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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November 19th, 2012 by john andrews

Preparing for the Google Apocalypse

The Currency of Search Marketing is Influence (and Zombies)

We all seem to appreciate the use of Zombies as models of “enemies”. If there’s one real power zombies have, it’s the power to influence people. I don’t know a single human who is aware of the nature of zombies (fast ones that can fly, slow ones that never stop advancing, all of them eat you alive, etc.) who would not run away from a zombie without second thought. More than war, natural disaster, disease or random acts of violence carried out by crazy psycho killers, to us zombies define a complete lack of “humanity”.

For years the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) experienced difficulty getting Americans to prepare for any potential disasters, partly because we live in denial and are always pursuing “dreams”. We tend to ignore anyone who suggests things might come crashing down while we’re building wealth and moving up the ladder. That shit happens to OTHER people. But when they produced “How to Prepare for the Zombie Apocalypse”, people paid attention.

Ammunition maker Hornady successfully re-branded one of its powerful self-defense handgun rounds as “Zombie Max”, which it promotes as a way you can “supply yourself for the Zombie Apocalypse”. Of course the same product in a different box, now costs more.

Gun advocates have always had trouble picking “targets”. If you shoot for sport or as part of training in weapons handling, you shoot a target. Usually it’s paper. Range operators face complaints from advocate groups when they allow people to shoot the targets they bring with them to the range (an evil-looking street thug with a gun, who is almost always black or Hispanic; a picture of a uniformed police officer; a picture of Obama, etc). Yet when they tack up a picture of a bloody-mouthed zombie, nobody cares.

Zombies are persuasive.

The currency of SEO is persuasion, not traffic or rankings.

This is not a new realization. Many of us have studied persuasion for almost as along as we’ve studied SEO. Recently a major search conference featured an author/psychologist focused on persuasion and “the power of influence” as the keynote speaker.

But what might be new to you, is that currencies can and are manipulated on a regular basis by governing powers, which includes governments, banks, and political entities. If you can manipulate the currency, you can control the economy.

The same way we’ve seem nations “manage” currencies (China, Brazil, US, GB, etc) we see Google managing the currency of the Internet (“traffic”, via “rankings”). Traffic reflects earned attention and raised awareness, and drives commerce. We can expect Google to manipulate the currency as a means of controlling the economy. We can expect similar behavior of any large, powerful, forward-thinking, profit-oriented entity.

But the currency of SEO is not traffic. Can persuasion be manipulated?

As we prepare for “zombie apocalypse” where the currencies in play in our society face manipulation (and perhaps collapse), how will you survive? If the dollar is devalued, if massive stores of pure gold are discovered on a nearby asteroid, if Google takes away your traffic, how will you survive?

Think about your personal influence and the influence you can manage without dollars or gold or permission from Google. Think about how people throughout history have sought karma, invested in social credits, and injected good will into their communities, as a way to “prep” for disaster. Think about it.

We may be “search marketers” and “search engine optimizers” who work within the confines of an economy controlled (manipulated) by Google, but our currency is persuasion. Persuasion within a market niche transcends Google.

If you’re not preparing for a “Google Apocalypse” and hoarding persuasion instead of rankings or keyword relevance, you may find yourself walking the streets stunned and directionless, searching for your next meal. And no one will care about you.

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September 3rd, 2012 by john andrews

Rank #1 in Google for Your Name (for a fee)

If you could purchase the rights to rank first on the first page of Google for your name, in a specially-colored listing (perhaps a light green or light blue background), would you pay $100 per year for that privilege?

You could use it to publish about yourself… a web page similar to a Google profile page. You’d have to follow the guidelines, of course, which would prohibit only the typical prohibited stuff. Everything else would be ok, because the format would be controlled. The basic info and your primary “pitch” about yourself would be up front and center. Everything else would be “hidden” beneath clicks. Only those users who wanted to read your “Why Jesus is my Saviour” would have to see it.There could be an unlimited number of such optional “additional info” sections up there, so you can publish as much as you like.

And if you have a common name (as I do), would you pay that fee and then submit to a randomized fairness ranking, such that on average, across the month’s time, your profile ranked at the top just about as much as every other person with your name who had signed on to the rotation service? Of course there would be a monthly re-opt-in required to keep you in page 1. Those who didn’t care enough to renew would lose position to those who did. Sort of a “profile deserves freshness” system.

Since this “top spot” is clearly marked as a placed “identity” listing, it would expand downwards for anyone who clicked to see “more people named NNNNN”. At that point their indicated their intend to find info ABOUT a person with that name, so the results will be all (randomized) exact-match profiles for that name, plus Google “suggest” or course, which would clue you into the latest “John Doe arrested new york” etc scandals.

This is an example of a value-added Google service that cuts direct to the “end user” for maximum monetization. At the $100 symbolic¬† fee for such a listing, Google would collect much more revenue that PPC ads in that spot. The user experience for most “actual names” would be better than it is now. Of course there could be auctions and “highest bidder” approaches but that would not be as well received in the market place as a flat-fee to stake your claim. In other words, Google could do that later, after they had earned karma points and good will.

Everyone needs reputation management, and Google currently forces that problem into an SEO negotiation. Why? For a fee most would be happy to pay, Google can give them a podium from which to make their own case for reputation issues. For someone in trouble, that top spot will present their case (and outrank the perhaps exaggerated media coverage ranking on their name). For someone convicted of a crime, that spot could be used by that person to say sorry, explain some details, or otherwise provide input into what is usually a one-sided conversation at that point.For those promoting themselves… if it’s a known feature of Google, the user community would come to expect it for what it is.

Now of course Google currently gets paid on a per-click basis, and manages profitability on a profit per impression basis (using so-called “quality scores”). But at $100 flat fee, offered to 250 million Americans as an example, wouldn’t the revenue potential compete or exceed that from PPC on most names? ¬† I didn’t do any math here… just thinking out loud.

It just seems like such an opportunity for Google to regain some public respect while serving society and making significant money, while continuing to develop search and learn more about people, identities, and how the world searches around identity.

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September 1st, 2012 by john andrews

Pseudo-Random Thoughts on Search

The web is broken. I am getting old. My way of using the web is broken. I don’t find what I need when I “use” the web, whether it is actual factual information or “something new”. Google is broken. Google doesn’t work — anymore. Google is not useful to me, except sometimes. The obvious times. The times when I need it the least… like when I know where to go but I Google anyway just because I am being lazy. I guess that means navigational searches. Google is broken, except for navigational searches, and shit I don’t need.

Google has become like Target (to me). A big store with a big marketing budget and convenient locations, selling a whole bunch of shit I don’t want or need.

When was the last time I bought anything at Target? When I had no other options. Like when I was at the vacation house, needed a flashlight, and knew there was a Target right on the main drag. Off to Target, to over-pay for a lower quality Flashlight than I would ever buy in my “real” life, and back home minutes later. I totally assumed Target would have a flashlight.. there was NO WAY they wouldn’t have had some sort of cheap enough flashlight. And they did. I didn’t need to check on that.. I could just go.

When I was back home from vacation I ordered a quality flashlight over the web, so I’d have it in my car next trip. Did I Google for it? Yeah, I did. But attention Bruce Clay: I didn’t Google the term “flashlight”.

I wasn’t in a hurry, so I started with education in mind and in an effort to turn my mundane need into something a little more interesting. I Googled things like “tactical flashlights 2012″ since I find that interesting.. reading the latest opinions on tactical flashlights capable of blinding an intruder (while I shot him, I suppose), and which had strong enough sharpened metal divots on the end of it to bludgen Mr. Taliban to death (if I had to do battle with Mr. Taliban, and only had my flashlight with me, I suppose). I guess that was a Google warm on the topic of flashlights and how they fit into my life, executed in a multi-purpose way that is probably a little unique to me.

Having learned a little bit (more) about tactical flashlights, I searched for LED flashlights from specific brands I already liked, and read some reviews (mostly on Amazon). I ordered a really good one that just happened to be the one I picked out in person at the last Shooting Sports expo event I attended. Maybe that had biased my “search”. I also ordered a crappy flashlight Amazon reviewers said was “the same” as a far more expensive name brand one, and made by the same Chinese factory. That one was much cheaper than the far-inferior one I had purchased at Target (which was already long gone… the plastic front had leaked water and rotted the terminals inside, while still on vacation).

So Target was good for a cheap, throw away waste of money flashlight that solved the immediate need at a time when product satisfaction was a very low priority. Did Google similarly offer the same kind of experience?

Yes, it did. I realize now I started Googling in the info/entertainment style because my expectations for Google to actually help me locate a place to buy a flashlight were very low. I did try direct, shop-now searches, with poor results I describe below. Maybe I Google’d because I’m old and that’s how I was trained. Maybe if the browser would just let me type in “best tactical LED flashlight new in 2012 that is also adequate as a general purpose vacation flashlight” and then it would send me to reviews of tactical flashlights that regular folks (who never actually meet up with Talibans) use when on vacation, that would have been perfect. But who delivers those kinds of results?

Maybe I shouldnt have turned to Google. At less than 140 characters, “best tactical LED flashlight new in 2012 that is also adequate as a general purpose vacation flashlight?” is a valid tweet. But my twitter audience isn’t adequately skilled to deliver the answer. Neither is my Facebook “community”, lol.

I suppose I could have added a hashtag… to alert the Taliban-prepared guys who are otherwise like me, that I needed help in a way they could provide off-the-cuff at no expense to themselves, for which I would be grateful. But I’d probably need multiple hashtags. Maybe #notaliban or #killtaliban plus #flashlight or #shopping? Sadly, the twitter ecosystem is far too young and undeveloped to work properly yet. I’m still all alone with my needs.

Too bad Google’s broken. Before I went to Target I hit Google for “flashlight townname” and “LED flashlight townname” and “flashlights near townname” and “tactical gear townname” and “camping gear townname” and a whole set of other local searches intended to surface a list of stores near townname that sold flashlights (and other tactical gear etc). It was a perfect opportunity for magic to flow out from Mountain View through the Internet tubes:

“my search returned a list of local small businesses near the town I was vacationing in, which sold flashlights. The listings included the store name, a snippet describing their emphasis (camping gear, tactical gear, hardware store, etc) and star ratings from other people just like me. The listings showed the hours, whether the stores were currently open or closed, and links for driving directions. There were even reviews from real people just like me, about how they were treated as customers, how clean the stores were, and whether they actually had the items in stock when they shopped.”

But it didn’t. Even though Google pormises to deliver on all of the above with it’s local and global search results, it doesn’t. For me, Google returned a list that included a hotel web site (with a reviewer talking about having needed a flashlight to see a spider outside his window), a local National Park (which had a mention of a flashlight on it somewhere), a very outdated and useless Yahoo! directory listing for camping, a manufacturer of motorcycle parts in a nearby town (?), and a host of online shopping sites that had seo optimized subdomains on townname and product item. Google wisely put them last in the list of page 1 results (sigh).

Random thoughts… search could be so good, if only someone would make it so. I suppose if they made 10 or 20 million dollars, they could afford to hire a few good engineers and programmers and make something that really works. But instead, they get hundreds of millions (or billions even), and get so distracted by the need to get EVEN MORE that they blow it. I recall there was a company that specialized in indexing store inventories and providing a search experience that included store inventory and would have been PERFECT for me… and then it was bought by Google. Something like 3 years ago.

The web search experience sucks, and I doubt any of these “big” tech companies are going to fix that.

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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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