Yahoo debuts ‘future of search’

March 25, 2011

(WIRED) — Yahoo is looking to one-up Google and its own search partner Bing, offering a new search experience it describes as the “fastest thing you have ever seen.”

The new product called Search Direct combines instant search — showing results as you type — with instant answers, so that typing in “amzn” instantly shows a full box with stock quotes about Amazon.com. For searches it has no answer to, it shows search links immediately in an easy-to-navigate box above a typical search-results page.

Yahoo, which looked to have abandoned the search game when it outsourced its search backend to Microsoft, says Search Direct — and its emphasis on user experience — is the future of search.

“I want you to remember three words: ‘answers, not links,'” Shashi Seth, Yahoo’s vice president for search told a room of tech reporters in San Francisco as he demo’d the product.

Search Direct is live on search.yahoo.com and other U.S. Yahoo search properties, but not the homepage yet. The same experience will soon come to all search boxes on Yahoo, Seth said, and it will find its way to non-Yahoo properties as well.

The product has “answers” for 15 categories of entities, including movies, professional athletes, music, celebrities, weather info, news, shopping, local and stocks.

The new search builds on Yahoo’s attempt to stay relevant in the lucrative search market by focusing on user experience, now that it has farmed out the expensive infrastructure to Microsoft, in exchange for ad-revenue sharing.

“People still come to Yahoo and search on Yahoo,” said Yahoo chief product officer Blake Irving.

Yahoo compared the new experience favorably to Google’s own Instant Search, saying that Google’s feature merely shows search-result pages faster, while this brings people answers incredibly quickly.

WIRED: Yahoo and Microsoft join search forces

Search Direct doesn’t require a fast net connection, the company said, and the system is built using infrastructure that Yahoo owns. That could put the feature in conflict with its search partner Bing.

For instance, Yahoo says it can come up with new ad formats that fit in the Search Direct box, but it hasn’t yet figured out how or if it would share that revenue with Microsoft, as it currently does with search ads.

Yahoo emphasized that it had built instant search first (though it never released it) and that it owns patents on both that technology and the new technology.

Neither Irving or Seth would say what Yahoo would do with those patents.

Irving tried to be diplomatic.

“Licensing is something we have done in the past and continue to do in the future,” Irving said.

Yahoo expects to license the service to others around the web and seems confident it’s built the future of search — even as the tech world has written the firm off as a third-place player destined to keep falling behind.

It’s not clear if Yahoo’s figured out search’s future, but Direct Search is incredibly fast and could prove to be so useful that we’ll all soon forget when we had to type a full word and hit Enter to figure something out.

And combined with Yahoo’s promising new tablet-publishing platform Livestand, we may just be seeing a revitalized Yahoo that is actually a tech company once again, despite its recent financial woes and layoffs.

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Copyright 2010 Wired.com.


Google Makes Changes – How Can You Stay at the Top of the Page?

July 2, 2010

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an interesting industry. It also happens to be pretty large considering its actual purpose: exploiting imperfections in search engines. The people who work in SEO generally don’t like to look at it this way, but all they’re doing is cheating at a game. The goal of a search engine is to give users the most accurate, high-quality results possible. When someone with a floundering website which isn’t receiving the pageviews they’d like seeks out a specialized SEO company just for the sake of getting better search-engine results, they are saying they’d rather get traffic than improve the quality of their site. Well as of late, the companies that provide the short-term relief that is SEO are going nuts, and it’s all because the company they make all their profit off of, Google, has made a pretty major change to their search algorithm.

It’s not exactly being explained this way, but the change seems pretty precisely designed to eliminate the ability to exploit faults in the existing algorithm, exactly the service that SEO companies provide. What the algorithm actually does is improve the quality of results by promoting sites with unique content.

When it comes to Google’s pay-per-click advertising, the updated algorithm will continue to use the quality and cost-per-click (CPC) figure but will be slightly tweaked for that coveted top ad position. Instead of using the actual CPC, Google will use the advertiser’s maximum CPC in the overall equation. In addition, Google will be applying a stricter threshold on the quality component for the top ad positions. Actual CPC is determined, in part, by the bidding behavior of the advertisers below you. This means that your ad’s chance of being promoted to a top spot could be constrained by a factor you cannot influence. By considering your ad’s maximum CPC, a value you set, you will have more control over achieving top ad placement.

According to Google, “In addition to increasing control for advertisers, the improved formula increases the quality of our top ads for users. This is due to more high quality ads becoming eligible for top placement, thereby allowing our system to choose from a larger pool of high quality ads to show our users.”

Other side effects include that the long-tail and mid-tail keywords (phrases with 3 or more words) are passing through more stringent semantic and ranking filters (meaning the array of broad match keywords a page could potentially rank for) have been tightened up or reduced to increase relevance.

Here’s a pretty technical video explaining the actual changes:

So who will be impacted by this change? First, those who currently have top ad positions will see more competition in that area. Second, the people who have spent their time increasing keyword density on their site just for the sake of reaching a higher position on the search engine will have wasted their time.

Really, it’s not as if Google is making a targeted assault on SEO. They are just trying to increase the quality of results and keep up with the evolving state of the web. They’ve recently begun to integrate real-time social media content into their results, which means that it will be impossible to pay a search engine marketing company to be constantly tweaking your site. Regardless, this is only reinforcing the reality that tweaking the content of your site so it’s more kosher for Google results will never stand up to regularly adding genuine, well-written content to your site which people will want to link back to. The truth is that if people reach a site solely because of SEO but the site itself is not well designed, does not have decent content, or doesn’t look trustworthy, no one is going to buy from it or link to it.

So what are the steps to take in order to compensate for this change? Obviously it’s still important to focus on where your site will place on Google. But the way to go about this is not to think from the search engine’s end and build your site around what will be successful on a results page. Rather, the priority should be the quality of your site and its unique content, its accuracy to its message or what its selling. Google is simply trying to make the web a better place – where the best sites are also the most popular sites.

Contact Us or check out our website and we would be happy to help you figure out how you can make a truly good website tailored to a better internet.


Videochat and Social Media: The Missing Link

June 22, 2010

  

It’s time to take videochat seriously. Videochat a prime example of futuristic technology that would’ve seemed unimaginable 30 years ago but is currently available. You can have a decent-quality video phonecall with someone thousands of miles away in realtime – why hasn’t this technology taken off? The key lies in social media.

Now that Apple is taking on videochat with “Facetime” on iPhone 4 we can expect some major steps forward in the technology and hopefully in the popularity of this area of communication. Virtually all computers nowadays are equipped with webcams, but people are generally only using these to record video rather than to make live calls. Usually people blame this on the lack of quality and consistency in leading videochat programs like Skype, but in reality the quality is there, it’s just not being used. The problem with current videochat programs can be understood more deeply if you look at them in comparison with videochat’s predecessor: instant messaging.

The online plain of videochat currently looks almost exactly the way instant messaging used to. Sites like stickam and tinychat provide public video chatrooms as well as the ability to create private rooms, similar to the old aol chatrooms. Skype can be equated to AIM, the instant messaging program used ubiquitously for the past 6 or 7 years – at least by middle and high school students. But instant messaging has moved on; now almost all instant messaging dialogues take place over facebook chat, a huge change considering the past popularity of AIM. Skype has the same problem AIM did, it requires you to seek out your friends through their service and create a buddy list which is unique to Skype. Facebook Chat stole instant messaging away from AIM simply because every friend you could ever want to chat with is at your fingertips; you don’t have to find out their special username – you’re already friends with them. Considering the natural trend of tech it seems logical to say that we can expect videochatting to become easier, more reliable, and following these, more popular. The moment it’s possible to create a lightweight decent-quality videochat program within Facebook – expect Skype to disappear.


Twitter – Getting Started

May 3, 2010

A friend of mine recently said to me, ‘I just don’t get Twitter.’ You may have heard or thought this yourself. It’s the fastest growing digital medium for News, Social Interaction, and developing new business relationships.

So to help my friend and others, here is a simple ‘Get Started Guide.’

1> Most important: follow a lot of other people. If you follow someone, they will most likely will follow you back. But who to follow? Use the Search box and put in topics that interest you like ‘Baseball,’ ‘Investing,’ etc. Then read the Tweets that come up. If somebody has made an interesting comment, click on their picture to read their profile. If you like, follow them. They will most likely follow you back.

2> Post interesting stuff yourself, because when the people you follow look up your profile, they’ll want to see that you have something interesting to say. Then they will be more likely to follow you.

3> Retweet things you find interesting. Retweets not only show up on your profile but also show up to all the Followers of the person you retweeted so some of their followers may follow you.(That’s a sentence you could never imagine writing 10 years ago!)

4> Read a Blog Post I did awhile back that you may find helpful.
https://outofchaosblog.wordpress.com/2009/03/20/pathfinder-newsletter-twitter-your-way-to-success/

5> Most of all interact, learn and have fun with it!


A Guide to Advertising on Facebook

January 14, 2010

Targeting

Facebook presents businesses with the opportunity to reach their target market throughout the entire marketing cycle. While a small percentage of users are ready to purchase while they’re browsing Facebook, a much larger percentage of users are going to make a purchase in the future rather than at the moment they see your ad.

Fortunately you have the opportunity to build an ongoing relationship with your customer and that’s what Facebook is most useful for. It’s a platform to build ongoing relationships and “remarket” to your customers, as Facebook says in some of their own marketing copy. Understanding that these users are not ready to purchase is key to success on Facebook.

Often times on Google, advertisers will create an ad which targets every person in a single country and then split test two ad versions against each other. On Facebook this model will do nothing but cost you money. Placing a generic ad that’s targeted at an entire country, without any additional targeting, will do nothing but get you a lot of clicks and waste a lot of money for the most part.

Define Your Market

In order to become an effective Facebook advertiser, you need to have effectively defined your market. This will help you to take advantage of the 11 targeting factors that Facebook currently provides. To help define your market, you can go through the market segmentation process. This involves defining the need your company satisfies and then more thoroughly defining who your customer is.

After exhaustively defining who your customer is, you’ll be more effective at defining the targeting factors to be used in Facebook advertisements.

Split Test Ads By Demographic

Let’s say that you’ve created an advertisement that’s targeted at CEOs of companies in the Northeast region of the United States. You can create two advertisements and compare which version of the ad results in a larger response. An example lesson learned would be that “CEOs in the Northeast region tend to respond better to ads with the word ‘influence’ over the word ‘power’”.

As you narrow your targeting, you can begin to adjust your advertisements even further. For example, as a second step you can now create separate ads for CEOs in the Boston area and CEOs in the New York metropolitan area.

Targeting Factors Outlined

Facebook provides 11 targeting factors for advertisers. Below is an outline of each of those factors:

  1. Location – Facebook enables advertisers to target by country, state/provice, city, and metropolitan areas. All advertisements are required to have a location selected. This should be pretty straight-forward as to which location you’d like to select.
  2. Age – Age is a standard demographic factor. Most marketers that have a well defined target-market will be able to select their age.
  3. Birthday – This is one of Facebook’s latest advertising targeting filters. It should be pretty obvious what types of ads should be presented to people whose birthday it is. Try wishing the user a happy birthday and offer them a gift for higher conversion rates.
  4. Sex – Gender is another typical targeting filter for Facebook.
  5. Keywords – Keywords will are based on a user’s profile information including Activities, Favorite Books, TV Shows, Movies, and more. What types of products do your customers like? Spend time on this field and you’ll be rewarded.
  6. Education – While you can target based on their level of education, this is most effective for targeting ads based on the schools that people went to. Want to announce a reunion for the University of Illinois class of 1996? This is a great way to promote it.
  7. Workplaces – This is another great targeting filter. Oftentimes you will know the companies that your target market works at. If you are looking to get new clients or looking to spread awareness within specific organizations, this filter can be priceless.
  8. Relationship – Want to target people that are about to get married? This is a great tool for that. If you are a bar or club, you most likely want to go after those people that are single. While this filter can be useful, you also need to keep in mind that selecting any of these settings will remove all users that haven’t selected a relationship status in their profile.
  9. Interested In – This factor is useful if a user’s sexual preferences are relevant to whatever you are advertising.
  10. Languages – If your ad is in English but the user speaks Chinese, it’s probably not a good idea to be displaying ads to them.
  11. Connections – The connections allow you to include and exclude users based on pages, events, and applications that the users have joined and you happen to be the administrator of. If you’ve created a Page and don’t want the ads to display to people who have already joined, this is a great way to avoid duplicate clicks.

If you aren’t taking advantage of the numerous targeting factors then you aren’t using Facebook advertising effectively. In order to have an increased conversion rate on your advertisements, increase the targeting in order to make the advertisement more relevant for the users. Relevance will get people to respond to your ad.

Why is this powerful?

  • The demographics are far more accurate than most data (age, sex, gender preference, relationship, etc.)
  • The deep data – being able to choose to market to employees of specific companies – should be an amazing tool for the right advertiser
  • The keyword associations that people have with their Facebook accounts are correlated quite highly with true interests
  • The “approximate reach” number gives you great insight into your target market size (even if you never place an ad)

Building Relationships

Facebook is about relationship marketing, not direct sales. That means it’s more important to build a relationship with a potential client or an existing customer than to close a sale right away.

Through Facebook advertising, users can become a fan or RSVP to an event directly from an ad. At that point, you have the opportunity to interact directly with that individual and build a relationship. If you had directed a user to your website, you would have been forced to have them enter a form or make a purchase right away. The odds of getting a user to fill out a form or make a purchase immediately is far less than getting them to become a fan of a Page or RSVPing to an event.

In addition to having an increased conversion, you are also now able to reach out to individuals directly if you wish. For example if someone RSVPs to an event, but you don’t know who they are, you can send them a message welcoming them to the event and inquiring about more information. This form of relationship building is used to build lasting customers, not one time purchases, and it is core to Facebook marketing.

Measure initial conversions as fans, comments, and likes. Since most users will not make a purchase right away, you need to make sure that you are at least engaging them. Follow-up with your fans often and consistently.

Think Long-Term

In terms of sales, the payoff will be further down the line so be prepared to spend over weeks and months, don’t blow your budget in a day. Unless you are an affiliate marketer (who has distinctly different goals), you should be invested in the advertising for the long haul. A one-week campaign is not going to bring you riches, but a long-term investment in advertising can produce measurable results.

This means don’t spend beyond your means for one week and have no money left at the end. Instead, set reasonable budgets that you’ll be able to handle for longer periods of time.

Monitor Your Ad Performance And Adjust Accordingly

Put the daily spending budget into place at a low level while you see how much traffic and at what cost you will get it. Keep a close eye on your campaigns, especially the first week. (Weekends can vary drastically from week days.)

Facebook provides advertisers with a number of monitoring tools including their basic ad manager area as well as downloadable data about each campaign you are running. If you visit the ad reports area you can download three types of reports to determine how your campaigns and ads are performing: advertising performance, responder demographics, responder profiles.

The primary things to monitor are clicks, click through rates (CTR), actions, action rates, and CPC. Each of these variables will differ depending on what type of campaign that you’re running but in theory, the more targeted your ad, the higher click through rate you should have. Additionally, your click through rate will tend to go down over time as your entire target population views your ad and decides whether or not they want to respond.

Test Landing Pages Versus Facebook Pages

In traditional online advertising, users are directed to a landing page from which they are prompted to fill in information in a form. This information is then typically used to send marketing literature. On Facebook, you want to build relationships but if the relationships you are building aren’t generating any revenue, you may want to diversify your advertising strategy by including some landing pages.

Yes, building relationships are extremely valuable and despite those users never making a purchase, they can become effective brand advocates that ultimately drive new customers to your business. For smaller businesses, investing in brand advocates is often considered to be a costly proposition which is why investing in some direct sales is always useful.

The point of this law is that Facebook advertising combined with relationship marketing cannot be your only strategy. You need to generate sales and sometimes that means being direct and converting a customer.

Creating Your Ad

Conversion is primarily about two things: your ad copy and the landing page. If your advertisement doesn’t provide a call to action, there is a good chance that the user won’t respond. 

Be creative. You will most likely be spending dimes on the ads, and there’s almost nothing to lose if they don’t work. This is a perfect chance to take a risk, assuming you’re closely watching your ad performance.

Use great images. The wonderful thing Facebook ads open up is the ability to use images easily. For very low costs you can find images that you can purchase the rights to, and use on your ads.

Sources

http://www.seomoz.org/blog/facebook-advertising-an-opportunity-to-reach-powerful-users-at-very-low-cost

http://www.businessinsider.com/10-rules-for-advertising-on-facebook-2009-7


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