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?  Competitive Web & SEO
December 25th, 2006 by john andrews

Merry Christmas to Ted Leonsis

Yes, you read that right. Merry Christmas to Ted.

I don’t do SEO contests, but this one has been special so I played along. And I have learned about Ted Leonsis in the process.

Ted rose to the top of AOL (not my favorite company) and stayed there (not something I usually respect). And along the way he made a lot of money. But he’s still prime, now rich, and he knows people so he can exert influence to do what he wants. Sure he got all that fast car stuff going once he was riding the wave of money, but maybe he’s got it out of his system and can now afford to be a genuine human being? Maybe it’s time for a new 101 list that is less about the ownership thing and more about making the world a better place?

And we have been helping him raise his profile in the “modern” techno world with this “contest”. Merry Christmas, Ted, we’ve been promoting you for free. A few months ago Jason Calcanis was the most popular name in web marketing world to comeout of AOL. Now it’s you. Hah! I saw that smile. Good for you. Enjoy your Christmas, and say hello to the family for me. 

Ted’s got the potential now to do much, much more than ride AOL through it’s prime. Ted seems to like to lose money (Washington Capitols, are the Wizards making money now?), but as Microsoft’s Paul Allen has shown us, if you have enough to waste you can get some good stuff done along the spend.

Ted’s just made Nanking, an independent film that cost him reportedly over $2 million. I haven’t seen it yet, but I will. I, too, was impacted quite a bit by the tragic death of Iris Chang.

I wasn’t cruising the Carribean in my yacht when I read about her death, like Ted was. At that time I was more lilkely to be cruising Barnegat Bay in my inflatable Zodiac boat, crabbing with my two very young boys, and lamentng the loss of water quality in the over-developed bay area. And Ms. Chang’s death didn’t move me to make a movie, as it did Ted, because 1.) “Make a Hollywood Movie” isn’t on my “to do” list and 2.) I would never consider “making a movie” to be in line with my emotions regarding a tragic wrong mis-handled in the world. I’m not a BigMediaMogul, I suppose.

Ted wants to tell the story of Nanking to the world, as Iris Chang wanted to do. I prefered to learn from Iris that constant, bridled negative emotions can kill, and that we all need someone sometime (we can’t do everything alone), and that every one of us, at some point, may be fragile and worthy of some consideration. I suppose I am a bit of a humanist. 

Of course Ted’s on to Sundance or Cannes with this film, and I just know it’s not because he wants to win, but because he wants the film to get wide exposure so it can do more good in the world. See what I mean? He’s already acting more benevolent. Good for you, Ted. After filling the landfills with billions of plastic AOL CDs and countless pounds of elaborate plastic cases, holders, and mailing packages that nobody wanted, there is room for you to do good in the world. I’m confident this is but a start. Again, good for you.

Merry Christmas Ted Leonsis. And many more to come.



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December 24th, 2006 by john andrews

Wiki Sorry and Competitive Webmasters

It’s a slow news week so we’ve all read about how the Wikipedia founder plans to launch a new search engine (along with that uses a “community of trust” to serve up relevant results. According to that wikipedia guy, as reported in many places,

“Google is very good at many types of search, but in many instances it produces nothing but spam and useless crap. Try searching for the term ‘Tampa hotels’, for example, and you will not get any useful results,”

Well, I took that bait and searched Google on Tampa Hotels and got a set of very good results that included TripAdvisor on Tampa, Yahoo travel on Tampa, (which has a hotel reservation system for .. Tampa),’s web page for the Tampa Hyatt Regency,’s page for Tampa, and Wyndam Hotel’s page for Tampa, among a few others. And that was the first page of results.

If you ask me, that was a very good set of results for that search. What is this wikipedia guy’s problem? 

Maybe it’s all about press and attention, and he wants some. What will he be providing? He says a better search experience, and he calls the one I just described “crap”. He also says he will fund his endeavor with advertising. Oh, boy, it’s packaged as a good thing, but really it’s just more spam to be plastered with advertising so he can make money?

Let me ask this: how could anyone make a better search result set than the one I just saw at Google? It doesn’t seem possible, unless he thinks he will have a wikipedia-like page called “Hotels in Tampa” which references the Tampa hotel market, with links to the relevant hotel resources. And that is a commercial website, because it has advertising. And just like TripAdvisor and Yahoo Travel, it will be user generated content. And if he makes that, why is it de-facto better than TripAdvisor or Yahoo Travel or… ahem… my own Tampa travel web page (or yours)?

Yawn. Alert the media. Another hotel affiliate web site has entered the Tampa market.

Actually, alert the media: Wikipedia is going commercial (under a new name) and trying to corner affiliate marketing. Or will it be MFA with AdSense on it? Or perhaps a network of pages selling direct advertising? I hate to break it to you, but Yahoo and Google are already moving into the affiliate arena. It sure sounds like another great big spam attack on the poor old www. Hundreds of thosands of new pages of the same old stuff, plastered with advertisements.

No doubt it will be big. But will it be as good as Squidoo?



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December 22nd, 2006 by john andrews

Jason Calcanis: From Now On, Links are Everything

Second title of this post is : Read My Lips: Content is King

Third Title of this post is : Google Can’t Read: Rich Navigation and the Return of Link Power

With the growth of asynchronous web technologies like what is commonly called AJAX, comes a new form of “rich navigation”. Rich Navigation is navigation supplemented with ancillary information that can get quite voluminous. With AJAX, a designer can offer a simple list style navigation which produces a full page (or more) of supporting data for each listed item, before an actual click through to the item’s “page”. The URL doesn’t change, but the view is updated with a significant amount of information related to that one, perhaps 2-word navigation item.

Take a look at the Microsoft home page ( as an example. A search engine will see the page as it appears prior to any asynchronous data loading. The navigation on the right side (big box that says “All Microsoft Sites”) includes an item “products & related technologies”. That is what the SE will see for the navigation item. But if you click, you get an AJAX-loaded pop-over with a whole “page” full of additional information supporting “products & related technologies”, which the search engine didn’t see (search engines don’t activate AJAX clicks). The URL didn’t change, but content was added to the view including “Windows”, “Office Online”, “Servers”, “Games & XBox”, and more.

Now this is just an example, and it looks like Microsoft hasn’t even filled it out yet because it is very redundant right now, but as an example I think it shows the problem – the search engines will miss most of the content of this “view” because the search engines are still following a URL page model. Worse yet in my opinion, is what will happen as a consequence.

Basically, as the web goes to asynchronous views, Google becomes illiterate. The page is about Windows and XBox and Servers, but all Google reads is “products & technologies”. In SEO world, an early optimization would have been to use “XBox and Games” as a navigation link, so the Google knows the link follows through to information (on the site) about XBox and Games. A site map would also be considered for its ability to do the same – define the content semantically using internal hyperlinks, even if they were not included in the user interface.

Now with AJAX used for this rich navigation, that becomes nearly impossible. The amount of cloaking that would be needed is much, much more…. beyond what would normally be considered acceptable by the Google guidelines, and into the realm of “second, HTML-based site for screen readers”. Not much better than Flash, eh? Not a pretty consequence of the “advances” of asynchronous views, and most certainly not one acceptable to the designers advancing the use of AJAX for user interfaces.

And that is why I believe Google will revert to an increased weighting on back links, once again. The more illiterate Google becomes with respect to semantic content, the more Google must rely on other factors for determining relevance. The primary “other factor” available to Google is linkage. Google can’t afford to update the Webmaster Guidelines to permit more cloaking. Google can’t afford to mis-index the majority of the most current, cutting edge content on the web (at least not fo rmuch longer).

Are you ready for the next “Google Update” which will lower the power of adjacent, semantic content and increase the power of inbound links? Given the influence of age and age-related factors on link trust, you should have already started. The old “buy on rumor, sell on news” proves true once again; almost everyone is now talking about how back links don’t matter, and content is king.

Post Script: I love the irony and the play… some dude stands up in front of an SEO audience and tells them they are full of sh*t, and that content is king, and then walks the room with his hat collecting back links. Priceless.


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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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