Facebook, Peter Andre and Me

Yeah, so… Facebook, blah… Privacy… blah… Zuckerberg… blah…

It’s all been said before in these past couple of weeks, and with much more attention to detail than I currently have time for. So I’ll get to the point…

My Facebook settings are as public as a “date” with George Michael. I run an online business, write all over the web and have a digital footprint the size of Peter Crouch’. I seriously lack the emotional energy to pay attention to the intricacies of ringfenced data settings. So I don’t. (Anyways, I was working in search before 2006 and can recall the AOL’ “whoops there go our search logs” debacle.) In truth, a checkbox is no guarantee to privacy.

One guy who does seem to care about his (Facebook) privacy it seems, is Peter Andre. Why would I know this? Well; because for some strange reason, Facebook keeps suggesting to me that we be friends.

Me and Pete!

I give you my solemn word that I have in no way doctored this image, save to remove details from my friends, who may have differing views to my own when it comes to their personal privacy.

I first saw this suggestion about ten days ago, and initially thought I was seeing an advert for Peter’s fan page (assuming he has one). However his charming face popped up again yesterday and this time I paid closer attention.

What Is Going On Here?

I had previously assumed that the “Suggestions” box on the right hand of one’s homepage, utilised a basic algorithm which would naturally include variables such as; number of friends in common, number of “interactions” with said common friends, and perhaps other elements of commonality such as University or Location.

As you can see, Peter and I have zero friends in common, which is a shame as from the one time I saw that Katie and Peter thing, he was doing a huge barbeque. (Oh..! maybe I “like” barbequeues. Quick check. Nope!)

So, I’m thinking that Peter must have some sort of totally public sponsored profile that I simply haven’t heard of, however when I click the link to visit Peter’s profile I’m told…

Peter Andre doesn't share

As we can see, Peter only shares certain information with everyone. (Really?) However if I “know” Peter, I can “add him as a friend on Facebook.”

Know Peter? Of course I don’t know Peter. I spend my life analysing search logs. What could we possibly have in common? (Apart from the BBQ thing…)

So what the feck is going on here? Have I missed some completely obvious major Facebook announcement about celebrity profiles or something? Has anyone else noticed any bizzarre or celebrity friend suggestions? Can anyone think of any reason why Facebook might be inferring commonality betwixt myself and the Andre?

It’s Insania!

Wetherspoon’s: A Social Media Lesson in Using “Offline Inventory”

On my way to work today I spotted this; and I thought it was worth sharing…

Wetherspoons Facebook ad on delivery trucks

A great example of making good use of your “offline inventory”, and integrating your available media types. The side of a dray van is a perfect rolling outdoor ad slot.

Now, I’m no snob; I’d take pork scratchings over sushi any day (ask @AndyBetts if you don’t believe me), but I haven’t set foot in a Wetherspoon pub for a good long while. What you can’t see,  just out of shot at the front of the van are the two magic words for any frequently-mobile business person.


Sold! To the lady with the pork scratchings!

I think this is a really smart move on a couple of levels. Firstly, not only does this really position the ‘convenience-as-selling-point’ angle, to a professional commuter who often finds herself with an hour or so to kill between meetings and journeys; but secondly by promoting a feature I would previously not have expected to be available in a Wetherspoons pub, I’m now wondering if they may have something more to say to me.

As a social media professional, I’m already doing an “F&F” on them (fanning and following), as I want to see more about how they are evolving the brand and communicating to potential and existing customers. If I wasn’t a social media professional, if I were a travelling sales exec, I’d probably be intrigued too.

I’d be interested to know if this is agency or an in-house team. Whomever; they certainly seem to be going about their social communications in the right way. On mooching around the site quickly, there’s a friendly tone-of-voice to the copy, all social media touch points are integrated both on-site (and off-site as we’ve seen), and on looking at the fan page the posts seem to be an interesting mix of brand communications, staff and general public – with a pretty decent dose of interaction.

Maybe J D Wetherspoon can teach Nestle a thing or two?

Wetherspoon on Facebook and Twitter

How To Launch With A PR5

I though’t I’d share a neat little idea with you.

I published this site a week or so ago and straight away it has a PR5 (on the homepage). Yeah, big deal… who obsesses about toolbar PR nowadays? Even if you’re not too concerned about such things, who’s going to punch a gift-horse in the face with such an easy win?

I’ll explain…

I bought this domain a year or so ago, and for want of time or inclination, decided to point it at my twitter URL http://twitter.com/nicholastott and let it fester there for a good long while.

Many of you may know that I tweet a lot. I use twitter to notify my followers as to content I’ve written and I also like to re-tweet great content from my followers. If my content is picked up and referenced people may drop an @mention to the above mentioned URL. I also drop my twitter URL everywhere I go online, like a big phat digital footprint. All of this means that over time and quite organically my twitter page has a TB PR of 5.

When I finally got around to launching this blog it appears to have carried with it the accrued value and trust from the twitter page it has thus far been pointed to.

Of course, with just a couple of handfuls of links and less than ten pages of content to date, I’m not too attached to the hope that I’ll retain that PR5, but in the meantime I’ll get around to making it work for me…

Toolbar PageRank 5

19th March 2010 PageRank

SEO Quake Toolbar PR of 5/10 as of March 19th 2010.

What Is (Search) Arbitrage?

It’s a question I get asked a lot. Normally on the quiet and in the bar, mind you.

Search arbitrage doesn’t have a great reputation and to be honest it’s also a pretty obsolete activity in what was the original form. Arbitrage is also a term that’s bandied around in certain circles in discussions about “spamming”, “gaming” and other such under-the-counter remedies.

Arbitrage, is quite simply a business model whereby profit is derived from the margin of difference between two very similar commodities. Trading currencies, derivatives and stocks being the most classic form.

To understand how that played out in the European paid search marketplace (yes before there was Google there was a marketplace *feins shock*) we need a bit of a history crammer….

Once upon a time in the UK, there was eSpotting and there was Overture (or Goto.com as it was at the time). Two paid search advertising marketplaces. One day, a very bright spark noticed that there was a healthy margin of difference between the keyword price of a term from one marketplace to another, and that by purchasing traffic from one source, then making an ad landing page that consisted of purely sponsored links for the other source, one could make a profit.

Time went by and there was a lot of movement in this sector as the incumbent pioneer’s experienced rapid growth and profit, and the web giants took note. Yahoo acquired Alltheweb and AltaVista to power their own search engine; then later Overture so they could own all of the profit from what was at that time a partnership (whereby Overture powered pay-per-click advertising on Yahoo! search).

Google: never ones to be left behind, saw that they were missing a trick with their AdWords CPM model and switched to the hugely successful pay-per-click model and got sued by Yahoo! for patent infringement. Yahoo! settled the 361 patent case out of court for a sum that (with the gift of hindsight, was so light) it was heavy enough to whack down the first nail in the Yahoo! search coffin.

If you’re still with me it’s around 2002 and there are now a number of credible paid search marketplaces for an arbitrageur to ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ between. With a growing trend for consumer search activity, and the big players to drive the volume; there was serious scale and serious money to be made.

This is How it Looked…

Bargain Hair Straighteners

Get brand name hair straighteners

Cheapest prices



On clicking (typically a Google) ad such as this, the user would then land up on a page of ads like this…

Arbitrage Landing Page

This would typically be a page of sponsored only listings, using an Overture feed.

The user, obviously a bit confused and possibly disorientated, would be highly likely to click a top- listing either to get to a destination site, or just to get away from that butt-ugly landing page.
So that was early days ‘vanilla’ arb. Still around in some places, hated by advertisers and users alike. Of course, those days are gone, and you would be hard pushed to find a traditional arbitrage site like this still around. Search engines responded to usability feedback and advertiser quality concerns in time, meaning the model shifted into two camps. Firstly; those who wanted to offer a blended search experience, quality traffic for advertisers and a sustainable business for themselves and secondly; the spammers. Let’s imagine what types of things the spammers could possibly have done first, (because it’s always more fun…)

Bad-Practise Arbitrage

1. Mismatched Arbitrage – Buying ads for “plant pots” and directing to listings for “0% APR Credit Card”

2. Broad Match Arbitrage – Buying cheaper terms, further away from the conversion process e.g. “borrow money” and driving to a landing page with “get instant loan online”.

3. Margin Spamming – Where a great margin of difference exists (usually fleetingly) between two similar or exact terms on both your buy and sell source, then load all of your budget on it.

4. Mis-labelling listings – Putting a “Web Results”  or similar heading on the landing page.

5. High PPC Recycling – showing position 1,2, 3 and then repeating, ad infinitum.

Of course if any such activity ever occured with any of the paid search giants, such activity would (I imagine) be met by loss of feed and relationship… permenantly.

On the other hand, reputable businesses, that understood the search marketplace and wanted to work a long-term strategy ensured the following types of behaviour.

Good Practise

1. Ads on highest quality purchase sources (Google and Bing)

2. Ads that would convey further analysis and comparison to the user, such as “compare leading online retailers for [keyword] at…”

3. Landing pages blend results, incorporating paid search, algo, price comparison, content feeds, polls, features, original editorial content etc

4. Any commercial listings clearly labelled as such.

In terms of operating in this sphere, nowadays it is extremely difficult. Margins between quality ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ (Google, Yahoo! and Bing) sources have eroded, and the kind of volume and data required to make this a successful operation mean entering this late in the game is extremely difficult. (I’ve known of people lose tens of thousands in a week.) Google penalises sites which they determine to offer little or no additional value to a user, including blended search arbitrage, price comparison arbitrage and general affiliate style websites, meaning participants can find themselves “Smart-priced” out of the market. Getting the required feeds can be difficult as the paid search partner networks do not want to risk the quality of their networks by taking on unknown sites and unknown business relationships, although there are a couple of trusted partner organisations that Yahoo! as an example use to distribute paid search feeds, whereby reputable long term partners such as Click.net refer and manage smaller site relationships as an intermediary.

So there you go… Controversial and almost extinct. Search arbitrage.

Why NicholaStott.com?

1. I quite like to write. In case you hadn’t noticed.

2. theMediaFlow blog is for clients and potential clients. People who would rather stick a fork in their eye than read about Microformats.

3. I have some stuff to say that might not quite fit the tone of some of my other blogging positions (which include the nothing short of fantastic www.seo-chicks.com and www.stateofsearch.com )

4. See 1.

That is all!