Blog covering a variety of Search Engine Optimization topics.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Google Bombing? Spare Me a Second, Cause That's How Long It Lasts

A few news stories have to come to my attention in the past couple of days concerning the relationship between politics and Google, a topic I am pretty interested in. Disclaimer: I like Google a lot more than politics, but it's a marriage that is still in its infancy - only recently has the political realm even begun to get its feet wet in the world of search marketing.

More specifically, these stories have mentioned the idea of applying the nifty idea of Google "Bombing" to politics. This cat Chris Bowers, a 6'3" left wing starting for the Liberals, orchestrated a campaign of interlinking news articles for 50 or so Republican candidates in the upcoming election. He also contemplated buying up some Google Adwords for the candidates' names. The intentions are, of course, to present web searchers with information on these candidates that will sway thier opinions as they head to the polls this November.

And really, I was glad this guy made a splash and got an article in the NY Times concerning politics and the search results. It's true that the top 10 or so search results can influence a large number of people's opinions, whether you're talking about a company or a politican. I hope these posts motivate politicians to start looking more closely at managing their online reputation.

What is stupid about this campaign conducted by Bowers is that "bombing" with Google results in such a flash in the pan that the effects are minimal. Google's response, as I told some of my colleagues it would be, was one of laissez-faire. Says Google Spokesman Ricardo Reyes:

“We don’t condone the practice of Google bombing, or any other action that seeks to affect the integrity of our search results. A site’s ranking in Google’s search results is automatically determined by computer algorithms using thousands of factors to calculate a page’s relevance to a given query.”

Google's algorithms are already built to withstand techniques like those employed by Bowers, and even with the political realm being in its infancy online, the ill-intentioned results will soon be filtered out of the top rankings. Google doesn't need to take action against it, I assure you that their inner structure has long ago dealt with this before. Just because it's politics means nothing. What these politicians really need is some good, ethical SEO :).

Not to attack Bowers either, he seems to understand this. In fact, he points out that one of the reasons he conducted the campaign was to "show that campaigns should be doing this on their own.” Amen. Hopefully they will also understand that there is a correct way of going about protecting and strengthening an online reputation with respect to their political campaigns. By building content, obtaining authoritative links, and improving their own websites, candidates can ensure that searchers / potential voters will see the information they want them to see, and that Google bombers will have no real effect on them.

Running for office? Why not give me a call.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

An Expert's Guide to PubCon

If you are a beginner, or even a seasoned veteran to PubCon, below you can find the Top 10 tips to consider when going to PubCon in Las Vegas.

1) Don't ask if you can buy someone a beer.
If you ask anyone that has been to a PubCon what is the one thing they found most valuable, it is very likely they will tell you it is talking to other people in the bars. And buying someone a beer is great, but you should keep in mind a little trick I picked up in my bachelor days. If you ask if you can buy someone a beer, they can say "I am good. Thanks though." Instead, ask them what they are drinking. They are very likely to tell you what it is they are drinking and just get them one.

2) The Top 10
Speaking of buying drinks. There are obviously some people that are more knowledgeable than others and would result in a great connection for you. The most valuable connections are different for different people. However, there are certain people in the industry that are so knowledgeable and well connected it would be advisable for anyone to speak with them. Here is a list of the top 10 people you should try to connect with:

Greg Boser* (WebGuerrilla, SEO Rockstar)
Todd Freisen (Oilman, SEO Rockstar)
Danny Sullivan (Needs no Introduction)
Brett Tabke (You had better know Brett)
Jennifer Slegg (JenSense)
Any Search Engine Rep** (Tim Mayer, Adam Lasnik, NOT MATT CUTTS)
Jeremy Schoemaker (ShoeMoney)
Dave Naylor (DaveN)
Rand Fishkin (SEOmoz)
#10 - Let me know who else you think belongs. Post a comment below.

*Greg is celebrating his birthday the week of PubCon, so make sure he gets hammered.
**People are always crowding around Matt. Other Search Reps can answer questions too. I made a contact with one a few years ago and they actually helped me via email with a ranking issue that would not have been addressed with the traditional means of communication with the engines.

3) Attend all of the events
Go to all of the lunches, receptions, parties, anything you can find related to the conference and talk to people. If you are shy, then get over it. If you can't get over it, stay at at home. The Exhibit Hall is a also a great place to meet people, especially the exhibitors.

4) Take Notes, but not too many
Don't write down everything you hear. If so, you will get too many notes and will end up ignoring most of them. You should take notes on the important tips and ideas you hear that could be directly related to you. For summaries and main points, you can always reference the conference book or the CD of all of the PowerPoint presentations that Brett sends out (awesome idea, Brett!). Plus, bloggers will cover the event, so you can get summaries from a variety of places. Also, be sure to write notes with tasks/projects you should do when you get back to work. If you get back and don't take action on what you learned, you are missing out on a lot.

6) Private Parties
Many private parties are held throughout the week, so talk to the exhibitors and find out if they are having anything. Also talk to the other people attending the conference to see if they know of any other parties.

7) Free Stuff
Speaking of the Exhibit Hall, it is a good idea to make the rounds and get some free stuff for people back at the office that did not get to come. They will appreciate it and it doesn't cost you anything. But do it when you will be heading back to your hotel room or else you will have to carry it around all day. In addition to the t-shirts and pens and whatever colorful thing Google decides to give out, you can also get discounts or free services from some places. Google usually has the cards they give out that let you have a free credit when you set up a new Adwords account (back in the day, they had some that were $300) and other companies offer discounts or free services to attendees.

7) Hydration
It is likely you will be drinking heavily. So be sure to hydrate early and often. Before going to bed every night, make sure you down a bottle of water (or better yet. Powerade, Gatorade, or some type of -Ade). There is water supplied at the conference as well, so drink throughout the day. Being slow and sluggish the next day or worse, not recovering so you can't hit the bars again that night, is a waste. With that being said, you don't have to be a drinker to socialize, but do be sure to go to hotel bars each night and try to start up a conversation.

8) Pubcon - The Pub
Speak to as many different people as possible at the Bar/Pub. You may want to get there early so you can start off with a beer and start conversations with other people. Groups do begin to form and it is less easy to mingle between different people later in the day. By the way, the drinks at the actual PubCon are free, so don't worry about trying to buy someone a drink. However, sometimes actually going to get a drink is tough, so an offer to go get the drink is equal to the cost of a drink. This also means it may be a good idea to post up in a spot that has easy access to the bar or a great waitress (and if you get a waitress, be sure to see the tip below about, what else, tipping).

9) Speaker Questions
If you have a question you will get a better answer if you ask the speaker privately at a party or after the session as opposed to during Q&A; time. The response will be better, you will likely be able to talk to them about more concepts, and you will have a grat way to start a conversation with that person (and don't forget to get them a drink).

10) Make a List
Before going to PubCon, make a list of what you would like to accomplish/learn. Maybe you need to talk to a Google Adwords Rep about an issue you are having. Maybe you want to find a web analytics software or conversion rate testing software. If you want to make some connections, which you should, set a goal to get in a conversation with at least 10 new people everyday. Even better, set a goal to get 20 points on the PubCon Drinking Game.

10) Staying Focused (Awake)
Sitting near the front will keep your interest level higher and that is a good thing. However, going to all of the sessions everyday can get tiring, especially in Vegas. If you need to duck out of a few sessions early, don't worry about it (on these sessions, I would recommend to sit on the aisle). The good stuff usually gets covered during the presentations or within the first few questions of the Q&A.; As long as you are at the bars at night talking to the other conference attendees, you will get plenty from the conference. Brett does have some phenomenal Keynotes lined up in the morning, so I would recommend trying to get to them if you can get yourself out of bed and you do have half a day to sleep in on Thursday, so you can catch up on sleep then.

Bonus - Vegas Tips
The first tip is to tip. I get frustrated to see how many people will spend the money for a flight, hotel and conference only to cheap out on certain things when they get there. The taxi lines in Vegas can get really long at times. For $10/$20 you can tip the guy running the taxi line and bypass it entirely for your group (this does not work at he airport, there you would need to get a towncar). If you are going to a club, $20 (per person) can usually accomplish the same thing.

The monorail is usually pretty slow. Only take it if you can't get a taxi, which can be really tough at the Renaissance. If you are in a hurry or have a group of 5/6 people, just take limos (and if you have more than that, a Bell Trans shuttle is cheap - I have no affiliation with them, I just used them for my bachelor party out in Vegas when we had 16 guys and it worked great).

If you are looking for a great restaurants, bars or club, take your pick as there are an endless number of them (try Fiamma, Ah Sin, or Hash House a Go-Go if you ask me).

Don't play poker. I know many of you may want your poker fix since they have cracked down on it in the US, but save that for another time. Being in the poker room for 10+ hours is not the reason you are going to PubCon. If you want to do that, stay for the weekend.

If anyone needs the number for some good strippers for Greg's Birthday, let me know.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

PubCon Drinking Game - See you in Vegas!

If you have been to PubCon before, you already know that one of the most valuable things you can do is buy a beer for someone else. That is the best way to get to know someone and the Bars are where most of the best action goes down. (If you are a newbie, read my Tips for PubCon.)

So if you want to play a drinking game that can do more for you than simply kill some brain cells, try this one. For every person that you buy a drink for, you get a point. You get multiple points awarded for the people listed below. If you are attending PubCon, feel free to post your name in the Comments with your favorite drink and you will officially be worth 1 point for the PubCon Drinking Game. If you think I am leaving some people out of the Multiple Point Lists, let me know.

5 Points:

Greg Boser
Todd Freisen
Danny Sullivan
Brett Tabke
Tim Mayer
Jennifer Slegg
Matt Cutts
Jeremy Schoemaker
Dave Naylor
Rand Fishkin
Adam Lasnik
John Battelle
Guy Kawasaki
Eric Ward

3 Points:

Dana Todd
Barry Schwartz
Elisabeth Archambault
Joe Morin
Jake Baillie
Andy Beal
Daniel Boberg
Andy Hagans
Aaron Wall
Michael Gray
Todd Malicoat
Loren Baker
Philipp Lenssen
Greg Niland
Christine Churchill
Andrew Goodman
Greg Jarboe
Detlev Johnson
Stephanie Leffler
Heather Lloyd-Martin
Barbara Coll

2 Points:

Nathaniel Broughton
Bill Slawski
Deepak Kaushik
Jeff Coyle
Adam Jewell
Bryan Rahn
Greg Hartnett
Kris Farmer
Brant Bukowsky
Jessica Bowman
Lawrence Coburn
Bob Kopsell
Dan Meister

Note: It is not confirmed that all of these people will be attending, but it is likely most will be at the Vegas PubCon. I also know I left a lot of great, knowledgeable people out of the list, but I got tired of typing. But please leave Comments with people that I missed as well as yourself (and don't forget to include your favorite drink). Most points wins so get to drinkin'.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Be Naughty cause Google Doesn't Care . . . and Let's Go Blues!

I'm sure most people that do SEO are competing in an industry where there is at least one website practicing in the dark arts (spammy crap) and getting away with it. If you can't think of anyone then take a moment and look deeply at your screen . . . see that? It's you, you spamming pussy.

For all that gets spread around about the Sandbox / Trustbox, TrustRank and "building a good website" with good content, and the guys that write content for the user and buy links for traffic not SEO - if you play the game right, not one bit of that matters. And by "play the game right" I mean have an old, established domain that through whatever avenue has obtained authoritative status in your industry. If Google trusts you, you can get away with banging Sergey's wife and still enjoy all the $ that comes with Google love.

Maestro! Some evil sounding beats please . . . Look at this one. A lot of the sites listed there are doing really well, all from those sweet backlinks. See the blurb at the bottom? For $39, get some spammy blog links and first page rankings! Come on Google. Many of our friends in the online degree and mortgage industry also get away with hosting the same site on 3, 4, even 5 domains. I love seeing that. Sorry that I am too paranoid to list those that are in competition with sites I help run, it's a common SEO flaw. That's why all our conferences consist of asking Matt Cutts about red and blue widgets.

But I digress, maybe there is some hope. Google has admitted on recent occasions that they have not been focusing enough of their resources on their core competency (thank you Mizzou) - their search engine. Perhaps after they all recover from the GooTube party they will begin improving on how and why they trust certain websites. It's become too easy to manipulate / take advantage of - much like meta, anchor text, and buying links once was.

(search people not interested in St. Louis hockey please stop reading now)

And onto part 2 - dant, dant, dant . . . Let's go Blues! That's right, it's time for the home opener, the new beginning, the resurgence of Les Blues to commence. We've got new ownership, signed some forwards that began their careers with the WHA, and have maybe 1 or 2 defensemen that skate better than our Junior B team. So maybe it's not gonna be our year, but it's always a good time to sit in the stands with a beer and harass the other team (Shean Donovan). There isn't a sport in the world that's more fun live than hockey. Check it out.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Take the Bait - Link to Me, Digg Me, Hold Me Tight

What kind of an SEO blogger would I be if I didn't finally make a post on link bait? Without it, Borat would be casting me off as some Uzbekistani boy just spreading propoganda. Besides posting the freshest Borat video on your site, what else is it that will bring the links pouring in? I'm here to tell you.

To briefly recap - "link bait" is simply the idea of acquiring incoming links for your site by writing something interesting, newsworthy, controversial, really strange, funny, etc. It all revolves around having "good" content and letting it be seen so it may spread through the masses all viral-like. Used effectively, link bait can save an average webmaster or SEO a lot of time and money on their journey towards the top of the SERPs. But what will catch people's eye? What will they find ultimately worthy of a link?

Look no further than places like the front page of Digg, slashdot, or the popular page. "Top 5" lists, how-to's, stuff about Digg, Apple, George Bush, humorous / amazing videos hosted on YouTube, global warming - these things tend to be diggable for the average cat and seem to be what is catching people's attention these days. With that in tow, it's also important to note that most successful link bait is accompanied by a strong editorial headline / title. Just like standard journalism, it's important to bring the reader in right away and to give them a reason to keep reading in the first few sentences. Really, it's all about being clever enough and also being a good enough writer to get people to want to read your article.

Granted, that isn't much in the way of advice on what to actually write about, and while every company / site / service is unique, there is always an opportunity for link bait. Check out SEOBook's post for more help on coming up with ideas for your site. I think that link bait is a big trend in SEO that could revolutionize the way some of us go about our business. If you can master it, both the writing side and the distribution side (get your articles seen and spread), then all those days of searching for link partners, back-and-forth emailing, and paying large sums for links will be long behind you. Most links acquired through a link bait campaign will be placed inside a blog post or an article posting on another person's website, right in the middle of a bunch of content. There's also a good chance that they will be archived on the site for as long as it's functioning.

That solves just about every problem I've had to manage and deal with in every SEO campaign over the last 4 or 5 years . . . I gotta go work on some article ideas. If only Borat's latest escapade didn't keep calling me back to YouTube and Wikiquote. Man, that mofo is funny.