3rd Quarter Stock Market Post

Google up in regular trading due to speculation that it may be added to the S&P 500 index after the PG purchase of Gillette (now with 5 blades) goes though, but instead S&P announced home builder Lennar is to be added. In spite of the two recent hurricanes the third quarter was the best so far this year for the US stock market.

Bill Miller does not think the US deficit matters, but the consolidation of wealth at the cost of the whole leads to social illnesses like political corruption.

Meanwhile, Larry is sitting on a fat billion as Google partners with NASA & the internet conglomerates gear up for the big battle ahead. eBay, Yahoo!, & Amazon are each up a couple points in the last couple days.

The Telemarketer Who Called Me Rude

Did I ever mention how much I hate cold calls?

So I picked up the phone on the first ring, and this girl was still talking on the other end to one of her friends.

I said "hello."

She said "is Robert there" (Robert is my roommates name)

I said "who is this"

She said "is Robert there"

I said "who is this"

She said "Mary Jane. Is Robert there?"

I said "who paid you to call me"

She said "oh, you are Robert"

I said "who paid you to call me"

She said "I might be able to tell you if you weren't so rude and would stop interupting me." And then she hung up. Perhaps she reads the archives and knows better.

A telemarketer inturupting me, and not even being ready to talk when she does, and she is talking about someone being rude and interupting. What a perspective. What irony. I laughed.

It is the exact reason why search and blogging are so great. Those who want to tune in do, and you waste minimal resources hunting down disinterested prospects.

All Your Base Are Belong to Us

Google Eyes Classifieds

All your ads are belong to usTM, so say Google.

Google is looking to get feeds from classified sites, according to Paid Content:

CIR's John Zappe writes: "Commercial classifieds sites such as CareerBuilder, Cars.com and others have to weigh the additional audience Google could deliver against the potential loss of revenue. Analysts, including us, predict that advertisers will move to free sites if they become convinced that they will reach an audience as large - or larger - on a search engine than on a paid advertising site."
Baker told CIR that's why the company and some of its larger clients are looking at alternatives including pay for performance rather than pay for distribution.

As Google (and others) gather data and Google makes advertising easier many hollow underperforming businesses will have their business models destroyed.

Those who are unwilling to share their data with Google will likely lose marketshare to smaller, newer, and more efficient competitors who have nothing to lose by partnering up with Google.

This makes heavy investment into vertical search much more risky, especially considering how shoddily some of the more established players are operating.

As Google gets more efficient at selling ads (with advertisers helping other advertisers free) you can bet they are going to get more and more ad dollars, directly & indirectly.

Advertising & Search Related Patents & Patent Applications

If you like patents try here, here, and here.

Google Goes AdBrite?

Part of the reason AdBrite was able to take off quickly was that it made buying ads an easy impulse purchase. It seems Google likes the idea, and on some quality AdSense publishing sites (like Ask The Builder) they are beta testing a new your ad here feature. When you click the advertise here link they bring up an AdWords page explaining how and why to advertise on the site.

The sign up process is smooth for new advertisers, but a bit sloppy for people who are already AdWords advertisers (who may not yet have experience running site targeted ads).

It will be interesting to see how granular the site targeting ads may become (ie: section targeting or page targeting). If they make them exceptionally granular you could buy ads on a somewhat decent ranking page on an authority site and then get them a few additional cheap spamish links to increase their ranking on that page or section and boost your ad exposure, while not being seen as associated with the spamming.

Yahoo! is beta testing their contextual ad service. MSN will also enter the contextual ad games soon, which will mean 3 companies will be fighting for publishers with their feature sets and payouts. Likely publishers as well as creative marketers / spammers should be able to do really well with that. It also means you will probably see less dog food for sale.

link from the brick man :)

Are All Search Marketing Studies Blatent Self Promo?

I think Chris is a swell chap, but IProspect's recent study is no good. Chris Sherman wrote about the recent IProspect search marketing study.

While many overall search marketing campaigns are evaluated using more sophisticated business-related metrics, the individuals responsible for the campaigns aren't held to similar standards.

Can You Honestly Judge SEO Employees On ROI? NO:
There are so many outside factors that I think it ends up hurting the employees concentration if they are held liable for fluctuations in business from third party sites they don't entirely control.

As Sites Age & SEO Builds Upon Itself Good SEO Becomes More Profitable:
I have been a business partner when random $4,000 orders came in a number of times in a few day stretch, and have also been around earlier when the same business was only making about $3,000 a month. While that partnership is profit share, I don't think it is fair to evaluate SEOs on that end number if they are just an employee for a large SEO company.

Some Customers Suck:
What happens if you work for:

  • a site in a small market or

  • a site with a stupid owner or
  • a site with a bad host or
  • a site owner who does not share all offline sales information?

Bad deal for the worker bee?

Small SEO Firms Are Not Less Sophisticated Just Because They Fail to Measure Useless Numbers:
Most small SEO firms are NOT going to be focused on results per employee (simply firing useless employees and keeping good ones). Most larger SEO firms are going to be geared toward selling contracts more than evaluating the exact numbers. To me, from what little bit of the market I know, the larger companies opperate more based around selling perception of great service as being reality.

Different Brands & Markets Have Different Margins & Sizes:
Judging SEO employees within an SEO company based on end financial performance of merchants heavily skews data.

For about 8 months I was an inventory manager for one of the largest inventory companies in the world. In drug stores I often counted the low value hard to count stuff (cany isle) to allow other people to count the more expensive stuff to balloon their production numbers so they could get raises. My boss would sometimes give me flack for having one of the lowest production numbers. Some days I would end up being forced to count the pharmacy stuff. On my first day doing that I was about twice as efficient as the experts, yet on a performace basis I would have looked like crap for most of my employment cycle.

Most People Who Care Enough to do a Good Job Can Only Devote Attention Toward a Few Cliets at a Time:
So much of the employee productivity is going to be luck of the draw.
Sure it smooths out over time, but if your employees are doing services that are useful and worth selling most of them are going to be vertically oriented and / or working on a small number of sites at any given time.

If employees know exactly how profitable everything they do is then why should they even want to work for a company that is so backwards that they feel they have to measure everything the employees do in some arbitrary box?

The study continues with more numbers that are IMHO useless, like...
Separating SEO From Brand Value:

Fully 45% said they cannot determine whether SEO or PPC provides a higher ROI.

If it is a good business worth marketing how can you fully separate your SEO efforts from their intrinsic brand value unless you use sattellite sites? If you do good SEO shouldn't it be intertwined with their brand and improve their brand value?

The Real Results of the Study:
Many big SEO companies are going to try to spend tons of money trying to brand their way of doing things as the only way that is correct, but in all honesty most of the best SEO services come from smaller providers.

If you go through the studies you may come up with the same conclusions Mikkel did:

I hope I am not the only one that recognise this for what it is: A piece of BS promotional crap with onle goal: To promote and sell iProspects way of doing things. I am sorry, but this is SO American that I can't say how much I dislike it without breaking the forum TOS

Intelligent Reaction

Adam Bosworth on Salesforce.com. It is about a 15 minute audio, and well worth a listen. Adam is one of the people who really get the web. The thesis of that speech is that by:

  • reacting quickly; and
  • providing a framework and marketplace for others to build on

a company is far more likely to succeed than trying to guess what people need and slowly building it all in house based on some master plan.

It is a bit unfortunate that people give Google crap whenever he expresses his opinions and others do not agree, as that has kept him from posting much on his blog.

link from TW

The Suit Made the Man...

Yet another good eBay link building technique... You know, some people just know how to dress.

I wonder how they got JasonD to pose for that?

Only 9 left...better hurry. Gurtie Gurtie Gurtie already bought hers.

Google Changing European Agency Comissions

Danny says Google is changing their European Agency Commission Structure:

  • Commission will be tied to business brought in or grown

  • Commission will be tiered to a maximum of 12 percent
  • The new program opens across Europe from January 2006 to any qualified third party agency (at least five clients, two Google certified professionals on staff).
  • Yes, search marketing firms are eligible.

Danny also posted more about the current payout levels in the subscribers article linked to from his blog post.

Desired SEO Tools

Are there any SEO tools you would like to see made that are not on the market?

More on Publishing...

Tim O'Reilly likes Google Print, but realizes times are changing:

I do think that a lot of the resistance from publishers has to do with the fear of ultimately being disintermediated by Google. And it's a legitimate fear. The publishers who don't embrace the net will be swept away by it, while those who do will surf the wave to new excitement. Print-bound intermediaries will go away, but they will be replaced by new delivery-mechanism-agnostic intermediaries and business models. The role of the intermediary will remain because it's driven by the law of large numbers.

Tim also pointed at this amazing article: Piracy is Progressive Taxation, and Other Thoughts on the Evolution of Online Distribution.

Seth Godin reminds us that readers are already paying if they are paying attention, and as a bonus, posts on how / why ideas spread.

SEO Everywhere? SEO on The Apprentice...

I can't believe I am making a post about reality TV...please don't hate me for it, but an SEO who met my friend Avi at WMW New Orleans is a canidate on The Apprentice.

While I do not watch TV I am rooting for the SEO. Those who watch, please take note to how & when he spams the show with product placement, keyword density, and the like.

Full TP Profile Article - No Subscription Required

Some readers may not have a WSJ subscription and be able to read the recent TP profile in the Wall Street Journal, lucky for them the whole article is also available in the Startup Journal.

Online Flowers

Another good example of a simple site playing a competitive market (online flowers) from a slightly different angle. Gets lots of free viral links. Much less risky than the shill blogger technique.

Although, if people say it's the thought that counts, and the system is automated, does it still count?

Google Reframes Size Debate

Google removed their you are searching 8 billion + pages and reframes the size debate, encouraging people to use Google more and search more specifically. :)

Framing is huge in marketing. If you control the language then you win the battle.

Danny wrote a great article about the history of the search database size wars, going back to the days of AltaVista & Excite page counting.

Also interesting to note that Danny loves the Lego Star Wars video game, and searched for the same piece I did. Finding the missing Star Wars lego pieces via search is no doubt a hard task, especially using UK spellings.

Danny recently turned 40. Happy Bday Danny.

Astute SEW fans may find the hidden Annie Williams paintings present suggestion in his latest article. :)

Original Idea vs Copycats...

So that Million Dollar Homepage idea is taking off so well that there is already a million penny homepage, another one charging a quarter per pixel, and one where you buy a guy beers.

It is so much harder to come up with an original idea than a meeee tooooo idea. Each additional copy cat only adds more value to the original as they crowd the marketplace and make it so that only the original stands out.

Usability is Everything (by Default)...So Says Jakob

This page shows exactly why search engine marketing is amazing:

Search engine users click the [search] results listings' top entry much more often than can be explained by relevancy ratings. Once again, people tend to stick to the defaults.

You can always tell a topical guru when they extend their typical testing or scope of information to include ideas which would typically be considered to be part of another field.

Many people describe the world with search being at the center of everything, others think you need to be able to Use It, while some explain the world through a deck of texas holdem playing cards <-- [link for sale, inquire within]. What lense do you see the world through? :)

MSN to Debute Paid Ads Today?

I believe it is going to be a limited beta test open to select advertisers, but...

From the Ingternet Herald Tribune:

Microsoft will unveil on Monday its own system for selling Web advertising as it struggles to compete with Google and Yahoo in the expanding Web search business. The system, to be used by MSN, is meant to improve on those of Microsoft's rivals by allowing marketers to aim ads on Web search pages to users based on their sex, age or location.


Yusuf Mehdi, a Microsoft vice president, said the new service would have greater appeal to advertisers and ultimately would make more money for Microsoft. "We know we have to compete hard for our business," he said. "And we think we will offer advertisers better value because of the superior information we have about our audience."

Over on the NYT Google is already throwing the privacy card:

"We are very heavy on user privacy," said Tim Armstrong, the vice president for advertising at Google. "So our way of targeting advertising relies heavily on what we know about the content people are looking for." He added that Google does take other variables into account, like the time of day and the location of the user, but Google's technology does this automatically to make the process simpler for the advertiser.

while still leaving the demographic door open for themselves ;)

While Google does not currently use personal data to direct placement of its ads, there is nothing in its privacy policy that precludes it from doing so, said Michael Mayzel, a Google spokesman.

It will be interesting to see how Yahoo! plays with MSN. MSN will eventually dump Yahoo!s ads. In the past Yahoo! sued Google and FindWhat for Overture patents that could also affect the MSN ad system.

Personally I do not run huge PPC accounts (spending a few grand a month) but I do not think the demographic data is needed yet, and it could provide a creepy factor that works as negative advertising for MSN.

I wonder what features or changes Google and Yahoo! will quickly make in response to MSN's new ad system, which Danny likes:

Mr. Sullivan of Search Engine Watch praised the technical sophistication of Microsoft's approach and the level of information it plans to provide advertisers on the performance of their ad campaigns.

"They will definitely raise the bar on what Google and Yahoo have to provide," he said.

[update: looks like France got rolled out today. Danny has more info here.]

MyriadSearch Updated

My friend Mike updated Myriad Search.

Some of the features / upgrades:

  • main results are numbered

  • snippets are organized in the same order as the tabs
  • you can optionally tick on returning Alexa rank, although the Alexa API is fuckslow - for lack of a better word ;)
  • a couple things on the backend...like using the new MSN API & not querying Ask.com directly

Myriad Search was recently featured in SearchDay. Due to that exposure, (thanks for the review Chris!) and a few other links, it seems that sometimes Myriad Search is query limited & requires manually entering a Google API key to bring back Google results.

It still may need bug checks and a couple more features. Let me know what you think of it.

I intend to eventually offer up the source code if I can, but I need to do a bit more talking with Ask Jeeves to see if it is ok before I do that (since they do not have a general use search API just yet).

I know the word myriad is not a heavily targeted high value term, but there are 28,000,000+ results in Google for myriad. It is interesting to note that after about a week the site is listed in DMOZ and Myriad Search already ranks at 15 to 19 in Google for myriad as a three page website without any link buying or press releases, etc.

Toot Toot, etc

Sorry for tooting my own horn here, but Brendon Sinclair, of The Web Design Business Kit & Tailored Consulting fame just reviewed my ebook.

As an SEO it is fairly hard to get recognition from people well known in the web design field, and few voices are more credible than Brendon's, so that review has got me pretty stoked.

When Business Models do Not Fit Search...

Ebooks vs Physical Books:
Physical books have higher production costs, more middle men, and uber thin margins when compared to ebooks and downloadable software products. If you sell 1 to 2 % as many ebooks as you would physical books you can still make about the same amount of profit from it.

Getting on Amazon:
As stated by John T Reed, listing your book on other sites turns your unique market position into becoming another vendor of a commodity that people can get from many locations.

While some people consider books to have no credibility unless they are on Amazon, sometimes your book can get a reference even if you don't sell your book there. This list has had over 1,000 views, and a reader of my ebook told me they just bought my book from that list. I clicked the link to say I found the list helpful, as it helped me :)

Some authors also work their way up in Amazon by reviewing related books or make lists including their own books. There are so many reviewers that there are guides to becoming a top reviewer.

When Pay Per Click is Broke: Competing on Negative Margins:
Andrew Goodman talks about struggling writing AdWords ads for his new cheap book about Google AdWords:

As a result I can get very little search traffic on this term, so the paid search traffic for that book is mostly coming from the content targeting program, which I suspect isn't converting. We are talking about $1.20+ per click to generate content clicks; this is unlikely to pan out.

Yet ironically there are many ads for ebooks costing more (including mine), as well as services and other companies that work in the Google ecosystem, running on the same keywords, doing quite well. But advertising an inexpensive new book on the subject seems to run up against both editorial and quality score issues.

A long time ago I worked for a niche DVD selling company that did not have great consumer lock in and had a $75 cost per conversion using AdWords. I got their cost per conversion down to a few dollars, but sales dropped off sharply too, and their margins were razor thin.

Had they had a larger ad budget (or had they decided to throw a few thousand at SEO before dumping 5 figures into a functionally broken PPC campaign) I would have built them a ton of links and over time they would have ranked across thousands of titles making a bunch of sales from the free search results.

When Search is Broke: Nobody Cares:
Another customer wanted me to market an uber niche product in Australia. They wanted me to set up an AdWords campaign to help with that. I set up their Australia AdWords account, making it a bit broad to see what results they would get, and - as I suspected - they got nothing.

Recently that product started doing well in Japan, and when I asked them why and how they explained how hard they worked to market it offline and how hard they worked to contact related sites. Those social relationships led to word of mouth marketing, which later drove search volumes.

When Search is Broken: Overshaddowed Position:
I consulted a person who sold information about an open sourced project. There is so much link popularity in some of those fields that it is hard to break into the market selling an information product unless you can get some of the most well known people to help give you exposure.

Another common problem with overshaddowning is when words have multiple meanings and tons of people search for the other meaning. This can make it a bit hard to filter out the bad PPC leads, and if you show up when you are not relevant that hurts your overall CTR, which can drive up your click costs.

The Most Valuable Lead:
The most valuable lead is going to be a person looking specifically for you or your product by name.

Many businesses that work well offline are nearly impossible to make functional online using the largest ad networks. You can try to grab related traffic and traffic on peripherally related terms, but until people care or know about you or your product it is much harder to compete on margins.

When you run into the problem of advertising being unaffordable you can always dip a toe into the rich consumer feedback your marketplace offers to learn about the market and build social relations at the same time.

Also the more you can throw your name into what you do or offer the more that can help make up for a lack of ad budget.

How to Get Those Most Valuable Leads:
For people to want to search for you they have to have some type of initial exposure. Testimonials work great, but odds are most people are going to run into ads or affiliate marketing prior to seeing too many honest recommendations.

There are a ton of people who will blog on a wide variety of topics to earn a few bucks. It is not hard to do. When they blog about your topic ideally the profit margins are high enough that people see ads like this at the top of their site.

Some people find the algorithmic holes and fully automate the content generation process, and like it or not, as Dan Thies states, that content converts:

I learned enough in Econ classes to know that Google (through Adsense) is paying for a lot of the spam I see in search results. I've also learned enough from looking at Adsense reports to know that intercepted search traffic has a higher CTR and payout than ads that appear in real content.

Poor Matt... try as he might, he can't change the fact that his employer is paying for more R&D in how to do link spamming, than they are spending on R&D to stop it. This is Cathedral vs. Bazaar all over again, only this time the Cathedral is footing the bill.

I have been debating getting published, but it is going to require synergistic effects with selling updates or else I would lock myself out of the search marketplace due to poor margins.

Google Adds Block URL Feature

Sorry MSN, no AOL for you - at least not yet (or Richard Parsons is using the media to increase your offer price)...

AOL portal leaves beta & Time Warner sees AOL as the way forward, but is it?

I think Yahoo! & MSN are spot on with their search strategy. Going forward you are best off owning your own search service. Why? Because if you ever become too strong your search provider can give you inferior quality stuff. It is oh so easy for Google to bolt on a remove this URL feature that makes users feel like they own the results and are making the web a better place. It is a lot harder for AOL to do stuff like that without locking them into using a specific provider and getting a lower cut on future revenues as they become more reliant on that partner.

You need a Google account to be able to use the remove result feature. Remove this site adds a quick and easy way for surfers to give Google feedback without needing to file a needless spam report.

When Google first created their accounts many people were afraid to sign up because they did not want Google knowing what sites they owned. I sorta think that having a number of Google accounts with a long search history will be a great way to help influence search results.

Thanks to Danny & Ian

Sorta started to make this post the other day and forgot to save it. I just wanted to say thanks again to Danny, Ian, and everyone else who has helped me with this lawsuit stuff. I have been getting a crash course in public relations.

Danny recently posted about the support Ian offered via SMA-NA, and how SEMPO decided they wanted to steer clear of it. ThreadWatch also recently commented on SEMPO's tone & position.

In related news, Red Herring posted an article about the legal challenges of blogging.

Interview of Jason Lexell

I have a bit of the flu, but I also have a marketing friend who is exceptional at selling ad space who somewhat recently let me interview him. He is not well known in the search space, but manages media sales and email marketing for a number of niche websites.

I am trying to get him to start a blog (we bloggers like to spread our disease) but for now his personal site is using an article manager, which is evil evil evil. Jason recently wrote a few short but high quality ebooks on improving email subject lines, creatives, and email marketing in general.

Check out the interview if you want to work on improving media sales.

AdWords Site Exclusion Expands to 500 Sites

Google expanded their Google AdWords Site Exclusion tool to 500. But, to be honest, most advertisers are not tracking that granularly, and I doubt many people are blocking anywhere near 100 sites. Yawn.

I think Google needs to give more control to AdSense publishers, allowing them to block keyword themes. A friend of mine recently created a site about video cards and on his video card comparison page he keeps getting ads for crap like Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, and various sports cards. What is up with that? Sure he hasn't got all the comparison pages indexed (as his site is new and that would be 45000 additional pages with lots of similar content to the individual card pages), but what would be wrong with letting him block a half dozen concepts instead of making him need to block 100's of sites?

Answer to the Traffic Power Lawsuit

My lawyer recently answered the Traffic Power lawsuit [PDF]. No doubt some strong keyword density in that document :)

For those who want some background on the lawsuit check out this post, which highlights when they sued me and the lack of specifics in the lawsuit.

Traffic Power Profiled in the WSJ - It's Not Pretty, Folks

Well, I can't think of a single way Traffic Power could be pleased by an article like this [sub req]. Some quotes:

Harold Hollister, a former salesman at the firm, said he was present during a morning pep talk on the sales floor where a manager stood on a desk and told salespeople that "a sucker is born every minute." Salespeople sometimes showed potential clients reports on existing Traffic Power clients, he said, highlighting how well the sites had done with the company's help. But some of those reports were falsified by the company, he said, and sites were listed with higher ranks than they actually had.

To be fair, Traffic Power denies that sucker is born claim:

Traffic Power said it was "absolutely untrue" that reports were falsified, and denied that managers ever told salespeople "a sucker is born every minute."

Now I don't have a perfect myself (tended to drink a bit much when in the Navy and such), but I can't imagine the Traffic Power CEO likes this WSJ profile at all:

Mr. Marlon, 61 years old, filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy-court protection in 1996. In 1997, Mr. Marlon was indicted on charges of conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance. He later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge, related to possession of a chemical used to make methamphetamine, and was sentenced to three years of probation, including six months of home confinement. The court record for his drug offense said he also had an alias, "Jimmy Ray Houts."

As far as past claims that Traffic Power and 1P are one and the same:

Not long after clients complained about getting dropped from Google -- and Traffic Power's own corporate site disappeared from the search engine's results -- Traffic Power began using different names to promote the same business, said former employees. Other names the company has used include 1P.com, or First Place.

Mr. Kwasny, the former Traffic Power employee, said this strategy backfired with at least some potential clients. The company, he said, failed to change its name with its phone company, so when salespeople began calling potential clients and saying they were from 1P.com, the listing on the client's phone said the call was coming from Traffic Power.

They sure are giving their PR firm some work! I can't imagine this article helps their lawyer much either.

Blog Overlords & Publishing Business Models

Not too long ago I read a book called How to Write, Publish, & Sell Your Own How-To Book. At that point I was already doing well with my current ebook, but was debating whether or not it was worth trying to get it physically published. Generally the How to Write... book was strongly biased against being published primarily due to profit margin related reasons, as well as a few other restrictions.

If you asked me to name off book publishers I know the names of I could do it on my hands with fingers left over. I got an email yesterday from one of the few I would have been able to name, asking me if I would be interested in having them publish & distribute SEO Book.

One of my friends also made the same offer, but offered to publish at cost because he wanted to get some titles for his new publish house.

Away from the web I think there is a huge gain with going with a publisher for at least one book, to help build your authority and credibility, but on the web I do not think there is a need for network publishers, etc.

Eeek, some authors are suing Google. What to do? Not suing here. I am still unsure on the publishing front though, but...

With blogs I do not think there is a need for additional blog networks. You can learn a lot from a blogger just by watching what they do. It is considered bad form to copy exactly, but you can learn the pieces that fit your style or see what pieces are working elsewhere, and why they work. Many of the blog network business models do not encourage the best kinds of postings. Many of the best bloggers read far more than the write, and that is just so much harder to do when it feels like writing the blog is your job and you are doing it for a boss.

Sometimes getting articles syndicated is as easy as writing them and submitting them. Also odds are fairly high that if you learn your topic well you should be able to build more high quality links into your site than a blog overlord would.

The blog networks don't directly pay you for participating in a community and if you ever need to jump ship from the network partnership that brand you helped them build the whole time may not carry with you.

Why I think blog networks suck:

  • Advertising: Most blog networks just publish AdSense for most of their advertisements. If they are going to cross promote the blogs and make them obviously known then it is easy to see how they place the ads for maximum profits. You do not need to be part of the network to learn from it. It is a transparent business model.

  • Link Selling: Some of the networks sell off topic links as if it is going out of style. That is the type of activity that leads to search engines placing limited or no trust on the linkage data from within the network. If they underpriced the ads a bit to entice a few on topic advertisers and then stayed on topic the ads would have greater longterm value and a lower risk profile.
  • Most People Make Nothing: As with the About.com network, or any group publishing network, a few topics are going to bring in the bulk of the cash. If you are in one of the lesser known topics then it is hard to make your blog well known and profitable unless you are actively marketing the heck out of it, which is much harder to do when you do not own the content and only get a meager percentage of the overall earnings.
  • Internal Links WILL Get Discounted: Being part of a blog network paid on comission is a good deal if you are the Poker blog riding off the link popularity of Engadget or Gizmodo, but inevitably as these networks spread you have to believe that search engines are going to deweight the internal linkage. Most of the blog network channels have limited linkage data outside of the link popularity which flows in from the few most popular channels. Jason Calcanis often brags about how much money his network is making with no money spent on marketing. How can spending no money on marketing be the optimal spend?
  • Stuck Business Models: I would guess that Gawker might make more per blog than I make on this blog, but most of the blog networks are stuck in their low paying business models. Some channels might make lots of money selling ebooks while others might be able to sell newsletters or software or other information products. The problem is that most of them are probably not willing to challenge what they know works. What happens if a channel really takes off and the author wants to go elsewhere where they can make more money?
  • You Still Need to Learn the Same Stuff: Using WordPress is free. Google AdSense optimization probably only takes a few days of tweaking to become decent at. Blog networks are not going to give you inside knowledge of your marketplace, and unless you are well cited within your topic only bad search algorithms are going to make your site relevant for it's network participation. The network that REALLY matters is the community that covers your topic.
  • Too Much Too Quick: Sometimes having few visitors off the start is a good thing. It gives you the opportunity to learn quickly without necissarily opening you up to the criticism of everyone in your community. I have got hate email from people who later gladly linked to my site. My guess is that if I had more exposure when I knew less about my topic, blogging, & the web I would have got a lot more hate mail, and it may have turned me off early.
  • Time Off: Sometimes I feel like crap, and if I posted while I felt that way it would only have a negative effect on my blog and the poor eyes reading my HateTypeTM. Blogging is about being timely, but it is also about posting more when you are thinking and feel like talking. It is also about keeping quiet when you don't feel like talking.
  • If You Really Care: If you are really going to go after something may as well make it your own. If you really don't care much a network might be cool, but I fail to see the point in doing anything you are only sorta interested in.

Inevitably blog quality will have to stand on it's own. Readers and citations come if people want to give you their attention. Being part of a network might be able to help you boost that a bit off the start, but it may also hold you back when you want to let out a rant or zig when others are zagging :)

The whole point of the web is you do not need an overlord.

Google Working on Predictive Market Technology?

This is where Google can really make scary scary scary profits. I am sure they want to be careful with the way they leverage their Database of Intentions, but nobody in the world has access to as much user data as Google does.

A while ago I whinged on about how Google could leverage their data to own just about any trading market in the world.

Two Ways to Fry a Fish

Well that is an irrelevant post title, but I figured NickW would like it. :)

Online dating. Hyper competitive. Too many sites. etc etc etc. But you can still get links and traffic by approaching the topic from a different angle.

Desparate Dating is a good example of that.

The site might be absolutely offensive to a ton of people, but that site will likely get links from BOTH people who like it AND people who hate it. The site is equally unique and offensive, which is something that is oh-so-easy to link at.

One well known search engineer in the past also recommended creating a grammar nazi site that went around fixing everyone's borken grammar and linking back to the home site.

The Butler Dies

Diller Sacks the Butler:

Jeeves is out of a job.

IAC/InterActiveCorp. (IACI:Nasdaq - commentary - research - Cramer's Take) is dropping the butler who doubles as the mascot of its recently acquired Ask Jeeves online search business.

The New York-based online empire, which acquired Ask Jeeves for $1.9 billion in July, plans to rebrand the Web site as Ask.com, CEO Barry Diller said Wednesday at an investment conference.

The article also mentions China next year. If they are smart they will talk to Shak before then, assuming they know what they want to do ;)

Ye Old Domain Names

Jim Boykin likes old sites.

And created two tools for looking up site age. I think Jim is still working on the tool naming front. Getting better though, the first tool only took an 18 word link to describe ;)

And if you want to register new domain names, this is a cool tool.

And while at Web Professor, I realize text in images is evil on the usability front, but I may sometime want to try this out. Although I already have tons of other usability issues that should be way way way better than they are on this site.

Free Secure Wifi?

Maybe. GoogleNet, coming soon...

Not sure if it will be secure enough to withstand the scud missles, though...

Changes at Yahoo! Search SERPs

over the weekend big changes at Yahoo!, according to Marcia

Robert Charlton added in:

I generally haven't watched Yahoo closely, but since the update in late July, where many inside pages dropped like rocks, I've been following some selected niche searches. My thought at the time was that there was some sort of "filtering" in place (and I'm probably using the word inaccurately), much like there was after Google's infamous Florida update.

What seemed to affect some searches and some sites didn't seem to affect others... there was talk of over-optimization penalties... and results just didn't feel right. After Florida, I felt that Google would have to fix it, and eventually they did. I've felt that about Yahoo since the July update, but it hasn't happened yet.

The Yahoo serps are Florida-like in one respect that I haven't seen discussed... nonsense exclusion strings in the search query seem to return to search to an approximation of pre-July normalcy. Add -asdf to a search a bunch of times and you'll see what I mean.

some sample Yahoo! searches:

What have you noticed different at the big Y! ? Whats with the -blah? Why do the ads not show up when you do an advanced search?

Big Media Sites Learning About SEO?

It will be interesting to see what happens to search business models as more people realize some links are paid, while some sites rank due to algorithm manipulation, and others are there due to spyware.

As more and more big players get into the SEO field doing things like

  • focusing on a niche

  • creating unique ideas and products
  • being the first with the news
  • finding ways to make people want to talk about you (as Peter D mentioned here)

will become increasingly important.

Of course some of the big players suffer from their size. Due to it's past walled garden approach AOL has become so irrelevant that they may only account for a few perecent of Google's profits, and yet companies like the New York Times are hiding away more and more of their content.

I recently spoke with one journalist who after about an hour of chatting said that he thought SEO sounded more interesting than journalism. I will be interviewing a former journalist who is an SEO guru soon.

Myriad Search / Free Authority Finder Launched

Authority Finder is another free search tool created by my friend Mike.

I wanted to create a tool which cross compared the search results from the major search engines to find the most authoritative results for a query (hence the name authority finder).

After a bit of thinking about it I realized with a few tweaks the tool could also double as a meta search engine and sorta like a share of voice tool (although an incomplete share of voice tool as it does not factor in paid listings and there are a ton of variables that go into who searches for what where).

A beta of the tool exists at Myriad Search.com.

Currently Myriad works with the Yahoo! & Google APIs. It queries MSN's search RSS feeds, but will be shifted over to their API sometime today or tomorrow at the latest.

I do not believe Ask has an API. I have sent mutliple emails to Ask to see if it was ok to include their search in the tool and they have not yet responded. Most of the stuff on their TOS talked about commercial use, and this tool is totally free. If they are unhappy with the tool querying Ask I will quickly remove Ask from it.

I have not yet released the source code since I will be changing out the MSN piece today and I still am somewhat uncertain as to whether or not Ask will care, although I am hoping they think it is ok. If not they can email me at seobook@gmail.com.

In the tools section I posted more in depth information about the features of Authority Finder.

Please let me know what you think.

Hate Site Reappears?

For a while SEO Consultants hosted pages related to Traffic Power and 1P.com.

Out of nowhere (perhaps even magically) a degenerate hate site about Edward Lewis appeared. That hate site, which has a design that looks an awful lot like Traffic Power Sucks.com, disappeared around the same time that SEO Consultants dropped their Traffic Power coverage.

That hate site recently reappeared.

I can only guess as to why the Edward Lewis hate site reappeared, but if I had to guess why, it would be one of the following (although these are just guesses):

I wonder if the fake SEO forums will be reappearing as well soon? If so, I hope the server logs are protected. Especially when some of the old ones still show referal data from other sites.

Interesting to note this post, which was mentioned on SEO Consultants, is still live. I hope Edward sues.

Traffic Power Lawsuit Update

Initially when I was sued by Traffic Power I partnered up with the fine folks at Traffic Power Sucks and helped share their lawyer fees.

Some of my friends donated far more than I could have ever imagined, and said they wanted me to buy the best lawyer I could find. A friend of mine in the SEO space who is legally well connected recommended I go with Ariel Stern from Jones Vargas.

Ariel had the case moved from state court to federal district court. The case number in federal court is CV-S-05-1109-RLH-LRL, and the website is located at www.nvd.uscourts.gov. I believe interested parties can follow the case developments using the Pacer service, but will need an account to log in.

The legal support calls and emails back and forth are flowing nicely and all is well on that front. Some bits of the case are sorta like a holding pattern though. As I learn more I will share it, although there are some bits I have been told not to share until some time passes.

Thanks to everyone who donated.

Disabled AdWords to be Deleted & Some Google Banned Websites to be Notified

When Google changed the AdWords system they left disabled keywords in AdWords accounts. If you did not re enable them Google will be deleting them next week.

Google is notifying some banned sites about why they were banned:

Google is trying out a pilot program to alert site owners when we're removing their site for violating our guidelines.

Many people have complained about the lack of communication between search engines and webmasters. I think the Google is smart enough to realize that if they can automate better webmaster relations that means more good PR and a larger marketshare for them. Of course, automating stuff can sometimes backfire too. Surely some search marketers are going to be beta testing the new system.

MicroSoft Eyeing AOL Partnership?

From Bloomburg:

Shares of Time Warner Inc., the world's largest media company, rose as much as 2.4 percent after the New York Post said the company is in talks to sell a stake in America Online to Microsoft Corp.

Microsoft, the world's biggest software company, would pay New York-based Time Warner an unspecified amount of cash for a stake in AOL and combine it with its Internet unit, MSN, the newspaper said, citing two unidentified people familiar with the situation.

Currently Google powers AOL search and provides AdWords ads to AOL.com. Google's stock is only down a few points on a day with their secondary public offering and this story spreading. I can't explain why the stock is not dropping further.

MSFT might be spending some of their 37 billion to buy the pieces they need to be a search contender. LookSmart's stock has been inching upward all month long as well.

With Ask developing their own in house ad sales network and MSN potentially gobbling up AOL it looks like Google may end up losing a huge amount of their ad syndication. Lucky for Google they have built Google.com into such a large destination site. In The Search John Battelle mentioned the biggest problem with the Overture business model was their heavy reliance upon partners.

One thing MSN has to look out for is their own walled garden approach, which was a large part of what was the original demise of AOL.

The original New York Post article [sub req] also states:

Talks are most advanced with Microsoft - Time Warner management's preferred partner - but the media giant has also had discussions with both Yahoo! and Google over a sale or venture with AOL, according to a source close to Time Warner.

Not sure if Google is just trying to raise the price for MSN, but the WSJ reports [Sub Req]:

Google approached Comcast about participating in a bid for AOL last week, according to a person familiar with the matter. But Google may end up making a bid on its own, another person said.

The deal would put a value on AOL, as a whole, of about $20 billion, the people said. Any bid would be worth considerably less, however, as AOL's dial-up operations generate lots of cash and would account for much of its value.

Interesting times ahead.

Bill Gates full of Crap on Robust MSN Search API?

Gates on Google:

With Google, there are rumors about them being interested in that services piece, but they really haven't done that much. Our search API is way better than their search API. Clearly, they are working in that area. They haven't done as much on the server piece.

My friend Mike:

This is just a pathetic excuse for an SDK.

FYI Microsoft, just because you don't own Java and PHP, doesn't mean people don't want to use them.

Mike continues his rant:

Yahoo! and Google have both had sdks that included java and php for what...a year? I thought MS was trying to compete here?

Think Microsoft still don't get this web thing, eh?

[update: I keep getting redirect limits, so it appears as though MSFT may have removed that support thread.]

Review of John Battelle's The Search

The Search is a book by John Battelle about the history of search, and how search will interface with and change society. If you are a search geek it's a great read and there is a zero percent chance for you to dislike the book.

Although the book does not focus on SEO, reading it helps you see search through it's history and think about many SEO concepts. John believes clickstream data & user feedback will eventually replace modern link based search relevancy algorithms. There are a number of great quotes and fun parts to the book, such as:

  • When Larry met Sergey (p. 68)

  • When they both told Eric Schmidt he was totally hosed (p. 135)
  • Where "don't be evil" came from (p. 138)

The Search talks about the underlying business models driving search (where it began, where Overture went wrong, & how Google trumped them) right up to some of the deep political and social concerns associated with search.

While the book's logo looks similar to Google's trademark dress it was refreshing to see that John did not hesitative to talk about some of the negative (or evil) sides of search, including:

I think it would have been cool if John would have talked to a few more SEOs, but the book is killer. Well worth a read.

Google Looking for SEM Managers?

Couldn't believe my ears. We just got a phone call from a recruitment consultant trying to head hunt for a European SEM Manager role for Google.

so says Teddie

A move which is a bit counter to client poaching claims of the past. That is, of course, unless Google wants to get better at poaching them.

Google has the ability to build and destroy many business models, but the more holistic your efforts are the less you need to worry.

MSN Search News

Could You Started From Scratch Today

Do you think you could start from scratch today? was one of the more interesting discussions I listened to at SEO Roadshow.

Mainly people were talking in terms of money, but I think the biggest assets for most people who are doing well in terms of SEO are their friendships and what they have learned, and you can't really unlearn or unfriend (unless you really try hard or have a freak accident).

Google is significantly harder to manipulate today than it was when I started. If I were to start from scratch today I think I would still be able to do well. Google would take a bit longer to manipulate than it used to, but I know so much more about marketing than I did back then. When I first started I was in the negative in terms of cash, and can't imagine that it would take me longer to find a profitable business model today. As a form of payment I also prefer links and friendships to cash, as they don't get taxed.

Sometimes I think about sorta just making this site archived and trying to change how & why I post and do things, but it is so easy to assume that what worked in the past will continue working in the future. I realize that is not true though.

My 3 week old free SEO tools update list already has over 10% the number of subscribers as my nearly 2 year old free newsletter does (and I give stuff away in nearly every newsletter).

Knowing what I paid to create some of the tools, and seeing some of the ad rates around the web, I am willing to bet most SEOs pay more for leads than I paid per subscriber to my free tools update list.

I do not like spending tons on advertising because I think viral marketing works so much better. It kinda feels insulting to think of how little money and effort went into creating some of those tools and how much time they can help save in the SEO process, especially when compared to how unproductively I have spent large portions of time, and now I am over the hill...26 years old. :(

Could you start from scratch today?
What would be the hardest bits?

Google Blog Search

FAQ page live. Service to come soon.

Notice how Google lifts the embargo prior to making the service active so they can get a double dose of PR.

from John

SEW also recently mentioned a news / blog clustering site by the name of Memeorandum

Jim Boykin, of We Build Pages, Starts an SEO Blog

My SEO pal Jim Boykin, of We Build Pages, just started an SEO blog.

Already he is talking about not needing links (never EVER thought I would hear Jim say that), and flink.

Whatever happened to flink? Sorta funny that Google got ahead by processing links better and now they do anything and everything possible to run away & hide their ball.

I was talking to NFFC at SEO Roadshow and he said for a long time AltaVista was king. Everyone was using it, and then overnight NOBODY searched at AltaVista. Some stated that AltaVista went so far that they took out many pages which had a blue line in them, while others questioned their paid inclusion relevancy. Search engines are screwed when they care more about how sites got to the top than the quality of the results. Just a few steps down that path and it can't be undone.

Google is sitting at $312 a share with an 87 billion dollar market cap just prior to their secondary public offering. It will be interesting to see if they learn from the mistakes AltaVista made. Recently hiring Louis Monier, AltaVista's founder, surely must help. Matt Cutts just admited that occassionally relevancy does improve when they remove some of the scoring factors. Bring back the flink!

Google vs MicroSoft

Kai-Fu Lee can work for Google ahead of the MicroSoft lawsuit ruling:

A judge ruled Tuesday that a former Microsoft Corp. executive in China can carry out most tasks rival Google Inc. hired him to carry out, the Associated Press reported. A state judge ruled Kai-Fu Lee, the executive, can recruit and work on staffing for a Google research center in China ahead of a ruling in a suit between the companies set for trial in January.

That makes the non compete fairly useless since:

  • it is only 1 year

  • he can work ahead of the court ruling
  • surely the court will drag out the case until nearly the end of the 1 year term

SEO Roadshow

Shortly I am off to SEO Roadshow.

I feel like I have been a bit lacking in insipration, etc. recently. Am thinking SEO Roadshow should be cool, plus I am stoked that The Search has been released just in time for good flight reading.

Web posts & threads:

Legal Showdown in Search Fracas

Adam L. Penenberg wrote an article in Wired about recent issues with Traffic Power.

Greg Boser provides a couple interesting points:

"The fact that Traffic-Power is the same company that got banned from Google pretty much establishes the fact that they do not have a good reputation to protect," Boser said.


Greg Boser of WebGuerrilla, a search marketing consultancy, points out that it's impossible to protect a search engine optimization trade secret because "the secret is in the HTML code that gets published on a publicly accessible web server."

Google Geiko Trademark Suit Settled Out of Court

CNN reports the remainder of the landmark trademark case between GEICO and Google was settled out of court:

GEICO, the No. 4 U.S. auto insurer and a unit of investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (Research), said a suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia was "resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties."

Google has allowed rival insurance companies to bid on the term GEICO to target pay per click ads. Some rivals also included the term in the ad copy. In the past a US district court judge ruled against allowing trademark terms in ad copy, but as of today I still see three insurance companies listed in AdWords when you search Google for [GEICO].

If you bid on competing company names recognize that it is viewed as being somewhat aggressive by many business owners, and some of them may:

  • bid on your name

  • spread hate messages about you or your company
  • send bogus C&D or lawsuits your way
  • try to undermine your business in other ways

The settlement terms were confidential. The article also stated that these settlement types usually involve money. No doubt this is huge for Google, as it further validates their business model.

Not sure if this will pan out, but some search marketer might do well to run an ad on Google triggered by GEICO today. :) Daventics got a bunch of link popularity by doing so in the past.

Seth Godin Medley

The Big Moo:
The Big Moo is sorta like a follow up to Purple Cow, but from a variety of authors.

33 different writers tell short stories about different concepts related to starting or running a business, balancing life and business, & being remarkable. It also emphasizes not trying to be perfect but to do stuff & get customer feedback. The short nature of each story makes it easy to read like 20 to 50 of them in one sitting. The diversity of voices means there is probably some useful stuff in there for just about anyone.

The stories do not have who wrote each one underneath them. You can sorta guess some of them, but others are not so easy.

I have a bunch of these. If you want one please email me your address and I will try to send one to you if I can. I am going away for a bit soon, so it will be about a week before I mail these out. If you get one and you like it you must review it on your website, in the comments below, or tell at least two friends about it.

Knock Knock:
Knock Knock [PDF] is a free ebook which seems like it has many tips about websites better that are similar to the tips in The Big Red Fez. It is a quick and short read, talking primarily about website conversion. Not bad for free, but I think I liked The Big Red Fez a good bit more.

The few areas where I thought this book fell short:

  • some of the math with the percentages sounds a bit confusing. Like 1 times 50% is 0.5, not 2. I think he should throw the added step in there to say 50% conversion means you need two visitors. Most of Seth's writing is an easy read and I am good at math, but his math parts did not flow well.

  • He has a number of adverts for his other books in there, but thats what you get for the price of free (although I liked many of his other books a bunch more than this ebook). His other books seemed more like he was writing to get a specific point across (be remarkable, go for the edges, tell good stories, etc etc etc) but this one seemed more like he had a bit of time on his hands and wanted to put something out in between publishing full books.
  • He says you can & should show repeat visitors a different page...but sometimes that could be a bad thing. How can you be sure that they were not interested in something specifically on that page?
  • Some pages without apparent reason to the author at the time of writing do have other purposes that the writer may not have realized. For example some pages can be great link bait. Just by having honest and original sounding content that ranks for random stuff you can get some killer links. (I have an .edu link from a random professor who is the completely morally opposite of me pointing into a site that had casino related content on it). I believe some of the best content that was ever created was created on accident or without motive, and then was later reshaped into a profitable format & business model after readers or friends gave feedback about it.

The cool bit about Knock Knock is that Seth says if you can think up a part two to his Knock Knock book and he likes it then he will plug it. It might be a good opportunity for a few SEMs / SEOs to get a bit of exposure and open up a relationship with a smart viral marketer. Seth's testimonials are priceless because he is well known not to promote crap and is good with words. In the past I think he left a good testimonial for Andrew Goodman.

Who's There:
Who's There [PDF] is a free ebook by Seth Godin about blogging, mainly about viral blogging.

If you look at his blog, PageRank, and the fact that it is uncommon for any of his posts to go without a trackback, you would see that Seth is good at the blog thing :)

Some of his tips in Who's There were also on his blog in the past, but I think he is right on the money with them. His blog along with SearchEngineBlog have always been two of my favorites since I started reading blogs.

A few things I don't fully agree with

  • He said every post should get you new subscription. I think if you write specifically for that purpose all the time you may be setting the bar too high, and your writing will eventually clearly show that goal if it is first and foremost your goal, and some people may take that negatively.

  • Seth said the hygine of the comments and trackbacks are not important. I don't think Seth has been reading Threadwatch much if he believes that. On many blog sites the comments end up driving the content.
  • Seth was a best selling author before he started blogging, and was naturally pretty good at blogging right out of the gate I think. Some people new to blogging could really benefit from leaving relevant comments on other related sites, and I don't think he really mentioned that much. Reading and commenting on related sites is a good way to help get started if you are new to blogging.

Seth is one of my favorite bloggers, and it was really cool of him to make those ebooks available free.

What Ever Happened to Andy Beal?

Missing for a while, it looks like he is now back.

blogging at Marketing Pilgrim

Dazzlindonna and Hurricane Katrina

Dazzlindonna tells her story about Hurricane Katrina.

Surely some others were hit harder than she was, but her post sounds like a whole lot of no-fun-at-all.

Many of the people who missed the worst part of the storm still had their lives flipped upside down:

I probably won't be able to work for quite some time, and I've had to spend nearly all my money to deal with this disaster. I have no idea how I will be able to provide for the family. It's not like I can just go out and get a job. The jobs disappeared with everything else.

Her site has a Paypal donations button for those who have learned from her tips or want to donate to help her out.

Hope it all works out ok Donna.

What to Name a Meta Search Engine...

So a friend of mine created an authority tool, which lets you cross reference the major search engines to find out what sites rank well in multiple agorithms. While he was making it I thought that it was not much extra effort to make it a meta search engine, so he did that.

It is not going to have any sort of paid ads or anything like that on it since it uses other engines APIs. There is no biz model behind it, I just wanted to make it because I thought it sounded like a cool idea.

I am trying to think of a name for it. Originally it was going to be called authority finder, but that doesn't sound like a linkable name. The best I thought of so far in the meta search way was metish, but then I think blah. Also I think I am trying to stay away from the word pile.

What would be a good name for a meta search engine?

What are the best RSS Feeds

A while back I bought a new computer and forgot to transfer all my RSS feeds over to the new one. Starting from scratch, what all cool feeds should I be reading?

Do you like any obscure hidden gems?

Down With Software Patents...

The free software foundation said on Tuesday it would start adapting rules for development and use of free software by including penalties against those who patent software or use anti-piracy technology.

The idea is that if someone uses software patents against free software, that company or person loses the right to distribute that particular programme and use it in their product, he added.

Stallman will write a draft version of the new GPL by December, after which it will be evaluated and discussed by thousands of organisations, software developers and software users in 2006.

The draft version may contain a proposal to penalise those companies which use digital rights management (DRM) software which protects songs and films against piracy, and which is seen as an anomaly by the free software association. source

Instead of pushing DRM some artists / programmers / writers / information sellers realize that they can build a stronger bond with the consumers by adding value added products and services.

As individuals better understand the web & are more freely willing to express themselves the need for gate keepers diminishes.

Cory Doctorow gave a great speech on DRM June 2004.

Google Moving Away from Snippets?

Dan Thies posts about seeing DMOZ and Meta description tags more in Google's search results.

In many small niche categories it may be a bit hard to build quality links outside of DMOZ & the Yahoo! Directory, and acquiring links from those may hurt your listing ad copy.

For those who absolutely recommend avoiding DMOZ & the Yahoo! Directory where else do you recommend getting links from for small niche sites?

Think of the Kittens

Sometimes lawsuits are not enough. ;)

A while ago Edward Lewis (of SeoConsultants.com) found a rather unpleasant hate site about him which existed right up until around the time he pulled his news coverage of Traffic Power and 1P.com business practices.

I believe the fake SEO forums went down around the same time I was sent the paperwork to drop the lawsuit against me in agreement for me removing any and all content in any way related to Traffic Power from this website.

Due to feedback from friends I decided to fight the lawsuit. I still don't know how in the hell I could comply even if I wanted to since they have refused to give me ANY specifics and I do not know all the various names they operate under.

Holding predicably true to form, it took no time at all for an SEO Book smear campaign to start up. I even have my own hate group now!

If you find me leaving nasty comments on your blog realize that it is probably someone trying to help me out.

AMR Partners: Good & Bad PR Techniques / Good & Bad PR Firms

Good PR firms know how to tell stories that are at least slightly factually based:

PR is not dishonest. Not quite. In fact, the reason the best PR firms are so effective is precisely that they aren't dishonest. They give reporters genuinely valuable information.

Bad PR firms hand out spin and / or misinformation that eventually chips away at their credibility. Traffic Power's public relations firm is AMR Partners. I want to run through some of Danny Sullivan's questions to them and some of AMR's responses to highlight the honesty in the answers. I will then go through their quote that was in the Wall Street Journal and a strategic blog comment spammers comments.

Danny: The letter never actually says what it is he supposedly pirated or published. What exactly is it that's in contention here?

AMR Partners: Traffic Power tells me that in threads regarding Traffic-Power portions of private and confidential emails have been presented as well as links to proprietary company information as well as false claims against the company regard non-existing lawsuits and other potentially libelous claims.

"I just thought anyone should know, This is an interesting link to a law firm that is getting ready to file a class action against Traffic-Power.com http://www.girardgibbs.com/traffic-power.html"

Many of these links are no longer available and Mr. Wall's site - Blocked Wayback Machine with "Robots.txt Query Exclusion" (See robots.txt file at http://www.seobook.com/robots.txt)


Aaron: I remember checking that the potential class action lawsuit was on a real site after seeing that post.

If you look at the Internet Archive you can see that at one point in fact that same law firm was gathering information to investigate the possibility of filing a class action against Traffic-Power.com. No false claim there on my comments page (and this is one of the few things - maybe the only thing so far as I know - they have specifically chose to point out as being knowingly false).

While the Internet Archive was blocked on my site clearly that is a poor idea to cluster it with that answer since the Internet Archive can be used to prove the rest of that particular AMR Partners answer sounds at best misinformed.

It is not like I have been posting AND DELETING lots of stuff about Traffic Power. If I did delete whatever they claimed was wrong then wouldn't I be complying with their desires anyhow?

As far as class action lawsuits go, another site (which goes by the name of Traffic Power Sucks) states they are currently working at putting a Traffic Power class action lawsuit together.

Score: Aaron: 1 AMR Partners: 0

Danny: How is he supposed to comply with a demand for source disclosure when you haven't cited what was allegedly published or pirated? Are you expecting a list of every person he's ever talked with?

AMR Partners: I have no idea what the legal team might expect in terms of disclosure of sources, but I have been told that any evidence will not be presented until it has been decided whether or not they need to file a lawsuit.

Aaron: If they are not going to disclose specifically what they want until well after they decide to sue me then how am I to comply without getting sued first?

Score: Aaron: 2 AMR Partners: 0

Danny: Are you suggesting everything on the SEO Book web site that might mention Traffic-Power is somehow pirated material? Doing a quick search, I see http://www.seobook.com/archives/000314.shtml, where he talks about being called by Traffic-Power. Is this the pirated communication? And if so, was he informed of this before the phone call began?

AMR Partners: I do not think the intent of the letter is to imply that everything on the site is pirated or in response to the two links you've posted, but rather to suggest that pirated material as well as material that could be considered libelous are present and that there are several issues on Mr. Wall's sites that are potentially actionable.

In conclusion, Traffic Power has assured me that they would much prefer a civil dialog with their critics instead of any legal action and that they at least, would be open to discussion.

Aaron: That in conclusion bit is sorta funny. They still have never told me specifically what was wrong, and - at least as I am aware of - outside the cease and desist they made no legitimate effort to contact me in any way about what is wrong prior to filing suit. So if they would prefer one thing then why did they do the exact opposite? Or was that "would much prefer a civil dialog" statement a blatent lie?

Score: Aaron: 3 AMR Partners: 0

On to the Wall Street Journal article:

Traffic Power Spokesman: Steve Pellegrino, a spokesman for Traffic-Power.com, said the company had asked Messrs. Wall and Baardsen to remove some material from their Web sites before filing the suits, and sued them after they refused. "We have let this go on a year and a half," Mr. Pellegrino said.

Aaron: Other than "everything" I was never told what specifically to remove (and I was also told that I may also need to give information for all sources). If a company operates under a variety of names or has a variety of affiliated sites how can I ensure I removed all information if I do not know the names of the various related entities?

As Danny Sullivan so eloquently put it:

He'd been served with a cease-and-desist letter from SEO company Traffic-Power.com that seemed impossible to comply with.

Also, if it has been going on for 1.5 years and there is something wrong with it why wait that long to do something about it? Also this JimWorld Traffic-Power.com thread started in 2002, so that puts us well over 1.5 years of Traffic-Power.com coverage.

Score: Aaron: 4 Traffic-Power.com: 0

Disturbing comment anonymously left on various search related blogs:

Donate to Aaron Wall’s legal fund? You must be kidding. Why so a spoiled little brat can rant and rage against things he doesn’t like. This is a sad and pathetic joke, in case it has escaped your attention there are people in New Orleans who are DYING, and could really use donations. Anyone who sent Aaron Wall any money should be ashamed of themselves, to support this and turn your back on people who are in real need is disgusting. Aarons right to bash a bunch of spammers, is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, if the Blogging Community want to rally behind something, raise money to help the people of New Orleans!
Comment by French Quarter

Another Comment on My Blog:
I bet three voodoo dolls French Quarter post guy is from Traffic Power

Loren Baker:
Aaron’s court case could stop companies and government entities from suing or issuing gag orders to the mini-press or public-press (bloggers). Imagine if the National Guard or Bush admin had the power to erase all tales of suffering and crimes against humanity stemming from the administrations lack of help during the evacuation and almost one week afterwards.

Funny you use the name French Quarter, as the Quarter is above sea level and apparently was the only target of organized evacuation due to the millions of dollars invested daily by tourists.

(someone spammed Loren's Search Engine Journal blog, SE Roundtable, Blog Herald, The Intuitive Life Business Blog, and Abakus SEO Blog with the same posts as the stuff they placed on my site. They also created a moderated Aaron Wall hate group in Google Groups.)

Why I have yet to mention Katrina on my site:
I am so pissed off about it that my thoughts on the topic would likely be a bit abrasive and likely piss off a large percentage of my readers.

I will post about it on my other blog. I think many blogs should mention it.

Did you know that prior to the storm FEMA could not finish some of their New Orleans hurricane walk throughs because their funding was cut, and that money to improve the levees and city pumps was cut in part to help fund the war on terrorism / Homeland Security?

Why I Have Yet to Donate to Support Katrina Survivors:
When the tsunami's happened I donated as much as I could. I gave a full month's income while I was still in debt and soon after had to pay off part of my taxes using credit cards.

I have yet to donate to support Katrina survivors because it is hard for me to ask friends to help support my case and then lower my financial stability by giving away money that might be needed to defended against Traffic-Power.com.

Score: Traffic-Power.com: 1 Katrina Victims: 0 :(

If you want to support Katrina victims please open your home up to extended family and friends and maybe even strangers if you are trusting, and you can donate cash at Amazon or donate ad space on your site.

The more I think about it the more I think this suit was intended as a big plublicity stunt by Traffic Power. I probably would not have made a post about the bad or inaccurate comments from their public relations firm, but I think:

  • PR is what the case is about

  • they should be kept honest, and any dishonestly or half truths should be shown exactly for being what they are (although Danny did a good job pointing out many of them already - thanks Danny)
  • if people help spread half truths or deception they are just as bad as the people who come up with the half truths
  • the strategic blog comment spammer about Hurricane Katrina was going way too far.

Blogging is Not a Crime

China White

Shak lands and blogs. Should be a fun cultural journey, although in China it is unsafe to assume anything.

Legal Donations Accepted...

[Update: I believe my case is closed, and thus I am no longer accepting donations. Thanks to everyone who helped me. If you would like to support free speech online please donate to EFF or Public Citizen. Optionally you may also want to read the EFF Legal Guide for Bloggers, Chilling Effects or CyberSLAPP, all of which are great resources.]

So I got the agreement paperwork today for Traffic Power to drop the lawsuit. I am not sure what parts of it I can share, and need to talk with a lawyer about it on that front.

I am unsure how adequately I can guarantee I could comply with it, especially since I believe this offer widened up a bit from what was shared over the phone. Although I think that is somewhat common in legal proceedings, I am not really comfortable with the document as it appears right now.

The hundreds of blog comments, blog posts, emails, forum posts, phone calls, articles, and other forms of communications I have seen or heard tell me that this is an issue that many people care about across the web.

This suit is not about Traffic Power. This suit is not about this blog. This suit is more about free speech, which is the very fabric that holds the web and democracy together. An issue far more important than I could ever pretend to be.

If I do not face this suit, then it is easier for the next person to get trampled. After all the support people have offered I do not think it is the right decision to tuck tail and run, especially since I am still unaware of what specifically is wrong - and never once has there been an attempt to tell me.

Not that I am by any means rich, but I have a bit of money. I know legal stuff can get costly really quickly though. I have been offered some pro bono representation, but I can not guarantee that it will go through, and those lawyers also recommend I hire the services of a commercial lawyer from Las Vegas.

Some of the people who care about this case and want to help with it are better lawyers than money can buy, but I believe they may end up busy juggling other cases and this lawsuit may require a local lawyer as well, at least off the start.

The 20 days are passing quickly, so I have no time to waste. Tomorrow I will try to hire a lawyer (as I have already talked to a few, so I can't imagine it will be hard to get one of them to accept the case if I have enough money, which I think I should - at least to get started).

There are some people who have already helped me a bunch for free. There time and attention is worth money and their help was available only via donations from others.

I am not sure how much people will donate, but if direct donations exceed legal costs for the Traffic Power case the remainder of the donations will be sent to organizations such as EFF and Public Citizen.

If you have more web reach than money a brief mention of what is going on may help more than a direct monetary donation. I don't want people donating if they are in bad financial shape (as I suspect this suit will not ruin my finacial health, especially if a couple of my closer friends donate). I also do not want donations from people who only sorta care about the issue of free speech online.

My quality of life has been greatly enriched by feedback others have gave me, and I don't want that feedback to go away because people are afraid to speak their minds.

If you have some spare cash, and/ or your livelihood or quality of life depends on free speech online please consider donating directly to one of the above listed charities.