Bug Bytes is a weekly roundup of the Web’s best links, blog posts, and news articles related to web design, application development, and online marketing. Continue the conversation and share your thoughts on these stories in the comments below – we’d love to hear your own insights!
Over recent months, Google has put a significant amount of effort into augmenting its web analytics platform, Google Analytics, with new features that make it more powerful than ever. This past week, Google announced the inclusion of a new visual reporting suite called ‘Flow Visualization’. This report allows web analysts to view common click paths of visitors, organized by variables that include visitor source or goal. These reports give additional context to user behavior and should allow marketers to more easily gauge the effectiveness of digital advertising campaigns and on-site conversion points.
Insight: Google’s investment in developing Analytics’ reports and features shows an impetus to compete with paid web analytics solutions, such as Omniture SiteCatalyst. While Google recently announced an enhanced paid version of Analytics, the inclusion of Flow Visualization reports in the standard Analytics package may make it a viable tracking option for more companies and brands.
Not satisfied with its domination of the global search engine market (or its recent expansion into social media), Google will soon unveil a new cloud-based music platform to rival Apple’s iTunes store. The cloud storage system will allow users to back up songs remotely and play them back on multiple (likely Android-based) devices. Google has recently announced an agreement with music label EMI, and is said to be in the process of negotiating with Universal, Sony, and Warner Music for access to their vast music catalogs. Google has also hinted that their Google Music service will go beyond selling only 99-cent music tracks.
Insight: Inspired by Apple’s foray from the computer industry into the “digital-products” (and subsequently “content-delivery” and “ad network”) category, Google has set its sights on being at the center of online activity. As a multi-billion dollar brand, Google certainly has the resources to take on industry leaders, such as Apple and Facebook, and its long-term trend of digital integration provides the potential for a Google-centric universe to become a reality.
To demonstrate optimal on-screen readability, Smashing Magazine has created a blog with the specific body copy font size of 16 pixels. The piece draws comparisons between how reader behavior differs between a computer screen and the printed page. Due to sitting distance (typically 2 feet away to avoid too much light and eye strain), readers require larger font sizes to be able to see on-screen writing.
Insight: Successful web design demands an understanding of how online behaviors differ from those pursued away from the computer or mobile device. To guarantee that online information is easily viewed and quick-to-process, font sizes should be successfully sized and colored for reader comfort. Smashing Magazine reminds us that the most important (but sometimes the most neglected) online design element is legibility.
In a recent article on iMedia Connection, Sean X. Cummings discusses the increasingly pervasive, yet enigmatic, QR code. Although the small squares are appearing with greater frequency, the majority of people remain clueless as to their purpose or potential value. In fact, in an on-the-street survey of 300 San Franciscans, he found that only 11% could successfully identify a QR code by name. Meanwhile, 53% guessed everything from “secret military code, Korean, to an aerial street map of San Francisco”. If these findings are representative of Americans as whole, marketers may find disappointment in their QR-based efforts.
Insight: When it comes to QR codes, it appears that a significant amount of customer education is needed to ensure ongoing use and success. Marketers are garnering some attention by shifting away from “black-and-white only” to QR codes with color and design elements; however, teaching people how to interact with the small squares is still an obstacle to overcome. If pursuing a QR code campaign, make sure to consider ways to incorporate a bit of call-to-action and direction into your efforts.
Historically, the meta keyword tag is one of the most disputed search engine ranking factors for in the SEO industry. However, in recent years, most SEO practitioners could agree that the meta tag had been antiquated, and no longer served a purpose for Google or the Search Alliance partners, Bing and Yahoo!. To stir up speculation and open the topic up for discussion once again, Duane Forrester, a senior product manager at Bing, revealed that the meta keyword tag is still being used as one of Bing’s hundreds of ranking factors. Keeping his speech cryptic, the Microsoft official revealed very little, saying that “meta keywords is a signal … Getting it right is a nice perk for us, but won’t rock your world. Abusing meta keywords can hurt you.”
Forrester’s words seem to indicate that the meta keywords tag is being used to sift out spammy websites abusing the HTML element and may not carry the same ranking benefits as it once did. Based on his announcement, the traditional use of the meta keywords tag — stuffing in every possible keyword to rank for any term imaginable — will only penalize your website. Additionally, his speech does not encourage its use, and promotes a more subtle, nuanced approach. This seems to mirror Google’s efforts with the Panda updates of 2011, which effectively did away with old-world SEO tactics like ideal keyword density.