Thursday, August 30, 2012

Re-posted from O'Reilly Radar News and Comment
Why big data is big: the digital nervous system (via O'Reilly Radar)

Where does all the data in “big data” come from? And why isn’t big data just a concern for companies such as Facebook and Google? The answer is that the web companies are the forerunners. Driven by social, mobile, and cloud technology, there is an important transition taking place, leading us…

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Still Sitting on the Fence about Going Mobile?

In my last post, "Hey the 1990s called and they want their website back!" I mentioned that one of the key elements you should consider for a successful web site is mobile capability.

Courtesy of Campus in Community
Well, if you are still sitting on the fence about mobile, check out what specialty basket retailer BasketLady.com did and found an extra $3,000 in sales in her story from Internet Retailer magazine.

Mobile capability wasn't a top priority for BasketLady, but "when Katch’s e-commerce platform provider, CoreCommerce, part of Sum Effect Software Inc., offered to help her create an m-commerce site for free and with little to no work on her end, she figured, why not?"

If you are still not convinced, did you know that global e-commerce sales are growing more than 19% per year and that 20% of email sent by retailers is now opened on a mobile device?*

Mobile is not something to ignore anymore as an up and coming marketing channel.

*Sources - Goldman Sachs and Knotice, respectively from Internet Retailer magazine.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"The 1990s Called - They Want Their Website Back"

So you have a website. How's that working for you? Getting a lot of traffic, sales and interest from visitors making comments? No?

Well, it's no longer enough to just have a website. I've found that a lot of websites fall into this category: "Hey the 1990s called and they want their website back."

The era of the static website is long gone. You need an interactive site if you want visitors to come to your site and stay awhile.

Why do you think big book stores have a major coffee cafe inside like Starbucks or Seattle so a potential book buyer will stay awhile, have a cup of coffee, read a book and get so immersed in the book that they end up buying it.

Websites are the same except you can't smell the coffee, but you should have something just as enticing. Flashing, moving graphics? Floating or popup windows? Narrow page design so long that your hand goes numb from scrolling? NOT!

Here are some top level items you should consider for your site:
  • A website that uses blog software like Wordpress, Typepad or a custom design
  • A short video that doesn't insult one's intelligence
  • A slide show with good photographs and/or good content
  • Mobile viewing capability, i.e. Android and iPhone apps
  • Good content that actually helps people solve a problem or is of value
  • Fresh content as often as possible - hourly, daily, weekly
  • Social media and networking to help promote your product or service

Here's why you should consider these top level items.

The blog software allows anyone in your company to easily post content. You don't have to contact the IT department or hire a web designer.
The blog software also allows visitors to interact with any content you post. Now your customers, supporters, fans, stalkers, whoever feel they have a stake in your product or service and the power to mold it into the best thing since sliced bread.

The video sells your product or service instantly not only to PC visitors, but to visitors with mobile devices as well. This is also another reason why you should consider mobile capability. The slide presentation does the same in a different format but not as effectively as a video.

The mobile capability opens your site up to a marketing channel that is accessible everywhere, anytime. Visitors do not have to wait to be in front of a PC to view your site. It is the next big Internet wave and it's coming whether you are there or not.

Good content - this is the Holy Grail of the 21st century.

The search engine algorithms are intelligent enough to detect sentence structure as opposed to the earlier gibberish used to increase your rankings.

The content should not be how great your product or service is, but how it can help customers solve a problem or answer questions without the sales pitch. It should impart knowledge about your industry and give readers a good feeling about your product or service.

Information is your lost-leader of the 21st century.

Your content must be truthful and presented in a personal, one-on-one way. The Internet today is the age of highly-customized marketing down to the individual level.

Lastly, you really need to jump on the social networking bandwagon. It is a new and revolutionary, hard to fathom the numbers marketing channel. Social media is where you will learn the most about what your customers think of your product or service. Here, they will shape your brand into what they want it to be.

Imagine launching a product or service and getting a flurry of constructive and non-so-constructive advice not from only a few people, but from hundreds or thousands? Take what the majority says to heart and improve your offering.

When it works, it works like a firestorm and if your product/service goes viral, you'll need extra capacity to handle all the traffic to your site. Your site may even crash from too many visitors - what a terrible problem to have.

_____

In case you don't want to do all of these things yourself (don't do it all yourself), here are some recommended experts I've worked with who can help tremendously, myself included.

For the Wordpress site:
Michelle Gower's Gower Power - expert and creative WordPress Training, Consulting, Strategy, and Website design.

For a really unique customized website:
Outer Banks Internet - call Chris Hess or Tricia Joseph at 252 441-6698 or contact them through their website at http://obinet.com

For Social Networking:
Martin Brossman - sign up to many of his daily courses on social networking for businesses. You'll be surprised at what you didn't know. Check out Martin's Facebook page for more up to the minute information.

For Good Content:
Hire me. I created search engine optimized copy for one site that increased their visitors by 16,000% the first month it was launched. Check out my main site: Outer Banks Publishing Group.

For Mobile Apps and Video:
There are a lot of good firms out there and prices vary. Do a Google or Bing search.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Web Analytics - another excuse to procrastinate

Unless it's your job or you are making money doing it, I find a lot of people with blogs and web sites don't often check their web analytics to see how their site(s) are doing.

It's like balancing your checkbook - something you should do regularly, but always put off until the last possible moment. Even the word is foreboding - Analytics.

Well, I'm here to ease your pain. Call your analytics a guest book and you always want to check the guess book to see who has visited or left a message (converted to a sale or download).

Web Analytics is like a computer program - it has all the bells and whistles, but you only need to use the bells or just the whistles. Take a standard word processing program. There are several ways to make a word bold or change a typeface, but you only use one the ways.

It's the same with analytics. You don't need all the information it tracks, only the most important pieces of data related to your site and your promotions.

Let's look at a typical scenario. You send out a monthly newsletter about new products you have just introduced. You know that most of your email list, say 80%, consists of people who live in your city. You have also placed links in your email to only the new products featured.

A few days later a few sales come in and then there is a large spike in sales. Your email marketing firm tells you that 12% of your emails converted meaning that 12% of your email recipients at least opened your email. The marketing firm also tells you a majority of your emails were forwarded to others. But, you don't know where your customers are coming from for future promotions.

You see from your sales records that the spike in sales is coming from Florida and most sales are for a new wooly scarf from a new designer you just took on in your clothing line.

Now you are scratching your head and wondering, "Who would buy a wooly scarf in Florida?"

A quick look at your web analytics and you see that many of your visitors and your conversions are concentrated in pockets in the larger metropolitan areas. And the majority of conversions (sales) were made late at night.

You are ready to call that psychic you always passed on the highway each morning to work to find out who this new customer segment is and their demographics.

But you don't have to call her, just look at your analytics again. Another piece of interesting data shown is that the majority of visitors to your site who purchased a wooly scarf did it from a mobile device. Now you know your new customer segment.

Playing a web analytics detective, you put the clues together:
  • A good number of your emails were forwarded to others
  • The majority of transactions occurred late at night
  • Sales were concentrated around larger metropolitan areas
  • Online sales were made mostly with mobile devices
Your new customer segment is mainly composed of female teenagers and young people.
How do you know? Elementary my dear Watson.

When a few teens saw your new scarf, they were excited and wanted to share with all their friends - the email forwarding then ensued.

The majority of sales occurred late at night - teens and young people are busy texting each other at night and probably texted your website address to each other. Ordering was done at night.

Sales were concentrated around metro areas - most teens live close to each other by the location of their high school so you see the higher sales in the more populated areas.

Most of the sales were made using mobile devices - younger people are more comfortable with using a mobile device and especially using it to make purchases. You can assume the majority of sales came from teens and young people.

To test your conclusions, you send another email marketing newsletter with a new scarf and other items from your new designer and track the online sales with your web analytics. Your sales take off.

So you can see it pays to check your web analytics...at least once in awhile. Don't put it off.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Search Engine Optimization is like shouting on the Internet


Only you don't make a sound.

When you optimize a site for search engines, you are ranking your site high up in the list when potential visitors search on Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines for your site.

Optimally, excuse the pun, you want your listing to be on the first page and high enough on the list above the fold - the fold being the next section of the page when you scroll down.

Why? Because most people when searching for something rarely scroll down and even fewer go to the second and subsequent pages for the topic they are searching. You want to be as high up on the page as possible, even first, which is the best position.

So how do you optimize your site to increase your ranking on the search engines? Here are some things you can do.

Keywords and Keyword Phrases - think of as many keywords that accurately describes the subject, theme, purpose and topic of your site. Place most of those words preferably in the first three paragraphs of your blog posts or home page making sure your content is still meaningful and readable.

Take the same keywords and phrases and place them in the title and meta data tags in the HTML, CSS or PHP script of your web site or blog. Most blog sites have directions on how to do this or you can ask your webmaster to do it for you.

If you are not a literary type and stumped for keywords and keyword phrase combinations, here are free keyword tools from seobook.com:
I like Google's Adwords Keyword Tool because it shows you which keywords are used the most by users of the Google Search Engine. You can put in one or several words and the tool will tell you what words get the highest hits on their search engine.

For example, if you put in literary books the following keywords come up with the highest hits:

books
literary books
literary criticism books
literature books

Give it try. You will be surprised the keywords people use to find things on the Internet.

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Triangle emerges as hotbed of advanced analytics :: Editor's Blog at Local Tech Wire

This story is an emerging trend. Another telltale sign is that Adobe recently purchased Omniture, one of the premiere web analytics firm.

Triangle emerges as hotbed of advanced analytics :: Editor?s Blog at Local Tech Wire

Monday, May 4, 2009

So You Thought Chasing Ghosts was Easy

You have proven to be a top notch Internet marketer and you are diving thousands of visitors to your site each day. No? That's not happening? Don't fret. There's more to chasing ghosts than you think.


I see driving traffic to your site similar to hand cranking a generator. As long as you keep cranking, the lights stay on and traffic flows to your site. Once you stop, the lights go out and your traffic goes away. The key is content and frequent content. So make sure you have interesting material and you update it at least once a week or more.


Just six reports will tell you all you need to know


Now that you have the basics, there are really just six reports that will tell you all you need to know. And you can create a customized dashboard on Google Analytics showing just these six key performance indicators (KPI).

Here are the coveted six KPIs:

1. Where visitors are coming from; what websites or links are bringing people to your site.

You can find this information under the Traffic Sources link on your Google dashboard.

Under Traffic Sources you will see Direct Traffic. These are visitors who know your site URL and either typed it directly into their browsers or have it as an RSS link or saved in favorites. These are loyal visitors who want to make sure they find your site again. So work on driving up your direct traffic by posting your site address, emailing it to friends, relatives, and coworkers and just shamelessly promoting it.

The other KPI under Direct Traffic is Referring Sites. This information will tell you which sites are driving the most traffic to your site. These are the blogs and sites where a link to your site is listed if you had done your homework and asked to exchange links or left comments on blogs. The highest traffic generator this week for this blog was Joe Wikert's Publishing 2020 blog where he was gracious enough to run my post announcing this blog. My post drove traffic to this site.

2. What search engines and keywords are driving visitors to your site?

You will see the link Search Engines also under Traffic Sources. Here is a list of the search engines used the most by your visitors. When you first start using analytics only Google will show up since it is most popular. In a few weeks, you should see others. You may want to place an ad on the search engine home page that drives the most traffic.

Keywords are probably the most valuable KPI in the mix. When you click on the Keywords link you will see the words your visitors put in the search engines to find your site. These are the words you want to make sure are always used on every page of your site or in all the posts on your blog. For this blog, I'm finding "dog chasing ghosts" are the most popular keywords and that is the title of this blog. I purposely chose that title because it intrigues most people and is easy to remember. And analytics is proving me correct.

Keywords are the words you want to make sure are always used on every page of your site or in all the posts on your blog.

Keywords are also important when you bid on adwords through Google. If "ghosts" is my most popular keyword, I could buy (bid) on its ranking for this blog. Depending how deep my pockets are would determine how high in the search list my site will appear when visitors search for "ghosts" on Google. There is a lot more information on adwords at Google so check it out if you want to know more.

3. Content. This is what it is all about.

If you don't have good content nothing you do will keep your traffic flowing. Under the Content link on your dashboard you will see which content generated the most visitors. This is a highly important indicator because it will show you what your visitors want to read, and what subject matter is most important to them.

With a website, the content metric will tell you which content is most popular. With this information you can then optimize the other pages with similar content.

With a blog, you can see which subject matter is most important to your visitors and post accordingly.

With my other blog, The Writer's Edge, the analytics tells me that the most popular posts deal with how to articles on writing and publishing. This tells me that the majority of the audience is composed of aspiring writers and just published authors.

4. Top Landing Pages


A nice metric under Content tells you which pages are most interesting to your visitors. Analytics also gives you the bounce rate for each page. Remember bounce rate are visitors who stayed less than 10 seconds. This metric will not only tell you which page is most successful, it will tell you which pages need to be changed or fixed to make them more attractive.



5. Top Exit Pages


Just the opposite of Top Landing Pages. Did the majority of your visitors exit from your home page? If so, there is nothing there to entice them to explore further on your site. Or did they exit on the last page of your navigation tree meaning that they viewed your entire site before leaving.


6. The Site Overlay


A really cool feature and its free! When you launch it, a new window with your site pops up and in a few seconds boxes appear over your links with percentages in them. When you scroll your mouse over the boxes, it tells you how many times visitors clicked on those links in a given time period. This is especially helpful on a home page because you can see if your visitors clicked on your navigation links to go to other pages. If you find that your visitors are clicking on links that take them off your site, I would eliminate those.


Another cool thing about this tool is that you can change the layout of your page to see the best place to position your navigation links or checkout cart.


Well, that's it for now. Don't tell me your brain hurts - just open your dashboard and use the information to optimize your site. Happy ghost chasing.

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