Ask Now Provides Searchable TV Listings

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Ask Now Provides Searchable TV ListingsErik Collier, the VP of Product Management over at Ask.com, spoke about his company's newest application of semantic search technology, searchable TV listings. While I didn't have the opportunity to attend the conference and catch Erik's presentation in person, I did however read about it in his post over on the Ask Blog.

What Google's

Last week, during the SES conference in San Jose, Erik Collier, the VP of Product Management over at Ask.com, spoke about his company's newest application of semantic search technology, searchable TV listings. While I didn't have the opportunity to attend the conference and catch Erik's presentation in person, I did however read about it in his post over on the Ask Blog. The following are a few quotes from his post, and about this new search feature:

"Navigating TV listings in search of things like Olympic coverage can be a frustrating task. Not any more. With Ask.com it is now a real part of search. Straight from the Ask searchbox."

"Our Ask TV listings uses our patent-pending technology DADS (Direct Answers from Databases) to answer queries and questions from structured data feeds and databases. DADS provides highly accurate answers to queries which are relevant to a given topic. Instead of using traditional keyword search algorithms, our technology can deliver much deeper, more precise search results based on understanding of a query meaning rather than syntactical text matching."

"Ask TV answers queries ranging from "when is sports on tv this weekend" or "horror movies tonight" to "lindsay lohan on tv". Covering nearly 10,000 distinct stations and over 100,000 shows, our information is updated daily - and it can be personalized and customized to any location and cable provider in the USA."

Product Review

I started by placing a search for something that is near and dear to my heart: "Chicago Cubs on TV". As a fan, I certainly do my part to cheer on my team whenever they play... especially because they're doing so well this year. Ask delivered the following listings:

What Google's

Nice! Right? I can see that the cubbies are going to be finishing off their current series with the Phillies today and tomorrow, and that coverage starts at 1:00pm and 2:30pm respectively. I can even see which television station I'll need to turn-in to.

Another worthwhile feature is the "More TV Results" option which sits as a text-link just under those two listings. Clicking the link provided me with roughly a 2-week glance at the team's upcoming television schedule.

What Google's

Just for kicks, I did a couple of other searches: "Seinfeld on TV" and "Nicolas Cage on TV" and had a very similar experience. With the Seinfeld search I was able to see which specific episodes would be showing and on which TV stations, and with my Nicolas Cage search I was able to see which of his million great movies would be playing tonight and tomorrow.

My Thoughts

I'm a big fan of Ask and of their search technology. While they're currently fourth in the overall scheme of things, I still believe they have what it takes to one day surpass their competition.

With that said, I understand that "searchable TV listings" isn't the golden ticket that is going to catapult Ask to the top of the list. However, I do believe this is a really cool and relevant idea. Overall I thought that the new search feature functioned well, and that it was both easy-to-use and understand. Congrats Ask on another great search feature.

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Are Your Campaigns Stealing ROI From Each Other?

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Are Your Campaigns Stealing ROI From Each Other?Most analytics programs currently offer what is referred to as the "last-touch" method to tracking - meaning that whichever marketing channel "tags" the visitor last before he or she makes a purchase is ultimately going to get full credit for that sale. It has been my experience with nearly every new client that their website analytics is faulty, or at least in some way miscuing it's numbers.

Are Your Campaigns Stealing ROI From Each Other?

Did you know that most analytics programs currently offer what is referred to as the "last-touch" method to tracking - meaning that whichever marketing channel "tags" the visitor last before he or she makes a purchase is ultimately going to get full credit for that sale? That's a problem, and a huge one at that.

It has been my experience with nearly every new client that the website analytics they've come to know and love - the one tool they count on most to help make tough marketing decisions - is probably faulty, or at least in some way miscuing it's numbers. As you can imagine, this can be a very scary experience.

For example, let's say that a search user searches Google for the term "mp3 players", and stumbles across your organic listing. The user clicks through, reviews your products and pricing, and moves on to another store. A week goes by and the user has completed their research. They decide to purchase an 8GB Apple iPod Touch from your store. To find your store and buy their iPod, the user searches Yahoo! for your company's name. The user sees your paid ad, clicks through, and buys an iPod.

Under this scenario, any analytics program using the "last-touch" method for tracking conversions has just awarded 100% of the sale to your Yahoo! PPC campaign, while it's quite obvious that your Google SEO campaign is well deserving of some, if not all, credit. I'd imagine this isn't a big deal if this were happening once or twice a month. However, imagine a scenario where it happens with 20%-30% of your monthly orders and across multiple marketing channels.

Imagine if your Yahoo! PPC were stealing ROI from Google SEO. Or, Google SEO from MSN PPC. Or, Yahoo! SEO from email marketing mailings. As a business owner or marketer, you wouldn't truly know which channels were your most profitable and which weren't. I think every business owner would agree that this would be a disaster.

As a person who is responsible for the well-being of several online marketing campaigns, I can't afford to be making decisions (i.e. increasing or decreasing PPC bids, adjusting email marketing offers, or tweaking highly ranked pages on a website) based on faulty data. And, neither can you. If you're currently using or researching analytics programs, I'd encourage you inquire about the company's cookie settings, specifically if they employ the "last-touch" method of tracking.

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