Okay no prizes for original titles for me when writing about Google’s new service Buzz. I’m now seeing it in my Gmail from my PC but so far I have checked it out more often on the iPhone. I fear Google may be a little late to the party on this one but the promised open-ness (“Connect sites you already use. Import your stuff from Twitter, Picasa, Flickr, and Google Reader.”) should allow people already familiar with other Google services to tap into it. I already use Friendfeed in a very lacklustre manner admittedly but it fills my lifestreaming void (Bet you didn’t even know you could have one of them eh?) Increasingly many social networks do allow this cross pollination through RSS feeds and APIs. The amount of replication as a result can be overwhelming and irritating. I know one of the things I’ll be doing next week while waiting for the arrival of Nipper 3.0 will be sorting out all my feeds, where they’re going and who’s seeing them. I know, the excitement!
However not everyone is enthralled by Buzz. Laurent Francois of Social Media Today feels that the assumption that Google make that you automatically want to be visible or see all your Gmail contacts is a big assumption and a questionable attitude to privacy.
But what’s the buzz for business? The mobile version is location specific (although it’s been having a fine time pinpointing my location so far) allowing users to “view buzz near your location” or “Post buzz tagged with your location”. This could be a great boon to businesses using Buzz and Google Maps as one of the functions allows the user to see Buzz “Nearby” and add in locations not unlike that other new-ish kid on the Irish block, Foursquare. Businesses could buzz about special offers, events, opening hours etc. and pick up passing buzzers. Despite Laurent’s fears above it will still be up to customers whether they follow the buzz on businesses or not. For customers however it’s nice to know that you can click on the nearby button when you’re thinking of a purchase and seeing if any nearby businesses are offering any specials, whether they are open and what your options are.
You may or may not have heard of Google Wave. You may or may not think it’s the next big thing. One thing is for sure – it’s no use if you have no-one to communicate with on your wave! So I have a limited number of invitations to Google Wave and would like you to have one! I have set up a Google Wave for IIA Members and would love to add you in there too if you are a member.
If you would like an invitation email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email me your Wave address and I will add you to the IIA Wave.
Neville Hobson originally gave me an invite so props to him. He also recommended this great guide which I have been dipping into now and then. Brian Greene also recommended this guide and his company (IIA Member Company Doop Design) have also created a repository of Wave and other cloud resources over at Wavelinks.ie. Add it to your RSS reader and never miss a trick!
If you have seen an innovative use of Wave please share in the comments below. I wrote an article about Google Wave for my monthly column in Beo! where I wondered how this proposed email killer was going to kill the technology that is the first port of call for most. I keep forgetting about Wave because unlike all the other social media I use there is no pull via email. I would also love a way of using it on my iPhone which is another way in which I get sucked into using new apps.
Similarly the fact that there is no easy way to currently share Waves (I know, I know it’s beta!) makes it difficult to draw others’ attention to their use. See above the convuluted (and email based!) manner in which I had to ask you to join me on the IIA Wave. A link would be so much more graceful.
Personally I really liked this example (see vid below) of how to use Wave. Very pertinent to many of us working on our online offerings!
This is a guest post from Ann Donnelly of O’Mahony Donnelly E-Business Development who are IIA Members based in Clonakilty, Co. Cork
This week there was a big buzz online about an article posted on Tech Crunch “The Time Has Come To Regulate Search Engine Marketing And SEO”. In the opinion of the anonymous guest author: “Due to Google’s dominance — and the fact that it controls such an enormous amount of consumer behavior through paid and organic search listings – the company in essence governs commerce on the web.” This is a topic that has come up time and again over the past few years in webmaster forums and search industry conferences, but in many cases the complaint comes from those that are looking for short cuts to get results through search engines or those that are focusing on one aspect of online marketing success instead of developing a full, well rounded online marketing plan.
A small number of these people are using techniques that some would consider unethical to promote their own websites, or are using these techniques to provide such services to others. Some are using ethical techniques, but using dishonest or hard sell marketing to promote their services. This sort of behaviour happens across all industries (we all trust used car salesmen, right?), but in our industry the consumer is particularly vulnerable, as he often feels he doesn’t have the technical knowledge and doesn’t listen to his own common sense – and there is such an enormous amount of bad advice out there.
It may sound harsh, but those people that have knowingly chosen these methods will probably laugh at what I am saying here and will continue in the same manner, full throttle, and may get very rich from it. On the other hand, I have met a number of people in the industry that honestly feel that these are legitimate methods and don’t see that they are limiting the type of results they will get from their businesses. Why do I care about these people? Their behaviour causes consumers to distrust the industry as a whole. A customer that has had a bad experience shopping online will avoid shopping online again. A business that has gotten poor results with their website because the web developer they chose was inexperienced, will just feel that online marketing won’t work at all for them.
There are also a large number of young men and women, as well as those recently made redundant, that are starting up their own businesses and are looking to those of us already established in the industry for guidance on the way to go with this.
It’s up to each business owner to decide what sort of methods he will use. Do you want to sign on a large number of customers that will use your services once or over a short period of time or do you want to develop longer term relationships built on old fashioned, good service and hard work?
If you choose the first method and are tricking people into signing up for your services, not providing good value and are not getting results for your customers the bad news will get around quickly enough and you may end up out of business. This is especially true with so many people using social networking web sites. News of bad service travels much faster than good reviews.
Are you providing the best products and services? If not, are you providing better value for what you do? Do your customers fully understand what they are getting for their money? Take a look at your business and see if you can develop a business model that’s good for your customers as well as for yourself.
Let’s go back to “Big, Bad Google”. They state on their Corporate Overview page: “Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” They do this by providing “an easy-to-use free service that usually returns relevant results in a fraction of a second.” Looking just at the search side of Google’s businesses the changes they have made over the years have all focused on returning “relevant results” not because they are really nice guys, but because that is what makes people come back to use the Google search engine again and again. Focusing on this has brought about the “dominance” that is resented by their competitors and search marketing professionals that are looking for short cuts to success.
This resentment is even stronger now that Google AdWords have brought financial success as well. Google has made their products and services easy to use, with full documentation and helpful videos. They now have staff speaking at most industry conferences and using social networking tools to more fully communicate and assist users of all of their products.
This shows the importance of setting the right mission statement for your business and, once you have done this, maintaining your focus on that mission to bring best results for your business. What do you want to achieve in your business? Are you looking to just make a living or are you looking for greater satisfaction in helping others achieve their business goals; or do you need to be the best (in number of sales, awards, publicity)? Are you looking to build up your business to a point where you can sell it on to another bigger business? Your goals are going to be based on the type of products/services as well as what your personal needs are. I am not judging any of these goals, just saying that it’s important to define them and remain focused.
By developing the best mix of products and services with the right pricing structure you then have a business that is financially viable and, hopefully, lucrative with a base of happy, loyal customers (as well as happy, loyal suppliers) that are with you for the long term and referring you to their friends and colleagues – working with you to build a successful business that is around for the long term. Just have a look at “10 Things Google Has Found to Be True”.
Her business O’Mahony Donnelly E-Business Development specialises in Search Engine Placement &
Offering a full line of Online Marketing Services:
- Web Design & Development
- Shopping Carts & Payment Processing
- Search Engine Placement
- Email Marketing
- AdWords Campaign Management
- Social Networking (Blogs, Forums, etc.)
- Online Customer Service
A guest post from Will Roche who works with IIA Member company Bluecube Interactive with some great tips if you are looking into starting an AdWords Campaign on Google to attract targeted traffic to your site. Will previously worked with Google so he knows a thing or two!
“The noblest search is the search for excellence”
-Lyndon Baines Johnson
Advertising on search engines is one of the most effective methods for driving qualified traffic to your website. Compared to traditional forms of advertising, it is more cost-effective, you can measure performance from the very beginning of the campaign and you will be reaching out to potential customers at the precise time when they are looking for information on products and services they want to buy.
At its very heart, this form of advertising is wonderfully simple – a user sees an ad based upon their search – but there are many factors that you must consider to ensure you don’t pay more than necessary and that the clicks you receive are actually contributing to your profitability.
With this in mind, Bluecube Interactive has created this guide to help you get started in this much-misunderstood area. The advice that follows will help you to lay the foundations but remember, our search team is always available if you need to take your advertising to the next level.
The structure of an AdWords account is vital to achieving a great return on your investment. The right structure will ensure that users are served the most relevant ads at all times and it will make reporting, account navigation and optimisation much easier.
The ideal account structure is one which separates the products and services offered into their own campaigns. A good example would be a company who offers two services – web hosting and web design.
Each service should have its own campaign. This has numerous advantages. For instance, if web hosting is the more prominent service, a greater proportion of the overall marketing budget can be allocated to that campaign. It also makes comparing the cost-per-click performance of both services much easier as you can see at a glance which campaign is driving the most traffic, achieving the most conversions and is providing better value for your business.
Within each campaign, there should be numerous ad groups which group related keyword phrases together that are reflected by specific ad text variations. Examples of ad groups would be:
- web hosting
- website hosting
- UK hosting
- Linux web hosting
The goal should be to make your account as granular as possible and to think about the user who is searching for your keywords. If they are served an ad that relates directly to their search, the user is more likely to click on your ad and convert into a sign-up, lead or sale.
As mentioned previously, keywords should be as specific and targeted as possible and they should relate directly to the ad that the user sees. If a user is searching for product codes or other specific terms, they are likely to be further along the purchasing cycle than those searching for more general terms and therefore, more likely to convert on your website.
General keywords like ‘photocopiers’ or ‘printers’ can be very good for driving large volumes of traffic and can also be beneficial for branding purposes. However you should be aware that general terms are also more expensive and may not lead to the same return on investment that can be achieved with specific keywords.
Another keyword type that you should be aware of is the negative keyword. Almost as important as the keywords which trigger your ads, this type of keyword prevents your ad from showing on irrelevant or unrelated searches. For instance, if your keyword is ‘printers’, this term is liable to be expanded to show for searches like:
- inkjet printers
- laser printers
- free printers
- screen printers
- second hand printers
If your business only sold inkjet printers, you may not want your ads to be displayed for searches on laser printing terms so you could add ‘laser’ as a negative keyword and reduce the amount of irrelevant impressions on your ads. This would result in the same amount of clicks, less impressions, a higher clickthrough rate and because Google’s system rewards highly targeted advertisements, you should see a reduction in your average cost per click.
The actual ad text shown to users searching on your keywords is very important and we recommend using three variations which the AdWords system will rotate evenly until it determines that one variation is performing better than the others.
As mentioned previously, the ad must relate directly to your keywords. It is also very good practice to have the keyword in the ad text itself. If the searched keyword is part of the ad, that text will be highlighted in bold letters and makes your ad stand out to your prospective clients.
Another best practice is to give the user an idea of what you expect them to do once they reach your website and you should certainly use call-to-action phrase to do this. Phrases like ‘order online now’ or ‘contact us today’ can be very effective in driving conversions. If your goal is to have potential leads call your sales team, you may wish to try an ad variation which has your phone number. In this way, you could potentially solicit leads without the need for any chargeable click activity.
Once a user clicks on your ad, the landing page is the next important step in ensuring a strong conversion rate and ROI. More often than not, advertisers use their home page as the destination for their ads but if you have many products or offer different services, you should choose the webpage that is most relevant to the keyword searched and the ad displayed to the user.
It is always worth remembering that more you make a user click, the less likely they are to convert. Generally speaking, if a user is searching for ‘accounting software’, you should bring them to the page with all the relevant information about that software to make their purchase decision. We would also recommend not bringing users directly to ‘contact us’ pages unless those pages contain an adequate amount of information on the product or service itself. Landing pages which only contain large contact forms and no information tend to have very high bounce rates (the amount of users who leave your website) and do not convert very well.
If you are mostly interested in driving phone calls to your sales teams, I would recommend having your contact details and phone number on every page of your website. Once again, this prevents the user from having to navigate your site for the information they require. As with all things related to Google advertising, the focus should always be on the user experience and how you can make their conversion as easy as possible.
About Bluecube Interactive
We are a small company with big ideas, and we have a lot of big ideas about search engine marketing. Our experienced search specialists offer a range of services to ensure the success of your campaigns.
Our Services include:
After researching your existing online environment we will create keyword lists, text ads and calculate your optimum cost-per-click settings to ensure your ads appear on the first page of results for the most relevant searches. Our expertise will ensure detailed campaign performance analysis and increased budgetary control.
One of the key success factors with a PPC campaign is the continuous refinement of keywords and ad texts based upon historic performance. Our specialists can recommend and implement changes that will noticeably improve the performance of your campaigns.
We use traffic analysis software that allows us to see how valuable each keyword really is, if your conversion goals are being met and what we can do to maximise these conversions.
We offer full-time account management services that make us solely responsible for the success of your PPC campaigns. We will discuss your marketing goals, research the online environment for your industry and create the campaigns that will deliver strong results. We also provide regular reporting on account performance and how users are interacting with your website
Our account management service ensures that all areas of your search engine marketing are in the hands of experienced professionals who will be in regular contact with your marketing team.
Welcome to the IIA’s newest member company, Omniserve. Omniserve provides starter websites for small businesses. Using their unique “Rapid Creation Process” they claim that they can get a small business live on the net with a 5 page website and appearing in Google for searches for their company name in just 60 minutes.
On the 1st September last Google launched Chrome, their take on the web browser. Their motivation according to their graphical (though somewhat previous) press release was that browsers today are simply a conduit for most people to get at the web applications they are using online like email, photo applications, colloboration applications, customer relationship management and tracking application to give some enterprise oriented examples. Therefore browsers should be stripped down and fast, fast, fast.
I had some initial difficulties installing Chrome on Vista (solved by saving then installing rather than running the install directly.) Although I found a number of queries from other users on Google Help Forums having the exact same issue, I couldn’t find a fix. I have it installed now and like many others I miss my add ons that I have installed in my IE and Firefox browsers most especially and surprisingly my Google toolbar!
I will collate some other more knowledgable reviews and post links here but I would love to read or link to your reaction to Chrome so please leave comments below. In terms of doing business on the web, while the figures still have to come in on the take up of Chrome, there is no harm in checking that your own site or sites for which you are responsible work in Chrome. I have no doubt that Google have a cunning plan to get us all on Chrome sooner rather than later!
One of the many things I have been doing since I began working here in the Irish Internet Association has been responding to queries that come in from members and from the general public. In order to do this I have to try very hard to keep abreast of the kind of issues that are concerning our members. One of our newer members originally contacted me with a query about data protection legislation and I felt terribly ignorant when he seemed to know more than I did. Happily he still joined the IIA!
So last week I gratefully accepted an invitation from the Institute of International and European Affairs to attend their event “Perspectives on privacy in the Internet Age” with presentations by Peter Fleisher, Chief Privacy Counsel, Google Inc., and Billy Hawkes, Data Protection Commissioner. There was also a brief presentation from the floor by Inspector Pat Burke of An Garda Síochána. Here is a brief synopsis but please if you were present and feel I am misrepresenting anyone, I would welcome corrections and clarifications. Thanks!
Both Peter and Billy opened their presentations quoting Scott McNealy’s now infamous and eight year old comment “You have zero privacy anyway. Get over it.” although it became quickly clear that neither of them are even remotely as blasé as McNealy was way back then when it comes to privacy and data protection.
Both of the speakers talked about how, now that information storage is so cheap, it’s actually more cost effective to keep rather than delete information. Fleisher suggested that corporations who are required to comply with privacy and data protection legislation could deal with this in a number of ways:
- Time based anonymisation: forgetfulness should be programmed in so that once information reaches the time limit required by law, it is forgotten by the database.
- Include privacy controls so that users can choose what level of privacy they wish to set for the information that they are storing or publishing online.
- Education: Corporations like Google have a responsibility to educate users about privacy and data protection in a clear and accessible manner.
However Google’s biggest difficulty in relation to privacy legislation is that they are required to comply to location based regimes as he called them. Even within the EU and based on the EU directive countries could set their own time limits for data retention and Google has to comply to all of these while in reality all of this data exists in the cloud rather than any specific location. He also pointed out that in the US there are 39 Security Breach laws each with their own details because the legislation that governs privacy in the US is not federal.
In relation to education Fleisher told us that Google have developed a selection of videos about privacy which have been viewed by half a million viewers. He suggested that corporations might consider video as a more personable approach to privacy statement than the current privacy statements that can now be found on most websites. Fleisher said that the APEC privacy framework was, so far, Google’s preferred framework with it’s emphasis on preventing harm and focus on accountability.
He finished up by reminding us that the big question should be what do we want technology to do for us rather than what is technology doing to us?
Billy Hawkes, the Data Protection Commissioner, had some very interesting statistics about data protection in Ireland and attitudes to data protection and privacy among Irish citizens. Firstly he pointed out that only 10% of companies in Ireland transfer data outside the EU so there may not be currently a requirement for global laws. Citing the Eurobarometer 2008: Data Protection in the European Union: Citizens’ Perceptions, he pointed out that Irish people were slightly more concerned about privacy than the EU average but were also among those most opposed to monitoring of internet usage. All these details can be accessed via the Eurobarometer website. (PDF) Nora Owen, who chaired the session, in her summing up made particular reference to Hawkes use of the phrase “function creep”. He used this when referring to the reasons why data is being kept. Does less privacy and more monitoring equal enhanced security for citizens? Does it equal less crime.
When talking about the future he suggested that corporations should include privacy by design or commission privacy enhancing technology. Similar to Fleisher he emphasised the need to educate people about revealing information, making the point that privacy rights are technology neutral.
Inspector Pat Burke from An Garda Síochána also added from the floor that through their cooperation with the Data Protection Commissioner and always operating within the law and with the right to do proper, legitmate investigation they have had some success in tackling crime which uses the Internet as a platform such as child pornography, internet fraud and identity theft. They have also been able to tackle transnational crimes such as human and child trafficking.
Questions from the floor were put by TJ McIntyre from Digital Rights Ireland and Mark Kelly of Irish Council for Civil Liberties who asked if Google would use a human rights framework to which Fleisher responded that Google are very focussed on the ethical use of the Internet and while they were forced into “the odious concept of censorship” in China, their search results in China include a statement that the results have been filtered. They also will not offer Gmail in China. Brian Greene also made the point that 90% of people using the internet are consumers rather than content producers and there are issues when corporations get and retain data about consumers. Fleisher clarified that Google comes in two flavours: plain ol’ search or search enhanced via logging into your Google account where Google gets to know you and offers you results based on your search history. It’s the consumers choice which search to use.
An interesting afternoon and do you know what? The lunch was delicious too!
As I mentioned at the top of the post I’m new to a lot of these issues so I would really appreciate any comments or clarifications via the comments below.