Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Yahoo communicates to annoy Google?

The SEO blogs and forums are awash with people discussing their PageRank changes, their link changes and traffic (or lack of traffic) changes.

Google's being typically Google and not communicating. In fact, I'm yet to see a Google post about the new ability to select the geographic target for your site in natural search. If you didn't notice the change on your own webmaster console then you'd likely find out by ex-Googler Vanessa Fox blogging about it on Search Engine Land.

If I was Yahoo and I wanted to rattle Google's cage then I would tell webmasters of an impending or ongoing re-crawl/index at Yahoo. Further more, I'd invite webmasters for feedback. That's exactly what they've done.

Truth be told - Yahoo probably naturally reached the point where an update was needed at this point and they're probably not doing this just to remind webmasters around the world that Yahoo's far more communicative than Google. Probably.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Did Ionut Alex Chitu leak Matt Cutts' email address?

Sadly this is a true story and not something I’ve made up for Halloween.

I was emailed today by someone offering to sell me Matt Cutts' email address. The emailer told me that a popular but unofficial Google blog had accidentally leaked it. I had to decide by 5pm today (no time zone was specified) whether I would pay $5,000 for the address or the person behind the email would offer the address to my competitors for $7,000.

Oh dear. Firstly, I’m based in the UK so I prefer to deal in Pounds Sterling rather than Dollars – although with the current rate of exchange the Dollar is pretty cheap for me to buy so maybe the $5,000 would have been a better deal. However, if this ‘canny’ emailer had done his research and worked out who my competitors are I would have assumed they would have noticed although I work for a global digital agency but am clearly based in the UK.

Has it happens Google Operating System did publish a screen grab which included Matts’ email address. Briefly. Philipp Lenssen noticed and kindly pointed out the little slip up. It's an easy mistake to make and it was corrected.

Here’s the newly censored image as it appears right now.

Needless to say I didn’t pay the $5,000 charge. I wrote back and told the author to grow up. Based on the quality of the email I wouldn’t be surprised if the author was actually only 13.

I imagine a fair few people saw the address. Listen folks – if you don’t know Matt then don’t email the address. If you do so and expect good things to happen then you’ll be disappointed. The man is hugely busy. You can tell that just by reading his blog! It doesn’t take a genius to guess at the email addresses used by Googlers either. I just recommend that you don’t guess and don’t make a nuisance out of yourself by trying to pester these people with unsolicited emails.

The best way to email Google is to use one of the group aliases and get a ticket number (keep it in the subject line of the email at all times). That way you know your email will get through the system and someone will look at it.

I email members of our Google account team directly. I email Googlers who I know well (have been to the pub with) directly. All my other Google emails go through the same channels as everyone else. Just because I’ve bumped into a Googler at SES or SMX does not, I feel, give me permission to start emailing them directly.

As for trying to hawk the email address of Googlers – especially with a “pay up now or I’ll raise the price’ deadline – grow up, idiot.

Monday, October 29, 2007 to boost product search with PriceRunner white label

Over at Revolution, Halyey Pinkerfield brings us the news that is going to launch a white label of as part of their effort to boost their shopping search.

Let's take a step back here. You might first wonder what is doing with Well; over here in the UK is branded as An easy way to see this is in the Google SERPs were the listing has the .com title.

So, we're probably only looking at Ask UK bringing in

Does this boost their shopping search? Not really. Ask aren't enhancing their shopping search system at all - they're getting someone else to do it. However, this will boost their Christmas shopping search revenues and that can only be a good thing for the search engines.

In addition to a bit more cash it also lets Ask UK play around with the best way of integrating shopping search to their site. You could think of the PriceRunner deal as a toe in the water. If Ask can see how much money they could make from shopping search then perhaps that'll help them decide whether they want to invest in their own technology.

The PriceRunner deal is a good idea. I just wish Ask would reconsider its branding a little.

The Department for Work and Pensions starts blogging

The UK Government's Department for Work and Pensions has started a blog at

This is a blog but I notice with a wry smile that some UK trade press are calling it a 'social networking website'.

This blog is an experiment and it's aimed firmly at the Pension end of the DWP's remit. In fact, the blog came about in response to research the DWP carried out during its Generation Xperience campaign.

Brand Republic has the following statbyte;

More than half of all over-50s have access to the internet, rising to three quarters (76%) of 50- to 64-year-olds.

Nearly one in six of those in the 50-64 age bracket have conquered instant messaging, social networking sites and internet chatrooms (15%), while emailing is becoming the norm (37%). More than half (56%) of respondents say they have set themselves the goal of ‘learning computer skills’ as they approach later life.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

McAnerin to Patent an SEO Technique? - IPGeoTarget

Ian McAnerin is a smart guy. On Thursday he announced a competition to help come up with the best name for his patent pending technique.

The trademark-safe name for the product is going be IPGeoTarget. It was a lucky Jill Whalen who won the prize (a hundred bucks).

We don't actually know the solution that Ian's trying to patent but we know the problem and his answer to it. The problem is fairly common in corporate SEO. If you're a dot-com and hosted in America but want to rank on engines like then you'll be in trouble. Why? The initial geographic signals from your site will suggest that you're an American one rather than a British one. Sure, there are other signals that Google looks at (domain name records for example) but if your sever is in the wrong place then you have a mountain to climb.

Ian suggests three common solutions.

  • register a ccTLD (not popular due to branding issues)
  • host in the target country (not popular with head office, usually for political reasons)
  • park a ccTLD on the .com (complicated, slow, and easy to mess up)
Ian also correctly points out that there are problems with all three. His solution looks like a plug in piece of technology that makes it look as if your site is in the UK (for example) even if your server is in the States.

There are other solutions to the three Ian listed - for example, putting a proxy server in the UK and pointing that to your main server. When the search engines try and check the geography associated with the IP address they'll (likely) to get the UK. Even this solution can be complicated and messy for big corporate clients. Some of us have software solutions in place to try and make this as easy as possible.

I think I should point out that I have every expectation that Google is going to make it much easier for webmasters to signal who the appropriate geographic audience for the site (in natural search) is.

Hopefully we'll end up with a really useful service from McAnerin in the form of IPGeoTarget. Hopefully we won't find tried and tested techniques stuck behind a patent.

Update: Ian's helpfully shed some light on the patent following this post.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Who's lost their 10/10 PageRank score?

I'm so not a PageRank addict but I'm watching the current drama unfold with interest. People do care about PageRank. Those people who say PageRank is dead - are now blogging about PageRank. I just said I'm not a PageRank addict and here I am with this blog post about PageRank.

I thought I'd take a look and see who's lost their PageRank 10/10. Okay; now the caveat - this PageRank update seems very unstable right now. It's entirely possible that the toolbar PageRank values will have changed by the time you've read this post. It's also possible that there are new redirects in place.

For my original list of sites with PageRank 10/10 I'm using Search Engine Genie's list. I'm a "Nofollow" type of linker but, in this case, Search Engine Genie scores a hit with their linkbait and gets the straight link from me.

Every one of these sites once had PageRank 10/10. What do they have now?

Title         URLNew PageRank
Adobe Acrobat
World Wide Web Consortium
Apple - QuickTime
Keio University
National Aeronautics and Space Administrationhttp://www.nasa.gov9/10
Apple Computers
Google Search
W3C CSS Validation Service
The European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematicshttp://www.ercim.org9/10
MIT Laboratory for Computer Science
National Science Foundationhttp://www.nsf.gov10/10
Apache Software Foundation
The White Househttp://www.whitehouse.gov10/10
Real Mediahttp://www.real.com9/10
Stat Counterhttp://www.statcounter.com6/10

A quick count on my screen suggests there are 20 sites there and 11 of them have lost their 10/10 score. So, 55% of sites which had PageRank 10/10 have lost it.

Now, as further proof that everyone is talking about PageRank again here's a Forbes article on the latest update. Congratulations to Barry Schwartz, Rand Fishkin and Loren Baker for their page space (which is probably more important than PageRank, anyway) in the article.

Weirdest spelling suggestion

One of our SEO Analysts (who'll remain anonymous - so let's just call him Bob) holds the record for the weirdest Google spelling suggestion. Here's Bob's winning screen shot.

Can anyone beat that?

Monday, October 15, 2007

NMA adds Social Buttons

The NMA (New Media Age) is the UK based magazine which is read by marketers and brand managers and is most likely to write about Search. two of my top three journalists write for the NMA. Ergo, I'm a fan, a paper subscriber and an RSS subscriber.

Today I noticed shiny social media buttons in their RSS feed.

Not bad. Could do better though. The social button just links through to a big MediaFed decision page. Whereas MediaFed has many advantages I'd much rather hit the Newsvine button and submit to Newsvine. It's a little annoying that I can indicate from the RSS feed that it was Newsvine I was trying to submit too but then have to try and find the Newsvine icon in the MediaFed cloud and click again.

Hopefully NMA will get the figures from MediaFed's stats which show there's millage in including social media buttons in the RSS feed. They might add a slightly more sophisticated system. That would benefit the ecology of search bloggers as Will Cooper, NMA's Search writer, had the scoop on Google's gambling ad policy in the UK and was first out with the BFP story. In other words, there is an online audience that the NMA could/should target in Search Bloggers that social bookmarking will reach.

O2 storming forward on Facebook

Just 11 days after launch O2's branded Facebook group has over 63,000 members (sub needed).

The group encourages students to make "noise" by uploading pictures and comments. This explains why such a young group has so much more rich media than others of its size - but also explains why the comments are so dire.

There's also a price. The University with the most comments wins a £50,000 branded party.

Gareth Jones from Haymarket's Marketing magazine points out that O2's Facebook group is now ahead of H&M's branded community (~23,000) and Virgin Mobile's (~1,100).

So, a £50,000 prize and an agency run Facebook group? It's likely that O2 will be writing much of the money as Brand Spend. However, the goal here is to attract students to O2 Favourite Place tariff (students being a target as they have their halls of residence as a favourite place) and so O2 may well be able to measure the success of the campaign by looking at the Facebook activity, which Unis were noisy on it and then what the Favourite Place tariff subscriber count looks like from those post codes.

P.S.. In other operator news Vodafone has had their 'Pee your pants' (sub) advert cleared by the Advertising Standards Authority. The ASA ruled that the poster was a light-hearted reference to laughing. Just so you know.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Spam from LiveJournal's Project Gizmo partner

I've been with LiveJournal for years (and, right now, I'm not going anywhere) without having any Unsolicited Commercial Emails (UCE) issues with them.

Today I got UCE from Project Gizmo who power the default Windows application for LJ Talk - LiveJournal's Instant Messenger.

Now, I don't recall any opt-in or opt-out checkboxes in the process. In fact, the screen grab alongside this shows the download form. You simply grab the .exe and log in.

LiveJournal do say that they'll share some data with their partners. That'll be how Project Gizmo managed to translate my log in into an email address.

Brad Fitzpatrick, of course, left LiveJournal and Six Apart to join Google (not Facebook; which is the fashion currently) and there were rumours at the time that Six Apart/Danga was sinking into dark times. I would imagine he would be less than happy with the idea of LiveJournal passing details on for an UCE blast.

What's Fitpatrick doing now? (Probably) deeply involved in Google's forthcoming social networking projects.

O2 commissions made-for-mobile drama series

O2 is a big mobile carrier in the UK. They have the iPhone contract. They're part of Telefónica.

O2 has just signed one of their first (probably of many) made-for-mobile content deals. I blog about this with this with Tuesday's post questioning whether content or communication is king on mobile.

Certainly it seems that O2 are lining up their ducks. iPhone users might ask; "Now what?" after they've played with the device and it might just be that a mobile drama series will suit that big screen very well.

Big names are involved in the drama (which will be called Cell) - Endemol UK and Mobstar Media. Endemol are the people behind the infamous Big Brother TV show. I've never watched Big Brother but I may watch Cell just so I can be part of the premiere.

Do you know the big problem with being clever and calling the series Cell? That's right - it'll be a bitch to rank for. If you search for [O2 Cell] or [Endemol Cell] you'll get a bunch of results about mobile/cell phones.

I'm on O2 so my mobile will be able to get this. I'm interested in how they're going to announce this to me. An SMS seems most likely. If you're not on O2 - fear not - the series will be shared with other providers and aired online after O2's customers have had the first chance to view it.

Is this a first? Not really. It just seems like another significant step forward and another increase in the heat around mobile content and mobile marketing.

It's worth noting that Endemol is doing pretty well with its mobile content. They've already had a fly-on-the-wall mobile series which followed the pop band the Sugababes.

One thing I've noticed is that many SEO blogs aren't covering the growth of mobile content very well. This is will be partially due to the differences between European, American and Canadian mobile usage. European mobiles (oh, I mean; cell phones) tend to be closer in technology to the latest Asian mobiles (or are a Nokia or Sony Ericsson in the first place). A high percentage of European users are pretty close to being mobile power users too.

My prediction for bloggers most likely to cover this story are: Andy Beal's Marketing Pilgrim as the site does well to cover a broad range of digital topics and Barry Schwartz who may well have an iphone tag on his personal blog.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

SiteExplorer Down

Annoyingly, one of my favourite search engine features - Yahoo's SiteExplorer - is having a bad time today.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Like Dodgeball - but better?

Philipp Lenssen's just posted to say that Google's bought Jaiku.

Jaiku talk a lot about "presence sharing" and Philipp succinctly translates that as "your friends know where you are & what you’re up to by looking at their cell phone using Jaiku’s service". This is very much the same arena that dodgeball played in - before the founders quit Google.

So what are Google up to here? There are no mobile community leaders yet. There's no mobile gathering site that's similar to what YouTube did for video or what LiveJournal did for early blogging. Google is betting there will be a mobile community market leader. Google is betting that we'll all become addicted and that we'll all spend hours each week on our mobile keeping up to date with the mobile community. Google want to make it as easy as possible for that community to happen and they want to place appropriate adverts in the community to help fund it.

This is an area where, I suspect, the savvy mobile operators (the likes of Vodafone and t-mobile) will be unwilling to surrender to Google without a brawl.

We've even seen Nokia plan a future around this sort of mobile content community. The Register reckon Nokia is doomed to fail here. No one will be willing to pay for mobile content in the long term (which is why we're likely to see Google go on an ad funded model). The Register also predict that the operator networks will fight the phone makers in the pay-for-mobile-portal arena and charmingly use the phrase "two bald men fighting over a comb".

A good question for any Search Marketer to walk away with today is "Is content really king? Or is communication king?" ... if mobile takes off then it's likely to be on the strength of easy communication rather than strong content.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Ian McAnerin on SEMPO

Ian McAnerin has an interesting post today. He's noticed that SEMPO are now insisting that their members are White Hat. He writes;

Interesting. Not that I have any objection (I think it's great!) but I distinctly remember there being a fair amount of controversy about SEMPO not requiring it's members to agree to not be spammers. It was one of the main reasons I help found the SMA-NA.

Heh - maybe I *can* work with these guys. It's certainly a step in the right direction. There is no indication of any kind of enforcement, so it's not perfect, but a couple of years ago you would not have seen this, and it would have created a huge controversy if you had. Maybe our little industry really is starting to grow up.

I would echo his thoughts. Interestingly, one of my first concerns with SMA-UK was that its first draft of members included a notorious doorway page SEO firm.

Selling Links Can Harm Your Site

Danny Sullivan has put together a well written post on Search Engine Land titled Official: Selling Paid Links Can Hurt Your PageRank Or Rankings On Google.

The title says it all.

Back in March I suggested that Link Sellers are taking a risk with their site. I don't think we'll ever see the black mark I suggested - as Danny points out, this makes it easier to try and successfully buy links - but Google's gone further by actually starting to penalise sites.

What strikes me about Danny's post is how it came about it. We had seen some evidence that Google was acting out against link sellers but nothing that would earn the "Official" tag. Danny writes;

Last week, I noticed the Stanford Daily had dropped from when I wrote the above in April to PR7 today. That's a huge drop that has no apparent reason to happen. Some others were also reporting PageRank drops. So I pinged Google, and they confirmed that PageRank scores are being lowered for some sites that sell links.

That relationship with key people in Google is just one of the many reasons why its worth keeping tabs on Danny and Search Engine Land. I'm hugely busy. I fly around the world - but I always try and keep up with Search Engine Land.

So, now you have two actions you can take when your competitor (or client competitors) start to buy links.
  1. Report them to Google
  2. Contact the link seller and point them to

I know a lot of SEO folk still think Google is wrong to punish paid links. I know a lot of them still recommend paid links to their clients. Whether you agree Google is right to do this or not, Google is doing this. If you are taking money from people in order to promote their website please have a sit down and a think about your paid link stance.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Another nightmare for Apple - Royal Mail strikes

The post office is on strike here in the UK. Mail isn't coming through. At the end of this post I'll show you Amazon UK's homepage and how they're on top of the situation.

I ordered my ipod Touch ages ago. It was due to ship on the 28th and arrive on the 2nd of October. Apple didn't manage this. The next thing I get is an email which looks like this:

That's the Gmail view with images allowed.

Thankfully I suspected there might be some text in the darkness and so I selected the area.

Look at that. If you imagine that everyone in the UK is effected by deliveries not getting through and a decent percentage of these people are using Gmail then you can imagine a whole lot of people are not oing to get their ipod touch and will left wondering why.

I'm making a big assumption here. I'm assuming Apple are using the Royal Mail to send out their ipods.

Even if Apple aren't using the Royal Mail they (and every other retailer which relies of shipping) would be well advised to put concerned shoppers at ease.

Phew. It's safe enough to order from Amazon. Perhaps I should have bought my new ipod touch from them?

Oh. While we're at it... what does the Royal Mail website have to say about the strikes? Nothing.

Update It's not the Royal Mail who are trying to deliver my ipod Touch. It's TNT. I still don't have my ipod but Apple were very helpful on the phone.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Yahoo says that Google is the antichrist

Yesterday, Haochi over at Googlified posted a fun Google Suggest is... screen shot. We can see someone has typed in "Google is" and what the Google Suggest suggestions are. There's everything from "Google is god" to "Google is stupid".

I thought it would be fun (in a copycat sort of way) to see what the new Yahoo Search Assist thought of Google.

As we can see - a similar set of results. The common thread of "Google is down". It's perhaps not surprising that Yahoo gets occasionally gets searches from people who think Google is down.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Is Community Building Is Working for Brands?

Are big brands right to leap into the social network building? Should they create community sites and encourage people to converse under their benevolent auspices?

There are some people who are mad keen on social media. They love it with a passion. They really truly believe that brands should engage in this form of pull marketing. On some occasions these people are also content creators or agencies who get paid for making and then maintaining these communities.

The NMA estimates that some of these big brand social networks could cost up to £1,000,000 a year to build and maintain. That's about $2,000,000.

Let's take some examples. Doc Marten's freedm2 site has less than 4,000 users. Pedigree's site has about 12,000 users. That's less than the number of cans of dog food a single supermarket would sell in a month. More Th>n's Living has had 4 comments for the last 40 posts - and most of those are from staff.

So, is community building working for brands? It might look as if these cases are desperate failures.

As it happens the brands are defending their work so far (and when an agency is responsible for the strategy you don't necessarily expect brands to defend the work).

Fiona Hall from Waitrose said;

As far as numbers go we have nothing to compare this to, and we wouldn't, we just wanted to give customers the ability to communicate with us online as they do offline. Taking interaction online was a natural progression for us.

I don't think these communities are failures. If the communities are achieving what their founders had hoped for then it's a success. Pedigree cite their community as a great source of customer information.

I do think brands need to be cautious. It's not the case that "if you build it - they will come". It's ironic that the best social media marketers fully understand the war for attention and still guide their clients right into the heart of the battle. It's a big risk.

I recently defined social media as ethical manoeuvres in a people generated landscape to a client. I think that sometimes a successful social media campaign is simply making the most appropriate manoeuvres rather than trying to own a chunk of the landscape. I will admit, though, that in some cases community building is exactly what a site should do.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Google celebrates Unity Day

Today is Unity Day in Germany. The 3rd of October, in 1990, is when East and West Germany reunited.