Microsoft Concealing True Market Share Potential?

At a recent conference (indeed every conference) that I go to, part of the debate revolves around the question… what does Microsoft need to do to be able to move the dial in terms of its share of the search market. Globally, Hitwise and Marketshare are suggesting that Microsoft accounts for less about 3% or search traffic (http://marketshare.hitslink.com/search-engine-market-share.aspx?qprid=4). In the US alone, the share is about double, at 6% according to Comscore (http://www.accuracast.com/search-daily-news/seo-7471/us-search-engine-market-share-data-jan-2009/).Now both sources are very reputable, but I question what’s under the bonnet at Microsoft. What might they still be able to do to dramatically move that dial?

Can MS change the market share just by a uniformity of message?

When we talk about the search engines, we say “Google, Microsoft and Yahoo”; Not “Google, Live and Yahoo” or “Google, MSN and Yahoo”. Indeed – Microsoft’s Adlab tool confirms the clear relative strengths of the three brand names that I associate with Microsoft’s search product:clip_image002(Source: http://adlab.microsoft.com/Keyword-Forecast/Default.aspx)Now it seems to me that there really shouldn’t be much debate here. Couldn’t Microsoft dramatically increase its profile in search if they simply accepted that they were called “MSN” or “Microsoft” instead of trying to create new brand messages?There is confusion amongst the search community as to where to find Microsoft’s organic search technology. A few years ago, Microsoft had to ask Webmasterworld to change a forum name from “MSN search” to something more appropriate because the product wasn’t “MSN”. They eventually settled on “Microsoft Search Live” to make sure nobody was confused. I am not sure that this isn’t more a case of covering the bases as much as promoting a clear brand message.

Can MS change the market share by changing the paradigm?

Over the last year or so, agencies tracking these things have decided to expand “search” to include social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. In doing this, they should rightly bring in Instant Messenger and other MSN products. If they do this, then we should really start to see a different model of the search landscape.image(Source: Compete.com)So if Microsoft starts to really mine properties like Microsoft.com and MSN.com, we quite clearly start to see a very different picture of Market Share. Compete suggests that adding MSN usage and Microsoft usage together we en up with similar unique visitors to Google… and we haven’t even included Live.com or other Microsoft owned properties. Of course – the traffic is qualitatively different… people are not at Microsoft.com just for search purposes – but at the moment, all the metrics seem to be judging Microsoft on its core search platforms in terms of market share. If Microsoft can educate the monitoring companies to include much of their other web properties in the calculation, then they start to look like a much more serious contender.About the Author:Dixon Jones is the managing director of Receptional, a UK based Internet Marketing Consultancy. He also runs a personal blog at http://dixonjones.com and can be found on Twitter.

Why the Page Rank Toolbar has Little to do with Links

Everyone assumes that green line is all to do with backlinks.

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Rubbish.

I’ll demonstrate.

Seasoned SEOs have been trying to tell you for years to stop looking at that little green line on the Google Toolbar plugin. I only found out this morning that the toolbar has recentlly been updated, when Evilgreenmonkey twittered verbal abuse at realizing Jane Copland was Page Rank 5 from nowhere. First things first… congratulations Jane, but that’s certainly no disrespect to Rob, who (apart from being far too young) certainly knows his stuff! I admit that vanity then got the better of me and I looked at my own page rank. (Note to self – listen to your own advice… ignore that green line, at least for link purposes.)

Let’s look at these three bloggers – PR5: Dixon Jones (your unworthy narrator); PR5: Jane Copland (Erstwhile Mozzer) & PR4: Rob Kerry (Evilgreenmonkey).

So two at PR5 and one at PR4. Evilgreenmonkey must have the least links, yes? er… no. He has the most. He has ALWAYS had the most. Rob started actively blogging (it seems) back in April 2007. Compared to myself – latecomer – in September 2007. I’ve never caught him on links as you can see below.

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But WAIT… maybe back links is a bad measure? Maybe it is actually the number of referring domains that we should be looking at? Well I would be inclined to agree, but here, Rob trumps me even more:

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Now Janecopland’s site is so new that I can’t even see her site in the Wayback archives and Majestic hasn’t gotten around to analyzing her backlink data yet, but Receptional’s own backlink tools take a more up to date source and we can see that she is even further behind Rob at the moment in every metric:

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Heck – according to Google and Yahoo, Jane’s only got 11 pages indexed!

So there you have it. That PageRank green line is not all about links.

So why DOES Google give the green lines out the way it does? Well Google says it in the first screenshot… it is about “Google’s view of the importance of this page”, not “Google’s view of the importance of links to this page”. It is a long way away from the “PageRank” described in the original Stanford patent and is more like a horoscope reading than a scientific measure.

Let’s face it, you don’t need to go far to see why Google makes the distinction. Prior to Evilgreenmonkey posting on 4th April, his previous post on that domain was September 3rd (presumably 2008). Before that, July 4th. When he writes, Rob gets heard and plenty of people comment, but you still need to actually write content for Google to chew up and digest.

I think that Jane will have to work hard to maintain Google’s impression of her site, though. From the limited data I have, Compete.com concurs that Jane’s site has some traction – but we have seen time and again new sites doing well in Google for a short period and then retracting back as Google gets more data.

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I hope that’s cleared things up a bit about that green fairy dust as Mike Grehan calls it.

Dixon.

WordPress for iPhone review

I downloaded WordPress for iPhone the other day (version 1.21). I spent ages looking through the features and writing up a fantastic review… On my iPhone of course.

Then I went to publish it and lost the whole lot when the connection was lost.

FAIL.

Let’s hope the next version fixes that. There’s nothing worse than crafting something you hope people will enjoy and then having it destroyed by technology.

Dixon.

Landing Page Testing

My company, Receptional Internet Marketing are now making use of a new Google product called Website Optimizer. I am at a conference in Dublin where Jon Myers and Russell Sutton from Conversion Works are talking about landing page optimization.

I know that Russell is one of the few Google Optimizer professionals in the country (we have Nick Gaunt at Receptional) but up first was Jon Myers who is from Mediavest. Like Receptional, Mediavest is a Google Certified Adwords company. Their presentations give a compelling case for using this technology.

Jon talked a little about Website Optimiser, but then really started to concentrate on the “quality score” metric in Google Adwords. He pointed out the need to ensure that the quality score of your advert is “good” or “great”.

To improve your Adwords campaign, you can test different landing pages for your adverts. Within the Google Adwords system, you can set Google up to alternately send traffic to first the home page and then alternately the product specific page, for example, and Google helps to tell you which page engages the user better and – assuming you have conversion tracking set up in Adwords – you can work out which page generates a higher return on investment.

Jon also noted a few other tools. www.usertesting.com was recommended as well as a particular favourite of Receptional – crazyegg.com. Jon also noted that www.conversion-rates-expert.com has all the decent  free tools listed in one place for conversion and landing page testing.

Jon than went on to the main course – A:B Testing and Multivariate testing and used a case study  of Skype, who tested three different layouts for their “buy” page (which is pretty close to their home page). Using Google’s website Optimizer, they were able to randomize the three variants for the users and track the orders and revenues generated from the three layouts. The audience were asked to guess which page worked best… and most got it wrong.

Jon showed some nice screenshots from  Website optimizer that showed how you can easily drill down and understand the effects of what you test, but did warn about the issues of some mathematical principals surrounding test using limited amounts of data.

Jon feels times are changing and that the marketer is really starting to get in control of the message from search, but you only have 1.8 seconds to attract your user from search these days. This means that you now need to start treating Google itself as a landing page. Local business listings in Google can have phone numbers ON the Google results, for example, meaning that  now your customer doesn’t even have to come to your wesbite to convert.

As an aside to Jon’s presentation, Receptional have a number of technologies that allow us to track users by ohone number – one of which can even tie phone numbers into Google Analytics results.

Russell came on next. His business really only concentrates on conversions, not traffic generation. He started by asking the question: “What’s in it for you”? and said that it is all about outcomes – in terms of money or actions or market share or any other chosen metric. Knowing what you want to get “more of” is key to knowing what to test.

Russel; says that when you know what you want more of, you then need to use analytics to find the pain. (Receptional has Google analytics and Yahoo analytics expertise in-house). He took an example from Google analytics which clearly showed two pages that had a much higer bounce rate on a site than any other and chose these to start testing variations. He pointed out that the higher the traffic to those pages, the more the pain for your business.

He recommended starting with a super small test to get used to the Google Website Optimiser technology. You then need a hypothesis of why you think a particular page may be broken. You then should be bold – try some  changes that look really different and test the outcomes.

Russell used a courier company case study. The home page had a huge bounce rate and their hypothesis was that the “get a quote” button was tiny. They then came up with 8 variations on a theme – not just one.  Again – the audience was asked which variation worked best. It turned out again that we all guessed wrong.

The winning result increased the click through to the quote page by 101%.

Russell and Jon’s presentations – together with Receptional’s own experiences – show that Google optimizer can make an incredible difference to your buttom line. The maths is compelling. At Recetional, Nick Gaunt has taken on this specialism and has taken the Google website optimizer exams. If you would like to contact him, you can do so via www.receptional.com/contact .

 

Why a big following on Twitter is a scam

I hit 500 followers today on Twitter. It gave me a fuzzy feeling, and I took a screenshot for prosterity. There are loads and loads of people who seem to have thousands of followers and at first glance you might say that they are the ones that we really should all be following. But I don’t think so. I think that’s a scam. You, too, can have a thousand followers by the end of the day. I’ll show you how… and also show argue why you shouldn’t try.

How to get a thousand followers on Twitter

Well frankly it looks really easy to get that many followers. Just go and follow all of the followers of the biggest twitter pimps in the industry. The one I’d start with are http://twitter.com/guykawasaki (73,087 followers) and if you want to find the biggest pimps in your own vertical, just find a name you respect in your vertical and plug them into http://friendorfollow.com Then click on the “friends” tab and then sort by “followers”. My most popular friend is http://twitter.com/stephenfry (238,870 followers). But he’s one of the very few people I follow for no logical reason.

Presumably Twitter have something in place to stop this sort of thing, but in principal (you can either do this manually, or using a script…)  you can manually follow one person in Stephen fry’s follow list every 5 seconds, that would mean you are following 5,760 in an 8 hour day. Presumably around one in four blindly follow you back. So the next day, you un-follow any person that didn’t follow you back and you have well over 1000 followers.

So let’s say you didn’t trip Twitter’s filters… maybe did this but at a slower pace and less obviously. What have you achieved? Well you now have over 1000 followers who are – for all useful marketing purposes – a random sample. They have no allegiance to your area of business and no knowledge of who you are. If I did that, then talking about SEO on Twitter would be receiving Nigerian phishing scams in the follower’s inbox. It won’t work talking to these people.

But it’s still going to work for your target audience… just carry on being you and I guess what will happen is that people in your industry will then start to follow you and those not in your industry will start to fade away. People may look at you and see you have lots of followers – and they make the tragic assumption that the followers are genuine. Oh… wait… that’s scuppering my intended argument to say don’t do that. Hmm…

There’s something very wrong here. I can see how to double my followers – and I suspect I won’t even upset my “real” friends in the process. In doing so, I create an illusion of being more important than I am, which might have the effect of creating a self created mantle. I don’t like the sound of that – do you?

So – the moral of the tale. Only follow people you know or admire. Un-follow anyone with followings greater than a field of sheep. Otherwise you play into a cycle of deception which is already being played on a huge scale of twitter.

Yahoo Briefcase Closing

Yahoo Briefcase was one of the first systems to allow you to store files in the clouds. Actually – it wasn’t one of the first systems, but before then the Internet was running at… well a snail’s pace. (Yes.. I know snail’s cant “run”. Leave me alone!)

I just heard today that this service is to close. This follows a multitude of closure announcements from Yahoo as it tries to turn its hand from everything to a presumably much leaner machine.

I would have thought that before they just close all these services, they should consider giving them to entrepreneurs that never had billions to protect them in times of crises. I think I could have made a small fortune selling a service like that. I just had to work with a Russian web development team to build something similar for a friend. Sure – mine’s better (now… thanks Nick!) but I doubt it has the scalability that Yahoo had.

Yahoo – you know all these free services that you dropped… didn’t you think to try just puttiong the price up to something profitable before just dumping services on your customers?

Ah well… your recession… your rules.

New WordPress Theme

I ran a contest to redesign my site and then got the winning design marked up into a WordPress theme. It has a few bugs – particularly because the Markup guys had to second guess the plug-ins I was using. For example, I haven’t gotten the “Get Recent Comments” to work yet in the sidebar and I also seem to have two different social bookmarking plugins working. (OK – that last one I can fix as soon as I have posted this)

Overall though, I like it. Joost always said “You can’t have a big enough signup button“. Well – I tried! Since I have a server dedicated to an email marketing suite we bought years ago and hardly ever use, I thought a newsletter signup was good just for extra belt and braces call to action.

So the total cost of this? Well – some of you will say I was robbed, others will say it was a bargain. I felt I paid a fair market rate all along the way, though.

So what do you think of it?

What is Phwittering?

Over the last few days, I’ve been followed by _stuntdubl_ , _rustybrick, and _randfish_ to name just three on Twitter. None of these were the genuine article… as is obvious by the trailing or preceding underscores. They are phishers on Twitter trying to make you think their posts are from people “in the know” (Which I’ve just called Phwittering). The real Twitterers are, by the way, Rustybrick of SE Roundtable fameand Todd from Clientside.

The real giveaway is how many people follow back. I looked at the _RustyBrick Phisher and over 60 people had followed back (out of 2900 that the phisher had started to follow) so even in the world of the informed, a huge percentage are getting sucked in.

The moral? Don’t follow people you don’t know!

Dixon.

Free Web Based FTP Tool

Want to FTP some files but you are away from your computer? Or in a company where downloading and FTP program or using port 21 is blocked? Or most likely in an internet cafe (or indeed the WiFi connection at an Internet conference? Well here is a free web based FTP tool that I put up after being caught out one time too many.

To be fair, two clients wanted me to look into it for them… So that’s my New Year’s day sorted 🙂

Anyway – something to add to my growing list of Useful SEO tools.

New free SEO tools access

labs.receptional.com is a free tools area provided by my web marketing agency. We’ve just updated it so that we don’t have to sneak out secret logins at SES link training conferences or through Debra Mastaler‘s excellent Linkspiel blog.

You can now register on the site and when you do you get a few neat tools at your disposal:

  • SERP preview Gives you a quick look at how your web page should appear in Google Serps. You should be able to adapt your page description to make this as friendly as possible, encouraging a better click though rate.
  • Link Analyser is a favourite of mine, because it quickly compares the back-links of two competing domains and sorts them by backlink type. 
  • Theme Extractor takes a web page and tells you what a search engine is likely to think the content is about
  • Accessibility Viewer Shows you web page in high contrast layout.
  • Related Words Gives you an idea of what other words you might want to start optimising for or including in your web content.
  • Do us a favour… If you use the tools, please write about them somewhere and give us a link? If you would like them on your own site, give us a shout on the comments and suggestions… It will prompt us to build a free seo tools widget.

    Thanks,

    Dixon.