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Online Commerce Struggles While Online Communities Thrive

With the economic struggles this year, it shouldn’t come to a surprise to anyone that e-commerce site traffic is down this year. What was surprising to me was how much. According to a recent ClickZ article, the Online Publishers Association (OPA) reports that e-commerce is suffering from a 20.4% dip this year. It is important to note that the data is only updated through October, so Black Friday and Cyber Monday were not included.

While e-commerce sites suffer this year, community, search and content oriented sites have seen increases in users time spent online.

Community sites saw the biggest increase. While the OPA credits this mostly to Facebook, I think their are more sites that deserve credit for this. Twitter, in particular. Now that Twitter has grown to 6 million users, it deserves credit for the impact it is having in the online world.

Live Search’s Cashback Blackout

By Carrie Hill

UPDATE: Microsoft Live Search has addressed the outage, stating that the problems were due to a heavy level of usage, and the downtime was partially caused by investigating and then repairing the problem; it won’t happen again. reported Live Search Cashback being broken for most of the day on Black Friday—of particular note the HP site was offering 40% cash back—but the program wasn’t working for those looking for it on one of the heaviest shopping days of the year.

Later Microsoft sent a statement asking anyone who didn’t receive their Cashback confirmation to contact Live’s support desk for more assistance.  If you’re one of those shoppers head over to and bring your HP order number with you.

New Research: Companies Turn to Email to Increase Customer Engagement

The third annual Online Customer Engagement Report–produced by online publisher E-consultancy and digital agency cScape–is now available, and examines the likely impact of a worsening economic environment on customer behavior and psychology.

The report is based on a survey of 1300 respondents and looks at how companies plan to adopt customer engagement campaigns during these tough economic times. I was asked to review the early findings and provide my observations on the data.

Here’s what jumped out at me:

Over the last 12 months, a lack of budget and time (45%) was cited as the biggest barrier to starting a customer engagement campaign. Ironically, as budgets have tightened further—ahead of tougher economic times—those same businesses are increasing their focus in this area, with 41% naming the worsening economy as the catalyst for spending more resources on customer engagement.

Social Media: Failure to Launch

By Peter Young

Social Media is a name on many peoples’ list, and a channel on many advertisers’ marketing plans – however – as many advertisers have recently found – it may not necessarily be the most effective channel in terms of direct response.

Certainly the research would suggest the potential traffic is there. Research suggests that around 60% of Americans use social media sites, with around three quarters of this figure visiting a site at least once a week. That by itself would suggest that there is a significant branding opportunity alone via social media sites, so what are the problems?

Google Writes Guide For Bloggers

Best practices for bloggersBy Kevin Muldoon

Google has recently added a new page to their Best Practices area specifically for bloggers.

The guide gives bloggers some basic Search Engine Optimisation tips like linking to internal pages within your blog and adding a sitemap to your blog. However it also gives advice on a lot of non-SEO issues like promotion and encourages bloggers to ‘Write well and often‘.

Here is a quick summary of what Google suggests bloggers should do :

Create great content

  • Write well and often
  • Follow the webmaster guidelines
  • Categorize your posts
  • Make sure users (and crawlers) can easily find your blog
  • If necessary, limit comment spam
  • Check our tips for affiliate sites

Make sure readers and crawlers can find your content

Google Understands User Behavior

Google is renowned for its intuitive user interface—but a lot of work goes in to making sure that Google understands exactly how its users interact with its pages, as evidenced in a blog post yesterday. And Google doesn’t just look at the user data they get from clicks or surveys—they use actual field studies.

Are actual field tests, observing users “in the wild,” necessary? Google’s Search Quality Uber Tech Lead, Daniel Russell, explains why:

people are masters of saying one thing and doing another, particularly when it comes to nearly automatic behavior. We find that searchers often turn so quickly to Google that they don’t really think too much about what they’re actually searching for.

Online Ad CPM Rates for Q3? I have Good News & Bad News

According to a new report from the Rubicon Project, online ad rates dropped 11% between Q2 and Q3. Now, before you head for liquor cabinet, you might want to take a look at the individual rates for each vertical. Some saw drops of almost 20% while others gained by over 35%!

You can download the full report here.