Just in from Statcounter:
Firefox 3 is the first non-Microsoft browser to pass Internet Explorer 6. Congrats, Firefox 3! More of the story here.
Just in from Statcounter:
Firefox 3 is the first non-Microsoft browser to pass Internet Explorer 6. Congrats, Firefox 3! More of the story here.
We all know that a laptop is a laptop. However, in the wide world of search, you can’t just focus on ranking for laptop. Why? For one, good luck ranking for laptop. The competition is superduper competitive for that term. Next, you’ll probably want to rank for laptops. Again, good luck. Don’t get me wrong. You should definitely optimize your site for those terms. I just don’t want you getting your hopes up. Even in a time of hope and change, I wouldn’t get caught up in hoping that your rankings change so much that you’ll be swimming in $100 bills. It’s just not likely you’ll be able to rank in the top 10 for laptop. But imagine if you could. There are a lot of searches for that term.
Where does that leave us? We must focus on some other generic keywords that also drive a lot of laptop-related traffic. Let’s check out synonyms for laptop. Notebook! Many people refer to their laptop as a notebook, so we definitely need to target the term notebook. Up until a few years ago, that was the main choice as an alternative to laptop. Well guess what. There’s a new keyword on the move: netbook. Just take a look at these historical trends, courtesy of Google Trends:
While the United States search volume has seen a tremendous increase for the term netbook, the News reference volume has been even more dramatic. In the news realm, the term netbook has already passed the volume for notebook, and it looks like netbook and laptop are currently in a dead heat. Where did all of this come from? In Q4 2007 the term netbook appears out of nowhere, and then a year later it’s off to the races. Perhaps a look into the history of netbooks is needed. Or perhaps not. Or perhaps we can borrow a summary from our friends at Wikipedia:
A netbook (a portmanteau of Internet and notebook) is a class of laptop computer designed for wireless communication and access to the Internet.
Primarily designed for web browsing and e-mailing, netbooks rely heavily on the Internet for remote access to web-based applications and are targeted increasingly at cloud computing users who require a less powerful client computer. Netbooks typically run either Linux or Windows XP operating systems rather than more resource-intensive operating systems like Windows Vista or Mac OS X. The devices range in size from below 5 inches to over 13, typically weigh 2 to 3 pounds (~1 kg) and are often significantly cheaper than general purpose laptops.
Netbooks represent a greener alternative to larger laptops due to lower power demands, fewer toxic components, and a resource-efficient approach to computing and some models have achieved EPEAT gold and silver ratings.
The Wikipedia entry goes on about the history of the netbook, from Psion’s line of Netbooks to the One Laptop Per Child project to the Palm Foleo. But the real change in netbook-related search volume came in 2007 when Asus released the ASUS Eee PC. And it wasn’t only ASUS. Everybody had to play catch up and copycat. Following the ASUS EeePC, Everex came out with the CloudBook, MSI developed the Wind, Dell released the Inspiron Mini, HP put out the HP Mini, and many other similar models were on the assembly line for production.
In early 2008, Intel announced that it would be quitting the One Laptop Per Child program, but that didn’t impact search. In fact, in early 2008 the search volume trend for netbook really started to rise. Why might this be? There’s probably many more verifiable and accurate reasons than this one I’m about to throw out there, but I’m going to start with the US economy in 2008. Netbooks are inexpensive, small, underpowered laptops. The key word (no pun intended) in that list is inexpensive. Netbooks average about $350. And just in case you think this post is too long and off base, just check out this link. Today on Amazon, the top 3 bestsellers in Computers & PC Hardware are netbook computers. And there are all under $375. Don’t believe me? Here’s the screenshot:
There you have it. Netbooks are cheap. They are lightweight. They don’t have a lot of the unnecessary bells and whistles that 99% of people will never use. Netbooks are perfect for people who just want to surf the web and check email. In the next few years, netbooks will make it easier for more and more people to get online, and it’s only natural that many of the major companies get involved in the netbook market. Already there are several models from brands such as Acer, Lenovo, Samsung, MSI, Sylvania, Toshiba, ASUS, HP and Dell.
Lastly, here is a look at the terms netbook and notebook vs. the plurals. For those of you wondering, the term netbook has already passed notebooks in terms of search volume. This is another sign that netbook term is only going to become increasingly competitive. If you are running an SEO campaign for a company selling laptops, notebooks and netbooks, I hope you consider placing a lot of focus on netbook-related terms. You are not on the ground floor of ranking for netbooks, but the good news is that you still have a good shot at setting up your site for great netbook-related rankings in the future.
Today I thought I’d do a really random search, so I searched for google on google.com. The question: Will Google rank Google.com #1 for a search for google? Or if they do rank themselves #1, why would they do that? If someone is already on google.com and they search for google, would they even click on the search result for google.com? It would make no sense. Confused yet? It only gets worse from here. And here are the results:
Well, there you go. Wait a minute! Google.org?! WTF? What’s that? Oh, it’s the ‘philanthropic arm’ of Google. Why would they do that? According to a linkdomain: query on Yahoo.com, google.com has about a jillion links (actually ~1.19B links) and google.org only has about 270k links. From what I’ve heard about Google’s ranking algorithm, the key to ranking is the quantity and quality of backlinks and anchor text. However, google.org does have a lot more content. Maybe that is the key element driving the top ranking. But seriously, what’s going on here? How does google.org pull a #1 ranking? That’s like me showing up to SkyBar with Megan Fox (btw, she just separated from that dude from 90210). I mean, I’m a nice guy and all, and I’m kinda philanthropic. Plus I once rescued orphaned nuns from a burning cathedral, but that’s Megan Fox. She’s like the #1 ranking these days. [And what about the fact that Google.com is advertising Google.com as the only result in the paid search ads? Is that logical? I guess it’s about as logical as searching for the term google on Google.com.]
Obviously, something is going on here. Most likely it has to do with the fact that if you’re on google.com and you’re searching for Google, you probably don’t want to see google.com as the #1 result. Google recognizes this. They know you’re probably looking for something else besides google.com. I think its for this reason that Google has purposefully placed google.org in the top spot. After all, according to Google’s Keyword Tool, google.org only got ~40,500 searches in January. Google.com got ~13.6M searches, and the term google got ~83.1M searches. It stands to reason that google.org needs some help with exposure, and Google probably wants to get more exposure for the philanthropic arm of their company. Aw shucks. How nice?
It appears Google likes to help out the tired, the hungry and the otherwise unable-to-rank-for-themselves type of sites. But is that philanthropy extended outside the family? Let’s find out. How about a search for the term search engine:
Okay. Now I’m going to throw up. Dogpile.com? Seriously? That’s a little too obvious because dogpile.com is a site that let’s you search for anything, and then it piles (get it?) all the results from G, Y, MSN/Live and Ask into one results page. [Once again, it’s very odd to go to google.com and then search for the term search engine, but it doesn’t change the fact that these results are not necessarily up to par with Google’s reputation for providing the most relevant search results for a given query.] I guess Dogpile is a reasonable #1 result, but the strange thing is that this site is not the most well-known search engine. Google is. The word google is used as a verb in our vernacular these days for heaven’s sake! Furthermore, according to Alexa, google.com is the #1 trafficed site in the world. Dogpile is #1,825. Typically, Google gets this kind of stuff right.
According to the Google Keyword Tool, the term search engine actually gets some searches:
See that? Google reports that the term search engine had over 2.4 million searches in January 2009. If I had an awesome anchor text analyzer, I’d totally compare the anchor text in links to google.com vs. the anchor text in links to dogpile.com. I bet that 99% of links to google.com have Google as the anchor text. Dogpile.com, on the other hand, might actually have more links with the term search engine as the anchor text. I can’t imagine that would be the case, but it’s certainly a possibility. It also occurs to me that Google shouldn’t even rank itself for this search. Why would a user click on the google.com result when they are already on Google. It really doesn’t make any sense. Kind of like this post. It’s filler. And I’ve dragged it out as long as I possibly can. Now I’m kind of hoping no one even sees this one.
Update: I just did another search for google, and after refreshing the search a couple of times, I saw some shifting in the organic results. Google.org, google.com, Google Reader, etc… – they were all changing places. WTF? I’m still confused. It’s pretty clear that this search result does not play by the typical algorithm rules. Me thinks Google has its hands in the search for google.
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.
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?!
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:
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!
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.
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!
I always hear about China driving the most search traffic in Asia. And I always hear about China being a very coveted market for internet advertising. Well, good for you, China. So glad you are kicking so much ass over there. I’m glad that you have 253 million web users. Does anyone even know which country comes in second place in internet usage in Asia? Well, if the title of this post gives away anything, it is the answer to that question. Japan! Yes, Japan has 94 million internet users. That data is from this site, so hopefully it’s accurate. At any rate, I have an empathetic gene that apparently makes me stick up for the guy finishing in second place. With this post, I just want to make sure more attention gets paid to internet usage in Japan. So here I go. Before I get started, let’s make sure you know that Yahoo! is not the same as Yahoo! Japan. Yahoo Japan is a separate company altogether, but it’s nearly worth as much as Yahoo. In fact, US-based Yahoo! owns 34% of Yahoo! Japan.
Uh. Where to start? How about we look at visitor data for Yahoo Japan and Google Japan. Together, these two engines drive 72 million unique japanese visitors per month (Yahoo Japan has 46 million, Google Japan has 26 million). In graph form, it looks like this:
Holy crap! Do you see that? Who would have thought that Yahoo Japan destroys Google Japan for monthly unique Japanese visitors? Not me. If you happened to be debating this topic at your local pub the other night, I’m glad I can help settle the debate. Yahoo Japan clearly wins. And it doesn’t stop there. In terms of monthly pageviews, Yahoo Japan has 21.9 billion, while Google Japan only has 2.2 billion. Yahoo Japan wins again! (Yes, I admit that graph doesn’t make much sense because it’s talking about percentages. But I like graphs where one part looks like it’s eating the other part!)
Now let’s look at Alexa Japan’s rankings for the top 3 sites in Japan:
Holy crap! It looks like Yahoo.co.jp is the #1 site Japan. How about that? Where you at Google Japan? While I did say that I like to stick up for #2, I would rather not stick up for Google in this post. Google rules everything, everywhere else around the world pretty much. I’m going to let Yahoo Japan enjoy this victory. They deserve it. Ah, but I am empathetic, so I should point out that Alexa Japan has YouTube.com at #4 and Google.com at #8. That’s right. Google has 3 sites in the Alexa Top 10 in Japan. They may not be #1 in the market, but they definitely have enough representation in the Top 10.
Well, that’s all I’ve got today. Just a cool look under the hood of the battle for internet exposure in Japan. But before I go, here are some stats I found for Yahoo! and Yahoo! Japan for 2007:
For those of you wondering where I got all this information…uh…I found it on the internet somewhere. From different places and stuff.
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.
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!”
“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.
“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.
The Dinobots were always my favorite characters on the Transformers cartoon. I don’t know if it was because they were huge, dumb, and always breaking stuff, or if it was just because like every 5-year-old boy, I had a love of dinosaurs. No matter the reason, I could not get enough of the episodes that focused on the Dinobots. I always liked Swoop best because he could fly. Plus, the pteranodon is easily one of the best orders of dinosaurs.
Even as a little boy, I could see some things that didn’t make sense regarding the Dinobots. Here are a few:
1. There are 5 Dinobots: Grimlock, Slag, Sludge, Snarl and Swoop. However, there are many times that we only see 4 of them together. Most of the time, Swoop is missing. It’s weird.
2. When they were first created, the Dinobots ran amok and almost destroyed Teletraan I (the Autobots’ computer). The Dinobots were basically turned off and stowed away. When the Autobots really needed their help, the Dinobots were given cerebral upgrades, but even with the upgrades, they still thought and talked like cavemen. My question is: If you’re some super-sophisticated race of robots, why create robots that are dumb? Was processing power limited? Did Intel not create enough chips that year?
3. In some episodes, the Dinobots are massive, robotic beasts that are as big as actual dinosaurs. Yet when they transform back to robot form, they are smaller than some of the other Autobots. I don’t get that. Does the transformation cause their various parts to change sizes? It just doesn’t make sense when they are 30 feet tall in dinosaur form, but then they are 7 feet tall in robot form.
There. I have spoken my peace about miscellaneous plotholes regarding the Dinobots. I’m pretty much all over the place tonight, so I’ve decided to post a blog about the Dinobots and SEO/SEM. It’s easily a reach. A friend of mine would say that this is such a reach that I might even stretch a muscle by reaching so far. Oh well. Here it goes.
Grimlock is the mostly brainless leader of the Dinobots. He was always dumb, but after the animated movie was released in 1986, his brainlessness increased dramatically – to the point where he was relatively limited to a comic relief role. He did save the Universe in one episode, so don’t think that he’s only good for a laugh. Even though he said some dumb stuff and even though most of it was in caveman talk, I thought there was always some underlying wisdom in Grimlock’s words. This post will examine how Grimlock’s apparently witless logic can actually apply to the SEO/SEM world. As I said before, it’s a total reach on my part, so good luck in following any of it.
On analyzing options:
“Grimlock see 1, 2, 3, a zillion tunnels here! How we know which one to take?”
Optimizing your search marketing campaigns can be a real hassle. It seems like there are a zillion options available. When budgets are being cut and when it seems like all executive-level eyes are focusing on all of your search marketing channels, life can really suck. Given the nature of our new economy, it’s very important that we consider all the options. Do we turn off all campaigns? Do we reduce spend on one of them and increase it on another? If so, what increase/decrease combinations are best? And for which campaigns? My answer: follow the short-term and long-term ROI trail. You know what a customer means to you now. It’s money that will keep your ROI up for the next company meeting and marketing review. But do you know what the long-term ROI is for all site visitors? And what about the lifetime value of a new customer? That is a metric you should always consider. It’s one of the main reasons that all aspects of your search marketing campaigns are important. Tracking the long-term ROI for new customer acquisition is often tough to do. And depending on goals, short-term ROI for a certain campaign may not be the best indicator of long-term success. I wish I could say follow your heart on this one, but that’s likely to get you demoted or something. On the other hand, you should follow your instinct. Keep your paid search, paid inclusion and SEO campaign active. Even if you have to reduce the spend on one or two of those channels, find a logical, happy equilibrium where you are still finding new customers who are purchasing now. Once the economy corrects itself and we are out of this tailspin, resume an aggressive approach for all campaigns.
On repeating stuff to people who cannot comprehend:
“Ohh, with some Autobots you have to explain everything.”
Most e-commerce marketing managers and directors are SEO idiots. However, it’s not really their fault. They’ve got their hands tied up in a lot of other stuff. However, they want to be involved in the SEO, so that’s when things get fun. Most of my time is spent emailing, creating documents, repeating ideas and strategies, and explaining SEO for the Nth time. The thing that I have to remember is that these e-commerce people are the good guys, and they are not all-around idiots. I need them to dedicate their IT/Dev teams to my SEO strategies. Call it love/hate. Call it a real beating, but these people are my friends. We are all on the same side. We’re all Autobots. While it might seem like my H tag strategy is the most important thing they’ll ever need to do, I know there are actually 100 high priority items on the project list. I should be happy to even have mine considered for completion in 2009. Or at least that is what I keep telling myself.
On needing the latest in digital tools and devices to get stuff done:
“Guide? No need guide. Have Grimlock!”
After the Transformers movie in 1986, Grimlock became even dumber. They turned him into a full-time comic relief character. Throughout the series, Grimlock had a certain affinity for situational irony. In the episode where Grimlock becomes an intellectual genius, while still in his ignoramus state, he issues this line: “Guide? No need guide. Have Grimlock!” And then he breaks a futuristic GPS/compass that is helping them navigate through a series of underground tunnels. The other Autobots were angry that he broke the compass, so Grimlock throws a tantrum and storms off, determined to find the power core himself. Grimlock wanted to lead the way, and he thought he could without the use of a tool. Grimlock did indeed find the power core without the use of a futuristic, digital device – proving that we don’t always need the most accurate data, coolest new automated tools or smartest people telling us what to do on our search marketing campaigns. Just follow your gut instinct. Do what makes sense. Most of my job is implementing ideas that just make sense. It’s not rocket science. I’m not even sure why it’s worth so much money. It’s actually very simple. But please don’t tell anyone, or else I’ll be out of a job.
On failed attack strategies:
“Me Grimlock need new strategy.”
During the animated Tranformers movie, the Dinobots attempt to defeat Unicron, the most gigantic and terrifying Transformer in the universe. Unicron is a planet. He is the 800-pound gorilla in the industry (if you will). He is the biggest obstacle they will ever face. Now that I think about it more, Unicron actually lends himself very well to an analogy about search marketing. After 4 of the Dinobots attack various parts of Unicron’s body, it is immediately clear that they need a new strategy. Rather than keep trying the same attack strategy, Grimlock leads them away to find a new strategy. We should all follow Grimlock’s guidance on this one. We must be able to find ideas and campaigns with considerable potential, but we also have to quickly adjust when ideas and campaigns are simply not working. Grimlock was quick to analyze the situation and accept the massive obstacle in front of him. He knew after a few attempts that another strategy and another angle would be needed to overcome the obstacle. Now that lends itself even more to a search marketing analogy! In fact, I’m pretty sure that the entire movie is some sort of allegory for the search marketing industry, but I digress. (So does that mean that Google is Optimus Prime or Megatron?)
On humans who take life too seriously:
“Me Grimlock laugh at small creature who make big problems.”
As an SEO, I know that the online search world is constantly changing. Google updates their algorithm every week, and the cat/mouse game continues. I also know that shit happens. Most often it is something that was unintentional. Maybe a fire burned down the building where your servers are stored. Maybe someone put a “noindex,nofollow” meta tag on your entire site in pre-production and then forgot to remove it when the site was launched. And then no one told you about it for 2 weeks. There are unfathomable things that happen to our websites. As humans, we have the unique ability to create massive headaches for ourselves, and then life becomes too serious to bear. Though life may seem very severe at times, it’s okay to laugh at it. Well, I mean once everything is fixed. And all 301 redirects are in place. And pageload time is acceptable. And the server transition from IIS to Apache is complete. And the sitemap is updated. Etc, etc…
Well, that’s pretty much it. Maybe you got it. Maybe you didn’t. Either way, we both lose. I leave you with a video of the Quintessons. They have a messed up justice system. One might call it an Injustice System.
I saw this data the other day, so I thought I’d share it with you.
You remember Pac-Man, don’t you? He would bust out of this prison-like cell and then start eating up everything in site. It brings back memories just thinking about it. And Ms. Pac-Man? Yeah, she was smoking hot. But I digress…
Clearly Google is morphing into Pac-man. Google continues to eat up the competition in the U.S. Keep in mind that in most other countries, especially in Europe, Google is driving >90% of all search traffic. Together, Google+Yahoo+MSN account for 96% of all search traffic in the U.S. You e-commerce marketing directors better make sure you’ve got your sites listed in those search engines. However, you should pay extra close attention to Google. If you’re not ranking in the top 3 pages for your important keywords, you need to make that a top priority, or soon your business might go tits-up like Circuit City (not that they had trouble ranking for stuff, but you know what I mean). Also, you should not forget about Yahoo. I’ve got friends who work with the Yahoo paid inclusion program, and I know that program is the most reliable way to break into the top 10 results on Yahoo. It’s like having paid ads appear in the organic listings. And you can track all of it! Yahoo’s 18% market share is nothing to sneeze at, so make sure you have a paid inclusion feed running on Yahoo.
In the spirit of video games, I’d like to continue this post, though I know it should have just ended. With Google turning into Pac-Man in pie graphs around the world, I thought it might be fun to give the competition some fun nicknames. Here are Pac-Man’s original enemies from the arcade game:
Notice that there are 4 ghost characters: Shadow (aka Blinky), Speedy (aka Pinky), Bashful (aka Inky), and Pokey (aka Clyde). I kinda like these guys. I, too, would be pissed if some yellow freak was on my property eating all of my stuff. Google also has 4 competitors:
Character / Nickname
Yahoo / Can’t Follow 301 Redirects
MSN / Can’t do a link: command
Ask / 302 on the Homepage
Other / Excite Who?
I really don’t see any of the these guys closing the gap on Google. I know Obama is promising change, but I don’t think these percentages are going to start going the other way. I mean, Google is now a verb in our vernacular. Good luck to Yahoo and MSN in overcoming that obstacle.
Well that’s it for now. Until next time. Make like some trees and get outta here.
By definition, a permanent redirect. Use these to redirect users and search engines from old URLs to new URLs.
By definition, a temporary redirect. Use these when temporarily deactivating a URL or moving a URL to a new location.
If you don’t understand any of that, just remember this quote I heard from Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer: “301 good. 302 bad.”
Redirects. This is the one topic that continues to evade e-commerce dev teams and online marketers. The concept is actually very simple. A redirect is a piece of code that directs traffic from one URL to another. Here is a list of the most common redirects and when you should use them:
Just this week, I noticed a major online retailer launching a new version of their site. They’ve got about 8,000 products on their site, and they have about 20,000 active URLs on their site. Google, Yahoo, MSN and other engines had indexed their site very well. The search engines had a clear picture of the site’s list of URLs. (Having seen some sites that are not indexed by the major engines, I know how much money you can lose when Google does not have your entire site indexed). This site, however, was sitting very pretty in terms of indexing. So why am I even discussing them? Here’s the reason: They re-launched an entire site, and in the process of doing so, they created new URLs for all pages on the site. And they did it without redirecting the old site’s URLs to the new site’s URLs. To make matters worse, they left all the old site URLs active. The search engines are crawling all the new URLs, but the search engines are still able to see the old site URLs, too. This is not good. Let’s find out why. And get ready because I’m about to take you down a long path of SEO learnings.
Search Engine Spam
First of all, let’s start with search engine spam. You must understand spam to understand why redirects are important. Search engines are always on the lookout for search engine spam. Search engine spam is kinda like email spam in a sense. You know how email spam is simply a lot of junk that clutters up your inbox? Search engine spam is essentially millions and millions of junk URLs that are cluttering up the internet. Google’s goal is to index the world’s information, and they have a giant fleet of servers that store a snapshot of the internet at any given moment. It’s constantly updating as their bots are finding new URLs and removing dead URLs. You can imagine that Google and the other major search engines do not need anything cluttering up their indices. In fact, search engines are on a mission to purge all of these junk URLs. What is a junk URL? Just to be clear, I made up that term (junk URL) for the purpose of this lesson. It basically refers to any URL that is cluttering up search engine indices at Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc…
Why does search spam exist? Money. People are making millions of dollars all over the world every day with search engine spam. How do they do it? One way is to launch sites with scraped content. Spammers will scrape your site to get all the content. Then they will use it to build a site that competes with your site for all of your products. They are way smarter than you, and they will use all sorts of advanced SEO skills to outrank you for your own products. Even if they can’t outrank your site, they can still make it into the top 10 results for many of your products. Then they add affiliate links, Google Adsense, and other forms of online advertising to their site. In most cases, they generate revenue simply from pageviews. Every visitor to their site causes Adsense to fire, which earns money for the spammer. Some spammers also take steps to disable the Back button, so the user can’t escape the site without clicking on a bunch of internal site links, and those pageviews also make the Adsense load – making them even more money. And that is just one technique. They have an arsenal of spamming methods at their fingertips. How tough is it to do this? Not very. These blackhat SEOs and spammers can launch a million-page website in less than 24 hours, using content that has been stolen from sites like yours.
Matt Cutts and the Google team have really done a great job at cracking down on spam sites. The average spam site has less than 90 days before it is de-listed. I just made that up, too. Regardless, overt spam sites do not have a long shelf life. Spammers are always trying to stay one step ahead of the spam cops at the search engines, so the concepts and methods of spamming are constantly evolving and morphing. It’s the classic cat/mouse game. One of the easiest indicators of someone trying to spam the search engines is using duplicate/stolen content. And that brings us back to the example I used above. You know, the one with the online retailer that launched a new site. Yeah, it’s up there. You just have to scroll for a while. Sorry about that.
The Risks of Duplicate Content
In the online world, there are Whitehat SEOs and Blackhat SEOs (the guys/bad guys cliché). And there is also this area in the middle where some Grayhat SEOs do their work. Some grayhats are grayhats by virtue of ignorance. For example: When a Fortune 500 company re-launches their website with all new URLs, they don’t typically worry about the old URLs. What they don’t consider is that the search engines still see these old URLs. And guess what? They have the same content as the new site URLs. Effectively, there are two sites on the same domain with the same content. Having two pages for every product and category gives you two chances to rank for those products and categories. Sound familiar? Yeah, this is called duplicate content, and search engines do not like duplicate content. In fact, search engines will punish your site for this practice. When you have two identical sites, even if they are technically on one domain, you are at risk to being de-listed in the search engines. If you’re not indexed, your natural search traffic will drop to zero visits a day. No natural search traffic means no natural search revenue. And don’t think that you can plead ignorance on this one. Despite your ignorance and despite the fact that gaming the system was not your intention, you still have a duplicate site that is sitting on the same domain. The best way to eliminate the risk of being de-listed for this practice is to use 301 redirects (when necessary) when you re-launch a new version of your site.
How to Build 301 Redirects
Old – http://www.yourdomain.com/PID21554.aspx
New – http://www.yourdomain.com/Sports/Golf-Umbrella-21554.html
Getting It Done On Time
You might be thinking, how the hell am I supposed to write 301 redirects for 25,000 product pages on my site? The good news is that badass developers and server managers can write formulas and codes that will do all of this for every URL on the site. It’s fairly easy on Apache servers, and it can be somewhat difficult on IIS and SunOne servers. But don’t let anyone tell you that it cannot be accomplished. It’s done all the time, every day. The #1 thing to remember when re-launching a site with new URLs: Get all of your 301 redirects written and tested before the re-launch. The site transition needs to be seamless for users and for search engines on Day 1. Get all of this stuff tested and ready before site re-launch. Launch the redirects when the new site launches.
But wait. What if you can’t get your 301 redirects created and launched on Day 1? Are you at risk? The simple answer is, “Yes, you are at risk.” However, from what I have seen, search engines are very slow to punish big websites from top brands. Sometimes, big brands don’t get punished at all. (There is something I like to call Search Engine Politics, and I’ll post about that in a separate post). However, do you want to be the a-hole who gets blamed for the site being de-listed in Google? I think not. Take care of your site. Do you best to implement 301 redirects on time, but know that you’re not in immediate danger if they can’t go live on Day 1. The search engines want you to get things right the first time, but they understand that there are some people out there who don’t know the first thing about duplicate content issues, 301 redirects and/or SEO. The point is: don’t panic. Just get your ducks in a row, so you can get 301 redirects launched very quickly. I’ve had clients who changed their URL structure every few months. While they would not stop that practice, they did understand what needed to be done from a SEO strategy standpoint. They built an internal system that made it very easy for them to create 301 redirects for batches of URLs. I cannot tell you how happy that made me. It was truly awesome. Somewhere in heaven I know an angel cried.
PageRank & Authority
Now that spam has been somewhat explained, let’s take a look at PageRank and authority. These are concepts that are very important in the SEO world, and it’s the kind of stuff that will definitely make you look like you know what the hell you are talking about. It might not get you a date with the hot office guy or girl, but it will make you seem legit to your peers in the search marketing world. The fact of the matter is that Google has a ranking system for pages, and it’s called PageRank. PageRank is on a scale of 0-10, and the higher the PR, the better. Google uses an algorithm to rank URLs based on PageRank and hundreds of other factors. For any given search on any given topic, some URLs have authority over other URLs. How do they do that? What makes some pages more relevant than others? That is another conversation altogether. For now let’s just focus on the topic of links.
Links are the easily the most important factor in today’s search engine algorithms. For the most part, the more links you have to your site, the higher your site will rank in search results. It has been said millions of time that “a link is a vote for a site’s popularity.” Ranking is a popularity contest. The more links you have from other sites to your site, the more authority and trust your site will have. More authority and trust leads to higher rankings. It’s that simple. Websites like Amazon, eBay and Wikipedia will continually outrank your for any given keyword because those sites have a ton of inbound links, authority and trust. These sites have been active for a while, and they have proven that they are sites with a ton of authoritative content on millions of subjects, products, categories, etc… The key point: The number of links to your site is very important for ranking purposes.
Link Quantity vs. Link Quality
Is it better to have 10 links from my friends’ blogs or 1 link from a huge site like CNN.com? The simple answer is: you want both! There are many ways to game the system via link acquisition, so you want your links to look natural. Keep the quality and quantity diversified. Make it look organic, natural. Get all the links you can and maintain ways to keep building your links over time. Even though you need to get all the links you can, keep in mind that quality links are a big win. If you can score a link from a very trusted source, get it! Now already!
The quality approach is a lot like the 1987 movie Can’t Buy Me Love, starring Patrick Dempsey as Ronald Miller. Before McDreamy was wooing medical school interns, he was paying this really hot 80’s girl $1000 to be his girlfriend. His goal was to become “cool.” He wanted into that exclusive club known as the popular crowd in high school, so he paid a popular girl to befriend him. (Note: One of the coolest things about this movie is that Ronnie’s younger brother, Chuckie, is played by Seth Green, creator of Robot Chicken.) Anyways, Ronnie was onto something. If he was linked to the popular kids, he would become popular, too. See how I tied that back to SEO? Clever, huh?
The point is: While it is great to build several hundred links from smaller sites over the next several months, you can really jumpstart your site’s trust and authority by getting links from other sites with a lot of trust and authority. Typically, you can’t just go out there and get a link from a popular site, but make sure you continue to create good content. And do it often. In time, the links will come.
Bringing It Back to the Importance of 301 Redirects
Goodness. This post is entirely too long. But the next part is very important. Let’s assume your site is continuously picking up links from other websites, and your authority is growing. You have started seeing increased rankings, and the revenue is really starting to grow. Your products are selling very well, and now you want to launch a new version of the site. This new version of the site will be a lot more attractive, and it will have all sorts of cool, interactive elements. You’re even considering changing platforms and getting a better CMS. Your users will love it, and it’s very exciting for everyone involved. Before you get too far in the planning, do not forget to include 301 redirects on your project list.
Remember all that work you did to increase your site’s authority? You came up with clever ways to attract links. You started a blog and posted every other day for a year. You even followed up with every lead on acquiring any and every link you could possibly acquire. That was hard work, and you need to make sure you do not see your hard work go down the drain. One of the easiest ways say goodbye to your site’s authority is to launch a new site with new URLs. Launching a new version of the site really has the potential to mess with your website’s authority. I have seen it a hundred times. It typically happens because no one even knows about the fact that you need to create 301 redirects when re-launching a site. Or it happens because, even though you had that item of the project list, the launch date is getting closer and several items are having to be reprioritized to the point where your 301 redirect item is crossed off the list completely.
No matter why it happens, redirects are often forgotten about or ignored when sites re-launch with new URLs. It’s important because every URL on your site has an associated amount of authority. Most of your inbound links point to your homepage at www.yoursite.com. And there are probably a few links that point to some deeper category and product pages. But overall, these pages have picked up authority based on the amount of work you have done to get any and every link to the site. Furthermore, all URLs pick up authority based on the amount of time they have been live. If a URL has been active for 3 years, there is a good chance that it has a Google PageRank greater than 0, and it might even rank for some keywords and phrases. When re-designing a site with new URLs, you need a way to transfer all that authority to the new URLs. And that goes for every URL on the site. The way to do this is with 301 redirects. 301 redirects transfer authority from the old URLs the new URLs. 301 Redirects allow the transfer of link juice from old URLs to new URLs. By the way, link juice is SEO vernacular for your site’s link power or number of backlinks to your site.
The Worst Thing You Could Do
I have referenced a website that did a re-design and launched with brand new URLs for the whole site, all the while leaving all the old URLs live. There were no redirects used to direct users or search engines from the old site to the new site. Most likely, the site will continue to drive natural traffic through the old URLs. Certainly everyone involved will not be happy that users are still landing on old URLs, as those URLs are from the previous site template, but at least natural traffic and revenue will not drastically drop. This is not the optimal situation, but this is not the worst place to be.
Imagine that you re-design your site and you launch the site with all new URLs. But instead of leaving the old URLs active, you simply take them down with no redirection. To a user and a search engine, these pages no longer exist. Even worse, if you go to one of these old URLs, you land on a crappy 404 page. When searches land on this page, they will most likely bounce out of your site and go the next listing in Google. This will cause your natural search traffic and revenue to evaporate before your very eyes. And it will happen immediately. The point is: If you can’t build redirects for the new site launch, leave your old pages up. At least buy yourself some time. Under no circumstance should you take them down if the redirects are not in place. And if you must take them down, at least build an advanced 404 page that lets them know that the page is no longer there. Maybe even give them a direct route to the new site.
These are temporary redirects. For all intents and purposes, do not use 302 Redirects. But you must be careful. From what I can tell, most servers default to 302 redirects. If your dev team redirected the page, it’s probably a 302 redirect. I’m not sure why, but most servers use 302 redirects as their default redirect. Go figure. I guess it makes life more fun that way.
Get yourself some 301 redirects! This has turned into a very long post. I hope it helps you out in your SEO journey.