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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January 4th, 2013 by john andrews

2013 is The Year of the Proxy

If we learned anything from 2012, it’s that Google is in control, and apparently the FTC agrees. Google can do what it wants, and has the cash to fund the lobbyists to get formal “approvals” that hedge liability. But Google isn’t the biggest threat.

Google is a fairly low risk threat compared to many of the far more aggressive, more desperate players that will “pile on” as Google advances these new cultural standards of privacy and ethical corporate behavior cloaked as “protecting the user experience”. For every inch Google secures for itself, scammy-er players will take a mile. There are too many of these aggressors to count, but you know many of them already: Verizon, cable companies, Bell South, etc etc. Everyone who has access to your info or control over your access to information and technology, will cash in as possible.

The legal stuff is in place already, and the consumer protections gutted. Your activity data and personal information is the currency of the decade, and everyone is trading it, usually without your consent (and often without your knowledge). Sometimes I get the sense that Facebook is a distraction. “Oh my, look at how Facebook is violating your privacy”.. meanwhile your credit card activity is being sold, your driver license is being resold, your Netflix viewing preferences are being sold, your medical data is being “shared” with the MIB, and your DNA can be collected and analyzed from the public airspace without your consent nor involvement.

Entrepreneurs have attached high def cameras to cars that drive around all data solely to collect license plate activity data, because they know someone will pay for that some day. Drive around all day? For no reason, except to film the public streets and digitally record the presence of specific cars, via license plates designed for easy image recognition? Yes. Compared to information about you, gas, drivers, cars, and insurance are cheap!

And as companies continue to lock the IP as “identifier” for your residence, MAC addresses and OS hashes as identifiers of your devices, secretly raid your contacts list whenever you do anything that grants permission to apps, and require “real names” and “recognizable photos” for social media accounts, the proxy will rise in value.

I predict that 2013 will be the Year of the Proxy.

The value of a proxy.. the “substitute” that will stand in and represent you (instead of you being there, yourself) will rise tremendously in 2013. Identity proxies, communication (routing) proxies. Environment (OS, browser, device) proxies. And as that value rises, the technology to proxy will become more sophisticated. As proxy technology becomes more accessible, those players trading on our data will invest to defeat them. Coalitions will be formed, and more organized trading institutionalized. Many of you will get jobs working FOR those seeking to own us and defeat the proxies.

Expect the traditional resistance to our increasing resistance to being tracked and herded. “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they attack you…” has already started. In the SEO world, the “ridicule” stage in the form of “conspiracy theory” claims started 15 years ago or more. When Google went public, it declared SEO as a major threat to the Google business model. Obviously I recall much of that “history of SEO”, but I suspect everyone with SEO “common sense” by today’s standards recognizes Google is not what Google said it was years ago. The same is true for the other players… and each of us must decide how we will participate in their world going forward. For many of us, the proxy will continue to serve, and we will need stronger and more sophisticated proxy technology in order to survive.

Keep in mind “proxy” includes social media avatars, trade names, aliases, secondary accounts, actual proxy servers for communications routing, abstracted interfaces, IP rotators, cookie managers, lawyers, corporations, and numerous other “everyday tools of business” that cost money and are not generally available to “normal” everyday citizens (the same ones that are told “if you have nothing to hide, what are you afraid of???”).

Beware those who tell you you have no privacy, and should “get over it”, and those who suggest that “maybe you shouldn’t be doing” whatever you are hiding behind a proxy.

By the way, the threat of making the proxy “illegal” is very real, and some efforts are already known (in some cases, it is already legally defined as arguably “fraud”). Personally, I expect the public to be just barely smart enough to prevent that from really happening in the near future, although I don’t expect us to avoid a period of the “I can’t believe they actually passed that law” reality here in the US.

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November 19th, 2012 by john andrews

Preparing for the Google Apocalypse

The Currency of Search Marketing is Influence (and Zombies)

We all seem to appreciate the use of Zombies as models of “enemies”. If there’s one real power zombies have, it’s the power to influence people. I don’t know a single human who is aware of the nature of zombies (fast ones that can fly, slow ones that never stop advancing, all of them eat you alive, etc.) who would not run away from a zombie without second thought. More than war, natural disaster, disease or random acts of violence carried out by crazy psycho killers, to us zombies define a complete lack of “humanity”.

For years the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) experienced difficulty getting Americans to prepare for any potential disasters, partly because we live in denial and are always pursuing “dreams”. We tend to ignore anyone who suggests things might come crashing down while we’re building wealth and moving up the ladder. That shit happens to OTHER people. But when they produced “How to Prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse”, people paid attention.

Ammunition maker Hornady successfully re-branded one of its powerful self-defense handgun rounds as “Zombie Max”, which it promotes as a way you can “supply yourself for the Zombie Apocalypse”. Of course the same product in a different box, now costs more.

Gun advocates have always had trouble picking “targets”. If you shoot for sport or as part of training in weapons handling, you shoot a target. Usually it’s paper. Range operators face complaints from advocate groups when they allow people to shoot the targets they bring with them to the range (an evil-looking street thug with a gun, who is almost always black or Hispanic; a picture of a uniformed police officer; a picture of Obama, etc). Yet when they tack up a picture of a bloody-mouthed zombie, nobody cares.

Zombies are persuasive.

The currency of SEO is persuasion, not traffic or rankings.

This is not a new realization. Many of us have studied persuasion for almost as along as we’ve studied SEO. Recently a major search conference featured an author/psychologist focused on persuasion and “the power of influence” as the keynote speaker.

But what might be new to you, is that currencies can and are manipulated on a regular basis by governing powers, which includes governments, banks, and political entities. If you can manipulate the currency, you can control the economy.

The same way we’ve seem nations “manage” currencies (China, Brazil, US, GB, etc) we see Google managing the currency of the Internet (“traffic”, via “rankings”). Traffic reflects earned attention and raised awareness, and drives commerce. We can expect Google to manipulate the currency as a means of controlling the economy. We can expect similar behavior of any large, powerful, forward-thinking, profit-oriented entity.

But the currency of SEO is not traffic. Can persuasion be manipulated?

As we prepare for “zombie apocalypse” where the currencies in play in our society face manipulation (and perhaps collapse), how will you survive? If the dollar is devalued, if massive stores of pure gold are discovered on a nearby asteroid, if Google takes away your traffic, how will you survive?

Think about your personal influence and the influence you can manage without dollars or gold or permission from Google. Think about how people throughout history have sought karma, invested in social credits, and injected good will into their communities, as a way to “prep” for disaster. Think about it.

We may be “search marketers” and “search engine optimizers” who work within the confines of an economy controlled (manipulated) by Google, but our currency is persuasion. Persuasion within a market niche transcends Google.

If you’re not preparing for a “Google Apocalypse” and hoarding persuasion instead of rankings or keyword relevance, you may find yourself walking the streets stunned and directionless, searching for your next meal. And no one will care about you.

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September 3rd, 2012 by john andrews

Rank #1 in Google for Your Name (for a fee)

If you could purchase the rights to rank first on the first page of Google for your name, in a specially-colored listing (perhaps a light green or light blue background), would you pay $100 per year for that privilege?

You could use it to publish about yourself… a web page similar to a Google profile page. You’d have to follow the guidelines, of course, which would prohibit only the typical prohibited stuff. Everything else would be ok, because the format would be controlled. The basic info and your primary “pitch” about yourself would be up front and center. Everything else would be “hidden” beneath clicks. Only those users who wanted to read your “Why Jesus is my Saviour” would have to see it.There could be an unlimited number of such optional “additional info” sections up there, so you can publish as much as you like.

And if you have a common name (as I do), would you pay that fee and then submit to a randomized fairness ranking, such that on average, across the month’s time, your profile ranked at the top just about as much as every other person with your name who had signed on to the rotation service? Of course there would be a monthly re-opt-in required to keep you in page 1. Those who didn’t care enough to renew would lose position to those who did. Sort of a “profile deserves freshness” system.

Since this “top spot” is clearly marked as a placed “identity” listing, it would expand downwards for anyone who clicked to see “more people named NNNNN”. At that point their indicated their intend to find info ABOUT a person with that name, so the results will be all (randomized) exact-match profiles for that name, plus Google “suggest” or course, which would clue you into the latest “John Doe arrested new york” etc scandals.

This is an example of a value-added Google service that cuts direct to the “end user” for maximum monetization. At the $100 symbolic¬† fee for such a listing, Google would collect much more revenue that PPC ads in that spot. The user experience for most “actual names” would be better than it is now. Of course there could be auctions and “highest bidder” approaches but that would not be as well received in the market place as a flat-fee to stake your claim. In other words, Google could do that later, after they had earned karma points and good will.

Everyone needs reputation management, and Google currently forces that problem into an SEO negotiation. Why? For a fee most would be happy to pay, Google can give them a podium from which to make their own case for reputation issues. For someone in trouble, that top spot will present their case (and outrank the perhaps exaggerated media coverage ranking on their name). For someone convicted of a crime, that spot could be used by that person to say sorry, explain some details, or otherwise provide input into what is usually a one-sided conversation at that point.For those promoting themselves… if it’s a known feature of Google, the user community would come to expect it for what it is.

Now of course Google currently gets paid on a per-click basis, and manages profitability on a profit per impression basis (using so-called “quality scores”). But at $100 flat fee, offered to 250 million Americans as an example, wouldn’t the revenue potential compete or exceed that from PPC on most names? ¬† I didn’t do any math here… just thinking out loud.

It just seems like such an opportunity for Google to regain some public respect while serving society and making significant money, while continuing to develop search and learn more about people, identities, and how the world searches around identity.

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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: ★ SEO Industry Growth, Widespread Failure, and SEO Industry Challenge ★ Do you want to WIN, or just “Be the Winner”? ★ 503: GONE ★ 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 

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