Links of Interest

Quick, Cheap, & Easy Strategies to Dominate Google's Search Results

Following last year's pillage of general web directories, Google reset the PageRank on many article syndication directories to PR3 or PR0. EzineArticles did not get edited, perhaps because they have more stringent editorial guidelines, they were a known market leader, or they were a Google case study. Just about every other article syndication directory did.

About 3 years ago I create a directory of directories so I could keep track of new directories. But very few of the directory owners considered editorial quality. Eventually they started polluting their directories with site-wide links to payday loan websites.

On the paid side some people who had success creating one low quality directory decided to create a dozen more pay for inclusion websites, often cross promoting them with discounts...after you buy one they thank you and offer you the ability to buy inclusion in the other dozen at half price.

And on the cheap end, it got to the point where lots of companies like Directory Maximizer do directory submissions for a dime to a quarter each, allowing you to space out the submissions, mix anchor text, and mix listing descriptions. And while many of these services claim to be "SEO friendly" and offer services in bulk, you can see that a search engineer might not hold the same opinion. :)

By the time a technique is cheaply and reliably outsourced the value has already been diminished or will soon become worthless.

  • lower cost and automation means more people will use the technique
  • the lower cost often appeals to those making lower quality websites
  • the more people who use a technique the more likely it is for search engineers to kill it

Andy Hagans used to charge $900 for doing a couple dozen article submissions, and back when he did it, it was probably worth it. He marketed it to highbrow clients who used it to promote quality website. Lower end webmasters probably could not justify paying $900 for that service.

And you could get a hand rolled product of similar quality to what Andy charged $900 for, but at a price $870 cheaper from We Submit Articles. About a month after I showed Andy that We Submit Articles website, where someone was selling services similar to his for $30, he changed his model to promote linkbait stuff, moving himself up the value chain, creating something that is much harder and more expensive to replicate.

Article submission software and article remixing software came out, only making the issue worse. Andy probably could have continued his old model for another year and been fine, but he knew that Google would eventually pull the rug out from under it. It took a while, but the article directories had their PageRank edited.

Search engineers can't stop everything, but by the time a technique is cheaply and reliably outsourced the value has already been diminished or will soon become worthless.

  • lower cost and automation means more people will use the technique
  • the lower cost often appeals to those making lower quality websites
  • the more people who use a technique the more likely it is for search engineers to kill it

When you think of the web from that perspective it is easy to see why my current business model is so much better than the old model. The community interaction allows for deeper understanding, and helps people move past using just the techniques that are quick, cheap, and easy.

Parasitic hosts and upload sites, social media sites full of spam, endless cross-referencing internal tagging, blog carnivals...all are quick, cheap, and easy. What do you think is the next quick, cheap, and easy marketing technique that Google will kill?

Mom and Pop Websites? Is Your Brand Big Enough?

When I was on my multi-month critical review of Google a few months back, I frequently highlighted how the perception of spam or quality was often associated with the brand (or lack of brand) behind the content. Stuntdubl wrote a post about brand size reviewing engineer double talk and how brand perception may control the sustainability of your site.

Many people and many sites disappear. For how long just depends on who was behind the infraction and how real their site looks and feels.

About a month ago I asked a friend of mine if he knew that one of his sites got banned from Google. He said no. Then he went and looked at it and asked "why the f*ck did they do that?" His site that was penalized was exceptionally similar to his sites that still rank, with one big exception. It used a default Wordpress theme. Thus it looked like it was probably spam to a search engineer or under-waged remote worker judging a bunch of sites in a rush.

As soon as human editing becomes a big piece of search, humans start thin slicing and start making errors. Once you are gone will anyone notice? Can you escalate the issue to a high enough priority to get your "glitch" fixed?

If you have any top ranking income earning site that exhibits the following traits, look for your income to drop sharply sometime in 2008.

  • has a default Wordpress design
  • has multiple hyphens in the domain name
  • exclusively monetizes via Google AdSense, placed top and to the left in the content area of the page
  • does not have a clear way to contact you
  • lacks an about us section
  • is registered with fake whois

Some cops enjoy handing out speeding tickets. Thin slice your site as though you are a search engineer who enjoys killing spam, but has a quota to kill 1,000 sites a day. Does your site pass the sniff test? Are there areas that could use some improvement?

The democratic nature of the web is a unique concept, but Google no longer uses that line in their marketing brochures. Sometimes the web needs defused.

If you have something that makes money, you need to make it look like it is worthy of its position and earnings. Or else Google will exert as much editorial influence and quality scores as they can to take $$$$$ from you, all in the name of what's good for the customer and helping out "mom and pop webmaster".

After all, when Google Local, YouTube, Google Knol, Google Shopping, and Google Checkout are fully integrated next to AdWords, mom and pop webmaster won't even need to own a website. They can do everything they need on Google.com. How benevolent.

Google to Give Away MP3 in China

The semi-legal and illegal spread of copyright information keeps driving value toward the aggregators. Google, which already has a music search service and owns YouTube, is looking to give away licensend music to win marketshare in China.

From the WSJ

Vivendi SA's Universal Music and about 100 other foreign and domestic record labels have been working with Top100.cn, a Beijing-based Web site that currently sells licensed music downloads for 1 yuan (about 14 cents) each, and Google. Together, Top100.cn and Google would provide free MP3 downloads with value added services, people familiar with the plans say. The new search options, for example, promise to give users free access to a database of information about their favorite artists -- from concert listings to links to special ring tones.

If Google licenses lyrics and allows user feedback on songs, they prettymuch aggregated the entire value stream in that marketplace, at least outside of experiencing live music. Fierce competition for attention will drive virtually all publishing models in that direction. What do you offer that is live or that aggregators can't take from you?

Do You Care About Google Glitches?

Some people are saying that Google #6 issue was just a glitch and not a penalty or a filter. And sure, according to Google's current classification, that change was a glitch.

But lots of glitches have commonalities amongst the sites that were hit. Like many of the sites that got hit by that #6 profile were in some ways stale. And perhaps stale was just a symptom of dated SEO strategy.

You can learn from glitches, because many times glitches show you where and how Google is trying to shape the web. Glitches are side effects of algorithms with a targeted intent, but with too many unintended consequences and/or casualties.

Look back a couple years, and at one point in time SEO Book was not ranking for SEO Book while Paypal was not ranking for Paypal. Add on a bit more market feedback from other sites that were hit and it seemed sites were getting filtered out for having their anchor text too well aligned. That glitch was fixed in a few days to a month (depending on how far over the line your site was and how important your brand was) but the underlying idea of whacking sites for having anchor text that was too focused was indeed a direction the algorithms moved.

Look back a few years more to the Florida update. Some people called pieces of it a glitch or thought that the whole thing needed to be undone. Sometimes lowering the keyword proximity of a page title that was not in the search results brought it back to ranking. And yes the update was too aggressive and they had to back off of it. But filtering out unnatural copy was indeed a direction the algorithm moved.

Glitches reveal engineer intent. And they do it early enough that you have time to change your strategy before your site is permanently filtered or banned. When you get to Google's size, market share, and have that much data, glitches usually mean something.

The SEMMYS - Good Blog Posts You May Have Missed

I was just voting on the PPC section of the SEMMYS and I saw some new posts I liked a lot.

It is not the comprehensive list of all the best posts of the year, but most of them are of great quality and well worth a read. It is nice to read the best stuff someone else spent a whole year digging up. Great job Matt.

Tamar also recently referenced many great posts in her 2007 year end post.

Why SEMPO is Worse than the Defunct Search Marketing Associations

Search Engine Watch lost its magic glow the day it got scummed by SEMPO. A friend pointed me to a 3 part series on Search Engine Watch about how you can't learn SEO from a book. The author of these articles used the same articles to recommend you get certified from the SEMPO Institute. Coincidentally, the author's profile mentions that he is an author for the SEMPO Institute.

But, to be honest, SEMPO saved my life. If they hadn't sent my wife an SEO who got her site penalized she probably never would have found me, bought my book, started chatting with me, and saved my life.

Why Many of the Best SEO Ideas Are Not Found on Popular SEO Blogs

Bad Dated Advice

People who are well established can trade on reputation and attract strong enough clients to not need to perform tests to learn the algorithms intimately well.

Recently another well known marketer put out a video saying domain names were irrelevant to SEO. Then they got feedback from viewers who said they thought that statement was wrong. And then their reply sent to thousands of members on their list included

It's true that your domain name has no REAL effect on your SERPS.

That answer is intuitive, but it is also incorrect. The only way one would claim that as fact is if one has not done any testing recently.

It is one thing to be wrong, but it is another thing to be wrong, be called out on it, and stand by your incorrect claim. People are spending good money to read incorrect and/or outdated information. Unfortunate really, but if you are already doing well you don't need to track and test every little thing to keep doing well. Very few gurus openly sharing information have thin affiliate and newly launched test sites that back up their claims. But it is getting harder to succeed with thin affiliate sites as Google becomes creative director of content development.

Share REALLY Good Tips & Die

Most established people are too lazy or too busy to do in depth testing. And if they are doing it, they probably do not want to share it publicly. Share a hole and watch it get plugged. After a search engineer reads your blog and destroys one of your sites you mentioned, it makes it much harder to want to reveal tips and algorithmic holes with hard evidence behind them. Show your proof and watch Google burn it to the ground. Even if you know what you are doing you can't overcome a hand edit unless it was unjust AND they care enough about your site to let it rank again. You were right, but only until you opened your big mouth. :)

Much of the game of relevancy is a mind control exercise. The conversation revolves around debates including "should be" or "in an ideal world" rather than "how it is".

The Endless Sea of Tests & Noise

People newer to the field have less to risk by being aggressive, place a lower value on their time, are generally more excited about the pursuit, are more willing to try things that established people may not, and are more willing to share their results. But many of them have limited exposure, limited confidence, and/or are drowned out by an endless sea of incorrect information. With so many people saturating the SEO market it is getting harder to be the person first with the scoop. Today blogs are a lot like forums were a few years back. There is no way you could ever get any work done if you subscribed to all the SEO blogs, so it is impossible to read all the information.

Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

If you create a public facing SEO brand, so much of your time goes into brand management and marketing that it is hard to have time to launch many new sites unless you have scaled out a staff. If you have scaled out a staff, you must keep more of your secrets to yourself, because getting a site burned or losing a competitive advantage not only hurts you, but also hurts everyone who works for you. This really hit home after Google killed a site that I had a team working on.

I Was Just Looking At Your Site!

Some of the people who introduced themselves on SEO Book recently mentioned that they were in fields or owned sites that directly competed with some of my sites. If I share all my best ideas with them for free on the blog and they share almost none of their best ideas with me that gets a bit hard to compete with them on my secondary sites, especially if I am competing with them and search engineers decide to pillage my sites. ;)

More Work for Less $ = Bad Trend

The market is getting more competitive. So longer hours are required to achieve similar profits from thin sites. People who see and feel this trend are not only working extra to make up for it, but are also working extra to establish a firmer foothold for the future. 1 hour of work today may be more effective than 2 hours of work next year, or 3 hours of work the following year. But after you get that network effect behind a site the ball is rolling down hill. Gravity is on your side.

SEO as a Subset of Marketing

As it gets harder to fake it people make more legitimate sites offering more value. But as their sites become more embedded in the web doing SEO tests related to links become less and less relevant because it is harder to isolate variables. Dominating the search results becomes a game dominated by the people who are the best at spreading ideas. And so with each passing day SEO for most webmasters is more of a subset of marketing than an independent discipline.

Introduction Thread - Who Are You? What do You do?

With about 4,000 members signed up so far I figured it would be good to have an SEO Book introductions thread. Please use this thread to introduce yourself, and give feedback on how we can make this site better for you.

The Next Break in the Web

Webmasters currently face link rot as a major website maintenance problem. As we rely more on Google and other third parties for features such as hosting, ads, and content syndication what happens when some of the business relationships that are opening up content fall away or search engines reorganize and rebrand their offerings?

A few weeks back I made a post about the book being a dying format, and in that post I have a Google book snippet. Within a week that snippet was broken. I had a Google CPA ad integrated into one of my major websites and the ad went away, breaking 10% of a large site and making it look like spam.

Even some of the services that are not broke will likely be drastically different in a few years. Google maps is really open because they need marketshare, but after they become the clear market leader will they stay fairly open? How long until we have ads in everything?

A good webmaster service that would be exceptionally useful is something that scours websites and looks for broken stuff. Think a Xenu Link Sleuth for multimedia. Another would be how to guides on how we can enable interactivity without becoming too reliant on any third parties that break our sites.

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