Archive for the ‘Technology’ category

Google PageRank Update January 2011

January 20th, 2011

The big Google finally just updated its public facing PageRank metric.  Despite PageRank not having the same level of importance that it used to in SEO, people in the industry still use it as a baseline gauge of a site’s link popularity and value.  Google hadn’t updated its public toolbar PageRank since April 2010, or just over 8 months.  Typically Google updates their public PageRank every quarter or so, which makes this most recent period the longest update drought that I’ve seen since I started studying SEO about sever years ago.  Regardless, I was very pleased to see that the sites that I work on saw nice public bumps in this latest page rank update.

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Twitter Search for Hyper-Local Social Media Marketing

October 24th, 2010

I just posted a guest blog post over at the GeekEstateBlog about how to leverage advanced Twitter search for hyper-local social media marketing.  I was admittedly a little late to the game in truly ‘getting’ the full power of Twitter.  I’m now a believer.

The Impact of Groupon on Small Businesses

July 22nd, 2010

I have been a huge fan of Groupon since I first discovered them late last year.  A couple days ago I bought this Groupon for 51% off house cleaning.  I just called the cleaning company to try to book an apartment cleaning, but they are completely booked until the end of August – that’s 5 weeks from now.  Whoa.  Beyond some mild frustration of not being able to have my apartment cleaned sooner, I was completely blown away that one day of promotion on a website could fill a company’s entire bandwidth for more than a month.  The company even said they’re trying to hire more cleaning crews in order to handle the excess demand.

There was an article on TechCrunch the other day that highlights the role of social media in small business marketing and the impact that Groupon seems to be having on small businesses.  One of the case studies in the article focused on a restaurant in San Francisco called Stone Korean Kitchen (coincidentally, one of the owners of the restaurant, Robby Kwok, is a former colleague of mine at Yahoo!).  From the article, here’s another example of my point above:

But what really tipped the scales for Yoo was Groupon.  Yoo says that restaurant saw significant traction in both sales and traffic to its Yelp sites and Facebook page when the restaurant signed up for a Groupon deal in April. Stone Korean Kitchen sold 2600 groupons in one day, and saw a packed house for two months for both lunch and dinner. Now Yoo says that they see around 5 to 10 Groupons per day instead of 30 or 40 but the restaurant is still seeing a good number of repeat customers from the Groupon deal, says Yoo.

One effect of the Groupon deal, besides increased sales, was that there were a flux of Yelp reviews. It took the company six months to accumulate 80 reviews on Yelp and after the deal, the restaurant accumulated 90 reviews within three months. Yoo also says that he’s seen a steady increase in Foursquare check-ins following the Groupon deal.

So Groupon not only generated an instant influx of sales (albeit at a discount), but also drove tremendous ripple effects from the promotion:

  1. Repeat customers
  2. Influx of Yelp reviews – likely increasing exposure on Yelp, leading to more future business
  3. Increase in Foursquare check-ins – again, more exposure

It can be very difficult for new small businesses to stand out from the crowd and get the flywheel going so to speak.  While it is likely hard to measure the value of these ripple effects, they are no doubt beneficial to the business.  Beyond the direct sales and social media benefits listed above, the Groupon model provides other benefits to small businesses:

  1. Favorable cash cycles – the businesses get paid before they have to deliver the service.  That can be pretty powerful for small businesses.
  2. Redemption rates – not everyone who buys a Groupon will redeem it before it expires.  That’s cash directly to the small business’ bottom line.  I would bet that the unredeemed Groupons just about pay for the fee that Groupon takes from the promotion.

In summary, beyond being a great consumer product, Groupon is an exceptional marketing vehicle for small local businesses.  Anytime you can satisfy the needs of both consumers and businesses (and make money in the process, lots of money), you have a great business on your hands.

Yahoo!’s Conflicting Stance On The Local Space

July 16th, 2010

Today, Yahoo! announced a local ad partnership with Gannett.  Without knowing the details of the partnership, it looks like Gannett and Yahoo! can cross-sell each others’ ad inventory, and Gannett will use Yahoo!’s APT ad technology to target and serve ads.  From ZDNet “Yahoo! Gets More Local, Cuts Deal With Gannett, as well as the Yahoo! press release:

Local advertising continues to be an important area of focus for us, and Yahoo! is committed to helping local businesses reach high quality target audiences,” said Hilary Schneider, executive vice president of Yahoo Americas. “This partnership significantly expands our local offering and gives advertisers the technology and scale they need to reach online consumers.”

But does this really signal Yahoo!’s commitment to the local space?  I personally don’t think so, particularly when you compare Yahoo!’s investments (or lack thereof) in its local properties with other major players in local.  When I started working at Yahoo! in 2004, Yahoo! Local was the hot property and the top local destination online.  It was hard to walk by a hallway conversation without hearing the word ‘local’.  But relative to Google, Yahoo! invested far less in their maps product, which I believe hurt their top spot in local search, which they ultimately ceded to Google.  While Yahoo! Local still sees a ton of traffic, new entrants like Yelp also chipped away at their lead.  Ultimately Yahoo! Local was outgunned by competitors (mostly Google) willing to invest more (both manpower and acquisitions, ie: Google’s offer to buy Yelp) and not run these hugely strategic properties as profit-centers, but rather as means for driving other behaviors (search).

Using more recent examples, Yahoo! has either sold, or sold out, of several major properties that I consider to be local in nature.  This year they sold Hotjobs to Monster, outsourced Y! Personals to Match.com, and outsourced Y! Real Estate’s property listings to Zillow.  I would argue that it simply doesn’t get any more local than real estate, so does selling out the channel make sense if in fact “local advertising continues to be an important area for [Yahoo!]“?  Is this a shift away from O&O sites to a partnership ‘strategy’ (I use the term loosely), or more of Yahoo! not knowing what they are?

Disclaimers: Thanks to a former colleague (if you read this you know who you are) for planting the thought. I worked on Y! Real Estate for 4 years so am a likely biased against the Zillow deal.  It sucks to see your baby sold off (but then again it sucks to see it not get any attention either).

Pocket Zoo – Cool App for Kids

June 3rd, 2010

I just came across a cool new app called Pocket Zoo™ that was created by Robleh Jama, his wife, and a few other folks from the old Sneakerplay team (site that I acquired last year).  As a huge animal lover, I was intrigued by the concept of a zoo in your pocket.  The app is really neat – you can browse a ton of animals as if you were perusing the zoo on a weekend afternoon.  You can click on any animal and see more information about the critters, along with multimedia such as photos and audio clips to see what they look like, and hear what they sound like.

The coolest part by far is the live video feeds of each animal that displays directly in the app.  You can literally watch a feed of Pandas, Lions, Bears, or other animals in real-time!  This is a great app, both for grown-up animal lovers, but even more so for kids. The team has gotten some great recognition already. Pocket Zoo™ was chosen as the runner-up in the 2010 App Star Awards (Entertainment & Fun category) and as a result received pre-launch mentions from Techcrunch “Wikipedia for animals” and Readwriteweb “an adorable (and educational) app for kids”.

I am definitely buying this app for both my little cousins, I know they’ll love it.  Get yours on iTunes here!

In the meantime, here’s a video that shows some of the functionality of the app.  Congrats to RJ and the rest of the Pocket Zoo team!

Pocket Zoo™ with Live Animal Cams from tiny hearts on Vimeo.

SkillSlate Seeking Developer

May 24th, 2010

My start-up, SkillSlate, is seeking a talented and energetic developer to join our core team.  If you know of anyone good, please spread the word.  Job description is below:

We’re a VC and angel funded local start-up looking for a driven developer to build a product that has a meaningful impact on the daily lives of New Yorkers (and beyond). We’re based in Manhattan (Chelsea/Flatiron loft office), and the ideal candidate can start ASAP.

Must Haves:
• Belief in vision of individual empowerment
• Ruby on Rails (RoR) experience (min. 1 year experience) or equivalent (e.g. Django)
• BS/MS in Computer Science
• Entrepreneur-at-heart – thrives in a fast-paced startup environment and has the hunger to succeed and build a product that changes the world
• Demonstrated leadership ability and self-starter mentality
• Passionate about writing agile, elegant, DRY code

Nice-to-Haves:
• Experience with search/vertical search
• Experience with automated testing / continuous integration frameworks
• Experience with database optimization (my.cnf, EXPLAIN, indexes, replication)
• Experience provisioning and managing cloud resources (Engine Yard, Heroku, App Engine, or equivalent)
• Strong user experience design / interaction design reasoning skills

Compensation: Competitive mix of salary and equity. This is a full time, permanent position.

About SkillSlate.com
SkillSlate empowers the 16mm+ individual service providers in the US to market their services directly to consumers. A SkillSlate profile provides detailed professional and personal information including pictures, fees, and reviews, all with the aim of not only showing what the person does, but who the person is. SkillSlate puts these profiles into a searchable directory where consumers can find service providers that fit their specific needs.

SkillSlate is backed by prominent venture capital and angel investors including Canaan Partners, Jason Finger (founder/CEO of SeamlessWeb), Peter Lehrman (co-founder of Gerson Lehrman Group), Dan Ciporin (former CEO of Shopping.com), and other high-impact angels. Learn more at http://www.skillslate.com/about

Google AdWords Keyword Tool Price Data Bug

February 15th, 2010

Google AdWordsThe Google AdWords Keyword Tool is in my opinion one of the most useful tools available on the web.  When you enter one or more terms or phrases, Google returns data on approximate number of searches for the terms you entered, as well as similar terms/phrases and their corresponding search volumes.  I tend to use this tool primarily for keyword research when I’m working on SEO efforts for my various websites, but I also believe that search data is immensely powerful for other applications as well.

While doing some SEO work the other day, I stumbled across a really interesting bug in the Google AdWords Keyword Tool.  I found a stupidly simple way (no, I’m not the Chinese government and I didn’t hack Google) to extract some limited pricing data for the suggested keyword results when you enter one or more keywords or phrases into the tool.  I highly doubt Google wants this data to be public, which is why I’m assuming it’s a bug.

For example, when I entered “new york pizza” into the tool, I was able to extract the following pricing data (showing data for the first 10 results):

  • new york pizza delivery    1 – 3    $1.91
  • new york pizza    1 – 3    $0.93
  • new york pizza menu    1 – 3    $0.34
  • new york pizza restaurants    1 – 3    $0.66
  • new york style pizza    1 – 3    $0.93
  • new york pizza restaurant    1 – 3    $0.72
  • new york ny pizza    1 – 3    $0.05
  • best pizza new york    1 – 3    $1.23
  • new york pizzas    1 – 3    $0.05
  • new york pizza shipped    1 – 3    $0.05

Google AdWords Keyword Tool bug

What does it mean?

The way I interpret this data is that the average cost per click (CPC) for a sponsored search listing in the top three AdWords results will cost you the dollar amount shown next to each keyword.  For example, if you want to buy the first term “new york pizza delivery,” it’s going to cost you roughly $1.91 per click if you want to appear in the top 3 sponsored search positions.

How did you do that?

If you’re from Google, shoot me a note and I’m happy to discuss.  By the way, I just applied for a summer internship so bumping my application to the top gets a faster response ;-)

StartupAtWork Spring Speaker Series: 24/7 Real Media

January 30th, 2010

StartupAtWork is an initiative that I began helping out with last fall through my internship with Canaan Partners (Canaan is a sponsor, and the moderator Warren Lee is a partner at the firm). The organization hosts a series of events that feature prominent guests such as Ron Conway, one of the most prolific angel investors of all time (Google, Facebook, Zappos, Paypal), and Steve Hafner, co-founder of Orbitz and Kayak.com. The first session of the spring 2010 speaker series features two stellar speakers from 24/7 Real Media: David Moore, Chairman/Founder/Former CEO, and Mark Moran, Former EVP/General Counsel.  It is sure to be a fascinating story hearing how 24/7 Real Media raised funding, went public, nearly went bankrupt then ultimately sold to WPP Group for $650 million dollars.  The 24/7 Real Media session will be held Wednesday February 10th (5:45pm registration, 6:00pm pizza & beer, 7:00pm interview) at the New World Stages.

The StartupAtWork speaker series is intended to help foster entrepreneurship in the NYC tech community by bringing in successful entrepreneurs and investors who can share their experiences and impart tangible learnings on the attendees. While the event is invite-only, the vast majority of attendees are entrepreneurs, people working at start-ups, and students interested in the startup/tech space.  It’s a bootstrapped event (though there is free beer and pizza) where a lot of great contacts can be made and ideas can be shared.  In case you missed the fall series, you can view some great video clips of the sessions.

If you’re interested in attending this invite-only event, more details are here, and please contact me (form at the bottom of the page) to request an invite.

Your Online Presence: Putting Your Best Foot Forward

January 20th, 2010

It’s summer internship interview season here at NYU Stern, and my fellow MBA classmates are roaming the halls looking sharp in their suits with polished résumés in hand.  Everyone has spent countless hours crafting their ‘stories,’ conducting mock interviews, and casing with fellow students.  I’m fortunate to go to school with some exceptional people who I know will do well in this structured recruiting process.  But what about for those of us who are not pursuing the traditional post-MBA routes of investment banking, consulting, or a management role in a large corporation (among others)?

Several students like myself are opting for less structured career paths in fields such as venture capital, startups, or tech companies that may not recruit at NYU (if they formally recruit at all).  While I believe that putting your best foot forward, both offline and online, is important for just about everyone (especially so you don’t end up Facebook fired, dumped or evicted), I would argue that it’s even more so for those of us in the ‘non-traditional’ bucket.  I would expect that people conducting their career search primarily through networking, or applying to jobs cross-country, are even more likely to have someone seek them out online to learn more before deciding whether to accept an introduction, or to pursue a geographically remote job candidate.

Last month Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures spoke to the NYU Entrepreneur’s Exchange Club about VC and working at startups.  One thing that really struck me is that Union Square Ventures doesn’t really review formal résumés when looking at new analysts/associates – they say “point me to your online presence.” Wow.  That’s partly what got me moving in creating this blog (that I had planned for so long but had never really gotten around to).

Even if other firms aren’t this explicit, you can bet that recruiters or people who are making hiring decisions are Googling you, or looking for you on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube or the myriad of other social media outlets.  Fortunately you have a lot of control over what surfaces on these sites and with a little work, can put your best foot forward with the content that places you in the best light for anyone seeking you out online.

I plan to do a series of follow-up posts highlighting both basic and more advanced tactics on building and shaping your online presence.  Stay tuned.