Archive: July 2006

Monday, July 31, 2006

Terrible, Networked

Joke if you will, but the coming explosion of online karaoke taps right into what’s going on out there. A San Francisco startup offers a platform to make your own recordings with backing music and send them to friends. You might be saying: what’s the difference between that and going on Youtube with that inane bit of dancing around your bathroom in front of a webcam? “Official” backing music, of course. Karaoke providers are nothing if not enablers.

Let’s get serious for a nanosecond. One of the worst examples of innovation-t0-stagnation-in-record-time seems to be the e-greetings space. A lot of people send ’em. The selection is poor, and personalization methods not innovative. Even if you pay for the premium services!

There are upstart greeting card companies of course. They’ll soon get more notice, as the big brands’ versions are tired before they even reached young adulthood.

What needs to happen is for the karaoke guys to create a greeting card division. Shouldn’t be too tough, eh?

Related: In the closing chapter of Winning Results with Google AdWords, I encourage readers to rub peanut butter on their bald heads and upload the fiasco to Google Video, and charge for it. If no one does this soon, I might need to shave my head and do something about it myself. For charity, of course.

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Paradigms Shifting, Brains Exploding, Web 3.0 Emerging

You gotta love this Markus guy… because he’s cocky.

Perhaps brands need not rule the verticals of tomorrow… perhaps 5-10 person companies can revolutionize whole industries.

I dare to dream.

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Friday, July 28, 2006

Gone Phishin’

Danny points to new browser extensions that help flag potential phishing schemes in search results.

Now that seems like a cool way for third parties and search engines to work hand in hand to produce better results and to train systems to recognize obvious spams and scam.

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Invalid Click Disclosure and Online Ad Industry Measurement Standards

I know, sometimes it seems like all we post about here is Google. Aren’t there any other companies? Danny’s “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” comment of years ago seems more true than ever.

To everyone’s credit: we try. Ask Jeeves execs have been the keynote speaker at two recent Search Engine Strategies conferences. But there is only so far you can take this. I am sure that the room will be packed at San Jose Marriott Convention Center in three weeks when Google CEO Eric Schmidt joins Danny for a keynote conversation.

If you scan 50 search engine related posts and headlines on any given morning, the most noteworthy one is bound to be related to Big G.

To the substance of today’s post. Google has been talking more about openness and disclosure of late. In line with that, they plan to disclose how many clicks you haven’t been charged for on a daily basis… those that have been filtered out and deemed “invalid.” That will go a long way towards clearing up people’s confusion about the process.

However, sometimes I hear about very basic discrepancies that would tend to indicate that Google is not catching all the *worthless* clicks or clicks that any rational assessment would call “non-clicks”. We know search engines don’t consider a page very relevant over time if someone clicks through on a listing and hits the back button *immediately*. So why are we being charged for many of those “clicks”?

Indeed, it’s been industry knowledge from the beginning that many visits from any source — and particularly from paid search links — result in “short visits” of fewer than five seconds. If Google filters out 10% of clicks as invalid but a typical proportion of “short visits” is 50%, then there is still a lot of waste built into the whole idea of paying for a click. Anyone who studies basic web analytics has known about these high short-visit proportions for some time.

So I’m often asked questions like “our analytics say we only got 100 clicks, and Google’s claiming 180.” That kind of discrepancy is often troubling, but all it could mean is that your analytics software is not interested in counting (or unable to count due to technical limitations) “very, very short visits” of less than two seconds. And if these visits are *that* short, then they must often be click fraud. At the very least, they’re utterly worthless clicks.

Now that Google Analytics is installed on many advertiser accounts, these “ultra-quick exits” are plain for all to see. We know that Google knows about them, and Google knows that we know that they know.

So we’d expect some in the analytics and advertising communities to continue questioning the practice of charging advertisers for most of those “fast-exit” clicks. As far as I can tell, Google and the other vendors do not call most of these fraudulent or invalid, and so the very notion of a conversion rate from “clicks” is skewed. Advertisers with a 4% conversion rate from “click” to “sale” may be disappointed in that ratio. But if you were able to pin down only those clicks which met a commonly-acceptable *advertiser* definition of a click, and begin counting conversion rates from there, I would guess that typical advertiser’s conversion rate would look more like 8%. Put on a happy face. It’s not you, it’s them.

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Secret Hedgehog Society

What’s the secret to Google? Om Malik drops in, then gets the answer right. I’m not surprised! He’s a good listener.

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Your Personal Traffic Helicopter

Imagine not needing to listen to the litany of clogged intersections in the radio traffic report, but instead being able to see congested areas highlighted on a map on your mobile device. This is in fact what’s being offered now for 30 cities, on Google Mobile Maps.

Just don’t create a new accident operating your mobile browser while driving, OK?

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Friday, July 21, 2006

Fair Use, Fair Game

In case we’re still keeping score, it appears you can use company names in your advertising copy in order to make a point. Even a point that embarrasses the company in question.

I think of it as free speech. Your mileage may vary.

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Search Engine Strategies San Jose 2006

I don’t teach in-depth seminars all that often, so I’m really looking forward to drilling down with a small group audience on August 11, the day after Search Engine Strategies San Jose. The topic, of course, is Paid Search Fundamentals and the training day is being organized by Incisive Media (the same company that runs the conference). The detailed session runs from 8:00-12:00 but I’ll let you get a coffee at 10. ๐Ÿ™‚ The best part about this for me as a presenter is the opportunity to dig into interfaces and look at live examples in a sustained way. That makes it into more of a problem-solving exercise than a shorter overview, obviously. It’ll be similar to private, no-holds-barred seminars I’ve taught for clients like Royal Lepage.

The sessions are limited to 40 attendees, ensuring that you’ll get personalized attention. If you don’t want to miss out, you’ll sign up sooner than later.

As an aside, I’m organizing an informal round of golf the day before that. Ping me if you are attending the conference, and want to join in with the “Second Ever Andrew Goodman John Krystynak Chris Boggs Invitational.” It helps if you’ve golfed before, but skill is not a major prerequisite. Last year we played at the excellent public course that is within view of the Googleplex across the road. As my luggage was delayed in Denver, wonderful John lent me a shirt, and I was forced to purchase new golf shoes in the pro shop. And I was so glad I did! Compared to traditional golf shoes these new models are like walking on a cloud. Progress is not a myth!

Also speaking at SES San Jose will be Page Zero’s Mona Elesseily, on Aug. 7 – topic: “Compare and Contrast: Ad Program Strategies.

See you at the conference, and the Google Dance!

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Long Tail Skepticism File: Post #003

Hey consumer,

Think you have choices? Do you like New Coke? Who’s to say you don’t? Well, you can’t buy it.

(Unless you want a really stale can.)

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Panama Pushed Back

Yahoo’s new ad platform is now delayed until “at least” Q4, according to the company’s top management.

If there is a positive to this for advertisers, it’s continuity through the holiday season. Although Yahoo appears to be struggling at the moment, they remain the #2 player in search. And existing retailers now have a long window of time in which to optimize their accounts to prepare for the fall and winter rush.

So it looks like most of the advertising community will be given the opportunity to begin porting their accounts over and testing the new functionality around January 2007, but the switchover to live wouldn’t be until Feb. 2007, or even March, judging by this company forecast.

We’d already told you not to pay too much to Yahoo’s optimistic rollout schedule, but this delay is longer than expected.

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Apparently, “Real Men” Hyperlink

Thanks to some thorough blogging by Danny Sullivan (um, er, I forget the URL)… I came across this item which oddly challenges Google management to be “real men.”

This is a disturbing trend I’ve noticed in business journalism lately. Writers – especially in some business pages – like to goad captains of industry into showing off their “cajones,” as if somehow they can be “gotten to” with some schoolyard words. One example – I’m not making this up – was the respected business writer who noted perfunctorily that the Chairman of one of Canada’s top three banks had led them to unprecedented profitability and industry-leading profit margins (pretty good right?), but “time would tell if he had the stones to make that big acquisition that would double the company in size” etc. etc. (I’m paraphrasing here). Notwithstanding the fact that government regulators might have something to say about a merger that large. Now Mr. Gordon M. Nixon is well compensated for having his manhood challenged (makes about $7 million a year — not Google money, but OK), so I’m sure he can take it.

Every book and case study I’ve read indicates that CEO’s (including women) trying to act like “swashbucklers” or someone’s idea of tough or loyal or whatever… typically make a royal mess of things. When you’re all about executing the details, the secondary image stuff simply shouldn’t matter.

That’s what makes Stanley Bing’s sendup Sun Tzu Was a Sissy: Conquer Your Enemies, Promote Your Friends, and Wage the Real Art of War such a hilarious read.

“Be real men”? First things first: the author of such a challenge has now ruled women out of management positions at Google and other companies like them, unless they act like the kinds of idiots who ruin companies and create needless wars.

That said, that kind of challenge always makes me giggle in a high-pitched, jovial manner (like a schoolgirl, or my neighbor, Paul, father of two); it feels like I’m watching a Seinfeld episode. If I were Schmidt et al., my riposte would be like Jerry’s: “Then what are all those sport jackets doing in my closet?”

Author Donna Bogatin has evidently missed the biggest lesson in this, and I believe it’s chapter 52 in Bing’s book: no one in their right mind gives link love to their enemies.

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Don’t Swallow That

It’s pretty funny that Adam Lasnik of Google seems to have sent some acetaminophen to a poor soul suffering from Adwords Quality Score woes.

As Googler Nick Fox explained to me last week, a recent upgrade to the QS algorithm has now gone live (a bit too complicated to go into detail here given this month’s “light posting schedule,” but I’ll discuss it with Page Zero Advisor subscribers in a podcast to be released late this week).

The basic principles are all public, of course, whereas the details aren’t disclosed. What makes me scratch my head is all the theories that are flying around about the change. I can’t blame people, because even though we know a fair bit about what Google discloses about QS, it’s pretty complicated.

The biggest debates out there are about how much Google is assessing landing pages in determining your quality score for ad ranking purposes. I tend to believe that side of it is exaggerated. As Nick Fox suggested, there are rarely any gray areas, implying that it’s generally seriously misleading ad campaigns and scam offers that are being targeted. Yes, there are landing page factors now in the mix.

But these will generally not affect accounts of long standing which have good CTR’s established. You need to continue optimizing your landing pages for corporate goals and profitability, conversion rates, ROI, etc… not based on what you think it will do to your minimum bid in AdWords.

Yes, there will be some cases where suddenly your minimum bid has crept up, and you’re convinced it’s caught in the new landing page criteria. In that case, Google might be willing to take a manual second look.

As for acetaminophen, I don’t usually point to my personal blog as I don’t post anything of value there, but as I posted recently… that stuff is toxic! Stay away!

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Friday, July 14, 2006

Speaking of Arbitragey AdSense Sites…

Sometimes I do a search relating to my bank – using Google for navigation, essentially, when I’m on someone else’s computer. I know I can get to the correct home page by typing certain queries.

One of those nasty looking keyword insertion ads came up when I did that today, so I checked out the site. (The ad had my query — a trademark term — in the title, and contained some stupid nonsense text based on the name of the bank… TD Canada Trust… “find out more about trusts!” etc.).

The crap site was built to look like a real site, but it had mostly ads. The navigation links mimicked the actual internal structure of my bank’s navigation links!

Not expecting to find any real info, I did a domain lookup on the site. As expected, no company information was available. But the date of registration was interesting: today!

As these annoying schemes proliferate, it’s clear why Google has to crack down on them. Deception, spam, and abuse of several organizations, companies, and systems which were initially built around a much less adversarial concept of the Internet.

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

It’s Unofficial: AdWords Targets Arbitrageurs

Google’s Inside AdWords blog alludes to an upcoming tweak of the quality score formula. MediaPost thinks it’s an “apparent attempt to target arbitragers.” Possibly so, but Google isn’t on record as saying so.

Some “arbitrageurs” (those who place ads on Google AdWords at low cost, and profit from higher-priced clicks on ads on their websites, often designing those sites around ad links alone and hoping some users will click on two or three ads) have already seen this coming, and indeed may have already seen some of the measures intended to stop them.

So it’s unclear as always who will be most affected, but if Google is conservative in its initiative, it’ll be mostly lower-quality pages that *only* have ad links on them.

“Advanced” arbitrageurs who have built out more content on their sites are less likely to be affected. At a certain point, if a site or landing page really is a consumer guide to a product category, and happens to show ads, of course there is absolutely no reason to single it out for a low quality score.

The real question becomes: can Google target sites showing ads served by its main competitors, such as Yahoo (Overture) ads? Probably not, given the potential for an outcry if this were discovered. But it’s perfectly possible for their editorial staff to “find” arbitrary other reasons for manually entering red flags into the system for any given landing page, and it just might so happen that a lot of those contain Yahoo ads.

Conclusion: arbitrageurs were already being targeted, and ongoing efforts will be made to take those kinds of ads off the system. If you’re targeted, that doesn’t feel very good, but if you’re one of the other advertisers on the page, directly advertising your goods and services, you’ll probably like it.

Even simpler conclusion: the fun & games are coming to an end. Those of you who have read all those books promising “quick cash” from running ads through to affiliate programs or pages full of AdSense ads are going to need to get back to the drawing board.

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The “New Economy” Moves to Michigan

There could scarcely be a more graphic representation of economic realignment in America than Google announcing the addition of up to 1,000 new jobs in a new facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Although the auto industry is hardly on its knees, the jobs picture is certainly less certain than it once was. Some fortunes have risen, others have fallen. Some say the Michigan economy is looking downright bleak, so Google’s announcement is timely.

It hits a rather personal nerve (in a good way) for me. My family owns a cottage on the other side of the lake, near Bayfield, Ontario. It’s a bit over 3 hours from Detroit, so many Michigan residents make second homes there. Good careers and a low Canadian dollar had made that possible for many working people. You’d also run into the odd family whose patriarch had done something cool like invent the windshield wiper. ๐Ÿ™‚

The folks are selling the cottage, so I had a good last look at the sandy beach on the Ontario side. While those with good money are now coming over from Michigan and building bigger, bolder beachfront homes, it seems many regular working people can no longer afford even the less expensive property in the area given the declining job pitcture and rising Canadian dollar. I can’t think of a better shot in the arm for Michigan than to have so many high-tech jobs coming available. (On the Ontario side, several new auto plants and auto parts plants have been announced. Oh well!)

It’s too bad my gang’s moving out of there. It might have been interesting to watch the “Michiganians who call themselves Googlers” poking around the area. It might have made for some interesting random encounters on local golf courses, and even the opportunity to talk about AdWords over rhubarb pie.

Search marketing chatter, interspersed with church suppers in Goderich? Stranger things have happened. Hey, that’s been my life for the past few years. ๐Ÿ™‚

Posted by Andrew Goodman


SEM 2.0 TurnsS 2.0 Years Old!

Has time flown by that quickly? A couple of weeks ago, SEM 2.0, a discussion list I founded in 2004 — inspired by the I-Search “email-based” discussion list format launched by Marshall Simmonds and also moderated by Detlev Johnson and later, me — turned two years old.

It’s been pretty much what members wanted, I’m told. A moderate-traffic, professional-quality, intelligent group. No newbies, not very much black-hat discussion. Using Google Groups means the list is searchable and more usable than the old cobble-together platforms we used in the old days. Google Groups was very buggy at the beginning, and lacked features. Now, it’s getting closer to what a forum should be, with the ability to put sticky notes at the top, rate posts, create profiles, etc. Still waiting on the avatars and other obnoxious stuff. ๐Ÿ™‚

Looking for a helpful search engine marketing community that won’t be up in your face all the time? Just a reminder that when you’re ready, SEM 2.0 is ready for you. You can subscribe below (no charge, no ads, no nonsense). You need to provide a couple of sentences in pre-moderation proceedings (you’ll be asked to do this) to keep out the ol’ riffraff.

Posted by Andrew Goodman

Monday, July 10, 2006

Fighting Search Engine Spam Part 2: My Baby Likes a Bunch of Authors (and Critics, and Scientists, and Celebrities, Designers, Analysts, Athletes…)

Two words: branded recommendations.

Opinionated categorization has been a key driver of web search. And now in the kerfuffle about the New York Times cloaking, and in lawsuits against Google, it’s come to our attention that Google is actually editorializing when they choose to index and rank results in a certain way. Duh.

Mysterious processes of editorializing are going to lead to less compelling results. Algorithms that tap into “collective” wisdom are helpful, but easily attract spam schemes, and carry with them a “scientific cachet” that unnecessarily confuses users.

These search algorithms are indeed wonders of the modern world, don’t get me wrong.

But it’s evident that something akin to an Expert Council would be as useful and fun for users as the existing experimental methods that attempt to measure usefulness and relevancy — and fight spam — with forward-thinking mathematical models that look at how the whole world sees a given site or page. In many cases, there is so little data available that the returned results are somewhat arbitrary. A bunch of sites squabble over long tail search referrals by “optimizing” and fretting about why they don’t have more of that valuable traffic in obscure search queries. And when most sites can’t make it high on the trust meter, they get trumped by sites that seem to be just a bit higher. But is a Wikipedia entry or Yellow Pages backfill really the way to help users, in that case?

Arguably, people should know a search engine isn’t good for everything, so the best they can expect on their obscure queries is a jumble of results and ads, and go find what seems best from there. But in practice, many people aren’t that great about doing the finding. And in practice, they use a search engine for pretty much everything.

Engines have made great strides in customizing results — with OneBox help, and more. But they could improve further. Essentially, they would think more like vertical portals in every vertical of substance. And they would selflessly point users towards the most appropriate “vortals” for their needs. Who’s going to do the pointing, though? Anonymous editors hired by the SE companies? The ones who used to think foosball tables and pop were a great job perk? No sir! Users want to hear from their heroes.

Think of the problem search faces by pondering your user experience on a site whose job it is to share consumer opinions about products. (Think epinions,, and many more.) You’d be searching for information on the latest $500 Taylor Made driver, and all of a sudden there’d be all these 13-year kids in there claiming they’re striping 300-yard drives. Yeah, sure, Taylor Made reps. ๐Ÿ™‚

In spite of the fact that we live in ostensibly democratic societies, the “collaborative” part of collaborative filtering still isn’t working. It’s being gamed. The tail’s wagging the dog (yep, I said it over six years ago, and I still think so… as do many of today’s Wikipedia critics). And many online recommendations are losing legitimacy with the public. (This varies from community to community, of course. But I would argue that in those niche sites where you can truly believe your peers’ recommendations, it’s because they are known quantities, people you know as real people with verifiable claims and experiences.) Back in the ascendancy of the dmoz directory — if you’re a normal web user and not someone who worked there, put up your hand and tell me if you really wanted travel categories edited by some random enthusiast named “monkeybrayn”.

The branded recommendations scheme could work in a couple of ways. One, search engines could actually go around and sign up a bevy of experts and celebrities and enlist them to participate in a recommendations scheme facilitated by technology. The expert’s photo or logo could adorn results that show up in the OneBox, in the 3rd search results position, or in the right-hand margin in place of an ad. Compensation? No problem. As long as the rough parameters are disclosed on the search engine’s site, people understand that experts are compensated but that they lose their status as experts if they don’t give good advice. For lighter topics, who even cares about “relevancy” or “bias,” since the picks would be “for entertainment purposes only.”

The second method would be to develop metadata or other approaches that attempt to pin down ownership and authorship, so that real-world credentials matter more in weeding out spam. These kinds of checks and tests could be largely concealed to keep spammers off balance. There’s no question search engines are doing some of these things today. Sadly, the “semantic web” concept which might have accelerated this trend still seems stalled in the garage.

Both approaches could work in tandem.

This is one of those areas where a company like Microsoft or Yahoo could have shown substantial leadership. What did they do instead? Built their own search algorithms and “MyWeb” schemes that attempted to out-Google Google, and which continued to overrely on anonymous humans and impersonal algorithms to rank-order “web pages”. Meanwhile, jettisoned its humanistic answer sets and natural language concepts (to say nothing of the butler) in favor of ever-more-impressive science that will be applied to an ever-more-spammy and ever-expanding in complexity web universe.

This isn’t a debate about whether humans or computers do it better. A non-starter, to be sure. Computers aren’t optional when it comes to search. But audiences are seeking guidance, and the idea of collaborative filtering is so powerful that it deserves to be refined and implemented in new ways, including ways that de-emphasize the “collaborative” aspect. Occam’s Razor cuts through clutter and spam all in one go.

Ironically, it may be Google that understands this best, in spite of initially building their company around the world’s fascination with PageRank.

The biggest hurdle to this, perhaps, may be the hubris that comes from building a company around 1,000 Ph.D.’s, buying up all the world’s fiber, etc.

It now looks like partnerships with traditional media companies and relationships with traditional… people are the way you build a truly trusted media company. And those relationships are hard to build when so many in “new media” build their empires out of ripping and sharing little pieces of other people’s content, releasing every new idea as if it were merely a product, rather than a product that requires a relationship.

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Friday, July 07, 2006

Fightin’ Search Engine Spam, Part I

Google exec in BBC story makes much kerfuffle about search engine spam as an “arms race.”

In keeping with this month’s light posting sched., let this be the first of several anti-spam posts sprinkled into the light fluffy mix for the month:

Spam-Fightin’ Sub-Folder #G-Traffick-0001: Spammers Share Revenue with Google

Two words: “AdSense sites.” One part of Google creates and fosters an atmosphere where there is a financial incentive to create sites with AdSense ads on them. For those keeping score, close to half of Google’s ad revenue, which makes up 97% of Google’s total revenue, comes from AdSense. (That’s a bit misleading, mind you — the revenue share or “cost of revenues” is much higher on the AdSense side than on Google Search and search partner sites, so what it seemed to do in addition to giving Google the opportunity to place code on a lot of websites was to give them the “top line” heft that made Wall Street go ga-ga.) To best monetize those sites, of course the spammers will want to, well, spam the Google index full of pages containing AdSense ads. That adds up to “revenue on autopilot” at very low cost with no risk. What hacker wouldn’t jump on that bandwagon? Indeed, the “pros” at this game will be better at fooling search algorithms than your garden-variety spammer, so after Google clamps down on linkspam, they’ll already be onto the next tactic, snapping up pre-aged domains, links, etc. Meanwhile, good sites get caught in the crossfire, because there is so much bad stuff out there that the effort to catch it creates false positives. (Yes, I do understand not all sites showing AdSense are spammer-driven.) As the Google exec implies, the potential outcome is that search results turn into a yecchy mess.

So while the AdSense gang cheer the site-builders on, the “other” (search) part of Google then marvels at how tough the spam problem is, after they’ve helped to fund and indeed romanticize the AdSense-monetization-via-SEO effort. As one commentator pointed out, AdSense has become a kind of allowance for high school kids. 1999 all over again.

Isn’t this self-inflicted pain, at least to some degree? From the standpoint of the moral high ground, as well as from a practical standpoint, Google must reconsider the extent of its AdSense program. They tie their own hands and give themselves less incentive to boot out these kinds of sites when – let’s face it – the money acts as a pleasant buffer against the “problem” of users leaving Google for other sites. AdSense code also offers Google data on surfing habits, en masse.

Until Google curbs its addiction to AdSense revenue, their anti-spam efforts will probably lack teeth and conviction.

No, that won’t mean there won’t be other ad programs out there… but if those programs were run by other companies, you’d think Google would stiffen its stance against these crap sites, rather than being wishy-washy on them in practice.

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Death of Common Culture?

Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail is justifiably on the way to bestseller status.

But the promo blurbs announcing the death of “common culture” seem premature. Death of common culture? Stuff that everyone watches, discusses, cheers on? While it’s true we don’t all watch the same TV shows anymore, and that our compulsion towards longtailish iPod playlists have become more practical and affordable, we’re not all bowling alone, either. Attendance may be down at Toronto Blue Jays games, but the bars aren’t empty. The barbershops aren’t devoid of chatter. There is a lot of interest remaining in “common” culture.

Common culture, dead? Tell that to any of those guys in the barbershop who watched World Cup soccer this summer. Or to anyone trying to sleep in Little Italy tonight.

Yes, even the average American is no longer drinking Budweiser or Miller Lite exclusively, and there has been product proliferation in every category. The average American may even be a wine-drinker. Or a tea-drinker. And they won’t be guzzling the same product every time, either — they can order new varieties at, or get a cool blend of tea at Murchie’s (or so says my Dad).

The average meal out in my hometown is never the same twice. I’ve eaten Turkish and Ethiopian food by traveling only a few blocks from my home this year. “Pho” is available even in sleepy edge cities. You can have anything you want! Does this mean we’re all flying off in our “own direction”? (Even if, for rugged individualists, that might be a good thing?) Hardly.

The end of shared interests? Not at all, people are going out and discussing roughly the same things, over a wider variety of beverages and vastly improved food. ๐Ÿ™‚ Basically, the extension of consumer choice under capitalism as predicted by 19th-century economists, and the flowering of the global village as predicted by thinkers like McLuhan. Until recently, the shortness of the tail was mainly just a technological pause, you would think. And of course, a product of people’s desire to actually have something in common to talk about. People don’t go out to see an obscure artist because they really would rather talk about Madonna.

So insofar as people do have obscure tastes (or seek distinction to protect their egos against homogenization and mass culture) and can now realize them, the fact that the techniques are now available to fulfil those tastes profitably is neither surprising nor a harbinger of the death of common culture.

What would be most surprising would be the barriers to those choices that still exist in so many places, that actually enforce “common culture,” and restrict those choices in order to benefit the producers of the same old, same old. Someone should write that book!

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Playing Knockoff

I think I’ll name my next cat Sisyphus.

A good while ago — like in high school — I invented (or the family cat, Twinkle, invented) a game called “knock-off.” It went something like this. I’d put a toy mouse or similar object on the window sill, a foot from the cat. The cat would look around, look nonchalant, and then whap it gently off the ledge, and onto the floor. I’d then put it back. The cat would knock it off again. Then I’d put it back. That cat could keep me amused for a good ten minutes that way! Or was it the other way around.

This reminds me a bit of business.

You put out a product or a book — someone copies it. You put new product or new info back on the shelf… along comes another paw to swipe at you. You can’t duck. You can’t change the nature of the beast. All you can do is hunker down and get ready to put something good to put back on the shelf.

Today I was reading one of the many “newsletters” full of “cutting edge tips” by one of the great many “search advertising experts” in existence today. My oh my oh my, if I didn’t see, in great detail, the exact same tips, with similar examples, I shared with readers four long years ago. Four years, and they can’t even come up with any kind of critical analysis or new ideas! Long tail, lots of keywords, try different matching options, and so on and so forth, zzz zzz zzzzz….

Problem is, a lot of that info isn’t any good anymore. At least they have the decency to give it away for free. No marketing campaign is plug and play. True professionalism is the only way to succeed long term, and that could mean a lot of flexibility in one’s approach over time.

So all of this may explain the light (ahem) posting schedule I have planned this month. I’ll be hunkering down and creating an entirely new version of the AdWords Handbook, finally… so I’ve got something to put back on the shelf. Price: not free. Probably $75. Price for people who plan to rip it off and pass it off as their own insight: $200,000 and up. We’ll be cloaking to assign the right landing page to the right buyers. ๐Ÿ™‚

Posted by Andrew Goodman


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