John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?

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October 9th, 2008 by john andrews

Google’s Brand Arrogance & Typo Domains Revisited

I can count on one hand the number of SEO consultants I have met who understand Google’s perspective on brands. That’s not a good sign for those of you hiring SEO consultants. And, given Google’s recent public statements about brands, it’s also not good for the majority of the SEO industry still trying to optimize web sites to rank for target keywords via “SEO techniques”.

Google loves brands because brands do all the heavy lifting when it comes to easy money on the web. If you haven’t figured it out yet, Google is a leverage play of massive proportions. Oh sure there are some good people at Google; hard-working innovators with good hearts and good intentions. But the business model is a scheme. As a business, Google seeks maximum profits with minimal effort, always keeping an eye on the long term vision : maximum profits with minimal effort, ad infinitum. Whenever possible, via leverage of other’s work.

Everything Google does has been justified as a means towards that end. Every web service, web app, widget, search feature and acquisition is strategic. Even the illustrious “making the Internet better” is part of the plan to enable more, easier commerce over the web, which leads to higher, less-costly revenues for Google (and its partners) without having to do the work. Everything is about leverage for money, even if the minutia (and the individuals working on implementing the minutia) don’t know it or can’t believe it.

And brands cost a fortune to create and maintain.

Google’s past behavior suggests it will never pay that cost for any brand other than it’s own. In fact, from what I have seen, Google hasn’t even invested much in its own brands (Picasso, UTube, FeedBurner, etc). Google doesn’t forsee an adequate return on the costs of building a brand. Oh sure Google values the Google brand (how could it not?) but if that brand were a pure brand (built not on substance but, well, marketing and branding), the Google Brand would never have been built. The people behind Google would never have justified the costs of building such a brand. On the contrary, they perfectly understand the value of exploiting brands on the web.

Think it through - if Google says the value is in brands, but Google doesn’t invest in building brands, and then Google tells brand builders that their brands are “the answer”, what else could it mean but Google is poised to cash out everyone’s branding efforts?

As with any costly adventure, brand building is a very inefficient process involving large advertising spends. Google hones in on the cash flow associated with such inefficiencies like yellow jackets chase high fructose corn syrup. The yellow jackets are driven by instinct - they can’t help themselves.

Advertising Age is reporting that Google’s Eric Schmidt called the Internet a “cesspool”, noting that brands are the answer to that problem. For the majority of the US population connected to modern sewer systems and unaware of the meaning of “cesspool”, it’s a big hole rich people dig in their back yards to hold what they flush down their toilets. Because they live on large parcels of land outside of town, they would rather place cesspools on their property than pay to connect to the city sewer pipes.

A typical cesspool lasts 20 years or so before either filling beyond capacity or failing to “absorb” any more “solid waste“. At that time most cesspool owners like Eric either pay a pump trunk to come and suck their solid waste out of the cesspool (carting it away to .. well I don’t know, actually, but certainly off their property) or they dig new ones as necessary and leave the old ones buried out of view. Anyway, Eric’s (Google’s) view of the Internet is that it is a big hole filled with liquid crap ‘n stuff (a cesspool). And at a meeting of magazine executives at Google’s campus, Eric Schmidt encouraged the brands to jump into the cesspool with him and help make it better.

It’s been obvious over the years how much Google benefits from brands, and it’s become painfully obvious over the past year how much Google relies on brands to measure relevance in SEO. Trademarks are brand protections. All of the trademark issues associated with Google, including AdSense and AdWords trademark exploits including arbitrage, trademark SEO efforts, keyword stuffing and typo squatting on trademark domains, and certain so-called “Quality Score” initiatives, demonstrate how Google makes tons of money off of brands. It makes great sense that, now that intellectual property protection efforts are picking up steam world wide, Google would try and “make friends” with brands. But in typical brand-stupid and Google-arrogant fashion, Eric Scmidt suggests that those brands jump into a cesspool with him.

In the process Eric Schmidt gets quoted saying things like “If you’re going to criticize us, criticize us correctly” and “We don’t actually want you to be successful“. I know these are probably taken out of context, but if they are accurate quotes then they demonstrate brand-stupidity and arrogance nonetheless. According to Google, Google is right, and everyone else needs to catch up. Yet, as most of us can plainly see, as brands go, Google is the bad guy. If Google is in denial on that issue, who then is right and who needs to “catch up”?

If you are in the SEO game, you need to understand how Google treats brands on the web, and how branding fits into Google’s value perspective. I’m not going to teach that here, because I make a living implementing my understanding of Google’s determination of relevance in search. Contact me if you know of a way we might work together. And if you work in search but not at Google, I suggest you think through the eventual outcome of Google further exploiting brand value on the web, with or without cooperation from the brand builders. There is opportunity in there, and we desperately need someone to pursue it.

The very worst thing we have on the Internet today is an arrogant Google unrestrained by competitive pressures. As our society suffers the current Google monopoly, our core productivity is threatened. The various avenues we have had for exchanging work for revenue are being eliminated by Google, as it degrades them in favor of more lucrative stored-value assets like established brands. But if it is merely aiming to cash out those brands, as it has demonstrated repeatedly with it’s AdWords/AdSense trademark practices and its evident lust for the revenues associated with trading on such marks, what will be left in the future?

Even Google’s new Chrome web browser threatens brands by eliminating the location bar and thus the domain name from the consumers toolbox. In our economic ecosystem, Google is a massive consumer, eating our producers and starving our decomposers. Life according to the modern Google is simply not sustainable.

Established brands are in a rare position. Google is becoming a brandivore, a carnivore feeding on brands. Now Google wants to cash in on your brand investment. It is starting to look like Google needs your cooperation to do that. Will you allow it? Or can you resist, and see what other value might be available in exchange? Or better yet, are their other options for earning honest value from your established brands, without feeding them to an insatiable Google middleman?

I suggest you take a look at domaining with a new perspective. Mont Blanc is one of the greatest brands in the world. Every visitor to MontBlank.com, MountBlanc.com, MontBlancPens.com, BuyMontBlancPens.com etc. is a targeted, interested consumer Mont Blanc has already reached through its considerable investment in branding. Why not serve those customers? Is it possible to develop (perhaps with the help of the expert SEOs and domainers) all of those potential traffic magnets, instead of trusting Google as a middle man to all consumer traffic?

If Google is suggesting that brands are the solution to Eric Schmidt’s cesspool problems, can you see opportunity in the very trademark domains you have been harboring to “protect” your brand? Is it wise to allow Google to eliminate type-in traffic for your brands, via elimination of domains as URLs and the imposition of Google search as the sole conduit for consumer traffic to your web site? Is Google really a trustworthy partner for your brand?

There’s plenty of opportunity for innovation in this Internet space, and the major brands are in a unique position to investigate without significant downside risk. I’m an Internet consultant, active in the domaining world and competitive search engine optimization for longer than Google has been alive. If you, like me, see potential for thinking more about this, drop me a note. I’m interested in taking things to the next level.

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July 22nd, 2008 by john andrews

How Much Does LinkedIn Pay You?

They don’t pay me anything, and so I don’t participate. How much do they pay you?

I’m willing to accept discussions of how much value you get from LinkedIn, if that is what you prefer. I have little expectation that anyone can highlight much real value, although I am sure there will be a handful of “I made a connection that turned out to be worth millions to me” lottery stories and get-rich-quick dreams. in my cirlces (even extended circles), anyone I have ever asked has said pretty much the same thing - “I never saw any value from it“. Of course these days there are some who try and explain it as “it’s social media… you participate and then people know you and you get to be a guest blogger or interviewed on blogs, and your name becomes known… and well you’re part of the conversation… and well maybe you just don’t get social media eh?” I’d rather not go there but if I am forced to I stop when I get to the part about LinkedIn making a fortune and Social Media people working hard for other people for a living. I suppose there are some parallels to that awkward moment when your boss offers you a title instead of a raise. Anyway…

With LinkedIn now partnering with the New York Times, LinkedIn becomes a bigger competitor to search, and LinkedIn members become a more valuable commodity to be pimped by LinkedIn to advertisers and influence-peddlers like the NYT. Ka-ching.
When I am offered a cut, I’ll reconsider participating. In the mean time, if you want to know who my friends and associates are, who my vendors and clients are, what I studied in what school when, where I used to work and what I like to read, well, you’ll have to pony up for drinks, bribe my b.f.f., or hire a private dick, just like old skool.

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June 21st, 2008 by john andrews

Competitive Web Publishing

I’m always thinking about web and Internet from a competitive perspective, because that’s really what we are doing when we optimize, seek search traffic, buy links, and forge alliances with like-minded website network operators: competitive webmastering. But that concept is not always palatable to people. There are plenty of pie-in-the-sky web publishers (and SEOs and marketers…) out there dreaming of an open, free world where “information wants to be free” and “the Internet belongs to everyone“.

Truth is, even if most of us try and make that true, a few will take advantage of the resulting “opportunity” to cash in while we don’t. That starts the cycle… and soon it’s all me-too bandwagoning. If that sounds too cynical, well, that’s because it is cynical. So what.

If you want to know who the future abusers will be, look at who the abusers are now, and who have played the role of abusers in the past. A big secret of human behavior is
“past performance is indicative of future behavior”. That part is not cynical — it’s factual.

I don’t give way specifics in an obvious fashion on my blog, because, well, I compete with almost everyone reading this blog. We are all competing for attention. No sense handing your competition the ammunition it needs to take away your opportunity. However, I am happy to allude and hint. And here’s one for those working the web the way I am working the web. The newspapers (past and current abusers) are priming their pumps even as everyone says they are a dying concern. No, not the obvious. Newspapers are never about the obvious.

Take a look at this quote form a newspaper site producer, who pulls photos from the news wires and republishes them as the primary content, attractive to readers:

Q: Were there any issues in getting permission to publish images that large from the wire photo services? The photos on the Big Picture must be twice the size of any other news site.

A: We looked at the contracts pretty well and couldn’t identify anything that prevented this sort of thing. The general rule appears to be (my understanding of it) that the images should not be easily reproduced in print. Big Picture images max out at 990 pixels wide at 72dpi. If you scale that up to print resolution of 300dpi, you get an image that’s only about 2 inches wide, so we’d appear to be within that limit.

Those who know me personally, or who have had time one on one to discuss things in depth, know my passion for certain visual arts, and my belief in a certain specific future related to some of those arts. It’s coming sooner than expected. Things will be a changing, and acts like these will force that change. The only safe harbor for the competitive publisher is competing, which means acting now. The abusers will continue to react to change by attempting new abuses, and continue to reveal their intentions due to their need to manage risk. Sadly, they will also continue to lobby politicos and misrepresent the truth, which means we still have to a lot more than simply good or hard work, but we have to start with the honest smart/hard work part. And remain vocal, where it has influence.

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John Andrews is a mobile web professional and competitive search engine optimzer (SEO). He's been quietly earning top rank for websites since 1997. About John

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Recent Posts: ★ Cloud Storage ★ Identity Poetry for Marketers ★ PR is where the Money Is ★ Google is an Addict ★ When there are no Jobs ★ Google Stifles Innovation, starts Strangling Itself ★ Flying the SEO Helicopter ★ Penguin 2.0 Forewarning Propaganda? ★ Dedicated Class “C” IP addresses for SEO ★ New Domain Extensions (gTLDs) Could Change Everything ★ Kapost Review ★ Aaron Von Frankenstein ★ 2013 is The Year of the Proxy ★ Preparing for the Google Apocalypse ★ Rank #1 in Google for Your Name (for a fee) ★ Pseudo-Random Thoughts on Search ★ Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or a Blog ★ The BlueGlass Conference Opportunity ★ Google Execs Take a Break from Marissa Mayer, Lend Her to Yahoo! ★ Google SEO Guidelines ★ Reasons your Post-Penguin Link Building Sucks ★ Painful Example of Google’s Capricious Do Not Care Attitude ★ Seeing the Trees, but Missing the Forest ★ Search is a Task; Discovery is Fun ★ Why “dot everything” is a Good Idea (and ahead of its time) 

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