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July 2010 Posts

7/2/2010 10:51:02 AM

Where are your customers searching for you today?

Traditionally, online marketing has had a heavy emphasis on search engine visibility, be that through organic search engine optimisation (SEO), paid advertising or activities associated with SEO such as back link strategies.

However, the recent changes to Google’s interface to put ‘universal search’ at our fingertips and bring us ‘real time’ information via Google Caffeine coupled with the exponential growth of social media set down a new challenge to businesses in keeping on top of their online marketing.

At this point, some of you will be thinking, “Oh no, not another blog post telling me I should be ‘tweeting’ this and ‘liking’ that”, but before you click away, stop. This post is actually about changes in user search habits.

Those of us who have been using the web for a long time have probably schooled ourselves to use our search engine of choice to look for information, products or services. However, many of us are spending a lot of our online hours on other web properties such as Youtube, Facebook or interacting via Twitter, and it has now been proven that web users are using these tools as search platforms as opposed to what we would conventionally call search engines.

Youtube is a solid example of where a social platform has become a powerful marketing tool and now search platform; gone are the days that Youtube is seen as the place to just see extreme sports fanatics injuring themselves (although it still excels in this area). Youtube is now packed with useful promotional and value-added content which can draw you to in to commercial, branded content. Want to know how to ice a cake, or change your iPod battery? It’s there on Youtube. But from there I can easily click-through to buy cake decoration materials or that money-saving iPod battery kit.

Facebook users are now also following this trend, using the Facebook search feature to look for products and services, when they would previously have used something like Google. There is already talk about social sites like Facebook taking search further and using your Friends’ preferences to customise the results you receive; effectively making them more like personal or tribal recommendations.

Savvy businesses have already boarded these bandwagons for some time, setting up Youtube channels, Facebook Fan pages or similar, to support their existing websites. Going forward, the real winners will be the businesses that understand how different segments of their online audience access and interact with all this different content, derive value from it, and then how it generates income for their business.

Does a search in Google present your tweets and videos? Does your audience search about how to do something with your product via Youtube? Do they find you through a social networking site? If you have not started broadening your online marketing tactics using social tools, then now is the time to start evaluating the best routes for you. If you have been doing this for a while, you now need to evaluate whether your separate presences and aggregators like Google are pulling your content together to best effect.

Authored by Ian Cockayne

7/27/2010 4:15:44 PM

Glue isn't sexy

Today’s post is about RDFa and Microformats with a bit about HTML5 thrown in.  Let’s be brutal Microformats, HTML5 and RDFa are never going to be sexy.  These are ways of structuring information on the web so that computers can make sense of it.  Microformats are like glue that sticks websites together.  Stop snoring at the back.

Let’s take a step back to where we are now.  Web pages are made from HTML and display information.  One web page might hold information about an event run by a government department and another might be a news item about the Computer Engineer Barbie (opens new window).  A computer can make some sense of the pages, enough to list them in a search engine.  However it is going to struggle to make sense of the content of the page.  Pulling lots of unstructured information from a variety of websites together so it can be used in some sort of sensible way would be a lot of hard work.

Now HTML5 will add some semantic replacements for existing bits of HTML.  A computer struggles to separate out those parts of a page which were headers, footers, navigation and article because they weren’t identified clearly in a page’s HTML.  HTML5 will allow a clearer separation of different bits of a page so computers can make more sense of them.  However this only allows a computer a vague idea of the scaffolding not the finer detail.

What RDFa and Microformats do is add finer structure to the information in a page so a computer can read it.  That means an address can be structured so a search engine can understand it and let searchers find the web page when they are looking for information about a particular area.  A product can be set up so it can be listed in specialist searches.  Events from the websites of different organisations in a city can be pulled together into a central site to promote them without anyone having to do anything.  News and reviews about Computer Engineer Barbie can be shared with news sites. 

That’s why, while Microformats (opens new window), HTML5 (opens new window) and RDFa (opens new window) are never going to be sexy, they are going to be useful.  They will be the new glue of the World Wide Web.  Once we’ve done the hard work of setting up a website so it uses the appropriate structure other, good, things can happen without our having to do anything else.