Some Conference Discounts

I am at a few conferences in the US over the next few months, so I asked the organisers if there were any discount codes. Take them quick, as they may not last forever. Certainly, the Pubcon one expires in less than a month.

Search Exchange: 3-5 Oct, Charlotte, NC, USA. Get US$250 off with this: “majesticnews”

eMetrics: 18-20 Oct. and IMC: 19-21 Oct. New York, USA. Again, use this: “MAJNY1115”. (sorry – I don’t know what the discount amount is)

Pubcon: 7-10 Nov, Nevada, USA. Get 20% off before 15th October using “ex-4565120”.

If you are coming to any of these events, let me know. Maybe a beer?

Why the Page Rank Toolbar has Little to do with Links

Everyone assumes that green line is all to do with backlinks.



I’ll demonstrate.

Everyone assumes that green line is all to do with backlinks.



I’ll demonstrate.

Seasoned SEOs have been trying to tell you for years to stop looking at that little green line on the Google Toolbar plugin. I only found out this morning that the toolbar has recentlly been updated, when Evilgreenmonkey twittered verbal abuse at realizing Jane Copland was Page Rank 5 from nowhere. First things first… congratulations Jane, but that’s certainly no disrespect to Rob, who (apart from being far too young) certainly knows his stuff! I admit that vanity then got the better of me and I looked at my own page rank. (Note to self – listen to your own advice… ignore that green line, at least for link purposes.)

Let’s look at these three bloggers – PR5: Dixon Jones (your unworthy narrator); PR5: Jane Copland (Erstwhile Mozzer) & PR4: Rob Kerry (Evilgreenmonkey).

So two at PR5 and one at PR4. Evilgreenmonkey must have the least links, yes? er… no. He has the most. He has ALWAYS had the most. Rob started actively blogging (it seems) back in April 2007. Compared to myself – latecomer – in September 2007. I’ve never caught him on links as you can see below.


But WAIT… maybe back links is a bad measure? Maybe it is actually the number of referring domains that we should be looking at? Well I would be inclined to agree, but here, Rob trumps me even more:


Now Janecopland’s site is so new that I can’t even see her site in the Wayback archives and Majestic hasn’t gotten around to analyzing her backlink data yet, but Receptional’s own backlink tools take a more up to date source and we can see that she is even further behind Rob at the moment in every metric:


Heck – according to Google and Yahoo, Jane’s only got 11 pages indexed!

So there you have it. That PageRank green line is not all about links.

So why DOES Google give the green lines out the way it does? Well Google says it in the first screenshot… it is about “Google’s view of the importance of this page”, not “Google’s view of the importance of links to this page”. It is a long way away from the “PageRank” described in the original Stanford patent and is more like a horoscope reading than a scientific measure.

Let’s face it, you don’t need to go far to see why Google makes the distinction. Prior to Evilgreenmonkey posting on 4th April, his previous post on that domain was September 3rd (presumably 2008). Before that, July 4th. When he writes, Rob gets heard and plenty of people comment, but you still need to actually write content for Google to chew up and digest.

I think that Jane will have to work hard to maintain Google’s impression of her site, though. From the limited data I have, concurs that Jane’s site has some traction – but we have seen time and again new sites doing well in Google for a short period and then retracting back as Google gets more data.


I hope that’s cleared things up a bit about that green fairy dust as Mike Grehan calls it.


Best Search Conferences for Speakers

I have been to many conferences on search over the years. If you are – or want to be – on the speaker circuit, here’s my pick of the best.

Over the last 10 years I have thoroughly enjoyed speaking at conferences around the world. My first real out of the UK speaking gig was in Vancouver. It was great. I took the chance to ski down Blackcombe Mountain and see Vancouver Island. I haven’t been to that one for a long time though – so I don’t know how it fairs. If you are trying to get onto the speaker circuit, some conferences are better than others. Here are my fabourites:

No 6: SMX Sweden. This is a lovely conference. I enjoyed it when it was SES driven and I am still enjoying it now. Mostly for the conference food, which is the best I have had consistently. I always feel saddened when I bust a gut to do a presentation because I know the audience paid a lot… then the audience sits down to eat a sandwich from a box. Not in Stockholm though!

No 5. Affiliates4U Amsterdam. To be fair, this conference hasn’t even happened yet, but having seen just how professionally run A4U was run at London Excel (which doesn’t make my list due to the location), this looks to be a great show for speakers. 

No. 4: SMX Advanced[Edit-add: The one in Seattle] As a speaker in pure business terms, this must be seen as a pinnacle. I have to be honest – I’ve not been a speaker here. It’s a conference where everyone in the room seems to have been a speaker at some conference or other… so getting a speaking gig here is a bit rarer than some others.

No. 3: Pubcon, Las Vegas. I like the diversity of speakers, attendees and sponsors here. Some people think that this conference was for “mom and pop” companies but they really should have gone to the last few. After one talk I did, the people that came up to ask questions and shake my hands included Facebook and Ebay. It’s also in Las Vegas… if you like that sort of thing…

No. 2: SES San Jose. It’s huge… and it’s really nice and warm. For a Brit, we are not used to either. The hotels have massive pools and the whole town seems to be connected to WiFi. You also get to go to the Google Dance… although I have heard that may be coming to an end 🙁

No. 1: RIMC in Iceland. You just cannot beat this conference as a speaker. I have gone twice and I have been taken to Hot sulpher baths, Massive Ice-covered waterfalls and Geysirs. I’ve been to Viking villages and eaten everything from Argentinian steak to rotting fish. The rotting fish was voluntary. It is THE event that speakers go for not as a means to an end, but as an end in itself.

Tata for now.


A Blog Link is worth 5X a Comment Link

Today I managed to work out that for every link that you get in a blog post, you’ll get 478% more conversions than getting a list in the comments following a blog post.

Today I managed to work out that for every link that you get in a blog post, you’ll get 478% more conversions than getting a list in the comments following a blog post. I love taking a set or list of data and being able to use it to deduce something new.

Funnily enough, I got the research data after Kevin Gibbons listed 10 UK Search Marketing People You Should Know (on Twiitter). Almost immediately, Rishil added a few other names in the comments. (Rishil is my new best friend for mentioning me). I saw the post pretty early on, before it got well and truly Sphunn and figuring that it would go hot I went through everyone’s twiiter profile to see how many followers they had. Then – just now – I went through the same list 24 hours later and recorded their new follower count. With the exception of one “outlier” listed at the bottom, I could see the difference in sign-ups between those listed in the main post and those listed in the comments. On average – over the 24 hour period – the main posters increased their followers by 43, whilst those in the comments increased their followers by 9. So the post links were nearly 5 times more valuable in terms of “conversions” than the comment links.

Whilst the way of generating this data is a little “off the wall” I think it stands up reasonably well as a way to measure. On its own you couldn’t call it scientific, because during that time people may have followed for other reasons, but that back ground noise will only server to up 478% a little – so rounding still end up with a five times increase.

So now you know – something to tell your clients. Getting cited in a blog post is five times more valuable than being cited in a blog comment – given that the citations are similar in context.

Top UK Search Bloggers on Twitter

Twitter Name Listed Follower Increase Blog URL 52 46 46 49 41 41 [fixed] 35 46 29
      Average Increase 43  
Listed in comments: by 8 13 12 6 6
        Average Increase 9  

(List via 10 UK Search Marketing People You Should Know.)

Notes on the analysis:

Excluded from data analysis: who increased by 418 followers, but with 17,513 followers he kinda skewed results! Jim… while I am here… that’s WAY too many.

Google’s Glass Ceiling

There is some evidence that Google may be throttling traffic to some sites on purpose, thereby creating a Google glass ceiling for your site. Is it happening to you? Are you getting more or less the same number of visitors every day from the world’s favourite search engine?

A small “Google awakening” happened on Tuesday night. There seems to to be a “Google Glass Ceiling” in the serps for certain types of sites. Mileage might vary, but if your site is pulling more weight than Google thinks it should, there is mounting evidence that Google is throttling your organic SERPS traffic. It has been something that has nagged at me for sometime, but I was a little reluctant to risk the collective derision and laughter of the SEO community for bringing it up. But now I seem to be finding followers to the theory.

The awakening happened on a boat on the Thames. Maybe the Glass capsules of the London Eye provided the trigger? Maybe not. But there were 500 people on the boat – and pretty well every one of them is affected on a daily basis by Google… because A4U is by far the largest affiliate conference in the UK and – if Mathew Wood‘s peformance was anything to go by, will soon be the largest affiliate conference on the planet. These guys are good!

So I heard a person say “I can’t seem to break through a glass ceiling of XXX visitors a day from Google”. I then asked another well known affiliate, Loquax, who also admitted that even though his major site had dropped to 10th for his big one phrase keyword recently, his traffic had remained static from Google for nearly a year. Plot it weekly… flatline!

I talked to Jo Conner – with his inspired Can’, a man who does far too much Tai Chi and far too little “real” work as I understand it. He said the same. I look at one of my own sites, Murder Mystery Games and I see the same. It seems to be that sites are “flatlining” on Google and although everyone seems to be settling at a different number, that number represents Google’s Glass Ceiling for the domain. You can push through it, but you’ll need to do something just a bit more… or at least a bit different.. to break the ceiling and take it to the next level.


Now I’m happy enough for Matt Cutts or Brian White or Adam Lasnik or John Mu to jump right in here and say “no, no, no Dixon – you must be dreaming” – but then it’s only going to take a few people to say “hey – yeh – that’s happening to me” for the idea to stick. At that point… if their really is a Glass Ceiling for some if not all sites, then one has to ask if Google are being fully transparent here? (Pun intended… an affiliate suggested I use it… I won’t name him).


It doesn’t – on the surface – seem to make sense. Google is all about pushing the best result to the users… aren’t they? But when your site is in that twilight zone of being well enough established in Google to stop looking at the daily rankings with fear and intrepidation, but not established enough to start getting “One Box” results (the ones where you get several links in poition one) on your almost generic brand name, then these are the kinds of sites that seem to be getting the Google throttle. Google knows there are several sites that may offer similar value to the user and it is in everyone’s interest (conveniently including Google’s) to give each of these sites a slice of the proverbial free action… in the spirit of “competition is good as long as it’s all done on Google”.


Not all styles of site face this ceiling. WordPress and the general blogosphere really wouldn’t notice this, as the blog content tends to work on link baiting and social network seeding rather than the traditional index to succeed. The result for bloggers is a far more volatile existence. There should be a saying – if there isn’t already – you are only as good as you last blog.


What worries me the most, is that if this hunch is correct, why has it taken so long to be “outed”? surely most of us look at traffic not rankings as a better key performance indicator don’t we? Maybe we jumped straight from looking at rankings before the Florida update many years ago all the way to looking at conversions from organic without stopping to look at the obvious middle statistic of the good old fashioned click?

WordPress Blog Promotion – Joost Style

At A4U Joost is presenting on WordPress Optimisation. He has some great tips – so much that I am in danger of missing my own talk by watching his!

Joost is speaking at the A4U expo on Blog Promotion. Specifically: “Optimising for WordPress”. He started with a load of tips for plugins, but to make sure you go to see his site, you’ll have to go and find the presentation in full from his blog.

He gave some promotion tips and some conversion tips.

Promotion tips:

  • Go where the readers go. Sphinn, LinkedIN, Reddit, Digg. Social Networks.
  • Don’t bait with bad content, because users unsubscribe and never return.
  • Do Guest posts on bigger blogs. Saves the big guys writing posts, and you get the promotion for your own blog.
  • Turn visitors into fans, by getting the users to subscribe. The subscribe button just can’t be big enough! (I’ll make mine bigger soon).
  • Most readers don’t know what RSS is – so give users a chance to subscribe by email as well.
  • Remind people to subscribe after each post.
  • Comment Redirect or Comment relish helps new commenters by redirecting them through to a subscriber message.

Improving conversion on your blog:

  • Ask for comments
  • Thank people for commenting
  • Get to know your readers. Follow the links they leave and see why they like you
  • Answer all questions and respond to all feedback
  • Reward Good remarks, by giving them credit for their comments by way of another blog post
  • Keep people involved, by commenting on others’ comments and maybe getting a plugin to receive comments by email when they are posted.
  • Don’t distract users. Get the Track-backs pushed to the bottom.
  • Always fight spam in the comments (at least by enabling Akismet)
  • Keep it simple to comment
  • Measure, Improve and Repeat
Some great tips – and I certainly haven’t done most of them. Especially turning users into subscribers. So – feel free to hot the very small subscribe button!
Right – I have to go and prepare my own presentation next, on Internet Marketing Howlers.

Number 1 for “Search Engine Optimisation”

Back in 2001, who was number 1 for “search engine optimisation” on Google? Yes! and here’s the proof.

Ah! Memory lane. Look at THIS search result:


Unfortunately, it’s based on Google’s first ever Index in 2001, which they have brought back for their 10th birthday. We were number 1-3 for about a year on Google, Lycos and Yahoo, generally sharing the results with Mark Garwell from Webplacing and Barry Lloyd from MakeMeTop.

Then after a year two things happened. The first was that our site at number one got booted from DMOZ by a zealous editor and we found out that the customers with the money weren’t looking for “search engine optimisation”, they were looking for “internet marketing consultancy” or some other term.

So where was your site ranking in 2001 on Google Matt Cutts? Go and check it out.

Search Optimisers can’t boil the ocean

Rebecca Berkich works for Xerox. She manages their seach efforts in-house across most of the world, except the Far East where she has to coordinate efforts with a sister brand. I had the pleasure of hearing her take on search marketing at the International Search Summit, held at the British Library a few weeks back.

Rebecca’s role seems to mostly be going around variuos stakeholders within Xerox trying to edge them slowly… ever so slowly… towards understanding what they are doing from a search perspective. It’s got to be tough call, trying to convince copier salesmen that they need to write search friendly copy and use a search friendly architecture.

She used the phrase “you can’t boil the ocean”. I had never heard that phrase before, but it SO applies to search problems in large organisations. I see so many parallels with the anaology:

“You Can’t Boil the Ocean” can be applied to what you want to achieve in search. A large company has hundreds – if not thousands of web addresses and domains. But you still can’t be number one in search for everything (unless you are Wikipedia, in which case… can someone fix that please? Jason Calconis has had a free ride for far too long). Why would you want to be top for everything? Seth Godin talks about the “Purple Cow” – a product that can rarely be found – as the way to get noticed. Being all things to all people is the way to be nothing of value to anyone. You can’t boil the ocean… because it won’t all fit in the saucepan!

“You can’t boil the Ocean” can also be applied to the people within a large organisation. You can’t get them all fired up to move in the same direction. It’s frankly like trying to heard cats (or DUCKS as we were doing on Tuesday!). Again – why would you want to? Everyone in the organisation has a different agenda – sometimes in the company interst, sometimes in ther own interest, but rarely in YOUR interest. You might get a few ducks to line up all at once, but never all of them. You can’t boil the ocean, because the water just keeps on drifting back into the sea.

Search Engine Land’s 2000th Facebook Member is…?

I just noticed that Search Engine Land’s Facebook group has just recruited its 2000th member. I thought I knew the first few members – but was surprised that I also know the 2000th! Jason Duke has been on the search scene forever (Warning – You Tube Link)- you may have seen him walking around wearing a Spam sandwichboard if you have been in this game long enough. I thought I’d capture a screenshot of the 2000th search Engine Land member on Facebook for prosperity.

search engin land has 2000 visitors

 All I can say, Jason, is “What kept you?” 🙂



Link building: Short term vs Long term strategies

Why I still believe short term link building is bad – even though it works.

I read an unusually philosophical post from Joost about not getting ahead of yourself in being too visionary. He started after Roy started talking about being visionary in the first place. Everyone on Joost’s blog seems to agree with Joost that you should do what works today in SEO, to do the best for your client.

Joost – Someone’s gotta disagree with you 🙂

I agree with Roy. But before I make my argument, paid links are still working. I was alarmed to see a significant but smaller competitor to a client of ours hit number 1 for a BIG “PPC” volume keyword (Porn-Pills-Casino for the uninitiated). In the last three months, the competitor’s backlinks from sites CONTAINING the target keyword increased… from hundreds… to 70,000.

Now that smells of paid links to me, and the number one slot has ensued. Certainly artificial links. But when we PROPERLY explain to a Brand savvy client how the competitor did it, the client doesn’t say “yum, I’ll have some of that”. They just don’t want to risk their brand reputation and to be frank, nor do we. In fact – the opposite.

Roy is right – big companies are so darn useless at understanding and implementing SEO recommendations, you cannot make recommendations that won’t outlast the latest fad. Link manipulation still works – but every link brings with it an association with the web page it is on. That can be a bad thing. We have a client asking legal questions about backlinks they didn’t ask for (and we didn’t provide them with).

Back in 2000 I was looking at Links (well before the Google reason) and found Shell Oil linking to Friends of the Earth on its corporate responsibility pages. Probably not in the FOE’s interests I would wager.

The same goes for “bigbrand*com” getting links and recommendations from “dodgysite*com”… unknown quantities that may one day come home to roost.

So it’s not so much about being visionary, as it is about building on principals that will be as long term as the brands we represent.

Gordon Brown was at a Google Zeitgeist forum yesterday. When asked about the industry he paraphrased someone else saying “the first 500 years of any institution are always the most difficult