KFC Coupon from Oprah


Update:   Yes, the KFC Coupon story is growing in complexity, nuance, and good old KFC chicken tastiness.

OK, so this KFC Chicken post is partly an  examination of the rise of Oprah’s Online  Omnipresence, partly a helper for my fellow KFC chicken loving blog readers, and partly a search ranking experiment.   The KFC Coupon for free chicken, referenced on Oprah today, is here .   The KFC Coupon above is NOT linked to my words “KFC Coupon” because that would mess up the experiment!   The only problem is that the site appears to be totally overwhelmed with requests for this offer which is pretty generous:  Free two pieces and sides for up to four people.    Feed your family free on KFC!

You want to click here – probably later this evening – for the free KFC chicken coupons.   Print out four and take the family, but NOT GOOD on mother’s day and SHAME ON YOU for even contemplating that cheapskate option!

I’m torn between thinking this is a genius move to swing millions of people back into the KFC fold and thinking it’s an idiot move for costing KFC a fortune (as in a real fortune.  Let’s assume a coupon print level of 10 million and use level of 20%.  They are giving away 2 million meals that would normally run about $5.   At a food cost of 20% and other non-fixed costs of about 20% the product cost alone will run KFC 4 million.)  This  for an offer that will bring in almost no immediate revenues.    As a branding play I want to follow this closely because my working hypothesis has always been that brand advertising generally fails but the failures are covered up by the very clever (and often very attractive) marketing firm sales reps.    At the KFC level the metrics are probably internal and less biased though so this one will be fun to watch.

Of course the value of the social media  may wind up putting this campaign into the “positive ROI” territory as  thousands of bloggers and Twitter folks like me are sucked into the greasy (wait, I mean grilled) chicken action.   KFC will soon the top trending topic on Twitter.    Chickens all over America have a  lot to fear today.

I’m a fan of their chicken but haven’t eaten there in some time – probably because deli chicken at supermarkets keeps me happy when I go into a frenzy for a fried chix fix.

Oprah apparently likes the new KFC Grilled Chicken and on the show offered a coupon for a free meal to *every person in the world* via an online website.   This appears to have created what I predict may be the biggest online feeding frenzy of all time since printing out the coupons requires some software that is loaded during the process.  So far I’ve tried about 5 times and each time get error messages I assume are related to massive server loads.

Oprah’s newfound Twitter enthusiasm notwithstanding, I’m guessing that the demand for this failed to recognize that the coupon story would spread like wildfire online to people who don’t watch the show (I learned about it from a Twitter person).

Wow, the fried plot is thickening.  Some stores are not honoring some coupons? Baltimore  Chicken Coupon News

The Man Who Sued Google – and won $731


The following fun item came up today from Aaron, who managed to sue Google in small claims court over a Google Adwords / Adsense dispute and actually ….. won the case.  Here’s the story.

Adsense expert Jennifer Slegg suggests Aaron may have been violating the terms and I think most advertisers would agree that we want Google to police Adsense very carefully to avoid the many problems that come when publishers’ material is unlikely to generate business for the advertiser.

However I’m also very sympathetic to Aaron’s criticisms of Google’s failure to bring enough transparency to the adsense and ranking processes despite very noble individual activity by guys like Matt Cutts, Adam Lasnick, Brian White, and pretty much all the engineers I’ve talked to in person. My beef is with Google’s company policy of sharing too little information and having “too weak” diagnostics that don’t allow webmasters to fix common problems or challenge fairly subjective ranking decisions, especially when what Google sees as questionable linking activity is involved.

Google suggests that ranking opacity prevents spam where I’d argue that on balance it would help avoid many common practices that now penalize people without them even knowing. Just last week, for example, Matt pointed to a very expensive Forrester business report on “legitimate” SEO approaches that suggested a “paid blog posting” tactic that could get both the blogger and the referenced site in ranking trouble with Google. Although Matt is one of the last people at Google I’d accuse of being “too secretive”, the overall policy is too opaque to reasonable let legitimate webmasters make the best decisions for their sites and clients. The Webmaster Console has helped but it’s too little too late in my view. Google owes every webmaster a clear answer to the simple question: Why is my site ranked below clearly inferior sites? Usually this answer would involve a downranking from link manipulations, selling links to other sites, or other things Google finds offensive and lists vaguely in the Webmaster Guidelines.

I do complement Google on the fairly new webmaster forums feature which can be very helpful in diagnosing problems with websites:
http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Webmasters?hl=en

Oregon Coast Bird Watching


This post falls squarely in the “SEO Experiments” category. We’ve had an informative but “plain jane” Oregon Coast website up for some time based on Oregon Coast magazine which is published by Northwest Travel Magazines.

The site has historically ranked poorly for “Oregon Coast” and related terms, probably in part because we had never done much to optimize it for search engines, and (I think) partly because quite ironically Google now struggles to properly optimize websites that have extensive internal cross linking. Ironic because extensive linking was a cornerstone of early web quality but fell out of ranking fashion as Google sought to kill off auto-generated websites that used that technique to boost their pagerank and thereby their Google rank for optimized query terms. This became a spam signal because it is so easy to create large database driven websites, but in the case of many sites it is also a good *quality signal* because the site may be very info rich, covering basically every mile of the Oregon Coast Highway 101 in good, objective detail. Google recognizes they’ve created a lot of collateral damage in this way but frankly they have not done much to fix the problem, basically feeling that there is enough “good content” that ranks well. This is wrong and unfortunate, and in travel it has led to a lot of mediocre results when better search would give detailed blog and website references to pages spawned, for example, by people who live in the place getting described and have extensive insider detail.

One part of the optimization has been to rename the site OregonCoastTravel.net and 301 redirect the old pages at 101MilebyMile.com to the new name, hoping to rank better for “Oregon Coast” and “Oregon Coast Travel” as we should.

I’m linking here to the Oregon Coast birding page because it is a straggler that has been 301 redirected to OregonCoastTravel.net but remains listed by Google at the old site. Also, it is an excellent resource page for that topic of Oregon Coast Birding. I want to see how fast this page will now be correctly reindexed.

SES, SEO, Blogs


Blogging the conference has been a great way to test some ideas about blog ranking and watch Google struggle to bring the most relevant content into the main search (they’ve done pretty well with blog search, not so well with regular search which will have all the blog content listed in a week or so, basically too late to be all that helpful to users).  More importantly the stuff from *this year* will probably be ranked above the SES San Jose 2009 information that is likely what people using that term are searching for effective next year.   I’d think they could simply increase the value of ‘freshness’ for listings tagged as events related.

I had a nice discussion about this “events” ranking challenge with Jonathan from Google at the party. The problem is that to combat spam Google does not push out blog content immediately, meaning that if you search for “SES San Jose”, especially a month ago or so, you would have been likely to get old, dated content rather than the current SES page you’d normally want to find. This appears related to linking issues (newer has fewer), but also I think the regular engine is allergic to new content, which is why you’ll often find the most relevant Google stuff at the blog search if it’s a topic that is covered heavily by blogs such as SES or CES Las Vegas where I noted the same issues of “stale content” in the main search with “great content” in the blog search.

I remain convinced that some of the challenges faced in ranking could be solved by a combination of more algorithmic transparency from Google combined with greater accountability by publishers who’d agree to provide a lot more information about their companies so that Google can get a good handle on the credibility of the online landscape. This webmaster ID is happening now in several ways but I’d think it could be scaled up to include pretty much everybody publishing anything online (ie if you don’t register you’ll be subjected to higher scrutiny).

More Tech Posts moved here

SES Site Clinics


SES Site Clinics
Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

A good team including Dave Naylor, Greg Boser, Dani Horowitz —- on stage is evaluating some websites that have volunteered to be reviewed:

http://www.LangAntiques.com

Hmm – not sure on the advice here but they are suggesting Lang avoid full URLs to make server handling more efficient, and avoid putting unrelated content at the site (use a different domain) to be more competitive in that specific niche. ie Generalizing can be helpful in some cases but make it harder to rank for very competitive terms.

http://www.GoldCoastInformation.com.au

s-l-o-w is a problem.

www.teleflora.com

Greg: Narrow title tags to be more focused. Focus on a small number of key phrases or words you want to rank well for rather than several.

Dave: Does not like the navigation on home page – thinks it is weak and will possible get site downranked. Title tags suck all the way through. Cross linking is important. Cannot be excessive, but can be used e.g. to link blog and websites advantageously.

Smarthome.com

Debby and Greg: Tables are bad. Use CSS. Separate content from layout. Greg – improve titles. Debby – make title tags *backwards* from the breadcrumbs – ie from most specific to the generic. [e.g. diamond studded shock collars, dog collars, dogs]

Blog advice: One of the most powerful tools you have. Check templates. Avoid the template sponsor links at footers? Edit the post URL to exclude date.

AllergyAsthmaTech.com
Ranking well for Asthma products but no good conversions. Greg – avoid images for important terms – use words or layer image on top of text which is “awesome” according to Dave and Greg. Caveat – be careful overdoing this.

default.asp as home page – avoid multiple home pages.

Question to audience – how many companies use blogs with the site? (very few raise hands). Greg and Dave: Get a blog! Google ranks blogs over product pages.

JustAnswer.com keep bots out of the https. site:JustAnswer.com

Greg – use subdomains but keep in mind search engines are sensitive to host name spam.

SES San Jose Final Day – local search


This is an excellent presentation but I haven’t had enough coffee to take good notes, and unlike some of the other conferences I’ve covered like CES and MIX there isn’t much traffic to the conference posts anyway. Anxious to check other blogs covering this to see if they had much of a traffic spike, which one would really expect from search related news.

I’m lazy so only posting the summary from SES:

Local & More
Special Kelsey Group Presentation: Local 2.0: The Evolution of Local Search
What percentage of online searches are local? If you consider searches that end up having some influence on local buying activity, the opportunity is put into perspective. But there are still large gaps between the point of search and the point of purchase. How are online mapping, shopping engines, and directories starting to fill these gaps with user-generated content, video, or inventory data that funnel searchers towards local businesses? And how can marketers utilize these tools to get local searchers to pick up the phone, schedule appointments, or show up at their stores?

Moderator:
Speakers:

Domain name auction at SES San Jose


I’ve heard of these auctions but never attended on before. The idea is to have a live event that is also online, so anybody who has registered can participate from anywhere.

I’ve got hundreds of names aquired over the years so it’ll be interesting to see how much these names fetch here at auction.

Monte, Moniker’s top guy, is introducing the event now.

Hey, I just won a $200 credit for having signed up online. (didn’t use it – few name I’d want in this batch)

Reverselinesofcredirt.co and earlybirdiscounts.com just sold for 200 each…

seoproduct.com $300

Wow, shoppingservices.com just fetched 30,000 from room bidding.

They closed ctr.com , not going to allow bigs under 50k . Realestatedirect.com closed at 100k! Seems very, very high to me.

Ad.com: Wow, this just went for $350,000 after an online bid for 300k.

Update – this did NOT sell and I’m not understanding what happened. The process is frantic and I think designed more to get people in the frenzy of bidding than anything.

I’m wondering how you regulate the ease with which you could boost prices with fake bids (I do NOT think they are doing that since the credibility hit would ruin them forever, but it’s odd seeing bids come in from the internet, invisible).

OK, so the auction went way over time, then to add an insult to the deal when I got to the Vivid party thrown by Moniker and Webmaster Radio at 9pm the place was way too loud to talk, the “open bar” was not open, the plentiful food was not there, and there was some VIP thing going for … the special people?

Not impressed at all.

Black Hat / White Hat SEO Session at SES San Jose


Black Hat SEO Session at SES San Jose
Originally uploaded by JoeDuck

The SEO session here at SES San Jose is packed as everybody struggles to get competitive advantage, though I’m concerned that even some fairly advanced SEO folks simply don’t understand how seriously they may damage their clients or sites with a number of techniques that are no longer tolerated by Google.

Jill’s making an excellent point about “incompetent SEO” who, in her words…suck. I think she’s right that there are a lot of very bad folks doing SEO – I’d suggest about 90% or more.

Boser – the sites that rank are the ones that put in the effort. He says that you could generally replace the top sites with any others wihout bothering users.

Boser: buying links remains a key tactic for competive markets.

Naylor: Common mistakes are from within the organization where their link buying goes over the thresholds. Good black hats “know the threshholds” at which the search engine will identify link buying problems.

Disagreement (hey, cool) Jill’s Whalen suggesting good SEO is simply common sense, Todd Friesen suggesting it’s not. Jill says it’s not about tricking the engines.

Boser: Must compete now, so using paid links to get the clients going is both acceptable and needed.


Widget marketing – ?

SEO Champion question: He’s angry but not clear why – some conflict with Greg Boser over SEO stuff.

Boser: Links are about blending in to your niche. Hotels dominated by aggressive search spam for years – a tough industry. Hard in those space to follow the rules and compete.

Bruce Clay: Doing things that are way out of bounds is much riskier for established sites. You can’t afford to burn your own house so consider these risks.

BMW: Burned themselves buying links for short time. Greg – less consequence for the big players. WordPress also got a hand slap for link abuses. [ yes, but if we use a “user quality” metric we’d expect big players to have fewer consequence rather than severe punishment].

Matt Cutts from Google (audience). We take action on a lot of big sites. Some panel argument with Matt here about how fairly Google applies the rules. Boser: Forbes is spamming – why no action?

Naylor: Legal site in UK. Restoration involved identifying the paid links that a company representative had purchased. Google found them in 4 months and banned the site.

Audience question: What about the user – isn’t their interest the best definition of white vs black hat? Todd may not understand what she means here, he’s noting that outright deception is out. But I think her question is more nuanced and the answer is generally yes. Naylor’s correctly noting that users may not care much if they get site A or site B, and that is often true.

Made for Adsense sites: Boser – it’s crap, and includes a lot of blogging content. [This topic is so complicated – I’m always amazed how everybody thinks that they know crappy from good content. I think you need to ask communities about what they want, and trust their judgement. I think Google is moving in that direction and it’s a good thing.  What if somebody has a fabulous site, better than competition, that is made for adsense?   Where is the line?]  Answer – community judgement.

SES Session Description:

Searcher Track
Black Hat, White Hat: Playing Dirty with SEO

Some say that “black hat” search marketers will do anything to gain a top ranking and others argue that even “white hat” marketers who embrace ethical search engine optimization practices are ultimately trying to game the search ranking system. Are white hats being naive? Are black hats failing to see the long-term picture? This session will include an exploration of the latest black and white issues, with lots of time for dialog and discussion.

Moderator:
Matthew Bailey, President, SiteLogic

Speakers:
Greg Boser, President, WebGuerrilla LLC

SES San Jose – SEO Rehab and Intervention


The crowd is starting to pour in now from the big SES car giveaway. I think they gave away three of them, but I was no eligible as a “press” person. Just one more huge sacrifice I have to make for the good of journalism, the internet, and global warming.

Andy has started out with a very generic a presentation, now noting that they no longer take English speaking clients. Europe was easier because so few there were doing SEO. [note to self – get the Mandarin lessons going ASAP]

Greg Boser – excellent point about importance of experimenting with different tools and techniques – you can’t necessarily know which may have positive impacts.

Dave – good points about worrying more about where things are going than your daily pagerank numbers which is only updating every 3 months anyway.

[Interesting. All these guys appear to be a lot less focused on the old style things people tend to worry about like keyword density and pagerank. I think the business leaders are moving strongly to PPC even as social media is making organic optimizing a whole new ballgame. Where are all the social networking / blogging / media optimization strategies?]

OK, not much SEO here, but the Twittering was really interesting. It would be great to integrate messaging into the session so people in and out of audience could ask questions – sort of a hybrid virtual / real space / real time environment…

————————-

Searcher Track
SEO Rehab & Intervention
It’s 2009 and rehab is en vogue from Beverly Hills to Talladega. This session will include 12 steps to finding harmony in a search-dominated world. Confessions from leading experts include how to get off PageRank, vanity news alerts, inbound link and keyword density analysis, and 301’s.

Moderator:
  • Anne Kennedy, Managing Partner & Founder, Beyond Ink
    (Kevin Ryan standing in for her)
Speakers: