Fail: Google Indexes Google Voice Messages

Today in Fail News: Google has a service called Google Voice. You can get a phone number and everything! It’s like having another phone. And people can leave messages. And today I see that Google is indexing the voicemail of some Google Voice users. You can listen to some of the messages and even see the transcript of the message, who it was from, what time it was left, etc… Oops. Click here for more!

Fail: Google Indexes Google Voice Messages
Fail: Google Indexes Google Voice Messages

Today in Fail News: Google has a service called Google Voice. You can get a phone number and everything! It’s like having another phone. And people can leave messages. And today, Engadget reports that Google is indexing the voicemail of some Google Voice users. You can listen to some of the messages and even see the transcript of the message, who it was from, what time it was left, etc… Oops. Click here to see Google Voice messages indexed on Google.com!

Here are two of my favorites: Message #1, Message #2

5 Common SEO Questions Answered by Google’s Matt Cutts

In my experience as an SEO, there are several questions that pop up quite often. Matt Cutts has answered these questions, so I thought I would post his answers on this awesome SEO blog of mine.

  1. Should I use pipes or dashes in my title tags?
    “I think they’re both viewed as separators, so I think either one should be fine. Dashes are a lot more common…We definitely handle dashes well. I would expect that we handle pipes well as well.” – Matt Cutts
  2. Should I use underscores or hyphens in URLs?
    “It does make a difference. I would go with dashes or hyphens if you can. If you have underscores and things are working fine for you, I wouldn’t worry about changing your architecture.” – Matt Cutts
  3. Can the geographic location of a web server affect SEO?
    “Yes it does because we look at the IP address of your web server. So if your web server is based in Germany, we’re more likely to think that it’s useful for German users…We also look at TLD…If you want to experiment, you can certainly try switching the geographic location of your web server [in Google Webmaster Central], which is essentially changing your IP address…” – Matt Cutts
  4. Is excessive whitespace in the HTML source bad?
    “Um. We really don’t care that much…Any time we see white space, we’ll separate stuff. And we can ignore white space, so it doesn’t really cause us a lot of harm either way…As long as you’re doing normal, reasonable stuff, I wouldn’t worry about it that much.” – Matt Cutts
  5. Does the position of keywords in the URL affect ranking?
    “It does help a little bit to have keywords in the URL. It doesn’t help so much that you should go stuffing a ton of keywords into your URL.” – Matt Cutts

There. I hope you enjoyed that. Thanks to Matt Cutts for answering these questions for us all. I’m just going to send any and all clients to this blog post from now on.

Matt Cutts Debuts Shaved Head at SES San Jose 2009

Shaved Head Duo: Greg Boser & Matt Cutts look tough for the Live Site Clinic session at SES San Jose 2009
Shaved Head Duo: Greg Boser & Matt Cutts look tough for the Live Site Clinic session at SES San Jose 2009

Well, here we are. It’s Thursday, August 13, 2009. SES San Jose 2009 is coming to an end. What did I think of the conference? Actually, it was fairly quiet. I wasn’t able to catch many sessions, but the sessions I was able to attend were relatively mild. It was kinda quiet, and the Expo Hall was not very crowded. In year’s past, SES San Jose has been a place where breaking news from search engines creates a buzz or some other stuff has got the SEM world in a tizzy. Sure, Google Webmaster Blog announced the Caffeine update on Monday, but that did not seem to really have an impact on the SES crowd. I surfed around sandbox for a while, noticing some changes in the top results. However, it was kind of boring after a while. I even found this cool tool that allows you to see side-by-side results from the sandbox and the current Google. But it, too, was nothing to write home about.

Furthermore, I did not hear anyone talking about the recent Bing/Yahoo merger deal and how it might affect SEO. I heard nothing about the recent Facebook acquisition of FriendFeed. The site clinic with Matt Cutts was very funny, and I’m not used to that. I mean, Matt’s a great guy and his banter with seasoned SEO’s is always hilarious. But in the end, those sessions with Matt Cutts typically devolve into in-your-face questions about nofollow tags and disclosing links (thanks to Michael Gray, who is also awesome btw).

Danny Sullivan wasn’t there, and I didn’t see Rand Fishkin or Dave Naylor there. Could it be that allegiances have been sworn and sides have been picked? (Stay tuned for UFC 103: SES vs. SMX! ) I had a few drinks with Greg Boser and Todd Friesen, and Todd Malicoat’s charity party was awesome. But overall, the conference was nothing to write home about. For me, it was really a great chance to enjoy the weather in California. My love affair with this State continues…

Anyways, there were still a few highlights.

  • Social is killing SEO
    This is such bullshit. Stupid claims and rumors driven to gain readers or followers – that’s all this really is. If you consider that SEO is an entire industry based on driving free traffic to a website, then there is nothing to fear from social media and social search. It is not replacement for SEO. It’s a supplement and a complement to SEO. In fact, whenever ‘social’ comes up in sessions, it is usually followed by a conversation of how to optimize it (ie. SEO). Social and SEO are all part of the same game. Can’t we all just get along? [Note: Personally, I believe claims like this are happening because people are bored. We’re in the middle of an industry news lull. I think big things are on the horizon, but I’m sick of hearing about social media.
  • Matt Cutts shaved his head
    From Blogoscoped.com: Matt says “I bet my team that they couldn’t meet a certain turnaround speed for an entire quarter. They were able to maintain that turnaround time for the whole quarter, so they got to do whatever they wanted to my hair. :)” I asked Matt about his hair before the live site clinic session, and he was all smiles about it. Matt’s a good sport. During the session, he talked addressed a sex toys website. His back-and-forth with Greg Boser was great for the rest of the session. I’m glad that guy from MyPleasure was there. It made the session hilarious.
  • Matt Cutts says not to use nofollow attributes on internal links
    Matt said this during the live site clinic session. Okay. Uh…should we follow this advice (no pun intended)? This news was big at SMX Seattle back in June. I feel like the dust is still clearing. I might wait a little bit longer before I follow Matt on this one.
  • Tim Ash handed out cash in his session on landing page optimization
    Tim Ash wrote the book on Landing Page Optimization. Literally. He has a book called Landing Page Optimization. I had a chance to meet him. Super nice guy. During his session, he asked questions, and he was handing out $10 and $20 bills to people just for attempting to answer the questions. I have never seen anything like that before. But his session was awesome. It’s really the next big frontier for SEM. From my experience, conversion optimization and landing page optimization is falling under the SEO umbrella, but it really deserves its own category. He said for every $80 spent on driving visits to websites via PPC, only $1 was being spent on landing page optimization. This is tragic. After spending years optimizing our PPC and SEO campaigns, it’s definitely time to focus on what our visitors see when they get to our site. It’s the natural, organic next step (no pun intended).
  • Clay Shirky’s Keynote: Here Comes Everybody
    Clay Shirky is a great speaker. If you’re even remotely interested in human behavior and interaction with technology, I definitely recommend checking out his book (Here Comes Everybody), and I certainly recommend catching one of his sessions.

That’s it for now. Sorry it’s kind of a half-assed post today. I only had 30 minutes before I have to get on a plane. Cheers!

The SEO Impact of the Microsoft Bing Yahoo Search Merger

As you have all heard, Yahoo gave up today. Epic give up. Danny Sullivan wrote a great eulogy over at Search Engine Land, and Jason Calacanis said, “Yahoo committed seppuku today.” And over at TechCrunch, “Today, Yahoo died as a search engine.” To make it more depressing – I have already seen name mashups like YooBing, BingYoo, YaBing, Bingoo, BingYah, MicroHoo, BingYa, etc…

I’ve got to admit: Today, I actually teared up a little. I remember surfing Yahoo in 1995, looking for Cliffs Notes for Grendel. Yahoo was the only place to go. I mean, search is a space that Yahoo created! WTF are they doing by throwing in the towel? Yahoo had 20% market share in search. What were they thinking? Obviously, this deal benefits Microsoft more than it benefits Yahoo. So sad…

How about the SEO impacts of the merger of Yahoo and Microsoft Bing? There are a few that come to mind:

  • Will the link: and linkdomain: search operators continue to work on the new Yahoo?
    A few years ago, MSN disabled the link: and linkdomain: search operators at msn.com. This was an important day because you could no longer check MSN’s database stats for inbound links for a site. It came back about a year later, and then went away again. If you haven’t noticed, Google’s link: operator sucks. Google doesn’t want you to know all the links for a site, so the link: command on Google always returns an extremely low, inaccurate number of inbound links. Those bastards! But if you have a WebmasterCentral account for your site(s), you can see some more actual/honest inbound link data. With MSN and Google not providing any worthwhile backlink data, we have been forced to use Yahoo’s linkdomain: operator. Yahoo’s backlink data is much more honest and accurate. For the most part, checking back links is great for 2 purposes: 1) checking your own site(s) backlinks quantity and 2) checking your competitors’ backlinks. If Yahoo uses MSN’s search algorithm and the linkdomain: operator is disabled, it’s going to be really tough to check your competitors’ backlink growth. Furthermore, it will be tough to tell if they are buying links. I’m not into reporting people for buying links, but if you are, you may want to invest in some new backlink tool.
  • What happens to the Yahoo Search Directory?
    This one is interesting. As the Yahoo Directory (dir.yahoo.com) is a money-maker, I can’t imagine Yahoo or Microsoft getting rid of it. However, you may recall that MSN once had a Small Business Directory (archive view) at sbd.bcentral.com. There were thousands of sites in that directory. Now that site redirects to the MS OfficeLive website. If MSN got rid of their own directory, what might they do with the Yahoo Directory? It’s a good question. In terms of link authority and trust, the Yahoo Directory is the #2 directory behind DMOZ. But unlike DMOZ, you can pay $299 per year to be in the the Yahoo Directory. It’s a highly-respected directory, and unlike DMOZ, you won’t have to waits months on end with no answer. As long as you have a good site, you can get into the Yahoo Directory for $299 per year. But if the Yahoo Directory is discontinued….holy crap. That is a lot of link juice that will just evaporate. A lot of sites will lose quality historical links. Maybe it will shake things up a bit. Maybe not. Either way, you may want to make sure your sites find their way into other trusted directories, like business.com and botw.org.
  • What happens to Yahoo’s feeds programs, such as Paid Inclusion and SSP?
    Yahoo’s Paid Inclusion and Search Submit Pro (SSP) programs are crucial traffic and revenue sources for many search agencies and online retailers. It’s a huge business, and without it, many online retailers would see massive drops in revenue. Essentially, these programs allow you to pay for organic rankings in Yahoo on a pay-per-click basis. You may not know this, but for several years, MSN used Google and  Yahoo for its search. It wasn’t until LiveSearch launched that MSN actually broke away from Yahoo and Google. During the time MSN was using Yahoo for its search platform, Yahoo feeds were showing up in MSN results. But when LiveSearch launched on 9/11/2006, MSN no longer had a feeds program. They didn’t use one for LiveSearch, and there is currently no feeds program for Bing. As Yahoo’s Paid Inclusion and SSP programs are critical components for agencies and retailers alike, it should be a no-brainer to keep the programs active as part of the Microsoft search platform. But I guess we’ll have to see what happens.

    Update: Yahoo Search Submit Pro (SSP) Discontinued Effective Dec. 31, 2009

  • What happens to Yahoo channels such as Yahoo Shopping and Yahoo Travel?
    This is really just an extension to the previous question, but these are huge sources of traffic. Be sure to keep an eye on what happens with these channels. Yahoo Shopping is HUGE. I mean HUGE!!!! I can’t imagine anything happening to it. I can’t even imagine them merging it with Bing Shopping or Bing Cashback. That would be stupid.
  • One less searchbot crawling the internet
    We’ll miss you, Yahoo Slurpbot. You traveled long. You traveled far. You did your job without complaining once. You were a true soldier. RIP, Slurpbot.
  • Rank checkers will have one less engine to check
    Whereas you were probably checking Google, Yahoo and Bing for rankings, now you’ll just have to run your keyword lists across Google and Bing. And honestly, some website owners might be happy with the results, as many sites rank much better in Bing than in Yahoo.
  • Ask.com quietly moves into position as the #3 search engine
    Ha! I still miss Jeeves. He was a trooper. But also be aware that LBi Netrank has some data showing that Ask.com is (sometimes) scraping Google for search results. Are we losing Yahoo and Ask?!?!?!
  • Optimizing for Google and Bing at the same time
    It kinda sucks, but SEOs get accused of only optimizing for Google. It happens all the time, and all we have to do is point to the fact that Google has a 70% market share (and depending on the vertical, it’s sometimes higher). And then clients remind us that Yahoo has 20% and Microsoft Bing has 8%. At that point, we continue to point at Google’s 70% market share. But now, according to comScore, Yahoo’s 20% will combine with Bing’s 8% market share to combine for 28% of the market share. 28% market share is nothing to sneeze at, so we have to focus on both Google and Bing. While Google and Bing both respond to strategic SEO methods, it is worthwhile to note that Google gives more weight to links and Bing gives more weight to a site’s domain name (i.e. You’d better have keywords in your domain name & URL!). In my experience, Google and Bing are a lot closer in terms of how they value traditional SEO methods. Keywords in the title tag, keywords in the domain, organized site structure, updated content with decent keyword density, optimized internal links, inbound link growth – both engines reward these methods, as they are the basic building blocks of an SEO campaign. And while these are common signals for all 3 engines, my experience leads me to believe that Google and Bing reward these methods more quickly and predictably. Furthermore, seeing how Bing is pulling in more content into its search results pages, you may want to pay more attention to how your content is optimized and arranged on your site’s pages.

Well, that’s all for today. We’ll miss you, Yahoo. I’m still upset. I hope you find happiness. I know we can be friends again some day in the future, but please don’t call me now. I need some time to get over you.

Update:

  • John Battelle: Questions on the Yahoo Bing Deal (link)
  • SEOmoz: Top 10 Things the Microsoft/Yahoo! Deal Changes for SEO (link)

Google PageRank Update: June 23, 2009

The most recent Google toolbar PR update occurred around May 27th. Last night as I was up to white hat type of stuff, I noticed that many June blogposts already had a toolbar PR > 1. WTF? Had Google already made a PR update again, just one month after the last one? The answer:  Yes. My buddy Frank over at Tech Jaws (a badass SEO and internet security blog) sent me a link to the SEO Round Table PR update post that confirms the update.

After checking it out for a few minutes, it looks like the PR update is affecting internal pages moreso than homepages. There’s no way I can check the entire internet to support this claim, but from just looking at a few sites, that’s what I am seeing. However, I have also seen a several homepage PR changes, and the results look to be split. Some of them are up 1 level, some of them are down 1 level, and most of them just stayed the same.

We all know that toolbar PageRank is nothing to go apeshit over, and we also know that Google updates the real PR quite often. Could it be that Google has decided to frequently publish more of their internal PageRank updates? I guess only time will tell.

Google Wave: The Future of Real-Time Internets & Web Communication

Google Wave Logo
Google Wave Logo

Holy radio waves, Batman! The folks over at Google Wave made a huge splash yesterday. Led by Lars Rasmussen, Jens Rasmussen and Stephanie Hannon, Google Wave is a real-time collection of chat, IM, and other real-time apps, and it’s quickly moving to integrate with Google Docs and Gmail. As for the nerdy details, Google Wave is built on the Google Web Toolkit, using HTML 5, and it is interoperable. Furthermore, Google plans to launch the Wave code as open source. Here’s a screenshot released by the Google Wave Dev Team:

Google Wave Combines Chat, IM, Friendfeed, Docs, Pictures, etc...
Google Wave Combines Chat, IM, Friendfeed, Docs, Pictures, etc...

Fun fact: Lars and Jens are brothers from Denmark. They founded Where2, a mapping company that was acquired by Google and is now known as Google Maps. From the way that Lars and Jens describe Google Wave, it’s almost like they are discussing the email of the future. It totally reminds me of those kitchens from the 1950’s, where they would advertise “The Kitchen of Tomorrow – Today!

I think if email was invented today, it would be like Google Wave. It’s like dragging email and chat into real time., so you can do both at the same time within the same tool. Both Yahoo and Google have tried to merge chat with their email services. And I think I have even seen the same thing in my Hotmail account. But matching chat and email has not been a seemless experience to date. Google Wave goes way beyond the current methods of shoe-horning chat into email platforms. Everything in Google Wave is real-time. From the look of it, Wave is more like Facebook in nature. There are pictures, links and docs, and everyone can comment on any given element.

I guess the big question is: Will Google Wave ultimately kill other Google products like Gmail, Google, Talk, Picasa, Google Docs, and Blogger? Also, will Google Wave kill Twitter, Friendfeed, IM, Chat, and other real-time apps or services?  The answer: probably not. I’m fairly certain that Google engineers could go after any service and effectively design a better wheel if they wanted to, but the factor that will make Google Wave so compelling is not it’s ability to destroy any current real-time services. Rather, the thing that makes the future capabilities Google Wave so intriguing is the fact that they are opening up the protocols from the beginning. [Note: In the long run, they plan to release a “lion share” of the source code, and they are going to open up a ton of the code early on.] Furthermore, if I know Google well enough, they are probably thinking more about integrating with other currently-popular services, like Twitter, rather than aiming to destroy them.

Google Wave Chat & Email
Google Wave Chat & Email

The Google Wave team has created a platform that can be taken and used by third parties. Unlike Twitter, data does not have to be stored on a Google server. Because of this, hundreds or thousands of third parties may create Wave systems, and just imagine the possibilities for apps and extensions! No matter where you create a Wave account, you should be able to communicate with other Wave users. Or if a team of developers wants to create and run a Wave server for private use within their company, that is possible to. The data will remain on their Wave server and never be seen outside of their corporate network. And to add to the excitement, Google Wave offers people the opportunity to collaborate on projects. Did I mention the open architecture and APIs? Wow. What didn’t they think of?

While everyone is still digesting the capabilities and possibilities of Google Wave, it’s clear that the concept has the chance to revolutionize the way we communicate on the web. Wave is a gigantic undertaking. It’s like the Swiss Army knife of popular internet services, and that is going to make it an interesting Google product to watch. Google expects to keep Wave limited to a developer preview product for several more months. I know they have invited people to sign up for updates. If you want a shot at early access, I suggest you sign up, too. You never know. You just might get lucky enough to have another internet-based social distraction. But that’s what we live for, right? 🙂

PS. How will Yahoo and MSN respond to this? What about Facebook, MySpace and Twitter? I’m definitely interested in their responses. Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, has made Google Wave one of the projects he is putting his time into. So unlike other Google products that whither and die due to lack of support, Google Wave has the support and attention of the co-founder of Google. Me thinks he won’t let this product fail. It’s too good of an idea. In the spirit of friendly competition, I hope Yahoo and MSN are working on something to compete with Google Wave. Good luck to all competitors. I think you’ll need it.

Here is the video of the 80-minute presentation from yesterday at Google I/O:

QuitRank: Google Algorithm Predicts When Employees Will Quit

Oh my goodness. According to this WSJ article (here), Google has developed an algorithm to determine which of its 20,000 employees are most likely to quit:

The Internet search giant recently began crunching data from employee reviews and promotion and pay histories in a mathematical formula Google says can identify which of its 20,000 employees are most likely to quit.

Apparently, Google’s newest algorithm is using data from employee reviews, promotion histories and pay scale histories in the mathematical analysis. But much like its PageRank search algorithm, don’t expect anyone at Google to disclose any details on this algorithm:

Google officials are reluctant to share details of the formula, which is still being tested. The inputs include information from surveys and peer reviews, and Google says the algorithm already has identified employees who felt underused, a key complaint among those who contemplate leaving.

I wonder what they are going to name this algorithm. I’m suggesting PeopleRank or QuitRank or FireThemBeforeTheyQuitRank.

It’s not very surprising that Google is worried about people leaving. They have lost a lot of big names in the past few months (Tim Armstrong, David Rosenblatt, Santosh Jayaram). Google has grown so much over the past several years. 20,000 employees already? I’m thinking that Google is not as attractive as it once was.

When attractive start-ups grow too big, the romantic appeal fades. And quickly. The ladder gets taller, and it can become tougher to get things done. And it can feel more like you’re part of a machine rather than a person who can affect the machine’s design and success. Furthermore, some former employees speak of little to no training and an impersonal HR department. Check out some of the reviews that were leaked here. [Note: After reading those reviews, I realized that no matter where you work, you will complain about it. It’s just human nature.]

On one hand, I hope Google succeeds with this algorithm. They are treating people as data, and maybe humans are predictable. Maybe not. On the other hand, if this helps Google address employee concerns, more power to them. I guess. I’m conflicted on this one.

Google has found a way into most of our internet lives in some way or another. I really hope they don’t lose any more of those brilliant minds. But I’m selfish. I want more/better products from Google in the future.

Nerding Out on Expired Domains, Link Equity and SEO

On Monday, Danny Sullivan published a great post on expired domains (link). More specifically, his post discusses the link equity benefits from acquiring expired domains. For example, I have a website about topic X. I noticed that another website about topic X recently went offline. It’s down. It won’t load. Oh look, the domain is available for purchase. Wow! Really? That domain has 12,000+ inbound links, and it’s a PR4. Could I purchase that domain and redirect all of its URLs to my site? Would that help boost my PR and my rankings? Or would it set off an alarm at Google? I mean, all of the sudden a domain expires, is subsequently purchased and then redirected to another domain – that’s gotta trip some sort of wire in Google’s algorithm, right?

Danny goes through several scenarios, and he even quotes Matt Cutts a few times. The article is very informative, and I’m glad he wrote it. No one has posted about this practice for a long time, so it was great to see something on the topics of expired domain acquisition and link equity. You should read the post, but the quick summary is that there are certain instances where the link credit would remain or pass to new domains. But for the most part, if you are buying expired domains and then 301 redirecting them, don’t expect any significant boost in link credit.

As I was reading this article, I could not help but remember my recent experiences and how they do not really align with some of the points in this article. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not disagreeing with Matt Cutts and Danny Sullivan. They are like the Moses and King David of SEO (I mean, they were there in the beginning, and they are probably the two most trusted sources in the SEO industry). I’m only saying that my observations don’t exactly line up with what they said in the post. I believe there are times when purchasing expired domains can be extremely useful, and there are times when I have noticed that link credit does pass from an expired domain. Here’s some of the strategies I have used in the (recent) past with good results:

  • Launching a new website? Wanna get indexed quickly? I wanted to get one of my websites indexed quickly. I found one expired domain with a DMOZ entry, and I found another expired domain with a Yahoo Directory entry. These domains were related to the topic of my new domain. I redirected them at the same time. Whether or not DMOZ or the Yahoo Directory are important or relevant any longer, my new site was indexed within a few days.  Simple and sweet. I can’t argue with science.
  • Building PR and Link Equity for New/Existing Sites. There I was. I had that site for a while, and I wasn’t really paying attention to it. I decided to see if I could increase its traffic and PR from redirecting a few more expired domains. I found a page on the web that had a list of links to sites that were relevant to my site. Wouldn’t you know it? Some of those links were to domains that had expired. After a little bit of research into those dead links and some speedy domain purchases, I had 15 domains at my disposal. I redirected them over time, not all at once. After a couple of PR updates in 2008, I noticed that my site had increased its PR. And believe me, it wasn’t because a ton of other people had linked to my site. The only thing that changed was the fact that I had redirected 15 domains. I saw an increase in traffic from referring domains because the domains that I purchased had links all over the place. And I noticed an upswing in search engine rankings, which lead to increased traffic from organic search.
  • Driving More Traffic from other Google TLDs. Guess what? I bought an expired .es domain and redirected it to a .com site hosted in the USA. I really just wanted the link juice, but I got something more than that: top rankings on Google.es for some important keywords. I guess it makes sense. Have you ever noticed that some of Google’s European properties give you more search options? For example, on google.es you will definitely notice that under the search bar there are options to search the web, search only pages in spanish, or search only pages in Spain. Crazy, huh? I have worked on a few European-based sites, so I have seen these before. I just never thought about them in the context of redirecting expired domains. I guess we learn something every day.
  • Driving More Traffic from Local Search. One of the domains I redirected was the expired domain of a company based in a certain city in America (yeah, I have to be ambiguous about that one 🙂 ). A couple weeks after I redirected the domain, I noticed that I was ranking for long-tail search terms that contained the city where that company was located. It turns out that the company had several listings in local search databases, online phonebooks and directories, etc… If you want exposure in new cities or if you just want more exposure in the city that you’re in, check into an expired domain for a local company that no longer exists. The economy sucks right now. Lots of people are going out of business. Contact some companies and see if you can buy their domain. Don’t be stupid about it. Don’t redirect a bunch of domains all at once. Just try one and see what happens. Maybe it will work for you like it did for me. Then again, maybe it won’t.
  • Don’t Alter the Whois Data! Domain Privacy? Shah, right. Google is a domain registrar and an accreditted member of ICANN (proof). You think your domains are private because you paid some extra money for domain privacy. Well guess what. Google knows it’s you! Don’t pretend that you are getting away with anything here. If at all possible, purchase domains through Escrow and leave the Whois data unaltered. Updating the Whois data is a dead give-away that the domain changed hands. When domains change hands, you can count on the existing link juice to be crushed. Mostly. As Danny points out, Google admits to having systems that do stuff. I assume these systems must do stuff like keep track of businesses acquiring other businesses, businesses merging, and any other instance where a domain might change hands. Hell, Google probably has systems monitoring other Google systems. They’ve thought of everything, haven’t they? If not, people like Dave Naylor, Jeremy Shoemaker and Greg Boser are forcing them to.
  • Servers, DNS, IPs, Oh My. You know how you just bought 50 domains because of this post? Well, before you point them all to the same server, using the same DNS numbers, you need to think about something else: how odd will it look to Google if you buy 50 domains and then point them all to the same server and then have them all redirect to the same site? It’s a dead giveaway. Some registrars are offering a 301 redirect from the registrar, so it’s not as easy to catch the fact that one person just bought and redirected 50 domains to their own site. Or you may look into virtual IPs, so that not all of your domains are sitting on the same IP address. Or you may try to grab a few hosting accounts from various hosts and split up your domains. This makes it seem like there is a true game of cat-and-mouse going on, but there really isn’t. No matter what, Google will catch you. It’s only a matter of time. Just be smart about it. Or at least as smart as possible.
  • Just Buy an Existing Website. Is there a website for sale in your vertical? Why not just buy it and add links to the site (where appropriate)? I mean, buying domains and purchasing links will cost as much money in the long run. Why not buy a website that is already trusted by the search engines and actually getting traffic from organic search? Maybe you could optimize it and add some links. Maybe both of your sites will rank high. And then you’ll have 2 sites in the SERPs. It’s not a bad approach to take, and it’s certainly more white hat than redirecting expired domains.
  • You must remember: The key is to do your research on old domains. Make sure they weren’t up to no good. Make sure they were not blacklisted. Make sure they’ve got a healthy number of inbound links. Only redirect domains that previously contained content related to your site. Also, even though everyone says that toolbar PR is outdated and not important, look for domains that have a PR of 1 or higher. It can’t hurt to have a PR (no matter how worthless/overrated/outdated many SEOs will tell you PR is these days).

There. I hope that helps you in your gray hat endeavours. Now, go forth and prosper. I mean, uh, go forth and find expired domains and then redirect them. Jeez. SEOs are nerdy.

Link Rules Hyrule, Links Rule Google SERPs

The Legend of Zelda was awesome! I remember opening it on Christmas Day back in 1987. It had a shiny golden box, and then the game itself was a brilliant, glowing masterpiece of golden plastic. Just take a look:

The Legend of Zelda golden cartridge
The Legend of Zelda golden cartridge

I had never seen anything like this. It was like opening up a golden ticket, but rather than a fattening journey through a chocolate empire, this golden ticket delivered instant access to the magical land of of Hyrule. For me, the greatest thing about this game was that it opened up my imagination like no other video game had ever done. I was used to games that only moved right-to-left or down-to-up, and those games made following the steps from beginning to end fairly simple. The Legend of Zelda was the first game where I remember getting involved in the story. I wasn’t riding Falcor and chasing the Nothing, but it was the first video game I ever played where I could not take things for granted. I remember wandering around forever looking for a certain level, and I ended up finding it by blowing up the side of a mountain on the other side of a stream. It’s as if the video game was teaching me to open up the boundaries of my mind. Secret passages in the mountain. Secret passages underneath tombstones. It was amazing to me. After all, Zelda was probably the 3rd or 4th Nintendo game I owned, and I never had more than 10 games. Regardless, I was still used to Atari games that placed playability and functionality over imagination and plot. [Note: Back in 1987, Nintendo games were like $60, and that was a lot of money back then. That still is a lot of money, but it seems like a crapload of money in 1987. Looking back, I’m surprised my parents even bought me 10 games through the years.]

Link battles in Level 1 of The Legend of Zelda
Link battles in Level 1 of The Legend of Zelda

Another awesome facet of The Legend of Zelda was the fact that the main character was a little dude named Link. He starts off as just a regular boy, but through trials and tribulations he becomes a hero. Like any other 8-year-old boy, it was easy for me to imagine that I was Link, the hero of Hyrule. And as it was a game that considerably expanded my imagination, it quickly became a world that I could escape to. I mean, sure, homework and soccer practice were fun, but I could not wait to get home and turn on my Zelda game. I got to be a hero in a magical world where I could explore the limitless wonder that was Hyrule. Unlike other Nintendo games, I wasn’t forced to go one way. I could choose my own path. I could go left, right, up or down. I got to navigate the entire realm. And I got to defeat Ganon, the Prince of Darkness, and save Princess Zelda. For me, it was an adventure that I would not find in any other 8-bit game. [Note: I played several other RPGs, like Ultima, Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. Perhaps I liked Zelda so much because for me it was the original. I guess I’m just sentimental or something.]

Ok. That’s good and all, but why am I talking about The Legend of Zelda on an SEO blog? That’s a good question. Let’s see if I can provide an answer that makes any sense.

I am an SEO to the core.  My being exudes a nerdy internet search aura. I eat, sleep and breath SEO. It’s not all I think about. There are a few hours each week when I watch Lost, 24 and House. Most of the time I’m thinking about SEO. While I’m thinking about SEO, I often notice similarities between SEO and seemingly-unrelated things in life (you might have noticed this fact from my posts about Walter Sobchak, Frogger and Grimlock). And since I’m nostalgic, I’m often thinking of events from my childhood. Today I was thinking about link building, and I pondered the future of SEO and the power of links. And then it hit me: Links are the undeniable rulers of organic search realm that is Google. And because I am a search marketer, when I think of the plural (links), I also start thinking of the singular (link).It’s like an SEO reflex or something! [Note: Link is the main character in The Legend of Zelda.]

Link defeats Ganon in The Legend of Zelda
Link defeats Ganon in his Death Mountain lair

As it turns out, The Legend of Zelda is a great metaphor for search engine optimization. Don’t believe me? Well check this out. Here’s how the Zelda characters would match up with important SEO concepts:

  • Hyrule = Google SERPs
    Hyrule is a magical land that requires a lot of time to navigate and explore. Much like the Google SERPs, you won’t master Hyrule on the first day. Diligence and hard work is needed to master this landscape, which is highly varied and constantly changing (like the Google SERPs).
  • Ganon, the Prince of Darkness = PageRank, Google’s Natural Search Algorithm
    Ganon is a badass. The first time you set foot in his lair, trepidation sets in. It’s a feeling like the one you get when you first set foot into the world of SEO. After the first step, you realize the size and scope of the SEO world. It’s intimidating and scary, but you will eventually learn to master many aspects of the game.
  • Princess Zelda = #1 ranking in Google
    Until you defeat Ganon and get some top rankings for your clients, peace will not exist in your SEO world. Or in Hyrule. When you achieve a #1 ranking in Google, it’s a lot like rescuing the Princess from the grips of Ganon. All your hard work and long hours finally paid off, and everyone is cheering for you. If only Google had a “Congratulations, you’re #1” screen to celebrate your success. That would be cool.
Link rescues Princess Zelda
Link rescues Princess Zelda
  • Triforce of Power = Basic SEO Principles
    The story of Hyrule is cool. Ganon and his army steals the Triforce of Power, an artifact that bestows amazing strength. Princess Zelda takes one of the pieces, breaks it into 8 pieces and scatters throughout Hyrule’s secret dungeons. In order to defeat Ganon and rescue the Princess, Link has to find and reassemble those 8 pieces. Those 8 pieces remind me of the most basic SEO strategies. In order to win at SEO, you must have these 8 elements optimized: title tags, meta tags, keyword tags, H tags, Alt tags, Link title attributes, internal navigation, sitemaps.
  • Link = Text Links
    Link was created to eventually defeat Ganon. It was going to happen. It was only a matter of time. No matter how many times the game changes, Link will find a way to rule Hyrule. The same thing goes for text links in the realm of SEO. We know that there over 200 signals that PageRank uses to determine rankings, but in the end, text links rule the world of Google SERPs.
Link rescues Princess Zelda (Peace Returns to Hyrule)
Finally, Peace Returns to Hyrule.

Despite the message in the final screen, I never once believed that the story had ended. Now, go forth and prosper in your SEO realm. Whether it be ringtones, phentermine or gambling, I wish you luck in your endeavors.