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Sep. 09, 2010 | by Doug Platts Google Instant: the ‘Marmite’ of Search

As I’m sure most are aware, and for those who are not, Google released Google Instant last night to the world.

Where is it available?

I say the world, actually it seems to be rolled out across the US, i.e. on www.google.com – although you can use that from any location – but for ‘regional Googles’ you still need to be signed into a Google account to experience it in a select batch of countries:

Google Instant is starting to roll-out to users on Google domains in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia who use the following browsers: Chrome v5/6, Firefox v3, Safari v5 for Mac and Internet Explorer v8.

However it is also worth noting that Google Instant won’t work if you try to use it:

  • from your browser’s search box
  • from the Google Toolbar
  • from iGoogle
  • from other places that access a Google search
  • if you’ve previously disabled Google’s autocomplete feature
  • if you’re using Google SSL search
  • if you’ve disabled Instant (Just hit the toggle link in the upper right hand corner of the page next to the search button)

So how does Google Instant work?


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Sep. 07, 2010 | by Tamsin Hemingray Why it might be time to stop “writing for the web”

My colleague Ifraz Mughal (user experience architect here at iCrossing) and I had a funny conversation this morning that I thought I might share. He’d been sent a recommendation to a training course called “writing for the web” and wondered whether I thought it would be any good. His timing was impeccable as I’d just been thinking about a request from a client of ours to provide them with some training on this subject. To cut a long thought process short, I’d come to the conclusion that the idea of “writing for the web” was pretty much defunct – and that training sessions with this title need to be handled with extreme caution. Ifraz was surprised to hear this, especially from me, someone who bangs on about the need for the highest quality writing being a non-negotiable element of online content delivery.

But the more I think about it, the more I think that there’s no such thing as a single, coherent entity that is “the web” any more. So how can you possibly “write for” it?


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Sep. 07, 2010 | by Gregory Lyons Travel Insurance Research Report

/ TRAVEL INSURANCE RESEARCH (PDF)

There have been some major world events this year that have impacted our ability to travel, from of the eruption of the Icelandic volcano to the political unrest in Thailand.

The Research & Insight team at iCrossing thought it would be interesting to investigate whether these events had an impact on the Travel Insurance category and take a look at the wider category as a whole. These kinds of events have meant that travellers’ interest in their travel insurance policy has increased as uncertainty around their trips has grown. Many passengers have been left stranded abroad forced to make their own way home at their own expense.

This report covers the travel insurance sector and aims to identify the main categories within that space, who the top competitors are, the demographics of travel insurance, search linguistics, mobile search and any seasonal and event driven trends.

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Sep. 02, 2010 | by Philip Buxton UK IAB to ‘guestimate’ Facebook revenues for next online adspend study

The UK Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) is to guestimate the advertising revenues of Facebook for its next online adspend figures.

The trade body and its research partner on the study, PricewaterhouseCoopers, are working with digital media agencies including Isobar and Group M to model the social network’s ad revenues so it can present as accurate a picture as possible of digital ad spend in the first half of 2010, due in October.

Facebook is known to account for a large portion of display spending in the UK (and elsewhere) but it is not currently one of the more than 300 media owners that supply its revenues to the IAB to compile the study.

The IAB is keen to beef up the amount of display spend represented in the figures since it is paid search that continues to account for both the bulk of total spend and growth in the sector. Display advertising is seen as the area ripest for new growth as long as advertisers can be persuaded to use it as something other than a direct-response mechanism.

Speaking at a recent Guardian digital event for client advertisers, IAB head of research Tim Elkington said it lamented the degree to which display was not given due credit for its role in delivering online sales higher up in users’ routes to purchase.

The role of display for traditional brand awareness and perception has long been a key issue for the IAB to tackle since the format has become commoditised thanks to comparison with more successful channels for direct, sales-focused advertising, primarily paid search.

A recent study by the IAB examined the campaigns of three airlines to discover that display ads do increase the likelihood of conversion through ‘last-click’ routes like paid and natural search.

Elkington said discussions with Facebook about contributing formally to the study were ongoing and positive and agreed that modelling its revenues might help persuade the company to participate.

He added there had been discussion with the media agencies helping in the task about whether Facebook ads actually constituted search advertising since they are targeted against keywords in users’ profiles. However, it is most likely they will be treated as display due to the format of the ads.

Aug. 31, 2010 | by fiona.grantham Connected brands as molecular brands

Connectedness.  That is the first thing I learnt when I joined iCrossing earlier last week.  Connectedness is the central philosophy for working life here, or as someone framed it – “the way we see the world”.

I like it. It’s a neat proposition that suitably fits the challenges and opportunities that brands are faced with today.  With a digital space that has become less a place where we dip in and out of to achieve isolated tasks, and more a place we exist in day to day.  In true planner style I have a diagram for this:

The surprise here for me is that search, something iCrossing has carved a strong reputation in, is just a component of this.  Connectedness is so much more and as a newbie here I am impressed (and pleased) to see a company striving to help their clients make sense of what this means and how it works.


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Aug. 24, 2010 | by James Taylor URL Tools Add-In for Excel

Here in the Natural Search department we use Excel. A lot. And frequently we are taking data from the web (such as from the rather good Open Site Explorer) and manhandling it in order to make more sense of it. As part of this process, it’s often helpful to be able to quickly pull out the domain portion of a URL. For example, let’s say you have a list of URLs like this:

  • http://www.example.com/
  • http://www.icrossing.co.uk/file1.html
  • http://www.icrossing.co.uk/file2.html
  • http://example.com/another_file.html
  • http://www.acompletelydifferentdomain.com/

You might find yourself in a position where want to take this list and reduce it to just the domain portions like this:

  • example.com
  • icrossing.co.uk
  • icrossing.co.uk
  • example.com
  • acompletelydifferentdomain.com

It’s possible to use an Excel formula to do this. Here’s one I found by searching:

=IF(LEFT(LEFT(SUBSTITUTE(A1,”http://”,”"),FIND(“/”,SUBSTITUTE(A1,”http://”,”")&”/”)-1),4)=”www.”,MID(LEFT(SUBSTITUTE(A1,”http://”,”"),FIND(“/”,SUBSTITUTE(A1,”http://”,”")&”/”)-1),5,256),LEFT(SUBSTITUTE(A1,”http://”,”"),FIND(“/”,SUBSTITUTE(A1,”http://”,”")&”/”)-1))

This is fine, but as you can see the formula is rather long and combining this with any further functions would be a real headache. To try to solve this, I wrote an add-In for Excel that adds a handy function to perform this step (along with a few others).


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Aug. 06, 2010 | by Tamsin Hemingray What can brands learn from the best digital publishers?

The phrase “brand as publisher” seems to be as commonly used in digital marketing circles as “what’s the ROI of social?” at the moment (which is great news if you’re an online content specialist like me!) Even hardened SEO-focused, direct marketing types are eyeing up the “softer” side of online content and wondering whether they shouldn’t be getting a piece of the publisher action – if only as a means of creating “link bait” and pleasing Google’s algorithm. It means that Content Strategy becomes even more relevant and essential for our clients. We can take a close look at what is working for other publishers, and take a long hard look at their own content, assessing what is going to work for them. And what isn’t.

If your brand is serious about becoming a publisher – whether on your own site or elsewhere on the web, you can learn a huge amount from the people who are creating and delivering the best content and services on the web.

I’ve asked the members of the Content team here at iCrossing to describe their favourite websites – and explain why it works for them on a personal level. It’s a good way to share our ideas on how to match content delivery to user need and business objectives, which is what content strategy boils down to. So here, then, is the iCrossing Content Team’s Top Websites List. If you’re thinking of getting going with a content strategy in the second half of this year or planning for 2011, it’s a good place to start if you want to understand best practice.


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Jul. 30, 2010 | by Adam Boulton 7 ways Google Analytics can help when redesigning your website

Your analytics data is nearly as important as the financial accounts of your business when it comes to making a decision about your website. Your analytics data helps you understand how effective your site’s marketing, design and content is. And just as you wouldn’t hire more staff without being sure you have the budget for it, you shouldn’t redesign your website without understanding what your customers do when they are on it.

Below are seven ways Google Analytics can be used to help make the right decisions during a redesign.

1. What browsers and windows sizes should we support?

When designing your site you want to ensure that the majority of your customers can view your website and convert without browser versions or sizes preventing this.

I’d personally think that you should design your website in a size that at least 95% of your visitors can see without having to scroll horizontally. An easy way to check what browser sizes your current visitors are using is to go the Screen resolutions report under Visitors > Browser capabilities > Screen resolutions.

By comparing to site average you can also see if any particular screen resolution(s) has a significantly higher bounce rate


In the graph above you can see that the wider screen resolutions are actually performing much worse – this could be addressed by using a liquid layout or JavaScript to position content.

A quick way to check if your site has browser compatibility is to look at the browser report and compare each type to the site average, for the website below it is clear that there is poor support for safari.


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Jul. 28, 2010 | by Simon Mustoe Does human behaviour make the social web a retention game for brands?

I am mightily impressed by a recent presentation from Paul Adams, a senior user experience researcher at Google. Entitled ‘The real life social network’, it examines how people connect, relate and communicate with each other, and what this means for experience designers online.

As someone who works agency-side I started thinking specifically about what the implications of Paul’s observations of human social behaviour are for brands, especially those taking part in the social web. Intriguingly, it suggests that social media is a customer retention, not a customer acquisition, game.


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Jul. 26, 2010 | by Priyanka.Dalvi Ranking higher in Local Search Results

Since Google started including local entries in natural results for location-specific search queries, local search optimisation has been gaining more attention. And with Google allotting more spaces to its Map-packs, pushing the traditional results below the fold, getting listed in the local search space is becoming crucial.

I always thought location was the only factor deciding the ranking of the map listing; the better optimised the map is to the location keyword, the higher are its chances to rank on top. However, according to the latest edition of David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors, there are more points to take into consideration. The most positive ones are summarised below:-


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