Thursday, October 22, 2009

Caution: Flickr now %45 less private

Image representing Flickr as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

I nearly stopped using Flickr in favour of Facebook. Why? You can tag people in Facebook. Not only is that fun but it's useful too!

It's about time but Flickr has now added a "people in pictures" feature – it's on the right by the sets. You can type in a Flickr contact and add them that way, just type in a name and add them that way or you can use an email address.

The email address is the interesting bit – I've a few ways of getting your email address; I may have it from Facebook, I may have it from a random chat or a business card.

Previously I might have never guessed your Flickr username and that would have suited you as you might have used your Flickr account for personal pictures only; friends and family sort of stuff. Flickr's "people in pictures" option rumbles you now. If I have your email address and you've used it to register on Flickr then I can find you.

There's an easy solution; make sure your photostreams are locked and private if you'd prefer them to be locked and private.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Google caught talking bollocks and tweets

Marissa MayerImage via Wikipedia

Google’s announced they’ve inked a deal with Twitter so that their updates (tweets) will be included in the search engine’s results.

Why? Google says this will lead to a better set of search results. We’ll get real time data.

In the shortest blog post I’ve ever seen on the main Google blog, Marissa Mayer, Vice President of Search Products and User Experience, says; “We believe that our search results and user experience will greatly benefit from the inclusion of this up-to-the-minute data, and we look forward to having a product that showcases how tweets can make search better in the coming months.”

In other news, Bing has also signed a deal with Twitter. You can read about it a much longer blog post and enjoy sample pictures. You can even play with some of the features at www.bing.com/twitter.

And the bollocks?

Google’s always claimed they don’t time their announcements to overshadow other people’s news. It just happens that way. We’re told that these features, etc, are a long time in preparation and the search giant couldn’t time them to overlap with rival news even if they wanted too.

Really? Looks like a rushed blog post from M Mayer too me. Doesn’t look like Google’s actually coded anything with Twitter. Right now, the first thought that springs to mind (and without any careful consideration) is that Google’s trying to ride on the Twitter/Bing news coattails.

Update: I can't but help notice all the Googlers reading this blog post. "Talking bollocks" is a friendly Scottish expression! :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

TD Search – the new face of The Search Works

Years ago I ran the a Yahoo group for TradeDoubler affiliates in the UK. I was at University at the time, paying for my tuition with a combination of SEO and Affiliate Marketing. I ran the group because, amazingly, no one would be emailed when a new merchant joined TD. As I was going to the effort to monitor that data I thought it made sense to share it with other affiliates.

I closed the group when A4U made it redundant but I’ve always had a soft spot for TD in my heart since then.

In 2007 they bought The Search Works (and The Technology Works). BidBuddy, The Search Work’s bid management system, was swiftly rebranded to TD Searchware (or just Searchware) but not TD Search. Given that TradeDoubler talk about TD Affiliate, TD Campaigns and TD integral business there was the option for The Search Works to become TD Search.

Today that’s happened. The Search Works has been rebranded as TD Search. Well; TD Search in the UK and France, at least, so perhaps Germany is excluded.

If you hit the old The Search Works homepage today you’ll get redirected to the press release (It’s a 302 redirect, guys, please remember your SEO).

Here’s a snippet;

TradeDoubler Rebrands The Search Works to TD Search in UK and France

Final step in successful integration of The Search Works into The TradeDoubler Group, delivering unrivalled, seamless search management across 19 countries

London, 20 October 2009 – TradeDoubler, the number one pan-European digital marketing company, today announced that The Search Works in the UK and France will be rebranded to TD Search, effective immediately, bringing it in line with the rest of TradeDoubler’s TD Search businesses across Europe. The rebranding is the final step in the successful integration of The Search Works into The TradeDoubler Group, following one of the largest acquisitions in the online advertising industry in July 2007.

The rebranding also paves the way for future product expansion to leverage the Group’s technology investment under a single pan-European brand. In 2010, TradeDoubler will announce a number of significant developments, including the launch of its single platform to manage holistic digital marketing programmes across the major online disciplines in search, display and affiliate. The single platform will deliver more informed budget allocation, more effective campaigns and even stronger results for customers.

I guess what TD Search represents is the attempt to offer a new agency/solution to today’s heavily digital world. The TD press release puts the focus on technology and I have to wonder whether that’ll be the future focus for TradeDoubler.

It’ll be interesting to read what trade press make of the TD Search rebranding. I know quite a few peeps from The Search Works read this blog so I’ll just close by saying that I’ve always found a re-branding done right to be healthy and energising. It really is a chance to focus on the future.

Yahoo CMO Elisa Steele defends the Y!ou ads

I quite like the eye candy of the new Yahoo TV ad. It's pretty. It has energy. It doesn't tell me why I should go to Yahoo (except to suggest it might be a funky place to visit) or what Yahoo does. Despite all that, I like it.

Industry pundits, however, have been rather more vocal in asking "What's the point?" and whereas I suspect Yahoo would want to add vidblogging to their marcoms anyway I do wonder whether I can hear some defensive tones in this one.




Had you noticed it was a different yodel at the end of the video? Hrm. Can't say I had - not because I'm deaf, just because it failed the "do I care" filter. It seems that last chat was for the employees of Yahoo rather than the external audience like myself. That's the challenge for this sort of public/private communication from Yahoo. They may call it an internal blog but, well, external people read it too.

Monday, October 19, 2009

HMVCurzon, Wimbledon and affiliate challenges

UK - London: Oxford Street - Site of Original ...Image by wallyg via Flickr

High street survival story HMV has teamed up with Curzon Artificial Eye to launch HMVCurzon. Great name.

HMVCurzon is an in-store cinema for HMV. The first one, HMVCurzon Wimbledon, is a 263 seat, three screen cinema that’ll open above the HMV store in Wimbledon.

I can see why HMV are doing this and I agree with the tactic. The products that HMV sells – games, DVDs and music – are exactly the sort of thing where the physical medium isn’t import. You download the latest games, DVDs and music these days and you don’t trek all the way to Wimbledon to buy them. You certainly don’t want shiny but fragile spinny discs to cart around the next time you move house or to ruin with grubby fingers.

What HMV are doing here is giving us a reason to visit the store. It’s about turning retail into an experience and therefore giving it a reason to be physical rather than simply virtual. HMV talk about becoming an entertainment hub.

So, HMVCurzon is a physical thing then… but does that mean it should be sloppy online?

No. Never.

The sub-brand does have a website. In fact the site informs me that they have a café/bar and offer internet access. Perfect. It’s jolly hard to find a nice place to sit, have a beer and get online.

What I noticed – after finding out about HMVCuzon – was the lack of affiliate communication.

Now, I’ve subscribed to an HMV affiliate program somewhere. It was only few months ago that I got emails from HMV’s affiliate managers which detailed how HMV was adding DoubleClick tracking to their affiliate redirects. Another good idea as it’ll allow them to de-duplicate sales against search, other networks and even look at sales attribution (or click path analysis as DoubleClick call it).

So unless I’ve silently been kicked off the program (it happens) I should have got an email about HMVCurzon.

Here’s why.

There are dozens of entertainment blogs that should be part of the HMV affiliate program. These are the very blogs that would be fantastic social media / brand ambassadors. They could all be happily writing about the launch of HMVCurzon and throwing in their affiliate code/ads for HMV as valid attempts to monetise the news.

HMV have just launched PureHMV; a loyalty program. I’m a member. I had to pay £3 to join but now when I buy music from HMV I’ll collect points. I can spend those points at pure.hmv.com. One of the things I can spend my PureHMV points is ‘purefilm’… in other words HMVCurzon stuff.

So even simple retail affiliates have a reason to promote HMVCurzon; it’s an incentive to go shop at HMV.

It’s not just a lack of communication about HMVCurzon or PureHMV that may have some affiliates arching their eyebrows though. PureHMV is on a separate sub-domain. HMVCurzon has that different website. It’s likely that affiliates may loose out by linking to either one – the tracking code won’t drop the HMV cookie. What HMV should be doing is making it clear which sites affiliates can link to. Even if there’s no commission for PureHMV claims or HMVCurzon tickets their affiliate program should consider letting either be a valid destination for affiliate traffic.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Google buys Akamai

Okay; thank you for not just tweeting the headline for you see Google has not yet bought Akamai. There are rumours that the search giant will buy the ... well ... how to describe Akamai to people who don’t know it? It’s a giant content delivery network, a CDN of sorts.

Most people are familiar with Akamai only through email marketing when the domain sometimes appears in the sender field.

In truth Akamai’s services are far more complex than that. They have servers around the world and offer a system to large sites which allows a distributed and cached delivery system of content. This means Akamai serves the content rather than the original web server. It’s a way to manage load.

Google uses it. Here at bigmouthmedia we often debate just how heavily Google leans on Akamai.

There are a number of reasons why Google would be interested in buying Akamai over and above a move to secure a key supplier and slash costs.

Akamai works with dozens of ISPs and their system could, if tuned right, act like a giant data harvester. So many of Akamai’s big clients are the very sort of company that doesn’t want to put Google Analytics on their site. With Akamai’s reach (and a tweak or two) Google would have access to a lot more behavioural content analysis.

Video marketing – video in general – is really taking off. As video grows the need for super support structures like Akamai also grows.

Perhaps most of all are the Akamai team. They’re good. They’re really good and Google loves to buy talent.

I don’t know if I’ve called this one right – Google buys Akamai? Seems like a match in heaven. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw this headline for real some day.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An open and hurried response to Derek Powazek's SEO diatribe

Derek Powazek of PixishImage by Amit Gupta via Flickr

Yesterday I read Danny Sullivan’s open letter to Derek Powazek. It was the first time in ages I’ve been on Search Engine Land as my readership dropped away when the popular site swapped full RSS feeds for partial RSS feeds.

The decision to switch from full to partial RSS feeds was a business and marketing one that Danny and his team made. You could imagine that they launched Search Engine Land will full and open access in order to build up their readership (which is now at an impressive base) and then morph into a content business model to coincide with their busy conference agenda. You might call this marketing, a business plan, digital marketing, search marketing or, perhaps, even search engine optimisation.

I didn’t actually read Derek Powazek’s diatribe until Google Reader’s recommendation engine put it in my face. Now I feel as if I have to chime in.

I’m no Danny Sullivan. I don’t even have the time (I’m pleased to say) to give a full and open response to Powazek in the way that Danny has. It’s in my DNA to say something, though, so I will – quickly, between meetings and while checking my voicemail.

One of Powazek’s complains against SEO is that some of it is obvious. Don’t trust SEO consultants he says. They’ll con you.

I trust the obvious. In business the obvious is often only obvious in hindsight. Hindsight can be very costly and it makes perfect business sense to pay someone who’s fought the fight before to share their hindsight with you.

That’s obvious, right?

My main complaint with Powazek’s article is that he, like many others who chirp on against SEO, first encountered it in the late 90s or early 2000s and are now stuck there. Time freeze. There were snake oil salespeople then as there are snake oil salespeople now. The significant change in that time is how the best SEO agencies and experts have evolved.

Today we’re cutting edge. In the past SEO experts looked to the past and tried to work out keyword frequency. Today we look to the future to forecast tomorrow’s keywords. We coordinate with huge TV and radio budgets. We work with advert script writers to weigh the pros and cons of inserting a unique phrase into the dialog just so the multinational brand can optimise for it.

Today we work with fairly impressive technology. Google’s proposal to crawl AJAX based sites involves everything from headless browsers to mapping complex URLs to ‘pretty’ URLs. Why are pretty URLs important? Your search consultant will let you know.

Today we work with multivariate testing scripts to scientifically analyse the best layouts and messaging for PPC campaigns. We do this in such a way that the tests don’t leak into natural search and confuse the search engines on the actual content of the landing page or ruin the multivariate test with unassigned traffic.

That’s not “poisoning the web” – that’s working with Google to make content discoverable. That’s helping curate the web.

Helping a site migrate from one URL structure to another in a way that doesn’t leave tens of thousands of dead URLs peppering search engines, blogs and the web as a whole isn’t poisoning the web. It’s best web practise. It’s SEO.

I often think of SEO as a form of usability. Just as people can visit a site, get lost, not find the relevant content they were after and then leave the site failing to appreciate that they’ve just visited an authority on a subject – so can the search engine. In some ways SEO is about improving that search experience of the site; making sure Google (and Bing, et al) has all that it needs to judge the site fairly and accurately.

Some of what Powazek says is true. There are SEO ‘experts’ out there who recycle domains with scraped content. That is bad. That is poison. That’s not the entirety of SEO though.

Is Derek Powazek a blogger? I could write a diatribe about bloggers. I could cite all the un-verified rumours that some traffic hungry news blogs post. I could lambast bloggers for awful web design and poor English skills (look at this blog for an example!) and I could call them all blogger jerkwards.

That would be like Powazek using the phrase ‘SEO jerkwads’. It wouldn’t be fair. I’d be using the worst examples of a vibrant community to define the entire community.

If I’m going to have to come up with a summary then it’ll be this: Powazek’s stuck in the past. He needs to catch up with ethical and successful corporate search engine optimisation. He needs to consider the skill set from the top down rather than the bottom up.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Easter Eggs in Mystery Google

MysteryGoogle is a site that's doing well in the blogs today. It's even made UK trade press. It's a simple idea but quite fun. You get the search of the person before you.

Sometimes, at least. Here are a few searches to try in MysteryGoogle that don’t get normal results.

  • Hello
  • Test
  • What is Mystery Google
  • What is this
  • Gibberish
  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Poop
  • Rick Roll
  • Will you marry me
  • Bigmouthmedia Germany

Can you dig up any more?

Another dreadful Google.co.uk result - pants

Messing around with Mystery Google took me from a search for Bjornis to results for pants.

Here in the UK we don't mean pantalon when we say pants. They're not trousers. Someone should tell Google.co.uk this.


Okay, this isn't another example of Google putting US centric results into a Google.co.uk SERP. This is, however, an example of synonyms failing to be localised correctly and may hint at Google's current problem with getting good quality UK results.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

What is a headless browser?

A headless browser is a web browser without a graphical user interface. In other words it is a browser, a piece of software, that access web pages but doesn’t show them to any human being. They’re actually used to provide the content of web pages to other programs.

For example, a headless browser can be used by a computer program to access a web page and determine how wide that page (or any element on it) would appear to be by default for a user, or what colour text in any element would be, the font family used or even what the x/y coordinates of an object is.

This data is often used to test web pages en mass for quality control or to extract data.

The headless browser is significant because it understands web pages like a browser would – with the caveat that browsers all (annoyingly) behave slightly differently. Headless browsers, for example, should be able to parse JavaScript. They can click on links and even cope with downloads.

In October Google suggested that headless browsers could be used to help their search engine cope with AJAX web sites. In Google’s scenario it would be the responsibility of the web site owner/administrator to set up the headless browser on the web server (rather than a client machine like a PC or Mac), use it to programmatically access the AJAX website on the server and provide the resulting rendering to search engines when they request it.

In essence Google is suggesting that rather than leaving their search engine to parse JavaScript that that translation should be done by the webmaster and their headless browser. Google’s proposal is a set of URL protocols that control when the search engine knows to request the headless browser information and which URL to show to human users. The incentive in the proposal is that web site owners can check what Google’s spider are actually seeing.

This is a classic example of software providing data to another piece of software without a GUI being necessary.

I've been with Google since they were called GoTo.com

ANGRYImage by Akbar Simonse via Flickr

Now and then I lurk on various Google Help forums. I sometimes actually help but often I enjoy reading what people are finding challenging. It's good agency insight.

Today I noticed a strong minded individual who's clearly a little confused about where Google's come from. He's got Yahoo's search origins in mind. The first line is the giveaway!

I've been with Google since they were called GoTo.com so I'm one of their first and most loyal customers. My last postpay bill was $588 when it is clearly stated that we will be billed every $500. I always alot for a bit of overage, like $540, but this was nearly $50 over that and it caused an overdraft and a late pay to other bills. Then, I tried contacting Google by phone (my preferred method) to no avail. If Google no longer provides any phone support I'm outa here and they can kiss my $35K plus per year budget goodbye. I dont' have time for texting in chat... it's too frustrating unless you're 16 years old, which I don't think many AdWords users are. I spend way too much money to be treated this way. Currently my entire AdWords campaign is shut down and I'm keeping it shut until they contact me by phone!

Anyone else onboard to stage a mass campaign pause to protest Google's new text-only customer service policy? Let's pick a day (or more) and pause all of our campaigns... it's the only way in this age to wake up corporate punks.


One of the top 5 complaints against Google in the help forums is that there is no way to contact them by phone.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Huh-oh. Twitter backed Bit.ly flags rival Cli.gs as spam

Looks like Bit.ly's security measures are kicking in against rival cli.gs's short URLs.

It's not all that rare to get URL shorteners stacking on top of one an other; you just don't tend to notice when it happens.

This sort of stacking is commonly caused when a Twitter desktop client, set to use a tracking URL shortener, is used to fire off a retweet.

This screen grab shows what happens when Bit.ly is asked to redirect to Cli.gs. If you're curious the URL that the cli.gs points to is Flickr.com and to a picture of bigmouthmedia's Bjørnis.