Archive for July, 2011


Friday’s SEO Site of the Week

Every SEO wants to know just one thing: what really goes on in Google’s mind-the-size-of-a-planet? And that’s the one thing that nobody knows. Not even Google, probably. But if there was anyone out there that had a faint glimmer of understanding, that person just might be named Matt Cutts.

Matt is currently head of the Google Webspam Team, but he’s been on the inside there since the dawn of the Millennium. He knows where the bodies are buried.

Best of all, he is one of the dedicated Mouths of Google, speaking pearls of insight  through his blog Gadgets, Google, and SEO (which was, in fact, our second ever Site of the Week).

That’s all well and good, if you have the time or inclination to read said blog thoroughly and always. If you haven’t time for that, however, you are not completely screwed.

This week’s SotW goes to a page on site called Spotted Panda where the kind pandas there have distilled all the Wisdom of Matt into a much more digestible format.

Confirmed SEO Facts (by Matt Cutts)

Def worth a read, and also worth an army of happy spiders and an embedded panda journalist to keep tabs on them.




Top 5 Stupidest Link Strategies that Might Kind of Work

Well, you know us….

We are really NOT huge fans of spam in any of it’s greasy forms. However, we do confess that some of the slimy things that spammers do are grounded in some measure effective. Otherwise, why would anyone pollute the universe with their dreck?

So, in the interest of full SEO disclosure, here’s a list of very questionable link tactics that seem to bear some fruit. Tainted fruit. Cursed, tainted fruit.

  1. Blog comment spam. We hate this shit. No really. If you’ve got a blog, you’ve seen it: “Wow! what an idea ! What a concept ! Beautiful . Amazing.” (Actual comment submitted to us.) They submit this en masse, to pretty much every blog anywhere, hoping enough suckers approve it to give them some link joy. Of course, we do approve them sometimes, only we change the referral name to “Asshat Spammer” just in case whoever hired them takes a look into their referral logs…. Effective? Maybe. This is one of the things SearchDex got in trouble for.
  2. Reciprocal link request spam. We hate these too. You know the ones. An email out of nowhere, with boilerplate stuff like “My name is [random name here], Web Marketing Consultant. I’ve greatly enjoyed looking through your site and I was wondering if you’d be interested in exchanging links with my website, which has a related subject. I can offer you a HOME PAGE link back from my PR 4 related website… ”  These requests are generated by software, which is purchased by losers who then flood the world with crap hoping to get a link or two from unsuspecting webbies. Does it work? If you send a million spam emails like this, you might get 50 or so links. So if you don’t mind being an asshole, you might get some return on investment. If you want to hate them even more, here’s a kind of fun exposé….
  3. Fake blog posting spam. This is where your genius black-hatter might create a host of one-post blogs that are nothing more than a vehicle for a backlink or two.  They are usually sort of on topic with whatever page they’re linking to, but of little to no content value. The content in them is also copied (sometimes with minor changes) from one fake blog to the next. Does it work? Meh. Used to, maybe. Nowadays, while Google likes links from blogs, they seem to lose value if the blog doesn’t update at least semi-regularly. And duplicate content gets picked up pretty easily now.
  4. Multi-way reciprocal link network spam. Some of these get complicated. It’s an effort to fool Google by trading links in such a roundabout fashion that the Goog can’t tell they’ve been traded. At first, they were all three-way links: A links to B, B links to C, C links to A. That worked pretty well in the old days. For a while, lots of sites had “link networks” set up. Of course, Google caught on to that. So then it was four-way, five-way, many-way link exchanges, which you can buy your way into pretty easily. Do they work? Maybe, but not very well, unless every site in the network is in a similar topic space. Which would make it kind of easy to spot, we think.
  5. Referral log spam. This one is kind of obscure, but still epidemic.  Here’s what they do: using software that mimic internal search engines, they pull lists of blogs within specific topicspaces, then fire off an automated click to all of those sites. What the site gets is fake traffic, but traffic that shows up in their referral logs. Since some small percentage of web hosts leave their referral logs on unsecured severs—in theory—those logs should get spidered and then count as backlinks to the originating site. Does it work? We really kind wonder how it could.  First, do that many hosts really leave their logs unsecured? And second, do search engines really index them? And third, what possible link value could be derived from a giant text page full of thousands and thousands of links? Dunno. But there must be something to it, because the sonsofbitches keep filling up our traffic reports with them.

So there are five link spam tactics that we better never catch you using. Because they suck. And they all pretty much piss us off. And we know where you live.


The Trouble with Backlinks

Google started it. Yeah, blame them. Blame them hard and often. Back in 1996, two Stanford PhD students came up with a “better” way to categorize and rank websites in order to create an index that would help people find treasure amid that horrifying mess of 488,000 registered domains. Can you even imagine? Almost half a million websites?

Growth of Internet Domains from 1996 to 2011

We used to think 500,000 was a big number.

At the time, the search engine landscape was pretty impressive, with such luminaries as Alta Vista, Infoseek, Lycos, and others whose fame and glory lives on to this day…. no wait. Check that. They are all completely forgotten. This is because every one of them relied completely on things like keyword density and the keyword metatag to rank sites for their search results. Which, it turns out, was really really really easy to game. So you’d see sites selling tennis shoes with the words “free sex mp3” appearing like 4 thousand times at the bottom of the page. Fun days for us SEO youngsters!

Until those Stanford brainiacs came up with a little thing they called “Backrub.” Which was an algorithmic way to categorize sites based—not on their content—but on their popularity. Well, the boys took out a few patents, tweaked the thing by adding a couple of hundred other mysterious ranking factors, named it Google, grew to gigantic size practically overnight, went APO, and became the richest geeks in the universe.

Which is getting ahead of our story, just a bit. Because at first, this new approach truly ruled the net. Google grew to enormous size because their search results were amazing. Compared to all the once-was engines, it was revolutionary. If you entered something into the little white box, you actually stood a decent chance of finding a relevant page or two. Remarkable!

Pages stuffed with irrelevant keywords suddenly dropped way, way down the ranks in favor of sites that lots of people had made lots of links to, just because they were awesome.

Time passed, and Google evolved. They tweaked and fine-tuned. They worked tirelessly to make their little engine the best little engine. And all the while, we SEO-types schemed and plotted to mess it all up. What we wanted to do (and still want to do, of course) was trick the Mighty Google into thinking our sites were better than our competitors’ sites, whether they were actually relevant to the search or not. We did this in many ways. We’d come up with something that really seriously gamed the algo and won top ranks, then Google would counter with more tweaks. So we’d think of something else.

This escalation cycle has gone on continuously since the first Google release. Google wants to make all the content on the internet easy to locate through a simple keyword search. We want to sidetrack, obfuscate, control, and manipulate those searches to point you to sites that have paid us to do so.

Sniff. Sometimes we’re a little ashamed. Most of the time we’re figuring out new ways to short-circuit Google’s algorithm.

Which brings us to backlinks. And the Trouble with them.

As of the latest survey of SEO pros from the good folk at SEOMoz (which we highlighted as a Site of the Week a few weeks ago), the consensus is that links still account for something 40% of the Google algorithm. So they still carry a boatload of weight.

Even though we SEOs have been busy jamming up the works with fake links, crappy links, irrelevant links, imaginary links, 8-way reciprocal links, purchased links, blog comment spam links, and any other kind of oh-so-clever link garbage we can imagine, backlinks still work.

Which is a pity, really. Because goddamnit, we might be SEOs, but we want to be able to find stuff on the internet! And just like you and everyone else, we frequently can’t. Find. A. Damn. Thing. In fact, we just spent something like 2 hours trying to find the data for the graph we posted above. Pssffffffft.

I guess you makes your bed, you gets to lie in it.


SEO Comics: CEO View of SEO, Part 14

SEO Comics

Just hired some Malasian outfit that can get us 1,000,000 blog comment links by Wednesday. Remind me…. Why do I pay you guys?

SEO Comics: The CEO View of SEO


Keywording Made Reeeeealy Simple

It Ain’t Rocket Science

  • Step 1: Figure out what your page is actually about.
  • Step 2: Figure out what folks online actually type into search engines looking for what you figured out in Step 1.
  • Step 3: Rank the list of phrases you figured out in Step 2 by descending order: highest traffic potential on top.
  • Step 4: Test the top 5 or 10 phrases in the list you made in Step 3 for competitiveness. Pick out the three highest on the list that you can actually compete for.
  • Step 5: Use the best of the 3 phrases you chose in Step 4 as your lens name and title; use the other two as module titles. Use each of the three <i>once or twice</i> elsewhere in the lens: body copy, image file names, link outs, etc.
  • Step 6: Profit.

You can find the information you need for Steps 2 and 3 using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. For Step 4, enter each keyword into Google and note the number of sites where that keyword phrase appears and the number of AdWords that show up. You can also find a “Competitiveness” score and an “average CPC” in the AdWords Keyword Tool reports Keywords with lots of competitors, lots of AdWord ads, and high average CPCs are going to tough to win position for.


Friday’s SEO Site of the Week

For this week’s Site o’the Week, we’ll dip into a pretty good list of SEO tips from the folks at Search Engine Journal. Okay, we admit that we chose this one largely because of the title. Of course, they don’t really know our mothers….

55 Quick SEO Tips Even Your Mother Would Love

This one deserves at least one, maybe two cherry pies. Okay maybe one VERY LARGE cherry pie. Maybe the BEST DAMNED CHERRY PIE EVER. From Three Babes Bakeshop of San Francisco. Seriously. Good pie.

Three Babes Pieshop--Finest Pie on the Planet

Three Babes Pieshop--Finest Pie on the Planet. Or any planet.



SEO: Wheat, Chaff, Blah Blah

Data and graph courtesy of SEOMoz

If we believe that SEOMoz’s webmaster poll has culled the kernel of truth about Google’s search algorithm—and we do, yes we do—then this is the way it breaks down.

Just three factors account for 2/3 of the total rank weight. Beat your competitors on those three ranking factors, and you will prevail.

Trust Authority: the age of your domain, plus the size of your domain, plus the traffic history of your domain. It’s hard to say just what the right mix of those ingredients is, but equal thirds can’t be far wrong.

Link Popularity: The sheer number of relevant links pointing to any given page, strongly weighted in favor of links from sites scoring high by these same measures.

Anchor Text of External Links: Of the links mentioned above, how many use text relevant to the current search? If you’re trying to rank for “keyword,” how many of the links pointing to you have “keyword” in the link text?

Of these things, it’s obvious that links and link text are the thing you have the best shot in influencing, although you can improve your Trust Authority by adding quality content.

So is it even important at all to do all the other things SEOs want you to do?

Well, yes.  A lot of what your SEO is telling you has to do with getting your pages indexed in the first place: text link navigation, site maps, title and <h> tags, spider-friendly URLs, etc. These things have to happen if you want the rest of it to follow.

Do that stuff first. Do it all. Then create or gather the best content you can absolutely manage to acquire and keep doing that forever. But the best thing for your long-term lasting success is clear.

Links, links, links.

Quality links, quantity links, link-texty links. That’s right. The secret is links.


SEO Comics: CEO View of SEO, Part 13

SEO Comics

We're going to need everybody to write down everything they do. And keep it simple enough that someone with limited English can understand it. ….No reason.

SEO Comics: The CEO View of SEO



Let’s talk about Bing, shall we?

First, we have to say (in point of full-disclosure) that we are not big fans of Bing. When Microsoft released it in 2009, we scoffed. Bing? Really? Why not make your intentions even clearer and call it Biggle? (Actually, at the time we thought they might have had better long-term success with “Bong,” but that is another kettle of worms entirely.)

The launch of Bing was surrounded by one of the larger hooplas ever seen. We’d guess that MS spent way more money promoting their  new search engine than they spent building it. The artificial buzz they created just reeked of MBA-juice: hyperbolic articles in every major technology publication, press release after press release, gushing “reviews” that were clearly penned in the MS Marketing Dept, and on and on ad infinitum ad naseum, ad vomitus.

Surely, we thought, not even the Public could be stupid enough to fall for this oh-so inferior search engine simply because of the overwhelming promotional effort. Surely throwing a mega-dollar campaign machine at a revamped Yahoo engine would not be enough to make it “cool.” Of course, the success trajectory of Lady GaGa did nothing to encourage us as far as the Public discernment is concerned.

So they released Bing. And hyped it. And hyped it some more. You could read internet commentary from pithy blog to respected dead-tree pub and Bing was the only search engine you heard peep one about. But something strange happened.

We were right to hope. And Bill Gates was wrong to assume that the masses were that incredibly gullible.

Despite all you hear about the inroads Bing is making, about the huge successes it continues to rack up,  about all the wonderful ways it has made life safe and happy for us all, the damn thing still sucks and it’s still pretty much irrelevant.

Search engine statistics don't lie!

Okay, so Bing’s market share is still pretty low compared to Google. Surely all the Microsoft Money has increased its presence at the expense of all the little engines that couldn’t! Read all the breathless “news” articles proclaiming Bing’s incipient victory (quoted straight from the press release) and you can’t help but believe! Bing will win! Yay!

Not so fast.

Hmmm. Even without the Goog, Bing's a little limp.

Remove the Google numbers and you’ll note that Bing’s market share can’t even compete with Baidu, let alone Yahoo. If anything, they’ve even lost a little ground in past couple of months.

So let ‘er rip, Microsoft, let the rain of overt promotional media continue to fall. Spend every last dime of Uncle Bill’s hoard trying to break into the search engine club.

Personally. we think all that money would have been much better spent trying to write a better search algorithm. But, hey. Maybe that’s just crazy talk.

If you can’t buy success, what the hell’s money for?

All data from NetMarketShare.


Friday’s SEO Site of the Week

Goes to–ah hell. Couldn’t find one worthy.  We might be running out of quality SEO sites. If something doesn’t come to mind by next Friday, maybe we’ll have to rethink the whole bloody thing.