Thanks for the Spam, Google.

Last week via Gmail, Google sent this to one of my Google accounts:

Get more from Google Analytics with Google AdWords
Begin advertising today with a $50 special offer.

Hi,

We'd like to show you how to get even more out of Google Analytics with the Google AdWords advertising program. With AdWords, you'll get additional reports in Analytics that will help you increase your traffic and conversions. Many Analytics customers already use AdWords everyday, with impressive results. But there's no need to take our word for it. We'd like to offer you $50 to experiment with AdWords risk-free.

(etc.)

Naturally, $50 USD for PPC disappears in a heartbeat for just about anything. Free money is free money all the same, so I figured take them up on it to try reactivating some ads on one project that I'd previously shut off entirely, not just because I'd been funding it out of my own pocket but also because the conversions had been in the gutter (as easy as it might be for us Web Marketers to forget, the fact is there are some things for which PPC is a fundamentally inappropriate advertising channel).

When I tried to though, I got this:

Sorry, your account is too too old... Boo hoo, eh?

Dear Google, 

As much as you're in a war against Web spam, 
you are seemingly fine with sending email spam 
in context of its current campaigns: Offering 
hand-outs to help solidify market share, 
encourage marketers' paired Google Adwords and 
Google Analytics usage, and also adoption of 
Adwords for things beyond PPC 
(i.e. traditional media).

I'll take my $50 in the form of a personal check 
as compensation for that bit of my time being 
wasted, thanks.

[sr]
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Myspace, Meet SEO 101

To-day one of the profiles I manage there was down for a few hours, for "routine maintenance." Shortly afterward I noticed a couple changes on Myspace worth noting:

Their robots.txt file changed since the last time I mentioned it, moreover this change happened just to-day actually. I know this because to-day I was, pseudo-paranoid that I am, looking up my temporarily-downed profile in archive.org in case for some off-the-wall reason I was about to lose it (I've heard of people losing profiles innocently on occasion). In the morning I was able to get to some older caches of it, yet now at nearing 11pm Pacific time it's no dice: They have now at last issued their first 'bot block, and it's of ia_archiver.

My guess is this is to make it harder for spammers or or other undesirables to scrape content, for generating profiles and/or restoring banned content in fresh ones. The other big reason to do this would be user privacy issues. Pretend for a moment that you're a female Myspace member being harassed by an ex-boyfriend (statistically a cyber-stalker would probably be male). You're pushed to extreme measures and delete your profile(s) altogether. Here raises ye olde SERM quarry: Is it deleted everywhere, truly wiped from the face of the 'Net into a sheltering oblivion? Maybe, maybe not. Depends how it was removed, and whether someone copied it down first even if it was removed thoroughly upon being subsequently cut.

That's the best theory I have for the reasons behind a change of this ilk. Anyway, despite whatever higher purposes this one inhibits me from illustrating something else of interest (though many active Myspace marketers will see this next one plainly upon checking), also a change at least somewhat recent:

They are also making progress with adopting basic tagging standards, by now making profile TITLE tags more descriptive. This is happening now with both regular user and band profiles. Not long ago, if you has one of these its title would just mirror your custom URL, e.g.

<TITLE>www.myspace.com/yourURL</TITLE>.

Now though, if you have a regular user profile it's something more like

<TITLE>Myspace.com - yourName - yourAge - yourGender - yourCity, yourState - www.myspace.com/yourURL</TITLE>.

The same principle applies if you have a band profile. In that case, your new tag template is

<TITLE>Myspace.com - yourBand - yourCity, yourState - yourGenre1 / yourGenre2 / yourGenre3 - www.myspace.com/yourURL</TITLE>.

Obviously this item is also a simple but very significant edit. It helps to reduce duplicate content issues some, to be sure. If you've ever tried to find someone on Myspace you probably already know it used to be pretty difficult sometimes. Various parameter values can be shared limitlessly and logically. But now, Presto. Pinpointing people - or at least who/what they say they are - on Myspace, and also searching for such profiles within Google and other engines, just got a whole lot easier. On sites as huge as this, there is no such thing as a minor SEO change really.

It looks like Myspace may be taking a few SEO 101 lessons from Google since buddying up with them. Or perhaps, certain SEOs now within the FIM ranks (you know who you are 😉 ) are behind these gradual however serious improvements.

Ironically, the TITLE tag changes actually make it easier for targeted social marketing or other structured, granular queries in some ways. To target specific demographics and point-of-interest indicators, scrapers now don't necessarily need to look to the Myspace domain itself anymore. Now, when one wants to do simple filtrations like weeding out a solid sampling of 30 year-old males in San Francisco for example, one can just use Google operators.

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For Black Hats Going Green

Blackle

Blackle: The Google of choice for not just environmentalists, but also Black Hat SEOs!

OK well, perhaps not exactly... but it could (should?) be. Normally of course the "Green" one would normally think of when discussing SEO would be money, but in the wake of globalwarmingawaeness2007 and ensuing discussions, another view rears its head again.

Saving a whopping 750 Megawatt hours a year? Oh yes, G. You know you wanna. Feel your inner blackness. 😆

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Google Spams Itself?

Aaron Wall has seemingly highlighted some potentially suspicious activity over at Threadwatch. I suspect spamming one's day job employer for personal cash on the side would tread outside the bounds of whatever they'd internally indulge in as acceptable Black Ops. Even the idea of it, talk about scandalous...

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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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Mama Mia!!!

Jason Calacanis is seemingly stirring up all of SEO yet again.

Here's why many of the straight-up White Hats among us in particular are so pissed off about this: It's hard enough being one of the "good" guys. It's especially testing for those of us with families to feed, who know deep down that though we'd take no pleasure in it and it would be nothing personal against anyone, if it comes down to it we can and will spam - aggressively if need be.

If I need $2000 right now to keep my house, I'll spam.

- Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz

High profile people calling all SEOs spammers tests the patience of those on the fence. Distorting reality here might only worsen what they're complaining about for them, i.e. it increases the chances that SEOs who aren't already spamming will start doing so either now or later. Many of us WHs note our Black Hat brethren poke fun at us, and the really committed and successful ones make more money than some of us... Like many people some of us lost a lot of money to the post-Bust funk, moreover within that group some are still losing. Such individuals are making every effort to keep both their noses and resumes clean nonetheless, as are the rest of us. So we don't need this kind of crap, nor do we deserve it.

Just to be clear on my position: I'm no WHW (White Hat Whiner) nor a defender thereof normally, but I do feel compelled to call out ignorant name-calling from whatever source when I see it. The core issue here is not the Black Hats. It doesn't take a rocket scientist - or a BH apologist - to recognize they are a natural part of the SEO food chain no matter how plagued some people might feel by them. So my respect goes out to those who suck it up and speak as much with their actions as their words, if not more. Webmasters can choose to work to defend their sites against BH as they can, or not.

One more thing on that note: It's almost like he's asking for someone to mess with him. If at some point calacanis.com ends up uber-spammed, vandalized, otherwise hacked, hijacked or overloaded...

Trivia: Bart is voiced by a woman... Power to voiceover!
I didn't do it.

Anyway, most of the SEOs capable of some of those things I expect will stick to their usual spamming, figuring they have better things to do. But one never knows. As I've indicated before there are a few distractible players out there with itchy trigger fingers. Some claim to have made themselves wads of ca$h filling engines and sites with stuff, and also that they enjoy it when something comes along to help liven up their days (hey, who doesn't?).

Don't mess with the family.

It's wise to avoid giving such peeps an excuse for a little target practice. There's a point where buzz goes too far, and there is such a thing as bad publicity. With few exceptions I find SEOs overall are smart, talented, basically good people who aren't really out to hurt anyone. True jerks are very, very rare and the scene has its ways of filtering them out anyway, which significantly limits whatever damage they can do. Within their chosen camps SEOs mostly stick to their own publicly, and take care of their own privately. Perhaps more us in the marketing blogosphere might do well to do the same.

Fortunately the Godfather of all us Search Marketers (on all sides) has spoken. When Danny Sullivan says you should apologize, you really should.

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Myspace: Protecting our Kids from...

...perverts? pedophiles?!? Aye, of course but let's not forget (and perhaps most of all):

themselves!

Samy (the lad whom I mentioned a couple weeks ago) is now feeling the not-so-swift nonetheless serious hand of Myspace justice as reported in SC Magazine yesterday. Man. Don't mess with the Fox / NewsCorp people; some of them take being shaken up a bit quite seriously (even when the shaker isn't shaking to make money or disrupt them really).

I found this on Myspace, ironically.

...OK, technically yes, Samy was no baby, and he did commit a crime that he's got to pay for. He was legally an adult when he let his worm loose on them, but by a mere year or two. That no doubt made all the difference in determining his punishment (despite undisclosed details about the $ part).

It doesn't necessarily mean that Myspace taking it as far as an actual trial for his childish behavior would've been the most mature response, though. I wonder if taking him to court with the aim of settling so as to put him to (unpaid) work for them for a period of time would've been a better strategy, i.e. retaining more street cred while putting some obviously skilled help on tightening up their sites. With hackers and spammers, it often takes one to fight one... and sometimes it's better to take the high ground and look for a potential advantage in a situation, than it is to go making an example of someone to try sending a message like they did here.

They have been getting it together lately though. Word is they've been working in more email verification requirements, IP blocking, and a stronger CAPCHA in the past week.

Anywho, I've been putting off getting one of the T-shirts for a while. It's about that time now though... just in case the better design sells out and/or their prices get raised. Besides, they probably qualify as retro chic now. Two years counts as retro in Internet time, right? I should think so.

I wonder how long Samy's direct record (complete with the code overview, screenshots, links and a guestbook) will be allowed to stay live. Those who haven't seen it are encouraged to check out the retrospective now in case it gets yanked soon per the recent court ruling.

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"Wikki wikki wikki wikki!"...

"Shut up!"... "(wikki wikki wikki wikki)"...

First, props to anyone who remembers that song. Mark my words: breakdancing will be back someday.

Second, thanks to Jeannette in NYC for reminding me about this recent Wikipedia change. My POV:

Wikipedia is an awesome site, oozing with content and domain trust. Engines have always had a great appetite for it virtually since its inception, and hence for a while now, yes as a place to get links it's been coveted by SEOs and besieged by spammers.

That they've now made all their external links forced-NOFOLLOW is no shocker. Things had gotten to the point where, to counter the vigilance of their Link Nazis failed writers proudly unsupervised Deletionists splendid editors, spammers and non-spammers alike were sicking cron jobs on Wikipedia in order to make links stick (links that automagically reappear every hour/night if/when removed have a way of wearing out humans eventually... Mercilessly fresh!). :mrgreen:

However while I expect this will deter some, it won't deter the more experienced who have made a habit of trying to learn the various dialects of Googlespeak. Several seasoned SEOs believe the NOFOLLOW standard is misunderstood, being as much a social engineering move as a technical one. In other words, Google wants the world to dismiss such links as useless for natural ranking, but behind the scenes clicks on them still count towards getting good relevancy credit under certain circumstances... like when they come from users with Google Toolbar installed for example. That the West Coast G is quietly watching and applying all kinds of data via such means is 99.99% certain, as they'd be foolish not to. I recall all the way back to SES '05: Rand's eloquent take on it was "Evil, evil, evil!" 👿 and he wasn't the first to have taken that stance.

Formally Yahoo sells advertisers behavioral targeting options. Google offers users Personalized Search options, and doesn't sell advertisers behavioral targeting tools... yet. If/when they do make an official play for that turf though, what would be their competitive advantage against Yahoo's version; what would inform their product to give it an edge? Yahoo's been gathering scary gobs of data about what you, me, and everyone else on the Web does for longer than Google has. A crux of Google's brilliant strategy: Yahoo tried to be the Web's premier destination site, the cool club to hang at. Not Google, though. On their domain it's "get in, get out," but pay attention to the Web at large and it becomes obvious they're everywhere pimping ads... (BTW if anyone has any estimates on how many Adsense ads are out there for every YPN ad, please do forward). As for MSN, well they've tried to be just about everything over the years. It's part of why they're still way behind the search game.

Google gathers all kinds of data about people in many ways, for different reasons. Aside from if/when using their Toolbar, any time we're logged into Google accounts and/or have their cookies on our machines, our actions help inform their business (tiny bit by bit, cumulatively). Consider those ads popping into our Gmail - ever eerily at least somewhat on-topic for whatever a viewed thread is - to be a hint of things to come. They may not be collecting personally identifiable information but certainly the CTR they have to measure there could serve more than just setting CPCs for advertisers. Those Blogger accounts all now "upgraded" to Google accounts? Yep. Google Analytics? Fine for White Hat if one (and/or one's clients) can entrust data with Google without flinching, but a potentially fatal misstep for n00b Black Hats.

Sidebar: The idea of constantly aggregating, analyzing and leveraging data is a cornerstone for Google. They live and breathe it, culturally, strategically and tactically applying it to many parts of their operation... just like all the rest of us in the search business, and more power to them for it after all. It's not like they don't make kick-ass stuff technologically, despite how many of us have love/hate relationships with what being Googley seems to be sometimes. (For example, one hiring trick they've seemingly long used has been to consciously keep want ads posted for up to years after respective positions have been actually already filled. Enabled via auto-responders, self-running online interviews etc., the ruse is one of the ways they try to be always pinpointing who and where the world's top talent is. Their files are always getting updated in this way, in case of growth and/or departures etc.)

These details should be noted regardless of whatever Google formally offers advertisers in the coming months/years or not. Among other things, they've refined the art of making the complex look and feel simple while sprinkling in a few mindfucks along the way because they can. This is why in working with them simplicity is often a good way to look back upon their actions, through assumptions at the least, or even healthy paranoia perhaps (depending on the nature of one's projects). There are even certain Firefox extensions for SEO work that are preferred over others which have been found to leave unwanted footprints.

Despite whatever technical truths of the moment lie behind NDAs at the 'plex, Wikipedia's NOFOLLOW defense will probably quiet things down initially at least. It will not however, become a definitive silencer.

As of now are all outbound links from the english Wikipedia Site using the NOFOLLOW attribute, no exceptions. No matter where you place it, Article Page, Talk Page, User Page, Project Page, whatever. No Link will get any credit at the major search engines.
- Search Engine Journal

Meh. It was Google as opposed to a neutral entity that invented NOFOLLOW, and their market share depends on their index staying more relevant than the other guys any way it can, so reading between their lines means there's more to it than that. Bots ignoring links is one thing, credit and how to get it is another, and I doubt the two are in such a cleanly monogamous relationship. Normally, under certain conditions inbound NOFOLLOW links probably still help relevancy scoring... and even if not they sure as hell don't hurt traffic anyway!

It's the Flava, Life Sava!
Don't Believe the Hype!

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Righteous Spam

...Via tycoon Sir Richard Branson comes yet another spam "SEO" contest, this one on the phrase "global warming awareness2007" ... (NNNNnnnnoooooo!!!!). The educational value of these has been eclipsed by their annoyance factor at this point, and for the record the best SEOs to my knowledge, aren't participating. That said, for anyone who's never watched a nerd battle unfold before, here's a chance.

I applaud the basic spirit but it's been a goofy week for the space. Bring it, Friday. 🙄

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Google KidSense

Google KidSense

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About

Based out of Northern California, bl.asphemo.us 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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