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May. 28, 2010 | by Antony Mayfield Best iPad advice for digital marketers: don’t hold back
Happy UK iPad day, everyone.
When the iPad came out in the US, I and some colleagues offered our thoughts on this blog’s American equivalent, Great Finds. I was certainly excited about the new device, but  also tempered my opinions with caution:
the iPad is faced with a massive volume of polarized [sic] opinions and resulting uncertainty, due to a difficulty to see through what I call “the fog of blah” surrounding the launch. This device is an argument magnet, battles over a ton of digital media issues from DRM to the (yawn) PC vs. Mac debate have all converged on the iPad for a few weeks.


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May. 27, 2010 | by Liz Ayers Securely Search

Last week Google rolled out SSL encryption to its search product.

What it is: The option of establishing a secure https connection when searching google.com

How to use it: Visit https://www.google.com (Attention to the extra “s”) and search as usual.

What it is SSL: SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is a protocol that provides secure communications on the Internet for things liike web browsing, e-mail, instant messaging & other data transfers.

Advantage: Added security for your users. It helps protect your search terms and your search results pages from being intercepted by a third party on your network.

Effect: Potentially a slightly slower service due to the additional time to set up the encryption between your browser and the remote web server.

Other: Not all products are available with a SSL so there will not be the usual links to other products like Maps & Images.

When to use it: When not on a non-secure Internet connection, such as a public wireless or non-encrypted network.

May. 13, 2010 | by Nuria Sadurni The number of keywords used in a search still matters

We all know how fascinated keywords are. There is an entire world of analysis around keywords, from a linguistic analysis or from an optimisation point of view.

An interesting analysis is to see a breakout percentage by number of terms used across different countries:

Source: iCrossing -  Trellian data / Forrester

Nordic countries for example have a large percentage of one word search over 50%, compared to American geographies where the percentage is for less than 40% using one word. One can think that less number of keywords means or has something to do with the language itself used in the country. Conversely,  one can immediately see that this hypothesis is wrong. If you compare UK and US or CA split by number of words, this differs completely in percentages despite of these countries tending to use the same language structure and share a lot of vocabulary terms. Another good way to check this is checking Germany as an example as one can expect -one word %- to be in large proportion as Germans use very long word construction that can include adjectives and nouns.

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May. 11, 2010 | by Nuria Sadurni An unobtrusive model of “gross national happiness”

There is a lot of research around the happiness topic and which is the country that holds the highest index of happiness. I have read different research studies which normally provide different results and obviously different rankings.

Facebook has published a Gross National Happiness Index where you can track levels of happiness across different countries. Users rate their happiness as positive or negative. I found this at least interesting but of doubtful methodology although 400 million of Facebook users is a fair sample.



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May. 10, 2010 | by Liz Ayers Google Gets a Facelift

Google has been introducing a new user interface, improving the look and functionality and I have been seeing it from my PC at home over the past week or so, but today I can see it at the office. Initially I didn’t like the look of it but the more I have explored the functionality improvements it has grown on me.

New Look
The most obvious difference is the look of the search bar which has been modernised. I thought it looked a bit like a “fake” Google branding attempt, but with time I seem to be getting used to it.

I think the new look is better than the old interface and it almost makes the rest of the SERP, which has not been updated, look a little dated.

At the bottom of the SERP, the related links are now listed in two columns of four, rather than the previous four columns of two.

A prominent left hand navigation with different search options has now been introduced to the SERP. The majority of these search options in this panel have been available for some time, but were only visible once “show options” has been selected, so it is likely that they may appear new to a lot of users.

You can see here all the search options which are available in the left panel, not all are initially visible and there are links to expand the list to view all. The top half of the panel displays different mediums of results within a SERP and the bottom half of the panel filters the standard SERP.

Depending on the search query different search options are displayed without needing to expand the option list. Looking into this with a variety of search queries it is becoming apparent that for a high percentage of searches the top half of the panel reflects the types of universal results within the SERP. For example if a search for ‘hotel in London’ displays normal listings as well as news results, a map and images then the panel will automatically show the filters for those types of results and the filter for blogs, books and updates etc are only visible once the “More” expanding list is selected. The bottom part of the panel also reflects the type of results which are displayed, if there is a recently indexed result then usually something within the “Any time” list is displayed. The “Standard view” section of the left panel however has foxed me for the time being.

The ‘pages from the UK’ radio button that was once under the search query field is now in this left panel and the navigation options at the very top right hand side of the page can now also be seen in the left panel with visual icons.

I believe that the new left panel will increases users knowledge and use of other Google functionality rather than just the basic search function.


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Apr. 29, 2010 | by Nilhan The Evolution of Search

The Evolution of Search

The last eighteen months saw some of the most significant changes to the way Google produces its natural search listings. While Google updates its ranking algorithm almost on a daily basis, inclusion of entirely new signals are rare.

Since the launch of Google in 1998, back link analysis determined the credibility and relevance of a webpage. This worked well in 96 but by 2007, the very thing that helped Google dominate was also becoming its Achilles heel. As the SEO industry battled for the first page, links were getting far too noisy to provide the signal of quality they once represented.

The introduction of user data

In 2009 we saw the introduction of user data in the form of the Vince Update. It was characterised by  the dominance of brands across highly competitive search real-estate, even when they were not specifically optimised in the traditional sense.

While the SEO community complained Google was favouring brands – our research into Vince showed a strong correlation between  user data and better semantics. The sites doing well had a lot in common – they were all highly searched-for in their category and they were also synonymous with their core category keywords on the web.  For example, many people search for ‘British Airways’ following a query for ‘flights’, and the words ‘British Airways’ and ‘flights’ also appeared on the same pages a lot. As a result of this, Google has judged that ranking BA high for a search on ‘flights’ will provide a better user experience, regardless of whether the word appears on its site.


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Apr. 23, 2010 | by Simon Social Media and the Law event

On Wednesday this week, iCrossing hosted a brief talk on Social Media and the Law. The main speaker was Tom Cowling from media law specialists Swan Turton, but he was ably backed up by our own Antony Mayfield, and – probably somewhat less ably – by myself.

Photo credit: CC Flickr user no3rdw

Thanks to Tom for condensing so much information into his short speaking slot, and for sticking around to answer questions afterwards. Thanks also to Wired Sussex, and to everyone who turned up – we hope you all found it useful.


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Apr. 23, 2010 | by Doug Platts 5 Reasons to use Google Places

One of the handy things about having US offices is that when a new developments happen in Search, they are usually launched over in the States and then filter out to the rest of the World up to 6 months later. This happens with Search Engine updates such as Vince and the launch of new Search Engines such as Bing.

Most recently is the launch of Google Places to replace Google Local Business Listing on Tuesday of this week.

So what’s new in Google Places:

  • Service areas: Businesses that travel to their customers can now specify which geographic areas they serve and be eligible to show in search results for queries in those areas. Also, if a business doesn’t have a physical street address, its address can remain private.
  • Tags: For a flat fee of $25/month, businesses can enhance their listings with a yellow Maps icon that displays a customizable line of text describing any aspect of the business.
  • Business photo shoots: Businesses can already upload photos of their locations to their Google Place page. Now Google is offering to do a free interior photo shoot of the business as well.
  • QR codes: From its Place page dashboard, a U.S. business can now download a QR code, that if scanned by a user’s capable smartphone, will direct that user to the mobile version of that business’s Place page.
  • Favorite Places: Google plans to mail window decals with QR codes to 50,000 businesses around the U.S. to use in advertising at their locations.

Below is some handy advice from Eric Sidone (@esidone) our Natural Search Strategist in the Phoneix Office of iCrossing.

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Apr. 20, 2010 | by Tamsin Hemingray Content strategy: the new social media or the old web editing?


Content Strategy is lining up to be “the next big thing” to happen online, if you are to believe the hype.

The queen of content strategy Kristina Halvorson wrote this post in February which argued that: “Content strategy is more or less on the same trajectory as social media was three years ago”.

There does seem to be a growing interest. Google trends data show search volumes for content strategy and related terms in March 2010 running at about twice the rate as January 2007 (taking into account the growth in overall search volumes). Searches specifically for “online content strategy” have risen 70% during that time.

It’s a compelling story. And being honest, as Content Director at iCrossing, it has really helped when talking to people about what we want to do with content to help them to reach their business goals. No one wants to be missing out on “the next big thing”, do they?

But this post isn’t about the “sellability” of Content Strategy as a project or service.

It’s about the idea that this is a new discipline.

Charlie Peverett and I went to a stimulating and well-attended event last week in London’s fashionable Shoreditch. Content Strategy, Manhattan Style invited attendees to meet “three of New York’s finest content strategists… for an evening of informal discussions, socialising, and perhaps a little drinking”. Most interestingly for me, the event blurb suggested that this was “the place to be if you want to learn more about the business value, opportunities, and practical application of this emerging field of practice” [my emphasis].

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Apr. 20, 2010 | by Mark Higginson Social Media Analytics: one size fits no-one

I was quoted in an article in last week’s issue of NMA entitled Social Media Analytics. Sadly a subscription is required to read the whole thing; I wonder how much traffic they actually get to older features? Be very interesting to know whether it is really worth locking all that content away. I digress, here’s what the article covered:

“As people spend increasing amounts of time conversing on social networks, monitoring what they’re saying about your brand is crucial. So what tools are there to help you listen in?”

Here’s what I said:

‘Another popular paid-for product is Brandwatch, favoured by Mark Higginson, Head of Social Media at search agency iCrossing, for being one of the most cost-effective solutions available. He says iCrossing tweaks the network of sites crawled and reported on to match its sector knowledge, combining this with analysis. ”We call our quantitative and qualitative research a ’stories and numbers’ approach. It’s through this narrative we ascertain what content to create for which audience and who it’s best to approach in those networks in order to gain the greatest share of available attention.”‘

It’s interesting to read what other people had to say, particularly those that favoured Radian6. They’ve revamped their dashboard since I last tried it out; all well and good but I remember being pretty unimpressed with the quality of the actual data collected, although given how quick they are at responding to blog posts about them there must be something to be said for it. Andrew Girdwood of Bigmouthmedia is quoted as saying:

‘… that the data supplied by Radian6 is “pretty rudimentary” and comparable to that from some of the free tools, but its front end is “sexy”. “If you’re preparing social media reports to show someone else, there’s a lot to be said for a package that will wrap it up and can be presented to the board. Sometimes you’re paying for that.’

I would recommend in the strongest possible terms that you spend your budget on human analysis and insight over an expensive tool with weak data but pretty charts. At iCrossing our reports are generally bespoke, the size of client we deal with means we need to be flexible enough to fit in with existing reporting and a self-serve dashboard just doesn’t serve that need. Also, as I say above, this analysis does not exist in a vacuum; it needs to be acted on and that requires it to be substantiated.

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