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
April 15th, 2007 by john andrews

Matt Cutts: “designed by” Links Will Hurt You in Google

Does your web design firm “require” a link on your web site, back to their web site? According to Matt Cutts, the Google Quality/Spam team manager, those back links will now be detected and labeled by Google as “search engine spam”, and your site will suffer in the search rankings. Matt doesn’t give a time schedule for the new rule, but does say that Google has not only already developed the detection algorithms, but is actively testing them right now. Matt has asked people to send in reports when they see such links. It seems that Matt wants those “sure thing” sponsored links so he can test the reliability of the new penalty algorithms.

The practice of including links back to web design firms is an old one. Commonly you get two price options for your web design: price one, which does not require a back link, is much cheaper than the second price. The second price includes a requirement that you credit the designer firm with the work, by way of a promotional advertisement Google is now calling “paid links”. According to Matt Cutts this past week, it is that price break that makes the link illegal in the eyes of Google, and Google will diminish the value of sites that include such links as a way of dealing with them.

Naturally there is a good deal of discussion on the web right now about this flex of muscle by TheMightyGoogle. Non-profit agencies that link to their sponsors and donors are looking at Google penalties for doing so, under the new rules as described by Matt Cutts. So are membership organizations which list their paying members on their web sites (with back links to member’s sites). It’s all illegal under the new rules.

The new rule also hurts web hosting companies , who commonly provide reduced cost hosting for selected projects or customers, often non-profits and good causes. Sometimes they require a back link, but many times the grateful customer gladly places such a link as a means of saying “thanks” for the help. Now, that link will hurt the charity, as Google calls it “spam” and takes action to devalue it, whethe rit really is a padi link or just looks like one (or is reported to be one by some oddball Google fan out there). Geesh. This is getting scary, no?

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April 13th, 2007 by john andrews is the new

I get unsolicited solicitations from search marketing companies all the time. Lately, they come with gmail addresses. I wonder if the gmail address is the new AOL address? We used to joke, “nothing says professional like an AOL email address” and these days I’m thinking the same thing about gmail.

What I think when I see a gmail address :

GMail says Fly By Night: the domain can change but the contact stays the same. Today it’s, the next day that is gone and same* is coming out of He can keep working, even if the boiler room can’t keep the domain of the Attorney General’s list, the critical blogosphere, the consumer alerts, etc.

GMail says I Share Your Info: He uses a gmail address so anything you write to him is indexed by Google, forever. Did he menton your domain in his email? Now everything you say is linked to your domain. His name (and email) are already associated with your domain in the Google index. Forever. Ever look at what Google did with the old Usenet posts of yesteryear? Google indexed them and made them freely accessible to anyone searching. Back in the old days, when schools used social security numbers as student ID numbers, and student ID numbers as user accounts? Yup. Google presents it all for scammers and identity thieves to peruse. And Google won’t clean it up, either. GMail says danger.

Gmail says Lazy: Professional Internet business people have mail servers or professional mail services. Not Yahoo mail, not Hotmail, and not They have professional services because they need to be reliable. Trustworthy. They have to make sure they have backups in place, and at least an awareness of email interruptions via monitoring. Business people are trusted for the decisions they make. When they decide to rely on hotmail for their email, what does that say about their decision making? If they choose GMail over their own domain email, what does that say about their decision making? I think it says lazy, or cheap/uncommitted, or foolish. Note: This does not apply to technical workers, and independent communications such as I might use in my professional (non-client) activities. GMail is modern and on the edge of tech, so it can actually be a good signal that shows someone is up to date, staying involved, watching closely. But in those cases, the context and other clues tell the story even if the gmail address is acceptable.

I know GMail has conversation threading (I also know GMail makes decisions about what emails to keep, and what to throw away no matter how you feel about it). I know it’s convenient. I know it’s free. So what? Why should I not have these off feelings when I see a gmail email address?

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April 12th, 2007 by john andrews

Building a Better Business Forum

Brian over at Platinax Business Forum followed up on his use of ReviewMe for marketing. This blog was one of the blogs asked to review Platinax.

In the follow-up forum discussion, Brian says this about Platinax:

I personally consider Platinax a successful failure – it is successful because it is profitable, but a failure in that the key purpose of providing an authorative site of value for small business owners has largely gone unaccomplished.

Brain also says:

Aside from content changes, I also need to get the message out more as well and push on the networking – because I simply cannot make a real success of Platinax unless I succeed with the core aims.

I think Brian is thinking out loud now, and it’s good that he’s thinking, although it might be too soon to be making decisions. As a small business owner and 3x entrepreneur who likes to keep things on the small side, I see exactly the kind of progress coming out of this that is required for Platinax. And that might be exactly the content a business site like Platinax needs to cultivate. After all, it’s about building a small business (Platinax in this case) using the web (and ReviewMe in this instance). THAT is the conversation that I think should be continued in the Platinax forums. I can find information about small business blah blah blah just about everywhere I turn. Where can I participate in a discussion about using ReviewMe to develop a Small Business Website? One based on actual experience? Over at Platinax, if Brian keeps the conversation going.

I think a good way to see how feedback can help develop a business forum is to look at A Day in the Life of a Small Business Entrepreneur: me. Today I looked into PayCycle, the latest and greatest online payroll processor. I despise ADP, and have been very disappointed in PayChex, and they are both too expensive for what they offer, yet I am literally forced to use one of them (by law). Now I can chose PayCycle for a fraction of the cost of ADP or Paychex. PayCycle is award-winning, and well regarded so far. Funny thing, though: I discovered it by chance. I had not seen any discussion of it in my daily travels, and it’s been winning awards since 2006. Go figure. Where can I discuss that with peers whom I respect for their sensibilities and real world experience?

Later this morning I tracked down a freelancer I had lost contact with, but who had done stellar work for me in the past. Why was it so hard to find him? Lots of reasons, I suppose, but the time I spent tracking him down cost me more than the job I have for him. I’m no accountant, but that can’t be good for my bottom line. Another topic for a business forum that would make me take a second look, and might prompt me to participate.

I also re-evaluated my use of Basecamp at $50/month, because I also use ActiveCollab for several projects, an old version of PHP Workshop, Mantis, Contribute, and phpCollab. I like BaseCamp but need more. Do I keep BaseCamp and add Freshbooks? Do I keep FreshBooks and use ActiveCollab? I have time for a forum where the focus is on DOING BUSINESS and not using technology, but how many of those are there that include enough of the technology? I doubt I am alone in the way I do both, and still need to make sound, expedient business decisions. In fact I know that is where a good portion of my competitiveness comes from. I can make such decisions quickly and soundly, where others can either make them soundly or quickly, but not both at the same time. Where are the other people like me?

These are just a few real things I dealt with today. And I did real work, taught my kids to race popsicle sticks in the creek behind the house, ordered a new lamp, and signed tax documents. And I wrote this blog post. And if I can find my Platinax login details, I’ll join that conversation as well and see if there are others like me looking to stick to what matters when doing business as an independent entrepreneur online. (Seriously… managing all these “memberships” is a significant barrier to participation for me).

It’s not a successful failure, Brian. It’s a successful start-up. Now you need to let the market drive it, or drive it according to the market’s directions. I can see you’re listening, but are you listening?

Continue the conversation over there :

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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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