Archive for the ‘Industry News’ Category
If you use Google Tag Manager or another tag management tool, you’re probably already familiar with the idea of a data layer. It’s basically a centralized place for information about the page to be passed to analytics and other measurement tools.
Up to now, there have been some informal conventions in tools like GTM. But it would help us all to have some standard guidelines, for interoperability between tools. So, if you need to switch from one tool to another, you can easily do that without rearranging the data. Or, if you build a plugin for a content management system, you can build to the standard and not worry about which tool it will be used with.
So a W3C Community Group was assembled to tackle this problem, including 56+ organizations (including Google Tag Manager) providing input on a specification that is standardized enough to provide interoperability, without being too rigid to represent many different industries and websites. (LunaMetrics also participated in the development of the specification.)
After much deliberation, version 1.0 of this specification has been published. Let’s take a look at what it says and does.
A lot has been written about this year’s Google Analytics Summit, which was held last week at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California. There were 14 major public announcements, over a dozen speakers, and a boatload of cool new features that were triumphantly revealed on day 1, or quietly implied behind closed doors on day 2.
I had the opportunity to attend this year’s GA Summit. For two days, we sat on the cutting edge of the industry, and it was nothing short of amazing. The venue, the theme, the speakers… the roadmap. You think 14 announcements were cool — just wait ’til you see what’s next.
Somewhere atop the Santa Cruz Mountains, late in the evening, I found myself dreaming of what the GA Summit might look like five years from now. It would definitely be even more international: this year’s Summit attendees already represented 47 different countries! It would definitely be more popular: yes, we were a trending hashtag on Twitter this year, but that’s just the start. What else?
This year’s three major themes were “Access. Empower. Act.” I imagined 2018′s keynote Googler pacing the stage, broadcast live across YouTube to Google Glass, Android devices and Google TVs around the world. What would her three themes be? “Act?” That’s perennial. “Predict?” GA is definitely headed in that direction. “Engage?” “Track hoverboard users?” Obviously.
What would her 14 announcements be in 2018?
Two cops walk into a diner and sit down for a piece of pie and a cuppa coffee. “How’s the strawberry rhubarb tonight?” the first cop asks the waitress. “Hmmmmm ” she says. “We’ll, I think you would be better off with the apple pie, ” she finally answers. ”Is there anything else you’d recommend?” asks the second cop. “Well, the ice cream always makes the pie taste even better — I recommend the cinnamon — and I can heat up the pie to be sure it really is awesome. Instead of the same old joe, you might consider our latte. Expensive, I know, but so much better than the house brew.” They bought everything she recommended and left a nice tip. And they came back after their shift the next week and made sure to sit in her section of the diner.
This kind of thing happens because the waitress created trust and credibility from the moment she answered their first question. She could so easily have taken their order — after all, not many people say no to the sale. Instead, she gave them an honest answer, and it was obvious that it was her own opinion. When she suggested the expensive latte, they didn’t blanche — she had already proven that she wasn’t going to steer them in the wrong direction. (more…)
One of the advantages of Google Analytics Premium is that you can get unsampled data, but it’s still processed data. Have you dreamed of getting access to your raw GA data?
Those dreams are about to come true. Announced today at Google I/O: later this year BigQuery will be available to users of Google Analytics Premium.
Query hit-level data at interactive speed
BigQuery is a web service that lets you query billions of rows, a.k.a. Big Data, with a response time in seconds. Without Google Analytics Premium, you upload some data first and then run your queries.
With Google Analytics Premium, your hit-level GA data will be available for the same type of interactive ad hoc queries. Pose a question, get an answer. Does that lead to another question? Rinse and repeat! You can batch queries, too.
Build complex queries and join data sets
Direct granular access to your GA data opens the door for all kinds of complex queries. You’ll also be able to combine data sets from other sources for powerful business insights.
Imagine having data at your fingertips to solve problems like these: (more…)
I don’t blog much anymore (and aren’t you all lucky that I don’t, I would be taking up a “blog slot” from all the people at Luna who have real talent.) But I cut the line so that I could congratulate our friends at Semphonic, with special call outs to Gary Angel, Joel Hadary and Phil Kemelor. As many readers probably know already, they were purchased by Ernst & Young on Friday.
Semphonic isn’t the first analytics firm to be purchased. Certainly, EpicOne did it a few years ago when they sold themselves to a company, local to their market, who specializes in automotive sites. There are probably quite a few others that I don’t even know about. But Semphonic did something really special . This was a strategic sale of a boutique consultancy to an international accounting and consulting firm, and it was enormously important for our industry.
The sales we’ve been seeing in our industry almost always carry strong intellectual property with them. Adobe purchased Omniture and its software suite, Sitecatalyst/Test&Target/Discover. IBM purchased Coremetrics, as well as companies like Pittsburgh-based Vivisimo. We consulting companies bring different opportunities to the table. Sure, we have great branding and awesome links/rankings and a kick-ass client roster. But mostly, we bring know-how.
And it’s so clear that the rest of the world has sat up and noticed. If you read Gary Angel’s blogpost, you’ll see that Semphonic had “two handfuls” of offers (so I suppose that means in the neighborhood of ten?) They were in the enviable position of being able to choose their acquirer.
Best of luck to the Semphonic team on its new journey!
Have you ever needed to make a tiny change to your Google Analytics tracking code, but your IT team told you it would be 6 weeks until the next code refresh? What if you could just log into a tool, make the change, and have it go live immediately – without IT involvement? Now you can.
Google announced the launch of Google Tag Manager this morning at the eMetrics conference in Boston. Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a free tool that lets you manage the marketing and measurement tags for your web site in one place. This means no more scattering scripts across your pages and waiting on IT to track them down.
On June 6, Bing announced significant and awesome upgrades to Bing Webmaster Tools. This may be news to you, as Bing has a tendency to fly under the radar. Indeed, it seems these exciting, free features are hardly getting the attention they should at the moment. Which is a shame, because Bing Webmaster Tools has a hell of a lot to offer.
Below are four specific ways you can use Bing Webmaster Tools to improve your SEO endeavors.
Many webmasters and web marketers have been sleeping on Bing for the last few months. However, Bing has shaken the game up considerably thus far in June. In no more than 7 days, Bing has launched 3 significant updates. Let us review.
Bing Incorporates Encyclopedia Snippets into Search Results Page
Less than a month after Google launched its Knowledge Graph snippets, Bing has replied by incorporating informational snippets from the Encyclopedia Britannica directly into their search results page. Introduced by Bing on June 7, the new feature is dubbed Britannica Online Encyclopedia Answers and is triggered by searches for certain people, places and things.
Certainly, Britannica Online Encyclopedia Answers does not exhibit the power and scope of Google’s Knowledge Graph, as the Bing feature affect less queries and taps into a smaller base of knowledge. On the other hand, information from Encyclopedia Britannica is more credible than Wikipedia and Freebase, two main sources of data powering Google’s Knowledge Graph. Further, the move shows that Bing is also evolving its search capabilities beyond merely matching pages with search terms to provide relevant information directly on the search results page by understanding how pieces of information relate to each other.
Bing Webmaster Tools Turns Amazing
One day prior, on June 6, Bing announced the addition of a slew of ridiculously helpful features to Bing Webmaster Tools. Dubbed the “Phoenix Update”, this group of improvements effectively upgrades Bing Webmaster Tools from an “interesting” tool to an essential part of the SEO and website analysis toolkit.
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Google’s release of its most recent major innovation to search, the “Knowledge Graph.” Announced last week, the knowledge graph is an interconnected semantic web of data, and Google will now display relevant pieces of it in response to certain search queries to help users “discover new information quickly and easily.”
When I first learned of this new development, I had quite a few questions. What do the Knowledge Graph snippets look like? When do the snippets show up? Where does the data come from? Why is Google doing this? Who cares? So I decided to find the answers… and share them with you.
In his recent Mashable article, Lance Ulanoff detailed a long conversation with Google Fellow and SVP, Amit Singhal, in which the two of them discussed Google’s growing knowledge graph, entity-based search, and the implications for artificial intelligence. Needless to say, it was quite the eye-opener. While you really do owe the original a read, I’ll provide a brief synopsis before getting along with the editorial portion of this post. Let’s have at it.
The Concept of Entities
What is an entity in terms of search? Well, let’s take the search query ‘Pittsburgh Penguins’, for instance. Before Pittsburgh’s professional hockey team established a significant web presence, the aforementioned string might have yielded some pretty interesting results. The term ‘Pittsburgh’ is uniformly a geo-modifier – indicative of geographic location or city affiliation across the board. But what about ‘Penguins’? The cute, tuxedo-wearing, flightless birds that populate Antarctica and our favorite zoo attractions – right? Well, while that’s probably the most popular interpretation, the scope of this term is not so limited.
Be it a tribute to the tendencies of sports team nomenclature or a natural proclivity, we humans love to name things for our animal friends. The penguin is no exception. While ‘Penguins’ is merely a plural noun, conceptualization yields plenty of ambiguity. Aside from the pudgy, cold-weather birds and a professional hockey team, ‘Penguins’ takes the form of a soulful blues band and Youngstown State’s college mascot, among other things. Animals. Professional sports teams. Bands. College mascots. These things, my friends, are what Google calls ‘entities’.
What’s different about entity-based search, though? Good question. Let’s take a look at our example. The first result for the query ‘Pittsburgh Penguins’ is displayed above. Alas, the beauty of entity-based search has already made its mark. As is outlined in Ulanoff’s article, defining a particular entity (such as a professional hockey team) allows Google to collect and display in its results information pertinent to specific items within that subset. The items, in our case, are the individual professional hockey teams. The pertinent information is comprised of records, standings, points, recent game scores, etc. All right there in the results – not a single click needed. Pretty cool, huh?
Talking to Google
As Google’s knowledge graph grows, so does the likelihood that we’ll see more and more entity-based search results in the near future. While you don’t have total control of the information that appears in these results (for, say, your website), you are responsible for providing as much valid, pertinent, and disclosable information as possible. In the above example, Google displays all of this awesomely current information about the Pittsburgh Penguins because it suspects that someone searching for the team will find this information useful. Built into the string ‘Pittsburgh Penguins’ might be the underlying questions that users ask indirectly when entering this query and others like it. Interrogatives like: “Where do the Pens rank in the Atlantic division standings?” “What was the score of yesterday’s Pens game?” “When is the next Pens game?” You get the idea. With the advent of entities, Google is able to respond to these questions better than ever – and directly in the search results.
The information must be available, though. Let’s take a look at another example – one (like most) whose results have not yet been exposed to Google’s Artificial Intelligence. Nonprofits. We’ll be looking specifically at Venture Outdoors, a Pittsburgh nonprofit that works to create programs and events to get people outside. Given the proximity of LunaMetrics SEO Training Day at the 2012 Nonprofit Technology Conference, I daresay that this is a timely example. Anyways, back to the information! In order for Google to display entity-based attributes in its results, the information behind these attributes must be available online from a trusted source. While the trusted source is pretty clear-cut in our former example (the Penguins’ subdomain on NHL.com/NHL.com itself), does something like this exist for nonprofits? Well, yes . . . hopefully.
If your nonprofit does not yet have a website, the time is now. Aside from all of the known benefits of establishing a web presence, your website acts as an information hub for not just users, but search engines and information aggregators, as well. The people at Venture Outdoors, through their website, are able to provide users with a boatload of pertinent information. Users can sign up to become members, read a community blog, learn about the company, etc. Search engines like Google get plenty of information, too. Be it the sitelinks in the primary result (shown above) or the contact information (address, phone number, etc.) shown in the Places results, Google can draw this information directly from the website or use text on the website to triangulate it – ensuring its validity. It is my guess that the information-gathering process for entity-based search will function similarly – through trusted information hubs and mass triangulation. If something is consistently attributed to a given item across the web – much like a single phone number or address – it makes sense that that information is deemed more reliable.
The ‘Nonprofit’ Entity
Okay, so we know what entity-based attributes look like for a professional hockey team, but what about nonprofits? What are the underlying questions users are asking when they type ‘Venture Outdoors’ into the Google search bar? While I’d wager a guess that some long-term analytics might reveal questions that are specific to this nonprofit, I’m more focused on the questions that apply to every nonprofit. While a lot of the static information can be covered in the description and Places results (like address, phone number, brief mission summary, etc.), I’m a big fan of the dynamic side of things. In our previous example, the majority of the result was current and generated dynamically! Scores. Schedule. Standings. How far we’ve come!
Until the nonprofit entity has defined attributes, we can only speculate. So speculate I will. When I search for Venture Outdoors and other nonprofits, one of the underlying questions in my mind is commonly something like, “What events is this nonprofit holding in the near future and when are they?” Seems reasonable, right? Events seem to be a pretty integral part of the nonprofit space, so why not give the ‘nonprofit’ entity a dynamically generated ‘upcoming events’ attribute? Much like the next game on the schedule is featured in the ‘Pittsburgh Penguins’ result, there might be a list of upcoming events for each nonprofit with a link (if available) to each specific event. Paired with a date and time, this list could be very useful for users at the no-click level of the search results. Again, though, these attributes rely heavily on the availability of information. In Venture Outdoors’ case, they’re all set for my hypothesized dynamic events attribute! See above.
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Whether you’re an established nonprofit or a budding startup, the onus is on you to optimize your on-site and off-site information to the best of your ability. While the visible attributes assigned to each entity will likely be indicative of traits that are present uniformly across the particular entity subset, it’s not a bad idea to take some time and think about the pertinent information that you’d like displayed in your results. While you won’t have much control over which attributes are displayed, it never hurts to make sure that the information is available for all foreseeable outcomes.
Ask yourself: Which attributes are pertinent to my space and is the information that applies to these attributes readily available on my site and others? Pinpoint the pertinents, make necessary revisions or additions to on-site content, and emphasize information consistency across your various online channels. In doing so, you’ll be optimizing not just for the present, but for the future, as well.
What are your thoughts on entity-based search results?