When you think about what brand is, it is a mental shorthand for a concept. It leads to increased recall, fatter sustained profit margins, and thus the ability to spend more on marketing. If Google is to put more weight on reviews and look at sentiment analysis then of course that will benefit the larger players who invested into establishing positive associations, even at a young age. The results of such branding efforts are quite powerful.
And even moreso if you don't use them for evil, Pepsi! :D
Affiliates Are Evil, Except When They Are Named Google
As Google is becoming the affiliate they are getting direct signals into what consumers like most & are able to serve them a personalized recommendation engine. New extended ad formats & using location data will allow Google to further drive down the organic results.
Would that be Google moving from pushing bits & people to pushing physical products?
In much the same way that Google has captured most of the revenue streams they will be able to with direct response ads, I think they realize that they will need to work better at managing property rights of big media & other publishers if they really want to drive brand advertising revenues. This will likely lead to a decline of the "anything goes" web.
From 'Anything Goes' to Respecting Property Rights
The whole reason Google was so liberal in their approach to supporting (and even funding) copyright violation it was so that they could weaken the positions of the companies that hold those rights, such that Google can eventually negotiate a deal with them. But the main thing holding back Google music is that based on Google's past performance the labels do not trust the idea of a digital music locker hosted by Google. After all, Google AdSense ads are what allow sites dedicated to downloading MP3s from Youtube to be monetized today.
Google offers promotional links on Youtube & knows how much money they are missing out on. Google's boondoggle of using public relations to paint a clean show publicly while using legal loopholes to circumvent the intent of the law was good for getting them into a strong market position, but if they want to have a leadership position in more big media markets they will need to get buy in from established players.
Google wants to get big into television ads. And that is going to mean having better respect for copyright. To some degree as we see the Google business model change we will see their approach of "paying anyone to steal anything & wrap it in Google ads" (to soften up copyright) change to a model where the put themselves as a gatekeeper on DRM content & push the "official" sources of the media (and try to make a cut of the profits). Already on Youtube if you view certain content from outside the United States they will tell you that it is unavailable in your area.
Part of such deals will ultimately rely on backroom payouts coupled with hard coded promotions. There will be a lot of collateral damage as entire categories become unprofitable for those who do not have direct access. I think we are seeing the organic search results take a page from the ad book: pay to play.
Google's old model of paying people to scrape content & wrap it in ads was leading to a market for lemons, where the top ranked piece of text might often be seen as relevant, but certainly wasn't useful.
This transition was driven by a watering down of online content through Gresham's theorem. Much like how the most fraudulent banks could afford to buy out less fraudulent ones, and how Chinese milk with melamine was cheaper than real milk sent real companies into bankruptcy, the search results were suffering from the age of scrape/mash/publish. Given the surrounding economic forces crushing newspapers, Google was making things worse than they needed to be.
Those who are creating original high-quality content have real business costs. Google paying scraper sites like Mahalo and Ask to borrow your content & wrap it in ads means that you are sometimes getting outranked for scraped duplications of your own content. That drives down publisher margins and pushes marginally profitable publishers into losing money, and eventually, bankruptcy.
Slowly but surely the search results will fill up with official hotel sites, official music sources, official video sources, official ebook sources, etc etc etc ... with Google putting a big foot on the gas & accepting whatever cut they can get. If they wanttoavoidregulatoryscrutiny they need to work with the official sources (which are every bit as politically connected as Google is).
As that shift happens the longtail spam model will lose out on its profitability because it will be forced to compete with higher quality content that is automatically mixed into the search results. (The whole point of universal search was to allow Google to short cut certain types of information right into the core search results...as they start making money from micro-payments and such look for that trend to accelerate).
Ultimately what has doomed most portals was that they were willing to produce second rate holder stuff that filled out a vertical and was 'good enough.' What makes Google so powerful with the stealth backdoor portal approach is that it allows them to mix 3rd party content without forcing them to either absorb the cost or create low quality backfill stuff on their own. As they have success with 1 partner that creates the narrative which brings other folks to the negotiation table.
One area that is ripe for ad innovations is books:
I’m genuinely glad to have Google enter this market because it will be reaching potential customers at a unique point in their book-buying journey: at the point of web search, not at the point of searching the bookstore. This means many things you didn’t realize a book can help you with—overcoming depression, remodeling a bathroom, making friends and influencing people—will now be surfaced alongside all the YouTube and other results Google will offer. This is a net plus for books.
But the ultimate effect of Google e-books, if Google knows what’s good for it, will be the creation of an ad-supported publishing model.
Now that books are digital & Google has rights to sell them, I would expect in the next year or 2 that Google starts to display them in the organic search results more aggressively. The free samples can be monetized via ads & upsells of the whole book. That endless stream of editorially vetted content could put a dent in the content farm business model.
Some businesses deserve it, however others have done nothing wrong other than being in front of an overly important individual. I am having trouble finding it right now, but a couple times people have threatened to smear my name and brand if I didn't give them a refund for some scammy crap they bought from someone else! They acknowledged that I wasn't associated with it, but they wanted their money back from someone & were willing to take it out of my brand if I wouldn't give it to them. And so I spoke French.
What Caused the Freetardation of the Web?
One time The Conumerist said they wouldn't link to our website because some other sites using infographics are spam, but then they ran our infographic (sans the attribution to the person who spend thousands of Dollars creating it and marketing it) and they got tons of awareness and exposure from our content. Sites like the Huffington Post do that sort of stuff all the time, and often become the canonical source for YOUR content.
Not only are there business models built on paying users to steal other's valuable content, stripping attribution & make it free (like Youtube), but the model is so acceptable online now that you can simply program bots to do it (see Ask or Mahalo).
Google claims to make copyright better online, but if you search on Google they will recommend looking for torrents, cracks, keygens, and serial numbers. A friend of mine even showed me a YouTube video which shared a DreamWeaver serial code in it. As a person who has bought their software 4 or 5 times now I think that is just awful!
The penny gap is a concept where by charging *anything* for what you do you have to make it exceptionally better than anything which is freely accessible. Free is such a powerful psychological motivator that people will do irrational things for free. Such moves are largely driven by the fear of loss. If you turn down free you potentially lose out on something, but if you accept it there is no risk (that you are aware of, anyway) since it is "free." Anything that is paid not only has the risk of you being wrong, but it also has the risk of fine print.
The fine print isn't the only reason people get screwed though. The people who do the screw jobs via fine print techniques often pay a lot for exposure. And since the web (as a network) is optimized for generating maximum revenues it means that the people who eventually find you will likely become distrusting by the time they do, as they will already have got conned by someone else who is great at sales, but nothing else!
That will only reinforce the penny gap
Profitably Publishing in a World Dominated by the Penny Gap
Since so many people chase free, a lot of publishing business models are built around tricking people to click ads rather than selling something. In some circles you are viewed as sleazy for having an affiliate link in your content even if you buy and use what you are promoting & spend hours writing in-depth reviews and tutorials. Many of the same folks who view any affiliate link as sleazy carpet bomb their own websites with AdSense ads. And lets not forget that AdSense even has an ad category for "get rich quick."
Further, with Google launching Boutiques.com, selling CPA product ads on their search results, offering comparison lead generation forms on their search results, and running the Google affiliate network it is safe to say that Google is easily one of the top 5 affiliates in the world. If being an affiliate is so sleazy (and tricking people into ad clicks is somehow any better) then why is Google such a big affiliate & why do so many of their AdSense ads carry links promoting affiliate offers?
do biased reviews of hyped junk that rip people off
encourage negative reviews and extort businesses (illegal, and the model of some sites like RipOffReport)
honestly review and promote the best products and services available and monetize some of those efforts with affiliate links (I include networks like OpenTable in this category)
add enough value yourself that you can offer a product or service for sale
Anyone can easily do the first 3 models, but the last 2 are more challenging. The 4th one is hard because its easier to convince naive people to buy products that are built around the sales letters than it is to convince people to buy things where the sales letter was built around the product.
The tricky part with the last category...actually adding enough value to be able to charge...is that it is far harder than most people realize. The minute you publish anything publicly there are forces pushing to commoditize it (most open source software is a remake of an existing paid software solution rather than an entirely new category unto itself). Also, if someone buys something from you and gets a great return they may not want to mention it to others precisely because they rely so heavily on you and they are getting such great returns from your product or service. And even if you sell physical products, Google selling CPA ads to the likes of Wal-Mart can still drive you under unless you turn it from a product into a service (like Zappos has done).
Aggressive Sales Techniques Yield Bad Customers
If you are aggressive in your sales tactics you get customers you do not even want. The guy who created the Product Launch Formula stuff highlighted how he saw 30% refund rates on it. If you are not aggressive in your sales tactics then you will find affiliates tend to promote the stuff that is more aggressive, typically optimizing for yield rather than promoting what is best. That is how self-interested economics works.
Why You Should Give Something Away
The way to get around with having to compete with that sort of stuff is to rely on a freemium model.
In spite of the negative impacts of freetards, giving something away is almost a requirement of online marketing today in many competitive markets, particularly if you do not want to scam people & you are not sitting on an established brand and a mountain of cash.
You give some stuff away and set up a sales funnel, while hoping to eventually sell something else. This, in turn, is the tricky part. As soon as you set up *any* barriers you will get tons of complaints. If you optimize for minimizing complaints you would have to stop selling anything and just get a job working at Wal-Mart being paid just enough to live on (after you add in your food stamp income).
What Are You Optimizing?
Support is *not* free. Especially after you become popular and the value of your time increases. If people are too lazy to read the instructions or are too incompetent to follow directions they need to eat that. If you try to 'help' them they will not only eat your time, but also make your employees want to quit:
In talking with other plugin developers, it seems fairly universal that the reward for a successful plugin is a deluge of support email that includes the worst kind of sense of entitlement, rudeness and ignorance. The community as a whole seems to expect to be able to pay nothing, yet received expert and individual help and support for free.
One of my goals with WordPress HelpCenter was to try to affect change in this area. My belief was that we could work with plugin developers to have them send support requests to WPHC, have WPHC provide commercial support services, and give a revenue stream back to the plugin developers. While WPHC has been successful overall, it has utterly failed in this effort. What we found was that regardless of the actual issue, users experiencing trouble with a plugin blame the plugin. They assume it’s a coding problem (even though it isn’t in most cases), expect free support and are so rude that we’ve lost people from our team as a result
I would say anyone who pays you nothing and then steals your time *AND* your employees is the exact opposite of a customer: a freetard!
To clarify, all people who use your free stuff are not freetards, but the people who use it incompetently then curse at you and demand phone support and such certainly are freetards.
Ultimately you are not optimizing for the 99% of people who come across your website and never spend a Dollar. You are instead optimizing for the people who are considering purchasing. This gives you a diametric view of the market, where the same content receives a wide range of responses, which range from...
... right on through to ...
If you optimize to make that first person happy it means you lack internal respect and are throwing away over half of your income, because the second person won't have a sales funnel to build trust in you.
You can put an unsubscribe link in every email (we do), allow people to opt into the auto-responder or choose not to (we do), but you can't stop a person from taking steroids and/or missing their medication. A marketer who sets up a free email subscription on a site about marketing and then is angry about receiving free marketing tips is a complete idiot.
When people are polite (like the second example) I respond right back and try to help them as best I can. When someone acts like a steroid addicted enraged freetard who missed this morning's medications (like the first message, from K. Boostrom) I either ignore them or tell them to screw off. I usually ignore them, but when they provide curse words AND threats then they typically get a response. ;)
What constructive advice can you glean from
Because media and many software products have no cost to consumers people think that everything online (except whatever they sell) should be free. Not only should products be free, but so should services. Look at this lovely email from France
Note that it starts off with the obligatory insult, then complains about all the free stuff we offer AND the free content we give away. They then suggest I should SPEND my time and my money to give them a free consult. He also wants me to schedule my life around him being half-way around the world. The flip side of that is I have received numerous 3am wake up calls from people who looked up my phone number from our whois and decided I would like to have a chat about how incompetent they are.
I wish I could tell you that the above was a remarkable outlier, but sadly, such interactions are becoming more common. Hence using private registration.
The web is a great economic force. It makes information more accessible and for free. Many millionaires and billion Dollar companies are built on free open source software. But the reason open source software is free is that there are other means of monetization:
support is not free and/or
the site is a PageRank funnel to another monetized website (see Wikipedia/Wikia & Wordpress.org/Wordpress.com/Foodpress) and/or
the software builds network effects and/or awareness that builds stature, which can be monetized in other ways
the software acts as a recruitment tool to attract employees
etc etc etc
Help Wanted: Millionaire Seeking Free SEO Consultant
Some people might say that "well the freetards are just staring out, so you need to give them the benefit of the doubt." And part of why we offer so much for free is that I do remember where I came from and we do try to help people out. A lot!
But some of the freetards are anything but poor. Case in point:
Freetard vs Customer
How does Wordnet define a client?
a person who seeks the advice of a lawyer
customer: someone who pays for goods or services
Prospective customers can make absurd claims and announce desires that will clearly lose you money but they are NOT your customer until they pay you. And even then, if they are abusive you have the right to terminate the relationship.
Freetards ACT like they have paid you and want the benefits of your services without paying a cent.
In the years to come these trends mentioned above will only accelerate. And that means that you have to make a choice on who you want to work for and what you want your work life to be like. You can choose your customers or let them choose you. But part of the process needs to be filtering what you don't want, lest you end up with freetards threatening to give your paying customers a beat down.
I already mentioned this to our subscribers & affiliates, but we are pausing the ability to subscribe to our membership site so we can perform upgrades.
We want to update Drupal, launch the new site design, and switch out the membership management software from what has become sorta big and hairy to a platform that is pre-packaged & thus more manageable. Doing this will allow us to accept payments on-site, offer a couple different tiers of access, allow me to segment some aspects of customer support to make some of the account management stuff easier to do by staff.
The end goal of this upgrade is to make the site look more modern & cohesive, and make it so we are spending more of our resources on creating new content & tools and less on management of the underlying software & such.
When we shifted to a membership site a couple years ago I didn't appreciate the level of success it would achieve & I didn't realize how some of the smaller bugs would become larger issues as our site grew. Most of those bugs have been fixed, but there are still a few ghosts & we are sorta limited by spending resources on re-creating the wheel, rather than buying wheels & then layering more value on top. :)
I still intend to be involved in the site daily, but for my health (and sanity) it really makes sense to leverage division of labor on some of the administrative stuff, rather than burning myself out trying to manage every aspect of everything. Our employees are great & now we just need to implement systems that help them be greater(er). :D
We are aiming to open back up sometime in mid-January. The blog and site will still continue, but given the number of databases the site currently has & how it syncs up with Paypal it is likely best for us to close off new subscriptions while we are changing stuff around.
We could try switching stuff while keeping everything active, but the big issue there is if any weird anomalies happen then that is probably more stress than I would care to deal with. I love the site & I want to keep it that way (vs pull my hair out due to putting too much stress on myself). :D
If you want to be notified when we re-open please comment on this post & we will email everyone who commented once we have relaunched under the new system & tested everything out. :)
Hope the holidays go well for you & more to come when we make some significant progress with these changes.
[When] we roll[ed] out Google Finance, we did put the Google link first. It seems only fair right, we do all the work for the search page and all these other things, so we do put it first... That has actually been our policy, since then, because of Finance. So for Google Maps again, it's the first link. - Marissa Mayer
If they gain certain privileges in the marketplace by claiming to not abuse their power and that their algorithmic results are neutral, but those algorithmic results may be pushed below the fold, then is it "only fair" for them to put themselves in a default market leading position in any category they feel they can make money from by selling ads in? Or is that an abuse of power?
Google's US ad revenue is roughly 15 billion & the size of the US Yellow Pages market is roughly 14 billion. Most of that money is still in print, but that shift is only accelerating with Google's push into local.
Further, cell phones are location aware, can incorporate locationinto search suggest, and on the last quarterly conference call Google's Jonathan Rosenberg highlighted that mobile ads were already a billion Dollar market for Google.
Google has been working on localization for years, and as a top priority. When asked "Anything you’ve focused on more recently than freshness?" Amit Singal stated:
Localization. We were not local enough in multiple countries, especially in countries where there are multiple languages or in countries whose language is the same as the majority country.
So in Austria, where they speak German, they were getting many more German results because the German Web is bigger, the German linkage is bigger. Or in the U.K., they were getting American results, or in India or New Zealand. So we built a team around it and we have made great strides in localization. And we have had a lot of success internationally.
Some of the localized results not only appear for things like Chicago pizza but also for single word searches in some cases, like pizza or flowers.
Promoting local businesses via the new formats has many strategic business benefits for Google
assuming they track user interactions, then eventually the relevancy is better for the end users
allows local businesses to begin to see more value from search, so they are more likely to invest into a search strategy
creates a direct relationship with business owners which can later be leveraged (in the past Google has marketed AdWords coupons to Google Analytics users)
if a nationwide brand can't dominate everywhere just because they are the brand, it means that they will have to pony up on the AdWords front if they want to keep 100% exposure
if Google manages to put more diversity into the local results then they can put more weight on domain authority on the global results (for instance, they have: looked at query chains, recommended brands in the search results, shown many results from the lead brand on a branded search query, listed the official site for searches for a brand + a location where that brand has no office, etc.)
it puts eye candy in the right rail that can make searchers more inclined to look over there
it puts in place an infrastructure which can be used in other markets outside of local
Data Data Data
Off the start it is hard to know what to make of this unless one draws historical parallels. At first one might be inclined to say the yellow page directories are screwed, but the transition could be a bit more subtle. The important thing to remember is that now that the results are in place, Google can test and collect data.
There are 2 strong ways to build a competitive advantage on the data front:
make your data better
starve competing business models to make them worse
Off the start yellow page sites might get a fair shake, but ultimately the direction they are headed in is being increasingly squeezed. In a mobile connected world with Google owning 97% search marketshare, while offering localized search auto-complete, ads that map to physical locations, and creating a mobile coupon offers network, the yellow page companies are a man without a country. Or perhaps a country without a plot of land. ;)
Last December I cringed when I read David Swanson, the CEO of R.H. Donnelley, state: "People relate to us as a product company -- the yellow-pages -- but we don't get paid by people who use the yellow-pages, we get paid by small businesses for helping them create ad messages, build websites, and show up in search engine results. ... Most of the time today, you are not even realizing that you are interacting with us."
How does a business maximize yield? Externalize costs & internalize profits. Pretty straightforward. To do this effectively, Google wants to cut out as many middle men out of the game as possible. This means Google might decide to feed off your data while driving no traffic to your business, but rather driving you into bankruptcy.
Ultimately, what is being commoditized? Labor. More specifically:
the affiliate who took the risk to connect keywords and products
the labor that went into collecting & verifying local data
the labor that went into creating the editorial content on the web graph and the links which search engines rely on as their backbone.
the labor that went into manually creating local AdWords accounts, tracking their results, & optimizing them (which Google tracks & uses as the basis for their automated campaigns)
the labor that went into structuring content with the likes of micro-formats
the labor that went into policing and formatting user reviews
many other pieces of labor that the above labor ties into
Of course Google squirms out of any complaints by highlighting the seedy ends of the market and/or by highlighting how they only use such data "in aggregate" ... but if you are the one losing your job & having your labor used against you, "the aggregate" still blows as an excuse.
But if Google drives a business they are relying on into bankruptcy, won't that make their own search results worse?
For 2 big reasons:
you are only judged on your *relative* performance against existing competitors
after Google drives some other players out of the marketplace and/or makes their data sets less complete, the end result is Google having the direct relationships with the advertisers and the most complete data set
The reason many Google changes come with limited monetization off the start is so that people won't question their motives.
Basically I think they look at it this way: "We don't care if we kill off a signal of relevancy because we will always be able to create more. If we poison the well for everyone else while giving ourselves a unique competitive advantage it is a double win. It is just like the murky gray area book deal which makes start up innovation prohibitively expensive while locking in a lasting competitive advantage for Google."
You would never hear Google state that sort of stuff publicly, but when you look at their private internal slides you see those sorts of thoughts are part of their strategy.
What is Spam?
The real Google guidelines should read something like this:
After typing a query, the search engine user sees a result page. You can think of the results on the result page as a list. Sometimes, the best results for "queries that ask for a list" are the best individual examples from that list. The page of search results itself is a nice list for the user.
...But This is Only Local...
After reading the above some SEOs might have a sigh of relief thinking "well at least this is only local."
To me that mindset is folly though.
Think back to the unveiling of Universal search. At first it was a limited beta test with some news sites, then Google bought Youtube, and then the search landscape changed...everyone wanted videos and all the other stuff all the time. :D
Anyone who thinks this rich content SERP which promotes Google is only about local is going to be sorely disappointed as it moves to:
travel search (Google doesn't need to sell airline tickets so long as they can show you who is cheapest & then book you on a high margin hotel)
any form of paid media (ebooks, music, magazines, newspapers, videos, anything taking micro-payments)
large lead generation markets (like insurance, mortgage, credit cards, .edu)
perhaps eventually even markets like live ticketing for events
Google does query classification and can shape search traffic in ways that most people do not understand. If enough publishers provide the same sorts of data and use the same types of tags, they are creating new sets of navigation for Google to offer end users.
No need to navigate through a publisher's website until *after* you have passed the click toll booth.
Try #3 at Reviews
Google SearchWiki failed in large part because it confused users. Google launched SideWiki about a year ago, but my guess is it isn't fairing much better. When SideWiki launched Danny Sullivan wrote:
Sidewiki feels like another swing at something Google seems to desperately desires — a community of experts offering high quality comments. Google says that’s something that its cofounders Larry Page and Sergey Brin wanted more than a system for ranking web pages. They really wanted a system to annotate pages across the web.
The only way they are going to get that critical mass is by putting that stuff right in the search results. It starts with local (& scrape + mash in other areas like ecommerce), but you know what they want & they are nothing if not determined to get what they want! ;)
Ultimately it is webmasters, web designers & web developers who market and promote search engines. If at some point it becomes consensus that Google is capturing more value than they create, or that perhaps Google search results have too much miscellaneous junk in them, they could push a lot more searchers over to search services which are more minimalistic + publisher friendly. Blekko launches Monday, and their approach to search is much like Google's early approach was. :)
I must confess to being a junky for reading economics and investing sites. A person can't beat the market for a long period of time without having some skills, and so the level of discourse you find on top investing blogs blows other areas out of the water. And sometimes the comments are more quote-worthy and insightful than the blog posts. For instance, "The organisation of society is for one purpose only, to separate as much labor-value from the majority as is possible."
Cynical? Or Realistic?
Some people might look at the above quote and say "well that is cynical" but the truth of a debt based money system means that many people MUST fall behind and be impoverished by debt. How else do you explain most people having nothing saved for retirement going into our jobless recovery, while their children get to eat nearly 6 figures of debt just for being born?
It is fraudulent, but it is how "the system" is set up, and until enough people get outraged by it, it will continue:
That chart of diminishing returns is the window to understanding why humankind is trapped in a central banker debt backed money box. No money for NASA manned space flight - NASA's total budget a puny $18 billion in comparison to the $1.9 Trillion that went to service the bankers last year. One half the schools closing in Kansas City, states whose debts and budget deficits seem insurmountable all pale in comparison to how much money went to service the use of our own money system.
It doesn't have to be like that, in fact it's a ridiculous notion that the people of the United States, or any country, should pay private individuals for the use of their money system. Ridiculous!
It's difficult to see this from inside the box, so let's look at what happened to Iceland to illustrate. The central banks of the world created financial engineered products and brought them to the banks of Iceland. These products created a boom in the amount of credit. Prices of everything rose, and the people of Iceland then had no choice but to go along for the bubble ride. Then with incomes no longer able to service the bubble debt, the bubble collapsed.
To "save the day," the IMF and central bankers around the world rushed in to "rescue" the people, banks, and government of Iceland. They did this by offering loans... documents that create money simply by signing a contract of debt servitude. That contract demanded ownership of Iceland's infrastructure such as their geothermal electrical generating plants. It also demanded the future productivity of the people of Iceland in that they should work and pay high taxes for decades to pay back this "debt." Debt that they did not create or agree to service in the first place!
There were some wise people who saw through this central banker game and started a movement. They DEMANDED that the President of Iceland put the debt servitude to a vote and the people wisely said, "Central Bankers Pound Sand!"
"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered. The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs" - Thomas Jefferson
Some people thought the current US president would be different than the most recent president. It is the populist angle he based his campaign on. But promptly after entering office he got on his knees for the banking class. "And the banks -- hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created -- are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place." - Dick Durbin.
The don't worry, trust us angle doesn't hold water when the mathematical realities of failure hit us all. "Nontransparency in government programs is always associated with corruption in other countries, so I don't see why it wouldn't be here" - Gerald O'Driscoll, former vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
Until the bankers who looted Trillions of Dollars via mortgage fraud see jail time I don't think there is any hope for change. The system is rotten to the core, from the top down.
Moral Hazard in Context
Normally we make laws to prevent such corruption: "In the early years of the London insurance market, it was possible to buy a life insurance policy on a complete stranger. Then insurance companies noticed the high incidence of unexpected homicides among their lives assured, and the concept of insurable interest was devised, codified by the Life Assurance Act of 1774. Today, you can’t buy a life insurance policy unless you can demonstrate some loss by the assured party’s death. The business is safer that way!"
In paying banksters for losing money & relaxing accounting standards (so they can claim false profits while losing money), they are only encouraged to commit more fraud. It's moral hazard writ large.
Stolen vs Earned
Give anyone a trillion Dollars to play the market, backstop the losses on the losing half and let them keep the profits on the winning trades and they will make billions. It's so easy a monkey could do it. And yet it is considered a legitimate trade for bankers to do just that.
Most of these large financial companies are entirely parasitic in their nature, providing society with no real or lasting value - stealing whatever they earn while creating economic distortions that harmfully misallocate capital. Whatever scam they can use to steal your retirement will be deployed: "Quite bluntly, the clueless dolts who allowed [high frequency trading] to occur need to be publicly excoriated, fired from their job as exchange officials, and driven out of town on a rail. Oh, and, all the gains from this organized theft should be clawed back from all the front-running firms that stole this money — THAT’S RIGHT, ITS THEFT — one quarter cent at a time. - Barry Ritholtz"
The web shifts the flows of information and finance. The above mention folks in positions of authority don't like that much.
"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." - George Orwell
Popularity is the inequality in supply and demand, equalized by price. The web allows for a direct connection between content creators and their audiences with little to no intermediation:
This isn’t complicated. In today’s wired world, the most important economic competition is no longer between countries or companies. The most important economic competition is actually between you and your own imagination. Because what your kids imagine, they can now act on farther, faster, cheaper than ever before — as individuals. Today, just about everything is becoming a commodity, except imagination, except the ability to spark new ideas.
I am still behind on a couple major writing projects, but one of the writing projects that was hardest for me was trying to write something for Seth Godin's new project - What Matters Now. A killer PDF full of ideas from some of the leading thinkers in technology*
*and me ;)
When I got started online I ended up having to get a job because I had plenty of debt and no experience. But I learned somewhat quickly, and had a habit of taking pictures of things that I thought were interesting. After reading Andrew Goodman's guide to AdWords I saw he referenced Seth Godin, and so I devoured almost every (marketing) book Seth had published to that point and noticed there was the ability to buy a bunch (20?) of his Purple Cow book as an admission fee to see him speak live at his office.
I did the bulk purchase. So late after work one night I drove most of the way to Seth's place and slept in my car at a rest station about 20 miles from his business. When I woke up in the morning I went to his office a bit early, finished reading another book while anxiously sitting there, and then finally everyone showed up. His enthusiasm was great. And he taught just how much marketing is becoming art.
But what he did (that really made my day) was he grabbed a bunch of products that he thought were great examples of marketing and put them on a table. One of them was a Yorkie candy bar. I had just took a picture of one of those on my camera, and somehow when I saw that on Seth's table it made me think that maybe I knew what was going on. It was like some sort of validation or test. Like scoring an A on a pop quiz. That and reading his books really made a lot of things just click on the marketing front.
That night there was also a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert back up near where I lived (silly that I had money for concert tickets when I was broke...but I think I needed inspiration more than anything back then), so I had a long drive ahead of me...but on the ride to the concert I think I was far more excited about feeling like the web and marketing were falling into place than about going to see the great live music.
I was on salary and my boss viewed extra hours from me as free labor. And I was trying to learn online stuff while working about 70 hours a week at my job. It was going to Seth's office that helped give me the confidence to put in my notice that I was going to quit my job to play on the web. I did it way before I had enough cashflow to do so, but it worked out ok in the end :D
6 years later, to have seen Seth speak at Elite Retreat this year was great because it was a reminder how far I had come since I first started out. And to have him ask me to contribute to his new project was totally killer, and a bit humbling. It was so hard to write though because of the awe factor. It was too hard to condense SEO into 200 words, and then when you think of similar topics how can you write on hyperlinks when you see David Weinberger wrote a killer entry on that front. So I had to think long and hard about what to write about...and finally decided that the best thing to write about would be how you don't have to be perfect to get started online. I certainly was not, and still have a long way to go. ;)
One of Google's leading marketing secrets is to appeal to power users. When describing how they designed Gmail, Google's Todd Jackson stated:
We started with the early-adopter crowd. That was on purpose. We wanted to build a product for people who were getting hundreds of e-mails a day, because we believe by focusing on the power user, you're designing the product the rest of the market will want in a couple years when everyone's usage habits catch up to the most active users. We pay most attention to seven-day active users (those who use Gmail at least once every seven days) and usage--the amount of actual engagement with the product. Something that Larry and Sergey (Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google's co-founders) are always, always telling us is to focus on usage rather than users. That's what matters more. You get better feedback and you are properly kept more on the leading edge if you're focusing on the people who are using the product all the time, using the product all day, than just the casual users.
This is why marketing to developers and designers is so important...they use the web more, and the stamp they leave on it is much deeper than the average user. But they also tend to be sensitive to marketing messaging, especially when it becomes a bit hypocritical.
Eric Schmidt On YOUR Privacy With Google
Recently in an interview Eric Schmidt made the awesome statement "Judgment is important ... If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."
"Everyone knows that every site you visit and all address bar searches in Chrome go to Google, right?" - Christopher Blizzard
Why did Google create an operating system? So they can spy on you. Why does Google care about speed so much that they created a DNS service? It was a convenient excuse to use...so they can spy on you. Why is Google launching their own cell phone? So they can spy on you.
Mozilla makes most of its money from their search syndication partnership with Google, and yet Mozilla's Asa Dotzler wrote about how to switch your search provider to Bing. Explaining why he favors Bing, he wrote:
For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that -- either now or in the uncertain future -- patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.
The following comment also reveals how this sort of tracking + philosophy on privacy can go astray
Why does Eric Schmidt dismiss your privacy?
Exploiting User Flaws for Maximum Profit Potential
Even better, the device knows who I am, what I like, and what I have already read. ...
Some of these stories are part of a monthly subscription package. Some, where the free preview sucks me in, cost a few pennies billed to my account. Others are available at no charge, paid for by advertising. But these ads are not static pitches for products I'd never use. Like the news I am reading, the ads are tailored just for me. Advertisers are willing to shell out a lot of money for this targeting.
In a world where democracy is getting more participatory, it's very important that people are informed over a neutral medium so they can connect to whoever they want. Another issue that is very important is snooping. I don't want any snooping on my Internet traffic.
You can do things to ensure that my Internet runs smoothly, but when I am doing something which is perhaps very intimate: when someone looks up something to see if they have cancer, or a teenager wonders if they are homosexual or not and wants to go online to find answers, this should be private. So systems that monitor every click and build a profile of me are very damaging.
The things we do on the Internet are so intimate that they are much more valuable to others and damaging to me than having a permanent TV camera in my living room. I don't want my health premiums to go up if I look up health information; I don't want to be a suspected terrorist if I do research on chemicals, I don't want to get leaflets from gay rights groups if I look up something on sexuality.
At least we know why Eric Schmidt says "Advertisers are willing to shell out a lot of money for this targeting" and why he thinks you don't need to worry about it.
But maybe Mr. Schmidt is right. Lets look at how Google operates...
With Nearly Unlimited Privacy & Secrecy
What happens when Google gets search personalization or search suggestion wrong and your spouse wants to divorce you because of a Google error? Judgment is important, after all. Well Google wouldn't make such errors, they are perfect. Or are they?
Google's Data Privacy Strategy is a Leaky Boat
Google wants you to trust them enough to store your data with them in the cloud. Eric Schmidt said that the cloud was their most important focus in 2010. Well what happens when your internal data is exposed publicly due to a Google bug? Couldn't happen? Well guess again and again.
Is Eric Schmidt suggesting that businesses simply shouldn't consider using Google Apps because Google has a track record of not caring about user privacy & being sloppy with private data? How should we judge Google based on their current business practices? Judgment is important.
Google Promotes Lambasting Content
A few weeks back while watching CNBC I remember seeing reporters mention that if you want customer service from airlines that you should complain on Twitter. Google has since integrated such messages directly in their search results. So now any bad customer experience (or envious competitor) becomes part of your brand. And you can't make money while making everyone happy. As the web gets more competitive the markets will only get nastier, where more people try to cash in on established brands.
In fact, running AdWords ads asking if (or exclaiming that ) product or service x is a scam is one of the most popular AdWords affiliate strategies. Google doesn't let brand advertisers opt out of such messaging on their brands, and if you don't buy your brand they will be glad to sell that ad slot to someone else.
How should we judge Google based on their current business practices? Judgment is important.
Google Uses Limited Ad Disclosure
Google has frequently talked up the importance of publishers disclosing ads. And yet in some cases Google removed the "Ads by Google" notification with a little "I" button that you have to scroll over to see that it is an ad.
INT [interviewer]: “Why do the results on top have a yellow background, did you notice?”
TP [tester]: “I didn’t notice this.”
INT: “What does it mean?”
TP: “It definitely means they’re the most relevant.”
Google did not use this feedback to beef up their clearly confusing disclosure...they stuck with what was working well for them.
How should we judge Google based on their current business practices? Judgment is important.
Google Funds Manual Information Pollution
I was looking through some of the suggested article titles for some of the garbitrage websites, and came across gems like "Miley Cyrus Did What? Celebs who Make Bad Decisions and How to Teach our Kids Right"
Could that title be any more leading? And Google is funding that sort of garbage - right now.
How should we judge Google based on their current business practices? Judgment is important.
Google Funds Automated Information Pollution
And there are sites with automated content generation built around arbitraging brands. A few months ago I saw the following automated crap ranking for some of our branded keywords...trying to arbitrage our brand & associate it with foreclosure scams
And that was not a 1 off article...Google is paying to have 10,000's of such gems created, and is indexing them with glee
What does it say about the Google brand that their ads support this automated generation of trash? What message does that send to online consumers and business owners? How should we judge Google based on their current business practices? Judgment is important.
Google's Enjoyment of Privacy (aka Black Box Pricing)
Are you a Google cell phone partner who built a phone on Google's Android OS? If so, did they tell you that they were going to thank you for the cross marketing by creating a competing product? I doubt it.
Are you a Google partner who syndicates their ads? Want to know what percent of the click price you are earning? Screw you, you can't. Go eat crow.
And in the markets where Google is dominant they not only pass arbitrary judgment without care, concern, or explanation...but they also use their market position to exert monopoly pricing powers. They frequently state that the market sets the prices on the ads, but for one of our sites we did some brand ads on informational searches where there are no competing sites buying AdWords ads.
Our ad is so relevant that even the broad matched version of the ad is pulling in a 12%+ clickthrough rate (with phrase match more than doubling that clickthrough rate). Searchers love our ad and website. But if we bid less than a nickel Google won't even display the ad (in spite of the high relevancy and complete lack of competition in the marketplace).
And yet you often hear Google talk about the power of democratic marketplaces. Something they clearly don't believe in. What message does that send to business owners? How should we judge Google based on their current business practices? Judgment is important.
What is YOUR Judgment on Google?
Anytime you see Google do something stupid make sure you blog about how stupid Google is, and compare their errors to what sort of results are available on Microsoft Bing. Feel free to leave your examples in the comments AND blog them. I'll share one of my favorite examples from today, showing me New York hotels near San Francisco :D
I still use a lot of Google products and write the above knowing that they have been pretty good to me, but seeing nonsensical garbage absolutist statements from the top of their company scares me.