Mobile and Ski Tracking Apps

It has a big weekend for mobile apps. The Sunday Times published the first edition of The App List, a list of what it claims is the top 500 Apps in the World. This week’s edition listed a total of 250 apps. These were for news, games and social networking.

The Sunday Times is published behind a paywall so that you can’t get online access to much of its content and of course Google cannot crawl and index it. The only way to get the content is to sign up for a subscription. The cheapest of which is the digital edition which costs £2 per week. So I’m relying on the old fashion way of reading the paper edition of the newspaper and picking out some highlights.

Skiing off-piste near Chamonix
Skiing Off-Piste – Avoiding Danger

The first edition App List does not cover travel mobile apps. Travel will be covered in the second section to be published next Sunday. However, the Driving and Technology section of the paper did cover skiing apps. Entitled White Hot, the best ski and snowboard apps. The newspaper selected 5 apps that between them can measure the calories you are burning, create a photo montage or even calculate the risk of avalanches in your ski area.

The mobile apps were a combination of free and paid for apps. Four of the apps are available for both Android and iPhone. With one exclusively for iPhone. In terms of value, the good news is that 4 of the 5 apps are available in free editions.

Alpine Replay - Free, iPhone and Android – Rated best for Fitness.
This is a tracking app that also uses your mobile’s GPS to gather stats as you ski down the mountain and works out how many calories you are burning. Some features require an upgrade costing £2.99 per month.

Ski Tracks – 69p, iPhone and 79p Android – Rated best for Tracking
Described as a tracking app for the stats-obsessed winter sports fan. This app also uses your mobile’s GPS  to track your maximum speed, distance travelled and vertical descent.

Actionshot - Free, iPhone – Rated best for Action Photos
Skiers and snowboarders often attempt to get action photos of jumps and turns. If this is you, then this is the best app for on or off-piste skiing photography. Its downside is that it is not available for Android devices.

Mammut Safety- Free, iPhone and Android – Rated best for Safety
This app gives up to date information on avalanche bulletins and assesses the risk of where you are standing.  This app also includes an in-app SOS button that sends an SMS text for help.

Ski and Snow Report – Free, iPhone and Android – Rated best for Powder Reports
This helps you make the most of your time on the ski slopes by helping you find the best powder snow. The app covers 2,000 major ski resorts.

A general rule for all of these apps is to make sure you understand the costs of using your mobile device whilst skiing abroad. Many of these apps are data hungry. So be careful to use locally available wi-fi. The Sunday Times carried out its tests in the Trois Vallees resort of Val Thorens, where wi-fi is widely available on the slopes and ski lifts. Other resorts that have a large number of outlets with free wi-fi include Chamonix. Both resorts have very high ski runs and offer off-piste skiing, where the safety and tracking would come into their own.

My advice would be to limit your selection to just one ski app. Decide on your priority – depending on the resort and type of skiing you will likely undertake and the function of the app that best suits it; tracking, fitness or powder snow etc. Once you have installed the app then set-up and familiarise your self with it before you travel on your ski holiday.


Google Quarter 4 2012 Financial Results

Google has just released their Quarter 4 2012 financial results.The top line data shows the following:

  • Total Revenues of $14.4 billion +36% on Q4 2011
  • Advertising (Mainly Google search) $12.9 billion +18% on Q4 2011
  • UK revenues $1.305 billion +23% on Q4 2011
  • Operating margin (Profit) $3.747 billion + 29% on Q4 2011

Excluding gains from foreign exchange and hedging Google’s UK Q4 2012 revenues would have been $1.288 billion.

Within the available it is possible to work out that average cost per click prices of the Google Adwords service have fallen by 6% against the previous year.

Since the acquisition of Motorola Mobile Google’s results have been more difficult to break down. Essentially, the Motorola mobile business is fairly sluggish compared to the rest of the Google group and tends to drag down the overall growth levels of the core Google search and advertising business.

For more detail see Google Q4 2012 earnings slides.




Brighton SEO Salary Survey

Brighton SEO has published its 2012 UK SEO salary survey. Its full of good data showing SEO salary data across the UK by region, experience and type of employment role – i.e. in-house SEO vs agency SEO vs freelance SEO.

The most surprising piece of data is that at the owner or director level SEO salaries in Brighton are the highest in the UK – being even higher than SEO agencies in London. See the graphic below for SEO salaries of in-house SEO salaries by location.

UK SEO Salaries By Location  - Source Brighton SEO
UK SEO Salaries By Location

The survey found that on average, in-house SEO staff are paid more than SEO agency staff, with freelancers generally paid the most. Obviously, the data is drawn from a survey of reported salaries so there is a risk of a high margin of error.

SEO salaries, not surprisingly, also increased with experience.  The highest paid salary registered by the survey was £190k, a freelance SEO with 9 years experience. The highest in-house SEO salary recorded was for an in-house SEO with 12 years experience. The highest SEO agency salary appeared to be about £82k.

For all the detail and more detailed graphics please go to the UK SEO Salary Survey.


Facebook Launches Graph Search

Facebook launched Facebook Graph Search today. Being on the sceptical wing of the search industry when it comes to social media I’m not what the hype is about. However, my 21 year old son insisted checked it out. Otherwise I risked falling behind. His exact words were “What would happen if you attended a client pitch and they asked you about Facebook Graph Search?”

So I’ve checked it out. Its apparently in beta mode. As well as registering for the Graph Search wait list. It appears to be an enhanced version of the existing search facility on the site. When Graph Search reaches the limits of its index it accesses the Bing index.

I have had a few ideas about how it can be used. Most importantly it means Facebook has the opportunity to retain search traffic within its own website for many types of search. However, we will see over the next few days how Facebook plans to commercialise its new offering.


Get Skiing PPC Campaign

Simply Clicks has recently been appointed to manage a PPC campaign for Kent travel agency, Get Skiing. The campaign targets group skiers for a range of European ski resorts in the Alps, the Balkans and Bulgaria. Prices for Get Skiing’s holidays start from as low as £281 for 6 nights in Borovets, Bulgaria.

Get Skiing is owned and managed by Gary Wardrope, the former director or Airtours’ ski tour operation. Gary Wardrope, is also the inspiration behind Get Cruising, Get Travelling and Get Lost.

Chalet Coeur - PPC Campaign Catered Chalet in Morzine
Catered Chalet Coeur – Morzine

Catered chalets are particularly suited to group skiing holidays. Get Skiing has a range of special offers and incentives. Chalet Coeur in Morzine sleeps up to 10. It is available from £627 per person and features one free child ski pass.


iPad Leads Mobile Internet Sales Surge

We are just starting to analyse many of our year end performance figures for 2012. The most dramatic improvement has come in the form of the surge in mobile Internet sales via our e-commerce clients. The top performer has been Simply Kids Beds, where online mobile sales have surged  304.7% over 2011. Revenue has grown faster than visits. Visits have grown 193.3%.

The per visit value grew by by 38.0%, due to a combination of a 22.4% rise in conversion levels and a 12.8% rise in average transaction value. The key to growth was the Apple iPad, which accounted for 92.4% of online mobile revenues. The leading smartphone device was the Apple iPhone which accounted for 5.5% of mobile Internet revenue. Android devices such as the Samsung Galaxy series did feature in volume terms but failed to register any sales.

We will analyse the mobile performance of other websites over the coming days. We will also drill into the data regarding the splits between revenues derived from various sources such as PPC and organic search.


Linking your Google Accounts and Managing your Identity

I have just completed a two day assignment with a client that has alerted me to a growing problem with the proliferation and integration of Google services and accounts that have an important role in search engine marketing. The problem I identified is the need to make sure that you properly link together the more relevant Google accounts.

I have identified six of the more important Google services for linking together under one identity :

  1. Google Webmaster tools – For SEO, sitemaps and website errors.
  2. Google Analytics – For website performance measurement and insight.
  3. Google Adwords – For pay per click management.
  4. Google Shopping – For your products and pricing feed.
  5. Blogger – For publishing news, content marketing, comment and insight.
  6. Google+ – For social networking and exploiting the rel=”author” tag.
Google Account Master Identity - Webmaster Tools, Analytics, Adwordss

The various search marketing services provide by Google.

Over the course of the two-day assignment we looked at the SEO and PPC performance of two client websites. The client employed an incumbent SEO and PPC managment agency. What I found was that each time we needed to investigate a problem or subject area, I was asking for a different log-in details. Sometimes the log-in was known to the specific client manager, sometimes it was known by someone else in the client marketing team and sometimes it was known by someone else in the client organisation. However, on some occasions the log-in the particular Google service was  known only by someone within the encumbent agent. This person happened to be located elsewhere and could not respond with the relevant information within the same business day.

Now if all of Google services were standalone this would not be a major problem. But increasingly Google is providing the facility to integrate or link these services. For example the way that Adwords can now accept a feed of Google Analytics results for bounce rates, page view and time on site. Similarly, Google Adwords can now display your relevant results from Google Shopping. These two examples provided particularly frustrating experiences. The first when the client wanted to change an image in their Google Shopping derived Adwords ad. The second when the client could not get Google Adwords to link to their Google Analytics account. In both case the client had a log-in of some form. But the log-in being used for the two services was different.

This series of issues meant constant disruption to the task in hand. Indeed the client did not manage to get the Google Analytics data into their Google Adwords account before the assignment deadline was reached. Being able to see bounce rate and page view data within the screens of Google Adwords means a user can make changes to an Adwords campaign without shifting backwards and forwards between an Analytics view and an Adword screen.

I found that many of the various Google accounts had been set up in the past. Generally to tackle a short term problem. And that the person who set up the account may no longer be with the client or agency. My solution was to suggest to the client that a specific person within the client organisation should be the master account holder. This person should own the master log-in email and password information. And be responsible for issues of security. Never forget that when dealing with Google Adwords you are dealing with money and potential access to importaqnt details such as cradit card information.


Tactical PPC Campaigns for Beds and Mattress

One key advantage of Pay Per Click over SEO is the ability to immediately launch and run short-term, tactical marketing campaigns that would not warrant the equivalent SEO effort. Simply Clicks has launched two such campaigns in the last 24 hours. Both are targeting the pre-Christmas consumer market and are for online beds retailer, Beds on Legs.

Silentnight Kingsize Mattress PPC Ad
Silentnight Kingsize Mattress – PPC Ad

Campaign 1 is for Stompa bunk beds. Stompa is an increasingly popular bed brand for children and Beds on Legs wants to build its position with the bed manufacturer.

The second PPC campaign is a manufacturer funded price-based promotion for Silentnight kingsize mattresses. The PPC campaign has an end date of 16th December. Using this short-term time frame an SEO campaign would effectively be over before it got underway.

As in all of these things, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. The acid test will be whether the return on expenditure justifies the activity. We will know by early January.


SEO in a Post-Penguin World

This is the best article I’ve read on SEO post the Google Penguin update. The article covers an interview with Andre Weyher a former member of Google’s search quality team. The interview is carried out by James Norquay an Australian SEO. Amongst the many nuggets of good quality information is the following quote from Andre Weyher:

Everyone knew that Penguin would be pointed at links, but I don’t think many people expected the impact to be as large as it turned out to be. At this stage a webmaster is out of his mind to still rely on techniques that were common practice 8 months ago. Purchasing links was always risky but resembled a game of roulette, you could get caught but many people also got away with it. Today it’s not a question IF you get caught, it’s merely a question of WHEN you’ll get caught. Not only this but take PR for example, getting a link from a high PR page used to always be valuable, today it’s more the relevance of the site’s theme in regards to yours, relevance is the new PR.

This paragraph kills two birds with one stone in the world of SEO, as commonly practised by many so-called SEO agencies. Firstly, they, the SEO agencies,openly admit to insiders that their whole business model is built around buying links through wholesalers and then selling them on to clients at a margin. If I question this wisdom, as I did only last week in a conversation with the CEO of a 40-strong SEO agency, I am met with incredulity. Secondly, every time I contribute to a forum post about the importance of topic relevance compared to raw toolbar PageRank I am shouted down by the received wisdom. Weyher supports me on both counts. All I can say on both counts is that it reinforces my questioning of received SEO practice and why many SEO agencies are struggling post-Penguin.

If I differ on any issue with Andre Weyher, it is on the question of the discovery of questionable techniques such as large-scale link buying. In my opinion Google is not that great at spotting spammy SEO. It is the webmasters and SEOers of competitive sites that are best at this. Your forensic SEO doesn’t have to be that good to spot some the low-quality link buying we see in many market categories. And filing a spam report to Google is quite simple these days.

Ultimately, Weyher makes the point that trying to game Google’s algorithm on an industrial scale won’t work. Create content for users rather than Google. In essence, in order to succeed with SEO, avoid many of the obvious industry-wide SEO techniques.


Linking Google Analytics Data to Google Adwords

Two days ago Inside Adwords announced that it was possible to link Google Analytics data to Google Adwords. It has long been possible to link Google Adwords to Google Analytics, but now the information flow is possible in the other direction.

The data available is average bounce rate, average page views and average time on site. In many respects these pieces of data are intermediate measures that may provide additional information regarding the potential for conversion – or other wise. It has long been possible to get access to this information, from inside Google Analytics. Now however, the data is far more actionable, because it no longer necessary to be concurrently logged in to both Analytics and Adwords and constantly switch between screens or tabs in order to make amendments.

So far I have linked two Google Adwords accounts with the inbound data flow. I have only utilised the average bounce rate and average view columns. Retrospective data is available so it is possible to carry out both short and long-term analyses. Depending on how you structure your Google Adwords screens, it is possible to link and action this data at campaign, Ad group and keyword level. The image below shows an actual Ad group level screen.

Linking Google Analytics to Google Adwords

A screenshot of a Google Adwords Ad Group showing Google Analytics Data