Monday, February 23, 2009

Is Marketing Evil?

Great post by Seth Godin, definitely worth the two-minute read:

Is Marketing Evil?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Branding Corn


Morton did it...
Why shouldn't corn growers?

And that is just what they are going about doing.
The Corn Belt: Farmers All Ears to Branding?

It's interesting to note that not all commodity markets utilize similar tactics.
For example, the milk industry with it's infamous award-winning Got Milk? campaign, initiated by the California Milk Processor Board in 1993, branded the actual commodity rather than any specific brand in effect constructing a powerful constraint that will weaken "brand" branding campaigns for the foreseeable future. For an excellent history of the Got Milk? campaign and some valuable links see the Wikipedia entry.

See also Branding Commodities for a good discussion and some ideas on branding commodities.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dunkin' Donuts - Mom & Pop Shops grows into Global Brand

Dunkin' Donuts, founded in 1950 by William Rosenberg in Massachusetts as a Mom & Pop shop, has leveraged its brand over almost sixty years to grow into a global chain spread across more then 30 countries.

Brandchannel.com has published a great overview of the Dunkin' Donuts brand.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Bubbes, Beads, and Baby Boomers (Life Stage Marketing)

Most every marketer on the planet is pretty much busy right now either trying to figure out what to sell to baby boomers, how to sell to baby boomers, or how to sell even more to baby boomers (what's a baby boomer?). The hearing industry sure is, anyway...with the average age of first time hearing aid buyers hovering around 69, those in their early 60's are a key and very attractive demographic.

But, most companies are getting it all wrong.

As Virzi (2008) points out in Life Stage Marketing, most baby boomers did not smoke grass, wear beads, or drive a VW minivan...

Marketing to baby boomers - or to any demographic - needs to focus on what individuals can identify with NOW, today, rather than on what they may have identified with 10, 20 or 30 years ago. Nostalgia does have a role in marketing, but nostalgia is not a strategy...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Segmentation, Differentiation and Positioning (Part 4 of a Series)

POSITIONING AND PERCEPTUAL MAPS

To truly understand marketing, a little psychology is in order. In fact, there is a whole segment of marketing studied under the title "Consumer Behavior." But we digress...

Unless we are marketing a completely new product, unlike anything anyone has ever thought about or seen - a rare occurrence, indeed - consumers already have some preconceived notions about whatever it is you are trying to sell them. Every consumer already has a perceptual map of sorts in his mind. Think about any product, and you naturally think about some of its characteristics. Some examples:

+ a McDonalds hamburger - cheap, not very healthy, greasy, fast

+ BMW - expensive, fast, powerful, handles well

+ Southwest Airlines - fun, inexpensive, fast, efficient

And so forth. Every one of the characteristics cited above can be thought of as lying somewhere on a horizontal line, somewhere between two extremes - or somewhere along a "dimension." Let's look at this graphically, using the easiest of all examples: price.


+ ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- | ---- +
free | inexpensive | moderate | somewhat expensive | expensive

Consider a product that has yet to be branded... (really NOT many left...) - electricity. Further, suppose you can select your electricity provider (as you can in California, for example). There is no difference between the electricity provided by one vendor and that provided by another save one single characteristic - price (since everything comes in off the same network, there are no differences in reliability). If we were to present a consumer with several providers of electricity, then, there would be only one way in which he could rank them - from least to most expensive - and he would most likely select the least expensive provider (unless he was a shareholder in one of the other utilities or had some other vested interest).

If we could slice open this consumer's brain and extract the small and insignificant segment of his mind used to think about electricity, we would find a perceptual map with one single dimension, just as the one I had created above. This map symbolizes the way that the consumer thinks about electricity. Corresponding to some of the characteristics along the price dimension, we would find the names of electricity providers, as follows -



The consumer has positioned each one of the utilities providing electricity in the only way that he can - using the price dimension. This is the only way that the consumer can differentiate between the different providers of electricity. "Utility A," therefore, is positioned in his mind as being cheap, while "C" is inexpensive and "B" is moderately priced.

What could we do, then, as marketers of electricity, to entice this consumer to switch providers? Sadly, unless we could introduce some new dimension into the mix, the only tool at our disposal is price. It is not surprising, then, that all of the utilities are "bunched" together - this means that they are very similar on this dimension. They are all positioned as relatively inexpensive. On a perceptual map, whenever products are close together, they are positioned in the consumer's mind as being very similar. It is important to note that, in reality, the products could be quite different - but they are positioned similarly. This is what is important to us as marketers.

In an ideal world, we could position our product on a one-on-one basis, based on the perceptions of every single consumer in the world. In reality, however, we typically can't - therefore, we draw up perceptual maps based on the target market segment we are trying to sell to. In effect, we average out the positioning across all relevant consumers. This provides us with some sense of how the products on the market are positioned in these consumers' minds.

Obviously, with price as the only relevant dimension there is little we can do to position our product - electricity - except play with the product's price. So, let's make this more interesting and add a second dimension. The second dimension in a perceptual map is orthogonal to the first - just like an 'X' and 'Y' axis are in algebra. Suppose that each of the three utilities above can now run individual lines to the consumer's home - they can now differentiate based not only on price, but also on reliability, or "uptime" - a characteristic that defines the percentage of time that we have electricity flowing. In the perceptual map that follows, I have added the dimension of reliability along the 'Y' axis -



The first dimension we had considered, price, is on the horizontal, or 'X' axis. Note that the positioning of the three providers along the dimension of price has remained identical to the one-dimensional perceptual map I had drawn above. 'A' is less expensive than 'C,' while 'C' is less expensive than 'B.'

The new dimension is reliability. The provider can be unreliable, or he can be very reliable - or he can fall anywhere in between these two extremes. On the map above, 'B' turns out to be positioned as most reliable - while 'C' is least reliable. 'A' is middle-of-the-road.

It is important to note that positioning does not necessarily correspond with performance - for example, utility 'B' may be advertising massively, in an attempt to position itself as the most reliable provider - although in reality it may not be significantly more reliable than either 'A' or 'C.' The perceptual map provides a picture of how the consumer thinks about the products in a specific category, and this may very well be different than what a scientific analysis of the characteristics of the products would yield.

As a marketer considering entry into this market - or as a marketer of one of the three existing utilities - I could now use the perceptual map to identify potential strategies. For example, it is clear that if I could position a utility as more reliable than 'B' but less expensive than 'C' I'd have a clear winner on my hands (a further analysis should clarify whether such a strategy would actually be profitable).

A graphical representation of a perceptual map is limited by our ability to render dimensions on paper (or on the screen) - we could add a third dimension to the above map, but we couldn't add any more. Sometimes, a fourth dimension can be discerned off of a three dimensional map by virtue of the clustering of some of the products. But typically, if you can't boil your map down to two or three dimensions, it's probably because you have yet to identify the most critical ones.

Questions? Comments? Why don't you post them?

ragingacademic

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Segmentation, Differentiation and Positioning (Part 3 of a Series)


Recalling the old adage, “If a tree falls in a forest, and there’s no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?” – the differences we design into a product will remain there even if no one is there to observe them. But positioning is different. A product is positioned, but it is positioned in the mind of the customer – therefore, unlike differentiation, without a customer – a product cannot be positioned. Yet the positioning that we as marketers communicate is supported by the differentiation we have created.

Al Ries and Jack Trout, in their seminal work, Positioning, write, "Consumers are like chickens. They are much more comfortable with a pecking order that everybody knows about and accepts." Marketers create that pecking order through positioning. Positioning is simply the strategy marketers employ in order to rank a product in the consumer's "pecking order." For another perspective on this, Engel and Blackwell write that positioning is the sum of "marketing strategies designed to influence the location of a brand or store in the minds of potential customers."

At its core, Positioning is mostly a communications strategy – as marketers, we use communications tactics to position our product in the mind of the consumer in a way that will maximize our profits from that product. Such communications may include tactics such as advertising, public relations, and guerilla marketing (for example, seeding and propagating word-of-mouth - communication tactics will be addressed later in the course). By repeatedly exposing the consumer to strong messages that are congruent with our positioning strategy, our product will come to occupy the desired position in the consumer’s mind.

The real challenge in positioning is selecting the core attributes of a product that will be most effective in encouraging consumer trial and, later, motivating brand loyalty. Such attributes are developed from the variables identified in the differentiation phase. The number of attributes used to promote a product varies. While some marketing experts advocate the use of a single differentiating attribute to position a product (known as a unique selling proposition, or USP), there is no golden rule. Consider, though, that given the barrage of messages consumers are exposed to, there is a very tangible limit to what they are likely to remember - by some accounts, consumers in urban areas are subject to as many as 15,000 messages daily. If you can define your product as clearly superior in its category based on a single attribute, your positioning messages will be all the more powerful.


To achieve such clarity in positioning, the attributes you select to highlight should leverage your product's competitive advantages. This is why differentiation is essential to successful positioning. Picking up on the cake mix example discussed in a previous note in this series, imagine you are trying to market a new kind of cake mix. Your cake may be very moist, but it seems that all cake mixes claim to produce moist cakes. Moistness, therefore, is not a differentiating attribute, nor is it a competitive advantage. Positioning your cake mix as "very moist" will not get you that unique space in the consumer's mind which you are trying to capture. Also, remember that some aspects of your product are simply not important to your customer - for example, the type of cardboard you use for packaging; however, that same cardboard may ensure that your product stays fresh longer, and freshness is probably something that is very important to your customer. Your positioning must leverage your product's competitive advantages while honing in on what is important to your customers.

Another important guideline to remember when developing a communications strategy to promote your product’s positioning is that the consumer is not stupid – if your car is not the fastest to accelerate from zero to sixty, don’t say it is. Your work should always be honest and ethical – your company’s most valuable asset is its reputation, and if consumers feel you are broadcasting deceiving messages, they will quickly migrate to competing brands as your reputation falters. While many marketing campaigns are short-term, you must maintain a long-term focus and not sacrifice the future for the present.

ragingacademic


Feel like getting into the nitty gritty of positioning?

Try the following books:

Ries, Al, and Jack Trout. Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind. New York: McGraw Hill, 1981.

Porter, Michael E. “Chapter 4 - Differentiation.” Competitive Advantage. New York: The Free Press, 1985.


References

Engell, James F., and Roger D. Blackwell. Consumer Behavior. Chicago: The Dryden Press, 1982.

Kotler, Philip. Marketing Management - The Millennium Edition. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2000.

Ries, Al, and Jack Trout. Positioning: The Battle For Your Mind. New York: McGraw Hill, 1981.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Genius of Superbowl Marketing

For several years now I've been tracking the genius of Superbowl marketing with my students. Here are some of the interesting sites and notes I've collected over time...

Tracking and voting on Superbowl commercials has become more fun than watching the game itself...

For the best coverage of Superbowl ads head over to Superbowl-ads.com

If you're looking for a reliable archive, iFilm has Superbowl Ads from 2002 to 2007; lots of other great features here such as Superbowl Classics as well as Banned Ads.

Most of us have fun with those ads, but some of us are downright critical...the New York Times thought this year (2007's) batch was too violent...

Experts never shy away from expressing their opinions on anything and everything, and Superbowl ads are no different. Here are some expert opinions on Superbowl ads then -

For the 2007 batch -

Businessweek's take on what the blogosphere has to say about the ads...

For 2006 ads:

Slate's take. (also links to commentary on 2004/2005 ads)

For 2003 ads:

Some more dribble from Businessweek.

And let's take a look at some of those top 10 lists -

Raw Prawn

MSNBC

(actually, those are the only two worthwhile listing here for you all)

btw, it's no longer just the Superbowl that's big business, hosting the superbowl has become a big business in and of itself.

Found some good Superbowl ad material? leave a comment.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Segmentation, Differentiation and Positioning (Part 2 of a Series)

Differentiation



Differences between product offerings can be quite subtle. Some products grow to become so similar over time that the only differences between them remain differences that can be attributed to the marketing process – as an example, consider cake mixes. In fact, imagine that you are shopping for a specific cake mix, such as Devil’s Food Cake.

In a typical supermarket, you will find between two and four types of this cake mix: Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, possibly Pillsbury and maybe a store brand or some other generic type of cake mix. How different can these cake mixes be? The consumer in this case will consider differentiation mainly among only two variables – brand and price. A cost-conscious consumer will opt for the cheapest alternative, while a more brand-loyal customer will select his favorite brand. But in every other way, such products are virtually identical.

Such a scenario is typical of mature products. Over the lifecycle of a product, competitors will continuously borrow the best features from competing products, so that after many years it becomes difficult to differentiate between products marketed by different companies. Brand and pricing become paramount to the continued success of such products.

Additional examples of such mature products that are difficult to differentiate include personal computers (how is a Dell laptop different from one marketed by HP?), ibuprofen (Is Advil more effective than Motrin?), and light bulbs (Is a 100 watt Sylvania any brighter than a 100 watt GE??) But when one considers introducing a new product to market, one seeks to develop a product in such a way that it will be superior to existing products – this superiority, resulting from differences in the new product, is what will create the motivation among consumers to try the new product (in combination with pricing, promotions and distribution, of course!).

While brand in and of itself can become a differentiator over time, trying to introduce a product to market based on brand-differentiation alone can be a risky proposition, as so many dot.com companies discovered during the dot.com boom and subsequent bust from 1998 through 2002. Branding is NOT a communications exercise...

What, then, is differentiation? Differentiation is simply the degree to which one product is different from other products in its category. For such differences to stand out, they must be meaningful. Differentiation can be achieved along five different dimensions – product, services, personnel, change or image. Within each of these dimensions, there are many variables one can use to differentiate their product. For example, along the product dimension, a product may be differentiated based on features, performance, durability, quality, reliability or style. Along the image dimension, products may be differentiated based on packaging, ambiance, graphics and symbols. A properly differentiated product clearly stands apart from its competitors.

The next segment of this series will explore the art and science of positioning.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Superbowl Sunday - Some Pointers

It's Superbowl Sunday - but I'll bet there's quite a bit about the Superbowl you have not run across...

Start with the basics - the Official Superbowl Site at http://www.superbowl.com/

Oh, and who's playing who? Why, it's the Colts up against Da Bears...

But, looks like...The Party's Over

Did you know that the NFL has been throwing its weight around to discourage big screen parties?? Apparently, mass viewings of the game violate copyright law...

Well, how about turning off those lights??

Officials in Nashville, Indiana, told fans to turn off the blue lights; yup, looks like these fans were in violation of some silly city ordinance...

Superbowl Myths and Truths

For some SUPERbowl myths, check out Snopes

And if you feel like busting some Superbowl legends, try this on for size.

Sick of the Superbowl?

Did you know there's a Superbowl flu making the rounds?

Worse yet, some academics who have WAY too much time on their hands have proven that watching the Superbowl increases your chance of becoming involved in an accident...

Superbowl Strategy? Fat that...

Finally, looks like the NFL has finally figured out that, no, bigger isn't always better - especially when big comes along with bloated, slow, and, well, downright dumb... The average weight of 20 teams has declined over the past year! And the weight of the average player has dropped by a full pound. More interesting still - the two teams playing in the Superbowl are the lightest teams in the league!!

Hey, told you some of this is going to be random.
Up next - Superbowl marketing (we do have to get back to biz... :-)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Segmentation, Differentiation and Positioning (Part I of a Series)

Today I am beginning a new series of articles on segmentation, differentiation and positioning (SD&P). SD&P form the foundations of any successful marketing campaign, program, strategy and/or plan - and therefore a basic understanding of these concepts is essential. The first of this multi-part series is on the topic of segmentation.

Segmentation and the Selection of Target Markets

Few are the products that are relevant to the entire world. Familiar examples include products such as Coca Cola, McDonalds' hamburgers, and Tylenol. Most marketers, therefore, have to think through the process of market segmentation - in reality, even marketers at a company such as Coca Cola need to segment their market in order to optimize the effectiveness of their efforts; marketing Coca Cola to teenagers is very different from marketing the soft drink to a mature audience.

I like to differentiate between two different types of segmentation. One is the top-down method - in technology, this is also known as the "Ivory Tower" method. When practicing top-down segmentation, a marketer generally has a product in mind - it may be an existing product, or just a concept for a product - and his task is to fit the product to a segment of the market. It is exemplified by companies such as SAP (the giant German software company) - they gather a bunch of very smart people, develop a software product that they believe will allow certain segments of the market to manage their businesses better, and then try to sell the product into those segments. While this is the classical marketing approach, it is reminiscent of the egotistical approach to marketing - it is driven by a sales person's methodology - "Who can I sell this to?". Such a segmentation analysis always begins with the mass market and proceeds in a top-down fashion. The marketer, who is familiar with the product or service's attributes, tries to find the best mapping between these attributes and the requirements or desires of a specific segment of the market. This segment is most likely to purchase your product, and you should maximize the effectiveness of your marketing program by directing most (or all) of your resources towards this segment.

The second type of segmentation is the bottom-up method. This method is the way many entrepreneurs go about their business. Typically, the entrepreneur becomes familiar with the needs of a specific market segment - for example, small and medium medical industry distributors. He then applies his expertise (which is, hopefully, somewhat relevant!! :-) to creating a solution for that market segment based on the real needs of his potential customers. Among small and medium medical supply distributors, for example, the management of the supply chain is a complicated and inefficient process - it could be significantly improved by facilitating supply chain processes through the use of automated software systems. The entrepreneur would then develop a solution while working closely with his potential future customers to ensure a good fit between the attributes and benefits of his product - and his segment's needs. This is how we went about developing our private business network systems at Veranto, for example.

Often, an entrepreneur is not familiar with a specific segment, but will search for a segment that has a set of unmet needs to which he believes he can apply his expertise.

Top-down segmentation, then, typically begins with a product or service and seeks to find the best set of potential customers to which that product or service may be sold. Bottom-up segmentation begins with the selection of a segment that has some unmet need, then proceeds through the product development process in an empathetic fashion.

The segmentation process itself is typically either purely quantitative, or it can be a combination of quantitative and qualitative processes. As a reminder, quantitative data is of a numerical character - e.g. a person's level of income, the number of times a month he does something, etc. Qualitative data is typically more descriptive - a person's favorite color, what he likes about a product, or how he cooks his eggs. Note that almost any qualitative data can be transformed into a quantitative form for the purpose of analysis. You are surely familiar with questions that ask you how much you like a product on a scale of X to Y (called a Likert scale, btw - more on that in a future note on market research). But more complex attributes can be converted to numbers by various systems of mapping and indexing.

A quantitative process can vary from simple data collection techniques in tandem with descriptive characteristic analysis (min/max, average, standard deviation etc.) and bar graphs, to complex statistical methods such as factor and cluster analysis, which are outside the scope of this course and are examined in more advanced graduate marketing classes (if you are interested in exploring further I can point you to some good resources). More typically, however, one will find that the segmentation process in most organizations is based on a methodological research process that combines both quantitative and qualitative elements. A marketer may begin with the collection of data along some dimension (for example, demographic or geographic) and apply simple statistical techniques to divide the sample into segments (e.g. by age group or by region). The marketer will then proceed to map various quantitative and qualitative characteristics to the various segments. Next, he or she will attempt to find the best fit between the characteristics of the various segments and the attributes of the target product or service. The segment - or segments - that provide the best fit are those selected as targets. From here, the marketer will proceed with more in-depth primary research, target markets, etc.

In my next note I will tackle the challenge of differentiation.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

No Satisfaction at Toyota

Excellent Fast Company article about continuous process improvement at Toyota's Georgetown plant.

http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/111/open_no-satisfaction.html

Here's a big insight - the Big 3 are not losing the car wars to foreign made cars - fully 60% of Toyotas sold in the US are MADE in the US!!

There's a lot to learn from Toyota's manufacturing processes, and especially from the way they constantly pursue small incremental changes at every level of production.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Egotistic vs. Empathetic Marketing

There are two major approaches to marketing.

One is egotistic, while the other is empathetic.

The egotistic approach is focused mostly on selling – I have a product, and I’m going to convince you that you need it; I may not care whether you really need it or not, but by God I’m going to sell it to you – and I’m going to sell it to you at a profit.

The empathetic approach is focused on classic marketing concepts – understand the needs of the customer, and deliver a product that fits those needs along the four dimensions of the "4 P's" (Product, Price, Promotions, Place).

As a marketer, if you’ve properly completed your prework (market research and product development), taken the necessary steps to make the customer aware of your product (promotions and communications), and placed and priced your product in a way that enables him to purchase it with reasonable convenience (pricing and distribution) – there will be little need for selling; instead, there’ll be buying.

This delineation can be compared to the push/pull marketing paradigm; egotistic is mostly push, while empathetic is mostly pull. Egotistic marketing may be effective over the short term, but those of you hoping to capitalize on the success of your business in the long term will be better off adopting an empathetic approach.

ragingacademic

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

New Search Resources

Came across some new (to me) search resources that I wanted to share with you all -

Search Engine Journal
http://www.searchenginejournal.com/

Search Engine Radio
http://www.seoradio.com/

John Battelle's Searchblog
http://battellemedia.com/

ragingacademic

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

New Search Efforts from the "Big" Guys

A great little article in WSJ ("In Search of...Better Ways to Search," Vascellaro, Jan 17 2007) has turned me on to some intriguing new search efforts from the "masters" of search at Google, Yahoo, and Ask!

Google's new effort is called searchmash - the key here seems to be integrated search, you get everything on a single page including the usual text results plus images, videos, blog results, and most are viewable right from the search page.

Yahoo is using recently (ok, not so...) acquired AlltheWeb and AltaVista to test out various search technologies it probably does not want to run the risk of putting out on the major branded search page just yet. Both include interesting audio search capabilities that are worth playing around with.

The former "Ask Jeeves," now just Ask! is fooling around with some new technologies as well on Ask X. Is "Ask" a strange word, or is it just me?

Jimbo Wales, one of the folks behind Wikipedia, has embarked on search.wiki.com, which is touted as a "wiki inspired search engine" (...I'm not sure I know what that means yet...) - this is a freshman effort that you can join and help create, in an open source fashion.

Leave it to Microshloft to do something strange - If you can't join them, beat them?? Take a gander at Ms. Dewey...uh, Bill, this baby ain't going nowhere fast...

With a WSJ Online subscription, you can read the whole thing here.

Rage on.

Monday, January 15, 2007

The Four Phases of Marketing

I like to divide the art and science of marketing into four major phases -
1) Planning
2) Execution
3) Measurement
4) Control

1) Planning During the planning phase, marketers conduct research, immerse themselves in the market and the product, and prepare for the product launch. This phase includes such activities as test markets, production of collateral and promotional materials, and design of the product and requisite manufacturing facilities or processes as necessary. The culmination of this phase from the marketer's perspective is with the production of a full-blown marketing plan.

2) Execution Following the planning phase, marketers lead their company in executing the plan, launching the product to market and putting all of the elements of the plan into action.

3) Measurement Once the product is on the market, marketers collect data, conduct primary research (e.g. surveys and focus groups) and try to assess the success of their product launch using a variety of methodologies.

4) Control Finally, during the control phase marketers fine-tune their strategy, manipulating pricing, packaging and distribution, for example, or launching new promotional campaigns. The control phase may also include product repositioning, if the product's initial positioning is found to be ineffective or unsatisfactory.

(...to be continued...)

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Search Strategies for the Web and Databases - Part IV

A Brief Introduction to Boolean Search Strategies

The following tips should help improve your search capabilities several-fold, and you can use them on almost all Web and database search engines (e.g. databases available through academic and public libraries such as Proquest and ABI/Inform etc. - typically you can gain access to some of these types of resources from your home PC through a simple Internet connection) - the good news, however, is that if an engine doesn't support these options - it'll just ignore them.

1) Use quotes to specify terms - if you want to search for material about online marketing, for example, search for
"online marketing" (with the quotes)
rather than just -
online marketing (note - without the quotes).

The quotes will guarantee that the engine only returns pages where "online marketing" appears as a phrase, rather than returning every page on the Web or in the database where both "online" and "marketing" happen to appear.

2) Use "And" to further focus your search - for example, say you were only interested in "online marketing" of books - your search should look as follows -

"online marketing" and books

This kind of search will only return sites that include the term "online marketing" and also the word "books"

3) Use "Or" if you're trying to limit a search, as above, but would like to try a few different options - for example, perhaps you're searching for material on wine but don't care if it's red or white - try searching on the following combination -

"white wine" or "red wine"

This type of a search will return any page where either "white wine" or "red wine" can be found

4) Use parentheses to organize and combine searches. Let's return to the "online marketing" searches - say you're interested in online marketing of various types of media. Media can include books, CDs, videos and DVDs (among many other formats). You could structure a search as follows -

"online marketing" and (books or CDs or videos or DVDs)

The parentheses help ensure that your search is executed in the order you would like it to be - just like one would use parentheses in a mathematical calculation if you wanted to ensure that addition is completed prior to multiplication etc.

5) Use a negative sign "-" to exclude sites that include specific words or phrases - suppose for the above search you notice that most of the results in the first few pages are coming from McGraw Hill's site, but you want to get to results from other sites - run the search again, as follows -

"online marketing" and (books or CDs or videos or DVDs) -www.mcgrawhill.com

...and - voila - you should only receive search results that exclude pages from McGraw Hill's site.

In summary...

Search strategies can get a lot more intricate and complicated than the little that we've covered here. But - you've got to start somewhere. Typically successful searches will require some degree of iteration. Stay tuned to this space for more elaborate advice about successful search in the near future - and please don't hesitate to ask for clarifications, and to offer your own hints and tips, by responding to this post.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Search Strategies for the Web and Databases - Part III

Keeping on top of new developments in the search space

Basically, one Web site, and one newsletter, started by Danny Sullivan, the guru of search, more than ten years ago - should suffice to keep you on top of the search space. The newsletter link will lead you to a page where you can sign up for Search Engine Watch's paid service - or just for the free service. The value-add vs. the free version is not incredibly substantial for those of you not following the space profesionally; analysts etc. will definitely want to for-fee newsletter. There is also a Search Engine Watch blog, of course...

Danny himself has gone on to start Search Engine Land - destined to be a terrific search resource as well, I'm sure. I've been following Danny since back when I was Director of Marketing for Data Research Associates (DRA, acquired by SIRSI spring 2001 - now SirsiDynix), so I should know :-)

Google has its own blog where you can check out what the search behemoth is up to. If you look down the rightside column of GoogleBlog you will see a long list of other Google blogs, as well as a list of blogs and newsletters the Google team finds to be useful.

Google Labs is another wonderful source for new and exciting developments - check it out to see what may become actual product a few months or years hence.

Not to be outdone, Yahoo! has developed its own labs site.

If you would like to recommend any other great search sites, write me! (by posting a comment to this note)
Ragingacademic

Sunday, December 31, 2006

My "alter ego..." - ragingacademic-ga

Several years ago (four?) Google, for some time now owner of this here forum, had set up a wonderful service called Google Answers, a pet project initiated by one of Google's two co-founders, Larry Page.

I did a bit of work for Google Answers, mostly in the early days of the service, and you can view the collection of responses I had worked on at http://answers.google.com/answers/ratings?user=59550847105







P.S. Google Answers is now sadly defunct. Some ex-researchers have been toiling to set up a new and improved service.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saving Mother Earth...NOT...

Just back from a wonderful weekend in Tiberias spent at the Scots' Hotel...ran across another one of those facetious hotel notes that go something like..."...every day millions of towels are washed unnecessarily, causing tons of hazardous detergents to flow into our rivers and pollute our drinking water yadda yadda yadda..."

During a recent trip to Europe I was told that, unless specifically requested, my sheets would not be changed...for the same tree-hugging rationale of course...

Just how high does YOUR B-S-o`meter run, my hotelier friends???

If hotels are saving the earth - and not padding their own pockets at the earth's expense - shouldn't they be discounting all but the first night's stay to account for their reduced expenses???

Looks like I'm not the first to have thought of that though, duh...

Search Strategies for the Web and Databases - Part II

A brief guide to the best search engines and directories available on the Web
(best option in each category designated with an asterisk)

Best Search Engines
Alltheweb - http://www.alltheweb.com/ (powered by Fast!, doing a good job competing with Google)
Altavista - http://www.altavista.com/ (used to be the top engine until Google launched...)
* Google - http://www.google.com/

Best Directories
Open Directory Project - http://www.dmoz.org/ (an "open source" type initiative, getting better every day...)
Looksmart - http://www.looksmart.com/ (also improving, but too much here is implicitly sponsored...)
* Yahoo! - http://www.yahoo.com/

Meta-search Engines
Meta-search engines search several engines in parallel, and return a collation of results.
If the search engines above fail you, this can be a good next-best option.

Metacrawler - http://www.metacrawler.com/ (I think this is the first of the meta-type engines; used to be the best)
* Profusion - http://www.profusion.com/CatNav.asp?ID=1&AGTID=1&queryterm= (use this link)
Dogpile - http://www.dogpile.com/
** SearchEngine base - http://www.searchenginebase.com/

Directory to Web Sites
From Yahoo... http://dir.yahoo.com/Computers_and_Internet/Internet/World_Wide_Web/Searching_the_Web/Search_Engines_and_Directories/

Reference Sites (where librarians go to find answers to the really tough questions...)
LibrarySpot - http://www.libraryspot.com/
RefDesk.com - www.refdesk.com
Librarians' Index to the Internet - http://www.lii.org/

Note - list soon to be updated...

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Search Strategies for the Web and Databases Part I

Search Strategies for the Web and Databases - Part I

In the next few days I'll be posting, in parts, an edited version of a guide I had been providing my students with since 2002. In this first part I'll try and give you a taste for the type and logic of search resources available to you through the Web. The second part will provide lists of what I perceive to be the best search engines and directories available. The third installment will include tips on how to keep abreast of new developments in the search and research space. The fourth and last installment will include a short tutorial on Boolean searching.

So - What kind of search resources are available on the Web?

Asked to name a search engine, most people would likely come up with either Yahoo! or Google. But Yahoo! and Google are as different from each other as night and day... Yahoo! is a directory - typically, directories work by cataloging entries that Web site owners and other interested parties submit. Therefore, if you don't submit your Web site to a given directory, you don't exist in that directory. But in the case of Yahoo!, even if you do submit your site, you may not appear in their directory... Why? A number of reasons. Yahoo! has cut back significantly on manpower in its directory department, and has built up a several months-long backlog (if not longer...), so they may just about be getting around to approving and cataloging sites submitted mid-year (if that). Some sites, Yahoo! librarians won't approve - or they won't approve them for the classifications for which they were submitted. And, Yahoo! has gotten into the nasty habit of trying to charge everyone for everything that they once happily provided for free (because they used to earn umpteen-hundred million dollars a quarter from Web-vertising! For an interesting perspective on Yahoo's new attitude, see for example Fast Company - http://www.fastcompany.com/online/60/jellis.html).

Google, on the other hand, is a true search engine. To appear in a search engine's results, you don't have to submit your site - in fact, in many instances, you can't. Rather, you need to structure your site in a way that will make it easy for search engine "spiders" and "crawlers" to find you. Spiders and crawlers are softbots (for software robots...) which "live" on the Web and constantly search and traverse Web sites, continuously feeding their "owners" (the search engine companies, typically...) with data. In order to ensure that such softbots find your site, you can employ many different strategies, beginning with well-defined and well-targeted "meta tags" in your html source code. An entire industry has sprung up around the very idea of developing strategies that will improve the chances such engines will find you - and that when individuals go to search for something relevant to you, your site will appear among the very top hits.

Search engines use various algorithms to index the Web - Google uses an algorithm called PageRank (after one of the company's co-founders, Larry Page) - but most engines index only a fraction of it; by some estimates, more than 70% of the Web is never returned in a search, meaning that effectively, unless you know of a specific site or page and go there directly - you'll probably never come across it. Google indexes more of the Web than any other search engine, and indexes it in a more efficient manner, which is why you are guaranteed to get results back lightnin' fast.

To summarize this section, then - there are basically two types of search resources on the Web - search engines and directories. Engines are better when you have less of an idea of what it is you are looking for, and vice versa. For example, if I am trying to locate the Web site for American Airlines, my best bet is probably to head over to Yahoo and search for "American Airlines" - Yahoo pulls the "American Airlines" category directly from its directory; click on it and you will be whisked off to a page that includes several links to "American Airlines" sites. But if I am looking for information about, say, "tropical birds" - I'm much better off heading over to Google - I'll get a much richer and more up-to-date result set. In other words, engines are good for a subject or concept search, while directories work better for "object" searches (company, person, product and so forth).