This infographic from stateofsearch shows that gambling remains on top for the most expensive keywords.

Source: StateOfSearch

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Top Tier finance terms, those that drive the most per click, are still being targeted by blackhats and spammers. sometimes these attacks (mainly against Google) last only a few days and sometimes only a few hours. [click to continue…]

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Martin Lewis, who last week sold his editorial business to FSA authorised and regulated Moneysupermarket.com Group plc, spent £1 million on the deal in legal fees. Much of this seems to have been spent on hammering out a 15 point so called editorial code, according to Lewis, who has been posting in defence of his sale on his forum.

Lewis’s editorial code is not the official Editor’s Code being picked over at the Leveson Inquiry. This code is administered by the Press Complaints Commission. The printed media and their websites (with the exception of Northern & Shell) pay a voluntary levy to the PCC  which hears complaints from the public against the press about inaccurate or misleading articles, invasions of privacy and other matters.

Rather than sign up to the PCC for a relatively small fee Lewis has instead spent a vast sum drawing up a private code of his own. It seems an extraordinary amount for a man who refuses to pay over the odds for a can of cola.

Lewis, whose appears on Wikipedia as a financial journalist, has always considered himself as such and his business an editorial one, with the freedom of the press. Asked by the chair of the Treasury Select Committee in 2010 who regulated him, Lewis said it was nobody. ‘ I am a financial journalist and regulation of the media is an interesting one,’ he said. In 2009, he corrected the Committee which seemed to think his business was a price comparison website: ‘We are not actually a price comparison site, we are an editorial site,’ he told MPs.In 2008, appearing on Channel 4 News, he corrected Jon Snow’s misunderstanding about his business: ‘No Jon I think you are misunderstanding I have an editorial website’.

Now that his editorial business with its access to press information and the public through national broadcasters (*) is owned by a price comparison website, is it time the public had an independent regulator to complain to, even a feeble one like the PCC?

Lewis told the BBC his code has the power to fine Moneysupermarket.com a seven figure penalty for breach. The PCC lacks even the ability to fine. But is all this talk about paying lawyers a million pounds and seven figure fines preparatory work aimed at impressing the OFT, which has to approve the merger, when what such an influential media business needs is independent regulation?

*ITV Daybreak ITV Lorraine, BBC 1 Watchdog, BBC 2 How To Beat Tough Times, BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Show, BBC Radio 5 Live Shelagh Fogarty, BBC Radio 1 Jo Wiley, Channel 5 It Pays To Watch

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Moneysavingexpert, set up in 2003, generating revenues of £16m per annum is sold for almost ninety million pounds to MoneySupermarket.

“MoneySavingExpert.com has become part of people’s daily lives, far bigger than the man who founded it, and now is the right time for it to stand on its own two feet.”

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Robin Klein was quick to tweet news last week that UK consumer website moneysavingexpert.com is using Skimlinks to monetise its giant user generated forum. MSE had posted the news on its forum on Friday with a Q&A explaining what Skimlinks is.

This is a big deal for Skimlinks, a UK company that invisibly rewrites links to ecommerce sites into links that retailers pay for, usually on a sales/lead generation cost per action basis. According to Hitwise, moneysavingexpert’s forum is the ninth biggest social network in the UK. Pinterest was the 46th most popular social site in the UK at the start of this year.

Klein who is an investor and board observer at Skimlinks will be hoping that being upfront about a technology designed so it can’t be seen will avoid a backlash from users. In February, Skimlinks was dropped by Pinterest after users complained about surreptitious advertising and worries about copyright and making money.

MSE is being selective about how it is using Skimlinks and says it is implementing a custom version. The technology will alter links for anyone using the forum without registering or logging in but it can be switched off by registering. The default setting for existing logged in forum users  is off with the option to turn it on. MSE has decided not to allow users to see which links are Skimlinked by adding an asterisk to disclose as it has with affiliate links until now. It is also making a distinction between Skimlinks and Skimwords, both link services from Skimlinks, saying: 

Important: Skimlinks also has a separate Skimwords software, which is intrusive and adds links to keywords. We’re not using that software, so please don’t confuse the two.

Skimwords 'intrusive'

The consumer website has kept Skimlinks off all its financial product or ‘money’ boards. MSE site editor is Dan Plant who is a member of the Financial Services Consumer Panel. The panel was established by the FSA under FSMA to represent the interests of consumers. Plant brings to the panel ‘a strong passion for consumer protecti0n and responsibility’. That may not sit well if he works for a company that monetises links to financial products posted anonymously in a forum which welcomes users with the message ‘anyone can post please exercise caution’.

MSE has also kept Skimlinks off boards for gamblers and compers after users complained last year that any additional tracking could make them easier to spot and disqualify. From what Skimlinks CEO Alicia Navarro says about the benefits of her technology, users may be right to be wary:

‘The data and analytics that we can provide about how community members are interacting with merchant and product information can be invaluable to publishers. The insights that can be gleaned by running Skimlinks have helped thousands of our publishers understand their customer base more, understand their shopping preferences, purchase behaviours, all without infringing on their privacy or interrupting their browsing experience. Publishers can then make decisions to focus more on certain users or products or merchants, with knowledge that their community respond well to these people and products. This is how merchants benefit, aside from the fact that by helping these sites fund themselves, they are creating future sources of new customers.’

Boards where Skimlinks is being used include Discount Codes ‘n Vouchers where users share codes. It is fairly common for retailers to manage how codes issued to consumers can be redeemed through affiliate links. ASDA requires affiliates to only use voucher codes specifically issued for affiliates. Debenhams has closed its program to voucher code affiliates saying it is unable to recruit anymore. MSE has tried to address potential conflicts between it and its users’ competing commissions. The custom version it is running allows users to copy and paste links unaltered instead of clicking on them which automatically adds Skimlinks’ tracking.

If retailers do start to treat forum users any differently for having clicked through on unseen affiliate links and used codes for consumers, MSE may face a backlash. In its Q&A, it says it reserves the right to add Skimlinks to more boards. It may need to take it off boards if users who post content, unpaid, and moderators who run boards, unpaid, decide they don’t want it.

MSE is not the huge site it is today without listening to its users. Provided it continues to do so, this could be a partnership that strengthens UK companies competing in a sector dominated by the US.

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Martin Lewis’ (financial journalist) Wikipedia page which has been revised several hundred times has recent edits by an IP address associated with Lewis.

IP address  93.152.127.10 has edited Lewis’ page, and the Wiki entry for moneysavingexpert.com, a site owned by Lewis, 13 times.

Smtp.tunechecker.com and mail3.moneysavingexpert.com point to 93.152.127.10. Tunechecker.com and moneysavingexpert.com use 93.152.127.10 as a mail server, according to domain search site Robtex.com.

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Google revenues are still benefiting from insurance and finance – The Top Dog for online advertising.

Source: Wordstream

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After new FSA insurance comparison guidelines were released in Octobter, they have taken action against ArgosComapare by closing it down. [click to continue…]

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Google’s revenue last year was close to $29 Billion. If you look at how much of their revenue comes from search advertising (mainly Google Adwords), this equates to 28.4B. Now let’s look at how much of that comes from Insurance [click to continue…]

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