Wednesday, February 27, 2008

BBC News down? Infinite redirects?


Anyone else in the UK struggling to access news.bbc.co.uk? I did set my geographic profile on the new homepage today.

I don't think this is just a cookie issue though, look at what happens with the http 1.1 requests without cookie support.



If this isn't an issue with my ISP then it could be the Beeb's IP based geo-dectect system playing up.

Update: What ever it was... it was brief. The Beeb's back.

Update 2: Yeah. the 302 from news.bbc.co.uk was probably just to news.bbc.co.uk/. Oh well. We may never know - but I'm still interested to discover whether anyone else had access issues after picking a preference on the new site.

Do you work for Matt Cutts?

I was lucky enough to meet a whole bunch of cool Googlers at SES London this year. They're really helpful people.

Guess which question I heard them get asked the most. "Do you work for Matt Cutts?"

It was like a broken record. I think they're a script that's followed.

SEMer: "Do you for Matt Cutts?" (*awe in voice*)
Googler: *maintain smile* *count to five silently*
Googler: "No, I work in webmaster support/industry vertical/api support"
SEMer: "Yeah, but you know Matt! Sometimes you might talk to Matt!"
Googler: *maintain smile*

Actually, this script isn't always followed. A Googler told me of an occasion where the SEMer simply walk off the very second she said she didn't work for Matt! How rude! It's pretty stupid too. That particular Googler was a member of Web Quality which sits high up in the Google hierarchy.

To be honest, it must be pretty annoying for the Googlers who come to events to constantly get asked, "Do you work for Matt Cutts?"

I also think it's a wasted question ask. Sure, Googlers are very good and very careful about what and how they answer questions but that doesn't mean you (the SEMer) shouldn't try and learn something new by some careful questioning! Imagine you have your most demanding/high paying client behind you and this might be your last ever chance to ask a Googler a direct question. Is it really going to be, "Do you work for Matt Cutts?" It shouldn't be!

I'm not going to share the questions I asked! Ha!

One answer I got ended with the careful, "... but that doesn't mean we won't do that in the future." - which is my cue to think that that may have been a good question to ask.

Another series of questions was diplomatically and expertly answered. No secrets were spilled... but I think I noticed a common theme to some of the answers which is inline with suspicions I already had from reading patent applications (It would have been good to have Bill Slawski handy to bounce ideas off then!).

As a whole I'm reminded of the Simpsons' episode called Homer and Apu where Homer and Apu travel to India and trek up a mountain to ask the wise head of the Kwik-E-Mart if Apu can get his job back. They have three questions. Homer blows each one of them.

Oi, SEM crew, don't be a Homer. Okay?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Defending SES: The UK is not behind the US in Search

At my European case study track at SES, Jaron Schaechter, a co-speaker and German entrepreneur suggested that the UK, Germany and Netherlands were at "SEO 2006".

I respect Jaron's opinions. He's a smart man. I disagree with this assessment, though.

He wasn't alone though. A number of the US visitors - the first time visitors to London SES - noted how high level some of the presentations were. It's something that Nan Dawkins and I had a chat about in the small Hilton bar afterwards.

SES London tends to be composed of Search people - agencies, freelancers and in-house teams. It's increasingly rare to find any 'clients'. That's the been the trend for a while. As a result of this the native UK speakers do not tend to show off their good stuff. Much of Search - especially SEO - is about your IP and agencies tend to guard that. None of the UK agencies who spoke even hinted at the advanced or thorough analysis they do.

It's also worth noting that a large number of the speakers had flown in from the US. Even these speakers kept their presentations very basic and very top level. Are they behind the rest of the US? No! Where they wrong to keep things simple? No. That's the culture of SES London. Just as a side note; I thought SES really benefited this year from having a fresh bunch of speakers. I think Kevin Ryan, Mike Grehan and team should be thanked for that one.

We have a US office. We have three UK offices. Two German offices. I know these markets well and the techniques are all equal. Do you think the Germans don't read Search Engine Watch or Search Engine Land? They do. Of course they do.

In fact, European Search Marketers tend to have more experience in dealing with multi-lingual and multi-currency campaigns.

There is a difference in traditional media in Germany and the Netherlands when it comes to Search though. It's far easier to get interest from Trade Press journalists in the UK and US than it is in mainland Europe - but that's changing.

Search Engine Strategies made a lot of progress this year. I was pleased I went. I was pleased we didn't send any sales people. Given the progress made I'm sure the SES London team will begin to address the issue of the "top level culture" if it is even an issue for them at all.

Yahoo Buzz? Ready to launch?

Yahoo, as expected, have relaunched Yahoo Buzz. It lets you 'buzz up' stories which interest you. Content is not submitted en mass, instead Yahoo are reaching out to certain publishers. As you would expect there's an initial US bias/focus. Search for the 'FT' and you don't find stories from the FT. You find stories about the FT or to Yahoo's copy of FT stories like this one.

What's not expected is the lack of RSS feeds. I pounced on Yahoo Buzz with the full expectation to have new RSS fodder to feed into my information slicing/dicing scripts. Nothing. Not even a headline ticker.

Yahoo will tell me that Yahoo Buzz is in beta. I'll tell them that I expect RSS feeds - yeah, even in beta!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Fishticuffs

MSN is doing a good job of using display marketing to promote a social media campaign. To be honest it's pretty rare to see this; you tend to need an agency with an excellence in search before you'll find someone okay at social media and you tend to need to find a traditional media buyer before you can find anyone in display advertising. Yeah; there are some notable exceptions!

Animated skyscrapers like the one you see to the left are appearing all over Facebook - and at pretty generous frequency caps too.

A click takes you through to www.fishticuffs.co.uk. Yeah. That's a .co.uk address so if any of you aren't in the UK and are seeing the Fishticuff banners then let me know - as that would be poor targeting.

The main way to get to the game - and it is a game - is via the Live Messenger actions -> games menu. It's a two player game. You take turns slapping each other with fish.

A clever bit is that you can access better weapons/more fish by winning often. As a result there's a built in incentive to encourage your friends to play.



Thank you to Wenders for letting me hit you with fish in order to demonstrate the game.



At the end of the game users are given the option of syncing in to either Facebook or Bebo. The process is fairly straight forward.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Google Reader asks for confirmation?

In a phrase; "Is this new?"

I managed to intertwine a half dozen meetings with SES London and as a result I've been too busy to keep up with my RSS. I decided just to 'catch up' on all the items from The Register by just marking them as read.


This is new to me. Normally Google Reader does whatever I want and without questioning my orders. I do see the need, I suppose, for a "are you sure" on such as large group action... but I'm certainly not used to "are you sure" requests from Google. In fact, a number of Google Engineers have blogged about the failture of the "are you sure" approach and that an "undo" option is far superior.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

SES London: Click Fraud Issues

I'm just out of the Click Fraud session where we had Shuman Ghosemajumder from Google, Jon Myers from MediaVest and Andrew Goodman from Page Zero Media presenting.

I scribbled notes on Google Docs. The whole conference centre is safely blanketed with wi-fi.

Let's start with Google. While running through the different click fraud strategies (attempts to do it, rather than prevent it) Shuman noted that there were regional fashions.

Automated approachs such as click bots and botnets are more common in Eastern Europe than elsewhere in the world.

Click farms (manual labour) are more popular in India and China.

Pay-per-click sites (in which people are paid to click on ads) are more common in United States and Canada than elsewhere in the world.

Shuman also noted that Google disqualifies just under %10 of all clicks as fraud. That's a huge amount of clicks for Google to refund. Although... Google doesn't actually refund most of those clicks. The vast majority of click fraud, Google says, is caught by their algorithms at the point of click and the advertiser is never charged in the first place.

Google does engage in reactive and manual investigations - these are the type that are set up with a significant client complains. Here they'll use human skill as well as algorithms to examine what had happened (rather than catching something live).

Less than 0.02% of click fraud is found via these reactive manual investigations.

Here's a breakdown of Google's anti-click fraud steps:

  • Proactive
    • Filters
      • Automated algorithms which filter out in real time
      • Analyze all clicks
      • Accounts for vast majority of invalid click detection
    • Offline Analysis
      • Automated algorithms and manual analysis
      • Focused on the adsense network
      • Accounts for a smaller percentage than the filters
  • Reactive
    • Investigations
      • All advisers inquiries are investigated by the traffic quality team
      • Invalid click percentage is a negligible slice compared to #1 and #2
      • Relatively rare (<0.02%)
Google also pointed out that estimates for the total click fraud volumes are tend to overestimate the problem. If you sign up for a £10 AdWords account - ie, a daily cap of £10 then someone could send £1,000,000 worth of invalid clicks then you'd still only pay £10 (if Google doesn't catch it - which at that volume they would). So, to you it's £10 fraud but some of the "total value of click fraud" estimates would quote the £1,000,000.

Rushing off to the next sessions; updates to follow.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Steve Leach the blogger

Well! This is certainly better than finding your mum on Facebook but who expected to find a Steve Leach blogging?

I don't see Steve a fraction as often as I used to. He's busy jetting around between the bigmouthmedia offices and being the Big Cheese. His blog is going to be a good way to find out what he's thinking about this week! Personally, I'm thinking about a campaign to inundate his blog with comment demands for a pizza chef for the Edinburgh office.

I did greet our new UK Head of HR with a staff request form outlining the need for a head pizza chef, pointing out that the position was currently vacant, but I didn't get very far. Oh well!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Yahoo's loss and others gain

My Yahoo label on Google Reader is a bit of a wipeout. I'm going to have to move a lot of feeds to new employer labels. Lots of really good people have elected to leave Yahoo. Bradley Horowitz explains on this blog that he wasn't laid off, he just knew the time was right to go.

Salim Ismail also decided to go.

Bigmouthmedia benefited too. We've been very lucky to lure Isabell Wagner into the role of our new German MD. Isabell ran Yahoo Search Marketing in Germany. She was the YSM MD.

I've noticed that some of the local press have picked up on the story and are calling it a 'coup'. I suppose it is in many ways but it is also worth noting just how big bigmouthmedia are in Germany. :) People shouldn't be surprised that we could attract people of this caliber.

I'm buzzed about getting to work with Isabella and bigmouthmedia Germany as her reputation is phenomenal and we've a great team over there.

I feel sorry for the thousand who were laid off. I'm pleased that Horowitz comments on the generous packages Yahoo found for these ex-workers. I can tell that there must have been real discomfort in the air, MyBlogLog's Ian Kennedy, who survived the cuts, said; "Heads down is a common expression around here".

Philipp Lenssen's coloured pencils are hot!


I was amused and pleased to see that Philipp Lenssen's color pencils reviewed post is currently a hot item on del.icio.us.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Big Balls Media and Technology for Marketing

Well. I'm back from Technology for Marketing. It was busier than last year - much. 40% more people through the gates and since we just had a small corner of Earls Court it seemed even busier.

Normally, people would always ask first about search engine optimisation when they get to our stand but on the first day we had a lot of interest in affiliate marketing instead. Why? Although TFM was busier this year would say that 80% of the companies there were on the larger side of SME and were either looking to beef up their sales offering in anticipation of a tougher market (an economic down turn) or where actually doing very well and were looking to step up to the next level.

On the second day many of the questions focused on social media. This was partly due, I think, to my speach starting early. I was talking about Social Media in Europe and its pitfalls. The little conference area filled up 10 minutes before start time, the organisers didn't want to let any more people in and so I was urged to start. I'm sorry for the people who were turned away! I'll see whether or not I can upload the presentation.

I ended with a fairly risky (I thought) case study which explored some of the ethical issues around 'social media marketing' and how we've tried to navigate them to the best of our abilities.

... and on another note, there's the Big Balls Media discovery!

Elsewhere in Earls Court was Confex. Confex is an expo for 'event marketing' and it just so happened that one of the companies in attendance was called 'Big Balls Media'. How perfect is that?

Monday, February 11, 2008

Skipping Twitter for Pownce

I know Twitter is popular with lots of you. Yep. I'm looking at you Lisa Barone. I'm going to skip it for now - although I reserve the right to to review that call. :)

I'm going Pownce instead. It just seems much more stable.

What disappoints me with Pownce right now is the lack of Facebook integration. I like the way Barry Schwartz coordinates his Twits with his Facebook Status and want something similar. I'd also like a way to integrate my locked LiveJournal account with Pownce.

Internet World keynote speakers announced

The strapline for this year's Internet World is "Content is King". I wonder if the Search Community will be quick enough to use that little phrase before other marketing types do. (humour)

They've announced their keynote speakers

  • Kym Niblock, Managing Director of BBC
  • Jacques Bughin, Director of McKinsey & Company
  • Phil Guest, Managing Director of Habbo
  • Peter Mercier, Head of Mobile at BBC Worldwide
  • Tristan Nitot, President of Firefox
  • Chris Hogg, Directory of Marketing at Intel
Good line-up, eh?

I'm looking forward to it and will be there.

Friday, February 08, 2008

$100 billion for Yahoo - likely

Over at the NMA Will 'the Search' Cooper points out that Microsoft has seen its value drop by nearly $40bn (£20.9bn ) since it began its Yahoo bid.

At the same time we're hearing that Microsoft will raise the bid if needs be. So, already, we're looking at the deal costing Microsoft over $40bn and loosing them nearly the same amount again. Hmm. $80bn. You could buy a lot of AdWords with that!

I would not be surprised if the overall tally comes to nearly $100bn before the economies of the deal start to come true.

Update: That's $100,000,000,000.00

Yahoo Live is dead.


Yahoo Live is... er, launched. Right now it doesn't seem very alive. At least the traffic rush which has pushed it offline is a good initial sign!

I wonder what Microsoft thinks about Yahoo! using a Live branded product.

Update: This is very dead news too. I've just noticed that TechCrunch has it. Therefore, so does the internet.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Google's problems with wi-fi hotspots in the UK

There are three main providers of wi-fi hotspots in the UK;

  • BT Openzone
  • T-Mobile
  • The Cloud
BT Openzone and T-Mobile have an agreement which allows their users to use each other's networks. I'm a BT Openzone user but it is typically a T-Mobile zone I end up logging in through (T-Mobile provide the wi-fi in Starbucks, for example).

Here's the catch. T-Mobile is a German company. The servers that support the wi-fi clearly have an IP address that Google associates with Germany.

If you look at the iPhone / iPod Touch's unique Google Mobile screen there's no easy way to change country either. I use my iPod Touch a lot on wi-fi and frequently have to struggle to de-German my results.

There are some other twists too. National Express is a very large travel company over here in the UK; they run thousands of buses and coaches (think Greyhound) and many important train services too. In fact, National Express recently won the franchise for the important East Coast line (that hooks London into the east coast of the United Kindgom) and brought free wi-fi to all their passengers.

Free wi-fi on long train journeys is great news! Google results in... Swedish are less hot. Google currently associates National Express' wi-fi with Sweden.

It isn't just Google's search results which are effected. Google does a lot of content changes that are aligned with geo-detection. For example, I made a post to this Blogger account yesterday from a National Express train and had a lovely Swedish GUI to content with.

Google's struggles with correctly identifying the location of the searcher/ap user seem particularly noticable right now. This is a problem is only going to increase as more and more people access the web over mobile products. My ideal scenario would allow me to pop out of our office in Munich or Paris, saunder down to the local cafe, pull out my iPod Touch, connect to the wi-fi and get to English language content despite the fact I'm somewhere in mainland Europe.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

ad:tech supports SEO and then cancels in Germany

There are some great pro-SEO stats in the latest survey email from ad:tech and MarketingSherpa.

So why don't I post them here? I'm not allowed. The rules say that I'm allowed to forward the whole email on but (to protect their IP) MarketingSherpa prohibits me from posting highlights.

If you want a copy of the email then let me know and I'll happily forward it to you. Email addresses can be supplied via linkedin, facebook, pownce or some other spam-harvesting bot free(ish) zone.

I've also just picked up the news the ad:tech Germany has been cancelled. Not been able to confirm this as I'm stuck on a train. OMD is a huge expo in Germany; it's easily as large as ad:tech London combined with Technology for Marketing and Internet World. I think one of the reasons why the London shows are a little weak is because there are so many of them. I wonder if ad:tech just lost the business case for trying to push into Germany? I suspect they'll try again next year.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

LiveJournal tests new portal pages and breaks their search privacy system

At LiveJournal there's a simple checkbox option for whether you want your LJ posts to be indexed by the search engines or not. It is perfectly possible to have a public LiveJournal but still check the box to keep search engines out.

LiveJournal, recently sold to a Russian portal, has recently started to test a portal page system where appropriate recent posts are aggregrated together to form a blog/news splash page.


You can access these portal pages by clicking on one of the links in the LiveJournal navigation bar which appears at the top of all LJ blogs. For example, here's a link to the Technology page.

The problem? It's only a small issue but the search engines index these pages. One of the reasons I first took my LJ to the noindex side was because I wanted to be able to mention work by name without trigging a host of Google Alerts (I later went fully private and locked the journal to friends only). If my LiveJournal was noindex but was syndicated to these portal pages then I would still trigger those Google Alerts.

Here's a sample of the new LiveJournal 'tag portals'.


You can clearly see the intro to the post from Full Moons Rock. If you pop over to their actual LiveJournal post, though, and take a look at the source code you can see the noindex, nofollow, noarchive tags in force. (Well. Click on the image and you can see them!)



Ooops. Is there an opt-out for this? Shouldn't LJ be excluding posts which are intented to be omitted from the search engines from these new portal pages?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

New MyBlogLog Widgets Come. Then Go.

It looks MyBlogLog got their timings a little mixed up. The MyBlogLog blog announced some shiny new widgets. Don't they look nice?

As it happens, the widget update isn't actually available from the widget page. The post announcing the new widgets has been pulled from the blog too.

So, what's going on? This isn't anything significant. Nothing to do with Microsoft lurking in the wings. I suspect it's just a simple matter of the post going up to launch the new widgets and then some last minute checks discovering a few tweaks that the MBL team would like to make before the let the likes of you and I get our grubby paws on the code.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Yahoo's Response

Yahoo have blogged an initial response to Microsoft's advance. In summary; "We're thinking about it".

Yahoo!’s Board is going to evaluate all aspects of this proposal carefully and promptly in the context of the company's strategic plans and alternatives. So it wouldn't be appropriate to speculate about the potential benefits or challenges of a deal. But the review process that's underway won't have any impact on our efforts to deliver value to all of our users, advertisers, publishers and partners – as well as new and exciting opportunities to our employees.

The FAQ is fairly weak and has only four points. It's hard for Yahoo to come out with a strong reply this early. Although it's tempting to be scornful of the short reply, I do appreciate the need for candidness.