Extortion SEO

It was just a matter of time until the so-called "democratic nature of the web" developed precisely the same problems that caused our founding fathers to eliminate democracy as a viable form of government for these United States.  Specifically, the tyranny of majority.

What they knew, and we have forgotten, is that the majority never need protection, even from oppressive government.  It is the minority that law protects.

How does this relate to SEO you may ask?  The "wisdom of the crowds" gone terribly wrong.

Imagine a site where people can complain about companies anonymously in an environment with no editorial review.  Since complainers generally have lots of free time on their hands, such a site will rapidly grow to enormous size and naturally rank for most company names with little or no effort.

Welcome to ripoffreport.  Examples next.

“…Google will determine…”? Not on my site!

In the StomperNet forums today I responded to a member who noticed a Google post here. Reproduced here is my acidic response.

That was the most useless, vague, non-actionable and *irresponsible* post I have EVER seen from Google. It looks like something from webmasterworld or the warrior’s forum. The examples used are just plain stupid and the sweeping generalization they make about Google somehow figuring out URL parameters is dangerously silly.

  1. No one would consider rewriting a (so-called) dynamic url into a "static" one while retaining the session id. I mean DUH! If you are smart enough to even be able to enable mod_rewrite how could you not know to turn off session ids when serving content to bots? Ridiculous example that serves to paint all rewriting as somehow dangerous. Worst still, why would anyone rewrite like the example shown? That’s plain stupid.
  2. " … Google will determine which parameters can be removed …" — You have got to me Sh*t**g me! Is there anyone who can spell S-E-O that would like to just simply trust Google to "determine" what URLs should be the same and which should be different?? Not me thanks. My site. I’ll decide. If they get it wrong, you get flagged with widespread duplicate content and they don’t tell you about it.
  3. They leave completely unanswered the OBVIOUS (just look at SERPs) problems they have today with session ids — not so good at "determining" after all, eh? At every single StomperNet Live event we’ve held, I have reviewed at least one site that had pages indexed at Google showing multiple different session id values. This is a widespread problem for sites that serve session ids to bots and for Google to publicly post about "dynamic" URLs and sweep this under the rug while vaguely claiming to handle it borders on misrepresentation.
  4. They also don’t say a damn thing about parameter order — another place they fail COMPLETELY to "determine". Example: p1=v1&p2=v2 leads to the same content as p2=v2&p1=v1 and this is a REQUIREMENT of the HTTP spec (named parameters are NOT positional so may appear in any order) but Google treats these as different URLs and will ignorantly and incorrectly index both URLs as different pages. This problems appears in several CMSs today, Endeca in particular has it bad.

SEO Trick – Sub-Domains vs. Directories

Two SEO questions I get asked a lot:

  • How important is the URL to ranking and
  • Which is better, sub-domains or directories

In general, both have only minor impact on ranking (I think they are important to click-through) but I just saw an example of the latter that is worth some thought.

In searching for "swing treeview" (a Java thing) at Google, the top two results are treeview-java-swing.qarchive.org and java-treeview.qarchive.org and Google did NOT do the second as an indented listing which they would do if these were treated as being from the same domain.

If the same content were served via pages or directories at the root domain, the best this site would get is an indented listing, and even that is open to question.

This is likely a generally applicable result. Look at the results for searching for "blogspot" for example. Predictably, there are pages and pages of blogspot sub-domains. The previous example is no different.

The lesson here is that sub-domains really are different domains (which we knew).

The action item is to find out which is easier to get:

  • Multiple listings from sub-domains or
  • An indented listing from a single domain

I’ll let you know what I find.

Welcome to My [stomper] World

As many of you know, in addition to running Windrose Software and continuing my search engine research, I’m also a faculty member at StomperNet. For about the last year or so, we have been closed to new students, but today that changes. At 3 PM Eastern time today we reopen. Not sure for how long. As I write this, we have a pool going in the office for how long it takes us to fill up.

If you are new to what we teach, checkout the freeline videos at http://www.stompernet.net/goingnatural3/ and if you are interested in getting this sort of help every day, get in line at http://www.windrosesoftware.com/snredux.

Jerry West Close to Historic Sponsorship Deal

On this day in 1978, the very first unsolicited commercial email, or UCE, was sent by Digital Equipment Corporation to hundreds (that was so the old days) of users of the Arpanet, the forerunner to the Internet.Jerry West, SPAM Poster Boy

In that one moment was born a whole new industry and way of life for millions of Americans. Thirty years later, business men and women build entire businesses based entirely on UCE, providing all of us (repeatedly) with many valuable offers and opportunities and generally enhancing life on-line. Indeed, UCE is now widely regarded as a venerable American tradition.

By the mid 90’s UCE came to be known as Spam, likely in reference to a Monty Python skit that featured another hugely successful American innovation — the canned meat product of that name created and marketed by Hormel.

It is only fitting then that on this anniversary of the birth of email spam, that Hormel should honor their on-line namesake with the appointment of an Internet spokesperson. Though no official announcement has been made, this reporter has learned through reliable sources that this new cyber delegate is to be none other than the “UCE poster boy” himself, Jerry West.

While Mr. West would neither confirm nor deny this “rumor” [wink, wink], he did say, speaking entirely hypothetically, “Since I’m the one that put the meat into email marketing, I figure I’m the perfect man for the job. I’m thrilled at the marriage of these two great American traditions, one in a can and the other on-line”.

When asked about the objections that some few, but highly vocal, users on the Internet have toward SPAM, Mr West pointed out that UCE is officially sanctioned in US law by the CAN-SPAM act, “I mean, if Spam was bad, they would have named it the CANT-SPAM act, right?” — a great example of the sort of insightful analysis Mr. West is best known for.

Sister Leslie Rohde, noted SEO evangelist and long time nemesis of Mr. West’s, had this to say of the announcement "I’m all for this new alliance. By far the best way to improve search results is to get Jerry to spend more time on email." Several other residents of the Google rectory, interviewed on the condition of anonymity, were also very excited at the news, describing it as “a sign of divine providence”.

Regrettably, repeated attempts to contact Hormel via email in regards to this story were unsuccessful, and ultimately resulted in a Spam complaint against the author.

Static vs. Dynamic URLs

The terms ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ do not correctly represent any real technological differences in how pages are delivered. The real issue is ‘clean URL’ or ‘messy URL’ — query strings is a common example. The engines are far better today at dealing with these URLs, so the historical advantage of clean URLs has dissipated considerably, but messy URLs still remain a problem and their use should be minimized.

“SEO Secrets”

Recently I was told that "there are no SEO Secrets" and to claim such a thing was deceitful. Hmmm, maybe. So I looked up the word "secret" — I already know what SEO means :-).


  1. done, made, or conducted without the knowledge of others;
  2. kept from the knowledge of any but the initiated or privileged;


Now go look at some random search results. What percentage of these web masters have any clue at all about SEO? Maybe 5%. So if 5% of people know something, is it still a secret? If not, then when does something go from "secret" to "not widely known" and from there to "common knowledge"?

I’m not even going to propose a number. Insread, I’ll rely on the second definition: SEO secrets are known to the "initiated or privileged". And it’s easy to find out who they are: they are at the top of the search results!

Awe Does Not Survive Arrival

An obtuse title to be sure — I just love doing that 🙂 — but this really is about SEO and Internet Marketing. I was once in awe of Michael Campbell, Stephen Mahaney, Marlon Sanders, John Reese, etc. They were all somehow larger than life.

Earlier today, yesterday by the time you see this, I sent out the personal story of my association with the person who is now "the most famous OptiLink customer", and for good reason, given the amount of money he makes and the stir he has caused! You might be in awe of Brad, as I was once in awe of others.

So now let me tell you "the story before the story".

Before you get to be a "guru", gurus appear to be cast in marble and somehow slightly taller and better looking than anyone else. That’s all PhotoShop. Once you get to be one, and that notice arrives some considerable time after you actually become a guru, you suddenly notice that they (my God, you!) are not marble after all and sadly 🙁 are not all that great looking either!

It’s not that gurus are not gurus. That’s not how "awe" dies. It is that all gurus were first people, did a few ultimately simple but not easy things that anyone can do, and yet still remained after the fact more-or-less the unchanged pre-guru people they were.

You might be wondering what the whole point of being guru is in the first damn place. As it turns out, not much!

Ultimately, awe is fully and simply the result of not having done it yet. Once you yourself have done it, is it still awesome? Enjoyable? Yes. Worth doing again? You bet. But is there awe? No, there’s identity, understanding and comradeship. The bond that exists between, more-or-less, peers that have all had to overcome very similar challenges.

Rejoice, as I have, in the death of awe! Embrace in its place gratitute for your teachers; your connections to others of like mind; and your new found opportunity to guide others on that path you have followed. All of it way better than awe.

Oh yeah, and about Brad: he’s just this guy! But… he is a guy who has actually "done it". So unless you’ve already done what Brad has done; or are getting the straight scoop from someone else who has; you might consider trying to hook up!

Adwords + Organic = Law Suit

If you are not subscribed to SE News, then you should be. I read every issue in the first few days of the month. This month’s articles on Supplemental Results and Google Sitelinks are top notch. Mostly I agree with their articles and that’s more-or-less true this month as well, with a couple of exceptions.

In the list of "Top 10 Quality Indicators" there are a number of items presented as fact that I can not back up with actual measurements. Conversely, I don’t yet have the data to disprove them either, so I’ll let all that slide for now.

But there is a non-technical issue that keeps coming up that I will take issue with today. The referenced article [subscribe to read the whole thing as it does provide some good information and food for thought] claims:

"Now that Google has a spider to determine page quality for sites in their ad program, it won’t be long before that data is folded into Google’s organic search results."

In my opinion, this is just plain incorrect. Here’s why.


As one of several forms of actionable "anittrust" or "unfair trade practices" the U.S. Federal Trade Commission has identified the "tying arrangement" whereby use of one product or service is predicated on use of another. This is a very complex area of law loaded with judicial discretion and balancing corporate rights and "public policy" so all bets pre-trial are pretty much off, but I’ll give you mine anyway.

The FTC case against Microsoft vis-a-vis Windows and IE was precisely a "tying arrangement" case where the FTC claimed that Microsoft improperly used its market influence in the PC operating system market to create an (unfair) advantage in the browser market. While this is a classic example of unfair practice, it is not the only one.

With respect to Google, if the paid advertising programs — either Adwords or Adsense — impacted organic ranking in a positive way, this would create a tying arrangement between their "free" search and their paid programs seeking to coerce webmasters to buy advertising in exchange for better ranking.

Conversely, if participation in paid advertising programs created a negative organic ranking influence compared to non-participants, this would constitute contract fraud in as much as a material aspect of the advertising contract was non-disclosed. The FTC might or might not act on this as an unfair trade practice, but you can bet some large firm of attorneys will be happy to take it as a class action lawsuit.

This also came up in my recent review of VEO for OptiSmarts subscribers where the author of VEO claims various similar effects with Adsense. Again, same problem, undisclosed contract terms and tying arrangements.

In all cases, when it comes to tying organic and paid programs together, "there be dragons."

Why Google Can Not Track “Visitor Experience”

Like most of what is written about SEO, when you don’t know how computers work, everything is a mystery and (worse) impossible garbage sounds totally reasonable. This is not the first time in four and half years that we’ve gone ’round about Google tracking page visit times and it’s no more true this time than it was the last half dozen. Give it another six months and we’ll hear it again.