Louis CK, Prescription Refills and Short Attention

I had my Louis CK moment this holiday weekend.   I never thought a geek like me would react that way because I retain a sense of wonder about the changes in our lives.

  • High def television?  Try color.
  • Cell phones in pockets?   Try a hard-wired rotary phone.
  • The human genome?   Beats the heck out of a throat culture, doesn’t it?

And those things changed since I was in elementary school.   But I was never blase about the experience.  An iPod for my whole music collection?  Whoa.  I have more than 10,000 tracks on music server and they fit on something the size of the wallet I used to slip in my back pocket.

I love this world.

But my wife needed a prescription refill this weekend, and for some inexplicable reason, I wasn’t near a keyboard.  That’s okay, I remembered.  CVS has that phone technology for refills.  I used to use it before you could renew prescriptions online.

So I dialed the number and started pushing keys.

And then I pushed some more keys.  And then the system laboriously read back each number in a slow monotone that makes a Type A’s head explode.  C’mon, c’mon, c’mon.  I got a full list today.  Just tell me the last three letters of my last name and close the call.  What could happen?   You fill the wrong thing and someone waits at the pharmacy.  How much are your phone charges anyway? C’mon already!  Go, go, go, go!

CVS spoiled me by making online prescription refills blazing fast.  I log in, click a button, check a box, press the submit key and a few others and I’m out in 30 seconds.  This horrible phone thing?  A good 90 seconds.

And I realized that I was as guilty as the people in this video of demanding faster, stronger, more everything.   Sure, the irritation with CVS was momentary and uncalled for because they’re a quality outfit with good technology.  But the irritation existed.

Think about your business.   You don’t compete with your traditional competitors.  You compete with 20 second prescription refills, cell phones that double as camcorders and instant information retrieval from places like The Mayo Clinic, Wharton or the US Government.

If your online experience isn’t providing the same level of immediacy, run your own focus group.   Put a camera to the side of a PC and have your non-tech *and* your geek friends use your web site.  Watch the tape, err, video carefully.   Look for every facial tic, every sigh, every impatient shift of position.

Even Google now says that the speed at which a page loads is a ranking factor in its famous search engine.  We want bigger, faster, more and NOW.

Watch the Louis CK video when he was on Conan’s show last year and see how much of what he says you agree with.  And then realize that the video went viral exactly because we all know people like that.

They’re called customers.

Google: Yeah, We Got That

The acceleration rate of Google announcements is amazing to watch.   As Search Engine Strategies’ Chicago conference roars into full swing this week, Google has:

* Offered an olive branch to mainstream media
* Introduced some nifty Android phone apps that has my wife broadly hinting about a new phone
* Finally introduced official extensions for Google Chrome
* Finally launched Google Chrome for Mac in development/pre-beta
* Launched all kinds of translation and other gadgets.
* Fundamentally changed the search engine results for everyone in North America using Google’s search engine.

Did you miss that last announcement?   We’ve been telling people for several years not to pay attention to rankings because they differ.  They’ve been slightly differing for a very long time.   Now comes the time when they will be different for everyone.

We could explain the ins and outs, but it’s easier to quote and show you the official Google video.  On their official blog, Google posted last week that,

Previously, we only offered Personalized Search for signed-in users, and only when they had Web History enabled on their Google Accounts. What we’re doing today is expanding Personalized Search so that we can provide it to signed-out users as well.

What does that mean?

Search guru Danny Sullivan calls this phase Search 4.0.   Danny says:

The short story is this. By watching what you click on in search results, Google can learn that you favor particular sites. For example, if you often search and click on links from Amazon that appear in Google’s results, over time, Google learns that you really like Amazon. In reaction, it gives Amazon a ranking boost. That means you start seeing more Amazon listings, perhaps for searches where Amazon wasn’t showing up before.

Sullivan continues:

If they’re looking for a plumber, Amazon probably isn’t close to being relevant, so the personalization boost doesn’t help. But in cases where Amazon might have been on the edge? Personalization may help tip into the first page of results. And personalization may tip a wide variety of sites into the top results, for a wide variety of queries.

We told readers a month ago to stop chasing rankings.   We even said in March that “search rankings are dead” as a metric.

Online marketing is about increasing profit.   Is generating profit easier if a page on your web site is at the top of someone’s search results?   Sure.  But ranking is also also about engagement, promotion through advertising and  dozens of other significant factors.    You still have to do the basics:  you need well-written copy on pages organized in a search-engine friendly way with the appropriate meta information, including page titles (title tags) that technically aren’t meta tags.  And you need links from other relevant, authoritative web sites and many other things.

Those are the table stakes.  That’s what lets you put your site into play as a viable commercial web site.   But stop saying you want to be #1 for widgets in your town.  Because your #1 is my #7 is your supplier’s #43.   We always tell our clients to follow the money.   A search engine ranking is not a proxy for profit.

Here’s what the Google camp says about their new search results:

Google Suggest Monetized: The ABCs of Search, June 2009

There is nothing really wrong with monetizing your website.   Those of you in the back, the ones from the late 1980s screaming “Information must be free” are excused.  The rest of you gather ’round and watch what our big search engine company pulled off.

Multiple sites have reported that Google is selling space at the bottom of its suggested links.  I first became aware of the trend slowly and then in living blog color through Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Land piece last year.

abcBut Silver Beacon has been tracking Google Search Suggest since last year for this very reason.  We knew that the power of the Suggest feature would be too great to ignore over time.   That’s why we didn’t scream too loudly when the letter ‘O’ brought up Orbitz instead of Obama, as it had for months.  Because no matter how influential the travel site can be, more searchers typing the letter “O” are going to be looking for information about the U.S. President than travel information.

And Orbitz reigns supreme as the travel referral.   “T” is the province of Target now and forever.   Priceline?    Try Photobucket instead.  Maybe there is a Fox incentive for their photo site.  One hopes so.

Because there definitely is a deal worthy of Daniel Webster’s intervention when the oft-hyped Wikipedia was replaced by Walmart (yes, spelled that way) and Realtor.com took over the “R” spot from “Runescape” and “Radio Shack”.  Really?   Realtor.com is the top phrase searched for when someone types an “R”?

That’s some amazing housing crash.   Sure, Zillow is in the “Z” spot, but it’s not like the Z spot had tons of competition.

Our methodology remains the same.  We sampled Google Search Suggest on multiple computers in multiple major markets.   Four different browsers, none associated with a Google account and at least one clean install of IE on a computer without Google accounts, were used.

This may not be the most scientific view of the world, but when multiple responses return, “Yes, X is showing for XM Radio, not Xbox anymore,” one simply smiles and says, “What took you so long to pin the money makers at the top of your list?

And this is your Google ABCs of Search list developed on June 1:

amazon
best buy
craigslist
dictionary
ebay
facebook
gmail
hotmail
irs
jcpenney
kohls
lowes
myspace
netflix
orbitz
photobucket
quotes
realtor.com
southwest airlines
target
usps
verizon wireless
walmart
xm radio
youtube
zillow

The ABCs of Search – December 2008
Best Buy Beats Bebo, Obama Still Strong

December’s ABCs of Search contains few surprises.   President-elect Barack Obama continues a strong showing, but still can’t take the “B” slot.  Last month’s winner Bebo yielded to Best Buy as the holiday season swung into full force.  Other retailers making the list are the ever-present Amazon and eBay, joined by December newcomers Kohls, Lowes and Sears.

We’re also introducing the Names of Search feature this month.  As with the ABCs of Search, Names is created on a vanilla PC install of a logged out Google account in Silver Beacon Marketing’s suburban D.C. offices.

Your December ABCs of Search:

Single Word Appearances Replacing
amazon 2
best buy 1 bebo
craigslist 2
dictionary 2
ebay 2
facebook 2
google 2
hotmail 2
imdb 2
jennifer hudson 1 john mccain
kohls 1 kelly blue book (sic)
lowes 1 limewire
myspace 2
nfl 2 next
obama 1
photobucket 2
quotes 2
runescape 2
sears 1 sarah palin
target 2
utube 2
verizon wireless 2
wikipedia 2
xbox360 1 x factor
youtube 2
zappos 1 zip codes

December 2008′s Names of Search:

ADAM Sandler
AMY Winehouse

BRAD Pitt
BETH Moore [yes, I had to check too]

CHARLES Manson
COLLEEN Haskell

GEORGE Bush

MATT Damon

SARA Palin (sic)

The ABCs of Search – November 2008

Now that Google has a suggested search feature, finding out which word or phrase is displayed for each letter is an interesting (albeit pointless in the world of universal search) exercise. H

Welcome to the ABCs of SEO.  Remember, the word with the highest number of results isn’t necessarily, or even usually, the first selection.  In many cases, a competitor-owned site is often not the top result.

A amazon
B bebo
C craigslist
D dictionary
E ebay
F facebook
G google
H hotmail
I imdb
J john mccain
K kelly blue book (sic)
L limewire
M myspace
N next
O obama
P photobucket
Q quotes
R runescape
S sarah palin
T target
U utube
V verizon wireless
W wikipedia
X x factor
Y youtube
Z zip codes

ABCs of Search Takeaway This Month

Few will be surprised to see the two presidential candidates and one rootin’-tootin’ veep candidate in the alphabet this month.  The senior sentator from Delaware was apparently frozen out by the Republican candidate’s name and, well, Bebo.    I don’t know that anyone can make sense of the social network plugging My Sims Kingdom on the front as the biggest B in the land this month, but Bebo took out the unlikely trio of Barack, Biden and Bush.

Finally, please learn how to spell Kelley Blue Book.  There is an extra “e”. Pass it on.