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 Unroll.me I can also bundle you up with your cohorts, and one-click-unsubscribe from all of you.

Boom!

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: http://mmkt.in/searchlovers

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.

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.

RIP

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. http://www.oft.gov.uk/news-and-updates/press/2009/26-09

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, BBCdebts.com 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.

--ends

The above consultation response was also sent by email to dmguidance-consult@oft.gsi.gov.uk 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.

Don't know how to plan an Internet Marketing Strategy?

Yes you do.

But maybe not yet.

That's because the trouble with the internet, is you can never finish reading it.

If like me, you spend your working hours devising an internet marketing strategy for clients and executing it, then such a report from the likes of Econsultancy makes compelling reading.
This document - which is untypically free to download on Econsultancy - outlines some of the latest thinking, case studies and best practices in:
  • User experience
  • Customer experience management
  • Voice of the customer
  • Mobile app vs. mobile web
  • Mobile as the ‘glue’ connecting channels
  • Mobile commerce
  • Measuring the value of social media
  • Social CRM
  • Attribution management
  • Social for search engine optimization
  • Social commerce
  • Social media management
  • From bought media to earned media
  • From impression to expression
  • Enriched content: video, games, apps, metadata etc.
Note that all important etc. at the end - that's the sign of a infovore in EC1,  just like me.

We all learn by knowledge gained ultimately through sharing which is why so many fellow marketers welcome the opportunity to participate in social networks and mix professional with recreational updates.

I have a voracious appetite for information and an perhaps an increasing intolerance for those that don't. 

This manifests itself usually by about 2pm each day when the amount of tabs I simultaneously have open crush all the favicons together whereby they vanish.

On a good day this might not happen till 3pm.

But that really depends how define good. On a bad day this can happen as early as 11pm.

Swap good for bad or vice-versa.

When I say intolerance for those that don't, I refer to the infinite availability of information, yes and even insight that we have at our disposal.

So if you can't Google it successfully, you can ask someone you know, or someone they know, or someone who may know someone who may know...and so on.

And no I don't expect everyone to know everything of course, as I say the trouble with the internet is you can't ever finish it.

However when I hear a "I don't know" professionally uttered as a first reaction to a challenge, I wince just a little and I think a yes you can attitude is called for.

It's all out there, all the time awaiting your investigation and participation.

So next time you are faced with planning your internet marketing strategy don't say you don't know.

Please.

The reason Google+ is not yet available to Apps Users

First off, I don't have the answer. Maybe you do.

Familiar with this message?

If you are a Google Apps user and have tried to access Google Plus, or use the +1 button, that image will have haunted you a plenty.

There are great deal of benefits from being a Google Apps user. It's essentially like having Gmail acount and more but instead of @gmail.com having @mycompany.com

However for many months now, the gap has been widening between the Google services available to Gmail users versus Apps users.

The reason the new Google + and the +1 button is unavailable is because those services are dependant on creating a Google Profile and as Apps users and Admins know, Google Profiles are not yet available.

Coming soon?

There is a Google blog post from March 2011, that hinted the functionality would be enabled for Apps users 'soon'. Alas the comments steadily grow.

Since the launch of Google + and +1 button the clamour on other networks from Apps Users has been getting louder:

And the demand is only going to continue.

So why the delay?

The truth is no-one really knows or is not openly saying.

Here is a thread on Quora Why aren't Google Profiles available for Google Apps users? that hint at the extra challenges of Profiles for Apps users and some high profile bloggers have enquired why but don't shed light on the motive for the delay other than caution from Mountain View.

Too important to fail

So Google have a proud record of products that never really exited beta, technologies that we never quite liked (Sidewiki) or understood (Wave) or embraced (Buzz) and the tradition will long continue.

Except this time around, the revised efforts at cracking social for Google are possibly just too important to fail.

Generally speaking the reception to Google+ has been pretty positive and almost universally understood by those who have meddled with it. That bodes well for Google.

The invites window period was brief enough to recruit an enthusiastic army of testers that will implicitly supply enough feedback for Google and publicly appraise or berate the service so it can be refined.

Buzz me not

In contast when Buzz was launched it was quickly exposed at having shortcomings that despite being rectified, created a wave of antipathy against it and a provoked a legal and regulatory headache for Mountain View.

A Federal Trade Commission settlement and compliance for Google has now resulted in a comprehensive privacy program that will be audited for 20 years.

Basically dogfooding Buzz at Google was insufficient to detect the risk that manifested itself in the early public phase.

And this is where I can understand the cautious approach winning at Mountain View over the prevalent Silicon Valley tendency to fail fast and iterate.

Apps users are different

So Apps users are not a homogeneous bunch. From vanity domain personal users to small businesses upto major organisations, corporates with many thousand of users and multinationals, the only aspect that really unites them is not being an individual gmail user.

Not all Apps users pay, but those that do, pay because they earn, and if their earnings can be affected by Google mistakes in their adventures in social, then Google and the rest of the world will soon know about it.

Individual Gmail users engaging in lawsuits against Google because of an obscure loophole in their new social suite? I doubt it.

A corporate or an organisation doing the same with all the reputation consequences? Possibly.

Early adopter dogfooding

So only hours after the window of Google invites is now closed, we already see a frenzy of activity about Google+.

The critical acclaim has been generally good.

People seem to latch on how it works quickly, at least there is not the initial bemusement akin to the welcome of Wave, although bizarrely enough +1's don't display within Google+  as Search Engine Land observed.

More importantly, already there is a sufficient army of testers who can implicitly through their usage, and publically through their blogging and tweeting, supply enough feedback for Google to refine matters.

And refinements are sure to happen.

Already the Financial Times' observation about a privacy flaw have been amplified by the tech press and other issues about Google+ spam bots are gaining attention.

This early phase testing is a protective period for Google as much as it is for Apps organisations.

Because the risk of getting it wrong this time around or not quite getting it absolutely right for Google is just too high.

Ask any Google employee, their salary is now tied to the social success of Google.

The challenges of Profiles for Apps Users

The background to Profiles for Apps Users and other Google services was the legacy around the different infrastructures in place at Google. If you had a Google Profile before setup with an Apps email and now cannot access it, you may have been be one of those who Google has earmarked as having a conflicted account

You might be waiting and wondering what to do next. Wait for Apps to get Profiles and start +1 content out there on the web under that identity? Or succumb to opening a Gmail account to use Google+ instead?

And what happens when Apps Users finally get onboard? Will they have a Profile used in Gmail and another one with their Apps email just add to the confusion.

More importantly will there be some portability function to allow migration of account information between a Gmail and an Apps account including that all valuable digital footprint. What if I join company XYZ and then move on, can I haz my data?

The greater the delay between the launch of Profiles for Apps and now, the more socially messy things will become.

There are probably a lot more issues at stake for Profiles for Apps users. Preventing +1 abuse from same domains or IP ranges so to quash efforts to manipulate computing of SERPs? Surely that's on the agenda.

I'm sure there are more reasons, let me know.

Why do you think Apps Users cannot access Google+ or +1?

Receive Notification of Profiles for Apps
You can receive notice formally from Google once Profiles is launched for Apps users and thus know when your organisation can use Google+ via this official form: https://spreadsheets4.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?formkey=dEc2TjBVanQ4ckNVZGJsTHJYWjBTUWc6MQ&ifq