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'Net Briefs - January 2013

Posted on 12.13.2012

SPIFFED UP FOR SERPS

Google released a new universal layout of its search result page in early Nov. 2012. On the surface, the main difference between the new and old version is that the left navigation sidebar was moved to the top of the listings, but dig a bit deeper and there are quite a few substantial modifications now in play. These changes promise to shift how users discover and interact with the variety of indexed information at the Web’s most popular search engine. Users still have access to the search tools, which support modifying time and location, but the navigation bar now includes — by default — changes dynamically based on the query. Users of the search engine will have more immediate access to Shopping, Books, Applications and more.

CLOUDY IN CHINA

China is hungry for a public cloud, and Microsoft is more than happy to be its meal ticket. By bringing its Windows Azure platform to the world’s most populated country, Microsoft will tap into China’s public cloud space, which Forrester Research predicts to be a $3.8 billion market by 2020 (up from $297 million in 2011). And, while Microsoft has offered productivity software in China for decades, this is the company’s first, big step toward making multi-tenant public cloud services available to millions of businesses there. To get this deal done, all Microsoft had to do was sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the municipality of Shanghai and sign a landmark agreement to license Microsoft technologies to 21Vianet, the largest carrier-neutral Internet data center services provider in China — all in a day’s work.

WHAT MAKES DESIGNERS TICK?

Lack of feedback, lack of direction, unrealistic expectations and getting paid, are among designers’ biggest client challenges. That’s according to the results of a survey, conducted by 99designs, of 2,379 graphic designers from around the world. And for those companies looking for an optimal designer-client relationship, know what you want, be very responsive and give creative freedom because those are the top-three best client characteristics, as defined by a group of people directly impacting your bottom line. Speaking of, believe it or not, money is not what these designers say motivates them most — creativity is. And when a sometimes inevitable difference of opinions surfaces, know that 44 percent of designers do what the client asks, but makes their disapproval clear. Others just do what the client asks (30 percent), tries to convince the client their idea is better (18 percent), charges the client more (5 percent) or refuses to complete the project (2 percent).

THE DOWNTIME RECORD GOES TO…

From significantly damaging a website’s rank on SERPs to considerably harming a website’s reputation with users, downtime can have serious consequences beyond the loss of sales. It’s not only small companies suffering from downtime’s impact, though. When Panopta, a global website and application availability monitoring service provider, analyzed more than 130 major retailer’s websites for outages from January through August 2012, it found that many sites experienced significant downtime. The sites with the longest outages include Sears Holding Corporation’s Kmart (91.48 percent uptime, down for 9 hours and 44 minutes) and Sears (91.56 percent uptime, down for 9 hours and 39 minutes). The companies who have maintained no outages through the year include Amazon, Dell, Macy’s, Target, Walgreens, Walmart and many others.

PINTERESTING BUSINESS NEWS

Just like many businesses aren’t exactly sure how to monetize on the ever increasing number of Pinterest users (17.8 million according to Comscore), until recently Pinterest really didn’t know how to handle its business clientele either. Its new tools for the business community, however, are beginning to cater to the thousands of companies who are part of the pinning community. Publications, brands, designers, bloggers, retailers and others are now encouraged to sign up for a business account. For those that signed up previously, they can easily convert a personal account (used for work purposes) into a business one. By doing so, Pinterest allows them to specify their business name (instead of first and last name), verify website, and add new buttons, widgets and more. Additionally, Pinterest has added case studies to its business site regaling how companies are increasing customer reach, driving traffic to their sites and engaging with their strongest advocates.

FACEBOOK GIFTS FOR ‘NET RETAILERS

Facebook announced new partners for its e-commerce initiative, as well as a global expansion that will see it roll out to millions more users. Users will be able to send a variety of types of gifts through the platform (e.g. gadgets, clothes, cosmetics, books and food). Facebook says that some new partners include babyGap, Fab, Brookstone, Lindt, ProFlowers, Random House, Inc. and NARS Cosmetics. Users will also be able to gift media to their friends through subscriptions to Hulu Plus, Pandora, etc.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS INDEED

ComScore predicts e-commerce sales in the U.S. to increase 15 percent to 18 percent compared with 2011. If accurate, this means 2012 holiday growth could beat least year’s online sales growth of 15 percent. The firm’s growth projection for this year would put online sales from Nov. 1 through Dec. 31 between $42.78 billion and $43.89 billion. One factor helping Web sales this year are the two extra shopping days between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas.

DISPLAY AD SHOWDOWN

Display advertising proponents have certainly received a wake up of late as the market sags and is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Russian internet group Mail.ru indicated in the late third quarter and early fourth quarter it saw deterioration in the display advertising market and it wasn't alone. The most telling sign of a display ad showdown comes from AOL. The company's overall display advertising revenue in the U.S. dropped 3 percent, from $126 million to $123 million. AOL does expect the overall display numbers to improve, as the company continues to increase the sell-through of bigger, more content-centric ad formats that command higher CPMS, and focuses on selling more video-ad inventory.

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