about Google crawling flash. There are several variables that can impact how Google and Yahoo crawl your swfs (the two engines working with Adobe now). My tests and recommendations were backed up this week at SMX during the Flash and SEO session with Adobe, Google, Yahoo, and Live Search. What’s my rule of thumb with Flash? Use it where you need the unique power of Flash. Do not, I repeat, do not use Flash for your entire site or for entire pages of content. Use it for webpage elements only.

2. Did we analyze the Search Equity of webpages marked for removal?
If you will be removing content from your site, make sure you determine the Search Equity of your pages. Your current rankings are heavily based on the quality and relevance of your inbound links. You’ve worked hard to build those links, so why would you throw them away?? This happens all too often when you don’t take into account which pages are important from a Natural Search standpoint.

Campaign landing pages are a great example of this. Let’s say you launch a new product and use a wide range of marketing channels to promote the new product and landing page. When the campaign ends, you decide the page isn’t needed anymore, so you just delete it. But hold on… if you had taken a look at the Search Equity of the page, you would have realized it built more than 5000 links for you, mostly from industry-relevant blogs and websites! It earned a Pagerank 5 and you just threw away all of those links by deleting the page! I hate when I see this happen. Do your homework before deleting pages.

So what should you do? You should either keep the page as-is or 301 redirect the page to a corresponding page on your site. That might be the product category page or a similar product page. 301 redirects are the proper way to pass link power from one URL to another. It’s a permanent redirect and tells the engines that Page A has moved permanently to a new location (Page B). Tip: Do not use 302 redirects when you remove a page. 302's are temporary redirects and are not search engine friendly. I can write an entire post about redirects, but just remember that 301’s are good and 302’s are bad.

3. Are we changing our URL structure during the redesign? If we are, did we make sure the engines know where the old pages will reside on the new website?
Similar to the bullet above, be careful if you decide to change your URL structure. If you change a URL from abcd.asp to efgh.asp, the engines will look at the page as NEW, even though the same content has been around for a long time (and has built up links and search power). Basically, the new page won’t automatically inherit the search power of the original page. Now imagine the impact if you change thousands of URL’s, tens of thousands of URL’s or even more?

For example, let’s say you decide to include target keywords in your URL’s, such as a product name and category. The old URL’s that have built up a nice amount of Search Equity will all be changed to your new taxonomy during the redesign. That’s great, but again, all of that search power will unfortunately be lost unless you tell the engines where the new URL’s are. Based on what I mentioned above, you can probably guess that it’s Mr. 301 redirect to the rescue again. You can redirect your old URL’s to your new ones and safely pass their link power. I’ve seen this overlooked plenty of times, and again, the results can be devastating.

4. Are we using Vanity URL’s or custom domains for our campaign microsites?
Note, this doesn't fall under something that will crush your current rankings, but it sure can impact how your site builds more power based on your hard work.

Let's say you have a new marketing campaign going live soon and someone on your team wants to register a bunch of new domain names for the microsite. You know, something like www.TheBestDarnBagelOnThePlanet.com or something catchy like that… Here’s the problem. It will be a brand new domain that needs to build its own search power versus inheriting the trust from your core domain, which is why I’m a bigger fan of using subdirectories, such as yourdomain.com/campaigntitle. Then your campaign will leverage your trusted domain, rank faster, and help build links for your trusted domain. It’s a win-win.

5. Are we replacing keyword-rich text content with images or Flash in order to achieve an aesthetic advantage? AKA, we want things to look pretty…
Your design team went nuts with the redesign, the new site looks incredible, and it uses all sorts of images and flash content in place of text content. You know, because the standard browser fonts aren’t sexy enough. I get that, I really do... but the SEO impact can be serious. For example, taking keyword rich text content on each page and throwing it into images to get a desired look. Taking your text navigation and placing it in Flash or in images. Again, this happens all too often. Text links are still the best way to get the bots to all of your content. And, using descriptive anchor text, you can tell the engines what they will find at the other end of the link. For example, using a text link with the anchor text Adidas Running Sneakers is much more powerful than using an image that holds the text Adidas Running Sneakers. Even if you use alt text with that image, it’s a much better idea to use descriptive text links. And, if you use Flash, then you’ll run into even more problems, which is why you should use SWFObject to provide an HTML version of your navigation. And for those of you who are saying, “I’ll just provide an xml sitemap to the engines and I’ll be fine”, keep in mind that the optimal way to get the engines to your pages is via a traditional crawl (as noted by a Google engineer at SMX this week). :) XML Sitemaps are a great supplement and help with more than just content discovery, but they don’t replace text links and navigation as the best way to get the bots to your website pages.

6. Did we do such as a good job at coding that we essentially removed key pages from our website? i.e. Where one page now handles the equivalent of 10 pages. The URL doesn’t change, but the content does big time!
Your developers did a great job of streamlining your code. They did such as good job, that 10 pages of content can now be handled dynamically by just one page. That one page posts back to itself and dynamically provides the content of 10 pages from your old site. Code-wise this might be outstanding, SEO-wise, it’s a nightmare. Beyond removing 10 pages from your site that might have built up Search Equity, you cannot optimize a page for each of the 10 items that will be presented on the fly. You are going to have a heck of a time getting those products to rank if they cannot be crawled! In addition, you cannot optimize the typical HTML elements like you normally would. For example, the title tag, h1, h2, body copy, inline links, etc. since the information will be loaded dynamically. Coming from a development background, I totally understand why you would want to code this way. However, from an SEO-standpoint, it can cause all sorts of issues. I would make sure you can present each of the 10 pieces of content in an optimized webpage with a distinct URL. You can still use code to streamline the process and delivery, but try not to handle everything at one URL.

A quick example would be a category page that dynamically presents each product within that category. This might happen when you click each product image (and this all happens at at one URL). The engines would only see one URL and crawl the initial content. Not good.

So there you have it, 6 ways you can save the day during your next website redesign or website update. Keep in mind that you will probably have a challenging time when you first introduce these questions. There will be pushback and requests to back up your recommendations. But once you do, and everyone involved starts to understand SEO best practices, the problems I mentioned will be less likely to occur. If they are less likely to occur, then you have a better chance of keeping your organic search power. If you keep your organic search power then you can keep driving natural search traffic to your site. If you keep driving natural search traffic to your site, then you can reap the benefits of that traffic, which can be increased exposure, customers, and revenue.

So don't be afraid to speak up!

GG

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Best Buy In Store Pickup 2, Would the Sequel Be Better than the Original (for Once)


Best Buy In Store Pickup, The Second ChanceI’m a nice guy. Really, I’m not kidding… I don’t want to complain about companies, products or services. Actually, I love coming across a product or service that I like and that I believe in. And, I’m the type of person to tell everyone I know. I’m definitely a word of mouth marketing machine for the products and companies I like. It’s just in my blood. So, when I tried Best Buy In Store Pickup in 2006 (on a tight deadline), and the service bombed on me, you could imagine my frustration. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, it wasted my time, and as a result, I let the world know about it on my blog. As I stated in 2006, great concept, poor execution. But again, I’m a nice guy. I believe in second chances, and this is a post about the second chance I gave Best Buy this past weekend. My hope was that Best Buy fixed the flawed In Store Pickup system that wasted my time in 2006 and pushed me to write about my negative experience. Let’s start at the beginning with a brief description of what frustrated me in 2006.

My Problems with the Original
In 2006, I logged onto the site, found the products I needed, chose “in store pickup”, and was shown that it was in stock at the store in Princeton. Then, when I received my two confirmation emails, I was told that the products weren’t in stock. What?? So, I had to log back on and order a different product, again seeing that it was in stock. But was it? The system said the same thing last time, only to send me an email notifying me that the product wasn’t in stock… I took the chance, it ended up being in stock, and I was off to Best Buy to pick up my order. But I wasted time, wasn’t confident in the process, was frustrated, and probably could have just run out to the store from the beginning! It amazed me that a company like Best Buy didn’t have an integrated system for knowing if something was really in stock… That’s why I wrote the first post. But this post is about the sequel, the second chance I gave Best Buy. So grab your popcorn and soda and let’s find out how the sequel went.

It Doesn’t Happen Often, But the Sequel Beat the Original
I found myself in a similar buying situation last week, needing to order some products, but short on time. That’s the moment I thought I would give Best Buy a second chance. I logged onto the site, found the products I needed, chose “In Store Pickup”, quickly checked if the product was in stock in Princeton, and finalized my order. Then I eagerly awaited the two confirmation emails to see if the products were actually in stock, hoping the systems were integrated a little better than 2006… Within 20-30 minutes, I received my confirmation emails and everything was in stock. Great job Best Buy. The system worked and you saved me time. It seems like you might have improved your system for checking whether or not a product is actually in stock. The key words being “I think”… I didn’t really know that for sure and maybe I was just lucky this time. So, I headed off to pick up my products at the Princeton location, armed with my email receipt and my ID.

A Best Buy Employee Shed Some Light on In Store Pickup
In my original Best Buy In Store Pickup experience, the “In Store” part was outstanding. It was fast, efficient, and if the systems were better integrated, I could have seen using the service more often. This time was pretty similar. It was a little more crowded, but overall, it was still pretty efficient. I showed my receipt and the credit card I used to pay for the items, and picked up the products I had purchased. Again, I was happy with the service this time.

Then it hit me, let me ask the employee at the In Store Pickup desk more about the service. Maybe there’s a good reason for how they determine if something is in stock. The man helping me seemed very knowledgeable about the process, so I peppered him with questions. My first question was about the notification on the site that the product was in stock. He said, “not so fast…” The system is linked with the store, but there are several variables that could throw off the actual number. Theft was the first thing he brought up (which by the way he emphasized it, makes me think it’s a bigger problem than most people know.). He also brought up bad SKU’s or human error when entering what’s in stock at the store location. If that happened, then the system wouldn’t know if the number entered is correct or not. So, his advice was simple. If the site shows more than 5 items in stock, you’re probably good to go. That leaves some buffer for theft or human error. If the site shows 1-2 items in stock, be careful and wait for the second confirmation email, which will tell you if it’s really in stock. And by the way, Best Buy physically has an employee go and check if it’s in stock once the purchase is made on the website. That’s why it can take up to 45 minutes to receive the second confirmation email. I thanked the employee for helping me and for taking the time to explain what goes on behind the scenes with In Store Pickup. Then I left with my products.

Will There be a Trilogy? I Think So.
Was my first experience negative? Absolutely, but I didn’t fully understand the process at that point. I can argue that as a consumer, I shouldn’t have to understand the process, but putting my marketing hat on for a minute, I must take that into account. Their online system cannot determine theft or human error, at least at this point in time. I understand that and I now have a newfound appreciation for what they are trying to accomplish with In Store Pickup. Actually, I have an idea for Best Buy. Take what the employee told me and add it to the FAQ for In Store Pickup on the website. Then whenever someone chooses In Store Pickup, show that link prominently in their cart (with more than a text link that’s currently there). I’m telling you, it will alleviate a lot of frustration and confusion. Consider that my free Internet Marketing advice for the day. ;-)

Have any of you used Best Buy In Store Pickup? What were your experiences like? I’m eager to know.

GG

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Mobile eCommerce, Amazon.com Blurs the Line Between Web and Mobile Purchase


Mobile e-Commerce and Amazon.com, Buying From Your Mobile Device.It’s 7:17AM and I just caught the express train from Princeton to New York City. This morning will be a little different, though. I won’t be doing what I typically do during a trip into Manhattan like browsing the latest blog posts and articles about internet marketing, writing new blog posts or using Twitterberry to Tweet on Twitter. {Try and say that 5 times fast!} No, this morning I am going to test the limits of the mobile web. That’s right, I’m going to buy something from my Blackberry! Yes, I know that’s bold… You might be wondering if buying something on your mobile device is seamless yet? Not consistently. Is it something completed often? Definitely not. I’d actually argue that some people don’t even know it’s possible. In addition, many companies unfortunately haven’t made the effort to ensure that your mobile buying experience is easy. This translates into a lack of user trust. And when you have a lack of user trust, people won’t act (or in this case, buy). But there’s an exception to every rule and that exception is Amazon.com when you are referring to mobile e-commerce. I was ridiculously impressed with my mobile purchase the other day. Let’s explore why.

Buying from Amazon.com on the Train
Bryan Eisenberg just released his latest book, Always Be Testing and I’ve been dying to buy it. But, I haven’t had time to buy it from home and I’ve been cranking away at work so my train ride would be the perfect opportunity to make the purchase. That is, if I could successfully make a purchase using my Blackberry, which is easier said than done. Based on my experience testing mobile e-commerce, I was fairly certain that I would run into some glitch along the way, whether that was on my end or on the retailer’s end. So I logged onto Amazon.com in search of Bryan’s latest book, and let me tell you…I was blown away. Amazon has obviously gone to great lengths to make my mobile buying experience as seamless as possible. Let me briefly explain each step of the experience that impressed me.

1. The Basics, A Mobile Version of the Website
As I hit the website, Amazon displayed their mobile version of the website, which is optimized for mobile devices. The site was formatted for my mobile browser and streamlined my visit. Imagine having to load all of the typical Amazon content on your mobile browser…that wouldn’t be good and would be a barrier for many potential customers.

2. Search
The search box was front and center on mobile Amazon. I entered, “Always be testing” and received a nicely formatted, easy to read listing of books. Bryan’s book was the first result. Like I said earlier, easy.

3. Book Detail Page
Then I was taken to a streamlined product detail page. A buy now button was front and center, along with the details of the book. I could easily read editorial reviews and customer reviews, which I thought would be tedious on my Blackberry. It wasn’t. I could also add the book to my watchlist, if needed. Clicking on a review took me to the full customer review with easy navigation back to the detail page.

**And by the way, the pages on the site loaded ridiculously fast (and I’m comparing that to my typical mobile load times).

4. The checkout process…
...was darn smooth. I was able to log into my account and move through the checkout process quickly. Within a few minutes and a few screens, I had ordered my book. I also received the same outstanding correspondence that Amazon typically provides with standard web purchases. And I felt extremely confident that the order went through and that I would receive my book quickly about Google Website Optimizer. And I did…2 days later.

This was by far my best mobile e-commerce experience yet. Actually, it was so good that it’s hard to make a distinction between a typical web buying experience and Amazon’s mobile buying experience. Amazon blurred the line between web and mobile which is not easy to do. They deserve great recognition for this!

Amazon, keep making this easy for us…
And here’s the core point of my blog post. If you make your mobile e-commerce experience seamless, fast, and efficient for customers, then you’ll have a new and powerful opportunity for increasing sales. This is an extremely important point as more and more companies focus on mobile e-commerce and as devices and their capabilities grow. Seriously, as soon as you sit down on the train and look around, everyone has their smartphones out. Talk about an opportunity. :-)

In closing, if you’re a marketer, ask yourself the following questions:
1. Are you ready for mobile customers?
2. Can your site handle mobile purchases?
3. How much revenue are you losing by not having a mobile-ready e-commerce website?
4. Are competitors eating your lunch mobile-wise?

These are important questions that you should bring up to senior leadership at your organization. And when you bring this up, what’s the easiest way to demonstrate the power of mobile e-commerce? Just take out your mobile device and visit Amazon.com, and then compare it to your mobile buying experience. Believe me, I think they’ll get it. ;-)

GG

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Whuil? Why Cuil Has A Long Way To Go Before It Can Compete With Google


Cuil versus Google, Which search engine is better?.With all of the hype about the "Google Killer" Cuil over the past few weeks, I definitely wanted to give it a little time before officially commenting. When I heard a rival to Google was launching, I was absolutely intrigued, to say the least. I love Google, but I’m not sure any company should have 70% market share in any industry! :) That said, I never thought Cuil could hit the scene and pose a serious threat to Google, but my hope was that it could be a solid alternative to the search giant. The problem for Cuil, or any Google competitor for that matter, is that gaining users doesn’t entirely have to do with the quality of search results (although that is an important factor). Google is so ingrained in our society that it’s going to be hard for any search engine to stroll in and make a dent in big G. I’m neck deep in search engine marketing, including both SEO and SEM, so you bet I’ll try it out. But ask my mother if she knows of another engine… I’ll save you the time, she doesn’t. And let’s face it, Google does an incredible job with Search. It’s not like they provide horrible results with no variety. People wouldn’t use it if it did! More on that later.

Data Typically Doesn’t Lie
So what do I think of Cuil? I’m actually going to let the data do the talking. I tested out both Google and Cuil using the same search terms with the goal of viewing the relevance, quality, and variety of search results. Of course, I’ll add my own commentary to help give you a better picture of what I saw along the way. This is by no means a final test, but I think it gives us a good feel for how Cuil compares to Google right now. Let’s hop in.

DVD’s and e-Commerce
Let’s hit the web to buy one of my all time favorite movies… Jerry Maguire. A search on both Cuil and Google for Jerry Maguire DVD Prices yielded:

Google: Great listings leading me to Amazon.com and other e-commerce websites. Google also provided shopping one box results for the DVD, linking to various ecommerce websites. In addition, you can always click the shopping tab in Google to see a listing of Jerry Maguire DVD’s with their associated pricing. Google had me at hello. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. ;-)

Cuil: This was easy, Cuil returned NO RESULTS. Are you kidding me Cuil? We’re talking about Jerry Maguire here!

Learning something new and defining terms:
How about a search to define a term? Mobile technology is ridiculously hot now, so let’s define Bluetooth. I entered Define Bluetooth and found:

Both Google and Cuil returned good results, although I would argue that Google did a better job of providing more variety (giving you the ability to search news, blogs, etc.) I won’t knock Cuil too badly for this one. Let’s call it a slight advantage to Google.

Local Search
I recently looked for a plumber in our area, so let’s try both Google and Cuil for plumbers in Princeton, NJ:

Google: Outstanding results. Google's local results provided 10 local plumbers with the ability to read reviews, print coupons, watch videos, etc. In addition, Paid Search provided some interesting results too. I like the variety and the local search results. Nice.

Cuil: Unfortunately, Cuil returned misc. plumber sites, no reviews, a few weird, off-topic results like Foreign Affairs Author Page (what??). Winner, Google by a mile!

Maps and Directions
I recently played Lederach Golf Club in Pennsylvania, so let’s search by address in both engines. I entered 900 Clubhouse Drive Harleysville, PA and found:

Google: Displayed a Google Maps one box listing at the top, with a link to the full Google Maps listing. There I had the ability to get directions and find the best route. Excellent.

Cuil: Decent results, but if I'm entering an address, you can probably guess I'm looking for directions and a map. There were also some results for places to visit and stay in the general area (nice, but not really what I was looking for). Winner: Google hit a 300 yard drive and Cuil ended up in the fairway bunker. Both have a shot for par, but Google has the easier path. :)

Shopping and Coupon Codes
comScore recently reported that coupon sites have seen a surge in visitors. This makes sense, given the economy, so let’s start searching. I entered Coupon Codes Lands End and found:

Google: Solid results. Great coupon code websites, with retailmenot.com at the top of the list (one of my favorites). Paid Search also provided some good coupon code websites.

Cuil: Not so good. Although there were a few coupon code websites listed, there was one listed over and over again (allinonecoupons.com). I wasn’t thrilled with Cuil’s results and found myself wanting to see Google’s results again.
Winner: Enter “Google Wins” during checkout to receive a 20% discount! ;-)

Images and Photos
Let's search for some photos. I searched for Statue of Liberty Images and found:

Google: Image one box results with a link to Google Image Search. Needless to say, I found exactly what I was looking for in mere seconds in Google. There were also stock photography sites listed.

Cuil: Random weirdness with almost no images listed. Come on Cuil…it’s the Statue of Liberty! I know images aren’t what you do well, but if you are going to rival Google, images have to be part of the equation.

Obama versus Mccain
No need to explain why I’m searching for this one given our election in a few months! A search for Obama versus Mccain yielded:

Google: Google News one box results listed at the top of the page with one click to the latest news about Obama and Mccain. In addition, major news websites were listed like businessweek.com, The Washington post, newsweek.com, etc. This is hard to beat…

Cuil: I found some 404’s, random blogs, and overall average information. I wasn’t impressed.
The State of the Union? Google wins the election in a landslide.

Cuil as a Google Killer? Not yet…
So there’s my test and the subsequent results. You tell me, which search engine seems better to you? Would you stop using Google and use Cuil instead? I wouldn’t…at least not yet. I do hope Cuil improves and gains in popularity, but it’s not going to be easy. Cuil has a long way to go before the masses move to a new engine.

Google simply offers higher quality results that are more relevant, along with a wider variety of content. And, you can further target your results by selecting one of the major tabs Google provides (like news, blogs, finance, images, video, etc.) That’s hard to beat.

If I were the founders of Cuil, I would work hard to at least return high quality and relevant search results and then move on from there. If they can’t at least match Google's search results, then they are dead in the water. Actually, I believe that any new search engine trying to beat Google will have to bring a unique model to the table…much different than just showing search results. It’s hard enough to change people’s behavior, and that's especially true if you show no results for Jerry Maguire! Rod Tidwell would not be happy. :)

GG

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

SEO, The Multi-Channel Channel, How Search Engine Optimization Crosses Online Marketing Channels


How SEO Crosses Internet Marketing Channels.So you are probably asking yourself, “What’s a multi-channel channel?” Good question! When you take a look at the various online marketing channels, SEO has some special characteristics. It’s part of the reason that I love working on Natural Search projects. As many of you probably know already, on-site SEO is extremely important. Optimizing your website for Natural Search is a prerequisite for gaining top rankings. Making sure you have a clear path for the bots to index your site is extremely important, minimizing errors on your site, optimizing your navigation, linking structure, ensuring you are throwing the correct header response codes, and optimizing the core html elements on each page are all important. But let’s face it, inbound links are still incredibly important. I’m referring to links from other websites, preferably from powerful and relevant sites in your industry. This is where SEO and Natural Search start to cross channels. Read on.

So How is SEO a Multi-Channel Channel?
Whenever I have a whiteboard in front of me and the conversation shifts to SEO, I get to sketch my multi-channel chart. For argument’s sake, let’s say that you’ve already done an incredible job at optimizing your website structure and want to start increasing your SEO power. Chances are you will sit down with your team and start brainstorming link-building ideas. As you start to map out ideas, it will become extremely clear that you’re now talking about more than just SEO…you will be including other online marketing channels as part of the conversation. I can guarantee it.

The Multi-Channel Ramble:
Here we go… As part of your link-building conversation, you will inevitably start brainstorming ways to utilize social media and social networking sites to get the word out about your content. For example, sites like StumbleUpon, Digg, Mixx, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, FriendFeed, Propeller, del.icio.us, and many others depending on your niche. You will also want to start a blog, which will be your platform for providing additional content on your site that can provide value to your visitors. You might also start brainstorming viral marketing campaigns using video, user generated content, web applications, and mobile applications. In addition, you might launch contests and sweepstakes too. You might brainstorm widgets and social applications, which can also impact your inbound links. Then, as you build new campaigns, you will probably leverage your PR department to help get the word out. And while you’re at it, you might tap into your loyal base of customers to help spread the word about your new content and tools (maybe starting with your in-house email list). Then, as part of your keyword research process for SEO, you might run some Paid Search campaigns to test the impact of various groups of keywords. And by the way, you will be working with your web analytics team to track all of these efforts at a granular level…

So, based on my multi-channel ramble above, you would have touched upon:
1. SEO
2. Blogging
3. Social Media
4. Viral Marketing
5. Word of Mouth Marketing
6. PR
7. SEM
8. Mobile Marketing
9. Email Marketing
10. Video Marketing

Now, can you see why I call SEO the multi-channel channel? ;-) Based on our example above, you would be hitting 10 marketing channels during your link-building campaign. Not bad for a little word like SEO, huh?

SEO and the future
Will what I explained above always be the case? I believe that as emerging technologies expand (like Mobile and IPTV), you’ll probably be able to add more channels to the list and not less! Will inbound links be the lifeblood of Natural Search in the future? I don’t know. Right now, it’s still the best way to determine how third parties feel about your content by casting votes (or links) to your site. And as long as that’s the case, then developing ways to increase your inbound links will be critical (which will keep SEO as a multi-channel channel.)

But let’s face it…technology moves at light speed. 10 years from now, we might be talking about CommuniRank™, ParsecRank™ or GabeRank™ versus Pagerank™. OK, I had to throw my name in there! :) The point is that whatever the measure is for increasing your natural search power, you will probably be leveraging a wide range of marketing channels to help increase your rankings. I don’t see that changing any time soon.

So, if you focus on SEO and someone asks what you do, get them a cup of coffee, a doughnut, and grab a conference room with a whiteboard. Then take them through the incredible, multi-channel channel that is SEO.

GG

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Twitter For Business, 4 Things You Should Be Using Twitter For Today to Help Your Business


Using Twitter to connect with your customers.I’m a big fan of Twitter, the microblogging service that has become ridiculously popular over the past year or two. Whenever I tell someone about Twitter, I typically get a strange look. That’s especially true if I started explaining how I just “tweeted” something. A few chuckles usually follow and then I typically receive my first question, “So, what is Twitter?” After explaining what the service is (and what it isn’t), I usually get the next question, “Well, how can I use Twitter for my business?” Seriously, this happens all the time…it’s definitely a trend. Enough of a trend that I was thinking about recording my response on my Blackberry and then just hitting play when needed. ;-)

I believe Twitter is a powerful tool for connecting with customers (and prospective customers) on several levels. So, after hearing the questions I listed above too many times, I thought it would be smart (and helpful) to write this post. Now, if you don’t think that Twitter can help your business (whether you are a large or small business), then please read on. I’ll provide 4 ways you should be using Twitter today (yes, today) to help your business.

Defining Microblogging, Twitter and Your Followers
Let’s start with a few definitions. Twitter is a microblogging service that enables you to send short messages (140 characters or less) via SMS, IM, Email, and even via applications that were developed for Twitter (by third parties). Most of you who have heard of Twitter probably think of SMS (or Text Messaging), since that’s the communication mechanism that’s commonly connected with Twitter, so to speak. When you sign up for the service, you can start “following” others, and they in turn, can start “following” you. When you follow someone, you receive their “tweets”, which are their short messages, which will show up in your timeline. You can also choose to have those messages sent to your mobile phone via SMS. When people follow you, they are choosing to receive your “tweets”, or messages. Sounds simple, right? It definitely is simple from that standpoint, but the power of Twitter is in how you use it.

4 Things You Can Use Twitter For Today to Enhance Your Business
And when I say “today”, I mean today. You should sign up and get moving. If you follow the four bullets listed below, I’m confident you’ll see the power of Twitter. You just need to give it a try.

1. Connect with your followers and customers, and provide VALUE to them.
Twitter provides a powerful way to keep in touch with your customers. Think about it. You can start to promote your Twitter account in all your communications, in your email signature, on your cards, on your blog, your website, etc. to start to build up your followers. Some of your customers are going to dig Twitter because they want direct and fast contact with someone at your company. Twitter provides an unbelievable way for your customers to get in touch with you, and for you to get back in touch with them. For example, let’s say you have a new product launch. You can send a series of tweets out to your group of followers. You might even have some of your followers retweet your original message, which can really help get the word out. Are you expecting a service outage as part of an upgrade? Send a tweet to your customers letting them know that the service will be down for a few hours. Think about how many calls you will save your customer service center. Again, many of your followers will have SMS turned on, which means they will get your message on their mobile phone (wherever they are), versus just email…

I’m also a big fan of educating your customers on a regular basis. Keep in mind that this shouldn’t be about self promotion (completely). It could be more about your industry. For example, send tweets to your followers about industry news, cool websites you find, helpful blog posts, new tools that launch, etc. You can stay in front of your customers by providing valuable content that actually helps them. It’s a win win. So after you sign up for Twitter, launch a quick campaign for getting your customers to follow you. Explain the benefits to them and then point them to Twitter. Gain your following quickly.

2. Twitter for Customer Service (TFCS)
This is similar to the first bullet point, but more from a customer service angle. Using Twitter, you have the ability to handle customer service issues in near real time. I’ve seen quite a few tweets from people who are upset about a product or service WHILE THEY ARE USING IT. Imagine that this was your product or service. You might have the ability to resolve an issue before it gets worse…and before they tweet more…or blog about it…and maybe, yes maybe, they become loyal customers since you handled their situation so promptly. How about questions about your service? I have seen (and been part of), questions about products or services. For example, “Which smartphone do you like best?” “Which HDTV do you guys recommend?” or “Which vacation spot do you like better, Cabo or Hawaii and why?” These are great opportunities to learn what people are saying and you can easily join the conversation (just don’t hop in and start pitching your product). If you can provide valuable information, then feel free to get in touch with the person or group in question. This could be a great way for you to connect with many influential people in an industry.

3. Twitter and PR, Monitor Tweets and Respond Accordingly
Most PR professionals are using a number of tools to monitor chatter on the web, such as Google Alerts. Twitter should be another tool in your arsenal. I can tell you first hand how representatives of companies have gotten in touch with me based on my tweets. Some of my original messages were positive and others were not, but regardless, you can benefit as a company from monitoring these messages (and any replies). For example, looking for people buzzing about your products or services? You might find a number of people on Twitter that keep tweeting about your products. Well, get in touch with them! On the flip side, if you find a person that just hammered your product or brand, get in touch with them too. Twitter can be a great way to curb negative word of mouth. Putting a human element in the mix when someone is frustrated can be a great way to nip the problem in the bud. Maybe it was a miscommunication or that customer didn’t know about the latest upgrade or product offering. A simple Direct Message within Twitter might resolve the entire situation…and they might even tweet about the positive experience after it has been resolved. You cannot be afraid of doing this… If you are, then you won’t reap the benefits of the community. It’s similar to situations where I am talking to companies about blogging and I hear the question, “But what if we get a negative comment?” If that person is you, overcome this fear…you won’t regret it.

There are some good examples of companies using Twitter to connect with customers. For example, Omniture, Comcast, and Carnival Cruise Lines. I hope to see many more companies follow their lead.

4. Connect with others in your industry.
I have met some incredible people from all over the world using Twitter, and I can honestly say that I never would have met them without using the service. Actually, it’s really funny when you connect with someone close to your location and you never knew they were there! That has also happened to me a few times. It’s pretty easy in Twitter to find like minded people. You can use third party tools to search through tweets to find people talking about specific industries, products, services, brands, etc. Once you find their profile, you can easily start following them, and then you can check out their followers. Chances are you’ll find a number of additional people to follow in a relatively short period of time. Then, those people might start following you.

Now don’t stop there… You should join the conversation and communicate with others (yes, that means 2 way communication). If you do join the conversation (and I recommend you do versus sitting there reading tweets), then you can brainstorm, get answers, share ideas, and collaborate all via Twitter. Heck, you might find new partners, business opportunities, and ways to market…all via microblogging! I bet you never thought that would happen. :)

So there you have it. 4 ways to use Twitter today to enhance your business. Is it time consuming? You bet. Will it take a little time to get used to? Absolutely. Will it also take time to build a following? Definitely. But, in the end my hope is that you will come back to this post and comment about how happy you are that you took my advice! ;-) It’s all about execution, and now you need to take action. If you are still unsure, feel free to provide your questions below (or just get in touch with me). And, don’t forget to follow me on twitter. Hey, I can be your first “follow”. :)

Tweet Tweet

GG

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