Will Diverting Transactional Intent Preempt Search

“The battle for search is over for now — Google won — but the battle for the underlying revenue is just heating up,” according to Alex Rampell, the CEO of TrialPay. I hadn’t thought if it this way before, but his thought provoking article at TechCrunch, “Preempting Search,” got me thinking.

Rampell’s premise is that:

For Google’s enemies, the best way of hurting the search goliath is not to build a better search engine, but rather to give people a reason to stop searching for a wide class of goods and services by preempting search on Google. Given Google’s dependence on harvesting “transactional intent” for its revenue, the key is to move transaction initiation off of Google.

I wonder though, people are so lazy. Is it really possible that they will circumvent searching in favor of a multitude of transactional and vertical niche sites if Google gives them easy access to those niches in a single easy place that they trust? With Google’s reputation for quality search results, whether one agrees or not, it’s so much easier for the masses to just search and trust Google to show them where to go. Perhaps each individual might have a soft spot for a certain transactional site or vertical (I admit I’m an Amazon & Expedia devotee), but I can’t believe that most searchers would take the time to develop a portfolio of trusted individual sites to meet their individual needs.

Still, if each person chooses one transactional or vertical site over Googling, that could represent a wearing away of Google’s revenue hold to a thousand niche players. Interesting to ponder. Thoughts?

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

WordPress Decides to Share with the Hosted Masses

Folks with WordPress-hosted blogs now get to share with the big boys. Yesterday, WordPress announced the ability to include a selection of popular sharing icons in their hosted blogs.

wordpress sharing icons

Previously this was only easily done with JavaScript applications on blogs hosted on other servers. I for one had a superkludgy Word Doc saved that included a snippet of HTML in which I would search-and-replaced URL & post title and then paste the resulting mess into each post by hand. How very 1996. Let’s forget for a moment that I’m foolish for not hosting my blog on my own server for various reasons of SEO goodness and control, and think about the positive impact on the multitudes of bloggers out there hosted at WordPress.

The Good:

  • Add other sharing icons: I added Sphinn. As long as you can figure out the URL required to trigger a post, you can add a link, the anchor text and the 16×16 icon of your choice. Very cool.

Could Be Better:

  • Header styling: I added a header in my blog’s style above the icons: “Share Web PieRat, Matey.” I could have used the tool to add this text, but there’s no control of the styling. It’s inline with the icons, plain old bolded black. Boring! I’ll have to do that manually in each post, but I like the look of it much better.
  • Positioning: Only at the bottom of the post/page? I’d love the ability to have a ribbon at the top of the post as well for folks who don’t make it all the way to the bottom. Sharing is sometimes done before full digestion, as much as we’d like to think that readers are absorbing our every word.

I’m sure you can do both of these with the custom CSS upgrade, but I haven’t played with that yet. Seriously, though, how many folks who host a blog on WordPress’s servers are well versed in CSS? I’d bet that default hosting and less familiarity with HTML/CSS go hand in hand. Anyway. Offering the icons to folks of lesser technical experience (or time to manage our own hostings and technology) is a great step for WordPress. Thanks guys.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Link Stalking with Link Diagnosis

With the help of Link Diagnosis, I’ve recently become intimate with link stalking. Erm, I mean, competitive backlink analysis. As my optimization hands are temporarily tied awaiting architectural and content management system revisions, external link building is the most useful way to bide my time. I was pleasantly surprised that Link Diagnosis had redesigned their service since the last time I visited them … a year ago September 2009. Sorry guys. This is for the rest of you who missed their grand transformation.

Their “new” interface is sleek, easy to read, easy to export, and comes with a handy link strength score. And it’s still free! The data is pulled from Yahoo’s BOSS API, and will continue to be functional even after the Bing merger. The report strips out internal links, leaving you with the stalkable external links to review at your leisure. In essence, it’s like running a query through Yahoo Site Explorer with the filters set to “except from this domain” and “entire site,” but the interface makes it fat more pleasant and efficient to use than YSE.

Installing Link Diagnosis

Unlike the former tool, Link Diagnosis now requires a FireFox plug in. You know the drill, click and install. The report will not run without it.

Initiating the Report

Just head to their homepage and enter any URL.

link diagnosis screenshot
Click to view larger

Click on the “Filters” tab below the large input field for a drop down with the report options.

  • You can turn PageRank gathering on or off. I prefer it on: It’s slower but I like to have as much data as possible.
  • The “Site Settings” option allows you to limit the report to a single URL or run the whole domain. Unfortunately there’s no folder option. It would be nice to get results for pages in a single category. The single page option is good for the most valuable pages on the site. Each run maxes out at 1,001 pages (Yahoo’s API limit), so if you really want to sleuth out the most links you’ll want to run the homepage and the high level pages on the site as well as the full domain.
  • The other 3 settings I don’t mess with. Tweaking the speed can get your IP temporarily blocked, essentially slowing down your data collection process more than just running the reports at normal speed. And as for the other 2, who doesn’t like “optimized” and “enhanced?”

The next step is pretty straight forward: Click START. While the app runs, they kindly show their progress via a running log of activities with a tally of the various types of links discovered.

link diagnosis screenshot 2
Click to view larger

A couple of interesting things to note:

  • The green “Continue Browsing” tab at the top opens another tab in FireFox for Link Diagnosis. You can surf on your merry way while your report runs in the other tab, or you can enter another URL to report on. Link Diagnosis cannot multitask to run multiple reports at once, but it will start the next automatically when the previous report has finished.
  • The “Simple View” at bottom left just makes the viewing window smaller. Not sure what the value there is, since you can’t use the web page under the pop up app, but it’s there if you like that sort of thing.
  • The “Extension Manager” at bottom right opens a new tab with a listing of the reports you’ve run during that session. The session seems to last until you restart FireFox. If you log in and save reports, you can view them anytime in the Extension Manager. You can also manage all the reports you’ve requested, delete reports that are waiting to run, and view reports that you ran earlier in your session. Here’s what it looks like:
link diagnosis schreenshot 3
Click to view larger

Saving & Exporting the Data

When the report finishes running, the results will load in the same tab. Or you can view them later from the Extension Manager. Either way, the report  has everything you could ask for:

link diagnosis screenshot 4
Click to view larger
  • The report header has a summary of the number and type of links found.
  • Page URL: The URL linking to the requested domain/page
  • PageRank: The toolbar PageRank of the URL linking to the requested domain/page
  • Anchor: The anchor text used to link to the requested domain/page
  • Link Type: Identifies whether the link was found on the linking page, and whether it was nofollowed.
  • Outbound Links: The number of external links off the linking URL.
  • Link Strength: A proprietary score that seems to be based on PageRank & the number of external links off the linking URL.
  • Link History: Identifies whether the link is new or whether it has been included in this report previously. Only useful in saved reports. In new or unsaved reports the history will always say “new.”
  • Links To: Only available in the exported CSV file, displays the exact URL linked to. Very useful when the report has been run on the whole domain.

The column headers in the online report allow for sorting, a nice feature for quick eyeballing.

To save the report past the current session, log in and click the green “Save” button at the head of the report. When logged in, you’ll be able to view the report in the Extension Manager until you delete it.

Clicking the “Share” button copies the unique URL of that report to your clipboard so that you can email it around without having to export it first. Here’s the sample report for Groupon.com I’ve been using for screenshots.

Exporting to CSV is simple. Just click on “Export” at the head of the report. Choose which CSVversion you want save as you would any file. Open it up in your spreadsheet program of choice and start stalking.

I prefer to merge the individual exports into a single large file for cross comparing competitors’ link profiles. By sorting on PageRank or Link Strength I can see which competitors have managed to grab unique juicy links from sources other competitor haven’t thought of. And by sorting alphabetically by linking URL I can see which competitors have links from common domains (a poor man’s Hubfinder).

At the end of the day, competitive link analysis is not an ace in the hole. Acquiring the same links competitors have just gets a site on the same backlink playing field as its competitors. Link stalking is just one small tactic in the overall SEO playbook. And Link Diagnosis makes it easier, for free.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

What’s the Deal with Semantic Search

Sometimes search engines just don’t understand. But who can blame them when all the searcher gives them to go on is a single word, like “deal.” David Harry’s post in Search Engine Journal on semantic search & SEO really got me thinking about the semantics of single-word searches, and how words and phrases that are crystal clear to a business can have multiple meanings when viewed through the engines’ eyes.


His example of “jaguar” illustrates my challenge at Groupon extremely well. When a user searches for “deal,” they could be talking about the card-game-related verb or the savings-oriented noun. A quick glance at search results confirms that “deal” and “savings” are closely linked in the engines’ understanding. But even more interesting is that the TYPE of deal that the engines deem most relevant is very clearly linked as well.

Groupon’s bread and butter are the city + deal keyword phrases like [new york deals]. That’s what we sell, deals to local businesses in cities across the US and Canada, and now the world. Interestingly, though, travel and city guide sites dominate the rankings for these city + deal keyword phrases. The engines have linked “deal” with travel and tourism. So despite the fact that Groupon’s business competitors include copycats LivingSocial and BuyWithMe, our biggest SEO competitors are TripAdvisor, Expedia, & CitySearch.

Groupon’s challenge, my challenge, is to speak the algorithmic language of the engines through a website that must remain focused on user conversion, to improve our semantic relevance to deal and city + deal concepts to such an extent that the strong semantic link between deals and travel/tourism is expanded enough to allow the inclusion of our flavor of deals. Good thing I like a challenge, because we’ve got a long way to go.

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.

Lamest Comment Spam from an “SEO Company” Ever.

All right, all bloggers get comment spam. You just delete them and don’t really give it a second thought. But when it’s so freakishly blatantly SEO spam and it comes FROM an “SEO company” and it’s left ON an SEO blog, I’ve really got to wonder: How dumb are these guys? Do they really think I’m going to approve their comment and that I won’t resent that they’ve tried to paste their unrelated, poorly written marketing drivel in my comments? This is just another example in a long list of reasons why good SEOs have to work so hard to prove themselves — because any numb-nut can call himself an SEO and claim that his lame tactics are SEO best practices. Yuck.

Here’s the text from The Web Coast, minus the links of course, for your amusement.

Our affordable san diego seo services will give your website the web page drop necessary for you to find for those looking for what you do and where they do it. Our expert san diego seo website offers affordable san diego seo services. We know that your company is specialist and it is important for you to find a partner that provides expert honest, ethical results. http:// thewebcoast . com [link removed] is a company that provides affordable search engine placement and investment results not excuses san diego seo website.The site and san diego seo services can provide more traffic to your website than any other online offering. If you use pay per click advertising to reach a page on Google or other search engines as natural biological techniques to dive into a shallow pool share up 14% of traffic for the whole page. If you’re not in two or three first places for your pay per click campaigns, you can see very significant traffic using our Affordable San Diego san diego seo Services. Studies show that 83% of people searching on the internet use organic techniques.
You can read more about it here: http:// guiaourense . com / story . php?id=34824 [link removed]

It all starts including Organic SEO Services. You might call for an Organic SEO Services blog or just natural old economical seo services. We can help you uncover this. Just give us a phone call to get on track. We can answer many questions and satisfy in any blanks that you have.We are a San Diego SEO corporation that offers smart Affordable SEO that include everything from Website Promotion to specific e-commerce solutions and online marketing tools.We take a research-based approach to make sure that you locate target customers through valuable and reasonably priced seo services. If you are interested in improving your organic search engine standing please take advantage of our offerings.

Seriously. Yuck.

I suppose there’s a small chance that a rival of The Web Coast posted this comment to make it look like they were spamming, in the hopes that bloggers would post negative things about them. Looking at their site, the links they included in the comment, and the pages that those links link to, it looks an awful lot like a legitimate and seriously poor attempt at funneling links through various blog and forum posts and profiles, none of which add any value, to get external links eventually pointing back to their primary site. If this is an elaborate smear campaign against an innocent SEO company, I invite The Web Coast to let me know and I’ll gladly recant. I won’t hold my breath.

UPDATE: A comment from Brian R. Brown left on Facebook:

I’d exercise caution in using their services…based on their terms, you might have to pay a restocking fee on any returns: “You will have to pay for all shipping cost along with being SUBJECT TO A 25% RESTOCKING FEE.”

Based on this, the comment spam and a brief look around the site, I’d say Richard Kingston of San Marcos, CA is lucky if he can spell SEO, let alone perform it. Sorry Dick, calling yourself an SEO doesn’t make you one… a spammer is a spammer, regardless of their stripes.

What DOES a keyword restocking fee cost, anyway? A link restocking fee?

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Originally posted on Web PieRat.