Monday, December 23, 2013

Can't sacrifice your audience for more ads

I'm still in various stages of testing Coull with my blogs. I like the idea. Take a video - a video that would be there anyway - and add a Vidlink. This is an affiliate link from the video.

I think the point is solid. This isn't about squeezing in more ads onto a busy page but monterising your content.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Post Office's success on Vine

I like what the Post Office is doing with Vine. They make for easy and engaging tweets and the strategy shows people how easy it is to mail parcels.

I don’t know whether an agency or an in-house team is involved but these 6 seconds certainly speak to growing role we all have as publishers.

I discovered the first Vine through a retweet. It was labelled number 4. Vine have a lot of work to do on the web. It’s not currently possible to view a profile page by clicking anywhere on a web version of Vine. We’d all benefit hugely if that changed.

To find the Post Office’s Vines I wanted to blog about here I had to use an advanced Twitter search to restrict to just to Post Office tweets and then look for a mention of Vine. They’ve done a lot and more than just these four wrapping examples.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

How to get traffic stats for your Google+ profile

The social networks don't really give you great analytics. Sure Facebook and Twitter both now offer free insights; but these tend to be on clicks - not how many people actually visited your profile page.

It may be a bug rather than a feature but Google+ is the exception. It is actually possible to work out how many people looked at your profile.

What does it take? You need to be an author. Once you're a rel="author" then WMT will start to show you the performance of your content.

By the way; you don't need to have analytics access to these sites to get this data. If you guest post on a blog and include your author link you'll be able to see how well that post did.

This is also a useful thing to know if you're writing for a blog network that pays you for each impression. You can check stats yourself - but don't go picking fights because WMT isn't the most accurate beast.

The ability to check stats on other sites extends to your own page; your profile. You may need to browse through your author stats for a while before you find it though. Here's mine.

Lost? These stats are part of the "Author stats" selection under Labs.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Why do I sometimes see natural search keywords in my analytics?

In the name of data privacy Google runs all web search through SSL. The result? Well; one of the results is that you'll no longer see keywords for natural search in your analytics.

Sometimes you do see keywords in your analytics, though. So what's going on? How come you see some keywords but not others.

There are a few answers. The first is that right now (this may change) is that keywords are still being passed from Google Image search. Needless to say, it might be another search engine other than Google responsible for the traffic too.

However, it's also possible that a network owner has stripped the SSL off. Starbucks do this. In response, Google shows a warning to searchers - your data might not be secure. In this scenario Google even refuses to show personalised results. That would matter to you if you let Google prompt you on emails, calendar invites and Google+ messages.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Think Tank Summary: Predictions for 2014 Digital Marketing

I was lucky enough to be invited to Linkdex's Think Tank for 2014 Digital Marketing Predictions. I had 15 minutes to share my thoughts and decided that was plenty of time to run through; SEO, PPC, Social, Display, Performance/Affiliates and Data.

My title focused on the last talking point I wanted to raise; "Is the future of Search no search?"

I'll embed my presentation below but that's not the interesting bit. The interesting bit is that a host of very clever folks came and shared their predictions too. I'm talking about Paul Doleman of iCrossing, Leah Katz of Edelman, Andrew Smith of Escherman who I finally got to meet, David Harling in his new role at MoneySuperMarket, Stephen Croome of Firstconversion, Andy Miller of BlueGlass, Stefan Hull of Propellernet, Nick Garner of 90 Digital as well as Linkdex's own Matt Roberts and Stephen Lock.

I sat in the front row and ran a tally of common themes. Okay, so these are the themes I decided so a little arbitrary and I had some overlaps; for example I tracked "mobile" as well as "screens" the latter being those predictions that talked about multi-screening, connected TV, wearable tech, etc. I had data and measurement although there's clearly an overlap.

The chart shows that over 63% of speakers brought up mobile and measurement issues. The next most common topics were content, data and integration. Integration being that thorny issue of getting SEO and PR (or their agencies) to work together, getting Search agencies to work together and that sort of thing.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Nice: The Skimlinks Editor

I can't say I'm a "big" user of Skimlinks because that would imply I make any real money off affiliate marketing. I don't. I make pocket monkey as a hobby - but love every minute of it. I use Skimlinks in my little hobby a lot. It makes more sense that joining networks and wrestling with tracking.

One of the tools I wished Skimlinks has was a way to look up products. If I'm going to blog about X then I might as well include an affiliate link to somewhere that sells X. I can't do that yet. The next step would be to tell me which item Y was getting a lot of attention/clicks/sales and suggest it as a possible blog topic.

What Skimlinks can now do via their new Editor is alert to me to when I'm on a site that is in Skimlinks' system. It'll tell me the commission and give me the share URL for easy social media linking.

They've got this from their purchase of Invisible Hand. You can tell because the same tool also offers alternative pricing when that's possible.

For example; see Argos on the left and the Editor on the right. In the alternative pricing I can see that the Nescafe / Krups machine is £20 cheaper at That's a 33% less. Useful. No?

Friday, November 08, 2013

The Cincinnati Hack: newsjacking, cracking and online movies on the rise

You’ll have heard stats like Netflix being responsible for about a 30% of all bandwidth consumption in the States. There are plenty more similar figures. Sandvine’s research notes that YouTUbe accounts for 20% of all mobile downstream traffic in Europe, North America and Latin America. Filesharing (sites like BitTorrent) is on the way down but in regions like Asia-Pacific such sites still account for 30% of traffic from fixed access networks. Meanwhile, accessing legitimate sites is on the rise. Netflix mobile data double in the last 12 months in North America.

If you look at some of the latest movies you’ll see spiky interest. This familiar Google graph shows interest over time for [watch bad grandpa] and [watch thor online]. Not only is there search demand but there’s a short lived perfect window to rank for the phrase.

What’s the best way to rank for a short period of time for a highly competitive keyphrase in Google? Google News.

That’s what The Cincinnati Herald is doing in this screen grab. The Cincinnati Herald as every right to be in Google News. It’s the longest running African American newspaper in Cincinnati, dating back to 1955.

It’s being hacked though. There’s a window.location.replace script messing things up for them. You can see it on pages like their /nov/04/bad-grandpa/ and /nov/01/thor/ pages.

<div class="content_title">
<h2>WATCH ONLINE HERE Watch Jackass Presents Bad Grandpa Online : Watch Bad Grandpa Online Full Movie Free HD</h2>
<div class="content">
<p><img onload="window.location.replace('');" src="" height="110" />

Notice the domain the JavaScript redirect is using. In the Thor and Bad Grandpa examples the two URLs are; is owned by Google. This doesn’t mean Google are part of the hack. Webspace is easy to find these days. In fact, it means Google is better able to thwart the crackers by simply disconnecting their blog.

Sadly, I suspect we’ll see more SEO inspired hacking/cracking in 2014. Fortunately, Google et al are rolling out more tools to help webmasters fight back and defend themselves.

Hat tip to Michael Thomson for the spot and screen grabs.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Ad or not? Bing does search box call outs

Bing has been my default search engine ever since Google announced the end of Google Reader. This doesn't mean I don't use Google (I'm especially fond of Google's search by image abilities) and today I wanted to quickly hop from Bing to Google. I searched Bing for Google.

That's a pretty clever response from Bing. I'd seen their banner like prompt before but this call out feels more effective to me. The question is, especially with Bing calling Google out for less than transparent practises, is this an ad or not?

It smells like an ad in so far as it's promoted content (native ads?) but it certainly doesn't look like a search result.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Google rolls out Google Now Alerts via SERPs

This is pretty new and I like it. Google's now letting you use Google Now as an alert service.

You can see the the "Keep me updated" button in the screen grab below. I triggered it via a Voice search but have re-created with a text search for [Who is David Tennant].

If you click the button Google replies by saying;

You will get updates about David Tennant in your Google Now cards

Google Now tends to be associated with mobile devices. This is one of the first explicit desktop to mobile command you can do (although there are plenty of implicit ways to connect your Google Now with your desktop searching).

As of yet I've not received any David Tennant Google Now alerts but should I do I'll try and take a screengrab.

Anyone able to re-create? Or has this been around for ages and I've simply not noticed?

Friday, August 02, 2013

Search engine optimisation becomes a specialism

I’ve been doing SEO before it was a “thing” and certainly before it was called search engine optimisation. I’ve seen it through many life stages and love it still.

I think the era I loved SEO the most was when it was a speciality. Arguably, in recent years SEO hasn’t been a speciality. People have used phrases like “standard link building”, “business as usual” or even “hygiene” to discuss various aspects of the skill.

While I’m not suggesting that some important hygiene aspects of running a site do not influence your SEO (page retirement strategies, for example, retailers) and that SEO had become rather productised in recent years I think this is now changing.

SEO has returned as a speciality.

To be successful in SEO today – and importantly; tomorrow – you need to engage and activate audiences. Links that matter (should you care a lot about links) are those that have been earned from platforms and publications that are trusted. I’ve written about this in my The Link Singularity series.

So what’s the difference between Social Media and SEO then?

Social Media is certainly about making connections to audiences, engaging with them, being useful, telling stories and building interest, buzz and intent.

Media today is social. All media is social; just ask the dancing pony, those promoting a new movie as the initial tweets come in or special offer sales designers.

The difference between SEO and Social Media is what you hope to achieve. Social Media’s challenge is to engage with audiences. The SEO must go further. The SEO must engage audiences and earn the signals that matter to Search – links, signals, and demand.

For example; what’s the difference between a social media infographic and an SEO one? The SEO infographic will generate links back to the target brand. Good SEOs know how to do that. Yes, even the infographic.

Another example; social media might manage a blogger outreach campaign to get some writers to cover a new product release. SEO experts know how to get that coverage and increase the chance of getting links back from those bloggers and to the write client page.

One more? Sure; content marketers know how to market content but it’s the SEO specialist who knows what sort of content will attract links, signals and which audience has the highest propensity to link and share in the first place.

Picture credit: Andrew Adams

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Link Singularity: Why SEO must be allowed to fail

Last week in The Link Singularity: Propensity I wrote about the increasing quality threshold that had to be reached before a link mattered in contrast to the decreasing chance of earning a link from a high quality site.

This week I’d like to address why SEOs must be allowed to fail. The risk of failure is one of the most import factors when it comes to determine whether the link is a good one or not.

In summary; any set of actions you can perform as an SEO that will create a link, without any real risk of failure, will create a link that Google is likely to want to discount.

Let’s dig in. In the very old days SEOs liked directory submissions. They worked as a process. Once you had that process in place you could rinse and repeat and be assured of links. Google initially accepted (and recommended) directories. Once the claim of editorial quality became a nonsense across the directory landscape Google had to step away from them.

The situation would have been different if a successful directory application had remained a rare thing. If directories had been harshly curated then directories would continue to have been counted as a quality signal. Instead we got directories with no chance of failure and therefore too many directories with no merit.

SEOs turned next to articles and article marketing. It was the same story. SEOs liked the approach because it could be turned into a process and once that process was shapely enough there was no risk of failure. As there was no risk of failure, no challenge in getting an article published, Google had to discount those links and warn against the tactic.

We see the same thing on guest posts; the battle again. Will guest posting become a process that, when followed, there is little risk of failure? If there was no editorial challenge, no risk of failure, then will the links produced by tactic be links Google wants to count tomorrow?

There are certainly two factions within guest posting. There are blogs that allow too many of the wrong type of guest posts. These are the blogs with less strict editorial decisions, more likely to appear in SEO process sheets and with a lower risk of failure. These are the blogs most likely to appear in disavow requests tomorrow. There are also the blogs in which guest posts are rare and earned. These are the blogs with very strict editorial decisions, that SEOs rightly assign a high risk of failure to when considering pitching a story too and these are the blogs which are most likely to be able to offer positive links tomorrow.

We see the same struggles emerging in content marketing. SEOs know that the right sort of content could attract links and other signals that matter. Some SEOs cannot win client sign off or dislike content marketing because the risk of failure is too great if links are your only goal. Despite your animated storyboard being very clever there is a chance that no one links to it. Some SEOs are looking to turn content marketing into a safer, process based, approach in which pretty much guarantees links. This is why I have a fear around the word “distribution”.

In contrast, links that have been earned from outside a “building process” are more likely to be links that carry their value up to the day of the The Link Singularity. Afterwards? That’s anyone’s guess.

Let’s go back to the animated storyboard example. You’ve got one on your site and you’ve pitched it to bloggers, editors and curators. This hasn’t been a distribution process and so if any of that audience to write about, share, link to (all signals) the storyboard then the timing, the phrases used and networks will be distinct and natural. If the buzz they generate grows then it’ll grow naturally and it’ll count.

If this collection of bloggers, editors and curators have kept themselves clean of pit traps like link selling, undisclosed advertorials and the rest then their publishing platforms will remain trusted.

Give me actionable insight again, damnit!

Two shifts are needed; one from SEOs and the other from clients.

On the SEO side we must accept that an insistence on clinging to safe, process based, link building is more risky than it is safe. We must reconfigure our approach to earning signals so that we will accept failure.

That said; SEOs can structure their work to allow for the risk of failure but minimise the risk of it. Our animated storyboard, for example, could we design one that might interest tech bloggers (how it was made), and travel bloggers (the story it tells) as well as local press (the mention of the cities).

The ability to engage with audiences is part of the evolution of SEO.

The second change comes from client side. SEO sits more on the earned media tier and less on the paid for media tier. It is scary but SEOs need permission to engage audiences and risk failure. Don’t ask for a processed approach to old school link building. Ask for a modern approach to earning links and other signals. Judge SEOs, whether they are agency or in-house, by their ability to manage risk rather than avoid it.

Picture credit: Blue Square Thing

Friday, July 19, 2013

Trolling the link buyer with the sponsored post scam

This is a naughty thing to do. It's even more naughty to blog about it. Okay, I guess this means I'm naughty. I will, however, redact the name of the guilty and of the brand in question.

Please note; I liked the brand. I would normally have blogged about them elsewhere. This sponsored post request has made me less likely to link to them, not more.

Today's email banter started when they sent me a reminder. I had been ignoring them.

I contacted you recently as I was hoping you would be interested in producing a sponsored article for us to host on your site [].

The client I am working with is [redacted brand], A [redacted something I blog about]. We are looking for articles focused around [redacted list of things I blog about (for free)].

The article needs to:
  • Be over 300 words.
  • Contain a single follow link ('no follow' links not permitted)
  • Be of original content.
We are able to pay up to £45 for each article produced. We pay via Paypal within 48 hours of the article going live. The Deadline for this project is Monday 22nd July, ideally we would like the article live as soon as possible. If this is something you would be interested in then let me know asap, and I can provide you with further details on the articles. I look forward to hearing from you, even if it is just to decline the opportunity. Best wishes,


This email came from a YMail account. My first challenge was to see whether or not I could get beyond that. I wrote;
Hiya, I went to a blogger event which told me not to trust any email from a non-branded account! Do you work for a PR agency?


Their response named and shamed themselves;
Hi Andrew, I work on behalf of a UK marketing agency, [redacted Search agency]. Best wishes,


This told me the first bit of gossip but left the issue of the sponsored post open. I thought I'd push my luck.
Thanks for that. My notes from the blogger event also said I'd have to put nofollow on the link otherwise my blog could get in trouble/discounted from Google. Actually [redacted brand] could get in trouble if it's not done that way. Do you still want to pay for the post if the nofollow is not added to the link?


Would they pay for a link with a nofollow in place? Place your bets now;
Hi Andrew, No problem, I'm afraid we were looking for follow links, so I'll have to pass on this occasion. Thanks very much. Best wishes,


At this point you know they've written me off. They're cursing those of us who try and play fair with bloggers. They think I'm worrying too much. I'm wastiing their time. I felt like a little more time waiting, though. I wrote;
Hiya, I'm really confused. I'm happy to link to [redacted brand] because of what they do and who they are. If they're paying blogs to link to them without the nofollow that means blogs who link to them without the nofollow might get in trouble and become "toxic". So I should stop linking to [redacted brand] all together because of the risk?


In all fairness, they did really well. I got a prompt and polite "stop waisting my time" email in response. It said;
Hi Andrew, Sorry for the confusion, don't worry, I'm sure what you are doing on your site is fine. Best wishes,


I'm disappointed in the brand. I've never once had a link removal request to the blog in question. In theory if I did start to link to you that might contribute towards changing the status of my blog. After all, Branded3 are selling their blacklist of 80,000 domains. It's a chunky piece of work. I can see why they would.

As a blogger you don't want to be on that list. If I had agreed to the sponsored post with dofollow link then, in theory, I could have taken a step towards ending up there.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Link Singularity: Propensity

The term “the Singularity” is borrowed from maths and science. It’s used to describe that point in time in which computers become superintelligent. The singularity is the moment at which working out what happens next becomes almost impossible to predict. Life will be very different after the singularity and drawing on past experiences to work out what it might be like will not help. You can guess what happens next, sure, but you can’t predict.

In this blog post I want to write about the Link Singularity with a focus on propensity. By propensity I mean the likelihood of a site linking to you. If you run the world’s best cute kitten picture discovery site then Buzzfeed has a high propensity to link to you.

Let’s get some background on links and SEO.

Google used to recommend link directories. Recently, Google stopped mentioning links in its basic guidelines to webmasters. These days the search engine recommends creating sites that users will want to engage with and share.

Links still have great SEO value. They’re probably one of the strongest signals the search engine considers when evaluating sites.

Bad links result in bad SEO. Sites with unnatural links can be punished. These unnatural links could have been built or bought by SEO agencies and in-house teams. These links might also have happened naturally. If Google can’t see other qualifying signals for the link signals then the search engine gets suspicious.

Good links result in good SEO. One of the challenges that SEOs face today is that the threshold for “good link” is creeping higher. Yesterday’s acceptable link is today’s bad link.

Guest posts are a case in point. The concept of directories lasted nearly a decade and article based link building lasted nearly five years. Guest posts were hot just a year and a half ago but now it seems like the heat is very firmly on the tactic.

Guest posting is in danger of being the next article marketing.

Some SEOs will disagree with that sentence. There’s no danger, they’ll claim. Google’s just blowing hot air to scare SEOs off. Even if that is true – it’s taken Google a lot less time to talk about the dangers of guest posting than it did to crack down on article submission and directories before that.

To get good links you need to earn successes from increasingly high quality sites. The challenge? The higher the quality the site the harder it is to get the link (indeed; any interaction).

For example, for this post about links and digital marketing, the BBC news site has a low propensity to link to me, Search Engine Land has a mild propensity to link to me and Twitter has a high propensity to link to me. I can count on Twitter because I’ll tweet this myself.

Let’s graph this. With apologies to those who work in analytics; let’s bubble graph this.

The x axis shows units of time. They might be months, quarters, years or Google update cycles. All that matters is that they show time moving forward.

The y axis shows the quality rating of the site. Once again this is an arbitrary rating. If you’re reading this post you’ll have an idea of what is meant by a quality site and a low quality site.

The size of the bubble shows the link propensity and the placement of the bubble shows the quality of site necessary for a link to count.

What the smear-like graph shows is that over time the sites you need to get links (and other signals) from in order to assist with your SEO become higher in quality and less likely to link to you. I’ve charted the linear average and you can see that eventually there are no more easy targets.

What does this mean?

This is a time factor in the link singularity. Once we cross that line then SEOs will need to think about their link strategies in ways we find hard to predict today. We can only guess.

Give me some actionable insight, damnit!

Intentionally this is an “academic” post. I’m using inverted commas there since the word academic seems poorly used to describe any of my thoughts. That said, there is one clear, actionable message.

You may believe there is some truth in the supposition above. You may believe Google became unhappy at guest posting more quickly than it did on article marketing and more quickly than it did on directories. You may believe high quality sites are less likely to link to you than splogs.

If you believe any of these points then I’d suggest you spare some thought for the link singularity. Now is the time to be trying new tactics and testing means to engage with the highest quality sites in order to earn signals (and not just links) for your site or your clients.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Three examples where link building could be illegal

Eric Enge has an insightful interview with Google’s Matt Cutts on the Stone Temple site. It’s called “Link Building Is Not Illegal (or Inherently Bad) with Matt Cutts”.

If you’ve not already read the interview then I recommend you do so.

“Illegal” is an interesting choice of terminology. Google doesn’t make the law so breaking their terms and conditions is unwise but not illegal. It’s actually similar to the ASA’s code of conduct (the CAP) here in the UK; those rules aren’t the law but breaking them is unwise.

Of course, in this sense the word “illegal” is just being used to mean “a breach of Google’s rules”. That said, there are some link building tactics that are illegal because they do break the law.

This post isn’t legal advice, I can’t give that to you. This post also has a completely UK focus. There are all sorts of quirky laws for almost every country and if you’re a professional digital marketer you should know then. In France, for example, it was illegal to use wifi outside, although I believe that rule has now been loosened or better explained. This would mean link building from your garden, on your laptop, in France would be illegal.

I hope this one is common sense. Hacking is illegal, albeit sometimes the laws they use to enforce this are a bit weird.

The UK’s Bribery Act of 2010 (applies to England and Wales, Scotland and North Ireland) carries a maximum of a ten year jail sentence, disqualification for being a company Director and was once described as “ the toughest anti-corruption legislation in the world”. A bribe is a “financial or other advantage” to an individual in exchange for improperly performing a function or activity.

This is where it gets tricky. As a rule of thumb (not a lawyer, remember) this means if you pass someone (a blogger, say) some cash to do you a favour (like write about your client or add a link) when they weren’t going to do otherwise then it is a bribe. It’s a bribe because Section 4 of the act defines “improperly” in conjunction with the expectation of good faith or impartiality.

I know. It’s a horrible shades of grey situation. Rather than suggest I know I how to untangle it I just suggest you need to be aware of it. Yes; there are regulators and groups within the UK who have in the past heard the description of some paid link tactics and described them as bribes.

Equally, if you are handing money over to bloggers, editors and site owners for coverage and links then you need to make sure you record that expense appropriately or you may also be breaking some financial laws. Who knows whether you can claim VAT back on paid links?

The UK Regulations of Unfair Commercial Practises has this to say on content marketing (Page 27, PDF link)

Using editorial content in the media to promote a product where a trader has paid for the promotion without making that clear in the content or by images or sounds clearly identifiable by the consumer.

This means if you pay for a post that makes the public (ie, the blog readers) aware of a product or service and it is not disclosed as a paid for post then there’s an issue. Of course, you can have an image that discloses the relationship and not have nofollow on the links. That would have you in breach of Google’s guidelines but not the UK’s.

Based on my personal experiences as a blogger it is this last law that has a nasty twist. I’ve had emails from agencies that specifically requested that I did not mention any relationship. This isn’t always SEO agencies; equally as often PR and Social agencies trying to create a “natural buzz”.

There you go; three examples in which Link Building might be illegal. This is not legal advice, I can’t give that, and is intended only as an interest piece and point of discussion.

Image credits: Hacking, Bribes and Disclosure.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

How to share and archive your Vines or Instagram vidos to Flickr and YouTube

Now that Vine has come to Android and Instagram video has launched I’m filming more videos. I’ve nothing, clearly, against Vine and Instagram as platforms but neither a great for embeds and or shares outside their parent platform.

Fortunately there is a solution.

I use an HTC One. I assume that most Androids are similar and predict the iPhone and WP8 is different. Whenever I film anything in Vine or Instagram then I also get an MP4 of the video saved in my local gallery. This means Android users can tap their menu button and access the gallery "app". On my HTC One all Instagram stuff is saved in a "Instagram" album.

For a Vine video the re-share is easy. Just access the video, hit the menu button and then share. If you’ve YouTube or Flickr apps installed on your phone then you’ll be able to share to that platform.

(A 4 second Ouya unboxing, unlike Vine, Flickr does not loop)

The catch is with Instagram videos and Flickr. Instagram saves in the .mkv format and will rarely be larger than Flickr’s various size limits. However, mobile upload attempts fail complaining about size and desktop attempts dislike the file format.

Sharing the Instagram .mkv to YouTube is easy though.

(Sample Ouya game play, with live internet radio streaming provided by the same device)

Monday, July 01, 2013

Digital marketing myths: T-shaped people

The phrase T-shape people was coined with good intentions, used with good intentions and those same good intentions have been responsible for agency designs, blog posts, consultancy white papers and insight.

The problem with good intentions, though, is where they take you.

The premise of T-shaped people is that brands need the help of cross digital experts. It’s awkward and less effective to have a whole gang of people trying to coordinate a brand’s digital marketing efforts. The SEO needs to be run to assist PPC. PPC needs to be coordinated with Display. Display needs to be used in conjunction with Performance Marketing. All of this is social. T-shaped people are those who have mastered not one digital service but many and can now run point for that coordination.

I-shaped people make sense. The bottom of the “I” represents new starts, rookies and people with basic skills. The better the digital marketer gets in their service then the higher up the “I” they climb until they master the service and reside at the top.

The myth of T-shaped people begin with the strange assumption that by giving someone who has mastered one digital service a new job title or added responsibilities that they’re somehow at expert level at adjacent digital services.

How does this happen? Just because someone’s mastered SEO does not mean they’ve any talent for PPC.

In fact, if you’re running a team and you’ve an expert SEO and some PPC staff too it makes no sense to put that SEO on the PPC account for them to pick up experience while the PPC trained staff take a stab at the SEO. No sense, dangerous, silly.

So how is the expert going to become T-shaped? The only way up to the expert layers is through the I-shape. You can’t skip the bottom layers.

There is an argument, I’ll admit, that there is room for some osmosis. That’s to say that an SEO expert who goes to all the PPC meetings, listens in, joins in and discusses will pick up plenty of PPC skills. You do learn from experts.

However, in order to even hope for skill osmosis you need to have digital service experts to learn from in the first place. The danger with chasing T-shaped people is that employees never reach the top of the “I” before they need to worry about other channels. You could end up with underscore-shaped people instead.

I don’t believe in T-shaped people. I don’t think it’s possible to skip the bottom of the learning curve.

I do believe in people who can effect change in more than one digital service. I spend as much time reading and engaging in performance marketing as I do in search engine optimisation, after all. I make the effort to learn from every PPC or display campaign I can get a look at whether that’s an enterprise level one or a pet project. I don’t consider myself T-shaped.

Do you agree? Do you chase the T-shaped vision?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Cross Digital: As affiliate networks become marketing agencies

Last year we discussed whether Affiliate Window was a network or a performance agency.

In general the word “performance” is used where affiliate once was as the industry has grown and become inclusive of more strategies and solutions. The question then is whether Affiliate Window was an agency.

The new "Cross Digital" - Hub and Spoke
That’s not to say that the affiliate industry has won the “war” to own the term performance. The Cannes Lions brigade will still use “performance” to mean any aspect of digital marketing in which the client is expecting tangible results from. To them “performance” is anything that is not client commissioned art/creative.

This week Rakuten LinkShare has announced a new approach and is moving in the same direction as Affiliate Window. It’ll eventually become Rakuten Marketing and that will likely include not just the old Rakuten LinkShare (affiliate) but also Rakuten MediaForge (display and re-targeting) as well as lead generation and PPC services.

The move is, in part, inspired by the fact that more of Rakuten’s clients use a different number of platforms with the company. Scott Allen, a New York based VP, said that more than 50 clients used affiliate marketing as well as their display and re-targeting services.

So is this “cross digital”?

Cross digital, if you’ve not encountered the term, is one of those awkward phrases used to describe agencies, solutions and sometimes individuals with skill sets that extend beyond one service area like SEO or affiliates to more than just one. The “more” is generally undefined meaning that agencies, solutions and some individuals will claim to be cross digital if they feel confident in two service areas whereas others will aspire to the full gambit of digital services before applying the title. That’s the historic definition, anyway.

That means Rakuten LinkShare has become part of a cross digital solution in the umbrella group known as Rakuten Marketing. The group still isn’t fully cross digital though as it specialises in paid media solutions – missing out earned media solutions like SEO and Social or owned media like Analytics and Conversation Optimisation. Actually, SEO isn’t just earned media, it’s largely earned media but that’s a discussion for another post.

What few claimant to the “cross digital” title has generally intended to include in the description or aspire to are the supporting services that enable digital marketing to happen; services like hosting, design, build and production. It’s certainly also rare for any agency, or former affiliate network, to talk cross digital and then talk about video, in-game ads or transmedia.

I think it is pretty much impossible to be fully cross digital if you’re simply counting digital services. There are always new areas of digital marketing opening up and the boundaries of responsibilities seem always to be flux.

The debate is whether you’re a specialist or not. In either case you must be an expert. Clients do not appoint agencies that don’t have the expertise to solve the problems they’ve been hired to tackle.

If you’re not a specialist then what are you? Are you a generalist? The term doesn’t seem very flattering and asks the question; can generalists be expert?

The trend seems to be to use the word “agency” instead. That’s why we’re seeing affiliate networks recognising that their emit has grown, that they’re more than a network and so have become “performance agencies”. They’re also performance agencies with some strong cross digital skills.

That’s why I think the historic use of “cross digital” is wrong. It shouldn’t be about counting services. You can’t count the services because the boundaries change, the services evolve and new areas are invented.

If the industry wants to keep the term then the definition needs to change. I propose that a more meaningful way of thinking about “cross digital” is to ask whether the agency can integrate its tactics and solutions with the work that other digital agencies are doing.

The new definition of “cross digital” would then put the emphasis on the ability to share data, work with others and to use expertise in your service area to amply other campaigns.

A cross digital agency is part of the hub-and-spoke model for structure and resourcing.

Does that mean affiliate networks growing to become rounder digital agencies are cross digital? Yes, if they share data, work with other agencies and therefore act as either hub or spoke it means they are.

Image credit: Jason Finch

Friday, June 21, 2013

Edtwestival: Gearing up to Twestival Edinburgh 2013

The local Edinburgh digital community is vibrant and talented. An example of this are the superstars who stepped up to the mark to make sure that EdTwestival happened this year.

The meetup for charity will be in a new venue this year; Summerhall aka Fringe Venue 26. This puts the event on the doorstep of Edinburgh’s tech start up incubator TechCube (1 Summerhall Place) and this can only help to ensure there’s a good mix of digital marketers and innovators present.

I’m looking forward to it.

The charity we’re supporting this year is The Yard. This is an indoor and outdoor adventure playground for young people with extra needs.

I know about The Yard via Children in Need and DIY SOS as they featured in this year’s show. Here’s Lorraine Kelly to tell you about the charity.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Official: How to Uninstall McAfee Antivirus

Are you a fan of McAfee Antivirus?

Judging from this video put out by the actual John McAfee I sense that the company's founder is not a fan. As the oddball makes clear; he's had nothing do with the company for 15 years but still gets hounded about it.

I understand his frustration but this is still a very odd video to put out. It's not safe for work, either, due to swearing, guns, and hired lady help.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Take two: What is SEO?

SEO is not dead. It’s evolved. More importantly, most of the industry now accepts it has evolved.

Modern SEO requires agencies and in-house teams to do more than just ensure their sites are technically perfect and have links pointing to them. Modern SEO requires sites to have many different quality signals, earned naturally and high up the quality scale. I talk about a multi-signal approach. I talk about how modern SEO straddles all of paid, owned and earned media but place the emphasis on earned media.

An earned approach to SEO has led to significant changes in tactics, in strategies and even how agencies position themselves. We’ve seen companies become content marketing agencies, blogger relationship experts or even a willing supporting part of Hubspot’s impressive marketing efforts and adopt the phrase “inbound marketing”.

This is all good. Evolution is good. At times SEOs can be surprisingly stubborn when it comes to accepting or embracing change. The next generation of SEOs might be more flexible.

The strategies may have evolved but the objective has, largely, remained the same; do better in the search engines.

Clients are not being behind the times when they want to improve their SEO. When a brand calls for an SEO pitch they’re looking for an agency which is best placed to solve the problems of traffic, conversions and sales from search. Brands don’t call a pitch on tactics or strategies, brands appoint agencies to solve problems and neither content nor outreach are problems; they’re solutions.

Where does that leave S.E.O. then?

Once SEO stood for [search engine optimization]. It’s the phrase Google still uses. It even also managed to stand for [search engine optimisation] too; with the very busy and thoroughly excellent UK SEO scene having content coverage and generating enough searches to override the automatic American spelling suggestion back when that rarely happened.

I tend to think of SEO as standing for something slightly different these days. SEO, to me, stands for ‘search engine objective’.

“Help with our SEO” means “Help with our search engine objectives”. “We need to improve our SEO” means “We need to improve performance against our search engine objective”.

I hope SEO continues to evolve. I want to see the industry embrace change and work on campaigns that transform brands digital marketing into earned media strategies that add value and win engagement from communities (yes, those communities with the ability to generate signals; like links). I predict that it will.

I also predict that we’ll continue to see requests for “SEO” for a good few years yet.

What is SEO? SEO is your search engine objective.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Next gen consoles fuelling the Battle for the Living Room

It has been a while since I first wrote about the Battle for the Living Room and when I called out the three main players: Google, Apple and Microsoft.

We’ve just had Microsoft announce the Xbox One and now is the time to return to this slow burning but incredibly important tussle.

I do not believe the TV is the “first screen”. I don’t worry if I can’t check the TV. I don’t take my TV to work, on business trips, on holidays, to friends and my TV won’t interrupt me with news while I write this blog post. The mobile screen is the first screen.

TV, however, is the screen central to the Battle for the Living Room. The company who controls the living room isn’t just an entertainment giant. Is it as a company who will be able to exert significant influence on family budgets; holidays, Christmas and FMGC.

If there’s a runaway winner in the Battle for the Living Room then there will be a company who controls the last mile of all TV advertising. That’s why Google TV, to date, has failed. The cable companies in the States closed ranks and said “NO”.

Microsoft are now taking that gamble. Here’s a summary of the Xbox One announcement stream.

What’s missing from the clip above are the numerous references to E3. E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo and perhaps the biggest game gig of the year. Microsoft made it crystal clear that a lot of the game related news for the Xbox One would come out at E3.

I’m not sure gamers noticed. Sony was not silent yesterday either. They’ve been carefully pushing lots of teasers of their own. They’ve announced but not revealed the PS4.

The share prices of Microsoft and Sony today paint an interesting picture.

Sony’s shares have jumped. The people who tuned into the announcement yesterday are, like me, gamers. They’re worried about Microsoft’s focus. They’re worried that the Xbox One might harm second hand game playing. They’ve yet to see voice commands really work for a game.

I need to suppress the gamer in me in order to keep my focus on the Battle for the Living Room. Microsoft, I think, knows the risk it is taking by pushing the Xbox down the integrated route but I think it has to.

After all, how long can Microsoft keep on pumping money into gaming? They need to join the dots.

Here’s a recap on the runners:


Strengths: Xbox and Xbox Live, relationships with ad agencies, possible Windows Phone success
Weaknesses: Trouble with Windows 8 adoption, possible Windows Phone failure,


Strengths: YouTube, Google+ integration, the Cloud, Android, Motorola, Google Fiber
Weaknesses: Google TV, hostile cable networks, brand positioning


Strengths: iOS, iTunes, Mobile
Weaknesses: Rocky relationships, Apple TV, investor pressure

There are other players, perhaps still supporting players, but worth looking at;


Strengths: PlayStation, Sony Entertainment Network, Mobile
Weaknesses: fragmented republic


Strengths: Wii U, content
Weaknesses: Also the Wii U, lack of mobile, lack of web


Strengths: Scale and manufacturing ability, mobile, TV set marketshare
Weaknesses: Lacks content, Cloud

Liberty Global

Strengths: Europe, paid TV subscriptions, broadband lines
Weaknesses: Lacks content, brand awareness

Sky/News Corp

Strengths: Market share, content
Weaknesses: Brand positioning, mobile

The deals to watch are those from the three frontrunners and the supporting players. In particular, a deal between Sony and Google is juicy. The PS4 can concentrate on games, wooing in gamers and helping Sony gain vital ground in the console battle while a deal to turn every PS4 into a Google TV device (as once intended for the PS3) would then flank Microsoft’s gamble with TV and the Xbox One.

Equally, deals with the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Yahoo would move the needle. It’s hard to imagine that the Xbox One won’t have tight Facebook integration. Microsoft are a shareholder.

Another flanking move to watch is Google Glasses. Glasses could be the best of both TV and mobile; easy to watch and private. However, Google is currently stressing that Glass is not for long form content.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The HTC One's Zoe is ideal for Google's new Auto Awesome

At Google I/O yesterday Google+ enjoyed a wave of updates. I've always been fond on the network, especially the communities and it feels like Google is making steady progress with the platform. I suspect most people will have the new edition already but, if not, I posted some screenshots of new plus last night.

One of the new features is Auto Awesome. This is an automatic layer to Google+ that improves photos and one of the features is Auto Awesome motion. If Google detects you've uploaded five or more similar photos in a row then it'll (may) animate them.

As it happens, the HTC One has a feature called Zoe which takes a short video/series of still images in an "uber burst". When you have auto sync on then all these images are uploaded from your phone to Google+. It's been a bit quirky until today. Now it has a practical application.

The HTC One's Zoe feature makes it easy to trigger Motion Photos in Google+. There's a sample below... and you'll see it's not quite right.

The car is clearly out of phase. Now, as it happens, the motion photo has been created in the order the pictures were uploaded. This screen grab shows what I mean. So it's not as if the Auto Awesome decided to drive the car in a crazy way. The snafu here seems to be in the order the HTC One with Zoe passed the pictures over to Google+ for automatic uploading.

It's also worth noting that the image is given the file name "IMAG0162_ZOEVIDEO-MOTION.gif".

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Screenshots from the new Google+

I'm in the UK. Returning home tonight I found myself logged out of Google. Annoying when that happens, right? Logging back in I quickly discovered a whole new Google+.

It feels very responsive but the panels fly around somewhat; especially when you start writing a new post.

A key new element seems to be YouTube. That's right, the integration between Google+ and YouTube is even closer now as the smart money had been placed on some time ago.

Reviews, for local, are equally integrated. It feels that Google will sort out EU and US' FTC agreements and work closely to push Local.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Google serves my very own birthday cake doodle

Ever since Google announced the death of Google Reader my default search engine is Bing. I still use Google, though, I have to; it's work. This means I do see the doodles; just at 10am, rather than 9am.

Today I noticed a new doodle. A lovely birthday cake. I clicked on the doodle (always best practise for work) and wound up on this page. Odd?

Ah-ha! This is my own personal doodle. Google's given me a birthday cake. It's a silly reason to use Google+ but it's a nice way to say thank you for doing so.

I call this: doodle cake.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Why I signed the Modern Marketing Manifesto

Econsultancy have been working hard to collect, compile, understand and distil all the digital marketing wisdom that passes through their roundtables, events, blog posts and training sessions. The result is the Modern Marketing Manifesto. You should read it. You might even want to sign it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the future of digital marketing, especially the areas I’m deeply involved in; paid search, natural search, affiliates, display and various “social” media activities. It feels like I’m over due in getting some of these thoughts out of my head and on to paper, PPT or even blog posts. It’s not easy and that’s why I recognise Econsultancy’s success.

In particular I wanted to pull out a few YES, that’s it snippets from the Modern Marketing Manifesto and attach a word or two of my own brain juice.

It is a mindset rather than just an executional approach. If you do not ‘get digital’ then you cannot be a modern marketer.

Very much so. I call this the battle of Product vs Service. I strongly believe that digital marketing is not a product. It’s not defined by the processes and then delivered exclusively through excellent execution. Although excellence is always important.

Digital marketing is a culture.

We believe the internet has forced transparency upon brands and businesses. Brands no longer control the message, consumers do.

The word “story” is powerful but often used incorrectly. Brands can no longer dictate how people should perceive them. Brands determine how people view them, assign attributes to them and react to them by the way brands behave.

We believe technology is an enabler rather than a solution in itself.


We believe we need creativity just as much as we need technology.

Digital marketing operates in the digital medium. Technology and creative wonders are important assets. The production and deployment of media assets is no substitute for a media/marketing strategy.

We believe social media is about changing our business culture, the ways we work and the ways we engage with our colleagues and customers. It is about creating businesses that have social in their DNA.

You will not succeed if your business cannot evolve to modern standards.

Agile - we must be responsive and adaptive. We embrace change. We believe in flexibility and iteration.

We must find a balance between speed and risk while recognising that a lack of speed is sometimes a catalyst for greater risk. This means brands need to think about sign-off and approval processes. Agencies need to think twice about ECDs being used to approve tweets.

To see the whole Modern Marketing Manifesto pop over to Econsultancy and you agree with what’s been compiled then consider signing. Stick your neck out.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

YouTube hinting at paid channels versus branded, sponsored, content

We're getting hints that YouTube might introduce paid channels. I'm in two minds about that news; I certainly want access to more legal streaming but YouTube always been so open.

I suspect we'll see a rise of nicely sponsored videos. This week we've already seen IGN Direct sponsor Walk off the Earth's cover of Material Girl. There's also branded content which is exactly the same except the other way around.

For example, this video from Sony is out today and promotes the Xperia Z range. It features the band the Pyyramids, Damian Kulash of OK Go and photography from the Xperia Z smartphone experly handled by Martien Mulder. The piece is called From Under Other Stars.

Disclaimer: client and a LBi production.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

WolframAlpha shows Reddit some love; graphing the reddit curve

The knowledge engine WolframAlpha is pretty clever and full of tricks. Here's one I didn't know about until recently. WolframAlpha will graph the Reddit curve for you.

In other words, the company were Sergey Brin was an intern before launching Google, launched a search engine which draws Reddit logos. That's what what I call a geeky ecosystem.

If you're thinking that shape might have been hard to plot... yes. Yes, it was! Want to see the full formula? You'll need to click to enlarge.

Hating Google is bad for your SEO

The SEO industry, such as it is, is a creature of fashion. Right now my perception is that it’s a fashionable time to be down on Google.

This is understandable. There are questions around the company’s tax policies. They killed Google Reader. They killed the Google Affiliate Network. They didn’t even try to sell any of those assets.

At the same time SEO is evolving. The number of people who refuse to accept the change to an earned media approach, with links and other signals secured through engagement (be that creative, outreach or a combination of the two) are dropping in number. That doesn’t mean the situation is resentment free. After all, who likes being dragged out of their comfort zone?

I believe a healthy scepticism is best.

Digital marketing professionals – those in and outside of SEO – need to critically analyse anything Google does. It’s right to ask questions like “What’s the motivation behind Enhanced Campaigns?”. SEOs need to avoid being fed lines by any search engine.

That said; hating Google is bad. In fact, hating Google is harmful to your SEO.

Take Google+. The platform was disliked by many SEOs from early on. Sure, some of those SEOs perhaps didn’t want or couldn’t handle yet another social layer. Other SEOs couldn’t see how Google was likely to use Google+ and so overlooked it. Some SEOs decided, as a matter of principle, not to engage with it. Some didn’t want Google to succeed in “social”.

I believe that was a mistake. The concept of authorship is now established and even if Google are coy, suggesting no advantage in SERPs, for now it’s hard to imagine there’s no signal to be found in the quality of the author. Those SEOs without Google+ experience are at a disadvantage to those SEOs with it. Brands without Google+ success are at a disadvantage to those who have found it.

In this scenario it’s clear to say that disliking Google so much as to avoid Google+ was a tactical mistake.

Equally, if you can’t imagine what Google might do to improve the quality of the search results (perhaps you can only imagine what Google will do to improve income) puts you at a disadvantage at future proofing your SEO strategies.

SEOs must be interested and excited by Google. They must maintain the passion to try out Google’s new initiatives and inventions. SEO must also keep their eyes open. Failure to do so; either by design or by chance, reduces their effectiveness as a digital marketing professional.

Image credit: Mean Old Goat by Eirewolf Creations at Etsy.

Friday, April 26, 2013

An eye on ionSearch 2013

I was at the first ionSearch last year when it was a one day event and the chat was how SEO had evolved from the mathematics of building links to the strategy of earning trusted links.

This year ionSearch was much bigger. It was a two day event, had tools and technology from around the world, sessions and panels on SEO and PPC. I was lucky enough to feature on three panels; Affiliates and Search, Local Search and Big Brand Search. You can see my Tweet coverage here.

The big talking about this year was around the role of Creative and Outreach. What matters most in a successful SEO campaign? We had PR agencies (partnered with SEO agencies) get up on stage and argue it was the content, creative idea and execution that mattered the most. We had content marketing agencies that got up on stage and argued that it was the outreach that mattered most.

I asked the question to the final panel; “If you had £10,000 to spend would you split it £2k on creative and £8k on outreach or £8k on creative and £2k on outreach?” The final answer? Andy Atkins-Kr├╝ger, the moderator cheated a little (okay, a lot) by saying he would spend £6 on research and then £2k on each of creative and outreach.

The point there is that the creative idea absolutely has to tie into the audiences you intend to outreach too. The audiences you outreach to absolutely have to have some investment in the idea or message you are bringing to them.

It’s hard to imagine a Search conference of 2006 would have this sort of discussion. A few years ago the mantra “a link is a link” might have been heard. This year we had that expression denounced and trounced.

SEO has changed.

In fact, outside the official sessions there was chat on the name “SEO”. Does it still apply? People gossiped over whether – when – brands like SEOMoz or SEOGadget would rebrand. Andrew Dumont from SEOMoz did hint at a secret project but wouldn’t be drawn on branding. The secret project? Likely to be another technical innovation from the Mozzers.

Of the three sessions I spoke in it may have been the last one (and the 9am on day 2) panel that I enjoyed the most. This was a return to Local Search.

I got to speculate on the impact of the FTC ruling in the States (no scraping Yelp) combined with the fresh EU ruling (highlight your own results). I think the two may combine so that Google needs to collect data into their own system (to remove the need to take/index/crawl others) and then are told to prominently highlight those results if/when they appear in search results! I ask you; does that sound like a terrible thing for Google?

The audience in the session didn’t think so and my fellow panellists (Aleyda Solis of Seer Interactive and Daniel Bianchini of SEOptimise) kindly agreed with my suggestion that G+ Local was an “in it to win it” for a quick win local strategy. We all agreed that bigger brands needed a broader approach for the long term.

Next year? Already looking forward to it.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Nuance Voice ads in action

Nuance, the voice company that may behind (or helping with) Apple and Siri and who own the smartphone keyboard solution Swype have a new product out. It's a voice ad for smartphones.

Hard to imagine? The idea is that you can have mini conversations with a brand. Given that the tech is smart enough to understand a little of the conversation then some simple rules can be applied to help the encounter seem fun and realistic. After all, Siri knows what you're trying to do - to an extent - so why not put an ad message on at the end.

Here's an example.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

A dark future for QR codes, AR and graffiti hacking

This is a work of fiction but an interesting one for digital marketing nevertheless.

Is this a prediction? Does a future where cyber glasses are common also hold for QR codes and augmented reality?

The Paintwork Project is a work by Tim Maughan.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Feedly, the Google Reader alternative, adds Amazon affiliate ads

This is not a bad thing. In fact, I find it reassuring to see that is looking to make some money. Feedly has rocketed up in usage and awareness ever since Google Reader announced it would die.

Whereas exploding user numbers is great – there’s a challenge. How to stay up? How to stay alive? Simply put; Feedly needs to make some money.

The route that the service has chosen (or is exploring) is a good first stop for any internet presence. They’ve turned to affiliate marketing and hope to earn commission through recommended product suggestions that lead to sales. This makes sense for Feedly because they should know what their users like. It’s also a good first step as it doesn’t require any fancy deals with ad networks.

Feedly have previously hinted that they may explore a freemium model. I suppose I might pay. I’d need to see what extra services they would add and I do wonder whether any of them would be worth the upgrade.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Brin: Glass fits with Google's plan to ditch traditional search

Lots of interesting subjects in this short video about Project Glass. Want to hear the Glasses better? Cover your ear as the glasses project sound into your bones.

Brin makes the point of saying that the glasses help do away with search queries in the traditional sense. There's even a shoutout to Blackberry.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Google's autocomplete suggestions get stranger and stranger

It's amazing what people discover Google's algorithm suggesting. In the case of autocomplete the search box tries to work out what you might be searching for in advance and gives you a few suggestions.

Imagine your surprise if two out of the four suggestions for [my cat is] suggests you may be the father of kittens.

It's most likely that the search is due to people looking for this Yahoo! Answers question in which someone actually asks whether they could have got their cat pregnant. Yahoo! Answers is the home to so many dumb questions it can be hard to sort the really odd questions from planted fake questions.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Bing complies with the ePrivacy directive - Bing UK cookie policy

I've been making the effort to use Bing. Why? It's worth keeping up with alternatives and I was inspired to look around for Google alternatives after the sad decision to drop Google Reader.

Actually, I do check into Bing now and then and so I think this banner across the top of the search engine is fairly new. This is Microsoft's effort to stay compliant with the much lambasted ePrivacy Directive. In theory you're supposed to get opt-in permission but that's a nightmare and not even governments do it.

The link goes to this policy page which is pretty well designed, I think. Making Bing/Microsoft's policies pretty clear and easy to find.

Friday, March 08, 2013

The case for animated GIFs in Facebook's news feed

Right now Facebook does not do animated GIFs but it could and perhaps it should.

If you are old enough you will easily recall a time when animated GIFS were horribly but quite correctly mocked. They were awful. They choked modems and were never worth the wait.

Technology progressed; access speeds got faster and new generations, people who had never seen the primitive animated solar flares ruin an otherwise good logo, took to the web.

When Google+ launched and people released you could share animated GIFs there was madness. People shared all sorts of rubbish. The insanity lasted for a fortnight or so and then calmed down.  Now, for the most part, animated GIFs shared on Google+ are worthy of your attention. If someone keeps on sharing rubbish; they’re uncircled.

Let’s not forget Tumblr. This is the platform that resurrected animated GIFs in the first place. This is that platform that the Google+ users found their animations during the madness fortnight. Tumblr is fun, friendly and full of the next digital generation.

The thing about animated GIFs is that, when done right, they tell a better story than a static image. The animation can be subtle or dramatic but the motion adds elements of surprise, reveal and reaction.

What about Facebook? Facebook is a rule to itself. It is not the community of artistic digital natives like Tumblr. Nor is it largely populated by people savvy enough to get value from Google+. If animated GIFs come to Facebook then motion madness will last far longer than it did on Google+

Some people will hate it. Some people will threaten to quit Facebook over the horror of animated GIFs. Guess what? Most won’t. Facebook is used to it.

If Facebook is to move towards the content marketing end of the social media spectrum, away from the noisy updates of micro-actions (they’re safe elsewhere in the new system), then surely it needs to accept this powerful and visual means of communication.

Buzzfeed accepts animated GIFs and look at how well Buzzfeed is doing. What Buzzfeed does with animated GIFs is to keep them static at first and provide a play button. Users can play the GIF if they want.
Perhaps this is the route Facebook should take. Allow animated GIFs but keep them gated. This will open up news feed to more possibilities, help brand with their marketing and users with their creativity while keeping any dizzying animation safely behind a play button.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Layar creates AR QR codes

QR codes boomed in Japan and struggled everywhere else. I like the idea - don't fiddle; just point your cameraphone at something and collect the information you need.

There are challenges though. The general public needs to be educated on the concept. Not all posters and ads can be featured where there's wi-fi signal. QR codes on TV ads are awkward and have to linger long enough to be scanned.

It's no surprise that people started to predict QR codes would simply get skipped. Samrtphones would, instead, recognise the actual object they were looking at and then react to that. No need for a code.

That's AR rather than QR. In the AR space Layar are one of their major players. It's interesting to see that not only have Layar added QR codes to their latest app but they've given them a new AR twist. That's right AR QRs.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Firefox's attack on cookies could boost affiliate and performance marketing

Version 22 of Firework will, like Safari, block third party cookies.

This means that ad servers will not be able to use cookies to count impressions for frequency caps or try and target an audience who might actually be interested in the offer. It may be a setback for some of the Display industry but it is a step forward for the privacy advocates.

Jonathan Mayer, a strong voice in the privacy camp, discussed the details in a blog post about it. It’s a helpful post because it helps align Firefox between IE, Chrome and Safari in how the browsers treat cookies.

Mayer wrote patch that will make this change happen.

It’s worth noting that the change does not just target Display ad cookies. All third party cookies will be effected; analytics and social plugins too.

A third party cookie is one that’s being set from a website other than one you’ve actually visited. For example, you might be on while is trying to download a cookie. With Safari and Firefox 22 will have no luck.

The big catch is that if you’ve been to and are okay with its cookies then it’ll not count as a third party cookie.

The Display industry knows that just counting impressions isn’t the metric they’d like. More meaningful analytics can be found by trying to work out viewable impressions (ie, did the web page visitor actually see the banner) and then whether or not, sometime later, that same person transacted or visited the advertiser’s site. Display accountability means being cleverer with cookies.

The affiliate industry is in a different situation. Yes, it makes sense to look at the impact of post impressions for affiliates and the value of data generated by the performance industry. However, the core proposition is that affiliates get paid on an action.

Affiliate tracking kicks in, generally, on a click. A web site visitor clicks on the affiliate link, quickly passes through the affiliate tracking site and onto the merchant. This means, of course, that the affiliate tracking cookie is dropped as a first party cookie.

As affiliates aren’t generally selling impressions, not even clever audience targeted real-time-bid impressions, the fact that cookies can’t be dropped to accompany the displaying of an ad unit is less of a bother.

Okay, yes, some click and reveal tactics used by voucher code sites will be hit. That’s a pretty big chunk of the affiliate pie.

The privacy debate is on-going but the trend seems to be very much in favour of blocking insight, in favour of privacy concerns, at the cost of advertiser information. This may mean less well targeted ads but that’s hardly an argument to use against the privacy crowd; they seem to want it.

As the debate rolls forward and efforts like Mozilla’s third party cookie block continue to hatch it seems likely to be that advertisers will want to ensure as much of their spend is accountable as possible. If affiliate tracking counts as safe – after all, it only pays when it tracks – then surely privacy advances will only make performance marketing all the more attractive.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Oreo seperator machine and post-TV content

"I didn't get to see my dog for hours. There were a lot of sacrifices."

It's not just the dead pan delivery of this that gets my attention but the fact the video comes from Oreo itself. This is what video marketing has become. Call it viral if you will. Call it post-TV and you might be more in-line with my thoughts. Content marketing? That too. Social? Yes, of course.

What we have here is another example of a brand cleverly working out how to target a particular audience and doing so even if that means stepping back on the chest thumping ads for the product.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Google automatically kills AVG Safe Search

I can't imagine that the guys at AVG will be over the moon with joy about this but Google's now automatically switching off the AVG Safe Search extension.

The Chrome extension plants little green ticks into the SERPs. The goal is to let you, the searcher, know that it's safe to click on any given result. Google's switched off the extension, while allowing you to override their decision and turn it back on, because it slows down the page load times.

Of course, Google works pretty hard to ensure that all its results are virus free in the first place. In fact, Chrome's a very good browser at keeping when it comes to keeping you safe and secure.

The between the lines message is clear - Google doesn't seem to think you need AVG Safe Search.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

More than 60 insights and ideas from SES London, day 3

Day 3 is a shorter day, being the last, on the SES London schedule. Today's "more than 60" count includes  my own presentation, which is a bit of cheat and therefore effective, but the bullet point format seems to be working.

I like the Google+ integration with Blogger. It feels right being able to tag speakers directly in posts. However, I've two Google+ profiles; one associated with an old work email address that's just there to admin Pages and my real profile. This is a confusion. I've not liked  it when speakers have had more than one G+ profile so I'll investigate how I can delete one of mine (and see what happens to the Pages attached).

Optimising Humans! The Art of Data-Driven Social Marketing
From +Marty Weintraub

  • aimClear survey suggested many Community Managers do not engage in Outreach and Recruitment.
  • Map keywords to conversations and users - but the social platforms don't make this easy.
  • Hootsuite has a pretty good search functionality
  • Make use of Chrome's translation tool, RSS and Outlook alerts and you can have a better social media monitoring tool than those you pay for.
  • It costs more to serve  Page Post ads to your own fans than it does to non-fans, says Marty
  • Target your blog posts to reporters and journalists with paid Facebook ads
  • Targeting people on dislikes can be  as effective as targeting people on likes
  • Use Facebook's ad  builder to study your own Page fans.
  • Marty believes some  social targeting is at risk - laws and regulation will take  it away
  • Don't be a creep. Social makes it very easy for marketers to be a creep.

Living in a "Smart" World - How Mobile and Tablets and Shifting User Behaviour
From Mark Brill

  • Every second 8.1 Android devices are sold, 4.6 iOS  devices sold and 4.2 babies born.
  • 50% of people who engaged in mobile search looked for offers and deals
  • BestBuy have suffered from people comparing prices in-store with their mobile - now started price matching  on a list of approved retailers
  • In Tesco's F&F QR code test - people would pick up tablets to buy a product but  they didn't understand the QR code tickets and would tear them off to hand to shop assistants
  • 54% of Facebook users access from mobile (from IPO documents)
  • 92% of mobile YouTube users share clips with others (Ondevice Research, 2012)
  • Instagram is growing because people  find taking photographers easier than typing
  • 80% of brand apps are downloaded less than 1,000 times
  • Google say that 50% of all mobile searches have local intent

From Sri Sharma

  • Google saw that over 90% of tablet use was from the home (which was included in the justification of treating them like desktops and Enhanced Campaigns in AdWords)
  • Mobile data usage: up 3x year on year
  • Mobile searching is up: 130% year in year
  • Search advertising is up 205% year on year
  • Display advertising up 95% year on year
  • Mobile sites still <50%
  • Skin clinics, with a poor mobile site, blocked mobile access and drove click to call instead: leads increased x26 and conversion rate x2.2.
  • Papa Johns lives in a world where discounts rule but damage the profits of franchises so used mobile to communicate with people when price/discount wasn't the primary consideration; when they were hungry.
  • Express relevancy  to improve traffic and conversion rates (Singapore Airlines saw +20% CTR)
  • Drive brand awareness cost effectively using mobile generics (much cheaper on mobile; can then boost brand search)
  • Develop your own best practice for Enhanced Campaigns

The RTB Opportunity for Online Marketers: Truths & Myths

From +Dax Hamman 
  • RTB is a Search Marketer's bridge in to large Display budgets
  • Media has become auction based
  • There is an artificial high in using data in RTB - good creative and context still matter
  • By 2015 RTB will be 50% of all bought Display impressions (US centric data - which didn't know about Facebook's ad exchange)
  • There are lots of DSPs but perhaps only a dozen with true scale and reach
  • Progammatic marketing makes big data actionable
  • RTB on physical displays (billboards, taxi, etc) and radio are coming
  • VTA (view-through attribution) should be the way Display is measured, says Dax

From +Laurent Boninfante

  • 10% of the UK have Facebook pages for their pets (Telegraph stat)
  • Facebook on its own is bigger than all the other ad networks put together
  • 15% of people on Facebook see ad in the first 5 minutes
  • Truth: FBX  has the cheapest CPMs ever seen
  • Myth: FBX has high CTR
  • Myth: FBX has high conversion rates
  • It's really worth investing in segmentation on FBX

Using RTB to Drive Customer Acquisition & Revenue
From Martin Brown

  • RTB is re-engineering marketing but its not ripping up the rule book
  • We're moving from static data to dynamic data; the key is making data actionable
  • RTB shift for an online software vendor - 60% increase in sales & 36% reduction in costs
  • Technology can improve customer acquisition and engagement
  • Martin believes that anyone in digital marketing could use a DSP and this is partly due to ad exchanges growing beyond "remnant inventory" to premium. 

From +Andy Mihalop
  • MoneySupermarket use a large in-house team to keep their data and IP in-house (and away from agencies)
  • Experienced PPC managers will quickly feel at home with a  DSP
  • MoneySupermarket's business model relies on them being able to generate leads more cheaply than their banking and financial services clients; hence the interest in RTB
  • DMPs are essential; they're the technology that allows you to get your data correctly segmented
  • MoneySupermarket studied the 3rd party tags on their site that allowed their data to leak to ad networks.
  • Brand RTB Foundations: Biddable Media Optimisers (such  as  evolved PPC managers)  + Data (the big challenge; collecting data and populating the DMP) + Media Systems (DoubleClick, Abode or specialists) + Attribution
  • Brand RTB In-House team structure: Biddable Media Optimisers + Media Systems Team + Data Scientists + BTD Sales & Support (Brand Trading Desk)
  • MSM Brand Trading Desk provides exclusive access to customers for their financial partners (ie, an insurance partner can have exclusive access to an audience segment for a period of time on their own site and other sites). Traffic comes to MoneySuperMarket.
  • MSM use BlueKai for DMP, MediaMath for DSP and DoubleClick, OpenX, RightMedia for ad exchanges and Rubicon for SSP and ad serving. Finally, the use adometry for attribution and reporting.
  • MSM trading desk could serve a quote in an insurance ad based on what they know about the target customer
  • Data ownership is key, believes MoneySuperMarket, so have your own platform.
  • IT teams are not well positioned to support digital marketing and RTB technology
  • Speed matters
  • Use the specialists you have - for example, search specialists are very comfortable with data.

Local & Social: Maximising Visibility