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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June 28th, 2007 by john andrews

Negative SEO and Google Bowling

Forbes is running an article about something called Google Bowling, but they are calling it “negative SEO”. I’m not sure which I dislike more: SEO practitioners proudly (stupidly?) proclaiming their expertise at such things, or the press pandering to the public’s seemingly unquenchable thirst for garbage, even in the SEO space.

Anyway Google Bowling is the “art” of linking to a competitor so much, so fast, it makes the competitor look like a spammer. If Google notices the sudden growth of spammy in-links, it might lose trust in the site and lower its relevance (thus lowering its rank in the search results). To the extent that Google has built this into it’s automated ranking algorithm, it may be be exploited. If you know how to trigger such a penalty, you can set up a process to Google Bowl a competitor out of the ranks.
I would like to point out that this sensationalistic garbage is far more theoretical than actual, and far less practical than effective. Which makes me wonder about the so-called SEO people claiming to offer Google Bowling as a service. It simply costs too much to be worthwhile, except in cases where there is truly an algo exploit. But such algo exploits don’t last long either these days, especially in high profile or highly profitable industries. Google can adjust. And that’s why this negative SEO stuff sounds so fishy. It sounds like yet another scammy grab at fast money. I bet it’s hugely expensive.

When people believed there was a so-called “sandbox” preventing new sites from entering the Google index, an SEO I knew publicly said he had a solution and offered to pull a site out of the sandbox for $50,000. Did he have a solution? Not exactly. But $50k is a lot of money and with that, he could get enough good links and promotional attention to get any site to start ranking (with a nice profit left over). Fast money.

Negative SEO? More fast money. Those who really want it will pay. Would it work? Would the impact last? I suppose that depends on the contract terms, doesn’t it.
Negative SEO like that is bad news all around, but the concept of impacting the search results page in order to improve your own pages’ placement is classic good SEO. If you rank #1, why not also control the pages in slots 2 and 3? If your competitor is at #9, why not move him off to page two by ranking an embedded video or second site? Thats just good SEO and good business.

But this Google Bowling stuff is like hiring unsavory local hoods to stand outside you competitor’s store entrance to deter customers. It’s ugly. And it’s arguably illegal since it interferes. But perhaps most telling, it’s scummy. i didn’t say “scammy”, but scummy, as in exhibiting traits of lower forms of life.

For an SEO to proudly offer Negative SEO or Google Bowling as a service is a character flaw, for all to see. A desperate act. And the buyer… I can see how ignorance plays a role, as does desperation. But the market can handle cheaters and desperate players like that. Huh. Funny that. I think the market is already handling them… by enabling the so-called SEOs to hawk Negative SEO as a service. Fast money. A fool and his money are soon parted?

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June 26th, 2007 by john andrews

ThreadWatch is for sale

ThreadWatch is for sale again. They have announced a limited time opportunity to buy it before they “turn it off” in 3 days. Classic all-in behavior from a classically macho web site.

If it does go away, there’s plenty to talk about. I guess we have to wait and see….

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June 23rd, 2007 by john andrews

SEO Wines and Japanese Incense

I do a fair amount of SEO work and often it seems the detail is endless, the volume of work remaining always immense, and the urgency just as reliably dramatic. So I have come to appreciate what I refer to as SEO Music, SEO Incense, and SEO Wine. These things calm the soul and soothe the wit. Listen to SEO Music, drink SEO wine, and burn SEO incense while working on SEO and it all seems..well… more tolerable.

Just thought I’d mention that I’ve already created an SEO wine list. It will contains links to web sites of wine providers, using as anchor text the particular wine that I like to enjoy while working in SEO. Feel free to recommend your own favorites. I look forward to trying them out.

I will be adding an SEO incense list as well, but not an SEO Music list. That would be too much work, and I just use Pandora for that anyway.

To kick off this historical Quality of SEO Life initiative, here are tonight’s guests in my home office:

SEO Wine: Benton-Lane Pinot Noir 2004 in my favorite Reidel ‘O’ series Pinot Noir stemless stemware (see note 1)

SEO Incense: Arbre a Tre Encens Japonais from Esteban Paris (tea shrub) – (see note 2)

SEO Music: Badmarsh & Shri “Signs”, set to repeat. (see note 3)

Note1: I discovered Benton-Lane while visiting Eugene, Oregon in 2003. It was the most enjoyable Pinot I had ever had, and I brought a bottle with me back to the east coast. A year later I was able to buy it locally in New York. I enjoy Pinot Noir as it is less serious than Cabernet, and doesn’t make me snack like a good Cab does.

Note2: I was introduced to Esteban incense while in New York City, specifically the woods series of Esteban incense from GiftsThatMakeScents.com. The wood series was natural and very high quality stickless incense, and a very good match for my “personality” (and I suppose therefore my SEO work). Sadly, they stopped making it due to the high cost of purity. The Esteban Feuilles series (leaves) is not nearly as good for me, but still very good, and much better than the stick incense and even my Shoyeido stickless Japanese incense. I wish it weren’t so obviously artificially colored.

Note3: I picked up the Badmarsh & Shri “Signs” CD back in 2003 while trekking from Seattle thru Vancouver and lower BC. It was my first trip to the region and I spend several days hiking/busing with my backpack and a portable CD player. I picked up some of Asian Fusion CDs and Badmarsh & Shri was in the player as I walked across the long bridge to Richmond on a glorious sunny and breezy day. Perhaps it has nothing to do with SEO, but when I work with Signs playing in the background, I am happy. If you can feel happy while doing creative SEO work, you are very lucky indeed.

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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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