Death, pets, children and renewal

I am melancholy.

My wife and I just took the decision at the veterinary clinic to put down one of our two cats.

Maasai was a fantastic Seal Point Birman.

Like many cats of his breed, at the age of twelve, Maasai had developed a kidney dysfunction which had rapidly reached a chronic stage, and after two days under care it was apparent his condition was irreversible.

Regardless if you are a dog or cat person the loss of a pet companion is a wrench. If you've gone through similar with your pet, you may know how awful it is. 

This pic is when he was only a couple of months playfully old at the start of the millenia.

Stuck for a name at the time we acquired them, we named the pair of Birman cats we bought in London, Maasai & Mara, having recently returned from a trip to Kenya.

That second picture is Mara - the titanium hip plated sister to the 6+kg Maasai - atop a hot router.

Children and the idea of death and renewal

It's not my first time I have experienced this situation, as I unhappily recall the moment as a child, however this time the ordeal was as a parent which was even more testing with a nine and three and half year old accompanying my wife and I at the vets.

My son Alexander (9 years) was old enough to comprehend the situation yet evidently sad about it. I feel it important that the notion of death is not concealed in his upbringing.

He is at the age where curisosity abounds in anything he learns and is immediately pondering and querying aspects of the cat's final moments.

He has developed logic and yet can be abstract in thought and exercise wonderful imagination.

My daughter Olivia, at three and a half years old, was expectant we would return home from the vets with Maasai and naturally was bewlidered, upset and yet equally rapidly distractable.

Guilt about guilt

The relationship between human and animal is a strange one. We develop affections for a pet animals while they depend on us during their lifetime for food, shelter and attention and yet the majority of us, myself included, comfortably remain meat eaters for example.

What has played on my conscious though has been putting this episode into perspective in the midst of far greater difficulties that afflict our life and that of many others in these times.

I know that family health of other relatives is more important and recent news has certainly reminded me of that.

It can seem absurd to mourn yet as the vet explained, you've spent all that time being attentive to an animal who devotes and seemingly adores its' owners and the loss evokes memories of past stages in your life that you cannot easily dissociate.

Today I feel guilty about feeling guilty. I am confused. Is that wrong?

Children are your love

Can you really love an animal?

Language carries a lot of weight and whilst a bond is developed with a pet, it never surpasses a human relationship.

If there was one moment of joy today, it was the indefatigable inadvertent humour that a three and half year old brings to your world.

As I talk spanish with my already bilingual daughter, I explained that Maasai was sadly not coming back home as he was going to heaven.

And heaven in spanish is cielo, meaning sky.

Alas, Olivia nonchantly replied to me:

Maasai is not going to heaven, he doesn't have wings papa.

No papa, Maasai no puede ir al cielo, no tienes alas.

This picture was snapped just moments after she convincingly told me that.

Love family.

SEO Anglo Spanish conference comparison: No contest

Last November I had the pleasure of attending the Congreso SEO - also referred to as the SEO Pro - as an invited speaker at the Olympia Hotel in Valencia, here in Spain.
¿Lo prefieres en español?

The organiser, Miguel Lopez from Marketing Online Valencia, had made a herculean near solo effort to put on a superb SEO event that united a devoted bunch of the finest Spanish SEO minds to knock heads and hearts together for three days.

I won't delve into a detailed round up of presentations. That was already done in the afterglow of the moment by several other speakers from Spain and attendees from around the world.

Suffice to say the excellence of thought and presentations was outstanding. Don't take my word for it, other seasoned SEO speakers who travelled afar can attest to the level on show.

Fortune has it that my job and background means I frequent England and Spain for work and pleasure all the time, and as I am tempted, with so much in life, I often pause to contemplate the pros and cons to each. So this is my take on how Spain and UK stack up at SEO events.

Photo thanks to @carrero

Event choice. Size and shirt matters.

Or does it? In the UK the SEO scene is bigger. I'm not going to start digging up the stats, comparing agency head count, billings or search or PPC metrics, but I will put my neck on the professional line and claim that SEO as an industry is a more an established profession in the UK and accepted discipline within marketing compared to that in Spain.

And so what? Well, in terms of conference size, attendance and frequency of events, the UK has a wealth of events to choose from. Ranging from the free, the spirited raucous to the premium priced and the SEO events that form part of a larger online marketing fairs, there is a wide choice on offer.

In contrast, Spain sports less amount of formal events, however that is not necessarily such a bad thing, as it's what you do with your SEO event that counts, right? During the SEO Pro in Valencia, the seventy or so attendees had ample time over three days to really make solid professional connections and strengthen friendships.

In contrast in the UK, I've often found myself forced to diligently pre-research attendees and companies whom I wanted to network with, before the event, to allow myself time to adequately devirtualise the SEO brains in the room.

Wealth of riches you might say, well there certainly is a camaraderie in Spanish events that has echoes of the earlier days of the British SEO scene in the pre halycon days of Google.

And let's be clear, just because you're first to invent something, that does not confer you the status of the best practitioner at it. The British know that all too well; Football? err Who won the last World Cup for petes sake?

England score from a free kick with a cruel deflection!

Scoreline at 20mins: England 1 Spain 0

Event organisation

It goes hand in hand with size, that a large event demands significant resources to keep everything all tickety-boo and this will invariably be a large contributing factor to the price of the ticket.

During London's recent SearchLove event by Distilled [c], the army of people running the show allowed for professional sound and vision, full recording, and all the ancillary tasks required for a glitch free event.

It's not just the event itself, but all the promotion of it before and after that places great demands on the organisers and tests their promotional skill.

Distilled's SearchLove did a good job of whipping up interest via online buzz prior to the event in October and produced once again a delightful printed booklet for attendees packed with speaker interviews.

Spain's Miguel SEOPro Lopez however, single handedly built buzz several months before hand, deftly blogging and regularly emailing interviews with speakers' SEO stories for months beforehand.

This sustained a hashtag level of interest in the event for weeks in advance. Attendees didn't go home without any goodies though as several attendee and speaker companies dealt out schwag or more vitally, free trial codes for worthy paid SEO services/tools. It wasn't just a Spanish version of any old shitforlinks.

Where SearchLove excelled was the supply and openess of the speaker .ppt decks after the event and the filming of the presentations, in contrast SEOPro restricted the distribution of slides only among the speakers privately and neither audio or video recorded presentations.

As five months have elapsed since my CongresoSEO presentation (Representación de datos para SEO or Infographics for linkbuilding) Miguel has kindly consented for it to become public.

Grab all the links from the presentation or read and comment it in this Google+ photo presentation. View or download the entire deck from my Dropbox although please note unfortunately the embedded YouTube videos will not playback.

In terms of hob nobbing, mingling and entertainment I'm afraid there was little contest between Valencia and London.

Whilst both SEOPro and SearchLove ran single track jam packed days of speakers presenting for 45-60 minutes, the London timetable was brutal on social options for mingling compared to Valencia.

Yes, they're is after-event shoulder rubbing at SearchLove but its attendance is partial relative to conference crowd.

Of course the sandwich lunch culture, or should I say stand up SearchLove noshing is accepted practice in the UK, don't get me wrong the food was very good and people came for the talks not the grub after all, however the food in Valencia throughout the three days was just glorious.

Attendees sat to eat in a restaurant in well mixed up tables during the event and conference talks would restart at five ending at eight o clock in the evening.

That stoppage time during the day allowed for delegates at SEOPro to catch up on business or take a well deserved siesta.

How else are you going to recuperate the mad late hours of partying? Suffice to say Valencia stole the show on the partying aspect.

Superb tica-taca possession by Spain's midfield, then a sublime touch sees Spain equalise.

Half Time Score Line: England 1 Spain 1

Champion & Premier league SEO

So when it comes down to the crunch, how does the quality of SEO compare between the two?

Both events boasted a high quality of presentations.

People had done their homework, generously shared their data and insights and anecdotally it seemed attendees were highly satisfied with both Congreso SEO and SearchLove.

Both events have suffered from external criticism from non attendees who have either misinterpreted comments, that seep out via Twitter or morph into Chinese Whispers.

Sure enough both events were dominated with a plethora of references to Panda, although in Spain the most common element that unified all presentations was a devout homage to scrapers.

Edit: one worthy Panda inclusion, was the bizarre coincidence that I selected an infographic to show during my presentation from a company called AttachMedia, unbeknown to me, the author of it was in the audience and introduced himself to me afterwards. He had come from Peru just for the event!

At London's SearchLove, speakers included big USA names in SEO as well as local Brits. In contrast Spain featured pretty much all local based talent with a few exceptions.

I think there were presentations in Valencia worthy of a wider audience such as the advanced faceted navigation decks from Fernando Macia and Rodney Cullen that would go down well with an audience in London and further afield. I particularly admired the SEOcial media thinking from Jose Llinares.

However there was no shrinking violets in Spain when it came to openly talking exposing the darker techniques of SEO, in contrast when this happens in UK, it's usually preceeded with a stern warning not to try this at home, a plea not to RT and a hand clasped over the microphone.

If anything Spanish SEO's pull no punches when discussing dark SEO in public, possibly in part because their thoughts are not as amplified compared to the UK.

I'm not an advocate of grey/black hat techniques although I can't refute there are short term success eeked out at times by some, although since November of last year, some of the techniques discussed in Valencia have since proved ineffective and infact counterproductive with further algorythmic refinements by Google.

Late last year I felt a little relief to note that Matt Cutts was referred to in a Google Blog as a Distinguished Engineer instead of the Head of WebSpam.

Indeed imagine a Direct Marketer equivalent being continually referred to as the Head of Junkmail. Hardly appropriate.

Anyway, my point here is that as the english speaking SEO market matures, SEO is more mainstream marketing accepted and it's defintion evolves to overlap social and inbound marketing.

There is a collective effort by leading english speaking SEO practioners to drag the SEO discipline more to the marketing mainstream than continue to suffer from a poor reputation and escape the perception of SEO in crisis.

If anything the debate about definition of Inbound maketing has accelerated since November of last year and is unlikely to subside.

In contrast in Spain, my feeling is that the profession is still too far from the centre of online marketing.

There is a telling friction between the SEO community in Spain and it's noisy Community Manager's virtual nascent sister it is awash with.

Unfortunately stereotypes have a grain of truth in them, Community Managers need to get more accountable and SEOs need to get more social.

At one point during the presentations in Valencia, a slide with the average advertised salary levels contrasting Community Managers and SEO's jobs, drew gasps of mild shock and the odd irritation.

This was despite the previous slides demonstrating the disproportionate commercial value SEO had conferred to the organisations.

There was actually a Community Manager centric event in Sevilla at the same time as the Congreso SEO and there was a palable gulf of disdain between the occasional interesecting monolgues on Twitter amongst the two camps during the weekend.

A game of two halves

It's perhaps an unfair call to compare SEO events in both countries like for like. I think SearchLove and Congreso SEO were both successful in their own right and if you have the chance you should attend either of them. Seriously.

And as usual I am quite torn between any comparison between Spain and England and whenever the national teams compete in sport I typically back the underdog for want of more competition.

...Spain are denied a penalty in the dieing minutes of the game and England snatch an injury time winner in a goal mouth scramble.

Final Scoreline:

England 2 Spain 1

Por supuesto este post también está redactado en castellano.

Distilled's LinkLove conference was held last week in London and Boston. Here's their round upIf you missed it, you will be able to buy SEO conference videos

Congreso SEO is being held in Madrid on the 6th & 7th July 2012. Early bird discounts expire pronto.

So what do you think?

Does England pip Spain for SEO conferences or vice versa?

Did I referee that right or would you give me a yellow card?

Una comparación de conferencias SEO entre España y Inglaterra

El pasado noviembre tuve el placer de acudir al Congreso SEO - también conocido como el SEO Pro - como ponente invitado en el Hotel Olympia de Valencia, aquí en españa. Prefer English?

El organizador, Miguel Lopez, de Marketing Online Valencia casi el solo, organizó con un esfuerzo tremendo, un evento fabuloso que reunio la mayor peña de los mejores talentos SEO españoles para machacar ideas y fortalezer amistades durante tres intensos días.

No voy a detallar las presentaciones. Eso ya se hizo en su momento tras el evento por varios otros ponentes y asistentes de todas partes del mundo.

Basta con decir que el nivel era altísimo y las presentaciones fueron todos un éxito. Ya lo ha confirmado más que uno quien viajo desde lejos para vivirlo.

Por suerte mi trabajo y mis raices hace que amenudo viajo entre españa y inglaterra y como siempre caigo en la tentación que comparar lo bueno y lo malo de cada uno, me atrevo aquí hacer una comparativa de los eventos SEO entre españa y el Reino Unido.

Foto gracias a @carrero

La selección. A lo grande.

¿Realmente importa o no si hay muchos eventos para elegir? En el Reino Unido el panorama SEO es más grande. Bueno, no voy aquí a indagar en estadísticas, comparando empleados por agencia, ingresos o métricas de Search o PPC, pero si me arriesgo en algo, me atrevo a decir que el SEO como una profesión está más establecida dentro del mundo del marketing en el Reino Unido que lo está en España. ¿Y que? Pues, al tratar de la magnitud de conferencias, el aforo, y frecuencía de eventos, el Reino Unido tiene un montón para eligir. Desde lo gratis, a lo muy marchoso, hasta el precio VIP y eventos SEO que forman parte de un mayor evento de marketing, hay mucha variedad.

En cambio, españa tiene menos eventos pero no quiere decir eso que sea una desventaja ya que todo depende como cada evento le saca partido, ¿o no? Durante el Congreso SEO en Valencia, los setenta o asi asistentes tuvieron más que suficiente tiempo para verdaderamente hacer enlaces estrechos profesionales y reforzar amistades.

En cambio en el Reino Unido, yo por lo menos me he encontrado debido al tiempo limitado, que he tenido que investigar con mucho cuidado de antemano los asistentes y empresas al que quisiera hacer networking para que pudiese desvirtualizar a todos los SEOs a tiempo. Lo cierto es que existe un buen rollo entre SEO españoles que aún recuerda aquellos tiempos de SEO en inglaterra antes de la época de Google.

Y seamos claros, solo porque seas es primero en inventar algo, no te confiere el título de ser el mejor practicante de ello. Los Ingleses ya conocen esto a tope, el futból por ejemplo...err ¿Quién coño gano el último Mundial?

Inglaterra golea de un tiro libre con un rebote algo chanchullo

El marcador a los 20 minutos: Inglaterra 1 España 0

Organización del Evento

Por supuesto un evento de gran envergadura requiere bastantes recursos para garantizar que todo transcurra bien y esto inevitablemente contribuye al precio de la entrada.

Durante el SearchLove en Londres de Distilled, hubo un montón de gente para llevarlo todo a cabo, el audio visual, toda la grabación y lo todo lo demas que exige sacar adelante el evento.

No es solo el evento en si, sino todo su promoción previa y despues que pone a prueba a los organizadores y sus capacidades promocionales.

El SearchLove de Distilled hizo bien en generar interés antes del evento en octubre y crearon un librillo para los asistentes repleto de entrevistas con los ponentes.

En españa Miguel Lopez del SEOPro sin embargo armo un buzz varios meses antes con un uso listo del blog y Feedburner poco a poco enviando correos de entrevistas con los ponentes durante los meses previos.

Esto mantuvo un hashtag hilo continuo durante las semanas previas al evento. Los asistentes no se marcharón sin cosillas mientras que algunos asistentes y empresas ponentes repartieron regalos y mas importante códigos e invitaciones a pruebas gratuitas de herramientas SEO y lo demás. No fue una versión cualquiera de shitforlinks.

Es cierto que SearchLove punteo bien repartiendo los PowerPoint poco despues del evento, con la grabación de video de las ponencias - eso si a la venta -  en cambio SEOPro solo repartio los .ppt entre los ponentes de forma privada y sin audio o video.

Como ya han pasado cinco meses desde que di mi presentación (Representación de datos para SEO o Infografía para atraer enlaces) Miguel ha permitido que lo publique.

Puedes pillar todos los enlaces de la presentación o leer y comentarlo en una versión foto albúm Google+. Descargatelo entero desde mi Dropbox pero ojó desafortunadamente los videos de YouTube no se reproducen en Dropbox.

Relativo al tema del networking y la marcha, diría que Valencia triunfaba por encima de Londres.

A pesar de que tanto SEOPro y SearchLove montarón el evento continuo en una sala, de presentaciones con una duración de 45-60 minutos (y no de forma multi-canal), el horario de Londres era brutal con menos opciones para hacer networking comparado con Valencia.

Es cierto que hubo una fiesta networking despues del evento principal en Londres, pero no todos atienden ya que hay que desplazarse del local de la conferencia al bar.

Claro, la cultura del sandwich, o tapear de pie en Reino Unido se considera normal, y no es para declarar que la comida no estaba bien -  ¡que va! - y al fin del cabo la gente no viene para la gastronomía, sino para las ponencias, pero aún así, la comida en Valencia durante los tres días era de gloria.

Asistentes se sentaban en un restaurante, con amplias oportunidades para conocerse uno a otro y las ponencias volvían a empezar a las cinco de la tarde y acababan a las ocho.

Ese parón de medio día permitía que asistentes SEOPro pudiesen ponerse al día con sus temas de trabajo o tomarse una siesta bien merecida.

¿De que otra forma vas a recuperar esas horas perdidas de marcha hasta las tantas? Basta con decir que Valencia gano cualquiera comparación de marcha nocturna.

Centrocampistas españoles deslumbran con un tiki taka de muerte y un toquecito de película para marcar un empate merecido.

Marcador a los 45 minutos: Inglaterra 1 España 1

Champion & Premier league SEO

Entonces, vamos al grano y preguntamos ¿como compara la calidad del SEO entre los dos eventos?

Ambos eventos pueden presumir de una calidad de presentaciones muy altas.

La gente había hecho sus deberes, y compartía sus datos y trucos aprendidos, al menos parecío que los asistentes de SEOPro y SearchLove salieron en ambos casos muy satisfechos.

Ambos eventos han sufrido críticas de gente quienes malinterpretaron comentarios que se difunden por Twitter o que se convierten en medio mentiras, gente quien juzgan el evento sin haber asistido en persona.

Por supuesto en ambos eventos, el tema del Panda dominaba aunque en españa el elemento más común fue un homenaje casí mítico al scraper.

Edit: una mención de Panda merecida fue la coincidencía que seleccione una infografía para mi presentación de una empresa llamada AttachMedia. Sin saberlo de antemano, el autor de la infografía estaba presente en la sala y se introdujo despues. ¡Había venido desde Peru solo para el evento!

Los ponentes SEO de SearchLove en Londres, incluían nombres destacados de EEUU y Brítánicos, en contraste en Valencia con alguna excepción eran casí todos de españa.

Creo que hubo varias ponencias en Valencia que se merecían una mayor audencía como por ejemplo, las presentaciones de navegación de facetas avanzadas de Fernando Macia y Rodney Cullen. Me gusto especialimente la charla de SEOcial media de Jose Llinares.

En españa la gente no tenía pelos en la lengua a la hora de hablar en alto de técnicas del lado oscuro, en comparación cuando algo parecido ocurre en Reino Unido viene con advertencias de no probarlo a solas, de no retweetearlo y todo se habla en voz baja. ¡Ssssh!

En cambio en españa hay mucha soltura del tema, quizas porque tampoco las declaraciones se amplifican fuera del entorno SEO comparado con el Reino Unido.

Yo no soy partidario de lo gris/negro aunque no puedo denegar que a veces sea éxitoso, pero eso si, desde noviembre del año pasado algunas ventajas de las técnicas mencionadas en Valencia han disminuido con los cambios algoritmicos de Google, incluso diría que algunas ya son contraproducentes.

El año pasado me alegre ver que renombraron la descripción del puesto de Matt Cutts, al ser reconodico como un ingeniero distinguido en vez que el Jefe de WebSpam en Google.

Imagínate si llamaramos al equivalente del mundo de Marketing Directo como el Jefe de correo basura. Vaya.

Bueno, lo que quiero decir es que mientras que el SEO en mercados anglo-sajones madura, la disciplina es cada vez más aceptada como una práctica típica de marketing y su definición engloba el inbound marketing, denominado tambien en castellano como el marketing de atración.

Hay un esfuezo colectivo por líderes del SEO en el mundo anglo-sajón de posicionar el SEO más como una práctica normal de marketing en vez de continuar sufriendo una mala reputación e evitar una percepción de una imagen del SEO en crisis.

Incluso el debate de la definición del Inbound marketing se ha acelerado desde noviembre del año pasado y poco probable se calme en adelante.

Si contrastamos con la situación en españa, yo siento que la profesión del SEO está aún algo más lejano del centro de marketing online a que debería estar.

Parece haber un roce entre la comunidad SEO en españa y su equivalente de Community Managers tan ruidoso.

Los esterotipos contienen algun grano de verdad, el Community Manager tiene que demostrar el valor de sus acciones y los SEOs tienen que practicar más acciones sociales.

Hubo un momento en Valencia durante las ponencias que se vio una diapositiva contrastando los salarios web 2.0 y se producio alguna reacción de alarma y algo de irritación en la sala.

Esto fue a pesar de que diapositivas previas de casos de éxito habían demostrado el valor disproporcionado comercial que el SEO había ortogado a las organizaciones.

Incluso hubo un evento más orientado al Community Manager en Sevilla ese mismo fin de semana (EBE) y se sentía algo de resentimiento mientras se cruzaban algunas palabras sueltas entre ambos campos por Twitter.

Un clásico repetido

Quizas no sea justo comparar eventos SEO en cada país. Creo que SearchLove y Congreso SEO fueron igualmente un éxito y si tienes alguna oportunidad de acudir, deberías ir a cualquiera. En serio.

A mi me resulta muy raro a la hora de comparar paises y decantar por España o Inglaterra en estas circunstancias. Incluso cuando los equipos nacionales compiten en algún deporte, suelo respaldar al que pierde en ese momento más que nada para que haya más competición.

...a la selección española le niegan un penálti en los últimos instantes e Inglaterra pilla un gol en el minuto 93!

Marcador final:

Inglaterra 2 España 1

Of course this post is also available in English.

La conferencia Distilled de Linklove fue la semana pasada en Londres y Boston. Aquí hay un resumen (en inglés). Si te lo perdistes, habran videos SEO de la conferencia a la venta.

El Congreso SEO se celebra este año en Madrid, el 6 y 7 de julio 2012. Las inscripciones con descuentos se acaban muy pronto.

¿Que opinas?

¿Inglaterra triunfa a españa en conferencias SEO o al revés?

¿Tarjeta amarilla para mi juicio o qué?

Dr Seuss' SEO Star Wars

So Search is changing, what's new?

SEO is ever more morphing to inbound marketing.

Sometimes advantages in Search last only as long as the professionals privileged to have tested their thesis, discovered a prize technique, exploited a flaw, escaped punishment of one, or preferably gained a massive reward for successful inbound marketing efforts.

And before not too long, often the cat is out of the bag and that advantage becomes standard fare.

Step forward Rich Snippets.

Rich Snippets are the prized gold stars and descriptions a search result can boast of adjacent to the URL in Google's search results.

Last week, Joost de Valk, aka Yoast, blogged about rich snippets everywhere in a self fulfilling post detail, since Google started applying seller extensions more liberally in the search results in recent weeks.

The original GoogleBlog Spot post about Rich Snippets infact seemed to garner less attention or engagement than the post from Yoast.

Search Engine Land reported the videos in a quick post, but miserably failed to cast any analysis on the matter.

Star Wars, the next frontier

So the theory is that seller extensions, to you and me, gold stars, help users separate the wheat from the chaff when we Google.

And welcome that they are, in that we demand ever more social proof of content on the web, they are worthy of caution.

do you trust a starred result because the publisher has earnt it through merit or because they have managed to have it display through ingenuity?

Yes, seller extensions - gold stars - are also a superb device for publishers to display collective social proof of customer reviews, ratings and so on, irrespective of the sector they compete in.

And the click-through rate of results with stars is no doubt higher than those without.

But are they infallible? I mean do you trust a starred result because the publisher has earnt it through merit or because they have managed to have it display through ingenuity?

The truth is at the moment, there is little way to verify the authenticity of those stars, and indeed Google do not appear to, as of yet, pre-vetted the search results that sport them.

In those snippet video tutorials Google hint at reserving the right to control the display of starred results, however the initial results of webmasters' efforts suggest this is a worrying loophole that has no discrimination in place.

The plain fact is that publishers can fabricate them and just mark up their pages with technical precision, just as they have embellished customer testimonials since day one.

Google has just made it easier for site owners to display stars for all their results

In many instances starred reviews link to 3rd party sites of the publisher so that is acceptable, but the difference now is that Google has just made it easier for site owners to display stars for all their results, on all pages if they so choose.

There are services for Business Owners that can assist you to garner verifiable reviews such as TrustPilot which I recently trialled for a client with great success. Therein lies the crux of social proof, it must stand up to scrutiny to really offer you legitimate long term advantage.

I suspect the whole Schema bandwagon, which is really in it's infancy in some ways, is likely to be a real differentiator in the future as publishers and aggregators scramble towards a more meaningful web.

If anything, 2011 has professionally taught me that it's now less about rank anymore than richness and trust of search results.

Part of me cannot believe there is no Mountain View checks and balances in place for this. Yoast concludes in his blog that he "very much doubts whether this will continue to be as easy as it seems to be now though".

It seems we'll all be seeing the stars soon even if some of us are not.

Are you star struck when you view search results?

ps. I read this Dr Seuss story to junior Gailey probably every week to his delight, here's the full version 12min video of the The Sneetches

Happy Marketing Christmas

Actually, I'm being serious.

I started the relationship because I thought we would both get something out of this, but alas no, you: email marketing manager, just bundled me into a huge list, and this is your nemesis.

Don't worry, email marketing manager, there's plenty more like you out there and with cool services such as I can also bundle you up with your cohorts, and one-click-unsubscribe from all of you.


Hey, I don't want to sound ungrateful, keep those unsubscribe gift links coming!

Happy marketing Christmas.

The Supermechanical Internet of Things - Twine

When people postulate what web 3.0 will be like, or talk about the Internet of Things, they typically prescribe it's creation to men in labs with white coats producing web enabled devices for giant corporations to churn out of factories.

Your power to connect stuff.

This is different. Twine is exciting because it honours that same creativity that propelled web2.0 - enabling consumers to be publishers - by putting the power into the hands of the end users and not the intermediaries or manufacturers.

Twine is like the real life cousin of IFTTT and allows everyone to manufacture their 3.0.

Exercise your imagination and standback to adjust your filters.

It's been fun viewing how rapidly this brilliant Kickstarter project reached its funding goal this week, and I am eager to obtain a device as a backer, but is this project more than just Arduino for the hoi polloi?

Is the Internet of Things coming to a hand near you?

Unloving the #SearchLove cookie monster

If there is one aspect that really surprised me this week at the SearchLove Distilled event in London this week, it certainly was not the:

  • quality of the speakers' insights, or the
  • diversity of online marketing subjects related to SEO, or the
  • high level of skill among the audience, or
  • the general excellence of the event

Infact I don't pretend here to offer comprehensive coverage of SearchLove like Samuel Crocker magically served up moments after each talk ended.

And I cannot compete with the superhuman Human Level's Fernando Macía's prolific tweet rate, or fellow visiting spanish speakers such as the charming Aleyda or the affable Gian Luca, aka the Moz Oracle, or indeed the succint actionable roundup blog posts of Koozai's Mike Essex.

The speakers' discourse was peppered with fashionable references to Bamboo and ingenious ways to combat Pandalization, leaving a vocabulalry legacy of bewliderement to possibly many a marketeer who does not breathe the daily nuances of the Search industry. Hey, every vertical has it's own lexicon, right?

I certainly found myself nodding and quietly yaying in awe of Wil Reynolds nail on the hammer delivery and admiring the pragmatic link-building competitive success of Branded3's Patrick Altoft.

And yes whilst I applaud and signed Martin MacDonald's keyword transparency initiative (he continues to bask in the afterglow of tweet chit-chat with MCHammer), I still cannot but help think it's somewhat crying over spilt milk.

new era of freemiunsation of search...

Distilled did indeed accommodate the audience's interest in hearing a panel discuss the freshly vexed issue of Google's defacto keyword search query removal. This effectively is regarded by the industry as Google's thin edge of the wedge of a new era of freemiumisation of search data.

If you're interested in the background of this, Go Google Paloma Gaos for a litigation lowdown.

All that said, the real elephant in the room this time, was neither, the oh so last year's issue of hat colour and SEO ethics, nor was it the effects of Google's latest iteration of a search quality algorithms affectionaly labelled as Panda by the search community, or indeed the ritual announcement of the deathknell (or not) of the efficacy of exact match domains.

No, that looming metaphorical elephant in the room, at least for me, was the cookie monster - yes, the wider issue of the implications of the impending EU privacy legislation that without intending to sound dramatic, threatens the very existence of the internet economy.

As Ciarán Norris explained in his introduction to his deck: "if you don't pay for the service you are using on the internet, you are effectively the product"

Ciarán cogently argued how our collective usage of the services effectively surrenders our privacy so the mega sites can monetise them for advertisers prepared to pay for audience access. He also exemplified interactive gesture controlled TV services that personalise the viewing experience and ultimately how compelling this is for the end user and advertiser alike. He's touched on this before.

And the reliance on cookies, perma-logged in social services, javascript tracking and more, are the essential ingredients in the mega internet economy and the real enablers of for the personalisation bandwagon to roll on.

site owners are stymied to monetize...

However, if site owners are compelled to display landing page explicit opt in notices interstital nuisance style, then as Ciarán rightly argued, they may as well thereafter display a blank screen to users who decline to opt in to data collection, because without consent, site owners are effectively stymied to monetize and it's Game Over for everyone.

Ever wondered how some services recoup the massive effort it takes to offer a global service?

For example, the AddThis button, installed on some 1 billion domains and 9 million users?

Ever mused for a moment how they make money, without charging you; the widget installer who happily benefits from the enhanced site functionality it offers?

Well, AddThis happily drop you a cookie which allows adverts to be displayed to you, on other sites you visit thereafter. You get the widget, they get you targeted, advertisers sell more stuff, no one gets hurt and it's a good deal allround right?

Except some people don't like it or just don't get it and lobbying of the legislators is where the real battles are being fought right now.

Fast forward to a time if/when such EU cookie legislation comes into force in 2012 and such services would not work so silently: your user experience might become a journey through optin hell, with endless repeat questions each time you opened a tab and so much as looked at anything interactive.

Don't even think of cookie cleaning, you'll probably make it even worse for yourself ultimately. Oh and want to casually Like something? Well before you do, step this way, let me read you your rights and confirm you might want to like something before you Like something. Go figure.

So when the SearchLove audience was polled for a show of hands about their awareness or action taken on this issue, the reaction seemed to be one of nonchalance at best and resigned ignorance at worst.

what surprised me was how unbothered people seem to feel..

OK, so maybe I got the wrong end of the mood stick, please correct me if so, but the impression I got was as if SEOers were instead itchily awaiting some golden insider nugget of ...ok, so now do this neat little tweak and you'll get page one rankings in 3 days...

And that's what surprised me: just how unbothered people seem to feel about the cookie monster.

Joanna Lord from SEOMoz also presented a fascinating look at how retargeting worked for SEOMoz at SearchLove. It's a whole marketing discipline that the cookie monster issue threatens omniously.

I raised the issue in person with @JoannaLord during the Mozcation in Barcelona and she confessed that at worst it would manifest itself at the browser vendor level, if at all.

So if SEO community truly want to earn the respect of the wider marketing community, it's time to collectively articulate the cookie monster concerns, query and challenge thought leaders on the subject, and support efforts to lobby for a functioning internet economy that benefits everyone.

And people, this is more important than your Klout score. Really.

If only we saw that same passion that was applied by SearchLovers to engaging MC Hammer, gently goading him to attend London or NYC SearchLove, now applied to this critical cookie issue, then it's the best chance over the coming months that we have to influence the outcome.

The message to send to policy makers is, mess with the internet economy at your political peril.

put another way, this is the internet, you can't touch this.

In New York? You should go to NYC SearchLove. Check out the #searchlove vibe or Follow the London searchlovers on this unofficial Twitter list:

Postscript: Econsultancy have published an in depth article about the EU cookie directive. Monday, 31st October.

The six and ⅔% more interesting Trey Pennington

I never met Trey Pennington. I wish I had.

Many people close to him have written moving tributes to him in the last few days.

Others have tried to rationalise Trey's passing, the illness he suffered from and the helplessness of social media in his death.

I won't go there. Trey touched many people's lives. He struck a chord with me.

Of the many people highly active in social media, he always struck me as someone who was naturally at ease with the true human socialising that his profession brought him, those moments where he would get together with other Like Minds without the barriers of technology inbetween human relationships.

Sure he would like to document so many of these moments incessantly with any sort of cam, but you really got the impression the guy relished true interactions with people.

Like many people I did wonder how the one hundred thousand plus followers made any sense and how his prolific and relentless output was possible.

Maybe I'm mistaken but Trey would have met you all in person given the chance.

When people have queried me what social media really meant in terms of a mindset, I would often cite him and express a sentiment along the lines of  "look you have to be totally selfless in a karmic kind of way if you're prepared to do this..."

I feel as if that came naturally to Trey.

People's affection towards him seems heartfelt. In the British parlance, the man was surely a great bloke if any person stood up to that description.

He made a massive contribution to social media and I trust a celebration of his life today and in the future will recognise that.

I contend there's enough wisdom in his archive to merit a Trey Day.

However if there is one video, one tip, one piece of sound heartfelt advice that would most resonate about him and his thinking it may well be this video with Zig Ziglar.

Would less have been more?

Trey's thoughts, podcasts, blogs, published material, tweets and interactions made for compelling content in the last few years although recent months his output did change.

I don't do Facebook so I don't pretend to know all of facets of his life, but some time ago I did think, what if he could produce more.


What if his tweets were more repeatable by shortening his Twitter id. Could he produce more Trey Pennington content by allowing more content to fit in his tweets?

So about a year ago I had this email exchange with Trey.

The gist of it was this: Trey, go shorten your Twitter name, it's possible here you could have this username.

After all Trey, you are one of the biggest names in social media, literally. You are 10% of every tweet!

After these emails followed a series of Direct Messages on Twitter (which unfortunately I can no longer access or reproduce) and @ replies that have forever withered away.

About this time on Twitter it was possible to recuperate dormant accounts of usernames, I had done it before and Trey could have owned @treyp had he so wished.

I opened a support ticket on Twitter, sometimes exchanged cryptic @ replies with him and sent him DM's along the lines of :

Trey, lose the ennington and get yourself a five letter Twitter name, you can do it - you'll become six and two thirds per cent more interesting.

Trey did ponder it, perhaps he may have been minded to do it had we met at the Like Minds event in the UK in 2010 but alas I wasn't able to make it in time despite being in London at another marketing event.

Perhaps not.

Perhaps he would have remained Trey Pennington.


Response to the OFT Debt Management Guidance

The OFT (Office of Fair Trading) has invited responses from interested parties to the document, Debt management (and credit repair services) guidance of June 2011 consultation ending September  5th.

As per the scope of the consultation the document represents the OFT's draft guidance for all licensees engaged in the licensable activities of debt counselling and debt adjusting (where the debts arise under consumer credit or hire agreements).....It focuses on unfair and improper business practices for the purposes of section 25(2A)(e) of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 which, if engaged in, would call into question a person's fitness to retain or be granted a standard consumer credit licence or to operate under cover of a group licence. In addition, it provides a basis against which the OFT can undertake assessments of whether businesses have appropriate skills, knowledge, experience, business practices and procedures, to be licensed by the OFT to operate an ancillary credit business providing debt counselling, debt adjusting or credit information services.

Page 5 of the document available on the OFT website here, expands further: This consultation is aimed at all those with an interest in, or involved in, the provision of regulated debt counselling, debt adjusting and credit information services (including credit repair). This includes debt management companies, not-for-profit advice organisations, creditors and some lead generation and claims management companies......The consultation may also be of interest to trade associations, professional bodies, regulators, enforcement agencies, consumer organisations and credit reference agencies. 

In accordance with the consultation, I as Paul Gailey, in the capacity as a contracted marketing consultant to ClearDebt Ltd, a Consumer Credit License holder nº565479, hereby offer my formal response to the guidance as itemised below.

3.6 f. Examples of unfair or improper business practices with regards to lead generation and direct marketing include: claims or statements regarding 'status'. For example, operating websites which look like and/or are designed to look like the web-site of a charity or a government body.

I note the guidance cites the 2009 OFT press release about this subject.

The prevalence of decieving websites, false claims and incomplete debt management information has regretfully continued since 2009 and today still exists. Detection of existence of these sites is a simple exercise in conducting an internet search for popular debt management related terms. Attached is an image of a website, which I regard as in violation of the guidance contained in chapter 3 as a minimum.
I broadly welcome the guidance contained in chapter 3, especially with regards to lead generation activities and I am strongly supportive of the guidance sections 3.3, 3.4 and 3.6b.

Advertising and other communications
All marketing, advertising and promotion and other oral or written representations should be clear, accurate and truthful and should not mislead, either expressly or by implication or omission.
This guidance applies to all forms of marketing, advertising and promotion across all media 
types. This includes online marketing such as paid for/sponsored listings and advertisements on 
internet search engines, contextual advertising (targeted advertisements based on the content of 
websites on which the adverts appear) and all marketing content on paid-for and non-paid-for 
online space including new media such as social networking websites, forums and blogs.

I disagree with the statement in the guidance or omission in relation to all forms of marketing, in particular paid for listings, contextual advertisements and non-paid for online space.

I agree that representations should be clear, accurate and truthful and should not mislead however I disagree with the statement in relation to omission because not all forms of accepted marketing permit a full explanation of all the positive and negative aspects of offered debt resolutions.

For example, the display of advertising messages, particularly in online media is in some instances severely limited to short messages or limited display of characters and it is unworkable to expect licensee holders to convey extensive information in all paid and non paid spaces. I do believe licensee holders can abide by the guidance to avoid misleading consumers by explicitly displaying the providence of their advertisement and or displayed message with a further link and/or citation of company details.

By this I refer to the common practise of displaying either a profile link, company website link, company name, terms, contact details of the licensee holder in the communication. 

3.12 Examples of unfair or improper business practices include....
...b. falsely claiming or implying that help and debt advice is provided on a free, impartial or independent basis, where the provider has a profit-seeking incentive

I disagree with the guidance in terms of its definition of help and debt advice and usage of the term free whereby a commercial debt resolution company and licensee holder publishes considerable volumes of debt information for consumers that is free to access, as in no purchase or indeed contract is necessary to consult the information and that this information can be of help to the consumer.

Furthermore, usage of online tools - that contain and display caveats of accuracy - which capture user information and compute debt scenarios and financial options are a valid form of marketing communication.

3.12 f. I agree with the guidance and am strongly supportive that the guidance applies to both the private commercial and creditor funded organisations (i.e charity), whereby particularly in the case of the fees for an IVA (Individual Voluntary Agreement) to be arranged and implemented, that the fees are clearly stipulated and explained how the organisation receives it's fees.

3.13 Licensees who advertise or sell online or by email must comply with the Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002. Before using internet based and social media  marketing, licensees should consider whether they can exercise adequate control over its content, whether it is an appropriate medium and whether the required information, warnings and caveats, can be included sufficiently prominently. The 
OFT considers that search engine sponsored links and online messaging forums which limit the number of characters are unlikely to be an appropriate means of providing consumers with sufficiently balanced 
and adequate information. 

I disagree with part of the statement above of 3.13. Exercising adequate control over its content. Marketing materials that are shared by consumers can rapidly gain a high number of advertising impacts when the sharing is viralized whereby the original producer of the content may no longer be able to exercise adequate control of it if the message is copied or modified by consumers.

I disagree with the guidance regarding whether it is an appropriate medium whereby social media marketing channels are an accepted mainstream form of communication. 
Recent information published by the Office for National Statistics, in the annual British Internet Habits shows that
  • in 2011, 57% of over-16s in the UK are using the internet for social networking, as opposed to 43% in 2010
  • Internet access from mobile devices is increasing substantially – 45% of UK adults accessing the Internet from mobile devices, up from 31% in 2010
  • 91% of 16-24 year olds use social media. Usage is high for the 25-34 year old (76%) and 35-44 year olds (58%)
I regard social media as a legitimate channel to communicate with users seeking information from debt management organisations.

With regards to the statement: and whether the required information, warnings and caveats, can be included sufficiently prominently I refer to my earlier statement that I agree debt management organisations can abide by the guidance to avoid misleading consumers by explicitly displaying the providence of their advertisement and/or displayed message with a further link and/or citation of company details. In the case of social media, this can be done typically via a biography or profile description, where a link to the company website can be clearly displayed.

With regards to providing consumers with sufficiently balanced and adequate information I believe social media channels can satisfy the need for balance and adequate information because the ability of the licensee holder to send a link in a short message, a tweet or an update to Facebook is possible.

I strongly agree with the guidance 3.14a and 3.14d

Whilst I agree with 3.14b however in exceptional circumstances whereby the licensee may still act in compliance with search engine guidelines to keyword bid in contextual advertising using another organisation's name, respecting trademark law, the licensee - without misleading the consumer - may require to do so. I would like to take this opportunity to stress that I believe it is inadvisable to keyword bid in contextual advertising with another organisations name as a routine matter.


The above consultation response was also sent by email to as agreed with OFT officer Aaron Berry of the Debt Management Team on September 5th.

The views expressed here are my personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of ClearDebt Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of ClearDebt Group plc.

Paul Gailey is supplying this guidance consultation reponse in his capacity as a contracted consultant to ClearDebt Ltd, a debt management company of qualified debt advisors and licensed insolvency practitioners for individuals in debt principally seeking an IVA (Individual Voluntary Arrangement) or a debt management plan.