Fan Mail Regarding Email Subscriptions

An adoring fan writes:

“I really like that I receive the daily emails with your latest deets updates now. Since you know I don’t like bothering to click on links to go outside of my email, this is perfect, the newest deets come straight to me!

Great point, loyal reader. What better way is there to break up the work day than a fresh serving of Deets from The Deets? Subscribing is free and easy along the right column of every page.

“And I like that the whole article comes to me. In our [name removed to protect the guilty] google groups, it only sends the first 2 or 3 lines, then after that, to keep reading you have to click out to the actual google group. Thumbs down to that.”

I couldn’t agree more. The Deets is all about taking care of our loyal readers. Why would I force the people I care about most to click through to finish reading my latest ramblings? Not gonna happen. Full RSS feeds are the bomb diggity.

Reader feedback is always welcome. High priority emails can be sent to my PayPal account.

CES Day 3: Sling Box, Toshiba dual core TabNote, and Google

Day 3 of CES, and we’re starting to feel the pain, but it’s so exciting we just can’t stop. In this report we bring you Sling Box, the new dual core Toshiba laptop, and Google in all their Googleness.

Tomorrow is the final day of CES, and we have a lot planned; however, due to when our flights leave we won’t be able to edit any footage until Monday evening. Please be patient with us as we try and hook everything back up in Minneapolis, MN.

If you’re having issues playing the video, or if you’re looking for minimum system requirements, please visit our Video Help page.

Google Local Search is Broken, and It’s Not Their Fault

Takes a look at local searches on Google, and why the quality of results is sorely lacking.

I have found myself becoming increasingly underwhelmed with the quality of search results I encounter while running searches for local businesses and services on Google. For example, try running a search for [Minneapolis plumber] or [Minneapolis electrician] to get a feel for what I’m seeing. When I run searches like this, I’m expecting to find results from local businesses. However, I tend to encounter a search results page dominated by national lead aggregation services who provide little to no information about the local services I’m trying to research.

In my perfect search world, searches like this would bring back links to actual local businesses who will explain their services on their own web sites so I can decide who’s an appropriate fit for me.

I don’t want to see yellow page results at the top of the rankings that provide nothing more than a list of phone numbers. If that’s what I wanted, I’d just grab a YP book, or go directly to a YP site.

I’m not looking for leads aggregator sites like respond.com, servicemagic.com, or findaplumber.com that simply want to sell my name to the highest bidder rather than letting me select the business that’s the best fit for my needs

I don’t want to link to the homepage of national chain companies, only to be asked for my zip code after clicking from a geo-qualified search result.

Should Google be blamed for poor local search?

I’m been giving this some thought, and I think the answer is no. In my opinion, the biggest reason we see poor local results is the poor job local businesses have done marketing themselves online. Because of this, national companies who understand the web – but don’t necessarily know a thing about plumbing or electricity – are becoming gatekeepers for online leads. I’m convinced that Google would love to show more interesting results for local search than they tend to do today, but it’s up to local businesses to provide quality relevant content, and take at least some basic steps needed to make sure their sites can be found.

What do you think?

Are local businesses missing the boat? How satisfied are you with local search results on Google today? Why do you think more local businesses haven’t realized the value of web marketing?

The Lazy Person’s Guide to Online Competitive Research

Five tips on how to efficiently conduct online competitive research.

Are you interested in keeping tabs on your competition, but just can’t seem to find the time? Here are a couple competitive intelligence time savers we use and frankly can’t live without. Here is a concise summary for those of you who are too lazy to read all five tips: Subscribe to search results using RSS readers. If you don’t know what that means, buck up and read on to improve your competitive research efficiency.

  1. Use Google Blogsearch: Search for your arch nemesis’ name on Google Blogsearch to find the latest dirt on the blogs about him. Here’s an example search for Google employee, Matt Cutts.  (In this case, I’m searching for someone who usually has something interesting to say rather than for an arch nemesis). Imagine if there was famous rugby player by the same name. That would lead to a lot of false positives in my stalking efforts, so I’d add a negative for the term [-rugby] (without the brackets) to the search to filter the other Matt Cutts out of the results. [Trivial side note: As of this writing, Matt Cutts has only been mentioned once on a blog post that incluces the word rugby: 3,173 vs 3,174 mentions.]
  2. Use Persistent Searches: Too lazy to run that search on a regular basis? Subscribe to blog search results by clicking one of the Atom or RSS links at the bottom of the results page. Paste the resulting URL into the RSS reader of your choice. A few popular readers today include Bloglines, News Gator, My Yahoo, and Google Reader. Here is a link to Matt Cutt’s blog search RSS feed’s URL. [Note: If you want to to straight to the source to find out what makes Matt Cutts tick, check out his blog at: http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/.]

  3. Use Technorati: Who is linking to your competition? There are quite a few tests for this, but Technorati is particularly interesting because it reports what blogs have recently (we’re talking minutes here) linked to a given site. For example, this search for www.technorati.com on Technorati reports 118,022 links to Technorati.com as of this writing, including 17 new links in the past 10 minutes. Discovering who is linking to a site, and clicking to read the associated commentary is a great competitive research technique. You can also use it to measure how “important” your site is vs. your competition based on Technorati’s link metric.

  4. Use Technorati Watchlists: Too lazy to run the same search twice? That’s not laziness. That’s a sign of efficiency. Simply click the Add to Watchlist button on Technorati’s search results page to save it to your personal watch list.
  5. Subscribe to News Search: Too lazy to read blogs, but have time for news stories? Search Yahoo News or Google News for your favorite newsworthy term, then subscribe to the results. Google currently lists their subscribe options on the left column of their site, and Yahoo’s are on the right. Yahoo’s recently added blog search results to the right column of their news results page, so they have a 2 for 1 search offering.

Enough already. Congratulations on reading this far. Maybe you’re not as lazy as you thought?

Feeling energized? Give the above tips a try, or share your own online competitive research tips in the comments below.

Top 10 Google Quick Searches

Top 10 searches you can conduct on Google to answer simple questions on the results page.

You’re probably more than a little familiar with Google’s main web search engine, but did you know that you can use that same search box to answer many every day questions? Here is a list of my ten favorite “quick searchers” I use to answer common questions in seconds. Be sure to check the tenth post for an extra cool trick that will impress your friends:

 

  1. Weather Update: This search: [weather 55406] (replace with your zip code) displays the current weather and the next four days.

     

  2. Temperature Conversion: Need to convert that temperature to a different unit? Try this search [21F to C] (again, without brackets) for an immediate answer.
  3. Stock Quote Checker: Searching for a stock symbol brings back a quote like a link to the stock profile on Yahoo Finance (my favorite stock research site).
  4. Definitions: Not sure what a word means? Try this search: [define:technology] Google will give you a series of definitions from reference sites across the web.
  5. Calculations: Forget what two plus two equals? As long as you don’t forget that Google has a calculator, you’ll be fine: [2+2=]

  6. Conversions: There’s no need to panic in the kitchen if Google is nearby. Convert those pints to ounces in a snap: [3 pints to ounces]
  7. Currency Conversions: Heading across the pond? Not sure how far your dollars will go in Europe these days? [1000 usd to euros]
  8. Movie Reviews: Is Black Hawk Down the best movie ever made? One of my colleagues believes it is. Find out what other viewers thought using the movie command: [movie: black hawk down]
  9. Package Tracking: Did you order a ton of holiday gifts online? Are you nervous about whether they’re going to show up on time? If your retailer gave you a tracking number, just type it into Google so you can get on with your day before the USPS, UPS, or Fedex’s site’s would finish loading.
  10. Really cool bonus search: SMS. Did you know that you can do all of the above queries from your cell phone using SMS? Just text your query to [46645] (that’s googl). Google will reply with the answer in less than a minute in most cases. One exception: Google SMS doesn’t do movie reviews, but it will give you current movie times and locations using the following query: [moviename 55406] or [moviename Minneapolis, MN] (replace 55406  or your city/state with your location.)

 
How does this effect the sites that specialize in providing the information Google answered above? That’s a topic for another post.

What’s your favorite Google quick search?

What ones do you use that weren’t mentioned above? Share your favorites in the comments below.

 

Google Analytics Goes Free – But There Is a Cost

Google recently finished the integration and rebranding of Urchin as Google Analytics. This included changing the pricing from a monthly subscription to free. However, there have been some costs for loyal Urchin subscribers:
1. The reports have been painfully slow to update. As of this writing, the data is 22 hours behind. While it’s interesting to know what happened yesterday, it’s not nearly as valuable as knowing what’s happening in real time on a web site.
2. New registrations have been halted.: Due to the overwhelming popularity of the new product, Google has stopped accepting new accounts for now. Andrew Goodman touches on this at Traffick.com
Both issues are particularly painful to a business who was perfectly content paying for the service before.

What could Google have done differently?

1. Run legacy clients on a separate platform, so they continue to receive the service they’ve come to expect.
2. Let legacy clients opt-in to the free version once they’ve had a chance to compare the service to the paid version.
3. Charge something rather than nothing for the service. This would be a better throttle than shutting off new registrations.