This week's web publishing roll up focuses on the tools and tricks online publishers can employ to facilitate more readership and exposure -- and hopefully more revenue. From SEO to metrics to advertising, here's a synthesis of all that fits to click.
Search Queries Get Longer
According to Hitwise, an online search marketing and branding company, search queries on all the major search engines are starting to get longer and longer. While the average search query is still around two words long, queries that are longer than four words have become increasingly popular over the last twelve months, increasing ten percent.
While traditional search engines, like Google and Yahoo! are configured to provide better results for fewer keywords, new semantic search engines are designed to do more with more words.
This is an interesting trend that can be explained in a variety of ways. More users may be finding less value in the search results they get from relatively unspecific, short queries or users may be becoming more sophisticated in how they structure their queries when they are looking for very specific answers.
Conversations with Your Customers
In a forthcoming book by Louis Rosenfeld & Marko Hurst, search analytics are likened to just that, an intimate chat that lets web managers listen to and understand users' needs -- which can improve content, navigation and search performance.
Rosenfeld Media publishes short, practical and useful books, and webinars on user experience design. These publications aim to explain the design and research methods that web professionals need to make informed design decisions.
The Wrong Click
New research suggests that advertisers have been measuring the wrong thing: the number of clicks or the number of direct conversions.
Though it's wrong, it may turn out to be good news for publishers who struggle to monetize their content with online ads. Traditionally, most of the credit for a sale or conversion is given to the last ad clicked on or seen by a consumer. As Abbey Klaasen of AdAge explains:
... that means brand-focused sites such as NYTimes.com and MarthaStewart.com and even social-media sites such as Facebook and MySpace lose credit because they are often not where a consumer will see that last ad. And when they lose credit, they lose advertisers, and when they lose ad revenue, well, you've read that story.
By examining, instead, how online-display ads affect search and conversions, research has shown that in some cases, a display ad can increase a search ad's click-through rate 25% to 30%.
This is something that would have been missed if only clicks had been measured. Rarely does just one thing influence an action. A user's behaviors are influenced by more than just the last thing they see, so why measure based on that principle? It's certainly not the whole picture.
A ComScore report called Wither the Click -- published in December 2008 -- further explains correlations between online-display ads and user behaviors. You can read it here.
Not Just a River in Canada
The Georgia Straight is Canada's largest urban weekly: a Vancouver-based news magazine with a per-issue readership of almost 534,000. Focused on providing web-exclusive content and building online community, its site content includes special-interest blogs, video and audio, image galleries and searchable listings for events, restaurants, clubs and movies. Drupal.org features the progressive online rag's transition to the Drupal web content management platform as one of their case studies.
After having used a number of methods and technologies to update the website, including a bulky and outdated content management system, Straight.com decided to leverage the power of community and migrate to an open source solution. They chose Drupal on the basis that it appeared to be most adaptable and had the most community "momentum".
The new site -- deployed in December 2006 -- was upgraded to Drupal 5 in early 2007 and plans to continue with an upgrade to Drupal 6 in the near future. The site relies on nearly 70 modules for its functionality: 42 contributed modules, 9 custom modules and 17 core modules.
The Straight is another example of online news media that is working to think outside traditional models by focusing on community collaboration.