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?

johnon.com  Competitive Web & SEO
May 15th, 2007 by john andrews

Google’s Most Embarassing Moments

Prompted by Google’s public efforts to warn the world of evil lurking, I thought it might be interesting to highlight where Google could easily do more to protect the public. Let’s highlight some “low hangng fruit” for the good boys and girls of Google, should they care to improve SERP quality in the name of Good.

Where are the Google SERPs doing evil?

For me, Google should be ashamed for including www.quackwatch.org and it’s network of sites in the top 10 for so many consumer health searches (acupuncture, chiropractor, naturopathy, dental mercury, fluoridation, chinese medicine). I’m convinced Google is doing a serious bit of evil by recommending that site to consumers interested in learning about health issues. I’ve heard for years of reports and even successful law suits over the misleading “medical reporting”, the commercial bias, and the questionable credentials of the publishers of quackwatch. Still, numerous page 1 and often top 3 results for core one-word consumer health information queries. (If you read health information, see WebSite Review on this page for the kind of criticisms the quackwatch site receives from smart people).

What SERPs in your field are so incorrect or misleading that Google should be ashamed for compiling them?

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May 14th, 2007 by john andrews

Do The Right Thing

Anna Quindlen was quoted “I hate to write, but I love having written“. It reflects what many of us feel.
Some other areas of competitive webmastering that fit Quindlen’s quip about writing:

I hate to code, but I love to see my code run.

I hate to blog, but I love having blogged.

I hate to go out on a limb with an opinion, but I love having been right.

I hate to optimize, but I love to rank.

So many have said before that the time to publish content on that unused domain name is yesterday, the time to stop thinking and start doing is today, and the first thing you need to think about is “why are you thinking when you should be doing”. The truth is, you simply have to do something in order to achieve success. It doesn’t matter what you do, so the first order of business is to just do something. Chances are good that if you do it, you will learn sooner rather than later if it was worth doing. If it was not, there is still time to do something else.

Is that all it takes to be successful? Just doing something? Yes. If you do it, you will have done it, and you therefore will have succeeded at your task.
Now if you had intended to make money or get backlinks or make the Digg front page or rank #1 in a SERP, but didn’t, did you fail?

No. You still succeeded at what you set out to do. But you probably set out to do the wrong thing. So now do the right thing. You know what it is. You may not like doing it, but it’s the thing you need to do. So do it. I guarantee you, after you do it, you’ll love having done it.

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May 11th, 2007 by john andrews

American Idol and SEO Baiting

Yes, I used “American Idol” and “SEO” in the same title. American Idol and SEO Baiting are the same game, successful for the same reasons. Some people know that, and exploit it. One of those exploiters is preparing a new assault on the market as we speak. Others are suggesting we ignore it.

Allow me to explain.

SEO baiting is the process of inducing search engine optimizing types to pursue an SEO objective in the public eye. It’s not done to get some page to rank, but to get attention. Most SEOs know this. Many so-called SEO’s participate anyway (fall for the bait).

American Idol is a fabulousy popular TV show that panders to the public’s thirst to mock those who try and fail. It sells to the widely held belief that everyone deserves a shot, yet plays on the emotional fears of failure that are responsible for the “average” status of the majority of the audience – the ones who never try. Did you ever see someone succeed and think, “I could have done that!”. Did you feel resentment? A little guilt or disappointment for not having done it?

Guilt is a powerful and painful emotion. American Idol relieves the pangs of guilt and self doubt in those who never try, by showing us that “to try is to fail, most of the time”. And it doesn’t just show us… it laughs along with us, mocking those who fail. It makes a mockery of trying. It helps you feel better for not trying, while you sit in your comfy barcalounger with a cold beer. Google VoteForTheWorst for more on how American idol reportedly games the competition by selecting not the best candidates to compete, but the ones that will make for the most entertaining failures.

And so it goes with SEO baiting. A true competitive SEO will not participate in an SEO Contest because it doesn’t serve a productive purpose. As a consequence, those who do participate end up representing SEO. And when they fail (they always fail), the rest of the world can point and say “see, SEO doesn’t win”. This happens so much it’s like the reported shenanigans of American Idol gaming the competition. The exploiters use that to sell their oily message to the thirsty audience. People like the guy copying wikipedia. See? SEO isn’t so great.

This is a problem for those who defend the SEO industry. Is the solution simply “ignore the bait”? Nah. The very vacuum created by the ignoring provides opportunity for the next wannabee SEO celebrity to gain some attention market share. If no “real” SEO takes the bait, GeekWannabeeSEOGrrrl can step up to the plate, claim to be an SEO, and roar like a lion taking on all challengers. The basics of SEO are easy to learn. Most tricks are short-lived current events. That’s all you need to create an appearance of trying hard at SEO, since the audience is fairly ignorant of real SEO, and even the real SEOs will grant credit for having tried the basics and a few tricks.

If the SEO “contest” lasts more than 4 months or so, and GeekWannabeeSEOGrrrl has an outgoing personality, she’ll have achieved Junior SEO Rock Star status no matter the outcome. She’ll get invited on SEO talk shows. Among her new peers (the real SEO people and their fans), she personally looks good for having tried to defend the industry. Her looks and personality will substitute for her SEO skillz. She will no doubt meet alot of SEO people along the way, and get quality feedback in the form of criticism of her public SEO efforts, or support for trying. From “no where” to junior celebrity SEO status inside 6 months.. not bad. If she’s smart, the next step is publicly seek out free internships with the BigBoys…offer to run their errands and sort their keyword lists. Puffery will get you everywhere, including all the SEO dinners and “exclusive events” where “to-be-seen” is viewed by many as equivalent to being a good SEO.

It’s SEO as an industry that takes the beating. And I doubt that will ever change.

The cycle continues with the next generation seeing GeekSEOGrrrl’s success. She’ll be in the Flikr photos of SES and PubCon next to the Rock Stars. She’ll get linked. SEOs that didn’t participate will feel a little resentment, a little disappointment, and a little guilt for not having done what she did, or not having at least tried. And the next generation of scheming exploiters start planning their next round of SEO baiting, no doubt timed perfectly.

And the real SEOs will continue to rank at the top of the SERPs in whatever search engine the public prefers to use at the time. Just like they always have. I think it’s natural law.

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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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