Archive for the ‘Google’ Category

Some interesting facts about Web design

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

Tim Berners-LeeModern Web design was (sort-of) founded at M.I.T. In 1994, after founding the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee (pictured here) founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Laboratory for Computer Science. The group was founded to help create Web standards, a need that arose after various vendors were offering different versions of HTML. One HTML standard was eventually agreed upon, after which, the W3C was formed, and Web design history was made.

Web design has become what is it largely because of the W3C. The W3C may not have put together the first HTML specification, but it has been behind many of the technologies that have advanced Web design beyond its original form. A few examples:

  • October 1996 – The first W3C recommendation is Portable Network Graphics (PNG) 1.0, a cross-platform alternative to the graphics formats most prevalent at the time.
  • December 1996 – Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Level 1 is published.
  • February 1998 – Extensible Markup Language (XML) 1.0 is released, promoting interoperability and domain-specific markup, and later serving as the basis for dozens of standards.
  • August 2000 – Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.0, a language to describe 2D graphics in XML is released.
  • May 2005 – Mobile Web Initiative is launched with the mission of making Web access from a mobile device as simple as Web access from a desktop.

The first Web site design was created by…You guessed it, Tim Berners-Lee. I guess we don’t hear too much about this because if you could put on your resume “Created the World Wide Web,” you might leave out the part about creating the first Web design. This site was created using HTML, went online on August 6, 1991, and was educational, providing information about what the World Wide Web was, how someone could own a browser and how to set up a Web server. The first version of the site no longer exists (no one thought to take a screenshot of it, perhaps?) but you can see a version from 1992 here. We’ve come a long way.

FutureSplash Animator (aka Flash). Flash didn’t arrive on the Web design scene all at once, it was developed over time by a group of people (more here about the history of Flash). And it was news to me that Macromedia didn’t develop the first version of Flash, rather, in December 1996, it acquired the vector-based animation software from FutureWave. At the time the software was called FutureSplash Animator. In 1996, Macromedia released the software as Flash. (How much better is that name?!)

Google’s ground-breaking Web design.Lots has been said about Google’s minimalistic Web design and how it greatly enhances the search experience. But the early Google designs came about due to some serious luck, at least according to 16 Interesting Facts about Google. According to the article, the Google founders didn’t know HTML and they just wanted a quick interface – hence, the spare design. In early user tests, however, they found that people would just sit and look at the screen, not taking any action. When they probed as to why, the testers would claim that they were “waiting for the rest of the page.” To combat this perception, the Google copyright message was inserted to act as the end-of-page marker.

Americas about to fall behind in information industry

Tuesday, November 13th, 2007

Outsell LogoIf you haven’t caught the hint yet, there is more news today that the global market is gaining in importance. According to a press release from Outsell, the information industry revenue that is generated in Asia, Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) is ready to overtake North, South and Central American revenues within one to two years. And things are already heading that way. Currently, American information industry revenues are 53% of the worldwide total, with EMEA and Asia at 47%.

The other bit of information, which was buried in the middle of the release, is that during a presentation today on “The Global Industry Outlook” at Outsell’s Signature Event, Chief Analyst Leigh Watson Healy offered up Outsell’s 10 predictions for the information industry in 2008. One of note: the firm expects the next evolution of the Internet experience to be Web 3D.

Whenever a company makes a prediction, I like to see how they did with their past prophesies. If you’re interested, Outsell’s 2007 predictions are available in a free report. Some of what they suggested would happen this year has happened, but one item in particular seems to be a false reading on the market: “Google, Yahoo, MSN, publishers, advertisers and auditors will establish standardized third-party audit and certification processes to validate clicks and battle click fraud.”

So far, this hasn’t happened – but there is still a little more than a month to go before we ring in 2008.

Vertical search with humans behind it

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Ask Jim logoI occassionally blog for SelfEmployed.com, and in writing a post for that site today I came across a search engine for the Small Business market – AskJim.biz. It’s a vertical search engine that has a database of articles about small business issues behind it. The site was conceived of by Jim Blasingame, and the articles are written by a group of experts (Jim’s “Brain Trust”). I didn’t use the site indepth, but I ran a couple of sample queries and compared the results from AskJim vs. Google. AskJim was better.

 This is an interesting business model for vertical search – a niche search engine that really isn’t a search engine at all, but has a giant database of trusted articles behind it, powering it and providing relevant results. This could be a helpful solution to folks in the small business market who are suffering from search engine fatigue. It will be interesting to see if this model will work in other markets.

Halloween and the Internet

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

For some reason, people love Halloween. I’m not sure if it’s just that creative people like Halloween because they can let their inspiration flow, or if it’s something else, but I know a lot of people who LOVE LOVE LOVE the holiday. It’s not my favorite, personally. But my sister-in-law Michele loves it. And she and my brother Matt throw the best Halloween party every year. I dressed up this year as Princess Fiona, the wife of Shrek. I picked the costume purposely because I have a Halloween day event that a lot of little kids will be at, and I wanted them to be able to recognize who I was and not run away. I’m not sure if I will be successful because I scared Matt and Cara with my green makeup – Matt kept looking at me and saying that I was freaking him out because I didn’t look like myself.

Anyway, I didn’t really know exactly what Fiona looked like before I dressed up, so I found pictures on the Internet to model my costume after. A good way to find image of the person or thing that you’re dressing up as is to use Google image search. That’s how I found my model. But there are a lot of other tools that you can use if you’re looking to create a last-minute Halloween costume. This post from Lifehacker gives a list of places that you can go to print your own mask. If you have the clothes that your character would wear, but just can’t make yourself look like that person, it’s an easy (and low-cost) way to “disguise” yourself. There are also a number of sites that help with inspiration if yours is lacking – two that I came across are Costumzee and Costume Idea Zone, which also provides some handy idea for the reluctant party-goer.

Trust and Internet advertising

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

I just read an article called “The Trust Issue” by David Morgan in the Online Spin blog. In the post, Morgan is referencing a report from Nielsen that shows that consumers don’t trust Internet advertising. Here’s an excerpt:

A global study from Nielsen … found consumers don’t trust Internet advertising nearly as much as they trust traditional forms of advertising. The Nielsen study, based on an online survey of more than 26,000 consumers, asked respondents their perceptions of different forms of advertising. The results? Consumers rated Internet advertising at the bottom when it comes to trust as compared to offline media. Specifically, 63% said they trust newspaper ads, 56% trusted TV spots and magazine placements — while search ads got a trust thumbs-up from just 34%, and banner ads were trusted by just 26% of the respondents.

He goes on to talk about some ways to help change consumer perception about online advertising. It’s a good article, go read it. But as much as I am an advocate for the Internet and Internet advertising, and as much as I would like us to work at changing negative perceptions about the Internet, I actually agree with the consumers – they are right to not trust Internet advertising as much as they trust TV or print.

TV and print advertising is obvious. You can tell – with close to 100% accuracy – when something is an advertisement and when something isn’t. And I think that this is the main reason why Internet advertising got such low marks – not necessarily because the ads themselves weren’t trustworthy (although that is probably part of it), but because consumers are unsure when they are being shown an ad, and when it’s “real content.”

There are so many ways that Internet advertising is fuzzy. Just think of Google, the second most popular Web site in the U.S., according to Alexa. On the Google search results page, ads run at the top and along the sides – and they are clearly labeled – but many consumers still don’t realize that they are looking at ads because the results look very similar to the organic search results. And what is listed in those ads is sometimes misleading. And that is just one example – there are many others. Bloggers are paid by companies to write reviews of their products with services such as ReviewMe. Parked domains gather advertising revenue from direct navigation (when keywords are typed directly into the search bar), the sites seem like they are providing information, but they are really just collecting PPC dollars. Pop-up ads arise from nowhere and refuse to disappear.

I love the Internet and I am a fan of these new and exciting business models, but there just aren’t the same standards online when it comes to the separation of “editorial” and “marketing” – it is sometimes hard to know what is an ad and what isn’t. In my opinion, at this point, the consumers are right to mistrust.

Facebook is now valued at $15 billion

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Facebook logoI was talking to some 30-something, non-tech-industry friends last week, and the topic turned to Facebook. What’s the deal with Facebook? they asked. None of them had profiles, none of them had ever even visited the site, all of them thought I was nuts for having set up a profile. “You mean you put it online that you live in Massachusetts?!” they asked. I tried to explain that Facebook is huge (as is the state of Massachusetts). They didn’t buy it.

“Today Microsoft agreed to invest $240 million for a 1.6% stake in Facebook that values the social-networking site at $15 billion, beating Google in a closely watched contest.”Friends, Facebook is worth $15 BILLION dollars. I am not the only one who uses the site.

More proof that search engines aren’t working for buying process

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

I just read this comment in Robert Scoble’s blog after I published my last post about the solution to search engine fatigue. This seems to be more evidence to the point that I was making that search engines aren’t always the best tools in the buying process:

“Now, since we’re all talking about this, two other issues. First, bloggers were showing up too high in searches anyway. In comparing to my friends we got lots of traffic from Google that we didn’t deserve. The problem is that traffic isn’t good anyway. Put it this way, let’s say I showed up high in a search for Saturn Cars (since I’ve written about them). Most people wouldn’t have found much value in that post and even if they did they wouldn’t have stuck around to be a regular reader.

I’d rather show up for when you’re searching for tech or geek stuff. That’s the audience I want to be in front of.”

Coincidentally, something similar is happening with my blog today – I’m showing up high in Google for various search terms related to the Red Sox and Pumpkin Carving due to a post I made this weekend. Sorry all you Red Sox pumpkin pattern searchers!

The solution to search engine fatigue

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

Internet users are tired of trying to use a search engine to find something that they want, and not finding that thing. This seems obvious, but it’s the conclusion that’s been reached following a recent survey of 1,001 U.S. adults called “State of Search.” The research was conducted by Kelton Research for Autobytel. The primary finding from the study is that 72% of searchers have “search engine fatigue” meaning that they become impatient or frustrated when they are unable to quickly find the exact information they need when using a search engine.

I’m actually surprised that the number isn’t closer to 100%.

Some statistics from the report (thanks to Search Engine Land for this information):

- 65.4% of Americans say they’ve spent two or more hours in a single sitting searching for specific information on search engines.

- When asked to name their #1 complaint about the process, 25% cited a deluge of results, 24% cited a predominance of commercial (paid) listings, 18.8% blamed the search engine’s inability to understand their keywords (forcing them to try again), and 18.6% were most frustrated by disorganized/random results.

Search Engine Land draws the conclusion that this is an argument for personalization in search, and in part it may be. But I think that these results also point to the need for comprehensive and information-rich vertical search alternatives to aid in the buying process – not as a replacement to the popular search engines, but as a supplemental tool.

The difficulty of using the popular search engines in the buying process is nothing new. This study was conducted to illustrate problems in the car-buying process, but the same issues happen in other product buying cycles, including the IT buying process. When I worked on the Web Buyer’s Guide, the goal of the site and technology that we built was to provide a better technology buying process for IT professionals. At the time, I would do a demonstration to explain to people why this type of vertical search engine was essential for the buying process – and why Google and Yahoo wouldn’t work for buyers who were trying to do the research that’s needed to make a product purchase.

I used the term “CRM” (customer relationship management) to demonstrate. First, I would type “CRM” into Google to see the results – 83,900,000. I then modified the search to CRM Products – 34,300,000. Still too many results. This is the #1 problem with search engines for the 25% of people who complained about a “deluge of results” and why, in the survey results, nearly 40% of Americans described finding the “right and relevant” information in the big search engines – Google and Yahoo – as “overwhelming and time-consuming.”

The next search that I did was with WBG’s top competitor – KnowledgeStorm, another IT product directory. For the search, I went to their CRM page and asked someone in the crowd to name a random CRM company. Different answers were given, but usually one of the top companies was named, such as Pivotal, Oracle or Salesforce.com. Typically, if I was to search for products from any of those companies in the KnowledgeStorm directory, they weren’t included in the list because they weren’t KnowledgeStorm’s paying customers. This type of situation causes two levels of frustration for users, both because all the results that are displayed are commercial (paid) listings, and because this forces buyers to go elsewhere to find a complete list of CRM products when 85% of buyers want to find a one-stop shop for everything related to their purchase.

To overcome the buying process issues that both the search engines and limited product directories have, we built a vertical directory based on technology product categories. This vertical directory included every bit of information that Ziff Davis had about each of those categories – editor reviews, articles, news, user ratings, etc. – combined with a comprehensive product directory and resource library with information from the IT vendors themselves, including white papers, videos, etc. By surrounding each technology category with all the relevant content in each category and a comprehensive product list, we allowed IT buyers to be able to get a complete view into the product that they were attempting to buy.

In the State of Search report, nearly 25% of respondents said that they actually put off purchasing a car because they found the overall car-buying process too overwhelming or frustrating. Autobytel built a vertical directory to try to solve those issues, and I think that they might have hit on a viable solution if they are able to execute.

~ Black & White ~

A summary of Internet advertising statistics

Friday, October 12th, 2007


statisticsThis week while writing about Internet advertising I came across quite a few statistics – it seems like many of the market research firms may have been timing the release of their data to coincide with the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) Annual Conference being held in Arizona. Here’s a roundup and links to the highlights:

IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report: Internet advertising revenues in the U.S. totaled nearly $10 billion for the first six months of 2007, with Q1 accounting for approximately $4.9 billion and Q2 totaling approximately $5.1 billion; Internet advertising revenues for the first six months of 2007 increased 26.4% from the same period in 2006; Search revenue accounted for 40% of 2007 second-quarter revenues; 2007 revenues for Internet advertising estimated to hit $20-21 billion.

Marketing & Media Ecosystem 2010 study by ANA & Booz Allen Hamilton: 90% percent of marketers plan to increase their digital marketing spending by 2010; only 24% of the 250 survey respondents think their organizations are digitally savvy; barriers to making bigger digital investments are insufficient metrics (62%), lack of organization support (51%) and lack of experience in new media (59%).

Forrester Research’s U.S. Interactive Marketing Forecast 2007-2012: marketing spend will grow to $61 billion by 2012, an increase driven by marketers who will leverage a distribution of channels rather than pour new spends into a single place; Interactive marketing will top $61 billion By 2012; Search marketing will triple in five years; Social media will drive emerging channels to $10.6 billion by 2012.

eMarketer: Online advertising will hit $21.7 billion in 2007, surpassing radio for the first time ever; $44 billion for Internet advertising by 2011.

Data Centre of China Internet: China’s internet advertising sector is expected to increase by 53.07% in 2007.

And this isn’t a statistic, but Steve Ballmer, president of Microsoft had this to say at the ANA Conference, as reported by CNET: “In world search and advertising, Google is the leader; we’re an aspirant. We have a lot of work to do in search and advertising.”

~ Stairs & Railing ~

What's next for Internet advertising

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

Look into the futureGoogle revolutionized Internet advertising in 2000 when it launched AdWords and the pay-per-click (PPC) model. This program was ground-breaking not just because the small text ads that ran alongside Google search results were served up based on relevance, but also because, for the first time, marketers paid only for an action (a click on their ad) – they didn’t have to pay for the thousands of impressions that were not clicked. With AdWords, performance-based media was born.  

Once advertisers demonstrated that they were willing to pay for any click, it was a short leap to believe that they would be willing to pay even more to know exactly who it was that was clicking. Today, lead generation and pay-per-conversion models (Google calls this cost-per-action) have joined PPC as viable business models, providing even more information to marketers who are trying to reach their customers.

 

Lead generation and cost-per-action pricing models are already popular in the B2B world. In the IT market, for example, Web Buyer’s Guide, KnowledgeStorm and Bitpipe are providing lead generation services to the biggest technology companies, which pay anywhere from $20 to $120 per lead to reach the specific individuals that they think are most likely to buy their products.

The Internet advertising market is going to continuing to move from static advertising to performance-based media. According to the just-released IAB Internet Advertising Revenue Report, approximately 50% of 2007 second-quarter revenues were priced on a performance basis, up from 47% reported for the second quarter of 2006. Lead generation revenues accounted for 8% of the 2007 second-quarter revenues or $408 million, up from the 7% ($284 million) reported in the second quarter of 2006. Contrast those statistics with the fact that approximately 46% of 2007 second-quarter revenues were priced on a CPM or impression basis, down from 48% for the same period in 2006.

Performance-based media is the future. We have already seen the movement with traditional Web content. Blog content, podcasts and video are all moving toward incorporating PPC pricing models, as well. I think the next move for these newer content formats is lead generation and cost-per-action. Let’s take video as an example. Silicon Alley has a write up about how advertisers are starting to take video more seriously, but that CPMs are declining. There is a debate going on around how money is going to be made on video advertising – what kind of ads will be used, the length, the format, etc. Applying the move toward performance-based media, I believe that someone is going to develop a lead generation engine around online video that will provide advertisers not only with the information on what videos were watched and how many times, but by whom and what their demographics are. Web Buyer’s Guide has a product on the market that does this, and I think it’s just a matter of time until one of the major video providers offers this type of advertising package.

And looking even further down the road – what’s the next wave of performance-based media? Right now companies pay for leads, but what if in the future companies begin to pay only for customer acquisition, and after an individual makes a purchase the lead provider gets a percentage. A large percentage. Sound like the affiliate programs that are widespread in the consumer market? Sort-of. But what happens when the technology is developed for a video provider to track an individual from the first video that they watch that peaks their interest in a product, all the way to the buy, and the video provider gets a portion of the sale?

Now that’s performance-based media worth talking about.

Disclosure: I used to work for Web Buyer’s Guide.

 

~ Foggy Autumn ~