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Vanessa’s Variety for the Week of December 4th, 2009

Posted on December 4, 2009 by Vanessa
  • Cyber Monday outperformed Black Friday in online retail sales this year.  This may not have been true for other internet retailers in the past but this was something that we expected and have seen before.  It’s not surprising that “shoppers bought 10% more items per order online” when the online shopping experience is not only convenient, inexpensive, and comfortable.  Not to mention online shoppers don’t have to worry about getting in fist fights over the great deals to be had!

  • Forbes Woman recommended Thirty Women Entrepreneurs To Follow On Twitter.  The list is well rounded; here are a few of my favorites:                                                                                                                                                                                    
    • @BrandYou: Cindy Ratzlaff is a marketing strategist who tweets about how to create buzz for your brand. 9,419 followers.
      @Bernadeen: Bernadeen McLeod is a business coach who tweets small business tips, articles and resources. 3,116 followers.
      @KairaRouda: Kaira is an award winning author who tweets about how to build a unique and genuine brand. 4,510 followers.
      @NikkiPilkington: Nikki owns an Internet marketing company and tweets about search engine optimization. 8,884 followers.

  • CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt wrote a piece opposite the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, calling for the Journal and other newspapers to take responsibility for their own failures.  It’s surprising that the article was printed considering that the article was directed at Rupert Murdoch, owner of the Wall Street Journal, who has openly accused Google of stealing his content.  Here’s some of what Schmidt had to say:

“With dwindling revenue and diminished resources, frustrated newspaper executives are looking for someone to blame. Much of their anger is currently directed at Google, whom many executives view as getting all the benefit from the business relationship without giving much in return. The facts, I believe, suggest otherwise.

Google is a great source of promotion. We send online news publishers a billion clicks a month from Google News and more than three billion extra visits from our other services, such as Web Search and iGoogle. That is 100,000 opportunities a minute to win loyal readers and generate revenue—for free. In terms of copyright, another bone of contention, we only show a headline and a couple of lines from each story. If readers want to read on they have to click through to the newspaper's Web site. (The exception are stories we host through a licensing agreement with news services.) And if they wish, publishers can remove their content from our search index, or from Google News.

The claim that we're making big profits on the back of newspapers also misrepresents the reality. In search, we make our money primarily from advertisements for products. Someone types in digital camera and gets ads for digital cameras. A typical news search—for Afghanistan, say—may generate few if any ads. The revenue generated from the ads shown alongside news search queries is a tiny fraction of our search revenue."

  • Yahoo! has posted their Year in Review, and with that the Top Mobile Searches of 2009.  Topping the list was Transformers starlet Megan Fox.

  • Voting for the Top 100 online marketers of 2009 is open until December 13, 2009.  Plenty of the names on the list should look familiar so it may not be easy to cast your vote…



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.

SingleFeed Upgrades Reporting Tools

Posted on December 3, 2009 by Chad

In early November, SingleFeed, a data feed submission and data feed management service which we use, released a new reporting interface.  It is still in beta, but has proven to be quite an upgrade from their previous system.

For those readers who don't know what SingleFeed is, they help online retailers submit, manage, and optimize product listings on top shopping sites through a single data feed. They essentially help you create just one feed that they then optimize and pass onto the comparison shopping engines. The company still seems small, but is growing rapidly. They are one of the few service providers that only charge a flat rate for their services, while others might also charge a percentage of revenue earned. The flat rate is perfect for submitting tens of thousands of products to CPA based or free shopping engines.

The new reporting interface displays more data and graphs a customizable timeline for the data you want to see. In the past, SingleFeed simply had totals and the occasional excel download. That's a little boring and not very useful in the grand scheme of things. Now marketers can see trends and make comparisons between different shopping engines or from product to product(s).  It’s incredibly more efficient and user friendly.

Here is an example of their new interface using sample data:

 

Singlefeed's new reporting, sample data


However, some of the negative points I see in using it are that reports can't be exported to excel, although we have been told that is coming. I know they are working hard on this and other features.  We’ve seen evidence of this in other areas they just recently gave us the ability to export our performance based on engine totals for selected time periods. Needless to say, I can't wait to finally download full spreadsheets of product performance data.

Another negative is the accuracy of data. I know what they have now is much better in terms of what they had before, but accuracy is still just a little off compared to other tracking tools we use, namely Google Analytics. SingleFeed is incredibly useful in keeping our products up to date. But when it comes to using it for its reporting tools, I still trust Google Analytics a little more...for now.

 

UPDATE

Since this post, SingleFeed has improved upon itself and started to develop new exporting functions.

Right now the exporting function is still in beta and is still limited to only top level data for each engine.  It’s a start and I am told that more report types are being developed in time.  Maybe, some product level and category level exportation?  We can hope!

 

SingleFeed's Export Function

 

Another little improvement is the ability to perform SKU suppression for each engine through the new reporting tool. The older method was to mark a field in the feed that told SingeFeed whether or not you wished a product to go to a specific engine.  The newer method uses the new reporting tool.  You have to first activate this function, but once done, you are able to include or not include products for certain engines within the product level report page.

 

SingleFeed Product Supression

 

I currently haven’t had to use this function as we only use SingleFeed for the free and CPA based engines. But I can see some great usability for comparison shopping engines such as Nextag or Pricegrabber, etc. If a product is eating up your budget or is simply not performing, you can easily not include that product for that engine and still keep it in others with just a few clicks. Definitely more useful than taking the back channels and altering your feed to not include the product, especially if you have a feed of thousands of products.

I have no doubt that more improvements are on the way for quarters one and two of 2010.  SingleFeed has thus far appreciated our feedback and has been quick to let us know if any improvements were made in regards to our feedback.  

It was a good experience in 2009 using SingleFeed's services.  With new improvements and as far as I have used it...an excellent response time for support issues.

As always, comments or thoughts are welcomed!

 

Vanessa’s Variety for the Week of October 2nd, 2009

Posted on October 2, 2009 by Vanessa
  • Does your website need a television series?  Some have figured out how to do it right, meaning profitably, but it’s not easy.

  • A few more reasons why your website sucks debuted today.  One point that really caught my attention was the connection made between where site search filters are placed relative to the content that the filters affect.  The author, Jack Aaronson, makes an obvious point, but one that we need to keep in mind as we design for users.  He states, “Visual design does more to enforce the notion of "this thing goes with that thing" than anything else on the page. If there is a content block (like search results) and a box that shows filterable attributes for that content, make sure they're visually connected in some way. Otherwise, an incredibly useful feature won't be used or understood.”

  • Want great employees?  Try the Zappos strategy and offer them $2,000.00 to quit.

  • Predictions still say growth in 2010 for eCommerce.

  • The holidays are coming.  It’s time to get prepared and lay out marketing strategies.  Search Engine Land posted a great article with five tips for doing so.  Five tips may not sound like a lot but they have packed a ton of information within each tip to help marketers get prepared.

 


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.

Google Enhances Filters for Shopping Websites in Main Search – Good or Bad?

Posted on October 1, 2009 by Josh Mc

Today Google rolled out more filters to their ever expanding Google Search Options category. While past roll outs have not had as much of an impact on eCommerce websites today’s new updates may change that greatly. Today they launched a past hour filter, search within a specific date range, websites visited filter and show more or less shopping websites filters.  Along with these filters Google also included refinements for search so that users can review results by only book, blog, and news.  Of the changes, websites visited and show more or less shopping websites, create the biggest potential impact from an internet retailer’s point of view. 

Filter by Visited or Not

Google now gives customers, potential customers and searchers the option to only view results from websites that they have visited previously, as well as websites they have never previously visited.  This can have varying affects on a merchant. First, if someone stumbles onto a website and decides to purchase something, Google remembers that the customer went to that website. What this means is that if the customer had an enjoyable experience and wants to buy the same product again or similar type of product (but doesn’t remember who they got it from) they can simply go to Google type the same or similar search and narrow results through only visited sites, and “Viola!” the website appears, the customer remembers and they get the repeat business. The same thing can also work in a negative way, if the customer has a bad experience, an item gets broken in transit out of your control, or some other problem happens they now have the option to filter you out of their Web search life.

 

Show visited websites or not

 

View More or Less Shopping Websites

The second and one of the more important new feature’s for eCommerce websites is Google giving the customer the ability to filter based on whether they want to view more or less shopping websites. This could be really good for up and coming e-retailers who aren’t currently ranking on the first page in SERPs, because when someone filters with “more shopping sites” this can actually take other results out of the top ten and push other websites from the second page to the first page. The new search filters can also help e-retailers take over top placements from non shopping related websites such as Wikipedia and others information related websites. On the negative side however, if someone selects “less shopping sites”, the filtering can potentially remove valuable content retailers have created because it has been flagged as a shopping website.

Show more or less shopping websites

 

 

Google Allows Big Box Retailers to Monopolize Google Product Search

Posted on September 16, 2009 by Vanessa

With all of the talk regarding the drop in Google Product Search traffic we have been looking for ways to improve and differentiate our products in what has also been known as Google Base, Froogle and Google Shopping.  According to Channel Advisor retailers have been reporting that traffic from Google Product Search has been down as much as 60-80% since June of this year.

In reviewing our listings and researching the ever frequent updates we found several (to put it lightly) searches that were completely dominated by big box retailers.  Not only were these searches dominating us but they were completely eliminating any competition, as in only one retailer was shown as offering that product line (at least on the first page). 

I could understand if the retailer's that were shown in these searches  all had the most relevant data, the most robust attributes, the best pricing, the largest number or reviews, the highest ratings, and this engine was based on bids, but none of these are true.  In one of the first searches for the Kohler Forte bathroom faucet the Home Depot shows as a retailer over and over again, yet their robust and relevant data refers to this popular Kohler collection as "Fort".  You will also notice that the only other retailers referenced are Walmart and Amazon.

 

Google Product Search Result Screenshot Favors Bad Data from Big Box Retailer

Google Product Search Result Screenshot Favors Bad Data from Big Box Retailer

 

Porcher, a luxury brand by American Standard, is then shown as primarily sold by Walmart.  Walmart has fewer ratings than other retailers listed and of those ratings also has the lowest seller rating.

 

 

Google Product Search Result Screenshot Favors Poorly Rated Big Box Retailer

Google Product Search Result Screenshot Favors Poorly Rated Big Box Retailer

 

I am a Google fan, always have been, but have they forgotten about the user experience?  When shopping are we not looking to compare?  Not in this case (unless you want to click through a few more pages), because the Home Depot is the only option you're going to find for this Jado search. 

 

 

Google Product Search Result Screenshot Selects Only Big Box Retailer

Google Product Search Result Screenshot Selects Only Big Box Retailer

 

 

The Home Depot hasn't completely cornered the market on Google Base, Walmart has capitalized as well as you can see by this search for American Standard's Town Square line.

 

 

 Google Product Search Result Screenshot Selects Only Big Box Retailer

Google Product Search Result Screenshot Selects Only Big Box Retailer

 

Blog Update

We have confirmation from another source, which works with online retailers in optimizing their marketing strategies, that this is an ongoing problem.  According to our sources this has been happening in other categories, most predominantly in Home & Garden and Electronics.  We tested our sources information using a search from the Home & Garden category for a Skyline Chair.  The results were similar to what we experienced within our own category, one listing for Eco-Furniture and every other listing for Walmart.


Google Product Search Result Screenshot Favors Big Box Retailers in Multiple Categories

Google Product Search Result Screenshot Favors Big Box Retailers in Multiple Categories

 


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.

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.

Who is Speaking Your Language - Google or Microsoft?

Posted on July 29, 2009 by Vanessa

Both of these are screen shot errors, one is from Google and one is from Microsoft (see full screenshots below before voting).

The first is a shot from Google in regards to an error that occurred in Chrome, the error message states "Aw, Snap! Something went wrong while displaying this webpage.  To continue, press reload or go to another page."  The next screenshot is a Microsoft error message that reads "oops our tentacles are tangled We're sorry, but you've encountered an error on our site. There are a few ways around this --- you can try a different search, or pick a store that has what you are shopping for."

Which company can you relate to? Who is doing the better job of speaking to the public?

 
 

This pole closes on August 14th, 2009 so vote, we would love to know what our readers and their friends think.

Enlarged Screenshots for reference:

Google 

 

Google error "Aw snap"


Microsoft

 

Microsoft error "oops our tentacles are twisted"
 


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.

Yahoo Ad Crawler Stresses Servers for Quality Score

Posted on July 9, 2009 by Chad

Recently, our web server was brought down because it was hit a great deal from Yahoo's Ad crawler all at once.  It seems that the crawler hit close to 200 landing pages, simultaneously, several hundred times, in response to a very large upload of new keywords and ad groups to our Yahoo SEM account.  For obvious reasons, the crawler was hitting the landing pages to acquire data about the keyword landing pages and to assign a quality score for those keywords.  What’s unclear is why the heck the crawler hit us all once!?  

I have never seen this happen with Google and I have done far larger uploads with Google AdWords than what was done in this particular instance with Yahoo.  Yahoo's crawler seemed to be acting strange so I sent in a support ticket about this issue.  The response I got back was that the Ad crawler was working as normal and that we should limit how much we should upload at a time.  When questioning Yahoo support as to what would be a recommended or a suggested number of keywords to upload? Yahoo replied "there is not an estimate that we can safely suggest, as it largely depends on each servers bandwidth and capacity" Really...thanks for your help.

Well first let’s look at what I have learned so far?  Not to upload thousands of keywords at one time with Yahoo. Yahoo's Ad crawler will take down our websites.  When the crawler does take down our website or websites Yahoo is of little or no help in troubleshooting the problem. One more thing that I was able to discover, with Yahoo's assistance (kudos to them), was how to block the crawler from hitting our website.  This is definitely a solution but definitely not a recommended one.  I am positive that my quality scores for my keywords would be fairly high. I would like the minimum bids for those keywords to reflect that by having a low minimum bid.  So blocking the crawler keeps my web server up, but will impact "Yahoo's ability to evaluate the relevance of your landing pages to your keywords and ads," this was taken straight out of yahoo's help page.

I am not really fond of taking the crawler out of the issue. Yahoo's crawler may have its problems, but it does seem to act faster in determining a decent quality score for the keywords.  From my experience, Google's quality score is based by an overtime matrix.  Yahoo seems to take it a step further and tries to get an immediate deserving quality score by using their crawler.  

For now I have to find the balance between optimizing the number of keywords uploaded to Yahoo search marketing and keeping our server from being owned by the crawler.  There are pros to having an instant quality score but the consistency seen in Google’s method is also commendable, if only these two companies were working together…

 

Vanessa’s Variety for the Week of May 15th, 2009

Posted on May 18, 2009 by Vanessa



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.