Archive for May, 2012

Google introduces a new display business trends report for publishers

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Advertising on the web is certainly at a crossroads. With huge companies like Facebook figuring out how to monetize its userbase, trends in display ads are more important than they’ve ever been.

Google, via its purchase of DoubleClick, has launched a new report called “Display Business Trends: Publisher Edition” to shed some light on what’s working in online advertising, and more importantly, what’s not. Google could keep this information close to its vest, but by asserting itself as a leader in the advertising space, the customers will keep coming.

Here’s what the company had to say on the DoubleClick blog today:

As the display industry evolves, we’re collectively discovering and analyzing trends that point towards promising opportunities and paths to growth. This is the year where we’re doubling down on publishers, giving you the tools you need to make the most from today’s digital media landscape. One of the ways we’re helping publishers navigate their way to success is by providing new sources of industry knowledge and benchmark data. So today we’re introducing a new report, “Display Business Trends: Publisher Edition”

The Publisher Edition will be the first in a series of publications looking at aggregated global data from across our display advertising solutions. We’re doing this to generate metrics that will answer a few of of the most common questions we hear from our partners, and put some data behind long-held industry assumptions.

Some of these trends include the death of the 468×60 banner ad, which now only accounts for 3% of Google’s ad impressions. Also, the company says that mobile is continuing to explode as “mobile web impressions on the Ad Exchange and AdSense platforms increasing by 250% from the third to fourth quarter in 2011.”

The company will be holding a DoubleClick “Insights” livestream on June 5th, where conversations on these topics are sure to come up.

Go Beyond Basic Local Search: Get Hyper-Local

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

“More folks turn to the Internet than any other medium—including newspapers, TV, or word-of-mouth—for local information,” writes Tom Shapiro in an article at MarketingProfs. “Furthermore, a whopping 83% of local search users contacted businesses offline … and half of all local business searchers eventually made purchases.”

These days, a basic local search strategy isn’t enough to bring them smiling to your storefront; no, your business needs to adopt a “hyper-local” approach.

Shapiro shows how to boost your search strategy to hyper status:

Greet customers at numerous online destinations. Extend your reach well beyond the sites and profiles you control. Write compelling guest posts at favorite local blogs. Contribute to local newspapers. Syndicate content to websites that serve local communities. As a ubiquitous resource, you’ll become an obvious first choice when consumers shop for your product or service.

Always provide a phone number. Don’t assume that potential customers who find you in a local search will want to continue the buying process online. As noted above, the lion’s share of local search users take their business offline.

Partner with complementary businesses. When a partner touts your product or service, you boost your online exposure and extend your reach. “A local boutique, for example, could work with a spa, offering a ‘makeover’ package,” Shapiro suggests. “Or, your business could partner with a local charity to generate awareness of your company and make your neighborhood a better place.”

The Point: Become a household search name. A local strategy is good for your SEO program—but a hyper-local strategy will really draw your neighbors to you.

10 Things You Should Know About Your Facebook Traffic

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Here are 10 statistics your Facebook Insights tell you about driving traffic to your website:

1. What post type drives the most traffic – Insights provides statistics to analyze your content by post type; post made directly on your page, photos, links, videos, questions, post from 3rd party apps. This data will allow you to see which type of post generates the most engagement.

2. What is the gender and age of the people who like your page – Insights provides statistics for how many females and males overall. And the percentages of each within 6 age brackets; 13-17, 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54 and 55+. This data shows you which age bracket is more interested in your content.

3. What countries drive the most traffic – Insights provides statistics for the top countries with the highest number of people who liked your page during a specific period of time. This data will provide a guide when making decision to marketing to places that appeal to different countries.

4. What cities drive the most traffic – Insights provides statistics for the top cities with the highest number of people who liked your page during a specific period of time. This will show you which city has the most interest in your content.

5. What is the most popular language of your traffic – Insights provides the number of people who “Liked” your page during a specific time period broken down by the top languages. This data will show the most popular language your visitors speak.

6. Which post engaged your users the most – Insights provides the number of unique people who have clicked on your post. The clicks will be tracked up to 28 days after your post was originally published. You can view these statistics for all post types or by a specific post. This data will tell which type of post generates the most engagement from your traffic so you can create more of that format.

7. Where did your Likes come from – Insights provides statistics on “Like” sources. You will see the number of times your page was liked broken down by where the like happened. Likes can happen in different places including your Page, from News Feeds or on your website. This data will tell which source provides the most traffic to your page.

8. How many people have unliked your page – Insights provides statistics on the total number of unique people who have unliked your page each day for a specific period of time. This data will give you an idea of which type of post caused people to unlike your page.

9. How many people does your content reach – Insights provides statistics on the number of unique people who were friends with the people who liked your pages on a specific date. The number of unique who have seen any content associated with your page. This data will tell you the total reach potential your post have for your visitors and their friends.

10. Who is talking about your page – Insights provides statistics about the percentage of people who share your info from each age and gender bracket. The number of people who talked about your page broken down by country and city. This data will tell you all the number of unique people who shared your post and viral reach of your post.

Therefore, if you have 30 people or more who have liked your Facebook Business Page, you can access insights about your traffic activity.

10 Steps to Building a Killer Marketing Campaign

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Building a marketing campaign that is sure to be effective and accomplish your goals is not that hard if you follow some very easy steps along the way. A killer campaign is one that has a defined goal, minimizes risk and has a high ROI. It is usually part of a planned flow of related campaigns and not a distinct event. Being part of a progression of activity and being a segue into the next campaign, containing multiple promotional tools and designed with achieving a return commensurate with its cost, insulates you from striking out completely.

Here are some simple steps to follow:

1. Establish the objective. This is usually to sell more of a product or service. While this may seem rather simple, marketing campaigns are all too often developed around a promotional tool and not revenue generating product or service. The content and call to action are after thoughts to the brilliant idea of sending out a postcard. Always remember that the objective is to make money, not create an award winning promotional piece.

2. Link the objective to the prior campaign. A great marketing calendar will link campaigns so that most can be thought of as up-sell opportunities to the prior campaign(s). Others may provide alternate ways of accomplishing the same thing or satisfying the same need for those that were not engaged by the last progression of campaigns.

3. Define the target market. As your campaigns progress in the up-sell mode, the target market will narrow in focus. Each addition to the product line will add cost to the solution. Instead of trying to sell to the same broad market, begin segmenting the market to those prospects or customers that will benefit the most from the features and benefits of the product or service that is the objective.

4. Establish your value proposition. Make sure the value proposition is consistent with your company strategy. If you’re strategy is cost leadership, make that benefit clear. If it’s differentiation, are the features and benefits highlighted. If you’re a nicher, is the target market focused and the features geared to that market.
5. Select your promotional tools. Never use just one media. Marketing is both an art and a science. Sometimes one of your marketing weapons doesn’t work. Don’t place the whole campaign at risk on a single postcard. Use a variety of coordinated inbound and outbound marketing tools.

6. Establish your call to action. What is it that you want your target market to do? Make it clear in your content and be prepared to act when it happens.

7. Create a sales process specific to the campaign. Your team needs to know what to do when a prospect responds to your call to action. Nail down the response and subsequent steps. What are the anticipated customer touch points, how will you engage and convert?

8. Create the content. Make sure the content is consistent between the various promotional media. Adapt as required to best utilize an email, blog, video, etc., but make sure the campaign holds together from the value proposition to the call to action for each.

9. Setup a measurement and control system. People don’t like to log data because it’s never available at a convenient time. Keep it simple and make it easy to ensure it’s done. Measure leads, prospects and conversions. Measure the value of the conversions and the costs of the campaign.

10. Plan, launch and adapt. A good campaign is like a symphony, the team acting in a coordinated way and the promotional tools all working together to make money. Follow your numbers and determine if, where and when to adjust the tactics to maximize your return.

Let’s Make a Deal on Daily Deals

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

In this article, you’ll learn…
• Best-practices for sending daily deals offers to subscribers
• Examples of daily deals strategies that work (and those that flop)

The popularity of daily deals—emails or mobile notifications that offer a discounted local service or product—shows no signs of abating.

According to BIA/Kelsey, US spending on daily deals, instant deals, and flash sales is expected to hit $2 billion in 2012 and continue to grow to more than $4.2 billion in 2015.

Since Groupon’s launch in 2008, many lessons have been learned—by the retailers offering the deals and the consumers purchasing them. As the number of daily deal-style offerings grows, the “dealers” (e.g., Groupon, Living Social) have to tread carefully or they’ll risk alienating subscribers, upon whom their entire business model relies.
In the spirit of deal-making, let’s look at best-practices for reaching out to your subscriber base. Consider the following five scenarios. Will your email list make a deal, or will your strategies get you zonked?

1. Increased Communications

With Mother’s Day right around the corner, I will increase the frequency of my communications to my subscribers in hopes that they’ll find the perfect gift among the multiple offers I send!

ZONK!

Though subscribers have explicitly given you permission to communicate with them, they expect those communications to be kept to a minimum. If you’re a deal-a-day site, sending more than one offer per day may make subscribers feel as though they’re being spammed. And you’ll be risking more than your reputation with subscribers.
Subscribers’ Internet service providers (ISPs) may start considering your messages junk or spam, and your future campaigns will never reach the inboxes of potential customers.

To make a deal, be careful not to overwhelm your subscribers, and keep an eye on your inbox placement. If you notice a dip in your placement rate with a specific ISP, work with your email service provider on ways to restore your sender reputation.

2. Exclusive Offers
The hottest restaurant in town is ready to offer a 60%-off lunch special… but only 50 coupons are available. Since I know they will sell out in seconds, I’m going to reserve sending the offer to my highest-spending and most-engaged subscribers.

DEAL!

Just because your subscribers are looking for bargains doesn’t mean they don’t like to feel exclusive. Consider making periodic “privileged” offers for your best and most-engaged subscribers—akin to a loyalty program. Sending a super-special offer every once in a while will keep subscribers interested and coming back for more.

3. Trimming the Fat
I’ve just received a report of subscribers who purchased only once. Seems a waste to keep spending money sending emails to them… so I’ll just delete them from my list.

ZONK!

If a subscriber purchased once, perhaps she simply needs a little enticement to purchase again. Instead of getting rid of her, try to engage her.
A similar segment that should be given special care is the group of prospects who have never purchased, yet periodically engage. Send those prospects an offer with a little something extra (free delivery or a special discount offer). Use your subject line to your advantage: If subscribers are getting a special offer as a way to woo them back, let them know!

4. One Size Fits All?
Wow! A dozen gourmet cupcakes for $12? Who doesn’t want that? I’ll send that deal to my entire list!

ZONK!

You might love cupcakes, but—and I know this may be hard to believe—not everyone does. In fact, no single deal is so amazing that everyone on your list would want to know about it. The only thing you’ll likely grow with a “blast everyone” strategy is your complaint rate, and you’ll be more likely to lose subscribers than gain sales.

When you’re considering which deals should be sent to which subscribers, data is your best friend. Consumers have habits, and if you use a robust online relationship marketing provider, you should have access to enough data on previous behaviors and transactions to determine which subscribers are “cupcakers” and which are “fitness classers.”
The level of analysis possible via email is what makes the channel such a high return on investment (ROI) marketing vehicle.

For example:
• You can easily determine what your subscribers’ interests are by looking at which links they click.
• You can determine the best time to send your campaigns by observing when subscribers open your messages.
• You can be more certain that you’re sending the right messages to the right audience at the right time by keeping a close eye on transactional and behavioral data.

5. Spreading the Word
My subscribers seem to love our spa service offerings. I bet their friends would, too. I’ll display a sharing link prominently in my email.

DEAL!

Many daily deal businesses rely on volume, so if you limit your reach to your subscriber base, you’re missing a huge opportunity. You’ll gain the ability to make more sales and tap into a pool of potential subscribers by making it easy for subscribers to share your messages. And those subscribers who are frequent “sharers” are, essentially, your ambassadors. They should be identified and rewarded with special offers or premium access for their heightened level of engagement.

In the deal-a-day game, the business that takes home the grand prize is the one that has the most knowledge about its subscribers and the one that caters everything about its outreach to meet those subscribers’ needs. A data-driven strategy for delivering highly relevant, targeted communications leads to…
• Lower unsubscribe and complaint rates
• Better e-reputation
• Greater response rates
• More sales
• More business opportunities
• Increased engagement with the best buyers

Top 4 Things A Professional Web Site Should Have

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

There are millions of websites on the Internet and many of them are very well designed. Make sure your website is as professional in appearance as your competition. You will be judged on the appearance of your site so make sure you don’t lose visitors because of a bad design.

1) Provide Visitors With All the Info They Need

If a visitor to your website has to put any effort into finding the information they need, you will lose them fast. Everything should be easily available to them with clear directions on how to get it. Make all important information no more than one click away.

2) Have A Newsletter Sign-Up

Having a form for people to opt-in to a newsletter is a great way to build a list of customers. It’s also a great way to build trust and a strong following. Pack it full of great information, resources, freebies, and more. You will bring them back for more plus they just might tell all their friends about you.

3) Make It Sell

You are building a work at home business website so you can make money. In order to do that you must get your visitors to make purchases. Your site should have a direct call to action with your best products and/or services listed in highly visible places.

4) Allow feedback

It’s important to have a way for your visitors to offer feedback to you. They should also have an easy way to ask questions and make comments. People will like this because they get to give their input about what they would like to see done. You will benefit by being able to know what your customers want or need.

Multicultural Is the New Mainstream for Brewers in Search of Growth

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

As Hispanics, African-Americans Become Crucial, MillerCoors, A-B Ease Off Frat-Boy Approach

The color lines are blurring in the beer business.

In an emerging multicultural strategy, brewers are making fewer overt appeals to African-Americans and Hispanics in targeted media. Instead, marketers are finding subtle ways to talk to all demographics at once in general-market campaigns meant to appeal to a drinking audience that is growing more diverse by the day as more millennials turn 21. Here’s what viewers can expect: Fewer ads filled with frat-boy antics and more spots with music, including from hip-hop artists with crossover appeal.

“Ethnic marketing is now the mainstream,” said Paul Chibe, Anheuser-Busch InBev’s VP-U.S. marketing.
It’s really a matter of survival. Hispanics and African-Americans are expected to drive 70% of beer growth from 2000 to 2020, according to industry estimates cited by Heineken USA. But rather than segmenting the markets, some brands have found better results with more inclusive general- market advertising. African-Americans have influence over white drinkers, and Hispanic audiences are so large and acculturated that it’s imperative to speak to both in general-market media.

“Brands are finally seizing the opportunity and moving beyond this age-old assumption that you have to lead mass efforts through general-market insights,” said Ahmad Islam, managing partner of multicultural agency Commonground, which works on MillerCoors brands. “The idea that you can actually lead with more of an urban sensibility in the right context and still have relevance to the masses is … being more broadly embraced.”

And there is some evidence the new approaches are working. Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite all had higher perception scores among millennial African-Americans and Hispanics this spring, according to a survey by YouGov BrandIndex.

This is good news for multicultural shops, which are winning more business from brewers, including general-market assignments. (Notably, when MillerCoors recently reshuffled its agency roster, Commonground and Hispanic shop Bromley survived unscathed, even as the brewer cut ties with longtime Coors agency Interpublic Group of Cos.’ DraftFCB in favor of a newly formed entity at WPP.)

Coors Light is doing more testing of general-market ads with Hispanic and African-American audiences “to make sure they see themselves in the work just as much as the overall market [does],” said Al Patel, VP-multicultural marketing for MillerCoors. The brewer had historically underperformed with Hispanics and African-Americans. But the two demographics drove all of the brand’s growth last year, Mr. Patel said, helping Coors Light pass Budweiser as the nation’s second-bestselling beer behind Bud Light.

Sometimes the smallest details matter the most. Consider an ad Commonground did for Coors Light a couple years ago featuring an African- American man boarding the iconic Coors Light cold train. He is shown leaving work, giving his colleagues a traditional handshake. But when he gets onboard, he greets his buddies with a “dap,” a more casual, rhythmic handshake common in African-American communities.

The contrast hits “what is a reality for a lot African-Americans, especially male professionals, which is living in this dual world: The way I have to behave in my professional world vs. the way I behave and function when I’m with my friends,” Mr. Islam said. While that subtlety might escape a white viewer, there is a more universal message: There’s nothing like a cold beer after a long workday. One of Coors Light’s most successful general-market spots was originally conceived as an African-American-targeted campaign. It features hip-hop mogul Ice Cube arguing with a bottle of Coors Light over which is colder, Cube or the brew.

When Commonground first approached MillerCoors Chief Marketing Officer Andy England with the ad, he told the shop that it “feels much, much bigger than just African-American,” Mr. Islam recalled. So they unleashed it into the general market last year. It was the right call. The ad stole the show when it made its debut at a distributors meeting, drawing big cheers from the overwhelmingly white crowd of wholesalers.

MillerCoors still targets specific audiences, even ramping up efforts to reach Hispanics in their neighborhoods with point-of-sale messaging touting its sponsorship of a Mexican soccer league. But even within Hispanic communities, lines are blurring. For instance, Bromley, the brand’s Hispanic agency, used to create separate Coors Light TV spots for Puerto Ricans and Mexicans. The Puerto Rican ads were more urban, while the Mexican spots featured Western gear such as cowboy hats.

But as the percentage of U.S.-born Hispanics has grown, the ads evolved to include partygoers of all ethnicities, including some spots that are running in the general market. The ads are “portraying folks as how they see their world. [And] they see their worlds as pretty diverse worlds, so it has to be relevant and real in terms of how they live their lives,” said Ernest Bromley, CEO of the shop.

Inclusion was also on the mind of Heineken USA when it launched its “Legends” campaign last year. One spot shows a man charming his way into a lavish party filled with people of all colors, nationalities and cultures. At the same time, the importer scrapped its African-American-targeted TV ads because the “Legends” campaign tested exceedingly well with the demographic, according to Heineken.

Anheuser-Busch, meantime, is making music a bigger part of its advertising because “music has a cultural relevance that is transcendent,” Mr. Chibe said. The brewer has given heavy mass-media airplay to a Bud Light spot featuring Cuban-American hip-hop star Pitbull by Hispanic agency LatinWorks. And A-B recently announced a Labor Day weekend music festival called “Budweiser Made in America,” headlined and curated by Jay-Z and featuring rock, hip-hop, R&B, Latin and dance acts.

Four Tips for Subject-Line Success

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Even experienced email marketers agonize over subject lines—polishing, editing, tweaking, and perfecting 50-character phrases until they’re just right. After all, a single word can make the difference between a subscriber’s indifference and interest.

So how do you get recipients to open your messages? In this post at Mass Transmit, Anthony Schneider outlines eight rules for creating better subject lines.

Here are some highlights:

Avoid words that trigger spam filters. It wouldn’t surprise you if the word sex sent your message straight to the spam folder. But seemingly innocuous words like free, video, and sample might also prevent your email from reaching a subscriber’s inbox.

Keep it short and sweet. There are good reasons to keep the subject line’s length between 38 and 47 characters. People scan their inboxes quickly; an overlong subject line might tax their patience and earn an instant delete. Or they might be checking email on a mobile device that renders your subject line meaningless when it’s cut short.

Be sure to mention your brand. Schneider cites a study that found that messages with branded subject lines are more likely to be opened and shared.

Say something controversial. “Give people a reason to open that email by focusing on something memorable, intriguing, or just plain outrageous,” he recommends. Examples include Eating French fries makes you healthier and Introducing the 4-Hour Workweek.

The Point: Great subject lines don’t just happen. Get into the mind of your subscriber—and craft a line he or she simply can’t resist.

Six Ways Brands Are Optimizing Facebook Timelines

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

In this article, you’ll learn…
• The top six Facebook Timeline features your brand should be using now
• How marketers are optimizing features to drive their Facebook marketing

When Facebook launched Timeline for brands in March, brands immediately recognized the potential of the new format. But the big, looming question was, “How do I get started?”
With that question in mind, here are six straightforward ways to optimize your brand’s Timeline to drive better marketing performance.

1. Update your cover photo to reflect your brand’s goals
Brands are bringing attention to new products and campaigns by harnessing the power of Timeline’s most noticeable feature: the cover photo. Use that amazing piece of digital real estate to showcase a unique image that’s relevant to both your brand and the latest initiatives you want to support.

A prime example of a page with well-executed cover photos is Hostess, updates its cover photo to reflect its latest product launches—such as its new Baseball Cupcakes. Mindful that brands are discouraged from including explicit calls to action in cover photos, Hostess instead grabs fan attention by employing big, bright images and calling out product names.

Those visual elements are echoed across the Hostess Timeline, from the profile picture to the apps to the photo posts, reinforcing brand engagement and generating more awareness.

2. Don’t forget about the profile pic
Following the initial launch of Timeline, Facebook recommended that brands use their standard logos as their profile pictures. Although your profile picture should convey who you are, making occasional changes can help boost awareness for new brand initiatives. After all, profile pictures show up in your fans’ news feeds and can draw them to your page. And Facebook recently gave a nod to their significance by expanding the profile pic’s width and height to 180 pixels.

We like the Ann Taylor approach: employing a photo of the company’s latest spokesmodel, Kate Hudson, as a creative representation of the brand. It draws attention to the brand’s summer campaign, and it acts as a subtle reminder for fans to check out seasonal items.

3. Personalize the Views and Apps section
Though brands can no longer set default tabs, the new Views and Apps section below the cover photo increases visibility of other page sections overall.

Online clothing retailer ModCloth takes advantage by constantly updating its Views and Apps section.
Because the photos section is the first tile by default, ModCloth frequently posts photos of its latest merchandise and encourage fans to also post photos. And the company arranges the other tiles to feature its latest photo contests and promotions, customizing the tiles with retro fonts and images to reflect the vintage style of the brand.

4. Pin and highlight key content
Brands can increase awareness around key initiatives with the new Pin and Highlight functionality, which allows them to emphasize their most important posts.

Pinned content gets more fan engagement because it’s featured at the top of the Timeline. Highlighted posts stretch across the full width of the Timeline, and they are ideal for visual content such as photos and videos.

Taking advantage of both options helps brands generate more interaction around their content.
Online shoe retailer Sole Society effectively uses Pinning and Highlighting as a part of its social strategy. It frequently pins news and updates about its latest Facebook sweepstakes—including featured posts on past winners—to boost participation.

Plus, Sole Society creates highlighted posts that feature big, attention-grabbing images of its latest shoes, driving visits to its online store.

5. Integrate apps that drive Timeline engagement
Recognizing the Timeline’s potential for increased fan engagement, smart brands are already implementing apps designed to take advantage of the opportunity.
One great example is Interscope Records recording artist JoJo, who has created her own SuperFan community on Facebook. When a JoJo fan joins the community, a fan profile page is generated by automatically pulling in all JoJo page or newsfeed content the fan has recently liked, shared, or commented.

Fans in the community can browse a gallery view to discover and connect with other like-minded fans. All activity is automatically synced with JoJo’s Timeline, driving up her page’s People Talking About This score as well as overall EdgeRank.

JoJo features a new SuperFan on her Timeline every week—a great strategy for driving more participation in the program.

6. Make creative use of your milestones
When employed creatively, milestones can help fans connect with, and participate in, key moments in your brand’s history. Our favorite example of this approach comes by way of Sony UK, which asked fans to share their favorite, personal Sony moments.

The result is a Timeline that features a mix of brand and fan milestones, from “Sony Computer Entertainment established” to “Lena received a Walkman from her first love.” This approach encourages fans to reflect on the role that Sony has played in their own lives, promoting strong brand affinity.

* * *
Facebook Timeline features provide key opportunities for brands to run strategic marketing campaigns and initiatives. From cover photos to milestones, you path to Facebook success should include these six steps:

1. Keeping the cover photo fresh to reflect your brand’s current initiatives
2. Choosing a creative profile photo that’s aligned with your brand’s evolving image
3. Personalizing the Views and Apps section to include the most up to date and relevant content
4. Pinning and highlighting key content for more engagement
5. Deploying apps that incorporate timeline integration
6. Making creative use of the brand’s milestones to encourage fan interaction

Google Search Just Got 1,000 Times Smarter – Knowledge Graph

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

The Google Search of the future is here. Now. Today. The long-talked-about semantic web — Google prefers “Knowledge Graph” — is rolling out across all Google Search tools, and our most fundamental online task may never be the same again.

Starting today, a vast portion of Google Search results will work with you to intuit what you really meant by that search entry. Type in an ambiguous query like “Kings” (which could mean royalty, a sports team or a now-cancelled TV show), and a new window will appear on the right side of your result literally asking you which entity you meant. Click on one of those options and your results will be filtered for that search entity.
To understand the gravity of this change, you need to know about the fundamental changes going on behind the scenes at Google Search. As we outlined in our report earlier this year, Google is switching from simple keyword recognition to the identification of entities, nodes and relationships. In this world, “New York” is not simply the combination of two keywords that can be recognized. It’s understood by Google as a state in the U.S. surrounded by other states, the Atlantic Ocean and with a whole bunch of other, relevant attributes.
As Ben Gomes, Google Fellow, put it, Google is essentially switching “from strings to things.”

To build this world of things, Google is tapping a variety of knowledge databases, including Freebase, which it bought in 2010, Wikipedia, Google Local, Google Maps and Google Shopping. Currently, Google’s Knowledge Graph has over 500 million people, places and things and those things have at least 3.5 billion attributes.

That’s a lot of things. According to Google, search users will see these new knowledge graph results at least as often as they see Google Maps in results. In fact, this update will have a greater initial impact than the updates that brought Google Images, videos, news and books, combined. It’s big and it’s probably going to be everywhere.

Summaries of Good Stuff

In addition to the window which will help users find the right “thing,” Google will also surface summaries for things, which, again, will try to be somewhat comprehensive by tapping into the various databases of knowledge. A search for Frank Lloyd Wright, for instance, will return a brief summary, photos of Wright, images of his famous projects and perhaps, most interestingly, related “things.” People who search for Wright are also looking for other notable architects. It’s a feature that may remind users of Amazon’s penchant for delivering “people who liked this book also bought or searched for this one” results.

Gomes said that the search results are tailored to deliver information that best relates to the initial search result. So the details delivered about a female astronaut will likely outline her space travel record, because that’s what people who search for her are, according to Google, most interested in.

Since this is a knowledge graph (“Web” might be a better word), the results are designed to help you dig more deeply into related topics. Google showed us how someone might start by searching for a local amusement park, find an interesting rollercoaster as one of the “things” that relates to the park and end up digging in on details about that coaster and other similar rides. It’s a “skeleton of knowledge that allows you to explore information on the web,” said Gomes.

There is the potential, Gomes added, of serendipitous discovery. The more you dig into things, the more things you learn about.

Of course, not every “thing” is the right thing. Wikipedia is, for example, a community-sourced encyclopedia that is known for both its breadth and depth of information and the occasional whoppers of misinformation it stores. Google’s Knowledge Graph includes an error reporting system. When users find misinformation, Google will share it with the source and the knowledge graph will get just a little bit smarter

For now, though, the Knowledge Graph is not getting any smarter about you. If you search for an ambiguous topic and then guide Google Search to the more defined set of results, the same query later will not go directly to that filtered information — at least not yet. “We don’t have anything to announce for personalization,” said Gomes.

The Competition
Google’s chief search competitor, Microsoft Bing, also has millions of entities, but it’s not aiming for the purely semantic model of search results. Instead, Bing execs told Mashable that it’s focusing, in part, on much smaller set of segments that its users typically search on (i.e.: restaurants, hotels, movies) and trying to surface relevant information regarding those segments. A search result for hotels, for example, might include reservation tools. And while Google search now blends in Google+ results, Bing’s latest instantiation has moved social information to the right side of its search results page

It’s unclear for now how the Google Knowledge Graph, which pushes aside keyword results in favor of relationships and artificial intelligence, impacts all the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) many web sites have done to push their search rank ever higher. Also unknown is how, if at all, Google’s sea change will impact Google+. Gomes revealed that some Google+ changes were coming “independent of this” update and that Google will be talking about them separately.

Eventually, Google’s search will get smarter and will stop asking for your help to understand your query and start answering complex questions like “What is the coldest lake in the world in July?” It doesn’t matter why you want to know that, just that, someday, the right answer will be a click away on Google Search.
Google’s Knowledge Graph will roll out across the U.S. (and on all Google platforms: desktop, mobile, tablet) in the coming days. Eventually, it will go global. Give it a try and let us know what you think of the brand new Google Search in the comments.