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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Google Web History, Personalized Search Pollutants!

I'll start by saying Thank you Google, for the web history and personalized search idea - which is great in theory, but plain sucks in practice! At least for this searcher.

Danny Sullivan did an amazing overview and critique of Web History over at Search Engine Land, so I'll refer you to that if you want more details or analysis. Gord Hotchkiss has some interesting thoughts on the topic today as well.

I'm going to stop short of a review and simply complain about an idea that may be wonderful for Google or some imaginary simplistic searcher Google has imagined - but for me it just plain sucks! Oh, did I say that already?

I don't even know where to start on this rant. But PLEASE turn it off! Yes I know that I can turn it off, but I actually want some portions of it without affecting my search results and without it tracking my web travels. I have search history enabled but definitely NOT web history.

And don't get me started on the idea of all this affecting my search results. NO personalization please! I've got a serious aversion to Google providing personalized search results based on my web history. Why? Let me count the reasons - some hypothetical:

  1. I search from three computers - work, home desktop machine, personal laptop
  2. I manage Google accounts for clients and log in to review analytics, Adwords, Webmaster Central stats, etc. Did I sign out of client accounts before starting personal searches - or work related searches for other clients?
  3. Which machine am I using, which account am I using?
  4. I log into my account on public computers to review gmail, did I log out before leaving? Aarrrgh! I'll never visit that public Kiosk in the Vegas Airport again - can I hire someone to go there to log out of my gmail account for me! Those searches don't belong on my history!
  5. A friend's son logged in to his Gmail account on my computer and didn't log out - Oh! Look at those searches! Should I tell his parents? Maybe the police?
  6. My wife uses my computer sometimes and I use hers sometimes - Did I sign out? Did she sign in? Did she sign back out? Have I signed in again?
  7. What about that Google Desktop Search feature "Search across computers" that I heard about, did I disable that? Can a savvy criminal see my hard drive contents from those public machines I forgot to sign out of?
  8. I have multiple Google Accounts - am I using the right account for THIS search?
  9. I search for dozens of different reasons
    • Family & friends "Mike, I know you are a search expert, can you find fill in the blank for me?
    • Stuff I needed answers for that I've resolved and don't want to think about any more
    • Clients in a dozen different industries for which I have no personal interest in their topic
    • Work related searches (as an SEO that means all day long)
    • Private and personal searches related to health, finances, hobbies, etc.
    • News related searches connected to current events
    • One-time use searches on zip codes, phone numbers, names, definitions, directions, etc. that I don't ever want to know about again
    • Stuff that mattered to me for five minutes that I no longer remember or care about
    • Stuff related to a place I've moved away from and no longer care about
    • Vanity searches
    • Competitor quotes
    • Due diligence for business deals long past lost
    • Due diligence on people or businesses I am considering employing
    • Clumsy searches using nearly irrelevant hazy search terms
    • Dumb searches I have no idea what I was looking for
    • You get the idea - this is a serious nightmare of convoluted search results
Yeah I love the convenience and yes I still want to use those features - but OMG don't pollute my search results with this stuff and don't show me a history that actually represents bits and pieces of all my multiple computers, family members, friends, strangers (from public computers I forgot to sign out of), clients and who knows what else into my history.

I suppose I could resolve all of this by simply giving up my Google account - or never logging in without penalty of death if I forget to log out. But maybe this could be the one thing that makes me change search engines as Andy Hagans suggests over at "Tropical SEO" blog. Maybe MSN Live or have an opportunity here for a comeback - to become known as the "Privacy Search Engine" although is already trying that approach.

I guess I just can't stand the idea that my search history (past) will affect my current search results. I want pure search results - no history, no other peoples' history, not multiple computer history, not irrelevant searches mixed in. Just pure unadulterated search without pollutants - please! Yes, yes, I know this is all in my control. I just don't want to have to filter my search tap water by having to remember to turn the filter on and off or having to resort to bottled water - anonymized search.

Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Fresh News In Google Search Engine Results Pages

Normally I like to write more complete and thorough coverage of search engine developments, but don't have the time to research this one in detail. I'll return to the story as it develops over the next week or so. This one is breaking news from Chris Sherman at Search Engine Land about Google integrating NEWS results into regular Google SERPS.

This could have dramatic implications for those users who either don't know about Google News or simply don't consider going to that other little text link labeled "News" centered above the search box on the google home page.

To see if the news search was working I found a news headline and searched for that line in a regular Google search. The top result was indeed a news story. The top ranking result was a minutes old story showing in regular Google SERPs. Normally this top result would be labeled a "News" result.

Note the special "Earth Day" Google logo which was only showing on Sunday and the April 22 date in green behind the link on a story about New Jersey Governor Corzine's recovery after his car accident a week ago on the way to mediate a meeting between Don Imus and the Rutgers womens basketball team.

Normally, if Google determines your searched phrase is related to current news, it will show a top "onebox" result as below.

This is big news and will likely mean a dramatic increase in traffic to news sites and possibly press releases. I'll revisit the story as it develops during the week.

But wait! There's more! I stumbled across this in that last search for "Virginia Tech Massacre" as I was heading to dinner, so I'll quickly drop this in there as well since it is related. Google adwords are displaying News related PPC ads beside the results! I've split the screen in half so you can see the image full size and clearly see "MSNBC" as the sponsored ad on the right side of the page.

This story broke on Monday, but I hadn't seen it myself until now.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Google Plus DoubleClick: Truthiness & Trustiness

The Google Acquisition of DoubleClick has Microsoft and AT&T screeching "Monopoly!" to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) Antitrust division. In a video interview with John Batelle at WebProNews last week, Google CEO Eric Schmidt responded to a comment from Batelle about "anti-competitive practices" by reacting in what seemed like mock surprise. "Microsoft! ... AT&T? ... What year is this?"

Google doesn't control advertising online and DoubleClick won't change that. It will simply give Google access to another segment (display, or graphical) advertising that they didn't have direct access to previously. Just as Google's Dmarc acquisition and the recent ClearChannel deal gives them access to radio advertising. If the DOJ denies the DoubleClick purchase, I'd be shocked.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and others are concerned, on a different front, about privacy issues - because Google will now be able to combine their own powerful tracking abilities (surfing and search query data, along with webmaster and advertiser account holder contact information) with the extensive behavioral targeting abilities and ad tracking details of DoubleClick.

Schmidt suggests simply that they'll keep the information in separate silos. Why should anyone believe that? Stephen Colbert popularized a rarely used word - truthiness to suggest that something can feel true, whether it is or not. Truthiness may apply here - as well as another word that suggests that a company and its' principals can have trustiness. They do. Google has earned that trust in several ways. More on that later.

DoubleClick ignited a firestorm of controversy back in 2000 when they announced plans to merge offline data with online surfing behavior data and email and contact information (physical addresses and phone numbers) of surfers who had viewed and/or clicked on their ads across the web. They resolved that issue by selling off the division of the company that held the "real-world" data.

This all got me thinking about why I trust Google with the information that I didn't trust DoubleClick with. What it all comes down to is that Google has so far lived up to their unofficial corporate mantra of "Don't Be Evil." While it takes more to live up to that motto than putting the words on a web page, Google has actually made moves to demonstrate true adherence to the concept.

Last month they announced that they would, after two years, slightly anonymize the IP addresses they currently use to track queries done through their search function. This followed Google's refusal to turn over data for two months of user search query information to the Department of Justice, when the DOJ demanded that data from MSN, Yahoo, AOL and Google. The others relented - Google stood firm and refused - and won in court.

So even though I believe that Google has way too much information on me already, including search history, financial information (through my Google account), web site stats, physical address and contact info, my personal emails (through Gmail account), and so much more - I trust them so far.

So what's to say they won't some day turn on me, and you, and everyone else and use that extensive data they hold on all of us for evil purposes? Their track record so far says so. Schmidt even comments near the end of that Battelle video interview that Google believes in data portability, so that if we should decide for any reason that we no longer want to use Google services and prefer to take our history and data with us, that they are working on technology that would allow us to move that information from Google to anywhere we choose.

This is another example of why I trust Google and why others do too. They have gone far above and beyond what is necessary and reasonable, to what is right. They are also painfully aware of how fragile their business model is, and that continued profits rely on the trust and support of their users - who can and will easily move elsewhere (now with Google's help apparently) if they lose that trust. The entire business would simply implode on itself. Truthiness is, they can't afford to lose that trustiness. And you can quote me on that!

Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Stephen Colbert The Greatest Living American

I spoke with Jonah Stein of Alchemist Media briefly after his presentation on Search and Privacy at Search Engine Strategies in New York last week and he mentioned that he had just seen a taping of the Colbert Report. The buzz is that Colbert would like to rank first for "Giant Brass Balls," according to Stein. So I'm here to do my part. But Stein suggested "Greatest Living American instead. Well, I'll do my part there as well. ;-)

But what about "Truthiness? A word Colbert invented, should rank for the man who created it! So here's to great experiments and a nod to Jonah Stein for initiating it.

"But wait!" You say, "I thought Google made Google bombing a thing of the past?"

Nope, it seems that the best known example - "Miserable Failure for George Bush - popped back to a #2 position briefly when the White House added the following text to the Presidents' page:

The bottom line is this: Congress's failure to fund our troops on the front lines will mean that some of our military families could wait longer for their loved ones to return from the front lines.
It turns out that if you use a word on the page being Google-Bombed, you will rank for it. Way to go President Bush! I'll bet you wish you could be called the "Greatest Living American." Here's how you do it. First, put the words on your own bio page, then use the power of the presidential pulpit to ask that bloggers link to your bio page with the phrase as anchor text. You don't even have to seem egotistical to accomplish this, you could simply say that our troops are the greatest living Americans.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Linking Strategies + Link Baiting - SES NY Day Four

If you click the link under the headline of this post, you'll land on Day 3 of Search Engine Strategies December 6, 2006 held in Chicago. That day included both sessions "Linking Strategies" and "Link Baiting and Viral Marketing Success", just as this current conference in April in New York. Both sessions are marked "Advanced" and suggest that you don't attend if you didn't attend the "Basic Linking" session earlier in the week. Nah. Only rank beginners not likely to attend a high end SES New York conference should need the prior session.

If linking is important to search engine ranking (and of course it is), I would expect SES New York to update and improve on those two linking programs, maybe add a new speaker or two for April 12, 2007. In fact it went backward, with Todd Friesen included on the panel in Chicago last year and dropped off the schedule for 2007, while Eric Ward was included both years and could not attend this year - he was replaced by Jim Boykin - who showed a very old powerpoint from a hosting conference he spoke at in 2005 - Ooops!

Both the Linking Strategies session and the Linkbait sessions played to a full house in August of 2006 in San Jose and again in Chicago and again in New York. Seems the line-up doesn't change, (and when it does, the presentations are old news) so the assumption is that linking doesn't change. Here's the Linking Strategies lineup from New York:

  • Justilien Gaspard, Internet Marketing Consultant, Justilien Internet Marketing Solutions
  • Jim Boykin, CEO, We Build Pages Internet Marketing
  • Greg Boser, President, WebGuerrilla LLC
And here's the Linkbait lineup:
  • Chris Boggs, Search Strategist, Avenue A | Razorfish
  • Rand Fishkin, CEO,
  • Jennifer Laycock, Editor-in-Chief, Search Engine Guide
  • Cameron Olthuis, Partner, Advantage Consulting Services
Shall we expect the same panel in August in San Jose? To be fair to SES and the speakers here, the show guide does show the sessions as "Four Star Rated!" Which means that they have occurred before and that they are wildly popular among those attendees who rank them.

NEW beside a session means exactly what it says, and I wish I had resisted the urge to attend the reheated Linking Strategies and Linkbait sessions in favor of the NEW "Content is King" session early morning and skipping the stale Linkbait (nothing "NEW" available in organic SEO tracks at that time). I think I see why Matt Cutts decided to cut out this time and stay home for a visit with the in-laws.

I'd also like to propose that the reheated sessions from last year be marked with a separate "NEW Material" classification - or maybe "NEW - Material - since - August - last - year - if - you -attended - that - show" designation. Well, I'm sure the shows are sprinkled about the country so that locals can attend, but I traveled for a total of 11 hours by plane to attend (and return home) and I wanted to get more out of this. Yes, I know, it's my fault!

So where are we on the state of linking in 2007? Is there anything new to consider, anything else we should know about? Yes. The most recent development is the soaring popularity of Widget Bait this year. This item was discussed by Cameron Olthius in the Linkbait session briefly when he pointed out thatMyBlogLog was acquired by Yahoo for $10 Million after their widget drove the growth of the company.

As an illustration of how the viral marketing industry circles in on itself, the top ranking results in Google for "MyBlogLog Acquired $10 Million" are Digg and Mashable as I do my background research here.

So here's an idea - Build a great new widget and do fantastically successful viral marketing on blogs or other social spaces, you'll get so many links, you'll gain national media attention, then get purchased by a big company. What? It could happen! Note to self - go to sessions marked "NEW" at next SES.

Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wikipedia SEO: Don't Spam - Contribute

Because Wikipedia entries routinely show up in the top 5 search engine results at Google, some black hat SEO's (and a few clueless beginners) realized the value of a link from the online encyclopedia and began link spamming blatantly. So recently Wikipedia posted the "nofollow" tag to all outbound links, purportedly to stop SEO Spam by reducing the value of those outbound links.

SEO's weren't the only ones to notice the value of Wikipedia entries. Microsoft became the focus of Wikipedia editors wrath when someone at Microsoft attempted to buy some edits to entries unfavorable to Microsoft. That gaff was a PR nightmare for Microsoft and encourages others to attempt underhanded methods of editing articles to favorable from negative or controversial.

Because reputation management is so critical for companies, and because Wikipedia entries can follow right on the tail of company web sites in the search results pages, it has become routine for PR departments, marketing departments and product managers to monitor what is said about their company in Wikipedia. The problem comes when they learn that they can edit entries and just jump in there and do that before becoming valued members of the community - and don't even engage those who are respected community members in conversation through accepted forums and public discussions.

Against this background, Search Engine Strategies offered a session in New York on day 3 of the conference titled, "Wikipedia & SEO" where the decscription was:

This session looks at appropriate ways to interact with the service. It also examines if there's more that can be done to make Wikipedia editors more accepting of marketers and to make marketers more understanding of the Wikipedia community goals.
The key lines there are "appropriate ways to interact" and "understanding ... community goals" because, unlike press releases, marketing campaigns, sales sheets and testimonials, Wikipedia is FACT based and neutral.

So the SES NY session opened with Niel Patel of Advantage Consulting Services, giving examples of how he had tested the limits of spamming at Wikipedia by attempting to link spam under multiple accounts. He said with a grin that his entries were very quickly deleted and he was banned from the community. He continued on that track by explaining to the audience what NOT to do, including:

  • Link building
  • Add biased or sales info
  • Delete accurate info.
Reversing from the negative, Patel then suggested those items that bring value to the community:
  • Don't be a dick
  • Develop a reputation as an editor
  • Add information first, links second
  • Follow the notability rule.
  • Wikis are everywhere - find them and contribute, edit.
Jonathan Hochman of JE Hochman & Associates followed with a stern warning that if you make the Wikipedia "Spam Blacklist" that you are extremely unlikely to ever get off that list, which is universally applied to all wiki's using the system - not just Wikipedia. Hochman also claimed to have many examples of those with Wikipedia links getting more traffic from Wikipedia than from Google searches for their primary keyword phrase and that those clicks convert at a higher rate than searches do.

Don Steele, Director of Digital & Enterprise Marketing, Comedy Central took the mic next and explained how Wikipedia was a top ten referrer for the company, which gets a total of eight million pageviews monthly. Surprisingly, he claimed that Comedy Central was an aggressive SEO and SEM player and that they proactively communicate with the editors and community of Wikipedia because great entries referencing their TV shows could save them $20,000 monthly in PPC costs.

Not surprisingly he briefly mentioned the Colbert Report and South Park as major drivers of traffic through Wikipedia entries, pointing out that often after a show airs, multiple new entries are posted about each of the shows within the hour following broadcasts.

Stephen Spencer of NetConcepts was last and spent the most time proposing that anyone wanting to make edits or contribute articles spend time becoming a valued member of the Wikipedia community by:

  • Developing a profile that proves that you are an upstanding member of the community.
  • Incorporate content edits when adding a link. It makes it harder to revert your edit.
  • Communicate with the main editor of he article before adding an external link that you think is valuable but could be looked at with suspicion and removed.
  • Add substantiation with references.
  • Adding value, rather than just editing a link.
  • Create a new entry by getting social via the talk page, not directly editing the article itself.
  • Maintain activity on your profile at all times to be a contributing member of community.
So we actually end up with the panel saying, Don't Spam, Contribute.
Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Searching for SEO Meaning at MSN Live Search

In the past, I've been critical of MSN for not participating in conferences. Today I'm going to be critical of them because they did participate. Steve Berkowitz, Senior Vice President, Online Services Group for Microsoft, was the keynote for day 2 of SES NY 2007 and it is one of the first keynotes I've regretted attending. I would have rather slept in.

It sounds as though Mr. Berkowitz has drunk the corporate Kool Aid. In his Q&A session with Danny Sullivan this morning at the New York Hilton, he called Microsoft "Amazing" no fewer than 10 times. (Actually he did reserve one of those for Google.)

Now his move from - which he characterized himself as a "rowboat" - to Microsoft - which he calls a "Cruise Ship" by comparison, would no doubt be quite a transition.

To be fair to Berkowitz, I've heard tech industry commentators talk about Microsoft in much the same way - characterizing the people there and the projects they work on as nothing short of magical - but the morass of corporate culture somehow stifles all the smart people and waters down their projects until they are weak and wimpy.

It's interesting that is only a point or two away from in search referrals for many web sites. Even though (as Berkowitz has said) the little rowboat is small, nimble and capable of a change in direction by dipping an oar in the water - MSN Live takes forever to change course - neither has been able to gain significant market share from Google.

Normally I like to quote liberally from keynotes, but that would make this article sound like a puff piece for MSN Live, because Berkowitz had so little to say if it wasn't glowing praise for his employer. He did say repeatedly that great ("amazing") stuff was coming, but wouldn't say what it was.

So all we have to base our expectations and insights on are silly things like Ms. Dewey (who I had heard about but hadn't experienced "live"). She unexpectedly interrupted a Danny Sullivan Question to Steve Berkowitz, stepped up onto the stage in character of Ms. Dewey and continued her act (played by Janina Gavankar) interrupting and answering questions posed by Sullivan.

The little show was clearly planned, Berkowitz had to know about it, but Sullivan seemed a bit bewildered and flustered. The routine made absolutely no sense to me and the audience didn't respond terribly well to it either. I think Ogilvy Advertising should be fired from the Live Search account because this character and the website is absurd.

For those who haven't experienced it, Ms. Dewey answers questions after you type something in a search box. It is usually something cryptic that might apply to nearly any question, and there are 600 short film clips which make up her store of responses to questions.

The algorithm for that must have taken some engineers far too long, even though it doesn't work terribly well. Then after the odd (sometimes ascerbic) answer from Ms. Dewey, you get a group of three search results on the right side of the screen. If you hover your mouse over the bottom of the third result, then more results scroll upward. These are clearly results but scrolling isn't obvious and only three answers to your question?

I don't get it - who wants to wait 5 - 10 seconds for that flash movie to load, then wait 10 - 20 seconds more for the response to load (Ms. Dewey is thinking...), then wait for three results where it isn't clear there are more?

Further, there is a "Best of Dewey" button - which is reminiscent of "I'm Feeling Lucky" so I typed a question in the search box and clicked "Best of Dewey" waited 10 seconds and got my query replaced by something I didn't type. OK, I get it, most popular clips - but they're not good enough to justify that 10 to 15 second wait for a new clip each time you click the "best of" button.

So after sitting through the keynote, I'm not sure what I came away with, other than a page and a half of notes I can't easily assemble into an article. So to prove I was there and show how little of substance was discussed, here's a small chunk of my notes as an example.

Depth of engagement with users. Yahoo cross-network traffic. Search better integrated into MSN in a much cleaner way. Advantages of Microsoft is it's reach. Data center perspective. Storage perspective. We're moving everything from the desktop to the cloud. Microsoft has some amazing stuff going on... Great resources. Licensing business. subscription business.
I'm bewildered by Ms. Dewey, I'm confused by how Microsoft can be so "amazing" and still not produce a substantial and competitive search product, I'm left wondering where Steve Berkowitz is leading Live Search and I am utterly at a loss for what to say about except maybe to ask, "Where's the search referral traffic?"
Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

In-House Big SEO: Organize, Analyze, Educate, Execute, Track

Search engine optimization has been slowly working it's way from the back alley bad boys optimizing for pills and porn - to members of the corporate boardrooms of major companies optimizing for pageviews, subscriptions and ecommerce. Legitimate SEO has been recognized as an important contributor to the bottom line of major web properties. As SEO has gained respectability, it has been introduced to CEO's, CMO's and importantly - CFO's.

Now that large companies are spending literally millions of dollars a year on paid search marketing campaigns, they are coming around to understand the value of using SEO to make sites search friendly in order to bring increased search rankings and produce (essentially) free search referral traffic in addition to that paid traffic. While both PPC and SEO remain important parts of the search marketing mix, both bring differing results to the intangibles of branding and visibility as well as the more measurable ecommerce sales, subscriptions and pageviews.

The earliest session of day one of Search Engine Strategies New York was dedicated to In-House Big SEO, when session moderator Jeffrey K. Rohrs of Optiem, opened the panel by introducing Bill Hunt of Global Strategies, Inc. consultancy (acquired in March by Ogilvy Digital).

Hunt suggested "integration into the organization ... of internal protocols & best practices guidelines" and "integration of processes into the web development workflow." Sounds like that comes right out of a policy manual - and in fact it does - one that Hunt recommends all corporate SEO's create and make available via their own in-house wiki or SEO knowledge base, housed on the corporate intranet.

In order to get management buy-in to increasing engineering resources and budgets for the IT department, he recommended what he called "missed opportunity matrix" charts, graphs and forecasts of potential web traffic as it converts to the hard data of sales to show management what they are leaving on the table. Since traffic and conversion data is readily accessible, it should be mined and organized to show potentially increasing numbers of visitors converting to buyers or higher ad sales.

Hunt suggests that corporate SEO's "measure everything and show the results." Then use the resulting increases in traffic and sales to "sell the success" to the web development team, PR, Marketing, and advertising departments.

Hunt was followed by Marshall Simmonds of Define Search Strategies and the New York Times Company. Simmonds is responsible for the optimization of an estimated 11-15 million documents online from the Times, and other Primedia properties to TV Guide online.

Simmonds pointed out the obvious barriers of what he called "corporate ego" and resistance to change and then asked the audience, "Is anyone here at war with their IT deparment?" He suggested that it isn't necessary to fight with in-house developers and offered five key elements of corporate SEO success: "Organize, Analyze, Educate, Execute, Track." Those five bullet points could be easily find a cozy home within any corporate structure, but here they are intended to get a job done where many are resistant to SEO.

Simmonds emphasized the importance of in-house SEO training sessions to educate staff on the value and intricacies of increased search rankings. He claims he averages a training a month and believes it is a central part of an SEO's job to offer these educational sessions to more than just the engineering team, but also to the stakeholders on the technical staff, design teams, PR office and editorial producers who all manage touchpoints for elements of the company related to search.

Simmonds finished with a rather unusual angle, suggesting that "Metrics save jobs." He suggests that there will be inevitable seasonality to search and the resulting traffic will fluctuate, based on audience demographics, holidays and the school year and their individual leveling off and decreases in web traffic. Pointing out to management that those variations, peaks and valleys in the traffic graphs are expected and follow historical trends can prevent the blame being laid at the feet of anyone responsible for ongoing success of a web property. (Sounds a bit like an auto-biographical experience not fully explained.)

Two remaining members of the panel echoed the points made by Hunt and Simmonds. They had little additional prepared to say and allowed much of their time to be dedicated to the Q&A session.Tanya Vaughan HP, Global Strategist suggested that the role of an SEO is to "influence & evangelize through consulting & education." Brendan Hart Director of Customer Acquisition for National Geographic Digital Group recommends that we "demystify SEO through analytics and the top ten KPI's."

And with that, I took my own corporate acronyms and attended a previously scheduled meeting, missing the Q&A session in favor of executing on those Simmonds bullet points -

  • Organize
  • Analyze
  • Educate
  • Execute
  • Track
with a key department in our New York parent corporate office.
Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.

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View from my New York hotel

Search Engine Strategies New York day 1 complete. Look for report to follow here on two sessions tonight.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Marry Me Google! Is it True Love or Commitment?

I've decided to take the plunge and ask Google to marry me. If we ever divorce it will be very painful to extract myself from all the connnections and tie-ins and find replacement services and tools. I know, I know - most will say I'm doing it for the money. I can't deny that the Adsense check every month is nice, but it's not just the money that has me head over heals in love. It's being connected on a deep soul satisfying level.

Webmaster Central shares nearly everything about my web sites with me. It's great to be able to tell the world whatever is on my mind through blogger, and amazing to be able to share photos over my mobile phone to the blog. I can't believe how wonderful it is to search things that are important to me with my multiple Google Custom Search Engines (1) (2) (3). I absolutely love the branded site-search to help me keep my own sites in order and help my visitors find everything they need without leaving my sites. I could never live without that searchable gmail that reminds me all the ways we're connected - and what about that toolbar that shares details about every site I visit?

When did I realize I was hopelessly in love? When a friend convinced me that I should post my photos to (Yahoo owned) Flickr and I immediately wondered if (Google owned) Picasa offered the same type of service. (Not the same, but similar.)

How did we reach this point in our relationship? What makes me so loyal and devoted? Let's start way back in early 2000 when I saw a post at some forum or other asking "What is your Favorite Search Engine?" and at that point, I didn't actually have a favorite - but at least I knew there were lots of choices. So I immediately did a series of searches at Yahoo, Fast, AllTheWeb, AltaVista and a newcomer that had just caught my eye in the past week called Google.

Wow, I was charmed immediately by the speed of the results page! And check out those clean lines, no advertising and not a banner ad to be seen. A search box and a funny "I'm Feeling Lucky!" button that I tried and got great results! I loved the simplicity, speed and that "Feeling Lucky" sense of humor.

That quirky "Do No Evil" mantra made me a believer. I really like it, Yes, I think I'm falling for Google! Yes, I believe this actually could become my favorite search engine!

I could go on forever about all the ways I love Google, but the metaphor is already stretched thin. Let's talk about this in a dispassionate way without metaphorical references.

Right up front I'll say that the biggest reason I'm attatched to Google is that, as an SEO, I see between 50% to 80% of search referrals come from Google - so until the others get their numbers above the measley 10% to 25% or search referral traffic, I simply won't care so much about them as I do for Google. When you optimize for Google, the others come straggling along as well. But on the personal side, it's a different thing. I think they just do most things better than the competition. Clearly, nobody says I'm going to MSN Live it" or "Go Yahoo it". Nope, "Google It" means search it.

I'm a Mac guy, so there are reasons to both hate, and to love Google. I use a Windows PC at work and routinely use all the functionality that is supported by Google on that platform. But at home on the Apple machine, I get an annoying message in Safari browser when I go to Google Spreadsheets and Docs. It says, "Your browser is not supported" when I want to open a Word document sent to me by email. I CAN'T OPEN IT on my mac without Google Spreadsheets and Docs because I don't use Microsoft Word on the Mac.

OK, I can open Firefox for Mac and access Google Spreadsheets and Docs, so I do that. But Google has been ignoring us until lately, when we got Google Earth a year or so ago, and just this week were given Google Desktop Search! That Google Mac Blog is a welcome sight as well.

Even though Picasa photo app is not Mac Friendly, we don't really need that because iPhoto is better anyway, if not quite as web friendly and fast. But now PicasaWeb works from inside iPhoto to upload photos! Cool.

So as the announcement came that Google had released MyMaps this week, and Danny Sullivan pointed out in the Daily Searchcast that Yahoo and MSN already offer the same feature and have for some time now - I realized that I was committed. I'm already married to Google! I no longer want to check out the competition in many cases.

If Yahoo or MSN release a new service, I usually go give it a try. Most often I'm underwhelmed or it just isn't as good as the comparable Google tool. This happened to me with Yahoo maps and early versions didn't have Google Maps Satellite views, didn't have that cool drag to move function and simply couldn't find many addresses I entered. I gave up and have used Google Maps ever since.

Recently I saw a co-worker using Yahoo maps and all that functionality was now there, plus a few additional features Google Maps doesn't offer. (Warning, metaphors approaching) I strayed and started seeing Yahoo again.

Then a few weeks back when Yahoo / Overture suddently dropped the public keyword research tool and that made news, I started to look around for sexier tools and went out a few times with MSN Labs keyword research tools - Wow! That's a hot service!

But I feel disloyal. I want my dear Google to have a better keyword research tool.

It's too late - I realize that Google's got me. I know it's irrational, but my heart already belongs to Google. Will You Marry Me Google? I'm completely committed metaphorically, but maybe I should be committed, literally.

Mike Valentine is an SEO Specialist offering occassional commentary on Search Engine Developments through his Reality SEO Blog and developed WebSite101 Small Business Ecommerce Tutorial in 1999 to help educate the little guy to the intricacies of online business.

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View from my LA hotel balcony

In Los Angeles on SEO business. I can't wait to use this feature next week from New York Search Engine Strategies show. Photo blogging SES NY.