How much do you know about your customers?

The world of people measurement has never been as advanced as it currently is.  Services like Klout allow us to measure ourselves in terms of our online influence for instance.  In the corporate world Big Data promises to give us more information about consumers than ever before.
Now I should say at this point that the very best companies will have been doing this long before Big Data has arrived as the latest buzzword.  They will have been segmenting their customer base so they are fully aware of their most profitable users, and of course making sure those users are as happy as possible, whilst their less profitable users are given much less attention.
They will have used things like the Net Promoter Score to determine who amongst their customers are most likely to promote the company to their friends and colleagues, and with that information ensure that these influential social connectors are happy and excited by what you’re doing.
So those things aren’t new, but a new form of measuring customer value for e-commerce sites is nonetheless interesting.  It’s called the e-score and it measures our potential value as customers.  It’s interesting because whilst traditionally companies could measure their own customers nicely enough, the e-score lets them measure people that aren’t customers yet.
E-score is measured by a number of start-ups that are specialising in the field of predictive customer analytics.  It basically uses a shed load of data and uses algorithms to make sense of it.
Of course you might say that credit ratings have been around for donkey’s years, but e-scores are a step further on.  They can take into account facts like occupation, salary and home value to spending on luxury goods or pet food, and do it all with algorithms that their creators say accurately predict spending.
Companies can then use this information to both target their marketing more effectively to attract the right kind of customer.  These scores can determine whether someone is pitched a platinum credit card or a plain one, a full-service plan or none at all.
Suffice to say that the potential power of these scores has worried as many people as it has excited, with the clear potential to create a financial underclass on a whole other level to existing credit scores.  What’s more, the values used to create the score are largely secret, so it’s not like people can work to improve their score as they can with a credit rating.
It’s just another sign of the rise of what might be called the Scored Society. Google ranks our search results by our location and search history. Facebook scores us based on our online activities. Klout scores us by how many followers we have on Twitter, among other things.

By: adi gaskell

Pay-Per-Click Search Result Advertising On Facebook!

Facebook is undeniably one of the most influential companies on the internet; they dominate the social media landscape and cause web-wide rage with even the most minor of updates. Could they do more, though? They certainly seem to think so.
The social media company?s latest foray is encroaching ever so slightly into Google?s turf. Facebook is now offering a new form of search-based advertising. Much like Google and others, Facebook will allow paid ads, or “sponsored listings”, to be placed at the top of their search results.
The trial run is currently underway, with prominent companies like Disney and Zynga already showing up in the sponsored results section. Stylistically, the ads blend in fairly well with the organic search results. The only major distinguishing feature is the “Sponsored” header and a small X in the upper right corner, allowing users to close that ad.
For the duration of the trial, Facebook is allowing companies to buy sponsored ads on a pay-per-click system. These ads can then be targeted in a variety of ways. As of now, it seems likely that the payment system will change once the trial is over. The simple pay- per-click is great for enticing and for proof of concept, but it appears Facebook will be moving towards a more aggressive bidding model when the program goes live.
Even with this change, Google appears safe for the time being. Facebook?s search tool only works internally. Everything the company does is still designed to keep users on Facebook?s own little patch of the web. So once clicked, the new ads will only lead to the Facebook page of the sponsor, and not offsite. Moving people from your Facebook content to your landing pages still takes effort, so make sure you?re Facebook page is looking good after the Timeline update.
By: Tim Martell

To Link or Not to Link, That Is the Link Building Question

When Google finally realised their PageRank ‘guidelines’ were simply functioning like a scarecrow that has become a perch for the black hat crows then something had to be done. The powers that be decided they were prepared to sacrifice search rankings to prove they no longer wished to tolerate those who refuse to follow their guidelines; so, to deter the crows they unleashed a penguin!
As a consequence there has been much disquiet in the kingdom of Elsinore…. sorry, Google recently and Webmasters are still not convinced the coast is clear regarding text links and link building. Before we go any further, I guess the first thing to say is that the penguin update was never about improving search results; it was a clean-up operation, the problem is when you use a high powered pressure washer everyone and everything gets soaked!
The question people are asking is, ‘does Google actually have the right to tell a website how to market itself?’ This is difficult to answer and has provoked much debate. On the one hand any community needs a set of ‘laws’, I don’t think anyone would disagree with that fundamentally; although people do get very twitchy, when it appears to be ‘one rule for one and another for all the rest’.
Matt Cutts has stated for a long time now that Google felt gaining PageRank by buying links was not the correct spirit to adopt as most search engines view backlinks as a way of establishing a website’s reputation. Therefore if you artificially skew this process it undermines the search ability of a search engine to bring up appropriate and useful results. Right, we all get that and if hyperlinking was all that happened it would be a level playing field but, and here’s the big one:
“penalizing paid links is trying to go against the natural commercialisation of the web and the fact that Google makes its fortune from advertising based on people wanting to search the “organic” listings.  While they do that they are also being force fed sponsored ads, which does appear to be slightly hypocritical.”
Obviously living in what purports to be a free society and with capitalism still alive and kicking, albeit in a slightly weaker state it has to be said, then links will continue and what should happen is  Google must consider just how useful any kind of link is and ultimately what specific  impact they have on overall rankings. Let’s face it if a link is useful and advantageous then surely that adds something to a website, doesn’t it? This would represent an improvement on the real world, I mean, since when did Coca Cola and McDonalds equal the kind of diet an athlete might adopt for a top flight Olympic performance, but I digress.
If the web had been set up in such a way that it was a non-commercial, non-profit making area then no one would buy or sell such links. One would imagine people wouldn’t just keep up blogs, updates, etc. just for the good of their health and nothing would be bought or sold. Come one guys, it’s commercial!
The irony of it all, of course, and the thing which really sticks in people’s collective craw is that Google profits from paid links but they are called AdSense. So Mr Cutts, who exactly is going to want to shell out for links if they have to be ‘nofollow’ ones? It’s not going to happen.
So there needs to be an alternative solution and right now the insistence on not using link advertising that also passes Page Rank is causing much discontent and you know what people do when they are discontented!
One has to ask the question why have Google tried to eliminate paid links when they use back links as part of their ranking algorithm? Is it just because they don’t receive the dosh? Can you fight human nature and natural commerce? Is it time for them to change how they rank sites overall?
Yes, we are treading new ground and it’s probably time for Google and other search engines to actually consult with their users, be slightly more transparent and appear supportive. Just because an organisation reaches a dominant position it doesn’t mean they are always right and if fail to listen to dissenters then that’s not the greatest scenario.
Should we simply capitulate and adopt the lowest denominator, greed? Or should we develop another approach? Looking at the rumbling undercurrents regarding the various financial crises playing out all over the world one might hope Google, of all people, could come up with something creative to solve this dilemma which has so far been responsible for too much collateral damage. Does anyone have any good ideas I wonder?
‘To link, or not to link: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The pandas and penguins of outrageous Google,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?’
With apologies to Shakespeare and Hamlet

By: Silver Teede