I read with interest this week that an estimated 11% of people in the UK are leaving their internet passwords in their will so that their loved ones can access their personal data online. A survey commissioned by cloud computing company Rackspace concluded that more than a quarter of the 2,000 people asked had digital assets worth more than £200. With photographs, films and videos so easily stored online, they have in many cases replaced the hard copy photo album and DVD. When you lose someone, it makes sense that you’d still want to be able to access those assets rather than leaving them online.
By 2020, a third expect to store all their music online, whilst a quarter anticipated keeping all their photos online. In addition, passwords for sites such as Facebook and Flickr are also being included in wills to ensure that personal data can be protected. It’s a sensible idea given how difficult it can be to get hold of these passwords. Facebook pages can often become tributes to the person, but can also fall victim to spammers or malicious comments, so bequeathing your passwords can allow those left behind to maintain these pages or close them down. Only the other day, I was shocked to see Facebook suggesting I might want to be friends with someone who is no longer with us – it’s the decent thing to empower relatives to take these pages down if it’s not appropriate that they’re online any more. I hate to be old school about it, but I’m not sure being left an eBook or Flickr account is quite as precious as the original book or a box of old photos owned by someone you loved! What are your thoughts? - @Augustish
A funny thing happened a month or so ago. In a move to become a little bit more professional, I had the novel idea of getting some personal business cards. Vistaprint seemed like the obvious option. "They always have deals," I thought, having seen a plethora of online ads for the site.
I went on Vistaprint's website and, after having so many deals thrown in my face along the way - T-shirts, mugs and other unnecessary promotional crap I simply didn't need - I became a little bit indifferent to the site. The sustained bombardment that Vistaprint carried out during the ordering process alone even made me miss the part where I had to put in the details that go on the card itself. Tired of it all, I made a strategic withdrawal; I'd soon learn it'd be the best tactical escape I'd made in a long time. You see, in the weeks following this outright abandonment of the site, I've been getting emails from Vistaprint every few days. Despite many of them being deleted out of habit, I've still got this list after a quick search of my inbox (click on image for a larger view):
From 250 business cards for £5 on the site - a deal that already attracted me - I was then offered 500 for the same price, then 500 for £2.50, then 500 for free if I bought one of another five or six items, which themselves were half price. The fact that the most recent email offered "VIP ACCESS for Matt Gardner" was probably my favourite, even if I'd already been given a "token of their appreciation" for doing nothing. This email campaign was clearly in place for thousands of others who jumped ship early, too. It reminded me of an interesting survey of US-based SMBs and their spending, carried out by the boffins at Zoomerang in September. In statistics that undoubtedly reflect the way advertising works in even the biggest of companies - particularly as budgets are tightening and any business is good business - email marketing is second only to the business' website itself. While social media and direct mail continue to compete with these two factors in the report, it's just a simple fact: normal, everyday people have email addresses and use them every day. An email from companies that they're registered to will be less annoying than speculative spam because, well, they've signed up. You've only got yourself to blame - it's marketing 101. Yet it seems like companies are scrambling to offer more for less. More established companies like Play.com, Amazon.co.uk and eBay.co.uk know they can provide somewhat lesser deals (even if some of them are still brilliant) because they're main staple retailers that people will head to regardless of what they want. More specialised companies like Vistaprint, though? The world of printing is a busy one, especially when all you're getting is a few pieces of card. That's why I'm going to let the test roll on. I've just saved this in my basket and abandoned the site once more to see what they'll do for me:
If I'm being absolutely honest, I'm not going to buy anything until they offer at least 1,500, even if it's for free and I won't actually be paying. Still, try it yourself with another online shop - you never know if a company will throw in something to sweeten a deal that you pulled out on at the 11th hour. Do you have any experience of this with any other companies? Let me know below and spread the word - you could help save some patient people a fortune. -@matthewgardner
Eveyone knows the story of Apple: founded in the late 70s, reinvigorated in the mid 90s and now one of the most recognisable brand names on the planet. Ten years since the iPod was first launched, it's in as good a position as it's ever been. But what does the future hold? There are few competitors of Apple's size in the market, but it looks increasingly likely that Google and Microsoft are the only tech companies that move in similar circles.
Both Microsoft and Google concentrate mainly on software: Microsoft's hardware offering is mainly in gaming - the Xbox 360 - plus keyboards, mice and so on. All the Windows phones are manufactured by companies such as HTC, Samsung and LG, and their Zune music player has not sold spectacularly. Google may be moving into the hardware arena with their purchase of Motorola Mobility, but in the past have stuck to software, with their Chrome Netbook being made by Acer and Samsung, and the Nexus One phone made by HTC. So Apple has a foothold in both the hardware and software camps, and it's looking like this approach is paying off. Their tightly integrated (some would add 'closed') systems, simple design and high build quality has ensured that last month they overtook Exxon as the world's most valuable company. And with the iPhone 4S, which was released last week, there seems to be no stopping them. Even with the recent passing of CEO Steve Jobs, Apple seems to have a strategy that puts them way ahead of the competition. I'm a huge Apple fan. Are you? Is the latest Apple product on the top of your Christmas list? Or does their closed system of working leave you cold? Let me know @chris5marsh! (Photo: Forbes)
The last few days have been very difficult for RIM, manufacturers of the popular BlackBerry smart phone. An apparent electrical failure in Slough meant that millions of BlackBerry owners in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, India and parts of South America were left without access to internet services from their phone. This meant services such as emails, browsing and instant message applications such as BlackBerry Messenger were unavailable.
While users rapidly began to express their outrage across social networking sites, RIM stayed silent. At the time of writing, there is still no clear explanation of what exactly went wrong. BlackBerry has been quoted as reporting a “core switch failure” on Tuesday evening; however, it seems as of Wednesday morning that this is no longer the case. A recent statement from BlackBerry’s Stephen Bates reported that staff, ''thought we had found the problem [BB outage] but had not. We are working around the clock to get to the bottom of the problem.'' I am among the many frustrated BlackBerry owners, and have suffered almost non-existent or sporadic email service, and no access to instant messaging services for the last few days. I have also suffered constant uninformative texts from my network provider, Orange, to say that they are aware of the problem and it should be fixed soon. That’s all well and good Orange, but I still don’t have access to my emails, and it’s Wednesday afternoon. Frustrations aside, this incident has highlighted how important mobile internet has become. I watched an interesting slideshow earlier this week by Brad Frost dictating on how we need to future proof the web, and that mobile internet is a large part of this. It really is, and it shouldn't be underestimated. Frost points out that the web is no longer confined to a computer or to a laptop, it is all around us. It is in the devices we carry in our pockets, in our music players and in our TVs. And for those who are away from home machines during the day and are not computer or desk-based at their work, these smaller devices are paramount. RIM will probably never let us know the exact scale of the disruption their service failure has caused, but the reaction amongst users is enough to hazard a guess. BlackBerry users are outraged, confused and frustrated. Mobile internet is a no longer the luxury of the few, it is now a necessity. This event, though aggravating, should be a massive wake up call to companies that mobile internet is a growing platform that should not be overlooked. What do you think? Were you affected by the BlackBerry failures this week? Tweet me @lucy_callag
Last month Google bought restaurant review service Zagat. The merger has caused much debate as Zagat is a far cry from the digital-based startups that Google has previously acquired. Zagat, founded in 1979 by Tim and Nina Zagat, is similar to other review services. Restaurant goers are asked to review their experience on a range of factors, these results are then collected by Zagat and are available in hard copy, and more recently digital form. According to Zagat their guides include ratings and reviews submitted by more than 350,000 people.
Zagat also reviews a wide range of other places including theatres, hotels and music venues. They operate in 70 cities in the US as well as London. This isn't the first time that Zagat have tried selling up. Back in 2008 they were on sale for $200 million. However, after they couldn’t sell for that amount, they decided to move forward with an organic growth strategy.
So why has Google bought them?
Google haven’t been as successful with their location offerings compared to their regular search. Back in 2005, Google purchased location-based social network Dodgeball only to shut it down (the founder Dennis Crowley went on and started Foursquare). The more recent attempt ‘Latitude’ never caused much of a stir either. Google then tried buying Yelp in 2009, offering $500 million. This reached the final stages of negotiation but Yelp pulled out for reasons unknown. Then in late 2010, Google decided to go it alone with location-based recommendation engine Hotpot. However, this has never really taken off or been able to generate the reviews it has wanted since its launch. Google had also been borrowing from Yelp’s database of reviews but this started causing problems. Google Places was then created and Yelp saw it as a direct competitor. In an interview with the Telegraph, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman stated that: “We are unhappy with the way Google uses our users’ reviews on its Places page. However, there is no solution to the problem… Google’s position is that we can take ourselves out of its search index if we don’t want them to use our reviews on Places…. But that is not an option for us, and other sites like us – such as TripAdvisor – as we get a large volume of our traffic via Google search…We just don’t get any value out of our reviews appearing on Google Places and haven’t been given an option other than to remove ourselves from search.” Searchenginland Around a month later Yelp removed its reviews from Google Places but not the main Google index.
In 2009 Google attempted to buy Yelp. This failed so they then tried to create a similar service themselves with Hotpot (borrowing liberally from Yelp). Neither of these ventures have been successful for Google. So they then realised that they needed a solid base of reviews and reviewers to form a working community of users. Enter the opportunity with Zagat. The attraction to Zagat wasn’t just the database of reviews but also the brand. What Zagat has, and Google needs, is a loyal base of reviewers to carry on writing the reviews. Google has lacked a catalogue of reviews to fill out its own location-based services since their inception, and with Zagat they have bought themselves a good starting position, at least within the US. But what about the UK and the rest of the world? From what we’ve looked at here, there’s a high possibility that Google will spend the foreseeable future acquiring as many useful user review-based websites/companies as possible. This would enable them to take a stronger foot hold in the market and bring Google Places growth back up to scratch with its main search offering. What are your thoughts? Please leave them below or on Twitter - @stevowalker
As search continues to grow, our work has been recognised by those in the industry, and as a result, Epiphany has repeatedly been asked to speak at industry events. The latest is Conversion Thursday, an online marketing forum, which takes place Thursday, 13 October at 6:30pm. In addition to sponsoring the event, our Business Development Director, Rocco Vogel, will be discussing conversion rate optimisation, some of the typical tests we run and results we've achieved. Rocco is one of two speakers invited to speak at Conversion Thursday London, which will be held at the 22-26 Bar in Farringdon.
Conversion Thursday is a monthly forum for like-minded professionals to discuss online marketing and conversion. Since 2006, it has attracted hundreds of attendees and been held in Barcelona, Madrid, and London. The London Conversion Thursday is especially popular and according to the organisers, it should be another great event to network and learn about online marketing. For more information, visit the Conversion Thursday site or follow Rob Jackson at @conversion_guru.
In this post I would just like to keep everybody abreast of some of the new and very useful functionalities Google have unveiled on both the online GUI (graphical user interface) and in the latest version of the AdWords Editor. Both of the updates will allow a PPC Analyst to optimise campaigns better and to work considerably more efficiently.
Google has now provided a new piece of functionality that allows an analyst to see how much you would need to bid on in order to appear in the top three sponsored link positions as can be seen in the figure below:
Google has also recently unveiled a new edition of the Adwords Editor - version 9.5. This has two key new functionalities that will allow a PPC Analyst to be more efficient. So how will they aid PPC Analysts? One feature now allows you to download accounts and get the recent changes in the background whilst continuing to work on your other accounts. With large accounts, it was often a problem to wait until you had finished downloading an account before you could commence any work. This was very frustrating especially if your internet connection was slow and it would greatly reduce your efficiency. Waiting for Adwords Editor to download is now a thing of the past! The second new feature is another step towards integrating the functionality found in the GUI and making it available within the latest version of the Adwords Editor. Version 9.5 now supports location extensions; this means you can now add, edit and delete location extensions for your ads via the Editor without having to constantly switch between the Editor and the GUI. This will undoubtedly save time as you are not constantly switching between the two tools. Has anyone had a good experience with these new functionalities? Please leave your comments below.
A new feature was announced recently by Google but went slightly under the radar when compared to their announcement of Google Analytics Premium. I think what Google has done is pretty remarkable. Google Analytics is on more than 50% of the busiest websites in the world. To be able to take, crunch and display all that data within one to two seconds is seriously impressive.
What does this tool mean to me? This is one of the questions I always get asked when I demo a new feature or tell clients about it. The answer in this case is unfortunately very very little as I can currently only see a couple of use cases of this new Google Analytics feature:
- Monitoring the live performance of a TV campaign
- Spotting errors and correcting them
I’m still not 100% about the first one. Monitoring the performance of a campaign as it happens is nice, but what can you actually do there and then if the performance is not what you expected. The answer: nothing. The error spotting is certainly useful. If your site sees an influx of traffic or errors, you can jump on it quickly and hopefully correct the problem. This is provided you have a developer on call and can make rapid changes. This tool could also provide a free version of some error reporting tools you may currently have installed. However, these typically work best on the server itself. I think this is one of the first times I’ve actually been disappointed by a new Google feature. Considering the amount of development time, money, and resources it took to create it, I just feel like they could have spent that time elsewhere. Perhaps fixing the bugs of version five or adding more resources to some of the more interesting new features yet to be announced? I can see why Google has created this but it certainly sits in the ‘selling of the tool’ category rather than the ‘using of the tool’ category. I’d love to hear some real world use cases for this if anyone out there has one…. -@danpeden
You know what digital marketing conferences need more of? Robot Wars. I learned this last month when I attended Think Visibility along with a few colleagues from the Epiphany contingency. Think Vis, as it’s affectionately called by the hundreds who storm its doors every six months, is a search conference with a difference. Mostly because organiser Dom ‘The Hodge’ Hodgson likes to put his own wacky flavour on the whole affair. Events range from the aforementioned Robot Wars (minus Craig Charles) to a post-lunch game show involving SEO-themed piñata bashing. Of course, there were real lessons to learn too from the adept array of speakers who graced the two stages.
One of the most interesting seminars for a couple of reasons was Nicola Stott’s ‘How to Find the Angle’, which explained link building through the media. Getting media links, whether it’s from news and magazine sites or high-profile blogs, is essential for a great SEO campaign. Stott expertly outlined various methods in which to do this; it was a talk which was augmented with smatterings of hilarity. Here are some of the ideas she had:
Surveys are a great way to create news, especially in a sector that isn’t primed to chug out media-friendly information on a regular basis. There are two types of data you can source for these: qualitative and quantitive. Qualitative surveys are great for exclusivity because you’re getting more of an emotional response. However, quantitive data, such as polls, gives definitive statistics for journalists to form a story from.
The main piece of advice Stott gave for running a competition is that the prize need not be extravagant. She gave the example of a seven-year-old winning an Easter egg decoration competition. He proudly grinned for the local journalist’s camera with his creation before the story went to print and online. The key here is a focus on human interest, something to which everyone can relate.
This one requires some creative thinking, but if done correctly, could be a home run in your campaign. Say you or a client has an incredibly niche business, such as selling swimming pool filters (Stott’s example) that creates news that is only fit for Swimming Pool Filter Monthly (I have a subscription, it’s riveting!). It’s good if you can get your news on these niche sites, but it’s also possible to reach a peripheral sector if done well. Suppose your new pool filter is the first one ever to use nano-technology to clean itself (hogwash, but stay with me). This is prime news juice for gadget magazines and sites, as well as science media. Before you know it, you’re being interviewed by New Scientist and you’re drawing link gold. I did mention before that the seminar was interesting for a couple of reasons, the above advice being one of them. The other reason was the apparent divide in ideas between the digital marketing and public relations sectors. A heated, but enlightening discussion erupted during the session between Stott and a PR practitioner. Said PR agent, from what I could tell, held the philosophy that if the client’s news received media recognition, appearing on news shows etc., but the audience didn’t invest in the client’s products because of it, then it should be deemed a failure. She was also critical of Stott’s approach to press releases, as Stott alluded to banging out fairly mundane releases, which the PR agent would never do. Clearly PR and digital marketers come from different angle. One is going for exposure for client reputation and the other is aiming for exposure for SEO reasons. There is obviously an overlap in the two disciplines where tactics are concerned, but the criticism highlighted the differences between the two professions’ mind-sets and a need for both parties to understand each other better. What are your thoughts? How do you think PR and SEO can co-exist? -@scottmalt
Google have announced that they are changing the way they calculate the Adwords Quality Score. Going forwards, they are going to place a higher weighting on the user experience – specifically, the keyword relevance and landing page quality. Their announcement in full reads as follows: When searching on Google, users appreciate results that are relevant and deliver a great experience after they click. In August, we announced trials in Brazil, Spanish-speaking Latin America, Spain, and Portugal1 that increased the weight given to relevance and landing page quality in determining Quality Score and how ads are ranked on Google. The goal was to improve the user experience with search ads. Based on the results we’ve been seeing, we’re now rolling these changes out globally over the coming weeks.
As the changes roll out, some campaigns will see variation in keyword Quality Scores and typical ad position. Within a couple weeks, things should stabilize and we expect most campaigns will not see a significant change in overall performance. Just like today, campaigns with better-performing ads for user queries will continue to see higher Quality Scores, lower average cost per click and higher position on results pages. The 1-10 Quality Score in the AdWords interface will continue to represent the general quality of your keyword when exactly matching a search on Google. Increases in bid and Quality Score will continue to increase Ad Rank, and the same basic approach to improving your results with AdWords applies. This is interesting, as this is effectively the same as saying that they are reducing the role of the click through rate in the ranking algorithm. But the use of click through rate is critical to Google – this is what they use to maximise their revenue from Adwords. By promoting adverts that are more likely to get clicks and demoting those less likely to get clicks, Google ensures that the adverts that appear in the top positions (with the highest cost per click) are the ones most likely to generate clicks, and that an advert with a lower click through rate has to effectively make up the loss of revenue for Google by bidding higher, in order to get the position. This isn’t a criticism of Google at all – I believe that it’s generally in the user’s interest to see adverts that they are likely to click on – this is a strong indicator that the advert is relevant to the user. So by moving the focus of the algorithm from pre-click to post-click, Google are likely to cost themselves money. But does this really improve the user experience? Certainly, if the keyword matches the search query, it’s an indication of a more diligently managed account – a campaign that utilises Exact Match extensively rather than relying on Broad Match requires more work. And more targeted landing pages can be achieved by effective keyword grouping – but does this mean that user gets a better experience? To be honest, I’m not convinced. I doubt that it will make any discernible difference to users, but anything that encourages PPC account managers to manage their keyword lists effectively (or rewards those of us that do) can’t be a bad thing. -CustardMite