Virtual interns

Posted on November 23rd, 2009 by John Nicholson

As we start recruiting for our first Marketade interns, this recent WSJ article on virtual internships caught my eye, and makes me wonder: for most internet-based small businesses, is it better to have an A-talent intern working remotely, or a B-talent intern working with you face-to-face? The article mentions the site Urban Interns, which I’m going to try out.


Stanford web credibility guidelines

Posted on November 21st, 2009 by John Nicholson

A few years ago, my friend Paul sent me this great list from B.J. Fogg and the Web Credibility team at Stanford. Unlike a lot of top 10 tips lists, this one is backed by rigorous research. High recommended — I revisit them every few months.


Patriots vs. Colts and data vs. intuition

Posted on November 18th, 2009 by John Nicholson

I was shocked when I watched the ESPN highlights of the recent Patriots-Colts game. With 2 minutes left in the game — leading by 6 points — and with the ball on their own 28, Pats coach Bill Belichick decided to go for it on 4th-and-2.

I’ve always disliked Belichick and so I was happy to see the Pats fail to convert on the play, and then look silly giving the ball to Peyton Manning with less than 30 yards to go for a touchdown. The Colts scored a TD and won the game, 35-34, while Belichick looked up at the sky.

But as it turns out, Belichick’s call was the right one — if you go by the data and probabilities. As one Fifth Down blog post in the NY Times puts it, “Twenty years ago… closed. It was a bad move. The people with the pens and microphones had spoken. Heck……ten years ago this would have been the case. But, a funny thing happened. The N.F.L. stat geeks … fought back.”

Here’s a leading geek’s analysis, quoted in another Fifth Down post:

Scenario 1: The custom case for the specific offensive and defensive features of the Colts and the Patriots.

Going for it: 77.3% (Probability of Winning for the Patriots)
Punting: 75.7%

Scenario 2: The case for two N.F.L. average and equal teams in every offensive and defensive category:

Going for it: 78.6% (Probability of Winning for the Patriots)
Punting: 76.4%

Scenario 3: The break-even point on the decision occurs when the team with the ball is about 5 percent weaker than N.F.L. average on offense and 5 percent better than N.F.L. average on defense, while the opposing team is 5 percent better than N.F.L. average on defense and 5 percent worse than average on offense.

The results of Scenarios #1 and #2 clearly point in favor of Belichick’s decision, although not by nearly as wide a margin as we might have expected. Additionally, the analysis in Scenario #3 really cements the case for “going for it.” Applying this benchmark and comparing it with the far different characteristics of the Patriots and the Colts makes the call all the more clear.

Thumbs up to Belichick on a courageous and correct call last night.

In his Freakonomics column, Steven Levitt praises Belichick not only for making the right call, but for doing so knowing that “if it failed, he would be subjected to endless criticism.” In other words, he cares more about winning than his reputation.

For fans of data-driven decision-making — in business, sports, or any other sphere — this is a fascinating case study, and I find myself liking Bill B. just a little more these days.


NY Times small-business guide to using Facebook

Posted on November 12th, 2009 by John Nicholson

A few good tips from “How to Market Your Business With Facebook” from the NY Times:

  • Identify a short list of goals before you begin.

  • Show some personality in your page.

  • Don’t shill. Use your page to engage-and trust that sales will follow.

  • Use Facebook data to analyze your customer demographics.


Google Webmaster Blog: meta keyword tag doesn’t matter

Posted on November 6th, 2009 by John Nicholson

I recently did some SEO work for a client, whose web designer later suggested I didn’t know what I was doing because I hadn’t touched the site’s meta keywords. So I went looking for a credible source stating that meta keywords don’t matter. I didn’t have to look hard; a little over a month ago, Google’s Matt Cutts posted this hard-to-misinterpret announcement on the Google Webmaster Central Blog: “Google does not use the meta keyword tag in web ranking“. Matt McGee captures the significance of this post in his Search Engine Land column:

Google is telling the world what every seasoned webmaster and search marketer should already know: The keywords meta tag has no impact whatsoever on how Google’s search engine ranks pages. None. Zilch. Nada. And while Google often needs to be somewhat ambiguous when talking about how it ranks pages, the message in today’s blog post is perfectly clear …

Here’s are some key excerpts from Google’s blog post:

Q: Does Google ever use the “keywords” meta tag in its web search ranking?
A: In a word, no. Google does sell a Google Search Appliance, and that product has the ability to match meta tags, which could include the keywords meta tag. But that’s an enterprise search appliance that is completely separate from our main web search. Our web search (the well-known search at that hundreds of millions of people use each day) disregards keyword metatags completely. They simply don’t have any effect in our search ranking at present.
Q: Does this mean that Google ignores all meta tags?
A: No, Google does support several other meta tags. This meta tags page documents more info on several meta tags that we do use. For example, we do sometimes use the “description” meta tag as the text for our search results snippets [...].  Even though we sometimes use the description meta tag for the snippets we show, we still don’t use the description meta tag in our ranking.
Q: Does this mean that Google will always ignore the keywords meta tag?
A: It’s possible that Google could use this information in the future, but it’s unlikely. Google has ignored the keywords meta tag for years and currently we see no need to change that policy.