What is the practical benefit of learning Google's internals?

I forgot to start my Google inner workings series with WIIFM. My plan is to write one post each week.

Not matter how well I try to explain it, it is a complex subject. I should have started the first post explaining why you would want to learn that. There are a lot of easier things to read.With some people questioning the usefulness of SEO, this is a good time to make my views clear. Please note that I believe in a solid marketing mix that includes SEO, PPC, SMO, affiliate marketing, viral marketing, etc. Do not put all your eggs in one basket.

If you have been blogging for a while, you have probably noticed that you are getting hits from the search engines for words that you did not try to optimize. For example, the next day I started this blog, I received a comment from a reader that found my blog through a blog search! How was this possible?

Heather Paquinas May 26th, 2007 at 1:24 am

I found your blog in google blogsearch. Needless to say I subscribed right away after reading this. I always suspected what you said, especially after Mike Levin from hittail blogged about using hittail for ppc, but you really hit the nail on the head with this post.

This is possible because that is the job of the search engines! If every page you search had to be optimized, there wouldn't be billions of pages in Google index. It would take a lot of people to do the SEO work :-).

Why we need SEO then? Read more

Should I cross link my sites for better rankings?

My loyal reader Jez asks a very interesting question. I am sure the same question is on the minds of others in the same situation.

Finally, I am in the process of creating multiple sites around a similar theme. I have unique content for all sites, and will host on different servers in Europe and the US, however the whois for each domain will show my name (The company I used does not allow me to hide this info). Is the common whois likely to make much difference when I begin cross linking the sites?

Cross linking (or reciprocal linking) in a small scale (maybe 10 to 15 sites maximum) should not be a major concern. I've seen many sites do it and they are ranking in highly competitive phrases. Most of their link juice comes from non-cross-linked sites though.

When you try to do this on a massive scale, things start to get interesting. I know this from experience. Read more

Can you trust Alexa's numbers?

It is very important to understand that there is no way for external metrics tools such as Alexa, Compete, Ranking, Netcraft, etc. to provide accurate data. Their information is collected from their respective toolbar usage. Alexa has the broadest distribution, but there are still a lot of people that don't use those toolbars or browser plugins. Their data is particularly useful if you are in a technical field: search and affiliate marketing, web development, etc. A large portion of your potential visitors probably have one or more of these toolbars installed.

A while ago, there was an interesting project regarding the efficacy of those metrics. Read more

Great Content + Bad Headline = Mediocre Results

You can spend a few hours researching, structuring, drafting and proofreading a great post, to completely miss it by choosing a really bad title. I recently submitted a carefully crafted rebuttal to the Seomoz article: Proof Google is Using Behavioral Data in Rankings. The post generated some controversy and some heated discussion as to the validity of the tests and results. I read everything. And, given my technical nature, I decided to dig deeper in myself. I ended up with slightly different conclusions about the experiments. If you want to find out please read the post at Youmoz.

Now, here's the bad news. As Kurt, wisely points out, I tragically missed the mark by poorly choosing an empty title: "Relevance feedback".

Kurt (86)

Sat (6/16/07) at 05:38 PM

Good post… well thought out and presented… gave it a thumbs up. Unfortunately, it will most likely get overlooked by most readers due to its title/headline. Look at the article you're a referencing, "Proof Google is Using Behavioral Data in Rankings". You know that headline will bring in some clicks. It was moved to the blog of SEOmoz from the Youmoz section (even with its flawed testing and logic). The mozzers aren't stupid… they know this type of headline and article will stir up some controversy and bring in some links. I'm no expert copywriter… far from it. I just hate to see a good post sit on the sidelines because of a bad headline.

The title I chose did not offer the reader any incentive to click or learn more. I guess that I operate in two modes: engineer and marketer and that I forgot to flip the switch while writing this post.

First, let me state that his remarks about the mozzers are valid for most journalists, trade publications, social media sites, etc. It is human nature to judge books by their cover. If the cover is crap, the content must be crap. That is how we normally think. Read more

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