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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March 22nd, 2013 by john andrews

New Domain Extensions (gTLDs) Could Change Everything

A slew of now top level domains are coming, thanks to a bold move by ICANN originally intended to spur innovation on the web. “What would you do if you could register any top level domain“, they asked the world’s entrepreneurs. Free of constraints of name availability on the standard dot com and other top level domains, how could you advance the Internet?

Despite such noble intentions, the new gTLD program turned into basically just another commercial push for more domain registrations, driven by businesses hoping to sell virtual products (registrations) to speculators and trademark defenders.

Usually speed of innovation is a key factor for progress on technical platforms like the Internet. Act fast and innovate, to build market share before competitors can muster the courage to follow along on what is likely a risky ride. Conversely, a sluggish pace  of implementation, combined with what seems to be controlling efforts stopped this dog from racing in my opinion.

Nobody can “innovate” if they have to invest cash up front in advance, broadcast their intentions, and wait YEARS while others develop copycat, competing, or parasitic business plans.

Rather than an exercise promising rewards for innovation, the new gTLD program is just more “big business” promising rewards for old-school registrars and those who follow on those established practices. Unless.

Unless Google decides to play along.

Should you pay to reserve YourTown.pizza when it becomes available? Not unless you think it will be useful. And with basically everyone using Google to find local pizza, won’t that success depend on how your web site does in Google? We’ve already seen Google manhandle Yelp in the search results… so no doubt Google’s the real player in pizza (when it wants to be).

The web marketing game remains one of “remarkable website functioning as part of a remarkable business” while “exploiting loopholes” and “avoiding penalties and filters”, whether those are artificially imposed or market natural. If you do something Google doesn’t approve of, you lose. If you piss off your customers, you lose. But most of all, far out of proportion to all other factors involved, if Google decides to give your business a boost (for any reason), you win.

That’s right.. if Google decides (unilaterally, without any obligation to notify anyone, nor any obligation to maintain anything for any reason) to boost .pizza to the top of the local rankings for “pizza in your town” searches, your .pizza website will make you a fortune. And there will be only one YourTown.pizza available for registration. Will Google do that?

Or will Google ban townname.pizza domains, again unilaterally without consequence, for any reason? It would not be unusual, since townname.pizza competes with Google as a directory of local pizza, and doesn’t otherwise reflect any unique character of the pizza business publishing on it. What will Google do?

I attended a conference the other day where the SEOs on the SEO panel noted how select SEOs were “really good friends” with Matt Cutts of Google’s “search quality team”. Wow. Which SEO would you hire… the one over there or this other one that’s “great friends” with Google? No one call them them out on it… and the web marketing game continues.

A big marketing firm recently published on it’s website that it had inside connections at Google. It claimed to be such an important customer of Google, that Google reps “often called” them with advice on how to deal with algorithm changes. Wow. What a great firm to hire, right? Of course they scrambled to take that down when it was highlighted (partly because it’s not true; mostly because of risk of fallout from being outed as manipulating the market by Google name dropping).

The truth is that Google can make or break any web strategy. Will it boost any of these new gTLDs into success? What about .pizza or .movie?

Hard to imagine it won’t take efforts to secretly “manage” some gTLDs. Google has been caught “managing” other TLDs in the past (.info for sure, probably .biz). Google has also damaged many business by ignoring some extensions while favoring others. Despite having promised to reward proper use of local gTLDs by local businesses, Google’s refusal to acknowledge .US hurt any that published on .US hoping to compete in their markets while following the “rules”. I have never seen any evidence of .US domains achieving any of the status Google granted to .com. .org, and .net, for example.

So which of the new gTLDs will be winners, and why? We’re back to speculating on domain names, just-like-before. And the big winners are the domain name registrars and re-sellers. The big losers are you.. the consumer of web domains, now forced to speculate or defend your trademarks by spending more money on domain registrations that will likely never be utilized on the web.

And then of course there’s the complication that Google also submitted applications for a set of the new gTLDs. I won’t go there.

One thing is certain: the new gTLDs could change everything, but only if Google wants things to change. What can we do?

My recommendation is to cozy up to Matt Cutts because clearly, being friends with Matt makes you a rare breed of SEO consultant. There is no doubt that the SEO on that conference panel — the one that was good friends with Matt Cutts — had a huge advantage over every other seo in the room (at least when it came to closing new business).

Similarly if you can find out what other Google employees are compromised,¬† get into that game as well (like that Marketing Agency claims it has done with its Google reps). That’s where the winning opportunity lies — insider knowledge of how the algorithms work is gold for SEO.

Inside knowledge of which gTLDs Google will boost is the key to winning with new gTLDs for sure.

Want to Comment? Don’t comment here.. post your comment to social media (twitter, Facebook, your own blog) to be heard. Link back to this if you want.. I’ll leave it up for a while. This is an important issue so please do speak your opinion somewhere.

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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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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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