Monthly Archives: June 2009


What can we learn from Travel in a downturn?

What happens to people’s online behaviour when summer comes around in the middle of a recession? Whilst spring and summer is traditionally a strong time for visitor numbers to airline websites, research from Hitwise UK out last week showed that the recessionary woes of the airline industry are being played out online too.

Traffic to airline and flight websites was down 19.2% between April 2008 and April 2009.

I used to think that everything stopped in a recession. That people stopped buying stuff and stayed at home. But the truth of the matter is that everyone still needs to buy stuff, its just that they buy cheaper versions of the same stuff they were buying before.

Everyone still wants to go on holiday; it’s just that they can no longer afford the flights. So what do they do instead? The answer is; they look for a cheaper way of getting away. The sectors that are bucking the downward trend in travel are the train and coach websites, whose traffic has increased almost 4% over the same period.

Of the 500 most popular travel websites in the UK, 39 were about either trains, buses or coaches The official National Rail website was the fourth most visited site out of all travel websites in May this year, And that’s out of 18,390 travel sites in all. Finally, searches for ‘train times’ is up 1.5% over the last 12 months too.

So a downturn can be a good time for people in the travel sector, especially if you are seen to offer a ‘budget’ version of something that others charge more for.

What does this mean for us website builders? If you run a travel or holiday website, it makes sense to emphasize your cost effective prices at this time. You could include prominent promotions on the site, and give away discount and voucher codes wherever you can. Another idea is to incentivise repeat business or recommendations by giving away a discount with ‘your next stay’. Because people still want to go on holiday, it’s just that they want to find a cheaper way of doing it; if they think they’ve saved money by booking with you then they will be happier

Have you done well or suffered in the downturn? Have you found a way of turning people’s modified online behaviour to your advantage? Leave us a comment below.

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Archive Digital Marketing

Its all about the Bing

Research from Hitwise UK out this week shows how well Microsoft’s the new search engine ‘Bing’ is getting on in the UK. We revealed just a few days ago how the US market has taken to the Bing. But whilst Americans are bombarded with a $100m advertiBing campaign (do you see what I did there) to promote the new engine, over here we’ve had to be content with a few niche press releases.

The UK stats show that following the official June 3rd launch Bing’s market share grew significantly. If you exclude Google US and UK, Bing was the third ranked search engine, making up almost 11% of the UK market. After the launch hype, traffic has declined although the average length of visit has grown to over 8 minutes.

And what are people looking for on Bing? Well the top search term for the week ending 6th June was ‘facebook’, which made up 3.94% of all searches.

Branded terms (those that include a company or product name) make up the other big numbers (as usual), but despite that there are 5 generic terms in Bing’s top 100.

More of a concern for Bing is that a significant proportion of its ‘downstream’ traffic – those websites that people visit after having been on Bing -were other search engines. This suggests that people tried Bing our before returning to their favourite search engine.

And another concern for Bing is who they are stealing market share from. Most people visiting Bing came from MSN UK- another of Microsoft’s search engines. There’s obviously not a lot of point in building a brand new search engine if the only people who end up using it were previously customers of your other search engine. Microsoft would clearly rather convert users from Google and Yahoo.

Here’s a graph showing UK visits to Bing, from Hitwise.

Have you tried Bing yet? If so, what do you think? And does your WebEden website rank well in Bing’s Search Engine Results Page? Leave us a comment below.

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Social Media

Facebook hit by accusations of Click Fraud

Have you tried advertising your WebEden website on Facebook? It has a self service advertising platform that allows you to target Facebook users on their age, gender, job, and a whole range of self confessed interests.

It works on a ‘Pay per Click’ (PPC) model – you only pay when someone clicks on your advert and visits your website. That the same way that Google, Yahoo and MSN charge for advertising too.

Facebook has now come in for criticism from advertisers who are saying that Facebook is charging for clicks that never actually happened.

If you install a web analytics programme – such as Google analytics – on your website, you can see how many people are arriving on your site, and where they’re coming from. US advertisers are saying that their web analytics is showing them that the number of visitors that Facebook sends them is between 20% and 100% lower than the number of clicks that they’re actually getting charged for.

When advertisers get charged for clicks that aren’t ‘real’ it’s called ‘click fraud’. Facebook for its part are saying that they take click fraud “very seriously”. A spokesman said: “Over the past few days we have seen an increase in suspicious clicks. We have identified a solution which we have already begun to implement. In addition, we are identifying impacted accounts and will ensure that advertisers are credited appropriately.”

Google – which has previously been the target of the click fraud complainers – is open to a different type of click fraud to Facebook. This is because Google’s ‘AdSense’ programme lets website owners place ‘Ads by Google’ on their site. Those same website owners take a cut of the revenue when those ads get clicked on.

Of course, if you’re a website owner and you earn money every time someone clicks on an advert on your website, you might be tempted to click on a few yourself!

This idea has been taken to extremes in the past; programmes have been written that automatically click on adverts; and supposedly there are warehouses of people clicking in some countries.

And there’s other types of click fraud too: how many of you, on seeing a competitors advert, would click on it if you knew it would cost them a few pence each time?

All the clicks are ‘fraudulent’ in the sense that they’re not from people who are specifically looking for the product or service advertised.

So how can click fraud be stopped? Well Google say that they have very complex ways of determining what a fraudulent click is, and that they automatically don’t charge when they detect click fraud. They won’t actually reveal how they detect click fraud, since – they argue – that would allow people to ‘work around’ the system.

Despite this, the most generous estimates place click fraud at somewhere between 15% and 30% of all PPC advertising costs.

Having learned how to build a website, if you yourself want to earn money through having ‘ads by Google’ on your site, then you can do so from your WebEden control panel. We have integrated fully with Google’s AdSense programme. Just choose ‘edit’ and then ‘Google Adsense’ which will launch the ‘site settings panel, with the ‘Google ads’ tab open.

Don’t be tempted to click on the ads on your site though – you probably won’t earn any money from it…

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Service Disruption – Now resolved

Yesterday WebEden suffered a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack from unknown parties. We were flooded by an attack on one of our sites with 75% of all incoming traffic from over 2,300 IPs, which caused all traffic to be congested and page load times to be affected.

This DDoS overloaded our firewalls.

This meant that some customer sites became very slow.

We quickly responded and our engineers managed to dynamically block this content. This resolved the issue by around midday on 25th June.

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Will Phorm run out of cash before it can make its case?

We have discussed Phorm quite a bit on this blog, most recently over its upcoming plans to release a web browsing product called Webwise Discover. As you can see from the comments on that post, Phorm has the ability to raise hackles over the controversial technology it plans to deploy.

Phorm works with ISPs to track customer behaviour. It then uses that (albeit anonymous) information to target customers with relevant adverts.

Whilst it is being keenly anticipated by many advertisers and online marketers, who are keen to make use of this level of user targeting, the system faces fierce opposition from privacy campaigners. Some see Phorm as invasion of user privacy. As for website owners, many feel that Phorm gathers information about their visitors that should really be the privilege of the site owner itself, and not a third party.

Whatever your view, one thing is clear: Phorm is under increasing pressure to make its case before it runs out of money. In its latest financial statement, Phorm reveal that it is chomping through its cash at a rate of $1.8m a month.

And that is despite massively slashing its cost base. In the whole of 2008 it got through $48m, which shows the average burn rate was nearer to £3.5m a month,

And all this is despite not making a single penny so far.

So how much longer can it afford to keep going, without either raising more money or actually selling something? Phorm has raised a total of $89m through equity placings so far, and they’ve got just $35m of that left in the bank. That gives them roughly 20 more months – at the current rate – to make it all work.

Phorm are admitting that the struggle to deploy their technology is somewhat uphill.

Even if the current Korean trial of their ‘Webwise Discover’ works out, they still have to convince ISPs to climb on board. Webwise Discover will be made available to them free of charge, in an attempt to demonstrate its potential.

If Phorm doesn’t manage to make it work, that won’t be because of lack of financial opportunity. How many of you website builders could make good use of that much dough?

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Americans say ‘Bing it on’!

Two weeks after its official launch, a report by online measurement firm comScore indicates that Microsoft’s newest search engine ‘Bing’ is proving increasingly popular with Americans.

The search engine delivered 12.1% of all search results in the week commencing 8th June, against 9.1% immediately after launch.

As to whether this is due to Bing’s new features, or the $100m marketing campaign Microsoft is putting behind it Stateside, is unclear. If I had $100m to spend on marketing, I reckon I could improve market share too!

ComScore Senior VP Mike Hurt said that results looked very positive for Bing. “It appears that Microsoft Bing has continued to generate interest from the market for the second consecutive week. These early data reflect a continued positive market reaction to Bing in the initial stages of its launch.”

It will be the end of 2009 before Microsoft starts to measure the UK success, as that is when Microsoft will extend its marketing efforts this side of the pond.

Microsoft, with their search engines and hold just 4% of the UK search market, lagging behind both Yahoo on 6% and of course Google, at around 88%

In the UK Bing has been called ‘Bing Lite’ since many of the features available in the US version are yet to be launched here.

Is Bing going to be good if you’re a website builder here in the UK? How will Bing affect your Search Engine Optimisation efforts?

So far not enough research has been done that shows how Bing works, and how it differs from Google, so its probably worth continuing with the best practices in our Search Engine Optimisation Guide. If any specific differences come to light we’ll be sure to talk about them here on the WebEden blog.

Have you tried Bing yet? Are you ready to switch away from Google? Leave us a comment below.

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Archive Social Media

If you sell online then make sure you get good reviews

A survey out last week by Ciao – the shopping comparison website – highlights the huge importance of good reviews for anyone selling online. The detail shows that 76% of people shopping online trust customer reviews rather than recommendations by either sales assistants or even friends.

The idea that users trust the shopping opinion of complete strangers over friends might come as a surprise to some, until you consider that the website carrying out the survey- – is a reviews based website…

All cynicism aside, its long been known that customer reviews can drive online sales conversions, and we recently encouraged everyone building a website to make use of customer reviews websites.

The survey of 1,223 people indicated that users tend to turn to review websites before deciding what product to buy, and where to buy it.

The typical format of reviews websites allow people to read the opinions of others who have already bought the product, or shopped from that etailer.

Interestingly, just 2% of shoppers thought that sales people influenced their purchases. A further 19% took sales advice from friends.

So the most important thing to take from this is that if you’re building a website you need to make the most of any customer reviews or feedback you might get.

If you interact with people on your website, ask them for feedback from their experience. If you get positive feedback then ask the person if you can use that feedback.

You can use that feedback in two ways. First, if you have products or services on your website then include a link beside that product to ‘customer reviews’ to allow your website visitors to quickly gain feedback from others, Always try and use real names and locations to make the reviews as authentic as possible.

Second, if you get some glowing testimonials, then ask that user if they wouldn’t mind leaving a review at a reviews website.

Here’s a list of the top reviews websites:

Of course, getting good reviews is only half the story, of which the other half is avoiding bad reviews. Getting customers to recommend you is the holy grail of successful marketing. There’s an old advertising belief that a customer with a something good to say about your product talks to 8 people about it; and that someone with something bad to say does so to 20 others. So the most important thing is to make sure the customer has a good time in the first place!

Have you had a positive and successful experience with customer feedback? Or have you had someone bad mouthing you or your website? Leave us a comment below.

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Archive Social Media

Have you signed up to Twitter? But do you actually Tweet?

A report from Havard Business out last week has found that of those people who have signed up to Twitter, only a small number are actually tweeting.

Whilst the use of any website is skewed towards a small number of highly active users, this number is even more highly concentrated in the case of Twitter.

A mere 10% of Twitterers account for 90% of all Tweets. By contrast, in the case of Facebook, the top 10% of users produce just 30% of all content added to Facebook pages. Twitter use is even more concentrated than that of Wikipedia, which has been criticised in the past for being produced and edited by too few people. For Wikipedia 15% of people edit 90% of all pages.

In addition to this concentration of users, at the other end of the scale, a typical user tweets just once in their Twitter lifetime. This backs up a study that questions whether Twitter is here to stay: people tend to use Twitter for just one month.

The report commented that this user concentration implied that Twitter “resembles more of a one-way, one-to-many publishing service more than a two-way, peer-to-peer communication network”

This confirms comments we’ve made here before: that it seems like there’s a lot of tweeting going on, but how many of those tweets are actually getting read and responded to?

It also feeds into the idea that people and companies are using Twitter to market themselves, now that there are a few ideas of how use Twitter to do this. Marketing has always tended to be a one-way conversation – for example television advertisements are broadcast into your home. Twitter was hailed as an opportunity to make that conversation two-way, by having customers respond to the messages they were receiving.

But maybe Twitter is becoming just another way for marketers to reach new and existing customers?

One thing is clear: that these highly active users – often now referred to as the Twitterati – have been very good at telling the rest of us how important Twitter is.

Can you see the future of using Twitter? Leave us a comment below, Oh, I forgot the shameless plug:  you can always follow WebEden on Twitter.

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