organic search

Marketing News Roundup: Week Ending April 25, 2014

Actual News

New How To’s and Advice




  • SMX Advanced is taking place in Seattle really soon, but early bird registration for SMX Advanced is still available. MozCon is coming up shortly after that.  Quick price comparison: MozCon is $1,495 (Moz Pro subscribers get a $500 discount). SMX is $2,695 unless you register before May 2nd, in which case it’s $1,795.

by Paul Kriloff


Marketing News Roundup: Week Ending April 18, 2014

After a week off to recover from a totally unexpected bout of walking pneumonia, I’m back with a current news roundup!

Actual News

Google stories dominate this week:

  • It’s hard out here for a search engine! Google ad prices declining, earnings miss target. Lest you feel too bad for poor old Google, they still increased net income by $100 million to $3.45 billion.  Interesting to note the ongoing impact of mobile on Google’s business model and the potential impact of the Google ad network on prices and performance.
  • Good News for Google, Part I: Google Play is quickly catching up to App Store in total apps and revenue.
  • Good News for Google, Part II (Scary News for Everyone Else): Android has more than 50% of the mobile phone market, while Apple’s share holds steady at 41%. More or less, those numbers are unchanged from the end of 2013, although LG gained a little at HTC’s expense (this prior to the launch of the HTC One M8). Microsoft has 3.45% of the market, which must mean they’re making each of their US employees buy 100 Nokia phones. 68% of Americans now have a smart phone.
  • Fast Company published an in-depth profile of Google X, the innovation lab best known for Google Glass and changing the world. Interesting insight into how Google is trying to translate its current dominance into future dominance.
  • Facebook now makes it possible for you to find your friends and interact with them in real-time, face to face. You know, sort of like you did before you had Facebook.
  • Amazon getting closer to offering a complete computing ecosystem: Amazon 3D phone coming in September will add to Fire TV and Kindle. Of all the companies trying to rule my digital content, Amazon is not my favorite, but I have to say, it has done a great job with the Fire TV ads: using Gary Busey was a genius stroke.


New Advice and How To’s

New Tools

  • SearchMetrics has released Page Cockpit, which it claims offers “the world’s only universal SEO analysis and optimization on the URL level.” Start a free trial before May 31st and get a free knockwurst.


Marketing News Roundup: Week Ending April 4, 2014

Actual News

New Advice and How To’s

New Tools

  • I was introduced this week to Sublime Text, a text editor that allows regex find-replace. I downloaded it, haven’t played around with it. Looks like it’s for a fairly technical resource, not something designed principally for marketers.

Is Google Sending SEO’s a Message?

Lately, there have been several high-profile penalties announced against companies that provide organic search services or call themselves SEO firms. Some people have suggested Google is going too far, but I’m not so sure this isn’t Google’s way of trying to get across – in a very emphatic and unequivocal way – something they’ve said for a long time: they want sites building for the end user, not the search engines. That’s a lesson worth heeding.

The cases that have surfaced include the following:

  • MyBlogGuest was the first to be hit with a manual penalty, announced by Matt Cutts after a recent string of discussions about the practice of guest blogging. Cutts has been discouraging the practice in his Webmaster Help videos in recent weeks.
  • Internet marketing company Portent was then hit with a manual penalty, which they first took as possibly being connected to a post or two on MyBlogGuest. This turned out not to be the case. Portent recovered quickly after addressing boilerplate links on client sites that were hacked.
  • Then came the scary-sounding news that Doc Sheldon had been subject to a manual penalty for a single link to a site Google deemed off-topic and spammy. This one created enough noise that Matt Cutts himself weighed in via Twitter to argue the penalty was justified.

People in the SEO community find this scary. They have argued that it will have a chilling effect on the web. They further argue that MyBlogGuest didn’t violate the quality guidelines.  Other voices have suggested that the penalty against Doc Sheldon was overly aggressive – penalized for a single link? How could Google do that? In comments to Ann Smarty’s response to Google on Search Engine Journal, some people suggested it was all part of Google’s ineffectual strategy of creating FUD.

Darn straight. I try to see all this through Google’s eyes. Google’s position in the consumer ecosystem reminds me of Amazon or Walmart. All three depend on an army of suppliers. All three are serving billions of consumers who demand instantaneous gratification at low cost. In Amazon and Walmart’s cases, low cost is literally low cost, measured in dollars. In Google’s case, it’s time. They are in a mad race to deliver the right result extremely quickly. Google can do that best if it has a large  universe of content that is designed to respond to the queries of users and that it can dig into to find answers and if Google’s algorithms are free to comb through that content without any interference or attempts to influence the algorithms artificially.

In Google’s eyes, any effort to short-circuit Google’s algorithms, no matter how well-intentioned or how carefully designed not to violate the literal letter of Google’s quality guidelines, is counter-productive, because it takes the determination of quality somewhat out of Google’s hands and could result in Google returning less useful content to the user. In that context, Google is best served to sow as much FUD as they can among anyone who puts the word “SEO” in their company description and says their purpose is to help customers rank.

As other commenters to the Ann Smarty article suggested, Google is holding SEO firms to a higher standard. And you know what? They should. SEO’s shouldn’t be thinking short-term. We need to stop seeing our job as trying to understand the individual factors that might drive rank and rallying client resources for the latest and greatest trick that drives cheap traffic. We need to start seeing our jobs as helping companies make sound long-term investments based on an understanding of the internet and Google’s role within it. For one thing, the latter is just good sound business – developing steady, value-added competencies instead of resetting the clock every time some new correlation study comes out hinting at some sneaky way to get a bump in the rankings.

I’m not saying we should ignore Google (they’re too important a part of how users experience the internet to ignore), but we need to think of them as one player, not as the promotional channel that matters. We need to understand what they’re trying to accomplish, instead of focusing on how they get there and on how to find shortcuts within it. We need to do things the right way.

At the heart of SEO (or inbound marketing or whatever we’re calling it to avoid calling it SEO) should be an understanding of the user and really good content that serves the user. Add an additional layer for making sure content is discoverable. Add an additional layer for making sure that directory structure, tags, link elements and rich data reflect a clear vision of who your audience is and what they need from your site. Add a layer for promotion – not link-building, but true promotion: finding people to whom your content is relevant and building relationships with them through multiple channels.

They have a word for that sort of thing. It’s simply called “marketing.”

Simplifying Search by Complicating It

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of debates over the role of organic search in a marketing plan. The ambiguity inherent in organic search and the amount of received wisdom built up around it make it easy to spend hours and hours arguing over exactly what to do or even how to think about organic search and what effect it should have on a marketing strategy or staffing plan.

It can also distort the very fabric of a marketing function. For example, I talked to a CMO recently who took over a team comprised almost entirely of content marketers, because in recent years, the new received wisdom has been that you win in organic search by putting out lots and lots of content.

There’s no way to dispel the ambiguity (it comes with the territory), but I’ve come to believe that there are ways to manage the ambiguity. The most valuable, in my opinion, is to put ourselves in Google’s shoes. Instead of looking for shortcuts or tricks, we should try to gather as much concrete information as we can to understand how Google thinks about delivering results to users. For me, there are a number of insights I’ve found formative in how I think about search, and the first posts on this blog are dedicated to collecting and discussing them.

I should note upfront: I am not a Google conspiracy theorist. I believe Google’s engineering and webspam teams are motivated by a desire to return useful results. I don’t think they’re trying to trick webmasters into doing the wrong things in hopes of forcing them into AdWords. Google has to do two things to be successful: deliver a great experience for its users and monetize that experience. Those are two different goals, and if Google prioritized the second at the expense of the first, they’d fail at both.

I consider myself a practitioner, not a pioneer. I’m primarily interested in how to apply insights about search to the practical challenge of managing a marketing plan. I prefer to rely on others to uncover those insights, and I’m immensely grateful to the folks who are out there, doing the research, running the numbers to spot the trends.

by Paul Kriloff