Working on analytics for an online application based in a social media platform has been interesting, from a couple of angles.

1. measurement of virality of the application.

You have your plan of how your user-base will grow, but only through analysis of user data will you learn what is really happening.

2. focus on user engagement

Online retail for instance wants you to buy something; look around the store, pick up a couple of things and go through the checkout. Social? Well there could be any revenue model, but what you really want is users interacting with the app, with each other, and with the thing that is generating your revenue, no clear funnel necessarily, a lot of chaos to make sense of.

I would not go so far as to say that Analytics for a retail site vs social is totally different, but the focus is slightly shifted. eg on a retail site you may ramp up your ad spend as you grow, where on social you want to get a critical mass early on and gain a groundswell of users inviting their friends as soon in the application’s life as possible.

An article on ClickZ (sponsored by Omniture) Web Analytics for Social Media starts to look at this issue, but leaves it with a lot of open questions, but with social media being such a broad area it would be tough to go into specifics.

Well really if there was one ideal lead generation system, it would not be a question worth asking or a subject worth blogging about. There are many factors affecting lead generation success and no one set of rules makes sense in all situations. I am however going to add my 2c on the topic.

Dont pay for the traffic until you are sure your conversion is at least working. There is little your PPC marketer can do if the conversion funnel is flawed.

This is so wafty it should not be called a rule but it is the crux of lead generation: Find a ballance between lead volume and lead quality. Do you want as many signups as possible? OR High quality high value leads only?

Some other guidelines I list below, the first 2 appear contradictory:

  • Give them reason – clearly state the reason/advantage/benefits of filling out the form.
  • Quantity over quality – a form should have low/no barriers to entry.
  • Quality over quantity – gather as much information in your lead form to pre-qualify the lead.
  • Visibility – a form should be prominently displayed, or easy to get to.
  • Trust issues – users like to know that their information is secure. If you are not a big name you have to work “harder” to win their trust.

And here is a final rule for you, and it is the most important; Go through the process youself, get a colleague to test and test again.

My feeling is one of relief to hear that Google have enabled tighter definitions of broad match on Google adWords.

I first came accross the issues with Google AdWords definition of broad match when they started touting a feature called extended broad match. Extended broad match took the term you were bidding on and assumed you were relevant for synonims of that term too; “great I dont have to think of all those words!” RIGHT?

The issue is when a word is ambiguous like “book” (read a book, book a flight). Now I have to admit that the folks at Google got smarter at the extended broad match thing, or the algorythm got smarter, but they could have saved themselves some hasstle, and us a lot of negative keywords, by introducing what has just gone global.

What is Modified Broad Match?

The graphic below from the Google AdWords Blog shows Broad, Phrase and Exact match types, with the outer ring being the behavior of broad match without modifications.

google modified broad match

Now if only I could have had this about three years ago…

So Google has unleashed their Caffeine index on us and well Bing and Yahoo who were already well behind in the game just got further behind. My perspective is always to look at the SEO effects of changes at a local South African level. Yahoo has been in the game for a long time but still fail to deliver something to even remotely satisfy anyone in South Africa.

Lets take an example of one of my South African clients with a website targeting South Africa only,webmaster tools sitemap submission done 2 months ago, about 100 recognized inbound links, and climbing.

  • Google:
    • pages indexed: 200
    • Visits/mo: 600
  • Yahoo:
    • pages indexed: 150
    • Visits/mo: 3
  • Bing:
    • pages indexed: 50
    • Visits/mo: 8

Pages indexed gives an idea of how easy/difficult it is to get content into these search engines, but the visits? There are South Africans who use these search engines but the quality of results. Where the other search engines fail is in delivering search results relevant to locals. While there have been criticisms of Google news lagging in local news content the revised index should update faster.

The above number of visitors from Bing and Yahoo is the result of low search volumes but the poor local relevancy is a significant factor. Searching on this client’s brand name on Google gives me position #1, on Yahoo I get #5 and on Bing #3. Old index or new index Google still wins local searchers with local weighted indexed content, if this is going to get better, great!

Takeaway Theatre New Home Page

TakeAway Theatre is a Cape Town based theatre company well known for industrial theatre, corporate and social intervention theatre. Their existing website had the fun element and featured well for the phrase “industrial theatre” but for other relevant topics they did not feature.

Before

Visitors to the website were greeted with a doorway page:

Takeaway Theatre Old Doorway Page

The doorway page, had one navigation option through to a welcome page from which you could then navigate the website.

Takeaway Theatre Old Welcome Page
Takeaway Theatre Old Section Page

The Brief

  • Keep the fun! Make use of existing design.
  • Content management system to enable regular updating/adding of content.
  • Include a blog
  • Make navigation clearer and consistent.
  • Optimise for search engines
  • Have we already mentioned the fun element?

The Result

The existing design and layout was reused as the client really wanted this to remain as is. The result is a fun website but now the content is also engauging and fresh, www.takeawaytheatre.com.

Content management system was provided allowing the client to update website content, create new pages, manage menus, etc. The website makes use of the WordPress CMS system.

Website sections and navigation were reworked to make getting around the website more logical.

  • Breadcrumbs on pages
  • Sub-navigation within sections
  • Full section navigation from home page

The home page was built so that anyone arriving on that page would be able to navigate directly to any page within the website. Also the website sections make use of fun terminology; Favorites=Theatre Types, Ingredients=Themes and Specials=Theatre Packages, the challenge was to clarify these website elements’ meaning without detracting from the menu style of the site.

Takeaway Theatre New Home Page
threadcount website screenshot

It is always satisfying to get a new website out the door, but when it is really quick it can be immediately gratifying. Threadcount is a collective of Cape Town based independent contemporary textile designers and producers, and their need was for a simple online home. One of the members had asked me advice on how to best achieve this using WordPress.com for a free platform.

After discussing the simple requirements, it was decided to complete the project for free. Two late nights and some tweaking after that resulted in the live site at Threadcount.co.za.

The news that engagement goals are now available in Google Analytics is more than a week old, but the value of it is only apparent once you start applying it to your data (or your client’s data).

Being able to se 20 goals in itself is a limitation which a lot of people were struggling with, but now being able to take the time-on-site as a goal, than evaluate the traffic source, landing page, geographic location… and draw correlations truly drives understanding of a website’s traffic.

Lets say you have an average Pages/Visit of 3.5, what does that mean? In the past you would have to delve into each report to see what the average Pages/Visit were for different segments, and even then averages blur the picture. If you know that last week before xyz changes you had 5% of users meeting the 6 Pages/Visit goal, and this week after the xyz changes that number is 10%, you can easily evaluate performance, where your average may only have changed marginally.

An article I read this morning “How to Market Your New Web Site” on ClickZ highlighted my thoughts behind not wanting to call my Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) services SEO.

The interview is with an SEO pro, but when asked what keywords they were targeting on their new site, their answer seemed un-SEO, and more content planning. It is interesting that search engine algorythm improvemnts over the years have changed the face of online marketing, to make it more honest; SEO tricks are no longer the answer (even though there are a number that exist).

So to summarise:

  • Make sure you have good/meaningful/relevant content
  • Make sure the SEO foundations are there
  • Network

Focusing on any one of the above to the exclusion of the others would harm a site’s visibility online.

My other take-away is an approach of active site content management and networking, with reactive SEO informed by performance data. Always good to hear other opinions which support our approach.

Posted in SEO.

A week back Google addressed something I have wanted for ages; I want to sort Google search results by date. At the same time they have started something which is to get users to interact with the search space more.

This is not the first, a couple of months ago Google launched searchWiki which allows you to modify how your results are displayed.

This puts the searcher in the driving seat, and I am sure we will see more of this in the future, but what it means for SEO? Search results position becomes more subjective than before, and saying “my site has position #3 for xxyyzzz keyword becomes less relevant”.

Posted in SEO.

Well I got the Microsoft adCenter “Spring upgrade features now available” email newsletter this morning, and am really excited about some of the features, most notably the ad Center Content Ads program coming out of beta today, but the link leads to a file not found page.

A little bit of digging I found a better (working) link for MSN Content ads coming out of beta. You can now tweak control of content ads by:

  1. Loading negative sites
  2. Targeting sites, much like Google’s Placement targeting.
  3. and the points above would be no good without being able to run a placement report.

All of the above sound familiar? that is because you have had these features on Google Adwords for a little while, but good to have adCenter keeping up.