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December 29, 2005

It's A Wonderful Internet

For all of the fans of Frank Copra's well known movie, It's A Wonderful Life, this link is for you:
It's A Wonderful Internet

Enjoy, and Happy Holidays from MasterLink!

December 19, 2005

AOL picks Google over MSN in new deal

AOL has chosen to use Google for all aspects of its search needs. No more than two weeks ago the Wall Street Journal stated that MSN was in the final stages of inking a deal to provide the AOL with its search services. The deal is expected to be announced formally tomorrow.

Published reports claim that Google has paid $1 billion to take a 5 per cent stake in the media giant. This is good news for AOL as it has struggled with a lower subscriber base and problems with its merger with Time Warner.

Google will promote AOL web properties and include AOL's online videos "amongst the search results", adds the Wall Street Journal, ambiguously. 'Amongst' may mean 'as part of', or it may mean along side', and there's a world of difference between the two. Google emerges from the negotiations as an advertising powerhouse. It will use AOL's ad sales team and make use of a range of advertising inventory, such as banners, that brand conscious advertisers demand.

The deal is principally about advertising, but the pair also agreed to extend their search agreement, signed in 2001, for another five years.

In MSN's fight to 'build a better mouse trap' it seems Google has thrown a large obstacle in the way of MSN's fight to the top.

-Mark Barrera
The MasterLink Group, Inc.
Search Engine Marketing Services

December 15, 2005

Is Google’s algorithm working against them?

A large debate has sprung up on the Internet between Jeremy Zawodny and Matt Cutts on the practice of selling links. In a post by Zawodny, he has discussed the many ways he has attempted to profit from his popular blog. It seems the latest is by selling sponsored links to clients who also benefit by receiving a piece of his well-ranked site with a PR8. It seems that Cutts had no objections until it came to the practice of selling sponsored links outside of the large advertisers such as Google. Recently Google has been altering their algorithm to fight against the purchase of links by penalizing sites that purchase links to gain a higher page rank. There also seems to be a different issue that must be addressed. Google itself makes the majority of its revenue by selling ads through its contextual advertising program, Adsense. The issue at hand is whether Google can really start penalizing sites for selling links, because this is what Google itself is doing when it plasters Adsense all over the Internet. It seems as if they deem themselves the Internet authority so everyone must play by their rules or else suffer at their hands while they don’t have to abide by any rules themselves. Google is attempting to influence these link sellers to use the rel="nofollow” attribute in order to prevent the passing of page rank. This leads to the question of for whom websites are created for….Should programmers focus all efforts on making Google happy or design for the benefit of the reader as well as the company who owns the site. It seems as if Google is attempting to force its rules on all web developers and punish people for practices that have been common since the introduction of the Internet. Matt Cutts seems to take the argument that Google should be allowed to down-rank pages such as Zawodny’s for selling links if they choose to do so. How fair is it to punish a site with some of the most relevant information just because people are willing to pay for links from such a popular site? It seems as if Google, by putting such a strong emphasis on page ranks may be causing some problems that may not have been foreseen and are now coming to the forefront of discussion. Also, it seems that Google may be worried that webmasters may take the selling of ads into their own hands and stray away from the use of one of Google’s cash cows – Adsense. I would like to say however that I do think that some standard should be created to prevent spammy sites from attaining high PRs in order to just gain a buck, but punishing everyone who sells links even when they have relevant content just doesn't seem to be fair. Google should be VERY careful in deciding how to attack this issue as I predict that an algorithm change in the near future may be focused on this issue.

On a side note, it seems that Matt Cutts had been linking to Zawodny's site and not using a "nofollow" tag. After Cutts' comments on this topic, the links have now been changed to include this reference or removed all together. Removing PR benefits from a non-paid link? Hmm....can't everyone do this and essentially eliminate the whole idea behind page rank?

Ahh.....the things we do to make Google happy.

-Mark Barrera
The MasterLink Group, Inc
Search Engine Marketing Services

December 12, 2005

Excellent Review of SEO Ranking Factors

I got this link today on one of my RSS feeds.  This came to me from the Beanstalk Blog
Many lists have been written of the various factors used to rank websites however I've yet to see one so well researched and presented as the one on the SEOmoz website.

The contributors to this list include:
  • Danny Sullivan
  • Dan Thies
  • Jill Whalen
  • Scottie Claiborne
  • among others
I found this very useful and getting multiple perspectives from active industry experts cuts through a ton of the misinformation that is out there,
Jack Spirko
The MasterLink Group, Inc

December 07, 2005

Microsoft and AOL may be close to a deal

According to a report in the New York Times today, Time Warner will most likely not sell a stake in AOL or sell the business outright, but will strike a partnership with either Microsoft or Google. A story in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) names Microsoft as the frontrunner, saying the two are close to a deal.

Google currently provides AOL with its organic and paid search results, and shares revenue generated by the ads with AOL. Microsoft is currently piloting its own paid search listings, and has its own organic search engine, which could replace Google on AOL. Google's current contract with AOL ends in 2006.

The Times said the deal with Microsoft could include creating a joint advertising sales force with MSN, but that Google would not be interested in such an arrangement.

This just adds fuel to the fire in regard to my article MSN Building a Better Mousetrap?

Jack Spirko
Search Engine Marketing Specialist
The MasterLink Group, Inc

December 06, 2005

Is MSN Search Building a Better Mouse Trap?

It is an old cliché, build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door.  Looking back at the history of the search industry there is no better proof of this then the success of the internet search giant Google but are they now being beaten at their own game?  Possibly, let’s look at how Google got to where they are, what has happened since they became the “big dog” and what their most recent algorithm changes mean for web users and Google’s competitors. 
First let’s start with why Google became “the search engine”.  In the beginning of search engines there were a ton of players some you may remember and some you may not.  Some survived and others died off and many of the small fish were eaten up (bought out) by their brothers as the big three and came to control the vast majority of the search market.  Google came out of this with the biggest chunk by far of that majority, it didn’t hurt that for a while they were actually providing the results of their competitors (it was not that long ago that Yahoo was simply a mirror of Google’s results) but there was something more at the core of their success. 
Keep in mind that as this war was raging the internet was really still quite young and there were a lot less sites online even say 3 years ago then there are today.  Take that back 7-8 years when the net was really starting to grow and Google first launched in 1998.  At that time people where not yet doing a ton of “buying” online they were more in the information gathering world.  You really have to think about what it was like just a short time back.  People were quickly moving to looking up any question, concept or piece of information online and for a huge number of people it was a brand new experience.  Further when you started trying to find sites about monarch butterflies or classic muscle cars or fine cigars there were actually a lot less sites out there about what ever subject it may have been that you were looking to learn about.  

Today's New Tool

It honestly amazes me how much information can be acquired if you just know where to look. For a while I have kept this little gem to myself but today I will share it with you.

This tool is called the Marketleap Link Popularity Check

Yes yet another link checking tool but this one is very cool in its own way

First you enter any site you want to check links for and up to 3 additional sites you also have an option to select a "category" such as books, computers, media etc.

You then click Generate Report and the first report you will get is a listing of the websites you entered, their total link popularity over all the main search engines and about 30 sites from the category you selected. (if you don't select a category it will default to "general") You then see your sites back links and how they compare to those other 30 sites across a spectrum that measures your "Total Presence"

Presence is classified into one of the following areas

Limited Presence
Average Presence
Above Average
900 Pound Gorilla

The number of link to qualify for each level varies with the category and appears to be based on what the top 5-6 sites in each category rank.

As if this was not enough once you run a report on your site you create a bench mark which is stored in the Market Leap data base so when you come back you can pull up a report called a "Trend History Report" so you can see a graph of your growth or loss of back links. There is no user name or password or account info required anytime anyone runs a report on ANY SITE the data point is stored. Hence you may find a lot of info on your competition already stored for your review.

One more cool thing since you can run a report on any site your competitors may be running checks on you if you go in and check one of your sites and see that trending data is available you KNOW someone is checking up on your site. The more dates recorded the more often you are being checked on. Keep track of the days you run your reports and you will know every time a competitor uses this tool to check up on you. You may not like being "checked out" but one thing is for sure if you getting looked at you know you are doing something right.

There is also another report called a Search Engine Saturation Report which just tells you how many pages of a site are indexed for the main search engines and this report shows trending as well. This is a great tool for the do it yourself type and a great tool professionals can use to show clients trending in their back links and indexing.

Again you can find this tool at the following Link - Marketleap Link Popularity Check

Jack Spirko
Search Engine Marketing Specialist
The MasterLink Group, Inc - Dallas Web Design

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December 02, 2005

Yet Another Tool

This morning I was wondering what new tool I could find that would add value to the things I have already posted about. 
This tool is really great if you understand how to use it right.  What it will do is identify common SEO techniques for any term you are looking to rank. 
What you do is find a site that ranks well for a term you are looking to rank a page of your own for, enter the competitors site and the terms you want to rank for and click
"Analyze Page"
Now a lot of tools do this but what I particularly like is the data that is compared on one page side by side that allows you to quickly identify what I consider to be under utilized soft targets.  You see not only does it show the on page factors like key word density, tags, and even key word densities for the first 250, 500 and 1000 characters it also shows back links.  I know if you use tools similar you are thinking big deal right?
But wait go try it with a site you are familiar with and what should quickly jump out at you is the fact that you can identify four specific types of sites that rank at the top for a term or phrase
1.  Good on page factors (tags, density, etc) and good off page factors (inbound links)  - This means the term is most difficult to acquire as both sides need to be right to sit on the top of the heap
2.  Bad on page factors and good off page linking - This may actually be a harder competitor to beat in any event you know this term is driven highly by off site factors and that will be important to both how you go after it and IF you go after it depending on the number of links the number one and number ten ranked competitors on google have. 
3.  Bad off page factors but good on page factors - This is a relatively soft target because it is driven mostly by on page factors which you can analyze and better and off page factors are weak so a few good links can really push you to the top.
4.  Relatively poor off page factors and relatively poor on page factors -  If this type of phrase has traffic behind it you have found a nugget of pure gold!  It is a term you can just get a few good links for and adjust the page for density and tagging and simply take the top of all the big engines for it.  This is one of the key things we target for our clients at MasterLink. 
The key here is to understand that if you have a choice to rank well for a SINGLE term that will bring you 1000 visitors a month it will be competitive and you will have to stay on it heavy, one major update can tank it and you have to start all over to push it back up.  However if over time you can take good rankings for 50-100 niche terms that combine to provide you with the same 1000 visitors if you loose any of them in an update your liability is limited.  This can easily be compared to buying a mutual fund vs... a single stock to limit total liability.
The right way of course is to over time build a portfolio of rankings that include all four types of terms outlined here but the time to acquire and labor necessary to maintain each will vary by making sure you have a good mix you can build a lot of stability and more important a ton of steady traffic.  What I really like about this tool is it will quickly help you sort terms into one of the above 4 categories.
Jack Spirko
Search Engine Marketing Specialist
The MasterLink Group, Inc