Monday, April 30, 2007

New Google News Feature

Ha-ah! We noticed something was up. Google News was acting odd - it was adding poorly related stories to breaking news clusters. Normally Google is very good at keeping news clusters tightly associated.

Today we were lucky enough to publish details of a Google survey and include comments from Bill Slawski. It's a look at data privacy with the search engines.

We can see in the grab above how the bigmouthmedia press release gets lumped in with a whole bunch of others. The other 295 or so in that cluster are about Google working with US States and their databases. Google's normally better than that.

Then we add non-bigmouthmedia stories ranking for the search - as shown below.

What's happened next? Google linked in a new search filter for Google News. Previously you could search by date or by relevance - now you can search by date with duplicates included.

Normally you get heavy duplicates in Google news when someone like the AFP or Reuters publish a story which local news papers across the USA pick up and republish word for word. This filter option seems like a way to cope with that.

Google Base Local

Here's an URL for you: Google Base Local. It's just the same as Google Maps but does hint at how Google Base is that centre point in a range of different services Google is offering.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

SMX and Internet World

Danny Sullivan is a lucky man. He has set up SMX - a set of search conferences - which should be a daunting and formidable challenge. Of course, you know all about this - many of the key blogs you read are currently running adverts for SMX. Clever. There's no doubt that Danny's up to the challenge.

I'm particularly impressed at the level of support SMX is getting from the search engines. Not sure whether you should go to SMX or not? Google, the world's most powerful brand, suggests:

Come out to SMX Advanced in Seattle and party with Webmaster Central

So, we're very excited about an upcoming conference in our hometown, Seattle -- SMX Advanced, June 4-5. Since it's nearby, many from our team can attend and we're hoping to hear more about what you like and what you'd like to see us do in the coming year.

and Matt Cutts is coming!
The Google Seattle/Kirkland office and the Webmaster Central team are hosting SMX After Dark: Google Dance NW on Monday night. We want to say thanks to you for this great partnership, as well as give you the chance to learn more about what we've been up to. We'll have food, drinks, games (Pacman and Dance Dance Revolution anyone?), and music. Talk to the Webmaster Central engineers, as well as engineers from our other Kirkland/Seattle product teams, such as Talk, Video, and Maps. We may even have a dunk tank! Who would you most like to try your hand at dunking?

If I was Danny - I'd be very happy with Google right now!

Sadly, nope, I can't make it. I will be at Internet World though - which is shaping up to be the big conference here in the UK this summer. I get to speak twice! Come see me as part of Brands Reignited where I'll be part of a panel discussing how to integrate PPC with SEO. Then, on the last day, check out Digital Marketing Theatre where I'll be talking about Local Search with 192. Oh yeah - there's an expo too and bigmouthmedia have a stand. Come grab some of our free stuff! :)

Saturday, April 21, 2007

CYC – Claim Your Content

On Thursday I wrote about Cleaner Content. So did The Register.

On Friday Garret Rogers noticed Google claiming “Claim Your Content” domains and variants.

Today, Ionut Alex Chitu drew attention to a YouTube video where John Battelle interviews Eric Schmidt. Schmidt explicitly talks about CYC – Claim Your Content.

I think that’s it. Cleaner Content is Claim Your Content. This may well be an audio issue. The two sound the same!

In the video Eric Schmidt says that he believes Viacom are negotiating with Google. He points out that Google removed all the Viacom videos on request which complies with the DMCA.

Schmidt also says that the future is very much about mobile. Good. I’ve been saying this for a while so I’m glad to have some more “told you so” clout to point to!

My Magazine Meme

Wow. I’ve been tagged. Tagged by Bill Slawski too. Bill gets the dubious honour of being the first person to tag me via my professional blog.

So, which magazines do I read? Like many in the Search World I read almost everything online. This week, however, two stalwarts of the gaming industry have come to a close. Dragon and Dungeon magazines are both being discontinued. If you’re geek enough (which we should all be) you may well know both of these publications. Dragon comes to an end at issue #359.

Despite Dragon’s death I’m claiming that as my first mag.

(I have the press release from Paizo and Wizards of the Coast about the closure if anyone wants it)

The next two magazines are easy. I travel a lot. London 9am meetings are the norm - and I live in Edinburgh.I do read industry magazines. In the UK there isn’t a magazine like Search Marketing Standard. I’ve read SMS a few times – thanks to free copies sent from America. My readership of SMS is pretty much coupled with what we, as an agency, might do in the States.New Media Age is, as the name suggests, about ‘new media’. It’s about brands and online marketing. I read it for a number of reasons. One of which is Will Cooper – who, in my opinion, is the “Danny Sullivan” of reporters who write about search to the “mainstream marketing” community. Does that make sense? The link above for NMA links to Will Cooper reporting from SES New York. I think that proves my point. Name any other magazine reports who flew from London to New York for SES?
Another “mainstream marketing” magazine that tends to write about Search and Affiliates. In fact, you can download their Search Marketing Supplement [pdf], laugh at how the adverts have been mangled and flee in horror when you see which blogger pops up from time to time in it.

(I feel like noting that I’m a fan of Brand Republic online and subscribe to their RSS.)

Oh yeah. I supposed to tag five more people... but meme's have very short lives. Anyone who's studied evolutionary computing (I love it! Google should try and grab a trademark on the term or something) will know that it is sometimes healthy for a spreading gene to meet a dead end. [fin]

Friday, April 20, 2007

The MyBlogLog Link Report

File this one under the "new to me" category. I've dug up a fun little link report that MyBlogLog does. I can use it to see which blogs are sending traffic to other blogs. For example, SEOMoz seems to have had 7 visits from MyBlogLog enabled sites, SearchEngineLand has had 11 (most thanks to the funky SearchEngineJournal) and SearchEngineWatch has had 5. I assume the figures are for today - actually, I've not seem them change yet and they are low. They could be a snapshot report rather than a maintained and updated one. In fact, the style and branding of the page looks old-school. I suspect this is an old feature rather than a new feature.

Did you know you can access MyBlogLog via a Yahoo domain now?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Cleaner Content

Cleaner Content may save Google a whole load of trouble. In today's impressive earnings announcement, Eric Schmidt named the copyright filter for YouTube and Google Video.

Cleaner Content is designed so to automatically detect and cope with uploaded content which annoys pesky laws such as the DMCA. It also seems likely that Cleaner Content will allow publishers to remove content they find on YouTube which breaches their copyright.

The Q1 announcement got into the finer details of Google's robust finances (up, up and up - especially from searches) and didn't really linger too much on new technologies like Cleaner Content. Schmidt did talk about offline advertising and the radio deal with Clear Channel. I imagine we'll hear more news for the search geeks a little later on.

(Update: This may be Claim Your Content instead of 'cleaner content')

Google recommends Text Link Ads

Google recommends Text Link Ads - how's that for a controversial title? It isn't a complete lie either. I love the new personalised search recommendation button from Google. Google does StumbleUpon.

Today's list of 50 recommendations includes The irony is there for all to behold.

Given I spend my life online and live and breathe the twin obsessions of Search Marketing and Gaming (the old fashioned tabletop type of games) I wondered how well Google would do at making recommendations. Here's the list.

How about that? Not just a 50%/50% split but the sites (listed in the order Google recommended) alternate preciselybetween [search] and [gaming].

An interesting twist is the number of 301 redirect articles and PageRank checkers on the list. Do I search for those? No! I know 301 redirects inside and out. I don't have PageRank obsession. I do write about 301 redirects and PageRank a lot, though, and I do run Google Desktop Search on all my computers and laptops. It could just be that if you pick a random [search] site then there's a high chance it'll be talking about 301s or PageRank but I do wonder whether Google is using my desktop data.

I also notice how Ezine Articles falls into place as a [search] site. Google clearly knows why people write articles or issue press releases.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

LPN – Live Search Publisher Network

Live Search have not talked much about a publisher network but I think it’s safe to assume they are working through the details. I should stress that this is an assumption – if I knew for certain, I’d be under NDA and would not be blogging about it.

I think Live Search have some pretty good ideas of what they want for “LPN” (to coin the phrase). They want to keep quality. Quality is their USP currently. One way I think they’ll do this is by allowing publishers to set their own “site visitor quality”.

As a member of LPN I could set the dial to indicate I’ve low volume but high quality traffic. I might be running a subscription based site which published research and reviews on high price basket item. We can be pretty sure that visitors to that site are very interested in that item (they’ve subscribed), are strong buyers (it’s a thought leading/review site) and are worth a lot (high price). With this setting on it would be perfectly fine if the same visitor was shown the same LPN ad many times. I know that advert is well targeted to her and so I want to keep it active.

Alternatively, as a member of LPN I could set the dial to suggest I’ve high volume but low quality traffic. I might be running an online roleplaying community (which I do). My forums would generate lots of page impressions, lots and lots, but my users could well be pre-credit card or poor (student) with little interest in buying. With this setting I would want to whisk through adverts quickly until I found a creative which caught an impulse click. Live Search would know it was likely to be an impulse click and pay me less but they would be helping me buy helping me whisk through the adverts.

Could Yahoo or Google do this? Sure. Patent pending; of course. I just suspect this is something that Microsoft happen to be focusing on.

At the start of the month, Barry Schwartz wrote that YPN was not going international. Oh, but it is. A senior Yahoo told me that would go live before the end of the year.

… but Barry is not wrong. This particular contact in Yahoo told me that YPN would go live in the United Kingdom, by the end of the year, last year. Simply put Yahoo is not rushing with YPN. Yahoo is being careful and strategic with YPN. YPN must be bullet proof when it launches. Why go with YPN when you could go with AdSense? It’s a tough but valid question. YPN need an answer – and the quality dial, as described above, is one tactic that LPN and YPN have as an answer.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

I support Matt Cutts

Ah-ah. Lots of SEO people normally like to reinforce how much they like Matt and how they got on well with him. I've only personally spoken to him a few times at SES this year - and I'm not going to claim anything more than that. What struck me was how pleased he was to talk to other search engine programmers but also webmasters.

I've not been afraid to be unpopular with this blog and say that I support nofollow. I even pushed the boat further out by explaining why link sellers are taking a risk. I imagine that if this blog had a higher readership then I would have had more angry comments.

It should come as no surprise that I wholeheartedly support Matt's post to encourage people to report paid links. Use the spam form (authenticated or not) and include "paidlink" in the text body.

A lot of people are hostile to this. Why?

  • They've sold campaigns to clients and explicitly said they would buy links - now they're exposed
  • They've convinced themselves that some paid links are appropriate - I think this is the most common one
  • They make most of their money buying or selling links
  • They need to buy links in order to get their SEO to work
The thing to note is this - Google's guidelines have said that ethical agencies report spam. They have said this for a while.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Internet Money Day

It’s the Grand National today. That’s a great big horse race which generates millions of pounds in betting. If you bet on Silver Birch then you won. If you bet on the United Kingdom’s internet payment infrastructure holding up then you would be less lucky.

Things went wrong yesterday. Visa’s payment system went down. One in five transactions failed and the rest were likely to be approved by the banks’ without some of the usual checks with Visa. Mastercard’s 3D secure was also down.

There aren’t many PPC agencies out there which monitor payment services and put appropriate campaigns on pause or on “slow” while there are problems accepting cards.

I would imagine those companies which move money from the bookies to the banks where extra nervous today. I picked up rumours that ISP Pipex picked today, of all days, to run several key centres on generators rather than on main power. As it happens it’s Pipex who currently act as suppliers to those vital money-moving companies.

Did you know that the maximum BACS transfer is £9,999,999.98? Yes, I’m afraid that if you want to pay me £20m, then you’ll have to do it in three BACS transfers (or cash is fine). I wonder how Google will transfer all those millions (and billions) to DoubleClick’s investors.

This week Google launched Google Checkout in the UK. This would mean that Google would have to be regulated by the UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA). As it turns out Google is not regulated by the FSA at all – so what’s going on? We have a new company; Google Payment Limited. Google Payment Limited (GPL) is regulated by the FSA. This means that GPL must keep $1,000,000 in cash so that it can repay all these electronic transfers if Google Checkout falls on its face. In fact, GPL needs to have more cash held in reserve if their electronic payment exposure exceeds $1,000,000.

GPL’s Directors have also been rated as an “approved person” by the FSA. At this point I am not clear whether Google’s senior American staff or senior British staff are acting as GPL’s Directors.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Note to online brands: Don't let head-hunters jeopardise your SEM campaign

There is a lack of strong SEM professionals in the UK. There is a shortage of good PPC people and an even worse shortage of good SEO people. Gosh. If you're looking for someone savvy on both fronts then you are in for a search (oh, there's a touch of irony in there).

Imagine the scenario. You're a brand who lives or dies online. It might be that PPC is especially important to you. It may be that you've grown to the point where you do run the occasional TV campaign or direct marketing push but it is still largely Google who delivers you traffic.

You need to recruit. You may be after a Head of Search or some senior PPC or SEO role. You bring in the head-hunters. What will the head-hunters do?

The chances are high that the head-hunters will start to ring around the large and well known SEM agencies. These are the same agencies who might manage your rivals PPC or SEO campaigns. If head-hunters have the exclusive rights to your vacancy then they won't be shy in dropping your name in an attempt to lure in senior agency staff.

The attempt is likely to have unwelcome side-effects for you, though. Your head-hunters have just told the people tasked with matching and beating your online strategy that you are missing a key member of staff, are about to loose a key member of staff or are about to bring in a significant new member of staff.

Simple things like bidding technologies get reviewed when a new Head of Search arrives. If I discover that Brand X is looking for a new Head of Search then I'll put Brand X's search campaign on watch (if it's not on watch already). Let's see if they change from Atlas to Doubleclick, for example. That'll mean their AdWord campaign is likely to have to regain its history. Let's expect the new guy to try and make a strong start so let's watch out for new microsites, a new organic strategy or a review of affiliate networks.

Of course, all this applies to any other industry. If Brand X hires a new advertising agency then you know a new style of advert is likely. Old imagery, catchphrases or jingles may go. However, I argue the effect is even more extreme in the world of search. Why? There are fewer players and so head-hunters are much more likely to let the cat out of the bag and approach someone tasked to go against you. Tracking, bidding, linking, building, affiliations and copywriting are all externally measurable.

There are people out there watching you.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Google in India – Google Cricket and Bollywood

Google’s Chinese adventures get a lot of media coverage because of the controversy. Google’s Indian adventures get much less coverage.

Google is into India in a big way. They have four offices in India; Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Shailesh Rao, a director of Local Search from Google’s Californian headquarters, was recently promoted to Managing Director for Google India.

Google have a number of Indian specific ventures too. This blog was once cited by Garett Rogers for talking about Google Cricket. I shouldn’t comment on that but here’s another Google Cricket. This was set up for the World Cup (which is about over – so it’ll be interesting to see whether Google keeps the page live).

Google are working on a simplified search engine for India’s rural community. Media Asia suggests that the alternative search engine is likely to include weather updates, crop patterns and local data.

Ah-ah; weather, crop and local data! Those three sound like Local Search and Shailesh Rao’s speciality.

There are also reports that Google is looking to license content from Indian media. Bollywood, in particular, should be a rich source of video content for Google. If you thought Brazil was important to Orkut then India could be a vital artery to Google Video and YouTube. If American licensing and copyright laws begin to circle around YouTube then deals with the United Kingdom’s BBC and Bollywood would be even more important.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Rant: What is cloaking?

My oldest blog was once titled “The Rants”. I like to rant. Here’s a rant. This is a personal bugbear rant. We all have bugbears, sometimes they are justified and sometimes they’re not. Let me know how I do.

I argue that cloaking is a very specific activity.

Firstly, cloaking is server side and not client side. In other words you do not cloak with JavaScript or CSS. Oh yeah, Google’s public release of Website Optimiser (it’s actually spelt with an S in the UK) is responsible for this rant. Website Optimiser uses JavaScript (rather nicely) and so it is not cloaking software.

Secondly, cloaking is a deliberate attempt to trick the search engines. Cloaking is malicious. It is sneaky. There are some techniques where you use server side detection to trigger a redirect or perhaps strip a season.

This year at SES London I flapped my arms around when David Naylor tried suggesting to someone in our Site Clinic audience that she try cloaking. In this instance David was not suggesting a black hat technique. He really was trying to advise the woman on one way to handle having multiple sites for different geographic locations, have them exactly the same but still not worry about duplicate content. I also remember disagreeing with Ammon Johns during a NMA roundtable in that there can be such a thing as “ethical cloaking”. I think Ammon was also citing geographic detection as a valid example. Once again I argued that that is geographic detection and not cloaking.

There is a debate as to whether Website Optimiser might be interpreted as hidden text. Could you use it to “test” an <h1> tag which normally says “Andrew Girdwood” with one that said “ARHG!” and never stop the test? Well. Yes. You could. I wonder if Google will receive a flood of “I was multi-variant testing!” defences after sites are punished for spam.

Monday, April 02, 2007

MyBlogLog should go after FeedBurner

I think it's too late for FeedBurner to go after MyBlogLog.

FeedBurner and MyBlogLog come from very different directions but are ultimately marching towards a meeting.

MyBlogLog lets you see who has been on your blog; either through standard web metrics or the canny photograph log. You also use MyBlogLog to help promote your site.

FeedBurner allows users to look after RSS feeds and track who is reading them. By an overwhelming majority most web sites that issue RSS feeds are blogs or blog-based platforms.

In essence MyBlogLog gives you stats about who is actually visiting your blog and FeedBurner gives you stats on who is viewing your blog remotely. FeedBurner would be enhanced with improved on-page tracking and if it had a quirky social media promotion style feature. MyBlogLog would be enhanced if it worked with RSS feeds. Most people subscribe to their favourite blogs via Google Reader, Bloglines or similar external source.

If MyBlogLog gobbled up FeedBurner then they would end up with a nice user base, Yahoo would have some tasty data to crunch through and a large database of RSS feeds.

As it happens Yahoo has a patent application called Integration of personalized portals with web content syndication. Yahoo could do a lot with a database of RSS feeds. This particular patent describes how the search engine first identifies pages with RSS feeds, presents that information to searchers and then allows users to add those RSS feeds to a personalised portal. This personalised portal is Yahoo's MyWeb. However, the personalised portal could so easily become a profile page on MyBlogLog.

My feeling is that FeedBurner is more robust than MyBlogLog. MBL will have to innovate and impress in order to avoid being a flash in the pan. Yahoo clearly has some ideas for it. I just wonder whether they are thinking along similar lines.