Social Media Day Philadelphia – June 30th

If you’re in Philadelphia, come check out Social Media Day Philadelphia at the Field House, put together by Mashable.  Come network, hang out with some cool peeps, win some prizes, and play Twizzo (Quizzo on Twitter).  I’ll be there.  Say hi!

How To Find DoFollow Link Partners

Link building can be tricky.  Sometimes it’s hard to figure out where to jump in.  There are enough obtuse options and strategies to make an SEO cry tears of pain.  If you’re not employing a vendor to handle it, the bottom line is that link building is time consuming – no matter how you approach it.  There are tools that help you determine find the friendly links and good link partners through different ‘guesstimation’ algos, but if you’re not using them you need to come up with your own plan of attack.  A less efficient way to find links is to Google sites with related themes and content and try to negotiate links with them manually.  This manual part of link building does give you a lot of SEO control over the link partners and what the link looks like (ie, the keywords in anchor text, supplemental text near the link, input in the kind of link it is, etc.).  However, I like to optimize this approach with a few tricks.

Set Your Goals and Research Your Keywords

Before starting any link campaign you should have an idea of what you’re trying to accomplish.  Let’s say we’re trying to optimize a deep ecommerce page selling Star Wars audio books.  Let’s suppose the goal is to get this page to rank for some highly converting keywords.  Before I try to get links to this page, I’ll do some preliminary keyword research and figure out the top 5 keywords that make the sale.  I might round up these keywords through my analytics (sales data from natural search, paid search, and internal site search), and correlate them with keywords that Google, Keyword Discovery or WordTracker suggests.  I also do some poking around in social networks for alternative phrases that come straight from the mouths of the people (tools like Blogpulse, WhosTalkin, Twitterfall, TweetVolume,  connect you with conversations using your keywords and can sometimes give you alternatives or inspiration to build your own).  I check out semantic search engines for relationships I didn’t think of (Quintura is a good one because it’s visual interface makes it quick).  You might even find some options from the Link Diagnosis tool I’ll be talking about next.

Finding Link Partners and getting a Friendly Link

Next, if I’m focused on link building for SEO, I want to create a collection of sites to try to get links from.  I’ll do this by thinking about my competitors.  I could go to Yahoo and do the “link operator” (simply go to yahoo and type into the search box, then take a look at the backlinks Yahoo returns), but I’ve become fond of a free tool called   By entering an SEO competitor into this tool, I’ll get insight into their backlinks.  If the website is linking to my competitor, maybe they’ll link to me too!  Note: Link Diagnosis works better if you install the Firefox extension they offer.  More insight to the links including PageRank, anchor text of every backlink, and more.  It’s a good tool.

Which Sites Do Not Have NoFollow?

Link Diagnosis gives me a lot of link building insight, but it also does something I really like.  Of course we want to get potential link partners, but we also want those partners to have NoFollows so they can pass PageRank.  By clicking the “good” slice in the Link Types pie, you’ll get a list of just the websites that link out using without using NoFollow.  Sometimes they’re blogs with comment boards, sometimes they’re social networks, sometimes they might be directories you never heard about, sometimes they’re small sites where reaching the webmaster won’t be too difficult.  Sweet!  Plus, with the FireFox extension, you can even see them ranked by PageRank to help you decide on which links to try to obtain first.

What Eye Tracking Says About Blended Search

When it comes to SERPs, and what users choose from the array of results, Google says, “Our User Experience Research team has found that people evaluate the search results page so quickly that they make most of their decisions unconsciously.” I could have told them that for a free Google mug. And maybe a Google Frisbee.

Search engines, like any object you use on a routine basis, becomes an extension of your senses. Are we really surprised that a thumbnail in universal search draws attention? No. It’s the contrast to a plain. It’s a key component to effective design, photography, and even magic tricks. But what Google determines from this study is that the thumbnails in the SERPs are also not a distraction if they don’t fit the kind of information a specific user seeking.

Behold – Eye Tracking Studies: More Than Meets The Eye

What Eye Tracking Says About Blended Search

Surfwax – A Meta Engine You Might Like

Hey all – been taking a vacation from the blog for a while, sorting out some personal issues.  Wanted to bring up a cool meta search engine that I’ve been getting back into.  It’s not new, but it’s a cool way to search when your old standby’s aren’t doing the job.

A meta-search engine is a search engine that sends user requests to several other search engines and/or databases and aggregates the results into …

Check Out Surfwax – Meta Search Engine

SERPs Customized for Philadelphia Metro Area? Thanks, I guess.

Screenshot of Customized Google search
note: image was altered to fit the width of my blog

“Customized for the metro Philly area”, eh?  Interesting, except my actual location this time was outside of Philadelphia, in Reading, Pennsylvania – Berks County, not Philadelphia.  I’m not exactly sure how the geo-tracking works in this case (I’ll have to look into that), but when I checked my IP path, I’m not running through Philly.  Why not choose Harrisburg then?  I’m equally close.

SEO and IP aside, I just started to wonder about whether this was a good idea at all.

I wasn’t logged in.  I wasn’t asking for personalized search.  What if I didn’t want an art program in the Philadelphia area, but rather an art program like Photoshop?  Why would I want a customized “local” search?  Or, what if I was open to any location?  Granted, these results really didn’t seem that customized to Philly this time around, but how far can Google take this?

I’d prefer some parametric buttons that would let me choose customized results to my location, instead of just having it be “on”.

Search Engines You Never Knew Existed

As a search engine junkie, I’m always pulling for the little guy with a good idea. I love competition in the marketplace, especially when they introduce some new ideas.

Yahoo and MSN are very concerned about the future of their properties, despite aggressive roadmap announcements. They’re prime targets for a Cuil-type overtaking.  Google may rule, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I break their mindshare (or mind control? Hmm…) more often in the future.  I’ll happily switch to non-traditional search engines or platform engines – that is, if I find them effective. Unique results speak for themselves.

Here’s a few engines I found – few of which I use (I admit).  But maybe the next winner comes from this list.  What do you think? Shopping, meta, social, and vertical engines abound…


Cuil Stumbles Out Of The Gate

update –

Wow. A lot of things happened since this post.  First, I’m no longer married.  And second, Cuil is dead.  Finally went off line at some point in September or October 2010.  I didn’t even notice.

My wife IM’d me today and says, “did you hear about the new Google?”.  Seriously.  So Cuil is making the rounds in a big way today, with a flare gun.  I’ve been finding posts on mainstream sites like CNN, and even MSN (Pulitzer would be proud!), it’s one hell of a launch when the headline is Ex-Googlers launch Cuil.  With a 120 billion page index out of the gate,  Cuil (pronounced ‘cool’) is really risking something with this huge grand scale ‘first impression’.  So far, it doesn’t look like the gamble is paying off in the search blogosphere.  Reviews have been poor to lukewarm (my favorite so far being over at Search Engine Land).

I found some bugs.  Not sure if it was due to an influx of new traffic, but a lot of searches didn’t resolve around 11:30am (eastern).  The “About Cuil” link didn’t work, either, but is restored now.

Also, for having more indexed pages than Google, I found it very thin in variety.  In a blended search world, I appreciate this engines layout, but it really does lack media blending.  Pages that seemed to rank well for their ‘relevancy’, as is the selling-point of this engine, didn’t seem to be all that relevant. I do very much like the Explore By Category feature, and look forward to that improving (it was my favorite feature of the engine, but I’m not sure Cuil is quite as diverse here).


Getting Links The Easy Way – Profile Pages

Here’s an easy SEO tactic.  It’s one of those, “Hmm- why didn’t I think of this before” type of moments for most people when I share it.  It’s easy, but it’ll have more branding power than actual “algorithm influencing” power.

So we know that getting links is mucho importanto.  But think about this – if you’re signing up for anything social these days, you’re creating a “profile page”.  These profile pages are nothing more than websites to search engines, and they compete on their own in the SERPs.  Links back to your partner site not only count, but the better your profile is optimized to be relevant to your partner, the MORE that link counts.  Since your profile page could theoretically now get served more often for targeted queries (because of good SEO), you’re casting a larger net in search engine land!  Your new listing can accompany your main listings, and give a little more branding and mind share.  Remember, a high presence in search engines semi-conciously tells people that you’re important because the great Google says so.

You just need to watch for results.  You want to make sure your profile page doesn’t trump a BETTER landing page, like one on your actual domain.  The profile pages won’t do much for your SEO goals, unless your only goal is getting any kind of SERP exposure.

Let’s say you have a progressive client, and have a Twitter account that you’re running them (or Facebook, or any blogging platform, etc.) – or maybe this is something you want to do for yourself and your LinkedIn page.  Optimizing their profile page, and targeting the kind of audience that best suits you, may really help get you more interest and traffic out of the SERPs.  Get some good keyword research going, and spread your profile around through links, comments and signatures.  With SEO, sometimes the little things go a long way.

Twitter me, Tweet me, um…

Granted, I wasn’t first (generation) to the Twitter party. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t even third or fourth. But I’ve been here about 6 months, and still don’t know if it’s living up to the hype (yet)… Kind of like second life, despite shout outs on The Office. But I DO think there is something to Twitter, and life streaming in general. I love the idea. I love taking this online networking web… 0’s and 1’s, and continually turning it into something that becomes more valuable than the telephone ever was. There’s art, love, life, philosophy, zen, existentialism, religion, and a lot more on Al Gore’s Interweb. I love the idea of this mind/matter technical extension, and being able to one day say more with less in the cyber age. Is Twitter the way to do it? It’s a way. Is Twitter for everyone? No, but either is poetry. Is it even wise to expect that computers can take our intellectual depths, or profound realties to an evolved level?

I just re-read that first paragraph. No, I am not smoking pot.

Though I’m letting stream of consciousness run this post, I do think that there’s way more to the internet than what we see now. I think it will grow in the next 5 years to something less “computer”, and more “human”. Not Terminator type human, but more of cerebral type thing. Then again, I’m 33, and I don’t know what a 15 year old is experiencing at this point in the computer lab of his/her school, and a handful of social network profiles.

I’m hopeful. Without growth, there is no evolution. Add me on Twitter so I can continue to be part of the wave. Bill Sebald.

Wildcards in Robots.txt

One of the greatest (mostly) unknown abilities of robots.txt is wildcard pattern matching. We know how robots.txt can block files and directories from being crawled, but in the case of URLs with unique paramaters and duplicate content issues, did you know that Google and Yahoo respect wildcards (this was verified by connections at the engines – but MSN said they do not respect pattern matching “at this time”).

If you have URLs with unique parameters – for example, UTM with Google analytics, paid search tags, and so on – you can create a robots.txt entry like this:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /*utm

How cool is that? Remember, this only should be employed if you have very unique parameters. If your parameters are keyworded, and that keyword appears as other directories or page names, they will get blocked too… quite possibly to your dismay.

More from Google’s Webmaster Blog.