Google vs Madison Avenue

Nov 1st

Google looks like it wants to own Madison Avenue. The Journal also has a free article on Google vs Madison Ave., and John Battelle recently interviewed Google's Omid Kordestani and Sergey Brin.

If you look at the SEO Bytes monthly toplist you will see that in spite of a recent major Google update many of the most popular threads are about how to monetize Google AdSense ad space.

A year or two ago few of the threads covered monetizing content. It seemed like everyone just wanted to rank or assumed nobody would share that how to profit info. AdSense and similar programs work well for quality and automated sites alike.

While Google monetizes crap sites they usually deny their connection to it, keeping the shadiness far away, funding much of it.

Ask Jeeves is a bit closer in some of their relationships. A few days ago I noticed my mom's computer had some Ask MySearch type spyware activites on it. Sure some of it may be uninstallable, but sometimes when you enter a URL in the address bar it says no site found just to redirect you to ads. Shady.

While some say one bad AdSense site may bring down the whole Google AdSense only took around an hour to approve my mom's new site for AdSense, so Google is not putting up much of a barrier to entry.

The more I read and learn about communities and click pimping the less value I see in my current business model, especially when SEO is usually framed in a negative light and I have to deal with this sort of garbage. After all, even as Case is out AOL is suddenly hot again, and some said Steve was just another spammer. :)

The Best SEO Forum Threads at One Spot

Oct 30th

Originally when Threadwatch was created NickW was going to track forums, but quickly found them to be a bit too repetitive & later switched to finding other news sources.

A friend of mine by the name Chris Ridings created a site called Resource Rate, which aimed to use a variety of editors to track SEO forums. It seemed to have quickly faded in popularity.

Another one of my friends, named Eaden, recently lauched SEO Bytes. It is a concept similar to Resource Rate, with a few exceptions:

  • No central editors: instead of having central editors the threads are ranked by freshness, number of replies, and recent activity.
  • Adjustible scoring: you can chose to place more weight on freshness or recent activity to get the newest threads first. You also can rate up good forums place less weighting on forums you do not like as much.

I believe SEO Bytes stores your settings in a cookie, but some SEO's travel a good bit. A few features I would like to see:

  • allow people to log in so their settings work on different computers
  • allow me to block all sub forums from a specific forum
  • add a few more forums to the list of forums
  • if he really wants to put a ton of effort into it ;) allow users to place more weight on thread ratings from friends and allow friends to submit threads for their friends to see

I am fairly certain Eaden will read this post, so please post what you like and what you would like to see at SEO Bytes.

In many industries it is likely that tools such as SEO Bytes will spring up. Sometimes they will have the best value as public research tools, and often if left private they can help some webmasters get the scoops.

Small vs Big & Voice in Brand

Oct 29th

Part 5 of an ongoing series...
read parts 1, 2, 3, and 4:

  1. Why Bloggers Hate SEO's
  2. Why SEO's Should Love Bloggers
  3. Dynamic Sites & Social Feedback
  4. Controlling Data and Helping Consumers Make it Smarter

Can Individuals & Small Sites Compete With Big Ones?

Some people think individuals can't compete with large corporations. The numbers prove otherwise.

When I was recently sued many sites linked through to my site referencing the lawsuit. The first day traffic volume of some of the leading referers was

  • Slashdot ~ 7,500
  • Wall Street Journal ~ 6,000
  • Atrios.blogspot.com ~ 6,000
  • News.com ~ 50

An individually written blogspot blog sent me nearly as much traffic as the Wall Street Journal did, and sent far more than most media sites did. Keep in mind that around 100 or so bloggers linked into the WSJ article, so the average blog post on Atrios.blogspot.com likely gets more online readers than most WSJ online articles do.

Working Alone:

If people like your biases or the way you present the news they will send you stories as well. As you develop trusted and trusting readers even individuals do not end up working alone. Many people will send you tips about the news they uncover. Over time those relationships develop and you know who to trust more and if your channel becomes profitable enough you may even be able to hire one or two of your favorite researchers.

Should I Have Said That:

Being the first person with the news is also an easy way to get links. Sometimes through misinterpreting a story, not fully analyzing it, or just going with gut instinct it also can help uncover things that might have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Some people are afraid to blog because they think I am not sure if I should of said that. In many cases when I write on the web I write it like... should I have said that? Hmm... if I was wrong someone will hopefully tell me or it might get links or comments.

That's the whole point of feedback. To learn from it. The more authentic your voice sounds the better it will be received.

Those who write the rules write them to keep themselves in power. The advantages of being new & small are:

  • You can move quickly, changing your business model or adding multiple new channels each day.
  • If you make errors people may be more tolerant of it if they do not think of you as a professional or do not realize your reach.
  • If you are brand new you may not have much to lose if you break a few rules.
  • Sometimes hidden stories come out when we make mistakes.
  • Controversy is typically surrounded in links. Sometimes being wrong is more valuable than being right.

Most anything that may hurt your credibility in the eyes of some may help you in the eyes of others.

Niche & Bias:

Being small means lower overhead and you can focus more on a specific market. The tighter your niche the easier it is to carve out a market position. The same may be true for the way you bias stories.

If you look in the political sphere the most prominent blogs are typically ones that lean far in one direction or another. If you fake the position eventually it will sound shifty and the truth will wash out, but if you are biased or broken that can lead to added profitability or authority on the web.

Getting Published by a Major Book Publisher...Is it Worth It?

Oct 29th

So a while back a major book publisher read my ebook and said they loved it. They wanted to publish it & we went right up until the day I was supposed to get the contract with them saying that it shouldn't be a big deal for me to keep ebook publishing rights. On the last day they changed their mind on that front, and if I killed the ebook to make a print one it would likely kill the business model unless I started selling services or got big into AdSense & click pimping.

I may be able to segregate out the print book content stuff and the ebook content stuff and use the print book to upsell the ebook, but generally I am a bit uncertain as to what all should go in which.

My options are as follows:

  • turn down the publishing house, continue as I have
  • kill the ebook and just make the print book an amazing value for it's price
  • kill the ebook and sell a monthly newsletter service
  • try to add more advanced stuff to the ebook and maybe pull out most the for newbies stuff (but then it may be a bit hard for me to figure out where that line is)
  • if I altered the ebook stuff in any way those who are in on the ebook free updates would get whatever else I did instead (although I probably could not afford to buy and ship thousands of print books, so that would be treated as a separate product on that front)

If I got published the upsides could be

  • added distribution
  • those who wanted a print version or cheaper price point could get my book in a format that is more appealing to them
  • I would have more credibility / authority in the eyes of some
  • I would learn about the publishing process (which in turn would make it easier for me to publish future books if the idea sounded / felt cool down the road)
  • if the marketing worked synergistically then it would cause more flow
  • updating this channel and ebook is exceptionally time intensive compared to the time required to run a network of lower effort channels. If I changed my business model (doing lots of affiliate work and click pimping stuff I would probably make far greater profit)
  • if my ebook is pretty good then more people reading a print version would mean I could help more people

If I got published the downsides could be

  • if I did not update the ebook any longer or took large pieces of it out that could piss off many people who bought it already (and I am not willing to piss off past customers to gain market share...as that is just bad karma)
  • it would take significant time
  • it could hurt the profitability of this site...since largely they would want this site to market the print book, and that could cause my added value higher priced offering to sell less
  • creating multiple price points, etc. is not one of my strengths & I think the simplicity of the current setup makes it easier to buy
  • print books have low margins
  • another company would control much of my content
  • there are already a number of print books covering the search space...I think most of them were printed to upsell services instead of another book or newsletter...am uncertain how much volume / demand there is for a print version
  • my potential publisher is one of the book publishers sueing Google, and I am not sure I would want my book publisher to do that
  • I have already sold more ebooks than the average physically printed book has sold. If I did self publishing or went with a smaller publishing house there would be added flexibility.

If my ebook was not my main source of income this would be a no brainer, but currently it is, and that makes the decision a bit harder.

I am not certain if I will say what I end up doing, but I like the idea of getting feedback.

Learning from Errors and Random Investigative Comments

Oct 28th

So recently I have been getting phone calls from someone saying they used to work with xyz-firm but are no longer associated, along with copies of cease and desist letters they sent to xyz-firm.

When the person contacted me, telling me they were trying to help me, I told them that if there is anything they felt they could do to help me they may as well make it public. It does no good to give me half information or one perspective of a murky story that I can pass along as hearsay.

I also have been getting investigative comments about how that person and their business is associated with xyz-firm. Although the most recent one I deleted because it is off topic. I may have to look and see if there are any others that need deleted.

Taking a longer glance at the whole situation this stuff may be at least a bit of a waste of time. Ultimately there is no way to be a clearing house of information about who you can't trust and why you can't trust them. Scammers and scam systems constantly evolve to find the shortest distance between you and your money.

We all make mistakes and we all learn. I once hired an SEO firm who told me to use hidden text and other shoddy techniques (copy your home page and change the filename to these words and cross link them back and forth with invisible small text using these words in the link text). At that point I asked that person what would stop me from automating it and doing it over and over or writing a program to do it. They did not reply. At the time the company that provided shoddy services to me was ranked in paid listings and organic search results for competitive phrases.

I think when you hire people to do technical stuff in nature you should ask questions or want to know why. Things change over time and sometimes people do things because it has always been that way. As you become more successful it is even easier to get away with doing things the way you used to and living by them, even if others would see different results trying to do the same thing. And it is harder to hold the passion in a topic and think of unique and useful things to say that have not yet been said, so we all recycle.

Sometimes I don't even agree with things I said in the past. And I think it should be that way. While sometimes I am a bit more thickheaded than I would like to view myself as being, I should learn from my mistakes. If you keep learning you make more and different mistakes, but hopefully better ones.

I think the aim in saying that xyz or yqp are deceptive might be a useful public service if it is true, but ultimately it makes little sense for me to try to keep up with zpw or whatever other fictitious companies come out. If consumers are lazy and do not investigate they deserve to waste their money as I once did. Maybe ritually burning x dollars is part of the learning process.

I don't think the aim should be why you can't trust others so much as why you hopefully can trust me. I think Andrew Goodman once said something about that in SEW forums...about the value of having a voice when most people try to hide.

When you are new and nameless there is little to no reason to avoid risk - after all you have got little to lose. Some of the stuff I did in the past I probably would not do today. And some of the stuff I do today I am certain I wouldn't do tomorrow.

Google Vertical Search

Oct 26th
posted in

Travel - one way to deal with search spam is to give more options at the top of the result set

Classifieds

Google Inc. has unintentionally provided a sneak peek at what appears to be a looming expansion into classified advertising — a free service that might antagonize some of the Internet search engine's biggest customers, including online auctioneer eBay Inc.

the classifieds looks to be a huge extensible Google database

MicroSoft Business Intelligence

Oct 25th
posted in
msn

Andy Edmonds and Erik Selberg on MSN Search - neural net, result diversity, middle men, and the web of trust. Video well worth a watch to SEOs.

MicroSoft also intends to jump into the business intelligence market.

A List Blogger Openly Recommends Click Fraud...Who's Hat is Black?

Oct 25th

To be honest, I normally think rather highly of Mitch Ratcliffe, but this anti blogspot spam comment is off the mark:

The solution to the problem it to click gratuitously and never make purchases on the links at blogspot sites and to keep doing so to drive down conversion rates. This likely will be interpreted as click fraud by the system and, if it isn't, the advertisers are going to be so angry about the costs of these clicks that turn into nothing that they'll drop the program or exclude BlogSpot from their placements.

What is the best that would come out of that? Spam blogs would quickly and easily be built elsewhere and bloggers would screw themselves out of any blogspot earnings?

Mitch continues in his comments

The problem is Google is too smart to listen to ordinary people about Page Rank, so we have to create a front where the message is clear and painful to the source of the revenue. If every blogger who gets a spam trackback or posting clicked 10 ads on those blogs for each incident for two weeks, we'd break AdSense in a way that couldn't be addressed by futzing with the PR algorithm, so Google would actually have to pay attention to us.

Bloggers are well known for openly abusing the PageRank algorithm, so that suggestion in and of itself is nothing but humorous.

The problem isn't PageRank (as most of the garbage sites rank better in Yahoo! & MSN). The problem is the strength of Google's ad network and complete lack of enforcement of legitimate publishing quality standards. This is about my 30th post on the topic and the A listers still haven't figured out the real issue.

While people are bitching about the lack of AdSense site quality Google is making it openly clear that they are willing to accept just about any site in the AdSense network (accepting one page sites and delivering ads for as low as 25 cent CPM).

Can you believe bloggers are openly suggesting click fraud? Who will be the first blogger to recommend automated click bots?

Google Web Accelerator 2.0...Shadier than Ever

Oct 25th

The Google Web Accelerator is back with a vengeance

In version 1.0, web masters at least had a fighting chance as the GWA identified its requests with a “X-moz: prefetch” header (as prescribed by Mozilla). Sure, everyone in the world had to change their web applications to fit Google’s vision of a perfect world, but at least they could.

Not so for version 2.0 of this virus. It ships with a brand new mutation: The header is gone! There’s now no way to identify a pre-fetch from a regular request, which means that it’s no longer possible to block the GWA.

David at 37 Signals said it only took 2 minutes after his post for Google to remove the tool, but the download page just worked for me.

Evil. Evil. Evil. etc

Skaffe $2 Submissions

Oct 23rd

Skaffe has $2 submissions for the next 2 days to celebrate their 2 year anniversary.

Best Way to Deal With SEO Clients that Don't Pay?

Oct 22nd

Financial Analysts Are Full of ...

Oct 21st

"They really need to fix the search engine, and that seems like that's a March quarter event," he said (while shaking his magic 8 ball).

Links to a Wide Variety of Good Articles

Oct 21st

at least 1 or 2 links snagged from John

New Google AdWords Keyword Suggestion Tool

Oct 21st

A while ago I reviewed a ton of keyword research tools, but most of them are lacking in serious user data, which makes them top heavy, and forces people to only see the most common terms.

For the longest time it seemed as though Google was uncomfortable sharing some of their search data, afraid to give competitors the inside scoop, but that is no more. Google recently launched a new Google AdWords Keyword Suggestion Tool [you have to be logged in for the link to work & it may not be available in all accounts yet], which is much more usable than their older Google AdWords Keyword Sandbox.

What features does the keyword tool include?

Features of this tool include:
  • Keyword list sorting. Sort the results of your keyword search by popularity, performance history within the AdWords system, cost, and predicted ad position.

  • Easy keyword manipulation. Select a few keywords here and there, or add them all at once. Keywords already present in your Ad Group will be marked so that you don't have to worry about them. You can also download your keyword list as a .csv file.
  • Search for keywords in three ways. Use keywords you enter, your existing high clickthrough rate keywords, or any webpage URL for your search. You can also expand your keyword search even further to include pages linked to from the original URL. (Note: Site-related keyword searching is currently only available for English language users.)
  • More keyword results based on regularly updated statistics. Our advanced search engine technology allows us to provide you with the latest information on potential keywords for your campaigns.

Google also has tips on how to use the tool. I am not sure how well this tool interfaces with their API, but automating keyword selection based on Google's usage data and extracting meaning from page content makes the market a hell of a lot more efficient, especially for large advertisers willing to pay a bit extra for branding. The new tool also makes it easy for newbies to quickly build out targeted keyword lists. Google also has put Google Suggest in their toolbar, which allows them to sell better targeted ads than searches on broad generic terms would, and also helps consolidate the less common search queries (misspellings, etc.) to fewer overall phrases and more predictible patterns (since the search term suggestions are going to be based off of past popular searches). All of these will lead to Google being able to increase their profit margin per search. Combine that with the recent toolbar bundling and the numbers are looking up for Google.

This new keyword tool allows you to:

So long as Google stays ahead of their competition on the technology front, keeps doing an amazing job on the plublicity front, and finances pumping rapidly evolving spam into the competing search networks the search game is pretty well won IMHO.

I think the only thing that can stop them at this point is if they let another network spring up which makes its users feel like they are making the web a better place by searching there.

Ammon Johns Owns Heil

Oct 21st

For the record, I think Ammon Johns is a great guy, not for the least of reasons that I don't want to be the subject of posts like these!

Many of the SEO's I highly respect have stated they believe the ultra white hat marketing ploy is a marketing scam. Sure there has to be a balance and you should always disclose risky techniques to clients, but I think feeling you need to play inside some arbitrary ruleset and put that first above all else is a surefire way to fail.

Google Has Another Blowout Quarter...

Oct 21st

Good observation here:
Google is worth $30 per share

Funny that, as shares are up more than $30 apiece in after hours trading. Google delivered another blowout quarter. Last earnings call they soften expectations for this quarter, and with the bar set low they easily topped it.

  • Google noticed 14% profit growth in sequential quarters

  • 96% year over year profit growth (although last year's results included a $201 million charge to account for a legal settlement with Yahoo over the Overture pattent).
  • Google saw 20% quarterly increase in profit from Google.com
  • 7% growth rate throughout their partner network
  • international 39% same last and this
  • UK 15% this quarter 14% last
  • 4989 employees as of September 30th

Gary has more:

"Although this is typically a slower season for internet properties, we had another exceptional quarter," said Google chief executive Eric Schmidt.

"Our focus on end users and on quality of information and advertising worldwide continues to work extremely well. We are very pleased with how well this is working at scale."

Shares eclipsed their all time highs, & were trading at 335.06 when I last checked, with Google up over 10% in after hours trading.

Not that I had many shares, but I sold a few at $326 thinking Google would soften forward guidance, but they never did! I still suspect the stock will come down a bit after the market opens in the morning ;)

Dan Thies SEO Training Course Coupon

Oct 20th

My buddy Dan Thies is doing another one of his SEO training courses. If you do well with audio training & want to learn SEO I highly recommend it.

Dan gave me a coupon code for SeoBook.com readers to save $100 off his course fees. After you create your login the next screen lets you enter the coupon code seobook. If you would like my ebook to go along with the course just ping me after you sign up.

Google Problems in China

Taiwan recently whined to Google about their maps calling Taiwan a providence of China, and recently Google maps changed. Apparently removing the providence of China bit pissed off China:

Shortly after Taiwan's foreign ministry formally complained, the China reference abruptly disappeared from Google's Taiwan map last week. That change has provoked cries of dismay in China and talk of a possible boycott of Google's service in that country, according to Chinese media.

Google has quickly backpeddled about the reasons behind the change, saying they were just trying to clean up the map image.

The change doesn't reflect Google's political opinion on the dispute, according to company spokeswoman Debbie Frost. She said Google wanted to enlarge its map images to make them even easier for users to see, so it removed all text from the left corner of the Web page.

Since when do you rename countries and providences to clean up the map?

Fallacies of Relevance

Oct 20th

Orion posted an interesting thread at SEW, citing this fallacies of relevance page. The SEW thread also has some good posts by other members & looks to be shaping up into a great thread.

Orion stated that he did not think current systems could yet grasp relevancy fallacies.

When you are trying to win an arguement, if you use any logical fallacies make sure you use these 38 sure fire techniques. <-- amazing resource!

DMOZ: the Decline Continues

Oct 20th

DMOZ meta editor Hutcheson likely a fake posts about the fading of DMOZ:

The biggest decline in the quality of the web in recent years can be traced to the devaluation of ODP, and with it, the esteem of the hard-working editors who created the directory. We’re no longer the kings and queens of the web the way we once were. It is depressing, because while it lasted, being an editor at DMOZ was the mountain-topping experience of my life.

Many of use live on disability settlements and workmans comp. DMOZ is a job we can do from home; we feel important and that we are contributing to society; and the volunteer status means any income from the project is off the books and won’t threaten our disability pay.

I truly believed we were the gatekeepers of the internet: those entrusted to identify which sites were worthy. The inescapable truth is that we are no longer as important as we once were, and it is a blow to my self-identity.

I think I was duped ;) hutcheson said it wasn't him.

You Can't Share too Much...

Oct 20th

Stuntdubl on doing SEO research:

What I’ve found at the top of search results in most industries is someone who decided to share what they knew. A lot of the time they unintentionally became an expert in the process by sharing that information.

I think it is the missing key in most failing online business models.

If you had every competitive research tool in the world at your disposal you still would need to find ways to make people want to link at you in a profitable manner. Some can no doubt be bought, but that only scales up to a certain point in certain industries.

You do not have to compete on scale or in terms of money if you are more willing to give than the competition is. The best kind of marketing is the stuff you get for free, and the best way to get that is to give away a bunch in a variety of formats, early and often.

Many of times giving stuff away will be an absolute loss liter failure, but you still learn from it, and in aggregate, over time, you will stumble upon a few things that work and spread.

The best products, companies, and/or people don't always win, but you can dramatically increase the chances of creating a sustainable business model if you are unafraid to put stuff out there and see how the market reacts.

My first client hired me before I knew I was selling any sort of service. :) He found an unformatted site that was like a personal notes journal about search and liked it. I was so wet behind the ears he is lucky I got his site to rank, but it made him thousands of dollars and made me feel helpful :)

A couple years ago I knew almost nothing about the web or marketing, and a couple days ago I appreciated that I sorta became a bit of an accidental expert when I was talking to a well known book publisher and speaking about SEO at a marketing MBA class.

Overpaying for Ads to Be a Case Study

Oct 20th

Not a conventional link building technique, but sometimes when you know an idea is going to go viral you can jump in on it early and then quickly claim how successful it was for you, or why you think it is an important cause.

Even if, in truth, something did not work amazingly well, you can still do well off the secondary plublicity. The million dollar home page concept is starting to fizzle a bit, but imagine if you were one of the early ad buyers and quickly turned in a glowing testimonial.

The first posted testimonial works as bait to sell more ads. If you take a look at the usage log on the site that posted the first testimonial you will see that their case study link sent them over 6 times as much traffic this month as the million dollar home page link did.

If an idea goes viral there will be some copy cats that copy the link structure & content. Also some reporters may want easy background on a story. The $100 ad spend being one of the first ad buyers also listed as one of the first testimonials may pay off huge.

Sometimes bets like that waste your money, but in aggregate they usually pay off.

Knock Off Products

Oct 20th

www.searchengineoptimizationbook.com, the exact reason building up trust is so important.

Anyone can sell a product just like yours using:

  • nearly the same price point

  • nearly the same format
  • nearly the same sales copy
  • nearly the same product name

As you create more value and are more well known more knock off products pop up, but so long as they are not too aggressive in their spamming they should only aid your brand value.

As far as www.searchengineoptimizationbook.com goes, although their "EBOOK COMING SOON!!!NOT AVAILABLE YET" notice is up, it is good to see that they already have plenty of paid customers and testimonials in place :)

I bought your SEO book 3 months ago and without doubt one of the absolute best investments I've ever made. I have tripled my sales in the last 3 months. I love the SEO book. I regret not purchasing your book sooner.

searchengineoptimizationbook.com/SEO_Book.htm#SuccessTestimonials

If only it were available...maybe you could have got it sooner :)

I wonder if this knock off site was a ploy from you know who.

Google: Enabling & Profiting from Information Pollution

Oct 19th
posted in

The most recent blog meme is Google's Blogger is a mass spam system.

David Sifry says he thinks that between 2 & 8% of blogs are spam, but I think just like people his systems are not good at detecting much of the spam.

Google maintains that they care:

When spam goes up, it directly affects the quality of those results. I'm exceedingly sympathetic with these folks because, well, we run one of those services ourselves.

But do they really care?

Think of blog search as a form of vertical search. If blog search is less useful and filtering through the spam

  • kills profit margins

  • slows blog search innovation

then more people will opt to use general search.

While Jeff Jarvis thinks Google should share it's tricks for not indexing blog spam I don't see why they would want to. Since Google has not put much effort into making their blog search anywhere near as good as their regular search I don't think they mind if nearly all blog search engines are full of spam.

Blog search full of spam = user may as well use general search = $ for Google. And, on another front, that helps Google ensure blog search sucks really bad until they create the solution, and then they get credit for doing right what their competitors could not :)

Just as a curiosity question, how hard would it be to attenuate trust, only trusting new blogs if they were co-cited by multiple trusted sites? There has to be an algorithmic way to do it. If you were worried about new sites being locked out then you could offer multiple search options:

  • the filtered trusted version

  • the unfiltered version
  • perhaps people could even enter their own trusted friends, levels of trust, minimum trusted citations, or make trust a slidable scale & use AJAX to reorder the results as the trust score is adjusted

On top of owning general search Google also wants to be the first port of call for vertical search. Just look at their recent desires on the real estate front.

Through monetizing spam production with AdSense and making publishing free and easy Google pollutes competing information systems for personal profit.

The same thing that is going on in vertical search scene is also going on in general search. Google has an algorithmic probationary period for most new sites. The same sites tend to rank MSN Search & Yahoo! Search quicker and easier.

By paying search spammers via AdSense Google is funding the information pollution that undermines the usefulness of competing search products. As I have stated in the past, Google generally does not give a shit if AdSense is on spam sites or sites that make money stealing other's copyrighted work.

Now what happens if Google ends up indexing AdSense spam sites? Well suddenly it is a real issue then, and they pull out the we care card. Matt Cutts recommends you report it to Google, but the hidden message there is that Google cares only when the spam ranks in Google.

Meanwhile all the A list bloggers are asking Google to fix the problem when they fail to realize the profits this problem brings Google.

Maybe a large part of being the company that organizes the world's information is encouraging entrepreneurs to stuff garbage in rich competitors databases.

Gems in the Comments

Oct 19th

One of the best part of questioning something that is generally thought well of (like Wikipedia & Web2.blah) is the quality of the responses.

Chris Chris Tolles, ODP co-founder, had the following to say about the Wikipedia:

Well, the idealism is part of the package here -- and something you need to consider when you're building and marketing products, or managing your career. If someone's going to go out and harness the public to create a competitor, you might want to take it seriously. If every one of those people *believes* in what they're doing, it is a force to be reckoned with, whether or not they are right, "good", or "bad". If they believe they are building *The* machine, it's a very different amount of effort than if everyone thinks they're working as part of a machine.

NFFC also has a fun take on the Wikipedia. I think there is some bitterness in that post. Somebody doesn't like Lucozade ;)

Gmail UK No More?

From SlashDot:

As of today, UK Gmail users are seeing 'Google Mail' at the top of their Gmail accounts, and Google is warning they may lose their '@gmail.com' addresses in the future.

Google may be fighting on as many fronts as MicroSoft is!

Gmail recently became Google Mail in Germany as well:

Earlier this year, Google lost the right to use Gmail in Germany, following a dispute with the Hamburg-based finance firm. Giersch registered "Gmail – und die Post geht richtig ab." with the German Patent Office five years ago. Following a court injunction awarded by a German court in favour of Giersch earlier this year, Google’s German customers have been using addresses ending @googlemail.com.

More Google Print Lawsuits

Recently Google was sued by the Authors Guild for copyright infringement. It seems the Google Print product is making a few more enemies, as publishers sue Google as well:

Book publishers sued Google, escalating a nasty spat over the search-engine giant's ambitious book-indexing project.

The Association of American Publishers said it sued the Mountain View, Calif., Internet giant Wednesday morning after talks broke down.

McGraw-Hill, Wiley, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster are named as plaintiffs in the suit.

John Battelle sees no point to the suit:

I really don't get this. I have been both a publisher and an author, and I have to tell you, these guys sue for one reason and one reason alone, from what I can tell: Their legacy business model is imperiled, and they fear change. Of course, if they can get out of their own way, they'll end up making more money.

I wonder if Google will respond by blacklisting any publishers. Google only needs a few major publishers to start seeing increased revenues due to Google Print for the rest to follow along.

Search is Hot, Cold, or In the Middle?

Oct 19th

Yahoo! quarter profits flat, but they sold a bunch of their Google stock for over $100 million this time last year, so they had an impressive revenue increase. Their stock is up 6% on the day.

Yahoo said late Tuesday that net revenue, which excludes fees paid to distribution partners, leaped a better-than-expected 42% to $932 million. Of those sales, Yahoo's marketing-services business -- which is made up of branded and sponsored-search advertising -- accounted for 82%, or $761.8 million, up 40% from a year ago.

I can't believe Jux2 is a meta search engine without any revenue which uses scraping and is already up to $26,000 on eBay. Some of the top bidders are smart cookies too, so I am wondering what I am missing.

LookSmart needs to do a reverse split if they hope to stay listed on Nasdaq.

Hidden AdSense Ads & Hidden Search Results

Ads as content...works well for some. You know AdSense is out of hand when premade sites are selling on eBay.

Debt Consolidation:
Fun to hear a guy whine about his 2 sites in his sig file not outranking Forbes for debt consolidation
http://forums.seochat.com/t54393/s.html
because Forbes has an ad page. :(

I bet his debt consolidation lead generation sites are informational in nature :)

Some are discussing creating links wars
http://forums.seochat.com/t54378/s.html
as if that will help them rank. Good luck knocking out Forbes.com.

If Google dials up their weighting on large authority sites before Christmas maybe the solution is to buy ad pages on some of them. I bet there are some great underpriced ad links and advertisement pages if people would look hard enough.

Coolness:
Link to Jim Boykin's new tool...still a bad tool name though, IMHO.

Controlling Data & Helping Consumers Make it Smarter

Oct 18th

Part 4 of my recent ongoing article...

Dynamic Site Advantages:

If you use a weblog or any other type of dynamic site, as content ages you create a large quantity of pages which can rank for a variety of terms in many engines. The site archive systems mean that posts not only get their own pages, but can also be organized by date and category. This creates what is considered to be legitimate keyword driftnet content bank.

People can also subscribe to the feeds to remind themselves when to come back and read your new information. Many people who read feeds also write sites with feeds, and can provide you with additional link popularity and another channel to acquire readers from.

Most people who subscribe to what you have to say will usually be people who agree with many of your points. This means that when they talk about you or mention your site you are:

  • likely to be presented to additional like minded people with similar biases to your own
  • in a positive manner
  • from a voice readers likely trust.

If people disagree with you and still subscribe to your feed then there is a great chance they will frequently want to say how wrong you are, maybe even linking through to your site.

Ultra Targeted Content:

Not all ideas need a whole article to explain. By publishing your thoughts with one topic per post it makes it easier for you to refer back to your own content in the future. It also makes it easier for others to point at / link to / reference it.

Ultra targeted content will also stand a good chance of ranking high for it's keyword theme since it is so well targeted.

Consumer Feedback & Product Catalogs:

For a long time creating pages by keyword phrase permutation was a functional SEO strategy, but Google does not want to display hollow product databases in their regular search results. Creating industrial strength spam works well for some, but as time passes the hollow databases need to get better at remixing sources and integrating user data.

If there is commercial value for a term Google believes Froogle & AdWords work well. It seems to be almost a yearly process that Google dials up the rankings on authority sites right around the Christmas shopping season. This forces merchants to need to buy in to the vertical shopping sites, buy AdWords, or spend Christmas out in the cold.

Allowing user feedback and interaction makes your content more original than most competing sites. It also adds value to the consumer experience & makes it easier to link at your site. Both of which make Google far more likely to want to include your site in the result set. Tim O'Reilly states Data is the Next Intel Inside:

While we've argued that business advantage via controlling software API's is much more difficult in the age of the internet, control of key data sources is not, especially if those data sources are expensive to create or amenable to increasing returns via network effects.

Google is just a giant feedback network, learning to better understand the relationships between queries, links, and content. If you own the smartest and richest consumer feedback network in your vertical you will only continue to gain profit, customers, and leverage, at least up until someone creates a better feedback network that displaces the current one.

My Lawyer Filed a Motion for Summary Judgement in the Anti Free Speech vs Blogger Case

Oct 18th

Recently my lawyer filed a motion for summary judgement in the Traffic Power vs Seo Book.com case.

Ariel Stern, my lawyer, also spoke with Max Spilka, who told him that Traffic Power recently switched lawyers.

One wonders why they would switch lawyers so late in the case if they had a real case. Even if they aim to waste bundles of cash I think they well know truth is not on their side.

I hope other bloggers find the paperwork from my case useful. :)

Naming a Website & Redefining Language

Oct 16th

Seth offers his new rules for naming, but unfortunately I think some of them are no good.

This:

This means that having the perfect domain name is nice, but it's WAY more important to have a name that works in technorati and yahoo and google when someone is seeking you out.

Sort of a built-in SEO strategy.

is debatable in it's presentation, but this:

So, that was the first task. Find a name that came up with close to zero Google matches.

is absolutely unnecissary.

The concept of needing nearly zero competition to rank is beyond me. If you are creating something of quality over 99% of the competing pages for any phrase are going to be of zero significance.

If your product or service is truely remarkable you should be able to redefine the meaning of language. That is what remarkable people & companies do.

By looking at the number of hits for a word you are just looking at the number of pages that have that term in it. Want a better glance at the competition? Search for the number of pages which have the word in the anchor text and the page title (that tool will be made better & open source...it is still very beta). Even that number does not matter much though.

You really only need to look at the top few results, because those are the ones you will be competing against if you are trying to own the meaning of a word or phrase.

When Nandini named a directory Web Atlas that was a bad call because there are authoritative well established .edu & .gov domains in that keyword space.

When I created Myriad Search, I did not look through the competition at all (in large part because I wanted to create Myriad Search for link popularity and personal use more than for it to spread widely).

In spite of spending under $1 avertising Myriad Search, in the first month the site already ranks at #11 or #12 in Google for the word "myriad" (out of 28,000,000+ results).

You don't really establish a cult status until after many people are talking about your product. People do not search for your product until they heard about it elsewhere.

You shouldn't think of your site starting from zero and every page that has the term you want to rank for as competition. You should compare the quality of your idea to the quality of the top ranking ideas and see if you think it is possible to outrank them based on that.

Also notice how Seth's post title sounding authoritative is more likely to get comments. New rules for naming sounds much more definitive than naming tips & ideas.

Dynamic Sites & Social Feedback

Oct 14th

Part 3 in a series... let me know what you think :)

Blog Software is a Simple CMS

Some of the conversations stemming from my article series starting with Why Bloggers Hate SEO's & Why SEO's Should Love Bloggers have stated that blogs are just a simple CMS. The one catch is they are social in nature.

I have probably read about a couple hundred books, and have only emailed about 5 book authors to tell them how great their books were. Most of the book authors quickly replied to my emails to say thanks. This tells me that they must understand the value of having fans (Seth Godin surely fits in that group) or they are not as inundated with email as I sometimes am.

Compare the books, which take months to write, to most blogs. On blogs I have left hundreds or thousands of comments. Across my various blogs I have got thousands of feedback posts others have left. One blog is almost nothing but a framework for people to leave their comments, and yet they still do!

Some people have stated that blogs are a fad that will die out. They may be right, but if they die out it will only be if other software emerges which does a better job of social integration, as some of the current tools are lacking on many fronts.

Static Content & the Game of Margins

Some old estabished static sites may long live on, but both directly and indirectly the web is becoming more of a read write medium. Margins will require content to become more social.

In spite of years of branding and content creation even the most well known publishers are caught playing the margins, selling ad space aggressively, and push the blame onto their advertisers.

Creating content is a game of margins. If you use a static website, and update it's content to keep it current, you are writing over your old work, which means:

  • you are throwing away it's historical record
  • you are creating less pages (which means less chances to pull in visitors) , as each page is another search lottery ticket
  • it is likely going to be harder for an audience to find the new content
  • it is less likely people will reference the new content, since they do not know what URLs are changing when
  • it is less likely people will reference the old content, since it may eventually change
  • many people will not want to reread the parts they already read
  • as your content size grows it means you are forced to worry about keeping it up to date while still trying to keep up with the news and the shifting marketplace

Add all of those things together, and a business model which would wildly succeed could easily become a complete failure.

The static site this article is on generally sucked until my blog became popular. In spite of the effort writing this aritcle, my average blog post will probably be read many times more than this article is.

Who is a Static Site For?

When you first learn about a topic it may be useful to create a large site about the topics you are learning, just as a way of forcing you to learn it all. Even in doing that, so long as you map out the general hierarchy ahead of time, there is no reason to avoid creating the site using a dynamicly driven database. Eventually when I have enough time this site will likely be shifted to a dynamic format.

The only people who can really afford to get away with using purely static sites are:

  • those who have other dynamic sites which help build their credibility & authority
  • those who are creating a site out of boredom or for a personal hobby
  • those who are not trying to profit or spread ideas
  • those who are known as the authority on their topic (who can do well in spite of the shortfalls in their publishing methods)
  • amazing writers who write so well that they can do well in spite of their publishing format
  • those who were first runners or are in niche fields with few competitors
  • those who are gurus in fields that change slow
  • those who run tons of sites and want to make them scalable (although it is even easier to do this with dynamic sites)

In almost all the above cases I can point to examples of how using dynamic sites could save time or be more profitable.

Example of a Sucky Static Site:

Not too long ago I created a site called Link Hounds to give away free link building tools on. I find the tools exceptionally useful, but the site failed to take off for a number of reasons.

  • API Limitations: when I first announced the site people used it beyond the API limits and it did not work. I should ask the engines for increased limits.
  • Lack of Incentive to Syndicate: in part to make up for the API limitations I gave away the source code and referenced tool mirrors, but some who mirrored the tool did not want to share it with others. Also Yahoo! requires that sites have DOM XML support if you use PHP4 to program the tool. I should have had my friend program in PHP5.
  • Crap Design: While the site design was not bad for free, it obviously is not something stellar.
  • Open Source & SEO: Are generally not concepts which are paired together. I think it will take a bit of time for people to get used to it. An open source website recently asked me to write an article, so that may help a bit.
  • Perception of Value: People think they get what they pay for. In spite of the fact that some of my software is similar to (and in some ways better than) stuff that sells for $150 or more, some people think the software is worthless because it is free. Similar software with strong affiliate marketing is seen by many more people:
  • Boring / Static: If I started working a bit harder at link building and placed a blog offering a bunch of creative link tips on that site I suspect it would garner many more links.

As it sits, there is little reason for people to remember to go back to the Link Hounds site, so they rarely do.

Sites that are dynamic in nature which make it easy to give feedback will fair far better.

Will Unfollowed Redirect Links Ever Count as Votes?

Oct 14th

I have not put much effort into following most directory type sites that use redirect links (especailly if they are not ranked well in the related search results), but will engines eventually count many weird links as votes if they notice that the users click on a link and like what is on the other end of the series of redirects? Will those links ever count as much or more than static links that never get clicked on?

Jim Boykin On History of SEO & the Top Results

Oct 13th

The History of SEO:

2005 SEO - Yahoo and MSN, pound with lots of links at once and keep pounding with anything you can get for backlinks with a focused backlink text campaign. With Google, the older the site the better, slow and steady link building with a large variety of backlink text wins (notice it’s the opposite of yahoo and msn).

Google’s Top 10 Choices for Search Results:

I think that for most searches, the top 10 will consist mostly of these types of pages. I think Google does this on purpose to show a variety of Types of pages to the user.

If you’re targeting a phrase, you should start by figuring what type of result your site will be, and what it’s role is in the top 10, and who you’re "real" and "direct" competitor is and what it will take to replace them.

Great posts Jim.

also good comments here Reputable SEO Companies

Why SEO's Should Love Bloggers

Oct 13th

Part 2 of an ongoing series, the future mini articles will shift away from blogs and into other areas, at the end there will hopefully be a point to all these :) if not well then sorry ;)

Blog Blog Blog Blah Blah Blah

I run an SEO related blog which sells a guide to doing SEO, and yet despite the chronic hate toward SEO many authoritative bloggers recently linked through to my site because I was sued by an SEO company for blog posts & comments. As of writing this I am unsure of the specifics of what made my site worth suing, although those lack of specifics pissed off many people.

Most likely Traffic Power thought they could scare me silent, and since I was a blogger with a few good blogging friends that story backfired rather badly for them. It is an easy story to link at, and many people did. Adam Penenberg painted a rather accurate picture of the situation. The story spread far and quick. There was much syndication of the story that my site started ranking for the word sued.

Traffic Power Sucks.com was sued along with me, and yet they got minimal coverage because: they did not want to talk much, and more importantly, they had a static site. Method of publishing plays a hugely important role in whether or not ideas will spread, and how quick they spread.

Smarter Content

Sometimes what makes you / your site comment worthy is what others do there, and how people react to that (just look at Threadwatch to see how important the comments can be). Allowing others to add content to my site allowed them to make the content smarter and more complete. It also was the exact reason why the lawsuit became so comment worthy.

People wanted to save the right to comment on blogs without needing to worry about others cutting off their feedback loops. It is a large part of the reason some think blog comment spam and trackback spam is so nasty: feedback about an idea is sometimes worth far more than the original idea.

Ease of Link Acquisition

By giving people something to talk about and reminding them to regularly visit your site it is much easier to build linkage data. It also is easier to reference old stories that once again become relevant as more news emerges.

The viral behavior of blog posts in a large social network benefits those who can figure out what stories would spread & why people would want to spread them. Arbitrarily answering questions like "How much is my blog worth?" is an easy way to get links.

Someone created a blog called anti-blog to say how lame blogs are. As soon as I found it I made a quick mention of how I thought they were a bunch of lamers. They quickly linked back saying how dumb I am. Easier and quicker than a link exchange, and that link is much more likely to be up in a year than most link trades, which usually turn out to be junk.

Echo Chamber

When you have a regular site and are stuck asking for links one at a time it is an arduous task. Blogs have an echo chamber effect. After stories are above radar they spread without effort, and sometimes how stories spread makes them linkworthy.

Examples:

  • SEO Inc cease and desist letter, as Danny Sullivan states:

    That last thread we actually pulled from our forums back in mid-April. No, not because of a cease-and-desist letter or any message. Instead, our forums have a policy about public spam reporting. We don't allow it, unless a site is incredibly well-known or the issue has become discussed in a variety of public forums. Ironically, with the many blog comments now about the cease-and-desist, the thread that previously was pulled now qualifies for restoration.

  • Google onsite dentist blog is a hoax
  • MC Hammer visits Google - how hard would you normally have to work to get authoritative topically related links from sites with a quality level as high as SEW?

I was not trying to pick on Danny with those examples. I used his site as the example because he is the most authoritative voice on search, has a journalism background, and a long history of spotting the future trends in search before they emerge.

Everyone likes to have a bit of fun. The often informal nature of blogs make it easier to reference somewhat random topics, especially if you get to be the crazy frog. Having a blog lets you tap the flow of linkage data from other related sites, for serious or fun stuff.

Hard to Reproduce

When you do link exchanges most of the sites that exchange with you will gladly exchange with your competitors. When your site garners linkage data from authoritative sites that are not heavily directly interested in making money or search rankings it is hard for competitors to reproduce your linkage data. In fact, if they prod too heavily on that front they stand a good chance of damaging their brand value and credibility.

Quality of Links

When you get links from within the content of an actively read channel typically

  • the individual archive pages have few links on each page
  • the links are the type that drive direct traffic. If search engines bias relevancy based on user data and link activity more then these types of links will become more powerful
  • the Google Sandbox concept really does not matter much if all the high ranking active channels are referencing you anyway
  • many links in social networks lead to secondary links

Poisoning the Keyword Databases for Self Promo

Oct 13th

I just got an email from Andy Mindel of WordTracker, about the SEO software Matt Cutts thought was rubbish. Andy said the sales text was something likeso:

RankAttack technology does not submit your site to the search engines... rather it creates a persona of "popularity" around your site in the eyes of the search engines. The purpose in RankAttack technology is simple: get the search engines attention and make them want to list your website under the keywords you desire'

I can't see search term co-citation being a trusted source of data unless it is from well estabished search history accounts and/or there are also a number of news stories about the topic and/or new web pages on trusted sites about the topic.

If temporal effects of increased search volume are used to allow sites to gain link popularity at quicker rate then odds are pretty good search engines would also look at the number of news stories and unique sites posting about the topic.

I suppose you can write a number of press releases and the like, but it is going to be hard to get mainstream news coverage for most websites, and without it then I can't see any value in poisoning the keyword research tools in your keyword space (unless you are doing it to screw with competitors keyword research ability or marketing your site through spamming keyword suggestion tools - as many SEO companies have done).

Andy states that this type of search spam is poisoning the keyword databases, but WordTracker has worked hard to filter out most of it:

Unfortunately, this approach is skewing the popular keyword databases such as (our own) Wordtracker, KeywordDiscovery, Overture suggestion tool and the Google keyword tool.

However, we have improved our spam filter and 99% of these skewed terms have now been removed from the Wordtracker database.

Google Giving in to Wall Street?

Oct 13th

Google to report proforma earnings, not just net

Google Inc. has agreed to meet Wall Street halfway in how it reports quarterly results, seeking to dispel confusion created by a strict adherence to accounting standards, the company said on Thursday.

The Web search leader said it would present its third-quarter results next Thursday, October 20, in net terms but also, for the first time, in operating terms, excluding the after-tax effect of expensing employee stock options.

Who could blame Wall Street for wanting to know the cost of stock options when Google is giving away huge ones.

With all the economic uncertainty that has been floating through the economy I am betting Google has a soft quarter compared to all the home run quarters they have been announcing.

I am guessing the stock may go down to $250 to $275, at which point it might be a good time to buy Yahoo! if they go down in tandem. I say all this while not having the money or guts to short Google's stock ;)

Dir Sirs, Would You Like More PageRank? Link Exchange...

Oct 13th

Jim Boykin talks link exchange emails, and why over 99% of them are rubbbbiiiiissssssshhhhhhhh!

LOL! It's spam, and you know it is. LOL ;)

Why Bloggers Hate SEO's

Oct 12th

I was writing a longer article and decided it would be better in pieces. This first one is about marketing, profit, and why I think most bloggers hate SEO.

Let me know what you think of part 1. Tomorrow I will post part 2.

Algorithm Manipulation & Constant Change:

In the forums recently there has been some whining about Google being an out of control beast with no relevancy, etc. I guess when you look close enough there is always some amount of that.

People are also comparing the new Yahoo! algorithms to the Google Florida update. We tend to think the relevancy is not there when our own site disappears, even if it is temporary. Admittedly the algorithms may be jacked for a while, but if people like your site and sites like yours are not in the search results it hurts the relevancy and brand of the search engine when those results do not show up, even if some of those sites were banned long ago.

Search algorithm manipulation may still be beneficial, but is not necessary to succeed if others are interested in what you offer. Those who take a holistic approach to marketing do not need to worry as much about the ups and downs associated with changing search algorithms or search business models. If people believe in you enough they will push you to success even if you do not know what you are talking about.

There is nothing wrong with creating content with the intent to spread it. That is all SEO is focused on: spreading content, ideas, and websites for profit.

What is Profit?

Profit can be:

  • money
  • feeling important
  • knowing others are reading what you write
  • getting feedback
  • knowing you helped others
  • settling a score with someone you are pissed at
  • doing something which others stated you could not
  • or a variety of other things

Bloggers are SEOs?

When a blogger Google Bombs a person they are doing nothing more that a souped up blog version of SEO. In spite of the fact that bloggers do the same things as SEOs (and sometimes even far worse) many bloggers like to tell you just how much scum the average SEO is.

Why is everyone and their dog launching or partnering in a blog network? Money. Plain and simple.

As NickW would say:

I suspect the ratio is more like 95/5 with regard to who's making reasonable money at blogging.

Personally, i see this as the new seo if you like - and the old guard, who can get their heads round the new medium, are all set to rake in what they want pretty much - it's open season out there...

While many bloggers and designers claim they absolutely hate the topic of SEO - and SEOs - much of the bad SEO advice offered is given by bloggers and web designers who never studied the topic.

At one point in time I had to tell a content rating website to stop hiding content on their own site. They were handed that dubious hide the content tip from a web designer (who ensured them that it was search engine friendly). Even outside of search think how poor it sounds for a content rating website to hide their own content. Where does the credibility go with moves like that?

Why Do Bloggers / Designers Really Hate SEOs?

Many people who are chronically pissed at anything remotely related to SEO are probably in that mode of thought for one of a few reasons:

  • Envy: I remember when I just started out on the web and was doing economically bad because I had few connections, limited experience, and minimal business savvy. I am not ashamed to admit that for a period when I was barely getting by I felt envious of people with better business models. Many web developers, bloggers, and designers whom are barely getting by like to push the blame of their lack of marketing skills and low wages on budget shifts toward marketing and spammy results clogging up the engines.
  • Sick of blog spam: Whenever a blogger talks about comment or trackback spam, or any webmaster gets referral spam many of them blame that annoyance on SEO in general, although the software developers are at fault for selling software with holes in it. Some people have even been known to blog spam for a competitor to hurt a competitors website, just because the software vendors make it so easy.
  • Sick of low quality search results: Search engines have spent a ton of money, time, and attention marketing their faults as belonging to a third party.
  • Quality of Content: Some people believe that SEOs aim to do anything necessary to avoid creating useful websites or content. While some people just aim to exploit algoritmic holes, some of these same people later go on to do SEO for many legitimate websites. As an SEO, if you have clients, it is ideal to have clients that give you a performance based cut (affiliate programs) or clients that have naturally authoritative sites which can easily rank for their official name and related terms. Some of the better SEOs refuse to work for a company unless they are deeply interested in that companies products and market.

    Most blogs are not of amazing quality. If the average blog's content quality was high people wouldn't be failing the Turing test as often as they are.

  • Web Standards: Many sites follow no standards other than putting money in the pocket of the author. That would occur whether or not there was a field called SEO. Sadly most of my sites are not yet standard compliant, and it would probably cost me about $100,000 to even attempt that. I may eventually try it, but you can't learn everything all at once. Learning is a process. Just as many designers are bad at marketing I am bad at designing and web standards related stuff.
  • Easy to pick on: XYZ marking firm is a bunch of knuckleheads is an easy story to spread. Web mob justice means those stories spread fast. Did you know that Gillette now has a 5 blade razor?
  • Selective Memory & Anchoring: How often do you hear a person thank an SEO for placing a relevant result at the top of the results? Never. How often do you hear of SEOs being $@&*ers? Much more often.

Google to Launch Google Auctions Service?

Oct 12th

Google set to announce big new operation in Arizona:

Officials in Arizona are expected to announce that Google Inc. will open a major new operation in the Phoenix area.

An announcement, scheduled for Wednesday by state and local leaders, regards a major company locating substantial operations in the state.

Unnamed sources said that search engine titan Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) of Mountain View is the company in question and that its Phoenix-area plans will likely include operations related to online auctions and expanded Internet and technology services.

You have to wonder how this will effect eBay AdWords bidding strategies if a rivalry between them heats up. eBay is one of the most frequently searched terms, and eBay has one of the largest AdWords spends.

Review of Ambient Findability by Peter Morville

Oct 11th

Peter Morville is a well known information architect, who co-wrote Information Architecture for the World Wide Web. He recently wrote Ambient Findability, which is an O'Reilly book related to search, so I had to read it.

I was a bit uncertain exactly what the book would be about when I bought it. Ambient Findability is primarily about how people interact with the web & information, and I was well pleased to find that the book looked at search from a some perspectives I have not read before.

Most the time I look at search I am thinking rank rank rank. I find how people interact with information to be a fairly interesting topic, and Peter went in great detail about a number of things I don't usually think about.

Peter talks about:

  • tying the web & real world together

  • the history of wayfinding
  • how we interact with information
  • the limits of language
  • push vs pull
  • sharing & tagging information & the semantic web
  • some of the reasons for bad information consumption habbits
  • and one of my favorite subjects: how our views on authority change as we are able to solve more of our own problems

In the push vs pull chapter he talked about striking the balance with marketing, and I think this quote is useful to marketers:

Markets are conversations. People exchange goods, services, ideas, and values in an intricate dance of push and pull. And as technology disrupts and transforms the marketplace, only those who listen carefully will profit from this persistent disequilibrium between supply and demand. - p. 117

In SEO it is common for people to want to rank #1 at any cost and then have a site that wastes the traffic it gets. Peter does not talk about marketing as a stand alone product, but mentions how it should be integrated holistically into the site.

This User Experience Design article on his website has a picture of what he calls The User Experience Honeycomb, which shows how he believes value is strung together through the combination of assets.

Ambient Findability is a cool read.

Google Search History Tagging Folksonomies...Please Tag My Site :)

Oct 11th

Oh so quietly Google added a tagging feature to their My Search History product.

I believe Google will eventually find ways to trust Google accounts more the same way they trust domains more as they age. The tags surely can be abused, but so can links. Just like link anchor text, the tagging could be used by Google to help understand the aboutness of a page or site.

It would take a good bit of knowledge to create a variety of random Google accounts that had regular and unique search habbits over time. Google does not need to try to stop all search spammers, they only need to make search spamming so complex or expensive that most people would just rather put in the effort to create something of high quality.

Yahoo! added a rich get richer factor into their algorithms, adding blogs to their news search. In an interview with Forbes.com Joff Redfern, a director in Yahoo! Search, stated blog rankings may be due in part to the number of My Yahoo! subscribers:

"If we've got more people subscribed to a blog, there is presumably more credibility to its reputation," says Redfern.

You gotta wonder how many fake accounts are getting set up as I type this.

Do any SEO websites sell search behavior or established user accounts yet? If not I wonder how long until they hit the market and how long until those services are claimed on many sites :)

Free Google Account Passwords...Ooooopps

Oct 11th

Not good, Google:

Google Inc. has quietly patched a potentially dangerous security flaw in two of its business-facing services after a private security research outfit warned that malicious hackers could exploit the bug to hijack sensitive user information.

The vulnerability was flagged—and fixed—in the Google AdWords and Google Services subdomains.

Because both sites use data from the Google Accounts username/password system, security experts said the flaw presented a major identity theft risk.

As if click fraud wasn't a bad enough issue. As they continue to collect and cross reference information they need to be careful with that user privacy issue.

Primitive Search Technology

Oct 10th

Spam Google - just the noise

[added: Some people ask how can I tell a quality link from a low quality link, etc. In general, most of the pages in the Spam Google database would be great examples of low quality pages.]

Eeekkk, I Started a Blog about Blogging

Oct 10th
posted in

Blog Goodies...a blog about blogging.

I was posting too much blog stuff here and started to felt like it was drowning out the other stuff, so it now has it's own channel.

My first semi original useful post on my blog about blogging is about socially conscious automated blog content generation

Volunteer Edited Directories

Oct 10th

I was just looking through the Google Directory and noticed there are less than 10 DMOZ listed volunteer edited general directories, and even some of those are no good.

With all the rubbish spend $19.99 and get your link here general directories that have sprung up I find it a bit perplexing that there are so few profitable general directories. Are they being replaced by folksonomies & the wisdom of crowds? Is it just far more profitable to blog on your favorite subjects?

A while ago I said I thought directories would become more Wiki like, but other than Wikipedia I can't think of any general wikis that have really taken off, and there hasn't been a decent general directory launched in what, about a year.

I think a large reason for the demise is most people willing to work for free to organize information probably want to be able to say more than a sentence or two about the topic.

Interview of Google Software Engineer Matt Cutts

Oct 10th

The man, the myth, the Mick Jagger of search, well I guess he doesn't really go by that name ;) but...

Matt Cutts was nice enough to answer a bunch of questions I asked him via email.

For the gray hat in the crowd, I asked Matt what fields SEOs should look at as search advances. He said:

If you're creative, I'd look at the marketing/buzz aspect of things. A person who is savvy about marketing will often have a good leg up on interactions with people. If you are a talented backend person, there's a ton of neat start-ups right now. 2-3 people in different places can collaborate on some nice stuff. If you're a button-pusher, I'd try to diversify that skillset. ;)

for tips on building a search engine & doing SEO read more of the Matt Cutts interview

Sergey Brin + Others on Video Talking Search

Oct 10th

Berkeley has been recording lectures from some of the best minds in search. So far some of the videos include Norvig, Battelle, & Brin. Gary posted a bit about Sergey here.

I am not sure what the problem was, but my connection kept breaking in the middle of the shows, which is annoying. They have a wide variety of Podcasts available here.

Average CPC & Selling Ad Space

Oct 9th

Now, don't get me wrong here, I like WordPress, but I don't understand how a website that was recently in sore enough shape to need to do large scale search spam can want $10,000 for a one day home page text link sponsorship.

Certainly there has to be some middle ground in between needing to upload 100,000 AdSense pages and needing $10,000 for a single text link?

1-Day Text Link $10,000.00 average clicks 4 cost per click $2,239.64

Who would look at those numbers and eat that up? Maybe an online casino looking to spread a viral story?

I do not do much in the lines of ad sales, but sometimes the key is to charge lower rates to help boost demand, and then raise them after advertisers see the value. Some of my friends give ad space away off the start.

Even if the traffic is not well targeted people will pay money if they believe the value is there, but I think it may help to place a blank ad for a friends site on the home page just to get a test sample of CTR data. You need to prove the value or have a ton of buzz before people will want to rent uncertain pixels.

What is the most you ever paid for a click? Was it worth it? How did you know before and after you bought it?

Google Feed Reader Lauched...I Like

Oct 9th
posted in

I have not been reading my feeds in a while, so I figured the launch of the Google Feed Reader would be a great excuse to start again :)

Unlike Nick, I waited a few days to avoid the user rush and associated launch problems, and found the Google feed reader rather useful. There are a few things I think that would make it better:

  • allow you to move the pieces like they do on the Google customizable home page

  • allow you to add in links or widgets near posts, for example a link to Google blog search for citations of a post
  • as Gary Price mentioned...they may as well have search on there. If local & maps are one and the same then blog readers and blog search should be one and the same, at least from a search company
  • for viral marketing I think they should also let you chose to make pieces or all of your subscriptions private or public, and maybe later also let you determine who you would want to share your subscriptions with...ie: social cirles like with My Yahoo!
  • make the feed reader quick tour / FAQ section still easy to find without requiring people to log out

Although I have not used it much, I like their filters and labels concept better than folders, because many information streams can be classified in a variety of ways.

Calvin Mooers Laws

Oct 8th

People will avoid certain types of information they need:

An information retrieval system will tend not to be used whenever it is more painful and troublesome for a customer to have information than for him not to have it.

How do you get people to find information they do not want to find?

Mooers Second Law of Documentation:

In the same manner that color samples provide a test for the detection of color blindness in a person, the descriptor technique provides a means for the detection of the "word-bound" or "idea-blind" person. Such detection is important because a word-bound person may not be able to provide idea-based (word-independent) retrieval service of the kind which is most congenial and most desired by the non-word-bound part of the population. - source

The concept sure highlights the need for writing to the audience the way they speak and think.

Calvin Northrup Moores background - learn more about the man who coined the term Information Retrieval

Blog Noise & I Need a PHP Programmer

Oct 8th
posted in

As noise continues to increase, those who are already well established and those who understand ways to create ideas that spread will continue to gain market share as people (and scripts) recycle content, create keyword driftnets, and search engines fight it off.

For a while, due to a variety of factors, I was pretty stressed out and have been a bit lazy with my reading. To me the best blogs are not usually determined by what they write, but by how much they read and how well the distill information. When stressed and / or busy I usually only read about 5 or 6 blogs. The blogs in that group rarely change because their authors read so much and have unique perspectives.

I have been posting a bit much about blogs of late. I am half tempted to sell my soul and create a separate blog about blogging. Already got a name and a logo...just would need to set up the site and know when to post what where.

I have a bunch more SEO tool ideas (like the one mentioned in last post), but my friend Mike is crazy busy at school, and I don't think I can convince him to drop out just yet. We just increased his site profitability 15 fold yesterday, but I am not certain if that helps or hurts me longterm...I think I need to find another programmer for when Mike is too busy. If you are well skilled at PHP and are looking for some flow shoot me an email. Also if you hired a great programmer who has some free time and would not mind recommending them I am all ears.

Google AdWords offers Section Targeting

Great deal for advertisers. Some content sites are fairly mixed, with a limited number of pages being relevant for a particular product or business model.

Site targeting places your ads on individual sites in the Google content network. Site sections take that one step further by placing your ads on only one section or even one page of a site. If you sell soccer shoes, for instance, you might choose to advertise only on the sports section of a news site rather than placing ads across the entire site.

Select a site section by entering its URL in the AdWords site tool or in the 'Edit Sites and CPM' section of your account. If the full site is example.com, the section URL will take the form example.com/section. You may target individual pages by using the form example.com/section/page. Refer to the URL of the actual site to see how its sections are named. Source

If a site ranks where you want to be seen you can target ads at that specific page. Absolutely wonderful for marketing a product against an old competing one.

A while ago I also mentioned that if these page targeted ads were far underpriced some webmasters may be inclined to spam for authority sites to get the ads they place on them a bit more exposure. The ad market really is opening up :)

A great SEO tool that needs to be made is one that searches the search engines for desirable keyword terms and returns the result pages which offer AdSense ads on them.

I would imagine it also would not be hard to automate adding those pages to an AdWords account, and automate building a bit of link popularity for them.

When Articles Put Words In Your Mouth...When a Spade is a Spade

Oct 8th
posted in

So I recently was interviewed by a semi local newspaper reporter about the lawsuit. I was dog tired when I did the interview (like up over a day straight), and some of my quotes were clipped a bit, so they came out less than stellar...and I screwed up some of the PR tips I had been given. :(

Ian has helped me a good bit with the lawsuit, and the reporter wanted to get some other opinions on the case. I referred her to Ian & SMA-NA. My quotes did not sound good, but then I read how Ian seemed to reference Greg Jarboe about the importance of free speech on blogs. I was like...hmmm?

So I asked Ian about it, and he said that he never refered her to Greg. I think he is a bit upset with the way his quote sounds, if fact, upset enough to post on it.

He is wondering why Greg Jarboe, the spokesman for SEMPO, apparently cares:

I didn't see SEMPO standing up for anyone earlier. So it's not an issue until they come knocking on your own door? Come on. That's just not right.

when SEMPO clearly doesn't:

It is the policy of SEMPO not to comment on any legal cases pending, particularly those that do not directly involve our organization. This matter in particular will be decided under existing case law relating to freedom of speech, libel/slander, and contract law. There is no compelling reason for a nonprofit group with a mission of education and ... - Greg Jarboe

I can't believe that Greg can be a PR guru and still think he can get away with that two sides of the coin technique...especially in such a small industry.

"I have a blog, and I call them like I see them," said Mr. Jarboe. "I like to think it's my First Amendment right."

So do I Greg. So do I.

Why to Start Small with Publishing

Oct 8th
posted in

So Nandini launched her blog network recently, with 46 channels launched all at once. She is a friend of mine, and I want to see her do well, which is a large part of the reason I was disappointed in her launching so many channels at once.

At ThreadWatch they noticed one of the posts on one of her blogs was verbatim plagiarism. There are a ton of lazy writers, and that problem is far more common than most people would think. Nandini probably had nothing to do directly with that copied post, but she is going to be treated as though she did since it is her network.

That is part of the reason to start slow and small...so you can learn from what feedback you get, and so that you can build trust with your writers and audience.

If I were her I would probably scale back the project to a few channels...get them going good...and then extend out. She is selling herself short overseeing that many channels at once, especially with limited history and reputation on the blog creation front.

Some people will probably continue to ride Nandini pretty hard over that post, but it is common all over the web...she just needs to scale down...build a system...and then build back up, that or hire more people to watch over the writers, but the whole blog channel thing is a game of margins...it's best if you can develop a trusting relationship directly with each author.

A big problem on the web is trying to do too much too quick. Most content projects start off slow and small and work their way up to being great.

It may be good to have a variety of sites to be able to learn from, but it is best to have a few channels that are great, which you can collect feedback from, and then learn how to make the next channels better from what you learned off the first ones.

Generally she has been rather receptive to the rather harsh criticism some bloggers have given her, so on that front it may help her still end up doing OK out of the deal. Her network has decent link popularity for being less than a week old.

Seth Godin: Everyone is an Expert

Oct 7th

Seth wrote another one of his free ebooks called everyone is an expert.

The biggest problem with search is the lack of meaning. The biggest problem with content are quality & quantity. Citation based information systems make the best content hard to find unless the person creating it is already well known. Various pay per spam formats make bulk content creation too profitable to ignore. Sifting through pay per refuge makes it hard to know how honest a recommendation is. Most legit pages are wrote as being part of an ongoing dialog, and leave something to be desired if read alone.

Seth is creating a network called Squidoo which hosts pages that hopefully can stand on their own as what he calls lenses. They sound essentially like a topical link list with a bit of background information covering a specific topic.

I think off the start the idea may work, but it will still ultimately run into the same problems search & other networks do. User feedback is important, but:

  • people buy and sell links & ad space

  • people buy and sell old domains
  • people buy and sell eBay accounts
  • people spam Amazon recommend lists & Amazon reviews
  • people vote for themselves

Sure the Squidoo user feedback element may help, but if you weigh the data set on early feedback you create a top heavy system that is afraid to trust new information (sorta like what some people call the Google Sandbox effect in SEO).

Content changes over time or it becomes irrellevant. If people are studying subjects that do not change often then isn't a book usually going to be the proper information format? On most web pages how the information evolves is going to be at least as important as what it looked like when it was initially created.

What happens if Squidoo becomes popular? Is it a system that will grow smarter with each additional link list? As high ranked pages link out to other resources how do you ensure those resources do not change in negative ways over time? While also ensuring they do change in positive ways?

I know there is the financial incentive angle, but that fails frequently on the web. Look for how to create a PDF. You usually are not going to find that Open Office has a free utility. Most people are afraid to try to create something original, unique, & useful. Most businesses are me too businesses just after money.

If people are creating content to help others then why not post at the Wikipedia?

If people are creating content to feed their egos then there is going to need to be a lot more background than a link list.

Sure you can say that Squidoo can make up for the faults of the web, but I don't see how it will weed out bad recommendations while still allowing new information to get found. I think at some level you have to learn whether or not you can trust a person and no system can fully automate that.

The whole concept sounds a bit idealistic with all the frothing spam in other information formats, but it would be cool if Seth can pull it off. I wish him the best of luck in trying, as it sure will be a hard job :)

Why Blog Networks are Overrated, IMHO

Oct 7th
posted in

So Weblogs Inc. just cashed out. Cool for them. Am sure they made some sweet cash, but most of that cash probably will not be seen by the average blogger in their network.

So what does the average blogger get out of the deal? Probably a little more pay and a lot more restrictions.

Sure AOL wanted to buy them, but that is because Weblogs Inc. had first mover advantage. AOL might be for sale, and even if they are not, they still are looking to become once again relevant. This was a small investment if it convinces a few people that they are relevant.

The first company who buys a blog network gets all the surrounding buzz & media coverage. The raw linkage data surrounding that network and that story probably has millions of dollars of value. To a company worth around $80 billion a $20 million dollar spend (or so) is not much.

Over time what will AOL do with the various channels? Some channels will be exceptionally profitable, while others lose money. Will AOL do like About.com once did and chop the channels that lack profitablility? Will new policies cause ego conflicts and bloggers to leave?

Most people who create blog networks are not going to be able to cash out big by selling. The reason for purchasing Weblogs Inc. was due more to market timing than being a blog network.

Some people can try to go big, but I am not so sure scale beats quality. I think John Battelle's idea of keeping the advertising network separate to the publisher is huge. The only reason you need to lock a person in is if you are afraid you do not offer enough value to keep them.

Think of how many times Jason Calcanis crowed on about how much money they were making and how they never advertised. All of those channels & around 100+ bloggers and they were doing about $2,000 dollars a day in AdSense.

Consider that Darrin Rowse has only a few partners and is making over a $1,000 a day in AdSense and Chitika earnings. On a per blogger basis that is WAY more profit.

Nandini just launched a blog network, and bloggers are riding her hard (but at least she is hopefully getting a few links out of all that hate they are spewing her way).

I understand the idea of having a few sites to diversify your revenue stream, but longterm I think most blogs are going to have to stand on their own. Sure a few random gaming blogs may be able to make great profit riding on the backs of popular blogs in a network, but most of the blogs themselves are going to need to be citation worthy.

I just don't see how the networks can provide enough value to be worth giving up all your content for, at least not if you care about your topic and want to work on the web full time.

disclaimer: When I launch a blog network I will erase this post ;)

Search Engine Ranking Factors

Oct 7th

This page is great.

Some information gets smarter with more input, and some gets less smart with more input. One of the hard parts about SEO is that everything is debatable. Some additional opinions will poison data, whereas others will make it way better.

Even beyond the debatable is that questioning the right people makes some data seem much more credible and so much easier to spread. If you seek input from the right people in your industry, like Danny Sullivan in search, you can help ensure that an idea spreads far and quick.

I bet that within a month or two that page will be the most well linked document on the SEO Moz site, and it is something just about anyone can do in any industry. Design problems, site usability problems, gardening problems, airplane landing problems, etc etc etc.

The key is to know who to ask for help and to be trusted enough to where they want to help you. Of course you also have to appeal to their ego to where they want to help you. Other than including MM in the data sources I don't think there is much Rand could have done better to make that page more linkable. I love the smiley faces.

Another nice thing about the page is it could be resorted, asking the same questions to self proclaimed search spam gurus. Give DaveN, Greg Bosers, Oilman, Baked Jake, and a few other guys the same set of criteria and see how they answer it. Then those feedbacks can be cross compared.

A Google Zeitgeist of SEO factors that has biggest gainers, biggest losers, and top ten would be amazing link bait that reminded people to visit frequently and link in every month. And then maybe redue the whole ranking factors thing once a year or so.

Good idea Rand.

MSN AdCenter PPC Ad Pilot Test

Oct 7th
posted in
msn

MSN apparently is in a fight with Google for the solar system, and is looking for spaceship pilots...or maybe just people to test their soon to be launching ad system. Hey, you got to start somewhere.

Anywho, Oilman thinks you should check them out.

Link Building Tip: Old Community Sites

Oct 7th

If you are struggling for creative ways to uniquify your content and make it more linkable sometimes a good technique is to search an old established community site for a common word. The older the community site the better...as there will be lots more random stuff from before the web became so commercial.

an example: [well.com the]

As a fair warning, some of the top links will be to stuff like rectal foreign bodies. Links, blogs, and RSS may be replacing email on some fronts, but you can still get something out of the butt history page.

Another good link building tip is to take a look at the oblique strategy cards.

The Transparent Marketer

Oct 7th

Some marketers hide their motives well. I am no good at that, so I try to be fairly open about most things.

One thing that is hard about being a really open SEO is that if you do come across great ideas and openly share them then they lose their value quickly.

In my ebook I state things like "write testimonials for quality linkage data." And then I get people who want to write a testimonial about my stuff and then are pissed if I do not give them a link. I don't want inauthentic testimonials on my site...and a link is worth more than $79 in some industries. Sometimes it is hard to be really open without pissing people off.

A while ago I also advocated on topic blog comments and then some people would read my ebook and use my site as a sitemap for their site with various me too type posts. Again acting mad when I did not approve.

One guy wanted a discount on my ebook. I don't normally do that, but I told him yes. I had him donate it to the Red Cross and then gave him a copy of my ebook. Later the guy told me how great his conversion rate is and he wanted to hire me to do SEO on his site. I told him to go to hell. I am not going to work for clients that think they deserve a discount for no reason...those are almost always the worst customers. He wanted me to refer him to someone else and I told him he was out of luck. That is just how it goes.

I bought a link off a website, and since I loved the site I gave the webmaster a free copy of my ebook. He soon increased the price of links on his site 400%.

Long ago I mentioned that some SEO should probably put together a meta search engine to build links. Nobody did, and less than a month after I did the site had over 1,000 backlinks.

I created that meta search engine for four main reasons:

  • I wanted to create a quick market research tool. Once it was made there was little extra effort to make it a full feature meta search engine. When Google was originally created they wanted to find out what links were most important, and then noticed that it was pretty relevant when they created a search engine using PageRank + page title.

  • Most meta search engines are cluttered with ads to the point that serious voices on search recommend not even using them
  • cheap & easy link popularity - I am betting I could get a large number of the right types of authoritative well trusted sites to link at my meta search site without much effort.
  • extend brand / image - I do not see this field as being one which has longevity for a large number of the participants. Those people who are really good with algorithms will do good for a while, but more and more it seems to me that the people who find ways to become synonymous with search will do better in the search marketing sphere. Search is such a loved topic and search marketing is such a hated one.

Does me saying all of that make the tool any less remarkable or worthwhile? What quality content or quality websites are created without some sort of agenda or goal?

Can marketers be too transparent? At what point does it help? When does it hurt? How do you know where to draw the line? What markets are good to be transparent in? Which ones are bad? What are some good & bad examples of marketing transparency?

In A Turn Up for the Bloggers...

Oct 6th
posted in

Lawsuits without specifics are without merit, says judge:

DOVER, Del. - In a decision hailed by free-speech advocates, the Delaware Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a lower court decision requiring an Internet service provider to disclose the identity of an anonymous blogger who targeted a local elected official.

In a 34-page opinion, the justices said a Superior Court judge should have required Smyrna town councilman Patrick Cahill to make a stronger case that he and his wife, Julia, had been defamed before ordering Comcast Cable Communications to disclose the identities of four anonymous posters to a blog site operated by Independent Newspapers Inc., publisher of the Delaware State News.

Those following my recent history know this is probably a good thing for me, and for bloggers in general.

Save the comments. Save the blogs :)

It looks like the bully lawsuits against blogs are soon to be a thing of the past.

Hat tip to the cool cat whose name is Matt and link love for his search engine marketing site.

Proprietary Formats = Garbage

Oct 6th

So a friend re edited my ebook for me. I took about 6 hours to go through the edits and try to learn from them etc. I went to create a PDF from the new version fo the Word ebook and Word hangs up. I can close it and report the error to MicroSoft, but that ends their sloppy at best customer support offering. No followup. Complete trash.

There used to be a saying around Microsoft, "DOS isn't done until Lotus won't run." I wonder if Adobe is today's version of Lotus. Hopefully Adobe has a fix for Acrobat in the works. - Perry Clausen

Maybe this error is my fault? So I tried to download the service pack 2 for Word, but it told me Firefox is the wrong browser. I then started up Internet Explorer and got told I was all hosed for having a firewall. Cool !

Finally got the download to work, but still couldn't create PDFs from that document. No love for me.

I can quickly make PDFs using Open Office, but for some reason it was stripping out the book index links from the Word document.

So then I try to download a trial of the newest Adobe 7.0. Of course, since I already purchased 6.0 and it is running on my computer the trial of 7.0 aborts. Uninstall 6 & try 7. It works! But only if I stripped the internal links out of the document.

After about 50 hours wasted I finally got the software to create my ebook. Gotta love the Office productivity suite & and that friendly document format!

Easy to say MiroSoft is crap here...but so is Adobe. Where is Adobe at with their support. All of their past customer complaints and answers are hidden. Support forums that are not getting indexed. You can't even view them unless you register.

Why when I search for Adobe Word plugins or Word Adobe plugins or Word Adobe Macros am I left in the cold? And just about any "Acrobat + problem" search leads you to a site other than Adobe. Is Adobe that far out of the loop? Most of their forum posts look like this:

When I convert the Word doc to a PDF, the first page footer shows in the PDF, but none of the others do. EXCEPT...When I click the Pages tab in the Navigation pane and view the thumbnails of each page, I can see the missing footers there. - C Pickrell

And most are left unanswered.

So people post their comments on other sites, like Amazon:

Our firm does over $300 Million worth of business a year. We thought that Acrobat Professional ability to create fillable forms that could be shared, updated, and filled out by clients was a blessing. We not have dozens of worthless forms. And then there's the embarrassment when a client with Acrobat 7 can't fill out a form. THINK OF THE COST!

Adobe's site doesn't even mention the issue (although, their site search and help system is so poor that it may be their somewhere - who knows.)

At first, I thought I was doing something wrong. But, when I called support I was told that forms were not compatible. The service person then told me that she thought there might be a fix. However, without a service plan we'd have to pay to talk to Technical Support. We paid good money for this software (we buy multiple licenses) and only had this version for two days.

Considering the magnitude of this issue. I'm guessing there are other major problems with this release of Acrobat..

Adobe should fire its entire staff of software developers and the arrogant managers who let this software hit the market without providing fully functional compatibility.

I don't get how companies can sell so much expensive software and have customer support that is that bad.

I didn't think that much of it when Google announced their toolbar budling with Sun, but I really hope they push Open Office hard enough to kill the proprietary formats. I will be happy when they are either killed off or forced to open up.

My productivity software, like a proprietary format, is pure garbage.

eComXpo: Does Lower Cost Mean Better?

Oct 6th

So I am listening to eComXpo. Unlike the usual conferences I attend eComXpo only requires that you fire up your browser. Some of the hidden or secondary costs improve the quality of some conferences. Examples:

  • Crowd: Sure there is the annoying guy with the cell phone, but the crowds help vote for what topics are interesting when we are unsure.

    Right now there are so many presentations that it is hard for me to decide which one I would want to go to.

  • Noise / questions within the crowd: I always get a kick out of learning from or answering questions near by people ask. Sometimes that which is important is reinforced by the comments from those around us. Also sometimes speakers are not entirely correct, and the crowd can help correct any wrong info which has recently changed and whatnot.
  • You Have to Pay for Food & Travel: This puts most people in a foreign environment, but also means that they will likely do things like eat in groups. Marketing conferences over the web are going to be a low trust medium. The biggest value in conferences for me have not come from listening to the speeches, but from listening to guys like Greg Boser or DaveN chat after hours.
  • Expensive Ticket Prices: I usually go to search conferences. Some of these eComXpo affiliate speeches seem to be advertorials more than educational speeches. I think affiliate marketing tends to be more that way though from my limited exposure. I meant to go to CJU but had too much going on to be able to go.

    If people are paying a grand and a half for conference tickets then most speakers understand that it is not appropriate to give advertorials.

  • Just Hanging Out: Many people who go to speak at conferences go entirely for self promo. Others who are passionate about their topics & really in the know sometimes go because they like to hang out with their buddies. Missing out on Greg Boser and DaveN speaking and making up for that with a few more advertorials does not IMHO make it better.

There are a bunch of other example I can think of, but in general the eComXpo still has a long way to go. Some of this stuff could be made up for with technology, but the human interaction stuff is going to be hard to make up for with technology. Lots of the random little errors in how we are programmed and random crossing paths make up the most interesting and most or least memorable bits of conferences.

There are some killer speakers on eComXpo, but it is hard to know who is who if you are new...the noise of the crowds can sometimes help make conferences better. Seeing a few opening advertorials may push people away from a Seth Godin, John Battelle, or Doc Searls speech, which IMHO would be an unfortunate trade off.

European Comission to Join Book Fray

From The Register:

Google's internet library project will face competition from Yahoo!, but also from a less predictable rival: the European Commission announced its own plan on Friday. And it has an advantage: if copyright laws interfere with its plans it can change the laws.

Why do so many people care about who controls what databases?

“Without a collective memory, we are nothing, and can achieve nothing. It defines our identity and we use it continuously for education, work and leisure,” said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding.

For historical perspective check out The Royal Library of Alexandria, which is also covered in the always ever recommendable Cosmos series, although the Carl Sagan site could sure use some SEO.

Longer AdWords Ad Copy Seen Live

This search showed one of the longer AdWords creatives.

I refreshed the Google search 3 times and saw that ad live as well on the third go.

Already 3 ads at the top sometimes, and now longer ad copy tested in some of the other ad slots. Initial thoughts:

  • those really don't fit on the sidebar. Maybe at the top, but they look screwy on the right 14% of the screen.

  • got to imagine those hog the CTR from the ads around them for sticking out so much

noticed at SearchGuild

Ken Evoy Claims SEO Dead...Shari Thurow Sticks it to Him

Oct 5th

The LED Digest is having another one of the is SEO dead debates.

In last issue Ken Evoy made a blatent self promo SEO is dead post::

If you are not ready for the future, for what's coming big-time, you do not understand why SEO is dead and has been for a while. Oh sure, the corpse is still walking, and SEOers get real upset when they read a book that is normally only for our Site Build It! customers but that has leaked out and I'll share it here with you. It's called "The Tao of CTPM"

Tao of CTPM? Tao of ZYJQ? Talk about dropping an advert, eh? He even added a link, and this dislaimer:

Please understand that it's been written for normal business people, not geeks. But also please understand that these people, unskilled in the Net but who know their BUSINESS, outperform as a group, SEOers

How can he prove that on average his customers outperform the average SEO?

When you say how another field is full of crap you have to expect them to question your own tactics. Like the advert posts or paying affiliates 3 weeks late.

I am both surprised and happy to see Shari Thurow stick it to him:

Ken, stick to sales. That's what you're good at. Please do not make blanket statements about a field in which you have limited knowledge.

Where Shari falls short is her next line:

Search engine spammers have limited knowledge, too. Their goal is to exploit the engines. Ask a spammer to build and write a user-friendly AND search-friendly site that converts? They don't have the skills.

For those SEOs who talk down algorithm chasers and talk up user friendly conversion friendly etc etc etc... out of those sites, how many of their sites do you find yourself regularly linking at?

I don't think SEO is in any way dead, just more that there are enough quick acting feedback networks to where it is becoming more efficient and more useful for some to do holistic marketing instead of just focusing on algorithm busting. As far as what is best goes, it sorta depends on your personality though.

Sun + Google Partnership... More Toolbars... Yawn

Oct 4th

So Google agreed to promote Open Office & Sun's other open source software. When specifically asked how, Eric Schmidt said that they have not yet stated. Well then, what is the point of the press frenzy?

Google also said they are extending their server partnership with Sun, but again would not specify any details.

Sun is to bundle the Google toolbar with Java.

A reporter asked what is so special about this toolbar bundling partnership and Eric Schmidt said the vastness of it.

Did and Yahoo! & Adobe make a huge public speech in their toolbar partnership? Nope.

You got to wonder how long the media will keep having a frenzy response to non event stories from Google.

Sun's stock has already given back most of today's gains and looks to soon give back some of yesterday's gains.

Both companies were asked leading questions about MicroSoft and refused to give much of an answer, which I find a bit entertaining when you consider how blunt some opinions are expressed on their blogs:

Frankly, all of these services are trying to outrun Windows Vista and Office 12 - with which Microsoft will once again attempt to recover the distribution advantage, preloading Windows, Internet Explorer and Office with Microsoft content and services. They argue it's necessary to secure the platform, 3rd parties and government officials argue it's anti-competitive. You pick.

What Percent of Affiliate or Buzz Marketing is Legal?

Oct 4th

AdAge asks IS BUZZ MARKETING ILLEGAL?

As marketers more frequently look to recruit consumers brand agents to spread goodwill for brands, industry attorneys view buzz marketing as a likely area of regulatory involvement, especially around the issue of compensating people to participate in buzz programs when they fail to disclose their connections to marketers and agencies. While there is no legal precedent specific to word-of-mouth marketing, there are Federal Trade Commission guidelines for ads that are likely to apply.

How far can they stretch this line of thinking? Is affiliate marketing a paid endorsement? Does every affiliate link need to be identified? How the hell would they enforce that?

In the offline world when you read a billboard it does not usually say SPONSORED BY in huge red letters. Celebrities endorse products they never use. What makes one type of advertising legit and another illegal?

Sometimes big fans of a company who love their products are great people to employ, and sometimes you only find those people after they state how wonderful your products are. Proving causality will be tough.

Viral marketing might be illegal, but some of the true web gurus think it is what drives the web:

It is a truism that the greatest internet success stories don't advertise their products. Their adoption is driven by "viral marketing"--that is, recommendations propagating directly from one user to another. You can almost make the case that if a site or product relies on advertising to get the word out, it isn't Web 2.0.

Some of these same people talking up buzz marketing being illegal during the day are probably working on buzz marketing campaigns at night.

Anyone Know Anything About Business Licenses?

A friend of mine pointed out that on the BBB Traffic Power page it states:

The Bureau has been unable to ascertain that the firm has a valid business license. Consumers who do business with an unlicensed firm do so at their own risk.

The company previously had a license, which was issued on February 19, 2003. The license became inactive as of April 30, 2004.

This Nevada Secretary of State page shows a revoked license for Traffic Power.

Is there a way of telling if they later got a different business license? If they don't have a valid business license, then how can they sue anyone under that business name?

Google Gmail Autosave: Hmm

Oct 4th

So Gmail created an autosave feature, which saves your email drafts.

What is scary about that is that sometimes you may start writing stuff that you did not want to send...you may have been blowing off steam in a random form box only to find it got cached and later winds up in court.

I think Google makes many of these features with genuinely good intent, but some of the people in positions of power may have bad intent.

Having recently read the WSJ today to find Drug Maker Under Fire for Sharing Data and DeLay was indicted again and spending many thousands of dollars on an ongoing lawsuit that I think is without merit makes me wish some of the new features were widely mentioned and easily opt outable before they were live launched.

Some of the pressures Google will feel are not internal. Just look at the maps, or think of how absurd 38,514 hours of wiretapping the wrong line sounds.

Political Strife on the Google Map

Oct 4th

Apparently, in spite of being recognised by only 26 states in the world, Taiwan wants Google to fix it's status on Google Maps:

Taiwan's government has asked Web search company Google Inc. to stop calling the self-ruled island a "province of China" on its Google Maps service, the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.

With Google setting up shop in China you can bet that request will fall on deaf ears.

Need More Data...

Books:
Open Content Alliance - Yahoo! fights Google on book front. Gary has commentary from the founder of Project Gutenburg. And there is Wikibooks. I have not read any of them, but it sure takes a ton of effort to write a book.

As more and more people realize how easy it is to publish Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.

And it was all Yellow...
Consolidation on the yellow pages front. R.H. Donnelley to buy Dex media for 4.2 billion. How does a company worth 2 billion buy another company for 4.2 billion and assume 5.3 billion of their debt as well? They have to be getting squeezed by search, and it is only going to get worse ahead.

Philadelphia Chooses Earthlink for City Wi-Fi Service

Oct 4th

Free WiFi equals targeted ads and user data. Philadelphia chose Earthlink [sub req], a company which recently called Google's free Wi-Fi in San Francisco unsustainable. From the Philadelphia article:

In the Philadelphia program, the high-speed service will be available for free in parks and other public places. To get wireless broadband at home, low-income families in the city will be charged $10 a month, while all other households will be charged $20 a month.

Interesting to see the web causing a real world landgrab.

Eventually I predict that these services will not only be wide spread & free, but that web service providers will be willing to pay large cities for the privilege of being able to be their exclusive Wi-Fi partner. It all ends up as a game of margins. With Google's huge advertiser base and cheap computer cycles I wouldn't be placing too many bets elsewhere.

On This Day in Interweb

Oct 4th

I just wanted to use InterWeb in a title, even though some of this stuff is not from today :)

Google Duplicate Content Filter

Oct 3rd

Captain Caveman posts on Google's duplicate content filters.

Interesting tactic by Google. If too many pages on the same site trip a duplicate content filter Google does not just filter through to find the best result, sometimes they filter out ALL the pages from that site.

This creates an added opportunity cost to creating keyword driftnets & deep databases of near identical useless information. One page left in the results = no big deal. Zero pages = big deal.

Not only would this type of filter whack junk empty directories, thematic screen scraper sites, and cookie cutter affiliate sites, but it could also hit regular merchant sites which had little unique information on each page.

On commercial searches many merchants will be left in the cold & the SERPs will be heavily biased toward unique content & information dense websites.

If your site was filtered there is always AdWords. And if there are few commercial sites in the organic results then the AdWords CTR goes up. Everyone is happy, except the commercial webmaster sitting in the cold.

Yet another example of Google trying to nullify SEO techniques that work amazingly well in it's competitors results. I wonder what percent of SEOs are making different sites targeted at different engines algorithms.

I have to be somewhat careful with watching some of these types of duplicate content filters, because I have a mini salesletter on many pages of this site, and this site could get whacked by one of these algorithms. If it does changes will occur. Perhaps using PHP to render text as an image or some other similar technique.

The Value of Trust in Social Networks:

Oct 2nd

On any social network trust can be leveraged for profit. Sounds obvious, but when you think of playing many networks as a game of margins sometimes that means working on zero or small margins until you create a profile you can leverage.

eBay:
A friend of mine buys and sells stuff on eBay, keeping the stuff he really likes, and selling back the stuff that was not as good as he would have desired. The stuff he did not like frequently sells for more than he paid for it because he posts in a clear and honest manner and leverages his reputation.

Some people go one step further and also drive traffic to third party networks for monetization. Others start opening bidding price at way more than an item is worth just to use eBay for cheap exposure to targeted traffic streams.

Other Auction Sites:
As you go on the smaller networks you go into an area of greater risk, since a seller being blackballed from a small auction site would not hurt them as much as a blackball from eBay would.

Sometimes the variety of networks create arbitrage opportunities. In the past I bought some groups of a half dozen or so exceptionally old cheap baseball cards for a few dollars and then pieced them out and resold them on eBay for a decent profit. It was not uncommon for people to pay $10 to $15 for an individual card that was part of a $2 to $4 group.

Amazon:
Amazon has a ratings and review system, just like eBay. Sometimes people will not be interested in buying from you unless you have a profile built up.

As a writer you can make a number of book sales by making sure you review every competing book on the market. After you review enough other books people will trust you more when you review friends books in exchange for friends reviewing your books.

Some people also mention their books in so you want to... lists, even if their book is not on Amazon.com. Originally unknowingly to me, someone else did this for me, and I know it caused at least one ebook sale.

Wikipedia & Spam:
Recently I created a meta search engine and mentioned it on WikiPedia. Was my mention WikiSpam? Maybe, maybe not.

If I had a long established profile with tons of submissions I am sure it would not have been considered WikiSpam. As it sits now, in spite of coverage from SEW, someone at Wikipedia thinks Myriad Search does not have any notability.

Eventually I bet some SEO companies will heavily focus on creative ways of using the Wikipedia for SEO. There may eventually be a company that exclusively works on editing the WikiPedia.

If you can't fit direct links to your site into the guide some people will go so far as to build indirect linkage data, working in articles from well known media sources. For example, I probably could not add a link to SEO Book to the WikiPedia, but I could create a linkable thesis that made linkage more likely, or link from the Wikipedia into an article from the WSJ about an SEO company suing me on some Wikipedia page covering blogging & free speech.

Websites:
Search engines trust sites more as they age. They also trust sites with more quality link popularity as it ages. That sounds like it makes sense without saying, but if you fail to give people things to talk about then slowly you will lose market share to people who do.

Off the start even if you are doing a good job few people are going to see it. As your site exists longer there are going to be more and more ways for people to randomly stumble upon your website.

Personal Branding:
A few years ago would there have been anyone interested or any reason for Andrew Johnson to interview me? Would there have been any reason for others to mention that interview? No way. In the same way algorithms learn to trust you so do people.

After people become exceptionally notable some people will even link in to their reviews of other products (or others reviewing your product).

I Was Here First, etc:
In the Navy one of the guys who was a couple years ahead of me hated me because I did not give him the respect he felt he deserved (just for coming a couple years before me). Sure enough, in spite of him trying to hold me back, I still qualified faster than anyone in my division.

Some people who are more successful are there only because they came first. If you can think of different & better ways to build trust you can quickly pass them up. Look how quickly Threadwatch has taken off. I think many of the other blogs are better because Nick's raises the bar.

Niche:
It is not to say that anyone could walk in and just become synonymous with search the way Danny Sullivan is or Google is, but within every market there are niches that are going to be much easier to do well in.

Richard Splain & Potential Healthcare Scam? Traffic Power Story Continues to Unfold...

Oct 2nd

Well I have not verified all this data, but it sure does not sound good...

here is an article on MSNBC, claiming Richard Splain was involved in healthcare insurance scams & Wholesale RX scams:

Take a look at Nevada Health Care Network now.

The "for lease" sign in the window tells most of the story. The empty office behind it tells the rest.

"I could not locate the company. The phones were disconnected."

"After everything was closed down, we were still getting ripped off. Our account, our credit card, was being looted for the monthly fees.

There is also a KVBC news video on this page, and this article covers Wholesale RX:

News 3's Darcy Spears first exposed a local company called Wholesale RX that sells low cost prescriptions from other countries. Problem is, the drugs are not approved in the US, so they're illegal and could be dangerous. Since the investigation, the FDA has started to crack down on these companies.

And this site aims to connect the same person to Traffic Power & home buying scams.

PLEASE follow this guy Splain! HE IS A CROOK! He burned my wife and I in 2001 in a "we buy houses" scam. We got sued by the bank and had to file BK!! He also has ties to an Intenet Placement Company on Jones formerly called Traffic Power. I think called First Place. He needs prosecuted. I'd help!

The same name, Richard Splain, is also listed in a customer complaint email on Traffic Power Sucks:

I had even talked with Rich Splain one of the owners of TP who refused to help me get the service promised. I feel I was ripped off and deserve a refund like everyone else who was cheated by TP.

Wonder how many loose ends are still left untied? I doubt Richard tries suing MSNBC anytime soon, eh...

I know, I know, there might be multiple Richard Splain's, but this SEC info page lists him next to Matthew Marlon:

Xtreme Webworks has retained the Law Firm of Gordon & Silver, Las Vegas, Nevada to represent its interest in the pending litigation against former employees and defendants, Matthew Marlon and Richard Splain.

This document on Edgar Online also connects Richard Splain to Xtreme Webworks.

Curiouser and curiouser.

Not too long ago the Wall Street Journal also profiled the same Matthew Marlon & his street name:

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."

In case anyone is wondering why I care about this information, Traffic Power is a company that cold called me to promote a junky website that I am embarased to own. They later sent me a C&D claiming over a million dollars in damages, and then sent me a lawsuit. In spite of hiring a lawyer and personally talking to their lawyer I still have no idea of any specifics in why the lawsuit occured - other than them thinking they could push me around.

I spoke to one of their former employees last weekend, and need to talk to my lawyer about it first, but I may soon interview him. Stay tuned!

Inefficient Markets...

Oct 1st

Andrew Goodman on why so much more offline stuff could be sold online, and better. Likely an area Google will be a big player in.

Meanwhile AdBrite adds site tagging, but they should have made an about page or something...give people something to link at & give them a story to tell...why is tagging important, how will the publishers and advertisers earn more, etc.

Although Google is making ad buying easier they still do not let most people tag their sites, so my poor friend Mike is stuck serving worthless Pokemon AdSense ads on his video card site.

As more ad formats appear, and contextual advertising comes in many forms, what competing ads will Google allow? The answer so far is that they are unsure, but just like the limits with search spam, they don't want to approve anything too broadly & too clearly, especially considering that for some people those competing networks may have a greater payout.

For the mass market contextual ad market to be efficient it needs to have automated ways to understand content, and accept user data from advertisers and publishers to override targeting errors to help the machine learn relevancy.

There will remain a bunch of niche ad providers to serve people who for one reason or another do not want to work with one of the major players, but the feature lists continue to improve as they fight for publishers and ad dollars and make more efficient markets.

Google Wi-Fi in San Francisco?

Oct 1st

SF Gate has an article about Google proposing to offer free Wifi to SF. The interesting bits:

Sacca said that Google, which makes virtually all its money from online advertising, had yet to determine whether it would include ads in the service. But Google said it would make its Wi-Fi network available for a fee to companies that want to offer paid Internet services. Sacca said there were no plans to share any revenue with the city.

Of course there will be ads...they will promote Google out of the deal...and ads are all that drive their business model :)

SBC thinks the city is already fairly well covered:

SBC spokesman John Britton said his company encourages competition but believes that governments should seek greater investment from private companies to increase broadband service. He said San Francisco already was served by SBC and enjoyed more than 400 free Wi-Fi hotspots, more than any other city in the country.

Earthlink does not like the Google idea:

"We've looked into free service, and we haven't found a model where free works," said Berryman. "At some point free becomes less sustainable because there's no way to upgrade service and the networks when no one's paying for it."

No surprise Google's competitors think Google doing free Wi-Fi is both unnecissary and unsustainable. Of course it's competitors do not have the largest database of human intentions and the largest ad network in the world.

Some think San Francisco is a bad test city because of it's rough terrain, but that - along with it being a tech culture mecca - is probably a good reason to use it as a test city. If you can get it to work there it should be no problem to get it to work elsewhere.

Others also made bids on the project, but Google is getting the press. How many business models Google kills before they are done achieving their goal? How far will public officials let Google control the information streams when other companies worth a few hundred billion dollars may go under if Google does everything they want?

Whether or not you like Google, you have to admit that in many fields they raise the bar on the competition, but I don't think it is good for anyone if one company is too dominant in the web - and Google seems to be making ALL the right moves thusfar.

EuroTrash Interviewed

Oct 1st

Recently I got to interview Eurotrash. Fun, just don't ask him about bacon!

Thanks Jan :)






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