SEO For Start-Ups

In a startup, people usually adopt a variety of roles through sheer necessity. You switch from writing killer code to making the coffee and sweeping the floors. Along with everything else you need to do, you've got to find a way to market your company.

Does your start-up have a plan for SEO?

SEO is a strategy often ignored by startups. However, with millions of searches performed daily, good SEO can drive people to your door for little expense. By working smart, you can achieve marketing results that big companies often struggle to deliver. One of the biggest advantages a start-up has, in terms of SEO, is starting from scratch, thus avoiding many of the legacy issues that affect established sites and brands.

Let's take a look at a cheap and effective SEO strategy geared towards startups.

Background - Why SEO Is Valuable

SEO, like any other form of marketing, is about connecting with an audience.

Unlike PR and other forms of marketing, SEO isn't about affecting change in the mind of the consumer. Search is conservative in that searchers must already be aware of an idea in order to formulate a search query. People cannot search for something of which they aren't already aware.

This notion would seem to run counter to the marketing goals of a startup, as startups often seek to promote new ideas and approaches. However, start-ups often refine services or products that already exist .

For example, QuickBooks produces accounting software. By appearing under keyword terms, such as "accounting", "accounting software", etc, QuickBooks could sell to people who aren't aware of the Quickbooks brand simply by aligning their site with concepts the potential customer is already familiar with, in this case "accounting software". This approach is especially important for start-ups because they usually don't have a great deal of brand awareness.

Check out the Google Keyword Research tool. You'll discover ists of keyword terms your potential customers have used to describe problems they have, and services and goods they wish to find.

Generate a few keyword lists relating to your niche. What phrases are people looking for? What terminology are they using? How many searches are being conducted? This tool can give you a valuable insight into the minds of your customers. The take-away point is that in order to do well in SEO, you should look to orient your site around the terminology already used by your prospective customers.

Here's a specific six step plan for implementing SEO at a startup. We'll cover the high level concepts, and link to technical demonstrations.

1. Nail The Basics

A lot of companies hamper their SEO efforts in the site design phase. Big companies, due to the conflicting requirements of various stakeholders, often compromise SEO efforts by implementing designs that aren't conducive to high rankings.

There are three main areas you need to nail:

  • Crawablilty - can the spider crawl and index your site?
  • Terminology - are you using the same terminology that your audience is using?
  • Remarkability - do people link to your site?

In order to be crawlable, keep the site design and architecture as simple as possible. Search engines like simple. Simple means standard html links, body text, and clear, hierarchically ordered pages. Search engines don't particularly like flash, lengthy URLs, scripting, Flash, Ajax and other whirls and flashes. The closer you are to W3C conventions, the better.

Wikipedia is an example of a search friendly site. This is not to say your site need be encyclopedic and graphically sparse, however you do need to pay particular attention to your internal linking methods, body copy and site architecture. Wikipedia uses a lot of cross links to other content on the site. A good test of crawlability is that the site can be viewed using a text-only browser.

Your site should use terminology your audience uses. We'll look at ways to find this information out shortly.

Your site should be remarkable. You want people to link to you, as links are one of the most important factors in Google's ranking algorithms. Seth Godin talks a lot about about "being remarkable" in his book "The Purple Cow", which is essential reading for any start-up looking to make a mark.

Cows, after you've seen them for a while, are boring. They may be well-bred cows, Six Sigma cows, cows lit by a beautiful light, but they are still boring. A Purple Cow, though: Now, that would really stand out. The essence of the Purple Cow -- the reason it would shine among a crowd of perfectly competent, even undeniably excellent cows -- is that it would be remarkable. Something remarkable is worth talking about, worth paying attention to. Boring stuff quickly becomes invisible

Do you have a strategy to produce content that is worth talking about?

2. Know What Your Audience Is Thinking

Do you know what terminology your audience uses?

If you know this information, you can integrate keywords into your pages, headings and titles, which will improve the likelihood of your results showing up in search results.

Using free tools, such as the Google Keyword Research Tool & the SEO Book Keyword Research Tool, you can gain a valuable insight into the minds of your prospective customers. Here's a video showing how to use them.

The aim is to create lists of keyword terms your audience is already using, and align your site with those keyword streams. Given that most searches are unique, you can create variations on these keyword terms to capture as much traffic as possible.

The Value Of Pre-Testing Keywords

Because search engine optimization can take time to show results, it's often a good idea to test keyword terms using PPC. Once you have a list of prospective keywords, you can set up a PPC campaign, run it for a short period of time, see which keyword terms you had the most and least success with, then use the most successful terms in your SEO campaign.

For example, let's say a fictitious company, is a start up that manufactures a trendy baby buggies. They brainstorm keywords, and comes up with the following list:

baby buggies
mountain buggy baby
baby jogger

If we put each term into the search tool, we get a lists of potential keyword terms, and the frequency with which they are searched:

If you scroll down to the bottom, you can also see synonyms and related terms:

After such a session, we might end up with a more comprehensive list that looks like this:

Such lists can contain hundreds or thousands of closely related terms, covering the variety of terms people use to describe the same thing.

Next, start a PPC campaign that incorporates these keyword terms.

After a week or so, you'll get an idea of how many people search on each term, and what snippet information they will likely click on. You can use the most successful keyword terms in your SEO campaign. Integrate the most successful terms - successful meaning terms people search on and are closely aligned with the commercial aims of your site - into page titles, headings, and sprinkle them throughout your body copy. Use them as topic starters. Be sure to use semantic variations, too.

If this company really wanted to test the effectiveness of certain terms, they could set up a page that measured a desired action. For example, if they tracked a searcher from the ad click through to a sign-up on an inquiry page or a sales page. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to use analytics.

You then use the most lucrative terms in your SEO campaign.

Of course, if the PPC campaign pays dividends i.e. the cost of running the campaign is less than the return, then by all means keep it going. If you appear in both the PPC and search engine results listings for the same terms you increase the likelihood of getting the click. As you can see from this screenshot, FreshBooks ranks well and advertises under the same keywords, boosting their chances for a click.

3. Seek Attention - And Links

News, by it's very nature, is oriented towards the new and different. "News" is something worth remarking upon.

A startup, by definition, is new, and hopefully different enough from existing services to be remarkable. Your traditional PR efforts - appearing at conferences & demos, press releases, news items, etc - can be leveraged for advantage in the search engines.

Search engines place a lot of emphasis on links, and the keywords contained within those links. Whenever you appear in media, try and get a link back to your site. If you have a name or byline that includes the nature of your service, all the better.

For example," FreshBooks - Online Invoicing". The byline in the link that describes the service, if it appears in a link, will help rank for the term "online invoicing". A searcher wouldn't need to know the name of the company, only the nature of the service they provide. So be descriptive, especially in your linking.

4. Make Your Content Remarkable

What type of site do you think has more chance of gaining search engine traffic - a brochure site or a site based on a publishing model?

When fishing, you can catch more fish with a net as opposed to a single line. The same is true for sites in search engines. The more pages you have, the wider your net is cast, and the more search visitors you'll receive. So, consider adopting a publishing model. Think about ways you can regularly publish remarkable information. Ways of doing this include blogs, forums and how-to articles.

Search engines reward fresh, rich content. They're less enamored by the sales pitch of the online brochure. The exception is if the brochure site has very strong inbound linking from external sites. Trouble is, it's difficult to get those links unless the service you offer is truly unique and game changing.

Your content also needs to be unique. Search engines have filters that weed out duplicate content. If you don't have the time to produce content, consider starting forums where users ask questions. If the community thrives, they'll provide fresh content for you.

Is there offline documentation you can incorporate into your web site, such as manuals and case studies? Even if such content doesn't form part of the your main navigation, it's a good idea to include as many pages as possible. Link this content back to your money pages, and be sure to use keywords in the links.

5. Get Outside Help

What networks do you have in place? Who are your suppliers, venture capitalists, customers and other partners? Tap them on the shoulder and ask for links.

Write articles and ask your partners to publish them on their sites, then link those articles back to your site. Leverage any presence they may have to increase your own.

Are you part of a broader movement? Is there a bandwagon you can jump on? Web 2.0 was a marketing term dreamed up by O'Reilly Media to describe a wide range of sites that loosely shared a common approach to web development and collaboration on the web.

In reality, these sites weren't doing anything particularly new of revolutionary, but by defining themselves as part of a revolutionary movement, this group made their marketing job easier. Sites became worth remarking upon simply because they declared themselves part of the Web 2.0 club. Look around to see if you're part of a broader collective, and leverage any newsworthy, and link-worthy, opportunities that come your way as a result.

Another approach for those short of money is to form a co-op. Can you swap services with other companies? When you do so, be sure to write about it and swap links.

Whenever you make connections, think links. Once you get into a habit of regularly producing rich remarkable content, and getting links, rankings will naturally follow.

6. Competitive Intelligence

Who outranks you in your niche?

You can learn a lot about SEO by looking at what your high ranking competitors are going .

Use (mostly) free services like for the leading sites in your niche. What approach are they using? How often are they publishing? What type of content are they publishing? What does their external link structure look like?

You can reverse-engineer your competitors SEO strategies using the SEOBook Toolbar. Aaron explains how to use it in the video.

One area to focus on is the inbound links your competitors have gained from external sites. If you can get links from the same sources, you'll be able to compete with them on keyword terms. You also might discover some alliances and customers you might not know they had.

Mike Grehan Interview

Many thanks for talking with us today, Mike. We've spent a few messy evenings drinking girly Merlots, but for those who don't know you, can you be so kind as to introduce yourself?

Ahhhh… those halcyon Merlot fuelled days… I remember them well… (truth be known, with all that Merlot, I don't remember much at all!).

So for those folks who are new to the industry, I can give a little background.

I first invented the Internet back in the 1960s. I had a young whippersnapper working for me as my assistant at the time. Al Gore was his name. I believe he grew up and took some sort of job with the government. Not sure where he is now.

In about 1965 I coined the term “hypertext,” which I was thrilled about. It didn't actually mean anything, but it sounded really cool. I used to drink with a guy called Ted Nelson who thought this was a pretty cool word, too. Ted's an old scientist living here in New York. And we do laugh when we get together about all of those people who have assumed that it was him who coined the term. Boy, must we have been drunk that night.

After messing around in physics (it being the new rock and roll, of course) I moved to Geneva, Switzerland and took a job at the European Organization for Nuclear Research. It was a pretty dull job actually – same thing day-in, day-out. Atomic nuclei can get pretty boring to interact with. Plus I didn't like the special suit.

On one occasion, I was working with a complete dunderhead by the name of Tim Berners Lee. He was one of those guys that you just knew was never going to amount to anything in life. I explained to him that, during my morning shower, I had this brilliant idea to apply hypertext to the internet. He was so excited.. Mike, he said, I think you've just invented the… interweb!

Stupid boy!

Anyway, after being knighted by Her Majesty the Queen for my sterling work inventing what we now know as the “World Wide Web,” I thought I'd better do something practical with it. By now there was a lot of stuff out there and it was getting difficult to find anything. I was a visiting lecturer at Stanford University at the time and hooked up with a couple of kids called Larry Page and Sergey Brin.

This was not a good experience for me. These guys came to my dorm one night and stole a paper I had written called, “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.” I even had a pet name for it. I called it “Google.” I thought that was quite cool and trendy, what with Google being a play on the word goggle, which means to ogle women. Some time later, I read some bullshit from these guys who stole my idea that it had something to do with "googol," which is the Californian pronunciation for a word which also means to ogle women… er… I think.

I'm in the process of suing these Google jokers for almost 600 bucks to cover the amount of time it took me to write the paper. I'm not stupid… I'll get every penny of it, I bet!

Eventually, I moved away from search, mainly because it doesn't work properly and never will. So, I invented my latest toy, which I call Twitter. I called it Twitter because it's full of twits talking bits of shit to each other. had already gone by then, unfortunately.

Oh! Fancy me forgetting to mention Wikipedia! I actually invented that as a joke and people started taking it seriously. What fun!! People are failing exams because it's full of false crap. Some people have been seriously injured for the rest of their lives for taking some of the medical advice… ROFL

I'm on the verge of leaving the internet space to work on my new invention, which is very much a green thing. Imagine this: Reusable toilet paper! Heh! How cool is that. Some people have called it a flannel. In fact, some have called it a face cloth. Dood, I wouldn't want that near my face knowing where it had been before. Eeeuuwww!

Anyway… these are just some of the excellent things I've done in my extremely interesting life. What other brilliant things do you need to know about me? Being as modest as I am, I may not be able to answer all of your questions of course…

Every word Mike says is true :)

In your paper "New Signals To Search Engines", you frame search in a historical context - where it has been, where it is now, and where it might be going. What are the major changes coming up that will have the most impact on current SEO practices and goals?

Grehan now puts serious head on…

I've talked about how search engine optimization evolved in the first instance. It was driven by the limitations of the technology used by search engines. Basically, the World Wide Web was developed to do one thing – but everyone wants it to do another. So, crawling the web using the HTTP protocol was the obvious route to go for search engines back then.

But if Google is saying they now have seen a trillion URLs and have no certainty that they'll ever be able to crawl them in a timely fashion, maybe we've reached the zenith of the crawl. Not only that, the end user is expecting a much richer experience. So if the main job of SEO was to optimize static web pages and make them available to crawlers, it's all becoming a little passé now.

Have we seen the end of HTML and the crawler? Absolutely not. But the level of requirement for SEO work is going to diminish, rather like that of the blacksmith when motorized transport was introduced. Do we still have blacksmiths today? For sure, but they're not as required as they used to be.

The main changes will be in existing SEO shops either moving into other technical/development work or retraining in other online marketing disciplines. It's a very exciting time in search. Most marketers can see that. But those people from a purely technical background and used to just doing geeky code for a crawler don't see it that way.

You mention that user trails - as provided by the toolbar, tagging etc - will become some of the strongest signals. That's pretty much the death knell of traditional SEO, isn't it?

If we take what I said in the answer to the last question, you can see that traditional SEO as we know it has had to evolve anyway. I don't really think of link building as SEO, to be honest. For me, link building is the by-product of good marketing. Whereas fixing pages for a crawler is purely a technical process.

What needs to be taken into account most importantly is not where SEO goes to next, or whether it survives at all. It's about where search goes to next and how the end user evolves with those changes. Making pages for crawlers and getting links for the sole purpose of getting links omits one thing from the equation: the end user experience.

So, now that search engines can follow end users they can see where they started and where they dropped off. That kind of data is so important. It's the wisdom of crowds. It's the people's vote. So how does a marketer get involved there? It's going to be a little clichéd, but create an experience - not a web page.

Last year, Eric Schmidt CEO of Google, said an interesting thing in an interview. He mentioned - and I'm paraphrasing here - "that the Internet is a "cesspool" where false information thrives, and that "brands are the way to rise above the cesspool". Do you think brands might be an important signal of quality?

I read that interview too.

He was stating the obvious to be honest. People have long bemoaned the fact that smaller businesses don't get the same shelf space in search as the big brands (the same applies offline, of course). Brand building is all about good marketing. It's all about building trust and reputation. But wait for this… It's not just about the big boys. A local store can build up as much trust and reputation within its community as well as a high street chain.

Social networking sites are all about people building up trust and reputation on a personal level. So, I think the notion of brands as we've known them – such as multi-nationals like Exxon – is going away. I think we're moving more into social search and that's all about tapping into a network of trust.

Addressing your question directly: "Do you think brands might be an important signal of quality?" As long as those brands belong to the end user and not large corporations, and that's certainly what's happening, then yes, a great signal of quality.

Social media, for want of a better term, is a "place" where most content is being generated, and increasingly where many people are spending their time. What are your thoughts on, say, Twitter? What are the implications for Google and other big search engines when people rely on real-time wisdom-of-crowds, and communities, for answers?

So we've already touched on this a little when talking about tapping into a network of trust. Absolutely this is a very important move. The results you get at search engines are hardly verified results and they can be manipulated. That means you have what a mathematical formula (the algorithm) believes are the best ranked documents. And then you have a little re-ranking going on when Ralph Tegtmeir gets to them!

However, if you tap into a network of trust, such as a parenting group, and ask them a about a child's allergy, the information is likely to be much more verified. If 500 parents all agree that a certain method works then that's more trustworthy information than a search engine algorithm can provide.

But there's a whole lot more to it than me Tweeting my followers and asking which is the best Irish pub in New York and wanting an answer now!

Can we talk a little about formats. You make the point that HTML may have served us well up to now, but things are changing. The web is becoming media rich. What does this mean for SEO? Do search marketers become multi-media positioners?

I saw a quote from a senior scientist at Google where he said we’re moving "away from a web of content to a web of applications." So it's more about the end user experience and the method of delivery, as opposed to one protocol over another. I don't think HTTP/HTML is going away anytime soon. But it's not going to be the primary method for internet search going forward.

People are already talking about new platforms. One idea is Flash. I like that. Or maybe pure java. Most certainly social search into networks of trust and live search via apps such as Twitter will further develop in the future.

We spend a lot of time on SEOBook connecting-the-dots between areas such as seo, brand and traditional marketing. You've said "connected marketing" is the future of marketing. Can you talk a little about this? This is the point where big worlds collide, isn't it?

Connected marketing is a kind of generic term for the new audience of always-on, 24-hour-a-day networks. I use the iPhone as a primary example of how to connect with your audience in so many different ways. Sure, it could be the HTTP/HTML route as it comes with a browser. But there are also so many apps you can download. You can get to your audience via email, txt, Twitter. You'll be surprised at this… you can even use it as a telephone!

It is about big worlds colliding. It's not just that technology has changed so we market via different channels to the same people. It's more about how the audience has changed. And so we have to change the way we connect with them.

I don't think that conventional methods such as the 30-second spot are going away anytime soon. But we need to examine all areas of this new marketing mix and get our messaging aligned.

If traditional SEO is at a point of diminishing value, what are the things an SEO can do to adapt to this brave new world?

First of all, stop using just SEO. The job we've been doing to help search engines do a job they should have been doing themselves is not as critical as it was. Crawlers are getting smarter and the communication between search engines and SEOs is much more transparent now. Search engines provide many tools to make the process of letting them know that you have good indexable content available.

But as the end user demands a much richer experience, search engines need to know a lot more about other types of content. Not just the textual HTML pages that SEOs labor over.

It is a brave new world of marketing. It's tremendously exciting. But you do have to start and think more about smart marketing and less about smart HTML coding.

There's a plethora of books and information on social media, optimizing video and perhaps, more importantly, analytics which open up this whole new world of marketing. As the value of providing pure SEO services diminishes, the value of new services increases. This is not a bad time for search marketing: It's the best it has ever been!

Many thanks, Mike.

Mike Grehan is Global KDM Officer with Acronym Media, a leading search marketing company based in New York's landmark Empire State Building. Follow Mike on Twitter here.

Review of SES NYC by Khalid Saleh

Conferences are especially interesting especially in a tough economy. Truth be told, I had low expectations for SES NY when all I was reading was companies scaling back and downsizing.

But the first tweets about SES painted a brighter picture. And with close to 5,000 marketers registered for the conference it was shaping up to be an excellent conference. As I walked through the exhibit hall vendors had a very good show and were very pleased with the large numbers of crowds that showed up. Of all the different SES shows I have attended over the last few years, this particular SES NY had to top the list in both the quality of the lectures, the speaker list and even the small details such as quality of the food J.

Here is a quick wrap up of some of the highlights

I thought that Guy Kawasaki’s choice of topic on using “Twitter As A Tool For Social Media” was an interesting one. And although I am a fan of Guy, my assumption was that most everyone in attendance must have used twitter for some time. I was really wondering if I am going to learn many new things from session. The room was over flowing with people and the few who showed up late had to spend the hour or so standing.

Guy made 9 main points:

  1. Forget the A list (sort of funny coming from A lister ;) )
  2. Defocus
  3. Increase your followers
  4. Monitor the conversation
  5. Copy best practices
  6. Use search
  7. Use the right tools
  8. Squeeze the triggers
  9. Make it easy to share

Guy’s favorite tools to use in conjunction with Twitter

My favorite portion in the presentation was the section on search and utilizing advance search parameters to look for terms people are using. That can be a valuable tool to increase business. Let say you are a web designer who is looking for work. You can setup a search for a term such as web design referrals. That is an excellent time to jump in and introduce yourself.

Twitter hawk is a tool that can be used to send automatic “paid” messages when people search for a term. I am not familiar with the tool but I see the potential to use it for business development. I am sure there are many who will debate the tactics Guy suggested in the session. If you are a believer in pure social media, I think there are many things that will turn your stomach.

The session on Meaningful SEO Metrics focused on measurements that help generate better ROI. Traditional metrics focus on number of visitors, pages per visit, time on site, etc. Ray "Catfish" Comstock discussed how bounce rates for keywords is critical in the process of conversion optimization. Ray suggested examining:

  • High Bounce Rate keyword phrases: which indicate keyword phrases that are generating traffic but users are not finding what they want.
  • High Conversion Rate keyword phrases: which indicate keywords that are working and therefore which phrases you should focus more resources on.

I did not really appreciate the importance of mobile SEO until I chatted with an SEO for a large auto site. He mentioned that their site traffic usually peaks on Mondays and Tuesdays. That is the time where people are searching for cars. The traffic usually dies off on weekends when people are out shopping. If you think about it, people actually shopping in real life is perfect time for Mobile SEO. That discussion was enough to convince me to attend Mobile seo best practices. Cindy Krum who specializes in mobile marketing consulting did a great job covering Mobile Marketing Strategies. While visitors of traditional marketing can arrive at a site at different stages of the buying process, mobile search usually indicate immediate intent. Cindy pointed out that real mobile web browsing, flat-rate data pricing, and faster download speed are all factors help that make mobile web more relevant. Cindy’s advice for basic mobile seo includes:

  • Follow all Traditional & Local SEO Best Practices
  • Submit your Site to Mobile Search Engines & Directories
  • Avoid using flash, scripts, popup windows.
  • Follow XHTML standards
  • Use external CSS

The panel discussion on the most common search marketing mistakes CMOs make promised to deliver an interesting topic. My favorite of the mistakes was failing to assign $ value to every conversion on a website. There are too many times when we focus on a generating sales or leads via a website and forget about the other conversions that can take place. These other conversions might not have the same dollar value as a sale but they are the still conversions. A visitor might subscribe to a newsletter, download a white paper or subscribe to a blog. Assign a dollar value for each of these activities.

The extreme makeover session with a focus on conversion made for an entertaining afternoon. Jeffry Eisenberg of Future Now, Tim Ash of SiteTuners and Ethan Griffin of Groove Commerce took on a discussion of one of the sites Groove Commerce worked on. You can tell right away the different approach to optimization each of these guys takes. Jeffry is evaluating different customers, looking at what might work for them. Tim is focused on the testing aspect. Ethan is considering optimization as well as implementation details. Jeffry and Tim seemed to disagree even when they were making the same point. As a listed to the panelist go back and forth on what to test and what to remove, some sitting next to me asked, so who should we listen to here? I smiled and said, listen to your visitors!

Night time at conferences is as valuable as day time and SES New York was no exception. So, on the first night of SES NY I stayed up until 4 AM with Frank Watson (AussieWebmaster AKA crocodile man in some Hollywood circles) and Patrick Sexton (who you know from SEOish or his latest venture, every muscle in my body was aching. I am just not sure how Frank was planning to stay up for few more hours.

B2B complex sales involve longer cycles, many stages and different people in each stage. The session on B2B marketing focused on search marketing tactics that can help deal with some of these complexities. Segmenting data becomes more critical in complex sales. This can be done through allowing customers to identify what segment they belong to (enterprise, small business, etc). Another important factor when it comes to complex sales is going beyond the cost per lead to cost per action which is a good indicator of the quality of leads.

Another panel discussion I attended at SES was Slash Your Search Budget. As you can imagine the title hit home with what many companies have to deal with nowadays. Unfortunately, this session was perhaps the most disappointing discussion in the conference. The speakers did not offer real ways to slash marketing budgets. The talk of mobile SEO as an alternative to traditional SEO threw me off completely. How would that relate to slashing a marketing budget? Talk of utilizing social media as a way to generate hits did not resonate with me either. Social media takes a lot of nurturing and a lot of budget. So, at that point, I could not help but raise my hand and ask how is using social media help in cutting SEM budgets? There was a bit of silence there.

The only exception was Aaron Kahlow of the online marketing summit. He offered candid suggestions: It is better to take charge of the budget discussion. Approach your manager/boss and tell him you want to slash the budget. Evaluate which parts SEM activities are not producing results. By doing so, you will be guaranteed a seat at the table.

The 2 nd night at SES included attending live web master radio show hosted by David Szetela, learning more about the SEO community from Jim Hedger and enjoying a lengthy discussion on online marketing with @webanalytic J .

On the third day of SES, I attended News search and SEO. Most notable on that panel was John Shehata of who specializes in news search seo . John provided many valuable tips that ranged from the basic to more advance level. Some of the tips included:

  • Use trends/buzz keyword tools when writing news for online audience (Google hot trends, Yahoo Buzz, Google Zeitgeist, seomoz popular)
  • Print headlines sell the story, optimized web headlines tell the story

Well, before I sign off, I have to congratulate Matt McGowan and his team for an excellent show and raised the bar for upcoming search events. I think Matt is on his way to Australia at this point. If you enjoyed this post and would like to connect, then follow me on twitter.

How Many Trillions Does it Take to Put a Banker in Jail?

About to go to jury duty here in about 15 minutes...which got me thinking about the concept of justice.

I don't mind paying a lot of taxes if it goes toward creating a better society, but in California when you get toward the upper end of the tax bracket you can pay ~ 60% (federal + state + local + self employment/social security) of your income in taxes. And those tax payments probably do not even offset the handouts we are giving to bankers that gambled with trillions of dollars and lost.

News of additional bailouts via a public private partnership (that makes almost all the reward private and almost all the risk taxpayer funded) have spurred Bank of America and Citibank into buying more of the toxic assets that they allegedly need help clearing off the books.

A guy writes $7,000 in bad checks and gets a 24 year prison sentence. These bankers cost tax payers trillions of dollars. So much money stolen that they debased the currency, and they are awarded with free money for being incompetent.

I am not sure what will come of today, but if this country actually had any sense of justice then there would be at least a half dozen bankers serving a few decades in jail. The fact that none of them have been locked up yet shows how perverse our justice system is and how little you should trust the U.S. government. Politicians work for the bankers.

Obama has a poll allowing voters to ask questions about the economy. Most of the questions are about "what about me I am broke and don't know what to do" and "I need some relief" etc. And that is how they will remain until our financial system is fixed. And by fixed I mean these bankers serve the jail-time they earned and pay back their "earnings." Billions of hours of labor have been wasted propping up a ponzi scheme that promotes insider/bank traders winning on both sides of the trade, while handing you the losses.

Is there any wonder why so many people feel overextended?

These bankers put teeth in the consumer bankruptcy law (lying using bogus statistics to pass it) then they wanted a decade long ride on the free money train for their company.

What's worse is that children who have yet to be born have interest working against them starting from the day they are born. They are in the hole from their first breath, having done nothing wrong other than being born into corruption. The politicians take care of their own children, just not our children.

We are so afraid of terrorism...and financial terrorists that cost us trillions of dollars are somehow just part of how the system works. No big deal.

Sorry, but I don't need to pay for someone else's second yacht or fourth home. If anything these career criminals should be scrubbing my floors and taking out my trash. You and I are the people who are actually paying their salaries (and bonuses) through a collective billions of hours of OUR LABOR that was confiscated and handed over to the banks. This makes me angry enough to want to go unemployed and stop working and/or move to another country. I hope I get to be a juror over a banker some day. And I hope you do too!

Update: here are a couple relevant articles in Rolling Stone & The Atlantic, and a nice video.

Google Expands Snippets & Related Searches Word Relationships

Google announced that they are rolling out a new technology to better understand word relationships and extend their snippets on longer search queries.

Starting today, we're deploying a new technology that can better understand associations and concepts related to your search, and one of its first applications lets us offer you even more useful related searches (the terms found at the bottom, and sometimes at the top, of the search results page).

Note that they claimed that this is "one of its first applications." If they can improve relevancy with integrating this technology directly into the core search algorithms then it will lower the importance of on page optimization (since you only need to be close rather than use the specific words that were searched for). Such a change would likely decrease the traffic to low authority sites held up largely by strong site structure and on page SEO, while increasing the amount of traffic going to high authority sites and well branded sites that are poorly structured from an SEO perspective.

I am not sure if this sort of algorithm change would favor shorter or longer content pages. In most cases I would guess longer pages if they were kept on theme, and broken up to relevant chunks. The expanded snippets on longer search queries show a lot more information directly in Google's search results, which helps thicker pages show off their offering more than thinner pages, but cedes more control of the information over to Google as they can show close to 250 characters in the search results.

If the technology was applied to anchor text it might also limit the value of anchor text manipulation by boosting up the value of related phrases (if Google knows that the word Salesforce is relevant to CRM then they might count that anchor text more).

Greg Sterling noted that this change came from the Orion technology that was purchased by Google from Ori Allon in 2006. He also interviewed them:

I spoke yesterday to Google and Ori Allon. To the extent that I understood his discussion of the way Orion’s technology had been applied to refinements here’s what’s going on at a high level: pages are being scanned in “real-time” by Google after a query is entered. Conceptually and contextually related sites/pages are then identified and expressed in the form of the improved refinements. This is not solely keyword based but derived from an “understanding” of content and context.

It is hard to speculate if/when this technology will move from sideshow to becoming a big deal. The current usage is fairly trivial, but it could get much more well ingrained into many parts of the relevancy algorithms.

As search engines get more sophisticated with how they show word relationships (on branded and non-branded search queries) that is one more thing that can be optimized, though likely one that will require a holistic marketing strategy to optimize, because you will need to create a lot of co-citation (or some other signal of relevancy) across many pages on the web.

A couple years ago Lord Maurice Saatchi described their brand strategy as being built off of One Word Equity.

In this new business model, companies seek to build one word equity - to define the one characteristic they most want instantly associated with their brand around the world, and then own it. That is one-word equity.

It is the modern equivalent of the best location in the high street, except the location is in the mind.

Is Your Website Credible?

I saw a link-bait article at the top of TechMeme this past weekend entitled ""Why Advertising Is Failing On The Internet".

The article outlines how internet advertising will fail because it (apparently) holds people captive and forces them to watch ads (huh?). I'm paraphrasing, but that's the jist of the conclusion reached by the author, Eric Clemons, of the University of Pennsylvania.

I certainly hope a lot of would-be advertisers listen to his view on search advertising, because it will reduce the bid competition for the rest of us:

Misdirection, or sending customers to web locations other than the ones for which they are searching. This is Google’s business model....Misdirection most frequently takes the form of diverting customers to companies that they do not wish to find, simply because the customer’s preferred company underbid"


For starters, what is the searchers "preferred" company? That statement assumes the searcher already knows what company they are looking for. Perhaps, as is often the case, they are looking to solve a problem, not locate a specific company.

Secondly, anyone who has paid for ads would know that the last thing you want to do as a search advertiser is to "misdirect" visitors to your site i.e. visitors who aren't interested in what you're selling. It costs a fortune, makes no money, and Google will likely demote such ads due to a poor quality score.

Sergey Brin is of the opinion that advertising can add value, so long as it is relevant:

" fits with the notion of Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page that ads can and should be at least as useful to people as search results and other online content. "We believe there is real value to seeing ads about the things that interest you,"

Of course, he would say that, but I think it is true. Ad content need not be intrusive. Relevant advertising, delivered when the customer wants it, can and does solve problems, and thus adds value. Advertising also facilitates a lot of web content that simply couldn't be offered for free if the advertising didn't support it. Google itself could not exist without advertising.

Anyway, Danny Sullivan does a good fisk of the article. We'll worth a read.

Website Credibility

Danny brought up an interesting aside about credibility, which I thought I'd riff on and hopefully we can share some ideas in the comments.

Here is how Danny decides if a travel website is credible:

I have this “travel guide” test to use to help determine if an expert source knows what they’re talking about. Ever struggle to decide which travel book for some vacation destination might be the best one? Me, if it’s a travel series, I pull the guide for a destination I know well, like my hometown. I know my local area in an expert way — and if the travel guide suggests good stuff for my area, then I feel better about trusting it in other areas.

In this case, because Danny has established the credibility of the source, he is more likely to go to places the guide recommends. He is certainly more likely to keep reading the site, which means more opportunity for advertisers to be seen.

What Makes A Website Credible?

Credibility means the quality of being believable or trustworthy.

The markers we use to determine credibility online have a lot in common with the way we determine credibility offline: are we familiar with this person or business? Have we had previous, beneficial dealings with them? Do they come recommended by someone we trust? Does it look and feel right? This last point might be more important than we've been led to believe. More on this shortly.

Various articles have pointed to prescriptive credibility markers, such as displaying your address, having a privacy policy, showing a photo of the site owner etc, but I'd argue these are pretty much useless unless more fundamental credibility markers have been established first.

One of the problems on the internet in terms of establishing credibility, is that the internet is largely unregulated and anonymous:

the Internet has no government or ethical regulations controlling the majority of its available content. This unregulated flow of information presents a new problem to those seeking information, as more credible sources become harder to distinguish from less credible sources (Andie, 1997). Moreover, without knowing the exact URL of a given site, the amount of information offered through keyword searches can make finding a predetermined site difficult as well as increase the likelihood of encountering sites containing false information

The task of deciding the level of credibility lies mostly with the individual, rather than an external agency. A research report by Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab found:

The data showed that the average consumer paid far more attention to the superficial aspects of a site, such as visual cues, than to its content. For example, nearly half of all consumers (or 46.1%) in the study assessed the credibility of sites based in part on the appeal of the overall visual design of a site, including layout, typography, font size and color schemes.This reliance on a site's overall visual appeal to gauge its credibility occurred more often with some categories of sites then others. Consumer credibility-related comments about visual design issues occurred with more frequency with finance (54.6%), search engines (52.6%), travel (50.5%), and e-commerce sites (46.2%), and with less frequency when assessing health (41.8%), news (39.6%), and nonprofit (39.4%) sites. In comparison, the parallel Sliced Bread Design study revealed that health and finance experts were far less concerned about the surface aspects of these industry-specific types of sites and more concerned about the breadth, depth, and quality of a site's information.

The emphasis people place on a sites visual design when trying to determine credibility is interesting. This is not to say having a blinged-up site will make you appear more credible, as it very much depends what market you're in. A slick site is likely be credible if you're selling lipstick to teenagers, but not if you're providing weather data to climatologists. Wikipedia and Google appear credible as information resources partly because they look staid and academic.

So the first step to making your site credible is to know your audience, and meet their expectations in terms of look and feel.

Accuracy Of Information

The studies also point to the accuracy of information as a credibility marker.

It stands to reason that a site that contains obvious lies or inaccuracies, as perceived by the reader, isn't going to be credible. Having said that, there are plenty of scam artists on the internet, and people pedaling incorrect information, but the difference is that their readers aren't aware they are being lied to or being given incorrect information.

This is why it can often pay to cite known authorities to add credibility to your content. Besides the value of citation in terms of establishing accuracy, naming a credible resource can make you appear more credible by association. Go to Yahoo Answers are notice how most answers lack credibility. Those answer that are credible tend to cite external known authorities.

A Way With Words

Closely related to visual presentation is format and the way you use words.

In a study by Indianna University, Matthew Eastin looked at the credibility markers for online health information:

More recently, Rieh & Belkin (1998) identified criteria used when evaluating online information......they found that: (1) institutional sites were seen as more credible than individual sites, and (2) accuracy of content was used to assess online information. Respondents used knowledge of citations within the content and the functionality of hyperlinks as cues to evaluate the information. addition to source and link accuracy, they also recommend that users consider peer evaluation, navigability, and feedback options (i.e., email, chat room, etc.)

Academic essays sound authoritative, even if what they say is nonsense, because they are long winded and use big words. Even the length of an essay can lend credibility. For example, long Wikipedia pages appear more credible that short pages, simply by virtue of their length. Various studies in the direct marketing field appear to back this up, which is why you'll often see those long, single page sales letters. Short letters don't sell so well. "Thoroughness" either reduces anxiety in the buyer, or ehances the credibility of the seller, or most likely both.

Again, the way you use words depends on your audience. An academic approach isn't much use if people can't comprehend what you're saying. Likewise, if a an article is lightweight and flippant, it isn't going to appear to an academic community.

In The Cluetrain Manifesto, a book that looks at communication within markets in the internet age, the authors assert that markets are conversations. And that conversation is conducted in the human voice, not the cliche ridden hype language of the marketing brochure. The use of colloquial "voice" often carries a lot of credibility on the web, presumably because it signifies a human presence.

The Reef Fish Effect

People like to go where other people are.

There is perceived to be less risk in crowds. This is why Amazon's customer reviews are so powerful. People's choices are affirmed by the wisdom of the crowd. It just feels safer.

Include as many human touches as you can. Reviews from known authorities, signs of activity, signs that other people have visited your site before, and their experience has been positive. Being a known quantity makes you appear more credible.

What do you look for when trying to determine credibility?

SEO & Marketing Links of Interest

I have been saving these links up since January 21st. Time to share about 50 of them. :)

Niche SEO Guides

The Rising Commoditization of Everything But Experience

Graywolf shared this great video about the ongoing process of commoditization.

  • materials get commoditized
  • due to competition products become materials
  • customized service and personalization help create sustained value

The Fear of Success in Creative Arts

This Elizabeth Gilbert TED video talks about how to live with knowing your best work is likely behind you, which is true for many popular artists and authors.

More Search News

Yahoo! Search makes it easy to embed videos & docs with SearchMonkey.

Amazon is trying to use DMCA to block other ebooks from getting onto Kindles. Sony and Google partnered up to make 500,000 ebooks freely available on the Sony ebook reader.

Yelp was accused of extortion. Pay us or that negative review stays at the top. Lovely mafia-styled business model :)

Bryan Todd shares a powerful story about how words are powerful:

There is no such thing as right language or wrong language, good grammar or bad grammar, correct English or incorrect English. There is only language that got you want you wanted, or didn't.

Perry Marshall highlights how Google considers some businesses to be illegitimate businesses. If only they would get to the government grant stimulus ad scams.

Gab Goldenberg offers tips on online branding. Lance Loveday wrote a great article about the overlap between search and branding. In our member forums I started a thread called branding in the search channel.

George Michie explains why budgeting search is a bad idea and offered some SEM RFP questions worth asking. Generally I have avoided clients that needed an RFP because I felt they were still in the shopping phase.

Searchers have been using longer search queries.

John Andrews explained how he thought Sphinn moved on from its roots.

CJ shares some ideas for how search engines can hunt for paid links.

Joel Spolsky highlighted why you should not use Google apps for anything important. I am really hoping they never screw up my email account!

Michael Gray took a look at the influence of article directories on organic rankings.

Debra Mastaler offers a link building stimulus plan.

Rob explains how some sales techniques, particularly in social settings, work well by hiding the upsells in the price. Online if you sell a non-commodity you can make the core price higher (to increase perceived value) and then let people de-select the pieces they do not want or need.

Back in January Robert Scoble highlighted that Facebook is studying sentiment behavior.

Andrew Goodman highlighted how dumb some clever nanotargeted marketing is. Funny :)

Marissa Mayer and Eric Schmidt were on the Charlie Rose show. A couple interesting quotes...

  • from Eric - Technology has brought us closer together, but makes us more stressed.
  • from Marissa - speech to text technology on Youtube that is searchable should be around in 5 to 10 years
  • from Marissa - credit card companies know if you are going to get divoriced with 98% certainty something like 2 years ahead of time.

Eric Schmidt also suggested that as netbooks get cheaper they may subsidize them to buy marketshare.

The Economist published a story about Brewster Kahle and the idea of an open library.

Tons of great free research from FutureLab.

Seth Godin

Seth Godin riffs on the purpose of schooling, including ideas like...Teach future citizens how to conform & Teach future consumers how to desire

Here he talks about the concept behind his new book Tribes.

Danny Sullivan Highlights Google's 2 Tier Justice System

Danny highlighted how many aggregators of aggregators and content cesspools are bogusly clogging up Google's search results with sites that would be viewed as spam if the owner was not socially well connected:

You kind of feel sorry for Joe Schmoe. Build a name by once having worked for Apple or by having written a few marketing books, and you seem to get much better treatment than Joe would get if he pulled the same SEO play stunts.

Alltop, Mahalo, Squidoo -- none of them dominate Google. But seriously, Squidoo has a PR8 home page? Alltop has a PR7? Search Engine Land, which actually produces original content, sits with a PR6 -- but these guys that simply compile content from others get a big fat PR kiss on the lips?

Hey, I don't fret about PR scores. I know how meaningless they can be. But Joe Schmoe who tried to launch one of these types of sites wouldn't get any PR at all. Google would have shut them down long ago. Lesson here? To be a really successful SEO, get successful at something else, then jump into your SEO play.

Danny Sullivan is probably the only neutral reporter in the search space with a decade + of experience AND a background in traditional journalism. He is usually quite neutral, so for him to say that, you know Google is screwing up pretty bad.

If you are good at public relations you can have all the PageRank you want. Can't afford a proper public relations campaign? Have no brand equity other than being branded as an SEO? You are the scum that makes the internet a cesspool. Better luck next life!

If you can't be found you don't exist. As Google's "spam team" grows more subjective with the definition of spam (hey I know him it's not spam, never heard of him it's spam, etc.) the web loses out on its diversity. Meanwhile how about you view some great fraudulent government grant ads through AdWords.

Google's public relations team publicly lied about cleaning those fraudulent ads up.

"Our AdWords Content Policy does not permit ads for sites that make false claims, and we investigate and remove any ads that violate our policies," said Google in a statement e-mailed to ClickZ News. "We have discussed these issues with the Federal Trade Commission and reaffirmed our commitment to protecting users from scam ads."

The above LIE was quoted from an article published 3 weeks ago, but Google is still making over $10,000 a day carpet-bombing searchers with that reverse billing fraud (and probably $10,000's more on the content network).

Spam is only spam *if* the spammer is not paying Google and they are too small to fight back against the often arbitrary and injust decisions of the irrational Google engineers that "fight spam" while turning a blind eye to grant scam ads.

Pretty worthless hypocrisy, Google. Who is trying to turn the web into a cesspool full of fraudulent ads and corporate misinformation? This company:

SEM Rush Uncovered : Interview of Michael Goldfinch

I have been a big fan of the SEM Rush project since it launched, and recently interviewed their CEO, Michael Goldfinch. We discussed their software projects, and how they got into the field of SEO.

You guys have had a strong string of hits in the SEO space with SEO Digger, Ads Spy, SEO Quake, and SEM Rush. How did you guys get involved in the SEO space? What do you attribute your string of successes to?

SeoQuake Team became active in the Internet at the end of 90s, when Spedia were alive. Since then we have developed a lot of web projects. In 2000 we started doing SEO. We did SEO for Altavista and NorthernLight. Happy times they were! I remember that we made pages with enough keywords and after entering captcha got top1 immediately. After that we worked for different companies (SEO and web-developing).

SeoQuake and SeoDigger are public products and they make a small share of our work. SeoQuake Team made them public to demonstrate its ability to develop such products. SeoQuake and SeoDigger are extremely popular for a reason: they are helpful, user-friendly, and affordable. They are innovative and developed with users’ needs in mind.

So you guys have created a pretty cool tool in SEM Rush. What made you guys decide to create it?

In summer of 2008, after the shy start of, we were playing with different ideas of AdWords keywords research, AdWords arbitrage and competitors’ keywords. And when we found out that Velocityscape plan to launch their new version of Spyfu we launched SEMRush. This was a nice joke, I suppose. When we saw PPC web spy – we just integrate SEMRush AdWords data into SeoQuake =)

When you guys created SEM Rush you closed down SEO Digger. Is there any reason you didn't do a 301 redirect during the transition? What made you feel that a new brand was needed after SEO Digger was already so well known amongst the SEO community?

SeoDigger has not been closed yet. API access for all registered users is still active :) We plan to close it after the integration with Market Samurai is finished. We gave a new name to the project to emphasize its novelty. Besides, the product value is more important for us, then its name.

How hard is it to crawl and update that much data from Google? Do you guys need a lot of beefy servers to grab all that data and serve it up?

It can be really difficult for anyone except Google, but we like this problem. With some relevant experience it becomes not so hard. Without going into details of the technology I have to say that a lot of developers do not bother with their codes and databases optimization, and therefore, they need large server farms. Instead of this we use a lot of C++. Also we use new technologies – SSD (solid-state drives) on servers and so on. Of course we have a number of servers in different data-centers to monitor Google and other search engines geo-targeted SERPs.

Recently Google tested showing AJAX search results to some searchers. If they roll out such a program will you guys still be able to gather all that great data?

We have not tested it yet. But I believe that SEMRush will be still working. Google can block all their analyzers, but why would they do that? Such tools help advertisers, SEOs, and other people working in the web. They make Google AdWords more popular. In addition, I suppose that Ajax-SERP is interesting for geeks, not for mass users.

One of the most interesting SEM Rush features (that I have not seen in any other competitive research tools) is the ability to cross compare the organic rankings for one site and the AdWords ads for another site. What gave you guys the idea to do that?

Our programmer far away in Siberia did this on his own without being asked. The team decided to leave it “as is” :) We like this feature and we plan to improve it.

SEM Rush does a break down of the value of each ranking. What statistics do you use to determine the difference between say a #3 and a #5 ranking?

SEMRush use open statistics about CTR dependence of URL’s position in SERP. in addition it uses statistics from our own sites.

You guys created a list of some of the most valuable and high traffic domains with great organic Google rankings. Have you guys thought about putting together a list of the most valuable keywords as well?

Now everybody sells “expensive” keywords, “huge” keywords databases, “profitable” keywords lists etc. SeoQuake Team is going to sell more valuable information – domains related to top adwords spenders! Full version of SEMRush rank will be available soon. You will be able to download lists of high organic traffic domains (with stats) and lists with high adwords traffic domains (with traffic and costs details). I think this info is really important to SEO firms and adwords professionals.

There is a version of SEM Rush for the German market and one for the Russian market. Are these both primarily based on Google rankings? Are there any other similar tools that serve these markets, or are you guys first to market in these markets? Have you guys considered making a French version and/or a UK version?

Yes. We made them to simplify and analysis. As you know Keywordspy try to do this for German, and nobody do this for Russian version of Google. (German version of SEMRush ) is still beta for today. There are some problems with keywords traffic estimation for local markets, because there are no accurate stats for German, Uk of French keywords. As you can see there is no enough geo-stats about these keywords at even Google Keyword Tool. And there is a problem in sorting keywords database: you can easily detect specific keywords, but what should you do with universal keywords like cnn? We try to make accurate keywords packs for local markets and we are open to cooperation with anyone who can give us this information.

What are some of the most interesting ways people have used SEM Rush to boost their business?

SEMrush users don’t report us about their success, because the silence is golden. I can only say that for last month our users performed 1.5 million different queries for Google AdWords and organic keywords reports for different sites.

Do you guys have any other new analytics tools or other SEO related tools in the works?

Our users keep giving us tons of great ideas and we generate a lot of them too. So we constantly develop different tools – quite simple ones and I’d rather not discuss them now, because they are not ready yet. When we launch them – you will notice it, my promise! One of them will be for brands analysis. This is not only SEO, but we believe this is interesting too.

Do you guys plan on adding support for subdomains (like seeing the subdomains as their own site)?

We recognize top-level domains using this list SEMRush already supports reports for URLs and for domains. Correct recognition of subdomains is a problem. There are no rules about what is the subdomain – different site or just a site’s directory. Some other day we will solve this problem, not today.


Thanks Michael. Check out SEM Rush if you would like to learn more about their new competitive research tool. You may also want to check out our review from when SEM Rush launched.

'Professional' Content vs Content Actually Worth Reading

Some media executives are bitching about Google ranking blogs and sites not controlled by the mainstream media. Of course Google has been tilting their algorithms in the direction of brands, and even includes trusted news partners directly in the search results for recent news items. But that is not enough to make bloated media companies profitable.

"The original source, and the source with real access, should somehow be recognized as the most important in the delivery of results."

Google subsidizes these media companies with additional exposure by

  • weighting domain authority
  • giving them first mover advantage in the search rankings (through direct inclusion of recent news results in the organic search results)
  • featuring their content (yet again) in their news search product
  • favoring informational content over commercial content

If a big business has "real access" and yet loses out to people rewriting the story, it means the original source did one (or more) of the following

  • did a pretty crummy job of reporting
  • did a pretty crummy job of SEO
  • erected barriers that made them not linkworthy
  • fought off niche brands with a generic brand that does not resonate as well with the market

Google could give these media companies almost 100% of the search traffic and many would still go bankrupt because their business models simply do not fit the web. Online ad rates are lower, most of the media infrastructure is unneeded bloat, and individuals and brands are starting to create their own media.

When I click the publish button, 10's of thousands of people will read this post. Its not your fault or my fault that big media was too lazy to create niche brands offering relevant regularly updated content.

Ironically, the quote from AdAge, begging for coverage of the original source, did not have a name on it. You can quote it, but there is no source. These clowns whine about something and are not willing to put their names behind their own words. Maybe that has something to do with why people would rather read elsewhere.

This is the same media that pushed the bogus Iraq war, laughed and joked about those errors (while people were still dying), and missed the financial terrorism occurring back home. Why again is the original source more important than those who dig a bit deeper and add further context?

If the relevancy algorithms are your enemy, then maybe your work is no longer relevant.

Maybe they can work on stuff that matters.

Corporate SEO

link profile seen as a whole

corporate seo is largely about trimming away the fats and leveraging the assets you already have. and perhaps limited link buying. ;)

The corporate SEO faces a number of challenges, many of which are to do with procedure and diplomacy. We'll take a look at these challenges and how to handle them. We'll also look at the specific technical aspects of SEO on corporate sites, and the strategic advantages particular to corporate sites.

Big Obstacles, Big Opportunities

The biggest obstacles in corporate SEO are political.

Corporate sites usually have a team of people working on them. There are a number of stakeholders. These stakeholders consist of managers, related divisions, designers, developers, content producers and writers. There will often be people who will be openly hostile to a change in the way they work. Many of these people may be unfamiliar with search engines and their requirements.

Into this environment walks the SEO.

No matter what, you're going to ruffle a few feathers! How do you deal with the myriad of demands and internal politics?

Get Management Buy In

The first step to achieving good SEO outcomes within an organizational structure is to get management buy-in. Think of internal managers as customers.

Given that management have probably already hired you, getting their buy in should be relatively straightforward. Management will want to see facts, figures and strategies that support the business case. Prepare presentations that demonstrate your proposed strategy, how it supports the business case, how long it will take to achieve, and what your measures of success will be.

What type of facts and figures will they want to see?

1. Show the benefit you provide above the cost of hiring you

If they've hired a full-time inhouse SEO, it's most likely they've already done this calculation, but it doesn't hurt to reinforce it.

For example, let's say they're paying you 50K per year. Overhead for employees is likely 50% of the wage figure again. Can you come up with a business case that shows how you'll provide more than $75K in value per year? You don't need to state this figure explicitly, merely place a ballpark value on your strategy.

Value can be difficult to assess, but you can look at what they're spending on PPC and compare. If they're not spending on PPC, examine the keyword bid prices in tools such as the Google Adwords Pricing calculator. Estimate the value of the keyword terms and traffic you're likely to receive for your SEO campaign.

Try to find out the business plan. What are the companies objectives? What are the objectives of the division? How are they measured? Businesses often have KPIs - which stands for Key Performance Indicators. Find out what these are, and fit your strategy to these metrics.
The very fact you're asking for these details will likely impress those who have hired you.

2. Show Where The Site Is Now, And Where They Can Be With Good SEO

Demonstrate the position they occupy now, and show where you can get them to *if* your strategy is followed. Prepare charts of current rankings, traffic levels, conversion rates, and overall market trends.

Here's an example business case template you can follow:

  • Background - why SEO is useful
  • The costs of SEO - the cost to the organization of not doing SEO
  • The benefits to the company of SEO - focus on the business benefits
  • Why the organization needs SEO - show competitive advantage potential, decreased advertising costs, increased exposure etc
  • General Principles of SEO - stay broad and high level, avoid technical minutiae
  • Recommended scope and objectives of your SEO strategy
  • Risks - outline the conditions that will prevent you from executing your strategy
  • Cost of your SEO strategy - include any external costs, such as directory submissions, paid placement etc
  • Projected cost/benefit analysis for the organization - compare with other advertising channels, such as PPC
  • Measurement, outcomes, milestones and evaluation - set your KPIs
  • Anticipated overall results- also include a timeframe

What pushes managements buttons? Is it traffic numbers? Is it seeing the company top of the search results? Is it increased sales? It might be a combination of these things. Nail - in writing - what it is they really want to see delivered, then figure out how to deliver it.

3. Show Them What Their Competitors Are Doing

Is there a competitor who is doing well with their SEO? Prepare facts and figures that show where your company is being outgunned. There is nothing managers, particularly marketing managers, like less than being outgunned by their competitors. If the competitors are using good SEO strategy, you can use this as justification for your strategy.

One objection you may hear is that the company is already running PPC. So why do they need SEO? Impress upon them that most people click on the main search results. SEO clicks are "free", especially over the long term.

Also, a study by IProspect showed that top search results can result in brand equity for the highly ranked sites:

Finally, it continues to be apparent that brand equity is conveyed upon companies whose
digital assets appear among the top search results by roughly a third of the search
engine users. In 2008, 39% of search engine users believe that the companies whose
websites are returned among the top search results are the leaders in their field. This
figure has grown from 36% in 2006, and 33% in 2002

Once your strategy is agreed to, you should have the backup you'll need to undertake the hard part.

Convincing The Minions

Various people within the web team need to buy into SEO in order for it to work.

Some companies locate their web team in their IT division, others place their web team in their marketing division. Often, these two business units share ownership of the strategy. It is important to determine which division has the most control, especially over aspects such as site structure, content production, and overall strategy. Get buy-in from the appropriate management team.

Look to establish rapport with, and train, the various people who occupy the following roles.

1. The Manager/Team Leader

You must have buy-in from the person with the most control over the business unit responsible for web strategy.

Managers tend to respond well to anything that helps them achieve departmental goals.Look for areas synergy exists. For example, marketing managers often have traffic goals, and similar visitor metric milestones. Show them how SEO will help meet those objectives.

This is why it is important to frame SEO in business terms, rather than purely a technical process.

2. The Designer

The designers are responsible for the look and feel of the site. They are probably also be responsible for site architecture. Architecture and design are two areas where you are likely to experience a lot of push-back.

There is good reason for this.

What is good for SEO may not be good for users or brand aesthetics. This area needs to be carefully balanced. If the designers think the SEO is compromising the look, feel and operation of the site, then you're not going to get very far, no matter how good your intentions are.

If your designers are familiar with usability, and good designers will be, you're in luck. There are a lot of usability integration points that work for users, designers and SEOs. For example, breadcrumb navigation can be great for usability and SEO, as it allows for the propagation of keywords, and provides strong internal link structure.

Are their disability access laws that the company must comply with? Depending on your legal jurisdiction, there may be disability discrimination laws in regards to access, and these can apply to websites. For example, Target were the subject of a legal case brought about by the National Federation Of The Blind.

The lawsuit alleged that Target had not made the minimum changes necessary to its Web site to make the site compatible with screen access technology and to allow blind users to access the site to purchase products, redeem gift cards, find Target stores, and perform other functions available to sighted customers.

In order to comply, sites need to provide equal access for those with impairments. If a person is visually impaired, then compliance may mean that the site must be able to be read by a text-to-speech converter in order to be accessible. Of course, any site that can be used and navigated with a text browser will also be search engine friendly. This can be a good angle to use if the law in your jurisdiction supports it, and you are otherwise having problems convincing the designers - and managers - to make a site more search engine friendly.

Also be on the lookout for other areas that require little change and provide natural synergies.

These areas include:

3. Writers & Content Producers

The writers provide the words. The content producers may provide video, pictures, and other media. You'll probably be dealing mostly with the writers.

Writers, especially if they have been writing professionally for a long time, can be very set in their ways. Writers schooled in journalistic or copy writing techniques use methods that predate internet search engines, and often the internet itself. Old habits die hard.

The problem with such writing is that it may not incorporate keyword terms in the right places - particularly headings - or in the frequency you require. Communicating this concept can be difficult, especially with journalists, who like things presented in terms they can understand, usually within a sentence or two.

Avoid terminology. Talk in their terms, not yours. Look for similar concepts and use the journalists terminology to describe them. For example, both journalists and SEOs know the power of headlines. Go for clarity and be descriptive, as opposed to being generic. Both write in an inverted pyramid, top-down style i.e. the most important facts - and keywords - are likely to appear at the top of the article. Both quote sources i.e. an opportunity for keywords within a link. And so on.

Align their goals with yours. Show writers how much potential traffic there is out there and how keyword research can be used to suggest article topics and title ideas. Show them that by following a few SEO principles, they can get more readers reading their articles. Writers often have communications objectives i.e. to achieve wider reach and exposure, so there might be some obvious, natural synergies to be had. All writers have egos, and like to have their articles widely read.

Check out this tactic, used by Rudy De La Garza Jr at BankRate Inc to help convince writers to adopt SEO practices:

At Bankrate, Mr. De La Garza showed editorial employees that, for some articles, deciding on about 10 main keywords before writing could help increase their number of page views. Writers were already vying for bragging rights to the most popular articles. He told them: "You know what, guys? If we apply a few SEO tactics here, I can help you win the weekly battle," he says.

Writers need to research topics. I've often found writers to be very receptive to SEO data mining techniques i.e. the frequency of keyword searches. Show them how keyword research can be a good way to research topics for articles. They can ensure they are writing on popular themes, or can twist their copy a little in order to tap into search streams.

4. The Developer

The developers are responsible for the technical aspects of the website.

Developers are often located in IT, yet you rely on them to perform a marketing function. Developers tend to work on specific projects. This can cause a conflict with the SEO, whos job is very much a work in progress.

Try to embed SEO into the development process. Developers usually work to a brief or requirements document, so include SEO where appropriate. Look for any design specifications that will affect SEO and get these sorted out before the developer starts coding.

One area that is likely to present problems is the structure of URLs. A developer doesn't care if the URL is long and unwieldy. It's probably never been cited as a problem before. Ensure the document specifies a URL structure and site hierarchy that gels with SEO i.e. descriptive, unique file names and a clear, flat directory structure. If the site has already been built, look into rewriting existing URLs.

Some of the marketing advantages include:

  • The URLs look nicer and will likely get clicked on more often
  • The URLs will provide better anchor text if people use the URLs as the link anchor text
  • If you later change CMS programs having core clean URLs associated with content make it easier to mesh that content with the new CMS
  • The benefit Google espouses for dynamic URLs (Googlebot being able to stab more random search attempts into a search box) is only beneficial if your site structure is poor and/or you have way more pagerank than content (like a wikipedia or techcrunch)

Developers will be aware of the need for site response speed. They need to ensure the site is crawlable. This job has been made somewhat easier, of late, given the introduction of Google Site Maps.

There might be various coding practices that can be changed in order to enhance SEO. For example, try replacing JavaScript behaviors, particularly for menus, with CSS techniques. Are there other coding aspects that could be enhanced? It might provide an opportunity for the developer to train in new technologies. I've yet to meet a developer who didn't want to learn new ways of coding. It all adds to their CV.

5. Legal

In big companies, copy is usually run past legal before any changes are made. Lawyers, as a profession, are typically risk adverse. This can play havoc with SEO strategies, especially edgy, link baiting SEO designed to attract links!

The only way to deal with this is to look for clear guidelines from legal in advance of implementing content strategies. Legal will almost certainly take precedence over SEO as companies look to protect their downside risk. On the bright side, the content of a page - especially if one or two words are changed - isn't going to make or break an SEO strategy.

SEO Best Practices For Corporates

In any change process, there are a lot of retraining that needs to be done. SEO is no exception.

The more people who understand what you do, and how and why you're doing it, the easier your job will be. There is no one way of achieving this, other than to communicate as often as possible. Look at training others as being a big part of your job, and something that should be done on an ongoing basis.

Once you've got people onside, you need to start building procedures into the work-flow itself.

Get a copy of the web site life-cycle and all documents relating to procedure, process and specification. Amend all documents to include SEO requirements into the process. Highlight all areas that present a risk, and make notes about the consequences of not mitigating these risks. With any amendment to process, there will likely be meetings in which you'll need to justify these chances, so come prepared.

An example of a change of process might be:

When publishing new articles, writers should search for existing articles, and link to them in the related articles section

Look for ways that will make your changes easy to incorporate. For the example above, have the designers build a "Related Articles" section into the template, so the requirement of internal linking becomes a natural part of the article creation process.

Here are some broad requirements, listed beneath each job function:

Wider Strategy

Big, corporate sites have advantages that small sites do not. Let's look at a few aspects, and how you can leverage them.

Brand Awareness

Corporate sites often have established brand awareness.

Lets consider Internal politics aside, getting more search exposure for such a ubiquitous brand, with a PR8, would be a cakewalk. It would simply be a case of ensuring the site is crawlable, the directory structure was well organized, and that keyword rich content was added on a regular basis.

However, if we take a close look at the CocaCola site, we can see that if they use SEO at all, it is most likely losing out to internal politics. If we do a site query, we can see that they don't have many pages indexed. Around 350, most of which are regional versions of the site.The title tagging is poor. There is a lot of uncrawlable flash, and the site architecture isn't conducive to SEO. Does any of this matter? Probably not. Coke will sell a lot of soft drink regardless. However, they are throwing away a cheap win in terms of internet marketing by not being more search focused. It would be a major failure for any corporate site that sells direct to the consumer, like an online retailer.

These well-known sites need to mainly focus on internal factors. The external factors are well established.

Some big brands don't have great linking. Perhaps no one has ever considered external linking to be important. Getting links for well known sites is relatively easy. Ask suppliers and customers for links. News media, particularly trade media and business media, will likely be interested in news releases from your company. If you have a PR division, make sure they are using optimized PR templates that include links back to your site. Leverage the extensive network of relationships that corporates usually have.

Make use of sales. Sales people typically have contacts throughout the industry, and these contacts can be useful when it comes to linking. Think of things you can give the customer, in order to help the sales people make a sale, or deepen the existing relationship they have with them. For example, can you profile customers on your site? A customer may welcome a case study that shows them in a good light, and they'll almost certainly link to it.

Get Offline Data Online

Big companies usually have a wealth of data stored on internal networks. Try to get as much of this as possible onto the web site. Obviously, data that is commercially sensitive can't be made public, but there is likely a lot of material that can be marked up and published.

Marketing departments often don't consider such data because they're thinking of the web site as a brochure. However, the more content you have, especially if your site is well linked, the more chances you'll get search engine visitors. If this type of content doesn't support the brand objectives, place it an area of the site that isn't visited by people who don't arrive via search engines. Perhaps create a general information section.


Corporates often sponsor events. Make sure the organizations your company sponsors link back to you. Have your PR people write up search friendly press releases and leverage these events for all they're worth.

Further Reading

New SEO Tools

Get Listed is a cool tool for seeing how your website looks in local search, and to aid you in submitting your site to local search engines.

Wordtracker announced they will be launching a new version of their keyword tool soon.

FairShare helps you track scrapers publishing your content.

WebReader makes it easy for people to click a button that makes your blog speech enabled.

Wiep highlighted a new link building and public relations tool called BuzzStream.

SEOmoz announced they retooled their backlink anchor text analysis tool using their Linkscape data, which they also released an API for.

Majestic SEO created a neighboring sites search.

Wolfram Alpha is to launch in May as an answer engine. I predict that launch strategy will create branding issues (like not being able to outsource the blame for their poor algorithms onto spammers - like Google does) but if the tool is decent it might be a great tool to use when researching content generation ideas. The new CashKeywords toolbar also looks quite useful for researching content ideas.

In January Google started offering a new, more-advanced sitemap generator, and made Jaiku (a Twitter-like tool) open source.

Mozilla is testing collecting usage data to create open research, hopefully they don't pull an AOL with the data though.

Some developers are creating new tools to analyze Wikipedia.

Guide To Local Search SEO

Local search, meaning geographically defined searching, provides a wealth of cheap and effective marketing opportunities. Not only is it possible to segment audiences by location, the SEO competition in geographically constrained areas is lower than in generic searches. If you have a service or product with a strong local component, then adopting a local SEO strategy can pay off handsomely.

Whilst local search has been slow to catch on, things are changing quickly, especially with the advent of "location aware" devices, such as iPhones, and the new marketing opportunities they present.

In this document, we'll take a look at local SEO, and provide you with specific, geographic strategies to help enhance your visibility on a local level.

The Growing Importance Of Maps

In 2005, Google introduced a free local mapping service called "Google Maps". Yahoo also has a map product, as does MSN. Whilst there are numerous map providers, these online services took mapping one step further by integrating data in order to make maps more useful. No longer was a map a static page, it was now a personal, interactive navigation tool that can plot how you get from place to place, show you where the local restaurants are, tell what people thought of them, and more.

These interactive maps provide valuable opportunities for online marketing in the local space.

Firstly, these maps services provide businesses with the opportunity to claim a space on a map, and it is free to do so.

Secondly, Google is starting to integrate maps into the search result listings. It is now possible to be featured at the top of Google without even having a site. You simply have to list with the mapping services, and chances are you'll be featured in local search result listings.

For example, let's take a look for "hairdressers near Beverly Hills, CA"

The first two results are local directory pages. The third is a Google Map. The sites listed alongside the eye-catching map occupy lucrative screen real estate, and all they did to get there was claim their place.

In order to claim your place on a map, follow these steps:

Google Maps

1.Go to the Google Local Business Center and sign up
2. Fill out the forms
3. Validate your listing by phone, SMS, or mail.

Yahoo Local

1. Go to the Yahoo Local sign-in page.
2. Fill out the form.
3. Wait :)

These services also allow reviews, so ask your friends and colleges to write a review on you.

You can also use to check your local visibility. This service will tell you if you're listed in various local search services, and prompt you to register for those services in which your site doesn't currently appear.

Local Strategies

Local SEO strategies are much the same as general SEO strategies, the obvious difference being the local component. You still need to cover the bases - produce on-topic content, be crawlable and well linked. Simply add some local flavor, and you will show up in local searches, too.

Local Business Listings, Hub, Chamber of Commerce

Make a list of all relevant local business hubs, chambers of commerce, and other organizations. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a business federation representing millions of businesses, both large and small, and you can find your local branch by searching this site.

Look for members directories. For example, the Seattle Chamber of Commerce has a directory located here. Often, you only need be a signed-up member in order to qualify for a listing.

Yellow Page, CitySearch, SuperPages & Local Directories

Get listings in local business directories.

These types of sites usually have sufficient levels of authority to rank new pages quickly, meaning any listing you have on such a site will get you near-instant visibility in the search results. Some of these sites will will also pass link juice to your site. Ensure you submit in the local-specific categories, as opposed to the general categories.

A word of warning: unless you have sufficient link authority, the directory pages might outrank your own site, so if outranking your directory entries is a priority for you, it is a good idea to build up your own link authority first.

Local Identifiers

Include local identification data on your site, such as local phone numbers, addresses, and zip codes. Use standard nomenclature.

If possible, try to include this information in the footer of every page of your site. This will ensure each page you create has at least some local keywords, which will help catch local searches.

Ask Customers, Suppliers & Partners For Links

Customers, suppliers and partners can be a great source of links. It's even better if they have a local presence.

Appear In Local Media

Do you have a story with a local angle? Small, regional papers and websites are often short of local material, so will jump at stories handed to them on a plate. Make sure you ask for a link.

Also issue locally focused press releases using services, such as PRWeb. Use local keywords in your press release title, and spread liberally through your copy. Link back to your site.

Adwords For Local Searches Are Cheap

Google Adwords and other PPC services allow local targeting i.e. the ads only appear if the searcher is in the local region.

Google allows you to target by:

  • Any zip code, metropolitan area, state, or country
  • A radius near your business
  • A radius near a point on a Google Map
  • The defined coordinates of any polygon you enter
  • Any combination of the above

Google also offers a Local Ad Preview tool to show what ads will appear on search results in different areas.

You can also use it to get an idea of the size of your local market. Run a test campaign for a week or so and determine the number of local searches against a range of keyword terms. This information can flow through into your SEO campaign when you choose which keyword terms to focus on.

Google also offers the AdWords Local Plus Box. The Local PlusBox is a feature that displays more geographical information for a local business ad that appears in the top position above Google search results. When users see the Local PlusBox and click on it, the ad expands to include a map, address, driving instructions, and phone number, in addition to the location name that appears beneath the last line of ad.

By running both SEO and PPC campaigns side by side, you occupy more screen real estate, and have a higher likelihood of receiving a click.

Mix Keyword Text With Location Information

Include local keywords in your body copy, headings and title tags. Use the Google keyword tool to give you ideas as to what keywords Google associates with certain regions.

For example, if I type in Wisconsin into the Google Keyword Research Tool , and scroll down to "Additional keywords to consider", I get a list of related keyword terms sorted by relevance. Incorporate as many of these associated keywords as applicable. Google is likely to associate these terms with each other, so the more of these terms and variations that appear on your page, the more relevant you're likely to become in the eyes of Google.

Google Coupons

Google coupon feeds enable businesses to provide coupon listings that will be included in Google search results. You can create a Google coupon feed here.

These coupons will show alongside Google Map listings, and they are free. At the time of writing, the take-up of Google Coupons is quite low, possibly because it isn't well known yet, so grab this opportunity while it lasts.

Syndicate Your Content

Are there any local blogs or sites that may host your articles? Offer to make guest postings. Search Google for your chosen local keyword terms and see what sites come up. If you can get your content on to any of the top sites, you will get both the traffic and a highly desirable link.

In return, the well ranked site gets free, unique content. Win-win.

Linked In & Social Media

Get listed with LinkedIn and other business contacts services. It is free, and LinkedIn pages often rank well in the results listings. Leverage your contacts, engage with people, and ask them for links. Personal networking is a much more affective way to get links than anonymous approaches via email.

Also get a profile in FaceBook and any other social media site where your customers might hang out.


Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Wikipedia use a no-follow tag, so is unlikely to pass link juice, however Wikipedia pages do rank highly, which provides an easy opportunity to get seen.

Navigate to local pages and, if appropriate, add your link. You can even add body text if your business or service is relevant to the topic of the page.

A word of warning: Wikipedia users can be hostile to marketing and advertising. Given that anyone can change the content of Wikipedia, blatant marketing pitches won't last very long. Try a factual, informational angle instead. For example, write an article on local history or points of interest.

Email Signatures

Ensure your email signature and forum tag lines contain local address and contact data. Sometimes forum and blog posts will pass link juice, and that link will appear alongside local keywords.

Sponsor Local Events And Sites

Are there local events you could sponsor? How about local school sports teams or clubs? Often, small local events don't cost a lot to support, and the link value alone could be considerable.

Try To Include Specifics In Your Business Name

If you haven't decided on a business name, try and include a service description in the name itself. For example, a photography business called Elite could name themselves "Elite Wedding Photography" for the purposes of directory listings. If you can get the keyword in the link text, you increase your chances of ranking for that term.

Also, small businesses often don't have the brand recognition, so explicitly describing what you do can make your offering clearer to potential customers.

Optimizing for Multiple Locations

If you cover a number of regions, it can be a good idea to dedicate a section to each region, rather than trying to cover a multitude of regions on one page. Each page should be optimized for one, specific local query.

What are your most important referrals? Perhaps people who search on your local town end up becoming customers, where those who search on a state do not.

Try to figure out which group of searches result in the most business. Assign a value to the traffic, either by monitoring conversion rates, or counting the volume. Then focus your site on those visitors.

If you site was going broad - say, targeting a big region like California - you might want to hone in on your town instead, especially town search traffic turns out to be the most valuable. For example, a real estate agent who lives and works in San Clemente is probably better off focusing on keywords relating to San Clemente, as opposed to the whole of California, which she can't possibly service. It's also a lot easier to do in terms of SEO. A few links, some on-topic copy and a Google Map entry might be all that's required in order to get rankings and drive traffic.

Your home page is usually the most likely to rank, so ensure the title, content and tags target the specific local traffic that gives you the most bang for your buck. Move your most valuable content, in terms of visitor value, as close to the home page as possible - one click away, if possible.

If you target multiple areas, you could create a series of subdomains i.e by State, and each subdomain only contains information pertaining to that state.

Resources & Further Reading

Links & Relationships vs the 'Social' Media Monster

John Andrews highlighted how the narcissistic "social" media platforms are in many ways replacing links

The players producing platforms are manipulating the currency that they see those platforms aggregate — which is mostly links. As you type type type your content into Twitter or or Wikipedia you are fueling the coffers of an elite group of benefactors, and if they continue to manipulate the open web, we lose the “free” benefits of our world wide web. They used to encourage you to sign onto their systems, but now they need you. We’re not linking because our tools don’t make it easy enough to express our linking selves. Those who make the flexible tools today do so for personal gains, not the betterment of the web, and so they manage the linking. Greed is the new black.

If enough such platforms keep growing then Google will have to evolve their algorithms to look beyond links, placing significant weight on other factors and/or some nofollowed links.

A while ago I mentioned how Twitter was pulling blog links away from bloggers (lowering the ROI of blogging from super explosive to only explosive). This trend is not only spoke about in the SEO industry, but is starting to receive coverage in broader channels. Brian Solis recently mentioned this trend, noting that many of the top blogs are seeing lower link counts in Technorati. People would rather write about their status than spend the effort needed to digest and compile something deeper.

Since more links are occurring on networks like Twitter that will lead to a rise of tools like BackTweets. Until the search relevancy algorithms evolve more, we need to look for ways to encourage as much conversation as possible to happen on independent websites. How do we do that? I have a few ideas, but would love to read some of yours first. :)

Hyperlinks Subvert Hierarchy

One of the first books I read about the web which really helped me understand the culture of the web and the concept of the web as a social network was the Cluetrain Manifesto. In it, David Weinberger stated "hyperlinks subvert hierarchies," a concept that helps explain a lot of the chaos in the current world.

The staggering rate of change and seeing cracks in imperfect structures makes us more likely to question authority. Fear slows down economic activity but it also creates the conditions to help speed up change through creative destruction, as insolvent structures crumble and are replaced by thousands and millions of online experiments ran in parallel due to forced entrepreneurship. As Clay Shriky puts it:

That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place.

Each link creates a new opportunity, which in turn creates new opportunities, giving our social nervous system many senses. And the web is just getting started. Watch this Tim Berners-Lee video and try to predict the future of the web. You can't do it.

As the web grows (and grows smarter) two of the biggest risks are machines learning too much about us (through spying on our browsing habits) and proprietary databases that lock away pieces of our culture while surfacing other favorable pieces (the divisions could be nationalistic, idealistic, or commercially driven - like "brands" that we are apparently "hard wired" to). For both of those reasons, Google's market dominance scares me.

On the above video by Tim Berners-Lee, Ralph Tegtmeier wrote the following

As long as we don't seriously do something about protecting people from the very abuse of their personal data (more often than not linked without their express acquiescence), we're merrily lighting the fuse to a humungous collective powder keg. (And it's really not helpful at all shrugging such concerns off with pejorative epitheta such as "tin foil hat", "conspiracy theories" etc. as is so common across the board.

Let's never forget that all the major atrocities committed in "civilized" countries ever since the 19th century, ranging from genocide to mass destruction, ethnic cleansings, wars, the holocaust etc. were only as scalable as they eventually proved to be because of just that: "linked data" ruthlessly leveraged and deployed by those who could get their hands on it.

Think about how distributed (and targeted) ad based business models work in a republic / quasi-democracy. Buy ads that change the opinion of couple percent of people and you change the course of a country, and perhaps the course of civilization. Think about how well Google intends to know your flaws, and sell them off to the highest bidder in any medium they can:

users that spend a long time bartering instead of stealing in a game may suggests that they are interested in the best deals rather than the flashiest items so the system may show ads reflecting value. As another example, users that spend a lot of time exploring suggest that they maybe interested in vacations, so the system may show ads for vacations. As another example, users that spend a lot of time chatting instead of fighting or performing other activities in online games suggest that they like to chat, so the system may show ads for cell phones, ads for long distance plans, chat messengers, etc.
The dialogue could indicate that the player is aggressive, profane, polite, literate, illiterate, influenced by current culture or subculture, etc. Also decisions made by the players may provide more information such as whether the player is a risk taker, risk averse, aggressive, passive, intelligent, follower, leader, etc. This information may be used and analyzed in order to help select and deliver more relevant ads to users.

And while we are being profiled, pieces of our culture are being locked up via anti-competitive agreements. Richard Sarnoff, the chairman of the Association of American Publishers, noted how they were hoodwinked in a deal with the devil:

Sarnoff also speculated that … [l]egal hurdles may make it infeasible for any other firms to build a search engine comparable to Google Book Search.

Many power structures that are being killed off by the web are the walking wounded, making deals that are rational only when paired against death. And we are stuck living with the consequences of those decisions.

With Google being so profit driven they are leaving room for a pure search play, if only someone that got branding, marketing, and the web would step up. I hope Rich Skrenta (or anyone) provides real competition to Google soon, before spying is seen as respectable and too much of our culture gets locked up in exclusive deals.

SEO For Affiliates

link profile seen as a whole

Affiliate marketing is a business model whereby the marketer is paid a commission based on the products or services they help to sell.

Typically, a merchant provides the billing, the stock, the handling, and the customer service function, whereas the affiliate finds the buyers, and directs them to the merchant's site.

This business model is a natural fit for search marketers. The search marketer need only get the traffic by way of search rankings or PPC, and the profits come flooding in.

That's the theory, anyway.

The reality is that most affiliate marketers aren't making much, if anything. You'll find thousands of e-books promising instant riches by way of affiliate marketing, however the people making the money tend to be the people selling the books!

In this guide, we'll show you how affiliate marketing really works. We'll look at the nature of the game, the obstacles, and the SEO techniques and strategies you can use to create profitable and defensible revenue streams.

History Of Affiliate Marketing

Commission selling and revenue sharing is nothing new. It pre-dates the internet. However, unlike off-line equivalents, the internet version requires little active selling effort on the part of the affiliate, other than placing internet-based advertising. Needless to say, affiliate marketing on the internet took off quickly.

According to Wikipedia,

"The consensus of marketers and adult industry insiders is that Cybererotica was either the first or among the early innovators in affiliate marketing with a cost per click program.[2] During November 1994, CDNOW launched its BuyWeb program. With this program CDNOW was the first non-adult website to introduce the concept of an affiliate or associate program with its idea of click-through purchasing. CDNOW had the idea that music-oriented websites could review or list albums on their pages that their visitors may be interested in purchasing. These websites could also offer a link that would take the visitor directly to CDNOW to purchase the albums."

How Affiliate Programs Work

Most affiliate programs work like this:

  • A visitor arrives at a site run by an affiliate
  • visitor clicks on a link that leads to the merchants site
  • the lead is identified as belonging to the affiliate by way of a tracking code, a cookie, or URL referral
  • if the visitor then buys a product or service, the affiliate receives a commission

Another common model involves capturing sales leads, and then selling them on to a merchant i.e. mortgage applications.

The benefit to the merchant is a low-risk sales channel. The merchant only has to pay the affiliate if a visitor buys something, or qualifies as a genuine lead.

Therefore, most of the risk in affiliate marketing lies with the affiliate. The affiliate must buy or earn the traffic, but will only make any money if the traffic actually converts into a buyer or a lead.

How To Become An Affiliate

Becoming an affiliate is, in most cases, easy. You fill out a form and you're good to go.

Incidentally, we have one of our own :)

The hard part is getting high quality visitor traffic. A lot of people are fighting for that same traffic, which means it is going to require time, effort and cost to acquire. In order to make a successful business out of being an affiliate, you need to get traffic at a lower cost than you can "sell" it.

Let's take a look at a PPC approach to illustrate the affiliate business model:

  • You sign up for an affiliate program
  • You choose a product to market
  • You place PPC ads on Google Adwords for $.50 cents per click
  • These PPC ads lead to your landing page
  • The landing page contains your affiliate link, leading to the merchant site
  • If the visitor buys, you make a commission of $100.00

If you bought one hundred clicks at .50 cents, your cost of advertising was $50. Your affiliate payment is $100. Therefore, your profit is $50. If you can repeat this automated feat a few hundred times per day, you'll soon be driving that new Ferrari.

The problem is, of course, that many other affiliates, and the merchants themselves, are doing likewise. This drives up the cost of the clicks and reduces the margin available to the affiliate. Typically, affiliates have little or no control over the margins they can attach to the products or services of the merchant.

The PPC marketers tend to work on slim margins and high volumes. Those who can do high volumes tend to have more leverage with their merchants in terms of margin. Another barrier for the new entrant is that PPC accounts, like Adwords, build up a credibility history, which can give high volume players lower prices.

SEO Tactics And Techniques

Unlike PPC, SEO doesn't involve a cost per click charge. Therefore, if an SEO can rank pages, s/he stands to make significant margins. The SEO still has competition from other SEOs chasing the same rankings, but it is harder for new entrants to unseat the SEOs positions, as often happens in PPC.

There are a number of different ways to approach SEO affiliate marketing, from building a site consisting of a merchants product inventory, to building a comparison shopping site, a review site, or simply creating a collection of on-topic landing pages.

In choosing your approach, it pays to keep one thing in mind:

Google doesn't like you

Google's Quality Rater Guidelines

A few years ago, search engines weren't very good at spotting duplicate pages.

If you performed a search in any of the competitive P.P.C areas - in affiliate marketing, PPC also means "Pills, Porn & Casinos" - you'd likely see thousands of near identical sites. The search results "street" was chock full of pimps, and the law was pretty much powerless to stop them. Take out a few pimps, and there would be tens of thousands stepping up to take their place.

These days, Google does a better job of weeding out duplicate content, and what it deems "low value" pages. This has led to significant changes in the way affiliates approach affiliate marketing.

To understand the approach you'll need to take, let's firstly look at how Google classifies affiliate sites.

The Google Quality Rater Guidelines, a document which is reportedly a training course for Google's army of human spam police, was leaked to the internet in 2007.

This document provides valuable insights into how Google classifies spam. Anyone interested in SEO will find this document essential reading, but it is of particular interest to affiliates. The document singles out affiliates for special mention on a number of occasions. Those mentions are usually followed closely by the word "spam"

State your reason for assigning “Spam”, “Maybe Spam”, and “Malicious” flags. For example, Sneaky redirect to eBay....Amazon thin affiliate

Major cosmopolitan cities are preferred targets for spammers, especially hotel affiliates. Such results should be labeled as Spam, even if they have relevance to the query

Thin Affiliates: Spammers make money when a transaction is made after the user has clicked through to the merchant’s site

Types Of Spam - A thin affiliate is a page that exists to deliver a visitor to a page on another domain with a different owner.
Keywords deliver visitors to the affiliate page, and links on the affiliate page deliver visitors to the second page,
which is owned by a real merchant.

Not great news for the budding SEO affiliate.

However, Google does make a distinction:

  • Thin affiliates are bad
  • Other types of affiliates are not

What is a Thin Affiliate?

Google defines a thin affiliate as:

...a page that exists to deliver a visitor to a page on another domain with a different owner. The thin affiliate site contains text and perhaps images copied from the merchant site. It offers no (or very little) value-added service while earning its commission"

An example of a thin site which Google provides to it's quality raters:

What Is A "Fat" Affiliate?

Google also states the types of affiliate pages it deems to be acceptable.

"If a page offers some value in addition to its links to the merchant, then it is not a thin affiliate. For example, if the affiliate offers price comparison functionality, or displays product reviews, recipes, lyrics, etc., it is not a thin affiliate, and, therefore, not Spam"

Google gives examples such as,, and These sites are deemed acceptable because they provide extra value.

So, if you want to fly under Google's spam radar, you should aim to become a "fat" affiliate*. In order to do this, you should look to add value of an informational nature.

*Note: you can still be a thin affiliate and make money. There are plenty of these sites in the index. However, they are engaged in an arms race with Google, and it is a race that Google will likely win. Most of the hardcore thin affiliates effort goes into staying one step of Google, which can be a lot more work than simply building more valuable content.

Create Valuable Content

The Search Quality document also tells us what type of content Google finds valuable.

Google have a content rating scale which consists of five grades: Vital, Useful, Relevant, Not Relevant, or Off-Topic. In order to escape Google's spam filters and hand edits, you must fit into the first three grades.

The Search Quality document goes into great detail in terms of defining these grades, but the most important point to remember is that a page is rated based on the match to the *concept* of the query, not the presence or absence of the query term on the page. What this means is that it isn't good enough for a page simply to mention a keyword term, a page must "answer" the visitors query. This blows away a lot of conventional theory on SEO - relevance isn't just about adding keywords.

Google doesn't treat all search queries the same. Google separates queries out into three categories: navigational, informational, or transactional.

A navigational query is a query intended to locate a specific web page. For example, "yahoo mail". The searcher clearly wants to find the Yahoo Mail service, not information about Yahoo Mail, or where to buy mail services.

An informational query seeks information on a topic. For example, "tsunami". A Wikipedia article providing information about a tsunami would be a relevant result.

A transactional query seeks to complete a transaction on the Web – for money or free – of a product or service. For example, "Beatles poster". A relevant result would be a page on which to purchase poster.

Affiliates often focus on transactional queries. These queries indicate a person is some way along the sales funnel as is ready to buy, which suits the affiliate just fine.

However, the danger is that if you focus solely on transaction queries, you may well be labeled a thin affiliate, especially if your next step is to link to a merchant's site. Google will look to differentiate the affiliate sites from the merchant site, leave the merchant site in the results, and flush the thin affiliates. After all, the thin affiliates are adding no value to the transactional sales process.

Create Added Value

A good approach, and one used by many super affiliates, is to create hybrid sites.

A hybrid site covers both informational and transactional queries. There are a number of reasons why doing this is a good idea.

Firstly, Google is more likely to identify your pages as "useful" if you add value to the sales process. For example, rather than just having a transactional landing page that repeats the same offer the merchant is making, you might create a page that compares the relative merits of various products.

Secondly, Google's algorithms are constantly changing in favor of high quality, authoritative content. Not only does the content need to be authoritative, but it needs to appear on an authoritative domain in order to rank well. In order to be perceived as a quality domain, you'll need high quality linkage data. Consider how difficult these links are going to be to obtain for a purely commercial site, let alone a purely commercial affiliate site.

If you provide genuinely useful information, you'll achieve three things. One, it will be easier to get links. Two, you will build some brand equity that can be used for other purposes if the merchant doesn't work out i.e. Adsense. Lastly, it will be less likely you'll be taken out by Google. Google wants genuinely useful information it their index.

The downside is that useful information can take a long time to build. The alternative, however, is engaging in an arms race of cat and mouse with Google, which can also be time consuming.

Check out this useful tool from Microsoft AdCenter Labs:
Even a shopping oriented site, such as, is predicted to have visitor traffic intent that is 23% transactional, and 77% informational. If this fat affiliate site didn't provide a high level of information, it would miss out on a lot of traffic.

Tips & Tricks

Disguise Your Shopping Cart

One spam flag is a transaction occurring on a different site i.e. the merchants site

Look for affiliate programs that will let you host the shopping cart on your own site. You can pass the information to the merchant at the very last stage of the transaction, thus hiding it from all but the most determined quality rater.

Also keep in mind Google's guidelines for recognizing true merchants:

  • A “view your shopping cart” link that stays on the same site and updates when you add items to it
  • A return policy with a physical address
  • A shipping charge calculator
  • A “wish list” link, or a link to postpone purchase of an item until later
  • A way to track FedEx orders
  • A user forum,the ability to register or login, a gift registry
  • An invitation to become an affiliate of that site

If you're handling transactional queries, the more of these signals you can include, the more likely you are to stay beneath Google's radar.


If you do redirect to a merchant, try to cloak your redirects in scripts. It is less likely Google will follow these links to the merchant site. It also helps protect you from unscrupulous operators who may steal affiliate referrals.

This is by no means full-proof, however, and unlikely to pass human review.

Here are a few URL cloaking techniques to try:

Provide A Genuinely Useful Service

Not sure what "useful" means?

Here is Google's definition:

When you feel unsure if a page is spam, ask yourself the following question: If I remove the copied content,
scraped news feeds, fake forums and blogs, thin affiliate links, parked/expired domain links, and all that is left
are PPC ads and sponsored links, the page is probably spam

Think reviews, comparisons, context, sales questions and answers, buying advice, trends, statistics, social elements, discussion, competitions, awards, etc.

Target The Regions

The algorithms used on some regional variations of Google can be more forgiving of thin affiliate sites than This is because the depth of content in the regions can be shallow, so in order to show enough results, Google often lets past content they wouldn't in deeper markets, like .com.

If you're having trouble competing in the US space, try out some regional affiliate programs. Not only is the algorithm more forgiving, but the competition is decreased. The downside is the lower traffic numbers overall.


Offering coupons can be a great strategy, as it helps differentiate your offering from other affiliates, and everyone loves a bargain.

Here's an example Aaron is using to promote AdCenter.

Load Up On Relevant Keywords

Look at how many keywords are integrated into this page.

Keywords include:

  • 2008
  • pubcon
  • webmasterworld
  • webmaster world
  • coupon
  • coupons
  • code
  • discount
  • promo
  • promotional
  • las vegas
  • november
  • conference
  • brett tabke

That page contains low volume, but high value keywords, including coupon keywords. Yet, the page doesn't look spammy.

  • 2008 pubcon discount code
  • Pubcon coupons
  • Webmaster world conference discount

Aaron explains his approach to integrating affiliate programs here.

Different Engines

The demographics of MSN and Yahoo are different to Google.

It is fair to characterize most MSN users as less technically savvy than users of the other two engines. There is also anecdotal evidence to suggest they are more interested in shopping than in research. Yahoo lies somewhere between the two points. The users of these engines may not care so much about advertising, so don't overlook these valuable channels.

They also don't appear to be as good as Google at filtering out thin affiliates.

Brand Terms

If you can, try and target brand related terms.

Brand terms tend to be transactional, especially if you directly target such terms. For example, "discounts on Toshiba televisions".

It can be difficult for PPC marketers to bid on brand terms because of legal issues, but not for SEOs. The main obstacle you'll come across is Google's new brand-oriented search algorithm.

Down Market

The current economic crisis might be good news for affiliates. People with less disposable income tend to be more interested in value. Consumers have an ingrained perception that the best prices can be found online.

So, in your copy, emphasize convenience, savings and communicate the value proposition. Price comparison affiliate approaches should do well in the current market.

Program Selection

While outside the scope of this document, here are a few tips on how to select a merchant.

Avoid saturated affiliate areas

If you can, by-pass affiliate programs altogether and approach merchants directly. This can be more work, but it can pay off handsomely if you have the niche largely to yourself.

Don't pay any attention to anyone waving around an oversized check as proof of their earnings

What they're not telling you is how much they spent. If their check is for $1M and they spent $2M, all they are saying is "I lost $1M dollars and - hey - you can too!"

Don't listen to anyone who tells you what specific area to get into, either in a free forum or for $97

Why would any affiliate give away a treasure map? The answer is they don't. You'll usually see this type of information long after a niche has become heavily saturated. Most affiliates work a niche, then move on once the area becomes too well known to others.

Do research niches

Approach affiliate marketing like you would any other business, and ask the same questions. Is this niche crowded? How will I differentiate my offering? What can I do that my competitors don't do? Is there a market for this product or service?

A major key to success in affiliate marketing is niche selection, so study up on this area. You'll be head and shoulders above the rest :)

Check out:

Keyword Research For Niche Terms
SEOBook Competitive Research Tool

Bigger, Louder, & More Obnoxious Ad Units

Some larger online publishers are facing declining display ads with a bold strategy: bigger, louder, and more obnoxious ad units. AdWeek reports:

  • The fixed panel, a 336-by-860-pixel banner that is wider than the standard skyscraper and follows users as they scroll down the page.
  • The XXL box, a 468-by-648-pixel unit that can expand with video.
  • The pushdown, a 970-by-418-pixel placement that takes up over half of the page before rolling up.

We recently added a slideup and a popup to the site here, but you should be able to click them once and not see them again (at least until you clear cookies), and at least they are marketing our own site.

But the idea of making larger and more obnoxious ad units some sort of standard for cross-selling seems to be against what is working. Most of Google's ad revenues come from tiny text ads that are relevant to user demand. One of the best ways to have relevant ads is to create what users want and sell it. If they are going to spend that many pixels on the ads, rather than making bigger ad units the publishers should use the content area to sell and add premium services to their sites and start selling content.

Phorm/Google Behavioral Ad Targeting - Based on Your Browsing Data

Phorm, a UK company that partnered with BT to run secret trials to target ads based on usage data, was roasted by the media with article titles like Phorm’s All-Seeing Parasite Cookie.

Google, which has long stayed away from behavioral targeting due to privacy (and negative publicity) concerns, announced they are jumping into the behavioral ad targeting market:

Google will use data it collects about what Web sites users visit and what it knows about the content of those sites to sort its massive audience of users into groups such as hockey fans or travel enthusiasts. The data won't be drawn from users' search queries, but from text files known as cookies that Google installs on the Web browsers of users who visit pages where it serves ads.

DoubleClick, AdSense, Google Toolbar, Gmail, Youtube, Blogger, Google Groups, Google Checkout, Google Chrome, Google Analytics...there are lots of ways to track you, even if you do not want to be tracked. Google will allow users to opt out of such targeting, with yet another cookie, but if you clear cookies then you are back in the matrix again.

And while Google claims they are not using search queries in their current behavioral targing, Danny Sullivan wrote:

Google confirmed in a session I moderated at the Omniture Summit last month that they have tested behaviorial targeted ads using past search history data. Again, that doesn’t seem to be part of this release, but it could come in the future.

As discovered during early Google research titled The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine:

we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.

Indeed. Tim Berners-Lee, creator of the world wide web, spoke out against behavioral targeting:

"People use the web in a crisis, when wondering whether they have a sexually transmitted disease, or cancer, when wondering if they are homosexual and whether to talk about it … to discuss political views."
"The power of this information is so great that the commercial incentive for companies or individuals to misuse it will be huge," he said. "It is absolutely essential to have absolute clarity that it is illegal."

If Google continues down this path unquestioned, then in due time you may not be able to get health insurance because of a web page you viewed or a keyword you trusted Google enough to search for. Better luck next life!

Soft-Bundling: The Value of Perceived Authenticity & Transparency

Brian Clark notes the rise of the word authenticity in the field of marketing. Clay Shirky wrote that transparency is the new marketing. For individuals these are true, because if some people grow to like you some will grow to hate you, and it can wear you down to try to fight off a bad reputation in a sound byte culture. Just ask Jim Cramer about Bear Stearns

But for larger companies perceived transparency & authenticity is far more important than actual having either.

Google's Free Ride

Because Google provides a valuable service for free and is easy for end users to like they can get away with a lot of stuff that a company like Microsoft could never do.

Paid Posts

Google's search engineers have waged a war on paid blog posts. Google Japan knew they were operating outside of the guidelines when they were buying links in blogs. Google attempted to sweep the story under the rug until after they knew it was going to get enough exposure that they couldn't effectively do it, and then it became a case study for their anti-spam team, when they applied a fake penalty against their site.

Click Fraud

One of my AdWords content campaigns had an image ad unit that was pulling a 2% clickthrough rate and getting over 600 clicks a day, for a cost near $100 a day. I have already blocked a lot of the nasty no-value exclusion categories but I spent the last couple days blocking some more, and the above $100 a day spend was reduced to $5.42 once the fraud and skimming was removed.

I know Google says they offer some refunds for fraudulent clicks, but some of the stuff in their networks is so fraudulent that the only way to police it is to remove it completely. Over the past year some of these fraudulent sites have got hundreds and thousands of dollars from me for setting up nothing more than a thinly veiled click fraud botnet - feels more like Yahoo! than Google when I looked at the traffic, but at least I was able to filter it out after they stole some of my money.

Such fraud damages the entire ad ecosystem - advertisers have their budgets depleted due to click fraud, legitimate publishers are paid less because content is viewed to have less value when so much of the advertiser ad budgets are blown on click fraud, and web users see lower quality ads because some of the best ads had their budgets blown on click fraud.

Support Piracy

BearShare is an official Google search partner. At one point years ago I saw ads for a company supporting illegal downloads of their very own copyright work. Now Google has moved on toward promoting keywords with Torrent in them on brand searches.

If the domain name has leech, domain, or torrent in it then you know most advertisers do not want to subsidize it. Google needs to make a category for downloads and warez sites. The only reason they have not is because doing so would make people realize how bad some of the content network is.

Reverse Billing Fraud

Many services are marketed as being free or complimentary or just pay shipping, and then in 6 point text in the footer there is a disclaimer about how your credit card will be charged $20 3 times a month until you notice it. These typically promote broad market fads & services like acai berry diets, ringtones, credit checks, and free government grants. A group of con men / scam artists jump from one opportunity to the next to scam consumers using the Google ad network.

The government grants scam made enough of a footprint that the FTC is getting involved. Google claims that they are sorting out the issue:

"Our AdWords Content Policy does not permit ads for sites that make false claims, and we investigate and remove any ads that violate our policies," said Google in a statement e-mailed to ClickZ News. "We have discussed these issues with the Federal Trade Commission and reaffirmed our commitment to protecting users from scam ads."

but a Google search for government grants shows the ads still are running.

Microsoft Gets the Shaft

The Opera CEO believes that Microsoft giving users the option to turn IE 8 off is not enough, and the EU is trying to rip Microsoft apart day by day. Even if Microsoft is able to buy Yahoo! Search it will not be enough to compete. Why? Even when you use Microsoft's products they recommend Google's stuff over their own.

Google's Momentum

While Microsoft is busy fighting off competitors in many markets, Google keeps gaining market-share and market leverage in new verticals through soft-bundling.

One of my clients that did not use Google Checkout simply had to stop advertising on AdWords until Checkout was enabled, because without it the usually slim profit margins on AdWords turned negative. It turns out that pricing ads based on "quality" with a discount for a higher clickthrough rates allows the highest quality advertiser to rank #1, so long as they are using Google Checkout to give Google more market data and another chance at monetization. ;)

The Google Chrome browser is recommended on Youtube, advertised all over the AdSense network, and pushed via bundling partnerships with the likes of the Real player and Divx. Its release forced Microsoft to make some of their security products free, and will keep costing both companies money, with the hope that it costs Microsoft more than it costs Google.

Google is still crying to the EU that Microsoft's business behaviors are uncompetitive. Once you get branded it is hard to get un-branded. In spite of the recent slowdown in search volume Google still has a lot of market momentum behind them. You will know Google is in trouble when the market stops giving them leeway and treats them more like Microsoft.

How You Can Apply This to Your Business Today

1.) Always push to own a market default position and once you achieve that position keep investing in maintaining it, while reminding the market that your growth was organic due to your superior quality.

2.) Even if the business model is not there you can always create one/bolt one on if you get enough exposure. In the age of soft bundling it is no accident that we offer some of the best free distributed SEO tools like the SEO Toolbar and SEO 4 Firefox, with intent of helping push this site into a default market status.

3.) What sorts of distributed marketing can your site benefit from?

  • real time data
  • unique data interfaces
  • widgets
  • tools
  • open source software
  • mashups
  • etc.

Each day more options will reveal themselves.

The Point of Increasing Returns

when I got on the web one of the first mistakes I made was trying to go after the cheap traffic on the second and third tier networks. I arbitraged one of them and was pulling a 300% ROI selling them back their own traffic - but the wankers never paid me a cent.

It can be appealing to think of how to do things cheaper...and sure in the short term it might make sense to do something half-way to get it up and going and then to keep making incremental improvements. But people like Philip M. Parker have created automated technologies to write books. Cheaper is a hard way to compete in the content business.

If you are just fishing for nickels and do not intend to take the market head on then any of the following can take you out:

  • algorithm updates
  • remote quality rater or spam report
  • self-sabotage through doing something a little too clever
  • more established niche competitors accidentally or intentionally copying you
  • large general competitors accidentally or intentionally copying you

With search many early successes will be longtail keywords, but eventually you want to go after the biggest and best that you can achieve. Why? Once you have status you enjoy cumulative advantage in everything else you do. Things that are somewhat remarkable become quite remarkable just because who is doing them.

It can take a long time to work yourself to the top of a hierarchy. Most people who succeed ignore the hierarchy and look for a way to dominate a related niche

Ideally, a new player wants to come in with a fresh approach that doesn’t necessarily threaten the existing hierarchy. This allows you to develop an audience by sharing with existing players, not necessarily competing with them.

What you’re looking to do is intensify the niche by doing something more, or differently (or maybe even better) than the existing players. You do this by first evaluating and understanding where the niche is currently, and position your content in a way that pushes the envelope.

Unless you are really well established there is a lot of uncertainty in what you do online. Each additional investment can seem like you are getting closer to the point of diminishing returns, wasting your time. But then surprisingly one day things go way better than expected, and things are received much better than expected. You get a dopamine rush and the sun shines a bit brighter. Network effects kick in and you have reached the point of increasing returns - where each $ invested returns 10s or 100s of dollars back. I think Seth refers to this concept as The Dip - its what separates market winners from people who wasted their time.

But you usually have to lose $50,000 to $100,000 in sweat equity to get to that point, at least on your first successful project. The good news is that once you have already done that work nobody (except for you) can really take it away from you. Even if Google or some other market maker does not like you then you still have other social leverage and exposure which can be used to help generate revenue, launch new websites and projects, or (God forbid) get a real job.

I posted the cartoon version of this post about a month ago.

Review of Amazon Kindle 2

My wife recently bought me a Kindle 2. Here are some of the things I loved about it

  • easy to change font size
  • easy to read - Jakob Nielson said it is roughly the same speed as reading a regular book
  • lightweight - 10.2 ounces
  • easy to travel with
  • solves my buying too many books and bookshelves problem
  • you can store notes in it (everything is backed up on Amazon's servers)
  • You can search against all your books and notes in it (which really turns it into a powerful reference library...makes me want to buy about 3 or 4 of them to store different topics in) . This should be VERY powerful for looking well researched and finding money quotes. Steven Johnson (one of my favorite authors) uses Devonthink when he writes a book.
  • it has an audio/reader version baked in
  • it has an Oxford dictionary baked in
  • new books are typically only $9.99 and take less than a minute to download
  • it starts off where you last read

While it has many shades of gray, it lacks color and does not have a touch screen interface. It is a nice device and will make moving far easier than it would have been if I kept buying so many physical books.

If books get more interactive with more permiable barriers when they are digitized then they may play a much bigger role in the web graph. Google's copyright settlement with authors and publishers may make Google more likely to promote books:

“When someone goes to Google, they've got a question in mind and an answer they need,” Jennie Johnson, a Google spokesper son told DMNews. “We don't really care where [on the Web] that answer comes from. If it comes from a book, great; if it comes from a Web page, fine.”

One of the things I regret over the past couple years is that I let my reading slide. If early usage is any indication of future usage then hopefully the Kindle will help me get into reading more often.

Interview of Jonathan Mendez

I have been a follower of Jonathan Mendez's Optimize and Prophesize for a while, and recently interviewed him.

At SES in New York you are speaking on a panel titled "search becomes the display OS" - what does that mean, why is this shift happening?

The shift is part of the Darwinian evolution of the web. Many people have mistakenly viewed search as a channel when in reality it is a behavior. It is the way people use the web. This is clear as YouTube is now the #2 search engine, Facebook, eBay & Craigslist are in the top 10 search engines and Twitter is trying to position itself as a real-time search. Search is integral to the web experience.

From the display standpoint we need to keep in mind that this medium does not need ads to support it nor are ads part of the experience. Display advertising was built as a parallel platform - not weaved into the web like search but placed on top of it. Display has always had its own ecosystem of real estate, content and serving that is separate from the public web.

What we’ve witnessed with display’s lackluster performance and the inevitable crash of CPM rates is the idea of it being a stand-alone platform was wrong. Display needs to be an application that is integrated with web platform and the way people use the web. It should be based on user controls and rules based delivery of content. To truly be relevant and useful for people, publishers and advertisers, it must become a web service like search.

Search is currently at the center of the web. Do you foresee any technologies or services that might shift its position?

On the contrary I think it will become more entrenched and important since everyday millions of new pieces of content data keep getting added to the web and older content gets digitized. As I mentioned search is basic human behavior. We all go online with a goal in mind to either recover information and content or discover information and content. Those behaviors are primal. No technology or services will shift them.

How do you place value on a search impression?

The value is based on what you do with the information. Impressions are the ultimate arbiter of interest and demand. Of course if you go to Google trends often you will become somewhat worried about the collective psyche of this country. In all seriousness however, this is business intelligence. Quick story about impressions - a few years ago I was working with a big client and they were launching a new product. We had purchased the category kw for this product over a year and it hardly had any impressions. We strongly advised them against spending two million dollars to launch this product because there was no demand for it. They didn’t listen to the “search” guys. Within a year the CMO was fired because the product flopped. So in that instance I would say those couple hundred impressions were worth two million dollars.

One of the most powerful pieces of search is that the ad unit looks just like the content. What can publishers do to maximize ad integration without risking their perceived credibility?

In my experience you add credibility as a publisher if you provide helpful, useful and interesting content. There’s no reason that can’t be an ad. Most everyone I know has clicked on a Google ad. Sometimes it is preferable. This creates value to Google as a publisher. Ads that are helpful and interesting will add value to other publishers in the same manner because they are helping their visitors. People rarely forget who helped them in a useful way whether it be a website or “in real life.” In fact there is a large intangible value that is not even being captured when this happens. I think some people even refer to it as branding.

What can publishers and vendors learn from the dominance of search when thinking about how to build and brand their websites? What are some easy ways to make our user experiences more relevant?

Give people control over the delivery of content. The most successful online segmentation strategy is when a person tells you what they want -- self-segmentation. That is the beauty of search. The keyword is the ultimate expression of people’s goals. No website or advertiser knows more about what I want than I do! It explains why the best and most successful experiences on the web (Google, eBay, Craigslist, Yelp) have query fields and lots of text links and it is something I always keep in mind in doing page design. As far as branding I think that goes back to what we were just talking about, the site experience. Great experiences build brands and that is the same online as well as off. Keep in mind all of this should be tested and optimized. It is no accident that Google is the #1 brand in the world without spending a penny on advertising. From day one no one has tested online experience more than Google.

Many people have been promoting Twitter as a Google-killer in real-time search. Why are they wrong?

You mean besides the fact that Google made $21B in ad revenue last year has $8B in cash, owns half a million servers and Twitter search has probably 10 employees and no revenue?

There are some major problems with RTS. First let’s start with the way people search. This has been studied and very clearly defined over the years by brilliant people like Andrei Broder, Daniel Rose and others. I recently took the query classifications they defined and applied it to RTS ( I came to the conclusion that with optimal RTS - which is a huge challenge as I’ll get to - that less than 20% of all queries would benefit in anyway from RTS.

As far as the technical challenges spamming would be very hard to filter in real-time. Also authority as we know from PageRank is a fundamental driver of relevance. How do you define authority in real time? If you do not rank results than is it just a noisy stream? I’ve come to the conclusion that if it RTS becomes anything useful it will be a search vertical, like travel. Helpful for certain things but nowhere near a primary search tool. It is still a great addition to the web but not something Google needs to be concerned with. In fact I think Google is in the position to provide RTS for the entire web which is much more useful than RTS for a single app.

How slow and painful will the transition of ad dollars from offline to online be? What will be the catalyst that allows ad agencies to push search and online aggressively?

Very slow, but this shouldn’t be painful. We know the attention is online so dollars will continue to increase but I think a $25 billion dollar online industry is pretty good right now. It’s grown much faster the past few years than even the most bullish forecasts from five years ago. The catalyst will be innovation and the businesses themselves that must demand performance. Bill Gross the inventor of PPC said it best, “the true value of the Internet is in its accountability…performance guarantees have to be the model for paying for media.” As soon as we embrace performance for all advertising, even so called brand advertising, we will prove our value and grow our industry. Google stands as proof of concept for this. But the battle over performance will be long and bloody. In just the past couple of weeks we’ve had groups like the IAB and the AAAA speaking out against performance and metrics. This type of rhetoric and their fear of accountability are actually helping to slow down the transition.

How many newspaper companies do you see lasting through this economic downturn?

Not too many. Besides the fact that their authority over the past years has waned with bloggers and false reporting the real problem is that newspapers are not an efficient means of information compared to everything else we have today. What percentage of the paper is relevant or interesting to you? 5%? 15%? Yet you are paying for the entire paper when you buy it. Doesn’t make sense. We used to have town criers too, but then newspapers came along. I don’t think most people will miss them. Times have changed. Maybe we’ve just come full circle – people getting their news from other people they trust is the best way to disseminate information. Who trusts the papers?

What will the online vs offline divide look like in 2 years? 5 years? 10 years?

I’m not so sure we’ll have a divide in 5 or 10 years. The kids graduating high school this year were 8 years old when Google was started. I see kids 4 and 5 years old naturally manipulating iPhones. Many of us have persistent web connection and we like it - we feel uncomfortable without it! Of course it’s nice to get off the grid sometimes but what is happening with digital technology is the great story of our age. Everything is becoming digital, addressable and connected via the web. All of us lucky enough to be working here will reap the rewards of that in the coming years because the growth of digital will far outpace the amount of talent in the workforce. We should have bigger paychecks in 5 years!

Many people focus on one particular segment of the market, whereas you seem to have a well-rounded knowledge of SEO, PPC, user experience, and conversion strategies. How did you find the time to tie all these different disciplines together?

Well, I’ve been at it 11 years so that accounts for the time. It is corny but I love the web and I am passionate about trying to make it more relevant to everything we do. Looking back my career path from Site>Email>SEO>UX>SEM>LPO>Display, it seems like a very natural progression to me. Basically, with one stop for UX I have just been a marketer trying to stay ahead of the advances in marketing technology. Also, I love learning how people use the web and all the disciplines I have worked in are fundamentally rooted in the same thing -- understanding people’s goals and optimizing the delivery and presentation of information to meet those goals. As an industry we tend to divide the web into vectors but we often lose sight that the web experience for people is linear. The more holistic understanding we have generally the better our results.

_____________________ Thanks Jonathan! To read more of his thoughts check out Optimize and Prophesize.

SEO For Designers & Programmers

In this guide, we'll introduce designers and developers to SEO, and recommend low-impact, highly effective strategies to integrate SEO into the work-flow.


What Is SEO?

Search Engine Optimization is the process of making a site more visible in search engine results. The higher the visibility, the more traffic a site should receive.

Why Bother With SEO?

Essentially, SEO is a marketing exercise.

If a site can't be found in search result listings, it is unlikely to be found by the 50% of all internet users who use a search engine every day (PDF).

Given Google's ubiquitous hold on the web, SEO can be the difference between make or break for web sites.

Can't The Search Engines Just Work It Out?

The search engines are clever, but they're not perfect.

If you want to know the technical aspects of how a search engine works, check out "The Anatomy Of A Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine" written by Google's founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page.

In short, a search engine is a database. The database is populated by data the search engine gathers. It gathers this information by sending out spider. A spider is a program that resembles a web browser, all albeit a very basic one. It gathers the HTML code, and sends in back to the database for sorting.

The main areas of concern are:

  • Can the spider crawl the site?
  • Will it rank the site pages above those of the competition?

SEO helps assure those two things happen.

What Does SEO Involve?

The two main elements of SEO are:

  • On-site factors
  • Inbound linking from external sites

The aim is to ensure the site pages can be crawled by search engine spiders, and increase the likelihood those pages will rank well. The exact formula whereby a page ranks is a matter of guesswork. However, there are core aspects when, if integrated well, significantly increase the chances of ranking.

Firstly, pages must be crawlable by a search spider.

Secondly, the pages should be in a format likely to result in search traffic.

This typically involves aligning page content with keyword queries. For example, if a website owner wants to rank for the search term "web designers Seattle", they may include a page entitled "Web Designers Seattle" on the site, and that page will contain tightly focused information on that one topic. The ranking process is more complicated that this, but the important point to note is that searcher intent and site content should be closely aligned.

Thirdly, pages should have a number of links pointing to them from other sites. This aspect is largely out of the hands of designers and programmers, but if the content is not easy to link to, then problems can arise.

So, what aspects do you need to integrate into your process?

Let's start with designers*.

*There is a high degree of cross-over in terms of tasks between designers and programmers, so you should familiarize yourself with both sets of guidelines below

Notes For Designers

Failure to integrate SEO into the work process can lead to significant site redesign later on, however integration is relatively painless if implemented early.

SEO is most effective when it forms part of the site brief and specification.

Separate Content From Presentation

The leaner the code, the faster a page will load. The faster a page loads, the more likely it is that the spider will be able to crawl the entire site. Bloated code can also cause problems in terms of the weighting the search engine algorithms gives to elements on the page. Style sheets, java script and other code should be called from a separate file, rather than embedded.

Navigate The Site With A Text Browser

A search engine spider is similar in function to a text-only browser. So, if you can navigate a site using a text-only browser, the site will be able to be crawled by a search spider.

Whilst spiders are getting better at handling media content, they can have problems both crawling it and deciphering it.

If you site features a lot of media content, particularly in terms of navigation, make sure you have an alternative navigation option that a spider can follow. Spiders prefer HTML links in compliance with WC3 coding standards.

Here's a text-only browser simulator

If your pages feature a lot of graphical or video content, use body content to describe it.


It's a myth you can't use Flash.

The key to using Flash lies in the method of integration. Avoid using Flash as the main method of navigation and content delivery. Instead, embed flash within HTML pages that contain other HTML content and links.

The search engines are getting better at crawling Flash, but they don't handle it as well as they handle HTML. If a search engine experiences problems indexing a site, it is likely to back out, leaving other parts of the site unindexed.

It can also be difficult, and sometimes impossible, to link to individual Flash pages. Pages that aren't well linked are less likely to show up in search results.

Adobe has a solution that involves an API and the Flash Player run-time, which allows search engines to read the content of SWF files. You can find out more in "The Black Magic Of Flash SEO"

If a site must remain all Flash, create a "printer friendly" version of the site that contains all the same text data as the flash site. If this version of the site is well linked, the search engines will crawl it.

Keep in mind these are workarounds and are not ideal. If your competitors' sites make it easy for the search engine by not using Flash, they are likely to rank ahead of you, all else being equal.

Keep Site Architecture Simple

The basic rules of usability also apply to SEO.

Keep your important pages within easy reach. That typically means close to the top of the hierarchy.

If possible, try to incorporate a site map and make sure it is linked to from every page. That way, the spider is less likely to miss crawling content.

Use Text Headings

Headings should use HTML text, as opposed to graphics. Search engines place importance on keyword terms contained within links and heading tags.

If you need to use graphic headings for some pages, ensure the alt tags are populated, and/or the page deprecates to a text default if graphics are turned off.

It is also highly recommended that you repeat the heading in HTML text somewhere else on the page, or in the link text of any page pointing to that page.

Mark-Up The Code

The following tags should be populated with keyword data. The SEO will want to alter the content of these fields.

  • Title
  • Alt
  • Meta Description

Other tags often manipulated by SEOs include:

  • H1, H2, H3 etc
  • Bold or Strong
  • Hyperlinks - particularly the link text
  • Body text


Where possible, avoid using frames.

If the site isn't coded correctly, the search engine may simply index the master frame, or the search visitor may arrive at a page that is impossible to navigate, because the page is viewed out of context.

If you do use frames, use a simulation spider to highlight any problem areas. You could also use the no-frame tag, although the search engines aren't overly fond of data contained in this tag due to abuse i.e. showing one thing to viewers, and something different to spiders.

For more specific information on frames, check out Search Engines And Frames.

Notes For Developers

Use Descriptive File Names

The search engines look for keywords in file names in order to help make sense of a page. Where possible, use descriptive and meaningful file names, such as, as opposed to numbers, such as

Likewise, directories should also be descriptive and be clearly organized:


If you need to use coded URLs, a suitable workaround is use URL rewriting. Here's a tutorial about URL redirection, and other useful URL techniques.

URL Structure & Cannonicalization

Try to avoid placing too many parameters in URLs. This will dilute the descriptive benefits of the file name, making it difficult for the search engine to derive meaning.


Canonicalization is also an issue for SEO.

Canonicalization is the process by which URLs are standardized. For example, and are treated as the same page, even though the syntax of the URL is different. Problems can occur when the search engine doesn't normalize URLs properly. For example, a search engine might see and as different pages. In this instance, the search engine has the host names confused.

We've written a detailed post on Canonicalization entitled "URL Canonicalization: The Missing Manual".

It is preferable to to link to a folder URL eg. as opposed to an absolute URL which specifies the file name. The link structures SEO's set-up are sensitive to changes in the way the document is specified. For example, inbound links may be lost, which may lead to a loss in ranking.

Major switches later on - say, a change in CMS - can cause headaches and a considerable amount of reworking if all the URLs are specified explicitly.


Internal links should follow W3C guidelines. Search engines place value on keywords contained in standard text links.

It is best to avoid coded, graphical or scripted links. If using these types of links, duplicate the linking structure elsewhere on the page. In the footer, for example.

There should be no more than 100 links per page, and ideally a lot less.

Create A Google SiteMap

A Google Site Map is an xml page used to help Google crawl websites. Here are the Site Map guidelines and instructions.

Sitemaps are easy to create, and provide an elegant and painless workaround if your internal linking structure is not optimized.
By including a Site Map, you also provide an default for any crawl related issues you may not be aware of.

Custom 404

If a search engine spider encounters a 404 page, it may back out if there are no links to follow off that page.

Create a customized 404 page that contains links to parts of the site that contain links and aren't likely to be removed i.e. home page and site map.


A robots txt page is the first page a spider reads. You can specify any areas which you don't want the search engine to index. Not all search engines will obey the directives specified in the robots txt, so don't use this as your sole means of ensuring data stays out of the public domain.

You can find out more about the robots.txt file here.

Points Of Conflict Between SEO & Design/Development, And How To Resolve Them

A lot of conflict can be resolved simply by involving the SEO early in the site development process. The benefit in doing so means far less pain for designers and developers that if SEO is bolted on as an after-thought. It's like building a house, then deciding you need to relocate the kitchen.

SEO should be part of the design and development specification.

But what if you have a legacy site?

Here's some requirements you'll likely hear from SEO's:

1. The Site Design Needs To Be Changed

SEO is mostly about providing the search engine with text data. If a site doesn't have much in the way of text, the SEO will look to add text to existing pages, and beef out the site with additional text content.

There was a time when SEOs only needed to add meta-data, however search engines no longer pay much attention to meta data. They look at two areas: visible site content and link structures.

The biggest impact to design is likely to be on the home page. The home page usually carries the most weight with search engines.

Here are some suggestions for preserving design and integrating SEO:

  • Add text below the fold
  • Replace graphical headings with text headings
  • Separate form form content
  • Include a printer-friendly version of the site

2. We Need To Provide Link-Worthy Content

Search engines place a lot of value on links from external sites. If your site doesn't contain much in the way of notable content, it will be difficult to get links.

Consider integrating a publishing model. For example, you could add a blog, news feed or forum.

Do you have a lot of offline content that could be published online? Whilst such content may not be considered important in terms of your web presence, it can be used to cast a wide net. The more content you have, the more pages you'll likely see in the index, and the more search visitors you'll receive. This content can be relegated in the hierarchy so that non-search visitors aren't distracted by it, and your main site design isn't affected.

Such content especially useful if this content is informational, as opposed to commercial, in nature. It is often difficult to get links to purely commercial content.

Tools & Techniques For Monitoring, Diagnosing & Rectifying SEO Problems

If a site can't be crawled, then it won't appear in search engine result pages. Use the following tools to detect and fix problems.

Google Webmaster Central

Google Webmaster Central provides a host of diagnostic information and is available free from Google. The service will tell you what pages couldn't be crawled, what the errors were, how many duplicate tags you have, and visitor information.

You can also build and submit your xml site map, which can solve a number of crawl issues.

Text Browser

If you can successfully navigate around your site using a text browser, then your site can be crawled by a spider.

Pay careful attention to any pages that prevent navigation problems, and resolve by placing text links on/to these pages.

SEOBook Toolbar

The SEOBook Toolbar provides details about page popularity, the level of competition, and on-page diagnostics.

One way you can use this tool is to determine if the search engine knows what your page is about by looking at the frequency of words on the page. If those words are mostly off-topic, you may need to include more keyword phrases throughout your copy.

SEOBook Health Check

The SEOBook Health Check tool also provides a wealth of troubleshooting data. You can determine if you've got error handling issues, duplicate content, and conical URL issues.

SEO Resources For Designers & Developers

SEO Linguistics: Updates, Changes, Glitches, Semantics, & NOISE

A lot of our best SEO tips are shared on the blog here. That strategy originally came to be because my original business model (for this site) was to sell an ebook, and it was hard to stuff everything inside 1 ebook and expect it to come out congruent, especially

  • while selling it to a wide audience
  • when revising it many times
  • with SEO touching upon so many other disciplines like psychology, sociology, public relations, branding, advertising, content creation, information architecture, social networking, algorithm testing, etc.

Admitedly the ebook was a work in progress. As the search algorithms evolved and my knowledge of the field of marketing improved there were always new ideas I could add (or remove or change)...things where I said "hey I could make this part way better." But to be able to do that, you have to be able to look at your old work and admit where you were wrong or ignorant (or correct, but shortsighted).

After 4 years of making such updates, you get a lot better at seeing some of your own flaws and thinking about things you could do better, and you get better at seeing underlying trends in the search algorithms...especially as you grow your sites, track the search results, read customer feedback, read search research, read algorithm patents, read Google's internal company documents, and listen to engineers speak in Fed Speak. Each data point adds value to the next.

When I was new to the SEO field, learning SEO was much less complex because the algorithms were less complex and because the market did not have the noise it has in it today. Today there is no shortage of complexity in the SEO industry. But then the SEO industry is made to seem even more complex than it is by people playing semantic games, people willfully misinforming others, and those so desperate for attention that they are willing to write anything in hopes of getting a link or a mention in social media channels.

Rather than calling the update an update (as they are traditionally called) Matt Cutts preferred to call (what we saw as an update) a change, but as Michael Gray mentioned, those semantics are irrelevant unless Matt chooses to share more information

When you go around stating there was no update (your definition), when we can clearly see there was an update (our definition), we’ve got a problem. It looks like you’re trying to perform some Jedi mind trick, if you keep repeating there was no update and waving your hand eventually we’ll all believe you. Even worse it’s like you’re trying to tell us what we’re seeing isn’t really there and this is one of those “these aren’t my pants officer” moments from cops.

Language is powerful. If you control the language you control the conversation.

Even after Matt Cutts said in a video that they made a change, people began passing around that video on Twitter noting how I was wrong about the update and that there was no update. Some of them were probably the same people who denounced the position 6 issue we mentioned - a penalty/filter that was denied, changed/fixed, and then - and only then - a glitch.

I am not sure what sort of bizarro world those "I told you it was not an update" people claiming to be SEOs come from, but I thank them for polluting the free SEO content available on the web and misinforming so many people...they are part of what makes our training program so popular and profitable. They also make the search results less competitive - anyone who is listening to them is heading in the wrong direction building a weak foundation. :)

Download SEO Book Torrent: Should Google Recommend That?

In the following video Matt Cutts highlighted that he did not feel that the update was driven by brand, but more in concepts of trust, PageRank, and authority:

RankPulse, a tool I used in my analysis of the algorithm change, is powered by the Google SOAP API, which Google will soon stop supporting. Matt played down the size of the algorithm update made by a Googler named Vince. But John Andrews takes a contrarian view, looking at Google's behavior after the algorithm update was analyzed:

You might say that Google’s API,via custom third-party innovations like, enabled us to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” (which is Google’s corporate mission statement, by the way).

It sure seems contradictory for Google, a company based on the collection and permanent storage of others’ web page content, to forbid others from doing the same. It is also quite egregious for Google to expect to operate secretly, with no accountability (such as might be obtained through archiving of Google results), when Google exerts so much influence over Internet commerce.

One of Google's initial complaints, as mentioned by Joshua Sciarrino, was that search information was too secretive:

At the same time, search engines have migrated from the academic domain to the commercial. Up until now most search engine development has gone on at companies with little publication of technical details. This causes search engine technology to remain largely a black art and to be advertising oriented (see Appendix A). With Google, we have a strong goal to push more development and understanding into the academic realm.......However, it is very difficult to get this (academic) data, mainly because it is considered commercially valuable.

As Google gobbles up your content while shielding its results from unauthorized access, it creates a weakness which a new search service could being far more open.

While Google doesn't want anyone to access their proprietary business secrets, if you search for my brand they recommend you look for a torrent to go download an old copy of my ebook.

sounds like a fair trade, eh? No big deal. Google is a common carrier, and intends to use that to their business advantage whenever and wherever possible.

I hope you (and your business model) are not allergic to peanuts!

Lots of SEO Conferences Coming up Soon

As paid search's growth slows, marketers are looking to invest more into organic SEO strategies.

There are a lot of SEO conferences in the next month. One of the easiest ways to grow in a down market is to network. Why? The web is a social network, and sometimes just a few links separates the top player from a #3 ranking, and the people who can afford to invest in education and marketing in a down market are clearly successful (and, thus, worth networking with and learning from).

  • SearchFest is in Portland, OR on March 10th
  • Pubcon South is in Austin, TX from March 11-13
  • Search Engine Strategies is in New York, NY from March 23-27. Here is a coupon for 15% off SES NY15BK. If you use the coupon please make sure to attend the IM Charity party to give back some of the money you saved, as a lot of charities are hurting this year as budgets get cut back. SES also has an Amsterdam conference and training in Denver & Atlanta coming up soon.
  • IM Spring Break is in Deerfield Beach, FL from April 2-4.
  • SMX Advanced is not too far off is in Seattle, WA from June 2-3. In our member's area we have a coupon for $100 off of SMX. Between now and that conference SMX also has conferences in Toronto, Sydney, Munich, London, and Madrid!

If you have never attended a conference, it is worth attending at least 1 or 2 to see what they are like, do a bit of networking, and learn more about the space. With the conferences occurring all over the country (and world) it is quite easy to find one that suits your calendar and budget.

Aaron interviews Ben and Karl from Conversion Rate Experts (CRE)

A few months ago, I hired Conversion Rate Experts to work on my business. I have learned loads from them. So far they have grown our conversion rate by 124%, and have given me great insights into the thought process of consumers hitting this site...reminding me why they buy, and how ineffectively we were conveying the value of all the different components of our offering. 124% is a good start, and we still have a lot of things to improve upon.

Earlier this week, I interviewed them for this blog, so you can benefit from their advice too. The interview contains loads of tips you can implement today to grow your business.

Aaron: What made you guys start Conversion Rate Experts?

Karl: Several years ago, I started working with Ben, who had been working in web marketing for years. I have a Ph.D. in rocket science, and we discussed how we could take a scientific approach to increasing the conversion rate of our employer’s website. Within twelve months, we tripled the website’s profits, to $9.1 million.

At that time, we had just bought SEO Book, and claimed our free 20-minute call with you, Aaron. We asked for your advice, and you recommended we “Give away as much valuable information as possible”. We took your advice, and, a few weeks later, launched with a free report called Google Website Optimizer 101, which described some of the techniques we had developed.

The report went viral, getting on the homepages of Digg and Delicious. By the end of the week, we’d been featured on the home page as the third-fastest-growing website, in their “Movers & Shakers” list.

The following day we were contacted, out of the blue, by Google’s Tom Leung, who suggested we partner with them to offer consulting services. We said no at first (what were we thinking?!) but, six months later, we decided to go for it. Since then, we have had some fantastic successes for clients in some highly competitive industries—including weight loss, travel, gaming, technology and health and fitness.

Aaron: Lets say I have no idea who my customer is...but my boss wants me to give a report on the topic at the end of next week. What should I do?

Ben: Speak with your sales people—or customer support people. They understand your customers in much more depth than any web analytics report could give. They know what the customers care about, and what their major objections are. If you have no customer support people, consider temporarily adding a phone number to your website, just to give yourself an opportunity to speak with customers.

To show you the extremes we go to to hear the “voice of the customer”, here are a few of the things we have done to get face to face with real prospects:

  • Sold travel products in airports, from a stand that was rented for a few days.
  • Sold phones at a market. (We were in a hurry to gather objections for a new product, and the market allowed us to just turn up on the day.)
  • Joined a local slimming club. (This was by far the most embarrassing.)
  • Attended a local bingo hall.
  • Opened up Japan’s first-ever Nokia store.
  • Ordered antibodies through the post. (They’re still here on the desk—we don’t know how to get rid of them!)

Other great services include Crazy Egg, Kampyle, ClickTale…and of course, web analytics software. We created a summary of some of the services we use regularly.

Aaron: Testing…personas…consistency in messaging. What is more important for improving conversion rates?

Karl: Consistency in messaging should be a given. If your messaging isn’t consistent, you’ve got a “dog’s dinner” of a website.

Testing, too, should be a prerequisite; without testing, you can’t confidently be sure whether you have improved your conversion rate or not.

You definitely need to understand your visitors’ intentions and mindset. This should be done by real research, not just “ivory towers” guesswork. Many web marketers fall short at this point. They ask us how to increase their conversion rates, and the first question we ask is, “Why are most of your visitors leaving without spending a penny”…and they can’t answer the question! These people would struggle to create just one realistic persona, never mind five of them. Personas can be a useful way of considering different types of visitor, but as long as the personas are based on a real understanding of your visitors—otherwise you’re just sitting in an office, creating soap opera characters.

Aaron: What is the single biggest thing most sites screw up in the conversion process?

Karl: Most web marketers work on the wrong part of their conversion funnel. For example, they might over-obsess on their landing page, but forget that they don’t have a refer-a-friend program.

One of the first things we do is to look at the whole conversion process—from visitor to repeat customer—and look for the opportunities in the chain. We have an immediate advantage because we can see the website with fresh eyes.

Aaron: Did you ever make a mistake during the conversion testing process that surprised you and worked really well?

Ben: We regularly carry out usability tests on our clients’ websites. During one test, the participant mentioned that he’d prefer the page to have a different background colour (the color to the left- and right-hand side of the page). We mentioned it to the client in passing, who then tested it. The client saw a 9% improvement in the site’s conversion rate, worth $400,000 per year. We were amazed that such a subtle change could make such a massive difference to a business.

Aaron: Many of the internet marketers that do email-based marketing are willing to lie to make a sale. It makes sense that get rich quick people are easy to monetize since they want to buy a dream. How does one compete with such a sales strategy in a field where competing businesses overtly lie?

Ben: Prospects are hungry for proof—and they’re surprisingly good at detecting lies. If you can show irrefutable evidence that your offering is best, you have an enormous advantage. SEO Book’s success is largely due to your integrity, and the high quality of your information. You might call it “white hat” conversion! And, as with “white hat” SEO, it’s the easiest way of building a long-term sustainable business.

Aaron: Sales optimization vs exploitation: some people push it too far, whereas most businesses are way under-monetized. Where do you draw the line between improving conversion rates and misleading people? Is misleading people ever profitable in the longrun, or do the people who do that need to keep starting over again and again.

Karl: The best approach is to offer people what they want—and then deliver it. Monetization doesn’t mean exploitation. We regularly ask this question to our clients’ customers: “What would persuade you to use us more often?”

You’d be surprised how many customers ask the company to offer more products or services to them.

Aaron: From my experiences, with Adsense and ad click based business models it seems like it would be easier to monetize people of limited topical knowledge and limited knowledge of the web. And some people who have been around forever feel they already know everything. Yet some models work best monetizing at the higher end. How does a business owner know what types of customers they should target?

Ben: There’s no one right answer. Some companies—such as 37 Signals, with their collaboration tools—target the lower end of the market, and some—such as Accenture—target the high end. It depends on which segments of the market are currently being neglected by vendors, and how you feel you can add the most value.

Aaron: If a person targeted the wrong audience for years, is it easy to later shift to the right target? How does one shift without losing market momentum?

Karl: Here’s a great way to identify your company’s opportunities: Quickly write down two lists:

  • List your company’s strengths. These are the things that you company is good at, and that competitors would struggle to compete with you at, because there’s some “barrier to entry”—whether that’s because of a skill you have, or an asset you have. For example, SEO Book has an enormous readership, a reputation for integrity and intelligent commentary, true expertise in SEO, many successful customers, and a large number of respected contacts in the SEO world. Any new competitors would struggle to compete with those things.
  • List your company’s opportunities, in terms of what people are willing to spend money on. The best way to get this is by understanding your customers. If you don’t know what they’d like to spend money on, ask them, in person or by survey.

By studying these two lists, you should be able to find opportunities that you are best-positioned to serve. The question to ask is, “How much money could be made from this opportunity, and could my company be the best in the world at providing this service?”

Often, you’ll find that your biggest opportunities are right under your nose.

Often, the answer is to narrow down the opportunity to a very specific focus. For example, rather than aiming to provide SEO services to everyone, maybe SEO Book could specialize in providing linkbait services to small businesses.

It can be scary to narrow down your focus, but it’s often the most lucrative strategy. To get a good understanding of how to focus and positioning can help a business, read the chapter “Positioning and Focus”, pp. 103–127, in the book Selling The Invisible by Harry Beckwith.

By the way, the above exercise isn’t just useful for businesses—it can be really useful for planning your own career.

Aaron: Do you ever use public relations as part of your conversion enhancing strategies?

Ben: Yes, frequently. We have managed to get our clients into magazines such as TIME magazine and the Wall Street Journal. Press mentions can lend loads of credibility to a product or service—and they can’t be used by competitors.

While working on a weight loss website that generates $5 million/year, we noticed that the company had a fantastic press testimonial that wasn’t prominently displayed on their website. By moving this information “above the fold”—and reformatting it—we managed to create an overnight 67% increase in sales.

Aaron: How important is social proof of value to sales?

Ben: Social proof can be extremely persuasive, particularly when other forms of proof are scarce. For those of your readers who don’t know what social proof is, it’s often known as “herd behavior”; when people are unable to determine how to behave, they will tend to imitate the behavior of others. Marketers often use social proof by demonstrating how other people are using their services. Here are a few examples of social proof:

McDonald’s “Over 99 Billion Served”

The Elvis album entitled “One Million Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong”

Aaron: Many customers who like a product or service do not give feedback about it. How do you encourage them to do so?

Ben: Most companies don’t have this problem: they just don’t ask for feedback, because they’re scared to hear it. When was the last time you went to a restaurant and they genuinely wanted to know what you thought of the meal?

Karl: However, sometimes your best customers are also your busiest customers, so you need to reward them for sparing some time to give feedback. In these cases, you may consider rewarding them for sparing the time.

Aaron: Throughout my blogging history I have seen an amazing correlation between controversy and sales. Do you ever suggest clients make a ruckus to gain exposure and increase their sales?

Karl: We haven’t done so, but mainly because it’s more a traffic technique than a conversion one. The client would need to feel comfortable with “riding the storm of controversy”, which tends to scare a lot of people.

Aaron: What type of traffic converts best?

Karl: Existing customers convert very well, as do visitors from refer-a-friend programs.

Aaron: Is search traffic the best type of traffic to test conversion principles on? What other sources are worth testing aggressively?

Ben: We test on whatever traffic the website is currently getting—but avoiding, where possible, traffic that is transient, such as one-off campaigns.

Aaron: Do you prefer to do straight A/B split testing, or to test changing many variables at once?

Karl: We recommend clients start with A/B split testing, because it’s less complex. Multivariate testing is just carrying out several A/B tests simultaneously.

Aaron: When does it make sense to do incremental changes? When does it make sense to blow things up and start from scratch?

Karl: It’s a case of “baby steps” versus “giant steps”. If you’re confident that your giant step will be a winner, then it’s often worth testing, especially because large improvements can be detected much faster.

Aaron: If someone clones one of your products and makes it free how do you counter that from a marketing standpoint?

Karl: This is a question that many industries, such as the music industry, are currently facing.

It’s important to bear in mind that people pay for SEO Book’s training program because of the following: the community, the mentions in the world’s press, the popular blog, the fact they know and like you. Those things can’t easily be cloned.

Kevin Kelly wrote a great article about this difficult subject. The article is worth reading, but here is a summary of it, as it pertains to SEO Book:

Immediacy: people will pay a premium to have first-access to something. For example, people would pay extra to have early preview copies of new content on SEO Book.

Personalization: people will pay to have something that’s personalized for them (even though the personalization doesn’t need to be extreme). For example, people would pay more just to have someone tell them which parts of SEO Book’s training program they should focus on first.

Interpretation: people will pay to have something explained to them. For example, Google Website Optimizer is free software, but many clients pay to have help in setting it up.

Authenticity: people will pay more just to know that their copy is authentic (up-to-date, legal, free of erroneous information, etc.)

Accessibility: people will pay to have instant access to a hosted service, rather than having to look after and manage it themselves. With SEO Book, people would rather have access to the continually updated membership site rather having to constantly have to keep all the training videos up to date on their own computer.

Embodiment: people will often pay more to have the product in a “real” format. They may prefer to have SEO Book’s courses available in a printable format, so they can read it by their bedside, or they may prefer to attend an Elite Retreat session, so they can see you and your colleagues speak in person.

Patronage: sometimes people want to pay the product creator, because it allows them to connect.

Findability: sometimes, the main service a company makes it to raise the awareness of a product. For example, many people wouldn’t be aware of the SEO Book training program if it weren’t for all the channels (blog referrals, search rankings, affiliates, etc.) that direct visitors towards the website.

Aaron: What were your biggest personal business hang-ups, and how did you get over them?

Karl: We tend to be perfectionists, and our blog readers often complain that we don’t publish enough. On the upside, our reports tend to get loads of attention when we publish them. If you would like to learn more about conversion, I’d suggest you view the free reports on our website, and sign up for our free newsletter.


Thanks for the great interview guys!

How Much of YOUR PageRank Are You Wasting on Twitter?

Did you know that currently ranks #9 in Google for superbowl (it was #7 earlier today). Think how much PageRank & link equity is needed to rank for that keyword!!!

All that PageRank must come from somewhere. When people mention you on that silly network, you probably don't get anything of lasting simply steals links that would have occurred on the real web, and replaces them with junk rel=nofollow links, surrounded by trivial bits of content.

Hyperlinks subvert hierarchies. rel=nofollows subvert that subversion (thanks Matt!)

Twitter is interesting and fun tool to play with for a while, and an easy story to hype, but it is just a tool.

Venture Beat says that Twitter made Dell a million dollars. That's nuts. Did the phone company make Dell a billion dollars? Just because people used the phone to order their Dell doesn't mean that the phone was a marketing medium. It was a connecting medium. Big difference.

How big will this black hole grow? How long until spammers start exploiting it?

Is a spam page ranking on Twitter somehow better than me getting credit for the work I actually did to build a following there? I would love to sit down with a search engineer and have them try to answer that questions with a straight face.

Life's not fair. Neither are search engines. Nor blog posts. ;)

The web of opportunity is phase - a brief moment in time. There is plenty of time for digital sharecropping and being someone else's user generated content after retirement. I am going to cut back on social media for the next year or two...its not worth the effort. It builds no real value. It wastes opportunity. It wastes links. It wastes life. :)

Hugo Guzman: Deconstructing the Google 'Brand?' Algorithm

So here we are on Tuesday, March 3 rd, and I’m still trying to fully digest the implications of Aaron’s “Heavy emphasis on Brandings” post from last Wednesday, February 25. The data that was presented, the context that was provided and the labyrinth of insightful user comments that were spawned left me reeling for days. So much so that I wouldn’t be surprised if the annals of SEO history associate February 25, 2009 as the infamous “Aaron Wall” update.

In all seriousness, though, this really is a big deal, especially for folks like me who spend their days attempting to optimize mainstream “Big Brand” web sites for a living. I’m fortunate enough work for an interactive agency that takes SEO seriously, and my team strives to deliver a truly comprehensive approach to SEO – blending site-side factors, link building, social media elements, and analytics. We usually do a pretty darn good job, despite the myriad of obstacles and pitfalls associated with trying to implement SEO for a large, lumbering, Fortune 500 web portal. And sadly, like many big firms out there, we have occasionally chalked up our shortcomings to a lack of implementation and cooperation on the part of the client. It’s that typical “not our fault, it’s a crappy big brand site” copout that many of us have heard a thousand times before.

Then along comes Aaron with his revelations about Google’s recent algorithm shift and its ramifications for big brands, and all hell breaks loose:

  • I immediately spiral into self-doubt regarding me and my team’s marketing abilities
  • I start scrambling to deconstruct this alleged algorithm shift
  • I start emailing all of my senior team members asking them to attempt deconstructing the algorithm shift
  • they roll their eyes and one of them tells me stop sending so many random emails at 10 o’clock at night

I’ve calmed down a bit since then, but I’m still hard at work trying to figure out exactly what levers have caused certain “Big Brand” sites to skyrocket in the SERPs while others remain mired in search engine mediocrity. As with most things in life, the best course of action is to introduce a bit of the old scientific method, systematically isolating variables in an attempt to identify predictable patterns that can be replicated.

After taking a high-level look at each of the keywords outlined in Aaron’s post, and the corresponding brand sites that made the jump onto the front page, several possible culprits become apparent. Here are a couple that jumped out at me:

Social Media Signals – companies like University of Phoenix have made a concerted effort to engage users via social media channels, and those social reverberations could be a key facet in Google’s newly refined algorithm, especially if some of those reverberations include mention of the phrase “online degree.”

Increased weighting of anchor text within internal site linkage – companies like American Airlines seem to be leveraging both their own internal site pages as well partner sites to increase the volume of anchor text occurrences for the term “airline tickets” (although they’re missing out on some seriously low-hanging fruit by failing to optimize the alt. image attribute on their global logo image link). If Google has decided to increase the potency of this element, then large brand portals with voluminous amounts of internal pages and partner sites (or branded micro sites) could gain an upper hand for highly competitive terms.

Increased sensitivity to offline marketing campaigns – Perhaps Google’s algorithm is getting better at recognizing site traffic associated with offline marketing campaigns. This would extremely difficult to do without having direct access to a site’s analytics data (although Google Analytics conspiracy theorists are convinced that this is already the case for sites using GA) but perhaps Google is using signals such as the relative volume of specific search queries (e.g. branded queries like “State Farm”) and somehow tying that data back to terms that the algorithm associates with the given brand query (e.g. State Farm = Auto Insurance).

Disclaimer: I haven’t been able to actually test these hypotheses out thoroughly or with any real semblance of scientific method. After all, it’s only been five days since I read the post, and I do have other things to do besides ponder the ramifications of this alleged algorithm shift (it’s 10pm so I have to start annoying my team with random emails again).

Besides, Google’s results could roll back at any moment, rendering all of these insights (nearly) moot. Still, if you’re in any way involved in optimizing web sites for big brands (or if you just want to improve your eye for SEO) it’s probably a good idea to start doing a little scientific testing of your own.

If you liked this post (or even if you thought it was a flaming pile of dog excrement) feel free to reach out to me via my Twitter handle:

How Salesmanship Can be Undermined by Competency & Expertise

In February I wrote a post about how for many people (who actually care about the quality of their work), low self esteem is one of the largest competitors to getting a fair market rate for the work they do. And low self-esteem can happen to anyone at any level of business:

What should have been asked, but wasn’t, is this: A-Rod, putting aside the Y&S line — since you weren’t that young, and you certainly aren’t that stupid — where does your low self-esteem fit into this equation?

Because that — low self-esteem — serves as the pure truth when explaining why a guy who already was by far the best shortstop in the game, if not the best overall player, would decide that steroids are the way to go. Low self-esteem is what makes a player of A-Rod’s abilities turn to Scott Boras, an agent who eliminates all other factors — comfort level, compatibility, organizational professionalism — and makes the number of zeroes at the end of your contract the only thing that matters when counseling his clients.

Self Doubt is a Strong Self Protective Strategy

The rub of it is that self-confidence is often counter-intuitive. Real experts are often self skeptical, challenging their own experiences & assumptions.

Approval is not the goal of investing. In fact, approval is often counter-productive because it sedates the brain and makes it less receptive to new facts or a re-examination of conclusions formed earlier. Beware the investment activity that produces applause; the great moves are usually greeted by yawns. - Warren Buffett [PDF]

Public Relations Hacks

Whereas the fake experts just sell junk:

Baker, author of the new book "Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and Fall of the Bubble Economy," comments: "If someone works for a trade association, they're there to push the industry line. Talk to someone with another perspective."

And they often do so EVEN WHEN they know they are wrong:

Q: Were you wrong to be so bullish?
A: I worked for an association promoting housing, and it was my job to represent their interests. If you look at my actual forecasts, the numbers were right inline with most forecasts. The difference was that I put a positive spin on it It was easy to do during boom times, harder when times weren’t good. I never thought the whole national real estate market would burst.

Do You Trust Sales Copy?

The lies baked into sales copy and public relations make sales harder than it needs to be because they teach consumers to be distrusting, and what marketers are selling is hope. Some people can sell get rich programs and pyramid schemes with a smile on their face, whereas others under-sell their own potential due to modesty and uncertainty.

The truth rarely ends up in marketing copy, so we discount much of what we read, assuming some of it to be false or over-stated. A person that is mostly driven by being an expert will likely have sales copy that sounds wishy-washy, especially when compared against a person who does nothing but write sales copy (or spin public relations) for a living.

Businesses have to hold contests to pry testimonials out of consumers, because without them all we have is sales copy, and people generally don't share specific numbers unless they are paid to (in one way or another).

Marketers Sell Hope

It is not that marketing is evil, but that consumers are gullible. The market for something to believe in is infinite, but we want to get behind a person with confidence so we are certain they are right. That is why there are so many hyped up launches with big guarantees and little substance behind the products...they work because we are suckers that want to pay for certainty, even if that certainty is nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Excessive Self Confidence Crushes Longterm Returns

Ironically, the more confident a person is, the more likely they are to be ignorant:

“There are many incompetent people in the world. Dr. David A. Dunning is haunted by the fear he might be one of them. Dr. Dunning, a professor of psychology at Cornell, worries about this because, according to his research, most incompetent people do not know that they are incompetent.

“On the contrary. People who do things badly, Dr. Dunning has found in studies conducted with a graduate student, Justin Kruger, are usually supremely confident of their abilities — more confident, in fact, than people who do things well.”

As Jill Whalen recently wrote in this great article, the answer to many SEO questions is "it depends." Which is why it is important for SEOs to keep launching new websites and have multiple data points to compare their experiences against. It helps keep us honest and uncertain and learning.

But the less confident you sound, the more sales you lose if/when you sell how to information.

Brian Clark Rocks

I generally have been better at giving people other copy tips than I have been at writing our own copy. A sales letter is rarely a good spot to be self-depreciating or hold back, but for me it seems a self-aggrandizing feat unless it is broken down into chunks, patterned after another starting point, and/or done with the help of a master copywriter. This is proven by how Brian Clark killed it when he helped us out in the past, and proven once again with the great work of our current conversion boosting partners.

Interactive Sales Copy Writing

When you run a community website your sales copy selects who joins the community. Push conversion too hard and you get a community that looks nothing like the great community we have been lucky enough to build.

We have been working again on making our sales copy sharper and more confident with more concrete stuff in it...and the sales increased much more than I would have expected because I mistakenly assume people are far more rational than they are and know me way better than they do. That is not to say we try to state anything false to make a sale, but we have the input from people who are confident and sales/conversion oriented...they come up with ideas and we implement the best bits that really fit what we feel fits our brand.

Learning From My Mistakes

In years past I believed that you could do everything yourself, but this is probably one of my biggest flaws from a business perspective. One has to recognize their own limitations (or be held back by them for a lifetime). In some cases it is best if the person providing the service lets someone else help write the sales for me! :)

SEO Book Competitive Research Tool Review

I recently created a video walkthrough of our competitive research tool, which is powered by SEM Rush, and has a couple extra data points added in. It is about 8 minutes long, and should give you at least a couple good ideas for how to use competitive research tools to make more money from your websites.