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January 12, 2009

Explore the Web with Alternative Browsers

Web browsers are integral to everyday life for anyone who spends any time on the Internet. Whether you work for an online company, spend your days blogging and tweeting, buy everything from clothes to airline tickets online or connect to friends, music, and your community on the Internet, you do so within the confines of a browser. Most people use the same few browsers, and probably don't think much about what their particular browser choice offers (or doesn't offer) when compared to other browsers. Since the space in which you interact with online content does help shape your online experience though, I thought it'd be interesting to present alternatives to the most used browsers.

Almost everyone - 98.09% of web users - access the web using three basic browsers - Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari according to research from Net Applications. The Net Applications graph below shows 2008 web browser market share in the 3rd quarter. It's interesting to note that the introduction of Google Chrome in September of this year actually altered the browser share landscape - when I looked at the data for the entirety of 2008, Chrome didn't appear. When I looked at the data for the third quarter however, Chrome made a slight difference in the browser shares.

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So what do the "Other" browsers offer that differentiates them from the Big Three?

Released as a beta product in September, Google Chrome is attracting attention with its simple design and open source code. Designed to support web applications that run within the browser and prevent the entire browser from crashing if one tab crashes, Google Chrome solves problems that other browsers have not yet fully addressed. Google Chrome also has helpful features - like the ability to open web applications via desktop shortcuts (instead of through the browser) - that offer users flexibility in how they access their favorite applications.

A multi-platform supported browser that works on Windows, MacOS, Linux, Solaris, QNX, OS/2, FreeBSD, and BeOS, Opera browsers are available for the desktop, on advanced mobile devices (such as Blackberries), and even on low-end phones. Opera offers advanced web browsing features that include advanced tab management, customizable web searches, a "Speed Dial" feature that allows you to access your favorite websites using visual bookmarks that appear when you open a new tab, an email client that indexes and sorts your messages for you.

Though not listed in Net Application's data, Flock is another browser that connects users with social networks and Web 2.0 features. Powered by the same technology that runs the Mozilla Firefox browser, Flock integrates photo, video and social networking services right into the browser. When using Flock, it's easy to create blog right from the interface, subscribe to and read RSS feeds in the window, and log-in to your favorite networks and communities automatically when opening the browser. Flock has also developed the Gloss Edition browser, which is the first browser designed specifically for people interested in fashion and entertainment.

As people reach the limits of interacting with the Internet and its content, companies are bound to jump in and offer new, different, more personalized and ever-increasingly niche ways of working online. What browser you choose (and which add-ons you install) can change how you view the web and how you view the world. If you've never experienced browser beyond Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, consider checking out one of these alternatives. To learn about browsers not mentioned here, check out the Wikipedia article dedicated to the subject.

October 02, 2008

Search and Google Aren't Synonymous

search.jpgThere has been quite a bit of disappointment over Google, Yahoo and Microsoft searches, and their agreement in censoring search results as part of China's Golden Shield Project. According to Wikipedia the Golden Shield Policy is the censorship and surveillance project operated by the Ministry of Public Security (MPS) of the People's Republic of China. Because of this policy, some people have ceased their use of Google, Yahoo and Microsoft searches, and are looking for alternative search engines to fill the void.

In complying with the Chinese government's censorship policies, the following appears when a censored term is searched using the popular search engines: In accordance with local laws, regulations and policies, part of the search result is not shown. (translated). And while the search engines have been censoring their results for several years at this point, the censorship controversy has been in the news recently due to the recent Beijing Olympics and the heavy media presence in the country.

Even though the problem encountered by journalists covering the Olympics had more to do with IP addresses being blocked (for "controversial" sites like Amnesty International and BBC China), the renewed interest in China's Internet policies has served to push the search engine censorship issue back into the mainstream. You can read more about what exactly Google (and other search engines) censors in Google Censorship - How it all Works, an informative article on Narender, an Internet marketing and creation oriented blog.

I've compiled a list of search engine alternatives that can be used as an alternative to the big 3 who operate under Chinese regulations.


dogpile_revised.gifDogpile
is a search engine with a twist - instead of indexing the results for one search engine, it compiles and indexes results from 6 separate search engines to return a robust selection of results. Owned by InfoSpace, Dogpile has been around since 1996, and has won awards for customer satisfaction. Be warned however! The list of search engines that Dogpile uses to compile their results includes: Google, Yahoo! Search, and Live Search. I guess it's not a great alternative if you want to go totally Google-Yahoo-Microsoft free.

Ask.com is one of the larger search engines, and has been around since 1996. Formerly AskJeeves (home to the online butler who was supposed to answer your questions), the Ask.com algorithm provides relevant search results by identifying the most authoritative sites on the Web.

FactBites has an interesting take on returning search results - instead of simply returning a site's description, it presents real, meaningful sentences related to the topics you're searching about. So instead of simply directing users to the self-created descriptions about the websites they're searching, FactBites digs a little deeper and gives you a more informed look at their results.

Mahalo_revised.gifMahalo (which means thank you in Hawaiian), bills itself as "the world's first human-powered search engine," and prides itself on better organizing the information they compile so that searchers save time and find what interests them quickly and easily. Search terms are organized into pages (like Fashion or Gadgets), and sub-topics are further categorized into lists on each main page. This kind of search is great for looking for topics to blog on (something I spend plenty of time doing), or for researching specific products.

ChaCha is a potentially cutting-edge earch engine that allows users "to ask any question in conversational English and receive an accurate answer as a text message in just a few minutes." ChaCha is a cool mobile tool, as you send text messages to the engine, and receive responses on your mobile device. Once your question is received, it's routed to the most knowledgeable ChaCha Community Guides (real people!) who are required to pass tests before they're able to work answering queries.

cuil_revised_2.pngCuil is a brand new search engine (launched on July 28, 2008), and claims to be the biggest search engine on the Web. Based out of Menlo Park, California, and founded by a former Google executive, Cuil claims to have indexed 120 billion Web pages - three times more than any other search engine. I checked out Cuil, and while this blog didn't come up in the top 10 search results when I entered the name (Accelerating IT Sales), the user interface is a pleasure, and I could see myself overlooking the ranking issue and giving the engine a fair shake.

There are plenty of other search engines out there just waiting to be discovered by those who are tired of, or want something different from Google. You can find comprehensive lists of search engines in this Wikipedia article, including topic-specific and niche engines that you might otherwise never hear about. Happy Searching!

August 22, 2008

Optimizing Organic Search Strategies

searching_revised.jpgWhile site subscribers are the bread-and-butter for all kinds of B2B organizations, building a strong subscriber base over time is essential to maintaining and growing your pool of leads over time. Organic Search, defined by SEO-Space is the "process by which web users find web sites by a keyword query and click on an unpaid search engine listing," and is increasingly being used by B2B marketers as an inexpensive and highly efficient method of building an audience using existing infrastructure (search tools like Google), and their own content.

When making a conscious effort to increase your search rankings and drive traffic to your site via organic search methods, it's important that you consider all of the different tactics required to create a successful strategy. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a relatively complex field, and implementing search tactics that work requires that you do more than simply tag your content with keywords. Search experts, such as the folks at Search Engine Land, have taken the time to compile a list of common mistakes made by marketers when attempting to optimize their sites to generate (unpaid) search traffic.

In their article, Six Mistakes B2B Marketers Continue To Make With Organic Search, Search Engine Land outlines the most common mistakes made in terms of getting a great organic search strategy up and running. With a focus on the mistakes of B2B marketers, Search Engine Land offers tips on how these generally tech-savvy organizations can get their organic search strategies straight. And while inadequate site architecture (which is difficult to correct if you don't have a site redesign planned) tops the list of errors, the other errors commonly associated with optimizing organic search can all be remedied without having to rip apart your entire site.

Inadequate Site Architecture - if you're trying to drive traffic to your website based on specific search terms, you need to make sure that there are landing pages on your site to increase traffic to your site, and "welcome" traffic once it lands. If you simply drive traffic to your site, without tagging specific pages for specific search terms, not only do you lose out on an opportunity to push your site up in the search rankings, but you also lose the ability to effectively track your visitors once they hit your site.

Lousy Meta Descriptions - according to the article, many B2B marketers fail to fill out their site meta descriptions, and when they do fill out meta tags, they often either leave the task to the IT department, or write tags that they understand, but which don't resonate with users. Instead of taking a casual attitude to crafting meta descriptions, it's important to consult with (or hire) someone who understands how to write meta descriptions and which descriptions will attract the most search traffic.

Not Analyzing Organic Landing Pages
- In order to successfully implement a search strategy, you need to make sure that your organic landing pages are attracting the appropriate traffic. It's important to analyze your organic landing pages for, "for all significant, ranking keywords," and ensure that any organic traffic is, in fact, landing on the pages you want them to land on!

Not Monitoring Analytics - While pay-per-click search results are generally analyzed at length, organic search results don't always get the same attention. To capture the effectiveness of organic search however, it's crucial that you look at all of the statistics related to your search campaign and analyze your traffic, where it originates from, its bounce rates and so on. By understanding the path that organic search traffic takes to your site, you gain a better understanding of how you can better attract more of it.

Failing to Optimize Printed Marketing Assets Before Converting them to the Web - Before starting a campaign that's heavy on white papers, case studies and technology briefs formated as PDFs, make sure you optimize those materials for search. While the casual web surfer might not click on a PDF link, a tech-savvy B2B buyer may be specifically searching for these types of materials, and will be more likely to click on them if they come up towards the top of their search.

Duplicate Title Tags and Meta Descriptions - If you haven't optimized your site content for search, chances are excellent that you have duplicate title tags and meta descriptions associated with your site. Because of this, your search rankings will be lower, and users won't necessarily be able to find your valuable content.

While these 6 common mistakes represent just the tip of the organic search iceberg, they present a good place to start when evaluating your organic search strategy. If you're interested in learning more about optimizing your site (and/or content) for search, you may want to visit Search Engine Guide, Search Engine Journal, SearchEngineWatch, or any of these other sites compiled by SearchRank.

April 08, 2008

Connect with Content via Niche Search Engines

Junta42_revised.jpg

If you are a content creator, there's a good chance that you spend plenty of time trolling the Web looking for information to use when writing articles and blogs. While you can do Google searches to find information that suits your research needs, the results can be overly broad if you haven't mastered the art of keyword searching. Blogs are great places to look when doing research too, but sometimes the abundance of blog posts on whatever topics you're looking for can be overwhelming. With so many online search and research tools, it can be tough to find what you're looking for by virtue of there being so much that matches your research needs!

There is a new trend however, that may offer some research help - niche search communities that gather contextual information from around the web and present it in a single location. Junta 42 is a content marketing search community that is set up so content is gathered by Junta 42 community and staff members who search the web and submit the content to the site. In order to maintain a standard, Junta 42 staff members filter submitted content and ensure that community members are not simply posting anything to the site.

There are plenty of niche search engines in existence on the Web, but what sets Junta 42 apart from most of the others I found is that it is dedicated to provided content about how best to market content - and therefore best meets my own research needs. In terms of writing about marketing, it's always helpful to find tools that are designed to help me do my job - and this one does.

As the Web continues to grow, it's interesting to watch how our need to segment, filter and funnel data into smaller and smaller chunks increases. The organization of information online is challenged by the size and (lack of) overall management of the Internet. Niche search engines are invaluable to the organization of online information, as they centrally distribute very specific content, and decrease time spent searching the web. The interactive component of niche search engines like these encourages user participation in tracking down and sharing content with others, and increases the likelihood of connecting with the people with whom you share a niche industry.

April 01, 2008

Start Managing Your Online Reputation

image_revised.jpg
With so many social networking Websites and interactive options available across the Web, it's easy to lose track of the sites you're participated in or joined over the past few years. The use of social media provides so many opportunities to express yourself, introduce yourself, and generally get yourself known online, that you may need to consider what kind of online reputation you've been building over time - either intentionally or accidentally.

Without even meaning to, your participation in various online sites could have created a trail of misleading, incorrect, or less-than-flattering profiles scattered about the web. Search tools like Google Alerts or Yahoo Alerts allow people to find every instance of your name and profile online, and if you have incorrect information out there - you need to consider the impact of that information popping up when a prospective employer Googles your name, or a potential client stumbles across an out-of-date LinkedIn profile.

Think about profiles you've created over the past 5 years and ask yourself the following questions:

Since creating your online profiles have you...

• moved, gotten a new phone number or changed your email address?
• gotten married, divorced or had children?
• gotten a new job/left an old job?
• graduated from school?
• updated any training or certifications?
• won awards, joined professional organizations or community groups?
• changed industries?
• gotten a new title or changed job responsibilities?
• started or closed a company?
• expanded your online presence with a website or blog?
• changed industries or left the job market altogether?

If you answered yes to any of these, and have not updated your online profiles recently, you might consider doing a Google search on your own name and seeing what comes up. While you may think that managing your online reputation isn't all that important, if you're not engaged in a job search or looking to expand your network, you need to consider that it's better to be proactive and manage this information before you need a new job than wait and try to do it all once it's time to get back out there and make new connections.

It's already clear how important online reputations can be on eAuction sites like eBay and Amazon, where users post positive and negative feedback about their interactions with other buyers and sellers. A bad eBay reputation can get a seller blacklisted, and make participation in the site difficult. With so much in our lives being accessed online, it's starting to matter more and more what you have on your MySpace and Facebook profiles that you stopped checking 2 years ago, as well as what's on your updated LinkedIn page.

Check out these resources to learn more about how you can manage your reputation and control what others learn when they search for you online.

Reputation Repair is Mission Critical from Brand Titan

Online Reputation Monitoring Beginners Guide by Andy Beal of Marketing Pilgrim

34 Online Reputation Management Tools by Duct Tape Marketing

Remember, these are basic tips for starting the process of managing your online reputation management. I will address more in-depth steps you can take to control your image online in another post.

December 28, 2007

Grade Your Website's Marketing Muscle

I recently ran across an interesting tool that grades Websites according to their online marketing effectiveness. Website Grader by HubSpot is a free tool that allows you to enter your Website URL, keywords associated with your site, and competitor Website URLs, than generates a report that ranks how well your site performs when searched.

According to HubSpot, Website Grader "provides a score that incorporates things like Website traffic, SEO, social popularity and other technical factors. It also provides some basic advice on how the Website can be improved from a marketing perspective."

If you are considering optimizing your site for Search, or are curious as to how well your site is searched, check out this free tool. I plugged in the Web Buyer's Guide information, and found that we have a score of 99 out of 100. This means that out of all of the sites that have been analyzed by Website Grader, the WBG scores higher than 99% of them for its marketing effectiveness.

The personalized report I got after submitting the WBG information also gave me detailed analysis of how our site ranks on Google, Technorati, and on social networking sites such as Digg and del.icio.us.

-BH

November 26, 2007

Copywriting with Keywords for Improved Search Results

Adding SEO (search engine optimization) practices to your Web site is a multi-step process that can involve making changes to your site's architecture, who you link to and how (for credibility's sake), and how you market your site and site materials. While implementing some of these processes take time and the cooperation of most of your company's departments, there are quick and easy ways you can improve your search results.

One site you can send your copywriters to is Wordtracker.com, where they have set up free Keyword Suggestion tool. With this keyword suggestion tool, you can enter a keyword, find out how many times that keyword was searched (according to Wordtracker's formula), and see 100 related keywords that are being searched.

When writing headlines, titles, and abstracts or summaries, your copywriters can see which terms are generating the most searches online and use the more popular terms to describe your marketing materials. Using this tool, I typed in "virtualization," and found it to be the most popular of 1614 searches related to virtualization - this didn't surprise me. What I did find surprising, was that the 3rd most popular related search term - "virtualization software" was only searched 29 times.

Search algorithms are still somewhat a mystery, but this free keyword suggestion tool can take some of the guesswork out of writing copy for optimal searches. Check out a list of 12 keyword suggestion tools at The SEO Company.

-BH