The World Around Me

Google & Privacy – Maybe We Should Be More Creeped Out

I got an email on Friday from a non-tech savvy friend that had recently asked me for advice on where to set up a new email account for her home business.  I recommended gmail, pretty much just as a reflex.

Here’s the email she sent me:

“…So here’s an interesting thing with Gmail:   I’ve been e-mailing back and forth about a quote for my services and one of the questions the client asked me is ‘am I covered by worker-injury insurance’.  I answered that I have do indeed have private accident and disability insurance, so no need to worry about my coverage while onsite.

Now–alongside my mailbox I’m getting ads about disability insurance, and legal claims for workplace injuries.  Somebody is reading my Gmail besides who I’m sending it to.  What’s up with that?  Is this phishing?  And how do they get into my mailbox?

Now, at first my reaction was the typical techno-geek response: “Duh, Gmail has ads and that’s why the service is free, I’m LOLZ because you think someone is reading your email”.

But then I thought about this for a second.  Someone is reading it.

Maybe I’m the one the joke is on, not the non-techie person.

The Joke is On Us

Consider for a second the world of ad targeting we live in where we’re so used to Google invading our personal data and online activities that it seems laughable that someone ‘non-technical’ would assume another party is reading their email and the like.

It’s kind of sad how Google-conditioning takes over and we forget, and even laugh at, the idea that our data is private and shouldn’t be read as fodder for ad targeting.

When you stand back and look stuff like this from a non-Google-user perspective, it’s pretty striking.  I used to think that one day ‘we’ll all look back and laugh at the time when our private communications were private’, but low and behold, we’re already there.

Maybe we should stop laughing.


A Timely Reminder: Adwords Passwords & Security

3 Comments Written on December 13th, 2010 by
Categories: Business, Google Adwords, The World Around Me

Over the weekend Gawker Media’s site network including lifehacker, Jezebel, Gawker, Gizmodo and others was hacked, their entire site database packaged up, downloaded, and posted as a Torrent on the The Pirate Bay website.  Included in that site db were over 1.3m commentator usernames, emails and passwords…in plain text.

By far, the vast majority of the email addresses in the db were addresses, closely followed by @yahoo and @hotmail variations.

Wouldn’t you know it, a lot of people, and I mean A LOT of people, use the same password for nearly everything, from commenting on Gawker blogs to their Gmail accounts and beyond.  The instant this hit the web, hackers and curious programmers were writing scripts to try the hacked passwords in combination with the email addresses to gain access to users’ email and Twitter accounts and the like.  Many of them were successful, and gmail accounts were accessed.

This immediately made me think of Google Accounts, and the close tie-in between Google services like Adwords and more benign services like email.  Twitter fell face-first into a massive internal document leak when a hacker used social engineering methods to reset Twitter staff user gmail passwords, locking the staff users out of their own Google Accounts and giving the hacker access to all of Twitter’s internal documents (including strategy and HR documents) that were created using Google Docs.  (PS-If you were Twitter and Google was your competition, would you be using Google Docs?  Question for another time I guess…)

If you haven’t had a chance to read the background of how using Google Docs lead to Twitter’s hack, I highly recommend you read this backgrounder and see if you can spot any familiar points in your organization.

The same thing could happen to your Adwords account, particularly when there are a number of users with Admin-level access.

A friend of mine had his Adwords account compromised this way in 2007, with the hacker running up $160,000 in clicks in two days by bidding on “Pepsi” with a bunk ad, bidding $100 CPC.  Google was able to refund them, but the account had to be shut down completely for security reasons by Google, and he lost over four years of account history and had to start from scratch with a net-new Adwords account.

This whole Gawker fiasco is a good reminder that it’s essential to a) not use the same password over and over again on PPC platforms in particular, and b) rotate your passwords with complex variations that are less likely to be cracked using brute-force attempts.  Using a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols all rolled up in the same password is the best way to prevent someone from cracking it using automated brute-force tools.  If you have a hard time remembering complex passwords, consider using 1Password (Mac & Windows) or a similar app to help via autofill.

Because Gmail is tied to nearly every Google Accounts service, the same complex password strategy should apply to your Adwords-connected Gmail or Google Apps accounts, both for yourself and anyone else who has been granted administrative access to your Adwords account.

When you consider the damage that someone could do to your credit card or agency account by running up fraudulent click charges or worse, direct-linking fake ads to sketchy, blacklisted or malware sites, it’s well worth the effort to take the time to update your Google password regimen right away.  The same goes for Facebook Ads, Adcenter or any other key platform that’s linked to your credit card.

Better safe than sorry…

Join Me at Blueglass Florida!

1 Comment » Written on September 16th, 2010 by
Categories: The World Around Me

I’m very excited to be presenting at the upcoming Blueglass Florida conference in North Miami November 2nd and 3rd!

I’ll be presenting along side the always-entertaining Marty Weintraub from AIMclear and the lovely Joanna Lord from SEOmoz.

The topic of our panel is advanced demographic targeting with PPC, and I’m looking forward to presenting my tactics for inexpensively capturing conversions from the best demographic of all:  the hot-and-ready buyer:)

Here’s the promo for our spiel:

Advanced PPC Tactics : Styling & Profiling!

PPC is much more than starting a few campaigns in Google AdWords and then setting & forgetting. This panel will cover advanced tactics in behavioral, demographic & profile targeting within AdWords, Bing and the big daddy of profiling : Facebook! Want to serve customized ads to your target demographic that are going to lead to sales and long term brand loyalty? Then this session is for you. After an hour of discussion and tactics, you’ll be ready to tweak your PPC campaign and take it to the next level.

The full lineup of speakers and presentations is available on the agenda page here.

The feedback from the first Blueglass LA was phenomenal, and Miami in November sounds like a smashing idea:)

Some tickets are still available, and more info on the entire event can be found here!

If you’re planning on attending, be sure to drop me a line and let’s meet up!

Optimizing PPC Campaigns For Non-US Markets

6 Comments Written on March 1st, 2010 by
Categories: Local Search, The World Around Me

Do you sometimes feel you can’t squeeze any more performance out of your campaigns? You’ve optimized everything, and you just can’t boost performance much further?

Have you looked at your international options?

Articles on PPC tend to focus on the US market. Let’s take a look at the massive opportunities in the international market, from a US perspective.

Untapped Markets

The US, whilst the biggest search market, still only accounts for approximately 17 percent of searches conducted globally.

According to ComScore’s 2010 search survey:

China ranked second with 13.3 billion searches, followed by Japan with 9.2 billion and the U.K. with 6.2 billion. Among the top ten global search markets, Russia posted the highest gains in 2009, growing 92 percent to 3.3 billion, followed by France (up 61 percent to 5.4 billion) and Brazil (up 53 percent to 3.8 billion)

As you can see, there’s a lot of search volume to be had beyond the US, even if you limit your market to the larger English speaking nations, like Australia and the UK.

Also, being a US-based PPC operative, you may have a serious advantage in those markets.

If you’ve been doing PPC in the US for a while, and you’ve mastered intermediate-advanced techniques, you may be able to out-compete international PPC operators in their local markets, because they haven’t had to fight so hard. Lower levels of competition means campaigns may be run a bit looser than what you’re used to. A generalization, of course, but generally true of less competitive markets.

And there’s another advantage: exchange rate.

Given the US dollar is currently weaker against some other major currencies, you can make bank on the exchange rate alone.

For example, the UK pound is, at the time of writing, worth $1.54 US. If you price your merchandise/services in pounds, without converting, you gain a 50% margin. People spend a UK £ pretty much like you spend a US $, so, depending on your market, you may not have to adjust your price figures.

But before you think it might be too easy, here’s where the locals may out-gun you….

The Challenge

Whilst most aspects of your PPC campaign will remain the same – your bidding strategy, CTR, Quality Score etc – there are differences you need to consider.

1. Pitch

Generally speaking, advertising targeted at US consumers is different to the advertising targeted at, say, UK consumers.

US advertising tends to be seen by more reserved cultures as brash and over-the-top. In order to appeal to consumers in the UK, tone down a hard pitch a few notches.

The easiest way to find the right level is examine the landing pages of competitors in your target market. It’s not just that spelling is different i.e. color vs colour – the underlying psychology is different. This is a generalization, but notice that not all cultures are as optimistic and motivated by personal success as the US. Benefit propositions tend not be pushed quite so hard.

An article in the Independent, a UK newspaper, highlighted the differences in the advertising world: Less business, more arts and entertainment:.

In Britain, advertising and its people are socially smart in the wider world in direct ratio to their distance from hard selling and their resemblance to the arts and entertainment. And advertising people definitely take their place in our great world.

In America, advertising isn’t that socially glamorous – they’ve got Hollywood after all – and its practitioners aren’t so famous, but they make millions and it’s an acceptable career choice for a decent MBA graduate who thinks creativity is something best left to window-dressers.

That’s not directly applicable to the direct marketing channel, but it gives you some idea of different underlying culture behind advertising and acceptance thereof. The good news, for US advertisers, is that the web is making everything more American. People are growing more accustomed to the hard sell, online, at least.

Again, study your competitors in terms of pitch, and revise accordingly.

If your budget allows, try to hire a copywriter based in the target market to adjust your copy.

2. and

Having a local domain name, and indicators of local presence, can help.

Just as you are likely to notice domain names that don’t end in .com, people in other countries are typically more comfortable buying from domains with local extensions, particularly when it comes to the delivery of physical items. It doesn’t tend to matter so much for merchandise or services that are delivered digitally.

It also helps if you can provide a local free calling number, and if possible, a local service address.

This is not to say any of this is necessary. People will buy from anywhere, if the deal is right.

3. Price In Local Currency

How do you feel if you see a checkout denominated in a currency other than US dollars? It can be off-putting. It can feel more risky. Same goes for people in local markets.

If you can, provide local pricing information. If not, at least provide a currency exchange widget.

4. Translation English To English

If you’re doing the ad writing and copywriting yourself, don’t forget the obvious stuff – terminology and spelling.

Here’s a useful translation dictionary for different spelling and terms.

Internet Marketing ≠ Family

12 Comments Written on August 25th, 2008 by
Categories: The World Around Me

I have acquired enough knowledge in Internet marketing to help bring food (mostly desert) to the table and finance my good habits. Earlier this year, I was confident enough to introduce Internet marketing to my family. I told them that it’s a great medium to compliment their income provided that they go after sustainability and offer value to Web. My dad asked how I’m different from Carleton Sheets and those “Make Money Online” commercials on TV. I was dissapointed because I thought he knew better.

I showed them what it is I do and they appeared to be paying attention. My proposal was:

  1. finance initial marketing costs
  2. finance all the start-up costs (web design, premium domain, host)
  3. they will get full support about anything Internet marketing from me and Aaron – Anytime
  4. I’ll throw in a fast, brand new laptop
  5. they get to keep 100% of the profits

After an hour of me selling the idea and how this is really good for them, they finally agreed to learn this Internet marketing. They were given a very simple homework assignment of figuring out what they’re interested in or passionate about that was due the following week.

I came to visit them the following weekend and brought with me their new laptop. They were excited with the computer but admitted that they weren’t able  to figure out what the site will be about. To me, that was the first blow and despite my disappointment, I went ahead and taught them the ultra beginner’s guide to the Web. The tutorial lasted a good 3 hours and they were clearly bored with every second of lecture.

It came to full realization that it’s tough to teach uninterested folks about Internet marketing even if they are piqued with the idea of making money. It’s even worse if family is involved because they tend to expect more from you and contribute less. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family but getting them to leech off our experience for their financial gain was a pain in the neck.