Google Affiliate Marketing Infographic

Jan 4th
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Google Hates Affiliates.

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This Post is Sponsored by Google

Jan 2nd

That is what they say, typically at the bottom of the posts, in blog posts that equate Google Chrome to being the Internet & spread misinformation about how Chrome is good for small business.

  • some of those sites are paid posts and have live links in them to Google Chrome without using nofollow & talk about SEO in the same post as well!
  • some of those posts link to the example businesses Google was paying to have covered
  • and all the posts are effectively "buying YouTube video views" for this video youtube.com/watch?v=QFLP7HD1s7k

You can say they didn't require the links, that the links were incidental, that leaving nofollow off was an accident, etc. ... but does Google presume the same level of innocence when torching webmasters? They certainly did not to the bloggers who reviewed K-Mart & the Google reconsideration request form states:

“In general, sites that directly profit from traffic (e.g. search engine optimizers, affiliate programs, etc.) may need to provide more evidence of good faith before a site will be reconsidered.”

The Orwellian things about Google using the above strategy to market Chrome are:

  • Google has a clear pro-corporate big brand bias to their algorithms & layout (Vince & Panda updates + the part near the top of the SERPs for some searches that says "brands" as a filter type).
  • The more usage data Google collects the more stupid hoops it forces smaller businesses to jump through in order to compete, thereby further driving them under. (If small business owners didn't have enough time & resources for SEO, do they now also have time to get reviews, get local citations, deal with social stuff on Twitter + Facebook + Youtube + Google+ and a bit of SEO?)
  • Google polices how small businesses can even make income online. When K-Mart paid some small business bloggers to do sponsored posts Matt Cutts wrote a post (mattcutts.com/blog/sponsored-conversations/) about how he torched those small bloggers (while doing nothing to K-Mart) & equated that exercise to selling links that promote bogus brain cancer solutions. Yet Google Japan was already dinged for this sort of paid post activity & now Google is doing the same thing again.

The fact that Google is paying to spread that sort of misinformation about how their browser is helping small businesses is sort of like BP buying ads about doing tourism in the gulf. Only since Google destroying smaller businesses is something more abstract on virtual lands the PR propaganda campaign is much more effective, because (unlike oil washing ashore) people do not see what is not there. (The birds still die, but the black oil covered carcass isn't rotting on the beach).

Should you follow Google & buy ads on these sites? Are they christened & beyond reproach? I would sort of be afraid to buy exposure on the blogs where Google is buying coverage...if that latent public relations disaster eventually blows up in their face, they may assume others are as guilty as Google is & burn down the whole forest.

Google the dictator meet Google the marketer. You guys are going to get on well together!

Update: Danny highlighted how Google's Chrome ad buy created a lot of the low-quality filler pablum content that the Panda update was alleged to discourage.

SEO Lemons

Dec 28th

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SEO Market for Lemons.

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Thanks to John Andrews for highlighting the above industry trend.

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The Decline of Organic Links Infographic

Dec 9th

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How Google Hit Organic Links.

For many years it was true that SEO = links, but due to the rise of rel=nofollow, fearmongering & social media, organic links have lost much of their relative importance in many verticals.

Links are still valuable in some areas of course, but where the search results are full of listings from Google.com, pushed below the fold from larger AdWords ads and/or heavily skewed by things like brand bias there is much less value in link building in numerous big money markets. After all, few care who ranks #1 if #1 is below the fold!

Google Admits 'Organic Results' Are Filler To Pump Deceptive Ads at Consumers

Dec 8th

Some of Google's new search results look quite alarming in terms of every single link above the fold is either a paid ad, or links to yet another Google page wrapped in ads.

I have a huge monitor & it is impossible for me to click *anywhere* above the fold on some search results without going through Google's toll booth or clicking off to yet another Google ad wrapped page.


(click on the image for the full sized view)

Some people have given Google the benefit of the doubt "well this is just vertical search" and "this is just for the consumer" but we see that in many cases it harms consumers by limiting choice:

Charlie Leocha, the director of the Consumer Travel Alliance, says Google Flight Search is “limiting consumers’ knowledge.” He explains, “this is a situation where Google is trusted as a ‘search engine’ that goes across the whole Web, but it is only going to a small select group of airlines and including them in Flight Search.”

The bottom line?

According to Leocha, “Google and the airlines have a sweetheart deal with each other, and the consumers are getting screwed.”

Those who coddled Google & gave Google the benefit of the doubt now have egg on their face, and the industry as a whole is poorer for their poor judgement & lack of stewardship.

As absurd as the above behavior is, it gets worse. When Google acquired DoubleClick, Larry Page wanted to keep Performics (an SEO/SEM company). But since it would have been a flagrant violation of law for him to run an SEO company, they now decide that nobody should run an SEO company...telling consumers to simply forget about SEO even when they specifically search out information about SEO!

Google recently ran AdWords ads with the following copy when consumers searched Google for SEO information:

“Forget about SEO. To be visible in Google today, try Adwords”

You know Google's slogan: "maybe the best ads are just answers." And sometimes they are misdirection or scams that quite literally kill people.

You can't be 100% certain which is which until long AFTER you click. And by then Google's cash register has already rang & it is off to dupe the next person.

Comments turned off, as this is a conversation that NEEDS TO SPREAD. If you run a blog about SEO, you owe it to your readers & your industry to cover this topic. If this topic doesn't get broad coverage then pretty soon your career might be over & you will deserve it too.

Google Biz Dev Beats the Google Engineers Again

Dec 7th

Since Panda has happened I (and others) have highlighted how brands have ranked doorway pages, ranked scraped 3rd party content, padded out crap "content farm" content to suck in search traffic, took their market leading position & used it to deliver inferior experiences, bought out bankrupt competitors & redirected the PageRank, engaged in off-topic affiliate extension (Barnes & Noble, Overstock, Overstock AND Barnes & Noble), etc etc etc

At the same time, independent webmasters face greater uncertainty than ever (legal, personal property rights, and from alleged "quality" algorithms like Panda & editorial crackdowns from Google engineers).

If you are not operating at scale, you are an inefficiency which must be expunged from the marketplace.

I have maintained that Panda was a joke & a diversion to re-frame the quality debate as Google dialed up on inserting their own vertical results in the search results, allowing them to monetize the "organic" search results.

Such a view may have been seen as cynical, but it is something that more people are realizing as true. Read this great article from Tom Foremski on ZDNet.

Google's percent of downstream traffic to YouTube has more than doubled since Panda.

You know how John Stewart or George Carlin have to present reality as a joke to express it? Well watch the above video & then read this article:

“Every single leading company is waiting for user-generated content or is licensing content” in order to reach advertisers, Rosenblatt said. “YouTube was tired of waiting. They told us that they needed a home and garden channel, a pets channel and a health/Livestrong channel. They are paying us up front, plus a rev share. This is the beginning of them funding professional content creators.”

I have mentioned Demand Media's video "efforts" before.

But my opinion doesn't matter.

As a monopoly, only Google's does.

And they decided to subsidize Demand Media while torching your site.

Google Longtail Keywords Infographic

Dec 1st

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How Google Killed the Longtail Infographic.

The Walmartization of the Web (Literally)

Nov 29th

Walmart is getting much more aggressive with their online strategy:

With some 1.4 million employees on its U.S. payroll, Walmart's world is about as large as the state of Maine. That's massive by any standard, but when you consider how social media amplifies that number, it's not simply a huge group but an influential one. No small wonder, then, that the earth's largest employer is taking greater measures to motivate and mobilize its people -- and opening up more opportunities for consumer brands to also reach them along the way.

These brands can not only leverage internal resources to further build off the boost Google offers them, but they can then take that attention and sell it back off to the highest bidder:

It's not clear how much ad revenue Walmart World has made or whether MyWalmart.com will become a profit center. But the former already takes in millions of dollars annually in ads from vendors seeking an audience with Walmart employees, according to people familiar with the matter.

If Google consolidates markets too aggressively then ultimately they create competition for themselves through vertical ad networks. In some cases (say travel) Google can buy out the market plumbing & then reassert control:

Wertheimer drew some criticism when he explained that “our airline partners were very clear” that they wouldn’t participate in Google Flight Search if online travel agency booking links were included in the core flight-search results.

But Google doesn't have that same influence over retail & each time they put the big brands front and center the more they reinforce that 3rd party dominance.

In addition to leveraging their workforce, it is also quite easy for these brands to use customer incentives to dominate social media.

Amazon.com is also carrying far more ads these days & they sell ads on 3rd party sites.

The above is another reason why Google is pushing so hard to control the second click. If they can taste the traffic again they add efficiency to their own model while introducing another layer of friction to other retailers.

When users finally manage to leave the Google click circus, Google tries to pull them back into Google with the Google Related toolbar

In the above quoted AdAge article there is some skepticism around how much a company like Walmart can get out of underpaid wage slaves:

"It's really hard when you're a person making poverty-level wages, just had your health-care premiums raised 60%, and you can only get part-time hours, to be a good ambassador for the brand, no matter how much you love it," said Jennifer Stapleton, spokeswoman for Making Change at Walmart.

However I think that skepticism is misplaced, as the less a person has the more thankful they tend to be for the little bits they do have. Most people who have nothing do not realize how systems are engineered to screw them over.

It is only when you have free time to think & are not clouded by arbitrary short-term stress that you can ponder the bigger & more uncomfortable questions in life. As long as you don't consider those uncomfortable questions it is far easier to push anything, because you don't know any better.

"The entire web has become full of garbage. The web has become almost a digital Detroit." - Roger McNamee.

If Walmart's strategy works then this ultimately will be why Google's brand-only approach to search will fall flat on its face. If this is successful I would then expect Google to put out some public relations drivel about celebrating the diversity of the web & move away from brand in the next 2 or 3 years.

In the meantime, I expect Google to keep increasing search complexity such that it's prohibitively expensive to make & market a small independent commercial website. That will force many smaller companies to live inside the Google ecosystem, with Google ranking the Google-hosted pages/products/locations for those companies, so that they can serve ads against them and get a bigger slice of the revenues.

Google's ad network is far more profitable than even the lowest waged employee, as it doesn't need to be fed & is designed to be an agnostic & amoral yield optimization tool. And it is effective enough that the biggest retailers are now becoming ad networks.

Average products for average people - with ads everywhere.

Welcome to the WorldWideMart. ;)

BOTW Cyber Monday Coupon

Nov 29th

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Big Commerce SEO

Nov 17th

Over 5 years ago I had a quick chat with the folks from Interspire about their websites, including their shopping cart at the time & offered a few tips to fix some of the obvious issues I saw. This was over a half-decade ago & under a different product name & entirely informal.

Anyhow...as they later ramped up on marketing, they at some point claimed that I somehow "certified" their software, even as the version changed, their product name changed, their mode of sales changed (from primarily pushing a downloadable software product to an SAAS model), many SEO fundamentals changed over the years, and so on.

Becoming Sales Copy

In spite of all the above changes, I have not viewed/used/reviewed the product in any way in years. Yet I am still listed as having optimized it.

Not only am I a feature on the sales letter, but I am a highlighted one AND the link is nofollowed :D

After I mentioned the above to them & asked them to take my name down, I recommended them to another friend who is an SEO, but they did not work with him. I think they sort of brushed off the issue by suggesting that they endorse us & send a lot of customers our way, however one can easily see that our logo isn't on pages like this one bigcommerce.com/products-we-like.php & even if it were, that wouldn't make it correct to say I somehow certified their software.

Test Everything

Does that faux certification impact their sales? I guess so, since the "feature" is highlighted, they are great marketers who do conversion testing, and I get chat messages out of the blue like: "hello aaron. just wanted to ask if you really helped out with developing bigcommerce shopping cart?"

Just today I got "Aaron, Love your work and insights! BigCommerce touts your expertise in creating their SEO features, so I bring this question to you. Using domaintools.com all the IP addresses for any BigCommerce cart show Sydney as the location associated with the IP. Doesn't this create a search results handicap for Big Commerce users who are located outside AUS and market primarily in North America? Matt Cutts says IP location makes a difference - youtube.com/watch?v=keIzr3eWK8I What is the best solution for using BigCommerce for shops based in North America? Are carts like Volusion, which show Simi Valley CA USA IP locations better than Big Commerce's Sydney AUS IP location for North America? Kind regards, -Marc "

Asking a Second Time

I forgot about the issue for a while & then about a half-year ago I asked a second time if they would please take my name off their sales material, based on a customer complaint:

Hi Eddie
this is the second time I have asked you to remove my name from your sales material for promoting the SEO viability of your product. It mis-represents a 5 minute off the record chat into something more than that, and what is worse the product has changed greatly since then. At this point the faux recommendation is harming my reputation.

"Hey Aaron,
I was just recommending the SEOBook community to the owner of -------.com and he mentioned to me that Interspire was still using your name as someone who endorses their product. He was surprised, with the horrible SEO issues inherent in the cart. I told him you probably didn't even realize they were still using your name. Anyway, just thought you might like to know. The cart is ok with loads of customizations (maybe most others are no better), but it sucks out of the box...lots of issues with URLs, duplication, etc., etc.

Hope all is well,
David"

please do not require me to ask a third time to fix this issue
cheers
aaron

They said it would be sorted in a couple days.

Days Turn Into Months

Months later a friend sent me one of their marketing emails...there I was yet again.

Are they 100% certain that I have not worked for either of those companies? Did they bother to ask me before their promotional email went out? Of course not. I am just a blurb of sales text, inserted as needed to increase sales.

I asked in private for them to stop this multiple times. I am not the type of guy to "sick lawyers on them" or whatever, so I am hoping that this blog post will help the issue go away.

Respect is important. If you use someone's name in your marketing then you should stop using it if they ask you to.

Disclaimers

I know their company is growing like a weed & growth can be hard to manage. For all I know their software is relatively good in terms of pricing and feature set when compared against other ecommerce software, however that is only speculation as I haven't done any sort of formal SEO audit.

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend their stuff as an option for an ecommerce platform, but when their marketing says that I have done any sort of formal in-depth SEO work on it, that is both inaccurate and done without my consent or permission.

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