Search + social media, the evolving landscape

Screen shot 2009-12-10 at 11.31.30 AM.pngYou have undoubtedly heard about Google and Bing announcing partnerships with Twitter/Facebook/et. al. to include real time social media results into their search indexes. However, even if you did hear about it, I think few people have seen what it looks like in Google's environment, so I recorded this short video for the search term "Copenhagen". Have a look. (Bing takes a slightly different, segmented approach.)

Key Takeaways:


  • These results are pulled into the first page of Google, there are substantial reputation issues to consider
  • These updates are not listed like other webpages/fan pages/primary Twitter accounts, they are in a separate area on the page (fairly contained...for now)
  • The searcher will see what is hot at that point in time
  • It seems like this would be very susceptible to fraud and Tweet bombing, would love to get your opinion on that

What does this mean for you and your brand(s)? How are you preparing/sharing and engaging around this? One of the keys to social media gaining the traction it has is its uncanny way of tapping into the power of search and this is taking that to the next level.

Let me know what you think.

[UPDATE 12/11]: It seems that Yahoo has also added in-line Tweets to search results. This model pulls in three recent (not sure the exact algorithm here) Tweets to the bottom of the result page. Screenshot below.

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When search does not equate to action

I don't really like American Idol, I actually prefer the early episodes when they focus on the people who cannot sing. Nonetheless, I want to look at a peculiar thing that happened tonight. Typically, search trends for these shows can help to predict who the eventual winner will be. (There is a great article that goes into past trends in more depth on Mashable.)

The assumption is that search volume = interest = intent to vote. This is similar in marketing where search volume = interest = intent to buy. Tonight, however, that trend was bucked. See the charts below.

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But, Lambert didn't win tonight. Kris Allen did. Lambert owned the search trends all the way back to late January, so why didn't he convert more voters?

I think the point here is that search volume doesn't guarantee intent to act. What is your take? What does this mean for companies/products who generate interest without generating conversion? How do you make sure you have both? How do you sustain over time?

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The cohesion of conversations; brands taking a #(pound)ing

iStock_000007087342XSmall.jpgThe hashtag (aka the pound sign, #) is a ubiquitous part of social networking at this point. The purpose of the hashtag is to be able to track and lump a strong of asynchronous messages together for later review and analysis.

For example, a group of people coordinate and use the same keyword at the end of every tweet. You probably saw this at SXSW this year when people were ending their messages with #sxsw. You can use third party sites to aggregate those messages into a single string that is ordered by date to see how events unfold.

However, the hashtag is also being used to track the community's brand engagement. Situations like #motrinmoms, #dominos and #amazonfail now have a public timeline that will remain in place forever. The massive volume of similarly tagged content will make it very easy for anyone to find what happened and see how the company responded across search engines and social platforms.

An argument that people have used to avoid engagement in this space is that it's a relatively small sampling of people who engage in these networks. Regarding the Motrin Moms controversy, an Advertising Age article quoted a Lightspeed research study that stated 90% of women had not seen the Motrin ad that spawned the backlash online. Of the 10% who did, 8% said it negatively impacted their brand impression. While that is a small number, you cannot underestimate the power of small, passionate groups of people who use turbocharged platforms to connect with and influence other like minded people. Wildfires can start with a single match, right?

Internal listening is paramount

I can partially understand when companies have some hesitation in listening to the broad community and engaging. It's time consuming and you have to have a corporate culture to make it work. However, I do not understand companies that do not listen in the social space for employee engagement issues, brand perception problems and platform breakdowns. These types of issues are having an impact on Dominos and Amazon right now.

#dominos: This one is picking up steam now. For more info on what happened, go here.
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#amazonfail: This ramped up a couple of days ago when a "glitch" in the Amazon system starting delisting GLBT titles. People responded to the "glitch" with the hashtag #glitchmyass. It seems to be trending down at the moment.
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[Update] Here is page one of the Google search result for Dominos as of 10:30am on April 15, 2009. Notice entry #3 from YouTube, the top news story as well as the next three stories after the new results.

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The bottom line is that these companies should have been listening and engaging all along, should have been prepared earlier with real, honest, personal responses and taken proactive steps to make things right with their community. Waiting a day to respond is WAY too long, waiting hours may even be too long.

Some things to think about:


  • Listening is more important than ever
  • Active listening can pick up issues before they become crises
  • Community building is key (in advance of an issue)
  • Events are being linked together by consumers for all to see
  • The content of those interactions will live on forever
  • The content also appears in search
  • A few, passionate individuals can dramatically hurt or help a brand in its interactions online

Do you go back through hashtags to see conversations over time? Have you come across them in search results?

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Killing Google

google-.jpgToday, I am featured on Louis Gray's fantastic blog with a post that I've been working on called "The time is right to kill Google (if they don’t kill themselves first)". The post comes out of a couple of experiences I have had with the company at a time when user loyalty and customer service should be paramount. Click here to read the post, and if you don't subscribe to Louis' blog I suggest you do!

[Update:] Some great comments on Louis' blog as well as on the FriendFeed thread. Check em out.

If you're visiting here from Louis' blog, welcome to Techno//Marketer. I hope you stick around!

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The key is ROI

iStock_000005509580XSmall.jpgI've said this for years, and I think every digital evangelist wakes up in cold sweats every night thinking about it. ROI in the digital space (SEM, social media, e-commerce, campaign sites, email marketing, etc.) is measurable, accurate and accountable. You know your digital ROI for every dollar spent, but if you're spending offline, you really have no idea what you're getting. I've seen the equations that publications use to guess their reach and it's total BS. I've also heard radio DJs exclaim that they really have no idea how many people are listening.

I can say this all day long, but I think Gary Vaynerchuk (who I met at Blog World Expo and is even more fantastic in person) does it with his unique passion, so here you go. Enjoy, and if you don't follow Gary's blog and watch his videos please make it a point to do so.

Are you moving more dollars online? Are you seeing more pressure put on magazines, newspapers, radio and TV to deliver? What are you having success in measuring for clients?


I'd love to know what you think.


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Inside//Out: Cuil

cuil_logo.pngThe launch of Cuil (pronounced like "cool") hit the RSS readers and tech news with a bang recently. Despite the horrible name that nobody knows how to pronounce (you would think they didn't want any word-of-mouth traffic) and the lack of obvious "beta" status, the new search engine on the block does have some redeeming qualities.

Most importantly, Cuil does not collect user data to refine results instead looking at the context of the result set. Cuil's topical categories and filtering options are handy and the fact that it is not weighted by a mysterious algorithm (like Google's Pagerank) give it a different set of results. Time will tell if it is better overall. Take a peak at the following video overview.


[Feed readers please click through to the post if you cannot see the video.]

Here are a few stats that look at the huge uptick and subsequent recoil in attention to the service.

Take this graph from Bill Tancer's blog that looks at Cuil's fading marketshare of visits after a strong lift in the upfront.

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Bill's data is backed up by this Compete.com look at daily traffic attention.

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Differentiators:


  • Does not collect personal data for search result optimization
  • Uses context of the results to refine set
  • Different layout including handy sub-categories and topic sorting

So what do you think?


  • Is there room for change in search?
  • Do you switch search engines or stick with one? (Take the T//M reader poll in the right column!)
  • Is there innovation happening in search?

Let me hear your thoughts.


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Don't forget the rest of the digital puzzle

iStock_000005066615XSmall.jpgWith all of the buzz around social media it's easy to overlook the rest of the digital marketing puzzle. Yes, it's fun to talk about Twitter and Facebook and the other new bright shiny objects, but they're just one component of a balanced online marketing strategy.

Take a look at the following chart from e-Marketer that shows how US adults prefer to have companies communicate with them. Note that email is still almost twice as requested as web sites.

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That being said, social media has the opportunity to help drive business, create valuable content and serve as a landing point for various customer segments. Content is the foundation of any quality experience online, just ask anyone who's run a website.

Email - Social media (from Twitter to blogs) is centered around constant content updates. It's also a rule that very few people actually participate by commenting or adding content. Most people participate by reading and clicking (which is just as valuable in my opinion). Email is a perfect way, however, to summarize the best, most relevant conversations that are taking place.

Search - Search engines absolutely love social media content. It's categorized, updated frequently and is full of metadata. Results from blogs and other social media outlets are showing up in search result pages alongside corporate websites and official releases. The more relevant, popular, trusted sources will rise to the top...many times they'll be blogs.

Advertising - Sites like Facebook are full of user data that is being leveraged by marketers to create timely, relevant, targeted ads. Facebook made poor decisions early on with their Beacon program, but smart marketers are using the targeting to eliminate waste and only pay for the qualified clicks.

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With social media as one component of digital marketing mix, keep thinking about how it can integrate with other tactics. How can you use the content generated in emails, ads, mobile messaging, search targeting, etc.? How can you extend it offline into physical items for marketing. Look at examples like Moo.com that allow you to create social artifacts that lead people back to your space online.

Social media is not an island,
it's a high-power engine on the larger marketing ship.

Social media isn't the end-all-be-all, but it offers marketers unparalleled opportunity to participate in relevant ways. It also provides a launchpad for other marketing tactics. Social media is not an island, it's a high-power engine on the larger marketing ship.


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The influence of digital

cameraphone.jpgAs a rule, I only talk about my work and my company when I know it will add value to what you do. That's certainly the case today as Fleishman-Hillard (my company) and Harris Interactive release our Digital Influence Index Study. This study was conducted in Europe (using the UK, France and Germany as the initial round of countries), but you can see trends emerge that I think are global in nature.

(You can download the key findings, the whitepaper and the FAQ for the study.)

The study looks to really dig in to the role that the internet plays in the lives of consumers. It answers the following questions:

  • Influence: What is the influence of the internet compared to other media?
  • Behavior: What online behaviors are consumers adopting?
  • Impact on decisions: What is the impact of the internet on specific consumer decisions?
  • Attitudes: What are consumer attitudes towards the internet?
  • Geography: What are the differences by country?

The actual Digital Influence Index number shown below in the pie charts is compiled like this:

Picture 18.png

Picture 17.pngThe chart to the right compares the influence of different forms of media on decision making. As you can see the internet is more influential in each country than any other type of media. It's nearly twice as influential as TV and eight times more influential than traditional print media. Interestingly, consumers spend a marginal amount more time on TV than the Internet, but it's not effecting their decisions proportionally.

The study found that consumer behavior falls into one of five categories. They are research, commerce, communication, mobility and publishing. While you can read more detail in the full report, some highlights are:


  • 80% of online consumers use the net to comparison shop
  • 3 out of 4 use the net to manage bank accounts
  • 30% post a comment to an online newsgroup or website during a typical week

Here is how these behaviors relate adoption levels and influence

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Though the study found the internet influential, it showed that there are still trust issues that have to be overcome for it to continue to grow. Trust of information from other users, trust of government information and information provided by companies were all relatively low. Trust in commerce was a little better and trust of the security of communications channels was pretty high as well.

Key Findings:


  • Across all three countries addressed by the study, the Internet has roughly double the influence of the second strongest medium — television — and roughly eight times the influence of traditional print media. This indicates a need and an opportunity for companies to reprioritise their communications to address the media shift in consumer influence.
  • Consumers use the Internet in different ways to make different decisions. For example, consumers are more likely to seek opinions of others through social media and product-rating sites when it comes to making decisions that involve choices that have a great deal of personal impact (e.g., healthcare options or major electronics purchases), but use company-controlled sources when making transactional decisions on commoditised items like utilities or airline tickets.
  • While consumers see the clear benefits of the Internet on their lives, they continue to have concerns about Internet safety and the trustworthiness of some of the information they find online. In the UK, for example, 66 percent of online consumers state that the Internet helps them make better decisions, but just 28 percent trust the information on the Internet provided by companies.

I think this quote from Dave Senay (our CEO) addresses the key point from my perspective:

"The research shows that the Internet stands out as the most important medium in the lives of European consumers today, but there's a mismatch between the impact of the digital channel across a wide range of consumer behaviours and decisions and the proportion of resources organisations generally are allocating to it relative to other media.

Insights provided by this study will help communicators be more strategic in their marketing mix. At the same time, we need to be mindful about the concerns expressed about safety and trust, which underscores the need for digital engagement with consumers based on open and honest representation."

So what should companies and marketers do with this knowledge?


  • Given the influence of the Internet, audit your current marketing spend and see how it aligns with reality and the influence of the medium
  • Make sure information that is provided is done so in a transparent, honest manner with full representation
  • SEM/SEO are crucial as search drives the way people find information
  • Join the conversation online, support the community and engage in a transparent manner
  • Keep an eye on mobile trends and poll consumers to gauge demand for such an offering

So, what do you think about the information? This is based in Europe, but do you see correlations with the US? You can download the entire white paper here, which includes all of the information above with more charts and graphs.


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Owning your digital identity

iStock_000005643508XSmall.jpgDo you own your corporate domain name? It sounds kind of silly in 2008 doesn't it?

Let's go a level deeper. Do you own your personal .com name (i.e. www.mattdickman.com)?

That may be a bit more of a stretch for some of you, but it's crucial from a personal branding perspective. Just ask Shel Israel who did not have www.shelisrael.com purchased and someone else put up a site devoted to poking fun at him.

Other heavyweights like Robert Scoble (www.robertscoble.com) don't own their domain names either. Re-acquiring a domain name from a cybersquatter has some legal precedent, but it can rack of legal fees or large one-time purchase amounts.

Do you own your Twitter, YouTube and Flickr usernames?

However, let me ask you this. Do you own your personal/corporate Twitter username? How about your YouTube username? How about your Flickr username? If you don't, it's probably a good idea that you do (they're mostly free anyway). I lost out personally on my YouTube name because I used my nickname instead. You may not acquire them all, but you can sure try. These usernames do come up with search result pages adding to the importance of owning your identity.

The risk to your reputation that you run when somebody does register your username is potentially huge. There is no legislation (which I am aware of) that addresses these micro level identity-squatters. It could get to a point where people/companies have to pay for their usernames ala the late 1990's domain name deals.

Once you have acquired the usernames you will need to decide how, if at all, you use the account. While I don't like the fact that accounts may sit empty in the short-term, it is advisable that you secure your ID as soon as possible.

What are you waiting for? Go get your identity!

[Update: It looks like Shel Holtz and I are on the same page today. Check out his post on the same topic with FriendFeed.]


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Google is (still) stalking me

google_blinds.jpgA little over a year ago I wrote a post that turned out to be one of my most popular ever. So, to have a bit of fun, I want to revisit that post and see how my relationship with Google has evolved in the past 365+ days.

So come on. Take another trip with me through my day with Google.





545.jpg clock_small.jpg5:15am: Ugh. The day starts to my blaring clock radio. There is an ad running that Google has sold through ClearChannel.
615.jpg clock_small.jpg5:30am: I get up, take a shower and go to the home office to check my Gmail account.
Picture 1.png clock_small.jpg5:40am: While I am at it I check my Feedburner account to see where my traffic is coming from. Google owns Feedburner now.
645.jpg clock_small.jpg5:45am: Once the email is done I let the dogs outside and turn on the TV. There is a spot running placed by Google.
730.jpg clock_small.jpg7:00am: I start up the car and hear another ad placed by Google.
blog_outdoor.jpg clock_small.jpg7:30am: Driving to work I pass 10-20 ClearChannel billboards. Probably pretty likely Google will place ads on those as well.
800.jpg clock_small.jpg7:45am: I roll into work and sit down. Having stopped at Starbucks in the lobby I open the paper to see what's happening in Cleveland. Again, more ads placed by Google here too.
830.jpg clock_small.jpg8:30am: I jump online, check Google News and my GMail acccount again.
900.jpg clock_small.jpg9:00am: I surf my favorite blogs, most of them have Google AdWords placed on them even in the feeds. I am reading those feeds with Google Reader.
945.jpg clock_small.jpg9:45am: I check my copy of AdAge and see a couple more ads placed by Google.
urinal.jpg clock_small.jpg10:00am: Finally! I am free from...damn...it's another Google SMS alert on my phone. No peace.
Picture 4.png clock_small.jpg10:10am: I go to buy an item that I found in a Google search and purchase it with Google Checkout.
1030.jpg clock_small.jpg10:30am: I continue writing a client brief in Google Docs (formerly Writely).
1100.jpg clock_small.jpg11:00am: Head to the kitchen and see a couple of ads running on TV through the Dish Network which Google placed.
blog_carphone.jpg clock_small.jpg12:00pm: I'm heading to lunch now, but I can't find that new trendy sandwich shop. I ask Goog411 and get the address and phone number.
Picture 2.png clock_small.jpg12:15pm: I take a stroll through YouTube to see what videos are hot and why they may be gaining traction.
115a.jpg clock_small.jpg1:15pm: I am back at the office now and my phone vibrates again. I have new Gmail. I check it and respond from my phone.
130.jpg clock_small.jpg1:30pm: I am going to a meeting after work and I don't have the address yet. I turn to Google Maps and send the directions to my phone for easy access in the car.
230.jpg clock_small.jpg2:30pm: I take a break from work and veg out with an online racing game. Throughout the game are product placements and pre-rolls. Google places those too through AdScape. I wrecked and lost the game.
245.jpg clock_small.jpg2:45pm: I check my RSS feeds again through Google Reader. I go through about 150 feeds and post the best to my blog roll (it's embedded on the left column of my blog).
300.jpg clock_small.jpg3:00pm: I check on the stats for my blog over the past week using Google Analytics. Interesting to see where readers come from. Hello New Delhi!
315.jpg clock_small.jpg3:45pm: Just in surfing the web I come across 2 or 3 major sites that run Google for searching site content. MySpace is one of those.
445.jpg clock_small.jpg5:30pm: I see some display ads running on a couple of sites powered by DoubleClick's DART system. Google owns them now too. More on this development in a future post.
530.jpg clock_small.jpg6:15pm: One last check of my Gmail and I wrap up a blog post and head home.
600.jpg clock_small.jpg7:30pm: I get home, turn off the phone and play ball with Copeland and Crawford. Just then, the phone rings. Is that Google calling me? They certainly have my number.

Oddly, not that much has changed. Google has crept in a little more through M&A, but they definitely aren't going away. I know I am missing things that Google offers. Leave me a comment with the other ways in which you are impacted by Google in your everyday life.

 

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Faster than a speeding bullet, more trendy than a SoHo hipster; the power of search data

Picture 3.pngAre you a spotter of trends? Do you revel in knowing things before your friends and colleagues? If so I am going to share a little information that will make you a very happy person.

A couple of months ago I came across one of the coolest RSS feeds that I've ever seen. Google Hot Trends now offers an hourly feed that shows the top 100 search terms. Every hour a new item is sent to my RSS reader for my consumption.

Why is this cool you ask? Imagine the power of the collective, "crowd sourced" data of millions of Google searches aggregated into one place. It's pop culture at its best. Want to get the scoop before mainstream media? Subscribe to this feed.

The type of information is unfiltered so you will get things like:


  • Scoops on sports trades
  • Celebrity news
  • Breaking business and economic news
  • World news
  • Scandals of all sorts
  • See how powerful TV is at driving search

To me, Google Hot Trends represents the real power of collective intelligence. In the case of Google Trends this is information aggregated across the globe, but imagine if you could do this only for technology or social media. The trends that you uncover would be catalysts for innovation and change.

What are you doing with your search data?

If you are running a web site, what are you doing with your search data? Are you storing it? If you're storing it, are you looking at it? If you're looking at it, are you analyzing it for trends and insights?

Search is as key to a site as your navigation. The data is extremely powerful and can tell you what your customers are looking for, what they really want and what you need to create more of.

How are you using your search data?


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When did you switch?

I was reading a post from David Armano today about association and it got me thinking. He wrote out a number of brands and the word that he associates with each. It's a pretty clear and powerful exercise in the emotive power of brands.

As David pointed out in his post, he started (back in 1996) using and admiring Yahoo! as the de-facto internet company that "got it". They were to search and the web the way Google is today.

yahoogle.jpg

So when did you switch? When did your default search go from silly-sounding Yahoo to (at that time) ridiculous sounding Google?

For me it seemed like an overnight thing. One day I was a Yahoo! guy and the next I was committed to Google. It was nothing that Yahoo did wrong per-say, but Google fit my needs better. I didn't want the content that came with the portal concept, I wanted to find what I wanted in one click. Over time, the Google brand grew and it grew on me.

Did you switch? Millions of people still use Yahoo. They are still satisfied or unwilling to change major markers like email addresses or IM accounts. Why did you (or didn't you) make a switch?

In light of the Microsoft takeover bid, what would you do if you were Yahoo's shareholders? Would you merge or would you try to reinvent search like you did back in 1996?

On that note I saw this quote on Noah Brier's blog from Fake Steve Jobs on the Microsoft/Yahoo merger:

"The Borg-Yahoo merger won't work. Here's why. It's like taking the two guys who finished second and third in a 100-yard dash and tying their legs together and asking for a rematch, believing that now they'll run faster."


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Blogging from the Marketing Profs B2B Forum 2007 - Day 1

Picture 12.pngI am in Chicago today attending, shooting video and blogging live from the Marketing Profs B2B Forum 2007. My flight was a bit late getting in so I missed the morning session, but I will be blogging from the keynote from Chip Heath (co-author of Made to Stick) and from the afternoon sessions.

Other bloggers who are in attendance (whom I am aware of) include Todd Andrlik, David Armano, Josh Hallet, Douglas Karr and Ann Handley (who I just met and is nice as can be).

I will update this post as the day unfolds. Stay tuned.

-------------------------------------------------------

Chip Heath on stageChip Heath gave a great keynote speech over lunch. He kept it light, followed the book's formula, but he added a touch of humor and extra insights that made this really valuable. If you have not read the book, check out the PDF outline that Cam Beck created for the Marketing Profs Book Club.




Branding panelThe branding panel presented by the folks from Babcock Jenkins was well received and full of visual examples to step people through their thinking. Key messaging for me included these points on message creation:

  1. Find one true sentence
  2. Take baby steps
  3. Use sales and customer interviews
  4. Would you buy it?

These points are some of the basics around message creation for any campaign.



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Real time marketing; listen, watch and react

Smart marketers know that the web offers the unprecedented ability to be timely and relevant. When an event happens, content can shift in real-time, ads can go up and offers can be made.

I love the Nokia team's response to the iPhone price drop and subsequent buyer revolt. The Nokia team used the news to their advantage and started running search ads inviting Apple's early adopters to enjoy their new Mosh service and some free content. It's timely, super relevant and took advantage of a one-time situation to capitalize on consumer emotions.

Here is a screenshot of the ad based on the phrase 'iphone price drop':
iphonemosh.jpg
[Screenshot via TechCrunch]

Apple eventually posted a retaliatory search ad and Nokia has since removed their ad from rotation (the window is closed). Nokia only had to be there in the moment and it could have very easily passed them by. How many situations just like this could companies use to capture the interest of consumers? Relevance is key in getting people to engage with you online and this type of marketing is right on the money

Here are some questions to ask and thoughts to ponder:


  • Are you listening to the web? Are you listening to social media?
  • Where are you listening?
  • Do you have Google alerts on keywords? Search Technorati? Keep an eye on the news? Do you do this in real-time?
  • What events trigger consumer purchases in your industry? Weather, seasons, the stock market, etc?
  • How do those things impact consumers? What behaviors change?
  • If you knew what to look for, how would you react to take advantage of it before your competition?

Search ads are nice because they're quick to implement and highly targeted? RSS display ads (where you control dynamic messaging in real time) are another option. Would video have more impact? Do you have a camera at the ready just in case?

How have you taken advantage of real time marketing to increase sales or gain new customers?


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In search of the best, or why Google and Yahoo may not win the war

iStock_000003985556XSmall.jpgThe idea of universal search is a hot one in the online marketing world. If you're not familiar with the term, it's basically the joining of multiple types of content into one cohesive result. For example, if you go to Google right now and search for "apples", the main listing that returns to you are text links to text content (sometimes photos and video are added in-line). They are including blogs and other social media, but it's all text based. If you want to expand your search to video, photos, pro message boards, etc. you have to click another link and you get another set of independent results. Universal search combines everything you need into one set of results.

There are a couple of sites (experimental and otherwise) where companies are playing around with this idea. Ask.com is leading the pack with their current integrated solution as Google and Yahoo play around with the idea in beta (here and here respectively).

Here is a screenshot from Ask's result page. Note the images, Wikipedia and news items pulled into the right column to supplement the text results

Ask.com search results

If you look at the text results from each of these services, there is little differentiation. Different algorithms give different priorities, but for the most part you get the same results at Google, Yahoo, Live search or Ask. Wikipedia is universally accessed as are dictionary.com and sites like Amazon.com.

The difference comes when you look at the unique properties that each search company owns. Take a look at the following, ultra-simple diagram.

webinabox.png

[Click to enlarge]

My main question here is can Google win at search if Yahoo owns the best photo content? Can Yahoo win if Google owns the best user-generated video content?

Right now there is almost no sharing between them, so if you do a Google image search, you will not get Flickr images in your result and the same goes with searching for video on Yahoo as you won't get the best YouTube results.

Some questions for you to ponder and share:


  • Should the companies open up all of their content to one another for the benefit of the end users? Or will they start blocking access?
  • If you were Google would you sacrifice the content in the Yahoo network to make sure they can't access your content?
  • Would they be violating each other's terms of service since they both make money selling ads based on the results?
  • If it's not Google or Yahoo or Ask or Microsoft, who will emerge? Could it be a human-powered option like Mahalo?
  • Are people getting enough from their search engine of choice that they don't need a new option?

I can't wait to hear what you have to say.


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First//Look: Microsoft's Tafiti (beta)

Picture 3.pngThe competition for search eyeballs is an intense game. Anything that a company can do to test new waters or create real differentiation could potentially be a driver for new user acquisition. Of the big three search proprietors, Microsoft has stepped up with an innovative new visual search tool called Tafiti (which means "do research" in Swahili).

Built on the company's Silverlight (it's basically another version of Flash and could be the downfall of this product) platform, Tafiti allows users to search in an interactive, visual environment. The motion is fluid and rich and should appeal to anybody who is tired of the stark white look of Google or the overly crushed look of Yahoo. This universal search tool incorporates images, RSS, news and books into one search with a visual toggle between them. The option that allows you to drag results to a pile for later reference is a very cool idea. (Makes me wonder if/when Apple would partner with Google to do something like this.)

Here is the video for your review.

[Feed readers please click through to the post if you cannot see the video.]

Key takeaways:


  • All major search players are moving to universal search
  • Visual search overlays like this one could be a part of next generation search apps
  • Because items like images, videos, RSS, books, etc. will be indexed, marketers need to start looking at tags and other meta data to make sure people can find them
  • Silverlight = Flash functionality, but it's a separate plugin
  • Would be interesting if Microsoft built another version of this in Flash to bump up adoption

Related posts:


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Buzz Friday for August 3, 2007

more-buzz.jpgHere is a look at what is happening across a couple of sites I keep an eye on. I am refining this post over time, so if there is anything you would like me to add just email me or leave a comment. Similarly, if you have something you think is Buzz Friday worthy let me know and I'll look it over for inclusion.

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[Feed readers please click through to the post if you cannot see the video.]

Here are all of the items that I think are interesting this week:


  • Do you wonder how powerful Google's search is? They recently "tweaked" their search algorithm and it caused a 28% drop in traffic to About.com.
  • The DIY Network is running a series called Blog Cabin where people could log on to a site and basically help design a log cabin through blog software. Four million votes have been tallied so far. Very innovative on DIY's part.
  • Google is using the power of crowdsourcing in non-US countries to build map dat points. Why not use the locals for the local stuff? Makes sense to me.
  • TubeMogul is a brilliant new service that I am using to simultaneously publish the video that I am creating here to (as of right now) 9 different video sites. This saves me at least an hour of follow up.
  • If you have a MySpace profile, Tom is probably your friend. The new site DropTom lets you set a new default user instead of poor ole' Tom.
  • Marcus Brown (aka Sacrum), my fellow Age of Conversation author, has started a new idea company called The Ides of March with a very cool model. He'll take on any problem for you and you pay him what you think it's worth. If you don't like the idea, he gets to blog it to his readers. He's a brilliant guy so what's to lose?
  • A new virtual world competitor to Second Life is ready in Multiverse. Look for lots more.
  • Social network Plaxo is rumored to be releasing their new version on Monday to compete more with LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • Yahoo is revamping their video site to compete with YouTube. Better hurry guys!
  • Video service Veoh is partnering with the NCAA for a branded content channel.
  • Are you planning a conference that needs speakers? Check out David Berkowitz's 12 tips for pitching to help you out.
  • C.B. Whittemore warns why competing on price is a losing battle.
  • Vodafone pulled advertising from Facebook after it was seen on the group page of a racist political party in the UK. Makes you wonder how targeted FB ads are anyways.
  • CBS mobile is covering their bases forming partnerships with four major mobile ad companies.
  • Feedburner is allowing publishers to create self-serve ads through their network similar to Google AdSense.
  • In what is sure to be the first of many such scenarios, Facebook has closed its audio sharing service to prevent RIAA lawsuits.
  • If you have an iPhone and travel overseas beware. This guy had a $3000 cell phone bill.
  • Technokitten has a nice post on mobile gaming and her top 20 trends for the space.
  • Linden Labs, creators of Second Life, have banned gambling per FBI reviews.
  • Do you have some advice for people coming out of college? Head over to Ryan's blog and leave your best thoughts.
  • The LA Fire Department has started Twittering to get information out.
  • Jason Calacanis has declared Facebook bankruptcy on his blog. I would too if I had 500 people join in.


Top Five Web2.0 Movers of the Week (using Alexa data)


  1. vSocial
  2. Vimeo
  3. Odeo
  4. Twitter
  5. Frappr

More

Top Ten Marketing Blogs from Viral Garden - No change from last week


  1. Seth's blog
  2. Gaping Void
  3. Duct Tape Marketing
  4. Logic + Emotion
  5. Diva Marketing
  6. Daily Fix
  7. What's Next
  8. Converstations
  9. Church of the Customer
  10. Drew's Marketing Minute

View the top full top 25

Top Ten Marketing Blogs from Todd Andrlik - There is lots more competition on the Power150 since Todd partnered with AdAge.


  1. Seth Godin
  2. Copyblogger
  3. Micro Persuasion
  4. Pronet Advertising
  5. Adrants
  6. Search Engine Land
  7. Online Marketing Blog
  8. Duct Tape Marketing
  9. Marketing Pilgrim
  10. tompeters!

View the full list here

Top 5 "Viral" Videos This Week


  1. Thriller - still holding strong
  2. Chocolate Rain - a joke with staying power
  3. Dark Knight Official Teaser
  4. Rhain Davis at Manchester United
  5. Iron Man - Comic-Con preview

More


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Metrics shape our perceived value; why the formula matters

iStock_000003339307XSmall.jpgOkay marketers. Let's say you are prepping to run an ad campaign for a mass, commodity good and you have to rank your ad buys over the top content networks. How would you rank the following and what metrics would you use? Go ahead and try it.


  • AOL
  • Ebay
  • Fox Interactive Media
  • Google
  • Microsoft
  • MSN/Windows Live
  • Yahoo

Would you have ranked them by total audience knowing that you could reach a more robust and accurate subset with targeted ads? Or, would you have opted for total page views thinking that the more pages served the more eyeballs will take a look? Better yet, did you opt for the new Nielsen-suggested standard of time on site knowing that time leads to engagement and better eyeballs? You may be surprised at how different these results are.

Nielsen.jpg
Source: Nielsen/NetRatings,
U.S., home and work, May 2007
Take a look at the chart to the left. The first chart shows each network based on total unique audience with Google in the lead. It is followed by Yahoo, MSN/Live, Microsoft and AOL. Remember AOL's last-place position in this chart for later. There is a gap of roughly 20 million people between first and last place.

But you may not have wanted to go with total audience, instead you want to use page views as your metric. Well, in that case Yahoo is your network of choice. Yahoo is followed by Fox (including MySpace), Google, MSN/Live and EBay. In this case there is a roughly 20 billion page view difference.

However, you may be detered by page views and total audience and find yourself looking at total time on the site. In that case AOL comes out of nowhere to take a firm lead (remember they were last in total audience). They're followed by Yahoo, MSN/Live, Fox and Google who drops like a stone. There is a difference of roughly 17.5 billion minutes between AOL and Google.

So what the heck does this mean to you? Let's look at each network to see what the metrics tell us.


aol_logo.jpgAOL - The AOL network is where to go if you want people who spend a lot of time there, but they are not generating a lot of page views in that time. There are an estimated 90 million people in the audience.


ebay_logo.jpgEbay - EBay pops up only in the page views metric as you would expect. Each listing is a page and visitors crank through them quickly. Total audience is lower as is the time on the site.


logo_fox.gifFox Interactive Media - The Fox network, while not large, generates quite a few page views and stays engaged with that content longer when you consider its size. I think MySpace has a large part to do with that summary. as people stay engaged, but constantly churn through pages of friends as well as adding content.


logo-Google.gifGoogle - Google is still the king of search so if you're looking for SEM and you want the volume, this is your stop (according to 2007 April figures from Nielsen//NetRatings, Google has the largest share of U.S. based web searches at 55.2% (Google Acquisitions), Yahoo is second at 21.9%, MSN is third at 9.0%, AOL is fourth at 5.4%, and Ask is fifth at 1.8%). The downside of Google is that people are coming for a specific task and jumping off hence the low engagement times and high audience.


microsoft logo_qjpreviewth.jpgMicrosoft - The Microsoft audience is large as you would expect, but that's where the company's advantage ends. They don't show up on the total time on site or the page views metrics.


250px-MSN_(logo).pngMSN/Windows Live - MSN represents Microsoft's consumer facing entity and their Live search function. Live has been picking up some momentum in total search volume, but they've a long way to go to catch Google. MSN comfortably sits in the middle of the pack on almost every point. They dip below when it comes to page views. It's a large audience that spends an average amount of time on fewer pages.


yahoo-logo.jpgYahoo - Yahoo comes out the best of any network when you look at each metric. They have the second largest audience, the most number of page views and the second most time in minutes. This should be an attractive combination to marketers especially in targeted display ads. Yahoo still lags behind Google for SEM where there is still a 30%+ gap.


In the end, no matter who you are or who you are marketing to, it comes down to a few key factors:

  • Find your audience. If they're not using Google then you're wasting your money
  • Relevance is key. Making hyper-targeted ad buys will help make sure relevance is there and waste is minimal
  • Nobody likes iterruption. The last thing I want is to have my visit to a network interrupted by your ad. Give me some value and be relevant to what I am looking at. If I'm in the auto repair section, don't offer me camera equipment.
  • Think outside the banner. Look at sponsorships or creating value-add programs to hook users.
  • Think social. Engaging with the community on a social level will lead to more success. Think about shifting dollars to social/conversational media. You may get more bang for your buck.

What do you consider when you run ads? Have you started shifting dollars to digital? Are you shifting those dollars to social media? Let me know in the comments.


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Inside//Out: Mahalo

mahalo_logo.pngAs the sheer amount of information explodes on the web, there is opportunity for new companies to capitalize on the filtering and organization of data. Mahalo is just such a venture. Started by Jason Calacanis of Weblogs Inc. and Netscape fame, Mahalo is a people filtered/built search engine.

This has interesting implications for marketers. Where traditionally SEO and SEM practives have mattered, they're made irrelevant on Mahalo. Mahalo's guides choose the best content from the web no matter if they're Google rank is high or not. The guides create search engine result pages (SERPs) which act as landing pages for each search term. The SERPs are flexible and can adapt to their subject.

[Note I had some lag on this video (my fault), but the audio is perfectly clear so enjoy.]

[Feed readers please click through to the post for the video]

While Mahalo is not the first people filtered search engine (Yahoo did this first), the SERPs are new, however, and they may well be the first to create this feature (although it looks a lot like About.com result pages to me). Nevertheless, with Calacanis behind the project pushing it forward and getting press, it may well take off. Some people want guides to filter their information for them and this is a great service for those people.

Personally I would love to see hooks into networks like del.icio.us or Digg to pull in related items since those are people filtered as well. I'd expect to see more and more engines like this that are powered by people in the future. It surely makes people doing SEO/SEM to look at the quality of their content vs. quality of their optimization.

[Update] Jason Calacanis found this video and links to it from a post here. I've also received emails from other members of their team. Kudos to them for being very actively engaged in the conversation.


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Why is Ask.com selling the drill bit?

ask-logo-13518.gifOne of the earliest bits of marketing knowledge that was imparted to me was the lesson of the drillbit. The saying is along the lines of "people don't buy a 1/4 inch drill bit, they buy a 1/4 inch hole". The focus on the end result and the benefit over the feature has stuck with me over time.

When I started seeing the new ad campaign for Ask.com, this lesson came flying back into my mind. The ads are mostly unbranded placements that focus on their algorithm. My immediate thought was "I bet Google is doing this", not good for Ask. Secondly I thought "who cares about the algorithm?". If you have not seen the messages, here are a couple pulled off of Flickr:


Photo by johntrainor

Photo by stan

Photo by mil8

Photo by mlinksva

Here is a TV ad in the same campaign:

Feed readers click here.

If you are not a computer scientist or an engineer at a search company, why should you care about the algorithm? I don't think most Americans know what an algorithm is, much less how it benefits them.

I don't envy the position Ask is in. They are a smaller player in an industry with a LOT of very well funded competition. This campaign, however, is not helping their cause. Selling the algorithm is the equivalent of selling the drillbit. What I'm really after are better search results. That's the hole they should be selling. That's the need I have that needs to be filled and is currently filled well by Google. Tell me how you do that in plain English and I may listen.

Their new TV campaign does have more focus on the benefit even if the over-the-top, broadway-esque production detracts from the message. He got what he was looking for. They need to expand on this point with new ads that reach more people.

Feed readers click here.

Search is a game that extends well beyond the browser. I interact with my search engine of choice from my global search on my desktop, from the toolbar on Firefox, from my OSX dashboard widget and they touch my life in many other ways too. Ask needs to tell me why I should make those moves and dislodge my current option. Their new 3D search is a start, but it's not really much different than what Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are doing. The results seem about the same too.

My question is why should I switch? I asked, now I'll wait for the answer. What would make you switch? Are they doing enough with these ads to make you try them out?


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Represent (or be misrepresented)

fish_swim_cropped.jpg

Up until now social marketing was an option. Companies could partake if they wanted or they could sit on the sideline and wait. Up until now social media was looked at as a fad by "serious" marketers. It was simply filling a gap until we learn how to convert 15s and 30s into online pre-roll.Up until now you had reason not to participate. Until now you may or may not have looked at the buzz to see what's being said about you. Those moments are gone folks. Bye-bye. If you're not participating in social media someone else could be misrepresenting you in the vacuum.

A new generation of search engines are coming online and pressing the issue for us. 50Matches is one such search engine. The difference with 50Matches is that ONLY indexes content that has been tagged on sites like del.icio.us or voted for on sites like Digg and Reddit. The engine then returns the top 50 matches. The theory here is that the content tagged to those sites is pre-filtered and therefore more reliable and accurate than what you would get searching through Google, Yahoo or MSN. All of those major engines include any content on the web that is spiderable.

50Matches ONLY indexes content that has been tagged or voted in social networks

The following diagram shows why the team at 50 matches thinks this model works. As more people tag content the quantity will increase as will the quality.

graph showing quality v. quantity of indexes

50Matches is a young startup and is facing some pretty fierce competition (how would you like to have Google, Yahoo and Microsoft staring you down), but their model has potential. The idea of trusted content is evolving to answer a question that consumers are asking, "How do I filter all of this information into trusted, manageable chunks?"

I have noticed that Google is folding in social media site content into their primary result sets. This includes sites like Digg, tags in del.icio.us, myriad blogs, podcasts and even comments on blogs. Line that up with Google's AdSense Q1 2007 revenues of $1.35 billion and numbers from Yahoo that state 67% of US adults who research purchases online do so using search engines. Search is big business and it's being driven by consumers.

What are you doing to ensure your social media strategy is on track? Have you jumped in or just gotten your toes wet? Is there anybody that is stuck out there? Let me know in the comments.


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How do you keep track your blog/brand?

buzz_small2.jpgAs more and more of us use social media to put ourselves and our companies out into the ether, how do you track what's happening? Who's linking to you? Who's repurposing your content? Who's saying nice things about you? Who's disagreeing with you? Are you reaching the audience you want to reach?

Here are the ways that I keep track of my personal brand. You can apply each of these to meet the needs of your situation.

  • Google Analytics - This is a free service from Google and is very comprehensive. You can see everything from where in the world people are coming from, what your top content is and if people are converting from readers to subscribers.
  • Technorati - Technorati is a great buzz measurement service that tracks what blogs are linking to you over time. It allows you to see who's saying what and allows you to expand your relationships to similar minded people.
  • Feedburner - This is the de-facto standard for gathering and analyzing the way in which people are engaging with your feed. Who's clicking what, how many subscribers you have, etc. It also shows you trend data so you can see if your content is working.
  • MyBlogLog - this service shows who (among MBL subscribers) is accessing your site. People with an account will show up in your reporting. You can use this information to engage with people as they pass by. It's a great way to reach out and engage casual visitors.
  • Google Alerts - This powerful service from Google enables keyword monitoring in near real time. I add phrases like 'Matt Dickman', 'Techno//Marketer' and my URL and I'm alerted anytime Google indexes something in their system. This service is usually the fastest service to deliver my information.
  • del.icio.us - I look at who is tagging my content in del.icio.us and what other content they're looking at. This is great research into your reader's interests and can help you come up with some new insights and post subjects.

Those are my big ones. I check them a couple of times a day to see how things are going and seeing who's passing through. Being mindful of this information can be a goldmine and allow you to connect more quickly with users and publish content more in tune with your reader's wants and needs. It enables you to hear the whole conversation and jump in with both feet.

Is there anything that you look at to keep on top of your personal or company brand in the blogosphere and beyond?


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Google is stalking me...I kinda like it

google_blinds.jpgI'm not a complete Google fanboy, but I do respect the company and what they do. I also happen to use a lot of their products. As news rolls in about the company's recent acquisitions (most notably YouTube and Doubleclick) I wanted to come up with a format to show you just how pervasive Google is becoming.

So come on. Take a trip with me through my day with Google.

545.jpg clock_small.jpg5:45am: Ugh. The day starts to my blaring clock radio. There is an ad running that Google has sold through ClearChannel.
615.jpg clock_small.jpg6:15am: I get up, take a shower and go to the home office to check my Gmail account.
645.jpg clock_small.jpg6:45am: Once the email is done I let the dogs outside and turn on the TV. There is a spot running placed by Google.
730.jpg clock_small.jpg7:30am: I start up the car and hear another ad placed by Google.
blog_outdoor.jpg clock_small.jpg7:45am: Driving to work I pass 5-10 ClearChannel billboards. Probably pretty likely Google will place ads on those as well.
800.jpg clock_small.jpg8:00am: I roll into work and sit down. Having stopped at Starbucks on the way in I open the paper to see what's happening in Cleveland. Again, more ads placed by Google here too.
830.jpg clock_small.jpg8:30am: I jump online, check Google News and my GMail acccount again.
900.jpg clock_small.jpg9:00am: I surf my favorite blogs, most of them have Google AdWords placed on them even in the feeds. I am reading those feeds with Google Reader.
945.jpg clock_small.jpg9:45am: I check my copy of AdAge and see a couple more ads placed by Google.
urinal.jpg clock_small.jpg10:00am: Finally! I am free from...damn...it's another Google SMS alert on my phone. No peace.
1010.jpg clock_small.jpg10:10am: I check the top clips on YouTube (Google owned). Hey, that's HeeHaw 1.1.
1030.jpg clock_small.jpg10:30am: I continue writing a client brief in Google Docs (formerly Writely).
1100.jpg clock_small.jpg11:00am: Head to the kitchen and see a couple of ads running on TV through the Dish Network which Google placed.
blog_carphone.jpg clock_small.jpg12:00pm: I'm heading to lunch now, but I can't find that new trendy sandwich shop. I ask Goog411 and get the address and phone number.
115a.jpg clock_small.jpg1:15pm: I am back at the office now and my phone vibrates again. I have new Gmail. I check it and respond from my phone.
130.jpg clock_small.jpg1:30pm: I am going to a meeting after work and I don't have the address yet. I turn to Google Maps and send the directions to my phone for easy access in the car.
230.jpg clock_small.jpg2:30pm: I take a break from work and veg out with an online racing game. Throughout the game are product placements and pre-rolls. Google places those too through AdScape. I wrecked and lost the game.
245.jpg clock_small.jpg2:45pm: I check my RSS feeds again through Google Reader. I go through about 150 feeds and post the best to my blog roll (it's embedded on the left column of my blog).
300.jpg clock_small.jpg3:00pm: I check on the stats for my blog over the past week using Google Analytics. Interesting to see where readers come from. Hello New Delhi!
315.jpg clock_small.jpg3:15pm: Just in surfing the web I come across 2 or 3 major sites that run Google for searching site content. MySpace is one of those.
445.jpg clock_small.jpg4:45pm: I see some display ads running on a couple of sites powered by DoubleClick's DART system. Google owns them now too. More on this development in a future post.
530.jpg clock_small.jpg5:30pm: One last check of my Gmail and I wrap up a blog post and head home.
600.jpg clock_small.jpg6:00pm: I get home, turn off the phone and sit on the couch with Copeland. Just then, the phone rings. Is that Google calling me? They certainly have my number.

As overwhelming as this may appear, I know I am missing things that Google offers. Leave me a comment with the other ways in which you are impacted by Google in your everyday life.


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Google, Yahoo testing next generation search

Within the past two days I have come across new, early beta versions of both Google and Yahoo's next gen search. Yahoo's alpha and Google's SearchMash are serving as test beds for new features. The two are notably similar in interface and content (who copied who I wonder?) and show a clear direction from both firms moving toward a more integrated search experience. The content is pulled in through AJAX-like technology so the user doesn't need to surf to view related content.

Here is a side-by-side comparison of each engine:

Google SearchMash home page
Picture 5.png
Yahoo alpha home page
Picture 6.png
Google SearchMash results page
Picture 3.png
Yahoo alpha results page
Picture 7.png
Google SearchMash integrated content
Picture 4.png
Yahoo alpha integrated content
Picture 2.png

Similarities: Besides the interface, the results formatting and the type of information included in the related content are similar. Both have videos (Note: Yahoo even pulls in Google's YouTube content), Wikipedia entries and images (Flickr on the Yahoo side).

Divergences: Google singles out blogs (even though they're included in the main results) and Yahoo pulls in News and Answers information. I would look for Google and Yahoo to add in all of their properties over time (groups, shopping, etc.).

What does this mean for marketers? It means that more content is going to be presented to the user with higher importance. For example, right now most marketers probably don't pay attention to the images that may be tagged to their company name. With this new search, consumers will be able to quickly see image information (like your CEO dancing at the Christmas Party) on the main landing page. On the flip side, images can be powerful marketing vehicles and special attention should be paid to making sure they are tagged appropriately.

The same can be said for video. Video search is just starting to get traction, but the marketing potential (both up-side and down-side) is tremendous. Users will be one click away from information that now takes them 2-3 extra clicks. This will put a higher weight on that content. We need to prepare now for this change as I'm pretty sure this is not too far off.

Go to both of these sites and use them. Get acquainted with the format. Then think to yourself, what can I do today to make sure all of my content is search-ready tomorrow?


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Yahoo playing advertising catch-up

yahoo-logo-735610.jpgYahoo's long-delayed new advertising system, code named project Panama, is in the process of launching. Yahoo has been trying to catch up to Google and Microsoft for quite some time and Panama is expected to bridge the gap.

Yahoo needs this project to be successful in order to increase its revenues and lift its stock prices. The next step is for Yahoo to try to gain ground in the search volume race. Right now the change in model doesn't mean a lot without more volume and more impressions. For media professionals, it's just another disparate system to learn, for Yahoo this could determine their relevance as a search powerhouse.


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