Archive for June, 2011


5 Things Your SEO Provider DOES NOT Know

Today's Lesson: Just what the hell do we DO around here?

CEO Schooling the SEO

You hire an SEO provider to improve your search position. You do the diligence thing: check references, make sure they use compliant techniques, get a written contract, and verify that you understand the way the fees and billing work. The minute it’s signed, you think, “Yay! Now I don’t have to think about this crap anymore! My SEO will handle everything!”

Well, yes and no. Because there are at least 5 things that your SEO provider almost certainly doesn’t know that you absolutely must school them on.

  1. What your business does. Sure, this seems like it should be obvious. But it isn’t. You’ve been doing it for a while and you understand what you do. Don’t assume that the SEO has any clue. School them.
  2. How your business does it. The business model you use to govern your operation is one of many possible models. The SEO needs to know—at least in general terms—the way you do what you do. School ’em.
  3. Who your business does it to. Who is your primary demographic? Not just who buys your stuff, but who might buy your stuff, what kind of people they are, where they live, what they’re likely to do and want. Surely you have this info close to hand. Don’t you? SCHOOL the SEO.
  4. When your business does it. If there are times of the day, week, month, or year that your business booms—or bombs—let the SEO in on it. School’s in session!
  5. Where your business rules. Geography is everything. If you know you have limitations on where you do business, let the SEO know. If  you know areas where you’re already kicking ass, let ’em know. To school!

Oh, yeah. And there’s one more thing you better be perfectly clear, up-front, and honest about. Just exactly what are your expectations? If the SEO didn’t ask you this well before you signed a contract, they didn’t do their job. It is absolutely essential to the success of any search marketing project that everybody starts out on the same page.

And preferably stays there.


Search Marketing = Endless Remodel

Where is the bathroom?

Do you feel lucky? Well, do you?

So, we’re remodeling a bathroom here at Speed of Light Enterprises, and it’s at that stage where the end is in sight, but the details are beginning to bite back.

Drips of paint on the wainscot. Wall color maybe just a tad too light. Countertop contour off by just that much. Mirror a little too silver. New strike plate waaaay too small for the existing hole in the door frame.


Until you finally get it right. Then it’s cool. Everybody loves a remodel, right?

Same is true for websites. Your design team slaves for weeks, back-and-forthing colors, navigation elements, text styles until finally something gets approved. Then it’s hack and slash, and javascript tweaking, and image optimization, and CSS until it almost turns into CSI. Finally, you launch the damn thing and that’s when the details start to bite you. Web color not quite safe enough. Browser compatibility good for all versions except the one used by the company CEO. Navigation layout off by just that much. Three misspelled words in the body text (now how the hell did that happen????). Two broken links.


Until you finally get it right. Except that here’s where the similarities end. Because if your bathroom was a website, the hallways, house floorplan, doors, and everything leading up to the bathroom get randomly changed every few months and nobody can find it.

It’s Google, of course, decides who’s bathroom is best and makes sure all the hallways lead to that one. Your neighbor’s maybe. Or one across town. They continuously adjust and adapt the routes of access to your bathroom, in order to make your house—and the neighborhood, city, state, etc—just that much better.

So, back the drawing board you go. That damn bathroom will always be in the middle of remodel. Always. Forever. You have to keep making it better, if you want your friends and family to be able to find it when the need is great.

Here is a fact of life as an online business. When you finally launch a updated website, that just means it’s time to start the next remodel. Finish one update, start another.

And so it goes.


SEO Comics: CEO View of SEO, Part 10

SEO Comics

SEO Comics: Okay, how about we do some infection videos?

SEO Comics, Part 10


Google’s Advanced Search Operators for SEO

Now what was I looking for?

We’ve been doing this stuff for so long now that sometimes we forget that not everybody knows all the tricks we normally take for granted. Google Advanced Search Operators, for instance.

In fact, we’re sometimes surprised to learn that there are even some SEO professionals who don’t use these little search operator tricks—even though we find ourselves using many of them pretty much daily.

So we put together a list of our favorites, in no particular order.

Also note that the usual useful search operators and filters work in cooperation with some of these: “quotes” around a string mean exact match, + (plus sign) means must include, – (minus sign) means exclude.

Useful Google Search Operators

site: All indexed pages under the search string domain


link: List of significant indexed links pointing to the search string domain


allintitle: All words in title
Search for documents with all the words in the search string  in their title. Can’t be combined with other operators

example: allintitle: quest solution

intitle: Word in title
Search for documents with the first word after the intitle operator somewhere in their title.

allintext: All words in text
Search for documents with all search string words the in their text. Can’t be combined with other operators

example: allintext:firefly tv character jayne

intext: Word in Text
Search for documents with the first word after the intext operator in their text.

allinurl: All words in URL
Search for documents with all the words in their url. Returns results with all words in any part of URL, in any order. Can’t be combined with other operators

example: allinurl:eugene west storage

inurl: Word in URL
Search for documents with the first word after the inurl operator in their url.

allinanchor: All words in anchor
Search for documents with all the words in an anchor. Returns pages with all of the words in the search string used in at least one hyperlink. Can’t be combined with other operators

example: allinanchor:most experienced seo

inanchor: Word in anchor
Search for documents with the first word after the operator in an anchor.


Friday’s SEO Site of the Week

What’s on the collective mind of the search marketing community this week? Hey! It’s Dilbert weighing in on black-hat SEO! We name this cartoon the Friday SEO Site of the Week and let the Great Man speak for himself. (Unlike most of the rest of the web, we did not think this was a great opportunity to publish a copyrighted cartoon just because it’s sort of “news.” You’ll have to go read it at the official site.)

Dilbert and the Black Hat of SEO

We’ll give it a laughing spider.


Contextual Links for SEO

Getting backlinks to your site is probably the most difficult, time-consuming, misunderstood, pain-in-the-ass task associated with search optimization, yet widely considered to be, ultimately, the most important single element to a successful SEO campaign. We’ve talked before about the mechanics of acquiring backlinks and the kinds of places you try to acquire them from. Today, we’ll get into a notion that is frequently misunderstood and even more frequently mis-applied.

The contextual backlink

A contextual backlink is simply a link that appears inside text. Let’s see an example.

Are you moving to or out of Eugene, Oregon? Store your extra things in a heated, secure facility. Specializing in environmentally controlled storage, RV storage, boat storage, moving supplies, and all your Eugene storage needs.

Of course, the link, Eugene storage, is contextual. Why do we care? Because Google seems to really like contextual links, as if they believed such a link is more likely to be naturally placed than a link that looks like:

Eugene Storage
West Eugene Heated Storage

Grants Pass Storage Facility
Click here

This type of link works especially well in blogs—and you might have noticed that now almost every damn blog you encounter is literally stuffed with them. Look at this blog excerpt from TechCrunch:

Contextual links example 1
Anything in green text, whether underlined or not, is a link. The red dots on the right edge are my marks indicating lines containing contextual links. I see eight in this post alone. Some of them might be considered useful, like the link for “soundcloud integration” as somebody might conceivably be interested or curious in that topic. But really. A link for “existing arrangement?” That link has nothing to do with anything except some small SEO boost for somebody who most probably paid for it.

We’d have to call that sort of contextual linking SPAM. The sad thing about it is, is that the scheme actually seems to work. That’s just the thing ComDex (remember ComDex?) was doing to boost JC Penny’s ranks on thousands of keywords.

Just ’cause it works don’t  necessarily make it right.

Still, contextual links—when applied in a responsible manner—can be very helpful for the reader, as well as for the search performance of the site being linked to.

Here’s example of some contextual links that are a little less spammy.

Warehouse management troubles cost American wholesalers millions of dollars per year. It’s a pity, because there are a host of technological solutions that could be employed. For instance, a complete inventory management system using RFID hardware combined with warehouse management software could reduce costs due to lost inventory.

In the above paragraph, the contextual links lead to pages that might actually be useful to someone reading the article they’re embedding in. They are also clearly links, and the link text is descriptive enough that a reader would know just what she’s clicking on.

One last note about contextual links. You can easily use CSS to make contextual links disappear into the text—no blue color, no underline. Don’t do it. For one thing, it makes them pretty useless as links. For another, more important thing, when Google finds them they will know without question that your intention was to fool them.

And it’s not nice to fool mother Google.


SEO’d to Death: What’s the point, really?

Eugene SEO, the Wizard of Search Marketing

Eugene SEO, the Wizard of Search Marketing

Okay, everybody doing business on the internet now knows (or should know, certainly) that websites need to be “optimized” in some fashion if they want to compete for search rank position in Google and the other engines. That if your site is unoptimized, you are a loser. You won’t get rich. You probably have bad hair.

If your site is optimized, all the glory and wealth you no-doubt deserve will flow to you like preteen girls to a Justin Bieber sighting. Your traffic will increase. Your ranks improve. Your skin clear up. People will really, really like you.

If you listen to the abundance of so-called SEO Experts, you’ll hear that “optimization” means some combination of

  • Keywords in key places
  • Backlinks, backlinks, backlinks
  • Content
  • Secret SEO mojo that only their company can offer

If you will only put a keyword here; repeat it here, here, and here; buy, beg, borrow, or steal a giant pile of backlinks; get some high school dropouts to write hundreds of pages of so-called content (full of keywords, of course); and most importantly pay the SEO a monthly chunk of change; your site will soar to the top of Google’s lofty peaks and riches will flow down to you.

All of which contains some kernel of truth.

None of which is exactly true.

The truth of is, much of this is—and should be—deeply rooted in something they used to call common sense.

If search engines rely on spiders to decide what your site is about, and spiders are just really really  dumb visitors, and popularity is used to determine which sites are the most useful, then shouldn’t you just build sites with content that is appealing and useful?

By appealing, we mean nicely arranged and interesting, by useful, we mean readable, navigable, and in some way of use to people.

Of course, you can build a website that is all of those things, and still really sucks at search ranking. Because you really do have to pay attention to just how stupid search engine spiders are: they cannot tell what your site is about unless you make it really really easy for them. Hence, the notion of keywords. You find a word that describes your webpage very clearly—in the same way an average visitor would describe it—and then put it in a couple of places that the spider will be sure to find it. Title. <H1> tag. Body content. Et cetera.

So, you build a site that is useful and pretty and helps the intellectually challenged robot spiders understand what’s going on. And in theory, lots of other useful, pretty sites will link to yours, as a general service to their own visitors. And then riches flow to you.

Except that maybe, just maybe, you could use a little help designing and writing your content, picking the right keywords, putting them in the right places, and encouraging other sites to link you up. That’s really all an SEO professional needs to do. That’s all you should expect them to do.

And that’s all they should do.


SEO Comics: CEO View of SEO, Part 9

SEO Comics

SEO Comics: Just signed a great link trade deal with some nice lady. Anybody know what a "milf" is?

CEO View of SEO, Part 9


ICANN Haz (dot)Cheezburger

ICANN haz .cheezburger?

ICANN haz .cheezburger?

ICANN, the dark and diabolical secret society that controls all internet names and naming from their Lovecraftian lair  somewhere deep beneath the Matterhorn, has unleashed a new terror upon us: unlimited third-level domain extensions.

You didn’t think .com, .net, .edu, and .gov were all there is, did you? Surely, you’re already using all the new top-level domains they’ve introduced since 2004, right? Of course, you regularly find yourself typing,,, and, don’t you. Well, if you love those extensions, you are gonna swoon over this next round:  Unlimited. Third-level. Domains.

That’s right, kiddies. ICANN haz .cheezburger!

Or .coke, .ibm, .google, .nytimes, .wendys, .you-name-it. All you need is a $185,000 application fee, and proof that your new .domain is useful, necessary, and yours by right.

Since ICANN is a “non-profit” (if “self-funded”) operation, we’re sure they initiated this earth-shaking plan purely out of concern that the internet was growing short of usable territory, and NOT because every time they approve a new set of third-levels, every company in t he world feels obligated to snatch up all the new variations of their brand name. And not because every Fortune 5000 company in the world is going to immediately pony up the $185k for their new vanity plates.

They did it for us.

In case you wonder, here’s what this latest hold-your-breath-ICANN-announcement really means.


Seriously, nobody cares. Because nobody types URLs into the browser address box anymore. Nobody goes anywhere on the net that didn’t start with a link from somewhere else: a search result, a bookmark, a link in an article, a link forwarded in a joke email by a goofball co-worker. The biggest impact unlimited domains is likely to have is a surge in new SEO company marketing materials.

ICANN haz nap now?


Friday’s SEO Site of the Week

Today’s Site of Week is an interesting SEO Expert Quiz on SEOMoz. There are some surprises here for even the most experienced search marketeers. It’s a big old quiz—better reserve a half hour or so. We took it and missed a couple that seemed “no-brainer.” Think you know SEO?


We’ll give it a giant question mark.