Microsoft using Neural Networking Ranking in Search Results

I’ve been curious to see when search engines were going to start exploring using neural networks for their search engine rankings. Microsoft at Searchification Day just announced that their new algorithm is able to understand the meaning between the words used in a keyword phrase:

The improved ranking algorithms use neural networking ranking that are loosely modeled from biological neural networks and can learn patterns that simple algorithms can’t. These algorithms can detect things like words pairs and are close to natural language queries (for instance, “what’s the hottest it’s ever been in AZ”). They note that for queries like this, Google returns pages with all of these words in them, but Live can now return better results because it can understand the relationship between words. [NOTE: This new Microsoft patent on ranking found by Bill Slawski is also interesting.

This is from a Search Engine Land article.

With only 69 million searchers in a month (vs. 104 million for Yahoo and 142 million for Google), and only 11% of queries (vs. 23% for Yahoo and 56% for Google) Microsoft knew it had to do something to improve its rankings.

I’m curious to see how this will be eventually implemented in the other search engines…

Become an SEO Warrior

Discovered this cute SEO flash game that lets you fight the enemies of good search engine optimization.

Incidentally, this is a great example of link baiting. Made me link to their site, now didn’t it?

Feedback from National Conference on Volunteering & Service

I just received feedback from the workshop I gave at the National Conference on Volunteering & Service. Here are some of the highlights

  • Great for non-geeks, very helpful, awesome & funny – good to laugh at yourself
  • She’s a great presenter.
  • This is one of the best sessions I’ve attended so far.
  • Great information – good job of connecting to a non-computer literate audience!!
  • Great speaker – very enthusiastic & spoke in a way non-web savvy people could understand.

It looks like I’ll be presenting a similar webinar for NTEN, so stay tune for those dates!

How to Read Web Traffic Reports

After going through a series of trainings on how to read web analytic reports, and how to create Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for your website, I’ve been struggling with how to explain the whole issue in an easy to understand way.

I found the perfect article, so my thanks to Jason Burby from The ClickZ Network who wrote this great article, Web Analytics 101: The Holiday Invite Lesson.

I am liberally copying his article here (with a few modifications, but these are not my unique thoughts) but feel free to visit the ClickZ Network for future articles about the subject.

So here’s his article:

Hang on to your calendars, the holiday party season has arrived. There’s your work party, your spouse’s work party, family gatherings (how many sides?), and the fun ones with friends. How many invitations did you receive on paper this year? My official count is zero (so far). Most have come by word of mouth or email — and a few of those through Evite. If you’ve ever used Evite, you’ve probably used Web analytics data without even realizing it.

Evite is an online service that allows you to invite people to an event and track their responses. When you receive the Evite invitation, you can easily add it to your Outlook calendar and request a reminder. For those of you new to Web analytics, here is a great example of how to use Web analytics data to make decisions.

Track Your Invite’s Success

I am planning a party and use Evite to send out invitations. After sending out an Evite, I can log in and see who has viewed the message and who hasn’t. I can see how many people have responded with a yes, no, or maybe. Say it’s been a week since I sent out the invite, and I notice my friend Shane hasn’t viewed the invitation. I can call Shane to make sure he knows about the party.

There you go, I’ve just used Web analytics data! I analyzed the responses to my Evite and found someone had not received it, so I picked up the phone and called him. By calling Shane, I just increased my holiday party conversion rate. This is a very simple example of using analytics to make decisions.

You can also set up the invitation to put the analytics information to work for you. When you set up the invite, ask Evite to send a reminder or follow-up email to those who haven’t responded by a certain number of days before the event. Now you have set the system up to take action based on recipients’ behaviors.

Bring It to Non-Profit

Now, take this same approach to your Web site by focusing on key site goals. Start small if you want. Take one of the key conversions on your site, such as (the sign up mechanism on your volunteer opportunity).

Look at how people are getting (or not getting) to your volunteer opportunity and signing up. Then ask questions such as:

  • What content or pages drive visitors to the opportunity?

  • What site pages or content could be optimized to help drive more interested volunteers?
  • What percentage of visitors move through the process to sign up for a volunteer opportunity?

Now that you understand this one process, look for additional opportunities to improve. Don’t look to solve all the site problems at once; just try increase this one conversion rate. Then you can look at additional factors, such as:

  • Do you need to get more people to your volunteer opportunities?

  • Can you improve your calls to action?
  • Do you need to increase the calls to action throughout the site to drive more people to your volunteer opportunities?
  • How can you convince (convert) people to sign up to volunteer once they arrive on the volunteer opportunity?
  • Do you have more than one problem?

Using Web analytics data to make decisions and take action doesn’t need to be hard. As you respond to those Evite invitations this year, just remember you’re probably already doing it.

Real life Link Building Email that worked

I’ve been helping our friends at VolunteerLouisiana.gov develop inbound links, and I wanted to share with you the email that I sent to webmasters that is working to build traffic and links to their site:

Subject:

Developing a partnership to help New Orleans rebuild

Body:

Dear ,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Louisiana Association of Volunteer Centers and the Louisiana Office of the Lt. Governor. Both of these groups support www.VolunteerLouisiana.gov and need more volunteers to sign up at the site to help with the long term recovery work that is being conducted by nonprofits that are using the system.

Would you be willing to place a link to their website www.VolunteerLouisiana.gov on your site encouraging people to sign up to volunteer?
If you use volunteers for your nonprofit, you can also get a free account to manage those volunteers by selecting “Create An Account” on their site.
Thank you in advance for your consideration and help in working together to rebuild New Orleans.
Katherine

Optimizing your site for Yahoo

Most of the tips that I have provided to our users focus on optimizing your site for Google, but I stumbled upon an article that just focuses on optimizing for Yahoo. The full article is here, and here are the bits I think you should focus on:

Title Tag: Keep your title tag as short as 5 small-medium sized words and include one complete incidence of your keyphrase.

So I would suggest that you make sure your title tag includes the word “volunteer” and your city/state.

Meta Description Tag: Start this tag with an incidence of your keyphrase and then produce a short 15 – 18 small-medium sized word sentence clearly describing your site.

So make sure you start this tag with the word “volunteer”

Keywords in URL: Create keyword-based filenames that closely represent the content within the file. Yahoo rewards keyword-based filenames a small amount – perhaps enough to push past your competition.

This includes when you upload .pdfs – label them starting with some of your keywords

LINKS
When building links for Yahoo concentrate on quality not quantity. Quality links would be one way links from sites that specialize in content directly relevant to the content on your own website.

So start with links from the community service section of university’s sites, from your nonprofit’s sites, from the “services” section of your local city’s site.

Recruiting Volunteers by Using Facebook

Considering my post yesterday was about you can use Gather.com to recruit older NPR type folks, I figured I would follow up with a post about how to use Facebook to promote your volunteer opportunities to a younger crowd.

So here we go.
1. Create Personal Facebook account
2. Join your regional/city network
3. Create an event (on the left navigation). Make sure to pick which network to broadcast it to.
4. You can either use Facebook’s guest list feature, or put the 1-800-Volunteer.org URL address for the volunteer opportunity in the “Description” field to track folks who have signed up.

Very simple. You’ve just reached out to a portion of the 34 million users that use Facebook.

Optimizing PDFs for Search Engines

I know that many of us put brochures, event flyers, etc. on our websites for potential volunteers to download. PDFs are not naturally very search engine friendly, but they can be!

Here’s a great article from Search Engine Land that explains how.

Getting Bloggers to Help Raise Funds for Your Nonprofit

I was initially going to just write an article about why non-profits might want to use Gather.com — which has been described as a “MySpace for grownups” — to find volunteers, and then I found this nifty tidbit in their press release section:

Gather.com bloggers can earn cash or Gather PointsTM that are redeemable for gift cards from valued partners. Gather.com pioneered the concept of social networking sites sharing advertising revenue with members based on the quality and popularity of the content they contribute. Compensation can also be earned through site use and by inviting others to join Gather.com.

Gather.com members have been accumulating points and cash since the site’s launch. Once members earn the equivalent of $50 worth of Gather Points in a month, they can opt for cash compensation going forward. Those earning less than $50 can now redeem their points for gift cards from a variety of merchant partners.

Based on results to date, it is estimated that the top earners will earn nearly $1,000 in May alone, while at the current rate, hundreds of bloggers will earn hundreds of dollars annually. Gather.com members will also have the option of donating their Gather Points to specific charities, providing a valuable fundraising tool for non-profit organizations on Gather. Several members have already established Gather GroupsSM for their favorite charity.

Why should you care?
First of all, by listing your nonprofit as a group on Gather.com, you can potentially “gather” more volunteers and its an easy way for you to share articles, video, photos, or praise written about your organization.

Secondly, only registered non-profit can receive the donation. Sign up on Gather.com is easy, and once you’ve created a profile, you can select the Groups tab, and the “Create a Group” button. ***Make sure when creating your personal profile, that you use your non-profit’s name as your username. It will create a profile page with its own address. You can see my example here: http://taprootdancer.gather.com

You also need to be actively participating, so I would add a few of your most recent press releases and/or your volunteer opportunity job descriptions with links so that they can sign up on your 1-800-Volunteer.org account.

Then you just need your supporters to join and create posts about their favorite book, comment on a news article, or talk about their favorite movie and designate that you should get their “points”.

Based on their traffic rank, this site is more popular than VolunteerMatch and Idealist.org, but not as popular as Facebook or Myspace, but since this is a site reaching the older NPR listening demographic, I still think it’s worth using to promote your nonprofit’s mission and perhaps raise some funds along the way.

Besides, you can receive Starbucks gift cards for your contributions, so at the very least maybe you’ll get a cup of coffee for your effort.

What are Website "Hits" Anyway?

Which number should you track? “Hits” or “Visitors“?

Well, let’s look at what the difference is between a hit and a visitor.

Hits: A “hit” is not a visitor but a hit on the web server. What is a hit on the web server? When a website loads, it needs to pull graphics, java applet, and html file/code, from the web server to display your website properly. So, if your site has 79 small graphics on the page — including the html code/file, every visitor to the site registers as 80 hits on the server! So really your 80,000 hits are just 1,000 visitors loading your page once.

Visitors: Actual people who visit your website, or here’s a technical definition: A visitor is a person who visits your site and their browser accepts a cookie. By this definition, a visitor is a human being, and their actions are ‘human’ events, because only humans use javascript to navigate the internet (search engine spiders don’t read or act on javascript).

You might have noticed that many web site owners tell you the “hits” for their website to purposely make you think that a “hit” is a “visitor”, and to inflate their numbers.

**But don’t take my word for it – here’s an article about why you shouldn’t measure hits from one of the Web Analytic programs, Opentracker.

So what’s the lesson learned?

Make sure you are measuring real people.

It is not helpful to you or the community you serve to inflate the number of visitors you promote that you serve. If your visitor numbers are low, you will find plenty of tips on this blog about how to really increase the number of potential volunteers (visitors) who find your volunteer opportunities and learn more about your nonprofit.

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