A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory


Thumbing through the October 2008 issue of PRSA's publication Tactics was a lot like opening up my RSS folders and taking a look around. Featuring an internet/web 2.0 multiple page spread, the issue covered topics ranging from maximizing the benefits of Twitter to the convenience of using FriendFeed. Most of this seemed familiar — maybe a little too familiar, as I had seen all of this content in one form or another on various blogs over the last year or so. Even their articles (the Twitter article in particular, which made use of a numbered list) read more like blog posts than articles. Well, so what?

If the editors of Tactics thought it was worth covering this on such a grandiose scale (the web 2.0 features run eight pages), it simply means that the PR industry as a whole is still learning about these new technologies and how to use them to advance their clients' desires. I mean, these articles are quite basic, and nothing I wouldn't expect most of our readers to at least be aware of — like an entire persuasive piece on why your company needs to Twitter (sound familiar?)

Seeing this spread caused me to stop and re-examine perspectives for a moment. While people 'round these parts may take these basic elements of digital PR for granted, this area of the industry is still relatively very new. Sometimes it is good to go over the fundamentals, to relearn your basics. If you have access to PRSA's trade publications, I'd check out the issue — a good introductory summary of some elementary online PR tactics — maybe show it to your boss and convince them to start a company Twitter account.

SEO and Selective Attraction

Yesterday I streamed a recorded webinar from MarketingProfs titled "Beyond Trade Show Metrics: Improving Your Event Marketing ROI," conducted by Skip Cox is CEO of Exhibit Surveys, Inc.  This interested me since we had a booth at the Personal Democracy Forum for ImpactWatch last month.

During the webinar Cox discussed the concept of selective attraction.  This is basically a smarty pants way of describing the importance of attracting the trade show attendees who are the most interested and in most need of the product that an exhibit is pitching.  These people are much more likely to purchase the product or service than other attendees, and devoting time to someone who isn't interested is a waste of time when a potential client is left alone.

This makes sense since, considering our recent experience, not everyone who is attending a politics and technology conference is interested and/or in need of a media monitoring program.  For instance, I met plenty of great folks at our ImpactWatch booth, but some didn't need what we offer.  However, I hope we attracted the people who were interested in our product.

So how am I going to tie trade show exhibit metrics and search engine optimization together?

Well, selective attraction is also an important concept in SEO.  For example, we may optimize the ImpactWatch site to rank high for searches for a general keyword like "news," but a very small portion of these searchers are interested in a media monitoring product.  Perhaps they simply want to know how the stock market is doing or what Punxsutawney Phil did on Groundhog Day, not reputation management. 

Thus, it sometimes is wasteful to invest in ranking well for a general keyword.  That's why the long tail of search is an important factor to consider.  Although focusing on appropriate long tail keywords may attract fewer site visitors, if a greater portion of site visitors is coming from a more niche term are likely to convert from a visitor to a customer, that is a better practice — especially since it is probably less competitive to rank well for a niche term.  

To learn more read our SEO Basics white paper; we discuss selective attraction in the keyword section.

Talking about SEO in the Real World

In many ways, I've learned more while explaining a concept than I do reading or listening about it.  That's why it is always intriguing to explain Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to someone who doesn't work in the realm of web development. 

Over the weekend, I was explaining SEO to a librarian I know. During this conversation I was trying to explain the field to her in terms that I assume she would understand.

For example, I explained that a search engine is like a librarian whom people approach to find the most relevant information about a topic.  In the case of search engines, people ask by using a keyword.  Then the search engine provides a list of sites in order of relevance.

To do this, I explained, that search engines gauge many factors of each information source that a librarian must also consider.  These factors include: the age of the source, who cites (links to it on the Internet) it, how often it is updated, etc. 

During this discussion she mentioned something that intrigued me.  Librarians, like us all, need to conscientiously work to avoid providing biased information.  For instance, a patron may ask a librarian for a book about the librarian's religion, and the librarian may feel compelled to refer the patron a book written by someone who sheds a positive light upon the religion.  Whether this is truly the best book or not, the librarian must refrain from unduly emphasizing one factor of relevance over others.

Likewise, search engines must also work to avoid providing biased information.  This was the case years ago when they weren't as selective with the link factor when assessing a site's relevance.  Many web developers would create virtually useless sites to a human that were chock full of links (aka "link farms") to sites that they were trying to get ranked well.  The search engines eventually became more discriminating when assessing links to prevent such manipulation so that they could provide less biased results to those who used them to search for information.

Although I've understood the concept of link farms before my discussion with my friend, her comments helped me understand SEO in a better way.  Thus, I would suggest to anyone to explain the complexities of their field to someone else.  It helps.

Firefox's Download Day 2008

firefoxdownloadday In case you didn't know, Tuesday, June 17th is a big day… for the Firefox community.  That's when Mozilla will release Firefox 3.  It also hopes to set a new Guinness World Record (they've been some wacky ones) for the most software downloads in 24 hours on what it dubs "Download Day 2008." In fact, on the day's official site, people are asked to pledge to download the new browser on that day.

Firefox is one of the most popular alternatives to Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, and it has a cult following.  Thus, it is not surprising that Mozilla, the non-profit organization behind it, actively taps into this crowd to spread its product, and Download Day is one way that it can help foment excitement with the fans.

The whole concept of creating a special day to set a new world record may seem gimmicky, but it is also creative.  While a more traditional advertising and marketing campaign might promote the release of the new browser well, Mozilla likely lacks the funds to adequately pull this off on a global — or even national — scale.  Further, Firefox is an Internet-based product, and advertising and marketing is different on-line than it is off-line.  However, that's not necessarily a hurdle since a well devised scheme can cheaply and quickly turn into a viral phenomenon.

While I bet existing Firefox proponents will make up most of the potential world record participants, the novelty of helping set a record might attract some people to give the browser a test drive.  However, the hoopla is mainly for the current user.  It gives them a chance to revel in using the program.

Are you excited about Download Day 2008?  Do you like to have special days to celebrate your favorite products? 

6% are Natural Born Clickers

An interesting study crossed my screen recently.  According to this press release, media agency Starcom USA, behavioral targeting network Tacoda, and digital consumer insight company comScore collaborated on a research study whose results call into question how well click rates on ads measure a consumer base.

The study states that only 6% of the total Internet population represents 50% of the clicks on ads.  Online media companies may use click rates as points of negotiation with their clients, but if this study is accurate, that measurement is not a clear view of how many people are seeing these ads.  Further measurements from the study show no correlation between display ad clicks and brand metrics, and show no connection between measured attitude towards a brand and the number of times an ad for that brand was clicked.

So who are these clickers?  Reading some forums concerning the topic led to some interesting, and occasionally probably ideas:

  • Young children that may click more than they should
  • Overly frugal consumers fiendishly looking for a great deal
  • First time Internet users
  • Employees who click on their own ads to raise metrics
  • Professional ‘ad clickers' who are hired to click to raise metrics

The ‘Heavy Clicker' is profiled in the study.  These users are typically between the ages of 25-44 and households with an income under $40000.  They also spend four times more time online than the typical Internet user and are more likely to visit auctions, gambling, and career services sites.  Clearly, these are not typical Internet users, nor are they the type of people that many of the above suggestions implied.

As I mentioned in a past blog post, measuring click rates is archaic and unnecessary.  Ads on the Internet are not what they were promised to be-noninvasive and simple.

I think that it's actually sad that what could have been a great aspect of the Internet (essentially, selectable commercials) has been destroyed thanks to pop-up ads, spam, scams, and the need for online metrics.  It's time to move on to a new form of online advertising.