5 Reasons the Top 7 Bloggers Write Top 10 List Posts and a Few Reasons they Now Annoy Me

October 28th, 2009

Seems everyone got the notice that top 5, top 7, top 10, top 11 or top 38.2 lists make for good blog posts. Here is a sample of what I can see in my RSS feed readers today, in order by numbers of things in their list.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s some good stuff in a few of those, but man, the internet sure likes to take a good idea, run with it, bastardize it, then beat it to an agonizing bloody death. With a side dish of spam. Big heaping dish. Like those 700 pound people who need a crane to get them out of the house would eat.

The thing is… about good things…once everyone is doing it, it’s not so good anymore. Boring. Been there, done that, saw it re-tweeted a dozen times.

Top X lists are still effective, people like them, their are easy to write, easy for readers to scan and digest, etc., etc… But it’s time for something different. A new bandwagon for everyone to jump upon. I suggest we cut right to the chase. Top 1 lists!

Here’s a few examples;

  • The single best reason to hire a Local SEO (shameless plug)
  • The #1 Reason to Use Wordpress as you content management system
  • The Best Way to Make More Money
  • One PHP Class Every Programmer Should Know
  • The Only Reason to Trade the Markets with 3x Leveraged ETF’s. 3 times leverage…Duh!
  • One Search Engine Headed to the Dead Pool, Yahoo

Ok, interweb land, get going before this next bandwagon takes off without you. What’s your single best tidbit you can blog about?

Google Plays Monopoly and Owns Every Place on the Board

September 27th, 2009

It’s funny how seemingly unrelated things can happen on the internet at about the same time yet they become related in a round about manner showing the evolution and direction of the web. And when Google becomes a major player it becomes very noteworthy, at least for search engine geeks like me. This past week was one of those times.

Earlier in the week I was reading this piece about Hasbro’s new Monopoly City Streets game and speculation that it would become a major advertising platform, a la Adwords. It’s a pretty cool looking game using Google Maps to power the now global board game.

The next day I was reading about Squidoo’s (or as some call it, Spamdoo) plans for Brands in Public and how it would become a reputation management timebomb or, as many feel, and as Lisa Barone put it so well, a form of brandjacking.

And if you’re a small or medium-sized brand, well then you’ll really hate Brands in Public. Because they’re trying to extort 5k a year from you for a free listening station you could very easily create all by yourself (or for $18/month with Trackur). And if you choose to continue doing it by yourself, you still have to accept the fact that Seth just brandjacked your name. And now you have someone representing your brand when they have no affiliation with your company.

Seth did however cave to the pressure and Brands in Public is now opt-in, instead of opt-out.

On the same day Google rolled out Sidewiki. And if you thought Squidoo was building a reputation management nightmare, well, welcome to the reputation management Apocalypse that Google is delivering to every business and website on the planet. Granted it is kind of a cool feature BUT if your business is not already social media savvy your being forced into it and you should be scared of trolls leaving flames and loosing control of your own website. Google may also see this as yet another place to serve up Adwords thus advertising your own direct competitors, on your own website no less, and they certainly won’t be sharing the revenue with you.

Will Google publish ads on Sidewiki? That remains to be seen but it is certainly likely. Google should also know from it’s Google Maps experience that Sidewiki will be abused as are user reviews for local businesses in Maps.

The very next day Google Maps announces Place Pages where every place in the world will get it’s own web page, with nice friendly keyword loaded URL’s. For local businesses, that already are in Google Maps, these new place pages are essentially a reformatting of the data from their Local Business Listings. There is some speculation that these pages are formatted in such a way to be used as landing pages and with the link sharing function built into the top right corner they certainly will.

Seems to me they have also been better optimized for serving up Adwords. The local business listings had already been showing PPC ads but the new format brings them a little bit higher on the page and the new placement of the map and images makes for a better visual eyeball magnet to draw the eye to those ads. Again these ads are often for direct local competitors of the current page’s business listing, and no revenue share, of course.

New ad placement for Google Place pages

There’s also been lots of discussion in the local seo world that if these pages get indexed and start appearing in search results for local places and local business names then it becomes a game changer. The major Internet Yellow Pages (IYP) sites must all be doing laundry right now to clean out the mess they just left in their own pants.

So where is this all going? And what does it mean for local businesses online? Reputation management is becoming a MUST and it may also become burdensome should Sidewiki become used by a significant portion of web surfers. This is also showing Google’s long term strategy for the internet as a whole. They want a piece of every bit of it. Whether you are a small independent jewelry maker on the outskirts of Buffalo, NY without your own website or you are a major global brand like Coca Cola, expect anyone and everyone to be talking about you and Google, like Squidoo was attempting to do, to hijack your brand so they can slap ads on it.

In the game of Monopoly the objective is to own all the places. With Place Pages Google now owns a web page for each and every location on the planet. And with Sidewiki, even for websites that don’t translate to an on the ground brick and mortar location, they can soon park a billboard on that space. They won’t be paying you rent. Do not pass Go and do not collect $200. Or in Seth Godin’s case, do not collect $400.

Higher Search Rankings will Increase Your Conversions

June 20th, 2009

Conversion rates matter! If your website can’t convert visitors into customers then why do you even have a website? I’m primarily a local search marketer helping small businesses get noticed in the search engines to send them local web traffic. But as a web designer too I also like to focus on structuring a site so it’s easy to use, easy to navigate, and most importantly, converts well. I’ve got some tried and true techniques I like to use because I know they work.

I’ve just officially added a new one to my list. Ranking higher in Google search is a sure fire way to increase your conversion rate. Works for Organic and for PPC. Not sure yet about Maps, but I do presume the same.

Why do Rankings Influence Conversions?

Many people in the search marketing biz might assume that by ranking higher in Google you instill more trust to the visitors finding your website through search. “Google thinks these guy’s are number 1, so they must be good”. I think this is probably true but there is another factor I think might be stronger.

Not everyone shops around! The first click that brings a visitor to a site that offers exactly what they were looking for may very well be good enough for them. Ranking higher means more of those “one-clickers” land on your site first. Simple as that.

Now this might be different for e-commerce shopping websites where prices are posted up front, but for many local small businesses, especially service based businesses where a conversion is simply counted as an email lead or phone call, it appears rankings do influence conversions, in a big way.

I noticed this on a quantitative level inside Google Adwords. After lots of testing of ad copy, keywords and tweaking landing pages I had reached a nice conversions rate, and associated cost per conversion my client was very happy with. After some time of seeing some great success from that campaign I was then given the go ahead to up the bids so as to bump the average ad positions up a bit (I was getting tapped out on improving Quality Scores). Simply capturing more traffic was the purpose of increasing bids. Account wide average for our ads had been position #4. Raising bids bumped the average account wide position up to #3. We got that increase in traffic we were looking for by appearing a little higher but more importantly, the conversion rate doubled!

I’ve been seeing this for the past 10 days and then yesterday I had a discussion with earlpearl, aka localoptimizer, a local SEO guy like the rest of these chumps. Anyways, he had been digging deeply into his web stats and found that when his organic rankings were higher, so were his conversion rates. I won’t share any of his specific numbers other than to say they were significant.

As Dave says;

Frigging gotta be #1 where it counts. :D

So make sure your site can convert visitors into customers, then get it to the top of search. To truly dominate, and reap the benefits, go for the trifecta of high rankings in maps, organic and pay per click. And if you’re heavy into PPC you probably should be bidding on those same keywords you already rank well for organically, except in that case you may not want to bid for #1 spot there. Instead aim for #3 or #4 so it compliments your #1 or #2 organic ranking.

Twitter - the Internet Down the Drain

May 14th, 2009

First off, I like Twitter. Love it. I used to hate it, before I actually tried it. I figured the concept of micro-blogging was just some lame version of status updates that would degenerate to the stupid mundane stuff. A lot of average users probably do just that and may be a chief cause of the reportedly high rate of user drop off. But in following my peers involved in search marketing I saw all those links being shared to great content. Lots of great content. Content I would have missed without Twitter.

So, yeah, Twitter is great. A game changer even. But as that game is changing it’s revealing some “issues” I have with Twitter.

Time and Productivity Drain

Twitter is addictive. Facebook, though it’s lost it’s luster as the greatest thing since sliced bread, lost it to Twitter in fact, generated so much buzz about its addictive qualities that slang names arose - FaceCrack and CrackBook were popular references. Perhaps we should rename Twitter too. CrackBird might be a good one.

Once you’re following a fair number of twits your tweet stream is a steady flow of information. If the majority of the people you are following are posting good stuff, and links to great stuff, it gets hard to pull away and get some actual work done. Great for increasing your knowledge base but you can’t turn that knowledge into productive gains if you’re stuck in that cycle of continually gaining more knowledge.

I recently had to take a break from Twitter to get some work accomplished. I’d fallen behind on some projects, partly due to the time spent on Twitter, and decided to stay away. Instead I went old school and just checked my RSS feeds for interesting new posts (noticed something about that which write about below). So now I have 4 days of info I missed out on. Do I scroll through the last 4 days of the stream to see what I missed? No, I’ll probably just scroll though the last day instead. Chalk the rest of it up to what I missed before I joined Twitter. But I know I probably missed a link to something I would rather have seen. Oh well, down the drain.

Link Juice Drain

Things go viral quickly on Twitter, very quickly. And it can send a lot of traffic. I’ve seen it first hand. It’s all those links being shared and being re-tweeted by the networks of twits. But it’s fleeting. It eventually gets buried and lost in the ongoing stream and corrodes your marketing efforts.

Twitter links are nofollowed so they pass no search value, and all those great people who thought your content was so fine that they shared it with all their friends, who shared it with their friends, and so on, did it in Twitter. They didn’t blog about it and give real links that pass link weight for search engines, links that exist on content with real longevity. Real links can continue to send traffic over time but links in Twitter eventually just get sucked down the drain.

URL Drain

Speaking of links in Twitter, URL shorteners are all the rage but they pose a significant long term risk for the web as a whole. Many have written about short URL services being evil, nontransparent for users, and tool bar shorteners that use frames are essentially doorway pages. But there is another elephant in the room. What happens when a popular URL shortener goes bust and closes down? Seems to me they don’t really have a solid business model. What happens to all those links out there? Poof! Gone. They disappear. Or worse still, someone buys up the failing site with it’s massive database of redirected links and re-redirects them to their own affiliate offers or porn sites. That story will send the twitterverse into a massive frenzy when it happens, and it probably will happen, and it will suck, like a drain.

Content Drain

I spend less time reviewing my RSS feeds because I often find those new posts on Twitter first. But I’ve noticed something else recently as I review my RSS feeds, especially over my self imposed 4 day Twitter moratorium. My feeds don’t seem to be updating as often. I could be wrong but I think many bloggers (the SEO and internet marketing bloggers I follow at least) are blogging less - because, you guessed it, they are tweeting more.

This, however, might mean an increase in content quality as the really good stuff gets the blogger to take the time to write a quality post, much longer than 140 characters. The lower quality and repetitive, rehashed drivel can thankfully/hopefully disappear down the drain.

Speculation Drain

The internet is just vibrating about Twitter. Everybody is speculating on Twitter’s next move, or complaining about the stupid moves, buyout rumors abound, real-time search will be the Google killer (not)….. It goes on an on. People are even speculating on how Twitter should go about making money. Uggg, my brain is going to explode and ooze down the drain.

Ultimately they are all just trying to produce link bait, mostly no-followed and shortened links at that, to take advantage of the current Twitter buzz. Fair enough I guess. I suppose this post even falls into that category.

As I finish typing this post on my laptop, connected to the internet, I can hear something swirling through that series of tubes. It’s a sucking sound as big swaths of the web get sucked down the drain. And in the background, little blue birdies are chirping.

Now I’ll head on over to Twitter and tweet a link to this post. Even use my own wordpress generated short URL, http://stever.ca/drain. If you enjoyed it please re-tweet it. If you really really enjoyed it how ’bout throwing me a link. Preferably a real one please. :)

Google Maps Locksmith Spam Creeping into Canada (Toronto)

April 29th, 2009

With all the discussions going on about locksmith spam by my colleagues in the USA I decided to do a little check to see if it’s going on in Canada. Well it is. It’s not heavy, yet, but it’s here.

Mike Blumenthal has plenty of posts about it and has been a pretty loud voice for some serious quality control in Google Maps. Those posts, as well as others about merged listings, have been getting lots of comments and is spawning others in the search industry to demand that Google do something about the problems in Maps.

Here’s the Locksmith Scene in NY

First, from Will Scott’s post about Locksmiths in New York City this is what it looks like in the USA.

New York Locksmiths in Google Maps

Yes, New York has the measles, not swine flu (or H1N1, or Mexican Flu, or North American Flu, or whatever flu you prefer to name it) but the measles. Each one of those red dots is, supposedly, a locksmith shop. Yeah right.

Locksmiths in Toronto

Now in Canada. I chose Toronto. Huge Metropolitan city of 5 million people. Surely a large enough market for a spam fest.

Toronto Locksmiths

You don’t quite see it in the Map view so much, except for some clustering at the corner of Young and Bloor and down in the Financial District at King and Bay St. Perhaps with collapsing economies the fund managers and financial analysts are locking themselves in the office threatening to jump, hence the need for a dozen locksmiths in a two block radius. I should ask my cousin Craig about that.

Toronto Locksmiths in Local 10 Pack

They are not heavily using lots of the aggressive Map spam tactics, some dubious looking reviews, some silly stock photography for images, and a number of youtube videos, from different youtube accounts, “submitted by the business owner”. But when you look at the websites, yes those ones with the obvious domain names, most of these sites are interlinking with each other.

Interlinking locksmiths in Local Business Center

hmmmmmmmm. I wonder. Seems some of them might legitimately have more than one location, and using separate websites for them. But….like I said, slightly dubious.

Looks to me like it’s mostly a matter of old school aggressive/spammy, not quite black hat, organic SEO tactics that have been going on for some time, and it’s spilling over into Maps. That and competition in Canada is that much lower the spammers don’t have to resort to working so hard as in the US. Interestingly I found that some of the Toronto sites are using a Portland, Oregon SEO company (maybe that’s David Mihm doing some moonlighting on the dark side, lol) who is working with locksmith sites in Atlanta, Denver, Dallas and other US cities.

So the locksmith industry is looking a little shady in Canada too. Nowhere near to the extent it is in some US locations, but map spam still the same.