Monthly Archives: January 2011

New app for iPhone; iLaugh. This had me literally in tears for an hour, I had to read it twice.

For all of us out there that are too lazy to really x out all the auto-correct errors that the folks at Apple have generously supplied us on our iPhones.  In this era of iEverything it is helpful to reflect on the absurdity of life as reflected by the ailing Jobs and the wonderful humor his company has unwittingly created.  Enjoy your friday, even if it IS a foggy day in California.



Dy – This is how I feel about FaceBook selling my face to the Russians!

Facebook wants to put you in an ad.

The Palo Alto social-networking giant on Tuesday introduced a new advertising program called Sponsored Stories, which can potentially turn the millions of “likes,” check-ins and other actions shared by its nearly 600 million members into revenue-producing advertisements.

The company already has 13 advertisers lined up, including Coca-Cola, Levi’s and Amnesty International.

In one example, a company video explained that when members now use Facebook Places to say they are visiting a Starbucks outlet, their friends see that post and have the ability to comment.

But under the new ad program, if Starbucks sponsored all such check-ins to their coffee shops, friends would also see another version of the same post on the right side of their pages, where targeted ads already appear.

That ad would have a “Sponsored Story” label at the top and include the logo and a link to the Starbucks page on Facebook. The ads give the regular check-in more visibility and make sure it doesn’t drop out of view as quickly as it might in the regular feed.

There are similarities between Sponsored Stories and Twitter Inc.’s Promoted Tweets, which highlights a specific Twitter topic if it is sponsored by an advertiser.

Promoted Tweets are already “gaining traction” in the advertising world, according to eMarketer Inc., an online research firm that previously projected the privately held Facebook’s ad revenue will grow to about $4 billion this year, up from $1.8 billion in 2010.

Facebook has been testing Sponsored Stories for several months and found they helped with brand identification and retention.

Of course, when Facebook members write about the food they enjoyed at a particular restaurant or click “Like” about a movie they’ve seen, it’s in effect an advertisement for that eating place or film.

Indeed, word-of-mouth product endorsements “have value to users and are valuable to marketers as well,” said Jim Squires, a member of Facebook’s product marketing team.

Squires said all regular privacy settings apply, so a Sponsored Stories ad wouldn’t appear to anyone who wouldn’t have seen the regular status update. The advertiser can’t edit the message, although Facebook members can’t choose to completely opt out of becoming part of an ad except to delete the original post.

Analyst Ray Valdes, a vice president of Web services for research firm Gartner Inc., said Facebook will have to make sure turning status updates into ads doesn’t alienate members or cause a privacy backlash as the company has generated in the past when introducing features.

“If there happens to be a whiff of spam in the content added by Facebook to that social interaction, then there can be negative repercussions,” Valdes said. “For example, a person may find that they lose friends if their status messages consistently have commercial overtones.”

And Valdes questioned what happens if a check-in includes a negative message against the advertiser or if Facebook members stop checking in to avoid the ads.

“User participation and user engagement is the goose that potentially lays golden eggs, so Facebook has to be careful with that goose,” he said.

Valdes said Sponsored Stories is “too limited a mechanism to form a major revenue stream for Facebook, but over time it could be one component of their revenue mix.”

And Facebook could find value in the consumer data and analysis of how its members are interacting, he said.

Read more:


Watch out for repetitive web-words that you should watch out for while watching out for…

Google Says Search Quality Improved With New Spam Detection

Jan 21, 2011 at 12:00pm ET by Barry Schwartz

SpamMatt Cutts, a Google engineer working on search quality, wrote at the Google Blog that Google has recently released a new spam detection classifier to help prevent “spammy on-page content” from ranking highly in the Google search index. None of this comes as a surprise, Matt told us Google would be stepping up their search quality efforts in 2011.

The new classifier was introduced based on Google seeing a “slight uptick of spam in recent months,” said Cutts. Matt Cutts did say that spam compared to five-years ago is at rates “less than half” as of now, but in the recent months, there has been a slight increase in spam impacting Google’s results.

The redesigned document-level classifier will specifically make it harder for on-page spam to impact Google’s search index. Matt Cutts explained, “the new classifier is better at detecting spam on individual web pages, e.g., repeated spammy words—the sort of phrases you tend to see in junky, automated, self-promoting blog comments.”

In addition, Google also has “radically improved” their methods of detecting hacked sites and they are “evaluating multiple changes that should help drive spam levels even lower, including one change that primarily affects sites that copy others’ content and sites with low levels of original content,” said Cutts.

In addition, Matt said Google will pay even more attention to “content farms,” which are sites that have low-quality content. Google introduced, what SEOs named, May Day update, which was Google’s first stab at low-quality content sites. So be prepared, if you are a site that aggregates content and repurposes it, you might be hit by whatever Google releases in 2011. Matt Cutts and Google vows to take “even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content.”

For more information, see the Google Blog and related stories on Techmeme.

Related Stories:


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Do not, I repeat do not, look at the elephant in the room.

I never cease to be amazed at man’s propensity to overlook that which is staring him in the face.  Ever look for your glasses only to find them on your forehead?  How about the one where you walk around the office looking for your keys only to find them in your hand, or finding out that the girl who has been your “best friend” through your last tragic relationships is actually in love with you?

There was such an “ah ha” moment yesterday at the Bay office.

Having implemented several new accounts in the past couple of weeks, it seemed like a good idea to back up the whole system on our external drive.  Not being a huge office set up with an IT provider, I still have to do this manually.  Needless to say it had been a while.

The hard drive had accumulated a serious amount of dust, but all 500Gigs were still there waiting to be refreshed.  I booted the thing up, connected the USB cord, got all comfortable and hunkered in for my 2 hours of finding something else to do (like take a real long lunch and a walk) while it did it’s thing.  One can never trust the thing to just set it up, hit go, and leave for the day.  Oh no, there is always just one last prompt one forgets that will wait for ya until you show up the next morning.

So I dove in just before lunch.  The thing asked me for prompt after prompt, then went blank.  I repeated the processes, so did the drive.  I uninstalled the software and tried to find it on the web to re-install it.   Running diagnostics on the drive, a serial number and model number were produced.  This didn’t check out with the numbers for an external drive, and after many troubleshooting and FAQ inquiries it seemed insurmountable so tech support was finally called in.

The next half hour was spent negotiating with the nice man in Bangalore regarding the fact that the drive was no longer supported (it was, after all, over a year old and therefore obsolete) therefore this call was not free.  Next up was registering the product, which was always put off when you buy the thing because you needed it right away or you wouldn’t have bought it.  The serial numbers that came up on the computer were that of an internal drive.  The obvious:  the internal drive on the computer happened to be manufactured by the same company.  Duh.

Now the actual numbers on the external drive itself were written in some cryptic microscopic font that required literally three sets of reading glasses stacked one on top of the other so they could be read.  Having entered the now correct serial numbers, and registering the product, and updated my status (paid more) as the “free trial” for the product that I had never used was now expired, we were ready to download and install the software.  This took a half hour.  Then the “backing up” commenced.  There were no queries as to what was to be backed up, it just took off and started backing.

I checked on it dutifully for almost three hours, and was finally feeling an exhilarating triumph when it was announced “backup complete.”  This exaltation was short lived when it was discovered that the offending external drive backup program that has now cost me roughly 6 hours and $50 only backed up 26G out of the 57G on the drive.  Back to square one.

Then I heard that giant popping sound of my head leaving my backside.

I formatted the drive, wiping everything off of it, went to the “backup” utility that appears when the C-Drive Icon is right clicked, and hit ENTER.  The entire C-Drive copied itself on my external drive just as if it were a memory stick.  It took 5 mins to set up, and was there the whole time.  DUH.

How many “answers” in business can you think of that were sitting on your desk the whole time?


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Timing rewards

by Seth Godin

We can agree that promising a three-year old a new car when she graduates from college is probably an ineffective way to get her to stop sucking her thumb.

As we mature, it gets easier to trade satisfaction now for a prize later. However, the more risk involved in getting the prize, the less we value it. Frequent flyer miles, for example, began with the promise that if you flew an airline regularly for months (or even years) you’d get a free flight. The airlines oversold the miles and undelivered on the free flights, though, so the reward started to lose its perceived value–too much risk that you wouldn’t get the prize you wanted. Many of the frequent flyers I know have ceased to ‘save up’ and now use their miles for upgrades, moving the benefit closer in time.

One of the many things the web is changing is our focus on now. It’s increasing. Offering a reward in three months just isn’t going to cut it. If you want me to get out of bed or brush my teeth or click on your link, there better be something waiting for me on the other side.


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Ready, fire, aim! Can we sell it now?

It’s great to get excited.

Are we there yet dad?  How much longer? I have to pee.

OK, so I don’t encounter the last one too often in my marketing endeavors, but the first two – all the time.  It is understandable, and kind of heartwarming in a way, to see the interest grow as a project comes together.

Many of the people we work with are seeing the potential of their web presence for the first time.  It’s like a kid stepping onto the lot of Disneyland for the first time after an 8 year bus ride.  The first thing they want to do is run around and scream, then go ride the Matterhorn.  The screaming takes the form of “let’s get this to market NOW.”  The Matterhorn takes the form of their biggest business obstacle, or most elusive prospect.

Hold your proverbial horses, Kemosabe!  Although many improvements in a website and infrastructure are possible in a short period of time, the error should always go to the Uber-prepared.  There is far more to having a website ready to promote than “fixing up” the homepage and loading a few other pages with keyword optimized content.

There is a list of promotions that have to be stockpiled, articles written and stockpiled, landing pages created for promotions, more keyword copy inserted into the website pages, email lists to be scrubbed, ad campaigns written, analytic script inserted in the proper HTML code…  you get the idea.

It kind of feels like Ebenezer Scrooge reigning in on Tiny Tim (the CEO)’s marketing Christmas morning, but damn Sam, there is still lots to do before we want to go “live.”  No sense taking the stage before you put your dress on.

If you find yourself in the situation described above, take a few deep breaths.  Proper planning and scheduling can avert the one thing you hope to never have to ask for, and probably won’t be granted by most prospects:  a second chance.


Google’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Logo

Inspired by an article Barry Schwartz wrote that didn’t say what I wanted to.

Martin Luther King, Jr Google Logo 2011Today Google has a special logo on for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.  They do for most truly
significant, and some not so significant, days.

Today would have been his 82nd birthday celebration. His legacy lives on with our black president, a somewhat integrated management structure in most major industries, and at least lip service to what his dream was about.  At least in most parts of the country it is no longer fashionable to be openly racist.  Now my prayer is that our hearts will all truly reflect what we are required to “look like” on the outside.  Well America, as my late great friend would have said,  FAKE IT TILL YA MAKE IT.

Technically, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15th, but the United States celebrates the first Monday after his birthday as a national holiday for his leadership during the African American civil rights movement. In 1964 he received the Nobel Peace Prize, at that time, he was the youngest person to ever receive the prize.

Dr. King was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee and the free world will forever mourn his passing, and our loss.

Here is a larger version of the logo on Google’s home page:

Martin Luther King, Jr Google Logo 2011


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In honor of MLK: The Origins of Kindness

Download MP3

Listen to our interview with science historian Oren Harman. He’s our guest in this Science Forum discussion.

Harman is a professor at Bar Ilan University in Israel.

If evolution favors the survival of the fittest, how did kindness and selflessness evolve?  The search for that answer is the subject of Harman’s new book, The Price of Altruism.

It tells the story of George Price, a scientist who developed an equation that explains how natural selection can favor altruistic behaviors.

As Harman writes, George Price’s life and work were full of contradictions.

Disappointed by his findings, because they implied that seemingly selfless behaviors are in fact selfish, Price decided to prove his own science wrong. He became an evangelical Christian and gave away everything he owned to the poor and homeless.

Price took his own life in 1975.

Oren Harman is taking your comments and questions. Come join the conversation. It’s just to the right.

  • What tells us more about human kindness: Price’s altruism for the poor, or his mathematical equation?
  • Do you believe any actions are truly selfless, or do all acts of kindness have ulterior motives?
  • What drives you to be kind to others?

Additional Resources:



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Get Happy: Happiness at the click of a mouse!

It is a cold cloudy day in January.  Life is good, till you watch the news.  What we need is:

Let’s face it, the world is chock-full of negativity. I’m tired of it and I’m sure you are too. Why don’t we change that? Seriously. I think we can. I think having tons of websites available with nothing but positive content is an incredible idea! I thought it was such a great idea that I built this lense to hightlight as many positive websites I could find.

You can start right here:

>> Happy news & stories from happy people

Thankfully, there are a few out there. There are websites, social networks, news sites and blogs focused on happiness and happy things. There are plenty of happy people out there that share their stories. The trick is finding them.


Search & The Slow Season: Your Brand’s Big Opportunity

by Hillary Stanley

Now that the holidays are over, many search marketers want to put their feet up and enjoy the down time. But does search ever have a lull? Not really – it is always on. However, the slow season offers search marketers a great branding and growth opportunity.

The Opportunity For Brand Marketers

Whether your slow season occurs after the holiday rush or during the first week of August, it can be the perfect time to focus your efforts on creating brand awareness. Because many marketers turn off their campaigns during this time, the competition can be greatly reduced. As a result, your brand could have increased visibility in the search results, which could lead to new business at a lower cost.

In addition, a focus on brand awareness during the off-season makes sense because many consumers are further up in the purchase funnel then. Rather than making immediate purchases, they are interested in exploring their options and are open to discovering new brands. This mindset, along with the reduced competition mentioned above, creates opportunity for your brand to be discovered by new customers.

Lastly, your slow period is the ideal time work on brand awareness quite simply because you have the time to invest in testing to determine your most effective messaging. Taking the time to do this now will prove invaluable once your peak season hits.

4 Tips To Improve Brand Awareness During The Slow Season

Below are a few tips to help you boost brand awareness and optimize your account during your slow season:

  • Always be present. While it may sound basic to some, many marketers need to be convinced that it is important to continue to advertise and keep their paid search campaigns running during slower times. Sure, traffic may be lower when things are slow; however, savvy marketers know that there is still an opportunity to gain business. During your slow time, ensure that your brand is always present.
    Doing so will allow you to fully capitalize on the visibility opportunity when other companies make the mistake of letting their brands “go dark.” By continuing to protect your branded terms and test and expand your efforts with unbranded keywords, you will be in a stronger position when things get busy again.

  • Clean up your accounts. Paid search accounts are always changing. In fact, chances are that over the past year you most likely added, removed, and changed keywords and ad copy for your campaigns many times over. While it is important to keep campaigns updated, these changes can create clutter that adversely affects performance.
    While things are slow, take the time to review the structure of your campaigns, your keywords, and your ad copy, and remove what you can. Doing so will not only help boost results by ensuring that you are staying relevant, but also help you optimize your accounts throughout the year by keeping them manageable.

  • Review your goals. While you may have clear goals established for 2011, some things in your organization or the marketplace may have changed since they were originally formulated. For instance, the company may have announced plans to launch a new product, change its website, or target a new customer segment. Or perhaps a top competitor may have started a major marketing program. Such changes could greatly impact your goals for the year.

    Fortunately, your slow period is the perfect time to review your goals and make any necessary adjustments. As you revisit them, be sure to find out if your organization has any new initiatives planned so you can be prepared for them throughout the year.


  • Create your strategy. If you have not already created a plan for the year, now is the time to do it. Start by taking a look at 2010 and determine what was successful – and what was not — and leverage your learnings to create a stronger account for the new year. In order to keep the account growing, be sure your plan takes into consideration any additional marketing initiatives your company may be running in 2011, along with your competitors’ efforts.
    You may also want to consider other efforts you have not explored yet. Perhaps this will be the year to try mobile or a Spanish campaign. Lastly, be sure your plan includes tests throughout the year; otherwise, you might forget when things get busy.

While you may be tempted to relax during the off-season, you should capitalize on the opportunity to build brand awareness. Doing so will help you get a leg-up on the competition, and put you in a far stronger position when things pick up again.


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