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Archive for April, 2010

Never shut down your own marketing effort

April 29th, 2010 No comments

Don't disable the YouTube embed function in your videosThis is going to be a very short post with what I consider a rather important point. I’ve been a little busy the past few days, so I was searching for a video with some great information about the type of subject matter I write about.

My search turned up a series of three videos with a positive message on YouTube. So I figured one would be good for today and I could use the other two in future post.

I clicked the “embed” button to get the code, and was met with a message that said “Embed function disabled by owners request.” Hmmm. Let me see now… someone spends a bunch of money on a professional production touting their product and then doesn’t allow it to be shown to new viewers.

That strikes me as equivilant to a Hollywood studio producing a movie, but refusing to allow theaters to show it.

Video is a very powerful way to attract buyers. One house that I had built a web page for had 1,291 views in two months. 30% of those came from my YouTube video being embedded in other websites and blogs.

You want maximum exposure to any video you post anywhere on the Internet. Don’t get all territorial and disable the “embed” feature. Other folks showing your video are doing you a huge favor – let them do it.

Website stats – Caveat emptor?

April 25th, 2010 No comments

“Knowing a great deal is not the same as being smart; intelligence is not information alone but also judgment, the manner in which information is collected and used.”
– Dr. Carl Sagan

Web stats chart

Do you rely on website statistics as a basis for your online marketing decisions? If you do, having accurate information would seem very important to you.

Yet, over the past few years I’ve seen repeated evidence that the statistics many of us rely on may be suspect at best. There has been a lot of chatter on the Internet regarding underreporting of website statistics by Google Analytics.

Over the past year, I have been tracking stats on 15 sites that I maintain for myself and for several clients. All 15 sites have Urchin 5 installed to read the server logs as well as Google Analytics.

What I’ve noticed is a very consistent underreporting of the raw numbers on all 15 sites. The underreporting ranged from 15% to 20% once bots and other non-human visitors were removed from the mix.

In one particular case, a new web page showed 17 unique visitors in it’s first week according to our server logs, which were independently verified as having been 17 individual human visitors. But Google Analytics only showed 1 visit to the page. That was an extreme case, but was 100% verifiable.

That incident just noted occurred in January of this year. It is not an old case where the problem has been corrected since. This sheds doubt on all website counts based solely on Google Analytics.

I’ve read many reports from website owners who claim underreporting rates of Google Analytics of 50% or more. In the past I have always found that number to unacceptably high and also unrealistically deviant from the norm. Now, in the light of the facts noted above, I am not so sure.

What could cause this sort of underreporting? While I can’t say with certainty, I suspect it has something to do with Google Analytics reliance on remote JavaScript as it’s method of gathering data. If a visitor has JavaScript turned off, or a network error interrupts the transmission of data from the browser to Google, no visit is registered for that page when a visit has actually taken place.

That said, I still use Google Analytics for the statistical samplings and ratios, such as pageviews per visit and bounce rate. Why? If the sampling is broad enough, even taking the underreporting into account, that such statistics can be considered accurate within acceptable statistical margins of error.

Alexa stats are another issue. We recently had a website with a bounce rate of under 20% according to both our web server logs and Google Analytics, but reported by Alexa with a 79% bounce rate.

That’s a HUGE difference – what could cause that? Well, the reason is the biggest weakness in Alexa stats and a good reason to doubt their veracity at any level. Alexa relies on users with the Alexa toolbar installed to gather data.

Problem – who is the Alexa user base?

Webmasters, designers, marketers and other “web admin” types are heavy users. But the overwhelming majority of consumers and Internet users don’t even know what Alexa is, let alone have it’s toolbar installed. So Alexa stats are almost exclusively created by the people who use the data, not the people who should be included in the data.

Knowing this, it is clear that smaller, niche websites whose user base actually consists of Alexa toolbar users have a decided advantage in Alexa rankings.

If you are using Alexa data to make marketing decisions, be aware that you are basing those decisions on data mostly collected from sellers like yourself, not from the buyers you are trying to reach.

If there is a bottom line to this, it may be that the webserver’s logs are the most accurate form of website statistics. So internally, we use our Urchin 5 statistics for most purposes, because the method of collection is the most accurate.

So when you are looking at website statistics to make marketing or other decisions, please take the following into consideratione. Whose statistics are being used? How were those statistics gathered? Are those statistics from the website’s own server logs, or from a third-party service that does samplings but can’t possibly have completely accurate information apart from the websites own server logs? “Caveat Emptor” – let the buyer beware.

If you’d like another take on this subject from another source, please check out this link:
Another source for Google Analytics underreporting information.

Google changes name, adds features to Local Business Center

April 21st, 2010 No comments

No more Local Business Center… it is now called Google Places.

And claiming your own business listing, which has been a “no-brainer” for some time now, is even more attractive to local businesses thanks to some new features.

Google Places illustration

What’s new (per article USA Today):

  • Instead of just submitting an address, business owners can instead show a geographic area they serve. Additionally, home-based businesses can make their address private.
  • A new advertising feature, for $25 monthly, lets business owners “tag” their listing with special offers to stand out. Google is testing Tags in a few cities, including Austin, Atlanta and Washington D.C., before going national.
  • Free photos of your business. For the business owner who doesn’t want to take the time to upload a photo of their business, Google is offering a free photographic service to come and shoot your location for viewing in Google Maps.

If you haven’t claimed your business listing in the Google Local Business Center… oops, I mean Google Places, do it right now. If you don’t have the time, desire or technical savvy to do it yourself, Google Places listings are just one of the many benefits included in an Orange Cat Online Marketing 1-2-3 package.

Using Social Media to Build Your Image

April 16th, 2010 No comments

After posting a link to one of MHMSM’s April articles on MHMSM’s Facebook Fan Page, a long-time friend commented on my post with some questions she had about manufactured housing. Her questions presented a golden opportunity to give some information about the quality and advantages of factory-built housing. If you’re not using Social Media to engage consumers, you’re missing the boat.

Here is an image of that Facebook conversation:

Image of Facebook conversation

Brief as it was, it can be read by many others and have a multiplying effect of a positive nature.

In the first issue of MHMSM.com, I submitted a short post with the video SocialNomics. This would be a good time to have a look at that video if you missed it the first time around.

It took about a minute to post my response, but I’ll bet that I’ll receive many times that in value.

Social networking vs. search engine marketing – what should you be doing?

April 11th, 2010 No comments

I was putting this post together for readers of my Local Business Marketing blog at BobStovall.com when I realized how important these stats are for retailers, developers, community owners and anyone in the MH industry who do business on a local level. So here it is. It’s a quick read but carries a small wealth of information.

“Ten years ago, your marketing effectiveness was a function of your wallet. Today, its a function of the width of your brain” – B. Halligan

Recently Microsoft gathered some numbers on Internet usage and here is what they found:

  • 86% of searchers start at a major search engine when shopping online.
  • Even when consumers plan to purchase offline, they often go online first.
  • 42% of retail sales in 2009 were online or “web-influenced”.
  • $917 billion in US sales were “web-influenced”.
  • 63% of consumers use the internet to find local businesses.
  • 44% of local businesses have a web site.
  • 50% use search engines first for local business information.
  • 24% use the Yellow Pages first.

Which Search Engines are the most important?

  • Google: 49.2%
  • Yahoo: 23.8%
  • MSN/Bing: 9.6%
  • AOL: 6.3%
  • Ask: 2.6%
  • Others: 8.5%

By being properly optimized for and indexed by Google, Yahoo and Bing, you’ve covered 82.6% of all online searches.

How important is it for your local business to be found in a search on one of the top search engines?

The Internet has 1.2 billion users world-wide

Facebook has 350 million user accounts

Twitter has 17 million user accounts

LinkedIn has 35 65 million user accounts

FourSquare has 1 million user accounts

So even the incredibly popular Facebook only accounts for 29% of Internet users, an astonishing number in it’s own right, but it still leaves 71% of Internet users unaccounted for. Would you bar 71% of customers from your business?

Social networking is an important part of marketing online, but it is in addition to, not in place of search engine marketing, whether using Search Engine Optimization or Pay-per-Click advertising.