February 1, 2007

Google pushes maps into search

Link: Google pushes maps into search

Filed under: Business, Internet, Search Engines, Webmaster, Google, Marketing, Ecommerce by Brian Turner


Google has announced that it’s featuring the use of Google Maps more prominently in many local searches on the search engine.

The result is that when searching for services located in major urban areas, a section from Google Maps will be displayed, showing key locations.

The results had already been spotted by some keen-eyed searchers.

The key locations appear to be drawn from results from Yell, the company behind Yellow Pages, but there are already complaints that some Yell customers are heavily involved in spamming Yell’s results.

However, despite the objections, it shows that Google is keen to further push on integrating existing Google services into Google Search.

It’s also worth pointing out that Local Search is a major market place that search engines are keen to push into - and that the continuing use of mobile internet access means this could become a much more important feature to be considered for all businesses.

January 11, 2007

Google: Update in progress

Link: Google: Update in progress

Filed under: Internet, Search Engines, Webmaster, Google, Ecommerce by Brian Turner


Google engineer Matt Cutts has announced a new Google update is in progress.

Although he reports that PageRank is only publically updated quarterly, the actual value is updated more or less daily on Google’s servers.

Matt Cutts also tried to reassure webmasters that having pages in the “supplemental index” is simply an issue of PageRank, with higher PageRank pages remaining in Google’s small main index, while lower PageRank pages are delegated to Google’s much larger supplemental index.

He was at pains to point out that Google is becoming better at recovering pages from the supplemental index, where relevant, for a larger set of search queries, and that the supplemental index is becoming more frequently refreshed.

The Google engineer also made a point that a recent bug with .com domains hosted in the UK not showing properly on Google.com should be fixed, with results propagating over the coming few days.

Overall, Matt Cutts has made superb accomplishments with a very difficult position - the public face of Google for webmasters. While there will always be complaints and grumbles where site’s and business owners lose traffic from changes, it’s still good to see Google more open to communicating on such issues.

Managers fail to find useful information

Link: Managers fail to find useful information

Filed under: Business, Ecommerce, Employment by Brian Turner


A study by Accenture has found that company managers waste at least an hour every workday on useless information.

The study, which interviewed 1000 managers across the US and UK, found managers spend around 2 hours each day trying to find information - but at least half of what they find is “useless”.

Failures in communications include seeking information within the company, as well as searching for information outside of the company.

The study highlights the need for businesses of all sizes to have a good communications strategy in place.

This is especially as wrong information was frequently integrated into company practice, which could impact company efficiency, performance, and sales.

While some companies have naturally learned the need for effective communications managment, a key point is that managers have a responsibility to seek to manage information properly where found to be defective.

Overall, while companies may seek to delegate tasks and organisiational procedures according to known concerns, the effective management of information in an information-based world is fast becoming and overwhelming priority.

January 3, 2007

Confusion over company law amendment

Link: Confusion over company law amendment

Filed under: Business, Internet, Webmaster, Ecommerce, Web Development, Legal by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

The New Year has opened in confusion with regards to when and where a company must display corporate information online.

This comes after the EU First Company Law Amendment Directive was legislated into UK law for January 1st.

The question is - in what way exactly does it require changes in company communications?

For example, companies are required to display registration and registered office information on their websites, something many will already have complied with.

However, the situation becomes more confusing with online communications.

For example, will staff at limited companies need to display a company registration number and address in emails?

Although the initial suggestion is that this may be the case, the problem then arises where companies may reply to email lists, online communities, and forums, when speaking in an official capacity. This is not least because such groups may not always allow for such information to be posted.

According to the report at the Register:

Such information is already required on “business letters” but the duty is being extended to websites, order forms and electronic documents.

Additionally, website developers need to understand that the regulations may apply even to websites that do not even sell services online, directly or indirectly.

Which means that every website may need to display detailed contact and company registration details on any website connected with company operations.

With continued confusion over some of the more ambiguous elements of the ecommerce regulations, it remains to be seen to what extent these may be applied and enforced.

In the meantime, Out-law.com provides a useful guide on compliance with the recent changes in ecommerce regulations relating to company law:

The UK’s E-commerce Regulations
Email notices
The UK’s Distance Selling Regulations

December 12, 2006

Bank penalty charges may be illegal

Link: Bank penalty charges may be illegal

Filed under: Economy, Business, Ecommerce, Finance by Brian Turner


Penalty charges applied by banks may be illegal.

Currently, the six major UK banks generate around £4.5 billion through penalty charges.

However, under the 1999 Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations Act, penalty charges may only cover administrative costs, and not be for profit.

At present, no major bank will provide an actual administrative cost figure for penalty charges, and none have contested claims of charging for profit in the courts.

The issue has recently seen exposure by the BBC’s Money Programme, which covered the story of law student Stephen Hone, who was successfully able to claim back £840 in penalties charged by the Abbey through the small claims court.

The Office of Fair Trading is currently investigating the issue of bank penalty charges.

Overall, I think few people will be surprised by the suggestion that UK banks have been profiting from penalty charges, so the outcome of the OFT investigation should certainly be interesting.

Google says clickfraud less than 2%

Link: Google says clickfraud less than 2%


In an interview with Google business product manager, Shuman Ghosemajumder, finds that invalid clicks detected by Google were less than 2% of total..

This means that Google currently detects that on average, around 2% of clicks purchased by Adwords advertisers as potentially fraudulent, and therefore invalidated before the advertiser even sees them.

The interview also showed that Google has four levels of fraud detection:

1. Search & Adsense filters
2. Adsense flagging system
3. Manual review
4. Requested investigations

where the first two are automated procedures, and the last two performed by Google Staff.

While there’s a lot of contention over the figures - after all, Google cannot state how much clickfraud they can’t detect - it does provide further transparency on the PPC process.

This is important because a key concern of advertisers is that search engines are not being transparent enough about how they handle clickfraud.

However, while PPC fraud still offers lucrative incentives for organised groups, especially via botnets, advertisers should always remain aware that there could still be fraud problems.

Therefore it remains a point of common sense that business owners with a large PPC spend should apply strategies and tools that may help not simply clickfraud, but also their PPC spend.

December 4, 2006

Christmas shopping figures show downturn

Link: Christmas shopping figures show downturn

Filed under: Economy, Business, Ecommerce by Brian Turner


Christmas is coming - but retailers are reportedly feeling a pinch in overall sales compared to the same period as last year.

The British Retail Consortium has warned that Christmas may not come to the high street until the last week or two before Christmas day itself.

Already retailers such as Argos, Currys, Debenhams and Borders are among the high street stores leading price cuts.

Other retailers, such as House of Fraser, Homebase, Focus, Tesco, Halfords and Superdrug, are following close behind.

However, although the high street is worried, online retailers should expect a continued boom as shoppers increasingly turn to the internet for a simpler and easier shopping experience.

It remains to be seen just how divided the spend is between both, once the ONS releases figures after festivities have died down.

November 14, 2006

EU investigates Mastercard & Visa

Link: EU investigates Mastercard & Visa

Filed under: Ecommerce, Legal, Finance by Brian Turner


The European Union is investigating the credit card industry, to determine whether fair practices are being applied in Europe.

Currently US firms Mastercard and Visa dominate the industry, and the EU is trying to determine if these are undermining potential rival companies with their fee structures.

While any potential action from an investigation are a long way off, this could be a significant first step to a sea change in credit card processing in Europe.

At present most ecommerce sites try to ensure they can transact payments by the big card companies - so if the EU determines that other card companies require due leverage then this could cause confusion.

Additionally, in the event that there are significant new players in the credit card industry, merchants will need to ensure that third-party payment processors are able to handle them.

We await the results of this investigation with interest.

November 13, 2006

Protx acquired by Sage

Link: Protx acquired by Sage

Filed under: Business, Google, Ecommerce, PPC by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

Populer merchant payment processing gateway, Protx, has been acquired by Sage.

It appears the giant of accountancy and money management is looking to integrate its software direct with online processing:

The sale will give Sage the capability to integrate the Protx secure payment systems with their business management software, opening up new possibilities for potential and existing merchants. In time, merchants will be able to link and integrate their payment processing with back-office accounting, stock control and CRM applications in one business solution.

Overall, it’s an interesting move, especially in light of how other companies are trying to integrate various online and offline activities - not least Google and Microsoft.

However, this could very much provide a taster of what Google and Microsoft may both be trying to achieve in the longterm.

After all, Google already has it’s own online office management software, but has yet to integrate it with with PPC marketing.

A glimpse of the future of online processing, perhaps?

Businesses warned on Parcel Delivery Service scam

Link: Businesses warned on Parcel Delivery Service scam

Filed under: Business, Security, Ecommerce by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

Correction: It appears that PDS has already been closed down, but stories about it’s existence continue to circulate on the internet as a new development (see comments below).

Businesses across the UK are being warned to be careful of a scam by a company by the name of Parcel Delivery Service.

The scam involves the random posting of cards claiming to be from PDS (Parcel Delivery Service), suggesting that they were unable to deliver a parcel.

The card then prompts victims to call a premium rate number - 0306 6611911 - in order to arrange collection of the parcel.

However, there is no parcel, and anyone who calls the number and hears a recorded message will already have been billed £15 for the phone call.

Trading Standards officers and the Royal Mail are already aware of the scam, and recommend anyone who receives a card from PDS (Parcel Delivery Service) to call the Royal Mail Fraud helpline at: 02072396655.

Alternatively contact the premium rate service regulator ICSTIS.

November 12, 2006

Four seconds to sell online

Link: Four seconds to sell online

Filed under: Business, Internet, Marketing, Ecommerce by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

A study by Akamia and Jupiter Research found that slow loading websites were a major reason for shoppers to abandon them.

Although product and shipping prices were a key reason to shop - or not - at an ecommerce store, page loading speed was the second biggest factor.

The study interviewed 1056 internet shoppers over 2006.

They found that four seconds is the maximum length of time an average online shopper will wait for a web page to load, before abandoning an ecommerce store.

They also found that those who spent the most money online were the least patient, and more likely to abandon a website faster.

Other key factors influencing shopper decisions where:

- rapid checkout process
- simple navigation

Websites that performed well were most likely to be revisited.

Overall, page loading speed has always been highlighted as an important factor for online sales.

However, what this study additionally illustrated were the consequences to branding by poor loading, with poorly performing websites likely never to be revisited.

November 9, 2006

PPC advertisers complain on new quality scoring

Link: PPC advertisers complain on new quality scoring

Filed under: Business, Google, Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC by Brian Turner


Google Adwords have introduced a new system of “quality scoring” which has resulted in complaints from advertisers.

As marketing manager Micheal Gray illustrated, costs for successful keywords have been seen to rise without apparent justification.

Other PPC managers have complained that the complete lack of transparency on so-called “quality controls” means it’s hard for some to perceive this as little more than milking the advertisers.

Some are concerned that the provision of data to Google via free tools such as Google Analytics are being used to increase pricing where possible.

However, it could also be possible that because the system is completely automated, that advertisers are simply seeing bugs in the system.

Overall, at a time when headlines about clickfraud are common, and PPC advertisers are concerned about getting real value, the continued lack of transparency in the quality scoring critieria can only serve to aggravate PPC advertisers.

ADDED: Jeremy Shoemaker posts that Google’s quality changes are especially intended to hit arbitrage users - ie, a business model that relies on paying for low-cost PPC keywords, to direct traffic to sites displaying high-paying PPC ads.

November 2, 2006

Google threat to TV revenue

Link: Google threat to TV revenue

Filed under: Business, Internet, Search Engines, Google, Marketing, Ecommerce by Brian Turner


Channel 4’s Chief Executive, Andy Duncan, has said that online advertising is a threat to TV revenues.

He highlighted this by pointing out that at the current rate, Google’s revenues will outstrip Channel 4’s revenues by the end of the year.

Andy Duncan has already approached Google to discuss syndication of Channel 4 programming online, as well as lobbying Parliament to allow Channel 4 access to digital distribution.

According to Brand Republic, online ad growth has risen by more than 40% in the UK in the first half of the year to £917.2m, and is now just a percentage point behind national newspapers in terms of market share.

Google is a major power behind online advertising spend in the UK, and the recent comments and statistics help enforce that.

However, while Google’s position in online advertising is without contention, the fact that Google is currently valued on the stock markets at over $140 billion suggests that investors are vastly over-estimating its potential.

I mean, seriously - if Google’s revenues are equivalent to Channel 4’s, then would Channel 4 be valued at $140 billion?

While online advertising still has growth left in it, it remains to be seen whether Google’s presence in the increasing online advertising market will actually justify such a market cap.

November 1, 2006

Ask and Lycos join PPC forces

Link: Ask and Lycos join PPC forces

Filed under: Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

Ask and Lycos have signed a distribution deal to provide a new tier of content for PPC advertisers.

However, Ask has recently come under fire for providing PPC traffic of little value to advertisers.

It comes at a time when advertisers are increasingly concerned about the quality of sites and traffic they gain through PPC advertising.

Most seriously, the issue of Clickfraud remains a spectre many PPC advertisers dread - and recently Business Week highlighted some of the ways in which clickfraud operates.

Overall, it remains to be seen whether the Ask/Lycos partnership can deliver value traffic for PPC advertisers.

In the meantime, though, it remains a point of contention that PPC providers ensure that they provide quality traffic on quality sites, in order for advertisers to feel they’re getting a real deal.

October 27, 2006

Google to reorganise PPC accounts

Link: Google to reorganise PPC accounts

Filed under: Business, Internet, Google, Marketing, Ecommerce, PPC by Brian Turner


Rumours are circulating that Google are about to announce a major shake up of their Google AdWrods management structure.

Not only will this lead to a dedicated accounts manager for each account, but this manager will also push for inclusion on new audio and visual contextual advertising projects.

Google Adwords is already an extraordinarily popular PPC program, that is already estimated to take around 25% of all online advertising spend.

Additionally, Google have been developing advertising channels in Flash, Audio, and Visual media.

The recent acquisition of both YouTube and dMarc means that along with print media, Google are now positioned to fully exploit an incredibly diverse set of advertising channels.

Overall, it has to be said that it’s amazing that major competitors - not least Microsoft and Yahoo! - have allowed Google to get so far ahead in terms of PPC management.

However, Google are certainly not allowing themselves to stagnate in a similar manner and the movement into new media advertising formats for existing Adwords customers can only be an exciting development.

It remains to be seen, though, how successful any potential can be tapped into - but in the meantime, Google are not simply playing ahead of this game - they’re writing the rules.

October 16, 2006

Google assures Christmas not cancelled

Link: Google assures Christmas not cancelled

Filed under: Business, Internet, Search Engines, Webmaster, Google, Ecommerce by Brian Turner


Google has confirmed that it has no plans to apply a major change to how it ranks websites in its search results before this Christmas.

This comes after the past two years have seen major changes implemented before the Christmas shopping season.

In both previous instances, online retailers - especially small businesses often labelled “mom & pop” stores - found themselves losing huge revenues through loss of lucrative search engine positions.

Having strong search engine positions has become a key marketing industry in itself, as internet surfers will often turn to search engines not simply to find general information, but also to search for products and service they are interested in buying.

This makes having high search engine placement an important source of revenue for ecommerce retailers - which is all the more reason why their loss can have such a huge impact on revenues when they change.

However, despite the assurance from Google, recent changes have seen newer websites especially lose placement in Google.

Referred to as the “30 filter” or “-30 penalty”, this feature of Google’s search results drops a website down 30 ranking positions when a threshold is crossed - often from gaining too many links too quickly.

While this filter has been in operation for some time, it appears that the threshold for triggering the penalty has been lowered so that more websites may fall victim to it.

However, small businesses that find this occurs may find comfort - traditionally the 30 Filter is only temporary, and is automatically reviewed every 30 days.

Those websites that can take action to reduce link purchases and similar actions Google frowns on may therefore find their ranking positions returned after 30 days.

Overall, Google may be acutely concerned about negative publicity from such moves - which it previously would spin as “combating spammers”.

However, it’s nice for Google to communicate no major changes before this Christmas, and can only be a relief for those small businesses who are still holding strong rankings on Google into the Christmas season.

Help for small business continues as Platinax celebrates 2 years online

Link: Help for small business continues as Platinax celebrates 2 years online

Computers & Internet

Platinax is a free business resource and mentoring service that celebrates 2 years helping SME’s this month.

Based in the Highlands of Scotland, Platinax is run by a volunteer staff of company directors from across the UK.

The key aim of Platinax is to help other SME’s work better with the internet and increase profitability.

This is namely due to the fact that the majority of businesses in the UK are still failing to overcome basic challenges in technical, presentation, and marketing areas. Challenges that can be easily solved with a simple awareness of the issues involved.

Platinax offers help through these key main areas:

1. Business Forum

The Platinax Business Forum is a place where business owners seek free solutions, learn tips and tricks, and network with other business owners.

Key discussion areas include:

Business planning, Accounts, Legal compliance, Marketing, Advertising, Search engine optimisation, Internet technology, Website management, Webdesign & development, Server hosting.

2. Business Directory

The Platinax Directory is rated as one of the internet’s best quality directories.

It’s also one of the most active areas of the website, and can help provide national and local listings to drive targeted sales.

Simply click through the directory links to a suitable category for a listing in local, national, and international business categories.

3. Small Business News

Platinax News provides latest business & technology information for SME’s in the UK, and is syndicated by Google News:

4. Business articles

Platinax offers an exclusive reading list of articles, tutorials, and interviews for those willing to take on the technical challaneges of the internet. Key subject areas include internet marketing, website management, and business practices online.

5. Advertising

Platinax receives an average of between 350,000 - 400,000 page views per month.

You can reach this audience directly with an advertising space on the left of every page, containing both a banner and direct link to your website.

Through October Platinax is offering a special promotional price of just £79.95/month - but only 4 advertising spaces are available.

- According to Dave Ashton at lead generation service Bizal Ltd:

“From the new business enquiries received to date over 70% have been genuine opportunities that have been able to quote for either a lead generation solution or sales development services i.e. sales training and hence are delighted with types of companies that see our banner advert.

We are also delighted with the level of customer service and hence look forward to continuing a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Platinax intends to continue to provide free help and support for SME’s in the UK, and looks forward to celebrating the next 2 years on the internet.

October 12, 2006

Oil prices sink to new low

Link: Oil prices sink to new low

Filed under: Business, Ecommerce, Finance by Brian Turner


Oil prices have continued to fall, with prices today reaching their lowest for 2006.

The drop in oil prices has been gradual over the past few months, and uncertainty about production cuts by OPEC - coupled with a lowered projection of oil demand for 2007 - has led to trader ease about oil prices.

This is after record highs in July.

The price of oil has been a key factor in pushing up inflation over the year, and rising energy prices have put pressure on consumer spending.

However, despite the current falls, the impact of previous high oil prices are still ongoing.

Bank of England governor, Mervyn King, has indicated that manufacturers are already passing on increased production costs to consumers.

Expectations of any let-up on inflation in the medium-term remain uncertain.

The Bank of England is still widely expected to raise interest rates to 5% in November - something Platinax reported as likely as far back as June.

October 11, 2006

Top toys for Christmas

Link: Top toys for Christmas

Filed under: Ecommerce by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

The Toy Retailers Association (TRA) has announced it’s list of the top toys for Christmas.

The list is compiled from predictations from its members as to which will be the best-selling toys.

The TRA notes that fantasy elements are predicted to be strong in this years Christmas sales, and lists the key toys to watch as:

  • Baby born with magic eyes (Zapf) - RRP £39.99
  • Bratz Forever Diamondz assortment (Vivid) - RRP £24.95
  • Cars Fast Talkin’ Steve McQueen (Mattel) - RRP £39.99
  • Deal or No Deal electronic board game (Drummond Park) - RRP £29.99
  • Dr Who Cybermen Mask (Character Options) - RRP £29.99
  • Let’s Dance Barbie Doll (Mattel) - RRP £39.99
  • Paper FX (Flair) - RRP £19.99
  • Pixel Chix Mall (Mattel) - RRP £29.99
  • Tamagotchi Connexion V3 (Bandai) - RRP £12.99
  • Thomas the Tank Engine Aquadraw (Tomy) - RRP £29.99
  • Trivial Pursuit ’90’s (Hasbro) - RRP £29.99
  • V. Smile Baby (VTech) - RRP £39.99

So if you run an ecommerce store selling children’s toys you now have a better idea of what stock you may need to aim for. :)

In the meantime, continued threats of an interest rate rise may mean this Christmas offers less of a boom for retailers in general.

However, with ecommerce sites fast encroaching on sales marketshare from high street stores, it may yet be a bumper Merry Christmas for ecommerce store owners.

AOL UK bought by Carphone Warehouse

Link: AOL UK bought by Carphone Warehouse

Filed under: Internet, Ecommerce, Companies by Brian Turner

Computers & Internet

Carephone Warehouse has won the auction for AOL UK.

The company paid £370 million, which includes 2.1 million customers, 1.5 million of them on broadband.

The agreement keeps the existing AOL UK management structure in place.

It also allows AOL (USA) to manage advertising on AOL UK, and additionally allows for revenue sharing of advertising on Carphone Warehouse’s TalkTalk network.

Overall, it’s an audacious purchase by Carphone Warehouse, who are aggressively trying to increase their market share of UK broadband users.

However, AOL as a brand name has suffered in recent years, with subscription rates falling. It remains to be seen how successful Carphone Warehouse will be able to combat these.

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