10 famous people I have met

I have recently made a point of trying to celebrate the good stuff in my life… at least occasionally… rather than constantly trying to fix or whinge about the bad stuff. There isn’t much bad stuff and I am very lucky, but still we often forget all that is good. I was at a dinner party on Saturday and we were trying to help a new guy to the group get to know us old stalwarts, so we went round asking everyone a few questions in turn. One was “name someone famous you have met”. It turns out I have met a few. Here’s the inside track about what I know of them.

10: HRH Princess Michael of Kent

An impressive lady! I had the pleasure of a long conversation with this Austrian born princess. Interesting Factoid: When she married into the British royal family, she was Catholic and under the laws of England and Wales, it was illegal for British royalty to marry Catholics. They simply went and got married in Austria… dumb law maybe if that’s how you get around it, nut I guess plent of common folk have made use of Gretna Green over the years! 🙂 Anyway, apparently Princess Margater didn’t talk to her for 20 years after that! (But I got the feeling it’s all fine now.) Lovely lady and has a really unique helicopter view of modern history.

9: Eddie Izzard

I went to school with Eddie Izzard. He spent half a term sitting on the study desk next to me. After half term he never returned to school… you better ask him about that, but I think he was tired of painting his nails black with a felt tip, but too embarassed to buy proper mail polish at the time! Honestly, we didn’t talk much, but enormously impressed at what he has done running marathons. I have also seen him perform live. Oh my he ca be funny!

8: Chris Evans

The Radio 1 DJ is a person I once ran a Murder Mystery evening for! It was one of the most difficult nights of my life, because I am not really a good actor and my best actor crumbled at the thought of doing a Murder Mystery for a bunch of celebrities! Chris was very nice to me and my team though. He spent a long time talk with me at the bar after, about his days as a Tarzanogram.. Purely by chance I also bumped into him at a Marriott hotel a couple of weeks later… but he didn’t recognize me 🙁

7: Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen

Rather embarrassingly, I bumped into Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen in the wash rooms at the Ritz! An American friend of mine had always wanted to do “Tea at the Rits” which is why I was there. We didn’t chat…

6: Bob Geldof (and the cast of Live Aid 1)

I may be cheating a bit by including Bob Geldof, but I have met him twice. Live Aid was an incredible experience for me growing up. I didn’t have a backstage pass or anything, but I think its fair to say it put him on the map! The second time was a LITTLE more intimate. In the early days of the .com era, there was a VC/Entrepreneur meetup group in London called “First Tuesday”. Bob Geldof was the speaker for the month and I remember him standing up and looking at the crowd and saying “All I see here is a sea of greed”… It was a cool thing to say, but looking back decades later, I don’t think his .com startup is going anymore…

5: Roland Rivron

Sorry Roland – you probably won’t remember. But you were a bit of a dick. I hear you missed your flight the next day after puking all over the hotel. ‘Nuff said. You don’t get a link…

4: Dave Gilmour

Shortly after university, I was living at my then girlfriend’s parents house. Nice place! her father had spent many years as a jobbing musician and so when the lead singer and guitarist of Pink Floyd came round for a BBQ it was just routine for them. I think this is the only tie I have been totally star-struck. I really didn’t have anything useful to add to his conversation about live wing-walking. It wasn’t an experience I have knowledge of.

3: Matt Cutts

Only people that work in my industry will know this name, but if you are in the industry, you WILL know the name! I am lucky enough to have met Matt Cutts on many occasions and I absolutely admire his ability over the years to act as both custodian of Google’s data quality and also mouthpiece to the SEO industry. The first time I met him, was early days for Google. We were both on a link building panel at an event in London. It’s hard to picture how small Google was as a brand back then!

2: Steve Wozniack

I have met Steve Wozniack, co-founder of Apple twice (so far) and he is probably the person I admire most as someone to look up to. I first met him in Dallas as part of a small round table group of speakers, where he was the keynote and we had a chance to pick his brains. I sked about his watch… a strange thing which apparently runs at 240 volts! It was used by the astronauts. The second time I “met” him was on an early morning flight from Berlin to London. He stopped the whole of security after the same watch aroused suspicion! Turns out I sat next to him on the plane, so they let him on in the end.

1: Her Majesty The Queen

Well she had to be at number 1 didn’t she? I mean really, what an honor to get to go to Buckingham Palace! But the truth is… I didn’t actually get to say hello. I did happily drink her champagne, but there were maybe 500 people there and it just felt totally undignified to go the last 10 yards and say hello. Everyone else was crowding her and she’s 90! Just being invited was enough. But she is quite small!

Dear Apple,

With the usual relish of a kid at Christmas, I went to pick up the iPad Pro which was launched today. My faithful and trusted Mac Air has been around the block. The “A”,”S” and “H” keys are showing signs that I do not cut my fingernails enough, but otherwise it is working fine.

The new iPad Pro was hailed as the missing link for businessmen. The device that would finally get those stubborn desktop and laptop users hooked onto tablets.

Anyway – having gone to the candy store and partaken of the fruit, I thought you might be interested to know why I am back to using my Mac Air to write this blog post. Perhaps we can fix my initial problems before my 14 day money back guarantee runs out, because I REALLY have been looking forward to something that replaces the Mac Air.

My initial concern, before leaving the store, was the lack of a USB port. I speak at conferences all around the world and they generally ask for me to bring my presentation in on a USB stick. They absolutely do not want me to rely on the web and I have seen many a presenter scuppered for such a rash and dangerous approach… so I agree with them. So how will I get my presentations from my device onto the presentation laptop? I am sure that will become clear… so let’s move on…

I bought the iPad Pro with 128GB and the fancy keyboard. The keyboard was one reason I had not migrated in the past, so this sounded like the panacea. But it seems connecting a keyboard doth not a Laptop make 🙁 Most of the time, the silly iPad keyboard pops up on the screen even with my keyboard attached. Why? WHY? but that was the least of my challenges.

My largest problem so far is that I can no longer embed LastPass into my browser. That means that I cannot easily log in securely, with unique and complex passwords, to anything on the web any more. I CAN download the LastPass app, but that is not a realistic solution day-to-day. I have to log in to dozens, scores, of systems every day and I use multiple browser plugins. I need a REAL operating system. I assumed you had figured that out if you had worked out that there is an incredibly substantial group of people not moving to tablets. You did some research as to why, surely?

Now – let’s talk about mice. I am fine with the track-pad on the Mac Air. It works. But where has it gone on that “fully functional keyboard”? I assume I can go out and buy a Bluetooth mouse – but let’s not pretend that touching the screen on its side is a substitute for a mouse or track pad. It just isn’t.

But the REAL issue? I cannot download normal software! How do you expect to say it is a substitute for a laptop if I cannot download any of my software?

So I decided to try to write a blog post to get used to the system.

But I couldn’t log onto my WordPress from my Browser any more, because I can’t install browser extensions.

So I download my password system, but I am now reduced to cutting and pasting every time, which seems to include having to use my fingerprint button twice as well, each time.

It just is not a replacement for a laptop. I fear it will be back to the candy store until the new Mac Air comes out. If you plan to lose the USB ports on that as well, then you may lose a lot more than that.

Yours faithfully,

Dixon Jones.

My First Drive in a 4X4 Electric Vehicle

I picked up a Mitsubishi 4X4 PHEV (Plugin Hybrid Electric Vehicle) yesterday. Brand new and the first retail one on the road in my area, so I am told. Certainly up until now the only ones I have seen in the UK are in showrooms.

I drove it to the airport this morning (yes – the irony of driving an Electric Vehicle to an airport is not lost on me). It’s a journey of 45 miles by motorway and as the battery will only hold out for 32 miles according to the manual, I was bound to use fuel. That said, I chose to save about a third of the battery, just to make sure that leaving it in a car park for a week didn’t kill it if i foolishly left a light on or something similar. The number of buttons and gadgets on this model (it’s the top spec) is crazy and will take me a few journeys to work out.

So what was my Miles Per Gallon?

That’s the while point in buying this car, of course. You get a 4X4 without the guilt. But even Mitsubishi don’t claim 148 MPG on long distances. In fact I managed just over 82 MPG (Imperial Gallon) = 68 MPG (US Gallon) on this first proper trip. My usual journey is a but longer – Luton to Birmingham – and I think my objective will be to break 80 MPG on that run as well… although I assumed when I chose the car that I would max out at around 70MPG. That’s still way better than my 61 plate SAAB 93 Convertible which is doing about 45 MPG on that journey.

 Can you drive better?

Probably. In fact certainly – because I only achieved “four out of five leaves”… it marks your driving style! Awesome! I could have got a better mileage if I had not tried to save the battery; If I had not stopped to get a coffee from the service station; Driven slower (I used the Advanced Cruise Control on this top spec model to lock onto the car in front at around 67 miles per hour).

What else is “Cool” with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV?

  • I like being able to talk to it to phone home (it hooks up to my iPhone)
  • If the salesman doesn’t tell you, finding the DVD slot will be a fun experience!
  • I like that it can plug into a standard UK 13 amp socket (although they recommend a 15 amp circuit, which British Gas can install)
  • I QUITE like the iPhone app – but have not found a genuine use for it yet.
  • No road tax. Nada. Cool.
  • No congestion charge.
  • It’s a 4X4!
  • If you get this through a company, the tax benefit is even more incredible.

What’s not so Cool with the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV?

It’s not what you would call refined inside. It’ not BAD… electric seats which war you up, great Aircon if you want it, Sun roof it you don’t… but somehow not quite as cool as the SAAB’s.

The acceleration is quite compromised if you want to get decent mileage out of it. It’s the first time I have ever had an automatic (actually… it’s but of a Joystick than a gear stick) and my guess is that people used to automatics would not notice the difference. But us petrol head manual gearbox fans will. The SAAP 93 TTID does 0-60 in 6.9 seconds and the Outlander PHEV takes 11 seconds. That’s not going to win off the lights!

What did I turn down to get one?

I turned down a Tesla S! On the basis that a hybrid gave me a much greater range and the idea of running out of juice in a Tesla filled me with dread. Also – getting one of those in the UK at this point sounds rather complicated.

I also turned down a Lexus SUV Hybrid… on the basis that a non-chargeable hybrid seemed pretty absurd to me. It’s not really a hybrid, just a more efficient breaking system.

Is it Worth getting the Top Spec?

I like the Advanced Cruise Control – which I think is in the second top spec – but if I ever need it, there’s a Crash Mitigation thing on the top, which should stop me in a head on collision. If I ever need that, it will save my life. If in the meantime, it brings down the insurance group. So – as long as all this high tech wizardry works, I am really pleased I went for the top of the range.

And I Laughed and Laughed

I am sorry… I couldn’t help myself when I saw this on Freelancer.com.

Screen Shot 2014-05-01 at 11.15.05

I assumed the project budget must be an error…. 250M-750M must be what he meant, so I put in a provisional bid of $277,777,777 although I would need to get the other shareholders to agree before I started the work…

If it was indeed a budget of $250, I have some questions for “Deadovation” which I think is the handle for the guy that wants it built.

  • Is the power supply for computers like these a chargeable extra? That picture was posted in 2010 by the way… we have grown quite a bit since then.
  • In an average day, Twitter says there are 500,000 million Tweets. In the same 24 hour period, Majestic typically crawls FOUR TIMES as many web pages and then does a calculation on about 700 billion pages. Do I need to also build the crawlers and the data centers for the distributed crawlers for $250 or is that a chargeable extra?
  • So far, Majestic has crawled 53,110,348,345 MB of data. Which hard drive would he suggest I put the data on when I build it for him? How would he like the data delivered? Container lorry?
  • Is this project asking me to copy another project, or are the “few extra bells and whistles” going to be enough to stop the lawyers?
  • Is PHP the right software language for interrogating a data set of this size?

If you are going to build something on the Internet, I have two honest to god bits of advice. The first is to innovate, not replicate. The second is to understand at least the basics of the technical challenge you hope to overcome.

In the meantime – if you want the REAL THING, it costs from £30/$50 a month per user. I think that is probably the wiser option.

Win £10,000 in a Free to Enter and Play Stockmarket Trading Game.

I have started playing “the Big Deal” stockmarket trading game. Come and join in for a chance to win some of the £30,000 prize fund!

* Free to join and play
* £10,000 for the winning individual
* £10,000 for the winning team
* £10,000 in other prizes along the way.

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 22.32.41

The game is run by a big online trading company – so you by in “virtual” currency, but based on real time share dealing!

As I’ll also get an award for signing a few of you up, come and join me!

[si-contact-form form=’1′]

Just fill in the form above and I’ll send over the invitation. Please use the email address you plan to sign up with. If you don’t join, the email address will be discarded.

Has Twitter peaked for SEOs?

I recall Rand Fishkin once saying at an SMX Advanced that “Twitter was not useful as a marketing tool”. It was a long time ago and I hadn’t heard of Twitter at the time, but by the next Pubcon, Vanessa Fox was tweeting from the stage and  in the SEO industry Twitter has been a mainstay of communication within the industry ever since. Certainly it was one of the most influential Marketing Towers for Majestic SEO over the years. But is that time over?

I can say from first hand experience that Twitter has been a foundation stone for  digital marketing for at least 5 years now, as I write in November 2013. But I think there may be change on the horizon and unless Twitter changes with it, they’ll get left behind.

I have always connected different parts of my media strategy together. I initially used Social Oomph – which I still recommend as a cost effective way of streamlining one’s social media marketing, before upgrading for a while to Hootsuite, which was stringer but a bit too confusing for me… and I don’t like the lack of trend data it their reporting. I have currently settled on Sendible – a British social media monitoring tool which I commend to the house.

I don’t believe I over optimize automation. If I do a blog post on Majestic, then systems do make sure that I do not forget to mention the blog post on Twitter and LinkedIN. LinkedIN then automatically duplicates the post on Facebook and before you know it, something like 50,000 SEOs are exposed to the message.

I have mostly avoided talking anything but shop on Twitter, which has helped me be on all sorts of SEO Lists, and other SEOs choose to trust certain lists and in the process re-tweet much of the content.

But the ease of automation is becoming Twitters downfall. Here’s an example from the weekend:

None of the above handles are connected with me. As far as I know, they are real people with real opinions… but that screenshot does look somewhat suspicious. This link goes to a 404… and before I deleted the post it was literally a one liner saying “newlsetter planned”. You see, I am also a great believer in having a marketing “message calender”. Having the company, the Ambassadors, the social network accounts all having a combined message which is linked has definitely leveraged my efforts over the years. It’s a but of an aside, but I have regularly talked about this in the past:

The problem in this instance was that I am always testing new ways to work and we were looking at using our WordPress back end to manage our messaging. Whilst talking through the plans with Majestic’s Campaigns manager I was demonstrating the idea and suggested that the Newsletter was due out around the 25th of the month, so let’s mark that in the calendar, so we can see the dots connected.

When the day came, WordPress published our Placeholder – a one line “post” with no content at all. I guess if I had been thinking clearly on a Sunday afternoon I would have added the content of the newsletter to the post, but instead I took it down as soon as I saw it.

But automation had already kicked in, and the reduced value of Twitter compared to five years ago suddenly became clear. There were already dozens of re-tweets for the post, with almost none of the Tweeters taking the time to read the (lack of) content on the page before Tweeting. I am very grateful for the re-tweets – but we have to ask ourselves whether the value of a re-tweet is little more than the value of a banner add these days if all measures of “engagement” are in fact illusory?

Should we be measuring engagement by re-tweets? Especially retweets going through third party link shorteners? I decided to go back to my log files and find out. Over the weekend, apart from this inopportune blog post/Tweet sequence, we also in fact DID send out the monthly newsletter and of course the sequence also resulted in comments on Facebook as well. Twitter didn’t fair well…

Now don’t get me wrong – when Majestic HAS got something to say, then the guys at Twitter are really helpful in promoting the message to the SEO world at the speed of light, but it takes a bit more joined up thinking than a simple automated Tweet from a social media marketing tool to get real traction. The trick is not the amount of re-tweets, but WHO tweets.

There’s better ways to Measure the Power of a re-Tweet

The person that ReTweets is MUCH more important than the number of re-tweets. It turns out, as well, that the number of followers is also a poor measure. Followers are cheap and sometimes fake. More importantly, even Lady Gags’s followers may be real, but they are not focused to my world.

But at least we know that Lady gaga IS influential on Twitter. There are two extremely useful ways to see this:

1: Don’t discard Klout

Klout is probably the best known social media measurement tool out there. I hear a few negative comments from some SEOs about the score, but it’s a big challenge trying to evaluate the influence of everyone on the internet being able to give you a score between 0 and 100 instantly and from what I see, their scores are unerringly accurate considering the scale they need to operate at. They combine several social networks and the scores are powerful and (for the most part) free.

2: Don’t forget Majestic SEO

Majestic can give you a score for any Twitter profile, Linkedin profile or any other profile that has a publicly accessible link. Again it is a score between 0 and 100 and it is the “Trust Flow” score that I would urge you to look at. If a person is influential on a given profile, then people will ultimately link to the profile. That increases the Trust Flow and turns out to be a very useful way to assess the influence of an individual on any given social network, forum or blog.  Now you can compare two profiles via http://twittertrumps.co.uk/ thanks to an enterprosing developer called John Doyle which I recommend trying and if you simply want a list of the top 50,000 most influential Twitter profiles, Majestic has given the list away recently after some research for a Forbes article.

Has Twitter Peaked For SEOs?

So let’s get back to the subject at hand. I do think that SEOs in particular have become largely “Link shy” on Twitter. They see something and may re-tweet it, but they are much more likely to re-tweet a link that look at it! I know I have occasionally been guilty of that, although not as much as many. My crime has been Tweeting  by Rotation – getting a message out even when the message was created by mistake. At least as a result it has led to some insight into what is happening on Twitter. Hopefully I can take that knowledge and become a better marketer moving forward.

Xbox Father Needs Psychiatric Help

My son’s XBox Live account stopped working last week.

You would have thought XBox support/UX was friendly wouldn’t you? I know millions of people use it every day… but have you ever tried to be a parent when your child’s Xbox Live stops working? Oh… My …. God, Microsoft. OH…. MY….GOD!

It all started many years ago when my then quite young son wanted an Xbox and apparently needed an “ACCOUNT” to use it. I got one for him using the “parental” option and it would appear that since I was in the US that day… or because on that day only US account had parental controls or… or because the “Gold for a year” voucher card from the shop deafulted to US or for WHATEVER reason, his account is registered as a US account, despite us living in the wilds of England.

So this means it is practically impossible to enter a UK credit card…

Well I went onto support to try and find out. I chose the “community chat” button…Is it meant to look like this Microsoft?

My cookie support is just the basic paranoia level, not the wicked conspiracy level and chat systems work on other sites, so I reverted to other ideas. Weirdly, I seem to have two logins for the same account – one for my under age son and one for me, the over stressed parent. The email address of me as “dad” has no Gold account and my son has an active Gold account… I recall heartaches some months ago getting this all working, so I did SOMEthing right… but when I try and update my son’s account it says I need parental permission… so I am prompted to log in again… all very painful. Especially when i get to a screen like this:

Errr… you re darn right it shouln’t have happened. But I know a thing or two about big data and I know there are issues. But thank you SO much for the helpful message and guidance as to what to do next Micrososft. What… from that screen… am I meant to do next? I know… I’ll try and look up the error code. I see that you have so MANY errors that you give us a lovely error code lookup box right there in my account menu.

Lovely. Here’s what I get:

Bollocks….  right… what’s next? Ah! there’s an option to change the region! Hoo…ray…Henry! It requires sending me a verification code to my email address… fair enough… at least it’s to the “parent” email address. I put in the code to change the region to the UK. I get:

I wonder what is on that “Region Condition Support” Page? let’s have a look?

I can only assume the system thinks I am a minor. For the record I’ll turn 50 next year if technology doesn’t kill me off first.

It was at ABOUT this time that my son bounces down the stairs saying “Thanks Dad! That fixed it!” I said “What?” He says, “whatever you did, you just fixed it.”

Ah well… he’s happy now. It turned out in the end that I had to tick the new terms of use box! The terms I spent ages reading the first time around and then had inadvertantly ticked on the way in to try and solve his problem.

I’m happy again now.

Crazy Travelling

I live in the Shires of England
Last weekend I was in Istanbul, having been in Oslo a short time before.
I am in Austin Texas today.
Monday I’ll be in New York.
Next month I have to be in:
Las Vegas
and that’s at the cost of

The company also has events before the end of the year in

When I say “links are about Relationships” I like to think I walk the walk 🙂

Google Changes Search Syntax

I just noticed Google “going all Ajax” in their search results.

Whatever they are doing, the net effect is that NO keyword data will be available in third party analytics tools. Indeed… it probably won’t appear in GA either if GA is genuinely using Javascript to do its tracking.

The Old Way

The New Way

The Effect

[EDITOR NOTE…. THAT’S ME… IT’S A PERSONAL BLOG: Beyond the next chart this post has been updated Thursday Morning. Comments prior to that may refer to previous (incorrect) interpretations.]

I originally suspected that they had been testing this for  few weeks, judging by the search term on brand drop in PIWIK analytics integrations:

But then that goes to show what happens when you write up a blog post in a rush. The chart above was not filtered to show Google traffic only and whilst that drop looks interesting, when I DID look at the traffic properly filtered, Google seems to still be happily tracking at least some of the brand keyword at the same level at the moment:

So either it was early checking, or something else was happening to still let my analytics track, because usually anything after a hashbang would get lost, So next I did a search for a tool/script which checks the referrer URL when you land on the page. I found one on stardrifter.org so did THIS search to get stardrifter in the hashbanged results:

Clicking on that referrer test should show the referrer URL in the URL bar at the top, yes? But infact Google is redirecting and showing a different (more expected and normal) referral URL – as can be seen when I click on the link:

So… the Hashbang has gone… but then again, so have the keywords. Just a parameter “&q=” with no content. I tried to log out and do a similar test and did not generate an instance where the keyword data was parsed. Maybe someone else can.

Random Domain Generator for Excel

Ever needed a list of Random Domains in an Excel Spreadsheet? If so, feel free to use mine in this post… just thank www.receptional.com when you use it in a blog post please.

Recently I have been seeing innumerable SEO posts that claim to be scientific, then show you data either for a single site and suggest this is fact or worse – for sites that the author won’t name and pose as fact.

If you plan to put up research:

  1. you need to let the research be open to peer scrutiny. The results need to be replicable.
  2. Your research is only good if your data is unbiased. Finding a random set of domains is remarkably hard to do.
I found a site that creates random words, but this is only part of the challenge. I then created a list of valid TLDs. Then I took a random word and attached a random TLD. My TLD list is just the common ones for me – but you can add more. Only thing I suggest is not to use non English speaking countries with a list of English random words.
The resulting Excel file shows you an example of creating 100 random domains from a list of 2700 or so random words. You can always play on the theme if you want – but if you ever see someone using a biased list of sites for some research… please send them over to here in the comments to get them to do the test again with something approaching objectivity would you?
Now this is not TOTALLY random, but should create an unbiased sample set for most SEO testing.

Download the Excel random domain generator file.