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: 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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Represent (or be misrepresented)

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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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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
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Yahoo alpha home page
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Google SearchMash results page
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Yahoo alpha results page
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Google SearchMash integrated content
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Yahoo alpha integrated content
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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.


More:


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How consumers find packaged goods

A new study conducted by iCrossing shows the increasingly large import consumers are putting on search to find packaged goods. The bad part is that companies are late to recognize this and online ad spending is at only around 1% of the budget.

39% of US adults performed a search online according to the study. 20% of those search for CPGs monthly and 9% weekly. The demos are outstanding for companies as searchers are most likely well educated, wealthy, female and 35-44.

Another interesting thing to note is the amount of traffic going to brand sites directly. While 67% of users find information on a traditional search engine, 60% are using the brand sites for the same info. Surprisingly few consumers are using comparison shopping sites or other forms of product rating sites.

CPG companies need to re-evaluate in a media-agnostic manner where their consumers are finding out about them and invest in the web as soon as possible. Not all products are the same and the media mix will vary.


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Google releases AdSense API beta

Google just released their beta for the AdSense API which will allow developers to create and manage AdSense accounts as well as have more control over the appearance of the ads on the site. Stay tuned.

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