FWM Digital Bytes

Google v Google
Google has been left red faced at the start of the new year as they have had to downgrade their own product, Google Chrome, in Google search rankings after some underhand promotional activity was discovered by an SEO. Aaron Wall of SEO Book uncovered that the search giant has been paying bloggers to promote a video about its Chrome browser and its positive effects on small businesses. This is strictly against Google’s Webmaster Tools guidelines and, as such, they were quick to distance themselves from the activity by pointing the finger of blame at third party marketing firm Essence Digital. However, Google have had little choice but to penalise the offending Chrome pages from its own search engine results, as is the protocol for other sites which are found to be buying links, as was seen in the JC Penney fiasco earlier last year. In addition to questioning Google’s altruism, questions have also been raised about it’s algorithm after it emerged that a weakly optimised Google Webmaster Tool page regarding Google Chrome has been ranking number one for brand keywords in the UK after the Google Chrome website dropped from the rankings.

Admist all this speculation, Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land has written about the story, asking whether the news could lead to an outright banning of Chrome from the SERPs. Wall, who found 400 offending posts after searching “This post is sponsored by Google”, writes: “The fact that Google is paying to spread that sort of misinformation about how their browser is helping small businesses is sort of like BP buying ads about doing tourism in the gulf. Only since Google destroying smaller businesses is something more abstract on virtual lands the PR propaganda campaign is much more effective, because (unlike oil washing ashore) people do not see what is not there. (The birds still die, but the black oil covered carcass isn’t rotting on the beach).” Whatever the long term implications, in the short term Google is facing the music and will likely continue to be closely scrutinised by itself and other. Some have pointed out, however, that this event and all the subsequent blog posts will have conveniently generated many natural links for Google Chrome, which will definitely come in handy for Chrome’s long hard slog back to page number one.

A Very Kindle Christmas
Christmas has come and gone so it’s time for tech businesses to run the numbers and find out how popular they were with the present-buying public in 2011. According to estimates from YouGov, Amazon were the big winners, with 92 per cent of the 1.3million e-readers sold in the pre-Christmas rush being Kindle products. This means that about one in 40 people were unwrapping a Kindle on Christmas morning, leaving Amazon streets ahead of their competitors in the e-reader field. Marek Yaygelt, Head of Technology and Telecoms Consulting at YouGov, said: “This is finally the year when the late-medieval technology of the printing press was challenged by a 21st-century, digital alternative. Amazon has done a remarkable job of selling the benefits of e-readers and the upside for the publishing industry is that it appears e-reader owners, at least in the early days, buy more e-books than the printed books they purchased before acquiring an e-reader.” Further research showed that around 640,000 tablets were sold before Christmas and that women tend to be the biggest consumers of e-reader/tablet tech, accounting for 61 per cent of Kindle sales and 60 per cent of iPad sales. Amazon have yet to confirm the numbers, but did say that Kindle orders in the run up to Christmas 2011 were double those in 2010.

Börk Börk Börk!
Nowadays most countries have some kind of social media presence, but few can be said to be truly representative of their population. Not Sweden though. The home of Ingmar Bergman, ABBA and the chef from The Muppets, has opened up its Twitter account to everybody in the country so followers can get a real perspective on what it’s like to live in the world’s favourite flatpack furniture manufacturing nation. Entitled ‘Curators of Sweden‘, the idea is designed to position the country as “the sole ruler of the world’s most democratic Twitter account” by handing the reins of the power over to a different member of the population each week. “For seven days, he or she recommends things to do and places to see, sharing diverse opinions, and ideas along the way. After that, someone else does the same—but differently.”

With nine million people living in Sweden, it’s certainly going to make for fascinating reading. The most recent captain of the Twitter account has been Adam, who describes himself as an “Organic sheep-farmer with focus on animal-health, food and environment. Other interests: new pop/electronic/indie-music and politics.” Who’ll be next? Find out by following them @Sweden.

The Digital Diet
Finally, it’s a new year so time for some resolutions. Most involve cutting out alcohol or losing weight, but The Telegraph have struck upon a novel approach by suggesting a ‘Digital Diet‘. Daniel Seiberg writes: “As a quick barometer of your digital life, ask yourself these questions: Do you sometimes feel the urge to pull out your smartphone while someone else is talking to you? Have you ever realized that you were texting or reading email while your child was telling you about her day and later couldn’t remember her story? Have you ever felt that something hasn’t really happened until you post it online? Do you feel anxious if you’re offline for any length of time? Does a ringing phone trump everything else, including your dinner date? And if this isn’t a picture of your own life, we all know someone for whom this is the everyday.” The article offers 11 simple test questions that cover everything from smartphone use to the amount of email accounts you have and gives you a score at the end of exam that marks how effective a ‘Digital Diet’ would be. We got 27 – but what will you get? Let us know in the comments section!