September 09, 2010

Google Instant now showing everywhere except on Google Chrome.

Google InstantGoogle has been delivering predictive suggestions as searchers type for some time to the users of the Google Toolbar. Today they have announced this as Google Instant as this is now available from the Google Home page. This feature was first seen on Yahoo a couple of years ago.

So now the only users who cannot see these search term suggestions are those using Google’s own browser, Chrome. The FAQs has compatibility support for Chrome 5 and 6. I upgraded from 5 to 6 this morning to find that the results are still just not the same, see below. Yes, Google Instant is available on Chrome from the Google home page but the search toolbars have taught us that you do not need to use the back button repeatedly or use a bookmark to make another search. Chrome saves the space of a toolbar by using the address bar for search entry too. The results on Chrome, below, show that the results offered are a compromise based in this dual use. Yet after the first space is typed the algorithm must know this can only be treated as a search term.
Google Instant on Chrome

August 27, 2010

True Conversion Rates of over 50% from Google Adwords?

Writing about web page

High conversion rates are easy to set up on Google. Just set an easy conversion goal such as a page view. Similarly, many opt-in and order-collecting forms can be optimised to convert better by reducing the number of mandatory fields.

The screenshot below was taken from a campaign that only had one goal, “quote requested”. The quote form had 8 required fields including postcode, phone number as well as email address & name!

Real Adwords Conversion Rates

Yes, even with 8 fields to fill in, this Campaign has been returning average conversion rates of 30%. The 2 best Ad Groups have constantly achieved conversion rates of over 50%. This data was taken in August 2010 so far and actually the best group has been pushing 70% conversion rates recently.

Some individual keywords are producing conversion rates at over 80% for Google’s statistically meaningful 20 conversions. Thirty is the minimum sample for true normal distribution but I will not argue with the Google Acadamy on conversion stats. I have been optimising to the ‘cost per conversion’ metric but you have to understand the returns too. The client believes they get better business from the top Ad Group, above, so are happier to bid higher for this one.

July 11, 2010

Comet's Customer Service as good as the John Lewis Partnership

Comet LogoTwice this year the old brick’s and clicks, Comet have delivered with service that was much better than I had expected.

Back on Christmas Day, with the large meal over, our dishwasher broke down.
Our priority was to get a replacement as quickly as possible. The John Lewis partnership and one or two others had ‘2 working day’ delivery promises. Comet beat these by having stock in Coventry we could pick up Boxing Day!
I arrived, noted that I saved £30 against the in-store price and their staff helped load the washer into the car. With my son to help it was in and working asap.

More recently I started to look for a new washing machine. My wife picked the model and I found the best price then added £15 to get the old one taken away. The on-line only seller’s system failed so I called them the next day but could not get through. So I remembered our positive result and checked out Comet. By the time Comet’s lower £10 removals charge was added the price difference was under £7.

Their driver Tony Powell politely explained all our options. He unpacked our new machine, placed it where we wanted, insisting we check it out and took the old one away. John Lewis Partnership levels of customer care.

When I made the usual call to Hotpoint to register the appliance I was pleasantly surprised again to hear that Comet had already done this for me.

July 04, 2010

New Challenge for the Middle Lane Driver, 4 lanes!

M1 j25 to j28The drive up to see my son in Sheffield has become a lot better. The roadworks and 15 miles of average-speed-check camera enforced 50 mph speed limit are finished. What was interesting was to see the behaviour of drivers to the new lane that came on as a continuation of the slip road on the left.

The ‘inside lane’ and ‘overtaking lane’ of 2-lane carriageways became ‘slow lane’ & ‘fast lane’ in common use. The official two overtaking lanes in the three-lane-motorways became slow, middle and fast and many drivers believe they belong naturally in one or the other. For nearly 10 miles of the new widened M1 the slow lane traffic moved 1 left, the fast lane traffic stayed far right and the middle lane drivers stayed in the 3rd lane leaving lane 2 almost deserted. The ‘middle lane drivers’ did seem very uneasy but took many miles to decide where they belonged.

Perhaps, in the UK, we should widen motorways all the way to 5 lanes so these drivers can know where the middle lane is again?

Seriously, since these four-lane sections are mostly equipped with full gantry variable speed limits, lane management and live-monitored cameras we should consider moving to the US style system where vehicles can overtake in any lane, or have different speed limits for each lane.

What should I have done that day when approaching the slowing clump of ‘fast lane’ drivers in lane 4 travelling in the inside lane without a single car in between lanes 2 or 3? Go out and join in the queue to politely overtake the single caravan half a mile ahead?

June 14, 2010

Best Pot of Tea in Croatia? Cafe l' Angelique, Vrsar, Istria.

Writing about web page

Cafe lYesterday I drove round the Limski kanal, a stunning fjord in Istria, to Vrsar from our Rovinj base. After climbing the new bell tower for some excellent panoramas we visited the Cafe l’Angelique at the base. Recommended by the TimeOut Shortlist Guidebook as ‘the best spot for coffee in town’ we were pleased to find and excellent range of teas too.

Leaf tea timer and teapotI ordered the large leaf Assam tea and Alison the lemongrass. These arrived with pots, cold milk, etc and timers set. Our waiter came back to pour the assam after the prescribed 3 minutes. The lemongrass took 3 minutes longer. Later he came out to top up with appropriately hot water and reset the timers, adding another minute for the second brew! lemongrass tea bag

I am not totally convinced that the Austrian accuracy is absolutely essential, these were all top organic Heissenberger supplied teas, with strict instructions. The tea produced, however, was as good as I have had overseas including in the Raffles Hotel, Singapore.

How much better than the open cup of vaguely hot water supplied with your tea bag still in its paper envelope for you to try to get some tea out of!

Follow the link above to find the brewing times for l’Angelique’s range of teas. If you ever are in the Rovinj area of Istria, Croatia, wander up the quiet streets to the Campinile for the excellent views of islands and marinas then pop in for an excellent cup of tea or coffee.

March 02, 2010

Microsoft EU Browser Choice Screen – How do you get out?

Writing about web page

Microsoft EU Browser Choice Screen

I upgraded an XP Home OS to XP PRO, our network standard, recently and came across the beta of the MS EU Browser Choice Screen. I was interested and used it to download Chrome to that PC.

The only problem was that this did not allow me to leave in a way that would get rid of this choice screen. Buttons to ‘Install’, ‘Tell me more’, and ‘Terms etc’ but no ‘Thanks I’m Happy’ choice. Yes I know I can choose from 13 different browsers, I typically have 3 different ones open at any time for different tasks, but how do you quit this download?

The website link above presents exactly the same screen that I saw.
Still no clue. I am not going to be keen to download the real one.
Was this the aim of the EU, to make everyone fed up with Microsoft?

February 26, 2010

Great Experience with MicroSoft OS & Office Software. Shame about the IE Browser!!

Writing about web page

Office 2003 Pro with BCM
I’ve recently been upgrading one of the many Dell PCs in the house.
The standard OS in the network remains MS XP Pro and none of the family, including the students, like ribbons so MS Office 2003 Professional remains the office product of choice. We inherited one machine with XP Home and I also wanted a second PC in the house to be legitimate for business use so I got some upgrade licences.

The Office installation was a dream. It came with the Business Contact Manager extension for Outlook which was a real bonus that brought together all the contacts, emails & documents together into one account view.

Upgrading the OS was a bigger problem. This loaded fine but refused to register. If fact the registration wizard failed to run and IE was broken.
The MS helpline failed to spot the problem so I went back to the Google approach and typed in the error message “The requested look up key was not found in any activation context”.

I found that the SP3 2009 copyright disk went back to IE6. Ok I knew that but the IE8 and IE7 engines were still under the bonnet causing IE to be broken. Answer uninstall them in order:

For Windows Internet Explorer 8
CD ie8\spuninst
batch Spuninst.txt
For Windows Internet Explorer 7
CD ie7\spuninst
batch Spuninst.txt

MS Office 2003 with BCMAfter cleaning these out then the OS registered and the update cycle back up to IE8 was set off. This one piece of integration has caused Microsoft endless problems in the courts and left maintainability landmines that will lurk for years to come.

The optional integration of BCM worked like a dream but can easily be uninstalled.

February 04, 2010

Google Adwords Broad Matching finds wide new meanings for 'vehicle sell'

I have blogged before about how Google’s AdWords algorithms can find matches for poor searches where the usual Google search completely fails.

Google matching; broad, phrase & exact matchingThis week I found some more amazing, creative, matches for the keyword ‘vehicle sell’. This was in the campaign of a “scrap car removals” business and they had success using a number of wide terms such as this.

My filters show the broad matched term then the real search term after the comma, below.
vehicle sell, lend+money+on+your+car
vehicle sell, sell+my+tyre
vehicle sell, car+trailer+for+sale
vehicle sell, car+sealler
So ‘vehicle sell’ can mean a search for a pawn broker with a yard, vehicle can be a tyre and sell a typo for sealer!

I always recommend using all matching types, see picture, right; broad without any annotation, “phrase matching” in quotes and [exact matching] in square brackets. What is the point of phrase matching a single word, you ask? Well in our example Adwords would use synonyms for google and we all know ‘to google’ is to search so this could be matched to search, seek or even look!

January 28, 2010

Free SEO Tools worth trying out.

Writing about web page

I have used a variety of the SEO tools over the years. This week I’ve needed to get out the whole set to analyse one website.

The Links to your page tools generated the widest range of answers. Google’s links: (use info: to see their set) is the most conservative. Some say it only reports links from sites with a PageRank of 4 or more but I have seen too many exceptions to this rule. It failed completely for my site with 1 external & 2 internal links. Yahoo’s SiteExplorer with its excellent filters produces 17 links. The venerable SiteReportCard reports 7 for Google using I like the simplicity of the SiteReportCard so that with some limitations it is easy to train clients up to use it. Their transpanency also allowed that last search to be done with the link text “Domain Name” and this revealed 65 links with many strong news stories.

PPC Promotion Ltd AdAnother different picture was generated by our colleagues at the NB2BC. Their SEO combination tool collects together the links from each site and gives the PageRank of the top level of that site. This is probably the best combination tool I have used recently and worth logging in at the NB2BC tools page .

All of these tools do reward your time in understanding them, their strengths and limitations.

January 08, 2010

Traidcraft Exchange Charity supported by Amazon.

Writing about web page

Go to the page above before you shop with Amazon and, by buying goods through the links from the page, Traidcraft Exchange will receive up to 10% of the value of your items, up to the value of £7 per product.

Costs you nothing but an extra click to go to Amazon with the right referral codes.

January 02, 2010

Rare & Unusual Bottled Beers – A welcome gift

Writing about web page

Case of rare & unusual bottled beers

Bottles Ale Company card.My brother-in-law arrived today with a gift mixed case of bottled beers most of which I have not sampled before. I have just finished the Buffys, Polly’s Folly with the Concrete Cow Company, Cock and Bull beer from Milton Keynes and Captain Ann, Farmer’s Ale.
The bonus was to have a collection of folk history tales on the labels. It is not only the Innocent Company that use entertaining packaging.

Paul explained that this was a new enterprise of a neighbour that has become more serious since the owner lost his day job. So all the best to Adam!

December 11, 2009

Various Complaints Numbers for Virgin Media, VM, Omnibus Post.

Writing about web page

I first blogged about Various Virgin Media Complaints Numbers back in March 2008. Since then this has been consistently attracted the highest number of visitors to this Blog building again to 275 in the last 30 days.

There have been 3 fresh comments added to this post already in December 2009 indicating that more visitors should be expected. You can see the comments by following the trackback.

Digital Direct AerialsMy VM nightmare is now over thanks to Digital Direct Aerials that I covered in Virgin Media blackout over but just as my problems were solved I find that the analogue switchoff saga rolls on down the M5 continues all across Niki’s Digital Direct coverage area!

This is the first time that I felt the need of an omnibus blog post! But it may help to take visitors to the hottest topic and comments.

November 20, 2009

Google Geographic Targeting helps Fostering Agency

Writing about web page

Many of my client’s are now using geographic targeting for their Adwords. The TV digital aerial installer is clearly local, whereas the forklift truck hire and service company provide a two hour call out response promise so the distance of new clients from their base is critical. I have been tracking the gradual improvement in the still flawed geographic tracking within the UK’s ADSL network.

Nexus Fostering LogoThe best geographic targeted campaign that I have ever seen is for Nexus Fostering’s Foster Carers who used a 5 point polygon on Google’s map. They still had problems with out-of-area applications so I refined their polygon to have over 20 points and added a list of towns and cities outside the area as negative keywords. Here again the limitation is their support promise to all their foster carers and foster children. The recruitment of another social worker in the west country means that I have to unpick some of their excluded towns. I have also found that you can combine multiple polygons, towns and ‘within n miles’ circles successfully.

To learn more about the underlying limitations that BT’s wholesale ADSL imposes see this previous entry.

November 19, 2009

BonusPrint throw away my Christmas Card Masters! How Not to get repeat business!

Writing about web page

Last year I created some Christmas Cards to send to clients and business contacts. I used BonusPrint who were competitive, had good tools and an album to save your work in progress.

20 Lake Louise (wider angle)Recently I went back to update and order a lot more. These cards were not featured in their promotions this time but it was not worth the effort to shop around; they would get the repeat business. So I tried to login and failed. Copied in the email address they send their constant stream of free this and free that offers to and they do not recognise this. I call to sort the problem to be told that all albums are deleted if not accessed after 3 months. To justify this their ‘customer services’ agent pointed out that they has lost most of their web-albums a couple of months ago!

How not to get repeat business! How do businesses win more repeat business? Surely by making it easier for their customers to buy? In this case, storing one file would have brought PPC Promotion back year after year!

Why have I put a link to the Blogs page on my site? This is a bit circular, surely?
Well, if you are interested in AdWords & Search entries then this page has featured entries from several blogs that are manually edited to be still relevant today.

October 27, 2009

The Problem for the Wedding Photographer – Their own wedding photos!

Writing about web page

The couple kiss from recent weddings
Talking to Shereen Victoria Lee after she had taken the formal wedding photos at the most recent wedding at our church the conversation moved to her own recent wedding to Richard Lee.

There were a number of similarities to my own wedding 24 years ago.
  • Both weddings venues were around the potteries & organised from Coventry.
  • I was a keen photographer so finding the photographer was a challenge, a situation multiplied in Shereen’s case.
  • We both did our own albums but our literally cut & pasted version does not compare with Shereen’s albums.
  • We both ended up with a photographer who was better at the less formal shots!

We got Stan Was, Alison’s old college friend, whose sports photography expertise produced the most amazing confetti shots.
Shereen has made a wonderful album from the photos available though there are some of the ‘in Church’ set-piece photos missing she would have expected.

The photo, right, is notable in two ways. It is a lovely photo of an old friend after her recent marriage and it has me in it (although just the back of my suit).

Wedding rings over the marriage register.You can take photos of yourself these days. The timely organisation of the guests, catching those fleeting moments of an expensive day makes the selection of the right official photographer so critical. If you do get involved in your own album, however, remember to get everybody’s shots. There will always be the unique group shot and a classic photo amidst a pile of snaps.

October 06, 2009

Analogue Cable Switch–off rolls on down M5

Writing about web page

Analogue TV CableMy Analytics revealed that visitors searching for “Virgin Media Complaints” had grown again over the last fortnight with over 100 searchers using this and related queries.

So I searched the web to see what could be causing this?
I found that November was a big shut-off month down the M5:

=== October ===
1st. Virgin Media will today Switch Off Analogue Cable in the following areas:
Basildon, Birmingham/Small Heath. Grimsby, Hemel Hempstead, Norwich,
South London/Croydon, Sussex (Brighton), Thames Valley (Reading), Warwick.

=== November ===
2nd. Virgin Media will today Switch Off Analogue Cable in the following areas:
Belfast & Derry, Haringey, Camden, Enfield, Hackney & Islington,
Stafford, Lichfield & Tamworth, Teesside (Stockton, Darlington & Middlesbrough), Uddingston,
Wolverhampton, Dudley, Sandwell, Telford, Kidderminster, Redditch, Wessex (Poole & Bournemouth).

Lets face it, with price hikes and the steady removal of channels, anyone still left on the Analogue cable service must have real reception problems, an aversion to Sky or other problems. So I think that my mate Niki Chan’s Digital Direct Aerials team will be busy with the other Freeview & Freesat aerial & dish installers in Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Dudley, Stourbridge, Redditch etc.

September 23, 2009

Virgin Media blackout ended by Nik of Digital Direct Aerials

Writing about web page

Spring 2008 saw a lot of entries on this blog about how Virgin Media’s early shut-off of their analogue cable service left my house without access to broadcast TV. See the links below.

We were left without coverage due to having trees or hills to the west, south & east of the house. The local aerial installers would not even bring up their ladders. The Sky guys came around and at least tried to punch through the trees. So for 15 months we have been dependant on our thankfully good ADSL internet and the iPlayer etc.

I was looking around the website of a new client, Nik Chan, see link above, to see that he specialised in difficult digital TV reception sites and installations. So I asked him to come over and do a survey. He saw that things would be difficult but came back with the best aerial and a long pole. Results were still marginal but Niki declared that he would mount a bracket to give the best chance.

Twenty minutes later he declared passes for all 6 freeview multiplexes! The reception on our bargain flat screen exceeded my expectations. I know that we are on the edge. Things will improve as the leaves fall and be worse in the spring but long term the Central region digital switchover power boost in 2011 will be a great help.

So Digital Direct Aerials provide a happy ending to the saga told in these entries:

First I struggled to find out who to complain to in
Various Complaints Numbers for Virgin Media.
Then I got through to the CEO’s team to be given Virgin Media’s excuses :
Coventry Analogue Cable Switch–off next week – 3 years ahead of Digital UK Plan!
Before getting it straight from Ofcom in
OFCOM says Coventry Analogue Cable switch–off is VM commercial call.

August 31, 2009

Improved Page Load Times – The latest 'secret' to improved Keyword Quality Scores

Writing about web page

I spotted this Google Ad with the claim.

Lower your bids in Adwords using WSOP to improve Quality Score.

I was intregued to learn what WSOP meant. It was all about slow load times and optimising your websites. This is certainly true but if your website is already lean then this will not help.

Follow the link, above, for more complete coverage and find two tools to use as well as another simple thing to check.

August 15, 2009

Correcting your Location Marker on the Google Local Business Center

Writing about web page,0,56886799012450000&ei=AMuGSpu5EeLTjAf0v5yiCw&sa=X&oi=local_result&ct=image&resnum=1

Bobby's Room, Redcoats Farmhouse HotelToday I was looking for Hotels at Heathrow close to the Sheraton where I am going to a seminar. Many were still identified by the Postcode default or were even further out.

Last week we stayed in an area in Herts where all the postcodes had slipped on Google, the OS and for all Sat Navs. We found the Redcoats Farmhouse Hotel and Restaurant easily enough, we do not take John Cleese on TomTom as the Gospel Truth.

We were upgraded to Annie’s Room, see left, when we confirmed that we had come to sample their Gourmet Restaurant menu. The service and food met or exceeded our expectations so the next morning I fixed their location problems. I had the Ulster estate venison and selected a bottle that was declared as ‘needing decanting’. Our hostess knew her wines and had the skill to leave the butler’s share very small.

I have described how to link to these ‘branded pages’ in emails etc. You can also embed these fully interactive maps into most websites since google will provide the iframe code. Just click Link on the top right.

July 25, 2009

Yahoo! Closing! Everywhere! Complaints & Viral Marketing.

Writing about web page

I was checking around my blogs to find that the family twin to this running on had been closed down.
Yahoo! 360 Closes
They still offered the chance to back-up and move elsewhere with sore paid options or to migrate it over to a Yahoo Profile which I did.
I found that the resulting page had a very unfriendly URL was not as good as the old 360 Blog and all links etc were done through wizards.
The result of this was that I can connect to Google’s Picasso photos but not to the Yahoo owned Flickr that I pay money to for the Pro account. (This was already connected to the account but how do I make this visible?) I was not going to Blog about this but the same day I got a cry for help from the supporter of Frances the Cockatoo as Yahoo!’s Geocities sites were also being closed down. Where can I get free hosting? Well I gave 2 Google options; Blogger and Sites, though Microsoft has real options too.

Yahoo is in a poor position and are clearly attempting to monetise their large active base but as I have been discovering just how valuable individual complaints and rants are to avoid some of the worst excesses of customer service. Mostly I try to be constructive on this Blog but consistently it is the Virgin Media complaints line and British Gas problems that deliver the most visitors! I have started to search for ‘problems’ and ‘complaints’ before buying from a new source. Follow the link to this blog entry.

There is no doubt bad news travels faster. Complaints read more real than glowing praise. Sometimes too much ‘news’ can be depressing as Charlie Brooker of Newswipe related on Rossie’s show today.

United Airlines breaks guitar.But we have all been on the end of bad corporate customer relations so we are uplifted by someone who gets back at a huge company.
Especially if they do it in a funny way like Dave Carroll’s United Breaks Guitars video on Youtube. With over 4 million hits Dave does not need another link from me. Click to expand the Youtube stats to see the growth of a viral campaign. The biggest groups of viewers are all male from 35 to 65, more bad news for United Airlines.

But it is not bad news for everyone the Guitar Flight case company has been promoting their videos of Guitars being attacked with hammers, thrown off roofs, etc. to demonstrate they are baggage handler proof.

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