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Localizing Twitter Data for Businesses

Posted on February 3, 2010 by Zach

While I may be late to the party and still not very engaged, to say the least I am very interested in a new feature Twitter recently rolled out called Local Trends.

It's described on their blog:
"As Twitter evolves, and more people share what’s happening in their own world, we want to provide another way for people to discover topics that may be relevant to them. Last week we began to slowly roll out a new feature called Local Trends to expose what people are talking about on the state and city level, and today we've fully launched so everyone can use it."

So now not only can you see what is trending in all of the twitter-verse but users can see what is trending locally, if they have set their location. While I don't frequent "the Twitter" very often this for me is a very compelling feature. 

On top of that we had several interesting conversations around the office about how this type of data might be used for businesses, especially eCommerce. There are some very interesting implications in regards to local trending data which could be used in different marketing and social channels. As we were talking several interesting examples came up in regards to marketing products to different locals based upon weather, popularity, celebrities, local markets, local business, etc. If you know a particular topic is “hot” and there are products which could be marketed to play off of that you could go to town on geo targeted SEM campaigns, social messaging and advertising to people in that area or other local advertising channels. The opportunities seem endless and the data invaluable.



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.

PayPal Pay Later Replaced by Bill Me Later?

Posted on January 8, 2010 by Zach

A month ago Josh posted about being contacted by Paypal notifying us in regards to retiring Pay Later. When I heard this it did not make sense at the time (why would they discontinue a feature like that?), then I got an email which read like this...

"Hello Zachary,

You're pre-approved for Bill Me Later. Get up to $10 off your first purchase and make no payments until April 2010 when you pay with Bill Me Later. Offer expires 12/31/09.

Bill Me Later is the great new payment choice that lets you shop now, and pay for your purchases later.

Next time you checkout at eBay or any participating PayPal store simply... "

Now it made sense, I had forgotten that PayPal bought Bill Me Later in late 2008 and it seems that they are now folding that service into PayPal. What I thought was interesting was how they went about making that transition. When we heard about the retirement of PayPal Pay Later it was simply that, we are shutting this down, please remove the content from your websites.

I am sure they could have made it a bit more positive by positioning Bill Me Later as its successor and how this new great service will be available to PayPal customers by default. It almost feels a little cloak and dagger, they remove a service which merchants use to have to get approved for and display a little differently than the normal PayPal checkout process (or at least we did), and replace it with something that looks to me like it is going to be integrated into the normal PayPal flow by default.

 


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.

The HTC Droid Eris and Business: First Impressions

Posted on December 17, 2009 by Zach

Being the other Verizon customer in the office I thought I would follow up on Trevor's post about the Motorola Droid. I have been a Verizon customer for quite a while, and didn’t really have any complaints. Their coverage is great, and most of my family is on Verizon, but until recently, they did not have a great selection of smart phones, especially if you are not a Blackberry fan. I jumped on the Blackberry bandwagon a couple of years back, picked up a Blackberry Pearl, but recently it was feeling antiquated and it definitely lagged in features compared to many of the phones my friends and coworkers had. I was very close to switching to AT&T simply because of the iPhone and the fact that a refurb could be picked up for $50. I am however very glad that I didn't and instead decided to buy the HTC Droid Eris. The second Droid branded phone from Verizon which definitely has not had the hype of the Motorola Droid, but in my opinion is a great phone for an even better price.

Firstly, Trevor wrote a great post and I agree with all that he said about his phone and the OS. Google Android is a fantastic mobile platform; I am very impressed with how fast it is and with the features and applications available. Because I was running a Blackberry and had all of my data pretty much synced with Google sync, phone setup was literally putting in my Google credentials and letting it sync my contacts, calendar and mail (it took less than five minutes). I literally sat back and asked myself if that was all it took, Google mobile sync is truly amazing. Characteristics like these speak to the business professional and the entrepreneurs that value every minute of every day as they try to chip away at their overwhelming workloads. Thus far I have had very few issues with the phone, as well. I am definitely hooked on touch devices and hope they continue to make more great Android phones. 

I went ahead and put together a little list of upsides and downsides associated to how well the HTC Droid Eris will adapt in a business environment.

Upsides:

  • Slimmer and Lighter than the Motorola Droid (4.23 ounces) (4.45” (L) x 2.19” (W) x .51” (T)) - I really dislike giant heavy phones, one of the reasons I went with the Blackberry Pearl as my last phone. The HTC Droid Eris is practically the same size as my Pearl which is quite amazing.

  • Six Home Screens - HTC has customized the Android OS to include six home screens, that’s three more than the Motorola Droid. This has to be one of my favorite features as I am able to take full advantage of the screen real estate with full screen widgets and program shortcuts.

  • HTC Sense - On top of the home screens HTC has what is called HTC Sense, which sounds like their general customization of the Android OS. The HTC Droid Eris has multi-touch support at least for the browser which is another feature the Motorola droid does not have.

  • Great custom widgets and a good set of default applications.

  • Cost effective - With my Verizon phone credit I was able to pick this phone up for $50, that’s pretty amazing.

  • No physical keyboard - Some would call this a downside and that’s why its listed in both sections. I was concerned about this as I was switching from a Blackberry but I am very impressed with the on screen keyboard and the text prediction. It’s been a very easy transition and I am definitely hooked on touch screens.

Downsides:

  • No Android 2.0… yet - The HTC Eris did not ship with Android 2.0 and some of its new snazzy features like GPS based navigation, multi-touch which is a bit of a downside. I certainly like android 1.5 and all indications point to HTC updating the Eris with Android 2.0 soon.

  • Battery life - Probably my first main issue with the Eris was the battery life, because I had my Google account synced and I was running a lot of applications my battery life was getting drained within a full day. My fix was turning off automatic syncing for my mail and getting a tasks killer. This has seemed to extend my battery life with decent use past 1 day but not much, I still need to charge it every night and I also bought a charger for work just in case.

  • Complexity - Even for someone who is fairly technical, this phone is complex. There are a lot of menus, settings, and notifications in a variety of areas. I feel confident that I have explored the phone thoroughly, but I am sure there are things I have missed.

  • Cases - I ordered my phone a couple of weeks after it came out and I was sorely disappointed with the available case options. Not only was there very little to choose from, but many were overpriced.

  • No physical keyboard - Again some might call this a downside but it wasn't for me, if in doubt try it out.

 

Below are some pictures check them out...


Picture of HTC Droid Eris Taken with iPhone



Picture of HTC Droid Eris Taken with iPhone



Picture of HTC Droid Eris Taken with iPhone


Oh yea those look kind of crappy because they were taken with an iPhone, here is one with mine:

Image taken with HTC Droid Eris


 


The possibilities are endless with a bathroom remodel. Discover your classic side with a clawfoot tub, experiment with fresh bathroom vanities and coordinate it all with matching faucets. Shop PlumberSurplus.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for all of your bathroom needs.

Changing from Freemium to Paid and Frustrating Users in the Process

Posted on December 2, 2009 by Zach

I am a pretty big fan of the Freemium model, I always like to try things out first even if its bare bones. If the product or service is ok, I may keep using it or try something else. Likewise if the freemium portion covers my needs I typically continue to use the product and tell those I know about it as well. If the product or service is stellar then the odds are pretty high that I will pony up for the premium service especially if there is something behind the pay wall I am particularly interested in, and the price is reasonable. All in all I like the model and it gets me hooked on new products and services.

What frustrates me is when a company twists that a bit, starts freemium and then somewhere down the line asks you to pony up for what you have been using for free (especially if I had been thinking about upgrading to their premium services). It's even worse if you have integrated this product or service into your normal routine or business. This is exactly what happened to me recently with a software as a service product that we use for product reviews. Our main reason for using this software was because it was free and offered a decent product with most of the features we needed. When you suddenly get contacted to "renew your contract" and find out quite a few things have changed such as the service going from free to several thousand dollars a month let’s just say there is a bit of lost love because of it. It not only rubs me the wrong way but gives me a really good reason to look elsewhere.  No longer will I be telling people about it, sadly if I did mention it to others in the industry it wouldn’t be in such kind regards and/or my recommendation would now probably be to develop a custom solution. Suffice it to say we came to an equitable agreement, however I can see so many other ways I would have rather have handled the situation.

 


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.

Experimenting with Multivariate Testing from A Merchant’s Perspective

Posted on October 28, 2009 by Zach

A couple of months ago our awesome Adwords team was able to hook us up with five free hours of assistance from a third party to help train and setup Google Website Optimizer tests. We had mentioned to them that we were interested in trying some tests but did not have much experience in doing so and through that conversation they were able to help get us resources to get started. Looking back (as we are collecting the final data from our first test) having that help was invaluable. With that in mind I wanted to share the steps we took with the third party to get things going before our first test kicked off.

First, get familiarized with Google Website Optimizer (GWO). There are several resources available in video and written forms which explain how it works and what needs to be done.

Second, review the website for tests which might be a good jumping off point. Typically, good first tests are variations of an add-to-cart or checkout button, text location or color, banner / promotion variations, etc. For the first test you want something which is easy to setup and has many creatable variations as to get some experience before moving onto more complex tests.

Third, open up your GWO account and start to setup the test. This will include tasks like, telling GWO what kind of test you want to run, and installing the tracking codes on the test and order complete pages.

Fourth, the variations of what is going to be tested need to be created, reviewed and loaded to GWO. At least for multivariate tests GWO handles what code gets swapped out, be it an image or text. Once the codes are in place for the test, developers don't need to be the ones setting up all of the variations as they are created inside the GWO console. All of the buttons, badges, text, etc. will need to be created though (get your designer on the horn ahead of time) and setup inside of the GWO interface. Depending on where your developer setup the test codes it may require a little HTML or CSS knowledge but nothing too crazy.

Fifth, once everything is setup and ready to roll you’ll want to make sure to test that all of the codes are setup (especially the conversion tracking), and then use the preview tool in GWO to preview how all of the variations will look. Test! Test! Test! You don't want to turn on a multi variant test which does not work, has broken variations or takes your site down.

Finally, kick off the test and let the data roll in! Remember that depending on site traffic and how many variations are being tested it could take days or weeks to get enough data for GWO to show recommendations about which variations are the best.



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Google Bring On More Rich Snippets

Posted on September 9, 2009 by Zach

Rich Snippets are a feature Google introduced in May.  Rich Snippets use microformats to structure data so that Google can index it and add it to search listings. Yelp was their original experiment and beta test of Rich Snippets, they used the data to display aggregate reviews and price ranges for product listings. When I first read about this new feature I was interested, and stared at the examples via Yelp’s organic listings because enhancements like these are eyeball magnets for users.  All retailers love eyeball magnets. They also enhanced the search experience.

Apple iPod product review via Rich Snippets in SERP


While we are reviewing and looking to implement microformats for Rich Snippets for our own websites I sure hope that Google continues to roll these enhancements out across the board.  The shear time saved when researching for restaurants and products are great for the user. It would be awesome to search for a product via Google, and immediately see in the organic listings what the review ratings, prices and promotions (like free shipping) are for the product via the SERP page. I have however yet to see more than one listing using Rich Snippets on any one SERP page, which defeats making comparisons.  So I am hoping more people jump on the bandwagon and get this data into the SERP’s!


Drooling Dog Bar B Q Review via Rich Snippets in SERP

 


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.

Affiliates Cannibalizing Organic Search Traffic

Posted on August 28, 2009 by Zach

Recently, I have been seeing a disturbing trend, affiliates who join an advertisers program, grab their data feed and then, using networks of automated websites, cannibalize the advertisers organic search traffic. These tech savvy affiliates realize that by using the advertisers own data against them on their own websites, they can trick Google and other search engines into indexing a large amount of pages which are displayed in Google's and other search engines organic listings and therefore generate a lot of traffic and commissions for them via affiliate networks. I have seen this done a couple of different ways, some more shady than others.

Here is how it works...

A publisher/affiliate will sign up for a program that offers data feed access.

Once they are approved and have access to the data feed, they will set up an automated way (typically via FTP) to grab that data feed and insert it into their own database or content management system.

This database or CMS then feeds their multitudes of websites (I have seen affiliates operating this way with hundreds of websites) with this data.

The next step is done usually one of a few ways. To get indexed by Google they typically cloak (this basically means that they do one thing when Google comes knocking and another when normal users do) their multitudes of websites getting search engines to index basically the same information the advertiser has on their website.

Now that the affiliate has all of these websites with all of this product data getting indexed they either forward only the users, not the search engines, to the advertisers website or to another one of the affiliate websites which the user can use to click through to the advertiser.

This basically creates several listings in organic search results for the affiliate, each of which will drop a cookie if clicked by a user.  Additionally each will generate commissions if clicked on and a purchase was made by the user. Keep in mind that now the advertiser’s typically single website can be severely outnumbered by the affiliate’s army of websites.  The army of websites that are using the same data the merchant is using on their own website and then supplying via their affiliate account!

Here is an example... (Screen shot below)

World Imports Google Search with Affiliate Spam


The affiliate in question used to be a part of our program, however after trying to contact them to let them know we were not happy with the ways in which they where promoting our website, and not receiving a response we had to remove them. They then continued to sign up for our programs under different account names and we had to go through the same process and remove them again.

Not only are affiliates using these tactics to cannibalize their advertiser’s organic traffic but many of these tactics are against search engines and affiliate networks terms of use.

I recommend that you watch for affiliates using tactics like this especially if it’s something you don't want them doing. Also make sure you have language in your affiliate agreement which directly note tactics you don't want used when promoting your program.

In many cases contacting affiliates and explaining your position is a great way to deal with potential issues and many are happy to oblige. Most affiliates are there to work with you in promoting your program, but on occasion you’ll find those trying to game the system.



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.

Amazon: Dominating eCommerce by Category and Acquisition

Posted on August 18, 2009 by Zach

Amazon has been in the news quite a bit lately, whether it’s the Kindle, the Zappos acquisition or the creation of their outdoors specialty section. Some topics get more press than others but I find the tactics Amazon is using to bolster their eCommerce presence very interesting (as if they needed too) and doing so at the category level. It's yet to be seen how Amazon will leverage or integrate Zappos even though they state it will remain a separate business but they now own Zappos, Endless and the shoes category on Amazon.com (that’s a lot of shoes). In the outdoors space they recently announced their new specialty outdoors section which is offering gear from a selection of top tier merchants. We have seen this before with toys and other categories of products as well. While Amazon is the largest eCommerce website, they now seem to be conquering through category and acquisition, creating destinations where they now attempt to rule with the best selection, price and customer service.

What I also believe is important to note is that many large eCommerce websites also have an Amazon store.  This gives Amazon two inherent advantages, the first being that they know what you are selling, at least on Amazon, and second of those SKU’s they have access to which ones are top sellers.  This data also applies to other etailers within the same verticals.  Along with SKU data collected from marketplace merchants Amazon also gains insight on what those businesses do in sales, growth, and customer service which they monitor rigorously.

Now whether Amazon uses this data or not, or to what extent they are using this data may yet to be seen but it means that they could start stocking the best SKU's, therefore circumventing merchants through exclusive manufacturer deals. They also have an idea of which businesses might be better partners or possible targets for acquisition.  Targets based on their account performance. I sure can't think of a better place I would rather be than in Amazon's shoes right now (excuse the pun).

Since it seems that eCommerce websites may be good targets for acquisition right now, I think the bigger questions might be “What is Amazon's master plan? How do they plan to dominate eCommerce and what are they or others looking for in an eCommerce acquisition? What businesses might fit that mold?”

 


The possibilities are endless with a bathroom remodel. Discover your classic side with a clawfoot tub, experiment with fresh bathroom vanities and coordinate it all with matching faucets. Shop PlumberSurplus.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for all of your bathroom needs.

Extreme Internet Marketing: A Crash Course from ShoeMoney

Posted on June 8, 2009 by Zach

You too can be just like me with my 12 week program!

Extreme Internet Marketing


How many times have you really heard that and laughed to yourself at the guy standing there in American flag baggy pants? Well, this time there is no laughing, no jokes (at least from me), it’s a serious internet marketing topic and I figured it warranted a blog post.

Recently, ShoeMoney posted about his newly released, free, “ShoeMoney Extreme Internet Marketing Program”. Now, many might glaze over this and pass it off as another gimmick but I would have them read ShoeMoney's blog post about the program, look at his track record and at least take a look at the programs content.

In his blog post ShoeMoney makes several good points such as there are no great free resources he would recommend for someone to see what internet marketing is all about.  The last thing he would recommend is one of the paid courses to someone who is not sure if internet marketing is going to be something for them. Plus I happen to agree with him in that even if he were to recommend a course, many of the courses don't address a majority of the internet marketing channels. That being said he decided to make one himself, give it away for free and partner with advertising platforms to help people get started and learn. Now this is a great way for ShoeMoney to promote his blog, products and brand.  After being slightly interested and signing up I can say that this looks to have some great information, quality feel and someone with passion and great industry knowledge behind it.

I highly encourage anyone even remotely interested in internet marketing, from the skeptic, to the seasoned pro, to sign up and check it out.



The possibilities are endless with a bathroom remodel. Discover your classic side with a clawfoot tub, experiment with fresh bathroom vanities and coordinate it all with matching faucets. Shop PlumberSurplus.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for all of your bathroom needs.

SEO Tools in Review Part Two

Posted on May 28, 2009 by Zach

In my SEO Tools in Review Part one, I reviewed some of the SEO tools I see used the most in the marketplace, so in part two I would like to outline the types of tools I see most often utilized and the value they have to the SEO or marketer. Across many of the suites of tools I mentioned in my previous post reside similar tools, and while the method and data might change, the goal of the tool is usually the same, or close to. Here are some of the most common types of tools I see.

Web Page Header Check

A very common tool is a web page header check.  This simply checks the status codes and other information which the web server is sending out when loading a page. These codes let things like browsers and search engine spiders know if this page is OK, Moved, or Bad.

HTTP Status Codes

200 OK, 301 Moved Permanently, 302 Found, 304 Not Modified, 307 Temporary Redirect, 400 Bad Request, 401 Unauthorized, 403 Forbidden, 404 Not Found, 410 Gone, 500 Internal Server Error, 501 Not Implemented.

http://www.seoconsultants.com/tools/headers.asp
http://www.webconfs.com/http-header-check.php
http://www.seochat.com/seo-tools/check-server-headers/

Common Issues and Opportunities

Finding common issues / opportunities or low hanging fruit is not always easy especially in a highly technical environment. These tools often run through a laundry list of common checks and also sometimes gather pertinent data regarding a website or web page. Crawl testing also falls into this category, making sure that search engine spiders can access and spider a website or web page information.

http://semcheck.com/
http://www.seomoz.org/crawl-test
http://www.webconfs.com/search-engine-spider-simulator.php

Keyword Density

Many would agree that keyword density is not something which is touted anymore, however there have been many tools created to measure it and gauge an optimum keyword to content ratio. There are some interesting tools which will review a page and return what it thinks are the targeted keywords.  Sometimes that can be helpful.

http://www.seochat.com/seo-tools/keyword-density/
http://www.webconfs.com/keyword-density-checker.php
http://www.seotoolset.com/tools/free_tools.html
https://tools.shoemoney.com/how_it_works1.php#keywordDensity

Keyword Research

Finding the right keywords is an important task.  If a website has the first spot for a term with little traffic but similar terms have more traffic it might be better to use the higher trafficked terms and optimize for them as well. Some really great tools have come out to perform keyword research and help users find better keywords.

http://tools.seobook.com/keyword-tools/seobook/
http://www.seomoz.org/popular-searches/
http://www.seomoz.org/keyword-difficulty
http://raven-seo-tools.com/features/research/
http://www.seochat.com/seo-tools/keyword-suggestions-google/
http://www.webconfs.com/website-keyword-suggestions.php
http://www.webconfs.com/keyword-playground.php
http://www.seotoolset.com/tools/free_tools.html

Competitive Research

It's always a good idea to take a look at what your competitors are doing and while running all of the tools mentioned on competitor domains can give you some great data, some people have created competitor specific tools to extract specific data. There are also some great tools which let you compare websites and their varying statistics to one another. Those can be highly valuable tools when comparing yourself to your competition or competitors to competitors.

http://www.seotoolset.com/tools/free_tools.html
http://tools.seobook.com/competitive-research-tools/
http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo
http://www.quantcast.com/
http://www.compete.com/

Link Analysis / Link Building

Link building is all the rage these days so it’s understandable that several tools have been created to help find, manage, and create valuable links for a website. Not only are there tools to find optimal websites to get links from but there are tools to see what kinds of links competitors or other websites already have.

http://www.webconfs.com/backlink-summary.php
http://www.seomoz.org/link-finder
http://www.seomoz.org/linkscape
https://tools.shoemoney.com/how_it_works3.php#backlinkFinder
http://raven-seo-tools.com/features/link-building/

Rank Checking

These are some interesting tools which aggregate rank and authority data for a domain or website. The SEOmoz trifecta tool is a one of my favorite tools, which quickly grabs vast amounts of data about a website.

http://www.seomoz.org/trifecta
http://www.webconfs.com/domain-stats.php
http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo
http://www.quantcast.com/
http://www.compete.com/

SERP Tracking

SERP tracking can be tedious without some kind of tool to aggregate the checking and storing of the SERP data. Each of these tools is a good quality option to help streamline that process.

http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/rank-checker/
http://raven-seo-tools.com/features/serp-tracking/
https://tools.shoemoney.com/how_it_works1.php#keywordTracker
http://www.seomoz.org/rank-checker

Additional Resources

Even though there are a lot of really great tools out there don't forget about additional content which might be available. SEOmoz and ShoeMoney for example have boatloads of awesome premium content.  Many of the other tools have blogs that can be used as a resource so take that into account if you are looking to pay for tools.

Search Engine Tools

Don't forget that each of the major search engines also have webmaster tools. These are free, provide a lot of value and have data that many of these tools don't have.



The possibilities are endless with a bathroom remodel. Discover your classic side with a clawfoot tub, experiment with fresh bathroom vanities and coordinate it all with matching faucets. Shop PlumberSurplus.com 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for all of your bathroom needs.