Webmaster Utilities We Dig

Feb 4th
posted in

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.

RoboForm

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.

Carbonite

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.

Fastone

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

Jan 15th

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?

Internet Marketing's Words That Sound too Good to be True

Jan 7th

Words that sound good are often used in marketing by those in dire need of credibility, or those promoting a warped view of reality needed to justify their own business models. Many catch words and phrases obtain an Orwellian opposite meaning, due to such usage. Some examples?

from SEOs...

  • below radar network = huge obvious footprint
  • ethical SEO = while the search engines are not our clients, we put them above our clients (or, we are lacking in creativity)
  • industry standards & certification = low paying job, little to no competitive advantage
  • cheap original content = recycled, machine translated, or obviously outsourced
  • blog links = comment spam
  • automated link building solution = bot driven spam
  • spam = sites positioned above mine (think this one came from Brett Tabke)

from search engines...

  • ad quality scores = price gouging algorithms
  • ethical links = links purchased through our ad network (including adultery links)
  • link spam = links bought through other networks, especially if they influence our rankings
  • quality content = content just like the stuff on your site, but published on a Fortune 500 website
  • thin affiliate = content just like on the Fortune 500 sites, but published on your website
  • organic growth = keep ranking on page 12. buy our ads if you want exposure. better luck next life.

from directories...

  • seo friendly directly = only for SEOs, not something Google wants to count
  • useful links = poor label for irrelevant spam
  • bidding directory = list of casino affiliate sites
  • high pagerank = recycled expired domain (or domain showing false pagerank from pointing the domain at a trusted domain and waiting for a Google toolbar update)
  • 100% spam free = free spam. and nothing but spam

from PPC marketers...

  • PPC is way better than SEO = speaker earns more charging a percent of spend than they would for delivering greater value through a more complex but less transparent process
  • SEO is luck = speaker is ignorant of the SEO field, and is too lazy to learn it

from affiliates...

  • high volume leads = massive cookie pushing
  • high quality leads = incentivised or automated
  • lead cleansing = hoping mixing in your fraud with the pool of others will conceal it

from email list internet marketers...

  • you're leaving money on the table = It's my money (on your table), and I need it now. (a shout out to J.G. Wentworth!)
  • cutting edge system = outdated advice (with a high affiliate payout)
  • buy today or miss out = if you buy you are probably being exploited by an offer that has no lasting value
  • life-changing event = you will be bombarded with spam for the rest of your life if you send in a single dollar

Your Turn

What are some of your favorite double meaning words and phrases?

Happy New Year!

Jan 2nd

Social Media Case Study

This Sphinn thread is a case study in social media...with lots of brilliant analysis / advice in it from SugarRae, John Andrews, and Fantomaster.

Microsoft Search = Tragic Fail

Danny Sullivan wrote in depth about why Microsoft Search has failed to take off. Not good for them considering mounting competition on the browser and OS fronts.

Search Police Disclaimer

Google, which invests millions into public relations and quirky attention-grabbing marketing, does not like people manipulating social media with artificial votes. And yet Google spends millions a year on public relations. How can one invest heavily in manipulating the press and then say manipulating social media is bad?

The Ultimate Salesman

The Industry Standard put together about a decade worth of Steve Jobs video clips. I wish I was 1% of the salesman that Steve Jobs is!!!

Ad Rates to Fall?

In 2006 Jakob Nielson wrote "Over the last several years, Yahoo! has made between 0.2 and 0.4 cents per non-search pageview. However, I believe that Internet advertising is over-hyped and that advertisers are deluding themselves into overpaying. In the long term, non-search advertising's value will drop to 0.1 cents or less per page."

If prices drop too low this year could be a great time to buy exposure to build links and an audience. There is always opportunity in the market...you just have to position yourself to take advantage of it.

Society as a Ponzi Scheme?

Tim O'Reilly offers this great quote "just maybe, we are getting the first signs that our society as a whole (and not just our financial system) is a kind of gigantic Ponzi scheme that will one day run out of room for growth, with disastrous consequences."

The U.S. is in a world of hurt, and that is putting a squeeze on China - reversing the flow of farmers to the cities back to the farms. Our leading export is debt, and some countries may be willing to take a loss on it. A Japanese credit rating agency is suggesting that Japan should write off some of its US debt!

The dollar may lose as much as 40 percent of its value to 50 yen or 60 yen from the current spot rate of 90.40 today in Tokyo unless Japan takes “drastic measures” to help bail out the U.S. economy, Mikuni said. Treasury yields, which are near record lows, may fall further without debt relief, making it difficult for the U.S. to borrow elsewhere, Mikuni said.

“It’s difficult for the U.S. to borrow its way out of this problem,” Mikuni, 69, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television broadcast today. “Japan can help by extending debt cancellations.”

The US stock market went up 3% today, but I think anything based in US Dollars is a bit scary after reading the above quote. What exactly is backing the dollar if those holding federal debt consider writing it down? How many more companies and industries can the US government bail out?

Paul Kedrosky offers his scenarios for the economy in 2009. What do you think will happen? What are you investing in and planning for this year?

Recent Links

Dec 22nd

While at Pubcon I did an interview with Ralph Wilson about link building. I have got wayyyyy too chubby, but I think the video turned out ok outside of that. And there is even a guest appearance of Abraham Lincoln in the video!!! :)

 

Invesp referenced me on a top marketers list. Classic ego-bait that worked great. I got so many Twitter followers this past week that I thought someone released a Twitter spam software program or something...and then I remembered the top 100 marketers list and knew it went well. ;) It was popular enough that even follow-up post about it got lots of exposure. If you don't understand egobait, then this is a great resource to study and emulate. People love awards and anything that strokes their ego or gives them a sense of purpose or sense of community and belonging.

Simplicity as a marketing strategy...it works! I am trying to create a few new features on this site (and off it) that should support simplicity and make SEO more accessible to the average webmaster.

Debra Mastaler offers a funny post about link building with elephants and link building tips for 2009.

The RIAA is now trying to go after ISP level filtering rather than suing their customers.

According to comScore, Youtube represents 25% of Google's US search volume. They may be losing money, but renegotiation with partners on payouts and improved ad technologies will eventually turn Youtube into a huge revenue stream. Youtube holds a lot of contests and could easily turn revenues up if they can figure out a way to make Youtube ads more social and interactive. Google has always been great at public relations...if they advance their ad network to offer such services they could make their unprofitable media highly profitable.

Digg is burning through cash, but may be working to create a social ad unit:

One experiment Digg is working on, says one source close to the company, is a self service advertising product that will be somewhat similar to Google Adwords, but with a twist. The product would insert advertisements into the Digg news stream (presumably clearly marked). Where those ads end up, and how much an advertiser pays per click, would be based on user feedback. So users would have the ability to vote on advertisements in the same way they vote on stories. The better ads, as determined by Digg users, will get more prominent placement and a lower cost-per-click.

That takes public relations and social media to the next level...allowing Digg to make revenue from their attention stream, and allowing advertisers to promote content that is well aligned with user interest...rather than having advertisers set up fake accounts to do guerilla marketing.

The WSJ shared social media marketing tips and Michael Gray shared examples of how social media links turn into rankings.

While the web might have some issues here and there, online commerce is still growing like a weed, with coupon sites and Amazon.com seeing sharp year on year rises in traffic.

Alan Rimm-Kaufman explains click volume vs profitability "to generate more total profit dollars by moving higher on the page, clicks have to rise faster than per-click profit falls." He also shared this 2004 Atlas image on Google click potential by rank:

Frank Watson highlights a start up gone bankrupt due to a botched deal with Google, and presumes that the Google/Yahoo! search deal was simply to stop Microsoft's advances in the search space. Most market makers actively manipulate the markets they manage...doing so is too profitable to ignore.

Profitable Publishing in the Digital Age: the Archivist vs the Anarchist

Dec 3rd

The Archivist

When I was about 1 year into the field of SEO my friend brought me over to his parent's house for a winter break for a few days. His dad is a genius (in about every way possible) and worked at the time as an archivist that digitized old content collections for media companies. I told him of what I did (SEO) and he told that I should learn XSLT, and that Google would soon kill the field of SEO.

The Anarchist

I believed just the opposite...that SEO was an extension of marketing (which will only increase in demand as the web grows older), and that as Google's profits grew, they would use them to forge partnerships with content creators and build their own mini-web to supplement the greater web and give themselves a second bite at monetizing searchers. In the past few years Google added news results to their organic search results, bought YouTube, digitized a ton of books, settled a publisher and author lawsuit with books, created a books API, created Google Maps (and local), created Google Earth, created Google Maps, created Google Local, and Google just purchased 20 million digitized historical newspaper pages from PaperofRedord.com.

So far I am winning that bet, but only because I view SEO as an extension of marketing and have aggressively re-invested profits toward growth...which got me to thinking of publishing trends that will grow in the years to come.

Publishing truths for the digital age

  • Many forms of scams and spam will look so much like real information that most people will not be able to distinguish between them.
  • The web has a deep and rich memory. But most people's use of it will remain shallow.
  • As the world gets more complex, we will increasingly question authority and seek out experts to turn to for alternative view points and advice.
  • We will subscribe to niche channels that largely match our biases and worldview. Information retrieval tools (search engines), information consumption tools (feed readers), and the social structure of the web (links, comments, how we use language) will further create a self-fulfilling prophecy on this front.
  • Curiosity and the ease of publishing will turn a half billion people into experts connected to a passionate audience.
  • Amongst that competition, there will always be an unquenchable demand for marketing, branding, and public relations.
  • If you sell information, accessibility and marketing will matter much more than being deep and/or factually correct.
  • Piracy is a cheap distribution channel.
  • The tightness of a social network will be far more important than its raw size.
  • It is easier to build a large profitable revenue stream selling what is new rather than selling what is old.
  • Information without personalization and context will increasingly become commoditized. The average web page will be worth less than a cent unless there is a strong editorial voice associated with it and/or there are explicit votes for it.

Your Turn

What do you see changing as the web ages and grows?

How Long Until People View Google Like Microsoft?

Nov 5th

From the Official Google blog 9 months ago

Could Microsoft now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with the PC? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Microsoft has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies -- and then leverage its dominance into new, adjacent markets.

I expected a bit more class from Google. That would be like Microsoft publishing this

Could Google now attempt to exert the same sort of inappropriate and illegal influence over the Internet that it did with ignoring copyright and establishing a virtual monopoly on text links? While the Internet rewards competitive innovation, Google has frequently sought to establish proprietary monopolies -- pushing the rel nofollow tag, telling people broking ads similar to Google's ads that they must mark paid links in a human readable way, then banning or demoting webmasters for following that advice, and paying criminals to steal their content and wrap it in Google ads.

It is interesting to note how much Google has changed in the past couple years: buying products like FeedBurner and taking the leading position in the feed reader market, buying YouTube and owning the video market.

And their network effects are starting to show up in their ad network / approach to their ad network:

Google is finally getting to the size where they are starting to get market blowback from governments...

Google bought Russian ad network Begun, but the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service banned the purchase.

Today Google announced they were backing out of the proposed ad partnership with Yahoo!

However, after four months of review, including discussions of various possible changes to the agreement, it's clear that government regulators and some advertisers continue to have concerns about the agreement. Pressing ahead risked not only a protracted legal battle but also damage to relationships with valued partners. That wouldn't have been in the long-term interests of Google or our users, so we have decided to end the agreement.

The SEO Police

Oct 29th


I was a bit disappointed when I saw Rand out yet another website recently. Why was the site outed? Because they were ranking for SEO company and Rand didn't feel that their backlinks should count (and Rand wanted another excuse to promote his new LinkScape tool).

In his post Rand...

  • claimed that the site ranking #1 for SEO company was an embarrassment to Google and other search engines
  • wrote "Outing manipulative practices (or ANY practices for that matter) that put a page at the top of the rankings is part of our job"
  • wrote "Isn't the goal of a successful web marketing campaign to build a strategy that is legitimate to survive a manual review by the engines and strong enough to be defensible even to those who peer review or investigate?"

While some may not feel the post was outing, that was the intent of the post...to cause harm to the business highlighted, and to do so for potential personal profit. As Nick Wilsdon wrote:

Yes, Google probably already knows about them but that's not the point. Once a SERP or a naughty company becomes a public embarrassment, it then gets "cleaned up". Google can't be seen to be gamed. There's an element of politics involved.

ShoeMoney also spoke about that topic in this video, titled Don't Make Google Look Stupid

And that in itself becomes an issue. Sure most of us want to be able to have our sites pass a hand review and stand the test of time, but when things are covered with a negative connotation from a negative frame it makes Google more likely to act against the "spam"...even if it was something that was fine for years.

I had a lively conversation with a search engineer about one of my sites where he stated that he thought the site's marketing tactics were a bit spammy. 2 other search engines chose to promote that same site editorially with shortcuts. Because of who owns a site it can be seen as being spammy, while the same site is seen as the clear cut category leader worthy of promotion by other search employees who do not have anti-SEO goggles on.

Where this "out everything on principal" strategy goes astray is when a person's assumption of how the algorithms and editorial policies should work do not match what the search engineers believe. To appreciate that, consider the SEO Book affiliate program. It passed PageRank for years. And then Rand outed it and it stopped passing PageRank.

Recently Rand wrote that Google engineers said that affiliate programs should pass PageRank. So based on what Google engineers say in public, editorial links promoting my affiliate program should pass PageRank, but because Rand chose to out it, it probably never again will.

Shockingly, when asked point blank if affiliate programs that employed juice-passing links (those not using nofollow) were against guidelines or if they would be discounted, the engineers all agreed with the position taken by Sean Suchter of Yahoo!. He said, in no uncertain terms, that if affiliate links came from valuable, relevant, trust-worthy sources - bloggers endorsing a product, affiliates of high quality, etc. - they would be counted in link algorithms. Aaron from Google and Nathan from Microsoft both agreed that good affiliate links would be counted by their engines and that it was not necessary to mark these with a nofollow or other method of blocking link value.

Editorial affiliate links should count, but it was Rand asking "who does Google come down on" that was intended to harm my business to give himself a better competitive position. It was similar to the strategy of blasting Aviva to promote a list of directories people should buy - a profitable strategy, but not one with a north pointing ethical compass.

As to the absurdity to claiming that as a professional SEO's job to police the organic search results...I can only assume that a person stating such has never had a site hand edited (while seeing factually incorrect sites with spammier links and worse site designs continue to rank in the same results). If you read the Google remote rater documents you can see how things are open to interpretation. If you read the remote search quality rater documents leaked from 2003, 2005, and 2007 you can see how they changed over the years.

Years ago I might have thought reporting all spam was a good idea, but after experiencing and seeing the arbitrary and uneven nature of the editing it is not what I would consider a relevant mindset for SEO in 2008. When I was starting out in search my mentor told me "you can't really appreciate how the game works until you lose a site" and once you do, feeling like it is your job to out spam seems a bit small minded and short sighted.

If Rand really believes that "Outing manipulative practices (or ANY practices for that matter) that put a page at the top of the rankings is part of our job" then why does he offer a testimonial on the Text Link Ads website when Matt Cutts has clearly stated that buying text links is manipulative and outside their guidelines? Does he turn in his own clients for link buying?

Patrick's dedication to providing excellent services echoes in all of his employees and the company as a whole. Support and response times are exceptionally fast, and the process of buying links couldn't be easier. - Rand Fishkin

How can you suggest people should buy links and then out them for doing so? Someone is either being intellectually dishonest or economical with the truth.

Why Are Young Liberals 'Destroying the Internet'?

Oct 26th

In the following interview of Jon Stewart, Bill O'Reilly mentioned that Jon's audience was younger and left leaning.

Recent research from a survey of 3,036 Americans confirms that people who contribute content to the web are skewed toward being young, left-leaning, and more passionate about the sites they contribute content on.


In Online Communities and Their Impact on Business [PDF] Rubicon Consulting highlights the following:

Most frequent contributors are different from the average web user. They're more ethnically diverse; more technically skilled; more likely to be single; more likely to work in technology, entertainment, or communications companies; and more likely to be Democrats. But most of all, they are younger than typical web users. Half of the web's most frequent contributors are under age 22.


The common stereotype for the Digg crowd also applies across many other sites and industries.

That's not to say you should try to appeal to the Digg audience, but if a disproportionate amount of content is created by young liberals then there is business sense in appealing to that demographic. Appealing to the 10% of people who create content makes you look better to the other 90% of people who use the web.

If you look at a traditional user adoption curve the people to the far left are the people who have blogs and the people who leave feedback on other websites. The interaction with the loud users is what helps potential customers build confidence. These loud stakeholders are influencers.

A site which has more user generated content on it has the following benefits

  • a broader range of unique textual content to rank against (which helps it build a larger organic audience)
  • built in social proof of value/cumulative advantage (people think it is popular, and perhaps more authoritative, because others contribute to the site)
  • built in loyalty (people who contribute to your site have a vested interest in spreading the word about your site, and seeing to the success of your site)
  • more editorial reviews that turn searchers into shoppers into buyers (reviews increase consumer confidence and make them more likely to purchase)
  • more inbound links (people are more likely to link at a page full of editorial reviews, and the people who review products are more likely to own websites)
  • faster and cheaper market feedback
  • a broader reach with new releases (particularly if you build an audience by offering an email newsletter or a regularly updated blog)
  • lower traffic acquisition costs, lower marketing cost, and higher value per visitor (due to many of the above points)

The Rubicon research also states that young people are more likely to be influenced by online reviews, and are more likely to search online for support issues...so having a search accessible FAQ section can drastically lower customer support costs.

How to Update Firefox Extensions (and/or Uninstall & Re-install Them)

Sep 28th

Since we have a number of popular Firefox extensions, I frequently get asked how to update Firefox extensions. Rather that writing 3 emails a week I figure it was quicker to jot down a quick blog post. To update or uninstall an extension you first have to click into the add-ons panel.

When you get inside the extensions area (by following the path highlighted above) you will see an Add-ons window with a Find Updates button at the bottom of it. That is an easy way to update many extensions at once.

The other way to update or uninstall is to scroll on an extension and click on it.

  • If you left click, Disable and Uninstall buttons will appear.
  • If you right click on an extension you will see a menu pop up with the option to Uninstall the extension. This menu also gives an option for you to Find Update.

Any time you do an update or uninstall you have to restart Firefox for it to take effect. If you uninstall an extension that you want to reinstall, go to the source where you downloaded it from to be able to reinstall it again. Instructions for installing an extension are well laid out on the SEO for Firefox page.

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