Clearly Seattle’s Hero

Cue the dramatic music as I slip on my mask, tie on my cape, and pull on my gloves in preparation of finally living out my boyhood dreams as a REAL hero… kind of.

For the next six months, I now no longer represent just myself. I will be living a double life as myself and the CLEAR Hero for the Seattle area. I won’t be battling street crime (we’ll leave that to my wife, the forensic scientist), but I will be “rescuing” people who need Internet access in some of the toughest neighborhoods for obtaining 4G Internet Access.

As part of the hero assignment, CLEAR will be lending me a Spot Device with free service, which will allow me to connect up to 8 distressed victims at once. I’ll be incognito, secretly armed with the full power of Internet access, looking for opportunities to help people out in various coffee shops, airports and web conferences, all in the name of good Karma for CLEAR.

It’s a very cool program and I’m excited to be a part of it! Down the road I’ll post a recap of a few of my hero-esque moments.

Radiohead King of Limbs Online Execution

Loss of Limb: What Radiohead could have done to improve their self-distributed King of Lambs Album web success.

Over three years ago I beat up Radiohead for the online execution of In Rainbows. I was frustrated because they had a great opportunity to prove the self-distribution model online, but made several simple mistakes that may have reduced their effectiveness. With their latest release, King of Limbs, which hit the web today, they made some similar mistakes.

Before I jump into the King of Limbs website improvement suggestions, I do want to applaud their music and alternative distribution experiments. They are still doing a great job changing the music industry–I just wish they partnered with a company that knew what they were doing online.

King of Limbs Site Improvement Suggestions:

King of Limbs
Radiohead King of Limbs Album Website

Here’s what I wish Radiohead would have done with their King of Limbs Album Website from different standpoints.

King of Limbs Album Cover
King of Limbs Album Cover
Usability:

  • Splash homepage. Relying on Image map for navigation with poor alt text. Glad I’m not blind.
  • But they want me to be blind. There is no description of what is on the album. How many tracks? What songs?
  • No opportunity to preview any of the music. I don’t need to hear the whole song, but I would love to hear a sneak peek before drop $9-48.00.
  • No help deciding what digital version to choose from.
  • Newspaper Album terminology confusing.
  • No links to any information about the band. No links to other sites about the band or other albums.
  • Navigation comes and goes. Homepage has no navigation other then image map. Some pages have Home link, Order Tracking, Help and Checkout. Other have only Home link and some have Home, Order Tracking and Help, but no checkout.
  • Checkout jumps to www.thekingoflimbs.com through strange transaction URL redirect. If you started on kingoflimbs.com, this may trip up some people, especially with higher levels of browser security.
  • Not brought into a secure form until you fill out your email address and password. Order form being non-secure until this step may scare some people.
  • No choice on the download options. Does it always come down as a zip file?
  • The zip file came with no instructions whatsoever. Some people might want help loading the MP3s into iTunes, etc.
  • The zip file included the album cover, but didn’t bother with a song list, lyrics, videos, art, or any information about the album

Social:

  • No images to be used as thumbnails on Facebook or other sharing platforms when linking to the site.
  • No sharing options on the site. Why not encourage people to brag about downloading the album?
  • Completely reliant upon news organizations to point to the URL and share the news. No information about the release.
  • No link or embed of the music video. The press felt it was worth sharing, why did Radiohead skip it?
  • No evidence of interaction with fans on release day – other then a Tweet that says you can download the album.

SEO:

  • A splash homepage with an image map. Seriously?
  • Title tag is: “The King of Limbs : Where are you?” No mention of Radiohead, music, album, etc. “Where are you” not helping anything.
  • The alt tags on the image map are not helping the site (The Americas, S.E.Asia, UK/Ireland, Europe, Rest of the World.
  • No meta description. Guess they don’t care what their listing looks like in the engines.
  • Used only an H2 and a H5. I’m scratching my head on why they chose those two.
  • Had the search engines crawl the correct URL before the album launch. A search for “King of Limbs” has the following URL #1 in Google: thekingoflimbs.com/CC.php?ID=2.
  • Both canonical version of the site resolve (thekingoflimbs.com and www.thekingoflimbs.com). Pick one!
  • KingofLimbs and www.kingoflimbs also resolve – I can’t tell which domain they want to use.
  • All the different domain variations clearly creates duplicate content problems, but each area of the map you click on generates the same content–only the price changes.
  • Most of the URLs seem to push through a php page that uses a javascript URL rewrite.
  • Passing a large amount of link equity to shop.sandbag.uk.com.
  • The various SEO mistakes make it so search spammers, music resellers and bit torrents can potentially outrank Radiohead for their own album. Since they are self-distributing this could result in lost sales or unnecessary commissions.

Maybe it doesn’t matter?
Despite all the issues I raise above (and many more I didn’t bother pointing out), I’m sure the King of Limbs album will be highly successful. This site is still executed better than the In Rainbows site was. Again, I’m frustrated that they didn’t put the web to full use, especially if it is their primary distribution method.

Unnecessary disclaimer: I listened to the album while writing the post and must say that I enjoyed it. So far Codex is my favorite song.

Reflections of a Pivotal Point in My Career

Something recently reminded me of an event early in my web marketing and SEO career. For me, it was a very pivotal moment of my career; for you, it might be an entertaining story of a consulting douche bag and how SEO battles don’t change much.

dustin in magazinesRoll back the clock to a little over a decade ago when cell phones were bricks generally seen only in movies and Prince’s “Party Like It’s 1999” was forward-looking. I graduated from the University of Washington with a couple finance-related degrees and began working for, surprise, a financial company. After quickly proving that my abilities went beyond filling out paperwork for clients and managing portfolios, I spent my time on “special projects”, which included things like investing research, Y2K compliance, & building our web presence.

I quickly discovered the importance of search engines and was quite successful at driving leads & press to the site & company. In 2001, I had increased their assets by over $50 million, was named “Best of the Web” by Forbes three times, and was even selected by Inc Magazine as the best marketer of the year using techniques that have changed little to this day (but now have names). How was this success rewarded? They brought in a consultant.

bad consultantMy boss’s friend was unemployed after his start-up went belly up. I won’t name him, but will describe him. He looked very much like the Comic Guy on the Simpsons – he was large, sported a red goatee, and a greased back pony tail. His previous occupation was as a conservative radio talk show host (seriously – I’m not kidding) and as you can imagine, he was a talker. He loved buzz words, though a true understanding of them was of little importance. And now he was a consultant.

Things seemed a little backwards. If you looked at our resume’s & track records at the time, you would have guessed I was consulting for him. Considering it was my boss’s friend and upper management was wowed by the fancy words and whiteboard drawing, who was I to question the new relationship?

To this day, I can’t recall a single person I couldn’t work with–other then this guy. He was a bully and I was his young prey. His big idea was to change our various sites to a single flash site. When I warned him that search engines have trouble with Flash, his response was that “no one uses search engines to find websites.” Apparently countless web analytics reports showing all our traffic sources wasn’t enough for him, nor was an export of our client referral source records, nor the daily stories of new clients who found us via a specific search query. Facts meant little to this talk show host, unless the facts or half-truths supported his cause. After much back and forth, it was clear that it was his way or the highway.

I decided to take a very large risk (especially considering this was during the dot-com crash & a troubling time for the stock market) – I crafted an email to the President and Vice-president of the company explaining that the direction we were heading in was going to hurt us and that I was ready to leave the company if they continued to use his “services.” Clearly my boss would want to fire me for going over his head and making him look bad, but it was a risk I had to take to restore my sanity and keep the company from driving directly into the brick wall in which it was undoubtedly headed.

The story does have a happy ending. They did get rid of him and I used the existing sites to raise another $200 million (doubling the 20-year old company’s assets) before I left a couple years later to take my boss’s job at a larger company. The irony is that I am now a full-time consultant and he became an anti-consultant evangelist.

From that point on in my career, I decided I would never stay silent when I saw the company I worked for start to take a wrong turn, even if it meant losing my job because I wouldn’t want to work for a company that ignored evidence and experience anyways.

GoDaddy Twitter Relationship

Just over a month ago, I was shocked when I was force-fed a twitter screen takeover while looking at my domain names registered at GoDaddy. Immediately, I did some news searches to see if GoDaddy had purchased Twitter because it seemed very out of place. There were no such announcements. In fact, there was very little news about this development.

GoDaddy Twitter IntegrationEvery time I’m in my account tweaking my domains, I can’t help but notice the twitter promotion overload. I can’t help but wonder why GoDaddy would take such a keen interest in helping to fuel more twitter accounts. From a service perspective, it is pretty lame because it is already incredibly easy to check name availability and sign up for twitter. I could think of a hundred other features GoDaddy should build and promote instead. If it were a two-way arrangement, where Twitter promotes domain registration for Twitter user names, then I could see the benefit.

So why do you suppose GoDaddy is pimping Twitter so much? Is GoDaddy going to buy Twitter? Is Twitter paying GoDaddy for this treatment? Is GoDaddy’s product development team overly caught up with Twitter & group-think led them to believe this add on would separate them from other registrars? I have no idea, but it will be interesting to watch this over time.

Here are more screenshots showing how much GoDaddy is pimping out Twitter within their domain dashboards:

GoDaddy Twitter promo

Why is GoDaddy Pimping Twitter

GoDaddy Twitter name check feature

LinkedIn Benefits from Unemployment

If you think about it, LinkedIn is a natural beneficiary from massive layoffs. Upon being laid off, here are some user activities LinkedIn might not see otherwise:

  • Status updates to let others know about layoff
  • Recommendation requests to co-workers
  • Recommendations for co-workers
  • Profile updates and employment history updates
  • Status updates about job seeking
  • LinkedIn personal network job searches
  • Contact info lookups to find names & phone numbers to fill out unemployment benefits job search logs
  • Network inbox emails to ask for help with employment

Outside the unemployment-related activities I list above, there are, of course, many other activities that you might see even in healthy job markets like looking up potential bosses, researching organizations, growing network, Q&A activity, etc.

LINKEDIN UNEMPLOYMENT CORRELATIONS
The numbers don’t lie: LinkedIn certainly benefits from this increase in activity and the activity is well-documented. In terms of pageviews, LinkedIn went from 272 million pageviews in March ’08 to 872 million pageviews in March ’09 (252% growth according to Compete.com data).

Not only does an increase of unemployment catapult activity (as measured by pageviews), it also greatly benefits reach (as measured by uniques). Check the graph below that I created that shows LinkedIn uniques visitor growth and the unemployment rate for the past two years:

LinkedIn Unemployment