Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

The dilemma of a name, mine in particular

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

My name is Melissa Chang. That seems like a simple statement, but it really isn’t if you dig a little deeper. Some of you may know, for instance, that my name used to be Melissa Reyen – after all, it wasn’t so long ago that I got married and decided to take my husband’s name.

But the decision to change my name wasn’t a simple one. I had some credits to my name (although small ones, admittedly). I also have a strong love for my family and pride in my family name. (The Reyen Clan often breaks into chants of “Reyen’s Rule” at family weddings, BBQs and just walking down the street – hey, I said that we were proud, not that we were cool!)

But my wedding day was a solid year before I started my business and this blog. If it wasn’t, I’m honestly not sure what I would have done because changing my name to Melissa Chang was not a good business move.

The reason for this was raised by Ryan Healy today in the Employee Evolution blog. His article is all about controlling your name as your personal brand and figuring out how to dominate Google searches for your name as a keyword. As you might guess, it was simple to be ranked first for the term Melissa Reyen. In fact, just by writing the name Melissa Reyen a few more times in this post, it is entirely possible that this post will become #1 in Google for the term Melissa Reyen.

Reyen is a great name

But Melissa Chang is another story. In the U.S., Melissa is the 30th most popular first name and Chang is the 687th most popular last name. Expand the search to China, and Chang is the 5th most popular name. There are a lot of Melissa Chang’s out there, so it’s hard to stand out. I also don’t own the domain name www.melissachang.com, even though I own 500 other domains, including MadamChang.com (no, I’m not kidding).

Things are even trickier when it comes to managing my identity on social networking sites, especially when my user name is an important part of my profile. Mchang is never available; neither is melissachang. I usually end up going with mchang16, which is a combination of my name and my blog, but honestly isn’t very satisfactory.

But thankfully I didn’t think about all those issues when I was trying to decide if I should change my name. At the time I was more focused on leaving the name Melissa Reyen, which I was quite fond of, and wondering how many times people would make assumptions about me if I had the last name Chang. (Watch this clip from Seinfeld if you’re wondering what I’m talking about.)

Ultimately, I’m glad that I changed my name for all the reasons that mattered to me. But I’m very glad that I didn’t have to make the decision after I had spent time building my business and personal brand – because then things would have gotten complicated (although probably not as complicated as this).

How Facebook is changing the world

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

I realize that the title of this post might sound a little dramatic. But I entirely, whole-heartedly believe that it’s true. Facebook is changing the world.

First of all, the number of people who are joining is skyrocketing. According to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook now has 150 million active users. This means that if Facebook was a country, it would be the 8th most populated in the world. And this isn’t just a group of passive users; almost half of Facebook’s members use the service every day. On Christmas day, Facebook accounted for 1 in every 22 online visits. This participation is staggering. Tons of new people are signing up to use the site daily – and Facebook is a service that gets more fun to use as more people join, so it’s doubtful that this participation will slow.

Facebook logo

But large numbers alone won’t change the world – it’s what Facebook is doing with those numbers that’s so exciting. Here are just a few things that I’ve observed:

Facebook is helping non-technical Web users begin to understand other Web services. I first noticed this because of Facebook’s “Status updates.” I have been promoting Twitter for about a year, but it wasn’t until Facebook’s Status Updates started getting popular that I was able to find a good way to describe Twitter to non-users. Now I just say “Twitter is like Facebook’s status updates, but that’s all it is, so you can update more frequently.” In another example, my cousin is organizing his 15th high school reunion using Facebook, and he wanted his event to be picked up by Google. This allowed me to give him a quick rundown on SEO and how search engines work. There are also reports that Facebook is gearing up to launch a “like” feature that will replicate a popular FriendFeed functionality. This not only will be incredibly popular with Facebook’s members, but will allow them a better understanding of FriendFeed. Facebook’s popularity and excellent user interface is helping to make Web use more mainstream and less frightening to Internet novices. This alone is a major game-changer.

Facebook is changing professional networks. I am currently looking to hire a part-time, contract Web developer to help out with my business. I am actively looking through my Facebook contacts to see if anyone in my network is a developer and might be interested in the job. I can recruit through Craigslist and Boston.com (and will likely pursue those routes, too); but if I can find someone I know – even if it’s someone who I haven’t worked with, seen or talked to in years – I am pre-disposed to hiring that person. Of course the decision will ultimately come down to experience and qualifications, but a network is very important in finding a job, and Facebook is suddenly adding people to my network who I haven’t spoken to in a decade.

Facebook is bringing friends closer. In the spectrum of being able to keep up with friends and staying in touch with people, I am pretty good. I would say slightly above average. Even so, I only have about 3 people who I talk to every day (my husband, my bf/co-worker, my business partner). Then there are about 6 other people who I talk to multiple times a week (my brother & sister-in-law, my neighbors who live downstairs and a few local friends). As my circle gets wider, the frequency of communication drops. Facebook is changing this, by facilitating daily communication with a much wider circle of friends. These are friends who I love dearly, but who just don’t live close to me and neither of us have the time to call and check in every day. But we can read each other’s status updates, look at the photos that we’ve posted and have at least an idea of what is going on in each other’s lives on a daily basis.

Facebook is connecting & creating communities. It would be pretty interesting to see the connections between friends in Facebook charted out, but it seems that most of the connections would be concentrated locally or with specific groups – work friends, high school and college friends, church buddies, soccer teammates, etc. But the really powerful thing is that each person’s connections make up a community of people who share at least one thing (or person) in common. If you expanded out even just one level of separation and looked at all of the connections of my connections, there would be a substantial community of people who likely share at least some commonalities. And when communities of people hook up and unite, it’s amazing what they accomplish.

- Facebook is starting to take a chunk out of my email inbox – in a way. I am getting a ton of messages from friends via Facebook now – both through Facebook’s inbox and the Wall-to-wall features. It seems that as people are spending time using Facebook, they just use the service to drop me a quick note to say hi, ask me a question, or just to connect. (This is only taking a chunk out of my email inbox in a way because a notification is sent to my email anytime someone comments on something that I’ve done or writes me a note.)

It’s becoming a verb. Chris’ new favorite expression is “I’m Facebooking.” The last major service that went from noun to verb was Google. Perhaps that is enough said.

My favorite posts of 2008

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

I’m finally back and getting into the groove of 2009 after heading to my hometown to spend time with family for Christmas, and then taking off time over New Year’s, as well. It’s good to be back. But before I start looking forward to all the very good things that are coming in 2009, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on 2008. Here are my favorite posts (for a variety of reasons) from the past year.

2008 blog posts

 

10 less-than-great personality traits of entrepreneurs (2/25/08)
“Here’s a look at 10 qualities that some entrepreneurs share that may help them be great at starting a company, but not so great at existing in normal society.”

The board meeting & the business plan (1/25/08)
“No matter how solid the plans are in your mind, you’ll find holes when you write things down. This is true in about 99.9% of the cases. I’m sure that there are exceptions; other people like Jack Kerouac who famously wrote On the Road on one long scroll, but in general, things get clearer when they are written down. ”

What Skymall can teach you about user testing (1/23/08)
“Basho the Sumo Wrestler table will go well with any decor, unless you’re sitting behind it.”

What’s going to happen to the music industry? (1/8/08)
“So this puts the music industry in this strange position. The indie artists, who are making some money on their small but loyal audiences and the Long Tail, but often not enough money to live off of, would be psyched to get a record contract because the record companies have the marketing and distribution capabilities that they don’t have access to. The big (and already famous) bands, are trying to get out of their contracts in favor of the freedom that the indie artists enjoy. And the record companies are panicking. This is creating a weird, wild situation where everything is about to totally implode if change doesn’t happen quickly.”

7 ways to raise money for your start-up (2/19/08)
“The good news for anyone who has limited resources when starting a company is that entrepreneurs seem to agree that this can be a good thing. The need to conserve resources often leads to creativity, hard-work, and a drive to succeed that can be missing when money is available and things are easier and more comfortable. So the first piece of advice when you’re thinking about raising money is to make sure that you really need it before going after cash.”

Four hurdles to jump after starting a business (2/13/08)
“When you start a business, you may be trying to hold onto faith that it will be a success, but you don’t really know that it will be. Along with that, you don’t always know where you’re next client will come from. Or employee. Or dollar. So you have to come to a point of accepting the not knowing, embracing the uncertainty. For me, it’s kind of a thrill to be working this all out as I go because I have come to believe that no matter what I face, I’ll figure it out. It might not be today or tomorrow, but eventually, I’ll either determine a way to get around the issue, find someone to help me with it, or overcome it in some way.”

4 reasons media companies are so far behind in social media (3/25/08)
“One issue that the tech publishing companies have is that they are stuck with legacy systems that were created before the term “social media” even existed. While blogs that are newcomers on the scene were built from the ground-up to support social media, the big publishers are struggling to make the smallest changes to their massive publishing systems that will allow them to play in the social media space. These companies have millions of pages of content – all stuck in ancient content management systems that they adopted in the 1990s. This digging out of legacy technology and making the transition to Web 2.0 technologies is not going to happen quickly, easily or at a low cost for these companies.”

5 ways to make sure that skimmers will read your email message (3/13/08)
“The life of a skimmer is treacherous. They go to meetings and get asked a question “about that email that was sent yesterday” and have absolutely no idea how to answer. They never know what time the party is going to start, or who was invited, or what day it is going to be held. Skimming causes problems. But for whatever reason, skimmers can’t stop. They might just think it’s ridiculous that people send long email messages. They might be “all about efficiency” or “impatient” or “don’t care.” The list of reasons is long.”

The rare women tech start-up founder (4/30/08)
“Although it may have been said many times in many ways, I think it’s a mistake to gloss over the issue of having kids…For every start-up founder, I think, balancing a career with the rest of life is something to think about. But as a woman, the issue rarely leaves my mind. It adds urgency, pressure and stress. And I’m sure for some women, this trifecta of bad emotion is enough to keep them from starting that start-up.”

10 reasons entrepreneurs should take more vacations (4/17/08)
“You are getting boring to be around. This is happening to me. I meet with friends for a drink or dinner, and they ask me what’s going on, and pretty much the only thing that I have to tell them about is my business. And to me, it’s really exciting and fun and interesting to talk about my work. But I can tell that their eyes are starting to glaze over at times.”

I like Twitter, but it has a big problem (4/11/08)
Everyone was writing about Twitter. I knew that I had to figure out how to use it, but I was struggling. I personally knew only one person who used Twitter. My friends (mostly non-techies) and business colleagues (behind in Web 2.0) weren’t using it. So I started “following” people, just in an attempt to see how Twitter worked.”

Stop scheduling meetings on Tuesdays and get to work (5/8/08)
“I might be the last person to know this, but Tuesday is the most productive day of the week. I was alerted to this fact by this blog post, which pointed to some research by Robert Half International. But then when I went to dig in deeper, Tuesday-is-the-most-productive-day-ever was all over the Internet.”

.anydomainnameyouwant soon to be available for purchase (6/27/08)
“I have heard a lot of people making the case that the only domain name that really matters is .com. Although I agree that the .com domain name will stay the strongest for the foreseeable future, this thinking is really short-sighted. Although technology is advancing quickly, the Internet is still in its infancy. It’s hard to predict what will happen in two years, let alone in 20 years. I think that there is a very good chance that other gTLDs will become important. I’ve seen evidence of this in other countries, and honestly, it’s even possible that the gTLD system could eventually go away entirely.”

10 tips for building a killer Facebook app (6/5/08)
“Do the “addiction test.” Can someone use your application once and then never again? Not good. Do they use it once and then feel compelled to immediately use it again? That’s good. Do they want to go back and use it the next day? And the next? That’s even better.”

Patience is a virtue that I just don’t have (but I’m working on it) (8/21/08)
“I have fought a life-long battle with patience. I know that this story is not unique – very few people like to wait. But I’m writing about this now because I have enduring a trial that is requiring patience that I never thought I could muster – the patience needed to start a company.”

Five things your business can learn from Disney (8/13/08)
“Fake it ’til you make it. When Disney introduces a new potential star to its audience, it makes sure that the nobody looks like a somebody from the first moment they are introduced. The singer is usually introduced in a short-clip music video or concert during a commercial break on the Disney Channel. That video shows a huge crowd of adoring, hip, teenage fans screaming and swooning for the “star.” This crowd is made up of paid and wannabe actors, and the music video is usually shot in a studio. But it looks like the singer is a star, and more importantly people believe the singer is a star, even before it is true.”

Five reasons to start delegating more today (9/10/08)
“Believing that you are the only one that can do a task isn’t helpful for you and isn’t helpful for your business. And it’s probably not true. This is the most common protest made by over-achievers and perfectionists who think that they can do the work the best or the fastest or without any help. And this notion is dangerous because trying to run a business completely alone will not work.”

10 ways to stay positive when times are tough (11/4/08)
“I am an optimist, but I’ve been feeling this slump like everyone else. As an entrepreneur, I feel a little bit like I have a split personality, reminding myself of all the reasons that starting a company during a recession is a good idea, internalizing all the reasons that owning a business in a recession is a very difficult prospect. It’s emotionally draining.”

Babel Fish, Google Translate and human go head-to-head (12/5/08)
“To me, it looks like the human with moderate Spanish skills won, hands down. But if you aren’t lucky enough to sit 3 feet away from someone who is willing to indulge your translation needs, I would go with Google Translate. At least in Spanish-to-English translation, with these examples, it had a slight advantage.”

3 surefire ways to save money when shopping online

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

I realize that the online holiday shopping season is drawing to a close, but I thought I would share these three money-saving tips that I discovered this year when shopping online. I hope that they will save you some cash. Oh, and if you have any other online shopping, money-saving tips, please leave them in the comments below. Thanks!

1. Group a lot of items into one order to take advantage of the free shipping deal. I hate paying shipping costs. Paying for shipping is actually the only reason that I do ANY of my shopping at the malls these days – I just can’t bear to pay $20 in shipping for my $20 item. A lot of sites offer free shipping for orders over a certain amount. Amazon.com (my favorite online retailer) offers free shipping for orders over $25. Crate and Barrel has free shipping on orders over $100. If you group a lot of items together and buy them all from one place, the shipping charges are erased.

Crate and Barrel free shipping

2. Comparison shop using awesome online tools. There are a number of shopping sites that will allow you to comparison shop if you know what you want, but not necessarily where you want to buy it. For example, I bought Chris (my husband) a Ray Allen Celtics t-shirt for Christmas. To find the best price, I used a number of sites to compare prices. I looked up Ray Allen t-shirt on Amazon, I checked out prices on Google Product Search (which used to be called Froogle), and BizRate, which is an online shopping comparison tool. This not only let me get a quick look at all the various styles of shirts, but it also let me find the price that fit my budget. (Don’t worry, I can write this with no fear of Chris seeing it because he doesn’t read my blog. If you know him, please feel free to give him a hard time about this fact when you see him next, as long as it’s after Christmas!)

Ray Allen Comparison shopping

3. Make sure you do a search to find coupons. I’m not a big coupon clipper. Don’t get me wrong, I love when I have a coupon. But it’s rare that I take the time to pour through ads to find a coupon for something I might be buying at some possible time in the future. I am, however, a huge user of online coupons.

I was turned onto the online coupon tactic through buying domain names. I always register my domain names through GoDaddy.com, and it has a perpetual coupon (code: OYH3) that lets me buy .com domain names for $2.50 off. Since my company owns almost 400 domain names, you can see why this cost-savings is appealing.

UPDATE: The “perpetual” GoDaddy.com coupon is no longer working! So try this one: OYH7. Although if this doesn’t work, make sure that you search Google for “GoDaddy coupons” before buying. (Hat tip: @longest)

This year, I tried out this tactic with online shopping. Online coupon hunting doesn’t have a 100% success rate – sometimes I could find a coupon, and sometimes I couldn’t. But if you do find a coupon that works, it will be worth the time you spent looking. There are many sites that are dedicated to online coupons (Coupons.com, CouponCabin and CoolSavings are just some of them). But I prefer to use Google and type in my search, such as “Coldwater Creek Coupon.” In that real-life example, I found a coupon that saved me 40% off my entire order, which was as good as $20 in my pocket.

Coldwater Creek Coupon code

Happy shopping!

Babel Fish, Google Translate and human go head-to-head

Friday, December 5th, 2008

A fun side benefit of publishing a blog and writing stories for international publications is that I occasionally come across an article I wrote that has been translated into another language. Today I discovered this article, published in Spanish, which came from my original article “10 reasons entrepreneurs should take more vacations.”

Exite sign

This led me to check out some online translation services to compare how they work head to head. I also asked someone who has a rough understanding of Spanish, but isn’t necessarily fluent in the language, to do a translation. The tools: Babel Fish, Google Translate and Free Translation Online (from Smartlink Corporation). Human translator: jack-of-all-trades co-worker, Cara Smith.

(One caveat – since I’m translating the Spanish translation back to English with this effort, it assumes that the Spanish translation was correct in the first place.)

Excerpt 1:

Original - It’s been a long time since you’ve been on a vacation. Admit it – when’s the last time that you took a vacation? A real one. A work trip doesn’t count. If it’s been longer than 6 months, it’s time.

Spanish Translation – Hace tiempo que no te tomas unas vacaciones. Probablemente haga más de 6 meses desde tus últimas vacaciones (los viajes por trabajo no cuentan). Si hace más de 10 meses que no sales de vacaciones… estás en problemas!

Babel FishFor a long time you have not been taking vacations. Probably it does more than 6 months from your last vacations (the trips by work do not count). If it does more than 10 months that go out on vacations… you are not in problems!

Google TranslateNot long ago that you take a vacation. Probably make more than 6 months from your last vacation (travel for work do not count). If more than 10 months that sales did not leave … you’re in trouble!

Free Online TranslationSome time ago that you do not take a few vacation. Probably do more than 6 months from your last vacation (the trips for work do not count). If more than 10 months you do not go out of vacation … you are in problems!

HumanIt’s been a long time since you took a vacation. Probably it’s been 6 months since your last vacation (the work trips don’t count). If it’s been more than 10 months since your last vacation…that’s a problem.

Excerpt 2:

Original - It’s helpful to remind yourself why you’re working so hard. Most of us aren’t working our butts off for nothing. There is usually a dream, a goal, a vision to come at the end of it. For me, I want to be able to travel. So taking periodic vacations reminds me why I’m doing all of this.

Spanish translation - Te ayudará a recordar porque trabajas tan duro. Todos luchamos por uno o varios objetivos y unas vacaciones es el mejor método para recordarte ese porqué.

Babel Fish – It will help you to remember because you work so hard. All we fought by one or several objectives and vacations are the best method for recordarte that because.

Google Translate - Will help you remember because you work so hard. All are fighting for one or more goals and a vacation is the best method for this remind you why.

Free Online Translation - He will help you to remember because you work so hardly. We all fight for one or several targets and the best method is a few vacation to remind to you this porqué.

Human – It helps you remember why you work so hard. Everyone fights for one or various objectives and a vacation is the best method to remember that because (missing a reason here…)

Excerpt 3:

Original - Vacations are fun. At least, they should be. And if a vacation isn’t fun to you, do something that is. The point is, you need to lighten up sometimes, have a little fun, laugh, joke around, remember that everything isn’t serious and at the point of imminent collapse (which is how entrepreneurs usually feel).

Spanish translation - Las vacaciones son divertidas…. ¿Acaso la vida no está para disfrutarla?

Babel Fish - The vacations are funny…. Perhaps the life is not for enjoying it?

Google Translate – Holidays are fun …. Does life is not to enjoy?

Free Online Translation - The vacation is entertained …. Perhaps is not the life to enjoy it?

Human - Vacations are fun. Isn’t life for enjoyment?

To me, it looks like the human with moderate Spanish skills won, hands down. But if you aren’t lucky enough to sit 3 feet away from someone who is willing to indulge your translation needs, I would go with Google Translate. At least in Spanish-to-English translation, with these examples, it had a slight advantage.

Since I’m already this deep into the experiment, here’s one more test. This time, I entered the original text into the English-to-Spanish translation tool, then entered the Spanish result into the Spanish-to-English translation tool to see what would happen.

Yahoo Babel Fish logo

Original: It’s been a long time since you’ve been on a vacation. Admit it – when’s the last time that you took a vacation? A real one. A work trip doesn’t count. If it’s been longer than 6 months, it’s time.

Spanish translation: Ha sido un rato largo puesto que usted ha estado en vacaciones. ¿Admítalo – cuándo la vez última que usted tardó vacaciones? Verdadero. Un viaje del trabajo no cuenta. Si ha sido más largo de 6 meses, es tiempo.

Back to English: He has been awhile long since you have been in vacations. Admítalo – when the last time that you took vacations? True. A trip of the work does not count. If he has been longer of 6 months, is time.

Google Translate

Original: It’s been a long time since you’ve been on a vacation. Admit it – when’s the last time that you took a vacation? A real one. A work trip doesn’t count. If it’s been longer than 6 months, it’s time.

Spanish translation: Ha sido un largo tiempo desde que ha sido en unas vacaciones. Admítelo – cuando es la última vez que se tomó unas vacaciones? Un verdadero uno. Un viaje de trabajo no cuenta. Si han pasado más de 6 meses, es el momento.

Back to English: It has been a long time since I had been in a vacation. Admit it – when was the last time you took a vacation? A real one. A journey is not working. If it’s been more than 6 months, it’s time.

Free Online Translation logo

Original: It’s been a long time since you’ve been on a vacation. Admit it – when’s the last time that you took a vacation? A real one. A work trip doesn’t count. If it’s been longer than 6 months, it’s time.

Spanish translation: Esto ha sido mucho tiempo ya que usted ha sido durante unas vacaciones. ¿Admítalo – cuándo es la vez pasada que usted tomó unas vacaciones? Verdadero uno. Un viaje de trabajo no cuenta. Si ha sido más largo que 6 meses, esto es el tiempo.

Back to English: This has been a lot of time since you have been during a few vacation. It admit – when it is the past time that you took a few vacation? Real one. A trip of work does not count. If it has been longer than 6 months, this is the time.

The results of this second experiment are too close to call. But since I’m not strong in languages (ask me sometime about my experience taking Japanese in college), I’m thankful for each of these online translation tools. And of course, for Cara.

Photo by twinkletoez

Using Google Suggest as a research tool

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

I am not a huge fan of Digg, but I occasionally watch the online show Diggnation, and I got this idea from a story that they profiled a couple of weeks back. The background to the story is this – when you start typing a term into the search box on Google, a feature called Google Suggest displays suggestions about what you might be trying to type. According to Google, this functionality uses an algorithm to predict the queries that users are most likely to want to see, and does not base the suggestions on a user’s personal search history.

The story that was profiled on Diggnation was about someone who typed in a bunch of terms and took screenshots of the results. What he found was very interesting. To just pick one example – for the expression “Is it safe to…” the results were: look at a lunar eclipse, travel to kenya, reuse the same water bottle over and over, fly when pregnant, paint while pregnant, travel to Israel, travel to Cuba, tan while pregnant, and eat snow. Check out the full list here.

It occurred to me that I could use this tool for research, to help me determine general consumer interest in a topic as well as search term popularity. (The screenshot below is from a search I did to help me gauge interest in various terms for the Orthopedic Product Guide.)

There are other ways to use this tool, as well. The guys on Diggnation did a competition to see how many letters it took for each of their names to be suggested. (They tied.) I played along – but am sad to admit that my name was never even suggested.

Google suggest orthopedic

You must make the move to measurable media today

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

With the economy in the tank, there are a lot of people who are understandably worried about their businesses and their jobs. Companies that rely on marketing for revenue are especially concerned; historically, marketing budgets are among the first to be cut when there is a downturn. In the dotcom bust early this century, the slicing of marketing budgets directly contributed to the demise of several publications, including one that I worked for at the time.

I have said this before, and I will say it again now – if you are a media company that relies on advertising for revenue, you need to start offering a performance-based, ROI-based media option today.

If you don’t believe me, let’s look to someone who knows something about online advertising – Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Google just announced their earnings for the third quarter of 2008, and in the press release, Schmidt said this:

“The measurability and ROI of search-based advertising remain key assets for Google.”

Measurablility and ROI-based marketing programs are what are going to be the key assets to get Google through the hard time. I say, why not follow the leader?

The markets are down (again) so let’s talk about marketing instead

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

My latest article has just been posted on The Industry StandardFive ways media companies can take advantage of the shift to performance-based media.

New dollar billWith the markets down 30% year-to-date and nations around the world joining the U.S. in an economic downward spiral, it might feel like anything related to the economy or spending money is bad news. But there are bright sides to any situation if you look at it from a different perspective, and this situation is no exception.

When the economy dips, and companies take a hit, one of their first budgets to be cut is often the marketing budget. Marketing can feel like unnecessary spending for businesses, and it’s easy to cut one month and then quickly pick up the next month again when the company is doing better.

During the dotcom bust of the early 2000’s, I was working for Publish magazine, a trade magazine/Website focused on “Internet communication.” That magazine, like many others (including The industry Standard) folded due to the bad economy and the cut that IT companies were making to their marketing budgets.

But those were the days before performance-based media. Google, the leader (and pioneer) of PPC and performance-based advertising, launched its AdSense program in October 2000, but it didn’t gain traction until 2002. At that time, marketing budgets were easy to cut because marketing execs couldn’t prove ROI on the money they were spending. But today, when $1 out is easily measured to x dollars back, I believe that companies that provide performance-based advertising options will be insulated (a bit) from the downturn.

This isn’t to say that companies will be entirely shielded. But when some amount of revenue is easily tied back to a smaller amount of spending, companies will not be inclined to cut that spending.

Dollar bill by reubenaingber

Text search head-to-head: Google vs. Cha Cha

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

The first time that I heard about Google text search I was at my sister-in-law’s parent’s house in Rochester, NY, and we were discussing how you can send a question to Google via text and get a quick response. Just sent a text to 466453 (‘GOOGLE’ on most devices) with a question, and Google will text you back with the answer.

My brother was there for that conversation, and was equally impressed, so when I got the following Twitter message from Matt a couple of weeks back, I was very interested:

Cha Cha Twitter

Cha Cha bills itself as a mobile search service. To get answers from Cha Cha, text your question to 242242 (spells ‘ChaCha’), and wait.

This sounded a lot like Google, but Matt claimed that it was better than Google, and I had some time on my hands (I was actually sitting at Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester, MA, at the time), so I thought I would do a totally unscientific head-to-head comparison sending random questions to both Google and Cha Cha and seeing what I got back. Here’s what I found:

QUESTION: Who sings It’s a heartache?

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: Janis Joplin’s version of “It’s a Heartache.”

QUESTION: What’s the water temperature in Gloucester, MA?

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: These are the only 2 I found for water temperatures in MA. Boston, MA 66.9 degrees F/19.4 degrees C Woods Hole, MA 72.0 degrees F

QUESTION: Who sings I need a hero?

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: I Need A Hero is sung by Bonnie Tyler.

QUESTION: Weather, Gloucester, MA

REPLIES:
Google: Weather: Gloucester, MA 72F, Clear Wind: W 0 mph Hum: 90%  Sat: 56F-79F, Clear Sun: 65F-79F, Mostly Sunny  Mon: 56F-81F, Chance of storm
Cha Cha: Gloucester, MA 76F, Fair Sat: 57F-77F, Sunny Sun: 66F-80F, Slight Chance Rain Showers

QUESTION: Circumference of the earth

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,901.55 mi, but, if you measure through the poles it measures 24,859.82 mi.

QUESTION: Distance to Mars

REPLIES:
Google: Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: The average distance to Mars is 48 million miles.

QUESTION: Movie theaters in 01915

REPLIES:
Google:
Movies: MA 01915  1. Tropic Thunder 2. Star Wars: The Clone Wars  3. Death Race  4. Mamma mia!  5. Pineapple Express  6. The Longshots  7. The Dark Knight  8. The House Bunny  9. The Rocker Send 1 to 9 for showtimes or NEXT for more movies. <I sent 5> Movies: Pineapple Express 1hr 45min, Rated R Drama 3.5/5 CinemaSalem 2:35  5:00  7:30  9:45 1 East India Square Salem, 01970  978-744-1400  AMC Loews Liberty Tree Mall 20  1:50  4:30  7:40  8:40  10:20  11:25  100 Independence Drive Danvers, MA  01923  978-750-9019
Cha Cha: Cabot Street Cinema on Cabot Street and Larcom Theater on Wallis Street.

QUESTION: How many calories in a donut?

REPLIES:
Google: Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: Calories range from 200-300 calories, is there one in specific you want the calories for?

QUESTION: Score Patriots

REPLIES:
Google: NFL *Philadelphia*: 27 New England: 17 Final, Aug 22  Recent game: Aug 17  New England: 10  *Tampa Bay*: 27  Next Game: Aug 28 7:00pm EDT New England at NY Giants
Cha Cha: Aug 22, 2008 Philadelphia VS Patriots lose 17-27. That is not good. They need to pick up their game before the season starts.

QUESTION: Who is the quarterback for the Patriots

REPLIES:
Google:
Sorry. Did not return any results.
Cha Cha: Tom Brady is the QB for the Patriots.

In my experiment, the overall winner was definitely Cha Cha. This is how I would break it down:

Cha Cha

Cha Cha logoPros: Cha Cha dominated the random facts categories. I was able to get more answers to more types of questions from Cha Cha than from Google.

Cons: Speed – Cha Cha sometimes takes quite awhile to reply – the longest reply actually took 57 minutes. Most answers came in about 5 minutes. Also, the reply to movie theaters in 01915 was not exactly right – the Larcom Theater is no longer a movie theater although it was at one time.

Neither pro nor con: One thing about Cha Cha is that it is real people looking up the answers to your questions. This felt kind of weird to me as I was sitting in my beach chair sending people on information missions, but you might like having people at your disposal to do your bidding. It was also a little odd to get occasional editorial comments with my answers (see the Patriots question, above), but I kind of liked that and thought it was fun. Again, some people might find this annoying.

Google:

Google Mobile logoPros: Speed – answers came to me lightning quick. No waiting, or maybe a couple of seconds wait. Google also has the lead in pretty much any question that it answers – if Google has the answer, it’s thorough and complete, and I trust the information. Google also definitely takes the lead in local search.

Cons: Limited types of questions can be answered by Google. There is also a way to send questions to Google that ensures a better answer, this convention can take some getting used to.

Types of online advertising

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

My cousin Jay (hi Jay!) is in the process of building and launching his own online business, and he sent me a note this week (OK, he sent it two weeks ago, I’ve been busy!!) asking me about online advertising and how it works. I ended up writing him a fairly long-winded email in response, but I thought that there were enough nuggets in the message to make it worth re-posting.

Offline advertising

Here is a (somewhat edited) version of the email that I sent him. Please forgive me for the rough format.

The most basic type of Internet advertising (which is sometimes called “online media” or just “media”) is the standard banner ad. The banner ad has been around for years and was pretty much the first type of advertising that was sold online. When banners first went up, they got high click-through rates and companies could charge high fees for them, but the rates have dropped significantly over time. Banner advertising is usually sold based on a CPM (cost per thousand) basis calculated against page views. CPMs vary depending on the market that you’re in – consumer markets get a lower CPM than B2B markets – and they range usually anywhere from $10-$40 (approximately). The reasons that B2B audiences can charge a higher CPM is that there is the assumption that they are reaching a “higher qualified” more “high-value” audience. To sell this type of advertising, you’ll need quite a bit of traffic, and some information for potential advertisers about the type and quality of audience you reach. Demographics, reach, influence, etc. will all help. In the consumer market, advertisers are looking for a lot of reach – meaning high numbers of page views. Also, to run banner advertising on your site, you’ll need some kind of third-party ad server (a company that serves the ads and measures delivery and click-through for you), such as Doubleclick/DART. Also, it’s probably worth mentioning that “banner” advertising has evolved to include all kinds of ad sizes and types, such as skyscrapers & leaderboards (refers to ad sizes), interstitials (the type of ads that pop up as you go from page to page on a website), overlays, etc.
 
If you are interested in running banner ads on your site, but you don’t want to have to sell the ads yourself, there are a lot of third-party ad networks that will use your available inventory (pages on your site) to run their ads, and you get a percentage of any revenue generated. This is a good option for early in a business when you don’t have the sales staff and technology resources available to do serious selling. Blue Lithium, Tribal Fusion and Casale Media are some companies that do this.
 
If you don’t have the page views that you need to sell straight banner ads on a CPM basis, you might try to sell a site “sponsorship.” This is often harder to sell (especially these days) because with sponsorships you aren’t necessarily guaranteeing page views or any other measurable metric (although you could guarantee those things), but instead you are offering companies the chance to have exclusivity or sponsorship of a specific section of your site. Sponsorships can get complicated, but you can basically cook up any kind of arrangement that you can think of.
 
Google AdSense is a great way for publishers (and Websites) to get started with online advertising. It’s easy to sign up for an account, and by setting things up and “playing with” Google’s tools and going through the training, you’ll pick up a lot of the online advertising terminology and best practices. It’s also the kind of thing that you can set up and forget – so it will just run and serve on every page of your site without a lot of interference. I run Google AdSense on many of my sites, and it does produce revenue – again, the higher the value the keyword and the more page views you have on your site, the more money that you’ll make. On the flip side (from the advertiser’s perspective) most marketers who do online promotion use Google AdSense (although when you use it to advertise, it’s called AdWords), primarily because it’s a type of “performance-based media” that shows advertisers/marketers immediate “ROI.” These two terms you will see again and again with online advertising, as the trend with online marketing moves to media that has measurable results. The other great thing about Google AdSense is that it will help you quickly be able to track your monthly traffic and page views and what your traffic is “worth.” So if you’re doing financial modeling you can include that data for potential investors.
 
Another ROI-based type of online advertising is lead generation. Lead generation is when an advertiser/marketer pays you money to know more about specific members of your audience than just that they “viewed” an ad. With lead generation, advertisers usually get contact information (either email, phone, mailing address or all three), and other pieces of data that they consider to be valuable. With lead generation, companies are able to get anywhere from $10-$200 PER LEAD (as opposed to the $10 CPMs that I mentioned earlier), because the companies are willing to pay to know specifically who their potential customers are, and for the ability to market to them in the future. Lead generation works best on a site where users need to register to access data/services/etc. 

 

A variation on lead generation is co-registration, which is where a company that collects registration data can add a question or a check box on their registration form asking “would you like to receive information from X company?” If the user checks that box, they are “co-registered” for both your site and the other company’s site, as well.
 
ONE WORD OF CAUTION ABOUT ONLINE ADVERTISING AS A BUSINESS MODEL. (This was applicable to Jay, but might be relevant to you as well, so I’m leaving it here.) Since you are building a site that requires users to enter a lot of data, fill out forms and generally interact with the site a great deal in order for the site to be successful, you will need to think very carefully about on which pages it makes sense to have advertising. For example, running Google AdSense is fine on an information page (a page that someone gets to and might realize that they are in the wrong place), but putting Google AdSense on a registration page, where it might distract a potential registrant from completing a form, is not the best idea. In that instance, getting them to complete the reg form is probably worth far more than having them click that Google AdSense link.

 

I hope that this helps someone out there! If you have any questions, please feel free to post them below and I’ll try to answer.