Monthly Archives: November 2010

HP SEO outguns the MacBook Air. Paging Matt Cutts.

This may be the most amazing feat of search-engine optimization we’ve seen. Just days after Apple announced its uberhot MacBook Air upgrade, someone pitching HP Pavilion Elite desktops has used SEO tricks to take the No. 2 organic (correction: news) search result for “MacBook Air” on Google.

Users groan.

On one hand, yay marketers. But let’s think deeper, people. This also shows a challenge for Google, as SEO gameplayers gum up search results with stuff you, the searcher, don’t really want to see. If you’re looking for a MacBook Air product review because you’re keenly interested in it, an HP organic search result is out of place. This is a different play than an HP reseller bidding on Apple terms for a paid sponsored link at right of the search results — now the very organic stuff, the core of Google’s value, has become polluted with content that doesn’t make sense. If enough SEO players game the Google system with such off-kilter results, users will begin to leave Google as the utility of the search engine falters. Or, perhaps, that is already happening.

But it’s just the news feed?

Commentator Brent Terraza clarifies that this HP ruse popped up in the Google News feed, which is easier to manipulate than Google’s core engine itself. “News is greater affected by topical keyword gaming than regular search as it looks more for authoritative websites that have ‘breaking news’ than the over-all picture,” Terraza writes. Digging deeper it looks like the PC seller posted the “HP news” story to 1,064 total sites to leap to the top of the MacBook editorial links. We missed the subtlety in our late-night tired searching, but the effect is the same — a strange PC in place of the computer we sought. Ah, Google, news is even harder to get right.

cc Matt Cutts.

Photos that don’t work on the web

Web usability god Jakob Nielsen, whose own website looks like junk until you realize he’s cleverly pulling you in, has posted results from eye-tracking studies that show what not to do with photos on your website. Guess what? Purely decorative, big, splashy images don’t do a thing for users, who move their eyes around them. Specific images carrying information, say, photos of your executive team or detailed shots of products that people are actually seeking, score big. Nielsen concludes, “Sadly, many websites are still more obsessed with showing off than with getting to the point.” So go on, get to your point.

Via Jordan Julien.

The fastest-growing media? Old, stodgy TV.

Wired magazine co-founder Kevin Kelly ran some numbers and found that television vastly outranks all other media in terms of hours used by U.S. consumers. Cable and satellite TV are the fastest-growing communication formats in terms of consumption, with Internet use a comparatively small slice of the media pie. How much? The average U.S. consumer watches 1,685 hours of TV a year, nearly equal to time spent working for a paycheck.

Kelly notes the Internet is rising as a share of total media use, yet “total time spent on the Internet is not even close” to broadcast. This reminds us of commentator Alan Wolk, who has suggested digitally sophisticated marketers often fall into a bias trap, assuming the entire population uses media as they do — what Wolk calls “Nascar Blindness.” Wolk wrote, and we can barely keep a straight face reading it, “Ad people and their friends don’t watch a lot of TV and, when they do, they often watch it via On Demand, iTunes, DVRs and even DVDs. So the natural assumption is that no one else is watching TV, either, that TV is dead and that the popularity of shows like American Idol, How I Met Your Mother, Desperate Housewives and Dancing With the Stars is some sort of fluke fueled by elderly Midwestern couples whose children have neglected to buy them iMacs.”

Wolk’s point is worth a bookmark if your digital agency claims the :30 second spot is dead. Online and mobile devices have emerged as core components of any media plan — yet don’t forget all the new flat-panel TVs in basements, or radios on long auto commutes, being put to good use. The question for your agency is if old formats of media are still thriving, how do the various new pieces fit in context?

Via Thomas Miskin.

How business people use social

The crowdsourced business-contact firm NetProspex dug through 2 million records to see how office workers use social media and, surprise surprise, found a significant variance across the United States. San Francisco ranked highest with the most “social connectedness, social activity, friendliness, and reach” on networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, while Buffalo and Iowa City scored lowest. The NetProspex report also ranks individual companies by their internal employee social use.

The findings are somewhat obvious — tech-driven and white-collar metros are more likely to use modern communication tools — but useful if your marketing is targeting businesses or employees during work hours. (Fun fact: Did you know that 20% of’s traffic comes from business locations? Workers, naughty naughty.) Most of America has now turned social, with Facebook and Twitter replacing email (Facebook is now the No. 3 web site in the United States for women 40+). The question is not whether people are using these tools during work hours, but rather, how much.

Report PDF here. Via Brandflakes and The Urbanophile.