Search Keeps Innovating

Steve Balmer on Search Innovation

In the above interview Steve Balmer states that search innovation has slowed down over the past 5 years compared to the 5 years prior. While committing to pouring billions of Dollars into the search market, Steve Balmer does not think that search has kept up its rate of innovation. But this perception is actually a fib. A lie. One that Steve must tell himself AND the media in order to try to gain press coverage for Bing and justify what will amount to a very expensive competition in the search marketplace. And it is a lie the media mush push to be able to write about / hype THE NEXT GOOGLE!!!!!!

Search Innovation is Speeding Up

The reason I know that search keeps speeding up is that I write about it. We offer subscribers a monthly newsletter, have forums that we participate in daily, and blog about the latest developments in search. This past month I have done a week of traveling and 2 conferences, but I have absolutely struggled to keep up with the all the changes recently (in spite of closing our site off to new members). Frankly I am amazed at how Danny Sullivan is able to put conferences together and still keep up with everything!

To understand the search game you must first understand that Google is first and foremost a public relations driven company which sells itself as a technology company. This is precisely why they market their browser/operating system as a browser and not an operating avoid the regulations on (and comparisons with) Microsoft.

Recently Googlers have felt threatened by the media, Bing, Twitter, Facebook, and Wolfram Alpha. You can see this by looking at how Matt Cutts posted a 30 day challenge not to use any Microsoft projects, by all the daily innovations and releases Google is offering, by their promotion of a vaporware micropayment system, and by reading the recent 5 part interview of Eric Schmidt, Udi Manber, Amit Singhal, Scott Huffman, and Matt Cutts they did with BusinessWeek to remind the world how innovative Google is.

Google has went as far as advertising their advanced search tips on many search queries and even SELLING SEARCH AS A LIFESTYLE!?!?!

Now some of the changes may not be noticeable to the average searcher because Google has become more refined over the years. But it does not mean that the market lacks innovation. I thought it would make sense to put a post together to highlight some of the ways search has changed so far this year.

Under the Hood Innovation

Google stated they plan to support their rel=canonical tag across domain names and let you set URL parameters for them to ignore.

A few months back Google announced their new caffeine index, but some of the algorithmic changes are far more subtle. When Patrick Altoft tried to dissect some of the ideas behind the Vince/brand update he quoted this killer post from the always impressive Tedster

Here's my current idea. I believe that Google's staff contains more statisticians than any other specialty. The algo is, more and more, driven by statistics and probability. These statisticians watch query data as well as backlink data. That's what jumped out at me while re-reading this patent: backlinks PLUS queries.
This is my current brainstorming area, and it's why I recommend the idea of ATTRACTING backlinks more than "building" them. Backlinks alone cannot create a statistically correct footprint for a growing, thriving website. Even though such a "dummied-up" impression has been a working tool for improved ranking in the past, it's a tool whose future is getting more and more cloudy.

Creating a legitimate looking link profile by doing nothing but push marketing keeps getting harder as Google refines what they are looking for as a natural link building profile based on better statistics. If your link building efforts revolve around public relations, publicity, and brand then you are good to go. But if they are mechanical and aggressive you can use fairly similar link building strategies on 2 parallel sites and see one rank while the next is stuck somewhere in Google hell. From the above linked 5 Googler interviews you can see how Google is constantly working to improve localization, word relationships, indexing, and spam detection. QDF + universal search further complicate the search results.

Filtering Information

Beyond the core ranking algorithms there are also new ways to sort through information.

Google has added many options / filters / lenses to view search through, including links to...

  • vertical databases (like Videos, News, Blogs, Books, Forums, and Reviews)
  • results within specific time frames
  • ways to navigate related searches (via Related searches, Wonder wheel, Timeline)
  • additional filters (like displaying images from the page, more text, fewer or greater shopping sites)

Thinking through those type of filters with universal search in mind (and Google's new caffeine index in place) you could see how Google can further alter the search landscape on a query by query basis. Give me something fresh, give me old trusted stuff, give me at least 1 authoritative review, etc. In select markets this can be further refined by editorial partnerships like the health onebox.

Here are recent SEO results. And when authoritative SEO related sites (like SEO Book, Search Engine Land, SEOMoz, SE Roundtable, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Watch, etc.) publish fresh posts they quickly get mixed into the top 10 to 20 search results (similarly to how Google News results get mixed in). As Google tests mixing in different types of results they can track user response on a per query basis, and bucket different related keywords together.

Inspired User Interface Innovation

A lot of the innovations come from competing search services. Consider that

  • Google's SearchWiki (and SideWiki) were heavily inspired by Wikia Search.
  • Yahoo! implemented search suggestion features widely before Google did.
  • Ask 3D pushed about a lot of the universal search sort of ideas.
  • Google tried to clone Youtube, right up until they were forced to buy it.
  • Bing launched a new visual search service.
  • Wolfram Alpha forced Google to create and evolve the Google Squared service.
  • Yahoo! SearchMonkey pushed microformats, which are now becoming more popular across competing search services.
  • One of Microsoft's best Bing innovations was putting the ads closer to the organic search results - which was quickly copied by Google.

Single Listing? Double Listing? Triple Listing? Quadruple Listing?

In the past sometimes sites would be able to get a double listing and/or sitelinks. Recently I saw a quadruple listing

Google is better surfacing forum posts in search results, has tested displaying breadcrumb navigation in the search results, and is returning internal link anchor page-links directly in the search results.

Google has made results from site: searches extensible

Search Business Model Innovation

Paid search is so easy to grasp that Google's test case is LITERALLY a pet stick!

In spite of the ease of marketing Google is not happy leaving that as is.

Google is testing using machine learning algorithms (and current Google AdWords advertiser data!!!!!!!!!) to set flat rate search ad pricing for small local businesses. And they are rumored to be launching a LendingTree clone.

Google ***is*** the competition, and they keep taking more of the web for themselves.

They are also ramping up their ad exchange. Traditionally Google has tried to credit the last click with most of the value since they are the #1 search company. But brand advertisers buy branded display ads based on mushy feely impulses...and so search can't keep taking all the credit forever if Google wants to expand the online ad pie to become a $100 billion company. As display ad clickers fall off a cliff, Google is beginning to show view conversions (conversions where an ad was viewed but not click) to further justify fuzzy brand spend. Hey if they have ads on 80% of the WWW then you are going to think those ad views created some conversions, even if they were ignored.

It doesn't matter what regulations appear, advertisers feel the need to buy those ads because that is where the distribution is. Currently Google (and Facebook) have such domination over advertisers that they can mass ban them and shut them down overnight as desired, in spite of the economic climate.

There is going to be continued innovation in the online advertising space as marketers better test / recommend / track / explore / learn how to better automate blending ads and content.

Google is testing ads tied to location pages and product ads directly in the search results.

Further marketers are studying how ads sometimes sell something other than what they were created to sell, and there is research being done on ad fatigue and relevancy.

Media Innovation

Google has been buying maps marketshare through cross promotion, a fairly flexible API, collecting user data, and clever promotional tie ins with the likes of Monopoly. China might crack down on Baidu's music piracy, and Google has distribution deals to buy marketshare as long as China allows it to happen. Increasingly Google is procuring the source of record for a greater and greater number of classifications of information types. They are already pushing their power meter, have Sony distributing their browser, and patenting some types mobile consumer reviews. Alas everything is information!

Google is learning to read more content in new formats like AJAX and is getting better at spitting content back out via a quick view of PDFs and mobile printing devices.

Google has begun trying to tie search volumes to economic activity, with their economist claiming that the economy is improving. Others, like Kayak, have followed suit by sharing their data in an easy to reference format.

All this additional content creates more competition and lowers profit margins for web publishers. And affiliate marketing will continue to grow harder. Increasingly successful media is going to need to bake self-promotion in its core, and profitable media will become more of an interactive service.

Why Write a 5 Page Blog Post With ~80 Links in It?

3 reasons...

  • to help me collect my thoughts and share them with you, our readers! :D
  • to point out that anyone talking about a lack of innovation is search is speaking from ignorance, hyping public relations messaging to the media, and/or lying
  • to help push to save Yahoo! Boss. By some measures it might be bigger than Bing AND it if it stays around it will help ensure that search keeps innovating at faster and faster rates with healthy market competition

An Open Letter to Online Ad Networks

by Jonah Stein and Jonathan Hochman

The FTC recently announced guidelines for bloggers that requires that they disclose financial interests, freebies and paid reviews.  This decision is seen as a shot across the bow of pay per post networks and bloggers who are monetizing through affiliate programs.    The FTC has decided that compensation is the reason bloggers choose to write about a particular topic and that readers deserve to be informed about the financial relationship.    The FTC logic is simple, “As much as those bloggers who receive these gifts would like to claim this isn't the case, freebies like free laptops, trips, or gift cards are likely to influence a writer's opinion of a product.”  

On its face, the policy is defensible.   As crusaders against Virtual Blight, we applaud the intent of this decision.  Anything that raises the barrier to online scams, fraud and abuse even a little bit is a good thing. The FTC provides guidelines for responsible bloggers and theoretically eliminates a couple of the perks for bloggers, but it does virtually nothing to protect against fraud. 

Going after bloggers’ compensation to fight online fraud is reminiscent of the RIAA attacks on individual file sharers and is just as likely to succeed. The absurdity of the power and inertia of a government bureaucracy combating individual bloggers is only matched by the ludicrous assumption the government could ever move fast enough to keep up with professional scammers who jump from domain to domain, host to host and country to country with a few mouse clicks.  Prosecution could only be effective against mainstream bloggers with an established brand that are stationary targets, but these bloggers are not the right target.

Getting a proverbial free lunch in exchange for a presumably positive review may create the appearance that some bloggers are shills who lend their prestige and celebrity to their sponsors.  That perception is not unreasonable, but the same charge could be made against almost every athlete, actor, musician or American Idol runner-up who profits from our celebrity culture. 

Giving items to celebrities or other tastemakers in return for public exposure is a practice older than the printing press.   If the FTC really wants to send a message about compensated endorsements and freebies, the answer is not to go after the mommy bloggers who get a free 42-pack of diapers.  If the FTC were serious, they would begin arresting every actress wearing a designer gown to the Academy Awards and then round up the studio and network executives who rake in cash for product placements in movies and television shows.

Focus On Fraud

The statistics for online fraud are both staggering and predictable.  Instead of being distracted by the sizzling, sensational charges of payola that re-appear every generation, the industry needs to focus on the billions of dollars of online fraud committed each year.  According to the Center for American Progress, Internet-related consumer complaints are among the top ten in consumer complaints in 2008 and the number one complaint in four states.  These complaints run from auction fraud and non-delivery of ecommerce items to reverse billing scams.

By any definition, the perpetrators of online fraud are not bloggers.  If a review constitutes fraud because the reviewer was provided a free product or had some undisclosed relationship with the company who produced the product, then every journalist with a 401k full of mutual funds needs to hire a good lawyer.  Indeed, if bloggers are guilty of anything it is tabloid journalism -- writing low quality content with sensational headlines designed to attract visitors to their site in order to collect advertising revenue.  This may not live up to the highest journalistic standards, but the only crimes are against facts and the English language.

Criminals are the people and companies who create pyramid schemes, networks of spam blogs to sell diet products like Hoodia and Acai Berry cleanse, Google money trees and the myriad so called “free” offers that create recurring charges on your cell phone or credit card.

Criminals are the people who target kids’ sites to distribute Trojans, spyware and adware that infects our computers and tricks people into buying phony anti-virus products.  Most of us have either experienced malware nightmares ourselves or heard a friend’s sad story.  When online fraud is so prevalent, predatory and destructive, why are government resources being committed to pursue advertorial content?

Ad Networks Are the Key

The biggest thing these criminals have in common is that they perpetrate their scams by buying advertising through ad networks.  These networks have achieved the scale that makes it efficient for legitimate advertisers to reach millions of consumers and that makes them an ideal vector for scams, abuse and deception. 

In an unregulated auction-based advertising market place, fraudulent offers can often pay the highest bids for keywords. In FTC Going After Bloggers – Epic Fail, Aaron observes that ad networks that syndicate ads based on “maximizing yield efficiency“ are well suited to syndicate fraud. Advertisers of scams can afford to pay top dollar for ads because their profit margins are nearly 100%.

Ad networks are morally responsible as collaborators in interstate and international frauds perpetrated upon hundreds of thousands of victims each year.  Google, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft and many others are far more culpable in consumers being defrauded than any blogger or network of bloggers.

In False and Deceptive Pay-Per-Click Ads, Harvard’s Ben Edelman estimated that as much as 70% of the revenue generated by some online scams actually wind up in the hands of the search engines.   He estimated in 2006 that Google and Yahoo were making over $200,000 a month from advertisements for screensaver software which contained spyware.  As of July 15, 2009, the top paid search results on Google for “screensaver” contain “add-on features” which include spyware, change your default browser settings, ad toolbars and otherwise aim to monetize by deceiving users.  Adding insult to injury, Edelman observes that many of these adware tools monetize by sending traffic through AdSense and DoubleClick, making Google a silent partner for adware companies like WhenU and Smiley Central.

Fight the Problems that Be

Scams and fraud not only harm the consumer, they foster the perception that the internet is not a safe place, hindering the growth of online business and delaying the transfer of marketing dollars from old media.  Instead of waiting for government agencies to step in and create regulations aimed at yesterday’s scams, as an industry we need to become proactive and develop a cooperative framework for mutual self-defense, a neighborhood watch designed to keep consumers safer while helping law enforcement focus resources on the most serious trouble makers.

The war on online fraud is going to be a huge struggle and one we are unlikely to ever declare victory.  The issues are complex, but the industry could significantly reduce the problem by creating a transparent mechanism to collect user feedback about advertisers.  Search engines and ad networks are quick to endorse behavioral targeting and social recommendations to boost earning per exposure.   For some mysterious reason, they have not applied these innovations to getting user feedback about advertisers.  

If the Internet is the cesspool that Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google says it is, one way to start cleaning it up would be to create a public reputation system for advertisers.  This would simultaneously reward honest companies while helping consumers protect themselves against the bad guys.   eBay created public reputations for buyers and sellers many years ago.  Why are advertisers free to operate without scrutiny? 

It seems straightforward to build an advertiser rating system to share relevant statistics and user feedback.  Why not provide the tenure of the advertiser, normalized click volume, the percentage of users giving feedback and a ratio of clicks to complaints along with a link to detailed reviews that could surface fraud, misleading advertising and scams?  If comparison shopping engines can do it, why can’t ad networks?

We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we see the problem and its sources. Government agencies need to ask the ad networks why they accept money for promoting fraud.  Ad networks need to grow up and behave like responsible businesses. 

Vanity URLs on 3rd Party Websites Are Worth Almost $10

Best Thing Since Sliced Bread!

Recently lots of internet marketers hopped on getting Facebook vanity URLs claiming them to be a second coming of domain names. But the problem with networks like Youtube, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc etc etc is that you end up being someone else's user generated content, and it is virtually impossible to move a person from content consumer on those 3rd party sites into a customer on your site.

Social Media Traffic Typically Lacks Value

Most social media traffic is too fast and shallow to build a meaningful relationship from. Rarely are social media visitors worth as much as a penny.

Sure you can drop them at the top of a sales funnel, but then you still have to convert them. And the people who are ahead of the curve with technology are often the hardest to influence via advertising, and are the least receptive of offers unless they hear of them recommended from friends.

Social Media Mentions vs Independent Reviews

If someone recommends us, then I would much rather have that recommendation point at our site from their site rather than through a 3rd party website that might go away at some point. The third party recommendations on social networks tend to be brief/short/limited in context, so they don't carry a lot of weight toward selling something, and those mentions are often people whining about free stuff not being good enough and people recommending to their friends that they just grab a torrent of your work.

The natural bias of social media sites is toward people who value their time lowly (or else they would spend more of their time in tighter niche communities and/or in higher order business functions). Sure I have mentioned some of the recommendations for our stuff that people have done on social networks, but a link to a more in-depth review like this one is far more appealing because there is so much more context, and people who have read and followed that blogger for a while likely trust that review more than a random Twitter user trusts a 140 character recommendation.

Viral Does Not = Sales

Even the canonical example of proof of value of viral videos was not that successful. Millions of Will it Blend? video views helped the Blendtec company grow by less than a factor of 10. Many successful professional SEOs use SEO to increase the value of websites by that in less than a year, and have done so over and over again. With SEO you can create a million dollar business from scratch in about a year's time, largely because search has so much implied you don't need a huge traffic stream to monetize if you pick the right markets.

Domain Names vs Usernames

I was a bit slow to buy the and domain names, but recently bought the pair for less than $500. They allow me to further dominate brand related searches, while blocking potential competitors in the search results. For $500, that is not bad!

Some Facebook user named Peter Simik is squatting the vanity URL and thinks I am stupid enough to pay $10,000 for it ( I wouldn't give him $1 for it on principal. But there is not even a competitive threat there...people already have hundreds of connections to my real profile there, and few people are going to associate with the fake account.

More recently a couple readers highlighted that someone is on the newly launched website using my picture and our site logo to promote some crappy SEO website I have never heard of ( That is obviously illegal, but it will only serve to undermine the trust in such 3rd party networks if they are full of fake & squatted accounts.

Protecting Your Brand

Services like KnowEm allow you to register your username on over 100 web2 sites to minimize any time wasting that might be created by someone hijacking your brand. Most of the web 2 sites will fail, but time is money, and it is hard to know which ones will be a success right from the start.

Even 1% of All Web Page Views Can be a Poor Business

Sites like Geocities , Anglefire, and Tripod were stars from about a decade ago, back when general web communities were hot then. And most of those types of sites failed.

A year ago MySpace was predicting great growth, but they have since rescinded on their big real estate deal, Google complained about how hard it was to monetize the traffic, and just earlier today the WSJ reported further job cuts:

MySpace announced plans to reduce its staff by nearly 30%, saying staffing levels were "bloated" and hurt its ability to be an efficient company. The social networking site, owned by News Corp., named a new leadership team earlier this year in an effort to reinvigorate the service. The move brings MySpace's U.S. work force to about 1,000 people.

As the Google ad deal is set to unwind MySpace, is downsizing their operation! According to Alexa, MySpace has over 1% of web's pageviews and they are struggling to make a business out of it.

How many of these general social media sites will be around in a decade?

In a Galaxy Far Far Away...

I have been interviewed and/or profiled and/or done some guest columns around the web that I have not yet mentioned here. Here is a short list of some such media worth checking out...

Guest Columns

Some recent columns I wrote for Search Engine Land: 5 Ways To Rise Above The Noise and Are You Sitting On A Good Idea? and Recovering from the Blue Screen of Death as an SEO.


Here is a video interview by Dr. Ralph Wilson about some ways you can make money off of looking through your website analytics data

Here are text interviews from SEO Boy & Wildfire Marketing Group.

Other Additional Mentions & Contributions

My buddy Matt Siltala asked me a few questions for 8 Gurus that "get" Twitter Answer Questions.

ProspectMX featured a quote from me in their universal search guide.

Amazon Cans PPC Affiliates

Via an email to affiliates, announced they are scaling back their associates program in North America by disallowing direct linking from paid search results:

After careful review of how we are investing our advertising resources, we have made the decision to no longer pay referral fees to Associates who send users to,, or through keyword bidding and other paid search on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other search engines, and their extended search networks. If you're not sure if this change affects you, please visit this page for FAQs.

As of May 1, 2009, Associates will not be paid referral fees for paid search traffic. Also, in connection with this change, as of May 1, 2009, Amazon will no longer make data feeds available to Associates for the purpose of sending users to the Amazon websites in the US or Canada via paid search.

As the paid search market has matured and competitive research tools have improved the value of using affiliates for discovering new keywords has been sharply reduced. Other merchants will follow Amazon's lead. Some might wait for the economy to pick up first, but the fact that Amazon is trimming this in a down market (recession/possible depression) shows how little they feel they benefit from affiliate arbitrage of paid search results.

Yet another reason to find SEO based affiliate work more stable than PPC affiliate efforts. Any PPC-based affiliate that is sick of having to rebuild from the ground up over and over again would be smart to (and is welcome to) taking the enlightened path :)

SEO & Marketing Links of Interest

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

Niche SEO Guides

The Rising Commoditization of Everything But Experience

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

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

The Fear of Success in Creative Arts

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

More Search News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Searchers have been using longer search queries.

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

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

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

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

Debra Mastaler offers a link building stimulus plan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tons of great free research from FutureLab.

Seth Godin

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

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

Hyperlinks Subvert Hierarchy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Much of YOUR PageRank Are You Wasting on Twitter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Webmaster Utilities We Dig

Here's a review of tools we use every day at SEOBook.

No affiliate stuff - we use and recommend these tools because, well, they rock!

Camtasia - Screen Recording Software

What it does: records on-screen demonstrations.

What we use it for: we use it for our training videos

Why we like it: creates high quality demonstrations, yet the file size remains small. Intuitive recorder function. You don't need to read the manual in order to start being productive with it.

Where you can get it: Here's the blurb. Here's the free demo. Here's the full version.

SmartDraw - Business Diagram Software

What it does: helps you create flowcharts, org charts, timelines, graphs etc

What we use it for: we draw a lot of flow charts

Why we like it: point and click simplicity. Once you get the hang of it, which doesn't take long, you can create professional flowcharts very quickly. Saves a lot of time.

Where can I get it: Here's the blurb. Here's the free demo. Here's the full version.


What it does: stores all your passwords securely, fills out forms, auto login to websites

What we use it for: password stuff

Why we like it: secure, allows fast logins to sites

Where can I get it: Here's the blurb. Here's the free trial. Here's the full version.


What it does: backs up your data, cheaply and securely, over the net

What we use it for: Backing stuff up

Why we like it: you install it, then forget about it. It's also pretty cheap.

Where can I get it: Here's the blurb. Here's the free trial. Here's the full version.


What it does: screen capture.

What we use it for: manipulating the graphics at the top of the blog posts.

Why we like it: simple, elegant utility that is easy to use.

Where can I get it: Here's the blurb. Here's the free trial. Here's the full version.

Around the Web in 20 Links

Loren Baker is holding a 3 day spring break SEO get together in Deerfield Beach, Florida. There are only 200 tickets cheaply priced at $500 each (especially when you consider that there will only be 200 people attending and you have people like Loren Baker, Chris Winfield, Todd Malicoat, Brent Csutoras, Rae Hoffman, and more speaking).

David Harry has been publishing brilliant content, including finding Yahoo!'s patent for automating SEO and a wonderful post on SEO higher learning.

Todd Malicoat highlights some great social media marketing tips.

Conversion Rate Experts shared some tips on why to get obsessed with conversion rate optimization.

Fantomaster highlights how behavioral metrics would create many surfbot nets, and offers an insightful cynical comment about the dangers of trusting data mining outfits:

Conclusion #1: The more they know about you as an individual, the more likely they will be to try and track and, as required, exploit or manipulate you - be it as a consumer, as a citizen i.e. a polity member, as a (perceived) health hazard, as a (perceived) sociopath, as a (perceived) security risk, etc. etc.

Conclusion #2: The better they are able to categorize you (aka slap some generalized "profile" of theirs onto you), the easier it will be for the process to become self-perpetuating and auto-referential: anything you may do or avoid doing (as tracked and monitored by them) will actually only reinforce their hold on you - both as an individual and as a member of whichever societal group or subgroup you may belong to.

SugarRae highlights how you can rank well quickly, without focusing on SEO.

Dazzlin Donna is offering a mini-stimulus jump start plan.

Andrew Goodman and Aaron Goldman highlighted some shortfalls behind bid management software - namely that some of the rules are too concrete, give credit to the wrong spots, and don't provide a huge competitive advantage since there are sooo many services and in house technologies being built that commoditize most of the offerings. Time naturally commoditizes most software, especially in saturated fields. Just look at how Google Analytics ate the analytics market.

Michael VanDeMar shares some tips on how to find images.

And if you are into economics it sure looks ugly. The market casino is rough, debt to GDP is huge (and like bank credit is STILL GROWING). The ending isn't going to be pretty. I am trying to ignore the market and spend more time and effort investing in myself, but the carnage keeps attracting attention! I have lost faith in the US government and US dollar, but ponder where to invest.

What else of interest have I recently missed?