Author Archives: Richard Falconer

About Richard Falconer

Among other things, Richard Falconer is a digital marketer. His wages are mainly paid by LBi. Opinions on this site are not necessarily those of LBi.

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Something for France to really get angry about

French Dudes

Google has threatened to block French media sites from its search results, should the French government start to charge it to refer traffic to other sites which is what is being considered.

The French have always been a bit eccentric. A colleague of mine described this search tax as being “…like the guy who invented the abacus seeking damages from IBM.”

However, should the French really want to get upset with Google, here’s something for them (and every other country in the world) to think about:

Imagine a French media site decides it wants to allow users in France to see its content but wants to block users in the US. That’s fine, there’s nothing stopping them from doing that. However, if they want to also appear in Google search results, that becomes a problem.

Why so?

This is because Google generally crawls from the US. Block users with a US IP address and you’ve effectively blocked Googlebot from crawling your content.

But can’t I just make an exception for Googlebot? Maybe whitelist its IP addresses or detect its user-agent?

Nope. Google’s guidelines state that you should always show Googlebot the same as you would show a user from the same area. In this case, and indeed practically all cases, this means allowing US users to view your content.

Q: Can I block individual countries from accessing my content? 
A: Yes, however you must treat Googlebot the same as a normal user from that region. If you are blocking users in the country where Googlebot is crawling from, you must block Googlebot as well; treating Googlebot differently would be considered cloaking, a violation of our Webmaster Guidelines.

This is one reason you don’t see BBC iPlayer videos in Google’s search results. iPlayer doesn’t have a single video recognised by Google but Google shows plenty of its own YouTube videos in results for BBC show queries.

dragons den on iplayer as seen by googlebotThis is not only a problem for disadvantaged media companies outside the US but for Google who claim to only want to provide the best, most relevant results for users. Ignoring local sites as large and relevant as BBC iPlayer for terms such as as “top gear videos” on Google UK, leaves Google’s commitment to the best quality results open to question.

Google is still in antitrust talks with the European Commission and whilst I suspect this sort of thing isn’t part of any deal being brokered, I think it really should be. Perhaps the French should bring it up…

Crooked Tongues – a site that gets it!

Crooked Tongues

Crooked Tongues Screenshot

Online marketing can be a frustrating business.  It’s difficult for big companies to be passionate enough about their product to actually sell it well.  When you find a site that really does and you know it’s got a big future.

I was talking trainers the other day and was recommended Crooked Tongues. I’ve spent a bit of time (not to mention cash) on the site now and although there are some pretty basic SEO problems that haven’t been taken care of  it doesn’t really matter. This site is built around the product – trainers.  Selling them almost feels like a necessary afterthought but undoubtedly they must be selling tonnes.

So, where are they getting it right?

So many places but it basically boils down to giving a shit about the stuff they sell.  They are talking trainers on the site, not just making conversions.  Take a look at the top level navigation.  It’s not category pages; mens, womens, kids etc. Instead the top priority is given to news, editorial, on show, forum etc. with a single link to the ecommerce store.  This goes against the grain of what almost every other site is doing.

Crooked Tongues is exactly the sort of site that Matt Cutts has said should do well in search results and it appears to be doing just that.  Their budget must be small compared to the big online sports retailers but they do pretty well in the few searches I made.  It has plenty of good content and is very engaging, it’s not just another e-commerce site.

Granted, it’s selling a product that people really care about but the lessons here can be passed on to any site.  The passion and understanding that you have about your product is transmitted in so many ways. For example, writing a quality blog and linking to it prominently on your site is a great way to send the message that you care about your product.   Interacting properly with your users (they are users who buy things, not just customers) via forums and social media is huge.

Sales in social media is a secondary effect.  Interaction should happen because you care about the user and the product you are selling.  It’s very obvious to users when a blog/tweet or facebook page is an afterthought.  There may be some benefit to it but the real benefit only comes when you actively engage because you care.  In this case the prominence of the blog, forums etc.on the site is really important.  I would go so far as to say that the day it changes, you’ll know they’ve sold out.

Imagine if you did the SEO and other online marketing equally well? Maybe they are, I’ve not looked too hard into it but I like to think that’s how I would run my online store.

I’ll retract all of this if my trainers don’t arrive tomorrow ;-)

What’s the Buzz? Google steps on the toes of Yahoo! and AT&T

Buzz LightyearGoogle yesterday launched its new social offering, Buzz. How many social sites now share the same name? Surely they can’t all be happy?  Unlikely….

First off, Yahoo! named one of the social features Yahoo! Buzz 18 months ago. Yahoo Buzz is a Digg clone where users can vote for articles. It also feeds into Yahoo! Updates which is the Yahoo version of what Google has named Buzz in that it is based around its email service (Gmail) and has similar functionality. Yahoo is likely to be displeased about Google using the exact same name.

Yahoo released a statement during the launch of Google Buzz with an update on the current status of Yahoo! Updates. No mention was made of Google’s presumably intentional name theft and the email, which can be read here, appears to be an attempt to gain some attention during the launch of Google Buzz.

At there is a site that begs further questions over the name “Buzz” for a social website. It is owned by AT&T and has not yet been publicly launched yet. On the homepage it says “Want to know the best places to go or businesses to call? Let help you tap your social net for business recommendations from the people you trust most – your friends and family.” – sound familiar? Yes, another potentially big player on the social media scene. How serious they are will be put to the test with Google stealing their name from under them.

Again it seems highly unlikely that Google didn’t know about AT&T’s little adventure into the land of social media. I’d like to check how long the site has been there in that state but has become unbelievably slow or simply doesn’t work of late. Either way, there is no way someone in Google wouldn’t have at least looked at what was at, checked who owned it or at the very least done a Google search for “buzz” where the site sits on the first page – I smell a deliberate attempt to undermine their competitors.

It gets murkier too, as I found this article from only a couple of weeks ago.  It seems that is AT&T’s version of Yelp, which you may remember Google is reputed to be trying to purchase for $500m.