Microsoft Gets Socially Vertical

Microsoft is getting into social networking in a vertical way. It is funny because I came across details on this story while listening to a complaint from a partner who is looking for a new web store solution due to the closing of that product at BCentral. The new offering is Microsoft Dynamics Live. They are beginning with a vertical targeted at finance professionals.

“We’ve been thinking for a while about, is there a desire or a need for communities where businesspeople can connect, not on technology issues, but on business issues,” said Craig Dewar, director of community marketing for Microsoft.

Microsoft dynamics live beta Hearing that Microsoft is jumping into this space is both exciting and frustrating. It is exciting because it creates a new arena to play in. There are ways to use the social networks to your companies advantage and to a clients advantage. The fact that they are creating different verticals should add to the ability to create some benefit for your site or a client site thanks to theme of the vertical. What works today? Links. Ah wait, targeted links. A vertical social=Many targeted links. Perhaps.

This could fall by the wayside like many Microsoft ventures. It is amazing how many areas they jump into with a “me too” product. This is the trouble that many companies face. Especially one the size of Microsoft who needs to see significant upside to even think about it.

I just wish MSFT would find a way to tie new offerings to older products.

Do their products and offerings fail to reach their full potential in part because we are concerned that they will be discontinued or left to fade away (Case in point: bcentral.com).

The bottom line is this. Use the services to your advantage. Work them while you can and be ready if there is good value there. Don’t become too dependent on something that might go away in the future.

BTW: Can’t they just roll something out without announcing it before it is ready? It doesn’t even have a name yet. I know that it is a BETA, but come on. At least name it.

Another BTW: When did MSFT start putting a search bar in the header of the free web sites and domains that they offer through live.com? Fine, if you tell me that going in (maybe they did, I didn’t really read the TOS. Don’t tell), but adding it down the road is a bit bold.

Google Rumor

There are a number of sites chattering about Google buying up ad spots from the satellite TV companies and reselling the ad space.

In an effort to extend its growing advertising empire to television, Google has already started a pilot project in Concord, Calif. to deliver ads to cable television subscribers, it was revealed in yesterday’s WSJ. (source: VentureBeat.com)

As an online advertiser, what are your thoughts? Good idea? Bad idea? My feeling… If the concept makes sense for our company and our clients, anything is worth testing.

Who will be using the service?
Do TV ads work for the “I need it to work now” crowd?

OR

Is a whole new era upon us where there will be more measurement, tracking, and accountability with respect to TV ads? Perhaps. My guess is that is what Google is after. Traditional networks probably don’t want this to happen and don’t need this to happen. They can sell their space now by using the current ratings metrics.

How many people feel that ad rates on TV are too high?  Am I going to start seeing ads for Meso and PI Lawyers?

When will Google start start distributing advertising in my local movie theatre?  Don’t laugh, I mean it.

Google’s 2%

Google’s click fraud estimates have been getting quite a bit of press lately. A guy who some of you will know, Joe Holcomb, wrote about this back in December. “Google Click Fraud Less than 2%? BULL“. Joe has a unique perspective since he has seen the fraud from the inside with companies such as Kanoodle and Blowsearch. He is now on the outside trying to build his own search engine that will virtually eliminate click fraud (the big claim).

Obviously, click fraud exists but the definitions will vary from source to source. What is the true definition? What is your definition?

  • Some feel that the user who clicks forward and back within 2 seconds indicate a fraudulent click. Have you ever done that? I have. Not click fraud.
  • Some feel that a user who clicks your ad ever day clearly represents fraud. This could very likely be a competitor. Is this fraud? Not click fraud. They are free to order your free fabric samples or take all of your flyers from your mall kiosk, do you think the mall refunded the merchant? No, it isn’t fraud. It is an underhanded competitor, but not fraud.
  • Some feel that a user that clicks on all paid listings within a result set is committing fraud. You could argue that this could just be someone who hates the ‘meso’ or ‘P.I.’ lawyers and wants to stick it to them. Fraud? Not click fraud.

How does Google define fraud?

Don’t skip this advertisement!

Are you running ads on other sites? Flash based ads with hot zones in part of the ad? Are you paying based on the number of clicks and not CPM or CPA? Well, you better be sure that your designer designed your Flash banner/advertisement properly. If not, one little mistake could be costing you. Or not.

Check out this ad that I came across while using a calculator at Bankrate.com. Click on the image below to view the entire screen shot, but what I want you to focus on is the “Skip advertisement” in the ad. There is a “skip advertisement” link on the interstitial page, but the one within the ad is not active. The ad is Flash based and should have that section mapped to the “skip” link/code for the site where it is showing. In this case, you click on the “Skip advertisement” link and you end up at the advertisers site.

Bankrate skip, or not

Was this an accident? Done on purpose? Who knows. Why would you do either?

Scenario 1:

Well, if you are the advertiser who is running this campaignm, and it is a PPC campaign, you certainly wouldn’t want to pay for visitors who simply wanted to ‘skip’ the ad. If this is the case, you are to blame, your programmer is to blame, your designer is to blame, and your QA (quality assurance) is to blame. Take your pick. There is fault in all of those areas. If those four people were in the boardroom on The Apprentice, I would expect that the QA person would be gone.

Scenario 2:

This is a CPM or CPA campaign and because of that you want as many clicks as possible.

scrollbarIf 1 out of 300 of the accidental clicks converts, you have 1 customer that you wouldn’t have had before. As the advertiser, you are happy. It is an “oops” that you could explain off very easily. No one is likely to call you on it, but if they do, you could explain it off. Perhaps this is today’s version of the ads that confused enought to generate a click through. I haven’t seen them used in a while, but I am sure that we all remember the “Windows like” navigation used within display or banner ads (ie: the phony scroller to the left). It generated a click through, a poor quality one, but a click through none the less.

In this scenario, the site where the ad resides tends to look bad.  A little less professional and perhaps even a little underhanded.   The user experience isn’t where it should be.

I would love to see the logs from this page to get a gauge on how many people clicked expecting to reach their desired page (in this case a mortgage calculator) and then clicked back only to try it again.  John Marshall once told me that behavior means that you aren’t answering a question or providing the anticipated result for that URL.  Right on in this case.  On purpose?  Perhaps.

Use the Label Tag on Your Radio Buttons

If you are a self taught programmer, you might have learned the basic programming skills and jumped right in. It might be Coldfusion, PHP, or ASP. Whatever your flavor, there are some basic HTML functions that we sometimes forget or didn’t even know about. When coding a form, I never considered the use of the <label> tag. Thanks to Joe Danziger, I will now.

I was reading through some post’s on Joe’s Blog this morning and came across a short post regarding the <label> tag. Have you ever wondered why you can click on the word next to a radio button in certain forms and the button will select? Well, the <label> tag controls that function. As Joe puts it:

Why should we be forced to click a tiny little circle when we should be able to click the actual text for that choice?

True. It all comes down to useability. There are a ton of tiny tips and tricks whether it be in HTML, or your programming language of choice, that make for a better experience for the user. One tip on its own might not have much of an impact, but when you apply many usability tips during the same user experience, you visitor should browse away feeling like you have your act together.

All that you need to do is to include the ID element to your radio button form code.

<input type=“radio” name=“buttonName” id=“button1” />

For the text that is associated with the button, reference the ID in your <label>.

<label for=“button1”>Whatever the choice is for Button 1</label>

Here is a radio button group so that you can see them in use.


Here is the code for the above:

<input type=”radio” name=”buttonName” id=”button1″ /><label for=”button1″>Whatever the choice is for Button 1</label>

<input type=”radio” name=”buttonName” id=”button2″ /><label for=”button2″>Whatever the choice is for Button 2</label>

Open Your Eyes .. Shoemoney

Open your eyes, thanks to Shoemoney.

Shoemoney put together a nice feed from a number of webmaster marketplace forums. As of this writing he has included SitePoint, Digitalpoint, Webmaster-talk, and DNforums. Most of what you will find for sale are domains and sites, but you will find some added stuff from time to time (scripts and such). I love viewing this stuff to get a handle on where values are falling, but even more than that, it can help to clue you in on what is happening now.

Viewing the marketplace feed will help you open your eyes to what is working now. You will find some designers who crank out site after site in whatever niche is working now, get some revenue and traffic (or not), and post it for a quick sale. For example, I have never worked in a corporate environment and didn’t realize how well some of these proxy sites do. Whenever I heard proxy, I assumed that click fraud was part of the discussion. Call me naiive, but I really didn’t realize that employers were blocking so many of the social networking sites. A proxy allows you through the wall. Ok, so you knew that, I didn’t.

Some of the sites that come up for sale offer tools, scripts, and/or databases that I have overpaid for in the past. Open your eyes. The webmaster marketplace is a quick read, it is fun viewing, it will keep you tuned in to what is happening now and

To top it off, the pricing is kept in check. We have all seen the silly numbers tossed around at some of the domain sale sites, or on Ebay. The people participating in these forums seem to have a good idea what their stuff is worth. The listiungs that are out of line are brought back to reality by the members pretty quickly.

Props to Shoemoney.  Way to go Shoe, you are starting to get pub like the Gossip Gangsta’

Ajax Examples Anyone?

If you have wanted to go a little further on your site and haven’t yet integrated any “Web 2.0” functions (I know, cliche’) take a look at this.

http://www.miniajax.com/index.htm

The mini ajax site offers some great code samples and examples. There are some techniquest that can be integrated by anyone who has a little bit of code knowledge. So, if you have wanted to play around with Ajax, or Prototype or Script.aculo.us, take a look.

When integrating these ‘cool’ functions, ask yourself if they are really necessary, or if they make the user experience better. Consider whether you are doing it to just ‘do it’ or if they really serve a purpose for your site visitors. There are always trade offs. BTW: According to someone who Brett Tabke knows within a major ISP, this whole Web 2.0 thing is for the female demographic. I feel that is is more site specific than that, but if your site caters to the female demo, perhaps you should consider working with some of these scripts to see how your users react.

Good luck and have fun!

Hidden Articles and Links at Gildasclubchicago.org

Gilda’s ClubI just noticed an advertorial (hosted article) on the gildasclubchicago.org web site when doing one of my common searches. There are certain searches that I have been doing for a number of years, and I usually notice when something odd shows. This one wasn’t hard to spot. In fact, I have seen very similar hosted articles appear from forbes.com in the past, but I would expect it from a company whose goals are more aligned with those of what they are hosting. For a company like Forbes to go there, is expected. For a non-profit organization, who has a board doing oversight, I would question where this got the OK (if at all).

There is an odd result showing up in my search. It is a page at http://www.gildasclubchicago.org and has nothing to do with the mission of the club. This doesn’t exactly look like it fits at Gilda’s Club. http://www.gildasclubchicago.org/insurance-leads.html. You can cut and paste. I don’t want to give the page any added boost. I wonder why they don’t even link back to the home page of the club? Why don’t they present it in a way to let the visitors know that they recommend this non-related service? Because the Gilda’s Club board probably doesn’t know it exists.

What else are they hosting?

You would think an organization like this would be above playing games (well, I thought that about wordpress.org as well). Do you think that the board knows that they are hosting pages that are generating an SEO boost for the company that is developing their web site? Look at the footer in the lower left of the home page (not the splash page).

This is from the about us page at Gilda’s Club Chicago

Gilda’s Club Chicago opened our signature red door in 1998. We provide a warm and welcoming meeting place where men, women and children diagnosed with cancer, and family and friends, join with others to build social, emotional and informational support as an essential supplement to medical care. Membership and our program are free of charge. We offer support and networking groups, lectures, workshops and social events in our home-like clubhouse.

Yep, sounds to me like they would certainly be hosting pages about ‘insurance leads’! Forget I ever mentioned it. Wait, wouldn’t they put it on their links page if they thought it was of use to their visitors? Nah.

Wait, I am intrigued. Is this a page that isn’t linked to the web core? (I think that Danny Sullivan was the one discussing the web core). Well, it probably has to linked from somewhere to be ranking for something so off topic. Let’s do some simple backlink checks. Well, what do you know. Linked directly from the home page of Gildasclubchicago.org and using <h3>’s to pump 3 different pages on the site. Again, totally unrelated to the club. However, the links are hidden when viewing the page. I know that Google and the other search engines don’t care about that, right? Riiiight. The main page of the club is a splash page using flash. Do a simple ‘CTRL A’ to select all of the text. Hmm, I still don’t see the link. View the source of the page. Ah, there they are.

How are the styling the H3’s so that they aren’t visible? Well, there isn’t a stylesheet being called directly and they don’t style it within the H3 tag. The engines would read that, too risky. Let’s check the Javascript (named sswriter.js). I wonder what the person who named the script meant for it to stand for. My guess… ‘sneaky stuff’. Yours?

<H3><A href="resources.html">Resources</A> <A href="http://www.gildasclubchicago.org/insurance-leads.html">insurance leads</A> &nbsp;<A href="http://www.gildasclubchicago.org/american-medical-security.html">American Medical Security Insurance</A> &nbsp;<A href="http://www.gildasclubchicago.org/insurance/health-insurance.html">Health Insurance</A></H3>

Looky here. The javascript file that is being called from the splash page is the method used to call the stylesheet that hides the H3 links. They are styling using this…

h3 {
 font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;
 font-size: 10px;
 color: #ff0000;
 visibility: hidden;
}

Yep, that would do it ‘visibility: hidden;’ The links exist but the css isn’t read because it is being called by a Javascript instead of being called directly. A spider might read the css file, but it probably won’t read the javascript file.

Let’s review the steps

  1. Found the unusual page in a search.
  2. Visited the page to find that it was clearly just a hosted article and trying to be hidden (no menu or links back to the main site)
  3. Checked the backlinks to the page to find that they are being linked from the home page of the site (gildasclubchicago.org)
  4. Noticed that there were hidden links on the page (viewabled only when looking at the source and, of course, by any spider)
  5. Found that these were H3’s but there wasn’t a stylesheet being called (because spiders do read those)
  6. Viewed the Javascript being called on the page (because spiders don’t read those) and found the link to the stylesheet
  7. Discovered that the stylesheet being called with the javascript hid the H3’s (visibility: hidden;)

Why am I pointing this out? Well, I don’t like the fact that there is so much gaming of the system. I know it exists, but sometimes there are things that are done where companies who you would expect to be outside of it are involved (as in the wordpress/hotnacho thing). In this case, I doubt that Gilda’s Club has any idea and that is why I am writing about this.

If a company is hosting these things, or hiding these things, and they know that it is happening it will probably be discoverred naturally. Matt Cutts is tricky that way. If they don’t know something is being done that could potentially hurt their site, I think that they should be informed. If they are informed and they don’t care.. so be it.

Gilda’s club does a tremendous amount of good for families who are going through a horrible ordeal. What if this site was delisted due to the actions of a developer and it had an impact on fundraising and/or visibility. I know, they could file a reinclusion, but that isn’t my point. They shouldn’t have to (unless they know, of course).

Can Google Hear Me?

Can Google Hear Me? My Date with Drew?

Aaron Stanton is getting a bit of press for trying to get in front of Google – “Can Google Hear Me?“. I just had to chime in about the original idea. He clearly saw the documentary called “My Date with Drew“. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with taking something that has already been done and applying it in a new way. “My Date with Drew” was done so well, you couldn’t help but love it. It is about a guy who tries to get a date with Drew Berrymore withing 30 days and with $1,000 to spend. It is really well made and the editing style matches up with what Aaron Stanton is going for.

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and the style of the video, along with the overall concept, matches up very closely with a funny and successful project. Good luck Aaron.

If you haven’t seen “My Date with Drew”, it is worth it. It is the perfect date movie.

Webcast Online Publicity and Link-Building 2007

Webcast Online Publicity and Link-Building 2007 (2/15/2007)
Presented by: Eric Ward, President EricWard.com

This is a summary of the webcast. The topics were a bit basic, but informative. The Q&A could have been a little longer and would have had more value if the question submission took place in advance. Eric Ward did a fine job and offered some good advice.

Continue reading Webcast Online Publicity and Link-Building 2007