The Contrarian Marketer

The effectiveness of a marketing mechanism is going to be inversely proportional to the volume of spam generated and marketed to the same demographic using that same mechanism. If a mechanism is saturated with spam you need to do things that add credibility or make your spam look less spamlike than the bulk of generated spam. As people kill the effectiveness of a medium or mechanism due to mass spam generation they may be setting up a new birth. The vastness of the web, the contrarian marketer idea, and the fact that antimarket forces (such as having knowledge, brand, government contracts, social connections, user lock-in, or data that competing businesses do not) are key to profiting are all a large part of the reason why SEO information can be so sketchy in nature.

I get lots of emails from people expecting a free business plan. If you expect the information you get from a free personalized email to be your edge in your marketplace then you ought to rethink your plan. The only way I am going to research a market in depth is if it is for a paid client or if I think I may want to enter it.

What works for me may not work for you. Where I fail you may be extraordinary. It all depends on your personality type, goals and interests. That is why my book and blog are more about throwing out lots of ideas that people can use to market instead of just offering some dumb no value add easy bake formula.

Surface level analysis typically only shows you what others are already doing. On the web it is hard to follow someone else's footsteps and catch them, especially if they think ahead and reinvest profits. Before you enter a market it helps to think of what value add, branding angle, or other idea you can use as a hook. What does the market want that is not being adequately supplied by the current vendors?

I had a cool chat with Caveman about the whole contrarian idea. That guy is sharp.

Building Trust in Ad Systems

Google's ad network is large enough that they can afford to kill off portions of their short term income to improve long term network viability. The still sell ads on garbage sites because some advertisers find value there (and others have small accounts or have not researched their spend). Andrew Goodman recently had a great post about how Google is filtering out the profitability of advertising noisy spammy AdWords ads to minimize the number of them appearing on Google. Andrew wrote:

Post pages that don't give adequate access to the crawler - or adequate keyword cues - and you risk facing the wrath of the quality scoring algorithm. It's less of a worry as much if you have an established account - it's new accounts that face the toughest tests with the predictive aspect of the algorithm, intended to weed out specific types of violators, experimenters, and ham-fisted copywriters.

In essence Google is going to require you to build trust and market data over time to gain the ability to even be trusted enough to gain anything near maximal ad distribution (even if you are willing to overpay for exposure).

Jumping from Paid Search to Organic Search

Some people believe that old sites only rank well because of the links they have acquired over time, but I think even just existing for a certain amount of time without being manually or algorithmically tripped up for some spam infraction allows search engines to place more trust on your site.

Plus requiring sites to be a bit older to rank well requires an additional expense and / or level of knowledge that many people lack.

You can bet that if they are taking a lets wait and see approach on paid ads they are also doing the same on organic search results.

YPN Regional Ad Targeting is Garbage

How is it possible that when you have a domain name, page titles, internal linkage, external linkage, page content, and search referal strings that all HEAVILY are focused around a specific state or region that Yahoo! shows many regionally targeted ads, but typically none that are relevant for the region your site targets?

Imagine a site that ranked well for everything related to Colorado mortgage but nearly exclusively showed credit card ads or mortgage ads for non-Colorado states. How are people going to click on those ads? How are those leads valuable to businesses?

Pretty bad relevancy there Yahoo!

How Commercial is a Web Page or Search Query?

Microsoft AdCenter Labs offers a tool for Detecting Online Commercial Intention. It estimates the probability of a web page or search query being information, commercial-informational, or commercial-transactional in nature. I think you have to use IE to use Microsoft's tool. Well at least they are consistant with the stupidity of trying to make it hard for their good ideas to spread.

You can also use Yahoo! Mindset to see how page relevancy scores change as algorithms move from commercial to informational in nature. Google's current search algorithms are heavily biased toward older and informational resources.

AdCenter tool link via WebMetricsGuru

Quick Indications of Low Quality Search Spam

As more and more of the web becomes spam (as a total % of the web) engines are going to get more selective about what they let in their indexes and people are going to be more selective about what they are willing to link at.

What are a few quick at-a-glance spameroooo indicators?

  • URL name - does it have 12 dashes in it? Is it a subdomain off something totally unrelated? SPAM!

  • folder names - are the exceedingly long and/or redundant? SPAM!
  • file names - are they redundant with the file paths and long? SPAM!
  • page titles, headers and content - are they so keyword rich that it is illegible? SPAM!
  • design - does it look like a 4 year old put it together? does the design not match the site? are the colors just ugly? SPAM!
  • graphics - do you use the a similar graphic to what most spammers in your industry use? SPAM!
  • ad placement - is the ad block floated left inline with the content area? SPAM!
  • outbound links - does it only link to crap off topic sites that link back? Is there a huge irrelevant link exchange area? SPAM!

I just wanted to feel like Doug for a day. Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Why is it important to consider the above spammy signals? Search is self reinforcing. If just a few people who would have linked at your site do not because one of the above spam signals then you may never rise to the top to reap the fruits of a self reinforcing top ranked position.

Saturday I de-uglified a friends website by toning down its colors. That raised the ad CTR from 24% to 32% while making the site friendlier on the eyes and more linkable. There are many ways to increase earnings potential without making a site look much spammier. You have to consider linkworthiness as an opportunity cost in your site architecture and site monetization methods, especially if you are trying to maximize your revenues. The proper income maximization techniques vary greatly depending on your market, site quality and timeline.

The Importance of Establishing a Baseline

A number of my friends have stated that they have been growing less and less impressed with AdSense as a monetization model, but I think it provides a huge opportunity. The reasons I like using AdSense on a new site are:

  • Google has huge reach, so it shouldn't take their advertisers long to pick up on new advertising trends and opportunities

  • it requires virtually no effort, thus it allows you to scale without needing to hire ad sales reps
  • it makes it easy to establish a baseline earnings potential so you know how much to value your other media sales at
  • that also allows you to determine how much effort and investment each channel should get before committing you to spend thousands of dollars on a money losing channel.
  • if you track your ad clickthroughs you can also see which advertisers you are sending your leads at. If they keep buying them over an extended period of time and your site grows to be powerful with broad reach you can either partner with the same sources they are using, or perhaps create direct and premium partnerships with similar or better offers and companies in the same field

Of course there are downsides to placing AdSense ads on your site (like having your largest income generator and one of your largest sources of traffic being the same company), but as I have been building a few sites I have found AdSense helpful in determining where to pour resources.

John Scott recently had an AdSense integrated design competition , where he is offering a couple hundred dollars for a site design. Where else could you get a profitable and amazing site design for only a couple hundred dollars? Running a forum or being socially active helps you establish other baselines outside of your company and outside of AdSense, which allow you to be more efficient at finding and using resources. Friendships allow you to scale up and down without having to worry about hiring and firing employees.

Social interaction and the distribution it brings leads to further distribution, which gives you a wide reach of great people who will offer to give you feedback on your errors. So long as you are not defensive and do not try to control language when your ideas spread then nearly unlimited fast and honest feedback are great bonuses for anyone trying to spread ideas.

Which resources do you overvalue? Which resources do you undervalue? What do you use as helpful baselines in looking at the productivity of your business?

Another Rank Checker...

Corinaw at DP forums mentioned a new rank checker that shows rankings on many Google data centers, cache date, PageRank, number of indexed pages, and link data from Yahoo! and MSN. Here is an example result page.

Not overtly exciting, but a useful tool with an exceptionally clean interface.

Free Dan Thies SEO Teleclass

Dan Thies is holding a free SEO teleclass Tuesday, May 30, 2006. Well worth a listen if you are new to SEO or you would like to get a holistic overview of how the search market has recently changed and will continue to change going forward.

[Update: Dan's current class is full, but if you give him your email on the above linked page he will notify you when more classes become available.]

A Narrative on Link Relevancy & Link Authority

Caveman recently delivered a terrific post on WMW describing the evolution of SEO, and what it means to be relevant to Google.

...One day, a new search engine named G came along, and decided that if [a man] referred to himself as a pacifist, and others pointed to him as he walked by, then G would rank him as a pacifist.

...It did not take long before the criminal figured out that if the people who pointed to him as he walked by called him pacifist while they pointed, rather than just calling him by his name, his rankings went up for the term "pacifist." So he wore a sign - "pacifist" - and people called him that as they pointed, and his rankings rose.

...After a time, the man realized that if he got all of those he knew to call him pacifist, his rankings would rise further still, and that is what happened.

...So he thought, why not get strangers to call him pacifist, and in return he would refer to them as they wished to be referenced, and all those in his newly expanded network could rank even better for their respective terms. And so it was.


...This worked for a while, but eventually, G began to suspect that the faux-pacifists were getting better and better at creating the illusion that they were true pacifists, by begging, borrowing and buying the necessary accolades. It even became known that some faux-pacifists were bribing true pacifists to say nice things about the faux pacifists, so that G would be fooled.

...So, G decided to take drastic measures. They became a registrar so that that could look at each man's historical records. They learned to keep track of what each man said about himself and when, and what others said about each man, and when. And G learned to not trust those who suddenly one day out of the blue proclaimed themselves as pacifists, though their records bore no hint of that previously.

I think this narrative does a terrific job of describing the differences between real and synthetically manufactured authority.

In many small industries there is not much of a topical community, so it may not take much to rank in them, but if there are other legitimate sites ranking for the queries you want to rank for you really have to build reasons why subject matter experts would want to reference you in a positive light.

I think pointing out the social aspect of many links also drives home the concept of a natural editorial citation, and the fact that many real links are driven from social relationships.

Jim Boykin also recently posted on the historical importance of backlinks, and hinted at how he has been cherry picking killer links.

Search Engine Friendly Copywriting - What Does 'Write Naturally' Mean for SEO?

SEO Question: Many people say write naturally for SEO, but what does that mean?

SEO Answer: About a month and a half ago the New York Times published an article by Steve Lohr titled This Boring Headline Is Written for Google. The article flits with the idea of writing newspaper articles with Google in mind. That story got a decent amount of buzz because newspapers usually do not put much consideration into search engine marketing.

Old School Search Engine Optimization:

A few years ago you could do SEO like this:

  • start your page title with your keyword or keyword phrase
  • include that keyword phrase on most every heading or subheading on that page
  • link to the page sitewide with that same keyword in the anchor text
  • build a ton of links from external locations, with most (or all) of them containing that keyword phrase

Does Old School Still Work?

For MSN (and, to some extent, Yahoo!) you could still use a somewhat similar keyword stuffing philosophy and see outstanding results, but the problem with the stick my core phrase everywhere SEO method! is that Google does not want to show the most optimized content. They want to show the most relevant content.

As noted above in the New York Times article, most news articles (and likely most quality web documents) are not heavily focused on concentrating on optimizing for a keyword. Instead they use the natural language associated with that topic.

If too many of your signals are focused on just one word or phrase and you lack the supporting vocabulary in your document you may get filtered out of the search results for your primary keyword targets. It has happened to me several times, and it is a pretty common occurrence, especially for websites that have few authoritative trustworthy votes and try to make up for it by aggressive use of a phrase in the page content.

Here is an example of a snapshot of a spam page I saw ranking for a long tail keyword

The problem is, that page was ranking for Michigan Smoker's Life Insurance when it targeted a way different phrase. The page will never rank for the main phrase it was targeting, so unless they redirect searchers to a more relevant page it is going to be hard for them to convert any visitors that land on a page like that.

Read a bunch of SEO forums and you eventually come across threads with titles like Non optimized pages higher in SERPS than optimized ones???

How to Optimize for Google:

So if old hat optimization is considered overoptimization and/or is potentially detrimental to your rankings what do you do?

You could

  • say screw Google they will eventually rank me if I get this keyword on the page 1 more time ;)
  • say screw Google I am pulling in plenty of money from Yahoo! and MSN
  • not worry about SEO at all
  • evolve SEO to a more productive state

Onward and upward I say. How to mix it up to become Google friendly:

  • Start the page title with a modifier or couple non keywords instead of placing your primary keyword phrase as the first word of the page title. Example... instead of search engine marketing company start your title with professional search engine marketing...
  • Stemming is your friend. Use plural, singular, and ing versions of your keywords. I have seen pages that used a bunch of the plural version filtered out of Google for the plural version but still ranking for the singular version. If you mix it up you can catch both.
  • Mix up the anchor text, subheaders and page content. Use semantically related phrases, and, in some cases, write subheaders that are useful for humans even if some of them do not have any keyword phrases in them.
  • Make sure each page is somewhat unique and focused in nature.

Semantically related phrases:

If you think of words as having relationships to one another and you visualize optimizing for a keyword as optimizing for a basket of relevant related keywords it will help you draw in relevant related search traffic while also making your page more relevant for its core keywords.

For example, the acronym SEO would have the following as some semantically related phrases

Now you wouldn't necessarily need to get all of those in your page copy, but if a person was writing naturally about the topic of SEO it would be common for many of those kinds of words to appear on the page.

Where do I Find Semantically Related Phrases?

GoRank offers a free semantic research tool. You can also find semantically related phrases by using a Google ~ search, the Google Keyword Tool, clustering engines, or concept pairing tools like Google Sets.

I link to all those tools on my keyword suggestion tool, and here is a background post on latent semantic indexing.

An Over Abundance of Modifiers:

In addition to using words that are semantically related it makes sense to use words that are common modifiers. For example common buying / shopping searches might include words like

  • Free shipping
  • Coupons
  • Coupon
  • Deals
  • Deal
  • Cheap
  • Expensive
  • Budget
  • Bargain
  • Bargains
  • Affordable
  • Low Cost
  • Free
  • Find
  • Get
  • Buy
  • Purchase
  • Locate
  • Compare
  • Shop
  • Shopping
  • Search

I created a keyword modifiers spreadsheet with free keyword modifier ideas for a few different search, transaction, and classification types. I might try to expand it a bit if people find it useful.

If it All Sounds Like a Bit Much...

If it seems complex or complicated then don't focus too heavily on the modifiers or semantic related phrases or even your core keyword that much.

First write your article about your topic without even thinking about the search engines. Then go back and tweak it to include relevant modifiers and semantically related phrases. Make sure that you use multiple versions of your primary keyword phrase if it has multiple versions.

To make the page easy to read and to make it easy to add related phrases and alternate versions of your keywords break up the page using many subheaders. Also add leading questions that lead people from one section to the next. For example, I could say did you find this search engine marketing article helpful in your website promotion quest? Do you think it will help you do a become a better search engine optimizer and more holistic internet marketer?

I am a bit tired and I think this was a bit verbose, but hopefully it helps somebody. If not, arggggg... hehehe.

Free Duplicate Content Checker Tool

Sufyan created a free tool which checks page similarity. You can set it to check sitewide on small sites, or enter in a couple URLs manually to cross check them for how similar the pages are to one another.

This tool doesn't test if a site has canonicalization issues, but it is plenty cool for free.

update: link to removed as it is now a domain lander page

How do I Tell Where My Website Ranks in Google?

SEO Question: So here is my question. I have followed a good deal of your advice and am thankful for it as I see myself sitting pretty for some of my keyword phrases. However, my friend in Idaho sees different results and my friend in Saudi sees different results - and I wanna know - does Google index differently according to geographical locations?

Assuming that you mean where you rank in the SERPs (also known as the search results page) and not PageRank - which is a rough estimate of global link popularity, there are a number of factors which may show you different search results than what your friends see when they search Google. The 3 major factors are:

  • data center

  • location
  • personalization

Google's Data Centers:

Google has a boatload of data centers around the world. In fact some of them even be running in shipping crates. They usually route search queries to the data center that is nearest you. In a recent interview Google's Matt Cutts said:

In fact, even at different data centers we have different binaries, different algorithms, different types of data always being tested.

If they roll new filters or make large changes to their algorithms you might notice different results as you hit one data center or another.


A friend of mine owns a site in a hyper competitive market that used to be owned by a person from Australia. While the site does not yet rank as well as my friend would like on it ranks for amazingly competitive single word queries in Google Australia ( due to having many links from websites that are located in Australia.

Within Google's local search they allow people to search for all websites or just local ones. You can appear in local databases by hosting your site there, using a domain with a local extension, or having many links from sites that are deemed local in nature.

If you are in Canada even if you search on those search results will be biased toward Canadian websites. If you are located in another country but want to see what Google's search results look like in the US you can search Google from a proxy.

Search Personalization:

If you are logged into a Google Account they will bias your search results based on websites you have visited, especially those you have clicked through to from search results.

If you visit a site or page frequently they will improve the positioning of that page in your personalized search results. If you visit a page occasionally just rank checking, and then sometimes clicking onto your result then clicking back nearly immediately Google will demote those pages in the SERPs.

You can turn off Google personalized results by clicking a link on the results that says something like Turn Off Personalized Results

Free Google Keyword Rank Checking Tools to Use:

There are a number of free tools that make it easy to track where you rank.

I like tracking some core keywords using Rank Checker. It is free and stores historical results, offering data refreshed however often you would like it refreshed. And since it sits on your desktop you don't have to worry about others spying on and aggregating your data to compete against you.

If you just want to check where you rank in Google I have a few rank checkers in the tool section on my website as well.

Keep in mind that many of the rank checkers will set the number of results per page to be a different number than the default 10, and that will cause a slight ranking skew. Also if you wanted to check your rankings on different data centers McDar has a free tool which makes it easy to check your rankings across a number of data centers all at once.

You could also manually go to any of the data centers directly and do a search query from their IP address, like or

Paid Rank Checkers

If you need to track rankings in some search engines outside of the core global search engines (Google, Microsoft Bing, & Yahoo! Search) say like Baidu or Yandex then you might want to give Advanced Web Ranking a look. In addition to storing your rank data they store the entire top 50, and allow you to create graphs with it and provide many different useful reports that give you various looks at ranking trends amongst competing sites.

Server Logs & Tracking:

It is easy to get hung up on where you rank for a specific term, but it is far more important to try to rank for a diverse set of terms. See what terms are driving searchers to your site and track which of those terms are converting. From that data you can create more content around what converts or spruce up the top performing pages by adding a few modifiers or making the content more compelling to human visitors, and thus further increasing conversions.

Full Mike Grehan Matt Cutts Interviews

I think they are about 45 minutes each. Here are parts 1 and 2 to Mike Grehan's interview of Matt Cutts.

How Much is a Link Worth?

Text Link Ads recently announced a new tool to price the value of text links.

If I could sell 10 on this site it would amount to about $5,000 a month in passive supplemental income. I would be more likely to try to sell just 1 exclusive for something like that price though :) The tool's goals might be a bit self serving, and the actual link value might vary from what the tool reports, but it could be a helpful tool to people new to SEO looking to price the value of a link.

Jim Boykin recently mentioned that Text Link Brokers created a link building wiki. You know the market is getting more competitive when you got all the link brokers creating free tools and resources :)

Google Video Done Well

Looking through Google Videos many of them appear to be exceptionally bad or advertisements. While many more of them appear to be exceptionally bad advertisements. But I found one video that I thought was pretty cool.

I need to step up my game on learning about video stuff. If you had a remarkable product and could display how cool it was I don't think there would be much need to buy ads to distribute your message.

Télépopmusik's Breathe is a cool song and that is a cool video. :)

I find that video much more interesting than the announcement of Pearl Jam's recent terrible song being distributed on Google Video, but I think they need people like Pearl Jam to help find and share the good stuff.

Crafting Quick, Natural, and Easy Co-citation

I was chatting with a friend of mine recently, and he talked about liking to link out to related relevant resources from his new site. Given that Google has blatantly stated that they look at the quality of both your inlinks and outlinks why not help search engines associate your site with related sites when you are new.

I also got thinking about a couple other easy ways to build co-citation data and trails for building your brand and sending relevant traffic streams to your site... Directory listings provide quick and easy co-citation data. A trivial expense for large businesses, but they can be costly for people new to the web.

Squidoo is quick and easy to set up a free topical page on. By mentioning your site along with some of the top sites in the same field you can get some quick co-citation data, while also showing that you are an industry expert.

I sorta missed the ball on the Google Notebook launch. I didn't mention it because I was working on a big project and did not have much time to dig through it, but I think it is a great marketing tool for new webmasters. You can create notebooks about different topics then mark them to be publicly accessible.

Tagging is an easy way to get seen by a few people and show what you are related to. Reviewing related products on your site and major sites like is another way to identify your name and brand with your field. I also am a fan of learning from forums, Google Groups, and Yahoo! Answers.

Where are your favorite ways to get co-citation data or easily tap related traffic streams?

Factors Affecting AdSense Ad Clickthrough Rate and Earnings Potential

This post topic has the ability to quickly get me steamrolled and a lot of hate, but I think advertisement clickthrough rate is something well worth considering before creating any website that is monetized via pay per click ads. I have recently launched a number of AdSense monetized sites and these are some of my early thoughts on factors affecting monetization and CTR.

Are there Any Ads? Are the Ads Relevant? Is There Any Search Volume?
If you search for Google and nobody is advertising for your targeted industry or phrase sets the opportunities to make money are going to be rather limited. The same holds true if the traffic volume is low or the bid prices are dirt. The Google Traffic Estimator Tool makes it pretty easy to get an estimate of the bid prices and AdWords click volume while the Google Keyword Tool lets you check the depth of competition quickly. You can also use Shawn's Google AdSense Sandbox to see how compelling and relevant ad offers are for a specific topic.

Signs of Desperation, Ignorance, or Stupidity
I am sure this category might get me a bit of heat, but I own one website that was getting about 400 pageviews a day about a specific topic. Adding a single page catering to some ignorant people in that vertical (one could assume a certain level of ignorance by their search queries - sorry but I can't give that term away) added 50 pageviews a day and doubled the ad clicks and earnings for the site.

Dumb or naive people are less likely to realize they are clicking paid ads when they land on your page.

What are some common signs of intelligence or lack of intelligence? Or signs of naiveness?

  • topics for kids - they clearly are going to be operating on limited business experience and limited financial and business understanding, and thus may click click click without thinking anything of it. I have a site that caters to a broad field, but the page most focused on kid friendly searches has a 50% ad clickthrough rate, whereas the next best page is coming in at 18%, and the site averages around 10%.

  • searching for things that do not exist - these are going to be easier to rank for than their official alternatives. These searches may be an indication of intelligence or lack of intelligence depending on vertical and query. From my limited experience, more frequently they will likely indicate a lack of intelligence, but it really depends on the reason WHY the market has yet to fill the demand.
  • misspellings and misuse of language - I am a bad speller so I offer no hate here, but on average most misspelled queries come from people who are below average on the intelligence scale
  • poor credit or lack of financial planning - sure we all go through ruts, but the average person looking for a payday loan is going to be less intelligent than the average person looking for a mortgage loan
  • general topic - the average person searching for scientific information is going to be smarter than the average person searching for a personality on Fox News or American Idol.
  • demographics - old and young people may not be clued into how the web works. Some other demographics may be more or less clued in. Many search queries may do a great deal to identify the gender, age group, or ethnicity of the searcher.
  • traffic source - On average the average Google user is going to be smarter than the average MSN Search user, who is going to be smarter than the average free spyware download search accelerator searcher.
  • query length and syntax - advanced search queries and specific long tail searches are most likely going to be from smarter searchers or searchers closer to purchasing.

Searches That Signify the Desire for Advertisements
Targeted buying searches and comparison searches may be searchers that are looking for just a bit more info before converting, perhaps through one of your ads.

Ad Integration
The more ads look like content the more they get clicked on. Default blue is a beautiful link color. Some people do well by placing images near their AdSense ads.

Quality and Quantity of Ad Alternatives
Content that is of amazing quality that solves the visitor's problems may make the ads look less appealing, although if it allows you to become the industry standard resource that additional distribution can more than pay for the added cost of creating real quality content.

If a page is a resource link list or has many alternative paths to leave the site outside of an ad click many people will take those paths.

Are the top SERPs dominated by real resources?
If the top results are quality informational PR7 .edu pages best of luck on the rankings front. You are going to need it ;)

If the top sites are cloaked pages or other sites that do not look like real resources it is easier to get your listing clicked on by crafting a quality page title and meta description.

Does Your Site Have Enough Authority?
As recently posted by Quadzilla, if you have authority it seems you can extend it out cross topic. If you lack link authority and age related trust it is an uphill battle to compete in Google.

How Much Commitment is Required to Buy?
Buying a home is a much more extensive and expensive process than buying a treadmill.

How Web Friendly is Your Product Offering?
Ads for physical books, heavy commodities or things like diamonds (which perhaps require some amount of trust to purchase) are going to go for far less than they are worth when compared to ads for items that fit the web nearly perfectly (take software or ebooks as examples).

Shopping and Brand Comparison Pages for SEO

If you do affiliate marketing it is probably best to have few distracting features on your end landing page for each individual product or offer. It is best to sell it as THE ONLY option.

But in some cases it may take a while to gain enough authority to rank for individual brands or products if the market is competitive. Many comparison shoppers include multiple brands or product names in their search queries. Creating comparison pages makes it easy to rank for comparision type queries. If markets are competitive with a few top players it is easy to draw in a ton of traffic by creating pages comparing the top few brands, especially if you use key shopping or comparison review words in the page content like

  • category / product type

  • find
  • compare
  • send
  • buy
  • review
  • reviews
  • vs
  • versus
  • better
  • best
  • top
  • cheaper
  • cheapest
  • deals
  • coupons
  • fastest
  • speed
  • safest
  • power
  • feedback
  • side effects (for drugs, etc.)
  • free shipping

You can get a great list of relevant topic specific shopping / sorting words for your products, category or theme by going to comparison shopping sites like, Yahoo! Shopping or Froogle. You can also go to Amazon to read a ton of reviews because people will likely search for things in similar ways to how they write about them.

If your market is advanced or technical in nature and you can offer a significant amount of comparison data you may also want to create a PDF of the comparisons, as it is pretty easy to rank for most queries when you add PDF to the search query.

Covering smaller brands on some pages is a smart idea since they will be less competitive to rank for. Even if your review recommends other products once they get to the brand specific page you still can find cheap and easy traffic by creating targeted pages for those brands. Plus if they do any marketing to try to increase their marketshare many people will use search engines to look for reviews. Just like for the + PDF searches are not too competitive many of the brand term + product name + review are not too competitive (outside of the hosting industry anyway).

Quickly View the Depth and Quality of Competition in a Marketplace

I recently did a search on Yahoo! and noticed the search results had "saved by X people" near many of the top listed backlinks.

Results that are bookmarked are typically sites that are frequently visited by real people. As the web becomes more read write the "saved by x people" on the top backlinks will be a great quick SEO tool for testing the depth of support for your site or a competing website. Yahoo! Linkdomain with tagged by results in it.

I consider this website to be somewhat legit, but my sites I would classify as less than legit have no backlinks from pages that are bookmarked on other sites, which is another way of corroborating the value of Jim's philosophy on finding the best pages to get links from within a site.

If you just search for a site it I believe Yahoo! returns those results roughly in order of authority and shows which pages were tagged in those results.

Yahoo! site search with tagged by results in it.

Although more information existing online increases the bar for what is required to be competitive / remarkable / linkworthy I also believe that search engines sharing as much data as they do still makes marketing easy. Thanks to them for that.

The two big downsides to tagging are that it is easy to spam, and currently few people outside of exceptionally techie circles use it much.

Google's Marissa Mayer on Innovation at Google

Marissa Mayer gave a fun talk about innovation at Google.

My mom accuses me of talking quick, but Marissa has me beat by at least 2 to 1.

Search Relevancy, Content Quality, and the Future of Stale Antisocial Websites

The biggest limiting factor in search right now is content quality. Google is pushing to bring books online. They not only want to bring millions of books online, but they also want to turn their pages into linkable web pages

What Google has not announced, but is likely to one day, are ways it might help publishers and authors enhance pages from printed books once they are online.

Cerf refers to this as "books that talk to each other," an idea to make them more like the rest of the Web where pages are cross-linked and visitors can annotate and tag text as is done with Web logs.

Olive Software is a company that stores print magazines and newspapers in XML searchable format, while making the content easy to read online in its near original format. Imagine if Google bought a company like that, and extended Google Base to include a large portion of the history of printed works.

If the linkage data was HEAVILY augmented by usage data and tracking what words people use in various forms of communication how hard would it be to have higher quality search results? If many of those books, chapters, and articles were easy to directly link at and either accessed via invisible tabs and/or direct integration into regular organic search results that flood of content would be able to drown out the profitability of many low quality content websites. Google already place Google Finance and Google Video in their search results.

What would happen to the ultra niche websites that have limited usage data, few quality links, and are of low social significance? Would the margins fall if billions of better than average quality articles were part of the search database? Would SpamSense even be profitable at that point if you created sites about topics you were not interested in?

Google wants to make it easy to consume, create, and share information. They make strategic partnerships with traditional media companies to offer free exposure in exchange for increased awareness of their new verticals. They are relying on amateurs to give them the leverage necessary to hopefully have traditional media companies opt into Google's way of thinking, and Google's system without having to cut Google's margins.

Google pushes hard to bias their algorithms toward true editorial citations and informational resources, forcing many spamming webmasters to ignore Google as a target. Yahoo! does not care as much about content quality because they have a boatload of it and want you to give your content to Yahoo!.

Yahoo! is pushing one way (all your contents are belong to us), and Google is pushing another (let's find a way to bring high quality content online). Both of those moves will hit margins pretty hard on thin margin junk content sites. MSN is also going to cut the value of many low value add business models, and in a couple years their search might be hard to spam too.

In 5 years will sites need a social aspect to them to be visible and profitable?

When Monetizing Old Domains...

If you find one of your old domains that Google has taken appeal in or buy an old site and build off the authority another person has developed you have to take a deep look at how competitive the marketplace is and your interest in the topic before you decide what type of content you want to create. If you care less about the topic than the person you bought the site from or if you abandoned the domain in the first place and are coming back to it only because it is ranking the site is most likely invariably headed toward a slow death. If you are aggressive at monetization and content creation you can squeeze out a large profit before the site dies.

If you already have adequate authority then content quality is not as much of a requirement as if you are trying to build up from scratch. It is hard to become a subject matter expert in a topic you are not interested in, so if you spend time trying to make great content as compared to average content you could end up creating 5 articles a day instead of 15. So long as neither are building too many natural unrequested links it is probably better to churn out 15 articles.

Occassionally it may be worth putting in the effort to create a serious great article, but it is only worth the additional effort if you think doing so will yield needed quality links. If your site as a whole is rather authoritative most of your articles can be pretty crapulent without it hurting you.

When churning out articles do not forget to factor original authority and the effects of the domain on CTR. For example, if the site is about Idaho mortgages it probably is not going to have enough authority to become a great California mortgages site or nationwide mortgage site, especially if the domain barely had enough juice to compete for Idaho or if the word Idaho is prominent in the URL.

Content Development - Content Quality vs Profitability

As an SEO I think there are 3 main types of content. That which would not pass a human review, that which would pass a human review but is just ok, and content which is linkworthy. When building a site you need to consider what you are targeting. Do you want to quick spam Yahoo! and MSN? Or are you looking to create something that is more longterm in hopes of an eventual Google ranking?

Content which is crap and content which would pass a human review but is still of low quality can dominate Yahoo! or MSN, but if you want to do well in Google you need to target ultra niche terms, work from an old domain, or try to create linkworthy content.

I guess the three types of content could be broken down into 5 main types if you wanted to:

  • that which would not pass a human review

  • that which would pass a human review but may cause people to trust you less, unsubscribe from your site, and pull links
  • that which would pass a human review but is just ok
  • that which would pass a human review and is pretty good. may build a bit of trust and gain a few subscribers.
  • citation worthy content

Even if you made some articles nearly perfect, based on their niche and topic they may not be citation worth, whereas content that is targeted around linking opportunities (or intentionally biased against a product or service that is easy to hate, for example) may be more citation worthy even if the amount of effort needed to create it was minimal.

When you start a website you have to know what your targeting and what type of content to use to fulfill that goal. If you mix and match your goals and content quality you kill your efficiency and profitability.

Blog Usability Interview with Kim Krause Berg

A while ago I contacted Kim Krause Berg for a usability review, but I threw a curve ball in on her. I asked her how I could make this blog more usable. I believe Kim is the first person who has ever offered blog usability review services.

Her feedback was why I made the changes mentioned here, and many other site improvements. I asked her if she would let me interview her about blogs and blog usability and she said sure. The interview is in the extended area of this post.

How long have you been a blogger?

Since July 2002, one month before Cre8asiteforums went live. My friend, Bill Slawski, had one and his enthusiasm and support gave me the incentive to try it. I started with two blogs, one for SEO news and another one for personal stuff. I removed the personal one quickly after realizing talking about myself was too depressing.

My SEO news buddies then were Andy Beal, Peter DaVanzo and Kalena Jordan. We were considerate of each other, so there was very little news overlap or stealing of stories. When other SEO news blogs poured in, I was ready to begin branching off into the field I was moving into, which is usability. Now I blog about both topics. I write for two other blogs besides mine - SERoundtable and Cre8tive Flow when I can squish out the time.

Which blogs do you find most interesting and / or inspirational?

SEOMoz is the one I visit every day. It's never boring. I hate to be bored. Jeff Zeldman writes creative post titles that lure me in like fishing from the creek. I always visit because I'm afraid I might miss something special, such as the birthday post he recently wrote to his late mother. His blog is an example of a Christmas stocking blog. There's always the promise of finding something in there to play with.

I like good teaching blogs, like 456 Berea Street and some of the larger blogs with staffs that supply a constant supply of research and articles, such as Putting People First and Boxes and Arrows. As you can see, I'm a boring bloggee. I read blogs to learn something, rather than be entertained. If I can be entertained, while I'm devouring research, all the better.

I scan about 150 blogs on an almost daily basis. If I know the person personally, as in someone from the SEO industry, I monitor their blog as if I'm waiting for a telephone call from them. I also hunt for examples of blogs that represent a segment of blogging, such as corporate blogging. For that, I like Debbie Weil's Blogwrite for CEO's . I'm not a regular at women-only blogs, though Blogher is a dynamite blog when I want a gender fix and LipSticking because of the honest writing. I don't have time for blogs outside my work interests, and yet when one of my favorite bloggers sets off on a tangent and goes off topic, I'm hanging on their every word.

I like bloggers who talk to me, not at me.

In the blog usability review you mentioned human emotional connection: What blogs do you see that do it well?

Very few. I have two memorable examples of how powerful the human connection is with blogs and how it's the best marketing tool of all.

I came upon two blogs that blew me away while aimlessly roaming around places like Technorati and Bloglines. Both initially caught me with their post title that appeared in the feed. Both had a first sentence that forced me in, against my will. The first blog example turned out to be a hilarious story written by a NYC male escort who had a disastrous date who happened to not be a client. She was such a screamer and so loud he was terrified he'd be ejected from his apartment complex due to the noise. What made this so fun wasn't the story as much as how well it was told in the blog.

The other find was more amazing because the post title was simple, and yet I was compelled to click on it. It turned out to be this searing, touching piece written by a father whose little girl had just died. I was an emotional wreck when I finished reading it. So much so that I had to write about it in mine. "The Extreme Human Power Behind Blogs Is Not For Sale" It had a true impact on readers. Even now, as I re-visit the post that I found "Dear Elena" I get choked up.

Blogs unite the humanity of us. Even business and corporate blogs. It can be pleasant to discover the CEO who has feelings or business that has time to talk to us. Not every blog wants to reach out for a group hug, but I have a soft spot for those that do. Web sites can be empty holes on the Internet, where you wonder where their people went.

Is an emotional connection more of a requirement with blogging than other types of web publishing?

No. I look for the emotional connection on all sites I evaluate. We're social creatures. We're translating this to the Web in many ways, like MySpace and Linked in. The latter is dry and as thrilling as a rolodex until you start reading what people have to say about people they've worked with. Humans are the ones with the credit cards, not search engine bots. Humans go to the Internet when they're lonely. Political blogs thrive on the emotional connection. Character blogs may be failing, however, because of their nature. One of the actors from the TV Show "Invasion" had a blog, written from the perspective of his character. The blog has been removed. Steve Rubel notes the demise of other character blogs, saying, "Character blogs are a waste of time because a character is not and never will be human - unless it's Pinocchio."

What types of blogs are ok to host on free blog hosting servers like Blogspot? When should a business decide it is worth it to place a blog on their own site?

For credibility, I support blogs with their own domain. However! Credibility and authenticity can be just as well displayed on free-hosted software. One example is one my new favorites, Rosie Sherry. I think she's awesome in that she's a woman in QA who blogs, so I have someone I can relate to. But, she writes clearly and has earned my loyalty, not because of her blog host, but because of the quality of her blog.

Businesses who want to blog need to consider their target reader and interests. I like Target, but doubt I'd ever want to read a blog by them. Businesses need to carefully consider who they let author their blog as well. A poorly presented and written blog can drive people away. People can spot a huge ego for miles away. Check motives.

What are the biggest usability errors that seem to be built into most blogs or blogging platforms?

The number one usability error bloggers make is not explaining to the reader who you are and why you have a blog. If you are a Splogger, admit you're only purpose is to steal other content. (Just kidding.)

The second biggest is poor planning and pathetic software that makes poor planning possible. Archives and search are my pet peeves, especially for established blogs. Good bloggers wrote GREAT STUFF 8 months ago, but good luck trying to find it. Categories and tagging are band-aids. No solutions are universal for all blog software, and therefore, not accessible to all bloggers. Instead of putting a map to my house online, I wish Google had worked on Blogger's archives and blog search problems. (By the way, their map is wrong.)

Does design play a key roll in blog usability?

Yes. If readers can't use it (find old posts, fill out comments) or read it (i.e. small font, doesn't render in Firefox), they may not return. How many blogs blow up in handheld devices? User centered design requirements shouldn't end as soon as the site is called "a blog". The same user interface problems that are seen in web sites are seen in blogs.

Design for revenue is being explored now as blogs participate more and more in the realm of ecommerce and marketing. The million dollar question is "Can we be paid to share information?" Sure. I'd buy a book from someone who has a blog that teaches me and keeps me informed. I figure their book is probably good too. How profitable are blogs with auto-ripped off content packed with Google Ads? We're exploring this too, unfortunately.

Are the default templates usable? When should a blogger consider professional design services?

Templates are excellent places to start with. This is both a curse and a blessing. It's a blessing because new bloggers can get a feel for the whole blog thing, the secret code, how to post, how to put up ads, etc. A curse because you no longer need to hire a webmaster. You can just go get a free blog template to sell your beaded toe rings, and keep an ongoing dialog going about the next big bead fad (just to be able to say its still a blog.)

Corporate and business blogs will be considering brand and identity. For example, Cre8asiteforums has a blog that is moving to a new home and new software. The blog staff has changed how it looks and is re-working the purpose for having a blog. (Why would forums have a blog?) It is intended to look like it belongs to the forum but is not smothered by it. This has taken a staff of designers, writers, programmers, arguers, artists, and someone to make sure the blog editor doesn't quit in sheer frustration. (It's not me. I get to watch.) We did start with a template offered up by Wordpress, but in the end, it will be our own look and feel.

My own blog is based on a template that I destroyed after years of playing in the code and I have no idea what the original template used to look like.

I would recommend professional help if changing an established blog. This is because there is a history there to consider, including back links, feeds, and readership based on the status quo. One of my longtime favorite sites had a re-do and I'm bummed because they said goodbye to the liveliness and humor the old one had. Was this a conscious business decision or an oversight?

You mentioned some of my offers (like the newsletter offer) were a bit weak in nature. Do you think it is easy to mix commerce and blogging? Are there any friction points? If so, how do bloggers typically mess this up?

This is something I know you care a lot about. It's also new, this idea of mixing business with blogging. The kinks aren't worked out. is one such site that is willing to keep looking at this, even the mistakes. Problogger covers making money with blogs extensively.

When blogging and business combine, the reason for the blog has immediately changed. It's morphed into a sales tool and already being exploited to death with splogs and auto-generated theme-blogs.

Bloggers mess up by deceiving their readers.

With Seobook, I suggested offering regular readers a choice of whether to get the version with the big book ad in the middle (first timers), or a version that is just posts (those who bought the book or decided not to and don't want to be bombarded with the ad every time they come to read your blog.) However, the no-ad version can still convert by prompts like "Have you read my book?" or "If you're on this site, you may have read my book. Here's how to tell others about it" or "I wrote about this in my book" inside a blog post on a particular topic and you present a non-invasive link. In other words, you have a product and there's no reason to ignore it just because you are "a blogger". You are a blogger with a book for sale, and services to promote.

I look for these 6 points on every blog start page: who, where, what, why, when and how. There are different ways to answer these questions but they must appear quickly and be forthright and visible. Tell me how long you've been blogging, and this may influence your credibility. Show me the blogs you link to, why you blog, what you blog about and when you think you might not be blogging for awhile. Communicate. If someone puts up five blogs, on different themes, and can honestly write original posts for all of them, they're likely not from the planet Earth, and definitely not married with children. Those bloggers are doing this because of the ads stuck on these blogs, and heck, if they keep writing really good stuff, who cares?

The mistake is not being original and doing it for the supposed revenue. I'd like to see bloggers earn their revenue with clever blogs worth reading. If they sell something I want, I'll buy from them. Many bloggers are book writers and a blog is perfect for marketing their knowledge and style. They do need to be considerate for those who aren't coming for the book (or any product/service), however. These are the user centered design issues bloggers now face as they move into the competitive mainstream.

The inline ads on my site are probably a bit aggressive and annoy repeat visitors. Are there other ways that would be easy to add a call to action without lowering the conversion rate?

I'd like to see some programming genius's come up with ways to tick them off. To pursue blog commerce, we need more options in blog software. For example, in my blog, inline ads repeat down the page. I don't want that, but don't know how to turn if off. Other blogs have the same problem, and its compounded with ads in their feeds. This is, again, how ads got in the way of a good thing.

End user options like "View with ads", or not, is one of my dream ideas. "Skip to content" is the basis for this, only it would be "Skip to posts - no ads please". Can you just imagine what screen readers are reading back to their users, with all the ads mixed into blog entries?

Conversions are like sneaky word games. They rely on their relationship to the value proposition. It's easy to get distracted from the value proposition in a blog that's intent on telling stories or sharing news. It's easy to completely forget to put in call to action prompts, especially if you don't want to interrupt a great story. One word can make a difference between a click, or not. It's not the big bulky ad or the repeated text ad that grabs them. It's how you persuade them to try something for free, or how your service will improve life for your reader. It's also when you tell them about your offer. Move ads around. Change ad sizes. Experiment with above the fold and below the fold, text ads or image. Avoid distractions. Build momentum but don't bombard. It's the same as any web site, but a blog with a following has to know when to stop selling and just sit quietly so visitors can read what you wrote.

You mentioned something about backwards vision in your review of my site. What is a backwards vision?

It's adapted from software testing practices like "backwards testing" and "requirements gathering". I look for several things.

1. If you took away all the fluff and stuff from the site, would I be able to still determine its purpose and/or the blog owner's priorities for the blog?

2. I report my first-time impressions on what I think the site's purpose and objectives are. I also report the market and reader I think the blog is targeting. If I am wrong or miss something the blogger thinks should be obvious, then the site didn't communicate properly to me what the site owner had wished it to. If I list things they didn't consider; well, I don't think that's ever happened.

3. The types of functional and non-functional elements the blog includes and how or if they support the blog's requirements. This includes "chicklets", plug-in applications and non-functional like legal items like a Creative Commons statement.

It's a discipline - one that bloggers may not have considered. Listing objectives and priorities for a blog is like laying the foundation. It's done before the information architecture stage. This list helps determine and narrow down blog requirements. Every element that is placed on the blog MUST be traceable to a requirement, which is traceable to a business or personal goal or set of priorities. If it does not connect, it is not offering support. If it can't be traced, it is a stray addition that causes risk to the design and in the longer term, success and life of the blog.

The functional and non-functional requirements should be traceable to blog priorities and goals. What sometimes happens is the blogger tosses in something because it seems cool to do. It should offer support, not serve as a distraction.

When does a blog start to need a privacy policy or a comments policy?

When it asks for anyone's name or email address, such as for comments or when it has any type of form that requests personal information.

What are your favorite usability books and resources?

All of them. Honestly, I read EVERYTHING. I'm shopping for a new bookshelf. To pick one? The Eisenberg's "Call to Action" book. For the web, Functioning Form. And UX matters. I read Jakob Nielsen's Alertbox, of course and I enjoy Jared Spool and his staff's blog, UIE Brain Sparks. One more; Marketing Experiments blog. I like to read their latest findings.

What are the biggest differences between trying to improve the usability of a blog as compared to an ecommerce site?

The ecommerce site is about persuasion, creating desire and need. Some can influence decisions (Amazon is good at this.) The focus of this is usually lost in the design for blogs, or somewhere in the lack of understanding for how to market from blogs online. The blog is the wild child of the web family. It's still figuring out what its doing and it never intended to conform to anyone's standards. I can make suggestions for improving usability but I'm also well aware that the blog owner may not be interested. It's like talking to my own teenager. Same sort of resistance. Same "I already know what to do and don't need you." Sooner or later, they do.

What is the biggest surprise you came across while doing blog usability reviews?

How different blogs can be from each other and how compelling writing trumps bad design. Blog readers are patient, loyal and surprisingly tolerant. The second surprise is how many blog owners drank the funky kool-aid and thought blogging would be easy, or make them tons of money in a month. A usability review can offer reassurance that they are doing the right things and to be patient, or they are not doing the right things and let's fix that. Many people never considered they could set goals for their blog and guide their ship with a plan.

If I wanted to get a blog usability review how would I go about contacting you for one?

Send a limo to my house and take me to a health spa and we can chat during our massage. Or, visit Blog Usability Reviews to read more or order one. I also have a page called Blog Usability where I'm gathering resources to support bloggers interested in the usability side of blog life.


Thanks Kim :)

If you are thinking about improving the usability of your blog I highly recommend hiring Kim. She is exceptionally thorough. Her deep understanding of the web from doing so many usability reviews and her heavily participation in the social aspects of the web make her the perfect person to offer blog usability reviews, as she is excellent at balancing conversion considerations and the social aspects of blogging.

How Good Are You at Answering Questions?

Once you become well known in forums or write enough on your own site it may be easy to forget how well or bad you answer questions. A cool feature with Yahoo!'s Answer service is that it is large enough to have a huge userbase interested in just about any topic without you being known there. And it probably is easy to sign up for secondary usernames to start from scratch if you needed to. They show you what percent of your answers are chose as the best, which makes it easy to practice answering questions to see how clearly you are communicating without the bias built around your current social relationships. Obviously there will be some biases to the system (nepotistic behavior, spam, and biases based on score level), but if you can see past that Yahoo! Answers offers a great avenue to practice answering questions.

A friend of mine recently said in an instant message "The Dumber My Content the More Money I Make". Once you think about how much of the market is completely new to your topic it makes sense that people who aim to make content accessible and easy to understand often are far more successful than people who know more but do not express what they know well.

I think it is important to offer a few things that go above and beyond the normal day to day stuff (to create well cited industry resources), but most blog posts are probably maximally effective if the writer puts being easy to understand ahead of going in great depth.

Using Yahoo! Answers for Niche Discovery

Imagine you were going to create a website about Legos. You could ask what is the best Lego set? at Yahoo! Answers to find content and topics to write about. Fast and free.

Hear Me on GoodKarma Radio Today

I believe that at 4PM Eastern today I am going to be talking on GoodROI's Good Karma webmaster radio show.

Not sure what all we will talk about just yet, but hopefully it is a bunch of fun.

Becoming More Bloglike...

A few of my friends offered me some solid hate over my annoying advert post, so I changed the layout of SEO's homepage. The new home page places 3 posts above the ebook advert. Also if you have already seen a post on your computer the post title will be in a big fat black, which makes it really easy to see if there are any new posts at a glance.

The first 3 posts are only teaser intro posts, which allows readers to select things that are interesting to them without having to scroll past long posts they are not interested in.

The idea of the update was to be more reasonable and bloglike for regular readers, so they did not have to see my advert so often. I always thought that if people liked the site they might subscribe to the RSS feed, but many people still like to go back to read the site in its regular format.

Ideally I would / could take the ad entirely off the home page, but moving it off to the site or removing it entirely would probably cut my income from this site at least 20% to 30%. I am still trying to think of a work around for allowing visitors to turn the home page ad off. I also have an ad free version of the homepage at if you prefer to go that route.

Matt Cutts Announces Death of Cheesy Link Exchange Networks

I updated my SEO Book PDF today, noting among other things that Matt Cutts sorta hinted that an abundance of low link quality links could cause decreased importance in crawl priority.
Matt then went ahead and posted on his blog that some sites are completely removed from Google's index due to heavy reciprocal linkage.

The sites that fit 'no pages in Bigdaddy' criteria were sites where our algorithms had very low trust in the inlinks or the outlinks of that site. Examples that might cause that include excessive reciprocal links, linking to spammy neighborhoods on the web, or link buying/selling. The Bigdaddy update is independent of our supplemental results, so when Bigdaddy didn't select pages from a site, that would expose more supplemental results for a site.

I think that is probably the post that killed cheesy link exchange networks.

For those who recently said I was full of shit on my position on link exchange networks I am glad that Matt took the time to validate my position. :)

Can other people harm your site? Absolutely. The scalability of the web, and differences between living wages around the world created significant value in funneling around hollow PageRank to sell to naive webmasters which own sites which lack the qualities necessary to be citation worthy.

Knowing that having a certain percentage of shady links will kill your ability to rank in Google adds an additional opportunity cost to building shoddy links which. Things that were once "cheap" or "free" suddenly became expensive, and quality votes gained a bunch more value in the process as well.

This announcement of Matt's in combination with the search results reflecting this activity might be the single biggest thing Google has done in a while to improve the quality of information production across the web.

Fake it till you make it trading to the top still may work well enough in Yahoo! and MSN, but it is not a viable Google solution. If Google could plug some of their other holes they would be much harder to manipulate than most webmasters would like.

SEO Tips to Live By

Where is SEO headed?

Bob Massa on personalized search:

I'm also going to suggest that the NEW SEO,(assuming of course there was any such thing as SEO in the first place),has little to do with building ANY site to measure up to any yardstick that bears a mark for "best" and instead has more to do with identifying and immersing oneself into communities, to a lesser or greater degree, that have some connection with the individuals that make up the community than in striving for that subjective, if not entirely elusive "best" website.

I believe, as I have for a long time now, that technology as it relates to an advertising delivery system,(commonly mistaken for a search engine), has been pursuing the old cliche' that birds of a feather flock together and I also personally believe they are closer to right with that philosophy than with counting the number of links. It would appear that cataloging where birds flock is a much more difficult algorithm than counting links and the number of times and the proximity to the top of a page the keywords are found.

Seth Godin Interview

I recently interviewed Seth Godin. Seth is a well known marketing guru who's blog and books have helped me become a more holistic marketer. I read everything he writes. He also did a video interview on AuctionBytes recently.

Here is the interview:

In Purple Cow (one of my favorite books) you stress the importance of being remarkable. How does that relate to linking or internet marketing? Can a company succeed on the web without being remarkable? What should I do if my business or field generally is not remarkable?

By remarkable, I mean only, "worth making a remark about". So, if you want your idea to spread online, you only have three choices:

a. buy a lot of ads.

b. do really good SEO so that people who have already decided to search for what you have, find you

c. have the community that knows about you tell their friends, their blog readers, etc.

C, naturally, is a neat way to get to B. That's part of the genius of Google... that being remarkable is the easiest way to improve you Google ranking.

If what you sell is boring, it's probably because your organization WANTS it to be. Which is fine, but then you shouldn't expect fast growth or high Google ranking most of the time. They can make coffee and charity and political candidates interesting. Only by treating what you do as a commodity do you make it a commodity.

In All Marketers are Liars you stress the importance of telling authentic stories. What are the easiest ways to judge how authentic a story is? How can you tell if outsiders perceive the story the same way as you do?

Authentic means that it's real, it's true, it holds up to scrutiny.

It means you don't have to check a script before you make a decision. Nice people do nice things, so if your story is "we're nice", it's a good idea to hire nice people!

And yes, of course, people are going to misunderstand your story. Happens all the time. But if you tell it long enough and consistently enough and in all the right places, sooner or later, your authentic story will sink in.

When I tell people to be remarkable I often link at Purple Cow. When I tell people to sell a story that helps build their brand I often link at All Marketers are Liars. Like your books, many of your blog posts also seem like they are very good at sticking to a single topic, and are very easy to understand. How do you know when something is a blog post, an ebook, or a physical book? What do you think about when writing, or what things do you think about that help keep your narratives and blog posts so well focused and easy to understand?

This is a great question. It deserves a great answer. I don't have one. For me, alas, it's intuitive. I worry that if I studied it, it would disappear.

When should a new author consider getting a book physically published?

A published book tells a story before it's even opened. A published book is about credibility and portability and substance. So, if you need those things--if it will help your idea, or your career, or help you to reach people in a different way, then yes, do it. But be prepared for it to take a year or more, and to not make you any money at all. (Not the book part, anyway).

I believe that in most cases, for most people, it's not necessary.

I also believe that in most cases, for most authors, a "real" publisher is not worth the hassle. It's very easy to 'self publish' a book that looks and feels just like a traditional one, and to sell it on Amazon just like a traditional one.

I think you were a book publisher before you became a well known author. What sparked you to change course?

Actually, I was a successful book packager and an occasional and failed book publisher.

Publishing is truly difficult. It's about taking financial risks in a fundamentally broken business. Packaging, on the other hand, is a fantastic gig and I commend it to anyone who is creative and sleepless.

Some of your blog posts have been fairly critical of the SEO industry. I tend to think of SEO as being as much about viral marketing and creating and spreading good ideas as it is about gaming engines. What causes you to believe in and understand viral marketing so well without having much faith in SEO?

We have a semantic difference here. What you describe is totally in line with my thinking. I have never criticized that. My criticism has been reserved for two sides of one coin:

a. lazy companies that think they can buy web traffic by tricking search engines into sending them more traffic than they "deserve" by modifying sentences or code of their site without changing anything else, and

b. companies that will take money from these sites in order to do some mysterious thing for them.

Basically, I'm pushing people to dig deep, to work hard, to make stuff worth linking to.

SEO, as an industry, seems to have a bit of a black eye. I think part of that comes from many people not learning about SEO until a scammer posing as an SEO contacts them. I also think many people who sell high end consulting services make more by claiming that others are unethical, etc. Is there an easy way to fix the industry reputation problem? Or is it just something that is part of the game?

I agree with you 100%. I think the good guys should change the name of what they do. Traffic Leverage or Engines of Revenue.

As much as SEO is about gaming engines, for most companies it is more about ensuring the right contents are indexed and the wrong ones are not. How can the image of SEO be shifted from blog comment spammers, guestbook spammers and the like to people who help make content accessible?

The challenge here is the game itself. As long as we define the game as doing something to a site that makes it worse for a human and better for a computer, it's always going to be dicey. I visited a site today that rents vacation homes. It was superclear from reading it that they had rewritten their site to be engine friendly. I have no idea if that part was successful, but I'm certain that it wasn't working on the humans.

What is your favorite marketing related book that you are 99%+ certain I have never read?

The Republic of Tea, now out of print, but findable.

What is the best marketed candy bar in the world?

This is hard because if you mean "more than 20 years old" then it's got to be Hershey, because they had a remarkable product decades ago, they went to TV early and often at just the right time and they have great distribution today.

But of course, it's not the best marketed TODAY. If they keep up what they're doing, it'll just slide away.

So, what's the best marketed bar today? Well, if I describe "best" as fast-growing without a lot of investment (read: profitable) it might be Scharffen Berger. It might be Vosges, even though I don't know how to pronounce it.

What type of people should have a blog?

People who

a. have an idea they want to spread

b. have an idea worth spreading

c. are willing to tell the truth


d. are willing to do in consistently, over time.

What type of people should not have a blog?

People who need to be in control over the flow of ideas, who are impatient and not willing to stick with it, and who can't tell a story. Those and the ones that try to sell us a line of bs.

What is Squidoo? How does it differ from other content management or information retrieval systems, like blogs or search engines, for example?

Squidoo is a user-generated card catalog, a bunch of signposts in close proximity to each other, a way to find a few handpicked matches, not a million. Squidoo for the lensmaster is a place to point to your blog or your company or your organization. It's a place to assemble RSS feeds and links and stuff to buy. It's a cheap and fast way to increase links to sites that ought to get them.

For a surfer, it's more direct, more trusted and easier than a search engine in some ways. It's a place to start, a place to leave, and easy directory.

And for me, it's a way to raise a lot (I hope) of money for charity.

What are 3 things I should do differently on to make it a better website?

It's a great website. Everyone should read your book. I did. I'm glad I did. I'm jealous of your site.

Wow! thanks for that Seth. What are the biggest errors you tend to run into with most ecommerce websites?

They're selfish. They don't reflect the user experience. They're too slow. They're no fun. They don't get permission to followup. They're still no fun.

How does online marketing differ from offline marketing?

How much time do you have?

Offline, you get one conversation with a homogeneous and anonymous world.

Online, you get thousands of conversations with people you can learn about.

Search engines teach publishers to blend contextual ads in content to gain higher clickthrough rates. Do you eventually see people trusting link citations less, and perhaps growing to ignore them like banner ads? In margin based industries how does one remain profitable without blending when the blend can increase income per pageview by 300%?

Do you mean how will media companies make more money by integrating the ads? I think they shouldn't. The yellow pages and google adwords are both the greatest ad mediums ever because every person using them KNOWS that they are ads. So advertisers get productive traffic. You can goose income for a while, but soon, advertisers will be able to tell the difference.

Earlier you hinted that publishing might be a flawed business model. If publishers are losing out to independant types how do they stay relevant if they typically are not allowed to be as biased or opinionated, and do not integrate ads as heavily as some independant publishers?

Book publishing is in trouble for a different reason (actually, more than one).

The guaranteed return policy at bookstores means that most, almost all, books lose money the glut (175,000 titles a year) of new titles makes it the noisiest market in the world and the big authors get huge advances, sucking much of the profit out.

There are doubtless very profitable niches, but the mainstream guys have troubles...

What's so good about Pop Tarts?

I haven't had one in forever, but I remember them being gooey, crisp, sweet, crunchy, soft, hot and proustian, all at once.

And then once, I ate six and had to stop, forever.

If I wanted to learn more about Seth Godin where do I go?

Topic Sensitive TrustRank

I believe I found the paper on Topic Sensitive TrustRank [PDF] from Bill.

The thesis of the paper is that TrustRank is fundamentally flawed by being biased toward topical communities that are over represented in the seed set of trusted sites. Topics that are overrepresented in seed sets are often commercial in nature and also focused heavily upon by search spammers. Thus overweighting those seeds may also overweight many spammy topics and spammy pages.

By using a directory such as DMOZ or the Yahoo! Directory to offer seed sites and using those directory categories to categorize topic sensitive TrustRank scores the belief is that overall relevancy can be improved, while shifting the focus away from overrepresented topics that occur in a smaller seed set.

Since using DMOZ or the Yahoo! Directory as a seed set would vastly increase the seed set size it would be impractical to manually review all seeds, so you take the top half of trusted domains (as determined by topical TrustRank) from each topic to use as seeds. Weight the seed voting power by its PageRank and let this topic sensitive TrustRank happily propagate through the web.

Rabid Loyalty

I think one of the best parts of the SEO industry is the amount of questioning and curriosity that exists in the market. It really makes you see a wide array of the web as you search around because there is information in so many formats. You also start to see people attach to ideas that are 100% true while also seeing ideas spread that are 100% false.

What the false ideas spreading really show are how people become rabidly loyal, beyond question, toward certain people or ideas. If your website or product fill a niche where there is lots of discussion or it is easy for people to become rabidly loyal then it is going to be far easier to go from 0 to successful than if there is little discussion about your field. Does your marketing message or your field contain anything that makes it easy for people to be rabidly loyal?

Things people are rabidly loyal about include peanut butter and Firefox.

Things people are not rabidly loyal about include fruit cake and Flock.

Yahoo! Answers Integrated into Yahoo! SERPs

It might be a good idea to check out Yahoo! Answers. Yahoo! just integrated them into their SERPs.

You can see the integration on [best dog for apartment] and on the page footer of [Harley Davidson]

The Errors of Conventional Wisdom

A friend of mine and I recently chatted about a few examples of conventional wisdom being wrong. If you find new markets or marketing methods left untapped by people chasing saturated markets using techniques created by misguided group think you are in for making a boatload of cash. If you want to.

For a long time I had a few client sites and this one, but I felt I was perhaps starting to grow a bit inauthentic in my advice, relying too heavily on my brand, what friends told me, and what I read in forums without doing enough testing across a wide array of sites.

I recently bought a few more sites that I can use to test things on. I also partnered up as co-owner on a few sites. Fascinating what you can learn by doing things like tweaking internal link profiles and being aggressive on sites you can afford to lose, and seeing how quickly you can get to profitability in many different markets.

I am doing another major rewrite of my book. Hoping to send out an update notification sometime tomorrow or Monday. Sorry if I have been slow to replying to emails...trying to get the rewrite done.

Dan Thies Video on Links Again...

A while ago I posted about a web based Dan Thies video on links.

Dan recently released another free link video. Well worth a listen.

Terry Semel Talks Shop

1 hour video with Terry Semel on the future of the web and media.

Via Peter.

Link Building and LocalRank

Nothing new here, just mentioning the LocalRank patent from long ago. Claus Schmidt published a great article about LocalRank a couple years o.

The more interconnectivity there are amongst the top results the more algorithmic weight you could place on interconnectivity. Many search queries are not as competitive as they seem at first glance, because in some industries there are few industry hubs, so many of the high PageRank sites have little interconnectivity. If 10 to 20 of the top 200 results link at your site and only 2-3 link at most of the other top results it should not take much (if any) additional general authority to outrank competing sites.

Also keep in mind that pages which rank #50 for your main query may rank #2 or #3 for related queries, so links from top ranked and mid ranked related resources can be great in providing indirect value (ie ranking boosts) AND direct value (ie traffic). Some algorithms like these might make SEO harder if you use outdated techniques, but if you use current techniques it makes SEO easier because you do not have to deal with trying to get as many links if you are focused on getting the right links.

LocalRank sorta ties in with the concepts presented in Hilltop (brief overview of Hilltop here).

Keep in mind that if a site has enough authority it can rank well without needing much LocalRank, but getting links from related resources makes it easier for you to rank without needing to bulk up on building up tons and tons of PageRank.

I doubt Hilltop was implemented exactly as described in that paper (especially since I have many affiliated sites ranking next to each other in search results). Other biasing algorithms, like , likely allow Google to topically bias or personalize search results while perhaps still making it rather hard to manipulate them when compared with algoirthims such as Hilltop.

Google AdWords Traffic Estimator

Google made their AdWords traffic estimator available external to your AdWords account. They still use the evil little graphical representation for total search volume, but they give rough approximations in actual numbers for the amount of AdWords clicks they think you will receive.

The tool allows you to pass variables in the URL string, so perhaps this is good for scraping some data on the value of certain keyword markets? I also added a link to the tool on my keyword research tool.

If you do not enter a bid price or budget the bid price they recommend is supposed to show your ads ranking #1 85% of the time. More background here. They also note that when you access this tool external to your account that it will not factor in your past account performance, so the numbers may not be as accurate as if you use the tool in your account.

SEO Friendly Internet Explorer and Firefox Setups

I updated the page with Google Toolbar buttons for Internet Explorer, including a new botton for Google Trends.

I also listed the extensions I use on Firefox and posted a few handy Firefox bookmark toolbar links that you can drop to your Firefox bookmarks toolbar.

Recommending doing things like using the Google Toolbar assumes that you are not mass spamming on that computer or a computer that shares the same router / IP address.

Google Banned Link Finder

RustyBrick pointed out a new free SEO tool by Sufyan that searches through a page or site to look for links to sites that are banned in Google. It is designed for smaller to mid sized sites. The tool returns a list of pages you link at and their PageRank. The tool lists the age and URLs of pages that do not appear in Google.

Most large quality sites probably have at least a few links to banned sites, so you don't want to let Google become the editor of your site, but if most of your links go to banned sites that could hurt your site's reputation or ability to rank in Google.

Currently Google is also a bit flaky on the URL search. With some of them they they give the signs of sites being banned while listing many pages if you do a site: search.

Google Trends - Kick Ass!

Google extends their lead in the keyword research market by adding a new tool called Google Trends. It operates similar to the Google keyword research tool, but offers trends that goes back for years, and even overlaps news related to keyword search spikes, like Google Finance does. Many of the links they provide are to cheesy press releases, so that might present another marketing opportunity.

The tool also shows top cities, regions, and languages that queries occurred in. They also allow you to set timeframes and the market location.
It also allows you to compare phrases.

The only downsides to Google Trends are that it only works for broad terms and does not give exact numbers.

I added a link to Google trends on my keyword research tool.

Registering Buzz Words Early

I am not a skilled domainer on any level, but if you know your industry well and you see words start to pop up as industry buzz words here or there it may be worth betting $10 to $20 on a domain registration. Do it 10 or 20 times and a few of your purchases will catch.

I own a bunch of seo domains like and I am not doing much with them as of yet, but if I ever wanted to sell search spam software could there possibly be a better place to do it from than

I don't think Matt Cutts reads most of my posts, but his blog mentioned, so I instinctively had to register it. Now what to do with it :) took less than a day and $100 to put together, and now anytime anyone uses the phrase "black hat seo" I should probably be the #1 ranked result on most engines. I could redesign that site around trying to get press to contact me, and if it lead to me getting frequent press coverage how much value would that have? Much more than $100 and 4 hours of work.

How Green is Your Content?

With SEO and content development it is all a game of margins.

If you come up with killer ideas or buy a site with rocking link popularity you can leverage that, knowing that if you add content it will rank better because it is part of the powerful trusted site. Another way to do well is just to create niche sites that:

  • target flawed search queries; or,

  • target language ignored by the legitimate players in your market; or,
  • target buyers late in the buying cycle

Either way you go (big or small) an important criteria with the content you create is how well it stands the test of time.
If the content is time sensitive is there still a viable profitable business case for the content after it has aged? Is it niched down enough that there is no competition and likely won't be much competition for a long time?

Is it profitable enough to be worth updating frequently? How frequently? How are you measuring profit? Dollars that page earns? Link citations and/ or media exposure that page earns which make you and your site more authoritative? Does it have the depth necessary to gain self reinforcing links?

A cost many people fail to evaluate is the cost of keeping something current. When you write each page are you writing in a manner that will require updating? Is the content so link rich that fixing broken links will take hours a month to fix it?

Evergreen content (like an interview) is great because it keeps bringing in green without you needing to reinvest into updating the content. I don't know a lot about normatives and narratives, but if you keep your content focused and/or narrative it is much easier to keep it current than if you create content and profitable than if it needs constant updating.

Also worth noting that opportunity cost and the value of your attention are costs that should not be ignored when expanding your publishing empire. Compare your earnings on secondary channels to how well your best channels do and focus your effort based upon how much you enjoy doing something and how profitable it is.

Using Similar Versions of a Keyword in a Page

SEO Question: My main keywords for my site are e-book and ebook. Should I sprinkle both versions of the word on every page?

SEO Answer:

Semantically Related Phrases:

I think in time search engines will eventually get better at determining what words related to one another. In many cases they are already good at it.

If you search Google for ~term -term it will show you some of the terms Google understand to be related. Here are a couple semantic relationship tools that also do that process for you:

Ways to Target Multiple Similar Versions of a Keyword Phrase:

There are multiple ways to target both version of a phrase.

  • Sometimes adding one version somewhere in the meta description and maybe in the page footer area is a good way to target the less popular of the two. You may also be able to work both versions into your page title, but you really want to consider how search engines will display your page titles and descriptions. If you have a dynamically generated site it is much easier to create formulas for the page title and meta descriptions which help you to test many of them without needing to waste a ton of time editing each page one at a time.

  • Another good option for picking up the secondary phrase is to get a few external citations to the important pages with the less common term in the anchor text, or maybe use a sitemap which pushes the secondary version. It is pretty easy to syndicate articles and do other things like that to pick up a few low to mid quality links with decent anchor text.
  • Some sites, like, use a related phrases section on definition pages, which outlines other versions of a phrase. If you sell parts you could call it something like "alternate part numbers". If you use this you need to make it look professional and get some quality citations so that your site seems as though it is above board, and not just trying to spam the engines.
  • Finally, the last way I can think of tackling the problem is to create different version that target the different phrases, but if you do this it is easier to write mini blog posts or do something like that. You want to make it look legitimate, so the page contents should not be exact duplicates with the exception of find and replace, because that could look suspicious and as if it is only for search spiders. Duplicate content filters are improving daily as well, and are getting better at detecting find and replace duplication.

Influencing Word Relations:

There are subtle ways to drive search volume, but it is a long hard and involved process to try to change the way people use language. It may also be darn near impossible if most the market discussion occurs offline.

Many people would consider linking off to search results in a salesletter a no no, but if you can have people search Google for your coupon or brand name then your brand might be recommended more frequently for things like inline search suggest or see also searches for broader related search queries.

If you use online or offline techniques to drive search make sure you follow it up by creating an online resource or someone else will target it, and Google may do an inline suggest for it.

How you use language on other sites can also help determine what phrases engines think are related to one another, especially if the patterns you create are reinforced on many pages of multiple large independent sites. Yahoo!'s see also patterns seem to be driven at least partially by word patterns on pages.

How Popular is Each Version?

When considering if you want to go after one version or both the first thing you have to do is get a rough indication of demand for each term. Use Google's keyword tool and perhaps combine that with mine. Keep in mind that mine is driven off of Overture, and there are flaws to the data collection and sharing models at any keyword tool, so these are just estimates.

Using those two tools should show you what version is the most popular. People often search in the same way as they create content. So another good backup indicator would be searching Google for ["e-book"] and [ebook].

I also have a tool which uses the Google API to give the approximate number of hits for each version. My Compitition Finder tool will show how many results there are for pages that use the terms in the title and / or anchor text. If terms occur in the page title and anchor text than those pages are likely going to be far more targeted on a topic than pages that may just have the words somewhere on the page. Sometimes my tool is a bit broken, so after this semester is done hopefully my programmer buddy will have a few hours to fix it up.

How Competitive is Each Keyword Phrase?

The number of hits might give you some idea of how competitive is each version, but a more accurate way to find out is just to look at the top search results for each version. If official type sites tend to target one version and spam sites target the other you may be better off going after the less popular and less competitive version off the start, especially if you are working on a limited budget.

Before you commit to any targeting method it may be worth considering

  • how easy or hard it will be to change what you are targeting as your site influence and income increase.

  • weather or not you will need to worry about updating the aged content, or if your site structure allows you to focus on creating new content without the structure of the old content hurting you too much

Using things like a content management system or server side includes might make a lot of sense if you are going to be working on a large site.

Yahoo! See Also Related Phrases

Seems like Yahoo!'s related phrases / seo also section is based at least partially upon co-occurance of words in close proximity of one another across various web pages.

Yahoo! see also result for SEO Book.

Yahoo! see also result for Seobook.

Barry Schwartz's The Paradox of Choice - Why More Is Less Speech at Google

I have yet to read the book, but Barry Schwartz recently gave a speech at Google covering the topics covered in his recent book. He also has another similar speech on ITConversations. [link via Buy Google]

A few of the thesis points were:

  • many people feel better with limited choice

    • too many choices leads to indecision

    • when there are more choices we expect a greater experience when we finally make one
    • we typically do not make the best choices when given too many options
    • when we should enjoy experiences we are often focused (or misfocused) on other decisions
  • if people get agents to make choices for them they typically feel better just by not being forced to make the choice (even if the agent is fairly clueless, but just care and actually want to help look out for their best interests)
  • if we limit choices and make the default paths the option that is most desirable or most helpful we can improve general good activity because people often chose the default just to avoid making more choices

With your website you might have more influence and increase your income by featuring the most desirable choice and limiting the total number of choices available. This is especially true when you consider all the social marketing bonuses and decreased competition that exist in niche markets.

Microsoft AdCenter Dynamic Text

SER recently mentioned Microsoft AdCenter dynamic text.

Microsoft AdCenter dynamic text is similar to Google's AdWords Dynamic Keyword Insertion, but also allows you to set other variable ad copy driven off the keyword inclusion. For example:

Keyword / Dynamic text parameters
"sedans" / 5% off
"SUVs" / 7% off

When you are ready to build your ad, you will enter "All {keyword} {param2} as the ad title. When a user queries "sedans," the ad that appears will be "All sedans 5% off."

Microsoft's dynamic text also allows you to use {param1} to drive your ad URL and / or landing page.

AdCenter FAQs here.

Yahoo! Updates their PPC Ad System

It looks like Yahoo! was waiting for MSN to dump them before rolling out their new PPC product. MSN dumped them last week, and today Yahoo! is already launching their shiny new PPC system.

The new system is going to be rolled out in stages. This stage is mostly about improving the underlying data and analytics platform. On the 17th of May they intend to announce the new PPC relevancy algorithm. In the third quarter they also plan on integrating analytics that will allow you to buy and track ads on Google or MSN as well.

More news and likely a bit of discussion at TW.

SEO Advice 101

So this is a new type of content development project for me. I hate that Google's Gmail offers instant message access to you whenever you are in Gmail because I get sooooooo many chat sessions from people I barely know, and am already struggling to keep up on email.

The bad part is I don't want to turn it completely off because some friends send me killer cool tips, but some people just want to chat for a couple hours...which isn't a real business model, especially if it is free and the content never goes beyond the chat.

Recently I chatted with one guy who bought my ebook, but seemed to miss the mark on what I was trying to teach / offer in the ebook. I told him I would offer him tips if he aggreed to let me post the conversation here. I don't think most worthwhile SEO tips are both specific and universal, but generally these are things I have grown to realize.

  • you don't meet customer expectation by creating what you would want the customer to want. you create it by creating exactly what they want.

  • if you build a site that you plan to market through search typically most of your traffic (and your most valuable traffic) should come from deep pages.
  • those deep pages speak to a specific audience.
  • the more deep pages you have and the better they are structured the more audience you can speak to.
  • you can't scale out profits if your business is built on saving people money on others products unless you create reasons for people to talk about you
  • most people you help will not be very greatful for the help you give them.
  • if you help many other people free it is worth trying to share that helpful advice with other people (so format that information in a manner that makes it easy to share and find). it is about the only way free works with personalized while still allowing you to keep your sanity.

That is prettymuch the executive summary of the chat I had, but if you want to read it I figure it is a different type of content than you usually read in most blog posts. I think I was a bit frustrated during the chat, feeling like I was leading a horse to water but there was no drinking. Hopefully they ended up figuring out what I was saying.

i purchaaased your seo book recently
my website is
i am working very hardo n this site currently
soon it will officially launch
can you please visit my site

me: to do what?

s: id like to improve the site s ranking in google
as it has a 0 ranking currently. the domain was purchased in dec. of 2005. id like to know if you can heko me out with this. any tips?

me: well the problem is, for competitive terms you need to build a brand. I can't look at a page and tell you how to build a brand.

s: well i wil be developing this site into very nice site. i am not sure exactly what you mean to say

me: if you didnt own it, why would you visit it? why would people WANT to visit it?

s: there is many reaons to visit it

me: compared to all other coupon sites

s: yes, that is is exactly

me: well you list your UNIQUE value propositions

s: i have several key reasons. sure

a) the design
veyr clean
and easy
unlinke the other top ranking sites
everything is easy to navigate
in addition, i plan to possibly include live help chat right on the site for a few hours a day. no other coupon site has that feature. in addition, when it comes ot finding coupons some can take a long time to find. for example, paypal coupons

me: so here is what you do... you create a blog

s: my site will always have the available paypal coupons

me: where people can ask you for a coupon and you hunt it down
THAT is your marketing angle. done.

s: and they are right there in a menu of ten links. i plan that it should stay this way. only ten links. everything will be simple again.

me: well I have to go

s: well i have someo thers reasons why this site will be unique; however, im not going to get up in google by doing nothing. i need this ranking to go up. please can you help me out

me: you need to be useful and socially active, then you rank. other way round doesnt happen

s: so what should i do

me: and if i were to take the time to hold your hand into top rankings
then i would probably just spend that time building my own coupon site

s: i mean i can pay you

me: i already gave you my advice

s: so

me: the place where anyone can ask where to find coupons

s: your saying once the site if fully developed

me: you market THAT angle. no i am saying right now, put another way, i could work 1 hour a day developing the blog idea i gave you and i would bet inside of three months it would make far more than your idea, so listen to the idea and run with it. people dont give a crap about structure of your site or how it looks so much as they care about quickly saving money

s: exactly

me: if you are the spot everyone goes to learn how to save money

s: and my site allwos that\

me: then you are good to go

s: it has coupons such as paypal

me: you are not listening to me

s: which others site ranking in that top do not have

me: stop typing. here is what i am saying. ask people to ask for what they want, then give them that. it is more remarkable for you to answer a persons questions and sell that story than it is for you to have a database of stuff.

s: ok. so so what do you think of this

me: i have to go ... I have given you a lot of advice already

s: one of the ten links will be mesage board, and then

me: if you want to pay for a consult we can do that

s: in my live help

me: but there is no biz model if i keep answer tons of questions, especially if you are not hearing what I am saying.

s: people can ask for coupons, and i will be there a few hours a day to give them the coupons and to really be there to give them the coupons they need. does that sound good?

me: maybe just ok, but still sucky compared to my idea.

s: ok. so can i hire you?

me: consulting costs $500 an hour

s: ok, so how about 1000 a month


s: does that work?

me: $500 per hour, not x per month. i am more time limited than money limited at this point

3:45 PM s: rite. ok. so i am asking will 2 hours of your time be enough to get me to the top?

me: i cant guarantee it will make you successfuil. i can only tell you what i would do to be succesful. implementation is not part of the consulting price. if it were my consulting fees would start off at about $50,000 +

s: ok, but i am just aking its a quick question. how many hours of time a month would you say i need of yours
to= inm your opinion get up to the top?

me: you cant adequately predict a market without investing heavy energy into it. the stuff you are asking me is part of the info that is sold as the consulting product, not information to sell the consulting product

s: ok just a very rough estimate?

me: $50,000... anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000

s: that much

3:49 PM i think thats over my budget. i mean i told you my budget

me: sorry i cant help :(

s: 1000 a month

me: i am not negotiating with you here

s: i understand

me: ie: I have no time to take ongoing work

s: i mean

me: I can sell an hour of consulting here or there

3:50 PM s: considering my budget

me: but have no time for ongoing work

s: what do you recomend

me: reading the stuff I wrote above. and implementing it. put another way, if i listened to what i wrote above i could guarantee it would be a success.

s: ok, granted thats a good business plan. however, as you said, you have to also do stuff in terms of seo to get up to the top. you cant just have a site thats good nad expect people to find you

me: if reading my book did not give you enough seo ideas then i probably cant help you

s: i mean, you basically were vague. you never were specific. you said post on message boards, crosslink

me: specifics dont work. because every situation is unique

s: i mean, you were very basic

me: your marketing methods revolve around your personality if they are effective. if you want me to tell you everything i would do if I were you for free i can give you a half hour or so of time... but i will also post it all to my blog if you want the price of it to be free.

s: ok. fine

me: ok... dont consider google an option anytime soon given the newness of your site

s: ok
me: step 2: eventually u can get google but that will be after you get the others so dont focus on it

s: so your saying ppc

me: NO. i am saying msn and yahoo are easy to game

s: ok

me: make your site decent enough to be accepted by directories

s: interesting cause b4 all i careda bout was google

me: then get it listed in about 25 directories a month

s: ok

me: syndicate an article each month as well... to most of the places I listed in my articles tab. deep link on these articles when you can. link to different sections of your site

s: arite

me: these articles (especially if u put them on searchwarp and ezine artices) will rank for stuff

s: can i write the articles and you find places to post them

me: dont syndicate the content that is on your site

s: will that work?

me: i am not finding places to post your stuff. you want free tips i am giving you free. i am not doing the work for you if you want free

s: i know

me: next step is the blog thing i wrote above... be the spot anyone can ask for coupons at

s: ill pay you to find palces to post the articles that I write

me: make it so that you ALWAYS respond in less than 24 hours

i dont want your money i have no need for your money

3:59 PM s: ok

me: the directory list that comes with my ebook also has an article submission list on it

s: you are really different than most other seo specialists. lol

me: then submit that blog to the various blog directories. again, i think there is a tab on my directory submission sheet. but those low grade links will only take you so far

s: arite

me: if you want a new site to rank in a competitive field in google you either need to buy an old site to work from or create something useful. that is my seo philosophy

s: is coupons a competitive feild?

me: moderately yes

s: also, as far as improving ranking, i cant stand it, i have a pg of 0.

me: right getting links give you more PageRank

s: do you recomend me findingn the site that link to the top ranking coupon websites

me: well you can get a few links from some of those sites

s: and ask them to link to me in exchange for money

me: but dont expect too much help on that front. look a bit on that way and try to get a few of those links, but also push the blog idea of being the spot where anyone can ask for coupons at any hour

s: right

me: and others will link at that

s: ill def incorp . that idea into my site. into 1 0f the ten links.
i mean, so ill write an article about the launching of my website and ill find tose places where you said to post them also to start off can you do a me a favor and when you post this chat in your messaage board please includea link to my website, as you sais that that will help in your seo ebook

aslo antoher question, i recently spoke with an seo specialist about my website. they told me that in my case
they recomend ppc. they also told me that ppc can help google pr is that true?

me: i cant answer 1000 background questions, like stuff like ppc helping seo the answer is usually not a direct relationship existing.

s: i understand, those were the last ones

me: best of luck with your site

s: thankyou very much. also please can you place a link to my site from your message board

me: i dont have a message board

s: i mean your blog. also i wanted to ask you, what do you think of the domain name And that is truly the last question!

me: it is a good name... especially if you make the blog concept the home page or heavily market it on the home page

s: i originally planned to have 1 coupon. the featured coupon on the homepage

me: well, woot already sorta runs that concept, but i guess deal of the day could work. but finding other peoples desires is more remarkable most likely

s: Steal Of The Day!

i mean the problem thjato ccured to me with having a blog is that people will not want to wait for my answer
for even a few hours. i thought it would be cooler to have a smaller site, concenterating on service with live help.

me: u r missing the point.

s: and keeping it clean

me: you cant have live help 24 hours a day and run it yourself
clean = has no real volume of content
and thus wont rank

s: yes but i can have it for 4 hourd a day

me: my idea builds content fast
you dont create value by answering peoples questions free unless you can get them to talk about you or it somehow creates content for your site

s: so your saying that this would be good because id be adding more content to my site
and the goal of my site should be to be big?

me: not to be big, but once you offer assistance to 1 person there should be a record of the help

s: to be useful?

me: that you can leverage to help others

s: i mean i dont see how my idea doesnt help tohers

me: well people need to know why they should use you and that you stick to your claims. a written record is a nice way to do it

s: i mean what about the fact that people can just find the coupons themselves

me: well most people you help are not going to even say thank you, let alone help you with your marketing... you are hoping that a few will. well that is the point... that you search hard for the best deals, coupon or not

s: and whyw oulkd they need or want to wait for me to answer there question

me: and then you also write how to articles on how to use price comparison engines, and how to hunt for coupons, boolean searches etc. mention other channels that offer deals, like woot

s: ok, so does this sound good. keep the site as it is, just for one of my 10 links the blog page will be. does that sound good to you?

me: you need to highlight the question answering service strongly. it cant be one of 10 options. it has to be heavily promoted as the best option off the start.

s: so how about the first option? cause my goal of my site is to be useful

me: but then after you build up content and become selective you can move your emphasis to the other parts of the site

s: not huge and diffucicult to find what you are looking for like some of the other high ranking coupon sites

me: the point i am making is for your concept to work AND BE PROFITABLE most of your referals will probably be from search engines. coupon is probably not such a strong topic that people will come back day after day unless you are focused on one vertical, like for computers. oops, looks like they are focused on a number of things... they already are doing your model. thus the way you one up them is by adding more context and personalizing the experience

s: well my model is to not have huge page, where you have to scroll, and there is so much clutter. i wanted the site to be small and personalized, clean. to not to ever have scrolling on the first page


s: what? only the blog page?

me: most traffic goes to deep pages. thats how search works

s: then how come in most sites i see, the highest ranking page is almost always the homepage?

me: and then on your archived pages put contextual ads, and also an optinon for people to contact you if the coupon is out of date

s: ok, so how does this sound? first link blog page, then a few electronic related websites like dell and best buy as shjown on the site and then my highest ranking pg will be the blog page, not the homepage, because my articles will link to my blog page. Good?

me: well pagerank and traffic streams are not one and the same. yes your home page may have a higher pagerank or rank better for generic queries, but the deep targeted traffic is where the money is. thats why having volumes of content is important. and the personalization of digging stuff up for people makes it remarkable enough for them to talk about it and share the information with others.

s: but my traffic will be from my blog pg

me: if you are creating useful well structured content pages most of your traffic (and your most profitable traffic) will be the people who land on the deep pages

Jim Boykin on Links Again

Jim Boykin highlights his best posts from the last 6 month. His two most recent posts have great tips on links

I have to snag the image from his most recent post and quote it...great stuff Jim.

Jim Boykin on linking.

The page on the far right has no outside link linking to it. It's only "votes" are what the internal sites passes. (lower reputation and trust).

The first subpage you'll see has lots of votes to it (links). The Glossary page I found had 740 backlinks including 44 .edu's. Having an ad on a page like that (in the middle of the glossary, for relevant products services, yada yada,) would mean that the 44 colleges are directly linking to a sub page - they are directly voting for that page - the trust and reputation are through the roof - getting an ad on a page like that gives the trust and reputation a straight line to your target.

Many of the concepts with finding the best links sound obvious when you think about it, but many of the pay scales for link building involve undertrained and underwaged labor working on margins. Many people like getting x links for so many dollars. People still push quantity way too much. As the need for quality increases the need for topical expertise increases and the need to have a real resource or understand linkage patterns increases.

Jim concludes with this point

Wanna know another reason why "links pages" are dead? Because those pages don't have any backlinks to them from external sites! If all your backlinks come from "lower trust" pages (pages that only have backlinks from within the site, no external backlink votes), then guess what - you ain't got Jack.

Most link schemes are on easily isolated chunks, at the page, directory, or site level. When you go to a link exchange network or list in a link exchange directory the pages you are getting links from are not credible resource pages that are vetted by others. Mass automated links are a waste of time for Google, although they still rawk for inept engines like MSN.

Keying in on Purchase Searches and Thrift Searches

Yesterday a couple of my search referrals were:

  • download seo books

  • definitive guide to google adwords filetype:pdf

The download search might be someone looking to buy, but the other search is most likely someone looking for something for free.

Looking to buy?

There are many searches where just adding a modifier means that the search results are going to be exceptionally uncompetitive. If you add the modifiers that people use during the buying cycle (ie: buy, purchase, reviews, compare, review, download or best) you may be able to get high value traffic for next to nothing.

Looking for free?

Looking for my stuff for free?

When you are new to the market piracy might be one of your best free marketing channels because retail only matters if you have reach and people are buying.

If you have too many bad customers that likely starts to give you a bit of a bad mood and rub off on how you treat good customers.

I like to think that if people did not want to pay for my stuff that hopefully they would get a dated version from a file sharing network rather than buying and doing a chargeback or buying and then asking for a refund without reason.

When I posted about raising the bar on what I considered a real charity others commented on that page that people can get dated versions from file sharing networks. I left the comments in there, and then liked the idea so much as to put free SEO Book at the start of the page title and to start the page with a recommendation for file sharing networks.

By creating semi accessible paths for bad customers that prevent them from needing to contact you the quality of your average customer or inquery should go up.

Looking for someone elses stuff for free?

If you are new to the web you not only want to get top rankings, but you also want to grab mindshare. Mindshare has value, and most brand terms are not deeply competitive on the web unless there are many web based retailers or affiliates for that brand.

A cheap or easy way to gain mindshare is to review relevant products and recommend them on your site. If the person selling the product is clued in and likes your feedback then they may be inclined to link at you. Also when people do background searches on competing products they will be introduced to your brand. Don't forget to use words they may not have used in their marketing mix (for an ebook maybe they didn't use the version e-book or talk at all about PDFs, for example). I also have also been given free books based on reviews of other books I did on Amazon.

The people looking for things for free or doing background searches may not be as likely to buy as people who are already looking for your brand, but if you have not built up much of a brand it is not hard to tap into the brand value and traffic value created by others brands. Even if you make no money off of much of this traffic it still grants you additional mindshare for limited effort. Some search engines may consider usage data as a type of recommendation. So long as you present quality information you can almost guarantee that reviewing some of the most popular products in your vertical will be a cheap and profitable investment. - Ways to Defend Your Brand Against Sucks Sites

I am surprised that the domain name was still available. Today I registered it as a self defense mechanism. I am sure eventually I will make someone mad enough to put up a hate site, and may as well make their hate site look a bit less credible than the sense of credibility granted by

You can't get popular without pissing at least a few people off. And you can't help everyone who contacts you without getting burned out. At the very least the people who you do not resonate well with may state that you are overrated. Some who have been in your vertical longer than you may also be envious of your position if you surpass them.

The "brand name" + "sucks" search is one you can expect many people to do, especially if they have had a bad experience with you. If they see a good number of matching results for that it may snowball a bit. Each time you piss someone off there becomes one more hate page. That's not a good thing.

If you can find a way to fit personal blogs on your site then you can leverage the brand strength and authority of your main site to work the word sucks into a few of your posts. That should pollute 1 to 2 of the top 10 sucks searches for your brand.

Another good thing about having a blog is that if it is somewhat decent some people may add you to their blogroll. When they write what they think about Ticketmaster and your name is on their blogroll you can pollute up a few more brand sucks SERP positions with sucks pages that do not talk about your brand.

Affiliate programs are also another good way to help make your brand a more common term that may appear on sucks pages not about your brand.

Another way to prepare for inevitable hate sites is to have a somewhat generic sounding brand name. Since it would be commercially viable outside of your name it has the potential to make more commercial noise so when anyone ever creates attack campaigns they will be harder to rank or represent a smaller percentage of the SERPs.

Of course, if others have similar brands and people create hate info about them that may show up as being about you. The best way to play that is to kindly email the person who wrote a hate page about the other brand and tell them that your customers are worried that the remark is about you. Ask them if there is any way they could modify the page to include a reference to your site to say that the post is not about you.

Related posts:

MSN AdCenter Live to All

Via WMW comes news that MSN has completely dumped Yahoo! as a PPC provider and anyone can now sign up for Microsoft AdCenter.

MSN has little traffic compared to Google or Yahoo!, but has more controls than other top PPC providers. While their service is new their traffic should be cheaper than buying similar traffic from Yahoo! or Google.

Google's Search Algorithm Blown Open

At TW we mentioned that a number of people hosting with IPowerWeb had mysterious subdomains show up out of nowhere.

Read Massa's post about how Google is trusting these subdomains way too much based on the link popularity and trust of the main domain. Anytime someone says that they site your content is on does not matter this is a good example to disprove their theory. Clearly this example demonstrates site specific relevancy values. Also take a look at the wide array of queries the content is ranking for.

Clearly with the spammer owning 60% of Google's search results for thousands of queries you can see they are in need of an algorithm update.

Respecting the Legitimacy of Competition in the SERP

A friend of mine was writing a page of content for a query where the answer to the problem was to send people to a related idea. But my friend ended up focusing heavily on that related idea and never really emphasized structuring the article to be relevant to the original idea I proposed. He should have though. Here's why...

The original idea I proposed was not covered well because it didn't really exist, but much like how search engines correct spelling errors you can create pages targeted around flawed searches that lead people to a more legitimate and potentially more profitable related idea.

A nice thing about targeting content at fail queries is that most competing sites are going to be trash or bogus scams, so in a sense you make the web a better place by being less scammy than the other top ranked options. Because many of the other top ranked sites for flawed queries may be scammy in nature few of them may have legitimate linkage data. If you have decent link reputation your site that might not have enough authority to compete for the end goal may be able to dominate relevant related flawed search queries.

Don't measure competition in the number of competing pages, see how many of the top 10 results look like legitimate resources. If you see lots of .gov and .edu sites or other legitimate sites at the top the query is competitive. If you see ranking it should be a joke to compete.

This idea sorta ties in with my recent post about starting from an edge.

Finding and Valuing Domains

Russ Jones offers tips for finding and valuing domains. His company also offers a free tool which helps you value domains.

If that post didn't frustrate Matt Cutts then surely the post about finding cross site scripting errors probably would :) (via seoblackhat)

WMW recently had a thread about finding expiring domains.

And if you are a blogger who does not want to go buy sites, and would prefer to have everyone link at your site, Philipp Lessen created a survey for how linkable your blog posts are.

Starting at the Edges

Average is boring, and most businesses don't capture the middle market until some edge finds them interesting and starts talking about them.

You can sorta think the same way about search engine rankings when you create content. If you are already in a hyper saturated market it is going to take a while to grow, but if you look for edges or ideas that are not well covered you can start building traffic streams, linkage data, and possibly consumer generated media.

The harder it is for people to currently solve their problem or find what they are looking for the less you have to do to be worthy of links or comments.

The fewer competing channels there are the less you have to do to be worthy of links or comments.

One of the biggest reasons I tried to make ThreadWatch more about search and SEM than just technology is because there are just too many competing channels covering "tech" for me to do it adequately unless I want to read RSS feeds 16 hours a day. Even then we would post so frequently that it would overwhelm those who primarily were there for the search stuff.

Example edges:

  • MSN used to be powered by LookSmart. Back then you could write a page about a poorly covered topic, submit a site to Zeal, and instantly rank in MSN.

  • Blog search has many holes like that right now. There is little barrier to entry to being seen on sites like Technorati. And most the people reading Technorati also probably write web pages.
  • In any spreading story (there are more ways to track spreading spreading than you can count) you can play the devil's advocate. There are a near endless number of egos and angles around poorly reported biased quickly spreading stories.

Survey Says...Link to Me :)

Some sites in hypersaturated markets (like online employment sites) are hard to market because people don't consider how they can chop up the audience to find the interests of different parts of their audience. This is a good example of how to do it.

A full-time stay-at-home mother would earn $134,121 a year if paid for all her work, an amount similar to a top U.S. ad executive, a marketing director or a judge, according to a study released Wednesday.

A mother who works outside the home would earn an extra $85,876 annually on top of her actual wages for the work she does at home, according to the study by Waltham, Massachusetts-based compensation experts

  • Pick an audience you want to profile.

  • Come up with a story that would be easy to spread. Tell the desired audience how important they are.
  • Conduct a study to collect the information needed to sell that story.
  • Work with someone else on the study if their name adds much needed credibility.
  • Come up with specific numbers.
  • Watch the links roll in.

Keep in mind that the desired audience could be based on people you want to sell stuff to or people you want linking at you. Either way you are making money. The further the story spreads or the more relevant it is to your core product or service the more money you make.

Getting links is like stealing candy from a baby if you put it in the framework of being remarkable or telling a story.

Regional / Local Search Engine Marketing Tips and Strategies

SEO Question: I have primarily a local based business. How should I do SEO / SEM for my site?


Organic Local Search Engine Optimization:

These tips will help you rank well for local search results in the global search databases, such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN.

With local SEO you do all the same stuff you would do with global SEO, like:

Listing in local directories and advertising on local portals can be a cheap marketing spend that provides a solid ROI. It will take a bit of research to analyze the value, but if pages are ranking well in relevant search results on Google then they are great places to be listed.

You can think of relevant web communities in terms of location or topic. If a site is relevant for broader queries about your field or broader queries about your location it may be a great link buy.

If you local chamber of commerce has a site that provides listings don't forget to submit there. You may also want to consider submitting your business to sites like your local Better Business Bureau.

Why Getting At Least a Few Links is Important:

It is important to build at least a small amount of editorial linkage data pointing at your site (through directory listings and other related link building activities), because if you chose to list in business directories like Verizon Superpages some business directories charge you by the click.

If your site does not outrank them then it is worthless being forced to pay a recurring click cost anytime someone is already searching for your brand name.

Yahoo! also offers a paid inclusion program which charges you by the click to be listed in their regular search results. I generally do not recommend paying for inclusion as getting a few links is typically far cheaper than paying for every time someone searches for your name. Plus if nobody links at your site it is hard for search engines to gauge how much they should trust your website.

As compared to Yahoo!'s paid inclusion Google offers a program called Google Sitemaps, which is a free program that makes it easy to see what traffic you are getting from Google. It will also show top search terms that you ranked for and if Google had any crawl issues with your site.

Leveraging Well Trusted Local Hubs:

In some cases if you are in a competitive field and are starting a new site from scratch it may be worth creating a temporary site in conjunction with your main site. Sometimes Google can take a while to trust new sites in competitive fields, and creating a mini site on an already well trusted and well established site can have you seeing positive ROI quicker.

For example, costs $20 a month to establish a business account on their server which leverage their domain trust. This one is a bit out there, but in some small markets the hosted content pages cost next to nothing. For example, in Kaitaia (the northernmost town in New Zealand) you can get a lifetime hosted page on for $10.

Local Domain Registration and Hosting:

If you primarily cater to a specific market foreign to the US it may be worth it to buy a local domain ( for the UK for example) and / or host it on a server in that country. Building links from other sites that are deemed to be local to a specific region in nature should help get your site included in those search results.

If you are trying to build a strong global brand or are in a hyper competitive field it is probably worth the extra $8 per year to register the global .com version of your domain to prevent someone else from cybersquatting you.

If you are targeting multiple local markets in different languages it probably makes sense to use subdomains by language or different domains for the secondary markets.

What's Your Address?

You should post your business address on at least the home page and one other page of your site, perhaps sitewide. You should format it like 1 Microsoft Way Redmond, WA, 98052. MSN has a search near me feature which may give you a boost in their results if you are deemed to be close to a searcher.

One Page Per Location:

If you are targeting multiple towns it is likely best to focus your homepage on either the most competitive town or the entire region. Use interior pages to target the other towns. It is possible to target many towns on a single page, but the problem is that when people find your content it may seem less relevant if you try to target 5 towns on one page than if you target 1 town per page. The smaller towns may also be easy to rank for by using good page title tags and internal linkage. The more relevant your page seems to a searcher the easier it is to convert them into a buyer.

Local Search Engine Advertising:

Many search queries are local in nature, but the outlay for a professional SEO provider could cost well into thousands of dollars, and even then results take time and are typically not guaranteed.

If you want to test market demand using Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, and MSN AdCenter allow you to quickly and cheaply buy relevant traffic on a pay per click basis.

I could write a 30 page post on PPC right here, but it would be beyond the scope of this post, so I will recommend my free ebook on pay per click marketing [PDF]. As an overview of a few things to consider with local pay per click:

  • Are you bidding on ads relevant to your area?

    • Are you bidding on ads for each relevant town (with relevant ad copy and sending them to the most relevant page)?

    • For large cities are you bidding on relevant neighborhood related or zip code related terms? (these will likely be low traffic and have little competition than the core related terms, but because of those two factors they are often underpriced, and they are ultra targeted leads)
    • Think of alternative ways to describe where you are (ie: Raleigh-Durham is also called something like Research Triangle park).
  • Are you bidding on core terms and alternate ways to define your products?
    • For a qualified real estate agent terms like [my town realtor] makes sense.

    • Most realtors will also bid on [my town houses] and [my town homes].
    • The smarter realtors will also bid on more descriptive lower searched phrases like [my town town homes], [my town condos], [my town condominiums]. You can use our free keyword list generator to generate these sorts of lists.
    • In some cases it may make sense to bid on terms related to moving or things like [my town home buying guide].
    • If you do not sell commercial property make sure that you use commercial (or other words that would indicate a demand for commercial property) as a negative word.
  • Is your ad copy for each keyword group relevant?
    • As you expand out your campaign you want to keep it organized in neat groups where possible.

    • Make sure your ad copy is as relevant as possible for your core terms.
    • While some dislike using it, Google's dynamic keyword insertion may make your ad seem more relevant than competing ads because it puts relevant copy into your ad.

Google AdWords (and some of the ad systems) allow you to set up ads in multiple ways.

  • As described above, you can use modifiers to target your local ads.

  • Google also looks at the IP address of web surfers, and can allow you to set up additional regional ad groups targeting the same terms, but instead of using the local modifying terms (such as my town keyword), you can filter the town or regional aspect of the targeting via Google understanding where a web user is located from their IP address.

Google is also getting into partnering with companies to offer free WiFi (which will increase Google's usage AND make it easier for them to target local ads) and Google is also testing using pay per call listing in the search results. Expect the local search marketplace to have significant innovation in the near future.

Google's Vertical Local Search Engine Marketing:

Google seems to go back and forth with their names on the product that integrates local search and Google Maps. I think the key point to consider is that they do want to make people think that local and maps are one and the same.

In the same way that they are trying to integrate the idea of maps and local they may also point more of their global search queries at different verticals. Google is testing a new interface that suggests different vertical databases (like news search, image search, shopping search, Google Groups) on some global searches. Google also sometimes places what they call a OneBox result at the top of the search results. These results are also pulled from vertical search databases.

The Google Local Business Center allows you to list your business on Google local / Google maps for free. Google Local also pulls results from Verizon Superpages and other trusted sources. Google is also testing AdWords ads that allow you to buy local ads on Google Maps.

Google also offers a product called Google Base. It allows you to upload listings of free information or items for sale.

Yahoo! Local:

Yahoo! Local offers free basic listings and monthly flat rate advertising based on your category and local market size. They also integrate some relevant Yahoo! Search Marketing ads into their local product. You need to have a physical address to list your site in Yahoo! local, but you do not need a website. They offer a free 5 page website with your listing.

If you are paying a flat rate fee or are looking to maximize how much traffic you receive it may make sense to keyword stuff your title or description if they let you get away with it. From my experience paid ads seem to be able to get a bit more leeway than free listings.

Pay Per Call:

Earlier in this post I mentioned Google was testing pay per call ads. In some verticals calls are much more valuable than ad clicks. Verizon also intends to auction off some of their offline print catalog ads using phone numbers that are auctioned off in a pay per call manner.

Ingenio is a technology market leader in the pay per call space, offering ad distribution on AOL and a few other major directory sites.

Other Local Search Sites & Local Directories:

A number of well known directories get significant direct traffic from global search, searches on other local databases, and direct traffic. A few of the top players are:

Many directories and local search products are powered from Acxiom, infoUSA, GeoSign, or Amacai. Stunty pointed me at a couple resources showing the relationships.

If you do not want to need to submit your data at many locations RegisterLocal allows you to submit a profile and have it syndicated to many local search sites.

Local SEM Help:

As far as I am aware Local Launch and Reach Local are the two most well known companies targeting the local SEM market.

I have not hired either, but I know Local Launch has some of the brightest minds in SEM working for them. ReachLocal offers this video explaining how they work.

Verizon SuperPages also signed up with Google to become a Google AdWords reseller.


I have not done a ton of local marketing, but I get asked this question often. Feel free to tell me if I am hosed up on anything. Also this post is a bit biased in that I only speak fluent English and have only lived in the US. In some foreign markets where search is dominated by other companies (ie: Baidu in China, Yandex in Russia) you may have to take a look at what other local directories and search services are important.

Some people, like the Kelsey Group, track local search much more in depth than I do, so they may be able to give you information about your local market.

Blogger Lawsuits are the Equivalent of an SEO A Bomb

Recently a blogger buddy of mine named Lance Dunston was sued by an advertising agency. Unbeknownst to the plaintiff it turns out the blogger was sitting on free legal support, love from many many bloggers, and coverage in the WSJ, EWeek and

As Seth recently said, your legal team is an extension of your marketing department. And to sum it up, it was a bad day for Warren Kremer Paino.

What I find exceedingly stupid about this lawsuit is the plaintiff (who sells marketing services - how good could they be?) claimed that the issue was about manipulating Google's search results:

I think the core issue for the ad agency isn't really silencing the blogger. Its how his agency appears to the world when viewed through the eyes of Google. Basically Google's presentation algorithms - the technical approach by which a blog post is summarized in a search result - make it look like the ad agency is affiliated with child porn. That's a legitimate issue if you're concerned about how you look online. But suing the blogger isn't the answer.

So instead of attempting to understand how Google displays results they sent a lawsuit. These ad agencies need to get a clue. They really do.

The search results are going to show 10 results weather you are active online or not. If you have an offline brand that you do not promote heavily online don't be surprised if the top search results look ugly.

Temporarily the media frenzy around a lawsuit like this may clean up the search results, but it doesn't look good to read a bunch of posts about how your company is dumb or sends bogus lawsuits (and weather that is true or not that seems to be the primary story that is spreading).

After the search engines catch up with recording all the links to the blogger you just sued he may outrank you for your own brand. If he wins in court that sucks for you, and you granted him additional authority to say whatever he wants about you when it would have been just as easy to promote a few other sites or link bomb a different page on his site to make it show up instead of the page associating Warren Kremer Paino with child pornography.

By claiming that the main issue was Google's associating Warren Kremer Paino with child pornography (and then sending the million dollar lawsuit at an individual who could not afford to defend himself) you create a semantic connection that will associate your brand with those words. That's not good, because sometimes even suing just one person makes you look like a jerk.

The Value of Trust vs Objectivity in Publishing Business Models

Dan Gillmor recently posted a speech he gave at Columbia University:

I'd propose replacing the ideal of objectivity with some principles that may be easier to achieve.

The principles that collectively go beyond objectivity are thoroughness, accuracy, fairness, independence and transparency. Of course, they tend to bleed into each other, and in a several cases can even conflict or at least be somewhat orthogonal. I put this problem into the category of "Life is messy."

Microsoft recently was said to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for a company that puts ads in video games. The military, disturbingly enough, is also creating advergames targeted at children:

Even the U.S. Defense Department has adopted the model, creating a combat games called "America's Army" to be used as a recruiting tool.

Objectivity is highly flawed due to its parroting effect.

In a world where

  • traditional publishing business models are dying (due to new information streams and the decay of inefficient monopolies)
  • in most markets it is more profitable to create highly biased or low quality content (due to increased conversion rates or search algorithm inefficiencies)
  • the cost of creating content drops daily
  • nearly anyone can create content
  • companies make hypocritical clams to misdirect the media
  • those claims spread quickly
  • information systems are as easy to manipulate as the media is
  • the price of attention increases daily (more people are fighting for it)
  • most content creators become marketers fighting for attention
  • people create fake controversies for attention
  • ads become content
  • everything is an ad

TRUST is going to be worth far more than objectivity.

Search Engine Suggest / See Also Results and Brand Value

If you can weave your name into search suggestions related to your product or field of work it helps build your brand value for free and makes it much harder for others to take your market position.

If search engines use latent semantic indexing (or some similar systems that are obviously and certainly in use) having your brand or name semantically associated with your keywords makes it easier for you to write naturally about your topic, whereas some competing sites may write in a somewhat mechanical sounding process to try to compete.

It looks like Yahoo! thinks words are related if they appear next to each other often

Yahoo! See Also result for SEO Book.

Yahoo! See Also result for seobook.

And, as linked to above, here is an example of MSN finding a document relevant when there was no relevant anchor text or page copy. Here also is a post from last June talking about when Google started placing more emphasis on the value of search engine marketing anchor text in the search engine optimization search results.

If engines think your name is synonymous with your topic so will many consumers. It is all a game of mindshare and brand equity. If you can get people to talk about you then you do great.

Now if only I could fix minkhounds...

The Universality of Information

Some of my most profitable ideas have not been the most valuable...a true disconenct often exists, in fact. I
have made thousands of dollars by accidentally misspelling a word, and uncovering a market others mised.

You can accidentally stumble into profits, but generally the value you can extract from a market is often directly proportional to what knowledge you have about that market which most others lack (o, if you are selling information, how well you can convince others this is the case).

That is part of the reason why it is hard to have useful and hopefully somewhat original content for TW and seo book. As I start to get more business savvy and learn how to exploit more and more algorithmic holes it doesn't make economic sense to post all of them. Most people are not going to be interested in some advanced creative marketing techniques, some might sue me for them misapplying them, and if I am too sharing some people who share great tips with me may want to cut me off.

If you share all of your best tricks and many people follow them then the algorithms change to accomidate that. In a competitive marketplace it is no good to make yourself the squeezepoint unless you are building some scalable network that can leverage a large volume of transactions.

It is easy to recommend some resources so long as the provider selling them has little incremental cost to each additional unit or client, but if you share your best workers you increase their rates AND make them less available to yourself. The same thing is true for some techniques. Why would a person lose $100,000 testing a business model and then finally share the profitable techniques they figured out after they tested them? Especially if others have more resources and would quickly saturate the market inefficiency?

Most of the market willing to spend money is either at the high end of the market or people new to the market. People who write for beginners will end up making far more cash typically than those writing for mid market (or even the later end of the market), especially if they are good at conveying complex ideas in simple straightforward naratives. Seth is good at doing just that.

From my experiences it seems that the high end of the market tends to follow the sources which have largely built their brand by focusing on the beginer end of the market. For instance, by largely writing for the beginning end of the market on this site I frustrated some of the readers who used to be interested in me digging up the research type stuff. At the same time sales went up at least 50% (most likely more if you also consider citations and recommendations future sales waiting to happen). And the same beginner content has caused people from the high end of the market to be interested in hiring me. I have got leads for companies at the high end of the market, some of which I never would have thought would contact me. Some of which are companies worth tens or hundreds of billions of dollars.

The tip here (as Andy Hagans reminded me - cool cat he is) is to write for your customer. Not write for your reader. Threadwatch is an amazing community site, but it is not a largely profitable one because it writes for the mid market reader, not to customers. This blog has become far more customer centric, because it is stupid for me to help less people and throw half of my income in the trash can by focusing on things that only advanced SEOs would want to read.

It is also easy to be seen as patronizing if you focus too much on the early end of the market. In the goal of reaching the beginning part of the market and exploiting that opportunity for profit many people do not consider the effect of dating information or who all will read what they say. Initially I was writing for people new to the web, who were like me, and trying to get by doing their own thing. But from day to day I have no idea who may read my blog. I have got calls from venture capitalists, media, board advisors of search engines, search employees, etc.

What is hard about selling internet marketing information is that most people generally want quick fixes. Income increases as:

  • you make stuff sound simple

  • you hook people on your subscription based service or system
  • they believe you are the competitive advantage or end to end answer to all their problems

Rarely though is any single idea, tool, or piece of information the edge needed to succeed across the wide array of human desires that search and the WWW represent.

Some people who read my book will fail. Others would read it and were hyper successful may have done great even if they never read it. As you increase your userbase you get more people at both edges. Bought and happy. Bought and pissed off. You can't make a person see the true end value of anything until they reach their final goals.

In selling stuff we are forced to use proxies for success. Ie:

  • Some will tell you how important Alexa is. As you track yourself going through your own site you see how great you are doing in Alexa, but in no other statistic.

  • "The more websites you can get to link to your website, the higher you will rank in the search engines, guaranteed!" - Last week I chatted with someone who uses that sales line on their sales letter. They know it is outdated advice and factually incorrect, but they still use it because it sounds authoritative and sells their link exchange service.
  • Some people will buy testimonials, leveraging value offers in misleading emails titled "free gift" where they only give the product after a glowing testimonial is posted.
  • I push that I rank #1 for SEO Book, which short of a penalty should be a joke for me to do so given my market position and domain name, but to many people new to the market saying I am #1 for that sounds more credible than saying I am #5 for SEO.

I don't think there is any problem with using proxies as an indication of value, and it is not surprising that sales letters focus on the value end of stuff.

However inside many tools and information products there are often many upsells. These should make you question the validity of the product, business model, motives, and quality. If the advice people give you is mechanical in nature, and does not teach you about the larger picture or the social aspects of the WWW, the advice giver is probably hurting more people than they help. That is the biggest reason why I think most for sale SEO tools are garbage.

This post rambled a bit again...I am getting bad at that. But the point is:

Matt Cutts and Mike Grehan Talk PageRank

Mike Grehan's recent article linked to an audio interview of Matt Cutts on link popularity and link reputation and another with general SEO tips.

Matt, of course, hated on paid links, but other than that overtly biased hate on links his other tips are good stuff.