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Friday, November 18th, 2005

Google and Yahoo Going VC

Business is funny sometimes. Massive amounts of capital, planning and commitment can be marshaled, administered and suddenly put to use backing a project or initiative that even surprises close contacts. A funny thing happened in London yesterday. John Battelle, author of “The Search“, blogger extraordinaire, founder of Federated Media Publishing, and suspected confidant of Google founders Larry and Sergey, learned something about Google he didn’t know before. Google has established its own venture capital investment fund. Read more…

For folks who’ve seen the term Web 2.0 but haven’t yet found a simple and succinct explanation of what it all might mean, Search Engine Journal editor Loren Baker has composed the bestest ‘lil paragraph I’ve seen on the subject. Read more…

The line it is drawn the curse it is cast
The slow one now will later be fast
As the present now will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

(Bob Dylan, 1963)

A period of unprecedented change is upon us. From the micro-world of our personal finance and local economy to the macro-world of international development, the way things get done today is fundamentally different from the way things got accomplished even five years ago. Read more…

Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages… We are proud to welcome you to the one, the only, the uniquely meglomartical Yahoo Shoposphere !

Yahoo has introduced an oddly named but equally compelling shopping suggestion site known as Yahoo Shoposphere. The shoposphere, is, on the surface, a wish-list you can share with eighty million of your closest friends.

The environment is organized around Pick Lists, virtual shopping lists made up by the registered users. One such list is, Gifts for a New Zealand Sports Fan . Another is the helpful Ultimate Travel Bag . Once made, lists can be shared with friends and family and displayed on the Shoposphere website.

The shoposphere also works around the Yahoo Shopping search engine with products listed in its database made available in the search results.

Naturally, it is also a space merchants can list items for sale. For instance, Jay presents his list of Nissan 350Z/300ZX Aftermarket Parts as a guide to finding such parts.

The shoposphere is a cool shopping application that really could make the Holiday season simpler for many people, especially for long-distance gift giving.

One important critique though. The name. It hurts the fingers to type it.

Google has scored a major coup with the release of Google Analytics. In the spirit of helping webmasters and search marketers move site visitors into converted site users, Google is offering its enormously useful site analytics tool, Urchin, free of charge under the re-branded name Google Analytics. The software is designed to help webmasters and marketers understand site visitors and their behaviours. Last year, it cost almost $500/mth to subscribe to.

For Google, search is about business and business is about results. Results are measured in many different ways, depending on the goals of those gauging the yardstick. For Google, the yardstick continues to appear infinite, defying common sense, which logically tells us otherwise. The introduction of Google Analytics solidifies Google’s place as the pinnacle of search advertising providers and is likely to convert a lot of webmasters into Google account holders.

“Conversions” is a term used by marketers and webmasters as a way to measure results. The word itself is rather ambiguous and can have slightly different meanings for different people but ultimately means the same thing. Conversion means getting site visitors to do an intended task while visiting your site. For an ecommerce site, site-visits that lead to sales are considered conversions. Sites that primarily provide information might see an increase in repeat visitors as an indication of successful conversions. Similarly, sites running ads powered by Google AdWords might consider ad-clicks as successful conversions as Google certainly does.

According to the basic information provided on the features page, Google Analytics can help you, “Learn how visitors interact with your website and identify the navigational bottlenecks that keep them from completing your conversion goals. Find out how profitable your keywords are across search engines and campaigns. Pinpoint where your best customers come from and which markets are most profitable to you. Google Analytics gives you this and more through easy-to-understand visually enhanced reports.”

Once a user gets into the system, they are rewarded with access to a remarkable tool. If they are an AdWords advertiser or AdSense partner, a wide array of tools and assistants are provided to help convert visitors into billable (or payable) clicks. Google obviously believes that it can make more money by helping AdWords advertisers and the owners of the website that display AdWords. For Google however, the rewards go deeper than a basic bottom line.

Yesterday, the system ground to a near halt as millions of webmasters rushed to sign up. Google will be receiving a wealth of consumer and marketing information from sites using the software, information that will be incorporated into Google’s understanding of how users travel through sites found in its index. That kind of information is worth its weight in Google shares.

Google Analytics is a members-only service. Unless they already have one, webmasters and advertisers will need to establish an account through Gmail or AdWords before being granted free access. Once an account is established, the information provided is pretty intense.

Separated into three general user types, Executive, Webmaster, and Marketer, Google Analytics shows up to the minute information on over seventy essential elements, giving decision makers a lot of data to work with. The internal system is set up around a left-hand side dashboard of expanding drop-down menus for each of the general user overlays, each of which displays a series of reports. Users can also select a drop down display that expands to show the full range of elements to analyze.

Having said all that, it isn’t really possible to give a full review of the data generated by Google Analytics as we have just inserted the tracking-script into documents on our site this morning. It will take about twelve hours for information to accumulate.

On the surface, it appears as if Google has taken some of the best elements of other analytic programs and integrated AdWords/AdSense conversion support features. The layout is easy to use and there is a good mix of information and supporting graphical elements to ease the headaches commonly associated with statistical analysis. The first overlay provides an at-a-glance dashboard with gauges indicating site visitors, unique visitors, top documents, top keywords, and other user-specific information sets.

Account access can be shared with other Google Account holders, a feature that will allow SEOs and SEMs to share information directly with their clients. While it is a violation of the Terms of Service agreement to charge clients for access to data generated by Google Analytics, a service helping them interpret and understand the stats and information seems a natural evolution for search marketing professionals.

As reported by David Utter in WebProNews, Google Analytics doesn’t seem to worry newly minted rivals WebTrends and ClickTracks though its introduction did send shivers down the spines of shareholders in analytics firm Web Side Story.

Michael Stebbins, VP Marketing for analytics firm ClickTracks, said: “Google is the rising tide that raises all the web analytics ships. The announcement to offer free analytics is a great validation of our market. We’re thrilled they are opening the market’s eyes to what web analytics can do today. At the same time, we need to put it in perspective: when Google offered Blogger it did not put other blogger platforms out of business. When the tide levels out, the web analytics tools that provide the most value for marketers will be the ones that thrive.” (Source, WebProNews)

Google has made a masterful move in the introduction of Google Analytics. They have produced a superior analytic package, branded it under their name, and tied it into the most popular paid-advertising program on the web. Under other circumstances it wouldn’t take long for one of its competitors to catch up with their own analytics package however, Google’s purchase of Urchin last year put them far ahead of any rivals.

Has the Google Jagger update broken the backs of black-hat practitioners? Probably not but when the support structures fail and the roof comes caving in it’s vaguely understandable to think for a short moment that the sky must be falling on them. That’s the impression I got reading blog entries and search marketing forums over the past few weeks. Google’s recent algorithm update appears to have shaken a few trees and made a number of people who profess to practice what has been termed “black-hat” techniques sort of nervous. Read more…

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Thursday, November 10th, 2005

Why are Bugs Called Bugs?

Have you ever wondered why we call software or hardware errors “bugs”? What a strange word to describe a mistake. Insects, though some may find them repellent, are among the most complex and perfectly adapted creatures on this planet. How can something that doesn’t work be compared with things that actually function better than most living organisms on Earth? The term has never made much sense to me even though I use it in one way or another at least once a week. Read more…

The searchable universe has expanded enormously over the past year. From the doubling or tripling of the size of search engine indexes to the evolution of several engines with unique focuses, the amount of data accessible by search engine users has grown faster this year than any other since the dawn of the public, commercial Internet. Read more…

Yahoo and TiVo today announced a partnership between the two firms that, as of Monday will allow users to program their TiVo recorders via the search portal.

The new feature places a “Record to my TiVo” button on Yahoo TV pages and likely on other TV related content found in the Yahoo network. When a TiVo user (who also has a Yahoo membership) clicks the button, a signal is sent to their TiVo unit. Users are cautioned to expect a one hour lag time if their TiVo is connected with broadband and a 36-hour lag if they use dial-up. TiVo is said to be in discussions with other search firms as well.

The major search engines are all investing heavily in video with Yahoo and Google leading the pack. In August, Yahoo signed deals with CNN and ABC News, expanding the content offered through Yahoo TV.

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Friday, November 4th, 2005

Dot-Com Monopoly, the 2000 Edition

I have a confession to make. While this will come as no surprise to my coworkers who know me as an obsessive personality, I must admit to my readers and publishers that I have become an addict. To be more accurate, I have rediscovered a compulsion that I thought had left me when I was in my early 20’s, Monopoly. Read more…