I’m Back…Finally!

It’s been forever since the last blog post, I know. I have really good excuses. I’m actually on vacation now, going to Europe with my family, so the past month has been a concentrated effort to try to wrap up everything before leaving.

One of the “wrap up” items was to try to finish the first draft of the new eye tracking study. I didn’t quite hit that goal, but it’s well along and I’m hoping I’ll be able to steal the odd hour to keep nudging it along in the next 3 weeks. I’m also hoping to get the odd post in as well. Then, September, its back to a regular posting routine, I promise!

So, to ease back in, some miscellaneous comments about a mixed bag of topics.

A few weeks back, I wrote a column about a theory we had called “Pre-mapping” of search results. Well, we managed to test pre-mapping with a panel of about 80 people. We split the group into two, one with a scenario that would lead to using a search engine to book a hotel room, and one that would lead the group to use the search engine to find out more about the hotel in question. We expected to find the second group much quicker to skip past the top sponsored ads and head for the top organic listings. The idea of pre-mapping is that you have a predetermined concept of where you’ll find the most useful results on the search page and you relocate there quickly. We thought the scenarios we created would lead to distinct pre-mapping activity. But when we looked at the results, we were surprised to find there was very little difference in the scanning activity of the two groups. Both started in top sponsored, and spent some significant time there. In fact, the research group even appeared to linger there a little longer, spending more time reading the listings. More about this as we sort out the data a little more.

If you happen to be in San Jose for Search Engine Strategies, make sure you catch Bill Barnes from Enquiro, pinch hitting for me on the Search Behavior Research Update panel, kicking off the show on Monday morning. He’s got a fascinating time lapse look at side by side heat maps of the two groups. Very cool stuff. He’ll also have some never before seen slides on a fascinating little side by side perceived relevancy test we did. Check it out and say hi to Bill after.

Speaking of SES, for the first time in 5 years, I won’t be at the show at all. Normally I try to balance the show with a summer family camping trip, but this year we opted for Europe instead (more on this on the Thursday Search Insider column). Of course, that means this year I got invites to all the really interesting parties. I’ve had to send my regrets to at least 5 different invitations. It looks like it’s going to be a packed show, with 5 different tracks over 4 days. Danny Sullivan is a mad man! Some day he will explode, driven over the edge by excessive amounts of Diet Coke and one too many donuts.

One monumental regret is that I won’t get a chance to see Matt Cutts. I saw a blog post somewhere (I think it was Barry Schwartz) that pointed to what may be the funniest thing I’ve ever seen…a virtual paper doll of Matt, complete with costumes of Inigo Montoya and Super Spam Cop. And this is legit..it’s not a spoof. Thank god my daughters are past the age of playing with this site. The idea of my little princesses dressing and undressing Matt would send me into psychotherapy for at least 6 months. But unfortunately I won’t have the chance to accost Matt on this. Please do me a favor, if you see Matt at the show, please bring this up and tell him Gord sent you. Thanks.

Well, that’s probably enough for the first catch up post. I’m on a flight right now to New York (105 degrees tomorrow..ouch!) and after a sweat soaked day in the Big Apple (first time for my girls) it’s catching the night flight to Milan tomorrow night from JFK.

For those interested, on my reading list this trip is Small Pieces Loosely Joined by David Weinberger. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s also one of the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto. It looks fascinating and was recommended by Mitch Joel of Twist Image. I’ll let you know what I think.

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