SEO Mindset Reminder #2


Ranking is just math – really simple math. What makes it amazing is that this math is run on more than 200,000 machines and produces results for millions of users in a quarter of a second. Of course, the math doesn’t always do exactly what they want, and that they have Matt. Matt is there to protect the math. It is Matt’s job to keep the crap out of the index so the math can stay pure and ivory colored. So long as you avoid Matt, all you have to deal with is simple math.

So what does this mean for you? In the immortal words of Yogi Berra, much can be observed just by looking. How many times have you heard people say, “I just gave up on search because you can’t control it”? Don’t believe it. These people have the idea that search results are magic. It’s not.

If you want to rank #1 for a specific keyword, look at the page that currently holds that position. Since ranking is math, what can you learn from your competition to make the math machine rank your page above your competition? You just have to look at it with the mindset that it’s not magic and that it can be understood. Then you’ll start seeing signs of math instead of magic.

SEO Mindset Reminder #1


Ranking is not about you. You really don’t matter at all. Ranking is entirely impersonal. If Bob can rank, so can you, and so can the other guy. No one at Google knows you, or Bob, or the other guy for that matter. If no one at Google knows you or Bob, you’re on equal footing. Yes, it may be lonely, you have no one to call and complain to, but that also means they won’t be calling you either. So remember, it’s not personal, if they can do it, so can you.

Dynamic Linking (Vol I) – the 2010 Edition

In 2003 I wrote an article that turned into an ebook that spawned an industry-wide technique named “PageRank Sculpting”. A couple years later I updated the book to include the nofollow attribute as an alternative to Javascript, but the strategies and linking structures remained the same.

Fast forward another 5 years and the web is 20 or more times larger, the competition is far better educated and funded and the economic rewards of top ranking are many times larger. It was time for an update.

In this almost entirely rewritten “update” of Dynamic Linking I’ve provided new and expanded diagrams, updated code samples and a completely new applications guide. I’ve also revised and modernized some of the original material on Sacrificial linking (now known as PR Pumping) and mini-nets.

What I have not done is “lighten it up”, so it is by no means a “casual” read. If you plan on putting the material into practice, you will want to print it, grab a highlighter and a pen, and personalize it with your own notes and questions.

And come to that, your comments, suggestions and requests for clarification are always welcome here. If there is sufficient interest, I may construct a discussion forum for this purpose.

To get started, grab your copy … there’s no charge … at

Hanging in Hotlanta

There’s this little thing called StomperNet Live. Next week will be the 9th one and I have been a featured speaker at every single one … except this one. For Live9 I’m just showin’ up for the drinking and socializing with the (literally) hundreds of people I’ve helped over the last three years in StomperNet, in my own coaching business before that, and with my partner Dan Thies for several months now since.

And hell, the bar is where I do some of my best one-on-one coaching anyway. 🙂

If you are planning on coming, great, I will see you there. Follow me on Twitter so you can keep track of me in real life while you’re on site. I’ll try to provide a running text, photographic, and maybe even video commentary.

And if you’d like to spend some quality time with Dan and me, and find out just what it is we do … come join us for dinner. Catch up with me in person and I’ll hook you up.

10,000 SEO Questions and the Nature of Trees

In the coaching program that Dan Thies and I run together (The SEO BrainTrust) we answer several dozen questions a week between our 90 minute Q&A calls and our Platinum Member Podcasts. In a year we should answer a thousand questions between us and we’ve been teaching this stuff for 10 years — 10,000 questions :-).

A few days back I had a chance to explain how it is we do that. In the answer is a lesson not just about SEO, but learning in general.

Consider these questions:

  • “For an affiliate link that I cloak on my domain in the .htaccess file, should I nofollow that link or do I not need to because the link is on my own domain?”
  • “I use a tracking code on my banner ads. Do these links still provide ranking benefits to my site?”
  • “Does leaving off the trailing ‘/’ on my domain name make a difference?”
  • “I want to link into the middle of a page (using an anchor like /page.html#bookmark). Does this link pass PageRank to the page?”

All good questions, and all seemingly different, until you understand how URLs work and then all these questions are really just variations of a single issue.

Questions are much like the leaves of a tree. Taken alone, they are numerous and seemingly not related, but when you focus instead on the branches, whole groups of leaves are seen to be connected.

Technical topics — SEO included — are rich with this “deep structure” where a relatively smaller number of core concepts give rise to many hundreds or thousands of observable phenomenon. By coming to understand the reasons why things work the way they do, future questions can be fit into already understood areas — new leaves placed on already discovered branches. It is this degree of understanding that constitutes real mastery.

SEO Football

American football is a frankly brutish game mirroring in a general sense the foreign policy most of our presidents project — but I digress — it also has something to teach us about SEO, which I’ll try to confine myself to for the rest of this post.

I do not follow this game, or any game where I am mere spectator, but an upbringing in “the states” leads unavoidably to some amount of exposure to the sport and there is one really common football metaphor used in business that describes SEO as well.

There are essentially two ways to take the ball down field — running and passing. In regards passing there are two variants, the short distance (screen) pass and “the long bomb”.

The long bomb is the quintessential “silver bullet” — in one play you move dozens of yards, and in the perfect scenario, pitch it straight into the end-zone for a score. Almost everyone in the Internet Marketing space is looking for the long bomb … and to mix metaphors … that’s what they usually get: a bomb!

Because the long bomb is a hard thing to get right. It takes protecting the quarterback longer than it seems should be possible, a receiver that is not completely covered by a defender, exquisite aim and a perfect catch. If you miss, you have gained nothing and lost a “down” or worse still you could be intercepted and find yourself now playing defense. Not a happy set of alternatives

The running game by contrast is slow, hard, dirty work. The expression used is “four yards and a cloud of dust” — a reference to the yardage you have to gain to be awarded the privilege of doing it all over again. Oh joy! Yet another beating and more AstroTurf burns.

The ground game is ugly and brutal and will kill you if you do it enough but it is far more certain than passing. Where the bomb is one of finesse, the running game is one of brute force against force. You just “grind it out”. Nobody in the IM space is interested in grinding it out … but the bald truth of the matter is this: grinding it out is really the ONLY game in SEO. The long bomb is just a bomb.

Football players get paid millions of dollars a year to do a job that, despite the surface celebrity appeal, is an ugly, painful job. Their pay first reflects the willingness and ability to do what most people would not consider doing and second the enormous entertainment marketplace that they serve. What football players do is “create content”.

Just as sure as your content on the web attracts search traffic to your offers, the drama of football attracts eyeballs to TV screens. So anytime you find yourself complaining about building more content, make a picture of a running back getting his knee injected with Cortizone so he can finish the game. Writing seems suddenly much less painful.

Grind it out. Every 4 yards is one down closer to goal and all you have to do to win is to keep playing the game.

SEO Brain Trust – What’s that You Ask?

Dan Thies and I are doing a free webinar tomorrow (Sept 16, 2009).  See the talking points here and opt-in to get the login details emailed later today!  Stay put to the end — like how could you leave?!??  🙂 — and we’ll tell you about the BrainTrust.

“I wouldn’t say I’ve been missing it Bob”

For more than two years now I have been working "full time" – a common euphemism for not sleeping – in StomperNet operations.  Just last week I turned over the last of these  responsibilities to other people.  WooHoo!

Now I am just a faculty member so I get to wax rhapsodic with members and do actual SEO research instead of chasing infrastructure cost reductions.

Of course, I still have a lot I am doing with StomperNet, including some bit parts in the upcoming launch starting on the 9th – you will definitely want to watch that!

My comrade Dan Thies made the same transition of late and beat me to the post – like tell me something new – so be sure to read his post as well.  He’s on my blog roll.

Looking forward, I’m finally working on my own damn software for a change and working on some product plans that have long been on hold.  Stay tuned.

The Purported Death of PageRank Sculpting

During the recent SMX-Advanced conference in Seattle – which I was not able to attend (I do occasionally have to work for a living) – there was a confusion of reports of comments attributed to Matt Cutts that resulted in the provocative (outlandish even?) conclusion that nofollow no longer works to sculpt PageRank, but in fact now causes PageRank to "evaporate" instead.

Dan Thies was at the show, witnessed the entire sordid ordeal and has editorialized on the matter in the way that only Dan can in a post he calls Operation BENDOVER (Huh? You’ll just have to watch the video!).

Completely lacking as I am in Dan’s sense of humor, not to mention a suitable picture to trump the one he uses of me, I’ve instead resorted to my old standby — Math. So for the real PageRank computations that show why this reported obit just does not "add up" see The Math of PageRank Sculpting. And if you like that kind of thing, you’ll really dig the included PageRank algorithm written in 25 lines of Perl.

Finally, with humor and math taken care of, be sure to read Andy Beard’s take on the death of PageRank Sculpting, but just remember that the real point of most "news" in SEO is the humor.

Extortion SEO – Take 2

Do a search for cydcor.  This is a company that employs a large face-to-face sales force so it naturally gets a high profile in the public because of contact with potential customers and employees alike so sure enough there are complaints.  But look closely.  They are from 2002 and 2004!

And yet, these old, unverifiable complaints from a site with no discernible editorial policy outranks:

A Cydcor Client Story at Reuters
Cydcor Opportunity Page at Monster
Cydcor Company Overview at Hoover’s
Cydcor’s LinkedIn Profile
Cydcor News at eMediaWire
More Cydcor News at PRWeb
Cydcor Investment Overview at BusinessWeek

How?  A variation of the Google Bomb!  But instead of the company website, it is the search result page itself that gets hijacked.  With just 25,000 results for Cydcor, it takes only a very few negative comments in these large complaint sites to rank right along side the company name for these navigational queries.

Welcome to the tyranny that is lawless democracy.