Jason Calcanis Puts SEOs to Shame

If anybody can put shady SEOs to shame with blanket statements I’m sure it’s Jason Calcanis.

But one thing confuses me because to a complete newbie like myself Jason Calcanis would make a very excellent SEO if he isn’t actually one already. Just look at the two things he’s most famous for:


  • link-baiting: he’s better at the kick-in-the-nuts attack hook than any other living SEO I’ve heard of

  • domaining: taking over a very old high-traffic domain (like netscape.com) and turning it into something else (Digg clone)


Those are moves straight out of an SEO’s playbook if you ask me. So what gives him the moral high ground? Please enlighten me.
One hates to give Jason Calacanis any additional exposure, but how can a person be so against SEO while selling text links for scuba blackjack online? Is he ahead of the market on global warming?

Everyone is a Hypocrite and a Spammer : SEO Book.com
The SEO folks got really pissed off at me for saying “SEO is bulls@#t.” last year, but the truth is that 90% of the SEO market is made up of snake oil salesman. These are guys in really bad suits trying to get really naive people to sign long-term contracts. These clients typically make horrible products and don’t deserve traffic—that’s why they’re not getting it organically so they hire the slimebuckets to game the system for them.Note: There are some whitehat SEO firms out there I know, but frankly the whitehat SEO companies are simply doing solid web design so I don’t consider them SEO at all. SEO is a tainted term and it means “gaming the system” to 90% of us.

Why people hate SEO… (and why SMO is bulls$%t) – The Jason Calacanis Weblog

Categories: seo

Where Do You Draw the Line in Ethical Marketing?

In an ideal world, you write good content and people come flocking to your doorstep. In an ideal world, everybody gets their share. In an ideal world. Well, welcome to the real world.

When the internet first came to the forefront many people claimed that this would indeed level the playing field. Now everyone would have a shot to claim their fair share. Indeed, the internet did lower the barrier of entry. It sure seemed like anybody could win in the new digital economy.

Then what happened? The pioneers claimed the lion share of traffic and leveraged that to buy competitors and upcoming startups. Services became a winner-take-all race where the best of the breed could really dominate their market. Spammers discovered the internet starting with email.

So we all found out that the laws governing the real world actually apply to the internet as well. If anything competition could be even more lopsided. Sure, there is a lower barrier to entry but that means you have a billion other sites ranging from good to bad competing for attention. The search engine gods only smile on the lucky few.

It all comes down to competition. Sure, good content will always get you noticed. Some people are lucky enough to do zero promotion and zero marketing to still find an audience based on content alone but that doesn’t work for everybody.

There are many ways to draw attention from the completely innocuous to ingenious marketing that may be pushing the limits. Usually, it’s the new kids on the block that need a good strategy to sell at least until they can get noticed on their own merits.

Let’s look at some of the traditional ways that you can market yourself without any marketing on the web:

  • Release a very useful program or tool. Preferably open source.
  • Be associated with a hot web service or product
  • Staying active in your branch of industry and networking like crazy
  • Being a thought leader with interesting ideas that people draw inspiration from
  • Release design templates or tutorials

That’s just a small selection of ways. One thing they have in common is that they’re giving something to the general community. What about those of us without such means?

You basically have to be ingenious in marketing yourself. It’s the typical mixture of being creative and bold. “The Million Dollar Homepage” is a brilliant example. Selling a million pixels at a dollar each had such an impact that it made its creator a millionaire overnight.

As long as there is capitalism, there will always be people pushing the limits of what’s acceptable. Especially if there’s ambition involved. We see this everyday.

Clothing lines like Calvin Klein or Abercrombie & Fitch pushed the limits of advertising with nearly naked, unrealistically attractive young models doing a bunch of meaningless yet innuendo-laden poses. These racy campaigns ignited the fury of various parents groups only to notch up the “coolness” of the brand. Sales skyrocket and ads get toned down. Many famous artists kicked off their careers with more edgy work until they gained mass appeal.

So it all comes down to “how far are you willing to go for you to get noticed?”. It really comes down to your threshold of ethical behavior.

Eth·ics
n. (ĕth”ĭks)

[Cf. F. éthique. See Ethic.]
The science of human duty; the body of rules of duty drawn from this science; a particular system of principles and rules concerning duty, whether true or false; rules of practice in respect to a single class of human actions; as, political or social ethics; medical ethics.

ethics: Answers.com

Some marketers go to far in order to draw attention, sometimes pushing the gray zone of legality and other times boldly defying law. It’s clear that the best marketers are creative, have a good understanding of psychology even if it’s instinctive, and are bolder than the average.

When a bold marketer grabs your attention are you shocked and offended or do you just laugh it off? How far are you willing to go in order to get noticed? Are you being crass or creative in your efforts? Are you being shady if you’re deliberately or subconsciously writing content geared toward a certain audience because you know it will be popular?

No matter what path you take creativity and initiative is the only real way to get noticed.

The Mysterious Trail of Digg User Sicc: An Example of How Digg is Used for Shady Spamming and SEO(UPDATED)

I’ve been doing some investigation to follow up on my previous piece how Digg is being taken advantage of by spammers. No doubt some of you have read Alister’s piece on how a virtually unknown site called Knuttz.net which posts unusual pictures suddenly shot to fame with the help of Digg. In the article, Alister highlighted the mystery of an user named Sicc who basically broke into the Digg top 60 in the span of a month. This is no mean feat although I have some ideas on how he did it. Although I don’t agree with Alister’s allusion that Sicc may be involved with Knuttz (simply because there is no real supporting evidence) (edit: misread Alister, see comment below) I have found out that Sicc is using Digg for SEO purposes and is spamming a lot of blogs by using Digg’s blogging feature.

Check out sicc’s profile at Digg. He signed up on the 15th of December… that’s just a little over a month ago. In that remarkably short space of time he has dugg 6,909 stories, submitted 783, and had 94 of those go to the front page. He now ranks 64! Why does he do it? How does he do it? Are you and I supposed to assume that he does this for the love of Digg? If not, how does he “monetize” his time?

Why are diggers nuts about Knuttz? » Alister Cameron, Blog Consultant

Well, for a start let’s check out his profile on Digg. There we see his MySpace profile (link removed see not below) where we find out his name is Barry and he’s a 26 year old male who hails from Naples, Florida.

It is here we find out that he works at a custom cabinet and finishing company called JWP Incorporated. Other sites that he is affiliated with include Deals.tc and another is Naples Directory.

Here is a screenshot of JWP incorporated:

jwp_front.png

On the site we can see a friendly introduction from Barry aka Sicc himself.

My name is Barry **********(edited: see note below), I work as a cabinet finisher at the JWP Company. I also do all of the website and SEO stuff. Over the years I have created tons of content for this site. Everything from tutorials to articles. The more content I create, the higher chances that the search engines will bring you to our page. So in this area, you will find a vast variety of resources. I add new content and home improvement related articles every month. So take a look and remember to check back often.

JWP Inc. | Home Improvement and Other Woodworking Resources

So Barry does SEO. What kind of SEO you ask? As coincidence would have it I happen to recall a certain JWP Incorporated. In fact, it’s sitting in my spam folder and it’s a blog. Lots of companies have blogs so why not have a look for ourselves by going to the JWP blog.

Here’s a nice screenshot for my readers:

jwp_blog.png

I don’t know about you but that doesn’t look like much of a blog to me. If you look at all the stories they are blog entries coming straight from Digg.

Now let me give you an example of what’s going on. Check out Who dugg or blogged: Why no one should buy Digg, from a Digger it is a Digg submission for an article by Paul Scrivens of 9 rules fame. You’ll find that Sicc has blogged about it too if you go to the bottom.

When we take a look at Wisdump, sure enough:

wisdump_sicc.png

That is only one of the many stories blogged by Sicc. I am certain that he is running some kind of script to automate the task of blogging the stories that he Diggs or submits. So essentially Digg’s blog this feature allows people him to get a link to both Digg and unsuspecting sites like Wisdump.

If we do a Google search on Barry’s full name(link removed see not below), email(link removed see not below), and one of his handles(link removed see not below) we find out that he’s active in all kinds of activities like operating redirection sites and buying a directory of content that he’s trying to get indexed into Google.

For some really seedy stuff just check out all the sites linking into JWP Incorporated. Not exactly your typical furniture store.

I’m really not sure if all these activities are providing him the financial gain he’s seeking. Of course, if it was completely useless he wouldn’t be wasting his time. I also don’t think he’s all that sophisticated considering how easy it is to track him down with a couple Google searches based on information he freely provides but there you have it a case study of how Digg is being taken advantage of by someone as prominent as a Top 60 user.

I really think that Digg should just rip out this feature and obliterate all the data. It’ll help the service run smoother and prevent people from taking advantage of Digg for the purpose of black hat SEO or cloaking spam sites.

Update:

You’ll find my current position on the situation in the link below. There are some ethical implications but in this case I went a little too far in singling out Sicc. However, I’m going to have to take out all the links referencing Sicc’s name and email out of respect for his privacy. Hope you understand.

My goal was never to snipe an individual but raise awareness to an issue. I think I did that so now I’m satisfied.

Oops… (Closure on the Whole Sicc Issue) at Baron VC

Is Google Killing the Web?

An interesting discussion on backlinks and Google. Google’s algorithm is well known. Despite the billions of dollars of revenue and R&D money being poured into fine tuning the search engine algorithm it is still built on the fundamental principle of valuing backlinks.

It’s based on the insight the founders and supervising professor had on how academic papers are valued. In fact, it’s remarkably similar. Academic papers are valued on two dominant criteria:

1. The quality of the peer-reviewed journal the article is published on.

2. How many other academics cite your work.

Does this look familiar. Substitute the first with “Page Rank” and the second with “backlinks” and there you have it.

Of course, it’s not entirely based this and only this principle. Over the years, Google has fine-tuned this to prevent spammers and marketers to get the best of them. However, there is one undeniable fact: Even in the year 2007, trading quality links is internet gold.

Why did weblogs take off since the terrorist attacks? The traditional folklore goes that the mourning following 9/11 facilitated a national dialogue. People pouring out there hearts and mourning through their blogs created a momentum to bring blogs to the limelight.

Although this isn’t exactly far from the truth as a catalyst, the fact is blogs do one thing well and naturally: Search Engin Optimization.

A good blog template will give you valid html markup free of charge and without maintenance (as long as you don’t wreck it with amateur customizations) and system of automatic backlinks through trackbacks.

Trackbacks were revolutionary at the time. By using pings, you could automatically get linked on any blog with trackbacks enabled. This was originally to facilitate dialogue and the specification was built on trust and etiquette (something that haunts it to this day).

Before that you basically had to exchange emails and manually add links to your site with an editor. Now it could be done automatically and managed just as easily.

Of course, spammers caught on and had their field day. That’s why we have blacklists and statistical filtering like Akismet.

Google is also aware of this and are constantly experimenting with innovative ways to prevent people from gaming the search results.

However, as we can see, it still isn’t a level playing field. SEO of shady and legitimate varieties are thriving more than ever. My guess is that Google still uses a similar algorithm to the one they license from Stanford but use a variety of statistical filtering to provide weighting parameters to decide the given standing of a website.

Just a little initial investment to build links with other sites that share similar content or with friends can go a long way to help more people find you. As SEO becomes a larger cottage industry, there are going to be more smarter ways to use Google’s patented system to their advantage by building quality links that may not add any value for the average surfer.

The thing is you really can’t do anything to change that with all the smart filtering or statistical weeding without changing the fundamental model and abandoning the fundamental currency of links.

I think services like StumbleUpon are cleverly positioning themselves to avoid these limitations and provide surfers with more tailored content. The future of search may lie with a more individually calibrated search that can smartly avoid marketing-optimized content. However, even then you’ll never eradicate clever marketers because it’s the grease and oil that makes the economies smoothly turning even if their excesses may draw occasional scorn.

How SEO will kill google – or the problem with backlinks – Programming Matters

Today’s Lesson: Linkbait

Looks like today’s topic is link baiting. The word “bait” doesn’t really summon the most flattering connotations. Care for “bait and switch” or “sex baiting”? It’s either that or I visualize a poor, helpless work impaled on a grimy fishing hook being dipped in water. Luckily, that’s not the case here.

As the founders of Google discovered in their infinite wisdom and shining youth, links are the trading currency of the web. It’s an asymmetric bartering economy where good content travels across the internet as links. Linkers get to point their audience to great content and the content creators reap the rewards of traffic (or not).

I think there are a lot of people out there who can really create great content but rarely do people have a combination of marketing skills to match. Those that do end up making a killing and being appreciated as well. Those that don’t have any skills to make great content are tucked away in the dark alleys straddling the grey zone as best they can while reaping the financial rewards. Where does that leave great content producers? Struggling artists perhaps?

Luckily, the successful are shockingly free with their advice so the least you could do is read up!

What is Linkbait?

Yahoo! Publisher Network » Blog Archive » Leveraging Linkbait

Deep Jive Interests » Why Not Call “Linkbaiting” By Its Real Name?

Traditional Marketing Advice:

25 Tips for Marketing Your Blog » Online Marketing Blog

Yahoo! Publisher Network » Blog Archive » Signal to Noise

Categories: seo

Today’s Lesson: Linkbait

Looks like today’s topic is link baiting. The word “bait” doesn’t really summon the most flattering connotations. Care for “bait and switch” or “sex baiting”? It’s either that or I visualize a poor, helpless work impaled on a grimy fishing hook being dipped in water. Luckily, that’s not the case here.

As the founders of Google discovered in their infinite wisdom and shining youth, links are the trading currency of the web. It’s an asymmetric bartering economy where good content travels across the internet as links. Linkers get to point their audience to great content and the content creators reap the rewards of traffic (or not).

I think there are a lot of people out there who can really create great content but rarely do people have a combination of marketing skills to match. Those that do end up making a killing and being appreciated as well. Those that don’t have any skills to make great content are tucked away in the dark alleys straddling the grey zone as best they can while reaping the financial rewards. Where does that leave great content producers? Struggling artists perhaps?

Luckily, the successful are shockingly free with their advice so the least you could do is read up!

What is Linkbait?

Yahoo! Publisher Network » Blog Archive » Leveraging Linkbait

Deep Jive Interests » Why Not Call “Linkbaiting” By Its Real Name?

Traditional Marketing Advice:

25 Tips for Marketing Your Blog » Online Marketing Blog

Yahoo! Publisher Network » Blog Archive » Signal to Noise

Categories: seo

The Magical World of SEO

I’m only now realizing the strange world of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and its impact on the web. Just taking a peek at it reminds of Star Wars and the Jedi knights. It’s almost like a sub-branch of hacking (in the cracker sense) with black hats and white hats. Seems like a lot of SEO experts have some kind of background in programming or system administration. It underlies the fact that Google is our environment. It is the bank that many of us make withdrawals from. It’s a great field for reformed crackers and script kiddies to venture into without crossing over into crime such as running botnets or spamming.

I’ve always been mystified when surfing the web of websites that seem devoid of any intrinsic value getting high traffic and generally placing well with search engines while well-designed sites with great content languished in the shadows. I think I may know why.

SEO is still and will always be a very lucrative area. The border between black hat and white hat is definitely grey with many “black hats” running lucrative consulting gigs as white hats. The only real distinction between the two is essentially whether Google frowns upon the practice or not. As the SEOs have pointed out, there are many large media outlets using what were once considered black hat techniques to their advantage without so much as a complaint from Google.

It’s a delicate balance. Google needs to be percieved as being pro-active against what some consider unethical manipulation of search results without killing their online advertising cash cow. I think the issue is already taking a toll on their “don’t be evil mantra” and will become a big issue in the years to come.

This really brings us to the issue of what is moral or amoral on the web. Surely, spamming and aggressive black hat SEO techniques decrease our enjoyment of the web by serving us an unhealthy dose of trash that serves no other purpose but to make others rich.

However, the morality of the issue is really something tacked on by us users and completely irrelevant as long as the web is really ruled by uncaring algorithms. The fact is we need a better system.

Having said that there are many legitimate ways for hard-working content producers to get more out of the web with standard SEO techniques. So much so that many black hats are going white hat for the stability of income, not having to worry about another Google crackdown. It’s probably indicative of how much the average blogger, web application developer, media outlet, etc. is clueless about SEO.

SEO Blogs Under Hack Attack

Categories: seo

SpyFu

Find out just how much that keyword is worth.

SpyFu

Categories: seo

Matt Cutts Answers Your Questions (Video & Transcript)

Matt Cutts, the googler of the moment and master of all things search, has a video series where he answers questions. Peter T Davis has made these available as transcripts and Caydel is doing a nice job of adding value by proofreading them and putting it into a more readable format along with the original video as well. Caydel will be putting up more as he goes through them so stay tuned!
People are asking Matt all kinds of questions from the general to really specialized questions. Whether they get a straight answer or not is for you to decide but you got to admire Matt’s accessibility and openness for a large corporation like Google.

It’s an interesting read because it illustrates a basic tenet of contemporary web development. You create for Google and you create for your audience. Simple but in some ways sad.

So, instead of going into an incestuous circle of hashing and rehashing, here are the links:

Caydel’s SEO Blog » Matt Cutts #1: Qualities of a Good Site

Caydel’s SEO Blog » Matt Cutts #2: Some SEO Myths

Caydel’s SEO Blog » Matt Cutts #3: Optimize for Search Engines or for Users?

Caydel’s SEO Blog » Matt Cutts #4: Static vs. Dynamic URLs

Caydel’s SEO Blog » Matt Cutts #5: How to structure a site?

Caydel’s SEO Blog » Matt Cutts #6: All About Supplemental Results

Peter T Davis » Transcribing Matt Cutts’ Videos: One through Fourteen

Categories: seo

Matt Cutts Answers Your Questions (Video & Transcript)

Matt Cutts, the googler of the moment and master of all things search, has a video series where he answers questions. Peter T Davis has made these available as transcripts and Caydel is doing a nice job of adding value by proofreading them and putting it into a more readable format along with the original video as well. Caydel will be putting up more as he goes through them so stay tuned!
People are asking Matt all kinds of questions from the general to really specialized questions. Whether they get a straight answer or not is for you to decide but you got to admire Matt’s accessibility and openness for a large corporation like Google.

It’s an interesting read because it illustrates a basic tenet of contemporary web development. You create for Google and you create for your audience. Simple but in some ways sad.

So, instead of going into an incestuous circle of hashing and rehashing, here are the links:

Caydel’s SEO Blog » Matt Cutts #1: Qualities of a Good Site

Caydel’s SEO Blog » Matt Cutts #2: Some SEO Myths

Caydel’s SEO Blog » Matt Cutts #3: Optimize for Search Engines or for Users?

Caydel’s SEO Blog » Matt Cutts #4: Static vs. Dynamic URLs

Caydel’s SEO Blog » Matt Cutts #5: How to structure a site?

Caydel’s SEO Blog » Matt Cutts #6: All About Supplemental Results

Peter T Davis » Transcribing Matt Cutts’ Videos: One through Fourteen

Categories: seo