Web Directories

Carol R. Venuti

Carol R. Venuti

Ads now appear in Local Finder results, plus ads display differently in Google Maps.

Google has made changes this week to local search results and Google Maps that will impact retailers and service providers with physical locations.


Ads in Local Finder results

Local SEO specialist Brian Barwig was among those who have noticed the ads appearing in the Local Finder results — reached after clicking “More places” from a local three-pack in the main Google search results.


The addition of the ads (more than one ad can display) in the Local Finder results means retailers and service providers that aren’t featured in the local three-pack have a new way of getting to the top of the results if users click through to see more listings. (It also means another haven for organic listings has been infiltrated with advertising.)

The ads in the Local Finder rely on AdWords location extensions just like Google Maps, which started featuring ads that used location extensions when Google updated Maps in 2013. Unlike the results in Maps, however, advertisers featured in Local Finder results do not get a pin on the map results.

A Google spokesperson didn’t offer further details other than to say, We’re always testing out new formats for local businesses, but don’t have any additional details to share for now.”

Google Maps is no longer considered a Search Partner

Google has also announced changes to how ads display in Google Maps. Soon, Google will onlyshow ads that include location extensions in Maps; regular text ads will not be featured. The other big change is that Google Maps is no longer considered part of Search Partners. Google has alerted advertisers, and Maps has been removed from the list of Google sites included in Search Partners in the AdWords help pages.

This change in Maps’ status means:

1. Advertisers that use location extensions but had opted out of Search Partners will now be able to have their ads shown in Maps and may see an increase in impressions and clicks as their ads start showing there.

2. Advertisers that don’t use location extensions but were opted into Search Partners could see a drop in impressions and clicks with ads no longer showing in Maps.

The move to include Maps as part of Google search inventory will mean more advertisers will be included in Maps ad auctions. The emphasis on location extensions is in line with Google’s increasing reliance on structured data and feeds, as retailers participating in Google Shopping can attest.

 Source: http://searchengineland.com/google-ads-local-finder-results-maps-not-search-partner-247779

Thursday, 07 April 2016 07:41

Making Market Research Pay

Department store magnate John Wanamaker once said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted. The trouble is I don’t know which half.” Wanamaker’s conundrum vexes marketers to this day. With the exception of direct marketing, the relationship between message and consumer behavior is still maddeningly elusive.

A big problem is that conventional research tools are ill-suited to assess the impact of marketing investment on behavior, mainly because it’s nearly impossible to track all the steps from the moment someone sees an ad to the moment when they make a purchase. As a result, market researchers have had to settle for metrics like awareness and attitudes – essentially asking actual and potential customers about how they feel about a given product or advertisement–which aren’t necessarily predictive of behavior. Just because someone thinks a BMW is the best car out there doesn’t mean she’s going to buy one. On the flip side, just because someone has a low opinion of his home insurance company doesn’t mean he’s going to make the effort to switch.

While I can’t solve Wanamaker’s conundrum, I can help you make smarter decisions about how to spend your precious research dollars. Start by asking yourself the following five questions:

1. Can the question you are asking be answered by a given research methodology? Most marketers conduct research with the intent of evaluating whether or not their campaign will “work.” Often that means measuring how much of what people saw they actually understood or could recall. What they’d really like to know is whether messaging and media will translate into action–not at all the same thing.

2. Just because you can research it, is it worth finding out? It might be nice to know that the number of people who think of your financial services company as “intelligent” has increased 8.7% year over year. Then again, what if there’s no measurable link between perception of intelligence and the decision to invest in a variable annuity? When it comes to your research budget, “nice to know” is not enough.

3. Is qualitative research yielding actionable insight? Qualitative research methods such as focus groups are best suited to generating interesting ideas, not hard conclusions. A show of hands of, say, eight people around a table has a precise statistical value: zero. And yet, by the time the focus-group moderator (who, after all, wants to be hired for future projects) submits his report, there is ample talk of “most people say this” or “few people feel that.” More noise.

4. Why research when you can track instead? If John Wanamaker could have lunch with someone from our time, Sandeep Dadlani from Infosys would be near the top of his list. Dadlani is the head of the Americas business of Infosys, an information-technology services firm headquartered in Bangalore, India. Dadlani says he aims to make his customers “real-world aware.” To do that, his consultants will wire, say, a grocery store with an invisible wireless sensor network and smart applications that run on them, allowing managers to track traffic in various parts of the store. Are shoppers stopping by an in-store display for a cough syrup? How long? Is the shelf in-stock at that moment? Are they evaluating the offer? How many of them convert and buy? The network also is designed to allow shoppers to sign up to use their mobile phones to browse the store for items in their shopping lists, recipes, coupons,etc. based on their interests and locations in the store.

Source: http://www.forbes.com/sites/marcbabej/2014/07/10/four-ways-to-make-market-research-pay/#1da92ee14393

If you mention the ‘deep web’ in polite company, chances are, if anyone’s familiar with it at all, they’ll have heard about the drugs, the hit men, and maybe even the grotesque rumors of living human dolls. But there are far more services available through the deep web that aren’t illegal or illicit, that instead range merely from the bizarre, to the revolutionary, to the humbly innocuous.


We’re talking about websites for people who like to spend their spare time trawling underground tunnels, to websites for people who literally are forced to spend their time in underground tunnels because of the oppressive dictatorial regimes they live in. Then there’s a whole lot of extremely niche material—think unseemly book clubs and spanking forums—that has for various reasons been condemned by society.


But first, if you’re a member of that polite company that shrugs at its mention, we’ll need a working definition. BrightPlanet, a group that specializes in deep web intelligence, simply defines it as: “anything that a search engine can’t find.” That’s because search engines can only show you content that their systems have indexed; they use software called “crawlers” that try to find and index everything on the web by tracking all of the internet’s visible hyperlinks.


Inevitably, some of these routes are blocked. You can require a private network to reach your website, or can simply opt out of search engine results. In these cases, in order to reach a webpage, you need to know its exact, complex URL. These URLs—the ones that aren’t indexed—are what we call the deep web.


Although its full size is difficult to measure, it’s important to remember that the deep web is a truly vast place. According to a study in the Journal of Electronic Publishing, “content in the deep Web is massive—approximately 500 times greater than that visible to conventional search engines.” Meanwhile, usage of private networks to access the deep web is often in the millions.


In 2000, there were 1 billion unique URLs indexed by Google. In 2008, there were 1 trillion. Today, in 2014, there are many more than that. Now consider how much bigger the deep web is than that. In other words, the deep web takes the iceberg metaphor to an extreme, when compared to the easily accessible surface web. It comprises around 99 percent of the largest medium in human history: the internet.


Those mind-bending facts aside, let’s get a few things straight. The deep web is not all fun and games (weird, illegal, or otherwise). It’s full of databases of information from the likes of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, JSTOR, NASA, and the Patent and Trademark Office. There are also lots of Intranets—internal networks for companies and universities—that mostly contain dull personnel information.


Then there’s a small corner of the deep web called Tor, short for The Onion Routing project, which was initially built by the US Naval Research Laboratory as a way to communicate online anonymously. This, of course, is where the notorious Silk Road and other deep web black markets come in.



Again, that’s what you’d expect from a technology that was designed to hide users’ identities. Much less predictable are the extensive halls of erotic fan fiction blogs, revolutionary book clubs, spelunking websites, Scientology archives, and resources for Stravinsky-lovers (“48,717 pages of emancipated dissonance”). To get a better idea of the non-drug-and-hit man-related activities one might find on the deep web, let’s take a look at some of the most above-board outfits just below the surface.


Jotunbane’s Reading Club is a great example, with the website’s homepage defiantly proclaiming “Readers Against DRM” above the image of a fist smashing the chains off a book rendered in the style of Soviet propaganda. Typically, the most popular books of the reading club are subversive or sci-fi, with George Orwell’s 1984 and William Gibson’s Neuromancer ranking at the top.


The ominously named Imperial Library of Trantor, meanwhile, prefers Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, while Thomas Paine’s revolutionary pamphlet from 1776, Common Sense, earns it own website. Some of its first lines aptly read, “Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices.” Even the alleged founder of Silk Road, the Dread Pirate Roberts, started a deep web book club in 2011.


So, it seems pretty clear that deep web users like to dabble in politics, but that’s far from the whole picture.


Alongside the likes of "The Anarchist Cookbook" and worryingly-named publications like "Defeating Electromagnetic Door Locks," you’ll also find a surprisingly active blog for “people who like spanking,” where users lovingly recall previous spanks. There’s another website with copious amounts of erotic fan fiction: One story called “A cold and lonely night in Agrabah” tells of a saucy tryst with the Jungle Book’s lovable Disney bear Baloo, meanwhile Harry Potter is a divisive wizard; some lust over his wand, others declare themselves “anti-Harry Potter fundamentalists.”




At times, you do wonder if some of the content you come across needs to be on the deep web. A website called Beneath VT documents underground explorations below Virginia Tech, where adventurers frequent the many tunnels that support the university’s population of over 30,000 students and 1,000 faculty members. Its creators anonymously explain: “Although these people pass by the grates and manholes that lead to the tunnels every day, few realize what lies beneath.”


It’s not as though you can’t find a plethora of these types of sites of the surface web, illegal or otherwise. But it seems that the deep web offers a symbolic, psychological solace to the users. In practice, the deep web is home to a mix of subcultures with varying desires: all looking for people like them. Beneath VT is one example, but others even offer 24-hour interaction, like Radio Clandestina, a radio station that describes itself as “music to go deep and make love”. That’s not exactly the kind of tagline you’d see on NPR.


Dr. Ian Walden, a Professor of Information and Communications Law at London’s Queen Mary University, explained that the attraction of the deep web is its “use of techniques designed to enable people to communicate anonymously and in a manner that is truthful. The more sophisticated user realizes that what they do on the web leaves many trails and therefore if you want to engage in an activity without being subject to surveillance.” He continued, “the sense of community is often what binds these subcultures, in an increasingly disparate and disembodied digital world.”



Although the deep web also has a powerful liberating potential, especially since the recent NSA revelations have brought the extent of government surveillance into sharp focus. Surfing along its supposedly safe corridors gives you a strange, exhilarating sensation; probably not unlike how the first internet users felt a quarter of a century ago. Professor Walden has argued that the deep web was vital in the Arab Spring uprising, by allowing dissidents to communicate and unite without being detected. Many of the videos filmed during the Syrian revolution in 2011 were first securely posted on the deep web before being transferred to YouTube.


He points out that “in jurisdictions where political defence is stamped on, social media is not particularly going to help political protest, because it can be quite easy to identify the users.” The situation in Turkey earlier this year, for example, saw Prime Minister Erdogan ban the use of Twitter in the country. So instead, Walden suggests, the deep web “allows communication in the long term and in a way that doesn’t expose your family to a risk.”


It is telling that if the deep web did have a homepage, it would probably be the Hidden Wiki, a wiki page that catalogues some of the deep web’s key websites, and that is outspokenly “censorship-free.” Its contents give an insight into how these anonymous processes work: the infamous Wikileaks site is hard to miss, but there’s also the New Yorker Strongbox, a system created by the magazine to “conceal both your online and physical location from us and to offer full end-to-end encryption” for prospective whistleblowers. Whereas, Kavkaz, a Middle Eastern news site available in Russian, English, Arabic and Turkish, is an impressive independent resource.




Perhaps because the deep web plays host to many of the digitally marginalized and avant-garde, it has also become a hotbed for media innovations. Amber Horsburgh, a digital strategist at Brooklyn creative agency Big Spaceship, spent six months studying the many techniques used in the deep web, and found that it pioneered a lot of innovations in digital advertising.


Horsburgh claims, “As history tells us, the biggest digital advertising trends come from the deep web. Due to the nature of some of the business that happens here, sellers use innovative ways of business in their transactions, marketing, distribution and value chains.”


She cites examples of Gmail introducing sponsored email; the social advertising tool Thunderclap, which won a Cannes Innovation Lion in 2013; and the wild success of the native advertising industry, which will boom to around $11 billion in 2017. According to Horsburgh, “each of these ‘cutting-edge’ innovations were techniques pioneered by the deep web.” Native advertising takes its cues from the “astro-turfing” used by China’s 50-cent party, where people were paid to post favorable comments on internet forums and comments section in order to sway opinion.


Ultimately, this is the risk of the deep web. “Your terrorists are our freedom fighters,” as Professor Walden puts it. In parts, it offers idealism, lightheartedness, and community. In others, it offers the illegal, the immoral, and the grotesque. Take the headline-grabbing example of Bitcoin, which has strong ties with the deep web: It was supposed to provide an alternative monetary system, but, at least at first, it mostly got attention because you could buy drugs with it.


For now, at least, it’s heartening to know that some people choose to use the anonymity offered by the deep web to live their mostly harmless—albeit, at times, extremely weird—lives in peace. To paraphrase French writer Voltaire’s famous saying: "I may disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to make erotic fan fiction about my favorite childhood Disney characters.”


Source : http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-legal-side-of-the-deep-web-is-wonderfully-bizarre

In this age of technology, the use of libraries for research purposes has become less frequent while the use of the internet for research has gained more recognition. Since it is,  easy to index and specialize your search on the internet, many people are concerned with the reliability of the content obtained online. Reliability of information is deemed crucial particularly with regard to scholarly and academic research. Hence, after trial and error there are certain steps that have been developed to help you verify the content you find on the internet.

There are certain standards that should be employed to screen the quality of information that you gather using the internet. This evaluation criterion should be applied especially if you are collecting information for an academic purpose. These include reliability, relevance, currency, and the value it adds for the reader. It is imperative for a professional researcher to develop the necessary evaluation skills to identify the trash from quality material. The following checklist would be helpful in this regard.

First you should be able to define the author who wrote on the subject. Check whether he is  identified on the website, and what are his credentials? Also, whether those credentials qualify him to comment on the subject. If it is part of a publication, it’s better if you evaluate the publication as well. That can be done by reviewing its overall professionalism, and the “About” section. A look at the URL can also provide you an idea about the credibility of the source the information is published in, and the nature of author’s affiliation. Some of the standard URLs includes;

  • com for commercially-sponsored sites
  • edu for educational institutes
  • gov for government websites
  • org for nonprofit organizations

Accuracy can be determined by looking for basic spelling and grammatical errors. If you find any such errors, chances that the content has not been reviewed by an editor are high. Also, the key is to look for cited sources. If it is based on primary research, see if the methodology is adequately explained? Or, are the resources cited correctly? If not, you should be critical with regard to the accuracy of the content, or the claims made.

Examining currency of the content is also essential to determine its validity for your task. Outdated information should be avoided, if there are more recent versions of a source. Particularly, in dealing with statistics, it is always best to use the most recent figures. Their currency can be maintained by checking the initial publishing date of the web page, and the date of last update. Also checking if the site is actively maintained and the comments of other visitors can help you determine its currency and impact.

As users are increasingly relying on the internet to gather information, the question of ‘validity’ of information becomes a very important concern. Therefore, is it crucial that you use the above criteria in eliminating most of the risks associated with information obtained from a website.

Friday, 19 June 2015 06:45


Quality content is a hard sell. Sure, people get that content is important — but getting people to invest the time and resources needed to make content great isn’t easy.

It’s not enough to tell decision makers you need quality content. In order to make the case for it, you have to demonstrate success and failure. Selling content strategy is a continuous process. You must show how content quality impacts business goals and user needs.

This is a tall order. As content strategist Melissa Rach says on the value of content: “Most people understand that content has value. Big value. They just can’t prove or measure the ROI [return on investment]. And, therefore, they have no concept of how much content is worth.”

So, how do we determine if content is good or bad? How do you know if it’s working as you’d hoped?
Content governance is not possible without content measurement. You can’t define content and resource needs without understanding the value and effectiveness of your content.

How Do You Measure Content Quality?

Fundamentally, there are two types of content measurement: quantitative and qualitative.

You can think of quantitative and qualitative as what vs. why. Quantitative analysis can tell you what users are doing — how they’re interacting with your content. Qualitative analysis can tell you why they are on your site — what their intent is and whether your content is communicating clearly.

Together, these two forms of analysis help paint a well-rounded picture of content value. It’s no good knowing what is happening if you don’t know why it’s happening. And it’s no good understanding why if you don’t know what got users there in the first place or what they’re doing.

When it comes to web analytics, I’m equally enthusiastic and cautious. Web analytics provides easy access to valuable insights — not just for content governance but also content planning. However, when used poorly, it can confuse and mislead rather than guide and inform.

In order to make good use of web analytics, you need to understand its strengths and weaknesses.

What Web Analytics Can’t Do

1. Provide a complete content measurement solution

It’s a common mistake to use web analytics as a default content assessment tool. Remember, it’s only one side of the content measurement equation . As content strategist Clare O’Brien says, organizations are overly obsessed with analytics data:

Broadly speaking — and thanks largely to the ubiquity and ease of access to Google Analytics (GA) — businesses have become fixated by traffic volumes, bounces, sources, journeys and subsequent destinations and the like and aren’t looking to learn more.

We have to think bigger when it comes to content assessment. On its own, web analytics can be misleading.

2. Provide accurate data

One of the reasons web analytics is so compelling for data nerds is that numbers appear definitive and actionable. But, in reality, no analytics tool provides completely accurate data. Different data collection methods, reporting errors, and user blocking information sharing compromise accuracy.

(But don’t worry — I’ll soon tell you why this inaccuracy is okay.)

3. Adequately answer why?

As I mentioned, web analytics can help us understand what users are doing and how they interact with our content. However, it can’t answer why they are interacting with our content.

Web analytics can’t adequately replace qualitative analysis or even a single user telling you why they visited your website and why they left.

What Web Analytics Can Do (And Why It’s Great)

1. Quantitatively evaluate web content quality

There are many definitions for web analytics, but the most clear and succinct I’ve found is on Wikipedia:
"Web analytics is the study of online behavior in order to improve it."
Indeed, that is the strength of web analytics. By understanding how people use your website, you’re empowered to discover and assess content problems that lead to positive change.

2. Comparative analysis: measure website trends

Stumped by the notion that web analytics can’t provide accurate data? As promised, fear not! The reason this is okay is because the power of web analytics lies in trends, not in individual numbers.

Without context, single metrics are meaningless. Knowing that you received 8,000 admissions website pageviews last month isn’t as important as knowing that those 8,000 pageviews are a 25 percent increase from the previous year. That’s progress.

3. Challenge and validate assumptions

We make assumptions every day about how people use our website and what information is most valuable. I’m unable to count the number of website redesigns I’ve witnessed that were guided by assumptions regarding content needs and user goals.

While some of these questions are best answered through a comprehensive content analysis, web analytics can help validate or disprove those costly assumptions.

4. Demonstrate how your website meets established business goals and users’ needs

As important as qualitative content analysis is, these findings rarely make the case for quality content on their own. People need concrete data to assess value.

It’s not enough to simply say that Sally doesn’t want to fill out your two-page inquiry form. It’s more effective to show that the inquiry form has an 80 percent abandonment rate. Gut instincts are good, but numbers are better.

5. Enable stakeholders and content owners to measure the success of their own content

As we know, content governance in higher ed is not a one-person job. It involves numerous departments, content owners and other stakeholders who are charged with making decisions about content. Unfortunately, most of these content stakeholders are not content experts or skilled at assessing content performance.

With planning, web analytics can provide content stakeholders with relevant web metrics to evaluate the success of their content. This is huge. I also find that the more people are aware of how their content is being used, the more likely they are to care about maintaining it. Win, win!

What Is Next?

This post kicks off a series of posts on web analytics and content assessment. I’d like to discuss how we can be smart about our use of web analytics and our approach to governance and measurement.

If there are analytics topics you’d like to see covered as part of this content measurement series, let me know. I’m taking requests!
Update 11/8/12: Check out the second post in this series on web analytics and content assessment, A Web Analytics Framework for Content Analysis. 


(ISNS) -- Wikipedia isn't just a website that helps students with their homework and settles debates between friends. It can also help researchers track influenza in real time.

A new study released in April in the journal PLOS Computational Biology showcased an algorithm that uses the number of page views of select Wikipedia articles to predict the real-time rates of influenza-like illness in the American population.

Influenza-like illness is an umbrella term used for illnesses that present with symptoms like those of influenza, such as a fever. These illnesses may be caused by the influenza virus, but they can have other causes as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention publish data on the prevalence of influenza-like illness based off a number of factors like hospital visits, but the data takes two weeks to come out, so it's of little use to governments and hospitals that want to prepare for influenza outbreaks.

The researchers compared the results from their algorithm to past data from the CDC and found that it predicted the incidence of influenza-like illness in America within 1 percent of the CDC data from 2007 to 2013.

The algorithm monitored page views from 35 different Wikipedia articles, including "influenza" and "common cold."

"We also included a few things such as 'CDC' and the Wikipedia main page so we could glean the background level of Wikipedia usage," said David McIver, one of the authors of the study and a researcher at Harvard Medical School. Those terms helped make the algorithm more accurate, even during the 2009 swine flu pandemic.

Google Flu Trends, a similar tool for tracking influenza developed by Google, came under criticism recently when it overestimated illnesses during the swine flu pandemic and the 2012-2013 flu season. Scientific experts and journalists attributed the miscalculation to increased media coverage of the flu during those periods. Google's tool, which uses Internet search terms to monitor influenza's spread, did not account for increased web searches by healthy individuals that may have been prompted by the increased media coverage.

McIver's model attempts to account for this by assessing the background usage of Wikipedia. Additionally, a recent paper in Science suggests that Google Flu Trends could become more accurate over time with more data.

Some also lobbed criticism at Google for keeping their algorithms for Google Flu Trends a trade secret. McIver and his colleague, John Brownstein, wanted their algorithm to be all open-source.

"We initially decided to go with Wikipedia because all of their data is open and free for everyone to use. We really wanted to make a model where everyone could look at the data going in and change it as they saw fit for other applications," McIver said.

The benefits of tracking influenza-like illness in real time are huge, McIver added.

"The idea is the quicker we can get the information out, the easier it is for officials to make choices about all the resources they have to handle," he said.

Such choices involve increasing vaccine production and distribution, increasing hospital staff, and general readiness "so we can be prepared for when the epidemic does hit," McIver said.

The Wikipedia model is one of many such tools, but is not without its limitations. Firstly, it can only track illness at the national level because Wikipedia only provides page views by nation.

The model also assumes that one visitor will not make multiple visits to one Wikipedia article. There is also no way to be sure that someone is not visiting the article for their general education, or if they really have the flu.

Nonetheless, the model still matches past CDC data in the prevalence of influenza- like illness in the U.S.

"This is another example of these types of algorithms that are trying to glean signals from using social media," said Jeffrey Shaman, professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia University, in New York. "There are all these ways that we might get some lines on what's going on."

He said he was interested to see how well the model would do to predict future flu seasons, especially compared to Google.

Shaman and his colleagues use data from past influenza seasons to try and predict future ones, using models similar to those used by weather forecasters.

"They're not any sort of replacement for the basic surveillance that needs to be done," he said of the Wikipedia model, Google Flu Trends, and similar tools. "I like them and they're great tools and I use them all the time, but we still don't have a gold standard of monitoring influenza."

"Right now the attitude is the more the merrier so long as they're done well," Shaman said.

McIver echoed similar sentiments, "People need to remember that these sorts of technologies are not designed to be replacements for the traditional methods. We're designing them to work together – we'd rather combine all the information."

Cynthia McKelvey is a science writer based in Santa Cruz, California. She tweets at @NotesofRanvier. 


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