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Posts from the ‘Advertising’ Category


Is it the Links, the Traffic, or What?

Is Linking the End-All-Be-All of SEO?

We all know that Google Personalized Search is coming: Search 4.0 (if you’re keeping count).  And, we are already seeing instances of it surfacing within the SERPs.  Or if you need the skinny on it, check out Danny’s post on Search Engine Land.

Knowing all of this, SEOs must still work to optimize client sites.  With a bear economy, companies have begun shrinking marketing budgets, as well as personnel, giving SEOs, in most cases, smaller budgets to work with.  Our management and maintenance fees aren’t shrinking, so we’re left with finding the few essential services that need to be done in order to keep our clients converting and feeding the funnel to keep the potential conversions coming in.

The list for most of us looks something like this:

  1. On-Site Optimization: meta-data, optimized URLs, link juice sculpting, and optimized anchors
  2. Link Building: via directories, link baiting strategies, social media linking strategies
  3. Reporting

It’s pretty safe to say that #1 and #3 are indispensable, but is link building really the answer to SERP ranking issue?  Is this really a major part of the algorithm and a determining factor of placement?  For years we’ve been professing that a solid linking strategy will, in fact, create solid ranking within the result pages because the Google Algo, which revolutionized the SERPs based on this factor of trust, spawned copy-cats through Yahoo, Live, and a majority of others.  But there are other factors outside of on-site optimization that we also believe to be at work; factors that may actually play a larger role in determining where you place in the SERPs.

A) Site Traffic and Bounce Rate

B) Domain Age

With the advancement of SEO tools available, we’re able to see exactly what’s driving search results for particular queries (under the assumption you don’t have your own personalized searches on) and get glimpses into the algorithm.  Of course there are other factors that do influence the site’s SERP position, trust, and relevance, such as number of 301 redirects, C Class, and others, but we really want to look at major influences for this session.  Which is not to say that those factors could not cause a site’s SERP position to crash dramatically, but they’re less of an issue for the majority of sites.

That said, let’s look at some data I pulled for what I think would be traditionally consumer and B2B searches.

B2B Data

Search: “belt conveyors”

SERP Page 1 and Data for each Site:


When you examine the data, the links don’t really give us an indication that they have influenced the position of a particular company; for example, the 10th position company has quite a few more links than any other company on this SERP (excluding, of course, the directory sites).  It would seem reasonable then that this company should be in the first position, or at least in the Top 5.

However, it could be that this site’s on-site effort is not good at all and the linking effort alone has catapulted it to the first page (there are subjective items that cannot be taken into account through this data). Yet this data does not clearly indicate linking as a sole factor for position, so we move on to Traffic Data to determine if this is the factor that placed the company on top?

Traffic Data: 709 960,230 3,312 98,740

This does not really clear up the SERP position picture either. Based on linking data and traffic data, there is no reason that should retain the top position for “belt conveyors”.  The only advantage this site has over the other companies (not directory sites) is that its domain is older, and not by much.

The answer comes when we look at the site.  The entire site is dedicated to “belt conveyors”, multiple types of belt conveyors.  So the site’s content and keyword density for the term “belt conveyor” make it the obvious choice.

QC Industries Text Only

QC Industries Text Only


Based on the data above, it can be concluded linking and traffic did not directly influence this site’s SERP position. And, I think with more targeted, keyword-rich optimization, this site could potentially “box-out” competitors for this keyword for a long time to come.  Let’s check the B2C search term.

B2C Data:

Search Term: “search engine marketing services”

SERP Page 1 and Data for each Site:

"seach engine marketing services" SERP[/caption]

When you examine the data for the “search engine marketing services” SERP, on the surface the links appear to a guiding indicator. But then you see And again the simple theory of “more links = better rank” fails us. has the oldest domain on the list, the most links (outside of Google itself), and the most high quality links.  Everything says this should be the most trusted site for this particular query right?  Well, then it must be a question of traffic; must not get nearly the traffic or gets.  Let’s see.

Traffic Data: 65,392 98,723 111,266 6,481 102,679

The traffic does not really clear up the SERP position. Based on linking data and traffic data, should not be in the top position for “search engine marketing services”.  This site does not have any comparable advantages over those sites listed below them.  Could this be another case of onsite optimization



In my opinion onsite optimization leaves something to be desired as well.  So if it’s not the links, the traffic, or the onsite optimization efforts, what could possibly have this site ranking as well as it does?

In my opinion it is a test slot for a company or URL.  I have seen this happen in several other highly competitive search terms, which leads me to believe this is the case.  In this manner Google can “see” if this site is worthy to hold the number 1 spot for this highly competitive search term.  Is it possible that this site has hit the precise number of backlinks, has the exact right keyword density, and accumulates the right amount traffic to warrant a first position slot for this search term?  The odds are astronomical as well as improbable.

Overall Conclusions:

The data above leads me to believe that onsite optimization is inherently the most important thing a site can do to increase it’s visibility within the search engines, particularly Google.  Within highly competitive terms, I would recommend that link building be an essential task.  However, having said that, competitive research must be done in order to gauge the amount links needed to enter the first SERP.

It makes very little sense to pile on links for keywords, if your competition has weak link building efforts.  The site being optimized should garner a “comfortable gap” of link-separation between its competitors.  There’s no need to get 10,000 additional links if the competition is holding steady around 500 – 600 links.  In this case, it might be more “normal” to Google if the your client site built 1000 links over the next 6 to 12 months.  It will have the same effect, i.e. showing site relevance and trust, without drawing attention to the site.

Traffic may certainly play a factor within the SERPs, but it does not seem to effect a site already within the top 10 positions.  Traffic may be a  factor for sites on the cusp of first SERP, but once there, it seems to have very little direct implication.  The only thing that would seem to matter is that the traffic stays steady: no large dips and peaks.  We’re looking for a nice x-axis upward slope.

I think link building should still be a recommended measure to include within any optimization campaign, but don’t expect it to be the savior.  It can be concluded from the data above that inbound links do effect placement within the SERPs; however, the main focus should still remain on onsite optimization of targeted content, link juice sculpting, and optimized link anchor text.


Microsoft Fail: Live Search Going to

Another Gigantic Fail for Microsoft Marketing Team:

Microsoft Possibly to Rebrand Live Search to

Though it is only rumored, Search Engine Land‘s (SEL) column on this move offers some convincing evidence that this rebranding is in the works.

Why Will Fail As Rebranding:

Let’s start with the fact that Microsoft is trying too hard to be that nice, neat, and all-expansive buzz word: “Web 2.0″. Kumo supposedly can be translated to mean “cloud” or “spider” in Japanese.  So it’s likely they are thinking more along the vein of “spider” than “cloud”.

It’s just unique enough to completely forget.

Secondly, if the they don’t augment the search algorithm capability to, at the very least, match what Google and Yahoo are doing, then it won’t matter that it’s called Kumo.  It will still return the results that have made it a consistent #3 search engine, and still be equipped with the functionality that make a search disaster.

Lastly, the Microsoft Team has participated in far too many blunders.  Starting with Microsoft/Seinfeld Ads and then possibly using BrowseRank, then going back a year to the launch of Vista.  Microsoft’s reputation has taken too many blows to hide behind a simple name change.  They don’t have to start from scratch, but they certainly need to put much more thought into these branding messages.

My advice: time to find a new marketing team.  This is should be the final nail in the coffin for the completely inept, and non-tech folks they’ve got working these branding schemes now.

What Will Really Happen if Microsoft Goes Through with

Live Search to = FAIL

Live Search to = FAIL

If the speculative change happens, then Microsoft will see, overall, a lower share of the search market.  This is an attempt to reach out to a younger, possibly more tech-savvy audience, interested in social networking and “cool, unusual names”.  Microsoft must have looked at the numbers and seen that the majority of their users are non-tech and net-savvy Boomers and older.  Those users who use IE (Internet Explorer) like it’s going out of style.

And, the way Microsoft pushes out their branding pieces is so “in your face”, that it will be impossible to disassociate itself from if it does happen to tank miserably (which it will).  They’ll see an influx of users, much the way Kuil (Cool) did, and then slide into a slow and destitute oblivion, with very little hope of Live Search ever resurfacing and regaining back users.

They only way Microsoft has a chance if they launch Kumo as a somewhat independent engine, loosely associated to Microsoft Live Search.  In this manner, Kumo will be able to gather a user base organically. And if and when it chokes out, Live Search will still have a semi-strong brand backing and not have lost too many users.  But to completely switch the branding over to Kumo as the new Search Crown Jewel is brand-suicide.


According to TopNews, “In the internal memo, Satya Nadella said, “ exists only inside the corporate network, and in order to get enough feedback we will be redirecting internal traffic over to the test site in the coming days. Kumo is the codename we have chosen for the internal test.

Update #2 From Search Engine Land

How about that brand name? Last year at SMX Advanced, then Microsoft online services president Kevin Johnson acknowledged that Microsoft had a search brand problem, one that he decisively said would be fixed, even if that meant getting a new brand. Since then, four contenders for the new brand name have emerged:

  • Kumo
  • Bing
  • Hook
  • Sift

The Woot Ads: A Step in the Right Direction

Congrats to Google For Allowing the Woot Ads

It’s a hot topic: The Woot Suicide Ads.  The ads sprung up in midst of the financial crisis (economic meltdown) and there are plenty of people up in arms about it. Why?  Believe it or not, the Woot ads are a step in the right direction, the place where PPC ads need to be headed. Check out the story that’s made it to Sphinn’s Hot Topics: “Google Allows Ads Mocking Suicide

The First Woot Ad Yanked

The Second Woot Ad Yanked

The Second Woot Ad Yanked

I hate to qualify answers, but in light of looking like a complete and utter heartless monster, this is a case where I must.  Do I find the ads distasteful?  Yes.  Do I think it’s a good thing to “joke” about suicide and encourage it?  No.  However, the ad, in itself, is brilliant.  The marketing behind it is brilliant.  And, before you start condemning Google (and Woot), think about what it means for PPC advertisers.

Why The Ads Work and Why Need More Like Them

1) Ads That Are More Like Ads

If you do any amount of searching on search engines, then you’ve read standard PPC ads; for example,

Standard PPC Ads

Standard PPC Ads

Exactly.  The same robotic tone, with the same robotic savings, deals, and calls to action.  It’s not that these ads don’t work; people still click on them. It’s that they aren’t conversational.  There’s nothing that sets them apart, nothing that makes them unique.  They all sound the same, and while the text indicates they offer different deals, they aren’t offering different deals.

The Woot Ads were unique, were conversational, and had a subconscious, subliminal language that was speaking to users on level that the “traditional” PPC ads cannot and never will achieve.  It gave the ad an edge over other ads.  More importantly, it give Woot an edge over other competitors vying for the same marketplace and consumer.  Finally, it was an ad that actually functioned like an “ad”.

2) Allowing Google To Become Big Brother

I’ve been in the search marketing game for a few years now.  And the love/hate relationship with Google is constant among us.  What the Smackdown! blog is doing is empowering Google to limit the creative freedom of advertisers.  When you boil it down, that’s exactly what it comes to.

While the entire theme of this blog is based solely on what Google is doing, and disecting and criticizing it, this post has done completely the opposite.  Here’s what it looks like when you search for “goog” today:

The Woot Ad is Gone

The Woot Ad is Gone

Business is about competitive edge and occupying space within a marketplace.  If all our PPC ads look alike, sound alike, and talk alike, then there’s no advantage.  Accordingly, (follow me on this) you feed into the Google money machine: you allow them to curb creative language that can lead to advantage within the marketplace, which in turn, sets the trap for Google to base ads displayed solely on bidding wars and their phantom AdWords algorithm.  They are going to do this anyway, but now you’ve given Google consent that this is how you want ads to look and sound.

I, for one, applaud Woot for having the courage and the creativity to break the mold.  It was genius.  Like it or not, it was.  And, now that people have made a big enough stink about it, you’ve allowed Google to become hyper-vigilant against anything that doesn’t fit the traditional standard.  I thought Google had finally loosened up the reigns a bit.  My mistake.  It was probably just a bunch of disgruntled employees who watched their friends get laid off because Google Stock fell through the floor.


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