SEO. So you think you know what it stands for.

It occurred to me that surely the best company offering SEO (or Search Engine Optimisation) must be the one that gets its own company listed at the top when you do a search on Google for SEO. After all, there are pages, pages and bloomin’ pages of listings, and what chance you’d choose any of those on say, page 45 or below – despite them all promising stupendous results for you?

So I tried just searching on the keyword SEO. The results were interesting.

Top spot (not counting the paid listings) was not a SEO company at all. It was Wikipedia. Which suggests to me at least that one possible way to promote your offering might be to get mentioned in as many Wikipedia articles as possible, though that may go against the spirit and probably the rules of Wikipedia. I don’t know.

But who came top, not counting the paid listings and Wikipedia?

Again, quite surprisingly, not a search engine optimisation company. It was Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) London, “a not-for-profit organisation that every year provides hundreds of outstanding undergraduate students from under-represented ethnic minority backgrounds the unique opportunity to gain summer internships at the most prestigious investment banks, professional service firms and corporate law firms in the UK.”

So who then, after the paid stuff and the Wikipedia and the educationalists, came top in the SEO search for a SEO company?

Stand up and take a bow, – and surprisingly their web copy did not seem overly repetitive or screamingly dull.

Maybe there’s something to be said for SEO after all.

Still going at page 41...


Got kids? Watch this.

Brilliant animation. A rant from a different Ken – the highly eloquent Ken Robinson. Sorry, Sir Ken Robinson.

Well worth watching especially if you’ve got kids.

Weasel Word of the Week: Free

Free. One of the most annoying an over-used words in the marketer’s lexicon.

How can something be free when it’s inextricably linked to a purchase?

It gets worse. Here, this rubber ring packaging promised a free phthalate but the cheeky monkeys only forgot to include one.

When it comes to being lazy

Client briefs agency.’We need a radio spot, think of a way to tell them we provide the best quality radial tyres in Didsbury.’

Copywriter licks biro, furrows brow and hey presto! “When it comes to the providing the best quality radial tyres in Didsbury, just come to (client name).


When what comes to what exactly?

If you’re a client and your ad agency does this to you – time the account went elsewhere.

And when it comes to providing quality copy at an affordable price….

Weasel Word of the Week: Unlimited

Now, unlimited has an ‘un’ at the start – so it means the opposite of limited, dunnit. So if something’s limited, there’s a limit to it, but if it’s unlimited, there are no limits.

Oh look, O2 agrees with me.

It couldn’t be clearer could it? Unlimited data means no limits. Unambiguously.

Except for the excessive usage policy. So it’s limited after all. We’re back in the ad-world of ambiguity.

I have an iPhone and I really don’t have a problem if O2 say I can’t download silly amounts of data. But why do they go to all this trouble to spell out unlimited when they clearly mean limited?

It’s unclear, unhelpful and a pile of underpants.

LG poster hits the street and misses the mark

And what in heaven’s name is this all about then?

The ‘take-out’ of an ad – what you come away thinking and feeling – is not always the same as the intended message. This shot makes me feel bad about mobile phones because it looks like the phone is broken. But what exactly is the intended message here? “Small phone, big experience?” If this is basically trying to tell me the phone is not very large, surely there has to be a better way than this.

Raving, not ranting

For a change, a rave instead of a rant – I’m raving about this app at for the way it generates great typographic art in an instant, sourcing its content from any URL you give it. Here you can see one made from my jive dancing site – I think you get some of the flavour of the night at a glance. Delightful.

Weasel Word of the Week: Drink

Sainsbury's juice, and Sainsbury's juice drink

Sainsbury's juice, and Sainsbury's juice drink. Spot the difference.

The Sainsbury’s pack on the left contains fruit juice. The pack on the right contains a fruit juice drink. Same difference? After all fruit juice is a drink, right? Read on and you’ll see that the pack on the left contains 100% fruit juice (from concentrate) whereas the one on the right is only 26% – both in similar packaging, both priced exactly the same, in fact you can ‘mix and match’ these two dissimilar products to gain a saving. Given their similarity on the shelf, you could be forgiven for thinking that from a health perspective they are similar too, but again you would be mistaken. The juice ‘drink’ on the right actually has more added sugar than it has raspberry juice, and doesn’t merit a ‘five-a-day’ symbol.

All achieved quite legally by adding the magic weasel word ‘Drink’ – so you are not buying fruit juice, you are buying a fruit juice-based drink. Legally, Sainsbury’s are in the clear because the nutrition information and ingredients information is all there on the pack for those who have the time and inclination to read it. Yet their packaging strongly suggests, to me at least, that the apple and raspberry ‘drink’ is as close to a natural product as the apple juice it is sold alongside.

Comedian Dave Chappelle knows the difference between a juice and a drink…

Sainsbury’s employ their own comedians. On the pack’s side panel there is an ‘explanation’ headlined “What is a made ‘from concentrated’ juice drink? Here, Sainsbury’s have given themselves the opportunity to explain the important difference between a juice and a juice drink in words we can all understand. Instead, they have gone for further bamboozlement.

There should be a special bamboozlement award for copy like this.

There should be a special bamboozlement award for copy like this.

It opens, “Sainsbury’s juice drinks are a refreshing blend of ingredients including fruit juice, sugar and water.” Now as consumers we are used to ingredients being listed starting with the most prevalent first, in descending order. So, taking this approach, the last part should read, ‘…including water (almost three-quarters of the content), apple juice from concentrate (a mere 18%), sugar, raspberry juice from concentrate (7%), rapsberry puree (1%)’.  The copy goes on to describe the manufacturing process for juice made from concentrate – how they take water out, only to replace it later on. This is the same copy you’ll find on the apple juice pack. But remember, for a ‘drink’,  this long and worthy description only applies to the 18% apple juice and the 7% raspberry juice. It’s not relevant to almost 75% of the content of this pack which is simply added water.

And guess what? It costs the same.

The best bit comes towards the end. “…then blend it to our recipe…” You can imagine them with their chef’s hats on and big stirring spoons, can’t you. Put another way, they bulk it up with a load of water and, because you’d be bound to notice it wouldn’t taste anything like the 100% fruit juice it’s sold alongside, they mix in sugar, citric acid, colour and flavouring. And the word ‘drink’.

How very dare you, Maplin

So I am on my facebook page, and there is this irritating, ugly, flash-animated banner ad for Maplin, the high-street purveyor of toys for boys and equipment for part-time DJs. The modern-day Tandy for those that can remember that far back. I can’t help noticing that the ad is flashing up a particularly dull array of items – the same items I’d been browsing on the Maplin website a day or two ago. I can’t remember what exactly -  a pack of CD-RW, a PC fan or something equally tedious. Coincidence? Not a bit. They had tailored an ad for me, and me alone, based on the stuff I’d been looking at days ago, via cookies or something I suppose. Then pasted it onto my facebook page. Cheeky monkeys, I thought.

So I emailed them. ‘It’s like your shop assistant knocking on my door the day after I visited a Maplins shop, ‘I wrote, ‘and ‘reminding me’ what I had been looking at – in case I wanted to buy. How very annoying.’

And they agreed. They wrote back.

‘We do want to begin by apologising if the advertising found on a third party site was intrusive. This had been scheduled for trial as part of our campaign to raise awareness of Maplin and after a very brief period we found, as your email suggests, it actually had the opposite effect.

Yes in theory it sounded like the ideal opportunity to offer a selection of items to customers whom we new were already interested in but in hindsight we do not want to come across as Big Brother.

I can confirm this trial has already ceased and won’t be re-appearing and would again like to offer our apologies for any inconvenience this may have caused.’

Just because something can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done.

Weasel Word of the Week – SEO

Ok – I know SEO isn’t really a word but if it were it would be among the weaseliest of all weasel words. A lot of people apparently take the approach that SEO copy is simply dropping search words and phrases ad nauseum into otherwise potentially useful copy in order to fool the search engine robots into thinking your website has something useful to say about a topic whereas in truth you’re just trying to wangle your way up the Google listings. It can be tedious and patronising, and it’s the antithesis of good copy.

Let’s say for instance you genuinely wanted to know a bit about using mobile broadband abroad. ‘Mobile broadband abroad’ goes into google and out may indeed come this SEO puffery:

The pros and cons of using mobile broadband abroad

Of course, the main downside of accessing mobile broadband abroad is the cost of access, which can be very high if users are not mindful of the charges that are in place. On the upside, being able to access mobile broadband abroad provides both business travellers and holidaymakers with complete freedom to conduct business, enjoy entertainment, keep in touch with loved ones, and much more. Being able to access mobile broadband abroad also means that you do not have to pay the costly fees that some hotels may charge for access to the Internet.

On the other hand, some users may find that a cheaper alternative to accessing mobile broadband abroad is simply to get access through a local Internet café. Some hotels may also offer free Internet access, which is another alternative to accessing mobile broadband abroad. When considering accessing mobile broadband abroad you need to take into account your needs. For example, if you are travelling on business and need access whilst out and about then access to mobile broadband abroad is going to be far more convenient than using Internet cafes or hotels. However, for holidaymakers that just want to keep in touch with friends and family access at hotels and cafes may be a cheaper alternative to using mobile broadband abroad

This is verbal diarrohea. Soon, thanks to the present demand for SEO copy, we could have diarrohea over every page on the net. Lovely.

I see the sense in dropping some keywords into copy, the earlier in the story the better, to get some action from Google et al;  what I object to are whole articles of keyword drivel, with no attempt to infom or entertain the reader.

Life is just too short to have to wade through this kind of spam.