Net-times: My Perspective

A collection of unorganized thoughts about my experience in the online world (by Kevin Shea)

Optimizing for positive and accurate professional branding and marketing are now essential when seeking new employment or consulting opportunities.  It all starts with some published content like your resume, a LinkedIn profile, a website about your services or a professional profile.  You start crafting this content thinking about how you would describe yourself in order to gain the most positive response from the reader.

When I describe myself I use words like marketing, product and strategy.  These are all quite accurate to both my experience, strengths and aspirations.  However, while I’ve worked in these areas across different industries and verticals, my experience has been focused online.  This blog post is going to focus on the word “Online” or “On-line”, whichever your preference.

I’ve been using the term Online to describe my marketing experience going back about 15 years now.  I used this term for two reasons.  Back in the mid-late 90’s, this term was used to describe work on the web.  It was actually an advanced term at the time and expressed your knowledge of the industry.  The second reason is that it is an accurate description and generally distinct from other phrases.  The term Online was a single term that referred to the numerous medium that were used to deliver messages or direct response promotions, like email, web, instant messaging, online services (AOL, Compuserve, Prodigy, etc.).

However, at some point just before the bubble burst (or just after), this term generated a foul stigma.  It might have been the billboards that read “become an online marketer, no computer skills necessary”, or maybe the general opinion of those of us that were on the inside of the inflated valuations of the web.  Whatever the reason, the impactful importance of this term became diluted.  And then the everything crashed and we didn’t have to worry about what we called ourselves for a while.

Then a reemergence occurred in 2003 – 2004 and we’ve been back on track ever since (less that minor financial blip in 2008).  In my opinion, the online industry has not been stronger and valuations are generally staying in-line with reality.

However, describing marketing in this space has taken various fragmented paths.  Terms like Digital, Interactive, Internet, Mobile, Social and Web have all been used to describe what I, and many others do professionally.  Take a look at this Google trends chart that shows how these terms are ranking in the U.S. market:

Online Marketing trending

This chart represents the relative positioning and trends of these different search terms.  In addition, since I am looking for employment, I have been looking at a significant number of job descriptions.  Digital, Online, Internet, Web and Interactive are all used to describe very similar roles, particularly at the Director level and above.  I have noticed that Agencies like to use “Digital” and they sell it as a more authoritative term to their existing and prospective clients.

And, while Online Marketing is holding the best market share and least steep decline (aside from social), there is still fragmentation.  As a search marketer, this creates an interesting situation for natural optimization since optimizing for less terms is smarter than diluting with many others.  Also, with the emergence of LinkedIn as a sourcing and networking powerhouse, optimizing for their search is critical.  Aside from my name, the terms “Online Marketing” are the second most popular driving views on my profile.  Now I need LinkedIn to tell me which terms are converting into contacts or introductions…let’s close the loop!  I see similar search analysis results from my web-based resume.

Now this table from Indeed.com (below) shows a different picture.  This graph shows job postings that mention the terms being compared.  In this view, we see “web marketing” as having momentum coming into January of this year.  I’m very interested to see what has happened in the past 2 months.

I believe the term Online Marketing, Online Product and Online Strategy are the most correct and most used among my target groups.  They are also the most accurate in describing the different medium that are used to market:  Email, mobile, social, web, etc.  However, I will continue to analyze the data and make adjustments where necessary.  One of the most important aspects of search marketing is to use the same language as your customers/prospects/future employers.

Are you doing similar research on your own personal branding?

Last week, Search Engine Land posted current results for December’s search market share as released by comScore.  It looks like things are moving in the expected direction with Google continuing to climb and maintain the dominant position while Bing edges up a bit.  Yahoo, Ask and AOL all dipped with AOL hitting a record low point.

However, it’s important to note that mobile data is not included.  I actually read this article while taking a break from a blog post about my fishing website yearly analytics review.  This is going to be a yearly post where I briefly outline performance over the past 12 months relative to previous years.

Bing Organic Search for Mobile
When I returned to my analysis, I decided to look at the mobile traffic associated with organic search for this particular website.  Now, it’s important to note that this is a low traffic, niche website with only about 32,000 visits per year.  However, after looking at the data, it was clear that Google drove almost 100% of the mobile search traffic to this particular website.  In fact, I was only able to register a single mobile visit from Bing.  I immediately went to Bing with my Droid X (great phone, btw) to see if I had difficulty navigating to this website via Bing mobile search.  My queries produced good results for the terms my website usually performs well.

Perplexed, I checked various other higher traffic websites that I have access to analytics.  The result:  none showed much organic search traffic from Bing at all.  This tells me that between Android and iPhone, people are using the native Google search and not bothering using Bing.  Would they use Bing if it was the default?  Is search a commodity when compared between Google and Bing?  Is this less a brand game than one of distribution?

And didn’t Microsoft get into a bit of trouble bundling their browser with Windows?  There are similarities to an Android OS and Google search pre-installed, no?

What are your experiences with Bing organic search traffic?

Kevin

I just went through my Google Buzz stream to see when I first posted there.  It looks like my first post was the same day as my first comment – February 11, 2010.  Most of my early posts weren’t getting many comments early in the game.  It seemed like there was already a community that knew each other and they were all interacting within their group.  I also remember thinking that there was a significant connection between the early adopters of Buzz and FriendFeed.  But I posted anyway and began commenting on other posts.  Soon enough people were doing the same with my posts and the “Buzz” was really drawing me in.

At some point early in the game, there was at least one bad egg that was being abusive to people.  Pretty soon verbal fights were breaking out all over the place and I can remember thinking that the place was filled with a bunch of kids with bad attitudes and too much time on their hands.  I was ready to just drop it and walk away, which would have disappointed me since I wanted to see Buzz succeed.  But I decided to stop following all the people who were involved and/or posting on topics I deemed too personal (my interests in Buzz were to primarily post professional topics).  Cleaning up my Buzz stream worked and I was once again fully active in the community, and a great one at that!

My desire to see Buzz succeed was driven by a feeling that the existing social platforms were either too personal (Facebook) or based on broadcasting and headline blasting (Twitter).  I felt that Facebook was fine for sharing photos with the family and Twitter was good for posting headlines for news I can relate to professionally.  However, Buzz seemed to be the engagement platform all the so called social media gurus/ninjas talked about.  They’ve been boasting about how businesses need to seek out and engage with their communities.  What better way to do this that within a platform that truly facilitates thorough conversations?  Buzz was perfect!  Well, maybe not.

So now months were going by and Buzz is starting to grow, while Google tries to fix some bugs (and a privacy issue here and there).  By the summer Buzz seems to be the perfect platform to discuss topics that are relevant to me, primarily industry related topics.  I’m finding as my posts become more popular, the amount of time needed to respond is growing tremendously.  Not only are the number of responses time consuming, but since we’re not limited to SMS size posts (i.e. Tweets), Buzz users tend to be extremely thorough in their comments.  Thorough comments usually require equally thorough comments if you are trying to explain a point.

But, I got into the groove with Buzz and really started to enjoy it.  Their small, but dedicated team was doing a great job jumping on little bugs and getting them fixed.  Hats off to the crew responsible for making Buzz happen.

But that wasn’t enough.  From my perspective (which will be argued by those active on Buzz now), Buzz lost momentum and started to deteriorate a few months ago.

Here’s why from my perpective:

1.  IMO, one of Buzz’s weaknesses is the community itself. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed engaging with most people there on most topics….except the topic of GOOGLE.  You had better duck and stay down if you ever say a bad word about Google on Buzz.  The community over defends Google, sometimes to extremes that seem ridiculous.  Now, Google is lucky to have such a strong following as any company would.  However, in a social environment, too much pro anything is a big turnoff for many (including myself).

2.  Integration with gmail is a negative to enough people.  Yes, logically, it’s just another account and people don’t have to use gmail itself.  However, perception ruled on this one and Buzz needed it’s own home, separated from gmail…never happened.

3. The mobile (Android) app is confusing at best.  It’s a bit tricky to explain if you’ve never used it (good odds on that), but you have to bounce back and forth between the app and the mobile web UI in order to be fully using Buzz on your mobile.  It’s also virtually unusable when posting links.  This app progressed quickly early on, then just stopped getting better quite a few months ago.

4.  Complete disconnect between the popular tech media and Buzz users.  Motivations aside for a moment, the tech folks would knock the service for usability, privacy issues and the Buzz community would be dumbfounded by their lack of complete acceptance.  Buzz users started telling the naysayers they weren’t using Buzz the right way…that they were “doing it wrong”.  Well, from my experience, telling people they are doing something wrong is surely going to turn them away.  The service better be easy to use and understand, particularly for early adopter, tech media types…or you as the service provider are the one doing it wrong.

5.  Poor cross-service distribution (push) functionality. Sure, it was easy to import Twitter headline blasts, but sloppy to export buzz to Twitter.  The best solution is to go through FeedBurner, which can take hours to chron and also truncates posts way too early in the character count.  So, basically, most Buzz -> Twitter posts were incomplete headlines.

6.  Google itself let Buzz go. I’m convinced that they decided a long time ago to drop Buzz and distance the company from the service.  Why else would a company time after time ignore opportunities to use their new service as a PR medium and instead post directly to Twitter?  If Twitter was where they wanted the message, they still could have started with Buzz.  Why else would we not see Googlers flooding the service in mass?  Why else would the heads of the company not bother posting anything, including the guy running their social program??  Every company needs to put a little PR and marketing behind their products, including Google.

There are also numerous usability issues that should have been addressed along the way.  However, all would have been just fine if the company stood behind this product and gave it the time and resources it deserved.

BTW, I still go back to Buzz once and a while because I wish it would turn around.  I keep hoping Google has something up their sleeve that will incorporate Buzz.  It seems less and less likely as time goes on.

Before launching a new business, most entrepreneurs develop business models and projections.  They do this in order to estimate the types of returns their business is capable of producing.  One segment of those projections is represented in the marketing plan.  Stakeholders read this document to understand how the business will market their services and what they hope to achieve.  Marketing teams should treat their activities like a business by planning, measuring, optimizing…repeating.  They should also be held, and hold themselves, accountable for the success of those plans.

Ultimately, your online success is represented by quantifiable metrics like sales, leads generated, registrations, customer acquisition and/or a specific type of user behavior.  As an online marketer, in order to optimize your campaigns to achieve those metrics, it’s important to understand the equation for success.  For example, if you are trying to achieve a certain number of leads each month, you need to how you will convert those leads and how much it will cost.  You will need to make certain assumptions based on as much fact as possible.  If you know how well your inbound traffic converts today, or how effectively similar businesses convert, you can use this data to project your expected returns:  “Based on historical data, we will have to spend X dollars to produce Y # of leads for our business, which will result in Z revenue”.

However, what happens when you don’t convert business in-line with your projections or assumptions?  Where do you look for answers to optimization?  Answer:  Your equation needs to be expanded.  This equation should be built as your business model and it is better to have more measurable points of conversion.  For example, each medium, geography, conversion method should have their own assumptions and points of optimization review.  The more precise you can be with a weakness in your campaigns, the more capable you will be to make an effective optimization.

In addition, each point of measurement in your model needs to be analyzed accurately.  Effective measurement builds confidence in optimization activities, model projections and assumptions development.  The analytics tools we have available to use are quite robust these days.  My suggestion is to build your model and wish list of conversions for measurement.  Then build your systems around measuring these metrics.

The more you measure, the better you can optimize.

Droid X, my review

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After years of being a Blackberry user my jealousy of not having any “apps” to play with finally took over.  Actually, let me back up about a year first.  In my house I don’t get great reception with Verizon.  Outside in the front or back and I’m fine, but inside the house coverage stinks.  One too many business dropped calls later and I called Verizon to see what could be done.  After all, I’ve been with them since the mid-late 90’s, so it was worth having a discussion.

Well, the person on the phone recommended a “network extender” to enhance the signal in my house.  I said great, when can you send one out to me?  The answer was as soon as I could shell out $200+ for this little piece of hardware.  This did not make me happy at all and I eventually was so angry that I went over to AT&T wireless for the first time in my life.  Well, the relationship with AT&T was rocky from the start and ended with me saying some not so nice things to a CS person (sorry about that).

This altercation pushed me into the new world of smartphones and I ordered my first one…a Droid and went back to Verizon Wireless.  I wanted this phone because of the optional hard keyboard and the Google Android platform.  Not having this was my biggest fear at the time.  Anyway, I loved the phone.  It was amazing and I didn’t even use the hard keyboard.

At the time my Dad showed some interest in having one of these smartphones, so I made a deal with him.  I’d give him my Droid at a big discount and I could get a new Droid X.

Back to present day:  I’ve had the Droid X for about one month now and it’s pretty cool.  The size is nice…much bigger than the Droid and BB, but great for visuals on screen and clicking text links.  The camera is a HUGE improvement over the Droid.  If a good camera is important to you, don’t even bother with the Droid…it’s terrible.  Only in very specific lighting was I able to get good shots in.  The Droid X has 8 megapixels and you can really see the difference in quality.  I bought the car mount and a hard case for carrying also, which I highly recommend.

However, there are a few issues that have been bugging me about the phone.  For one, I have not been able to upgrade to Android 2.2.  There are some great enhancements there and I’ve  been waiting for a while (with no end in site).  If it’s coming soon I’d never know since I have no information about the release date.  The second thing that bugs me is the HDMI capabilities that are promoted so much.  I actually went out and bought the multimedia station and extra HDMI cable thinking I would be downloading HD movies to my phone and watching them on the TV.  That’s not going to happen anytime soon since there are no good apps/providers for HD content for download and display via the HDMI/TV.  Netflix doesn’t have an Android app yet and Blockbuster…well, stinks.  I could download a movie from Blockbuster, but I could only play it on the phone, not transfer it to the TV for viewing…weak.

One other thing I think needs a major upgrade is the “Car” mode and music management.  The Car mode is a great c0ncept, but listening to media in that mode is too basic.  There’s very little functionality, which is probably good for car mode but needs something more.  Music management for me on the phone is to use Itunes then drag and drop the media onto my phone.  This is ok, but will only work for so long.

Well, let me just wrap up by saying I love the phone…Droid X.  However, I’m also looking forward to some enhancements (oh, did I forget about the upgrade to gmail mobile, which is desperately needed?).  I highly recommend it from an old Blackberry user’s perspective!

Kevin