MN Search – the State of Search


Good event with discussion of Pigeon update and its effect of local search, the end of authorship, and some changes in paid search.  There are many changes in the industry, and we will probably see more changes in the future… Ah, well… for those of us who are not specializing in search, it is good to know and  appreciate the field for its complexity and change.

  • Josh suggested that Google will use structured markup until Google’s technology develops to the point  that markup is no longer needed.
  • Authorship is dead…  the reason why Google removed authorship is insufficient use – Google did not find it helpful.  71% of most impressive writers either did not do it or did it incorrectly.
  • AdWords is dropping description line 2 from mobile ads
  • Bing followed Google by combining desktop and tablet targeting for ads
  • [exact] is becoming Exact’ish as Google is trying to target searcher intent rather than exact keywords used
  • “Research I have done in last two weeks changed so dramatically…”
  • PigeonPigeon (local search update):  most affected industries are realtors and attorneys (particularly DWI).  Building links is in the past – need to continue to provide good content. Reviews are vital, even if they are hard to get…  One Bankruptcy attorney had dozens of reviews… what was his secret?  He asked…
  • Reviews – we can not ask for a positive review…  the methodology is to ask first “do you like me?  If no – ask what is wrong to use in operations.  If yes, direct the person to a review.
  • As Pigeon wiped results of some of agencies work, how to handle angry clients?  It is easier if clients understand Google to some degree…  they will accept changes.  If not, it is difficult…  there are many unhappy clients now.

From Google Authorship to Twitter, the overarching lesson for B2B search marketers is that if you’re executing tactics with broader B2B marketing objectives in mind, and not just SEO, you have a better chance of long-term success in search, even if you have to change tactical direction from time to time.

Search Engine Land

MIMA – Data Visualization

tVery interesting event on data visualization advantages.  Curious – “big data” was very popular relatively recently, and now data visualization seem to appear in the schedule different association.  Ha!  are we trying to make sense of “big data’ or realizing that little data in the head is better than big data somewhere in the cloud? 😉

A few points:

  • Who owns the data?  Not IT, not BA team – the business owns the data
  • Large number of data is not useful…  sending management a daily report as an Excel spreadsheet is not beneficial
  • Why we might want to fix visualization of data issue before fixing the quality of data?  If you don’t know what data you have…  what is the point in quality?
  • The presenter reviewed the chart of all available data visualization software and chose the easiest to use.  It makes complete sense – advanced features are not helpful if nobody in the company knows how to use them 😉


UXPA – Contextual Inquiries: Planning, Conducting, and Analyzing Data

inquiryThe event gave very insightful overview of contextual inquiries process – and a few interesting examples.  We also went through a contextual inquiry process of laundromats – what was not only useful, but very entertaining.

Contextual inquiry itself seem to have a sizable field of expertise and significant interest in the UX community.

4 main principles of contextual inquiry:

  • Contact (the researcher need to be close to the subject – to be able to observe the task)
  • Partnership (considering the researcher as an “apprentice” learning what subject is doing)
  • Interpretation
  • Focus

In many cases, people expect to “explain” what they do rather than show it.  Explanation can “hide” important details.  If you want to learn about software it is important to watch people .  For example, screen sharing session can hide the reliance on notes for passwords, etc.

If a certain task is the focus of the research it is good to say: “can you set aside this type of work for us to see?”

It is a good idea to ask “show me what you have to do today.”

After the observation which takes about 2 hours, a 2 hour interpretation session takes place.  This session should include at least one designer, one developer, and definitely the product manager to assure buy-in into the resulting recommendations and insights.  Developers are usually excited to be involved.

Interesting: persona example with variety of characteristics specific for the group studied for the specific task.  Characteristics of the group prevalent or not prevalent in this persona marked in a distinct color.


A “workflow” diagram can be also one of the deliverables of contextual inquiry.


Book – Brandscaping

brandscapingBrandscaping appeared to be a more insightful book than I expected.  The main premise of the book is the advantage of partnership between brands and content producers that use the products to achieve popular objective.  A movies about dogs can increase preference of pets of certain breed, a health-related documentary can increase demand for juicers, and promotion of the idea that chickens can be excellent pets can increase sales of pet supplies.

Brandscaping suggests that brands can gravitate to other brands targeting the same audience similar to mall structure.  Whole Food store at the mall would attract different type of businesses compared to Target.  The book has been created to be not “how to” book, but “how to think” book – what makes sense after finishing it.

101 dalmatians and Finding Nemo  increased total demand for dogs and fish  – what kind of advertising budget you need to do the same?

Instead of advertising (branding), Bank of America partnered with History channel to produce America’s story – where branded content was interwoven into the content and most “commercials” were watched by the viewers of the episodes.



Another brandscape example – a documentary producer (and a star) asked a company for a free juicer to use in his documentary devoted to the topic of health and weight loss (nothing specific about the juicer).  The general interest to the “juicing” as a concept increased.  Juicers used to be sold around new year when people were hoping to start new healthy habits. With the release of the documentary, interest to juicers was related to the popularity of the film.  The company started to buy advertisement for the documentary rather than advertising its own products.


Interesting: searching for “fat sick and nearly dead juicer” produces a lovely option to buy it 🙂


Stop putting your product first – the movie is about changing life..

Companies that found themselves in crowded markets can promote its brands better targeting niche audiences.  The book suggests “fractal marketing” – infinitely devise-able audience.  How to find a niche?  Look for content void in your industry (trade publication) and test if this niche appeal to your target audience.

Book – Information Dashboard Design

If the statistics are boring, then you have got the wrong numbers

Edward R. Tufte

bookDuring the period of assessment of what is needed for the future dashboard, it is important to focus on the Goals, not on the means.  If people are asked about the dashboard needs, they often think about the appearance of the final product, basing their expectations on the examples that they have seen before (in many cases, poor examples).  It is important to shift the focus on what people are trying to accomplish rather than a specific look of the dashboard.

Questions to define a dashboard needs:

  • How frequently the information should be updated?
  • Who will use the dashboard?  Is it for a single person, a single group, or people in several different departments?
  • What will the dashboard be used to monitor, and what objectives will it support?
  • What questions should be dashboard answer? What actions will be taken in response to these answers?
  • What specific items of information should be displayed on the dashboard? What does each of these items tell you, and why is that important?  At what level of summary or detail should the information be expressed to provide the quick overview that is needed?
  • Which of these items of information are most important for achieving your objectives?
  • What are the logical groupings that could be used to organize items of information on the dashboard?  In which of these groups does each item belong?
  • What are the useful comparisons that will allow you to use these items of information in meaningful context?  for instance, if one of the measures that your dashboard displays is revenue, do you have targets or historical data that could also be displayed to make current revenue more meaningful?

People accustomed to receive reports with information that they do not use for anything. However, they are afraid to loose this information…  How to encourage removal of these information: “Describe a situation when this information would lead you to do something” or “Give me an example of the actual data that would appear and the action that you would take in response.”  If no examples come to the person’s mind, then this information does not belong on the dashboard.

Many dashboards suffer from the problem of lack of context – they present the information that will never inform action because the context that is needed is missing.

Non-quantitative data may need to be present on the dashboard

  • top 10 customers
  • issues that need to be investigated
  • people who need to be contacted

Challenge of the dashboard design:

  • make the most important data to stand out from the rest (based on human perception)
  • reduce “non-data” pixels

Insisting on cute charts when another means would work better is counterproductive even if everyone seems to be in love with them. The appeal of cuteness will fade quickly; the only thing that will matter is how effectively and efficiently the dashboard communicates needed information.

Charts recommendations:

  • Pie chart is more difficult to perceive compared to a bar chart – it is easier for people to compare lengths than area – people are very inaccurate in estimating relations in different areas
  • Funnels are also not recommended – it is easier for people to perceive sizes of the funnel parts – it is much easier to compare simple bar chart
  • Explanation of a bullet graph



  • Do not represent two different data sets on one graph using left and right axis – users will attempt to compare unrelated data sets – use two separate graphs instead
  • We should not change type of display type (type of the chart) just for the sake of a visual variety on the dashboard.  the goal is to best select the medium that best communicates the information, even if the dashboard consists of the same type of chart

Begin designing the dashboard by sketching

Beware of focus Groups

  • Focus groups engage “system one” thinking, often rejecting anything unfamiliar
  • When asking to review the dashboard, invoke “system two” – do not show the dashboard and ask “Do you like it?” but rather review the requirements, explain that the dashboard was designed with consideration of human perception, and then show the dashboard.  Without allowing too much time to pass, start asking the questions such as “are the groupings of information obvious?” or “are your key metrics being measured adequately?”

To design dashboards that really work, we must focus on the fundamental goal: communication.

MIMA – Are We Using the Internet Yet?

futureThis is one of the presentation that won’t give the attendees a quick tip to bring to the office to improve a routine task or test, but could change the perception of the world around us…  not very useful by the end of the month, but very valuable in its intrinsic sense.

Yes, we use the internet…  but do we use it as it could or should be used?

Publishing in general is replicating real world in the digital world.  Why do we want “virtual” world that is similar to the real world (unless we want to do something that is not allowed in the real world)?  But what the true “virtual world” should be?  “Metaverse” is not done – “SecondLife” is not done…

What is Amazon?  It is just a catalog that can be clicked – there is no innovation based on the new channel… and we do not know what would they be.

TV is the best banner ad invented so far.  Magazines do a great job as magazines (let keep them as magazines) – web is something different.

Mobile phone is a fetish…  Glass will go away.

If you want to predict the future – invent it.

Book – Tilt: Shifting Your Strategy from Products to Customers

tiltExcellent book!!  I suspect many markets would be happy if their top management took interest in the book 🙂  The book’s site positions the book as a “A Powerful Antidote to Product-centricity” – and it is so wonderfully correct.

My notes (though it was hard to take reasonably concise notes – so many concepts a excellent by themselves and deserve attention):

  •  For many companies the product is their business (building a better product is the path to a less competitive future… is the perception)
  • HarvardHowever, the answer to the question “Why do customers buy from us?” is answered usually not based on the product, but on the “downstream” values.
  • While customers buy because of the downstream values, most of the resources are concentrated in the “upstream” product area.
  • Firms have goals “increase revenue by X” and use strategies how to create value for customers, what may not be concentrated on a product, can include service, emotions (piece of mind, etc.).
  • Firms seek “competitive advantage” – building a way of creating value for customers that competitors can not easily duplicate.

Where is your company’s competitive advantage or “center of gravity” – upstream or downstream?

  • 20th century: competitive advantage used to be in upstream (production lines, teams of engineers, etc. Walmart network).  However, upstream competitive advantage is disappearing as production, logistics, design, and innovation can be outsources.
  • Downstream tilt:
    • Competitive advantage tilts downstream
    • Activities that add value
    • primary fixed costs in the business
  • Why is it happening?  Commodization – anybody can re product the product relatively quickly.
  • Importance of “downstream” example:  pharmaceutical companies at one point offered significant price reduction for the AIDS drubs to African countries, but the countries were not interested.  There was no infrastructure to distribute the medications and monitor the use.  “almost free” product had no value…
  • Parity in products still important, but to “win” a company has to have a downstream focus.

In the 21st century markets are maturing faster than managers

  • Upstream costs are becoming variable, as outsourcing becomes possible
  • Downstream costs are becoming fixed (and increasing)
    • customer acquisition
    • customer satisfaction
    • customer retention

The question is not “how much more of what we make can we sell?”  but the question is “what else our customers need?”  Transition from the economy of scale to the economy of scope.  Manufacturing cost is not a smaller percentage of the product price; downstream costs have increased.

Example: computer game to help 7-19 year old ADHD patients developed by a pharmaceutical company as part of “beyond the pill” initiative.

Identifying customers’ costs and risks:

Example:  Vine in UK seem to be too intimidating for the customers to select – too complicated product.  Solution was a simple limited collection of Vines with easy to understand color-coding.  UK vine consumption increased.

Example: Honda during recession.  Why customers do not buy cars?  They are afraid to loose their jobs.  Offer: you can return a car if you loose your job.  Sales double, while the rest of the industry saw sales decline 37% (2009).

Example: explosives for the quarries – a commodity with practically no switching costs; competition on price – commodity product.  Solution to escape price competition was to reduce the risk of the customer  in buying the product.  The customers (quarries) needed “crushed” rock rather than the explosives.  The risk of the customers were very high – if the blast was unsuccessful, the rock might be too large, what will require additional efforts or the rock might be too small, and their customers won’t buy it.  The explosives company started charging the quarries not for explosives, but for “crushed rock” guaranteeing that certain percentage of the rock will be proper size.  The company used its extensive blast data to guide quarries in proper use of explosives and was able to sell premium and highly differentiated product.