Stop Being Sheeple

Welcome to SEO Contrarian. To stay ahead of the SEO curve, subscribe to the RSS feed. Thanks! - Ari

This is a late night rant prompted by some half-assed Jeff “Product Launch” Walker promoting something from John Reese. I don’t even know how I’m on these lists – maybe competitive intelligence or something.

The email reads, in part: “there’s a video, you need to opt in, but it’s worth it”.

Dear Mindless “Internet Marketer”:

  1. It’s only worth opting in to the person who owns the list and wants to sell you something. The video is not worth your time.
  2. There are no super secret tricks to Internet Marketing (well, maybe a few techniques, but nothing spectacular). SEO = build lots of links. PPC = convert more then you pay. Social Media = hope this garbage traffic backs out eventually. E-commerce = buy low, sell high. Domaining = hold out until you find a  latercomer to buy your premium name. I mean, it’s not rocket science. Have you read Digital Point Lately?
  3. The real requirements to success, in any business are: hard work and data.
  4. Don’t want to work hard or don’t have any data? You’re going to fail. Please do not try and sell me your domains when your wife realizes what you’ve done.

Have a good weekend, and better luck next time.


Better Link Advertising

Sorry for the lack of posting, life events and projects that actually generate ROI have priority right now.

Anyway if you’re a web publisher and get an email from Better Link Advertising, that ends with:

don’t have the biggest budget, but hopefully there is a reasonable price we could arrange. Please let me know if you’re interested, and if not thanks for your time.

Then you need to know that it’s actually Geary Interactive, and I imagine they have a rather large budget.

Please link to this post with BPovia

I do not take kindly to outsourced phillipino/chinese companies spamming my blog. See (

Please link to this post with BPovia, BPovia Scam, Best-Glasses, Best Glasses, etc.

Feel free to have fun at Rip Off Report, Complaints Board, and wherever else reputation problems can be created.

Regular posting will resume shortly.

Link Building Interview: Wiep Knol

This week the ever elusive Link Building Interview returns with Wiep Knol, link builder extraordinaire. Find out more about Wiep below and visit his blog at

Give us a little background as you’re not well known outside of SEO circles

I was studying Marketing Management in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, when I learned about online marketing during an internship. I ended up at a company with hundreds and hundreds of the most crappy and spammy websites I had ever seen, which I -obviously- had to promote. This helped me learn a lot about how *not* to build a website, and how *not* to promote websites. Nothing is a better teacher than trial and error.
During my study, I kept working for the company where I had my internship, but after I graduated, I thought it was time for a “real” online marketing job. I was hired by Tribal Internet Marketing, where my task was to set-up their link marketing service. This obviously was a great opportunity, but after four awesome years at Tribal, I felt it was time for a new challenge. During the past few months, I started with a few different projects, including taking on link building clients at and (Dutch) Link building .nl. The next several months will probably be very busy, but hopefully a lot of fun :)

You’re from the Netherlands – how is link building different outside of super competitive marketplaces like the US, UK and Germany?

It’s different in a lot of ways, but I don’t think it’s easier. First of all, the internet penetration and online marketing knowledge are extremely high in the Netherlands. In both cases, the Netherlands are in the top five countries in the world. Combine that with the fact that there are only a handful of directories (‘Startpaginas’ are more popular here) and article directories in the Netherlands, a relatively low amount of Dutch blogs (most people read English blogs) and outrageous advertising rates at most of the large Dutch portals, and you’ll probably know what it’s like. However, the biggest ingredient of link building is just plain old marketing, and that’s the same almost everywhere…

You and I both seem to stumble upon (or deliberately go out and look for) outrageous and somewhat stupid backlink profiles. What do you think causes people to get themselves involved in this kind of link building?

In some cases it’s ignorance, but in most cases it’s the quest for the quick buck. I don’t know why, but people tend to look for shortcuts in almost anything, and especially in things they do not like to do. And since a lot of people don’t like link building, …
Seriously, some people don’t seem to know how easy it is to connect online dots. If *I* can expose an entire network within two minutes without using a single tool except Google or Yahoo!, can you image how easy this is for search engine reps.

Do you prefer link bait or targeted link acquisition? Why? What tools do you use to help you in your link acquisition?

It really depends on the situation, I like both. Link bait requires creativity and can be a lot of fun, but I can get just as much energy from obtaining a great link. For link acquisition, I usually don’t use any tools except for a search engine. Search engines tell me if a website is (in their eyes) valuable and relevant, and I’ll try to decide if the website could be useful.

Do you think Link building has changed since Vince and Caffeine? If so, how?

No, I don’t think so, except when you’re a big brand. In that case, you can use the same aggressive link building techniques, rank better, and have to worry even less :)

How do you deal with the erosion of the link graph by things like Twitter and Facebook?

I don’t see Twitter and Facebook as an erosion of the link graph, but as an addition to it. Sites like Twitter and Facebook aren’t useful in terms of anchor text rich links, but they’re great for spreading content.

Do you think link building will eventually become an extension of public relations, or will it remain within the purview of straight SEO?

The overlap is quite large, and although I think link building will shift even more towards public relations than it already is at the moment, I think it will always be a mix. Link building is more than public relations, and public relations is more than just link building.

Do you see any value into acquiring links that your competitors already have?

It depends on the quality of the competitors’ link profiles, but in most cases, I do. Usually, I try to copy the good ones and to improve the mediocre ones. However, having the same link profile as one or more competitors will never put you in front of them, so it’s very important that you add links that your competitors don’t (or even better: can’t) have.

What is the single most important piece of advice you could give someone starting out in link building today?

Put on your marketing hat, in stead of your SEO hat.

Why I’m not worried about Personalized Search or Caffeine (And why you shouldn’t be either)

Webmasters and SEO firms everywhere are all in a tizzy over the announcement last week about personalized search being turned on for everybody. The gist of it is that unless you expressly opt out a specific browser, you’re going to get cookied and search results will be reflective of various sites you have clicked through before.

“The possible impact to all is staggering”, they cried. “The rich will get richer”, they bemoaned. The overall atmosphere is one of woe and fear for what’s to come. Personalized search will change the whole game of SEO, and make it harder to rank and compete.

A Quick Sidebar about SEO

First let me remind everyone that optimizing for an algorithm you don’t own (aka SEO) is a game that is forever changing. The very nature of the game is that it’s always getting more complicated – what worked yesterday may or may not work tomorrow and no one really wants to share anyway. So something will always be coming down the pipeline that will “change the whole game of SEO” and the best way to deal with it is roll with the punches, monitor results, see what’s changed, test different hypotheses and make decisions according to the data/anecdotal evidence you see. If you’re running a real business, now would also be a good time to start thinking about diversifying your traffic sources and moving away from the crutch that is Google.

No Big Whoop

Personalized search will make a difference in certain verticals, primarily e-commerce and large informational sites. I personally don’t think it’s bad for the user experience – if you tend to click on Amazon or results more frequently, then that’s probably the result set that’s right for you anyway.

The smaller sites and publishers who view this as a threat should instead view it as an opportunity. We tend to think in terms of search volume, but behind  most  queries, even the big ones (think [credit cards] or [web hosting]) are millions of people who have never searched for that term before. What happens when it’s your site that ranks on either competitive terms or the long tail? You’ll benefit by getting more exposure because of personalized search.

But My Ranking Software is Now Obsolete

It’s probably true: with different results being served to different people, it will make it harder to chart overall rankings. Your real guide should be your analytics software anyway – that’s probably the only place you’ll be able to monitor trends and get a feel for how you’re doing in personalized search.

Ranking Factors Haven’t Changed

Beyond all this hubbub is the fact that many things have stayed the same. Google still uses links as a large factor in rankings, and you can still make Google look stupid with the best of them.

Decaf, Please

Some comments on Caffeine: Never in the history of Google updates have they gone to such great lengths to let people know about changes ahead of time. It’s a game of misdirection that would make Sun Tzu proud. From looking at various result sets and churn, I think a large part of the new structure is live and has been live for some time now.

The thing is, it doesn’t matter anyway. The result sets on Caffeine data centers aren’t finalized, and can be influenced and optimized in roughly the same way as the “old” data sets. A lot of this stuff is smoke and mirrors to keep SEOs second guessing themselves. My advice: Figure out what works and keep doing it until it stops working.

5 Domains You Really Don’t Want to See in Your Backlink Profile

As a public service, here are 5 sites that make it very obvious you are buying paid links. So obvious, that I don’t even need to go look at the site in question to know you’re buying links. It’s one thing to buy links, it’s another thing to be incredibly obvious about it. As an added bonus, I’m saving you money, because most of the sites below have been on Google’s radar for a long time and don’t pass any link juice, as far as I know (if I’m wrong, feel free to correct me).

  1. Forbes – Any outbound direct link that’s not in an article, but rather originates in a section of Forbes, is a paid link. When I see in Site Explorer, I know you’re dropping coin on paid links.
  2. Any Newspaper that is part of the Media News Group. A natural link is going to be in an article. Those links all the way at the bottom of the page in the footer of the home page and index sections? So 2006.
  3. The Christian Science Monitor – Again with the Big Sponsored Link box on the home page.
  4. Most Newspapers run by the McClatchy Group. I guess with advertising dollars declining all these media companies are leveraging pagerank for pennies ?
  5. The Arizona Wildcat – selling links like it’s going out of style for some time, if someone can find the link for me where they were first outed a few years back, drop me a line.

So I imagine some people will be upset by this PSA – before you get all huffy please read my outing policy.

SEO HorseShit Roundup #1

As I mentioned yesterday, it’s time for the first of hopefully many SEO, PPC and Internet Marketing Horseshit roundups, where we call Horseshit on various articles published around the web. This weeks winners include:

  1. Google Indexation Crap from SEOMoz. Seriously? The idea that each site gets an indexation cap is a pile of crap. Really what’s happening is that sites are poorly optimized or don’t have enough inbound links. Don’t believe me? Try or No indexation cap there..
  2. How I made Blah Blah Blah from Jonathan Volk guest posting on ShoeMoney. Excellent example of how not to deliver on a title. Besides, who cares man?
  3. Facebook ROI from Third Tier Medical School – from Giovanni Galucci – seriously, there is no such thing as ROI from a Facebook Page. I blame Giovanni less and the person managing the page for the medical school more as she probably needs to justify her job.
  4. Finally, this image ad for Text-Link-Ads on the sidebar of Search Engine Roundtable made me laugh:tla-linkplan

Letting TLA Build your link plan is roughly akin to asking the cops for help setting up your cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy cartel. Nothing good will come of it.

That’s it for this week, hope you enjoyed it as much I had a blast writing it.

Shabbat Shalom (Dude! I don’t link on shabbos)!

New Outing Policy

One of the purposes of this blog is to bring back real information to the SEO world and prevent SEO from going completely underground. To that end there’s a lot of stuff I’d like to post about, including, but not limited to:

  1. cloaking/ip delivery to increase conversions
  2. Backlinks you don’t want to see in your link profile
  3. How Corporate SEO is not like regular SEO

(In Fact many of these posts are already written).

There are concrete examples showing real life case studies about how things work. Of course by doing so I’m going to be showing techniques and sites that might not make Google so happy. I also have issues with outing in general, but I feel that the information shared more then makes up for the outing in general.

Therefore, the SEO Contrarian new outing policy and guidelines is as follows:

  1. Outing will not be used as a deliberate tactic to expose competitors. (Unlike certain other SEO blogs).
  2. Sites that are owned by small to medium sized business will not be displayed where possible.
  3. Sites that only generate revenue/traffic from search (According to available usage tools) will not be mentioned.
  4. Brands, Publicly Traded Companies, Fortune 1000, INC 500 and all other well known companies are fair game.
  5. If it’s possible to display concrete examples while blocking out real site information, then that’s the first choice (similar to the WebMasterWorld model).
  6. I can change this policy or ignore it at my discretion.

This policy is effective immediately, but I would love to solicit reader feedback. If you have issues with this policy, please post in the comments.

Announcing the Weekly Horseshit Roundup

I want to put out a brief post and announce the Weekly Horseshit roundup.

Every week I”ll post the worst articles published on the web about anything related to Search, mock them, and tell you why they suck.  But I need your help – thankfully I don’t see most of the crap out there, so please use the contact form and send me the worst crap you’ve seen each week.

Why am I doing this?

  1. So I can bring back the link roundup (even if it’s via to block link juice).
  2. Because I can:-)

How to Be a Better SEO in 30 Minutes a Day

My previous post on Scarcity, SEO, Integrity and Lemons elicited both publicly and privately a number of responses. One of the major themes that seemed to pop up was that if most of the information that is publicly available is crap, how does one become  better at Search Engine Optimization?

Beyond that – I was recently rereading No B.S. Time Management for Entrepreneurs by Dan Kennedy. He talks about using dead time (on planes, waiting for a doctor’s appointment etc) to go through various trade journals and magazines to keep up to date on your industry. As I read that I reflected that there are a lot of blogs and forums within the Search Marketing industry, and if you didn’t know any better you could spend most of your day reading what’s written, treating it as gospel and continuously not ranking.

With that out of  the way, here are a number of things you can do each week to improve your SEO skills and rank higher, faster.

30 Minutes: Research in other verticals

Want to find new ideas, devious ways of link building, bizarre rankings, and new link sources? The best way is to move out of your incestuous little niche and see how people and companies are building links across different segments of the web. If you’re involved in retail, spend some time researching B2B rankings. If you’re an affiliate, go see how the corporate companies do it. There’s a never ending fountain of ideas for the taking, you just need to go and find them. See my SEO Toolbox post for excellent link research tools.

30 Minutes: Conduct R&D

My buddy Branko spends most of his SEO time conducting all kinds of tests and experiments to figure out what works. Not only that, he actually gets paid to do it, too! While I doubt you can fully apply the scientific method to an algorithm you don’t own, it’s still an excellent way to gauge how different types of links and content affect various search results. For added benefit, try risky tactics on competitors first.

30 Minutes: Get Better SEO Training

There are a number of SEO Training programs out there. The only one I vouch for, as a very satisfied customer, is the SEO Training by Aaron Wall at SEOBook.  I know there are other ones and you can try them, the only one I’ve used is Aaron’s. Let’s just say that the forum and the people you’ll meet there will pay for itself in gold.

30 Minutes: Step Outside the SEO Circle Jerk

We’ve already established that most SEO blogs are crap. But there are a TON of well written, informative blogs on subjects like lead generation, sales, conversion optimization, web design, offline marketing, online marketing, business processes, and everything else related to running a business besides SEO. One day I’ll get around to making a list of some of them, but a few google searches will point you in the right direction.

30 Minutes: Read a book

I read. A lot. The amount of inspiration, solid ideas, tactics and strategies that I have derived from books is incredible. The value you get from good writing by competent authors is tremendous. Obviously business books are important – I’ve read most of the books on the Personal MBA list.  At the same time, books on your favorite subject, on a new field, or pretty much anything that isn’t a trash thriller will stimulate your mind and help you to see things from a new perspective.

30 Minutes: Competitive Research, Baby

This isn’t strictly about finding better links. What sites are your competitors running? How are they positioning themselves? Go through their sales process – see how your competitors upsell, cross sell, and build their customer list. How do they treat existing customers? Call customer support and be incorrigible. What kind of deals do they send you after you’ve been a first time customer? The possibilities are endless.

The only thing holding you back from being better is yourself. There’s plenty of ways to build your own knowledge base and your own experiments that with time, will help you wipe the floor with your competition.