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
August 26th, 2008 by john andrews

I’m Going to Work for Google

I know this will come as a shock to many of you, but I’ve accepted a position working for Google effective September 1, 2008. After 5 years of full time independence as a Competitive Webmaster and SEO Consultant, and after building out hundreds of web sites for my own publishing network and a collection of trusted clients, I’ll be signing on with The Google. It has been tremendously exciting, fun, and beneficial to have functioned independently during this past 5 years of amazing change in Internet Land. But I can’t fool myself any longer. Google is winning, Google will win, and if I want to win, my best opportunities are with Google. Plain and simple.

What does this mean for my clients? Well, you really need to read all the way through to the end of this post. What does this mean for my trusted SEO friends, with whom I have entrusted secrets and who have trusted me with secrets? Again, please read all the way through. What does this mean for the good people at Google? Perhaps that is the most interesting aspect of my going to work for Google.

Effective September 1, Google will gain access to virtually all of my business intelligence. I am pretty sure the meetings are already set up to discuss the details of my site networks, especially the ones I have operated in very competitive markets. Once I am on board at Google, Google employees will have the rights to access just about everything interesting about my businesses.

I have already been informed, via the legal terms and paperwork I had to execute just to investigate the opportunity, that Google will be inspecting my domains, my traffic logs, and everything else webbish about my web sites. But Google will also get a list of my collaborating partners, my advertisers, and my contracts with those advertisers. Google will inspect the rates I charge advertisers to place ads in my networks, and Google will take the names, addresses, and contact information for those advertisers (presumably so they can direct sell to them).

Google wants to know the rates I charge for CPM ads and the rates I charge for CPA deals. They want to know the terms, and they also want to inspect the activity logs of my ad serving system, down to the times of day I run ads, what I charge to run ads in different slots and at different times, and what my customers pay for their preferred placements. I have to say that while we explored this opportunity to work together, Google seemed excessively interested in the inner details of my business costs and profits. They even made an effort to quantify the amount of time I spend managing my ad serving systems, how often my clients change their ads, and how much flexibility I offer my advertisers.

Google also wants me to install Google Analytics on my sites, presumably to make it easier for them to know everything about my business as if all of the above wasn’t enough.

Since my agreement with Google permits me to continue operating my web sites provided I agree to some restrictions (no pornography, stuff like that I don’t object to anyway), they also asked me to allow them to insert their AdWords advertisers into the bidding system for my direct ad placements. They say their advertisers will compete fairly and they aren’t looking for preferred placement. I actually didn’t care too much about that, because honestly when you think about how they are going to know everything about my business anyway, what difference could it make for me? Like I said, Google’s kicking ass and I would be foolish to think they would do anything less than aggressively consume every last ounce of business intelligence they can get from me and my web businesses. How else did they get to be the winners? How else could they continue to dominate?

The terms of my joining Google are still privileged, so this is probably all I can state right now about it. I don’t have a Ph.D. (I dropped out after completing everything but the dissertation research), and even though I rock at answering Fermi questions, I wasn’t able to solve one of the puzzles Google uses to screen for brilliance. Not everyone will be happy to see me sign on. Until I post this, even Matt Cutts doesn’t know I will be joining Google. That should be fun.

Perhaps the biggest shock to everyone will be just how little Google had to offer me to get me to take this position. I’m basically doing it for peanuts. Oh sure I’ll make some coin but mostly I’m doing it for the… well… actually I don’t know if I can identify any truly good reason for joining Google like this. I live in Seattle so I don’t get the Mountain View Celebrity Chef or the free charter bus service with wifi. But I won’t have to manage my own ad serving network any more, which was a minor inconvenience. And if I adopt Google Analytics, well, I get the pretty reports without having to load up ClickTracks. Hmm… well, anyway. Best not to think too much, eh?

Now about that “what does this mean for my clients” and “what does this mean for my SEO friends” I promised for the end. No worries, folks. I’m not taking a job with Google. I’m simply signing on to their “free” Google Ad Manager service. All of the above simply describes just how much business intelligence and inside data access Google would get about my web businesses if I sign up for their new “free” Google Ad Manager service offering. Actually, I’m not signing on. I’d have to be stupid to sign on and give them all of that access. Completely insane. Sorry if you feel I wasted your time with this post.

Update: It looks like I inspired at least one Googler to quit his job working for Google.

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August 17th, 2008 by john andrews

What is Google Hiding? 403 Forbidden: “your query looks similar to automated requests”

This week Google started blocking people from using Google’s search engine. If you try and use advanced queries, such as you might use when you are trying to understand why Google is not indexing certain pages, you get a block message and are prevented from using Google:

Google Error We’re sorry…but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can’t process your request right now. We’ll restore your access as quickly as possible, so try again soon. In the meantime, if you suspect that your computer or network has been infected, you might want to run a virus checker or spyware remover to make sure that your systems are free of viruses and other spurious software. If you’re continually receiving this error, you may be able to resolve the problem by deleting your Google cookie and revisiting Google. For browser-specific instructions, please consult your browser’s online support center. If your entire network is affected, more information is available in the Google Web Search Help Center. We apologize for the inconvenience, and hope we’ll see you again on Google.

This happens to me every time I try and look past page 10 or so of a search result this week. If I clear the Google cookies, as suggested, nothing improves. This is very frustrating, and has caused at last two people I work with to start using for search and guess what.. they like it! One says it is easier to use than Google, and the other says her website is ranked in MSN and that is a good enough reason to use it for a while and besides, Live search is pretty good.

Here’s one reason you need to go deep into Google’s results: run a site query to see what Google has indexed from your site, and Google replies with “page 1 – 10 of about 10 million results”. But if you click on the tenth page, you don’t get the 101 or so results. Instead you get a page that says “page 21-29 of about 29 results” plus a notice that the other 9 million or so they originally reported are “substantially similar” to the 20 already displayed. So which is it Google.. you have indexed 10 million pages or just 29 pages indexed?

We find out by clicking deep into the results. Google says there is a 19th page of results, and offers a link to it. Click it, and see the truth: Google is only indexing 29 pages, and even though it may know of 9 million others (we can’t be sure), it isn’t displaying those to users for this query (contrary to what it says on the results page).

But we don’t find out this week. This week, if you click into those later pages that Google says exist and provides links to, you get a 403 Forbidden Error. Google’s explanation (above) sounds like it is trying to instill fear and doubt into the Internet.. you may have a virus or spyware… as if to say it’s not Google’s fault. What is Google hiding? If was one of my websites, I would be afraid that Google would penalize it for being junky, because my internal links don’t actually work, and are deceptive to users.

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August 17th, 2008 by john andrews

The Platform is Not the Message, Mark Cuban.

It seems every time I read what Mark Cuban writes, I disagree with him. Are we living in the same world? Obviously not. If he didn’t make headlines on Techmeme so much, I doubt I would ever read him these days. This time, in “The Platform is the Message“, billionaire HD movie developer Mark Cuban says people watch TV because they like to watch TV, and the appearance of content on the Internet instead of TV will not replace TV. That’s too broad a concept for me to disagree with, but he says specifics like this (his opening statement):

For years people have been saying that they will watch things in HD, that they would never ordinarily watch. In the 12 years I have been involved in Internet Video in one form or another, I have yet to have anyone ever tell me they will watch something just because its on the internet.

Um…. I work in technology, and especially the web, and I hear people all the time talking about watching Colbert and John Daly and yes, even the summer Olympics, only because they are on the web. Different worlds? Maybe…

Cuban then says:

There is a reason why 30pct of homes and quickly growing now have HDTVs…..they like to watch them. With a 73″ HDTV from Mitsubishi down to about $2200 bucks, its easy to see why and the pricing of all HDTVs continuing to fall, its a trend thats not going to end anytime soon.

Now again, I’m no billionaire, and I haven’t invested heavily in the Cult of HD like Cuban has, but I do have friends and neighbors and yes, they are increasingly buying large HDTV but not for the reasons Mark cites. They buy them for a number of other reasons. One is that there is a big marketing push that says if you don’t adopt the new HD stuff you won’t get TV anymore come spring (yes I know the truth, but my neighbors don’t).

Another was the huge and very deceptive (in my opinion) marketing effort last Christmas holiday season that pushed large screen, incompatible HD DVD systems out to the people through price incentives and misdirection (some companies have even paid out refunds).

Another reason is that there are new family-engaging video games like the Wii driving the purchase of large screen systems, and HD just seems like a wise bet when buying something you hope will last more than a year or two. Given the incredible complexity of the purchasing process for “TV” these days, many people simply “up” purchase, hoping that the premium model they bought will be the compatible one that last more than a few years. No one wants to get ripped off again with a nearly-outdated system.

Add another reason – the tax rebate did indeed prompt many large screen TV purchases. Who doesn’t welcome an excuse to indulge?

The HD industry has been horrible with their marketing messages. The HD DVD vs HD broadcast TV vs HD content marketing overlap is a miserable failure of massive proportions. Many people have bought so they can have big screen viewing of whatever they want to watch, not because they specifically want to watch the HD content Cuban and others provide. In this case I completely disagree with Cuban’s premise – the platform is not the message.

As one of those techy people that everyone else asks for advice before buying a new TV or screen, I base this only on my own experience living in this world I live in. Where does Cuban live?

Mark Cuban says:

People with big, beautiful TVs that they spent a lot of money on, want a reason to watch them. This could go down as the year the Olympics reinvigorated TV.

No, that’s not correct. People don’t need a reason to watch their big expensive TVs/ They want to enjoy watching them. Their reasons are clear – entertainment. They want to enjoy their TVs during the time they dedicate to “watching”, whether it is sports or movies or comedy or even news, but also video games, home videos, slide shows, interactive books, interactive teaching programs like my kids use for violin, and even video chat and Internet. We don’t want to have content restricted to specific devices, Mark. We want choices.

We don’t want hassles, Mark. We don’t want to have to watch this on that but play this on that other screen/device/whatever. If you don’t understand this, go witness the disappointment consumers experience when they discover they can’t play whatever on their new massive high-end TV. They don’t just acknowledge that the TV is for TV programs, and of course you can’t feed your whatever into the TV. They curse the HD industry, and comment about how since they spent thousands of dollars on the premium model, they expect it to work.

But maybe I live in a different world than Cuban. I threw programmed TV out of my house over 3 years ago, as did many of my friends and neighbors with younger kids. I don’t pay cable $150/month for hundreds of channels of crap that just might include some featured HD content. Perhaps I am not so easily programmed by the media or Mark Cuban.

Mark also says this:

if programmers understand that people will watch different programs on different platforms, we can stop playing the game of trying to replace TV.

Ummm… it’s not TV. When we say “TV” we don’t really mean “TV” like that. We mean the big screen thing in the living room we use to watch stuff. The box on the wall in the bedroom that we can turn on when we want to “be entertained”. TV. We sometimes even want to watch the Internet on TV, meaning we want to have a community experience with that common large screen viewing box, only not with some programmed talking head aligned with a network but with our choice of content. Yeah, we still call that “TV”. Sorry to confuse you. Please don’t tell media producers to stop improving the viewing experience. Instead, tell them to make it all work on my TV. Thanks.

Mark also says this:

Programmers will create content differently for every platform, from cellphone, even to movies. In the movie world, its pretty simple to see that big movies, with big special effects look great and sound great in theaters. Same with 3D. Thats an experience even a 73″ HDTV cant recreate fully

Now clearly with this statement I know we live in different worlds. No one I know has a 73 inch TV, because Costco doesn’t sell them yet. Also almost everyone I know has been woefully disappointed with todays “going to the movies” experience. It’s horrid. Lengthy pre-commercials, lousy sound (hint to technologists: louder is not better), ridiculous options for “refreshments”, and a generally undesirable norm of public behavior exhibited by those filling the seats.

Is it really “simple to see that big movies with big special effects look great and sound great in theaters“? Not in my world. It’s simple to see that the theater experience sucks. But maybe if I were a billionaire with my own HD movie production company I would have a 73 inch HD home theater, too. I’m not sure I would think that extended out into the real world as Cuban does, but hey, I’m not Mark Cuban.

Here’s an idea for Mark Cuban. He knows about the Internet, so he must know about the .TV top level domain. Consider people’s expectations for dot TV. They expect it to include programming they will want to watch on their big(ger) screens, whether that means the 24″ widescreen LCD on the desk or the bigger TV screen on the wall. Things like the lady who shows how to make a flaky pie crust (via video, on that dot-TV cooking station). I never knew you stopped kneading the dough when it was still that crumbly, but now I do! Or that win dot.TV show guy. I put that up on the big screen TV during dinner parties… he’s a hoot with the way he lowers the bar for wine tasting.

Maybe the emerging dot-TV thing will help Mark Cuban understand that the platform is NOT the message. The message is the message. We want to receive the message, enjoy the message, and sometimes (but not always) interact with the message, as we choose, when we want, and to share it with our friends and family.

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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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