Microsoft to buy Yahoo

Blimey. Just had a call from Mel, who’s just had a text from Steve Ballmer. Microsoft are going to  buy Yahoo at $31 a share!

 This representings total equity value of approximately $44.6 billion.

 But the more important thing for all of us is that there will be two players, not three.

So I heard the news

Blimey. Just had a call from Mel, who’s just had a text from Steve Ballmer. Microsoft are going to  buy Yahoo at $31 a share!

 This representings total equity value of approximately $44.6 billion.

 But the more important thing for all of us is that there will be two players, not three.

So I heard the news at 12:08 GMT – I guess it’s been up for 8:00 minutes. Full release from Microsoft here: Mircosoft to buy Yahoo.

 Added:

OK – Picking up the comments and listing them here… So refresh the page if you want a bit more.

The Telegraph also reveals that they loked at other ways of collaborating, quoting a letter: “In late 2006 and early 2007, we jointly explored a broad range of ways in which our two companies might work together” suggesting that they had already decided between them that they couldn’t take on Google alone.

  • Fox points out that this will be one of the largets Tech acquisitions ever – and way bigger than anything Microsoft have done before (AQuantive was $6Billion)
  • Search Engine Watch has a huge amount of cut and paste, including the whole letter from Steve Ballmer to the Yahoo Board (Nice scoop SEW)
  • BBC are all over it too.

What do Microsoft People think about it? well Mel has put his thoughts up now (rushing to a plane) which sounds positive, but I picked up on my Facebook about an hour before the news broke the Eytan Seidman, one if the biggest names from the algo side of Microsoft is moving on. No idea where to, but maybe he knew what was in the wind and thinks Yahoo’s organic algo will take the high ground.

Other blogger thoughts…

  • Dave Naylor points out that an offer does not mean it will happen. he wonders if Google will step in. I doubt Google would get it past the authorities though.
  • Andy Beal reckons that the takeover’s going to get hostile very quickly.
  • Sphinn has just nuked most of the other bloggers in favour this one (So – I’ve just deleted my Sphinn button.)

Remember the Wine Blogging Case Study? They Just Went Bust

Don’t believe all the hype you hear in SMO. Last year one of the most hyped successes in Social Media Marketing (SMM) was the Stormhoek Case study. Hey – that’s a CNN link, so it MUST have been great huh?

Well I was with a prospective client yesterday who has been a wine merchant

Don’t believe all the hype you hear in SMO. Last year one of the most hyped successes in Social Media Marketing (SMM) was the Stormhoek Case study. Hey – that’s a CNN link, so it MUST have been great huh?

Well I was with a prospective client yesterday who has been a wine merchant in the UK for well over 100 years. they are not the kind of company to jump onto web 2.0 ideas in gay abandon, so I mentioned the Stormhoek case study with an air of caution as something that had been tried – but also as something that came with risks.

I am so glad I did. They may not know SEO and SEM, but after 100 years in the industry, they certainly know their wine companies. Stormhoek’s parent – Orbit Wines – went bust a few weeks ago and they are lining up bail out buyers.

I find it very hard to find case studies on so many areas of Internet Marketing and I think case studies are increasingly important in weeding out the “wheat from the chaff” and this one – prima facie – was one of the better ones.

The day before I was with one of the world’s largest Internet travel companies, talking to their SEO Manager. He said that he was having trouble finding a decent link building case study. I had trouble believing that, so went to my usual suspects… Sempo, E-consultancy.com and even Eric Ward’s site and guess what? nothing that I could honestly put in front of a blue chip marketing analyst and say “There you are. We did X. People linked to us. This resulted in Y.”

I posted on Webmasterworld in the hope that I was missing the obvious case study, but it appears not so far.

Christmas day data proves that Facebook is more than just a fad

Hitwise has just produced a report showing that Christmas Day 2007 was the busiest day EVER for social networks in the UK. Why were the computers even ON? Because society is changing…

I know Christmas was ages away, but Hitwise has just produced a report (registration required) showing that Christmas Day 2007 was the busiest day EVER for social networks in the UK. For those not convinced that social networks have “traction”, this should come as an alarm call. On a day when most computers are safely tucked away – for many the ONLY day in the year when they should be switched off at the mains, we find that Facebook was the third most visited site in the UK over the Christmas period, pushing eBay into fourth place. (Mind you, in a separate report, Ebay well and truly took its place back on Boxing day as everyone put all their unwanted gifts online!)

The fact that Facebook was so large on Christmas day shows that we have started a change in our cultural and social behaviour. People must have felt a warm and fuzzy feeling, with their friends and family “virtually” in the room, sharing in the conversations around the Christmas tree.

But for marketers, the path for monetizing Facebook remains unclear. The new advertising system – whilst intuitive and clearly targeted – does not seem to “grab” people’s attention like adverts on a search engine and our initial campaign tests have been far from exhilarating.

A perhaps more promising path is the ability to set up corporate personas now on Facebook. These, however, need to be set up by existing members. The problem for third party marketers, like me, is that MY circle of friends and my personal interests are unlikely to be inspired by me setting up a page for a client in a very different field. Other marketers might argue that it is worth setting up false identities “pretending” to be interested in – say – Financial Services. But therein lies another challenge. One’s friends on Facebook are people that you have met. People you either trust (or want to keep close enough to see when they are going to stab you). If Facebook friends only gain traction when they also exist in real life, I fear that the “made up identity” could be a rather hollow character.

I guess one answer for companies is to produce virtual postions in their business. Roles that cross the divide between company and personal. “MSNDude” is an example, where this has been tried. However – once a company does this, they need to resource the position with a real person. Moreover, that person and that business needs to bring something to the table that adds value to the people on Facebook. That’s easy if you manage the David Bowie fan club. Not so easy if you sell insurance.

I have yet to see a Facebook case study that has REALLY given a company marked ROI.

A Million Spam Emails from the wilfully worthless

It’s not beyond the wit of man to fix. It’s beyond the will of those with the wit and beyond the wit of those with the will.

As I sat in Gatwick airport, fighting with the WiFi, my CTO sat opposite me, making sure my Outlook Exchange gets into the office systems  properly, so I can be dealing with my Emails while on the plane to Pubcon. I had some Viagra emails amongst the 159 downloaded over the weekend, but the majority were things I signed up to, and the occasional one was even a real human discussing real business. Well – out of the 159 I have now answered the 12 or so that were human related or required human replies. That leaves me to ponder the comment Andy made when he saw the Viagra emails… namely that although those got through, my spam filters passed the 1 million blocked some time ago.

1 Million – that’s quite a lot I thought! Apparently we don’t even have our filter settings set as high as they can be, as we are happy to let a few of the cleverer ones get through instead of a false positive on a client email. We do use more than one system to filter the emails – but overall I think this tells me three things:

1)  That maybe the Viagra ones are actually now quite well targeted now that I am in my forties

2)  That Andy has pretty well got email spam under control but mostly…

3)  The amount of spam is far from decreasing! When is it going to get fixed???

In a world gone mad with behavioural targeting getting down to whether I prefer chess over cars, the same clever boffins can’t work out how to stop spam. Oh – wait – the guys that are developing behavioural targeting systems to the nth degree are marketers… as are the spammers. The boffins have been bought up by the free market economy. That means it’s up to the governments to fix this.  

Well, nobody else is going to do it are they?

Me – I’m going to go into rocket science marketing in my next incarnation.

DoubleClick’s Personal Privacy Invasion

In the light of the British Government losing the Bank and National Insurance records of half the population, my mind cannot help but return to the corporate identity theft issues on our very doorstep. At SMX London the other day, the engines reiterated their commitment to protecting personal identities, but the truth is very different. Take Next’s website, for example – Indeed you can possibly take any website using the DoubleClick advertising platform that Google is trying to buy. Here’s what happens to me on EVERY PAGE of Next’s website at the moment:

Doubleclick security problem

This happens to me all over the web… and long may Spybot Search & Destroy keep picking up these invasions of privacy. What is happening here is that DoubleClick is trying to track my (personal) behaviour across multiple websites by setting third party cookies. In other words… it is one thing for Next to be able to know how I interact with their brand, but it is quite another for DoubleClick to be able to match that up with what toothpaste I bought or what concert I went to last week.

The future of online advertising and marketing is moving inextricably towards this profiling of your habits and interests. The new Facebook Social Advertising platform was a case in point. I am now able to target (and I quote from my Facebook campaign):

“liberal and moderate women between 18 and 65 years old in the United States who like acting, agatha christie, diagnosis murder, dressing up, gaming, going parties, murder by death, murder by numbers, murder she wrote, party, partying, partys, playing games, sherlock holmes, or theme parties.”

Put it another way… if you are trying to recruit a sadistic, murdering ex-con with suicidal tendencies… Facebook probably knows how to touch base with them.

People where saying that Microsoft were mad to value Facebook at $15 billion when they bought 5% the other week. But that’s not all they bought. They bought exclusive rights to the advertising platform and that – presumably – means they have access to this API data. That’s valuable I would say! They have all the information they need to profile a widget building republican from Ohio without any risk of being sued for using it. Sure, someone can sue Facebook – providing they can wade though Facebook’s privacy policy but I doubt more that a dozen of Facebook’s millions upon millions of users read that lot when they signed up!

DoubleClick, however, may be altogether more sinister in my opinion. My guess is that many of the sites using DoubleClick have their own attitudes towards privacy. Next’s starts with: “Next Directory take on-line security very seriously”. I doubt the lawayer writing that had any idea that Next had effectively sold their user data down the river by using DoubleClick. In fact… They talk about all sorts of things in their policy, but not about DoubleClick:

 next-security-policy1.GIF

Now I know what you are thinking… 

  1. I am going to get letters from lawyers of Next and DoubleClick? well – maybe – but I think they should work towards a solution, not start with idle threats, because I didn’t fake those screenshots.
  2. You are saying that you’d NEVER do a thing like that.

Oh yeah?

  • what tracking system are YOU using?
  • What ISP are you using?
  • What WiFi connection are you accepting visitors from?
  • What Plugins are you recommending?

Nobody is taking personal privacy seriously – let alone ourselves. Big Brother is now pretty well anyone willing to pay for the data and yet we all point the finger and say “but that wasn’t MY fault”. In the meantime, I buy the Facebook profile targeted adverts and still try to claim I’m a white hat SEO. In the meantime – I’ll let you know if Next or Doubleclick or Facebook would like me to modify this post.

New Facebook Social Ads Review

I saw that Facebook today (or was it yesterday?) launched a new advertising platform. Well – two actually – but the first is called “social advertising” and I managed to get my first ad campaign running on a PPC basis in about 10 minutes flat. Some observations and screenshots along the way for anyon interested. I have also put all the links through my own affiliate tracking software, so after a few weeks I’ll be able to tell you some conversion data as well.

 The first great thing is that Facebook makes it even easier to target specific demographics and interest groups. I started off with a massive audience (everyone in the United States) but soon decided to target my adverts to women – because they tend to buy my murder mystery games more than men – by about 2:1. I was also forced to choose one country (BOO… don’t you know I’ve sold a murder mystery games to the Antartic Expedition via the web? I really HAVE targeted every continent!) but I guess I can set up other adverts for other regions in due course.

I could also type in keywords and interest groups popped up as I went. Here is the targeting I ended up with – how “plain English” is that? I AM impressed. 

Facebook Targeting

So now I have set up my target audience and limited to 125,480 people across America. I’ll get the Brits and the Canadians and the Aussies on the next few passes. Right – what was next?

Next was writing the advert – and to my joy I was allowed to upload an image! The text and layout of the advert came alive on the screen. Unfortunately it didn’t give me much clues as to how many letters I could use and it turns out that if your domain is more than 20 letters long (mine was www.murdermysterygames.net) then you won’t be able to use it in your text creative.

Here was the advert creative Screen – again really simple:

How an Advert looks in Facebook

And then game the pring and payment. I was again delighted. I can choose between PPC OR CPM based delivery and I can set the maximum PPC. They are not starting greedy – the default is 10 cents but the minimum is 1 cent. (I went cheap, on the basis that I was likely to be early on the band wagon).

One error or bug here. You are allowed to set campaign start and end dates. I tried to do this – giving myself a great run from now until well after Christmas, which is my peak season for Murder Mystery Parties. The campaign system only allows me to run a campaign up to 30 days in the future. WHOOPS 🙁 “shome mishtake Shurely???” as we say in fashionable London clubs). Never mind – I went for full delivery and set the budget at $50 a day. I figure that if they give spend that at 3 cents a click I’m on a winner! I expect I may have to raise the CPC bar a bit soon. Here’s the pricing screen options:

 Facebook Pricing Screen

And that was it! My advert is now up and running (OK – I had to get the credit card out too). I’m tracking every click to sale, so let me know if there’s any questions you’d like me to report on.