This is how Google is conditioning us to click on Ads!

Today, I felt like one of Pavlov’s dogs. It was an odd experience. It was one of the moments when the light bulb suddenly went off.

I had a package to track. As a user of Google Chrome, I simply highlighted my UPS tracking number and right clicked to do a Google search for the tracking link. For those who don’t know, Google recognizes a lot of numbers, codes, etc. Enter a tracking number from any of the major shipping companies and Google is likely to place a simple link to the tracking page for the carrier. In this case it was UPS. Google makes things easier for me by knowing. In fact, you can find a cheat sheet that includes many of the functions recognized by the Google search box.

Google is doing a better job than anyone else at determining my intent. They knew that I wanted to track a package, so when I searched on a UPS tracking number they returned a result that linked directly to the UPS tracking page. If I were to head to UPS directly, I would have had to type into the browser, select my location/country, paste my tracking code into the box and click track. Not a big deal, but a simple copy, click, click, click from Google has become much easier, faster, and pleasing to me.

Back to the conditioning to click on ads part. When I select the tracking code and then conduct my search, I then see the following page (blacked out tracking number for privacy)

Google conditions users to click in ad space
Google conditions users to click in ad space

The result of my search displayed in the same format as a text ad from Google. This convenience search (using a UPS tracking number directly) is part of a grand plan to condition me to click in that ad space with those familiar colors and format.

Take a look at a typical search result page.  You can see that the primary difference between the convenience result (tracking link) is formatted in the same way as an ad result (below).

Google conditioning me SERP
Google conditioning me SERP

Genius, Google.  I love it and hate it at the very same time!
Link to Video: Google Conditioning Users

Operating Virtually

If you don’t already know it, an 800 number is not an expensive proposition.  I have used a site for a few years that costs $2 per month for a standard 888, 877, or 866 number plus usage rates of 6.9 cents per minute.  An 800 number increases your base rate to $5 per month.  There are also vanity phone numbers available.

You can also use a service such as to manage multiple numbers including fax lines and employee extensions.   Ring Central is a better choice if you plan on a decent volume of calls or plan to add numbers for additional employees or services.

Kall8 is a good choice if you don’t anticipate much activity, but have a need for a number at a very low cost.

If you are a company who is trying to project a presence beyond your local area, an 800 number is good idea. It isn’t always the cost to your consumer, it is really the perception that you are a larger company.

If you need to project a different story to a consumer, well, you can do that too.  Are you located in Orlando, but want the customer to assume that you are in Chicago? I said assume.  You can obtain a local number much the way you would an 800 number.  This might be the item that pushes your consumer to purchase something from you rather than from a competitor.  If you have a customer who wants an item fast, and you can provide that, he or she might have the impression that it takes longer for the item to reach them from Florida rather than Illinois.

Along with an inexpensive toll free number, or local number, you could consider a Virtual Office.  With a virtual office, you can project an image that will win you customers simply due to the image that you project.  I am not suggesting that you are dishonest with anyone.  If asked, make it clear that your business address is a shared executive office facility and that you are not there on a daily basis.  As a growing company, it is not a surprise to move once or twice in the first year or two. A virtual office address will not only provide a better image than using your home address, or a foreign address, but it will allow you to keep a single address during your growth phase.  This will save you some time and money in updating letterhead, business cards, web sites, directory site listings, map listings, local business listings, and more (in the event that you move your physical location).

Consider a virtual office with a local number.  It can help your business to grow.

Resources: (Affiliate relationship) (My virtual office solution)

Voxie iPhone app Review

Voxie iPhone application Review

I downloaded a new iPhone app that many will find useful.  When you are on the road, and lacking a writing instrument, you probably wish you had a simple way to record your thoughts about a topic.  Better yet, you might be collaborating on a project and wished that you were able to share the thoughts with your tone coming across.  Email and text messages don’t convey an author’s tone very well.  Without speaking to someone directly your true message might be lost.  I often ask people to read something as if the person was upset with them and then read the same message as if the person was happy and/or proud of them.    By applying a tone to a message it will carry a completely different meaning.

Voxie iPhone App Review
Voxie iPhone App Review

A new iPhone application called Voxie is able to handle simple recordings and gives you the ability to share those recordings very easily.  In fact, you are able to categorize the recordings that you make.  For many, this will be a very nice feature that is lacking in the basic voice recorder that comes with your iPhone.

One cool feature is the ability to sync the voice recording with a transcription service.  For anyone who has ever had a message transcribed to text, you will understand that this is not an easy feat.  I included a sample of a recording that I made below.  Further down, you will see the actual transcription of that message.  It is often humorous what comes out.  All in all, the app is very nice and should replace my $40 Olympus voice recorder.  The pricing of $1.99 makes it something that most will find worth trying out.

Try Voxie for the iPhone

Transcription test.

Original message:

This is a review of the Voxie iPhone application that is referred to as the Voxie Pro Recorder.

The company that made the app is named bottle rocket and they bill the application as “the premier voice recorder app for the iphone”.

The price point is spot on at $1.99 and makes it attractive enough for anyone in need of the service to give it a try.  There is an extra fee for the transcription service and they provide a 7 day free trial with the app.  The trial is for a service called

There are some very nice sharing functions and one of the more simple, and useful, features of the app is the ability to categorize a recording.  Very nice, especially if this will be a multi-user app.

Transcribed via

This is a review of the Voxie iPhone application that is referred to as the Voxie Pro Recorder. The company that made the ap is named Bottle Rocket. And they bill the application as the premier voice recorder ap for the iPhone. The price point is spot on at $1.99. It makes it attractive enough for any one in need of the service to give it a try. There’s an extra fee for the transcription service, and they provide a seven day free trial with the ap. The trial is for a service called Quicktate.  There are some very nice hearing functions and one of the more simple and useful features of the app is the ability to categorize the recording. Very nice, especially if this will be a multi-user app.

As you can see, the transcription was excellent.

Good luck with Voxie if you choose this very nice iPhone voice recording application. doing some things nicely

I must say that I rolled my eyes at the Bing announcement. However, there is a feature that is pretty useful. If you are ever in search of a video, you will find that their video preview is pretty nice. My son watches a lot of Nerf videos on By going to he can watch everything in one place with the mouseover preview. Good job MSFT!

Take a look at the video results:

Parents, don’t let your kids do this unsupervised and please turn up the ‘safe search’ settings.

I also have to say that the Bird’s Eye view maps have been a must visit site for me when searching for real estate. The birds eye is a much nicer view than the satellite view from the other providers and provides a great overview of a neighborhood.

Keep it up Microsoft. You are certainly chasing the leader right now, but innovation will outweigh online loyalty every day.

Wolfram|Alpha a Big Change

If you haven’t been to Wolfram Alpha yet, you need to give it a try.  For all that Google is, Wolfram Alpha has a place on the web.  This “engine” is likely the biggest change we have seen since the rise of Wikipedia.  Wolfram Alpha will take hold in a way that wished it could have.  Remember Cuill??  Big PR, with an also ran product!  Wolfram Alpha should spread like wildfire with word of mouth like you are reading here.

Wolfram Alpha Information Engine
Wolfram Alpha Information Engine
WolframAlpha is interesting, and useful.  The tag line is Computational Knowledge engine.  It is essentially Yahoo Answers without having to wait for an answer.  Not every answer, but when you look to Yahoo answers, you will see that most of what is being asked can be answered by Wolfram Alpha.

Mix Answers with Google with WikiPedia with Google Sets and you have some sense of what Wolfram Alpha brings.

As an investor, I am often querying for stock prices at points in time. does that wonderfully.  Simply search GLW 2/1/2002 and you will see what I mean.

I anticipate this being a very popular site.  Perhaps not the next Google, but certainly a player in the “search” space.  We are often querying for specific information.  WolframAlpha brings that to us and offers up additional data sets to add flavor to what I am after.

Give me a Wolfram Alpha iPhone App and I will be a walking information station!


Roundabout Searching

When you are researching a product or service to integrate into a web site, it is often difficult (and time consuming) to find out about how solid a product or service might be.  You can search for “product name here” reviews or “product name  here” feedback, but you can’t be sure that you are finding an unbiased voice.  The web allows a 12 year old programmer to appear as substantial as a 50 person company that has been around for 20 years.

Instead of doing the ‘reviews’ search, try something different.  You can locate leading resources and solutions in roundabout ways.

For example: When trying to figure out what shopping cart solutions are solid and will likely be around for a while, search for payment integration guides.  The Paypal integration guide will provide a list of shopping cart providers that are probably fairly solid.

Think a little outside of the box when looking for reviews.

Keywords to remember

  • integration
  • installation
  • guide
  • fact sheet
  • manual

Searching this way can lead you down interesting paths.

Now there is Reason for the Google Pack

When Google announced that it was going to offer a free suite of tools called Google Pack, I felt pretty confident that there would be some useful applications in there. When announced, I expected them to have something that would be very useful. I expected that there would be some flavor of OpenOffice. When it didn’t include that, and it included dogs (resource hogs) such as Norton and RealPlayer, it was a big miss. When Google puts out an app, even in Beta state, I expect it to be pretty tight and efficient. The initial offerings in the Google Pack didn’t fit that description. Back then, I didn’t recommend it to anyone!

Google Adds StarOffice to the Google Pack

There is now a very useful application that you would normally have to pay for. It is called StarOffice, and is free instead of the $69 version from Sun. The Google Pack is headed in the right direction. When installing the pack, you can select the apps that you want to install (a nice feature). Only install what you need. Don’t install hogs like Norton, or an intrusive application like the RealPlayer.

Go ahead and buy that $349 PC with an AMD chip without a version of Microsoft Office. You can use the apps in the Google Pack to get along just fine.

As far as the anti-virus offering goes, I am very surprised that they didn’t select a great product like the free version of AVG anti-virus. I have used it, and recommended, it for years.

Dual Monitor Setup

Dual head 2 go - Matrox Graphics As a webmaster, or web marketer, you probably wear a lot of hats. Any bit of productivity that squeeze out of your day means a lot and really adds up at the end of the day,month, and year. If you haven’t ever used a dual monitor setup (or multiple monitor setup), you don’t know what you are missing. It isn’t just the “cool factor”, or being able to show your friends your geekness, it is a legitimate productivity boost. For those of you working for others, it might be a hard one to prove to your boss, but worth the effort.

Look, even Danny Sullivan has a multiple monitor setup.

Danny Sullivan’s multiple monitor setup

With the price of LCD’s crashing to the ground, there is not much of a reason not to head this way. Even if you are a laptop user, your system probably has multiple monitor support. You can purchase a 19″ LCD for under $200 from a number of retailers. I like to shop at since they ship quickly and the items reach me within 2 days, even with standard shipping. Some of the best deals on the name brand LCD’s can be found in your Sunday paper. Check the flyers for the office supply stores (Officemax, Staples, Office Depot) and Compusa.

Continue reading Dual Monitor Setup

Skype Hacks

If you have been a skype user for any period of time, you might be a little set in your ways. Personally, I use skype as a chat client and recently added a Skype in number as a secondary office phone. There are some great handsets so that you don’t have to use a headset and be tethered to your computer.

There are many things that Skype can do that you might not be aware of. The people over at have compiled a list of 25 great Skype hacks. Before you start, you should download the latest version of Skype. My favorites from the list are: Continue reading Skype Hacks