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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March 27th, 2009 by john andrews

Armchair Quarterbacks, SEOs, and Domainers

Domain Name News is one of the leading online “newspapers” of the Internet domain industry. Publisher Adam Strong asked me about the recent $5.1 million dollar toys.com sale, and after some conversation on SEO aspects I agreed to write my thoughts for publication on DomainNameNews.com. I asked a few friends in the SEO industry if they would like to participate, and the article went online. Click through to read Armchair SEOs Play with Toys.com.

Another leading domain industry newspaper DomainNameWire.com extended the “armchair” concept to domainers with “Are You and Armchair Domainer?”

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March 15th, 2009 by john andrews

Is it Really All About Links?

Links are code. When webmasters published the web, they did so in code. Nowadays people publish to the web. They don’t use code.

How does a person “link” to a site today? Is it an anchor tag? Does it have attributes? No, they simply type whatever.com into their user interface. There is very little incentive to make a link, and very little if any visible benefit.

Today people use platforms, and platforms produce code. Tech people used to code html pages, but now even they use platforms (like Wordpress). Wordpress used to have “blogrolls”, but they are now out of fashion. What’s in fashion? Facebook, Twitter, and Wordpress blogs with minimalist themes (no blogrolls).

People still “recommend” websites. They don’t build as many links as they used to. What’s a search engine to do?

Facebook is manipulating internal (and outbound) linking. If it does so following a schema, Google can manage it. If not, Google has stress. Twitter forces TinyURLs, according to a schema. But lately Twitter is showing it knows how to make friends, and can influence people. Twitter is starting to manipulate the internal and outbound links it owns, and sell its integrity to players in the web industry. I don’t expect much from Twitter.

The days of the public-facing web page platform are behind us. The players producing platforms are manipulating the currency that they see those platforms aggregate — which is mostly links. As you type type type your content into Twitter or Wordpress.com or Wikipedia you are fueling the coffers of an elite group of benefactors, and if they continue to manipulate the open web, we lose the “free” benefits of our world wide web. They used to encourage you to sign onto their systems, but now they need you. We’re not linking because our tools don’t make it easy enough to express our linking selves. Those who make the flexible tools today do so for personal gains, not the betterment of the web, and so they manage the linking. Greed is the new black.

And as we all stop linking, and our overlords manipulate the linking behind our content, what is Google to do? Just a hint — we stopped linking quite a while ago, in Internet time. Google’s been trying things, but I haven’t seen much success.
Free was never free; it was “no cost to users”. But as users lose the benefits of the open web, the cost of free can be substantial. The Tragedy of the Commons is hastened by the greed of those pulling platform strings, encouraged by search engines seemingly comfortable with the relationship, and supported by the masses of individuals looking to easily publish themselves on the web in order to “be somebody”.

I wrote this post on my self-published blog, and felt no desire nor need to link out to anything on the web. I’m not trying to educate an audience, nor trying to get them to sign onto my platform. I know few will link to this, although relatively many will indeed read it. Some might comment, but unless they desire a stunted, asynchronous one-way “conversation” they won’t bother. One or two may Twitter a 132 character quip to me about this, or send a DM, but I won’t hold my breath waiting.

The days of the html web are over, and we are in transition to something next.. the real time web. We have been for a while. Google runs the show today, because Google owns the archives… and I refer to very short term archives, since if we don’t witness something published live, we immediately go to Google to re fined it. People are saying twitter search is the next Google. Boy oh boy I can’t wait to see what our leaders and governments will do with populations of short-memory, attention overloaded, short-term-archive-dependent citizens.

For now, as an SEO, I have a job to do. But looking forward, unless Google or another search engine “nationalizes” itself for the good of the web or the web users, things are going to get ugly.

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March 12th, 2009 by john andrews

Opting IN with Google, so you can Opt-out of Tracking

Google has announced its new behavioral ad targeting, and acknowledged some of the privacy and protection guidelines in development around the world. They note:

  • United States Federal Trade Commission “Principles of Online Advertising”(PDF)
  • Network Advertising Initiative’s Self-Regulating Conduct paper
  • the Center for Democracy and Technology’s Threshold Analysis for Online Advertising Practices (PDF)
  • Internet Advertising Bureau (UK) Good Practice Principles¬† (here)

They also note that they would like to allow users to “opt out” of behavioral targeting (a technology which is based on tracking), but the only way they have to track these days is cookie technology. So according to Google, if you chose to opt out, Google must record that opt out preference in a cookie, but that cookie will be cleared if you clear your browser cookies. In other words, if you clear your cookies you are once again opted-in, even though you chose to opt-out.

So according to the new release, Google invented new technology to prevent that “problem”.¬† Google now offers a new browser plugin which will prevent you from clearing the Doubleclick cookie when you purposefully clear your browser cookies. That’s right, it’s a cookie-clearing-block plugin, specifically protecting the Doubleclick cookie which is supposed to opt you out of behavioral targeting:

The Google advertising cookie opt-out plugin is a browser extension which permanently saves the DoubleClick opt-out cookie in your browser, allowing you to save your opt-out status even when you clear all cookies…

Yes, you read correctly. Google produced a plugin to protect their cookie against cookie deletion. They explain how t works, as well:

The plug works like this: When you clear all cookies in your browser, the plugin automatically sets the DoubleClick opt-out cookie again, so that cookie is effectively not deleted and your opt-out setting stays enabled.

It seems pretty obvious to me that this double-negative ridiculousness comes from Google’s reliance on tracking as an opt out process.¬† They can’t just tell you to block their cookie, because they make 98% of their profits from advertising. So the double-negative “block the blocking” stuff is presented as a solution. Now you can save your preferences to NOT see certain types of ads, but to utilize that new feature you have to enable permanent tracking for Google only. Got that?

In summary, Google suggests you can now choose to not see certain kinds of ads, provided you enable a permanent Doubleclick cookie so they can track you and abide by your preferences.

I’m still thinking through the logic of this one, and wondering how quickly we will see this plugin as a default install on new PCs, pushed out with Adobe Reader updates, etc etc etc. No mention of the Flash storage tracking either.

It seems just about everyone is scared by Google’s new decision to track user behavior, because of past hints at how your use of Google to search for things can be easily used to deny you insurance, pre-screen you as a job candidate, or predict your future behavior. Some posts:

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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: ★ 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 ★ Seeing the Trees, but Missing the Forest ★ Search is a Task; Discovery is Fun ★ Why “dot everything” is a Good Idea (and ahead of its time) 

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