Archive for the ‘initial thoughts’ tag
John Bottom from Base One was thoughtful enough to send me the latest Buyersphere Report – hot off the presses. You can read his initial thoughts and download your copy here. Below is my first take upon reading the report that asked EMEA buyers involved in a purchase during the last 12 months about their buying experience.
Type of Purchase Directs Informational Needs
In the report, one third of respondents said that their purchase was something brand new to their organization in comparison to 50% who said that the purchase was something the same or similar to something they already have.
Has your content strategy considered the difference in the type and amount of content needed for a brand new buyer vs. a replacement buyer who is already familiar with the basics? Both types require content, but the emphasis will be different. A new buyer needs to be convinced the product is going to pay off and a replacement buyer must be convinced that they'll get more value than they have today and that the risk of changing is manageable.
Channel Consideration is Key
Who your targeted buyers are will determine which channels will be most useful to you–and to them. The survey found that social media use overall was in play with 21% of respondents. But, when considered by role, 41% of IT Managers used it, while only 12% of senior directors (business buyers) did so. But it's interesting that when considering the type of purchase (new or replacement), 30% of those buying new used social media to source information.
Usefulness of Channels
Word of mouth still edges out web searches for most useful channel. This should be a big wakeup call to B2B marketers that they're either not producing content that provides hard hitting information that buyers consider to be unbiased and truthful – or that it's languishing away on their websites unfound by their target audiences. What's interesting to note is that usefulness is also determined by the buyer's interactiveness with the channel. For example, in this study, buyers who engaged in conversational exchanges on LinkedIn found it to be more useful than those who only browsed.
Career Length May Influence Type of Content Used
One thing I found intriguing was the discovery that those younger in their careers (other than IT managers) were more likely to download white papers than those with a longer career track. This may be due to having more to learn and less confidence that they're making the right decisions to grow their careers, as well as meet company objectives. Also in this areas is more validation that buyers purchasing something new to them also used much more content than those buying a replacement and were familiar with similar solutions.
The Influence Value of Supplier Websites
Supplier websites and emails were both considered highly influential, followed by web searches. What I wished the survey has asked was whether or not the influence was negative or positive. Either way, buyers are attributing more influence to corporate websites than they did last year – 73% rate them influential this year, up 5% from last year. This corresponds to research I've seen that shows marketers rate website optimization at the top of their budget lists. And it's about time.
I'll leave the rest of the report for you to sort through, but what I want to point out is that each of these nuggets should be factored into your content strategies – expecially as they apply to personas representative of your buyers.
What other points will you take away from this report?
It was nearly two years ago that I said goodbye to my MacBook Pro. I loved the device, but the new MacBook Air was that good. My Pro — which was only six months old at the time! — seemed like total overkill for my computing needs. The Air was finally fast enough to use on a daily basis, and it was (obviously) significantly thinner and lighter. It was a no-brainer in my mind: Air all the way.
And in these past 20 months, the Air has been my go-to machine. But last week, a new challenger was unveiled: that old familiar friend, the MacBook Pro. Armed with both a slimmer body and a killer new screen, the device is stunning. And at least in my mind, it has brought back that old debate as to which is the best MacBook.
Following Apple’s WWDC keynote, I got to play around with the Retina MacBook Pro for a bit, and was given a demo unit to take home. I quickly posted some initial thoughts as to how it could fit into my computing life — long story short: I wasn’t sure. A week later, I have a bit more understanding as to how the new MacBook Pro fits in.
The most important thing to me was to take the device on the road, since that’s my primary use case for the MacBook Air. For much of the past week, I have been on the road: first in New York, now in London. While the new MacBook Pro is about a pound lighter than the non-retina variety, it is also about a pound and a half heavier than the 13-inch Air (and two pounds heavier than the 11-inch Air). This concerned me.
While there’s no denying that the Retina Pro is heavier than the Air when carrying it around, in a bag, it’s really not all that noticeable. The bigger issue for me has actually be the physical size of the device. While the 13-inch Air is like carrying around a standard spiral notebook (you know, the kind with paper that we used to use in school way back when), and the 11-inch Air is not that much different from carrying around a tablet, the 15-inch Retina Pro feels a bit like carrying around a surfboard by comparison. Obviously, that’s an exaggeration, but it really does feel significantly bigger (though almost oddly thin).
Of course, with that size, you do get a bigger screen. And significantly better speakers. And a better typing experience (more area on which to rest your palms). It’s a trade-off. And it’s no deal-killer for me.
Alongside the new design and screen (which I’ll get to in a second), the Retina Pro was bestowed with specs similar to the upgrades the other varieties in the MacBook Pro line got. Considering my belief that the spec is mainly dead, I’m not going to focus on them. I will say that this feels like the fastest Mac I’ve ever used. But at the same time, much that power is mainly lost on me since most of what I do on a PC these days is in a browser.
What I do care about is that I know this machine will be more than capable of handling any software I download over the next couple of years. At home, I have an iMac that is three years old — it feels like a total dog when even compared to my MacBook Air. Part of that is a slower processor/older architecture, but that device actually has more RAM than my Air. So I chalk the biggest differences in speed to the lack of an SSD (solid state hard drive, which Apple amusingly calls “flash” drives).
This Retina MacBook Pro has flash storage that’s said to be significantly faster than previous models (the flash drives found in the last generation Air). The RAM is also said to run twice as fast as the last generation. In real-world usage, these differences seem hard to perceive when compared to the Air. But again, compared to my old iMac, this thing screams.
The Retina MacBook Pro also includes two USB 3 ports and two Thunderbolt ports. There don’t appear to be too many devices out there that yet support either at full speed, but this also ensures that this machine is set for the future. More interesting is the inclusion of an HDMI port. This means that you can hook up the Retina MacBook Pro to basically any HD television. This will be very handy for presentations (though I suspect we’ll see more Apple TV’s in conference rooms as well given OS X Mountain Lion’s inclusion of full desktop AirPlay).
The new fan design, while not noticeable to any user beyond the new side vents at the bottom, is fascinating. The machine actually makes a different noise when the fan kick on. It’s still audible, but not nearly as annoying as it was previously. And again, since most of my computing is done in the browser, I haven’t done much to make the fan come on. But a few times in Chrome (which comes with Flash), there they go.
The fan seems to dissipate heat pretty well, though the Retina MacBook Pro does get more noticeably warm at the bottom than the Air. It’s not hot, it can’t cook like a George Foreman grill, but it’s noticeable at times.
Now, the screen.
Wow, just wow. To be honest, at first I wasn’t sure just how noticeable the difference would be. But the reality is that the update to “retina” is significantly more noticeable on a 15-inch screen than on either a 3.5-inch screen (iPhone) or 9.7-inch screen (iPad). Yes, the PPI (pixels-per-inch) is lower, but the effect of cramming this many pixels into a display this size is amazing. I’ve now shown the screen to a couple dozen people and practically every single one has had the same reaction along the lines of “whoa”.
The effect is upgraded to “holy shit” if they happen to have another laptop with them. Everything looks dull and blurry when compared to this Retina MacBook Pro screen. A couple people have remarked that it’s like looking at an old TV and an HD TV side-by-side. And remember, this screen is significantly better than an HD TV.
A bunch of people have written wondering about the glare issue. I looked at the Retina MacBook Pro next to the non-retina MacBook Pro and it’s very obvious just how much better this one is in that regard. While it’s still clearly more reflective than a matte screen, for me, this is a non-issue now.
And like the iPhone, the actual screen itself has been brought closer to the glass. Everything looks like a beautiful glossy photograph.
Well, everything natively included in the slightly updated version of OS X Lion, that is.
The biggest downside of the entire device in my mind is just how bad it makes most of the web (and quite a few native OS X apps) look. While this version of OS X Lion does upscale text and some graphics to be “retina”-ready, much of the web is not. Take Facebook, for example. The text is fine, but all the images, including the logo, are extremely blurry. Google? Same problem.
And that’s the picture if you’re using the version of Safari bundled with the Retina MacBook Pro. If you try to use Chrome, you may vomit. Everything is rendered poorly — text included. Luckily, Google is moving fast to correct this and a retina-ready version of Chrome is already in the Canary (early beta) build.
Some native apps look awful too. Twitter for OS X is one notable example. It’s essentially unusable because the text is so blurry (as are all icons). Of course, Twitter hasn’t even updated it with their own new logo, so hopefully they’ll get around to that sooner rather than later. (Though it must be noted that developer Loren Brichter, who built the app, left Twitter several months ago.)
If you want examples of apps that look brilliant with the retina display, try any of Apple’s (iPhoto, iMovie, etc). Or visit apple.com from Safari. Otherwise, things are fairly bleak at the moment. And the reality is that depending on how graphic-heavy the app/site is, it’s going to be a lot of work for developers to make the upgrades. And unlike with iOS, there will still be a huge majority of the web not using a retina-screen (especially since it’s only one, fairly expensive Mac for now), so the incentives to upgrade the graphics will be less as well.
Having said that, I do expect Apple to be at the forefront of a trend here (yet again). Once you see one of these retina displays, you won’t want to look at anything else. This means that I fully expect Apple to eventually put the display across their entire line of Macs. And I suspect PC-making competitors will now be forced to follow suit. If that happens, it will actually be good news for Apple because the web really needs to get these visual upgrades (and then we can all argue as to how that will effect bandwidth, etc).
Some sites, like WordPress, where I’m typing this right now, pushed out retina upgrades right away. The result is amazing. I’m typing this, and it looks like I’m typing out printed words. Text is so crisp.
So what’s the bottom line? After this demo-unit is returned, am I going to buy the Retina MacBook Pro? And should you?
Yes, I’m going to. I’m still a bit torn because of what I previously wrote: even if I use this as an iMac-replacement, using this MacBook Pro with a Cinema Display means downgrading to less pixels. But I’m thinking of the future. Eventually, Apple will release a retina-ready Cinema Display as well. Given how perfect these graphic capabilities are for photo and video editors, I suspect it will be sooner rather than later. My guess is that the main concern is the cost at that point. And maybe we’ll see a 20 or 21-inch version before we see a 27-inch version (Apple could still tout that it has far more pixels than a 60-inch HD TV).
The other big thing to me is battery life. The MacBook Air I got two years ago was actually a huge upgrade over the old MacBook Pro in that regard. The good news is that this Retina MacBook Pro is fully on par with my MacBook Air. Apple touts seven hours of wireless web time, and that’s accurate (sometimes I’ve gotten a little less, sometimes a little more). I don’t mind slightly more weight and bulk for this screen and the same battery life.
As for you, dear reader, hopefully some of what I’ve written above will help you decide. While it may be a mistake to do so, I recommend you go to an Apple Store to check out the screen for yourself. You may get hooked immediately, or maybe you’ll be turned off by the way the web largely looks and decide to hold off. I’ve heard people make both arguments so far.
Probably the biggest argument against the Retina MacBook Pro that I’ve heard is from those who want to wait for this screen to come to an Air. Again, I do think that will happen, but I’d be fairly shocked if it was before next year (rumors of the fall are already out there). After all, they did just upgrade the Air line as well, and I’m not sure if it has the graphics (and battery) power required yet. Not to mention the cost issue. Such a device may indeed be the best of both worlds, but I still expect the MacBook Pro to be significantly more powerful for some time.
In other words, if you’re seriously debating it, it’s hard to see how you can go wrong with the Retina MacBook Pro. It sure seems pretty future-proof. At this point, I’d simply look at your budget and decide if this device makes sense. $2,199 and $2,799 is not cheap by any means. And if you can afford the $3,749 for the top-of-the-line Retina MacBook Pro with 16 GB of RAM and the 768 GB of flash storage, we’ll all be red with envy, I’m sure.
Also consider the “Pro” moniker. This device is clearly meant for a more professional (or power user) audience. And this device is clearly the best of that genre yet.
I have to be honest. I haven’t been the biggest fan Google+. I’ve been Circled over 11k times , but I don’t see much activity from users beyond sharing the same things they share on Twitter and Facebook. Most of the people I’ve circled seem to be more active elsewhere. Though Google+ original design was well received, I found the layout too cluttered with text. Overall, Google+ reminded me of a message board stuck with an old school design while flaunting new school features.
So, I’m more than excited about the new redesign for Google+ because it finally feels like it Google+ knows what it wants to be.
A Stand Out Redesign
I was more than a little surprised to find myself enjoying the redesign of Google+. Google+ now sports a more subdued, but modern visual layout, marred only by too much whitespace. Within seconds of seeing it, I posted my initial thoughts that, “It certainly feels more like Facebook and Twitter with a Google interface wrapped around it.”
Broken down into three columns, the new layout features a major refresh to the navigation bar. Google+ trades its mostly text-based navigation for a column of customizable icons. You can easily drag and drop icons to reorder them or hide them under the “more” tab. This is a great customization option, but it’s also limited. It would’ve been nice to be able to “pin” a Circle, person, or saved search to the navigation bar for quick access.
A New Home For Circles & Searches
Under the new Home icon you’ll find your Google+ activity streams a la Facebook newsfeed. This is hub of your Circles and saved searches. Displayed to the right of the activity streams are five trending topics with icons indicating whether the trend is declining or rising in popularity.
At the bottom of a conversation card (shared post) Google+ displays a quick overview of the activity count. In a glance, you’ll know how many times a post has been commented on or +1′d. Clicking this area will take you to the “activity drawer” that reveals who did what.
Google Hangouts Gets A Dedicated Page
Google Hangouts gets a dedicated page of its own in the new Google+ redesign. Could Hangouts become the new Ustream? The new Hangouts page is reminiscent of Ustream, with an emphasis on community hangouts rather than celebrities, for now. If Google keeps it that way, Hangouts could see a lot of love from mainstream users, and subsequently become a hotspot for celebrities.
(Image Credit: Google)
Though more features are coming to Hangouts, there’s plenty of room for improvement. Joining a Hangout is feels a lot like playing Russian Roulette. You don’t know what to expect because Hangouts lack any context beyond avatars of the people in the discussion.
Why isn’t there a description option for Hangouts? Currently, there’s no way of knowing what the topic of discussion is before “hanging out”. A cool way for Google to add more context to Hangouts would be to implement a feature that allows you to “peek” into a Hangout for 15 seconds. Users can then make a more informed decision about joining a hangout or moving along. For now, I stay out of hangouts because I don’t know what’s going on in them.
Profiles & Chat
Profiles now have bigger pictures on display a la Facebook Timeline. If that’s not your style, you have the option of displaying smaller individual pictures instead. Google takes a very obvious page from Facebook’s Timeline by enlarging profile pictures and displaying quick facts about users beneath them.
And finally, Google has put Google Chat somewhere more useful (read: out of the way) as the third column in Google+. Personally, I don’t think Google Chat should even be in Google+ for many reasons, the biggest being that Google+ cancels Google Chat out in most cases. Thankfully, I can disable Google Chat in Google+.
Google+ Takes Shape
Google+ feels snappier than ever. Photos and videos appear bold and beautiful in activity streams and they’re prominence turns up the vibrance of Google+. There’s still plenty of room for improvement, especially with all the whitespace hanging out (pun intended). While Google is known for lots of whitespace in its designs, there’s hope that the whitespace left in Google+ hints at much bigger things to come.
Google+ is mostly playing catch up to Twitter and Facebook with features like trends and adding greater visibility to photos and videos in activity streams. Beyond playing catch-up, Google+ finally feels like it’s trying on a new skin and coming into its own.
So, here is the scenario…
I have a chat with a friend about SEO (not a true reflection of the rock-n-roll lifestyle that I usually lead) and am advised that their Google Maps listing is currently not displaying in the search results; so I type into the “Maps” search results their company name and postcode and nothing appears, I type in their website address and postcode and nothing appears.
After discussing this with them a little further it ended up that they had previously had several listings displaying. One for domain name, one for company name (and I think there was a third listing as well but can’t put my finger on what it was from memory, most likely a duplicate of one of the aforementioned).
So my initial thoughts; which I kept to myself, were that there may have been a suspension of the listing(s) based on identification of multiple listings. I feel I need to caveat this to say – unwarranted multiple listings is something that really isn’t worth looking to do. There really isn’t longevity in any strategies that are spammy or trying to take more than your fair share of advantage from a search niche.
BTW – deliberate multiple listings wasn’t even the case for this person or scenario.
Actually, as with most areas like this it seems perfectly logical that a listing not displaying might just require a new one adding. And before you know it you have two or three listings (having stuck to that mindset and maybe dug a minor hole) and then have none displaying. At this stage your first thought stems back to your initial problem resolution strategy (adding another listing) and you now think that you may have been suspended from local search results (in the form of a local listing in Google Maps) because of this.
Having a great local listing with images, details on opening times, your company’s main USPs and coverage areas are great and add real value not only for SEO but for your business and presence in your local area.
So what’s next?
Before any other un-verbalised thoughts could creep into my subconscious mind I did the logical thing and asked for their login details so I could remove any ambiguity and follow a logical path to resolving this.
Their account told me several things, there was indeed several listings; one that had been suspended which could be ignored, one that hadn’t been activated (a duplicate submission attempt) which could be deleted from the account and interestingly enough, one that was detailed as being active.
So clicked on the “See your listing on Google Maps” link for the active account and was faced with the following message form Google – “We currently do not support the location”. Hmm, what does this mean and how many other people have posted about this message?
I did what I always do in this type of situation and did an exact match search for the error message and saw 120,000 Google UK results pages. Let’s put this into context; typing in “house prices Hampshire” brings up less than 50% of this level of SERPs, so based on this I’m confident that I can find some success stories out there on how to resolve this.
So what do you need to do if you’re in this situation?
Right-click on the “See your listing on Google Maps” text from within your Google Places account and select “open in new tab” – wording will vary from your browser type, computer setup but basically do whatever you have to do to open the link in a new window.
The address bar will display something along the lines of – http://www.google.com/local/add/ with a query string appended to it unique to your account.
In the top right-hand side of the screen you will see some prompt text offering you to “share an update” on your Google Place page.
Add in any relevant content into the freeform text area box and press the “share” button.
You are up and running again.
Go and check your Google Places account again, test the “See your listing on Google Maps” link and everything will be back to normal.
If you still think that it’s too good to be true, go through a second phase of testing directly through the Maps vertical search and pat yourself on the back and have a cup of tea – “Jobs a good’un”.
When you first begin using Siri it’s not entirely clear what you can do with it. (It’s also not clear how to access it.) Yesterday Danny wrote up some initial thoughts/criticisms of the Siri local search experience. In this piece I’m going to offer some general thoughts comparing Siri (on an iPhone…
Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.
Posted by PhilNottingham
When the iPad first came out, like many people, I didn’t really get it. My initial thoughts were something along the lines of "Steve… what the hell?! You’ve produced a giant iPod and are somehow trying to claim its some sort of brilliant new product." I resolved never to buy one, considering it simply a folly for overly wealthy businessmen or an iPod designed for the visually impaired.
18 months later, a lot of words have had to be eaten with very little garnish or dressing. Now the proud owner of an iPad 2, I consider the tablet to be the coolest gadget ever made and the piece of technology I use most at home and when out and about.
My belief is that the form-factor of the tablet PC will become the primary device for personal computing over the coming decade and will form conduit for the bulk of consumer search queries.
While this “tablet revolution” may end up meaning very little for the classic SEO model, unaffecting the nature of link-building, keyword targeting, on-page optimisation, content creation or social media; It will form a catalyst of change for the world of CRO, analytics and offer new vertical opportunities so far mostly untapped…
In this post I hope to scratch the surface of things that will need to be considered by the SEO community going forward.
Why the iPad?
Tablets have been common-place now for a over year and a half. Yet, the world as a whole, still seems relatively baffled by them. Where do they fit in relation to the notebook and the smart-phone? Are they a mobile device or a static home-based device? Are they more useful in a personal or a business environment?
The answers to these questions remain somewhat elusive as we see tablet devices used creatively and strategically in numerous different arenas for multiple different purposes, but without a singular, uniting core function.
Some of these uses have been inspiring in their creativity and originality…
Some of these have amused us with their breathtaking ill conceived stupidity…..(fast forward to 0:24)
In beginning to question the exact USP of the iPad, it becomes clear that the mutually exclusive definition of “personal computer” and “mobile device” is broadly defunct, false dichotomy.
By displaying multifunctional appeal, eluding concrete definition, yet morphing its value and form to fit the subjective perspective of the user, the Tablet PC defines itself as a post-modern tool for personal computing – doing nothing particularly new, but a number of things much better, than any other device.
The defining feature of the tablet is clearly its UI. While the touch screen technology used in smart-phones and tablets is essentially the same, the way that translates to end usability differs considerably. The size of tablet allows for multiple fingers to be used simultaneously, allowing for a wider frame of user interaction with content previously viewed primarily on laptops or desktops; made navigable through the integration of a full two-handed QWERTY keyboard.
The touch-screen tablet interface on the iPad is extremely intuitive, feeling responsive, flexible and mutable to the chosen behaviours of its user. Using the device feels effortless compared with the computing via a keyboard and mouse, requiring considerably less mental investment or formal effort.
When we are on a desktop/laptop computer, we are normally entirely using a computer; unable to be simultaneously cooking, brushing our teeth, watching the television or walking to work. The same is not true of a tablet device, where the “pick up and play” nature of the hardware and operating systems allows for genuine multi-tasking and partial engagement with technology.
As such, the tablet perfectly fits the frame for what the PC always felt a bit forced into, casual web usage and content consumption. Most of the time we use the web in a personal frame, it is for an immediate task – be that finding the answer to a question, reading the news, communicating with our friends or making a necessary basic purchase.
Last week Amazon announced the Kindle Fire, a tablet with a similar 7inch 16:9 form-factor to the Blackberry Playbook and the original Samsung Galaxy Tab.
The fire looks to be an incredible product and an un-missible bargain at $199 (£130), but while the eBooks, music, movies and gaming functionality on the Fire may be superb, I do not think it will prove to be a viable or productive device for mobile computing and therefore search.
I played with the original Galaxy Tab for a while when it was released and found it the screen far too small and restrictive, with too low a resolution to be used effectively as a tablet computer. It was not large enough to be more functional than a large smart-phone, yet too cumbersome to be used instead of one. I expect the same to be broadly true of the Playbook and the Fire.
For my money, the 9-10 Inch 4:3 screen will push forwards and the main tablet form factor for years to come, with screen-size slightly expanding to 11-12 inches, – increasing when technology allows for smaller, lighter batteries and even thinner devices. Until the Android UX improves and the App store expands dramatically and a hardware manufacturer is able to produce a device with design quality on par with the iPad for significantly less cost, I can’t see Apple’s sales figures or market share slowing down anytime soon. Even if the iPad doesn’t gain users, it probably won’t lose many due to the core Apple ecosystem i.e. those with iPhones, Macs etc will probably not switch to Android. According to technology research firm Gartner 69.7 million tablets were sold his year, of which a vast 68.7% were iPads. While Microsoft may eventually produce an exciting iOS competitor with Windows 8, this release is still a way off and with the luke-warm consumer reception to Windows Phone 7, one does have to wonder whether Ballmer and co will enthusiastically turn up just a bit too late for the party, arriving to discover the revellers have long-ago passed out drunk on Steve Jobs’ sleek, minimalistic, unibody aluminium sofas.
Therefore, I think it’s worth putting time and development resource into optimising for the iPad form factor, treating it as the only current tablet device worthy of consideration for site-optimisation.
The iPad, what is it good for?
The iPad crosses the boundaries between mobile and desktop, being of particular value in the following locations and situations:
- In front of the TV
The iPad is great for finding out the names of actors, undertaking research alongside informational programming or casually engaging with twitter while keeping up to the date with the latest sit-com.
- As a TV
This morning, I could not be bothered to move into my living room to watch the Rugby World Cup matches at 8am GMT, so kept up to date with all the action without leaving my bed. This felt awesome, even if it was just laziness on an unprecedented scale.
- As a complementary device for meetings & conferences.
In an age of earth shatteringly boring powerpoint presentations, the iPad is a welcome visitor to help liven up even the dullest of boardroom presentation. You can easily pass round presentations, videos and images with the rest of the room.
Trains and planes are not designed with laptops in mind. The iPad’s shape, size, weight and battery life take away the cumbersome hassle of trying to do work on the move.
Not only books, but also reports, PDFs, articles and newspapers are a breeze to look through while on the move or multi-tasking.
- In and around the home
Particularly for casual browsing and quick enquiries, where the effort of loading up a PC seems unwarranted – the Tablet is the go-to device.
Happiness is best when shared and the iPad works really well for watching Youtube videos with friends, reading articles together or sharing holiday snaps.
Which sites are likely to get the most traffic?
My hypothesis is that sites in certain niches are likely to see more growth from tablet devices than others.
Everyone who has currently bought an iPad will have tethered it to a personal desktop or notebook pc. While this will change going forward, with the introduction of iOS 5, most tablet owners will still have access to a desktop or laptop and probably a smart phone too, meaning they have an option for devices to search from.
Due to usability factors such as screen-size, technical incompatibilities, typing efficiency and to the poor integration of tabbing within the native Safari Browser; the iPad is not suitable for heavy or sustained internet usage, the kind of which you are likely to do at work or when undertaking serious research.
Where the iPad comes into its own is with quick, frivolous tasks and I think this nature is beginning to manifest itself in the sites generating the most tablet traffic. The graph below shows the percentage growth of access from iPads for Distilled clients in a variety of different niches.
TV & Media
A Distilled Client in the TV & Entertainment Niche has had considerable growth of traffic from iPads over recent months, while maintaining a steady level of traffic across the board. Year on year for the month of august, traffic from iPads has grown from 0.47% of total traffic, to 2.52% of total traffic. While this may sound like only a small fraction of overall traffic, this growth represents a 400% increase. Meanwhile traffic from Windows devices reduced considerably over that time frame, by about 9.5% from 82.49 to 72.95%.
The further development of excellent TV & media apps such as TVguide, Sky remote record, Netflix & IMBD should be increasing the amount of traffic driven to entertainment and media sites via the iPad, as people choose not to switch devices in order to find out the name of that actor, or when the next episode of a certain program is on.
Travel & Tourism
If you’re going abroad, a tablet is great way to keep up with your communication and computing on the move, without worrying yourself over luggage allowance or battery life. Ticketing sites, restaurants, hotels and activity planning businesses should start to see sustained growth in visits from tablets.
If you’re making a major purchase, such as a car, business insurance or an engagement ring you’re going to want to meticulously check through different options, from multiple providers and make copious notes on all the actions as you go. This sort of purchase is unlikely to be undertaken from the armchair with iPad in-hand, however smaller, more frequent purchases often are. The touch screen interface can be a fantastic way to browse through the kind of items that don’t require as much research and planning. For example, when searching for a gift for a friend, people will often browse a store on a sofa while perhaps taking into account other’s opinions.
News & Information Resources
We have all been in the situation where in the midst of a heated argument one side reaches for the last resort: Wikipedia. Alongside the smart phone a tablet is the ideal device for quick information retrieval on a particular topic of reference. Tablets also provide a great way to consume journalistic content as demonstrated in this recent article from Net Magazine. If you run a content aggregation site, a popular blog or a news resource – prepare for a shift in the devices comprising your overall traffic.
For some reason everybody, when amongst friends and family, usually groans when somebody reaches for their mobile phone or laptop to access a social network. This stigma has so far managed to find itself inapplicable to tablets, their users and their peers. The pedantry associated with social network browsing on a phone isn’t applicable and the giant expedition that requires setting up a laptop with charger doesn’t make it seem like too much of an aside from maintaining the current real-life social setup. A tablet is a complement to a group trying to include, perhaps talk about or explore others who aren’t in their immediate vicinity.
The iPad doesn’t support flash and from the vehemently stubborn quality of the comments made by Apple on this matter, I think it’s pretty safe to assume the iPad won’t be supporting flash anytime in the future either.
The SEO world have been pretty negative on flash for some-time, given Google’s inability to crawl it, but if you need another reason to take it down or convert your content to HTML5, here it is. Creating flash-style HTML5 content sounds extremely daunting to those of us without a front-end development background, but it really needn’t be. Check out Tom Anthony’s post on how to fix common issues with HTML5 and these sites for good tutorials:
Hype, a program for Mac OS X program allows even layman’s to create smart looking interactive HTML5 content and costs only $29.99 on the Mac App store.
Most of the time, tablets will run off reasonably speedy Wi-fi connections in homes, offices and coffee shops. But on trains, buses, cars, in airports and in meetings at other offices, iPads with the capability will often rely on their 3G connectivity to provide internet services.
The BBC recently conducted a comprehensive survey of 3G availability around the UK, which showed patchy connections in many areas outside of the major cities.
Despite an often advertised speed of 7.2Mbps for 3g connections, the BBC found most UK users get speeds of about 1.5Mbps, if stationary. In moving vehicles, connections can slow to a sloth like 284kbit/s – not enough to consistently stream video from YouTube. For iPad users opting to tether their device to their phone’s 3G connection for mobile browsing, the same sort of connection speeds apply.
This data simply reinforces the value of a fast loading, well constructed site, most easily achieved through:
- Ensuring your images aren’t bigger than they need to be
- Minimizing DNS lookups
For tutorials on how to achieve these and more hot site-speed tips, check out Craig Bradford’s guide
Make an iPad friendly site, but not a duplicate
Mobile websites create unnecessary duplicate content, which can have bad consequences for your crawl bandwidth and keyword targeting, yet most desktop sites are not ideal for use on either smart phones or tablets.
The best solution is to serve different versions of the same site, perfectly optimised for each device, through changing CSS. Check out CSS zen garden to see how the same content can be delivered in totally different visual styles.
If you have built a mobile version of your website which you automatically serve to mobile devices, ensure this does not happen for users on an iPad. Although I can’t find any research to back this up (I’d be interested to hear if anybody else can), I expect that the vast majority of web browsing on tablets is done in landscape mode, where most full-sized sites can be navigated without any difficulty. The only reason I can see for supplying a mobile site to an iPad is if the full-sized site contains heavy elements of flash, which you are reluctant to lose.
Conversion Rate Optimisation
Simplify the check-out/conversion process
Using the keyboard on a tablet is a little bit arduous. In small doses, it’s not a problem, but typing stuff in does often require the user to put down the device and engage two-hands on the keypad. If you’re looking for a simple conversion to purchase, try to minimise the amount of content a user has to manually input.
This can be achieved by:
- Only forcing the user to input the minimum amount of data you require
- Using cookies to store data from previous visits
- Automatically matching addresses from postcode/zipcode inputs
- Allowing payment through paypal
Create an App
My iPad has a folder on it labelled “Shopping”. If I have something i wish to buy, then my first port of call will be the two clicks required to open up one of the apps in this folder, rather than the lengthy process of searching Google then trawling the results. Ebay, Asos, Amazon and Ocado have all done really good iPad apps which are worth taking a look at for anyone with an E-commerce focus.
Apps allow you to permanently store your payment details and ensure you can produce a graphically rich online store without the concern of page loading times. While an app will likely provide conversions in its own right, they are also valuable tools for generating brand-trust and can act as fantastic bits of linkbait for improving overall domain authority.
Scrolling through lengthy pages is a breeze on a tablet, requiring only a casual flick of the finger to move the page down. Clicking through to another page, however, can be time consuming – especially if the clickable icons are difficult to locate and the page contains heavy graphical content.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t paginate content when serving tablet devices, providing your “next” and “previous” icons are suitably tablet friendly, but simply that the visual impact of long pages is not such an issue.
While there are decent third party browsers available for the iPad; particularly Opera Mobile, Diigo Browser and Dolphin HD, the vast majority of users (around 96%) use only the native Safari browser, which currently offers an inelegant solution to tabbing.
If you’ve set all your external links to open up in a new tab or window in order to keep users on your site, beware that this may have an adverse effect for iPad users. Clicking back on the iPad is not nearly as dull or time consuming as going back to a page in another window.
Scrollers & multitouch
Smart use of HTML5 and CSS3 allows you to integrate scrollers and multitouch into your site delivery, as seen in Google tablet search and the upcoming BBC site redesign, currently in beta testing.
The best of use tablet UI and architecture is where traditional vertical scrolling is combined with horizontal navigation, to allow a great deal of content to be delivered on a single page. This lessens the need for tabbing and 3+ click journeys to deep pages; which feel irksome on the iPad, while allowing users to locate content without spending a long time finger-flicking through giant pages.
Check out the way my previous company, LocateTV, integrated horizontal navigation, and the way the extremely pretty Sky News App displays big pages of rich content.
Fingers are bigger than cursors and therefore require more space to be clicked. Having to zoom-in in order to make a selection gets extremely tiring, so nip this issue in the bud by making small adjustments to your CSS.
Downloads for Quality Content
One of the most useful and natural functions for the iPad is as a portable eReader. The iBooks application contains an extensive bookstore, offering a wide variety of both paid and free content. The iBooks App also works as the primary PDF reader on the iPad, allowing you to bookmark places, zoom in and out and store the content in an extremely visually appealing library.
One way we can utilise this functionality as website optimisers is to ensure quality content is PDF downloadable, giving users to option to store our content on their tablet device for viewing in environments absence of an internet connection. With many iPads only offering Wi-fi connectivity and frequent usage in internet free areas such as the London Underground, having offline readable content can improve long-term user engagement.
Two ways to make effective use of this would be to ensure that any HQ content you produce has a PDF download option as per the SEOmoz Beginner’s Guide or hitting mail subscribers with PDF versions of your new content so they can quickly upload it to iBooks in the morning before beginning the train journey into work.
When building the acrobat files, carefully consider the formatting of your document. The standard PDF looks like this:
An iPad in portrait mode has a width of 728px , considerably less than the average 15 inch laptop monitor screen, which clocks in at about 1440px. It’s best to test out your PDF document on an iPad so you avoid the need to excessively zoom in and out in order to make the text legible.
With the introduction of Apple’s reading list into the latest version of Safari on OS X Lion, expect iOS 5 on the iPad to provide an integrated system, which may open up more possibilities in off-line downloadable content.
Google Analytics make it very simple for you to work out how much traffic your site is getting from iPads, by treating the device as an operating system entirely separate from iOS on the iPhone or iPod touch.
Just go to Visitors > Browser Capabilities > Operating Systems to see a basic report.
However, I think setting up an “Tablet” Advanced Segment is the best way to go with this, so you can include the appropriate Android versions and other tablet devices in overall analysis.
You may notice unusual referrers coming in through GA, ones which don’t drive any traffic from other devices. These will most likely be Apps and if you’re getting significant traffic off the back of these, it’s well worth delving a bit deeper to see if you can leverage further opportunities in this area.
The vast majority of traffic on the iPad will come through Safari, with small amounts through Opera mobile and other niche browsers. However, there are also a few other quasi-browsers that may pop up their heads. The Twitter app for the iPad contains an integrated webkit based browser, which should show up in GA as “Mozilla Compatible Agent”.
Don’t be immediately alarmed if you see higher than normal bounce rates coming through from tablet traffic, it may be that many of these visits are coming in via social references and through apps such as twitter, Facebook, iReddit and Flipboard. The things to be wary of are low times on site, low conversions and any pages which may contain iPad hostile flash or aspx server-side scripts.
The Future of Tablets
TV Companion Devices
One of the major futures for tablets will be as the “Second Screen” for home-based broadcast media. When watching sport, meta-data will be pushed live to the viewers phone and tablet, allowing them to browse through statistics, replays, commentary and static shots. Users are already beginning to make moves in this direction, with the plethora of Sky Apps released for the iPad. The current function of “The Red Button”, will be replaced by content wirelessly pushed to an App on a tablet.
For marketers, there will be opportunities within these integrated broadcasts systems; be it ads, creative content or affiliate recommendations. For example, imagine seeing the outfit a character is wearing in a TV show, then being provided with an image and a link to an E-commerce seller for that outfit on your tablet device.
The tablet will fulfill the main role as the TV companion device, as it’s informal, flexible nature makes it much easier and less cumbersome to use than a laptop while curled up on the sofa with most of your attention focused on your big screen.
The thing currently limiting tablets from becoming realistic content creation devices is not the hardware, but the creative software.
I can foresee voice-activated document creation coming back into the fray with tablets. While this technology has been around for a while, the speed and accuracy of dictation software has held back any wide ranging adoption. Tablets may become mainstream devices for illustration and design, video and music creation once innovations in UI take the next step and cloud syncing systems have been properly established to allow heavy processing tasks to be shared with more powerful computers. However, I do think it’s unlikely that heavy multitasking or database creation will find a mainstream form within the tablet functionality.
Within the next few years, along with phones, tablets will take advantage of the 1Gbps 4G networks, improving the ability to watch HD videos on the fly and edit large documents stored in the cloud.
Operational Remotes – Media Libraries
Apps already exist to allow the iPad to be used as a remote mouse for Mac computers or Apple TV and if you have the money and the tenacity to set it up, it is possible to use a tablet device as a control for a large home-media library stored on a static disk. I expect this functionality will improve and expand going forward, with fully integrated media control across devices, service providers and screens.
The upcoming iCloud service will allow users to edit documents and content originally created on their larger personal computer, while also allowing access to their full iTunes library anywhere they have an internet connection. Full cloud integration will lessen the need for large hard discs and for users to pair any tablets with a desktop/laptop personal computer. We will start to see more individuals having a tablet as their only personal computing device and people in the same household having personal tablets, while sharing the use of a larger desktop/laptop machine.
I hope you enjoyed this introduction to the possibilities the tablet world is bringing to search marketing. If there are any areas I’ve raised that you would like to delve practically into, let me know in the comments and I’ll see if I can find some good resources.
Many thanks to John Warnes at http://www.transparency.org who helped me with this post and my girlfriend Kim for making me a brilliant cake while I was typing away.
Follow me on twitter @philnottingham
Up until about six weeks ago Twitter to me was like the unwelcome guest at a party. You really didn’t want them around and were waiting for them to leave. In fact, my favorite late night host, David Letterman, summed up my initial thoughts about Twitter perfectly in a recent interview with Kevin Spacey – found here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Z1aZ7Gs46A
I really like many aspects of social media, but my initial thoughts on Twitter were, why would I want to read about people complaining that they have to mow the lawn? It turns out I do want to read about that kind of stuff…if it’s coming from my favorite celebs/thought leaders.
After a few weeks I soon realized that I was missing out on a whole new world of information, cool links, and conversation. Plus, I think the best thing about Twitter is its forced brevity. With its 140 character limit there’s no room for people to drone on and on.
In short, sign up for Twitter, if only to read Shaquille O’Neal’s Twitter bio that reads, “very quotatious, I perform random acts of Shaqness.” Oh, and also to follow @MattSalvatore for my updates.