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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - February 2009

Welcome to the February issue of our monthly newsletter covering web search and marketing news, trends and advice.

This month we look at Google's local business listings and some new enhancements that have been added to their local business adverts. We also cover the use of goals within Google Analytics and how these can provide valuable data about the way a website converts visits to customers. Finally this month we cover the recent story about Wikipedia and how the sheer size and activity on the site is creating editorial problems for this online resource.

Read more about these stories below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subjects covered.

On to this month's edition...

Targeting local business searchers

Google's Local Business Listings are now regularly shown within the main search results if a user searches for a local business, alongside a small map. In addition, viewing results on Google Maps provides more information and additional advertising options through Google AdWords, all of which should be used by a localised business to target their potential customer base. Google is now adding new features to this service to help advertisers gain more local business.

We first covered the value of Google's local business listings and their increasing prominence in Google's 'universal search results' back in our June 2007 newsletter. The local business listings service has developed further since then and remains an important area for companies who are targeting a localised market to gain a prominent listing. Achieving a high ranking in the 10 businesses listed in Google's main results can be difficult, particularly in a competitive market, but if searchers click through to the more detailed business listings, or search directly within Google Maps, there are additional ways to achieve visibility and to attract searchers to your website.

One of the main ways to achieve good visibility is through the use of a local business advert, which is created as part of a Google AdWords campaign. This allows advertisers to create a specific advert to appear on Google Maps searches, with a small icon, address and contact details. In addition, Google has now announced some additional new features for these adverts to help companies attract prospective customers faster and to gauge how well their adverts are performing.

The first addition is that Google's local business ads will now feature new interactive links within the panel that is displayed for the business. These panels are designed to provide more information for users and to connect them to the business quicker with a link to their website. Now users will be able to see more information from this panel and to take additional actions, such as a "Get Directions" option, a link to "Street View" (available in Australia with a street level photo of the business address), and "Save to My Maps" which allows users to personalise their search results.

In addition, Google AdWords will also be adding a new interaction report for local business ads in the near future. This report will help advertisers to assess the activity through the local business ads and their return on investment, with such information as how many users opened the info window and clicked on each of the new interactive links. Google says that Maps users are often looking for different information than Search users so that these new interactive links and the reports should help customers connect with a business faster as well as help the advertiser understand how to better target Maps users versus Search users.

If your business could be benefitting more from a Local Business Listing on Google, contact us now for more information on this feature and we'll be pleased to help. We can create optimised listings and Local Business Adverts to help raise your profile and improve your visibility to your target market.


Using goals in Google Analytics

As more businesses add Google Analytics to their website, it's important for them to use the information to develop the marketing and usability of the site. One of the main criteria that should be set up and used within Analytics are 'goals' - these report on completed actions within the website and can tell a business how well their website is converting visitors to customers.

A 'goal' within Google Analytics describes the completion of an action on a website - whether it be the purchase of an item, the submission of an enquiry form, or the sign-up to a newsletter. Goal paths can be set-up within the Analytics profile settings, with 4 goals being tracked within a profile (and therefore if a website has more than 4 goals that need to be tracked, an additional profile needs to be created). The goal paths describe the stages that a site user needs to go through to reach the final goal, which is normally a 'thank you' page confirming a sale or other action on the website.

Once the goals have been set, the Analytics data allows site owners to review the information provided on the way that customers move towards the completion of these goals, following their steps, page-by-page through the site. A goal-tracking funnel within Analytics depicts where the website's users may drop out of the goal path, showing the percentage conversions at each stage of the process. Therefore if a site has a shopping cart, it can be valuable to see where potential customers leave the process before completing an order. If there's an enquiry form, a high drop-out rate may mean the form is asking for too much information and losing potential enquirers.

Armed with this type of data, the website owner can therefore make revisions to the website to try to increase the conversion rate through to the final goal. They can also compare the goal conversion rates from different referral sources (such as Google's AdWords v organic search visits), as well as add generic or actual values to conversions, so that the ROI of the website and different marketing campaigns can be assessed.

Goals can therefore be a very powerful tool with Google Analytics but can be complex to set up on some websites. It you'd like more information about how goals can be used as part of your website marketing analysis, please contact us now for more information.


Wikipedia faces an editorial dispute

At the end of February many news websites reported on an internal editorial debate going on at Wikipedia, the user-generated encyclopedia which has come to dominate information needs on the web and regularly appears prominently in Google's search results. Since it became such a huge resource, Wikipedia has also been the target of an ongoing debate about the accuracy and reliability of its content and the issue of editorial standards.

Anyone can create an account on Wikipedia and contribute content, which has been the cause of the accuracy debate, although a panel of established editors are in place to review and remove inaccurate content where they can. However, several recent events on the site - where edits of the pages of US Senators Robert Byrd and Edward Kennedy gave the false impression both had died - have prompted a review of the rules, that would see revisions being approved before they were added to the site. First raised by Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, he proposed a system of flagged revisions, which would mean any changes made by a new or unknown user would have to be approved by one of the site's editors, before the changes were published.

However, this potential editing change has proved controversial and sparked a row among the site's editors. It would mean a radical shift from the site's philosophy that ostensibly allows anyone to make changes to almost any entry. Wales' proposal has caused a storm of comments on the Wikipedia forum, with many editors saying the proposal was unworkable, so that Wales has now offered a compromise, asking those who were opposed to the changes to make "an alternative proposal within the next 7 days, to be voted upon for the next 14 days after that."

A BBC report says that a system of flagged revisions has been used by the German Wikipedia site for almost a year. However critics say that the process is labour intensive and some changes can take days, if not weeks, to appear. The issue is similar to that faced by the Open Directory some years ago, when this volunteer-edited directory was being swamped by submissions for listings on the resource, particularly when it had a notable influence on Google's search results. The problem facing many human-managed websites such as these is becoming one of scale and resources to keep pace with the rapid growth in content - which was once the sites' strength but now becomes a serious management concern.

If you'd like to know more about this story and how it will be resolved, please contact us for more information.


Book Review - Killer Web Content

As part of our occasional series of book reviews featuring online marketing books, we look at Killer Web Content, by Gerry McGovern. This book covers the important role of website content and how it can make a real difference to the way that a website will retain visitors and convert them to customers.


Recent articles from The Marketing Workbench

The Marketing Workbench is our regular web marketing blog covering news and comment on Internet marketing events and trends. If you want to keep track of current stories you can visit this section of our website on a regular basis, or set up an RSS feed. These are just some of the items posted over the past month:


We hope you've found this month's issue useful. Please contact us if you need any more information on the items covered, or our advice on any aspect of your website's performance. Also, if there are any issues you would like to see in future editions of this newsletter, please submit your suggestions to us.