Monday, December 31, 2007

$16,000 for an SMO campaign with no authority and three fans

I _think_ it was Darren Jamieson, aka the Unluckiest Man In Search, aka Mr Daz who alerted me to Real Estate Hyperlinks. I can't find his original post, though.

I think my favourite aspect of this site, a site with no authority on Technorati and only three fans is that they charge $16,000 with no refund for a link baiting campaign.

I'm sure they're very good. Really. I just wonder whether the rest of us should be increasing our prices.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Matt Cutts corrects IZEA's Ted Murphy's mistakes

Right now we've blog posts from Michael Gray and Andy Beard which are picking up viral steam and complaining about Matt Cutts insisting that all links within paid content should be nofollowed.

Here's the catch. He didn't say that. It's a misquote. Scan down the original IZEA blog post and you'll find Matt himself making that clear.

I think quoting me as saying "ALL links inside of any sponsored post should carry the no-follow tag period, regardless of whether they are required, not required or even link to the advertiser paying for the post" is different than our conversation.

That's really diplomatic. 'I think the quote... is different from our conversation'. It's a nice way of saying; "You're wrong".

Besides, this whole debate is messed up anyway. I would support any search engine call to insist that all links within a pay-per-post review had nofollow. I would.

There's a big difference between an IZEA style pay-per-post review and other commercial content on the internet. The people complaining want to ignore that.

I really do see the pay-per-post reviews in the same was as TechCrunch does. They're corrupting noise on the internet. They're used, pretty much exclusively, to game SERPs. Those are two labels which couldn't be applied to other 'commercial content' on the internet - you know, like a retail website.

It makes sense that all links within the pay-per-post review to be nofollowed because the whole review is not a valid 'editorial comment'. It would stop people finding a loop hole in the system by accepting a PPP for Site A and linking to Sites B and C - with the intent of passing PageRank to Sites B and C all along.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Nectar Card. No Brands.

I got my new Nectar card in the post today. The first thing that I noticed confirmed to me that I'm an odd marketing-tech geek type of guy. The big brands who initially sponsored Nectar, notably Sainsbury's, are gone from the card.

My old card had Sainsbury's, Barclaycard, Debenhams and BP logos on the front. My new card is %100 Nectar.

If you're not familiar with Nectar then it's best thought of as a loyalty card. I hand it in when I buy stuff in Sainsbury's or (more commonly) Debenhams, etc, and I accrue loyalty points. In return Nectar learn what I like and I eventually get to trade my points in for free stuff. Along the way I may get special deals where if I buy this or that then I'll get extra Nectar points.

Interestingly, Nectar is also a corporate super affiliate. I can go to the Nectar website and gain Nectar points for shopping at Amazon or iTunes - as if Amazon and iTunes weren't tempting enough. You log into the site using the last 11 digits on your card (as shown in the image here).

Every now and then there's a rumble that Sainsbury's will be leaving Nectar and either doing a loyalty card which is exclusively theirs or ditching the loyalty card concept all together.

I imagine what we have here is a typical affiliate comment - why should I engage in brand building for you? What do I get out of it?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Wow Barry!


I've seem some pretty impressive moves on LinkedIn before - but Barry Schwartz from SERoundtable will take some beating. I'm not sure how you get 33 updates at once. Run around and be amazingly good at conferences for a month, hand out LinkedIn cards and then approve everyone a month later? Anyway; well done!

You can find me at LinkedIn here. I once had a great scoop - that LinkedIn wasn't selling to Fox but by the time I could break it; it was old news! Darn!

Votrs - I like what I see!

Over on Sphinn, Dan Zarrella of Boston Web Properties (site may be down) posted news of Votrs.com.

This is a really simple idea - but I like what I see. Pick a URL and a title, give it Votrs and Votrs will give you a short URL back and with some social voting site details/vote buttons supplied.

This screen shot is of votrs.com/bdd0e03b. (Note; Votrs lets you include Sphinn (proof that it's aimed us search people) but I've taken it off from this example as I am trying to sphinn that particular post and I don't want to be seen to be trying to game the system!)


Votrs is going to be useful in a number of ways. I easily chucked the URL into my Facebook posted items list. I easily zapped the URL over to a workmate via Google Talk. It would just as easily whiz back and forth in emails.

Votrs isn't simply about making it easy for people to vote for stories you find interesting - it's a good way to keep track of how well the story is doing.

Could it be better? Heck yeah. The day someone writes the perfect website is the day the intrawebs are 0wn3d. For example, given that Votrs is such as easy way to check how well something is doing I would like to see mobile/blackberry friendly pages (with short URLs) there. What's with the weird background graphic too?

Google blocking Yahoo Pipes - again

Did you know that Google has a bot which ignores robots.txt and does so defiantly? It's true. Google's RSS grabber, Feedfetcher, ignores robots.txt as Google reasons a human decided to publish the feed and a human has decided to request the feed. It's all explained over at the webmaster help center. I actually think Google's made the right call here, although it means you can't slam the brakes on an RSS by slapping up a robots.txt block and I'm beginning with this just to set the precedent.

I like to think one of my real scoops this year was when I noticed that Google seemed to be blocking Yahoo Pipes. Only yesterday I noted that I was disappointed that Sphinn didn't like the story but pleased that Wired writer Betsy Schiffman had.

I do believe that this blockage was temporary and accidental. Google have said complementary things about Yahoo Pipes before and you can use Yahoo Pipes to take data from Google Base. In fact, Yahoo Pipes and Google Base have been a featured project on Google Code.

In a quirk of timing, bigmouthmedia colleague and Wonga World blogger, Chris Cathcart pointed out that Google's Feedburner is also blocking Yahoo Pipes.


This time the blockage is certainly not an accident but is a human controlled decision. Why would Feedburners want to keep their RSS out of Yahoo Pipes? One possible answer is that although the publisher is happy to distribute content (or teasers) in a feed they don't want that content to be sliced, diced and mixed up with other content. One of the ways I use Yahoo Pipes is to monitor dozens of feeds but only alert me when a story is gaining a critical mass, this means I don't need to manually review all those feeds nor even look at any adverts inside them.

Here's the plug for Wonga World! Chris is our Senior Strategist in the Finance vertical. He's years of experience working in banks and digital marketing. In fact, he spoke at SMX London this year. Wonga World is written with that savvy financial sector bias which is why he gave me this 'search only' lead. What a nice man.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sphinn's Wisdom: 60% success

Although I've been too busy to spend much time there in recent months I am a heavy Sphinn user. I've submitted 99 topics - which makes me one of the most active contributors. Of my submissions only 7% have gone hot - which makes me one of the lowest performing contributors.

Hehe. The reason for this is simple to me - I'm a peculiar type of tech-marketing geek. What's hot news to me isn't always hot news to the crowd; even if it's Sphinn's crowd. On Sphinn posts like "10 ways to build a top 10 list" still go hot. Of course, I find a lot of really useful posts on Sphinn and that's why I use it so much. Sphinn's also a great way to see what the masses of SEOrs are focusing on this week.

I thought it might be fun to review the last 25 of my submissions, comment on whether I agree with the wisdom of the crowd or not and reflect on what each post did what it did on Sphinn. The 'result' label is used to state whether I agree with a story's current status. If a submission to Sphinn has gone hot and I don't think it should have been then the result would be 'disagree'.

Aussie UGC sites may to have kiss their SERPs byebye
Current Sphinns: 5 (not hot)
Andrew's View: Big news for Australia but not enough Aussies on Sphinn to really warrant the story making the headlines.
Result: Agree

New Google Analytics tracking full of bugs
Current Sphinns: 12 (not hot)
Andrew's View: This should have gone hot with twice as many Sphinns. This was a big deal for Google and resulted in some interesting emails. Google's reply to this post was announced on one of their blogs and published on the Analytics Group. I can't quite convince myself of the most likely reasons why this post didn't do so well in Sphinn. Sphinn has a larger percentage of SEOrs than PPCrs and so analytics in general isn't such a hot topic (SEOrs always have the SERPs to look at) and the post linked back to an SEO agency rather than a blog page and I suspect that doesn't help.
Result: Disagree

Sphinn's search
Current Sphinns: 36 (hot)
Andrew's View: This was an easy hot post to make. It discussed whether Sphinn's search functionality could be better. Having said it was an easy post to make I would have been disappointed if the Sphinn community was so disengaged in Sphinn itself that they didn't vote.
Result: Agree

Barry Schwartz achieves ultimate goal!
Current Sphinns: 7 (not hot)
Andrew's View: This was a post about Barry getting to appear in SEOMoz's card game. I sphunn it just to see the pulling power Barry's name has - 7 sphinns. That's quite impressive. I'm sure everyone who also sphunn the post had their own reasons but this certainly wasn't ever a hot sphinn.
Result: Agree

Facebook 'to drop' creeptech ad system
Current Sphinns: 8 (not hot)
Andrew's View: This was the first post, by days, to Sphinn about the trouble Facebook's Beacon was in. It should have rocketed to the homepage but didn't. Why not? I don't think the Sphinn community was that interested in advertising on Facebook at the time and certainly didn't care about Beacon. If I had used the word 'privacy' in the title rather than using The Register's title for the post then the submission would have picked up more sphinns.
Result: Disagree

25% of all searches end in a purchase & other NEW stats from Google
Current Sphinns: 12 (not hot)
Andrew's View: I think this should have also gone hot. It's not common to get killer new stats like that from Google. The figure needs to be thought about - 25% of all searches engine in a purchase. What? Do they really? Matt and Tim Nash picked up on this and had the appropriate discussion over on the Clicks.ws forum. I think Google lumped a whole bunch of searches together and described the collective set as a 'single search'. That's worth getting your head around if you're an SEOer...
Result: Disagree

Calacanis wants another $20m for Mahalo's money pot
Current Sphinns: 34 (hot)
Andrew's View: It's ironic that the SEO community, many of whom don't get on with Calacanis or Mahalo, keep the names hot property. It's pretty rare to see a post about a tiny search engine go hot on Sphinn. I like having my submissions go hot at Sphinn but really, logically, this one shouldn't have done so. It went hot because people want to vent, spleen and click.
Result: Disagree

Google gets Content and Search confused. D'uh.
Current Sphinns: 5 (not hot)
Andrew's View: This may be my biggest disappointment. This post caught Google or a key Google partner messing around with the fundamental concepts of AdWords and the content network. If this was less technical I would almost expect main stream media to pick up and run with this one. Why didn't Sphinn? I suspect, again, we're looking at the large percentage of SEOers rather than PPCers on Sphinn and perhaps only dealing with a small number of people who would be personally effected by this mistake to any significant degree. To the travel sites listed in the example then this Google 'quirk' could, in total, perhaps start looking like a million dollar issue.
Result: Disagree

Fake smut codec ruse used to punt Google Pack
Current Sphinns: 6 (not hot)
Andrew's View: Old news and a lazy post. Perhaps the biggest news here was that this issue was making the news again. There's no reason why this post should have gone hot at Sphinn.
Result: Agree

Google blocks Yahoo's Pipes
Current Sphinns: 11 (not hot)
Andrew's View: This was the surprise hit of the winter. Betsy Schiffman, a journalist blogger, from Wired.com's Epicenter picked up on this news and penned Godzilla vs. Mothra: Is Google News Blocking Yahoo Pipes? It's another story that resulted in emails whizzing back and forth between search engines and my inbox. I'm surprised the story didn't go hot on Sphinn. I think if Google Operating System, SERoundtable or Google Blogoscope had had the story then it might have. It's not dramatic search news but it's rare news. I think it should have gone hot.
Result: Disagree

Jakob Nielson makes SEO predictions
Current Sphinns: 12 (not hot)
Andrew's View: This story could have done better with a different title. I'm in the situation where I can make stories about Jason Calcanis go hot but when Nielson talks about SEO - it's luke warm. Although that contrast doesn't seem right I think I'll agree that the Sphinn community needs to keep the focus on content and not fawn over famous names. It was a good story but probably best kept off Sphinn's homepage.
Result: Agree

Be Informed! Mobile Marketing figures that you might not know
Current Sphinns: 4 (not hot)
Andrew's View: A classic example of where I say "wow!" and Sphinn's crowd says "Meh!". Right now there are no stories in Sphinn's Mobile Search category page (which is an error; as this story was contributed to it) but that just shows (as no one's noticed) how low down on the radar mobile marketing is to most Sphinners. That's a shame. The SEM community who make up Sphinn need to start paying attention to the 'new new media' and should start lusting after these figures as I do!
Result: Disagree

France decides that Wikipedia not a publisher
Current Sphinns: 5 (not hot)
Andrew's View: Hey, this is big news in France. The implications are fairly huge. It means, for example, Google's Knol is unlikely to count as a 'publisher' in France either. Google's lost some trademark cases in France but they could (in theory) start to rank for Knol pages on those very same keywords - and wouldn't that be interesting. However, let's be honest, the French community is not strong on Sphinn. Just as the Aussie stories didn't make the homepage this French story was never going to either.
Result: Agree

The Ask.com Blog: Introducing the New Ask Maps UK
Current Sphinns: 5 (not hot)
Andrew's View: Ah, the UK story had as many Sphinns as the French story. I would think the UK community on Sphinn was far larger than the French one. It may simply be that Ask expanding their rarely used map service to the UK wasn't so much of a story. This is a good example of how you can use Sphinn to see what's likely to generate a buzz and what isn't. If this post had picked up more sphinns then it might have been worthwhile doing a blog post comparing the mapping options available in the UK... but as no one seemed to care, I didn't bother.
Result: Agree

Did Ionut Alex Chitu leak Matt Cutts' email address?
Current Sphinns: 5 (not hot)
Andrew's View: A bit of tabloid reporting from yours truly on this one; all inspired by a cheeky email I received. I'm surprised (but pleased) that the Sphinn community largely ignored this - it was picked up by Search Engine Land, though.
Result: Agree

The secret to Web 2.0 success
Current Sphinns: 3 (not hot)
Andrew's View: This was a post to a joke - a comic strip poking fun at the web 2.0 business model. If more people actually visited the stories from sphinn rather than just voting then this submission would have had far more sphinns.
Result: Agree

Official Google Blog: It's not about the spam
Current Sphinns: 2 (not hot)
Andrew's View: The surprise here is that so few sphinners cared about the story at all. If Google had shared similar figures for SEO spam and talked about the steps they take against it then it would have been a huge story. The fact that email spam is rising is a business model for every search marketer to take and use to win email marketing budget off their client. However, there isn't an email section in Sphinn so this shouldn't have been a homepage item.
Result: Agree

McAnerin to Patent an SEO Technique? - IPGeoTarget
Current Sphinns: 8 (not hot)
Andrew's View:  McAnerin has said he's not going to be restrictive with the patent so hopefully we'll not need to worry about this story suddenly becoming very hot in late 2008 or 2009. This was a close call but really this should have been bigger news. McAnerin is a cornerstone of the SEO community and I think people should have sphunn to support McAnerin, or out of concern for the patent, or out of interest that we're seeing SEO patents or out of interest for the technologies involved.
Result: Disagree

Who's lost their 10/10 PageRank score?
Current Sphinns: 15 (not hot)
Andrew's View: Typical sphinn bait this. In truth hardly any of these sites were a direct victim of the so-called 'PageRank massacre'. The point of this post, for me, was to illustrate that on average PageRank goes down. As the internet grows the average PageRank enjoyed by a single page drops.
Result: Agree

YouTube With PageRank 3
Current Sphinns: 32 (hot)
Andrew's View: This is so typical of many SEO bloggers; "PageRank doesn't matter!" followed by a vote for a PageRank story, or worse, "PageRank doesn't matter! You bastard, you killed my PageRank!". This was more than  PageRank story, though, this was an illustration of Google struggling to grade its own sites accordingly. That's why most people sphunn the most. Nevertheless, I'm not sure this should have been headline news.
Result: Disagree

Vanessa Fox wonders what Google's doing. Is this an algo change?
Current Sphinns: 44 (hot)
Andrew's View: A classic sphinn success. Vanessa Fox's blog is a mix of content and (like mine) does not have a regular update schedule and so many people who are interested in her posts may not be on her RSS feed. Here we find an ex-Googler musing over what Google was doing and she had the SEO sphin on the story. This story is certainly worthy of being hot.
Result: Agree

Microsoft ContentAds showing up on publisher sites
Current Sphinns: 9 (not hot)
Andrew's View: The main reason why this post didn't go hot was because it was a duplicate. I suspect a more famous sphinner posted a better title after me (but I've not checked and it may well be that I posted the duplicate - I just remember the duplicate issue!). The truth remains that Microsoft ContentAds are big news and Sphinn should have had a few more hot posts related to both Yahoo and Live's content network attempts. This should have been hot.
Result: Diagree

eBay hoping to ignite Neighbourhood spirit
Current Sphinns: 5 (not hot)
Andrew's View: A story about eBay Neighbourhoods and their 600 niche social networks. Remember that? No. Here we find Sphinn acting as a seer and helping to predict what might be successful. The sphinn community gave this story as much attention as the internet gave the attempt.
Result: Agree

EU privacy verdict on Google set for new year
Current Sphinns: 7 (not hot)
Andrew's View: An update on where Google stands with EU law and their data warehouse policies. This is the sort of story which may interest other search engines or data gathers like DoubleClick, ValueClick, AOL or even TradeDoubler but on hindsight I can see why the Sphinn community wasn't so thrilled.
Result: Agree

Shock! Horror! Google's market share grows!
Current Sphinns: 5 (not hot)
Andrew's View: The title of the story almost explains why the submission wasn't worthy of going hot. Is this really news or just an expectation? The submission was made because we had the increasingly successful Compete share some more data. In fact, the story would have been sphunn more and would have been more worthy of a hot label had it been about Compete's data sharing rather than than the figures shared.
Result: Agree


And the results?

Quickly counting down the list I can see I agreed with Sphinn's wisdom 15 out of 25 times. That's 3/5th of the time or 60%. That's pretty good.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I Support Google Reader

I've said it before and I'll say it again - I really like Google Reader.

Before Google Reader came along my preferred method to monitor RSS was through syndicated accounts at LiveJournal. I can't stress enough how useful it is to have Google Reader as brilliant as it is as a web interface and has good as it is as a mobile interface and not have to worry about keeping my RSS reading synchronised.

On the 14th December, 2007, Chrix Finne and Google Reader team announced a snacky shared items feature. In essence those items which you elected to share and which were already publicly available at your shared items page, in an RSS feed (here's mine) and even in blog widgets also became easily viewable to contacts in your Google Talk profile. The feature made it a lot easier to keep tabs on what other people wanted to share.

Now, this sharing feature had a number of advantages over other the established sharing options available at Google Reader. You could opt-out of it or you could opt-out certain contacts whom you didn't wish to share with. Of course, if these contacts had your public profile URL or you had a shared items widget live on your blog then they could still view the items there.

What we've had in recent weeks is a privacy backlash. Yes, some users are worried that people might see items that they've decided to share with the public. They weren't so bothered when any old stranger could visit their blog and look at the shared items widget. No. What's really annoyed these users is that people in their Google Talk contact list might see these items. I'd like to vent at these people. *vent*

It is true to say that Google's liberal with whom's added to your contacts. You only need to exchange a few Gmails with someone and they're automatically added as a contact. This is where the psychology kicks in. Are people in your contacts list your friends? Some people like to think so. Are people in your Google Talk contact list your friends? Yes? No? If they're not your friends and you prefer only your friends to be able to Google Talk you... will you block or remove them from Google Talk? Although it is certainly possible to block people from Google Talk many people are unwilling to do this as they don't want be seen as 'rude' or don't want to burn bridges.

Google's decision to let Google Talk contacts see your shared items in Google Reader, I suspect, throws this psychological quirk into the full glare of the limelight. That, I think, is why people are whining.

I don't have much patience for the whiners. As Garett Rogers points out; these people made their feeds public in the first place. I've more time for those bloggers who saw the linkbait opportunity here and took it.

I don't want Google to scale back on its integration plans, though. I want more of this. I want advanced features for RSS item sharing between contacts. I want to be able to share those RSS items labeled with certain keywords to a certain group of friends and I want other RSS items labeled with other keywords to be shared to another group of contacts. Right now, at bigmouthmedia, we have a pool of shared RSS feeds from Google Reader which are brought into Yahoo Pipes, de-duped, and then shared back into the company. It lets us mark interesting blog posts and news articles for other people in the company to read. Yahoo will be pleased that we use Yahoo Pipes but surely Google could provide this sort of group management feature too?

It's now fashionable to argue against Google. It's a sign of the search engine's success. Honestly, if they had waited until today to try and act against link farms then I would expect an outcry. "We're just trying to make money here with our link farms!" the link farmers would say, "How dare you tell us how to run our sites!".

"I've shared those RSS items with the world - and now you've let people I know look at them! - how dare you Google!" cry the muppets.

Update: After this post the Google Reader team offered some tips on how to manage your shared items. It didn't quite hit the problem on the head. Sure, you can share specific tags but only as an either/or to the standard Shared Items feature and doesn't address the fact that Google Talk contacts get opted into the general list. Nevertheless, it's great that Google can comment so quickly and over the holiday period too.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Google UK bidding on Matt Cutts


One of the techniques you can use to examine what people are getting up to on Google's Content Network is to use Gmail. Gmail infamously scans your email, picks out keyword topics and places ads accordingly. You can actually access this data by using this link https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=1&view=rl&rlk=[keywords] so, for example, to see Content Network matches to the keyphrase [Matt Cutts] use this link https://mail.google.com/mail/?ui=1&view=rl&rlk=matt%20cutts. You need to be logged into Gmail. Google also gives us some insight to the system.

Your results will differ from mine. You'll see in the image above that I've got UK ads - and that's because I'm at home in the UK.

So, is Google really bidding on [Matt Cutts]? Heh. Nah. This is more likely to be a content broadmatch. Matt Cutts' name gets mentioned on so many SEM blogs that Google's systems have noticed and made the connection.

The system is actually working; if I'm emailing someone about Matt Cutts then I'm likely to be writing about something Matt's blogged about and Google's quite right to be trying to sell me search engine marketing.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Top 10 List of Things Not To Have Expanded Broadmatch On

We had a spot of good news today which inspired me to put together this top ten list!

  • 10. Safety Equipment
    • (Goggles are not an expanded match for safety rope)
  • 9. Jobs
    • (Police jobs are not an expanded match for illegal jobs)
  • 8. Celebrity news
    • (Simon Pegg is not an expanded match for Johnny Depp)
  • 7. Religious terms
    • (Voodoo is not an expanded match for Dunfermline Athletic)
  • 6. Books
    • (Lord of the Rings is not an expanded match for Lord of the Flies)
  • 5. Places
    • (Edinburgh is not an expanded match for Sydney)
  • 4. Dates
    • (1966 is not an expanded match for 2008)
  • 3. Names
    • (Robin Richmond is not an expanded match for Batman)
  • 2. Dating
    • (Men are not an expanded match for women)
  • 1. Google
    • (Money is not an expanded match for quality)

Apologies for the obscure football joke! Expanded Broadmatch is a (fairly) new twist from Google's CPC system. Google now pretty much matches X with Y by default on broadmatch (aka the new extended broadmatch system).

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

That was Search in 2007

The talented editor-in-chief of the bigmouthmedia newsletter has put together a great summary of the year's news in Search in 2007: the year as reported by the news hounds at bigmouthmedia.

As you might have come to expect from reading this blog we've included a statistical review too. Here are some of the cherries:

  • over twice as many stories on Google as on Yahoo!
  • nearly four times as many stories on Google as on MSN
  • three times as many stories on MSN as AOL
  • and nearly twice as many stories on AOL as on Ask.com
Thanks YS!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Yahoo rolls out animated logos for Christmas

Yahoo are showing off a number of Flash logos for Christmas. Do you think we'll ever see Google with a Flash logo?

Yahoo US Christmas Animation


video

Yahoo UK and IE Christmas Animation


video

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Come on Google Talk Friends - Share

I like the latest upgraded to Google Reader... but come on Google Talk friends; let's have some shared suggestions.

First I was torn between uploading pictures to Flickr or Facebook; I know more people find them on Facebook. Now I have to decided whether I should share an interesting blog post on Facebook, Google Reader or both!

Google restores dates to Web Clips

Only two days I go I noticed that Google had removed dates from web clips.

Well. They're back.

New:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Google drops dates from Web Clips

Back in November I noted that Gmail can be awfully slow with web clips and had a 'headline' which was 6 days old.

Google's solved that problem.

They've simply stopped reporting when the story broke. Hmm. Oh well! I suppose that solves the problem in some ways!

Old:


New:

Think of the human. Write for humans!

One of our golden rules about SEO is that copy should always read well. When we were a smaller company we would get people from the finance department to proof read copy for us. We wanted to avoid the suggestion that the author had been too eager to stuff in keywords. These days each country as a department of Search Copywriters who are capable of writing great copy and also getting an appropriate percentage of keywords in.

Google and the other search engines do need to see keywords on a page. They're not psychic. However, one of the biggest crimes that SEO has inflicted on the web are pages which simply churn out a mantra of keywords. They look and read awful. They're written for robots and not people. They drive me mad.

David Cushman and Sean Warwick - both from the publishing industry - are calling SEO spam. Sean thinks writing with a 15% keyword density produces awful copy - and he's not wrong. David hates the way SEO 'tricks' you into clicking into off-topic content.

Of course, Sean's been given harsh advice. You don't need to write at 15% keyword density! Please. Please don't try and write at 15%.

David might be being a little harsh himself. Proper SEO (okay; let's use the word 'ethical') is about ensuring the search engine can see what your site is about. In fact, proper SEO includes basic tips like ensure web page content has an unique URL so communities and forums can link to it (as opposed to an Ajax style or single Flash URL which is used to display all the content). It tends to be the horrid combination of search spam and poor websites which result in Google searchers clicking themselves into a worthless experience.

Google's increasingly good at analysing copy. Do you want to bet that a website that's full of grammatical errors is a website giving off negative quality signals? Do you want to bet that a webpage with an unusually high density of a particular word is a webpage that's giving off negative quality signals? Pretty safe bets, huh?

Let's have a look at what Google's Adam Lasnik has offered for advice on this topic:

Our algorithms want to see something that's a happy medium cleanly between:

Extreme A: Not listing relevant terms at all on the page.

Extreme B: Focusing on increasing keyword density to the point that your English/Writing teacher would thwap you with a wooden ruler. Hard. Repeatedly.

And I'll let you in on a little algo secret: There is no single magic number. People who say "The guaranteed optimal keyword density is [x]%" would ideally meet the same fate from an angry English teacher. Or Googler or Webmaster.

And lastly, let me respectfully (and pleadingly) reiterate one key point: The fact that you *can* find sites that rank well for a particular keyword engaging in "keyword stuffing" is NOT evidence that such keyword stuffing is an effective SEO tool. I can also show you many sites that use the letter "Q" exactly three times that also rank well. And no, this is not an indication of a secret "jump the 'q'
rule."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Google at the Great B2B Marketing Debate

On Tuesday I was at The Great B2B Marketing Debate hosted by the B2B Marketing magazine and Mardev. The topic was "Is SEO eclipsing pay-per-click for lead generation?"

This was one of the events that I end going to because I must have said "Hey, that looks like a fun debate" and then a few days before the event itself someone in our marketing department tells me that a) I'm going, b) I'm speaking, c) They require a written speech ahead of time and d) I'm for the motion.

It just so happened that a few days before this event I was in New York. Umm. Anyway; I hope that the speech I put together was good enough to interest most of the audience and as it happen - we won the debate.

I wasn't really for the motion. SEO and PPC are different and simply have different strengths and weaknesses. A good blog post which explains this would be Lisa Ditlefsen's SEO is like buying a house whilst PPC is like renting. Lisa Ditlefsen just also happens to be the B2B Marketing Newcomer of the Year.

So when I say we won the debate and then say it was Lisa and myself arguing for the motion then I hope the bigger picture starts to fall into place.

It wasn't an easy debate to win (and not just because we were arguing for the purposes of the debate - not because either one of us thought PPC is loosing traction) as we were up against Simon Norris a co-founder of Periscopix and Stuart Small the Business and Industry Leader from Google UK.

What caught my attention at the start of the evening was the attention that Google was giving it. You don't tend to see Google at many events in the UK - not even the big trade shows. I was surprised to see six other Googlers on the attendee list at the start of the night. In truth I don't think all six turned up (Christmas shopping on Oxford Street was too tempting, I bet!) but Google did sponsor the event and provide quite a lot of reading material.

I jotted down some quotes from Stuart which I'd like to share:

  • For every 100 searches - 20 of them are a PPC click
  • 20% of searches are unique - that's not seen in the last three months
  • Google Checkout buttons increase clickthrough rates

It's not a surprise that the (still relatively rare in the UK) Google Checkout button increases clickthrough rates but perhaps slightly more surprising to hear Google pushing that so directly at business decision makers.

I was interested by the three month time limit on what defines an unique search though. Three months is clearly the time which Google keeps data for analysis on search queries (though Google Trends or the AdWords Traffic Estimator chart further back).

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Matt Cutts - pressing the red button on AdSense accounts too?

I really like Matt Cutts. No. I'm not going to try and pretend we're super buddies - I don't know him at all on a personal level. However, from his blog and presentations at S[][] conferences it is clear to me that he's a man with conviction. He really wants Google to do the right thing. He really wants to look after webmasters. He really cares. That's a passion. That's a conviction.

An aside comment from Matt on his own blog.

I’ve also pressed to reduce low-quality publishers in AdSense, too.

That's my emphasis. The comment caught my attention because I know small webmasters who have been removed (ie, reduced) from Google AdSense for fake clickthroughs even though they'll protest until they're blue in the fact that they've not been engaged in any click fraud. I'm sure in some cases there were 'automated clicks' from some of the sites but probably due to people scraping them rather than the webmaster trying to trick Google.

I just know that some of these webmasters are going to seize on this. They're going to claim that Google cooked up fake click charges to kick them off the network because they were too small.

Gosh. I don't know. I suppose it all depends on whether Google did decide to reduce small publishers or what a reduction could mean. You could reduce the percentage of small publishers by stop approving new ones. That wouldn't involve kicking out new ones.

My gut feeling is that the organic search / web quality guys wouldn't cook up charges to get people kicked off AdSense. That's just not what I associated with Matt Cutts and the old crew. In fact, I'm pretty sure Matt Cutts is the type of guy who'd be upset if Google actually did something like that. As I said; I admire his conviction.

I'm not so sure about some of the newer recruits into the paid search side of things (as Google gears up to take on the agencies some of the new blood are more mercenary) but I'm sure Google could (and would) just close the account (because they can) due to a lack of success. There are plenty of affiliate networks that'll pause or kill your account if you do don't perform well enough as a publisher.

Anyway, hopefully we'll see Yahoo extend their network (like to Europe, hello guys, Europe - that weathly continent which you're struggling in), Amazon and Live search push theirs. We even have sites like Lastminute launching their own content networks. If Google decides you're too small a publisher to satisfy the advertisers then, (hopefully) soon, there will be alternatives.