Sunday, December 31, 2006

Blog Comments 2.0

Google have provided a brief but handy write up of a year in Google blogging and the blog's parting words which caught my interest.

And before long, perhaps you can begin leaving comments directly. We're working on that.
Oooh! As someone who works with international companies on their SEM campaigns I often find myself in discussions on the pros and cons of comments. More and more companies receptive to the notion of blogging. It's still new but now no longer a fad. Increasingly consumers are expecting to be able to communicate, or at least hear, from companies in a friendly "real language" and not in the less friendly "PR language" or second hand from old media. More companies seem to recognise this and wish to provide a blog. Oh, sure, this is not entirely altruistic as these companies also have an eye on the PR wisdom of a friendly blog. There's also the role of the blog in the SEO strategy. When was the last time you saw an official PR release on Digg's home page?

But there's a catch. Comments. If you let users comment then... gasp... they might say something negative. They may even say something illegal and here in the UK that then becomes the problem of the company providing (or even hosting) the blog. You can moderate comments but that requires effort. What's the ROI benefit from blog comment moderation? How much would you pay someone to moderate comments on a corporate blog?

I often point to Google blog as the easy solution. Simply put, Google has a friendly blog but it does not allow comments. I don't think the blog suffers at all from this. I go there for my official Google news. I feel that I'm closer to Google because I have access to the blog.

I'm sure Google considered letting people comment on the blog but that really would open the flood gates. Can you imagine how many inane comments they would get? The blog spam alone would be intense (Google's blog would make one hell of a honey pot!). The "to reply or not to reply" debate would be worthy of a Shakespearean drama.

Google are considering allowing comments in 2007? Well! Google are just considering it. It would be quite understandable if they conclude; "Nah! That's a crazy idea!"

... but what if Google are working on clever automated and scalable solution? Hmm. Nice. Give Google a problem and they'll naturally gravitate towards a clever automated and scalable solution.

Back in April I waffled on about captchas and cash and came up with a half-baked deposit idea. Simply put, you pay a deposit whenever you comment. If your comment is important enough to you then it should be no problem to deposit 1p until the blogger approved the comment. In a year you might end up loosing, oh, maybe 25p? A blog spammer could deposit thousands of pounds and would stop being a blog spammer. What's the ROI for moderating comments? The blog would have a revenue stream of its own (and, I admit, a new public relations hurdle to overcome).

That's one solution. I very much doubt that this is anything like Google's solution for blog comments in 2007.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Live Search

I'm glad I found time to brush up this blog. I mentioned Bill Slawski by name on my last post and I suspect a Google Blog Alert (which are awfully quick these days) tipped him off. In just a few minutes I had Bill and Danny leaving comments on ARHG. Kudos to Bill to updating his SearchEngineLand post and for his further post on interesting Google patents. Boo hiss to the US Patent Office as I still can't buy the damn things.

Since I found time to update this blog I thought I'd try and pull Search Commands* back into life to. What better starting place than changing the old MSN profile to a new Live Search profile. No where else! So that's what I did. I found time to add in the exclusive LinkFromDomain command and discovered that it's a bit flaky. It had no results for many well known domains. This week Live Search's IP command was also poorly.

Live Search's has also begun to tempt me into setting them as my default search engine is new, though.

SearchEngineLand and the US Patent Office

I often growl at the US Patent & Trademark Office. It's just silly. Today I'm growling at them because their shopping basket is broken. I'm trying to buy Google's Mobile Search Patent and I can't. Grr.

It was SearchEngineLand's SearchCap which tipped me off to this. The email took me to the site and a post by Bill Slawski. It was a succient post which is good in ways. It linked straight through to Microsoft's patent application. It did not link through to Google's Patent Application. To get to that I had to click through to SEO by the Sea which is Bill Slawski's blog. I'm sure it is a very good blog. It's not a blog I happen to read. My SearchEngineLand experience would have been better had the original post linked me to Google's patent application.

I'm sure SearchEngineLand's writers write for free. Kudos to them for that. One of the carrots they get in return is a much a higher profile. Every post Bill writes on SearchEngineLand links back to his profile at SEO by the Sea anyway. If I was Danny (and after a check of my bank balance, I can confirm that I'm not) I would strongly encourage every writer to produce fully inclusive posts. Even if the writer's intent was not to use SearchEngineLand to drive traffic to their blog they shouldn't ever be in the position where people can debate whether that is happening.

Bill's done the very same thing on another Google Patent post - How Google Sitelinks May Work, From Patent Application. Some links to the US Patent Office and a nudge towards SEO by the Sea. Once again, though, thanks to Bill for the Patent heads up.

SearchEngineLand is in Google News too. I'm sure the weight of requests to Google News to include SearchEngineLand justifies this without further inspection. Further more (again from patent applications) we know that Google News is interested in the quality and quantity of the writing team and SearchEngineLand has some trusted and respected names on board.

A quick check of the stories on the home page this morning turns up one quirky figure though. The average word count of articles (body and header, no navigation or footer links) is only 114.5 words. There's not a story linked to from Google News's home page or the first page in news categories right now with less than 275 words.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Eric Schmidt makes another $28,762,514.10

I've been watching the Insiders file Form 4s for the USA's SEC come in. If I was an AdSenser there would be money to made here.

Business Week reports that:

The chairman and chief executive of Google Inc. sold 63,485 shares of common stock under a prearranged trading plan, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings Wednesday.

In a series of Form 4s filed with the SEC, Eric E. Schmidt reported he sold the shares Friday for $453.06 to $456.94 apiece.

If you go on the low side then $453.06 by 63, 485 is $28,762,514.10. If you want to be generous then Dr Schmidt walks off with $29,008,835.90.

Not bad, huh?


Gosh. Two posts in one week! Is the world ending? Have I come strangely addicted to blogging? No! No! (or I hope not on both accounts).

I'm simply enjoying the gap between Christmas and Hogmanay (or New Year as SEO Sassenachs would call it). Addictions are much more likely to be in the form of tracking down episodes 128 and onwards of Inuyasha on YouTube, or anywhere, now that Google's pulled the series or through Untold Legends 2 on the PSP.

That Untold Legends 2 link goes to Amazon (old habits die hard - I paid for the second time through Uni via SEO and affiliate deals) and it reminds me that I've not been on the site in aaages. How can I tell? Amazon have keywords in the URL. I would have noticed that the very second that happened if I was a regular visitor. These days, yep, I tend to go to Tesco, Tesco Direct or Game. Linky!

With this brief lease of extra time I've taken a few hours to muck around with Blogger. I can't be accused of doing that in the past! Gosh. I am determined to use Blogger for this blog. This is Google'n'Blog. It seems appropriate. I'll Wordpress elsewhere. Google has so much work to do - still, and this is Blogger 2. The new custom layout options do not, and may never, work with FTP publishing. Although there is a lot still to do I can see why Google like the system. It's simple. It scales. The $dollar$ variables remind me of old TinyMUSH code (and that's showing my heritage). First off was fixing a bug in this new (to me) template. The bottom of posts end with <$I18N$LinksToThisPost> which, clearly, does not look right. It just takes a second to work out that the second dollar is in the wrong place. It should be <$I18NLinksToThisPost$>. You could just change that to "Links To This Post" as HTML text though. I say that because I've not yet found a way to change the values of the $variables. Keep in mind I've only been mucking around for a few hours and most of that time seems wasted on waiting for the entire blog to re-post after each tweak!

The "personal opinion" disclaimer has been put back in. It's naff but something tells me that that's important. The blog title Andrew Girdwood now links home. The 302 redirect on the domain level is now a 301. Not sure why I had it as a 302 to begin with... I suspect I had plans to grow a little portfolio or test site at the domain and have the blog as a part of it. Well. Ahem. Should that ever happen then Google will pick the changes up quickly enough for me. Individual blog post headings (like <$I18N$LinksToThisPost>) on the front page link to the actual blog posts. I've kept them as >h3< tags too.

Yes!    *gasp*

H tags as links!

I did it! I did!

It makes perfect logical sense to me. The title of the post/article/story goes to the page for that post/article/story. The front page (think of a news paper) as an overall heading and then is divided into equally important sections - which are the <h3> areas.

This is not spam. I shudder to imagine the number of people who would worry about this.

I'll continue to muck around with Blogger and look for improvements. Hopefully Google will do the same. I'm hopeful that now it's on a new platform it'll be easier to maintain, tweak and improve.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Broken - but still good

One of my favourite quotes from Google is:

A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"

I like that quote because it makes a lot of sense and is easy to understand. Any changes we recommend for SEO also clearly have benefits for users too. It may just be the case that the search engine involvement completes the business case required for making the change.

Google's Sitemap XML program broke the (rule of) thumb. It was just for search engines.

Adam Lasnik has posted a very good Webmaster Central blog post on duplicate content. In particular, I'm pleased to see a tip to be consistent with internal linking. I don't understand why webmasters insist on linking to /index.html when / would work. If you insist on linking to index.html it means is that your upgrade to PHP will involve awkward URL rewriting rules.

Adam also writes;
Rather than letting our algorithms determine the "best" version of a document, you may wish to help guide us to your preferred version. For instance, if you don't want us to index the printer versions of your site's articles, disallow those directories or make use of regular expressions in your robots.txt file.

Hmm. Tough one to squeeze into "I'm comfortable describing this as a non-search engine specific strategy to a competitor" box. Google's broken their rule of thumb too. Clearly, though, this is talking about excluding pages from the index which is a far cry from trying to manipulate the algorithm into ranking you higher. Sometimes the best rules of thumbs are those you can define by the exceptions and perhaps this is one.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Google onebox or Google advert

Hmm. I'm not sure about this Onebox. Is it even an onebox or an advert? At least it's clearly marked.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Google crawling Google Finance

The days of me anally watching everything Google did are gone. I wish that wasn't the case. I wish I had time to be a fan boy. It is a badge of pride. At work, I now have teams of people who watch what Google does and report to me. I'm still informed but it means I rarely get to "discover" stuff myself any more. A good thing I'm not an American guru who has to break discoveries to the blog and forum community as the only way to keep his profile in the limelight.

Here's today's discovery: Google has begun to crawl Google Finance.

That screen grab comes from a link: command too. Pretty neat. We've a backlink from Google Finance.

When Google Finance went live the general Google robots.txt blocked spiders from it. Now spiders can get in.

The other little spin here is that Google Finance uses event driven text. Text that is only visible to user when they mouse over the management team (check YHOO as an example) but which is visible to the search engines all the time.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Gmail / Google Mail

Google use Gmail in their offices rather than Outlook. I can see why. Gmail is simply very good. I'd be lost without Gmail.

Check out my spam count. Over a quarter of a million messages. Gmail deletes spam after 30 days too. This is a record for me and I blame Christmas. Christmas is the season for spam.

It isn't just my Gmail account which collects mail. My main domain forwards all emails to Gmail. I then pop the lot. I still have the run a baysan filter on Thunderbird but without Gmail I'd be waiting hours for my email.

The Gmail contacts online feature is really handy. I like to see the little green ball light up to show that a contact is online. I would not be surprised to see if Google roll out that feature to other areas; imagine Google Groups or even Blogger alerting you when friends are online. You could leave a little green Google light behind with each comment you leave on a blog. The blog owner would be able to see if you're online (if you wanted) or not when she reviews the post. AOL have done the very same thing with a light up flower icon for AIM and Yahoo has their smilie faces.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The optimisation of Search Engine Land

Danny Sullivan is moving on from Search Engine Watch and to Search Engine Land. The last industry roundtable I went to had some people sniggering about the name - how long did it take him to think that one up? old hat?

I disagree. Sure, Search Engine Land is similar to Search Engine Watch and the Daily Cap is similar to the Daily Cast but let's take a step back and look what Danny's doing.

There are keywords in the domain; "search engine". They're not hyphenated but they're there. The holding page up on the site now (before December 11, when the site launches) makes it clear that the name of the site is "Search Engine Land" and not "SearchEngineLand". When people link to the site they're likely to do so ala Search Engine Land. There's a 310 redirect away from "" to "" too.

Danny has reason to echo "Search Engine Watch" too. There is a real incentive for him to remind us that Search Engine Watch was his. He couldn't call the new project, "The Real Search Engine Strategies" for fear of attack lawyers so "Search Engine Land" isn't too bad in that respect at all.

Let's look at what else is he doing.

The site is up now. It's not the real site but there is content on Thee is content about search engines at this address. Google has begun to assocaite search engine content with that domain name. This is exactly what you should do when launching a new domain name. Fear the "sandbox" syndrome and give your domain name the best start possible.

The site is up now. People are linking to the site. Search blogs and forums are linking to the site. Danny is already growing links. This blog post links to the new domain.

The link biating (or link breeding as I used to call it until Matt Cutts coined a better term) has started. He is running a competition to pick the logo. The logo is designed, people just get to vote on the trimmings but it doesn't matter - it encourages people to talk (link) about the site and to get involved. It's a good move.

Danny's Flickr account is being used to spread the word too. That link to Flickr shows that Rustybrick is helping to advertise the logo/competition too. Good score Danny.

The current Search Engine Land site is yucky. It does thrust a big RSS button at you now. Sign up now! A lot of people will press that button just to remind them that there will be something in this space later. Most of these people will never unsubscribe from the feed. Another good move.

Further down the page there's a host of Social Media buttons - Danny's starting has he means to go on - with a large reader base.

Search Engine Land will be one to watch. That's for sure. The challenge Danny faces is keeping the topic interesting to a wide group of people. Newbies who still want to know about "301" redirects have Webmasterworld. The middle ground is Search Engine Watch's forums (the news stories became adverts many months ago) but the "recycled issue rot" is taking hold there. Will Danny target Search Engine Land to the newbies, to the SME SEO firms, to the named individuals (that American guru thing) or is there a niche for the elite level of SEOers?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A thousand apologies my friend

I see a lot of out of office auto-replies. Very often, you work hard to make a deadline for a client, get the email off on time only to discover that they're out of the office that whole week. Why we had that deadline in the first place often remains a mystery.

One contact I have in Google, however, always has a good out of office response. I much prefer to get a quick response to my email but if I have to wait then I prefer to wait in style. Today's out of office response is:

Subject: A thousand apologies my friend

Hello there. Thanks for emailing me. It's always nice to feel loved.

I am afraid I must make the most humble apology to you. I'm in an all day meeting both today AND tomorrow. Currently, it is today, rather than tomorrow, so I will be there for one more day. If it's super urgent, the best thing I can recommend is a ticket.

If you're a customer trying to get hold of me, then you should contact your account manager who should be able to find me, and demand my services for your benefit.

If you have a moment, I recommend you take a peep at this.

Then, pray consider how long it must take to build this or that

Tuesday, October 17, 2006 bidding on in

Ah. Is this a deliberate bid? It has Atlas tracking so it seems professional.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Why Search Engine Strategies and Incisive Media sold to Apax Partners

Hmm. First off there's a bias in the title of this post; "Why Search Engine Strategies and Incisive Media sold to Apax Partners". Sure, Incisive own Search Engine Strategies but SES is such a small part of Incisive that it's doubtful the brand played any significant role in the decision.

Danny Sullivan's decision to leave Incisive might have been because he knew of the sell out, though, then again, perhaps he didn't and now regrets it.

There's an article on the sellout, from public to private, in Oct 12th's issue of Marketing Week (not always my favourite mag given their mis-quote of us) which sums up the issue;

The advertising and event-driven business model of Incisive has limited its ability to raise significant levels of debt finance as a listed company, and equity-finance transactions have been difficult to justify given valuation ratings within the sector.
You can see why I nearly did Economics at Uni rather than my Computing degrees. What a lot of jargon (not that SEO ever uses jargon). In short - it was too expensive to borrow money. Incisive couldn't drive their offerings forward.

Would you lend money to fund an SES? If the answer is yes then you're almost certainly American or Canadian. SES seems less healthy on this (Europe's) side of the Atlantic. A number of the planned, smaller, specialist SES forums this year have been canceled due to a "lack of interest". There might have been a lack of interest but that's compounded by a lack of advertising... which comes back to cash.

I'm hopeful that Apax -> Incisive -> SES conferences can make the vertical model work. It'll take the SEO industry and mature it into many different models. The SEM agency I work for is large enough to use the vertical model (ie, travel specialists, finance specialists, etc) and so goes Google. I think the model has legs.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Gootube - dated 2005

Are you surprised that Google paid so much cash for YouTube? I've mixed feelings on this.

I'm not surprised that people are making up brands like Gootube. This surprises me though - at work one of our technical search managers checked (smart man) and it was bought in 2005.

2005 - a fluke? Or someone thinking ahead? Or just standard domain hoovering tactics?

Gosh - even LiveJournal has a poll function. Blogger has some catching up to do.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Is a social search site?

Is a social search site. I think so but writing on the Prefound Blog Steve Mansfield disagrees.

Here's why is social search:

  • Folksomony matured to tag clouds is a community feature.
  • At you have contacts, recommend links to contacts and a network of contacts is social.
  • There's a Your Network view - in other words, a social view, which you can search through
  • In addition to your network you have fans - a further social element

Anyway... just some thoughts.

I view Social Search as the umbrella term which includes
  • Social Bookmarking
  • Social News
  • Social Networking

It's not much of a connection... but on the subject of news, Neimperative has an article about the bigmouthmedia chins. They say the vid got to number 5 on YouTube. They said we said that. Journos, huh! At one point the video was rated 5th (actually, I thought 4th) in the comedy section on YouTube. YouTube moves at lightening though and that's not the case any more. At one point I'm sure the vid might have been rated even more highly.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The dangers of site links and Ted Baker

I was looking for a new watch, like funky-chunky watches, and so turned my attention to Ted Baker.

The home page says the online store is closed. Google, however, gives me sitelinks to elsewhere in the site and these pages do not carry the same "closed" message. Ooops.

I've not beed to Ted Baker's site before and so can't speculate as to whether these are the remains of the old site or a preview of the new.

I've emailed them to point this little whoops. I always angst about whether I should do that and whether I should do so from my seo agency address or not.

Ah yes, and what I was calling 'mini links' Google has referred to as site links and so they become site links.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Amazon swearing

During a meeting with a client I had the joy of bringing an Amazon page up to the big presentation sceen and foolishly picking a Trainspotting book to review.

In case it's not clear from the screen grab, Amazon's first two SIPs are: "shitein cunt" and "cunt sais". Thanks Amazon. Just what I wanted to show everyone.

If you're curious Amazon's search results for shitein cunt are here.

And guess what; sure we have Trainspotting and Porno but also The Language of Post-Colonial Literatures: An Introduction by Ismail Talib. Of course!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Ebookers are apparently weighed down by a large spam penality in Google. They don't even rank for their brand name. They've been there for a week. Further evidence that big spenders simply can't buy their way back into organic resulsts. Cendant, ebooker's owners, spend a fortune++ at Google.

There is discussion as to what got ebookers caught. Lots of people have found and pointed the finger at the bought links. True. I think that was a yellow card.

The red card, however, are the hidden links on the supporting sub-domains. Check out the source code of and you'll see what I mean.

A screen capture says it all.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Personalised Search Loops

Can personalised search cause feedback loops? Or, put in another way, should Google mark down Google for being Google?

Google has pages in the SERPS. It has its own help and support pages, for example, and these are the most likely to be returned in any SERPs. One of Google's webmaster pages currently does well for [search engine optimisation] in Google Directory and Google Answers pages are also returned whereas the likes of Google Finance are robots.txt excluded from the index.

I use Google a lot. An awful lot. I use Google personalised search. It makes sense that the personalised search knows that I use Google a lot ... and, um, does it then bias my results in favour of including Google pages? If I click on these Google pages in Google's own SERPs then I could again show Personalised Search that I like Google's pages.

Is this personalised search? Or is this just personalised search rewarding itself?

If Google was to apply a penalty to itself, to expect a bias towards Google and therefore weigh its own domain down then that's an advance towards other search engines with similar content pages. Yahoo's travel directory has great search engine status for tourist attractions, for example.

So should Google weigh down the other search engines then? Or has Google just found an excuse to apply a "personalised penalty" to its rivals in this case?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Blog Wars

Is this blog active? I think so. I don't post very often - but I do post.

According to Kevin Burton an active blog has one post a day. Anything else and the blog isn't active. His claim comes in his attempt to debunk Technorati's claims that there are 50million blogs on the net.

I agree with Kevin, there's a lot of hype about blogs right now and a lot of numbers that don't make sense. There are a lot of holes in people's maths. I just happen to think that his own maths are wrong. His pessimistic numbers have a post of once per week - which this blog does not do. When I travel I don't think any of my blogs fail to have one post per week.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Goggle Mini Links 2

Google have upgraded their "mini link" to be less mini.

This comes days after Matt Cutts (video link) downplayed the importance of keywords in URLs. I think these expanded mini links - which show off the URLs - put in a strong reason to have search engine friendly URLs. If the green link text have keywords then users are more likely to click.

Speaking of which. I think these mini links will have an impact on PPC. In the Danny Sullivan example above the PPC links for his books now have much stronger competition from the organic results. Click through ratios could drop. This will impact on the QS+CTR metric.

In other news, I've recently found Newsvine and am mightily impressed.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

MSN sneaks into Yahoo Messenger

Ah-ah! You can see that I'm struggling to find time for the blog. I shall not give in, though. Being busy is always a good thing in this industry.

I took this screen grab *ages* ago so I'm sure it's old news now. However, I still think it's valid. This is the power of Microsoft. The software powerhouse does have the ability to grab users from out under the noses of its rivals. Here we can see Yahoo Instant Messenger being used to tempt people to the MSN Live Messenger. I must say; although Yahoo Instant Messenger is better and we use it at work - I use MSN Live Messenger at home. I found it first ergo more of my friends are on it. The latest MSN LIve lets me chat to Yahoo contacts too and so once I've transfered everyone across I may never start up YIM again.

Instant Messengers are a front on search war. Each has their own search box. A few even let you search as a conversation and share the results. This is a search technology for 2008. Mutual searches, group searches, together searches - where two or more people on different machines all share the same search experience. Instant Messengers are a likely route to that technology.

Friday, July 07, 2006

A rare update

I don't understand where so many SEOers find the time to maintain long and detailed blogs. Aren't they busy? It seems impossible to me. There's just so much work to do.

I've only just got around to installing Google Sync. I should have done it sooner because it talked me into disabling session saver. Now I've disabled session safer - FireFox is behaving much better.

I'm mad keen to find time to play with Google Checkout. In particular, the clickthrough rate effect the icon will have in AdWords will be a matter of much debate. It could be great. It could cost your needless clicks. Alas... it's live in the US only. I should be able to use one of our US accounts to test it though. If I'm busy then at least I get to be busy with a multi-national SEO agency!

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Google advise: Hide text

I'm being obtuse... but...

Google asks that you hide text. Google Analytics uses display:none to hide tracking tag values within a <textarea> tag set.

I'm being obtuse for many reasons but one clear response to this is that search engine spiders should never access the confirmation page that this code is designed to sit on.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

SES 2006 - London

Back from SES London. What can I say? I suspect Incisive Media will really have to pull their socks up for next year. It was not a bad conference. As usual we had the mix of speakers; some good, some bad. We had the mix of talents; some good, some bad. The trick in the conference is to find those speakers who speak well and have good SEO talent. It is almost as important to avoid good speakers who talk nonsense.

The Finance Track was a good idea but as you might predict it was not hugely popular. Would you rather go to an organic forum in favour of a finance site case study? Thought so.

It was the Expo that let the side down.

Does that look like a busy Expo floor to you?

There was no Expo - there were some SEO agency stalls, some search engine stalls and some web analytic stalls. That was that. What was missing? People from outside the industry - clients, would-be clients, journos, etc, - who wanted to come to the stalls.

I think it is important that SES does not become a flesh and blood version of Search Engine Watch's forums. I don't think many of the forum goers will be able to avoid the ticket prices in the future. The bigger agencies won't rent stall space if there is no point. So the forum goers may want to go - but can't afford to. The agencies don't want to go.

On the plus side - I thought Chris Sherman did well. Mike Grehan is always good (but still doesn't appear on the official speakers list).

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Huzzah! Huzzah! No ODP! No ODP!

Fantastic news from Microsoft - they've introduced a brand spanking new meta tag. If you want to avoid their search engine using the ODP's summary of a clients site then roll in:

<meta name="robots" content="noodp">
<meta name="msnbot" content="noodp">

This week I've already seen Google describe the corporate website for the owners of the worlds only seven star hotel - as a type of ice cream thanks to the ODP. I've seen banks with incorrect names - thanks to the ODP. I've seen entire charities described as a cartoon - thanks to the ODP.

Hopefully Google and Yahoo will follow suit. Is Google typically quick to adopt a good idea? Sometimes. But look at RSS - took them a while there. Will Google want to support a MSN introduced initiative? Hmm. We'll see.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Google Patents, Google Caches and Tree Obscured Woods

Sometimes you can't see the wood for the trees. I was in the middle of a presentation where I stress the need for a page to stay on topic and build up a good history in Google when I was reminded of a recent Matt Cuts post on Google's proxy unit.

If Blogger's crap image upload works and re-sizes this the following image is a picture from what's widely known as Google's temporal patent application.

Notice how the History Unit can sometimes sit in between the crawler (document locator) and the web (corpus) and how it sits in between the web front and the index.

Compare that then to Matt's own diagram of the cache.

Here the Cache has almost the very same position.

In matter of fact it would make a lot of sense to combine the role of the Google Cache and the role of the Google History unit. You would keep several caches of the evolution of the web. The advantage of this approach is that you're keeping a copy of how the web page actually was and as you improve your algorithm you'll be able to review the page would have scored. In other words, you can apply the new algorithm to the old site.

The alternative is to use the History Unit as the place to store the algorithm/indexer's interpretation of the web page. Ie, record which keywords it does well on and its structural elements. The advantage here is that you'll use a lot less space.

Google could even do both as I suspect space is not a concern (despite a recent Register diatribe which mulls otherwise).

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

A9 The Dark Horse

I've always said that A9 are the dark horse in the search engine race. At the time, I would point out how they're powered by Google but, by gosh, you can see how well they data mine. Amazon know exactly what sort of book you like. Imagine if Amazon made the step from being Powered By Google to being Powered By Amazon. Imagine if Amazon put their marketing machine behind A9.

In many ways Amazon have put their marketing machine behind A9. There are discounts for users who search with it - a token search at that, just one and you could get Pi Shared (pi/2) discount from (no joy if you're in the UK or elsewhere; Amazon really needs to get joint up). The Amazon site does promote A9 quite heavily.

We just have not seen A9 take off in the way that it might. I have heard some people ask; "Why use A9, why not just use Google?". People say this about a lot of search engines but with A9 the point was that it was powered by Google, the added extras that Amazon had added to A9 were not enough to give it enough in the way of Unique Selling Points.

The change to Windows Live in both unexpected and expected. It's one of those changes that I didn't predict coming because I simply didn't think about it. A professional SEO does not think about A9 for very many minutes in the day. The change makes sense though. The move to Windows Live gives Amazon a couple of angles;

  • More people will use A9 than will use Windows Live's raw search.

  • Microsoft would have paid a hefty dose.

  • A strong hand to negotiate with Google when it times to negotiate. They've proven they'll change search providers if they want.
  • You might even wonder if Amazon, world class data miners, are now in the position to compare and contrast Google semi-raw data with Windows Live semi-raw data.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Not in Google

This blog isn't in Google right now. It's fairly common these days for blogs to scratch the surface and then dip out of the index. I see people on SEW's forums asking about it all the time (thankfully, SEW isn't yet the same wash of old questions which kills Webmasterworld). We did pick up PageRank 5/10 though. I'd expect this to drop down as far as 2/10 before we start to see page inclusions from the archives though.

As it happens, Google finally enhanced the sitemaps program into the webmaster console which we all saw coming. They blog about it here.

It's a handy chance to use this blog (which is only in the sitemap XML via the standard atom.xml feed) to see what an 'not indexed' site looks like. I do have some stats for the blog as there has been some token inclusion in the past. The sitemap interface does not seem to want to recognise that fact through and just encourages me to wait for indexing.

In many ways this blog looks as if it has been banned. It was in the index. Now it's not. You can search for and come up with no results.

I saw Danny Sullivan name this as the test to see if a site has been banned. He's wrong on that one.

The sitemap interface is a better guide. This is the message I would get at the summary section of my interface report if this blog had been banned.

Google's own full screen shot of the same image is here.

Monday, April 24, 2006

CAPTCHA versus Cash

I really dislike CAPTCHAs. They don't work. They simply annoy the human user, prevent some colour blind users from posting and just encourage robots to try and re-try (xN) until they get their comment spam through.

The funny thing is that Ian McAllister blogged about the very same annoyance recently.

The Haloscan comments and trackback forms I have on this blog are, at least, behind a layer of JavaScript. JavaScript requires more effort for spambots to read than a CAPCHA takes to defeat. Of course, this blog is one of the millions of unread pages out there and so neither a target for comment spam nor have I had to test Haloscan when it comes to dealing with lots of actual comments.

Never in the history of Search has any engine been so up front as to actually prove the impact of a link or attribute. This seems like a hard circle to break.

LiveJournal (which is now back to using ads) may have a simple solution in the community front. You can lock you blog down to comments only from friends. People who you've approved don't need to deal with CAPTCHAs and spiders simply cannot post. LiveJournal also "nofollows" the entire "Friends" page side of every blog and community there.

The problem with the friends/community front is how you get into the loop in the first place. If you cannot comment on a blog then you'll not be able to announce yourself as a reader to the blogger. If you can't do that then the blogger can't add you as a friend.

What would really turn comment spam off is if 'rel="nofollow"' was seen to work. Right now there's no incentive for spam bots to detect and avoid these blogs. Its much easier just to flood many blogs at once.

My radical solution is to charge people a deposit whenever they comment on your blog. This solution only becomes possible when micro-payments are possible (we're waiting on PayPal or Google's payment system in Google Base to give that to us). Each blog comment leaves a deposit of 1p (or there abouts) which is refunded by the blogger when the comment is approved. Alternatively, the deposit auto-refunds a week later unless that's overridden by the blogger. Actual users are never really exposed to any real financial risk. Spam bots with tens of thousands of comments certainly are. The draw backs? This system faces the same challenge as PayPal does. You may need a credit card in order to get into the loop in the first place.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Gmail - Delete

Just for the record the delete button has just appeared on my Gmail account for the first time. Took a while, huh?

I'm still waiting for RSS and Google Talk to integrate.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Yahoo Buzz

I've not had much time to play around with this fully but Yahoo have re-skinned Yahoo Buzz. I was interested in the search box. I wonder if we'll see this elsewhere on Yahoo.

I can't (one my twenty second inspection) find the News Buzz. I did enjoy checking up on what other people were reading. Shame.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Google Finance to Google Flights

Money vertical searchers/aggregators like moneynet and even news-profit-through-money-search sites like the famous Motley Fool will be breathing a sigh of relief this week.

Google Finance is not a threat to them. This is not a new money aggregrator but instead more of a FT style summary of big businesses around the world. Yeah; it has the usual American bias but there is Google Finance UK too. In other words, you can't search Google Finance for a mortgage for yourself or a new credit card. Why not? This requires the user to tailor the search with some pretty specific information - the mortgage you're after, your salary, whether you're applying alone or with a partner, your partners salary, etc. These details tend to then query databases directly. This is not Google's style. Google tends not to plug into other data sources as directly preferring to take the information off web pages (one exception being the flight onebox which may be powered thusly). After all, reading web is what Google does best.

Instead we have reports for large companies. The system nearly works. If I search for BA I do not get to the British Airways (BA) summary but to Boeing's instead. Why? Boeing has the BA stock ticker. I get Boeing even if I search Google Finance on and even though the company trades on the New York Stock Exchange rather than the London Stock Exchange. The American wing of BA trades on the NYSE with the ticker BAB and so we find the profile under BAB.

Perhaps should simply redirect to It would seem to be more appropriate.

Well done to the news sites - especially Reuters - which power so much of the content. There are some interesting links in there though. While checking out BA I could but not help notice the links to CheapFlights. CheapFlights isn't a news source, it's a very commercial and very SEO savvy flight vertical search. Is this fair? ... Actually, it seems to be simply because you can find the very same story in Google News. Whether CheapFlights should be in Google News is another matter but it gives the rest of us reason to keep trying.

Other aspects of Google Finance are very search geeky. Google blocks spider access to these pages via its main robots.txt. This means those links to the news and finance sites are not PageRank carrying. The AJAX is slightly off Google's norm insofar as that the event driven text is SEO and accessibility friendly (rather than being produced by JavaScript). Since the page is blocked to spiders the SEO benefits of the style are pointless but it's good to see Google make another stab at accessibility.

In summary - I can see why Jeremy Zawodny is disappointed that Yahoo didn't make more effort on their own Yahoo Finance. Google Finance is niche but good.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Google - slyly does it.

I'm impressed by Writely the real time and collaborative web word processor that Google has just bought. The program isn't even finished yet.

This is very much Google's style; buy the interesting start-ups. Yahoo will find the cash to buy those companies which have proven themselves to be real winners (Best Yahoo purchase? That has to be Flickr).

With Microsoft also working on an on demand Office I think we find ourselves at the start of the next big race. Those people who have been saying that Fat Server and Thin Client architecture will come back and rule the day may well be right.

It's the less wow pow upgrades from Google which I think will have the biggest impact in the short term. I'm very surprised that so little has been paid about Google Base accepting payments. This is probably because Google Base has been less than an impressive hit to date. However, if Google Purchases does manage to crack the micropayment saga then Google will have found a very real cash flow which does not depend on AdWords.

Not so impressive as the micropayments but still big news - especially to MSN's demographic targeting lure for AdCenter is Google's stealth addition of demographics to AdWords and SiteTargeting. At a glance Google's demographic information is not as impressive as MSN's but this could change. It is certainly unusual for Google to be so upfront about a collaboration and Comscore/MediaMetrix is in the limelight for being able to provide information to the Master of all Information.

What are people talking about? They're talking about Google giving some peanuts back to people (peanuts in credit) if you can prove Click Fraud. They've simply extended the window in which you have time to complain.

Friday, March 03, 2006

No mini links for Google?

I don't think anyone's come up with a good name for them yet. I call them "mini links". If that doesn't clue you on to what I'm talking about (and you'd certainly be forgiven for that) then the mass of screen grabs in today's entry will be ample illustration.

The mini links are one of the GUI experiements Google rolled out in the last quarter of 2005. They appeared at the same time as the "See results for" split (which I dislike) and the "Also see results for" (which I dislike more). Mini links are triggered on popular search terms and are selected by the algo. They're a mixture of on-page and off-page factors. Matt blogged their arrivial (describing them as better snippets).

Here's what happens when you Google for Yahoo:

Yahoo mini links

Here's another for Microsoft:

Microsoft mini links

I'm using Microsoft as an example because this triggers a Google News onebox result. Let's head off the argument that you can't have both mini links and onebox.

And finally, here's Google on Google:

Google mini links

Once you've stopped being impressed at my ability to cut graphics into the same shape... you'll see that there are no mini links for Google. None? Not even Advertising Programs or About Google.

It's tempting to speculate that Google is pushing Google Talk by ensuring it gets the second billing. Lots of punters really will click through... and Google Talk really does need that extra push.

So, are Google massaging the results here?

Alas, I'm not going to claim the scoop. I don't think so. I do think it's an algo call. There are plenty of external deep links to other Google pages for the algo to latch onto and create a mini link from but the famous home page is very clearly as much as a blank sheet as it can get away with - hence, no prompting the algo to create mini links.

That said, the same could be said of the new MSN design:

MSN mini liks

There you go.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Thread hijacking

I'm even more disappointed and disenchanted with the SEO forum community than usual. This week there has been a witch hunt of speculation. A web site blipped in and out of Google. This happens all the time, in fact back at the start of 2005 every site blipped out of Google.

The difference here is that a series of professional SEO agencies signed on the forums and tried to present the blip as a ban. It shouldn't have worked.

These are professional forums (most of them) but the moderators let named speculation run and run. Too many people seemed utterly unconcerned that users with no prior history, no previous posts and who signed up to the forums only that day where the ones who had dived into the threads, filled them with junk and kept them going. On Search Engine Watch these "newbie professionals" didn't even suffer a dip in reputation. That just goes to fuel my reputation is simply a pat-on-the-back clique builder.

Professional forums should be professionally moderated. I am honestly surprised to see them hijacked so easily.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Google and the Olympics

Onebox results really can be quite dominant. Look at this screen grab of search results for Toby Dawson. Hard luck to you if you have a content rich web site about the Olympics and were hoping to enjoy a traffic boost. Hard luck if you'd rather, say, have a hotline to the BBC's advert free website instead of NBC. Well done if you happen to be NBC though!

Of course, I'm writing this with my SEO hat on. There's a good argument in favour of the user experience. I'm not a sports fan (I'm a search engine geek) but even I can see how Google is quickly delivering the best possible match for my search.

Could this use of the onebox be a foreshadow of how Google Base content could interact with the SERPs? It's a valid question, one that's easy to speculate on but impossible to answer. Google tends to try these things to see if they work and then keep or drop them as the trial suggests.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Musical Onebox - Google's music box

A few weeks ago I mulled the idea of a Google Lyrics search on Matt's Guitar Hero review. I'm not going to say that that comment inspired Google to do a music search as they've had that since Dec 05. That said, it's nice to see track listings, reviews and other musical stuff in the onebox today. The next step up would be a lyric search or a recipe search where you can restrict your keyword match to your subject matter. A recipe search for "apple", for example, would be very different from a normal search for "apple".

(The onebox is the bit at the top of SERPs where you can find interjections from Google News, Froogle, etc).

Specailised searches, or vertical searches, are ones to watch. There's almost constant speculation as to whether will do a people search - personals or jobs. The trickier verticals to crack are ones like credit cards and loans. Why? These results require the user to enter extra information such as salary or mortgage data and the information providers then need to tailor their dynamic results to those facts. Recipes and lyrics, on the other hand, do not change and do not need this personal input.

There's no way of telling how persistent the sabotage search result is but the original URL is this.

Anti Competitor AdWords Tactics

A little known and therefore not so widely enforced AdWords rule is Google's policy on double serving. You can't double serve on AdWords. This actually means you shouldn't double serve on AdWords although many people do.

What's double serving? Double serving is having two different AdWords creatives listing for the same keyword and for the same site. In fact, double serving has a broader ruling than that insofar as sites owned by the same company which sells the same thing are not allowed to run side-by-side in AdWords. Their AdWords accounts should be linked and only one AdWord should run. This rule is there to stop people simply setting up different sites and effectively owning the right hand-side of Google.

The catch is that it's not very clear that similar sites may be linked. Not every webmaster knows which big brand owns which other - heck, many webmasters would struggle to separate companies from brands.

The key is to stay in the know. If you have a client who, for example, is into loans - a very competitive PPC market - the know the other big loan players. Know which banks have a branded loan company in their umbrella. If you see branded loan offering running alongside the main bank for a loan keyword then that's a breach of Google's double serving policies.

The thing to do is to kick up a fuss. It won't make you popular with any of your campaign managers at Google but its a great way to cut swathes through your clients competition.

Sometimes the arguement comes up that the two sites look different. That's not enough. The sites must have different products and services.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Mobile but not moving

On their official blog Google have announced the launch of a personalised Google "home" for mobile phones.

Sadly, at the time of writing the supplied link for the mobile home page is dud. Nothing there dudes.

Should the home page work - and I'm sure it will in just a few hours - you'll have an interface suited to small screens and one that can tap into Gmail, headlines, weather, stock quotes and Atom or RSS feeds. I imagine we'll be looking only at US stock, weather and maybe even only US headlines too.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A year in review: SEMPO and SMA 2005

Back in August 2004 Mike Grehan tore chunks out of the American SEO organisation SEMPO. Grehan, CEO of Smart Interactive, then went on to play a key role in setting up SMA-UK and he is currently the Vice-President.

I did not disagree with many of Mike's observations on SEMPO. They did seem to take your money and then do nothing.

After the SEMPO controversy there was some press releases from the organisation. One of the key points on SEMPO's agenda was to raise awareness of the SEM industry and it seemed hard to believe they were doing much of this without even a press release in their belt.

Looking back on 2005 I find it hard to find any evidence of work from SEMPO or SMA UK (or other SMA franchise either).

One key problem is getting search engine optimisation agencies to talk to one another. This is a secretive industry. I would not want our company associated with a "governing body" who could not govern its own members, who could not enforce ethical SEO, or who did not care about ethical SEO. Right now, I can't see what these organisations do and I can see the disadvantages in joining them. I hope this changes in 2006, either through one of these organisations changing or by a new one appearing on the field.

Monday, January 09, 2006

TradeDoubler duplicate content

TradeDoubler is the big European affiliate site. It's aimed at the high end of the market and does not aggressively recruit affiliates though it certainly goes after merchants.

Today TradeDoubler launched a number of "Free content" initiatives. Webmasters can simply cut'n'paste pre-written text provided by TradeDoubler and the merchant into their own site. This goes beyond adding a banner or a content unit but to actual content. Whereas this is aimed at PPC users - free landing pages, essentially, - it'll not have a good natural SEO effect. It's a good way to get into trouble for duplicate content. If you're paranoid you'll worry about Matt's post about "Math SOS" who put live entirely off topic pages and sold links from them. It's important to note that that's not the same as creating a content page and putting affiliate links off from it. Previously Matt had said that sites which sold links would loose their ability to pass PageRank on, this is clearly something different.

And yes, the sly will notice that I link to TradeDoubler with my own affiliate link. Heh. Scrubbing up an extra £2? Nooo. (I'll claim) Just giving an example of a valid affiliate link.