eCommerce in 2011: Search and Trends

As 2011 draws to a close, it's time to reflect on some of the incidents and trends that shaped the search landscape over the past 12 months.

It's easy to look at total traffic and sales figures, but those reports are best left to the experts. Instead, I've focused on the major landmarks in the 2011 calendar - the New Year sales, Easter and Christmas, along with the impact of the Royal Wedding in April.

Beyond that, I've picked out a few personal highlights of how the major players in the social networking sphere have performed in Google's search statistics over the course of the year.

All of the data is from Google Trends, which means there are no gross estimates of search query volumes - in all cases, the figures below are relative to the full-year average number of queries received by the search terms listed, or of one of the terms in charts comparing the performance of multiple queries.

Topic Shifts on Social Networks

He's hundreds of years old, yet never seems to age. He's usually pictured wearing a red and white ensemble. And he's pretty much at the furthest extreme of the 'good vs evil' spectrum.

Given the time of year, you might be thinking of Santa Claus. I'm not - I'm thinking of Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living, the spirit of true evil and sworn enemy of the ThunderCats.

Perhaps it's just that I'm male and of the right age, but the word 'ever-living' will always instantly make me think of Mumm-Ra - it's an unshakable association that's lasted me for over 20 years now.

Even so, the sequence of topic shifts that led me and @copybeard from Santa to Sir Jimmy Savile is an impressive example of how, on social networks, you'd better be ready to roll with the punches, regardless of where they may take you...

Twixt Bed and Dreams

Midnight chimes bring day to end
and night becomes a silent friend.
A welcome partner, warm embrace;
the peace of sleep on every face
but mine, until I too retire,
the energies of day expire
and darkness crowds out every thought.
Bed's clothes protect me, my own fort
with dreams above, and bed below,
and twixt my head, and my pillow.

Bugs in the System - When Virals Pass You By

I committed a Twitter faux pas today, and I'm feeling a little guilty about it.

Out of a desire to do good, to spread a cry for help wider across the social network, I ended up misleading the very people who were asking for that help.

And the reason was, simply, that they hadn't heard of Fenton.

eBook Ghostwriting

I've recently been doing some eBook ghostwriting for a client (who, for obvious reasons, I'll leave unnamed), and it got me to thinking - just because you're an expert in your field, why should you be expected to be able to write about it expertly?

Nearly three decades of concerted effort have brought my writing to its current standard, and I still continue to learn new quirks of grammar and origins of phrases that I never knew before - such as the correct spelling of the phrase "the strait and narrow".

Likewise, I've been building websites for nearly 15 years and, before I learned HTML, I started out using desktop publishing software to lay out my designs and then simply opting for 'save as HTML' or 'publish for web', depending on the program used.

Now, I don't claim to be a graphic designer, but if what you need is some well-written text, laid out in a paginated format, either with or without placeholders for you to add graphics, I can do that.

Website Copy Charged by the Word Count

When I decided to become a freelance web copywriter, I had to set some sort of pricing structure that I knew would satisfy both me and my clients. You can see it here.

One of the elements of my pricing structure that I never expected to be controversial was my decision to charge according to the word count, rather than the time taken.

Evidently most freelancers need a brief on the project at hand, then estimate how long they think it will take, and then quote an estimated price on that basis. This might mean paying a deposit up front, or renegotiating the price later if the job turns out to take longer than expected.

To put it simply, I can't be bothered with that kind of hassle. Why should it matter to you how long something takes me, as long as you get good-quality content in time for your deadline? And if that deadline is hours away when you get in touch, why should you pay me for two days' work?

The Buy Cycle: Ecommerce Copy for January Sales

When you run an ecommerce site, you need to think differently from your customers.

Sure, you'll see the advice 'think like a customer' all over the place, but you actually need to be one step ahead of them.

And online, they're likely to already be one step ahead of bricks-and-mortar shoppers, so you need to take that into account too.

I'm referring, once again, to what I call the Buy Cycle, the regular pattern of ecommerce trends that repeats year on year on year.

Let it guide you, and you can make sure you've got ecommerce copy for January sales and promotions in place when people are searching for it, and don't miss the rush.

My Christmas Wish

To all of my virtual friends, whether you are on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, by email or in some much-maligned chat room elsewhere on the web, I have this to say...

May your glass be ever full
or your mug, with wine to mull
that your weekends are not dull.
But in the week, sobriety
and empathetic piety
enhance your notoriety
when out upon the pull.

May the words that meet your ear
be filled with festive winter cheer
and love for those that you hold dear.
For in these cold, inclement climes,
I wish you all the best of times
(if in these wooden, stilting rhymes
beset upon by beer).

My friends, I say it simply
with cheeks, from smiling, dimply,
from Withington to Timperley -
I love you all, my dears!
You help me through the years
and set aside my fears
(and that, I do say wimpily!).

So let's, together, delve
into what's upon the shelves
for two thousand and twelve.
As the chimes of Big Ben ring
and 'Auld Lang Syne' starts to sing,
let's face what the year may bring,
together, on our selves.

Heartfelt festive wishes to you all, my internet lovelies, and best of luck for the year to come.

Adventures in Wedding Poetry

My brother got married last week and I, along with my sister, had the honour of giving a reading during the ceremony.

I've done two wedding readings before this one - at the first, my sister's wedding, I chose a poem to read out. At the second, my friends Mat and Bec chose a poem for me to read. This time, I wrote something.

The finished piece is not supposed to be overly moving, as my brother didn't really want anything over the top. Luckily for all concerned, there was a screaming child right at the beginning, which turned the opening line into more of a punchline.

'Oli' is my nephew. I'm probably a little biased, but he's already a little legend in my eyes, so I had to name-drop him. Critics, before you say it, yes I know I didn't use many of the names in rhyming positions - but tough luck, the audience liked it and I think the bride and groom did too, and that's the main thing!

I'm thinking of offering this as a paid service, so if you want something similar to the below, let me know and we can work on something that's right for the bride and groom in your life... meanwhile, I hope Grant and Claire enjoy many happy years together.

Wedding Poem for Grant and Claire

When everything around you
Fades into background noise
And material possessions
Seem like a child's toys

When you feel as though you're flying
With the birds and planes above
To others, you may seem crazy
But to the two of you, it's love

No annoyances or distractions
Can shake you from your path
The magic of your love
Is in the sound of Oli's laugh

There may be ups and downs
And bumps along the way
But each of us supports you
On this, your wedding day

Friends, family, those who care
are here to witness and to share
in celebration of this pair;
the joyful marriage of Grant and Claire.

Fairytale of New SERPs

It's Christmas Eve babe
On Analytics
But it shows no hits, when you ask it.
You need a better site
That uses keywords right
So that, next Christmas night
Your shoppers 'add to basket'.

You'd like to start a blog
But it's a heavy slog
You've never written much
And don't know what to do
There's no need for distress
Here's how to do it best
Just set aside your stress
And let me write it for you.

Your website is bright
And its colours are bold
But the pages are empty
And the content is old
The thing to do next
The next thing you need
Is to fill it with text
For the search bots to read.

"It's awkward, it's pricey!"
There's no reason it need be
And if you don't do it, you'll never be found
So send me a login
And outsource your blogging
I'll keep you updated for just a few pound.

The Google Panda algorithm changes day by day,
But I'll help to keep your site on the front page.

Are familiar to me
But I know that, to you
They might sound like voodoo
Avoid PPC
Instead put its fee
Into up-to-date news
And you really can't lose.

The Google Panda algorithm changes day by day,
But I'll help to keep your site on the front page.

"I'll write my blog alone."
Sure, try it on your own
I wish you all the best
In reaching page one
But when you've had your go
Then make way for the pro
Your site will be here when
The rest have all gone.

The Google Panda algorithm changes day by day,
But I'll help to keep your site on the front page.