Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Search Engine 'Bots are Getting Smarter - Headless Browsers!

Bookmark this article, print it, save it to your computer.... you may need to pull it out the next time your SEO Manager and Web Team are about ready to face off over the direction of your website. I've witnessed (and been a part of) many tussles between these two groups, each typically approaching web projects with different objectives and perspectives in mind.

How a site is coded can determine how well a search engine spiders it, indexes it, and subsequently ranks it.  In the early days, bots or spiders could only crawl and capture front-end text and textual hyperlinks.  One could forget about showing up in the SERP's if the site incorporated items such as flash, scripting, or dynamic database strings/references.  Things have changed dramatically since those times.  For example, Google announced circa 2008 they could spider flash (swf) videos and navigation items. (Although I still wouldn't bet my kids' education funds on Google being able to successfully crawl, index, and display a large flash-based site appropriately.)

The following featured article from SEOmoz further explains how bots have evolved, and also provides insight to what this all means for SEO...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Google+ Now Available for Business & Brands -- Will You Promote?

Just when you thought you had your social media/marketing plan solidified, Google comes along and throws everything in a tizzy.  Many of you have probably worked diligently to build your Facebook presence and are starting to see healthy returns on those efforts.  Facebook is likely engrained on your website, email, and offline marketing materials.

While Google+ for business has been on the horizon for a while now, I can certainly understand any resulting confusion and uncertainty their roll-out has presented.  Will it be worth my effort and development costs to integrate into my business?  Will users adopt G+ as their sole platform, or will there just be a lot of redundancy with Facebook?  Can I expect to see new customer leads? Conversions?  Much of the uncertainty lies in the lack of data available at this point to justify embracing this new platform.

I've had a G+ account for a while now.  I don't use it.  My updates and shares are solely conducted within Facebook.  I can also say the folks within my circles aren't very active on G+ either.

Whatever your thoughts, here's a couple articles from Mashable to aid in your decisionmaking...

Google+ Launches Branded Pages

Google+ Badges Make it Simple for Users to Connect With Brands


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When to Daily Deal It or Not

An interesting article that provides insights into companies who have successfully used daily deal websites and lessons they've learned -

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Marketers Need to Think About Email Marketing Like a Magazine Subscription

I ran across this interesting article today, though slightly outdated, related to Facebook email -

5 Connected Marketing Tactics to Prepare for Facebook Messages.
As new email providers emerge (ISP based, non-ISP based, social network based...), marketers would be better suited to think about their subscribers like good ol' mailed magazine subscription subscribers.

Key points:

1.) Take a look at your subscriber list and see how many domain names are "". My guess is probably not many so far but what about your customer segment? Is it likely many of your customers will soon wish to receive their marketing messages via Facebook instead of traditional email channels? Will they look at their Facebook email more often than their standard email. If the answer is yes, it would be a good idea to provide your opt-ed in customers w/ an option to switch their email address very easily. Send them an email if it looks their engagement has been low lately to make the switch. Never hurts to provide some kind of incentive as well. Remember those mailers you use to get in the mail to renew your subscription and receive 90% off the cover price?

2.) Most retailers have a Facebook fan page but haven't really been keeping it up to date. And if you don't have one, now is the time since email sent to a user's Facebook email may never make it there if you aren't in the users network due to privacy settings.

3.) Make sure the emails you send with promotions are updated on your Facebook page and always provide the option to "Like" your brand. And don't forget to send customers (existing and new) back to your website to either update their email address or "refresh" their email address to receive a free gift.

4.) Remember that whether a user adds you to their network or not, is a reflection of who that user is. They won't accept everyone just like you wouldn't sign up for every magazine subscription that comes along. Consider your Facebook fans to be your most valuable brand advocates yet! This means pay attention to what they are saying about you.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Designing for the Smartphone

It seems the hottest objective to have on an eCommerce roadmap for 2011 is actually m-Commerce. In fact, in a survey from BIGresearch for NRF, a remarkable 26% of consumers actually made purchases from their phones.

So what are the biggest considerations to keep in mind when design a mobile site? Here is a list of very important decisions that must be made before getting started:

1.) What is the overall business objective of designing for a mobile phone? E.g., is it to build awareness, allow shoppers to compare products while in the store but purchase in a brick and mortar location, is it to get them to do the conversion on the phone? These decisions should shape the design of your mobile site. If you are designing to convert a browser into a purchaser, make sure it is easy to create a quick checkout profile. If you are designing for checking availability of products in brick and mortar locations, make sure the location and availability of products is clearly laid out from the home page.

2.) Assume to redesign your e-Commerce site for the phone. This includes graphics as well as content. Remember, real estate is small.

3.) Identify the top 3-4 phones your consumers use and design specifically for these phones.

4.) Build in time to test, test, and test some more. There are many emulators available today to help you test on many different types of phones.

5.) Keep in mind when creating the design, that certain programming languages don't work well or even at all on certain phones. E.g., flash will not work on an iPhone.

6.) Make call to actions big and easy to use on touch screen phones.

7.) Consider building an app or two for the most popular phones your customers use. This will make it much easier and more convenient to shop your store.

8.) Keep it simple. Avoid zoom in features and scroll options. These work differently from phone to phone and often don't work well.

9.) Consider adding more video and audio marketing to your mobile commerce site. This is extremely convenient for users if they are in a store looking for a list of materials that need to be purchased or are in need of a how to video in their backyard or garage. Make your mobile site an easy and quick to obtain experience since often the user is in need of instant and actionable information.

10.) Build in GPS capable features that allow customers to find nearest sales, locations, etc. without constantly telling the site where the user is.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mobile Marketing is More Important Than Ever!

I purchased a new SmartPhone over the weekend and was amazed at how easy it is now to shop via apps. Some of my favorites I found in just a matter of minutes:

1.) ShopSavvy (find on, it's free) - Users can scan a barcode and instantly find a list of all local and online stores selling the item along with the prices at each store. Users can also search for items instead of scanning barcodes and organize deals into folders.

2.) Trip Advisor (find on, it's free) - I was a fan of this one mainly because you can instantly search for hotels, restaurants, etc. w/out having to enter your location because the app already knows your location. You can save your favorites and review ratings from other people along w/ the distance from your current location and view location on a map.

3.) Amazon (find on the anroid marketplace, it's free) - online shopping at it's finest made specifically for smartphones. Shopping this app was easier than shopping on a standard pc or Mac, I promise! You just have to know what you are looking for since it's search based.

So back to my main point for all you online marketers out more and more consumers gear up on smartphones and they become more and more sophisticated, consumers are going to expect to be able to come to their phones first to shop. To get ahead of the game, marketing dollars are going to need to shift drastically and quickly. So what are your peers doing? The e-tail group ( recently released their 2011 Q1 10th Annual Merchant Survey and found that mobile initiatives among 200+ merchants had jumped 26% year over year from 49% vs. 23% year prior.

I recommend that your eCommerce road map have a smartphone app in it for the next year if it doesn't already. One important tip: don't think of these new initiatives as immediate revenue generators but rather make your ROI goal: engagement & relationship building for the long run.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

It's a Crazy Exciting ECommerce World Out There

As the face of eCommerce changes almost daily, it seems one of the best ways to stay on top of how to best connect with your customers could very well be by simply keeping track of which technology companies are buying each other.

For example, it seems everyone has been keeping an eye on why it was so important for Microsoft to buy Skype, a quick and quiet steal from Google. Did they have a more strategic vision in mind or was it simply to have a quick win on Google. If you followed this article - Facebook, Skype, and Microsoft's savvy investment, you'd quickly have a good idea of just why.

One thing is certain, the companies that stay on top of the newest trends in social networking will be the ones that stay on top or get to the top of their industry much more quickly and cheaply. With that said, I am anxiously awaiting my keys to the door of Google+, the newest "project" as Google would call it that just might be the big shift that takes Facebook almost as fast as Facebook took the MySpace market.

Only time will tell what's next. One thing is for sure, marketers - get ready to plan your attack and hold on tight. There could be some major shifts needed in your current strategy.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Forbes Releases 2011 Report: Bringing 20/20 Foresight to Marketing

I recommend this new report, based on a new study by Forbes for Coremetrics, an IBM Company, to learn from the successes and failures of over 300 marketing executives. Don't miss the insights offered in this free report.
  • Why customer-centric marketing has become such a huge priority—and whether or not budgets are keeping up
  • What's causing the increase in online spending, and where that money will be allocated to get the best results
  • Why data will be driving decision-making, and how marketers will deal with the increased scrutiny of every result
  • How top marketers are using technology breakthroughs to understand the influence of every campaign—beyond basic acquisition and conversion

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Call To Action!

This article serves as a series of afterthoughts from a fantastic article written by, David Hamill at and how it relates to the e-commerce world.

When it comes to the e-commerce world, gaining (and holding) the attention of the user is an absolute must! There is a service to be offered, a product to fall in love with, or a featured ‘something’ that must be had. Through a well formed call to action strategy, the user’s experience can and will be a great one!

As a designer, it is easy to think that the experience you’ve created is a great one and that others will surely see it the same way. However, this could not be more far from the truth. It takes careful planning to ensure that even the most visually attractive designs will provide the user with a clear path as well as a lucrative one. Why would the user have to work to get your business? It most definitely should the other way around.

So, what is a ‘call to action exactly’ in the web design world? Hamill really hits the nail on the head when talking about designers prioritizing tasks: “You need to remove any friction that slows the user’s progress.” This is a perfect explanation for what a well-formed call to action strategy can do. It is all about making the user’s experience feel fluid. The call to action should be clear and should feel intuitive to the user. The more the user has to work for your products and service the more they will feel uncomfortable with the experience.

Hamill brings many points to the table when talking about prioritizing your calls to action. Wording, color, positioning, and size all play a role. Most of his examples and reasoning are dead on. Let’s take a look at a few of them and see how they react in the e-commerce world.

Hamill’s main point here emphasizes how important it is to use verbs as the first word in an action item.
The task at hand should be short and sweet. This is definitely not an area to try and think outside of the box. It hits hard in the e-commerce world, especially when dealing with the checkout process. ‘Add to Shopping Cart,’ ‘Checkout,’ or ‘Create New Account’ are a few examples. The user should never have to guess what a button is going to do for them and should always have a clear path to the next step.

Positioning is a key element of design as a whole.
So, it is no surprise when it can greatly influence your call to action. One of my personal biggest pet peeves involves having to search for the checkout/purchase button when I am ready to purchase something on the web. Hamill provides a very similar example using the Virgin Mobile Money site. There is an ‘Apply Online’ button that appears at the top of the page. It is in plain sight for the user right from the get go. However, once you continue scrolling down the page it disappears. Now, this is not the end of the world by any means for the user. If they want to apply, they will simply scroll back towards the top and hit the appropriate button. However, this causes friction. It seems so simple, but small annoyances such as this will definitely add up over time! If the information needed falls below the design fold, you should always provide a simple way to back to the original call to action. It’s all about removing that friction!


What a wonderful thing color truly can be! First and foremost, never underestimate the power that color can bring to design. Hamill gives one specific point about color use when regarding call to action buttons: “ It’s not always necessary to reserve a color solely for your call-to-action button.” This is one idea I strongly disagree with. A call to action item is just that, a call to action for the user. They are emphasized for a reason. Let them shine! The color being used should stand out to the user in a positive way. Don’t be afraid to use bright or vivid colors for these items. The user will be able to spot your call to action easily and will do so subconsciously in some cases. This all goes back to the idea of having a fluid user experience. Help the user’s eyes move towards action items in this way.

With that being said, I do believe that a second color choice can and should definitely be made for pages that have more than one call to action. These should be prioritized depending on the importance of each item. A subtle way of achieving this importance is with size…


Hamill uses a great example from the Twitter homepage referring to a page that has more than one action item. Not all calls to action are going to carry the same priority. It can indeed be confusing with several action items that are the same size, color, etc. For this reason, size can play a huge role in guiding the user. At the same time though, it is imperative that the sizing isn’t out of control. There is nothing worse than a giant button over-shadowing the rest of the design.

Creating a well-formed design that provides a seamless user experience is a very difficult task, even for the most seasoned design professionals. However, with the proper use of call to action items, you can help guide the user through a seamless and fluid experience.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Great advice on some fresh ideas for leveraging Google Analytics to measure business goals...

I often find that people blog about nothing or something that everyone already knows just to be blogging. Not the case with this article on creating great Google Analytics reports for your website. Commerce or no commerce, this article will get you excited about how you manage your GA reports, at least it worked on me! Happy hump day!

10 Great GA Reports You Should Create

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The New Google Analytics Interface

I'm excited to start using the new Google Analytics interface. For those of you who haven't seen the list of updates available with this new design, check it out here -

Monday, March 21, 2011

Peapod is Taking the Country by Storm...

Imagine a country where going to the grocery store is a thing of the past and all groceries are ordered online and delivered to your doorstep. The internet is changing our everyday lives faster than we even realize. I finally tested the online grocery store out for myself this weekend. And my experience? I'll never step foot in a brick and mortar grocery store again! (Unless I forget something in my online order.) Here are 10 reasons why:

1.) Peapod was so easy and quick to use. I ordered $150 worth of groceries in about 15 minutes.
2.) Prices were comparable to local grocery store prices.
3.) The running total on the persistent shopping cart helps you control your spending because you know what you are spending as you shop.
4.) A landing page of all products with products flagged by sale price helps you easily select the most inexpensive products.
5.) The produce I purchased was better than the hand selected pieces I find at my local grocery store.
6.) Manufacturer coupons are excepted.
7.) Groceries are not only delivered to your doorstep, they bring them into your kitchen for you!
8.) My total service fee was about $6 plus a $1.50 gas surcharge.
9.) If you forget to add something to your order, you can modify your order until 7 pm the day you placed your order.
10.) Text messages are sent with updates on the status of delivery. They provide a two hour delivery window and groceries were delivered promptly within that window.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What Should I Be Testing on My Website?

Not sure exactly where to start testing content on your website? Below are typically the heaviest in traffic so you'll want to start your focus here. Start small and tie your strategy back to your KPIs. Use tools like Google Analytics, Coremetrics, WebSphere Commerce, and ExactTarget for email to measure your results. Most importantly - Have fun with it and get creative!

1.) Shopping Cart page
2.) Home page
3.) Product page
4.) Landing pages from search (if you are using Google Adwords) and email
5.) Taxonomy across site - this one is so important! You can use web analytics to determine if users are finding what they are looking for and easily modify your categories over time so that products are easier to find.
6.) The search box - what are people searching for? Use guided search and constantly add new keyword relationships to help people find what they need.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

2011's Most Popular eBusiness Challenge...will you be able to conquer it?

A recent "After the Storm" benchmark report from Retail Systems Research, a retail research company, identified a major shift in e-Business social marketing challenges for 2011. In 2010, it was all about connecting with your customers to find out what they want. 2011 is all about helping customers connect to other customers to become of the "facilitator" of the social network.

Simply observe what the customers are saying to each other and allow them to recommend your products for you. This trend is even trickling into the B2B space. In fact, today I'll be working on forums for one of our clients that will enable their 87 different dealerships to speak directly to each other to discuss parts available for sale at various locations.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Experiment with New Ways to Use Blogging to Your Advantage

Many companies have almost forced themselves into the blogging and social media marketing world because they don't want to be the last ones left. But unfortunately, if you aren't really listening to your customers or taking the time to be actively involved in what you've created, all you are really doing is burning up cash and time.

One great way to get fresh and meaningful content onto your site is to rotate who's doing the posting each day. Many companies find this to be a great way to get all of your SMEs (subject matter experts) posting and they don't feel like it's taking up too much of their time. I would take it a step further and challenge all bloggers to actively commit themselves to reviewing and researching what their customers are saying about their products and services each week and actively respond to or commit to making positive change in the organization as a result of what they are finding out on other blogs and social media sites.

A weekly 15 minute or 30 minute meeting is a great way to circle back with your cohorts and share what people are saying about your organization. In this meeting, decide on strategies for how you are going to react. You'd be amazed at the level of customer service you'd be providing back to your customers especially by responding to them online. Don't be afraid to apologize online! Customers just want to know you care. Go on, give them a little bit of Valentine's Day love today! Happy Valentine's Day everyone.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Tools to Measure Social Marketing ROI

In IBM's Social Business Jam discussion, I found a link with some great tools for measuring ROI for social marketing - Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Don't Miss IBM's Social Business Jam Starting Today and All Week Long!

IBM's Social Business Jam begins today! @ 10 am EST. If you've already signed up for it, you can log in here using the username/password combination you signed up w/ -

You can still sign up by going here - Many CEOs and Executives of large corporations will be included in panel discussions providing an opportunity to craft your skill sets in marketing, operations, IT, and more.

So get jamming!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Google Analytics Monday

I think we need all the help we can get on a Monday morning after the Super Bowl. So, I wanted to post a few good reference links I found related to using Google Analytics. If you haven't seen these two already, they are great comprehensive lists for what custom reports you can set up. Every custom report can have one or more dimensions and metrics associated so enjoy!

Also, found an interesting post comparing the differences between Google Analytics, Omniture SiteCatalyst, and Yahoo Web Analytics -

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Are Retailers Properly Equipped to Provide the Buy Online Pick Up in Store Experience?

While every retailer knows the hippest convenience trend for shoppers these days is the concept of "buy online, pick up in store", many retailers are not ready for this implementation and implement too early. The biggest challenge is integrating their eCommerce application with their POS application and providing real time information.

Think about it. When someone uses the "buy online, pick up in store" feature, why are they using it? Well, they probably don't want to pay for shipping. But they also probably want to pick that item up that day and in many cases, within hours. If that item isn't ready and waiting for them when they get to the store to pick it up, you've actually made their shopping experience 10 times worse. Because now they've already purchased the item online and paid for it. But now they feel like they are shopping for it again. They have to stand in line and wait to get their item in many cases. Then wait for the clerk to go find their item. Heck, the customer could have went to the shelf and got the item faster and went through the regular checkout line...

Bottom line, if you are thinking about implementing this feature, make sure you are really ready for it, think about the value it will really add to your bottom line, the systems that need to be upgraded, the staff that needs to be trained, and the impact that the possibility of a poor customer experience might have on the shopper. Will they come back to your store to shop again?

Monday, January 31, 2011

The iPad User Experience is Everywhere, Including Notre Dame

It seems iPads are popping up everywhere. This week I'll be testing the compatibility of one of our client's websites on the iPad and revamping the site for better usability.

It seems everyone is down with the iPad, even my professors at Notre Dame. Too bad I didn't get an iPad when I was at Notre Dame. What's interesting is how much people favor the iPad depending on their use. I read an article today that just goes to show, feature by feature, it's functionality is not optimal in all circumstances - The iPad still has a long way to come but has definitely taken eCommerce to a whole new level in terms of being able to shop anywhere you want.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Never Leave the Home to Shop for Groceries?

Could it be true? An article posted in the Wall Street Journal yesterday suggested that Amazon's AmazonTote, a grocery service similar to Peapod, may begin planning to spread to other areas of the country. Currently, is only available in the Seattle area. The great thing about this service is that there is no service or delivery fee.

While Amazon's PR rep did decline to comment and it may be that the suggestion of expansion is not valid, it does pose the question of where the service industry is going when it comes to our eCommerce world. Online grocery shopping would put local grocery stores out of business or would force them to drastically change their business model. It's likely most individuals would buy their hard goods online but still choose to purchase their meats, fruits, and vegetables locally.

Whatever the case, our daily shopping lives will likely be very different five years from now. See the full article here -

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

An Aftermarket Shopping Site for Coupons?

Today, I read an article about a new website called Lifesta ( that allows users to post coupons for sale that they no longer want. So I went and checked it out for myself. My initial thought was this is a really great idea! I can't wait to see what deals I can get. So to my surprise, I was able to search for deals without being forced to enter my email address and subscribe. And boy, am I glad I didn't subscribe. Because, after a search for coupons for just Indianapolis, I discovered there weren't very many coupons available. In fact, with a search across the entire nation, the coupons were the same as the ones available for Indianapolis.

I'll give the site the benefit of the doubt since it's a new concept and it takes users like us to post great offers to make it a great site to shop. It's definitely worth a peak but not a site you want to give your email address to for another subscription in your email in box. I'd say you're better off sticking with your original subscription to the original coupon sites since the coupons posted on are going for the same price as coupons from the original site. In fact, it appeared some people were trying to sell their coupons for more than the original Groupon price, probably to make up for the 8% service fee Lifesta charges. We'll see how this site progresses over time...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Technical Introduction to IBM WebSphere MQ V7

Don't Miss IBM's Social Jam February 8 - 10th

If your New Year's Resolution is to improve your social marketing strategy, IBM's free online social jam will be right up your alley...

The Social Business Jam is an online brainstorming event sponsored by IBM taking place Tuesday, February 8th - Thursday, February 10th. Via Social Business Jam, thousands of existing and prospective clients, subject matter experts, partners and developers will share ideas — and engage in conversations — about the meaning and value of social business.

Interested parties can sign up here -
Happy jamming!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ask Your Shoppers What Motivates Them and You Shall Receive

I've often wondered why more marketing departments don't take advantage of surveying their customers to find how what motivates multi-channel shopping habits. Pottery Barn Kids marketers seem to be taking advantage of surveying their customers and ask really great questions to get to what drives the consumer.

After completing a baby registery at their store, I received a survey with some great questions to find out what would drive me to shop at their store in the future and what drove me to register at their store. Another "no brainer" question was what competitor stores I also registered at. After completing this survey, they'd be able to identify if I'd shop their again based on a $50 off $300 order or whether a meager 10% coupon would do the trick.

So why are so many retailers paying research firms for these answers when they can just ask their customers themselves? I've found the most common answer to be that they don't collect the proper data on their customers in the first place to be able to segment their customers properly. I mean, Pottery Barn Kids had to be able to segment only customers that had a baby registry and had completed their registry in the last 60 days. They had to also know that I hadn't already completed the survey. It seems simple but without the proper database management and email applications in place, collection can become quiet daunting. However, once put in place, the sky can be the limit on marketing research not to mention the personalized customer experience that's brought to all of your customers. And Pottery Barn Kids didn't use some fancy surveying software. They used Zoomerang, which anyone could set up in about 5 minutes.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Online Christmas Shopping Forever!

This Christmas was especially special for the Khans. Sofia Ellen Khan was born December 11th. And being the big planner that her mother is, the internet was her savior for not missing a beat on getting Christmas gifts out on time (in between feedings and diaper changes every 2 to 3 hours). And with free shipping at every site I shopped at, I just might do my Christmas shopping every year online.

According to Internet Retailer's article "Nearly 64% of Americans shopped online over the holidays", it sounds like I'm not the only one on the internet shopping bandwagon. (Reference:, January 21, 2011)

With a new baby in the home, I'm sure to do a lot more shopping online since my shopping time is drastically decreased when carting around a child who might cry for a diaper change or food at any moment. In fact the deals on clothes, accessories, and other items for Sofia are now dropped right in my email in box on a daily basis. sends a daily email alert with exclusive designers with up to 80% off. The only catch is that the deal is only available for up to 48 hours and you must be a member of the web store. Sign up is easy and the daily alert is fun to receive. Who needs to bundle up and head to the store when you can snuggle up with a cup of coffee and your new baby next to the computer each morning! Hurray for online shopping and online Christmas shopping from here on out! That's my New Year's resolution...much easier than loosing that extra 20 pounds of baby weight in 2011.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Grand Opening

Here at BlueSky Technology Partners, we want to introduce our brand new blog. At the start of 2011, we decided to introduce a blog where our expert consultants and developers will blog on current industry trends, new ideas, news, and advancements in technology. We would like everyone who is interested in technology to come see what BlueSky is up to and what we currently are doing to be thought leaders. Please stay tuned for more blogging from our employees!

Happy blogging! :)