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June 3, 2009

Data Visualization Dresses Up Search – SEM Synergy Extras

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Recent developments, like Microsoft Bing, Google Search Options and Yahoo’s Web of objects strategy, are moving search engines toward more sophisticated models of data visualization. As new, useful ways to present information to the general public are developed, search marketers are reminded that improved data visualization models could benefit the community in many ways.

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Photo by Jesslee Cuizon via Creative Commons

During today’s weekly podcast of SEM Synergy, we explored data visualization applications in the search industry. My guest was Richard Zwicky, founder and CEO of Enquisite. Enquisite provides analytics solutions that visually organize and structure data, with paid and organic search professionals in mind. Involved in Internet marketing tracking solutions for almost a decade, Richard has seen an evolution in the display capabilities of analytics solutions, as well as in the expectation of search marketers regarding those display capabilities.

But data analysis is just one of several applications that could be improved through enhanced visualization. Data analysis, data reporting and visual search engines are three platforms in the search industry that will undoubtedly see changes within data presentation in the future.

Visual Data Analysis

Eye-tracking studies, long-tail graphs, map overlays — data can be gathered, parsed and presented in a myriad of visually enhanced ways. The exciting thing about analyzing data visually is how the right format can make hidden trends and findings readily apparent. Knowing that X number of visitors came to your site in a week is great. But seeing the number of visitors to your site over a year represented in a timeline graph? The latter is clearly more valuable. Of course, that same data would be less suited for something like a pie chart or word cluster. The right visual application can relieve an Internet marketer from having to sift through mountains of data in order to locate the important stats and trends.

Visual Data Reporting

As a relatively new profession, Internet marketers can find themselves evangelizing to their clients or company executives about the opportunity of search. With data in hand, the potential of search marketing ROI can be very convincing. Proof is what company execs are looking for, and data makes a great argument. But overzealous search evangelizers should steer clear of overloading listeners with excessive data. It’s important to only present the most useful data in an easy-to-understand visual format. If the person watching the presentation has to decipher how to read the data in the first place, there’s a problem. But if the person watching immediately understands the data by simply looking at the projector, the point has been made.

Search Visualization

Along with data analysis and reporting, data visualization has the potential to aid in the understanding of many topics and concepts. Data visualization uses of the general public are being addressed by a number of visual search engines, like Viewzi and Searchme. About a year ago, Danny Sullivan saw visual search as little more than “eye candy”, explaining that the shortcomings of traditional search were not being addressed by available visual search products; in fact, most of them introduced new problems all their own. Where we’re likely to see real progress in visual search is within the mainstream engines. Google Squared could potentially change searcher behavior and Yahoo’s updated image search demonstrates an improvement on the old standard.

The possibilities for data visualization are endless, and as technology advances, we’re sure to see a growth spurt in the industry. Enquisite is certainly one of the innovators of data visualization for Web analytics, and with a new platform, Enquisite Campaign, now available, do yourself a favor and check them out. Thanks to Richard Zwicky for coming on the show to explain how visualization of data can help with analysis and reporting amongst search practitioners. To find out more from Richard, you can read the Enquisite blog or attend his weekly Ask the Expert round table discussion beginning June 16.

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