Black Hat SEO

So I made a directory of bad SEO services (Black Hat SEO.com) and tools. It sat dormant for a great length of time. I told a few people about it and it did relatively nothing.

Out of nowhere I looked today and saw that I have been serving thousands and thousands of page views on that site...almost exceeding bandwidth limits in a few days.

Alexa is unreliable, but it works somewhat decently when your page is in the top 10,000 or so. Out of nowhere the page went to 2,505 when I checked today. The page may soon fade, but that directory has drummed up some good business for me. More potential leads in one day than most individual SEO's probably get in a month.

It's a Seth Godin type Purple Cow example. My very own Banana Guard. It certainly is an ugly cow, but it is still purple.

It is much easier to promote an idea worth promoting than putting tons of effort in promoting something not worthwhile. How can your site attach to an emotion? How can you make people want to link to your site free of charge? If you find ways to answer these questions then your ideas spread and you win.

Google AdWords Coupons - UK 50 Pound Coupon Vouchers

Apr 21st

If you are from the UK and are debating giving Google AdWords a try then you probably should. Currently Google is giving away free 50 pound AdWords coupon vouchers at services.google.com/marketing/links/uk_adwordsfifty/ to new UK Google AdWords customers.

Update: the above link has expired, but you can get a free $75 AdWords coupon here (or here or here or here) ... many options linked, as some of their coupon offers expire over time & we update this page periodically. The Google Partners Program also offers coupons to consultants managing AdWords accounts.

Bing also has a number of great coupons available.

Bing Ads: get a free $50 Bing coupon today.

Meta Refresh vs 301 Redirects

Apr 21st

Why use the Meta Refresh Tag?

Many people use meta refresh tags to tell the search engines that their pages moved. It is not the most elequent way to do so though.

What does the Meta Refresh Tag Look like?
Place
<meta HTTP-EQUIV="refresh" CONTENT="0;URL=http://www.redirectsite.com/">
in the head of your page copy. The number is a measure of time to redirect the browser to the new location (I believe in milliseconds.)

What is the problem with using a Meta Refresh Tag?

One of the bigger problems with this is that it is a common spam technique. Some people suggest setting the meta refresh to at least 5 seconds to avoid any ranking penalty.

In addition Google will show the URL of the original page in the search results if it has a higher PageRank than the location of the destination page. Last month they discussed Google's problems with the meta-refresh tag at WMW.

What is a 301 Redirect?
A 301 redirect is a perminant change of location code. It tells a search engine spider that a page or website has moved.

What does a 301 Redirect look like?

Redirect permanent / http://www.newurl.com/cool/

The 301 redirect code goes inside a .htaccess file either at the root level or in a local level. You can also use a 301 redirect to move just a single page.

Redirect permanent /oldpage.htm http://www.newurl.com/cool/

Other 301 redirect info
Yahoo! Slurp has been having trouble resolving 301 redirects for a while now, but when they work correctly they garner no penalty and all the link popularity is parsed through to the new location.

How Does Landing Page Effect Conversion Rate?

Apr 20th

GoToast is one of the more well known pay per click search engine management software providers (free 14 day trial). Recently they offered a real quick witepaper covering the topic of conversion.

In this study, we classified 1,000 reasonably well-trafficked search listings representing a broad cross section of industries and approximately 250 distinct Web sites. 4,880,209 clicks/visits were analyzed as the basis for this research.

How Does Landing Page URL Affect Conversion Rate?

Type of Site Landing Page Conversion %
Lead Generation Sites Doesn’t Match Keyword 0.79%
Home Page of Site 6.31%
Matches Theme of Keyword 9.28%
Specific Match to Keyword 11.81%
Product/Service Sites Doesn’t Match Keyword 0.85%
Home Page of Site 1.26%
Matches Theme of Keyword 1.33%
Specific Match to Keyword 2.26%

Does It Make a Difference If the Visitor Has the Capability to Convert on the Landing Page?

Type of Site Landing Page Conversion %
Lead Generation Sites No Form 8.75%
With Form 8.73%
Product/Service Sites No Order Button 1.44%
With Order Button 2.08%

That data is almost motivational enough to make me want to create lead generation websites.

Yahoo! Search Engine Optimization Tips

Apr 17th

Recently Mike Grehan interviewed Jon Glick, who is Yahoo!'s Senior Manager for Web Search. You can read all the good Yahoo! Search stuff (note to self: stuff is a generic word to use in anchor text) in it, or look at my synopsis below. Yahoo! Search
How was Yahoo! Search Made?

The goal in creating Yahoo! search technology was not, you know, let's take a piece here a piece there...AllTheWeb was very, very good at was rebuilding indexes and keeping very high levels of freshness...Alta Vista had a really good core technology called MLR (machine learn ranking).

The best of breed parts of those engines were included with some of the best parts of Inktomi to make the new Yahoo! Search.

Meta Keywords
How is Yahoo! Search using the meta keywords tag?

Each keyword is an individual token separated by commas...For best practice you just need to remember it's for matching - not ranking...‘laptop computers’ will count for ‘laptop computers’ and not ‘laptop’ or ‘computers’ separately.

Essentially this is a good place for synonyms & misspellings (I tend to have some of them in my copy anyway)...Each keyword phrase is unique and separated by commas, so you will not have set off a flag for laptops if you use a meta tag such as
<meta name="keywords" content="Yahoo! laptops, computer laptops, compaqt laptops, compak laptops">

but you will also want to get words such as "lap tops" and "compaqt lap tops" in your meta tags. Each version helps to get your file included in that specific subset of search results, but has no influence on rankings.

Meta Description
How does Yahoo! Search use the meta description tag>

Yes we do use meta keywords. So let me touch on meta tags real fast. We index the meta description tag. It counts similar to body text.

Page Title Tag
How should I write my page title tag?

The title tag? My biggest recommendation is write that for users! Because that's the one real piece of editorial in the search listing that you can absolutely control...We typically show, roughly 60 characters. That's the maximum we'd show. I'm not a professional copywriter, so I can't tell you "is short and punchy better than lots of information..."

Affiliate Marketing
Why does Yahoo! hate affiliate marketers?

Well let me just say first that, in that sense Spam has gotten a lot better over the years. You don't really much have people trying to appear for off topic terms as they tended to. You now have people who are trying to be very relevant. They're trying to offer a service, but the issue with affiliate Spam is that they're trying to offer the same service as three hundred other people.

They also touch on Site Match, search personalization, SPAM, linkage data and other hot search topics...also linked to this visual thesaurus tool at the end of their eMarketing News newsletter.

Amazon A9 Search Engine Launch

Apr 15th

Amazon quietly announced the beta launch of their A9 search engine. Currently A9 appears to be a cross between Amazon and Alexa, while not being as commercially built up or invasive as either of those sites. A9 outlines many of their cool features on their "A9 cool features" page, and a more in depth review of A9 is listed below.

A9.com's service currently relies heavily on a partnership with Google, which supplies many of the search results, and Amazon's Alexa subsidiary, which provides traffic, other sites of interest and additional information on specific Web sites.

Search results also include text ads from Google's sponsored links program.

Alison Diboll, an A9.com spokeswoman, declined to say whether the company eventually plans to create its own search technology. She confirmed that Amazon plans to use the technology to serve both its online store and the rest of the Web. source: The Seatle Times

A9 has a couple interesting features that many other search engines do not. Their new A9 toolbar allows people to jot down notes about a website which can be viewed later on anywhere.

The site, and its accompanying toolbar, pull together various elements previously available on Amazon.com in a unique way. Data comes from partner Google, the Amazon.com site and its Alexa division. Three separate columns of results include natural search results, the ability to access Alexa's "what's related" features, book excerpt results from Amazon.com's offerings and the user's history. Personalization features, which use the Amazon.com login and cookie, are probably the most revolutionary part of the offering -- not because of their current form, but because of their potential. source: ClickZ

One of the more interesting things they did at A9 (as far as PR goes) is that they had John Battelle discuss it before any other news outlet so that the blog community could get their hands on it before some of the larger media outlets.

A Spammers Guide to Search

Apr 14th

In the past I have went out of my way to define the concept of "ethical search engine optimization" as being crap. Recently Stanford agreed with this idea. A research paper by Hector Garcia-Molina and Zoltan Gyongyi by the name of Web Spam Taxonomy stated any attempt to manipulate search results is, was, and will always be spam.

If you are doing it with links...it's spam.
If you are changing content...it's spam.

thanks to Webby

Google Changes AdWords Trademark Policy

Google has recently changed it's trademark policy to allow people to bid on trademark phrases of companies within the US and Canada. Inside the US and Canada they will not allow trademark terms to appear in the ad copy. Outside those areas the will check ad text and keyword.

There has not yet been any clear statement in what the valid trademark laws are on the internet. With the advent of <iframe>'s and paid ads triggered by keywords the waters are sure to be muddy for an exceptionally long time...perhaps indefinitely.

Trademark owners should still be able to protect their trademarks via the autmated price system of Google. Trademark terms showing up in ads will warrent greater clickthrough rates since their terms will appear bolded. This will cause the prices to be reduced as these clickthrough rates are factored into click price. Your competitors will be required to spend much more to have their ad compete. Google AdWords Trademark Complaint Procedure – Trademark rights in US and Canada

When we receive a complaint from a trademark owner, we will only investigate whether the advertisements at issue are using the trademarked term in ad text . If they are, we will require the advertiser to remove the trademarked term from the text of the ad and prevent the advertiser from using the trademarked term in ad text in the future. Please note that we will not disable keywords associated with trademark usage. In addition, please note that any such investigation will only affect ads served on or by Google.

Google AdWords Trademark Complaint Procedure – Trademark rights outside US and Canada

When we receive a complaint from a trademark owner, our review is limited to ensuring that the advertisements at issue are not using the trademarked term in the ad text or as a keyword trigger. If they are, we will require the advertiser to remove the trademarked term from the ad text or keyword list and will prevent the advertiser from using the trademarked term in the future. Please note that any such investigation will only affect ads served on or by Google.

Source: Google Trademark Complain Procedure

Free Reciprocal Link Checking Script

Apr 9th

Many articles have came out recently stating that reciprocal link exchanges are a waste of time. This is true if you can afford to spend a bunch on links, but if you are a bootstrapper you will need to do all the little things. Reciprocal link exchanges can still help boost link popularity some.
Shawn over at Digital Point creates some of the best free SEO tools on the market. Recently he whipped up this free reciprocal link checking script, which reads a file of link partners (in the same directory) by the name of sites.txt. sites.txt is a list of URLs to check (separated by a carriage return).

<?php

$mydomain = "yourdomain.com"; // Set this to your domain

$list = file_get_contents("sites.txt");
$urls = explode ("\n", $list);

echo "<B>Checking back links to $mydomain....</B><P><FONT SIZE=-1>";

foreach ($urls as $url) {
if (strlen ($url)) {
echo $url . "<B><FONT COLOR=";
if (strpos (file_get_contents($url), $mydomain) != FALSE) {
echo "GREEN> Found";
} else {
echo "RED> Missing";
}
echo "</FONT></B><BR>";
}
}
echo "</FONT>";

?>

There is an ongoing discussion about his free reciprocal link checking script over at the Digital Point forums.

PageRank Prowler (PRProwler) And Other PR Tools

Apr 7th

Update: Backlink Analyzer is free link analysis software which has probably the best feature set of any of the link analysis software products on the market.

Recently another PageRank analysis tool came out by the name of PageRank Prowler. PageRank Prowler ($97) is somewhat of a hybrid between OptiLink ($224) and the recent free PageRank tool by SEO Guy.

PageRank Prowler
PageRank Prowler allows you to set a PageRank level which it will look through Google search results to find sites at or above that PageRank. These results can be saved as an HTML sheet or in a CSV list. The benefits PageRank Prowler has over other PageRank software are

  • It allows you to search for multiple terms at once. For example, you can search for sites linking to any of your main competitors all at the same time.

  • PageRank Prowler also allows you to search for specific search terms and not just backlinks. (OptiLink just searches the backlinks of a given site).
  • PageRank Prowler will also allow you to search starting from URLs within a given site / sites and return results from there.
  • At $97 PageRank Prowler is significantly cheaper than OptiLink.

SEO Guy PageRank Tool
The SEO Guy PageRank tool is the quickest of the three, but it has the least features and the search depth is limited to 100 documents. This means that if your competitors backlinks are listed at #102 then you will never know they exist. If you can not afford to spend money then this free web based tool is a real time saver.

OptiLink
The biggest downside to OptiLink is that it costs $224, but it is well worth that if you can afford it. It allows you to query different databases and comes with free lifetime updates. Leslie Rhodes is a smart marketer and programmer who will probably even include Yahoo! Webrank in future releases of his software.

All three are real time savers, it's up to you to decide which one is right for you though...

Google's Competitive Advantages

Apr 6th

Recently I was over at Topix.net and glanced at their blog and found a great post about Google by their founder Rich Skrenta which highlights Google's competitive advantages.

...the story is about seemingly incremental features that are actually massively expensive for others to match, and the platform that Google is building which makes it cheaper and easier for them to develop and run web-scale applications than anyone else...While competitors are targeting the individual applications Google has deployed, Google is building a massive, general purpose computing platform for web-scale programming.

I also just finished reading Emergence by Steven Berlin Johnson where he reviews some emergent software and social networks such as Slashdot.

While at Slashdot I noticed they too were eating up Rich's post, as the blog community at large is (last I checked MIT's Blogdex it was the most rapidly spreading idea on the web).

After reading Emergence it became more apparent how smart the Topix news idea is. After reading his post it became even more apparent how smart Rich is. I am just wondering how they will be able to take news market share from the big search monsters. Obviously doing news way better works, but even Rich's own post state how amazingling cheap CPU cycles are at Google. How will Topix overcome Google's competitive advantages?

Linking to Good Stuff

Apr 5th

Ideally links mean more than link popularity. I am not necissarily a moralist or fan of the ethical SEO tag, but I understand some of the fundamental points of marketing. It is good business to be associated with other good businesses.

Have I bought links? Yup. Have I sold links? Yup.

Generally most links do not fall under the buy, sell, or trade category though. Usually they are earned.

When most of your links are greed driven, you are nothing more than a commodity who is working against technology and the forces of nature. When you start linking to things that are good then good things start to link to you.

This morning I wrote a quick article called Keeping Customers, where I attempted to explain that the best way to have customers come back is by sending them away to other good resources.

The web is just a sea of information and the traffic I get is never my traffic to keep.

What I did not realize is that recently Ammon Johns wrote a great little analogy piece called The Real Meaning of Links which describes what I was trying to say a bit better than what I wrote.

(found from Search Engine Roundtable)

Google + Yahoo! Ban Casino Ads

Apr 5th

Internet giants Google and Yahoo! will stop carrying adverts for online casinos, blaming a "lack of clarity" in US regulations.

US prosecutors last month warned companies that running ads for offshore online casinos was equivalent to "aiding and abetting". It is illegal to run an online gambling site from within the US.

Google and Yahoo made the announcement seperately on Friday. Yahoo said the ban would apply to US websites only while Google self-denial hits all its sites worldwide. The change is likely to come in at the end of this month, according to the New York Times. - The Register

Those who were spending $10 - $30 per click advertising for words such as "casino" or "online casino" will now be spending that money elsewhere.

Anyone want to bet as to wheter they see more casino sponsored text links drive up the cost of text ads on many sites?

Google PageRank vs Yahoo! Webrank

This entry was inspired by a recent article from Danny Sullivan.

Lots O good Google PageRank info below. Still not much out on Yahoo Webrank though... What is Google PageRank?
Google PageRank is a mathematical approximation that a random web surfer would cross any given page prior to starting to surf over again. It is a measure of link popularity on a 1 - 10 logarithmic scale. One powerful link from a strong site is worth way more than many links from small sites.

How do I check PageRank?

How do I check my Competitors PageRank?

  • The same way you would check your own. OR

  • There are automated tools which process portions of the web to help you find link partners quicker. Here are two interesting tools:
    • SEO Guy has a tool which allows you to set PageRank levels and perform a search for any given term. It will return a list of top ranking websites which have a PageRank equal to or greater than the # you requested.

    • For deeper link analysis, OptiLink link analysis software - orders the backlinks of your competitors in order of PageRank so you can Quickly view his most important backlinks (in the eyes of Google).

More on PageRank
PageRank is only one aspect of website promotion. It does play a huge role in the current Google ranking system, but there are many other factors. Generally some sites could really do well by making sure their site is well integrated into their local community and then buying a link or two to suppliment their rankings.

The web does self organize into micro communities and PageRank does not take that into account as well as search engines such as Teoma do (see also: Teoma review).

Buying PageRank
It is probably worth it for many sites to buy 1 or 2 PR7 or so links. I have been able to locate them for under $100 a month and sometimes cheaper than $50...a few times even free. I have seen run of the site PR7 links around $200 per month.

There are many many reseller networks of people selling PageRank. You want to make sure you are as close to the source as possible when buying links. IE: you may want to buy off a website, a link broker, or link brokers friend, but you start to run into heavy inflation when you buy links off a link broker from a different link broker from a link broker...

The prices of the links are spread extremely wide. There are many important factors such as

  • How well the webmaster knows what their links are worth.

  • The PageRank of the page.
  • The number of links on the page.
  • How well that page fits the theme of your site.
  • The direct traffic that link will bring.
  • The length of the contract.
  • Sometimes you can get discounts for quantity buys.

On my other site I have listed more PageRank resources and more in depth Google PageRank coverage.

Yahoo! Webrank
As you can see there is a ton of info out there on PageRank. Since Yahoo! Webrank is new and expiremental there is no solid data out there on it.

They are currently testing Yahoo! Webrank in a beta test which is closed. In Danny Sullivan's article he pointed me to a backdoor link he found in Webmaster World which will allow you to download the toolbar that will show the Yahoo! Webrank. In addition Digital Point has a Yahoo! Webrank tool which sometimes provides sporadic or random results. Its inaccuracies may actually be due to the fact that Yahoo! Webrank is still in a beta test.

Search Engine Spam Meta Tag

Apr 1st

The major search engines have came together to addopt a new proprietary meta tag. This new tag will help to properly mix results and reduce the load SPAM is placing on the search engine engineers.

Syntext for the new SPAM tag:
<meta content="SPAM">

SMAM Benefits:
Those sites signing to comply with the new SPAM rating will get a golden pass good for infinite domicile within the major search indexes. A small fee and smallish algorithmic fee will also be associated with the program.

Public Outcry over new Spam Tag
Members of the ACLU and the NAACP are already protesting this new standard out in the street. They were quoted as saying "it's not a white and black problem."

Spam Tag Passes on Ebay
Cloakers missed the boat as they could not produce a script that returned their actual email address. Apparently these golden SPAM passes have been selling on eBay for as much as $31,853.

How the Search Engines & Portals feel they will benefit from the new tag:

  • AOL - We figure those sites compying with the SPAM tag will be of exceptionally poor quality and design. If they get a boost in the rankings then our stupid popups will feel more apropriate to those still suffering er surfing with AOL.

  • AllTheWeb - We are excited as this will give us a chance to capture "All The Web," though Yahoo! will likely throw away 1/3 of it.
  • AltaVista - We were about to die anyway. This should give us that added boost which ends the misery.
  • Ask Jeeves - Ask someone else. I am sick of these stupid questions.
  • Booble - We are launching a countersuit on Google. We feel they are trying to enter a submissive search market we are clearly dominating.
  • Dipsie - (editor note: Even if they index all the SPAM in the world they will have a hard time getting 10,000,000,000 documents in their index.) We intend to also execute forms and javascript on these SPAM pages. That's the ticket to 10,000,000,000 resources.

  • Eukster - friends don't spam friends unless they are spammers, in which case they live in Nigeria or South Africa and address everyone as "My Friend." (editor note: Turkish people try to sell you rugs using this same "my friend" tag.)
  • Google - SPAM is EVIL. However spammers who admit what they are doing become a bit less evil. Perhaps maybe from a George Bush to a Darth Vader.
  • Kanoodle - We are excite to be the first to integrate the SPAM into our email distribution network.
  • Lycos - We don't do search. We don't even know who provides our search product. Have you seen our exciting new SOCIAL NETWORK!!!!
  • MSN - Our lack of compliance with this new tag should help us get our feet wet in search and kill the rest of the search market in the first year.
  • Netscape - AOL owns us. We were dead a long time ago.
  • Overture - Participation in the SPAM standard program will across our distribution network will cost 15 cents per click. I mean, we have to make something off it.
  • Teoma - Since we keep kicking the shit out of our index its hard for us to find out who the topical hubs and authorities are. We are excited to embrace this new community.
  • Yahoo! - I can't believe how much of that crap we edited. We are glad to note that we did get the other search engines to agree that affiliate sites could not participate in the program.

Google Mail (Google Email)

Apr 1st

Portal Off the Starboar Brow!
Google Mail.Google has done the expected. Many think they are going the way of portal, and well today they have introduced Gmail. Google Mail is a free 1 Gig email account which is supported by contextual advertising.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - April 1, 2004 UTC - Amidst rampant media speculation, Google Inc. today announced it is testing a preview release of Gmail – a free search-based webmail service with a storage capacity of up to eight billion bits of information, the equivalent of 500,000 pages of email. Per user.

The inspiration for Gmail came from a Google user complaining about the poor quality of existing email services, recalled Larry Page, Google co-founder and president, Products. "She kvetched about spending all her time filing messages or trying to find them," Page said. "And when she's not doing that, she has to delete email like crazy to stay under the obligatory four megabyte limit. So she asked, 'Can't you people fix this?'"

The idea that there could be a better way to handle email caught the attention of a Google engineer who thought it might be a good "20 percent time" project. (Google requires engineers to spend a day a week on projects that interest them, unrelated to their day jobs). Millions of M&Ms later, Gmail was born.

"If a Google user has a problem with email, well, so do we," said Google co-founder and president of technology, Sergey Brin. "And while developing Gmail was a bit more complicated than we anticipated, we're pleased to be able to offer it to the user who asked for it."

Some of the benefits of the new Google mail

  • Search: Built on Google search technology, Gmail enables people to quickly search every email they've ever sent or received. Using keywords or advanced search features, Gmail users can find what they need, when they need it.

  • Storage: Google believes people should be able to hold onto their mail forever. That's why Gmail comes with 1,000 megabytes (1 gigabyte) of free storage – more than 100 times what most other free webmail services offer.
  • Speed: Gmail makes using email faster and more efficient by eliminating the need to file messages into folders, and by automatically organizing individual emails into meaningful "conversations" that show messages in the context of all the replies sent in response to them. And it turns annoying spam e-mail messages into the equivalent of canned meat.

Official Google Mail Press Release I stole all this post from!

Sign up for Google Mail!
It's still in beta testing, but you can give them your current email to sign up for more information on Google Mail here http://gmail.google.com






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