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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September 1st, 2012 by john andrews

Pseudo-Random Thoughts on Search

The web is broken. I am getting old. My way of using the web is broken. I don’t find what I need when I “use” the web, whether it is actual factual information or “something new”. Google is broken. Google doesn’t work — anymore. Google is not useful to me, except sometimes. The obvious times. The times when I need it the least… like when I know where to go but I Google anyway just because I am being lazy. I guess that means navigational searches. Google is broken, except for navigational searches, and shit I don’t need.

Google has become like Target (to me). A big store with a big marketing budget and convenient locations, selling a whole bunch of shit I don’t want or need.

When was the last time I bought anything at Target? When I had no other options. Like when I was at the vacation house, needed a flashlight, and knew there was a Target right on the main drag. Off to Target, to over-pay for a lower quality Flashlight than I would ever buy in my “real” life, and back home minutes later. I totally assumed Target would have a flashlight.. there was NO WAY they wouldn’t have had some sort of cheap enough flashlight. And they did. I didn’t need to check on that.. I could just go.

When I was back home from vacation I ordered a quality flashlight over the web, so I’d have it in my car next trip. Did I Google for it? Yeah, I did. But attention Bruce Clay: I didn’t Google the term “flashlight”.

I wasn’t in a hurry, so I started with education in mind and in an effort to turn my mundane need into something a little more interesting. I Googled things like “tactical flashlights 2012″ since I find that interesting.. reading the latest opinions on tactical flashlights capable of blinding an intruder (while I shot him, I suppose), and which had strong enough sharpened metal divots on the end of it to bludgen Mr. Taliban to death (if I had to do battle with Mr. Taliban, and only had my flashlight with me, I suppose). I guess that was a Google warm on the topic of flashlights and how they fit into my life, executed in a multi-purpose way that is probably a little unique to me.

Having learned a little bit (more) about tactical flashlights, I searched for LED flashlights from specific brands I already liked, and read some reviews (mostly on Amazon). I ordered a really good one that just happened to be the one I picked out in person at the last Shooting Sports expo event I attended. Maybe that had biased my “search”. I also ordered a crappy flashlight Amazon reviewers said was “the same” as a far more expensive name brand one, and made by the same Chinese factory. That one was much cheaper than the far-inferior one I had purchased at Target (which was already long gone… the plastic front had leaked water and rotted the terminals inside, while still on vacation).

So Target was good for a cheap, throw away waste of money flashlight that solved the immediate need at a time when product satisfaction was a very low priority. Did Google similarly offer the same kind of experience?

Yes, it did. I realize now I started Googling in the info/entertainment style because my expectations for Google to actually help me locate a place to buy a flashlight were very low. I did try direct, shop-now searches, with poor results I describe below. Maybe I Google’d because I’m old and that’s how I was trained. Maybe if the browser would just let me type in “best tactical LED flashlight new in 2012 that is also adequate as a general purpose vacation flashlight” and then it would send me to reviews of tactical flashlights that regular folks (who never actually meet up with Talibans) use when on vacation, that would have been perfect. But who delivers those kinds of results?

Maybe I shouldnt have turned to Google. At less than 140 characters, “best tactical LED flashlight new in 2012 that is also adequate as a general purpose vacation flashlight?” is a valid tweet. But my twitter audience isn’t adequately skilled to deliver the answer. Neither is my Facebook “community”, lol.

I suppose I could have added a hashtag… to alert the Taliban-prepared guys who are otherwise like me, that I needed help in a way they could provide off-the-cuff at no expense to themselves, for which I would be grateful. But I’d probably need multiple hashtags. Maybe #notaliban or #killtaliban plus #flashlight or #shopping? Sadly, the twitter ecosystem is far too young and undeveloped to work properly yet. I’m still all alone with my needs.

Too bad Google’s broken. Before I went to Target I hit Google for “flashlight townname” and “LED flashlight townname” and “flashlights near townname” and “tactical gear townname” and “camping gear townname” and a whole set of other local searches intended to surface a list of stores near townname that sold flashlights (and other tactical gear etc). It was a perfect opportunity for magic to flow out from Mountain View through the Internet tubes:

“my search returned a list of local small businesses near the town I was vacationing in, which sold flashlights. The listings included the store name, a snippet describing their emphasis (camping gear, tactical gear, hardware store, etc) and star ratings from other people just like me. The listings showed the hours, whether the stores were currently open or closed, and links for driving directions. There were even reviews from real people just like me, about how they were treated as customers, how clean the stores were, and whether they actually had the items in stock when they shopped.”

But it didn’t. Even though Google pormises to deliver on all of the above with it’s local and global search results, it doesn’t. For me, Google returned a list that included a hotel web site (with a reviewer talking about having needed a flashlight to see a spider outside his window), a local National Park (which had a mention of a flashlight on it somewhere), a very outdated and useless Yahoo! directory listing for camping, a manufacturer of motorcycle parts in a nearby town (?), and a host of online shopping sites that had seo optimized subdomains on townname and product item. Google wisely put them last in the list of page 1 results (sigh).

Random thoughts… search could be so good, if only someone would make it so. I suppose if they made 10 or 20 million dollars, they could afford to hire a few good engineers and programmers and make something that really works. But instead, they get hundreds of millions (or billions even), and get so distracted by the need to get EVEN MORE that they blow it. I recall there was a company that specialized in indexing store inventories and providing a search experience that included store inventory and would have been PERFECT for me… and then it was bought by Google. Something like 3 years ago.

The web search experience sucks, and I doubt any of these “big” tech companies are going to fix that.

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August 30th, 2012 by john andrews

Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, or a Blog

Blog wins. New version coming soon, as soon as I find one that actually works for communicating with a community. After so many years, wouldn’t you think someone would have solved the “how do we have a discussion around a topic” challenge?

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August 9th, 2012 by john andrews

The BlueGlass Conference Opportunity

A few frequently-asked questions with my answers, because the Blue Glass search conference is about to open for ticket sales. They only sell dozens of them, so best be decisive and act swiftly if you want to go.

No, this is not a sponsored post, and no one asked me to write about Blue Glass. I’ve been to 3 of them myself, conference traveling on my own dime as an entrepreneur/small business owner (I’ve been completely self-employed for almost 10 years now).

Q: Is the Blue Glass conference worth the costs and travel effort? 

The Blue Glass conference is among my favorite travel opportunities related to my search work, but refreshing enough to qualify as a true break from the grind. For some reason my travel schedule is always crazy busy right up to the Blue Glass meetings, but when I check in I get a total relaxed vibe. Breaks like that are needed to stay creative in this field.

For reference the other travel opportunity I rank up there is sport fishing for tuna in Miami Florida with some friends who are more thrilled by catching big fish than telling the world how great their fishing charter is… more of that same passion for the actual work, not just the marketing of it.

Maybe some day I’ll attend Blue Glass in Tampa with an excursion down to Miami for night fishing for swordfish on Marauder out of Dinner Key/City Hall. That’d be perfect!

Q: Is BlueGlass better than Pubcon? 

Yes, hands down. I started going to Pubcon back in 2003 or 2004, and loved it. The gathering of people was unique… and the tracks were good. But the low-budget nature of Pubcon has always annoyed me, and the simultaneous tracks ruined the educational experience for me.

BlueGlass is small - a few hundred, and a single track of sessions involving something like 20 speakers/hosts per day. They run one session at a time, and everyone experiences the same knowledge transfer depending on how well they listen and pick up non-verbal cues. And that makes for great between-session conversation.Where Pubcon has like 10 simultaneous sessions and everyone splits up hoping to meet up later, at Blue Glass we are all in the same pool.

Blue Glass is interactive. You can raise your hand and ask a question. The speaker will stop… and address it. But nobody does that unless they have real value to add or real clarification is needed. Why? Because of respect. The audience is professional, and the speakers are worthy of respect (and everyone can tell).

And the non-technical aspects? I despise the box lunch deli meat sandwiches put out as “food” by Pubcon. I am always annoyed by the low-budget food service at snack times, since I try and meet people during breaks and often end up getting late to completely decimated hotel snack trays and empty/burned coffee urns (”nothing but crumbs”).

BlueGlass treats attendees like professionals. Catered food, vegetarian options that actually taste good and are sometimes inspiringly seasoned, and obvious care put into snack planning, food selections, etc. It’s a pleasure to be a guest of the BlueGlass conference.

Q: Are you going to this Blue Glass Conference? 

Not this time. I would go if it were more convenient for me, but too much on my plate right now and I was at the last one a few months ago.

Q: Is the Blue Glass conference “ADVANCED”?

Bue Glass is way more “advanced” than SMX Advanced, which is billed as “advanced” when compared to SES, SMX, and Pubcon.

The reason is that the Blue Glass people are active search people. They work every day trying to get search marketing results, and then they take a break and participate in Blue Glass conference. That is a HUGE difference from the many of the speakers at SMX and SES and Pubcon, who are really “professional speakers” and part of the sales/marketing teams of their companies, paid to visit those meetings to represent their companies and drum up business.

It’s obvious to me that the Blue Glass organizers use their conference as an interview platform: they invite the best of the best to come and speak, and that provides an opportunity for everyone to meet them, interact and explore them as professionals, not just speakers. As an attendee, I get the same access (during the 9-5 and during the 7-9 dinner/cocktails) and sometimes the 9-12 parties.

I won’t name drop here (you know who you are), but at Blue Glass I’ve met personally (and now consider friends) Wordpress technical experts, market research experts, SEO strategists on my “short list of people I’d like to spend 4 hours with talking shop”, and a domainer I consider a consummate domain speculator/professional. That is in addition to people I just happen to like for their personalities and perspectives on this crazy search world we all study. Note that I don’t use the term “expert” loosely.

Q: Are there things you would chance to improve Blue Glass conference? Could it be better?

Ha ha yes, of course. I’m forever a critic, and an optimizer. But I won’t disclose my comments.

One of the things that makes any conference better than the rest is the unique individuality of the meeting, which comes from those who organize it and the response of those who attend and experience it.

If your goal as an organizer is to please everyone, you will almost certainly disappoint the 10% that seek the best they can get.

if your goal as an attendee is to experience what you expect to experience, you will surely miss the 10% of content and nuance that is the gold.. the stuff your competition missed, and which can give you an edge.

I hope the Blue Glass people keep trying hard, stay a little paranoid of their competition, and keep using Blue Glass as a way to push the boundaries of search conferences. I hope they keep exploring what may be the best of each topic area that they know from their hands-on involvement in every day search marketing is important going forward. As long as they keep doing that, it’s a steal at the reg fee price.

Where else can you tap into knowledge of what the experts believe is the next important topic, and listen to the worlds best at that topic explain it and answer questions about it? If you know other good places to get that, clue me in with an email or skype or twitter or comment below.

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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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