A couple of days ago, I received a call from a west coast reader who works as a corporate recruiter. She had been asked to find an in-house SEO for one of her clients, a medium sized corporation. After recommending a number of SEO/SEM related forums and Ed Lewis’ SEO Consultants Directory, we started to talk about the cost/benefit of hiring an in-house SEO and outsourcing the work to a consultant. As our conversation moved from point to point, a number of issues surrounding hiring in-house SEO talent emerged.

Today the trend leans towards hiring in-house. A quick glance at employment websites such as Monster.com or Workopolis.ca shows a growing list of positions for SEOs who have two or more years of experience. The demand for experienced search marketers far outstrips the supply of really good practitioners, a situation evidenced by SEO salaries ranging from 30K at the low end to over 100K at the top. Read more…

Some sites are built using “cutting edge advanced design techniques” that draw from several sources. Some have poorly structured databases. Some look as if they were slapped together seven years ago and have since existed as an afterthought. The one thing they all have in common is that they offer search engine spiders far too little information to grab onto. Having to negotiate between the needs of technically unfocused clients and the highly focused technical needs of the SEO staff, a SEO good salesperson can spot problem issues a mile away.

A few weeks ago, our sales manger and I scrolled through a number of potential client sites he had moved to his “problem-issue” file, compiling a dossier of examples of SEO-unfriendly sites that have come our way over the past six months. It’s amazing how much you can learn from the mistakes of others. It is equally amazing to see these basic mistakes repeated time and time again.

There are any numbers of basic, simple SEO mistakes, most of which are inconsequential, that find their way across ou Read more…

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

Still Waiting For Duke Nukem

Citing the need to build all inclusive security systems into its long-awaited operating system Vista, Microsoft Windows co-president Jim Allchin, announced that Vista would not be released in 2006.

Vista is, or eventually will be, the replacement for Windows XP. It has been five years since Microsoft updated its core operating system. Read more…

The word “change” has over a dozen definitions, at least according to my electronic source at Princeton University. Aside from the various nouns describing what is literally cold and hard cash, my preferred use of the word is as a verb. The following definition caught my eye this morning. It applies itself quite well to a situation facing most, if not all, established SEO shops.

(v) change , alter, modify (cause to change; make different; cause a transformation) “The advent of the automobile may have altered the growth pattern of the city”” Read more…

When the management team at Google decided to take the company public in August 2004, they made the decision with the knowledge that being a publicly traded company would force them to open their doors to public scrutiny. Before their IPO, 18-months ago, Google was, for all intents and purposes, a shuttered shop from which light rarely leaked.

Now that Google stock circulates on the open market, US law requires them to file an annual report (Form 10-K) and quarterly reports (Form 10-Q) with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). These reports are made available to the public by the SEC and can also be found in Google’s Investor Relations Center. As a result of these reports, Google is no longer able to hold a wealth of information about it or its business as secrets. Read more…

The process of search engine optimization and placement has undergone a number of fundamental changes over the past year. Once a highly technical, hands-on operation, SEO is now more about analyzing information, strategic planning and long-term consultation. The changing nature of how SEO services are performed has caused many SEO firms to make radical alterations to their office environments and staff skill-sets. The most interesting thing about this period of intense change in the search marketing industry is that the biggest changes are only starting to happen. Read more…

Sometimes the most well thought out practical jokes trigger an uneven brand of justice that falls under the laws of unintended consequences. While not formally codified and ill defined, the law of unintended consequences is very real, as a Google-focused prank pulled by 15-year old Tom Vandetta amply illustrates.

Reading through SEO focused blog entries, Vandetta found an article that explained how to fool Google’s news system by writing fake press releases. Sensing an opportunity to experiment and play a joke on his friends, the self-described “Google fanboy” decided to see what would happen if he submitted a fake Google press release claiming the 15-year old New Jersey student was Google’s youngest employee.

The press release was issued through the free service I-Newswire and contained a number of spelling mistakes. Short and to the point, the release, which appeared to have been sent by a Google spokesperson Sonya Johnson (who’s actually existence is unconfirmed and is assumed to be imaginary), read:

“(I-Newswire) – 15 year old student, Tom Vendetta has been hired by search engine giant Google Inc. The student will receive a lowered salary, which will be placed into a bank account for future education, said Google CEO Larry Page. When asked what role Vendetta will play at the Tech Giant’s offices, Page said he wouldnt have a role at the Main Offices. Instead he would work from his home in the New Jersey suburbs. Vendetta will be incharge of working with recent security flaw’s in Google’s beta e-mail service, “Gmail”. Google said they first found out about him when they discovered the student’s blog, at http://tomvendetta.be. The media giant said they looked forward to working with Vendetta’s expertise in JavaScript and AJAX.”

A few hours after posting the fake press release, Vandetta logged into the news search tool Digg after receiving an automated email from MAKEBot (Digg’s Spider), to find his practical joke had become a credible international tech story. Google was even displaying reference to the press release in Google News and at in the news results placed above search results relating to Google employment or hiring. According to his confessional blog posting, “At that moment, I felt my stomach knot up and my heart drop. I knew exactly what happened and knew that I would end up regretting posting that.”

The prank has made Vandetta temporarily famous. His Gmail account received almost 400 emails in the first few hours. Vandetta has since had to open new Gmail and MySpace accounts. His parents are changing their phone number and he is working to re-establish a workable online identity. On the brighter side, he has received a few emails from Google employees assuring him he has not dashed his dreams of one day working for Google, as he thought he might have.

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While the prank was a juvenile as it was creative, Vandetta’s fake press release has exposed a credibility problem for Google and might introduce new costs for search marketing firms that use legitimate press releases as a means of promotion. His experiment exposed the fact the automated system that is Google News does not verify press releases before publishing them as factual news pieces.

Google engineers are almost certainly working overtime to institute stronger spam filters and shore up the credibility of the Google News system, as they have over the years when SEOs have exposed exploitable characteristics of the organic ranking algorithm.

SEOs who use press release submission services should expect to have to submit a lot more identifying information about themselves and their clients. Requiring information such as phone numbers, addresses, contact names and positions that can be verified by electronic spiders are the most likely filtering options being discussed by Google’s tech-team.

Another filter might be the disempowering or “delisting” of free-for-use press release services such as I-Newswire.com. This measure would present a hindrance to smaller companies and SEO firms, most of which use press releases properly. By raising the cost of communication, Google risks pushing many smaller entities away from an important arena. SEOs are rarely happy to present extra costs to their clients, many of which are small businesses using search advertising to even the playing field against much larger competitors.

Whatever the outcome, Google has to move to close gaps in its News aggregation system quickly.

Earlier today, Threadwatch posted reference to a note from “The People’s Cube“, noting that the anti-marxist parody site has been delisted from the Google Index.

The open letter starts with the salutation, “Dear comrades at Google”, a signal it was written by a card-carrying member of the tin-foil hat brigade, and goes on to suggest Google purposefully purged the site due to its criticism of Google’s cooperation with Chinese Government censors. Read more…

Search Engine Watch editor Danny Sullivan is regarded by most as the senior search journalist. Danny has been writing about search far longer than the rest of us keyboard cowpokes. Earlier today, he posted a twenty-five point rant outlining his major issues with Google.

The post is a great five-minute read. “25 Things I Hate About Google

Friday, March 10th, 2006

Google's Growing Online Office

Does anyone remember how, less than a year ago, several commentators suggested Google was compiling a series of products that could emulate an online operating system? At the time, Google steadfastly denied such rumors. Yesterday, Google purchased Upstartle, the maker of a browser-based word processor called Writely. Read more…