Sunday, April 22, 2012

About Cereals and Snacking and What Sells

YOU want a trip to Kellogg — the birthplace of Honey Smacks, Apple Jacks and countless other sugar-slathered classics — to feel like a visit to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. But the company’s Institute for Food and Nutrition Research just won’t play along.

You’re not greeted at the door by a grinning man in a purple velvet jacket, but by food scientists in lab coats. And instead of presenting a golden ticket from a candy bar, you hand over a consent form on which you promise to surrender any recording devices and to stick with your chaperones.

This is actually the second sign that the tour will lack both whimsy and spontaneous musical numbers. The first is the building itself, nearly 400,000 square feet of sleek and mirthless red brick and tinted windows, an office that could have been plucked from any industrial park in the country. “Nothing to see here,” the exterior says. “Keep moving, thank you.”

Were you to miss the six-foot-high replica of Tony the Tiger that stands around the corner, at the employees’ entrance, you would never guess that the institute, and the corporate headquarters a few blocks away, are hallowed ground, at least for fans of the children’s nirvana that is the high-fructose section of the cereal aisle. Toucan Sam lives here, the Froot Loops bird with the Technicolor beak. So do Snap, Crackle and Pop, those grinning scamps on the Rice Krispies box.

Soon, these and other ageless spokes-characters will get a new neighbor: Pringles, which Kellogg is buying from Procter & Gamble in a $2.7 billion deal expected to close this summer.

What’s Pringles, the world’s best-known stackable-chips franchise, doing in Kellogg’s bulging portfolio of cereals, cookies, crackers and such? The answer sheds some light on the way Americans are eating these days, and on what ails Kellogg, whose shares have lagged the market in the period since March 2009, when the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index bottomed out. The S.& P. is up 115 percent over that time, while Kellogg is up 59 percent. And the company’s operating profit is basically flat — at $1.95 billion in 2008, and $1.97 billion in 2011.

“We’re not happy with our performance the last couple of years,” says John A. Bryant, who became the company’s chief executive in January 2011. Mr. Bryant, 46, whose looks would be described as all-American were he not from Australia, is sitting in his office one March afternoon, discussing some unhappy trends for a few of the company’s biggest products. Products like Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies, whose sales dropped in the last year. Those brands, not coincidentally, are also the easiest for makers of private-label cereals, breakfast’s version of generics, to knock off. So Kellogg and its 400 food scientists, engineers and technicians are cooking up new products at a frenetic pace — new cereals as well as new categories of food and flavors for what everyone here calls “snacking occasions.”

“Here I am, sitting in this office, and in that building, right there,” Mr. Bryant says, pointing to a plant just a few blocks away, “is one of the few private-label cereal plants in the U.S., probably creating 200 million pounds of cereal a year. Because that thing is there, we have to keep bringing new foods to consumers and delighting them, because if we stand still, people catch up.”

Americans might not be buying Corn Flakes the way they did a decade ago, but they love a good snacking occasion, and shoehorning a few more Pop-Tarts, Nutri-Grain bars and Special K Savory Herb crackers into our day is a core mission for the company. But the real growth for Kellogg, as well as for packaged-food rivals like PepsiCo and its Frito-Lay division, is in snacks in foreign markets, and that is where Pringles comes in.

Selling cereal and selling snacks are two entirely different skills, it turns out, and Mr. Bryant will candidly acknowledge that when it comes to overseas snacks, Kellogg currently lacks chops. What the company is buying with Pringles is not just a line of products that is already huge internationally, but a group of Procter & Gamble merchandisers with what Mr. Bryant calls “the snack mind-set.” Their job will be to bolster the company’s foreign snack divisions, and to step on it.

Yes, Kellogg is trying something improbable — devouring Pringles to improve its health. Will it work?

Some analysts are doubtful, noting that Pringles’ sales have been stagnant in recent years and that PepsiCo is about to start heavily promoting its own tube-chip offering, Stax.

But the company’s most ardent detractors are nutritionists aghast at how many sugar- and salt-infused products Kellogg has positioned as good-for-you food. To them, Kellogg is a company with a history of dubious health claims and a track record for talking up “essential nutrients” while pushing products like Smorz, a breakfast version of the campfire treat — and a “good source of vitamin D,” it says on the box.

This might displease the experts, but as Robert Dickerson, an analyst at Consumer Edge Research, notes, the sweet stuff is what sells.

“Look at what’s growing in volume,” he says. “It’s Apple Jacks and Froot Loops.”

OTHER than a handful of factories and the ubiquity of the word “Kellogg,” there are now few signs of Battle Creek’s heyday as “Cereal City.” For decades, though, this city hummed with the sounds of steel rollers and industrial cookers that baked, flaked, rolled up and extruded grains. In 1911, some 108 varieties of corn flakes were made in Battle Creek, according to “Cornflake Crusade,” a 1957 book by Gerald Carson.


In Customer Service Consulting, Disney’s Small World Is Growing

ORLANDO, Fla. — Maryland teachers were instructed to engage children by crouching and speaking to them at eye level. Chevrolet dealers were taught to think in theater metaphors: onstage, where smiles greet potential buyers, and offstage, where sales representatives can take out-of-sight cigarette breaks.

Florida Hospital now exhibits what one official called “calming video art,” and it installed recessed lighting based on a Disney finding.

A Florida children’s hospital was advised to welcome patients in an entertaining way, prompting it to employ a ukulele-playing greeter dressed in safari gear.

These personal service tips came from the Disney Institute, the low-profile consulting division of the Walt Disney Company. Desperate for new ways to connect with consumers, an increasing array of industries and organizations are paying Disney to teach them how to become, well, more like Disney.

Revenue from the Disney Institute has doubled over the last three years, according to Disney, powered in part by its aggressive pursuit of new business. Over the last two years alone, 300 school systems across the country have sought its advice.

Other clients range from very large entities — Häagen-Dazs International, United Airlines, the country of South Africa — to small ones: three Subway restaurants in Maine, a Michigan hair salon, a Boston youth-counseling center.

The Disney Institute recently hired a network of field representatives to sign up clients and started dispatching its executives to companies wanting help; before that, advice-seekers traveled to Walt Disney World here or Disneyland in California.

“We’re putting our people on planes all day every day, domestically and internationally,” said Jeff James, who runs Disney’s consulting branch. “Some clients are in great shape and want to improve even further, and some are truly clueless.”

Mr. James said the up-and-down economy had put pressure on companies to pay more attention to consumers’ needs. He also cited the importance of the Web, which “gives unhappy customers a megaphone.”

Disney, which employs 64,000 people in Orlando alone, has its own employee difficulties, of course. Union spats arise, and some cast members — Disney-speak for employees — chafe at the company’s strict rules, although it recently lifted a facial-hair ban and now allows women to forgo pantyhose. Disney’s sugary customer service can also startle visitors who aren’t used to such uniform cheerfulness.

But vast numbers of consumers love it, and the company is routinely showcased in business books, like “The Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company,” for its hospitality and efficiency. For instance, the company has spent so much time studying its park customers — more than 120 million of them globally last year — that it places trash cans every 27 paces, the average distance a visitor carries a candy wrapper before discarding it.

That attention to detail is what compelled Frank Supovitz, the National Football League’s senior vice president for events, to hire Disney to help with this year’s Super Bowl, following a seating debacle at the 2011 game. Disney devised and executed a training program for the game’s 20,000 staff members and helped coordinate crowd control.

“We wanted those 20,000 people to internalize a sense of pride in their part to play,” Mr. Supovitz said, adding that he planned to hire Disney again next year.

Sometimes the Disney influence is more noticeable. Florida Hospital, a 22-campus chain, now employs that ukulele-playing greeter and exhibits what Tim Burrill, a vice president of the chain, called “calming video art” elsewhere. The hospital installed recessed lighting in hallways after Disney researchers found that patients on gurneys didn’t like staring at fluorescent bulbs.

Disney has been marketing its services to hospitals in advance of a new government requirement that patient satisfaction surveys be reported online; starting in October, billions of dollars in Medicare reimbursements will be linked to the scores.

In 2009 Florida Hospital’s children’s unit had patient satisfaction scores in the bottom 10 percent of the country. It hired Disney and by the end of 2010 ranked in the top 10 percent. (Last year, the hospital opened a new $75 million expansion; Disney’s philanthropic arm contributed $10 million and was given naming rights of the children’s wing.)


Conversations sacrificed for mere connection

WE live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates. My students tell me about an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done.

Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are.

We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.

Our colleagues want to go to that board meeting but pay attention only to what interests them. To some this seems like a good idea, but we can end up hiding from one another, even as we are constantly connected to one another.

A businessman laments that he no longer has colleagues at work. He doesn’t stop by to talk; he doesn’t call. He says that he doesn’t want to interrupt them. He says they’re “too busy on their e-mail.” But then he pauses and corrects himself. “I’m not telling the truth. I’m the one who doesn’t want to be interrupted. I think I should. But I’d rather just do things on my BlackBerry.”

A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”

In today’s workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones. Walking through a college library or the campus of a high-tech start-up, one sees the same thing: we are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens. A senior partner at a Boston law firm describes a scene in his office. Young associates lay out their suite of technologies: laptops, iPods and multiple phones. And then they put their earphones on. “Big ones. Like pilots. They turn their desks into cockpits.” With the young lawyers in their cockpits, the office is quiet, a quiet that does not ask to be broken.

In the silence of connection, people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people — carefully kept at bay. We can’t get enough of one another if we can use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right. I think of it as a Goldilocks effect.

Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the self we want to be. This means we can edit. And if we wish to, we can delete. Or retouch: the voice, the flesh, the face, the body. Not too much, not too little — just right.

Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.

We are tempted to think that our little “sips” of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places — in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.

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Sherry Turkle is a psychologist and professor at M.I.T. and the author, most recently, of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.”

VIDEO: Tesco trialling augmented reality app

Tesco revealed this week, in a video blog from chief information officer Mike McNamara, that it was trialling an augmented reality app. McNamara said the technology was ‘in the lab today’, but would be seen in stores by the end of the year.

Currently, the app allows shoppers to use their smartphone to take a flat image of a product or poster in order to add the ingredients of a sandwich to their dotcom basket, ‘bringing it to life and giving it three dimensions’.
However, McNamara adds: ‘In the months ahead, you’ll see millions of other applications. If a celebrity chef on TV has a new recipe, then you can buy the ingredients and bring to life the chef actually making the recipe. Lego bricks come flat pack, but this can construct them right in front of your eyes. There are many more applications; it’s as broad as your imagination.’

Tesco began trialling augmented reality, from Kishino, last year, with shoppers able to see life-size 3D projections of 40 products from the Tesco Direct catalogue both on in-store and at-home webcams.
See the full video here, where McNamara also shows of Broccoli Cam, the latest in electronic shelf-edge labels (cuts the time taken to change prices from one week to one hour across the whole store estate), and showcases video-on-demand service Blinkbox.

Best in Outdoor: TNT’s ‘Don’t press that button!’

This made-for-viral campaign was created to introduce the TNT TV channel in Belgium. A large red button was placed in the middle of a quiet Flemish town, along with a ‘Push to add drama’ sign. Cue the action. Watch the video below to see a great example of multichannel marketing and creative thinking. More than 24m views and 225,000+ likes on YouTube in the space of a week is some going.

8 Ways to Offer Better Customer Service on Facebook

The Facebook Marketing Series is presented by Webtrends, helping brands acquire, engage, nurture and optimize Facebook fans. Get the Social Media Marketing Playbook, a guide for maximizing returns. Download now.

Customers know that the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and web-savvy customers know that Facebook is the ultimate squeak amplifier. According to Forrester Research, 27% of U.S. online consumers sought customer service support on the web in 2011, and currently three out of four expect a reply to a negative comment posted on Facebook.

Unfortunately, many brands still don’t incorporate customer service into their social strategy, despite the fact that Facebook is one of the best venues in which to turn your customers’ negative comments into brand opportunities.

Here are eight tips to help you improve your Facebook customer support initiative and, in turn, raise your brand’s reputation, decrease your inbound service requests, acquire new customers and turn infrequent customers into brand loyalists. What are your tips? Let us know in the comments below.

1. Outsource

“Your Facebook wall is not an adequate customer service platform because it is not searchable, and it puts a negative twist on your main page,” says Jeff Nolan, VP of product at Get Satisfaction. Nolan suggests that brands build an online customer service channel and then funnel the data into their current CRM system. Companies such as Get Satisfaction, Lithium, Moxie Software and Parature enable brands to offer customers a way to connect in multiple online locations, including Facebook.

With these products, companies can streamline their customer service processes and track important customer data, no matter where the customer decides to engage. As these features become more commonplace, customers will begin to instinctively seek them out when they visit a brand’s page, so be prepared.

2. Crowdsource

“Identify and develop relationships with influencers who are knowledgeable about your products,” recommends Erin Korogodsky, social strategist at Lithium. “Those superfans are likely to lend a hand when a customer stops by with a question.” Products like Lithium’s LevelUp social suite allow for the peer-to-peer customer support Korogodsky suggests. Cultivation, encouragement and rewards for “superfans” who engage such solutions provide customer service request deflection, which Korogodsky says is one of the best ways you can save money for your business.

3. Who’s the Boss?

When it comes to social support, it is not always clear who’s in charge. Your customer service reps are not Facebook experts and vice-versa — that is why the two groups must team up to provide online customers with the best support experience. Have your social media team field Facebook comments and escalate issues to the appropriate customer service representative. Many social media marketing platforms, such as Buddy Media, Context Optional and Wildfire offer moderation features that allow for customer service reps to be pinged and prompted to respond upon assignment.

4. Transparent Humans

Users have faith in the transparency of social media and look to it as a place where they can directly contact their favorite companies — and be heard. Create a brand voice that is human and approachable. Do not delete posts, but instead take the opportunity to solve your customers’ issues or complaints on your public page. Each problem is most likely a problem for another customer and if the answer is easy to find, customers will be able to answer their own inquiries. At the very least, page visitors and friends of the disgruntled customer will see your brand as attentive and solution-oriented.

5. This is Your Time

Elisabeth Diana of Facebook’ communications team suggests brands take advantage of two new Timeline features: messages and pinned posts. First, users can now directly connect with a brand through brand page messages. This feature can serve as a free online customer service support system for your brand until your volume becomes unmanageable. Customers can also exchange private information with your brand, such as phone numbers and email addresses, which may help you solve their problem faster. The downside is that there will be no audience to watch you turn a negative situation into a positive one. Remember however, that this is an optional feature and can be turned off (which many large brands already have done).

In addition, “Pinned” posts allow brands to highlight certain hot topics by pinning them to the top of the wall. Diana uses TurboTax as an example of a brand that really takes advantage of this feature. As Tax Day approaches every year, TurboTax receives an influx of the same questions. So instead of posting the same answer multiple times, the company can now pin reply posts to the top of the wall, thus reducing the number of incoming inquiries.

6. Know Your Issues

As your brand continues to offer effective customer service on Facebook, you will see that the volume of requests will only increase. Take this opportunity to log some of your previously solved issues in order to be more efficient and consistent with future replies (without sounding automated, of course). You may also want to take these most common questions, requests and issues and build a FAQ Facebook tab. Again, if your customers are able to find answers easily, your workload will be lessened, as will negative sentiment on your wall.

7. Set Up Alerts

If you have very active Facebook fans and are able to use a social media marketing platform, it’s important to set up alerts for certain keywords to help filter out high priority initiatives. Single out certain terms such as “question,” “customer service” or “frustrated,” and you will receive notifications when related comments are posted. If you are a toy company currently experiencing an issue with a particular toy, set an alert for the product name. Whether the comments are positive or negative, you will be kept in the loop.

8. Accept Compliments Graciously

Your mother always taught you to say “thank you” — your brand should do the same. Don’t just respond to negative comments, reply to positive ones, too — you can encourage positivity with politeness and grace. Fans love to know that their favorite brands hear and appreciate their praise, and they will often come back to leave positive comments in the future. These positive comments help shift the overall sentiment of your wall, improve brand reputation and increase Facebook virality … so remember to say “thank you.”


These are eight tips to get started on your social support effort, but know that this is an intense endeavor that will need constant attention. Ty McMahan, director of communications for customer service rating website STELLAService, says it best: “We wouldn’t say that customer service on Facebook is easy. Still, there’s a fantastic opportunity for a brand to wow customers by being on the cutting edge.”

Series presented by Webtrends

The Facebook Marketing Series is presented by Webtrends. With 850 million fans, Facebook is a marketer’s dream. Yet many brands are not seeing expected results. With the right tools and a four-step plan, Facebook campaigns can be measured, tested, targeted and optimized with remarkable results. Webtrends shows you how in this step-by-step guide. Get the Social Media Marketing Playbook Now.

The life of an Android developer [infographic]

What spoils India’s next generation reforms

Even as the world becomes more competitive, India’s star has dimmed in the last few months, as our governance is besmirched by corruption scandals and our macroeconomic health has deteriorated. Alarm bells should sound when domestic industry no longer wants to invest in India, even while eagerly investing abroad.

Why the gloom? The problem is that despite the tremendous success of the first generation of reforms, some of the key next-generation reforms have been stymied. Typically, these are the reforms that reduce rents and patronage, while increasing competition – for example, the bill on foreign entry into higher education, attempts to auction resources transparently, or attempts to transform public sector enterprises into more autonomous corporations. On the other hand, rent, patronage, or entitlement enhancing measures have sailed through. Clearly, there are many exceptions to this asymmetric reform process – the Right to Information Act and the setting up of the Unique ID Authority being important game changers of the right sort -- but I am talking about a central tendency.

Raghuram Rajan is Professor of Finance at the Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago and an economic adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He has also been the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund. This is an edited version of a speech he gave in New Delhi.

How Google influences employee eating habits [infographic]

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Goa Fest: "A Logo Should Be a Symbol of Ambition"

Quotable Quotes:

  • "All a CEO wants is profits, not brand awareness, brand attributes ..."
  • "...telling clear, simple stories has a dramatic effect on the share prices"
  • "Creativity is about making useful and unexpected connection," e.g. Mercedes Benz and Safety
  • " is a language that can help people move brands from being tolerated to being loved"
Wolff Olins designed every aspect of the customer experience for Heathrow Express

In his presentation on 'Combining rigour with magic to solve complex business problems', Charles Wright, MD, Wolff Olins spoke about how an all-inclusive approach and overall efforts by the organisation towards brands help them become profitable.

In his presentation on 'Combining rigour with magic to solve complex business problems' on the Day One of Goafest 2012, Charles Wright, managing director, Wolff Olins attempted to give a deeper meaning to brands and the impact on profits. According to Wright, a CEO shows disinterest in brand awareness, brand attributes and market share. "All he wants is profits," he said.

Giving an example of Indigo Airlines, Wright said that in order to gain profit, delivery wins over theory. In this case, he said, delivery to fly on time matters. "What matters is not what the agency promises (in the ad), but what the client delivers," he reiterated.

According to Wright, telling clear, simple stories has a dramatic effect on the share prices.

At this point, Zia Patel, strategist, Wolff Olins Dubai took over from Wright. According to her, a logo should be a symbol of ambition. "Creativity is about making useful and unexpected connection," she said, citing the example of Mercedes creating a solution for safety.

According to Patel, design is a language that can help people move brands from being tolerated to being loved.

She posed a valid question on how one can help employees deliver on their brands. "It is not by merely giving logo design documents to them. It has to be communicated through various points such as customer experience and HR training." She added that the staff experience of living the brand reflects externally. "Indian companies will need a lot of time and dedication to build internal culture," she stated.

According to Patel, in order to get into the heart of the category, we need to do simple useful things. She gave the example of the Heathrow Express. Heathrow is one of the world's busiest airports, used by more than 50 million people a year. In the early 1990s, its operator BAA set up a joint venture with British Rail to build a fast rail link to central London. But how could it tempt passengers away from the cheaper Tube or from the privacy of cars?

To bring travellers on board, Wolff Olins defined a service offer that, in effect, reinvented the rail link. The model would have airline service standards, with high speed, high capacity, high levels of information and special ticketing. Wolff Olins designed almost every aspect of this customer experience, from the station architecture at Heathrow, through train interiors, to details like tickets and uniforms. The agency advised on pricing and ticketing, and helped create the on-board television service. It also inspired a highly professional service culture. And, to signal this dramatically new way to travel, the agency created the Heathrow Express brand.

Towards the end of the session, Wright revealed how, every few months, there is a survey on the most powerful brands but each survey has different conclusions. According to Wright, the 'four big things in the world' are more choice in more places, technology revolution, brand on the board agenda and united management.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Use of cinematic storytelling techniques to present consumer research and segments

NBCUNIVERSAL is forming a unit called Curve Films, but there is no intention for it to compete with siblings at the company like Universal Pictures or Universal Television.
Enlarge This Image

Nikol is among several people 18 to 34 years old, known as millennials, who are interviewed and featured in cinematic storytelling by Curve Films, a unit of NBCUniversal.
Unlike those units, whose output is meant for millions of moviegoers and video viewers, Curve Films has a far more defined target audience: Madison Avenue.

Curve is the brainchild of the NBCUniversal integrated media group, which helps sales executives at NBCUniversal peddle commercial time and ad space on their myriad broadcast, cable and online properties that extend from Bravo and iVillage to NBC and the Weather Channel.

The goal of Curve Films — the name is supposed to evoke the phrase “Ahead of the curve” — is to find new, more interesting ways to deliver materials like research data to advertising and media agencies and marketers. So rather than publish a white paper on trends in consumer culture, Curve Films produced a handsome, 108-page book, titled “The Curve,” that would not look out of place on an office coffee table.

And rather than release a report on the estimated 76 million millennials in the United States — also known as Generation Y, and roughly defined as young adults born in 1980 or later — Curve plans on Monday to begin distributing a film called “Y Now.”

The film uses cinematic storytelling techniques to convey information about how Americans ages 18 to 34 behave, what they believe and how they differ significantly from people who were those ages in previous decades. Shot in a documentary vein, the film offers viewers interviews with nine millennials in New York and Texas.

Each represents a life stage or lifestyle like “the boomerang kid,” a 26-year-old man who has moved back in with his parents; “the creative moonlighter,” a man, age 24, who competes in poetry slams and works a day job in a restaurant; “the wanderlust,” a 23-year-old woman who travels and changes addresses continually; and “the stay-at-home dad,” 35, who takes care of his daughter while his wife works.

The film, which runs 22 minutes, will be divided into five shorter segments — five easy pieces, if you will — that are to be sent by e-mail to 1,000 employees at agencies around the country. The segments can be watched by clicking on links in the e-mails, which will go out from Monday through April 27.

“This is an opportunity to make research more compelling and entertaining,” said John Shea, who joined the NBCUniversal integrated media group in November in a new post, executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “We really want the audience who gets these e-mails to feel a connection with the subjects.”

For instance, the opening moments of the film “took cues from ‘An American Family,’ ” Mr. Shea said, referring to the 1973 PBS documentary series that has been called a precursor to reality TV, adding “there are a lot of ‘confessional’ kinds of shots.”

Melissa Lavigne-Delville, vice president for trends and strategic insights at the integrated media group, echoed Mr. Shea.

“Having been in research for so many years, I know that research gets boiled down to just stats and facts, but at the end of the day it’s a reflection of consumers’ lives,” she said. “We intend to breathe life back into what is at its core interesting material.”

In a twist, “Y Now” seeks to paint a portrait of Generation Y in broad strokes, concentrating on larger demographic trends — among them, “next generation parents and the new family” and “the creative class and career” — rather than examining more specialized subjects like changes in media consumption habits.

That approach is fairly novel for a media company. In fact, there is no moment in the film in which a millennial is seen watching TV, staring at a computer screen or thumb-typing on a smartphone.

The bigger picture was “even more of interest to us,” Mr. Shea said, because of the increasing importance to Madison Avenue of what the millennials decide to buy — or not buy.

“This is what the MTV generation, the Abercrombie & Fitch generation, looks like when they become work force newbies and start heading households,” he added. “They now make up 53 percent of the 18-to-49-year-old buying demo.” (That is the viewer demographic group most highly prized by many marketers because its members are forming brand preferences as they form families.)

Mr. Shea and Ms. Lavigne-Delville said they hoped Curve Films would have at least one release each quarter. The unit “does not require additional” spending, Mr. Shea said, because there was “a reallocation of resources” in the integrated media group after he joined.

That the group would seek more visual methods of presenting research results under Mr. Shea is not entirely surprising. He is best known for his long career at the MTV Networks division of Viacom, working on cable channels like MTV and VH1. In fact, when he joined NBCUniversal he received a so-called first look development deal for programming ideas.

NBCUniversal is not alone in trying to better understand Generation Y and explain it to clients. For example, Barkley, an agency in Kansas City, Mo., teamed up with the Boston Consulting Group for a study, “The Millennial Consumer: Debunking Stereotypes,” that was released this week.

The Reliance Juggernaut On The Move. Again!

The first time Mukesh Ambani disrupted Indian telecom, Sunil Mittal survived, even emerged stronger. Can he pull it off a second time?
The Reliance Juggernaut On The Move. Again!
Mukesh Ambani, Chairman & MD, Reliance Industries Limited
Image: Amit Dave/ Reuters

India, for Paul E. Jacobs — CEO of $11-billion telecom research and hardware company Qualcomm — has been like a box of chocolates, in a very Forrest Gump way. The good surprise came on June 11, 2010, when Qualcomm won the licence to offer broadband wireless access (BWA) in Mumbai, Delhi, Haryana and Kerala for $1 billion. The nasty one arrived on September 7, 2011, when the Department of Telecommunications rejected its application on flimsy grounds. “It was a silly technicality and the message being sent out by the government was: Even if you commit to investing $1 billion in India, you will be uncertain of your fate,” says B.K. Syngal, a 40-year veteran of Indian telecom and a principal with advisory firm Dua Consulting.

Jacobs was surprised, but it was Sunil Mittal, CEO, Bharti Enterprises, who must have been stunned.

Airtel was set to buy out Qualcomm’s spectrum, at least in Delhi and Mumbai, to roll out its fourth generation (4G) services. “For months, Airtel’s body language among vendors and partners suggested it viewed Qualcomm’s circles as its own,” says Kunal Bajaj, the India head of Analysys Mason, a telecom consulting firm.

But Qualcomm’s rejection meant Airtel would not be able to offer 4G services in Delhi and Mumbai till the issue is sorted out. 
No one could be happier than Reliance Industries Limited (RIL). It is now the only company to have a licence to offer broadband in the very lucrative areas of Mumbai and Delhi.

All Your Data Belongs to Us
On June 11, 2010, little-known Infotel Broadband beat the biggies of Indian telecom to win spectrum in every geography on offer. Within hours it emerged that RIL would be buying Infotel for $1 billion. RIL would also make good to the Indian government the $2.7 billion that Infotel had bid for the spectrum. 
Infographic: Hemal Sheth 

It was a classic Ambani move — swift, stealthy and massive in scale. 

Though it appeared rash and bullish, the move was merely the second step in a carefully laid plan by Mukesh Ambani and his trusted lieutenant Manoj Modi to re-enter the telecom sector. Step one was the May 23 burial of the four-year-old non-compete agreements between RIL and the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group, promoted by Mukesh’s estranged younger brother Anil, which prevented RIL from offering telecom services.

Like a tightly-scripted heist flick, a crack team of trusted individuals began arriving for RIL’s second telecom gamble. Most of them had worked with Ambani and Modi during their first, CDMA-based telecom foray.

Modi was the executive sponsor and responsible for highest level investments. Reporting to him was his brother-in-law Jyotindra ‘J.T.’ Thacker who moved up from his role as chief information officer at Reliance. Thacker would be the project manager, responsible for operations and deadlines. Then came Mathew Oommen, most recently chief technology officer at US-based telecom operator Sprint-Nextel. Oommen was the ‘brains’, responsible for creating compelling consumer offers, value propositions and ensuring content, technology and devices work together. Kiran Thomas, assistant vice president at Reliance, and Jagdish Kumar, a Star TV senior executive who came on board this April, completed the core team.

An equally key set of individuals came from outside Reliance, hand-picked and, in many cases, backed by Reliance investments. These included Bharat Goenka, the managing director of small and medium enterprise (SME) focussed software maker Tally; Rohan Shravan, the founder of tablet PC maker Notion Ink; P.K. Bhatnagar, the managing director of telecom network solutions company Rancore and Kenneth Frank, an executive vice president at telecom equipment major Alcatel-Lucent who heads a newly formed joint-initiative with Reliance.

Like his late father Dhirubhai Ambani, 54-year-old Mukesh takes a long term view of market potential and Reliance’s share in it. This time, his big gamble was on wireless data.
The Reliance Juggernaut On The Move. Again!
Sunil Mittal, CEO, Bharti Enterprises
Image: Tim Chong/ Reuters

Laying a data cable to every Indian home is prohibitively expensive and time-consuming. Prakash Bajpai, founder and CEO of Tikona Digital Networks, a wireless broadband company that bought BWA spectrum in five geographies, says it costs between $1,200 and $1,500 to lay a dedicated optic fibre cable to a household. “The consumer isn’t going to pay more than $12 per month. Assuming you make 20 percent as the margin, think how much time it will take to recover the investment,” he says.

Offering wireless broadband wasn’t feasible up till now because most Indian mobile operators were busy selling voice telephony. Even when they tried to offer data, the speeds were woeful because almost all their wireless spectrum was clogged with voice traffic.

That is set to change as the BWA winners have got a healthy chunk of 20MHz of spectrum. In comparison, the 3G winners got 10MHz each.

Airtel’s Game to Lose
In the game of telecom, there are two trump cards that are very tough to outplay: A first mover advantage and a strong incumbent advantage. Combine the two and you’re as good as invincible.

That, ideally, was the situation Airtel should have been in. The undisputed leader in mobile voice telephony with impeccable credentials in enterprise data services and wired broadband, it was best placed to lead the 4G evolution. By combining its own BWA geographies — Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kolkata and Punjab — with Qualcomm’s, and a speedy rollout, Sunil Mittal would’ve assured Airtel of a nearly-undefeatable position. 

Key to those plans were Delhi and Mumbai, together representing 35 percent of all India 4G bids and 38 percent of 3G bids. Analysys Mason’s Bajaj says, by 2015-16, more than one in every four of the 25 million to 26 million long-term evolution (LTE) subscribers would come from these two cities. 

But if Qualcomm is unable to sort out its license mess, it would be as if Reliance got a heaven-sent monopoly in these two markets. And the longer the mess lasts, the easier it is for Reliance to convert its advantage from first mover to strong incumbent, in the process inverting the existing pecking order of telecom. 

For Mittal, this is doubly dangerous. His management is already stretched between handling cut-throat competition in Airtel’s 16 African country operations, and getting 3G to work in India. That’s very different from selling voice.

Airtel has always adopted mature technologies and innovated around operational aspects. But with LTE that is not an option because it is an emerging technology, with very few handsets or devices that support it. This of course plays to Reliance’s traditional approach of taking a long view on technology, like it did with CDMA a year ago, and using a dangling-carrot approach to get vendors to assume the risk of creating an ecosystem around it.

Then of course there is regulation. “When it comes to regulation, Airtel has been more successful at tactics than strategy, but tactics only go so far. In terms of regulatory vision, Reliance is perhaps the shrewdest,” says Mahesh Uppal, a telecom policy expert and director of consulting firm Com First. 

Airtel’s 3G launch did not turn out as planned, says a telecom expert. First, it was unable to create compelling and easy-to-understand offers due to which adoption and usage was poor. Second, it had severe bandwidth issues. 

In response to a query from Forbes India, Airtel said, “We do not comment on market speculation. However broadband and data remain an integral part of Airtel’s strategy.”

Over time, the entire data business has moved to USB dongles where Reliance Communications (RCOM), Tata Teleservices and MTS now have significant advantage. Even Vodafone is reselling MTS dongles. 

Spending another billion dollars on Qualcomm’s licences, plus at least an equal amount to roll out services, is therefore not an easy call for Airtel. Its board is learnt to be questioning the wisdom of spending another $2 billion-odd on 4G when it was still unable to justify the nearly $3 billion it spent on acquiring 3G spectrum.

This was partly the trigger for a restructuring exercise within Airtel around June 2011. Airtel will need to do some serious resource and strategy balancing between improving its 3G services, which experts say will take 12-18 months, and moving ahead with 4G. Judging by its serious network trials in Chandigarh, Airtel seems to realise it too.

What has Ambani seen that Mittal hasn’t? The short answer: Video.

The Network
A few months ago, an RIL team cordoned off a Mumbai Café Coffee Day outlet while discussing plans with a vendor. Reliance is pushing vendors and consultants hard on solving what looks like an insurmountable problem: How do you disrupt the world’s most innovative and competitive telecom market? That’s why video matters.

Video offers multiple benefits. It is the easiest product, after voice, to sell to customers, while it throws up significant amounts of traffic. 


Set top boxes that combine TV channels, on-demand video and video-conferencing are undergoing trials on Reliance’s pilot networks. “But for something disruptive to happen, the intersection of supply and demand should be there,” says Neeraj Aggarwal, a partner with the Boston Consulting Group. And it will take superb marketing to make that happen.

So, till video takes off, Ambani will need the support of the voice business. Voice still rules in the Indian mobile telephony market because of two key reasons: Getting subscribers to buy a new data-only device and service will be very tough; and Indian customers are quite accustomed to paying ‘linearly’ for voice minutes unlike data where they expect disproportionately lower fees as their usage shoots up.

But under 4G license conditions, Reliance cannot offer voice. Even if regulations changed to allow voice over IP (VOIP), it would be next to impossible for Reliance to match Airtel’s incremental cost of producing one minute of voice — 7 paisa!

Enter RCOM, which, in most likelihood, will allow Reliance to exclusively re-brand and re-sell its GSM-based voice services. A partnership with RCOM will also give Reliance access to its 50,000 cell towers to place its LTE base stations, and a pan-India optic fiber network.

So, when will the Reliance juggernaut roll into town?

The Delayed Onslaught
Reliance’s original plan was to launch 4G across seven cities on December 28, the late Dhirubhai’s birthday. That date has slipped, because the LTE device and ecosystem is immature and Reliance’s senior management has been tied up with serious issues, like the report by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India around its gas mining operations.

Lars Stork, the CEO of Augere Communications that won the 4G licence for Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, says he expects Reliance to launch services in at least four metros around the same time he does, April-June 2012.

The first wave will see consumers being targeted with plug-in USB modems, set top boxes that offer TV channels, indoor and outdoor modems and a few tablet PCs. Apart from Notion Ink, Reliance is understood to be in advanced negotiations with two Taiwanese brands to procure customised mass-market tablets priced around Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 9,000.

“Nothing will be off-the-shelf with most devices being made specifically for them,” says Sridhar Pai, the head of research firm Tonse Telecom.

Only from 2013 are we likely to see LTE-based phones from Reliance, simply because such devices are yet to mature and become affordable. 

SMEs will be offered reliable broadband access through modems, with service level guarantees, cloud-based productivity and workforce applications like email, CRM and salesforce automation.

Hardware and software vendors, including Huawei, Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, HP and Cisco are falling over each other to get a piece of the Reliance pie. “The brilliant thing Reliance manages because of the scale of the opportunity is to get vendors to develop their ecosystem without signing binding deals. They did it during Monsoon Hungama too,” says Bajaj.

Consultants are being asked to design processes that can scale easily to millions of subscribers while remaining nimble. For instance, early discussions around signing up new customers sans paperwork explored the possibility of relying upon the Aadhaar UID.

However, the final launch strategy could still change, in all likelihood it will be relatively (for Reliance) low-key, in seven or eight cities, gradually ramping up to 35 towns within the first year and about 60-100 by the end of the second. 

Still, much of these are still only plans. And, like Monsoon Hungama, even the best laid plans can end up like a millstone around your neck. 

Unlike marketing-driven Airtel, Reliance is a product-driven company that thinks in terms of production cost. That sometimes blinds them from how consumers desire or use services. In a recent meeting with consultants, Ambani drew a small rectangular box on a whiteboard. “This is a box. It sits inside a consumer’s home and meets all of his information and transaction needs. I don’t know what is in it, but I want to be it.”

Mukesh Ambani plans mega-server of content

Mukesh Ambani.
Varada Bhat and Arijit Barman in Mumbai

Reliance Infotel is looking at creating a mega-server of broadband content for his 4G customers.
Network 18-Eenadu is just the beginning of a bigger data and video strategy. The primetime newsmaker will now become the creator of news himself.

After months of speculation and closed-door dialogues, Mukesh Ambani is finally making a big-bang diversification into media via a complicated series of transactions that will eventually see his flagship Reliance Industries control a significant chunk of two of the leading media houses in the country - the Raghav Bahl-promoted Network 18 Group and the Eenadu Group, run by Hyderabad based Ramoji Rao.

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Words of Inspiration - Mukesh Ambani

Choosing Between Making Money and Doing What You Love

"If you're really passionate about what you do, but it's not going to make you a lot of money, should you still do it?"

What a great question! It seems like just about everyone who has ever addressed a graduating class of high school or college seniors has said "Do what you love, the money will follow."

Inspiring. But it is true? Couldn't you do what you truly care about and very well go broke, as the question above (recently sent from one of our readers) implies?

Based on the research we did for our book, we're convinced that when you're heading into the unknown, desire is all-important. You simply want to be doing something that you love, or something that is logically going to lead to something you love, in order to do your best work. That desire will make you more creative and more resourceful, and will help you get further faster.

And, it will help you persist. When you're trying something that's never been attempted before — beginning an unusual project at work, or trying to get a new business off the ground — you're going to face a lot of obstacles. You don't want to be giving up the first time you encounter one.

But, let's be real. None of this guarantees wealth, or even financial success.

A friend of ours was hanging out at a bar with a few fellow professional musicians after a recording session, talking admiringly about another musician they all know. One of them commented on how fortunate it was for this musician that his music was commercial. In those four words, you will find an enormous truth. We all have our music and there is no guarantee that anyone will buy it. Absolutely none. These are two entirely separate things.

So this reader question attacks us straight on and says, in essence, "I have the desire, but I am pretty certain it's not going to lead anywhere that's monetarily profitable. Now what? Should I still go ahead?"

Of course you should.

Now let's qualify the answer a bit:

If you can't afford to do the thing you're passionate about — for example, if you do it, you won't be able to feed your family, or it would keep you from graduating college (which is something you think is more important than whatever you're passionate about) — then no, you'd better not bet your economic life on it. A basic principle concerning how you should deal with an unknown future is that every small smart step you take should leave you alive to take the next step. So, make sure you attend to your lower order Maslow needs of food and shelter and the like.

But even this doesn't mean you can't work on your passion a little — even if it's just for 15 minutes a day.

And you should!


Research (such as The Power of Small Wins that ran in Harvard Business Review May, 2011) shows that people who make progress every day toward something they care about report being satisfied and fulfilled.

We're in favor of people being happy. And we're also in favor of provoking people into pursuing happiness. The nice thing about this reader's question is that it might get people who have — by any objective standard — more than enough money to reconsider whether they want to continue to do things that are not making them happy, just because it'll make them more money. More often than not, these people say, "Once I get enough money, I'll do what I really want to do. I won't worry about the money." But somehow, they never get to that point. Time is finite. The question might be enough to get you to reconsider how you're spending it.

And of course, the assumption embedded in the question could be wrong. You might, indeed, end up making money if you engage in your passion, even though you currently think you won't. Remember, the future is unknown. Who knows what people will buy, or what you might invent after your very next act. At any moment in time, you are only one thought away from an insight — an insight that can change everything.

As we said in our previous post, when you are facing the unknown, they only way to know anything for sure is to act. When you are dealing with uncertainty — and whether you are going to make any money from your passion at this point is definitely an uncertainty — you act. You don't think about what might happen, or try to predict the outcome, or plan for every contingency. You take a small step toward making it a reality, and you see what happens.

Who knows? Even the smallest step can change everything.

So take those small steps. You might discover that your passion does, in fact, make you money. After all, who knew you could make huge amounts of money figuring out a way to connect all your friends (Facebook) or make a better map (pick your favorite GPS tool).

Even if you don't, you want to spend part of your day doing at least one thing that's making you happy. Otherwise, something is terribly wrong.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Icy civility at Oslo horror trial grips world

When the trial of Anders Behring Breivik started, prosecutors and court-appointed psychiatrists lined up to shake his hand, smiling. One psychiatrist even bowed. The killer of 77 people smiled back. 

Few Norwegians blinked an eye.

Welcome to a mass-murder trial, Norwegian style, a courtroom drama combining one of the worst peacetime atrocities seen in Europe since World War Two with dead-pan politeness that speaks volumes about Norway's calm self-confidence in the own fairness of its own society and judicial system.

Against this Scandinavian reserve and yearning to avoid confrontation, the gunman's clenched-fist salute looked surreal and out of place at his first court appearance on Monday. Day two on Tuesday proceeded with the same ice-cool civility.

"Are you near your conclusion, Mr. Breivik?" the judge asked the self-confessed killer as he expounded for over an hour on the threat of Islam, Europe's multicultural "hell" and why he shot dozens of teenagers last July on an island retreat.

"Six more pages," he replied.

The dialogue was repetitive. The judge, polite, pleading with Breivik to wind up. The defendant, civil in return: "One more page." For viewers around the world familiar with tetchy gavel-banging from the bench in televised U.S. trials, the judge's patience is startling. As Breivik meandered into praise for Japanese and South Korean political and social models, she said evenly: "I ask you to limit yourself to Norwegian issues."

The trial has been touted in Norway as a way to bring emotional "closure" to a country proud of its tolerance and determined not to let the threat of attacks destroy its open society. But it also has observers, especially foreigners, wondering if Norway's legal system - which can formally impose a maximum penalty of just 21 years in prison - is being manipulated by a cunning madman to broadcast his racist message.

At times during the courtroom broadcasts, some have felt echoes of the plays of Norway's great dramatist Henrik Ibsen, where comfortable daily routines are shattered by deep crisis and emotional maelstroms break through the icy veneer of pious, 19th-century bourgeois life.

Breivik himself, his gaze burning, in dark suit and newly bearded under the chin, has the air of a preacher from Ibsen.

Yet the 21st-century technology of social media, automatic weapons and high explosives with which he attacked the seemingly peaceful society that produced him bears distinct echoes of the dystopian new Nordic crime writers like Stieg Larsson, Henning Mankell and others who have gripped a vast global audience.


On the trial's first day, the state prosecutor hardly flinched as she read out a litany of the dead in such graphic detail that Norwegian broadcasters bleeped some details out. Breivik listened impassively, checking the indictment on his desk, a grim laundry list of killings.

Almost the only emotion to have bubbled to the surface in the trial so far was when Breivik choked back tears during a showing of his own Internet propaganda video, including pictures of mediaeval Crusaders and a musical accompaniment.

A "very touching film", he called it. "I was thinking that my country and my race, they're dying."

Up until that moment, Breivik had sat impassively as the prosecutor accused him of dozens of head-shots.

There are no U.S.-style trial theatricals here, no lawyers strutting the courtroom like a stage. The Norwegian prosecutor sits as she questions Breivik, polite and solicitous, almost at times as if speaking to a child.

There have been no outbursts from the victims' families in the public gallery, no baying for revenge, just quiet stoicism.

"This could have been all completely different in another national context, with demonstrations in the streets, vigils," said Matthew Goodwin, professor of politics and international relations at the University of Nottingham.

But Norwegians were putting their faith in a system they believe in: "In Norway, there is a long tradition of deference to authority and respect for institutions," said Goodwin, who has studied the country. "And there is a desire for closure."

Norway has generally refused to abandon its culture of light security after July's attacks. There is little sign of a ballooning security industry of scanners and guards seen in the United States and elsewhere in western Europe.

In the days after the attacks, the prevailing message was one of calm. The prime minister called for more openness and democracy. One Tweet from a Norwegian girl came to symbolise Norway's response - "If one man can create that much hate, you can only imagine how much love we as a togetherness can create."

In the courtroom, a few hundred metres from where Breivik set off a car bomb outside the government headquarters last July to distract attention from his subsequent shooting rampage, there is little evidence of the heated debate seen in the United States over trials of suspected al Qaeda leaders on home soil.

The public gallery seating 200 or so interested parties and journalists sat patiently through Breivik's testimony on Tuesday, betraying little emotion even when he promised "rivers of blood" across Europe as others like him take action.


"We are a stoic people," said John Hestnes, who leads a support group for survivors of the Oslo bomb blast.

"We don't shout out or break into tears about this and that. What we think inside ourselves is another matter. But this is a dignified courtroom and that's how it should be. We think it is important that he gets to say what he wants."

Respect here is the name of the game. Some survivors sport badges saying, politely: "No interviews, please."

The specially built courtroom is modern, equipped with classically Nordic blond wood panels and subdued colours. Police let visitors bring in drinks. They seem unsure of rules.

Many Norwegians remain convinced Breivik should be allowed to give evidence, despite the fact he has already admitted to the killings. He has pleaded not guilty to murder, however, arguing he was defending Norway against Islam and immigration.

There are, though, little glowing embers of repressed anger, now and then. Survivors, and relatives of the dead, fidgeted in the courtroom during his first day of testimony on Tuesday.

But rather than talking out loud, many were turning for comfort to the silent discourse of the mobile phone text message: "I got messages the whole time," said Hestnes.

"They are saying, 'This is horrible. This is painful.'"

Saturday, April 14, 2012

SEO Guidelines for New Websites

Clients often come to us with SEO requirements for their websites with a domain age of more than two years. These websites, not having been optimized ever, rank low on factors like keyword ranking, Page Rank, Alexa Rank etc. Our Team has put together some useful, often overlooked, pointers to help launch your website successfully – for web users as well as search engines.

Foresight for your Website

There is more to a new website than meets the eye. In order to maximize your site’s potential on Search Engines, it is important that your site is optimized even before it goes live, starting with the goals and purpose of your website and the domain name you choose; then to keywords you use for each page, search-friendly content and more.


Registering a Domain Name

Choose a domain name that has important keywords associated with your product, service or brand name. Short, crisp domain names are preferred over long ones. If your target market is global, select a .com domain. If you are targeting a particular country or language, it is better to register a domain name of that country. For example, choose a .in domain, if your target is primarily India.

We recommend you register the domain for at least two years. More the number of years, easier it is to gain the trust of search engines.

Keyword Research

It is important to choose the right set of relevant keywords.

If there are keywords and phrases you want to rank for, create a list that you can measure and work towards. Map these keywords to the relevant pages on your website and include them in the content of the pages accordingly. Ideally, each page should be optimized for 2-4 keywords. Targeting too many keywords per page will lead to dispersion in traffic for that keyword on your site and the focus of the keyword will be reduced. Don’t just choose keywords with the highest traffic possible; go for keywords that are balanced, have moderate to high search volume and, most importantly, are highly relevant to what the user is looking for.


Make sure the content on your website is original and not lifted from any source. Your website can be blacklisted on search engines if it contains replicated content. Add fresh content regularly. This increases the chances of crawlers indexing your pages, and tells engines and visitors alike that your site is an authority on the subject. Creating and updating a blog regularly is a good way to add fresh content to your site. Recent changes in Google’s algorithm include the Freshness Update, which is said to impact 6 to 35% of web searches.

Meta Tags

Add unique, keyword-rich meta tags (Titles, Descriptions and Keywords) to each page of your website. Use the most important keywords at the beginning of the tags. Write the title and description tags relevant to the respective page.

Check Your Robots.txt File

Double check your Robots.txt file. Make sure it is in the root folder of your domain. Ensure that all the folders and files – that you want search engines to find – are allowed. Development folders, JavaScript folders, CSS folders or private folders – that you do not want to show up in search engine results – should be disallowed.

Webmaster Tools

Add your site to search engine webmaster tools. This will ensure that search engines find, crawl, index and categorize your website easily, and also present detailed information about each page of your site.

HTML Sitemap

Provide an HTML version of your site that lists the links to the pages of your site. This will guide the search engine spiders to all the pages of your site. If your navigation is currently in Flash or JavaScript, this is an effective, alternative way of making sure that search engine spiders find the pages.

XML Sitemaps

Submit updated XML sitemaps to search engines regularly. XML sitemaps let the search engines know how often a page is changed, help improve crawl rate and provide credibility to the websites.

Create Social Accounts for Your Site/Brand

Search Engine Optimization and Social Media together have a powerful impact on search engines. With Social Media increasing in popularity and reach, your new site should be taking advantage of it as a medium to leverage. Create Accounts on all or some of the following Social Media sites: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Pages, YouTube (if you have or plan to have video content), Flickr (if you have image content), Scribd (if you have document content), Slideshare (if you have presentations), StumbleUpon (for bookmarking) and Reddit.

Do remember to link the social media accounts to your main website and vice versa.
Don’t just set up these accounts and then abandon them. Make sure you update the accounts frequently with unique and fresh content!

Install Google Analytics

Track important data that will help you gain insight into details like visitor behaviour, keyword performance, traffic etc. Based on the insights, you can improvise on your website or make changes to maximize its potential. With the above steps in place, you can ensure a search-friendly launch of your website, which appeals to your readers and search engines alike.

Contributed by Reynah D’Lima, Client Services Executive, Position² Team