Coles vs Woolworths – Round 1 On The Digital Court

The 2 biggest supermarket chains in Australia have been battling it out for years. Over the past few years we have definitely seen Woolworths / Safeway go from strength to strength but digital may change this. Over the past year or so the supermarket chains have shown interest and investment in the channel, but just who is winning the digital war. This article puts the 2 head to head on the digital court to see who is winning the online grocery war.

Search Marketing

Whilst Woolworths seem to rank for some important terms in number 1 position, Coles seems to rank for a larger range of broad volume terms. In addition it seems that Coles is actively combining its organic search strategy with paid search activity to provide them with greater share of voice in the SERPs.

Coles 15 / Woolworths love

Onsite Experience

Coles Digital MarketingMy user experience on Woolworths was unpleasant from the get go. I tried to locate my suburb, by typing in my postcode but the suburb drop down remained empty. When I was finally able to find my suburb I landed on the online shopping home page. Amongst other elements, the page had a banner stating “Our Great Weekly Specials”, so I tried to click on it to check them out however the page didn’t go anywhere. Locating items was also not an easy task, with sub menu’s a little invisible initially. Overall a disappointing site, one that does not match Woolworth’s in-store experience.

The Coles online store proved far more enjoyable. The express shop is a great tool allowing consumers to type in what they are looking for and then the system returns relevant matches. This combined with the product navigation menu’s provide consumers with different ways to shop. The site’s navigation make it easy to locate products in various categories however my only gripe is that the specials sit at the bottom of the search results rather than at the top of the page. Grocery chains spend a lot of money trying to promote specials – why would they not want to promote them online to increase impulse purchases?

Coles 30 / Woolworths love

Mobile Marketing

Coles Online have delivered a great iPhone application to provide shoppers with the ability to create shopping lists to reference in-store, search for recipes on the move, and identify local in-store specials. What I like about the application is that Coles has not just replicated its site, but rather considered what shoppers need on the move. Coles still seem to be however serving up their regular site to my blackberry so there is still some work to do on this front (as their site didn’t work well on my handset) but at least the mobile strategy elements that they have delivered are to be commended.

Woolworths don’t have an app that I could find but I was able to access their mobile site. At first glance I was pleased to see a mobile site – until I clicked on local specials at which point it served up specials in NSW, as my location was set to the Town Hall in Sydney. After resetting my location the site served up more relevant information. Overall I still think Coles have a very slight advantage in this area (you could almost say the ball was on the line and the call could have gone either way.)

Coles 40 / Woolworths love

Social Media

Woolsworth Digital MarketingIf all of the above wasn’t enough, it also seems ColesOnline is providing customer service help and responding to general feedback via Twitter (positive and negative) and promoting their latest competitions. At present they have over 1000 followers and the discussion seems to be thriving so they are obviously seem making an impact.

Game Coles

With a fresh new brand and pleasant in-store experience, Woolworths have some work to catch up online. Although recent statistics suggest online sales for Woolworths have grown 40%+ I think their onsite experience is probably hindering higher volumes of sales. I anticipate that Woolworths is probably working on its site and digital strategy so it will be interesting to see if there are any interesting developments in this space.

One thing however is for sure the match is not over – there is still a lot of game time. As a Woolworths shopper I do hope to see them move quickly in the space to compete on a level playing field with Coles.

Got any thoughts on Coles vs Woolworths online? Share them below.

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Google All A Buzz About What?

Google Buzz

Sooner or later Google was going to make a much larger play for the social media market. With over 1 billion searches happening a month on Facebook alone, and social media overtaking search as the largest online category – Google was threatened. There were talks of a buy-out of Twitter and other discussions with networks in the past but nothing came to fruition so Google has gone it alone.

Will you get a Buzz out of Buzz?

With the recent exposure of Buzz you might be thinking what I was – Buzz sounds like Google Wave right? After some initial poking around my conclusion is that it is like Wave except for one differentiating factor – it’s integrated into your Gmail Account. This I believe has been a smart move by the search giant. If Google is ever to crack this market, they know the only way to do it is to leverage their existing Gmail user base, whom already have established contact lists.

However despite all of the hype, will it be a tool that revolutionises the industry? Let’s take a more in-depth look at what the tool offers;

Facebook and Twitter SearchIt’s a bit like Twitter; Users on Buzz can post updates and decide whether to share them privately or with the world. As users are looking for more flexibility in social media to decide whom they will share content with, this might provide users with the control they are looking for.

It’s a bit (actually a lot) like Facebook; Users can share photos, videos & their status with their connections. There are some cool ways users can view photos and comment on content but it’s probably not going to convert the masses.

It’s a bit like Foursquare; Users can tag the location of their tweets and also view tweets on a map in surrounding areas. Unlike Foursquare where conversations occur about a particular location / thing to do, Buzz is more about general conversations occurring in particular locations and being tagged for user benefit.

It takes some elements from Friendfeed; Like FriendFeed Google Buzz allows users to aggregate content from Twitter, Picaso and a few other social applications. It is important however to note that users cannot feed in content from their Facebook profile.

My Verdict

The most under-developed market in the social world is geo-location social media and I believe Google could carve a good slice of this market. Outside of this, my view is the functionality is largely undifferentiated, and I don’t think it will be enough to draw users away from their existing applications. With Facebook now boasting over 400 million users, Google has their work cut out for them as their Gmail user base only has 176 million users. In my opinion this is one war Google wont win with Buzz and maybe Google’s last hurrah for social media. With its many failed attempts Google may have to sit on the social media sidelines and be content with integrating social into their search offering.

Want to know more about Buzz – view the official Google video here

Got an opinion on how Buzz will change the social landscape – would LOVE to hear it, please comment below.

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Learning’s From SES London From My Couch In Melbourne

SEO Marketing

Last year when working in London, I had the privilege to attend SES the Search Engine Strategies conference in London. Being back on home soil obviously means that this year I have had to miss out however I have been following the guru’s who have attended the event to provide Australia’s digital network with some of the key learning’s from the event.

Overall from all the commentary it seems that there were no major new revelations but a lot of good nuggets to help SEOs improve their search strategy.

Conversions & Metrics

One of the hottest topics for the conference seemed to be centred around ways to drive intelligence out of your analytics to make more informed decisions about your search strategy. For too long SEOs have measured effectiveness of efforts through rankings and other superficial measures. However experts have taken the opportunity at this conference to challenge SEOs thinking. Below are some of the different ways SEOs should consider slicing and dicing their data to gain new insight (and in fact many of these can be applied to other channels to compare success).

1. Search term segmentation

Brand EngagementOne of the new measures organizations are looking at is to quantify brand engagement (I think it is more recall) through analyzing search and direct visitor traffic;

Brand Engagement (recall) = (Direct site visitors + Brand Searches) / (Total Search Visits + Direct Visits)

To me however search term segmentation extends well beyond generic vs brand terms. Grouping keywords into topics / related segments and analyzing onsite behavior and conversion is a useful way to understand how certain kinds of keywords are performing and where some of the best traffic / value is being derived from with your search activities. This analysis enables SEOs to determine where their effort is best spent.

2. Per visit values

The per visit value equation allows SEOs to go beyond traffic. This measure allows SEOs to determine how much value monetary or otherwise is on average delivered by each visitor to a site.

Visit Value: Goal Value Total From Search / Total Search Visits

By understanding this value SEOs can develop strategies to improve that value or alternatively use this information to forecast the future value that can be gained through further investment.

For non e-commence sites this one is often a little trickier, however like ecommerce sites traffic = revenue but just in a different form. Non revenue generating sites need to attribute advertising $$$ and value derived from visitors. By doing so non e-commerce sites can start to become more strategic in their analysis of value from search and traffic in general.

Aside from measurement and conversion some of the other important topics covered were related to content and strategy. Whilst I didn’t glean as much from these there are definitely some golden moments that are worth reiterating.

SEO Strategy & Content

SEO and Content StrategyPlanning – “Chasing keywords is a reactionary way to develop your search strategy – it needs to be proactive”

With keyword research a staple in the search diet, this is definitely a new way of thinking about how to plan search. Should we ditch our keyword tools? On the contrary search marketers need to be smarter at identifying trends to get ahead of the search curve and use tools to identify these trends.

Execution – “Getting good at execution is key”
Search experts can benefit from riding the topic wave. 2 hours after Michael Jacksons death Amazon had revamped their whole MP3 site whilst competitors didn’t get anything up until the end of the week. Whilst sites being indexed within hours of making a change is a luxury for some, the message here is clear – agility and quick execution in search can give you the edge over your competitors.

Delivery – Content really can disappoint
For years organisations have allowed search people to bastardise their site in pursuit of rankings but now search industry has to evolve. The bottom line is more time needs to go into the planning of content to really understand user behaviour and to deliver high quality engaging content. In this era content just for search will fail it will be those who build for the user first and the search engine second that will win.
The above are of course just my highlights from the event. If you want to read more on the outcomes of the event I have attached some of the best blog coverage on the seminars. Enjoy!

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Ranking Factors For Non Conventional Search

Search Engine Ranking

Whilst most of our efforts are focussed on how to rank within the top 10 Google results through traditional techniques, this article explores the ranking factors for non conventional search in the areas of news, social and video content.

Twitter Feeds

Business Brand Twitter StrategyWhilst Google is the most dominant search engine globally, it is surprising to find that over 1 billion searches are conducted on Facebook alone every month. There is thus no wonder that Google needed to roll social results into its search to maintain control of the search market. One of the first rounds of integration of social results into Google SERPs saw Twitter feeds rolled into results when relevant – but what factors impact their inclusion and how are tweets ranked?

1. Reputed Followers; According to the Google engineer – Amit Singhal one of the key elements for ranking Twitter posts is to identify “reputed followers”, which follows a similar theme to that of PageRank.

2. Hashtags; One of the elements which seem to downgrade what Google seems to deem as a quality tweet is those related to hashtags. During formulation of ranking criteria, analysis showed Tweets associated with hash tags usually were associated with spammy content thus this is one way Google identifies lower quality content.

3. Signals; Google also analyses the context of tweets to file through and locate the latest topical issues. Take Obama for an example – hundreds of thousands of tweets occur daily – thus Google uses topics to signal what content should be shown based on how much tweet activity is centering around a given subject.

News Content

Despite news being integrated within standard search results and also being a prominent channel on Google in its own right, it is still an under-utilised channel by search marketers. Like Twitter results, Google News relies on its own factors to rank content.
1. Story Clusters; The first thing to note is that Google clusters related content and then ranks this within search results.

2. Cluster Ranking; What is important is how Google then ranks the individual content within those clusters. Ranking is based on originality of the news content, locality of the content as well as recency of the content.

3. Source Reputation: Reputation of the content source is also relevant thus if the article appears in a trusted publication it is more likely to feature as the lead story.
What this tells us is that for search marketers it is important to driving very unique content online and distributing it through the best online PR distribution services around to be published in some of the major news sources.

Google News

Video Content

YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world, thus it is no wonder that like social sites Google dug its teeth in fairly early to ensure that it monopolised video search by buying YouTube. When looking at it in this light, it is important to understand the video algorithm to ensure you are ranking for video content on both YouTube and Google. Apart from the traditional elements which drive text based search such as keyword optimisation and age, the key ones you need to be aware of for video are;

1. Engagement; YouTube factors in how many users are engaging with video’s ie placing comments, ranking the video, embedding the video or sharing it.

2. Reach; Popularity on YouTube is important and video’s with a higher number of views are seen as more relevant to a users search thus with any video content uploaded it is important to have an effective distribution strategy to get eyeballs viewing the content.

Traditional text based search is just the beginning of search, to get an advantage over your competition search marketers must step up and take their SEO strategy to the next level through some of the non conventional search categories.

If you have any other tips to rank in news, social or video results, please leave your comments below.

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