Tag: Google

Soooo… SEO huh? What’d I Miss?

I don’t know if y’all knew this but, I used to be pretty good at this SEO crap.  But after taking a few years off I an only assume I missed a lot of super important stuff.  I heard something about a panda bear, some scheme-a-ma-jig, so-cal votes and facebook smears…

Seems important.

Do uh, links, still work for SEO?  Anybody out there still spinning and winning?  From what I have read, every type of automation has been systematically weeded out and all sites using it have been banned right?  We need to “hand-job” everything in order to succeed?

One thing’s for sure, from the research I’ve done since I’ve been back, I can say this: there’s still just as much noise, fear mongering, ass licking, and bullshit being pushed from these so called “experts” as there was back in the day when I was ignoring them.

I call bullshit.

As much as some nuances have changed, the basics are still the same.  Get links.  The bigger the better.  Get authority.  And anchor text still works.  Search engineers always find ways to close holes in their algorithms that have been exposed time and time again, right?  But for some reason there still are holes so big you can still drive a Mack truck through them.  And some of the new stuff they’re introducing is even easier to game in it’s early stages.  *cough* *choke* *automated google +1 votes* *fart*

In all my years, I’ve played in and dominated very competitive verticals, and I have never had a single site banned.  Because common sense tells you don’t get too spammy, and don’t be too obvious, and don’t be evil.  Just because you can flare up some behind the proxy scraper / spinner / poster / pinger tools to harvest 30,00 links doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.  But competitive sense should tell you that just because a few big time SEO names or search engine employees at some expensive drunk fest glad-handing circle jerk (I mean conference, in case you didn’t catch the reference) tell you not to do something, IT DOESN’T MEAN THAT IT WILL NOT WORK.  You just have to get a feel for where the line is and don’t cross it… too often.  And if you do cross the line, do it by a tip toe, not by a mile.  Don’t be the Leeroyyyyyy Jenkins of link building.

There are safe ways to be aggressive.  Even now, when everybody tells you it’s impossible.  Don’t run around like an idiot blowing shit up with a hydrogen bomb where a single sniper should would do the trick.  And don’t listen to these fools trying to throw you off course.  Get links.  Good ones.  Lots of em.  And rank Up!

NextStudent Office Wars: Episode 1 – Newbs Newspaper the Old Schoolers

Working at NextStudent is a blast, especially since we brought a few newbies on a few months ago.  They immediately formed a team to beat the old schoolers in anything and everything… You should see them near the water fountain, it looks like they are battling for the Stanley Cup or something.

Anyhoo, this is their first prank in the NextStudent Office Wars series. Jess and Jon blogged about it a few weeks ago, but Andrea edited her first YouTube video of the event.


“my babies, watch them grow!”

This should be interesting.  As a part of our social web experiment, I am not allowed to take sides.  I can only link to things that I cannot resist linking to.  Fair is fair.  It’s old schoolers verse newbies, and the boss gotta stay out of it.

(I love calling myself that BTW).

And in case you are wondering, yes Jeff ALWAYS wears that Google shirt at work.

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What a Multimillion Dollar Web Advertiser Gets for Christmas

There are lots of posts about the neat schwag that web advertising venues have been sending to their clients this year.  Wanna know what an 8 figure + spender got this year for Christmas?  Here’s the list (which will be updated as things arrive)

  • From Google: nothing (yet?)
  • From Yahoo!: a $50 dollar donation to some charity on our behalf
  • From Kanoodle: a card (so far, but my rep says cool stuff is coming- and they killed it last year)
  • From 50% of our affiliate networks: a “customized” email, but one of them sent fairy tale brownies
  • From our analytics companies: one card from one vendor and 3 no shows
  • From our affiliates: nothing, but in their defense we didn’t send out stuff either and I think we really should have
  • From our ESPs: nada. 
  • From 6 other vendors: a card

This could mean a few different things.  Maybe I’m a dick?  Maybe since we are really low maintenance for most channels our reps forget about us?  (I don’t even have a Google or Yahoo! rep, and we spend millions a year on each… weird eh?)  Maybe tons of stuff is on it’s way?  Maybe they ALL didn’t know we had a new address since February of last year? 

Who knows.  All I know is I want some cool schwag tho.  Maybe I should train my team to dumb it down around the holidays so even us low maintenance multimillion dollar ad spenders can get some neat schwag for Christmas too!

DrinkBait Recap: a Drunken Buzz Marketing Experience

DrinkBait: I Did It For The Buzz.

Here’s a little story of how one crazy web guy tripled the traffic to his personal blog simply by trying to jam as much fun into a 36 hour period as possible. For less then the price of a single Yahoo! directory submission or one hour for a high traffic phrase on Adwords, I became pseudo-famous for at least one day in the SEO world.

A wise man once said: “The trick to SEO is finding out what the search engines want, then giving it to them til they bleed”. The question is, what DO the search engines want? Do they want anchor text links on tons of external domains? Link exchanges? Div positioning and table tricks? Probably not. I think they want to know where the buzz is at.

The BackGround

Before PubCon 2006, a guy named Nathaniel Broughton and his buddies came up with a brilliant idea which they thought would make great “LinkBait”. (more on that term later) By developing an SEO Drinking Contest, they combined the power of the blogging SEO community with the social aspects of a major web conference and the party atmosphere of Las Vegas.

Brilliant idea to get people buzzing. Everybody knows that any conference like this has it’s fair share of social climbers begging to get a picture with a semi-famous SEO personality. The root of the contest was a no brainer. People where already going to buy drinks and get pics with these luminaries of search listed within the contest.

To seal the deal and insure that the blogosphere would participate, they offered a cash prize of up to $1300 to the winner of their contest. This was a no brainer. Who WOULDN’T submit their pics to the contest and who WOULDN’T link to such a neat, buzzworthy blog post if they might be featured as winners or shown next to their favorite SEO Rockstar on a highly trafficked blog, and even potentially earn a nice little cash prize?

Somebody is already catching a buzz. Google better find them if they want to stay relevant.

How To Make Your Viral Marketing Monster Work For You

Viruses by nature only need to be introduced to one person, at one opportune time, to spread like wildfire. Back in the 80s a man named Gaeten Dugas, who had contracted a relatively unknown virus, almost single handedly helped kickstart an epidemic in our country. For politic reasons this may be a bad example to use on how to positively spread a viral campaign, but it illustrates an important point. One person can multiply the results of a virus or viral campaign by moving quickly at the very beginning. If the virus hits the right person at the right time, it will spread exponentially faster.

When I first caught wind of this campaign, I was already excited to get to Vegas. I love the fun, the action, the free drinks and pretty girls, and I love marketing. Can’t get much better than a company sponsored trip to Sin City to attend a web marketing convention with most of my favorite speakers. All I need now is a little motivation to get my bags packed and stop playing “bicycle” with my daughter. So I hopped on Technorati to find out who’s blogging about the upcoming conference to see if there was anything I should know about such as parties I wasn’t invited to or things I can expect when I get there.

That’s when I found it. My excuse to mingle, my reason for going to the conference (aside from the potential nuggets of knowledge and possible contacts), my favorite new idea. PubCon Drinking Game.

Right place, right time, I was infected with the viral and they made a monster out of me.

Working the Angles

Now I’m in Vegas and rolling into the conference. I did my research and I was ready to mix it up. I immediately was greeted with like minded people who were equally as motivated as I was to engage in conversation. Being outwardly social and sincere with the nearest stranger can often kill the awkardness of a new crowd and can sometimes have long term benefits. I was feeling OK and getting into and out of sessions, but I was mostly obsessed with the contest. How am I going to win if I have no idea where all the rockstars of my industry are going to be?

That night I went out with my little brother and a friend from work and just did the typical Vegas gambling, drinking, flirting.. it was normal Vegas fun. Then out of nowhere at Nine Fine Irishmen in New York New York I saw one of my bloggers. (I call them “my bloggers” because I’ve been reading their blogs for quite some time and felt like I already knew them)

Greg Boser and Oilman Todd Friesian where surrounded by a bunch of women (and guys but I was mostly blind to them) and having a great time, probably reveling in their coolness. I asked for Greg if I could get a pic for that drinking game, and he laughed and said “Only if you buy me a beer” with perfect timing. He chuckled to Todd and said “Hey this is the first guy buying drinks for that drinking game” who immediately stepped and and mentioned he was also worth big points. (note: this was not condescending, he was totally digging the fun)

So I got my pics and left wondering where the other SEOs are, and how on earth can I possibly find them? I just chatted it up with two big guys and made them both chuckle a bit. I want to duplicate that with every big shot in the search industry. But how.

That’s when it hit me. Marketing 101. Deliver the message to the target audience WHERE the audience is. Target. Path of least resistance. Make noise where it is heard.

Hit Them Where They Are

I needed to find out where they would ALL be. Quick, think, they are all at the conference during the day, but where else… where else would they all be at the same time? Nowhere else, that’s where. It’s Vegas and at night people will scatter and do whatever they fancy. Now at least I know I need to use the conference itself as the time / place to deliver “the campaign” (or up until this point, drinks). Now I need to figure out how.

I spent the night thinking about it, do I buy a bunch of beers and put them in a back pack? Do I buy a bottle and some Red Bull? with cups? Is that even legal? That’s when it hit me. Nips. I fell asleep happy, knowing I can technically buy drinks for people without being at a bar and somehow get some pics the easy way. I found a loophole.

Kick It Up a Notch!

On day 2, knowing I would be waiting til the 3rd day of a 4 day conference to hand out the drinks (so nobody could steal my idea) I took a break from the conference to hit that SEO Thursday blog. That’s when I saw a person named markus941’s comment left at 10:04 AM.

Oooooh, I want to play.I’ll be staying at Harrah’s so a Bass Ale, but if you see me @ New York New York it’s an Irish bomb all the way.Nice “drinkbait” post by the way.”

DrinkBait! That is just too funny. One of the hottest topics in SEO lately is LinkBait, because it is not trying to fool Google or fake popularity… it is creating content with the purpose of making it “link worthy” to HELP search engines find cool new relevant content. The idea is brilliant. DrinkBait is obviously a funny little shtick, a play on words, and also very relevant for an SEO convention in Vegas since both are prone to high levels of alcohol consumption. Double meaning- both funny, both relevant.

Perfect. I need to find out NOW if that domain exists. Might be worth some links, might be worth some buzz- worst case I meet everybody and they all know my name, which in itself holds value. Within 5 minutes, I bought the domain name from Moniker and put together the plan of attack.

Tying It All In Together

In order to be successful, a good marketing campaign needs an implementation plan. So I planned out my day accordingly. Wake up, buy nips, write blog, print drinkbait.com labels, tape labels to bottles, search for web gurus and snap pics.

Within 30 seconds of getting off of the monorail, I spotted one of those SEO consultant rockstars and ran up with the bag of drinks. Great ice breaker, good shtick. “Hey Todd, you rock man! What’s your favorite drink?”

He laughed, about seven times actually, and was basically speechless. (which is the exact opposite of what would normally occur when you run up and meet somebody who has no idea who you are, but who you respect immensely)

It was too easy. One by one I found industry experts and delivered the DrinkBait. Every time it was received with the same enthusiastic laughter and appreciation. Hell, it’s a free drink that has a few side jokes attached- who could resist? (well one person did actually resist, but more on that later).

Then, I saw The KingPin of the Search Industry. Standing right there talking to a guy next to me.. I waited as patiently as I could when I finally blurted my shpeel about the contest and the drinks and the whole shebang. I sat like a little kid who just gave his dad his first Christmas present that he bought with his own money.  It seemed like it took an eternity to gage his response, and then I was met with a warm inviting smile and a chuckle. “Oh now THIS is great! I love the idea! I gotta to let a few people know about this!”

I was floored! The top guy in our industry giving ME props? I felt like a million bucks. The rest of the drinkbaiting seemed easy. IN fact, I even approached the almighty Matt Cutts ON STAGE to give him his bottle… and here’s the kicker- he already knew about me and was excited to let me get my picture taken with him! I felt like I had arrived.

Taking it to the Next Level

It worked. Everybody loved the silly buzz marketing stunt. Now comes phase II- making it bigger and better. Just like any marketing campaign: you start with a smaller test and based on the results, you either turn it up, turn it down, or turn it off.

After a day to think about it I had the perfect slogan for my campaign. “DrinkBait: DOING IT FOR THE BUZZ”. I went and bought a shot glass necklace, more nips, more labels, a label for my back and picked out my silliest most buzz worthy shirt out of my suitcase. Today was the “networking session”, AKA: DrinkFest. If I was going to make noise, this was the time and place.

I met almost everyone, and they all knew I was coming. I was being waived at and big industry experts where waving yelling out “DRINK BAIT!”. I got a bunch of pics, drank a lot, and even got interviewed by WebProNews. It definitely made a lot of buzz, and now when I go to conferences things will probably be a little different. The people I felt like I have known for so long will mostly know me now too. Good or bad (mostly good) this campaign created exactly what I think the search engines, and people want. They want the buzz.

The Results

It took exactly one day for all search engines to find my site and rank me #1 for the term DrinkBait. Now, this term is not competitive, but you gotta admit that’s still pretty quick. I did not try to build one single link. No link exchanges, no self linking from other sites, no text link ads, no link whoring. I just got some links because others picked up on the buzz and because my site was optimized for it (don’t mind you that the term was practically non existant to this point, just re-read that last sentence again and LOVE it!).

You can’t get banned from a search engine if people link at you because your topic is interesting. So if there is any takeaway for an SEO to get out of this, it is make something buzz worthy and you assume no risk. You’ll probably get some links because it is good, interesting content.

Takeaways for marketers: give new things a try, don’t be shy, go with your gut but let logic guide you as you go, and watch CLOSELY for opportunity.

Hopefully I can expand on this lesson and learn how to be the best viral buzz marketing SEO out there. Maybe I’ll end up on one of those lists where people should buy ME drinks just for being known for doing what I do best. Catching a buzz!

Review: Google’s Free Multivariate Testing Platform

For those who skim blog posts, here’s the one word review:  AWESOME.

For those who like to read and research, here’s the skinny:

This week we were lucky enough to be chosen to participate in Google’s new Website Optimizer.  I need to preface this: It’s scary when a company as big as Google decides to unveil free products that normally cost tens of thousands of dollars.  Second, I need to state that it is awesome when a company as big as Google decides to unveil free products that normally cost tens of thousands of dollars.

I’ve had some experiences with other service providers in this field (it’s the usual suspects for those more savvy web marketers).  Although the results have been mostly outstanding, the process of getting tests going has been labor intensive, time consuming, and oft cumbersome.

Not with Google. 

Within one day of getting accepted as a beta tester, my team has already produced a few live tests on some key pages.  In the past, getting tests up and running has taken as long as a few months.

The reports the system produces are a typical Google product- intuitive, to the point, and easy to understand.  It is also completely integrated with our existing adwords campaign!

The implementation is probably exactly what any adwords advertiser or adsense publisher would expect.  The trick is, having your test copy and creative ready to go in advance.  If you have an idea of what you need to test and you are proficient with HTML, then setting tests up is going to be somewhat painless for you.

I’m not sure when Google plans on releasing this to the general public, but I can say with confidence that I’ve quickly become a big fan of Google’s new page testing platform.  If you have any questions about it from a user’s perspective, feel free to contact me.  In the meantime, stay tuned and I’ll have more specific feedback as I become more accustomed to this neat new tool!

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Minus 30 Penalty on Google?!?

This thread may be an indicator of automated ranking penalization on Google based on certain criteria.  Scary proposition for those who are not careful with their optimization efforts.

Moral of the story?  Don’t game the system, work the system.  Long term SEO takes forethought, and lots of actual work!

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How Long Does it Take to Rank on Each Search Engine?

Chris Hooley isn’t exactly a common name.  I think there are maybe three or four of us on this planet.  Narrow that set of results down to all the Chris Hooley’s who are SEOs and you have an even smaller set (consisting of one).  I figured owning this term was a slam dunk.


Believe it nor not, I actually had to build a few links.  I actually had to write some content… I actually had to work a little for it!  Finally that little bit of work I put in has paid off.  I have the trifecta: #1 on Google, Yahoo!, and MSN.  (Ask is taking a bit longer, though I have that #1 for a different one of my pages)

What’s more interesting is how long each engine took recognize and award the top spot, and what factors weighed into the results.  Check out this neat little timeline.

  • February 2006: spent much of the month trying to convince this guy to sell me his domain
  • February 18, 2006: bought chris-hooley.com instead, launched blog, and wrote my first post
  • May 2, 2006: still no rankings.  Self linked from a very relevant page (which ranked in the 1-3 zone on all engines).  Wrote a page obviously designed to get some hub love.  Interconnected most of my social networking sites, and even threw up a few gross cheapo blog posts (#note: MSN loved this)
  • May 12, 2006: All engines now recognize the site.  #1 on Yahoo! and MSN, #3 or 4 on G
  • May 12 – August 2006: Did a tiny bit of link whoring, submitted site to a few major blog directories, posted a few tidbits (no spamming mind you) on forums I frequent, etc.  Saw ranks stabilize on G at #2 during this period
  • August 2006 to Present: Stopped working on SEO for this site and figured Google loves colllege, just blogged here and there for as I felt the urge.
  • October 27, 2006: Finally got that #1 spot on G.

So your asking yourself, what did I get from this timeline?  Here’s another neat list.

  • Google loves .edu type sites
  • There IS a Google sandbox on domains AND links
  • Yahoo! likes big links (“big” in this case meant “very relevant”)
  • MSN loves virtually any crappy link you can throw at it

Nothing new there.

I guess the moral of the story is, a website, no matter how relevant, will rarely automatically rank itself.  You still gotta put a little effort into every site, even if it seems like the easiest phrase or vertical.

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Why does Google use DMOZ data for my listing?

It seems backwards to allow some random editors of a third party directory to tag your site with a title and a description… apparently the entire corporate website for NextStudent, INC. is and article written by Vanessa McHooley, and the name of the company is Student Loan Consolidation ? How does it work?

But only if you search Google for the phrase “Student Loans” and only if you hit certain datacenters.

Can’t say I am pleased with this little update teaser… even though the new rankings are nice and high, that description is not exactly what I would call a strong call to action or an accurate description of the website…

Oh Google.  Some things you do so very well, and sometimes little things just go unattended and make you look a little less smart than your brand suggests.  Better get to work on that

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