Feedburner is Dead

Update from John Mueller from Google – “5:09 PM
It’s still up and running – the counts are being worked on. We use it on all our blogs as well :-)?”

Bye Feedburner. It was fun.

If you didn’t get the memo or have the ability to read Google’s universal mind, their free RSS and email subscription service is no longer available.
Cre8asiteforums Moderator, Barry Welford, sounded the alert:


Your Feedburner Subscriber Stats = 0 :should You Worry?

We’re seeking alternatives to Feedburner in that thread.

Pinky and the Brain, Search Marketing & User Experience Design

When Google went from being just another new search engine to the search engine, I couldn’t stop comparing the company to the cartoon series, Pinky and the Brain. In my mind, the conversation between Larry and Sergey was identical to the two lab mice:

Larry: “Gee Sergey, what do you want to do tonight?”
Sergey: “The same thing we do every night, Larry—try to take over the world.”

For the cartoon, no matter what scheme Brain devised, the world was not his to take. Perhaps it was Bill Gates’ plan to put a computer in every home that stood the best chance of world domination. Steve Jobs and Apple followed up with more computers and added music. You might even say that the music injection was the language the entire world could understand.

Extending ourselves

It occurred to me one day that people like Larry, Sergey, Bill and Steve, and others like them, instinctively understand the human brain. They know that computers aren’t substitutes for our minds, but are extensions because, for starters, we create the machines. Fascination with our brains is everywhere. There are new books on the male brain, female brain, brain after a stroke, spiritual brains and how brains handle memory or heal disease.
Pinky and the Brain
It’s likely no coincidence that around the time Google was launched, an essay called The Extended Mind was published in the journal Analysis by two philosophers, Andy Clark and David Chalmers. They set out to prove that the mind is a system made up of the physical brain and parts of its environment. When your environment is dependent on computers for communication, for example, how does this affect your memory? Does texting with phonetic words mean the eventual loss of grammatically correct writing?

One way to take over the world is to make people dependent on computers for their survival, communication, entertainment and income. I find it no coincidence that Google explores ways to make its search and data an extension of our daily habits. The key theme between Larry, Sergey, Bill and Steve, and others like them is that humans love convenience.

I think user experience web design and Internet marketing success is tied to exactly the same idea.

Awareness

Another interesting study shows how narrow our awareness is. Two psychologists, Daniel Simmons and Christopher Chabris, showed a video of two groups of students weaving around each other, passing a basketball. Half of them wore white shirts and the other half wore black. They were asked to keep track of how many times the basketball was passed by their team. At one point, a student dressed in a gorilla costume came wandering into the scene. Later, several students said they never saw the gorilla. Their brains regarded this information as extraneous information. (You can view the “basketball” video here.)

We extract only what we need for whatever our task may be. This same lesson can be applied to usability and marketing.

Navigation and memory

Search engines keep changing their user interfaces. This is not intended to drive you crazy. Rather, the companies are keenly aware of human-computer interaction studies and listen to user feedback. One of our many issues with search and web designs is our inability to recall where things are, how we got anywhere and how to handle information overload.

Creatures of habit, we’ve learned where logos are placed and become accustomed to global, supplemental, supportive and breadcrumb navigation. We scan and look for tidbits. We seek out only what we need to complete a task.

Design styles have changed over the years. However, you will still see home pages with 20-plus items listed on the left side navigation. If just one of those choices is the start of a task, a site visitor has started down a certain path. Ask them to recall what the other 19 items are and they can’t tell you because they didn’t want or need all that information. Duplicating that information with image navigation inside the main body aggravates the situation by removing confidence. Which click is the best for the task, the left side link or product image?

Information gathering

We are quickly adapting not only our brains to our laptops, but also our hands and eyes to sorting through and responding to information. New studies are being performed on how our brains seek out new ways to get information. There’s a rearrangement of neurons based on new methods of getting any feedback. This feedback is not just by sight. For us as internet workers, the creation of lists, forms, videos and detailed images contribute to engaging the brains of our targeted readers or market. Consider disabled persons accessing the Internet and those whose handheld devices are an extension of their body.

One area I see missing in ecommerce design is close up shots of craftsmanship in handmade products. A wedding site with models showing different styles of veils will sell better if the model is shown with several head shots and with close ups of the beads, lace, and length. With the time honored custom of shopping for wedding gown and accessories with family, sales online must find ways to emulate the experience of touching material, remembering a design that was like one Grandmother wore at her wedding and trying on head pieces to see how they look on different size women. We have yet to truly emulate physical feedback to our brains in an environment where touch doesn’t exist.

Pinky and Brain were never able to conquer the world, despite being genetically altered so they could speak to humans. Brain’s name is an acronym for “Biological Recombinant Algorithmic Intelligence Nexus”. Will Google become an extension of our brains? As we search for information via the Internet and make purchases online, we’re contributing to a new way of communication. Our brains are adapting to new behaviors. How we market online is attached to our greater perception of ourselves. Think social media and social media marketing, for example.

For a struggling world economy, companies that will succeed will be those who get unstuck from old practices in design and marketing and regard each of us as evolving humans.

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This article was originally written by Kim Berg and published by Search Engine Land, January 23, 2009

Ads Rile Google? Bah. What about we Humans?

This caught my attention. Google May Penalize Your Site for Having Too Many Ads published in SearchEngineWatch states

Google is looking at penalizing ad heavy sites that make it difficult for people to find good content on web pages, Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team, said yesterday at PubCon during his keynote session.

The key point Google appears to want to make is that anything that prevents people from reading content concerns them. The article goes on to say,

Google has been updating its algorithms over the past couple months in their different Panda updates. After looking at the various sites Panda penalized during the initial rollout, one of the working theories became that Google was dropping the rankings of sites with too many ads “above the fold.”

This is an odd stance, considering Google AdSense Help essentially tells website publishers to place ads above the fold by noting, “All other things being equal, ads located above the fold tend to perform better than those below the fold.”

There’s nothing wrong with following Google’s suggestion above. All you need to do is put the ads in a left or right sidebar and start their appearance above the page fold. The most likely human response is to focus on the important content and tasks that are also placed above the page fold and ignore the ads anyway.

My guess is that Matt Cutts was warning about the types of pages where banner ads, text ads, adsense ads and animated ads are presented in what a “in your face” type of method. We see these kinds of web pages often. There is a brief article or blog post of about 3 full paragraphs with ads of all kinds and sizes placed above, below, and on each side.

When I see someone trying to promote a page such as this, I wish I had a paint gun and could splatter gobs of colored paint all over their revenue greedy, unreadable, mind blowing self centered page. I won’t “like” it, Tweet it, recommend it or if submitted to a forum or group, will not approve it. I’m really strict about this. I’m all about the people and presenting credible, pleasant material.

I would like to see Google jump on pages that display a survey on arrival for the first time to a page or site. Typically these surveys cover up the content and to be able to read I’m forced to click it away. The same thing for ads that slide over the content or drop down from the top and hang there until you make the effort to get rid of it so you can read the content it’s covering.

Pierre Far aka “eKstreme” Hired By Google

Cligs (URL shortener) inventor, programmer, marketer and web developer, with a PhD in bacterial genetics from Cambridge University, Pierre Far aka “eKstreme”, officially announced today he has been hired by Google.com.

That’s the good news. The sad news is that this means Cre8asiteforums loses its Technical Administrator and long-time Moderator. However, we’re very proud and can boast that the forums has lost two of our finest from the Cre8tive Community – John Mueller aka “johnmu” and now Pierre (not to mention some of our moderators who also assist at Google’s Webmaster Forums).

Pierre explains in I’m Joining Google:

Tomorrow morning I will start working at Google’s London office as a Webmaster Trends Analyst. SEOs will immediately know what that role is as I will be John Mueller’s team mate. To those that don’t know, it’s the team within Google that interacts with website owners and manages Webmaster Central among other things.

Having met, lunched with and videotaped Pierre, I don’t blame Google for wanting him. He’s generous, (very tall), funny, a born teacher (showed me how to delete icons from my Google G1 phone because I never read the manual), and of course, an absolute genius.

He promises to stop by Cre8asiteforums, just like John Mueller does. Congrats Pierre!

We send him off Google Hires Pierre Far Aka “ekstreme” at the forums.

See also A new chapter for OCW Search, by Pierre.

SEO is Not “Voodoo”

A guest post by an anonymous writer appeared in TechCrunch, called The Time Has Come To Regulate Search Engine Marketing And SEO.  Anytime I hear about regulating search engine marketing, I go to see the street brawl.

The article focused on how evil Google, as the lKing of search engines, is. The writer makes valid points about how the search engine works and how ill advised it is to worship the Google god, because it can grant you a kingdom one day, and destroy your business just as swiftly the next.

From the article,

It’s now conventional wisdom that search engine optimization, representing the organic result sets on any search query, is more voodoo than science. Through an uncontrolled set of factors search engines determine which listings appear at the top and bottom of any individual query. In addition, consumer behavior dictates the top three results on any search page are all that matter. If you happen to own an online business, unless you exist within those top three, the amount of individual traffic you will obtain from organic listings is very, very low.

smoke
I found it curious that the fault was placed on Google for our search behavior preferences. Somehow Google manages to control what sites we’re permitted to find. In a sense, yes, this is true. All search engines try to locate and present what they consider to be quality sites that meet our search queries. (This is, of course, a pain in the neck for any business that wants to be favored and ranked well.) The writer states that the goal of business is to be found in the top 3 search results. If a marketer can’t achieve this victory for their client, they may as well throw in the towel. I feel that Google didn’t create this situation. Search engines are reacting to us and what we do, not making decisions for us to follow.

In fact, every search engine offers several ways for a site to be presented in SERPS because they understand and study searcher behavior. We are attracted to phrases and web site descriptions more than rank. We want images and video demos. We seek customer product reviews. Bing figured out that we want to know more than what a simple page description can tell us. They realized that we can be persuaded to click when offered other ways to answer our questions. They offer a better preview of a page before you click on it. We are scanning far past the top results, looking for a connection and reason to visit the presented web page. What speaks to us varies from person to person. This is the true challenge for search marketing. How do you appeal to different user queries?

The writer claimed that SEO is “voodoo”. I disagree. SEO and usability/user experience optimization practices, when applied together, offer intelligent, tasked-based, user satisfied search results. We create pages for what searchers and prospective customers want to find, rather than what some contrived, controlled, paid for and manipulated query result may be presented. For web site owners and search engines to know what people want, there is constant research and tracking into how we look for it, what we call it, when we want our information, why we want it, where we want it placed and all the different words we use to locate it on the Internet.

The reason so-called “black hat” search engine marketing works is that consumer behavior can be influenced and manipulated so easily. There’s no voodoo in that either. Rather, there’s a short window of time for some companies to take advantage of the latest buzz. Somebody is paid mucho bucks to know what we want. What we’re thinking. What has just jumped into consumer radar. Like fishnet stockings.

Why We Search What We Search For

Strolling in town with my husband one night, he spots a store window with a headless, shapely mannequin wearing fishnet stockings. He mumbles outloud, “Fish net stockings….”

Me, the wife who is gazing up at the stars and enjoying the gentle breeze, replies, “What?” The man repeats…“fishnet stockings”…and so I ask what the heck he is talking about.

“You should wear some,” he suggests.

I spit or grunt (can’t remember.) He knows I hate dresses on me. I don’t own any, other than the poor piece I wore to a wedding last Fall that shall hang in my closet forever. I figure this is one of those spice up the marriage conversations where I feel pressure to dye my hair blond and call myself, “Tanya”. I push back with a grumpy, “I wore them in 6th grade. I insisted my mom let me shave my legs so I could.”

Husband finds it amazing I wore them when I was 11 years old and feels that I should do it again, for old times sake.

What would I search on to find some to wear? “Fishnet stockings”? “Fish net stockings”? “Are fish net stockings naughty?” or would I check out the fashion and style angle and try, “latest fishnet stocking fashions”, “how to wear fishnet stockings” or “fish net stockings for baby boomers who haven’t worn the damned things in years….?”

To know how we search is the big mystery. This is what search engines are studying and the search results we get are based on our searcher behavior, which just means, how and why we search for stuff. Our search behavior is not created by Google and neither is your businesses fate, if you know what you’re doing.

Search results pages are closely tied to how we search. If we don’t find what we want, we leave. This is something search engines don’t want. This is why they don’t want to put sites in good spots that we may not want. If you build a site people don’t want, but you expect Google to rank it high anyway, no matter what….then you’re talking voodoo.

Related article: Is Most of SEO Just A Boondoggle? by Jill Whalen