Marktplaats data; eBay’s entry into classifieds

Back in 2004, while working for eBay in The Netherlands, I was able to work on an interesting project. The project was code named Manhattan, and resulted in the acquisition of the largest classifieds site in The Netherlands, Marktplaats.nl, and eBay's entry into the classifieds business. Just last week, eBay bought another classifieds site, in Belgium. The classifieds business has become an important source of revenue for eBay Inc. an important school for learnings and a breeding ground for top talent who would migrate to other countries while working for eBay.

The decision to buy Marktplaats for $300 million in 2004 was not a fast and easy decision. The team in The Netherlands conducted a lot of research on the Marktplaats customers, the business model, and the sites ability to grow traffic and monetization to grow revenue. One of the research questions the team tried to answer was the affinity of the Dutch consumers to use the classifieds site over the eBay auction model. It turned out from part of our research, that the Dutch consumer would be willing to drive from one end of the country to the other end just to save a couple of Euro's. And with the country of The Netherlands being rather small, you can drive from the upper Northern part to the most Southern tip in a couple of hours, no seller is to far to quickly pick up your new DVD or piece of clothing.

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That was 2004, now 9 years later, more data has become available through Marktplaats itself in a cbs publication. (CBS is the official state bureau for statistics in The Netherlands. The study is in Dutch) I stumbled on this data through the Facebook postings of some of my old colleagues.
The research shows some interesting maps and how the population of The Netherlands is using Marktplaats.nl to buy and sell stuff.

There is one map which shows exactly more in depth results of the research we did in the run to the acquisition of Marktplaats; how far are buyers prepared to travel to pick up the item for sale, and maybe even hackle over the price to save a little. Check out the map below, which shows the distance between buyer and seller for all ads placed on Marktplaats in 2010.
Distance between buyer and seller in The Netherlands on Marktplaats.nl, the largest classifieds siteThe table below shows the distance between buyer and seller for each of the items in the different categories, where it shows that the distance becomes smaller the more expensive or heavier the item is. Makes sense, as some of the smaller items, which also do not cost that much, might be mailed to the buyer after the successful bargaining.

distance between buyer and seller per category on Marktplaats

Marktplaats turned out to be a very successful acquisition for eBay, not only for the direct revenue growth, but more for the learnings on the business model and its ability to grow into new verticals and grow revenue. The research we as a team conducted proved to be on the mark, where years later the market still shows the winning business model for The Netherlands is classifieds rather than the eBay classic auction model.

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eBay’s Paid Search Study Alternatives Motives for Publishing Ineffectiveness

I couldn't hide from all the chatter around the white paper about eBay's paid search campaigns today. All kinds of people with little knowledge on internal optimization within eBay are jumping on this story to give their perspective. The overall message they are so loudly shouting into the world is how bad eBay really is in PPC advertising, trying to win a little bit more authority on the subject themselves in the hope to win new clients.

I won't go into the details of the article, as I've never worked on eBay's paid search campaigns. Reading the research white paper eBay published is interesting though, and I know that some of it holds up, other parts not so much.

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Skeptical on the eBay Report

I'm somewhat skeptical on the actual outcomes of the research in the eBay report.

First of all, every site is different. So what would work for eBay, might not work for anybody else!

Second, you could use Paid Search campaigns in so many other ways, cross channel objectives, which has not been taken into account in this study.

Third, although the study looks at conversion to sales ratio's of the campaigns, the real ROI is hardly discussed.

Fourth,You should look at the fully loaded ROI to understand the complete impact on eBay's eco-system. This does not only incorporates the eBay fees, but should also include the Paypal fees when an item is being paid through Paypal and advertising revenue. And with Paypal penetration rates at a high double number, and advertising on almost every pageview, the campaigns ROI is highly influenced by multiple revenue streams.

Fifth, if the research holds true, can somebody explain me what happened end of Q3, beginning of Q4 last year, where SEO traffic for eBay tanked, and suddenly Paid grew out of the normal trend:

eBay SEO visibility tanking end of Oct 2012

Where Paid Search Campaigns for eBay are ramping up immediately

These graphs are made with Searchmetrics

Sixth; conducting a test on non-branded keywords, like Cell-Phone might be giving interesting outcomes, if you keep the way Google looks at sites from a SEO perspective into account. Keyword Cell-Phone is a head term for electronics, where eBay is not represented well in SEO. From the human rater documents which leaked from Google, there might be more obvious reasons why eBay is not ranking well:

How to rate eBay landing pages?

Alternative Motives for eBay to Publish Paid Search effectiveness Study

What most people commenting fail to take notice off, what are the real motives of eBay to publish such research? You really think a large, for profit company would make their direct competition smarter just to get some feathers stuck somewhere..? Below here I describe possible motives for eBay to publish this paper. These are all hypothetical, and not based on what really happened as I don;t have the internal information what has happened. Read these more as thin foil hypothesis for my enjoyment, and for you to think further than just the optimization of Paid Search campaigns.

Large Companies F*** each other over

eBay has had a long history of working with Google on a Frenemies status of their relationship. eBay gets a tremendous amount of traffic through SEO, and have worked with Google on several fronts to make the Internet a better place. However, there are well documented instances which shows the underlying relationship, which is one of stiff competition.

  • Google Dark; Back in 007, eBay shut down all Paid Search at Google to run a test. The black out period gave some interesting insights in the effectiveness of Paid Search at Google.
  • eBay sued Google over the launch of Google Wallet and trade secrets

For obvious reasons, I can hardly go into too much detail here, but imagine the drop in eBay spend over 2012, while Google is ramping up their efforts in the payments industry AND making Google Shopping pay-for-play, after killing off the shopping comparison vertical completely!

Internal Politics Kill Real optimization

In a company like eBay, there is a power struggle at the top on a continuous basis. The one with the bigger budgets control their own destiny, and can become very successful empire builders. With a change in C-suit players, the power struggle can become more aggressive, where studies to proof ineffectiveness of campaigns could destroy the power base of the existing rulers.

You've got Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics...

It has happened that one group proofed with analytic proof, that the advertising on eBay was cannibalizing the  conversion rate of items on the site, and had an impact on site speed. 4 months later, the VP of the group moved to the business side, became responsible for the P&L, and with 3 weeks into the quarter and a $20 million hole in the budget, made the executive decision to move the ads back on the site. Just make a check on the eBay site, it's full with ads right now, even on the View Item page which had always been a sacred page for sellers!

This Paid Search campaign effectiveness study could very well be a power play from inside groups to take control of the advertising budgets. Objective: proofing incompetence to replace and take control

False Information for Competitors

What happens to the overall marketplace if the research is adopted by more large advertisers? Right, less demand for the impressions out there will bring CPC's down in the marketplace.

By spreading this information, under the umbrella of statistical research, could very well have an effect on the ROI of existing eBay campaigns.

Be Careful What You Wish For

So when I read an article like this, where the writer is challenging the CEO of eBay to give him a chance to proof what he could do for eBay with Paid Search, I cannot help myself to think: "Be careful what you wish for" as the truth of the matter might not be as cookie cutter clear as you think, and you might find yourself in a situation you are not set up to succeed in the first place, even if you are the best Paid Search consultant in the world, there might be forces out there which want you to fail at it! (furthermore I don't think the writer did himself a service to build his arguments on 6 year old screenshots...)

The people who have managed the eBay paid search campaigns are good friends of mine, which is why I won't go deep into the criticism if the campaigns have been working for eBay or not, just to stay objective here. What I can say, is that the majority of the people commenting on the quality of the creatives, the supposedly fail to optimize these campaigns on a ROI positive manner, might not be so right at all. They probably have never managed a budget of the size of the eBay Paid Search budget, while optimizing for 170 million keywords, while landing the budget within 1% of the amount, each and every quarter and showing incremental ROI improvements time and time again. The teams who manage these campaigns are very smart and creative in doing new tests, which you can hardly judge upon as an outsider!

Disclaimer: I worked for eBay for 9.5 years in different positions, last 6 years of my tenure focused on Global SEO for all eBay sites cross the world. I cannot disclose all information I have, and do not claim to be an expert in Paid Search! These view do not represent the views of my current employer, nor eBay's!

Breakdown of @HackerNews Visitors

Ever wondered who else read HackerNews? You might have made friendships, found new business partners or got great amounts of traffic from HackerNews. I was interested in what the average HackerNews reader runs on their computer, where they are living and how engaged they are when a HackerNews reader clicks on a link. To satisfy my interest, I pulled the numbers for Slashdot and did some analysis... Here it goes:

Since August 1st, in the last 6 months, more than 115,000 people came to visit Slashdot from HackerNews. Several stories featured and discussed on Slashdot made the homepage of HackerNews, of which the top 3 were:
1. Rob ‘Cmdr Taco’ Malda resigns from Slashdot (13,828 pageviews) (HN link)
2. Canonical drops CouchDB from Ubuntu One (5,185 pageviews) (HN link)
3. Sopa creator in tv/film/music industry pocket (4,839 pageviews) (HN link)

With 115,000 visits, I believe I have a big enough sample to analyze the HN users to find some commonalities and to profile the tech set up of their computers. For the analysis I used the Google Analytics data from Slashdot. For simplicity sake, I created an Advanced segment, which will generate all reports in fast-mode. This means the reports are based on Sampled data in GA! Learn more about fast mode in GA at the Google Support pages.

HackerNews visits to Slashdot for the last 6 months in 2011First, let's breakdown the traffic, these 115K visits, a little further.

  • 115,812 Visits
  • 63,956 Unique Visitors
  • 155,569 Pageviews
  • 1.34 page/visit
  • 2.51 Ave time on site
  • 75.22% bounce rate
  • 41.49% New visits
Compared to the average numbers of the Slashdot visits in that same period, HackerNews visitors were spending half the amount of time on the site, there were twice the percentage of new visitors and all these people were just passing through, bouncing back with a much higher rate than the average Slashdotter. I guess we can say that Slashdot has a very loyal, sticky audience, on average!

Where are HN users from?

Off course it would be interesting to see where these 115K HackerNews readers are living. In Google Analytics the location report is a great tool to see where your website visitors are coming from.

Which countries do these HackerNews visitors coming from?

The majority of HN visits to Slashdot came from people located in the USA. There is a large gap between the US and the #2.

World map of HackerNews visits

Which countries do HackerNews visitors come from?The top countries with the visits are:

  1. United States 70,524 visits
  2. Australia 10,099 visits
  3. India 4,839 visits
  4. United Kingdom 4,148 visits
  5. Canada 3,457 visits
  6. France 2,074 visits
  7. Netherlands 2,074 visits
  8. Germany 1,728 visits
  9. Norway 1,037 visits
  10. Argentina 691 visits
I would like to mention here, that the fast-access mode in GA is rounding up the total reported visits in some cases. This is causing a large number of countries to report same amount of visits. Number 10 to number 24 all report 691 visits in the last 6 months. As this number is so small, it's insignificant to the overall analysis. So if you live in Brazil, Italy, Israel or Pakistan, consider yourself lucky to share the #10 spot with Argentina!

Which Cities do these HackerNews readers call home?

The outcome of which city was sending the most visits from HackerNews to /. in the last 6 months was surprising to me. Based on the US sending the most visits from HN to Slashdot; I would have expected a city in the US to have the top spot on this list. Some would say this pends how GA slices the data, where the Bay Area is a good contender for the first spot based on the high concentration of high tech. However, would you have thought the #1 spot would be a shared nomination between an Australian & US city: Brisbane and San Antonio?
City map for HackerNews visits to Slashdot
Not as I expected, but the #1 spot for cities HN came from is shared between two cities. One is Brisbane, the other is San Antonio.
  1. HackerNews visitors city Brisbane 9,679 visits
  2. San Antonio 9,679 visits
  3. San Francisco 8,988 visits
  4. Redwood City 6,222 visits
  5. Oakland 5,531 visits
  6. Bangalore 4,148 visits
  7. New York 2,419 visits
  8. London 2,074 visits
  9. Bellevue 2,074 visits
  10. Paris 1,728 visits
Number 11 & 12 have the same number of visits as Paris. Both Los Angeles and Sydney were reporting 1,728 visits in the last months to Slashdot from HackerNews. If you would add up all the Bay Area cities, San Francisco; Redwood City and Oakland, the Bay Area would have been #1 with 20,741 visits! 

What browser is the favorite for HN users?

It has become clear from the visitor numbers I've analyzed, HackerNews readers use Internet Explorer very limited. The browser of choice for the HN visitor is Chrome. It's impressive how Chrome is seeing high growth in market share in the browser wars, especially in tech savvy communities. For Slashdot's HackerNews visits, the browser shares were dominated by Chrome to an extend I didn't expected.Browser of the HackerNews visitors to Slashdot

  1. Chrome 67,104 visits
  2. Firefox 21,434 visits
  3. Safari 21,088 visits
  4. Internet Explorer 2,765 visits
  5. Android Browser 1,728 visits
  6. Mozilla Compatible Agent 345 visits
  7. Opera 345 visits
You could say, based on these numbers, the role of Internet Explorer in the browser market is finished!

What Operating System is the choice for HN users?

The operating system of choice for the HackerNews visitor is not a landslide victory for Apple Mac OS, but there is a large gap before Windows appears on the #2. Linux takes a respectable third place, after which the mobile OS' are coming in on #4,5 and 6. Operating system of the HackerNews visitor

  1. Macintosh
  2. Windows
  3. Linux
  4. iPad
  5. iPhone
  6. Android

It would be interesting to see how the mobile operating systems take a larger share over time.

Of the Window users 84% is on Windows 7, while only 2% of HackerNews visitors rocking it on Windows Vista. Thirteen percent is still on Windows XP. Just 1% of Windows users are on Server 2003.

Screen resolution of the HN user?

And last, I wanted to see what kind of large screens HackerNews readers are using. The larger the screen resolution might indicate a very large screen!

  1. Screen resolution of the HackerNews visitors1440x900 20,051
  2. 1280x800 14,865
  3. 1366x768 14,174
  4. 1920x1080 13,828
  5. 1920x1200 13,136
  6. 1280x1024 8,297
  7. 1680x1050 7,951
  8. 1024x600 4,494
  9. 768x1024 4,494
  10. 1024x768 3,457

 

Engagement of the HackerNews visitors

As the image at the top shows, the Average HackerNews visitor to Slashdot was not very engaged. With a bounce rate of ~75%, and 1.4 pages per visit and an average of 2.4 minutes on the site. These engagement numbers are considerable lower than the average Slashdot visitor.

Conclusion

On my Chrome browser, I have HackerNews set as the homepage. Every time I start my browser I can read instantly what is happening in the technology industry. HackerNews can bring any website a large amount of traffic, but you should always pay attention to what kind of traffic you need to be successful. If you are running a media company, and get paid based on CPM's, HackerNews can be a great source of traffic.

Let me know if you would like to see these kind of analysis more often on different referrals.

Data: The data showcased in this post has been derived from the Slashdot Google Analytics for the period of August 1st - December 20th.

Disclaimer: The data presented in this analysis has been derived from Google Analytics on Slashdot. It represents a small subset of the total. The comments included herein are my own and don’t necessarily represent Geeknet’s opinions

Christmas Sweaters Hit The Big Times

For two years, I've been following the Ugly Christmas Sweater craze, as it was growing in popularity to throw an Ugly Christmas Sweater party. I just got a message on Twitter that News cable shows are now "discovering" the Ugly Christmas Sweater craze as an item for their morning show: see that NW Cable News sweater event? When a "style" makes it to the pacific NW, it's hit the big time.

Christmas Sweater Tweet I responded that my traffic on this blog for Ugly Christmas Sweaters is going through the roof. The season for the Tacky Christmas Jumper has never been this big! See the daily traffic for the last year on this site for posts with Christmas in the title (which are only a few, majority around the Ugly Christmas Sweater parties).

Sweater traffic

Here is the item on the NWCN News website:

It Proofs that there is business in buying these Sweaters in the second hand stores, and selling these on eBay for a profit! Or make these yourself off course!

All my other posts about the Christmas Sweater crazy:

Couch Commerce – Why eBay Should Have Bought IntoNow

Back in April, Yahoo made one great move. Yahoo bought IntoNow for around $30 million. The start-up was just 12 weeks old! Last week Yahoo/IntoNow launched the iPad application that makes use of the IntoNow technology.  eBay should have bought it back in April for several reasons. Now they should request access to an API from Yahoo to make use of its technology. I will explain below.

IntoNow, The Shazam for TV

Intonow logo by YahooOne of my favorite applications on my iPhone is Shazam. Where Shazam lets you discover new music if you hear a tune somewhere by just letting the application listen for 30 second to the music, Intonow can recognize which TV program you are watching.

From the Crunchbase description of IntoNow:

IntoNow is a consumer tech company that aims to enhance the way people engage with each other around the shows they love. … Based on the SoundPrint platform, IntoNow gives users the ability to almost instantly recognize TV content and then helps them share and discuss those shows with friends, both within the product and through other social streams such as Facebook and Twitter.

Background; The start-up that never will see the Light

Twitter conversation Eight months ago, while I was in Sydney Australia for SMX Sydney (great overview of this conference here), I was catching up with the MD of eBay.com.au. She and I have known each other since eBay marketing college back in November 2004. She always said I should talk to her husband, as we are alike in our love for new technology, always on the edge of the next big thing, and really understands how the Internet works (at least, we think for ourselves).

Joshua (fertile) gave some great pointers on the ideas I presented to him, and we ranted on for a good half hour about start-up ideas, technology and other concepts.

Ever since I read the article on Techcrunch about Yahoo buying IntoNow, I couldn’t help thinking about creative ways to use the technology from IntoNow for a shopping related iPad application. Let’s face it; the two screen TV watching is becoming reality very fast. Checking Facebook, chatting on Twitter or shopping while you watch your favorite series is taking over. This is what eBay calls Couch Commerce.

So my start-up idea was born

Building an iPad shopping application using IntoNow technology, either through an open API or through a licensing deal with Yahoo, which would allow you to get direct shopping deals for products making an appearance in the TV-show you are watching.

To be able to make this concept reality, I started to do research. A couple of uncertainties and time constraints made me delay the project, which probably today will be canceled after all. These include:

  • Uncertain if IntoNow allows you to license the technology, or will launch an API
  • How large is the market for product placements? Would I be in a position to get a list of product placements in all TV shows, movies, quiz-shows etc.?
  • How would you handle older TV shows in rerun? Their product placements might be out of date, and worse even; out of stock!
  • Would the networks hand over this list of product placements without sharing any of the revenue the company would be able to make? These Networks do not seem very favorable towards web start-ups eating their lunch!

Back in the US after my travels to Australia, I posted two questions on Quora:

  1. Where can you find a list of product placements in past & upcoming TV shows? Large brands are sponsoring or placing their products more and more in TV shows. Is there a list somewhere you can see which products are actively placed within TV shows? (Question on Quora link)
  2. How large is the market for product Placements in TV & Film? This report from 2005 talks a $1B market for Product Placements. Fast froward to 2011, how large is this market today...? (Question on Quora link)

Having too much on my plate, not being able to break free for some coding tutorials and a short holiday in The Netherlands, brought me to the end of the summer starting a new job at Geeknet Inc. The start-up idea was still in the back of my head, however, I chose to pursue other, more promising ideas for concepts. The ones that made it pass the drawing board, but not launched yet! There is much more good stuff where this idea came from :)

eBay should have bought IntoNow

Today eBay launched a new iPad shopping application that lets you shop while you watch TV. Double screening is taking over the living room, a term which is called couch commerce by eBay and PayPal.

From the Techcrunch article (markings mine):

A new “Watch with eBay” tab has been added to the e-commerce giant’s iPad app that allows users to shop a selection of items on the marketplace related to what they are currently watching on TV.

Users tap “Watch with eBay” and type in their zip code, cable provider, channel and the program they are currently watching; and using show and event-specific key word searches, the app will surface relevant merchandise from the more than 200 million listings available on the eBay marketplace.

eBay says this is just the beginning. The company plans to partner with networks, stations, cable providers and studio to identify products featured in each scene of a movie or show.

In my opinion, the tab with the Watch With eBay is a brilliant innovation in the eBay App. However, the solution for matching TV show you are watching with merchandise on eBay, could have been much simpler. Instead of a costumer needing to type in all the information about location, channels etc, the IntoNow application SoundPrint platform can be used. The application could just listen which program you are watching, and serve relevant merchandising up based on the products featured in those TV shows. You can even sell advertising on the side which matches the Advertisement blocks on TV. This way the consumer will get roadblocked!

And with regards to the large TV networks, eBay would have the cloud to make such deals happen. Much more chance to make that happen than a little start-up from some crazy Dutch!

Conclusion

Since I’m still long in eBay stock, I will send this post to my buddies who work in the eBay mobile team. This team is amazing, and is cranking out new innovations very fast.

I got a lesson in start-up ideas again! A good idea is not good without execution!

So will you excuse me for a moment, I’m going to read through 4 chapters of Python coding…

 

PS> Full disclosure, I've worked at eBay for 9.5 years (see my bio page), until the end of July 2011. I have never been exposed to the mobile strategy of eBay. The idea I've described above here has never been shared with the eBay mobile team by me. I guess the saying "Great Minds Think Alike" can be applied here.

PSS> If you try to claim couch commerce as a verb to be used with your brand, at least claim the URL.. couchcommerce.com

Buy It New Buy It Now Hijacking

Now that we have Halloween just behind us, the shopping season is just around the next corner. eBay has just launched their new branding campaign, which includes TV-commercials. This is the first brand campaign since 2-3 years, which is showing the team feels confident they are ready for a big shopping season this year. And I hope so, full disclosure: I'm still long in eBay stock!

Here is one of the TV-spots airing at the moment:

Buy It New Buy It Now!

The tagline of the new campaign is: Buy it new, Buy it Now!

eBay brand campaign 2011 Buy it New, Buy it Now!
The new eBay brand campaign was highlighted 3 times in the last earnings call, and several questions from analysts were geared towards the brand campaign: Buy it New, Buy it Now.

Tagline Hijacking

For a couple of years I've been testing out a technique to gain extra traffic to my Dutch blog: Thenextcorner.com. When I spotted a flashy brand campaign on Dutch websites, where the banner was linking to a website in all flash, I would try to hijack the brand traffic. Most of these flash sites would not have decent ability to rank, where SEO and flash don't go well together. By writing a simple post with the tagline in the title, I would be able to rank my page and hijack the traffic for all the brand searches.

Doing a simple search on Buy it New, Buy it Now, you can see potential here as well... But I'm not the only one who thought of that!

Google SERP Buy it New, Buy it Now!

The marketing team of Aliexpress, a site run by Alibaba.com is marketing with the very same tagline as the large brand ad campaign of eBay. And as you can see in the above screenshot, only a couple of eBay help pages are ranking for it. I feel all my work in training teams on integrated marketing campaigns with SEO from the last couple of years have not fully paid off

In the mean time, AliExpress is making sure the message is clear; you can Buy it New, Buy it Now on AliExpress.

AliExpress trying to Hijack eBay Brand tagline

To Be Copied a True Form of Flattery?

A pretty low way of marketing your own brand if you ask me, but it seems to be working for AliExpress. At least eBay is able to take down the Halloween decorations on the site in time, where AliExpress is still showing ghosts and Jack O'Lanterns. For me, AliExpress will always be remembered as the brand that could not do it on their own, but needed to lean on the marketing campaign and hijack the traffic.

In China they say that getting copied is the truest form of flattery.

Lesson learned:

Always make sure you own the search results for your own branding message.Use the tagline as the page title for your homepage, Set up a mini-site, where you feature the video's, claim the twitter account, or build a Facebook page. There are multiple cheap ways to dominate the first page for your message.

Although the eBay branding for this year is pretty generic, the least thing you should make sure of is rank for your own marketing tagline. That whenever people type in the message into a search engine you put into your TV commercials, you get the traffic, not your competitor.

 

Slashdot Popular Stories in Hall of Fame

Everybody who knows me a little knows I'm a data junkie and a Technology news addict. I love to dig into data, referrals for websites, and pull all this data into excel spreadsheets to see patterns, make sense of trends and find hidden gems in the data to learn what makes a website popular for the visitors. See my one of my last posts on how Slashdot got a lot of extra traffic based on top search rankings on keywords. One of the reasons for me joining Geeknet, was that I would get inside information on what stories do well on Slashdot, not only from a comments perspective, but more from a traffic point of view.

Slash Stats AKA Hall of Fame

I'm very happy that we just rolled out the Slash Stats pages last week, so I can keep track of the most popular stories on Slashdot on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. And not only the stories are highlighted based on a number of activity metrics, we also added the people who submitted the most stories or comments. You could brand these pages as a leaderboard, but we like to call it the Hall of Fame!

Slashdot Hall of Fame for statistics on popular stories on SlashdotFind the Slashdot Stats here:

Check Your Own Slashdot Statistics

Even better, when you have a Slashdot account, and you can log in, you can see your own statistics on Slashdot as well, where your recently submitted stories and comments. This way you can clearly track how much you are contributing to the discussions and the value to the overall community. More competitive folks can track how many comments they would need to break into the top commenters for that week.

Happy Hunting...

Slashdot popular statistics on stories and comments, also your own leaderboard when you are logged in

 

Thanks Hackers for the extra Traffic

Back at the end of August, Linux.com got hacked, Kernel.org got hacked. The sites were compromised and the Linux foundation took the whole linux.com site down to make sure no visitors were getting infected. Kernel.org was also taken down where the site showed a note with the following text:

'Earlier this month, a number of servers in the kernel.org infrastructure were compromised. We discovered this August 28th. While we currently believe that the source code repositories were unaffected, we are in the process of verifying this and taking steps to enhance security across the kernel.org infrastructure.'

It was silent for more than a month, until finally on October 5th it was reported that Kernel.org was back up. During that month of the site being down, Google actually took the site out of the index. The right thing to do, as there was nothing on the domain. A search for the exact domain did not return the homepage of the site? Or should have been there a link at the top of the SERP for the Kernel.org website, where a note was displayed discussing the situation.

Google SERP, Kernel.org removed

The two top stories showing up in the SERP because Google removed the Kernel.org domain were from Slashdot, where a lively discussion about the situation was being held. I was just focussed on the extra traffic on the Kernel.org keyword we were getting, which is clearly displayed in the traffic graph below here. You can see when Google took out the domain Kernel.org, and when the site got fixed.

Slashdot traffic on Keyword Kernel.org

So many times I've been happy I had taken the effort to make a screenshot of the SERP when I saw a peak in Keyword traffic and found the reason after a little investigation. How many times does it happen to you that you would like to explain something weird in the SERP's, and you forgot to make a screenshot of what you just have witnessed. Hard to explain my story on the Kernel.org position 1 & 2 if you only have this screenshot in which Kernel.org dominates the top of the SERP (Although the fresher story from Slashdot of Kernel.org being back online does make it to the first page):

Kernel.org dominates the first results on Kernel.org

As I have done SEO for a large e-commerce site for so long, I gain new insights into the SEO for News sites, where the story  is only relevant a short period of time, and your traffic volume is highly dependent on the competition for the positions in the SERP's, the search volume and the quality or your content.

eBay SEO and Page Titles; it’s Complicated @tamebay

As it has only been one months since I left eBay for Geeknet, i’m still keeping track of the news on eBay through my social media, RSS reader and stock alerts. Today, two news items drew my attention. First of all the news eBay has hired a new president for Marketplaces, Devin Wenig, who will have big shoes to fill as he is following up Lorrie Norrington. Second, my eye fell on this article on TameBay: 80 Character titles now live on eBay.

eBay SEO & Item Titles

The title and the item description on eBay are written by the seller of the item, which makes eBay one of the largest User Generated Content (UGC) Sites in the world. It would be a huge task to optimize the page titles for all items live on the site, which is why these are being handled by a template editor, in which the template is the item title.I know my buddy Hugo Guzman would not approve would advice against optimizing page titles like this, but at a scale of 100 million items live on the site, it's just too much to optimize the titles separately. (read here Hugo's great post: Newsflash the mainstream still doesn't understand SEO).

The change eBay has rolled out to the Item Title field for sellers, going from 55 characters to 80 characters, might have a large impact on the SEO and Social Sharing for eBay. Let me explain:

SERP Snippets

Most SEO's can explain to you why Page Titles are important. These are not only important because these sit in the head section of the page, which can help to get the page a topical focus by optimizing the page title for your main keyword. The page titles are also used as the link in the SERP snippets, which allows any site owner to take control of how you communicate with your potential customer in the search engines.

However, the SERP snippet is only displaying a maximum number of characters in the link. This maximum is between 65-70, depending on the word around the 65e character. You can see in the image below here what happens when you go over the maximum number or have a long word around the 65e characters.

eBay SnippetThe former maximum number of characters actually were perfect from an SEO perspective. The 55 characters forced the seller to write short, to the point titles, and allowed the template to include the brand at the end of the title. Template:

[Item Title] | eBay

This way, a search snippet would still showcase the brand in the link:

eBay snippet

We will see how sellers are going to use the extra 15 characters in the item titles. My recommendation to all the sellers would be:

  • Keep the title short and to the point, so it fits in the SERP snippet
  • Where you put the most important keyword, usually the product name and brand, at the beginning of your item title

Social Media Sharing

eBay has Social media sharing buttons implemented on the item pages. This makes it really easy to share any item through eMail, Facebook or Twitter. However the number of Characters for Twitter are obviously limited to just 140! With 80 characters already in the title, and a short url spanning 25 characters (including the space) there is hardly any room for anybody to retweet the message without changing it.

 eBay tweet

Especially with targeted campaigns at subject matter experts, you would like to add your own message to the tweet, where the title of the item should speak for itself. For example, when I tweeted about a Canon 5200mm F14 DSLR Lens to Darren Rowse from Digital Photography School, I made sure I had enough space for him to easily retweet the message. (Below slide is taken out of my SEO for Bloggers presentation I did on EVO)

Short titles and Viral spreading through social media

Short titles and Viral spreading through social media

As you can see, I got a number of retweets because Darren spread the message through his DPS Twitter account. This can be powerful stuff to get more site traffic from Social, and get more links to your site just by getting the content in front of more people.

I believe I only got so many people to retweet this message because a) the message was targeted b) it was super easy to share and retweet

Conclusion

Although the expansion of the number of characters in item title on eBay seems like a great service to sellers, I can imagine some sellers will be confused or annoyed their titles are not being used by the search engines or the people on Twitter as they had crafted the title. So far, I doubt it that many sellers already have updated their listing templates or current live listings, so it will be hard to get evidence of a better or worse result on these items.

We will see, only the future knows and time will tell...

What I had encouraged to build, was a meta tag CMS for the sellers in the SYI (Sell Your Item) flow, similar to what Joost de Valk has built for his SEO for WordPress plugin. In this solution, the page title and meta description would need to be managed separately from the item title or item description, with a default fall back solution.Something like this:

Meta tag CMS

This way, the seller can take fully advantage over how the item will be marketed to their customers in search, while the actual item title can be longer and take up more space with the extra added characters.

Always ask yourself: What would Hugo Guzman do...?

Top Stories on Slashdot

Now that I have been able to look around behind the scenes and got my hands on the internal analytics for Slashdot, we are kicking around with the idea to expand the push of the most popular stories on Slashdot beyond the Popular page.

In Google Analytics you can easily put in a filter for the url of the individual stories, and see which ones were most popular in terms of page views for any given time. For instance, here are the top 10 most popular stories from last week (7-13 August)

1. Cancer Cured By HIV
2. Ask Slashdot Self Hosted Gmail Alternatives
3. 8 Grams of Thorium Could Replace Gasoline In Cars
4. S&P's $2 Trillion Math Mistake
5. New Drug Could Cure Nearly Any Viral Infection
6. Anonymous Vows To Destroy Facebook
7. Facebook We Have Proof Ceglias Contract Is Fake
8. Ask Slashdot Am I Too Old To Learn New Programming Languages
9. Science Fair Entry Shuts Down Airport Terminal
10. Macs More Vulnerable Than Windows For Enterprise

Or the most popular stories for the months of July

1. Zuckerberg Quits Google Over Privacy Concerns
2. Facebook Trapped In MySQL a Fate Worse Than Death
3. Microsoft Developer Made the Most Changes To Linux 30 Code
4. Why Your Dads 30 Year Old Stereo Sounds Better Than Yours
5. Watch Out Linux GNU Hurd Coming
6. Pastafarian Wins Right To Wear Colander In License Photo
7. Google Bid Pi Billion Dollars For Nortel Patents
8. Facebook Bans Google Ads
9. Dropbox TOS Includes Broad Copyright License
10. Chinese Officials Need a Better Photoshopper

These could include stories submitted in just the day before the time period started, as I only filter on the story URL. But as Slashdot does include the actual date of the submission in the URL, we can even do some more advanced filtering and only showcase those stories submitted in the period AND very popular. But I guess you would always favor the stories submitted at the beginning of the week this way.