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High Rankings Advisor: Search Engine Spam Affects Us All - Issue No. 021

July 30, 2002
________________________________________________________

~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~

*Introductory Comments:
---->   The Ever-changing World of Search Engine Marketing

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   Why Not Just Call 'Em Zebras

*This Week's Sponsor:
---->   AltaVista Express Inclusion

*Guest Article:
---->   Search Engine Spam Affects Us All

*Stuff You Might Like:
---->   Unclaimed-Keywords Reports

*Advisor Wrap-Up:
---->   Anniversaries, Birthdays, Volcanoes and Chocolate
________________________________________________________

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hi everyone! I hope you're all enjoying your summer.  It's been quite
the hot one here in New England for the most part.  We did have a
couple of days last week where it was in the high 90s one day and the
low 70s the next.  That's good old Mother Nature for you!

Like the New England weather, search engine marketing is also ever
changing.  I've basically done things the *right way* from the start,
but there are other marketers who've had to drastically change their
way of working as the search engines have become more sophisticated.
I predict that those companies who continue to fight *against* the
search engines will eventually go out of business.  Things are slowly
moving in that direction, but we're not there yet.

Today's issue is all about taking us one step closer to that scenario.
It may sound a bit preachy at times, but I hope these articles will
give you something to ponder as you proceed with your search engine
marketing campaigns.

As always, please let me know what you think.  Your feedback (both
positive and negative) is always welcome! - Jill


~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

++Why Not Call 'Em Zebras++

[Editor's Note: I changed the name of the type of file in the
following question when I realized it was a trademarked phrase. -
Jill]

From: Jonathan B. Smith [jbsmith@whisprwave.com]

I came across the concept of a Preferential Copy File in my recent SEO
research.  I am not familiar with this technique.  Do you know any
good resources that could provide me with more in-depth details?
Perhaps you have written about it before.

Thanks again for being so responsive.  It is a godsend.

Best regards,

Jonathan

~~~Jill's Response~~~

I had never heard of Preferential Copy File, so I asked Jonathan where
he learned of this concept.  He pointed me to a page from a search
engine optimization company's Web site where they had posted a
definition.  I'm not going to post the exact definition here due to
copyright concerns, but basically they said that these Preferential
Copy Files (PCF) would add content for the search engines without
having to change your site.  They also mentioned that they would be
designed with specific ranking criteria in mind.  But my all-time
favorite part of the definition was the part which said not to confuse
PCFs with a doorway or gateway page.

Umm...okay.

How could these NOT be confused with doorway or gateway pages?  Isn't
this exactly what they are?

In my opinion, a doorway and/or gateway page is one that is designed
strictly to obtain high search engine rankings.  They're basically
used when you don't want to change the actual pages of your site.
This appears to be what PCFs are, according to the posted definition.

Quite frankly, I'm tired of people making up new names for things just
so they won't sound dodgy.

You can call a doorway page a "zebra" if you want, but if it's not
fully integrated into your site through visible links, it's still a
doorway page.  (A rose by any other name, and all that.)  What makes
doorway pages, PCFs (and now zebras!) unacceptable to most search
engines is that they were created for the sole purpose of obtaining
high search engine rankings.  I've said it before, and I'll keep on
saying it until the end of the Internet -- pages that are not an
actual part of your site simply create clutter within the search
engines.  They don't like them nor want them, and may penalize you for
having them.  The engines have enough trouble indexing all the *real*
pages out there without having to index piles and piles of "zebras"
that add no value to your site or their database.

Please, oh please, oh please -- don't create pages just for the search
engines regardless of what you call them.

You *can* have the best of both worlds by making sure that the
existing pages of your site work for the search engines AND your
visitors.  I know I sound like a broken record with this, but it's
true, and it's not even that hard to do.  You simply have to be
willing to do what it takes.  And don't you dare tell me that this is
not a realistic option.  It most certainly is realistic, and it's
something that more and more companies are finally doing.  It used to
be that when I would discuss what needed to be done with a potential
client, they would bristle and say it was preposterous!  Lately, I'm
noticing that most companies don't even blink anymore when I tell
them.  They come to me with a clear idea of what it will take, and
this is simply wonderful!

Even if you have a Flash site, a highly graphical site or a
dynamically generated site, there's nothing stopping you from making
sure that your visitors can find some important information about your
products and services in plain HTML text.  Most likely, they're
already looking for this, so for goodness' sake give it to them!  When
you finally bite the bullet (or get your clients to bite it), you'll
find that the search engines will eat it up and your rankings will
soar.  Not only that, you'll be done with your search engine
optimization forever, because good keyword-rich content has staying
power like you wouldn't believe!

So don't be afraid to make these suggestions to your clients and
bosses.  Once they realize that tricking the search engines is simply
not an option, they'll eventually do what it takes.  If enough people
just say no to tricking the engines, the *smart* ways will prevail.

We've come a long way in the few years since I've been writing about
this stuff, but we're definitely not there yet.  As long as companies
continue to promote "zebra" pages, there will be those who get
suckered into taking the easy way out.  If you're smart, you won't let
it happen to you!


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____________________________________________


~~Guest Article~~

++Search Engine Spam Affects Us All++

This week's guest article was generously written for us by Shari
Thurow, Webmaster/Marketing Director of Grantastic Designs.  You may
have seen Shari speak at one of the Search Engine Strategies
conferences, or remember her from her stint as the moderator of
Adventive's I-Design newsletter.  Shari's been designing and promoting
Web sites since 1995, and has just finished a book entitled "Search
Engine Visibility" (published by New Riders) which will be available
in late fall of 2002.  You can learn more about the book here:
<http://www.grantasticdesigns.com/searchenginebook.html>.

As you will see from her article, Shari holds nothing back when
expressing her views on spamming the search engines.  Enjoy! - Jill

Search Engine Spam Affects Us All
By Shari Thurow

Last week, I did something I haven't done in seven years:  I took a
vacation.  My husband and I went to New Orleans.  And for the first
time, I had a reason to perform travel-related searches on the search
engines.  I searched for all sorts of vacation-related information:
restaurants, hotels, shopping, alligators, haunted houses,
plantations, airboats, etc.  I eventually found everything I was
searching for, but I was dumbfounded at the amount of spam pages I had
to sort through in the search engines.  Not that I haven't had to sort
through spam before. Mortgage, insurance, franchises, and tickets are
all types of searches that will result in a considerable amount of
spam pages.

Even during my long-awaited vacation, it got me thinking about how bad
search engine spam really is.  Personally, I dislike spam as an end
user, as I am sure most people do.  It can be quite frustrating to
keep seeing the same information over and over again for similar
searches, especially on supposedly different domains.  Then I
wondered, how much has spam cost me as a business owner?  In fact, how
much has spam affected all business owners, especially small
businesses, and how has search engine spam affected the search engine
marketing (SEM) industry?

After much thought (and fine New Orleans cuisine), I came up with an
answer.  One of the reasons that it has become increasingly difficult
and costly to be added to the search engine indices is the spammers.

Since I've been a speaker at the Search Engine Strategies conferences
<http://www.searchenginestrategies.com> from the very beginning, I
listened carefully to the search engine representatives, particularly
the Spam Police.  All of the search engine reps stated that over 90%
of submissions to their Add-URL forms are spam pages.  Since the first
conference in 1998, all search engine marketers have witnessed the
gradual disappearance of free submission.

Take Inktomi for example.  Remember when Inktomi had a free Add-URL
form on HotBot?  It worked for awhile, but then it took over 8 weeks
for a site to be added, after the spider checked to see if a site had
links to it from Yahoo and other reputable sources.  Then the "hot"
Add-URL form for Inktomi was at Canada.com, until that form eventually
disappeared.  Inktomi was the first search engine to implement a
paid-inclusion program.  With free submission, it could take months
for a site to be listed in Inktomi. With the paid-inclusion program,
it only took days.  Granted, a site can still be listed in Inktomi for
free, but the turnaround time is too long for most business web sites.

AltaVista is another example of a search engine that has slowly
changed their Add-URL form.  According to the AltaVista reps at the
Search Engine Strategies conferences, spam submissions have
significantly decreased since requiring people to type in a
"submission code" in order to submit.  But again, what used to take a
few days now takes a few months.  Many people who use AltaVista's free
Add-URL form might only get one page listed after a month.  Lo and
behold!  AltaVista now has a paid-inclusion program, just like
Inktomi.

It really hit me how bad spam submissions are via the free Add-URL
forms at the Dallas Search Engine Strategies conference.  A search
engine rep asked me what I would do to improve their search engine.
One of my suggestions was to create an Add-URL form.  The rep said
that they would not create one because it would be a "spam magnet."
However, this search engine does have a paid-inclusion program.  Go
figure.

So a free Add-URL form equals "spam magnet."

A considerable number of unethical search engine marketing firms
utilize cloaking and doorway pages and submit them via the free
Add-URL forms.  They create hundreds or thousands of
computer-generated pages for a single keyword or keyword phrase.  All
of these pages are fed to the free Add-URL forms in the hopes that one
of those pages will appear at the top of the search results.  No
wonder the search engine reps call the free Add-URL forms "spam
magnets."

I'm sure there are many reasons for the evolution of paid-inclusion,
paid-submission and paid-placement programs at the search engines.
But after listening to the search engine reps, I've concluded that one
of the reasons that search engine marketing has become more costly
over the years, is unethical marketers spamming the Add-URL forms.

If you suspect search engine spam, here are the URLs/email addresses
to report them.  (You can also use these addresses if you suspect your
site has been penalized for spamming, or if you wish to dispute a spam
penalty.)

Google: mailto:spamreport@google.com or
<http://www.google.com/contact/spamreport.html>
Inktomi: mailto:spamcrusader@inktomi.com
AlltheWeb.com (FAST Search): mailto:spam@fastsearch.com
AltaVista: mailto:search@support.altavista.com
Teoma/Ask: mailto:info@teoma.com
--

Take care,

Shari Thurow
Webmaster/Marketing Director
Grantastic Designs
http://www.grantasticdesigns.com


~~~Stuff You Might Like~~~

++Unclaimed-Keywords Reports++

In last week's newsletter, I ran a sponsor ad for John Lawlor's
"Unclaimed-Keywords Reports" for Google AdWords Select and Overture.
I was intrigued about what these reports were all about and thought
you might like to learn more about them as well.

Basically, John has compiled two reports: one for Overture, and one
for Google AdWords Select.  They're really just lists of keywords and
phrases that people are searching for in the engines that have no (or
few) current bids.  The Google report has over 9,000 unclaimed
keywords, and the Overture report has over 3,000.  (Overture has fewer
because it's been around a lot longer.)

While browsing through the lists, I wondered how many of these words
could be put to good use in a company's PPC ad campaign.  After all,
there's no sense bidding on keywords that have nothing to do with your
business, and the sheer volume of words in these reports means that a
huge chunk of them will not be applicable to most businesses.  To
satisfy my inquiring mind, I decided to go straight to the source and
ask John about this and a few other things.

Here are some snippets from that exchange:

Jill: How do you see the average company using these lists?  I can see
if you happen to spot words that are relevant to your company that you
would scoff them up and use them.  But there are so many words here,
how many do most companies find that are actually relevant to them?

John: I'm hearing that companies are finding 2-3 dozen keywords that
they can work.  I think that people will only do a comprehensive
review of the entire report once or twice a year. Obviously it is a
lot of work to review almost 10,000 words in one sitting. As I receive
feedback from buyers, I am building a "wish-list" that will help ease
the burden.

One thing that I noticed when doing the research was that I found
hundreds of terms that might be developed into content that could be
used to draw indexing from non-PPC engines. Andrew Goodman makes
several points about this subject in his special report, "21
Techniques to Maximize your Profits on Google AdWords Select."
(Jill's note-- you can read my review of Andrew's report here:
</issue006.htm#seonews2>.)

The Unclaimed-Keywords model will evolve over the next year. My
intention is to continue to survey buyers of my reports in addition to
subscribers to my "Insider Tips for Keyword Buying" newsletter and
teleconference calls, to create useful products and services for the
paid-keyword advertising market. My background is in advertising,
direct marketing and email marketing. I see PPC as an important and
evolving market for advertisers, especially direct marketers. Email
response rates for most direct marketers will fall below 1% within the
next year and yet marketers are still paying relatively high CPM
rates.

PPC provides a new frontier for marketers to access "seekers" at the
time and place that they are seeking -- and only pay for results.

Jill: Aren't many of these unclaimed keywords unclaimed simply because
they are so general and would probably not convert visitors into
buyers?  (Most specifically the one-word keywords.)

John: Absolutely. I made no attempt in these editions to edit these
words. Again, buyer feedback will determine what bells and whistles or
interactivity are added in future versions.

[Jill: Since I was still curious about that last question, I also
posed it to Andrew Goodman.  Here's what he told me:

Andrew: Yes and no. Most of my new clients are still getting amazing
deals so the reason for the unclaimed ones is partly lack of effort
and slow adoption of the program. And yes, partly the generality issue
and lack of conversions, but I wouldn't point to those as the KEY
reasons. Sure it's all very nice to find a very specific,
high-converting phrase, but that might generate 10 impressions a week.
Many advertisers are looking for high volume and can make the
economics work as long as it's reasonably relevant. All I know is that
I am still bidding on some very general keywords myself, and getting
very low rates. If a small company like mine is willing to "waste" 25
cents a click like this, why wouldn't a bigger company (even a
not-so-large company) be willing to do so if they are making a push to
dominate their niche?

I think in the case of Overture the report might even be more useful
than that, if used correctly. There, you CANNOT be charged more than
five cents if you are the only bidder (assuming editorial acceptance).
At five cents per click, even a low-converting campaign can work
nicely.]

Jill:  John, will you be updating these reports, and if so, how often?
Are updates included in the price?  I imagine that the lists would
always be changing.

John: My plan is to do a complete update of each engine on a quarterly
basis. The reports do not come with updates or a subscription. I am
selling them one issue/report at a time. Individual reports list for
$74.50. A special bundled price for 2 reports lists for $119.00 (20%
off).

I am offering launch-special pricing to search engine trade newsletter
subscribers (if they subscribe to my "Insider Tips for Keyword Buying"
newsletter by going to <http://www.johnlawlor.com/subscribe/>) at 20%
off those prices: $59.00 per report or $89.00 for both the Google
AdWords Select and Overture reports.

Jill:  Thanks for helping us to better understand what your reports
are all about, John!  I can definitely see how they could be a useful
addition to many companies' PPC arsenals.  It seems to me that once
these reports start catching on they'll begin to lose their
usefulness.  Therefore, I would highly suggest getting in now while
the gettings are still good!

To learn more or to purchase the lists, please use my affiliate link:
</unclaimed>.


~~~Advisor Wrap-Up~~~

Well, today is my 19th wedding anniversary!  Quite hard to believe,
actually.  I didn't feel like it at the time, but apparently I was a
child bride at age 22!

It's also my dad's 70th birthday.  He and my mom just called me from
the Honolulu airport where they're about to board a small plane to the
Big Island to watch the volcano erupting.  Sounds like quite a
birthday experience.

Hopefully my hubby will come through with some anniversary chocolate.
You subscribers have been a bit lax lately in sending me some, so
shame on you!  (It's not my fault that I eat it too fast!)

Have a great week, everyone! - Jill

 
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