Meet Kodiak. A big reason why it’s been nearly a year since my last blog post. This ultra-friendly and oversized pup joined our family late last Summer and we’ve been busy ever since. While I haven’t been blogging much, I have been Tumblng instead. I promise to re-engage the blog soon but in the meantime check out some of photos of our silly pal.
Yesterday, I came across this interesting study about whether or not search advertising adds or detracts clicks from organic listings. The study found that 89% of the traffic generated from search clicks weren’t replaced by organic clicks if they were paused. It was developed by Googlers so the study probably wouldn’t have been released if the results didn’t aid their bread-and-butter business model. I do like the fact that they used statistical modeling (very reminiscent of b-school) to derive their results. They do note limitations to their study including seasonality, differences in verticals, and lack of a true test group (they were looking at aggregate data from their advertisers). While I think that the focus of the study on clicks is interesting, I think a study devoted to conversions would be even more powerful and enlightening. It’s great that overall traffic rises and so should conversions but how much incremental conversions come from paid advertising would be a better question to answer. Pretty interesting stuff nonetheless.
If local search isn’t on an businesses radar, it definitely should be. In my job, it’s been a priority for the past six months to organize and optimize our efforts to become more effective at local search. We want our locations to attract as much attention and take up as much real estate as possible when someone does a search for a product we carry in their neighborhood market. As more people search on the go and as search engines place more emphasis on displaying local results, the better you understand what’s going on, the better you’ll be in the long run.
Search Engine Watch came out with a good overview article to what you should be doing – http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2094582/Understanding-the-98-Google-Local-Ranking-Factors. Most of the suggestions are common sense but I’m still amazed how many businesses, both large and small, aren’t even doing the basics.
Here’s what I consider to be the basics:
- Updating all fundamental information such as store hours, address, phone number, etc. so they provide users with contact information and a way to find you.
- Selecting pertinent categories that describe your business. Each local review site (Yelp, Citysearch, and Places) had different categories to select from. Most offer you the ability to choose more than one. This helps you to show up in search results or when people are drilling down into specific categories.
- Adding a description of your business and services targeting specific keywords. This not only gives the user some context to what you do but it also has SEO benefits.
- Adding links to all your social media profiles including Facebook and Twitter. It’s easy to do and it gives more ways for the user to connect with you.
- Encouraging users to post reviews. Make sure employees mention that they’d appreciate a review to satisfied customers, offer signage in-store reminding visitors, etc. The more reviews a store has (especially positive ones), the more authority and relevance it’ll have in local search.
I’m always fascinated by the way people find information, especially on the Internet. This past weekend I was graced with the presence of my parents who came into town for a visit. We ended up going to dinner with a couple who were their old college friends who they had not seen for over 40 years! In fact they had no communication of any sort with them for that entire length of time. How did my 65 year old mother find them? A few pieces of key data and Google was all it took.
She started off with the most obvious of searches – the first and last name of the husband. Next she added in the city of Los Angeles as a clarifier. Both searches yielded a ton of results.
The couple was originally from Asia and my mother knew their Chinese names. It’s very common for Chinese Americans to use their Asian name as their middle names so she added in a middle initial to her search query. Bingo, a much narrower set of results.
After clicking on a few results, she was able to find his full name, an age that seemed to fit, occupation which matched his old college major, and an address within the Greater Los Angeles area. She wasn’t 100% sure this was their old friends so she next tried a search of the first and last name of his wife. She quickly found results with the same address as the husband to corroborate her first data point. A quick snail mail letter yielded a phone call and a face to face dinner to reminisce about their good ole college days.
It’s amazing how much information lives on the Internet and how just the smallest of clues can lead to a positive search outcome. The next search for my mother? Another long lost college classmate whose name was brought up during dinner. Sounds like another 40 year old gap is about to be bridged.
I’ve been really excited to check out Google+ and here’s a quick set of observations:
3 Things I Like
- Circles – It’s very easy to add people into Circles and you can make a ton of them. So far it seems very intuitive and the fact that an email is set to all the people you add into a Circle makes this very viral.
- Notification Toolbar – I love the fact that I can easily access Google+ and other Google properties while doing a Google Search or checking my gmail. The notifications section in the upper right hand corner is a constant reminder that something might be going on in Google+.
- UI – The experience is very clean and the feeling is very familiar (since it feels like a very close facsimile of Facebook). Things seem to be where they should be and that’s always a plus (no pun intended).
3 Things I Don’t Like
- Lack of Refinement – Yes, I know this is a beta but I guess I expect more out of Google products. Certain features seem to stall or lag when they shouldn’t. For example, typing in the stream update box just seems to be a tad behind the speed of typing. I’ve seen notifications that a comment had been made on a post without the post updating with the comment first.
- Lack of Engagement – While it seems like people are signing up in droves, the amount of engagement is definitely lacking. It seems like most people are taking a wait and see approach and this is causing my stream to be quite boring.
- The Stream – There seems to be a bit too much going on for each individual post. The number of +1s, the number of shares, and the number of comments all seem to take up more space then they need to for each post. A big part is due to the listing of names of people who did share or comment. I also don’t like the fact that you need to click ‘More’ to view more of the stream. I like Facebook’s functionality of automatically loading more posts as your scroll down.
3 Things I Question
- Do we really need to be on both Google+ and Facebook? Proponents of Google+ say that it serves a different purpose than Facebook and there’s room for both but I’m a skeptic. So far, when I check Google+ I also check Facebook right after.
- How will businesses use Google+? As of now there’s no brand/fan pages nor is a business product out yet. It’ll be interesting to see how they’ll differ from Facebook. I can see people adding brands under a Following circle where they can “subscribe” to updates.
- How Sparks develops for users? It’s a quiet subtle way for Google to push more content onto users. It’s less search and more discovery. Very Stumbleuponish.