Archive for the 'Marketing' Category

No Prē For Mē

My ancient Nokia will be sleeping with the fishes soon. It works about half the time. When it works, everything’s just fine. The rest of the time, it’s silent — no ringer, no sound through the earpiece or the speaker, and that makes it kind of tough to make a call, or to notice that someone’s calling me.

Not that a mobile phone is vital for me, of course. I work at home, and I have no life, so my VoIP land line is all I need most of the time, but I do leave the house on occasion. In fact, I discovered that the cell was dying when I tried to phone for a taxi a few weeks ago. That’s when I discovered that public phones (remember those?) have become astonishingly rare these days.

So the time has come to get a new phone. This will only be my third cell phone, as I was pretty late in joining the mobile communications revolution (being stuck on a stopped train for an hour or two some time around 2002, unable to call the person I had left work early to meet to tell them I was stuck on a stopped train convinced me to get one) and I use my phones until they croak, oblivious as I am to fashion, technology, and fashion technology. The Nokia doesn’t even have a camera. Don’t ask me how I’ve survived. I guess I’ve just been lucky.

So, what to get… Friends of mine with iPhones and Androids just love them, but I’m on Sprint, so those are out. I suppose I could get a Palm Prē (which I like to pronounce as “pompry,” for some reason), but I’m not sure that’s a good idea. Aside from the fact that I just don’t need something that fancy, the advertising campaign for the phone has kind of put me off a bit.

There’s just something about that woman. I can’t quite put my finger on it… Oh, that’s it. She reminds me of this guy:

David Bowie in The Man Who Fell to Earth

I saw The Man Who Fell to Earth when it first came out in the US, so I think I was about 13. I’ve got a thing about eyes, so I had nightmares about that face, along with the scene in which Bowie’s character first removes his human disguise, including the contact lenses.

I absolutely love the film. I even wrote a paper I’m fairly proud of about it in grad school: “Alienation and the Subsequent Development of Sexual Identity in The Man Who Fell to Earth.” But that doesn’t mean I want to buy a phone from Thomas Newton’s long-lost sister here. Hell, their species have sexual organs in their palms — remember how that moist touch made Candy Clark lose it? The phone probably has alien reproductive goo all over it.

I don’t know… CNET gave the LG LX370 a pretty positive review, and there was nothing in there about alien DNA. Maybe I’ll get one of those.

By the way, I think Tilda Swinton might be one of them too.

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Google Related Searches – Cheaters Rejoice

I have a tradition every Sunday morning: no matter how much work I need to catch up on, I always start the day with the New York Times crossword puzzle. I almost always finish it, too. (Thanks, Brandeis University Department of English and American Literature. It seems a liberal arts education has a purpose after all.)

Now and then — very rarely, I assure you — I find myself stumped. In such cases, I swallow my pride and run a web search to see if the internets hold the elusive answer. That happened today: 85 Across asked for “Carnaval sur la plage” artist and I was at a loss. I’d never heard of the painting, so I had no idea of who the painter might have been.

I went over to Google, ran the search, and there was my answer within the snippets of the second and fourth results on the SERP. I didn’t even have to click through to find out that it was that famed Belgian painter, immortalized by They Might Be Giants.

But here’s the really interesting thing: above the regular results, Google had inserted links to a couple of “searches related to carnaval sur la plage artist”:

carnaval sur la plage artist google search

Erm… “Ron Guidry nickname?” “Mario Puzo sequel?” Those searches are related to this painting?

Carnaval sur la plage by James Ensor

I don’t see any pitchers or gangsters in there. So how can those searches be related to the search I ran?

Well, if I cheated more, I might have noticed right away, because if you go to today’s puzzle, you’ll see that the clues for 94 Down and 21 Across are “Nickname for Ron Guidry” and “Mario Puzo sequel.” They’re related by the fact that they’re in the same puzzle.

I tried running searches based on other clues in the puzzle to see how much of the puzzle the engine had determined to have this relationship:

  • 4 Down: “My Fair Lady” composer returns related searches for Mario Puzo and Bad Moon Rising — the clue for 49 Down is “__ bad moon rising” – 1969 song lyric
  • 21 Across: Mario Puzo sequel returns related searches for Mario Puzo books and balalaikas — the clue for 22 Across is relatives of balalaikas
  • 22 Across: relatives of balalaikas returns no related searches
  • 54 Across: Chinese dynasty before the Shang and 103 Across: harmonica-like instrument both return related searches, but without any connection to the crossword
  • 42 Across: Chief city of Moravia and 48 Across: “Revelations” choreographer return no related searches

So apparently, Google hasn’t indexed the content of the puzzle and related every clue to it. Rather, it looks like it has detected a trend: someone searches on some of the clues, someone else searches on the same clues, someone else searches on some of those and a few others, and this all happens within a few hours, so Google determines that the searches are related to each other based on that, so when I come in and search on one of the clues, Google offers up some of the other searches that were run today by other people who ran that same search.

Interestingly, I’m finding that a search on the exact clue for 94 Down, Nickname for Ron Guidry, isn’t returning any related searches. That only comes up when I search on Ron Guidry nickname, which is the more likely search syntax, considering the absence of the stop word. (And by the way, the related searches now coming up for that one are now Mario Puzo sequel and state flowers — the latter being the theme of this week’s puzzle.)

Apparently, this is something new. A search for [google related searches crossword] didn’t give me any useful information, but I did locate a post from just over a week ago on the Official Google Blog: Two new improvements to Google results pages. Here’s some of the text from the post:

Starting today, we’re deploying a new technology that can better understand associations and concepts related to your search, and one of its first applications lets us offer you even more useful related searches (the terms found at the bottom, and sometimes at the top, of the search results page).

For example, if you search for [principles of physics], our algorithms understand that “angular momentum,” “special relativity,” “big bang” and “quantum mechanic” are related terms that could help you find what you need.

We are now able to target more queries, more languages, and make our suggestions more relevant to what you actually need to know. Additionally, we’re now offering refinements for longer queries — something that’s usually a challenging task. You’ll be able to see our new related searches starting today in 37 languages all around the world.

There’s nothing in there about tracking groups of searches over a short period of time and relating them to each other, but that seems to be what’s going on here.

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SEO Cold Calling: A Primer

I received a voice mail message on Tuesday. The person leaving the message indicated that they were interested in discussing my SEO services. Normally, I’d return such a call right away, but I didn’t have an opportunity to do so until Wednesday afternoon. As it turns out, it doesn’t look like they’re going to be becoming clients of mine, as they’re in the business themselves, but the call did get me thinking about advice for SEOs who seek out new business by cold calling other SEOs, so I’ve put together this little primer.

Leaving a Message

If you get my voice mail and want to leave a message, don’t tell me that you’d like to talk to me about my SEO services. A message like that is likely to make me think you’re interested in having me do some work on your site. If what you really want is for me to sign up as a reseller of your SEO services, then your best bet is to say that in your message. SEOs who are interested in something like that will return your call, and those of us who have no desire to sell someone else’s services — like me, for example — won’t bother, and a lot less time will be wasted by both of us.

Sure, it’s not exactly a lie to say that you want to talk about my SEO services, but it’s really not very accurate.

If I Say “No”

If I return your call because you failed to follow the advice indicated above and then tell you once I see what’s going on that I’m not interested in becoming a reseller of someone else’s services, you should probably just take “no” for an answer. On the other hand, if you truly believe you can change my mind, then when you take advantage of my polite nature and insist I take a look at what you have to offer, you’d better be prepared to really wow me with your services and your knowledge of the search industry.

SEO 2.0

You tell me that you call your services “SEO 2.0″ because it’s such an advance over old fashioned SEO. I’ve seen the term here and there, mostly to describe search marketing that concentrates on social media. But that’s not what you mean by “SEO 2.0.” Your “SEO 2.0″ involves advanced practices like these:

LSI

If you ask me if I’m familiar with the concept of Latent Semantic Indexing and I reply in the affirmative, it’s not necessary to read the definition from your script, especially if it’s wrong. My “yes” is your cue to skip that step in the process.

When you show me a page that demonstrates your use of LSI, it probably shouldn’t be a page that uses a phrase like “pest control” over and over. Sure, words like “mosquitoes,” “ants,” “cockroaches” and “insects” do show up on the page, but that’s to be expected on just about any page about pest control. I mean, just look at this:

some text about pest control

This is your idea of LSI?

Also, if I should raise the point that I don’t believe anyone’s conclusively demonstrated that any of the major search engines actually make use of LSI, it’s a good idea to have references to an article or two at the ready.

The Search Exchange

OK, so maybe I wasn’t all that impressed with your LSI example. It’s time to bring out the big guns if you’ve got any hope of changing my mind at this point. If your best idea is to talk to me about the “Search Exchange,” I think maybe you’re better off just thanking me for my time and saying goodbye.

But no, you really want me to see the Search Exchange, so you have me click the link anchored “Search Exchange” at the top of your wonderful LSI pest control page. I find myself on a page linking out to a real estate site, a house cleaning service site, a kitchen cabinet site, etc. It looks like a standard-issue link exchange page to me. I’m not impressed. Then you tell me that the great thing about the Search Exchange is that the links are all coming from your network of hundreds (or did you say “thousands”) of sites. Buddy, that’s not SEO 2.0. It’s a link farm. Time to say goodbye.

Do Your Research

This really ought to be step one in our primer, but for me, it’s an afterthought, so I’m throwing it in at the end.

It seems to me that if you’re looking for SEOs who’d be interested in becoming resellers of your kind of services, it’s not enough to just buy a list of the names and numbers of SEOs. Check these people out before you contact them. If their websites warn people to watch out for SEOs who try to get you to join link farms (me, for example), those are people you probably shouldn’t bother calling.

Of course, you could have done worse. It’s not like I’ve got thousands of people reading this modest blog post about you. And while I’ve commented on his blog three or four times, I’m not all buddy-buddy with Matt Cutts, so he’s probably not reading this post either. See, Matt has access to these cool insider-only Google tools, and all he’d need is one look at one of your clients’ pages to ban your whole network.

Then again, he probably doesn’t need my help, since all of the farm pages are linked to with anchor text of “Search Exchange,” and they all appear to be on pages named 0308.php, which makes them pretty easy to locate.

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Sleepy Surfing

Dude, surfing is so totally mundane and tedious. If I didn’t guzzle a can or two of this speed-laced cough syrup every couple of hours, I’d probably fall asleep in the middle of a pipeline.

My life totally blows. I don’t know why I didn’t choose an interesting career, like quality control at an underwear plant, or accounting. Triple-checking the data on some enormous spreadsheet — now that’s a rush, my man. I bet those folks don’t have to worry about staying alert on the job. The sheer excitement of their work is enough to keep them totally pumped 24/7.

Totally.

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Viva Commerce! (#23)

Dear Chrysler,

Your current ads on the eye of hell feature the following proclamation:

We don’t want to be just any car company,
We want to be your car company.

Chrysler logo

That’s a lovely sentiment. It really is. But I have to tell you, you’re not going to be my car company. I haven’t owned a car since I gave my thirteen-year-old VW (“das Spiff”) to charity in the spring of 2000. I’d just paid about $500 for some repairs, brought it in for its annual inspection, and was told that it would need another $600 or so in repairs to pass. That was the end of the road for das Spiff. Since then, I’ve weaned myself from the need and I wouldn’t want a car now — not from you or anyone else. I’ve got no use for one.

True, if I were interested in buying a car, it probably wouldn’t be one of yours, but that’s hardly the point.

Personally, I’d advise just a little patience on your part, Chrysler.

Six months from now, the idea of being just any car company is probably going to seem like a real prize to you.

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The Florida Keys Have a Lousy Domain Name

Two posts in a day! (And they’re my first two posts all month.)

I was watching CNN this morning, and right after Howie Kurtz spanked Sports Illustrated for failing to be seriously journalistic about its bikini photography, they cut to an advertisement for the Florida Keys — perfectly normal tourism stuff. At the end of the advert, the announcer suggested checking out the tourism board’s website at “FLA Keys.com,” that is to say, what I heard was “eff ell ay keys dot com,” which one would expect would be written out as “flakeys.com.” Of course, one would probably read such a domain name as “flakeys dot com,” which is maybe not the image the Keys want to promote. That would explain why the domain name that appeared at the bottom of my screen was “fla-keys.com”. But the announcer had made no mention of the hyphen.

Naturally, that got me wondering. I was online at the time, and I might not have been looking at the eye of hell while the ad was running, so I would have thought the site was located at flakeys.com. What would happen if I tried to navigate to that address?

Sure enough, a request for flakeys.com redirects (via a 302 instead of a 301 — stupid IIS) to fla-keys.com, so those flakey Floridians at least have that covered.

But couldn’t they have gotten a domain name that would both allow them to easily say and spell the address the same way (that is, without the much-despised hyphen) and not require a redirect? That question led to some quick exploration:

  • Florida Keys logofloridakeys.com, which looks like it could be the official site of the local tourism board, complete with a “Florida Keys” logo, is owned by a company called Cooke Communications, which apparently publishes some local newspapers and magazines.
  • thefloridakeys.com is the home of “Best of the Florida Keys,” which is kind of archaic looking. Dig the animated gif of the hurricane on the home page!
  • flkeys.com is a local realtor.

    And what of the hyphenated variations?

  • florida-keys.com is apparently for sale and is currently hosting one of those parked made-for-AdSense “search” pages.
  • the-florida-keys.com is registered to some guy in New Jersey, but nothing is published there.
  • fl-keys.com contains a meta refresh that sends the user to fl-keys.com/floridakeys.htm, which then fires a script that redirects to fl-keys.com/search/load.php, which in turn fires another JS redirect to fl-keys.com/search/re.htm, where you’re hit with yet another script that send you off to fl-keys.com/search/index.htm (wheeeeeeeeee!), which is another sponsored search page.

It seems that unless they’re willing to buy what could be a pretty costly domain name, the folks at the official tourism council got beaten to the punch. Flakeys indeed.

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Viva Commerce! (#22)

Dear Aleve,

Aleve boxYour adverts on the eye of hell say that “only two Aleve can stop pain all day.”

I don’t see how that’s supposed to convince me to shell out my hard-earned cash to buy a bottle of your little pills. I mean, what are the odds that, of the millions of Aleves out there, I’m going to be the lucky sod who wins the jackpot and gets the two that can stop pain all day?

What if I just get one of the two? That’d be like getting cherry – cherry – cherry – lemon on a slot machine, and then no one would have a shot at stopping pain all day.

What a waste!

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What Does Google Mean When It Asks What I Mean?

I have a client who is a Minneapolis interior designer. (Yes, that’s a plug for them. As if you wouldn’t do the same thing.) Earlier today, I was checking out the progress of their rather new site using Google’s webmaster tools, and was pleased to see them starting to move up, and even get some traffic, for searches like [interior designers minneapolis] and [interior design firm minneapolis]. They’ve got a ways to go, but they’re definitely moving in the right direction.

Google also listed them at #4 for [interior designersminneapolis] (note the missing space). That’s a little troubling. They rank higher for the search with the typo than without. I took that to mean that either someone’s linking to them with the typo in the anchor text, or they’ve got the typo somewhere on the site. I couldn’t find either one, though.

I was further confused by Google’s attempt to correct me:

Google search result for interior designersminneapolis

Google wants to know if I meant “interior designers minneapolis” and if I meant to search for “interior designers minneapolis.” Wha? Obviously, if I meant it, I meant to search for it. What else would I be doing at a search engine?

And the two searches being offered to me are indeed identical. The first one links to
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=0&ct=result&cd=1&q=interior+designers+minneapolis&spell=1 and the second to
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=1&ct=result&cd=1&q=interior+designers+minneapolis&spell=1

So what’s the point?

As it turns out, this is not Google’s doing. I run a Greasemonkey script called GoogleMonkeyR. I use it to number G’s results. If I disable it and run the search again, I only get the “Did you mean: interior designers minneapolis” line. I have no idea why it’s adding that extra “Did you mean to search for” bit.

So, problem solved, for the most part. I’ll write to the script’s author about the bug, and I’m no longer freaked out about tripping over a bug in the all-knowing Big G.

It’s still a bit odd that my client is ranking for that search containing a typo, though.

Anyway, it gave me a decent excuse to link to them.

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So Good You Can’t Even Tell

Warner Bros logoI finally got around to watching The Dark Knight on DVD last night. Fairly impressive, but I’m not here to write about the film itself.

I was struck by a promotional video that ran before the feature, right after the god-awful reworking of Casablanca into a warning not to pirate movies (Shame on you, Ilsa).

The promo featured big, impressive, immersive shots from some big Warner Bros. movies, including A Clockwork Orange, Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Goodfellas, V for Vendetta, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and Batman Begins. For the most part, these were shots intended to make the audience go “oooh,” like Neo stopping a barrage of bullets (ooh), or the Houses of Parliament exploding (ooh).

The voice-over that went with these big visuals went as follows:

Something has come along that changes our movies.

It changes the way you see them, hear them, feel them.

It changes the experience.

It opens our eyes to something new.

We invite you to dig deeper, to find things that you’ve never experienced before.

This is the difference between watching our movies and living them.

Experience our movies on Blu-ray.

This is how our movies are meant to be… lived

Blu-ray logoOK. It was a promo for the glory, the splendor and the majesty that is Blu-ray. Fine. But it raised a few questions for me.

As I’ve already mentioned, these were big, impressive images. I was watching on a standard DVD, on an eye of hell that’s neither HD, plasma, giant, or even flat, with the sound running through a stereo that’s about 30 years old — well, the speakers are only about 10, but there are only two of them. And I got the message that I was supposed to be impressed by these images.

So if I’m impressed, how are they supposed to sell me on ditching all of my equipment and getting a Blu-ray setup? Obviously, they can’t show me how a Blu-ray image is better than what I’ve got if they’re showing it to me via what I’ve got. Maybe they should have lowered the quality of the images they showed me, like I was watching on a pitiful portable picnic player, as little Alex might point out. Then they could have told me that if I wanted to experience the true gorgeousness and gorgeosity of the pictures and properly hear the angel trumpets and devil trombones, I’d best upgrade.

Or I suppose they might have added a few lines to the voice-over (I think it might have been Kiefer Sutherland, using his “this is America” Bank of America voice rather than his “tell me now or you’re dead” 24 voice, by the way), like

Do these scenes look good to you? Then you’re an idiot. This stuff is pure crap. You can’t see how good these scenes really are, because your hardware is shit.

There needs to be some comparison if I’m to be convinced that what I don’t have is better than what I have. Remember the theme song to WKRP in Cincinnati? The first few bars were engineered to sound like AM radio, and then it opened up to something fuller, so even though you were listening to the whole thing through a tiny, tinny monaural speaker, you could hear the difference. You got the message that AM radio sounds like KRaP.

And there’s that last line in the promo: This is how our movies are meant to be… lived.

Is it really? Have they forgotten about movie theatres, many of which still have bigger screens and better sound systems than the average living room? Are they suggesting that this is what the filmmakers had in mind?

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It’s No Toyotathon Without You

Squire FridellThey say it’s Toyotathon time.

They’re calling it “The Toyotathon of Toyotathons.”

They lie.

Without my man Squire Fridell whipping us into a frenzy, I say it’s no Toyotathon at all.

Come back to us, Squire, we need you! I’m sure you’re very busy running your little winery, but come on, man! It’s Toyotathon time, and you’re the Toyotathon guy! Can’t you come out of retirement once a year, at this extra special time, to bring back the spirit of the Toyotathon?

If you can’t make it, do you think your daughter would consider taking up the tradition?

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