Amazon Margins Drop, Stock Tanks, Amazon offers Cheaper Express Shipping? , John Battelle Interviewed, AIRWEB Conference

Amazon reported their quarterly results, which fell well below expectations due to lower margins.

They then announced a new program by the name of Amazon Prime, where you get unlimited express shipping for the whole year for a one time $79 fee.

John Battelle:

Interesting Sounding New Conference?
First International Workshop on Adversarial Information Retrieval on the Web

from an email I got

The attraction of hundreds of millions of web searches per day provides significant incentive to content providers to do whatever necessary to rank highly in search engine results. The use of techniques that push rankings higher than they belong is often called spamming a search engine. Such methods typically include textual as well as link-based techniques. Like e-mail spam, search engine spam is a form of adversarial information retrieval; the conflicting goals of accurate results of search providers and high positioning by content providers provides an interesting and real-world environment to study techniques in optimization, obfuscation, and reverse engineering, in addition to the application of information retrieval and classification.

The workshop solicits technical papers and synopses of research in progress on any aspect of adversarial information retrieval on the Web. Particular areas of interest include, but are not limited to:

- search engine spam and optimization,
- crawling the web without detection,
- link-bombing,
- reverse engineering of ranking algorithms,
- advertisement blocking, and
- web content filtering.

Papers addressing higher-level concerns (e.g., whether 'open' algorithms can succeed in an adversarial environment, whether permanent solutions are possible, etc.) are also welcome.


11 February 2005 E-mail intention to submit (optional, but helpful)
25 February 2005 Deadline for submissions
25 March 2005 Notification of acceptance
8 April 2005 Camera-ready copy due
10 May 2005 Date of workshop

The real question of course, is why would you give away spam white papers to a conference where many current search engineers are part of the program committee?

Lots of Random Stuff...

Searchtextual Ads:
AlmondNet launches an ad network based on search behavior, and apparently they have a patent for it too.

Future of writing:
Steven Berlin Johnson writes about how technology will forever change writing.

Apple replaces Google as brand of the year.

ClickTracks Optimizer:
new mid level analytics software

Digital Identity:
MP3 streams from Future Salon on Digital Identity

new Bloglines competitor

VLIB Update:
A friend of mine is one of the maintainers of the VLIB. I just got off the phone with him and he stated that they are cleaning up the VLIB using technologies such as XML.

Survey Says:
take a Google Survey and read some survey results from another recent survey.

New Wiki Based Search Engine:
loots data from WhoIs database.

Iraq Election:
UN pays bloggers to shill

SBC to buy AT&T.

Man peed way out of avalanche
2,000-ton pile of burning cow manure
hat tip to Frankie from TP on the excrement links.

AdSense Premium, Blog Spamming Your Own Blog

AdSense Premium Publishers:
can boost CTR by 500% when compared to regular AdSense publishers. Looks like I need to make about a million posts, get a few hundred thousand links, throw AdSense ads on my site, and then give it a try real quick...

Overture : Only for the Big Guys?
Not so. One of my friends told me that he was recently cold called by an Overture ad rep interested in placing ads on his somewhat new site.

Placing Porn in Your Own Comments:
Not that long ago I saw a blog rank for a rather gross porn related term (was trying to gross a friend out) and I got to thinking, now that there is the rel=nofollow you really could get away with just saying that you were too lazy to moderate your old comments and re engineer old pages to rank well for many many many many adult terms (I accidentally rank for some by accidentally using occasional foul language).

How could search engines know the difference between a blogger who is lazy with comment deletion and one who is intentionally marketing that way? When blogs naturally rank for random things it could be really easy to make good bank with a false blog set up cleanly using the NoFollow comment effect.

A Third of Shoppers:
often shop the web and buy at the store

Metcalfe’s Law:
eBay took a beating in the stock market recently due to slower growth. After a ton of brokerage firms downgraded eBay Legg Mason gave them an upgrade.

More Networking Questions:
FCC chairman Powell resigned...wonder who's next? and how that will effect the web? It is amazing how many people in the administration have resigned. Surely a sign that something isn't right.

More on the Rel=NoFollow Tag...

Earlier there was speculation Google was going to announce a link NoFollow tag, but as it turns out a whole ton of people got together and also backed the idea.
Players in the new NoFollow tag:

Ask Jeeves / Teoma was the only major global search engine which did not immediately endorse the tag. Since they look at link clusters blog spamming does not affect them the same way as it does most other search algorithms. bBlog was not on the list, but my friend Eaden said that he too will follow the tag.

Is the NoFollow tag just for blogs?
The change is not a blog only change, but is a change which can be used on any site. If someone else is placing a link to your site or if you are linking to something shifty as an example of something shifty then that would be a good time to use the NoFollow tag.

What the NoFollow tag looks like:
Instead of linking to a site with
<a href="">Site</a>
the link would now look like
<a href="" rel="nofollow" >Site</a>

More Info on the NoFollow Tag:
Danny Sullivan has a long post about the nofollow tag explaining lots of the logic behind the new tag and how it will effect webmasters.

How will the NoFollow Tag Effect the Web?

  • Many bloggers have amazing link popularity due in part to comments they left on other blogs. This will cause lots of blogs which were primarily connected by comments to lose a good bit of their link popularity.

  • Many automated blog spam scripts may work harder to find the blogs which are slow to change. While the number of spamable blogs will go down the value of effective blog spamming will go up.
  • Bloggers will have a big riot celebrating this move. After time passes they will still get spammed and realize that this will not immediately cure the problem.
  • More bloggers will get approached with a bit of $$$ for writing editorials. More bloggers will sell out.
  • NickW is posting everywhere about how he does not like the change, which should be a good way for him to build some link popularity, as bloggers near and dear to comment spam are already linking to him ;)
  • Some people who were posting useful and thoughtful comments in part to gain link popularity may post less often.
  • Some worry that people will abuse this tag for SEO purposes, but those who would do that could just as easily use other redirects, so I really do not see any change there.
  • This change does make the role of link popularity (and how to keep it) much more visible. The "keep your link popularity" line of thinking may kill off a ton of natural linking, which in the end really does not help anyone.

  • SEOs might rush off to make their own blogs. Certainly the editorial side can be handled on the cheap
  • When low hanging fruit is removed from competitive marketing environments other opportunities and techniques also arise. Some people from WMW believe content stealing will become far more common. WMW is the only forum I have seen with significant coverage of the new NoFollow tag with threads here and here

Blog comments sure did make it easy for Joe random schmuck (like me) to rank good about a year ago but the low hanging fruit does not last forever. About 10 - 12 months ago I had a personal blog up to a PR7 with no link buying or renting. Last super bowl Google was even ranking that site high for Janet Jackson... As time passes and the web develops more and more low hanging fruit disappears. As search engines make their moves some will be reactive and some will almost always be one step ahead.

Affiliate Links & SEO, Aggregators & Copyright Law

Affiliate Links & SEO:
my friend Tanya wrote an article about how affiliates can use their linking strategies to improve their SEO.

Aggregators & Copyright Law:
ThreadWatch covers a topic that has been floating around the blog world.

Databases & Scalable Social Networks:
Adam Bosworth conversation

The Missing "M" in SEM:
in a thread about questions to ask an SEM a ton of good questions are listed, but people do not speak much of the M (marketing)... Black Knight lists many of the questions an SEM should ask the prospective clients...including questions like:

My first question is always "What is your USP?" or "What does your company deserve to be ranked in the top ten available resources for?"

Andy Beal has stats from a survey showing 74% of companies are not working with 3RD party SEM firms.

Deep Web Research:
While working on Rubber Stamped Peter D finds a new deep web resource. Its a shame that there are a limited # of hours in the day with all the cool search / information related white papers out there...

5 Free Goodies:
5 Free Windows Web Design Apps You Can't Live Without! (found on Jeremy's linkblog)

Economic Model of Personal Publishing:
some great stuff in the comments area of Dan Gillmore's What Smart Money Wonders, including:

though sometimes we forget the effect of echo chambers.

Funny Stuff:
She frickin' blocked me
Happy Tree Friends (kinda gross)
Darth Tater

Google Hilltop Algorithm

Why Page Theme is Usually More Important than PageRank:
In the Hilltop white paper they talk about how they can use expert documents to help compute relevancy. An expert document is a non affiliated page which links to many related resources. If page A is related to page B and page B is related to page C then a connection between A & C are assumed.

Additionally Hilltop states that it strongly considers page title and page headings in relevancy scores (in fact these elements can be considered more important than link text).

The benefit of Hilltop over raw PageRank (Google) is that it is topic sensitive - and is thus generally harder to manipulate than buying some random high power off topic link would be. The benefits of Hilltop over topic distillation (Teoma) are that Hilltop is quicker & cheaper to calculate, and that it tends to have more broad coverage.

When Hilltop does not have enough expert sites the feature can be turned off. It is believed that Google is using Hilltop to help sort the relevancy for some of their search results today.

On the Search Financial Front...

Ask Jeeves:
Piper upgrades Ask Jeeves stating "Ask Jeeves is not only remaining a meaningful search alternative, but is gaining faster than most other players." He estimates the company's usage rates rose 18 percent from the third quarter, the highest increase for the sector.

Had a bad quarter. Tough news for them. It is a real shame since they sold me twice as much traffic as Overture with a greater than 90% bounce rate. In no way to I recommend using least not on any large scale.

Cheaper cost per click does not translate into savings when you are buying automated or useless traffic.

Online Ad Spending:

should buy Technorati? (found on SEL)

New Big SEM Firm:
WPP to enter search marketing general take is that good SEO generally does not scale that well, but they are opening 47 search offices. Best of luck to them...they will need it.

I think I have been offered at least 5 jobs in the last 6 months...with some people wanting me to form brand new companies with them. There certainly must be a bunch of opportunity in this space!

Fractal Spam, Overture Direct Traffic Center Rant, SEM Cares (or do they?), Google Subdomain Chatter

Eating Your Own Crap:
Fractal Spam - search engines may be known to like their own search least for a while.

Overture Direct Traffic Center:
Some big advertisers are not too impressed with the reporting delays and clunky interface.

SEM Cares? SEMPO Cares? or is it Nobody Cares?
SEM Cares perhaps too little, too late for Barbara and others to put out the good word? The domain name sounds a bit Orewellian, which almost makse it sound like maybe nobody cares.

Free Culture Stuff:
A few good links from ThreadWatch's thread about big blue Open Sourcing 500 patents.

Patented European webshop
Software patents – Obstacles to software development by Richard Stallman

There is also chatter that Google may be dropping some spammed out subdomains from some competitive keywords in some of their data centers.

Yahoo! Desktop Search, Free Blogging Guide, MSN Search RSS & Clustering, Marketing to Children, UseNet Archives, MicroSoft IE Se

Yahoo! Desktop Search:
beta release

Beginner's Guide to Business Blogging:
Recently some people have been emailing me asking "how do I blog?"

Not sure that I know the answer other than maybe saying be yourself and use a human voice (or be a really cool alter ego). Debbie Weil is giving away her business blogging guide through the next two weeks.

MSN Search Results in RSS:
hot on the heals of GigaBlast...MSN also has search clustering tools and research

The Good PR Site:
I Know is a newly launched site aimed at opening childrens' eyes to marketing myths.

UseNet Archives:
20 year

Most offensive use of a frog in Marketing:
Did-It... I just randomly crossed their site again and thought WTF

Wall Street Rumors:
From SEM 2.0 Andrew Goodman stated that Bill Martin at thinks AOL may be pondering an acquisition of FindWhat.

I can't see them making more profit selling their own ads than they get by sharing profit with Google. As AdWords is a larger and more sophisticated ad distribution network, but who knows what they are thinking...

GOOG Price Target:
RBC analyst Jordan Rohan issues price target of $235.

MSFT may help fix those high price targets with a recent IE security exploit fix that blocks Google AdSense ads.

Google really needs to start working harder to promote the better browsers. I would love to see on the Google home page: Sick of Internet Explorer? So are we. Try FireFox!

Google Scrapper:
Daniel Brandt helps out the dark arts by releasing his Google Scraper code free of charge. (found on ThreadWatch)

An Interesting way to sell MicroContent?:
TKPal - hides a portion of a page's contents until people sign in via TypeKey and pay you via PayPal.

More Economics Papers:
Economics of Open Source... eventually I may want to read these. (found on Ross Mayfield's blog)

Mike Grehan on SEMPO:
always fun, always worth a read :)

Streaming Audio of:
Steve Jobs MacWorld Keynote. KeyNote looked cool enough to make Apple look really appealing to my soon to upgrade eyes.

ThreadWatch has lots of great MacWorld coverage today.

More Audio:
Free guide to ripping and encoding music

Jon Kleinberg, Title Attribute Test, Making Friends

Home Page of the Day:
Jon Kleinberg - he worked on lots of the underlying theory that created the hubs and authority ranking system which eventually led to Teoma.

He has all kinds of cool PDFs on his site such as Maximizing the Spread of Influence through a Social Network - cool stuff. If I were better at math and network theory stuff his home page would be a virtual candy store.

Interesting & Awaiting Results:
fathom is conducting a link title attribute test

Undersold ad space
Anna Kournikova on, advertising on Anna Kournikova

Illigitimate ad space:
Bush Administration Invents 'News' and Pays Journalist

Hosed Ad Space:
Kraft WHITE American Cheese - AdWords ad targeting problems :(

Really, I am not a Slimeball Ads:
Ken Lay starts advertising on AdWords. Interesting what the other AdWords ads say about him too.

Meta "ingnore this part of the page" tag:
I can't really see it coming anytime soon, but some want to push the idea.

MSN Beta to ramp up testing:
MSN Beta to ramp up testing

Developing a Directory?
The Don'ts of Directory Development offers tips to help you get your directory off the ground.

ESearch Online E Search Online ApexSearch Apex Search (look out):
another SEO firm out of Vegas that is allegedly cold calling people.

I did not find any legitimate backlinks into the apexesearch site. The only one I found in Google was from a forum solicitation by a guy by the name of Sincity

Sincity would like to offer you...

In that forum post it states:

real results refferences provided in business since 1996 no cusomer complaints EVER!!!!

and yet its registration details state

Registered through: (
Created on: 20-Apr-04

Created on: 22-Dec-04

I did not see any meaningful company information on their company information page either Some people are wondering if this firm has anything to do with Traffic Power. If any SEO calls you up out of the blue trying to tell you that you MUST buy something TODAY then odds are they are NOT worth buying from. Cold calls = crap. Traffic

How Not to Make Friends:
Promote your services in others forums while trashing their business model in your own forum.

How can a person wanting to set up an automated link network say that people should not be able to buy links by PageRank?

How Not to Make Friends...Part 2:
For a while the name of the SEO firm that wanted RustyBrick to link to them was posted in this rant thread.

One time some guy with a big mouth emailed me about how great his firm was and felt that for that reason he felt he deserved a link from my site. I also had a hunch that when another well known firm told me to add them to my SEO forums page that they were spamming me. Not too long ago I got an email from an express link building firm which used "stuff" as the the email title. I wonder how many people use these same shoddy techniques to "promote" (or otherwise destroy the brand of) their clients sites?