Eyetracking Shows Web Audience Ignores Ads

A newly released eyetracking study by usability guru Jakob Nielsen shows that online banner blindness is worsening. Nielsen says that banner ads (indicated by green outlines in his heat maps below) didn’t even receive light focus from skimmers, scanners and readers—and neither did non-ad content in the same areas.

eyetracking heat maps by Jakob Nielsen show complete blindness to banner ads and banner-like elements in web pages

Nielsen concludes, much to his own dismay, that the best way to get people to look at your ads is to make them look like actual content—much like advertising in magazines and newspapers masquerades as editorial content (gotta look for that tiny little ‘advertisement’ notice at the top). That doesn’t mean, however, a 300×300 AdSense block as the first thing in your blog’s text will trick people into think that it’s content and clicking on it. That’s just annoying. (via)

New York Times Getting Personal(ized)

The New York Times has announced a free personalization service called MyTimes. (The “cleverness” in the name becomes more apparent when you remember that the common abbreviation—and URL—for the paper is the NYTimes. ;) )

the NY Times new personalized start page, MyTimes, with added RSS feed

The Times’ First Look blog lists MyTimes as in private beta in the main text, and describes it as a

personalized service [which] makes it easy for you to read all that you like, from one central place. You can further personalize your my Times page by adding up-to-date weather information of your city, movie showtimes in theaters near you, or display your favorite flickr photos. We are constantly adding more widgets to my Times, so make sure you keep checking this blog.

The sidebar, with updated posts, explains that MyTimes entered open beta on Monday.

The WAA Standardizes Web Analytics Terms

Analytics software can be confusing, and it is often difficult to decipher what you really need to pay attention to. Comparing data from multiple sources can be even more complex because of inconsistencies in reporting techniques. Yesterday at SES, the Web Analytics Association (WAA) offered a potential solution to these issues.

The WAA announced the availability of their new report that will provide standardized definitions for 26 of the most widely used terms in analytics tools and software. WAA members, agencies, vendors, practitioners, and thought-leaders have collaborated for the past 11 months to create these definitions.

The Association’s previous release of web analytics definitions in 2006 focused on three of the most important metrics across all analytics tools and software—unique visitors, page views, and visits/sessions. These terms were defined by the industry and agreed upon and now the WAA has expanded their attention to the other metrics that rely on the original three definitions.

Does the Federal Government Hate Search Engines?

Like a page out of a John Grisham novel, the Federal Government is using robots to help stay invisible on the web. Of course I’m not talking about futuristic robots with laser beams for eyes, but rather robots.txt files on various government websites.

A sharp eyed Declan McCullagh of CNet recently posted about several federal government websites using robots.txt files to keep their entire site from being indexed by search engines.

The offenders?

http://www.dni.gov/robots.txt

https://gits-sec.treas.gov/robots.txt

http://thomas.loc.gov/robots.txt

http://www.erl.noaa.gov/robots.txt

http://www.nwd.usace.army.mil/robots.txt

http://www.tricare.mil/robots.txt

Declan also points out other government sites who are using quirky robots.txt restrictions based on the bots they presumably prefer (example: favoring MSN’s bot over Google).

So the question arises, is this the work of an inexperienced webmaster or part of a broader government conspiracy to hide web content?

Six reasons NOT to try to be an online retailer

The internet retailing landscape has changed dramatically over the past eight years. In a summary, it used to be very easy but now it is hard and getting harder every year. The gold rush is over, and if you are someone without much money or business experience that thinks you can build a reasonably profitable ecommerce site, you are fooling yourself.

I am about to become very unpopular with the consultant types out there but here is a simple truth as I see it… This is no time to be starting an ecommerce business unless you have a way to address the six issues below.

vTap Will Revitalise Mobile Video Search

vTap Veveo™, a Massachusetts based company funded by VC (originally to work on their concept of Video on IP for personalised television), will launch a new video search application on September 10 – designed specifically for mobile the creators hope that vTap will revitalise users enthusiasm for media on the small screen.

Rafe Needleman, over at Webware, was also lucky enough to get a personal demo of the new app from founder and CEO, Murali Aravamudan – who outlined the concept behind the solution.

[The] service does not dive into the actual audio or video content of files to create its search index. Rather, it uses the metadata (tags, and text on the page where the file is hosted) to create its video index.

New Look PayPal In Beta

Like many PayPal merchants, I noticed an email landing in my Inbox titled “PayPal is getting a new look” – expressing some haste in familiarising users with the forthcoming changes.

By updating your images soon after the day of launch, you will let your customers know you are a current PayPal merchant and it will help them feel safer making online purchases.

On preview of a mirrored beta version of the site (link at the top of current hompepage) I couldn’t see what the fuss was about – yes it’s a little fresher, but overall it’s still the same old branding.

PayPal Beta

The intial splash screen (before the beta version) carries the statement “Now it’s easier to find what you want”, including:

  • Improved tabbed navigation