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 ūüôā ). 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.

Everything I Needed to Know about Life and SEO, I Learned from Frogger

The year was 1981. It was a good year. I was only 3-years-old, but there was a lot of stuff going on. Believe me. I checked. President Reagan gave his first inaugural address. The Iranian hostages were freed and brought home to the United States. John Hinckly, Jr. shot President Reagan. Columbia, the first space shuttle, had its first launch. Prince Charles and Diana got married. Bob Marley died at age 36. The boxer Joe Louis died at the age of 67. IBM produced the first in its long line of PCs. MTV launched and played its first music video. The FDA approved the use of Aspartame, aka Nutrasweet. Dynasty and Hill Street Blues premiered on TV. The first ever DeLorean sports car rolled off the assembly line. If you were listening to the radio, you were probably listening to Endless Love by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie. Or you were listening to Physical by Olivia Newton-John for the thousandth time. The Grammy winner for Best Country Song was 9 to 5 by Dolly Parton. The top grossing movie was Raiders of the Lost Ark. Also placing in the top 10 was The Cannonball Run (now those two movies are definitely two of my all-time favorites). However, Chariots of Fire won Best Picture at the Oscars. Partial credit, I’d say.

And probably the most important event of 1981: Atari released a home version of the video game Pac-Man. More than anything else, this moment would set my life on a path to becoming a video game professional in the 1980s. Well, I never became a video game professional, but I sure wanted to be one. I’m not really sure why I liked video games so much, but I remember going through a few machines. Though we never knew why 3 Ataris broke in my house in a span of 3 years, my stepdad always said that it was probably because I played them too much. My favorite games were Joust, Frogger and Dig Dug. And that brings me to the subject of this post: Frogger.

Frogger Arcade Game (1981)
Frogger Arcade Game (1981)

Note: Frogger was developed by Konami in 1981, but it saw worldwide distribution through Sega. The 1982 Parker Bros version of Frogger looked really basic, but the game got a lift in graphics and sound with the Atari versions. Don’t believe me, jump the bottom of this post.

The arcade unit was superior in every possible way (like most arcade units are!), but the home versions of most arcade games were, in general, close enough to the original to satisfy a kid. Just ask any kid in the 1980s about going to Arcades. They were seedy places, but the Arcade was like the most amazing wonderland of technology, graphics and synthesized sound. When the home versions of popular video games came out, it started a craze in the US. Just look at the design of this Atari 2600 Frogger cartridge and instruction manual. Isn’t it glorious?!

Atari 2600: Frogger cartridge and instruction manual
Atari 2600: Frogger cartridge and instruction manual

Anyways, back to Frogger and how it taught me a bunch of life lessons and SEO lessons.

The goal of Frogger is to get across the stream or pond. You have to guide the frog through various forms of impending and instantaneous death. If that car even brushes up against the frog, he’s dead. So you better watch out. As the game goes on, the threats of death become more ominous and rapid. I was never really even that good at Frogger, but I enjoyed the challenge.

As I sit here at my work desk, surrounded by desktops and laptops, I can’t help but think of the parallels between Frogger and SEO. Here area few of the parallels that I observe on a daily basis as an SEO:

One hop forward, two hops back.
The goal of my day is to get from point A to point B. At the macro level, it’s me getting up in the morning only so I can return home in the evening. Sure, it’s a round trip from A to A, but there is a point B in the middle. It’s called work. If I look at a micro view, I notice that pretty much every single daily task is a trip from point A to point B. And in these tasks, we are faced with obstacles and challenges. While our respective obstacles may not represent impending death, we still have to navigate above, around, onto, below, beneath, beside, underneath and/or through them. (How about that for some prepositions, baby!)

Most SEO projects turn into long term projects because they require me to navigate a web of people, teams and email. There are times when I think the project will never get done, and then it miraculously gets completed 5 months later. Our goals for some projects become over-arching journeys that span days, weeks and years. Sometimes we have to take one hop forward and then two hops back and then a hop to the side before we can eventually get to point B, which is obviously to get H1 tags placed on the product name on product pages.

Watch out for all the traffic
If you have ever worked for an e-commerce/retail site, you know that massive surges of traffic are not always a good thing. Well, for you anyways. Maybe it was traffic that was driven by a bad press report. Here is a situation that I am familiar with: There you are just minding your own business and out of nowhere you see that your client’s website got an extra 10,000 visits yesterday. And it all came from a really popular blog that happened to link to one of your products. The blog praised your products, but the bounce rate from this traffic was 95% within 10 seconds. While this might be great news for your clients, pretty soon you’re going to be answering questions like this:

  • Hey, if you got 10,000 more visits last week because of that blog, why did sales not increase from that traffic?
  • Hey! Why was the bounce rate so high?
  • WTF. Did these people even order the product?
  • Friendo, do you even know anything at all about SEO?
  • Why do we even pay you?

The great news is that a lot more people found the site. Those people didn’t even know the site existed. They know your client’s brand, but these visitors had no idea that the brand had a website. But none of that matters because that extra traffic just caused you to have more work that day. I mean, I’m trying to get from point A to point B, and now you’re asking me a bunch of questions. And your tone clearly indicates that you are a little perturbed about this free traffic not doing anything to raise your weekly revenue. And also, I can clearly see that you have no appreciation for free traffic that gives your brand free exposure to 10,000 potential customers.

The point is: free traffic is good, but be careful what you wish for. If you are really good at SEO or if your client’s site just happens to get a giant helping of free praise and website visitors, you might have it coming to you. Either way, you will have to navigate the traffic, the questions, the anger, the answers, the revenue, the AOV. Ahhhhh!

Ironically, George Costanza learns his life lessons from the Frogger arcade
Ironically, George Costanza learns his life lessons from the Frogger arcade

To really get stuff done, you’ll have to avoid a lot of stuff
When I used to play Frogger, it always occurred to me that these people made a video game where you have one objective. Awesome, right? Not really. Because the same people then put in a bunch of coding that would introduce elements that would make it downright impossible for you to complete your objective. Thanks a lot. I’m trying to cross a street, so I can get my frog into his home. And there’s a friggin’ Mack truck heading right for me, about to turn me into a road kill. Or there I am, trying to cross a stream, but for some reason I can’t get in the water. I dunno. It’s illogical for a frog to die if it gets wet, but I have to play by the rules to get the mission accomplished. Probably the best example of video game imitating life is when a crocodile appears in the frog’s home. After all there you are, 99% done with the mission and a crocodile appears in your little cubbyhole. Yeah, you have to hop back and to the side and then wait for that crocodile to disappear before you finish the mission.

Life is most often like this. You think it’s just going to be a crocodile in your cubbyhole, but it’s really going to be so much more than that. Pretty soon, you’re hopping onto a log that you thought was a log, but it’s actually another crocodile, pretending to be a log. And also, watch out for the snakes. They are always running around, throwing hissy fits (get it?). Oh and as you get older and get further along in the game, there is more traffic on the road, and it’s moving faster and faster. Just ask George Costanza.

George Costanza learns that drivers are actually aiming for him
George Costanza learns that drivers are actually aiming for him and his Frogger high score.

Frogger is a lot like SEO. And life. I know what needs to be done. I know how to do it. I know who I need to talk to. I have a clear vision in my head. It’s a bunch of puzzle pieces being connected by me, so that I can finally get some awesome optimized title tags implemented site wide. But nope. It cannot be that easy. There are rules to follow. There is business protocol. I have to schedule meetings and calls. I have to convince VP and Directors that it would be super sweet if they could have a blog hosted in the UK, where their company is based. And guess what? I could take care of every little piece all by myself, but they still have to be sold on the idea. $20 per month sounds like a lot for hosting in the UK? Are you serious?

And so your life becomes a game of Frogger. Hop this way, then that way. Jump on that. Avoid that. Talk to that guy. Avoid that guy. Watch out for the crocodile. Beware the snake. Watch out for that tractor doing 100mph on the highway. He’s practically aiming for you! But you avoid it all, and you get stuff done. And there you are. You’re in your cubbyhole at home, having gone from point A to point B and back to point A. You got your title tags done, but you’ll have to repeat the whole process tomorrow if you want to see that blog idea come to fruition. Just be sure to watch out for the free traffic…

To further prove my point that Frogger has direct parallels to life and SEO, here is a quote from the following 1982 Frogger commercial:

It’s a challenge… ribbit … because the better you are … ribbit ribbit … the harder Frogger is to play!

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With SEO Walter Sobchak, You’re Entering a World of Pain

Walter Sobchak: Shomer F'ing Shabbos
"Shomer F'ing Shabbos!" - Walter Sobchak

I’m a big fan of Walter Sobchak. I’ve watched The Big Lebowski about 100 times in the past year. There are just so many aspects of this movie that make me think and laugh. And then laugh again. And then think some more. In a movie with several well-developed characters, there are certain personality traits that direct more of my attention to Walter Sobchak. For example, I enjoy watching him play dumb when part of the fault is his. Like when they walk out of the bowling alley and the car has obviously been stolen, Walter issues this line: “It was parked in a handicapped zone, perhaps they towed it.” The way he says that line really makes me laugh out loud.

The trait I most envy is Walter’s ability to speak his mind. Let’s face it – we all have opinions, no matter how well-informed or uninformed they are. While¬†most of us are eager to keep our opinions to ourselves, Walter has no problem letting his opinions out for the world to hear. And he often does it with a persistent tunnel vision, as he relates nearly everything to Vietnam. In fact, Walter Sobchak will reference Vietnam in an improvised eulogy, in an argument about a stolen rug,¬†in an explanation of league bowling rules, etc… It’s a defining characteristic of Walter Sobchak, and I love it.

The Dude, Donny and Walter
"Eight-year-olds, Dude." - Walter Sobchak

Why exactly is Walter appearing on an SEM/SEO blog? I dunno. He just is. So let’s just run with it. What if Walter Sobchak was an SEO for a massive retail brand? Maybe even a Fortune 500 company? Imagine if he ran the show. Do you think things would get done faster or more efficiently? Or would he be arrested and lose his job? I think Walter Sobchak would be a fantastic SEO. Let’s take a look at some of his well-known quotes, and I’ll explain why he’d be the perfect SEO for your website.

“This is what happens when you f— a stranger in the ass!”
Remember the time when your IT guy launched a new home page on Friday night at 9:00pm? And no one was there to make sure it worked correctly? And no one was there to make sure the tracking code was added to the new page? And also, he really does not like you because the hot office girl is nice to you and mean to him. So he decided to take out that optimized text-based navigation and replace it with uncrawlable javascript navigation because he hates your guts. Yeah, I think Walter would put on a vintage suit, head over to that guy’s house, and bust¬†that guy’s¬†windshield with a crowbar. And that IT guy would totally deserve it because he just caused a lot of problems for a lot of people. He usually gets away with such passive aggressive behaviors, but not when Walter Sobchak is your SEO.

"New 'Vette? Hardly, Dude. I'd say he's still got about $960 - $970,000 left, depending on the options." - Walter Sobchak
"New 'Vette? Hardly, Dude. I'd say he's still got about $960 - $970,000 left, depending on the options." - Walter Sobchak

“Life does not stop and start at your convenience, you miserable piece of s—.”
This line is issued when Donny decides to listen at his personal convenience. Walter does not like that. He wants people to adjust to life and use some friggin’ context clues. Knowing this, I think Walter Sobchak would really get tired of IT/Dev project lists and calendars. Not because they have not been listening to the conversation. Not because the Dev team¬†fails at¬†context clues. Rather,¬†Walter knows they are only using that project calendar as a work shield. That stupid calendar shields them from having to do work. It’s a really convenient tool.¬†Don’t wanna tell the boss you’re just not gonna do that¬†proposed project? Don’t have the guts to¬†actually say that a co-worker is being too demanding? Wanting to keep it politically safe? Well, you’re in luck because you can use the new-and-improved Project Calendar.¬†¬†But I warn you: Walter’s not going to take it any longer. When the Q2 project calendar is mentioned, Walter’s going to issue this line. He’ll most likely berate you until there are tears streaming down your face. And from that point on, he’s going to issue this line at every meeting because he knows you have a natural allergic reaction to working. Plus, he knows that you are being very passive aggressive. And even though Walter¬†likes aggression, he considers pacifism an emotional problem.

“The beauty of this is its simplicity. If a plan gets too complex something always goes wrong.”
When Walter and the Dude are heading out to the drop-off point with the million bucks, Walter informs the Dude of his plan to keep the money. The plan is so simple, it’s practically a swiss f’ng watch. This quote gives us a real insight into Walter’s outlook on life, and there is no doubt that this ideal permeates Walter’s SEO approach. Keep it simple. A good SEO should always be able to keep things simple.¬†After all, SEO is simple in theory. Develop good/compelling content. Get¬†links.¬†Open yourself up to the search engines.¬†Those are pretty much the main tenets of SEO. Walter adheres to these SEO tenets. He explains things so easily that even the most senior-level executives can understand every last item on the SEO list, no matter how complicated. When a colleague offers up the idea to turn the website into a flash animation with all sorts of bells and whistles, you can be certain that Walter will have something to say about that.

“That’s right, Dude. 100% certain. ”
Walter is good at solving mysteries. Just give him a few pieces of unrelated evidence, and he’ll determine a cynical prognosis for your website. Furthermore, Walter Sobchak is the most confident SEO you’ll ever meet, so you’ll believe every word he tells you. He’s the right guy for any SEO job. As an SEO, you can’t be meek about ideas and recommendations. You’ve got to kick down the door and let people know that you’ve got it all figured out. While you may not have anything really figured out, people will believe everything you say about SEO if you believe you have everything figured out. I’ve listened to really good SEO’s complain about SEO items not getting done, and I’ve seen really bad SEO’s get a lot of bad SEO done on a site. The difference really is confidence. And probably some other stuff, too, but let’s not worry about that.¬†In conclusion, if you’re recommending a complete¬†site makeover to correct for a low conversion rate, you’d better be sold on your own recommendations. That’s the only way it will get done. Walter Sobchak knows this. He didn’t have to learn it. It’s just always been part of his skill set.

"You think I'm f'ing around here? Mark it zero!" - Walter Sobchak
"You think I'm f'ing around here? Mark it zero!" - Walter Sobchak

“Has the whole world gone crazy? Am I the only one around here who gives a s— about the rules?”
Walter Sobchak likes rules. He enjoys structure. In fact, one time he was sitting in a planning meeting, and he had to listen to some marketing VP talk about synergizing department learnings and strategies. Walter, who gets easily pissed off when people simply create new words out of thin air and then use them in¬†strange contexts, did not like where the meeting was going. The VP talked about diverting search marketing budgets to the Dev side of things, so they could build some useless and unneeded functionality into the website. Walter knows that the goal of every business is to make money. It’s very clear cut and simple. It’s the #1 rule of business, and here is some dude trying to use a decreasing ROI as leverage to build some video player into a retail website. Well, turns out that Walter re-inacted the scene where Smokey is over the line. Walter advised the VP about the detrimental effects of a smaller budget for paid search and SEO. When the VP talked back, Walter reinforced his position. A world of pain was about to be entered. Not wanting to enter a world of pain, the VP withdrew his suggestion. And everyone lived happily ever after.

“I’m perfectly calm, Dude. Calmer than you are.”
Even though Walter might pull¬†a gun on a fellow bowler, he relishes a calm lifestyle. He can yell and scream, but he’s going to finish his cup of coffee. Some people might think that Walter is high-strung like a walking time bomb. In reality, however, he is very laid back. The only time he gets amped up is when people try to take what is his or break the rules. “What’s mine is mine.”¬†Walter is simple. What you see is what you get. He¬†likes to bowl. He’ll watch his ex-wife’s dog while she is on vacation. He likes a good cup of coffee. He likes to stay home on Shabbos. His approach to SEO is just as calm. Walter likes to sit down and investigate websites. He will take the same calm approach with your site. It might surprise you because you have seen him pull a weapon in public place, bite a man’s ear off, and throw a paralyzed man onto the ground. But in the end Walter stands up for what he believes, even when he is wrong. That’s the kind of SEO you want for your job. If he’s going to fail at something or get something completely wrong, he’s going to do it going 100mph. I like that consistent attitude.

“So you have no frame of reference here, Donny. You’re like a child who wanders into the middle of a movie and wants to know…”
As mentioned earlier in this post, Walter Sobchak gets really pissed when people wander into a conversation at their convenience and subsequently forget how to use context clues. He holds¬†a higher level of disdain for people who wander into a conversation and then start making final decisions about items being discussed. I’m sure you have been there when people do this in your Tuesday afternoon meetings. It’s especially aggravating when SEO idiots decide to pay attention to the 10-minute SEO part of the meeting and then speak up as if they’ve even been listening to anything you have been saying for the past 5 minutes. Then they start telling you how to do your job. Then they start telling you what SEO strategy makes the most sense. Fear no more because Walter Sobchak will not stand for any of that. He’ll remain calm, but he will make sure those SEO idiots know exactly where they overstepped their boundaries. Over the line!

I honestly hope you find an SEO like Walter Sobchak. And if you are currently an SEO, please don’t bounce from this post without taking some of his traits to heart. Keep it simple. Keep it calm. Follow the rules of business. Be confident. Let people know where the line is. Don’t be afraid to stand up for your beliefs. You’ll be a better SEO for it. And probably a better person, too.

Goodnight, sweet prince.

How Zeno’s Paradox Relates to SEO

Today I got word that one of my clients does not want to continue with SEO for their site. Now, I don’t need the money. I’m not starving. Business is good. I’m doing fine. I would not be upset if the client just chose to go another direction (i.e. get a new SEO expert). But that is not what’s happening. This client is simply dropping SEO completely. “In this economy budgets are getting cut all across the board.” I’m sure you’ve also heard that statement at least once in the recent months. Like any other project where I invested time, effort and emotion, I am completely crushed that they are going to let their natural search gains slip away.

I told them what will happen. They will not see much drop off for several months. However, their natural search traffic will stop accelerating (increasing month over month), and then their natural search traffic will begin to stall out. After the growth has stopped, they will start to notice their competitors beginning to outrank them for many search keywords and phrases. The reversal may not happen over night, but it will happen. It actually reminds me of weight loss. I was watching a story about previous winners of the TV show America’s Biggest Loser. A few of them have kept the weight off over the years. They are able to keep the weight off because they continue to work at it. They bike, run, walk – pretty much any exercise that will keep them active and healthy, they are doing it for the goal of keeping the weight off. Then there are a few winners of that show who have actually put the weight back on. For some of them, they gained 100+ lbs after winning the show. The reason they gained the weight back? They dropped their good habits. They dropped exercising. They ignored their healthy diets. Essentially, they quit working at it.

As a person who is responsible for an e-commerce retail site, you must be aware that the work never ends. It’s marketing. It’s advertising. It’s promotion. The work never ends! You cannot simply cut a budget, halt a campaign, and continue to expect the same amount of return from that marketing channel. Here’s the real message in (online) marketing: You’re never gonna get there. There is a finish line, a point where everything is running smoothly, ROI is consistently increasing, and the retail, e-commerce life hands you no surprises. However, you’ll never reach that point. You must keep working as if you can reach that point, but you also have to realize that the attempt is futile. Do not give up. Keep on fighting for every last visitor. With every new build, your site should be getting closer and closer to being 100% optimized. Again, you will never reach the finish line, but you must keep all cannons firing to hit your traffic and revenue goals right now. It’s a never-ending struggle, a lifelong journey. You can’t just arbitrarily drop a marketing channel and expect that long terms gains will continue.

Being a person who enjoys a good math analogy, I can’t help but give you Zeno’s Dichotomy Paradox:

“That which is in locomotion must arrive at the half-way stage before it arrives at the goal.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄĒAristotle, Physics VI:9

Suppose you want to reach a finish line. Before you can get to the finish line, you must get halfway to the finish line. Before you can get halfway there, you have to get a quarter of the way there. Before traveling a fourth, he must travel one-eighth; before an eighth, one-sixteenth; and so on. This description requires you to complete an infinite number of tasks, which Zeno maintains is an impossibility. It turns out that Zeno also knows that you’ll never get to the finish line. But the excitement in life comes when we try. Wait. But Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” So maybe I’m wrong about that try stuff. At any rate, this is getting very long-winded.

Bottom line: keep investing in SEO. It’s the only way to insure optimal long term growth, and it is also a great way to avoid huge drops in traffic and revenue when a new build launches where some IT guy did something that you didn’t know about and you miss out on a massive amount of traffic and revenue. Believe me. That happens. IT guys are smart, but sometimes it’s us SEO guys who catch technical problems that affect your site’s revenue. Good day to you.