You’re A Very Funny Suburb, Mr. Chase

When he was struggling to overcome a country beseiged by Vietnam, a Vice President who had resigned over financial issues, a President who had resigned over multiple issues and recent memory of lines for gasoline, Gerald Ford was regularly lampooned by a comedian in his early 30s.   The comedian was on this new show called Saturday Night Live and spent a year being its diva star until John Belush, Gilda Radner and Bill(y) Murray knocked him out of the way.

Chevy Chase didn’t choose his name.  Apparently, Cornelius Chase was called Chevy by a relative.  That didn’t stop then-President Ford from quipping that Chase was “a very funny suburb”.     But with convergence among names and algorithims attempting to link concepts, a typical web surfer may quickly get confused.   One of Google’s response was interest-based advertising, part of the search engine’s attempt to determine whether searchers were looking for Rice University or rice pilaf as Sara likes to say.

That doesn’t stop search engines when they’re reporting the news and trying to decide if Chevy Chase is a man, a suburb or a bank.  Bing’s new XRank feature (which is prettier Google Trends so far) hits the wall on that very question today.

xrank-chevy-chase

Concepts can be a search engine's worst enemy

For the record, today’s query was likely about the bank, not the comedian. The comedian, as Jerry Ford told us, is simply a very funny suburb.

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Paid Blogging Disclosures Are Not The Same As Client Blogging

The Federal Trade Commission is examining whether the federal government wants to regulate blog posts where the author receives some sort of compensation.  You see this often on television.   A celebrity pitching a product or service identifies that they are being paid for their efforts.  You won’t see it on a commercial, of course, since the relationship is obvious.

Meanwhile, ProBlogger, one of this industry’s true celebrity writers took the issue a step further.   Darren Rowse polled his readership and received over 1,700 responses from bloggers about whether they had written a blog for pay.  The news — and make no mistake about ProBlogger being smart enough to create timely news — is that 23% of his respondents said they had written for pay.

The even cooler approach?  ProBlogger asked the same thing of readers in 2007.  That time, 34% of respondents said they had written a paid blog entry.   A tip o’ the hat to a group smart enough to make news because anyone, not just Silver Beacon, needs to cite ProBlogger when quoting their data.   The process is very similar to our ABCs of SEO monthly column tracking Google’s Suggest feature.  Like ProBlogger, we report on that news and track it over time.

There is one more distinction worth noting about the FTC’s actions.

Nearly everyone does something for money.  We happen to blog for money too.  Our clients in various industries (automotive, music and just about anything else you can think of) hire us to create online content for them.  We do that as part of their team, usually as a partner, not a vendor.  In some cases, we post directly to the blog with our byline.  In others, we drop a post in draft mode, and the company decides when to press the publish button.

That is not the kind of blogging the FTC is talking about.  They’re talking about me using this space to tell you how I use this awesome denture cream and why you should too without disclosing that the denture cream folks gave me some money and free product.  That’s shilling.  What we do for our clients is not even ghost-writing, but simple block and tackle content creation.  Doing that is fun.   Selling denture cream might be fun too, I guess, but like anything else, disclosure is a great policy.

Or you can be one of the 23% about to learn how to maintain a business model in the face of impending legislation.

WordPress 2.8 Upgrade Checklist – Fast Friday Fact(s)

Having spent a good part of the week upgrading blogs that could effectively use WordPress 2.8, there are a handful of things you should know before you click the handy “Upgrade Automatically” link:

1)  If your host is 1and1, you can find scads of articles and blogs about making that host more WordPress-friendly.  One of the best WP upgrade posts is here.

2)  All your plugins are belong to us.   Just deactivate them after you make the backup of the entire database that you’re going to make before you do anything else.  Deactivate, not delete.

3)  Remember to have your WordPress API key handy if you’re using Askimet or anything requiring the key.  The new core will overwrite your existing key.

4)  Same goes for whatever kind of admin password you created as well as your WordPress site password if you’re using any tracking or analytics there.

5)  Mom called.  She said not to forget to call your father Sunday.

5 Browser Tools To Use Daily

Plugins, skins and toolbars made browsers unique user experiences. During a typical workday, I will use 3-5 different browsers and more if we’re testing a new site or doing a site audit. But even visiting familiar sites in “standard” browsers can bring chuckles.

Visit Google’s main search site, for example, while using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, and you’ll be prompted to “upgrade” to Google Chrome. That message won’t appear if you’re using Firefox, but the software guys get their revenge on the search folks when you try to download from Microsoft using a browser they didn’t create. Never mind if you have a legit copy of a Microsoft product you’re attempting to support. You’ll simply be messaged to use a supported browser.

Puhleeze.

But there are five tools I use every day in my browser of choice, which happens to be Firefox, closely followed by Google’s Chrome.  Try them out yourself and see if they make your workday easier.

1.  MeasureIt [Firefox only plugin] -  I don’t think there has ever been a time when I’ve sent a plugin to CDS (Creative Director Sara for those of you who haven’t been playing the home version of our game) and seen it installed it within minutes.  MeasureIt is simply that good.  Sitting almost hidden in the left corner, MeasureIt does one thing remarkably well:  it measure an area of real estate on your screen.

2.  A live character counter – I use the awesome, fast and easy program at JavaKit.  Yes, I could boot Word or install another plugin, but why bother?   Copy, paste, click and move on.  Sheer elegance.

3.  A date calculator – Someone tell you the project is due in 100 days?   Well, 100 days is a couple of clicks away.  The very long-lived timeanddate.com has a large selection of date calculators.  Figure out date intervals, go back in hours or weeks or forward in years and months.  The site is wonderful.  There are some fun calculators too.  I turn 400,000 hours old this summer.  We’re having a party.  And in lieu of the traditional one dollar for every year in a birthday card, you may bring pennies.  If writing a check for the 400,000 pennies is easier, that’s fine too.  Or Amazon gift certificates.  I take those.

4.  Color Data – More simple elegance online.  Go from hex colors to RGB.  Lighten or darken the values and hand them off to your developer.  Sometimes it really is that easy.

5.  The blogs you read in online magazine format.  This is my newest tool, and I don’t know if I can rave enough.   Feedly is in beta, but essentially acts as a front-end overlay for Google Reader.  You’re reading this as a blog entry.  Maybe you’re on Facebook, maybe you’re on the Silver Beacon Marketing site, maybe you’re on some other platform.  Feedly in your regular browser will change your mind.  This could easily be the blog interface that makes aggregation more familar and thus more accessible popular.  I just like it because it segments and sorts and content flows into the columnar format I’m familiar with.  Go play with this one if you read more than one blog.

Shawn Johnson Dead Video Shows Legit Ads

A hazard of any content-driven advertising is that your company’s products can easily appear with content you may not like.

Making the Internet rounds this week is a video from The Onion.  Whether the video is funny is moot.   The important issue is the advertising appearing below a fake video with high production values that discusses gymnast Shawn Johnson’s death and compares the young athlete to a racehorse.  To be crystal clear, Ms. Johnson is not dead.

Running below The Onion’s Today Now video about Shawn Johnson are ads featuring gymnastics focused products:  leotards, gymnastics equipment and so forth.  Media reports quote multiple gymnasts and sports pundits, all of whom seem distressed or critical of the video.  Yet the ads running below the video target the very audience that is most critical of the content.

This is an extreme case.   In many others, poor targeting is relatively benign.  A local listing for a small business servicing homes such as an electrician or plumber might appear on a vaction page for that area.  Those are just wasted impressions, and if the business isn’t paying on an impression basis, any damage is relatively minor.

And many gymnasts likely won’t associate the advertiser on the bottom of the screen with the production of the video, but there just may be enough confusion to wonder if the advertisers directly sponsor this content.  And that’s where the trouble comes in.

If your online marketing agency is running content-based ads, ask them to show you a list of sites where your ad is appearing.    You’re not looking to find someone doing something wrong, but with your specialized knowledge of your industry, you can provide a unique perspective on how others within the industry may perceive the content.

Google Suggest Monetized: The ABCs of Search, June 2009

There is nothing really wrong with monetizing your website.   Those of you in the back, the ones from the late 1980s screaming “Information must be free” are excused.  The rest of you gather ’round and watch what our big search engine company pulled off.

Multiple sites have reported that Google is selling space at the bottom of its suggested links.  I first became aware of the trend slowly and then in living blog color through Danny Sullivan’s Search Engine Land piece last year.

abcBut Silver Beacon has been tracking Google Search Suggest since last year for this very reason.  We knew that the power of the Suggest feature would be too great to ignore over time.   That’s why we didn’t scream too loudly when the letter ‘O’ brought up Orbitz instead of Obama, as it had for months.  Because no matter how influential the travel site can be, more searchers typing the letter “O” are going to be looking for information about the U.S. President than travel information.

And Orbitz reigns supreme as the travel referral.   “T” is the province of Target now and forever.   Priceline?    Try Photobucket instead.  Maybe there is a Fox incentive for their photo site.  One hopes so.

Because there definitely is a deal worthy of Daniel Webster’s intervention when the oft-hyped Wikipedia was replaced by Walmart (yes, spelled that way) and Realtor.com took over the “R” spot from “Runescape” and “Radio Shack”.  Really?   Realtor.com is the top phrase searched for when someone types an “R”?

That’s some amazing housing crash.   Sure, Zillow is in the “Z” spot, but it’s not like the Z spot had tons of competition.

Our methodology remains the same.  We sampled Google Search Suggest on multiple computers in multiple major markets.   Four different browsers, none associated with a Google account and at least one clean install of IE on a computer without Google accounts, were used.

This may not be the most scientific view of the world, but when multiple responses return, “Yes, X is showing for XM Radio, not Xbox anymore,” one simply smiles and says, “What took you so long to pin the money makers at the top of your list?

And this is your Google ABCs of Search list developed on June 1:

amazon
best buy
craigslist
dictionary
ebay
facebook
gmail
hotmail
irs
jcpenney
kohls
lowes
myspace
netflix
orbitz
photobucket
quotes
realtor.com
southwest airlines
target
usps
verizon wireless
walmart
xm radio
youtube
zillow