Search Vendors and SEO: None Is a Home Run Super Star

July 16, 2014

One of the ArnoldIT team located a link to a Web site analytic service called SavedWebHistory.org. From the site, it is possible to enter a url and get some information, mostly without context, about a domain. Some of the numbers are confusing. I plugged in a number of enterprise search vendors’ domain names to see what the SavedWebHistory.org system would report. I have reproduced a table containing the field names and the values for Autonomy, BA Insight, Coveo, Endeca, Funnelback, Mindbreeze, Recommind, Smartlogic, and SurfRay. This list includes some well known companies like Autonomy and Endeca and some companies with average visibility. I also included some lesser known search vendors. The idea was to generate a comparative table with data points pertinent to some of the companies I follow.

You can work through the table or run your own reports. Several points jumped out at me:

  1. In terms of search engine optimization, Autonomy appears to have its paws on more key words than any of the other vendors in my test sample
  2. Three vendors have little Alexa presence according to the data; namely, BA Insight, Endeca, and SurfRay. I find that Endeca’s zero score an anomaly. I am not surprised at the inclusion of BA Insight and SurfRay.
  3. Funnelback has more educational backlinks and governmental backlinks than any other vendor in this sample. Perhaps Funnelback is aggressively pursuing these markets or the Australian government is linking aggressively to Funnelback? Funnelback is also the leader in page views, according to the report for this sample.
  4. The all important Google PageRank score gives Autonomy a seven rating. The vendor with the lowest PageRank score is SurfRay, a vendor that has an interesting financial and business history. Most search vendors achieve a respectable PageRank score of five. Two legal centric search systems garner a PageRank of six. Lawyers seem to have a gift of lingo approximating that of Autonomy.

I have a frozen Web site at www.arnoldit.com. The score for this site is comparable to the average search engine vendor in traffic and PageRank. I am not sure how valuable these SEO-centric reports are, but if you are a coming looking for sales leads, it might be easier to buy Google AdWords than to try to figure out how to reach today’s Web surfer.

 

Autonomy BA Insight Coveo Endeca Funnelback Mindbreeze Recommind Smartlogic SurfRay X1
Key Words in SERPs 1056 0 201 0 143 41 76 126 62 355
Google PR 7 5 5 6 6 5 6 5 4 6
Yandex CY 150 10 10 10 10 0 10 40 10 20
Google indexed 10.3 0 12.5 5.44 4.18 507 1.8 13.1 918 9.75
Quantcast rank 37.362 0 0 0 104.859 0 706.805 0 0 625.031
Alexa Rank 141.452 0% 557.525 0 349.195 440.065 600.586 449.451 0 444.193
Alexa Traff:Search % 35.50% 0 26.30% 20.90% 0.30% 0.80% 18.70% 32.90% 16.70% 9.80%
Alexa Traff:TimeOnSite 144 sec 59 sec 129 sec 223 sec 69 sec 216 sec 132 sec 194 sec 41 sec 163 sec
Alexa Traff:Bounce 57.90% 0% 64.60% 40.10% 62.80% 42.70% 52% 63.40% 61.10% 43.90%
Alexa Traff:PageV/User 2.4 1.7 1.8 3.9 4.9 2.3 220.00% 3.3 1.3 2.5
External BackLinks 102.66 11.991 34.022 43.486 1.212.796 4.037 28.666 5.277 4.28 25.913
Referring Domains 5.186 267 893 1.45 545 302 919 461 241 2.17
Indexed URLs 9.38 1.625 42.736 2.207 78.497 7.517 6.945 159.279 14.606 52.694
Referring IP addresses 3.832 238 678 1.245 481 224 718 339 204 1.887
Referring SubNets 3.298 230 613 1.127 446 201 651 315 186 1.647
Referring .edu Domains 122 1 6 32 21 2 6 3 0 15
.edu Backlinks 215 437 88 87 703.051 3 14 11 0 146
Referring .gov Domains 5 0 1 1 29 0 0 1 0 3
.gov Backlinks 19 0 10 3 23.209 0 0 1 0 16
Referring .edu Domains to main 47 0 5 24 4 1 5 1 0 6
.edu Backlinks to main 86 0 35 68 6 2 11 1 0 9
Referring .gov Domains to main 3 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 1
.gov Backlinks to main 15 0 0 3 2 0 0 0 0 4

Stephen E Arnold, July 16, 2014

TopSEOs: Relevance, Precision or Visibility?

May 22, 2014

I have a couple of alerts running for the phrase “enterprise search.” The information gathered is not particularly useful. Potentially interesting items like the rather amazing “Future of Search” are not snagged by either Google or Yahoo (Bing). I have noticed a surprising number of alerts about a company doing business as TopSEOS.com. The url is often presented as www.topseos.co.uk and there may be other variants.

Here’s a typical hit in a Google alert. This one appeared on May 22, 2014:

topseos

The link leads to a “story” in DigitalJournal.com. a “global media network.” The site is notable because it combines a wide range o f topics, tweets, links, categories, and ads. If you want to more about the service, you can read the about page and get precious little information about this Canadian company. This site appears to be a typical news aggregation service. The “story” is a news release distributed by Google-friendly PRWeb, located in San Francisco.

What is the TopSEOs’ story that appeared as an alert this morning?

The story is a news release about an independent team that evaluates search engine optimization companies. Here’s how the story in my alert looked to me on May 22, 2014:

topselos story

Several things jumped out at me about the story. First, it lacks substance. The key point is that TopSEOS.co.uk “analyzes market and industry trends in order to remain information of the most important developments which affect the performance of competing companies.” I am not sure exactly what this means, but it sounds sort of important. The link to www.topseos.co.uk redirects to www.uk-topseos.com/rankings-of-best-seo-companies:

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The Remarkable SEO Success of RetailMeNot

May 6, 2014

For a case study on the leveraging SEO (search engine optimization) success, turn to Priceonomics‘ post, “The SEO Dominance of RetailMeNot.” Priceonomics is in the business of analyzing the SEO effectiveness of publicly traded companies for its hedge fund clients. Writer Rohin Dhar makes clear this look at one success story is meant to showcase his firm’s work.

RetailMeNot is a digital coupon site that employs a number of tricks to capture a striking amount of shopping traffic. Note that this write-up is not about how the company achieved its unusual click-through success; Dhar admits he has no idea. Rather it explains the steps one company is taking to make the most from that market dominance. Our main question, though, remains unanswered—what do such steps mean for relevance and objectivity of a searcher’s results? After all, other shopping and promotions sites might decide to copy RetailMeNot’s formula.

A theme that caught my eye is the warning Dhar includes about the shifting fortunes of those who hitch their wagons to Google’s search algorithms. He writes:

“Given Google’s dominance in search, conquering its results page can be incredibly lucrative. But in RetailMeNot’s case, it’s also a lot of eggs in one basket. A shift in the Google search algorithm could cause the entire company to collapse. Traffic would plummet, leading to declining revenues and a flailing stock price.”

Later, the article concludes:

“But SEO is both RetailMeNot’s major strength and its achilles heel. There might not even be a precedent for a company dominating monetizable keywords so thoroughly for an extended period of time. At some point, Google will change the rules, RetailMeNot will trip up, or competitors will catch up. It’s not really a matter of if Google pulls the rug out from under you, it’s a matter of when.”

Will RetailMeNot and similar sites be able to adopt an agile stance, one that will allow them to stay on their feet when that proverbial rug is pulled?

Cynthia Murrell, May 06, 2014

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

SEO Is Pure Silliness

April 29, 2014

People are trying to get to the top of search results lists, especially Google’s. They use SEO, tags, and other ways to reach the top. They are even SEO gurus who give tips on best practices. One of them is Matt Cutts of The Short Cutts Web site. It is described as:

“Since early 2009 Google’s Matt Cutts has recorded a superhuman number of videos to help struggling site owners understand their site in search. While the videos are great, sometimes the guy just needs to get to the point. With that in mind we’ve done the hard work and watched every Matt Cutts video to pull out simple, concise versions of his answers: The Short Cutts!”

Cutts has posted a lot of videos that answer people’s questions about search, how to use SEO, and other Web site tips. He is very concise and to the point and has his video arranged by topic. Cutts also has several ebooks that describe ways to increase a Web site’s performance and how to do digital marketing.

Cutts has good advice, but he leaves out a whopper of truth. Buy Adwords. It skips the SEO silliness. His information only helps SEO, until Google changes again and again. One quick shortcut is to buy Adwords.

Whitney Grace, April 29, 2014
Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Content Management: A $12 Billion Market in 2019!

April 8, 2014

Now I enjoy crazy numbers. I recall that someone at Yahoo allegedly said to a New York Times reporter:

Yahoo estimates that it would cost $300 million to build a search service from scratch. [See New York Times, July 10, 2008, page C5) My story about this estimate is at http://wp.me/pf6p2-e9.]

Crazy number. Three hundred million would not buy a Web search system in 2008. Today it may cover the cost of jet fuel for Google’s fleet of airplanes.

But crazy numbers get traction and create “real news.”

I read “Enterprise Content Management Market worth $12.32 Billion by 2019.” Now that is an interesting estimate. The calculation surprised me for three reasons:

  1. The outfit promulgating the good “news” is selling a report, presumably to those in the content management sector who need reassurance.
  2. There was no mention of WordPress- and SquareSpace-type outfits, which seem to be moving ahead of the pack of name brand vendors.
  3. The assumption that I actually know what content management or CMS means.

Like search, the CMS vendors have been looking for a way to become more relevant. The implementations of Broadvision, Documentum, Interwoven, Vignette, and other well known CMS systems have had some successes and failures.

The “real” news about this report mentions some aspects of CMS that are similar to the scope creep visible in enterprise search. Here are some examples of what CMS embraces:

enterprise document management, enterprise document imaging and capture, enterprise web content management, enterprise records management, enterprise document collaboration, enterprise digital rights management, content analytics, rich media management, advanced case management, enterprise document output management, enterprise workflow management, and other solutions; by type of emerging applications: social content management, mobile content management, big data management, and cloud content management; by type of deployments: hosted and on-premises; by verticals: academia and education, banking, financial services and insurance (BFSI), consumer goods and retail, energy and power, government and defense, life science and healthcare, manufacturing, media and entertainment, telecom and IT, transportation, tourism, and hospitality, and other verticals; and by regions: North America (NA), Asia Pacific including Japan (APAC), Europe (EU), Middle East and Africa (MEA), and Latin America (LA).

This list is not helpful to me. I think the collection of jargon, buzzwords, and impressive sounding concepts is designed for Web indexing systems and to give a marginalized type of software some strap on muscles.

If information about the magnitude of the CMS market requires this type of verbal legerdemain, how credible is the report, the estimate, and maybe content management itself?

My personal view is that the buzzword content management, like knowledge management, is tough to define and may ultimately lack relevance in today’s business environment. The notion that a specious estimate adds value to those laboring in the CMS sector is amusing. The puffery, apologias, and jargon generated by those trying to sell systems that “manage” content causes me to chortle. Estimates of the volume of Big Data seem to fly in the face of “content management.” Even Google’s robots are struggling to keep pace with content proliferation based on my test queries.

At a time when organizations struggle to figure out what information is in their possession, CMS seems to have failed in its “mission”: Managing content.

CMS’ weakness is the notion of management itself. Since “management” is tough to define, content management sounds like a discipline cooked up by MBA hopefuls in an innovation study group.

Stephen E Arnold, April 7, 2014

Demand Media and the Decline of the Content Farm

December 19, 2013

An article in Variety, “Epic Fail: the Rise and Fall of Demand Media” can be read as a cautionary tale for the search engine optimization and content marketing crowd. Just a few short years ago, the newly-public, five-year-old company out of Santa Monica saw its market capitalization top $2 billion. Now, however, writer Andrew Wallenstein contrasts that success with the company’s status today. Demand Media is now worth about a quarter of its peak value, and was forced into several rounds of layoffs this year.

The company is prudently turning its focus to its successful side—domain registrations—and Wallenstein predicts the media side will soon be sold off or taken private. What went wrong? Well, we’ve always maintained that a building a business, nay an industry, around gaming Google‘s search engine was just asking for trouble.

The article recalls:

“Early on, Demand used [its domain-name registration service's] 1 million generic domain names (such as ’3dblurayplayers.com’) to serve up relevant ads to people searching for specific topics. These ‘domain parking’ pages were immensely profitable, generating north of $100,000 per day, according to a former Demand exec who requested anonymity. ‘That’s $35 million-$40 million per year without doing any work,’ the exec said.

But the tactic was fundamentally a bait-and-switch. Users landed on the pages expecting to find information on a subject and instead found an ad. To try to drive up traffic, Demand shifted its strategy, populating the sites with thematically related content….

Demand then continued to build out the content-farm strategy, treating the domain-name registration business as largely separate from the content-production arm. Paying contributors comparatively little — usually less than $20 for a single article or video — it built up a stockpile of content against which it sold targeted advertising.”

This tactic (responsible for much of the useless content populating the Web) exploded and was adopted by copy-cats. Since then, however, both users and Google’s algorithm have wised up, making content farms much less profitable. On the bright side, this means less incentive to fill websites with baloney. Hooray!

Cynthia Murrell, December 19, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Vocus Hits the Big Time: The New York Times That Is

November 25, 2013

Who cares about news releases? Apparently quite a few folks do. I read “Swatting at a Swarm of Public Relations Spam.” I thought the write up was interesting, but it seemed short on facts. Here’s the key passage in my opinion:

Woo-hoo.

I liked this part. Also interesting was this passage:

But this one step seemed insufficient. P.R. spam is fed by companies that hire P.R. companies that pay database companies like Vocus, or their handful of competitors. So if you want to focus on root causes, you must ask: Why would any company spend money to blanket reporters with email they didn’t ask for and almost surely don’t want?

We have tested one of the Vocus systems and discovered some interesting factoids. Keep in mind that your mileage may vary:

ITEM. I did a story for Citizentekk.com based on my research for an uptown investment back. We submitted a short news release to PR Web, a Vocus “property.” The publicity professional I use reported that PR Web told her that I was not a recognized authority to PR Web. Furthermore, the information about Google’s investments in synthetic biology were not known so the news release would not be distributed. I found this interesting because the investment bank who commissioned the initial research published a report and the Citizentekk story generated some buzz and follow on commentary.

http://www.cdc.gov/foodsafety/images/risky-food-200px.gif

Is PR spam a food? Image source: http://goo.gl/kSKJEZ

ITEM. One of the editors for the Search Wizards Speak series of interviews tracked down the co founder of Silobreaker. This is an intelligence oriented online system that has a very strong following among the police and intelligence services in the European Community. We were told that my publicity person had to verify who she was and then provide two phone numbers for me and a valid email address. This was after PR Web had my Visa card and the short news release highlighting two key points in the interview.,

ITEM: Vocus pays its president $5 million per year. (Source: Hoover’s Company Records). At the same time, the October 23, 2013 quarterly financial results reported declining revenue ($45.217 millio0n against $46.615 million a year earlier). The net loss was $3.85 million against a net loss of 3.851 a year earlier. (You will need a subscription to Reportlinker to view other details or you can dig out the numbers at http://goo.gl/VeAH6g)

ITEM: Vocus is involved in a legal matter with an outfit called BWP Media USA doing business as Pacific Coast News. I am no attorney so the matter may be without merit. The dispute seems to involve copyright violations. Source: US District Court, Maryland, Case 8:13-cv-03322-RWT. I would reproduce the image attached to the legal document I saw but I found it unsettling.

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Attensity Backtracks To SEO

November 21, 2013

While SEO is a game changer for companies in Internet searches, it is not as big of a major player as it used to be. The SEO Journal highlighted, “Attensity, Amdocs, TOA Technologies Provide A Glimpse Into The Future Through A Catalyst Demonstration At Tm Forum’s Digital Disruption 2013” and that came as a big surprise. Attensity is a respected and recognizable name, so why are they publicizing themselves in the SEO arena? Is the company struggling to brand its identity?

Anyway, Attensity was one of ten companies that collaborated on a demonstration to show the lifecycle of digital services from design to making a profit. There is a spiel about how it is important to understand a client’s needs and that big data analytics are part of that understanding process. The demonstration did point out that people who only use Twitter and Facebook to communicate with providers makes it hard to track data. Attensity has a product called Attensity Respond to translate social media data.

The article states:

“The Catalyst team demonstrated a new solution showing how to proactively monitor, detect and interpret technical device, data and network experience issues and drive effective issue resolution while also monetizing the collected data to drive smart cross/up sell across channels. The team followed the industry standards developed by TM Forum enhancing the Customer Experience Lifecycle Model.”

Attensity did show off a usable product, but the concentration of SEO is still bothering us. Does this relate to a bigger change that is on the horizon? If this is the case, it is a troubling idea.

Whitney Grace, November 21, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

Primer That Leads to Adwords

November 7, 2013

If you are into search engine optimization, you will need this Google publication: Google Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. Useful for those whose jobs depend on traffic. There are some challenges in getting SEO centric traffic. My observation is that following the Starter Guide is a bit of a detour. Just buy  Adwords. That’s the future of traffic, gentle reader.

Stephen E Arnold, November 7, 2013

Tips in the SEO Struggle against the Hummingbird

October 24, 2013

Hummingbird, the latest iteration in Google’s continuing quest to improve its search-engine results, has the SEO crowd concerned. Everything PR offers these folks some advice in, “What Content Strategies Work for Google Hummingbird SEO.” SEO professionals, who have built their careers by exploiting vulnerabilities in a service that is being constantly updated, can be tenacious. The article points out that, with Hummingbird, Google is now keeping back what used to be one of SEO’s primary tools, the keyword:

“Although keyword data is no longer provided, it doesn’t mean that Google stopped using keywords as a signal for its algorithm – it just means that you don’t know about it. You cannot know which keywords perform, how customers find you in search… Creating content seems an impossible guess work, that may, or may not lead anywhere.

“In fact, things are not that complicated. As always, instead of focusing on general keywords, focus on the ‘long tail.’ Optimize for the most relevant phrases likely to be used by searchers to find information. Hummingbird seems a bit more intelligent than Google’s previous algorithm, allowing the search engine to parse full questions (as opposed to parsing searches word-by-word).”

The write-up explains that Google’s changes are in pursuit of a more conversation-like interface, and recommends making one’s content “conversation-worthy.” Here’s a thought—perhaps content written to communicate ideas and information is naturally more conversational than content crafted as a search-results ploy.

Cynthia Murrell, October 24, 2013

Sponsored by ArnoldIT.com, developer of Augmentext

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