What Would D-Mac Do


Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yahoo goes home for the holidays

Wow, saw this Andy Beal's blog today.

I mean, Resolution Media does the same thing, but we're not like, policing the intarknot for spamz. I wonder what 'all but the most essential employees' means? Like could there be some potential to slip things past the moderators on the paid search side?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Big Brands and their analytics

I was a bit surprised to read Avanish's post this morning. His ideas were pretty cool, where he demonstrated a few ways to slice and dice load a of data so that you can see the forest from the trees and make actual data informed decisions about your marketing plan. I 100% agree with this premise. It's very easy to be overwhelmed by the range of data that can be extracted from web analytics...to the point of full on analysis paralysis in many cases.

What was interesting was how he picked on Gatorade as a poorly optimized site/campaign because the word cloud he made with Compete and Wordle shows people come to the site overwhelmingly because the word 'Gatorade' was in their query string. His reasoning seems to be that Gatorade isn't attracting people to the site that don't know anything about Gatorade to begin with. Avanish is making the assumption that the purpose of Gatorade's web presence is not to foster brand loyalty, but to increase awareness of the brand. I find this interesting because in the same paragraph, he points out that "Gatorade is a huge brand". One would think if your brand is one of the most ubiquitous in the world, reaching those people "that don't already know about Gatorade" are far and few between.

I'm not exactly sure what Avanish would 'humbly dramatically' change about Gatorade's SEO and PPC strategies. There's an economy of scale that comes into play when you're working with a brand that is a mass marketing event horizon. It absolutely affects search behavior. Now for the sake of argument, we'll factor out the notion that Avanish is completely oblivious to the legal/technical parameters a campaign a brand like this is subject to and focus on his assertion from the data he extracted.

Let me just say that Wordle is awesome. I use it daily. However, when aggregating keywords in the fashion Avanish did, one runs the risk of what I hereby call TBAAS (Too Broad An Analysis Syndrome). If unchecked, Avanish could find himself submitting to symptoms of SBOIT (Strategy Based On Irrelevant Trends). When that happens, it's only a matter of time until he show signs of MRTARTBG (Measuring Results That Aren't Relevant To Business Goals) and then you're well on your way to full blown YMDDWYPAAAYWALOOMSYNWWOOA (You Morons Didn't Do What You Promised At All And You Wasted A Lot Of Our Money So You'll Never Work With Our Organization Again). Oh how do we avoid such a fate?

You see, while it's certainly valuable to see how overwhelming a brand is to a campaign, what Avanish isn't measuring is the concepts people are associating with that brand. Gatorade doesn't spend millions of dollars on endorsements with the idea that somebody will type in "Michael Jordan", see a Gatorade link and go "Oh Wow! Gatorade Has Content on MJ! W00T! I'm gonna go to 7-Eleven and start drinkin' Gatorade today!". Rather, they WANT you to always associate Michael Jordan with Gatorade before you're even at the search stage for either entity. It would be an abject failure on Gatorade's offline marketing if people were at the initiation of a search and didn't already know Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods were associated with Gatorade (and for the record, Tiger's affairs had little to no impact on Gatorade's web activity).

First off, if I were running that word cloud, I would factor out the brand name completely. I want to see the words people are associating with Gatorade. I already know they are likely to come to the site with Gatorade in the query string. I want measure if people are concerned about high fructose corn syrup in Gatorade. I want to know if Tiger Woods association with Gatorade or the sponsorship issues were part of how people were finding the brand. I can use that information to assess what I need to be speaking about. When we factor out the brand the word cloud at the top of the post is what we get.

This is actual usable data to a marketer. Gatorade has a lot of interest in the ingredients and calorie intake of their products. Michael Jordan is still a HUGE traffic driver (this is why he's worth that money to them). People come to the site looking for the commercials and also Gatorade information as it relates to the NFL. These are all things Gatorade can capitalize on. We could build word clouds to drill down on any of these categories and determine specifics.

I may do some actual branded vs. non-branded visitor analysis as well, but that data would not be best expressed as a word cloud. We should be looking at that as a ratio, which could then be compared to what we see for volume around Gatorade's search space as a whole.

There are plenty of good takeaways from Avanish's post, but the idea that a big brand's site is a failure just because it drives a lot of traffic from queries with the brand in the string isn't one of them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thoughts on 2010

As I'm wrapping things up for 2009 and thinking about my own goals for 2010, a few themes seem to be recurring (I speak for myself only, I don't make an assertions about the industry in general). These aren't like, SMART or anything. I list these in no order of importance:

-Do more speaking/education: I actually found myself burnt out in this realm of the business in the past few years. Quite frankly, there's only so many times you can listen to people ponder out loud about whether or not "this is truly the year of mobile" or "how (insert new-fangled social media platform) is going to "change the game"". Those conversations are boring to me. I've been around on this mortal coil long enough to see that I'm essentially doing the exact same things socially on the web as I was in 1995. All this was certainly possible in the "good 'ol days". Facebook and Twitter are transient creatures with a lifecycle like everything else. Ultimately, they peak, and then the masses move on to another product. But ultimately, the fundamental internet, with its blogs and forums never actually change. Likewise at a tactical level, people still argue about paid links, integrating social media (oh boy) and on and on. To be quite honest, I have like, things to do and stuff. However, we revamped some of our internal training for new-hires in the last quarter for SEO at Resolution and it sort of re-ignited an interest myself. Rather than treat SEO like this big data dump wherein all new hires had to understand the fundamentals of a webpage so they'd know an un-optimized page when they see it, we shifted the focus on the business case behind content optimization. Now granted, it obviously behooves any internet marketer to be on top of what emerging technologies may occur, but if you're constantly chasing those, and not focusing on the actual need the internet fulfills for people, I don't think you can fully embrace those technologies and their various (yet ironically similar) capabilities. I feel like I have something to add to the SEO-community's conversation here. Basically, I got burnt out on the tactical conversations being had in our industry by being so tactical in my own work. So in 2010, I feel like it's fair to step up in that regard (this blog stands as testament to at least hanging my shingle out). If anything, I'll be happy to dole out the neck punch the first person to mention the "dawning of Web 4.0" will so aptly deserve.

-Diminish emphasis on specific keywords and queries and increase emphasis on concepts: This is actually something that began with the idea of a semantic web for me. Udi Manber mentioned a couple years ago that 25% of all queries are ones Google has never seen before. With the advent of personalized search, real time results and the fundamental integration of social media into people's web activity, I find the game of optimizing to particular keywords to be a game of whack-a-mole that ultimate fails to actually capture an audience. I want to use more sentiment tools like Radian 6 as an integral part of our processes for content optimization as a whole and less of a "Well here's this thing we use to make sure people on Twitter don't think you're bad people" sense. I don't know exactly where this thinking will take us over the course of the year, but I do hope that next year at this time, SEO will be more about optimizing towards a concept and less about a particular keyword (at least if I'm in charge of the internets by next year).

-Redefine the competitive set: A few years ago, I created an online competitive analysis which took a bunch of characteristics around websites that ranked for a given keyword and measured them against our client. It worked great for awhile. It was an awesome forcing mechanism because, as anyone knows, the best motivator in business is to show how the guy down the street has something you don't. But as personalized search, universal one-boxes and their ilk emerged, this analysis became less and and less relevant. I won't go as far as Greg Jarboe's missive about the death of 10 blue links (somewhat out of context, but you get the idea), but I do believe we need to understand the context in which people view our content. Query intent analysis has been something I've paid attention to at least since 2005, but this is like...on steriods or something because engines (well Google and Yahoo) are especially hip to it. We do a good job of telling of pointing out to clients things like "You're competitor's aren't other hotels, they are travel sites", but I feel like there's even more we can do with that. I want to factor sentiment, mediums (videos, images, offline, mobile) into our competitive analysis and really understand where we (the editorial we man!) compete with, where we take a bath, and where we don't really do much of anything. I subscribe to the true fan principle as described here in this post for indie rock for Fortune 500 companies in the social realm. We're just better equipped to understand our users than some hipster rock band who's primary concern is what T-shirt best reflects their inner irony.

Become more persona oriented in my communication: I've learned a lot about persona studies in the past year and a half or so. My background is more tech in nature, so some of these offline tactics eluded me early on. Sure it's sort of fluffy market-speak bullshit to put names to faces and all that, but ultimately it's a fantastic way to illustrate some very powerful information. Most of our clients are doing this stuff, but more often than not, they never actually make there way to the folks who are studying search behavior. However, a client (who I'm probably not at liberty to disclose) provided us with a persona study they had done with, like, actual focus groups and panels like the He-Men did in times of myth in this last quarter. It was absolutely brilliant. We parlayed that into search behavior and were able to drop some serious science on the content development of the website. The effects on the overall productivity of the copywriters and the nature of how the products/services were discussed were more than evident. Now obviously, this client had millions of dollars and lots of time to kill, and I realize that those two things aren't exactly at my disposal day in and day out. But fundamentally, I do believe we can take those offline principles and apply them quite effectively to how we analyze and quantify all this sentiment, web-analytics and search data.

Those are just thoughts in my stream-of-consciousness mode I'm in right now (don't ask...I'm in a Zappa phase lately). Any other particular goals people have?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Title Fail?

Perhaps I should have called this thing 'Eaten by Aliens'

Canonical Tag is Cross-Domain now

Duplicate Content may no longer be a plight for Google. For those of you who don't know what the canonical tag is (and you can't rightly call yourself a learned SEO if you don't), here's the dirty on that. Go ahead and read it, I'll wait.

Well so that's all well and good, and definitely helpful for the various ways people look at content. But what happens if you or your well-intentioned-yet-poorly-executed mess of domains has duplicate content across the board? Unfortunately, the canonical tag did not apply to those sites that had content living on different domains (verses being redirected to a unified location). Things like www.company.com, www.companyinfo.com and companydataforpeoplewholikelongdomains.com wherein all domains have essentially the same exact content in multiple instances are still out of luck.

Well yesterday Google announced that the canonical tag can now be used across multiple domains. So we (the webmaster) can now tell engines which content is duplicate and which is original source so results are indexed properly. The canonical tag has been a godsend for massive catalog sites with many different ways (and URLs) for viewing the same content. This is a logical extension of that paradigm. Granted there wouldn't be an issue of people having the exact same content across domains if they like, you know, had thought this out to begin with. *le sigh*

Uses for Google Wave

I've been thinking about ways we (or our clients) could use Google Wave in a practical way that isn't just 'using the technology for the sake of using it'. Mashable has this article which listed a few interesting things. While none of them struck me as things that people couldn't have done in the good 'ol days of BBS, they definitely do seem functional/useful/entertaining (or all of the above)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Google making waves

Well...they can't all be sensational....

Real Time Search

Well it's happened, Google and Yahoo are showing searches in real time. SEOmoz has a post about tracking real time activity, which essentially amounts to an advertisement for Trendistic. I don't mean to discount the value of Trendistic or the data it can show you, but hey, I call it like I see it.

Anyway, so there's such a flurry over real time search and how it's going to shake everything up. It's like the entire interknot is convinced this is a huge game changer for search marketing. The general consensus seems to be that if you weren't hip to social media then, you're basically screwed if you aren't now. I don't dispute any of this..but my question is this...how are people supposed to benefit from this?

No really...I'm not being snide here. I really want to know. Take off your marketing hat here, and put on the average joe hat (I attempted to inject a funny analogy here, but failed on all fronts). How is your mom going to use this basically. How does real time results in a one-box improve their Google experience? Does it? Is this a feature that appeals to a limited group of people? Will this be something practical and usable for the everyday user?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it won't. I just don't get it. And I'll readily admit my failures at recognizing things that will get big (Twitter). But until I can wrap my head around how a feature like this will benefit anyone besides the L33test of the Google Power Users...a feed of disjointed feeds from Twitter and Facebook that include your query string smack being a solution in search of a problem.

On the other hand, this has to be some kind of magical breakthrough for all those aspiring hipster bands out there that Google their band name on a semi-hourly basis to see what comes up.

Feed Aggregator

Hey does anybody know of a feed aggregator that one could drop onto a site as a gadget that filters feeds it displays based on a keyword? Does such a creature exist? Am I making things up? Is there a programmer in Chile that's about to make a few bucks?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Personalized Search POV

Posted a POV on the advent of personalized search and how it's not going to put all of us out of a job, but in actual fact, help us do our jobs better.

Ho ho ho let's try this again.

After many false starts and pretenses of talking about something that doesn't involve making a spectacle of myself (and let's be honest, we know that'll happen again), I finally launched my search blog.

There are two reasons for launching this. First, I wanted to play with the Google Gadgets. So this is like an ongoing whiteboard/experiment. I'm quite versed with Movabletype and Wordpress (well not so much), but this is a new endeavor for me. Even as I set it up, I find the 'ease-of-use' almost shockingly difficult if you're already used to another frame of reference for managing a blog. It's not that things are complicated, it's that so much work is taken out of the equation here, I'm like..."gee, all you have to do is whack a button, I kind of wish I still had 3 steps". Workflow is workflow you know what I mean?

The other reason is that as I continue on in my career (and I'm long in the tooth nowadays by most marketeers standards and people my age), I am constantly amazed at the various wonders/plunders as our once-cottage industry of Search Engine Optimization continues to become big business (that's the Eaten by Giants part). I don't mean that as a good or bad thing persay..just that as budgets grow, technologies advance and more cooks are in the kitchen...things change. I'm not like, nostalgic for the past or anything, but I certainly do find myself going "man, back in the day, we wouldn't have minded the bullocks" or "Man, remember when pulling this data took like, 3 months and cost a fortune?".

Anyway, I still owe posts to FindResolution.com so you'll find me there in my usual 'old man shouting at the clouds' style.