Google axes right hand sidebar ads

What’s happening?

This week there’s been some big PPC news from Google. The search giant has confirmed that search results pages on desktop will no longer show text ads in the right sidebar. Instead, up to four text ads will display above the organic listings, and three text ads will show at the bottom of the page. These updates apply to Google across the globe and their search partners.

Whilst the change may appear sudden, Google’s behaviour in the last few years has indicated that a change to the way that ads are displayed could be expected.

According to Search Engine Land, Google has been experimenting with placing four ads, rather than three, above the organic results since 2010. They initially implemented this approach just on mortgage queries and also began to remove ads from the right hand sidebar last year.

So far Google has stated that four ads may show instead of three for ‘highly commercial queries’, such as “hotels in London” or “house insurance”.

As an advertiser, how will you be impacted by this change?

Some agencies are predicting that with fewer ad spaces available (7 rather than 11), there will be increased competition over the remaining spaces. Sound logic, but then Google run the risk of a loss in revenue from those smaller advertisers who can no longer keep up with the Joneses and decide their PPC budget would be better spent elsewhere.

So, what will the effects be?

Well, to be frank, it’s too soon to tell. At this point so early on in the roll-out, any opinion, including mine, is likely to be speculation and should be taken with a pinch of salt.

One interesting note is that these changes may force organic results below the fold completely – which may impact SEO activities negatively.

We’ll have a better idea about what this change means for the companies that we work with on PPC campaigns once Google’s change is complete and the dust settles. Then the real analysis can begin and we’ll be able to see how this change has affected the number of impressions, cost per click, click through rates, average position and a whole host of other key metrics.

Make sure you check back to find out the results in the months to come!

If you’d like to hear how we can help your company achieve key business objectives using PPC, a range of other digital activities, or PR then please get in touch.

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Man of the Year

We’ve got rid of the bad, so now it is time to celebrate the real achievers of 2015, the individuals who have made a difference, defied expectations and proved everyone else wrong.

In fact, it really has been an extraordinary year for the previously underwhelming to stand up and be counted. My first choice is a man who lost a Presidential Election and seemed to have reached his peak as the Junior Senator from Massachusetts, until Hilary Clinton decided to run for President and created a vacancy at Secretary of State. My Diplomat of the Year is John Kerry, who managed to negotiate a historic nuclear arms deal with Iran and seems to have realised that, if Sunni Muslim ISIS is to be defeated, then Shia Iran must be part of the solution.

My Journalist of the Year is Dan Hodges of the Telegraph. When everyone else was in thrall to the opinion polls predicting a hung parliament, Hodges stuck like a limpet to his belief that Ed Miliband was unelectable and that ‘shy’ Tories would flock to Cameron’s banner when it came to the crunch. With hindsight his predictions in the run-up to the poll seem like common sense, but it takes guts to put your neck out there and swim against the tide.

Political Consultant of the Year is Lynton Crosby, the mastermind behind the Tory election victory. It was Crosby’s strategy for the Tories to devour its young, namely the LibDems, targeting them mercilessly in crunch seats. The fact that we have the first outright Conservative election win since 1992 is testament to his strategic abilities, which many mocked.

2015 is also the first year in my life that I have developed a man crush, when the ‘Supreme Being’ arrived on Merseyside in the form of Jurgen Klopp. His press conferences are hilarious. If you haven’t seen his interview with a nine-year old Liverpool supporter click here. He has not only energised a football club with his touchy feely hugs for the players, he’s energised an entire city, with the term Klopp-mania being added to the English language, in the wake of him being mobbed on Hardman Street when he tried to go out for a drink with his wife.

There is a wider point here, he’s a fantastic communicator. Herr Klopp regards the media not as something to do battle with, like Mourinho and Ferguson, but rather a conduit to his key stakeholder, namely the fans. If anyone is wondering what to get me for Xmas, all I really want is a hug from Jurgen.

I can’t let the year pass without a word about our Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne. At times he’s been lucky (“Give me lucky Generals” as Napoleon said) not least with John McDonnell letting him off over the tax credits u-turn. But, he’s also shown enormous strategic vision, not least with his Northern Powerhouse initiative and his willingness to engage with Labour Council leaders in the North, like Joe Anderson in Liverpool and Howard Bernstein in Manchester, who have been starved of attention from Labour’s metropolitan, in other words London, elite. Clever politics? Yes, but also potentially very good for the country as a whole.

They say that ‘Cometh the hour, cometh the man’ and this year two politicians have stood out and defied expectations. Hilary Benn’s speech to the House of Commons during the Syria debate in early December was a tour-de-force performance, which speared his own party leader’s arguments and set out clearly the case for further UK involvement, namely that there is a United Nations Security Council Resolution (of which we are a permanent member Jeremy Corbyn, in case you hadn’t noticed) and the French, one of our oldest allies, have asked for our help. He might just be the man, given the chance, to save the Labour Party from itself.

However, there is another individual who has shown real leadership this year. His opinion poll ratings have been as low as 20%. He’s been ridiculed for riding around Paris on a moped to visit his mistress. His ex-partner wrote a kiss and tell book about him, which was excruciating. He’s been widely regarded as being unfit to fill the boots of one of the giants of the French political left, Francois Mitterrand.

And yet, his willingness to engage ISIS, even before the Paris attacks, show a depth of understanding about Middle Eastern affairs which others have lacked. More importantly, in the aftermath of the Paris attacks he has been decisive and shown real leadership, whilst never allowing his rhetoric to become inflammatory or divisive. He has acted as a lightning rod for French grief, taking the fears of a nation on shoulders that seemed, only a few short weeks ago, to be unfit for the job at hand.

My Man of the Year is the President of France, Francois Hollande.

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Villains of the Year

We’re back! It’s that time of year when I turn all reflective, don my smoking jacket, pour a small sherry and sit back in a comfy chair to compile my annual list of high achievers and villains for the year. As ever, this is a purely personal list which reflects my own interests, prejudices and opinions. No doubt I have left off plenty of deserving individuals, but no correspondence will be entered into. We’ll start with the villains and then celebrate our heroes tomorrow.

As ever, sport has given us its fair share of villains this year, but for the sheer scale of corruption and brazen two-fingers to the world, the 65th FIFA Congress in May was one of the comedy highlights, beginning a process of early morning dawn raids, threatened boycotts, investigations by the FBI, deportations and resignations.

However, my sports administration villain of the year is no fan of FIFA, but he has hit every wrong note during this scandal. When Sepp Blatter resigned, instead of sounding statesman-like he went into a TV studio and delivered a gleeful rant. He has consistently refused to withdraw the Football Association from FIFA, despite the fact that the organisation has no credibility and is not worth saving. Worse, when nominations opened for the FIFA Presidency he rushed to endorse Michel Platini, President of UEFA, only to find his choice under investigation for accepting a bribe from Blatter. My sports administration villain of the year has shown poor judgement and no leadership at all. Step forward, Greg Dyke, Chief Executive of the Football Association.

Politicians always play a large role in these awards and this year is no exception. This was the year when three-time nominee, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, tried to de-rail the historic US-Iranian nuclear arms deal and a far left Labour Shadow Chancellor quoted from Mao’s Little Red Book at the Despatch Box, despite the fact that the author had slaughtered millions of his own people. What next John McDonnell? Can we expect you to quote from Pol Pot’s “Long live the Communist Party of Kampuchea” speech?

However, my political villain of the year has made a stellar contribution to the American Presidential debates declaring that he wanted to build a wall between the US and Mexico; saying Mexican immigrants are all criminals and rapists, and telling an audience that Senator John McCain, a Vietnam War POW who withstood two years in solitary confinement and torture, was not a hero. Fortunately, the Founding Fathers devised a rigorous selection process for an American President which, hopefully, will trip him up sooner rather than later. My political villain of the year is Donald Trump.

I try and avoid nominating collectives for an award, preferring to nominate individuals, but this year three ‘groups’ deserve special mention. If you are going to make predictions, have acres of newsprint devoted to your work and play a major role in forming public opinion, then you had better get it right. Unfortunately, in 2015, the major polling companies (that’s you MORI, YouGov etal) all got it very, very wrong in the run-up to the 2015 UK General Election.

And by wrong, I mean 6-7 percentage points wrong and 30 odd seats. Instead of heading for a hung parliament, the country had the first Conservative majority since 1992. Worse, it subsequently came out that a number of them had picked up signs of a late swing to ‘shy Tories’ in the days leading up to the poll, but had declined to publish their data fearing it was a rogue sample. So, not only incompetent, but a bunch of cowards as well.

I can’t let the year slip by without mentioning my former bank, HSBC. Money laundering; setting up tax evasion operations in Switzerland; manipulation of LIBOR and playing around in the North American mezzanine credit default swap market, have not dented this bank’s confidence or produced on iota of humility. In fact, Chief Executive Stuart Gulliver is currently trying to persuade shareholders to quit the UK for tax reasons. Close the door on your way out Stuart.

However, the travails of our polling companies and banks pale into insignificance compared to what is likely to become one of the major corporate scandals of the 21st Century. My villain of the year decided it was a good idea to manipulate the engine management system of its cars to detect when emissions tests were taking place and opened itself up to huge reputational damage, Congressional Hearings in the United States, billions of dollars in fines, massive product recalls and class action lawsuits. The fact that a German company did this, one of the birthplaces of the Green movement was, and remains, staggering. My prediction is that the fall-out from all of this could see the perpetrator having to sell-off the family silver in order to pay for it all, namely the SEAT and SKODA brands.

My Villain of the Year is Volkswagen.

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Location, location, location

There’s sometimes a mentality in our culture that there is a) London and b) everywhere else. We’ve all heard it, “anything above Watford Gap is basically the North” and other such sweeping statements about an assumed caveman-style existence outside of the M25.

erm yes, yes it certainly does

I’ve seen this attitude creeping into search campaigns, as well as overall business.  This week I was asked to look into why a company’s campaign was converting for Londoners but not for ‘non-Londoners’. The trigger for me was right there, ‘non-London’. There’s a tendency to lump anyone who doesn’t live or work in London together and not bother to target these people properly.

Location targeting set up

Here’s an example, an ad for a (real) cleaning company which is based in London but services other major UK cities. I’ve heard about them through other marketing channels and wanted to investigate, so I googled the brand name.

In theory, this ad is spot on. It has enhanced sitelinks, call out extensions and Google reviews. We get all the USPs and price points to encourage us to click. Awesome, but it’s clearly a London-centric ad. We have a London specific Display URL and a London mention in the ad copy – but I’m googling from a computer with a Birmingham-registered IP address. This ad tells me about a cool service, but implies it’s only available in London and that’s a shame, I’ve scrolled down now and gone on to the Molly Maid site instead, they’ve lost my business.

It was the same for mobile, even with GSP location services switched on.

[For the record, this company *does* have Birmingham specific ads which appear if you add ‘Birmingham’ in your search query, just not if you don’t. They also really are an awesome service]

Regarding the original campaign I was asked to look at, the problem was just the same. London ads blanketing the UK. For PPC builds, never underestimate the importance of well-thought-out campaign settings, with both location inclusions and exclusions. Hardly the most riveting part of a build but vital to conversion success. Don’t be lazy with ad creative either, London ads to a Brummie does not a conversion make.

Nuts and bolts aside, it’s the mentality that I think trips people up the most. Companies are losing out on business by not giving other UK cities the right amount of attention when targeting. The mentality is too London-centric. Just because we don’t live there doesn’t mean we’re not interested in the same online services as Londoners – after all, our money is as good as anyone’s, right?

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Another nail in the coffin for Google+?

Google finally appears to be acknowledging that its users don’t want to be force fed Google +.

It started a few months back when the search engine announced that users would no longer require a Google + account in order to use its other products, including YouTube. Now they have taken things a step further by removing links and reviews generated on social platform from the search results pages.

Given the time, investment and level of promotion that went into creating and launching Google +, I’d be surprised if they are planning on sending it to the Google graveyard along with Buzz and Wave (remember those? No, me neither). So the question is, what is the master plan for the social network that never was?

We mustn’t forget that Google recently rebranded itself as Alphabet, a parent company which will allow areas such as Life Sciences and Wing to be managed by their own dedicated teams rather than sit in the shadow of the search side of the business. Part of me wonders whether this will be seen as an opportunity to quietly phase out Google+ in its current form, and relaunch it later down the line as part of the Alphabet roll out.

As I said above, I highly doubt Google+ will be disbanded and that will be that. Whilst there has been no official announcement on the future of the network, and all the above is purely speculation, my feeling is that it’s going to be the MySpace of Google. It will quietly disappear only to pop back up in a year or two rebranded, refreshed and maybe even with Justin Timberlake at the helm.

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Four great books for B2B marketers that aren’t about business

Business people can often learn more from books that aren’t actually about business, taking lessons in management, negotiation and strategy from the world of politics, sport and even war. Here are four books from outside the business world with lessons for B2B marketers.

Moneyball – Michael Lewis

An instant classic when it was first published. This is a book about overturning orthodoxies and making decisions based on quantifiable metrics rather than hunches and subjective evaluations. The vehicle for the story is the Oakland Athletics, who overturn baseball’s in-built financial ‘unfairness’ to reach successive World Series finals, despite spending less than a fifth of the New York Yankees’ player recruitment budget. The real story though is about finding value through data, in whatever walk of life or profession you belong to. Hated by baseball enthusiasts when first published, who feared it was turning their sport into a science, it was loved by the business community who started measuring everything they could get their hands on, coining the mantra, “If we can’t measure it, we don’t do it.” The starting point for the B2B digital marketing revolution.

The Best and the Brightest – David Halberstam

Not so much a history of decision-making in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, more a management ‘How Not To’ guide. The theory was fine, appoint the brightest American minds of a generation (Bundy, Rusk, McNamara) to the top jobs in government and tell them to go and save the world. In practice, it failed horribly. The ‘Whizzkids’, boxed in by orthodoxies (the Domino Theory) which went unchallenged, were unable to define strategic priorities and became mired in detail and events which, with hindsight, seem inconsequential compared to the nightmare unfolding in South East Asia. Their only answer was to throw more resource at the problem. In fairness, in our own ways, we’ve all been there. The lessons: set your strategic priorities and don’t try and solve problems with resource, be it money, people or equipment.

Ending the Vietnam War – Henry Kissinger

Henry sorts out the mess left by the Whizzkids. Inheriting a position with virtually no cards to play (the Americans wanted out and the North Vietnamese knew it!), Kissinger refused to indulge in traditional ‘slice the salami’ negotiating tactics (Hot Tip: it only encourages your opponent to wait for the next concession) and  launches a series of diplomatic initiatives including ‘linkage’, an opening to China and détente with the Russians, plus a bit of bombing thrown in. To cut a long story short, the North Vietnamese are wrong-footed and come back to the negotiating table resulting in the Paris Peace Accords. The lesson: there is always leverage with every negotiation, you just have to look hard for it. Essential reading for anyone having to deal with procurement departments.

Winners and How They Succeed – Alastair Campbell

Love him or loathe him, Campbell remains a big beast when it comes to communication and strategy. Yes, the interviews with Jose Mourinho, Ann Wintour and Narendra Modi, to name but a few, are interesting, but the real value here lies in the first three chapters, which are the best description of strategy versus tactics I’ve ever read. “We need a regional roadshow,” says the board member of European company, diving headfirst into tactics. “Then your strategy is regionalisation,” says Campbell. Simple, but superb.

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Four great business books for B2B marketers

Amazon is chock full of business books which claim to be the ‘seminal texts’ on sales strategy, marketing, PR, digital and everything in between. But which ones will really help B2B marketers? Our Head of B2B, Tom Leatherbarrow, picks four key business books which are actually readable.

Strategic Selling – Miller Heiman

How often have you lost a sale because, “We weren’t talking to the right people” or because, “Procurement said no” or “The MD over-ruled his managers and went with a friend of his”? Miller Heiman encourage you to take a more planned approach to business relationships, categorising the key decision-makers in any sales situation into those who have the power to say yes and, more importantly, those with the power to say no. This book won’t turn you into a great closer, but it will place your key sales relationships onto a more strategic footing. If you do nothing else, work out who your Economic Buyer is.

Iacocca – the autobiography of Lee Iacocca

The story of one of the great American businessmen, full of humility, wisdom and sly digs at Henry Ford Jr. He took over Chrysler at its lowest ebb in the late-1970s and was forced to go to the US Government for a bail-out. Within three years he had introduced new models, turned the company around with soaring sales and was appearing in his own TV adverts with the strapline, “If you can find a better car, buy it!”. Most importantly, he paid the Government its money back, a lesson which has been lost on our bankers. His secret? Making cars people actually wanted to drive. This book also contains one of my favourite Iacocca quotes, namely, “I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.” Sound advice for insecure managers everywhere.

The Marketing Performance Blueprint – Paul Roetzer

In my opinion, the classic text for B2B marketers in the digital age. If this book doesn’t make you take a hard look at your current marketing and supplier relationships, then nothing will. Roetzer deconstructs current marketing strategies and their opaque measurability and gives marketers, facing increasing pressure to connect marketing spend with quantifiable results, the knowledge to ask difficult questions of their suppliers, and put themselves and their departments on a more digital and measurable footing. If you are struggling to take a more technical and scientific approach to marketing, this book can help you recruit the right people and appoint the right agencies to build brands and generate leads.

What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School – Mark McCormack

The secrets of one of the greatest ever marketing men, who started with one client, the golfer Arnold Palmer and, over 30 years, built the pre-eminent sports marketing agency in the world, International Management Group. McCormack gives you the ‘street knowledge’ that business schools can’t or won’t, packing this book with great advice from the importance of listening (“If you are speaking, you can’t be listening, and we always learn much more from listening”) and watching out for the “quiet ones in meetings” through to marketing strategies and negotiation. Thirty years old, but still a classic read for B2B marketers.

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How To Get A Job In B2B PR

If you’re looking to take your first step onto the PR career ladder, you’ve hopefully already got an idea (no matter how vague) of the area you’re interested in. If you’ve chosen B2B PR, congratulations! You’re going to join a very select club of PR professionals, who are as proud of their ability to write interesting copy on literally anything (from a piece of pipe to a sewage pump) as they are passionate about every part of their client’s business.

If this description inspires you to read further, here are my top tips on how to score a job in B2B PR:

1.      Be proactive.

With vacancies few and far between, it’s a good idea to make connections using LinkedIn and social media. The majority of our B2B team did work experience when we had no vacancies and were so great that we couldn’t let them go.

2.     Prove your skills.

B2B PR is great if you love writing and want to learn how to craft lengthy articles on almost anything under the sun. Interviews usually include a writing test, but why wait to see if you’re called in? Choose a B2B topic or issue and show us your skills.

3.     Research is everything.

Stand out from the crowd by showing us you’ve done your homework. Research the type of clients or sectors you might be interested in, tell us which B2B PR story you’ve seen recently and loved, and even look at the magazines you might be working with if you get the job.

4.     Finally, if you’re set on becoming part of the B2B club then tell us.

I know this sounds obvious but you’d be shocked at the amount of interviewees who list consumer clients as their dream accounts or don’t reference B2B aspirations once in their interview answers. What we’re really looking for is someone to share our love for all things B2B, aspire to work on the fantastic clients we have, and join our crusade to make even the most obscure products fascinating!

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Google to restructure under Alphabet

We woke up to a surprising announcement this morning. Tech giant and household name, Google, is to restructure creating a new parent company called Alphabet.

Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin broke the news in an official blog post, in which they reiterated that “Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one”. They also made the point that several of their self-confessed ‘crazy ideas’ have turned out to be hugely successful, for example Android, YouTube and Google Maps. It is apparently examples like these that have spurred Brin and Page on to keep pushing themselves out of their comfort zone and take more risks.

As an umbrella company, Alphabet will own a collection of smaller companies, the largest of which will be Google. So, what will its structure look like? There are whispers that the structure will be similar to that of Berkshire Hathaway. (Berkshire Hathaway is an American multi-national conglomerate holding company, owning the likes of Fruit of the Loom, GEICO, Dairy Queen and Flight Safety International, and with minority holdings in companies including Wells Fargo, The Coca Cola Company and American Express).

According to Brin and Page, Google itself (the core internet business) will be slightly slimmed down, but mainly remain unchanged under its new CEO, Sundar Pichai. Services such as Google Maps, YouTube and Chrome will continue to operate as normal.

It is the non-internet elements of the business that will move under Alphabet, such as Life Sciences, Calico, X Lab and Wing. It makes sense to separate the bread and butter from the slightly more ambitious projects and, as Page pointed out, “Fundamentally, we believe this allows us more management scale, as we can run independently things that aren’t very related”.

This added transparency seems to have been well received so far (particularly with investors who can now assess each area of the company more clearly) with many hailing the move as a positive step.

It’s also pleasing to see that Google’s core values are still shining through; when explaining why the name Alphabet was chosen, Page said “it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search!”

The new structure is set to roll out later this year, with Alphabet Inc replacing Google Inc as the public traded entity. It’s going to be interesting to see how it works in reality, and whether the lesser known arms of the business start to stand out on their own.

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The Revealing Media Reaction To The Swift-Minaj Twitter ‘Debate’

It seems that no matter what stance you take on the Taylor Swift-Nicki Minaj exchange, someone has a counter-opinion to show that your argument is racist, anti-feminist or in some way unbalanced.

In light of this, the media reaction was always going to be interesting – when the media must be seen to be fair and yet in touch with popular opinion, how is best to proceed? Whose ‘side’ should you take and what language should be used to detail the incident? Personally I found the views of most media outlets telling and in many ways disappointing.

In case you’re not clued up, Minaj expressed frustration about the lack of appreciation for her contribution to music in a not-so-subtle tweet aimed at her perceived systematic racism in the music industry: “If I was a different ‘kind’ of artist, Anaconda would be nominated for best choreo and vid of the year as well”, she tweeted.

Swift took this to be a personal attack and questioned Minaj’s support for other female artists: “I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot.” After being heavily criticised for becoming involved in a conversation that was about bigger things than individual artists, Swift apologised: “I thought I was being called out. I missed the point, I misunderstood, then misspoke. I’m sorry, Nicki.”

The media reaction to the above drama says as much about society’s stance on such issues as racism and feminism as the initial tweets did. The immediate media narrative was typically reductionist: Hollywood Life referred to ‘FURIOUS’ Nicki’s ‘rant, Heatworld headlined their article: ‘Nicki CALLED Taylor Swift to squash Twitter beef!’ Glamour magazine described how Swift ‘shut down’ Minaj ‘and it was ‘WONDERFUL’ in a tweet that was then hastily deleted. C0nversely, the Independent’s Yomi Adegoke writes: ‘Minaj is simply another black woman being accused of divisiveness by a white feminist for pointing out racial inequality.’

Just like Swift’s tonedeaf response to Minaj missed the point, so too did these journalists. The sensationalist media indicated that this was just a ‘catfight’, language which helps neither the feminist or the anti-racial marginalisation agenda. Adegoke scrutinised Swift’s immediate reaction and elaborated on its meaning to an inordinate degree, whilst failing to point out that Swift retracted her comment and apologised once she saw she has misunderstood– is it racist to misinterpret a subtly-written tweet?  The media debate focused on extremes of who is right and who is wrong without problematizing the finer details, and these arguments in themselves offer damaging messages to readers.

Yes, Swift missed the point: feminism does not mean all women must agree with one another – as Ellen E Jones points out, “They just have to use what power they have to safeguard other women’s opportunities to be heard.” Minaj has certainly been heard, but that doesn’t mean that what she has to say is right, just as Swift isn’t necessarily wrong. Minaj claims that the video for her song, Anaconda, ‘impacted on society’ and thus deserves a nomination, but the crucial detail – that she hasn’t necessarily impacted on society for good – is missed.  A glance at the music video is revealing – it’s crass, semi-pornographic and eye-catching, it has certainly impacted on culture in the ways that Minaj listed. Does this make it award-winning? Many people impact on society, and not necessarily for the better. Whist Minaj has succeeded in tackling the notion that only a slim body type is beautiful (whilst ironically castigating thinner girls in no uncertain terms), she has also contributed to the very real and damaging notion that women are sex objects to be valued for their pleasing body type.

Not one article I have read points out that whilst Minaj is happy to call out the music industry for sidelining her, she also sees no problem with body-shaming artists with equal vigour.  ‘If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year’, she tweeted. Her case isn’t helped by the lyrics of Anaconda: “F*ck those skinny b****es, skinny b****es in the club –f**k you if you skinny b****es”. She is seen cavorting and dancing for a man who appraises her before she walks away from him at the end of the video, in what some have deemed an empowering finale.  In the age when feminism is having its moment, (that is, is deemed socially, culturally and politically salient), the media’s responsibility to take a look at how it represents conversations, and the implications of setting racism against feminism, Minaj against Swift, is more relevant than ever before.

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FA Scores an Own Goal

Poor James Callow. Did he have any idea that a simple desire to set the scene for the poignant homecoming of the women’s England football team would cause so much trouble? On Monday he tweeted from the Football Association’s account an unfortunate and seemingly sexist post that has been widely criticised in the past few days:

Callow, the content editor at the FA, maintains that the tweet was intended as a tribute to the team within the context of players being reunited with their families. The FA also released a statement: “The full story was a wider homecoming feature … However, we understand that an element of the story appears to have been taken out of context.”

I can’t help but feel sorry for Callow, as the flawed logic behind such a well-meaning sentiment is striking to anyone who works in communications – and evidently, to the wider public. Who could possibly have signed off such a misjudged post? Don’t even get me started on the grammar error (heroines not heroes!).

The idea that context was assumed is probably the most glaring issue – Twitter gives you 140 characters for a reason, and your tweet will inevitably be taken at face value. My gut reaction on seeing it was disbelieving outrage, and this wasn’t tempered by the explanation that it’s part of a wider article. Different platforms perform different jobs, and Twitter is designed to share a summary of a whole piece of content – whereas here it shares a summary of a constituent part. It’s just the wrong medium, and it has cost the FA dear.

What struck me immediately on viewing the tweet (and maybe this is a relic of studying gender history at uni) was the categorisation of women -reminiscent of the Victorian ideals of women as either ‘virgin’, ‘mother’ or ‘widow’ – and perhaps this is why the message felt so uncomfortable. Callow seemed to suggest both that members of the team had stopped being mothers, partners and daughters during their time in the World Cup — and that they’d somehow stopped being footballers after the competition was over.
This categorisation forms part of a larger conversation about the gendered nuances of women in sports and everyday sexism in general. These issues were highlighted just a few days earlier in the semi-final of the Cup on Wednesday when the England captain Laura Bassett scored an own goal. She was understandably devastated, but the response she received has been criticised as patronising after she was delivered an outpouring of support by the Twittersphere and lauded as a heroine. Some compared this reaction to the treatment of David Beckham , for whom there was little sympathy when he received a red card in the 1998 World Cup loss to Argentina and headlines read: “Beck-home” (The Sun) and “10 heroic lions, one stupid boy” (The Mirror). Of course, there is a big difference between a red card and an own goal, so perhaps this isn’t a fair comparison – but one can’t help but wonder if a woman would have been so rudely and roundly castigated in the same circumstances. Claire Cohen of the Telegraph makes a good point when she says: “The outpouring of support after Laura Bassett’s own goal is only right…But can you imagine the men’s team getting anywhere near the same level of commiseration?”

The feeling in the office about the whole debate was somewhat divided, with some feeling that if it hadn’t have been such a gendered sport, it would be difficult to draw such distinct parallels. The lesson from this debate is an unpalatable one – when stripped back to its essentials, it can be argued that the message is that men are headstrong and dominant and women are emotional and in need of saving. When women do try something outside the role of ‘wife, partner and mother’, they are to be applauded, but still called out on their normal roles and on their ‘heroic’ antics for having a go. When Gazza cried in 1990, it was remarkable only for its hugely anomalous nature in the sporting world. Why can’t men cry? Why are men not dads, partners and husbands before, during and after the World Cup?  Of course, thousands of years of misogyny won’t be combatted in a few decades, but for all the good the FA did in raising the profile of, and thus normalising, women in football, I can’t help but feel they undid an awful lot with one tweet.

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Bing to Encrypt Search Data by Default

I’ve read a few blogs recently that challenge the importance of keyword strategy, some even arguing that this sort of strategy is now obsolete in the world of search engine marketing.

Whilst practices such as keyword stuffing are inarguably out of date, black hat and generally a big no-no, keyword data is still of huge value to online strategy. Knowing what attracts your customers to you site, however you have built that strategy, be it through links or content, is crucial information when developing a search strategy.

That’s what makes the latest announcement from Bing even more frustrating. The search engine has announced that it is to encrypt its search data, meaning web traffic reports will no longer show all keyword data entered by users. They’ve been allowing users to encrypt their data for the last 18 months or so, but in the summer this is set to become default.

As a search marketer, one of the aspects of Google’s analytics I find most frustrating is the (not provided) row that appears every time I access a traffic report. How am I expected to know what’s making my customers tick if you hide the data? Yes there are other ways of getting to the bottom of this by exploring other reports in analytics, and we need plenty of additional data to determine what our users are doing once they’re onsite, but nevertheless it’s all making the process longer.

Bing has already got an uphill struggle competing against the behemoth that is Google, but this was one of the features that set them apart.

Much the same as Google, the official line from Bing’s Senior Project Manager, Duane Forrester is that this latest move will serve to protect user privacy. There is always going to be a question mark around whether this is actually the case, or whether search engines are now trying to push brands towards paid search instead. Sure enough, the first suggestion from Bing on accessing user data after the roll out is to access the Search Terms Query Report. This is found in the Bing Ads UI which will show keywords that, yep you guessed it, triggered your paid for ads.

Some might ask we care about this? After all Bing drives little web traffic in comparison to Google, even to sites who rank well there. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, in the announcement blog it is apparent that Bing cares more about its users than webmasters, but I do find it strange they have gotten rid of one of their plus points.

It will be interesting to see if this works in Bing’s favour in any way, or whether it pushes them further behind Google.

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