Posts Tagged ‘seo editorial


Dilbert Is God

Oh, Scott Adams, you brilliant, sick, insightful, geeky, trippy, edgy, mofo, arty, philosophic, GENIUS.

Did we mention brilliant?

Not only are you funny as hell, but you say in three panels what we’ve been trying to get across for 10 years and a half million or so words.

Yes, we do SEO for a living. Yes, we’re good at it. Yes, it works.

And YES, SEO is a negative force in the world. It weakens the integrity of the world’s knowledge depository. It makes it difficult for valuable content to find its way into the brains of those who need it most.

White hat, black hat, pantless weasel. The whole SEO industry is up to no good. Luckily, the end is near. (See our previous post for a hint.)


Is Google Building Skynet?

I'm sorry, Dave, I can't complete your search just now. Please try again later, after you've calmed down.

Well, here it comes.

We’ve been predicting for some time now that Google will pretty soon render SEO as obsolete as phone cords by evolving some serious cognitive abilities.

While this sort of thing has been tried before (WolframAlpha does kind of a pretty good job of understanding the question), the new push by Google into the realm of artificial intelligence will be the One that Changes Everything.

Why this one? Because if anyone has the resources, the brain-pool, and the profit motive to create our new Digital Overlord, it would be the Goog.

Read on, future Eloi.

Google Knowledge Graph Could Change Search Forever


An Automatic Update to Our Updated Updates Post


Well do ya, punk?

Seriously. This update crap is KILLING us. Not kidding.

Last Friday, Thunderbird, our go-to mail client for the past 8 years, decided to update itself. For about the thirty-seventh time this year. Aiiiight. Whatever. Gotta keep it real, we guess.

But this particular product-enhancing, security-improving, features-increasing updated FOR-THE-LOVE-OF-GOD up-fucking-grade went one better than all the previous updates.

It completely hosed our profile, which just happens to contain

  • Eight completely different email accounts, each with fairly complex settings;
  • A sophisticated multi-layered folder system;
  • About 35 content filters that have been added over the years, mostly to combat spam;
  • Address books, filled with client contact info, friends, and family;
  • And every single email archived over the past 8 years, received and sent and even drafts.

Now here’s the thing. We are exquisitely anal-retentive about backups. We back stuff up. All the time. Automatic backups and manual backups. So all of this data was faithfully backed up.

But Thunderbird’s product-enhancement update killed the profile so thoroughly that it took us six hours and twelve minutes to restore our accounts to about 85% of what they were pre-improvement.

Okay, so maybe we shouldn’t have put so much faith in an open-source, free-as-in-free-beer mail client. Maybe we should have stayed with the old familiar Outlook. Which has an even worse habit of upgrading-updating-upchucking than Mozilla’s Thudder-bird.

Look you guys up there in software development land, we’re gonna say this again. Loudly. So you can’t miss it.



What Page Deserves #1 Ranking?

One of these things is not like the others

One of these things is not like the others

This has been one of our hobby horses for a long, long time. Does a page deserve to rank number 1 in a search engine for a particular keyword search because it has more links pointing to it? Or because it uses the exact keyword phrase in the title and <h1> tags? Or because the site it belongs to is big and old? Or because a horde of pixies has conspired together to deluge the page with +1s? (We’ll avoid the obvious conclusion that the most deserving page is the one we did the SEO on.)

Or does a page deserve to rank #1 for any given keyword phrase because it is a better answer to the query?

That’s the answer we desperately want to believe. That’s the answer that promotes quality content over all else. And makes the internet (and thus, the world) a better, happier, more useful, and more interesting place.

So, then, what happens when someone searches for some very specific topic—let’s say a product called WOMENS HARLEY DAVIDSON JERRI STILETTO SANDALS—and every one of 50 pages in the search result is the exact same catalog page: product photo, manufacturer’s description, price & shipping info, and a big fat glowing “buy now” button? Which one of those do you rank #1? What if every one of them has the same number of ++++++ (zero) and the same number of links (zero) and the same number of Facebook friends (zero)?

To the searcher, it probably doesn’t matter who’s on first. If they’re looking to buy WOMENS HARLEY DAVIDSON JERRI STILETTO SANDALS and they don’t look at a whole bunch of those pages, they’re very poor internet shoppers. And if they’re just doing research, well, it doesn’t matter which page they hit if the content is all the same.

To the merchant, though, it does matter—matters a lot. Because whoever’s on top gets more visits, first impressions, and better opportunity to close a sale.

What’s a search engine to do?

If you’re Google, you’ll rely heavily on domain size, domain age, and number of inbound links, +1s, likes, and whatever that  point to the domain as a whole, even if none point to the page in question. If you’re Yahoo, you look to domain links and maybe Alexis traffic data. If you’re Bing, you pull out your 20-sided fuzzy dice.

If you’re us, you’d treat merchant sites differently from all the other kinds of sites. You’d use a less-focused algorithm that says “On merchant sites, if the content is virtually the same, the page ranks are equal, despite any other of the usual ranking criteria.” And then we’d let all the identical product-description pages rotate through the ranks, randomly, evenly, equally.

And let the consumers sort ’em out.


Netflix, Facebook, and Change for the Sake of Change

Okay, this really isn’t all that much about SEO. But it does have a lot to do with online (or any other kind of) marketing.

Is Change Always Good?

Judging from the recent observed behaviors of a number of commerce giants, you’d have to draw the conclusions that

  1. Commerce giants think “YES!”
  2. Commerce consumers think “NO!”

Why the disconnect (bordering on cognitive dissonance)?

First, let’s review.

  • Microsoft Windows. We count 14 updates so far this month, not counting Office, or Security Essentials definitions, or Explorer. Hmmm. Really?
  • Adobe. An avalanche of updates virtually every time we connect.
  • Facebook. Unfathomable update to the news feed. As well as countless “privacy” updates, most of which have been detrimental to the user’s privacy.
  • Netflix. “I messed up” doesn’t even begin to cover it. Not just a bad idea, but a bad idea handled badly.

Why do they do these things?

Well, same reason a shark has to swim to breathe. In today’s corporate environment, nobody’s job is safe—not CEO, CFO, or eeny-meeny-minee-mo—unless they can show something to the board every quarter. “Here’s what me and my team are doing!” they exclaim, to the accompaniment of a PowerPoint chorus. “Look! We changed this and that and updated this and next month, we’ll upgrade that!” Doesn’t matter if it all means a gigantic loss of credibility, or loyalty, or even subscribers. Doesn’t matter if the changes improve anything. Doesn’t matter if they were necessary. Doesn’t matter if they were wise or in any way a good idea.

Just gotta put something up there on the damn agenda, don’t you know?

Well, to us, it all comes out to be one helluva argument for open-source, cloud-based EVERYTHING. Updates and upgrades can be done without impacting the users’ experience. Updates and upgrades that prove unpopular can be rolled back without loss of face (or job). Nobody feels compelled to change just because they can.


SEO Comics: CEO View of SEO, Part 19

SEO Comics

Our CFO just got arrested for stock fraud. How can we leverage that into search traffic?

CEO View of SEO, part 19


The Perfect Search Engine

Oh Great Oracle! Who has the cheapest airfare?

Do you feel lucky? Well do you, punk?

Over the years, we’ve definitely done our share of bitching about the quality of results returned by search engines. Anybody get teary-eyed reminiscing about the usefulness of Infoseek, Lycos, or Looksmart? Seriously, there was a time when AltaVista created a gigantic buzz by returning a few relevant links to any given query. Still buried in tons of poop, of course. Yet comparatively awesome! Yahoo, Overture, and Inktomi were all  kings, once, even though they deliberately polluted their results with paid-for results. Until Google came along, almost everybody was pretty happy to be disgruntled by web search as a practical way to find stuff on the internet.  (Ask Jeeves? Are you kidding?)

In fact, until Google came along in 1998, the surging size of the web was making the job of indexing and identifying its parts almost comical. Google’s algorithm was so much better that it conquered the search space like Genghis took China, rising from nothing to 80%+ in just a handful of years. Yet even as the best available search engine—the best ever search engine—Google’s search results are somewhat lacking. Full of spam, fake content, and artificially boosted inferior sites. Oops. Our bad.

As SEOs, it seems a bit weird for us to complain about search result quality. After all, we’re part of the reason they suck. We spend a lot of time, money, and resources trying our damnedest to push inferior content into superior positions, crowding out whatever might actually be useful to any given web searcher. It’s a living.

You’re aware, no doubt, that beggars can’t be choosers and parts of the problem aren’t parts of the solution and whiners shouldn’t throw glass stones. Meh. Worst sentence ever.

Anyway, in an attempt to add something useful to the dialogue, here are some attributes that we think would make up an ideal search engine.

  • Ability to rank content by usefulness.
  • Ability to determine contents’ original point of publication.
  • Ability to parse phrases for meaning, instead of treating them as clumps of words.
  • Sophisticated filters and sorts allowing users to choose results by recency, geographic location, commercialty, price, size of site, type of media, and whatever else.
  • Unobtrusive and clearly marked paid placements (if any).
  • Fast.
  • Comprehensive.
  • Current.
  • and SEO proof.

Ouch. That last one hurt. But we think it’s true. Search results would be better—more accurate, more relevant, more reliable—if only the search optimization industry were obsolete.

‘Course, SEO isn’t obsolete, and probably won’t be for some time to come. Until then, we’ll be here, gaming the systems, skewing search results, and helping websites prosper. Whether they deserve to or not.


Happy Labor Day, Optimizers!

In honor of the U.S. holiday Labor Day, we’re going to present a list of the most labor-intensive SEO tasks that might make a difference to your keyword ranks, traffic, and/or bottom line.

  • Content creation. Writing quality content is not easy, simple, or quick. But it is absolutely worth the effort.
  • Link building. Nobody likes doing it. Link building is a total time-suck of epic proportions. But still, even with the new Panda-ized Google, link building done right is gold.
  • Authority building. Even trickier than link building, authority building is an occult art. At its simplest, it’s an alchemy of links, content, authorship, and age. At its most complex it might even entail human sacrifice. Still, you gotta try.
  • Blogging. Every day, about 6 trillion new blogs come online. Check on ’em one month later, and there’s about 12 left. That’s because writing a blog sucks. Trying to come up with fresh topics, trying to say something useful, trying not to sound like a self-obsessed teenager.  Like we do.
  • Updating.  Can’t ever rest. Must update site. Must check links. Must add content. Must tweak. Must…. keep…… moving…………………

So get yerselves a beer and a hot dog and enjoy the day. Tomorrow, back to work.


Can Microsoft Survive the Cloud?

We’re ranging a bit afield from our usual SEO-related topic today to ask an important question: has Microsoft positioned themselves right out of relevancy in today’s internet? We ask this because, having just spent 2 freaking hours trying to recover from an epic “automatic update” fail, it occurs to us that perhaps MS’s business model is in trouble.

MS built their Byzantine Empire on a bedrock philosophy of intimidation. They intimidate their suppliers, their competitors, their potential competitors, their employees, and their customers. They always have and it’s always worked. Being the biggest bully in the room is how Papa Gates and Co. sewed up the operating system market, the office software market, the email client market, the server software market, and the browser market. The resulting tsunami of cash did nothing to persuade them to try any other path.

But here’s the thing: having the power and weight of numerous lucrative near-monopolies has calcified them. They are slow to market, slow to respond to missteps, and most importantly, slow to react to changing market dynamics. In a world where open source alternatives abound, Microsoft’s captive markets have begun to evaporate. First, Firefox (joined later by Chrome) chipped away at ponderous MS Explorer’s 70% market share, now at 50% (and falling). Their office suite dominance suffers threats from Open Office and now, more dangerous perhaps, Google Docs.

MS no longer can claim to be the only dog in the fight. They’re still the biggest dog, but the others are growing and MS is withering away.

And now, introducing the Cloud. All of the applications you will ever need are—or will soon be—available at no cost to anyone with decent internet access, which is fast becoming a basic human right. Word processing? No problem. Spreadsheets? Gotcha covered. Slide shows, drawing, calendars, email, messaging? Already to go. The last thing—and the giant killer—will be the operating system. Up to now, MS has used their Windows systems to beat back every challenge. But this one’s gonna be a bit tougher.

Because the Cloud’s operating systems are agile, flexible, multi-platform, and open source.

Here are five reasons MS will find it hard to migrate its dominance to the cloud:

  1. Tablets and smart phones and netbooks are browser based and don’t need Windows;
  2. Open sourced applications are inherently more adaptable and quicker to react to changes, technological, cultural, or legislative;
  3. MS software is bloated, ungainly, and unnecessarily paternalistic—how many “critical updates” per day are too many?
  4. Freeware and open source development is typically decentralized to the extent that buying the intellectual property (a standard MS tactic) is useless;
  5. Google has already built a solid foundation for the future: a gigantic, friendly, all-seeing, all-knowing, and above all useful temple in the clouds that MS will find virtually impossible to keep up with.

Unless Bill thinks of something dramatically different and desperately soon, Cloud computing will break MS’s back, unless they find a way to compete with free, easy, simple, and convenient. And find it fast. Because this cloud is getting darker and pretty soon it’s gonna rain.


SEO: Is Your Site “in” with the Popular Crowd?

Not quite sure when it happened, exactly, and even less sure why—but it seems search engine success has taken a turn for the Junior High School. You remember those glorious early teen years of cliques and gangs and cool kids and dorks and smokers and shy kids and jocks and Squeeeeee!

It was the time of raging hormones and the utterly unquestioned Cult of Popularity. Your entire life depended solely on who you hung out with, who you didn’t hang out with, and who wouldn’t hang out with you even if your dad owned the ice cream store. Popularity determined where you could sit at lunch. Where you could chill after school. Who you could sit next to on the bus.

And then, damnit, we grew up. Supposedly left all that crap behind. Way back there.

Until this so-called “Social Media” thing happened. Everybody jumped onto MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Blah Blah Blah and started accumulating “friends” like they were Beanie Babies. All of which was okay, we guess, if anybody cares what Joe saw on his way home and what Janet ate for lunch.

Until the search engines started jumping in. That’s when everything went straight to hell. Of course, Google kind of started down this path long ago with their “link popularity” algorithm (PageRank, anyone?). But now it’s getting just a little bit more Jr High every day. Now, if you want to rank high in the SERPs, you better have “friends” and “likes” and “+1s” and “reviews” and “re-tweets” and “pingbacks” and whatever-the-hell-else-is-“popular”-this-week.

Trouble is, none of that really means a thing. Does anybody really think a B-to-B site selling handheld scanners has better content or is more relevant to a search just because they have a FB page with 35 friends? Really? And who believes that more than half of the product reviews out there are genuinely spontaneous outpourings of opinion, instead of paid reviews from some sweat shop in Jakarta?

Sigh. It’s bunk. It’s silly. It’s unhelpful. Relying on social media popularity for search results is like giving the 25 popular kids in the Junior High School free lunch and making everybody else root through the garbage bins for scraps.

C’mon, Goog and Binger and whoever else. Can’t y’all come up with some better way to rank search results? Something a little more useful? A dart board, maybe?