23 posts categorized "search"

July 23, 2008

Lijit's Value-Added Search Offends Great Blogger, Mack Collier

Mackcollierpicture Mack Collier hates the blogging search tool, Lijit. And when Mack talks, everyone listens. At least the smart ones. Mack is one of the brightest, most generous bloggers I know, and I know a lot of bright, generous bloggers. However, try as I might to understand his objection to Lijit, I hit a stumbling block.

The problem stems from a feature Lijit calls "re-search."

Here's how it works:
If you come to this site through a search engine, that means you were looking for something in particular. The page you land on may or may not satisfy whatever your need was when you searched for your terms. So instead of just giving up on the user and assuming you have nothing of value that may answer his question, by default, when you have Lijit installed, the user in that case would be provided with additional links from your blog -- as well as a tiny (but clearly marked) ad from Google.

His anger with the company that makes the tool is centered around two key points:

  • Lijit didn't tell him about the feature and that he could disable it.
  • Lijit is monetizing his content.

Says Mack:

Lijitwidget_2 "I did a Google search for 'viral garden' just now, clicked on the top Google result (this blog), and was more than a little shocked and embarrassed by what I saw. As the picture to the right shows, the LiJit widget had served up several posts I have left here that you could click on. But as you can see under those posts, it also served up something that I didn't know it would, and certainly didn't give it permission to provide."

Needless to say, I see it a bit differently:

  • I didn't read the instruction copy when I installed Lijit anyway, so I'm not sure information about re-search wasn't there. If it was, I missed it, but if it wasn't, it's possible that its absence facilitated greater speed of installation.
  • Lijit isn't monetizing my content, but is rather monetizing search, according to the user's search terms, as they come to this site, and even then only if either my content or my presentation of it doesn't suit what the user is looking for (and the ad does).

Relevancy: The Holy Grail of Advertising
When Google introduced AdWords, it was a revolution in Internet advertising. It wasn't just because it was a new way to attract advertising revenue, but rather because, by tying in search terms to paid clicks, it made advertising more useful to users and measurable to advertisers.

Unlike just about all advertising that came before it, users had to first express interest in a particular topic and then see an ad and decide clicking it was worth their while before an advertiser would have to pay a red cent.

It was a stroke of genius -- and a major, much-needed coup in the advertising realm not accustomed to the user being in control of what they saw and how they interacted with it.

It's the same with Lijit.

Use What You Need. Stay as Long as You Like.
I have no idea what search term you used when you came to this site (though Lijit has some nifty reporting features that tell you after-the-fact), but whatever it is you were looking for, I hope I was able to give you an answer that met your needs -- or at least point you in the right direction.

As I told Mack, as was the case with Intense Debate, if Lijit ever got in the way of the completion of my readers' goals, I'd get rid of it.

But as it stands, Lijit's tools only helps people find what they're looking for. If that happens to be on this site, I'm very happy about that. If that happens to be elsewhere, I won't get in their way. And if Lijit happens to make a buck or two off of that, why would I care?

The advertiser, not I, has to bear that cost. And all the users get is content they want -- or at least a clue as to where they might find it.

The choice to click or not to click the ad is entirely theirs. - Cam Beck

January 28, 2008

Search Widget is Too Lijit to Quit

You can install a lot of widgets on your blog, but if you could only install one, I recommend installing a search tool that works.

Sure, you could choose to monetize, instead. To that end, you have

  • Amazon affiliate widget
  • Google AdWords widget, and
  • A tip jar

But those are more focused on your needs than the likely needs of your audience.

The need for search in content-rich environments is universal, but so few engines really perform it well.

If you haven't yet, you have to try this blog's search feature, which uses the Lijit engine. It's function is straightforward, and it has a few nifty add-ons that you have to experience to appreciate.

However, one of the most useful features is its ability to deliver useful statistics on how your site is being searched, not only within the tool, but also what brings people to your blog.

Take this example, which is available within my login on the site (I also get a summary once per week of some of the most useful stats).

Lijit

Here's something I found particularly interesting. My post about John Edwards' economics "expertise" (John Edwards 2.0: Truth and Consequences) showed as high as #5 on a Google search for "The Truth About John Edwards" (See #21 in the above list).

I would have never even known to search for that without this kind of detailed analysis of my search data.

Why this is important to your marketing
You have to be prepared for the possibility that people are coming to your website through pages other than the home page. The search data gives you context that can help you determine if your content is meeting the needs of these visitors.

If it is, then you may pick up a few more subscribers. If it isn't, well... it might be for a variety of reasons, but one of them may be that your site is optimized for the wrong words.

If, for instance, I were getting 100 visits per week from people looking for information about "John Edwards," but only 1 per week on searches about "marketing" I could infer that

  1. Lots of people were searching for information about John Edwards, and
  2. My site is performing relatively poorly, in other areas most relevant to the purpose of the site.

How to improve your SEO

  1. Visit the Search Engine Guide and subscribe. (You can thank me later)
  2. Read Copyblogger for good writing techniques.
  3. Install Lijit.
  4. Learn from what you see.

In the end, you have to satisfy yourself, but if you're like me, you'll agree that the key to this is to help other people. To do that, you have to put your audience first. Good luck! - Cam Beck

November 30, 2007

The Definition of Irony in New Media

Gootube In the most recent Republican debate, CNN just got a black eye for not disclosing the political relationships some of the questioners had to Democratic candidates. CNN political director Sam Feist said the news channel did not investigate the political leanings of the questioners (although they presented them as "undecided voters" to the viewing public.)

At a glance, it appears as if this is a validation of the mainstream media's reluctance to embrace new media such as YouTube, which is owned by Google. New media channels are unreliable, they say. Bloggers (video or otherwise) have no fact-checkers, and their content should not be trusted.

But it was the bloggers who scooped CNN and exposed the deceitfully biased nature of the questions. And the tool they used to do it... was Google. - Cam Beck

Update: Marty Kaplan at Huffington Post put together a nice list of contradictions by CNN over their methodology and intent.

October 11, 2007

The best SEO technique

I'm going to bet that there will be a lot of people who read this article and are disappointed.

You see, a lot of people are looking for that search magic bullet. The things they can do to tweak the content of their website that will get them that all coveted number one position and will drive millions of people to their website.

Fact is, however, search engines don't actually use web sites, people do. On your website or blog, the value of the content to the reader will make a bigger difference in the log run than any tricks.

Some bloggers, such as Brian Clark of the Copyblogger don't even worry about search engine optimization. Instead he worries only about the three "S"s:

Subscriber - getting someone to visit your website over time. This is best measured by repeat traffic and especially subscriptions to RSS feeds. People won't subscribe to your feed unless

Social media - concentrating on links from sites like Digg, StumbleUpon, Delicious and links from other bloggers. Unless your going to be a jerk and add your own stuff into these sites or beg another blogger to link to you, you'll have to do it with good content.

Selling - not peddling your blog or website but building trust with your audience. I'd say the main way to do that is through good content.

So the secret to SEO success? Focus on the content first and foremost. Worrying about the best way to suck in traffic from Google can waste a lot of time.

That's not to say that you should ignore it completely. Bruce Clay has a great page on his website that describes how to go about optimizing your site for search. Understanding what phrases are being used for searches will help make your content more friendly to the user. There are also some basic ways that a site should be built in order to be read by search engines. However, I'd concentrate 95% of time into providing good content and 5% on search engine optimization. - Paul Herring

September 05, 2007

Why the Internet Won't Solve Your Problems

Whenever I get delusions of living in a completely integrated, on-demand society, someone like Scott Ginsberg comes along to throw some cold water in my face.

I needed it.

Apparently he thought that finding a plumber should be pretty easy, so he googled it and found some listings in both paid and unpaid search that looked promising.

The problem was that none of the first three companies he called actually picked up the phone.

I know companies jump through a lot of hoops to perform well in unpaid search on Google, Yahoo! and other search engines, but if you aren't going to deliver when your prospects come calling, you're better off being unknown to them. Use those resources you would have spent on optimizing your website on staffing properly or on an effective automated answering system.

The best web designers, developers and marketers in the world might be able to get folks to come to your doorstep, but what you do with them once they get there is up to you. If you fall down out of the gate when the first wave comes, getting the second and third waves to bother (or getting the first wave to reconsider) through marketing becomes exponentially more difficult...and costly. - Cam Beck

May 23, 2007

Are the Social Media Outlets Out-Of-Mainstream?

Ronpaul_2

For over a week now, Ron Paul has been the top ranked search term in Technorati. Yet, to hear the mainstream media tell it, he's not even a contender, for his name is barely mentioned in post-debate coverage, and he doesn't even register in the mainstream media's polling data.  He's not even a blip on their radar screen. So the question is how to square one piece of information with the other. I think the answer is relatively simple, but a bit uncomfortable.

Possible explanations include:

  1. The mainstream press is lazy
  2. The mainstream press is so conceited that it thinks it should be the filter through which you must judge who is relevant to the upcoming election
  3. Internet users, primarily those who frequent blogs, pay closer attention to the details than do the people the pollsters question
  4. Ron Paul's supporters are gaming the system
  5. There is a strong correlation between the use of Technorati and an interest in Ron Paul

For the record, Paul's name isn't the only one excluded from post-debate coverage and polling results, in either GOP or Democrat primary coverage. It just happens to be the only one appearing in the Technorati's 10 most popular search terms list.

I feel like I should give a full disclosure notice about my knowledge and opinion of Ron Paul, but I'm afraid that the real explanation is so convoluted that it will take up the bulk of this post, and it won't add anything to the point I'm trying to make, which is this:

There is often a big difference between what interests bloggers and blog readers and what interests the rest of the world.

What are your thoughts? Does this difference concern you? Are there any other possible explanations I'm missing? - Cam Beck

May 03, 2007

Google Wins; Copiepresse Relents. Sorta.

CopypresseEuropean association Copiepresse, after successfully suing Google in a Belgian court for having the audacity to send warm users to their members' websites when the search demanded it, have decided maybe it's okay for Google to send them customers. One can imagine the panic that set in once news organizations actually checked their statistics and realized they weren't getting as much traffic once Google stopped indexing their sites back in September.

For those of you, like me, who were following this story for entertainment reasons... Don't worry. Copiepresse still doesn't cease to amaze. They don't object to Google linking to active articles, but they do object to linking to the archives, which requires a subscription (Never mind the fact that finding a short blurb about what is in the article might entice someone to buy). They also only will acquiesce if the search is done through Google's main search engine, not its news search. Apparently that's hitting below the belt.

Far be it for anyone to perform a search on a topic and be given enough information to have an idea of which result has the best chances of giving him what he searched for.

Google and Copiepresse are still ironing out some details about how to best proceed, so it's possible that they will eventually see the light. It's just sad that we're so many years into this new economy, and these companies still have no clue about how the Internet works, and about how people expect to find information that is relevant to them.

They are scared to death, so they sue. Maybe the new economy isn't so much different from the old economy, after all. - Cam Beck

January 22, 2007

Hey, Airlines! Are things really that bad?

I recently that airlines are slowly starting to turn a profit. As I was waiting for a family member to get in town, I found a couple of areas the airlines might be cutting corners to return to profitability.

Information1_1

Information2_1

The fact that no one was manning the information booth at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday didn't irk me as much as the fact that the flight I was waiting on wasn't even listed under the arrivals section. Were it not for a visit to the AirTrans website, I wouldn't have even known at which terminal or gate to wait. The DFW Airport site was also no help at all. All flights were supposedly listed, but the one I wanted, according to the site, didn't exist.

I know times are tough for airlines and airports, but are they really so tough that they cannot provide an easy means to get information about a flight?

And before you answer, I wonder if your company's website provides an easy way for customers to get your contact information (including a phone number). It's worth looking into, especially if your company name is "Amazon.com." - Cam Beck

December 01, 2006

Even Amazon Isn't Perfect

I was planning on doing a review of the book I just finished, Ambient Findability (Peter Morville), but my search on Amazon to get an image to include with my post produced an interesting result that I had to share first. Amazon is one of the most -- if not most -- comprehensive wayfinding experiences of any online store. Its pioneering use of the Long Tail is well-documented, and Steve Krug went out of his way several times in his book, Don't Make Me Think, to dote on Amazon's mastery of search usability and tab navigation. I have been finding, though, that doing it right is a lot more difficult than we would like to believe.

When I mistyped my search terms, Amazon was not able to recognize the search at all.
Amazon_1

I like Amazon because it's easy to find what I want, and it suggests books that I would actually be interested in reading 60-75% of the time (I often have already read them, though, as was the case in the above results page).

For some reason, my typing has been riddled with errors of late -- particularly on my Amazon searches. As an experiment, when I put the same typo in Google's search, I was given a unpretentious and helpful message that told me what an incompetent speller or typist I am.

Ambientfindabiltygoogle_2

Because of this function, Google is now often my first resort when I am not sure how to spell something (a risky proposition for commonly misspelled words, but it seems to work okay for my purposes), or if I can't remember a quote precisely. Google often not only shows me the quote, but through its search I can find its author, when it was said, where it was originally stated, and what books I can read to find out more about it. Then I can go back to Amazon and buy the book.

I'm going to assume (That's right, folks, you get only first-class research from ChaosScenario) that the majority of Amazon's sales depend on (among many other things) accurate and relevant search results. Opportunities to improve abound, and in spite of our successes we should not overlook the smaller things that could make us better. Amazon.com can be proud of its many accomplishments (although I have implied before that they are possibly too proud of them), but the website's search results could stand to be improved. - Cam Beck

November 03, 2006

Maybe the Internet Isn't Your Thing...

European newspaper group Copiepresse recently won a lawsuit against Google for its ruthless practice of indexing news webpages, providing short synopses of the content, and linking to the pages where that content lives.

This is a new one for me. I scarcely know how to start.

For its part, Copiepresse doesn't object to Google's linking to them -- the simple addition of a robot.txt file would prevent the spider's indexing as well as the lawsuit that went with it. They just think that Google should get permission first, and then, perhaps, pay for the privilege. In a world full of competition for news stories that are mostly similar in content anyway, Copiepresse needs the traffic from Google more than Google needs to send it to Copiepresse.

Instead of complying with this inexplicable ruling by figuring out a way to pay Copiepresse for linking to their online newspapers (an elementary function of this whole Internet thing), Google, one of the most heavily visited websites on the Internet, simply opted to block the relevant domains from its search results.

Be careful what you ask for, Copiepresse. Enjoy your ever-increasing obscurity.

Credit Cali Lewis for the heads up. - Cam Beck