Monday, July 21, 2014

8 reasons why "performance marketing" makes no sense

I've never liked the term "performance marketing".

That dislike is in part due to the context I'd typically hear it in. This was usually as a dismissive term for work from someone more interested in winning a Cannes Lion than providing ROI.

The other reason why I dislike the term is because it makes no sense. Let me elaborate with a list.
  1. No one offers "non-performing" marketing service. All marketing is by nature “performance” based.
  2. Creative, content or storytelling without purpose, targets and measurement is better known as art.
  3. Strategy exists to help hit targets. Targets do not exists to validate strategy.
  4. The term is overloaded. Attend any "performance marketing awards" in the UK and you'll be sitting among affiliates, affiliate networks and agencies.
  5. Brand strength is directly related to the amount that can be changed for a good of service. Therefore brand building influences performance.
  6. Brand strength also directly assists with conversions. Therefore brand marketing is "performance marketing."
  7. Advertising and marketing are not the same thing. Therefore advertising isn’t and shouldn’t be a synonym for "performance marketing"
  8. Building relationships with publishers, large and small, is a vital part of SEO and affiliate success. Relationship building should never be described as performance marketing.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Bing takes control of Chrome default tab

Bing as been my default desktop search engine ever since Google stopped providing my favourite service; Google Reader. In practical terms this means when I use Chrome's omnibox as a search bar I was taken to Bing.

Today things are different. Today my default Chrome tab which usually shows me my most popular webpages as quick press tiles is gone. In its place there's a Bing search box and a clean slate. I imagine these 8 tiles will fill up as Chrome's old default did.

Does setting my default search engine to Bing allow Microsoft to do this to my Chrome experience? Is this a search engine? Food for thought.


Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Affiliate publisher lands brand in ASA trouble

I think this is a first in the UK. This ASA ruled against Sophora Media and the company is now listed on the “bad boys” index of those non-compliant online advertisers.

So, what happened?

A blogger wrote about a deal run by Sophoro on their Swoggi site. You can read the article here on Conso Blogger. It’s called “How to get a 90% discount on an iPad, iMac or iPhone?”.

The post is written as a positive review but does not state it is an advertorial or an ad. However, as the blogger has a commercial relationship with Sophoro the ASA ruled the post should have been clearly labelled as an ad. In this case, Conso blogger has an affiliate relationship with the brand.

The ASA were also annoyed that the blogging affiliate presented an expiry date on the article but then kept on updating the article to push that date on. The ASA argued that, in effect, there was no such expiry date and this practice was deceptive.

Affiliates will know that the IAB Affiliate Code of Conduct requires them to keep expiry dates up to date and offers valid. That isn’t entirely what the affiliate was doing here.

Why is this ruling interesting?

This is interesting because it is Sophoro Media (trading as Swoggi) who has felt the wrath of the ASA rather than the affiliate. Has Sophoro benefits from the piece the ASA set their sights on them.

It seems harsh on Sophoro but underlines the value of having open communications with affiliates. As Conso blogger being asked to remove the post by Sophoro? Why is the affiliate still on the program?

Update: 10th July

While visiting this blog post I just happened to notice the Taboola content engine recommendation contained a post called "How to get 90% off the new Ipad" from ConsoBlogger. It's at the bottom and in the middle.



The click also happens to redirect via http://outsoorce.go2jump.org/aff_ad?campaign_id=1517. Go2Jump is a HasOffers domain.

So is ConsoBlogger offering affiliate payouts to people who drive traffic to their blog? Can they track conversions? Is HasOffers helping out a successful earner? Clues are certainly in the sub-domain outsoorce and the campaign code 1517.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

We're still all publishers

I want to revisit my 2014 prediction “We’re all publishers”. Why? The core concepts behind the prediction are very much front and centre of my daily digital marketing life and have been all year.


For a start; it makes sense to define what I mean by “publisher” in the first place. That’s especially true since I believe publishers and agencies are on a common evolutionary path and it’s that future I think about. I’m not suggesting that agencies will be installing ink and paper printing presses.

The role of the agency is to solve problems for their clients. Clients need to improve their business. As a result agencies are (or should be) focused on those activates which improve businesses.

Yes, we’re seeing the convergence of business intelligence (companies like Accenture and Logica), information intelligence (companies like IBM and Oracle) with digital marketing but let’s cover that later. For now, let’s assume that for the most of the time to improve clients’ businesses that agencies have to concentrate on how people (customers and potential customers) interact with them. This means earning more customers, making more money out of current customers, keeping customers happy, working on the brand to inherit all the perks that come with that and running cost effective and efficient campaigns.

I can summarise the duties of agencies by saying they have to engage with audiences and earn money from that engagement. I use “audiences” carefully. I don’t mean old style segments that you might once have bought banner campaigns for. I mean individuals and communities.

What’s the role of the publisher? Traditionally publishers turned scripts into books and put them on shelves. That’s no longer a service you need to outsource as an author. Today you can ebook publish or self-print with ease. Even outside the world of print publishing and in the glamourous worlds of video and game publication the process is becoming easier. Run away successes like the GoPro have created a whole army of cameramen capable of amazing footage. As a result the modern publisher is offering alternative services. They may deploy editors to improve (or optimise) the text. They’ll certainly help market the book or video and bring their understanding of the market to the fore.

I’ll summarise the roll of the modern publisher too. The modern publisher is about engaging with audiences and earning money from that engagement.

Agencies and publishers both use “content” to help facilitate these goals. I use the word “content” carefully. People don’t call their Facebook accounts “content” or Game of Thrones streamed over their SkyGo app to their Xbox “content” and so the word barely seems appropriate. It’s good enough as a placeholder for this blog post though.

Equally, neither agencies nor publishers exclusively use content to achieve their goals. Both parties look to use influencers, celebrities and events to help with their engagement.

But what about brands? Brands are at the heart of this. Publishers might be promoting the work of their authors. Authors are brands. That’s why big name authors can sell their ebooks for £10 even though you can find great books online for less than £1. Brands are just as responsible for making (or allowing) great content. Brands must also go that additional step and facilitate and amplify the ever important audience engagement and monetisation. Interview an author with a book out recently and ask about the social media promotion work their publisher asked them to do. The conversation is an echo of one between an SEO agency asking their client to help promote content. Or an affiliate agency asking their client to make some noise around an event.

I thought Michael Brito hit a few nails on the head in his Komfo interview How to transform your brand into a media company.

The word “media” is just as overloaded as “content”. What’s the difference between a “media agency” and a design and build agency these days? Does anyone believe design and build agencies shrug their shoulders, build what they want and without respect to what is necessary to connect that build to an audience? Of course not. The creative and build process is a supporting tier to the media requirements.

We’re halfway through the year and I still strongly feel that we’re all publishers. This is especially true if we look just a little ahead.

Lastly, LinkDex invited me to a ThinkTank to talk about SEO for 2014. What did I say? I said we’re all publishers.


Andrew Girdwood, DigitasLBi SEO For Brands In 2014 Videos from Linkdex on Vimeo.

Image credit John Biehler.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

The problem bloggers face

I am a blogger. I run this blog and nearly a half dozen other. It is a passion for me. As a blogger I receive all sorts of emails, phone calls and the occasional mail package from brands and agencies.

I am also a digital marketer. I often try to work with bloggers, looking to connect them with brands. It is a fun job but not always easy.

A good digital strategy these days should, in part, consider bloggers who would like to get involved and hear about what the brand is doing. This makes sense; fashion bloggers care about the latest fashion, travel bloggers care about the latest experiences and so forth. In fact, just as an affiliate might well feel annoyed when their brand partner engages in a piece of activity and fails to tell them, I would argue so could a blogger feel annoyed if they missed out on early about a piece of brand news.

In reality, though, it doesn’t always work like that. There’s a problem with bloggers. It is a problem that agencies have created; marketing agencies, ad agencies and public relations agencies.

Most bloggers need to do multiple jobs to succeed. They need to be editors and writers. Bloggers who want to recoup hosting costs or even push ahead and earn a living through their media property also have to be business people; arranging ad deals, working out promotions and managing a brand. No wonder blogger events and advice swapping are popular activities.



A refrain from many blogger conferences is “Do nothing for free”. That is common, popular and often heard advice from one successful blogger to another.

It is a problem. Without the right context this is bad advice. Terrible advice.

Imagine a blog in which the last dozen posts were not done for free. Unless the blogger is breaking the law in the UK (or US; or many other countries) each of those posts would need to be disclaimed as sponsored or advertorial. I don’t mean tagging it with “ad” or having the post placed in the “sponsored” category; I mean the clear disclosure the Office of Fair Trading requires.

A blog with 10 sponsored posts in a row is not a blog that looks attractive to brands. If a blogger was to this then they’d harm their blog.

If a blogger fails to disclose their financial relationship with their sponsors then they’re a blogger brands, quite rightly, need to steer clear of.

Simply put; a blogger must do things for free. They must work on their own content and brand. They must grow their audience. As this happens the money they’ll be able to charge in advertising, advertorials and associations will increase. The free work is the money multiplier. Hopefully, too, the free work is what the blogger really wants to do.

This juggling between paid work and free work isn’t the big problem bloggers face that inspired me to write this post though. There’s another, related and serious problem.

The relationship between bloggers and agencies is messed up. It is messed up because of this conflict between free and paid. The agencies must take the blame for creating the problem, for not knowing what basic ASA or OFT rules are and for not helping bloggers understand the difference between an editorial, an advertorial and an ad. The latter two, of course, are pretty much the same thing. We might call an advertorial a native ad.

The problem is CONFUSION.

Let’s try and clear things up.

  1. Bloggers make editorial decisions on what content will interest them and their audience.
  2. Some bloggers will listen to editorial pitches; some bloggers will not.
  3. A press release is an editorial pitch. It is not an a RFI for a native advertising deal.
  4. The best editorial pitches are not sent as press releases.
  5. No agency should try and trick or encourage a blogger to break the law or accepted marketing rules.
  6. Corporate messaging is rarely suitable for editorial pitches.
  7. Google also has rules and both parties should know them.
  8. A few hundred visitors from a blog to a brand site is usually worth very little.
  9. There are bloggers who make their living from blogging and should be treated like respected professionals.

This list is far from exhaustive. It is just the tip of the iceberg of issues that sometimes create confusion between bloggers, in-house teams and agencies.



The way forward is to be mindful of a publishing strategy. Brands should consider their online activities to be, in essence, part of a publishing strategy. Part of a brand’s publishing strategy should be working with other publishers. Local press, trade press, national press, communities, curators and bloggers of all shapes and sizes are also publishers.

A brand with a publishing strategy is one that is thinking correctly about what might interest other publishers. This is the best way to ensure engagement with bloggers.

Bloggers with a publishing strategy are bloggers who understand the difference between being pitched an editorial idea and being offered an ad deal. This is the best way to ensure engagement with brands.


Photo credits: Shawn Clover and Todd Jordan.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

My 7 wishes for Rafflecopter

Like many bloggers I use and am a fan of Rafflecopter. Rafflecopter provides a straight forward and widget based system to track competition entries and pick a winner. The widget typically trades social actions such as tweets and follows for points and those points represent chances of winning the competition.

Rafflecopter recently updated their website, improving the interface bloggers used to create competitions. It was a good job. While I like the site upgrade and love the widget that doesn’t mean I don’t wish for more.

My current Rafflecopter usage is at the paid level but I don’t have a “personal” enterprise account at my disposal.

My Rafflecopter wishlist


It’s time to move the “refer a friend” out of the Business price tier and into the Blogger tier. Rafflecopter should concentrate on competition management and analytics for their Business clients and given the lack of new features on the Blogger side the time has now come to make this change.

Rafflecopter is a widget based company but they don’t really make as much of this strength as they could. A new angle for them would be to support treasure hunts. This would mean many widgets, smaller than the usual one, that can be hidden around the blog. Clicking on the treasure piece widget is how users indicate they’ve solved the clue and found the treasure icon.

There is a lot of dead space on the widget once the competition has finished. While Rafflecopter isn’t using that space (no Rafflecopter branding unlocks at the business tier) why not let bloggers use them? The dead space could be a banner to the latest competition, a social call to action or even a blogger managed ad.

Help me wrestle the widget into a blog post. The default widget is quite large and wants to centre itself. I’ve come to accept that now and design my posts so that widget can do just that. Originally my instinct was to right or left align the widget alongside a chunk of text. If I’d fought with CSS then perhaps I could have achieved that. My goal with Rafflecopter is to save time and avoid fights. It would be nice if they provided some helpful styling and alignment features.

Flag suspicious entries. Fake competition accounts are legion and a problem. Even if this is just a Business account feature I think Rafflecopter would make a lot of friends if they helped suggest which competition qualification actions might have been carried out by sock puppet accounts and perhaps not therefore valid winners.

Track users across competitions. Who’s a return user? Who’s completed more than one competition? Once again; this may just be a Business Level feature but one worth adding.

Who’s followed and unfollowed? Even though Twitter’s introduction of Mute means the value of “Follow to win” competitions have dropped I still think it would be useful to see who/what percentage of competition entries jumped ship after the prize was announced. Another Business Level feature.

What do you think? Have I missed any of your Rafflecopter wishes off the list? I’d be happy to hear them in the comment section below.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Sponsored Video: 3 important things

This post is the second in my series on Virgin Media Business. The first looked at innovation in Scotland and discussed the company’s Three New Things competition. Now the results of that competition are in and there are winners.



Buffalo Grid gives away large solar-powered charging devices that allow local businesses or entrepreneurs to charge their customer’s smartphones.

CubeSat created a “space resistant” material that can be 3D printed. The result? Much cheaper satellite construction.

Three Over Seven have a smartphone app that lets customers scan their feet and receive a pair of perfectly fitted 3D printed shoes the next day.

Three Over Seven won the votes of the audience of the day and it is one of two companies that use 3D printing.

3D printing is one of my “important things”. The future here is wide open and we’re still to see what 3D printing looks like on a business level and whether it’ll be a thing for consumers. Will we see homes with 3D printers and with their ability to produce functional utilities? The attraction of Three Over Seven’s offering was that it didn’t ask people to try something out of their comfort zone. The system used smartphone apps, which we’re familiar with, to allow 3D printing elsewhere.

Phones are the second of the three important things. Both Buffalo Grid and Three Over Seven make use of mobile phones and in very different ways. What do they have in common? Just how ever present mobiles have become and how important they are now.

Lastly, looking at what Buffalo Grid and CubeSat had in common was infrastructure and flexibility. Innovation that makes the next wave of innovation more likely and easier is top of the pile. This is my third important thing – infrastructure. As it happens this must be an area close to Virgin Media Business’ heart too. This is a company with fibre optics in the ground.

Putting the three important things together paints a picture. We’re creating a landscape with the infrastructure in place to support widespread use of smartphones and allow the next wave of contenders – like 3D printing – to exist.

If you look at what people in the 60s, 1920s or earlier predicted the future would be like you would enjoy a gallery of fun and fanciful ideas. You wouldn’t have seen anyone predict the infrastructure of telecoms or the internet. Infrastructure and communication changes are hard to imagine.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored video post. The video comes from Virgin Media Business but the topic, words, typos and thoughts are all mine.