Putchka Design

The Superfish Fiasco – Why You Should Focus on Real Advertising

Online Advertising Based on Questionable Tactics is Bad

By Ilan Adler

Ever since the dawn of the mainstream Internet, there have been plenty of companies trying to exploit it for short term profit. The latest news hitting the web, is the Superfish Fiasco, where Lenovo sold PC’s with pre-installed Superfish adware. This adware can be exploited to allow 3rd parties to create false SSL certificates which then masquerade as the real thing. This man in the middle attack can be used to steal pretty much any information broadcast between you and the Internet.

man in the middle attack

Image courtesy of Web Programming Step by Step, 2nd Edition

The idea behind Superfish browser extension or toolbar, is a visual search tool. Ideally this would actually be a helpful tool allowing you to reverse image things that you are looking to shop for, and shop for them. For example if I wanted to find a cabinet that I saw at a friends house, I could upload the image and then reverse image search it for a place that sells it. This would be an ideal use of the product, and it would work much like Google Image Search.

But that would an ideal scenario, and Superfish did not choose to take that path. Instead Superfish decided to use their product to inject ads all over the internet, use spammy tactics, and make their software extremely hard to remove. I can’t stress enough how annoying I find ad injection systems, they just make for a horrible user experience. The gist of the Superfish sales pitch to advertisers, is that people browsing a site like Amazon, the extension than searched its database for visually similar products, and shows them to users (who are supposed to benefit from the price comparison aspect).

Example of Superfish Price Comparison Tool

Example of Superfish Price Comparison Tool

But the thing that pissed people off the most about this, was the fact that many of the users didn’t even actively install this software. It would come either pre-installed like the Lenovo case, or be surreptitiously added on semi-secretly with install packages for browser toolbars, search partners that take over your homepage, and other similar money grabbing products. Long before this specific controversy hit the web, popular google searches were, “remove superfish“, “superfish virus“, “remove superfish chrome“.

All this always brings me back to the same point, when you offer an advertising tool do it right. Don’t count people who didn’t signup or install as users, since as an advertiser I don’t want to reach and intrude on those people. Google and Facebook, while being often times in the center of scandals, and not always being fortright about their goal to milk each user for as much money as possible, are still legitimate advertising platforms, and that’s why they work. Bing should be a legitimate advertising platform, unless it keeps trying to serve advertisers users with fake search intent.

Without getting into a big philosophical argument about online advertising, and whether it’s ok to target based on private data, or companies that sell that data to advertisers, there is still quite a fine line between these tactics, and the money grabbing tactics of Superfish and the like.


The Blasphemy That is Bing

The Blasphemy That is Bing

The Dark Secret of Bing/Yahoo Search Ads By Ilan Adler This is blasphemy, this is madness! This is B-I-N-G! As…

The Unforeseen Effects of Improper SEO

Discovering Rap Genius

By Ilan Adler

Back in late 2013 there was a much ballyhooed story about an SEO penalty handed to the site Rap Genius (now simply Genius) by Google. For those who missed it, Rap Genius tried to get people to create Exact match anchor text links to their site, in order to increase their SEO visibility. They sent emails specifically asking for exact match links, sometimes even as footers, in order to increase the linking authority of their site. They were eventually caught by Google, and were basically kicked out of all the results for about 10 days. They posted a lengthy (and very technical but very interesting) explanation of how they were caught by Google, and the steps they took to “clean up” their link profile (basically a lot of disavowal requests).

But the more interesting side of the story for me in this case, was becoming aware of the Rap Genius brand. While the people behind the company are sort of self important, startup d**ches (this video is basically them, and this is the real them), the site is really good, and ever since I read about this debacle, I’ve found myself going there more and more to see different song lyrics and their meanings. I’ve even registered for an account (though admittedly I’ve yet to annotate a song, no time for that). I find their UX very intuitive, and I dig the (pompous sounding) idea of the “Internet Talmud“.

Thus I found the keep-calm-and-dont-be-greedywhole story behind their SEO debacle to be fascinating, since I think that they are a good, legit site, which was overzealous to get more traffic and revenue, and they erred in the way by using questionable and illicit SEO tactics. People out there, “Don’t be Greedy”!

In the end, the old adage of “all news is good news” seemed to hold true for Rap Genius as well. They might have lost 10 days of traffic and a few million visitors, but they probably raised their brand awareness, and probably got to their regular organic traffic levels, if not even higher. After all even I ended up linking to them here, though I made sure to nofollow it 🙂

How to Pin your Instagram Images on Pinterest

Pin Instagram Images!

By Ilan Adler

Like a lot of people (and digital marketers) today you probably use both Pinterest and Instagram. But sometimes you have cool images that you posted on Instagram and you want to pin them to a relevant board on Pinterest. For example we took some photos of the elephant and lion cake, made for the Putchka’s birthday, and Shalhevet wanted to pin it to her board I made this, which are all things that she made DIY style.

There is a pretty easy way of pinning Instagram images. Go to the Instagram user page (ie Instagram.com/putchka) and then pick the photo that you want to pin. You then will get a pop-up of that image that is still not pin-able. Just hit refresh on your browser (cmd+r or F5), and then the same Instagram image page will appear as a set web page. All you need to do now is use the “Pin It” extension and you will see the image and be able to pin it!

Simple as that! Happy Pinning!

Chilling with yahli in #JLM #nofilter

A photo posted by Putchka Design (@putchka) on

Four Awesome Breaking Bad Parodies

Get Cookin’ with these Breaking Bad Parodies!

By Ilan Adler

Breaking Bad is arguably one of the greatest TV shows of the last 30 years. We were absolutely enthralled by it, and watched each episode as soon as it came out. Recently a whole bunch of fantastic Breaking Bad parodies have been hitting the Web, and we thought it would be cool to highlight four of them. These absolutely blew us away, in terms of both production value, comedic factor, and jokes that only fans would get.

Here they are for your viewing enjoyment:

1. “Do you want to build a meth lab?” By Animeme Studios. This one was definitely our favorite! The song is catchy as hell, and the clip is a frame by frame reproduction of the song “Do you want to build a snowman” from the Disney movie “Frozen”. All the insider jokes are in here this, along with fantastic and funny animation. This clip will definitely have you singing “Do you wanna build a meth lab, a rolling RV meth lab” all day!

2. “Breaking Bad: The Middle School Musical” by Rhett and Link. This production was also brilliant, featuring both lots of insider jokes and songs, along with the revolutionary concept of airing it as a middle school musical, complete with the appropriate props and effects (big hat tip for the blood effect that happens with Gus’ throat slashing).

3. “This is my Product” by Matthijs_Vlot. Not a classic parody, but an awesome remix nonetheless!

This is my product from Matthijs_Vlot on Vimeo.

4. “Simpsons Breaking Bad Couch Gag“. via Fox Animation. Want to start a mobile cookie cooking lab? Just join Marge Simpson and you’re on the right track to building a chocolate chip cookie empire!

5. One last bonus clip! This isn’t really a Breaking Bad parody, but it’s really cool, kinda funny, and is made from Legos’, which is always cool. Enjoy!


I Made an Elephant Cake!

I Made an Elephant Cake!

For the Putchka’s Second Birthday By Shalhevet Reinman-Adler My daughter just turned two this past week, and I wanted to surprise…

How Not to Advertise on Adwords

And waste your marketing budget

By Ilan Adler

Groupon is a big company. In fact while writing this post I looked up their market cap, which now sits at $4.71 billion. Yes, billion with a B. So why are they messing up their Adwords ads? How can they possibly expect us to take them seriously when they have ads like this, on a search for “monogram necklace”:


So they expect people to click their ad just because they are using Dynamic Keyword Insertion? Or do their creatives think that people searching for this term aren’t really looking for jewelry, but rather want to take a long needed getaway?

I assume that this error originated in targeting a broad term like “Necklace”, having ads with the aforementioned DKI, and using the same description line 1 +2 text as the other generic ads. Regardless the poor ad quality of this campaign is probably causing problems with their campaign, and they are losing money by having to bid higher. All this from an oversight of not putting such high volume keywords such as this on the negative keyword list.

Groupon, I’m calling you out. With such a large marketing team, mistakes like this should be avoided.


Bing; Why Do You Suck?

The Sad Truth About The #2 Search Engine

By Ilan Adler

Many words have been written about the number two search engine, Bing. Bing was Microsoft’s third effort rebranding its search engine, and getting its hands on all the search advertising money that Google was raking in. With Internet Explorer then powering a large percentage of the browsers, and an already popular domain MSN, Microsoft thought that it could waltz in, throw piles of money at the problem, and take over another piece of the technology world. This led to what we have today, the abomination known as Bing.

Now since this site is about design and digital marketing, I won’t really get into the things that annoy me about Bing from a search results standpoint. Rather I will discuss it from a search marketers standpoint, as one who has worked for over 5 years in the area, and who still cannot fathom how Bing decides to run its business. Let the griping begin.

Bing doesn’t know how to train its Account Managers

At the company where I work at, we have had a Google Adwords account manager for the last 4 years, and a Bing AM for the last 2.5 years. The people at Google are just light years ahead of their Bing counterparts. They are much more knowledgeable about the platform, they give you real answers, and they reply quickly. Sure they want you to spend as much as possible so they can earn their commission bonuses, but they also help you get more revenue at good ROI, which in business is the bottom line. At Bing the Account Managers just seem uninterested. They will reply very quickly but their answers are just stall techniques, aimed at showing you that you are getting service, but never getting any substantial information or solutions for the problem. In the last 6 months we have been seeing a slowdown in conversions from some of our campaigns (which are doing well on Google BTW), and we are scratching our heads to why this is occuring. All our emails to the Bing Account Manager receive a stall technique email along the lines of:

  • We will look into the disapprovals and get back to you
  • Ad Support is still currently in the process of investigating the issue
  • We will escalate this ASAP and get back to you.
  • I have sent this email for context to one of our PLA experts. We’ll get back to you once she gives us a recommendation.

My best people are on the problem…

 Their Blatant Mishandling of Product Listing Ads

Product listing ads (Now branded as Google Shopping) are a huge Google money maker, grabbing click shares of about 40% percent of all product searches. In fact all Google has been trying to do these last 4 years is push these ads more and more to searchers, even rolling out this beta layout that I recently spotted:Testing New Google Shopping LayoutNote how the product images and the ads are much larger, and more prominent in the search results. My experience is that since product listing ads perform well, they are very competitive, and their CPC are more expensive on average. Google is trying to push more people to click on these more expensive ad units, and thus drive up their return on click value.

Bing famously came out in the winter of 2012 with their Scroogled campaign, attempting to smear Google PLA’s by saying that Google has the audacity to make people pay for these clicks, which were tricking users, and that users who want an “honest” search result should go to Bing. Fast forward to Q3 of 2013, where the hypocrites at Bing decided to launch a beta of their own product ads, one that was basically identical to Google’s. The caveat? Bing product ads is a terrible product with a significantly less polished interface, buggy as hell (the data feed testing feature mysteriously disappeared for an unknown period of time), and most importantly less ROI. I won’t bore you with myriad details, but in the first few months of beta the product was working very poorly, and in a homage to my first gripe about Bing,  I didn’t receive adequate support for my issues. But the issues continue, as you can see by a screen shot from today for the search query “Gold name necklace”:


Yes, the first product listing that you see on this search is for a silver necklace…

Even more baffling are the various amounts of weird rejections that we get for some of our products on our data feed. Here is a small sampling:

  • Gambling content – odds – Product description has this written; May the odds be ever in your favor with this fun necklace!
  • Disallowed/unregulated sweepstake or competition – lottery -Product description has this written; our sports jersey number (or the sports jersey number of your significant other or favorite player), or a number you always play in the state lottery, this necklace is perfect.
  • Gambling content – lottery – Product description has this written; What’s your lucky number? A great necklace like this will always bring luck!

Again these are the same product feeds that work on Google, and have seen fantastic ROI since the days of Froogle, Google Base, the move to Product Listing Ads, and now Google Shopping. Yet on Bing they continue to perform poorly, and cannot be structured as good as Google. Again this is a product that was basically copied and adapted straight from Google, and should be rather seamless to integrate, yet they managed to screw it up. Which leads me to my final gripe.

All Bing “Innovations” are old features on Adwords

  • The aforementioned product ads were already on Google at least a year before
  • Impression Share Data – Available on Adwords since at least 2011
  • MCC Account structure – Long available on Adwords
  • Top Movers & Opportunities tab – a long running Adwords Staple

This tweet put it best:

Other gripes that I won’t even mention in length are, the crummy and slow Bing Ads Editor and web dashboard (which was just recently redesigned and improved) , still using paper IO’s up to very recently, no remarketing  feature (they couldn’t get it done by the 2014 Holiday season), the fact the their 28% market share has to be a pipe dream or weird statistical anomaly, since they don’t rake in close to 28% of the revenue in the search advertising world (even though their users skew older, so they generally are supposed to have more money). I can summarize this very long post with a simple sentence, that really explains what the problem is with Bing:

Bing Ads: 10% of the sales for 200% of the effort!

Stolen T-Shirt Design?

Was Shalhevet’s T-Shirt Design Copied?

A few weeks ago I got a message from a close friend of mine, who works at the merchandise and online store for Maccabi Tel Aviv F.C. In this message was a link to Real Madrid’s Instagram account, where club legend Raul, was featured wearing a cool T-shirt. Incidentally this really cool T-shirt was really similar to the T-shirts that Shalhevet designed for Maccabi Tel Aviv F.C.

Check out the T-shirt that Raúl is wearing:

Compare that to the T-Shirt titled “Coaches Football Diagram T-Shirt” designed by Shalhevet for the 2013 Israeli Football League Champs, Maccabi Tel Aviv:

Coaches Football Diagram T-Shirt. Front of the the shirt

The colors and the design might be a tad bit different, but the general concept and idea are eerily similar. I guess it would be both an honor, and annoying (where are the royalties & job fee?) if it was actually proven that they copied from Shalhevet, but that will probably never happen.

What do you think? Does it really look like the concept and design were copied? Let us know in the comments below.

Another Nepal Diaster

Tragedy Strikes Nepal Again

By Ilan Adler

10/25/14 Update: Another tragedy has struck Nepal, as a bus veered off the road and killed 14 people. This is the same bus route that I wrote about in my 2006 Nepal Bus Trip – Blast from the Past.

Nepal has long been one of my favorite places in the world, and a look through the photo section of Putchka.com, can warrant how much I love the country. I have also written one of my favorite travel stories, about a bus trip that I took in 2006 in Nepal, on my way to the Lang Tang trek. Thus it was a real bummer to hear about the second tragedy that befell the country this week, the avalanche on the Annapurna Circuit Trek. So far more than 27 people have been reported as confirmed casualties, and rescue teams are still looking for more than 40 hikers and locals that are still missing. The New York Times has a small video about some of the hikers that survived the avalanche, which tells a bit about the distress that one can find himself in during an extreme situation like this.

This is the second mountain related tragedy in Nepal this year. About six months ago a avalanche on Everest killed 13 sherpas that were climbing the mountain and opening up the ropes for climbers that were later set to attempt the summit.

Avalanche on Everest is a photo detailing an avalanche spotted off one of the ridges of Mount Everest

A photo detailing an avalanche spotted off one of the ridges of Mount Everest taken by me in 2006.

While not encountering anything like the extreme blizzard conditions that the hikers experienced here, in my travels in the Himalayas, I did have my fair share of close calls, especially since I mostly traveled solo. In one particular case I was making a solo attempt at the summit of Stok Kangri, a 6153m high peak in the Ladakh Indian Himalayas. During the first ascent, which was at the wee hours of the morning, I walked out of my tent in some pretty harsh conditions. On this day the only people crazy (or stupid; depends on how you look at it) enough to try for the summit were me and a pair of hard core crazy Germans from the tyrol, who left a little after me. It was all good till we started crossing the glacier and straight into a full on snowstorm…It was a whiteout and we couldn’t see anything really but we continued nonetheless, starting to climb at around 30 degree angle in more than knee deep snow.

Descent from the peak of Stok Kangri

Descent from the peak of Stok Kangri

I let the Germans pass since they were much quicker and kept pulling on ahead. At about 1/2 way up to the ridge I noticed them heading for me and when we met they said the weather is not good and there is too much snow. I acknowledged them and said I will continue on up and hope it clears a little. I continued trudging my way in the snow not really seeing anything for about a hour, when I conceded defeat and seeing the weather was not improving at all decided to make another run the next day. A bug part of the decision making was realizing that if anything happened to me, I would probably be a goner, with no one to assist me on the mountain. The next day I did succeed in reaching the summit, although in much better conditions.

Push to the summit of Stok Kangari

I also had a few close calls in Nepal itself, on the Lang Tang Trek following the wrong trail, along with a few slips and falls that could have ended very different, all depending on a few inches here or there.

I’m optimistic that the ministry in Nepal in charge of tourism and mountains will learn from these two tragedies, and if needed, take the steps to help make things safer for travelers. The mountains of Nepal are a true wonder of the world, and I hope that more and more tourists will continue to visit them, and be awe inspired by them. I hope that all those injured will be able to make a speedy recovery, and offer my deepest condolences to family of friends of those who didn’t make it. On a personal side I have friends who know some of the reported victims, and it is indeed a very sad and trying time for the families of the deceased. “May they be comforted among the other mourners of Zion and Jerusalem”