Sunday, December 30, 2012

John Dies at the End vs Piracy

This strikes me as a good solution to piracy.

There are many times I wish I had the option to legally download something because there's no way I'm going to fly to America or Japan to watch something in the cinema. I'm sure there are just as many times it doesn't make sense to do a spinny disc release in the UK.

The solution must surely be a proper online release.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Badly timed Wordpress 3.5 iframe schedule bug

This Christmas I set up a number of blog posts ahead of time to be published throughout the festive season. I made use of Wordpress's trusty schedule post feature backed up by the WP Missed Schedule plugin. This is my only blogger blog.


My strategy was to target people who were fed up of Christmas TV or perhaps even not able to get access to their TV sets in the first place. I had a line up of videos to share; long trailers, to short and free movies. It might have been a good one.

However, in a badly timed bug for Wordpress 3.5; scheduled posts are dropping iframe cals. It's been set to priority: high and severity major.

In summary, if you use an iframe to share something like a Vimeo vid, and schedule that post to go live in the future (even if it's just a few minutes later), Wordpress drops the iframe. I hear reports that the same is true for embed code too. Your post will go live without the video.

However, if you're sharing video by Wordpress's shortcode method that allows you just to reference a YouTube URL then your video will still appear.

If you've scheduled either your own posts or even client posts to appear over the holidays and had thought you'd be sharing videos - you'd best check again.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Google Latitude adds location signals

I'm a big Foursquare user because I travel alone a lot. Google Latitude trails in second place but I do use it. There is no doubt that Google Local is important to me as a customer and when I put my digital marketing hat on I see Google pushing a closely coupled social-local drive in 2013.

This Google Latitude prompt is new to me. The location is pretty new so it's hard to tell off a single instance whether this prompt is due to the venue or an upgraded Latitude.

They already use wi-fi signals to get a more accurate idea of a specific location. I'm left to wonder what these additional signals might be.


I do like to see Google talking about signals. Clearly 'location signals' in this context are slightly different from the quality signals we're interested in for SEO but it's the same mindset. After the most recent quality tester guideline leak we certainly know how important location is as a ranking consideration.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Flickr tags Android Instagram as "iphoneography"

This is the morning after Instagram updated its T&Cs to be in align with Facebook's guidance. As with Facebook, advertisers can pay in order to have their message displayed alongside your photos in an ad targeted at someone else.

Plenty of people in the Instagram community don't like this. We've seen this before whenever Facebook makes a change. However, I don't think I know a single person to quit Facebook over a privacy tweak. It is beginning to look like the same will not be true for Instagram.

I've had plenty of fresh connections and activity on my Flickr page today. It might help that I've been quite liberal in cross-sharing pictures from Instagram to Flickr.

Oddly, this means I've a busy "iphonegraphy" tag.



As the yellow highlighted area above shows; Flickr has automatically (or perhaps its Instagram passing the tag to Flickr) been describing my photos with "iphonegraphy".

I've had an iPhone but none of my Instragrams have been taken with it. This tag, not set by me, is incorrect. I use an Android phone.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Crazy or clever? EasyJet "Show flights Ad"

On the 19th of December I'm flying from Edinburgh to Bristol. It turns out there are not many airlines that serve that route so I ended up booking at easyJet.

easyJet served me this ad. I'm still logged into the easyJet site.


I can't work out whether it's clever or a fail.

It could be a failure of an ad because they should have tracking in place to know that I completed that transaction on their site - even if I did shop around first.

It could be clever because, well, they know the route I was researching and know they can service it.

When I first saw the ad it looked like a check in/review flight details option. It looked like functionality rather than ad. I wondered whether or not I needed to tick more boxes to confirm my flight. I actually clicked. I think it's just an ad.

Mind you; it could be a clever retargeting third party being paid on traffic or looking to renew their tracking cookie to keep me active. If they can keep me clicking then they'll earn more revenue if I fly with easyJet again. The ad was served by Struq so I'm not sure how likely that is.

Has the FTC's antitrust investigation created a scraping economy?

In recent weeks Google has begun to crack down on commercial offerings that scrape search results data. Companies like Raven Tools and Ahrefs have made the call to stop providing this data in order to keep their AdWords API access.

If you’re an AdWords API user then, I believe, you’ve given your consent that Google can inspect your code. It appears that if Google sees the use of scraped data in there, or perhaps if it has other reasons to believe you’re engaged in SERPs scraping, then the search engine has finally started to take some hands on action.

Previously, Google’s main defense against SERPs scraping was a captcha.

Last week I speculated that Google wasn’t making this extra effort just to protect ranking data. After all, the Google Webmaster Console provides ranking data for your own website (just not that of your competitors). I wondered whether Google was increasingly interested in protecting its Knowledge Graph data too.

There are now reports that the FTC may end it’s two-year antitrust probe of Google if the search engine makes some voluntary changes. In particular; the FTC wants to see Google stop using restaurant and travel reviews from sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp.

At this stage this is all speculation.

However, if Google is limited in the data it is able to show/collect by “scraping” certain high profile sites then the search engine may be more protective of the data it shows. The difference between scraping and indexing in this scenario does begin to get a bit blurry.

The maths is fairly simple – the more rare something becomes, the more expensive it gets – and that is what may be happening with carefully ordered data. That might well explain why Google is looking to protect its own presentation of data with more enthusiasm than it has previously.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Newspaper Licensing Agency partners with the French

If you work in a PR agency, Social Media agency, buzz monitoring agency, etc, then you’ll probably have heard of the NLA.

The NLA are the people you pay when you let clients know they’ve been mentioned in a UK newspaper or website. This ruling has helped the NLA earn about £20m for their newspaper clients. The NLA is actually owned by a group of eight national newspapers.

If you’ve not encountered the NLA before and are surprised that you need to pay them a license fee for buzz monitoring and newpaper alerts then keep in mind the PR industry already tried to challenge them in the UK courts of law – and lost.

Today’s news has the NLA team up with Centre Français d'exploitation du droit de Copie (CFC). That’s the French version of the NLA. The partnership is around technology and the NLA’s eClips monitoring service. It means there will be a standard across UK NLA supporting papers and French CFC supporting papers in terms of clippings.

I’m not clear on whether this means buzz monitoring and social media services providing a clippings or alert service for French papers now also need an NLA license. I dare say we’ll find out soon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Disqus partners with Google backed Viglink to take on Skimlinks

I like Disqus and use it on most, but not all, of my blogs. It’s live on this blog. Disqus provides a good comment system, that’s easy to moderate, has a reputation system built in and is responsive to site design and browser.

A few months back Disqus rolled out their first step towards monetisation option (beyond charging for the premium service) by including links to other sites . As expected it is now possible to buy “promoted discovery” suggestions in that area. I think it’s a good idea although the recommendations have been pretty poorly matched to date. I expect Disqus to get better quickly.




The surprise extra news is that the comment engine has teamed up with Google VC backed Viglink to turn links in your blog posts and comments to affiliate links. This is done with JavaScript and they say it does not mess with your current affiliate links.

That may be true in theory but Viglink’s big competitor is Skimlinks. Skimlinks has, I think, previously offered better technology and is more established in Europe. I now have blogs running code in which both the Disqus-Viglink alliance will have JavaScript that competes with my Skimlinks JavaScript for that affiliate enriching moment.

I’ll need to test the Disqus offering. They’ll be taking their cut so I might ask why I don’t sign up with Viglink directly – I have an account. The answer to that may be in extra challenge both Viglink and Skimlinks have in applying their auto-affiliate magic to links in comments. A few years back I noticed that Skimlinks was not successfully adding affiliate tracking to URLs left in comments in one of my IntenseDebate (a Disqus competitor) comment section.

In the meantime I’ll have to turn the Disqus offering off to ensure it’s not clashing with my current set up. Disqus, perhaps because it makes them money and perhaps because users are lazy buggers who’ll not likely opt-in, have enabled this affiliate grab by default.

Disqus have created this page that describes the offering and helps their customers opt-out.

Another challenge in making affiliate links turn on by default across thousands of blogs is the thorny issue of legal disclosure. Thouands of blogs are now making money off what was once “no relationship /editorial only” links and many may not realise.

I don’t think this is (yet) an SEO issue and a Google issue although it could become so. If enough bloggers abuse Disqus to get these VigLink enhanced clicks then there’s a chance, a slim one, that the Disqus code becomes a negative quality signal. There’s no sign of that happening yet, it remains an outside shot and I’d have no problem is Disqus started applying some editorial gatekeeping to their free service.

Disqus even try and address the issue of legal disclosure. They’ve updated their “What’s This?” disclosure to reflect the presence of affiliate links. I’m not a legal expert but I wonder whether a small section in the comment system that happens to mention possible monetary incentive is enough for all sectors. Arguably, this disclosure is more than either Skimlinks or Viglink provide by default.

Disqus have other monetisation strategies to look at (and I wonder if they’re already doing this) such as selling the data they harvest on the data markets to DSPs and Ad Exchanges (in a similar way that AddThis and ShareThis do).

Disqus provide a good service and for the most part it’s free. It’s not wrong of them to look at ways of making money. It is a somewhat strange thing to wake up and find already active across your blogs though.

Thoughts turn to Disqus’ competitors and Skimlinks. Will they unite and what extra value could they bring? Will we see some M&A and could content recommendation engines like Outbrain or LinkWithin get involved?

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Google's new Gmail ads

I noticed an icon in my Gmail sidebar above one of the traditional ads.

I think this is new. Newish. The result is a new type of ad that looks like an email message.

As Google says;

It's a new type of ad that you can save to your inbox or forward on. If you dimiss this ad, you won't see it again."


Have you seen this before?

What do you think of the approach? I quite like it; it feels like a natural social ad and has the potential to be a word of mouth/recommendation too. At the same time it doesn't get in the way of my Gmail experience and does not feel creepy.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Google takes on Shazam, SoundHound

I've just upgraded my Google Search app on my Nexus 7 and it has a few interesting new features.

One caught my eye in particular; with Google Voice you can now say; "What's this song?" and Google will attempt to find the song you/it can currently hear.

Actually, Google's been able to do something like this since 2006 - even on TV programs - as this BBC report features. This is just the first time, I'm aware of, that the technology has been given to searchers.


Friday, November 30, 2012

Dear agencies; don't take the piss

This is the presentation I ran for the third Linkdex Think Tank.

The subject was "Engagement" and part of a session on blogger outreach. Engagement isn't restricted to blogger outreach, of course, it covers events, and hangouts and any sort of campaign in which natural quality signals are a goal.

First I shared some tips - but then went on to talk about belief. Agencies need to stop believing bloggers are there as assets. My number one plea/advice; don't take the piss.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

How to keep your tweets legal

Once and a while a bunch of tweets float down your stream that are worth paying very close attention too.

Sometimes, rarely, you're shared a collection of tweets that are not only worth paying attention too but are worth sharing. This happened today when David Allen Green shared some legal insight on legal liability and Twitter.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

ThingLink's Twitter integration is good news for affiliates

It’s often been debated whether affiliates can make money from Twitter. I’ve seen case studies where large brands have tweeted out offers and failed to make any commission at all.

However, I think affiliates can make money from Twitter and previously the key has been to find the right sort of tweet-deal combos. In particular, I found “no brainer” and low cost Groupon et al deals make for fantastic tweets from region/local specific accounts.

Yesterday, ThingLink announced Twitter card support which means ThingLink enhanced graphics can now appear as rich media in Twitter.

Apologies for the lack of artistic talent but I whisked up a quick example.


In summary, it means Twitter affiliates can move away from the headline/deal style tweets that seem most successful at earning commission and start to dabble in the realms of creativity again.

ThingLink allows affiliates to combine attention grabbing, retweet worthy, visuals with useful and in-context links. You could, for example, tweet great album art and ThingLink, via affiliate tracking, to the individual tracks on iTunes or add in a calendar graphic and affiliate link to ticket sellers.

You could tweet images of tech and toys, ThingLinking via affiliate tracking, to reviews or sales pages for the items you were showcasing. This works very nicely for the sort of tech that product pages early but exact specs a little later on such as mobile phones.

Of course, ThingLink is both an enabler and a challenge. The service is free up to the first 100 pictures and then asks for money. £20 a month allows for unlimited uploads and “weekend affiliates” (like myself) may struggle to earn that money back. It’s also the case that these tweets must point to your ThingLink page rather than ThingLink enabled images on your own site and that lack of control may worry some folks too.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

A busy day at the office

If you ever wonder what a digital agency does - it's this sort of thing.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Google threatens to boycott French media sites

France is considering a “Google tax” to compensate from lost newspaper sales. The idea has the backing of France’s Minister of Culture and the Minister of Economy has a draft proposal in place.

Google’s response?

The search engine is threatening to simply stop indexing French media sites.

Via France Info.

I can see why France would be considering this if the widely held belief is that Google makes money from other people's content. Google's response has generally been "if you don't want us - block us".

That's a fair response too. However, what some content owners really want is to be in Google and make money from that. They don't want the black or white of the debate and would prefer to live in the gray.

This isn't ideal for the rest of us. It's a clear cut situation now - if want Google in they come in and if we block them, by our request, Google stays out. The robots.txt is assumed to be open if there's no command (same with meta). If Google stops indexing sites because of tax reasons then that clarity is lost. That worries me.

Hat tips to Laurent and Sam Harries. Picture Dennis Jarvis.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Linkdex's new author feature

The SEO analysis tool Linkdex is currently beta testing a new feature that lets agencies and in-house teams drill deeper into who wrote which bits of content, how influential those people are and where else they're writing.

Linkdex provides a project management interface on top that allows teams to coordinate notes, avoid bothering bloggers with the same offer twice, etc.

Last week a few professional SEOs along with myself spoke an Author Think Tank and then gathered for beer afterwards. That's when the cameras caught us.


Linkdex Thursday Think Tank - Author 11/10/2012 from Linkdex on Vimeo.

Friday, October 12, 2012

How SEO agencies are coping with authorship and author rank

Yesterday I gave a quick presentation at Linkdex on authorship and "author rank". My allocation was to talk a bit about how we got here and how agencies are coping. Co-speakers included Kevin Gibbons, Sam Hailstone, Bas van den Beld and Kelvin Newman.

All other agency example were taken without permission, discussion or insight. :)


Linkdex took notes on all the presentations which you can find here.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The new click fraud and the pressure cycle

Over a year ago I wrote about the fourth arbitrage: retargeting traffic and probably did not do justice to the topic.

This video from Iponweb CEO, Boris Mouzykantskii, was filmed at the recent ATS London, is in the same sort of area, and is certainly worth a watch.

Yes, this conference has Display in mind. This is the "new" kind of display, though, the programmatic type that speaks to my search heritage and in the same language as my affiliate marketing history. It might well be the same for you.

In short, this video should intereset anyone in the bought media space; certainly the biddable media space (which includes PPC).

Monday, September 17, 2012

Sponsored Video: Nominet pitches the .co.uk TLD

I don't usually post any ads on this blog however it’s in a platform or two which allows me to see the upcoming ads of the week. As a result I noticed this video from Nominet and it’s such a good pitch for the .co.uk TLD I wanted to show it.

I’ve a host of domains. There are still certainly occasions when getting the right domain is vitally important. Everything Everwhere’s rebranding strategy would have suffered a setback if they’d failed to get at least one ee domain. In the end they got ee.co.uk. However, for many businesses the combination of social media supporting a good enough domain name is enough to build that important brand aspect.

That’s the domain name itself, though – what about the top level domain? .com or .co.uk? In the past I’ve gone to .com and then gone to .co.uk (or .net, see above) if that wasn’t available. Here’s Nominet’s pitch.



Firstly, it’s great that they’re using a brand champion for this – kudos to Tregnothan.co.uk for stepping up to the challenge.

Secondly, I think the argument that sometimes you want to be seen as “domestic” is valid.

Sure, it really helps having a .fr in France and a .ru in Russia – but the UK public is happy enough to see their brands with .com.

The Tregnothan example is a good one because it speaks to their international audience, those shoppers outside the UK, who might be interested in Tregnothan simply because to be British.

As the video says; “It comes down to some subtle details”.

Disclaimer: As noted in the introduction; this is a commercial video! The words and thoughts are all my own but Nominet are sponsoring the conversation.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Cloudflare's outages will harm your SEO

I really like Cloudflare and I recommend the service.

They've had a spot of bad luck last week, though. First there was a router fail in London which impacted some sites.



Then there was a bigger issue on Saturday which hit many more sites and made the news.

There will be an SEO burp as a result of this for some sites - but hopefully a short one.

If Google can't access your site's robots.txt then it's cautious about crawling your site at all. As it happens, some sites will have been wrestling with the Cloudflare outages just when Google was trying to access their robots.txt. Some of these sites will now be on Google's watch list. On of my blogs, Geek Native, just got the bad news email from Google.


There's not much that can be done about it other than wait. I've used Fetch as Googlebot on the robots.txt to test and confirm Google is happy now but I doubt that'll hasten the recrawl. It's interesting to note Google uses the double slash in their email between the domain and the robots.txt file name, though, typo?

Note: There could be some other weird reason why Google failed to access robots.txt on the site this week - but there's been no other outages.

A smartphone feature: Removable Battery

I've had a Blackberry and an iPhone. I have an Android and a Lumia. There's the work phone and my personal phone. The biggest decision is my personal phone - the HTC Sensation. I was paying. I wanted a good one.

One of the features that sold the HTC Sensation to me was that you can pop the battery out and replace it with a new one. This means you can carry spare batteries if you need your phone to last a while. It's less faffy and more likely to work than an external power pack. I have two spares and my cradle chargers include a slot for an extra battery.

Sadly, though, I noticed a trend in Android vendors to do without the removable battery and move towards an Apple-like soldered in battery. In fact, I was beginning to suspect that my next Android would suffer from the unmovable.

Perhaps not.

Check out this cheeky ad from Samsung US. It's a head to head of the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy SIII. It won't speak to iPhone fans but some of the features that Samsung claim are interesting (and some, I'm sure, will be debated). The very least selling point for the Samsung Galaxy SIII? A removable battery.


Let's hope removable batteries become a smartphone feature worthy of marketing. That'll help encourage the next generation of Androids to be power management kind and allow swap out batteries.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Nintendo on two-screen TV - the TVii

We've heard a lot about the second screen or even three screen strategies and the evolution of the hardware. The thing about the TV screen is that it's big, it's very public and that's why I still think about the battle for the living room but also think that glasses, perhaps even goggles and headsets might play a role.

Nintendo have announced the launch dates for the Wii U in the US and Europe today and pulled the wrappers off a bunch of trailers.



The Nintendo TVii feels more like two-screen TV than second screen TV. The GamePad is a TV controller rather than a second screen to show additional data.

One of the reasons that social TV tends to happen off the TV is that public/private divide. You wouldn't make your family watch you compose a tweet on the big screen while you watched a program. You'd pick up your phone and tweet it. If the GamePad and TVii find traction as a part of a two-screen approach then it'll be very well placed to ride the growth in social TV.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bing, Facebook, frape, Twittersphere & FaceTime added to Collins Dictionary. Trademark blow?

English: A multi-volume Latin dictionary (Egid...
English: A multi-volume Latin dictionary (Egidio Forcellini: Totius Latinitatis Lexicon, 1858–87) in a table in the main reading room of the University Library of Graz. Picture taken and uploaded on 15 Dec 2005 by Dr. Marcus Gossler. Español: Diccionario de latín (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Bing, Facebook & FaceTime are among host of new words added on Monday to the Collins Dictionary.

I'm surprised it wasn't already there - but Microsoft's trademark lawyers might not be happy. This sort of thing shows that the word "bing" isn't a trademark but in common usage. Back in 2006 Google blogged to try and avoid a similar fate. Brands like Zipper, Baby Oil and Trampoline have fallen foul of this trap in the past.

I'm certainly surprised to see Facebook in there. FaceTime with a capital T is interesting as well.

We also saw;
I can see some agency favourites in the list too; "verbal diarrohoea", "photobomb", "impactful", "faff" and WPP's "frenemy" too.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Google launches new car insurance engine

Google has launched or is testing (more likely) a new car insurance aggregator today. It'll compete with the likes of Confused (client), GoCompare (not client) and MoneySupermarket (not client) - pretty much directly.

I've been able to recreate this all morning by searching for [compare car insurance].

The interesting thing to note is how the "ad" is presented in Google. This isn't in the AdWords area. This isn't an OneBox result. This is something new. A "Sponsored".



The info button associated with the i icon says;
Based on your search query, we think you are trying to find car insurance. Clicking in this box will take you to our service that can provide you with car insurance quotes from car insurance providers. Our service is free to you but to operate this service, we are compensated by these providers.

Once inside the new finance engine users are presented with a discovery engine. This is far more attractive than Google's previous attempts in the area.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Surge in Blogger crawl errors

My Monday morning mystery is an error rush report from Google. The webmaster console has noticed a spike in 404s from this blog and the graph looks dramatic.


There's a catch, of course. I can't find any broken links. I can't even find matches to the suspect URL in the code. For example, 2009/11/1345695324000 is the 404 and yet I can't even find a mention of 1345695324000 in the HTML or JavaScript.

I suppose Googlebot could have constructed the URL by throwing together more JavaScript than I've looked through today but that's rather odd. I suppose, also, there could have been something going on on at Blogger/Blogspot and that was fixed this morning.

It'll be one to watch.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ad agency DW+H rebrands by crowd-sourcing

There's a lot of collaboration going on. An account manager from Kindling Media dropped me an email to say that ad agency DW+H was rebranding.

DW+H is using the crowd-sourcing agency Victors & Spoils to manage an develop the process. I've a press release with the PR agency Holler ink as the contact address about it.

In said press release, Amir Haque, Co-Founding Partner at DW+H says;

“We recognize collaboration as the new competition,”

“We believe that the best way for us to be successful creating positive change is to engage others. The more like-minded advocates for a better world we can assemble, the better off we all are.”

Given the number of agencies already involved, I'd say DW+H are off to a good start. They're known for their work with eHarmony.

If you fancy being part of the crowd-sourcing effort, there's a $4000 reward for coming up with the winning name/brand over at Victor & Spoils. I've not signed up so I can't see what the traction is like but I imagine a fair few folk in adland will chip in suggestions of names for $4000.

Monday, August 27, 2012

An augmented future with Sight?

I tried a few times to persuade people that glasses will have a roll in the future and failed miserably in doing so. My argument was spawned from my doubts around the success of commercial 3D TV. Putting glasses on to enable the TV is a pain. Behind near a TV that's projecting 3D, when you're not really watching, is a pain. One solution would be to build in a 3D/3D off feature into glasses that people wore all the time. That would enable choice.

Except, I don't think people would wear glasses just to achieve a 3D effect. It would require a deeper, better and more compelling reason to persuade people to don specs. Now Google's launched Project Glass and I think my argument is a bit better realised now. I can persuade a few more people but not that many more. Even with Kickstarter boosting hardware dev and projects like the Oculus Rift we're still some years away from really clever "vision technology".

Sight is a short film from Eran May-raz and Daniel Lazo. I think it does a far better job at showing what an augmented reality future would look like. They don't use glasses. They skip ahead a generation to AR contact lenses.

Of course, given this vision of the future... perhaps people won't want the technology after all.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Interview with Kevin Gibbons, MD of Quaturo

Kevin Gibbons is the Managing Director of the content marketing agency Quaturo. Previously, he was the founder and director of strategy at SEOptimise. I bumped into Kevin at the international A4U Expo, an affiliate marketing conference, in Barcelona this year and after a brief discussion suggested he might be interested in a Q&A style interview for this blog. He very kindly agreed.

Q. Why did you leave SEOptimise?

I wouldn't say there was one big reason to be honest. But it was more a build-up and combination of different smaller factors.

I spent six years growing SEOptimise into a very well-respected search agency - so I definitely look back at this as a positive experience. It's a great business, and will continue to perform very well, I'm sure.

But I think I'd reached a point (both personally and professionally) where I questioned the right route to achieve my goals and ambitions moving forward. My first choice was always to have remained at SEOptimise and taken the company in the direction I would have liked. But as with any business there's often compromises to be made - so I felt it was a good time to start afresh and go for the opportunities that were more in-line with the way I saw things heading.

Q. Quaturo got off to impressive start. Your “About Us” page lists four recognisable industry names in addition to yours; Chelsea Blacker, Gillian Cook, Pak Hou Cheung and Sean Revell. Where did all these people come from? Did you launch with enough clients to keep them all busy?

Because I was co-founder and director of SEOptimise, my exit involved selling my equity in the company - this worked as a split of cash and clients/people.

It sounds quite complicated, but it really wasn't - and was made much easier by the fact that we had two offices (in Oxford and London) - so it worked as a split, meaning I took the London team, office and clients with me - while Oxford did likewise (also keeping the SEOptimise brand).

So Chelsea, Gillian and Pak Hou were with Quaturo from day one - and we've strengthened our team further with Sean joining us last month. And with a couple of big client wins, alongside the existing accounts we brought with us from the SEOptimise split, we've definitely kept them pretty busy!

Q. Did you take SEO clients off SEOptimise which you're now servicing with content marketing solutions?

Yes - in many ways it worked as a split - so we took the clients with us that our London team worked with previously. That way all of the client relationships we built remained with the same people - so it limited any disruption.

Q. Quaturo isn’t an SEO agency. It’s very clearly a content marketing agency – with outreach. Have you turned your back on SEO?

Not at all. I definitely think link building has evolved towards a more content-focused approach. But that doesn't mean there's not a place for SEO - it's more a case of prioritisation over what is working best and achieving results with a small team.

Were a content marketing agency because great content is what we've found to be getting the best results for our clients. But I believe the best marketing campaigns should have an integrated approach - and content should be at the centre of this. Although our team has a strong SEO background - I don't see content as being just about search. You should be creating great content for PR, social media and branding reasons - with SEO and links a by-product of online success - not the main goal.

Q. Do you think the natural search industry needs to shift towards better content and outreach strategies?

Absolutely. I think if you analyse the winners and losers from panda and penguin updates during the last year, it's no coincidence that the brands coming out on top are those who having been focusing on building great content.

The SEO quick wins are disappearing and link building is getting harder. So great content and relationship building/outreach is clearly the way I see things heading - it's hard work, but it does work - and it's far more defensible in my opinion.

Q. Do you think all SEO agencies find themselves in a position to offer modern, content led, SEO now? Ben Potter's Will Panda kill the freelance SEO star? comes to mind. In other words; can an agency without content and outreach even offer SEO?

I think the term SEO has just evolved a bit more (doesn't it always?!). I think if anything it's perhaps just become a bit too broad as a term now. And to cover all angles you need to specialise in several key areas, not just one.

The way this is heading, is with SEO falling into two categories, 1) strategic consultancy and technical SEO - and 2) content marketing.

So I still see a place for SEO consultants/freelancers - it's just on it's own it misses the bigger picture of building reputation upon the platform of on-site structure. But the same can still be argued the other way too - you still need both to succeed.


Q. What do you think Quaturo’s biggest challenges will be in the next 6 months?

Scaling the team, growing our service offering and keeping the quality of our delivery very high.

The first couple of months has been all about shifting towards a more content-based approach - using everyones skills within the team where they fit best (there's some more information on this in a similar interview I did with affiliates4u last week) and having the right mix in strategy to ensure we're getting the best results possible for our clients.

We're still a small team - which is one of the reasons why we are specialising in content marketing right now. We don't have any interest in being just another search agency. I want us to be the best at what we do - and right now that is content marketing. Also the main reason behind the name Quaturo is that it doesn't mean anything! This allows us to adapt and pivot our focus - so that we can build into a more integrated approach, rather than trying to do too much before we're ready.

But we have big plans in place - I have very clear ideas on the type of people I want to bring into the team to help us grow - and we've been working hard behind the scenes on some very exciting things to really push things forward!

Q. Do SEO agencies, PR agencies and content outreach agencies essentially look to exploit bloggers?

In some ways, yes.

But I think with Google authorship especially, it's become more a case of working alongside great bloggers, as opposed to exploiting them. I think you'll see that if you can get hold of a good blogger with a strong social profile, they're worth their weight in gold. So rather than using copywriting services to place blog content - you should be approaching great bloggers and leveraging their existing relationships and contacts instead. Plus if they're that good, pay them a premium and take them off the market, away from your competitors!

Those longer-term relationships are going to pay off much better than one-off guest blogging placement requests in my opinion.

Q. Do bloggers have a realistic understanding of their value to brands?

Definitely, bloggers are becoming very switched on towards the value they have to brands.

We've found travel bloggers especially know their worth when it comes to approaches such as guest blogging. That's why you have to build strong relationships - or at least be more creative and create content that's so good they can help but link to you or share it!

Q. So bloggers which expect a few hundred pounds to post about some news or who charge to post infographics are offering good value?

I would almost try to distance myself from the SEO value of a link when assessing this. That can easily get you into the paid link game, when content should really be about building a defensible, natural strategy.

As a general rule, if it's a link that sends you significant traffic and high visibility to a relevant audience, it's likely to be worth the advertising cost. If it's just placed for the purpose of a link, it probably doesn't represent good value, certainly not long-term anyway.

Q. What’s your view on infographics?

I think infographics are still a great way of getting your content generating a social buzz and of course attracting links.

It's obviously a very popular tactic right now - so you really do need to stand out amongst the crowd by creating something very good if it's going to perform well. We're seeing HTML5 infographics getting a lot of attention at the moment and these certainly seem to be the biggest thing right now.

I think it's fair to say infographics have become a bit overused by SEOs - which led to Matt Cutts saying they may be de-valued in the future - but if you focus on creating something that's really good for your audience and look to generate natural links via social promotion and outreach I think this is a sustainable tactic. I'd expect to see the submission-based infographic galleries getting devalued in the near future though!

Q. Do you think outreach agencies and bloggers understand rules around disclosure of internet? What do you think the chances of some brands or bloggers being hit by the OFT for nondisclosure before the end of 2013 are?

Honestly, no - I don't think they do yet. And I'm not sure they will until we start seeing examples of people being hit heavily by the OFT. I'd like to think agencies are taking this more seriously, but I'm not sure if bloggers even consider this as a risk at the moment.

Q. Thanks for your time. Let's leave on a high - can you make one positive prediction for the evolution and growth of content and outreach marketing?

I think that SEO is getting harder, and link building will become solely content-based. Old tactics and easy submission-based or paid links just aren't having the SEO value anymore, especially post-penguin. So the focus has to shift towards great content and relationship building/outreach.

That can only be a good thing in my opinion and as a result the industry is becoming more grown-up - with conversations focusing on content as it should be, a key marketing strategy.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Is this the most incredible Google result page ever?

Google is rolling out Knowledge Graph to all English language locations. Included in this rollout is Carousel - which puts a strip of image matches at the very top of the search results in response to a search that suits a list result.



I've not seen Carousel in the wild yet - but I have been looking. In Google's video they suggest [moons of saturn] as a search that should trigger the Carousel.

However, the current results for [moons of saturn] is simply incredible. Once extended (and it's not extended by default) this Knowledge Graph search doesn't just push the organic search below the fold - it pushes the organic results two and a half pages below the fold.



Click to enlarge.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Kickstarter, the brewing hardware revolution and marketing

I have the word “innovations” in my job title. This means I’ve some responsibility for watching the current trends in order to extrapolate possible futures for digital marketing.

This is an area close to my heart. One of the reasons SEO was born as an industry was because neither PR agencies nor marketing agencies saw it coming or wanted a piece of it when it was young. Affiliate marketing thrives on innovations - with clever affiliates trying things before anyone else.

I think connected TV will be big. That’s not a hard prediction. It’s hard to work out when connected TV will be big and how it will manifest in our living rooms. It could be something as simple as the internet being used to stream TV content onto TV sized screens. It could be more complex like social apps built into the TV’s software or integrated social sharing.

The thing about connected TVs is that the technology is rolling forward fairly slowly. We also know which companies to watch when it comes to the technology. We know who makes TVs. Rumours like Apple’s iTV are easy to spot.

Although software innovation races on at an incredible pace, with internet startups springing up all around the world and not just in Silicon Valley the rate at which hardware has been progressing is much slower and confined to far fewer companies.

Or is it?

There have been a number of “almost curveball” developments on the crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter that have kept things less predictable.

At the time of posting, the Ouya project has 60 hours still to go and has raised $6,790,620. I wonder if a last day rush will take this project to over $7m. That’s incredible.

Ouya’s promise is to take Google’s Android OS and bring it to a small portal. The goal is to ensure gaming consoles survive the future by being affordable. The Ouya is very interesting to me as an “innovations” person in marketing because it’ll accelerate the rate at which living rooms find themselves equipped with connected TVs (if they can turn $7m into success). As the Ouya is also an Android then it could well see game consumption, perhaps TV, linked to your social ID far more quickly than without it.

The Ouya is not alone. The Oculus Rift made it’s $250,000 target on launch and today, with 25 days to go, has raised over $1.3m.



The Oculus Rift is the promise of cost effective and yet high quality virtual reality in the living room. It’s being pitched as a gaming device however the applications are far wider.

Imagine what it would mean for TV advertising if augmented reality became fairly established in households? That’s a big “what if” now but in some ways the attraction of virtual reality is stronger than 3D. 3D without the glasses impacts everyone in the room. 3D with glasses is just the same as virtual reality in terms of the “hassle” of putting on glasses – except without the lure of virtual worlds or, for example, the ability for different people in the same room to have a different visual experience.

In the Ouya and the Oculus Rift I’ve picked two high profile and extreme hardware examples. They are just examples. Kickstarter is full of other, alternative, hardware projects that have possible implications for “intention”, “attention” or “social”.

Some other quick examples; Blink is a very simple idea that has raised more than $100,000 and gives users the ability to pick a few (very few) internet actions that translate as a visual light/a link alert. Twine lets household objects communicate with the internet. Simple.TV is a DVR device that will bring network TV to all your devices.

People have cool ideas. In the past in order to turn a cool hardware idea into reality you needed connections and funding. With Kickstarter, and alternatives like IndieGogo this is less true (although connections always help). Any plucky engineer with a great idea could pop up on a crowdfunding platform and introduce a curveball.

I don't see this hardware revolutoin as a bad thing at all, it's not the Robopocalypse at all and I actually enjoying chipping in with a few quid to support exciting new projects. However, just in case you're worried - here's some tips on how to survive the Robopocalypse.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The pros and cons of embedding external links in YouTube videos

The average punter cannot embed a link in an actual YouTube video so that it points to an external site. They can add a link to the video's description or use YouTube's Annotations to add certain types of actions - but not offsite links.

The LinkedTube site lets you take a YouTube video and place your own overlay on it. That's a start but it means the link layer doesn't appear on embeds elsewhere. The video affiliate platform Coull lets you build a similar video, with their overlay, for shared affiliate links. I'm going to come back to affiliate marketing in just a second.

However, it is possible for brands with certain spends to create YouTube videos with external link overlays. For example, check out this brand new video from Bethesda Softworks that shows off the (gory) pre-order bonuses for gamers who buy via Amazon (different shops have different pre-order bonuses).



I watched this video with an affiliate's hat on. I wanted to blog about the pre-orders and link to the sites taking part. The catch? The video links are affiliate marketing no-go zones. I can't get my tracking links into place on them. Rather than being a strong affiliate marketing asset, these videos are something of an leak.

That said; unless you watch the video on full screen mode it is quite hard to click on the link! YouTube's progress bar pops up to block your mouse.

The advantages of embedding links into these videos are clear - traffic.

In this particular example, a number of different retailers are involved and Bethesda might actually benefit from their attempts to promote their version of the video (helping it match [Dishonored pre-order] and related searches on YouTube).

I suspect the affiliate leak risk wasn't considered - wrong teams - but I also suspect only a few fan site affiliates will shy away from running the videos because of the leaky link. That'll be good news to everyone involved. It'll only be the hardcore affiliate model retailers that now consider the vids off limit.

The oppertunity for Google to do something very impressive with the Google Affiliate Network and YouTube is clearly there.

However, as we're yet even to see Google Affiliate Network action for Google Play my suspicion is that we're in no danger of Google integrating affiliate marketing into a far more liberial external link overlay policy any time in the near future.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

When will I get my Nexus 7? Pre-order, shipped or delayed?

I pre-ordered my Nexus 7 on the 28th. That wasn’t first out of the blocks by any means but still fairly early. I used Google Play for this – which was a new experience for me and for Google.

I’ve found tracking the order difficult. Until recently I was using a “hack” to see whether my Nexus 7 had leapt to the top of my Play order history as a sign of activity.

At almost exactly 10:00pm (GMT) I get an email from Google to say that my Nexus 7 has shipped. I’m giving a TNT tracking link that I can’t get to work.

At just before 3:00am I get an second email from Google to say there have been delays in shipping due to demand.

All Nexus 7 8GB orders will ship by July 20, and Nexus 7 16GB orders will ship by next week. We’ve upgraded your shipping to overnight so your your order will arrive sooner.

There’s a brand new support page on Google to explain the delay.

I’m still hoping that my personal “has shipped” email overrides the broadcast “are delays” email.

That said, while skimming through blogs this morning I’m still encountering adverts for the Nexus 7. These big graphics invite me to pre-order the device.

Surely we’re safely beyond the pre-order stage now, Google? You’ll have to watch that ads are updated in a timely manner or risk getting an official “aah-hem” from the ASA.

Monday, July 16, 2012

After Earth uses Facebook timeline for movie trailer

We'll see plenty of this sort of style promotion in the future. It's the modern alternative for having picture book or other storytelling method in the ad.

In this instance, Sony are using the Facebook time to reveal the background to M. Night Shyamalan's upcoming sci-fi film called After Earth. It stars Will Smith and his son Jaden. The story picks up as the two crash into the now unfamiliar and dangerous Earth.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Art of Logo Design

This is a good little video for Sunday. It's a brief look at the art and history of logo design.

I sometimes bash creative agencies for charging a large fortune for logo design - perhaps I shouldn't. It's certainly very hard work to create a corporate logo that will survive the test of time. We've had logos that have changed hugely - think of Apple's evolution from the Newton sketch through to the simple bite. We've also had logos that feel like they'll last forever - Coca-Cola being a strong example here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Will Ouya be Google TV by the backdoor?

The buzz today is about million dollar Kickstarter pitches from the world of gaming. There's the Penny Arcade plan to do without ads. This may or may not be successful. What will be successful, at least within Kickstarter, is a bold attempt to raise $1,000,000 to produce a new type of gaming console.

In fact, Ouya has raised nearly $3,000,000, is selling out - and has three weeks left to raise funds.



I'm a backer. I want that Founders Badge. I want that extra controller - after all, the Kickstarter might be the only time ever to get a Ouya and the controllers. It could succeed with crowd funding but then flop commercially.

Mind you - Ouya could be a huge commerical success. Free games? Cheap games? That's bound to be attractive to many people.

If Ouya does succeed and succeeds on a scale then, for the first time ever, Google has an Android device hooked up to the TV sets of many households.

Google very much wants Android devices hooked into TV sets. Android 4.0 was the first generation of the keyboard-free OS to be designed for all sorts of devices; smartphones, tablets and even connected TVs.

Google TV has yet to be a success. It might still be successful but it needs to find content. Google has done deals with content producers like Sony and this is a start but Google TV needs TV content. TV content is controlled.

The same problems will not haunt Ouya. Ouya will enter a market where developers create many games and often offer them for free.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The incoming new affiliate reputation battle

I'm due a post on the rise of incentivized shopping. It's going to be big. My blogging is backwards, though, as I'm writing about the incoming reputation battle that will come with it.

Why?

I'm inspired by TechCrunch's Josh Constine's post titled Ecommerce Sites Pay You To Peddle Their Affiliate Spam, But This Pin Is Not For Sale.

Josh doesn't like The Fancya for adding an affiliate link for sharing content. Josh thinks it is selling out and that users who do it are selling out. He think it'll create spam. In fact, the URL for his post is http://techcrunch.com/2012/07/09/affiliate-spam/.

Here's his opener;

It takes a lifetime to build up social capital, but now it’s easier than ever to burn it all to earn some discounts via new ecommerce discovery site affiliate programs. But why should Fab, or The Fancy, or other Pinter-esque services care? They’re not the ones getting spammed. It’s Facebook and Twitter’s problem.

But that’s bullshit.

He could have had this rant at Faba if he was this closely attuned to the dangers of spam because Fab rewards shoppers for recruiting friends to the platform. That link to Fab UKa? That's my reward link.

At least he acknowledges that affiliate marketing is not new. He notes;

Yes, sites like Amazon have long had affiliate programs, but they were pretty clearly designed for career or at least hobbyist marketers.

He argues that Fab, The Fancy and others are different because the affiliate program is baked into the system whereas a platform like Amazon puts a secondary registration system in place.

I don't think that's entirely right. It's commonplace to see member-get-member deals advertised on TV. Sky, for example, makes it easy to claim £75 in vouchers for bringing a friend to the empire. Many social and casual games on the web offer member-get-member bonuses.

Besides, does it make a difference? Even if Amazon or eBay have an affiliate program, slightly to the left of mainstream, that tends to be used by "career or at least hobbyist" affiliate marketers - so what?

I don't think it makes any sense to try and argue that casual users are more likely to suddenly become black hat spammers and bombard their social networks with affiliate spam on behalf of The Fancy than "career or hobbyists" are.

Affiliates have had their PR battles over the years, this is true, but it's never been caused by the masses and always by one or two individuals who are trying to make a career out of it.

That said - the big difference in the digital world of today from the early era of affiliate marketing are the social networks.

Incentivized shopping and sharing will grow. Everyday users of social networks are now empowered to easily share stuff they like on ecommerce platforms - so they will.

At the launch of Unruly Media's Social Video Labs the expert Frank Rose presented the scientific evidence that sharing results in a squirt of dopamine being released by the body whenever we successfully share with the community. We have a chemical impulse to share - and that will combine powerfully with incentivisation.

The challenge is with the platforms and users. Constine said it's not Twitter and Facebook's problem - but it is.

Facebook and Twitter have already been taking action. One of the reasons we have the t.co URL shortener is so that Twitter can try and filter outbound clients. Twitter tries to block any dodgy outbound clicks in order to protect the user experience.

The affiliate network Buy.at is no longer with us, now part of Digital Windows, but there was a time when Facebook would block outbound clicks via some of its tracking links because of spam concerns. That proves affiliate action on the social networks is not new and that it has been an issue for Facebook.

It's also an issue for the ecommerce sites. Social CRM has grown necessity. It pays to look after your customers. In the near future we'll see brands and ecommerce platforms stepping up their Curator Relationship Management too - the new 'CRM'.

Curators will play a significant role in ecommerce in the future. If you don't believe me then I'll cite another TechCrunch article, this one by Sarah Perez, that notes Pinterest Traffic Passes Google Referrals, Bing, Twitter & StumbleUpon. I suspect we'll see similar headlines over the next few months - just as the tech press tracked the rise of the social networks in detail.

All this means that there is a reputation battle coming up.

The social networks will have to protect their reputations by finding the magic middle between blocking spammers but allowing social incentivized shopping.

Brands and ecommerce platforms will want to tap into the powerful rise of incentivized shopping and sharing while making sure they don't become synonymous with a bombardment of annoying messages.

Users, everyday users all the way through to digital natives, will have to establish new etiquette around incentivized sharing.

Note: All the links in this post marked with a superscript Aa are platform affiliate links. If I was running Skimlinks or the Google VC backed VigLink then that would be happening automatically for certain links and I would be relying on their disclaimer technology.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Anatomy of a Google+ "viral"

On Monday I shared a video on Google+. For want of a better word; it went viral. This was my first such widespread exposure on Google+ even though Google+ is probably now my preferred connected platform.

The video went viral for two reasons. Firstly; it's a good video that comes with a significant twist. It shocks some people so watch at your own risk.



Secondly, I encouraged the first dozen or so shares myself - persuading people to pass the video on to their circles. The strength of the creative was that it didn't take much more than a dozen or so of these encouraged shares before the momentum picked up.

Google+ Ripples feature provides a great way to see how the spreading occurred. You can see the live spread here.


The size of the circle indicates extra resharing from the audience that user addresses.

The latest version of Google+ does not have a "hot" section people can access directly (nor does the mobile) but it does have Google+ Explore. My post featured there. I know this because I was checking. I don't know whether the post ever earned a little flame corner tag and started to appear in people's mobile streams.

On sites like Delicious.com or Buzzfeed.com you tend to get notification when your content has been "promoted" from the main stream to a greater awareness. I didn't get any such notification from Google for this "success".

Facebook only shares Page content with a percentage of users (and its testing methods to let brands increase that value). Twitter has a busy stream with tweets rushing past and which are easy to miss. Right now, I feel, Google+ is a far easier place to push content so that it becomes widely shared.

Google+ shows all posts to everyone, like Twitter, but will also re-position content so that users can see more popular shares more often. This means that the combination of strong creative combined with a basic media understanding will take you long way on Google+ today. There are accounts, plenty of them, earning a significant chunk of followers by just curating strong visual content.

Observations


The Google+ Android app is quite good at finding that balance between alerting you that your post is getting comments and not nagging your for each and every comment.

Many people did not seem to understand the creative idea. A common comment was;
But she's not driving a car!

One commentator wondered if a car had crashed through a wall, one pointed out that she had been hit from behind so was not at fault and another suggested doctors and 'abortionists' kill far more people.

Some of the comments came from people who clearly hadn't watched to the end - thanking me for the tutorial. Other comments came from people who wanted to find out how the tutorial would have ended.

Are there lessons from that? Just the that the more people who see your content the wider the range of type of person you have to deal with becomes.

The connection between Google+ and YouTube is quite strong. I know many people who can only see the improvements that are needed but Google+, to me, feels like the early stage of a social TV network.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Future proofing your SEO

On Friday I shared the Creative Link Building Tactics video that came from ionSearch this year. That was an unexpected sit-in. The video below is for the Future Proofing Your SEO Efforts session.

The Future Proofing Your SEO Efforts was the main panel I was invited to speak at. It also wrapped up the conference. As you would expect there's a tendancy for link chat to pop up again and again but I think we managed to cover mobile, HTML 5, social and stress the importance of a multi signal approach.

Other videos from the conference are here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The new 301 SEOs should think about: views

There's a quirk on YouTube - once your play counts hit 301 (or thereabouts) they freeze. The catchup comes half a day afterwards, sometimes later.

Numberphile, a YouTube channel popular with geeks like me, managed to get access to YouTube to ask this question. They got a response too.

YouTube answered the questions directly and perhaps there was no reason to wonder if people watching the video were also people who think a lot about search and video marketing at Google. The single takeaway from this video is that Google/YouTube treats video views as currency. That's a significant nod to anyone in search but not surprising. It backs up what Adam Lasnik said about video search many years ago in SES London (2008, I think).



The fact that we're dealing with the magic 301 (aka the 301 redirect) is just a bonus.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Creative Link Building Tactics

I enjoyed my trip to the first ever ionSearch conference in Leeds a few months back. It was a good collection of speakers and strongly complemented by a savvy audience. I was there to talk about future proofing your SEO campaign but stepped in to join the Creative Link Building Tactics panel at the last minute to cover an empty seat.

ionSearch was videod. I think the videos were initially for sale - but they're free now and you can find them at this ionSearch videos hub.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Marketing the last Olympics

I’m not a sports fan. Not at all. So I have to watch that I’m not too sceptical or even cynical about the Olympics. It helps to remind myself that I much prefer countries competing through track events than in war events.

I am, however, a strong fan of digital marketing and the rules and regulations around marketing in the Olympics have troubled me. They seem impossible to enforce, hard to follow despite making every effort to do so and fail to understand that in this Age of Influencers the general public are also digital marketers.

The promise, the silver lining, had always been the predicted boom to traditional advertising that the Olympics would bring. Lots of focus on London, lots of people engaged and excited, lots of reasons for brands to be upbeat and out there. Yeah?

No. Today, writing for Media Week, Maisie McCabe has a story that suggests the Olympics has scared off TV advertisers (gated).

Media agencies are predicting that TV ad revenue could be down as much as 10% between July and August compared to last year. An unnamed source said;

”Q3 looks a little wobbly at the moment with both July and August lower than expected. However, they’re both relatively small months in comparison to September.

"I think [September] will really give the best indication of whether the market will hold up through Q4 or whether we’re in for a prolonged drop in revenues."

Another source, this time a TV buyer said;

"I think advertisers have been scared off by the Olympics. The expected drop in commercial impacts is probably scaring them off with the expected price rises in the offing."

In short, it sounds like it is very difficult to advertise in the Olympics. Traditional advertising seems expensive and digital rules are woolly at best.

With the current state of regulation in the UK today it will be impossible for brands to ever mention the London 2012 games unless they’re a sponsor. Even then, it’s not clear whether a brand who was a sponsor in 2012 but isn’t a sponsor for Rio de Janeiro 2016 can make mention of past events come 2016.

It seems likely that countries and the Olympic bigwigs will have to recognise that adverts are no longer transitory. Today, thanks to the internet, they live forever. This makes some form of sponsorship and sponsorship restrictions tricky.

The Olympic bigwigs certainly have to recognise that the public will take photographs and engage in geo-stamped social networking. These photographs will show non-sponsored brands in Olympic context and some will be popular. The combined audience of this level of UGC will out reach anyone Olympic ad.

In fact, I strongly wonder whether 2012 will be the last Olympics to have a go at enforcing the old style of rules. It seems that the 2016 organisation will have to rethink and find a new way to balance the benefits of being a sponsor with the reality of the digital age.

I think a balance is possible.

One area to look at is whether there needs to be a digital infrastructure around the Olympics. Host countries invest hugely in the physical side; with trains, tracks, hotels and all sorts of practise centres. Should there also be digital landscape investments too? Should there be an official site for uploading your Olympic photos? What would such a site have to do to add value to the community? It’s an interesting debate.

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Kicking one Google+ myth in the head

English: Google+ wordmark
English: Google+ wordmark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I'm not one of the digital marketing community who likes to bash Google+. I actually like Google+. Always have and I feel my loyalty to the platform, and time spent on it, is being rewarded as it is evolving in the right direction.

On Google+ I find myself among strong gamer communtities and popping in and out of craft and photograph communities too. It might be funny to joke that Google+ is just populated by SEOs and Social Media heads but it is wrong.

One of the claims that bug me when people report on Google+ is the one that suggests people aren't posting - that it's a ghost town.

This strikes me as a failure to understand what Google+ is offering.

Google+ is offering you a way to share content with your friends in such a way that a stranger can't come along, check out your profile and work out whether you're using Google+ or not.

Or am I just being defensive?

One way to find out is to pop into my Google+ stream and count the number of posts in the space of 180 seconds. I want to see what percentage of them are public compared to limited. How much of Google+ is protected by the privacy that Circles offer.

This test excludes comments on posts. The 3 minutes run for this test happned to occur between 16:10 and 16:13.



Fine, okay... This micro survey doesn't manage to kick anyone in the head but it surely suggests that a percentage of Google+ content isn't available for public scrutiny. In my 3 minute test 50% of posts lived behind Circle shares only.

I also think eight posts in only 3 minutes isn't too bad either!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Why is Google messing with blogger domains?

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...
Image via CrunchBase
Google has started to redirect visitors to blogspot.com domains from the UK to blogspot.co.uk domains.

For example, try this googleblog.blogspot.com link if you're in the UK or this BodyOfAGeekGoddess.blogspot.com one or even this paperwalker.blogspot.com domain. If you're in the UK you'll end up on blogspot.co.uk.

I use Blogger.com for this blog too - I use Blogger's custom domain option to stick the arhg.net in there for better branding and ease of leaving the platform. I get hundreds of emails very day, so may have missed it but do not recall getting an email alert from Google to tell me that Blogger and BlogSpot would act like this.

Why does it matter?

It matters because bloggers often have to register their domains - especially with advertisers. It means if BlogSpot users are running affiliate banners, for example, that they might be losing out on sales because the networks are discounting traffic coming from the unregistered domain.

Equally, the enforced domain redirection could be messing with analytics scripts.

Update

Google has written about this - on this help page. I'm still not sure how/if they alerted people.

In summary it's been done for censorship.

I thought this comment was telling;

Q: Will this affect search engine optimization on my blog?
A: After this change, crawlers will find Blogspot content on many different domains. Hosting duplicate content on different domains can affect search results. We are making every effort to minimize any negative consequences of hosting Blogspot content on multiple domains.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The audience IPO

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase
I thought it was going to be too late to blog about the Facebook IPO – no matter how interesting it is. However, today, we can read up on the discovery that Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs (the underwriters) decided to downgrade their view on Facebook and cautioned their investors on the social network’s lack of mobile monetization on the 9th of May.

This isn’t illegal. It’s just crumbled cookies to everyone else.

The Facebook public offering has been called a giant technology IPO. In stock market terms Facebook does count as a technology stock.

I’ve been calling it an audience IPO.

I treat the Facebook IPO as an audience IPO because investors are essentially tapping into the huge walled garden (fed by the Facebook platform) filled with the social networks’ mammoth user numbers and betting on that. They’re betting that this audience will make Facebook money.

I think there can be little doubt that Facebook is able to make some money from the audience via the desktop experience.

A reporter challenged me as to whether Facebook had reached its peak when it comes to monetization. I disagreed. I think Facebook can earn more from the desktop experience and I see opportunity, rather than challenges, in the other two significant digital channels; mobile and connected TV.

A trivial way in which Facebook could make significant extra revenue from the desktop without interrupting the user experience at all would be add the Google VC backed VigLink to the site. Facebook could earn from purchases inspired by the network. If they didn’t want to support the Google venture then Skimlinks, as once tested by Pinterest, could be used instead. Facebook could even conditionally turn the affiliate tracking on and off depending on whether brands were spending.

Alternatively, Facebook could introduce its own pre-roll on video content or ads overlays. YouTube has taught the web to accept this on videos. Facebook could move on the back of that acceptance. Facebook could even do that to YouTube videos in a way similar to Coull.

So what about the mobile and connected TV audiences? The connected TV audiences do feel like an issue for the future but it is not that much of a stretch to imagine causal gaming on the platform and Facebook’s potential roll in that.

The mobile app already includes “trending stories” and that is an easy route to monetization. The Karma app deal is another very obvious but clever step towards more mobile money.

This post isn’t to defend the IPO price. We will have to see whether it was talked up and then almost secretly cut by the insiders before the rest of the market could react.

This post is to say that Facebook’s ability to connect to an audience across desktop, mobile and connect TV is where I believe the value in the company sits. I think the social platform has plenty of growth left in all three of the digital channels when it comes to this audience.