Google Sandbox & the Problems with Link Analysis Software

When I was new to SEO I did a bunch of on the page analysis to try to figure out exactly what other people are doing. The problem is that it gets you focused on things that do not matter. A site may end up ranking high at the sacrifice of conversion.

As search algorithms advance basic link analysis tools, at least for Google, are starting to become what keyword density tools are: a waste of time.

Link analysis software was cool, especially when Google used to show all of the PageRank 4 and above links, back when their search relevancy algorithm was a bit more dependant on raw PageRank.

Now Google only shows a limited random set of backlinks, and the other search engines also limit the search depth to 1,000 results, which makes it hard to do useful analysis with the various link analysis tools on the market.

If it were quick and easy to query a database deeply (deeper than 1,000) then the link analysis tools would be much more useful. None of them currently on the market really make that a quick and easy process.

The other problem mentioned above, of harder relevancy algorithms, is not one that is going to go away. WMW supporters forum has a thread about the Google "Sandbox". A friend of mine just got through reading the whole thing, stating that most of it was of little value, but he found a couple posts enlightening. The second post here by Ron Burk has some good tidbits

To keep improving the results, you find more variables for the algorithm-creating machine to use, and you add to your store of human-ranked pages for it to "learn" from. What you don't do is bother understanding the actual algorithm -- it was constructed by a machine and is way too complex for anyone to keep in their head.
...
Psychologists have shown repeatedly that when you give people a system to optimize, all you have to do is secretly introduce a delay between their actions and the results of their actions, and they will go bonkers. In fact, in a very simple (single variable!) model in which people are trying to control the temperature in a virtual refridgerator, you can get some of the same irrational responses you see in these forums

and the first post here by Captain CaveMan (which incidentally is the name of an awesome cartoon character) does as well:

Without giving away the store, I don't know how else to say it. There is no sandbox. People speak of it as though it were some simple 'thing' that stops new sites from being seen. That has simply never been true. What was true was that in its early days, some of the algo elements and related filters were so tight that only a very few new sites got past them (some accidentally; some methodically). Over time that changed; more sites started getting out, presumably as G worked to surface more new, higher quality sites.

There is no sandbox. There is only a serious of rotating algo's and related filters, that make it far harder for sites launched after spring of '04 to be widely seen in the SERP's. Not impossible. Harder. And certainly not as hard now as was true seven months ago. This has been hashed and rehashed so many times that it's hard to understand why it's still confusing.

If you can only see a few of the variables and overexert effort to satisfy those variables you may end up tripping filters and not satisfying other criteria.

Feedback on Competing Services

By targeting certain terms / phrases / concepts / ideas you can target overtly biased consumer feedback which appears to be unbiased information.

You can spend well under $100 creating a system which erodes brands of competing business models. Just use AdWords to market a blog requesting feedback about the company or its products. Generally people are going to be more inclined to research and speak their mind if they are not satisfied.

This may not work well against smaller companies since they are going to be more inclined to accept and look for feedback, but if large companies place themselves ahead of their customers it is exceptionally easy to make that known.

If the feedback site does a good enough job it can garner many free links from other people who may not like the service. Eventually you can use the site for cheap link popularity and to do comparitive advertising for a broad range of terms surrounding a competitors names and / or products.

For example, I could create a site about feedback on the services of various SEO companies. That site would garner both positive and negative feedback. Even though it would have both, it would cast a shadow of doubt over SEO services which might make my ebook look more appealing to a wider audience base.

With all of the people who market SEO services based on the ethics and best practices angles I am surprised nobody has cashed in by creating an SEO service feedback blog.

Sure some firms would shun it, but those would likely be some of the same firms who don't give a crap about their customers.

If I created that sort of site I would not market anything but the feedback off the start. Each page would link out to the reviewed firm for that page. Companies which had great reviews would likely link in. People who hated some of the firms would likely link in.

links links links... !!!!

Disclaimer: Of course you can go too far with this, and it can result in significant social or legal expenses.

WordTracker Easy to Spam? Questioning Keyword Research Tools...

WordTracker sells access to its keyword database based on the concept that meta search engines have data which is much cleaner than regular search results.

Regular search engines have screen scrapers, rank checkers, bid management tools, click bots, webmasters, and all sorts of interesting tools scouring through their networks.

WordTracker collects its data from Dogpile and MetaCrawler, a couple smaller meta search engines. The sales angle is that the keyword data is clean, but is it?

A couple problems with the WordTracker database:

  • As far as I know it does not store historical data (just the past two months search volume)

  • It has a small search database compared to the search volume seen on large engines. The small sample size means errors will be blown out of proportion.
  • Most people who know of and use the database are marketers, who surely could take advantage of the limited search volume by spamming it

Spamming for Profits:
A friend just recently searched and saw a particular SEO firm spamming a ton of fake search referals for their services. I guess that is fairly cheap marketing if you are looking for money from a bunch of naive webmasters.

Smokescreen Spam (Hiding Your Keywords):
Lets say you find out that the phrase gold nuggets is profitable. You run a search bot to search for golden nuggets. You do it over and over and suddenly golden nuggets looks like the money maker.

Your competition trips over each other trying to optimize for golden nuggets (where there may be little to no money), while you are headed to the bank to cash your check.

You cash your check and can afford to go buy more gold nuggets :)

Much like pay per click, some SEO markets are based on working the margins. If you can get your competitors to get in an SEO war in an area of lower profit then eventually they may get frustrated and quit or go after other markets.

Many people focus on improving their sites, but once you get near the top providing competing sites adequate amounts of disinformation may help keep you there. In SEO the only numbers you can trust are the dollars in the bank account at the end of the day (assuming they are not there from a fraudulent transaction).

Flash Design 101 (SEO & Flash)

(or how not to be an schmuck just because you are using flash)

  • Most sites have at least one goal in mind. It is nice if the phone number looks great, but far better if the merchant site ACTUALLY SELLS SOMETHING OR GETS PEOPLE TO CALL.
  • Placing all text in images generally is bad usability and SEO.

  • Just because a feature is available does not mean it needs to be used.
  • Don't disable the browser back button without contacting the merchant and marketer unless you want shot with a shotgun full of rock salt.
  • Have enough decency and self respect to create a descriptive page title for each page. Running all the words together is no good. If you a making a site for Bob Ross you may even be able to work Happy Little Trees into one of the page titles, but creating a title like BobRossFlash with all words ran together is just no good. In that case the trees are not happy.
  • If you test to see if a visitor has flash and they do not maybe, just maybe a one image error page with an image full of text telling them they are all screwed up is a bad call?
  • If your site design is good and the content is of merit some people may want to bookmark the site or pages from the site. Why not embed the flash into html so that the site has multiple pages with unique page titles and textual content?
  • MacroMedia has an SDK which makes flash easier for search engines to spider, but flash still lacks content. add some content in <NOEMBED> tags if you can't add text to the page
  • If by default you generally screw up all the above (and more) and then want to sell a client SEO services for many many thousands of additional dollars you are dishonest and a thief.

Surely there are more, but I just woke up...

What is your least favorite whamodyne flash design errors?

The Pope & Link Building

So a new Pope was elected. I do not follow religion much, but I do offer legitimate charities my ebook free.

A friend of mine does a good amount of link building and runs a few topical blogs.

One of his recent blogs was featured in AOL, BBC, Yahoo!, CNN, MSNBC, Salon, Guardian Unlimited, etc etc etc

He created a blog about the Pope, which was a unique idea when he did it. Many people could do well to write about their interests even if they do not have a business model in mind. Odds are if you enjoy the topic it will show in your writing and it will not seem like work.

Not every site has to make money. Some provide valuable services or build social currency. From that sometimes you can make profits in other ways, or maybe only profit from a spiritual front.

Pope Benedict XVI was just elected, and no doubt if Andy keeps enjoying and working as hard as he has been he will continue to have a voice in that space.

Good Post by Stuntdubl

Google Fixes 302 Error?, Tivo Chatting w Yahoo! & Google

302 Redirects:
Claus over at ThreadWatch is reporting Google may have solved their problem.

Tivo:
TiVo is in talks with Google and Yahoo over a possible deal aimed at bridging television and the web. The deal would likely be exclusive, which means whoever partners with Tivo may get stuck overpaying if a bidding war ensues.

Interview:
Of me. I could have answered a couple questions better. Interviewing people is an exceptionally easy way to build links.

It is fairly rare that marketers turn down an interview opportunity if you approach them nicely.

SEO Friendly Affiliate Programs:
May not be so friendly if you grow your link popularity too quickly.

Ethical SEO:
I got this great comment via email:

I think when people talk about ethics in business they are concerned about someone cutting into their profits or threatening their profits. It has nothing to do with human rights or suffering (which is wrong). Either way, business people will continue to talk about ethics all day - even while they own sweat shops - because sweat shops have very little to do with ethics.

That comment was the foundation for a quick article I just jotted down. Please leave comments and hate mail below. :)

Wal Mart Facts, Brand & Link Building

Wal Mart has no brand strategy. Instead of coming up with one they do small random acts of good and then spend 10 times as much to market how wonderful they are.

They then further their lack of brand by creating http://www.walmartfacts.com/ as a site people can visit to learn the truth about Wal Mart. The problems with that are:

  1. it does not give Wal Mart any legitimate brand strategy

  2. Wal Mart is still hated by many people
  3. the web is a bad place to try to spread pro mega corp propaganda, as...
  4. Wal-Mart-Facts.com is still avialable if anyone wants to register it. Surely it could be a fun project that would garner a number of links. You probably could even make a one page list of anti Wal Mart sites, contact them, and ask them to link to you and quickly outrank the official site.

Hate can be a cheap source of link popularity. Market leaders make the rules, but there is no reason to follow them.

Pfizer is another company which has been doing the right thing :(

SEO Audio

Jim Boykin busts on the audioblog scene with the exclusive WeBuildPages theme song. hehehe

If he posts often I am sure he will end up having one of the best SEO blogs.

Bonus audio: I chatted with John Jantsch (long download time!!!) for about an hour a week or two ago. I usually get bored listening to anything that is over 3 minutes long, though I did find it interesting to hear how my voice changes over time (I have never done much public speaking and I think there were over 100 people listening - eek).

When I was 16 I remember someone told me I had a great radio voice, though listening now I am not hearing it. John however does, and was a great host. Thank for having me on John.

Also John is going to interview Andrew Goodman on Wednesday for some PPC chat at 1PM Eastern.

Links are All You Need !!!

links, links, links, links, links, links, links, links, links.
There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It's easy.
There's nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be in time
It's easy.
All you need is links, all you need is links,
All you need is links, links, links are all you need.
links, links, links, links, links, links, links, links, links.
All you need is links, all you need is links,
All you need is links, links, links are all you need.
There's nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.
All you need is links, all you need is links,
All you need is links, links, links are all you need.
All you need is links (all together now)
All you need is links (everybody)
All you need is links, links, links are all you need.

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