Think Hard

Google RankBrain. What it means. (I think.)

I was reading a post today about RankBrain, the artificial intelligence (AI) tool that Google engineers have been training since last October to process user-search results in such a way that it makes them more relevant to users.

It’s essentially a new tweak to Google’s already highly complex Hummingbird algorithm to make search (i.e. advertising) more effective/intuitive/human. ¬†(Slightly ironic then that they don’t use humans to actually train the algorithm.)

It’s got the SEO community in a palaver and it’s scaring some SEO practitioners because if it works it will make PageRank, which assesses inbound links, less effective. (Link building is the current top dollar methodology for increasing a website’s prominence and authority on Google.) And that will mean genuinely good websites will beat wolves in sheep’s clothing in site ranking.

That’s good for those of us who value quality over quantity.


Well the boffins can’t really agree on anything in SEO – which suits them. ¬†As the more black magic associated with it the better.

They make it singularly as complex as they can, although five minutes spent perusing this outstanding infographic by Column Five Media might help you get see the full(ish) picture  because it gives an, at-a-glance, perspective on the factors that influence search.

Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 10.43.02.png

What’s gratifying about this, from my personal perspective is the things we mere humans can influence, situated prominently and with authority, at the top left of the table are Content, Words, Research and Freshness. ¬†RankBrain is going to like these a lot and further move the dial away from link-building as the most effective means of getting people to read your website.


But if you want a boffin or two’s view; help yourself and maybe you could explain to me what they mean.

…it’s merely a switch from user-intermediated algo-tweaks to mostly automated algo-tweaks to arrive at the same end result

or this

¬†…also think they will include the fact element they patented – the number of facts a page has about a keyword set – latent semantics meets encyclopedic data.

How to get round protesting when protesting is banned: Create a hologram.
January 26, 2016, 1:39 pm
Filed under: About think hard, advertising, awards, business, creativity, marketing, social media, web2.0

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 13.31.22.png

This is a remarkable communications idea from DDB Spain. ¬†In March 2015 Spain banned any form of physical protest under a new ‘Gag Law’ but DDB found a way around this by creating ¬†‘virtual’ protest right outside the Spanish Congress by allowing people to upload protest images of themselves online that were then turned into a massive hologram.

The effect was huge and reached 800 million internationally, not bad for a law that had been criticsed by the UN and 80% of the Spanish population.

Here’s how they did it.


Want your new work shared?
I was recently asked to become a contributor to Allmediascotland’s brand new blog.
My wife took¬† a swanky new portrait of me to support it…
MG Head shot Jan 2013 copy
Here’s my first piece.
The owner, Mike Wilson is trying to establish a platform to critique Scottish creativity (advertising firstly, but it encompasses design and digital too).
I think we need all the help we can get as our windows for publicly sharing our work through traditional media channels contracts on the one hand but on the other hand digital channels (like this one and AMS) proliferate and create new opportunity for profile building.
Mike has a big following now, and not just in Scotland so there is potential value in using his platform, and of course it will be free.
So, if you have new work and you want some sort of critique of it AND you’re willing to trust my judgement send it to me and I’ll see what I can do.

The taxonomy of agency names

Oh man, I love this instagram by Rob and Joe, whom I don’t know; but they are summed up thus…

Rob and Joe are more than a team.
Rob and Joe are nothing if not a team.
Rob and Joe are not afraid of the dark.
Rob and Joe did not exist before April 2012.
Rob and Joe are a spiritual experience.
There will be no sequel to Rob and Joe.
Rob and Joe contain all religions.
Rob and Joe are brutal and tender.
Rob and Joe are learning to swim.

Rob and Joe have lovingly crafted this instagram of great beauty and much cleverness.  I even worked at one of the agencies featured in it РThe Leith Agency. (Shame 1576 never made it to the numbers blob)

A mega enjoy for all you advertising geeks like me out there.  Thanks to John Appleton for sending it to me.


Glastonbury Browser wars
October 7, 2012, 9:53 am
Filed under: web2.0 | Tags: , , , , ,

So, this morning turned into an interesting web browser experiment.  I finally got my Glastonbury tickets but only after refreshing Chrome, Safari and Firefox website browsers which all failed to connect to the See Tickets site fr 40 minutes or s.  Always at least 10 of each on the go at any one time.

Anyway, all of a sudden I was through, on Firefox, then again, on Firefox, and again, on Firefox and again and again and again and again and agian and again and again.  All on Firefox.

Guess what my favourite web browser is?

Well done Mozilla!

An interesting take on how social media works

From the website

Made me smile.

Is online advertising facing its demise?

“What was once digital advertising‚Äôs dirty little secret is now its big, ugly problem. Online ad performance figures are dismal…”¬†Adweek, 8/24/11

I think the Ad Contrarian occassionally makes really good insights (all negative of course) into the world of digital communication.¬† This extract is one of his best.¬† Thanks to Will Atkinson for furnishing me with it…

Just when you thought banner ads couldn’t get any less effective, oops, click-through rates dropped another 10% last year.

Mashable¬†reports that a Google study, seen as the “the industry standard” reported recently that click-through rates dropped from .1% to .09% in 2010. That means that CTRs dropped from 1 in a thousand to 9 in ten thousand.

So, Mr. Online Advertiser, for every 10,000 times your online ad appeared, you got a solid 9 clicks. Good job.

If you were a shortstop, you’d be batting .0009¬†

Oh, and by the way, the 9 people who clicked are no more likely to buy your product than the 9,991 people who didn’t.

‚ÄúA click means nothing, earns no revenue and creates no brand equity.” says Starcom USA SVP/Director, Research & Analytics John Lowell.

Which, I’m afraid, is not a terribly encouraging statement about the value of “interactivity.”¬†

Meanwhile, undeterred, the advertising industry continues selling clients more and more display ads. In June, eMarketer doubled its projection for online ad spending in 2011. 

You may be asking yourself how display ads — with such “dismal” performance — can continue to provide large income to online publishers? This, my friend, may go down as one of the greatcon¬†sales jobs in advertising history. The logic, again from¬†Mashable, goes like this:

“…banners work like most advertising, which is to say in a fairly complex manner.

For instance, click-through is actually a poor measure of performance. It‚Äôs impossible to click through a billboard ad, for example, but that doesn‚Äôt mean it‚Äôs not effective…

The same is true for TV ads…”

Oh, I see. The now famous “nobody ever clicked on a TV spot” defense.¬†

So here’s what has really happened. Online ad¬†hustlers¬†experts told us that banner ads were much more effective than traditional advertising because they were so “measurable” and “interactive.” Then the facts started rolling in and they¬†shit their pants¬†refined their message.¬†

Now the story goes like this: Banner ads really¬†aren’t¬†any more measurable or interactive than traditional advertising. In fact,¬†the erstwhile key metric — the click — don’t mean shit. Now, we are told, banner ads work¬†just like¬†traditional advertising, in a “fairly complex” manner.¬†

The only trouble with this baloney new story is that you have to be both blind and delusional to believe that some invisible ad on your Facebook page is as conspicuous as a TV spot or a billboard. In fact, while your average TV spot or billboard is an annoying, intrusive pain in the ass, nobody ever complains about Facebook ads. Which is just another way of saying nobody notices the darn things.

It seems that the worse online advertising performs the more of it we can sell. C’mon gang, if we can just get the click-through rate down to zero, we’ll all be rich