Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Jim Hedger, a well-known writer in the SEM space, broke the news to friends recently that he had left his former consulting employer (Stepforth) to start a new consultancy, Markland Media. He also expressed a wish to make part of his living speaking and writing about the SEM industry, as before.
Now, word has it he's got a big part of that writing puzzle solved. Jim is joining well-known niche publisher JaydeOnline as Senior Editor for webmaster news sources such as SEO-News and SiteProNews. Congratulations Jim!
I hope this post doesn't alienate all of Bay Street, but your roving reporter Patricia Best is woefully out of touch.
In today's paper she professes to be shocked that a search for "failure" on Google brings up the official White House bio of George W. Bush. Old news is an understatement! And the original Googlebombing incident referred to the phrase "miserable failure." Do a search for that phrase, and Michael Moore, the activist/filmmaker, comes up in 3rd or 4th position due to a counter-Googlebombing effort.
Furthermore, the extensive article by Danny Sullivan, "Google's (and Inktomi's) Miserable Failure" (written over two and a half years ago) clocks in just below that in the SERP's.
(It feels odd giving link love to these articles now that Danny's resigned, but I guess odd is how most of us in this business will feel for some time. Though not by design, Danny's resignation creates what one insider has called a "mess" none of us can wish away.)
Back to the topic at hand. Patricia Best: journalist? Get a grip, please. There are lots of current issues to report on.
Postscript: try a search for "woefully out of touch." On page one of search results, the current administration has two mentions. The poor AARP gets cited further down the page. The Democratic Party also gets in, with one entry. To Best's credit(?), if you type "out of touch executives," which used to lead to the Google corporate information page courtesy a Googlebomb, you now see a Wikipedia entry as the top search result. Hand-tweaking or normal algorithmic fluctuation? Just try getting a straight answer from those folks in Mountain View.
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Everyone's semi-speechless about Danny Sullivan's announcement that due to a contractual impasse with Incisive Media, he's leaving Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Strategies. The status of upcoming shows etc., for now, is shocking indeed. Danny will chair the Chicago show in December, but has asked that his name be removed from the New York program. SES New York -- no Danny!! My, but that's hard core. For years, Danny's worked very long days and done pretty much everything to keep this industry in sync save for calling speakers to roust them out of bed when they sleep in.
For one thing, Danny sets the programs for most of the major shows, vetting proposals and deciding on speaker orders. He sends prep notes for every single session and reconsiders the topic mix for each show. It's interesting to consider all the permutations: personalities, audience needs, and the status of the major vendors on panels needs to be rethought nearly every time out. It's not a job most would want.
Among many other question marks, people will probably be wondering where to send their proposals for speaking in Chicago, since the official "pitch window" was set for September.
I'm not sure what it says about this industry that following this morning's post on Search Engine Roundtable "Danny Sullivan to Leave Search Engine Watch: Search Industry Shocked," there are already four new posts! On his personal blog Daggle.com, following his post about the departure, Danny has already posted a lighthearted post about how he is also bummed out by the loss of Pluto's planet status! What's going on here?
I think what it probably says is that we have a group of workaholics blessed with an insatiable curiosity about a rapidly-evolving landscape of marketing that isn't going away any time soon.
And neither is Danny. If I know him at all, he'll be running at full speed soon, doing something similar. Often, these kinds of situations result in contracts actually being hammered out, and everything going back to normal. It's possible that this will happen in this case.
But we'll take this event as yet another excuse to take a couple of days off from posting.
In the meantime, the planetary alignment is going to feel not quite right, for days, weeks, or maybe many months.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
When you search Google for "MSN adCenter," an Overture (Yahoo Search Marketing) ad pops up (pictured here). What do they mean by "say no to minimum bids," I wonder? The landing page clearly states the minimum bid on Yahoo's system: 10 cents. So I assume they must mean Google's complicated Quality-Based Bidding, which sometimes sets high bids on some keywords. Then again, depending on quality score, Google's minimum is theoretically as low as one cent.
When all three leading search players are implicated/locking horns in a single search for information... you sometimes have to file the outcome under "the usual industry shenanigans."
Monday, August 21, 2006
Click fraud? You've heard of that, right? And what better victim than an advertiser who doubles as an attorney? I'm not a legal expert, but I have to guess this suit will have difficulty going to trial, given that the plaintiff claims that five emails to Google received "no" response, and that phone calls didn't work either. That's simply not credible. Google has very standard response procedures to these kinds of queries, and "no" response simply isn't part of the equation, if you've made the right kind of effort to properly contact the company. In short, I've seen a lot of people try to contact Google, and none have been unsuccessful in doing so.
In other news, Clicktracks, the web analytics firm, has been acquired by emarketing firm J.L. Halsey (OTC:JLHY) for about $10 million. A note from Clicktracks CEO John Marshall emphasized that Halsey will allow its subsidiary firms to run independently. As far as I can tell, Halsey's primary activity to date had been operating email list manager firm Lyris. It recently raised cash through an equity placement in order to fund the Clicktracks acquisition. At the same time, it acquired web content management software firm HotBanana, reportedly for about $2 million.
Both Clicktracks and HotBanana are well-known to Traffick - we've ridden in maniacal New York cabs with both. We hope the investment from Halsey will allow both firms, and their clients, to grow and prosper.
And turning to grumbles. Blogger now accepts logins via a Google account, but that means I have to log out, and then log back in, to get in with my old login (which has the same prefix as my Google account). Google has a feature that allows you to "switch over," but the "new accounts" are in "beta," so I do not have switchover capability "at this time." Yahoo did a better job when it acquired Flickr... in much less time.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
It's good to see Susan Kuchinskas writing up a storm at the 360 blog.
The musings of Kuchinskas and others on the spate of failed Web 2.0 startups implicates Google, in part, as the "new Microsoft." If you run a small company (or even a not-so-small one), you want to build "getting out of Google's way" into your model.
I'll let you sort through your own thoughts about what's happening right now. How many of these startups can cross the chasm and gain widespread user acceptance, at least enough to merit a fair buyout price?
If I have any takeaway it's probably this: as a startup, maybe you should play your cards closer to the vest, except for the obvious need to build a loyal core user base and iterate quickly towards a better product. Be underestimated.
As for the calendar startup, it just wasn't interesting, useful, or different enough in the first place.
If you're like me, you've heard a lot of debates about old vs. new media, fueled by the folks closest to the action - like Om Malik (who now has a bigger stake in the new, but this isn't about him).
I'm pretty sure I've heard Om say those old classifieds are silly and stupid and headed nowhere (paraphrasing). I think someone else in the room, Om included, might have said Craigslist is silly and stupid and headed nowhere.
Which might make Joey deVilla's post "When Craigslist Beat the Toronto Star Classifieds" silly, stupid, and headed nowhere. Except to Joey, of course.
Not only did Joey discover that Craigslist won hands down, but he came up with some hilarious prose to go with it:
The Star ad drew in a larger proportion of people from the deep burbs who had that sort of attitude that the burbs was where one lived and downtown was a grittier kind of mall or playground where you could shop, get drunk, act like an idiot and start fights.
I wasn't going looking for Joey's post... completely accidental that I stumbled on it. Why would I be surprised that one of the funniest bloggers around happens to also be the well-known "Accordion Guy" who works as a developer liaison and evangelist for Tucows, Inc.?
Old media isn't all washed up, of course. Presumably companies like Torstar have plans to catch up to the likes of Craigslist. Don't they? I've been told they do, by someone who (works for Torstar and) listened to Malik talk, who seems to have hired someone I know who used to work at Tucows. Small world. No word on whether Craigslist has a physical Toronto office. :)
I suppose there should be some sort of smart conclusion to this. That would probably be: as long as Newspaper 2.0 (or Newscast 2.0, or whatever you want) is eventually owned (at least in part) by the same capital that owned Newspaper 1.0, nothing fundamental will have changed for the capital/owner people. The smartest ones are of course agnostic about change, even rapid change. As long as it turns into a good investment. The scary part is when many goods and services in your sector become free due to overinvestment in the "new," potentially forcing the old to buy into the new sooner than they might like. Assessing opportunities becomes very difficult in such an environment, because it's usually a bad idea to jump at the Web 2.0 bait prematurely, rather than laying back or building your own... except in those instances where it isn't. Rupert Murdoch looks very smart to have bought MySpace, but you know he would have been hung out to dry had he bungled and bought the wrong thing. More on the bad idea concept in the next post.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Online innovation, be it soft innovation or revolutionary breakthrough, drives the contemporary economy. Traffick interviews leaders in e-business models, search and vertical niches to find out what makes them tick. Like the interviews (11 questions), our innovators "Go to Eleven."
Andrew kicks off this new monthly series, titled "The Innovators," with an interview with Markus Frind.
Frind, of Vancouver, BC, is the surprising owner of an online dating site called plentyoffish.com. He's famous for being pictured holding up a check for $900,000 from Google, for Google AdSense ads he runs on the site. According to Hitwise, plentyoffish.com currently holds a 3% market share in the "lifestyle-dating" category, despite having only one employee.
Read The Innovators #1: Markus Frind, the AdSense King
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Reading Autoblog's mention of a Lexus promotional riff about valet parking (do I sense a Vince Vaughn movie coming out of the sudden interest in the "secret world of the valet"?) reminded me that yesterday must have been a first: I picked up the car from the valet at the hotel and then arrived at Google, where there were so many outside visitors that day that normal visitor parking was completely overwhelmed, so the friendly valet helped us out.
Not only is unlimited email storage free, but now, so is valet parking for my rented Hyundai Sonata!
This must have been what Eric Schmidt meant when he referred to as the "cloud economy" in his keynote conversation with Danny Sullivan yesterday.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
The average user probably won't understand this, but there's an easy solution to the recent AOL goof-up where huge amounts of personal search data were leaked.
Recently, meta-search engine Ixquick.com announced that they simply do not store any user search history: according to spokesman Alex van Eesteren, "data not stored can't be breached." All logfile information about users is deleted as part of an aggressive strategy to protect the user's privacy. Being based in the Netherlands, this engine does not need to comply with U.S. government directives. The AOL mistake gave Ixquick the opportunity to remind the press of their new policy, which had been enacted just a few weeks ago.
Pinged by Rich Skrenta to look at some of the latest news search features over there, I did.
One thing that's nice about the results is how comprehensive they are. Blog posts are denoted by a "B" for those users who don't quite feel that blogs are "real news" - but they're in the listing if you want to see them. And the one-year histogram that shows you the trend of how often your phrase got mentioned in the news. Rich is right - you can't quite get this across the street over at Google News - although the new Google Trends feature in the lab will get you some nice graphs, if you dig.
After the requisite "Topixing" of individual people's names, I decided to look at the trend on "click arbitrage." Interesting! There was virtually no mention of it until July, when a few news providers (and victims) decided all at once that it was largely click arbitrageurs that were being targeted by Google's Quality Score update which includes landing page quality in the assessment of AdWords keywords. (We thought it was important, too. We released a newsletter issue and a podcast on the topic for our subscribers.)
Speaking of arb, there is actually a session on it this a.m. at Search Engine Strategies. That was real eye-opening to see on the program. As always, Danny is on the cutting edge. I wouldn't want to miss this one.
One of the more interesting issues surrounding that is that Google is basically 1-2 generations along in filtering out the "crap ads" that really aggressively go after irrelevant keywords at a low bid. Yahoo is doing pretty well. MSN isn't, for now, so if you type in "Ming Dynasty" you may see the crazy stuff like "save on dynasty - fast shipping on dynasty" etc. - while over at the other engines there is a higher probability that the advertisers are forced into a more relevant mode.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Is it vaguely unsettling to see yourself billed as a dynamic speaker just a few days away from the event? :)
Anyway, I'm told that these kinds of PR strategies, properly optimized, can work wonders.
If my session isn't full, Mr. Jarboe has some explainin to do. (Greg, I hope your session is full too.)
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Another "what's the difference between web 1.0 and web 2.0" post.
Web 1.0: CatOfTheDay.com. Cute, but... (remember "Site of the Day"?)
Web. 2.0: Flickr - starting from a search for "irritated cats".
Both monetize with ads. Both use Other People's Content. Who's richer?
Lycos weighs in with a 3GB mailbox that, importantly, allows the sending and receiving of very large files. I send and receive very large files as many of you do. My good buddy Cory has put me onto uploading them to Dropsend as a method of doing this.
Does this mean I'm going to go to the trouble of opening a Lycos Mail account, and maybe, trying to convince others to do the same? Unfortunately for Lycos, no.
Like most users, I'll wait until Yahoo or Google upgrade their feature sets, which undoubtedly they now feel pressured into doing.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
I've always dreamt of a website traffic analysis service that would double as an educational tool for clients.
I've always been one of those who was unimpressed by good search "rankings." What matters of course is metrics like monthly unique visitors and of course revenue.
But if you're trying to improve and understand your search traffic (paid & unpaid), you do want as much intelligent info as possible. In my opinion it should focus on actual search referrals, and be easy to use so that a business owner can observe trends without a lot of fuss... and most of all for smaller companies, without expenses or unfair "lock-in".
As an added bonus - wouldn't "penalty free rank analysis" be a good idea? Many (at least if you read the forums) in the SEO field in recent years would blithely recommend tools that were explicitly banned by the search engines, just for the purposes of constant rank checking. Wouldn't it be nice if some solution could be arrived at to do the same thing in a manner that wouldn't run afoul of SE's rules?
So for all of the above reasons, and for the reason that I like using a simple tool that doesn't offer me superfluous screens and information, I've been having a ball over the past nine months trying out alpha versions of Enquisite, a new service that is now just coming out of beta. It's now live and available (for free) at Enquisite.com. Basically, you install the code snippets on your site, and begin collecting data, like many analytics tools. They plan to roll out more "SEO-specific" reports in the coming year. Enjoy.
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