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Number One on Google: A Darned Amazing Sales Push

October 4, 2013

It is five pm eastern time. I am still trying to figure out who called me from 916 219 9230 and made a startling assertion even for an under employed Sacramento outfit.

Our system can deliver a number one position for your company on a Google results list.

My understanding is that Google uses a number of factors to determine what displays in response to a user’s query. Google personalizes results using a user’s search history. Google crunches hundreds of factors to determine relevancy. Google may, according to some disbelievers, consider advertisers and their advertisements.

Now I get a telemarketing call promising me,, a number one ranking. I needed only to press one on my telephone keypad.

Well, I pressed one and was connected to a telemarketer who refused to answer my questions about the relationship of the company making this pitch and Google. When I asked which Google office was working with the firm calling me, the young man said, “Do you even know where Google is located?”

I probed on the method and the telemarketer promptly disconnected me.

Several observations:

  1. SEO folks must be struggling to get work. Calling me in rural Kentucky is probably not going to result in a sale. I don’t care about traffic, and I don’t care about SEO.
  2. If Google is involved, which the caller hinted was true, has the automated advertising system failed to keep the ad revenue flowing. The premise of the ad system is that a human does not get involved unless the advertiser makes a goof with the product advertised or with the language used in the ad. The human system does not get exercised too strenuously if the reports about Google’s approach to certain types of products is indeed accurate. But telemarketing? That’s interesting.
  3. Perhaps the positive economic news flooding from CNBC and similar sources is not 100 percent accurate.Telemarketing reminds me of the Popeil Pocket Fisherman and fly-by-night window companies trying to get 70 year olds like me to buy a storm door after a no cost, no obligation assessment.

I wanted to document my first SEO telemarketing call. Maybe this is a trend? Maybe it is a new way to boost online advertising? Maybe it is an easy way for scam artists to hide behind a phone number like 916 219 9230.

I enjoyed the call. I like it when telemarketers get frustrated with me and hang up. Desperation from telemarketers sounds like failure.

Stephen E Arnold, October 4, 2013

Struggle Continues Between Google and SEO Field

September 19, 2013

ZDNet has caught our attention with the provocative headline, “Did Google Just Kill PR Agencies?” Alas, we doubt that anyone can “kill” PR. However, Google’s new link and keyword rules do limit some of the tools in the public-relations toolkit. Specifically, anything Google views as outright PageRank manipulation will be considered part of a “link scheme,” and a violation of their Webmaster Guidelines. The PageRank police seem particularly concerned about those who seed pages with irrelevant links and optimized anchor text.

Writer Tom Foremski cries foul. He expects that, for example, press releases that repeat the use of an important word will be penalized for keyword stuffing. He also takes issue with the prohibition against links within anchor text distributed to multiple sites, since pushing press releases and other promotional content to a range of sites is a common practice. In short, the industry is being punished for methods that have become routine. Foremski summarizes:

PR agencies face three big problems:

– Their current and former clients could become very upset with them because of perfectly acceptable prior PR practices designed to promote their business — instead of the viral, organic growth based on happy customers, which is what Google now wants to see.

– PR agencies could be held liable for the damage they caused to the online reputation of client businesses through the execution of normal practices. It could lead to legal action and compensation claims on millions of dollars in lost sales.

– PR agencies have to wake up to the fact that Google is now their competitor. How do they promote a client when Google punishes any form of paid online promotion? Good luck with that one.

Sigh. I’m sorry, but from here this all feels very American MBA-ish. Will PR companies really throw in the towel in the face of this evolving challenge? Somehow, I think they will find ways to adapt. In fact, they will most likely devise methods even more intrusive than those Google is working to banish. So, no worries.

Cynthia Murrell, September 19, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Boom Coming in SEO Opportunities

September 14, 2013

I know that relevance, precision, recall, and the other oddments of information retrieval are toast. With certain European academics pumping “good enough” search, the future of findability looks less than sunny.

There is a bright side I suppose. I read “Report Suggests Nearly Half of US Jobs Are Vulnerable to Computerization.” The idea is that software and gizmos will allow people unprecedented free time to practice high value crafts.

Here’s the passage I noticed:

The authors [Oxford researchers] believe this takeover will happen in two stages. First, computers will start replacing people in especially vulnerable fields like transportation/logistics, production labor, and administrative support. Jobs in services, sales, and construction may also be lost in this first stage. Then, the rate of replacement will slow down due to bottlenecks in harder-to-automate fields such engineering. This “technological plateau” will be followed by a second wave of computerization, dependent upon the development of good artificial intelligence. This could next put jobs in management, science and engineering, and the arts at risk.

My take on this is that the search engine optimization industry may be a good place to offer one’s expertise as a “thought leader.” SEO work may be as gratifying as working at a fast food joint. It may also be easier and pay more. A back up to consider is content management consulting. That’s a sector where success is elusive and tomfoolery not unknown.

Stephen E Arnold, September 14, 2013

Search Engine Optimization and the Google Search Rewrite

August 4, 2013

I read an amazing article called “In Mastering Machine Intelligence, Google Rewrites Search Engine Rules.” For a person who takes a casual interest in Google, the write up appears to be “about” artificial intelligence and search engine optimization or SEO.

For a Google watchers, the article contains a number of gem-like assertions and a couple of factoids that warrant discussion.

First, let’s look at the gem-like assertions.

Artificial intelligence. The article highlights the Google[x] Labs’ self-driving vehicle. This is a project nominally under the direction of the person who created an online learning system. The idea is that a self-driving vehicle demonstrates prowess in “artificial intelligence,” a term which is not defined. Another example is Google’s voice-to-text capability. The article emphasizes “artificial intelligence.” In my work, the performance of Google’s voice-to-text is more dependent on knowledgebases and brute force methods than “artificial intelligence.” The third example is embedded in this passage:

Google has finally started to figure out how to stop bad actors from gaming its crown jewel – the Google search engine. We say finally because it’s something Google has always talked about, but, until recently, has never actually been able to do.

The idea combines “artificial intelligence” with figuring out how search results have been shaped by search engine optimization experts. The idea behind SEO is that when a user enters a query, the search system displays the link to the Web page that the SEO expert is boosting. Relevance to the user? Well, maybe not so much. The result is that “relevance” is not longer precision and recall. Relevance is what I interpret as a spoof, a trick, or a cheat.

And what about SEO? Forget that I think SEO is a stepping stone to buying online advertising or paying money to appear in a results list. A more subtle version of this is the filtering that some news release vendors do to ensure that nothing enters the stream which is negative to a certain gatekeeper. Each of these actions contributes to distortion of search results. Users may get information which is incomplete or presented to advance a specific agenda such as the SEO expert’s client.

Here’s what the article says about SEO:

Google chasing down and excluding content from bad actors is a huge opportunity for web content creators. Creating great content and working with SEO professionals from inception through maintenance can produce amazing results. Some of our sites have even doubled in Google traffic over the past 12 months. So don’t think of Google’s changes as another offensive in the ongoing SEO battles. If played correctly, everyone will be better off now.

What’s between the examples of Google’s “artificial intelligence” and the blunt “factoid” that SEO is really important?

The answer is a series of tips about content. The idea is that a Web site which must render correctly on any device has to contain certain characteristics or features. I don’t want to repeat what’s in the source article, but I can flag three points that I found interesting:

  1. Keep sites simple. The author’s phrase is “clean, well-structured site architecture.” Now how many legacy sites are “clear and well structured”? In my experience, exactly zero. Legacy sites are everywhere. Anyone who has tried to reengineer a legacy site knows that the work required is like plastic surgery on an unattractive person — expensive and almost certain to disappoint. Talk is easy. Remediating a legacy site is something that few organizations in today’s financial environment embrace eagerly.
  2. Content: interesting, open, and original. Who creates knowingly uninteresting, closed, and imitative content? My thought is that SEO experts, marketing managers who do not know what makes content sing or just stand without stumbling, and folks who think they are a combination of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jane Austen. Remember college freshman English? Remember how many students cranked out disappointing essays week after week? Are those folks doing Web content? Some are.
  3. Markup. Yep, the glory of unstructured content sucks up processing cycles. The future belongs to tagged content which conforms to the guidelines promulgated by some large, irritable gorillas. Author tag? Insert it, now. Follow the rules or the “artificial intelligence” will give you a lower grade just like that college teacher grading those English 101 personal experience essays.

My reaction to this article is positive. Here’s why:

First, the summary of the problems with Google’s Web search system are clearly articulated. The author of the article has first hand experience dealing with queries that generate results which are surprising or unexpected.

Second, the article illustrates how the general perception of Google’s preeminent position in search has become part of the furniture of living. Even facts about flawed results do not tarnish the belief that Google’s artificial intelligence is outstanding and getting better.

Third, the unwavering support of SEO is exactly what the SEO experts need. Many firms have spent large sums of money on SEO only to see no significant impact. Some SEO activities make clients really happy? Is this because clients were clueless in the first place? Other SEO activities produce cancelled contracts. Is this because a particular site was demoted or removed from the index?

I urge you to read the article. Spend much money on SEO. Follow the guidelines for “better” content. Life will be good. Remember. One can buy traffic or use online advertising to produce visitors to a Web site. Are the visitors going to buy? Well, that’s not part of the source document’s analysis. Hire and SEO expert to explain the details.

Stephen E Arnold, August 4, 2013

Sponsored by Xenky

Endeca Does SEO

July 9, 2013

Web services firm Thanx Media reveals, within their Site Search solutions menu, the existence of a product we find quite interesting: apparently, Endeca has entered the search engine optimization (SEO) space. The description tells us:

Oracle Endeca’s Search Engine Marketing (SEM) technology provides a proven method for accelerating the optimization of websites and improving natural search results. The technology automates the process of exposing your content to Web search engines in a highly consumable and search engine friendly format.

Your business can boost the value of your Oracle Endeca investment and benefit from:

  • Higher website traffic.
  • Increase the number pages indexed by search engines by more than 500%.
  • Improved quality of indexed pages.
  • A 60% reduction in development hours spent optimizing landing pages for SEO.
  • Improve Natural Search sales by as much as 50%.

A curious move from Endeca. The module generates sitemaps as well as optimizing and redirecting URLs. Even before it was snapped up by Oracle in 2011, the company was at the fore of the faceted search field, with hundreds of customers in areas from ecommerce to intelligence. Endeca was formed in 1999, and is headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Cynthia Murrell, July 09, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

Talking SEO with those Outside the Industry

June 25, 2013

SEOmoz shares an interesting article in light of the semi-recent Mother’s Day holiday. He has an open conversation with his mother about his industry, SEO, to pick her brain on the subject. He shares the interview in the posting, “How My Mom Thinks Search Engines Work.”

After learning that the author’s mother understands that search engines make money through advertising and that she believes search engines give sites placement at the top of a search result based on which have had the most people click through to them.

The author also spends some time reflecting on understanding a comprehension gap:

“This is certainly not exclusive to SEO, as any of us who have friends in terminology-heavy industries like software, finance or medical fields can easily get lost listening in during a technical conversation. Or my personal favorite, ask someone in the US Military to spout off as many acronyms as they can remember and your head will be left spinning; it’s impressive. Point being, it is important to understand that this gap in comprehension exists.”

In the article’s conclusion we are, of course, left with a happy Mother’s Day wish. Additionally, we wonder about whether the future of search will be a lowest common denominator approach.

Megan Feil, June 25, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Beyond Search

What Hath SEO Wrought? The Google Responds

June 4, 2013

What caught my attention this morning was “Negative SEO: Looking for Answers from Google.” Since the early days of The Point, which we sold to Lycos decades ago, my partners and teams have produced content one way. We follow the format of traditional commercial databases; that is, we track important articles like this one about negative SEO and provide a quote and a comment. Traffic is not high on my list of what I think about because I use the content in this blog Beyond Search as a way to keep track of major developments in search, online, content processing, and, more recently, analytics.

The SEO thing has always been a threat to objectivity. Now the article, if it is accurate, suggests that it is possible to use online content as a weapon; that is, weaponized information. I have given some lectures about “weaponized information” to specialist groups in various government agencies. The substance of much of my work in the last couple of years has been to document how specific mathematical methods can be manipulated by flows of specially prepared content.

This “Negative SEO” article struck a nerve. Here’s the comment which caught my attention:

At the end of the day it is the unsuspecting that need protection. I’ve written before about the relations of SEOs and Google. Those in the know that stray toward the boundaries, they do so at their own risk. I don’t play the ‘hat’ game. It’s all degrees of tactics. If you get burned while knowing the risk, then fair play. I worry more about those who aren’t aware and what ramifications it can have on them. I know plenty of great people that have been stomped over the last while and often they have seemingly done little to incur it. Or were mislead as to what “safe” really was. Some type of simpler system would help benefit webmasters and Google as well the way I see it. If you have some ideas on how this could be dealt with by working with Google, fire it off in the comments. A positive discussion is far more likely to get Google working with us than whining about the evil…


My View of SEO

I gave some talks at search engine optimization meetings. I was horrified with several aspects of these local, regional, and national events.

First, the attendees wanted traffic in order to keep their jobs. I was fascinated with the self preservation bubbling beneath the surface of the casual conversations, the get togethers, and the questions asked of the speakers. Maybe the events have changed, which is probably a step forward. However, my recollection is one of finding some way to prove that a Web site or other online marketing activity would deliver the brass ring — a number one listing for a query.

Second, the presentations were an odd blend of “wow, we discovered this” and “you may want to try that” but “we are good guys wearing white hats.” It took me a while to figure out that a “white hat” reported ways to trip up traditional methods of delivering relevant results. A “black hat” used tricks and methods which would result in a penalty from whichever search engine was spoofed. I watched in fascination as a very large industry grew up to undermine precision and recall.

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How to Use Social Media to Keep Your SEO High

June 2, 2013

There is an article on socialmedianz titled How Social Media Impacts SEO. SEO (search engine optimization) has to do with where your content falls in the listings on search engines like Google and Bing. Social media has a huge impact on where your content is, as the article explains,

“Social media can help search engines find and index your content faster. Likes, shares, retweets, etc. indicates to search engine that content is new and interesting, often leading to a temporary increase in rankings. Your content will increase in search results for people connected to you. Increases domain authority and the number of inbound links to your website.”

In other words, the smallest action you can take on social media, clicking Like on Facebook, can have major repercussions for a search engine, like the proverbial butterfly wing-flap causing a hurricane across the ocean. The article provides a helpful flow-chart infographic of these effects. Social activity alerts search engines to the fact that you are authentic, up-to-date, and that you have a network of interested viewers. If this sounds appealing or out of reach, you should visit ArnoldIT to learn about planning a social media strategy that will be both effective and rewarding.

Chelsea Kerwin, June 02, 2013

If you are interested in gourmet food and spirits, read Gourmet De Ville.

Forget SEO Say Hello to AdWords

May 20, 2013

SEO is a hot topic as it is necessary for any marketing and PR plan to take shape. Unfortunately, Search Engine Watch reports that many are taken advantage of by SEO companies. Their recent post, “Moving Forward With a Broken Compass: A Plea to SEOs,” goes as far to say that what these companies deliver is borderline criminal.

The writer of this particular post establishes his ethos at the other end of the spectrum of quality of work delivered. The author describes a time where he went to attend a regular meeting at his client’s conference room but mentions that he never saw past that front conference room.

However, one day was different:

“I was surprised when the client offered to take us for a tour of their entire facility to have us meet the people we had been actually been working for. The client took my co-workers and I around their office complex and warehouses. They introduced us to people we had never before met, stating things like ‘This is Bob from Company X. They didn’t have a job before the work you’ve done for us. We built Bob’s office and the warehouse for his company off the back of what you’ve been doing.’”

Whether SEO delivers what it promises or not, this is beside the point. If you want traffic, buy AdWords.

Megan Feil, May 20, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Beyond Search

SEO Industry Clear and Ethical for the New Year

March 15, 2013

Whenever the SEO starts talking business tactics this usually stirs up controversy and critics quickly bring up Google and their business motives. However, the Search Engine Journal article “Let’s Make the SEO Industry Crystal Clear and Ethical in the Year Ahead!” points out that SEO firms are actually misunderstood and that regardless of Google’s motives that the actual ethics and transparency of the industry has nothing to do with Google but more with reputation and ultimately survival as a business.

The article goes onto describe some key tactics or skills that can be used to tackle SEO ethically. One of the simplest rules is to remember that the client is part of the strategy. Which means that instead of trying to be the expert and keep information from your client engage them and make sure they are involved because just like you know your job your clients knows their proprietary data. Bad ethics equals bad reputation which ultimately means bad for business. Transparency is key. You need to be able to be comfortable talking to your client and vice versa. Each needs to be able to call on the other and talk if necessary. The author makes an important correlation in the conclusion.

“SEO has become an online branding effort with an emphasis on search, requiring many of the general marketing skills that other online marketers take advantage of. Unlike, say, PPC, we don’t have the option of specializing on a small and specific set of skills. Link building, social media, keyword research, branding, conversions, content production, relationship building, viral marketing, and rich snippets: it’s all a part of SEO. This is the year to let our clients know that we are comprehensive internet marketing experts with the skills to bring them long term success and opportunities!”

Though it won’t happen overnight hopefully this year SEO firms can show they can be trusted and they are the key to growth in the future but as with any new friendship it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

April Holmes, March 15, 2013

Sponsored by, developer of Augmentext

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