Fast Five in Search – Week 19, 2014

fast-five

 

In my travels around the crazy web, I’m amazed how many web sites still use a boring server-generated 404 error page instead of a custom 404 error page. Even large brands with deep pockets aren’t immune to the dreaded vanilla dead end.

Thankfully, there are lots of clever web designers out there who recognize that there’s no excuse for un-inventive 404s. Web site usability can be fun!. This week’s Fast Five pays homage to them and their entertaining ideas for custom 404 error pages.

Here’s this week’s Fast Five – Five Clever Custom 404 Error Pages:

1) Mint.com – This page combines humor with helpfulness. Not only does it make a joke about the missing content, but it offers up some useful alternative links in a pleasing visual format. No blame, no suggestion that the searcher was at fault. I like that.

2) BlueDaniel.com – This is my current favorite 404. Not only is it Flash based – which I’ve not seen before in a custom 404 – but it’s exceedingly cool. The powerful visuals and sound of an underground train station are bang on target for a motion picture design company. This page alone would probably win them new business.

3) Heinz.com – So an empty ketchup bottle might be a little predictable, but what I like best about this page is the intuitiveness and the very clear calls to action. Did you try searching? Perhaps one of these links will help? Perfect.

4) Mashable.com – Again, another humorous yet helpful Custom 404 page. This one uses the missing sock analogy, combined with a giant call to action in the form of an internal search field. They also keep the main nav menu at the top of the page in case you’d rather resort to standard navigation.

and finally…

5) ApartmentHomeLiving.com – Being in New Zealand, this custom 404 page caught my eye straight away. You can’t really go wrong with a sheep on a toilet. Apart from using an amusing mouseover effect, this page steers lost visitors back to the homepage or to the regular navigation menu. Sorted.

What’s YOUR fav custom 404 page? Would love to hear about it in the comments.

*Image courtesy of Threadless.

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The 12 Days of Christmas Online Scavenger Hunt

santa-sackIt’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. And what better way to kick off the holiday season than by receiving a Christmas present from Search Engine College?

All last week, we were tossing about ideas for how to gift our blog readers and members at Search Engine College in a fun and unique way this holiday season. We could have sent out an animated snowman card; we could have given out a boring discount coupon; or we could have had a one-day Black Friday sale that many people would have missed out on.

But this year, we’ve come up with something completely different. Presenting: the 12 Days of Christmas Online Scavenger Hunt!

How to Win

Every day for the first 12 days of December, we are giving away a 6 month subscription to Search Engine College. Each subscription includes access to ALL our online courses and training videos, as well as our exclusive discussion forums and industry discounts area. Each 6 month subscription is worth USD 594. That’s over $7,100 in prizes to be won!

All you have to do to win is be the first person to find the Christmas icon hidden somewhere on our web site at www.searchenginecollege.com. The icon will change daily and will look like one of the following:

xmas-icons-hunt
As soon as you spot the Christmas icon, simply tweet the page URL to us @secollege so we can verify and send you your prize. Make sure you follow us and use the hashtag #xmasscavengerhunt in your tweet. If you don’t have a Twitter account, simply post the URL and hashtag to our Facebook Wall, or our Google+ Page, or you can email the URL to us study [at] searchenginecollege [dot] com.

We will have a countdown banner at the top of every page on Search Engine College reminding you which icon you are looking for and how many hours/minutes/seconds you have left to find it. When someone has found the icon, the banner image will change to WINNER FOUND and the clock stopped until the next icon is posted. And NO, the banner icon does not count as a find – it must be within the page body ;-). Also, category or tag archive pages don’t count. We need the individual post/page URL please.

There will be 12 winners in total (1 each day) and if the icon isn’t found one day, it will carry over to the next day until all prizes are won. If you win and are an existing paid member of Search Engine College, your free 6 month subscription will be tacked on to the end of your existing subscription.

We will send out clues to the icon’s location and announce our winners each day via Twitter, Facebook and Google+. If you are already on our mailing list, we will also email you a picture of the day’s icon in advance to give you a headstart.

Starts 1st December

As this competition is a global one, we have tried to plan the daily start time to suit as many timezones as possible. The fun kicks off at the following times:

  • New York (U.S.A.)  Sunday, 1 December 2013 at 5:00 p.m   EST  UTC-5 hours
  • Los Angeles (U.S.A.)  Sunday, 1 December 2013 at 2:00 p.m   PST  UTC-8 hours
  • London (United Kingdom)  Sunday, 1 December 2013 at 10:00 p.m   GMT  UTC
  • Sydney (Australia)  Monday, 2 December 2013 at 9:00 a.m   AEDT  UTC+11 hours
  • Wellington (New Zealand)  Monday, 2 December 2013 at 11:00 a.m   NZDT UTC+13 hours

So don’t miss out, – make sure you brush up on your searching skills in advance and join us for the scavenger hunt fun from December 1st.

Happy Holidays from Search Engine College!

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Google Doodles 50 Years of Dr Who

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of BBC’s iconic sci-fi TV show Dr Who, Google has created a very cool interactive Dr Who game as today’s Google Doodle.

DrWho1The doodle game allows you to kick off by choosing from 11 different character iterations of the good Doctor, each with distinctive features, e.g. Tom Baker’s multi-colored scarf and Matt Smith’s red bow tie.

DrWho2Dr Who’s newest time lord, actor Peter Capaldi, did not make the doodle cut, probably because he is yet to film the much-loved role.

DrWho3Growing up with Tom Baker’s Doctor, naturally I chose him first.

DrWho4The game features a series of challenges to reach the letters in GOOGLE, each level of the game more complex than the last and all involving the dodging of nasty daleks.

DrWho5Once you *rescue* the target letter, you need to make it safely back to the welcoming tardis, which will transport you to the next level.

DrWho6If your chosen character successfully makes it through a level, you will keep him for the next. If however, he gets zapped by a dalek, a new iteration of Dr Who will replace him.

DrWho7Each level features musical refrains from the show and of course the distinctive tardis transporting sound between levels. There’s no sign of any of the Doctor’s companions, or even K9, but with 11 doctor characters, you don’t miss them.

DrWho8If you make it through to the final level (6), you are rewarded with a parade of Doctors celebrating your efforts.

DrWho9Good clean fun and just frustrating enough to keep you entertained for about half an hour. Go sharpen your sonic screwdrivers!

 

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Google Analytics in Real Life (Videos)

These days I’m doing quite a bit of online and in-person training in Google Analytics. The tool has become so sophisticated that people are struggling with the idea of where to start with Analytics and what meaningful metrics to look at on a regular basis.

In my training sessions, I like to mix things up a bit with case studies, whiteboard exercises and videos. It prevents *death by PowerPoint* and stops people from becoming overwhelmed with information in a short space of time.

My favorite 3) videos to show in the Google Analytics workshops are the Google Analytics in Real Life series, developed by Google as a humorous way to understand the frustrations experienced by visitors to your web site and how these would play out in real life. These always trigger laughter around the room, but they are also a fantastic way of bridging the gap between using Analytics to monitor customer activity on a web site and knowing what to tweak to improve the customer experience.

Ready to chuckle?

1) The Online Checkout

This video highlights common problems people have with the online checkout process – from trouble logging in, to being forced to enter ridiculous CAPTCHAs and being charged confusing shipping rates:

Analytics-online-checkout-video-sml

2) Landing Page Optimization

This video demonstrates what can happen if you interrupt the conversion process by placing distractions for visitors on your sales landing pages:

Analytics-landing-page-video-sml

3) Internal Site Search

This last funny video shows how frustrating it can be for your site visitors when your internal site search functionality is counter-intuitive or just plain broken:

Analytics-in-site-search-video-sml

Enjoy!

 

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Twitter Wins the US Election By a Landslide

Despite the final vote tally, Twitter was the clear winner of the 2012 US Presidential election.

No matter what your political bias, the Twitter feed for the past 24 hours has captured the highest and lowest points, the heckling, the gags, the tantrums and the vote count. Once again, Twitter was the place to be to get the most up to date vote tally as State by State fell to each of the candidates. With news agencies reporting inconsistent or biased results, confused voters turned to Twitter to get faster updates via the hashtags #Election2012, #USElection and #USAElection.

According to Twitter staff, election conversation saw Twitter reach a peak of 327,452 Tweets per minute this evening, with not a single Fail Whale in sight – something Twitter staff were extremely proud of.  The company has clearly improved on their server load contingency plan since the last election.

And just as well too, because newly re-elected President Obama (@BarackObama) chose Twitter as the medium for his first acknowledgements of victory:

President Obama claims victory on Twitter

More than half a million people retweeted President Obama’s victorious “Four More Years” photo tweet.

Four More Years for Obama

However, not everyone was happy with the election outcome. Outspoken Republican Donald Trump (@realdonaldtrump) surprised everyone with his vitriolic, bizarre and seemingly unpatriotic stream of tweets immediately following Obama’s victory:

Trump Tantrum

Possibly the most amusing point about this epic tantrum was Trump’s incorrect assumption that Romney had won the popular vote and that the world was laughing at America because of a miscarriage of democracy caused by the electoral college system.

The tweets highlighted with the green pepper were actually deleted from Trump’s feed within an hour of them being posted, suggesting that Trump’s minders may have stepped in to prevent him from further embarrassment.

Trump’s tantrum prompted a wave of hilarious responses from the Twitterverse, some of which are highlighted in the images below.

Trumps Tantrum Trumps All
But for those of us who stayed on Twitter during President Obama’s victory speech, the hilarity continued. About halfway during his speech, someone on Twitter pointed out that the woman in the crowd directly over the President’s left shoulder had decided to stick her US flag into her hair and was waving it about with great enthusiasm.

hairflag FTW

The gesture generated an instant Twitter meme, similar to the one NASA employee @tweetsoutloud prompted when his space-influenced mohawk was spotted on camera during the recent Mars Rover landing.

Within a minute or two, the hashtag #hairflag was born, with witty tweets temporarily hijacking responses to the President’s moving and heartfelt speech.

Hairflag wins best meme

I couldn’t resist a #hairflag tweet of my own! By the time President Obama walked offstage, the #hairflag meme was in full swing, with inspirational posters, Facebook pages and parody Twitter accounts.

So Election Day closes with 31 million tweets posted and Twitter a clear winner, once again. Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

 

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