December, 2009

  • The Search Blog

    Explained: unexplainable on-site searches

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    image As I am typing, I am sitting in between my girlfriend and my mum whilst they browse the Marks and Spencer website for the latest boxing day sale bargains.  This is the last place I would expect to get inspiration for a Searchblog post, but they have managed to surprise me whilst also educating me with insights in to why we all may see seemingly inexplicable search terms in your on site search logs.

    My mum is a bit of a bargain hunter and since she ‘discovered’ internet shopping a couple of years ago, has spent each boxing day browsing online stores for every shop she used to visit in person at Bluewater shopping center

    A hardcore shopper like my mother likes to find lots of ways to optimise her shopping experience and find the ‘exclusive’ latest bargains.  She shared some of her tips for finding the latest online bargains with my girflriend, and one of them in particular inspired this post…

    Whilst marksandspencer.co.uk is a fairly well designed website, my mum is not content with using the standard site navigation and being presented with the same highly visible bargains that the rest of the population see.  As an alternative to ‘slowly’ browsing through the site navigation, she explained to my girlfriend how she always searches for ‘a’ in the internal search box, to find all product results on the site (13,838 products apparently)…

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    Since Marks and Spencer have a fairly sophisticated faceted search mechanism, she is then able to filter the search results to show only those products which have been tagged with a particular category.  One of the available categories is ‘Sale’, so with one additional click she can see ALL of the latest sale items from Marks and Spencer…

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    And there you have it, nearly 3000 sale items from Marks and Spencer for you to browse through, a shop-aholics dream…

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    It is worth noting, that you do not get the same results when searching for the letter ‘e’ (which is the most common letter in the English language), since the website requires a matching word.  A search for ‘the’ does generate the same number of results as a search for ‘a’

    I have looked at a lot of internal search logs in my time, and found many strange search phrases which I could not explain or understand the purpose of.  Whilst I am not sure how useful searching for ‘a’ on Microsoft.com is, I am now curious as to which clever searches our customers may be making to generate custom search results.  I am even more curious to understand whether popular inexplicable search phrases on our websites may in fact be an indication of certain functionality which is expected, but missing from our sites (e.g. a full list of all sale items).  I will certainly be taking a look at our internal search logs when I get back :-)

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  • The Search Blog

    #uksnow Twitter tag highlights UK obsession with weather

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    Getting relevant content published on the web early when a topic is trending is a fantastic way of getting lots of traffic to your website, but did you ever think about watching the weather forecast in order to predict what the next trending Twitter topic will be?! This morning the UK population turned to Twitter to share real time news about the (light covering of) snow which fell on our nation for a few hours.  I must add that I was one of the people excited and tweeting about the snow...

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    The #uksnow Twitter tag has been established in previous years with support from this website…

    http://uksnow.benmarsh.co.uk

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    . . .which maps the progress of snow reports across the country as they are tweeted.  If you would like to take part simply tweet #uksnow, followed by the first part of your post code and a rating out of ten to indicate how heavy the snow is.  e.g…

    #uksnow rg6 5/10

    …means that it is snowing in Reading, UK (RG6), but only half a blizzard.  10/10 would indicate a blizzard.

    It’s great to see that the British public’s fascination with the weather have created a tending topic for #uksnow…

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    And I wonder whether we should be proud that ‘#uksnow’ it is at number 8 in the list of trending topics in 2009, up there with Iran elections, swine flu, Gaza and the Inauguration.

    Tweets Tweets Tweets

    Here is a selection of Tweets from this morning…

    Marketing opportunity

    A very clever marketing opportunity was taken by Rooby, the real time image search engine…

    The link provides a real time feed of all #uksnow photos uploaded onto Twitter…

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    However, interestingly they do not seem to support http://www.tweetphoto.com, which is surprising since it a service used by the iPhone TweetDeck app. Get it sorted Rooby!

    End of the world?!

    This one is my personal favourite…

    <hiddenID>: This isnt snow its a death trap #uksnow, went out of the front door and its so slippery yikes

    …since it is obviously pretty bad out there…

    Reading, UK at 11am this morning…

    Coming back to the topic of this blog, I am really interested to see how many hits this post gets from people following the #uksnow tag, I will let you know :-)  Follow me on Twitter for updates.

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  • The Search Blog

    Spanish SEO, is LATAM different to Spain?

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    image I have recently been partnering with a lots of international site managers in Microsoft on various global SEO initiatives.  I had interesting discussion with one of our Spanish site managers this week, which reminded me how critical it is to work with someone who understands the local language AND the local culture when tackling SEO internationally.

    We were discussing optimisation for various pages on Microsoft.com, many of which were targeting search strings containing ‘computer’.  We have a lot of content on our websites which is shared across regions with common languages, so websites in Spain often share content with Latin America Spanish speaking countries (e.g. Mexico).  My assumption before my meeting was that we could have a single piece of Spanish content which would capture any Spanish searches from Spain, Mexico and any other Spanish speaking country.  I was quickly convinced otherwise.

    We were trying to optimise a bunch of pages for ‘computer’ related search terms (e.g. ‘computer not working’, ‘pc sound not working’, ‘computer problems’, etc…).  My assumption was that one of most popular words for computer in Spain (ordenador), would also be one of the most popular in Mexico, however my Spanish contacts corrected me.  A quick search in Google Adwords illustrates this fact. . .

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    Whilst ‘ordenador’ is one of the most popular related words in Spain (after ‘PC’), in Mexico ‘computadoras’ is the second most popular related keyword and is in fact used nearly twice as much as Spain’s number 2.  So if we are trying to target the number 2 terms for each region (which we were) we need to think about creating 2 separate pages (or at least 2 separate linking strategies), one targeting ‘ordenador’ and the other targeting ‘computadoras’.

    A golden rule of international SEO is that you cannot just translate keywords, the content must be regionalised for the local market.  Hopefully this post makes it clear that this also applies even if you are working across multiple regions in the same language.

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