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Andrew R H Girdwood





Updated: 2018-03-05T22:34:32.620+00:00

 



A quick observation on Voice Branding

2018-01-02T09:03:42.668+00:00

Are companies going to have to think differently about branding as we use Voice more and more?

This Christmas my little apartment swapped from being a primarily Alexa-led area to Google Home. The main reason for the switch was Google Home's better ability to  distinguish between different voices and automatically associate the right Google profile.

Amazon forced me to say 'Spotify' all the time to get my music out of Alexa. The default music app was, of course, Amazon. I'd have to say "Alexa play 'Discover Weekly on Spotify'" to get that algorithmically determined collection to play. While Amazon was trying to relegate Spotify to a tier-two music provider what I actually noticed was that I was using Spotify all the time. It wasn't any harder to say the brand. Making me speak it just reminded me that I didn't consider Amazon's music offering good enough.

Google Home is different. I don't need to say Spotify and I can make it the default player. "Hey Google play 'Discover Weekly'". After a week or of this the fact that I'm paying Spotify to make this possible is easy to forget. It's Google that I notice. They're the brand I associate with my music solution.(image)



The most expensive domain names

2017-01-27T15:26:20.852+00:00

I rather like this infographic from Nimbus Hosting. It seems terribly rare to get some actual visual analysis rather than just a storybook infographic. I'm reminded just how good the former is with this radar graph at the top of this where we can see just how travel dominates the domain price wars.


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Is inoffensive marketing offensive?

2016-09-12T16:36:54.847+01:00

Will brands ever worry that they’re not being offensive enough?It sounds like an absurd question but I think there are issues around being too safe and bland worth considering. I’m not suggesting that I’ve the answer here. I certainly don’t. I do wonder whether I’m alone in spotting this rising conflict between respect and expectations so let me know your thoughts in the comments below. When Snapchat’s Yellowface filter was in the news and labeled as a mistake I saw the issue discussed, in Facebook, by anime and manga fans (most of whom were younger than 25). The group’s conclusion was the filter wasn’t racist, it was funny, and people should get over it. This was the same network of fans who were outraged at Scarlett Johansson being cast as Motoko Kusanagi rather than an Asian actress. I was surprised when a similar demographic divided into warring factions on the infamous Gamer Gate scandal. The same people who would defend your right to cosplay as anyone you want, despite your gender, size or colour, became extremely agitated at the suggestion fewer computer games should cast sexy princesses needing to be rescued (for example). The loudest voices against the ‘social justice warriors’ where the young female computer game fans. So what was going on there? Defending a culture against perceived ‘meddling from outsiders’?These are just snapshots, of course, and it is always dangerous to generalize from individual pockets of opinion. After all, it might just be a coincidence that I keep on bumping into them. I keep bumping into them. Increasingly I’m encountering people who are offended at how easily other people are offended. Yeah, there’s an irony there. More recently, a series of adverts created for the Paralympics by Mars for Maltesers created some chatter. Was it a good idea to be making sex-meets-disabilities jokes in order to sell chocolate balls? From the reactions I saw: it was. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YgUqmKQ9Lrg" width="560">At the time of writing Mars have over 6,400 thumbs up on that video with only 800 or so thumbs down against it. It seems to me the ad was well worth doing - even if it offended some people.It's not easy. It's not as if we don't still have loads of work to do in representing women and all cultures in ads (in all media). The Maltesers example shows that us discovering ads treating disabled people as people are still so are that they’re a talking point. Launch a new product for a female audience that’s essentially a pink coloured version of an established product and you’ll find out what I’ll mean. Some data, somewhere, will have said it was a good idea – that you needed to get women to buy your product – but the internet will soon rip you a new arsehole for being so stupid. Ask the team behind “Bic for Her”.As I said, these are just snapshops, but I think they’re symptomatic of a larger issue; of a diverse and changing cultures. It feels to be me that a growing percentage of potential customers are turned away by a lack of respect but also by a lack of guts. The challenge is finding that balance. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Jeb_ql5jLvo" width="560">[ This post from Andrew Girdwood's blog contains only his personal opinions. ] [...]



Affiliate Huddle 2016 and SEO value

2016-07-06T17:08:23.607+01:00

Search Engine Watch have just posted my Nine considerations for movie-based SEO outreach campaigns. My final tip is to consider your affiliates.

If you have an affiliate campaign you've dozens, perhaps hundreds, maybe thousands of micro-publishers hungry for your content. Using them to ignite interest in your movie-related offering should be a no-brainer and certainly far cheaper than getting a different agency to approach the same people.

The post reminded me I hadn't shared or blogged about my Affiliate Huddle 2016 presentation from a few months back.

allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="420" marginheight="0" marginwidth="0" scrolling="no" src="//www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/key/EMy0DsudAJSQjJ" style="border-width: 1px; border: 1px solid #ccc; margin-bottom: 5px; max-width: 100%;" width="510">

In this I make the point that affiliate marketing needs to break itseld out of self imposed silos. That's true. I stand by that. However, it's fair to say that if other digital marketing channels new a little bit more about affililaite marketing then it would help!

Last month I was at Affiliate Expo making the case that merchants and networks could do more to help content affiliates (unless they're happy with the current cash back and voucher code situation - then don't bother) and a common grumble back at me was "but it's too expensive".

No, it isn't. The key thing is that brands are doing this sort of activity anyway. It costs nothing to let your affiliates know.
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Facebook's new Like alternatives present brands with measurement problems

2016-02-24T15:07:15.200+00:00

I like to warn brands – be careful what you measure as you tend to get it. An example of this would be brands who optimise their Facebook activities around the number of Likes they get. A Like is rarely a meaningful business objective. Facebook strategies can still be shaped in order to boost the number of Likes, though, sometimes at the expensive of better objectives. But at least a Like is a countable, understandable and comparable metric. A post that scored 100 Likes was liked twice as much as a post that scored only 50.This means Facebook’s new range of responses: Like, Love, Haha, Wow, Sad and Angry will present some brands with measurement problems. Does a Love count the same, or more, than a Like? Should a Sad subtract from the total?Each reaction is still an engagement. Perhaps Sad is the correct response to a post designed to pull on the heartstrings.We don’t yet know how Facebook’s algorithm will respond to the data that the new reactions generate. Currently, Facebook rewards posts with exposure if their engagement metrics are good. Will that change if Facebook’s algorithm notices that people who have to rate posts with Sad tend to spend less time on the platform? It's hard to measure if we don’t know the value of beans we’re counting. It’s even harder to strategize if we don’t know the effect. My advice, as always, is to think like a publisher. Your goal is to grow your business; to get more from less while making sure you’re future proofed. Connect with potential audiences and grow their ranks. Your audience will include potential customers, advocates, SEO signal generators and, of course, current customers. Your Facebook strategy should be all about monetising the relationship you have with that audience, which means being useful to them, while sticking to your brand’s ethos. While Facebook begins to study how today's rollout of new reactions means for the algorithm – so should you. This will likely mean doing your own analysis and, the scary part, it will mean producing content to explore the 6-wide new range of response emotions. [ This post from Andrew Girdwood's blog contains only his personal opinions. ] [...]



Google's big changes mean you should review your affiliate PPC strategy

2016-02-23T10:28:20.218+00:00

A big piece of news this week is Google dropping right rail ads for desktop and moving to sit above the organic results only. In a bit I’m going to explain why this means brands should re-visit their affiliate tactics. In addition, for some competitive query there may be as many as four PPC ads at the top of the page. As you might imagine there been plenty of discussion about this. Clients want to know what this means for PPC campaigns. Agencies are sharing their viewpoints. Rightly so.I’m not going to use this blog post to dig into the PPC discussion. The summaries agencies and pundits are producing pretty much agree; competition for fewer spots means higher prices so the usual tactics of finding out exactly which keywords to target and refine are even more important. The main disagreement from agencies seems to be whether this is a good, long term, decision that helps align desktop with mobile, or a bad idea. There’s also been chat about what this means for SEO. It’ll certainly influence clickthrough rates for organic positions. The more expensive the PPC and the harder it is to appear on the first page means that SEO success becomes even more attractive. It may also be the case that for some queries there’s above the fold real estate for organic results. Overall; let’s call this a score draw for SEO.Google’s own advice to websites is not to load the top of the page with ads. Let the jokes fly.I’m yet to see much discussion on what the changes mean to affiliate marketing. I think, for some brands, this change represents a huge opportunity and therefore a challenge.The default affiliate strategy these days is not to allow affiliates to bid on brand terms, on related terms or straight through to the merchant’s site. Affiliates have to build their own niche sites, that aren’t anything like a merchant’s site, and look for matching niche keywords to bid on. Coupons and voucher codes grew from niches into a huge industry.There are other strategies though.Search term dominationAffiliates can be used by brands to dominate the PPC results. Imagine you’ve a brand and two affiliates, driving traffic to allied sites, bidding on key brand hybrid terms. In Google’s old PPC landscape that wouldn’t have filled up all the paid search results. In the new PPC landscape that could (add one extra affiliate to make sure). Further supporting this approach is the news that Google will shutdown Google Compare in a month. This removes one of the ways competitors could get some of their financial products in through your PPC wall of domination.Cost optimisationThis is very much in the test and learn category. Usually, an analysis of whether it makes sense to let affiliates bid on key terms (especially brand or brand hybrid) comes to conclusion that it is not cost effective. Letting the affiliates in simply increases the action in the auction and therefore pushes prices up.Will this be the case in the new limited space auction? It might be that the bid prices competitors are coming in with are above that of affiliates. If so then letting affiliates in won’t affect your bid price, if you’re determined to have a winning placement, but might act as a secondary catchment.Performance PPCOn the far end of the ‘cost optimisation’ model is to run a brand’s PPC campaign entirely as a performance model/affiliate deal with an agency. The agency is paid a commission based on profit rather than a management fee. Performance deals tend to be most popular with brands when it is hard for them to run a profitable PPC campaign in-house and when it doesn’t make sense to look for economies of scale by awarding a media agency combined PPC, display and other biddable media responsibilities. If Google’s new PPC landscape makes it very hard to make a margin on PPC in some verticals then brands may well start to look around again for purely performance-based partnerships. Double check brand bid[...]



What is influencer marketing?

2016-02-18T15:16:07.036+00:00

I remember debating with an agency-side Head of Social whether influencers really existed. She thought not. I thought so. However, even as I made my case I agreed with many of her points; there’s a big difference between reach and influence. For example; I followed Kanye West’s Twitter rant this week, it reached me even though I’d normally have nothing to do with the guy, but he’s not one of my influencers.Influencer marketing, I argue, is essentially another spin off from “press relations” and like SEO it should have been owned by the PR industry, it isn’t because it’s heavily digital, and instead is used mainly by SEO, content marketing and social agencies.So, what is it? I think we’re all publishers now which means it isn’t just newspapers, magazines and traditional media outlets that can reach audiences nor is influence the preserve of those channels. Today, celebrities, bloggers, community owners and curators are all capable of influence.Influence doesn’t always manifest as encouragement to buy product. Today’s influence might simply be used to generate clicks and valuable impressions, it might spark conversation which could lead to increased social clout or additional editorial coverage, perhaps links, for SEO value.Influencers are generally approached to help promote a story. A common tactic is to get the influencer involved in the story thus giving them and any loyal audience skin in the game.Influencer marketing is easy to talk about but hard to get right. You can spend a lot of money for very little in return or you can spend a little and unlock great value.This post is inspired by the news that Bloglovin’ has bought Sverve. I knew both companies.I never got into Sverve, I don’t think, as a blogger. I looked at it but couldn’t quite reassure myself that they had the scale and pitch quite right but always felt they were nearly there. Being bought by Bloglovin’ might be exactly what they needed to push over the success line.I’ve mixed feelings about Bloglovin’. I love the community, didn’t need the RSS reader alternative and corrupted the follower count system.Let me explain the latter. The number of people following your blog on Bloglovin’ (the RSS reader alternative) is public. The more you have the more popular your blog looks. My problem with that comes from my agency experience; most of the people who use Bloglovin’ are other bloggers. The Bloglovin’ follower count simply measures the echo chamber.In some cases I think it makes sense to subtract the amount of Bloglovin’ followers a fashion or lifestyle blogger has from their Twitter or Facebook followers, for example, in order to get a better feeling for what their natural audience size is (sans fellow bloggers). The new platform, replacing Sverve, is called Activate by Bloglovin’. Let’s hope it doesn’t lean too heavily on Bloglovin’ echo chamber metrics.I think the match up is a good one. I bet Bloglovin was frequently approached by brands and agencies looking to do some influencer marketing. With Sverve/Activate by Bloglovin’ in place they’re better able to handle those requests and turn a profit.Hopefully Bloglovin’s awareness of what bloggers are writing about (trending posts is already a thing in their platform) can combine nicely with Sverve’s own influence metrics and the new platform can really help identify a range of influencers (small to large) and empower people to pitch them safely and effectively. The proof is in the pudding; I've signed up to see how things go. [ This post from Andrew Girdwood's blog contains only his personal opinions. ] [...]



Ecosia is a search engine that plants trees

2016-02-17T10:19:41.482+00:00

The UK has a search engine called Everyclick, that’s powered by Yahoo, and raises money for charity. Thanks to Everyclick I’m familiar with the concept and challenges of third sector search engines.That’s why Ecosia caught my attention. As I search and click (interacting with income generating ads is key) it earns money and then donates that to tree planting progams.Ecosia has planted over 3 million trees in this way. That’s about one every 12 seconds.Bing powers Ecosia’s first page. It’s a good test of search relevancy. Without familiar logos you might well wonder whether you’re looking at Google results. As it happens, Ecosia has a Google tab and the search engine has become a new favourite way to compare Bing to Google results. I’ve planted 5 trees with it. Is there a catch? I noticed Ecosia wasn’t registered as a charity and asked founder Christian Kroll about that. We believe in the power of social business. Instead of only trying to maximize our profits, we try to maximize the number of trees we can plant in the long term. We make this very transparent by publishing all our donation receipts and monthly business reports. As a social business we have the possibility to scale and generate more revenue to donate than we would as a charity. Thanks to its business model, Ecosia has been cash flow positive from the beginning. There is a lot of money in search advertising and we want to make use of that so people can do good without any further costs or effort on their side. We've already been very successful with this in the past, as the number of trees we've been able to finance, shows. Our next goal is to exponentially grow our number of users, so we can reforest the planet even faster. So is Ecosia just an oddity and of interest to digital marketing geeks like myself? Perhaps not. The search engine’s market share is tiny but growing. Kroll was able to provide me with some stats;Our worldwide market share might be miniscule compared to a monopolist like Google, but 10% of all non-Google users in the DACH region use Ecosia. This percentage is currently quite noticeably growing in other regions, too. Especially in the UK, probably due to Google's tax situation. The fact that users now change to Ecosia shows us, that the future belongs to tools that capitalize on a daily habit to offer an additional social or environmental benefit. [ This post from Andrew Girdwood's blog contains only his personal opinions. ] [...]



A world first? Human virus downgrades computer game

2016-02-03T10:27:42.327+00:00

We know about computer viruses messing up computer games but now we have a human virus, which is far more serious, also being able to impact on games. I think this is a sign of the times and an indicator of just how culture is being interwoven with technology.The game in question once belonged to Google but spun out last year, raising funds on the way. That’s almost unheard of, right? Google just shuts down companies it owns but doesn’t want any more. They didn’t even sell the Google Affiliate Network (once part of DoubleClick). They just closed it.Niantic Lab’s Ingress is different. It left Google and then got funded by Google and other backers like the Pokemon Company.Ingress is also a different sort of computer game than you might be expecting. It’s a smartphone game that requires you to get off the sofa and roam around your city to play. I’d call it an augmented reality game since it’s a virtual overlay, using your location data, on the real world.In Ingress there are two factions fighting for the future of mankind. There’s the Enlightened (in green) who want to harness a mysterious alien energy and help humanity grow. There’s the Resistance (in blue) who recruit agents by claiming the mysterious alien energy (and the unseen aliens) are dangerous and should be opposed but who have now been exposed, in the game’s three year plot, as actually working for a second alien faction all along. Traitors. Yeah, it’s a twisty plot but there’s a summary video at the end of this post.The rivalry between the two factions is significant because Niantic organise large clashes, twice a year, known as Anomalies. One of the main Anomalies this year was supposed to be in Rio. This is the same Rio that’s supposed to be having the 2016 Summer Olympics.This week Niantic downgraded the Rio event and moved the main clash of factions to Seattle. This makes sense; Ingress is a game where you have to physically be in the right location to play and an Anomaly in Rio would mean players from around the world (and 14 million people have downloaded the game; millions play every month) would have to travel to Brazil.In a Google+ update Niantic said;... due to escalating concerns by the World Health Organization regarding the Zika virus, and the challenges it presents, the #Obsidian Rio event has been reclassified as a Satellite Flash Shard anomaly. The new Primary city for the events occurring on 27 FEB will be Seattle …In other words; as Ingress blends reality with gameplay an event in Rio would mean exposing computer game players to the Zika virus. I think this may be a first. In the future I think we’ll see more real world and augmented reality clashes where events in one affect decisions in the other. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ee2ziqhKhFs?list=PLDEUWItbkQ58tp0PdkuRw7a3cXL3V7G4v" width="560">If you’re interested in joining Ingress, helping the Enlightened fight for choice and turning your daily commute into a game then scribble your email down here and I’ll get in touch.[ This post from Andrew Girdwood's blog contains only his personal opinions. ] [...]



What's Next ... In Media

2016-02-01T16:14:49.223+00:00

DigitasLBi’s “What’s Next” phrase isn’t supposed to be used as a question; it’s supposed to be used in the context of digital transformation and those agencies that can help brands achieve that.

But I like using it as a question. I like questions. Asking questions is what keeps us savvy, keeps our heads up and eyes open while we predict what’s next rather than just try and cope with it when it comes.

Thankfully, the "What’s Next ... In Media" day we held in London last week raised lots of questions. Here’s a quick video summary.

width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7wcJIhJw4Y8" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>

Lots of high profile and intelligent speakers. I was very pleased to see a mix of publishers and brands. I’m an advocate of thinking like a publisher. This is not because I’ve a content marketing proposition to sell but because brands have no choice. Brands are now publishers whether they like it or not.

I think Anna Watkins, the MD of Guardian Labs, made some great points. Many years ago I once called the combination of anchor text -> title tag -> h1 the holy trinity. Those days are long gone. Anna uses the phrase to describe the need for world class content, technology to help distribute at scale and data to target the right audience.

In particular, I was interested in the challenge around “cut through”. How do you get noticed when everyone else is doing the same thing? This is the media challenge. This is the point of media – creating value from your assets by connecting with audiences. Branded communications, publishing and media campaigns (paid or earned) the overlap is huge.

Anna said there’s almost an obesity crisis when it comes to creating content. Branded content marketers may have a harder job than journalists (I’d suggest they’re less trusted, certainly).

I think this “cut through” challenge is both “What’s Now” and “What’s Next” in media.
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SEO finally comes to organic Facebook posts

2016-01-22T13:52:10.500+00:00

Noticed how your free Facebook posts have had fewer and fewer people view them? I don’t blame paid ads for this. Facebook tells us that on average users would have 1500 updates to see in the news feed each day. Facebook is partially to blame for this as they’ve made so many actions potentially news feed worthy – friends liking stuff, for example. The platform uses interest based filters to decide what to show people. If Facebook thinks a user is likely to be interested in a post then they’ll show it to them. That's tough for marketers. If only there was a way to nudge Facebook's system to consider a particular audience as you're pretty sure they might be interested in your post.The problem with the busy news feed is that it’s now full of brands, pages and your next door neighbour all keenly sharing stuff that you might like. Brands suffer the most because they work hard on “branded content” or other expensive, quality, content that meets their own branding rules while trying trying not to look like corporate messaging. Facebook natural reach is declining because it’s busy; not just because there are ads.If you’re sceptical then watch this video from Facebook’s Eric Sodomka, which explains this in detail. Watch it before Facebook realises what’s been said and asks the Simons Institute to delete it. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/94s0yYECeR8" width="560">So what’s this about SEO for Facebook?Wouldn’t it be good if you could use tags to optimise a free, organic, post so that its targeted specifically at people within your audience who might like that tag?Sure, right now you can use Facebook’s Interest Targeting feature to mark posts – but why would you? What Interest Targeting does is to restrict who can see the post to only those who match the interest. Essentially, all that Interest Targeting does is reduce the chances of your post picking up Likes and Shares.Today, Facebook has announced that Interest Targeting will go and will be replaced by Audience Optimization. It talks to my SEO genes. Facebook’s new Audience Optimization comes in three parts;Preferred audience - tags that encourage Facebook show the post to people who might be interested in the tag.Audience restrictions - a bit like the old interest targeting; you can say who might not be interested in the post.Audience insights - want to see how the content actually performed against your tags? This will show you.To recap;This coming week, for English language Pages, you’ll be able to call out interest tags for your posts and Facebook will optimise the delivery of those free posts to matching people.You’ll be able to analysis how successful your interest tagging strategy is. You’ll be able to see how different subsets of audiences are engaging with your content.This is powerfulImagine what can be done with this. Off the top of my head;SponsorshipBrands will be able to see which of their celebrity product champions actually resonate with their audiences and sports clubs will be able to see which brands might be the best match for them (or take the money anyway and apply audience restrictions to all-on going posts to reduce the impact of the sponsorship to fans who couldn’t care less about the sponsor.Viral buildingBy deploying a series of test and learn posts marketers will be able to determine which interests in their audience are most likely to trigger shares and likes. Brands will be able to target vital candidates.Media companies will be able to see which news angles work best with which audience subsets.Linkbait and SEOUsing Facebook to help connect linkbait content with audiences with a high propensity to create links and other quality signals?Facebook’s Audience Optimization for Publishers will [...]



Have we lost it? SEO integration with design and build

2016-01-20T14:18:20.036+00:00

There was a time when websites were built by people who didn't have SEO high up on their agenda. It was common for brands, big and small, to create a whole site and then appoint an SEO agency as part of their launch strategy.It was rubbish. New sites went live with all sorts of serious problems. Huge amounts of money were wasted as big changes were made. Agencies were left looking pretty silly.Things got better. With that much money in the equation progress was inevitable. Four things happened;Clients / brands understood the importance of technical SEO in the buildWeb developers improved their SEO skillsSEO agencies dealt with senior decision makersWhat about the fourth? An important but often forgotten consideration is this;Google got betterSearch engines can now cope with a wider range of web design and coding techniques. I still wouldn't build a site in AJAX and frames but Google is better able to understand your JavaScript, for example, than ever before.What's the problem with SEO and web build?SEO changes. The stage in the web design and build project that SEO is generally thought about hasn’t changed.Back in early 2014 I wrote about Innovation in SEO and the "technical build". My argument back then was that getting the coding right, worrying about URL structures and similar wasn't enough. The build strategy in today's SEO world had to consider how the site would operate now that we're all publishers.Examples I gave at the time included;Having an easy and appropriate location on the site for linkbait publishingLanding page strategies for retargeting, affiliates, etcA page retirement strategy built into the CMSIt's now 2016 and I see very little progress. These considerations, and others related to current SEO techniques, are more important than ever. Sites are going live with an SEO disadvantage and CMOs and CIOs are beginning to waste their money again.When was the last time an SEO took a look at a core revenue driving page of your site (a product page, for example) and said "That would be an excellent page for outreach"? Or "It'll be easy to make that page a key part of the publicity campaign"? Have you been asked by the boss to prove that the blog is driving sales?Are we really all publishers now?Yes, whether it's Facebook updates or your Fitbit sharing your weekly step total in an email to friends; we're all creating content.When it comes to SEO this means we've so many more brands competing for attention. Just take a step back and look at all the companies still pumping out infographics. Look at the brands working with bloggers on co-creation projects. There's been tremendous growth in branded communication and content. This all equates to publishing. Publishers (games, books, music...) are on the same evolutionary path as marketing agencies. It's about growing audiences and making money from those connections. It’s too early to say where we’ll meet – transmedia campaigns based around IP franchises with profitable commercial models and loyal fans, perhaps – but there will be a meeting. Just look at publishers like Buzzfeed or The Drum who already have their own agency-like agency assisting content units. There may be some who haven't come to the same conclusion as the rest of us. They may not think we're in a messy battle for attention. It doesn't matter as even this small tribe recognises that modern SEO is very much about getting certain audiences interested in and aware of certain content (even if they’re just doing it for the links).What does this mean? What do we need to do?It means that we need to start making web sites - digital assets for our company - that have a fighting chance during the coming years of "peak attention".Brands need websites that will be relevant and useful. Having a web site [...]



Why Google's new Visit-in-Person query type deserves some attention

2016-01-18T16:13:07.151+00:00

SEO is always changing. One of the reasons why true SEOs are rare is the skillset changes. The changes are sometimes subtle which require instinct as much as hands-on experience to detect and master. I think Visit-in-Person queries are one of those subtle, but important, changes.One of the biggest Google updates ever was Florida. It hit just before Christmas and destroyed the rankings of retailers. How could retailers, almost universally, all loose the search positions? The Florida update was the one which brought the idea that people like to research before they buy to Google. The Flordia update helped create the three core query types Google used for 10 years.Navigational SearchesResearch SearchesCommercial SearchesThose three core search types have different names today but they’re still around. There’s also a fouth – Visit-in-Person.Page 72 of the formerly confidential but now public Google Quality Tester Guidelines spells the differences out for us.Know queries (which we might have called Research before) are those for which the searcher is trying to find something out – which tablet to buy, for example. Do queries are those in which the searcher is trying to take an action – buy an iPad, for example. There’s a subset of Do queries known as Device Action and these are incredibly important to know about as well. Device Action queries are those commands give Google to control your smartphone. Google gives the example [open facebook app] as an example. There’s Website queries in which the searcher is looking for a site or a page. I speculate “Navigation” isn’t quite as an appropriate term as it was before as users may wish to navigate to apps on their phone.Visit-in-Person queries are exactly what they appear to be. Google’s illustrated guidelines hardly seem necessary. These are search terms which suggest the user will make a physical visit to a real world location.It’s easy to see how this might influence SEO going forward. Here’s a whole chunk of searches in which a digital asset isn’t the ultimate destination. These searches won’t drive traffic to your site. Visit-in-Person queries are easy to understand but they’re difficult to study and predict. Using Google’s guidelines we can list all known queries with Visit-in-Person intent.[chinese restaurant][gas stations][pizza][yoga class][coffee shops][movie showtimes][car repair][dentists][bank of america atm locations][starbucks near me]It’s interesting that Starbucks needs a “near me” qualifier on it to be considered a VIP whereas [chinese restaurant] doesn’t. It’ll be the brand effect. Neither Starbucks nor any nearby Chinese restaurant will be aware of the search in their own site analytics. Starbucks will be able to see the search term driving impressions but not clicks in their Search Console provided one of their URLs is included in the mobile results. That’s an interesting SEO decision – do make the effort to create pages, with sufficient authority, to rank well enough to allow you to track a query?One of your main traffic drivers, perhaps a former Website/Navigational search could become a VIP search overnight. That’ll knock your numbers for six. I’ll use [pizza] as an example here. Google’s data tells them people are looking to buy pizza from a shop and not look up the recipe. That would be tough to swallow if the keyword has been a big traffic driver for your food blog or magazine site.The implications go on. VIP searches are matched to locations, not websites. You may not even need to have a website to benefit from them. As it happens [burger] is also a VIP search (at least from my location – all searches are location dependant). The results include a small restaurant around th[...]



How badly are bloggers poisoning the well?

2016-01-13T16:49:46.921+00:00

It’s still fashionable for brands and agencies to work with bloggers. How long will it be until it may be harmful to do so?The problem is with disclosure and authenticity. Bloggers aren’t keen on either and there’s danger that either the public or Google will notice. Google, in particular, is a stat crunching monster. Once the algorithm decides that mathematically the chances are that links from blogs will have been arranged or incentivized and therefore should be a negative quality signal rather than a positive one?I’m not just picking on bloggers in this post. Back in 2014 I wrote a piece that made it clear agencies and client-side teams were encouraging this behaviour by not refusing to take part. If a blogger takes cash for a piece and “forgets” to put nofollow on the links for Google or to clearly state “this is an advert” for human readers then all too often that’s seen as a bonus win.That same year I wrote tips for evaluating blogs that tried to steer people to safety. In particular, the Colleen/Jac test was designed to see whether the blogger actually had something unique to contribute or whether the platform was just sprouting reviews, rewiewbait (posts written to score freebies) and paid-for placements.Since 2014 I don’t see much of an improvement.I appreciate bloggers, more and more, want to make a living off their blogs. Blogs want to be treated like businesses. That’s fine. I just wish more blogs could actually be given business rates! What’s the average CPM for a remnant or RTB ad brought from a big brand publisher these days? A few pennies? Let’s pop over to the Passionfruit Marketplace and see what bloggers are charging. I like Passionfruit and they’ve given bloggers a better steer on what to charge than the current prices most bloggers ask for.The average of the 5 most active Beauty bloggers, by month;$17 for a banner ad shown to a 1/10th of the (undisclosed) traffic$9 for a small sidebar ad shown to 1/6th of the blog's 101,000 monthly pageviews$85 for a button ad shown to undisclosed traffic$400 for a square ad (smaller than a MPU) shown to undisclosed traffic$15 for a small banner shown to 1/5th of the blogs 6,000 pageviews. Weirdly the blogger says you're not allowed to promote anything with the banner.Using the two blogs who are kind enough to disclose traffic figures that makes an average of about 9000 pageviews a month (not uniques) for an average of about $105. That's a $86 CPM.A $86 CPM is ridiculous. There are good deals and less intelligent deals on Passionfruit. The goal of the above is to indicate just how rare traffic reporting is – bloggers much prefer social reach – and to indicate how expensive it is to advertise on blogs if CPM is your metric. Most brands and agencies don’t buy ads on small blogs though. They’re much happier (and better off) using advanced platforms in a real-time bidding systems to show the same people ads for one thousandths of the cost. What about disclosure and knowing when to nofollow links? Using a platform (who’ve asked to be nameless) who email offers and opportunities to bloggers, I went through 5 “You get to keep the product” offers and found between three and six reviews from blogs for each.What percentage of bloggers disclosed they got the product as a freebie?What about nofollow links? Counting only the blogs that linked back.It’s great to see that %100 nofollow on an incentivized deal. That tells me either the bloggers – more likely the agency – knew the risks. It’s also worth noting that links were not an asked for requirement in Offer 5. That’s the review deal with the most follow links. That’s how it’s supposed to work. If links are editorial then y[...]



Bloggers face UK copyright problems in 2016

2015-12-09T15:02:24.619+00:00

There’s an odd challenge that bloggers will have to navigate next year. It's all due to weird UK laws and the most likely to be effected are those who blog about art, design and certain household objects like furniture.The core of the problem is copyright. A change made in 2013 to the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act reinstated the full term of copyright protect of 3D artist to 70 years and included 2D representations of that. Let me try and put that into plain English with a blogging example.If a fashion blogger reviews a necklace, includes their own photograph of that necklace and that necklace design was protected by copyright then that blogger could be in trouble. The blogger may think because they took and used their own photograph (a 2D representation of the 3D necklace) they would be okay but actually the copyright for the photograph belongs to whoever has the copyright of the necklace.I’m not a lawyer. Don’t take this blog post as legal advice. I’m sharing my understanding of what this means in order to foster debate and learn from people smarter than me.It was a post on The Digital Reader that alerted me to the ticking clock. The law was changed in 2013 but because lots of books are sold containing photographs of art, design and other copyright protected items retailers were given until October 2016 to clear their stock. That means there’s less than a year to comply. Bloggers may have monetised sites that make heavy use of photography, often their own, that will be in breach before the year’s out.The Design Council in the UK had championed the change of the law. In this statement, published on Dezeen, it was noted;The Design Council has welcomed today’s announcement by the Government that copyright in designs which qualify for copyright protection is to be enforceable beyond the current 25 years to a term of ‘life of the creator plus 70 years’. Under the new measures, certain ‘artistic’ designs of manufactured goods (for example certain furniture, lamps and jewellery) created before 1987 may now be protected from unauthorised copying under copyright law.Sir Terence Conran said: “By protecting new designs more generously, we are encouraging more investment of time and talent in British design. That will lead to more manufacturing in Britain, and that in turn will lead to more jobs – which we desperately need right now. Properly protected design can help make the UK a profitable workshop again. We have the creative talent – let’s use it.”It’s not clear whether bloggers will even notice the law passing into its enforcement period in October and it’s certainly not clear whether designers will start to take action against sites publishing photographs. I suspect some might.Originally, it was furniture manufacturers, companies like Knoll, Cassina and Vitra, who pushed for the judicial review.[ This post from Andrew Girdwood's blog contains only his personal opinions. ] [...]



Hopefully the new Google+ isn’t finished yet

2015-11-24T14:31:05.050+00:00

I like Google+. Okay, I don’t have the +1 button here on this blog but that’s just me being lazy. I like G+ for two important reasons.Communities – gaming, digital marketing without the RSS or automated spam, Ingress, comic books, geeky stuffContent – not just content from people I know, but content surfaced by the platform based on my interestsThis compares to Facebook where I see content from people I know and Twitter which is similar but struggling.Google now bangs this drum. They call out Communities and Collections as two great features in Google+.I’m now on the new Google+. It’s supposed to be faster and better. I worry it’s incomplete.One of the main reasons some of the communities I exist in on G+ are on that platform is because of G+’s Event organisational system. You can shepherd people to the pub for Ingress, organise an online conference or virtual tabletop RPG. The new G+ does not (yet) have Events. Was usage that low? Maybe, but I’m not sure it matters. Events contributed to Community and if Google+ is to embrace community then it needs to reconsider its position on Events.On a similar note, many Communities use Hangouts to talk to one another directly. The new Google+ doesn’t have integrated access to Hangout chat in the way the old, web version, of Google+ did. It doesn’t even seem possible to add Hangouts to Google’s App Launcher in the menu bar.Polls? There are huge communities that make Polls their bread and butter. I can see Polls in the new mobile G+ but if they’re present on the web version then they’re hiding from me.Google’s been criticised for not getting social. It’s easy to see where that sort of criticism has come from when you review the new Google+. The team wants to promote communities but doesn’t seem to understand what builds and enables communities.As a final example of just how bad the lack of understanding is – the new Community pages no longer have sticky posts/community description panel on show. This area was used not only to describe what the community was actually about but to share important rules for what sort of post was considered on-topic and welcome versus what wasn’t wanted and would be deleted. These details exist but are hidden away under an (i) icon and there’s no way to link to them. [ This post from Andrew Girdwood's blog contains only his personal opinions. ] [...]



Google offering unpacked shopping results

2015-07-01T14:30:27.731+01:00

This is a visually striking search result for Amazon. They are in the PPC results for the search term [nespresso compatible capsules] but they're one of many.

Without a doubt it's the "Unpacked Shopping Results" that dominate the page. Google's gone into an Amazon listing and has pulled out the product details. It's a chance to see whether or not that particular item is a good match for your query. If you click on the Feedback request link on the insert (is it a card?) you're asked about accuracy.

There's no other organic search result in this page. You'd be kind to call the unpacked shopping result organic but it's not labelled as an ad.

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Hat tip to @JohnHutson for the spot. It was new to me too.(image)



Quick review of Pinterest schedule and analytics app: Tailwind

2015-06-22T17:13:10.888+01:00

Tailwind was brought to my attention by Hootsuite who have cleverly integrated it into their dashboard. One assumes that Hootsuite won’t – not yet – be offering a Pinterest scheduling system of their own as this is what Tailwind offers.Tailwind’s free account lets you schedule up to 100 pins for Pinterest each month. You can do that in a batch or as you go. The key thing is to get their browser button installed so you can press it on the right page, open up their large pop-up window and select the images you want to share.I thought I’d give it a go.The first thing that I saw and liked was their attempt at a weekly pinning schedule. Each day as some recommended times to pin – in light green dots (in contrast to the green shade of slots you’re using). The times are based on when people are engaging with your Pins. As it happens; this compares very well to Hootsuite who seem to struggle with the notion your audience might be international and you’ll want your updates spread out across the full 24 hours as a result. The next feature that caught my eye was their ability to schedule a lot of pins and do it quickly. One of my geeky blogs likes to share galleries of art. I have to pin each one by hand (and hope it doesn’t flood my audience). With Tailwind you press that magic browser button of theirs, open the pop-up and just click on the images you want to share. Hit “Go Schedule” and you’ve a quick way to assign them all, at once, to a board (or one at a time) and then drop them all, at once, into your post schedule. Given that the post schedule on Tailwind is impressive this easy to schedule a whole bunch at once is especially nice.I very quickly decided to go pro. It’s $9.99 a month for bloggers and small businesses if you pay for a year at a time, or $15 if you don’t, and that compares well to something like Rafflecopter. The benefit of going pro is better analytics and unlimited pins. I’ve seen some awful dashboards in my time but Tailwind gets it right. At a glance I see whether my repins are better or worse than last month, how my pin total is doing compared to last month and the same for my followers. With 14,981 total followers your account is looking great! You've been gaining about 414 new followers per week recently, so this past week was below average.A profile performance dashboard helps me see whether or not my pins are engaging followers at the same level. I had thought there was a Pinterest purge going on – as my follower count was dropping – and Tailwind has helped confirm this. I can see my pins are engaging, I can see that the new followers are coming in too but that the account is losing even more. I hope that’s an account purge rather than loads of Pinterest followers dumping my boards.I’ve found it rather useful being able to search through the 7,000 or so pins I’ve already uploaded to see what’s popular. In this case; Star Wars is. I should do more Star Wars content.There’s a loyalty program too; a system which lets me grant a free month to a contact for them to test. The goal, they say, is to help Tailwind grow and I suspect that won’t be a problem. What I miss out on for not being an Enterprise client is trends and big data analysis. I can’t see what other geeky Pinterest users are getting to work for them. That said; as a solo-user I’m pretty sure I can deduce it. If I had my agency hat on I might need some supporting evidence but as a blogger I can go with my gut feeling.My biggest success with Pinterest came when I just happened to spot some fresh, quality, original content appear on my homepag[...]



How did you not see this coming? The end to link building.

2015-02-17T10:02:41.039+00:00

I’ve been down on link building for many years now and I have not been the voice in the wilderness on the fringes of the SEO community. I’ve found plenty of SEOs who agree with me.We’re talking about this again because Google’s John Mueller recommends not to focus on link building. My Twitter feed is now abuzz with chatter. When the SEO chat drowns out the general geeky chat then that’s a sure fire signal it is a big topic.There are two levels to study.Level One: The SemanticsThe word “building” is sometimes significant. It implies a degree of process and emphasis. The emphasis is that the links were put there, built, by the SEO. I’d suggest that for a long time it would be fair to say that Google wants to discount any such link. If you built it, Google will discount it.Even on Level One, since you can discount good links, you’re only left with harmful links.Level Two: The ApproachOld school link building or even some form of “link earning” is a bottom up approach – and has limited chance of getting very far from the bottom. I’ll use an article link as an example. If you write an old school article, plop a link in it, and get it published then nothing else will happen. The article will not generate any other quality signals and nor will it influence the editorial agenda in anyway. I’d argue the same is true if you persuade or hoodwink a magic middle blogger to write a generic blog post.Once again, if the only link of significance you can expect from the approach is one that’s so negative that the search engines react accordingly – why would you do it?So, what can the SEO community do about it?A Wild Red WidgetTwo years ago I wrote about The Link Singularity. That was the point where “achieving” a link cost more resources than the link was worth. What happens after that point is an unknown. We need to avoid the Link Singularity.I advocate a “top down” approach to SEO quality signals. To naturally earn the quality signals, like links, the search engines need to see, you need to influence the editorial agenda.This is a big step change for some SEO and I’ll be the first to admit that not all client-side decision makers are ready for it. Hopefully that will change in time.There are lots of examples of “top down” approaches, they’re not new, they’re just more familiar with other disciplines like social or PR. None of them involve asking for a link. Rather than get a blogger to write about your red widgets consider one of the following. Build a statue out of red widgets and put it in the middle of a busy train station. Calculate the carbon footprint benefits of red widgets compared to blue widgets and pitch the story to green bloggers who would not normally write about widgets. Provide a nursing home with a month supply of red widgets and invite local press along to see the delivery. Pay film students to make a series of red widget prank videos. Newsjack a story about the Red Devils, a lorry spilling red paint, a company sliding into the red, the Red or Dead sequel, a controversial red card or a celebrity falling out of a red dress. I don’t need to go on with the examples. SEOs are familiar with them all. That’s rather my point – how can anyone be surprised that Google officials are spelling out that a focus on the bottom up approach is likely to do more harm than good. [ This post from Andrew Girdwood's blog contains only his personal opinions. ] [...]



Google creates "Your YouTube subscriptions" Circle for you

2015-01-26T18:03:08.696+00:00

This is new to me. I noticed that my Google+ Circles collection had been extended. This is significant because until today all my Circles had been created by me.
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The new Circle is called "Your YouTube subscriptions". It does what it says on the tin; it's a collection of all my YouTube subscriptions.

I rather like Google+ and as it happens this Circle turns out to be pretty useful. Just select it from "More" across the top menu, just next to "Mentions", and you have a clutter free way to scroll through the latest videos from the channels you're watching. Fewer ads, even.

In theory I could even put on alerts for when there's a new video in the Circle. That might be an effective to notice new content before other bloggers and curators do.


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Oddity: A Bing result with no "normal" results

2015-01-26T13:50:52.839+00:00

This is an odd SERP from Bing. The chances are high that this is a glitch and not the result the engineers would want to show.

We see that there are results for the [Attack on Titan] search. None of the results are found on webpages, though. At least that's the interpretation of the categories applied here by the search. Matches are restricted to either images or videos.

We can safely conclude this is a glitch because the rich media results are good for the search. That's what I'd expect to see. Furthermore, Bing clearly knows a lot about the search as it provides related search terms which are pretty much appropriate too.

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Missguided show how affiliate and native advertising can merge together

2015-01-23T10:37:30.286+00:00

UK retailer Missguided have launched the “Missguided Active” sports range. To kick off the campaign they’ve emailed affiliates. This is a good start. When you’ve a new range; tell your affiliates.What’s caught my eye is that Missguided have taken it a step further and are looking to marshal affiliates into the realm of content. This starts to become native advertising or perhaps even a form of Outreach & Engagement more commonly associated with SEO.This is what the affiliate newsletter said;We´re super excited to announce the launch of Missguided Active, and to celebrate we´re looking to team up with our top content partners to create amazing editorial to showcase the collection. We´d love to discuss any opportunities you may have available to promote Missguided Active to your readers.With commission increases available, we´d be happy to discuss options to make this a successful collaboration. We look forward to hearing from you soon! The Missguided Affiliate Team I like the approach but there are some pit traps the Missguided team will have to watch out for. They’ve used the word “editorial”. That’s what brands want as editorial pieces have the credibility and coverage that advertorials don’t have. Advertorials are regulated as ads whereas editorials are not.Right now the implicit default is that an editorial piece from a site that earns money from affiliate activities is still an editorial piece. In fact, it’s generally the case that a blog post can link through an affiliate tracker, straight to the brand or product in question, and still be considered editorial. I won’t be surprised when this starts to be challenged.In contrast, when a blogger is paid a flat rate to review or write about a product or brand this needs to be disclosed In this case Missguided are stepping deeper into the grey. They’re tempting affiliates with the possibility of affiliate increases. So does this count as incentivising coverage? I suppose it might but I’m still not sure whether regulators will get their heads around this space any time soon and, if they do, what their decisions as to whether these posts would become ads will be.For now, I think projects like this need to be carefully managed but could work very well.Disclaimer: This very post uses Skimlinks. This program turns some brand and product mentions into affiliate links.[ This post from Andrew Girdwood's blog contains only his personal opinions. ] [...]



Dubsmash boom reminds me we're all publishers

2015-01-22T16:11:38.052+00:00

I thought it was interesting that a two-month old video-messenger hybrid app called Dubsmash did amazingly well over Christmas. As highlighted by App Annie the app made it into the top 10 on iOS downloads for December and saw Google Play success as well.Dubsmash lets users record a video selfie and mash it up with a popular song or quote from celebrities. Otherwise the top 10 on iOS was dominated by the huge players; Apple, Facebook, Google, Tencent, Baidu, Alibaba, Microsoft, etc.It reminds me that we're all publishers now. Not only is it easy to create content with apps like Dubsmash - it is more personal to do so. Christmas, I'm sure, played a roll in boosting Dubsmash over December as people had reason to message each other with something a little different.Dubsmash allows sharing from the app to popular messaging apps like Facebook or WhatsApp. It had reach built in. All that it needed was publishers. [ This post from Andrew Girdwood's blog contains only his personal opinions. ] [...]



Top European mind in affiliate marketing

2015-01-17T13:19:34.029+00:00

GeoRiot is a service that copes with the complexities of mapping IP addresses (and other clues) to a geographic location. I first heard their name while talking about affiliate marketing. They've since moved into the industry more fully offering a free (pay in clicks) geolocation for Amazon affiliation.

The solution works by redirecting your Amazon links to Amazon US, UK or JP but claiming 15% of those clicks as their own - so they can get the affiliate commission. They've a similar deal for iTunes.

GeoRiot have been doing a bit of social media research; using Klout, PeerIndex and raw Twitter stats to work out who identifies themselves as affiliate marketers and who has reach. The exercise tells me affiliates are busy making money and not really promoting themselves as I've managed to rank 7 out of 25 in a global list. I'm the top European marketing mind for affiliates. Well. According to this flattering research!

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You can read up on the research and get contact information for everyone listed here over at GeoRiot.(image)



What do Scottish marketers think about the Independence Referendum?

2014-09-16T16:48:17.115+01:00

This is a work post. This is a work overlapping with life post. Actually, it's mind boggling to think about the scale of interests involved in this post.I work in Edinburgh. I spend much of my time working with clients who are not in Edinburgh. The Independence Referendum has me in a spin. I thought it interesting that only a relatively small percentage of Scottish digital marketers that I know where openly talking about #IndyRef. Some are, of course, some are talking loud and clear.Work helped me out. We’ve run a survey to ask for anonymous thoughts on the #IndyRef. This wasn’t a Yes/No survey. That happens on the 18th. We wanted to know about issues like “Brand Scotland”, how important London is to the marketing industry and what our expert contacts made of the marketing campaigns ran by both sides.The results are in. A better analysis may follow but for now I’m just sharing the required-by-tradition infographic. I think there are some very interesting takeaway points.Brand Scotland is rated more highly than Brand UK. It’s fairly close but Scotland has the clear lead. Is this Scottish hubris or is this real?Equally, Scottish marketers are inclined to agree with the Business Secretary Vince Cable when it comes to London. 60% of respondents thought London had a negative effect on the rest of the country.What do you think?[ This post from Andrew Girdwood's blog contains only his personal opinions. ] [...]