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Monday, October 30, 2006

Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) Review

Have you created your own Custom Search Engine (CSE) since Google announced last week they had launched this tool?

One of the huge benefits of the Google CSE is that it may turn up in Google OneBox results if it becomes popular enough and people choose it as a trusted source. Nobody has confirmed that yet, but it was one of the benefits of the previous generation Google Co-op "Subscribed Links" program, which is profiled after it's launch in a Danny Sullivan post at Search Engine Watch blog back on May 10th of this year when Google announced Co-op.

Custom Search Engines, based on Google Co-op, until last week, had required knowledge of XML to use effectively. Google CSE has simplified that tool and made it accessible to the rest of us by creating an administration control panel which eliminates the need to "code your own" subscribed links in XML documents, required from the previous Co-op. Now it's easy and any webmaster can create one - and if they know basic HTML - can have that CSE hosted on their own site.

When you create your own customized search engine through Google Co-op, it is possible for anyone to see customized search results drawing only from sites you choose to search. This is similar to the search engine, which allows you to create customized search which draws from Yahoo results, but only allows 25 sources.

Google Customized Search appears to have no limit on the number of sources and is also allowing you to incorporate Adsense into the search results so that if they become popular, you can benefit from the traffic generated to your Custom Search Engine.

Rollyo also sends searchers who use your Rollyo custom search engine to their site, while Google Custom Search Engine allows visitors to search from a page on your site AND see results on your site, keeping them there, rather than sending them away to another site.

There is also a new directory which has started up (apparently in partnership with Google) in order to list quality Custom Search Engines created by site owners. They also allow you to suggest other CSE's for inclusion in their directory (free membership required). They then link directly to those searches at Google from the directory. Here's their launch press release.

Chris Sherman, at did a thorough overview of the new Google Custom Search Engine tool last week on October 24 at:

So I happened to be writing an article about Corporate SEO Job Searches when I saw that announcement. I immediately went to Google Co-op and created my own search engine which searches all the top SEO job boards for Search Engine Optimization Employment listings. It's incredible tool that allows you to simultaneously filter out all the junk, while at the same time broadening your search beyond just one jobs board at a time.

What's even better is that when you use query operators like "" (which is one of the source sites I included) that it returns only those results from that source. If you add a city name or state to the search box, it returns only SEO jobs offered in that city or state. There is nearly zero fluff or search engine spam remaining in the search results and you get EXACTLY what you were searching for.

I suspect that the Custom Search Engine tool will see a huge surge in popularity once people realize how powerful it can be when you use the CSE tool from trusted sites. I sincerely hope nobody figures out how to game this thing so that it can continue to improve search without polluting results.

I'm off to create some more of these things and plan on making them central features of several of my own sites. I suspect that many will create CSE's on dozens of amazing topics and would love to see some of those when you are done. Submitting directly to Custom Search Guide would be wise, but maybe I might find it worthwhile to create an SEO CSE list to represent custom search engines created by RealitySEO readers? ;-) Let me know if you make one of your own that would be of interest to search junkies.

Here are a list of those I've created so far:

Custom Search Guide

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Google Customized SEO Jobs Search Engine

Yesterday Google announced their new Customized Search Engine (CSE) launch as I was writing an article about SEO Jobs Search and so immediately signed up through my Google account to create a custom SEO Job Search Engine which was incredibly simple to set up and implement from a page hosted on this site. I entered eight or ten job boards into the list of sites to search and grabbed a couple of snippets of Google provided code to paste into my page and Voila', a custom SEO Job Search Engine pulling from only those sources I chose.

It's interesting to see how it performs and that it appears to have a few eccentricities in its operation. I noted the following items:

  • The results returned on many searches appear to lean toward drawing from only two or three of the provided sources as the first results.
  • If you use the query operators, qualifiers and quotes in searches, the results get much better.
  • Some of the sources don't show up at all in search results because subdomains are used in some of the source sites named. (I'll continue to tweak using the Google provided "Refinement" tab in the CSE admin panel.)
  • It's easy to filter sites you see turning up in results that you'd like to eliminate and that filter is like your own SE spam killer. Nice.
  • The more you tweak and tune the search engine using the controls Google provides, the better the results get. This is a little like what it might be like to be the man behind the curtain at Google. Hi Matt! ;-)
  • It's clear how powerful this tool is after just a little playing with it and I'm anxious to create a couple dozen of these things for several of my other sites.

I intend to provide the built-in queries for my users by inserting the "value=" form attributes with good generalized queries for each specific purpose. I did that in the customized Reality SEO jobs search engine after I found what produced the best resultset in from the contributing sites. Cool tool Google! Bound to keep me busy in my free time.
Custom Search Guide

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Monday, October 23, 2006

SEO Job Search - Finding Search Engine Optimization Positions

Corporate SEO has been moving away from outsourcing SEO to consulting firms over the past year or so as large corporations have started to move toward hiring full time SEO manager(s) and staff for ongoing in-house search engine optimization. Hiring an in-house staff SEO manager offers clear, easily measurable gains in search ranking (often with comparable increases in income) for corporate web properties.

During my own SEO Job search, I've made some interesting observations on what a corporate SEO job entails and noted internal corporate expectations - based on about a dozen interviews and looking over dozens more SEO job descriptions.

SEO Manager Job Responsibilities

My top ranking observation is the varied list of responsibilities among those SEO positions I've reviewed. Just because the job title includes SEO or "Search Marketing" in the job listings, it doesn't mean that is all you'll be responsible for.

Many job descriptions are written by human resources or cobbled together based on existing job postings available online and elsewhere. If the company doesn't currently have an in-house SEO Manager, they may base their job description on that provided by their outsourced SEO vendor.

It is common for responsibilities to include management of both organic and paid search. Larger companies separate those two jobs into SEM manager and SEO manager positions. BUT, don't expect them to be entirely clear on the division of duties or the minutiae of what each position entails.

Some so-called SEO jobs are very heavily biased toward analytics and extensive reporting, while others lean toward content management and CMS duties - including SEO copywriting. Many SEO job descriptions incorporate entirely unrelated duties that they feel are peripherally related to the SEO position. I've seen those duties include odd disconnected things like customer relationship management (CRM), database programming, and even sales related tasks.

Corporate SEO Pay Rates

Many companies that choose to move SEO jobs in-house do so to reduce the costs of outsourcing SEO projects and ongoing maintenance. Their understanding of expected salary ranges for full time SEO managers may be based hearsay and rumor about average pay rates. In some cases, companies that have had one person doing both SEM and SEO and are splitting the jobs into two positions, which has a depressing effect on pay rates at that company.

During a recent interview, when we reached the "What are your salary goals?" question, the interviewer was startled at the yearly income range expected. When I asked what they were willing to pay, I realized that this person had not only written the job description, but had based the pay for this position on their own salary, which was lower than average for SEM positions.

PJ Fusco, in a ClickZ article in March of 2006 mentioned SEM Salary Ranges from $30K yearly for small company positions to as high as $200K for the most experienced SEO manager at large corporations. SEO and SEM positions are comparable in pay rates and clearly depend on experience, the size of the company, and the city they are based in. Pay rates appear to range fairly consistently from:

  • $40K to $60K for less than 2 years experience, or for a smaller company
  • $60K to $75K for 3 to 5 years experience working for larger companies
  • $75K to $120K for above 5 years experience working for major corporations
  • $120K to $200K when managing a team at major corporations

There's an interesting Salary Range site called PayScale, which asks a set of questions including experience, industry, job title, etc. and allows you to see a range of salaries for any job. When applied to "Search Engine Optimization" it shows a range from $70K to $110K for 5 years experience in a couple of major cities. The site requires membership and cookies to work properly - so take a trip over there to enter your relevant experience, location and education data.

Here is a salary range chart for California in a major city, which shows the average income of a corporate SEO manager as about $86K yearly.

SEO Certification Requirements?

Many of the top SEO's who began in the field before 1999 were self-taught by subscribing to the recognized SEO industry newsletters, blogs, discussion lists and forums and reading voraciously. Because search is constantly evolving and algorithms are constantly adjusted, that habit is one that must be firmly entrenched and never ending for the best SEO's.

Due to this constant evolution, search managers often attend multiple search engine related conferences and workshops a year to remain current in their SEO knowledge. When applying to any corporate position, make certain that they expect to send you to at least two or three search related conferences per year to maintain your knowledge of latest developments. Since the search engines rarely give freely of their search algorithm secret sauce, little can be offered beyond those week-long courses or conferences in terms of standard SEO best practices and the continuing evolution and "art" of SEO.

There are currently no educational requirements for SEO managers, but you may see degree requirements in "Related Fields" as in the following from an actual position currently available as of this writing:"A degree in Information Science, Information Architecture, Library Science or related field." Virtually all SEO/SEM positions will require a college degree, regardless of area of study.

Most companies know that there are currently no degrees available in search engine optimization, but employers often want some sort of certification or technical training background in SEO candidates. The Direct Marketing Association just launched and completed their first DMA Search certification training at the DMA conference held in San Francisco this past week.

There were already multiple training programs offered by organizations like Search Engine Workshops and SEO Pros Certification. Do week long courses provide true mastery of search marketing by say, a freshly minted college graduate with no work experience? The short answer is no, but it may make or break a job interview, so if you are light on experience and don't have a substantial client list, the cost of about $2,000 for one of those programs are certainly justifiable for the "cred" they confer. Certification and eventually degree programs will no doubt emerge to help SEO's justify their generally well paid status.

Finding the Best SEO Job for You

The major drawback to relying on any single job board, or even recruiters and headhunters is that each has a limited number of resources to draw from. For example, recruiters will only tell you about those positions they'll get referral fees from, many of the SEO organizations and job boards rely on posts by employers. While employers may use a single recruiter, rely on a single SEO jobs board or simply ask their human resources department to find a suitable SEO job candidate. Each of those have limitations and shortcomings that are dependent on incomplete knowledge and restricted sources.

It can get a bit tedious trawling through each of the major job boards for SEO positions due to their poor internal search engines (ironies abound). So concentrate on the following top standbys for SEO job searches:,, SEMPO's SEO job list, the new vertical search at, Craigslist, (which draws extensively from Craigslist), or you could try the custom Reality SEO Job Search Engine which draws from ALL the above, with backfill from Google web results.

Once you get that interview lined up, you may find my previous article "SEO Job Interview" to be enlightening. Good luck in your SEO job Search!

Cartoon Copyright © by James Cook of SEO

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Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Facilitating Social Media Optimization (SMO)

Bookmark or Subscribe With a Single Button

Social Media Optimization (SMO) is the new buzzword when it comes to getting links from sites like Digg,, Technorati, and Flickr. There is a lot of talk on SEO blogs and in forums about this concept. What it means, essentially, is that web publishers want visitors to bookmark their content, subscribe to their blogs, news, product and podcast feeds.

Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy Public Relations said in Rule #2 of his "Five Rules of Social Media Optimization" blog post in August, 2006

"Make tagging and bookmarking easy - Adding content features like quick buttons to "add to" are one way to make the process of tagging pages easier..."

Until recently, "the process of tagging pages easier" has been rather cumbersome and tedious for publishers. Collecting code and "chiclets" (logos) from each service first to facilitate using social bookmark service links and feeds, then posting a mish-mash of those links near web content to encourage visitors to subscribe to feeds or bookmark that content through any of dozens of popular services.

But a new service called AddThis has been launched which appears to solve the complexity for publishers and reduces the "chiclet" clutter by providing a single button for bookmarks or a single button for RSS feeds, to allow bookmarks and feeds through any of the most popular services.

What follows is a Q&A with co-founder Dom Vonarburg

Q) Most interviews end by asking if there is anything else you'd like to add, what specifically would you like people to know about AddThis up front?
A) is a brand new service that helps web surfers collect information online with a single click, and send it to their favorite bookmarking service, feed reader, wish list service, podcast service, etc. AddThis also helps web publishers promote their content (web pages, feeds, products, podcasts, etc) online by making it easier for their visitors to collect it, save it, and distribute it to social services. AddThis was launched in September at the DEMO conference, the launchpad for emerging technology.

Q) Do you see AddThis as a potentially big player in the Social Media Optimization (SMO) phenomenon since you make it easier for  web publishers to get their sites bookmarked, and their podcasts and blog feeds subscribed?

A) We started working on AddThis back in March 2006, even before the term SMO was first coined. The idea behind AddThis was, and still is, to completely eliminate all obstacles web publishers have in distributing their content to visitors and the social media services they might use. Our internal term for it was initially social SEO, but I like Social Media Optimization better.

We think AddThis will be a very important player in the SMO space, as it is the first service to provide a generic gateway for collecting and distributing many different types of content. AddThis acts as a bridge between the web publisher, the web user, and the social media services.  

Q) You've added a new angle to the bookmarks game with the "Products" button.  If it takes off, it seems like it would be great for ecommerce sites, especially with the reporting attached. I haven't seen this anywhere else. What made you bring the product angle into an AddThis Product Button?
A) “Products” was the next logical step for us after bookmarks, feeds and podcasts. People want to collect and compare the products and services they find online, and ecommerce websites want to facilitate this process. By adding “Product” buttons to their pages, ecommerce websites are more likely to be included in their visitors’ final purchase decisions. The button also helps spread these products to other people through social bookmarking and social shopping websites (,,, etc).

Q) You are offering AddThis as a free service. Is there any plan to move to a higher level plan to monetize it? I noted your participation in the DEMO conference where companies seek venture capital and seed funding. Were you seeking funding and were you successful?

A) Yes, the service is free and will continue to be free. Starting early next year, we will also provide a premium version of the service. I don’t want to say too much at this point, but the premium service will provide many interesting features for web publishers, one of which will be more advanced statistics. Our primary goal with DEMO was to boost the launch of AddThis. We also received the attention of several investors.

Q) Providing stats was an extra step that probably increased costs and complexity for AddThis. What made you consider the reporting to publishers as an important part of a free service?

A) The statistics was a fairly simple feature to add and we thought it added a lot of value to web publishers, especially for products. For example, with the statistics, web publishers can find out which products their visitors are most interested in, which ones receive less attention, etc.

Q) Is there any connection with ("Email This" "Save This" and "Print This")

A) ClickAbility is different in that it provides its own system for saving information. AddThis does not impose any destination for the content collected.

Q) Was the domain already yours, or did you purchase from an existing owner? It shows in domain records as being registered since 1998, but the WayBack Machine at only shows a single page with nothing on it from 2002. So little history available on the domain. Has AddThis been in the works since 1998?

A) The domain was not ours; we purchased it from its previous owner in March 2006.

Q) Most bloggers providing RSS feeds to their users did their best to get each of about a dozen of those "Chiclets" allowing subscriptions through the most popular services posted in the margins of their blogs. Many bloggers are now relying on the FeedBurner service and moving to a single feed logo. How does the feed service compare to FeedBurner? Do you see FeedBurner as a competitor?
A) FeedBurner’s primary business is feed hosting and management. Feeds are only one type of content supported by AddThis, we support and will support many more types. We think our generic approach to content collection and distribution is truly unique. So we don’t see FeedBurner as a direct competitor.

Q) Most big publishers and now thousands of smaller web site owners and bloggers are beginning to post and Furl and Reddit logos and links on their pages in the hopes that site visitors will bookmark their pages in the social bookmarks services. Some are choosing to add a few links to some of the other bookmarking services, but few go beyond the top 5 social bookmarks site links. I see that AddThis Bookmark service offers 16 social bookmarks services. How did you decide ones which you would include? Certain popularity levels?

A) We picked the most popular bookmarking services based on popularity and visibility in the search engines. We only stopped at 16 because of time constraints, but we will add many more of them in the future. By letting AddThis maintain the list of bookmark and feed buttons, web publisher can better focus on their content.

Q) Do you have any plans for a tie-in with Digg? As a news popularity site, they have a different focus than the RSS feeds and Social Bookmarks services, but many site publishers are including "Digg This" links from their web pages as part of a "social media marketing" plan. Does your focus with AddThis stick to bloggers, product retailers, bookmarks, and podcasts or will you consider expanding into the news and other areas?

A) Social news is also a logical candidate for AddThis. We will also add other types of content based on user adoption.

Q) Is there anything else you'd like to Add(to)This?  ;-)
A) We think AddThis will play a big role because it makes a lot of sense for both web users and web publishers. You can think of as the more social sister of, or its Web2.0 extension. Each service helps you achieve a different kind of visibility.

As a publisher, I had been updating WebSite101 to a new template and had been considering including Furl, Reddit,, and Digg, but came across the AddThis Demo launch story and dropped Furl and Reddit from the mix in favor of the AddThis "Bookmark" link, since you support all of the bookmarking services with one button.

I'm keeping the and Digg links for now, but I think once publishers begin to realize they can simplify bookmarks and if users understand that they can use any social bookmark service through AddThis, that you'll see strong adoption of the service.

A current search at Google for "Social Media Optimization (as of this writing) has Lee Odden's TopRankBlog post on the SMO topic showing up number one for that search.

SEO Bloggers & Search Engine Blogs on Social Media Optimization (SMO)

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Thursday, October 05, 2006

What do Corporations Expect for SEO Dollars Spent?

The following is a response to a comment from "Jack" in my previous post on SEO job interviews. I got a bit long winded in my answer to his comment, so just decided to create a new post:

The companies I've interviewed with are pretty big corporations with some scary budgets who definitely want to do everything you listed. Drive Sales, Increase Branding Visibility, Displace Competitors, plus a surprising number of major web properties will gain dramatically in web site ad sales. But most simply want more sales, period.

Conversion is partially the job of the SEO in that once you discover high traffic pages that don't convert to sales (or ad clicks) that you bring it to the attention of a copywriting team in the marketing department or propose tweaks and split testing of copy re-writes for conversion. Sometimes it just needs a bit of Title Tag Tweaking to encourage clicks on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERP's) and doesn't involve other departments.

But nearly everyone finds that if they increase traffic, sales move up in proportion. Improvements in conversion can always be made. More traffic means more opportunity, very simply. And if more traffic comes from searches, you have more exposure.

I've got a client that fluctuates between position #3 and #6 in the Google results for their main keyword phrase. When they are at #3 and "above the fold" in the visible screen real estate, their sales quadruple. When they drop back to #6 or sometimes #8 on page one of results, they drop back to normal sales levels. Clearly we want to stay in those top 5 positions.

For this client, a 400% increase in sales is significant enough to easily earn back in sales in less than a single day what they spend with me each month.

For many sites though, it's (prepare yourself for one of those tired new catch phrases) about the "Long Tail" concept of being found for dozens, even thousands of variations on their main keyword phrases.

We've found that some unexpected results come from optimizing for "hidden" search phrases that occur when people start using made-up descriptive phrases for a product because they don't know the proper name.

There is no question that having a full time person monitoring search, optimizing for the "Long Tail" and maximizing "hidden" phrases, can very easily recoup their salary hundreds or thousands of times over.

I'd go so far as to say that any company bringing in over a million a year from their web sales could justify hiring an in-house SEO since the salary is less than a tenth of yearly sales and will easily increase sales beyond the salary cost.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

SEO Job Interview Observations

Over the past year I've interviewed for a half dozen SEO jobs at substantial companies where they've decided to stop out-sourcing and bring the SEO position in-house. While I have not yet decided to take any of those jobs, I have noticed some things that may prove enlightening to anyone considering making the move to corporate SEO.

Cartoon Copyright © by James Cook of SEO
  1. If contacted by a headhunter or recruiter attempting to "Qualify" you for the interview, be patient and realize that you'll be explaining SEO to them as they may only have a passing understanding of SEO and a have a short list of our industry buzzwords in front of them.
  2. If the company interviewer or human resources director doesn't understand SEO and has that same list of SEO buzzwords in front of them - be patient as well. The reason they are hiring an SEO is because they need your expertise. Just realize it will be about personalities at that point and not about your qualifications.
  3. If the company you'll be working for has a home page that is a flash movie which starts playing music immediately, includes the word "Enter" or has a 30 segment image slice, politely decline the interview. You'll never convince them that text is what gets them good search engine ranking.
  4. If a query returns 12 pages on the SERPS, and they all include the same lame byline without keywords, make sure your job description includes "Content Development." PS: "Content Development" better be in every SEO job description.
  5. If a query returns 120,000 pages on the SERPS, and they all include the same lame byline without keywords, make sure your job decsription includes "Keyword Research." PS: "Keyword Research." better be in every SEO job description.
  6. If the job description puts the SEO position in the Marketing Department, smile and apply. Marketing is where SEO belongs. Textual content as a sales tool is welcome and extensive use of real words as content is encouraged.
  7. If asked, "Do you have experience with SEO in the field of "_____ (fill in the blank)" turn and leave the building, because they don't understand that experience with SEO is the same in every business except for the different industry buzzwords.
  8. If the job description puts the position in the IT department, look out! They'll expect an automated and programmatic solution to SEO. Automated keyword extraction tools, which take keywords from body text and insert them into Title Tags is in your future. You'll inevitably spend your time debugging scripts so they don't insert stop words into those tags, rather than actually writing effective tags or training content management staff to do so.
  9. If asked if you have experience with one particular content management platform, run - unless you are certain their CMS platform allows for manual editing of Title tags, metadata, and embedded links in body text - and that system allows for CSS attributes that can be altered to support SEO concerns.
  10. If the company asks if you have experience with any one particular reporting system for web site statistics and log file analytics, answer "Yes" because they all serve the same purpose, provide the same data, and export the same Excel or CSV reports. The only difference is the login username and passwords and internal navigation.
If you get the job and any of my observations here helped you in the interview, how about a link to my site from your corporate home page? ;-)