Is SEO Science or Art?

Recently SEOmoz posted about running a test that proved their thesis that nofollow PageRank sculpting still works (while actually only proving issues with sample size & methodology). But the issue of "proving" things with SEO publicly is typically a misguided one.

It is so hard to control variables in tests, and even if you could set up a control set many test types would be isolated to fictional words. But the issue with that is that the relevancy algorithms can change based on your location, the location where a particular keyword is commonly searched from, how many other competing results there are for that query (and what those other sites are changing while you test), and whatever algorithm shifts happen in Google while your test is going on (like promotion of certain vertical databases, baking in new pieces to the relevancy algorithms, improvements in related vocabularies, introduction of new penalties and filters), etc etc etc

But lets ignore all the above and pretend there is a way you can isolate variables or you notice something new and different and important. What happens when you mention it? Typically people tell you that you are full of crap, even when you are right.

Even if the test they did was legitimately scientifically valid they still likely would have got mocked for their efforts, just like I did in the above image (when I was right).

And the more data you share to "prove" your case all you are doing is lessening your competitive advantage over other market competitors. Lets say I wrote a blog post about "5 surprisingly strong links you can use to spam Google with great results" ... well after I publish that the same day Google engineers will torch those link sources. The net effect of such efforts would be:

  • wasting my time and money and competitive advantage
  • harming a business model, business, and/or website that was helping me
  • making Google look stupid (and having them dislike me)
  • wasting your time (and a link source you could have used)

It is one of those rare lose/lose instance where literally nobody gains (unless it creates a self-serving controversy).

In what other "science" could reporting your results instantly alter/destroy them?

One conference I went to a while ago I only went for 1 day instead of 2. And then I saw on Twitter someone complained about me not showing up. Then I looked and saw that one of their sites competed with one of our sites. Was I really going to benefit by speaking on a panel where I give a direct competitor (with VC backing, decades of cumulative experience, more algorithmic leeway, etc.) any SEO tips? As an SEO that also does publishing you are only sacrificing your future revenues and your future net worth if/when you review competing sites and tell them how to compete better against you.

In the SEO industry it is hard to land 5 figure clients. But it is easy to build websites that make that recurring. You just have to put the time and effort in. But the only reason to share new and useful tips publicly is self-promotion. But even that is often a misguided effort because earning money servicing the SEO market is a bit like squeezing water out of a rock. People have free in their mindset and are irrationally stuck on free rather than the benefits of spending to save time and grow and earn more. Sorta self-defeating and certainly misguided if you take it too seriously, which is why I have been looking to build out other sites in other fields too. ;)

I used to dislike misinformation in the SEO industry, but I have since come to realize that the more misinformed the public is the more opportunity there is for me. If it wasn't abstract and full of misinformation then someone overseas would be doing it for $5 a day and I would lose most of my income. So I say lets see some more bogus scientific studies. Let there be published book authors telling you that the best backlinks to get are the ones which are shown in the Google link: search.

If the end value is $10's of Billions but the market sets a price of free, then misinformation is a big piece of the price...that is basic economics. ;)

The money doesn't care how it got into your bank account (as long as it was legal). And you don't have to spend a lot of time backsolving everyone else's success ... a lot of that time would be better spent building your own success. Truthfully most people who are successful can't even tell you why they themselves are successful. Worse yet, the "scientific" case study earns nothing while the non-scientific site with tons of traffic (built through small incremental daily improvements by an amateur) can earn a lot of money.

Years ago I gave away so many valuable tips that simply just created competition for myself. (And eventually I woke up to that when some of the people who would contact me begging me for discount SEO services while claiming they were broke also sent buy requests into other sites I ran that they didn't know I owned). There are lots of other issues like non-disclosure agreements that mean nothing when someone has access to your stats + owns competing sites, fake investors who try to scam you for your information, etc etc etc.

I still love this site as though it is a was the first site that really helped build me into a position where I had more options and opportunity than time. And due to our current pricing point filtering out most of the SEO market the forums are still a great place for me to learn more :D

But, truth be told, in the SEO industry (as a service provider) almost everyone who comes to you likes to pretend that they are poor. They want to discount the price to nothing to help discount risk, but rarely (if ever) do they want to remove all risk and give you a piece of the upside for the millions of Dollars worth of extra profits you create for them.

But the cool thing with search is you can start off small and grow to compete. Sure it is always getting more competitive, but publishing tools are improving rapidly. If a person could read the archives of this blog for years and not be able to make money from search it simply means they lacked effort. Search offers so much opportunity that even without talent eventually anyone can stumble into something that works for them.

And that is the thing about SEO. Search offers so much opportunity that even without talent eventually anyone can stumble into something that works for them.

But they have to have the right mindset to succeed.

Dear sirs explain me all link buildings method are crucial to make me riches. Is very important Aaron Walls personally answers me this free and promptys ... well that is not the right mindset, is it?

Investing time and money and effort and blood and tears...that is the right mindset. If you got nothing then you got nothing to lose. Give it your all.

Lots of the most interesting bits that you learn are from accidents that happen with experience. Accidentally blocking a part of your site in robots.txt, doing something weird with a redirect, having your host go down and getting your site crawled in a weird state, etc etc etc. Screwing up is where you learn a lot because that is where a lot of the surprises are. And it is far easier to learn when you are working on a number of sites at various stages of gives you lenses through which to view search.

What works for one site might not work for the next. What works for one person might not work for the next. But there are many models that work and paths to success. Some people succeed because they are simply the best, or they love what they do, or they show up every day for years and years and years. Others succeed due to their irrational bias and ignorance. And some people were just early to the market and sorta fell into success.

One company spreads hyped up misinformation to an audience of ignorant drones who spread the misinformation, the next buys old domains that are heavily linked to and then pours garbage content into them using an assembly line sort of production model, the next has a person who does black public relations and tries to take down other industries (while learning their business models and working to clone them).

And yet other people are popular just because they are popular. Or because they were born rich and launched a sex tape on the web (complete with bogus fake legal stuff just to suck in more press coverage and "build the brand").

Is SEO scientific? Yes, in the same way that sociology, psychology, and economics are scientific. But economics is referred to as the dismal science. ;)

Anything that involves understanding human behavior and trying to influence it is not just science. It is also an art.

Here is to hoping you have a healthy, happy, profitable, and ARTISTIC 2010 :D

Local SEO - A Case Study

How Do You Do Local SEO?

It's quite clear that local SEO will be *one* of the places to be in 2010 and beyond. Need convincing?
Check out:


  • Google and Yelp's failed deal - If local search was unlikely to see a decent ongoing up tick, Google might not have as much interest in acquiring a site like Yelp. Even if Google was just buying Yelp out to remove competition for it's own local stuff, it still shows an acknowledgement that local search is quite important.
  • Google's Flat Rate Local Adwords Pricing Model aimed at local businesses
  • Google's Local Business Center is becoming a more and more robust service.
  • The local 10 Pack continues to show up in general service related queries. Local SEO is also about gaining visibility in Google's 10 pack and maps in general so it is equally as important to be optimized for your geo-specific keywords as it is to be set up to succeed in the local pack

Speaking of the local 10 pack, it appears to have done part of its job for Google. Consider the following from TMPDM/ComScore

So Google's maps increased sharply, likely due to the local 10 pack being shoved down people's throats. I happen to like the 10 pack to some degree, more when I type in a town/city + service instead of my town + service because lots of times they pull from my IP which is a ways away from where I am now, which kind of renders the initial map findings a bit useless for me. I also like it much better when it takes up #4 in the rankings rather than having be at spot 1 or 2

The Process

One of the nice things about local SEO for me is that I don't have to fuss around with a bazillion different keyword tools, cross reference data points, wonder which data sets are more accurate (and which ones are entirely useless), or spend time creating a site structure which ultimately has to be redesigned after finding some some of the keyword data was rubbish.

There are a few ways get a general idea of which keywords you should incorporate in your campaign. You can use tools like Google Trends, Google Insights, as well as PPC campaigns. You can also look at competing sites to see how they structure their page or site in order to target specific keywords.

A Case Study

So you just spoke at a local chamber of commerce meeting in your hometown of Atlanta and now you have the locals all fired up about search marketing. You end up landing a client named Mary Smith who owns Peachy Insurance Agency which has offices in Atlanta, Savannah, Macon, and Athens.

Mary has decided her agency is going to focus on vehicle insurance only. So she asks you to begin the process of figuring out which keywords best suit her goals. Will it be broader geo-local keywords (on the state level) or pursuing really local keywords (down to the town level) or both?
In this case, we have to figure out if car insurance or auto insurance is the more popular keyword in this specific area. I would start with the Adwords Keyword Tool to figure out if there is any big difference from a broad perspective

It appears that the modifier georgia and "auto" is a bit more popular (but it is pretty easy to work in other variations like the state abbreviation into your on-page copy)

Then I would head over to Google Insights for additional data points, one targeted to the state and one broader country wide search with local modifiers

Broad Search with modifiers

Broad Keywords but geo-targeted by region

Lastly, from a tool standpoint, I would give google trends a shot. They break out volume by town/city but I would still test that heavily in Adwords.

My next step would be to type in some keywords, since the difference is not huge and trying to target both might be a good move

Note the local box on the more niche, local search. Also, note how some sites target both car/auto. From a relevancy standpoint, Mary's site should be able to do pretty well in these SERPS as a local resource guide, a local insurance agency, and a site which is not essentially a lead generation site. If Mary can create content which is valuable to the local community, earn local links, promote the site in local communities, etc.. she should do pretty well when compared to either thinner affiliate sites or one page off-shoots on a large lead generation domain.

Georgia Auto Insurance

Georgia Car Insurance

Atlanta Auto Insurance

Atlanta Car Insurance

The best way to figure out local keyword volume, or really any keyword's volume in most cases, is to set up an adwords campaign. I like to set up 2 PPC campaigns:

  • Campaign 1 - no radius targeting, targeting keywords with specific geo-local modifiers (georgia auto insurance, car insurance in atlanta, etc)
  • Campaign 2 - targeting by maps (state of Georgia and specific zip codes) with no geo-local modifiers (auto insurance quotes, car insurance quotes) etc.

So that second option will probably be fairly pricey but the long term payoffs of making sure you or your client are optimized for the correct keyword variations in your market are much bigger than any nominal PPC campaign costs.


So the volume might not be huge but keep in mind this is a local insurance agency. They may not be able to scale their operation with a huge firehose of traffic (say the 10's of thousands places like Geico and Progressive receive per day), it is all relative.
You might proceed as follows:

  • Go with the state level keywords on the home page and try and grab the exact match if possible (either GeorgiaAutoInsurance.Com or GeorgiaCarInsurance.Com depending on what your PPC campaign tells you has the higher volume)
  • Target towns/cities on individual pages like

Most of the time local SERPS are ripe if you can figure out which angle you want to pursue, be able to execute it, and have a client willing to spend some capital

Must have resources, for me, when launching an SEO campaign is to browse through the local search ranking factors and see how I can apply them to my client's site. Also, I am a big fan of Andrew Shotland's Local SEO Guide & understanding Google maps & local search.

Google's Youtube Potentially Cloaking? Or VEVO Launch?

[update: Matt Cutts contacted me and mentioned that this was due to the Vevo launch which occurred after that page was cached. Over time that means such pages like the one mentioned below should be purged from the Google search index.]

Google claims they try to be pretty fair with publishers and publishing business models. They are fine with indexing preview versions of a page and just showing a user that, you can make the full article free, you can make the first x clicks free.

OR you can put it all behind a paywall and not get any search exposure.

UNLESS you are Youtube.

In which case you can put whatever you want behind a subscribe wall, still have that registration-required/paywall content fully indexed in Google, and then force users to sign in to view the content.

On the cache copy of pages people still can view the pre-roll ads, but not the content :D

Search Google for "poker face", observe all the Youtube data in the search results, click the top Youtube listing, and watch them send you to a login page so they can better track you and target ads against you.

Many publishers that are having trouble figuring out search (from a business model perspective) would have no problem making a ton of money from search if they got the good ole home cooking treatment that Youtube currently enjoys (universal search promotion + cloaking forcing registration).

And this is where Google being rumored to acquire other content properties (like Yelp) becomes scary for users and publishers and advertisers alike.

Publicly Google preaches the virtues of openness

To understand our position in more detail, it helps to start with the assertion that open systems win. This is counter-intuitive to the traditionally trained MBA who is taught to generate a sustainable competitive advantage by creating a closed system, making it popular, then milking it through the product life cycle. The conventional wisdom goes that companies should lock in customers to lock out competitors. There are different tactical approaches — razor companies make the razor cheap and the blades expensive, while the old IBM made the mainframes expensive and the software ... expensive too. Either way, a well-managed closed system can deliver plenty of profits. They can also deliver well-designed products in the short run — the iPod and iPhone being the obvious examples — but eventually innovation in a closed system tends towards being incremental at best (is a four blade razor really that much better than a three blade one?) because the whole point is to preserve the status quo. Complacency is the hallmark of any closed system. If you don't have to work that hard to keep your customers, you won't.

Open systems are just the opposite. They are competitive and far more dynamic. In an open system, a competitive advantage doesn't derive from locking in customers, but rather from understanding the fast-moving system better than anyone else and using that knowledge to generate better, more innovative products. The successful company in an open system is both a fast innovator and a thought leader; the brand value of thought leadership attracts customers and then fast innovation keeps them. This isn't easy — far from it — but fast companies have nothing to fear, and when they are successful they can generate great shareholder value.

Open systems have the potential to spawn industries. They harness the intellect of the general population and spur businesses to compete, innovate, and win based on the merits of their products and not just the brilliance of their business tactics. The race to map the human genome is one example.

But as soon as Google gets a market dominant position, you can bet on them locking it down to enhance ad revenues. The secret search relevancy algorithms, AdWords ad quality score, using AdWords rebates to push Google Checkout, always-on search personalization (even when logged out), mystery meat payout rates to AdSense publishing partners, universal search algorithms that allow them to arbitrarily promote their own websites, YouTube cloaking, etc etc etc

It looks like they jumped the gun on Yelp. Google was already integrating Yelp reviews in their AdWords ads before the acquisition was finalized.

What does it mean for the rest of us?

I am not sure.

It depends on if Google believes in what they say or what they do. They can't believe both.

Google Sitelinks Come in How Many Flavors?

Google has long been known for having "10 blue links" and they have expanded far beyond that.

But even amongst the traditional listings there are lots of variations in how they are displayed.

Here is a regular result

with a second indented result

sometimes the second indented result can show inline sitelinks

traditional single listing with 2 indented results under it (and then sometimes a non-indented 4th listing)

traditional single listing with 3 or 4 inline sitelinks

sometimes that has a second indented listing as well

traditional single listing with 8 sublinks below it (and this often has the second intented results below it too...though in such cases it is not indented)

traditional single listing with 4 links under it (often with dates near them) for forums & some blogs

And the above does not take into account handling of domains vs subdomains (or http vs https), using breadcrumbs in the search results, insertion of additional data (like a picture of a video or reviews from micro-format data), other helpful links (like a link to the businesses location on Google Maps), and all the types of vertical search data (videos, music, movies, local, news, real time, shopping/product results) being pulled into the regular search results. And then you can layer personalization and localization on top of the search results as well as yet another layer of change. And don't forget about any user based metrics or temporal metrics Google might be able to add with caffeine.

When you think of all the different ways data can be modified and displayed it makes information architecture a bit challenging, especially for new projects when you don't know where you will be at in a year, how much the market will change in that next year, and how many additional formats Google will create between now and then.

What Matters Now

I am still behind on a couple major writing projects, but one of the writing projects that was hardest for me was trying to write something for Seth Godin's new project - What Matters Now. A killer PDF full of ideas from some of the leading thinkers in technology*

*and me ;)

When I got started online I ended up having to get a job because I had plenty of debt and no experience. But I learned somewhat quickly, and had a habit of taking pictures of things that I thought were interesting. After reading Andrew Goodman's guide to AdWords I saw he referenced Seth Godin, and so I devoured almost every (marketing) book Seth had published to that point and noticed there was the ability to buy a bunch (20?) of his Purple Cow book as an admission fee to see him speak live at his office.

I did the bulk purchase. So late after work one night I drove most of the way to Seth's place and slept in my car at a rest station about 20 miles from his business. When I woke up in the morning I went to his office a bit early, finished reading another book while anxiously sitting there, and then finally everyone showed up. His enthusiasm was great. And he taught just how much marketing is becoming art.

But what he did (that really made my day) was he grabbed a bunch of products that he thought were great examples of marketing and put them on a table. One of them was a Yorkie candy bar. I had just took a picture of one of those on my camera, and somehow when I saw that on Seth's table it made me think that maybe I knew what was going on. It was like some sort of validation or test. Like scoring an A on a pop quiz. That and reading his books really made a lot of things just click on the marketing front.

That night there was also a Red Hot Chili Peppers concert back up near where I lived (silly that I had money for concert tickets when I was broke...but I think I needed inspiration more than anything back then), so I had a long drive ahead of me...but on the ride to the concert I think I was far more excited about feeling like the web and marketing were falling into place than about going to see the great live music.

I was on salary and my boss viewed extra hours from me as free labor. And I was trying to learn online stuff while working about 70 hours a week at my job. It was going to Seth's office that helped give me the confidence to put in my notice that I was going to quit my job to play on the web. I did it way before I had enough cashflow to do so, but it worked out ok in the end :D

6 years later, to have seen Seth speak at Elite Retreat this year was great because it was a reminder how far I had come since I first started out. And to have him ask me to contribute to his new project was totally killer, and a bit humbling. It was so hard to write though because of the awe factor. It was too hard to condense SEO into 200 words, and then when you think of similar topics how can you write on hyperlinks when you see David Weinberger wrote a killer entry on that front. So I had to think long and hard about what to write about...and finally decided that the best thing to write about would be how you don't have to be perfect to get started online. I certainly was not, and still have a long way to go. ;)

Please check out What Matters Now and let me know what you think!

What is the Difference Between Google's Secrecy & Your Privacy?

One of Google's leading marketing secrets is to appeal to power users. When describing how they designed Gmail, Google's Todd Jackson stated:

We started with the early-adopter crowd. That was on purpose. We wanted to build a product for people who were getting hundreds of e-mails a day, because we believe by focusing on the power user, you're designing the product the rest of the market will want in a couple years when everyone's usage habits catch up to the most active users. We pay most attention to seven-day active users (those who use Gmail at least once every seven days) and usage--the amount of actual engagement with the product. Something that Larry and Sergey (Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google's co-founders) are always, always telling us is to focus on usage rather than users. That's what matters more. You get better feedback and you are properly kept more on the leading edge if you're focusing on the people who are using the product all the time, using the product all day, than just the casual users.

This is why marketing to developers and designers is so important...they use the web more, and the stamp they leave on it is much deeper than the average user. But they also tend to be sensitive to marketing messaging, especially when it becomes a bit hypocritical.

Eric Schmidt On YOUR Privacy With Google

Recently in an interview Eric Schmidt made the awesome statement "Judgment is important ... If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

That approach to privacy from a search engine intent on personalizing the search experience is horrible for a number of reasons. It is bad enough that it encouraged reactions from security professionals and open source advocates, who like to remind us that Google is *always* trying to spy on you and collect more data.

"Everyone knows that every site you visit and all address bar searches in Chrome go to Google, right?" - Christopher Blizzard

Why did Google create an operating system? So they can spy on you. Why does Google care about speed so much that they created a DNS service? It was a convenient excuse to they can spy on you. Why is Google launching their own cell phone? So they can spy on you.

Mozilla makes most of its money from their search syndication partnership with Google, and yet Mozilla's Asa Dotzler wrote about how to switch your search provider to Bing. Explaining why he favors Bing, he wrote:

Because search is broken like browsers were broken in 2002. No competition means that Google can do what ever it wants and you have to like it. Bing's search is pretty good, in the US at least, and their privacy policy is so much better (they don't, for example, connect your Microsoft email or office accounts with your search results like Google does so search data they collect isn't personally identifiable.)

Bruce Schneier understands why privacy is important

For if we are observed in all matters, we are constantly under threat of correction, judgment, criticism, even plagiarism of our own uniqueness. We become children, fettered under watchful eyes, constantly fearful that -- either now or in the uncertain future -- patterns we leave behind will be brought back to implicate us, by whatever authority has now become focused upon our once-private and innocent acts. We lose our individuality, because everything we do is observable and recordable.

The following comment also reveals how this sort of tracking + philosophy on privacy can go astray

Why does Eric Schmidt dismiss your privacy?


Exploiting User Flaws for Maximum Profit Potential

Google collects more data than they need to (putting you at greater risk), so they can better exploit your mental weaknesses for profit. Eric Schmidt is betting big on exploiting YOUR privacy for profit:

Even better, the device knows who I am, what I like, and what I have already read. ...
Some of these stories are part of a monthly subscription package. Some, where the free preview sucks me in, cost a few pennies billed to my account. Others are available at no charge, paid for by advertising. But these ads are not static pitches for products I'd never use. Like the news I am reading, the ads are tailored just for me. Advertisers are willing to shell out a lot of money for this targeting.

But a bet for ads that learn you and profile your faults and weaknesses is not one that Tim Berners-Lee would make. The creator of the WWW is firmly against it:

In a world where democracy is getting more participatory, it's very important that people are informed over a neutral medium so they can connect to whoever they want. Another issue that is very important is snooping. I don't want any snooping on my Internet traffic.
You can do things to ensure that my Internet runs smoothly, but when I am doing something which is perhaps very intimate: when someone looks up something to see if they have cancer, or a teenager wonders if they are homosexual or not and wants to go online to find answers, this should be private. So systems that monitor every click and build a profile of me are very damaging.
The things we do on the Internet are so intimate that they are much more valuable to others and damaging to me than having a permanent TV camera in my living room. I don't want my health premiums to go up if I look up health information
; I don't want to be a suspected terrorist if I do research on chemicals, I don't want to get leaflets from gay rights groups if I look up something on sexuality.

At least we know why Eric Schmidt says "Advertisers are willing to shell out a lot of money for this targeting" and why he thinks you don't need to worry about it.

But maybe Mr. Schmidt is right. Lets look at how Google operates...

With Nearly Unlimited Privacy & Secrecy

What happens when Google gets search personalization or search suggestion wrong and your spouse wants to divorce you because of a Google error? Judgment is important, after all. Well Google wouldn't make such errors, they are perfect. Or are they?

Google's Data Privacy Strategy is a Leaky Boat

Google wants you to trust them enough to store your data with them in the cloud. Eric Schmidt said that the cloud was their most important focus in 2010. Well what happens when your internal data is exposed publicly due to a Google bug? Couldn't happen? Well guess again and again.

Is Eric Schmidt suggesting that businesses simply shouldn't consider using Google Apps because Google has a track record of not caring about user privacy & being sloppy with private data? How should we judge Google based on their current business practices? Judgment is important.

Google Promotes Lambasting Content

A few weeks back while watching CNBC I remember seeing reporters mention that if you want customer service from airlines that you should complain on Twitter. Google has since integrated such messages directly in their search results. So now any bad customer experience (or envious competitor) becomes part of your brand. And you can't make money while making everyone happy. As the web gets more competitive the markets will only get nastier, where more people try to cash in on established brands.

In fact, running AdWords ads asking if (or exclaiming that ) product or service x is a scam is one of the most popular AdWords affiliate strategies. Google doesn't let brand advertisers opt out of such messaging on their brands, and if you don't buy your brand they will be glad to sell that ad slot to someone else.

Google AdWords Ads Promote Scams

Sure Google recently sued some scammers who were cashing in on the Google brand directly, but how long was Google running the Obama stimulus and government grants for after they lied and said they were already cleaned up?

What does it say about the Google brand that their own brand is being tarnished, but will run scam ads on other keywords even after they said the issue has been cleaned up?

It is so bad that Google has an ad category called "get rich quick".

How should we judge Google based on their current business practices? Judgment is important.

Google Recommends Violating Copyright

Most sites violating copyright online which carry ads are wrapped in "Ads from Google", via Google AdSense & Google DoubleClick.

Further, Google also promotes cracks, warez, and torrent searches on copyright materials.

Sure it is not as bad as when Google ran AdSense ads on the #1 cracks website, but how hard would it be to sanitize words like warez and cracks from search suggestions?

How should we judge Google based on their current business practices? Judgment is important.

Google Uses Limited Ad Disclosure

Google has frequently talked up the importance of publishers disclosing ads. And yet in some cases Google removed the "Ads by Google" notification with a little "I" button that you have to scroll over to see that it is an ad.

Further sometimes they have shown NO ad notification on some ad units, making some website visitors think certain site owners condoned homosexual activity.

And Google even marketed the fact that their searchers did not realize that paid search AdWords ads were advertisements:

INT [interviewer]: “Why do the results on top have a yellow background, did you notice?”
TP [tester]: “I didn’t notice this.”
INT: “What does it mean?”
TP: “It definitely means they’re the most relevant.”

Google did not use this feedback to beef up their clearly confusing disclosure...they stuck with what was working well for them.

How should we judge Google based on their current business practices? Judgment is important.

Google Funds Manual Information Pollution

I was looking through some of the suggested article titles for some of the garbitrage websites, and came across gems like "Miley Cyrus Did What? Celebs who Make Bad Decisions and How to Teach our Kids Right"

Could that title be any more leading? And Google is funding that sort of garbage - right now.

How should we judge Google based on their current business practices? Judgment is important.

Google Funds Automated Information Pollution

And there are sites with automated content generation built around arbitraging brands. A few months ago I saw the following automated crap ranking for some of our branded keywords...trying to arbitrage our brand & associate it with foreclosure scams

And that was not a 1 off article...Google is paying to have 10,000's of such gems created, and is indexing them with glee

What does it say about the Google brand that their ads support this automated generation of trash? What message does that send to online consumers and business owners? How should we judge Google based on their current business practices? Judgment is important.

Google's Enjoyment of Privacy (aka Black Box Pricing)

Some advertisers have fallen out of grace with Google over the years and have had no luck getting back in. Google arbitrarily decides they don't like them (or maybe even their business model) and that the relationship should end. The game is complicated, but in some cases one strike and you are out. The same sort of privacy and secrecy is core to Google's organic search engine ranking algorithms, how they profile and target certain webmasters, the proprietary standards they push onto the web (like rel=nofollow), & almost every other aspect of their business.

Are you a Google cell phone partner who built a phone on Google's Android OS? If so, did they tell you that they were going to thank you for the cross marketing by creating a competing product? I doubt it.

Are you a Google partner who syndicates their ads? Want to know what percent of the click price you are earning? Screw you, you can't. Go eat crow.

And in the markets where Google is dominant they not only pass arbitrary judgment without care, concern, or explanation...but they also use their market position to exert monopoly pricing powers. They frequently state that the market sets the prices on the ads, but for one of our sites we did some brand ads on informational searches where there are no competing sites buying AdWords ads.

Our ad is so relevant that even the broad matched version of the ad is pulling in a 12%+ clickthrough rate (with phrase match more than doubling that clickthrough rate). Searchers love our ad and website. But if we bid less than a nickel Google won't even display the ad (in spite of the high relevancy and complete lack of competition in the marketplace).

Google sets arbitrary floor prices and shows you that if you want more clicks you need to pay more, even though the only competitor in this auction is Google. It is no better than the shill bidding SnapNames got in trouble for.

And yet you often hear Google talk about the power of democratic marketplaces. Something they clearly don't believe in. What message does that send to business owners? How should we judge Google based on their current business practices? Judgment is important.

What is YOUR Judgment on Google?

Anytime you see Google do something stupid make sure you blog about how stupid Google is, and compare their errors to what sort of results are available on Microsoft Bing. Feel free to leave your examples in the comments AND blog them. I'll share one of my favorite examples from today, showing me New York hotels near San Francisco :D

I still use a lot of Google products and write the above knowing that they have been pretty good to me, but seeing nonsensical garbage absolutist statements from the top of their company scares me.

If Privacy is Unimportant...

Think I am being hard on Google? Well if they think privacy is unimportant, then maybe they can explain why they host a PDF titled Inside the Black Box Technology and Innovation at Google.

Google workers think THEIR own privacy is crucial to their success (and WILL fire any employees who get it wrong), but think YOUR privacy is a commodity they should sell to the highest bidder.

Good to know!

Careful what you enter into a search box. And be careful when choosing your web browser. I would rather pay $50 more upfront and not get spied on. How about you?

Matt Kelly: How Can Mainstream Media Compete Online?

The Media Strawman Argument: SEO is Bogus

Lots of people in desperate positions like to create a common enemy and rally against them, even if/when their position is utter non-sense.

Watching the big co. media vs Google interaction has been entertaining, largely because they claim search is an either/or game.

Matt Kelly, from the Daily Mirror, exclaimed how SEO was a dead end and how they were only able to grow by not worrying about SEO:

three months ago, we launched two new websites - and actually stripped out from two of our core drivers of traffic; showbiz and football. Creating two new niche websites, built on very different platforms designed especially to show each off in their best light. And the hell with SEO. We we're chasing passion, here, not page impressions.

In the case of MirrorFootball, it is the ideal platform to combine our brilliant coverage of the British football with a unique collection of photographs and pages stretching back to 1903 - definitively the greatest British football archive in the world. With 3am, it is taking a unique brand and attitude of showbiz gossip and giving it the best possible platform online.

With these two new websites, I believe we have taken a very important first step - a very difficult first step - to put that sense of brand and value and character back.

How? By putting SEO in its rightful place as a tool to be used when appropriate

Brands Should Align With Interests, Not a Secret!

He claims the reason for the growth was not worrying about SEO, but nearly *any* smart & sophisticated SEO will tell you that if you have a couple sections of your site that are root drivers of traffic & repeat visits it might make sense to leverage your brand strength to create niche brands built around that passion.

Passion = readers + links + loyalty.

This is not some sort of new secret is why there are PROFITABLE magazines on water and running, and this is why passionate niche sites have done way better than many mainstream media sites IN SPITE OF Google preferring to promote the broad media oligarchy via promotion in Google News and the Google onebox. in it's original form was a blog in the bowels of another site. After our blog started gaining just a bit of traction I realized that it was worth turning into a separate brand and running with. I got on the web (commercially) in 2003, and making that shift was something I figured out...back in 2003.

Niche is the Easiest Way to Win Online

And anyone who cares and is passionate can own a niche. Maybe a small one to start, but over time it can grow. And even people with limited social skills can pull in quite a following if they can sell the illusion of success to others. On the announcement of his Open Angle Forum I told Jason Calacanas (which he didn't publish)

Nice strategy. I don't always agree with your public relations tactics, but (outside of being hypocritical) they are effective, and this launch is a good way to really start stamping a big footprint into the start up market. :)

If you own (or have interest in) the surrounding media ecosystem you can pump your own interests after investing in them. A sure way to ensure they get the right types of exposure & adequate public relations + PageRank.

You pick the market you want to play in, work at it for a few years, and you can do well enough to make a living. There are literally a million markets waiting for you (and more being built every day). And software keeps getting cheaper and more powerful. :D

Sharing Free Content Provides Social Proof of Value

I might sometimes complain about noise from freetards, but the truth is that in many verticals there is too much competition for attention for publishers to offer nothing of value and still expect people to chose you over the competition.

Any doubt or uncertainty is a tax on profits. Nobody wants to do something stupid, and sites that have a public portion show social proof of value which lowers perceived risk. And if attention follows what is publicly accessible, then it is typically better to be the person commoditizing competing business models by giving something away, than to be the one getting commoditized. ;)

Paywall + General Purpose = Fail

When general purpose / unfocused media companies put up paywalls they will just commoditize their position on the link graph. Even if you are a paying subscriber AND you chose to link to content behind a paywall, most people reading your website would rather read your accounts and link at your accounts. On a large viral network content behind paywalls doesn't typically go viral.

In addition to the glut of competition for the "news" topic, the other reasons the media suck at making a business from SEO tend to be a lack of canonical topical sections (which focus domain weight and authority against core keywords), a slow & bloated business structure, and them treating business as though it is deserved (rather than earned).

Many Media Companies *ARE* SEO Savvy

This is not to say all media companies are stupid. Much of the anti-seo talk is just a combination of misdirection & posturing for self promotion. Deep down inside Rupert Murdock understands this, which is why he invested in leading media brands like the Wall Street Journal.

It looks like Matt Kelly, who wrote the above nonsense about putting SEO in its place, just got promoted. Also not a coincidence that his company (which claims not to care about SEO) actually employs outdated SEO techniques (like keyword stuffing) on the sites which are allegedly not concerned with SEO!

Some of these companies that claim SEO is somehow bad are not only doing SEO, but are also using spammy hyped up headlines which promise steak but deliver dog food. Headlines are the new bubble. How is that any better than pulling in traffic through the use of a relevant page title?

Back to SEO & the media ;)

As big & slow moving as the BBC is, they are already employing something many SEOs do not do - a dual title strategy. Wordtracker has an article about the AMAZING things Brent Payne is doing at the Tribune company.

Google Loves Public Relations

"The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about." - Oscar Wilde

Google also understands the importance of being in the news and the importance of blocking news coverage of competing business interests. You can see their fondness for public relations in how...

Google's 2 solutions for fading media always seem to revolve around...

The first of those is a non-starter for any serious business enterprise. If you don't host it then it is much harder to control the business built around it (especially while leaking your intellectual property to a direct competitor).

Exploiting User Flaws for Maximum Profit Potential

Eric Schmidt is hopeful on the second:

Even better, the device knows who I am, what I like, and what I have already read. ...

Some of these stories are part of a monthly subscription package. Some, where the free preview sucks me in, cost a few pennies billed to my account. Others are available at no charge, paid for by advertising. But these ads are not static pitches for products I'd never use. Like the news I am reading, the ads are tailored just for me. Advertisers are willing to shell out a lot of money for this targeting.

But a bet for ads that learn you and profile your faults and weaknesses is not one that Tim Berners-Lee would make. The creator of the WWW is firmly against it:

In a world where democracy is getting more participatory, it's very important that people are informed over a neutral medium so they can connect to whoever they want. Another issue that is very important is snooping. I don't want any snooping on my Internet traffic.

You can do things to ensure that my Internet runs smoothly, but when I am doing something which is perhaps very intimate: when someone looks up something to see if they have cancer, or a teenager wonders if they are homosexual or not and wants to go online to find answers, this should be private. So systems that monitor every click and build a profile of me are very damaging.

The things we do on the Internet are so intimate that they are much more valuable to others and damaging to me than having a permanent TV camera in my living room. I don't want my health premiums to go up if I look up health information; I don't want to be a suspected terrorist if I do research on chemicals, I don't want to get leaflets from gay rights groups if I look up something on sexuality.

At least we know why Eric Schmidt says "Advertisers are willing to shell out a lot of money for this targeting."

And look at those innovative new way to run advertising campaigns! Check out Health Insurers Caught Paying Facebook Gamers Virtual Currency To Oppose Reform Bill. Awesome!

Why Private Communities Work so Well

In the past I have vented email frustrations in many ways (and truth be told I am still way behind on email to this day) but I thought it would be worth sharing why forums are a way better business model than personalized emails for helping people.

I am not sure if all my thoughts and analysis are 100% spot on, but this is why I like private forums so much.

Instant Feedback on Value Perception

One of the first reasons is that you instantly have a yes/no answer on if the person values your time. If you are answering questions via email then the transition to paid support via email gets to be a bit weird...with people pushing for as much as they can possibly get for free, and you being the bad guy if you charge. By deciding to answer virtually no questions via email you help them understand that your time and your knowledge *ARE* your business model, and that if they value them they can pay for them.

Sure you can answer questions on if you might be a good fit, but anytime you here something that starts off with "have a quick question" followed by some very specific requests about their exact situation and website then that person will rarely convert....they are just trying to squeeze as much free information as they can.

Reciprocity = No Pikers Please!

A second major advantage of running a forum vs trying to help people via private email is that it filters out the pikers. Back when I would try to help people via email, I would get lots of questions like these...

Hi Aaron
I want to do something really spammy that could easily generate 6 or 7 figures of income. I want you to guarantee it will work, (and to be able to cast the blame on you if it does not).

Hi Aaron
Google just banned our site. I gave you $79. Fix it now.

Hi Aaron
I bought your book and was too lazy to read it. But since I gave you $79 I need to see at least $100,000 in returns. Map out my strategy. Oh and I have a $0 I already spent my $79.

Hi Aaron
I have a spammy direct marketing 1 page salesletter website that I need to rank #1 for "mortgage". I have no budget and am unwilling to improve the site or add value in any way possible, but this is no problem since you are an SEO.

Hi Aaron
I don't have very much money (or knowledge for that matter) but I took on some clients that I am charging a lot of money to and I need you to do the work that I am charging them a lot of money for.

Now most people wouldn't be quite as direct as the above...there would be flowery language to try to cloak the bluntness and absurdity of the proposition.

But the cool thing about our current business model is the above people have disappeared from the equation.

We can point people right to their areas of need if they are in need, and the people who would have the never-ending general stream of irrelevant questions don't exist. And the people who are reselling services (but want you to do ALL!!! the work) don't exist either.

I think the reasons for those are mainly reciprocity.

  • The person who is a no value add vulture will presume that others are just like them, and would be afraid to mention specifics in a community (where others see it). And if they are too generic then the answers can't be as specific as they otherwise would be.
  • The person who is too lazy to study would be too embarassed to ask the same questions over and over again without listening to your answers. And those who ask for general reviews are highly receptive toward feedback. There is the community element of it, to where if a person asks you to review their same site 4 different times and they haven't done a lot of the tips from review #1 or #2 people will tell them about it.

Another such example of the type of piker (who was around in our old business model, but no longer exists today)... one guy emailed me about how broke he was and how he needed his spam hype garbage single page salesletter sites to rank and he had already paid $79 for my ebook... etc etc etc

The SAME GUY was in a book my wife read a year later as a case study of a self-made internet multi-millionaire who made his money doing info-marketing. So he was a fellow info-marketer and he wanted 10+ hours of my time for under $80.

He didn't like it very much when I told him I could use some $8 an hour help in his profession!

Answers With In Depth Context

Via email people sometimes try to quite literally write chapters to me. And OFTEN then don't even listen to my it just ends up going astray. People don't respect what they don't pay for. They usually start off with "a quick email" but after 3 or 4 hours of work on my end the perception of "quick" often changes.

With email the only way to respond to email overload is to be short (and maybe sometimes blunt). Such interactions often lead to more confusion and/or some incorrect assumptions where people feel insulted in such. The community setting of the forum prevents that issue for me. Out of close to 100,000 forum posts we have only had anyone feel insulted less than 5 times (so far as I am aware anyhow, and I read every post).

The interactive dialog ensures questions get not just answered, but understood. Further, sometimes you are good at explaining something to person B but not so good with explaining it to person C. But if person B understands you then sometimes they can do a better job of conveying the issue to person C.

Have a Lotta Help From My Friends

Since the forum is closed to the public the incentive to spam it is lessened, while the quality of membership is increased (because people pay to be there).

There have been technical topics covered in the forums where I am not the right guy to answer them - AT ALL. And, because our community is diverse and has lots of helpful members, the people asking those questions get much better answers. And since many people are there questions are typically answered far faster than a person can do via email.

And as people invest more time into participating they only want to help more. Putting people in a social setting really helps the user/abuser types self-select out of participation whereas those who realize that they get more when the give more and participate more are able to learn so much more from it and get a great bargain, creating a virtuous cycle.

A Searchable Database of Answers

Over time the forums get better at collecting questions and answers in a variety of formats...which makes its internal search become more relevant over time.

Selling an Interaction

With my old ebook model I was selling something that could be copied. With the new model there is always change happening and always new things to talk it is selling more of an interaction than a static product, and people only pay as long as they find value in being a member.

Less Reliance on Search

Anytime you have recurring subscription income then you are not so reliant on using search and other forms of push marketing. Sometimes just giving a really good customer experience is enough to help market your website.

And the Negatives?

There are not a lot of negatives to private forums as far as I see it, but there are some things worth thinking about, as no business model is 100% roses.

The first big risk is not hitting a critical mass. If you do not build it out to self sustaining then anytime someone joins they feel like they made a bad decision (since there is no/low activity).

Back when I had my ebook model I remember taking a two week European vacation. While I can still travel, it is much harder for me to unplug because there is work I have to do everyday. And it is tricky balancing what to do. Shall I participate heavily in the forums, write the newsletter, work on planning out some new SEO tools, create more training modules, etc. There really is an endless array of things to be done.

In some cases maintaining account permissions can be time consuming as well...especially if you discount the time it can take and under-price services. A couple ways to get around it are to try to charge enough to limit your size such that you don't have to worry about it too much, hire on help, add a support section to your site, and try to get people to sign up for longer periods of time.

The last tricky part is managing growth. If you grow too quickly it could lower the utility and quality of your site. If you grow too slowly then you risk the site fading into an eventual obscurity. How can you grow too slowly? Every type of membership site has a growth rate (and things that influence it) along with a decay rate (and things that influence it). If you are not improving the value of your site then eventually the decay rate overtakes the growth rate. So you keep needing to try to add more value.

Some people try to make membership sites seem like a set and forget revenue stream. If they aim to offer real value that can't be any further from the truth. The tricky part then is trying to maintain or grow the earnings of the business while also trying to maintain or grow the quality of the members. It can be quite challenging because most things that inspire quick growth also lead to a higher churn rate. And if you focus too highly on customer quality you can end up missing some of the better potential customers in the beginner portion of the market. That is a big mistake because

  • the beginner piece of the market is typically the biggest market segment in most markets
  • beginners tend to be more likely to spend (it is easier to deliver perceived value to a person who is unaware of everything that is out there than to a person who knows their options quite well, and this is especially true in markets with many software products)
  • the people who are experts today were once beginners (and are likely sticking with learning from many of the people they took too when they are beginners)

Why do a Fade in Web Page?

Google recently announced their fade in homepage. From a marketing perspective I think it is interesting to try to figure out why they did that. Marissa Mayer wrote:

the variant of the homepage we are launching today was positive or neutral on all key metrics, except one: time to first action. At first, this worried us a bit: Google is all about getting you where you are going faster — how could we launch something that potentially slowed users down? Then, we realized: we want users to notice this change... and it does take time to notice something (though in this case, only milliseconds!). Our goal then became to understand whether or not over time the users began to use the homepage even more efficiently than the control group and, sure enough, that was the trend we observed.

I think there are 3 big reasons to consider such a test

  • it is now impossible for any competitor to win by being viewed as more minimalistic (on the homepage, anyhow)
  • as Google noises up their search results with various verticals (from their universal search) they want to remind searchers how beautiful and minimalistic and elegant Google is
  • to get people to pay more attention to the ads below the search box (making them appear a second later makes them POP much more than if those directed ads were there right off the start...and as Google enters more verticals with new features they will use that announcement area on the homepage much more often)

The blank page conveys simplicity even as Google dominates new verticals by becoming more complex.

Such initial perceptions matter a lot in marketing. You see people quote your site as being advanced or basic or some such, and when some such statements skew in the direction that is opposite reality that comes down to mis-perceptions.

We are planning on doing a new site design soon(ish) because while our site design was perfect for what it was back then (a personal blog about SEO) as our site has bolted on so many pieces (training + community +newsletter + tools) that I think the design doesn't fit all the stuff we have added to it. If you shift with the market but do not shift your design it is a bit of mixed messaging, and anything that increases doubt or confusion is a tax on conversion.

I Stopped Caring About Links (Well, Almost)

Recently on Twitter a couple people mentioned that we should create tools similar to our Firefox extensions for Google Chrome. Then on TechCrunch there was a comment "As soon as I see the SEO Book toolbar for Chrome, I’ll be glad to uninstall Firefox." I read that and thought news to me.

First of all I think it is a bad idea because if Google owns the search engine and the browser then maybe that is not the best spot to have your SEO research stuff hooked up, but even beyond that I don't think we would make $1 more by creating those tools. Why? Because the people who use Google Chrome for SEO research are not the type of people who want to pay for anything related to SEO (outside of buying links perhaps).

My buddy Patrick from BlogStorm mentioned 'Imagine all the links you would get from people writing about the "Top 10 Chrome Extensions for SEO"' but when you think about it, what kinds of "customers" would those links bring? Entitled demanding and rude non-customers who pollute our sales funnel and waste our time. Eh...not really worth it.

Today a person running a COMMERCIAL SEO company told me "One of my employees loves the hubfinder and is now distraught that it's not free anymore. What would it take to get access to that tool?" And I responded with "if they are distraught over $300 then frankly they are quite pathetic, IMHO." He wants to CHARGE his clients, PAYS his employees, and then wants my time FOR FREE to ask how he could get FREE access to the fruits of our labor.

Distraught? Really? I couldn't imagine having the audacity to send that message.

And the truth is...that is 99%+ of the SEO market...everything should be free except whatever they sell. But we have to PAY $1,000+ a month for a web host, PAY for our vBulletin license, PAY for our SupportSuite license, PAY to license data from other sources, PAY to create tools to collect data, PAY to create new tools, PAY to maintain tools, PAY to advertise, PAY for a design + redesign, PAY for additional servers working creatively on future projects, PAY for the risks associated with being a well known public SEO, PAY to fly out to speak at SEO conferences & share information, PAY for upgrades to the site, SPEND lots of time on creating content for the blog, PAY PAY PAY etc etc etc

We have subscriptions with services like and WordTracker because to us they are worth it.Which is why we buy AdWords ads, certain links, access to other sites and services, desktop software like AdvancedWebranking, etc. I have easily spent $100,000's on consulting, tools, and info-products. Was every purchase profitable? No. But in aggregate, there was plenty of profit to be had.

The people who are selling stuff but who are afraid to spend any money themselves often sell trash. They are not convinced in the value of what they sell (often because it is lacking). Or as Seth puts it...

Money is more than a transfer of value. It's a statement of belief. An ad agency that won't buy ads, a consultant who won't buy consulting, and a waiter who doesn't tip big—it's a sign, and not a good one.

You don't create a real business by being the free infrastructure for someone else's business while giving it away AND providing 1:1 support. That is why open source works so well...give away the software, but if they want 1:1 support from the source they pay for it. $$$

Yes we could use more links, but that is not a weakness in our business right now...we have something like a quarter million people using our stuff. If anything, I would love to donate some of this site's links to a few of our affiliate websites. ;)

Imagine having a quarter million+ non-customers. If you are at that scale your problem is not finding a way to get more people at the top of the funnel. At that scale the issue more becomes filtering out the bottom portion of the market without offending the people who might potentially become customers. Assume 5% of the 250,000 people are entitled ___holes. Assume another 5% of them are great people who just happened to have a minor issues in the conversion process (forgot their username, picked the wrong username, registered under the wrong email address, didn't get the welcome email, etc.). Could you imagine handling 25,000+ personal emails a year? Add in paying customers & media inqueries and now your up above 30,000. And that doesn't even include making close to 1,000 posts a month in our member forums and reading the nearly 100,000 posts that have been made there! I love the work I do (and love helping people), but I think this really expresses the sentiment nicely.

I had to add the following to our support feedback section to help make the pollution from non-customers more manageable

Free SEO Tool Issues?
A Polite Warning for Non-customers

We run the best SEO website with the deepest and richest customer engagement. But our resources are finite and our time is valuable.

We Give Away Lots of Value, But Our Company is Small

At the same time we have given away some of our free SEO tools to over 100,000 webmasters. We can not provide 1 to 1 support to an audience that large while still providing the amazing customer experience that our paying customers have grown to appreciate and expect. If you are not a PAYING member then we expect you to read the installation and usage documentation before filing a ticket.

Did You Read The Usage Instructions?

Please note that if you are not a PAYING customer AND your issue is with our free SEO tools then we will NOT respond to ANY requests where you have not read the installation and operating instructions from the associated download pages.
SEO Tool Usage + Configuration Instructions

For your convenience here are links to the official resource centers for SEO 4 Firefox, Rank Checker, the SEO Toolber, & the download page. (The download page requires you set up a free account and login to it).

Need to Uninstall a Tool?

If you would like to uninstall something here are 2 ways to do that.

In his book Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky stated something along the lines of popularity being an imbalance between supply and demand of attention. Which is precisely why filtering is so important. If you don't filter out the laggards and freetards you are only holding back your own potential while giving your paying customers an inferior service to what they deserve.

Eventually it gets to where filtering through that noise becomes nearly a full time job. (Lucky for me I work twice as long as just about anyone I know), but anything that makes the sign up process more complex creates more noise (which potentially eats your time + harms your brand while creating 0 income). Plus the above quoted piece from our support section might turn off some potential clients...but it is always a game of as many people as you can and hopefully try not to offend many people.

What we are scarce on is time. And that is also what many people new to SEO are scarce on. And what people who are willing to pay for correct information with rich context are short on.

Working through all the hype and misinformation and scammy offers can be a bit overwhelming. To a person who is new to SEO, it is already confusing enough to decide...

  • which tools offer real value
  • if they should use any software
  • if they should use free or paid tools
  • what combination of software to use

And if we duplicate our tools for many different browsers then that ends up increasing the maintenance cost WHILE harming conversion rates (because people don't know what they should chose, or why you have so many tools doing the same thing).

The capital and efforts spent creating (and maintaining) a second or third set of duplicative free SEO tools would be better spent creating more paid tool & content for our paying subscribers.

Updated on November 7th, 2013: years later Google decided to block the ability to deliver plugins from outside their store. read some of the below comments from years ago to see what's up next...

Update #2, September 8, 2016: After a developer was arbitrarily banned from the Google extension store, he found there was literally no customer support:

"I don’t think I will ever develop anything for the Google ecosystem again. ... I went on to search for a Developer Support page, but after half an hour of searching I found out that there is none. There is no support whatsoever for the developer besides Google’s own documentation. ... I just want you to think twice before creating a revenue stream based on the Chrome Web Store." - Zeno Popovici

Google typically offers no customer support for their products. the Larry Page philosophy is "the whole idea of customer support was ridiculous." That is their approach unless/until the customer support expense is required by challenge by a strong competitor.

Meanwhile, they are buying up more internet plumbing by buying an API management company, hosting third party content via Google AMP & warning they will soon label HTTP websites as insecure.

I'll pass on creating a Chrome extension. And I'll pass on using Chrome. If you are an actual practicing SEO & have an IQ above 70, you'd skip both as well.