Archive for July, 2009

Why You Don’t Date Outbound Marketers [Cartoon]

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Whiteboard Friday – Architecture for Commerce with Dr. Pete

Posted by great scott!

Dr. Pete Meyers of UserEffect drops by the studio this week to teach us some incredibly valuable tactics for e-commerce site architecture.

E-commerce folks know that once you get up to thousands (or even millions) of products, it can be difficult to make sure the bulk of your juice goes to your most profitable products, while still getting long-tail traffic for the rest of your inventory. Pete shares some great tricks for large-site architecture that will help you focus your traffic and rankings on your top items, while maintaining visibility for your whole catalog.

SEOmoz Whiteboard Friday – Architecture for Commerce with Dr. Pete from Scott Willoughby on Vimeo.

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Be a Digital Citizen, Not a Digital Tourist

If you were born before the 1980s, you probably grew up listening to mixtapes, not browsing the Web. But does the fact that you weren’t born in the digital era make you a less of a digital citizen and more of a digital tourist?


This question has long existed in academia and is now surfacing in our professional and personal lives.

In 2001, scholar Marc Prensky coined the term Digital Natives to describe people born into the digital age and indigenous to new networked technologies. Digital Immigrants, on the other hand, he categorized as people who had to adopt these technologies.

Even if you weren’t born in the digital era, there are things you can do to become a digital citizen. Here are a few of them: 

Find Your Voice and Speak Up

The first step you should make in the digital world is finding your voice. Reconcile your different offline identities and make a decision on how you want to present yourself online. Are you an independent publisher, local hotel owner or a social media rookie? What is the most efficient way to reach your target audience based on your specific industry?

“Just because someone is a ‘native’ (i.e. born somewhere) does not really mean that they’re necessarily going to understand or align with the cultures and values,” said Dharmesh Shah, HubSpot’s co-founder and CTO. You, however, have already accumulated certain cultures and values. Now is the time to voice them.

Contribute Value Whenever Possible

Your knowledge base and online reputation often correspond to the value you offer. No matter whether you were born in 1967 or in 1990, if you share remarkable content, you will be recognized by the community. “What we have learned as a society is that when a system is open, it attracts people who are passionate and will contribute value,” said Dharmesh.

So, pursue your industry-specific interest and contribute to, for instance, art forums, marketing webinars and healthcare blogs.

Don’t Hide Your Digital Accent

Don’t view your traditional approaches to the Web as necessarily disadvantageous. Maybe you still print out documents to edit them with a red pen. Maybe you still call your colleagues to inquire whether they received your email. These are all examples that Marc Prensky listed as Digital Immigrant accents.

Yet these accents are indicative of your culture. They connect you with like-minded people and facilitate an entire generation’s transition to a more digital world. And sometimes they quite legitimately challenge the Natives’ fixed assumptions about the Web.

Interact with the Online Community

Constant interactions with the community help you stay on target and up-to-date with latest trends. By actively participating in conversations, you are immersing yourself in the digital culture and soaking up valuable information.

 Not coincidentally did Monster’s founder Jeff Taylor create a community site for generation Boomers. It was spurred by the demand for conversations with like-minded people. Such interactions progress your thinking and help you generate better ideas.

Lastly, if you were born prior to the digital era, you remain the Digital Natives’s only connection to oldschool phunk. Make sure you preserve it!

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Top 10 Things the Microsoft/Yahoo! Deal Changes for SEO

Posted by randfish

The search landscape is changing significantly this morning, and SEOs of all stripes need to pay close attention. I’m going to do my best to summarize the impact of these changes based on what we already know and interpret what’s going to change for the field of search engine optimization and what we, as representatives of our clients and our companies, need to know and do.

Background on the Deal

First off, a few background snippets from several of the sources on this topic – SearchEngineLand’s Live Blogging Coverage; TechCrunch; ReadWriteWeb; and the new MS/Yahoo! website Choice, Value, Innovation.

  • The term of the agreement is 10 years
  • Microsoft will acquire an exclusive 10 year license to Yahoo!’s core search technologies, and Microsoft will have the ability to integrate Yahoo! search technologies into its existing web search platforms
  • Yahoo! will continue to syndicate its existing search affiliate partnerships.
  • Microsoft’s Bing will be the exclusive algorithmic search and paid search platform for Yahoo! sites. Yahoo! will continue to use its technology and data in other areas of its business such as enhancing display advertising technology.
  • Each company will maintain its own separate display advertising business and sales force.
  • Yahoo! will become the exclusive worldwide relationship sales force for both companies’ premium search advertisers. Self-serve advertising for both companies will be fulfilled by Microsoft’s AdCenter platform, and prices for all search ads will continue to be set by AdCenter’s automated auction process.

In case that wasn’t quite clear, the big takeaway is that Bing will now power search on Yahoo! and Yahoo!’s salesforce will sell the premium (non-self service) search advertising for Yahoo!/Bing. Bing also gets access to Yahoo!’s core search technology and can, at its option, leverage that to help create more relevant results.

  • Google has 78% of market share of paid search (direct quote on SELand from Microsoft)
  • Bartz: Yes there are many Yahoo search employees who will be asked to take jobs at Microsoft. There will also be search employees who we look to help us on the display side. And then unfortunately there will be some redundancy in Yahoo. (Just a quick note; if you work in Yahoo! search, please email me - – we’re hiring on the engineering team!)
  • Bartz: Notes that when it comes to paid search, Panama is the provider in most international marketplaces for Microsoft already.
  • Danny Sullivan: What happens to other things search like at Yahoo? What powered Yahoo News? What happens to the Yahoo Directory? Is Delicious search? And what happens to Yahoo paid inclusion?
    Bartz: We have full flexibility on what to do within our own sites. Paid inclusion, we’ll decide on that later.

  • AdAge reports that ComScore shows Bing will now have a 28% market share when combined with Yahoo! search, though.
  • ReadWriteWeb worried about this large list of services from Yahoo! that are under "search services." Yahoo! PR called them to say that "this is a consumer facing list of search-related services, like News Search and Map Search, but most of those are not or are no longer formally part of the Search Department." So, probably at least some of them are safe.

Search Query Demand Market Share

The search landscape right now looks like something between:

MarketShare Screenshot
Market Share from the thousands of accounts served by their hit counter/referral tracking software
(note: I don’t know why it says 82% on the left and 72% on the right, but 82% appears more accurate when adding up all the other figures)


Comscore Search Market Share June 2009
Based on data from Comscore’s June Release

We’re somewhere between a market where Google dominates 65-82% of all search queries. When it comes to referring queries that point out from the engine’s properties (Google/Yahoo!/Microsoft not searching or linking to their own content), I believe Google’s closer to sending out 80-85% of that traffic.

What’s Changing for SEOs?

Note that some of thse are speculative, while others are direct and actionable. However, until the deal actually goes into effect and is publically accessible (which could take some serious time depending on regulators), my best advice is to be prepared (and take those steps that can ensure maximum benefit once the changes go live). Remember that Yahoo! said full implementation may lag up to 24 months (2 years) behind regulatory approval (which itself could take months), so you’ve got some time.

#1 – SEO for Bing is Worth Your Optimization Effort

Even if the lowest numbers are accurate, 15% of search market share is worth the optimization effort. Bing’s algorithm, while certainly an upgrade from still has a few noticeable preferences, such as concentration on keyword use in subdomains and root domain names (Google loves exact keyword matches, but Bing really likes any keyword placement in the sub or root). Bing’s core relevancy sometimes suffers from manipulative link patterns more so than Google & Yahoo!, though, they often do a good job surfacing alternative queries and instant answers.

Bing’s results are, by default, "richer" than those of Yahoo! and Google. Although Yahoo! will be controlling the user interface on their end, it’s likely much of that "richness" will make its way into the Bing results inside Yahoo!. Bing also surfaces only the top 5 results for many queries, meaning a higher concentration of clicks on those top results.

Bing’s traffic is, in general, also more likely to convert and click on ads. Whether this is a result of demographics or of how the engine frames information isn’t clear, though we may get more insight on that soon.

We at SEOmoz will certainly be doing more work to provide insight into how Bing ranks results and where it differs substantively from Google. You can go play around with results here or here. I strongly suspect there will be more SEO focus overall on Bing in both R&D and active practice.

#2 – We May Lose Yahoo! Link Data

The largest two providers of link information to SEOs today are Yahoo!’s advanced search queries and Yahoo! Site Explorer. If these go away, which seems likely with Bing, since Microsoft removed the link query operator’s functionality a few years back (and Google torched theirs nearly 5 years ago), we’ll be left with very few sources of link information. Obviously, SEOmoz itself provides Linkscape, but we’ll be likely to offer a slightly deprecated, free version of that tool if/when this happens. still does provide link data, though not as richly as Yahoo!

This change would likely see the rise of more propietary link indices as well as the breaking of a large number of internal and external tools that rely on Yahoo! for their link data. We may not know for sure for some time to come, but it may make have a substantive impact on the link research landscape.

#3 – PPC Consolidation

Right now, many companies and agencies exclusively use Google AdWords. I think both Microsoft and Yahoo! are counting on a lowered complexity and barrier to entry with only two major search engines making a compelling case that one should, at the least, participate in the two leading platforms for search. I suspect more people will buy ads from MSN AdCenter, which is likely to increase ad relevancy, quality and competition. The days of low cost traffic via AdCenter and Yahoo! Search Marketing may be nearing an end (unless market share slips so far that they become largely irrelevant, but that seem unlikely, at least in the short term).

#4 – Bing’s Webmaster Tools Are Important

If you don’t have an account with Bing Webmaster Tools, now is the time. Although not yet as robust as Google’s, Bing WMT is working hard to catch up and even surpass their rivals with features that will prove valuable for webmasters on all platforms. The data you get from Bing WMT will also be important for conducting better organic SEO campaigns on that engine and seeing how Google & Bing may view your site differently.

#5 – Yahoo! & Bing Local Become More Essential

We’re still not 100% sure of the status of local search – according the ReadWriteWeb piece, Yahoo! may consider this a "consumer service" and not part of core search. However, if Bing is serving up local listings in the search results (as they do now), Bing’s local registration is going to become very important for local businesses. Check out Bing Local and their local listing center in the near futuer if this impacts you.

#6 - Bing Will Get more Spam

With greater search share comes greater spam attempts. Google’s still a ways out in front in terms of catching and discounting manipulative practices, but Yahoo! has been a close second for some time. I’d expect that Bing will recruit a number of the staff and algorithmic work Yahoo! search has done on this front, but they should also expect serious spammer attention to be focused their way. The loopholes that Google’s closed will still likely be open on Bing for some time to come and spammers will use the chaos that comes from a merger to exploit these.

#7 – Bing Will Get Lots more Data

Bing’s going to know a lot more about you. Perhaps not as much as Google, but with Yahoo! analytics, Yahoo!’s database of profiles, Yahoo!’s behavioral targeting and their own research, Bing’s going to be a close second. This should, conceptually, help improve core search and may pave the way for greater advances on the personalization front, too.

#8 – Important Yahoo! Properties May Dissappear

As Danny Sullivan and ReadWriteWeb noted, we’re in some danger of losing stalwarts like the Yahoo! Directory, Delicious (which has often been seen as an alternative search play), Yahoo! Maps, SearchMonkey & BOSS (two of the best search apps out there). It’s still speculative, but by watching the activities inside Yahoo! over the next 3-6 months, we’ll probably get a lot more insight about who’s headed to the chopping block.

 #9 – Yahoo! Maintains UI Control for their Search Experience

This means that Yahoo!’s results ordering, layout, sidebars and searcher focus may continue to be unique from Bing, thus requiring that SEOs still pay attention to the differences in the two engines and optimize accordingly. It will be tough to know the extent of Bing’s integration until it launches, but there’s a lot of room for variation, which means complexity for SEOs.

#10 – Yahoo! Will Become a More Powerful Content Competitor

With Yahoo! out of the core search business, many people, myself included, expect them to focus even more on the content side of the business. That means properties inside Yahoo! News & Media Group are going to get more attention and more investment. If you’re competing with Yahoo!’s content now, that battle may get tougher in the future.


I have no doubt that this quick analysis doesn’t cover every important aspect of the deal for SEOs, and definitely appreciate any comments you have that can help to provide further insight. Once again, the SEO field is proving that if you don’t like the weather, wait a minute.

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Be a Publisher — But Don’t Use the Publishing Industry’s Metrics

For decades, companies relied on PR pros and advertisers to get their marketing messages out into the world. Now, many companies have developed media-sized audiences themselves through their own blogs and websites, and they do not need to rely on paid placements.

It is wonderful that new marketers have converted to inbound marketing by becoming publishers; however, many still need to transition away from measuring their success in the metrics of the media industry, page views.

Media companies rely on page views because they’re easy to count, and because page views are the metric of monetization — advertisers like to buy blocks of them.

But page views are not as useful for business blogs. Business blogs are monetized by readers who convert to leads and sales, so these are far better metrics to track. 

In addition to inappropriate use of page views, many business bloggers use metrics that lack specificity. “Hits” is at the top of this list. Unless you’re playing baseball, a “hit” has no specific meaning. It is a vague term that could refer to visitors, pageviews or clicks. If you are limiting your success measurements to hits, you are not at all thinking about your conversion or customer aquisition. 

It is also a mistake to use “visits” as a primary success metric. Reporting on number of visits can be very misleading. For example, a single person could have visited your website 300 times. You may have 600 visits from only two people. Instead, focus on visitors. Visitors can convert into leads. Anonomous visits cannot. 

So what measurements should you use to analyze the performance of your blog or website? Why inbound links, comments, visitors, leads and customers, of course!

What do you think? Are there any other measurements that are irrelevant to busines? 

Flickr Credit: bawoodvine

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What Makes an SEO

Posted by randfish

There are lots of standardized definitions of SEO (see define query), but few that exist to define or distill the qualities that make a person a professional SEO. The way I see it, there are three ways a professional can be categorized and assigned – technical, self-constructed and peer validated.

Technical: An SEO is one who practices search engine optimization.

Self-Constructed: I practice search engine optimization as a significant portion of the professional work I undertake and am, therefore, an SEO.

Peer Validated: A community of peers in the SEO field has recognized this individual’s achievement and views them as qualified for the title.

In the SEO world, these are very informal and anyone is technically allowed to call themselves what they like (and though I’ll quibble later in the post with some self-titling, I don’t believe any regulation should exist). However, in many other fields, primarily those with a long-established history (lawyer, doctor, law enforcement, engineer, politician), external requirements are a neccessity.

That said, the SEO community appears to be growing in its formalization. Events, organizations, and external recognition, along with the growing value and importance of the practice seem, to me, to be the driving forces at work. I love this community and always have – it’s inspired me, carried me and given me so much that I can never repay enough, but I’d like to add a brief editorialization. It is my personal opinion that unless an individual has these three qualities, I would not personally peer-validate them as an SEO and would hope to be cast out should I not personally exhibit these:

  1. Knowledgable in the Basics of Search Engine Operations (not just SEO, but the fundamentals of how search engines work)
  2. Actively Practicing SEO by Influencing Change to Websites & Pages and Measuring the Impact
  3. Consistently Formulating & Testing Theories About Metrics/Variables that Influence Search Engine Results

I’ve been a bit frustrated of late by the demeaning of our profession by those who do not take the practice seriously nor apply the craft with the respect it’s due. And, furthermore, I’m conflicted about those who’d suggest that our field or our practice should not embrace the principles above. It seems disingenuous, even intellecutally dishonest, to claim to "optimize" for search engines, and yet be lacking in knowledge, not actively practicing (and measuring!), or refrain from critical thinking, brainstorming, forming hypotheses and testing.

Am I too harsh? Should I be more lenient? Or, do we, as a community, want to apply some standards in peer validating those who claim the title of SEO? If so… Are these the right ones?

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July 2009
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