September 21st, 2015.
53 Steps to Ultimate PPC Success for Small Business
Regardless of your industry, the tactics you can employ to make life easier for PPC management remain the same. This infographic (from us to you, with love) breaks down 53 considerations for Pay-Per-Click success.
If you want to share this infographic around with anyone who can use it, please feel free.
September 21st, 2015.
How One Piece of Content Can Change Your Marketing Forever
…Essential reading for marketers looking for ideas…
It’s something I thought I’d never say, but I now believe one solid piece of content can change your marketing efforts forever…
As all good digital marketers know, solid Content Marketing is built around content that provides a solution to a common problem. By giving your unique expert insights into a widely acknowledged issue, you’ll give your content the best chance it has of gaining backlinks, social shares, and press coverage to help your marketing efforts.
After years of trial and error, I now only create content that could be considered ‘Evergreen’. This means it covers issues that won’t go out of fashion or be irrelevant in a few months.
When planning content for my client, The London Speaker Bureau, I listed all the common public speaking issues, and set about forming an infographic which offers a solution.
The concept seems really simple, but perhaps that’s why this particular piece of content has been so effective.
The infographic has gained placements, links and brand mentions month-on-month for the past year. Including placements in Business Insider, Alltop, Entrepreneur and Fox News.
This graph shows how the number of placements per month:
As you can see, after the initial launch surge, the pick-up rate lulled heading into Christmas, and then picked up to a much steadier stream throughout 2015. The average is around 6.8 placements per month.
But were the placements worthwhile?
When considering whether a site is worthwhile in terms of providing backlinks for SEO purposes, there are a number of metrics one could use (Page Rank, Domain Authority etc.) but the one I trust the most (as it is most frequently updated) is Majestic’s Trust Flow. (Majestic is a backlink intelligence tool widely used by SEOs).
I ran the placement sites through Majestic and found out that although the average number of placements was fluctuated and had a slight tendency downward, the average Trust Flow of sites featuring the infographic undoubtedly increased over the months:
NB. The vast majority of websites on the internet have a trust flow of under 20. Very few are over 50. The highest placement this content received came from Fox News with a Trust Flow of 85, but the Trust Flow of linking sites steadily increased.
This means that it wasn’t just have-a-go-hero bloggers repurposing the content, but genuinely interested, well-trafficked, high authority websites were using the content in their editorial.
So who did post it?
There were lots of relevant industry blogs and general business blogs who posted the piece, but I’ve picked out the major placements per month and laid them out here:
Note: Business Insider wrote about the infographic on 4 separate sites, with unique content on each. This means 4 different links from 4 different domains.
In other instances of the same publication appearing twice (Hubspot and Lifehack), the infographic was written about in separate articles.
As you can see, the level of sites publishing this infographics couldn’t have been better. The fact that the level of up-take has been sustained for a full year, with the quality of the sites increasing month-on-month is a testament to the power of evergreen content.
How about the ROI?
This infographic was put together as part of an ongoing SEO contract, so it’s hard to put an exact price on it. However, an infographic of this nature will typically cost around £500 to research and design (minus promotion costs).
If you were to pay to be featured on the upper-end sites (like the ones featured in the graph above), you’d probably be looking at upwards of £1,500 per placement. (This is based on the advertising costs associated with sites of a similar authority). At the lower end, bloggers typically charge no less than £100 for a placement of this nature.
So we’re talking about an ROI of placements and links valued between £30,000 and £50,000. With some, (such as Fox News) being nearly impossible to get without a corporate advertising budget.
Valuable infographics like the one discussed here are an ingenious way to bypass such advertising costs, to give journalists, bloggers and influencers an incredibly good reason to talk about your business – and more than that – to want to talk about your business.
I’m telling you all of this for a couple of reasons:
Firstly, I want you to know that gaining this level of coverage is achievable, both in terms of skill and cost.
Secondly, I’d like to invite you to join me in Hammersmith on November 4th. I’m hosting a Masterclass called ‘How to Make Awesome Content and How to Make it Go ‘Viral’, and I’d love to have you along.
We’ll cover everything I’ve mentioned here in a lot more detail, as well as how to come up with ideas, develop content and the principles behind what makes content ‘shareable’.
You can find out more information here:
February 13th, 2014.
A new EU directive has made its way into UK law.
The purpose of this new legislation is to both increase customer rights when buying online, and make expectations of customers more consistent across the European Union, thereby increasing cross-border trade through online stores.
We all remember the cookie fiasco of 2011, the last major attempt at enhancing the rights of the internet user. The UK government not only failed to enforce it, but even to comply to their own law. Due to strong resistance and powerful arguments against the law, it was revoked in 2013.
Will this new push for user’s rights follow a similar fate?
10 Second Summary
To make customer rights more uniform across Europe via:
Increased minimum cancellation period
Obligatory refunds within this period
To increase customer rights by:
Forbidding auto-ticked checkboxes
Using clearer, less attractive language on the ‘Buy’ button
There are many other changes to be made in response to this directive, but the above represent the parts of the legislation most likely to affect online retailers in a big way.
When Will This Affect Us?
The law is set to come into effect in the UK on the 13th of June, 2014.
Some things are likely to need changing before this date rolls around. We’ll need to retrain our staff in regards to dealing with returns, cancellations, refunds, and customer service in general.
Terms and conditions will also be affected, as well as the code responsible for auto-ticked checkboxes, and the text for the ‘Buy Now’ button is going to get a little uglier, I’m afraid. Let’s get into specifics.
Shall I Click “Buy”, or “Order With Obligation To Pay”?
“Order with obligation to pay” is the phrase our customers now have to read and agree to before buying from us.
One of the biggest arguments against the old cookie law was that it put other countries, particularly the US, at a significant advantage, since their websites didn’t include pop-ups which, to those that don’t know what cookies are, looked like a request to infringe on their privacy.
The buy button thankfully occurs a lot further in the buying process, and is likely to have less of an impact.
Sales may be lost, however, and they are not sales that depended on people not knowing what they were clicking on. It’s a wonder why this was deemed as a necessary change.
If the cookie law was a reaction against the thought of websites tracking our movements, is the buy button law a reaction against the thought of the 1-Click button?
We can deviate a little from their suggested script, as long as it remains explicitly clear that by clicking the button they are entering into a contractual agreement that ends in payment. Clearly, it’s up to us to interpret this detail to a degree.
Whatever the case, the change to buy buttons is just one part of this legislation.
Say Goodbye to the Presumptuous Tick Box
When a page loads, any checkboxes that relate to a add-on service must be un-ticked.
From July onwards, if you want your customers to sign up to your newsletter or add some extra insurance cover to their purchase, you’ll have to make the prospect compelling enough to have them tick it themselves.
Most customers have now been trained through experience to look for checkboxes they have to opt out of before clicking confirm. No, it doesn’t build goodwill for a brand, but it still goes on. You can see how this is in the same line of thought as the buy button changes, the difference being that these checkbox changes are likely to be a genuine improvement in the buying experience.
Adopt a German Attitude Towards Refunds
The “right to cancel period” will be expanded from a minimum of 7 working days to 14.
This is to align the rights of customers buying from a UK retailer with those of customers buying from other EU countries, such as Germany, who already enforce a 14 day right to cancel period.
Refunds for products will be obligatory within the right to cancel period, on the condition that the product is returned with its value undiminished by carelessness. Even if the customer has cancelled, the retailer can withhold refund payment until the product is properly returned, which most of us will agree is fair enough.
It seems that these changes to refund policies are weighted to be fair to both parties, but they will require some attention be paid to our terms and conditions before enforcement comes into play in July.
The benefit is a consistent customer experience across Europe, which should result in more cross-trade online, and a wider reach for small UK retailers that don’t have the budget to expand operations overseas in a physical capacity.
How Do We Protect Ourselves from Prosecution?
If you’re hoping for a similarly lax enforcement practice as we saw with the cookie law, you’re in good company. Perhaps a revision to the surprising buy button policy will occur in time, but until then, any UK business owner who acquires sales online will be at risk of prosecution without making the necessary changes.
You can read the official document here (PDF), which includes model cancellation forms and detailed descriptions of policies we’ve covered here.
The most visible loose ends we will need to tie up are the buy buttons at the end of our buying sequences, the add-on checkboxes that appear at the same stage, the statements made in our terms and conditions (even if it is only the enforcers who will read them), and the wording of any relevant forms available to our customers.
Be sure to educate yourselves and your staff on all the relevant changes. There are many others included in the document above, including changes to content classification, and to information available through customer support helplines.
February 6th, 2014.
We’ve been making infographics as a linkbuilding method for our clients.
If you don’t know why, see here.
Last week we launched a new piece for our friends at Love Reading. We’d researched the crimes committed by the most popular children’s book villains and worked out the sentences they would have received in a European court.
You can take a look at the piece here.
Long story short, the infographic came to the attention of The Times and they ran the research on page 3 of the Saturday edition. They mentioned the client’s site (and provided a link in the digital edition).
A testament to the power of infographics.
If you want to talk about an infographic for your brand, give us a call.
December 17th, 2013.
Love them or hate them, almost all of us these days use Google as our default search engine, and for increasingly other services beyond that, from email to analytics, document storage to translation. Some strange few even use their social media offerings.
But are Google ‘good’ as a company? There is plenty of deserved criticism surrounding privacy and tax avoidance amongst other things. supposedly Google still work on the simple premise of ‘Don’t be evil’, although many would claim that this ethos went out of the window a long time ago. Even Eric Schmidt has since come out and said that the claim was stupid.
However, Google do do a lot of ‘good’. Here are ten of the best examples of ‘good guy Google’, and of the search engine giant doing things that, while not driving their profits higher, help to benefit – potentially – all of mankind. And no, this isn’t a paid Google post..
Google.org is perhaps the best example of Google doing good, as it exists purely to develop technology with a positive social impact.
Projects range from Google’s role in advertising and coordinating crisis response efforts, to heavily subsidised (or free) versions of Google’s commercial products for use by non-profit organisations.
Most impressive of all, however, are the Dengue and Flu Trends services, which detect the earliest indications of an outbreak of flu or dengue fever based on the number of people searching for symptoms and treatments.
These can predict epidemics even before doctors have noticed a significant increase in patients presenting with the relevant symptoms, allowing production of the right medicines and vaccines to be scaled up in preparation.
Search for ‘suicide‘ and you might expect the usual helplines and support services for your country or location to be among the top results anyway.
However, Google go further than that – in the UK, you’ll receive a specific message (which, admittedly, still appears below rather than above the sponsored links) telling you to call the Samaritans for help.
In the US, you’ll be presented with an equivalent message for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, while in either country, the organic and sponsored results alike are packed with organisations who can offer advice and support to those going through troubled times.
Perhaps more than any other big brand, Google work to open doors – figuratively speaking – in developing countries, in order to give people there access to information on as much a free a basis as possible.
The company itself is physically present in over 60 countries worldwide, and the majority of its search results are served to non-US customers.
Google Search itself is available in over 130 different languages, while Google Translate translations can be manually improved by international readers to give a better version of the text than is possible through automated translation.
This is helping to make every web page – regardless of its original language – accessible to web users worldwide, putting all countries and nationalities on a level footing in terms of their access to knowledge and information.
When Google’s homepage logo changed to a ‘Doodle’ – originally a stylised version of the logo that paid homage to a famous person born on that date, or some other such achievement – it used to be big news.
These days, Google Doodles appear much more often, and are much more complex, often involving some kind of game or other interaction.
However, they also serve to raise awareness of scientific achievements, independence days and cultural celebrations, helping to unite people all over the world every time they make a search.
In rare instances, Google will also add a text message below the main search box on their homepage – they did this, for example, as a mark of respect to Apple innovator Steve Jobs upon his death – and this is a further means by which they can raise awareness, as well as showing a little of their human side on what is otherwise a sleek corporate homepage.
The Return of Authorship
It’s worth taking a moment to look at some of the more recent ‘good things’ Google have done specifically for the way the web works.
For instance, since introducing their own Google+ social network, Google have made it possible for authors to effectively connect their work directly with their Google+ profile.
This in turn allows seasoned professionals to be given added significance in the search results by placing their author image alongside their work.
The web has often been portrayed as the enemy of traditional journalism, with print news publications finding it difficult to compete with real-time ‘news’ via social networks, and to maintain editorial standards in the face of bloggers who are often not subjected to the same levels of scrutiny on grammar and spelling.
In February 2013 though, Google took the first plainly visible steps towards overcoming that (outside of simply carefully selecting the sources of content that are included in the Google News search index).
A total of eight students from 2,300 applicants were selected for fellowships at seven different organisations with links to journalism, from research centres and training facilities, to action groups that aim to protect investigative journalists while they carry out real-world research.
The response to the scheme was so great, Google had to extend the application review period by a full week, and received an application every two minutes on the last day of the deadline; the chosen students will also spend a week working at Google, and learn about how the worlds of journalism and technology can overlap in the years to come.
Safer Internet Day
Each year, on Safer Internet Day, Google make efforts to raise public awareness of online security – particularly among those users who might not be so experienced at using computers or searching from smartphone handsets.
The brand’s commitment to security is built into its products – Google Chrome automatically updates to apply any new security patches, while both Google Search and Gmail transmit data only via encrypted connections.
But its public awareness efforts go beyond automation, encouraging best practices among human users of its services, and of the kinds of technology on which those services are delivered.
In 2013, for instance, the Safer Internet Day campaign from Google focused on issues like locking and password-protecting PCs, laptops and mobile phones, to prevent unauthorised access.
Scrolls and Santa
In December 2012, Google made two announcements with close links to Christmas – one of which was a frivolous bit of fun, while the other was a major archaeological advance.
Once again, the search engine ran its annual ‘Santa Tracker’ service, giving people worldwide the ability to “see where Santa’s headed next” on services like Google Earth, and on devices ranging from PCs and laptops with the Chrome browser installed, to Android-powered mobile devices.
Around the same time, Google unveiled the further digitisation of the Dead Sea Scrolls, putting 5,000 images of the scrolls online, and with detailed information for 900 individual manuscripts.
Google provided the storage for the data – which includes colour images at 1,215 dpi resolution, along with infrared scans – and added supporting information through Google Maps, their own imaging technologies, and even YouTube integration.
Whatever your religious beliefs (and that extends to non-religious beliefs like atheism too), Google strive to cater for cultures and communities of all kinds through these kinds of projects, whether they are academic in nature, or simply a fun way to celebrate an important date on the calendar.
In 2009, Google stopped using noisy, air-polluting lawnmowers to clear the grass and brush from the hills around their Mountain View headquarters (a necessary task to reduce the risk of a grass fire close to the building).
They instead hired a herd of goats to come and eat their way across the hillside, clearing vegetation as they went.
‘Mowing’ using goats takes the company about a week each summer, and has the dual benefits of reducing carbon emissions while also naturally fertilising the land – and for approximately the same cost as using petrol-powered industrial mowers.
December 11th, 2013.
Summer 2014 will see one of the biggest domain modifications in the UK ever. The roll-out of .uk domains will allow companies who currently use ‘.co.uk’ or ‘org.uk’ domains to also register for ‘.uk’ e.g. datadial.co.uk will be able to register datadial.uk.
Nominet will offer the current holders of the .co.uk or org.uk up to 5 years to register the domain before it is released to the general public.
In the event that one company holds .co.uk and another holds .org.uk, the shorter domain will be offered to the holders of the .co.uk domain.
If a domain is not currently registered to .co.uk or .org.uk, the domain will be available on a first-come, first-served basis on launch day.
So in essence, if you have a .co.uk or a .org.uk, you will be able to simplify it to .uk next year.
November 19th, 2013.
To Reskin or Rebuild? That is a question.
We receive so many enquiries from clients asking for a “new website”. Most of the time they don’t need one they just need a new front end. The back end is usually fine. These are my thoughts on whether clients should rebuild or reskin.
By now most companies are on to their 5th, 6th, 7th generation website.
The natural process was usually “We don’t like our site anymore – let’s get a new one”. This usually involved going to a new web agency.
There were often good reasons for this in that technology had moved on and there were usually better ways of doing things. But it was a complete fag for the client as they would have to re-input all their product data, migrate their customer data, learn a new e-commerce or CMS package, go through the whole pitch process and get to know a new agency.
And then there was the expense of rebuilding from scratch eact time.
Nowadays (2013) now that technology is reasonably stable and that most clients have stabilised their data requirements I find that there is really often no need to change the underlying platform on which a site has been built. Unless you’ve been unfortunate enough to end up with a real stinker of a CMS or E-commerce platform then I would suggest that re-skinning of a website is often the way to go rather than rebuilding from scratch.
Even if you are fed up with your development agency you can still get a separate agency to do the designs for you. The two processes do not necessarily need to be done by the same agency, though it’s better to get a web designer rather than a print designer to generate any new designs for your website..
You may be thinking that you need a lot of extra functionality in your new website. Well again, unless your current development team are hopeless then it should be easily possible to add any required functionality to an existing platform.
The same goes for getting a responsive website. You do not need to rebuild your underlying platform just to develop a responsive website.
In fact the platform is becoming less and less of an importance as they are all pretty good and have their pros and cons. Magento is great for some types of e-commerce site. Wordpress is pretty fantastic for any sort of simple CMS and there are loads more. At Datadial we have developed our own e-commerce and CMS software and they are more than capable of doing whatever is required.
What about search engines?
What remains more important than ever is the site architecture and content structure in terms of ensuring usability and search engine friendliness. This can sometimes require a rethink of the underlying data structure and in the event that the current data architecture is so poorly thought out then this would be the point at which you may want to redesign rather than reskin. However, pretty your website is, if it’s poorly architected then it is unlikely to perform in search engines.
October 10th, 2013.
Those of us interested in how search engines work have been talking this week about ‘Hummingbird’. Not the hollow-boned, nectar-loving tweetie-pies; rather Google’s newest and most revolutionary search engine algorithm in quite some time.
You’ll likely have heard of ‘Panda’ and ‘Penguin’. They were algorithmic updates which supposedly made the search results better. Unlike their counter-parts in the animal kingdom, they weren’t cute and they didn’t make for good YouTube videos; but they did improve the quality of websites and the practices of SEOs.
‘Hummingbird’ is a different beast entirely. Far from being an update to an existing algorithm, it’s an entirely new feature which shows Google’s desire to move searching away from ‘Keywords’ and towards ‘Semantic Searches’. They’re approaching what they call “conversational search”
In 2001, you may have searched for:
‘CINEMA + TIMES + LONDON + AVENGERS’
And you may have been presented with an article from The Times about a new movement of filmgoers in London who are avenging the demise of arthouse productions.
But search isn’t like that anymore. People search more or less how they talk, so searches are more like:
‘Cinema times in London for The Avengers’.
And the rise of voice search on mobile devices means people will try to search:
‘What time is The Avengers playing in London?’
Words like ‘how’, ‘what’, ‘when’ etc. now have a value in Google’s searches. They want to give the most accurate response to your request.
What does that mean for website owners?
As a website owner you’ll need to be improving the information content of your site. Undoubtedly keywords will still matter, but since Google is now holding keyword data to ransom, the best thing you can do is improve the quality of your on-site content. This also means you can stand out in your industry – if you’re the world’s authority on Playstation Game Artwork then make sure you can answer questions like ‘Who designed the GTA 5 artwork?’.
‘Hummingbird pays more attention to each word in the query, ensuring the whole query is taken into account – so if a resulting page is a bit less strong in general, but it’s the most relevant to your search terms, that’s the result you’ll get.’ – Google, as told to The Register.
People are asking questions. If you’re equipped to answer them then your site should reflect that.
Personally I think this is a step in the right direction. The internet is becoming more personal, so responding to the intricacies of language is more essential now than ever before. It makes far more sense to work out what people mean rather than just responding literally to the words they use.
September 12th, 2013.
Today is the day that ad:tech came to town!
Behind the glass doors at National Hall, Olympia lay a smorgasbord of digital know-how; from online marketing guru’s to customer relationship management specialists and experts on mobile marketing.
With seminars to the left, conferences above and pop-up stands everywhere else, people from far & wide scattered about the building, shuffling papers and clutching iPad’s on a journey to learn how to be better at their job.
After circling the perimeter to check out some of the businesses on show, I found my way to Oban Multilingual‘s free seminar, where Jonathan Murphy covered tips on how to successfully run multilingual PPC campaigns.
Helpful tips on multilingual PPC campaigns:
- Some PPC campaigns are generally easier to rank in non-English speaking countries, because competition isn’t always as fierce.
- When setting up domains in foreign languages, Google translate should not be an option.
- Whilst Google is king of the search engine in the UK, this doesn’t always apply abroad; Asia favors Baidu and Yandex is popular in Europe – this should be taken into account.
- Webpages should be translated (by a qualified copywriter) after research has been carried out on things like colloquialisms or Americanisms such as “free delivery” that changes to, “free shipping” for websites in the USA.
- Call-to actions and the colour used to display them is important; red is popular in Asia whereas orange is something that would be used in the UK (where red is usually a no-go for a call-to action).
Other useful marketing tips:
After the above I milled about, popping in and out of other talks, to see what other gems I could pick up – Here are a few I particularly liked:
- New international website with no inbound links and no indexed pages? – Try PPC!
Instead of waiting for Google to trawl through the pages on your website and index them, think about how Google uses it’s robot: adsbot-Google.
Pages will be read if you are buying traffic to them, which can eventually lead to rankings, even when the website is relatively unknown.
- Using video marketing in Google’s display network? – Include a transcript!
YouTube allows you upload transcripts for your videos to determine the video’s keyword relevancy for a user searching for that topic. However, it has been tested and proven that Google also uses these transcripts outside of YouTube to index these videos too! So transcripts could help your video turn up in a Google search…
- Are your YouTube videos getting enough attention? – Stop other ‘related videos’ videos showing up after yours yours (when embedded on a website)
Suggested videos are great and all, but not when they could potentially drive business away from you. Simply disable related-video suggestions on YouTube before embedding them. Problem solved!
I hope you find this information useful, I did! ;-)
August 23rd, 2013.
Spend enough time wading through spam emails and you’ll be amazed at what you find. From dodgy salutations to cringe-worthy formatting, on a very slow day this makes for a good few minutes of entertainment.
Here are some of the most ‘creepy’ elements of bad email-ship:
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
This is usually an attempt at making a company look uber-friendly, since the emails they send you are formatted like a buddy would send them.
The downside is that sometimes we sign up with nick-names, tags or misspellings which can quickly turn a harmless greeting into a spammy annoyance. Seeing “Happy Birthday JaneDoe101!” or “JaneDoe101 we miss you!” littering up your mailbox is usually the first step on the way to an unsubscribe!
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
“Dear Sir/Madam” or “To whom this may concern” are clear-cut indicators of cold calling (or cold mailing) – sure they’re gender neutral but boy are they impersonal. They scream “Someone, anyone – please read me!” rather than seeming relevant to the recipient.
Too many imperatives
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
It’s true that the call-to action is a huge part of the science behind a smooth conversion, so putting in punchy phrases like “click here!” and “buy now!” seem standard procedure, but there is such a thing of over-doing it.
Ultimately, I don’t want bossy emails, and legally anything being sold is an ‘invitation to treat’ so in your next sales email, try the passive approach with an A/B test to see what gains a better reaction.
Why it’s done & why it sucks:
It’s been a while and there’s a lot to say, but how long do you think I’ve got? People are time conscious, say less!
If you need to explain something a nifty way of doing so is by linking back to a blog post published on your website. Not only is this considerate of your customers, it’s also potential for indirect conversions; they may just browse other parts of your website…
And in taking my own advice, I’ll keep this short and sweet – but feel free to add any other examples you can think of in our vowel to make electronic mail, sustainable! ;-)
April 18th, 2013.
If you like crime stories, you’ll love this. ‘True Crime: Hammersmith’ is the story of a deranged criminal organisation (Datadial) and the ensuing legal battle to stop it.
Chapter 1. The Best Intentions.
On August 17th, 2010; the world was rocked to its core when the Datadial blog posted an article titled ‘Increase Conversion rates – advanced techniques’. Of course, it all seemed fairly innocuous. A simple review of tools to help increase conversion rates on your website. The article named several companies and their websites and praised them for their techniques. Indeed, one man even thanked Datadial for the mention! Clearly Mr. Eames didn’t realise that he was just a pawn in one man’s cruel game; the likes of which the legal world has never seen. …until now.
Chapter 2. The Worst Intentions
17th April 2013. Almost three years later. An email is sent from Fox Williams LLP to the author of the article and owner of the website, Mr. Robert Faulkner. The email was sent on behalf of Fox Williams LLP’s client, Shopzilla.co.uk. You’ve probably heard of Shopzilla. According to their Trade mark List of Goods and Services (which was supplied in the email) they specialise in: ‘Promoting sale of goods and services of others; Internet consumer comparison shopping services; providing ratings and reviews of businesses and products and services for use by consumers; providing databases containing commercial information relating to products and merchants’. As it transpires, Shopzilla had been mentioned in Datadial’s article all those years ago. Right at the bottom. As an honourable mention, as recognition for their online service. Shopzilla had finally gotten wind of the article, after all that time; and they did the only thing any self-respecting company would do. They contacted their solicitors to have the link removed.
Chapter 3. Motives
Why did they want the link removed? Why indeed. Allow me to reprint the grounds of the legal action and analyse each point in-depth:
- Trade Mark infringement
- Causing detriment to the distinctive character of the Trade Mark;
- Causing detriment to the reputation of the Trade Mark by creating an undesirable association with the Infringing Website; and
- Taking unfair advantage of the goodwill attached to the Trade Mark.
Now… as I’ve mentioned, Shopzilla is legally defined as one that “provides ratings and reviews of businesses and products and services for use by consumers”. It sets itself up as one. That is the legal definition of Shopzilla. If acknowledging this definition is ‘detrimental to the distinctive character of the trademark’ and it creates an ‘undesirable association’ I daresay they might need to have a brand re-think. I wasn’t sure exactly what ‘Goodwill attached to the Trade Mark’ meant. Suing for a mention of your brand doesn’t seem like an act of goodwill to me. I have since looked up ‘Goodwill’ in legal terms and it pretty much means ‘the right to do business without direct competition’.
Basically not stealing other people’s business. (If anyone has a better definition, I’d welcome it in the comments). I’m not quite sure how praising a company prevents it making profits; but I’m fairly sure Datadial didn’t steal any of their market, or any other products that Shopzilla recommends on its site.
As requested, I’ll provide an account of the profits Datadial made through the use of Shopzilla’s name alone:
£0, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000
We’ll happily share in these profits with Shopzilla. It’s only fair.
2. Passing off [Fox William’s LLP’s] client’s goodwill Our client has invested significant time and money in developing the Shopzilla® brand making it instantly recognisable amongst the public as a trustworthy and reputable online comparison shopping engine. It is highly likely that the average consumer will be confused, believing that our client is in some manner connected with the Infringing Website, either through ownership and operation or through a commercial relationship or endorsement with the operator of the Infringing Website. Such connection is causing our client damage. As such, your use of Shopzilla® in this way constitutes passing off.
I had to open my legal dictionary again for this one. Basically ‘Passing off’ means creating an undue association between two parties, specifically one claiming undue association with the goods sold by another company. I’d like to state unequivocally that Datadial’s use of a link congratulating Shopzilla® on its use of product comparison is not an attempt to gain an association with Shopzilla® or any products sold or compared on Shopzilla®’s website. It would be interesting to see if Shopzilla® could provide proof that Datadial has stolen any of its business.
3. Copyright Infringement The use of the Infringing Website of text and graphics taken from our client’s websites is an infringement of our client’s copyright. You have copies and communicated the copyrighted work to the public through the Infringing Website. The use of the copyrighted work has occurred without the consent of our client, the copyright owner. We put you on notice that any continued use of our client’s text and/or graphics (in whole or in part) on the Infringing Website will constitute and infringement of our client’s copyright. This is without prejudice to our client’s position that you already have the requisite knowledge to establish such liability.
I was totally on-board until the last sentence. Even my module in Forensic Linguistics couldn’t have prepared me for that. I guess they’re suggesting that because Shopzilla® is a well-known website we should know that everything on their site belongs to them.
If Fox Williams LLP is reading this, I would recommend visiting The Plain English Campaign’s site. I’ve provided a link so you know what I’m talking about. . http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/ I hope they don’t sue me…
Legalese notwithstanding, Datadial hasn’t stolen any content from Shopzilla®. Neither text nor images have been used. Shopzilla®’s name wasn’t even used. It was a link via a URL, and you can’t copyright a URL. And even if you could (WHICH YOU CAN’T) it was a mention in a review so it’s fair use! What’s even more confusing is that Shopzilla appears to have sold out on Point 6 of its own philosophy:
‘Information is Empowering: Share it Wherever Possible’.
Chapter 4. Reasons.
So far as I can tell there are no legal grounds for removing a hyperlink. We have been advised by Fox Williams to seek legal advice, so I am hoping the readers of this article can offer some help. Fox Williams have not mentioned that this is a link clean-up operation; and surely they would have gone down the normal route if that was the case. If they’d sent us a polite email asking for the link removal, we would have explained that since we have a reasonably high domain authority of 50+ the link in question would likely have little effect on their rankings and it’s 3 years old anyway so any effect would have been discounted anyway…etc As a precautionary measure we have taken down the link, as requested. If anyone has any thoughts on why Shopzilla wanted this link removed so badly, please share them here though keep it legal! Chapter 5. A riposte. Datadial is not a law-firm, but it is an internet marketing agency. We know how to use Google. Upon receiving the email, we took to the web to find out all we could about the legalities of Hyperlinking. Here are some insights into the subject as documented by Out-Law.com.
- “…hyperlinks do not transmit a work, (to which they link) they merely provide the viewer with information as to the location of a page that the user can choose to access or not. There is thus no communication of the work.” (source)
- “Just as an improved search-engine that improves the ability of users to locate material for which they are searching should not be required to obtain permission as a matter of copyright law, so providing links or access to material already publicly available should not be regarded as an act that requires any authorisation” (source)
- “every internet user enjoys access to the work simply by learning the uniform resource locator (URL) the court held. The hyperlink technique obviates the need to enter the URL manually and merely provides an easier and more convenient way to use the internet.” (source)
- “Kranten.com successfully argued that such deep linking to other sites is a widespread and commonly accepted practice on the internet and because, as in UK law, news articles can be copied for the purpose of reporting current events, provided there is sufficient acknowledgement.” (source)
The author of the original article has never been in trouble with the law. He’s an honest man who does business by the book. You can imagine his upset when he received the original letter. Faced with the fear that he would spend the rest of his life in prison, he considered transfering all of the company’s money to The Battersea Cat’s Home, and move to a Tibetan Monastery. However, he quickly rationalised the situation and sat down on his sofa with a glass of wine and a Twix. Since Shopzilla® and its lawyers are solely responsible for causing an undue amount of stress, it only seems fair that they reimburse him for the glass of wine and Twix. Twix: £0.80 Glass of wine: £2.40
Chapter 5. Prologue.
Shopzilla’s VP has come forward to apologise for the misunderstanding. The apology is in the comments below. They acknowledged that it was a mistake and said they were sorry it happened. I guess we’re not being sued anymore!
We just received a courier delivery…
I wonder what it is…
Well, how about that! A bottle of Red Wine and a box of Twixes. Thanks very much Shopzilla!