Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Hacking Season – a challenge to digital agencies

Hacking: The Art of Exploitation Second EditionImage via WikipediaYou may have heard the news about a rather nasty leak from Japan. Er. No. This one.

Today Microsoft has also started to issue security warnings about people attempting to run phishing scams on Xbox Live. This, of course, sparked some concerns as to whether Xbox Live had dedected some sort of incursion.

Not that long ago email marketing providers Silverpop and Epsilon were also hacked in yet another attempt to get your data.

All this hacking is taking place against a backdrop of declining email spam. Some reports suggest email spam is down some 30% after the Rustock botnet bit the cyber bullet in March.

It’s certainly tempting to ponder whether the Sony hacking has been carried out by the same people as the ESP hacking. I suspect that’s too good a story to be true. The reasons for the hacking are the same, though; has it gets harder to trick people to respond to spam or phishing emails the incentive to simply take that data by force rises.

It’s also horribly evident just how much black hat SEO hacking is still going on. In these cases sites are being hacked on the sly, not to gain data, but to hide links and attempt to manipulate Google’s algorithm.

I think hacking season will change digital marketing. IT security will become another skill set that digital marketing agencies will have to – if not provide – be aware of. A few years ago this would have terrified me. It would have been a struggle for any boutique agency. Today I’ve the security blanket of being able to run things via the security experts among the LBi tech teams. There are, of course, plenty of really good boutique digital agencies out there who will successfully respond to the changing landscape by bringing this expertise in or develop it in house.

I’m reminded of what ex-Enfatico and now Google’s head of agency business development in the Americas wrote just yesterday in a guest post on AdAge. Boone wrote that “Technology is out in front of our creativity, challenging us to tap into the white space it creates on a seemingly continual basis.” He also wrote about the fragmentation and complexity of the landscape and sadly security is likely to be one of the significant fragments.

Unicorn badges may not repel head lice

As I write this blog post the ASA's official list of "Non-complying digital advertisers" is empty. However, the ASA have made their first ruling and it's been reported by Brand Republic. Here's the summary;

Unicorn badges may not repel head lice.

That's right. The ASA upheld a complaint made against the Maperton Trust by finding there was a lack of substantiation in health product claims. In particular, the trust's website claimed a device, a unicorn badge, would be effective in repelling head lice from children and adults.

The Maperton Trust, who are unfortunate in being the first the ASA has ruled on and therefore in the limelight, told Brand Republic;

We amended the wording to meet the requirements of the MHRA. Unfortunately this revised wording does not meet the requirements of the Advertising Standards Authority. We have altered the wording to meet one statutory body and are sure we can change it again to meet another statutory body.

‘We have had very good feedback from customers and the device is sold with a 90 day money back guarantee.

Thanks to Google, you can still find the offending page - which makes me wonder if some SMEs or charities like the Maperton Trust may struggle technically once the ASA makes a ruling.

Here's the offending text;

The 20 years research by The Maperton Trust, which is concerned with the holistic approach to health, has produced another winner to help people with a difficult health problem.

The Head Lice Repelling Unit (HELRU) is a small device using the latest technology to repel head lice from infesting children and adults. It is in the form of a badge of the Unicorn and is pinned to the clothing of the individual.

It is designed to be completely safe to the wearer. Its effect on head lice is to repel them.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Google A Day: Was It Worth It?

My last blog post here was rather cheeky. I was making the claim that people could and would game A Google A Day for traffic.

A Google A Day is a new daily quiz from Google which encourages people to search. With just a little bit of poking it's possible to see what the questions (and answers) will be ahead of time. Google's not daft. They tweaked the A Google A Day engine to cut down on the real-time signals to obscure any answers being surfaced by people attempting the quiz on that day.

My post took a stab at answering the question for the next day. It seemed to have worked.

What does this prove? This little academic test was to illustrate how more attractive keyword forecasting is compared to keyword research. I don't care that lots of people searched for [laptops] in 2010. What will people be searching for in 2012?

Even better; what will people be searching for just after I can can publish some content and use my influence to attract attention to it? If I can crack that combination of forecast-influence-attention then I'm in the twin heavens of SEO and Social Media delight.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Bob is Robert, Bob Marley is Rohan's brother. Talkin' Blues will make you rich.

Google are pushing a new trivia game called A Google a Day. It's a simple idea; you get a quesiton and the Google interface. The question encourages you to search but you still have to be clever to come up with the answer.

Here's the thing, though. You can look in the code to see what the questions will be for the rest of the week. Yeah. I should have mentioned. This post containers spoilers.

The question for tomorrow is;

My name is Robert. One day before my brother Rohan's 19th birthday, our father had an album on the Billboard 200. Name the album.

Talkin' Blues

Talkin' Blues is the answer so I predict we'll see a surge in searches for that. Along the way we'll see people searching for Rohan Marley, Bob and Robert.

If I'm right and this blog had impression ads then I'd be having a good traffic Tuesday. Of course, Google may be sly dogs and change the questions in the code. This could be a content farm honey pot. In the interest of science; I'll take the risk!

Did Google see this coming?

Yes, of course. Google aren't stupid. The Google A Day site is a special one; looking at Google's results from the recent past. In fact, the code says;

You are searching Deja Google – A wormhole inspired time machine that enables you to solve today's puzzle spoiler free by searching the Internet as it existed before A Google a Day launched.

The question is whether this works? Whether blog posts written a day in advance or a few days in advance count as "existed before".

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Gartner: Microsoft to beat Apple's iOS by 2015

The headline news from paidContent is that cheap Android Devices will ensure Google dominates the mobile OS market well into 2015.

The Gartner report has Symbian shrink to a mere 0.1% marketshare, RIM reduce to 11.1% but Android surge from it's 2010 base of 22.7% to 48.8%.

That's the headlines. What caught my attention was the contrast between iOS and Microsoft. iOS grows, but only just, edging up from 15.7% marketshare this year to 17.2% by 2015. Compare that to Microsoft, currently with Windows Phone 7, who move more impressively from 4.2% marketshare to 19.5% by 2015.

Before we think whether or not Windows Phone 7 can do that I think we need to mull over when the next mobile OS from Microsoft will be out. When will we see Windows Phone 8? I suspect, in order to be successful, we'll be up to Windows Phone 9 by 2015.

Will we have Windows 9 by 2015? You know; the OS for the PC in the post PC area. I'm not sure.

Despite what happens with the evolution of OS I'm sure that Microsoft and shareholders will be extremely pleased to see Gartner project a 500% increase in marketshare and a move into second position ahead of Apple.

Do you agree with Gartner's highly paid research brains?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The fall and rise of QR codes

I've noticed a whole batch of QR news in recent weeks. I like the QR format but I suspect that's partly due to Google Goggles being fantastic. I've watched iPhone users struggle when they've come across the first QR code that's caught their attention.

I think it's clear that QR codes won't always work. They'll not always be deployed correctly. Mike Blumenthal has noticed that Google dumped QR codes from the Places Dashboard. Despite quite liking QR codes I never had a reason to use them for Google Places.

Ged Carroll found another clear QR code fail too. This time from CNN.

I still think that's progress. Had the news bar not cut across the image then it would have been a fairly effective way to capture an action. Who watches TV with a pen these days? I bet more people would be happy to point their phone at the TV from the comfort of their couch.

Indeed, a photo from my own too-large TV in a a too-small flat shows a TV QR code working (this time the V+ box in the way is my fault). This is part of a Discovery channel break, part of a set, and Google Goggles scans this image quickly, without the need for cropping provides me an easy way to mobile to their site. Despite Carroll's photo of the failed CNN attempt - I do think QR codes are one of the pathways into a multi-screen strategy.

Still on the TV screen, but in a new medium, and we find Richard Gregory encountering QR codes in a boxing game. Glancing at the image he's captured (which is all rights reserved, otherwise I'd post here) suggests to me that Lynx's deployment of the ad works well. It's an advert in the floor of the boxing ring. It's a "looks like real life" makes-sense enhancement to the game. Richard doubts it would work with Call of Duty. I think he's right... but then it's all about finding the right context.

I suspect we'll continue to see QR code wins and QR code fails in the near future. My instinct is that we'll see more wins than failures.

In particular, QR codes seem to mesh well with NFC payment options. You'd point your phone at a QR code, which also happened to be planted above a NFC system, and your phone would walk through a "would you like to buy?" option.

What do you think?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Like it! Gullible is a trending keyword on April Fools

I like it. It's April Fools. We've had a wash of April Fools' jokes. Some good. some not so good. On an unrelated not - I'm officially banned from any more jokes until the end of the day!

In a sign that it's been a successful April Fools for many pranksters Google's Hot Trends are showing that [gullible] is beginning to trend.

The LinkedIn April Fools

April Fools is a time when the internet goes nuts. It's great fun. Lots of attention to be won for the best pranksters. I've already had my Foursquare checkin at work try and pretend it wasn't going to count. Since that checkin was on an Android and it's too hard to screengrab on that OS I can't share with anyone.

LinkedIn's April Fools needs a bit of help to get noticed too. Try adding some new contacts today. You may well discover some interesting characters in the "People You May Know" section.