Companies are blogging less and that’s a mistake

An interesting study courtesy of the Society for New Communications Research:

Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes has been studying corporate communications strategies of the Fortune 500 for the past eight years. Key findings include:

  • Twenty-one percent of the Fortune 500 has a corporate blog (103 corporations) (21%); a decrease of 10% from 2014.
  • Twitter is more popular than Facebook with the Fortune 500 (78% vs 74%).
  • Glassdoor (87%) has joined LinkedIn (93%) as a popular business tool.
  • The use of Instagram has increased by 13%. A total of 33% of the Fortune 500 having an Instagram presence, pointing to a continued growth in interest in visually rich platforms.

I have noticed that fewer companies are publishing blogs these days — particularly globally. I view this as a missed opportunity, though I understand why it is happening. Creating  content that people actually want to read is hard work. It’s not as sexy as chasing the latest new social network, like Snapchat or Instagram.

Blogs, well produced, can be an amazing source of leads, search engine traffic and customer engagement — even with mobile users. And if you support blogs across a variety of languages you will only multiply the traffic you receive.

I’m not suggesting that companies not support Twitter, Instagram, etc. In fact, blogs provide foundational content for Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.

One company still invested in blogs (and other content) is Capgemini:

capgemini_blogs

And here is an excerpt from the German site — local-language blogs:

capgemini_de

 

Perhaps I’m a bit biased about blogs, as I’ve been writing this one for more than a decade.

But I suspect companies will one day come full circle on this.

After all, everything old is new again…

You can download the full research report here.

 

 

From Russian to Arabic to Chinese, new TLDs have arrived

Cyrillic IDNs

This screen is from a website advertising two new top level domains in Cyrillic.

Here are the two domains and what they represent:

.САЙТ (Website)

.ОНЛАЙН (Online)

Two other domains that were recently approved by ICANN were in Arabic and Chinese:

شبكة  (Network)
游戏  (Game)

This is just the tip of iceberg. Many more non-Latin domains are in the pipeline for approval, the bulk of them being Chinese domains. Amazon and Google are among the many prospective applicants.

Even the Angry Birds creators are getting into the game. Here are the two domains they’ve procured:

.在线 (Online)
.中文网 (Chinese site)

Chinese language TLDs

From this article about the two new Chinese domains acquired by the Angry Birds duo:

…the entrepreneurs see these two new ones as common sense options, as many people already use the terms “___online” and “___Chinese site” when searching for things on the web. For example, a Chinese person might typically search for “Nokia Chinese site” (in Chinese, of course), so it’d make sense for Nokia to buy that new URL. “It’s bringing your brand closer to the search term,” Simon points out.

It’s also argued that the new ‘.online’ and ‘.Chinese site’ options are easier for China’s mobile netizens to write on their smartphones, sticking 100 percent to their Chinese keyboard rather than switching to English to type out, say, “Tmall.com”. China currently has 460 million mobile web users.

According to the ICANN blog post Dawn of a New Internet Era:

It’s no accident that the first tranche of gTLDs to be delegated are all non-Latin strings – or as we officially refer to them, Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) gTLDs. In addition to facilitating competition and innovation through the New gTLD Program, one of ICANN’s key aims is to help create a globally inclusive Internet, regardless of language or region. For this reason, we elected to prioritize the processing of IDN applications and their delegation.

Will these new domains succeed?

I think some of them will, and hugely so. I also think it will take time. And perhaps a few new brand names that lead with these domains instead of using them as fallback domains.

Despite the many criticisms of the gTLD program, as I noted earlier, the Internet needs to open the door for URLs in other scripts.

That door is now open.

 

 

 

Decyphering Google Translate on your web logs

Whenever I read this site’s web logs, I’m always fascinated by the number of referrals via Google Translate.

Every month there seems to be more of them, which could mean that the quality of Google Translate is improving, or this site is doing better in the rankings, or some combination of the two. Or, it could be simply be that more people have discovered Google Translate.

Given my passion for country codes, it’s fair to say that I also enjoy language codes. And it is through language codes that you can figure out what languages users were translating your site “from” and “to.”

Here is one referral string from my site:

google_translate

First, you can see that the person was using Google Korea, so it’s fair to say the person was translating from English into Korean. The “To” line is actually the blog title post translated into Korean.

That was an easy one.

This next one is a bit more challenging:

google_translate2

This person was using Google.com, so you have to focus on the language codes. There are two here — an “id” (which follows  “hl=”) and an “en” (which follows “sl=”). What this means is the person was translating from English into Indonesian (Bahasa Indonesia).

Here is what the translated page looks like:

google_translate2a

The quick and easy way to know the target language is to focus on the “hl=” string. In the screen shot below, the target language is German.

google_translate3

And here is a language code reference if you want to study your web logs.

What I want to know is what percentage of web traffic is taken up by Google Translate. Anyone care to share their Web log stats?

Based on my cursory analysis, I would estimate the figure to be between 5% and 10%, but that’s very rough.

Google vs. Baidu: A User Experience Analysis

There are tons of articles about Google vs. Baidu, but few of these articles take an in-depth look at how Google compares to Baidu from a Chinese user’s perspective.

In this article, I do just that, and I render a verdict as to which Web site is better.

Search

The best way to compare search engine quality is to compare searches.

I recently input three Chinese keywords for my experiment:

  • 许霆 (Xu Ting: A Chinese citizen who was recently involved in a controversial criminal case)
  • 次级房贷 (Subprime mortgage)
  • 看羹吃饭 (Kan-Geng-Chi-fan: A phrase used and recognized by a relatively small number of Chinese, meaning that you have to think carefully before taking action)

These keywords represent three different categories of information people search for online. Xu Ting is a hot keyword in China at the moment but it has received little international media coverage. Subprime mortgage, on the other hand, is a foreign concept and the term has been transliterated into Chinese characters from the English equivalent. Kan-Geng-Chi-fan is used within a specific dialect that is not used by the majority of Chinese citizens.

Okay, here are the results as of April 18, 2008:

“Xu Ting”

It would seem that Baidu knows much more about Xu Ting than Google, although I did not verify that every result referred to this particular individual.

Interestingly, in the first results page of both google.com and google.cn, one of the search results directed users to Baidu Post — Baidu’s popular user forum.

Overall, I would rate both sites equally because the top 20 results from each search engine were highly qualified and I could easily find information I wanted from there. Verdict: A tie.

“Subprime mortgage”

This time google.cn appears to do much better than Baidu. But if we look closely at the top 20 search results, we’ll find there are 7 results at google.com and 5 results at google.cn that direct us to Web sites that use traditional Chinese characters, which are used in Taiwan, Hong Kong and by the overseas Chinese community.

It can be rather challenging for the mainland Chinese to read traditional Chinese, though they can understand most of the message. Nonetheless, this mix of simplified and traditional Characters is not the most user-friendly approach. Verdict: Baidu wins.

“Kan Geng Chi Fan”

At first glance, Google produced overwhelmingly more information than Baidu. However, if we examine the details, Google did not perform so well. Neither Google.com nor Google.cn produce an accurate search result within the first 10 pages respectively, while all the 207 search results from Baidu are accurate. Verdict: Baidu wins again.

Based on these three searches, Google comes across as a bit complicated and “foreign” to Chinese users. Baidu is the superior Chinese search engine.

Products

Both Google and Baidu are trying to leverage their network effects to promote other products. Google has many excellent products, but not every product has performed well in China. For example, Google Maps is widely used by American users. Unfortunately, Google Maps in China is unable to provide the same features due to unavailability of mapping data in China. Google’s satellite map currently only covers the major Chinese cities. Should Google acquire better maps, it would have a clear advantage over Baidu, which doesn’t offer the same degree of functionality and usability in its map tool.

Although music copyright is a controversial issue within China, the market reality is that millions of Chinese Internet users download free music online. Baidu understands this reality and its music search product — which presents a list of links for free music downloads when people search by song, singer, or label — is extremely popular. Google is unable to compete with Baidu in this regard due to its adherence to US copyright laws.

Another example is Baidu Post, an online forum allowing Internet user to create new topics based on search keywords and provide commentary. When people search online by keyword, they can also follow these keywords to Baidu Post, where they may find additional information — or at least find out what others think of the selected keywords.

Online forums are a very important medium in China for distributing information online. I think an important reason for this is because the Chinese, as well as many businesses, want to remain anonymous. While this may change in the years ahead as the next generation embraces social networking sites, for the time being, online forums are dominant. Baidu also offers a blog platform (Hi Baidu) while Google has localized Blogger into Chinese, very few Chinese people currently use it.

Local culture and consumer behavior are critical factors in determining whether a product will succeed in an overseas market or not. So far, Google products have not been as appealing as Baidu to Chinese users.

The Brand Name

The name of Baidu (百度) is from a beautiful Chinese ancient poem:

Thousands of times, I looked for my girl;

Suddenly, at some point, I stopped and looked back,

I found she was just over there among a bunch of lanterns.

This poem, written by Qiji Xin, who lived in the Song Dynasty nearly 1000 years ago, is still very popular in China and also taught in high schools. Baidu in Chinese means thousands of times. In Chinese culture, this poem communicates one’s desire to achieve his/her dreams. Obviously, meshes well with the services offered by Baidu, a company that claims it better understands Chinese users and Chinese culture.

Google started to use its Chinese name Guge (谷歌) in 2006. Guge (goo-ge) is transliterated from Google and it literally means “the song of grain” in Chinese. A survey conducted in 2006 shows 84.6% Chinese do not like this name. I think the most important reason is that Chinese people want to feel international and modern. This is also one reason you may see many Chinese companies using English words in their marketing materials, as it creates an international effect. The “song of grain” presents an image of the agricultural society that the Chinese people are striving to break away from.

Google has exerted a good deal of effort in localizing its name for China but it has not yet been accepted by the Chinese people. It may take some time. Some companies have chosen to simply use their English names in China, avoiding localization altogether, such as IBM.

To sum up, Baidu definitely has an edge over Google in China. But it is early yet and Google has been doing things such as redesigning its Chinese home page, which may resonate with users. The key takeaway here is that every new market is a new challenge; just because you are number one at home does not mean you will be number one in every country you enter. Should Baidu enter the US market some day, it will face many of the same challenges that Google is now facing in China.

Understanding the global search market

The fine folks at Multlingual Search have published a report on the state of the search engine markets in more than a dozen countries.

This report is a quick read and, best of all, it’s free. You can download it here.

The most interesting takeaway is something I’ve been writing about on this blog — that while Google is by far the leading search engine globally, it still does not lead in a number of key markets, namely China, Russia, Estonia, Czech Republic, and South Korea.

According to this report, Google did not even make the list of top three search engines in South Korea; I’m wondering if Google’s recent redesign of its Korea site is beginning to help it make up ground.

Somewhat related is a new press release from comScore that “found that more than 750 million people age 15 and older – or 95 percent of the worldwide Internet audience – conducted 61 billion searches worldwide in August, an average of more than 80 searches per searcher.”

Here is the breakdown of these searches by region:

comscore