Of Swine Flu & Swine Flew

Should you optimize for misspellings ?

I find analyzing Search Intent and Search Queries  very intriguing. Answer to the question why people search they way they do presents low hanging opportunities to marketers. While Brand key Phrases, Generic Search Terms get bulk of the Organic traffic to websites, alternate Keyword Strategy adds the punch to the Optimization Program.

One such alternate keyword strategy is Optimizing  for Misspellings. Marketers have used misspelled words in their programs and Search Engine Crawlers and algorithms are growing increasingly sensitive to Misspellings.

I feel there is a definite case for including misspellings in the Optimization Program.

One of the most searched term in the last 6 months is ‘swine flu’- a pandemic that threatens every country on the planet, its variations and misspellings. Here’s my 2 cents on Search Engines, SEO and Swine Flew/ Swine Flu.

Until March 2009, ‘swine flu’ and ‘swine flew’ were equally searched for terms on the Internet. In the 4th week of April search for  ‘swine flu’ took off.

Swine Flu Search Peaks in 2009 April
Swine Flu Search Peaks in 2009 April

However,   ‘Swine Flew’ still had currency ( in native English and not in call centre countries)

Global Swine Flew Searches
Global Swine Flew Searches

Meanwhile Google raked in the moolah with average CPC  of  $3 for ‘swine flew’ related searches.

Swine Flu CPC
Swine Flu CPC




End Note:  Search Engine Algorithms are driven  by commercial interest. (period)

Google: Michael Jackson misspelling e.g. michle jacksin

Michael- Jackson Misspelling search
Michael- Jackson Misspelling search

There goes the intelligent Web 2.0 with spelling suggestions..

now Google ‘Swine Flew’

Swine Flew Google no suggestion
Swine Flew Google no suggestion

No spelling suggestions…Back to the dumb web 0.0??

I Rest my Case..

Keyword Research -Web 2.0 and Beyond

Keyword Research is the stepping stone to successful optimization. So what’s new?

Effective Keyword research today is beyond Count, Competition and KEI realm. Today keywords need to attract the Web 2.0 searches and gear up the websites organic campaign for web 3.0 and beyond.

I recommend and follow a funnel approach to Keyword Research. It starts with the Seed Key Phrase list and flows through the following steps

1. Developing the Basic Key Phrase Universe.

2. Adding Lateral Web Search data.

3. Search Intent and Semantic Web analysis and filters

4. Social Web, Freshness & Buzz filters.

5. Real World and Business filters.

5 Step Keyword Research Funnel
5 Step Keyword Research Funnel

Here are the tools I like and recommend for these steps

Step 1: Basic Key Phrase Research

  • Search Engines’ Keyword Suggestion Tools : Google, Bing
  • Competition Key Phrase Analysis Tools: SpyFu

Step 2: Lateral Web Data Filters

Step 3: Search Intent and Semantic Web

Microsoft Demographic Predictor

  • Visit Intent Analysis from the Log file /site Search Data**
  • Vertical Search Potential Analysis: News, Local, Images, Video, Product, Blog

Step 4: Social Web Filters Freshness & Buzz Filters

Step 5: Real World and Business Constraints

  • Phonetic Variations

**Visit Intent Analysis from the Log file /site Search Data is a process and not a tool. A process to segregate keywords into various baskets of Predicted Commercial Intent of search. The Commercial Intent is predicted based on the Referring Website, Landing Page, Activity on the Website and the Search Term Modifiers. This idea is to map Visitor Intent (visitor’s stage in the buying cycle) to the Query Intent. The process is illustrated in the figure below.

Query Intent Visitor Intent Matrix
Query Intent Visitor Intent Matrix

Optimizing Tweets

The world media order has changed after Twitter happened in 2006. If the world was glued to Google, Yahoo and CNN on when 9/11 was playing out; Twitter was the place to be during the  Mumbai Attacks (November 2008) or the Iran unrest 2009.

Looking back at these events purely from the Media perspective I feel Mumbai was the first full scale Social Media (Twitter) Testing and Tehran was Social Media (Twitter) Perfection. Today the marketers certainly know the immediate gratification Tweets get.The relevant question today is do tweets have life beyond the initial few minutes?

Google Algorithm is dating Tweets for sometime now; Tweets are indexed and  blended with search results (though not in real time). There is a strong Buzz that Google will soon offer Real Time Search results by  indexing Micro Blogging Data (Tweets included).

Borrowing from William Shakespeare.. To Tweet, or not to Tweet, that is no longer the question! From the Search Marketer’s perspective the pertinent question is ‘How to Tweet’? How to Optimize the tweets to help boost website’s visibility and aid brand building?

Twitter Optimization essentially consists of  Optimizing the Twitter Account and Optimizing the Tweets. Here are my suggestions for Optimization:

A. Optimizing the Twitter account

1. Tweet Handle (The User Name):

Select a short, easy to remember, brand relevant User Name also called the Handle. Your Handle is integral part of your twitter URL e.g. or

2. Twitter Account Name

Twitter Account Name comes with your profile and can be different from the Handle. Let it talk about You/ Your Brand.

3. Twitter Bio

Your Twitter Bio is your story for Twitter, Your Followers and the Search Engines. You can have a maximum of 160 characters Bio. You can use the bio to connect the context of your tweets to your Handle and provide perspective to your Profile.

4. Twitter Photo

Give yourself or your Brand a face in the world of Tweets. Adds to your credibility and may be used as a filter by Search Algorithms.

5. Link Back URL

Add your website’s URL, your Blog Url or your profile page on other social media platforms ( LinkedIn FaceBook etc. in the Link tab in the account settings). There Links are great for Visibility, Branding and Traffic.

B. Optimizing The Tweets.

1. Initial characters are akin to Web page’s Title Tag.

The first few words of a tweet is akin to Title Tag on a web page. The weightage Search Engines give to the Title Tag is no secret. The first 35-45 characters (including the Handle (User Name) get the Title Tag treatment by the Search Engines. The opening words of your tweet could have the maximum impact on the Search Rankings and Life of the Tweet.

P.S. Shorter the Handle (User Name) the more characters you get for your Tweet.

2. Keep the Tweets “ Buzzing

E-Commerce in India- where’s the Tipping Point?

India is a $1.2 trillion economy (2008 estimates) and various studies and reports (let me correct myself there are not many!) peg the e-commerce Industry size between Rs.9, 000-10,000 Crores (i.e. Rs 90 -100 Billion which is about US $ 2 Billion)

India e-commerce Market Size
India e-commerce Market Size

On the other hand US is a $14.2 Trillion with the B2C ecommerce Market estimated at $ 220 Billion end of 2008 and is expected to shrink about 1.5{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} in 2009 and grow about 7{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} in 2010.

US B2C e-Commerce Market Size
US B2C e-Commerce Market Size

It does not take a more than elementary school mathematics to figure out e-commerce to the GDP ratio is not proportionate. Indian economy is about 7{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} the size of US economy and the Indian e-commerce market is only about 1{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} the size of US B2C e-commerce market.
e-commerce has not taken off in India for sure.There are questions abound. Why e-commerce in India not catching up with the other markets? Why a technology savvy population abstaining from the Internet? Is there money to be made in India’s e-commerce space?
Here’s a shocker take out online travel and Indian e-commerce market is about $400 million a mere 0.3{b533f414762ff80097ee09d177cb5141b2a13e37c77cdd72580da9125ed6123c} of the US B2C e-commerce market.

Do the likes of EBay India, Rediff, Indiatimes, Future Bazar, have a viable business model? ‘Build it and they will buy’ certainly does not work in India. A quick research on Alexa shows no significant increase in traffic for or in the last 6 months.

2009 Jan-June Traffic
2009 Jan-June Traffic

Elsewhere in the world various models of online commerce (comparison shopping, community shopping) is being tested. India is still waiting to reach the critical mass. What would be that killer e-commerce format for India?

I believe viable e-commerce models in India need 3 major paradigm shifts. Moving from ‘Caveat Emptor’ to ‘Trust the Consumer’ Mindset, Partnering and not challenging the Local Brands and Coming out of the American mindset.

Moving from ‘Caveat Emptor’ to ‘Trust the Consumer’ Mindset.
In India, unlike the west, Consumer’s Rights and Buyer Protection Laws are non existent. It is very difficult to return purchased goods. This is true for all formats of retail, virtual or real world. Not many stores have defined Return Policies and the default policy is ‘do not trust consumers’. Once a product is out of the store why bother if the consumer is unhappy.
e-commerce formats that go against the norm and ‘Trust the Consumers’ will definitely have an edge.
There are some very simple rules to follow to trust the consumer:

  • Share all product/ service information and avoid ‘need to know’ approach.
  • Look at things from consumer’s perspective.
  • Provide for misuse of trust by a fraction of consumers.
  • Go the extra mile to exceed consumer’s expectations.

Partnering and not challenging the Local Brands.
Mobile Telephony was the success story of the last decade. Organized Retail was touted as the Industry of this decade; however; none of the organized retail brands and formats are in the Green or anywhere close to projected Reach. Reliance Group, Future Group, Aditya Birla Group all included. After the initial euphoria of buying vegetables in Air Conditioned environment consumers are back to buying from the round the corner vendors or cart pushers. I see 2 primary reasons for the reverse migration, the Quality was never addressed the air conditioners went off due to power outages.
In the packaged food category the store labels (sold at discount) and bundled in promotions have not managed competing with the local brands.
This is a not post on the retail formats and I will not dwell further on their business models however e-commerce is a subset of commerce and I believe successful e-commerce models have a learning here. Partner Local brands!

Come out of the American mindset when H1 expires.
Most e-business in India are promoted or run by Successful Entrepreneurs and Professionals of Indian origin who have returned to India after their H1 (or whatever Visa class) expired or their employer saw a goldmine waiting to be tapped in the BRIC nations or when they decided to migrate back to expose their kids to Indian values.
These accomplished Entrepreneurs and Professionals bring with them years of experience in running e-business and try to recreate the success in India without an appreciation of the Indian dynamics. I call it the sub-domain approach. Take add the Tricolor and voila you have a running business
That simply does not work!
Once these models do not succeed and the entrepreneur starts running out of funds they use their Network to rope in a successful back from the US Indian origin Venture Capitalist.
After the PowerPoint honeymoon is over that partnership is a recipe for disaster. 2 individuals that have multiplied capital 100x in their earlier ventures more often than not do not have the willingness and skill to nurture a 5x business in India. If only these guys could work on !

To conclude I believe, model that addresses these three challenges will certainly manage to address the other stated drawbacks of the Indian system: ‘consumer’s want to see touch and feel’, payment infrastructure, broadband availability etc. The e-commerce entrepreneurs are experimenting with various formats and technologies. I believe the Tipping point is not very far off.