Ref. Wired 15.04: The See-Through CEO

Some who've worked with me over the past year will find this mantra a familiar chant. There's nothing quite like an executive post when it's done artfully.

CEOs 2.0 should forget the bit about "Fire the Publicist," though. In the new transparency, the smartest of the executive blogging class will be those who keep their Publicists to their right and their SEOs to their left, and both of them close. The equation:

[CEO*(PR+SEO)] = (Reputation/Traffic) = Power

...and that isn't part of any Google algorithm, yo! It's up to the companies putting their figureheads out there to do this math for themselves. Those who approach it casually get ignored for irrelevant narciblogging, and those who approach it hastily and haphazardly court PR disasters. Those who are calculated but still as open as possible though, can reap major rewards.

Perhaps the best bits in the article are

It's not secrets that are dying, as one reader named gjudd noted, but lies.


Jason Goldberg, CEO of the job-finding site Jobster, discovered this the hard way. In December, rumors began swirling that he was planning layoffs. On his blog, Goldberg stoutly denied everything: "Everybody's all a-speculating. A lot of falsehoods are being bandied about." But he was also dropping coy and ominous clues. He posted a list of songs he was listening to, including "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" and "Dirty Laundry," and he reminded staff to use up their vacation days.

A week later, he announced that Jobster was - whoops - laying off 40 percent of its staff. Goldberg had to have known all along. Critics savaged him as a hypocrite, and mocking blog entries piled up.

Excellent points. Lies and hypocrisy are no less uncouth and intolerable than they've ever been... and these are not the same things as intelligent hoax and steath campaigns that, when done properly, audiences won't ultimately backlash against. Not at all.

If you're a C-level blogger it's critical not look C-list. In the wake of both some really good and some really bad blogging from bigshots, here's a nutshell crack at what seem to be the worst practices to avoid:

  • Be cautious with what to say or not, but don't get paranoid.
  • Don't play coy unless it's about something superficial and/or incidental. Sometimes cowardice is to the wolf as cleverness is to the sheep's clothing. Playfully seeding a little gossip has its place, but messing with people's livelihoods is seriously uncool.
  • Don't play marketer too much here, especially if you're the CMO. Once you've sent them your drafts and/or given them a heads up that you're going to blog on a certain subject, let your Publicist and SEO hash out those details, for the most part. Let them work with you on what keywords, wording and links you should be using where, but follow their lead on such finer production points like that (which you mostly don't have time for anyway).
  • Don't start flame wars unless you've carefully planned out their lifecycles in advance - thinking two steps ahead of who you'll be calling out. If someone's flaming you, resist firing back without getting a second opinion, and then a third, about how to interpret and respond to it (or not). Avoid blogging while emotional; keep cool.
  • It's all about the editing. Great posts can sometimes take days or even weeks to craft. Never publish anything that hasn't been written carefully.
  • Keep as accessible as possible and keep it real, but be smart about it. Do take chances to tactfully stir things up a bit per your messaging plan when they become evident, but don't mistake these as invitations to be an asshole.

Not all Chiefs need blog, and not all should.

To the rest: Godspeed!

- and everyone trembles before search engine rankings.

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[Omniture Summit :: Tail]

03.15.07 :: Day 3: Keynotes, Breakouts, Sidebar, Downloads.


We listened just to Anne Holland, President and CEO of MarketingSherpa. As usual the 'Sherp went over some great data even if some of it was a couple years old. Key take-aways:

  • While 2.0 has buzz and would get that extra $100K of Spend if/as Marketers had it, the real dominating investments are still all about Search and Email... Because they're so proven in terms of bang for the buck.
  • Paid and Organic Search convert at about the same rates on average. I had actually been assuming organic would be more, so it was a good head check against a common Marketer's trap: being so close to one's field that one assumes the audience is just as familiar, as comprehending, as non-impressionable, as jaded and/or as discriminating.
  • Putting new levels of attention on robust and effective internal (on-site) search, and also on re-marketing to lost conversions (ex: shopping cart abandons) are each hot new ROI frontiers. The idea being these are prime leads worth putting extra effort into keeping in the fold. Both B2C and B2B are advised to invest here.
  • SEM conversion rates coming from situations where Analytics is being deeply embraced are around 10%. However SEO is still averaging just half that rate, meaning Marketers haven't gotten it as well together with optimizing conversions from unpaid traffic yet (and need to).
  • Solicit the surveyed ROI data from them if/as need be to justify hiring Analysts and arming them with great Analysis tools. They're currently way underutilized.

As a side note, I was glad to see SEO at the top of their survey of Marketers' answers to the basic "what works?" question... whereas some of the flashier fun Web 2.0 stuff like podcasts for example was in the bottom ends i.e. single percentages.

Another stand-out item re. what's on marketers' minds is landing page optimization, from SEM and Email especially. So the rest of the keynote was all more granular i.e. landing page and email best practices for both B2C and B2B.


The first of these I hit was all on leveraging internal search. Really it was a big pitch from Endeca, a new Omniture partner. Their engine seems pretty solid, very oriented toward letting users refine results against a classification scheme. Plus, the hooks it has into SiteCatalyst give it optimization potential. It's made to be most beneficial for big e-tailers (ex: Home Depot) and/or media sites (ex: NY Times). Home Depot offered themselves up as a case study. They've been a longtime Endeca client who had recently dropped WebsideStory or Omniture. I did that on one project before, myself.

The second session, which we all hit, was all on making Analysis work on RIAs (Rich Interface Applications e.g. Flash, AJAX): Really technical and meticulous work but impressive when successes are presented. Main messages received:

  • Omniture's new ActionSource protocol makes tracking Flash sites much easier. Just set up the classification scheme in SAINT and there it is. No coding in opbject assemblies to Omnture's JavaScript tag, no HTML page or giving Builders access to SiteCatalyst needed even, for implementation and testing. Just the free Charles proxies utility or similar debugger needed for verifying event firings. Awesome.
  • Start-to-finish, tracking & analytics implementations on robust RIAs take months.
  • Project Managers need to build Analysis into requirements definitions at the kickoff stages. What happens too often is QA and Analysis get tacked on the end and sacrificed from/in the planning then it all blows up. Companies need to take it all very seriously and plan for it needing to take a while to get it in right.

Case studies included Nike. They have (4) JSP sites, (183) Flash sites, (1) dozen agencies, and Omniture tying all of it together behind the scene. Wow. The sites they're most proud of are NikeID (multiple languages, one big app, rolled into all just one SWF!) and NikePlus. One cool point was that they use SiteCatalyst to help guide offline inventory management, e.g. triggered alerts that flag whenever users try to order something that's out of stock. Their approach to marrying Analytics with robust, database-driven Flash applications creates a tight online marketing ecosystem.

Digestion / freeform sidebar:

There are a lot of exciting things happening, and there's much to get out in front of this year.

To me it feels increasingly that while solidifying their grasp on Web 2.0 (or as Omniture billed it this week, "Marketing 2.0") enterprise web marketers might do well to try adopting a content management industry inspired logic to evaluation and development of companies' presence online. That is, address the triumvirate of layers that makes for any given web property (or family thereof) distinctly, but also extend it to the whole online realization of their brand(s):

  • Presentational
  • Informational
  • Functional

My point here is the value of a CMS is sold on its ability to manage versioning and collaborative workflows for all these asset types... but look what happens when we look at project challenges through that same perspective. It creates a view that helps inform the strategic agenda. It could work simply by using this model to frame what companies are trying to online, instead of getting focused so straight away just on what their sites are about on the surface, to the end that one misses what really trying to do and why. I suspect the latter can be a potential trap for all kinds and levels of consultancies.

When so many things start off with a phone call from Brand X to experts A, B and C about their idea for Project Z and then everyone jumps to make a case for Y they should get the gig, etc., it can potentially distract a bit from the relationships being key. Not just between marketer and brand, but between brand and audience. Areas like this are where people sometimes let themselves get swept up into all the "gee-whiz" production options, in my experience. Marketers get wrapped up in advertising mindsets along the way, instead of thinking like brand ambassadors to the audience - mediators in between the two parties, even. What takes the hit perhaps most of all are overlooked meganiches where much can be learned about what customers really need and want. Marketers mustn't let these fly under their radar. Studying and then engaging these - honestly and under whatever disclaimers are needed to help expedite things - is important for bypassing all the noise. Honesty in advertising? Now more than ever, because so many of us online are all both content consumers as well as publishers. Or, put more bluntly, everyone's selling something - and it's a great thing, not a disturbing one. It creates great collective filters for bullshit.

I prefaced the importance of content in my last post: Some of the biggest brands online to-day are firms that, through various means and vendors in combination and over time, have published great presentation layers, solid and/or hit-and-miss functional layers, and emaciated or underdeveloped informational layers. So now more than ever with the new empowered audience and

the Web the way we've all always wanted it to work

- as MarketingSherpa put it this week - brands have a problem. They need to not just open themselves up. They need to expand their reach by enriching themselves... moreover some may even need to take it a step further with their social engineering work, spiking the punch via viral campaigns deployed as hoax and/or stealth initiatives, even. I wonder how many are thinking these ways yet, and how much of this type of thinking we need to start doing for them. For starters we do know we have clients challenged with the basic informational content void to-day, whether they know it or not... and marketers need to come up with ways to help them stay relevant there because the bar has been raised on brands re. what qualifies as such or not. Those who don't evolve to stay relevant may fade, so it's up to those versed in forward-thinking online marketing to be both conduits and advisers as this next stage of natural selection plays out on the Web.

So as we work, perhaps framing strategic vital signs as if evaluating CMS software requirements at the conceptual levels might help... and also, it might simultaneously help break discipline silos, optimizing our project / production management workflows so that at the end of the day we're putting out even tighter product than we already are.

Marketing Wisdom for 2007

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Lead Qualification & Strategy

SEO is a TLA (Three Letter Acronym) πŸ˜› often misused and misunderstood, despite being a subject of a good amount of hype. It's a safe bet that more people want it than are really ready for it.

Also, sometimes I feel a little bad when talking about SEO requirements. More than a few times, to avoid being clichι I've bitten my tongue when tempted to bust out with "Please don't kill the messenger." It's true that it touches just about everything about a given Web strategy and its realization; some disciplines more than others. Having worked a number of them to some degree at least, I'm always trying to make sure I don't accidentally misrepresent, i.e. make any unintended implications that certain other disciplines are an inherent problem for SEO or vice-versa... because that's totally not the case. Not at all.

Ours (SEOs) therefore is to educate prospects and clients on what it is exactly, and theirs is to then decide if they will be willing and/or can afford to commit to it or not. It's up to our clients mostly, how much we can effectively help them or not in the long run... and with SEO, not all client types are created equal.

To help illustrate, here's a snippet of recent chatter:

Session Start (blueman:harlequin): Fri Mar 16 13:25:02 2006
[13:25] blueman: feelin much better πŸ™‚

[13:25] blueman: still really sick but i can at least breath

[13:25] blueman: how have you been dude?

[13:35] harlequin: hanging in there thx; trying to stay healthy too.

[13:36] harlequin: barfed out another mfa site recently for experimental purposes.

[13:37] blueman: cool

[13:38] harlequin: not too spammy at the moment but possibly filtered for duplicate content; dunno yet. only yahoo's indexed; google and msn had taken in the domain fine but dropped it after i changed from a park page to an actual site. it's kinda fun though; whenever i do anything with ggl sitemaps; googlebot comes running like a puppy.

[13:42] blueman: hehe

[13:44] harlequin: figure sandboxed maybe? πŸ™‚

[13:46] harlequin: i'll let you know if anything entertaining happens. i just might flip a switch to make all its content more truly unique, just to see if it pops back into the indexes, without linking it from anywhere other than where it is already (like almost nowhere).

[13:47] blueman: right on

[15:58] harlequin: hey man

[15:58] harlequin: can i get yer opinion on something?

[15:59] blueman: sure whats up

[15:59] harlequin: in your mind, must every site on the web need optimization?

[16:00] harlequin: interested in your take in terms of basic philosophy.

[16:00] blueman: answer: nope just the ones that would benefit from search engine traffic

[16:01] harlequin: thank you!

[16:01] blueman: hehe np

[16:03] harlequin: my take is it's not just the ones that would benefit from search traffic

[16:04] harlequin: but the ones that would benefit from natural traffic specifically, moreover the ones that are prepared to do what it takes to earn (or deserve, whatever) it.

[16:05] blueman: agreed

[16:08] blueman: hey do you have a digg account?

[16:09] harlequin: why?

[16:12] blueman: heh it's nothing i'm just asking everyone. need more diggs.

The fact is that some clients and/or projects are much more in need of and viable for the investment than others. Selling SEO to a large degree therefore kicks off with making sure the client gets what it means to run in the marathon, and has thought carefully about if they're ready for the potential rigors of competing seriously. It's not always the case, sometimes not at all... and some tryouts approach the field bringing much more readiness and potential with them than others.

For example, to my knowledge we can generally always to more for clients who are ready to bring robust textual content life-cycles to the table. Media companies whose sites put out 10+ new articles every day for instance, are perfect. These poor souls should be feeling like they're drowning in their own output; most ripe. Also, e-commerce sites with huge inventories of products to advertise and move, they're harder but can be awesome challenges to take on. On the other end and less than ideal sit gigs like Consumer Product Group (CPG) companies who are all about tasking marketers to, via rich media, digitally simulate clinking soda bottles, skin cream, zooming sports cars, bouncing boobs, fun family meals, whatever etc. ...Sure, such sensory stimulation is content which can be made robust to the human experience, but it's all presentational. Lacking eyes with which to see or ears with which to hear, search engines though are systems of algorithms and robots that evolve in benign indifference to all that. Search marketing therefore is driven by informational content, so candidates for it need to have something not just important - but also verbose and articulate - to say if they're to be seen as relevant. If they can't be brought around to that, SEO can only do so much for them no matter how deep their pockets are.

Some marketers debate the virtues of optimizing for search engines vs. humans, including which is of greater importance. Google tells marketers to do both. My own opinion is that it's all just different ways of looking at the same problem: Search engine optimization is about optimizing for humans really, in that through it online brands are posed this simple challenge:

Mean more. If expanding your reach demands expanding your content scope, so be it, and have fun with it.

For clients hip to the concepts like

  • shift from broadcast to narrowcast
  • talk with customers instead of to them, and help them talk to one another
  • build out your brand "universe" with more primary and supplemental topics

...the need can get treated as a great opportunity. All it takes is creative thinking, then creative writing especially.

Along the way brands will find though that while SEOs help expose and promote content, and nowadays some even help clients brainstorm and develop it if/as tasked to link baiting, for the most part they don't create it much themselves. SEOs must be at least decent writers, but on whole they're more often about editing/re-writing copy than making it from the ground up. This may however keep gradually changing. They used to never make any original content for clients, but in recent years they've started to take it on a bit. Eye/ear candy is great but the writing is much of what sets a site's organic status apart, so it does need come from somewhere.

Regardless, for now direct SEO work remains slightly more of technical matter. It's not one of just adding in / optimizing a few lines of code on every page. It's about much more (informational content included) and that message hasn't reached all prospects and clients, or even all agencies yet. Any core SEO evaluation needs to be taken all the way back to identifying why a company is online in the first place, as that's what first should be referenced in starting to set and manage client expectations. It's part of why usually a mark of experienced SEOs, from hats White to Black, is that they're cautious about what clients they take on. Also, how much they feel they can responsibly do so in cases where they do accept new business, can vary greatly per account.

More thoughts on qualifying SEO leads TBA to come (Augh; them pesky TLAs).

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Wired 15.03: Herding the Mob

This is a pretty good article that gives an overview of a lot of things SEOs need to keep an eye on, and in ways appropriate to doing business, be active in. It casts the idea of online social engineering in a pretty negative light overall, but despite being biased like that it helps illuminate some of what we SEOs need to teach both ourselves and our clients how to play in.

Nowhere in it is the phrase "Black Hat SEO" used verbatim but it does make of some forms of it, and they roll those in with a larger meme, of their own origination I think: "Crowdhacking," a larger idea that encompasses various black ops including all-out fraud on sites like eBay etc.

Also interesting is how in their "Four Ways" table, their inclusion of "Geek Baiting" which we could just call clever spam because of the irrelevancy and misrepresentation components. The idea here very similar to link baiting, just that what's being sought are Diggs which like links count toward natural ranking as "votes." I point this detail out because

  • The principle can actually apply to just about any [demand / content] niche. They focused in on geekery here as Digg is originally rooted therein, and it's a leading hotspot for viral marketing and SEO. Whenever one of those is identified, people will try something nasty. Nasty stuff is always attempted wherever there's an audience, actually. It's good to keep in mind as crowd-made sites continue to evolve, and considerations like which ones lead, how and why continue to be topics of some debate along the way.
  • Whether it's fair game vs. spam comes down to matters of relevancy, readability, originality, authority, authenticity, and logical representation. If a content item lacks all of those, it's spam. If it lacks most, then it still might be.
  • They also neglected to mention one other big one, the fourth and final of the leading set, in their list of which social bookmarking / tagging sites hold the action: Netscape.

The bottom line:

Great link bait via blog posts = great vote bait on social networks. In terms of influence on organic search positioning, social bookmarks, tags, diggs and trackbacks are all valuable just like standard hyperlinks, and all work similarly in that it's all about quantity (the more the better) and quality (who's linking to / voting for the content). Provided they play by their rules therefore, marketers should absolutely be publishing content with the aim of submitting to and hopefully getting traction in them (a.k.a. "blog and ping").

P.S. - Apologies for having been away from the blog for a while.

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Less Bullshit, More Master Baiting

This is my New Year's Resolution. Here's why:

When blogger and former AOL/Weblogs exec Jason Calacanis reportedly pronounced "SEO is bullshit" at SES Chicago last year, it fanned the flames of the SEO scene, enough so that he had to post a follow-up explanation shortly afterward.
While it wasn't a particularly informed or informative post as much as it was a defensive one, he did admit in it that he's no SEO expert. He did make some valid points on the value of content, and valid layman's points on other items. What's especially noteworthy though was that it got him Dugg well, and other movement that gave him some infamy link love for a bit. While he got served backlash for his words, others in the industry came to his defense however (I'm tempted to say "it's all links, it's all good." If only it all were so simple!)...

Q: SEO is... what?

A: Calacanis was talking about and also indirectly referring to:

  1. how content is king, but to rule wisely means to have uniqueness, depth, breadth, relevancy, character and change frequency.
  2. core on-site best practices (crawler-friendliness) including fundamental on-page tasks like proper anchor text, linking structure, Titles and META description tags. I won't go as far as to totally agree with with Andy Hagans on his "all SEOs know META tags are dead," (META keywords tags are but META descriptions are anything but). I also won't totally concur with what sounded a little to me like light prodding of Aaron Wall's on-site SEO consulting when Shoemoney, fresh out of speaking with The New York Times himself, interviewed the man with the shadow plan, Quadzilla himself on Webmaster Radio. In spite of being sold through a stereotypically uglier-than-sin sales letter page, Aaron's book is one of the best on the market. I find that everything there is to know about on-page / on-site SEO is a lot to try to swallow in just one afternoon, especially for SEO n00bs. That's why I offer hefty, 30+ point site-side Best Practices audits that can take a day or two to turn around, so I also pass around condensed CliffsNotes-like versions of the most important items. I'm not sure SEOs selling basic on-page work as a service "really is trash" all the time, even if it's the kind of work I often advise clients learn to do for themselves as much as possible. However, I do agree on the point that charging people no more than $5K tops for some primer empowerment is a great call. So a) πŸ˜‰ SEOs are routinely baiting for buzz and b) we need to keep our sights trained on getting to where we're selling more than just strategy guidance, best practices, keywords research/analysis and titles/METAs work etc. ...Much of it is SEO 101 i.e. common sense work, largely about pragmatically demystifying and simplifying what might look on the surface to be complex, and we should avoid spending most of our SEO time dicking around with the production parts of it. It's not a question of resources. It's a matter of our being capable of bigger, better, more creative, advanced and innovative things with the craft... and at experienced SEOs' rates it's the honorable thing to do. So as a vegetarian SEO I say "Teach a man to fish, but don't eat so much fish."

All client types should be at least considering organic search, hard. In worst cases, companies who don't follow it but still want considerable traffic from engines will have to simply buy it outright (SEM). PPC and/or PI will be their only options.

This is why for example, clients who plant roots in being all about pushing their brand through dazzling sensory experiences (heavy on rich media eye / ear candy but low on hypertext and hyperlinks) are never great SEO prospects, if even prospects at all. When the information worthiness of what a company is online is eclipsed by what their presence "feels" like, and/or when the level of articulation required by what they have to say is eclipsed by the requirements of how they say it, chances are good that the company isn't all that qualified a lead yet. SEOs' respective challenges include helping clients understand and navigate disciplinary trade-offs and make smart investment allocations early on. Not just for their sake, but also for ours: We must protect ourselves by preventing dangerous assumptions ahead of time ("What do you mean my site can't be optimized because it's all Flash?!?" etc.), and online marketers certainly shouldn't let them creep in by not hitting all possible Discovery angles on new accounts in particular ("You built it that way, so why didn't you tell me about that limitation before we started the project?!?"). When priests surprise parishioners with offers of baptism by fire, parishioners start thinking about leaving the church. SEO really isn't for every client / project. There's nothing wrong with that, as long as we SEOs try to never let it bite anyone below the Bible belt.

Q: What is "Master Baiting?"

A: Link Baiting done right, every time.

"Master Baiting" is a running joke in the SEO community. Whomever thought it up, just like who the Master Baiters are, depends on who you ask. As far as I know it was Quads.

Q: How delightfully juvenile. Fine, so what then is Link Baiting, already?


For a long time much of SEO - aside from on-site matters and keyword research to inform content - was all about link building: getting links to one's site(s) from out on the greater Web, with both quality and quantity in mind. For example, a link from a popular page on a popular site is great, but normally hard or very hard to get (unless you rent or buy it from the site owner which IMHO somewhat misses the point of SEO, almost like cheating). On the other end of the spectrum, dropping a comment into someone's blog or signing their guestbook might let you place a link back to yourself, but by itself it might not help much. Perhaps it's being force-set to NOFOLLOW by the site owner to try to discourage spammers, and/or their site simply may not carry much relevancy and/or trust with the engines (there are many blogs and guestbooks out there that have been and are continually spammed to death, so engines are constantly working to improve their detection capabilities). With low quality links, many are needed to make impact on rankings: from thousands to millions of them depending on the competitiveness of a given subject.

Often using their own software made specifically for it, freelancers can always be found on ScriptLance and similar sites selling different kinds of link building. Like many of them, firms like iProspect do too. With or without good tools though, effective manual link building can become a bit of a PITA: time consuming, tedious, and at toughening failure ratios making it harder than ever. I've noticed SEOs in the West increasingly sending this work to contractors in India and Eastern Europe. In scaling and optimizing for profitability, SEOs are getting more fetishistic about the potential of automations and outsourcing and link building is a prime example of it.

Recent years have raised the sister concept of link baiting: The development and deployment of content made specifically to make people feel compelled to link to it, of their own volition and publicly. Think of it as the most famous form of viral SEO.

Link baiting can be done in many different ways, on just about any topic, and it's exceptionally hot right now. Blogging about link baiting is in itself link bait at the moment. Everyone and their unborn grandchildren is putting out how-to information on it, touting their "Top 20 Types of Linkbait" etc. lists (lists are the most common tactic), each with their own sets of suggested angles i.e. "hooks" (humor, contrary, attack, tools, news, etc.).

Link Baiting & Building: The Yin & Yang of SEO

Building is to baiting as pushing is to pulling. Balanced natural trafficking demands both.

Q: Why must we all start Master Baiting now?


  • As SEM continues on the up and up, steadily up will go average CPCs and levels of competition. The more entry barriers develop SEM, the more clients will turn their attention toward SEO as a potential alternative, despite its comparatively greater complexity and often slower, harder-to-measure returns. The more they do, the more prepared we'll need to be with a bag of great ideas to bring to the table.
  • The notion that SEO is a squarely technical concern without very creative needs is a Web 1.0 myth. Dated = death; when it comes to being able stay in any kind of business even Black Hat is better than being Old Hat here. Embracing link baiting is an effective and fun way to keep up with where things are headed.
  • Web 2.0 poses a new level of technical challenge for SEO per all its user-generated content, rich media proliferation, and increasing adoption of AJAX which poses URL complications. As the Web gets more technical SEO gets more technical, granted... but it also gets more trained on social engineering, also sometimes more stealth. Great bait will be needed filling between areas of sites that can only be optimized so much, and it will also be needed to snag audiences numbed by and/or adverse to more traditional marketing (Note I didn't say "advertising").

Q: Next Steps?

A: Get Organized, and Get Out There.

Aggregate, evaluate and add to all the link baiting ideas feeding the space now. Core methodology, with best practices breakout for blogging and perhaps other vitals, are in progress. Be part of the process.

Great bait can be anything from widgets to video parodies to list types. The production crux is there must always some kind of element where there's some attractive machine readable content, serving as the bait itself otherwise at a minimum, the bait hook and descriptor. Title methods BTW are especially important to build out (Ex: "10 Things I Love About [SUBJECT]", "Why [SUBJECT-VERB] is a Waste of Time", etc.).

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Cloaking & Google Zeitgeist

A week or two back an example of cloaking came to my attention. I'll share it to give a real-world illustration of the tactic while I had a chance, and should revisit it as things just got a little more interesting here.

A non-technical definition of cloaking would be "showing your human visitors anything different than what you show the search engines." Traditionally the engines vehemently forbid cloaking, and are known for never being hip to discussing its sensitivities or details even hypothetically (to the frustration of White Hats). They're also reputed for banning ("de-listing") sites from their indexes upon catching such violations of their policies. There are several tactics in SEO considered verbotten, and cloaking's always been one of the most notable.

This recent discovery was per, one of the companies out to cash cache in on the rise of online video. As one can see from the caches of them in Google, Yahoo and MSN what they're doing is turning off their "Family Filter," which normally defaults to On, whenever SE spiders crawl them. This is to get as much of their content indexed as possible, and it's working: One could also note some of what they're getting into their Supplemental Results on Google for example.

I'm sure MetaCafe's stance is something a-la

A robot by its nature can fall neither below nor above age 18 so can be let at the lot of it.

I've been lightly tempted with taking a similar stance on certain White Hat AV(age verification)-sensitive projects before, but haven't bothered giving it much consideration yet for lack of machine-readable content on them.

Companies who were temporarily banned from Google in the past year included BMW. However another well-known brand, The New York Times, made news in 2006 for "acceptable cloaking." To my knowledge this was the first time such an allowance happened and got decently publicized, from a Search Marketer's perspective at least.

What's interesting added irony here with MetaCafe is that they also just made Google's Year-End Zeitgeist list, which in itself probably deserves a post (being a classic example of just how constantly people search on domains that they, uh... may already know how to get to directly, actually πŸ™„ . Watch for a potential opinion poll on how much of this is misguided laziness incurring extra clickage vs. something else).

This is some of the "gray" area that doesn't get put into official documentation by the engines (yet?) that exists all the same.

For cloaking, the plot thickens.

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Based out of Northern California, is a bl.og dedicated to the advocacy and study of high-impact, data driven marketing disciplines and related concerns: Analytics and Data Mining, Marketing Automation, Integrated Advertising (targeting, retargeting), Demand Generation and Lead Nurturing, Social Media / Social Engineering (Crowd-hacking) and the new PR, Privacy, Security, CRM, SEO / SEM, CRO, ROI... more TLAs (three letter acronyms) than any sane person's daily lexicon should include.

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