London, Ontario's own answer to Scarlett Johansen.
God, I love Flickr.
I just linked it to my Yahoo! account, to make logging in easier. Cool! Well done Yahoo!!
("Scarlett's" real name appears to be Courtney Webb, a photographer and designer.)
In a review of the upcoming Yahoo Mail restart, CNET serves up two small screenshots of the new interface that should give visitors a good idea of how the new AJAX, desktop-style interface will function.
If you're wondering, it looks damn cool. You really will feel like you're using Outlook or Thunderbird.
CNET says Yahoo Mail simply blows Gmail and Hotmail away, but they wish it would offer RSS web feeds. It certainly would make for a powerful combination if Yahoo had that capability. You wouldn't even need a separate feed reader and webmail service. Since those are two of my most-used featues, I could conveniently centralize most of my browing in one window. Damn, I've been waiting for this for years! Gimme, gimme.
I've heard nasty rumors that Gmail offers Web Clips, its own semi-proprietary way of displaying RSS feeds, but more than six months after their supposed debut, I still don't have them in my Gmail.
Hey Matt, if you're reading this... um, can you hook me up? :)
Google officially released its toolbar for Firefox this week, and if you needed extra reason to install it, there are two Firefox-only goodies in it:
1. Using the "customize toolbar" option, all the toolbar buttons are rearrangeable to any other toolbar in Firefox. Meaning, you can move the PageRank bar in front of the back button if you want.
2. Google Suggest has been integrated into the search box. So, as you type your query, the toolbar will try to guess what you're typing. I wasn't too fond of Suggest when I first tried it, but the more I use it, the more I can see its utility.
There you have it -- two more reasons not to use IE! I'm feeling the love from Google, and I just gotta say: "Right back atcha, big G."
Friday, September 23, 2005
A couple of nice reviews of Winning Results with Google AdWords, one by noted online marketing authority Ralph Wilson and one by the folks at Vertster.
I've watched with interest (OK, I've been secretly thrilled) as John Battelle's The Search has risen high in the Amazon rankings and has now broken onto the WSJ's business bestseller list. The last breakthrough for a search book that really amazed me was when Google Hacks made it onto the NYT paperback business bestseller list.
It wasn't so long ago that Battelle was professing to be excited that his book was ranked 50,000th "even though it wasn't out yet." #86 (where it's ranked as of this writing) is a sight better than 50,000th!!!
Winning Results hasn't yet been reviewed in any major media, nor have I appeared on The Daily Show like my archrival Alan Alda (with his new release Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, which appears to be selling like hotcakes). Yet recently it managed to get up to #66 on Amazon.com and #17 on Amazon.ca. This is pretty good for a trade book. Hmm, maybe my publisher shouldn't have assumed that it was "just a trade book", eh? :)
One advantage of working with a big publisher is that the book is distributed widely around the world. Maybe by next year a translation or two will be in the works? (Little known fact: my original AdWords Handbook was translated and sold in Japan.)
I'm going to consider Battelle to be like a big blocking fullback, knocking down the skepticism of the world at large, and leaving me, the shifty tailback, to trot to daylight just behind him. And please don't tell me I can't celebrate when I score the six points.
The book game is endlessly fascinating. Yep, there's a lot of talk about the Long Tail in books. But the extent to which it's a Winner Take All market is a bit surprising. If you look at Amazon's top (updated hourly) sellers, you'll see established books on the list where new ones should rightly be making most of the noise.
Unless you've got Oprah, Jon Stewart, or an outraged American public on your side (or a lot of direct-marketing chutzpah, ahem), you're going to have trouble breaking through. But it looks like once you do, it gets easier.
It's interesting that The Tipping Point is outselling Gladwell's more recent effort, Blink. Blink's good, but the Tipping Point is great. There's 99% of the reason right there.
And as sad as I am to be trailing Alan Alda in the current standings, it saddens me as much that a mere trade book like mine could outsell great literature like Alice Munro's short stories, if only over a short period of time. I justify it this way: the more people learn about how to make more money with less effort, the more time they'll have to read great literature. Long-term advantage: Munro.
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
But speaking of easter eggs, they now have an "example short ad" for new ad campaigns in AdWords:
"Visit the Red Planet in style.
Low-gravity fun for everyone!"
They're a fun bunch of kids.
...when your neighbor's wall is on fire."
This is the English translation of the Latin phrase that's buried as a little easter egg in the "About" box in the new Google Secure Access utility. I just downloaded & installed it.
I'm "using" the service right now, and I'm not in the Bay Area. Not sure exactly why there is a benefit, since I could encrypt my wireless connection if I so chose. But I'm sure all will become clear. On the surface, it looks innocuous, but as with any security system, the headache starts when you actually start looking at all the possible settings... looks like I might need to read a manual...
Either this means Google is working on giving away free wireless Internet access to the masses, and this is a way of ensuring security for those who use it, or as some have speculated, it's similar to Google Web Accelerator. Get a number of people into a beta test, collect data like crazy, and then close the availability of the service.
Little test or big plan? We'll see.
The service, whatever it does for me, is working in my home office, protecting me against snooping from the nice folks next door. Next stop: a coffee shop.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Is the bubble back? Tara Calishain believes it might be, as Ask Jeeves is back to their old tricks, buying radio spots. What do they think they are, Yahoo?
It's not because they're "big Internet marketing execs," though, that they choose "hip and edgy" ads over more informative ones. It's because they use (of all things) an ad agency to come up with the concepts! What message does that send?
Hilarious post, Tara, but I won't be joining you for fried okra anytime soon, OK?
Autoblog (link deliberately omitted) is an excellent blog; have it on my list of feeds. I don't click all the headlines, since I don't care about lawsuits and recalls, but some of the new car info on there is really cool.
So they've started running this contest. They're giving away an iPod Nano plus an FM transmitter to one lucky winner. To enter, you've gotta go on your blog (or start one), and then post links to ten (ten, no less!) posts you liked on Autoblog, with a "few words" about why you liked it (man these guys don't miss a trick). Finally, you're supposed to go back to Autoblog and post a comment on these posts, which will then link back to your blog. (Holy geez what an elaborate link exchange.)
Black hat or gray hat SEO? I like to think of it as "sparkling graphite metallic" SEO, which happens to be a really kickass color available on a BMW 325i. Incidentally, Autoblog is currently ranking pretty well on queries like "BMW 325i". They rank #7, nicely on the first page of SERP's, for this particular query.
No doubt this will work as an SEO tactic, short term. And because it will work, it will contribute to the muddying of the waters for SEO 6-12 months down the road, because the SE's will simply learn to discount these kinds of tactics. And/or everyone will be doing it.
Short term: if you've got nothing to lose (a low-traffic site with few inbound links, or you're just ballsy, like Autoblog), what's stopping you from running a contest like this?
Medium term: if the links really are relevant, then some of the benefit will last. It's actually a clever bit of PR. People need to be incentivized to link, and running a contest is easier (and less demeaning) than calling individuals up and offering them cash.
Long term: the whole SEO game will change and evolve because people are so good at SEO tactics nowadays, the major search scientists & companies will have to get creative.
Hmm, come to think of it, good idea, Autoblog. I think I'll try this. (Are you listening, Mr. Cutts?)
I believe the net beneficiary, in the end, will be Apple. ;)
Rumblings of Google becoming essentially an Internet access provider continue. (Hat-tip Zawodny, GigaOm.)
Of course I'd sign up for something like this in a snap. What's more, I can't wait for Google to up the ante to full-on phone service. This would ideally allow businesses to dump their current high-priced phone setups.
Right now that's happening only with a few early adopters. Vonage et al. just don't do it for me.
Skype, not quite. IM in all its forms: cool but limited.
Basically, what people have to realize is that global communications is about more than teens chatting. It's also about businesses working, and soon, realizing huge savings and significant productivity increases, by entering an IP-enabled environment for voice and video.
Google faces significant challenges as they try to enter this world. Microsoft was rebuffed again and again when they tried to break into the ISP biz, though they now have a diversified portfolio of ownership in this area. Google's known for creating cool products. I hope they understand that the world of global communications is also governed by regulators and the clever chess moves of the largest players. To cross this chasm will require a bold move or two, not merely hacking out the "next version."
Monday, September 19, 2005
If you feel the need for a refresher course on the latest trends in search marketing - especially detailed strategies for paid search - consider attending my seminar, Search Engine Marketing: From High-Level Strategy to Bottom-Line Results, at the Nielsen Norman Group User Experience conferences this fall. (Boston, Sunday, October 23, 2005; London, November 13, 2005.)
It's intended to be a kind of meta-class that takes into account perspectives from a range of top SEM experts. If you're needing to stay current but don't have time for a lengthy SEM-intensive conference, this one-day seminar should fill the bill.
Other fall events of note:
I'll be on a panel talking about search marketing at Toronto Interacts, the local chapter of the Usability Professionals Association, October 6, 2005. And I promise not to get on them about having dynamic URL's with three parameters in them. :)
Looks like another great Digital Marketing Conference put on by the Canadian Marketing Association, October 20, 2005. This time it's at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre with a followup reception at the Steam Whistle Brewery (near SkyDome). One of the keynote speakers is Dan Pink (I'm reading his book right now). Other speakers include Bryan Eisenberg (ditto; rereading actually). Word has it I'll be moderating the search marketing panel.
I'll also be speaking at ad:tech in New York on November 8, 2005. Honestly, as a non-lawyer and a non-exec-for-a-lawyered-up-Fortune-500, I'm a bit of a fish out of water on a trademark panel. I do recall clearly that I was one of the first to discover that you could effectively use "branded" terms as trigger words within a paid search account. Since that day, a curious thing has happened. Many established companies and their lawyers have been hopping mad at this form of advertising that allows a competitor to advertise on what appear to be "their" keywords. Lawsuits have been brought against Google by American Blind and Geico, but Google didn't lose those cases. They did lose judgments in France. The second thing that has happened at the same time as many established experts have cast a dim view on such practices. These guerrilla practices have been widely adopted (much like so-called black-hat SEO, used by many large corporations with the help of leading "safe, sane black hat SEO" firms), including by the agencies headed by said experts. I don't expect a lot of pats on the back for saying so. In the end, the courts will rule on specific cases.
The irony is, Metacrawler was selling ad space near SERP's on a CPM basis, and was willing to sell keywords like "yahoo" and "coca-cola," way back in 1997. (I know because I asked, and got specific price quotes on those words.) There was more tolerance for radical targeting methods back in the heyday of Business 2.0 1.0. Now that we've grown that bubble back just a bit, am I sensing a corresponding, if slight, uptick in tolerance for such creative online ad tactics? It'll be interesting to see what attendees at ad:tech think.
Sunday, September 18, 2005
Word has it that the next version of Yahoo Mail is due any day as a limited public beta. This will be the desktop-style AJAX-flavored upgrade based on Yahoo's purchase of Outpost.
You can even request to be included in the beta, which is estimated to last a few months. Until then, however, Firefox users can get some new dynamic functionality similar to GMail today.
An enterprising Firefox developer has released a new extension that injects nifty new features directly into the current Yahoo Mail. Features include:
* Preview messages without leaving the inbox
* Reply to messages with just one click using "Instant Reply"
* Download attachment with one click
It's unclear how many users will be admitted into the beta program, so if you just have to have new features in Yahoo Mail now, you might want to give this extension a try.
Believe it or not, Firefox 1.0 has been around for less than a year. In that short time, it has gained at least 10% of the browser marketshare and spurred Microsoft to finally bring back Internet Explorer from its innovation stasis.
This fall, the plot will thicken even more with the beta launch of a new kind of browser called Flock. Although it's built on top of Firefox, it's reputed to be more than just Firefox with new buttons and a snazzier skin.
Instead, the company behind Flock is billing it as a "social browser" that integrates directly with next-generation services like web feeds, blogging tools, social bookmarks and photo sharing services. These next-gen features are part of what many observers call "Web 2.0", presumably named after John Batelle's groundbreaking technology conference of the same name, whose goal is to bring together the players who are building this new future.
Flock is getting rave reviews already, and I simply cannot wait to give it a whirl. (If any of you Flockers are reading this, howsabout hooking me up with a copy?)
If Flock has its way, we might not even think of the browser as a browser any more. It would simply be the central application through which we find information and communicate with others using a loose federation of complementary tools and services. These days, it's pretty hard to define what is a web site, web service and web application. They're coming together in logical new ways, which is what web 2.0 is all about.
You get the sense that we are on the heels of a new phase of web innovation. You can feel it every time Google introduces a rule-changing feature like maps, or a startup like Flock comes out of nowhere to catch titans like Microsoft unaware (and make no mistake -- web 2.0 is a serious threat to MS's desktop monopoly).
Thanks to the early pioneers who have built the proofs of concept, software developers are launching new services at a dizzying pace. Perhaps we will at last realize the full internet experience promised by open standards and cross-platform tools, with the browser in the middle of it all; a vision that Microsoft has helped foil due to its anti-competitive, self-serving tactics.
Microsoft isn't sitting on its hind end any more. When IE 7.0 is released next year, it will ship with embedded RSS web feed capabilities and probably a few other new gadgets. I predict RSS will be embraced adopted by the masses in short order, and that's when we will close the door on the old web 1.0 world.
Just don't call it Browser Wars II. No more war analogies, please!
Later on this week, I'll take a look at the underlying technology that is helping make the web 2.0 vision a reality.