Google going into Billboard advertising

January 23, 2007

Not seen a great deal on this one but the New Scientist dug into a recent Google patent application and found a very interesting tidbit. 

The patent, filed December 21, 2006 with the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office), covers systems and methods for allocating advertising space in a “network of electronic display devices.” 

“Advertisers may upload advertisement messages to a server specifying information such as budget, price per impression, preferred billboards and/or other constraints. One or more keywords or other descriptors are specified for each advertisement message,”

You can see the full filing here.


Splogs – someone save me from blog spam

January 11, 2007

Doing my monthly backlink checking routine (no big surprises despite the recent Google updates) I took a detour into Google Blog Search to see if link checking there was any more useful.  Lo and behold, our large B2B site had over 3,000 backlinks.  Great I thought, better than expected from the blogging community.  But, the euphoria was not to last more than the 2 seconds it took to scan down the first page of results.  Each and every entry was clearly the result of scraping activity – not a single valid result for 3 pages. For instance this is clearly not, and never has been, anything remotely valid. 

Sadly the old adage that “any publicity is good publicity” no longer applies in the realm of linking – the remorseless rise in splogs has the potential to seriously damage any site’s reputation with the ever increasing emphasis placed by indexes on quality vs quantity (I, of course, except MSN in this statement as who can really say how that poor, deluded engine works anymore).

Even more sadly, there is little we can do other than play the never ending game of hunt-the-bot in our log files and try to ban the blighters before they take more material.  However, even this will do little to stop this activity as a good 50% of all the offending sites I examined clearly used the free RSS feeds for source material.  Perhaps a more militant approach is needed, maybe IncrediBILL has the right attitude!

Customers should not have to spill blood to leave you

January 9, 2007

Cannot help but agree with Seth Godin when he argues you should make it simple for customers to leave you. 

“The number one reason consumers don’t sign up for your free trial is
that they don’t believe that it’s really free, and that they are sure
that once the trial is over you’ll figure out some way to harass them,
steal from them or otherwise make them sorry they trusted you.”

Any customer that has cracked their head on the brick wall of “customer service agents” for phone companies or book clubs know this feeling very well.  And do you think a single one has a pleasant thing to say about that organisation?  Nope.  Indeed, it has taken me 3 months to have myself removed from a book club’s mailing list – and I have no clue how I ever got on it in the first place.  In the end, I had to physically phone them and then insisted on speaking to a manager directly.  Geesh – where is the word service in such customer experiences.

It is all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the more barriers you put between the visitor and a newsletter “unsubscribe me” option, the fewer will opt out.  Sure, this might be the case but how many will, instead, report you as spam.  If our historical evidence is anything to go by – lots.  Recently, we have taken the opposite approach and gone out of our way to reply to all unsubscribe requests personally – even to the extent of asking them if they would mind explaining what we did wrong and how we could fix it in the future.  This has had exactly the result we needed – many surprised visitors saying how pleasant it was to have a real human bother to respond and actually seem to take notice of their feedback.  Unsubscribe rates have begun to fall, retention rates are rising and we are gathering oodles of great feedback for the next time we revisit our newsletters and sites.

A sad, sad world however, when human based service is the exception rather than the rule!

Seth’s Blog: Hard to say goodbye

Alfa Romeo Brera shock …

January 4, 2007

Ok, a bit of an aside but I recently bought an Alfa Romeo Brera.  Now, given my last Alfa Romeo needed 2 new gearboxes, 7 separate fixes to the air conditioning system, new brake pipes, and many other bits, this decision can only be regarded as the head being severely over-ruled by the heart.  And by over-ruled I mean put into a locked safe, secured with chains and dumped over-board in a really deep part of the Atlantic.

For any Alfa owner, the scariest ownership prospect (even above electrics) is that of the dealer network.  Dear lord, it is a frightening threat to hang over any owner .. “the car needs fixing and only an Alfa dealer has the bits”.  [shiver].  But, and this is a huge great, gilded but, I just had one of the best dealer experiences period.  Not only were the staff polite, they bothered to listen to my needs, provided a decent loan car and .. shock .. fixed all faults I mentioned.  Well, all but 2 that needed new parts.  And all under warranty (even changing gearbox oil).

Now, historically, even the prospect of obtaining new parts from Alfa was enough to send you scurrying to a scrap yard for the bits.  But, no, they arrived promptly over the Xmas period and are ready for fitting.

Can this really be the revival of Alfa Romeo?  Few can doubt the cars are simply gorgeous but dealers were always the Achilles heel of the brand.

During 2006, the UK operation mowed down badly performing dealers like so much dead wheat and began insisting that customers experienced real service levels previously (and only theoretically) enjoyed by premium German or Japanese brands.  Speaking to affected dealers, it is clear the demands are stringent and obligatory.  By cutting so severely into the network, Alfa might be able to convince punters they are serious.  Sadly, this means that many parts of the country are currently bereft of a local dealer – no manner how dreadful.  But, give it a year and the promise is for a doubling in the network – what great news for one of the all time classic marques in motoring.

Oh … and I just adore the Brera!

Beginners guide to the Google Content network

January 4, 2007

A good, basic guide for those entering the world of Google Adwords.  Thus far, our experience of current CPC campaigns shows we earn £2 for every £1 spent.  That said, the nature of our highly targetted B2B products means the impression counts are always low (long tail stuff) and clicks counted in the dozens a months.

However, it is a major focus of 2007 for us and will be a core component of our attempts to fix the struggling site.

Inside AdWords: New multimedia guide about the Google content network

2007 copyright

January 2, 2007

It’s 2007: Do you know what your copyright says?

Oh yes – automatic update for all sites; a lesson learned from years ago when a visitor reminded us in July it might be time to change the site’s footer!

Happy New Year

January 2, 2007

A very happy New Year to you all. 

Darn, was it hard to get up this morning – from a nice leisurely 9:00am wake up over Xmas to 6:45am – a shock to the aged system.  But, oddly, the promise of 2007 challenges was actually more of an incentive than you might imagine.  As a small company dominating 2 of the 4 publishing sectors we live in, the coming year will definitely not be boring.  My 2007 resolutions?  To fix the one site that has consistently failed to live up to it’s huge potential.  This is not to say we have not already tried numerous “fixes” – it is just they have only re-shaped the edges of the bubble and not fundamentally solved the underlying problem – focus. 

One of the key problems any site faces is that of audience focus.  If you cannot clearly define your prospective visitors by some demographic marker then all your marketing and SEO activities will be ineffective.  Not rocket science I hear you cry .. and indeed it is not.  But how many of us truly understand who the ideal visitor is?  And I do not mean who we perceive of as the ideal visitor but exactly what are the properties of those 20% that actually deliver on the goals we define as success indicators. 

Here is the nub of my key 2007 resolution – understand who actually contributes to the success of the one problem child site and then extend time and effort on those.  Google Analytics here I come ……………..