Search Technology from User Perspective

Tim Bray, the co-inventor of XML shares in detail his understanding of and hopes for search engine technologies on his On Search, the Series blog series of essays. Particularly interesting in these articles posted between June and December 2003 is the focus on the user experience in searching and the expressed hope for future developments which would make search engines and search features usable.
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Web Analytics Tools Comparison

The e-Consultancy (I am not associated with them) has created a very thorough report comparing 12 web analytics tools marketed in the UK and sorted by price range:
– Webtrends (NetIQ)
– RedEye
– RedSheriff
– Nedstat
– WebtraffIQ
– Site Intelligence
– Clicktracks
– Intellitracker
– Clickstream
– Steeltorch
– WebAbacus
– Speed-trap
– WebSideStory

Some of these tools are web-based, like WebSideStory, others offer both a web-based and desktop version like ClickTracks. While the report focuses on the UK market, the US web analytics market is virtually identical and I think the conclusions of the report are valid regardless of the country.

A free 2 chapter sample of the report explaining the methodology used in the survey and covering two vendors (ClickTracks and Clickstream) is available for free, while the full report can be purchased online from e-Consultancy.com.
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The Challenges of Calculating the Number of Net Users Worldwide

According to a survey by Ipsos-Insight shared by eMarketer, Canada is the county with the highest percentage of its adult population online – 71% or 16 million. The US is the biggest online user with 128 million users online or 68% of its adult population. Where this survey’s results became questionnable is the numbers about China and its online population.

The survey claims that 41% of the Chinese urban market is online. Sounds like a good percentage for an up-and-coming online nation — that is, until you see the absolute number of 6 million Chinese online. I doubt either the math rules or the numbers of the Chinese internet users quoted in this survey…
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Internet Exceeds All Other Media in Growth

The Media Audit, a Houston, TX, based company, surveyed adults in 85 US metro markets and concluded that the percentage of adults who spend at least an hour a day on the Internet is significantly greater than the percentage of adults who spend an hour a day with the print edition of a daily newspaper.

In 2003, through the first 54 markets surveyed, 26.2 percent of the adults spent seven or more hours per week on the Internet. This growth is particularly significant when compared to other media heavy user groups.

The full text of the survey is available online: “Internet Exceeds All Other Media”

Of specific interest to local web marketing and localized search engine optimization is the fact that Washington, DC, is the third top metropolitan market by percentage of heavy internet users — 33% of the adult population spends more than an hour per day online.

The Marriage of Search Engines with Social Networking

A new website, a fusion between a search engine and a social network, is launched today under the name Eurekster. It has the financial backing of NBC, features search results provided by AllTheWeb and sponsored results by Overture, the Yahoo! subsidiary, and enables members of the social network RealContacts to share search results, personalize them and in fact influence them in how they rank the search results.
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FirstGov is not enough

FirstGov is not a sufficient resource for search engine marketing of a government website.

Just because government websites have monopoly on .gov domain names, it does not mean they have monopoly on providing information about certain government-related subjects or locations. Unlike the case with yellow/white/blue pages where the way to differentiate between government and commercial information is by the color of the pages, on the web things are much more seamless.

Whether they realize it or not, government websites do compete with commercial sites in providing information and should, just as commercial sites do, invest in search engine optimization — beyond listing with FirstGov!
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China’s Web Audience

Chinese Web Marketplace

According to a semi-official Chinese research centre, the China Internet Network Information Centre, the number of Internet surfers in China has grown to 79.5 million people at the end of 2003, up an annual 34.5 percent.

China, which already had the world’s second-largest Web population after the United States, added 20.4 million new online users during the year. Total users will grow very quickly in the next five years, the centre has said in its twice-yearly report.

CNNIC said the number of computers connected to the Internet reached 30.9 million at the end of last year, up 48.3 percent from the year-earlier period. The average Chinese Web surfer is male, unmarried and under 35.

Survey Analyses Why Consumers Abandon Online Purchases

NetIQ just published a survey focusing on the huge cost to businesses caused by abandoned ecommerce shopping carts. The survey quotes reports by eMarketer that in 2003 some 52 percent of shopping cards were abandoned and estimates by research firm Datamonitor, that in the United States alone, the loss due to unfinished online transactions could grow to $63 billion in 2004, resulting in a cumulative loss of more than $173 billion since 1999. Profit loss of such high order cannot be ignored. However, it could be reduced dramatically if retailers were to implement web analytics solutions, which would significantly impact profits by simplifying their online shopping scenarios.

Some of the most interesting points in the NetIQ Survey are:

  • Many consumers abandoned online purchases due to additional costs, like shipping and handling, or lengthy delivery times (35 percent).
  • This is followed by complaints about Web sites asking for too much information in order to make the purchase (30 percent).
  • About one in five (17 percent) surveyed say they abandoned online purchases due to lack of product information.
  • 14 percent say they changed their minds and opted to purchase from a “brick and mortar,” rather than online, store.
  • Site security and “best prices” are the two most important factors driving respondents back to Web sites to make additional purchases (52 percent and 55 percent, respectively).

New Year, New Goals

After a couple of weeks away on paternity leave, I am resuming the WebSage blog. In 2004, you will see posted here a lot of information on current e-commerce trends, search engine marketing, web optimization, and overall ways of improving websites for the benefit of small businesses and non-profit organizations!