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Thursday, February 28, 2008

SMX West Day 3: "Matt & Danny and Rand! Oh My!"

I'm just back from three days at SMX West in Santa Clara with an observation which has me puzzled, but one that comes down to my own quirk of valuing SEO topics over "SEO personalities." Over those three days, I overheard several groups of colleagues who had gathered around the large conference schedule boards to choose their next sessions.

One of these gatherings this afternoon had me wondering where people placed their priorities when two of those standing there chose which session they would attend by which SEO Rockstar was on the panel or by which SEO celebrity was speaking. "Matt Cutts is on that panel, I'm going to that one!" was the line that got me thinking about this. (Matt seems like a great guy, but why would I attend his session if he's talking about "linking" - really, how much more can be said about it?)

I chose a great session with Shari Thurow and Lance Loveday on "SEO and Usability" and came away with some great insights and valuable case studies to quote to my clients when they insist on elements that look pretty, but suck for SEO value. While it's great to get authoritative answers on things that matter to your business or your SEO passions, I don't recall ever having chosen even one of the three hundred or so conference sessions (over the eight years I've attended SEO shows) with the criteria of celebrity - I choose them based on the topic of discussion.

This habit has left me more than annoyed several times when the title of the session was a bit misleading - but I continue to choose based on the topic, rather than the speakers. I've also missed wonderful sessions because someone wanted to be "creative" rather than descriptive, something I somehow believe wouldn't happen at an SEO conference.

This morning I missed one I would have loved to attend called "Industrial Strength SEO" which was about SEO for large enterprise sites, not power plants and sewage treatment SEO. This is one case where knowing Marshall Simmonds (SEO for New York Times/ Primedia) was a speaker would have been worth knowing as I would have recognized the reason for that silly title. New York SES last year called this session "BIG SEO" which was a bit clearer. Grrrrr. (Yes I could have looked at the show guide book, but I wasn't carrying it - please guys, pretend you're optimizing your conference schedule, will ya?

Another item had me scratching my head as well when I saw that you could purchase a "Networking Only Pass" for $250, which let you into cocktail receptions, parties and other non-conference events. That pass comes with two drink tickets and permission to stand in a room with a few hundred strangers munching pretzels while holding a drink in one hand and business cards in the other. (I wonder if I could "rent" my "All Access" pass to someone for those events, since I always leave? Hmmm.)

I just don't get it, but props to Third Door Media for recognizing that people will pay good money for this. ;-) While there is no doubt that networking can be valuable, I'm a bit confused as to the value of networking with your competitors. Don't get me wrong, please. I think that Rand Fishkin, Danny Sullivan, and Lee Odden are probably all great guys, as a matter of fact, I think, based on things I've read on their blogs (and SEO Podcasts) that I'd probably be honored to call each of them friends - but they surely have plenty of friends already and I just can't imagine wading through the adoring fans to say hi. I probably have more in common with Kim Berg of Cre8pc who said:

"I’m goofy. I’m terrible with names. I’m shy and uncomfortable in crowds until I get a sense of the place."
It all comes down to personality I guess. I like it quiet while I'm working, I don't party and I've NEVER approached a speaker after a session unless I had something of value to offer them

I have approached precisely three speakers after conference sessions in eight years of attending - to trade business cards and then I've called each of them afterward on business.

There are those of us who love SEO work and love to discuss it with the odd friend or two willing to hear about the value of robots.txt auto-discovery of xml sitemaps. I am not like Shoemoney, who recently told the world, "I do not like 95% of SEO's" - because I actually do very much like most SEO's, but not because they are famous to a couple of thousand other SEO's. I like SEO's because they are usually very smart and interesting people.

Then there are those who worship at the feet of celebrity.

You have probably guessed that I don't watch the Oscars and can't name more than a dozen or so movie stars, but I still watch movies. I tend to choose those movies I watch based on the genre, good critical reviews or by the subject of a good documentary - NOT the BIG names on the marquee - go figure. Probably why I don't read people magazine or ask SEO Celebrities to pose for a photo with me.

PS: GREAT show Chris and Danny! Though I'm sure you don't know me from Adam, (no not Adam Lasnik - Adam the cliche) if you see this blog post, I want you to know that I chose this show and got more from it than from SES New York last year and won't be going to New York for that show next week. I also attended SMX local and Mobile in Denver and loved that one too. I wish I could attend SMX Seattle in June, but the conference budget is blown for this year. The program gripes are minor and I have nothing but praise for the line-up of speakers and their topics. Damn! Shari, can you teach SMX about conference schedule usability? ;-)

ADDED 3-2-08: After a bit of discussion over at Sphinn about this post, there's one thing I wanted to add to this post on further reflection. I've probably already over-thought this, but had another insight about SEO celebrities and star quality. I will admit that there is one time at conferences that I will attend in large part due to who is speaking, and regardless of the topic.

Keynote presentations are put forward by conference organizers as a high point, emphasizing that everyone should attend by placing it front and center without competing sessions, in the big room, encouraging full attendance.

They've said implicitly, "This is big, with a big name speaker discussing important stuff with no distractions." So I trust that and will attend without questioning, no matter the topic.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

SMX West: Dangerous Place for Rand Fishkin

Mike McDonald is mistaken for SEO Superstar Rand Fishkin, taken hostage and beaten for SEO "insider" information. When the bad guys realize it's not Fishkin, they release McDonald to have a friendly beer and hear him tell web nerd jokes. The closing graphic says, "Getting answers shouldn't be this hard ... SMX West ... Get all the coverage at WebProNews."

Creativity runs high at WPN and serves as great link bait and wonderful content for blogs that never get tired of discussing exactly the minutia that McDonald jokes about in the end.

Unfortunately, now we're going to be flooded with videos from others trying to top this great one from the WebProNews team. I'll wager Barry Schwartz makes a list of all the competing SEO video linkbait for SERoundtable before long and we'll hear at SES San Jose this summer about the link counts and ranking increases of the top seo video link bait.

Looking forward to the conference myself - maybe if I use a little smarter kidnappers next time, they'll actually get Fishkin, damnit!

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

TV-SEO - Samsung Brings Search to Live Television

I never would have noticed this myself, until David Berkowitz from "Search Insider" at Media Post finds the little nugget at Engadget and starts talking about the search element to the unfortunately named "See'n'Search Set Top Box". Berkowitz suggests that

"... media companies, cable operators, and advertisers will want to discover more ways this technology can be used."
Well let me pipe up here and offer a suggested use!

TV SEO may be on the horizon sooner than expected. Samsung electronics has introduced a "Set Top Box" (Demo Video here) hardware which allows a TV viewer to search for related content on the web. (Seems like they would be better off selling their chip to Motorola, Tivo, et al to incorporate into current cable and satellite and DVR boxes.) This technology is based on television standard "Closed Captioning" which provides text transcripts on screen for the hard-of-hearing. There is also metadata available for programs listing program titles, characters, news anchors, talk show guests and movie actors, and/or those appearing on-screen during broadcast.

That information is available over the air and is rich in what it takes for search engines to determine relevance - text. Now Samsung is offering hardware which can access that standard television closed caption and metadata and use it to search relevant and related information for viewers and display web searches for that data through a scrolling menu, rather than a keyboard.

This is a disruptive way to watch television, as you may have observed from the video above. But there are options, actually two or three options - which Samsung is apparently offering.

  1. Immediate viewing of web pages or multimedia web content on-screen. Disruptive to the viewing experience.
  2. Access via externally connected devices such as tablet PC's or smart phones. Better and less disruptive to family members viewing the same TV.
  3. Access to searches via connected PC's or Laptops running an application tied to the set top box. Good solution so far.
But I have a suggested best-by-far option - DVR such as Tivo with functionality which stores and saves all that information (metadata and closed caption text) as the program is recorded, for use later by laptop or PC.

Clearly those with DVR's will recognize the value of making all of the information made available via the SamSung set-top-box accessible at a later time to use as you wish, allowing time-shifting of the search functionality as well as the recorded program.

So how long will it be before we (SEO's) are optimizing our web sites and multimedia content for TVSEO? Clearly it opens up dramatic traffic potential for sites addressing items discussed in hot news stories, or products mentioned on talk shows, or any number of authority web sites on any conceivable topic which may be discussed on television.

I see the potential there for new meta data inserted in both the closed captioning and within web sites, which facilitate find-ability of information online through this new search window on television sets. (Official TV Show web site, links to advertisers, PPC ads, actor profiles) I also see many more players entering the market to mine this potential traffic source. Those who jump in early will clearly benefit.

Kudos to Samsung for clearing the path to television search - now I hope Tivo, Google, and the television industry, as well as cable and satellite providers will see the value and offer the option of truly interactive television by linking it to the web and allowing recording of the closed captioning and related meta data for later use.

(I'll never understand why Microsoft didn't go this way when they bought WebTV for $450 Million in 1997 - they had both audiences in hand. Maybe their potential marriage with Yahoo will help them see the way to do it now? No- Yahoo had the original social media site in GeoCities and wasted that audience too. Neither company knows how to make the most of their assets.)

Here's what is available so far from Samsung on the box, beyond the video you saw above:

I've seen a secondary press release from Samsung distributed on February 14th Valentines Day all over the web, but the release below, distributed by Samsung on January 6th, the day before CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas in PDF form and lost to all in the crush of new product announcements, was made available on the Samsung site (available in HTML in the Google cached copy) - when will corporations begin to understand the web?

They've introduced the "See'n'Search Set Top Box" at CES where it is buried among thousands of press releases and 187 other mentions of Samsung electronics products at the show. They distributed a secondary press release on Valentines Day, neglecting to do some sort of tie-in to attract attention to their product using maybe a love theme?

Nope, but then it's duly reported by engadget, parroted on Mashable and again repeated by Techmeme, then dropped again from notice. Samsung, in that secondary press release fails to say what they did say in the first release - that the unit will be available Q3 2008 (see below). I even saw a couple of tech blogs saying, "Samsung doesn't say when the unit will be available" and thus the problem with bloggers, nobody does any research.

Samsung doesn't make it easy to find, but there is an "About See'N'Search" page on their site.

Here's the January 6, 2008 Press release from the Samsung web site promising delivery by Q3 of this year:

Samsung Electronics America
Phone: (201) 229-4752

Colin Ruane
MWW Group
Phone: 212) 827-3742


New Technology Eliminates the Need for a PC, Keyboard or Special Content Programming, Bringing Targeted Media Content Directly to the Living Room


LAS VEGAS, January 6, 2008 – Samsung Electronics, a global leader in consumer electronics and digital technology, today is changing the way consumers enjoy the Internet in the living room with the introduction of its See’N’Search technology. Using just their TV’s, users can directly pull up Internet information and media-related content onto the screen program without the need for a PC/keyboard and or special content programming.

Where previous attempts at bringing the Internet to the TV have faltered due to the need for a keyboard or the overhead of special authoring through a content ecosystem, Samsung’s See’N’Search technology automatically suggests existing Internet media and information related to the programs users are already watching.

“See’N’Search technology will revolutionize how consumers will see and use the Internet in the living room in the next few years” said Alan Messer, director of connected consumer technologies of Samsung’s U.S. Research and Development Center. “By greatly minimizing the need to manually search for related content and special interactive content authoring, this technology enables consumers to directly watch or surf Internet content that is relevant to them.”

Just as a consumer would search a channel guide to see what’s on and when, Samsung’s See’N’Search set-top box uses the same information, in addition to the closed caption metadata that is present for most programming, to scour existing Internet content (HTML coding, Web video, etc.) and make recommendations that would appeal to the user. To do this, the system monitors the contents of the program being watched, using lightweight natural language technologies to determine the topics that are being discussed. When the user presses the “More Info” button, the See’N’Search UI appears on-screen with related information or media that the system found on the Internet. The consumer simply selects a piece of content from any particular topic, and See’N’Search takes them directly to that content.

What’s more, See’N’Search information can also be transmitted from the TV or set-top box to any connected devices in the living room, such as Wi-Fi enabled phones, tablets or laptops. This enables users to personally surf related Internet content without disturbing the family.

“Samsung’s See’N’Search technology gives a whole new way of getting to the Internet without turning the TV into a PC,” said Victoria Coleman, vice president of Samsung’s U.S. Computer Science Laboratory.

Samsung’s See’N’Search set-top box will be available in Q3 of 2008.

About Samsung Electronics America, Inc. Headquartered in Ridgefield Park, NJ, Samsung Electronics America, Inc. (SEA), a wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., markets a broad range of award-winning, advanced digital consumer electronics and home appliance products, including HDTVs, home theater systems, MP3 players, refrigerators and laundry machines. A recognized innovation leader in consumer electronics design and technology, Samsung is the HDTV market leader in the U.S. and is the only manufacturer that produces all four major digital television technologies. Please visit for more information.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Super Bowl Ad Ratings: USA Today, Nielsen, MediaCurves

OK, Last word on Super Bowl 42 XLII Commercials this year (one week after the game) comes from the ratings services, which turned out to have very different results and to prove how much polls and statistics can vary. The most visible ratings came from USA Today, which awarded the top spot to the Budweiser "Rocky" send-up starring Hank the Clydesdale, who fails to make the team, then trains with a dog for a year and makes the beer wagon team next year. That spot is featured below in another post.

The next rating came from Nielsen and also gives their number one nod to Budweiser. But Nielsen also rates ads on TV viewership numbers and ranks them according to which was most seen - they give that honor to the Victoria's Secret ad with Adriana Lima, which ran in the fourth quarter in the second to last ad slot and they claim was seen by 103.6 Million viewers (and an additional 980,000 times on MySpace, 520,000 times on AOL, 417,000 times on YouTube.

Victoria's Secret Super Bowl Commercial with Adriana Lima

Super Bowl Commercials

Then comes Media Curves, which added an odd element of second-by-second emotional interest to their ratings and award the top slot to the Fedex Carrier Pigeons spot. That link shows you a graph of viewer interest on top of the ad as it plays, but that seems a bit silly to me. People who voted at MediaCurves liked Fedex more than Adriana Lima or Hank the Clydesdale because they were more emotionally engaged? Which emotions? Fear of flapping feathers and pigeon poop from both the normal dirty birds in that shipping department or the giant dirty birds outdoors wreaking havoc on the city and trashing the shipping managers car? Hmmmm. (AOL gave the top slot to Hank the Clydesdale again, and gave the Fedex spot position #10 in their top ten list!) Here's that Fedex Ad:

Fedex Super Bowl Ad: Carrier Pigeons Bad Choice for Shipping

Watch Superbowl Commercials.

Very interestingly, you can also judge the commercials at each of the places they are housed on the web to see most popular ads by number of views. That honor appears to go (as of this writing) to the Bud Light "Ability to Breathe Fire" ad, which has been viewed over 4 million times at AOL (Total ad views 10.5 million), 1.7 million times at MySpace (Total ad views 34.7 million views) and (only) 372,000 times on YouTube, where it barely ranks at all). But wait, there are different numbers of most watched at each of these places! Choose your audience carefully. (YouTube is set to announce their winner later on Tuesday February 12th, based on number of votes - will anyone still care then?) YouTube ranks the Naomi Campbell "Thrillicious" Dancing Lizards ad tops, with 965,000 views, topping all it's other super bowl videos by 200K or so. Hmmm. Thrillicious is in 5th place at MySpace - Here's that ad:

Sobe Life Water Super Bowl Commercial: Naomi Campbell

Super Bowl Ad Videos.

So when ranked by raw numbers I'll award top choice to "Ability to Breathe Fire" from Budweiser. Ranked by viewer emotions during viewing, I agree with the MediaCurves emotions rating, but only because I want to dive under a table to avoid the flying rats, er pigeons. When ranked by Underdog factor, I'll go with Hank the Clydesdale and the Rocky theme. When ranked by libido interest, I think Naomi Campbell wins for Sobe Life Water. When ranked by overall favorite, I'll fall back on my previous juvenile humor assessment and go with the Tivo most replayed rating which ranks the eTrade Talking Baby Spit-up spot.

eTrade Talking Baby Super Bowl Commercial: Baby Buys Stock

More Superbowl Commercial Videos

Not enough ratings for you? Here's a few more:

Finally, for those of you who can't wait for next year to see what Super Bowl Ads, here's that MySpace Super Bowl Countdown Widget to take you into the 2009 Contest in Tampa Florida.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Super Bowl Bonus: Budweiser Cut The Cheese Ad

Budweiser, in an attempt to draw more audience engagement around their Super Bowl Ads this year, created a *Bonus* "Secret Spot" which was available only to visitors who either participated in a text message poll from their mobile phones or filled out a ranking poll called "order the spots" on> If you didn't do that on their site, here's a version you don't have to do anything else to see. I see why it didn't run at game time, since it would have suffered the same fate that GoDaddy did with the network censors. Poor taste, body humor. I had to do extra work to see this?

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Tivo Users Loved Talking Babies Spitting Up in Bowl Ads

Tivo has now given us a better gauge of what SuperBowl Commercials viewers actually watch the most, rather than those they SAY they like the most. For the Tivo fans, excuse me while I tell the other 200 million uninitiated television watchers briefly about these magical machines. (Tivo users, skip down two paragraphs)

Tivo lets you pause live television for up to 30 minutes and go back and watch when you want to, then the thing you've heard most, lets you skip through anything you don't want to see, which for most of us is the commercials. So we Tivo lovers often stop live television to have a conversation with our spouse, use the restroom, make a sandwich, answer the doorbell or telephone... In short, we're not a slave to "Time" and can stop and start the television.

There is much more to Tivo, but that covers the only part I want to discuss here. Tivo users often rewind and rewatch things that interest them. It is very easy to do and so it becomes a habit to back up and watch something over again. Not only watch it over, but frame-by-frame if we choose - in slow motion or stop anywhere in freeze frame.

(Ok Tivo users, you can tune in again...) So Tivo Central can see user behavior, and while they anonymize it slightly, they know what everyone is watching, frame-by-frame, second by second and how many times something is watched. My wife looked at me sideways when I said the E-Trade ad of a talking baby spitting up after buying stock online was my favorite. I felt a bit childish, but now I see I wasn't alone. That was the most replayed ad on Tivo owners sets. Hah!

eTrade Talking Baby Super Bowl Commercial: Baby Buys Stock

More Superbowl Ads

Here's the Tivo list of most watched Superbowl Ads

1. E-Trade: “Baby Talks Demonstrates Easy Stock Buy Online” (spitting up)
2. Pepsi Co: “Every Sip Gets you Closer to Justin Timberlake MP3”
3. Doritos: “Mouse Trap - Giant Mouse Attack” (user-generated)
4. Coca-Cola: “James Carville and Bill Frist Jinx, Buy Me a Coke”
5. Ice Breakers Gum: “Carmen Electra and Spontaneous Woah!”
6. Bridgestone: “Deer in the Headlights, Alice Cooper, Richard Simmons”
7. Bud Light: “Cavemen Invent Wheel to Carry a Stone Cooler”
8. Vitamin Water: “Horse Race with Jockey Shaquille O'Neal”
9. Plan B: “Witch Doctor Shrinks Car Salesman's Head”
10. Life Water: “Thriller Lizard Dance with Naomi Campbell”

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Monday, February 04, 2008

Budweiser Super Bowl Ad: Rocky Theme Rated Best

There was a very understated Hyundai Genesis Superbowl commercial which said in its voice-over, while showing the new luxury car, "We don't know what the USA Today Admeter will say about this Ad on tomorrow, but we're pretty sure BMW, Mercedes and Lexus aren't gonna like it." Well now everyone knows what the USA Today Admeter thinks about the Hyundai Genesis commercial, as it ranked at #43 out of the total 55 commercial spots.

Pretty much as expected though the number one ad was the Budweiser "Rocky" send-up of Hank the Clydesdale, who after missing the Budweiser beer wagon team one year, goes into intense training with a dalmation as his personal trainer. You can see that ad (and all the others with ratings #1 through #55 at the USA Today Admeter page, titled "Budweiser's Dog and Pony Show" in a mocking tone about the number one ad. (Dalmation and Clydesdale, Dog & Pony -- Hmmm). Here's that ad if you missed it.

Budweiser Clydesdales Superbowl Ad: Hank the Clydesdale

Superbowl Ads

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Audi's R8 Supercar Super Bowl Commercial - No

OK, for those of you who can't wait to see the Audi R8 Supercar, here's a sneak peek. Though this is NOT the Superbowl Commercial, which will be a play on the "Godfather" movie theme. This is an "assembly" time lapse starting from the frame up with a catch phrase, "The Slowest Car We've Ever Built" appearing at the end. ... History, experience, carefully assembled, etc. -

Ok, now 3 days after the fact, here's the real SuperBowl ad, realeased nowhere early, but now available everywhere. ;-)


Audi R8 Luxury Sports Car Super Bowl Commercial Ad

More Super Bowl Ads

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