Can I make you some bucks?

how the net is transforming the way we work and earn

Is Google hampering your chances of getting a job? July 22, 2008

I discovered some interesting things about myself the other day. It turns out that I am 21 years old and come from a city in Virginia called Chesapeake. I also seem to have a fetish for books to do with Wicca and am the Senior Marketing Coordinator at HTC. Who knew? I certainly didn’t.

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That’s why when faced with self-doubt or a mild existential crisis it is best to look no further than Google. Yes, I unashamedly Googled myself. It took only 0.27 seconds and produced 2, 280 results for “Nicole Hyman” – aren’t I lucky? And some of the results were just too amusing, like this one:

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Ask the Magic 8 Ball

Will Nicole Hyman ever go out with Dillon Campbell? yes or No? Will Jessica Pupu have the same lunch as Lauren Kellers & Nicole Hyman in sixth grade?
m8ball.nicksoft.info/index.php?answer=114212 – 18k –

CachedSimilar pagesNote this

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Well, it seems that neither I nor the magic 8 ball are certain whether Nicole Hyman will go out with Dillon Campbell. I have never heard of a Dillon Campbell and the Magic 8 ball had this to say when I clicked on the link: You were very bad and the Ball is mad at you.

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While this is very amusing a part of me wishes I could copyright my name. I can see it now, with one simple symbol © I would be safe from the empty riff-raff intent on hi-jacking my brand. I would own my own identity.

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Impractical, I know. But you must understand, it feels as though someone has stolen my identity. For I am not 21 years old , don’t live in Virginia and have no interest in Wicca and yet these individuals all go by the name Nicole Hyman, or at least Google says they do.

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And before you jump to conclusions, the two month break from this blog has not muddled my mind and I haven’t forgotten the topic of my blog. Identity theft and your online behaviour can severely impact on your ability to get a job.

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Think about it. You apply for your dream job with what you think is a flawless CV. You go for an interview. And while that may go well, your future employer may want to know a little more about you. About the ‘real’ you.

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And so they turn to one of the many search engines. And be afraid, because there are search engines designed specifically to search for people like Wink , Pipl and Spock. This doesn’t only lend itself to your identity being stolen but also means that you can be defamed. Last year, blogger John Aravosis was accidentally tagged on Spock as being a paedophile because of a blog post he wrote about Congressman Mark Foley.

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But it doesn’t end there. Have you ever thought that your future employers might decide to look you up on Facebook? That is, after all a perfect way to do a quick background check on a person and their online lives. For a second ignore any questionable photos or messages you have been meaning to delete from your profile page.

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Imagine that someone registered on Facebook under your name. That they then went to the trouble of finding a picture of you somewhere online , oh believe me these are available , and then used this picture as their profile picture. Is there anything to stop them?

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This actually happed to a to Mirror writer, Samer Elatrash. The fake profile which was set up under Elatrash’s name made all sorts of false and potentially damaging claims about him including adding a Facebook status which read: Samer is in hiding because Yoni Petel has sent the Israeli Mossad to terminate him. Facebook eventually did shut this imposter’s profile down. But the damage had already been down with the imposter Elatrash adding many people as ‘friends’ on Facebook.

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Then there is the case of a top Yale Law graduate who struggled to get a job because of defamatory comments posted about her on an online forum called AutoAdmit. Another Yale graduate discovered that the forum featured her name and a discussion of her breasts. According to a December survey by the Ponemon Institute,

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Roughly half of U.S. hiring officials use the Internet in vetting job applications. About one-third of the searches yielded content used to deny a job.

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So, as I have discovered online identity is such a precarious thing. And while there are services to help protect it, like Reputation Defender , it never really belongs to you. There is nothing to stop someone commenting on a forum or blog using your name and tarnishing your reputation in the process. That’s why you should Google yourself as habitually as you brush your teeth. Or at the very least, do so before you go for a job interview.

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You can’t be MIA forever – as fun as it might be

Filed under: Adwords — Nicole @ 8:40 pm
Tags: , , ,

So, I have been away for a while. Recuperating. Catching up on some much needed Vitamin D. But I am pleased to announce that I’m back with my regular weekly blog post.

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Those of you who have been following my blog or perhaps are using Google Adwords to make money may be amused to know that Google is also back with more of its antics and another law suit.

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This time it’s to do with ads being placed on parked domains, pages that are all ads and no content. And in true Google style, this is done without the client’s knowledge.

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Welcome back to my blog and, of course, to you Google.

 

How Google rips us off April 24, 2008

Online marketing is something I don’t know too much about and have very little interest in, to be honest. I’ve always seen it as a rather weak attempt at making people believe they need and want something when , in fact, their lives would be perfectly clutter-free without that new vacuum cleaner or talking toilet paper holder .

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I’m the kind of person who desperately tries to ignore adverts both on and offline. And I would even go so far as to arrive late for big-screen movies just to avoid the mind-numbing 20 minutes of advert-filled torture before the movie. But then I am obsessive about being punctual.

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So instead, I arrive on time and pay to be told how a Taser with built in MP3 player is something I have always wanted. When it comes to online adverts I just pretend the little blighters don’t exist; that I haven’t noticed them in Gmail invading the privacy of my email-sending sessions or in a neat little column on the right hand side when I perform a google search. I ignore and above all never click.

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Now you can imagine how thrilled I was when my lecturer registered my class to take part in the Google Online Challenge. This means $200 of free Google Adwords advertising for a Grahamstown business of our choice (whoopee). It also means that I’m helping clutter the net with more adverts. And I can’t even allay any of this cynicism by thinking this may help the business we’ve approached. The truth is; I think Adwords is only really useful for businesses with lots to spend and even then I’m not convinced. Here’s why:

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  • Google is currently being sued for one of its Adwords policies because it allegedly misleads advertisers. When setting up the Adwords account you have the option to allocate a maximum amount for Cost per Click (CPC). There is another option which involves the CPC for the content network, in other words Google’s third party sites. If you leave this blank your ad will still be entered into Google’s content network and you will be charged for it appearing on these sites without your knowledge.
  • The Google Online Challenge is due to begin so I logged on to check if the details of our campaign were correct. I first had to agree to a new set of terms and conditions before I could access any information about our campaign. There were a couple of things that stood out :

The Program. Customer is solely responsible for all: (a) ad targeting options and keywords (collectively “Targets“) and all ad content, ad information, and ad URLs (“Creative“), whether generated by or for Customer; and (b) web sites, services and landing pages which Creative links or directs viewers to, and advertised services and products (collectively “Services“). Customer shall protect any Customer passwords and takes full responsibility for Customer’s own, and third party, use of any Customer accounts. Customer understands and agrees that ads may be placed on (y) any content or property provided by Google (“Google Property“), and, unless Customer opts out of such placement in the manner specified by Google, (z) any other content or property provided by a third party (“Partner“) upon which Google places ads (“Partner Property“). Customer authorizes and consents to all such placements. “

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The sections in red I’ve highlighted especially in light of Google being sued. When I initially set up the campaign I don’t remember agreeing to allow Google to place the ads on any of their third party sites as it feels fit. The content network , Google’s third party sites, have a 76% reach in the US and a 75 % reach in the UK. How is that going to help a small Grahamstown business? Consider also that Google does the matching; deciding where in its content network the ad would be best placed and often these sites may have little or nothing to do with the product being sold. There are, of course, success stories but these aren’t niche businesses in South Africa.

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  • Some Adwords users have complained that the traffic generated by Adwords is from link farms and therefore won’t make any difference to their bottom line. As much as 30-40% of the traffic generated on some sites comes from link farms – this is bogus, worthless traffic that the advertiser still pays for.
  • Google recently introduced Automatic Matching into Adwords. The advertiser can set a maximum CPC budget for their CPC. If their campaign fails to meet that budget Google can activate Automatic Matching which means that any surplus budget is used by Google to target keywords you may not have selected as part of your campaign. These key words may not even be directly related to the product being sold. This is paternalistic and in most cases probably does little more than boost Google’s revenue.
  • Adwords uses an auction system where advertisers bid on the keywords they want. Each bid is then multiplied by what Google calls a quality score which determines how high up an ad features if at all. The quality score includes things like click-through rate, ad relevance, and quality of ad as well as “other relevancy factors” – whatever those might be. Google then uses this to give each bidder a unique minimum bid which often ends up being quite high for smaller entry-level businesses or new advertisers.

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What chance does a small South African business have when Google has such control over a system that seems biased towards multibillion dollar companies? I wonder whether there is much point in participating in the Google Online Challenge. How will the company we’ve approached really benefit? Perhaps it’s time to start looking elsewhere for places to advertise.