Thursday, January 31, 2008

comScore Releases 2007 U.S. Internet Year in Review

Google and Facebook among Biggest Winners in 2007

RESTON, VA, January 30, 2008 – comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, today released a report highlighting the major trends in U.S. Internet activity in 2007, including top gaining properties and site categories, and core search market growth. The biggest winners in 2007 featured some of the top Internet brands, including Google, Facebook, Wikipedia and Craigslist.

Top-Gaining Properties in 2007

A study of the growth in visitors among the top 100 U.S. Internet properties revealed that 2007 was a strong year for several of the largest properties. Social networking giant reaped the benefits of opening registration to all users, jumping 81 percent versus December 2006 to 34.7 million visitors in December 2007. Wikipedia Sites gained 34 percent to reach nearly 52 million visitors, continuing its reign as the Web’s most popular reference hub. Leading classified site jumped 74 percent to 24.5 million visitors, while AT&T grew 27 percent to 30.2 million visitors boosted by its exclusive deal with Apple as carrier for the iPhone. Yellow Book Network jumped an impressive 137-percent to 10.4 million visitors

Several of the top-gaining properties were driven by the acquisition of Web entities including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Everyday Health gained 349 percent driven by its acquisition of several web sites and the addition of to their network.
  • Women’s category leader, Glam Media, grew 213 percent during the year, due in large part to the addition of several new entities, including Quality Health Network,, and, among others.
  • Yellow Book Network grew 137-percent to 10.4 million visitors, as visitation to Sites tripled (up 207 percent to 4.6 million visitors) and one new entity was added to the property.
  • The Women’s Network gained 27 percent with the addition of Sugar Publishing,, and, among others.
  • Demand Media added numerous entities under its Demand Media Knowledge and Demand Media Games media titles, which contributed to its 149-percent growth.
  • OfficeMax’s dramatic 199-percent gain was driven primarily by a December 2007 surge in visitation to its popular viral holiday greetings site

comScore Top 20 Gaining Properties by Percentage Change in Unique Visitors* (U.S.)

December 2007 vs. December 2006

Total U.S. Home, Work and University Internet Users

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Total Unique Visitors (000)



% Change

Total U.S. Internet Audience




Everyday Health




Glam Media








Demand Media




Yellow Book Network




ValueClick Sites







WorldNow – ABC Owned Sites







Experian Interactive



55 Network




AmericanGreetings Property




Comcast Corporation








The Mozilla Organization



39 Sites




Wikipedia Sites



34 The Womens Network




AT&T, Inc.




Internet Broadcasting Systems




*Ranking based on the top 100 properties in December 2007.

Top-Gaining Site Categories in 2007

The top-gaining site categories in 2007 reflected trends in both the online and offline worlds. The politics category grabbed the top position, gaining 35 percent, as the 2008 presidential election and primary season kicked into high gear. Women’s community sites also jumped 35 percent, as the top two properties in the category, Glam Media and, saw strong growth. With the ever-increasing coverage of celebrity news, from Britney Spears’ meltdowns to Anna Nicole Smith’s death, entertainment news sites jumped 32 percent. Online classifieds had a strong 2007 growing 31 percent versus year ago, as it continued to impinge on traditional news media’s classified revenues.

comScore Top 10 Gaining Categories by Percentage Change in Unique Visitors (U.S.)

December 2007 vs. December 2006

Total U.S. Home, Work and University Internet Users

Source: comScore Media Metrix

Total Unique Visitors (000)



% Change

Total U.S. Internet Audience








Community - Women




Entertainment - News








Career – Training and Education








Retail – Consumer Goods




Finance – News/Research












Core Search Query Growth in 2007

In 2007, searches at the five major core search engines increased 15 percent to 9.6 billion searches. Google Sites led with 5.6 billion searches in December 2007, up more than 30 percent from the previous year. Yahoo! Sites ranked second with 2.2 billion searches, followed by Microsoft Sites (940 million), Time Warner Network (442 million), and Ask Network (415 million).

comScore Core Search Report*
December 2007 vs. December 2006
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore qSearch 2.0

Core Search Entity

Search Queries (MM)



Percent Change Dec-07 vs. Dec-06

Total Core Search




Google Sites




Yahoo! Sites




Microsoft Sites




Time Warner Network




Ask Network




* Based on the five major search engines including partner searches and cross-channel searches. Searches for mapping, local directory, and user-generated video sites that are not on the core domain of the five search engines are not included in the core search numbers.

More than 113 billion core searches were conducted in the U.S. during all of 2007, with Google Sites accounting for nearly 64 billion, representing a 56 percent share of the market.


The Basics of Building an Online Business

8 tried and true steps for attracting visitors to your site--and getting them to buy

As an Internet marketing guide, a lot of people ask me how to start and grow an online business. I tell them this: There's a proven sequence of steps you can follow to guarantee your success. How do I know? I've seen thousands of people start and grow online businesses following the same exact process.

Step 1: Find a need and fill it.

Most marketers make the mistake of finding a product before they have a market. But unless people are actively searching for your product online, you'll never make a sale. The trick is to find a group of people with a common problem they're trying to solve and then solve it.

Thankfully, the Internet makes market research easy. Here are some easy steps for researching your market:

  • Visit online forums to see what questions people ask and what problems they're trying to solve.
  • Figure out which keywords a lot of people are searching but not many sites are competing for.
  • Check out your potential competitors by visiting their sites and taking note of what they're doing to fill demand.

After you've done this, use what you've learned to create a product for a market that already exists -- and do it better than your competitors.

Step 2: Write sales copy that sells.

On a Web site, your copy has to do the selling for you. There's a proven formula for writing sales copy that will take visitors through the selling process from the moment they arrive:

  • Arouse interest with a compelling headline.
  • Describe the problem your product can solve.
  • Show them why you can be trusted to solve the problem.
  • Add testimonials from people who've used the product.
  • Talk about the product and how it benefits the user.
  • Make an offer or a guarantee.
  • Create urgency.
  • Ask for the sale.

Throughout your sales copy, focus on how your product or service is uniquely able solve people's problems or make their lives better. Think like a customer and ask, what's in it for me?

Step 3: Design and build your Web site.

Once you've got your market and product and you've nailed down your selling process, you're ready to build your site. Remember to keep it simple. Your Web site is your online storefront, so be sure to make it customer friendly. You have less than 10 seconds to grab a visitor's attention before they're gone. Some important tips to keep in mind:

  • Use a plain, sans-serif font, like Arial, on a white background.
  • Make your navigation clear and simple and keep it consistent throughout your site.
  • Only use graphics, audio, or video if they enhance your message.
  • Include an opt-in offer so you can collect e-mail addresses.

Step 4: Use search engines to drive targeted buyers to your site.

How do you get traffic to a brand-new site? Pay-per-click advertising, which has two advantages:

  • The ads show up on search pages immediately.
  • They allow you to test different keywords, headlines, prices, and selling approaches.

Not only do you get traffic immediately, but once you've figured out what keywords are working best, you can use them throughout your copy and code, which will help your rankings in organic search results.

Step 5: Establish an expert reputation for yourself to drive even more traffic to your site.

People use the Internet to find information. If you provide valuable information for other sites to use -- and include a link back to your site -- you'll get more traffic and better search engine rankings. Some ideas for establishing yourself as an expert include:

  • Give away free content, such as articles, videos, or other useful information, and distribute that content through online article directories and social media sites.
  • Include "send to a friend" links on your site's valuable content.
  • Become an active expert in industry forums and social networking sites where your target market hangs out.

If you use these tactics, you'll reach new readers. But even better, every site that posts your content will link back to yours, and search engines love links from relevant sites and will reward you in the rankings accordingly.

Step 6: Use the power of e-mail marketing to keep in touch with your visitors and turn them into buyers.

When you build an opt-in list, you're creating one of the most valuable assets your online business can have -- permission to send visitors e-mail. Why is e-mail marketing so valuable?

  • You're giving potential customers something they've asked for.
  • You're developing lifetime relationships with people in your target market.
  • The response is 100% measurable.
  • It's cheaper and more effective than print, TV, or radio advertising because it's highly targeted.
  • It can be almost entirely automated.

Anyone who visits your site and opts in to your list is a very hot lead. And there's no better tool than e-mail to let you effortlessly follow up with those leads.

Step 7: Increase your income through back-end sales and upselling.

One of the most important Internet marketing guidelines is to develop every customer's lifetime value. At least 36% of people who have purchased from you once will buy from you again if you follow up with them. Closing the first sale with a customer is by far your most difficult task, not to mention your most expensive one. So here's how to get them to buy again:

  • Offer products that complement their original purchase.
  • Send out electronic loyalty coupons they can redeem on their next visit.
  • Offer related products on your "thank you" page.

If you reward customers for being loyal, they'll become even more loyal to you in return.

Step 8: Start an affiliate program to maximize your sales and revenue.

Once your business is up and running, it's time to launch your affiliate program. Affiliates are people who promote your products on their sites for a cut of the selling price. Every time they send you a buyer, you pay them a commission.

An affiliate program is a simple, low-maintenance way to grow your business. Once you get your program set up, all you have to do is share your marketing materials with your affiliates and send out checks when they make sales.

By doing this, you don't have to go out and spend money on advertising -- your affiliates do the advertising for you. Better yet, you only pay them when they make a sale.

The Internet changes quickly, but the principles of how to start and grow a successful online business have changed very slowly in the more than 10 years I've been in the business.

If you're just starting out, stick to the sequence of steps in this quick guide. If you've been online awhile, do a quick review and see if there's a step you've been neglecting or never got around to doing in the first place. You can't go wrong with the basics.


10 Search Engines You Don't Know About

Go beyond Google and get vertical. These specialized search sites will help you find the business information you need -- fast

We've got some big news for you. Brace yourself. There are search options beyond Google -- and we're not talking about Yahoo! and MSN. Vertical search is on the rise, and whether you're looking for business products, services or information, or a new place to advertise, vertical search sites can benefit your company. Market research firm Outsell predicts that the vertical search market will reach $1 billion by 2009. While Google gets around 65 percent of search traffic today, it doesn't mean it's always the best place for your search.

"When we speak about an alternative search engine, we're speaking about something that's extremely industry-specific, very niche," says Jason Prescott, the owner of vertical search engine "It's pin-pointing, accurate and only going to be for that topic you're searching for, [rather than] having to scour through the billions of search results you'll get on a mainstream, tier-one search engine."

The same logic applies when determining where to spend your search engine marketing dollars. If you sell a general consumer product, Google may be your best bet. But if you're looking for highly targeted business purchasers, it may be wise to go vertical. "[You get] a much more relevant user, a much higher conversion and a much better return on your investment," says Prescott. "User traffic might be a little less, but the visitor is highly more qualified."

Here are 10 vertical search engines we've identified as useful to any business owner. Be sure to research your own industry, however, for more specific verticals that can hone your searches or boost your advertising ROI for business customers.

  • One of the biggest hurdles for new retailers is finding wholesale merchandise to sell. Prescott aims to place all those product sellers in one place so that when you search for shoes, you receive wholesale results, not The site also offers news, a blog, directory listings, forums and classifieds, fulfilling Prescott's goal to create not just a wholesale search site, but a wholesale portal.
  • ThomasRegister has been a leader in the business information field for more than 100 years, and is the place to go if you're in the market for industrial and manufacturing goods and services. This robust site allows you to search by product/service, company name, brand name, industrial websites or CAD models. You can narrow your search by U.S. state or Canadian province. Browse by category, download 2D and 3D CAD models of mechanical parts, and even download a search plug-in for your Firefox browser.
  • Both and serve the same primary functions: They allow users to search for attorneys by location and specialty. But FindLaw has an easier-to-use interface, making its extra information quicker to find, such as the free form examples, free full-text books and legal dictionary. Both have general search functionality, message boards and blogs, but again wins us over with its small business section.
  • The government has a labyrinthine web of sites, and if you're looking for information, it's easy to get lost. This all-things-U.S.-government portal/search engine has a tab specifically for businesses and nonprofits, and you can browse by topic. By far, the most helpful area in the business tab is Get It Done Online, an area with links to business necessities that, yes, you can take care of online.
  • Rather than offering a plain vanilla directory or just one basic search bar, provides several tech-oriented search options. This includes product and service categories (enterprise networking, open source, product development) or industry solutions (government, SMB, financial markets). The interface takes non-tech folks into consideration as well; each search choice has a roll-over with an explanation of the terminology. In the main search bar, you can choose to search for news, companies, white papers or webcasts.
  • Reed Business is one of the leading vertical publishers with more than 200 business titles. is the company's new online venture, a vertical search service for business that offers not only websites and blogs in the results, but also Reed Business content. This site has a strong UK bent to its information, but it's one to keep an eye on because of its strong news element along with the typical search results and directory listings.
  • VerticalSearch gets super meta as a vertical search engine for vertical sites. The homepage offers pre-determined categories, but you also can choose your own keywords. Results pages offer feeds of headlines and research papers, and you can choose to pull an RSS feed from any search that you choose.
  • This site bills itself as the "search engine for financial executives," making it quite the portal for corporate finance. While search is front-and-center, there are a ton of browsing options: blogs, podcasts, events, webcasts, magazines and alerts. Search results are particularly impressive. Directory matches pop up first, but you can also scroll over the results sources for more information on a particular company and choose to remove any "commercial" sources from your results.
  • Yahoo! Local: This site is the most consumer-oriented of the bunch, but a recent redesign with a focus on vertical categories makes it worth a look. Yahoo! Local has broken out of the restaurants-and-nightclubs city guide mold to offer a number of business categories like health and beauty, automotive, and real estate--useful information whether you're looking for professional service vendors in your neighborhood, a new bistro to take a client to, or a local advertising solution for your business.
  • Melissa Data: This is a slight fudge on our part as this site is more of a new customer enticement for data service provider Melissa Data than true vertical search, but there are so many free search options, it may become a favorite on your bookmarks. You can search for basic demographic and market data, maps and mailing information, statistics or specific data like SIC codes. There's a daily limit to your number of "lookups," so unless you subscribe, you'll have to curb your information appetite.


Tips for Google Mobile Search

Google's mobile search engine ( has a lot of features that aren't available in the regular desktop interface. Its latest interface was launched in March last year in the US and yesterday in the UK, France, Germany and Canada. The main change in Google's mobile interface is the integration between the web results, images, news and local results, which are displayed on a single pages, based on their relevance to the query. Here are some features specific to Google Mobile Search:

1. Information about sports: European football, NBA, NHL and more.

2. Optimized calculator that shows the results in a search box so you can use them for other calculations.

3. Weather conditions for airports

4. Since Google shows the transcoded version of search results, it can improve the way you access the web pages. If the results are very big, Google splits them in several pages and it can send you directly to the section that is the most relevant to your query.

5. The phonebook listings let you call people directly from search results, the same as Google's local search results:

6. Google promotes the site specifically designed for mobile phones and you can recognize them by looking for a small phone icon next to the snippet.

7. You can hide the images from search results by clicking on "Hide Images" at the bottom of the page. Google only shows thumbnails, which load faster and are more appropiate for small screens.

8. If you enter your location on the homepage, you won't have to add it to your queries. Since Google knows you're in Boston, you should only enter "weather", "movies", "book stores" etc. Google also saves your recent locations and they're accessible from a drop-down next to each group of local search results.

9. Google reformats the links to point to the transcoded versions so you can use Google Mobile Search as a bridge between your mobile browser and the web. You won't be able to access through Google Mobile Search secure web pages and some web pages lose their functionality as Google removes embedded objects, JavaScript code, tables etc. There's also a simple interface for Google's transcoder that lets you enter a URL.

10. If you have a mobile browser that is able to display web pages, you can disable Google's transcoder by going to Settings and deactivating "Format web pages for your phone". You can also go to the standard Google interface by selecting "View Google in... classic" at the bottom of Google's homepage.


Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The 19-Hour Website Analysis, in 20 Minutes or Less

Performing a complete website review is rarely easy. I’ve found that you can start a site analysis intending to spend just a few minutes looking over it only to find that it quickly spirals into a multi-hour marathon of research. Complete website reviews can be time consuming and often produce many more hours of work beyond that.

One of the problems is that people tend want to skip right to search engine optimization forgetting that users matter. Many people want to rush into the marketing without realizing that the website itself is part of the marketing process. This is a shame.

Investing in SEO and PPC marketing, without having performed a thorough analysis of your website is largely an exercise in vain (and yes, even new websites often need a usability analysis!) You don’t have to have a perfectly usable site in order to rank well in search engines, but it is increasingly difficult to rank a site without a strong usability focus, unless you’re in a very niche industry. And even if you do rank well, without good usability you’re losing more customers than you need or want to be losing.

Where do you start in performing a usability review?

One of the hurdles many people have in performing a usability review of their own site is that they don’t know where to start. Over the past several months I’ve written a number of posts outlining various usability and website architectural elements that should be a part of any detailed review process. But going through each of those can take many hours.

Being able to do a quick-scan through a site can be a very handy skill. It will help you uncover some glaring issues without having to invest hours upon hours of time all at once. After you have performed your quick scan and have fixed the bigger issues, you then have an opportunity to go back and perform a more thorough analysis.

Here is what you need to know in order to do a quickie usability review. I’ve also provided links to my previous posts that provide you with a lot more detail and will help you perform a more thorough analysis as time permits.

19 steps for a quickie usability review

Website navigation

Site wide navigation, including top, bottom and side navigation, should be as user-friendly as possible, ensuring that your visitors find what they expect when they click a navigation link. Check to make sure your navigation shows a logical flow of topics, subtopics and subject matter within the site and it enhances the users ability to find key information.


The content of your website is your #1 sales tool. Content weighs heavily both in terms of how users interact with your website as well as how visitors are able to determine what you offer and what each page of your website is about. Always write for your visitors. Give them the information they need in a way that spurs them to action.

Website Design

How the site is developed, along with the underlying coding structure, plays a significant role on whether your site meets the usability requirements of your audience. Check to make sure the overall design looks clean and doesn’t feel cluttered. Colors and fonts should be easy on the eyes and should enhance rather than distract from the visitors experience.

Home Page

Your home page is the single most crucial page of your site. It is essentially your store front. Your home page should identify your site and direct your visitors to the most important information, the information they are most likely coming to your site for. Keep it clean and focused and drive your visitors quickly to the sections that are more apt for selling.

About Us Page

Visitors that find their way to your About Us page tend to have a higher conversion rate than those that don’t. This is where the visitor gets to know you and your company. Make sure the page contains information on company history, biographies of managers and your mission statement.

Contact Us Page

The Contact Us page could be considered the absolutely most important page on your site. Even if the rest of your site succeeds in the goals, if visitors fail to find the information they need to contact you then you will bring their shopping experience to a screeching halt. Always have multiple contact options and be sure web forms are working properly. Having a phone number listed is also extremely important.

Product Pages

Product pages maintain considerable strategic importance for ecommerce websites. Your visitors enter your product pages not only with an intention to buy something (the most desired end action) but to also learn, research and compare what you have against a competitor. Your product pages must provide enough information to help you visitors make the best decision possible. Be sure that calls to action, such as “add to cart” are readily available along with relevant pricing and shipping info.

Shopping Cart

While shopping car abandonment cannot be completely eliminated, it can be dramatically reduced. It is a failure of the shopping cart page itself that leads visitors to abandon their items which they do, in fact, wish to have. Make sure your shopping cart navigation buttons (update cart, checkout, etc.) are easily found. If you have multiple steps in the check out process, outline those steps and be sure to answer any questions regarding security and shipping.

Forms and Errors

If your web forms don’t function properly or it’s difficult to correct information input errors then you can lose a lot of visitors from frustration alone. Be sure to make inputting data easy by labeling fields properly, keep required information to a minimum and make sure errors are easy to understand and correct.

On -Site Search

Implementing a search function improperly is often a greater source of frustration than not having one altogether. My rule of thumb is if you can’t deliver perfect results 80% of the time then you’re probably better off not having an on-site search. Pay attention to the location of the search bar, place it where it is typically expected, and test, test and test some more to ensure that the results are as expected. Misspell products and search for products you know you don’t carry just to make sure you can deliver relevant results for products you do carry.

Help and FAQ Pages

Building up your Help and FAQ pages can greatly enhance your visitor’s experience with your website, giving them much needed information and possibly saving them a phone call. Keep these pages focused on providing information that isn’t available anywhere else and make sure they are easy to find and easy to read.

Login and My Account Pages

Sites that require users to log in to access certain information and/or purchase products add an additional layer of potential complication to the usability process. Think carefully before requiring visitors to login. Do you really need that? If not, don’t force it. Be sure to provide the benefits of creating an account and link to pages that outline your security assurances.

Privacy and Security Issues

Your website’s privacy information and security settings can be significant hurdles when it comes to gaining trust with your visitors. Be sure you provide links to these pages where best suited and applicable. Be sure to provide as much information you can that gives assurances that their information is safe.

Site Maps

Site maps provide a dual purpose: They provide search engine spiders easy access to all of your site pages and they provide site visitors easy access to all of your site pages. The best advice is to make sure all your site map files stay current and are easy to find.

Audience Engagement

Customer engagement goes beyond just getting the customer’s attention, you must keep their attention. This can be done by providing your visitors near immediate gratification. Your content needs to get their attention, tell them what they need to purchase and link out to other important pages that can help them make the purchase decision.

Customer Satisfaction

Above all things you need to make sure your website provides strong customer satisfaction. You can do this by making sure information is easy to find, eliminate broken links and keep pages and images relatively small so they don’t take long to load.

Point of Purchase

Since the “purchase” is the ultimate conversion, it is imperative that you remove as many obstacles from the customer’s research-to-buy cycle as possible. Make sure your products are available or otherwise noted. Adding product reviews and up-sell opportunities can lend to increased sales.

Visitor Trust

Your ability to convince your visitors that yours is a trustworthy business is one of the key components to getting visitors to convert into customers. Always providing prompt and complete responses to visitor inquiries. It’s also valuable to provide, multiple delivery options, discounts and allow your customers to provide feedback.

General Issues

The selling process–from initial interest to the very last checkout page–must be able to grab shopper’s attention and proceed to drive them through to the finalization of the sale. In other words, once you have them, you don’t want to lose them. Keep your content organized and clutter-free, make sure the site looks good across the most popular browsers and make sure that you follow up after the sale.

Overall Accessibility

As more and more users gain access to the web, it becomes increasingly important to ensure that your website is accessible to all, not just a few. Be sure your website is constructed in a way that it is accessible to mobile phones, text based browsers and screen readers.

The one thing to understand about usability is that nothing is set in stone. You can go point by point of any usability guide and still get it wrong. You can overcome that by testing. Whenever a change is made test the results. Make sure it has the intended effect and you get the results you want. If it doesn’t help, change it back and try something else. Over time you’ll incrementally improve overall site usability and find conversion rates climbing as each successful change is implemented.