How Google+ might shape social experience optimisation

July 1, 2011

Sometime around March 2011, Google made a new feature known as +1 available in the search results. Users who wanted to rate various websites for relevance could do so by clicking the +1 button,which would give the website or content additional visibility online. However what was not clear, was what would a flood of +1 ratings do for any particular website ? It was unclear how each person who clicked the +1 could use their influence within various social circles to ensure that “relevant” and “timely” content was shared with the people best suited for it within your social circle.

Enter Google+

google+ dashboard

Google+ allows people to build networks around locations and interests as well as numerous other factors. The question is how will this impact SEO (search engine optimisation) and will social experience optimisation influence search results ?

2011 Overall Ranking Algorithm

2011 Overall Ranking Algorithm

We know from a survey done by one of the leading SEO communities, that social media is one of the many ranking signals for organic search. The survey also revealed that geo location is one of the other factors that influences organic search results. All evidence points towards increased relevance being localised as well as influenced by social signals.

The answer has already been provided by google who recently announced that google+1’s will be visible in your analytics profile, and since we already know that social media is one of the ranking signals for website performance, brands will now need to factor in generating content that resonates with their target audience strongly enough to get them “Social approval”.


Google’s Place Search to squeeze returns

November 5, 2010

In the search engine marketing and optimisation sector, it really does seem that change is the only constant.

In June, I wrote about the launch of Google Caffeine and the impact of social search in the marketing mix. Just four months later and Google has added another game-changing feature to their search engine results pages (SERPs), called Place Search.

As its name suggests, Place Search prioritises search results based on proximity of the website to the user’s current location, in an effort to make consumers “feel like a local everywhere [they] go”. It is very similar in concept to Yellow Pages but doesn’t require users to leave the Google homepage.

This is good news for consumers seeking local restaurants, shops, entertainment and the like, but for companies there are new challenges that come with it.

In addition to having its own dedicated category, Place Search also appears in natural results on the main SERP (in the form of business listings with reviews and a map showing result locations) when Google predicts that the user is looking for local information. But it is what that new content is replacing that is of concern.

Companies currently paying for Google AdWords to gain higher visibility on more generic search queries may find that their click-through rates suddenly take a tumble thanks to the new Places map, which is positioned in what was previously a lucrative AdWords position: the top right-hand corner.

Not only does it take a prime position, it maintains that position as the user scrolls down the page, which means significantly less visibility of company-sponsored AdWords.

It would not be far-fetched to expect AdWord costs to increase (due to the increased competition and importance of gaining the top three spots), despite a greater risk of fewer click-throughs and thus a decline in return on investment for those not appearing in the top spots.

In every challenge, there is an opportunity. In Place Search, the opportunity for companies is to raise the visibility of bricks-and-mortar stores to among 60 per cent of Australians who research online with an intent to purchase offline.

To do that, I asked one of our search experts here at Amnesia Razorfish to provide their top five tips on optimising for Place Search:

1. Get listed and be consistent: claim your free listing by providing your company details at www.google.com/places, ensuring that multiple locations each have their own profile containing the location/suburb in the Places title. Choose your categories carefully, and ensure your description is consistent across other directory listings.

2. Enrich the experience: take the opportunity to add additional information such as opening hours and rich media content (photos, YouTube videos, and so on) to your Places page; you want consumers to get a good feel for who you are and what you do.

3. Reviews: customer reviews play an important role in Place Search ranks. Ensure you have the process in place to monitor and respond to user reviews about your business.

4. Sponsored map icons: make your business stand out by investing in a personalised map icon that displays your logo.

5. AdWords ad extensions: link your Google Places listing with AdWords to enable users to see your location from the sponsored ad.

And my recommendation? Make the most of this opportunity while it is still free, as you have to assume Google is not out to destroy its own commercial model.

To that end, I would expect to see related new forms of paid advertising being launched by Google in the weeks and months to come. Given its current focus on location, my guess is that mobile advertising is next on the hit list. Watch this space.

Jennie Bewes, Director of Social Media & New Business, Amnesia Razorfish
As published in The Australian Financial Review, 3 Nov 2010

Blekko – the future of the search engine or just another Google competitor?

November 3, 2010

Blekko is a search engine (in beta at the moment) that claims that it is a better way to search the web by using slashtags. Slashtags search only the sites you want and cut out the spam sites. e.g. if you only want to search for tech related stuff you put /tech after your query

The slashtags are user generated and can be either private or public. There are already hundreds of them, but you can also create your own.

But the CEO explains it a bit better in this video:

blekko: how to slash the web from blekko on Vimeo.

 

Another cool feature is the SEO link that you get with every single result

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It gives you quite a substantial amount of information about your site, like inbound links, hostrank, crawl stats, site pages, you can compare your site to other sites and it tells you about duplicate content

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There is also a SPAM link next to all your search result and you can get rid of searches you don’t want permanently – that search result will be dead to you.

Another interesting feature is the visualizing feature – here you can compare up to 4 different URLs with each other

 

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Definitely a great idea and even though there are still some shortcomings blekko will be someone to watch out for. It is going to be big.

check it out: http://blekko.com

and let me know what you think in the comments

 

@maniac13


The First Ten Years of Search

February 4, 2010

Search just finished its first decade! Our US Search teams have put together a look back over the past 10 years and key milestones which have shaped the search landscape today. It’s amazing how far the industry has come in such a short space of time and how much it has changed. Most notably, back in 2000 Google was the default search engine for Yahoo users and now they’re main competitors!

Click here to see The Decade in Search highlights and below our thoughts from Amnesia, it’s effect on the APAC region and what the future is set to hold – for the moment at least!

Why has Google become so strong?

  • Leading innovation, products and add ons that are simple for consumers to use and make Google the one-stop shop for consuming and sharing online
  • For advertisers they have developed user friendly interfaces, in-depth reporting and free applications such as Analytics and Insights to make sure we can target consumers as effectively as possible on the Google network
  • Both Yahoo and MSN have both lagged behind in innovation which has ultimately held back their advancement in the majority of APAC

Key Changes for the APAC region:

  • Reputation management – the force that is social is an exciting time as online becomes more of an open forum. As search engines start to rank more and more social content the process of reputation management becomes more challenging and also brings up the age old question – is all news good PR?
  • Censorship – hot topic at the moment especially here in Australia. Is the free availability of information set to end? We’ll be keeping a close eye on proceedings and also the effects this may have on advertisers
  • China is the key market for change, with recent heavy news coverage that Google may pull out over a combination of high levels of censorship and hacking linked to the government.
  • Accessibility – the imminent launch of new devices, such as, the iPad and Android phones, will open up the way people can search and the frequency in which they can do it
  • Bing – Microsoft’s new search engine has reportedly been growing, albeit at a small rate. It will be interesting to see locally if consumers in each market will transition once it comes out of Beta and all features are available. Look out Google? Only time will tell!

All in all we are about to enter the next chapter in Search. Especially here in APAC where there are many different types of market, from emerging to mature and everything in between. The key to success is strategy localisation to ensure your advertising is meeting the needs of consumers from very varied backgrounds.


Feed43 for turning pages and odd feeds to a valid RSS feed

January 8, 2010

Snippet of Feed43's homepage Have you ever looked at an html web page and wanted to get the content of that page in a feed? Or maybe you use a service like the Google Calendar that has feeds but not in a standard format?

I was recently asked internally to find a way to feed that content in as an RSS feed so it could be loaded into a WordPress.com site – out of the box, they don’t support Google Calendar – and I stumbled upon a tutorial for converting that feed into RSS using Feed43.

The tool works by entering the feed you want, and then setting up some regular expressions to pattern match the data you want, and then outputting that into a feed – believe me, it’s easier than it sounds.

The service allows you to take any site the outputs a structured document – an XML feed, html, etc – and make that into a useable feed. It’s ideal for sites where you want to make an RSS feed, but don’t want the overhead of creating an RSS feed on your server – one less page to maintain.

It even works for those pesky non-standard RSS feeds that people seem so fond of creating (still don’t understand why it’s so hard to stick to a simple standard like that given the benefits of doing so).

The only downside I can come up with is if the source document changes, the feed will stop working until you modify it. Oh, and you might want to make some of the feeds private for your own use. You don’t want to start infringing on copyright do you?

It’s a free tool – they say in the FAQs that it will always be free – but registration gives you an opportunity to manage your feeds more, and the paid service gives you more control and faster updates.

Feed43 is well worth checking out, even if you want an RSS feed for one of your pages without the overhead of actually making the feed.

Technorati Tags: ,,,

The end of The Gruen Transfer?

January 4, 2010

One of my less exciting daily digital pastimes is keeping an on expired .com.au domain names. Today I noticed that one of the domains that just became available on 01/01/2010 was www.gruentransfer.com.au. So it appears this might be the end for that particular URL (unless somebody forgot to renew it). So what does that mean for the show and a third season? Read on before you jump to conclusions… 

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Below: The URL… www.gruentransfer.com.au nothing to see here.

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Why abandon a URL?
Firstly, there is no obvious record that the ABC actually owned this domain in the first place or that it was actively used. In the instance of The Gruen Transfer, the primary URL for the show is a subdirectory off the ABC website (here) but in my experience it’s usually a good strategy to keep relevant domain names in the back pocket no matter what. Most often, the excuse given for letting a domain lapse is “we weren’t using it” but there are a few reasons for keeping URLs which relate directly to something that is active even if it is not the primary domain such as protecting intellectual property and to form a part of an SEO/SEM and Link strategy. In addition digital consumers are known to occasionally go for a direct punt on a url into the browser address bar so a DNS redirect or meta refresh is an easy tactic to handle traffic from this.

Recommendation:
Regardless of past ownership ABC should register gruentransfer.com.au and thegruentransfer.com.au. $55 for two years is a worthwhile investment for them (if the show is to continue).

Stats:
Every month hundreds of .com.au URLs expire without being renewed in Australia. Here’s some stats from AuDA for 08/09 – hopefully the 2009 results will be available soon.

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Note: There are several services that provide information on expired domains which can easily be found using Google or Bing:

~@eunmac


How fast does Google Real Time Search index Twitter? A quick Test.

December 10, 2009

Here’s a real world test on Google’s latest functionality – real time search results. There’s been a lot of hype over Google’s announcement that it now has ‘real time’ functionality. You can read the announcement (here). Below is Google’s promo video on how it works in case you missed it:

The real world test:

How well does it work? In the video below I’m using my Twitter account (@eunmac) to enter a tweet which contain the words GOOGLE, REAL, TIME, SEARCH. I already have a ‘real time search’ window open looking for these words and the theory is that the moment Google has indexed my tweet, it should show on-screen (no need for a refresh). The video is shot using Camtasia, and recorded/plays for as long as it took for the results to show.

Result:
It took Google 52.3 seconds to display my tweet in this instance. Not exactly “real time” but pretty good. Of course this is a one off test and the result should be taken with a pinch of salt. We’ll be evaluating speed in a more quant manner over the next few weeks.

How do I do a real time search in Google?
A couple of people have asked me how you get to the real time search results. Here’s how:
Step 1: Search for something from Google main page.
Step 2: In the Blue bar click [Show Options]
Step 3: Under the LHS menu that appears, click “Latest” under the “Any time” section.

(Alternatively – here’s one I made earlier. Just change the search term to the one you want).

Post by @eunmac


Example of Google real-time search

December 10, 2009

Having just blogged and tweeted about Pepsi changing it’s name to Pecsi, I was delighted to see that Google’s real-time search (soon to be the most over-used phrase in digital) does exactly what it says on the tin. Here’s the proof:

 

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Here’s the official post from Google’s blog. More discussion to follow.

@handypearce


Top 100 most valuable brands in the World? Why they got it all wrong.

May 6, 2009

Article by Iain McDonald – Founder / Exec Creative Director at Amnesia Razorfish. (@eunmac)

Each year Millward Brown puts out it’s index of the top 100 brands every year (here). I’m going to offer a different opinion (and yes, it’s only my opinion) on why I think it’s a load of old-school corporate phooey which is sending a financially skewed perspective on the value of brand compared to the modern consumer REAL thoughts about brands.

Note: I take the point that not all brands in this list are consumer facing per-se, but when publishing a list of the “Most Valuable Global Brands” I believe the word ‘value’ and ‘brand’ needs to take a deeper dive into broader consumer data and well beyond “highest margins and the most recognisable logo”.

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In my humble opinion the power of a brand should mostly be judged by how well it is able to reach, interact with and influence a consumer, in particular with regards to their decision making process (which has a lot to do with ‘Trust’). It’s a big subject area and worth a lot of $ when you look at the $ad spend invested by these brands. Millward Brown have their ‘formula in a bottle’ to compare brand power but I believe the only place this list belongs is in a Sunday-Financial-Pullout-Section and that it is not indicative of a modern day ‘powerful consumer brand’ particularly in today’s digital world.

As a footnote I should say that my core interest lies in understanding the ever-evolving ‘digital’ consumer, (which of course is now an every day consumer too). I spend most of my day listening, observing (some might say spying), engaging in real conversations as well as looking at a lot of quant data and an array of third party research. I’m of the school of thought that you can define a brand by what consumers actually think and feel about a brand – I do not believe a brand is always what the CMO says the brand is so when I see a list like the one above it makes me squirm slightly. I’ll tell you why in a second.

Firstly I do recommend reading the full PDF of Millward Brown’s Top 100 Brands (here) and come to your own conclusion – hey… you may just love it and agree with their definition of ‘brand power’ 100%. That’s ok by me – I’m just offering another way of looking at things.

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The first problem for me is right here below an excerpt from their report:

“Customer Opinion
The secret ingredient is WPP’s BrandZ
database, based on an annual quantitative
brand equity study in which consumers and
business customers familiar with a category
evaluate brands.
Since BrandZ’s inception over 10 years
ago, more than one million consumers and
business-to-business customers across
31 countries have shared their opinions
about thousands of brands. It is the most
comprehensive, global, and consistent study
of brand equity.”

As you can see the above plays a critical part within the formula below used to calculate the list.

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So why do I have an issue with this? For a start I’m not a big fan of anything that tells me they have “secret ingredients”… especially when I believe the raw data is available elsewhere in digital channels already and in much larger quantities. Secondly I do not believe the final list reflects the actual brand sentiment or evidence that can be seen daily by the interactions consumers have in the digital landscape, which as a source of information offers a lot more qual and quant data than any one study a single company can undertake to produce in a ‘comprehensive study’.

Search Trends – An alternative way to measure Brand Power
When you have enough data, the signal usually rises above the noise. Search trend data (which Google makes available here) gives us some critical insight into ‘real’ Brand Power pull and arguably the biggest source of data available on a brand. In this instance if a brand is unable to PULL its consumers into active search through it’s spend on marketing, comms, PR, CRM, new product innovation etc then there is probably an issue in here that needs to be addressed. I know some will question if search is relevant to all brands, but I would argue that even with ‘low interest categories’ the global data is there. Example: Here’s Wrigley’s in amongst the category mix for Chewing Gum and Bubble Gum over the last 4.5 yrs.

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The argument against the top 100 brand power list:
Let’s take some of these brands in the top 100 and look at search trend data from the last 5+ years in Google as well as the last 12 months. (Note: I’ve chosen unique brand keywords to look to keep the data more ‘pure/clean’ for my examples). Given that the growth of the Internet during this period you would expect to see a brand in good health showing positive results in search and an upwards curve. This is NOT the case with many of the brands listed in Milward Brown’s top 100. In fact IBM (#4 on the list) has seen a steady decline in search traffic, yet it is listed as being 20% more valuable than the previous year. Sure – they are not focussing efforts on the consumer these days, but that to me means they are not as powerful as a global brand as I see it. IBM belongs in a list which talks to corporate, finance, and niche brand power and does not belong at #4 on a list which defines Global Brand Value/Power. To the image below – in general when it comes to consumer facing brands my own opinion is that when search data trends down it usually represents negative brand health.

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In fact many other brands in the list (and yes, I include Porsche in here) are flat-lining which in real terms represents a relative decline given the growing internet usage and penetration occurring. (Please note I’m keeping data simple here and concentrating on Search  – I have actually taken time to look at plenty of Buzz/Social media trends and available traffic data as well and most trending data is in line with search data).

Going Up or Down?
Millward Brown states that Vodafone’s brand value is up 45%, IKEA is DOWN 21% (at #95 in the table) and Tesco is down 1%. (Strange?! IKEA attracts double the search volume of Tesco but is ranked 74 places behind on the list which begs the question: Does Tesco’s financial performance really make it that much more powerful as a brand?). In fact all of these three brands are seeing marginally positive search growth when adjusting for seasonal trends and economic factors so I would suggest a positive brand increase overall for all three.

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I’m the Chairman of IBM what do I do?
Now, I’m sure Millward Brown’s report probably makes a few CEO’s feel a little better about their business (and no doubt helps WPP’s advertising empire too), but personally I cannot agree with these results as a definitive list of modern day brand power. The reality is that the consumer of 10 years ago does not exist anymore. Today’s consumer connects, shares, evaluates in entirely different ways which of course is another blog post for another day. If you are the Chairman of IBM and you’re reading this, then my advice, “It’s time for you to rethink your brand strategy – your consumer has shifted and you as a brand haven’t moved and are certainly not moving with them at the moment” and if you think that the only people you need to impress with your brand is the CTO, CMO, CEO and CFO then I would beg to differ.

So… what are the most powerful brands?
As a start point I believe the most powerful brands are the ones which consumers trust the most, identify with and feel comfortable enough to share with others. Yes of course financial stability is important and plays a big part when it comes to “Trust” which is possibly the single most important word when it comes to Brand Power.

I find it amazing that there was no section in this report on ‘digital brands’ especially when you look at the search data below… now  you start to get an idea of how BIG these new digital brands are in peoples lives. Facebook has actually outpaced Google in search trends by almost 3:1. YouTube is the worlds second biggest search engine, and ranks higher than Google itself in trends.

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On the chart above none of the top 100 brands make a dent on Google, and even Microsoft looks small next to that. I could go on and on… but I’ve probably made my point and this is supposed to be a blog post not a thesis.

My Conclusions:
– The top 100 brands in Millward Brown’s list do not match available trend data on brands from independent sources such as Google, Blogpulse, Alexa etc.
– Digital Brands like Facebook clearly belong in any Power Brand list if sheer volume of interaction plays a part in establishing the power of a modern brand.
– IBM and many other brands on this list that were given positive brand health in 2009 by MB are in fact declining (from a consumer perspective).
– Big brands are still not investing enough in digital as a channel as a proportion of overall marketing spend.
– Traditional agencies still selling too many brands ‘the old way’ – not investing in digital relationships with their customers.
– Reports of this kind should include public sources of data. Why not include search data, twitter mentions, blog posts and semantic data in forming these kind of studies?
– Brand Power should not be based so heavily on financial data. Some of the biggest brands are also the most complained about brands.
– Lack of competition in a category yielding financial success should not be mistaken for positive brand sentiment.

Article by Iain McDonald – Founder / Exec Creative Director at Amnesia Razorfish. (@eunmac) – feel free to drop me a comment!


say it with me: Razorfunfish!

April 23, 2009

So, our fearless leader Iain is across the pond right now, stirring up trouble at the Razorfish Client Summit in Las Vegas. While we were sleeping, he challenged the world to another Google battle (remember Velociroflcoptersaurus?) and this time, I’ve decided I’ll actuall DO something about it. This time, it’s a battle for the word Razorfunfish. Here’s a little stop-motion we threw together this afternoon:Vodpod videos no longer available.

razorfunfish! [razorfish client summit 2009] from heather ann snodgrass on Vimeo.

It was really fun! Looking forward to doing more of these in my spare time…