Archives for the category "Google"

5 Most Recent Entries in "Google"

Google Showing Real-Time Search Results from Twitter

One of the reasons I rarely blog any more is because I have migrated to social media such as Facebook and Twitter. Let's Face(book) it (sorry!) -- why would you write an essay about one or two links, when it's easier to write a line or two about them?

Social media have changed the landscape of the web over the last few years, and have even posed a threat to Google. Why? Well, the information you find on Google is OLD compared to the information that's on social media. Okay, much of social media's "information" is little more than prattle, it's value is in it's immediacy. Social media gives us the instant opinion. When we hear a rumour, a breaking news story -- it's social media we want to search, not out-of-date web pages.

Recognising the threat, Google is trying hard to catch up, and today I first noticed results from Twitter showing up at or near the top of my Google results page. Indeed, it seems that Google has been integrating social media results since December, although today was the first time they showed up on my page (perhaps they have been rolling the feature out geographically, or else I hadn't typed in a search that would trigger the results). Yesterday's Telegraph reports that traffic to Twitter has increased noticeably since Google introduced this feature.

Here's what the results look like:

Why Google Lacks Creativity

brain_creativity.jpgIn primary school, I liked maths. I played chess. But I also liked art. And played football.

In secondary school, my favourite subjects were English and Physics. I still liked art ... but gradually grew weaker at maths, and lost interest. (I eventually lost interest in school generally, and was more concerned about the indie band I had joined, but that's another story.)

I did media studies in college, but I always felt that our subjects were based too much on wishy-washy academic theories, not hard science.

When I started working in a media environments like local radio and magazines, colleagues viewed me as a "tecchie" because I had liked working with computers. When I changed career track and started working with an IT consulting company, I was mocked for being an "artiste".

In truth, my passions have always straddled both worlds -- the creative and the technical. I don't see them as mutually exclusive.

I admire Google for brining science to web design and development. Google Analytics, for example, allows you to do A/B testing -- e.g. you can try out two different versions of a homepage on alternate days, and see which one users best respond to.

Google's Achilles heel, however, is that it doesn't have any sense of creativity. It sees web design purely in engineering terms. But web design is not only engineering; web design is also an art form. A true "web master" is someone who can strike the balance between the science of web design (semantic markup; usable interface design; etc.) and the art of web design (web pages that look and feel beautiful, or in other ways make you fall in love with them).

My suspicion about Google's lack of artistic understanding was confirmed in a revealing blog post by Douglas Bowman, in which he explains why he has quit his position as Visual Design Lead at Google.

I had a recent debate over whether a border should be 3, 4 or 5 pixels wide, and was asked to prove my case. I can’t operate in an environment like that. I’ve grown tired of debating such minuscule design decisions. There are more exciting design problems in this world to tackle.

As Tim Van Damme comments, Bowman shouldn't be made to justify the width of a border. As a creative designer, when it's right, you know it's right -- you _feel _it's right. All the stats in the world will never give that same gut feeling.

Growing Interest in Search Engine Marketing in Ireland

I recently delivered a one-day course on SEO and Google Adwords, which was organised by the IIA. You can still download the slides from the event -- although they will be locked and available only to members in a week or so.

The course went really well. All 30 places were sold out.

I have realised that, in Ireland at least, there is much more interest in SEO now than when I first wrote my e-book "Website Findability".

I'd really love to write an update to that book soon. I've removed it from my website because some (only about 10 or 20 percent) of the information is out of date.

The problem, of course, is finding the time to write the revised version. My business is now five years old, and this year we have been busier than ever. Nevertheless, I hope to devote some time to revising the book within the next 12 months.

Google in the 1960s

What Google (may have) looked like in the 1960s...

Google Circa 1960!.jpg

Homepage vs. Landing Pages - Striking a Balance

One of the things I love about my job is that I'm constantly learning. Everything internet-related seems to continually, rapidly evolve (consider recent changes in design methods, standards and styles; online marketing techniques; web-based software tools; electronic payment options; social uses of the internet; etc.).

That constant change keeps me on my toes, and makes me job challenging. As if that weren't enough learning to be getting on with, I also have to learn about our clients' businesses. I have to learn about their industry and its recent trends; what their business model is; how their internet strategy fits into that model; what their competitors are doing; etc.

Meanwhile, we're faced with another challenge: getting the client to learn what we need them to know. The more open clients are to this "mutual education", the better chance we have of success.

One lesson we try to teach clients is that the homepage is not (necessarily) the most important page on their website.

It's a mistake to assume that users will always, or even most of the time, access your website via its homepage. Consider this: when you search in Google, does it return a list of homepages? Not necessarily: Google returns a list of pages and other documents on the web that best match your search query. This is list is by no means exclusive to homepages, or even weighted towards homepages.

For example, if you've published an provocative article on your website, and a lot of people link to it, that article may tend to get found more in Google than your homepage does. Hence, more people will access your website via this article page than via your homepage.

Similarly, if you have a page on your website that contains a biography of your CEO, many people will access your website via this page, because they Googled your CEO.

Gillian Carson illustrates this point well in an article in Vitamin magazine, entitled Turning Your Visitors Into Users:

Quoting Ryan Singer of 37Signals, the article explains:

I don’t visit YouTube and click around. But I see blog posts with cool videos all the time. I don’t think of YouTube as a site. What draws me in is a blog post, IM or email. Then, when you end up watching a video on YouTube’s site, you realize there are more cool videos there, and might start clicking around. In this way the root of each visit is a permalink, a particular video, a certain experience - not the home page. The video is the epicenter of the permalink, and the permalink is the epicenter of the whole site. Everything revolves around the videos you love, not the farm that feeds them.

The homepage is not the only door to your website. In fact, when you review your analytics data, you will most likely find that less than 50% (probably fewer) of visitors access your site via the homepage.

So what do you need to do?

  1. Make sure that the user experience is positive and consistent throughout the website.
  2. Design the navigation in such a way that it's clear to the user where they are within the structure of the site (e.g. provide contextual cues like a different colour such for menu items that are currently selected; add a "breadcrumb" style navigation trail).
  3. When setting up your Google Adwords or SEO, direct users to the most appropriate landing page for the phrase you're targetting
  4. Spread the love: try to make sure you get just as many links to important landing pages as to your homepage. This will help your site's overall Google ranking.

Effective landing pages are crucial if you want to attract significant numbers of visitors to your website. Once you grasp this concept, you'll be well on the way to increasing your traffic.

Mediajunk is No Longer Updated

Visit Michael Heraghty's current blog at User Journeys

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Mediajunk was Michael Heraghty's blog from 2002 to 2010, with articles on usability, UX, SEO, web design, online marketing, etc. More »

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