Saturday, January 31, 2009

Americans turn to BBC when Google says "this site may harm your computer"

Today Google broke. For a short while the search engine warned that any and every site may harm your computer.

It's not surprising to see this making Google's own hot trends. We can see the surge of interest from users, turning once again to Google, to try and search for a solution.

Many people would have found this to be a rather circular solution - as any sites matching their Google search would have also been marked "this site may harm your computer".

Google's Hot Trends is currently only available with USA demographic data.

In other words, the hot trends list - where "google this site may harm your computer" reached number one almost immediately - only shows what people in America where searching for.

An interesting twist is revealed by Google's related keyword grouping in the specific hot trend report.

In the related search suggestion we can see that both Yahoo and the BBC appear.

The hour or so while Google was broken may have been Yahoo Search's most popular hour in many years. Most likely, [yahoo] appears in the related search because people hit Google to look for Yahoo.

The presence of the BBC is probably due to Americans looking for a BBC news report on the Google breakdown.

An alternative theory is that Google uses its synoym or broadmatch keyword technologies to suggest keywords that are related to the headline search term. It is possible that Google suggests Yahoo as an related alternative to Google - both are search engines. Does that rule apply to the BBC? It seems less likely.

Update: Google's response on the issue is here.

Google Germany doodles for Theodor Heuss celebrated the birth of Theodor Heuss on the 31st of January in 2009. Due to a quirk of fate this was also the day that Google marked all sites as "May harm" for a few hours after lunch.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Blogrunner's little burp

I was surprised this morning to be updated with "vbghghghh fdgfds sdgsdf..." by Blogrunner down my RSS feeds. Here's the burp in situ;

The "full coverage" link - which is a homepage story - points to a 404 page. So perhaps Blogrunner are pulling this while I type. Mind you, I've seen stories pointing to 404s instead of intros in Blogrunner before.

This seems like the sort of algorithm error from the 90s. I'm reminded of the news from yesterday of Techmeme opening itself up to suggestions from Twitter via their human editor.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Funky new module for Yahoo! Pipes!

I’m happy to admit that I’m a big Yahoo Pipes fan. For example, I use them to monitor Sphinn in a way that lets me (often, not always) jump straight to the blog post that’s gone hot. I call that Sphinn minus Sphinn (which is a bit nasty as it is a parasitic model that bypasses their ads).

Last night Yahoo introduced a rather funky new module. Inspired by SQL they’ve introduced YQL.

With the YQL module you can write text commands like select url from grabbedrss where tags ="seo"

Its a quick and easy way to grab the data you want from your harvest (note places like Feedburner give webmasters the option to block Pipes) and then begin to process it in the way you want.

Yahoo also cottoned on to the fact that most of us use Yahoo Pipes to spit out new RSS feeds. That option has been moved nearer to the top of the navigation.

I’m not sure if Yahoo! will keep Pipes running. It’s not making them any money. However, if Pipes does continue then I predict webmasters and SEOrs will begin to spend more time thinking whether they want Pipes to be able to access their page.

For example, ever since Search Engine Land left full text RSS behind I’ve been tempted to use Yahoo Pipes to grab the body content of their posts and build my own full RSS feed instead.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The weirdest Google logo ever

Today is running with what might be the most surreal Google logo yet.

The logo marks Jackson Pollock's birthday.

The fake Barry Schwartz, Jill Whalen, Lisa Barone and other spammers

I don't need to say it; the real Jill Whalen, Lisa Barone and Barry Schwartz are not spammers.

However, these three (and others) are famous enough within the Search community for people to target others in the Search community with twitter accounts pretending to be them.

Here's the most recent one - fake rustybrick / Barry Schwartz. The format is always the same. The fake account pads out the name with underscores.

What really bugs me about this is that the person behind this is clearly from the Search community. They probably read the same blogs as I do. They probably follow the same twitter and friendfeed accounts that I do!

I do think this is a Search issue as although people like Jill and Lisa have very popular Twitter accounts they don't have the many of thousands of followers that some the addicts do. We're not seeing anyone spoofing these larger accounts, at least we're not seeing so much of it. No. I think it is most likely that people are making the effort to target known names from Search.

It is people like this that are the people most likely to give SEO a bad name.

What also bugs me about this is that this fake account already has 82 followers. I've not checked but I would confidently expect to find that one or more of those 82 followers describe themselves as a 'social media expert' or 'social media consultant' or something like that. Muppets. At the best they've got their auto-follow turned on. Worse case is that they've been duped by the faker.

The good news is that Twitter seems pretty quick to react. I was followed by the fake Jill Whalen yesterday morning and by the time I got back home (having been to Paris in between times!) the account had been suspended. This may have been due to a report from Jill or friend but may also have been due to the account pushing Twitter's expected number of invites or blocks.

Can we find out who is behind these and bosh them on the head, please? Can the Search community please wake up and turn their auto-follows off? Thanks.

Update: I'm catching up with my feeds and can see that Barry has a disclaimer published already. That shows how switched on is but also underlines my point that some people are being hoodwinked and need the warning!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Google adds Grand Slam onebox results

One at the team in bigmouthmedia Edinburgh noticed this and sent it around. I thought I'd plunder his good work and steal a blog post.

I certainly file this form of onebox result in the 'new to me' file... but then this is a sports result and I'm only barely aware of what sport is. :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Event metrics: SES London gets Universal Search

This screen grab isn't news to anyone in Search. The search [SES London] gets its own little Universal Search with two video embeds.

Needless to say that the Search Engine Strategies London page (not the SES homepage) gets its own site links too.


Firstly it tells me that in terms of search frequency and content creation - SES London is a significant event. Pick a few other marketing or digital conferences and see if they get the same treatment.

Here's ad:tech London (which is a little unfair as it's not about to happen and so there's less buzz online).

The next time you're asked for a practical example of how someone can benefit from Universal Search you can reply; "Go to a popular event and get yourself interviewed". All of a sudden we have a new metric for judging the worth of events - the propensity the event has to Universal Search you.

There are also downsides; let's not forget the SES London where I was video interviewed on my way out, shattered, bedraggled and wired on too much diet cola! Ahem.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The dangers of a soft launch aka when TechCrunch pimps you

You can see that I'm doing what Facebook Grader asked not to do. I'm telling you about it.

In my defense; it's already too late. The world knows about it. Here's the danger of a soft launch - a blog capable of driving server crushing amounts of traffic might also mention you. Enter TechCrunch.

I think HubSpot are doing great things with their own brand awareness through Grader.

I might worry how the service makes money but I will say there is a HUGE advantage in owning the metrics by which you calculate success. I wonder if any agencies are actively engaged in improving a site, Twitter or Facebook profile on Grader.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Yahoo update reveals paid links

Yahoo is in the process of an update. Search Engine Roundtable has a summary here but anyone watching Site Explorer Links will have seen a steady trickle of re-ordered results.

One of the best uses of Site Explorer is to catch people who buy links. It just takes a few button presses to configure the site to show all inbound links to any page on the suspect web site and to remove that sites own internal links.

Site Explorer often seems to put blog post and navigation links nice and high on these result pages. It just takes a little tour to spot a site that is likely to be buying links.

Many sites are now retreating from the paid link strategy as Google’s crackdown continues. I’ve noticed already that those sites that have continued (finance and gambling sites are common culprits) have been particularly exposed by this latest Yahoo update.

I’ve a method for quickly telling which links are new to Site Explorer in this update, I suspect many serious SEO people have too but such trinkets aren’t really necessary to spot the dodgy links.

Once you’ve found the paid links it is worth picking a single webmaster console from which to report them from.

If you work with a lot of clients or have hundreds of sites you’ll need to have more than one webmaster console since they’re easy to fill.

The advantage of using the same login to report paid links from is that Google can see the console login is a good source of reliable information. This is a good way to ensure that each paid link report you do carries as much importance as possible.

Google versus greener grass

Google booth at web20expoImage by leokoivulehto via FlickrSomeone’s gone and sent Michael Arrington a mass email conversation between Xooglers and Google’s HR machine. It’s a study on why Google employees quit.

The email, no doubt, was leaked to him by a disgruntled Xoogler. I don’t imagine Arrington wrestled very long over whether to publish it or not but he does offer some analysis before the cut’n’paste.

I’m not an HR expert (as HR like to remind me!) but I see three common points made in the email.

  1. The employee thought Google would be heaven on earth. They were disappointed.
  2. The hiring process is a real pain.
  3. The employee thought they could make more money elsewhere.

It can take months to join Google. That’s well known. It annoys people. Is it a reason for leaving Google, though? I think hiring process simply becomes a supporting factor for the first gripe – the longer the process takes to join Google then the bigger the initial investment of hope is.

Google probably is a great place to work but I doubt this is soley because of all the extra perks that the company offers. The Xooglers dismiss these and say they count for very little.

Here at bigmouthmedia we’ve won more than a few ‘best place to work’ awards and I know they’re not just based on what the company says they do for their employees and a lot of attention is paid to surveying the employees and asking their opinion. In order for Google to have won these awards then the overwhelming majority of employees must be very happy there.

However, no matter how good it is to work at Google – it is not as good as you hoped it would be.

Xooglers with jobs may prefer their current roles for the little reasons – a smaller team, less expectation or simply relief that they found employment after Google.

Let’s look at that third point – the Xooglers thought they could make more money elsewhere.

I bet these are the young Xooglers. These former Google employees are likely to be the college grads who’ve never had a job elsewhere. These people don’t know what it is like in traditional companies where the career ladder is a prehistoric beast that crawls along a glacier speed.

If digital is your first job then you can be forgiven for getting caught up in the speed of the sector. Most other industries aren't as fast.

Those employees who count Google as their first job may also be too inexperienced to appreciate just the extent at which headhunters and recruitment agency can lie. If you poke your head above the parapets and express interest in a role outside the company then lots of people will reassure you that you’ll earn a lot more.

Once those lies – or shall we say optimistic evaluations – reach your ears then a wrestle with temptation and frustration begins. If you can’t dismiss the claims then you’re going to wonder if they’re true.

I bet many of the people who left Google to go on for more pay elsewhere are now very insecure in their jobs. The company who hired them may well have extremely high expectations which will be hard to meet. Even if they are being met the Xoogler is an expense hire and it is now an awful time in the economy.

The challenge Google faces is that a very large percentage of their workforce are inexperienced in the job market. These are the employees who’ll wonder whether the grass is greener elsewhere. These are not the employees who’ve been around long enough to recognise a good thing when they see it.

Me? I wouldn‘t like to work for Google. I greatly prefer working with Google.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

FGH - Freemans Grattan Holdings

FGH stands for Freemans Grattan Holdings. This week it becomes a new keyphrase as Otto UK rebrands.

Otto is a huge retailer in Europe but the name always punched below its brand recognition weight in the UK. FGH is an improvement simply because more UK customers will recognise 'Freemans' and 'Grattan'.

FGH is also a viable keyphrase. The FGHe rebranding hasn't been done with any SEO thought and Otto are yet to claim their search space. It's the newspapers who rank for [FGH] terms.

An other issue with the new FGH may be with Google and saggy breasts.

Otto sites do not yet rank. Pictures of saggy breasts do. Google does have a "report images" link for cases like this but I sense a whole art/p0rn debate coming on.

However, the keyphrase may well be short lived as Otto has something even more important than their search space to worry about - the entire home shopping business has started a 90 days consultation of its entire 3,800 work force. The goal? To dramatically downsize the business.

Drapers has some quotes from FGH CEO Koert Tulleners;

We are running at significant losses. To shut down the company would be the cheapest solution, but we are categorically not shutting down the business. I firmly believe in the UK market. The UK is the fourth largest [home shopping] market in the world and Otto Group [FGH's parent company] is the number one home shopping company in the world.

I suspect many causal readers from the UK will be surprised to hear the company described as the number one shopping company in the world. That just goes to show the turn around Otto needs to pull with not only their finances but their brand too.

If you see an affiliate opportunity here then be aware Otto run that in house. The email to apply to is AffiliateTeam(at) Well. Until they find a new domain name...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Google confuses photo with blog

Here's an odd one. Google's counting a single Flickr photograph as if it was a blog.

Google's certainly struggling with Google Alerts and their new way to read blogs - not just looking at the RSS feed but looking at the whole page. The amount of 'weak positives' when names appearing just in blogrolls rather than the new post are down but they're still happening.

This Flickr false blog reading may be due to the RSS Flickr spits out (Google Blogsearch often thinks that anything which produces an RSS feed is a blog...) and that the photo has actually been removed.

There is text behind that link rather than an image after all. Its just not a blog!

Facebook updates iPhone App

Facebook has rolled out an update for their very popular iPhone App.

It's a simple deal; less crashes, less bugs and more speed.

A good way to see just how good the Facebook App is to use it to view pictures from Facebook albums and compare that speed to the speed that I Can Haz Cheezburger manages.

The future of the iPhone app very much depends on the direction Facebook takes. There's no way to flex Facebook Contect through the app yet. More significantly the app is very much about browsing Facebook and less about the activity stream rival it could morph into to challenge Friendfeed.

The Online Media: RealWire

Here's a great animation from RealWire.

The Online Media from RealWire on Vimeo.

The animation is nicely timed. It's a stepping stone between RealWire's old brand of webitpr and the new one.

I think the re-branding was a good idea. I think if you look at the name webitpr you would assume they were a PR company whereas they're actually a news distrubtion company; someone who works with both PR and SEO agencies.

Friday, January 09, 2009

No Google, I mean 100 billion dollars

You can sink a lot of time into reverse engineering Google's "Did you mean" reaction.

Here are a few random examples;

We can see that Google thinks 100 billion dvds are more likely than 100 billion videos.

However, Google also thinks that 100 billion smurfs is more likely than 100 billion eggs.

Google wonders whether you really mean 100 billion dollars... isn't it possible that you mean 100 million dollars? Whereas it has less reason to suggest an alternative if you search for 100 billion pounds.

Of course; I'm warping the logic here :)

A few strong indicator as to whether Google has an alternative suggestion to you is the number of matches it finds. A search for [I mean 100 billion pounds] brings up about a half million results. A search for [I mean 100 billion dollars] brings up eight million results.

Coping when Backblaze is not recognising a newly restored machine

BsodImage via WikipediaI've bought a year supply of Backblaze for my two laptops. It is a little utility which runs in the background and carefully backs up my content to the cloud.

It proved really handy when a virus defeated Norton (now using AVG on that machine) and in the following battle against the virus the laptop was reduced to a blue screen of death whenever it tried to start up.

My first Backblaze full backup and completed just in time. I rebuilt the machine. However, when I re-installed Backblaze it didn't recognise the machine and treated it as a new one. I could still replace my lost data but I wanted to keep on using my paid-for-account.

Thankfully Brian Wilson, Backblaze's CTO, got in touch wi th me with an easy 4 step solution to this. I thought I'd share:

Here is the procedure for transferring a license from one machine to another. In your case, it is the same physical machine, but because you re-initialized the OS it's really a "second" machine to Backblaze. Let me know if this is not clear or if you need more information!

1) Immediately download a "restore ZIP" (or several, or a restore USB drive) with *ALL* the data you need to restore from your old PC. Make sure you can unpack this and that it is safe and sound in a *NEW* directory on your new PC (for example, put a folder on your desktop called "MyOldFiles" with all the restore in it).

2) Download and install a new Backblaze client from on the new computer. For now it will say "trial", but we'll fix that in a step below. In the installer use the "Sign In" feature and sign into your existing email address and password with the Backblaze installer.

NOTE: BEFORE CONTINUING, make absolutely sure you have done step #1 because the next step removes all your backup data from the Backblaze datacenter!!

3) Log into the website and go to the "Accounts" page (see the link on the far left of the page after you login). Now VERY CAREFULLY select your *OLD* computer from the popup menu and click "Delete Computer". WARNING: this deletes *ALL* your old backups!! (And as a side effect frees up the license associated with that old computer.)

4) Now go back to the "Overview" web page. Click on the "Use License" button that has now appeared next to the name of your *NEW* machine on the overview web page.

Done! The change will be reflected in your desktop client within a few hours, don't worry if it says "trial" for a little while longer. If you are impatient, try clicking on the "Already bought? Click here." blue link in the lower right of the control panel, that should sync with the Backblaze datacenter immediately and realize Backblaze is now licensed.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Can Apple win at Macworld?

Macworld is clearly an important event for Apple. The City watches.

I recently blogged about the casual format of Apple's press releases about Steve Jobs' health, how they didn't follow usual best practice for an online press release and highlighted some of the initial confusion that caused. In that post I suggested Apple had a mountain to climb when it came to coordinating offline and online release.

Let's turn to Twitter to see how well they did at Macworld this year

In back to back tweets Danny Whatmough of Wildfire PR points out that you could check out the new Macbook Pro via Apple's website about 30 minutes before it was even announced at Macworld. In the others, Apple stole their own scoop.

However, just before that Joost de Valk also noticed that while APple where trying to sell you the merits of iWork 09 at Macworld that the website was still trying to sell you iWork 08. Who'd buy that when iWork 09 was now available? In this case Apple's website wasn't up to date with what was being announced at Macworld and for the case of iWork was a waist of space.

Its easy to see just how hard this scenario is for Apple. Macworld really crystalises the timing problems - Macworld is covered in real time by bloggers and micro-bloggers. Twitter stalled last night because of it.

In 2009 we're going to see website change speed being a bigger issue for big companies. When X happens in real life it will be increasingly important to ensure that the website reflects X as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Affiliates; you have an average of 5 seconds to win your merchant

While I was in Venice I started a blog experiment and over this holiday break I applied to join some affiliate campaigns.

It was like going back to 2002 again! Did you know I used to run the TradeDoubler UK Yahoo group where I'd announce new campaigns and chat with other early affiliates?. I wish I'd kept that group live just to review the archives.

Anyway! It has been really interesting reviewing how the networks, agencies and the merchants themselves go about approving requests from affiliates to join the various programs. In particular I've been using various web analytic solutions (which are nothing like 2002 web stats!) to monitor how each behaves online.

As an affiliate you're better off having your site reviewed by an agency. My test blog has been reviewed by three agencies who, on average, spent 78 seconds on the site.

  • Agency reviews: 78 seconds average
  • Network reviews: 34 seconds average
  • Merchant reviews: 5 seconds average
Yep, on average when a merchant themselves was on the test blog they spent 5 seconds reviewing the site. Stats from Get Clicky make this very easy to see.

In this case we can see the merchant came in via their TradeDoubler interface. I've let you see they're in Birmingham but hidden the IP address. Shortly after this visit a Birmingham based TradeDoubler merchant decided the test blog wasn't right for their campaign.

You can see that they spent exactly 5 seconds in this case. The quickest decision seems to have been made after a 2 second visit.

To be fair this is a test blog in a very niche area, with a professional theme with the ads dialled all the way down. It is entirely possible experienced decision makers can decide whether the niche matches their brand/campaign with just a look.

Nevertheless, the differences between agency time on the site and merchant time on the site is staggering.

It's is also worth noting that so far agencies and networks seem to look at different pages on the site. Networks look at the content pages - the blog posts. Agencies tend to look at the About page and then hit the category tags.

The Yahoo Widget TV Channel opens new doors for digital marketing

Samsung DLP 50Image by jasonsewell via FlickrThis is the sort of news that gets the geek in me and geeks around the world interested. Samsung will start to ship TVs that can run the Yahoo! Widget Engine.

How does it work?

Back in August last year Intel and Samsung announced they were working together on the Intel Media Processor CE3100 (aka Canmore). At roughly the same time Adobe said they would work to ensure Flash Lite would run on the CE3100.

Flash forward to today's announcement; if you can hook your Internet Ready Samsung TV with a CE3100 process up to the internet then you can run Flash Lite. You'll be able to access the Yahoo Widget Channel.

We don't have all the details yet - but already the word 'Channel' makes me suspect we'll have to tune into a dedicated area (a channel) and watch the Flash Lite software work. Okay. That's not too bad but I've kinda been able to do that with my Wii and the Internet Channel for ages (which allows me to watch Dr Who via the iPlayer...). It would be much better if I can bring up a Yahoo News widget and overlay that in the corner of my screen while I'm watching something else on cable.

It's also worth quickly noting the branding. Samsung are calling these Internet@TV and the Yahoo Widget Channel is an example of
'Internet@TV - Content Service'.

So, how does Google fit in?

These Yahoo widgets will take content from Yahoo News, Finance and Flickr, etc... but they'll also take content from YouTube.

The search and digital marketers among you will now be thinking how this could effect search and display.

We're not likely to see AdSense in these widgets. The Yahoo Publisher Network does not extend beyond the US whereas these TVs will be sold all over the world.

We may well see banner ads in these spots. UK TV viewers will be used to this; even my parents grew up with Teletext and Ceefax and today we've the red button and ads running in the likes of Virgin on Demand.

I think we're also likely to see all those pre-roll, post-roll and interstitial ads which Google experiments with. There's no reason why they couldn't play on the Yahoo Widget Channel.

I doubt we'll see huge volume straight away but the winds of change are certainly blowing towards internet TVs (or TV computers, or media centres, ... ) and so we shouldn't be surprised when we start to notice more and more people watching internet vids via their TVs.

That's the day traditional marketing agencies will be asked to benchmark and compare the ROI or ROAS of their TV ad campaigns.

Affiliate TV

I drool when I imagine all the possibilities of significant Flash on TV brings. Here in the UK we've already seen finance companies like Ocean Finance running their own TV channel. That can't come cheap.

How would a flash TV channel compare? All of a sudden projects like the Looking for Group movie would be much easier. Weebl would be making
Magical Trevor a lot more money.

In fact, even if we just restrict ourselves to the Yahoo Widget Channel we find ourselves able to imgine affiliate produced widgets and affiliate monetarised widgets.

All of a sudden Facebook, MySpace and Bebo might imagine themselves as a TV channel (they could certainly be accessed via a Yahoo widget). Banner clicks are poor on social networking sites but they do attract a lot of eyeballs - would they consider running 'flash TV ads'? Most likely. Anything to try and monetarise.

Pit traps?

There's always a thorn in the bush. How well does your website interact if someone tries to use it via a TV? Can people make purchases from you?

It's worth noting that people may be trying to use your website via their TV already. I've already toured some of the UK's largest retailers via my wii and the internet channel. It's not always a pretty picture of the retailer.

Remember WAP? Long before there was the iPhone there was a train of logic which said that you needed a specially dumbed down version of your site for poor old mobile phones. Whereas iPhone optimsation is popular these days it isn't always necessary. Certainly there's less need to dumb a site down to WAP speed.

It's doubtful we'll see an Internet@TV scripting language. It's more likely we'll see optimisation via user-agent detection or simply TVs adding mice and keyboards as recommended accessories.

What do you think?

Fantastic Google Universal SERPs from Google Korea

Look at this media rich Google search result page from Korea.

You've organic search results on the left - with 'did you mean' suggestions at the top and the bottom.

On the top right you've YouTube results. Despite the play arrow you can see in the video thumbnails a click will take you through to YouTube.

Then on the right you've images - a little squashed, I think, notice how the left two touch (but this may be due to the lack of any CJK language packs on this laptop and formatting quirks as a result - that also explains all the weird characters you may n).

Then you've a social media section - forums and newspapers.

Yeah, I know 'temple' is spelt wrong but the correct spelling doesn't trigger the social media section on the bottom right.

Question is: where would they fit in the PPC ads?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Latest Steve Jobs' health PRs likely to avoid SEC investigation

It was Twitter that first brought me the news of today's Steve Jobs' health. Credit goes to Tim Bradshaw over at the FT.

I was thinking the same as Tim. Is this a real press release? You can find them here and here.

There are strict rules on what a press release hub will accept as a press release. There are tone of voice, topic and presentation rules. The release needs to be a news release and not marketing guff, for example.

Apple's "letter" style approach with these two press releases do not follow these rules.

In most cases these rules protect the press release site themselves and ensure they stay in Google News. In other cases the press release host seeks to stay professional and present news to journalists in the usual manner.

PR Newswire is big and ugly enough not to risk getting kicked out of Google News over a few 'interestingly' presented news releases but a small site puts itself at risk. In fact, even the larger PR sites would likely be cautious.

I tweeted Daryl Wilcox who runs some of the most popular press response sites on the web to ask whether he would have accepted the release. The reply?

"Not normally, but given it was from Mr Jobs, maybe I would. It ought to have press contact details though"

You would imagine Apple would make every effort to be cautious too. Remember to stock roller coaster after the recent false report of Jobs going to hospital? That resulted in a SEC Investigation.

In fact, Apple does now have the release up on their website and this helps tremendously.

I'll accept that Apple are Apple and they'll communicate in an Apple way. PR newswire can also make decisions on what press releases are suitable for publishing or not (in fact; this human made decision is what keeps a site like PR newswire interesting to bloggers and news search engines).

Do you know that some magazines accept 'letters' in their 'Dear Editor' section that come from traditional PR agencies and are an alternative to the more usual offline press release? I have concerns around the ethics of that and I suspect such a tactic online would be awfully close to a paid-for-review.

In today's environment of flash flood news - stories that ripple over the internet at social media speed - it can be very important to get that first wave exactly right. I very much want to see the press release sites maintaining as a high quality of contribution as possible. We're also going to see big companies struggling even more to make sure their marcoms can more quickly enough.

In this case the doubt around the news was short lived. I wouldn't be at all surprised to see similar questions being asked about another high profile press release this year and for the confusion to last longer.

Yahoo China dumps keyword site

Yahoo! Inc.Image via WikipediaBack in 2003 Yahoo China paid $120,000,000 for Today redirects to

What did was get their software onto PCs. Users running their software would then find themselves redirected straight to certain websites if they typed keywords directly into their address bar.’s business model (called ‘real domain name’) was simply to sell those redirecting keywords as advertising.

I suspect many people reading this would be surprised that Yahoo China would pay so much money for a service like that. Cast your mind back to AOL keywords though; you still saw those mentioned in movie trailers back in 2003.

In fact, China’s NIC still actively promotes their ‘Wireless Keyword’ service. This works in a similar way expect with mobile phones rather than PCs. It’s also important to remember that keyword domain guesses are far more common in Asia than they are in English speaking parts of the Northern Hemisphere.

Yahoo China plans on concentrating on its core business which includes the June 2008 merger with

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Catholic Google promotes gay dating

Catholic Google is a quick attempt to capture a niche audience using Google's custom search. It markets itself as the search engines that good Catholics should use.

It was all to tempting to see which results the catholic search engine returned for [gay]. Perhaps it would recommend sites about being happy? No.

In truth there seems to have been effort put into the selection of the source sites for the engine. The organic search results are clearly ones appropriate to a religious of faith important search.

It's the paid search results, where Catholic Google has less influence, which produce the results that hard line catholics would be less happy with. On my test searches the top 5 PPC results where always gay dating or gay chat sites. In some cases the PPC results included ads to retailers like or Amazon with creatives about videos and "gay".

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Windows Live Messenger with Facebook and Twitter support - edging towards an activity stream

I had to rebuild my main laptop - the one I currently use a PC. After a Technorati search through blogs with some authority I found myself on a blog site that managed to fire off a pop-up.

There was something else nasty on that site - an adware/virus that manages to get through FireFox, get through a fully up to date installation of Norton Internet Security. It then disabled Norton, blocked my attempts to access HouseCall and wouldn't budge when I installed AVG from a USB key.

A battle later the laptop would log in to a blue screen of death.

There's always a silver lining though. After the rebuild this old laptop runs much faster and I've piked up a new version of Windows Live Messenger. It has a rather funky "What's new" strip below the contacts screen. This is filed under the 'new to me' label.

The first thing to do here is to integrate Facebook into this space. This all happens in a slideout window from Windows Live Messenger.

What's even more interesting for me is the addition of some basic Twitter support. My Live profile page now shows off my tweets.

Of course; there are a number of problems.

There different internet social circles I operate in. There are only a few people I accept into my Live/MSN Messenger list. By no means at all would I 'friend' as many people on Messenger as I have done on Facebook.

This system lacks Friendfeed's clever imaginary friends. Unless one of my Live Messenger contacts also decides to add their Twitter, blog RSS, Flickr, etc, profile to their account then I can't use Messenger to stream their activity.

I really do think we're moving towards a cloud computing environment but I also do think one of the applications we'll keep running is an activity stream like Twhirl, AlertThingy and the long awaited native Friendfeed application. It seems to make sense that this application will also be an instant messenger and so we should all watch Yahoo, Google and Microsoft for any horizontal movements here.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Econsultancy's new look and surging AdAge rankings

Back in December 2008 Econsultancy redesigned their site with a dramatic new look. I know it was a tough project for them and that's why I'm trying hard to get used to the new feel.

It seems to be working - I'm too lazy to check comScore (where I'm pretty sure Econsultancy is large enough to be tracked) tonight - but thankfully James Gordon-MacIntosh from the Seven Seventy blog is far less lazy than I!

James has battled with AdAge's new look for the Power 150 and put together the chart that shows just the UK's movers and shakers.

Look at that impressive boost for Econsultancy; up 247 global places and up 35 places just in the UK. Will they crack the top 10? I hope so.

Sometime this month we're expecting to get guest blogger access back at the site. I'd like to think that one or two guest posts from the regular expert authors might help towards that top 10 push. (But I'm bias!)

Twitter against #bullying

I like this. are running a clever discussion on Twitter designed to raise attention on the issue of bullying.

It is a clever campaign because it reaches audiences (like me) who are likely to miss TV campaigns and not respond to posters. It is also a clever campaign because it appropriately introduces itself to the conversations already going on in twitter - it lets users opt in and support a good cause. If it was always as easy as adding a hashtag to a tweet to support a charity then the world would be a better place. have combined this campaign with some Google PPC too. I needed to re-install Twhirl to my main laptop after a death-by-adware encounter and Bullying had the keyword targeted.

Pirate Bay offering Windows 7 beta

The Pirate Bay logoImage via WikipediaNo one will be surprised to read that Pirate Bay has a BitTorrent of a pre-release version of Windows 7.

Windows 7 will be interesting for Search. Why? The battle for desktop search might become nothing more than a skirmish (I'm currently running Google Desktop Search) if Windows 7 is as Cloud based as it is rumoured to be.

There's also the issue of meta data. Microsoft and Google don't just want to be WHERE you store your data. They want to be HOW you store your data so that they can help define and shape how it is stored.

I've started to use BackBlaze (which is fantastic) to backup all my data (across more than one machine) to the web. A little BackBlaze utility runs on each of my laptops to automate this background process. BackBlaze don't just get to keep my data in their system (lucky them) but they get to apply whichever meta data they want to it. For example, BackBlaze knows which laptop the data came from originally.

There's also the familiar issue of the default search engine. Look at how Chrome works - a single box which can either accept URLs or search terms. Depending on the success of lawyers we may well see something similar in Windows 7. It might just go under a different name than 'default search engine'.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Google not doing so well with the Chinese New Year

Google's coping with the New Year better that Microsoft's Zune did. Phew.

In particular I was curious to see how well dates in the onebox coped with the new date - and they all do well (most of them don't mention the year anyway).

A search for the Chinese New Year is the weakest result. It's not wrong. It's just old. It's about a year old at this point. Google's onebox still serves up when the 2008 Chinese New Year was. I would say a week after that date the onebox would have been better used to tell me when the 2009 New Year is (Jan 26th; the Year of the Ox).

It certainly makes me wonder when this onebox result will update. Anyone want to bet that it'll update after the 2009 Chinese New Year?

What is today's date?

Here's an odd path of search engine ads that you're only every likely to stumble on on New Year's Day. While checking out possible onebox features at Google I asked [today's date]. (aka where bidding...

Alright. So maybe Ask has a clever Smart Answer that they want to show me. Let's look.

Answer: No. Nothing clever from Ask - just more Google ads.

You can see bids from a well known dating site in the screen grab and one from another is just out of shot. I didn't check to see whether either where affiliates - nevertheless any and all calendar references seem like obvious negative keywords to me.

The dating site that's just out of screen shot proudly run their PPC inhouse after telling trade press that no agency understands dating as they do and so they would do it best. Of course; it could have been an affiliate ad.

Reuters are the top bidder. I thought that they might have a today's date special. That would make sense for a news site. Let's look.

And... no. Just the Reuters homepage. I'm not sure why Reuters are bidding on this but it does seem to be part of their SEM strategy. You can tell that by looking at the URL of the landing page; ?WT.mc_id=ext_SEM_Google_{GeneralNews}_what%2527s%2520today%2527s%2520date&WT.srch=1

They're using Webtrends to track their 'General News' campaign.

I'm not sure how robust that SEM strategy is. You see; I didn't actually get sent straight to the Reuters homepage. I was first landed at and ad (shown below) and then automatically forwarded to their homepage.

Google has rules about PPC landing pages which automatically foward you to other pages...