Request a Quotation
 
Gravatar
Tuesday, November 25th, 2003

Goading us into Google-Bashing

Ross just received a call from another SEO asking why we haven’t publically bashed Google for their most recent ranking weirdness. In reality, I think we’ve taken it to Google several times in the past year and rightly so. Google has a tremendous impact on the world of search and the availability of information to the general public. On a business persective, companies can be made and broken based on their Google ranking. This is important and we can’t forget that every business has an impact on real people’s lives. I think Google has a responsibility to live up to but I have no idea exactly how they should live up to it. More warning perhaps.

I think I will start taking pot-shots in print at Google’s expense and here’s the first. Google’s rankings were thrown totally out of whack last week with the oddest update we’ve ever seen. SPAM and totally unrelated sites ending up with the top rankings under specific keyword phrases. Sites that had been placing in the Top10 for months or even years suddenly gone from the listings… ARG. This update has been named the Florida update and, in a strange way, that figures. We’ve suspected the math in Florida to be sort of whacky for a couple of years now… :)

Last week it was reported that Microsoft and Google had met to discuss a possible buy-out. This week, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates stated that the discussions never happened. Four weeks ago, it was reported that Google was going to issue an IPO in February 2004 through a “Dutch Auction” format. The next day, Google Communication Director David Krane, was all over the phones demanding retractions of the story. Obviously someone is telling stories somewhere along the line… Read more…

Gravatar
Wednesday, November 19th, 2003

Google's Listings Gone Buggy

Something big is happening at Google but we’re not sure what it is. What we do know is that since a major update of Google’s database started on Friday night, the search returns have been extremely buggy with long-term Top10 pages dropping from existence, recorded back links decreasing or disappearing for many sites, and more than the usual amount of spam appearing in the Top10. We have also noted the disapperence of one their major servers (www-sj.google.com).

Google has been delivering questionable returns for several months now with spam and duplicate listings often making it into the Top10. The last time their listings have been this upset was in October 2002 when Google tried introducing Blog entries and news releases into its general listings. Within two weeks, the listings had been restored to a shakey state of “normal” but that marked the beginning of strange and often spammy entries into the Top10. This month’s update is being referred to in the SEO community as the “Florida Update” and has a lot of SEO practicioners scratching their heads. Our current advise is to wait it out for at least two weeks and see what Google does next.

Happy Monday morning folks… DON’T PANIC!

Have y’all taken a look at Google today? Yes, what you are seeing is real. Google is showing totally different listings on the search engine returns pages today. Actually, this weirdness started sometime on Friday night or Saturday morning. Most of our clients have not been affected and the only one we have seen effected has had his rankings rise dramatically. Our site has been affected though, rather badly at that. From the #6 spot under the phrase “Search Engine Placement”, the happy-go-lucky StepForth site has dropped past the fifth page of returns.

I think this is a temporary thing. We last saw such a massive shake-up six months ago and the listings went back to normal after a few days. This sort of shake-up generally indicates that Google is re-ordering their entire database of spidered sites.

Gravatar
Wednesday, November 12th, 2003

Much A-Google About Spamming

Recently we have received a great deal of mail on the subject of SEO Spam, especially as it relates to Google. It seems lots of folk are complaining about the quality of the SERPs (search engine returns pages) at Google and the fact that many (not all) of the Top10 found at Google seem to have gotten there by using Spam tactics. We are getting a number of inquiries asking what a webmaster should do when they find their site(s) pushed out of the Top20 by sites using Spam and if SEOs should start using Spammy techniques on their client’s websites. These questions have raised a number of important ethical and practical discussions amongst the staff here and has generated more than one debate at our quarterly staff/client parties. At the risk of generating even more email, here are some of my thoughts on the issue. Read more…

Gravatar
Wednesday, November 12th, 2003

Google's New Deskbar

Google has recently released Google Deskbar, a search tool that allows you to search all of Google’s various databases (Google, Google News, Froogle, Google Groups, etc…), without opening your browser. When installed, Google Deskbar operates in the lower tray and automatically opens an Internet Explorer window to display results. Google has introduced this tool in response to rumours that Microsoft will be bulking search directly into its new operating system Longhorn.

Major retraction and apologies folks… I just got off the phone with Google’s Communications Director, David Krane. It seems that the rumours of Google’s pending IPO have been greatly exaggerated by hundreds of writers, including myself, who are following Google. The story, which first broke in the Wall Street Journal Digest last Friday, has developed long legs and has been reported in most major business journals around the world. After reading literally dozens of articles and analysis, we decided to run with it too. Sometimes running with what appears to be the real story can be like running with scissors, a rather dangerous thing to do. It would seem I stumbled.

Here’s the story as we see it today. Google has NOT made a formal announcement regarding the issuance of an IPO. I made a foolish mistake in reporting this based on articles from several sources, all of which named “unnamed sources” as their informants. Google has been in talks with several investment banks, several of which are jockeying for position on floating the IPO. This was reported in Tuesday’s Oakland Tribune and Seattle Post-Intelligencer, to name a few. When issued, it will likely be in the $15-25Billion range, as reported here and in most other publications.

I believe the analysis in my article to be, for the most part accurate, assuming Google does issue their long-expected IPO. Several people I’ve spoken with today still believe that a formal announcement is imminent however; Google’s communications department has refused comment on the issue.

Google announced it will make its first Initial Public Offering (IPO) of shares last Friday. The IPO, which is slated to be issued in late February or early March marks a major turning point in Google’s history and will likely cause changes at Google as shareholder demands will become part of Google’s operating strategies. Google has been privately owned since its inception in a Stanford University dorm just over 5 years ago. In the past 5 years, Google has grown into the largest and most used search tool on the Internet and is considered the largest catalogue of information in human history, akin to the world’s greatest librarian. It is also considered a money-making machine with rumored profits of upwards of $700Million last year based on estimated annual revenues exceeding $2.5Billion. The total IPO is valued between $15Billion and $25Billion.

One of the most interesting facets to this story is the innovative method Google will use to issue the offering. In a bid to distance itself from the scandal ridden world of Wall Street, Google will use an online auction format to allow investors to bid on the value of the shares they purchase. This move will save Google and its investors hundreds of millions in brokerage fees and should insulate Google against unscrupulous financial analysis and investment managers. On the other hand, it might also leave many investors without the benefit and security of professional advice when making their stock purchases.

Big questions about this IPO remain to be answered and in many cases remain to be asked. 1) Why is Google doing this at this time? 2) How will this effect the current version of Google? 3) How will a Google IPO effect the rest of the technology world? 4) Will Google’s announcement effect SEO strategies in the near to mid-term future?

1) Google is issuing the IPO for several reasons. First of all, it needs to bulk up its cash-holdings in order to fend off rivals MSN and Yahoo through improvements in its technologies and extra advertising of new services. 2004 will see a rise in search engine advertising as the big three introduce new services and compete for clients. We will also see the introduction of several new features that are currently being beta-tested such as geographic targeting of search results and contextual matching of information contained in various documents and advertising sources. In order to improve its public face and let the public know it is introducing new technologies, Google is going to have to spend a good deal of money, especially in light of the tremendous advertising budgets wielded by Yahoo and MSN.

2) It is difficult to say how the current version of Google’s traditional, (free) listings will be effected by an IPO. It is likely we will see more paid-content finding its way into the Top10 as investors will expect to see some sort of dividend from what is considered the most successful Internet property of all time. While the addition of paid-content in the traditional listings might seem way out of step for Google, many of the sites that are placing in the Top10 today are there because they paid someone to put them there, but not the folks at Google. Google’s PageRank formula had proven easy to manipulate in the past, causing Google’s engineers to tinker with the algorithm over the past 12 months. The “current” version of Google has been undergoing changes for much of the past year and should be considered, in actuality, several versions of Google. These changes have mostly been happening in the background with the introduction of what was supposed to be new spam-fighting algorithms and the integration of new services such as Blogger, Froogle and AdSense. The clean and extremely simple interface has remained the same but the results that Google has been returning lately have been laden with spammy SEO techniques such as hidden text, link-farms and keyword stuffing. We’re hoping the issuance of an IPO will help Google’s engineers focus on re-creating a product that end-users love to use without the inclusion of irrelevant and highly manipulated sites.

3) A Google IPO could have an invigorating effect on the rest of the technology sector if it is successful. Firms from the Silicone Valley to New Delhi have several new and innovative products to bring to market but most great ideas in development today will never be seen by the public as investors are justifiably wary of putting their money into the tech-sector. Google’s IPO might have a positive effect on a highly jittery investment community. At the same time however, like other tech-stocks from past and present, Google’s perceived value of $15 – $25Billion seems somewhat overstated and could mark the beginning of a new tech-bubble based on an unproven but fiscally feasible revenue model, contextual advertising. This is an area we should all watch very closely as we’ve been lulled into a false sense of security based on hubris before, with disastrous effects. Here’s to hoping the investment world keeps its collective heads on its collective shoulders before the collective collection agencies come-a-calling.

4) Lastly, will a Google IPO effect SEO strategies? In a word, absolutely. Google has consistently led the search engine sector over the past years with new innovations and customer-loyalty. Where Google goes, the rest of the field tends to follow. Google getting larger and more powerful leads us to believe that the days of the search engine spiders have returned in force. While bulking up on our Paid-performance services, mainstream SEO companies will be breathing sighs of relief this week as the realization that our market will not be fully dominated by AdWords and Content Match programs but will likely be split between specifically targeted advertising through contextual matching and traditional search engine return pages, just like in the old days. With the introduction of MSN’s new spider based search tool and the inclusion of Inktomi results in the Yahoo search returns, it is fairly easy to see that SEO techniques designed to please spiders are going to be in very high demand in the next few years. At the same time however, SEO firms will need to be far more precise in handling paid-advertisments through AdWords and Content Match programs as these revenue generators will be pushed heavily by the accounting departments of the big three firms.

Google’s IPO will have major implications for the entire tech-sector. How it plays out remains to be seen but the one certainty is that search, as an industry, has become a mainstream sector in both the global and Internet economies.

Gravatar
Monday, October 27th, 2003

Google Going Public

This announcement was actully made last Friday but I was blissfully away from any and all computers.

Google announced that they will be issuing their first IPO in late February or early March. This will be one of the largest IPOs in history, valued somewhere between $15Billion and $20Billion! Google is likely going to issue the IPO in an auction format, allowing investors to bid on the value of their shares directly.

More information as it becomes available.

Search is the gateway and guidepost to the Internet. Over the past five years, the business of search has changed from a model resembling a friendly but very well built lemonade stand to the current state of monolithic but often dysfunctional empires built by and around today’s big three (MSN, Google and Yahoo). With tens of billions of dollars at stake, competition between the big three has turned into an all-out business war, the casualties of which are jobs, cool technologies, and ultimately, the current wild-west atmosphere of the Internet. When the dust settles, finding what you are looking for may be a bit more difficult and expensive. There will likely be a major decrease in search options by this time next year and what does exist will likely cost you, unless you are interested in finding information that has been pre-paid for by the supplier (advertiser) as opposed to the consumer (searcher). Google is likely to retain non-paid listings as a priority but that may change if Google issues public shares through a widely expected spring-time IPO. That, however, is then and this is now. Today’s battle takes place between engineers at Overture and Google, with Overture landing a solid upper-cut in the form of Local Search proficiency. Read more…