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 15th, 2008 by john andrews

Automated Rank Checking: Thanks for Helping, Google

I want to publicly thank Google for helping me show my corporate clients that they should not be running or trying to run automated rank checking tools.

Just about every client asks for a tool to automatically check position in Google. and most big companies insist on it. So that page at that clearly states “automated rank checking is illegal“,  is a great resource. It helps me help Google eliminate the automated queries.

Also that part about how running automated rank checking software carries negative consequences,like penalization or even banning in some cases, is awesomely helpful.

It’s really important that Google help us help them like this. The need for standardized reporting of the success of SEO efforts is very real. As an SEO and competitive webmaster consultant, I give my clients the best advice I can give, and I back it up with real world facts and reasonable explanations. I have been at this SEO Game for many, many years. I have experience.

I as one of the early webmasters punished by Google back in the late 1990’s  for running WebPosition, one of the first useful reporting tools. I think it was version 2. I used it from the corporate network, and the corporate network got banned from using That’s right… all 1000+ employees got dead air when they tried to go to It was a very good thing that not many corporate users knew about young Google at that time, or they would have been more upset than they were.

The email response I got from Google back then was brief, rude, and direct: you’re banned because you used “one of those automated tools”. He wouldn’t name the product, but he was happy to tell me there was little I could do to fix the problem unless I begged for forgiveness and promised not to ever do it again.

Lucky for me at that time I had a large enough IP block and I knew all about proxies. The boss was adamant about reporting on position. In fact, my career advancement depended on my being able to show a rather large group of busy scientists that we were achieving exposure for their work in search engines. If I didn’t show that, they would not collaborate.

Anyway, about that page at where I can send my corporate clients when they ask for a rank reporting tool… I seem to have misplaced the URL. Anyone have it handy?

I know about this one that meekly asserts you shouldn’t use checking tools:

Google’s Terms of Service do not allow the sending of automated queries of any sort to our system without express permission in advance from Google. Sending automated queries absorbs resources and includes using any software (such as WebPosition Gold™) to send automated queries to Google to determine how a website or webpage ranks in Google search results for various queries.

but the last time I sent a client to that page she sent me back a quote from the same guidelines:

Google prefers developing scalable and automated solutions to problems

Ha ha no, the irony was not lost on me. I didn’t enjoy that conversation so much.

Anyway, I seem to have misplaced the URL to the page that says “DON’T RUN AUTOMATED RANK CHECKERS OR WE’LL BAN YOUR ASS“, which is the tone I remember from that email I got from the Google engineer backin ’99 or whatever.

We have to remember, when a client asks for reporting or rank positions, they are seeking accountability. The only answer they will accept is something that impacts the bottom line, which in this case, is Google rank. Without risk, why not go for the reward?

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August 8th, 2008 by john andrews

Consequences of a Baaad Domain Name

Seth Godin has a new book coming. It’s called “Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us“. Seth is a popular guy and writes popular books. It should be popular. He’s also a marketing innovator, notorious for doing things differently in obvious ways (so every notices that he’s doing things differently). To pull that off, he sometimes has to beat everyone over the head with the fact that he’s doing things differently. But, he can also achieve that awareness through…marketing. And that’s what he’s doing now. To promote “Tribe: etc” he’s aiming for best-seller status, which we all know requires tons of pre-selling. Pre-sell enough books and you launch as a best seller, which, of course, helps your launch do better because…. you can claim you have a best seller. Get it?

Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is… Seth has decided to build an exclusive online community for those who appreciate innovative marketing ideas, and offer membership by invitation only, to … you guessed it… people who have pre-ordered (and paid for) his book. Clever tactic for a $15 book. He claims he’s not doing it to sell books, and I believe him (I believe he’s doing it to qualify for best-seller status, but that’s just my opinion). Seth says he’s doing it to ensure that his online community launches with the right people (people who were willing to spend $15 on his marketing book… whatever).

It is true that the $15 price tag is insignificant compared to the value of getting in early on a Seth Godin-driven online community, especially one that promises :

A tribe for marketers, for leaders, for those focused on building communities or creating products or spreading ideas…this online community will live on a site we’ve created that will feature blogs, forums, social networking, comments, photos, videos and a job board. And it’s by invitation only until October. Spots are limited and early members get privileges and bragging rights…Members get a password and the privilege of meeting each other, posting thoughts, connecting to big ideas or projects and more. The site will include excerpts from the book as well as a chance to contribute to a new jointly-authored ebook, with full credit and links to the contributors.

Wow. All for $15. Anyone who believes in the promise (and there are plenty of Squidoo afficionados who believe in Seth) will glady charge $15 bucks to the credit card, especially since you not only get the book (eventually) but also get an exclusive personal early invite to …. are you ready?….. Ouch!

First, I have to apologize because I know you’re dizzy from looking at that and trying to figure out if it really is 3 i’s in a row (or is it 4?, or perhaps it’s an umlat or something?) Yes, folks, it is 3 consecutive lower case letter I’s.

What a horrible domain name.

Seth’s blog doesn’t mention the actual domain he’s going to use for his exclusive community of marketers, but this report did. When I checked the WHOIS today I saw Megan Casey (Seth’s point person on Squidoo?) as the registrant. By the way, is already registered by someone else (sorry) and if you have epilectic tendencies please stop reading now because I note that is still available! (yes, that’s 4 consecutive letter I’s). Someone should pick up that typo, no? You can own it for less than the price of a cheap marketing book (wink wink).

You can also note that someone has something going on at, which I guess makes sense if you buy into the whole ning thing.

Bad domains are a curse, and this one is truly horrible. Maybe that’s why Seth didn’t mention it? Maybe he still has hope that his team will find something better before he has to use it? Whatever, the fact is, no matter how much I think Seth’s idea is good and his community would work, I won’t be joining even at a mere $15 price point. It’s nothing personal – like I said I expect him to succeed. I just can’t stomach the domain name, and I know it will fail.

Oh sure he can change it, and a bad domain name is a temporary condition because it becomes obvious to everyone real fast when the traffic gets lost on the way in during the first month. But this one is just painful. A marketing community on a domain that can’t be read, can’t be spoken, can’t be typed without double-checking, and all for a product that can be spoken (“tribe”) and everyone understands (“tribe – we want to be in one”). Please. I would be embarassed to sign up.

I was almost embarassed to join Squidoo when it started because of the silly name, but I recognized it as quirky in a friendly way. Plus the octopus cartoon thing helped people identify with it a ton. This time, however, no donuts to anyone on the team that voted for triiibe. As a user, based on that domain name alone, I am completely predisposed to believe it will fail. If I think of triiibe on Ning… slow, clumsy Ning…3rd parties monetizing my activity stream…. I will definitely pass. But my disgust (and this blog post) was completely prompted by that horrible domain name.

I so desperately want to hit my registar and pool etc. for a tribal tribe-like domain name that’s better and available for under $500 bucks or so to help Seth out, except… I have some other stuff I have to do right now. Wow. Talk about bad domain names. Geesh. Ewe. Bleh. I think I need a shower.

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August 7th, 2008 by john andrews

Pubcon 6 Concurrent Sessions: You Miss 83%

Pubcon this year has 6 concurrent sessions. Yes, 6. That means no matter how hard you try, you can only attend 16.7% of the sessions (on average). Is ths one of those “monetization” strategies that encourages companies to send teams instead of individuals?

I am reminded of attending Society for Neuroscience meetings where 50,000 people attended. And historical Comdex where 200,000 attended over several square miles of venue. It was crazy. Frustrating crazy.

Back in the early days of DEFCON I stood in the registration line for almost the entire first day, missing everything just to get in to see everything else. That was crazy, but worth it. Once there was a large refugee camp waiting for registration, almost as big as the crowd inside, someone pointed speakers our way, water bottles were passed around, and an impromptu RegLineCamp started amongst ourselves….the best was made of it.

With 6 concurrent sessions, and based on experience with past pubcons, I’m not hopeful of such innovation. Will there be tons of wallflowers, lots of doors opening and closing mid-presentation, and a whole lot of people just giving up hope of catching what matters most? And how about those inane questions coming from the transients…”I may have missed this in the beginning, so sorry if you already covered it, but can you tell me how I can SEO my 200 WordPress blogs?“.

Last year they had fancy-smancy scrolling electronic agendas outside each room, using laptop computers to drive 30+ inch LCD flat screens…. just showing the agenda. Totally not worth the expense from an atendee perspective (although it probably saved the organizers paperwork and sign-making).

Here’s an idea.. how about put that money (and those flatscreens) to use in the table area to show all concurrent sessions on the wall via a big matrix of screens, Hollywood Squares style? Simulcast the audio, so we can choose screen 1 or screen 2 on our iPods or whatever. Some of us will set up permanent residence at a “regular” table, you know, Jersey Diner style. I’ll even bring a little speaker to share audio with “my booth”, or if Brett needs the revenue, there can be coin-operated ones. We can sit still while the concurrent sessions concur around us…or whatever. I also won’t have to suffer the annoying tap-tap-tap of a “live blogger” sitting down next to me.

We’re all ADHD anyway, so why not cater to us? We’ll love ya for it, and I promise not to throw tomatoes at the lesser presenters.

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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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