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'Careful with fire'
is good advice, we know
'Careful with words'
is ten times doubly so.
Will Carleton
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July 31, 2002

Search Engine Spam - What is it?

If you have started dealing with search engine marketing you should have some across the term 'Search Engine Spam'. If not you need to find out more before diving into development or signing that SEO contract. One of the problems with search engine spam which is often ignored is the knowledge level of the participant. Coming up with what may appear as an inspired idea, after reading a few tips on what search engines are interested in, may land you in hot water. A fresh developer or marketer new to the web could easily fall into this trap. Alan Perkins from E Brand Management has written a white paper which details classification of search engine spam. While you are not likely to find all the possibilities of spam on any one document, being aware of the issues involved is of key importance.

July 30, 2002

Overture's 'Click Index' to follow Google?

Google have a rule in their 'Adwords Select' product which dumps any advert not achieving a Click-Through-Rate (CTR) greater than 0.5%. The theory behind this follows the commendable Google spirit to increase relevancy in all results. Practically this can be a headache for advertisers who struggle to keep above the desired rate. Overture announced in a recent mailout (July29) that it will launch a 'Click Index' which 'analyzes listing performance based on user input and removes low performing listings to ensure user expectations are being met'. The question left fairly open here is how 'user input' is defined. If the CTR is set by the advertiser, this system can only be considered a useful tool however if the CTR is set by Overture or some other independant variable, the outcome could substantially increase work loads for PPC management. The rollout was set for late August so an update on the final outcome will follow ...

July 29, 2002

Using Blogs in business and K-Logs...

A blog as a business tool is an increasingly accepted medium to convey 'timely' information. Chapter Eight (Using Blogs in Business) in a published chapter of the book "We Blog: Publishing Online with Weblogs" from Blogroots, discusses some of the uses of a blog on an intranet.

There's an acronym that refers to intranet weblogs that are used specifically for knowledge management: K-Logs.

Questions to ask an SEO...

Looking for an SEO company can be a difficult task if you are unsure of the right questions to ask. This forum discussion on 'Questions to ask an SEO' which was started by a user new to SEO is worth a read (ref. from NetMarketing).

July 26, 2002

New Forums and Search Engines...

Search engine forums around the web are a key tool in SEM. One such I have recently been introduced to is which appears to have a good following of users willing to help out if you have a question. Finding a place where you can ask a question (no matter how simple it may be) can make all the difference when you do not have access to professional services. Forums such as this also provide a place for professionals in their field to express their opinion, gauge responses and make contacts worldwide. On a quick look I also found a few New Zealand users which is good to see.

A new player in the search engine industry, have launched a beta product which appears to be on it's way to becoming a worthwhile search engine. Although the database of indexed pages may be fairly small at the moment (comparatively speaking), the results are good. Further developments will be followed with interest...

July 25, 2002

The FTC, Disclosure and a Geo-targeted Search.

It's interesting that a U.S. Government Body may influence the search results which geographically diverse countries such as New Zealand will see. Letters of recommendation delivered to the major search engines from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have caused a hot-spot in the search engine community. The letters give broad details on how a search engine should reference it's paid for placement and paid for inclusion listings. In general the FTC considers the current level of disclosure insufficient for most portals. Of course Google (and a few others) stand out as the leaders in this field with the writers of the recommendation giving personal preference to the way their results are detailed.

Danny Sullivan has written detailed articles on the letters in three parts (part1, part2, part3).

From an international perspective it will be interesting to see if the search engines feed any changes made through to their regional search engines...

July 24, 2002

Buying vs. Leasing Search Engine Traffic

Susan J. O'Neil (guest writer for Search Engine Watch) makes some very broad and not particularly informative statements on her latest article. A recurring theme of her article pits SEO against PPC traffic. Susan considers PPC traffic to be inferior in terms of traffic investment. Targeting keywords which drive significant traffic (which often tend to be more generic keywords) to your site can be very difficult to achieve with standard SEO due to high levels of competition. Using SEO for less generic keywords allows creation of relevant pages which will bring targeted traffic. PPC traffic is becoming a mainstay of the internet traffic industry with more than just a "propping up" roll especially when dealing in generic keywords.

Susan's statement concerning ROI tracking for PPC campaigns completely ignores the same problem exists for SEO: "Many web sites do not yet have the ability to track from unique visitor to conversion point, or sale. Accordingly, these sites may be making PPC purchases that are costing them more than they are earning." This statment can only be seen as a marketing ploy to have site owners move to SEO instead of PPC. It is in fact more difficult to track ROI from pure SEO as the results cannot be distinguished from brand awareness through other marketing spend. PPC at least allows a trackable url system to be set up with, at the very least, tracking equivalent to standard SEO through site logs.

July 22, 2002

Google TouchGraph...

The Google TouchGraph from has to be the most inventive UI I have seen for Google results. Using the 'Related Links' tool from Google to create a graphical representation of the web ... nicely done...

July 21, 2002

Increasing Profits and Losing Goodwill - Overture's Auto-bid feature

There has been much hype over the introduction of Overture's new Auto-bid feature. The majority of the discussions on search engine forums has highlighted the 'industrial sabotage' possibilities now available to competitors. If a bidder is willing and knows how the system will react, they can force their competitor to pay the highest price they are willing to pay. A recent article (Overture Auto-bid Feature Creates New Bid War Tricks) written by Ammon Johns details the most thorough discussion of the problem I have read yet. I have in fact been following the same stratgey as Ammon suggests which is to not use Auto-bid and complain to Overture over the mess they have made. Overture need to be told how greedy it appears they have become by introducing a tool which has no application except to increase profits purely at the expense of the advertisers.

July 20, 2002

Google wins over Overture again...

Ask Jeeves has signed a contract with Google to supply Ad driven results in replace of results previously supplied by Overture. Overture claims they are still winning the important contracts however a drop in share price of around 8% would indicate the market place thinks different. A bold quote from Google CEO Eric Schmidt appears to sum up the competition between the two suppliers at moment:

"We would like to have everyone as a customer,"

July 19, 2002

Size and Relevancy in Search Results

"Far more than index size, relevance techniques are what makes Google really good at finding results for simple one or two word queries, and Fast superior at finding news or multimedia files."

Chris Sherman put's the size issue neatly into perspective in a recent article for the Guardian on the latest round of search engines claims of "Mine's bigger than yours...".

Interestingly Inktomi has announced a focus on search engines, cutbacks in staff and the appointment of a new CFO. Without the inclusion on detailing a shift in focus, the news would could be quite disturbing for media buyers and SEO companies alike who have invested large amounts of money in the Inktomi express inclusion product.

July 18, 2002

Search Engines and Bloggers...

On a search engine note, just launched and they managed to list as from Melbourne, Australia! I think that will have to be fixed fairly quickly. The list is run through the network and it's subsidiary Search Engine Watch.

On a blogging note, today is international blogmeet day of which there are four in Christchurch, New Zealand meeting at a local pub. With the international phenomenon which is blogging I have been surprised more SEO's have not pushed into blogging given the way Google loves the linking aspect most blogs follow. The only other one I have found is another New Zealander (Search Engine Blog). I wouldn't be surprised to see this changing quickly in the short-term future. Until then I say Blog On!

July 16, 2002

Search Engine Toolbars

Clocking over one million downloads a day (as mentioned in a discussion with a company representative) the Google Toolbar is likely the most popular search engine toolbar available. Users can find the toolbar becomes indespensible for general search, page rankings and in-site searching. UltraBar Inc. developed a very Google-like toolbar allowing for searching across a number of engines as well as a co-branded version for development. The UltraBar may well be a refreshing addition for the user who requires fast access to more than one engine.

July 15, 2002

A Review of WebPosition Gold v2.0 BETA

Kaleena Jordan, a search engine specialist and CEO of gives a detailed review of the latest release of WebPosition Gold. A large number of people use WebPosition Gold as a SEO reporting tool however there is an increasing backlash from the search industry over the load this places on resources. Google will actually block your IP address if you are caught using the reporting software to query their listings. In a panelled discussion at the Search Engine Strategies conference in Sydney last month it was interesting to listen to Danny Sullivan carefully word his way around how you might be able to use the software on Google while a Google representative was listening. General Manager of AltaVista, Kevin Eyes also expressed deep concern about the levels of querying used.

July 12, 2002

Yahoo! posts good results - a lesson for Looksmart?

Yahoo! announced favourable results for the second quarter of 2002. In reality the levels are still below that of two quarters ago although there has been an increase from the first quarter of 2002. The decline in online advertising spend has been offset to a degree by the "increase in spending from small- and medium-sized businesses, particularly in paid search". The paid inclusion changes to Yahoo! listings also add significantly to the profitability of the current quarter.

Looksmart's actions in changing it's listing services has caused a class action to be bought against them by disgruntled web masters worldwide. Hindsight is always a good vantage point which shows how Looksmart could have learned from it's competitors.

July 11, 2002

Deep Linking Illegal?

A recent Danish court decision has put forward that was acting illegally in deep linking to the Danish Newspaper Publishers Association. Newsbooster runs a similar service to where top news stories are combined to create a news feed. The titles of the stories are usually used as the links which go directly to the page of the article in question. In this feed the story was not loaded in a frame but a new window which beg's the question 'What were they doing wrong?'. The Newspaper Association believes all links should go directly to their homepage otherwise they are being deprived of potential advertising revenue. So does this mean all deep links (i.e. a link to a page that is not the homepage of a site) are illegal? I believe this quote from Chris Serman (Assoc. Editor of shows how the general internet population feels about the issue:

"Sites that prohibit deep linking suffer from malignant stupidity, driven by a fundamental misunderstanding of the web and user needs."

July 9, 2002

 Australian and New Zealand Search Engine Newsletter - Search Light

Kalena Jordan, CEO of Web Rank and writes a newsletter called Search Light with a focus on both the Australian and New Zealand search engine markets. The lastet newsletter gives a good run down of some of the interesting pieces covered in the Search Engine Strategies 2002 conference in Sydney last month. Having attended some of the seminars Kalena chaired it is obvious she has a knowledge of the search engine industry rivaled by few (especially in Oz or NZ). The newsletter would have to be a must for anyone looking to keep up with the play considering the difficulties of following both a global and regionally split industry.

July 6, 2002

Search Engine Professionals 'Best Practices'... is attempting to set up a 'best practices' standard for search engine optimisation consultants. With a RFP (Request for Proposal) Generator, a Complaints Registry and a SEO Offender List the portal goes a long way towards easing the difficulties for a company in choosing a SEO provider.

One point to note is that the 'best practices' in the standards include's 'grey areas' which while not giving a strict guideline will at least show non-SEO Professionals how the industry in general views various SEO techniques.

July 5, 2002 launch in mid-July

I spotted this on one of Danny Sullivan's recent articles. So here goes a way for the big boys to oust the smaller competitors if they can set up a list of Search Engine companies which everybody uses?

'Search Engine Marketers: Include your company on before the list launches July 16th.'

I think the idea's a good one but the application is a bit misguided. One of the questions requires you to give your SEM co's revenue per year with a minimum of $250,000!

July 2, 2002

Overture make it 'easy'?

Overture have just had a face lift and added a fair amount of functionality to the management of bid campaigns. The major addition is the new 'auto bidding' feature which effectively changes the way you can bid. Now you can choose the max. bid you are willing to pay and just let the system do the work for you.

If you look further into this I see two problems with the system for advertisers; (1) as soon as a few advertisers put in an autobid for a higher amount than the current, the system will cycle up until they are paying that price. I see no advantage in this scenario for the advertiser as they would have been better placed to leave the bid as fixed and take their time to move up the ladder of pricing; (2) the opposing advertisers can see the max. bid of everyone else so you are merely going to end up with people bidding higher again and needing to re-think and increase their own max bid to allow a top placing. Perhaps I am being a but cynical but I am open to any opinions that others may have. Email me some feedback if you think otherwise...

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