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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August 14th, 2013 by john andrews

When there are no Jobs

As in independent consultant and small business owner, I see how the markets and society impact productivity every day. One thing that need acknowledgement is that we are responsible for our own difficult situations. By we, I mean the tech sector companies, managers, workers, employees, investors, and consumers.

When we don’t respect education, we don’t get well-educated workers coming for jobs. When we have poorly-educated or not-very-smart employees in roles within a company (especially managers), we get inefficient and often error-prone execution of job functions, which leads to low quality products and services.

When we neglect education, we also isolate our independent personalities, “free thinkers”, highly-motivated and creative people, as they are most neglected by a lesser education system and lesser organizational function. Some say we “breed” mediocrity, but I don’t agree with that as much as I think we alienate those who do not fit into the “mediocre” group (perhaps pushing them out of view, leaving “mediocre” in sight).
At least two facets of this process lead to self-reinforcing mediocrity in our economy. As we manage companies that hire ill-prepared thinkers as employees, and manage the error-prone and lower quality production of products and services that results, we lower standards. At the same time, those free-thinkers and creatives and highly-motivated workers seek employment outside of that system.

This leads to our “Silicon Valley” experience on the one side (highly-motivated and creative thinkers seeking alternative systems of employment) with it’s exploitative labor arrangements distorting the purpose of labor away from production and towards servitude. It also feeds a lop-sided financial world driven by a winner-takes-all mentality with “go for the gold and invest” vs “hold back and try to hinder” behavior.

Like a sump, a community of lower-motivated and “entitled” workers makes up the largest remainder group. They accept work at mediocre dysfunctional organizations, and accept lower standards while seeking to make lives and find happiness.

But the consequences of this downward slide of economic civilization also include a perhaps less obvious “cheating society”, where workers who do not engage with the high climbers but who do not fit in with low-demand entitlement community of workers, do their best to “get ahead” within the system. These workers often ending up holding down multiple jobs or careers (e.g. job at the bank by day, real estate agent by night) or working as freelancers and contract workers. They “cheat” by exploiting “loopholes” in the system for personal gain. While “cheating” is a harsh word, if you look closely you might find a significant portion of their “earnings” come from exploitation of the overlaps between their endeavors, or their personal monetization of “slippage” that exists in the positions they hold.

Examples of “cheating” include personally selling excess office supplies from work on ebay (rationalized with “they were just going to throw it away”), spending company budget lines on training that is more relevant for the second job than the one that’s funding the purchase, calling in “sick” when there is an opportunity for better pay at a side job, etc. Sitting on multiple boards where there is conflict of interest or benefit derived from mutual considerations. Taking full benefits even when not needed (rationalized as “it’s mine, part of what I negotiated when I took the job”), deciding to execute a plan that is not truly needed by the company but would make your job much more fun, etc. The examples are so numerous and behavior so common we have come to accept them as “normal” or even “benedfits”, even though most of it technically is illegal or close to illegal. It often seems that the bigger the company, the more the cheating is considered “normal”. The government seems to be the biggest company of all, in that respect.

Psychologists have names for these behaviors (as do some lawyers) but for the purpose of this discussion I will simply note that when a person is underutilized and unhappy in a job, they tend to find ways to compensate and self-reward. Those “ways” are often at company expense, and this “cheating” mentality exists across the whole spectrum from worker through management and company behavior towards customers. One can even “see” how it could be extended to explain the nearly billion dollar pay of some CEOs, and the million dollar salaries of CEOs of so-called non-profit organizations. I think it stems from a lack of respect for education.

Of course “fixing our education system” is not a wholesale solution. I, personally, think our education system needs to be scrapped. I acknowledge however that I am not a qualified expert on fixing large dysfunctional systems.

But fixing “the education issue” is a solution. Fix education. Individual education, group education, societal education. Respect for enlightenment (and the process of “education”) is key to fixing the problems.

Perhaps the first step is to defend your own right to knowledge and enlightenment, an activity which will earn you access to “education”. You have a right to not be misinformed. You have a right to learn the truth (about whatever). You have a right (and perhaps a responsibility) to continually learn.

If you think about it (if you can.. meaning if you have any time to think, have any environment free from distractions such that you can think, have any way to defer the demands of everyday life such that you can freely “think”) then you may see that many of today’s “problem issues” stem from the failure of all of us to get educated and stay informed (educated):

We take too many prescription drugs
We drink to much alcohol
We take on too much risk in our leisure activities, or not enough (what happened to the middle ground?)
We “hate” too quickly
We “love” too little
We are “alone” too much, and our “community time” is too stressful/unfulfilling
We are either not busy or too busy (e.g. underemployed or overworked)
We have little peace and are becoming entrained by ambient noise – which brings us back to the top of this list

When there are no jobs, there is pain and trouble. But the solution is not “more jobs”. The lack of jobs is a symptom of the real problem, as is most of the above. The problem is what medical doctors commonly call “a failure to thrive”, in this case applied to the human spirit and humanity.

As individuals we thrive when we can fulfill our personal destinies, which were at one time the product of our unique personal combination of genetics, physical and mental abilities, and personalities, nurtured in a development environment (family, friends, society). But once we started to impose constraints, and developed them into a system of control, empowered by surveillance and authority, we started to kill “education”. Where our ultimate life paths were once determined by our individual natures, supported and influenced by our surroundings, our life paths today are determined by our ability to break free of constraints, “cheat”, or settle for a selection of entitlements within reach (using coping skills like alcohol and drugs to manage our internal discontent).

It wouldn’t seem so bad if we were “happy” with that, but clearly we are not. And whether or not we acknowledge it, when it comes to humanity, defined as “thriving in life as a human”, the status quo is not sustainable.

Education. Awareness. Enlightenment. Information. Knowledge. Satisfaction. Happiness. Fulfillment. Love. Humanity.

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August 2nd, 2013 by john andrews

Google Stifles Innovation, starts Strangling Itself

I’ve long claimed that Google’s efforts to regulate Internet publishing for it’s own commercial gain stifles innovation. I started this blog 2007 when it became clear that I needed to raise my profile as an SEO or get quietly destroyed via what could fairly be defined as anti-competitive practices. Google was getting big and powerful and had already shown many of us it would be playing hardball with any one who threatened to make money off it’s activities. That despite a managed public “do no evil” image.

Towards the end of 2007 it was clear how Google would lead, set up, and knock down SEO. Google has now completed most of that strategy. A careful analysis of the SEO world today would reveal an almost meaningless press, few if any actionable SEO guides coming out of citizen media (seo blogs), a virtual army of propagandists (some willing, many unwilling) spewing the “just make good content” junk, and more confusion than ever about what SEO is and whether or not it works, is safe, is spam, etc.

Those same actors who call SEO “spam” and proclaim a new age of content marketing based solely on a prayer that Google will reward creative content with traffic, previously helped push SEO under ground starting around 2009, where it had been and where I would have stayed had I not been forced to start blogging in 2007. Why would a sane, knowledgable, experienced tactical practitioner share actionable insights with a community of takers, who are also willing to bow to the competitor (Google) at first sign of the Almighty G being displeased?

Now, Google is larger and bolder than ever. And stifling innovation more than ever. As I casually watch the various stories of Google doing this or that, it’s pretty clear that Google feels threatened. Why? Bazillions is not enough? No, it’s not. Pride and avarice… pride and avarice. The difference today is that Google seems willing to be the bad guy, in order to secure and protect it’s control over the Internet Billions. It doesn’t seem to care that people don’t trust it, or dislike it.

In “Google yanks Adblock Plus from Google Play, Surprising Nobody“, Venturebeat reported that Google had dropped the super-popular ad blocking plugin from the downloads area developers are required to use to reach consumers. Google cited a policy violation related to conflict with Google’s commercial interests. That was the reason for the “Surprising Nobody” part from VentureBeat’s editors. But it did surprise some – those who believed Google’s promise to be open and encourage innovation. Clearly, innovation (even very, very popular innovation) is not allowed if it blocks Google from making money.

But that’s not all, folks. The ad blocking plugins have continued despite Google’s attempts to stop them. There are more of them now, and more options, and they are more popular. But the biggest one… the one that Google attempted to stifle back in March, now quietly allows Google’s ads to get through the blocker. Where it used to offer users the option of blocking Google’s ads, it now whitelists them, while still offering the users options for blocking other companies’ ads.

While the SEOs might immediately think Google’s threat of deindexing from Google search or exclusion from the Google Play download store would have been enough of a threat to cause such a reversal by the ad blocking plugin publisher, we now know it was cash. Google reportedly paid AdBlock Plus to whitelist Google’s ads. Some have estimated the saving for Google to be upwards of $800 million dollars.

Innovation? No longer relevant. Good for users? Not if it isn’t also Good for Google. And thus begins the decline of Google, in measurable ways.

We SEOs working the front lines of competitive publishing have always known that Google needs us in order to remain viable as a search engine. Now we know Google doesn’t need to remain viable as a search engine. Google search has been decaying for some time now, and will continue to decline in quality as Google manipulates publishing for advertising-driven commercial gain. It simply doesn’t matter, right now, for Google.

Public respect? Also doesn’t seem to matter so much. Cash is king. So “best for users” is no longer relevant. And I predict, as Google continues to learn that cash matters more than respect, and that users without choices really don’t need to be catered to (especially if you have the power to stifle innovation and corrupt talented disrupters), Google will strangle itself.

I’ll leave the “how” for homework, but historically it has something to do with moral bankruptcy, man’s search for meaning, the purpose of life and the man’s need for freedom/tolerance for abuse.

We can see it happening internally… Google is big and full of smart people. Some are moving towards hardware, some towards global initiatives, some towards other areas. But just as the Borg will be evil externally to protect it’s advertising cash, the organization can be expected to behave badly internally, when the ad-driven cash flow is disturbed. I think they know this… but don’t know what to do about it.

Which reminds me… sacred cows make the best hamburgers.

Note: this blog gets upwards of 40,000 spam comments per week, so comments are closed. Please discuss on social media.

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May 5th, 2013 by john andrews

Flying the SEO Helicopter

A very long time ago I was a programmer. Not a “coder”, but a programmer.

In the beautiful stone and walnut offices of a global corporation, I sat at a computer desk. It was special, because it had a slide out keyboard tray, was arranged to accommodate a screen placed in front of me when I sat in the chair. My arms were placed in front of me, with my hands on the keyboard. Except for the girls in secretarial pool and the men in “data processing”, no one else “sat that way”. Within the Engineering unit, my desk was a curiosity and a magnet for geeks. It was cool. It was the future.

My manager (a chemist) was a jovial, caring guy and a company man. I remember he came by one day and remarked “so you know how to fly one of these things?”

We came to refer to it as the Helicopter. I flew the helicopter. We had a team of Engineers, managers, and support people, and now the unit had a helicopter, and I was the pilot. They had big expectations for me.The helicopter was expensive and shiny and futuristic; amazing, even. The helicopter was going to do the “heavy lifting”. It was going to “save the day” on projects we could not otherwise do without computing power. And it was clear from day one that everyone else supported me as pilot partly because they expected that, over time, I would teach them how to fly it themselves (or fly one they would get on their own desk, someday).

Fast forward and we’re all spending our days flying these things. But are we doing any heavy lifting? Are we getting the job done, saving the day, enabling the team? Or are we just “flying around” like one of those toy indoor helicopters, putzing around the room dodging lamps and co-workers’ monitors until we run out of battery power and drop to the floor? And we call it work.

More than ever, we have ways to keep “busy” with SEO. The old stand-byes “keyword research” and “competitive analysis” and “SERP analysis” can keep us busy day after day. With TRILLIONS of links in place on the world wide web, we could link analyze for weeks if left alone to our cockpits. And I suppose every one of you SEOs out there could rationalize and justify the effort and expense (and many of you agency types do just that.. for a living). The helicopter is now cheap, fast, and mobile. The fuel is cheap as well, but it turns out there are two kinds of fuel for SEO helicopters. The kind the machine needs to fly (basic software and electricity), and the kind we need to actually do any work with it (seo data sets, seo tools, and accurate and effective information). The latter fuel is not cheap at all. And it’s been getting more and more expensive.

Knowing how to fly one of these things is not worth much any more. Knowing how to get the work done is.

The next time you find yourself putzing on your computer while allegedly “working”, imagine a pilot buzzing around the landscape in the company helicopter, burning fuel and not accomplishing much besides increasing the basic flying skills of the pilot (a valid endeavor, for sure… but not “heavy lifting” and probably not helping the team save the day. Is that you? Do you deserve to be sitting in that seat? Or is there someone to your left or right who, given some opportunity, would be a much more effective helicopter pilot for your team’s ambitions?

These days I try and have as many helicopters as I can flying around the job site. I’ll put anyone into the pilot seat, and give them fuel, and get them started. Go make a difference. Go figure out a better way to approach our goal lines. Show us a better way. Do some heavy lifting. Save the day. Prove yourself worthy of the pilot seat. Go. For. It.

SEO is not about tools or processes, but people. I suspect that will increasingly become the case, as tools continue to get bigger and more complex, and more and more “pilots” spend their days buzzing around the office with their cool helicopters and fancy fuels.

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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: ★ 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 ★ Seeing the Trees, but Missing the Forest 

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