Danny Sullivan Moving On?

Quite shocking to read about Danny leaving SEW. Bad move Incisive Media.

Nobody in the search marketing field has the credibility or connections Danny does. And, if that were not a big enough loss, Danny works amazingly hard, has done so for over a decade, and is probably the kindest and most approachable guy in the industry. People are loyal to great friendships with him, and will go wherever he does. I can't even imagine the SES conference without Danny. Many others can't, either. Jakob Nielson recently published an article stating that using old words is key to SEO. A person like Danny not only can use old words, but has the authority to create new words, and to shape the framework upon which people discuss search. The real value with niche publishing is being able to own ideas. How much has Adaptive Path gained in mindshare and link equity for coining the term AJAX? How many ideas has Danny gave the market over the last decade? Danny can and will move the market without SEW. I don't think SEW will do that very long without Danny.

I wish you the best whatever you do Danny. Thanks for all the hard work you have done thusfar and all the help you have given me.

Traffic Power Sucks.com Lawsuit Over

I meant to update this a while ago, but I have been doing way too many things recently. My lawsuit ended a while ago, but about a month ago the TrafficPowerSucks.com
lawsuit was ended. Thanks to all the people who donated to help me out.

Is Your Attention Span Getting Shorter?

I believe that, in general, the attention span of most technologically enabled people is getting shorter by the day. In addition the increased number of content channels and communication associated with the web leads people to become more biased.
I have not done any research, so I may be wrong on those ideas, but this is what leads me to say that:

  • Automated spam (email, blog comments, direct mail associated with registering for a trademark, etc) which may even look relevant forces you to judge things quicker.
  • Search makes it easier to get "good enough" answers quickly.
  • The web (and search) let you self select social groups with predefined similarities.
  • There is a far greater number of news channels than there were just a few years ago.
  • We tend to consume media that fullfills or reinforces our predefined worldview.
  • RSS (and devices like Tivo) make it easy to consume media how and when you want to.
  • Sites like YouTube make it easy to embed other's content within your site.
  • Google Video now allows you to link to an exact second of a video in their collection.
  • My shorter and more straightforward posts usually get more comments and more quality editorial links. I also notice many of the Digg homepage and Del.icio.us popular URLs are short and straightforward articles titled things like "10 ways to x".
  • The increased number of social aggregation sites is making it easier for people to see what ideas spread, how they spread, and why they spread in near real time.
  • My biased and/or controversial posts usually get more comments and more quality editorial links. (And thus are more easily found and locked into more self reinforcing positions.) Can you name a popular political blog that is not highly biased?
  • As the amount of information on the web increases and search engines trust old content until new content proves its value the new content is forced to be of a higher quality than the old content to gain exposure. Being of higher quality generally means being more citation worthy. Which frequently means being more controversial.

If you have been on the web for a while have you found it easier or harder to meet people off the web that are outside your realm of trade? Have your media consumption habits become more or less biased since you started interacting on the web?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terry Semel Talks Shop

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

Via Peter.

How Green is Your Content?

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

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

  • target flawed search queries; or,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Finding and Valuing Domains

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

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

WMW recently had a thread about finding expiring domains.

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

The Memex Revisited

So I was thinking more about random stuff...hey I do that a lot, but what would happen if someone made something like a tagging site, but was not constricted to the barriers of using simple language to show relationships.

What would happen if there was a site where one could not only tag stuff like delicious and select trusted sources for different ideas or groups like Yahoo! MyWeb, but also be able to connect ideas using more than just a common word tag...

ie: the system could

  • passively archive shared information supply and relationships like Google search (to use as a backfill of your experiences)

  • passively archive stuff you have seen like Google Desktop (to use as a backfill of your experiences)
  • actively archive stuff you trust or like more
  • let you annotate why something is important AND how it relates to other things that were annotation worthy (this would allow you to tag many ideas together, even if their relationship was harder to explain than what is allowed by a simple tag with a single word or two)
  • track when you first saw something, when you revisited it, and how often you visit it (with giving you the ability to select or hide this information)
  • let you track when content has been revised, showing current versions and giving you the option to quickly see what has been added, removed, or changed
  • track when an idea or document or experience superseded a past one (and give you the ability to select or hide this information)

No, this idea is not my idea, it is Vannevar Bush's idea (from the 1930's and well explained in As We May Think).

I am just wonder what is stopping someone from making a true Memex device. Is it still too cost prohibitive? Is it the lack of monetization model for quality publishers? Is it a feared death for publishing houses? Is it because we sometimes enjoy forgetting some of the things we have seen or done? How do you get past all that? And should we?

The Day Search Engine Optimization Became a Legitimate Profession

Recently MSN UK listed an SEO job. Danny also spotted a post about eBay and Yahoo! looking for SEOs.

For a while these networks (and especially Google) have painted SEO as being shady and/or illegitimate. Google killed SearchKing's PageRank for years, only starting to show PageRank again this week.

Yahoo! has long been a buyer of links, Google cloaked itself, sold kiddie porn ads, openly funds piracy, and steals clients.

As companies that openly manipulate their own databases they have no credibility talking trash about SEOs. After actively seeking workers in the SEO field they won't have much credibility going forward when they try to talk it down.

In that regard I think SEO is going to seem far more legitimate.

As SEO keeps getting more exposure year over year and offline ads become less profitable huge media companies are starting to notice SEO. Yesterday the NYT admitted that they write titles with SEO in mind.

After a couple more months or years of declining offline profits more newspapers will write about SEO in positive articles as they tout their new value model to investors.

Sure there will still be isolated incidences, but as an industry as a whole I think SEO has just became legitimized.

The Most Important Search Document Ever!

My favorite paper about search is an article by Vannevar Bush called As We May Think. The Atlantic Monthly published it in July 1945, as WWII was winding down to a halt.

Vannevar suggested that an extensible personal memory extension be created to help people navigate their own experiences and the world's knowledge base. Here are a few quotes:

Specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial.

The difficulty seems to be, not so much that we publish unduly in view of the extent and variety of present day interests, but rather that publication has been extended far beyond our present ability to make real use of the record. The summation of human experience is being expanded at a prodigious rate, and the means we use for threading through the consequent maze to the momentarily important item is the same as was used in the days of square-rigged ships.

A record, if it is to be useful to science, must be continuously extended, it must be stored, and above all it must be consulted.

Our ineptitude in getting at the record is largely caused by the artificiality of the systems of indexing. ... Having found one item, moreover, one has to emerge from the system and re-enter on a new path.

The human mind does not work this way. It operates by association. ... Man cannot hope fully to duplicate this mental process artificially, but he certainly ought to be able to learn from it. In minor ways he may even improve, for his records have relative permanency.

Presumably man's spirit should be elevated if he can better review his own shady past and analyze more completely and objectively his present problems. He has built a civilization so complex that he needs to mechanize his records more fully if he is to push his experiment to its logical conclusion and not merely become bogged down part way there by overtaxing his limited memory.

Pretty sharp thinking for 1945! If you read this paper I think you would understand at least 99% of what Google is all about, and why their company value has so much more baked into it than next quarter's predicted earnings.