Sunday, November 30, 2008

Trying Out Google Web History

I took Google's new Web History for a brief test drive this weekend, using it to save and browse my Google searches. Web History allows me to search my past Google searches chronologically; by topic; and view trends (nice!). Although I'm kind of weirded out that they can track back my past search behavior, both at home and at work.

The features can be expanded to track and display my entire web browsing history, but that gets really creepy.

Thinking ahead to the possibilities (insert evil laugh here), this new capability could allow Google users to opt-in to share their browsing history. In return, users might expect a cut of the revenue (ala Google AdSense), free hosting, free ISP services -- you name it -- giving marketers unheard of visibility into consumer search and browsing behaviors.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

My POV on Site Testing Tools

Last week I was asked by a colleague to recommend a site testing solution for a friend's tech product review site. The following is my response (edited to protect our agency's exclusive relationships, pricing, etc.):

In recent months, Tier I players like Optimost and Omniture Test & Target have dramatically reduced their prices. 1-year technology contracts are now half of what they were a year ago. But don't be fooled - they try to make up for these steep markdowns by trying to charge for costly services models. These solutions are only great values if you have a skilled site optimization expert or agency partner operating these tools.

A Tier II player like Widemile or SiteSpect incur minimal monthly charges, without an annual contract. They make it easy to scoop up their tool for just a few months with a low learning curve, and are very eager to compete with their larger rivals. As a result, these players will tend to be flexible on price and provide plenty of free education and technical support. Widemile in particular has a pretty sweet, Flash-based user interface, suitable for even a novice. Definitely gets high marks. SiteSpect's
big advantage is that no tags need to be implemented on the page. But be wary of implementation at a DNS level. Your larger organizations' IT teams will be shaking in their boots!

Ah, and of course Google’s Site Optimizer tool. Free, free, free. I don’t believe this is any less or more turnkey than Tier I or II solutions. Speaking from first-hand experience, this tool nicely complements Google Analytics' free solution, and is currently running live tests on my site. I've only just implemented this, so will update with my long-term satisfaction.

A general working knowledge of HTML is necessary for most of the above solutions. So in the context of this prospect -- a simple tech review site, supported by ads with no ecommerce or clear conversion…. then, err, free is a nice way to start. I think Avinash Kaushik's logic can be applied: a free analytics solution is practical for starters, if only to get your feet wet.

Disclaimer: We’re not talking about “big client” millions of media budget at stake in the above scenario, so I’m being very liberal with my recommendations. I think it takes a very careful evaluation of a business' goals, objectives, dedicated staff and technical limitations to make a consultative recommendation.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Plugging The Leaks in Your Website

My conversations with clients are usually focused on "plugging the leaks" within their websites. By "leaks," I mean the alarming rate of high visitor abandonment at various points within a website.

It's funny, but not long ago this sort of talk would have lead to " a result, we need to redesign the site." Hold your horses. Tough economy or not, why jump the gun and march right into a total site redesign? Do you know exactly what's so terribly wrong with the site that it's gotta get new paint job, or flat-out gut renovation? Do you even care about alienating users that might "love" the site's current aesthetic?

Make a small investment of time and budget to understand precisely what is wrong with your website and why it's causing visitors to bounce. Only then can we have a constructive conversation about changes to the website. By implementing a dozen or so data-driven tactical recommendations, your visitors can expect a more efficient, easier-to-use website that's actually achieving (let's even say exceeding) it's intended business goals!