Last year was definitely a Google year, but rivals Yahoo! and MSN also made some waves. Search looms large, enabling new technologies to mushroom in cyberspace and beyond. This year saw the advent of consumer control, largely made possible due to the role of search in RSS and blogging. We saw a renewed emphasis in behavioral targeting and personalized search. With multimedia search and local mobile now widely available, search is not only ever-present, it is simplifying life for all of us.
RSS Goes Mainstream
RSS (Really Simple Syndication), the XML-based format for content distribution, has enabled blogging to spread like wildfire, giving users the ability to opt in for content from blogs and websites. In so doing, it gave rise to the idea of consumer content choice and control over media consumption, causing seismic changes in marketing strategies throughout the online world.
RSS is becoming increasingly more important as a content delivery channel because it allows marketers to deliver updated content while establishing customer relationships. It can be used for direct marketing, PR, ecommerce, online publishing and even SEO. Plan your RSS feeds by segmenting your target audiences into prospects, clients, business partners, search engines, etc. You'll want to plan different feeds for each target audience, depending on why you want to reach them. You can use product feeds, podcast feeds, article feeds, news feeds, etc. You'll also want to promote your feeds on your website and in email newsletters, as well as through external channels like search engines.
The Blogosphere Comes of Age
You could say 2005 was the Year of the Blog. Like them or not, blogs have had a huge impact on both journalism and marketing. They can play an important role in keeping your brand visible in the eyes of consumers. Some promotions go viral through blogging. Just look at the way Apple promoted its Video iPod through blogs, creating a new form of consumer-generated media.
While search giants like Google and Yahoo! were sleeping, new startups like Technorati, BlogPulse, Daypop, Feedster and IceRocket gained a foothold with blog search engines. Google finally launched its blog search in September. One month later, Yahoo! launched a blog search site as well. Technorati and BlogPulse each index over 20 million blogs. Industry experts say the marketing potential in blogging is huge for large and small companies alike.
JupiterResearch believes the number and influence of blogs will continue to rise, citing its recent survey that states "11% of online consumers read blogs at least monthly, a number that is rising rapidly." In September, Technorati reported that the number of online blogs is doubling every five months or so, while Intelliseek BlogPulse reported adding 50,000 new blogs daily.
Behavioral Targeting Redux
Search engineers have been working on artificial intelligence systems to learn user preferences from past search behavior in order to adjust search results based on individual user data. DoubleClick was the first to attempt behavioral targeting by marrying personal data with user web activities tracked by cookies. But that idea was a little ahead of its time; consumers and advocates went into a frenzy. Subsequently, DoubleClick reneged on its plans to use its Abacus Direct database to target relevant ads to users on a massive scale through its ad network back in 1999.
Fast forward to 2005, when Claria (formerly Gator) came out with the next extension of search. Personal Web (PW) is an application now running on the Claria computers in beta with public launch scheduled for Q1 2006. This downloadable software profiles the sites you visit and the content you read, deducing your news and information interests the same way behavioral targeting infers your advertising interests. Using a combination of your personal choices and its algorithm, PW can bring you more and better content on your topics of interest, also suggesting content of likely interest. You get a homepage, which is automatically reworked to match your interests over time.
Search Personalization Is De Rigueur
One of the biggest problems with search today is that keyword-based queries will too often return a vast amount of irrelevant data (not to mention spam). That's because search engines index the huge body of information that comprises the Internet based on text analysis (along with numerous other factors including site structure and links). So users have to wade through a lot of outdated, irrelevant listings to find the information they're looking for.
Search personalization presumes that users show an interest in specific topic areas, and that knowledge of such interests can be used to improve relevance in search engine returns. Therefore, a solution to the relevancy dilemma would be to limit search results to only the topics the user is interested in, based on her/his past searches.
At first, major search engines Google, Yahoo! and MSN ignored the shortcomings of their main search results due to the difficulty of providing personalized search. However, Yahoo!'s MyWeb (Beta) debuted in November. It lets you sign up to create your own personal searchable web, allowing you to save the full text of web pages.
In December, Google's Personalized Search (Beta) became available to users on 38 Google domains in addition to the main search page. This option reorders your search results based on your history of past searches, giving more weight to topics of interest.
Coming from MSN in 2006 is Windows Live Search, which will deliver personal search services to help users find what they're looking for on the web, their desktop, their mobile device, or in their local geographic area. Live.com is available in beta and more information can be found at http://ideas.live.com.
The role of search has expanded way beyond documents and text. For instance, you can get audio video content links through content alerts to your RSS aggregator service for any search term from all or some of Blinkx TV's more than 30 audio and video channels including BBC News, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg Television, NBC, MSNBC News, ABC, and ESPN.
You can download audio and video content online from AllOfMP3, touted as the cheapest music download service. Try MusicMP3 for more than 100,000 mp3 tracks. Then there's Napster's on-demand legal music service and eMusic, a digital mp3 music service.
You can get audio books, audio magazines, newspapers and radio programs at iTunes, with more than 8,000 best sellers and classics audio books, and thousands of radio programs you can download and listen to on your computer or iPod. Audible offers over 18,000 audio programs, including digital audio books, audio magazines, newspapers and radio programs for your PC, iPod, Palm Handheld or Pocket PC. You can even get free movie downloads at Open Flix, which offers movies in the public domain. Local Mobile
Google launched its new Local for Mobile service, which gives you a mini version of Google Local. You can get maps and driving directions. U.S. users can search for specific addresses or businesses and even business categories like in a directory. Data is limited to address and phone number with an option to call by clicking a link.
Yahoo! Mobile has a "Send to Phone" feature that lets you send and store names, phone numbers, addresses and cross-street info on your mobile phone for use on the road. The "Send to Phone" link is next to the address of the local business you look up on Yahoo! Local. The info goes directly to your phone, sending you a text message link that takes you to the Yahoo! Mobile webpage for the business with map and driving directions.
MSN Mobile gives you MSN Hotmail, MSN Messenger, MSN mobile web and MSN alerts on your cell phone or wirelessly enabled Windows Mobile-based device. The alerts let you receive information alerts on weather, traffic, news, sports and more.
The Name of the Game
Why all this emphasis on search? For one thing, it simplifies life and saves time when you know how to use it. Secondly, search will soon edge out email as the most popular web activity. Pew Internet and American Life tracking surveys and comScore Media Metrix research on consumer behavior indicate that approximately 60 million American adults use search engines on any given day, a sharp increase over the June 2004 figure of 38 million Americans.
Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
January 3, 2006
Paul J. Bruemmer has provided search engine marketing expertise and consulting services to prominent American businesses since 1995. As Director of Search Marketing at Red Door Interactive, he is responsible for strategizing and implementing search engine marketing activities within Red Door's Internet Presence Management (IPM) services.
Copyright © 1998 - 2013 K. Clough, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Privacy