Google Toolbar 4 Launched, Free Google Toolbar Buttons

Jan 31st

Google launched a new beta version of their toolbar for Internet Explorer.

There are two fundamental points to the new toolbar:

  • higher average CPC

  • user lock in

How is the average CPC raised?

  • Similar to the Firefox counterpart, the new beta Google Toolbar for IE suggests keywords based on the search history of other searchers. This will help many searchers get where they need to go by lowering the search volume and profitability of building content or keyword lists that are largely driven off of flawed Google search queries. Instead of people getting this free or under-priced traffic more will be forced to compete for the more common search queries.

  • The new toolbar also offers spelling correction suggestions. It will raise the average CPC similarly to the general effect of suggesting the more common non flawed search phrases.
  • The new toolbar may also help train searchers how to search, which in essence will drive the query streams toward hyper targeted 3 and 4 word queries instead of people searching for lower lead value generic terms.

How does the new toolbar lock in users?

  • Google put bookmarks in the toolbar and allows users to access them from anywhere they log in to your Google account at.

  • Google allows you to create custom buttons to make their toolbar more sticky than competing services. Instead of keeping you inside a Google content network this allows you to chose what vertical sites you feel are important. I am not much of a fan of Internet Explorer, but here are some Google Toolbar SEO buttons for my good friend Jim.

What all this means to search marketers:

  • It may get harder to run arbitrage based business models. ;)

  • Placing bookmarks INSIDE THE TOOLBAR means Google can more certainly track another type of user feedback, and they may even be able to use that user data to augment their link analysis. Much like how Trustrank can be used to flag high authority sites with low quality link popularity for manual review, Google may augment that to include high authority sites with few site visitors and/or few site bookmarkers.
  • The random walker of the web theory which PageRank was based upon could likely eventually be replaced -or at least heavily augmented- by data from the actual users of the web.
  • If you have not yet started a Google account (or a few of them) it may be worth creating some such that you can leverage them down the road. Older Google accounts with longer search histories may be trusted to weight the end search results more than new accounts (similarly to how Google typically trusts old domains more than new ones).
  • Get busy tagging your sites and friends sites if you have not done so yet. Don't forget to tag some legit authority sites to also keep your search profile looking somewhat legitimate and trustworthy.

Fighting Off Negative Publicity and Affiliates in the SERPs

Jan 30th

Negative publicity or affiliates may end up eating a large amount of the search results for your brand name.

If it is negative publicity of course you should take the message on board, but what do you do if you solved the problem and the bad search results will not go away? Directly contacting them and showing the problem has been fixed might help. Maybe even offering to donate to a charity may help, but if the person will not work with you it is going to be up to you to create other content that can be deemed more authoritative than theirs.

If the affiliates add a lot of value of course them listing below you for your brand name is no big deal, but what happens if they are thin affiliate pages that add no value, or worse yet try to use your brand to push people to a competing product with a higher payout? Is there another way to add search results to the index that will not cost you a percent of your sales?

Press Coverage:
The first thing you want to do is ensure you are leveraging your authority and brand correctly. Are you well known? Has your company been covered in the press? If so do not be afraid to point a few links at the good press pages.

Extend Press Coverage:
Look for press coverage in search results for your brand name. Also look through your backlink data. You may be able to talk to people who were mildly interested and get them to do more in depth coverage of your goods and services.

Wikipedia:
If you have a strong enough brand you may be able to list your company in the Wikipedia. If your stuff is legitimate I typically recommend creating a whole page instead of just adding a link because I believe most pages have to go through a deletion cycle vote before they are deleted. Make sure to reference media coverage in your Wikipedia article.

Creating your own topic page in Wikipedia also makes it easier for it to rank for your brand since the whole page is focused on your brand, instead of your site just being mentioned in a link.

Keep in mind that if you are trying to block out negative comments and have not changed the business model or issues that caused them you may be giving people another avenue to criticize your business in the Wikipedia page about your company.

The earlier you get into Wikipedia the lower the bar will be. As they create more content, get more citations, and have logarithmically growing costs it will be harder to get into the Wikipedia.

Social Networks:
Set up pages on sites like MySpace.com, Facebook, and Twitter. Sites like Knowem make it easy to register your brand on many sites.

Press Releases:
Press releases typically do not pack a huge punch in the search results, but they do well in news search, and if you point a few links at them it could also help them outrank other pages that are not on high trust websites.

PRleap and PRWeb are a few free resources on that front.

Good press releases can also lead to other media coverage.

Interviews and Writing Articles:
Just like press releases it is another easy way to create content that is highly relevant to your brand or name. Make sure you link at it to help build it up. If you write for a somewhat well known site, and especially if you can make something a bit controversial or appealing to a link authority rich group that page should pack a punch in the SERPs.

If you interview someone else that is popular then others may heavily link at it. Add a few more links and it may be able to rank.

Blog for Others:
You have to build up some amount of trust before you can do self promotional stuff on other sites, but if you are creative with how you write you can keep a page from sounding too self promo while virtually guaranteeing it will rank by including the right words in it and placing it on an authority site.

Sites like Lockergnome have guest authors write some of their channels.

Vertical Databases:
Sell software? Do you have a profile page on Download.com, HotScripts, or sites like ZDnet.com? If not why not?

Give away software? Are you listed on all the software AND freeware directories?

Highly Relevant Second Page on Your Site:
Create an about page that you link to sitewide. When you write content and submit it to other sites point some of the signature links and whatnot back at your about page instead of at the home page. Do this to try to get a double listing.

Subdomains:
You probably do not need to create many of them for this purpose, but maybe you can create a subdomain for part of your business and then link it up.

Local Sites:
Create sites for different regions. Maybe create sites for different user groups. One domain for consumers, one for distributors, etc.

Profile Pages:
MSN's Small Business Directory allows you to create a company profile page. Make sure you point a few links at it and it should rank for semi competitive phrases.

There are also other types of profile pages that may require deeper thinking to find and then deep thinking to debate the consequences of. Creative Commons has a directory with profile pages.

Rent a Pre sell Page:
Rent a whole page advertisement on someone else's site.

Blogging, Forums, and Social Sites:
Create a blog on Blogspot or one on Wordpress.com. Or maybe one on each.

Create forum user names and make a few posts. Link back to that profile to build up its authority.

Many sites such as Newsvine, Squidoo, or some free host sites also allow you to create pages on their sites which may help you leverage the authority of their domains.

Creativity:
There are many ways to leverage big ideas that are not your own. For example, what is to stop you from creating a Wordpress theme that is named after your company.

SearchKing Offers a Few SEO Tips

Jan 30th

Bob King has a couple good posts over in a recent V7N thread.

How do You Deal with the Advancing Algorithms?

As search engine technology advanced and databases grew to hold billions instead of millions of documents, I found myself in a position of needing more tech to reverse engineer than I had available to me. There is also the cost factor. It was costing more and more to try to keep up with the engines than it was really worth.

It became evident to me that "concepts", the whys rather than the hows, were more important and provided a better return than spending untold hours setting up excell spreadsheets and losing sleep to a battle that I was doomed to lose no matter what.

How are Google's SERPs changing?

It makes me think the days of blog spamming and a million bullshit links beating out the guy with 999,999 bullshit links is coming to an end. They are still there but fewer, (which means it is becoming more difficult or at least less profitable), and fewer with more of the old established, branded sites that you would expect to see if it was a TRUST race.

Related links:

How to Write, Create / Publish, Market, and Sell an eBook or Information Product Online

Jan 29th
posted in

SEO Question: I have a little personal side project going -- selling an info product (completely unrelated to SEO; it has to do with _____ and local markets) and I loved the simpleness of your delivery of your ebook. It was straight forward and easy to follow. I want to mimic your process -- I will be using Paypal too.

Any advice or pitfalls you encountered along the way? Techinical or otherwise? Just thought I'd ask someone who has been there before. Maybe save me some time / mistakes.

SEO Answers: There are many ways to go with selling info products. We'll start off with the pieces I think are important and then maybe others will add info at the end.

First you really have to survey the market.

How to survey:

  • Do keyword research, looking at things like Overture price and search volume. Perhaps even set up a test Google AdWords account.

  • If you know the market well what were the major questions you had when you were buying information and products about your market? You can use Google AdWords to collect feedback for what issues are important to others. Tell them you have a nearly completed book that will be for sale soon and that you will give them it free for feedback on what they would like to be in the book. Alex Mendosian calls this concept the Ask Database, although it may be just as easy to set up a form box that sent mail to a Gmail account and use tagging and their email search to sort through the feedback.
  • You can also search industry forums, blogs, and Google Groups to see what common problems and questions people have.
  • Do information products, software, and service products in your market have commonly complained about issues? If so you may want to make that part of your sales angle.

Competitive Analysis:

  • Does the business model and delivery model make sense? Sometimes by changing the format something can become hyper successful or a complete failure.

  • Look at the Clickbank marketplace to look at the sales techniques used by many people pushing affiliate marketing heavily in your vertical, related verticals, or verticals that would appeal to similar audience profiles.
  • Do link analysis on competing sites.
  • If you see one product appear in the regular search results and search ads many times that may be a hard site to compete with.
  • Buy competing products to see their whole sales cycle.
  • Look at high ranking search results for competing products names to see how deep their affiliate network is and if they have any mainstream news coverage. Also look to see what bloggers and forums say about them. How can you appeal to the various potential viral marketers of your product?

For most people it is typically going to be easier to work in an under saturated keyword market than it is to work in a hyper saturated one or create a keyword market from scratch. I did it the stubborn pig headed way and just sorta went after making my own market. It is working great now, but for about a year it was somewhat brutal.

Reacting to survey:

  • If a market is saturated you may not want to enter it or you may want to focus on a niche within that topic.

  • If people seemed to be exceptionally concerned about one issue then that might be a great sub niche to focus on. Especially if that niche seems complex and / or is high margin (or if the niche seems complex to others but is still rather easy to create a fairly automated high value service in).
  • If there is one or few exceptionally common problems with information items in your field you may want to use that as your marketing angle.

What is the goal of Creating Your Information Product:

  • To help people

  • Name recognition
  • Influence
  • Build a targeted audience or subscriber list
  • Direct profit
  • Indirect profit

Some ideas will help in multiple areas, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices in some of the categories to help your end goal along in other categories. Generally though if you can build a large enough targeted audience you can get any or many of the above in most fields.

Writing the Book:

  • Spend a day or a few days creating an outline before you write the book.

  • I used Word and Adobe PDF to make my ebook, although that was like a $600 or $700 spend buying those. If you want to go the cheap route OpenOffice is free. It has a program similar to Microsoft Word and a PDF creator inside of it. I distribute my ebook as a PDF.
  • I revised my book many times so it really is a bit hard for me to even say what the original looked like, but using short text, bulleted lists, and not trying to write at exceptionally advanced levels are good tips to live by if you are writing a how to book.
  • John T Reed wrote a book on how to write how to books. I think his general thesis and content are great, with the exception of his thoughts on online marketing and DRM. I reviewed his book here, and explained why I thought his views on DRM and search engine marketing were not up to par.
  • Do not feel you need to be stuck to a specific format. There are probably other formats that would sell as well or better, and maybe even at higher price points.

Digital Rights Management:

  • Piracy is a form of progressive taxation.

  • Retail only matters if you have reach and people are buying.
  • Time spent creating value is typically time better spent than time spent worrying about value you have yet to create.
  • If you intend to market heavily on affiliate networks like Clickbank and your product is internet marketing related expect lots of fraud if you do not use a DRM system. Since I do not use DRM people who buy my ebook are about 10 times as likely to ask for a refund or reverse charge their credit card if they bought through Clickbank than if they bought through Paypal.
  • If you plan on using Clickbank and are selling an internet marketing related product you may really want to use some DRM stuff so you can pull their right to use your tool or print your book if they ask for a refund. For $197 eBook Pro provides DRM. If you don't want to spend that much money and want to use Paypal as your shopping cart Payloadz is free off the start, and then its price scales up as you use it more.
  • Eventually I expect Google to create a micro payment system which ends up beating out Paypal. Google will become the default amateur video network and then extend the system out to other content formats.
  • If you sell a product and give it away to certain people make sure there is some taxing element to it. For example require some sort of authentication and require their email to match a qualifying website. When I did this it cut down on sleazy requests and associated fraudster hate email by over 90%. It made life way better.
  • Some people also try to buy feedback or require links to their site in exchange for giving their products to charities. I guess on some fronts that may work, but it is probably not something I would feel good doing, though in some markets doing a technique like that could be the difference between a highly profitable business and a venture that provided little to no returns.

Using Paypal:
You can use Payloadz to set up an affiliate program and to create temporary URLs which only make your download page available to individuals for a limited period of time.

If you are selling an information product and have no digital rights management make sure you encrypt your Paypal button so your order return location is not in the page content. When you create a payment button you also want to click the add more options button in Paypal and set your successful payment URL and cancel payment URL. If you do not set the cancel payment URL I believe visitors hitting the cancel button will be forwarded to your thank you page.

Business Models:
Typically most information products are used to up sell services or make up sells via affiliate links. Some ebooks, like the version of 33 Days to Online Profits I read, seem like they were primarily created to recommend as many affiliate programs as possible.

Do you want to go with a low price point (maybe even free) and try to raise your status, build an audience, and monetize that growing audience by sending them affiliate product offers or high end service offers?

Do you want to go with a high price point? If you go with a higher price point that will filter out many bad leads, but you sacrifice distribution with price. If you go with a higher price point it is recommended that you do not use affiliate links in your work or some will question the motive of your recommendations and why your price point is so high.

One Book or Many?
Many people selling ebooks and information products make far greater income than I do because they create products that rarely need updated, are hyper targeted, and sorta set and forget them after initially creating the sites.

Some people then push those sites via affiliates while others use AdWords and the like.

After you perfect the sales process with one or two it should be easy to churn out dozens more books and sites on other niche topics. If they each make around $1,000 or $2,000 a month you are making a great income.

It took me a while to start earning decent money, so it may take a few months before sales start rolling in. Make sure you are not duplicating errors in the sales process from site #1 on sites #2-12.

Give yourself time to learn from feedback from the early channels before duplicating those problems across a half dozen or dozen channels.

Marketing Your e book:
I started with absolutely zero authority or credibility, so you may not need to do all these steps, but here are the things I did.

  • Participate in communities discussing your topic. People who chat about your topic can also recommend your stuff. It is also where people as questions about your topic. If you are new to the market you can also learn a boatload of information by actively participating in topical forums. Forums can also create friendships that may last longer than your career does.

  • Write articles. I started writing articles about 4 months before I started selling my ebook. Whenever I wrote an article and syndicated it I noticed my phone started ringing and money flowed into the bank account. Cool for me. I really should get back to writing more articles!
  • Try to win the trust of influential voices in your industry. See if you can write an article for their site or if they would be willing to read a free review copy of your book.
  • If you ever get any publicity make sure you leverage it. If one of your articles is a hit, while you are popular for 15 seconds ensure the effect is lasting by trying to push other citations or ideas through. For example, while your site is hot and your name is in the news maybe that is a good time to request links from great resource sites or try to do a few link exchanges with sites you like. Of course with asking for links tact is important.
  • Write a topical blog. If people read your stuff daily then they can get to feel that they know and trust you. It also makes it easier to market your site in search results if your site is more than a one page sales letter. Conversation is easy to cite. I predict that many people will use a format similar to SeoBook.com to sell information products.
  • Writing short witty posts that invoke laughter or other emotions is great, but if you want to convert new people in your industry into buying customers writing at a lower level and doing in depth posts probably works far better than the abstract funny high level stuff. It also helps build a large keyword rich database of pages that will rank for lots of random queries related to your field and target audience.
  • As an example of the above, my mother thinks we write Threadwatch in some sort of code. That site is not published in a format that is good for selling to people new to the SEO market. The content on this site probably does a better job of selling market entry products.
  • People love pictures of people and testimonials.
  • Sometimes the people who recommend your site and give you your authority are not the same people who buy your products. Make sure they have the opportunity to review your product.
  • Sometimes the concepts, ideas, and content which make people authoritative are different than what they make most of their money from. Think horizontally. Are there any vertical databases or viral ideas you could create to help market your brand or site?
  • Make it easy for people to do what you want them to do. For a while I advertised my ebook on the sidebar of my site. The day I moved it to the content area my income tripled.

Bundling:
If you put serious effort into your brand do not let your name and work be bundled with others without looking hard and long at the potential side effects. I totally screwed this tip up. I wrote a mini version of my ebook for someone else so they could bundle it with their software.

They did things like market their other free guide they wrote using the colors from my site. They also wrote my ebook sales price as the suggested value of my throw in book I gave them the rights to. I got dozens of support requests from their customers and some of them said that they would have bought my book long ago but they thought they already got it. Most people probably do not send me those sort of emails, and I probably threw away about 20 to 30% of my potential income with that one time fee partnership.

Another time I sold rights to a few thousand of my ebooks to a SEO related company so they could give it as a gift to their clients at Christmas. It was a nice cash bonus for me, but that also led to others giving away my ebook and business model without asking me. So even if a deal is a great deal there might be some unexpected side effects.

Joint Ventures:
I believe it is typically worth avoiding most joint ventures.

If you are not serious about being successful there is no point wasting someone elses time and envoking potential lawsuits. If you are serious about doing well most of the time the other person will undervalue what you can do.

If you are not well recognized as a trustworthy expert then the other person is also likey going to undervalue what you can do. If you are already well known then you have to ask yourself what value the other person adds that you can't buy for a one time fee instead of giving up liquidity or creating recurring expenses.

Worse yet, if you are in a category largely dependant on thin margins and the other person does next to no ongoing work and gets a cut that cut might turn shift your business away from profitable venture into the waste of time category, and a bad partnership may even take away your motivation to create and succeed.

Tracking Content Theft:
If you are pushing your name and your brand really hard I do not think you need to spend much time tracking potential content theft and distribution. If you are opinionated and publish frequently most of the market will know who you are. If others start to publish your works one of your kind readers will likely tell you about it.

If you go more of the one page salesletter site route you may want to use Copyscape, subscribe to search results related to your product, or some other method to look out for content theft.

Product Naming:
This is not something I would call myself an expert at, but my short list of criteria in things I would look for in the name of something I was going to work exceptionally hard at would be:

  • something I thought I could eventually rank for (ie: if there is a huge open source software project with the same name you probably are not going to be able to outrank them)

  • something that is short
  • something that is memorable
  • something I can get the .com domain name for if possible
  • There are arguements for and against using your keywords in your domain and product name. I don't want to go too deep into that idea because that could be a long post on its own. It is something that should be considered though.

Sales Letter Writing:
Read lots of other sales letters in your field. The sales letters at sites like Marketing Tips.com are wrote to convert. Make sure you also pay attention to the tone and voice of your sales message...make it match the rest of your site if you have a content site pushing your information product.

Leveraging Affiliates:
Not something I am good at because I have not done it much yet.

It is important in many markets, especially in categories like internet marketing or if you have the one page salesletter type of site.

Sometimes it helps to be able to give them something that they can give away which is a product of some value that really pushes the value of your product you are selling.

Your price point matters as well. If your price point is too low you can't give affiliates much for their efforts.

I also set my minimum payout to be at the 2 sales level to prevent self sale discounts.

Things I could do far better:
I am good at finding and creating value but am not the best at maximizing value returned for value created. For a long time I sold my ebook for half its current price. I also do not charge recurring fees yet for updates and some of my friends have told me that is a large error.

Affiliate marketing - as noted above.

Write and syndicate more articles - as noted above.

Email marketing and list building - I really do not do it much...and that is a huge error.

Business - in spite of getting inqueries from companies worth billions (and once even hundreds of billions) of dollars I do not leverage my mindshare well enough and work with some large companies. Business in general is not me deal at this point, and I am not sure if it will ever be, for a variety of reasons.

Sales vs the Knowledge Curve:
The demand curve for search marketing is based on what was effective a while ago.

Here is a perfect example: It is well noted that keyword density is typically not that important compared to other things in the grand scheme of SEO. Yet when I recently added many tools to my SEO tool list the only tool someone requested to buy was a keyword density analysis tool, which is probably one of the least valuable tools on the page. (I later made it open source so I gave it to him free).

If I sold any of the following I would make far greater income than I do with less effort, but I probably would not be creating more value for others than I currently do:

  • links from high PageRank pages

  • link spam software
  • link exchange software
  • reciprocal link software
  • subscription based link network access

By the time the mass market really understands the quality links and trust concepts search may move on to being more focused on user data.

In some fields it makes sense to try to be on the cutting edge, but often sitting back a bit and profiting from the lack of knowledge in the mass market will provide far greater profit.

Traffic Power Case Updated: Your Help Needed!

Jan 27th

Your help is needed in the Traffic Power case...

I was looking for the latest updates to my case, and while I was looking through the court cases in the United States District Court, District of Nevada I log into the Pacer Service and saw that the TrafficPowerSucks.com case has recently been updated.

I still have not had any specifics handed my way, but it would probably be fair to assume that the Traffic Power strategy is going to be fairly similar with how they handle my case and the case of TrafficPowerSucks.com.

If you log in to pacer you will see that on 01/25/2006 Traffic Power's new lawyer Mark S. Dzarnoski added document #17 to the Traffic Power Sucks case, a Docket Text Amended Complaint. As far as I am aware this is the first point in time Traffic Power has offered anyone they have threatened or sued any specifics as to the reasons behind the threats or lawsuit.

These claims are not against me, but are against another webmaster being sued by the same company that is suing me. I don't want conjecture or noise comments like "I think xzy are ..." but if you can help the webmaster of TrafficPowerSucks.com gather evidence about any truth to these alleged defamatory conditions it would help both of us greatly.

Some of them may be easy to refute while others will likely be harder.

Keep in mind that some clients who hired Traffic-Power.com may not be internet savvy and probably do not read my website, so if we can spread this message far and wide we will have a better chance of many people seeing this and hopefully helping to get this situation resolved for everyone.

In document #17 of 2:05-cv-01094-RCJ-LRL SOFTWARE DEVELOPMENT AND INVESTMENT OF NEVADA v. DAVID BAARDSEN, et al. under the defamation cause of action Traffic Power's new lawyer asserted the following:

The false and defamatory information includes but is not limited to the following:

a. Claims that the search engine giant Google has banned and is banning from its search engine listings websites of Traffic-Power.com clients because of the search engine optimization strategies used by Plaintiff.

b. Claims that clients of Traffic-Power.com run the risk of being banned from Google search engine listings if they use Traffic-Power.com services;

c. Claims that Traffic-Power.com plagiarizes its web page optimization work;

d. Claims that Plaintiff has started several new businesses under different names to hide its identity;

e. Claims that two new businesses started by Plaintiff are under investigation by several agencies;

f. Claims that and/or innuendo that Plaintiff is engaged in extortion of its clients because of the techniques used by Plaintiff in optimizing search engine listings;

g. Claims that Plaintiff's business constitutes a scam and that clients of Plaintiff are "victims;"

h. Claims that Plaintiff stole from defendants;

i. Claims that the business practices of Plaintiff constituted some kind of actionable violation of the rights of its clients and that the filing of a class action lawsuit against Plaintiff by its clients was imminent; and

j. Claims that Plaintiff formed and operates fake Internet forums on search engine optimization to promote its services.

Time is of the essence. If you have any evidence that would prove any of these claims factual please step forward.

If you would like to contact the webmaster of Traffic Power Sucks you can do so at webmaster@trafficpowersucks.com. You also can contact me at seobook@gmail.com if you would prefer to speak with me.

Discount SEO Services

Jan 26th

I love Lee's answers to ideas cheap businesses throw his way while trying to bilk out SEO services for next to nothing.

If you sell SEO services you will love Just Say No to Discount SEO.

Should I Avoid Link Exchange / Link Trading Hubs?

Jan 26th

SEO Question: I have been considering joining a link exchange network to boost my Google PageRank. Is it a good idea?

SEO Answer: You have to know your goals before you can set a plan of attack.

Option #1:
Are your sites automated rubbish and junk content that can't get any legitimate linkage data? Are you just looking to spam MSN and Yahoo! for a few quick bucks of profit per site?

If so then it may make sense to push hard on the link exchange front. Outsource it though if you can. Once you get a system down that is profitable you can replicate it so long as you are paying someone from another country dirt cheap wages. If you are doing this to scale you won't have enough time to do it all yourself, at least not if you value your time, which eventually you will if you are doing this and it proves effective.

If you are doing spammy link exchanges yourself for months and months and months and are seeing no results it might be time to think about switching gears. Some people are good at this option. Others are good at option #2.

Option #2:
Do you spend hundreds of hours creating what you consider to be a useful original resource? Are your main problems that your site is new and you are still learning the web? Do you want your site to do well longterm?

If you fit more in this camp then I think it is probably going to be a waste of time to join reciprocal link spam networks.

Polarization:
Much is lost in polarization and pigeonholing groups of people. But in this case, I think it is an important distinction where you really only need to classify your sites as belonging to one group or the other.

My SEO mentor said he is partial to quality sites but spam can make great money too. Where people mess up is when they piss around in the middle.

Sure it is ok to have garbage sites. Sure it is ok to have good ones. But never the twine shall cross. With each site either spam hard or create good stuff. Don't make a site that has a foot in each pond.

The Illusion of Value:
When I first got on the web I thought it was oh so important to have a Yahoo! listed domain. Why? People taught me that so they could exploit me selling me shitty subscription based services that allowed me to look through a list of domains that already had all the good stuff pulled out.

Does it really help you if your online mortgage site is listed in the wiccan category of the Yahoo! Directory? Probably not much.

With these link exchange networks most people are doing the same thing. Hunting for some percieved magical value that is easy to automate, replicate, and easy for search engines to detect. In most cases it does not add much value for the time you waste looking through them.

More recently I have bought old domains and plan to develop some of them, but I did not get them via the crappy subscription software that was sold to me a few years back.

I had to get certain tips from a couple friends and a cool programmer to create my own custom tools for finding them. I would share them, but here I don't

  • I promised my friends I would not

  • if everyone accessed them the market would be hypersaturated and I wouldn't be doing any favors to anyone, not even the people using them

Reciprocal linking may still be a useful idea, and you should link out to some quality sites even if they don't link back, but typically most sites in link exchange networks are shit (option #1 above).

Autosurf Traffic Exchange Programs:
Posting this is going to make me sound rather ignorant, but I have no shame...

When I first got on the web I also tried autosurf programs a bit. I was dirt poor and knew little about the web or marketing, but it didn't take me long to realize I was wasting my time.

The only people that autosurf traffic exchange programs help are

  1. those who run automated software that spoofs them

  2. those who sell scammy fraudulent $5 submit your site to search engine programs (often people in group run automated software that spoofs the network)
  3. those who run the traffic exchange network (and thus get to sell, test, and refine automated impressions to targeted newbie webmasters)

I liken most link exchange networks to that analogy. A scam that promotes the network above all others.

The whole link exchange idea pushes the low end of the market, as Brett Tabke noted years before I entered the SEO market.

Search algorithms, the volume of legitimate content, and automated site generation have grown / evolved for over a half a decade (half of the WWW's lifetime) since Brett's article was wrote. That probably means there is quite a bit less value in the spammy link exchange networks.

Promoting Scams:
If there is market demand for an idea someone will sell it even if it is a scam. Search Google for [search engine submission].

If you look at Google's webmaster guidelines they will tell you about how to submit your site, but Google does not go out of their way to make sure that information is available on relevant search queries. They will gladly take some of your money selling ads for that query where likely over half of the ads probably promote some sort of scam or fraud.

Capitalism, Social Networks and Value:
To some extent social networks (and the web is nothing but a big social network) aim to push the same financial reward systems that define capitalism.

Those at the top of the charts get a dispropotionate amount of exposure and can build more efficiency into their process because they get lower aggregated distribution costs or higher return for similar effort.

To put that into perspective, if I wrote this exact same post 2 years ago it probably would get no links or comments. Now some automated systems scrape my content and I am guaranteed those links. Some people read this site daily and I am guaranteed some exposure.

Some people will get more than they deserve while others get the shaft. I have really experienced a good bit of both extremes in the past 2 years.

Guestimating Value:
The stock market is hard for most people to win at because insiders have more value and can control their stock float (the number of shares publicly available).

The three things that helps level the playing field a bit are

  • there is always some market equlibrium for demand that gives consensus baseline for value (although that may be way off...see the US stock market for the last 6 years).

  • there is a lot of money involved and eventually the markets have to work toward correcting themselves
  • there is a ton of publicly available information about companies

With link exchanges and other internet marketing exchange programs there is no baseline. Sure saying 1 for 1 is a fair trade is a baseline, but it is an arbitrary one since you can't possibly quickly research the past and guestimate the future of the potential link partners.

If you are putting in that much effort to learn and evaluate sites then you probably don't need to be in the framework of a site which aims to promote easy-to-get low quality spammy link exchanges.

Misfocused Efforts:
The biggest loss for most new webmasters when they hunt for hidden gold is not the potential that their site may end up getting banned. The biggest loss is the misfocused effort.

Right now I probably own around a dozen Yahoo! listed sites. Many of them were accepted free. Instead of looking for a way to sneak into the directory I simply created sites that they liked enough to list.

Obviously the Yahoo! Directory does not have the same value as it did when I first started out, but I think it is a good example for this post.

If you like a topic enough and put in enough effort eventually competing sites will link at you. I now have links from webmaster who took time out of their day to email me about what an ignorant fool I was a few years ago.

If You Don't Build Links You are Not a Real SEO

Jan 26th

I am not certain why, but I have been getting lots of requests from claimed SEO companies that want to outsource 100% of the link building associated with SEO.

My typical response is:

If you don't do link building you are not a real SEO.

That may sound brutal, but it is true. Here is why:

There are the rare sites that have already spent millions of dollars building their brands to where all they need done is descriptive unique page title and making sure their content management system works. Then there are sites like SearchEngineWatch that are just the authority sites in their field, self reinforcing market positions and a decade of writing quality content about a topic the author loves. But most sites do not fall into those categories. If you feel a site needs more links to compete, why - other than laziness - would you want to outsource 100% of the link building project?

If a site is in non competitive fields sure a few directory listings and the like may be all that is needed. But if that is all that is needed I don't think it is hard to develop processes to do that sort of stuff.

If your an individual person who runs one website I guess it may make sense to outsource that to a person who provides affordable services, but if you are an SEO company with recurring work and new clients coming through all the time it doesn't make sense to outsource it.

Sure some people make certain services cheap and are really good at what they do, but if the price gets too cheap and the process is fairly automated the link quality is going to be low.

As far as link builders I would recommend, I would have no problem paying Eric Ward for the connections he has and his solid site announcement history. I also know and trust Debra Mataler well enough to know she would do a good job building links.

As Stuntdubl said, you want to balance the link equation. Get a variety of link types. A good link builder will do that for you. But it is hard to build an SEO business model that

  • is profitable

  • gives clients individualized attention
  • provides end to end solutions

If you guarantee success with your service you are better off doing affiliate marketing than selling SEO services. You get a larger percent of the action that way and have no clients!

Demand for SEO lags what is most effective and many people think they just need more PageRank. And many of the most profitable business models are going to revolve around selling pieces of the pie instead of selling the whole process. Many of the SEO firms that have been contacting me wanted to outsource 100% of their link building to link brokers.

Some links are about social relationships. Those are key in hyper competitive fields. How can you compete in hyper competitive fields if you are not learning the market or pushing social relationships? How can you even know what budget to allocate for link building if you don't do it? If people should buy link services off a link builder then what value does a clueless SEO firm add by taking a cut charging a premium for their own ignorance?

I am friends with a few link brokers, and know pieces of their partner networks, business models, and link types. Some of the content sites in the networks are so good that they provide enough direct value to pay for themselves even if they had no effect on SEO. Of course it would be hard to say that about all link buys. Sure some of the links probably do count well and others probably don't count at all.

Assuming all the links from link brokers counted in all search algorithms (that would be being hyper optimistic) there would still be a few fundamental flaws with only building links from brokers:

  • A link profile consisting of only one link type is not a real natural profile.

  • If nearly all your links come from a few networks or are brokered through a few people then the odds are pretty good that a competitor is going to come in contact with the person who is selling you links.
  • Most people selling links will also sell links to competing sites.
  • If you get to the top of the search results there is little effort needed to duplicate your actions if all your links are rented.

I am not trying to hate on any individual type of link. I just think that you should mix what you use. If possible do all of the following

  • articles (these make great direct sales)

  • press releases (when I was a total no name a well known Yahoo! search engineer saw one of my press releases and reviewed my ebook for me based on a press release)
  • directories (most are one time fee)
  • viral marketing opportunities, free tools, & ideas (these are hard to do but also hard to replicate, and are the cheapest link opportunities if you land a good one)
  • affiliate marketing (you set your payout percent, affiliates only get paid if they convert, and it still builds your brand even if the links do not count for SEO)
  • buy links where others are not looking (use Yahoo!'s advanced search page or the concept in this tool. Instead of only entering add URL search for ezine ad, associations, history, and other ideas which may provide greater value than the typical add URL search)
  • if you can afford it do off the web marketing that drives online activity
  • if you can afford it maybe it makes sense to buy an old site or the rights to publish content on old sites

A couple years ago effective SEO was using the same anchor text everywhere and just getting thousands of low quality links to point at you. That is not the case anymore. A strong link building program

  • Should be able to help guarantee usage data and targeted traffic that converts (since people tend to click on legitimate links and trust what is perceived as an unpaid recommendation).

  • Should provide secondary links that were not requested. If a site like SearchEngineWatch writes an article about your site you can guarantee that others will syndicate how interesting your site is.
  • Is hard to replicate.
  • Mixes your link profile.

Your link profile is about who knows you and who trusts you. If you outsource that outside of your client and outside of your business I think you owe it to your clients to at least know enough about the following:

  • how to evaluate how competitive a market is

  • the value add of different linking strategies
  • the risk vs reward profiles of different linking strategies
  • why it is important to mix link types

Updated SEO Tools: Feedback Needed!

Jan 25th

Reminder: New Free Tools:
About two weeks ago I added a bunch of SEO tools to my free SEO tool list. I just made all of the new public tools open source, so if you like any of them you can do whatever you want with them.

Cool Keyword Research Tool: Needs Feedback:
I would love feedback on the SEO Book keyword research tool. Give it a try and see if you think it is useful or what features you would like added to it.

The tool does not try to do everything within itself, but provides relevant links for digging through keyword data from lots of other tools, and makes it easy to cross reference Overture results and Google Suggest results, as well as many other keyword tools.

At the bottom it also provides links to well known web directories, news sites, shopping sites, tagging sites, encyclopedias, blog search engines, and blog trend graphs. Those links are intended to help you find information that others found useful, and maybe also help you come up with linkbait ideas.

I think occasionally if it gets queried too heavily it breaks, and sometimes intermittently Overture will not provide data, but whenever I re-query it the tool usually works fairly quickly.

Link Harvester Updated:
Some people recently notified me that the xls sheet output in Link Harvester was putting array where the individual links were supposed to be. I just got that fixed too.

Backlink Analyzer Update to Come:
The last update to Backlink Analyzer (like 2 months ago) broke some of the key features. I did not realize this until recently. I just spoke with the lead developer, and although a new version was intended to be out in December I am hoping to have it out by the end of this month.

Matt Cutts on Linkbaiting

Jan 25th

Matt talks about controversy, market timing, niche selection and information quality...everything you need to know about linkbaiting (well that and maybe read a few NickW posts).

Spelling Errors: Advanced SEO Techniques

Jan 24th

With certain sites in certain industries it can cut into your credibility to have lots of misspellings.

Although I hate to admit it, one of the biggest things holding back my credibility is spelling errors. Some people just can't take a misspelling fool seriously. Others empathise with my skills and type misspelled queries into their engine of choice.

Matt Cutts recently said that using correct spelling is good for SEO. This couldn't be any further from the truth for most boring hollow shallow lead generation / affiliate marketing / contextual ad websites (aka: 99% of the web).

Misspellings probably occur in somewhere around 10% of search queries. Across the board misspelled terms are probably less than 10% as competitive as the correct spelled counterparts. Sure some people will opt to use the search engine spell correction tools, but many do not.

While some misspellings cost me links and credibility, others earned me thousands of dollars.

Truth be told, I was financially screwed when I made those thousands of dollars off of one particular spelling error that comes to mind. Had I not been a bad speller I may have been bankrupt (and I would have neve typed this post).

Not all your sites have to be associated with your name, and I am not ashamed to profit from being a naturally craptastic speller. Is your good spelling holding back your earning potential?

How do Librarians Assess Website Quality?

Jan 24th

Via Gary the second issue of Google's Newsletter for Librarians was released.

In A Librarian's Guide to Finding Web Sites You Can Trust Karen G. Schneider, the Director of Librarians' Internet Index, wrote about what she looks at in deciding weather or not a resource is trustworthy.

The main criteria are:

  1. Availability (reliable hosting and free information)

  2. Credibility
  3. Authorship
  4. Link Rot
  5. Legality

With this site I have not got much love from the librarian community. Likely largely because of the following:

  • bad spelling

  • going way off topic
  • sometimes expressing opinion that may be taken as fact
  • focusing on a topic that is generally hated (SEO) contained within a link rich loved topic (search)
  • selling a marketing ebook at a fairly high price point
  • having no credentials (in part because there really are none in this industry - though I should make an about page!)

You don't have to have the love from librarians to succeed on the WWW, but if you are in a field where competing channels do it is going to be an uphill battle unless you focus on a niche or get lots of link love and attention love from people within your industry.

It is really worth looking at how librarians review websites, because if you fit their guidelines it should also be easy to get many other links. If Google is sending out a message to 20,000 librarians then maybe they will use that information, and maybe Google likes many of the same things that the librarians do.

One curious question remains: how can Google not use a page title on their newsletter for librarians?

Keyword Research Tip: Set Up an AdWords Account for Competitors

Jan 24th

Google is getting much better at extracting potential keyword information when you set up an account.

Lets say your site competed with SeoBook.com (and you are thus evil). You could set up a new ad campaign and act like it is for SeoBook.com (by entering www.SeoBook.com as your ad URL).

Google will then give you keyword groups based on the content of SEO Book.

  • seo

  • search engine
  • search engine optimization
  • search engine submit
  • Miscellaneous keywords

Each of the categories has a list of keywords in it where you can add all or some of them to your keyword list.

  • seo

    • seo book
    • seo rank
    • seo optimization
    • seo rankings
    • seo placement
    • seo ranking
    • seo
    • seo tips
    • how to seo
    • multilingual seo
    • seo elite
    • seo writing
    • seo software
    • seo consultants
    • seo service
  • search engine
    • seo search engine
    • submission search engines
    • search engines
    • rank search engines
    • search engine registration
    • search engine ranking
    • thai search engines
    • submission to search engines
    • rank in the search engines
    • add url to search engines
    • foreign search engines
    • search engines australia
    • writing for search engines
    • search engine rankings
    • stomping the search engines
    • search engine url submission
    • submit to search engines
    • dutch search engine
    • search engine marketing
  • search engine optimization
    • search engine optimization seo
    • search engine optimization tips
    • search engine optimization
    • search engine optimization seo services
    • search engine optimization ebook
    • search engine optimization and placement
    • search engines optimization
    • search engine optimization information
    • search engine optimization submission
    • multilingual search engine optimization
    • search engine optimization company
    • search engine optimization forum
    • search engine optimization forums
    • calgary search engine optimization
    • search engine optimization analysis
    • search engine optimization advice
    • search engine optimization software
    • search engine optimization thailand
    • vancouver search engine optimization
    • search engine optimization cost
    • search engine optimization tools
    • houston search engine optimization
  • search engine submit
    • search engines submissions
    • search engine submissions
    • search engine submission
    • search engine submission software
    • search engine submission guide
    • canada search engine submission
    • canadian search engine submission
    • search engine submit
  • Miscellaneous keywords
    • url cloaking

Google gives slightly different word sets for similar sites. For Linkhounds Google AdWords gave the following terms under the SEO category:

  • seo tools
  • effective seo
  • seo placement
  • seo optimization
  • seo url
  • seo tips
  • seo
  • seo advantage
  • seo rankings
  • seo business
  • seo tool
  • seo software
  • arizona seo
  • foreign seo
  • seo copywriting
  • seo analysis
  • seo company
  • seo ebook
  • seo report
  • seo strategies
  • uk seo
  • multilingual seo
  • seo consultants
  • seo service
  • seo courses
  • seo links
  • seo australia
  • how to seo
  • seo chat
  • seo london
  • utah seo
  • consultant seo
  • seo houston
  • seo consultation
  • seo help
  • seo school
  • seo training

Google's AdWords keyword suggestion tool may make niche discovery easier by allowing you to see how Google views a variety of small niched sites or sites in other locations where slightly different language or dialects are used (think UK English versus US English).

As a content publisher, if you monetize via AdSense, the keywords Google suggest are great to target since you know they are pointing advertisers as them. The words seen by the widest number of advertisers are likely to be priced near or above their fair value.

Gerard Salton and Early Search Engine Algorithms

Jan 23rd

Tom Evslin posted about his experiences working with Gerard Salton in the early 1960's.

Everybody assumed that the best results would be obtained by algorithms which made an attempt at understanding English syntax. (which is very hard to do). WRONG! Turns out that syntax was a waste of time; all that matters is semantics – the actual words used in the query and the documents – not how they relate to each other in a sentence. Sometimes it was (and still is) useful to search for phrases as if they were words. But you get that just by observing word order or how close words are to each other – not trying to parse sentences.

Modern search engines may use quite a large amount of user tracking and heavily emphasize linkage data, but if you want to see the roots of search I highly recommend reading Salton's A Theory of Indexing.

Privacy, User Data, Trust and Marketing

I wish I could add more to Danny's excellent coverage of the government's bogus overarching power grab for data from search engines, but I can't, so I just want to parrot it. :)

The US government requested not personally identifiable search data from AOL, Google, MSN and Yahoo! in an effort to evaluate how often children might find porn on the web. Everyone but Google handed it over. The US government is now suing Google.

The stock market punished Google heavily on this and other news, with the stock dropping from about $470 to $399 a share last week. While Google may have wanted to keep the data for trade secret related reasons they also win a ton of user trust by being the only company which said no to the request.

Compare their position to MicroSoft. Only after Google made this request an issue by denying it did news come out that other search companies, like MSN, gave over data last summer.

How did MSN's recent post make them look?

A prime opportunity was missed last summer. Back then there was a chance to come out at a time when Google was being pounded over privacy concerns and stand up to the government instead of folding like a cheap lawn chair and working out some technical response that we would only learn about months later when the heat was on and they had to say something. Shameful, really.

As a person who likes search this lawsuit makes me wish I was a bit smarter so I could work at Google.

As a marketer I think Google being the only one doing what they are doing is a great thing for them.

  • This heavily undermines the Google can't be trusted with data meme.

  • By being the content in the news they raise their brand exposure. If you ARE the content that people are talking about advertising is not needed to gain market share.
  • By standing up against the government they gain user trust. It is going to be hard for a competitor to build an ad demand network of Google's scale while also trying to build that much trust at the same time.

I think this incident enhances Google's implied value, as it will surely increase their market share.

The Dartmouth - The New Spamford Daily

Jan 22nd

Ho hum...anyone looking for poker links? It looks like The Dartmouth can still fit a few more below the fold.

Leveraging Google Homepage Extensions

Jan 21st

I recently took a gander at the Google Modules site and saw a few great extensions. Some of them are a bit random and don't apply to me, but many of them were cool, like the to do list or the Technorati Mini extension which searches for SeoBook.com citations once a minute. (please note to track your own blog you have to view source, copy it, change the s= URL to your own URL, upload it to your server, then add it to your customized Google home page. Niall probably should have made the to track bit something you could enter after you uploaded it.)

Google is going to use many vertical databases to structure information. They also are going to allow users to create their own home pages as they see fit.

I believe one of the extensions was for horse racing. Getting links or visitors into a horse racing site is probably not a cheap and easy task, but imagine the lead value of a customer who loves horse racing so much that they have to be able to access the latest odds from their home page.

If your extension is cool enough it may provide direct traffic AND link popularity. Those who care about something enough to customize their home page for it are likely they same type of people who would also have websites and tell friends what they put on their home page.

I have not looked through all the extensions yet, but creating free extensions is perfect for concert ticket brokers, exotic travel sites, currency exchange sites, or other sites that provide free useful service.

Even if you provide a boring service you may get a few additional citations by spending 10 minutes creating a free Google Modules XML extension. The same can be said for browser extensions (think Mozdev) or other similar free distribution channels.

Retail Only Matters if You Have Reach and People are Buying...

Jan 17th

Some people make software convinced that they are giving away and losing money if they let anyone try out their software. But the retail price only matters if people see it and think it is worth spending money on. The shadier your software is the more of a viral buzz you need to make the marketing work.

A guy contacted me wanting me to promote his blog spam software for free. When I suggested advertising on Threadwatch and giving the software out to members for a day or a week he trumped up the value of his software, which makes me wonder why he had to ask me for free viral marketing if his software was actually worth $197 and already selling well.

If your software / information product / etc. has little to no incremental cost per user and is brand new you are not losing money giving it away in exchange for market exposure. Two years ago I gave away the first version of SEO Book. The first version really was not all that good, but I realized that feedback had value and I should spread it far and wide to get whatever feedback I could get.

PageRank Search Engine

Jan 16th

While search has in many ways moved past raw PageRank scores there is a newish SEO tool called PRASE which allows you to grab the top search results from Google, Yahoo! and MSN and and then sorts them in order of PageRank. You can also set PageRank limits. One thing that sucks with the current tool is that it does not allow you to expand the depth to get any more than 10 results from any engine at one time.

Personally I would find the tool more interesting for hunting down high ranking low PageRank sites than to find high PageRank sites.

Via Text Link Brokers

Buying and Selling Domains

Jan 16th

Not something I know much about yet, but recently there have been a number of good posts on buying and selling domains.

Email Spammers Killing Default Language

Jan 16th

Oilman recently reported on email spammers making his happy new year less happy. I recently have got a few penny stock emails with the subjects like Delivery Status Notification (Failure).

What happens when email spam gets more targeted and starts looking more personal? Will we change the default error and common words we use, or will we have to add anti spam phrases, or how will we automate blocking it?

Becoming a Scientific SEO

Jan 16th

One of the best things I ever learned in the navy was troubleshooting and half splitting problems into smaller possible problems. I recently did a bit of microspamming stuff to see what would get nailed and what would not, although I have only tested like 0.0000001% of the market. I want to start focusing more of my efforts on learning how to become a scientific SEO.

I have not built a ton of for profit sites yet, but the likes of Andy Hagans and a few of my other friends have been wearing me down into becoming more of a blog overlord / many for profit site owner.

There are really two main ways to do SEO:

  • Manually: Create world class content that is published frequently.

  • Automated: Buy and/or build sites that look good to search algorithms and search reviewers even if they are a bit automated.

People tend to dismiss the word automation as meaning it has to be spam, but I can't tell you how many times I have heard people like Mikkel talk about how many of the most popular websites are heavily automated.

Google, Google News, Digg, and Memeorandum are a few of the many automated sites I generate on a daily basis. I also think it is pretty hypocritical for those creating automated websites to push the image of automation as being associated with spam.

I guess the ultimate goal to create a money printing machine would be to create content that is:

  • useful and value added (needs to pass the Turing Test and be citation, bookmark, and subscription worthy)

  • unique (so duplicate content filters do not catch it)
  • profitable
  • nearly 100% automated

I am pretty much starting from scratch on the above autogen idea, but friends have left me tips here and there. I hired a cool programmer who is working away at creating value added websites. It should be fun.

In some areas I am partnered with friends who are all about making money, but as much as anything I want to watch and understand how search evolves on many levels. You really can't be a true scientific SEO unless you have some automated content you are working with.

Recent SEO Interviews, Etc.

Jan 15th

Lee Odden interviews Stuntdubl and Lee gets interviewed here

John Battelle speaks to Google NYC

While I have grown to hate SEO contests I currently am the only advertiser for the phrase on Google AdWords and here is a free link for my brother v7ndotcom elursrebmem, although he is going to have to be a bit more innovative than that if he actually wants to win. I really would like to see Graywolf win the v7ndotcom elursrebmem contest.

Inducing User Data for SEO

Jan 14th

Mike Grehan replied to the wide array of public criticism he received from his latest ClickZ article. In his reply he mentioned that he thought SEO moved from keywords in content to linkage data and that it was moving from links to user data.

So long as you have a channel with decent reach I think it is easier to induce end user activity than it is to induce trusted link popularity. If search engines heavily go in that direction I am so in the money.

They may want to trust user data more because it is harder for web marketers to track user data streams than link popularity, and entry costs to gain influence - in time and/or effort - exceed what most people would be interested in spending.

Mike gave this example for inducing user data:

What about, we give away a discount coupon to everyone on our mailing list (which as a large company may be sizable).

But, instead of putting a link to a promotional web page on the site, we cut and paste a link for a search on Google for brand+product. And instead of using "click here to get your token" as the call to action, we use "Just Google us and click through for your coupon."

His article is top shelf (although his Blogger template is hosed it is still well worth the effort to read).

Some other ideas to induce user data:

  • write articles that are intentionally vague or easy to take in an offensive way such that it builds a controversy around your name

  • create contests or other ideas that have some shifty sounding rules to create controversy
  • hijack others news or ideas by turning them into a controversy to share in the limelight
  • if you see viral ideas spreading throw chips in early to try to ride it out
  • write posts about emerging social networks or publishing formats and business models, perhaps saying how new ones will kill old ones
  • be aggressive in writing about ideas that are spreading quickly
  • advertise everywhere to where your ads become so annoyingly overexposed that people end up writing about the topic
  • take the contrarian view
  • be outright offensive
  • get sued
  • create a new word or define the meaning to commonly used industry jargon
  • if you are a blogger use Technorati tags
  • add links to make it easy to tag your site (via Del.icio.us or Digg or Reddit)... I so need to get on the ball with that

A couple ideas I included in this blog for probably well over a year:

  • Search the Search Engines for "title of my page"

  • Buy the industry standard #1 ranked SEO Book. What do the search engines think? Google Search: SEO Book (#1)

One thing that is a bit of a let down is that most things that go really viral are typically ubber hyped. I like the idea of organic marketing, but the line between strong marketing and pure hype gets thin when one needs to be profitable in a competitive distributed network market...and I may eventually find myself heavily becoming a hype guy.

Not sure how much weight will end up being placed on user data or how heavily it will effect the phrase "you are not going to believe what I read today" but I am already using that phrase. ;)

Buying Testimonials...is it Legit?

Jan 12th

Legitmate honest feedback is exceptionally hard to get and exceptionally valuable.

I recently got an email from a newsletter offering me something for free, only conditionally though. I could a free gift if - and only if - I left an audio testimonial about how wonderful a different product or service is.

Is that authentic? Is it honest or is it a bit scammy? What markets is that a good idea for and what markets is that a bad idea for? Are there better ways to build your brand reputation?

How do I Start a Niche Vertical SEO/SEM Company?

Jan 11th
posted in

SEO Question: I am new to the seo world..however I am veteran the ________ digital marketing space. There is a ton of opprotunity in the ________ space in regrads to PPC. I want to start a consulting firm for ___ sellers and help them shift their ad bugets to PPC. I would like you're advice on starting a company like this.

SEO Answer: As far as getting your feet wet in SEO/SEM go to some of the conferences. Search Engine Strategies and WebmasterWorld World of Search are the two largest, but you can often do well going to local ones because it may be easier to access some of the players there. There is a small conference in Dallas Fort Worth next Monday, for example.

If you already have great industry related authority or reputation then it should be easy to add the new services to your umbrella of offerings.

Call up some of the people who really know and trust you. Maybe try to add on the PPC services at no obligation to them to see if they like them. Offer them a free test campaign as a deal to a friend.

A low hanging fruit technique is to come out with a study that says how the ______ industry is screwing up PPC. Make it sound like you were absolutely shocked when you discovered that 82% of ____ companies were not even doing PPC, and that the other 17% were doing it sloppily (this probably works well for regional or topical targeting).

If you can using stats from companies like Nielson NetRatings, ComScore, and Hitwise may make your sales pitch sound more like legitimate research. You then want to try to get your research published on sites like DMNews and Clickz if possible.

Sometimes people are not using PPC and other times they have horrific targeting. You can either create one massive report or create a monthly state of the industry report.

I think Fathom Online shows monthly click prices by industry in their Keyword Price Index. You can ball up that sort of data with some other ideas to create a monthly state of the industry newsletter. Perhaps also track how certain brands are mentioned in the news (a la Topix.net) or on blogs (Technorati, BlogPulse, etc.). Depending on your motivational level you may also want to run an industry related blog to send out that information and any other related thoughts on the industry that you wanted to express.

Another option might be use the Google AdWords API and other tools to not only create your own custom reports, but to also create a tool some people can use that attracts the right audience. Then use that site as a lead generator.

Really love the industry? Maybe it makes sense to create a portal or partner up with someone who has a large portal related to your industry. If need be, perhaps even partner with sites at minimal margins for yourself just to brand your name and leverage that market position. Eventually that should allow you to either take on smaller content partners and make a greater premium there, and/or allow you to sell more search ads.

An aggressive technique might be to buy underpriced ads where people in your industry should be and then link those ads through to a report on how they are not effeciently marketing (and how you can obviously help them).

Disclaimer: while being ok to good at blogging and SEO I don't have a lot of experience on the selling services biz front because I tend to underprice services and thus have been more focused on creating my own sites and content than working for others.

Political Activism SEO

Jan 10th

So spamming bathrooms isn't the only way to the top of the SERPs!

There is a lot of viral linkbait floating around the impeach Bush topic. If you make a political activism sign and take a picture of it you may get to express your opinion, tap a bit of that free link love, and Greg is offering free BOTW listings to boot.

I am sure posting this will get me some hate, but I am only posting this because it is worth noting that their is a lot of good link popularity easily passed around in the activism realm.

Owning Google by Spamming Bathrooms

Jan 10th

It's all about mindshare.

Over at Threadwatch Massa posted about how a friend's site quickly ranked in Google by spamming bathroom stalls with URL laden yellow stickies.

I'm not telling anyone to spam bathrooms. I'm merely making a point that maybe thinking differently and thinking in terms of something other than tech may offer some answers to this debate. I'm not sure putting up post-it notes in toilets is people marketing, but I'm also not sure it isn't search engine marketing.

How Often Should I Check My Backlinks?

Jan 10th
posted in

SEO Question: Is it safe to check a sites backlinks daily or would you recommend once a week, my understanding is that using API's for the same site to often a no no as the search engines can easily track this.

SEO Answer: For most webmasters it probably does not matter what is being tracked. There are thousands and thousands of webmasters out there marketing their websites, so I don't think that search engines probably flag linkdomain: searches via APIs as being a bad thing because the main thing frequent research typically indicates is that others want to know how someone got to the top of the search results.

As far as checking the backlinks for a site daily, so long as you are manually publishing content and manually acquiring quality links I don't think you are going to acquire them too quickly per say.

I typically only use tools to research how competitive a market is or to look at the best links pointing at a competing website. I think if you are checking your backlinks daily you are probably wasting time that could be spent creating more content or getting more links.

A couple SEO blogs have recently pointed out Greg Boser's Tattler, which is lightning quick and works with the Yahoo! Site Explorer. It is a bit light on features but easy to export and fast as can be. Great for free!

If you are worried about people stealing content or use content syndication you can check out how many pages a unique article or post wind up on by searching for a unique text string of 8 or so words with them surrounded in quotes. Many of the places that legitimately syndicate articles also link back to the source document or link location in the credits box.

I also typically recommend avoiding bulk link exchanges as I don't see it as an effective forward looking SEO strategy for most webmasters, although here is a free script for checking reciprocal links, and you can also do the same in a bit more automated fashion using tools like Backlink Analyzer.

If you run a blog type site I think it is more important to see how quickly your blog is growing compared to related channels and similar publishing formats in the same field. There will always be ups and downs, so don't think everything will go up and to the right forever.

Also note what percent of your new links are legitimate. If most of your new links are spammy and your posts are not getting any new legitimate citations it might be time to think about taking a bit of a break or change what and how you are posting (at least if distribution is a large goal with your site). I find reading a few books and exercising a bit tends to get me inspired and maybe a bit more creative with a new perspective.

I do vanity searches for things like "Aaron Wall", Seobook and "Seo Book" about once or twice a week. By seeing who is talking about you and why they are talking about you it makes it easier to write posts in the future that more people would be willing to talk about.

Promoting / Marketing Art on the Web

Jan 10th

SEO Question: How do I promote my art site via SEO and search? I want to drive traffic to my site from Google.

SEO Answer: I have been asked this question in various formats more times than I can count.

How I would Have Marketed Art Years Ago:
A few years ago when I was far greener to marketing I would say get links with the anchor text you want to rank for. Make sure those words are also in your page title and page content. Then mix in a few quality links by submitting to the Yahoo! Directory, DMOZ, and vertical authority sites that are related to your field.

My very first SEO client was an artist by the name of Gregory Christeas who was also a photographer. A couple years ago I used very low level uber spammy techniques and his site started ranking in most of the search engines for "headshots" within a month. I charged him maybe $100 or so and then within a month he had already got a lead that gave him thousands of dollars in profit. He is the one who sorta made me become an SEO...although I sold no services at the time he was demanding that I helped him and so I did. I still thank him to this day for that. SEO has probably got a bit more complex since then, but I digress...

A couple years ago he moved overseas to Greece, his native land. Before he moved I had the chance to meet him and he is probably one of the top 5 most spiritual people I have ever met. He still has an art site. Years ago he used some of my low level SEO techniques I used on his art site and now he ranks at #3 in Google for abstract artist, but the site looks like dog crap compared to how amazing his artwork is. In fact, I think it makes his art look far worse to be on a site that looks like I designed it.

Mindshare is Key to Promoting Abstract Ideas:
Some of my friends think Paris Hilton is really ugly from top to bottom from the inside out. But she gets lots of search volume because she has mindshare and media coverage. Many people think she is this or that because they are told what to think of her and given enough repetition they start to believe it. I guess the theory I am saying here is that if enough people tell you something falls into a certain frame set or category then eventually many people will believe it.

What is beauty? The more abstract an idea is the more inclined we will be to rely on others inputs to formulate our own opinions.

Commodity Artwork:
Now if a person is searching for Pablo Picaso prints, in spite of him being an amazing artist, that is a bit of a commodity and maybe that is a good thing to optimize for since there is low commitment in products with low cost.

Somethings do not make sense to push algorithmically, and some leads have very little value. I don't think SEO is a real solution for most live artists. SEO doesn't really get too many people talking about you.

Artwork from an Amazing Live Artist is Not a Commodity:
Take for example my friend Gregory Christeas. He hid out on the streets of France while in exile from Greece. While living as a street bum / artist without a home he made art out of whatever he could find...coffee grinds, aluminum foil, whatever. His site looks piece meal at best, yet if you hunted about you could find the story about how he met Pablo Picaso.

About two years ago I tried putting his art in a database and tried moving him to become a blogger before I even knew anything about blogging. I don't think I sold him a convincing story though because I didn't really know anything about blogging at that point. Eventually though I would love to work with Gregory to help him do better web marketing because he is a great guy and his art work is amazing. Or maybe I think it is better than it really is because I feel I know, trust, and like him?

It's all about Feelings:
And I am not saying that I am one of those asshats who thinks that blogs will save the world or whatever. What I am saying is that story telling matters. Giving people a reason to come back and learn more about you and get to know you matters. Letting people feel they can know you and trust you and know what your motives are is really just about the cheapest for of marketing you can come across.

In the same way that SEO as a standalone bolt on product has largely died and is dying I think walls blocking off distribution to artwork will prevent many artists from succeeding.

Being Different:
At a place in SOHO I saw the expression on my artist friend Gregory's face when he saw this literally hairy pink and lime green pokedotted striped piece of artwork on the wall. He was pissed at the idea of art teachers telling people to be provacitive without reason.

We are all different, and if we express who we are in what we do that will only work to our advantage. But people run into issues if they try to be different just for the sake of trying to be different.

Create Connections & Tell Stories:
If you can find ways to make people talk about you then you win. The more levels you can connect with fans on the greater you will win.

The Importance of Conversation:
While search engines seem to be pushing many content production models to the lowest common denominator I believe they are pushing artists to become story tellers.

As Cory Doctorow recently posted:

Today there's the explosion of choice brought on by the Internet. All entertainments are approximately one click away. The search-cost of finding another artist whose music or books or movies are as interesting as yours is dropping through the floor, thanks to recommendation systems, search engines, and innumerable fan-recommendation sites like blogs and MySpaces. Your virtuosity is matched by someone else's, somewhere, and if you're to compete successfully with her, you need something more than charisma and virtuosity.

You need conversation. In practically every field of artistic endeavor, we see success stories grounded in artists who engage in some form of conversation with their audience. JMS kept Babylon 5 alive by hanging out on fan newsgroups. Neil Gaiman's blog is built almost entirely on conversing simultaneously with thousands of readers. All the indie bands who've found success on the Internet through their message-boards and mailing lists, all the independent documentarians like Jason Scott, comics authors like Warren Ellis with his LiveJournal, blog, mailing list, etc.

So how would I recommend marketing art?

  • Research to see what others have done to become successful using the internet. Maybe don't copy them, but consider how their ideas have spread.

  • Make sure your site design and format sells the same story you want the content to.
  • Don't be afraid to mess up. Many of my past posts are garbage. Many of my future posts will be as well.
  • Don't try to connect with everyone. The world is a big place. If you try to be interesting to everyone then you will be interesting to nobody.
  • Don't be afraid if sometimes people take things the wrong way or derive an alternate meaning. If people can't get multiple meanings from something how can it be good art?
  • Make sure you give people reasons to talk about you regularly.
  • Don't be afraid to be opinionated. Isn't art just an open expression of opinions and interpretations anyway?
  • Give stuff away. If people really want it they will find a way to access it. Piracy is a form of progressive taxation. Further consumption of your artwork is just going to lead to further consumption.
  • Give stuff away. Many artists have made their names by being the first or only person in their field to give stuff away in the format that they give it away. Helping others makes it easier to feel good about the day. Also imagine what type of great marketing it is for a person or a brand to donate to Amnesty International or other cool charities.
  • Go where the conversations are on and off the web. If I were an indie rock musician I would try to find a way to get to Coachella.
  • If I were any type of artist I would probably go to Burning Man.
  • If you want to try to also use search for marketing think laterally. Connect yourself with important ideas and ideas which matter to people you would like to appeal with.
  • Probably more stuff, but I don't yet know lots about art and it is early in the morning.

Disclaimer: I have not an artistic bone in my body and I may be full of crap, but I believe the stuff in this post. ;)

Update: Shepard Fairey explained how he marketed the famous Obama poster.

What is Deep Link Ratio?

Jan 9th

SEO Question: Can you explain what the Deep Link Percentage is, I ran a few sites and was surprised to see numbers as low as 7% with some very well respected SEO and large brick and mortar store websites.

My basic understanding is your deep link percentage is the number of internal pages which are linked to by highly relevant incoming links from highly relevant established pages. So for example if you had a ten page site and had one incoming indexed link pointing to each page from a site with proper anchor text your DLP would be 100%?

SEO Answer: Deep link percentage is the % of all your backlinks (or inbound links) that point at pages other than your home page.

What you do is the following steps:

So we calculate deep link ratio to be
# of deep links
---------------
# of links pointing at site

1,240
----- = 84%
1,480

84% is exceptionally high for most sites. Most major newspapers are not even that high. The reason that site was so high are

  • I have not actively promoted the site much

  • the site generally looks like dog crap so people are probably hesitant to link at it (hey I used a free design template)
  • the tools on the site are rather useful and attract a good number of natural links (notice how Jim Boykin just said yesterday how he thinks most paid SEO tools are pure trash, but he also posted that he frequently uses the tools on Linkhounds)
  • some people mirror some of the tools and link back at the original tool locations

I pulled results from Yahoo! because they tend to show more of their known linkage data than Google or MSN do. The theory with the deep link ratio is that sites with a higher deep link ratio typically tend to have a more natural link profile.

Depending on your content quality and your content management system you may end up having a really high deep link ratio or a really low one. Generally a higher deep link ratio is better, because it does a better job of shielding you link popularity to make it look natural, but you should compare what other sites in your industry are doing and go from there. Blending in is typically a good thing.

When you referenced the 7% figure for some of the brick and mortar stores they may lack useful compelling content within their site. If they have a strong brand but little citation-worthy content then most of their links will end up pointing at their home page.

Also note that it may be uncommon for all your deep links to point at one specific page. If sites are naturally integrated into the web they should be able to acquire multiple references to their site from related sites.

Many new webmasters do not mix their anchor text very well and concentrate too much on trying to rank just the home page for hyper competitive terms. Many of the old guard on the SEO scene also spend a good amount of time trying to drive 3, 4 and 5 word searches at some of their internal pages.

Please note that there are some killer ideas that are just uber cool linkbait that will end up causing many links to point at one page. Be it the home page or an internal page. A couple examples I can think of:

If you have individual pages or ideas that are exceptionally link-worthy I would not suggest worrying about them or downplaying them because you are trying to fit some random ratio (as I don't really think there is a golden ratio). Ride them for all they are worth, but then also look to come up with other good ideas or content, etc.

Roger Smolski also has an article on DLR. I am not sure, but I think he may have been the one who coined the phrase.

Should I Add a Blog to My Main Site or Put it on Another Domain?

Jan 9th
posted in

SEO Question: Lets say I have a web service company (sales) site and a blog about proper web design at domain.com/proper-web-design/ Then lets say I have a blog about hot design sites at domain.com/hot-sites/

If the blogs becomes successful would it help domain.com in Google serp rankings?

SEO Answer: In a word, yes.

Quality links to any part of your site make it easier for the rest of your site to rank well. So long as you use good internal navigation your link popularity flows throughout your site.

Although you didn't ask the questions, as to weather your blogs should be 2 separate blogs or 1 blog and as to weather it would make sense to keep them both on your main site it really depends on what your goals are and how much effort you put into them.

If you market your main products or services too heavily on a blog it can become a bit harder for people to want to link at your blog. If your content quality is amazingly high you can probably get away with a good bit of marketing without it hurting your linkability too much, although I would recommend keeping the blog looking really pure and non commercial off the start in most cases to make it easier for people to want to like your site, subscribe to your feed, and link at your site. After a while you can flip the switch and make some bank :)

Also keep in mind that even if your main site did not rank better your blog may help establish you as a known expert in your field. Even without marketing your services on your blog some people will want to hire you based on what you write on it (I so am living proof of that concept). You also are more likely to get better leads from people you would work better with by taking leads from friends or working for people who like to read your blog than the lower quality leads search would provide you.

For higher end service based businesses I do not think search yields very high quality leads as compared to word of mouth marketing, building trust over time, and brand building activities.

Many people also do not realize how lucrative proper contextual ads can be in some verticals. In web design contextual ads may not be too great because most of your traffic is going to be people fairly savvy about the web. My mom is learning blogging and has a weight loss blog. She has been blogging for maybe 2 months now and already has got some organic links from other bloggers. Just yesterday, in spite of putting an affiliate ad in a post and three contextual ad units around it, my mom got a decent link from another blogger. Another friend of mine also recently got some great link love from a high traffic site with a rather plain looking blog because he had one of the few blogs in his vertical.

Is There an Easy Way to Determine Keyword Market Value?

Jan 9th
posted in

SEO Question: Are you aware of an SEO ranking (by revenue) list anywhere?

SEO Answer: There are two ways to take that question. I will try to answer both of them :)

What SEO companies have the most value?
Very few SEO companies are public. Those that are public are rolled into larger corporations with other businesses as well. I also absolutely do not think that bigger equates to better.

Quality SEO does not scale. You really only need a half dozen or so quality employees to make millions of dollars a year. Many big firms end up hiring lots of people to get on the horn cold calling people or using other aggressive sales techniques.

I have been offered deals to make a commission selling leads to some of the larger SEO firms on the market and I have always turned down that option and have been willing to make less (often nothing) referring leads to friends that I know and trust.

From personal experience I would say that I probably provided better value for my price when I was new to the field because back then I was a bit hungry.

As companies grow bigger they typically get less hungry with how hard they are willing to work to make the same amount of money. I have seen the results of some work from large SEO companies that get people to sign contracts for $1,000 a month and keep charging for work even if they do nothing but offer generalized suggestions that are not implemented.

After 6 or 7 months of working with a large SEO firm one of my friends had about 4 links pointing at their website. One was from their official manufacturer and some of the other links used anchor text like BuyViagra.com with the keywords ran together. Not good considering how few links they had after that much time and $6,000 in the hole.

What SEO Companies do the Best Work?
That is a bit of a tough call because I have not hired many companies. As mentioned above I would probably recommend staying away from large firms with many employees.

I typically refer many people to my friend Daniel, WeBuildPages, or DaveN. When a firm is really good and really established it is hard to match up a client worth working for because they have to be able to afford a high rate to be worth the time of a good firm. Many top SEOs place significant value on their time because they can make money creating their own sites.

What SEO Business Models are Worthwhile?
As far as what business models within SEO are worth doing I think affiliate marketing or contextual advertising are nice because they make great recurring income per unit time / effort and do not require much in the lines of customer service. In fact, if you are good at finding the right verticals you can even outsource large portions of the content production business model while being virtually guaranteed profits.

The other SEO business models that are worthwhile are ones where you can create value without having to give significant attention to each lead and/or guarantee end results. If you are guaranteeing results you should only work with legit companies that have intangible assets favoring them or else you are probably going to be better off working as an affiliate marketer and web publisher.

Many SEO verticals are rather profitable. A few examples:

  • keyword research services - Dan Thies is considered about the only game in town

  • link brokering - not much ongoing effort per client AND it includes recurring commissions
  • link building - since it is considered so hard to build links people are willing to pay a good amount for a set number of links. Even though fewer links may have more value people like the idea of getting x links for y dollars.
  • directories - not many of these are well monetized via contextual advertisements, but some directories are rather profitable from submission fees. The hard part about directories is many submitters (including me) hate paying recurring fees because it gets to be a bit complex if they pay recurring fees across 100 different directories for 50 different sites. I would probably stick away from making a general one if I made a directory. I would also look for ways to make it extensible (not forcing every site to get the same sized description and link).
  • selling a how to book - hey that's me! I would do pretty good on the business front if I did not spend so much money going to conferences, building SEO tools that I give away, and have an ultra sleazy bogus lawsuit recently thrown my way.
  • selling SEO software - most of the buyers in the SEO market are newbies to the market. It is appealing to think that there is some simple automated software that will make it all make sense. If I worked as hard at creating software for sale as I did creating my ebook and blog I have no doubt I would make 10 to 20 times as much income as I do. The problem with software is that it ages quickly, and most of it quickly becomes obsolete garbage, but since people think they need it the demand is there, so people fill the market position. That is why you see sites offering to use software to submit your site to search engines for $2.99. No doubt it is a complete scam, but it is what many people want so the service is available. Most well versed SEO professionals use some of the free software and create their own custom software in house.

I would stick away from selling SEO services unless you had a strong brand which allowed you to get ultra high quality leads. Why?

Organic results drive about 3 times as much traffic as the pay per click ads and yet business on average are spending around 10% as much on organic search as they spend on paid search (at least according to MarketingSherpa).

Marketers spent $5.5 billion on paid listings in 2005 compared with just $660 million on optimization for organic listings.

As the algorithms advance it will be harder to put garbage at the top of the search results. If you are putting garbage at the top of the search results and businesses are only willing to pay you on average about 3 to 5% of the value you are driving then you may as well be a content provider and let them fight over you contextual ad revenue and augment that with affiliate income.

What Keyword Terms and Phrases have the Most Value?
I think it is typically worth avoiding chasing the exact same keyword list many other people chase. The top earning keyword lists that are widely marketed have lead to many people creating sites about mesothelioma. In that sense competition may scale quicker than profits.

If you are in a robust marketplace and most sites are chasing after the top term you may be able to squeak into a great market position by going after some of the smaller overlooked phrases.

Localization and using keyword modifiers are huge. So is market depth. If there are only a few high bidders on the most general terms then odds are not so great that contextual ad value will be much of anything for ads triggered by similar content.

If you can find a way to leverage user generated content that allows you to pick up significant traffic from misspelled terms.

Also within a market you have to look at how the lead value breaks down based on location or other demographics. Andrew at Web Publishing Blog recently pointed at this chart of mortgage lead value by location. Also note that if there are 100,000 people chasing California real estate and only 300 focusing on Kentucky it may make better sense to chase Kentucky if you are starting from scratch.

Overture, Wordtracker, and the Google AdWords API offer search volume estimates and Overture currently lets you view their bid prices, but you also have to research why the top sites are ranked and your chances of breaking into the top results when you try to calculate the value of a market.

Another obvious option for testing market volume and value is to set up a test Google AdWords account and sign up for an affiliate program to see what sort of search volume and conversion rate you get.

You can also look at the number of news articles about a topic and trending blog references to see if the keyword is gaining or losing mindshare within the web publishing industry. I also linked to the Del.icio.us tags on my keyword research tool to show what sorts of stories, tools, and whatnot were recently saved.

Link Harvester Updated

Jan 9th

I think I have updated Link Harvester twice since I last posted new source code. It now allows you to grab link data via Yahoo! or MSN.

On top of allowing you to search for links at a specific page or links to anywhere in a domain it also has a third function called deep links which allows you to get a sample of deep link data without grabbing links pointing at the home page. The theory is that many good sites get deep links. Looking through the deep links may give you a better view of how they were acquired or if they are all garbage scraper links, etc.

By looking through the deep links you can

  • check the quality of links pointing at inner pages.

  • know what URLs you really need to redirect if you are changing your content management system.
  • know what URLs are important to redirect if you buy a site and want to modify the content or gut out pieces that were causing duplicate content or other problems

Another useful feature of looking at the deep link profile is that if you look at the links pointing at sites that were not actively marketed via SEO techniques it can help you see what natural link profiles look like.

MSN tends to give some weird numbers with their backlink count sometimes and typically shows fewer backlinks than Yahoo! so by default when Link Harvester gives link counts like

Showing 421 unique domains from the first 250 results of 1129 total results

it means that between Yahoo! and MSN there were 421 unique results returned in the query. The of first 250 means that the link search depth was set to 250 per engine. The 1129 results is the number of links in the Yahoo! database (although they don't return 100% of what they know of they return most of them). If Yahoo is turned off the third number should be from MSNs database.

The Perfect Page Title for SEO and Users

Jan 8th

Brett Tabke recently had a supporters thread about the page title element as part of his 101 Signals of Quality series.

In the post he:

  • talks about how some people overdo it or underdo it to make the title less appealing to potential site visitors and search algorithms alike.

  • gave examples not only of what pulled best from the search results, but also what words could be added to forum thread topic titles to keep conversations going.
  • talked about keyword value vs phrase length

One thing he did not talk about a lot is the effect titles have on viral link baiting. I think NickW is probably the best at titling link bait of anyone I have ever seen. The title not only acts as an ad to be clicked on but also as an ad to be part of a story worth spreading. If you can be early with stories or put interesting twists on them those skills can make it really easy to build link popularity.

All in all Brett's post kicked ass. With how much information he put in that post I am going to be interested in seeing how he creates 101 tip posts like that one.

Search is About Communication

Jan 6th

Making Untrustworthy Data Trustworthy:

In social networks there tends to be an echo chamber effect. Stories grow broader, wider, and more important as people share them. Tagging and blog citation are inevitably going to help push some stories where they don't belong. Spam will also push other stories.

RSS, the Wikipedia, Government content, press releases, and artful content remixing means automated content generation is easy. Some people are going so far as to try to automate ad generation, while everyone and their dog wants to leverage a publishing network.

What is considered worthwhile data will change over time. When search engines rely to heavily on any one data source it gets abused, and so they have to look for other data sources.

Search Engines Use Human Reviewers:

When John Battelle wrote The Search he stated:

Yahoo is far more willing to have overt editorial and commercial agendas, and to let humans intervene in search results so as to create media that supports those agendas…. Google sees the problem as one that can be solved mainly through technology–clever algorithms and sheer computational horsepower will prevail. Humans enter the search picture only when algorithms fail–and then only grudgingly.

Matt Cutts reviewed the book, stating:

A couple years ago I might have agreed with that, but now I think Google is more open to approaches that are scalable and robust if they make our results more relevant. Maybe I’ll talk about that in a future post.

Matt also states that humans review sites for spam:

If there’s an algorithmic reason why your site isn’t doing well, you can definitely still come back if you change the underlying cause. If a site has been manually reviewed and has been penalized, those penalties do time out eventually, but the time-out period can be very long. It doesn’t hurt your site to do a reinclusion request if you’re not sure what’s wrong or if you’ve checked carefully and can’t find anything wrong.

and recently it has become well known that they outsource bits of the random query evaluation and spam recognition process.

Other search engines have long used human editors. When Ask originally came out it tried to pair questions with editorial answers.

Yahoo! has been using editors for a long time. Sometimes in your server logs you may get referers like http://corp.yahoo.com/project/health-blogs/keepers. Some of the engines Yahoo! bought out were also well known to use editors.

Editors don't scale as well as technology though, so eventually search engines will place more reliance upon how we consume and share data.

Ultimately Search is About Communication:

Many of the major search and internet related companies are looking toward communication to help solve their problems. They make bank off the network effect by being the network or being able to leverage network knowledge better than the other companies.

  • eBay
    • has user feedback ratings
    • product reviews reviews.ebay.com
    • bought Shopping.com
    • bought PayPal
    • bought Skype
  • Yahoo!
    • partnered with DSL providers
    • bought Konfabulator
    • bought Flickr
    • My Yahoo! lets users save or block sites & subscribe to RSS feeds
    • offers social search, allowing users to share their tagged sites
    • bought Del.icio.us
    • has Yahoo! 360 blog network
    • has an instant messenger
    • has Yahoo! groups
    • offers email
    • has a bunch of APIs
    • has a ton of content they can use for improved behavioral targeting
    • pushes their toolbar hard
  • Google
    • may be looking to build a Wifi network
    • has toolbars on millions of desktops and partners with software and hardware companies for further distribution
    • bought Blogger & Picasa
    • alters search results based on search history
    • allows users to block pages or sites
    • has Orkut
    • has an instant messenger with voice
    • has Google groups
    • Google Base
    • offers email
    • AdWords / AdSense / Urchin allows Google to track even more visitors than the Google Toolbar alone allows
    • Google wallet payment system to come
    • has a bunch of APIs allowing others to search
    • search history allows tagging
  • MSN
    • operating system
    • browser with integrated search coming soon
    • may have been looking to buy a part of AOL
    • offers email
    • has an instant messenger
    • Start.com RSS aggregation
    • starting own paid search and contextual ad program based on user demographics
    • has a bunch of APIs
  • AOL
    • AIM
    • AOL Hot 100 searches
    • leverage their equity to partner with Google for further distribution
  • Ask
    • My Ask
    • Bloglines
  • Amazon
    • collects user feedback
    • offers a recommending engine
    • allows people to create& share lists of related products
    • lists friend network
    • finds statistically improbably phrases from a huge corpus of text
    • allows users to tag A9 search results & save stuff with their search history

Even if search engines do not directly use any of the information from the social sharing and tagging networks, the fact that people are sharing and recommending certain sites will carry over into the other communication mechanisms that the search engines do track.

Things Hurting Boring Static Sites Without Personality:

What happens when Google has millions of books in their digital library, and has enough coverage and publisher participation to prominently place the books in the search results. Will obscure static websites even get found amongst the billions of pages of additional content?

What happens when somebody comment spams (or does some other type of spam) for you to try to destroy your site rankings? If people do not know and trust you it is going to be a lot harder to get back into the search indexes. Some will go so far as to create hate sites or blog spam key people.

What happens when automated content reads well enough to pass the Turing test? Will people become more skeptical about what they purchase? Will they be more cautious with what they are willing to link at? Will search engines have to rely more on how ideas are spreading to determine what content they can trust?

Marginalizing Effects on Static Content Production:

As the web userbase expands, more people publish (even my mom is a blogger), and ad networks become more efficient people will be able to make a living off off smaller and smaller niche topics.

As duplicate content filters improve, search engines have more user feedback, and more quality content is created static boring merchant sites will be forced out of the search results. Those who get others talk about them giving away information will better be able to sell products and information.

Good content without other people caring about it simply means to search engines its not good content.

Image showing marginalizing effects on the profitability of publishing boring static sites.

Moving from Trusting Age to Trusting Newsworthiness:

Most static sites like boring general directories or other sites that are not so amazing that people are willing to cite them will lose market share and profitability as search engines learn how to trust new feedback mechanisms more.

Currently you can buy old sites with great authority scores and leverage that authority right to the top of Google's search results. Eventually it will not be that easy.

The trust mechanisms that the search engines use are easy to defeat and matter less if your site has direct type in traffic, subscribers, and people frequently talk about you.

Cite this Post or Subscribe to this Site:

Some people believe that every post needs to get new links or new subscribers. I think that posting explicitly with that intent may create a bit of an artificial channel, but it is a good base guideline for the types of posts that work well.

The key is that if you have enough interesting posts that people like enough to reference then you can mix in a few other posts that are not as great but are maybe more profit oriented. The key is to typically post stuff that adds value to the feed for many subscribers, or post things that interest you.

Many times just by having a post that is original you can end up starting a great conversation. I recently started posting Q and As on my blog. I thought I was maybe adding noise to my channel, but my sales have doubled , a bunch of sites linked to my Q and As, and I have got nothing but positive feedback on it. So don't be afraid to test stuff.

You wouldn't believe how many people posted about Andy Hagans post about making the SEO B list. Why was that post citation worthy? It was original and people love to read about themselves.

At the end of the day it is all about how many legitimate reasons you can create for a person to subscribe to your site or recommend it to a friend.

Man vs Machine:

For most webmasters inevitably the search algorithms will evolve to become advanced to the point where it's easier and cheaper to manipulate human emotion than to directly manipulate the search algorithms. Using a dynamic publishing format which reminds people to come back and read again makes it easier to build the relationships necessary to succeed. To quote a friend:

This is what I think, SEO is all about emotions, all about human interaction.

People, search engineers even, try and force it into a numbers box. Numbers, math and formulas are for people not smart enough to think in concepts.

Disclaimer:

All articles are wrote to express an opinion or prove a point (or to give the writer an excuse to try to make money - although this saying that SEO is becoming more about traditional public relations probably does not help me sell more SEO Books).

In some less competitive industries dynamic sites may not be necessary, but if you want to do well on the web long term most people would do well to have at least one dynamic site where they can converse and show their human nature.

Earlier articles in this series:

Trending and Tracking the Blogosphere and Newsosphere

Jan 6th

Feedback Loops:

Most searches occur at the main search sites and portals (Google, Yahoo!, MSN, AOL, etc.), but some people also search for temporal information, looking to find what is hot right now, or seeing how ideas spread. Not everyone can afford WebFountain, but we can all track what people are searching for or how stories are spreading using:

Feed Readers :
Subscribe to your favorite channels (or topical RSS feeds from news sites)

Blog Search:
search for recent news posted on blogs

Blog Buzz Index:
search for stories rapidly propagating through blogs

General Buzz & Search Volume:

Product Feedback:

News Search:

Test Ad Accounts & Test Media:

  • Google AdWords
  • Yahoo! Search Marketing
  • write press releases and submit them cheaply to see how much buzz & news search volume their is around a topic, using sites like PR Web or PR Leap
  • post on a topic
    • see if it spreads
    • check referrer data
    • Sometimes stories emerge out of the comments. The Save Jeeves meme that spread originated around the time the person who created that story commented on my post about Jeeves getting axed.
    • Don't forget to have friends tag your story on Del.ico.us and submit it to Digg.

Tagging:
Some are busy tagging what information they think is useful.

  • Delicious - personal bookmark manager.
  • Wink - tag search
  • Flickr - image tagging hottest tags
  • Tag Cloud - shows graphic version of hot tags
  • Furl
  • Technorati Tags
  • Digg Top Stories
  • Reddit
  • Ning
  • Squidoo
  • My Yahoo!
  • Google Search History (you can't see what others are tagging, but I bet it eventually will influence the search results - Google is already allowing people to share feeds they read)
  • more tagging sites come out daily...lots of others exist, like Edgio, StumbleUpon, Shadows, Kaboodle, etc etc etc
  • also look at the stuff listed in Google Base...there may or may not be much competition there, and Google Base is going to be huge.

Track Individual Stories and Conversations & Trends of a Blog:

Bloggers typically cite the original source OR the person who does the most complete follow up.

Blog Trends:
See if a blog is gaining or losing marketshare and compare blogs to one another

Overall Most Popular Blogs and Stories:

Did I miss anything? Am sure I did. Please comment below.

Here are earlier stories from this series:

Syndication and How News Spreads

Jan 6th

A while ago I started publishing bits of an article that I intended to finish quickly, but life slowed me down. Here were the first parts

Why Bloggers Hate SEOs
Why SEOs Should Love Bloggers
Dynamic Sites and Social Feedback
Controlling Data and Helping Consumers Make it Smarter
Small vs Big and Voice in Brand

I am going to see if I can finish up the article today. Here is the next piece:

How News Spreads:

News has to start from somewhere. It doesn't really matter if it comes from blogs or traditional media. A few things that are important with both publishing formats are

  • both have incentives to get the scoop or report on stories early
  • both have audiences who can further spread your message
  • both are fairly viral
  • both have lots of legit link popularity
  • getting viral marketing via blogs or news coverage is something that most people will not be able to replicate

Eventually if the story spreads the feedback network becomes the next round of news. If one or two well known reporters write your story other journalists and bloggers may feel like they are missing out if they do not cover it.

The story about me getting sued was picked up by another blogger, then BusinessWeek, then the WSJ. About a few hundred blog citations followed that. Sometimes news that goes a bit national comes back local, and even then you get a bonus links. A Pittsburgh paper mentioned I was sued. That story was syndicated on a Detroit paper, and even got a mention in the blog of the local paper.

Newspapers love to syndicate content from each other to lower costs. Sometimes they even syndicate things that don't make sense because they need fill to surround their ads. I have even seen an Arizona column featuring local Rhode Island bloggers.

Google Adlinks: Selling User Trust on Bait and Switch Targeting

I have not tested Google Adlinks on many of my sites much, but there are other sites that talk about me in threads.

I was sorta curious how Google picked "Aaron Wall SEO Book" as a link topic and wanted to see what ads they display for it.

I have so many relevancy points for those types of searches:

  • I rank #1 for either phrase or them both together

  • My conversion rate for those searches is amazing and I have Google Analytics enabled so they know how amazingly high the conversion rates are.
  • If you search for either of those phrases (or the phrases together) I am at worst #2 on AdWords (am typically #1).
  • I have AdSense content ads enabled with a wide variety of those types of terms in it and am nowhere near my daily budget on that ad campaign

and yet when I clicked that Aaron Wall SEO Book adlink I did not appear in the ad search results. I also clicked the SEO Inc. adlink and their ad was #9 for their own trademark name.

I realize to Google it is all just math, numbers, money-in-the-bank, yada, yada, but if it is wrong for competitors to use trademark terms in ad copy how wrong (and perhaps even a bit unethical really - since search engines want to push the bullshit ethics angle) is it for Google to create adlink searches using trademarked terms to drive them and potentially not list the trademark sites or any editorial search results?

Is that legitimate comparative advertising? What would Sony think if Google delivered Playstation adlinks that delivered ads for nothing but XBox games. What happens if Yahoo! sells a link named Google that leads to transexual porn ads? Where is the line drawn in the sand?

Is everyone that develops a legitimate brand forced into paying Google through the nose for Adlinks on their products or brands so they don't have Google flush their brand equity down the toilet?

I bet if you search around there are probably some interesting adlinks that are complete bait and switch on trademark terms. Is there any cases associated with the liability of doing that? Should there be?

I am a big believer in aggressive advertising, but is it deceptive for Google to use a trademark term in a link to drive a query to a bunch of ads that may have nothing to do with that topic?

How is this Google adlinks technique any better than typosquatting?

Google Movies OneBox

Jan 5th

Not sure if this has been mentioned anywhere yet, but Google created a movies Onebox

Google Movies Onebox.

Philipp also noticed them testing drop down home page navigation.

Johnny Cash Biography AdSense Targeting on Amazon.com

Recently there was a biopic by the name of Walk the Line featuring Johnny Cash's life. The movie is so popular that the soundtrack and 2 of Johnny Cash's CDs are on the Amazon top 25 CDs list.

Johnny Cash's autobiography is a top 500 selling book on Amazon and yet the page had the following ads:

Off targeted AdSense ads.

I thought AdSense was better at targeting than that? Especially for such currently commercially popular and in the news topics? Hmm.

That certainly shows Google still has a long way to go to improve their targeting and profits from contextual ads.

As a special bonus, if you like music you really ought to watch this video.

PPC Spam Eating Soul of Web Content

Jan 5th

"I sold my soul for a quarter a click"
- a closet millionaire

Brett Tabke recently posted in his blog a definition of web spam:

So much graphical and textual noise that you can't determine whether you are clicking on a paid advertisement or an actual old-fashioned honest link. When ads are so thick, that you must study the page carefully to determine where the content is at.

That is probably a good secret to highly profitable affiliate marketing or contextual marketing of any type: put the ads where people are thinking they are going to find content. That is what Google teaches people to do. It makes more money. Who can fault us for doing it?

Eventually web users may adjust, but there is some serious CPC to be made until they do.

Brett also mentions that building better authority allows you to get away with being even spammier:

There is a point where ads become so pervasive, that they over power the content and hurt the credibility of a site. If you have a authoritarian site, then that point is much higher than most would believe. I know of one site that has over 25 ads on the page right now and is still considered a top site in it's field.

Which is a great reason why it is worth buying older highly trusted sites, or being lily white off the start. Get the trust. Then get the money.

A while ago I posted that there was a noticable trend where it seemed like there was a shift away from content optimization to content creation. It seems many sites are founded upon the principal that the only purpose of content is to get ads indexed.

It is amazing how much control search engines have over the viability of many publishing business models. As long as I still have at least one or two high quality channels I don't think I will feel guilty creating a good number of low quality spamesq ones. If Google wants to fund content pollution does it make sense to by a hybrid car? ;)

How do Flash Sites Rank Well?

Jan 4th

SEO Question: As a long time SEO myself, there is one thing that has me mystified. If you do a search in Google under "chocolate", Godiva comes up #1, Hershey comes up #2. Yet, if you look at their home pages, they have almost no text there. In fact, Godiva has no real text at all. Yes, they have PR6, but still, how is it that these "big boys" come up on top with a home page devoid of any SEO or real text? Is it all links?

SEO Answer: For competitive queries Google's relevancy algorithms are probably about 99% linkage data. Those brands are so strong that their linkage data means they do not need page copy to rank for general relevant terms. Should Starbucks rank for coffee? Few sites are more relevant.

Google does not aim to show the most optimized content. They want to list the most relevant content.

By having limited page copy they may end up missing out on ranking for longer related queries since it is a bit hard for search engines to make documents relevant for long multi word phrases that don't occur in the anchor text or page copy, but for general queries they can still do great.

This is not 100% bright here, but about a year ago I moved the host for one of my sites prior to fully uploading the site at the new location. The files were rather slow to upload and Google cached the home page while the site was not there and the site still ranked #6 for search engine marketing.

Sometimes you will hear some SEOs whine about the updates and others claim that their techniques are more effective because the clients see more stable results. In hyper competitive markets many times the result stability of a particular site has as much to do with client selection as the skill level of the SEO. The result stability in competitive markets has a lot to do with how strong the brand and traditional marketing a company has. Ultimately the search engines aim to emulate end users. Those brands that have significant mindshare in the real world should rank well in the search results as well unless the relevancy algorithms are crap.

A few tips for using flash (if you must use it):

  • Create descriptive useful page titles and meta descriptions.

  • Embed the flash into HTML pages and use regular text links on the page if possible.
  • If it does not screw up the design too bad add HTML text to the page.
  • Create textual representations of what is in the flash using noembed tags.
  • Instead of including everything in one flash file it may make sense to break the content into different flash files so you can create different HTML pages around the different ideas contained in it.
  • Macromedia has a search engine SDK, although I think most sites are still best off using texual representations of the flash files on the HTML content of pages
  • Mike Knott also recommended this JavaScript plugin for flash detection. It is XHTML compliant, and, so long as you use it properly, it is better than the Noembed tag.

Donating to Charities for Link Building

Jan 4th
posted in

SEO Question: I read your book and it said you could get links from charities. Do you have a list of the best charity websites to get on or ones you have gotten on? It feels kind of awkward to ask a charity if they will give you a link back if you pay money, that's why I want to contact ones you have already contacted.

SEO Answers: Not sure how good of an idea this is to answer this one publicly, but why not, eh.

There is a thin line with the etiquette to it, so its really something you need to research and feel out. It is not something you just want to work off a list with.

Search for stuff like

  • sponsors

  • donors
  • donations
  • please visit our sponsors
  • thanks to the following donors
  • etc

After you find a few websites that are leveraging the donation angle
you can follow their paths by doing a Yahoo! linkdomain search for their domain and text that would indicate they were working the donor angle (for example linkdomain:www.site.com sponsors).

A few things I would also say about the donation angle:

  • If your site is high profile and the donation cost is far less than the value of the link then quickly others will follow where you have been to lower the value of that link.

  • If you do not have many legitimately earned quality links and most of your links come from spammy bits of the web (like junk web directories and scraper sites) and donation pages then that might mess up your link profile (since your co citation data will put you in the neighborhood of a bunch of spammy sites).
  • The best donation links to get are things that are a one time occurring event AND on topic. After the one time events have passed you do not have to worry about the page becoming filled with thousands of spammy links. If it is on topic it is icing on the cake as well. Here is a great example: a cat site or pet site helping buy the new server for the Kitten Wars site.
  • Sponsoring newsletters and the like can be cool as well, as those tend to get less links per page. Our link suggestion tool may help you come up with a variety of other link getting ideas.
  • Donations that do not look like donations are great. The more abstract your donation the better off you are. So for example if you donate an information product you made that might be hard for others to find and replicate that link (or know why a particular person linked at you). The same is true for those who donate hosting, web design, or logos to great causes. Some people even work eBay auctions into their donation angle.
  • Even if search engines do not count the donation links for a long time they still are usually cheap enough that the ROI should be there if your business model is sound. Again though they should only be one part of your overall link profile.

More Free SEO Tools

Jan 4th

I added a bunch more SEO tools to the free SEO Tools page. Most of the new tools are geared toward beginners and are perhaps a bit boring, but
I like some of them, including:

Some of the tools could be quite a bit better, but I bought a bunch of them for cheap, almost just for the heck of it because they were cheap. Let me know if you find any of them useful. I already know some tweaks I want to make when time becomes available.

The next build of Backlink Analyzer is coming along slowly but surely. Am hoping to have a cross platform version of it with a few more features before the month is out.

Couple New SEO / SEM Seminars

Jan 4th

Jim Boykin is hosting a free SEO gathering on January 18th in Troy NY. Rumor has it Jim is buying the beer as well.

Dan Thies is hosting an 8 week linking teleseminar from January 18 to March 8. It costs $895 to attend. Dan provides personal access and good value for money in his teleconferences.

Perry Marshall is hosting a 3 day seminar focused on AdWords. It will be in Chicago on April 7-9 and costs $1795.

Conversation is Easy to Cite

Cory Doctorow covers a killer concept associated with Amazon's new author blogs:

Today there's the explosion of choice brought on by the Internet. All entertainments are approximately one click away. The search-cost of finding another artist whose music or books or movies are as interesting as yours is dropping through the floor, thanks to recommendation systems, search engines, and innumerable fan-recommendation sites like blogs and MySpaces. Your virtuosity is matched by someone else's, somewhere, and if you're to compete successfully with her, you need something more than charisma and virtuosity.

You need conversation. In practically every field of artistic endeavor, we see success stories grounded in artists who engage in some form of conversation with their audience.

It doesn't matter whether or not something is fair, it really only matters how the trends are changing and if you can adopt with how they change.

I sell a download-able ebook for $79. Is that too much to pay for a book? Maybe. It really depends on what you get out of it, but over the long haul the value is easier to justify and the sale is easier to make because there is topical engagement and conversation.

At times I absolutely screw things up, but mistakes usually teach me more than the things I do correctly. You have to try new things, and the more ways you allow your personality to be seen and connected with the easier it is to be successful being yourself.

Many people and companies fight the potential openness associated with some web based business models because they don't want the feedback or want to protect their rights and current business models.

My opinion is that if you consider markets as conversations and piracy a progressive taxation the way to have influence and create wealth is to spend far more time learning how to create additional value and distribution instead of focusing on how you are not getting your fair share.

The end goal is profit and satisfaction. While I am absolutely no good at many things I was stoked to see my site has been getting bookmarked in Del.icio.us almost daily recently and I got this killer feedback there:

Without a doubt the most interesting blog on search engine optimization I've found. His book is excellent, and his writing is clear and transparent. You feel like you know Aaron when you read his posts.

Of course there will be readers of various skill levels and knowledge levels. You really don't want to read too much into your own reviews because you are more likely to get feedback from the biased edges while the people in the middle sit quietly.

Recently I started posting a few Q and As to create more content for the beginer level SEOs, but I will likely need to balance that with other types of post to keep the blog interesting to more advanced readers.

My mom has recently started blogging and reading some of my sites as well, so she should keep me on the straight and narrow if I am posting things that confuse her. My mom thinks we encrypt Threadwatch, but she thinks my blog about blogging makes good sense. I believe this site is typically somewhere in between the two. As far as making marketing concepts simple and easy I think Seth does a great job of posting things beginners can understand. To some extent I think I would rather post original beginner level stuff than posting about the same thing be posted about everywhere. If you can relate other old ideas and concepts to what everyone else is talking about right now then you are at least one step ahead of the me too posting crowd I frequently find myself falling into when I am bored and uninspired.

It is rather amazing how well this blog has done because when I originally created it I did not define a specific market audience or skill level I was writing for and I still have not. It may not matter if 90% of the readers are bored by 90% of the posts so long as they can identify with the remaining ones.

Should I Use One or Two Websites?

Jan 3rd

SEO Question: A friend of mine has a non profit organization. Part of the organization sells topical literature and another large roll of the site(s) will be to give the background information about the charity. Should we use one or two websites?

SEO Answer: When does it make sense to use two or more sites?

  • If hosting the product catalog on the same site will make it exceptionally harder to get links to your organizational site you may want to use two separate sites.

  • If you are selling to different market segments it may hurt your credibility to sell similar products on the same site at vastly different price points or to different demographics (ie: a site that appeals to uber conserviative right wingers is going to use different ad copy than a site that sells to ultra liberal gay couples).
  • If you are in an organization that may come under a bunch of criticsm you may want to use multiple sites to try to clog up the search results so that naysayers do not get as much exposure. Think international flagship site, local sites, sites for business partners, sites for customers, etc. Some companies like Paypal, Dell, and Home Depot have some pretty bad stuff near the top of the search results.

If you are not one of the above (or have similar reasoning) I would recommend sticking with one site (I will likely eventually integrate many of my various domains soon enough), and here is why.

Google has moved further and further along with their duplicate content filters and generally does not like ranking fairly empty product catalog pages high in the search results. Sites that do not have much specific useful original relevant citation worthy content will struggle as they continue to lose marketshare to other sites and evolving search algorithms.

People will not be highly likely to link at the product catalog pages unless they are highly interactive or your site has an amazingly well known brand like Amazon.com.

Link popularity flows more naturally internally to other pages on a site than cross site to a product catalog that may not be well integrated into the web.

Some search algorithms not only look at page specific scores, but also use some domain scores to help boost the relevancy / trust of content hosted on that domain. A great example of this occured a few months ago when someone exploited a cross site scripting problem on Sony.com to add a page about poker to the Sony website. Sony.com quickly ranked in the top 20 results for some queries like poker or online poker (although the page may have since been removed from the Sony.com site).

If you separate your money maker and your best web integrated domain it will likely be substantially harder to leverage your original domain's link popularity for as much profit generation.

Is Buying Links a Waste of Time?

Jan 3rd
posted in

SEO Question: When people talk about buying links and how they don't help you, does this mean if I were to buy a link on cnn.com it wouldn't help me. Or are they talking about the pages that have nothing but 1,000+ links?

SEO Answer: Most of the paid links on major news sites that are sold are probably discounted in Google as far as their direct effect on SEO.

Many link buyers buy from multiple sites that are obviously selling links. They further compound their problem by not doing things like mixing anchor text and not also building up a wide variety of link types.

Many link sellers sell many outbound links on the same page in a small block. Others sell links to anyone willing to buy them, perhaps even selling highly off topic.

Most people do not try to stay below the radar when buying links, and those link buys that are not below radar attract other link buyers and link selling activity. The end result is that many of the links will still be devalued.

Much like how you can compare hubs and authorities many paid links might be easy to view as a network.

Keep in mind that I do not think MSN and Yahoo! are as good at detecting paid links as Google is.

If you listen to Matt Cutts talk long enough you might want to avoid doing press releases, syndicating articles, submitting to too many directories, and buying links, but his posts are sometimes more about in an ideal world than in all actuality.

Keep in mind that all major large scale search engines sell links. Google proudly sells off topic links, links on WAREZ sites and links on sites they banned for being spam. On top of selling links in the Yahoo! Directory, for a great deal of time Yahoo!'s Yahoo! Shopping channel looked like it was one of the largest link buyers as well. You have to take their opinions and statements with a grain of salt.

Many smart link buys and marketing efforts drive direct traffic and have a viral effect to them as well, so you have to consider that something that may not provide much SEO value may still provide good value from direct traffic or social connections they create. Some of my press releases, articles, and ad buys have helped lead to further organic natural coverage. I also have recieved free secondary marketing worth thousands of dollars based on aggressive or creative ad buying techniques.

Those editorial links that may be created are hard for competing sites to reproduce, and help augment the value created in an ad spend.

One of my theories is that people are going to talk about someone or something. To the extent within my abilities I may as well make that someone be me. Exposure leads to more exposure. Keep in mind if you are doing things like buying hidden links on the Financial Times someone is going to find it.

Some link buys may also be great at hiding why you are ranking. If you are already ranking great and profitable in huge markets like online flowers, mortgages, or insurance those markets may provide enough profit margin that it may be worth buying links that you know will be discounted just to cloud up your backlink profile to make it harder for competitors to do competitive research. The Internet.com partner network does a great job of making competitive research hard.

Does Google PageRank Factor Into Link Quality?

Jan 3rd
posted in

SEO Question: I am trying to get a higher listing in Google. I've read a several articles that say the more links that I have, with a high PageRank, the higher up the ranking I should appear. Having said that, what page does Google look at when considering the link to my site? Does Google look at the page that I'm listed on or that websites home page? To say it another way, does Google, when looking at the PageRank for relevant links, look at the page that my website is linked from or does Google look at that websites home page?

SEO Answer: It is hard to say with 100% certainty what all Google looks at when determining link quality, but I think you really want to look beyond raw PageRank score. As a measure of value of a link I think most people place far too much emphasis on PageRank.

These are things I would consider:

  • How natural is the link popularity pointing at the site I am getting a link from? Anyone can buy their way to a PageRank 7 renting a few links here and there. Legitimate sites with legitimate link popularity are going to drive direct traffic and value and if you can get links from those sites in a manner where Google thinks it is an editorial vote of quality that is great.

  • Will anyone click the link? If the links are tucked away they might not get clicked on. Direct value helps pay for link costs, and eventually some search engines may heavily factor user data into their search algorithms.
  • Is the site / page an obvious link seller? If there is a block of links on every page that were bought the odds of Google counting them long term are fairly low.
  • Are the other outbound links of high quality? If not does it make sense to cluster yourself with them?
  • As far as PageRank goes a site which has a high home page PageRank may be able to carry more weight than a site which had a low home page PageRank, but as far as the strength of the vote in terms of PageRank that is related to the page specific PageRank (instead of the home page PageRank) and how many links are on the page.
  • When PageRank started it was pretty close to a fair approximation of page authority. Since then the web graph has been polluted bad, so Google has likely factored in many other things like if they think a link is paid, Topic Sensitive PageRank, TrustRank, and Link Spam Mass when considering how much to trust a link.

How do I Track Where My Site Ranks in the Search Engines for Various Keywords and Keyword Phrases?

Jan 3rd
posted in

SEO Question: Do you know of any tools that would let me check all the ranking of my site by just givin my url? I mean, I want to know where I am rank right now, even for keywords I have not intended to rank for, any ideas?

SEO Answer: Rule #1: It really only matters that you rank if people are actively searching for a topic.

Most sites probably rank for hundreds or thousands of phrases that might be searched for once a year, so it is not important just to get the data, but also look for ways to make it useful.

Log Files and Analytics Data:
Using analytics tools or log file analysis tools can help you see what are your most common search terms that drive traffic toward your site. Analytics software packages can even show you how well you are converting for various phrases.

Most analytics software programs run from $50 to $150 a month. Stuff like Omniture is far more expensive. On the low end there are free tracking scripts like SiteMeter. Google Analytics is also free, but some webmasters do not like sharing all their conversion and traffic data with Google.

Automatically cross referencing sites and rankings:
There are some tools that automate cross referencing common search terms and rankings across a wide variety of sites.

GoogSpy allows you to cross reference terms and sites. GoogSpy is free, but their data is a bit shallow and may be dated.

Companies such as HitWise and AdGooroo sample search data, but searchers that tend to participate in those tracking programs tend to skew data toward lower end surfers (missing out on much of the B2B traffic).

Value vs Perceived value:
Many top keyword lists tend to point out the same search queries to many webmasters, which creates an artificially hyper saturated markets. [Mesothelioma] is a great example of a keyword market polluted by too many unoriginal me to websites.

Quickly responding to market changes and thinking creatively to create content about whatever news is in fashion or will be in fashion will help you find more unclaimed gold than any widely promoted list of keywords.

I know what keyword phrases I want to track:
If you already know what keywords you want to check your rankings for DigitalPoint has a cool free keyword ranking monitor tool.

What is a Keyword? Should I Focus on Single Words or Keyword Phrases?

Jan 3rd
posted in

SEO Question: What you often hear though is that ideas presented very often work for combined keywords or not so competitive keywords but much less for keywords in competitive areas especially if they are single keywords.

We are building a portal hence single keywords are of interest to us.

SEO Answer: The whole advantage of owning a large portal with a large amount of relevant related content is that you will match for many various longer search phrases.

Sure eventually you can rank for competitive single word search terms, but typically conversion rates are higher for longer search phrases with more implied intent in the query.

One thing you have to remember is that if you are starting a new site from scratch that it is going to have a long way to go to catch up with old trusted estabilished sites. Another thing you have to remember is that if your competitors are not idiots they will be reinvesting profits into further promotion, so it can take a while to rank for short search phrases in hyper competitive commercial categories.

On the page problems with being too focused on a single word:
Some people who chase the single word phrases end up stripping out many valuable modifier terms out of their content to where they no longer have relevant documents for a wide array of longer search queries. The focus on concepts like keyword density also ends up creating mechanical sounding content.

Off the page problems with being too focused on a single word:
When linkage occurs naturally there is a wide variety of anchor text associated with the links. Focusing too heavily on a specific anchor text set may give a site an unnatural linkage profile that prevents a site from ranking in the search results. Many quality sites will not fully allow you to control the anchor text they use to link at your site with.

Links from quality trusted sites help you rank across the board even if those links do not contain your keyword phrases in them.

If you like videos Dan Thies offers a free 75 minute keyword research video.

Do You Still Update Your List of General Directories?

Jan 3rd
posted in

SEO Question: I wish I had a list of free good directories that I could auto submit to, and the paid inclusion list as two separate tools or checkboxes or something. Do you still update your directory list and do you offer anything like this?

SEO Answer: I don't update my directory list very often for a few main reasons:

  1. most general directories are pure garbage

  2. I believe in many ways many search algorithms are moving beyond the level of valuing many of those links since they are surrounded by many low quality outbound links, have much of their link popularity come from overlapping low trust sites, and general directories typically do not drive too much traffic.
  3. the return on my time in trying to track what is generally a fairly sleazy quick buck no value add business model with maybe only a dozen or two dozen legitimate players would be better spent studying and learning other stuff
  4. a few others I will mention below

Generally the auto submit it bad stuff. If you believe that there are good link vs bad link algorithms (as I do: see my review of the link spam mass research paper or my article about directories and trustrank) then listing a site next to a bunch of other spammy autosubmitted sites likely has at least as great of a chance of hurting as helping.

Also imagine that search engines get better at doing duplication detection during crawl time and look closer at the context of a link. Is it a natural pattern for many links to have the same anchor AND same description right next to them? Nope.

I use Roboform to help save time with directory submissions, but I still mix the anchor text and descriptions when I can.

Editorial Quality Votes Are Key:
Many directories list any site that has $20 to pay for submission, and thus links from those types of sites are not legitimate editorial votes of quality.

Sure everyone ends up with some spammy links, but I think it is only probably worth getting links from around 10 to 50 directories depending on your niche. Beyond that you want to look for other links that are serious votes of editorial quality.

If your site can't get those sorts of links then eventually you are going to need to change the site profile if you want to compete in Google in a competitive marketplace.

I recently interviewed Greg from BOTW (a directory owner) and he said he believe for most sites directories should only be a small part of your link profile. Directories can carry sites in uncompetitive industries, but they are typically easy links for your competitors to get, and if you ever think your industry might get competitive you should spend some time digging around elsewhere as well to do like Stuntdubl says, Balance the Link Equation.

What do I put in a Frames Website to Help it Rank?

Jan 3rd
posted in

SEO Question: I'm going to be working on a site that was written in frames. I heard that there is some tag you can put in the code so that search engines can spider a frames site. Do you know about this? And if so, can you tell me how to do it?

SEO Answers: The first step with frames is to convert the site to a non frames site.

Why?

Because if your site is framed it becomes much harder for people to deep link to your content since they dont know the actual url of the interior pages unless they view the source code.

There is the noframes element, but it's just as easy to use PHP or server side includes for the navigation, etc. and avoid using frames all together.

If you want to use noframes HTML Help has a good page on the noframes element, but I would recommend avoiding using frames alltogether.

Where Do I Learn How to Develop a Landing Page?

Jan 3rd
posted in

SEO Question: Aaron, In you opinion, what is the best resource to obtain for learning how to developing landing pages? SEO Answer: An area of limited experience here, but here are my thoughts...

  1. When Jason Lexell releases his landing page guide it will be good. You may want to shoot him an email and say Aaron Wall sent ya...will help motivate him to finish publishing it and I promise it will be good.

  2. I have yet to read them, but I am certain the offerings from WilsonWeb
    and MarketingSherpa are good as well.

  3. Future Now is good stuff for conversion marketing tips. They have a couple great books for sale and offer a free newsletter at Grok dot com.
  4. Usability consultants are good. you can get a custom review at an
    exceptionally affordable rate from Usability Effect.

  5. The Big Red Fez is a decent quick cheap book that may give you a few ideas.
  6. Some marketers selling software and electronic information that push affiliate marketing hard have landing pages that convert well.

    Looking at the top selling Clickbank products will help you find many great sales letters / conversion techniques for different selling products at different price points.

For expensive items it may work best to capture the lead via email before selling too hard and then pound away at them with an auto-responder system.

A couple basic landing page tips:

  • Be sensitive to the audiences needs with the tone of your content.

  • Landing pages that seem like self help pages which fixed problems the writer also had convert well.
  • People like to see pictures of other people near testimonials and the like. If you can get audio testimonials those will likely help out quite a bit.
  • Limiting options by doing things like striping out site navigation can improve conversion rates.

Buying and Selling Sites as a Link Building Strategy

Jan 2nd

I think probably 30 or 40 sites mentioned when I bought Threadwatch. Some of them linked through to both sites, and many mentioned me in a good light, saying things like "of seo book fame" and whatnot.

Andy Hagans got a few links to his poker blog by mentioning that he bought it and for how much.

Recently Mick Sawyer posted a for sale ad for his black hat forums on Sitepoint. I don't think he was looking to actually sell the site, but just wanted to place a $10 ad while his site still had good mindshare from other recent mainstream media coverage.

Three downsides to placing legit public for sale ads are

  • Some sites are harder to monetize under new ownership.

  • If it is a community site some community members may be less interested in the community if they think of their content being sold to another owner.
  • You let competitors know your market share data or profitability more than you may wish to.

Some sites can generate significant additional income with minimal effort, but if you buy a large community driven site you also have to factor the value of your time into the buy price.






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