Over the weekend, under the gaze of a painting of the Dalai Lama
at Tibetan Kitchen, I savored my dessert of bhaktsa
marku while thinking of all the search engines that helped get me
to that place. And by "that place" I don't mean the Tibetan
restaurant, but rather my new Manhattan neighborhood where my wife and I dined
out for the first time as residents. Below are ten search engines that helped
with the moving process.
This is the first search engine we used; it's how my wife found our real estate
broker. What's funny is that my wife, a lawyer working for New York City
Department of Health, thought to use LinkedIn when it hadn't occurred to me.
There are a lot of real estate sites out there, but for New York City,
StreetEasy seemed to have the most comprehensive information about apartment
listings presented in the most navigable format. The blog Curbed
also came in handy when digging up dirt on buildings, especially a few new
construction units we considered.
Maps: It's even better now for New Yorkers with subway directions. Before
it launched, I'd often turn to HopStop
to figure out how to get to the various listings.
What was the name of that moving company I used a couple years ago? Where did I
buy boxes? I often think of Delicious as my second brain, the more organized
one with fewer memory leaks. I posted some real estate-related sites in my
public bookmarks, while I hid other links, such as for specific apartment
I've used this reverse auction site for several consecutive moves. You list
what you have to move and get bids for your job, only disclosing your contact
information when you're ready. There are some checks for verified reviews to
add to its trustworthiness.
I've been doing a lot of product research for the move, from home office
supplies to electronics upgrades. All searches included Amazon, as did a number
of the purchases. Their reliability remains strong for delivering what they're
supposed to in a reasonable amount of time. They didn't win all my business,
though; I completed a couple of the larger transactions elsewhere.
Reviews: Every time I searched for an electronics product, I wound up on
CNET. It wasn't always intentional; sometimes I'd use a search engine to find
product reviews and CNET would rank prominently in the natural results. CNET
helped me rethink which flat-screen TV to buy, and it recommended other
products like speakers that I had no plans on buying.
Product Search: Google managed to be Amazon's biggest competitor for my
new-home shopping. The thousands of reviews of merchants added enough of a
degree of trustworthiness so that it was more feasible to explore alternatives
to the Amazon default. I also gravitated toward merchants that accepted Google
Checkout, which I used more in the past two months than I ever have just so I
didn't have to register with a seller for a one-time small-ticket purchase.
and Barrel: The on-site search engine here got enough use that it helped
turn our apartment into a satellite showroom.
The most important question a New Yorker faces when moving is figuring out
where to eat (what's the point of living here if you're more than a few blocks
from a good bagel, pizza, or sushi source?). Where I moved, an area
affectionately dubbed Curry Hill for its abundance of Indian restaurants, is
one of those neighborhoods that suffers from too many options rather than too
few, so MenuPages helps narrow the field.
All of these engines competed with one other major source: word of
mouth. It was word of mouth that led us to our real estate lawyer and mortgage
broker. Word of mouth also won out for specialized purchases such as a folding
bicycle. Search engines still won the day overall, though, beating out word-of-mouth
recommendations for a real estate broker, moving company, and television.
But everything was interconnected. We found the
real estate broker on LinkedIn who introduced us to the lawyer, and the lawyer
referred us to the mortgage broker. None of it happened in a vacuum. Right,
vacuum... one more thing I need to buy, which I'll have to search for -- unless
you have any good recommendations.
This is one presentation I had nothing to do with but I'm happy to share. Anyone who's polishing their resume, building their network, or even planning ad campaigns for business professionals would appreciate this presentation via Robb Hecht's Brandhackers meetup. It's detailed enough that you may want to click through to view it in full-screen mode.
Here's one of those executions that makes me think if the movie's anywhere nearly as good as it's marketing, it's going to be a great movie. In this case, it's the 'archival' footage promoting the film adaptation of the graphic novel The Watchmen. Courtesy of agency Rubber Republic, you can even watch it on this old-fashioned TV - but one with some DVR capabilities built in, so rewind away.
Click the panel at the bottom of the TV to view other videos.
I originally planned on calling today's MediaPost column "Feeding the 5,000, Ten Plagues, and First-Page Rankings," in a reference to miracles. My wife thought it was too obscure and wordy. I let MediaPost's editors break the tie and they agreed. So, now that it has a more logical title, enjoy the rest of the column, originally published in MediaPost.
Minor Miracles And Major Feats of First-Page Rankings
Videos are more likely than text to get on
the first page of Google's search results, according to Forrester
Research's Nate Elliott. This is a huge story, but there's an even
bigger angle: getting on the first page of Google's search results is
really, really hard.
I missed Nate's initial blog post, but fortunately caught the subsequent NewTeeVee analysis.
NewTeeVee reported, "Videos are 53 times more likely to appear on the
first page of search results than text pages..." In a single sentence,
this sums up the need for the importance of including videos as part of
a search engine optimization program. Done -- I'm sold.
the comments to Nate's post for a few other perspectives, like Max
Kalehoff describing how the viral nature of great videos makes them
search engine bait, and Billy Ye noting how video results have a
relatively fleeting presence in the top rankings compared to Web sites
that maintain their authority more consistently. All of this matters,
but if you have any video assets, you must consider how
you're optimizing them. Say Nate's analysis is off and the real effect
is 23x or 10x instead of 53x. Would you treat the study any
differently? I wouldn't.
The numbers grew even more
staggering. Nate blogged, "There were an average of 4.7 million text
pages competing for a place on results pages with an average of just
9.4 text results -- giving each text page about a 500,000-to-1 chance
of appearing on the first page of results." Odds are, since you're
reading this, you probably have a professional or deep personal
connection to some Web site or another. I'd say the odds of you
Googling that site from time to time are pretty high too. If you Google
a popular query and the site ranks on the first page, you're witnessing
a minor technological miracle, and a marvel of dedication by the rocket
scientists you have working with you.
Nate looked at 40 of the
most popular queries, so his study is focused on terms that are
extremely popular. These are areas where there are massive amounts of
content developed, both intentionally (to compete for prime search
engine rankings) and organically (almost as a rule, popular queries
will also be popular subjects for people and businesses to naturally
create content around).
The research makes certain case
studies seem all the more remarkable. One of my favorite SEO
practitioners is a doctor in Dallas who has been optimizing listings
around Google long before many of his patients were finding him that
way. As I was writing this, I ran a search on "dallas botox," a popular
and competitive term; Google Trends notes that five of the top-10
cities in Texas indexed for searches on "Botox" are in the Dallas-Fort
Worth Metroplex. This doctor appeared as the top local business result
and four of the top-10 organic listings, translating to five first-page
rankings. I didn't see any ads for him this time, presumably because he
calculated that with five first-page rankings, he can allocate his
Google says 92,700 results are competing for
a spot on the first page, and while I'll allow Nate to calculate the
odds of the doctor's feat, Dr. Adelglass should be pretty proud of
himself. The odds of getting just one first-page ranking are daunting
enough, but five? I'm not just applauding him because he's my
father-in-law (if I really wanted to kiss up to him, I'd plug his main
site, Skintastic.com, which
is all about "making you more beautiful™"; on that note, please don't
ask for the slogan of my father's gastroenterology practice). I just
happen to be related to a guy who epitomizes what you can achieve in
the face of these now quantifiably insurmountable odds.
There's a lot you can do with Nate's research. He provides a roadmap
for the opportunity for video optimization, and you can go to town
supporting your video strategy with YouTube Insights, as I described in a previous column.
As with any research study, I also keep thinking of the follow-ups I'd
like to see. How well do videos appear in the less frequent mid-tail
searches? And what if this was applied beyond video? What are the odds
of a business ranking on the first page of Google above the main
natural search results in the local index, as my father-in-law does?
And then there are books, images, products, and news, to name a few
other universal search categories.
After reading over Nate's
work and the related coverage, I'm left amazed by the odds against
marketers, and it gives me even greater appreciation for this field
I've been involved with now for half a decade. I'm even all the more
impressed with the Skintastics out there who saw this coming long
before "Google" was a verb.
Dear [Person I Haven't Spoken to in Five Years / Sales Guy I Kind of Know Who's Plugging His Social Media-ish Company / Someone Whose Connection Request I Accepted for Some Random Reason at the Time but Now Has Me Wondering How I Know Him],
I see you started a [group / Page] on [LinkedIn / Facebook / Plaxo Pulse]. I get why you're doing it. You really want to raise awareness for your [company / book / obscure cause]. You get social media enough to know that if just 10% of the people you send requests to accept, then you can play the numbers game and get many more exposures in their friends' news feeds.
You also probably know, if you're being totally honest with yourself, that most of those people who do respond in the affirmative aren't really fans, nor will they participate in any discussion board. They'll probably forget they even agreed to join until you start sending them too many messages. Really, they joined because they [know it's quicker to just say yes to everything than think too hard / hit the wrong button / plan on spamming you and everyone else they know later with similar requests].
But what about the 90% who don't go along with it? You're probably hoping that it doesn't matter much. On the cost-benefit analysis, you see the benefits of the 10% who join so alerts show up for their friends, so you're influencing far more than just that 10%. And many of the 90% will simply hit [ignore / archive] and not give it more than a split-second's thought. It's a wash for them - no harm, no foul.
Yet some of those 90% are going to think less of you. They're going to think you don't get how this social media stuff works. They're going to wonder why anyone except [the company's staff / the book's author / the cause's founders and only donors] would participate. They wonder who has time to join another such discussion where no one's discussing anything.
It's these people in that 90% who only kind of know you. Your closest friends will [humor you / forgive you]; you've probably done worse. The people who are a bit further out don't need to be so forgiving. They may not even know who you are. And as they're trying to make up their minds about you, you become one of the bad guys, or at least someone who doesn't get it.
I still haven't made up my mind about you. But I'm more wary of you because of this. If you're lucky, I'll forget about it. If you're not, next time I see the name of your [company / book / cause], I'll think a bit less of it, and I may even be momentarily annoyed.
So, count me out. Count everyone out, even those who humored you. And next time you plan on shameless shilling through social media, rethink the plan and instead try to add something of value to the community. Then, when you send personal notes about what you're doing, you may be able to target your outreach so well that a far greater percentage will participate, while a handful of others will simply ignore it, and no one will have to think less of you.
Thanks for listening, even though I know [you're not sold on my argument / you'd spam me again in a heartbeat / you think I'm some uptight butthead]. I can live with that.
Can a bounty for search engine users translate to a personal CPM?
This question follows MediaPost's OMMA Social event (catch the complete coverage) where a panel discussed the concept of the personal CPM,
when brands put a value on consumers who spread marketing messages. In
social media, the concept works perfectly, as consumers can become part
of the advertising, whether in an ad through networks that target the
social graph, or by consumers alerting friends about their brand
With search, it's different. Your search
activities are not broadcast to all your friends, and if they are, you
probably want to switch search engines. Yet there are a number of
examples of bounties for searchers that indicate the personal CPM can
apply. We'll look at four today: Live Search Cashback, Yahoo Canada's
Air Miles partnership, the MouseHunt toolbar, and Prodege's Swagbucks.
Live Search Cashback
The best documented of the four examples, Microsoft's Live Search Cashback
lists discounts from retailers that can be sorted by the size of a cash
refund or the overall lowest price. In practice, it's hardly different
from other forms of comparison shopping: shoppers evaluate retailers on
a sliding scale of the lowest priced item by the most trusted marketer.
This is the only example here where the value of the searcher is
dependent on how much he or she spends.
Microsoft also offers rewards for repeat usage of its SearchPerks Perk Counter toolbar,
which treats search like a carnival: more searches lead to more
tickets, which can be redeemed for real-world goods of varying value.
The program's registration filled up with one million registrants, and
it's slated to end in April. Toolbars are popular ways to reward
searchers, as we'll see from the next two examples. Meanwhile, expect
Microsoft to keep leading the search industry in made-up compound
words. A few suggestions: SearchRewards, WindowsBucks, or
Yahoo Canada Air Miles
Courtesy of one of my favorite blogs, Three Minds at Organic, comes the story of Yahoo Canada launching the Air Miles Yahoo Toolbar.
Enter 50 queries and you get five Air Miles, up to 30 miles monthly. Is
this enough to get people to use the Yahoo Toolbar? You need to run 300
searches just to get those 30 miles. I tried the reward calculator,
and it takes 1,175 to 1,450 reward miles to fly round-trip from
Montreal to New York, which can be earned over 39 to 48 months. That
means up to four years of running 300 queries a month on the toolbar,
totaling 14,500 searches. There must be easier ways to travel, like Twitter hitchhiking (or Twitchhiking) around the globe.
Some things have inexplicable appeal, like Howie Mandel, or the nougat in a 3 Musketeers bar. Add to that list the Facebook application MouseHunt, which for me has been the most persistently addictive app I've tried.
MouseHunt recently launched a toolbar, where hunters (as we app players
call ourselves) earn the especially potent mouse bait called Super
Brie+, with three searches yielding one piece and the opportunity to
earn three pieces daily; search results come from Yahoo. Players can
also earn Super Brie+ by donating to MouseHunt, completing offers, or
buying it on the game-hosted black market for virtual gold. MouseHunt's
toolbar makes it easy to earn a substantial amount of Super Brie+
monthly. For addicted players, this definitely has the potential to
change their search behavior.
What do the New York Giants, Snoop Dogg, and Barry Manilow have in
common? I'm sure there's a great punchline in there somewhere (try your
own in the comments), but the one link I'm aware of is that all have
branded search engines through Prodege's Swagbucks.com. I've talked about Prodge before, and in several presentations I've included screenshots of its Kevin Federline search engine.
To be fully transparent, the swag helped sell me; an autographed photo
of K-Fed hangs prominently above my desk. Through Prodege, any query on
a branded engine gives the searcher a chance to win Swag Bucks that can
be redeemed for prizes from autographs to iPhones. For some reason, an
iPhone is worth 84 times a signed K-Fed photo; it should be the other
So, what's your pleasure? Cash, miles, virtual
cheese, pseudo-celebrity autographs? The challenge for search engines
is trying to change behavior; it's telling that there's no comparable
example from Google. It's hardly surprising that so many businesses are
trying to quantify the value of increased search usage and will reward
consumers accordingly. This economy presents the best time to up the
ante. The first search engine to reward searchers with contributions to
mortgage and credit card payments may be the recession's best shot at a
I'll close off the week with a little bit of pre-recorded mouthing off.
First, Jay Ehret, the prolific blogger and interviewer was kind enough to include me in episode #23 of the Power to the Small Business podcast series. The topic? Starting a Social Media Program. Jay asked some great questions to make the session as helpful as possible for small business owners, and to those of you among the readership (or Jay's listenership), I hope you found it useful.
Next comes a clip from BuzzLogic in Episode 21 of their Vino Diaries video podcast. I had the pleasure of doing this live when I was out West for OMMA Social. That's right, if you've done 20 or so episodes of a podcast relating to social media, you know exactly who to call. Especially if you're serving wine at 9 in the morning.
Thanks to Jay and BuzzLogic's Val and Sandra for the opportunities. Be sure to keep tuning into their podcasts to hear what really smart people have to say.
There's a lot of buzz right now about Google Latitude, the new location-based service where you opt in to the service, select which friends you're connected to, and then have it automatically update your location. I admit that there's a creepy factor here, and that most people will not want to let most other people know exactly where they are at any given moment.
Yet in today's MediaPost, the concerns get SO overblown that it's making me think Latitude's not such a bad idea after all:
"As it stands right now, Latitude could be a gift to stalkers, prying
employers, jealous partners and obsessive friends," Simon Davies,
director of Privacy International, said in a new report.
...Privacy International says the system has a design flaw: Other
people can get their hands on users' phones, and then change the
settings. For instance, the group said, a phone left in a repair shop
could be secretly enabled. Or someone could give another a
Latitude-enabled phone as a gift.
So basically, the concern is that these phones will be turned into Trojan horses. And the concern's not with the software, it's with the hardware.
It's quite possible that Al Qaeda could come into your office, take your phone while you're in the bathroom, turn it into a bomb, and make it explode when you walk into a shopping mall. But if the real concern about Google Latitude is some doomsday scenario a la Arlington Road, then maybe we can focus on more serious threats.
I do think Mr. Davies of Privacy International has had some REALLY bad cellphone repairmen.
David Berkowitz is Vice President of Emerging Media digital agency 360i. A frequent speaker and media pundit, he has been published hundreds of times in MediaPost, Ad Age, eMarketer, Mashable, and elsewhere. Get to know him in the links below the blog's header.