Monday, June 29, 2009

Like the Bing logo? Microsoft puts the company that designed it up for sale

Back when Microsoft bought aQuantive in order to get its hands on Atlas and other technologies the software giant also picked up the ad agency Avenue A/Razorfish.

Avenue A | Razorfish - new officeImage by erokCom™ via Flickr

Yup; Avenue A/Razorfish was created through the merger of the ad agencies Avenue A and Razorfish. Names like that don’t to last long and rather than being called AA/R the agency was rebranded as Razorfish.

Microsoft are hoping for as much as $700m for Razorfish. The aQuantive deal was huge and set Microsoft back a staggering $6b but nevertheless, getting a full $700m back for the advertising agency bit isn’t bad.

That’s if they manage to get that much. The sale of Razorfish has been long rumoured. Back in October 08 we saw headlines like Razorfish buys Wysiwyg – WPP denies it’s buying Razorfish.

In fact, back in 2007 we saw the Tribbble Ad Agency run articles like Avenue A | Razorfish employees get screwed by Microsoft. That article had the brilliant quote from an anonymous employee.

“If they are not going to treat us like Microsoft Employees, then what’s the point of working for Microsoft”

Razorfish has huge clients. People like Kraft, Coca-Cola and Disney. People are talking up either WPP or Publicis as buyers. Heck; people are even discussing Omnicom as a potential buyer but as PepsiCo is an important client for Omnicom I suspect there may be an issue there.

My money is currently on Publicis simply because they recently announced a partnership/joint venture with Microsoft last week (which sparked thoughts of a Razorfish sale in my mind then; as I’m sure it did for other people too).

Razorfish didn’t simply design the Bing logo. It is a healthy part of the impressive advertising campaign for Microsoft’s decision engine.

I doubt the sale of Razorfish will impact Bing at all. If anything it removes conflict of interest concerns. People didn’t like Google owning the advertising agency bits of DoubleClick but I suspect too few people in the Search Industry knew to trace Razorfish back to Microsoft.

Who bought the advertising agency bits of DoubleClick from Google? It was Publicis.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

AltaVista search results ranking on page one at Google

This isn't something you see every day and that's the only reason I took the screen grab - here we see AltaVista results ranking on the first page in Google.

Google's said (via Matt Cutts) that it doesn't want other search results ranking in the index. They took action to remove YouTube search results out. This may be why UK charity search engine Everyclick struggles to rank even on non-search pages. It is also a statement that gives retailers with faceted search CMS sites cause for concern although Google's not likely to treat those canned search/navigation pages the same as 'free hand' search results.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wolfram Alpha better than Google on Michael Jackson's death

This is a pretty good result from Wolfram Alpha. Let's not compare Google and Wolfram Alpha in any serious "like for like" way. Let's just look at the differences in speed here. Wolfram Alpha is giving me the right result for the "right" Michael Jackson.

Compare that to the results that Search Engine Journal captured.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The poor state of UK search today

I hate to say it but the UK search engines are an a truly terrible state today.

Unfortunately huge amounts of rubbish also get...Image via Wikipedia

We don't have Bing. We have a Live Search with Powerset hybrid. It's beta and significantly behind Bing US.

Yahoo's vital Site Explorer has been malfunctioning for the last few days. Key search commands like site: simply don't work any more.

The results are a mess. They're full of international results; America, Australian and New Zealand pages.

The Google situation is perhaps the most alarming. It's been going on for a long time now - far longer than the trackback flood that predated the Flordia update. The trackback flood was the last time I've seen it this bad.

One concern with the results today is that perhaps Google doesn't see them as bad results. Could it be that they're using for American results and for "international English"?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

TradeDoubler gears up to launch behavioural targeting

The affiliate network TradeDoubler has emailed their affiliates to ask them to help categorise their websites. Affiliates will say what type of site they run so that TradeDoubler's auto-targeting systems can better target users on those sites.

Sounds look a good idea but behavioural targeting is hugely unpopular so this is a PR risk by the network. This may also annoy affiliates a little as it'll increase the chances of people blocking/refusing TradeDoubler cookies.

Their email said;

The categorisation of websites will also enable the future launch of interest based advertising. With interest based advertising a publisher can show ads targeted to each user. The selection is based upon an interest profile built up when a user is browsing sites within TradeDoubler's network. For example, a person visiting more sports websites than average will be shown more ads related to sports.

What are the next steps?
We will be asking you to categorise your current websites when you next log in. This should only take a few minutes. You can select up to four top level categories per site and you should select the most accurate categories to match the content of your website. After you have categorised your website using the popup you can edit these categories from the “Site information” page in your account.

TradeDoubler, like Google, are trying hard not to call this behavioural targeting and are calling this "interest based targeting" instead. You can read more of the network's policy and OPT OUT of the targeting from this legal page here.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Twitterfeed borked

It's very annoying when Twitterfeed is down. This is an account which is responsible for a whole bunch of auto-tweets into a whole bunch of Twitter profiles.

Twitterfeed recently took cash from Betaworks - investors in both and Twitter. They alo launched a redesigned site just recently.

It's a shame to see them offline. I use verisign (old skool!) to login. Perhaps the snaffu is in that mechanism.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Opera Unite hacked, wormed or maybe just foolish

What looks like the official Twitter account for Opera's new Opera United has been sprouting crap tweets for GetMeFollowers for the last few days. Are they being dumb or does the tweeting-viral-infection have the password to their account?

Either way; can't say it instills much confidence in Opera Unite.

easyJet forgets "flights to London" in latest business flyer promotion

In a viral ad for easyJet called "Keep everyone happy" or "Keep the financial director happy" (seems it lost a bit of focus even on the name) there is no flight to London option - not even Luton.

You can probably just make out in this graphic that there's no London option. You're supposed to be able to work out how much money EasyJet will save you (and make your FD dance). Not me. I fly to London at least once a week but there's no dancing FD for me.

Why not? I'm in two minds as why this happened.

1) The ad agency behind this is so London focused that they forgot it is possible to fly to London (rather than just from London).

2) easyJet didn't actually want to focus on the flight to London possibility. A quick check at British Airways tells me I can fly to Heathrow in September for £35 all in. EasyJet will cost £28 for Gatwick and that excludes credit card charges, insurance and bags. BA is actually cheaper and flies to a more convenient airport.

From an SEO point of view its worth looking at the code at There's a paragraph of text that's shown to users without Flash.

These days if the text represents the Flash then Google's not likely to call it spam. How well do you think easyJet do there?

Perhaps the area of the most concern are the links. There are many links back to the main easyJet site and a link to their sitemap section that's not a link users can find or follow in the Flash.

I'm not calling the SEO one way or another (I help British Airways with their SEO so I've a declared interest) but I am annoyed that the orange airline may have forgotten it is possible for business people to be outside of London!

What do you think?

P.S. The domain is registered by Domain Discreet - just to make things interesting!


EasyJet picked this post up via Twitter and looked into the issue. They had intended the site only to target Londoners in the first place.

They've now flicked the switch on the geographic targeting of their banners to try and just promote the site to the audience who cares.

I think this is a pretty swift response by easyJet though I don't understand why London wasn't simply added to the site in the first place. Surely that would make more sense?

I'm also curious to know why easyJet works with Domain Discreet - or does their agency actually own the URL? Ooo.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Twitter accounts to follow for the Edinburgh Festivals and Fringe

Hopefully this post will be a works in progress up until the end of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. If you know of any other Twitter accounts to add then leave a comment below.

Royal Mile street performanceImage via Wikipedia

Official Accounts


Venue Accounts

Stars, Acts, Producers and Shows


Reviewers are a good way to keep pace with the mushrooming number of shows! Check out:

The Festival Highlights collection

I've put these Edinburgh Festivals and Fringe twitter accounts in a sperate section because they've been created by @FestHighlights. On the first edit of this post I was cautious of these accounts as it did seem to me as if they'd all be created by the same person and it looked like that same person was the "author" of them too. However, @FestHighlights left comments on the blog to re-assure us that the plan is to have the cast and crew start to update.

They are:

Any more to add? Either recommended follows or perhaps ones to be cautious of?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Facebook's email verification system is in a mess

There's something screwy with Facebook's email verification system.

When adding a new email address to Facebook (something to consider doing if you want old friends who used to email you at an older email address to find you) you'll get an email response from Facebook.

The first half of the email Facebook sends you sends that someone else has just registered the email address with a Facebook account (you just did) so you'll not be able to log in with it any more nor receive email alerts.

The second half of the very same email says you've just registered the email address (the same one) at Facebook so you can now log in and receive email alerts.

I got the New York Times to link to a zombie story

The story in question was about mixing up their geo-targeting on Google while playing Zombie (Left 4 Dead) arbitrage.

Ask banking on French zombies and Google traffic

Some of my weekend was dedicated to battling zombies. I'm sure you understand it's a critical part of my job. This battle required some coordination over Gmail. What caught my eye was the AdWord from Ask France.

This is a geo-targeting error. An oddly bad one at that. It doesn't even reflect well on Google as there's a chance these UK visits to Ask France will click on the French Google ads on Ask.

I did notice the sub-domain for 'Left4Dead'. Ask really is targeting this computer (it has had a very high search frequency due to the sequel) . This is just a displayurl sub-domain, though, the actual ad clicks through to as the destinatinon URL.

I'm not sure of the logic here at all. Yes; it's a search term/content term that generates traffic but does Ask really think people will interrupt a Google search to get more information on a game. Ask aren't selling the game.

Friday, June 12, 2009

@ryanbarr doubles his Twitter followers - drives himself insane or bluffs TechCrunch?

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...Image via CrunchBase

There's a funny story over at TechCrunch. Twitter user @ryanbarr set up the iPhone AT&T petition to demand cheaper upgrade to the iPhone S. We had the same type of petition for 02 here in the UK.

I'm not sure why iPhone users think they should be able to break contract any more easily than the rest of us - but both petitions have done very well and nearly 10,000 have signed up to Ryan's.

Here's the catch. Whenever someone signs the AT&T petition there's an auto tweet. That tweet includes @ryanbarr in it. Ryan's told TechCrunch that he deeply regrets this now - he's spamming himself silly.

Dear TechCrunch,

My name is Ryan Barr, known on Twitter as @ryanbarr . If you may have noticed, I started a petition (or twitition) found here: .

I want out.

When I first started the petition, it was due to a rant I was having about the price of the phone. It didn’t take long for me to truly not care about the prices as much as I had. And it didn’t take much longer for the petition I started to go out of control.

At the time of this e-mail the petition just passed 9200 signatures. For each signature, a message is tweeted as follows:

“Petition: AT&T to offer reasonable iPhone 3GS upgrade prices @ryanbarr”

That’s right, 9200 @ryanbarr’s over the span of two (going on three) days. This does not include the unnecessary retweets people also make. I can no longer stand not being able to see real replies in my timeline. I have AT&T employees following me and saying stuff behind my back when I was just ranting on a site that seemed to have little activity.

I completely, COMPLETELY regret pressing the submit button. As the petition nears the 10000 mark I fear even more. As at that mark, TweetMeme will show me as a TM_10000 (@ … the first, ever.

TechCrunch — you have the power to make businesses grow. You have the power to make or break the reputation of a new device. Please, help me find a way out of this petition. The attention I am receiving is unwanted — I just want to be able to come clear to all the signers and say, “I don’t want in this anymore. I didn’t mean for it to last this long.”

Thanks for anything and for the great reads over the longhaul.

Best Regards,
Ryan Barr

Do you think that's making the matters better or worse? I hadn't noticed him until TechCrunch posted toady. In fact, TechCrunch kick off their blog post by saying;

A Twitter user who has effectively spammed himself senseless reaches out to us for help. And we’re going to oblige. The only trouble is, he’s making yet another error in judgment, because my guess is this is going to make things worse.

Here's the catch. Ryan must have a really low threshold for pain. The auto-tweets are easy to cope with. It's a snap to set up a Gmail filter to route any emails these replies generate elsewhere (or to move his Twitter account to a Gmail address).

So it's just his Twitter feed that's getting spammed - but that won't last long. It's also fairly easy to cope with - many clients will let you watch tweets of people you're following (even if that means ignoring the @ replies in the next column). He could set up a user list in Seesmic Desktop, for example.

My question is - did Ryan just bluff TechCrunch into posting his "plea for help" or was it just a clever tactic to get even more attention? I'd like to suggest Ryan's been sly here. That was my first thought.

However, a look at his history via Twitter Grader suggests he's not really making the most of the situation he finds himself in. He's not following many extra people. He may have increased his followers by a double digit percentage but he has less than 500 of them!

What do you think?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Whether its Simplyhealth or Simply Health - people may read this first

“Soon to be SimplyHealth” – some people will read this post first before visiting simplyhealth's actual site.

I’m being a little unfair here as I’m illustrating the challenges brands like HSA face as they gear up for a major rebranding.

HSA was/is a health insurance company. They ran adverts on UK TV which featured bunnies and sock puppets with the catch phrase; “Hey! Just say!”. It was a little quirky but I think it worked well – and really appealed to their target demographic.

By May 2009 and early June HSA’s latest set of ads included the message that they would soon be “Simply Health” (or perhaps that’s SimplyHeath).

This is a tough move for any brand to pull off. They want to let their customers know they’re changing name, they definitely want their potential customers to know they’re about to change name and ideally they’d like to run ads that bring in leads and boost awareness of the new brand.

The challenge, of course, is that until they become SimplyHealth that all sorts of people on the internet have a good stab at becoming an authority on the newly created keyphrase (especially if it’s SimplyHealth without spaces rather than “Simply Health”) then they do.

Simply Health, that is to HSA and partners, at least have a website up on the best possible domain. It’s not thought that much about SEO as its running entirely on a secure server. They are running PPC ads though – good job.

In fact, we can even see the HSA site ranking for the term. The two sites have aligned their visuals. As a consumer checking out the two websites I don’t suffer any doubt. I’m not confused. They’ve done better than FGH.

Nevertheless; this is an extremely vulnerable time for the brand. Health insurance affiliates, in particular, have every reason to move into the weakened brand space and dig down.

What we’ll see in the future – given the rise of social media and always growing importance of search – is that rebranding becomes even harder than it is today.

When Chrome eats Google

Seconds after I announced on Twitter that I'd changed my default browser on my traveling laptop to Chrome - this happens;

I get a fresh set of random characters with each refresh. I think the internet calls this type of error: typical.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

"Hey! Evony fans - tired of saving your queen" wins AdWord of the Week

What can I say? deserve to do very well from this one. If you can't make it out the ad text reads;

Hey. Evony fans.
Tired Of Saving Your Queen?
Us Too. Try out AQWorlds

Civony successfully rebrands as Evony - boobs tactics work

Controversial online tactical game Civony (Civilization meets Colony) first 'caught' my attention with an intriguing display of flesh. Surely more flesh than Google would allow on its ad network?

Over the last week or two we've stopped seeing the Civony ads and started seeing similar ones for Evony. Ah; a naming change!

I've not looked into why they've changed the name. We might imagine that Evony is legally different enough from their 'inspiration' to be safe. Perhaps the name was changed as a brand reputation management technique - this is never a good idea. There was also the 'suggestion' the original Evony/Civony queen was lifted from a fancy dress catalog and photoshopped ever so slightly.

The eye candy ads are back. I caught one of the more risque ones as I was signing into LiveJournal. Now LJ doesn't make it clear where the ad is coming from but my HTTP-LiveHeaders extension did track me through Google on the click.

The landing page reveals a little more - got to work on those conversions, you know.

So, is it working?

Google Insight shows an almost 45o success line for the new Evony brand.

However, I'm not able to give this gaming rebrand full marks. There's no redirect on the old site. This results in SERPs which look like:

Monday, June 08, 2009

Does Wolfram Alpha's HTML element hierarchy point to SEO success?

I've taken the top eleven ranking websites for [search engine optimisation] in I've thrown away Wikipedia. This leaves me with ten agency sites.

Let's see how Wolfram Alpha draws their structure. Perhaps therein is a clue to SEO success?

1) bigmouthmedia

2) Just Searching

3) High Position

4) SEO Consult


6) Search Engine Optimising

7) Top Click Media

8) Creare Communications

9) Blue Claw

10) XSEO

I did the same thing for [search engine optimization], but with an UK IP address. This time I had to look a little further than position #11 to collect my top ten ranking agencies. I imagine for some readers this will be the first time they've seen [search engine optimization] results (albeit with spaces) from a UK address.

1) Submit Express

2) Bruce Clay

3) SEO Inc

4) Add Me

5) Patrick Gavin

6) Submit A Website

7) eBrandz

8) Add Pro

9) Keyword Performance

10) eVisibility

There's the evidence. Do you conclude there is any mapping between HTML element hierarchy and Google rankings?