Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Tag Archives: Search

Friday Five – December 20, 2013

Why Advertising Is ‘Dead Last’ Priority at Outerwear Marketer Patagonia
Great reminder that purposeful positioning is more important today than it’s ever been. Mission focused organizations are finding an easier go in digital, because story-telling is simple and effortless for companies that stand for something bigger than just selling more cases.

The top visual design trends for 2014
Solid infographic outlining the major visual design trends next year. As a dad of 2, I’m especially thrilled to see “Hands on Dads” as an emerging category. Personally, I don’t think dad’s get enough credit for all we do. Also, pay special attention to #11. The idea that photos that aren’t professionally taken or styled will be expected and more impactful, will prove difficult for companies that like to over-edit EVERY visual.

Text messaging will look boring after you try this app backed by Betaworks and Dave Morin
I’m not bullish on SnapChat as a business driving platform, nor do I see it ever living up to it’s valuation. Dave Morin, famous for launching and overseeing the slow death of Path, backed a new platform called “Context.” This will be one of several new messaging apps that will hit the street in the next few months. Each one will erode away at SnapChat’s audience. Teens are fickle and they certainly don’t want to be on the same platforms as their parents (see Facebook). As Gen X, Y and Boomers invade SnapChat, Context will be one of many alternatives teens and tweens will join.

Judging By Google Searches, Here Are The Things Americans Were Most Clueless About in 2013
I think this is a combination of the things Americans were clueless about (eg twerking) and interested in learning more about (eg Boston Marathon). While the data isn’t included, it’s clear the power TV has on search. TV is a stimulus that leads us to explore. And today, when we want to explore, it’s google that we turn to. In 2014 it will be interesting to see if twitter chips away at that decade + trend, especially as people want real-time and frequent updates.

Beyoncé Rejects Tradition for Social Media’s Power
Great background on how and why Beyonce chose social media over traditional marketing to launch her new album. I especially love this passage:

“I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it,” Beyoncé said in a news release, which so far represents the only public comments that she or Columbia, her label, have made. “I am bored with that.”

Perhaps if more marketers adopted this philosophy we’d see a quicker transition away from the copy and paste approach to marketing campaigns. The album itself is mediocre, but this is brilliant marketing. What I love about this, is that it speaks to why I got into marketing and advertising in the first place…to keep reinventing brands and breaking molds. That’s the fun part. Great marketers are ever curious and antsy. We like to tweak, plan and re-tweak. Then when we launch something, there’s a void, not a relief. That void is filled by thinking about how to set an even higher bar.

The Impact Of “Real Time” Search On Search Engine Optimization

The interactive experience most often starts with Google.  For years Google has been the dominant search engine leader, besting competitors like Microsoft, Yahoo!, Ask, AOL and others.  Even when consumers know where they want to go or know exactly what they want, they turn to Google or another search engine and type in what they’re looking for.

Search engines, by default, exist to aggregate content across the web and provide website users relevant content to explore.  Years ago, the content search engines aggregated were just links to other sites.  Slowly, over time, search engines broadened the type of content they’d aggregate to include photos, videos, PDFs, and even music.

Over the last few years we’ve seen companies employ different approaches to return faster –and in theory – better search results.  The most popular approach is called “predictive search” and was made famous by Apple via its iTunes product.  When a user starts to type “Bob” into the iTunes search engine, Apple makes an assumption that the user is looking for “Bob Dylan” amongst other popular results.  And, it was only this time last year that Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! announced that they would be pulling real-time streams from sites like twitter, directly into the search results page.

Google describes Google Instant as follows:

Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. We are pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster. Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type.

The most obvious change is that you get to the right content much faster than before because you don’t have to finish typing your full search term, or even press “search.” Another shift is that seeing results as you type helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback. You can now adapt your search on the fly until the results match exactly what you want. In time, we may wonder how search ever worked in any other way.

With “Instant” or “Real Time” search, users will see search results appear quicker and without having to hit the enter button.  The key here is that the search results will update in real time as the user is typing their query.  Here’s an example of what happens I type in the letter “a.”

You can see that the letter “a” is highlighted in black font.  That’s the only letter I typed in.  Google then does 3 things:

  1. It predicts my query by offering me “amazon,” “aol,” “American airlines,” and “att” as options.
  2. It returns results in the middle of the page for “Amazon” since that’s the most relevant search term
  3. It returns paid search ads in the right hand column based on the search term “Amazon”

It’s taken me some time to understand what Google Instant and the similar offerings from its competitors mean for marketers. Users, ultimately, don’t care how search engines work, they simply assume that the search engines are doing “their job” by returning relevant search results. This is a major shift, not just in how search engines work, but in how users will interact with them.

Implications And Recommendations

After a significant amount of research, consultation with leading search engine experts and exchanges with Googlers, I feel comfortable outlining the following implications and recommendations:

  1. If you’re currently neglecting search engine optimization; it’s time to get refocused.  Whereas before you could trade SEO for paid search as a means to drive traffic, you’re going to find that SEO just became as important as paid search.
  2. The time and dollar investment for SEO will increase because SEO will move from a casual marketing tool that a serious one.  The shift from casual to serious means SEO could be happening on a daily and weekly basis (just like paid search programs) instead of a quarterly and semi-annual time-table.
  3. The concept of being on the 1st page or “above the scroll” has changed. “As you continue typing and narrowing your search, the instantly changing and refreshing results below the search box will be giving you more relevant results. So if you previously looked on the second page, now those same results come to the top of the pile for you.” – Johanna Wright, director of product management for Google Insight (via AdAge).
  4. Websites will need to be updated more frequently with fresher content.  Fresher content tells search engines that a site is current and active.  With search engines prioritizing newer content over older content, even if the newer content is less accurate, the need to denote your site as one that’s fresh is critical.
  5. Greater emphasis needs to be paid to all Meta Tags.  This includes Title, Keyword and Description tags.  Meta Tags are the lifeblood of successful SEO initiatives because Google and the competition pay special attention to Meta Tags when determining the relevancy and accuracy of a site.
  6. Keywords for content will need to become more varied because users won’t need to completely type in a term to see their search engine results. Tools like Google Keyword Suggestion should become part of a marketer’s overall web strategy toolbox.
  7. Your social marketing efforts just became even more critical.  Social equals fresh content to search engines.  Social also generates a massive amount of links to your content and links are a major component of driving search engine visibility and relevancy.

Bottom line, what was old is now new again.  All the building blocks of search engine optimization became significantly more important.  SEO for years has often been a neglected area of focus for marketers because of the real-time results of paid search and the complexity of understanding the math behind making SEO work.  It’s time to make SEO a key focus of your interactive marketing strategy.

These changes represent massive opportunity for outflanking your competition. Many companies will be slow to change and embrace these new changes. This leaves the door wide open for your organization to get ahead of them

For more information about Google Instant Search, please watch this short video from Google:

and this entertaining video:

showing how Bob Dylan’s song “Subterranean Homesick Blues” comes to life with Google Instant.

Competition Is A Good Thing

I like competition. I believe that competition keeps companies and people hungry. For too long Google has had very little competition in search. Frankly, I think that lack of competition has lead to a product that really hasn’t changed very much since its initial launch. When you consider how much the interactive landscape has evolved in the last 10 years, that’s a really scary thought.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like there weren’t several attempts made to compete with Google. AskJeeves, Microsoft Live, and Cuil are just a few. However, none of them were serious competitors to Google. That’s why I’m so excited about the recent influx of serious competitors in the search game. Yahoo! Glue, Wolfram Alpha, and now Bing represent serious competitors.

The naughty truth is we need them to do well. We need them to succeed. We need them to pose a threat to Google. Why? Because, a serious competitor or set of competitors would force Google to evolve, innovate, and learn a little bit of humility.

Have you ever sat through a presentation by Google? They’re amazing. Basically, the presentation focused on how infallible Google is and if you aren’t using their tools you’re clearly not very bright. Seriously. I’ve sat through more than my fair share. Google doesn’t “sell” because they EXPECT you to “buy.” Healthy competition would change that attitude.

Google needs a foil. Should Bing, Wolfram Alpha, Yahoo! Glue, or another option become a legitimate foil we ALL win. At the end of the day don’t we all want a better search engine? Sure, there are still 18 people using Excite and 25 people holding on to AltaVista, but the majority of us want a better search engine…even if we don’t know it.

Ohhhhh, competition is a beautiful thing. Let’s hope we see a real competitor emerge from the shadows. Google needs one. We need one.

I Want To Find – Not Search

Does anyone really want to search for something? Does anyone really want to sift through reams of files, sort through a massive list, or go drawer by drawer looking for that missing sock?

Of course not. There is no joy in searching. There is, however, joy in finding. My apologies for those of you who think it’s about the journey and the destination. In the case of search vs. find, it’s the destination not the journey. As technology evolves, companies get smarter, and expectations increase people become less patient or forgiving. People want it now. They want it quickly. Oh, and they don’t want to pay for it.

The search engine of the future, won’t be a search engine. It won’t be a tool that requires you to visit link after link in hopes of stumbling upon the desired result. Though search engines have gotten smarter, they are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. No, the search engine of the future will be a engine that focused on findability. It will be a tool that helps you FIND what you were looking for instead of browsing results in hopes of finding what you were looking for.

But, here’s the thing. In my humble opinion, the only way that’s going to happen is if people realize, understand, and accept the concept of mutual exchange. They are going to have to give something to get something. If people want a better individualized search engine, they’re going to need to provide information to help make the engine better. They will need to part with personal information. They will need to provide ongoing feedback.

People, not servers and mathematical algorithms are going make the difference. It’s the people that will cause a shift from search to find. We’re seeing this happen already with “human powered” search engines like Mahalo and Wikipedia. Last year when Google allowed people to customize and change search results with a new feature called Search Wiki we saw a glimpse of the future. Unfortunately, it was just a glimpse and nothing more. The next step for Google will be to aggregate all of those human powered changes and allow them to impact the overall search results. While, that’s the right next step, I don’t think we’ll see it happening anytime soon.

They aren’t adding more time in the day. Speed and accuracy are becoming more important. We all want answers to our questions and queries. I just don’t think we ever realized how big of a role we’d be playing in generating those quick, accurate, answers.

Guest Post – Marketing Is Supposed To Be About Relationships

I’m out on vacation this week. The keys to TheKmiecs.com have been turned over to a few, select, awesome guest writers. The following has not been edited by me and is the work and effort of the original author. I appreciate the time and thinking that went into this post and hope you will too. Enjoy!

Marketing is supposed to be all about relationships. Based on this belief, it stands to reason that marketers would want to use media that has as its distinguishing feature being part of the connective tissue that holds people together. Thus the enthusiasm for social media and its ilk.

Lots of different vehicles these days are put under the heading of “social media.” Pretty much anything that can facilitate two-way communications between two or more people could be classified as “social media.” Depending on whom you ask email would technically fall into the category of social media. Depending on who else you might ask, so would the telephone or CB radio.

But the kinds of things that have the interests peaked of those who work at the bleeding edge of marketing are tools and technologies that atomizes our expressions, globalizes their reach, and localizes their targetability all at the same time.

We’ve got Twitter to micro-blog every crumb that falls from the buttered toast of our lives. We’ve got Facebook to broadcast the expression of those crumbs to the Etherverse via TwitterSync. And soon to follow will be marketers using the likes of Loopt or Google Latitude to find us where we are when brushing those crumbs from the fronts of our shirts and send us location-based messages on where to buy the bread, where to buy the butter, where to buy the knife with which to spread that butter, and perhaps where to buy the cleaning agents that can clean the shirts from which we are brushing the aforementioned crumbs.

Micro Blogging
Twitter is awfully interesting. I twitter sometimes not at all and sometimes several times a day. Most of the time, posts I read are not here or there in terms of their relevance to my life. They rarely offer a depth of insight on a given subject. But they are sometimes interesting, funny or just downright cute (one fellow I follow posts only things his kids say). Every once in a while there is a link to an article or a video or some other bit of bytes that lead me to that depth and insight Twitter, due to its character constraints, lacks.

Will Twitter hurt how we think and, thus, act, which in turn will change how we market to one another? Maybe. The structure of our language –even our syntax – dictates how we think, it forms the way we conceptualize; the means by which we articulate the world and what is in it informs what it is we think is in the world.

My concern is that the diminishment of formal structure – be it due to a lack of familiarity, willful rejection of it because of some belief that it is authoritarian or elitist, or a restriction of the characters we can write with — will lead to structure’s eradication for the sake of utility. Utility only and always without at least knowing what formal structure needs to be violated in order to achieve it leads to homogenizing, standardizing and monotonizing.

In an environment where infosnacking and reflex replaces deliberation and practiced experience, how we define intelligence and reason will become unrecognizable.

How can something like this be tamed for marketing?

Facebook, MySpace, et al
Marketers are drawn to social networks as an adverting vehicle for the same reasons they are drawn to any media vehicle: the size of its audiences and the popularity it enjoys. That does not, however, always translate into viability as a means for delivering advertising. Toilet paper, after all, is also rather popular. Certainly everyone I know uses it. But I have yet to see ads on it. This is not to equate delivery systems, but rather to demonstrate that widespread use is not a sufficient condition for carrying an ad message. There are reasons why social networking properties should be approached with care:

  • Social networking is just a communication format, not a media vehicle; per se. Social networking is the first decade of the 21st century’s email. Aside from being a domain, do any of the free online email providers, even Gmail, really have a brand? Do any of them offer any specific value to marketers looking to advertising that can’t be had anywhere else? Not really. What they offer is scale (the audiences are huge) and some targetability. Certainly the kind of information available about users will lend itself to greater levels of targetability, but as we’ve already seen, the community is going to police itself against that targetability going too far.
  • The relationship aura an advertiser might hope to benefit from doesn’t always really exist there. It’s a place where people allow others to be connected to them, but they don’t really have relationships there. While expanding the number of “relationships” we have, it degrades their quality for the sake of quantity. Like slicing a peach, with every cut, you lose some juice.
  • Advertisers will have to compete with the brand of ‘Me’ in a social networking environment. Social networking is really a platform for self-branding. People are opening their kimonos to show off their rock-hard abs or their gorgeous breasts or the funny image they shaved in their back hair. It is an opportunity for a kind of narcissism that doesn’t ostensibly put us at physical risk. A Facebook page is like driving down the street with the radio turned up loud and the windows down; it is wearing a concert T-shirt; it is a way of advertising who we want others to think we are.
  • People in marketing and advertising always like to think that the general population likes what we do as much as we do. The general population’s relationship with advertising is at best one of managed hostility, regardless of what one might say about it when the advertising message coming to him or her has been sent by their “BFF” (Best Friend Forever). Will an ensuing deluge of advertising — whether or not it was endorsed by the Lil’ Green Patch friend of a friend — be accepted?

Location Based Services & Targeting
There are as lot of GPS-type applications out there now that, with the growing popularity of smartphones, is experiencing their own surge in popularity. This has the marketing community talking about whether apps like Loopt, Google Latitude, Navteq and others can be used to serve advertising to people based on where they are.

First of all, aside from helicopter parents who might want to know what their kids are doing at every second, are these tools even valuable? Knowing my friends are near is quaint, but, if I’ve already mediated my relationship with them to the point where I’m only communicating with them by posting a note to their Facebook wall, which in turn sends an email to them to tell him or her to go to their Facebook page to read the note I left on their wall, am I REALLY going to make the effort to see them and have a beer, physically, even if they are a few blocks away?

Second, the long-held belief in advertising has been that location somehow makes advertising

a) more meaningful

b) more relevant and thus

c) more effective

But does it? Just because I’m near a McDonald’s doesn’t mean that I’m ready to eat there. Knowing where stores are is valuable, but that’s search addressable more than it is advertising. I think we in advertising and marketing overvalue the tricks of targeting. Most people have a relationship with advertising that is on average one of managed hostility. I don’t know that “adver-stalking” would endear a brand to a potential consumer. I suppose it could operate on an opt-in basis and entice purchase or trial with incentives. But I have my doubts about a marketing application.

What’s the solution to all of the above? Marketers’ least favorite form of advertising due to its lack of forced reach and potential glamour, but it is among the most effective: “Pull” advertising.

It’s what search is, yellow pages used to be, and what widgets are becoming. You approach the opportunity as one where the audience you are trying to reach reaches out to you instead of you reaching out to them, then you’ve got something here.

Jim Meskauskas
VP, Director of Online Media
ICON International

Getting The Vote Out

Noticed some really interesting things online this morning (election day). Google, who usually spruces up their logo for certain events and/or occasions, was noticeably quiet. While others, like Facebook and Yahoo! were actively engaging with their visitors. Very cool. To me, when we talk about social media, this is what we’re talking about. These companies are getting involved in the conversation and making their visitors part of the story. Nice work.

Google on Election Day
Google on Election Day


Facebook Election Day
Facebook Election Day


Yahoo! Election Day
Yahoo! Election Day

Quick Update
I’m not going to say it was because I blogged about it, but it looks like Google finally updated their logo. Check it out here.


Google Election Day Updated
Google Election Day Updated

Search Volume Does Not Equal Sales

Thank you Google for launching Google Insights.  To me insights is a more enhanced version of Google Trends. Google describes Insights as, “With Google Insights for Search, you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames.”

Here is what I love about this. Everyone wants to put money into search engine marketing. I’ve been in meetings where Sr. marketers have said, let’s move all of our money from X to SEM. I think it’s great that people are jumping into search, but I’ve continued to caution anyone who will listen, that they need to look before they jump. In my opinion, search volume is not an indicator, nor is it a predictor of sales.

Here is a great example of what I’m talking about. The following chart shows the change in total car sales of luxury car brands from March 2007 to March 2008.

Change in Sales Volume for Cars 2007 to 2008
Change in Sales Volume from 2007 to 2008

If we buy into the concept that search volume indicates interest, which indicates awareness, which of course drives the top of the so-called marketing funnel.  Well, if we fill the top of the funnel, then we’ll have more potential conversions.  So, even if our conversion rate stays flat, we’ll drive more sales because our opportunity pool is larger.  Make sense?

Ok, well here is a report from Google Insights that looks at the following:

  1. Lexus, BMW, Mercedes, Cadillac, Infiniti, and Acura search volume
  2. Period of Time: January 2007 – July 2008
  3. United States only
  4. Date segmented by “Automotive” category
Google Insights Search Volume for Luxury Cars
Google Insights Search Volume for Luxury Cars
I chose January 2007 because many classical marketers believe you need a period of time to be exposed, made aware, and re-exposed before you convert.  Do you notice anything strange?  BMW, Mercedes, and Lexus, have the highest search volume; or what Google calls “interest,” but some of the worst sales. How can this be?  Isn’t search the end all be all solution?
It kinda makes you rethink things a little bit, huh?  Well here is my take:
  1. Search is only part of the pie; you still need TV, print, display online advertising, etc. to drive overall site traffic
  2. The site needs to be optimized to keep the interest level high and send you to a dealer
  3. The dealer needs to close the deal
It’s literally that simple.  If 1, 2, or 3 are broken it won’t matter how high the search volume is.  Would love your thoughts!

10 Great Links

I’ve been compeletely swamped the past few days and I know I’m completely guilty of not offering enough meat in these posts.  With that in mind, I’m opting for a quantity approach in this post.  Here are 10 great links that I’ve stumbled on and are worth sharing:

  1. SEMPO Study on the impact search has on sales.  This is a PDF white paper.
  2. Wii Fit Viral.  Offers proof that viral is sometimes indeed pure luck.
  3. Competitive Intelligence.  Avinash waxes on what competitive information is important for site metrics.
  4. Why Agencies Are Failing.  Great article from Joseph Dumont.
  5. The Marketing Spiral.  David Armano reminds us all that the concept of a linear path to purchase does not exist in today’s world.
  6. WuChess.  Members of the rap group, WuTang Clan, created a PAID site that brings together their two passions: Chess and Music.
  7. Human Centered Design.  David Kelley of IDEO explains the future of design.
  8. Chart of the Week.  From Marketing Sherpa.  Using heat maps to show what’s happening on a web page.
  9. Ning.  This site/platform lets you create your OWN social network.
  10. FWA.  Great aggregator of top sites on the web.  Will inspire you.


A New Way To Search

Stumbled upon this site last week and have been playing around with it since. Instead of returning text-based results, it serves up visuals to show you what’s relevant. The functionality for navigating the results is very similar to the album browsing feature on the iPod Touch/iPhone. Check it out.

Convergence of Search

Convergence. There I said it. Yes, I used a horrible buzzword. Sometimes convergence is bad. Ever been to a Long John Silvers &  KFC fast-food restaurant? If you have, then you know why fish sticks and the colonel’s chicken should never converge. In other cases, convergence is VERY good.

When we think of Google, we think of www.google.com. You go online, search for something, and Google returns results. In the absence of a Google chip for your brain, the good folks at Google have given us two great FREE search options for when we’re away from our computers: GOOG-411 and Google SMS. Both of these are great options for those of you who are sans iPhone.

GOOG-411 is a free 411-phone service. You simple dial 1-800-GOOG-411 and tell the voice-automated system what you are looking for and where. Google then gives you the answer. The days of paying a $1.00 or more service fee for using a 411 service on your cel phone are over.

Google SMS allows you to text message your search query to 466453 (‘GOOGLE’ on most devices) and Google returns you a text message back results. For example, try movies 55402 and be wowed.

So why does this matter? Search is taking place beyond the browser. This opens up new opportunities for our clients and us. These search methods are only as good as the data they rely on. Making sure our data is up to date and easily accessible is critical. This has serious implications for clients like Erbert and Gerbert’s. Consumers should be able to find E&G stores from online search, phone, and text. We have more to think about than just the browser.