SEO and Paid Search

Google Aligns Itself with Big Brands?

This is one of the most interesting and well written articles on SEO that I have seen in a while:

Aaron Wall on Google and Branding

Not only does it cover current events but also has some history of the game.

SEO and Paid Search

Site Redemption

When I first started this blog it was an experiment. Much like The M Show, I had no idea where it would go or if I would have more than a few weeks of things to write about. Fast forward a few years, and yes, I guess I do have some content.

Thanks to this lack of initial commitment I cut some corners. Rather than pay for two hosting accounts I decided to point to the same account that was hosting The M Show. Since Libsyn serves up 99% of the bits for that podcast the server had capacity to give.

The problem is that many tools that watch the web don’t really like this. Even with proper redirects any tactic that only a spammer or cheap bastard would use is not going to give you that extra glass of fresh Google juice. My domain started strong with a page rank of 6 (PR6 if you want to sound like a social media douche bag SEO consultant), but then dipped to 5 as the blog gained momentum.

I also noticed that technorati (hint – become a fan!) and lists like the Power 150 had me stranded out in Nowhereville. The final straw was when I hit PR4, not the web equivalent of hell, but definitely the neighborhood where the washer and dryer are out on the front porch and there are vehicles on cinder blocks in the front yard so you don’t have to mow the lawn.

So I had two options – flush it all and start new, which would have been the easy route, or try rehabilitation. Again, seeing this more as an experiment, it seemed like it would be a good case study to fix as much as I could and see what would happen. After all, it’s probable that I will run into people and companies whose online reputation has been screwed up, yet they will be unwilling to give up the current domain name in my future.

Results so far: The problem was deeper than I thought, my feed had been hacked with some hidden links that I imagine where what banished me to the ghetto. Having finally straightened out the domain name issues and cleaned up all the feeds (sorry to the M Show fans that had Ronin posts show up for a couple of days!), today Google shows me with a PR5! So rehabilitation is possible at least to get back to zero, the next question is can you go above the zero line?

What you can do to help: If you want to accelerate this case study (LOL) you could re-subscribe to the feeds over there on the left side of the page above my Lijit widget (I would tell Tara that I’ve finally got it in the template, but she would roast me since it’s taken me like 7 years to finally add it to my blog, but since she didn’t enter the 23rd Annual Marketing Over Coffee Awards, hell, we’re even). Anyway, for the price of less than a few clicks a day you can help feed this hungry blog.

Ok, I can no longer avoid shovelling snow… see you later.

Great Marketing SEO and Paid Search

White Hat SEO vs. Black Hat SEO

It’s not Spy vs. Spy. It’s different.

I’ve only been to one SEO Event, as it’s much easier (faster, cheaper…) to do my research online. Recently there’s been a lot of chatter about one of Danny Sullivan’s events that some felt went too far into Black Hat Territory. I found a response that said “Guess what suckas! There is no White Hat!” of course I paraphrase.

For n00bs (new people, to you n00bs), most believe there are two ways to do better in search engine results: White Hat – being “honest” and not doing Black Hat – making changes to your site, or getting links that have nothing to do with the user experience, and are done solely to score higher in the engines.

Jason Calacanis deployed some f’ing astonishing Ju-Jitsu a little more than a year ago, stating that SEO was all BS. He issued a challenge made a lot of important points and said that SEO is “pissing in the community’s well”, based on his image of what the future would be (and I think he’s on the mark). The beauty of it all though is that it both validates the business model and drives traffic for his new venture Mahalo. A beautiful example of participating in social media and leveraging community. It’s not possible to buy or fake that kind of hype – but kids, don’t try this at home, you’re watching a professional stuntman here.

Ok, so all that said… What to do? From what I’ve seen I think the wild west days are over. The web has become a communtity and the search engines are the law enforcement professionals. Black Hat has become like any other life of crime – it can provide benefit, but the downside is that you are always at risk of being found out and crushed. The truth is that you have your business on the line and the law enforcement people have no emotional involvement whatsoever. The guys that tweak the search algorithms come to work every day and think about how to tighten it up.

This will continue for years, people going to work and the corporate bureaucracy, patching holes at a slow pace, but crushing everything in their path. And it’s just like these cold case shows on TV, you may get away with it today, but 3 years from now they come up with a new way to examine the evidence and you get the cuffs.

Don’t take on the risk of Black Hat until you’ve exhausted everything possible from White Hat. Building an easy to navigate site with lots of great resources that the rest of the world can’t help but link to is a great way to build traffic that you can work on and never have to worry about waking up one morning and finding your site banished and traffic wiped out. This is becoming less and less of a technical function (making sure your html tags are properly formatted) and more of a copywriting one.

Wear the black hat if you have no long term plans for the domain. There’s a reason why PPC (Pills, Porn, Casinos) excel at black hat – if they have to close down that’s not a big deal, if you have a legitmate URL with your company name the stakes are much higher.

There are many people who can make money off of exploiting weaknesses in the search engines, but like most neighborhoods where the exploitation gets the attention of law enforcement, you probably don’t want to hang out there.

SEO and Paid Search

Microsoft Live

Just a data point – I’m getting a lot of inbound traffic from Microsoft Live. That’s a huge surprise to me. The good news is that it’s from keywords I really like. I may give them a 7 day test to see how I like it.

Brain Buster Email Marketing Productivity Booster SEO and Paid Search

Ron’s Predictions

My Inbox is also my To-Do list. If there’s a message that is part of an important project it stays in the box until it gets done. This can be a great productivity booster – many times if I am unsure about the importance of a project I leave it in the inbox. If I don’t remember what it was about by the time it hits the bottom of the box (or if the original requestor hasn’t asked about it in the 4 months it took to get to the bottom of the inbox) that’s an alert that perhaps that TPS report (re: Office Space) wasn’t that urgent, or it’s time for me to get to something I have been putting off.

I had started kicking a project around in the Summer that is moving again. As part of the first attempt to start this project I had asked some social media luminaries to give their opinions on some marketing techniques and whether they are gaining ground or dying.

As most social media consultants are full of crap and/or have an aversion to real work, I only received a response from Ron. His response has made it to the bottom of the inbox, and as he had the courtesy to respond I cannot let decent content go unused (and Ron – if this is still your opinion you could cross-post to this and skip writing on Thanksgiving day!).

I asked:

Is eMail dying?

1)email is not dying — yet. Email is something that is very popular for
people over a certain age. The younger folks don’t use email. They
text message, instant message, send bulletins, etc. I don’t know what
these folks are going to do when they need to get a job and the job
requires email. Perhaps that’s the only place that they’ll use it.
Or perhaps, they’ll be the catalyst for bringing in the email
replacement technology.

I agree, email is starting to slide from peak profitability, but will be profitable for a long time.

Is corporate blogging on the rise?

2)Blogging = Transparency — and so far, most companies still do not
have the intestinal fortitude for such openness. And it’ll get worse
before it gets better. Just wait for the first lawsuit where
Sarbanes-Oxley is invoked against a blog posting:-)

It’s interesting to me how blogging is growing from smaller companies and working it’s way up. The fewer layers of bureaucracy, the easier it is for blogs to grow. If your company has a culture of red tape, your bloggers can’t grow through the concrete sidewalk.
The growth of marketing departments as publishing companies:

3) Every Organization is a publishing Organization: always has been.
It’s just that the company’s customers became publishers too!

Always has been, but now every company has the infrastructure to spread further than only where trade magazines used to tread.

Online Video:

4)Online Video — The big news this year in Online Video is that
AppleTV, while not a perfect device, is a wormhole hole in the
Cable/Satellite space-time-continuumJ I can now get video podcasts
and YouTube videos into my livingroom. This is a major Crossing The
Chasm requirement.

My head hurts and I feel pity for Network TV execs. Between iTunes, Apple TV, Slingboxes, DVRs, etc. Things are only going to get messier. Can I have Heroes back on iTunes please?

Snack Media:

5) Online Video Attention Span. Back to the younger generation.
These kids have the attention span of a gnat. They want their
content quick and brief. What’s interesting, with YouTube, is that us
older folks may be being retrained. I no longer have the patience to
sit down and watch a 1 hour show”


6) RSS Feeds — Syndicate everything! RSS feeds are just starting to
show up in not traditional publishing areas like corporate websites
who syndicate the MOST OBVIOUS yet LEAST IMPACTFUL piece: their press
releases. More companies will start to experiment with RSS Feeds next

I think this area needs a quantum leap – Feeds alone can’t cross the chasm. Maybe Google Reader will continue to spread. Why’s this stuff not in Office?


7) RSS Feeds + Mashups. The release of Yahoo Pipes, Microsoft Popfly,
and Google Mashup (plus apps from Intel and IBM) offer great
opportunities for companies that are looking to take advantage of the
growth of RSS Feeds. If companies decide to “Syndicate Everything,”
these fledgling tools may become more of a necessity to help filter
the information torrent.

Wow, I’d forgotten all about Pipes. If only there were more hours in the day.

8) SEO isn’t Dying…it’s Already dead! “Black Hat” SEO is dead.  Never bet against the
House and never bet against Google.  Their business is predicated on
matching search results to good content.  Produce good content,
frequently, on a site that stays around for a while and Google will
reward you handsomely.
I think SEO is becoming more respectable as it’s evolving into copywriting.

Thanks Ron!

SEO and Paid Search

AdWords and AdSense Primer – Questions from Ron Amok

My friend Ron sent over a question asking for clarification on this post from Google – they are doing placement targeting and CPC for placement targeting. What does this mean? Here’s a play by play to get you started.

Back in the dark ages of Google Adwords (like 2 months ago), there were two places to run your ads. You could buy words that would show your ads when people searched for them in Google. In other words – if you bought “Donuts” and somebody searched on Google for “Donuts” your ad would show up on the right side of the Google Search Engine Results Page (or SERP for the hardcore insiders).

This is grossly simplified, there are a lot of things that go into whose ad shows up and where on the page, and there’s a bidding process along with a determination of the quality (read – spamminess) of your ad.

The next step was to provide this same functionality to websites other than Google – and thus was born adsense (keep in mind I am not a Google historian, I have no idea about these timelines really, I have a tough time remembering breakfast, never mind when this stuff rolled out. For a great history of Google check out John Batelle’s “The Search“).

Adsense allows other websites to run the same ads that show up on the Google SERP. For example if you scroll to the bottom of this page you will see a bunch of google ads, some of them may even include “Donut” “SERP” or “Help with Google Adwords”. For having Adsense on your site Google pays you. I’ve had it running for a year and I think I’ve made 72 cents or something. I don’t care because I did it to learn, but there are people who live comfortably just doing lots of this.

Once Adsense went live, Adwords users had the opportunity to have their ads run outside of the Google site (don’t worry if you are getting confused, I’ve been running with this for about 3 years now and I still have a hard time keeping Adwords and Adsense straight).

Just to make things interesting the payment model was changed. For ads that showed up on Google SERPs the advertiser was charged each time an ad was clicked – cost per click, or CPC. For ads showing up outside the Google SERPs you would pay per impression (each time the ad appeared whether it was clicked or not). This is the model is common in the newspaper and magazine industry, and is called cost per thousand, or CPM for those of you with Latin skills ( N.B. – just to get more Latin on your ass – once in a great while you will still see MM around being used for Million, that’s a thousand thousand to your homeboy Caecilius).

Hell, where was I… You’ll notice that sales guys love CPM because if you are selling ads it gets expensive quick and it doesn’t matter how much the ads suck or how much readers ignore them. As a result there are many Marketeers that see this as wasted spending.

Originally you would only vote yes or no on sites beyond Google, this could cause problems if your ads show up on sites you don’t want them to – such as an Army recruiting ad showing up on the website for the San Francisco Gay Pride parade… etc. Eventually the functionality was added to include/exclude certain websites (URLs). I haven’t played around much deeper than that, I’m not sure how good the tools are out there to determine where you want to be.

With this latest announcement you get more granularity, you don’t just have to show up on the Daily Planet, you can choose just the Daily Planet Sports Page. They’ve also added CPC pricing to make it easier for people to test it without blowing their budget. There’s some huge opportunity here, every Pizza shop should lock down all the searches in a 5 mile radius for Pizza, same for Funeral Homes, Florists, anybody whose business is Geo targeted.

Hopefully that answer gets you on track, for more commentary on Google check out this week’s Marketing Over Coffee, and feel free to send any additional follow up questions, or request for clarification on the above.

For more information this link to the Adsense blog can then lead you to their help center and learning center, both great resources.

SEO and Paid Search

Curing the 302

Well, it seem like the domain name change has propagated in a flash (translation – it looks like everything is working properly). So, what was that all about last week? The short version was to improve my Google Ranking. Read on if you are into Search Engine Optimization (SEO), or we’ll see you at the next post!

I originally created The M Show and set up a domain name, and I rent the services of a server from the good people at WestHost who make sure it stays running for me. When I created Ronin Marketeer I purchased that domain name and pointed it the blog directory on The M Show server. You may have noticed that you get here from, but all of the article links start with

Everything worked, so I was satisfied and went on my way for a couple of months. Then, one day I was informed that I had made Todd And’s Power 150 (now the Ad Age Power 150). It was great to be on the list but I noticed that my Google Page Rank was a 4. I didn’t think that could be true, but it was. The Google Page Rank is a score that every page gets that is the judged importance of your page. The score runs from 1 to 10, and the normal progression I have seen is a new domain will score a 5 and after you get some links and credibility you go up to 6. 7 or more and you are getting to be big time, last time I looked things like Amazon and Wikipedia get 9’s and Google is the 10 (this may have changed, I don’t pay much attention to scores beyond my own).

I spend most of my days doing marketing activities and I am lucky enough to work with some extremely smart people who take care of my hardware and networking needs. As a result, I only play around with servers and their software that runs on them (such as Linux and Apache) for my own projects.

Every time you type in an address or click a link a request is sent from your machine to the server that sends back the page to you. When information comes back there’s a code that’s returned with the info – a 200 means all is good in the kingdom. You probably have seen a 404 – the “Sorry buddy, no page like that here”. When a server is set up you can change that 404 message to something friendly, but many people never get around to that.

300 Error codes are sent when pages are redirected to another page. A 301 is a permanent redirect – “Hey, this page is always over here” and better search engines will remember that and not come back, in order to save bandwith. A 302 is a temporary redirect, and commonly used for spammy activities.

I had set up a URL redirect to send requests from over to the blog. It was my understanding that this type of redirect was more respected than using CNAME (e.g. “respected” as in – would send back a 301). Unfortunately that was bad advice, and when I checked the codes using Rex Swain’s HTTP viewer, I saw I was getting a 302.

The solution? Rather than having users check in at the domain name and then be sent over to the other domain, I added the domain to the original account. The good news is that since both domains were at WestHost the transition was painless, if the domain had been with another hosting company the URL could have gone down for a couple of days as the DNS settings propagated throughout the interwebs.

So now I finally have a setup that Google is supposed to like – we’ll see if the page rank responds…

SEO and Paid Search

Warning – Bumpy Road Ahead

I’m going to be pulling a stunt to see if I can improve my Google ranking, if I screw it up I might mess up the domain name for a while. If you are a fan and you notice that the site is down please drop me a line, if I pull off the stunt I’ll explain everything when I’m done.

Stand back as Evel Knievel gets ready to jump the canyon…

Update: Ok, I’ve made some DNS changes so may be down for a good day or two, this blog is actually hosted at so everything but the header link should work and I’ll fix that.

And Ron, planning for Snake Canyon prepares me for the worst case scenario!

Brain Buster SEO and Paid Search

Sailing the SEO Seas

About two weeks ago I had an epiphany, we have been tracking a number of search results for some key terms that we optimize for (for those who don’t speak geek – when you type in a certain term in Google, we do some work to make sure that our pages come up on the list, I check the results for a number of terms weekly). I noticed some patterns where results would remain clustered (we would be placed with similar pages) but the locations would be all over the map. i.e. – Let’s say we were result 12, I would note results 13 and 11, and two weeks later we’d be clustered at 35,36 and 37.

It bothered me that sets of links would move as a cluster, and I think I have a reasonable theory: much the way campaign results evolve and go in and out of favor, so do search results. What was once the most popular link for “Paris” will change from week to week depending on whether the city has something big going on, or if the hotel heiress does.

One of the rookie mistakes people make in SEO is thinking that their content is the most important thing in search, this is ignoring the most important factor in search results – clickstream data from the results that users select.  When Google shows you 10 results that can keep track of what you click on and then compare it to everyone else. If you modify your search phrase that gives them some more data. More important yet, if you click on a link and then come back 3 seconds later to try something else, that says a whole lot. This is a core argument why a lot of people say most of SEO is crap and unless you have content that engages and keeps readers, eventually you are going to lose, no matter how many keywords you stuff, or link farms you set up.

The last thing to remember is my Paris example. No matter what you do, if you are optimizing for the city and this week the celebrity is in vogue, your results are going to slip even if nothing else has changed.

One sure fire solution – be sure to work on the secondary terms so that when someone searches for “city of paris” the second time, you get the hit. Or you could just write good content.

Gaming Geek Stuff Productivity Booster SEO and Paid Search


Today is officially BlogDay, you can get the story and original recommendations in my previous post.

Just a few other things I read that are always great:

I’m a insider by reading SalesforceWatch.

On the small business tech font, and for Tales of Chicago check out Chicago Mike.

Most readers know I’m still going through Sex and the City withdrawal, The Pink Shoe Diaries help me cope.

As a comic fan (aka – Fanboy, aka – dork) Title Undetermined makes me laugh.

I’m also giving a second plug for Mike Champion because he needs a dose of the Google Juice, and mentioning GameSpot which is not a blog but still full of great info.