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Web Search & Marketing Newsletter - July 2009

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

This month we look at Microsoft's launch of Bing, its new a 'decision engine', which is designed to "empower people to gain insight and knowledge from the Web". We also review the release of Google's Wave, its new collaborative communications platform which has the potential to create massive workplace and communication efficiencies. Finally, we cover how to use email-marketing campaigns as a powerful online marketing tool.

Read more about these stories below, or you can also browse through previous editions of the newsletter, either by month or by subjects covered. If you'd also like to keep up with the latest developments during the month, don't forget our web marketing blog - we've included a summary of some recent stories from the past month at the end of this newsletter. You can also now follow us for regular updates on Twitter.

On to this month's edition...

Microsoft Launches Bing

At the start of June Microsoft launched its new search engine, named Bing. Supported by an extensive advertising campaign in the US, Microsoft are hoping this updated version of their search technology starts to win market share back from Google. Bing is being positioned as a 'decision engine', which Microsoft hopes will "empower people to gain insight and knowledge from the Web, moving more quickly to important decisions". But how does it compare to Google?

Bing incorporates some useful new functions, such as the new Explorer Pane. This includes Quick Tabs that break searches down into Web Groups relevant to the user's search query. Although the Explorer Pane can be useful, the Quick Tabs often steers users to Microsoft services such as Bing Shopping, so it's worth being suspicious of any search engine that habitually gives its own links precedence over others.

Bing's results are also separately categorised, but this leads to a lot of scrolling down the page and seems redundant when there's already the Explorer Pane to focus search results by categories. Both Bing and Yahoo! now display instant results in alternative formats to that favoured by Google's "ten blue links" approach. Its Quick Preview feature gives you a text-based synopsis of the pages displayed in the search results and Instant Answers gives responses to questions such as currency conversion, weather forecasts and more. However, an issue with the Quick Preview feature is that it can take too long for boxes to pop up with text.

The layout and look of Bing's new image and video search is good and the search-refining tools are easy to access. Microsoft has also added advanced technology to search queries involving travel and buying, through the purchase of Farecast in 2008. It is a useful function that compares the best deals for airfares and hotel rooms, although its level of accuracy is, as yet, unknown.

Overall, Bing doesn't offer a great leap forward in search technology and results but it does make some progress by focusing on improving the consumer areas of travel, shopping, products and health. The new search engine is a great start with some useful functions, but Microsoft still has work to do, as the results don't seem to be as intuitive as with Google. For example, it doesn't personalise your results according to your IP address, like Google does.

So, as usual with Microsoft releases, Bing has potential but isn't fully completed yet and it will only manage to convert Google users once it performs its ongoing tweaks and improvements to demonstrate more relevant results, presented in a better way. The US version of Bing is currently slightly different to all the other regional versions, from the Home Page image through to some of the functionality, although this is expected to be rolled out to all versions at some point.

More details about Bing can be found here. If you'd like to know more about Bing and how your website can rank on this search engine, please contact us.

 

Google Releases Wave

At the end of May, Google timed its developer's launch of its new collaborative communications platform - Wave - to perfection, in order to steal much of the attention that the launch of Microsoft Bing was seeking a few days later. Wave, which is designed to be an evolution of email and an Instant Messenger (IM), spent four years in development and was created by the Sydney-based development team behind Google Maps. The launch was received with much acclaim by developers, who are seeing this as potentially a major step-forward in online communication.

Communication within Wave is more like an IM conversation than email, as it intends to combine the older email methodology with the more recent trend in social communication systems, such as Facebook and Twitter. Social networks are designed around conversation 'threads' and Wave will enable multi-person conversations in real time through these conversations that Google calls a 'wave.' Lars Rasmussen, from the development team, explained that because it integrates email as well as a real-time workflow, Wave allows "Synchronous and asynchronous (communication) in the same conversation. And you can switch back and forth, depending who is online at any one time".

The potential of Wave is huge. It has been designed to be an open standard platform, rather than just a standard Google product like Maps or Reader, which will allow users to contribute to the same Wave from computers and mobiles, regardless of their operating system. As it's also developed using a group of development APIs, it will also allow developers to integrate gadgets and robots into Waves. There will be many people who will find this integrated functionality extremely useful and provide new opportunities to develop the service in the future.

Wave therefore has the potential to create massive workplace and communication efficiencies and could significantly change the way web users interact in the digital space over the coming years. The first Alpha version has been tested and the interface is slick and easy to use, giving users the ability to share maps, video images and documents with a simple, drag-and drop interface. Communication is intuitive and not cluttered at all and it works by far the best within Google's Chrome browser, which is understandable at this stage!

Wave really seems to focus on contacts and people, which is the direction communication is taking. Email applications currently focus less on people and more on the content of the message, so this is where the evolution of Wave is a notable step forward and why the developer community is so excited about the launch and the possibilities that Wave now provides. It may take longer for the general web user community to accept and use this different style of communication but this may also herald the future style of online communication, which would be the most significant development for years, and one that Microsoft may be looking at with envy!

Wave will either massively boost the popularity of social networks, or it will devour them. Either way, the two-way conversations that are the hallmark of Web 2.0 are here to stay and they are only going to get more widespread through the development of communications platforms such as this. Wave was launched to widespread acclaim and hype, but with some great 3rd party apps and greater customisation, it could actually match this hype.

To find out more about how you can enhance your communication capabilities with Wave in the future, please contact us now for more information.

 

Successful Email Marketing Campaigns

We haven't focused on email marketing in this newsletter for some time, but it remains a powerful online marketing tool, if used correctly. Whether you want to find new customers, or communicate with existing clients, email can be used in a number of ways, as long as some key principles are followed.

A successful email marketing campaign needs to be carefully planned and implemented, so these are our top ten tips:

1) Have a clear objective be clear what you want to achieve with an email marketing campaign and how your objectives can be achieved. Will it be a one-off promotional campaign, or an ongoing communication channel? What will be the measures to ensure the campaign is effective?

2) Use a good list this can be one of the main barriers to running a campaign, as the recipient list needs to be targeted, relevant and legal (especially in Australia where the spam mailing regulations are very strict). There are suppliers of good email lists but, depending on your market you may need to hunt them out, or it can be better to 'piggy-back' on an established mailing to your ideal target list. If you are developing your own email list, make sure recipients have opted-in to receive your mailings.

3) Avoid the junk filter this is increasingly becoming another barrier to getting your message out, since trigger words in your message or the formatting of links to a website can mean your email will be automatically blocked, or the recipient alerted to a potential spam message.

4) Get the email opened the recipient will scan the email subject and sender and within seconds decide whether to junk it, or open it. You therefore want your recipients to recognise who the message is coming from and to give them a reason to take the next step.

5) Get the email read the content needs to be relevant and interesting to the reader so that they continue reading and do whatever the email aims to achieve. You'll need to grab and hold the reader's attention, make it interesting and appealing and avoid any reason for them to stop reading before completing the desired action.

6) Have a strong call to action depending on the objectives of the mailing, lead the reader through to the final action and make it easy for them to take an action, whether it's to complete a sale, sign-up for something, complete a survey or make an enquiry.

7) Track the email it's essential to monitor what happens once the email is despatched, from open and bounce rates, to clickthroughs and eventual sales. Many email marketing services provide tracking data on each mailing and you can link the email into an analytics package to trace actions through to a website.

8) Test and improve based on the results from a mailing, or a series of mailings, the tracking data can provide invaluable information to help you test and improve the performance of your mailings. If you're sending a mailing to a large list, run a test mailing first and spot any potential problems from the responses.

9) Schedule the mailings decide when to send the mailing, or test different days over a period of time. Research has shown that the highest email open rates occur on a Monday with the lowest on a Friday, but this could vary depending on your market and email subject.

10) Include an opt-out On all your mailings you need to include an Unsubscribe option for recipients to decline future mailings. Make it easy for them to do so to avoid any negative feelings towards your company or brand.

As shown here, there's lots to think about and put into action for any email marketing campaign, but effective planning and tracking can dramatically improve the quality of responses.

If you'd like to find out more or discuss your email marketing plans, please contact us now for a discussion.

 

Book Review - Website Analytics an Hour a Day

As part of our series of book reviews featuring web design and marketing books, we look this month at Web Analytics, An Hour a Day, by Avinash Kaushik. This is an excellent book that explains how to develop a successful web analytics strategy the right way, with a step-by-step guide to learning analytics.

 

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.