Wednesday 9 May 2012

GoDaddy shared hosting

Recently I had the problem of wanting to get a web server from which I could send mass mails to my customers using the php:mail function. My original server only allowed me to send 200 mails a day, and since my customer database is in the order of 400 this just wasnt adequate for sending newsletters out.  

Amazon EC2 Cloud - not so elastic as it seems

 I then heard about the Amazon Cloud which i started to investigate. As a side project i have also been developing a social networking application, and Amazon offers the chance to rapidly expand your presence if your website suddenly becomes popular overnight, so it seemed like a good thing to learn about. Amazon allows you to configure a complete server from bottom up, i.e. where you are responsible for all aspects of the servers function. The advantage of this is that you have reponsibility of all the programming aspects of the server, especially when it comes to running programming languages like php. On many hosted webservers, certain functionalities are deactivated, and restrictions are placed on how you can use certain functions. This applies particularly to the php mail function which is often abused by spammers. 

So anyway, I set up all my websites on amazon, and decided to start testing my automatic mail forms. Lo and behold, after just 20 attempts I got an email from Amazon to say that they had deactivated my mail function.

"What?" I thought. I thought amazon was free of these kind of restrictions, but apparently this is not so.

Off to GoDaddy

So next I went on the search for a commercial webhoster who offers bettter mail functionality so i could send out newsletters without having to fear interruptions in my mail functions. GoDaddy interested me, because they claim to be able to offer the capacity I needed on their shared server option.

So I moved all my sites to GoDaddy, thinking it was a good deal what theyz offered. 

I then found that when I wanted to edit or access my websites I periodically got time out errors. I reported the issue to support, and they claimed that there were no issues. GoDaddy promise 99.7% server uptime after all, so I thought I had a legitimate cause for complaing since I was not always enjoying access. I can not say i got any effective help at all. This was an important issue, since I run Adword campaigns directing to those servers, and as everyone knows, downtime could waste me money, but not only that, get my ads and campaigns barred.   

Still being suspicious, I opened an account with, a service which periodically (hourly) checks your webserver and website accessibility and reports to you whenever you have critical problems. 
I have two websites hosted on the same webserver at GoDaddy, and For control purposes I monitored a website which I have with another webhoster based in Germany, namely .

Take a look at the results:


    These are typical results I get, I am periodically bombarded with emails stating that my GoDaddy sites have critical errors, while none come regarding my site at

My uptime for my GoDaddy sites is between 80 and 86%, pretty pathetic considering their 99.7% promise. I mailed them about the problem weeks ago, but they never answered. However, the problem still persists....every so often my website goes down.

I can only imagine that the reason for this is that GoDaddy hosts just too many sites on its shared servers. the server doesnt go down when it gets too busy, but individual sites do.  Whats more, when they know there is a problem, they do absolutely nothing to alleviate it.  They are not even interested in doing anything about it. The bottom line is, to enjoy connectivity you receive with other webhosters you have to take out a DEDICATED server plan with them. They do not make this clear, and would rather spend millions on a Superbowl advertisement than spend it on maintaining good service for their customers.

This is very poor, and when I have the time, which I certainly will, I shall be on the move again.

Where now ?

Go Daddy Go...

Sunday 15 April 2012

Google Adwords - is it anticompetitive ?

The system that Google uses to rate keyword relvancy is a complete and frustrating enigma. I have spent weeks on trying to improve quality scores for my ads and landing pages.

When I first starting using Adwords many years ago (in 2002) I was not particularly concerned with optimising my campaign since  I was getting good CTRs and good leads. This all dried up in 2006 when it was clear that it was costing me too much to stay ahead of the game.
It was then that I decided to market myself directly with translation agencies so that they could assume all the hard work of  marketing. Recently, though, I decided to reenter the world of PPC advertising and purchase another Adwords account to market my services.

I have to say, my experiences have been completely frustrating.

I downloaded the Adwords Editor in an attempt to streamline the process of  account management, this certainly helped, but given the difficulties associated with optmising campaigns I would have to say that this is now an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY.

I recently redesigned my website to include a number of landing pages that were Keyword specific. As you can imagine, there are a number of ways of advertising a translation service. You could advertise with the words "Fachübersetzungsbüro (specialist translation office)", "Fachübersetzungsdienst (specialist translation service)", or "Fachübersetzungen (specialist translations)". I basically set up a number of deep lying pages that were set to include these phrases so that they appeared with an overall frequency on the landing page of about 4%.  This is regarded as healthy for SEO, and useful also for Adwords optimisation, however it does tend to produce pages that are somewhat replete with the keyword under question...not quite keyword spam...but getting there.

OK, I next set up a number of adgroups with specific ads in each adgroup. Each adgroup focussed on one of the main keywords, i.e. one for Fachübersetzungsbüro, one for Fachübersetzungsdienst and one for Fachübersetzungen etc.

Then I set up the ads in each adgroup. Basically they were all the same except the keyword was in the title.

So there you have it, I set up an ad with the keyword in the title, a landing page with the keywords in the title, and a landing page with the keyword all over this. Not surprisingly the Adwords Editor deemed my keywords to be extremely relevant with scores of 7 to 10. This meant that would not have to bid a great deal to get my adwords shown.

This all sounds fine, until I actually post the changes and see how Google then slashes quality scores by three to six points. this even applied to a keyword that had already accrued a CTR of 1.3%.

All this meant that my keywords showed up as being "poorly" relevant...yes even those with the keyword in the landing page, the title of the landing page and in the ad copy, and with a respectable CTR.

Google expects me to bid over 1 pound just to get my ads shown. I ask you, is that realistic ?  

All this would be OK if you could concentrate on going for more specific long tail keywords, such as "medizinische Fachübersetzungsdienst" for a medical translation service, however, Google blocks keyword combinations that they say do not produce enough search volume.

I have heard tales that some advertisers get away with bids as low as one cent per click to get very good ad positioning. The fact that some advertisers have to pay 100 times as much just to get a sniff in just isnt fair. Without investing a huge amount of time and money, it would be very difficult indeed for small businesses to compete against these advertisers who hire small armies for SEO and Adwords optimisation.

It basically poses the question: Is Google being anticompetitive by forcing smaller operators to pay more and invest more for advertising space ? They claim it promotes quality, but my experience is that their quality scores have very little to do with quality.

I would have to say, on the evidence of this alone, yes.

Dr. Julian P. Keogh

Tuesday 27 March 2012


Many German companies with an internet presence who are selling immaterial goods or services have never seen themselves as capable of moving beyond their own borders. But it begs the question in this internet age...why on earth not? Perhaps they are just afraid to dip their feet into an unknown environment, and of incurring the losses which would certainly accompany any venture into unknown territories.

But the advantages of doing just that are clear, particularly if their product can be distributed via the internet. More customers from a wider market means more sales in the end. The fixed costs of any business are low when immaterial goods or services are distributed. the most significant investment is in advertising.    

Almost all companies with a German focus provide no payment options for services apart from money transfer (Überweisung), which though normal in Germany is costly especially in anglo-saxon economies where each transfer can cost the payer upwards of 9 pounds (yes, even in the days of the SEPA which was supposed to eliminate these kinds of charges). This is more or less the hallmark of a company that wants to retain a German clientelle and not go international...namely, under no account take credit cards!

The Germans have always had a problem with credit cards, and it is a cultural phenomenon. Even in tourist traps many bars and restaurants still refuse to take them. They are blind to the common effect that many anglo-saxons on holiday would rather spend invisible money than real, paper money. To them the idea of paying trader commissions outweighs the benefits of having customers stay and spend longer, or perhaps they are just not aware of that kind of spending behaviour in their own culture.

But the real point is that if you don't provide an option to pay this way, you lose custom on the internet. I am fortunate enough to understand German very well, and as I was plowing my way through the internet in  search of a broker for german toll-free numbers, I was struck by the fact that if I bought in Germany I could get a much better deal than I could from international suppliers. But then when it came to paying...bang...only Kontoüberweisung was accepted as a paying method. In the end, after checking 7 or 8 German providers, I gave up and went for a more expensive international solution.    

This scenario provides a unique opportunity for localisers and translators with good IT skills. The mother tongue translator knows his own country's sensitivities, and can provide valuable advice about reaching the desired customer. Germans love to be talked to in officialese and overbloated sentences. It gives them the sense they are talking to someone professional who knows what he is doing, and he can be trusted to get the job done.  But take that line with an Englishman or an American and the back button will be used more often than not. Entertainment and familiarity (even when it patently is not there) seem to be the order of the day. It obviously depends on the goods or services you are offering, and there are plenty of sectors where familiarity and entertainment would be inappropriate in the anglo-saxon setting, but that is definitely a trend and it is good to know that. Conversely, the Germans are not as humourless as their stereotypes seem to dictate, and there are plenty of occasions whery they enjoy a familiar and entertaining approach. In the end, its all about finding the right balance and exercising some Fingerspitzgefühl

So perhaps a model for the future is for transators and localizers to offer that they translate and localise websites for foreign companies that might otherwise be reluctant to expand.  In return for doing it for free or at low cost, they could earn commissions on sales from an exclusive affiliate program.

I shall keep you posted       


Sunday 25 March 2012

Machine translation and the translation industry

Machine translation and the translation industry

Since the advent of machine translation a persistent issue has been whether it shall be the death knell for the translation industry as a whole. This most certainly has not been the case, but it has dramatically altered the playing field through its effects on the supply and demand scenario. If the translator has not already done so, he or she will have no choice but to embrace it at some point and use it to his or her advantage.

Take a look at the following trends:

  1. With globalization and the growth of the internet, the number of suppliers in the translation industry has grown remarkably over the years. The fact that it is an industry that lends itself perfectly to distribution via the internet means that competition from low cost environments has also increased. All this has entailed downward pressure on the fees which can be charged for translation services, and unit prices that can be charged have dropped over the last 15 years.
  2. Machine translation in its early days produced many humorous anomalies, but with time the technology has improved to the extent that it can now be used as an important productivity aid. It can not replace a professional translation service, but it can be used to assist it, especially where style and literary quality are not of paramount importance.
  3. Many translation agencies now ask their suppliers to use CAT software to prepare translation memories and deliver these with the translations. They even ask their suppliers to append terminology lists, although compliance with this requirement is understandably poor when there is no remuneration attached to this. The net effect, however, is that supplier translations can now be used more widely, even by other suppliers when preparing their translations. Strictly speaking this would represent a copyright breach, but many agencies now incorporate waivers in their supplier agreements, and the suppliers working for such agencies are normally just too glad to get the work.       

The net effect of all of this, even though most translators would be loath to admit it, is that many have had to resort to machine translation to offset fall in line prices and increase their own productivity.  Indeed many suppliers of CAT software (including SDL Trados), which is specifically targeted towards translation professionals, are now incorporating machine translation (typically Google translate) into their translation workflow. This is patent recognition of the fact that machine translation is now well and truly part of the human translator’s toolkit., perhaps the largest network of translators on the web, has published a number of polls revealing the attitudes of its members towards MT.  
Below is a summary of several of these.  

What is clear from these polls is that most translators still scorn MT. However, a sizable proportion have embraced it and do use it. As we know from other historical innovations, with everything from the  car to the mobile phone, the proportion of those embracing this new technology is likely to increase.
Translators are clearly proud of their profession, and don't like the idea that machines will someday replace them. I am certainly with them on that, and am proud of my work too, but to stay competitive one has to know when to use this technology as a productivity aid, and when not to do so.  

Friday 9 March 2012


How often was I preached during my schooldays about the importance of being concise when writing text? This is certainly an honourable goal when the intention is to communicate ideas and thoughts efficiently, so that communal goals can be reached more rapidly and effectively. But to say that this should always be the case is grossly distorting the truth.

My early days as a scientist were probably like those of many others. After having finished my Ph.D. thesis, a casual observer might have been forgiven for thinking that the primary goal was merely to write a document of sufficient width to impress the pour soul who would eventually have to assess it. For most people it will more often than not be the first attempt at writing anything that looks remotely  like a book, and books of course have to be filled. As well as looking at every possible variable correlation that wouldn't find its way  into any self respecting  journal article, an inexperienced writer also has a tendency to repeat adjectives and corroborating statements to the point of dire tedium, all for the fear of inadequately stressing one point or another to support the ultimate theorem. It was only years after completing it that I realised I could have written my Ph.D. thesis using a quarter of the ink without compromising the message I was trying to convey in any way whatsoever.

Verbosity and non clarity is not merely the domain of the inexperienced, or indeed the incompetent. How many times have we heard of the business meetings where the speaker tries to bamboozle the audience with technical jargon and the latest marketing catchphrases, all in the hope of convincing the audience that something significant has been achieved? And lets face it, if authors didn't have some license for expanding their use of words, many a novel could probably be written in just 50 or 60 pages. Who would want to buy a book which was that short ?

I suppose my point is this. Many authors might want to hide a little behind the language, or indeed use its floridity to achieve an atmospheric effect, a bamboozling effect, but most certainly not to bring something over effectively and efficiently.

As a translator one must always be aware of this, and what the needs of the client are. It may be noble to strive for conciseness, brevity, and to produce perfect copy, but it may not always be appreciated or indeed even wanted by the client.     

Dr. Julian P. Keogh
Lead Translator
Pharmacad Services
Translations for Medicine and the Pharmaceutical Industry
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