How Australians search for breaking news stories

Yesterday marked a horrific day in Sydney’s history as a gunman seized hostages in Lindt café. The story was not only broadcasted nationally, but also spotlighted worldwide.

As I was searching for news updates, I pondered about how other people were searching for their news as well.

Curiosity got the better of me, so I consulted Google Trends. The below image shows two screenshots from Google Trends highlighting the top 10 trending topics in Australia. Image A was taken yesterday (15/12/14) at 5pm, and image B was taken this morning (16/12/14) at 10am but gives an overview of the trending topics across all of yesterday (15/12/14).

Sydney Seige search habits


In image A ‘news’ was the most popular trending topic. This makes sense as early in the day people want to find out more information about the hostage situation but did not necessarily know what keywords to search.

In image B ‘Sydney siege’ was the most popular trending topic, which indicates more informed searchers as the phrase ‘Sydney siege’ was used across TV broadcast, newspapers and publisher websites.

People were also searching for their preferred news source. This gives an indication of the leading media outlets (in terms of online readership) with ABC and SMH in first and second position. However, Google Trends does not account for direct visitation to the news websites.

Use regular expressions to match query strings

Recently I had an analytics problem where I wanted to track a page, however the linked pages on the website had various tracking parameters on the query string. For example:

I wanted to group all of the URLs together to see the stats as one entity. To do this I used this regular expression:

http://(www\.website\.com\/campaigns\/page\.aspx){1}([\w- ./?&=]*)?

I’m sure there are a few ways to do it, however this expression worked very well for me.

EasyJet VS Ryanair: which airline website prevails in usability? (Part 1 of 3)

EasyJet and Ryanair are competing budget airlines in the European and UK market. Both airlines have similar pricing and service; however the websites operate completely differently. Which airline has the better website?

Whilst living in London for the past two years I have been a frequent visitor to both websites. I would say that I am one example of EasyJet and Ryanair’s target audience groups. I am a frequent traveller (flying 1-3 times a month) and I am also interested in travelling on the cheap, so I mostly consider budget airlines when booking my flights.

When purchasing flight tickets, I consider:

  • Prices
  • Dates of flights
  • Flight times
  • Which airport the flight is leaving from

The last point is especially interesting considering London has multiple airports (compared to Sydney whom only has one major airport). The airport also plays a part in the decision process, as you factor in:

  • How difficult it is to get to the airport (multiple airports in London mean that people have more options)
  • Costs associated to get to the airport (especially relevant since many people rely on public transport in London)

As a consumer, I want to see all of this information on a website as easily as possible to make the best decision and ultimately purchase. So, how does this translate in terms of the EasyJet and Ryanair website?

Over the next few posts in the coming weeks I will analyse usability and how each website deals with performing the following tasks:

  • Searching for flights
  • Comparing flights/costs
  • Purchasing a ticket (conversion funnel)

Fixed variables and scope for analysis

For this study I have chosen Berlin as the destination, with the reason being it is quite a well visited and popular destination in Europe. The dates chosen are Friday 16th August – Sunday 18th August 2013. The August period is summer in London/Berlin so it will be the peak travel period. I have also chosen to leave on Friday and to return to London on Sunday as I often took weekend trips and left on a Friday night after work. In my experience of travelling over the last two years, Friday nights and Saturday mornings are very busy periods at the airports.

Please note that this analysis is not an all inclusive study of usability on both websites (it does not factor in design and programming functionality), but rather focuses solely on the main tasks of a user and how easy it is to perform the tasks on both EasyJet and Ryanair websites.

Searching for flights

EasyJet flight search form on the homepage

EasyJet flight search form on the homepage

EasyJet has a simple to use interface on the homepage. I like that the search option allows me to search for all airports in London. This is especially useful for users that are flexible with airport location and would rather focus on price/timings of flights. It also allows users to search for specific airports and tailors its search functionality to both searching habits. After hitting the ‘Show Flights’ button, I am taken to the flight selection page. This is an easy and quick process.

Ryanair flight search form on the homepage

Ryanair’s flight search interface on the homepage looks simple enough, however looks can be deceiving and this is a prime example. I search for London and am shown three individual airports in the auto-complete. I choose the first option, London Gatwick, as this airport is the most convenient to get to from my work on a Friday afternoon. However, when I search for Berlin, no auto-complete options are shown. I chose the dates and click ‘Book Now’ anyway hoping that some results return.

I then get a popup stating that I have not chosen my destination. As a user I am a bit stumped. I have most certainly chosen a destination and I find it frustrating that it is telling me otherwise. After a short while I realise that I have chosen the wrong airport and that I will need to select another London airport that actually flies to Berlin.

Ryanair popup that I have not chosen destination

This is where Ryanair’s search functionality fails. It assumes that customers know which airports are connected to certain destinations. In the end I had to go through each London airport in the search function to see if the Berlin destination would show up on auto-complete. This has tested my patience and as a user, I could have easily given up booking with Ryanair based on this inconvenience alone. After finally finding that London Stanstead connects to Berlin, I click ‘Book Now’ and I am then taken to a security check page where I have to fill in a CAPTCHA form.

CAPTCHA form on Ryanair website

I can understand that Ryanair does not want to be spammed by bots, but as a user I just see this as another hindrance and hurdle I have to jump over to get to the flight selection page. This whole process has taken me about 5-10 minutes, compared to the 1 minute it took on the EasyJet website.

Winner of the ‘Searching for Flights’ round 1

There is definitely a clear winner here. EasyJet’s easy selection and one-click process out shadows Ryanair’s difficult to use interface. In the future it would be great to see Ryanair adopt a ‘search all’ functionality for all London airports and also to remove the CAPTCHA form as it is an unnecessary additional step in the booking process. I would also consider removing the tickbox for the terms and conditions on the Ryanair search form.

In the next series, I will analyse the ease in which I can compare flights and costs and also assess the conversion funnel on both EasyJet and Ryanair websites. If you have come across a website that oozes great or poor usability, please leave a comment!

Staying abreast in digital marketing

Working in the digital industry is fast-paced. It is part of my role to keep up with current trends and news in the industry. Some of the tools I use to keep up to date include:

  • RSS – I use Google Reader to follow industry blogs, news and tech websites
  • Email subscription – For those blogs/websites that don’t have RSS, I sign up to their newsletters
  • Twitter – I probably use Twitter the most for news on digital marketing

I often spend around 2 hours+ a day looking at digital marketing material (including outside of work).

Some interesting articles that I have come across recently are:

Not as related, but still quite entertaining:

Have you come across anything interesting lately?

Internet Explorer 9 vs Chrome: which ad prevails?

Recently I have seen a lot of advertisements (on television and also video ads at tube stations around London) for Internet Explorer 9 and Chrome browser.

Microsoft IE9 Ad

Here is a popular ad on IE9, that seems to be popping up everywhere around London.

Microsoft’s use of music is catchy. The combination of graphics and preview of different mediums appeal to a younger audience. Microsoft focuses on the features and the benefits of IE9, such as the speed. They also touch on what you can do with the browser such as watching videos and playing games. The reviews from trustworthy sources, like New York Times, also help build credibility.

Google Chrome Ad

Chrome’s ad below takes on a very different approach.

The ad tells a story and follows the timeline of Julie Deane’s success with creating and growing her satchel bag business. The main messaging of the ad is why you should use chrome and how you can use it to achieve your goals.
Although the ad showcases specific Google products (such as Gmail, Google Chat, Google Maps, Youtube and Google Search), they do it in such a clever and seamless way that you don’t even really notice.
The ad is also very localised – the ad was made for the UK audience and uses a case-study of a successful business woman based in the UK.
The tagline is ‘the web is what you make of it’ and they have also skilfully included a call to action at the end – ‘search for chrome’.

Internet Explorer vs Chrome

So who do you think does it better? Google’s clean and simple ad with the messaging of why and how you can use Chrome to achieve your goals or Microsoft’s youthful and catchy ad focussing on the features?

For me, there is a clear winner here. Google’s focus is on the ‘why’, whereas Microsoft focuses on the ‘how’ and ‘what’. The ‘why’ drives more meaning into not only the product but the business as a whole, and to that extent will help Google grow a loyal following.

However, it really comes down to one question, why should I use this product?

Microsoft’s answer via the ad: We are fast, fluid and have high definition. We are also endorsed by several reputable companies.

Google’s answer via the ad:
We can bring your ideas to life and help reach your goals.

Which answer appeals to you most?

If you’d like to learn more, here is a great video from TED about the ‘Why’

Google Analytics Annotations: Give meaning to your data

Recently I held a training session to show people from other departments how to use Google Analytics to pull various reports. A person from the marketing team (that dealt mostly with offline media such as magazine and newspaper inserts) asked about how they could measure the effect of their offline advertising through online analytics.

Measuring offline activity is no easy fete. However there are ways to give data more meaning. The ‘annotations’ feature in Google Analytics allows you to leave notes (private or public) on the graphs. This allows you to gain an understanding of unusual spikes in traffic.

For example, below I have set up an annotation on June 17 2012 which shows a spike in traffic to this specific page. The reason for the spike, as noted in the annotation, is because the summer banner campaign was made live that day which brought in an increase in traffic.

Setting up annotations in Google Analytics is a great way to keep track of not only online marketing activity but also any changes you’ve made on the website, such as new blog posts.

Although Google Analytics is an online measurement tool, it is also worth noting offline activity, such as TV commercials and press coverage, to see if the offline activity directed any traffic to the website.

Part 1: How to optimize emails

Recently I have been involved in a few e-mail projects – most notably analysing and optimizing emails. Research has shown that e-mail drives a higher conversion rate than both search and social efforts. If you have a database full of engaged users that have signed up for your newsletters or promotions, optimizing your emails is definitely a worthwhile activity that could lead to more sales and a higher conversion rate.

What is email optimization? How do I do it?

For those that are not in the digital marketing industry, the words ‘optimizing’ and ‘optimization’ might just sound like buzz words. In this scenario, optimizing simply means improving e-mails (through various methods) so that consumers are more likely to perform your desired action, such as purchasing a product, liking your Facebook page and so forth.

Testing different email variables

Optimizing emails can involve testing a number of variables and analysing the results. When creating a test, it is good to have a goal in mind. For example, the next email I send out I want to increase Open Rates. From that goal, you can then expand to test different aspects such as subject lines, scheduling etc.

I have created a diagram below to show the different variables that you can test.

Optimising and Testing Emails

This diagram is not all inclusive, it is designed to give you an idea of different goals and variables you could test to reach your goal.

In part 2 of ‘How to optimize emails’ I will look at multivariate testing and recording results.

SEO & Search Salaries: How much should you be earning?

What is your salary expectation for this role?
This a common question in the screening and interview process. It can also be a very tricky question as some recruiters will try to weed out candidates that have a high salary expectation. On the other end, I have also heard of people refusing to answer this question till after they have had an interview.

In the past I’ve had trouble answering this question and usually base my answer around my previous salary only.

I’ve had a think about this question more and did a bit of background research. I found some salary averages on Reed for the Media, Digital & Creative industries and it states that that average salary is £35,272 for search positions (SEO & PPC) in the UK. I’ve also had a conversation with a recruiter and she stated that a base salary in an agency is usually around the £35k mark for a mid-senior level position.

How to answer
So say for example you’ve made it to the screening process where the employer has found that your skills and work experience matches the role. He or she asks: ‘What is your salary expectation?’

The way I would go about answering the question is to look at:

  • The range of salaries in similar roles
  • How many years of experience you have compared to their desired level of experience
  • Qualifications that may be seen as favourable (e.g. Google Analytics & Adwords qualification)
  • Previous salary

So for example, your answer could be: “I have been doing a bit of research and found that similar roles are around the £30-£50k mark. I feel that my previous role dealing with analytics, search and insights make me a fair player and I believe I can contribute a lot to the analysis side of things with my qualification and experience in Google Analytics. My salary expectations are around £38-40k.”

Of course there are other ways you could go about it. Are there any other factors that you would look at while answering this question?