Thursday, April 30, 2009

So, we're the #1 search agency according to the NMA ... my view

DSC01142Image by noodlepie via Flickr

The NMA (New Media Age) have been running a Marketing Service Guide for a number of years. Last year I blogged about it. I noted how using turnover was kinda a weird metric to rank agencies on but also noted how pleased I was to see the likes of Site Visibility being included.

Two things seemed to have happened (rather embarrassingly).

Firstly; NMA moved away from turnover, citing many reasons I agree with. Media spend proves nothing (please note that RFP writers).

Secondly; we seemed to have won it!

Clearly I'm pleased that bigmouthmedia UK won. The NMA is one of the very best sources of search engine and search agency news in the UK. I respect their editorial team a lot (even though they are too prone to asking insightful questions!)

Here's a link to a NMA article about our win. You'll need a log in but I'm sure all my readers know all about First Click Free.

The new model is based on "income". The NMA argues that this suggests/implies/hints at talent. Clients are smart and only want to pay for skill/performance/added-value.

I agree its a better model than turnover but the search geek in me wishes there were even better metrics - but its too much to ask the NMA to interview all our search staff, all our competitors' search staff, quiz our strategists, integrate our affiliate and display teams on their understanding of search and then compile a league table from that!

This year I'm pleased to see Leapfrogg and Jellyfish making it into the top 20. Way to go guys!

This is just bigmouthmedia UK we're looking at too. These figures don't include big US, German, French, Italian, Scandinavian or even new Spanish clients. I think anyone would be extremely ambitious if they attempted to produce an European list.

What's the win worth? I don't think anyone out here in blog land will care (or notice). However (hopefully) it means more journalists and senior decision makers at bluechips will notice. If there was to be a big pitch in the next two months that we weren't going to be invited to... perhaps now we'll be invited to chip in. That can only be a good thing!

It probably also means we won't be featured in any Haymarket magazines this month. That's a bad thing! :)

Congratulations to everyone who made the list this year and thanks to everyone who put time into compiling the numbers. Let's now move on quickly to 2010!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Google continues to embrace Twitter - @googlenews joins in

Google News has joined Twitter. I find this interesting because the feed will competely cut Google out (with the exception of the Google hosted AP stories).

Google's recently been testing AdWords in Google News in the US and introducing various new picture timelines. This Twitter account bypasses all that as it'll drive traffic straight from platform or desktop clients to the newspapers.

Google's brand is likely to earn them many followers - however, the news here will not be breaking news, it won't be focused and there will be a lot of it. Not sure I'm keen to join.

Medieval timeline results in Google web search

File this one in the "new for me" folder. Late medieval time line Universal Search enhancements.

The search Pendle Hill Witches isn't that far off the beaten track. The site of the famous witchcraft trials in England often features on TV shows and is the site of an annual music festival.

Is Amazon about to disqualify thousands of legitimate affiliate sales?

Image representing Amazon EC2 as depicted in C...Image via CrunchBase

Got an interesting email from Amazon today. Let's head it off at the pass by saying "No I didn't".

In 2005 I pointed Google traffic directly at Amazon in order to help promote a book a friend had published. I think it generated about 30 clicks. I've done nothing since. However, I may have Amazon referral links actually in Google's SERPs as that was quite the cash cow back in the early 2000s! I assumed Amazon took care of those (canonical, anyone?) yoinks ago.

Dear Amazon Associate:

You are receiving this email because our reports indicate that you have sent users directly to, or through paid search advertisements that were displayed to users who searched on keywords which you bid upon and purchased in search engine keyword auctions. As a reminder, starting May 1, 2009, we will no longer pay referral fees to Associates who send users to, or through paid search advertisements on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other search engines, and their extended search networks. Of course if you use keyword bidding as a component of your strategy to drive traffic to your own site, you may continue to do so. Associates will continue to be paid referral fees on qualifying sales that result from traffic coming to, or from a customer affirmatively clicking on a Special Link on the Associates’ site(s). If you're not sure if this change affects you, please visit this page for FAQs.

We appreciate your continued support and participation in the Amazon Associates program. If you have questions or concerns, please write to us by using the Contact Us form available on Associates Central.

Let's also say that I know Amazon will be stopping their direct to merchant PPC. They've already told us that.

So, what's this email about? Is it some remnant from ancient history on my account? Is Amazon just using this an an excuse to warn/remind affiliates? Did they send it out on error? I've not done direct to merchant PPC in about four years.

Or are Amazon about to disqualify thousands of legitimate affiliate referrals because their system is broken?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Are Civony ad tactics working?

Civony's most risque ad seems to disappeared but many people are still aware of just how often ads for the game are appearing.

Google Insight shows the search surge.

It's perhaps not surprising to see that [what is civony] and [civony wikipedia] are two of the leading breakout terms as people turn to Google to research the game.

Care to guess which parts of the world are most interested in the game? The United States just makes the top 10. It's actually Singapore and its strong online game culture that dominates.

It certainly shows it is possible to use a search campaign to create a buzz. If you can use search to create a buzz then you can use search to create a band.

Civony, it looks like, is a site which creates a lot of discussion. A quick hunt around (and I've still not signed up for the game and am unlikely to) seems to suggest many people with many concerns. It also seems likely the game has reached the momentum it needed to be successful. Let's see how long they keep the ad blitz up for.

Google Germany wishes you a happy Girl's Day have a special logo up to celebrate Girl's Day. In Germany (and around the world, in fact) Google have been one of the leading voices in calls to get more women involved in technology.

English information about the day can be found here.

Hat tip to a certain bigmouthmedia search analyst who's very good at spotting this sort of thing!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Search engine Blinkx buys Zango

blinkx logoImage by cyberdees via Flickr

The desktop search engine Blinkx has bought Zango.

If Zango doesn’t immediately ring a bell then you might remember them as 180 Solutions. 180 Solutions faced a number of allegations that they installed adware without permission on PCs.

They paid a fine of $3m in November 2006 after pressure from the FTC but did not have to admit guilt. The problem, they said, was with rogue affiliates who used their own scumware together with 180 Solutions software to abuse machines.

Zango continued to sail in murky waters and security firms and their software continued to mark their software as adware. In 2007 Zango tried to sue both Kaspersky and PC Tools because of this and failed.

There is clearly a lot of anger around the deal. Zango founder Kevin Smith said the company was bought at a fire sale price and in a blog post suggested that armed guards where posted at the doors after the company’s purchase and more than the expected number of staff fired.

What’s in the deal for Blinkx in the first place?

Back in 2006 the two companies announced a partnership where Zango was described as an entertainment partner. Zango’s games, music and videos became fully searchable through

The entertainment angle is an important one for Blinkx – which has invested heavily in video search – as it was rumoured to be deep in negotiations with News Corp and Rupert Murdoch. In 2007 there were reports that Autonomy would exercise rights to buy Blinkx. The search engine was thought to be valued at around £100m at the time.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ask takes sneaky pot-shot at Google

The butler Jeeves is back to UK (aka He has a special message for anyone who searches for Google.

Why Google it when you can Ask Jeeves?

There's also a special shout out for Twitter.

There are a number of different shout outs that appear for Twitter (and other) searches. You can find Ask's twitter profile here.

P.S. Thanks to the bigmouth Search Analyst who alerted me to this. I stole your scoop! :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Google is a browser, says BBC expert

This morning on the BBC breakfast news they had a business feature on Google's growth report from yesterday and the on-going issues around behavioural targeting and privacy.

For this feature they had Chris Watson from the legal firm CMS Cameron Mckenna.

Now, this is the BBC breakfast spot, it's early morning, the bright lights are on and millions of people are watching you. It must be very easy to make a mistake and say something you didn't mean to say.

I suspect that's what happened to Mr Watson. In the first half of the interview he suggested that if a user didn't like Google they could "close the browser and use a different one".

Oh dear.

I was immediately reminded of Google Operating System's post highlighting questions from the Chrome help forum. Questions like; "If I change from Outlook Express to Chrome browser does my E Mail address have to be changed to a G Mail address?"

By the way, this Chris Watson happens to be the dad of a rather famous Emma Watson. The actress who plays Hermione in the Harry Potter movies.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Are the Civony ads the most risque ones on Google's ad network?

I've been targeted with ads for an online roleplaying game in my RSS feeds from sites like TechCrunch. It's good targeting. I'm a gamer. I'm just too busy to investigate Civony.

I noticed the first set of ads as they featured the warm smile of the lovely lady of their landing page. Its a tried and tested tactic - the game isn't just about expanding your empire, it's about keeping your sexy queen happy and safe.

The next set of image ads for the game featured a new leading lady and a rather lot more flesh.

I've no problem with the ads. As a gamer I'm keen to see more wide appeal ads promoting games too.

I'm just a little surprised Google approved them. Their guidelines say;

Ads are reviewed and categorised as 'FamilySafe', 'Non-FamilySafe' or 'Adult Sexual Content' depending on the content of the ad and website. Only 'FamilySafe' images (containing no adult content) will be approved.
And later on;

Your images may not contain:

  • Any material intended for persons over 18.
  • Mature sexual themes, nudity and/or sexual activity.
What do you think? Is Google less prudish than I think? I'm bias by my liberal European views. What do conservative Americans think of the ad?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Search commands aren't always off the beaten track

Google - especially Matt Cutts - sometimes talk about what is on and what is off the beaten track. The prinicple is simple; the beaten track is one that people walk often.

This applies to bugs, glitches or features that "common" people are likely to encounter and therefore those bugs, glitches or features that interest Google the most.

In the world of SEO we sometimes care about features off the beaten track. This might be quirks of the site: command, the order of the link: command or whether we can chain together multiple negatives in a query.

It's tax season in the US of A. As a result we can see one of the search commands entering the hot trends. It is the first time I've noticed it but that doesn't mean it is the first time that it's happened.

Yep. We have people using the site: command to search for information on an extension. In fact, there are a few other extension related queries trending as I write this.

Is the IRS site search powered by Google? Results are similar but different. If Google is involved in the search then are searches on the IRS contributing to hot trends? If so does that devalue the information in hot trends?

What else are your clients interested in?

The IAB UK recently held their Engage for Search conference. There are some interesting takeaways.

The first thing to note is that the IAB does very well at bringing client side companies to their events and Engage for Search was no different. 70% of the audience came from a client side company which meant 30% where either agency or supplier.

That's a challenge SES and SMX both face. SES has the advantage due to their history. Interestingly, the A4U Expo does quite well at bringing in the merchants as well as agencies and affiliates.

This was a search conference (SEO and PPC) but the IAB asked the attendees a number of questions - one of which was "What else are you interested in?"

Some pretty interesting figures in there;

  • More marketing managers are interested in social media than in branding
  • More marketing managers are interested in affiliate marketing than creativity
Another takeaway from the event was that most of the clientside attendees had generic job titles like "marketing manager" rather than one which included the word "search". Feedback also suggested that some attendees needed quite a lot of handholding.

I noticed a similar typology at SES London this year. My conclusion was that brands were experimenting with taking Search in-house and so where sending marketing staff to Search Conferences to learn. However, some of the questions we had from the crowd where worringly basic and this would suggest to me that some clients are rather expert in Search but just as many are at Search-101.

It'll be interesting to see whether this pattern repeats at SMX London.

I sit on the IAB's Search Council and help maintain our Search Centre so if you're interested in joining (agency or client) then let me know and I'll point you at the right people (or them at you!)

Monday, April 13, 2009

Absurdly dated emails in gmail

I have a huge Gmail inbox. I'm not one of those people who archive email once it's "done". I spam report every spam I get. I rarely delete anything. Wasn't that the original Gmail pitch?

As a result a pet hate of mine is when my inbox claims there are some unread mail messages when I know the first two pages of email are completely read.

The usual suspect? Spam. Spam that's been given an absurd date.

One of my gripes is that Gmail doesn't suspect Russian email (or any email!) dated to 1977 could be spam. Sure. Email dated to 1997 could be a fresh import of inbox data... but not 1977.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Brawn GP, Jenson Button and sponsors doing well in search

Cars aren't very digital but even I am aware of the unusual start to F1 this year and the unexpected success of the new Brawn GP team and British driver Jenson Button.

Virgin and the clothing brand Henri Lloyd both sponsored the new team. A brave move that looks like it's paying off. Virgin's brand is too noisy for just Google Insight analysis but the other three paint a clear picture.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Google begins to test AJAX search results and analytics break again

Google's making a return to AJAX powered search results after an initial outcry from analytics companies.

Michael VanDeMar has an overview of the initial outing over at Smackdown where he spells out what started to happen.

In fact, it was that very post where Matt Cutts predicts Google would return to the AJAX test. He left a comment to say;

Hi Michael, I checked with some folks at Google about this. The redirection through a url redirector was separate from any AJAX-enhanced search results; we do that url redirection for some experiments, but it’s not related to the JavaScript-enhanced search results.

The solution to the referrer problem will be coming online in the future. It uses a JavaScript-driven redirect that enables us to pass the redirect URL as the referrer. This URL will contain a “q” param that matches the user’s query.

Matt's prediction has come true. I've been seeing AJAX powered result pages today.

The actual link for that screen grab is You can see from the image above that I am logged into Google.

You can also see that the q= query element has been returned to the URI.

The question is - will that q URI be enough?

Let's take a look at what real time analytics provided Clicky said on their blog the first time round.
Here's what the new search result URLs look like with the new "Ajax" feature:

See how there's a hash mark # in there now, and the "q=test" is after it? The problem is that web browsers don't send anything after the # in the referrer string. This means organic searches from Google will now show up as just "", with no search parameters. In other words, no analytics app can track these searches anymore. I started noticing lots of hits from just "" recently in our own search logs. I thought maybe it was just a bug with Clicky. But then one of our users contacted me about this article, and my jaw about broke from hitting the floor so hard.

At the time of this post my AJAX SERPS link straight through to the site. For example, the bigmouthmedia link is

There's a simple way to test whether this version of the AJAX results are analytics friendly. A test.

This blog ranks for [ARHG] (search URL). So it just took a quick search and Clicky's real time Spy feature to see whether or not the analytics package could see the keyword in the referral.

The results showed that Clicky couldn't see [ARHG] as a referral. It looked as if the traffic had come directly from a Google homepage (so would be confused with iGoogle traffic).

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Gmail's mysterious small inbox i

Two days ago my Gmail (called Google Mail in the UK) changed from having the word 'Inbox' in the left hand-side navigation to the word 'inbox'.

The uppercase I became a lower case i.

This tweak hasn't just effected myself. A quick tweet reveals that many others have the lowercase inbox i while others remain on the capital letter.

This doesn't break Gmail. It's a trivial issue - but it does look odd. Some have suggested it's an obscure April Fools joke. Others have said the smaller i is a deliberate interface test or roll out.

I have a sneaky suspicion its an obscure and small human error. It may be related to Gmail Labs (I, for example, put the inbox at the front of the title tag via a labs tweak) or it may be an even more obscure load balancing/geographic roll out issue.

I think it looks naff - especially with the other options with capital letters. What do you think?

Update: The most common theory (not tested it myself) is that by switching your language from EN-GB to EN-US in your Gmail (Google Mail) settings you can get rid of the annoying small i.