Friday, 16 October 2009

The ultimate SEO link building strategy from Blog Action Day

Blog Action Day '09It was Blog Action Day '09 yesterday and to take part bloggers are asked to write a post about, in this case Climate Change, including the words "Blog Action Day" and a link somewhere to

However as an internet marketing blog I’m writing a post about how (the company behind Blog Action Day) has created the ultimate link building SEO technique.

Backlinks from authority sites

Number 10 logoIn one single day they are getting 12,023 (as of 08:30 16/10/2009) backlinks from a variety of blogs. And not just any blogs, they include Number10, Google Blog, Mashable - "12 of the world's Top 100 Blogs" according to their website.

In terms of the power of those links, they are hitting both quantity and quality.

Links in context

Blog Action Day are specifying that you write a post on climate change. So most of those links will be from sites talking about different aspects of climate change.

The context of the copy around a link is an important factor in search engine ranking of keywords so this will help appear higher for "climate change". In fact at the moment they are at the 6th result on page 2 of Google - which is good for what I imagine is a hugely competitive keyword (and they were the 10th result on page 2 yesterday so moving up).

What have they missed?

Link anchor text

They could have done even better with this SEO technique by specifying the link anchor text. Anchor text is used by search engines to define the content of your site - you only have to do the old "click here" trick to find Adobe Reader listed at the top of Google (because most people link to Adobe with "If you need a PDF reader, click here").

They could have even provided a selection of options. For example:
Please help Blog Action Day conquer Google for all the most important Climate Change keywords. Please make your link to this site consist of the words "Climate change" "Carbon Footprint", "Environment" or "Sustainability".

Unique URLs

The URL will move on next year and push a different subject, in the past it's looked at the Environment and Poverty.

So all this association of subject, anchor text and context mentioned above will vary each year. This means that will start to list in the search engines for "poverty", "climate change" etc. The unique pages on devoted to that year's subject will be deleted or updated with the next year's topic.

If instead each year they were to create a unique sub-domain, i.e., and then push links to this, they would have a site devoted to climate change that would continue to exist even when blog action day had moved on.

It would also have keywords in the URL - another important SEO factor. Both the uniqueness of the URL and the specific focus of each sub-domain would help to propel the site to number one in Google for ALL keywords as opposed to doing reasonably well for most but not amazingly for any and to start to lose all that power the year after when they change their website.

I do realise however that Blog action day isn't just about their website though, but the discussion (or dare I say 'wave') ALL OVER the blogosphere, and for that it's an awesome idea.

If you would like to read similar posts actually about Climate Change, as opposed to a ramble about their internet marketing strategy, from some of my colleagues at UBM, please click on any of the links below:
Brian Sims, John Welsh, Ron Alalouff, Phil Clark, Grahame Morrison, Rob Enslin

Related posts
Monitor the online buzz around your brand (May 2009)
5 steps to improve your online presence (Feb 2009)
How to measure the effectiveness of your SEO (Jan 2008)

Monday, 5 October 2009

peer² - Online marketing and social networking platform

Hmm, just testing this site -

When you ask to "embed the player" on your site apparently what it does is dump it in a post which is what it's done here. See below.

According to their website:

"Peer squared (peer²) is a free peer-endorsed online marketing platform that rewards you for promoting the brands, causes and products you love across the Internet."

May blog more once i've played with it.

Friday, 17 July 2009

What is the average click through rate for online banner ads?

Well it depends...

Those last three words are perhaps one of the most unhelpful answers you can get.

The reason for this post is that I've just been asked this question by a colleague in sales.

Now usually I’d fob off my sales colleague and say that they shouldn't be selling on click through rate (CTR), they should sell on who will see the advert, the demographic of our web users, the power of our brand - after all an ad that doesn't get clicked on doesn't mean that it hasn't been seen - BUT this time I thought, 'Why not? There must be some figures out there'. So here goes:
2%2% - Off the top of my head I’d say that a 2% CTR would be particularly successful. I’ve seen ‘averages’ suggested at conferences, seminars and by friends of anything from 0.1% to 1% but not usually any more.
0.1% to 0.37%0.1 - 0.37% - According to this post that quotes a study by MarkingSherpa with CTRs by banner size - I'm not sure of the B2B relevance of this though.
2.8%2.8% - This post quotes the same MarketingSherpa study however states a "conversion rate" of 2.8%. So what this means is with a CTR of 1%, you'd need 3571 people clicking till you made a sale (or whatever your conversion is).
So with this in mind, let's go back to, "Well it depends..."

What else matters for banner ads?
  • Branding – banner ads are like TV ads – there as much about branding as they are about click through so that’s an unseen metric that should be sold to any customers.
    • Association - By advertising with you they are receiving association with your website's brand and the prominence that provides. i.e. Seeing a brand advert on the will probably be enough to convince you the advertiser is not a dodgy spammer. The same advert on a blog such as this one, may not have the same effect.
    • Demographics - The demographic of your site users are also important to this branding exercise. If you have statistics on your visitors you should sell this to the advertiser. This is how facebook advertising works.
    • Page views should be as important a metric to quote as click-throughs. Page views are the only way to measure ad views. i.e. An advert has had 300 clicks, but if it's appeared on a page with 30,000 page views it's likely been seen and not clicked many times.
Top of Times Online home page with banner ad

Home page of the Times Online

  • Targeting– showing an ad for a video game company on the video game section of a technology website will get a higher click through than putting it in an irrelevant section.
  • Call to action – asking the user to do something increases click through – most banner ads seem to just consist of a logo and click here with no reason why you should bother. i.e. Win a prize, get a discount, find something that no other website has and that you need etc.
  • Ads designed for site – This is really just targeting again. The more personalized you can make your advert the better. It's even worth getting a screenshot of the website the advert is going on so you can mock up what it will look like when it's live.
  • Testing – running multiple ad variations in different slots and optimizing based on their performance is a sure fire way to increase click through. The more you test, the better results you can get.
    Google Adword example
    A text ad from Google Adwords

  • Positioning and size – an ad in the middle of the page gets higher click through than one at the bottom. At the top of the page, bigger ads perform better usually. Again, you can test this.
  • Text vs. image – there’s a load of discussion online about which is better – text can be better when subtly put in with your main content. Again test!
Related posts
Stop pop-ups popping up, online advertising needs to evolve (Nov 2007)

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

8 top tips for video SEO and usability

These 8 tips are some best practice that you really should consider when posting videos online. Most are fairly common sense but still easy to forget.

Related post: For more detail on video promotion, keyword optimisation and transcripts (closed captions) see my original 4 video SEO tips.

This is from a presentation (news item 3 March 2009), originally given at the TFM&A conference by Webcredibles. I'll just summarise my notes here, their website has the original PowerPoint presentation (PPS, 7.4MB) with more information and screenshots.

Video still with big play button1BIG CLEAR PLAY BUTTON
I.e. In the middle of the video with the words ‘play video’ (unlike my image to the left!)
Video with title and description2Descriptive title and summary
a. This is essential for SEO
b. It also gives users a reason to the watch the video
c. Make the title really obvious and descriptive, the summary also to be obvious and provide more detail.
Video still of dolphins for a nature programme3HAND-PICK a good still image
A nice and intriguing still will encourage viewing.
Video still with run time overlayed in bottom right corner4Length of video
Include the video length wherever the video is seen – that includes in thumbnail links as well as the video itself – see YouTube results for example.
Video shown within body of article text5RELEVANCE & CONTEXT
a. Don’t have a separate video section as the primary method of finding video.
b. Include video with content – ie. The BBC often have a video at the top of an article. The article will then go on to summarize what's in the video.
Digital video camera6Good / professional quality
a. It’s a reflection of your brand
Transcript of a video7Transcript or/and summary
a. Essential for accessibility
b. Essential for SEO
c. Even if it's not a word-for-word transcript a summary will still help. Plus it may be a lot easier to produce than the word-for-word transcript.
Boxing promoter Don King8Promote your videos
a. YouTube channel – put all your videos on YouTube
b. Snippets – you could also just put snippets or teasers on YouTube with a link saying go to to view the entire video.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Check your web design in different browsers online

Check what your website looks like in multiple browsers and versions with

Different browsers render HTML differently. For example when I make a simple table in one of my posts so I can put an image with a caption under it hovering on the right hand side, I invariably find that it looks different in Firefox and Internet Explorer. See a comparison below:

Blog table in FirefoxBlog table in Internet Explorer
Blog image in Firefox 3
- lovely space around the copyright
Blog image in IE 7
- horrible text coming too close to bottom of copyright

Now this becomes quite a serious problem if the difference between browsers renders some functionality or usability of your website unusable.

It's therefore important to check on building a new website how it renders in other browsers, something I’ve done in the past by having a number of browsers installed on my PC. There are also a number of programmes that allow you to have multiple versions of different browsers installed at the same time - for this exact purpose.

That is a bit of a hassle though, and makes this easier. You just have to wait for an hour or so. The site provides a quick view, as below, and also the option to download all screenshots in a handy zip file.

This blog seen in multiple browsers on Browsershots

  • As it works on a page by page basis, if you want to check multiple pages you will have to wait each time for them to upload all the screenshots - which can be up to an hour and a half depending on how many different ones you want.
  • You're only allowed 100 shots in a 24-hour period. I've just done 37 so you can see how quickly you could use up your quota.
  • Both these problems don't exist if you pay for the priority service at €21.95 a month.
Related posts
SEO problems of white text on a dark background (Jul 2008)
What font / text size online and how to set it in the CSS (Oct 2008)
Improve and check your website's readability (Mar 2009)

Friday, 15 May 2009

Introduction to WolframAlpha search engine

Launching soon is WolframAlpha, a search engine which is doing what Ask Jeeves tried to do in the late 90s - answer questions, sort of.

Get a good understanding of how it works with this introduction screencast.

Unlike last year's launches of Cuil and Wikia Search i'm far more excited about WolframAlpha as they are focusing on a part of search that isn't currently serviced sufficiently. The more factual infosheet side rather than a method of redirection to other websites (which is what Google does).

For me, it could take over from Wikipedia for provision of immediate-response factual based information (i'm not suggesting it will usurp Wikipedia, just for those times i need straight facts).

Queries such as, "What's the GDP of Germany?" or "Where is the ISS at?". Neither questions i ask as often as i type in "BBC football" into Google mind.

Relevant web links
Web tool 'as important as Google' - BBC News

Friday, 8 May 2009

Monitor the online buzz around your brand

How to ensure you know what people are saying about your brand in social media, and what you can do to influence the conversation.

This was the title of a panel debate about buzz monitoring at Internet World 2009. Chaired by Tom Nixon of NixonMcInnes, with his colleague and two other speakers whose names I can't remember, one from Huddle, one from Attentio.


Get EVERYONE in your company engaged. Get everyone monitoring your brands, or the brands relevant to them. The more eyes you have out there the more you will pick up and the less you will miss.

Some tools to help you monitor your brands
Twitter Search
  • Google Alerts - Type in a search term, such as your brand, and set up an email alert or RSS feed.
  • Twitter Search - Search for terms and brands to find real time discussions on Twitter.
  • Google Trends - Monitor regional interest in topics and their appearance in Google News.
  • Technorati - Search the blogosphere for your terms and brands. Google Blog Search also does this, although not quite as well.
  • Trendpedia - Free tool from Attentio who was one of the speakers. Not sure of effectiveness but worth a play.
  • Company Buzz - Application on LinkedIn. Essentially it's just Twitter Search.
Tools to aggregate some of this content to you

There are lots of tools to monitor buzz but having to go from one to the other every day would be very time consuming so there are a variety of methods to get this information to come to you.
Newspaper with the word RSS on it
  • Email alerts - this is part of Google Alerts and obviously lets you get the information to your inbox. Any RSS feed can also be set up as an email alert with a variety of tools, Feedburner is a good one.
  • RSS readers - most if not all of the tools above output RSS feeds of your results. You can plug these into a reader such as Netvibes and iGoogle.
  • Addictomatic – This is an RSS reader with a difference. It's automatically set up to look at a number of sources and tools. Just type in your brand or terms, here's one I made earlier for number 1 breakfast spread, Bovril.
  • RSS manipulation - you can combine, change, filter and do pretty much anything with RSS feeds using Yahoo Pipes. It's not that simple for non-techies though, here's my short demo.
Things to bear in mind
Pack of Camel cigarettes
A pack of fags
A camel looking curiously
A mammal
  • Setting up an alert for a brand which can also mean something else may bring irrelevant results: For example "Camel" can mean the cigarettes and the mammal with a hump.
  • You could therefore nail it down by searching for "Camel cigarettes"
  • Or look for buzz where both the words "Camel" + "smoking" are used
  • And don't forget there may be other non brand names you can monitor, such as your CEO's name, any campaigns you are running, competitions you are doing, anything else about your brand that might be being talked about.
  1. If someone is interested in your product, the sales team can act on this and chase.
  2. If there are problems or issues with your brand then the relevant people can address these. Such as customer services or your technical support employees.
  3. People like to know they are being taken care of.
  4. Respond with AUTHENTICITY and have a clear consistent VOICE
  6. This is a representative of your brand talking, don't reflect badly on the brand by being petulant or of no use.
  7. Also remember that it's just people you are talking do, ditch the sales and marketing speak, be yourself.
Related posts
YouTube, Facebook, BBC, Reuters discuss social media (Feb 09)
Stop pop-ups popping up, online advertising needs to evolve (Nov 07)
Aren't Google Alerts clever? (Nov 07)

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Should Google News pay publishers for their content?

Working for a publisher the discussion has come up on a number of occasions that surely Google should be paying us for the content we provide it via Google News.

Rupert Murdoch had a whinge about it last month:
"Should we be allowing Google to steal our copyrights? If you have a brand like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, you don't have to."
While, the managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, Robert Thomson came out with the slightly ridiculous:
"There is no doubt that certain websites are best described as parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet."
Both quotes from the BBC article about this subject.

Should Google pay publishers for content? - No

It's right to expect to be paid in some way for content that you have spent time and money to produce.

Maybe when advertising revenues were strong it was something you could afford to ignore but now this source is receding digital needs to step up and produce another channel of profit. However, stating that Google should be the one to provide this revenue is a rather naive argument.

Google has found a way with Google News of taking what is available for FREE on the internet and making money off the back of it - through referrals to the rest of their offerings.
Stack of European newspapers
Off the back of this the main newspapers received a boost in traffic from Google News. When ad budgets were high, all was good. Increased traffic meant increased revenue from cost per impression, cost per click & cost per acquisition advertising business models.

But with no advertising money available thoughts turn back to the evil G. Surely it makes sense that if Google are making money from this content when no one else is then they should share this pot around.

Well no it doesn't, it's a crap argument. The publishers are offering their content for free online, to everyone. You can access the same content via traditional search engines (Google, Yahoo, Live Search) but nobody is asking for cash from referral here.

Until the content is not available for free on the internet, Google are never going to volunteer cash. They'll wait until somebody calls their bluff. If all the main newspapers pulled their feeds from Google News then they might enter into a discussion. This hasn't happened, yet.

Despite this Google still felt it was necessary to bitch back at the publishers claiming,
"[Google] has shared £3.3bn with publishers through ads program AdSense in the last year".
Well good point, but firstly Adsense is opt-in so doesn't apply to all publishers on Google News and secondly by making this statement Google is admitting that they do indeed owe the publishers something, schoolboy error.

How else can publishers make money online? - Subscriptions

Up until very recently most of the big players online were reluctant to broach the other obvious money from content method - paid for content / subscriptions.

The big UK exception to this is the FT, who in 2007 introduced a hybrid system where you could have 30 views per month before having to pay.

Subscription models become more viable with less money from advertising as site traffic and unique users become less important to the bottom line. Quality, uniqueness and diversity of content take over and differentiation from the competition becomes a sales tool for attracting the lucrative subscription market.

With the addition of subscription revenues, less revenue is needed from advertising to meet commercial targets. The lower traffic figures as a result of content gating and its knock on effect on advertising is therefore diluted.

And not to forget, Google News will still index your site (albeit with the 'subscription' tag).

Example Google News result of a subscription only publisher

The future? - Unique online offerings

Gated content is the online equivalent of buying a newspaper. Getting Google to pay you is the online equivalent of getting the newsagent to pay for your newspaper before selling it on.

"Online equivalents" are lazy ways of trying to transform business models to the digital age. In true 1990s buzzword speak it's not thinking outside of the box.

The brands that will prosper online are the ones that start to use the internet for its strengths:
  • Huge audience
  • Extremely fragmented demographics
  • Extremely niche markets available
  • Extremely flexible routes to market
  • Personalisation and tailored news opportunities
  • Portability
  • This list is in no way complete; tell me more in the comments!
Instead of indiscriminately slapping a subscription wall around content, publishers should take a leaf out of Google News' book.

Use your generic consumer focused general news content as a free traffic driver - that's your website's bait. Let anyone view it, pimp it to every news aggregator going and if advertising returns you still have pages with high traffic. It will also keep your website brand out there.

Use this driver to push your paid-for content. Charge for all truly unique content, ie.
  • Areas of news that only you produce and people need - ie. industry focused business news, such as the FT provides
  • Premium reports - a tech magazine could publish SEO guides, link building guides, technical help
  • Customised reports - Repurpose your unique content into bespoke industry reports for companies and charge for it. Ie. Look at where a company has been in your news and help them to create a report of their brand values in their industry.
  • Sponsored content - Do you have a specialist news channel? Offer a sponsorship package where a company could provide content, sponsor competitions and get involved with your readership in a way not possible with banner ads.
  • Apps - With the rise of iPhones & Blackberrys, apps are big business. Create something so unique you can charge.
  • Sell bespoke content creation - Companies like their customers to think they know their markets. As a publisher you are in a unique position to provide your content in formats that companies can align themselves with - i.e. targeted minisites for brand building.
If people really need something and can't go elsewhere they will pay.

Be creative with pricing strategies. Online items can be sold on an ad hoc basis (download this PDF report for £10) or via a number of tiered subscriptions providing varying levels of access to your content (£900 a year for full unlimited access).

Want to know how to make lots more money online (not a spam link!)? Then read this fantastic presentation by faberNovel about Google's business model.

Related posts
Don't let Google boss your website around
Getting more hits from Google News
Google and Max Zorin, Bond baddies set on world domination

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

The future of mobile: widgets

Vodafone Widget Manager
This article about mobile widgets touches on what will (a long time from now) be a very interesting method of content distribution.

[NB: This guest post is taken from an email one of my colleagues sent me a couple of days ago.]

Mobile widgets, in my mind, will be like the current iPhone apps mixed with databases, HTML, Javascript and XML with cross device/platform support.

The fundamental idea of the mobile widget, is to “write once, run anywhere”, where you download all the necessary files (javascript libraries, xml files, HTML code) in the first instance, then not need to load those files after that point. Increasing load times/accessibility and decreasing net traffic.

The author of the article works on mobile browser compatibility for the W3C and is slowly developing the mobile widget platform.

Something for the future.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

A thorough analysis of YouTube comments, sarcasm, abuse and silliness

Funnier than most videos on YouTube is the comments beneath them. Because YouTube reaches the entire world, young and old, stupid and clever, communist and capitalist, racist and fascist (these aren't all antonyms) the comments reflect this diverse group.

Just look at any of the top videos' comments from the front page of YouTube to find a profanisaurus of abuse, sarcasm, banality and incredibly profound discussion, not.

For example, I’ve applied some basic marketing research to the below video. If you can't be bothered to watch or it's been taken down it's a clip of BBC horse racing reporter Clare Balding commenting on the winner of the Grand National's dodgy teeth.

Of the first 157 comments they can be split into a variety of themes as displayed in the following table. A fascinating and many may say unnecessary, insight into the minds of the YouTube community.

Gist of commentComment count
YouTube usernameTypical comment
Someone politely taking offence at the incident16emmafan4evrI think that was really rude of her. How would she like it if she was embarrased like that on live tv?
Someone taking offence and adding abuse34AcademyAwardsGirlThat was horrible. What a bitch!
People pointing out Clare's hypocrisy3Coli20Glass houses and all that.......
People pointing out Clare's hypocrisy with abuse26eddyspencerShe said that while she is more manly than him...she is the rough version of Gordon Brown i think..
General abuse of Clare29adamfatherofall666she an inbread dog
People commenting on the beauty of the other comments14thispagesuxha ha ha, these comments are brutal lol.
Agreeing with Clare's evaluation of the teeth9loxjWell he does have bad teeth....
People taking offence at others comments20moroccovidsr u a bible basher
Bad jokes1563421094Well it is a horse race.............
Other random comments5girlzruleboysdroolI thought all you Brits had bad teeth....what's the problem? haha. Calm down.

Now I’m not outside of all this banter, partaking as I have in a bit of discussion, or 'user baiting' when I know I really shouldn't. See below, my comments are 'ME'.

A lot of YouTube users have trouble with sarcasm

ME (6 months ago) +1
I'm just flabbergasted Brad and Morgan agreed to reshoot that scene. Not Kevin Spacey though, he'll do anything for a bit of publicity.

BryanWay (6 months ago) +3
They didn't reshoot it. It's simply been re-edited.

BlightyLume (6 months ago) 0
I think he may have been joking, friend...

1984slament (5 months ago) 0
really? ... lol

AustinBrock (6 months ago) +1
I think sexteta was just being sarcastic...

ME (6 months ago) 0
It's not reshot? OK that makes sense, I was wondering how they'd get permission to fly the helicopter over the power lines again. Plus Brad Pitt is fatter now and Morgan's got a limp.

This one I’m particularly proud of as my comment can't now be viewed due to the quantity of 'thumbs down' it has got.

ME (5 months ago) -9
What? I just slept through that. It was terrible. Another star in the tradition of the late great Boris Klinger

Personally, I don't care for puppets much. I don't find them believable.

chewbuggars (6 months ago) +3
it doesn't matter to these guys, besides they already knew that you weren't gonna like it.

mahina1963 (6 months ago) +3
the apparent stupidity of some people never cease to amaze me...did you not listen to what they were talking about? Why, YOU!!

ME (3 weeks ago) 0
I've just noticed that my comment is up to -9, the sense of irony is not lost on me.

mavis41558 (1 week ago) 0
I have four channels just so I can double up on negatives

And here's me discussing the issues of this sarcasm with other users.

rvfharrier (3 months ago) +3
Don't people here get the joke? It's not meant to be a serious "this is the stig" video, it's quite funny actually. People on youtube need to think.

ME (3 months ago) +1
"Don't people here get the joke?"
- Ah, now that's the age old YouTube question. Do people commenting on YouTube often not get the joke. I think the obvious answer here is no they don't, but then that just makes it more entertaining for the rest of us to take the piss out of them. Not that i'd ever do that of course...

Wouter259 (3 months ago) 0
You got that right.. xD

Airborne102st (3 months ago) +2
HAHAHAHAHAm how funny.

In this one i'm rumbled for trying to pretend to be sarcastic.

ME (3 weeks ago) 0
I remember watching this in 1985 and wondering at the potential fallout that could occur.

ditde (3 weeks ago) -6
..this wasn't around in 1985. It's just a teaser for Watchmen.

Strange boy.

ME (3 weeks ago) +5
Ha ha, you think Watchmen is just a film? Wait till Dr Manhattan hears of this.

ditde (3 weeks ago) -1
Now he's trying to turn this into a joke when he was clearly trying to look smart.

raguv2000 (3 weeks ago) +1
someone doesn't understand sarcasm

ignorant boy

ditde (3 weeks ago) -1
Was it sarcasm? Didn't seem like it to me.

If it was then I'm sorry, but I doubt it.

ME (3 weeks ago) +1
My memory serves me right. It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

DoctorWeeTodd (2 weeks ago) 0
My God...

Well, learn to observe.

SoylentGreeeen (3 weeks ago) -2

You're stupid.

And finally, here i am trying to engage in intelligent discussion and getting destroyed in one cutting reply.

ME (5 hours ago) -2
Great video but there's no need to make it look like it's nothing to do with McLaren and Blackberry from the beginning.

Be honest about the fact it's all done by McLaren and their viral agency and we'll still watch the video.

Geepak (5 hours ago) 0
Thats the whole point of a viral. You really aren't that clever.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Withnail & I and Italian Job locations on Google Street View

Google launched Street View today in the UK and Netherlands. Which has quickly brought up a whole load of furious email forwarding of friends spotting themselves going to lunch, people being sick, and i'm sure to be followed by a lot more dodgy stuff as in the American version.

Anyway so to celebrate this momentous occasion in blurring the lines of privacy and helping people with no sense of direction, i've gone looking for movie locations. I'm sure a commercial use will come along soon but this is more fun.


The Mother Black Cap - The pub where Withnail and I run out of following the 'perfumed ponce' incident.

Monty's house

The Royal Lancaster - Where Charlie has his getting out of jail present.

Croaker's pad - highlighting the limits of Street View, Croaker's pad is up a road that's not available on Street View so you'll have to look down the road to see it (on the left).

Go to the Movie Locations site to find more.

Update: And yet more classics - Top Gear's Stig, man having a wee, Dave Gorman, man taking picture of Street View.

And some i found myself: Man breaking into (?) house, the diving angels in Piccadilly Circus,

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Check when GMail goes down with Google's status dash

I stumbled across Google's Apps Status Dashboard last week. It just lets you know which of Google's apps is having service issues and often a time frame of the fix.
Screenshot of Google Apps Status Dashboard
It won't do anything to prevent a Twitter storm next time GMail fails but it's handy if you use any Google Apps for important business.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Improve and check your website's readability

Is the copy on your website or in your emails readable or incomprehensible to the average user? Well you can check the readability of your copy using Microsoft Word's readability tool.

This tool uses something called 'Flesch Reading Ease' that will tell you what age level your copy is aimed at.

I picked up this tip from a seminar on digital strategy given by Dotmailer at TFM&A.
  1. Copy and paste the copy you wish to check for readability into Microsoft Word - I’d suggest copying it to notepad to strip out all the formatting first, then into Word.
  2. Turn on ‘readability’ in Microsoft Word 2003 under Tools>Options>Spelling and Grammar tab>Show readability statistics check box
  3. Run spellcheck. At the end of the spellcheck you will have the following extra statistics (the following is the result for this post's copy):
Microsoft Word Readability Statistics
The higher the number (50.1 in my screenshot above) the easier to read. Anything lower than 30 means college graduate level and so may be putting off some users from reading and understanding your website. Wikipedia has more about ‘Flesch Reading Ease’ and what it means.

Related posts
20 email marketing tips (Nov 2007)
SEO problems of white text on a dark background (Jul 2008)
What font / text size online and how to set it in the CSS (Oct 2008)
Check your web design in different browsers online (Jun 2009)

Thursday, 26 February 2009

YouTube, Facebook, BBC, Reuters discuss social media

The top bods from these four media brands talked social media at yesterday's TFM&A conference in London's Earls Court. I've paraphrased some sound bites from each of them.

Keynote title: Getting Social Media Marketing to Deliver Real Business Results
Watch entire thing online: Seminar Streams (needs free login), Digital Training (nothing there yet).

Four employees from YouTube, Facebook, BBC and Reuters

The individuals were, from left to right:
  • The host, Danny Meadows-Klue (standing)
  • Bruce Daisley, Google’s Head of Agencies, YouTube
  • Stephen Haynes, UK Sales Director, Facebook
  • Tim Faircliff, General Manager, Reuters.
  • Pete Clifton, Head of Editorial Development, BBC
How does social media marketing deliver real business results?

If it’s not helpful & interesting to the user, a blog or whatever is pointless. You need to ensure frequency and content.

You must maintain focus with UGC [user generated content]. Innovation will happen so we can’t avoid the use of UGC and all its associated technologies. We must therefore control the risk while riding with it.

"I report to a 24 year old!"
We rely on simplicity. Our marketing / product page that people can become fans of are just simple templates given away for free.

The best social media has a purpose i.e. Flickr (images), YouTube (videos). It’s not about control – you can’t have that – it’s about engaging in dialogue.

The brand and social media

Your customers own the brand not you. You must understand this to engage in UGC. Once you accept this you can enter into meaningful dialogue

Future plans and Twitter

We have to reach as many people in the UK as possible as we are funded by licence payer’s money. We realise that to reach them we must let more content go. This includes allowing embedding and downloading of videos so they can be used elsewhere.

Twitter opens up the conversation – I don’t just mean ‘Twitter’ but this form of interaction. It’s about engaging with customers first and foremost, not just being cool and trendy.

Twitter is a really good feedback tool for us. It’s often used by bloggers writing a post to ask their followers, for example, ‘what do you think about this new software’.

What's the next big thing in 2009 for social media?

In 2009 there will be more ideas and companies using the social space in different ways. There will be a huge increase in Facebook users.
Ad formats are changing and they will start to recognise what users are doing.
[I mentioned that ad's need to change over a year ago]

I agree, ad formats will change. The AOP [which he is a part of] is also looking at this. There will become more business models in social media – for example Spotify – check it out if you haven’t already.

"I’ll be dead."
And I agree with ad formats. The BBC will embrace more facebook style functionality. We’ll try and join up users and preserve the time they spend on the site. Get users to suggest other areas of the site, improve areas, etc.
[This explains the recent increase in "most popular stories now" from 5 to 10]

There will be an on location explosion. Mobile use is already showing the importance of location based stuff such as Google Latitude knowing where you are by using GPS. You will be able to track your friend’s whereabouts. iPhoto is already making use of the inbuilt GPS that some phone cameras have and embed in photos.

Related posts
Stop poking me, I'm bored of Facebook (Aug 07)
Can social networking sites afford to bank on future success? (Dec 07)
Everyone's bored of social networking (Jan 08)
16 weird but amusing Twitterer accounts (Feb 09)
Monitor the online buzz around your brand (May 09)

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Search images by the colours within them

My colleague showed me a really fascinating image search by colour that indexes 10 million Flickr images and allows search based on colour.

For example here are the results for the colour blue:
Image search results for the colour blue

And I can break down these results even more by adding the colour red:

Image search results for the colour blue and red
The people who made this Flickr image search are "developers of advanced image recognition and visual search software" and i've also discovered another search engine they have called TinEye which searches for copies of an image you give it. Handy for copyright checking.

Image search is a fascinating subject and one that hasn't really grown up as much as text search. Things like Google Image Search are very much based on titles of images, related text, alt tags and link anchor text because of course search engine spiders traditionally only read text and can't 'view' images like a human can. STOP PRESS - Update: Google have just launched search by colour on Google Image Search.

Google Image Labeler is one method of getting round this problem - using humans to tell the computer what things are through the use of a simple game. Using humans to categorise images is a simple way to better search - Wikimedia Commons has a nice tidy pile of multimedia all categorised and named up as appropriate.

However I do like the idea of trying to search images in different ways - by using colours like the above example is one way - perhaps by the angles contained within the picture? Perhaps a search could be created that 'recognises' commonly seen shapes - such as buildings, cars, people, animals, hair, pornography!

Related posts
Is structured data the future of search? (Mar 2010)
Don't just have alt tags on images, include height and width too (Nov 2007)
Give images rounded edges using Photoshop (Nov 2007)

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

BBC increase most read stories to top 10

Shock horror! The BBC has changed it's top 5 most read to a top 10. OK, really it's not that exciting despite the fact that many SEOers and usability people tend to hang on the BBC website's every move.

I can understand why, they have the space, it encourages click-through, increases average page depth per visit. An easy decision really, wonder why they took this long?

Not quite sure why they haven't changed the most emailed to a top 10 yet though, maybe they're worried about people manipulating it, like me!

The "most popular stories now" as of 3.20pm 17th February 2009*
BBC's top 5 most emailed
The top 5 most emailed
BBC's top 10 most read
The top 10 most read

*And in the time it's taken me to write this post it's gone back to a top 5 again, how very strange, maybe it was a glitch? They really should make it a top 10 though, take this fumble as fate.

*And it's back to top 10 again as i write the following morning (18th Feb). Email still top 5.

Update: A few days after writing this post I heard the BBC's head of editorial development, Pete Clifton, speak at a conference and he stated the BBC's current aim of trying to increase time on site through user involvement and related stories - which explains this.

Related posts
Online popularity culture is killing good journalism - writing content for the benefit of most read and most emailed widgets
Feedjit widget provides your site's most popular pages

16 weird but amusing Twitterer accounts

There are loads of weird Twitterers on Twitter that aren't 'real people'. Here are my top 16 weird, strange but interesting and occasionally amusing Twitterers.

1. NASA - Many of NASA's projects, robots and spaceships are twittering. My favourites being the Mars Rovers. Unfortunately it's not written from the rover's point of view but via the team on earth, still interesting though.
"Better news from Spirit: She found the sun, just not where she expected. I'm sure it happens to all of us :) Diagnosis continues."
The Twitterzoo of animals are in the main particularly boring, probably as they're relying on the wit of their owners as opposed to the animal's own sense of humour. Something i feel would be hilarious but obviously restricted by the difficulty cats find typing. A selection of the better include:

2. Ghost of Peter, ghostofpeter - a deceased cat
"Having a cat icon/avatar does not make you a cat. Peeps with cat pics need to self-identify as NON-CATS, cause it's confusing. Really."
Rudy the Parrot in suitcase3. Rudy the Parrot, RudyTheParrot - does some good twitpicing
"i found another cave! THIS ONE HAS WHEELS"
4. Sockington the Cat, sockington - one of the better tweeting 'alive' cats
"waiting waiting waiting waiting waiting ah here you are JUMPING UP THE STAIRCASE AWAY FROM YOU wasn't that awesome"
5. Ridley the Dog, ridley - Not as good as the cat, plus seems more like a dog obsessed owner than somebody really understanding the mind of a canine, i prefer his twittering tongue.

6. Gallacher the Horse, Gallacher_Horse - do i need explain?
"I had to chase a big duck out my field today. It looked like it was up to no good. It should stay on the pond. Fields aren't for swimming in"
Whale at Museum of National History, New York 7. Whale at the Museum of Natural History in New York, nathistorywhale - the deadest of all the animals has the most character.
"Just saw a boy put his gum in his sister's hair and she didn't notice! Kinda wish I could follow them out of this room to see what happens."
8. A guys liver - iamgordonsliver
"I can't feel my fingers!!! Oh wait, I don't have any."
There's also a lot of film and TV characters on Twitter, the 'official' ones tend to peddle DVDs and cinema releases and in the whole don't provide the real character you'd hope twitter could expose. The fake ones on the other hand have no boundaries, which is nice.

9. Indiana Jones, IndianaJones - official (i think)
"At a midnight showing of my new documentery... there are alot of people here dressded like me so no one has recognized me yet!"
10. Darth Vader, darthvader - fake?
"Come to the Dark Side: We have Cake -"
11. Borat, Borat
"wtf my cat turned into christian bale and knocked over my lamp."
You can go wild on this line of Twitter thinking with this post on more fictional characters and another on fake twitterers, characters and people.

Now onto automated Twitterers, these are not people pretending to be animals, characters or robots but non-human Twitterers that run themselves, as if by magic.

12. Plants that Tweet - The plant twitter phenomenon was started by New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program Botanicalls group. They sell a Botanicalls Kit that lets your plant tell you when it needs watering based on moisture levels. See the original, pothos, in action.
"You didn't water me enough."
Tower Bridge 13. Tower Bridge, London, towerbridge - An automated Twitter-bridge that muses on the comings and goings of ships.
"I am opening for the SB Will, which is passing upstream."
Update: 13.5! London Bridge, London, ImLondonBridge - A piss taking bridge that directs a lot of abuse at TowerBridge.
"Yaaaaawn. That was a good sleep. What did I miss? Did @towerbridge do something interesting? No, I expect not."
14. Retweeters - There's a few twitter accounts set up purely to retweet other users based on the content. A funny and admittedly childish one is farted, the tweets on the page should explain which word it's retweeting.
"Someone, not me, just farted in at Leon. It stinks a lot."
15. Turn your lights off - Not a twitterer as such but a method to turn off your house lights using twitter.

16. Bizarre news, offbeat - An honourable mention goes to Offbeat News, a Twitterer providing a whole host of links to middle of newspaper, cat up a tree style news.
"Thousands of shoes tie up Miami freeway"
More posts that i raided for this blog post:

Friday, 6 February 2009

Growing strange cacti

This is just a quick post with a few resources on growing cacti, especially weird ones!

This post is also a test post to prove the effectiveness of title tags and keyword optimisation on getting to number one in Google for a fairly obscure keyword phrase.

By ensuring the exact phrase (and variations) is in the title tag and is in the page copy you can reach the top of Google.*

*Obviously in the case of the keyword term I've chosen there's a danger that Google may see me as trying to spam their search engine unless the page actually contains content focused towards it.

Therefore i will actually provide some resources on rare cacti and their cultivation. Hopefully anyone actually looking for growing information or a Google employee won't think i'm a complete d*ckhead trying to do some dodgy black hat SEO as the page is also the most relevant to that term (i've checked, no other page or post covers cactus growth like this one, honest!).
Also, if like me you want to know what a 'succulent' is here's the Wikipedia definition:
"Succulent plants store water in their leaves, stems and/or roots. The storage of water often gives succulent plants a more swollen or fleshy appearance than other plants, also known as succulence."
As of 16th Feb this post was the first result in Google for the term "Growing strange cacti" (in quotations).

Related posts
Finding keywords for Google Adwords (Jul 2007)
How to optimise your PDFs for SEO (Oct 2008)
Is the Google Keyword Tool any use for SEO? (Nov 2010)

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Stick two RSS feeds together

Yahoo Pipes logoUse Yahoo Pipes to take any number of feeds, mash them together and get one feed out the end.

I've just started experimenting with Yahoo Pipes, an online programme that allows you to collect data from different sources (RSS feeds, searches, websites...), filter this information (by date, type, size...) and then output it into a single feed (if that's what you want).

All the brackets in the above sentence highlight the flexibility of this programme and the functionality is huge, I’ve just been shown three different ways one of my colleagues is using Yahoo Pipes to mash-up data on our websites. Anyway, I’m just using it for RSS combining for the time being.

I have two feeds i want to stick together. They are:
So i 'fetch feed' for the two RSS feeds above. I then combine them with a 'Union' operator. I want them to be mixed up and sorted in date order so i 'sort' by date ('item.pubDate' to be precise).
Screenshot of joined up feeds in Yahoo Pipes
I finally connect the pipe output to produce:Done. You can now stick this feed through feedburner if you wish so that you can track subscriptions and let feedburner handle the caching.
There's loads more you can play with in Yahoo Pipes and also many ways to get the desired results. I had to play with the 'sort' to get the date order i wanted. Yahoo Pipes discussion boards have loads of tips which helped me figure this out.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

The meaning of web words, acronyms and terms

A glossary of internet marketing buzzwords, acronyms and terms invented purely to make you go :-s (that means confused).

You'll also notice that there's lots of links to other posts of mine. This is an environmentally friendly post as it recycles content i've already written, much like they started to do in later series of Friends. This list was last updated on 14th January 2009.
  • ACAP (Automated Content Access Protocol) - an initiative by content providers to add rights information on all copyrighted material.
  • Backlink - An incoming link to a website. How to check your backlinks.
  • Batphone - A high priority phone line. Full definition.
  • CMS - Content Management System
  • Cybersquatter - People registering domains similar to a well known domain to try and get traffic from people typing in incorrect URLs, often sending you to porn.
  • Favicon - The little icons in your browser's address bar. They're easy to make too!
  • Hard 404 - An error page that returns a 404 error. This is the correct response, a soft 404 is the wrong response for SEO.
  • Link juice - Ah the magic Google love. As Google's algorithm is partly based on the number and quality of links to your site, each link will provide a little boost to your ranking (some more than others), this is their link juice.
  • Meta tags - An all encompassing phrase that covers data placed in the code of a web page. Useful for SEO is the 'meta description' attribute. A title tag is not a meta tag.
  • Pagerank - Named after Google founder Larry Page, this is another name for Google's algorithm which provides the ranking that Google gives each page to prioritise where they appear in search results. More on the 'pagerank' given in Google toolbar.
  • Phishing - People trying to get confidential information from you such as credit card details, usernames, passwords. 7 top tips to avoid being phished.
  • Rickroll - I'm not going to tell you the answer to this, you must ask my identical twin.
  • SEM - Search Engine Marketing
  • SEO - Search Engine Optimisation
  • SERPs - Search Engine Results Page
  • Social bookmarks - the 6 little icons at the end of this post that let you bookmark or favourite a web page for others to discuss and read or just for your own benefit so you can find it again.
  • Soft 404 - An error page that returns a 200 OK error, this is not good for SEO.
  • Spamdexing - Spamming a search engine to manipulate their results. Wikipedia article.
  • Tag cloud - see the left of my blog. It's a way of displaying information or links based on their various importances by using font size or colour. Quintura is a good example.
  • Title tag - A HTML element essential for SEO. Defines your web page's title that appears at the top of the browser and in search results. It's also not a meta tag.
  • Top level domain (TLD) - The last bit of a URL following the final dot. Like .com, and .org.
  • Universal search - Google's term for a search engine that returns more than just standard text results, like video, images, news, flash, shopping and more.
  • URL - Unique Resource Locator. In web terms this means the EXACT web address (including http:// at the beginning)
  • W3C - The World Wide Web Consortium. Holder of the web's protocol, standards and guidelines.
  • Web 2.0 - Who knows? Wikipedia calls it the "changing trend in the use of World Wide Web technology... blah blah blah".
  • WYSIWYG - What you see is what get. As opposed to inputting HTML in directly, a WYSIWYG editor will just show you the finished product as you type and you can make changes such as bolding, underlining and adding images without touching the code.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Get a list of how all your pages rank in Google

Discover what order your pages rank in Google using the following search operator (type this into the Google search box):
Example: inurl:bbc
The order is not completely accurate but it does highlight which pages on your site are the most valuable.

I discovered this tip on a fantastic post on SEOmoz (with a very dodgy buzzwordy title) which provides an easy to tick off list of 10 SEO improvements you can make to your site.

The use of this Google operator in tip number 2 is so that on finding your top ranking pages you can place internal links on them to provide some link juice to lesser ranking pages. However there are many other reasons why this information may be useful to you.

Monday, 12 January 2009

A tea colour chart on a mug

MyCuppaTea - the colour matching tea chart mugPart three of my tea-related internet sites moves further away from any vague link the previous posts might have had to internet marketing. This is just a mug for sale on the internet.

A very clever mug though, it avoids the problem of tea-making imbeciles incorrectly mixing the milk and tea by giving them a colour chart to create that perfect colour and taste.

My personal preference is for about half way between milky and classic British. The only problem i can see is that the strength of tea isn't mentioned. You can obviously get a milky tea by making strong tea and adding lots of milk. But you can also get the same colour by having very weak tea and adding very little milk.

So to avoid this problem, i have an ingenius tip. Tell the tea maker the time the tea bag should stay in the cup and the quantity of stirs and squeezes then all they have to do is add appropriate milk to reach the desired colour.

Or, and this is a far more ridiculous suggestion, you make the tea yourself.

Other tea-related internet sites
Part one - A random tea-maker generator
Part two - A tea mat with sugar and milk preferences