Archive: February 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Yahoo: It’s Worse Than It Looks (Again)

Techcrunch reports on a Wall Street analyst’s recent analysis of Yahoo (YHOO).

Among the more painful realities:

  • Only a third of Yahoo’s $21b valuation derives from US assets.
  • Yahoo’s stock-based compensation, awarded to employees and managers with low morale or who foster poor morale, is generous even by the standards of generous compensators like Google or Facebook.

A picture of Yahoo emerges as a company that manages a stable asset, not one that forges new ground. Maybe an appropriate stance for a half-century-old media giant, but a sad fate for a company many of us not long ago still considered a “cool” Internet player.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Europhobic Response to Google Antitrust Issues – Not Productive

The latest bubblings of legal action against Google for anticompetitive behavior are, many believe, just the tip of the iceberg.

One thing that surprised me about some people’s reactions to this, at least in the US, was the assumption that it was all about European companies and regulators being, well, European about things: envious, bureaucratic, anti-American, etc.

But that misses the point by a mile. The key point of comparison in the broader discussion is always Microsoft. And the biggest legal hit to Microsoft’s empire came in the United States.

This week, some European companies are disgruntled with Google and some Italians are throwing a scare into Google execs by literally “jailing” them (albeit with suspended sentences) around some privacy legislation.

But when the real questions start being asked about anticompetitive behavior, they’ll be asked on home turf, as they were of Microsoft. And those questions, mind you, require a titan like Bill Gates to stand there as a mere mortal and admit to the specific discussions and specific strategies used to attempt to push key competitors (like Netscape) out of business. That’s the power of the US legal system, and don’t think it won’t happen someday with Google.

Chortling about hidebound Europeans might be comforting in North American digital circles, but that analysis is neither fair, productive, nor predictive of future outcomes. Google, inevitably, will be called on the carpet for many potential violations of antitrust. Not by the “FTC” for “misleading” disclosure of paid search links (sorry Danny, that’s a dead issue). But – potentially – for doing exactly what Page and Brin warned search engines could do, in their legendary paper “The Anatomy of a Large Scale …”. Using their position as a monopolist to manipulate which major competitors get to show up, where, and how, in the mix of search results. And boosting their own properties relentlessly when others should be findable. Just for starters.

This being said, I’m never a fan of nuisance lawsuits and petty nitpicking. Time will tell if Google is inside the law in many different areas. I’ll be back in a bit with some pro-Yelp thoughts, as they fight off silly conspiracy theories about “extortion” of small businesses. (Necessarily speculative, as court cases must be decided in court, where they belong.)

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Monday, February 22, 2010

One-Day Emarketing Conference in London (Ontario) – Monday March 1

SES London was a smashing event, but you don’t have to fly across the pond to get an early spring tuneup for your online marketing. If you’re located anywhere in Southwestern Ontario, this event – Turning Clicks Into Customers – should fill the bill. And best of all, it’s all taking place in a single day at a convenient venue. The Lawrence Kinlin School of Business at Fanshawe College in London, Ontario, hosts an e-marketing conference next Monday, March 1, 2010.

I’ll be speaking on Actionable Analytics (Beyond Lip Service). I’ll be joined by keynote speaker and good friend Mitch Joel. Other dynamic speakers include Liz Gray, Alan K’Necht, and Brady Murphy. A great opportunity to learn and also network in a collegial environment. More info about the agenda here.

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Why Google Buzz Is, Um, Not Quite Right For Me

I’ve just tried out Google Buzz and I couldn’t quite put my finger on why it just wasn’t going to be convenient for me to use. But there was this nagging feeling.

Then I realized: services like this are premised on the notion of a single GMail account, a single Google account, or perhaps, just on a certain world view of what people use these accounts for.

Before we were supposed to somehow accept that we live in Mark Zuckerberg’s “post-privacy world,” the savvy among us began segregating our lives out manually. Spam-boxes, personal email accounts, business email accounts, etc. And then, for me, within the business side (which admittedly overlaps with the personal, given that life is social), it began to be a matter of practical importance to set up even more functional accounts. Skype accounts to talk with teams; Basecamp to talk with other teams. Google Talk to talk with the core group of people. Avoiding the other Google Talk account when people I barely knew began pinging me. Rafts of Google accounts to cover different functions with AdWords and Analytics.

I’m as social as the next person, as anyone who reads the blog posts or the tweets knows. Hey, I just tweeted to @craigyferg, and half-expected a reply.

Then again, I’ve been a bit shy about Facebook. And probably too fragmented to figure out which platform I should actually live in.

So which Google Account would I put my Buzz in? The business one? Not really, given that I’m trying to avoid distractions there. The personal one, which is for family mainly, plus being a spambox and a place to get invoices when I buy crap? Well, as one of several legacy accounts, it’s a jumble, and it’s linked to a large address book and a certain Picasa account, and a GTalk account I rarely use and don’t want to use. And it makes me uncertain about how much to share, to whom, when, and why.

So the solution is: maybe just go back to Twitter, where the activity is more conscious and there is less integration with everything else, so I’m not tripping over all these overlapping accounts.

Twitter-killer, no. Another step towards the gradual loss of privacy and towards making unconscious decisions to overshare, probably.

It seems like a fun way to communicate for the typical person who has a single account and feels comfortable sharing in a certain way. But isn’t it late to the party? Didn’t we join Facebook because Facebook was “for that purpose”? When we signed up for GMail, wasn’t it for another purpose?

At the end of the day, don’t many of us want to put the brakes on all of this Google integration, and just have conversations for specific purposes with specific friends and teams of our choosing, rather than being stuck in this half-broadcasting, gotta-customize-and-remember-whether-you’re-oversharing, world? Just askin’.


Posted by Andrew Goodman


Myths Busted: Feb. 9, 2010

It’s little wonder people are paid big sums of money to remind the layperson of what seems really obvious to the people who work in a specialized field every day… how helpful are you? Here’s a test.

1. Newbies to AdWords are taught that “Quality Score is made up of a whole range of factors these days, including landing pages! Yep, those landing pages are really important. Gotta look at that.”

Help the newcomer learn faster with:

(a) A reminder that CTR is what they should be worried about, if Quality Score is something they should worry about.

(b) A really convoluted explanation that has them believing that the tooth fairy creates optimal landing pages that result in high Quality Scores, for some reason now forgotten.

2. An important event page not only isn’t ranking well in organic Google, it doesn’t even appear to be indexed yet. Help troubleshoot the problem by:

(a) Fiddling with the XML Sitemap.

(b) Clicking the result when you find it in Google (dang, won’t work this time… as it isn’t in the top xxxx results).

(c) Notice that the TITLE TAG is a really long sentence that highlights a bunch of generic words and saves a few of the target keywords for somewhere in mid-paragraph. Recommend changing the title tag to more or less match the target search query.

Troubleshooting is harder than it looks, because some things are just so darn obvious it’s all too easy to trip over them.

Posted by Andrew Goodman


Monday, February 08, 2010

Social Media: It’s About Mission, Not Measurement Alone

“This is not about measurement, but about organizations and their capacity to manage this changing real world of reputation. They find it hard to do this, because they’re stuck in an old-world broadcast model.”

The speaker: Bryan Eisenberg. The setting: a past SES London conference, at an All-Star Analytics panel.

This year’s SES London is, once again, particularly heavy on Analytics all-stars. As it should be. Search marketing is accountable, performance is king, and any digital marketer can improve their lot by doing a better job with the analytics toolkit.

But some people and some companies will confuse that importance with a blind faith that the measurement gurus can solve their larger strategy problems. Even the esoteric ones. Like the above question that came before the panel, roughly speaking, asking: “Hey super smart panelists, can you tell me some metrics that will help us decide whether our social media is WORKING?”

The inside-the-box answer is: measure this, measure that, and adopt the same approach to social media as you do to other channels. If you “scored,” it’s “working.” Of course, you can measure a lot of these types of things — just not with Omniture. Remember, the old public relations world, where a “positive mention” in the “Washington Post” is something you can count? You don’t need Jim Sterne or Steve Rubel to tell you that. Nor can these experts help your organization get really good at all the stuff it needs to do to get there.

The out-of-the-box (Bryan’s) answer to the social media measurement question is: sure, we’ll get around to the measurement piece — but if you’re looking to “hit targets” with your social media spend, or to measure whether “it worked,” maybe your organization has given you the wrong marching orders. We don’t need more statisticians in this realm: we need more companies who are willing to fundamentally transform the ways in which they communicate.

I say again: (or actually, the panelists said it last year): “Can you put a dollar value on a conversation?”

Sure, you can. But let’s start with getting your organization aligned with the idea of a conversation first. The only social-media-savvy company initiatives that will typically hit short-term targets are those that are architected on a broadcast model, so they defeat one of the key purposes of public relations, which is to change perceptions. And to put specific content into the public’s awareness of you. To position your organization to carry on conversations that lead to business results, throughout the organization, over time, as a matter of course. Setting up your campaigns based on thin measures of short-term success might actually spur more negative conversations than positive! Or just not get you anywhere fast. You can measure that you’re not getting anywhere fast. Great.

Reputations are built over time. You’ll never get there if your organization has a bias for shutting down the conversation channel early because “it isn’t working.” Or you’re insulting members of your community by being too goal-directed in online conversations, because you’ve incentivized your community manager by paying them a bonus for warm leads or upsells.

Am I saying you can’t or shouldn’t measure PR 2.0? Of course not. But if the milieu is vastly different, then you may have a lot of trouble measuring the impact, and you should probably be measuring something very different. Something that might not even be readily available in today’s Google Analytics platform. “Engagement” can’t just be about spending 3:28 on a website, or deciding whether someone visited the “About Us” page… as important as those may be in the ordinary course of your marketing planning.

Or to be blunt: before going out to hunt for a next-generation tool to measure “how you’re doing out there,” you should be actually getting out there, and doing it. If you’re not? There are a bunch of free tools like Yahoo Site Explorer, Backtweets, and Google Search itself that will tell you in a couple of nanoseconds if nobody’s linking to you, and nobody’s talking about you.

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Posted by Andrew Goodman


Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Life Is Good

How are things? Trick question: it’s a matter of perspective. It’s a matter of how you frame things.

Hardly anyone searches for “february blahs” (you can look it up on Google Insights for Search), so full steam ahead? Not so fast. The number of people searching for “winter blahs” eclipses that by what looks to be a hundredfold.

And that’s nothing. Queries for Seasonal Affective Disorder outstrip searches for winter blahs, a hundredfold, a thousandfold, who knows. 🙁

But then again, if you compare *that* to fun, active queries like “super bowl 2010” or “vancouver olympics,” SAD isn’t even on the radar.

Go team! Enjoy the rest of your week, either dreaming of spring, or making the most of winter — whichever it is you do.


Posted by Andrew Goodman


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