RIP Uncle Milton

26 01 2011

If I were to ask you who Milton Levine is, would you know? Probably not. If I were to tell you that he may have been responsible for hours upon hours of your enjoyment as a youngster, would I have your attention? OK, good. Well, first, I’ll unveil who Milton Levine is. He was the co-inventor of the ant farm. That’s right, the ant farm with the green casing and glass filled with sand (later switched to volcanic ash) that allowed you to peer into the lives of a handful of red harvester ants swiped from the Mojave Desert. May Uncle Milton rest in peace.

How does this relate to Formic Media? Why would we choose to write about Uncle Milton on our blog, which is generally focused on more business-minded topics like search engine optimization or pay-per-click advertising? Well, if you hadn’t noticed, Formic’s logo is an ant hill, with ants crawling into the center. Some have asked why the name Formic? Why the ant hill? I think Milton explains it well when he says “Ants work day and night, they look out for the common good and never procrastinate.” All great characteristics that an agency would look for in their employees.

Several days ago I actually ordered ant farms for the team as I thought it would be fun, and relevant, to have a number of ant colonies in the office. They should be arriving shortly, and I’m very much looking forward to watching our soon-to-be friends tunnel, colonize and never stop working. Very symbolic in my opinion.


Google Boost Gets Its Launch

25 01 2011

Back in October we took a look at announcements about Place Search and Google Boost, and the impact they could potentially have on small businesses.  While it was initially rolled out to a few select cities, Google has just revealed today that Boost ads will now appear in search results across all U.S. cities to select businesses.  By logging in to your Google Places account, you can see if you are eligible.

Once you log-in, there is a very simple process to creating your ads – you write the ad description, destination page, select which categories you would like to appear, and set a budget.  If you already have an AdWords account, Google can find billing information already on file.  Here is what a sample ad looks like:

Google Boost

Image from Google.

Boost ads will appear in Google and Google Maps search results, and can access important performance data in the same Places dashboard you currently have.  Also revealed today was that Google Boost ads will show up in mobile searches for iPhone and Android phones, greatly expanding your potential reach.

The Mostly Pros…and a few Cons of HTML5

25 01 2011

First off, HTML5 is the next major revision of HTML.  It is also an attempt to define a single markup language that can be written in either HTML or XHTML syntax.  That said it has the potential to be amazing and simplify cross browser and plug-in compatibility issues.  Some other aspects to note:


  • You don’t need any plug-ins to use it as you would with Flash.
  • It works on iPhones and most mobile browsers.  As the iPhones impending market share on the verge of exploding with their recent Verizon expansion, mobile video compatibility will be at the forefront of issues to consider for most developers.
  • You can CSS everything within the browser.  You now have easy access to behaviors within the browser without using JavaScript.  You also have a Canvas tag.
  • You are going to have cleaner code.  Instead of multiple lines of JavaScript for some standard behaviors on a website, you can replace that with 1 word which will deliver that same desired effect.
  • Built in API’s that allow you features such as geo-location and client-side databases which will make customization of websites much better.
  • The native video controls are keyboard accessible.
  • With videos, you can include a textual transcript, which can be scripted into synchronized video captions, which is a tremendous leap forward in terms of video and search engine optimization.


  • HTML5 videos use double encoding which requires extra processing power and storage.
  • Changing from Flash to HTML5 like any other site update could be expensive and timely depending on your site.
  • It’s not entirely backwards compatible, for those archaic browser users. (not that anything really is!)
  • Double encoding is time, extra process and more storage
  • Flash “works” – change is expensive

The advantages to using open HTML5 video are

  • It’s (ultimately) a better user experience, as user doesn’t have to worry about plugins (a major source of worry for non-techy users)
  • It works on iPhones and (eventually) other mobile browsers
  • As a web designer, you can do fancy stuff with CSS etc as it’s native in the browser (this may not matter to business; depends what they want to do with the video)
  • The native video controls are keyboard accessible (in Opera; in Firefox, only when JavaScript is on; in Chrome and Safari, not at all)
  • You can have a textual transcript, which can be scripted into synchronised video captions: great for “Search Engine Optimisation” and “DDA compliance”

Update to AdWords Ad Sitelinks Serving

17 01 2011

Ad sitelinks have become a big success since their release over a year ago, helping advertisers to increase their CTR up to 30% on average.  As a result of sitelinks’ success and popularity, Google decided to improve the way they serve their ad sitelinks.  As you know, Google allows advertisers to add up to 10 sitelinks at the campaign level, which are then applied to relevant ads (which meet AdWords policy guidelines) at the ad group level.  Up until last week, Google chose to display an advertiser’s sitelinks by the order in which they were added.  Very scientific of Google.

“In the past, we simply used the order in which you entered your Sitelinks to rank which ones to serve. For example, while you could enter up to ten Sitelinks for a campaign, we primarily used the top four for any ad in the campaign (as long as they met our policy guidelines).” – Inside AdWords

With AdWords’ ad sitelinks new serving enhancement, sitelinks will be shown based on historical performance data, rotating in the sitelinks with the best CTR more often.  While advertisers will continue to create sitelinks at the campaign level, performance data will be assessed at the ad group level.  While this new serving enhancement is fantastic, AdWords still does not provide advertisers with the performance data for individual sitelinks.  This lack of data is unfortunate, as advertiser’s currently have no way of knowing which sitelink is performing better, because the CTR is applied to the entire group of sitelinks and not at the individual link level.

In the meantime, at least AdWords is now rotating sitelinks into ads based on performance data, and here’s to hoping that sitelink level performance data will be the next update in Google’s line of ad sitelinks enhancements.

Formic Media Free Seminar Series: Website Clinic

17 01 2011

Have you ever wondered why your site doesn’t perform like you think it should? Have you racked your brain and spent countless hours trying to understand how to increase your search engine rankings to drive more visits and sales? Curious about your site’s usability and design? Want feedback from a group of experts? As part of Formic Media’s free seminar series, the team will be hosting a free website clinic on February 9th to provide insight into all of these questions. If you’d like to have your site reviewed, please email johnm at Don’t hesitate as we’ll be reviewing the first 5 websites that are submitted. Register today to watch the Formic team uncover valuable insights on how to increase website traffic, sales/leads or increase the usability of your website.

Date: February 9, 2011

Time: 5:30

Location: Formic Media, Inc., 300 NE Failing St. Portland, OR 97212 (just off MLK, 2 blocks North of Fremont St.)

Cost: Free


Phone: 503-517-9059


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