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Is Organic Google Search Fading Away?

Posted on February 9, 2011 by Zach

Like it or not many retailers are at the mercy of Google and organic search for a significant amount of revenue and traffic. This can be both a good and a bad thing, its free and can represent significant  revenue, but you are also at their mercy and a page drop for a keyword can mean a lot of lost money. There have been many discussions about the changes Google has been making to their search engine results pages recently with Josh even writing about it last year. What interests me is not only how many changes they have made, but what that has done to what is displayed above the fold of those pages. Taking the pages as a whole it may not seem like much has changed, but when you look at the content above the fold I think Google has drastically changed the layout and content displayed. I put together a couple of examples...

A simple search for bathroom faucets has new elements that include: a much more prominent top ad display box with the inclusion of AdWords Ad Extensions such as Ad Site Links, Google instant which will automatically change the results of the page based upon what is being typed, Google Suggest which drops down a box of suggested or alternate search phrases, an altered left hand navigation pane, and a section for related searches which can include other brands, stores or types.

 

Google Results with Adwords


An alternative search for Kohler bathroom faucets shows the actual Kohler website multiple times in the top three organic results as well as having an ad in the top ad unit.
 

Google Results One Brand

 


A search for shower doors shows more prominent local listings with a map on the right and extended listing of local results further down the page.


Google Results Local

 

What I find interesting, is that over time Google has added more and more elements to their results, given ads a more prominent focus and placement, and in many cases simply over complicated search. Didn’t they used to be known for a simple set of relevant results? Don’t get me wrong, I am a Google fan boy but when looking at the content above the fold on their results pages, I start to get overwhelmed by the number of elements and the amount of ads.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

 


Little Giant has been hard at work engineering pumps that their most loyal customers have been waiting for. PlumberSurplus.com is your destination for the new Little Giant TSW Sump Pump System and their Condensate Pumps.

What to Look For In Contract Negotiations

Posted on September 24, 2010 by Zach

Being involved in marketing at Gordian Project I see a lot of contracts. Add that to the fact that we have a lawyer on staff, and you get to learn about the finer points of contract negotiation; such as what certain things mean in contracts, what’s important to look for and when the right time is to push for a better deal or compromise. You also learn a fair amount of lawyer speak and legalese which can help wading through these types of things. Being a small company it’s always important that we save money when we can and spend wisely so we always push for better deals, less restrictive terms and shorter contract lengths. Our motto when it comes to contracts and agreements are, “You don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.” This rings true in life and in business. When a contract slides across my desk or enters my inbox here are some of the things I care about, they also tend to be my first points of negotiation.

Pricing

Of course pricing is always going to be the main negotiating point. Many times that can be represented as a one time or monthly flat payment, a percentage of sales or a combination of the two. Don’t forget to run the numbers for the different options, especially if you are working on a combination of flat payments and a percentage. In the short term a higher percentage and lower flat payment may look good, but in the long run you might be paying more than a lower percentage and higher flat rate would have you pay. Don’t forget to shop around and do your research, if you know someone is getting a good deal then you have an idea of the concessions that are available.

Contract Length

Contract or agreement length is one of the next items I usually look at. I normally look out for the red flags and ask the following questions. Is the contract trying to lock you into a two or more year term? What is a term you are comfortable with concerning this contract? How does the renewal work? Is it automatic or are there more negotiations? When thinking about these questions you want to make sure that you are looking at the costs for the entirety of the term in order to understand the costs structure and what you are getting for those costs.

Terms

Terms are another point I always look for. Some of the key questions I ask are: How do they want you to pay? Do you need to keep a minimum budget? Are there payment terms? If there are when will you be receiving the invoice and when you get the invoice how long until payment is due? Most often I push for invoiced payment terms, with the industry standard 30 days from the date of the invoice. These payment terms give us plenty of time to receive and process the invoice and typically we are able to hold onto the dollars longer than other options with these terms.

Contract Termination

Contract or agreement termination is like an opt out and if good termination language is in place the length of the actual term becomes a bit less important. This enables one of the parties to end the contract, usually with a written notice and a certain length of time. For example, the agreement may include language that lets either party terminate the agreement for any reason within thirty days of written notice. I almost always try to get this included if it’s not already. This is important because if the service or product is not working out the way you wanted or priorities have changed, you are able to get out of the agreement without staying for and paying for the entire term of the agreement. Beware of people who will not even think about adding this for you, sometimes they are just trying to lock you into an agreement without caring about your goals or priorities.

If I can’t get some kind of contract or agreement termination I certainly make sure that if it makes sense there are performance metrics that need to be achieved. Doing this at least holds the other party to some kind of performance levels with which you are aware of beforehand. Sometimes this means completing projects, increasing sales, reducing cost, etc. That way, especially if you can’t get out of the contract via termination, you both understand what kinds of things are expected during the term of the contract or agreement. If these are not achieved typically the contract or agreement is terminated. A common mistake here is not putting in a timeline; make sure that if there are performance goals, both parties understand when and how those are to be achieved, as well as when they will be evaluated during the term of the contract or agreement.

Amendments

Amendments are simply something you need to keep in mind. Sometimes there may be a need to make an amendment to the agreement such as adding or removing an additional service. Just watch the language in the amendment to make sure you are not agreeing to anything you are not aware of, or that it’s not increasing or extending the term of the original agreement unless that's what you want.

Goodwill

I include goodwill as a caveat, sometimes people push so hard for a good deal or better terms that they forget about other opportunities and values. If you use up all of your goodwill getting a great deal there may be none left for co-marketing, press releases, white papers, blogs, social media promotion or other items that might be more valuable than a better deal.

I hope that helps, I would be interested in what others look for in contracts or agreements as well! Happy negotiating!

 


PlumberSurplus.com offers its customers tens of thousands of plumbing, home improvement, and building products in a range of categories including Kitchen and Bathroom, Water Heaters, Lighting, Pumps, Tools, Access Doors, Valves, Commercial and more. Individuals and businesses can shop quickly and easily at PlumberSurplus.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Two New Ways to Check Google Site Speed

Posted on August 24, 2010 by Zach

Search Engine Round Table  had a interesting post about two of best ways to check Google’s factors for site speed. Site Speed recently became one of the many ranking factors for Google, and should be something that webmasters are aware of when optimizing their websites. The first way to check Google's factors for site speed is the site performance section under Labs in Google Webmaster Tools.

Google Webmaster Tools

The data displayed in this section is an aggregate of all of the Google Toolbar Data for how long it takes actual users to download pages on your site. This is an important factor, but it does have some shortcomings. First, this data is only gathered from people that have the Google Toolbar installed. If a user does not have the bar installed then Google is not able to gather their data. Because of this, the number is only a sampling of all of the people browsing your site. I know what you are going to ask, "If it is only a small sample, then why should I care about it." Always remember, if it is important enough for Google to report, then it is important enough for you to review.

The other option for reviewing site speed is also in Google Webmaster Tools, but under the Diagnostics section and then Crawl stats.

Google Webmaster Tools

This section displays crawl stats for Googlebot on your website. What it specifically gathers is how many pages are crawled per day, how much data is downloaded per day, and how long it takes for them to download a page. This data is almost more important in terms of site speed factors because it lets you know how your site's performance is affecting Googlebot. If it takes Googlebot a long time to download pages on your website it will take them longer to index your site, and in turn they will crawl less pages. We all know that crawling less pages is never something we want Google to do, so making your site faster for Googlebot will benefit you in the long run.

Since our team started to focus on site speed and website performance we have been watching these two areas very closely. An improvement in site speed has definitely yielded an increase in pages crawled per day, as well as a reduction in time it takes to download a page by Googlebot. Both of these are critical metrics in that should be tracked in Google Webmaster Tools.

 


For the best prices, on the largest selection of faucets, from your favorite brands like Kohler, Danze, and American Standard shop PlumberSurplus.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

eCommerce Acronyms?

Posted on July 13, 2010 by Zach

A while back Get Elastic wrote a blog entitled 99 eCommerce Acronyms which I thought was interesting and informational especially for those new to the industry. For myself I often get in trouble with acronym speak by babbling multi-letter gibberish which I realize, after the fact, some may not understand. So I decided to add a few so that hopefully people know where I am coming from.

ERS - A commonly used acronym for Effective Revenue Share, a measure of the profitability and effectiveness of a given ad campaign or channel. ERS is equal to Marketing Cost divided by Revenue (Cost/Revenue) expressed as a percentage. ERS will indicate the total percentage of revenue that is absorbed by marketing cost.

TRS - Total Revenue Share is a measure of the profitability of an item, ad campaign or channel including the product cost and marketing cost. TRS is equal to (Marketing Cost + Product Cost) / Revenue, expressed as a percentage. TRS will indicate the total percentage of your revenue that is absorbed by product cost and marketing cost.

CPO - Cost Per Order, sometimes called cost per acquisition, is the dollar amount spent on advertising or marketing in order to end with a sale. CPO is calculated by (Marketing Cost / Number of Orders). CPO can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of certain types of marketing, as well as seeing what type of marketing is working well with the targeted consumer demographics.

ROAS - Return on Ad Spend, is a metric used to convey the amount of revenue that is generated for every dollar spent on marketing costs. Calculated as Revenue / Cost and expressed as a percentage. This value is the inverse of ERS.

EPC - Earnings Per Click, a revenue analysis for online advertising. EPC is a relative measure of the effectiveness of a site or section of a site in generating revenue for the site owner or publisher as it is often used in affiliate marketing for every 100 outbound clicks generated.

SERP - Search Engine Results Page, is the listing of web pages returned by a search engine in response to a keyword query. The results normally include a list of web pages with titles, a link to the page, and a short description showing where the keywords have matched content within the page. A SERP may refer to a single page or the page number of links returned, or to the set of all links returned for a search query.

COGS - Cost of Goods Sold, is a financial accounting term which describes the direct costs attributable to the production, assembly or redistribution of goods sold by a company. This can include material cost and direct labor cost and excludes indirect costs like advertising or R&D (Research and Development). This is also referred to as cost of sales.

SaaS - Software as a Service, a software application delivery model where a software vendor develops a web-native software application and hosts and operates (either independently or through a third-party) the application for use by its customers over the Internet. Customers do not pay for owning the software itself but rather for using it.

Special thanks to Channel Adviser and their Glossary.

 

 


Little Giant has been hard at work engineering pumps that their most loyal customers have been waiting for. PlumberSurplus.com is your destination for the new Little Giant TSW Sump Pump System and their NXTGen Condensate Pumps.

Woot Acquired by Amazon? Who Else is Hoping for Better Deals?

Posted on July 1, 2010 by Zach

As reported yesterday by Internet Retailer, Amazon is buying Woot, one of the pioneers of the one deal at a time model (Interested in creating your own one deal at a time store? Check out Dealo - end shameless plug).

I'm sure that many Wooters (especially those who have used Woot for a while) are excited about this as I have heard many a deal hunter comment about the lack of good deals on Woot lately. It will be interesting to see what if anything Amazon does with Woot, we saw them acquire Zappos and continue to let them run the company almost independently. I could however see them replicate Woot, fold it into Amazon.com (Friday sale anyone?) or continue to let it run and expand as it has, hopefully with better deals. Needless to say it will be interesting to watch it unfold.

If you are interested in a little Woot humor check out their rapping monkey video about being acquired.




Little Giant has been hard at work engineering pumps that their most loyal customers have been waiting for. PlumberSurplus.com is your destination for the new Little Giant TSW Sump Pump System and their NXTGen Condensate Pumps.

The Great Facebook Exodus

Posted on June 8, 2010 by Zach

Facebook

There has been a lot of discussion about Facebook, privacy and, what seems to be a mass exodus of technology figureheads from the service lately. It seems like every time Facebook makes an announcement, they are messing with the privacy settings they continue to make it more confusing and technical. Coming from a retailer's perspective who manages profiles, pages and advertising on Facebook this is not surprising at all. Facebook has some of the most confusing and technical merchant tools we have ever seen and it's only gotten worse. I dare you to try running a Facebook ad with targeted metrics and make any sense of what’s going on there. Sure, it might be great for throwing money at brand advertising, or building your fans, but try driving at conversion based targets and it becomes much more difficult.

Outside of these issues, though, I just can't see myself leaving Facebook without a viable alternative. Much of my friends, family and social interactions happen for the most part on Facebook and I think that most people either don't care or don't understand how the privacy issues affect them. The fact of the matter is that there is simply no decent alternative to Facebook. Sure I have heard people say, use Twitter + Flickr + Yahoo + Google + Smugmug + Geni but using all of those services instead of Facebook is simply unrealistic for me and probably most of Facebook's other users. Not to mention, it only takes one of those services to have privacy issues for it to make using other services a moot point.

Facebook has built an empire with no real rival and I think they realize that. Until there is some real competition I don't think most people will actually leave Facebook, they may consider it, they may even be concerned about their privacy but I don't think they will leave.

 


Kohler is arguably one of the most innovative brands in the home improvement industry. The new Karbon faucet has completely transformed the kitchen and more specifically revolutionized the kitchen faucet. Meanwhile Kohler seems to effortlessly create bathroom fixtures that are not only sleek but save water, like the Escale toilet.

Matt Cutts Video on Google May Day Update

Posted on June 2, 2010 by Zach

For those interested in more information about the latest Google algorithm update, Matt Cutts has release a video via the Google Webmaster Help videos about the recent changes. He confirms that the changes are algorithmic, deliberate, non permanent and having nothing to do with Caffeine (their latest search architecture roll out) but that it basically tweaks their algorithm and specifically effects long tail searches. He goes on to say that the update was fully vetted and that they think it is a "quality win". In conjunction with Matt's comments there have certainly been some interesting discussions about this on different forums and blogs especially about people loosing a lot of long tail traffic so we are interested to see if that continues to be the case or if over time things settle down a little.

They have also released some other interesting Google Webmaster Help videos within the last week that you may also want to check out.


 


For the best prices, on the largest selection of faucets, from your favorite brands like Kohler, Danze, and American Standard shop PlumberSurplus.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Facebook Like and the Open Graph Protocol

Posted on May 4, 2010 by Zach

The social media scene has been buzzing, no pun intended ;-) about some of the new features recently released by Facebook. Specifically the release of the Open Graph Protocol and the Like Button.

"The Open Graph protocol enables you to integrate your web pages into the social graph. It is currently designed for web pages representing profiles of real-world things — things like movies, sports teams, celebrities, and restaurants. Once your pages become objects in the graph, users can establish connections to your pages as they do with Facebook Pages. Based on the structured data you provide via the Open Graph protocol, your pages show up richly across Facebook: in user profiles, within search results and in News Feed."

While I think that this is a natural progression of what Facebook has been doing I am also interested in the discussions about the Like feature replacing links on the web. I don't entirely agree that will happen however I think that Facebook is making a major play for some very valuable social content. I think that the importance of this new facebook technology will largely be hinged on how open facebook becomes, because before bydefault everything was closed.  Recently though Facebook has changed their privacy settings to be more open which has come under scrutiny. If search engines and other websites can get access to the data I am not sure it's as big of a deal, they have been able to evolve over time to the changing web; however, it puts the ball for this type of data squarely in Facebook's court. This changes the game by adding a middle man to all of the data search engines and other websites care about. I don't think this is the end of search engines, far from it, I think that this is an evolution of the way people share and curate content socially.

In all honesty I think the new Like feature is great, much better than the old way you could share websites and content.  It creates a more curated web through your social graph. I am almost surprised they have not created a Facebook bar (ala the now defunct Digg bar). Where you are browsing the web through Facebook and then chatting and sharing features at the click of a mouse, maybe someday that will come (I'm not saying I think that's an amazing idea just surprised that they have not created it yet). I know they have an IE and FF tool bar but unlike the Diggbar it takes installing and is far from seamless. In some ways this makes me think they can create a better Digg, curated by your friends, a little Metadata, categorization and a sprinkle of people actually using it and you've got something. It moves more and more content into Facebook, makes it more social and lets people more easily share their likes and interests.

I think this just goes to show how powerful/useful Facebook can be, I think it's an amazing platform and it will be interesting to see how they leverage their power and usefulness.

Predictions

  • Seemlessly integrated Facebook Bar (much like the Digg bar) by the end of 2010.

  • The new Like button data will become some of the most coveted and important data on the internet.



Little Giant has been hard at work engineering pumps that their most loyal customers have been waiting for. PlumberSurplus.com is your destination for the new Little Giant TSW Sump Pump System and their NXTGen Condensate Pumps.

The Never Ending Saga of Testing

Posted on April 20, 2010 by Zach

I have to imagine by now that our development team enjoys a healthy love and hate relationship with me. Being in the marketing department we have a lot of development projects which include testing before they go live and I often get tasked with helping to test other projects. I have become what I might call a “Testing Pirate”, I come to bang on the doors, break in through a window, make a bunch of noise, break some stuff and steal what I can. In essence it’s my job to pillage projects or code and let me tell you, business is good. To add insult to injury I also have an opinionated eye for design and organization, especially when it comes to websites. In light of all this I decided to put together my steps for testing development projects especially when you are not a developer.

Pre Qualifications - It's nice if you are technically inclined and or have dabbled in a little coding. I am fairly technically inclined and I have taken a few programming classes back in the day so that gives me a decent understanding of what’s going on, how things can be handled and what may or may not be possible or can cause an issue. That sets me up to have a basic understanding so that I am better able to effectively test the project or code. It’s also a good idea to spend a little time with your developers, ask questions about the platform they are using, coding practices, their experience and even have them take you through a little code so that you understand what they are doing.

Understand what you are testing - There should always be a clear understanding of what is being tested. One of the time suckers of testing can be poor expectations of what to test and the testers end up testing areas, code, pages or the like which are not ready to be tested. I can't count how many times I have fully tested something but realized that half of what I found was fixed at a later time or incomplete because I did not realize I should have only been testing a specific area.

Complete it straight forward - Once you are ready to roll and understand what to test, complete the testing in a straight forward manner knowing what you know about the project or code making sure core features and functionality are working as designed. If the basics of what is being tested is not working you probably don't want to spend any more time identifying other issues.

Complete it with objectivity - Next test the project or code again with objectivity pretending you have never seen this before and have no prior knowledge about it. Remember the Parents or Grandparents test, complete the test as though you where someone who is not technically inclined, what does not work well, what is unclear, is something too technical, are their clear instructions?

Complete it with an angle - Next test the project or code again with an angle, what can be broken into as well, is there sensitive data being stored, are there any potential breaking points, can you pass any bad data or get to anything you should not be able to?

Have more than one person testing - It's always a good idea to have more than one person testing, especially someone who is not as close to the project or code if possible. They might be able to catch things you miss or take a more objective look.

Validation - Validation can be the bane of a project's existence, if something is passing or accepting bad data it can ruin a project, promote insecurity and create a bad user experience. It's important to make sure that when testing you are trying different types of data and making sure that proper validation is implemented.

Documentation - While testing, your developers will really appreciate good documentation. Make sure it's organized, has identifying information like page or project name or URL. Screen shots can be nice and make sure that any issues are fully explained, especially what lead up to how you found them. Sometimes dev teams have testing protocols, forms requiring signature and the likes. It's a good idea to review the testing protocols with your DEV team before hand so that you understand the ways in which they need issues documented and you are following their recommended documentation process.

Nothing is 100% or secure - Regardless of the amount of testing, nothing is going to be 100% secure or bullet proof so make sure that you are putting in the appropriate amount of testing for the project. Something customer facing probably needs a little more polish and vetting while an internal tool may not.

Happy Testing!



Little Giant has been hard at work engineering pumps that their most loyal customers have been waiting for. PlumberSurplus.com is your destination for the new Little Giant TSW Sump Pump System and their NXTGen Condensate Pumps.

The Evolution of Location Based Search

Posted on March 24, 2010 by Zach

While our websites are not involved in much location based or local advertising (we ship throughout the United States and many international locations), I am fascinated by local search. Be it mobile or computer based, I have become increasingly interested in the evolution of location based search and its implications. Needless to say I am very excited about some of the things Google has been doing to promote localized search. Here some recent examples I have been using and really enjoy.


  • Refine your searches by location - What sparked this blog was Google's recent new addition of refining by what the user is nearby. I love this feature and already see myself using it regularly to find places and businesses near my location. What really makes this that much more awesome is the ability to put in a custom location, so that if you know you will be somewhere else at a later point in time, but you still want to see local results, you can change to the future location!

  • Optimized Search Suggestions using your location - The next is one of Google's search features for mobile phones. I love this feature beacuase Google will offer search suggestions based upon the users location. The implied searches, which complete words and correct spelling errors, are great features alone when you are in an unfamiliar place. If you have a particular interest or are unsure specifically what might be around you this feature will start to suggest localized searches based upon what you start typing in. I used this just the other day when I was searching for hiking trails and was unsure how to spell the particular city I was nearby, it worked perfectly.


I hope you enjoy the evolution of localized search as much as I do, happy searching!



For the best prices, on the largest selection of faucets, from your favorite brands like Kohler, Danze, and American Standard shop PlumberSurplus.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.