Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Doing Bird

The explosion of Twitter as a social network has been astonishing during 2009 as the micro-blogging mechanism has made the leap from the online niche to the mainstream. It would seem that Stephen Fry getting stuck in a lift was the best thing that could ever happen to newest Silicon Valley start-up in Feb 2009.


So how are businesses engaging in this new tool? O2 UK picked up on some tweets from celebrity Phillip Schofield who was having some problems with his iPhone. Using Twitter, O2 were able to guide Mr. Schofield through the necessary steps in order to resolve his problem. This looked great for O2. The problem was that all these conversations took place in the public domain so all of Schofield's followers, that were O2 customers quickly got in touch to find out about new tariffs, handsets and whether there was a new iPhone arriving in the Spring. The Official O2 Twitter account had essentially become an interface for customers to speak to the brand. As a result, the poor fellow that manages the O2 Twitter account, quickly found that his remit expanded to cover PR, Customer Service, retention and acquisition and O2 had to rapidly rethink how they used Twitter.

Other businesses have encountered problems with how they embrace Twitter as well. Mars offered Twitter users the chance to have their tweets featured on the Skittles home page if they mentioned the word skittles within their tweet. Cue the British public using the depths of the English language in order to crowbar as many profanities as possible onto home page of the brands home page.

Recently, Twitter was even instrumental in the end an a-list celebrity relationship as poor John Mayer's excuse that he was too busy with work to reply to
girlfriend Jenifer Aniston's text messages, were exposed as he was found to have updated his twitter profile numerous times during the same period.

So there you have it, a new craze is out there. Twitter is the tool of 2009 and organisations that feel they should be harnessing the power of social media as part of their online marketing strategy are swarming to it trying to do something, anything to prove they are web 2.0 savvy. It will be exciting to see what brands
will do next. One thing is for sure, there will be more disasters than there will successes before the tool and users find the optimum position for both to benefit.

and if you're reading this Jen, I'd give up twitter for you.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

SEO Tracking Problems

A worrying post by Patricio Robles emerged on the e-consultancy blog recently. Patricio wrote about how Google are testing the use of AJAX in order to hide the query parameter within their search string.

There are two obvious impacts should Google decide to continue on this path.

1. Broad Match
Anyone that has worked with me on a PPC account knows that I am not a great fan of broad match. I believe that the most effective campaigns are built where careful keyword planning has been applied so that the keywords within the account are very closely aligned with those searched upon by the target market. The generic, catch-all nature of broad match means that impressions, clicks and money can be wasted on queries that are not relevant and will not convert.

Search organisations should be pro-actively enquiring against the query string parameter on broad and phrase match terms in order to identify the actual term being searched upon.They can automatically update their keyword portfolio with a revised list of negative match terms and further terms on exact match. This helps to minimise the wastage on a search budget.


2. Tracking Natural Search
Nearly all natural tracking solutions rely on the query string parameter in order to determine information about the user and their search. For example, from the following URL it can be identified that I searched for Arsenal, using firefox.

http://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Arsenal&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-GB:official&client=firefox-a

Web analytics software extracts this information from this query string. If Google hide the query string from passing this information, then it can only be captured if Google create an API which is unlikely considering the result of this change means that Google Analytics establishes a unique selling point over competitors in the ability to capture detailed information about natural search tracking.

It will still be possible to determine where the traffic has come from, just not which keyword it was. For brands that are trying to coordinate their search engine marketing to generate the best ROI from both paid and natural simultaneously, this is a serious obstacle.

Within the comments on the post, Jon Howard notes that AOL, which is powered by Google, has always obfuscated query strings for search terms, although I have not found this to be the case in reality.

I believe that the only way forward is for web analytics to collaborate and challenge Google on this process.
The industry has been crying out for standardisation of search strings for some time and web analytics companies are best placed to achieve this. Voices need to be heard but Google, of course, does not have to listen.