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Posts Tagged ‘Going’

We’re Going Google…

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In the search ecosystem Google controls the relevancy algorithms (& the biases baked into those) as well as the display of advertisements and the presentation of content. They also control (or restrict) the flow of marketable data.

For example, a publisher might not get keyword referral data on organic search, but Google passes that data on via advertisements & passes a large amount of data on through their ad network to other ad networks. Consider this:

a DoubleClick tag on the site sent data to two other companies that collect it for various purposes — Rubicon and Casale Media, representing a “hop.” In a subsequent hop, Casale transferred the IMDB data to BlueKai, Optimax and Brandscreen, while Rubicon pushed it to TargusInfo, RocketFuel, Platform 161, Efficient Frontier and the AMP Platform. AMP then sent the data on to AppNexus and back to DoubleClick.

For about a decade being relevant & focused created efficiencies that more than offset any “size = quality” biases that the Google engineers created. However across many verticals that window is closing & it is never a good idea to wait until it is fully closed to adjust. 😉

This shift from relevancy to “size = quality” can be seen in the stock performance of mid-market companies like BankRate & Quinstreet.

Those companies were laser focused on the markets that have significant consumer intent & traffic value, but Google has eroded the affiliate base & ad networks of many of the direct marketing plays for a couple years straight now.

If Google’s algorithmic biases are strong enough to literally move the market on companies worth hundreds of millions to billions of Dollars, one is naive to swim against the tide. The market is becoming more bifurcated.

This is why it is so hard to find a great SEO to recommend for small businesses. If that SEO really knows what they are doing & understands the market dynamics, then they probably won’t serve the small business end of the market very long, or if they do, they will do so in a way where their continued flow of payments is not tied to performance. It is hard to have a sustainable business operating in a closed ecosystem if you are swimming in the opposite direction of that ecosystem.

In terms of our membership site here, a good slice of our customer base is the expert end of the market.

It is a tiny sliver of the market, but it is a segment that is somewhat well aligned with independent affiliate types & the sort of direct marketing relevancy-minded folks that Google has spent a couple years trying to marginalize as they cater to branded advertisers. We could try to shift our site to make it more mass market, but I prefer to run a site where we both learn & teach, and fear that moving to lower the barrier to entry and push more mass market will destroy what makes the membership site unique & valuable in the first place.

In early Google research they warned about relevancy shifting toward the interest of advertisers.

Currently, the predominant business model for commercial search engines is advertising. The goals of the advertising business model do not always correspond to providing quality search to users. For example, in our prototype search engine one of the top results for cellular phone is “The Effect of Cellular Phone Use Upon Driver Attention”, a study which explains in great detail the distractions and risk associated with conversing on a cell phone while driving. This search result came up first because of its high importance as judged by the PageRank algorithm, an approximation of citation importance on the web [Page, 98]. It is clear that a search engine which was taking money for showing cellular phone ads would have difficulty justifying the page that our system returned to its paying advertisers. For this type of reason and historical experience with other media [Bagdikian 83], we expect that advertising funded search engines will be inherently biased towards the advertisers and away from the needs of the consumers.

Perform that same cellular phone search today & that original cited page is nowhere to be found. Today that same search includes Wal-Mart, T-mobile, Samsung,, Best Buy & other well known brands. Search for the more common phrase cell phones & you get the same brands plus local results and shopping results. Awareness is replacing precision.

I think Gabe Newell described it best:

Closed platforms increase the chunk size of competition & increase the cost of market entry, so people who have good ideas, it is a lot more expensive for their productivity to be monetized. They also don’t like standardization … it looks like rent seeking behaviors on top of friction

As Google makes search more complex & mixes in more signals, it is becoming harder to win at the game if your operation is singularly focused on SEO & it is becoming easier to win if your business already has a strong footprint in many other channels which bleeds into your search profile. The following chart is conceptual, but it aims to get the issue across.

If one company is spending significant capital & effort trying to combat the Panda algorithm & another company automatically sees a ranking boost from Panda, then the company with the boost is typically going to see greater ROI from any further investments in SEO.

Having spilled all the above digital ink, back in 2007 we decided to shift away from an ebook model to run a membership site. On and off over the years we have done a bit of consulting outside of running this site, but haven’t put significant emphasis on it over the past couple years as we were pushing hard to keep up with the algorithms & keep this site growing. With all the above shifts in place we recently decided to offer SEO consulting again.

Some FAQs on that front…

  • If we work with you, who will be working on our project? The same people who write on the blog & run the community: Peter Da Vanzo, Eric Covino & Aaron Wall.
  • How many clients will you work with? Just a handful at any given time. We prefer to have a deep integration with a few clients rather than a bulk model.
  • Who are ideal clients? Those who know the value of search traffic & already have some general awareness & momentum in the marketplace. Examples of companies we have worked with in the past include: large ecommerce companies, tier 1 web portals, strong start ups & hedge funds invested in the web. Many of these clients already had an in-house SEO team & some were just actively beginning to leverage search.
  • I have a tiny company with a small budget. Could I still work with you? In some cases there might be a fit, but if you feel our consulting is beyond your budget you can of course still join our membership website. Consulting is for those who want a deeper engagement than we can provide through our current membership site model.
  • Can you name some past clients? For the most part, no. Our consulting projects typically come with nondisclosure agreements.
  • Can you fill out an RFP? Most likely not. If you are still shopping around for an SEO, we are probably not going to be a great fit. But if you have known of us for years & know you want to work with us, do get in touch.

SEO Book

How’s It Going, Facebook? Feature Updates to Watch For

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How’s It Going, Facebook? Feature Updates to Watch For was originally published on, home of expert search engine optimization tips.

Facebook and me are tight. I like how Facebook’s always asking me how I’m doing. No matter what’s going on in my life, I know Facebook is happy to hear from me.


It’s pretty impressive Facebook can always make the time considering how much it’s got going on. Lately the service has been really busy adding new features to its social platform, so I wanted to take a minute to get an update from the ultimate update sharing service.

Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search is still in beta, and is sure to morph before it becomes the community pillar Zuckerberg suggests in the intro video for Graph Search. But if you haven’t signed up for the beta yet, don’t delay. You’ll want to be able to play inside when the doors open to you.

Before Graph Search is out of beta we can expect to see changes to address privacy concerns. And I expect some people will scrub some of the humor out of their profiles when Graph Search is open to the public — unless you like being found in the graph of “married people who like prostitutes” (see Actual Facebook Graph Searches on tumblr).

Privacy issues aside, there’s potential for good stuff in Graph Search for marketers. At Facebook’s press event last month, the company illustrated some of the feature’s uses for business, including job recruiting and, of course, advertising.

Facebook has had a good reputation among online advertisers for its ability to target user interests with never-before-seen granularity. Facebook Graph is a new way to sort and filter user data. Here are a few ways to mix and match Graph Search filters to reach new customers and find influential contacts — just a few ideas to get you started in a creative direction.

Facebook Nearby for Mobile

As far as Facebook updates, we can’t overlook the space the service is carving for itself in the local-mobile arena. A natural growth direction thanks to the hundreds of millions of users connecting to Facebook from mobile apps, including Apple and Android devices.

Read all about the Facebook Nearby feature and how brick-and-mortar businesses should be taking advantage of the review and ratings system to reach new customers through their friends and networks, as shared last week by my colleague in Bruce Clay Australasia.

Facebook Gifts

Our final update isn’t exactly new, but I used Facebook Gifts for the first time last week and I now have a sneaking suspicion that I have to share. At the beginning of January, a game went around Facebook that looked like this:

Still in the surge of the giving-season I decided to join the “2013 Creative Pay-It-Forward” game. I’m looking forward to sending surprise, for-no-good-reason gifts to a few of my favorite people. Warm fuzzies ahead!

Last Friday Facebook notified me of the birthday of a very special person, and as you may have noticed, that notification comes with the ability to “Send a gift.” A bunch of vendors have hooked up with Facebook, making it easy to send gifts for the home, tasty treats, gift cards, beauty and style products and a lot more for all sorts of occasions. As I was putting together this birthday gift it occurred to me that this makes my gifting game play so easy! Everyone I’m playing with is already on Facebook, after all, and now I don’t have to worry about getting addresses I don’t have from anyone.

Which of course makes me wonder if Facebook could have seeded this little game to get people playing with Gifts? The first reference of the game I found online was dated January 2 on The first commenter said:

“im trying to track the person who originally came up with this idea on facebook. you’re one of the earliest people i can find that posted this idea. are you the one? or did you get it from someone else too?”

And there was no response. Anyone else suspicious of self-motivated origins of this supposedly selfless game? What do you think?

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In the end, no, I don’t really care if Facebook planted the seed for this game in order to spark a new profit stream. But how can you not enjoy the irony in this mystery and the occasion to play conspiracy theorist? :)

Bruce Clay Blog