Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Online advertising spend overtakes TV

It had to happen (but even I'm suprised by how quickly this has occurred) online advertising spending in the UK has overtaken television.

According to a study by the IAB , PWC & World Advertising Research Centre, online advertising now has a 23.5% market share, now making it the biggest ad media.

Unsuprisingly mainstream media is sticking its head in the sand on this one. Lindsey Clay from the TV marketing body Thinkbox says:
it’s interesting but meaningless to sweep all the money spent on every aspect of
online marketing into one big figure and celebrate it.

And apparently the World is still flat as well..... See the larger article in New Media Age

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Technology in CRM

Its a twist an old humourous one-liner... You don't need technology to successfully implement and effective Customer Relationship Marketing programme, but it helps!

But this isn't just the latest and greatest technology, its good old integration between systems that semes to be the biggest stumbling block. In an eConsultancy report from earlier this year, there were considerable technical integation issues raised by lots of respondents

A focus on other business priorities is preventing organisations from successfully tying up their online and offline data, according to half to companies surveyed. It is alarming that so many companies are not prioritising an integrated approach to CRM.

Or to use another statistic from the same report...

Only a fifth of companies (20%) say that they are definitely able to link data from the online channel with back office systems

Friday, September 25, 2009

More Google trademarks issues

“Google has not committed a trademark infringement by allowing advertisers to select, in AdWords, keywords corresponding to trademarks.”
Those words from the Advocate General at the European Court of Justice is just another round in the ongoing legal battle between LVMH and Google. So although the final decision is not due until later in 2010, this does position the search giant favourably. It therefore looks to reverse the French courts' decision in 2005 where the Louis Vuitton owner successfully claimied Google had acted illegally and allowed competitor companies (or those that make fake copies) to buy keywords such as "Louis Vuitton" to be displayed for Pay Per Click advertising.

Click fraud

I've been watching the rates of click fraud rise and fall over the last year with some suprise. Back in the middle of last year there was an increase in click fraud to 17.1% in the fourth quarter of 2008 compared with the same period in 2007 having 16.6%.

But during 2009 click fraud rates (the percentage of clicks on your adverts that are not genuine customers) have dropped! In fact, they seem to have declined by about 25% over the last reported 6 months to a figure of 12.7%.

What does click fraud mean for the average company that uses Pay Per Click advertising?
It means you're more likely to spend more money for less real traffic!

But why does this happen?
Well there has apparently been an increase in the use of click farms. These are groups of people paid to click on your adverts by:

1. Site owners who want to make more money from their advertising inventory
2. Your competititors who want you to spend more money (or the same money for less real numbers of visitors/customers)

But why would click fraud rates drop in a recession? Are the less scrupulous companies also feeling the pinch and therefore are less likely to be able to afford click farm rates?

Meta tags mean nothing to Google

At last! Final proof of what we've all been assuming for ages... Google has ignored 'keyword' meta tags in its Internet search indexing service for years.

(Note: it does still use them when you buy their sealed yellow box to spider your internal network and it "sometimes" uses the 'Description' keyword for the text you see beneath the URL in its search results)

Here's the full article and video explaining:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Things that don't make sense part 1

There's an advert for that has a bloke sat in a business presentation and realises he doesn't have the right files. To come to his rescue are several pidgeons who carry various parts of his computer hardware across town.
Now what doesn't get me annoyed is the fact that advertising people expect us to believe birds can carry PC's through the central business district, but that the chap who gets all this equipment delivered can moan that he doesn't have his keyboard.

Did he not think of either going into the next door office to grab a USB keyboard?or better still.... Use the mouse?

It is after all just a presentation he's giving....

Companies ignoring self-service

I'm sure there is a tenancy to try to work harder during difficult times. This manifests itself in various ways, such as:
  1. Some people work longer hours
  2. Some people put more effort into their work (or a seen to be doing so)
  3. But some people innovate (new products, new markets, new technologies)
However, it seems that UK companies are still failing to incentivise lower cost-to-serve channels and falling back on their call centres, according to Global Contact Centre Benchmarking report by Dimension Data.

It is still amazing that with low customer interaction costs via channels such as online that companies are still trying to work longer and with more effort and failing to innovate (if you can actually call using the Internet as innovative these days).

However, this report also mentions that a third of respondents fail to actual monitor their cost to serve, thus not even measuring the cost of each customer interaction.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Company Reports - the next generation

Up until 2008 (and thanks to the Companies Act 2006) it was once a requirement for any UK listed company to send a printed copy of their annual report to every single shareholder. Luckily that is not the case now and a lot of companies have realised that providing their report online (in HTML format) has obvious benefits.

For example:
  • It assists their overall Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)Efforts
  • It facilitates viewing/downloading only part of the report (useful if the user is on a low bandwidth connection)
  • It contributes to a more environmentally friendly company profile
Nexxar, a leader in providing online company reports, carry out an annual survey benchmarking international companies and their use of online reports.

The report for 2009 which was released this month has found that almost half (48.7%) of those surveyed had a full HTML version of their site and according to them:

HTML is the only way to make full use of the Internet’s potential.
HTML has gradually increased in its usage, compared to just PDF's or images (usually in JPG format). And surprisingly it it UK companies that led the way, with 64% of the FTSE100 found to use HTML.

It is also interesting to note that in a piece of research focusing on Corporate Responsibility done by Radley Yeldar earlier this year, they found only 9% of those companies they surveyed (mainly FTSE 100 and FTSE 250's) used just HTML for their reports, with 47% using HTML and PDF combined.

Even US regulations now encourage company reporting in formats such as HTML, rather than just providing PDF's of the report pages. However using HTML is just the start of what you can achieve with your online company report. Animations and even audio & video (whilst remaining accessible to as many users as possible, so all sound media must have a transcript) add interactivity and help in the communication of company information to shareholders, employees, journalists and others.

So where's the future going for company reports? Well, depending upon who you ask, you get different answers....
  • Those who have a CEO & board who are professionally media trained would say you should put as much (relevant) video into your online report
  • Those who are standards based would say that you should make a lot of use of XBRL (eXtensible Business Reporting Language) or at least have sensible tagging of relevant content
  • And those who are on a budget will wait and see what works or becomes legislation

Monday, September 21, 2009

To test or not to test? That shouldn’t be the question!

An other guest posting from my friend & Ideal Interface colleague Marc Ames:

One of the greatest advantages of online is the level of accountability it gives marketing people with their budgets. It can also be provide in near enough real-time with the analytic tools available in the market. So with this accountability comes the obvious conclusion that online also provides the advantage of being to conduct multivariate testing – whether it be on a web page, an e-mail, Pay Per Click copy or an online advert.

Yet, there are still many companies out that invest massively online and yet do not conduct even the simplest of A/B tests.

But A/B testing is nothing new for marketers. Direct marketing has embraced this for decades and if you want to read up more about this then I recommend you get Commonsense Direct and Digital Marketing from one of the Direct Marketing gurus – Drayton Bird. The “Direct” version was first published in 1982 and was and probably still is on the recommended reading lists for the CIM qualifications when I first came across this book back in the early 1990s.
It is still relevant, in fact probably even more so today, 27 years on, but despite the wealth of evidence that supports testing, then why do some marketers still not do it?

It is not as if all marketers have the insight to know what is the exact page on a web site to maximise response or sales as a survey by Maxymiser proved in May when only 21 out of 452 marketers correctly identified the best performing web content from an A/B/C/D test.

So what are the reasons for not doing this?

I think it comes down to one of the following reasons:

1) Resources – many think that simple A/B testing will involve increasing the time to develop the web page, or e-mail, or online advert. But the reality is that if you start off simple then A/B testing can be easily accommodated within the current processes. The change could be as simple as colour, or ordering, or a headline on an e-mail, or the time of day or actual day an e-mail is sent. How many times have you sat there and presented two or more options for the final sign-off? Why not test both?

2) Building the site for me and not the audience – despite the fact that you build a website or design an e-mail for your target audience, I can guarantee that in meeting rooms and offices across the world that websites and e-mails are being sign-off or changed because of the “gut feel” of the decision maker. For no better reason than that is what the decision maker likes most. The fact that they may not fit or understand their target audience is an irrelevance as long as it makes them happy. If you are in this position – bad luck, and good luck with the job search!

3) Can’t build the business case – perhaps you are stuck with the conundrum of how can you prove that it is worth testing unless you know what the results of the uplift are and go around in circles as you don’t want to make a prediction and the test fails? Well consider the lost opportunity if you don’t test. Look at elements that you know are not performing, perhaps a high drop-off page on a website, or copy for your PPC campaigns, or the fact that your competitors are sending e-mails out at different times to you. If you look hard enough there is certain to be some element of your online marketing that can be improved – and use a test to prove it – and that will help prove that testing works.

4) Marketers not knowing what real marketing is – coming from an engineering background I have to admit I have an axe to grind but unfortunately I have come across too many marketing people who talk about “creative” and not enough about the numbers. There would be a lot more marketers in the boardrooms of the UK if they got to grips with the numbers side of the business and unfortunately this does present an image problem for Marketing, which still has not been addressed.

In the current environment, it is easy to say that because you are so stretched that you need have so many priorities for “business as usual”, but my challenge to that is that this is exactly the sort of thing you must be doing in the current environment to prove your worth and ensure that you help your business through these tough times.

So if people in your organisation see multivariate testing as the equivalent to “How do you an eat an elephant?”

The answer is quite simple – “One bite at a time”.

You can still read Marc's previous guest post Did the BBC and not Video kill the Radio Star?

Budget airlines have falling online reputations

It comes as no real suprise to read that the budget airlines of Easyjet and Ryanair have declining reputations online, given PR own-goals such as ranting on blog that dare criticise their booking process.

The bi-annual Kaizo Advocacy Index (KAI), which is designed to provide a view on leading brands' online reputation and recommendations have the following recent report:

For how long can some companies in the commoditised markets such as air travel continue to have arrogance?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Copying content

The very nature of web pages allows everyone to copy & paste content. This is therefore both very useful (as every kid doing their homework will tell you) and a nightmare (mainly for those who produce unique / copywrited content)

So what can you do about it?

Well the first response to this issue is usually "don't post what you can't afford to be copied" and this is a logical one. But as we know, content is given away all the time on the web and is a viable revenue model.... provided of course you can monetise your traffic effectively (e.g. by advertising) or get something back for it (e.g. this blog, which I do for free to keep me abreast of the latest online communication methods & technologies).

But there is also a serious reason for every site to worry about copied content and this is that search engines such as Google take a negative view of duplicated content. Therefore should someone copy large sections of your site for instant content on theirs, this may negatively affect your organic positioning (as the search engines could think you are trying to create duplicate sites to spoof them).
Note: This would have to be a lot of copy and Google actually tries to avoid this action:
In the rare cases in which Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown
with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we'll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved.

One clever technology I heard about recently was Tynt. This uses some clever JavaScript to record what users copy on your site and then when they paste text back into a web page, email, etc. However this can be side-stepped if you copy content first of all into a text editor (e.g. Windows Notepad) and then copy & paste the content that does not content the tracking reference into your target source.

Note: other ways include..
1. Embed protected content in Flash :
But although Google can at least partially index this content now, doing this still sigificantly hampers your SEO efforts.
2. Utilise screen scraping avoidance techniques
If you wanted to completely stop any indexing of your content then you could get it placed within an image. This can be done using dynamic image render technologies

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Where's the Twitter Press Release service?

Back in February last year I covered the topic of the Social Media News/Press Release (which had already been in existence for a year)

This was the evolution of the normal press release distributed online, that also included: URL's keywords, feeds, etc. (depending upon which verision you employed). I therefore thought it was therefore only a matter of time before the Twitter press release arose.

By this, I don't just mean that now companies have the chance to link to their own press releases in their organisation's 140 character tweets..... Many companies have now set up Twitter identities as part of their corporate communications strategies, in the same way that they did with corporate blogs in 2008 (or before).

And no I don't mean sites that are simply collections of tweet postings from journalists such as: or

I mean a proper service that specifically aggregates just Press Releases that appear on Twitter and enables you to filter them by subject, market sector and other attributes.

To date, the best service I have used is and I have then carried out searches for "press release xxxxxx", but with limited success.

Have I spotted a gap in the market or missed a key site out there?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Google preparing micropayments for newspapers?

Rumours are circulating that Google is planning a micropayment system over the course of the next year to help newspapers charge for their content.

As mentioned by the Nieman Journalism lab, Google has informed the Newspaper Association of America (see this PDF) that it will be launching an extension of Google Checkout, its competitor to PayPal.
"While currently in the early planning stages, micropayments will be a payment vehicle available to both Google and non-Google properties within the next year"

The idea is to allow payments of small amounts (e.g. pence and cents, not necessarilily pounds and dollars) to be charges for content over time, thus enabling newspapers to charge the user per read. what Google calls its
“vision of a premium content ecosystem”

Monday, September 14, 2009

Do friends really influence purchases?

The answer: It depends

Earlier this year the Harvard Business Review published a working paper entitled "Do Friends Influence Purchases in a Social Network?" They set out to examine the questions of :
1. do friends influence purchases of users in an online social network
2. which users are more influenced by this social pressure
3. and can we quantify this social influence in terms of increase in sales and revenue

The findings were that there was a range of revenue increases between three distinct groups of people categorised by status and interaction with others. The lower and middle groups had zero and 5% rise in purchases due to this social influence, but the revenue of the higher group actually declines by almost 14% .This has been explained as follows:

This finding is similar to work on characteristics of opinion leaders or the elite in the fashion industry, who tend to abandon one type of fashion and adopt the next in order to differentiate themselves from the masses
(in other words they seek to make themselves different from others by chosing / buying different things.. perhaps because they can afford to).

However, I'm not convinced. Maybe its because the sample size was quite small (Number of users = 208; Number of observations =2080) or because the figures used were from a Korean Social network (Cyworld), but I personally would like to see some further research done on this subject.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Top travel website for usability is 3 years old

Its not often that something on the web stands the test of time for longer than a year or so.New technologies, design influences, changing stakeholder opinions and a number of other factors all contribute significantly to change a website over time, so that it eventually morphs way beyond how it looked and possibly worked at launch.

So its actually good to see that over 3 years on, something I had a large hand in is still leading the pack in virtually the same guise it started out.

In a recent eDigital Research Travel Benchmark the P&O Ferries website still ranks as the most usable travel website: