Exact Match Domain Names in Google

Search relevancy algorithms are ever changing, but I recently snagged a good example of Google placing significant weight on exact matching domain names. When you search Google for search engine history there are over 20,000 exact phrase match pages and over 90,000,000 matching pages. The #6 result in this screenshot is SearchEngineHistory.com, which is a site that I never really developed. It has no inbound links on Yahoo!, Google, or MSN (as you can see on this screenshot and that one). Also worth noting that SearchEngineHistory.com is a single page site, and with NO link authority it outranks a LifeHacker post that has the exact matching phrase in a page title (and LifeHacker is an extremely authoritative site).

Why could Google trust domain matches so much? Because they are often associated with brands which protect their trademarks more vigilantly than in the past, and there are so many domainers and so much vc money placing premiums on domain names. To get an exact matching domain it is probably going to cost you something (either lots of money or the foresight to be an early believer in a new field), so that in and of itself is some sign of quality. For example, today I tried buying a non-word 5 letter domain for $1,000 and the domainer turned me down stating that he turned down 5x that much last week. About 3 years ago SeoBook.com cost $8, largely because the standard frame of thought in the SEO market was that there was no market for a book or ebook.

History of Modern Search Technology - 1945 to Google

I recently updated my article about search engine history.

Any and all feedback is appreciated.

Blog Marketing 101: Circlejerks for All!

The best way to promote a new blog is to track conversations, interject your opinions, and to talk about others when it makes sense to. The WSJ published an article titled How to Get Attention In a New-Media World [Sub Req], in which a blogger stated:

"Our best PR," Ms. Dunlap says, "comes from people who are mentioned or featured on our site and forward the link to their friends."

Of course, it is hard to build up enough authority to do well if you start off with non controvercial fan blogs. You have to have a great writing style or a certain amount of credibility built up before people want to share your mentions as being newsworthy. You need to build brand loyalty one visitor at a time starting from day 1.

Short term you can get exposure quickly by creating controversies (see Valleywag) or being the consumate contrarian (see Nicholas Carr). But, if you want to do well longterm it is important to create a platform for showcasing the value of others and their ideas, like Paris does.

One of the things I wrote in my ebook was something like "If you make other people feel important they will do your marketing for you." (yes I know it is shitty to quote myself)

But the large theme of most successful and profitable sites is that there has to be some associated social element...some way for the site to make the consumer feel special. An insider's club circle jerk, if you will. People like to feel like they are in the in crowd and that they are important. That is why you see low level information being so popular so often on the social sites...people can quickly consume, understand, and identify with it.

The web, at least as a social marketing medium, is less about doing deep research and more about creating something that can quickly evoke emotional reactions or help people reinforce their worldviews, identities, and sense of purpose.

Andy Hagans on Quality Content?

Andy Hagans is advocating quality content AND advocating it within a quality content post.

What is the world coming too? Somebody check the phase of the moon!

Old Gold

If you write hundreds and hundreds of pages about a topic odds are that eventually one of them is going to rank, get some decent self reinforcing links, and then keep ranking. This is especially true if you are writing about a modern technology or a field that is rapidly changing. One of the reasons exposure on sites like Digg and Del.icio.us is so valuable is that it earns you unrequested secondary and tertiary (and fortuary, hey wait, is that a word) organic citations. Some underfunded mainstream media sites just link to whatever ends up on sites like Del.icio.us that day, then other people find those channels and link to you from there as well. It is equally cool and lame, but perhaps a bit more cool if you are on the receiving end of the linkstream.

Longterm the key to doing well on the web is to do things that are strong enough that they build unrequested links.

So what if you are already ranking #1 for a keyword on an old page? Is it ever worth editing it?

I have a page which got about a half dozen unrequested .edu links back in 2004. The page was probably of average quality, but easy to cite, because it looked comprehensive. As time passed I added a bit of info to the page here and there but did not go through to format and edit it...those changes, coupled with rapid changes in that field meant that the page went from average to below average quickly.

It still ranked #1, but that page has not got a single .edu citation since 2004. What if I would have made that page far better? Have I been throwing away a .edu link a week for the last year and a half? Likely. And it gets worse too, because as that page would have got cited it would have lead to secondary and tertiary (and fortuary, hey wait, is that a word) organic citations from people who were passionate about that topic.

And had that site gained another 50 or 100 .edu links it would have doubled or tripled the value of that site. The authority from that one page would have carried that site.

Now I am not a fan of going through and editing everything over and over again, but if you have a couple core pages which capture powerful ideas it is worth it to make those as good as they can be. And if you already rank, then you are just leaving links on the table if those pages are average. Clean them up a bit and get the love you deserve, you obviously deserve it if you are already ranking :)

Some marketing is push. Other marketing is pull. What makes SEO great, is that when you figure out what ideas to target your pull marketing is self reinforcing while others are pushing pushing pushing and never able to catch up.

Digging for Links

When you are doing SEO you want titles that are rather directly informative...you need to be descriptive. But that is not how you promote a linkbait.

Too much sensationalism causes you to lose credibility, but if you are starting with none then you might not have much to lose by testing different things. Take this post, for example. Let's analyze it.

  • The person who wrote the story about Google submitted it to the Apple category.

  • The post is half-assed research, passes opinion as fact, and is completely wrong in it's conclusions, but
  • The post is titled Google's dirty little secret

Thus despite multiple layers of ineptness it is passed off as good information based on the title alone. It made the Digg homepage. A good linkbait starts with a good title.

Need help with your headlines? Go get some magnetic headline love.

Another tip is that for the amount of effort you need to put into making a piece of information, you are typically going to get much more out of it by making it biased than by aiming for vanilla. Your bias is what people subscribe to, want to believe in, or want to discredit.

For example: I think Iraq for Sale is a film every American should see, largely because those who allegedly support a free market system think that the uncontested multi-billion dollar government contracts full of fraud sent to scumbag corporations are an acceptible business practice. And they only get away with it because people argue on the rhetorical or idealistic levels instead of talking about what is actually happening, and the media is generally not honest enough to report some of the news themselves...they are too tied to profit to allow themselves to.

I bet someone comments about that last paragraph ;) Also notice how I lined out I think. If you want to be controvercial an added way to do it is to present opinion as fact, but be forewarned that if you go to far with that it makes you an easier lawsuit target. But if you plan it out correctly lawsuits can go right into the marketing budget. With some stuff it almost seems like that is how Google does it :)

Linkbaiting is all about emotional reaction or being memorable...that is what leads to comments and citations.

So how else do you make your story comment worthy or citation worthy? You build up a following over time. Those who read your site may Digg, Netscape, or Del.icio.us your posts.

How else do you do it? Have an instant messenger list a mile long, and email. Beg your friends. Time your post, bookmark your site, and then light up contacts via email and instant messenger.

There is not a lot to the linkbait formula

  • time your post for a launch when your friends will be around, use a catch title, Digg your own post

  • be really biases, or format your information so that it LOOKS fairly comprehensive
  • beg friends
  • make it easy to bookmark your page by placing the following type of code on your site

{ Post to del.icio.us | Post to Reddit }

Note: if I was trying to get this page to Digg's homepage I probably would have used something like Digg is Too Easy to Game: Here's How as my page title.

Making Work a Game

In Human Computation Luis von Ahn talks about how the Google Image labeler turns work into a game, and how you can enhance that information further by using a game like Peakaboom.

How many cool things will people do on the web for arbitrary points? And are the points actually arbitrary if they make people happy :)

Hello... Link You Very Much

Do you believe something more or less because you found it while doing backlink research.

When someone gives you an unsolicited link does it make your more or less likely to trust them? How does it change your perception of the content you read or the person who wrote it?

Two Pages = Double Listing Love

If you want to make a site that looks legitimate and is well structured you probably only want to have one main page for each topic, with sub pages working to further expose sub-topics. But what do you do if you are tracking your results and are making a thousand a month or more from a single page? Some algorithms are somewhat literal in nature, while others are more elegant and look for more natural writing. I am still trying to tweak a page in to rank for all varieties of it's core main phrase in Google, but in the course of tweaking it in to match Google (by making it more elegant and less literal) that page does not score as being as relevant as it once was in Microsoft.

The ideal solution would be to just keep getting authoritative links until that page was viewed as the ultimately authoritative topical resource by all major engines, but unless you have real topical authority and high quality content it is going to be hard to get legitimate citations on the conversion oriented page. And getting it low quality link spam is not going to be the most cost efficient method if I care about the long-term health of the site. In fact, without trying to get any spammy links the page picked up hundreds of them just by ranking well.

What is another solution? Use the main page with the most link equity to target Google since they have the largest search market share, but also consider creating a second page on the topic which is more literal in nature. The second page can be about the history of the topic, background information, future of the topic, how that topic fits a location or a minority, saving money with topic, do it yourself with topic, or frequently asked questions related to the topic.

After making the first page less literal and creating the second page that was exceptionally literal I checked back on the rankings of both pages for some of the core keywords. For many of the phrases those pages targeted I scored a double listing in both MSN and Google.

As search engines change their relevancy scoring algorithms they may not only change weather they match deeper or shallower pages, but they may also change what they are willing to rank based on how literally it matches the query.

Another way to look at this phenomena is that if you are working from a new untrusted domain and are trying to create the backfill catalog of content for your site, it may make sense to make some of the early writing more literal in nature since it will be easy to rank well in MSN for it. As you learn more about your topic, get a bit of a following, and have some topical authority it may make sense to go back over some of your most important content areas and create new pages which are less literal in nature.

Digg is for Dweebs: Free Link Bait Ideas

In comments from the last post some people were curious of how they could make link bait if they were not in the tech / marketing / SEO industries. My theory is that every industry (and every brand worth creating or selling) has related stories that people would be interested in sharing. If people do not talk about you then you probably do not have much of a brand.

Everything can be made more interesting by taking a story to the edge or by creating the idea centered around filling the desires of the audience rather than being created around selling something. Most information thin product database type sites fail because they are nothing more than a pool of duplicated compacted information with nothing interesting or remarkable about them. Where can I find link bait?
Look at

Every day they need content. Something new fills their sites every day. Also search their archives for keywords related to your field or other things you are interested in.

In the same way those sites need content daily there are also going to be millions of bloggers looking for something to link to. You can't please everyone, but if you get a half dozen organic links a day it doesn't take long to start building up some serious authority.

Nerd Bias?
Before anyone gives me any crap for pigeonholing nerds, please note that I am a proud nerd and am speaking for myself whenever I use the word nerd.

If it seems that many of the above listed sites have a tech or nerd bias then they probably do. But realistically nerds are nerds because they fall into some of the following groups

  • interested in technology or building things more than in filling some role society deems for them

  • outliers that establish their own value systems
  • are often passionately interested in things that are out of the ordinary

The Goal of Link Bait
Find a way to make your topic relate to needs of nerds or a large group of society that frequently expresses their opinion online. It doesn't have to direct match fitting your product, just roughly match fitting your topic such that it looks legitimate. The goal of link bait is to bilk $1,000's of link authority at a low price. If the link bait is perfectly on topic and you get mindshare / readers / sales that rocks even better.

With most link bait you are not trying to gain topical expert links...more likely citations from people with a mild interest in the topic (and how you related it to their nerdy interests). Selling link bait to subject matter experts means you have to invest far more into creating a high quality piece of content. It is still doable, of course, but you just have to either focus more on the interests and biases of a particular individual or really know what is likely to be talked about in your field.

Link Bait is Easy to Reproduce, if You Are Creative
I could create a link bait tomorrow and virtually guarantee it gets listed on Digg's homepage, but it still wouldn't mean that anyone who reads it would get everything about the anatomy of a link bait. That is sorta what many of my recent posts have been about though, if you read through them...trying to discuss link bait from a few different angles.

Link bait ideas typically take less than a minute to think up, but much longer to implement. These following topics were requested in comments, and I spent less than 10 minutes total coming up with these examples.

Q: How about Alternative energy?

Link bait examples:

  • How much global warming are you responsible for? - (maybe create a calculator, allow people to compare themselves to average people in their own country or other country)

  • Bush argues global warming is good for seals (thin ice starves polar bears)? - political
  • The world's first human powered car? - could be fake, etc. as long as it was funny. It could be real if you were ambitious enough.

Q: or Organic gardening

Link bait examples:

  • What is in a McDonalds French Fry that you wouldn't find in a real potato?

  • How many pesticides did you eat today? (again calculator type deal where they entered their food and you tell them which ones and noted potential side effects)
  • What are the differences between rBGH and Agent Orange?

Q: or SEO

There are literally hundreds or thousands of these. From my site the 101 ways to build links or SEO for Firefox are both pretty solid examples. Just yesterday Brian Clark wrote this link post, which made it to the top of the Del.icio.us popular list.

If people do not want to discuss SEO then don't try to force it. Give the idea another name or cobrand it off of another brand / frame of reference. If you talk about search, Google, or helping bloggers rank instead of just talking about SEO it is much easier for the idea to spread.

Friday Freebie:
Can't think of a link bait idea for your topic? Tell me your topic in the comments of this post and I (or a hip SeoBook.com reader like Brian Clark) will reply with one or two ideas. The ideas may not go anywhere, but if they do you got more than your money's worth ;)

Also check out Brian's headline tips when thinking of how to write your headline.

Related posts:

  • 101 Ways to Build Link Popularity in 2006 & SEO for Firefox - example linkbaits from this site
  • the ROI on link bait - Andy Hagans explains how effective our link bait was and pitches his services
  • Research, Scraps, Ordered Lists, & Social Structures - here I talk about how people are starved for attention and why ordered lists are an efficient means of creating linkable content
  • Content Publishing, Controlling Costs, Scaling Profits & Link Bait: Being Small & Competing With Big Fish - here I talk about segregating content quality...intentionally publishing more expensive link bait from time to time while keeping content costs low for the bulk of your content
  • Why There Are No Tweakers

    Seth Godin recently asked why it was so hard to find tweakers.

    The first problem is that name. It is not descriptive and it sounds belittling in nature. But there are other problems as well. I have found that people generally have to pay or overpay to take you seriously. You can give away general advice all day long, but to take the time to do specific in depth analysis and get them to test implementing the actions you are going to have to make them pay. And pay big! Go with a low price and get no respect. It reminds me of a friend who was giving me shit recently when I asked him if he thought it would be worth it for me to go to school. He said "not trying to be a prick here, but objectively looking at it, how can you respect a business professor who is twice your age and works for 1/3 your wage? What can they teach you about business that you can't learn on your own if you are already ahead of them?"

    I might classify, in some ways, as a tweaker, but since there is no domain expertise associated with that general word then why should I brand myself as that? Most times when people do an SEO consultation with me I talk SEO and information architecture. I also tell many clients about how their design does not inspire credibility, they are not effectively using their content to guide the user to the desired action, they are selecting the wrong defaults, their copy could be better, etc etc etc.

    If one works on such a wide array of topics it is hard to build up the topical support you would if you worked primarily in one community, and discussed other topics in a framework of how they relate to your domain using the language of your community (Jakob Nielsen is great at that). You have to be known and branded as an expert at something to be trusted enough for your opinion to count on other things.

    Why don't I call myself a tweaker? There is no money in it.

    The true tweakers (who should be trusted) realize their value and just tweak their own sites or work as affiliates such that they can get paid for the value they create. It is nice to have a few friends like that on your IM list, but I certainly wouldn't hire a tweaker that marketed themselves as such, at least not to work on a successful business.

    Leveraging Comments & the Spelling Police

    Occasionally websites get really good comments, but if you get much exposure it is going to take a while to clean up all the overt spam attempts that exposure brings, especially if your topic is SEO...many people are attracted to SEO because they want to make money without doing any real work or creating any real value. I think that is part of why I liked it off the start.

    And if you don't keep it clean, the next thing you know people who have made decent comments on your blog devolve comments to the me too level and sign their name as #1 rated Viagra mortgage poker coupon. I just went back and deleted about 30 comments from a person who cleverly hit me up today with about 10 coupon comment spams. Thanks buddy! There are some things large sites can get away with that smaller sites can not. For example, About.com has sections on some of their pages named something like also spelled as. Unintentionally, I slip a number of misspellings into this site, and get roasted frequently for it. Although, nobody has ever told me why the grammar and spelling police typically give dysfunctional useless feedback like "you misspelled a word" often without saying what word / where / how you misspelled it.

    But if you left comments on your own blog not under your own name then spelling errors might be more appropriate. I have even seen some people take leveraging their comments one step further and troll on their own site to pick up other keywords, make the blog look active, or create fake controversies.

    If you do not actively check out the comments it is not worth even having them on your site. As search engines get better at linguistics (and eventually they will) having a bunch of spammy comments on a site will linguistically link pages to a bunch of other spammed out sites and spammy topics. If you lose a bit of distribution here and there in a couple important channels competing sites get to enjoy self reinforcing market positions.

    The ROI on Link Bait

    A month ago, Aaron and I published 101 Ways to Build Link Popularity in 2006. Partly we wrote it for fun ("going meta" link baiting a link building piece!), but partly we wrote it for business reasons: to gain new customers, links, and branding. In light of that, I thought I'd write a quick follow-up as to the value and ROI on that piece. I believe it's a pretty typical example of what well-executed (and well-packaged) link bait can do for a site, in terms of marketing and SEO.

    What was the link bait? How much did it cost?

    The link bait was a very long list of link building tips - a typical (somewhat cheesy) 101'er. (Hey, 101'ers work, sometimes cheesy is good!)

    The cost in this case wasn't money - it was time. It took Aaron and I about 10-15 hours total to research, write, edit and promote the piece. Of course, as any SEO professional knows, time is money. Assuming our time is valued at $500 USD/hour (what Aaron charges for consulting), we can estimate the cost of the link bait at $5,000 USD.

    What value did the link bait deliver?

    1. Backlinks to the article

    Technorati shows: 262 links

    MSN shows: 3,458 links

    Yahoo! shows: 4,309 links

    Of course, SEOBook is extremely well-linked already, but link building (and authority-building, and trust-building) is a continuous process. And if SEOBook.com had been a new site, that amount of natural links would have certainly been enough to break it out of the sandbox.

    But what is the exact value of these links? If you're a numbers cruncher: what does a link from Yahoo! Directory or Business.com cost (for a year)? How about a quality rented link? Then what do you value several hundred permanent, relevant in-contents link at?

    2. Rankings

    The article is now ranking in the top ten for "build link popularity", and in the top 50 on searches for "link popularity" and "link building." Obviously these rankings are not going to drive a huge amount of traffic, but what they do drive will be targeted; and of course, the trust and authority that these links confer on the SEOBook.com domain will help all pages on the domain rank more highly.

    3. Branding

    There's a greater chance now that when people think "link building," they are going to think "Aaron Wall and Andy Hagans." We also managed to reach #1 on Delicious/Popular, which exposed our names and sites to a different audience outside of the narrower SEO niche.

    4. Direct traffic

    Being #1 on Delicious sends a lot of traffic. So does being linked by several hundred blogs. That means eBook sales for Aaron, and new client leads for my link building firm.

    What is my point here?

    My point is that 15 hours of work (even split with a well-connected partner), yielded a downright silly amount of return.

    Results may vary

    I am not sure we can consider this particular link bait piece as typical, as SEOBook went into it with a ton of mindshare and following, which made earning the links and bookmarks a lot easier. If the piece had been written by lesser-known SEOs on a lesser-known blog, it would have probably received far fewer references. However, I think had anyone written the article and put a bit of effort into promoting it, they would have gotten a good ROI out of it. (In fact, a lesser-known SEO probably would have stood more to gain.)

    Now what?

    Now is as good of a time as any to announce that I am now offering a link bait service on a limited basis. At several thousand dollars a pop, it won't be the answer for most, but I think it's going to be fun to take the most effective current SEO tactic to clients.

    Research, Scraps, Ordered Lists, & Social Structures

    I am still busy busy busy redrafting SEO Book and other content, but a couple recent comments made me want to make a quick post. On my post about why I thought it was alright to mention politics in work blogs Andrew Goodman came buy and left a gem of a comment

    Been thinking this over. I don't often post on politics in spite of having an extensive background in political studies. Maybe that's because I learned you need to have eight chapters of literature review, history, and facts, and three chapters of case study, before you get to write the two chapters with the conclusions. It's easy to dump on obvious miserable failures -- much harder to imagine and/or implement a better or perfect world, at any level.

    And given that the web encourages lousy content, having to throw away or leave unused a large amount of research is brutal if you are looking at content production on a ROI basis. To do so, you almost have to be certain that your research is going to be so outstanding that others notice it, or you have to be creating it out of passion without much regard to finance.

    One of the reasons you see so many lists of items on popular blogs and social news sites is that they allow you to collect these random scraps, slap them together, format it, and GIVE THE IMPRESSION that the work is well researched and comprehensive, even if it was not. Little to no waste in the formatting, and rather than doing a lot of work that doesn't show you look like you did far more work than you did.

    And the reason factiod posts do so well is not only that impression that they are a lot of hard work, but also:

    • they are at a low enough level that most people can understand them

    • people are attention starved, and the ideas are usually broken into small bits easy to digest
    • at least one of the ideas in the list will be easy to identify with (as an example, I once told a story of how I was an idiot and accidentally dialed 911...most people had no comment or interest. the only person who expressed interest later revealed that the did the same thing)

    Right now I have roughly 50 or so draft posts saved, and whenever I want to I can finish one up or use chunks of it to help create content for another related post.

    These scraps of knowledge (or factoids, if you will) are not only big on blogs and meta news sites, but also are largely what most any user generated content sites and what the Wikipedia consist of. I used to be (and maybe still am) so anti authoritarian that I view most everything that starts from bottoms up as being better than things that are top down, but in many spheres it probably does make sense to have human editors, human aggregators, and trusted topical authorities that exist somewhere in the middle.

    Search isn't successful because the technology is so great, it works well because they do have human editors, and they use your and my links as signs of trust.

    When you look at the Wikipedia page on SEO and read through the talk archives you will see that they ran off both Bill Slawski and Danny Sullivan. Is there another topical expert that could possibly be more qualified to talk about search than Danny Sullivan? Not that I know of.

    Some of the best topical experts have no distribution because people can not understand them or identify with them. Other topical experts may be good at communicating their ideas, but still can only reach certain audiences due to the errors of authority structures. For example, imagine if everyone followed the law, would we still need police officers, or would the laws change to create the need for the job and creat some criminal class to control the remainder of the populous?

    People who just reach a bit of authority often like to feel a self-aggrandizing level of importance, and use a mob mentality to express it. Self preservation and a sense of purpose are probably the two key goals to any social structure or any person heavily committed to one. The more you try to convince them they are wrong the more you get flamed to bits, even if all they are protecting are their rights to remain ignorant and feel important.
    And wherever there is conflict and/or brainwashing the all knowing experts of all topical domains are not going to be able to see past their own biases and brainwashing, and I doubt people can create rule sets or software which does a good job of avoiding that. Thus anything with significant reach and a bottoms up approach is typically going to be biased toward conventional wisdom, perhaps offset with a few outside fanatical voices.

    Marketing works (and will never go away) because humans have inherent flaws, limited attention spans, and the market for something to believe in is infinite. But any structure that becomes authoritative is going to need to fire some of its top users if it is to stay relevant.

    Larry Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia, recently announced Citizendium, which is sorta going to be like Wikipedia, but it will also have content verified by topical experts. I think I was the first donor to the project, and I would love to see it take off.

    But I wonder if authority is the enemy of any social project. You want the authority because you get the distribution, but after you start to gain it you get gamed to bits and people start letting your content and software represent a large part of their identities or worldviews and it all goes to crap fast.

    One of the more important reasons to try to grow out slowly and not force it too much is that you get to react many times before you get big. People who get rich fast often get poor fast. Sites that have their authority grow beyond their programming skills will have their flaws exposed so heavily that it presents a great marketing opportunity for others aiming to enter the same market.

    Content Publishing, Controlling Costs, Scaling Profits & Link Bait: Being Small & Competing With Big Fish

    Much in the same way I recently mentioned SEO marketing as being a layered process I tend to view building a long-term profitable website as a layered process. My fundamentals revolve around marketing and SEO of course, but as Google's algorithms get more authority based in nature it is worth taking a look at ways to control content costs while still coming up with ideas that help build up domain authority scores.

    In any publishing medium, especially one which encourages crap content, and one where people grade your work in many ways, it usually takes a while to gain enough brand / authority / trust / popularity to be profitable, or you need to create something unique or citation worthy, or you need content of various quality levels to be profitable from the start. On the web your content is graded by people in the following ways

    • being worthy of attention (based on overall and subject related credibility and authority)

    • being worthy of a subscription (generally being worth visiting again, or adding your feed)
    • being worthy of a recommendation (via link, instant message, or email)

    Then search engines look at whatever of that information they can interpret to find signal amongst the noise and try to rank pages based on query relevance, naturalness and uniqueness of text, semantic structure, user acceptance, age, naturalness of growth and citation, and outbound linkage.

    Because there are so many forms / techniques / types of low quality information, and search is such a profitable targeted advertising vehicle, some search engines (for example, Google) have been placing significant weight on domain related authority to rank pages for specific queries. Put another way, if I published the same article on CNN.com and MySmallWebsite.com the CNN article will win out time and time again.

    Small webmasters still can compete, but they must overcome the disadvantage of being small and having limited mindshare, trust, (and typically financial capital). There are many fundamental things you can do to help overcome those disadvantages. Once you overcome those disadvantages you can work your way into a self reinforcing market position which allows you to profit greatly from the work necessary to gain such a position.

    Brand & Niche Selection
    If a niche is saturated it may be worth it to pick another niche or a subtopic within that niche. One of my biggest failures when I first got on the web is that I wanted to learn everything about search. The problems with that are: Danny Sullivan is an amazing person and with all the hard work he has done it would be ridiculous to try to do something similar starting a decade later, and that niche is way too broad for anyone to do unless they had a team helping them. So I decided to try SEO, and that worked well. Today SEO is so saturated that it would be much harder for me to gain traction today than when I started a few years ago.

    Site Design
    A professional site design will pay for itself many times over, largely because a professional site design makes average to slightly above average content quality linkworthy.

    If all you have is a few hundred dollars spend it on a logo design, and then use a minimalist site design which is color matched to the logo.

    Format Your Content so it is Easy to Share & Easy to Change
    Using a blog platform such as Wordpress as your content management system makes it easier for other bloggers to identify with you as being similar to them. Using a database driven content management system also makes it easy to change your site design quickly.

    It is best if it is easy to change your site design quickly (to test different ad placements, etc.), and to be able to grow out any section that you found interesting and / or highly profitable.

    Participate in Communities
    Online (and offline, if possible) participate in communities discussing your topic to help create friendships, learn better what people care about in your field, and to help people if you can. If their site is authoritative in nature many people will come across your information published on their site.

    You can start building your brand before you even have your site by selecting a username that you later relate to your brand name.

    Buy a Bit of Trust
    A listing in DMOZ, the Yahoo! Directory, or Business.com might seem expensive at first, but if you get a few trusted links it helps show the search engines that you are serious about business (and it shows them what community you belong to and that a human editor has reviewed your site).

    Information Accuracy
    Rather than aiming for bland objectivity, it is easy to be remarkable by being more biased and more personable, especially on your feature articles.

    Content Quality
    Mix your content quality. Try to create a few promotional pieces of content and market the hell out of those, but also leverage that authority to help improve the exposure of other things on your site. Even if your promotional pieces lose money, if you create enough other (hopefully cheap and easy to produce) content riding on the authority of your great content it can work to lower the cost of your higher quality content. Your cheap content can be textually unique but may not need to be conceptually unique. Your promotional content should hopefully be conceptually unique.

    If you already have significant mindshare and a highly profitable business model you may want to try to post higher quality stuff most of the time. Posting lower quality information in bulk is more about giving your site a back-fill to aggregate the cost of the higher quality content.

    Post about things you care and are passionate about, but if you are still trying to build up authority rather than publish based exclusively on information quality and passion, occasionally publish based on how well you think your ideas may spread.

    If you can find a way to make consumers want to help generate your content then to them your content will be of high quality. If they create it they may also want to help market it.

    Content Costs
    I am using money as a proxy for value input each piece. If you are low on cash you can make up for that by putting in time and effort. Rather than writing 100's of $20 to $50 articles, write 100 or 100's of cheap ones, then spend a few hundred to a few thousand dollars per good idea. Make sure your best ideas are well executed, bake social elements into their structure, make them look exceptionally legitimate and useful, and make them easy to share.

    To control costs, rather than hiring many employees full time it might make sense to try hiring freelance writers off Craigslist and other related sites. Consumer generated content is also a way to maximize the return on expensive content.

    Content Targeting
    When you are trying to write content use keyword research tools and search forums and other locations for common questions. If you are making up your bulk content make sure you control costs, but still make the content unique and legitimate enough looking to pass an editorial hand check and not undermine your brand value if you are trying to build a real brand.

    If there are not any authoritative and relevantly targeted pages ranking for the related search query, and you can make a quality page on the topic which would be easy to cite then try to roll it into a high quality (and perhaps high cost) linkbait which helps lift the authority of the rest of the site. Make sure you target linkbait at specific people who are easy linkers or exceptionally authoritative linkers.

    Don't be afraid to send personal targeted emails if you are launching something of high quality. I wrote something amazing and got about 300 links. I wrote something of slightly lower quality and got about 3,000 links. What was the difference? About a half dozen polite emails to friends seeded the second idea and helped spread the second idea much further than the first.

    Another good way to make your site more linkable is by regularly linking out to the people who you would want to link at your site.

    Social Marketing
    If your content is of decent quality submit it to social sites like Del.icio.us, Digg, Netscape, and others. On your linkbait content page place links that make it easy for others to vote for your content, and ask a few friends to vote. Exposure on these social sites will put your content in front of bleeding edge link rich webmasters.

    If your linkbait page looks useful, well structured and something worth looking at later many people will bookmark it, especially if it is long enough to look comprehensive and be placed in the this is too much so I will check it out later category.

    Also do not forget to spend the 10 minutes it takes to make a topical Squidoo lense.

    Use a Proper Title
    If you are writing a quick piece of lower quality content then try to be somewhat literal and descriptive in how you title that page. Conversely, if you are writing to try to spread an idea you may want to sacrifice the title a bit if a more controversial title will make the idea spread much further.

    Titles matter a lot if you want to create a controversy. Look at magazine covers, meme trackers, meta news sites, and social bookmarking sites for examples of good titles.

    Controversy = discussion = links = money.

    Information Timeliness
    There are so many meta news sites, social bookmarking tools, and meme trackers that in most competitive markets it is going to be a waste of time to try to be the first person with every story unless you have access to insider information OR are able to create your own controversy which allows you to become the story.

    You can use these fast acting sources to your advantage too, more on that later though.

    Additionally you can create meta posts that strongly agree and strongly disagree with certain AUTHORITATIVE opinions on a topic. If you link at popular narcissistic webmasters eventually some of them will cite you back.

    Information Sources
    Use and abuse vertical search, social bookmarking, and meta news sites as the resources that they are. Even if they are 50% spam that still leaves a lot of good resources to make your articles look well researched with minimal effort.

    The more creative you are with how you search the more stuff you will be able to dig up. For example, search for multiple related phrases, competing URLs, and track early votes for really interesting stories and see what other related stories those people voted for.

    Don't forget traditional published books, books in the public domain, government content & research, DVDs, and documentaries. I saw a magazine at an airport for $10 which gave me thousands of dollars worth of content ideas. Their publishing format and information inaccessibility means that people creating a slightly dumbed down version of similar information get to make good money starting their ideas based on the hard work and research purchased for only $10.

    Generally the less accessible a piece of information is the easier it is to sound remarkable by citing it or stating something similar on the web :)

    Picture Page
    Include photos from sites like IStockPhoto or Flickr in your higher quality articles to make them look more legitimate.

    What has Worked so Far?
    Check your traffic logs to see what articles are the most popular. Install SEO for Firefox and do a site search, or use Yahoo! Site Explorer to look at which of your articles have the most backlinks. Also search for your domain on Del.icio.us to see which of your pages got the most bookmarks.

    Writing high quality content articles that are published on other sites is a good way to improve your credibility, link authority, drive targeted traffic, and if your site is new your content on older trusted sites might be more likely to rank to help your brand and ideas gain further exposure.


    • If your site is brand new go lean on the ads until you have some authority. Heavy ads too early = no authority. No authority = no income.

    • When links can be profitable link for conversion from within your content.
    • If you plan on selling ads directly it may make sense to put up a fake ad or two in the sponsors section. After one competitor has bought an ad many companies will feel they need to buy in because the competition already did.
    • Set AdSense as a default monetization model if you do not want to deal with ad sales (or need to get a pricing baseline).
    • Blend the ad colors with your content and place those ads in your content area to make them look like part of the content.
    • Consider factors affecting ad clickthrough rate, and check AdSense ad targeting before you write about a topic.
    • Look at the ads after you write a page. Make sure your page talks about the topics the ads are targeted to or you create other more targeted pages that address the contents of those ads if that makes sense.
    • Check ad clickthrough rate on a per page level and see what keywords are driving your ad clicks. Set up ad channels to test the earnings of different formats or sections of your site. Grow your site based on where the income is coming from. The deeper you want to dive into a topic the more targeted the traffic will be, but remember to keep building your site authority if you are going to build a big site.

    The Importance of Viral
    From Andrew Goodman:

    Some well-funded companies with strong business development plans are able to negotiate means of driving underpriced traffic to a site, while selling listings at a higher price (this is why all the kerfuffle about "click arbitrage" seems to be overblown: many businesses have grown through "click arbitrage" and continue to be built around it).

    In the past, quite a few companies were built up quickly simply through the grace of free mass organic Google referrals. As spaces get cluttered and large media companies spend in multiple channels in order to indirectly maintain their organic lead, this gets harder to achieve for a startup unless something goes a bit viral.

    Thus if many of the current successes launched today with their current model they would not be citation worthy enough to earn their current market position.

    What Did I Miss?
    Any other tips we should add?

    Too Much To Do...

    So I need to rewrite my ebook and finish writing another website this weekend and throughout next week.

    When I started this site I never imagined that it would get as much traffic as it does. When I first wrote my ebook I never imagined customers would buy as many of them as they have. When I placed the consulting button ad on my site I never imagined that I would average over 1 a day. But recently I have been wrong many times over ;)
    Thanks for helping to make me so wrong. :)

    I put a notice up at the top of the consulting page that I can not do any more consultations until October. If you already paid, or I have already worked with you, I can squeeze you in, but I can't take on any more new clients and still be able to do all of the other things I want to. There are only 7 work days in the week!

    Plus I need to make sure my book is as good as I can make it. I don't want to do so much stuff that I am stuck putting out bad product. If I do not post much for the next few days it is because I am trying to catch up with non-blog stuff.

    Cloaking Intent

    After recently writing that people should write about politics on their blogs I saw that Jim gave it a try only to have it backfire. Rand also noted

    Aaron - Last night I thought my opinion on this was fairly solid, but reading your piece and recalling some of your excellent posts that dealt with the subject (sometimes slyly, through links), I'm beginning to think that maybe you're in the right.

    I don't think I am real good at being sneaky, but I have come to realize that I really only know a small portion of the world and that even if I care about some things there are people who know far more about them than I. I think that is part of the reason why I try to let links speak my opinion sometimes, but another good reason to link out to other things that represent your opinion is that you will go bonkers if you speak your mind about every issue that is on your mind. You have to pick and chose your battles.

    Werty recently reminded me of a Paul Graham article titled What You Can't Say which stated:

    If everything you believe is something you're supposed to believe, could that possibly be a coincidence? Odds are it isn't. Odds are you just think whatever you're told.


    Obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true.


    I think many interesting heretical thoughts are already mostly formed in our minds. If we turn off our self-censorship temporarily, those will be the first to emerge.

    So, as Paul Graham was saying, frequently exercising the freedom of thought was far more important than frequently exercising the freedom of speech (especially because if you do the latter too much then nutters will eat up all your time and do their best to reduce you to their level).

    Many artists and writers tend to cloak their intent such that only some people get their intent. I think that on business sites a combination of rarely posting political stuff combined with some form of cloaking intent such that only some people would care to comment is probably the best route to go if you want to express political beliefs on your work blog.

    Why Do Keyword Tool Search Estimates Vary so Much?

    SEO Question:

    I am using Overture, Wordtracker, and KeywordDiscovery to do keyword research, but I want to know why the search volume numbers vary so much, and which numbers I should trust. How do I do keyword research?

    SEO Answer:

    Each keyword data source has flaws inherent to its model. Rather than looking at keyword suggestion tools as something which offers an exact quantitative measure of traffic look for them to be more qualitative (ie: rather than looking for exact numbers look for them to be more of a yes no tool).

    Also look at keyword depth, related words, and reasonable modifiers. Depth and related words matter far more than just the sheer volume for a generic term because the longer queries are more targeted and thus easier to monetize, and longer search phrases are typically easier to rank for than shorter keywords.


    Overture is owned by Yahoo!. Since Yahoo! is a major search provider and has a fairly open ad inventory system they have a ton of automated search queries from things like

    • rank checkers

    • search result scrapers
    • people doing competitive research
    • arbitrage players
    • bid checkers

    When I searched for "seo book" as a keyword Overture returned 1,579 monthly queries. This number is low because those people searching for my brand (or seo products in general) are typically more likely to search on Google.

    When I searched for "seo book" as a keyword Overture returned 33 monthly queries for book engine optimization search seo seo seo software. Notice how they returned the words in alphabetical order, the words in the search queries most likely were in a vastly different order. Also note that is an absurd search phrase. Like who would search for something like seo book seo search engine optimization seo software? Probably nobody, so it is most likely an automated query. You can also back up the lack of legitimacy of that keyword phrase by the fact that Overture did not show any search volume for other similar but shorter and more reasonable queries.

    Another problem worth noting with Overture data is that they run singular and plural search words together. Some queries have far different meanings and/or far different search volumes between the singular and plural versions.

    Although I mentioned this above, it is worth noting again: keyword depth matters far more than the sheer volume for a generic term. Longer queries are more targeted and thus easier to monetize. Plus those queries are easier to rank for. Since seo book only had 3 returned queries, with one of them being brand related and another being likely a fake query, it probably would not be a great keyword to target for traffic (but the lack of competition and limited market depth might make it an easy term to brand...which was part of the thought process when I created this site).

    To test keyword depth and find related keywords you can use a variety of tools, like Overture, Google Suggest, the AdWords Keyword Tool, and Google Sets.

    I also have ownership in one of the top ranked Forex websites. Because of the highly commercial nature of the search term (forex means foreign exchange, which is typically searched for by people trading money) Yahoo!'s search estimates (93,240 searches a month) are absurdly overblown for that core term.

    But on a positive note, that market has amazing depth. People are looking for courses, books, news, tips, and strategies on the topic. Forex also has synergistic related keywords like currency trading, forex trading, currency exchange, and modifiers galore including types of trades, country names, and currencies. While the market is exceptionally competitive the depth still makes it somewhat appealing.


    Wordtracker has a much smaller data set than Overture (Yahoo!), Google, or even MSN, so Wordtracker numbers are going to be more easily skewed by the small sample size. If I use one of Wordtracker's partner search engines and search for an uncommon query it is going to make that query seem far more important than it is.

    Digital Point offers a free tool which compares Wordtracker and Overture values side by side.

    Keyword Discovery:

    I view Keyword Discovery as being somewhat similar to Wordtracker. Keyword Discovery may have a larger keyword index than Wordtracker, but don't expect either of them to offer precise quantitative data.

    If you want to test the quantity of traffic for a specific keyword, set up a search targeted campaign on Google AdWords, and ensure you bid enough to show up somewhere on the lower half of the ads on the first page. Also ensure that you target your ads to the appropriate regions, and use a large enough budget that your ad shows up on almost all of the searches for that particular keyword.

    In the past I did a more comprehensive review of keyword research tools. I also offer a free keyword research tool which is powered from Overture data and cross references most of the useful keyword research tools on the market.

    Bulk & Automation in SEO

    Many people are still stuck in the bulk and automation line of thinking with link building. Largely because service providers are lazy. Largely because business models that are highly automated in nature are easier to extract value from if people are not thinking through what they are buying. In much the same way many SEOs will still sell you search engine submission stuff, for many years many SEOs will sell you bulk or automated link building programs. People new to the market may be cheap or too lazy to learn SEO, are heavily pitched bogus offers, and read a bunch of outdated information that reinforces old ideas which no longer have any value.

    Why does the outdated information get so much exposure? Because search (especially Google) is biased toward older sites. And, with search replacing directories and link lists at the primary means of web navigation people do not link the same ways that they used to. Google not only wants to automate selling paid links on your site, but they also are even trying to automate recommending related links, thus trying to require publishers to do more to earn an editorial link.

    But if something is automated, aggressively marketed, widely used, and was effective at manipulating the results you have to think that the search engines would quickly aim to stop it. If those same techniques are generally associated with other low quality sites is that a good network to actively place your site in? Odds are that search engines would be extra aggressive at deweighting the technique if it was effective and generally associated with junk content.

    Sketchy SEO techniques have a limited shelf life, and not long after you hear them mentioned people start patching up the holes, so those technically savvy enough to find new algorithmic holes are typically going to keep quiet about them and extract as much value as they can before the holes are closed.

    Matt Cutts hinted that having mostly low quality links may prevent your site from getting crawled deeply, and, more recently, he also mentioned that if a site added pages too quickly it may get flagged:

    It looks like the primary issue with the Windows Live Writer blog was the large-scale migration from spaces.msn.com to spaces.live.com about a month ago. We saw so many urls suddenly showing up on spaces.live.com that it triggered a flag in our system which requires more trust in individual urls in order for them to rank (this is despite the crawl guys trying to increase our hostload thresholds and taking similar measures to make the migration go smoothly for Spaces). We cleared that flag, and things look much better now.

    Admittedly, if you participate in some markets (like consumer finance or insurance) many automated junk content sites will place you in their network by scraping your site and linking to you, but if you can get a few quality links you can easily beat out people playing the bulk numbers game.

    If you want your SEO to be effective longterm it is best to avoid easy and automated techniques, in favor of layered or complicated techniques that are going to be hard for most competitors to replicate.

    Statistics & Average Market Predictions are Garbage

    So my brother came out to live with me for a couple months to hopefully straighten out a bit, but tomorrow he is flying back to California. At dinner today he stated that the odds of him doing well out there were not high. I proceeded to tell him statistics are bullshit, and that you don't do well by figuring that you are going to do whatever statistics say (I think relying too heavily on statistics is a way to push blame and/or plan for failure). You have the potential to do far better if you can defy statistics. If you can create new markets, or invest in ideas, markets, and opportunities the market doesn't see you can create value that statistics don't predict. You can't create many types of value by only following statistics.

    What moves the price of a stock: when the company does what is predicted, or when they do not?

    Statistics do not matter if you really want to do something. If you are an entrepreneur and view what you are doing as being average and your math is reliant on average then you are probably going to fail. Why? Because stats lag the market, and any market worth being in probably is not stagnant.

    Less than four years ago I got kicked out of the military, the economy was in the hurt locker, I was suicidally depressed, I knew nobody in business, all my friends were on deployment, and I knew nothing about the web. The odds of me doing well at anything were quite low, but I think I am doing above what the statistics would predict for me.

    Social and business hierarchies are designed such that many people work for few and few have the ability to rise through social or economic classes. If you want to be average or just assume statistics are all you need, it makes sense to work for someone else, or just give into becoming a statistic ahead of time (there is no point pretending you will escape them if you trust them well enough to predict your own life). If you work for yourself and/or are trying to change the way you behave throw stats in the garbage or use them as motivation to defy them.

    Quintura Search - Cool LSI Like Related Keyword Research Tool

    Improving Customer Experience linked to me (so they are obviously cool), but, more importantly, they mentioned a cool related keyword research tool named Quintura Search. Quintura is a free LSI type keyword research tool which shows you related keywords pulled from top ranked websites in any of the major search engines and major content sites like Wikipedia and Amazon.com.
    If you do not know a topic well this can give you added things to think about when trying to optimize for it. If you do know a topic well this can give you a way to test how sophisticated or biased different search algorithms are. In addition to being able to compare various engines, you can grab more results, and adjust the coverage depth of keywords it sorts through to find what keywords are most semantically related. Also when you scroll over a keyword it highlights other related words, likeso:
    Quintura Search.

    Awsome and slick application. Well done :)

    Linking for Conversion

    While this is not going to be a mind blower for most people, I just wanted to reiterate how important it is to place links in your content. If you (rightly) assume that many visitors will ignore your navigation then you will make a site that converts much better. Place your calls to action and your action item within the high-attention portions of the page.
    Why are some affiliates ticked off at Commission Junction? Why does Google mostly push textual links with their AdSense product? Why does Google teach AdSense publishers to blend their AdSense ads with the content AND place the ads in the content area? It is all about conversion.

    Just like duplication is a form of waste, not using your content area to push your offers is exceptionally wasteful. When looking at some top notch affiliate sites, I have spoke with smart friends who said "but this page has no ads on it" when the site was nothing but ads! The ads were so well blended that they did not look like ads. That is the key to doing well. A good at does not look like an ad that should be ignored. A good ad looks like content that should be acted upon.

    If you can lower the amount of space you give to ads but have them convert more then why not do it? Who cares if a page does not have too many ads if that means it converts better?

    Outside of conversion there are also other benefits to using link rich content:

    • If you link to a few authority sites from within the content it helps engines know what community the page belongs to. Although you do not want to link out too heavily on your main core conversion / offer pages. Hopefully you could create other linkbait pages and other content which helps carry the authority of those other page. If you do link out to other authority sites on pages highly focused on conversion perhaps it makes sense to do it below the fold.

    • If you link to your own conversion items and to some of your other content then if anyone lifts your article wholesale they are building your link equity, and perhaps helping you convert from their site.
    • Linking to your own other pages from within the content area makes you less dependant on navigational links and allows you greater anchor text diversity. As automated content generation evolves search engines may look for ways to footprint automated content. One of the easiest footprints most likely is no links in the content area.

    Since search is the predominant mode of navigation make conversion easy to do right near the top of your content. If they were already converted don't make them scroll to convert. Also follow up the early conversion link with another near the end of the content area in case people need more selling to buy.

    Make each page focused on reinforcing that the customer is on the right page and reinforce that the product is the right choice for them. You may care to place some comparisons to other things on the page to pick up comparison traffic and reinforce that the item people are looking at is the best for their needs and wants, but make sure the main goal is to convert them on one main idea.

    Fore example, if you put a sitewide warning for fraud against a type of product or service do not be surprised that if the pages also try to push the service you warned off as being fraudulent that your overall conversion for both offers is going to be far lower than your conversion for a single page more focused on selling just one item. If you are going to talk about things like fraud or poor customer experience in great depth it may make sense to make those be their own pages and just link to them rather than featuring that content too prominently in your main conversion oriented content.

    Why You Should Post About Politics

    Jim recently asked if he should post about politics on his blog. Rand recently posted why he thinks politics should stay out of your content. I strongly disagree with Rand's position. Why?

    • Almost anything that I have been told was stupid to write, I also had others tell me that they thought it was cool. To me, I would much rather ensure I was memorable over avoiding risk.

    • When you go outside of the conventional framework of what you are expected to do you are probably going to be more memorable than when you subscribe to a framework that everyone else subscribes to.
    • People who have a strong emotional appeal to what you write are going to be far more likely to remember you and/or want to talk to you. Most others will just let it go.
    • People subscribe to their own biases. We are constantly seeking things which reinforce our worldviews and identities. As long as you are fairly rational with what you write, those who disagree with it will usually tune it out. Those who agree with it will be more likely to remember it.
    • People use language (and thus search) using queries that will likely indicate their biased worldviews. Thus they are not as likely to find your opinion if your political views differ from their own.
    • People are more likely to link at things they can identify with. Just look at the most popular political blogs. Most of them are extremely biased.
    • Many political bloggers are link rich. If you can create something that they will link at you soon will be too.
    • People are more likely to link at thinks they think are totally screwed up. Even if people think your position is full of crap they may cite it because they want to say just how wrong you are.
    • Politics generally is nothing but marketing and a game of double speak. The very fact that people react to it emotionally shows how strong the marketing is and how strongly people identify with it. It is important to understand how that language relates to marketing.
    • If you let fears control your actions then you are guaranteed to produce watered down stuff.
    • If you are full of crap in your worldview and have intelligent readers who care about you then audience feedback will help you quickly see other ways of viewing the world.

    The four potential downsides with occasionally posting on politics and religion I have encountered thusfar are

    • It may cost you some top down support, but I think it will get you more bottoms up support from people who find it easy to identify with who you are and where you come from. The bottoms up support will more than make up for the lack of top down support if you are small and passionate.

    • If you post about politics too frequently it could alter the perception of your brand to be more about politics than your core value.
    • You get death threats, etc. Some idiot has already offered me a dual. hehehe
    • The death threats and ideological asshats may start to eat up some of your time and attention, and try their best to undermine your views of humanity and evolution.

    But in the end, do I really want to help this person spread their belief system and control my life? Nope.

    On Rand's blog he mentioned

    The current political environment has exacerbated sterotypes and tensions in the political spectrum such that overarching assumptions about a person's qualities are built around even the smallest admission of idealogical leanings. For example, in the US specifically, those who put themselves far to the right of the political spectrum may create stereotypes of amorality, anti-family attitudes and military appeasement for those on the left. In the reverse, the accusations might be homophobia, racism, close-mindedness & lack of education. When you claim political affiliations of any kind, some of your readers/clients/colleagues are prone to jump to these type of conclusions.

    There is an endless stream of amoral profit driven sources that will try to use fear to control your activities so that they may gain further wealth and influence. Why subscribe to thought control? Why let the close-mindedness and ignorance of others limit how you express yourself? I took to the web precisely because I didn't want to let others control my actions, how I express myself, or what I could say.

    Only a couple hundred years ago slavery was an accepted practice here in the land of the free. Things are able to become much worse and take a much longer time to get better if people are afraid to talk about them. When you need to be a comedian to be honest doesn't it mean there is something wrong with our perspective of the world?

    I probably post political stuff a bit more often than I should if I were focused on optimal conversion. I think if you do something rarely, but do it really well then you really get to drive home your desired message. Like take Danny Sullivan when he roasts Google or another engine. He is typically so mild mannered that when he roasts them you are pretty certain they deserve it. Or take Keith Olberman's recent take on the president. It really doesn't get much better than that.

    We are all human, and thus are all biased and hypocritical, so of course we are going to look stupid to some of the people some of the time, but at least they looked. Feel free to throw stones and/or flames below ;)

    Update: Paul Graham has a cool article called What You Can't Say, from which I will quote:

    Do you have any opinions that you would be reluctant to express in front of a group of your peers?

    If the answer is no, you might want to stop and think about that. If everything you believe is something you're supposed to believe, could that possibly be a coincidence? Odds are it isn't. Odds are you just think whatever you're told.


    If you believe everything you're supposed to now, how can you be sure you wouldn't also have believed everything you were supposed to if you had grown up among the plantation owners of the pre-Civil War South, or in Germany in the 1930s-- or among the Mongols in 1200, for that matter? Odds are you would have.


    obviously false statements might be treated as jokes, or at worst as evidence of insanity, but they are not likely to make anyone mad. The statements that make people mad are the ones they worry might be believed. I suspect the statements that make people maddest are those they worry might be true.


    I think many interesting heretical thoughts are already mostly formed in our minds. If we turn off our self-censorship temporarily, those will be the first to emerge.

    Thinking outside the framework others set up, predict, and control is what allows you to create your own for profit framework (and by profit I do not mean only money).

    Who Has the Best Portal?

    Why waste resources creating a full fledged portal when others will build the pieces for you, and user selection of the pieces will give you a greater understanding of their desires? Creating a framework is much cheaper than building everything because it allows you to test and change as quickly as needed with minimal expense. It also means that people who create things to extend your network evangelize your network when they market their extensions.

    Is it more valuable to have paid workers acting as cogs, or to have passionate people building your network gadgets as a way to express and share their passion?

    The More You Know (the Better You Can Target Ads)

    Via SEW, Google has a new customized homepage module called interesting items for you.

    Based on your search history (and perhaps toolbar feedback if you have a Google Toolbar installed) Google will recommend related searches, related web pages, and related homepage gadgets. Right now here is what the interesting items for you module recommends for me:
    Google Related Searches.

    Google Related Pages.

    Google Related Widgets.

    For Google to be building technology to recommend all types of things I should be consuming you know that eventually that sort of technology is going to work to enhance what ads I see while searching and while on content sites. Thus, Google will be able to exploit for maximal profit potential whatever profitable flaws I may have in my identity (see the recent Bob Massa interview for more info on how that works).

    What I find frightening about automation and creating maximally efficient ad networks is that inevitably they promote the businesses with the deepest pockets. Like corporate structures, capital is amoral, and you don't get the deepest pockets without doing some shady stuff. More often there is more money in deceiving people than in truly solving problems and helping people. Plus, as marketing continues to evolve, and it is easier to test and gain feedback, it will be easier to control people through instinctive predictable animal behaviors.

    Psychology Today published an article about Why We Hate, which stated:

    Researchers are discovering the extent to which xenophobia can be easily—even arbitrarily—turned on. In just hours, we can be conditioned to fear or discriminate against those who differ from ourselves by characteristics as superficial as eye color.

    And, to me, that becomes frightening when I think about how I just played a video game for a few hours, and Microsoft bought a video game ad targeting company. It is even worse when you consider how much money the military spends on marketing, and that they use their own high end shoot em up video games and pizza parties as recruitment devices on 13 year old children.

    What really concerns me about Google (and others) continually improving social recommending engines is that they may make it harder to realize our own prejudices.

    The guilt of mistaking individuals for their group stereotype—such as falsely believing an Arab is a terrorist—can lead to the breakdown of the belief in that stereotype. Unfortunately, such stereotypes are reinforced so often that they can become ingrained. It is difficult to escape conventional wisdom and treat all people as individuals, rather than members of a group.

    How long until machines know us better than other people do? Are you comfortable with a profit agenda driven machine making life suggestions for you based on your categories and flaws? How much will we let a machine's interpretation of conventional wisdom make choices for us?

    How long until there is a Luddite backlash? And should I register LudditeMarketing.com so I am ahead of the curve?

    What is an Authority?

    If you thought a link would drive targeted traffic, lead to additional readers, and perhaps lead to other editorial citations would that be an easy way to define an authority link? Before the Google Florida Update I was ranking at ~ #6 for search engine marketing even though I really didn't know much about the topic. Within 9 months of being on the web, and on a few hundred dollars of ad spend I had a ranking that I soooo did not deserve (thank you primitive search technology!!!). After the Florida Update my then low grade link spam was rendered ineffective.

    When the Florida update happened I read everything I could about it and started testing pages to see why I though they dropped. Danny Sullivan mentioned my article in one of his articles. Before he mentioned me in his article I basically got told two words when asking for links fuck and off. After Danny mentioned me, many of the sites which brushed me away were more willing to link to my sites.

    After I noticed a few citations driving good traffic I thought that while I had a bit of credibility, a few minutes of mindshare, and the decent traffic that goes with it, that I ought to consider that ripe time to hunt down more well trusted authoritative links. And it was exceptionally easy. Some people who would generally reject me in the past said things like "Oh, you are that Aaron. We will get your link up today."

    Within a few month my other site was again ranking for search engine marketing. Through that one article and the authoritative links it made possible I gained the authority I lacked. (Note: About a year later that site ranking later dropped a good bit likely due to a lack of anchor text diversity and me spending most of my time promoting this site as a stronger brand).

    The amount of information is growing much faster than the available attention to consume it. There is far greater opportunity during periods of instability, as long as you allow yourself the flexibility to be able to read the market and are willing to be wrong with what you say. And if you find some type of success it is important to build off that success while the iron is still hot.

    The weak point of the top reporters is not laziness, but vanity. You don't pitch stories to them. You have to approach them as if you were a specimen under their all-seeing microscope, and make it seem as if the story you want them to run is something they thought of themselves.

    Our greatest PR coup was a two-part one. We estimated, based on some fairly informal math, that there were about 5000 stores on the Web. We got one paper to print this number, which seemed neutral enough. But once this "fact" was out there in print, we could quote it to other publications, and claim that with 1000 users we had 20% of the online store market.

    Stats are just arbitrary numbers used to make news sound well researched and legitimate.

    An Interesting Narrative

    Long ago I mentioned that even if I didn't usually agree with Michal Martinez, that I thought he was exceptionally citation worthy. He recently offered up a blog post explaining his view of the recent evolution of SEO and link building in an article called Who Does Google Trust Now? I don't agree with many of the statements in the article, like:

    Neither age of site nor age of links pointing to the site should really matter to how much a site can be trusted.

    I believe that age matters. At least to some degree. I have an old domain which had no relevant anchor text (other than internal navigation) and few (perhaps no) quality links that ranks quite well in Google for competitive commercial queries.

    In spite of not agreeing with some the article (and thinking portions of it might be a bit self-aggrandizing), I think Michael did a great job with the end of the article. The last few paragraphs rocked.

    Simply getting links from free directories, article submission sites, reciprocal links, and other popular link sources will probably gradually extend the length of time new sites require to earn trust if for no other reason that they will only very slowly naturally attract links from trusted neighborhoods.

    Exactly. When you focus on as much as you can get for free without building any value (and valuing your time at nothing) it takes an awful lot of pricing your time at free to catch up with established sites. Perhaps more time than you have left in your life. Why race toward the bottom?

    The real question comes down to this: if I am correct, or close to correct, in my analysis, how long will it take for spammers and SEOs to develop methodologies that effectively poison the "good" (trusted) neighborhoods and force Google to develop some filtration methodology?

    SEO and search constantly co-evolve. What Google trusts now is only temporary, and some SEOs have been building AHEAD of Google's shifts. And the search results show what is going on, so they will continue to be forced to change their algorithms. Nothing new there.

    But poison is a harsh word. I don't think we should fault people for gaming the system. Google creates the game...we are just pawns that must move with the ebb and flow. As SEO gets harder those who know how to do it will get paid more. And one can argue that by manipulating search results we are helping keep the search engines sharp, forcing them to improve their algorithms.

    Google is more profitable and has a larger effect on the web than you or I. People do not link as naturally as they once did (worrying about what the all powerful Google may think), Google is training some people about how to link to benefit Google, and Google has some people so brainwashed that they consider anyone disagreeing with Google's for profit agenda as spammers poisoning the web. Who's actions are poisoning the web?

    Johnon.com - Great Blog

    I am sure many of the readers here already read Johnon.com, but if you do not yet read it check out John Andrews's blog on Competitive Webmastering. A couple of my favorite recent posts on his blog

    Go Words - he describes a bit about LSI type technology, while also beating up an old and outdated definition from one of my other sites :) Also check out his comments on that page for his explanation of how having too much keyword proximity throughout your copy could flag the page to be filtered as an irrelevant attempt at manipulation. I have been trying to hammer away at Google with a page ranking for a wide basket of keywords, and have been having a bit of fun with this...am ranking in the top 5 for 11 of 12 target phrases thusfar, but only 12 for 12 is acceptable. :)

    Nobody wants to be a Tool - John talks about his love for toolbars :)

    Does it Matter?

    If you enjoy consuming something, but you later find out that you found or experienced it under a false pretense, does it matter how it came into your stream of consciousness? Many people who search probably do not realize search results have paid ads on them, or that some engines may bias their regular results toward informational websites to increase ad clickthrough rate.

    Few people understand that the organic search results are manipulated by people like you or I. Google states that some kinds of manipulation are acceptable while others are not. But who gives Google that authority when they sometimes do not even follow their own guidelines or policies? How can they freely add links to other's websites, buy links, sell links, and state that buying or selling other types of links is somehow wrong?

    Google teaches publishers to blend ads in their content, and funds the placement of ads on what many call low quality content. Yet some people land on those pages, click on the ad that describes what they want, and end up somewhere they want to be.

    Many magazines blend ads to look like content, and/or have insertion fees which is basically a way to buy exposure.

    People create and spin controversies to get media exposure. In some cases both parties involved in the controversy will have off the record chats to talk about how the story should be spun for maximum benefit to both sides.

    I have seen people give away tens of thousands of dollars worth of their books because their book was nothing more than thinly disguised self-promotional marketing material. And I have seen some of these books become best sellers!

    Some people watch Fox News even though it is blatantly and obviously biased. Many news channels show packaged video press releases as being part of their news program. And many news networks work with one another to present a highly biased view of the world that promotes the agendas of affiliated businesses.

    Generally any form of content creation, publishing, aggregation, or information sorting is going to be biased toward the goal of self preservation and the beliefs of the power sources within that organization (and affiliated organizations). Goal #1 of any business or organization is self preservation.

    Right now there is a diary video series on YouTube which is fake, and will likely a lead in to some sort of movie or marketing message (or maybe all content is somehow a form of marketing). Yet each of the 27 videos in the series (thusfar) has averaged around 200,000 views.

    Many artists write abstract song lyrics which have entire sites devoted to what the hell did they mean?

    People have got other ideas out of things I have wrote and called me a genius or brilliant for their (mis)interpretation of what I wrote. If I meant what they thought I did, then I would indeed be far smarter than I am. :)

    Every human action, every thought pattern, and just about every piece of information is likely somehow flawed (during creation and during interpretation / consumption).

    Does it matter if information was created via pure intentions that matched why the audience like it?

    Does it matter if information is ranked, sorted, placed, or found via the force of a person who bought the exposure or gained it through gaming some authority system which claims to be relevant even though it doesn't understand why?

    Outside of ignorance, is purity anything more than a myth?

    Great Salesmanship

    Andy Jenkins & Brad Fallon have released some tutorial videos to help promote an upcoming video and training offering of theirs about improving search rankings and site conversion.

    Andy is probably one of the best salesmen in the market...you know he knows conversion well just by listening to the content of his videos. If you can create ads that inspire confidence AND are good enough content to be citation worthy then you are going to be a few steps ahead of most competitors.

    Out of the 3 videos they released so far, the only thing I don't really agree with is the idea of showing single page sites ranking as something that is easy or common...especially if you use an official movie site as one of the examples, because the odds are pretty low that most people new to internet marketing looking for internet marketing information are building a site to push a $50 million dollar movie.

    But the rest of the videos are of high quality. His tips at the start of video 3 about lemmings and building the perception of trust are quite useful. The tutorials are packaged and marketed in a way that it is conducive to conversion and viral spreading. If you give them your email to get a special report they then give you the option of sharing the video with a dozen friends.

    I also think the idea of showing numbers from specific stores adds a ton of credibility when you are selling how to information. One of the hardest things to do as a consultant is to have concrete examples and verifiable results that you can share.

    If you do much client work, they typically do not want to share it (and why would they if they are paying you top dollar?). If you do exceptionally well selling your how to product you get so much customer feedback that it is hard to keep up with it all while: still being willing to take risks, and having the time to build out other wildly successful ideas. Plus a glut of success can make you less hungry and/or lazy. My recent trip to Amsterdam is the first time I have been off the web for a week straight since 2002.

    I have a good number of sites making a few hundred or a few grand a month, but have not hit too many homeruns as for having examples that I would be willing to openly share as examples of how to make lots of money, plus I cringe at the thought of having employees. Growing a highly profitable longterm business on the side via partnerships without having to manage employees is no easy task. I still have a couple really cool ideas that I (and friends) are building, but it has been a slower process than I have wished. One of my biggest flaws with my current model is that most of my income still comes from selling high end consulting and my information product. Which makes it quite hard to hit a homerun or two outside of my current market, but I still intend to.

    If you have decent street credibility AND can create a story about making stupid money it is killer easy to get links because so much of the value system in US culture seems to revolve around money. I bet PlentyOfFish.com at least tripled his link equity and solidified his market position by doing interviews about how much money he makes.

    The more you can sell your theories as proven facts with numbers to back it up the less they look like selling and the more they look like content. I got about 4 really cool ideas to launch, but it takes time. Hoping to have at least 3 of them rocking by the end of the year.

    Here is also a freebie to anyone looking for a market worth exploiting for huge profits. Be the person who is known as the video marketing expert. With so many companies fighting for marketshare on the video front, and Google soon to be pushing video ads just about everywhere I would bet that if you were branded as one of the original video marketing experts it wouldn't be hard to make deep into 7 figures within a year or two.

    Video as a medium is probably far better at showing empathy and rewiring associative connections than text is. Plus most people have limited attention to spare and are a bit lazy on the reading front. The text stuff won't last forever. It has only been as successful as it has because it is cheap to make, there is so much of it, search is still so primitive, and it is taking time for search engines to forge distribution partnerships that do not undermine the authority of established intermediaries.

    Search works so well because of the great targeting and the user feeling they are in control of where they go. Soon all types of media will have that targeting and perception of control.

    Google's Gmail Spam Filters Blatantly Suck

    Why are the Gmail spam filters so pathetic?

    For example... I hate the letter I: Some asshat (who can be described using no other word), has sent me about 1,300 spam emails in the last week. Every email has the subject line of I and the from name of I. After labeling over 1,000 of these in the past week as spam how is it possible that Gmail has not picked up that footprint? How many real messages have 1 letter in both the sender name and the subject line?

    Same Spam Name: Another asshat (or maybe the same one) is doing a spammer phrase dictionary attack. Surely they know the person named Buy Viagra Online Discreetly who uses the same thing as the subject line is a spammer? Yet I get about a hundred of these random spammer keyword emails in my inbox each day as well.

    Many of my blog comments are not spam: Gmail is now sending many of my blog comments to the spam bin, in spite of me not labeling them as such. I even set up a custom filter for them to label it as important.

    Good job starring the messages and spending them straight to the spam bin. I am sure you realized that is what I wanted when I set up a filter requesting the messages be starred as important. What is even dumber is that after I report dozens of these as not spam they still star new ones and send them to the spam bin. Why isn't there a filter to prevent something from being labeled as spam?

    If Gmail doesn't improve I am probably going to have to try something new pretty soon.

    Interview of Bob Massa

    Bob Massa is one of the most eloquent people in the search marketing industry. I have wanted to interview him for a long time, and finally got around to it.

    He was probably one of my favorite interviewees.

    What is bathroom spamming? How does it apply to SEO?

    It is difficult for me to answer that because I'm the guy who doesn't believe there is really such a thing as spamming. To me, it is just marketing.

    I'm pretty sure you are referring to a thread at Threadwatch where I made a couple of comments about an article Jacob Nielsen had written referring to the effects search engines have on the web. In one of those comments I mentioned that I had been involved in a project where a webmaster had a new site and no budget for promotion. I had half jokingly suggested the only option available to a webmaster with no budget was to advertise his website in public restrooms by placing well-worded post-it notes. The webmaster wrote BEWARE www.his-site.com and was able to avoid what is referred to by many SEO's, (whatever that is), as the sandbox and start generating traffic very quickly.

    In this context, bathroom spamming could also be taxi spamming or side of the bus spamming or running across a football field during a televised game with a url painted on your backside spamming or anything else that creates an interest in a specific website in a way that tells search engines that people are looking for a specific thing. The point of this particular discussion was that many SEO's, (whatever that is), tend to become so focused on following search engines that they forget search engines real job is to follow people. That by creating a demand by people, that causes search engines to "look" to satisfy that demand before their competitors do.

    Did anyone see the Pontiac TV ads telling the public to search at Google?

    TV spamming ?????

    What is the current primary driver of search relevancy algorithms?

    The same driver it has always been. Money.

    Sorry I'm being a bit obtuse. I realize you mean programmatically. Not that it changes my answer but on to the other parts of your question.

    Do you think usage data is already it, or will soon replace it? Why or why not? How do you see search relevancy algorithms changing in the next 5 to 10 years?

    Usage data is not already IT and will not soon be IT. Why? Because, as it relates to relevancy, usage data is good and is and will be used to help but it alone is no better than keyword density or page rank. It will not make searches more relevant anymore so than the other factors.

    As to the last part, I personally don't believe there is any such thing as relevancy algorithms. There is direct matches but to me, that is not relevancy. That is simply a matter of searching through large data sets for exact matches. For researching quotes, phone numbers, parts numbers and dates, exact match is all that matters and every database of any size has been doing that on the web since the early 90's. But for anything the least subjective, it is only perception. I believe relevancy is completely and totally subjective and what matters to algorithms is the PERCEPTION of relevancy. The marketing of algorithms as relevant is what puts engineers into Italian sports cars, not relevancy. So, as you can see, I do believe in ADVERTISING algorithms and I see usage data being used on a personal level a lot more as the data gathering gets faster, cheaper and hopefully better. But the better part is far less important than the faster and cheaper parts.

    Do you believe it is cheaper for most marketers to try to influence search engines directly, or to aim to influence groups of people and individual topical authorities?

    (Boy, I bet I catch hell for this one, you may get a little residual hell yourself just for letting me say it, but here it goes.)

    I believe it is incredibly cheaper, faster, easier, more profitable, more stable and more reliable to try to influence people than search engines. Plus, influence people and the search engines follow, (see bathroom spamming above), but if you aim the other direction, the only chance you have of influencing people is IF they search the right way, IF the search engine puts it in front of them and IF the search engine doesn't move it.

    That said, I do understand why many SEO's, (whatever that is), would disagree. To influence search engines, it is possible, to develop systems, procedures and programs that capitalize on the weaknesses of search engines enabling the industrious SEO, (whatever that is), who is in control of those systems, procedures and programs to virtually avoid any contact with people whatsoever. No sales, no customer service, no complaints. I can certainly see the appeal.

    Are the business models of most large publishing companies screwed? Google seems to be making partnerships with a few of them? How can those not receiving kickbacks from Google compete with those that are?

    Large publishing companies' business models are no more screwed than large oil companies, large grocery stores or large SEO firms, (whatever that is). In my opinion, all business models are screwed if the company, large or small, is not prepared to adapt to changes in the market and to take advantage of new technology as it becomes available. Keep in mind that would include Google too.

    I don't see partnerships being made today as being much different than 100 years ago. What about those companies in the steel industry that did not partner with Andrew Carnegie or in the railroad business that did not partner with Vanderbilt? The companies that did not partner with those Googles of the day and survived,( granted there weren't many), did so by defining their purpose, implementing effective planning and providing a value rich service better than their competitors. I believe large publishing companies will do the same, with or without Google, by simply not clinging to tradition and assuming their power from the success of yesterday entitles them to success today.

    The thing I feel is important is the question "WHY is Google partnering with large publishing companies?" Maybe because it is the publishing companies that actually have the content?

    Google may have the technology to inventory and deliver, but inventory and deliver what? It's the publishing companies that actually have the writers that actually create the content that people want delivered. That is the asset the publishing companies have at least at this point. Of course Google has the money to create their own. They can hire writers as easily as the New Yorker, but that doesn't immediately give Google the clout, the respectability and the subscriber base that the New Yorker has spent many, many years building up. It just makes sense to me that Google would want to partner with some of the publishing companies to get the assets that simply hiring writers would not give without a lot of time and a lot of doing everything right.

    That alone indicates an opportunity and a survivability with large publishing companies if they simply look to new ways of content inventory and delivery.

    Are all humans biased?

    Absolutely! It is at the very core of being a human.

    Do all algorithms made by humans have biases to them?

    Yes. One of the reasons I was able to succeed in the search engine placement game was because I could see beyond the programs and realize that the programs only did what a human told them to.

    If you were a search engineer how would you ensure you minimized negative algorithmic biases while keeping the results relevant and maintaining your business model?

    This is basically a three part question so I'll answer it in three parts.

    First, I believe there is no such thing as negative biases, therefore there can be no algorithmic negative biases, at least not to the engineer. The only people who see a bias as negative is OTHER people. As humans we all justify what we do and feel. Even when we tell ourselves we are being fair and not allowing our own opinions to influence our decisions, we do. A search engineer is going to develop a mathematic algorithm the way he thinks is "right" according to the objectives he has set either by himself or by his employer. If you don't believe you have a negative bias, you can't minimize it.

    Secondly, outside of exact textual or graphical matches, I believe relevancy is completely subjective. If you believe it is relevant, you are right. If you believe it is not, you are right. So, to an engineer, your algorithm is as relevant as you think it is.

    Thirdly, maintaining your business model is relevant. You can not have relevancy without keeping your business model. I realize this is a little abstract, but if the business model becomes threatened at anytime, we simply alter our definition of relevancy and find other ways to measure it.

    I was in a meeting once where everyone was discussing leading indicators. After about a half an hour of every leading indicator discussed pointing downward, the CEO literally looked across the table and told everyone we needed to find some leading indicators that worked.

    So, the moral of the story is, if all our indicators are bad, obviously, we need some new indicators. I believe that philosophy is just as true with engineers. Maybe more so.

    When is bias a bad thing?

    When your bias conflicts with mine.

    When is bias a good thing?

    When your bias agrees with mine.

    Is relevancy based on anything more than perception?

    To marketing people, it is based on size, speed, number of occurrences of matching characters, proximity to the start of a document, bolded characters and on and on ad nauseam, but the real answer is ----- No.

    If search algorithms get to know who we are on a personal level how do you prevent them from exploiting your psychological faults as highly commercial opportunities?

    The thing you're missing here is, exploiting your psychological faults could be the very definition of highly commercial opportunities. You don't prevent it. That is the point.

    We all have needs that we acquire things for. Protection from the cold, sustenance when we're hungry and water when we're thirsty, BUT, no one is wanting to track your email, search history and IM's to find out when you want a drink of water. They want to track that stuff to discover your desires, not needs. Desires are driven by what could be termed by some as psychological faults. You know, the wanting to keep up with the Joneses, the "do these pants make me look fat", the, "I bet I could get women talking to me if I was driving THAT car", that kind of stuff. What are those things? Psychological virtues?

    If search engines act as oracles and have some self reinforcing element to them how would one see around their own personal biases when they are frequently reinforced by the ways they use language, the biases of others who use the same language, and machines that reinforce their world views?

    Well, I'm not sure what language we're speaking here. I think this question somehow relates to the last question about algorithms getting to know who we are personally, so I'll answer it from that perspective.

    First of all, I think seeing search engines as oracles is WAAAYYYYY over the top. A search engine is just a machine. An ad delivery machine. The only way it reinforces itself is by tracking what ads it shows compared to which gets clicked on more and through that process "learns" to show ads more likely to get clicked on more often. Is that a self reinforcing oracle or an emotionless money machine with no conscience whatsoever?

    The biases presented by a search engine that tracks personal info on you is going be dictated by ads. It will tell you what it thinks you will think is relevant IF it sees you clicking on more of what it wants you to click on.

    Secondly, we don't try to "see around" our biases. Our biases are what makes us right. Biases are what forms our own ideas of ethics, morals and right from wrong. An extreme example would be religious fanatics. They don't see themselves as terrorists, they see themselves as defenders of the truth, crusaders for God and warrior in a holy war.

    Our biases are formed by our environment and language is a part of that. But, regardless of the language, what alters our perception is what we agree with and what we don't. That is why, with any language a search engine speaks, it is going to try to deliver to me what it thinks I will agree with and to you it will try to deliver what it thinks you will agree with.

    That is the beauty of personalization in regards to search engines. It will help improve the perception of relevancy on an individual basis according to our own personal biases, which it has learned by watching, recording, analyzing and delivering based on what it thinks it finds.

    You frequently highlight conversion and sales as being more important than traffic.

    To me, traffic without conversion is the epitome of futility.

    What are the best ways to publish information such that it converts?

    To be honest. Tell what it is, what it does for you and how to get it.
    Feature - Benefit - Call to action

    What are the biggest things that hold back most webmasters?

    I would have to say, smoking, junk food and lack of a satisfying social calendar.

    Can Yahoo! or MSN compete with Google?

    Absolutely! In my opinion public relations is really the only place where Google has them beat. Yahoo and MSN both have a LOT of features that could be argued are as good as many of Googles. But no one Yahoos their prospective girlfriend. No one MSN's their boyfriend, they Google them. I don't believe Y and M are getting their ass kicked by Page Rank, I think they are getting their ass kicked by the other PR. Public Relations and image enhancement. But of course, I'm the guy who doesn't believe there is such a thing as spam.

    Will any new engine be able to beat Google the way Google beat AltaVista?

    I believe Alta Vista beat themselves, but yes, Google can be beat just like any other business on any other day.

    How do you see the search space changing in the next 5 to 10 years?

    Personalization, community based and authority based trust rank, rich media and this typing thing has GOT to go!

    I just spent a week in Amsterdam. What should I have done that I did not?

    I don't know what you DID do but I would guess I should probably tell you the things that you should not have done that you did.

    I hope you did catch the Van Gogh museum. Isn't it weird for a place that has so many coffee shops to not have better coffee? I wish I could be more help here. I've been to Amsterdam twice for several days at a time and while I'm sure I loved the experience, I can't really remember a whole lot about it.

    The Van Gogh museum did rock. Some of his paintings were so amazing. I could see more emotion in the faces in his paintings than in most faces right after tragedy strikes. What will you be doing in 5 years?

    I'm sure we will still be in the brokering and link/ad business. In fact, we have just hired two more customer service reps and start training them this coming Monday. We've been doing content hosting and link acquisition now for several years and have an exclusive clientele that I don't see disappearing. We like that business and offsite
    optimization is certainly viable for the foreseeable future. I enjoy it.

    It is profitable and doesn't take much effort on my part. Why would I retire from something like that? That is my business.

    My passion is still topic specific search or more precisely, topic specific community building. There is such potential in that on so many levels I don't see me getting out of it in 5 years.

    What are the biggest errors you have made on the web thusfar?

    The biggest error I have made has been in falling into that trap that so many of my colleagues have. Thinking the program was more important than the people. I have hired more programmers than marketing people. I have put more into developing scripts that didn't work than I have in building an effective sales and customer support team. I have falsely thought I could handle all the advertising, marketing and sales myself when I should have been hiring people better qualified and let them do what they were good at it.

    It is the people that matter not the programs, nothing sells itself and no man is an island. Those are things I've learned from my mistakes.

    What will I be doing in 5 years?

    If you don't stop spending all your money on the virtues of Amsterdam, sitting on a busy corner holding a "Will Spam for Food" sign would be my guess.

    Seriously, you have displayed talent in communicating with the written word. You seem to have a flair for the dramatic which is a big help in link baiting of which you may hold the crown. I think maybe another book from you might be in the near future. Maybe Confessions of a Filthy Spammer or Death of a Guru, or even something as light as Quotes, Quips and Toons from the Dark Continent of SEO.

    What are the biggest errors you have seen me make on the web thusfar?

    While I admire and appreciate the hell out of you for not running adsense on TW, the thing that comes to mind is failing to effectively monetize TW and not doing more offsite content placement than link baiting.


    Thanks for the interview Bob.

    Topical Expert Available, Only 12 Cents a Day

    PeterD flames ChaCha. And can you fault him? What is up with a search engine that takes forever to answer? How good can their topical experts be at $5 an hour? How can you respect a topical expert who sits at your beck and call to earn only $5 an hour? And with an earning cap at $20 an hour? If you chose to use ChaCha hopefully your questions are not related to business, entrepreneurialism, capitalism, marketing, or finance.

    The biggest reasons that ChaCha will fail though are not just inefficiency, the low expert payout, and having to wait for results. I think that the model causes other (and worse) side effects.

    Right now if I search and buy something bad I am likely to feel it was my fault for being a sucker...like I misused search. If a paid guide leads me astray and I take their advice then I feel they are the ones at fault. So ChaCha shifts the blame from me to the engine.

    Another big problem with the pause in the search process is that wants / desires / impulse purchases are going to be far less appealing if I have more time to think about and refine my thoughts (and have to share that thought process with others), rather than just being able to say it was an impulse purchase.

    One of the biggest errors I have done (likely wasting at least a couple hundred thousand dollars) was answering tens of thousands of questions via emails and doing nothing with that content. When you have the ability to recycle content or make it valuable for many people rather than just one or two the cost can be greatly subsidized by many people over time. An inefficient and ineffective model becomes practical once you can use time and small distributed demand as an advantage. Ask Dave Taylor is a great example of a smart question answering site. Over time that model pays him far more than ChaCha ever could, plus it helps him build a brand and relationships that editors at a search engine would not be able to build.

    Put another way, the money is in the archives, stupid. And that is why Google is so hungry to expand their archive any way they can, even if they do not make direct revenue off it right away. This is probably far more important than most people think it is.


    DaveN is making a metasearch SEO tool by the name of Zippy.

    Please leave feedback and requests @ TW.

    Proof Google Loves EDU & GOV Sites

    I often see many .edu and .gov sites in Google's SERPs and think their representation is to a disproportionate level. And there is a business case for doing that too.

    Google's Matt Cutts has argued that .edu and .gov links do not carry any more weight other than their raw PageRank scores being higher, but if they trust those resources enough to display them disproportionately more in the search results, then wouldn't they also be likely to trust how those resources voted for other pages more as well? I have a PageRank 7 site that doesn't rank anywhere near as well as you would expect given its PageRank. I also have a couple PageRank 5 sites that rank for a ton of searches and are getting thousands of visits a day. One of them has less than 30 pages too. What do the PageRank 5 sites have that the PageRank 7 site lacks? Tons of .edu and librarian type links.

    Lets imagine that my experiences as a searcher and as a search marketer are totally biased, irrelevant, and too small of a sample to be accurate. Here is what we know that Google does for certain with PageRank and links:

    • shows outdated and rarely updated PageRank scores

    • only shows a sample of backlink data
    • scrubs out many of the most authoritative backlinks to a site when showing you a small sample of the backlink data
    • does not let you use multiple advanced operators in your search if one of the advance operators is the link function (link:site.com)

    So just about everything they show you about PageRank or links is an obfuscated half truth. Why would we expect their words to be any more factually correct than these algorithmic half truths they share?

    Here is what else we know Google does...

    Google has a Librarian's newsletter, to help teach librarians how search works, and how to trust good resources (ie: who they should be linking at). Help improve our relevancy by linking at quality sites. That was the first two issues of their newsletter, and perhaps its main goal?

    WebmasterWorld recently posted a thread announcing that Google is offering SEO training to federal government employees.

    Imagine Google training one section of the web about how SEO works, and then not providing the same training to other webmasters. That effect alone will add a bias toward .GOV sites, and goes to show the bias they have toward governmental websites (whether or not they admit it exists).

    When researching with a friend last night I came across a .GOV link scheme that made my jaw drop twice. Once in envy when I saw how effective and viral it was, and again when I realized how easily I could duplicate the marketing method. But I better rush off quickly with that one while the opportunity is still there, before Google teaches them how to link!

    As much as the governmental training is about making governmental content accessible, it is also likely about making government agencies more aware of SEO, such that it is harder for people like me to bilk high quality .GOV links.

    Where is the Value in Selling SEO Services?

    A prospective client with a brand new high end LARGE website wanted me to provide a comprehensive actionable SEO and internet marketing plan for a couple grand, noting that at near $100,000 for a single page ad in a print magazine that the print magazines were out of the question. When I told him a price point of what he was asking for he balked, stating "Excuse me? You'd charge me up to $__k for a plan? You've got to be kidding!"

    I don't hard sell services because I have been building way too many of my own sites, and they are typically far more profitable than most client work. Call me a sucker, but I am a big fan of passive income sites that pay far more than most clients are willing to pay. Especially since they have no deadlines, offer passive income, give me a bigger cut, can be focused on whatever I am interested in, and allow me to shift from topic to topic as my interests change.

    It is kinda perplexing to have spent a bunch of time building up a strong brand only to have claimed marketing experts contact you and low ball you so much. It makes you wonder why SEO is such a saturated field, and why so many people sell services so hard when there is so much more money to be made selling products, building affiliate sites, or selling contextual ads.

    Imagine that you can build 2 legitimate 12 page sites a week, with each of them bringing in $200 a month (and virtually 100% margin passive income after 2 months). If your income increased by at least $400 every week how long would you need to build sites to dump low end client work? And what if it grew quicker because you tracked market feedback?

    If you think a single page glossy page ad is worth more than what I could do in a month of time you are probably mistaken. If you think it is worth 50X what I could do then "You've got to be kidding".

    Digg Spam

    Looks like this. Doah!

    What is the most agressive thing you have seen an affiliate do to push your stuff? If they are soley focused on conversion they may damage your brand more than they help you make sales. How far do you let them go before you warn them or delete their accounts?

    TechCrunch Interview of Paul Graham

    Paul Graham was recently interviewed on TechCrunch, where he said:

    The easiest way to make something people want is to make something you want. What do you wish existed that doesn’t?

    Every market has a ton of those opportunities if you know the market well and are passionate about it.

    How Shady is Your Site?

    Most sales consist of a series of micro sales. Most people do not just go to a website and buy right away.

    We learn to trust brands, companies, people, and websites. Network marketplaces offer user feedback which act as currency. If you are on eBay and are about to buy an expensive product you are probably going to look through some of the other feedback the merchant has.

    The web as a whole also offers many layers of feedback. If people search for your brand what do they find? When people search for SEO Book most of the feedback (except for the occasional BrantRant) is positive in nature. When people ask about your brand in a forum do you get ripped to shreds or does your site usually stand up ok?

    I recently had an SEO executive tell me I was an idiot for saying I ranked well for SEO Book, and then he used Overture to show that term draws no traffic.

    In search terms keywords are all important and with the keyword book on SEO "seo book" receives 322 searches per month in 1st position you will receive an estimate, for argument sack 10% CTR, meaning 32 clicks to your website.

    If one of those 32 convert you have value.

    Unbeknown to that SEO professional, most people looking for SEO related stuff use Google, and his traffic estimates for my site for my well branded term are off by at least a factor of a 100.

    But the point of my post is not to try to talk up this site. This site is complete rubbish to over 99% of the people on the web. To them it has less than no value. But (hopefully) not to you. And thanks for reading it!

    The feedback I have gained from readers in that other 0.001% have helped me to

    • offer a better product

    • increase brand awareness
    • sell more
    • meet great people
    • come across other amazing opportunities

    Brand related search queries and consumer feedback come at the end of the trust cycle though. First you must gain attention, awareness, and credibility. Each time someone takes the time to read something you write or revisits your site you have made another mini sale. A bit more mind-share. Maybe they link to your site. Maybe they come back for another read. Maybe they tell a friend about it. Maybe they mention your site on a forum or say good things if someone flames you, etc.

    If I could give my book away free without being 99% certain that people would think it is worthless based on its price I probably would. It would give me a ton more mind-share (that could be leveraged into currency in other ways), but it would give me access to a brutal group of customers:

    Actually it's kinda sad in a way. I've given away almost a hundred copies of the SEO Tutor© optimization book to newbies and intermediates alike and with a few exceptions, the message is always the same, "I don't want to do any real work; I just want to get rich fast."

    That is not to say that I think I (or SEO Tutor) have low product quality, just that feedback is exceptionally valuable, and pricing at free might prevent you from getting the feedback you need while adding a ton of noise to the feedback you do get.

    Most value based systems are arbitrary in nature. Money is a means to barter, but not a finite resource. Stocks are just pieces of paper, as are baseball cards, and books, etc. Diamonds are just stupid rocks. But most established value systems (moral, financial, etc.) have value because people have pushed them long and hard.

    Why was slavery legitimate in the US long after most of the advanced world considered it repulsive if we are the land of the free? Someone pushed and sold that story. Why must we have a war on drugs? Why must you be afraid of terrorists? and sugar? Someone is selling those stories.

    Value based systems (and thus the perception of value) typically take a long time to build. To get people to value what you are doing you have to over-invest for a while with the hopes that the value will come back, but retail only has value if you have exposure and people are buying.

    Many of the people who read my ebook and say "I need help with SEO and your book did nothing for me" have a one page sales-letter site that says "buy now or forever screw off". They limit the types of sales they can make, and the speed with which they can gain mind-share or learn from feedback.

    Each feedback route or potential audience presents another opportunity to gain mind-share. For example, if you are multilingual and typically write in one language also post your thoughts in another. If you have a news site then try to get in Google news. If you have an informal news site maybe call it a blog to make it easier for other bloggers to identify with your work and link at you.

    If a site does not give people reasons to come back and does not give people many reasons / ways to show trust then the odds of the project becoming a long-term success are much lower. If no humans show that they trust your site then why should search engines?

    Let's pretend you are walking the streets of Amsterdam at 1:12 AM and someone comes up to you and whispers

    coke charlie, coke charlie, got what you need

    then the next guy walking past you says


    There is no rapport building there. Buy now or forever screw off.

    Compare that to a local mischief guide (perhaps a topical authority?), who might start a dialog with something like:

    Are looking for a drink or a smoke? The coffeeshops just closed, but there are still a few bars are open a few blocks up. If you need papers they sell those right up the street. If you need a smoke I sell some ______ right here.

    Which one of those people would you be more willing to trust?

    I am not advocating drug use, but if you assumed that 99% of everything on the web is shady (coke charlie got what you need) then you would be viewing content the way a search engineer does.

    9 times out of 10 (with the other 1 in 10 being their own content, or content from partner businesses) they want to rank the least shadiest offers, and hope the other ones wind up buying ads, which they can plaster all over the web, to help spread their value based system.

    coke charlie, etc. ;)

    What is the Difference...

    Between slapping ads on cloaked content, search results, other's content, link blogging, and thin content meta journalism sites?

    Which, if any, of these will be viable for years to come? Especially as all of those markets flood, and automated content generation becomes more and more useful?

    More Backlinks = Worse?

    In the last post I pointed out one example of how more links could actually be a bad thing.

    While I have been touring Europe with Werty and Radiohead Greg Boser started blogging again. He posted about how a Gokart site started ranking for Amish furniture in Google.

    Greg stated:

    I don’t think most webmasters truly understand the impact (both negative and positive) pre-existing links can have on a project.

    He then stated:

    Regardless of who is responsible, the end result is the same. The gokart site gets hosed. Google has determined both domains point to a single site, and that has caused the anchor text of the two separate domains to be combined. Now that really wouldn’t be so bad if you still were able to rank for the phrase combinations from each individual domain. I know if I sold gokarts and mini bikes, I wouldn’t mind the occasional email asking why I show up for amish furniture as long as I ranked well for my core phrases.

    But that’s not typically what happens. When you inherit a bunch of off-topic anchor text, more often than not you just end up ranking for a bunch stupid phrases that no one actually searches for.

    Greg also did a follow up titled My Naïveté which solidifies his position, and then posted how to protect your domain from competitive sabotage.

    Rotating Page Titles for Anchor Text Variation

    I have a site with some content in the consumer finance vertical. The domain is quite authoritative in nature, and based mostly on internal authority (plus 4 decent external links), a page on the site started ranking for a "nice" query. Based on that ranking, in the first 3 months the page picked up 100s of scraper backlinks, which I believe caused the page to get filtered out of Google for having too much of an unnatural and too well aligned profile (ie: looking blatently focused and manipulative in nature).

    About a week ago I changed the page title to something different. The page quickly started ranking again in Google, and now any automated spam links it picks up will have different anchor text.

    Most people probably do not have to worry too much about the effects of scraper sites if they are building legitimate content that will get many legitimate inbound links, but if you are writing vanilla content that is extracting profit from a well established domain it may be worth considering a page title change if you believe the scrapers may have whacked your page.