The power of networking

When I started to blog (now close to three weeks ago) I did not know what to expect.

I have to say that I am more than impressed with the power of blogging and networking with popular related blogs.

My topics tend to be too technical and I am well aware that it severely limits my audience. Not everybody understands what I am talking about. I plan to change this in the coming weeks by adding illustrations to the complex topics.

I am also working to move my blog away from wordpress.com to be self hosted on one of our servers. That will give me a lot more flexibility than I have now. One thing I want is the ability to link to my source code, instead of including the code in the posts. I will probably just include a flow diagram in the posts. I also want to make the scripts available for use directly from the blog so that you don't have to install them.

What have I learned so far? Read more

Advanced Adwords bidding strategies

In Yesterday's Search Day article: Are Bid Management Tools Dead?, Eric Enge, writes some interesting facts and conclusions he brought from SMX.

A solid strategy for your PPC campaigns will have the following elements:
  1. Use a bid management tool to manage the long tail of your campaign.
  2. Stay focused on your ad copy and your landing pages, because they can dramatically influence the cost and conversion rates of your campaigns.
  3. Take significant brand building terms and manage them separately
  4. Take significant "first visit search" keywords and manage them separately as well.

While I think it is no longer necessary to manage large lists of long tail keywords for PPC campaigns (thanks to broad matching options), I do see great value in bid optimizing tools on improving the ROI of your PPC campaigns. Read more

Google's architectural overview — an introduction to Google's inner workings

Google keeps tweaking its search engine, and now it is more important than ever to better understand its inner workings.

Google lured Mr. Manber from Amazon last year. When he arrived and began to look inside the company’s black boxes, he says, that he was surprised that Google’s methods were so far ahead of those of academic researchers and corporate rivals.

While Google closely guards its secret sauce, for many obvious reasons, it is possible to build a pretty solid picture of Google's engine. In order to do this we are going to start by carefully dissecting Google's original engine: How Google was conceived back in 1998. Although a newborn baby, it had all the basic elements it needed to survive in the web world.
Read more

Protecting your privacy from Google with Squid and FoxyProxy

There is no doubt about it; this has definitely been Google’s Privacy Week. Relevant news:

The infamous Privacy International’s report (it basically says that Google sucks in privacy, far more than Microsoft)

Privacy International’s open letter to Google

Danny Sullivan defending Google

Matt Cutts defending his employer

Google’s official response (PDF letter)

Google Video flaw exposes user credentials

It’s only human nature to defend ourselves (and those close to us) when we are under public scrutiny. I am not surprised to see Matt or Danny stand behind Google on this matter. I do think it is far more wise and beneficial to look into criticism and determine for ourselves what we can do to remedy it. I am glad to see that Google took this approach on their official response:

After considering the Working Party’s concerns, we are announcing a new policy: to anonymize our search server logs after 18 months, rather than the previously-established period of 18 to 24 months. We believe that we can still address our legitimate interests in security, innovation and anti-fraud efforts with this shorter period … We are considering the Working Party’s concerns regarding cookie expiration periods, and we are exploring ways to redesign cookies and to reduce their expiration without artificially forcing users to re-enter basic preferences such as language preference. We plan to make an announcement about privacy improvements for our cookies in the coming months.

You can take any side you want. But, I feel that none of the people covering this topic has addressed two critical issues:

1) How do you opt-out of data collection by Google or other search engines at will?

2) And, do you want to wait 18 months for your data to be anonymized? Read more

The power of sharing

While most developers and technical people are used to sharing useful information, most entrepreneurs and consultants do not, or share very little. The logic is: “why share information if you can charge for it?”

Let me give you my thoughts on this, as I’ve been on both sides of the camp and therefore, I can offer an unique perspective.

Right after college, back in 1996, I landed a job as a Windows c++ software developer. I remember that I used to spend 20-30% of my time reading news groups, looking for other developers facing the same compiler errors that I was facing. This was far easier and less time consuming than trying to figure out the problem myself. Occasionally, I did have to solve some difficult problems on my own, however, the newsgroups proved to be a very valuable resource.

I met Linux while at college and I immediately felt in love with all things open source. I remember downloading “Slackware” over a 28kb/s line and copying it to 700 floppy disks! worried that they might remove it and I wouldn’t be able to download it later. I did not think this free OS would last long. I’m glad I was wrong.

I’ve came across colleagues that protected their knowledge with iron claws. They felt that having their knowledge out in the open would make them replaceable. They did this to protect their job.

Benefits of Sharing Read more

Why Viralinks are a waste of time?

I’m new to blogging, and I’m catching up with a lot of interesting things. One of them is the Viralink, coined by Andy Coates.

I was exposed to the concept while reading John’s blog. One of the readers mentioned he was trying out a Viralink on his blog and he was getting a little bit of traffic.

What is a Viralink? A Viralink is basically a new scheme to build up the PageRank of the participating sites. The instructions at Andy’s blog explain everything better.

———copy and paste the Viralink and instructions below this line———

Below is a matrix of 120 stars, I have already added a link to my blog onto one of the stars, all you need to do is copy and paste the grid into your blog and add your own link to one of the other spare stars, and tell others to do the same!

Viralink

********************
*
*******************
********************
**
******************
********************
******
**************

When I receive a ping back once you have added the Viralink to your site I will add your link to this grid, and each person who copies the grid from here will also link to your site!

Rules
No Porn Sites
Only 1 link per person (i.e don’t hog the viralink!)
Please don’t tamper with other peoples url’s
Enjoy!

———copy and paste the Viralink and instructions above this line———

I have to admit that it is a very clever idea. By participating in a Viralink, you can potentially get hundreds or thousands of links, and a very nice PageRank.

Now, let me give you the specific reasons why I think this is risky, and pretty much a waste of time. Read more

Dynamic Keyword Insertion for Landing Pages

One critical aspect of highly successful search marketing campaigns is making sure searchers find what they are looking for. I posted this before.

To accomplish this, we first need to grab the visitors’ attention, get them to click through our pages, and ensure that the pages’ content matches the search.

Whether you are doing SEO or PPC, it is imperative that your ads (title and description if SEO) include the search terms.

Advanced PPC management platforms (such as Adwords) provide a very useful feature for this purpose: Dynamic Keyword Insertion (DKI). The purpose of this feature is to help the advertiser create dynamic ads that include the queried keywords in the ad copy, automatically.

DKI works by creating a place holder text (ie.: {Widgets}) where you want the keywords to be included. A typical ad that says: “Buy Widget” will say the same, no matter what the user is searching for. Now, using DKI, for the ad: “Buy {Widget}”, the text inside the brackets, and the brackets will be replaced with whatever the users types in the search box. If he or she types “blue widgets”, the ad will say “Buy Blue Widgets”, etc. This is very useful. DKI can be used to replace all the text in an ad (the title, text and landing page). Jennifer Slegg wrote an interesting article on using DKI for changing the URL of the landing page in the PPC ad.

The point is that the closer the ad is to the search query, the more likely the visitor is going to click on it. In addition to this, Google highlights the keywords if they match the query. This helps a lot too.

Now, what happens when the visitor gets to the landing page? Well, chances are that the page will not include the exact keywords the visitor used to conduct the search; especially, if you are doing PPC. In order to fix this, I use a very simple technique: Read more

Preventing duplicate content issues via robots.txt and .htaccess

Rand of SEOmoz.org posted an interesting article on duplicate content issues. He uses the typical blog to show different examples.

In a blog, every post can appear in the home page, pagination, archives, feeds, etc.

Rand suggests the use of the meta robots tag “no-index”, or the potentially risky use of cloaking, to redirect the robots to the original source.

Joost the Valk recommends WordPress users change some lines in the source code to address these problems.

There are a few items I would like to add to the problem and to the proposed solution.

As willcritchlow asks, there is also the problem of multiple URLs leading to the same content (ie.: www.site.com, site.com, site.com/index.html, etc.). This can be fixed by using HTTP redirects and by telling Google what is our preferred domain via webmaster central.

Reader roadies, recalls reading about a robots.txt and .htaccess solution somewhere. That gave me the inspiration to write this post.

After carefully reviewing Google’s official response to the duplicate content issue, it occurred to me that the problem might not be as bad as we think.

What does Google do about it?
During our crawling and when serving search results, we try hard to index and show pages with distinct information. This filtering means, for instance, that if your site has articles in “regular” and “printer” versions and neither set is blocked in robots.txt or via a noindex meta tag, we’ll choose one version to list. In the rare cases in which we perceive that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we’ll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved. However, we prefer to focus on filtering — rather than ranking adjustments … so in the vast majority of cases, the worst thing that’ll befall webmasters is to see the “less desired” version of a page shown in our index.

Basically, Google says that unless we are trying to do something purposely ill intended (like ‘borrowing’ content from other sites), they will only toss out duplicate pages. They explain that their algorithm automatically detects the ‘right’ page and uses that to return results.

The problem is that we might not want Google to choose the ‘right’ page for us. Maybe they are choosing the printer-friendly page and we want them to choose the page that includes our sponsors’ ads! That is one of the main reasons, in my opinion, to address the duplicate content issue. Another thing is that those tossed out pages will likely end up in the infamous supplemental index. Nobody wants them there :-).

One important addition to Rand’s article is the use of robots.txt to address the issue. One advantage, this has over the use of the meta robots tag “no-index”, is in the case of RSS feeds. Web robots index them, they contain duplicate content but the meta tag is intended for HTML/XHTML content and the feeds are XML content.

If you read my post on John Chow’s robots.txt file, you probably noticed that some of the changes he did to his file, were precisely to address duplicate content issues.

Now, let me explain how you can address duplicate content via robots.txt. Read more

Advanced link cloaking techniques

The interesting discussion between Rand and Jeremy had me thinking about some of the things affiliates do to protect their links. I am talking about link cloaking — the art of hiding links.

We can hide links from our potential customer (in the case of affiliate links), and we can hide them from the search engines as well (as in the case of reciprocal links, paid links, etc.).

While I think cloaking affiliate links to prevent others from stealing your commissions is useful, I am not encouraging you to use the techniques I am about to explain. I certainly think it is very important to understand link cloaking in order to protect yourself when you are buying products, services or links.

When I am reading a product endorsement, I usually mouse over the link to see if it is an affiliate link. Why? I don’t mind the blogger making a commission’; but, If I see he or she is trying to hide it via redirects, Java-script, etc. I don’t perceive it is as an endorsement.  I feel it is a concealed ad. When I see <aff>, editor’s note, etc. I feel I can trust the endorsement.

Another interesting technique is the cloaking of links to the search engines. The reasoning behind this concept is so that your link partners think you endorse them, but you tell the search engines that you don’t. Again, I am not supporting this.

Cloaking links to the potential customers.

Several of the techniques, I’ve seen are: Read more

Estimating visitor value

We love traffic.  We want as much traffic as possible.  It is really nice to see our traffic graphs jump really high.  With our PPC campaigns we pretty much obsess over our click-through rates.  We like to go after the keywords phrases that drive the most traffic.  Everybody is in love with Digg and Social Media.

All traffic is not equal, even search traffic coming from similar phrases.  What we really need is traffic that converts.  Visitors that take whatever action we expect them to take.  Buy an e-book, subscribe to our newsletter or download our software, etc.  We need traffic motivated to take action.

There is a big difference between running a site that get 10,000 visitors a day that makes $10,000 a month and one that gets 1,000 visitors a day that makes $20,000 a month. For the first, the visitor is worth 3 cents, and for the second is worth 66 cents — 22 times more. Read more