Sunday, December 24, 2006

Intelligent Radio

Maybe I'm being a bit harsh, but some of the English language radio stations here on the Costa del Sol are a little bit "Up with the Partridge", if you know what I mean.

The advent of mp3 files and gizmos like the ipod, should mean however that we need no longer be told what to listen to by blokes who look, and talk, like our Dads and have an unhealthy obsession with Shania Twain.

No - free yourselves. Here is Millsbomb's Christmas Present to you all: intelligent radio at

What is it? Its a group of music and technology types who have spent the last 6 years like true geeks, analysing thousands of songs and artists:

Over the past 6 years, we've carefully listened to the songs of over 10,000 different artists - ranging from popular to obscure - and analyzed the musical qualities of each song one attribute at a time. This work continues each and every day as we endeavor to include all the great new stuff coming out of studios, clubs and garages around the world.

"To what end?", you may ask. Well for example I can create a radio station, and tell them I like U2 for instance. They will then build me a collection of tunes based on songs that I might like given my initial preference.

From well known to obscure artists, my personal radio station becomes a musical pick and mix that I can further refine, introducing me to new sounds in the process. They also have a series of podcasts explaining musical topics such as harmonies and drumming for example.

And like all the best things on the net its free, of course. (Hint: if you sign up you need to enter a US zip code for licensing reasons - just put in anything).

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Costa del Crimeline

Crimestoppers have set up a hotline to help track down fugitives who leg it to sunny Spain. Hurray.

Read about it here:

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Spanish Property Makeover

You know those crappy TV programmes where someone's living room/garden/wife/dog gets a complete image overhaul? Yes. Well I've got a pitch for any daring producer for a similar series, but with an epic scope.

Lets do Spanish Property Makeover. I'm not just talking about some old duffers from Wigan who want to tart up a bar in Torremolinos, though. No. The target for this makeover show is the Spanish property industry as a whole. Ambitious, I hear you say.

Let's face it, if anyone was due an image boost, its the Spanish property industry. And a shiny new smile and tuck for the saggy bits isn't even close to enough. Not even an industrial strength boob job will do. I mean look at the recent criticisms levelled at our old sweetheart:

She's gotten ugly - take a look at Marina d'Or, a new monster development on the Spanish coast. Comparisons with the worst of the former Soviet bloc are harsh but fair.

She steals all our money - its not just Marbella, it seems as though every local authority has some type of building scandal on its doorstep. Backhanders, illegal developments, demolitions, corrupt agents/lawyers, need I go on?

We don't love her anymore - this article lists tells us why many Brits are turning their back on their former love. Corruption, rowdiness, crime and neglect are the main reasons. Not attractive qualities in any relationship, let alone one that started as a holiday romance.

She's got competition - all of a sudden our heads are being turned by younger, more attractive markets, full of vigour and promise. Morocco, Turkey and phwoarrh! Brazil, to name but a few.

Even the neighbours are talking - its rare that the USA looks outside its borders for news (unless they are invading you), but here's the Washington Post with a thing or two to say. The choicest quote relates to Russia's Vladimir Putin, that paragon of virtue:

At a dinner with European leaders in October, Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to a question about human rights by snapping back that Spain, with its "corruption," had nothing to teach Russia.

I mean come on. If Mr "How much Polonium do you like on your Sushi?" can feel superior something is wrong.

So come on Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen, or Trinny, or Susannah, or even that one from the garden show with no bra - give our girl the makeover that she so desperately needs. And make us all fancy her again. Please.


Zudeo, is that the name of a Phil Collins' song?

No its the jazzy new high def (isn't everything now) file sharing application from the people who made bit torrent possible.

You had me at bit torrent. What's that again, exactly?

They enable you to download large files such as videos, films, tv shows and teasers etc. from the net. Imagine Youtube on steroids.

Just go to and get the app then browse and download high quality vids.

BBC content is soon to be published online using zudeo. Oh, and its also probably quite good for downloading porn.

No jacket required.

Chinese Whispers

A source tells me that Viva Estates are planning to return to 5% listing and their previous staff commission structure.

Plus several Viva staff were spotted at OPP live - sourcing new projects outside of Spain perhaps?

Viva la revolucion!

Millsbomb's Gongs

Its that time of year when all I see on TV are those 2006 review or awards shows.

And I really like them.

A bit like those list programs on Channel 4 ("The top 100 left handed comedians" etc..)

Love 'em.

So anyway allow me to inaugurate (look it up) Millsbomb's Gongs - random awards for stuff I liked on the web in 2006.

Best Spanish portal/information site: through nothing other than sheer weight of content. Kudos too to for inventive marketing hooks, like their free SMS service and film & DVD guide.

Best looking Spanish property website: - despite their ups and downs this year Viva still have the best branding and look by far. And not just with their website. They are still the daddies when it comes to brand.

Most useful Spanish property website: - Martin Dell is almost religious about functionality when you talk to him, and it shows in his site. Redesigned this year with a snappy new web 2.0 look, the site remains the most comprehensive snapshot of the resales market here in Spain.

Best worldwide site: - their focus is worldwide emerging markets, but unlike many of their competitors they mangage their wealth of content well. Plus applause for their Internet Marketing, which sees them top 10 for many juicy terms.

Best newcomer: - Launched earlier this year, the site has a professional, broadcast feel of quality about it, plus they floated my boat with their use of podcasts. Honorable mention: offers a fairly juicy number of podcasts here.

Best forum site: - Run by journalist, Mark Stucklin, the focus can be on the more negative aspects, but the community feel is strong with sound advice. Honorable mention: - readable blog, with some neat video presentations.

***Not property related:

Best SEO/Internet Marketing site: - Amid the myriad of SEO sites out there this one has least noise, most news.

Most fun to waste time on site: - Addictive games for when you just can't be arsed with work. Seen me through many a bored hour.

What do you think? Found a site you think should be on this list? Add a comment and let me know.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Its Friday!

Hey its Friday, so here's some Internet tat:

  • Fantastic pictures of a sandstorm in the Iraqi desert
  • Just finished the Christmas edition of the Hiperprop Newsletter
  • Where's Wally (well, Where's Waldo, its American)
  • Great Free Web Games at
  • "55 Million blogs, some of them have to be good" - find a good blog to read at Technorati

    (incidentally if you are a bit of an avid blog reader, try using Google Reader to help you keep track of your faves).


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Armchair Speculator

Think you have what it takes to be a property tycoon? Well see if you have the skills to pay the bills with this property speculator game, Mansion Impossible.

Its addictive.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Doom and Gloom for 2007?

How is the Spanish property market going to fare in 2007? Two apparently contrasting views dropped in my inbox this morning:

Mark Stucklin (Sunday Times journo) forsees a bumpy landing for 2007:

It's no secret that demand is down, and you don't have to be a Nobel prize
winning economist to work out that increasing supply now is unhelpful, to put it
mildly. I expect a market shakeout in 2007 (already underway in some places),
and some bitter medicine for all the corruption and speculation that has
blighted the market.

Martin Dell (owner of finds a slightly more positive spin in an article in his newsletter:

The 2 Million Club
2 million Britons own property abroad. 500,000 own
property in Spain. Over 150,000 Brits purchased second homes overseas in 2005.
100,000 are planning to move abroad within the next 6 months. Britons invested
£12 billion in Spanish property in 2004/05. This is predicted to reach £21
billion by 2009. 75,000 properties were purchased, at an average price of
£160,000, and one in three want to retire to Spain.

To be fair both outlooks are valid. Spain maintains its attraction for a large chunk of the UK population, as Martin's stats (and the new terminal at Malaga) testify. And whilst we will no doubt see some Darwinian style "natural selection" in the real estate agent pond next year, Mark concedes that the medium to long term future for the market is still pretty much undimmed.

Anyway, get educated and read some good quality newsletters: News News

Monday, December 04, 2006

Fishwives! Yet more idle gossip

FishwivesAnother rumour, another big Spanish real estate company. Apparently staff are not getting paid and offices seem to be shrinking.

If true, this would be the third of the bigger companies to experience difficulties. Interealty went tits up last year and Viva's recent dramatic policy shift was, presumably, brought about by a lack of coins in the piggy bank.

The market in Southern Spain has undoubtedly slowed significantly, and large companies have large overheads, so its not surprising if we see a degree of "rationalization". In my opinion ( for what its worth), companies that have done OK during this downturn, appear to belong to one or more of three types:

  • those that have stayed focused on their core market, refused the temptation to expand and kept overheads low.
  • those that have, conversely, embraced emerging markets (although watch out for a glut of resales in the near future).
  • those that have understood and exploited new media, ie the internet, where the cost per lead can still be incredibly low compared to traditional media, exhibitions and the like.
Invariably smaller firms find it easier to be flexible and adapt to changes in direction, plus any downsizing is fairly low profile and does not generally attract much comment. So take these observations as anecdotal, and remember that these are just my opinions.

13 things that do not make sense

I love lists like this!

13 things that do not make sense (from New Scientist)

McCarthy: relocating to UK

My colleague sends me this quote from OPP regarding Chris McCarthy's decision to step down:

Viva Estates, Chris McCarthy

Chris McCarthy, managing director of Viva Estates is to take a board position at Viva Estates while Richard Jackson will assume responsibilities as Chairman and Managing Director.

Stepping back from day to day management of the company he part owns, McCarthy explained the reasons for his departure in a communiqué to all VIVA staff on 27th November. Commenting on his decision Chris said: “Both the company and its management have developed during my eight years as MD and Viva is now extremely well placed to carry through the next expansion phase. As a major shareholder I remain hugely committed to the company and will make any effort that is required from me to assist Richard. Now is the right time for me to step back, take a seat in the boardroom, enable a smooth transition and enjoy 2007 for what the coast has to offer”.

Elaborating on plans to move to the UK in mid 2008 with his wife Mandy, McCarthy told the OPP that he planned to find more time to enjoy his last year on the coast after 20 years of non stop work. “It is true to say that I have been working non stop for 20 years and in the past 2 years have only had 3 weeks holiday, so this is my time to take some time off and enjoy playing golf and having a nice time here on the coast, where we will keep our home but from where we intend to spend more time next year in the UK because of our kids GCSEs and the like.”

He confirmed that he had not left the company, but had passed the reins over to his partner while staying on the board. Richard Jackson said: “Both as a friend and a business colleague I have tremendous respect for the way that Chris has selflessly led the company and developed our business to where it is today. We all owe Chris a huge debt of gratitude and I am delighted we will be able to call on his experience in the boardroom.”

What is interesting, is that no-one is mentioning the 2/3% policy. If they are keeping it why not reaffirm this? Anyway good luck to Chris McCarthy, he has definitely earned a holiday!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Search Engine Land - a shiny new site/blog from the guy who set up, Danny Sullivan.

Who he? Danny gave a keynote speech at Pubcon Vegas, and has been involved in search for years. Until a recent spat with the owners, he ran both and the highly successful SES series of conferences.

It seems as though Danny has pulled with him a decent number of the contributors from SEW, so expect a good read. For you keen SEO groupies, Danny also has a regular podcast at

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Viva MD steps down

Rumour confirmed!

Chris McCarthy, the managing director of Viva Estates has reportedly resigned. The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that Chris' blog dissapeared from their website a day or so ago.

The reason for his departure is not apparent, but I'm guessing it is related to their recent and dramatic change in listing policy and closure of the IN.

Questions, questions...

So will it be business as usual or all change? Will Viva maintain their 2/3% policy? Or will they revert to the usual 5% model, which allows for agent co-operation? Is it a cash flow issue, in which case will we see cutbacks and office closures?

It will be particularly interesting to see who they get to fill Chris' very large espadrilles - it will certainly have to be someone looking for a challenge.

Send your CVs (with covering letter) to

Rumours abound...

Whispers on the notoriously unreliable Costa del Sol rumour mill suggest a certain high profile MD has resigned...

Not that I'm partial to gossip of course.

True or False?

True or false:

In "The Terminator," the famous line "I'll be back!" was not originally in the script.

Buggered if I know, but find endless more lunch hour timewasters at:

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bizarre Statues

These are great: weird statues from around the world. I like the cow in the spacesuit best.

Warning: this site takes ages to complete loading.

Beware of direct debits

In the UK the rules governing who can help themselves to your hard earned cash are fairly stringent. Not so in Spain. Here is my rant that I posted on a week or so ago:

The site is run by Mark Stucklin, a journalist who writes on Spanish property issues for the Sunday Times. It has a helpful community attached to it.

I set up a direct debit with Terra to provide a dial up internet connection to my house. This was my arangement for around 2 years.

In the early part of this year, ADSL (broadband) finally became available in the part of Spain where I live.

So I signed a contract with Telefonica who now provide me with broadband. Obviously I did not want to carry on paying for the TErra dialup service as I now no longer needed it.

I searched the Terra website for support/how to/ FAQs any way of contacting them to cancel my dialup service and the 25 EUR per month I was paying. All I could find was an email address: (or was it not sure). I emailed this address twice with no response.

I decided the best course of action was to cancel the payment through my bank (solbank) which I did.

I then find out this week that I have been paying this 25 EUR fee!

Maddened I went the bank who showed me that they HAD in fact cancelled the payment, but that Terra had requested the same amount using a different reference number and slightly different name! So it was paid out of my account - for the last 6 months!!

Unbelievable. The lesson I have learned is check your statement and query anything you are unsure of. You have the right to claim back any money within 20 days that you feel you should not pay.

Really happy.

Back from Vegas, just.

Apologies for my piss poor attendance in class.

Got back from the SEO conference in Las Vegas and have slept oddly and been late for work most days. Good job I have a cool boss!

Lots of useful seminars at the conference, one on on link buying was good, as was a guy who talked about affiliate opportunities. I'll post later this week (I promise) in more detail about these and other useful sessions. Plus there was a killer site review session.

In the meantime read Matt Cutts and Danny Sullivan who write about their experiences in Vegas. These guys are like the equivalent of pop stars to sad SEO geeks like myself. Also webproworld has lots of recap articles.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

How to get rid of a telemarketer

This is great! I think its from the Howard Stern show, but I'm not sure.

Listen to how this guy gets rid of a telemarketer:

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Google's Custom Search Engine

Also out this week, yet another new product from the Googleplex, the custom search engine.

How does that work then?

Well webmasters have long been able to add a Google search box to their sites and even earn a small amount of cash for doing so (through the Adsense program).

Now this feature has been evolved to allow you the website owner to control the type of search results returned. You can specify what sites you want results from, what order/bias if any, and whether or not to add "filler" resulst from the web, once your selection of resources are exhausted.

For example, take my recent dating site project: Any search from here I might want to return results from my site first, then from other dating sites that I like, then maybe other Spain portals and finally whatever else the web throws up.

Plus I can earn revenue from it!

Will it be any good?

Dunno yet, as traditional search boxes have not yielded dramatic riches for me personally. But I like the idea. Read Jensense about this subject, she knows what she is talking about.

I will try it out soon on pebbles and report back.

Just Browsing

2 new browser releases in the same week: Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2!

"Whoopey Doo" I hear you say.

Well IE 7 is an update of the ever popular Internet Explorer which has dominated the market for years. Its main new selling point is that it allows tabbed browsing. But be careful, since I have heard and read lots of reports of the new IE7 browser cocking things up, and causing more grief than its worth. I had to uninstall it after I found it buggered up some stuff on my PC at home.

Contrast that with Firefox 2.0 a sleek beauty of a browser which has had tabbed browsing for the last year or two. And it has more shiny features and plugins than you can shake a stick at.

Because Firefox is open source, a large community of developers create useful add ons such as the Gmail notifier. If you have never tried Firefox, give it a go, I was converted about a year ago and hardly ever use IE now, unless I have to.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Love is in the air

Sorry no posts for a wee while. But I have been working on a pet project, my dating in spain website -

Go have a look, I'm still debugging bits of it but its getting there. Post a hello in the dating forums while you're there!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

18 Questions...

Great post here from SEO stuntdubl, detailing 18 questions to consider when designing or revamping your company website.

He links to some really useful resources and tools - any of you involved in SEO - its well worth the read.

Kyero gets a facelift

Popular Spanish property portal, has had a facelift. The old "no-nonsense" style has been replaced with a fresh Web 2.0 look, incorporating a cool map search interface.

Martin Dell, the owner of Kyero, is passionate about good functionality for his users - more so than most other site owners in our webspace I would venture to say.

Nice work Martin!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Daft World Record

Found on YouTube, this is a new world record for one bloke wearing the most number of t shirts.

Again, as with most of the tat on here utterly pointless. Like the music BTW.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Have I Got News For You

Ever think that the news is sometimes a little bit dull?

Have a look at, where you will find the latest breaking exclusives such as:

Dolphins 'stop smiling the moment our back is turned

David Blaine in gruelling attempt to watch his own stunts

Silly. But Fun.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

10 things to do (or not) - Las Vegas Pubcon

As I mentioned earlier I will be attending November's Las Vegas Pubcon, chewing the fat with the geek fraternity. Based on my performance last year, here are my top 10 things to do this year:

1. Learn to play at least one card game. And be cool while I'm doing it. Last year, I messed up with the rules for roulette.

2. Go shoot the biggest gun I can lay my hands on. Frightened the life out of myself last year with a peashooter, but then I am English.

3. Get Matt Cutts to review my site. Remove all the spammy links to/on my site

4. Stop politely saying "No thank you" to each and every chap in the street who offers me a youg lady's business card.

5. Try to remember at least one useful nugget of SEO information before the beer washes it all away.

6. Stop pointing to the monorail/helicopters/fake Eiffel Tower like I'm the country cousin.

7. Not brag about my tuppeny websites when I'm sitting next to the guy who owns (and and... )

8. Find out if there really is a Ferrari dealership inside the Wynn (So my friend claims).

9. Take some business cards, so I can win some free mouse mats/mp3 players/more mouse mats.

10. Realise that the attractive ladies who sidle up and chat to me at the bar at 3am are not really interested in "this great conference that I've just been to" and in fact may have an altogether different agenda.

Handbags at dawn?

Predictably in the wake of Viva Estates new listing policy and the subsequent closure of the Interagency MLS there has been an entertaining amount of mud-slinging.

Initially Viva Estates launched their 2% + 1% marketing campaign, with Chris McCarthy explaining it in detail to members on the SpanishPropertyInsight Forum. The reply from the disgruntled IN membership was a 2 page advert in one of the local papers, questioning the motives and wisdom of Viva's new approach.

An article has also appeared in OPP documenting the spat. Martin Dell of Kyero, ever a sage voice, states:

"The reaction of other IN Network members is understandable from a business perspective, Viva was the majority shareholder and the single largest property lister of the IN Network. Without their involvement, the other members of the network must restructure and, where previously agents cooperated within the Network, there will now be competition between the new network and Viva."

So on it rumbles, a vitriolic email here, a press article there. The good thing though is that buyers and sellers are emerging as the winners out of this mess. The new IN is now operating at 5% in line with most other agents in the area, whilst those who feel brave enough to cough up the non refundable deposit can enjoy Viva's shiny new 2% (or is it 3% ?!) commission structure.

Presumably by early next year we will know if Viva's strategy has worked and more agents reduce their commission levels. Personally, though (and from purely anecdotal evidence) I would be concerned about the numbers of staff who appear to be jumping ship. Are they just greedy salesmen, or do they know something we don't?

Stay tuned...

Friday, September 22, 2006

Pubcon Las Vegas

Quite excited. Going to Pubcon Las Vegas in November.

What the chuff is Pubcon? Its a conference for geeks like me who are into internet marketing, both organic SEO and PPC. Its a great event because it is relaxed and aimed at the small to medium sized business. It also covers a range of topics and have really good speakers, including representations from the major search engines.

And its in Vegas baby.

If you are just starting out in online marketing, or even if you are an old hand, its well worth going to, since you are almost guaranteed to learn something worthwhile. Plus you get to see a lot of Elvis-alikes.

Super duper

Create your own superhero:

How sad am I?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Real Estate SEO Primer (Part 2: Links)

So if you read the first part you should have a well structured, easy to navigate site. The site should contain all your property listings and comply with the guidelines of the major search engines. You may have even created a site map to help the search engines find all of your content.

So now, how do you get your amazing site noticed? Links, that's how. Yes I know there is a whole world outside the net where you can publicise your site: newspapers, magazines and mouse mats with your company logo, but these come under offline marketing, about which frankly I know even less than I do about online marketing.

Online marketing is all about links, and there are essentially 2 types of links:

  • Links that drive traffic to your site directly (advertising)
  • Links that improve your position in search engines (and therefore indirectly drive traffic to your site)
The first type of link is fairly obvious. You find a site which you think will a) have traffic and b) have traffic that will be interested in your product. You then procure a link, usually by purchasing or exchanging, preferably in a reasonably prominent position on a relevant page.

More often than not you will purchase a link from, for example, a regional portal site. Compare prices of various packages and of various sites. You want to maximise your volume of relevant leads within your available budget. Don't be afraid to ask about their stats, and scrutinise these figures carefully, and if in doubt ask for a trial period to measure the efficacy of the placed ad(s).

It all boils down to cost per lead. A site may offer very cheap ads, but have either no traffic, or not enough traffic relevant to your product. Another site may initially seem quite expensive, but the resultant push of traffic could equate to a huge increase in the number of enquiries for your product. Overnight you become the darling of the sales team. Especially if the cost per lead knocks spots off traditional marketing methods.

The other type of link you will sell your grandmother for is the SEO type link. This is one where there may not be any immediately obvious benefit in direct traffic, but rather you place the link in order to improve your ranking in the search engines. If your sector is remotely competitive you will be seeking lots of these type of links to acheive any level of visibility in Google and the like. Note here I am referring to the main (or organic) rankings, not the sponsored advertising which appears alongside them. I'll mention these ads a bit further down.

Lets use as an example. I want lots of links from other websites to point at so we can let potential clients find us in Google or Yahoo or MSN. The first thing to do is to work out what keywords your pages should rank for. There are various keyword tools such as Overture Keyword selector that will give you an idea of how many searches are performed using various keywords. Ideally, for example, I would like to rank for phrases like "Spanish Property" and "Property in Spain". Since these are popular search terms that match my product.

Usually the more popular a keyword phrase is, the more traffic it will produce, however bear in mind big volume keyword phrases tend to be very competitive and will require more links to achieve the desired visibility. Whilst we may want to rank for "Spanish Property", maybe a savvy SEO will realise that ranking for "Costa del Sol Property" is more quickly acheivable.

In fact I might be really bright and realise that I should try to rank for a bunch of more regional keyword phrases such as "Marbella Villas for sale" or "Apartments in Fuengirola". Whilst each of these individually deliver less quantity, collectively they will produce a significant level of site traffic, and moreover, often produce a higher quality of enquiry, since the keyword terms presuppose a level of knowledge of the region on the part of the searcher.

Look, the leads are now qualifying themselves! And these phrases ought to be significantly easier to compete for. These are often referred to as "niche keyword terms" in contrast to the more general keyword terms such as (in my case) "Spanish Property".

So you know your desired keyword phrase(s). Now what? Well I want to rank for "Spanish Property" so
  1. I make sure the page I am going to optimise talks about my keyword "Spanish Property". In the body, in the title, in the Paragraph headings etc..
  2. I find a site with pages that broadly correspond to my keyword term. Ideally it will also be a site, or a section of a site, that talks about "Spanish Property".
  3. In general the more authority a site has the more value the link will have for your purposes, eg a link from the Times Online Property section will carry more weight than exactly the same link from some crappy back bedroom property portal set up last week. Harsh but true.
  4. Finally I get the target site to link to my optimised page using "Spanish Property" as the text for the link. This is known as "Anchor text" (Thanks Conor).
But then that's the real trick isn't it. How do you get them to want to link to you? Answers include (but are not limited to):

  • Money
  • Begging
  • Use and abuse friends with sites
  • Exchange links (this can be reciprocal or triangular for example)
  • Create what is known as linkbait - offer something unique/useful/mind blowingly original on your site and in theory (at least) it will organically garner links.
A good example of linkbait in my sector are the price reports that regularly publish on their site. Think of a tool that adds value to your own site, eg a weather report, currency tool, great maps whatever. In addition useful content and tools often add stickiness to a site, and may be one of the factors that contribute to a site becoming an authority.

That's the theory anyway - in reality true linkbait is hard to create and viral inbound link growth is slow and uneven, unless you really have had a brilliant and original idea. So for us mere mortals a lot of networking, trading and slogging are on the horizon.

I was going to talk about Pay Per Click (PPC) and measuring your conversion rates, but I have droned on enough, and I've already missed the start of CSI:Las Vegas so they will have to wait until next time I'm in a mood to bore you all.

Fat Kid on a Ride

You'll need sound to appreciate why this had me in tears of laughter:

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Disco Inferno

Have you ever played on those arcade dancing machines?

Check this guy out -

Webmasters in the sun

Not posted for a wee while, as I had my birthday followed by a few days off and decided not to look at a PC.

This weekend, I shall mostly be trying to glean some trade secrets from a bevvy of internet marketers who are attending Webmasters in the Sun. This is an informal conference organised by a friend of mine, Conor, who seems to know just about everybody worth knowing in the SEO business.

Before you start thinking of pale white geeks getting sand kicked in their faces/talking about Star Trek - the reality is more akin to a semi serious networking event, with some scarily successful young marketers. I end up feeling like the country cousin.

As always, anything I learn will no doubt be washed away by the flow of booze from the free bar. Never mind.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Frickin Idiot

This is really quite stupid, but fascinating. Man sets fire to his own parachute.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Zombie Fun

Its a slow Sunday:

Enjoy killing some zombies. Tip - use the shift key to switch to the shotgun.

These pictures are amazing. Pavement artist plays with perspective.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Real Estate SEO Primer (Part 1)

A good chunk of my day job is to try to keep our sales staff busy by generating enquiries through our website. When you get it right it can be a) a great source of low cost leads and b) a great source of smug pride. When you get it right that is.

So how do you get it right? I'm still not 100% sure to be honest but for those of you, like me, with an ever-hungry real estate company to feed I will discuss the steps I have taken to achieve above average websites in a competitive space. Apologies if some of this stuff is ovious.

Its a big ass topic so I will split it into as many posts as it needs/I can be arsed to write, stuff like:

  • Content
  • Site structure
  • Page design and conversion
  • Links
  • Sources of traffic
  • Paying vs organic
  • Tracking (Metrics)
  • Homework
  • Naughty tricks
Plus anything else I can think of. So where do we start?


There are essentially 2 types of factors that can determine how well you fare in the search engines, these are referred to as on page factors and off page factors. Your pages' content, unsurprisingly, comes under on page factors. Content is king is a bit of a cliche in the SEO world, but like most cliches, it holds true.

What does that mean for an estate agent? It means your portfolio. The tens, hundreds or thousands of properties that your company lists are the meat and two veg of your content. Get them all listed on your site. If your portfolio is of any considerable size, and you haven't done so already, look at using a database to store the listings which then provides the content for your site. This is a whole other topic so I am not going to get bogged down here in database and programming talk.

So you have all your properties listed? Yes, good. Now look at an individual property page. Your page should contain:

  • what the property is (eg apartment, villa, slaughterhouse, whatever)
  • where the property is (eg monaco, wigan, wherever)
These are the 2 most important information elements for an individual property, because they are generally the 2 elements (in one combination or another) that a potential client will type in a search engine (eg villas in marbella). Make sure these terms are prominent - place them in the title of your page. Place them in headline size fonts near the top of the page. Place them in the meta tags. Don't be tempted to take the piss however - the page must make sense, and keyword stuffing is something you want to avoid, otherwise the search engines will avoid you.

In addition you will need a decent dollop of real estate prose as a description. Place salient chunks of this into your description meta tag. Try to make sure each property description is unique. Search engines dislike duplicate content. They love fresh content, however, so make sure you update your listings regularly, removing the old, adding the new and updating price changes etc.

Finally, make sure all your individual property pages are accessible via the link structure on your site. If you cannot navigate to all your properties via an ordinary link (not through a search form) then neither can the search engines. You can create a sitemap to to acheive this. Google has a sitemap centre to assist webmasters who want to ensure their sites get spidered fully.

Right, thats enough for now. Tonight's homework - read Yahoo's webmaster guidelines. There will be a test.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Play me the blues

Had a bad day. And you're still in the office?

Let it all out with the desktop blues:

Another property information site embraces the podcast! Look out for Martin Dell, boss of on the next edition.

Google offer free applications for your organisation

Google has long been king of the internet, but more recent ventures have seen them targeting the desktop, traditionally the realm of Microsoft and its bestselling Office apps. They have launched Google Apps for your domain which allows you to tie existing popular Google services such as Gmail and Google Talk to your own website. So for example I could switch all our users at Hiperprop across to gmail, whilst still using the domain (ie my email address would still be rather than The users would benefit from the Gmail user interface and I would not have the headache of maintaining a mailserver. None of our clients would be any the wiser.

Sounds tempting, doesn't it. Of course your users would be subject to the normal Google ads which run in the gmail space, but hey, I could live with that for the sake of no more email support calls. The only other potential drawback (as with all these online services) is that you need an internet connection to be able to access your emails or other documents. Not usually a problem, except that recently on the Costa del Sol we have experienced a fairly severe level of piss poor ISP coverage courtesy of Telefonica.

But the advantages far outweigh these rare headaches. All your documents online means a) they are available to you anywhere, from any machine and b) you never need to worry about data loss or back up procedures, since I'm guessing Google has a reasonably together sys admin team.

So have a look at what's available. It's all free BTW, (unless your requirements are bigger than most small businesses) and available applications include:

  • Gmail
  • Google Talk
  • Calendar
  • Google Page Creator - a great and easy to use web page editor, so you can change your website's content as easily as editing a word document.

Also available and well worth checking out, but not (for some reason) bundled with the above suite are:

  • Google Spreadsheets
  • Writely - an online word processing application (similar to Microsoft Word) which was purchased this year by Google.

One of the other benefits of these online apps is that they are all starting to talk to each other. For example I could have written this blog entry using Writely and then with one click published it to my blog. Or as I do now, write my blog entry in gmail and post it by email.

So is Microsoft starting to sweat? Certainly the pace of new products that come from Google labs (or technology that they buy up and then adapt) is breakneck. Fortunately Microsoft are looking to hire some real visionaries to keep up with this type of competition.

Update: had a look around at other online office alternatives and found

Ricky Gervais does Microsoft Office

Created as Microsoft corporate videos, see David Brent as Microsoft's latest management consultant:

Probably the funniest corporate video you're likely to see.

Trolley Good Show

Canadian artist Ptolemy Elrington turns old supermarket trollies into animal sculptures:

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Time Magazine Top 50 websites

Time Magazine release their annual top 50 websites

They have missed out millsbomb, clearly some sort of clerical error.

Spanish MLS to close

Well, it's official, the Interagency Network MLS is closing. John Hollway, the managing director of the IN sent member agents an email confirming this yesterday. The reason given for the closure was Viva Estates' decision to withdraw both its listings and its funding from the group.

Monday the 14th of August VIVA Estates officially advised the Interagency Network MLS that they were resigning from the Network with immediate effect. It is a fact that VIVA were the main contributors in both revenue and listings to the IN Network and without their support the IN Network is no longer a viable business and therefore the Interagency Network MLS will cease day to day trading operations as of today.

This is not unexpected given Viva's recent decision to change their listing commission. Agent co-operation is obviously not part of their future plans and as a result they have dispensed with the organisation that they set up for this purpose.

Unfortunately for the other members, the fact that the IN was funded (for the most part) by Viva means that they can act unilaterally in this manner. Whilst there are also other shareholders who no doubt stand to lose their investment - the main loss will be the effective cross-sales body that the IN had become. For the active top 20 or so member agents, the IN proved an excellent environment in which to collaborate.

It is highly likely that these agents will seek to maintain some level of co-operation and to establish a successor to the IN. The concept of the multi-listing service is still valid to these agents, who will no doubt pursue alternate admin and software arrangements.

Viva have, it ought to be noted, been gracious enough to offer to pay for a transition period whereby members will be switched over to Infocasa. The providers of Infocasa, Mercury, are also the same people who designed the IN software so such a transition should be relatively painless.

So, will we see a new MLS rise from the ashes of the old? Will it still charge 7.5% commission? Will Viva and this new body be on speaking terms? Interesting times ahead for sure. More plot developments than your average Eastenders omnibus.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Interagency MLS to shut doors?

According to the totally reliable source that is the Costa del Sol rumour mill - the Interagency Network (the MLS body for over 60 agents in southern Spain) may be about to close its doors in the wake of Viva Estate's decision to list at 2%.

Viva is the majority shareholder in the IN so this decision should come as no surprise to most agents. Sensible commercial decision? Or taking their ball home?

None of this is as yet confirmed I hasten to add, so sit tight, as the plot thickens...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Insane Manhattan Cyclists

Crazy cyclists risk life and limb around Manhattan, nailbiting stuff:

If you found that a bit too white knuckle, this might be more your cup of tea:

Thursday, August 10, 2006

You'll have someone's eye out with that

So addictive. But not as addictive as this:

Guess the Movie

Shows you random scenes from movies and you have to guess the title of the movie.
That's this afternoon's work out of the window then.

Utilising social network sites for SEM

Social network sites (eg,, can be effectively used for Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Unlike more traditional methods of optimising a site, these Web 2.0 sites can prove more of a challenge. The potential audience is huge, yet fickle. So make sure you have something interesting to say to them!

Read this article which elaborates on this subject and includes commentary from some eminent SEM's currently attending the San Jose SES (Search Engine Strategies) conference.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

A back door into Google?

I will post some thoughts and pointers on general SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) fairly soon, probably including a basic do's and don'ts for real estate SEO. See my big fat disclaimer though.

But for now have a look at Googlebase. Last year Google announced the launch of this monster application at a conference I was attending. Immediately every geek in the venue was scuttling off to see if or how this app could benefit their business.

Googlebase is a giant database containing all types of information, from products such as shoes and diamond earrings to things like recipes, and you've guessed it - real estate listings.

You can upload any or all of your portfolio to Googlebase. This can be done through the interface or if you have your own house-trained geek, they can do it in bulk with some IT trickery.

The 64,000 lira question - is it worth doing? Well, a year down the line I am yet to see staggering amounts of traffic flooding in to our sites as a result. In fact I am yet to see any I think. Google claim that the data in Googlebase will, to varying degrees, inform their regular search listings. I have seen some evidence of this, but only for very obscure terms, usually small value products. So not houses then.

But, yes, I do think it is worth doing. Eventually I think we will see Google incorporate Googlebase data into their search results in a more significant way. My advice? upload and maintain your portfolio and be patient. Its free, after all.

Property Advice Gets Sexy

Its refreshing when, wading through the daily pile of junk mail that gets into my inbox, I find an interesting marketing email. Its like being at a boring party and surprising yourself by meeting someone interesting.

I received such a marketing email from BuyAssociation. Unlike the usual chaff that clogs my inbox - piss poor sites with no traffic, but the great idea that they are going to charge money - this looked promising.

Basically they say they offer impartial property advice, nothing new there, but the way they deliver it is. You can listen to streaming audio at your desk, of Adrian Mills (yes, him off That's Life), interviewing various industry pundits on overseas property markets.

Or, you can download the podcast ( a pod what?) to listen to at your leisure. Plus they back up all their broadcasts with downloadable pdf fact sheets. Brilliant. Plus it looks like they have spent some money on designing and marketing the site. So they are probably serious. And I bet Adrian Mills doesn't come Alan Partridge cheap.

Although.. talking of money - their advertising rates may make smaller agents spit out their sangria. From their media pack I worked it out to be more expensive per click/download than some Google ads. But we'll see. I like this new media approach, its sexy. And they get an 'A' for effort.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Viva to list at 2%

Has the cheese finally slid off the cracker? Or is this a bold stroke of genius? Viva Estates, one of southern Spain’s largest real estate agents has dramatically changed its listing commission from 7.5% to 2%.

Agent commissions have long been the subject of argument here in Spain, particularly since the introduction of the Interagency Network Multiple Listing System (MLS) a few years ago. 5% remains pretty much the standard commission charged by agents across the board (compared to 1-2% in the UK), although properties listed on the MLS are sold on a sliding scale starting at 7.5% for the lower value properties.

To UK estate agents, and to many vendors and buyers this rate seems exorbitant. “At least Dick Turpin wore a mask”, etc.. Read Mark Stucklin’s article here.

But, and I must declare my interests here - I work for an MLS agent - I have seen how the MLS works at its best, and why it can be argued, that if you want your property effectively marketed and sold within a reasonable timeframe, then sometimes the 7.5% route is a good option. The commission is usually split (although not always) between 2 agents who have cooperated to sell the property. A small admin fee is also retained by the MLS themselves.

This produces a situation where 2 agents are healthily incentivised to sell the property, whilst working within a set of policed guidelines (the IN code of ethics). Providing the vendor is not too greedy or unrealistic (expecting [put silly number here]% growth inside of a year), he can expect to move his property reasonably quickly and confidently. In a buyers market, where we are seeing a surplus of product - this can be a sensible option for the vendor to consider.

I’ll stop banging on in defence of the MLS now, but perhaps we can see now why Chris McCarthy’s change in policy seems so dramatic. At 2% there will be no agent cooperation. There will be a significant interim cashflow issue too, I would guess, as the reduced commission rate will necessitate an increase in sales volume to keep the ship afloat. There will be staff changes afoot too, no doubt, since the prospect of earning significantly less commission (or even none) will make salespeople vote with their feet. Rough seas ahead.

But what if it works? Well for vendors and buyers, it is a no brainer. In theory at least, reduced commissions make for cheaper listings, make for increased sales. It could potentially change the market as other agents are forced to reduce their commission rates in order to keep their rapidly diminishing slice of the pie. Plus what many consider to be an overcrowded marketplace will no doubt thin out somewhat, as many real estate agents fail to “rationalise” and pack up and go home. Or to Bulgaria.

Interestingly the 2% covers resale property, what about offplan property where developers are offering commission rates in double figures? A recent email I received, proudly declared that the developer was offering 18% commission alongside generous volume bonuses including free apartments. Mmm, 2% resale, or 18% offplan - if I was a salesman, I know which I would rather be selling.

There is, interestingly enough, a precedent for Viva’s actions. UK agent Foxtons opened a branch in downtown Manhattan, undercutting the local NY realtors by 3%. The outing was not an unqualified success, though, as you can read here.

So we await the next few months with eager anticipation. If nothing else, Viva have got everyone’s attention. Maybe its just a marketing exercise, after all.

Update: Chris McCarthy explains all

Monday, August 07, 2006

Property Guide Spain

Ben Johnson has sent me the link for his new site: It is basically all the facts, Q&As and info you would want to know when buying a property in Spain.

Unlike many news sections on property websites it is a) complete and b) up to date. I like this, especially given the fact that I know first hand what a pain it can be to maintain a decent set of guides on this subject. Ben assures me the guide will be kept up to date and legally accurate.

So for those of you doing your buying homework - there you go.

Oh good, another f*cking blog

Yes, I know, the last thing the world needs is another blog that nobody reads. I’m not a “citizen journalist”, or even a particularly good writer. I don’t have anything particularly exciting going on in my life to write about and I don’t work for some huge exciting company where I can leak any fascinating inside info.

But I sat down today and thought I really would like one place where I can keep all my thoughts, pics and interesting crap I find on the web. I had a look at a few different sites and couldn’t quite find what I was looking for. So hey I started a blog. So lets move on.

Who am I then? Well my name is Jamie Mills and I am originally from the UK, but now live and work in Andalucia, Spain. I moved here around September 2002 with a friend of mine.

I am an IT consultant, of sorts.

Anyway, I’m probably going to be writing about

  • Real Estate stuff - especially relating to Spain
  • Internet Marketing - what I do for work!
  • Stupid/funny crap I find on the web, and
  • whatever I feel like. Its my blog.

Its already getting a bit boring isn’t it? Told you.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

My Big Fat Disclaimer

All the opinions expressed in this blog are mine and not those of my employer. Or my mum.

Plus any SEO advice I give comes with a warning - ITS ONLY MY OPINION, I MIGHT BE WRONG.

So we're clear on that? Good.