I know Dell get a lot of stick for their customer service and a load of other stuff. I must admit I like Dell and I have always had good support from them, but I do have a bugbear with the fact that Dell’s are difficult to expand, as they seem to remove extra slots from the mother board.

Anyway, onto to real reason for this post. Over time I have decided to look at the many special offers on Dell. Some seem really good. But Dell have this habit of saying one thing at the beginning of the transaction and for some unknown reason they switch the prices around. So what you thought was a great deal on page 1, then flips back to the original price on the second page. After Going through this many times on different offers I find out that the savings were added right at the very end, just before putting your credit car details in!

So I thought I would try and find one to show you. Whilst not strictly the same shows the loony things that Dell do.

Image 1 shows the price down from 719 to 599, that’s sterling btw. So by progressing to the next page you see I got presented with a different price. A considerably different £860 down to £740. WTF! The discounted price I am now being told is more than the price I was originally told.

Image 1

Image 2

So lets take it one stage further. Image three is the first time I am given the opportunity to add to the basket. OK, most people would want to do some customising, but still missing a call to action in my book.


Image 3

So lets look at the last but on stage, which is shown in image four, which has the price breakdown. I see a grand total of £739.99. So more than what I was told originally on the first page of the Dell site. But wait just a god damn minute, there is a delivery charge shown on the bill, £60. You lying bastards, you said it includes “Vat and Shipping”. So not only does it look like I will pay more for the actual goods, I also get to pay for something that you said was free!!.

Image 4

Sorry Dell, you have lost me and I know of more than 5 person mates who have baulked well before this last stage when your site started giving different values to what you stated.

At this point I don’t trust Dell to have the correct prices!. So I wont even bother looking at the need to create and account with Dell!

Stepping up to the ochy we have a long serving member of the SEO crowd. And whilst a lot of people say they have no problems going after Google in the SERPs, well if you didn’t know this man chose to go after them in the courts! So for more of Massa….Read on.

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I can’t possibly ask you questions about search without asking about SearchKing, so apologies if you have gone over this 20 time previously. With that in mind, come on, did you really think that you had a serious case against the Big G? Or was it a rather sly way of getting some good PR from a pretty shitty experience?

I absolutely thought I had a serious case against Google. Restraint of trade is serious. Using power and reach to create an unfair marketplace is serious. It was serious all right. At least to me.

That is not the same as saying I thought I would win but what they did was waaayyyy over the top and it was a great example of shooting a gnat with an elephant gun. Extreme actions can have extreme consequences and they did not look at the resources in the line of fire when all they looked at was altering public perception. There were hundreds of people, (not SEO”s, not even webmasters really, just people. Regular, everyday, guy down the street kind of people), actually taking time out of their lives to review websites and categorize them by relevancy. These people weren’t trying to get on top, trying to make a deal or trying to java script, redirect, hide the text anything. They really gave a damn about what they were doing. Some of them were nice people and some weren’t. Some were young and some were old. Some of them got along together, some didn’t. But there is nothing wrong with that. That is just what people do and both Google and I should have shown them the respect to keep letting them do it. If nothing else, there was value just in the research data we could have gathered.

As to was it a sly way of getting some PR. One thing is for sure, want some link bait? Sue Google in 2002. Yowza!

Ok, here is the deal. Traffic and revenue generation were always at the top of my list of priorities. Countless hours of discussion and research went into possible promotion strategies. In 1999 I had an “in” with a major search engine. Directory actually. That “in” involved a person who had a personal relationship with something who had the authority to get sites placed into the directory. That was money in the bank. It so happens that I had paid for this “special review process” with a check which I ended up with the hard copy of the cashed check. That relationship and my “in” evaporated long ago but my guess is that the person who cashed the check still regrets that little paper trail.

Anyway, I knew, without question, argument or debate, that there were people being given unfair advantage. I had the cashed checks for goodness sake. I also knew that this could be news. So on more than one occasion there were meetings with staff and trusted advisor’s discussing the possibility of suing this major engine, (not Google), for the purpose of getting traditional press and making the general public more aware of our network. Discussions to the point that I had written a couple of different strategic plans based on that scenario. Because of the research and discussions, I knew this was not a strategy to be taken lightly. I knew once it was acted upon, Pandora’s box would be flung open and there would be no putting it back shut.

So, when I honestly felt Google had intentionally and manually, (which they later admitted to in court documents btw), adjusted the results for the sole purpose of causing me and SearchKing to lose business, I was pissed! Not only did I feel treated unfairly and that our customers and partners were being treated unfairly , I felt I was being pushed into a corner and even a mouse will stand up and fight you if you back into a corner. I had to do something as I wouldn’t have felt like much of a man had I not stood up for myself and the people who had put their faith in me.

Our customer base and income started dropping fast. What took almost 3 years to build took about 3 weeks to destroy. I had well over a million dollars invested in SK and knew if I did not act quickly I would lose every portal partner and I would soon be looking for opportunities in the lawn care industry. As it turned out I lost all the portal partners anyway, (actually not all. I believe we still have a couple hundred or so), but the point is at the time I knew I had to do something to show my customers and partners that I had the intestinal fortitude to stand in the face of adversity and to generate enough income to continue being able to pay the bills.

I’m not the first guy to allow a legal action and public relations to go hand-in-hand and I already had the strategy outlined and all I had to do was everywhere the name of the other engines was, change that to Google and it was pretty much done. It was a decision borne by passion and fear coupled with convenience.

All of that could have have been said with a simple, yes, it was a rather sly way of getting some good PR from a pretty shitty experience? I guess I’m still a little passionate about it even after all these cyber-decades. My apologies to your readers. I’ll move on.

Should Google and the others be able to do what the hell they like with their algo, after all they are theirs? To put a comparison in before you answer, you don’t have any say in getting listings in the DMOZ or being deleted, so how is that any different?

Should Google and the others be able to do what the hell they like with their algo,

ABSOLUTELY NOT! What if an algorithm was so powerful as to change the world’s mind? What if the power of that algo could then be used as a weapon to manipulate the thoughts and actions of the public against a perceived foe or a competitor? What if you had an algo but then went in to that program and turned a few knobs to give yourself an unfair advantage? I said back then and I’m saying now, that I believe we all have the right to run our businesses any legal way we like, but none of us, from the smallest to the largest, has the right to use our resources to trample on the rights and freedoms of others.

If you think about the question and the way it is worded, it is easy to see how the entire perception of the question is altered. You did not qualify the question with something like; “within their own database”. In that light, a similar question could be, “do you believe Brett Tabke should be able to do whatever the hell he likes with his gun, after all it is his gun?” What would your answer to that question be?

So, do I believe any search engine can place any site they want at any position they want for any reason they want ? I say no, not if that reason does not respect the rights of other people and the laws of the land. Let’s see how this plays out if China thinks Google is treating them unfairly. In the grand scheme of things, I play a very small role, but if China were Google and Google were me, and China forced Google into something to satisfies China’s agenda —- oh wait, they just did.

You asked >in the DMOZ or being deleted, so how is that any different?

It’s not. Remember those canceled checks I mentioned? {SIDENOTE} I am NOT referring specifically to DMOZ or any other search engine or editor. Like most of us, I’ve read the circular debates in forums about DMOZ corruption back and forth going on for like 5 years now. Everyone is free to believe what they want to believe but to me there is no debate, no questions. Editors at DMOZ have and do take actions based on personal motivations to the detriment of others. Some have, and continue to, use their power and influence for personal gain and specifically to restrict trade and give themselves, or their friends and clients an unfair advantage. It is wrong. It is illegal and it needs to stop or they should be sued.

What lessons did you learn from the SK / Google time in your life, on both a practical and business level that you can share with us?

If you sue someone, you can expect to win or lose but do not expect vindication. That is not what American legal systems are about. If you decide to sue someone outside of small claims, hire the best PR firm you can afford BEFORE filing any legal documents If you sue someone, maybe you’ll win, maybe your won’t but either way, YOU WILL PAY THE ATTORNEYS AND COURT COSTS. If you hire a PR firm — take their advice. If you sue a tech company, do not allow their lawyers to baffle the court with techno bullshit. Always remember you are talking to lawyers and judges and assume they know nothing of technology. They can learn but that education is excruciatingly expensive. If who you are suing brings up the constitution or the Bill of Rights, look for better lawyers fast!

Finally I learned even a greater respect for Google than I had before the suit. They are very smart, very business savvy and very focused. I like to think of myself as a good salesman, but I’m nowhere close to being in Google’s league. Now those guys are salesman. They are my idol!

Enough lawsuit stuff, what has Bob Massa been up to since then and what you up to 2006 and beyond?

You know, I may hold the world’s record for being accused of being an idiot on the internet. What I’m about to tell you may prove those accusations have some merit.

Of course I’ve been doing what I’ve done since 1996. Building successful commercial web presences on the net for my clients. Through it all, I’m a pretty good search engine marketer and I have focused on building a company that can service and support a wide range of clients. While most of the industry seems to want to be shed of the hassles of dealing with clients, that is what we are actually best at. But my passion still remains in building a scalable human review system. I am still putting money into that passion.

I have moved servers, built custom scripts, revised strategies adjusted budgets and hired back some of the people that were instrumental in SearchKing going back to 1999. (Still looking for others. Mike if you see this give me a call if you are interested). We are only days away from launching the network again including hosted portals and free portals. I still believe there is value in providing individuals and companies with the tools to build informational resources for a topic specific market. All they need is the tools and the support.

I want to make it very clear that I am not re-launching SearchKing because of anything to do with Google or the lawsuit. I want to re-launch a portal service because I still believe there is a way to make a human review system scalable and I think it has value on a lot of levels not the least of which is a viable business model.

Ethics in SEO/SEM. Load of bollocks and a case of all is fair in love and search or do you align yourself with the IHY type crowd?

Ethics in any business is never bollocks, (I should mention here that I am not sure what a bollock is but I think it has something to do with bullshit and I’m responding under that assumption). PEOPLE can be a load of bollocks but ethics can not. Truth, honesty, respecting the rights of others and being able to identify and ignore idiots is all that really matters.

As far as IHY crowd, I’m not familiar with anything of any importance to me by that name. I read a lot of internet marketing stuff online from a huge list of sources. If there is a crowd out there that has anything to say about that topic that isn’t just spouting off crap to draw attention to itself, I’m pretty sure I would be aware of it.

Buying links is surely a blatant attempt to manipulate the engines, so by that rationale, do you agree that you should not be surprised if you end up getting a good hiding if you engage in link buying/selling?

No, I do not agree. You /should/ be surprised if anyone gives anyone else a good hiding for doing anything that is not illegal !! You should be surprised. You should be deeply offended and you should demand your personal rights to operate a legal business anyway you choose.

None of us should have to fear a hiding, (again, a little bit of a language barrier of the across the pond persuasion here. Not sure exactly what a hiding is but I’m responding based on my assumption it is something bad), for engaging in any legal activity. If search engines don’t like sites that they believe are doing something they don’t like, they have the right to do what they want to do about it in regards to their own assets. As business people interested in increasing the value of our own enterprises, we have the right to evaluate risk, capitalize on our own assets and enjoy the same opportunities as the ones in a position to deliver a hiding. No hidings. No fear. Just doing business.

The Basic Concepts of SEO you wrote, do you still stand by it all. If not what bits don’t follow any more?

Wow, that hasn’t been brought up for quite a while. I’m pretty sure you must be referring to the one that has been hosted at http://www.v7n.com/basic-concepts.php for the last three years or so.

Keeping in mind I wrote that in like 98 or 99, naturally some things have changed. I stand by it all in the respect that I still believe it is more about figuring out the concepts than the actual procedures. I also stand by the fact that you have to learn enough about what ever field of endeavor you choose to pursue to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff and then make your own decisions. That article was not about the hows. It was about the whys and the point of the whole thing was to show people how I approached SEO based on what I could see and then figuring out the motivation.

I believe there are still a lot of valid concepts such as

#2 The stupidest human, given the time and motivation, will win out over the smartest computer every time. and

#4 SEO’s do NOT manipluate search engines. The search engines alone control what goes in and what goes where.

#5 There is no such thing as search engine spam and why. And especially

#8 CYA, (it stands for Cover Your Ass)

I still unequivocally stand by those. But the thing that is most dated about that article is the shift from focus on on site content to off site, and now to the end user’s behavior. That has changed a lot since the 90’s. Even so, I think it is a decent article for anyone interested in seeing how someone starting out may think about the job of search engine marketing.

What are the key factors in getting traffic to a site?

Not to be argumentative Richard, but to my mind you are asking the wrong question. Getting traffic to a site is too easy. Just buy it!

The question should be, “what are the key factors in getting sales from web traffic?” In THAT question, getting traffic to a site is a part of the real process but not one I would consider key. The real challenge has always been the copy, the navigation, and the tech to deliver a feature/benefit message with a call to action that converts at a profit.

I’ve said before that traffic without those other things being is place is the epitome of irony. To generate traffic from being in the top 10 in a major search engine with a competitive phrase, only to have a .01% conversion ratio is an incredible waste of time, money and manpower. That is not to say there are not sound business models that make a lot of money with a .01% conversion rate. My point is that it would appear the majority of the industry sees the problem as not enough traffic when the real problem is not enough sales.

I know this flies in the face and disagrees with RC’s philosophy, ( you should interview him btw. Very interesting individual), but it should be obvious a lot of focus is put in to traffic and not into better converting sites and better converting sites should be the ONLY factor that really matters.

Can of worms potential, but …..can you define spam?

Yes I can.

It is a somewhat greasy cubed luncheon meat with weird little white chunks in it. The oddest thing though is I kind of like it. Especially dipped in flour and fried.

Even going back to those Basic Concepts you referenced earlier, I believe there is no such thing as search engine spam. There is only marketing, advertising and public relations.

You asked me earlier if I thought search engines had the right to list sites anyway they wanted, or something to that effect, and I said I did believe they had that right. BUT, with rights come responsibilities and it can’t be one way without the other. If they have the right to place sites where they want, then they need to take responsibility for their own results and stop trying to blame link buying or hidden text for their lack of ability to provide the results they want to provide.

Without the password to get into a search engines’ server, there is nothing you, me or anyone else can do to manipulate a search engines’ results. If I can’t make a search engine put my site where I want, then how the hell is that spamming anything? It is just me building my site.

It absolutely and completely baffles me that webmasters feel they are not entitled to build their sites any way they want as long as they are not breaking any laws. It is their site, their property and if there is something they believe they can do to improve their site, they should not only feel able to do it, they should feel obligated to do it. Obligated to themselves, their families who depend on their income and obligated to their visitors. If hidden text gets your competitor more traffic, then to not use hidden text on your own site when it helps you meet your objectives, to me is counterproductive and not good business. Business Richard, not lunch meat with weird little white chunks.

Some search engines may like the public to believe that they are the reason to build a site. That having the honor of being placed where the engine wants to place you is the goal of every good webmaster. They may like to promote the perception that they are the internet. Of course that is what they want to present. That is good PR, but it is not the reality. The reality is, it is just business. And if their business is being threatened by how some webmasters build their sites, they need to decide how they are going to handle that. That makes it a problem but it doesn’t make it spam.

At the SEO Roadshow, you were seen wearing a black, hat. Was that a little bit of irony there?

First of all I think the whole white hat/black hat thing is just about the silliest thing I have ever witnessed being discussed by a group of adults.

Secondly, my fashion preference has much more to do with the fact that I have had a love affair with 40’s style Stetsons ever since I first saw Humphrey Bogart smooch the hell out of Ingrid Bergman while wearing a hat in the movie Casablanca at the age of about 12, (I realize I’m dating myself here. For all you younguns that don’t what the hell I’m talking about go here http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=casablanca+movie&btnG=Search).

Since that time I’ve had hundreds of hats, (just about any style other than cowboy hats), and my color of preference in manly headgear is black. I do have some gray and brown but no white. I’m wearing my black Stetson today as a matter of fact and I still love watching old 30’s and 40’s movies. Is that ironic?

If I don’t believe in spam, how could I possibly believe in white hat or black hat? To me it is all just marketing and sales.

I’m like the dyslexic agnostic. I don’t believe there is a dog.

Peace

Massa

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Some interesting points and food for thought you made Bob. So from me thanks for making the time to answer some of my questions.

If you wish to read a little more about Bob, you could try ….BobMassa.com

ukgimp out

Incoming…… and this time in the guise of an interview with JasonD, who is known for treading both sides of the line. So without further fannying around, here we go.

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You are versed in the art of getting publicity, be it crazy Spam Man or the offering of the support of the link analysis tool. For Stangelogic is any publicity good?

Hi Gimpy,
Let me start off by saying thanks for asking me to do this interview, I hope my answers live up to the great standard your previous interviewees have set.

As to getting publicity, I don’t know if I am versed in it but I don’t shy away from it either. As to whether all publicity is good then my answer has to be a resounding no, just ask George Galloway!

Partnerships. Good or is it a case of going it alone and keeping the spoils to yourself?

Partnerships are VERY good, but there has to be a two way street. I get lots of requests to partner with Strange Logic and all of them I investigate but sometimes I have to politely decline the offers. For a partnership to work the 2 (or more) organisations not only need to get a “win” from working with others, but they also need to deliver “more than the sum of the individual parts”

If a partnership is some people working together but the value added by the parties isn’t equal then it is doomed to failure. Just for the record, value isn’t always knowledge, ability, software or money though, It can be a million other things.

Go on share a nugget with us, you may piss off a few people, but if you pick a declining technique you wont get too much heat, or is secrecy the name of the game?

Hmmmmm. Nuggets huh?

How about a Chicken Nugget. Personally I think the best nuggets there are out there are Birds Eye’s Chicken Dippers – Oh, you mean SEO nuggets. OK, let me think.

How about a really simply one that is 99% common and business sense rather than technical. The web using world is greater than the UK and US and outside of those countries they speak languages that aren’t English. Look and investigate those lingual differences in the SERPs.

In fact here is one more. 3rd level PPC companies are a good thing for a certain search engine!

Data mining, is that a big part of what you do, do you do it personally and does it provide real insight. In most cases unless you can analyse the data properly, even the best is virtually useless.

I do a LOT of data gathering and research and yes, for me it shows some VERY REAL insights as to what is happening out there. I do think you’re right though, data without analysis is like Roast Beef without horseradish. It just aint worth bothering with!

Do you think your offer to help out the engines and software providers (link here) will ever been taken up? Why do you think they have declined so far, it has to be a pride thing, no?

I sure hope so. I’m sure the guys at the big engines will get there without me or someone like me eventually, but I am very aware of the problem from all 3 sides (Engine, CMS owner and Spammer) and I believe I have the problem solved algorithmically meaning it can be culled in one clean sweep rather than trying to enforce a non standard that has shown to not work (Link Condoms)

It’s definitely a lot better than the engines have in place at the moment.

As to why they have declined so far, I guess it is partly political. I’m an SEO that hasn’t denounced the dark side. I’m a Brit that doesn’t really want to travel for the fun of it. Could there well be more reasons. I’m pretty sure there are and if I had made private, rather than public contact I guess the response may have been different.

Who knows what the future holds though and the offer is still open 

If you were running the show, what would you do, clearly the results are not that good on all three, and don’t even mention arbing and overture. How would you clean up this town?

I have some answers to some problems but personally I wouldn’t want to run the show nor do I have answers to all the questions. I’m happier working as a side act to the main event  my SEO to the big boys’ search engines.

Arbing, specifically PPC arbing is a double headed sword for the engines. Commercial, money making interests –v- public perception of search quality. Google rule the roost in this area. Keep your own results pretty clean and abuse the competition. Thankfully it’s still possible to abuse Google and just for the fun of it I like to assist Yahoo in earning some money from it. I see it as my small way of redressing the balance 

What is the ratio of clean to dirty within Strangelogic and how do you ensure you don’t get a good shoeing on your clean stuff?

Most of what we do is so clean it could be used as soap, even by Doug. At the same time there is still a large quantity of sites that we control that could be seen as dirty. Just for the record, I do get dumped on clean stuff as well as dirty, but over the last year or 2 more clean gets dumped than dirty, but a lot of that is probably down to making my dirty stuff look cleaner rather than my clean becoming dirtier.

I fell really sorry for the guys n gals and that have all their eggs in one or two clean sites but at the end of the day we must all recognise that this is a business that is controlled by 3 boys and if you don’t prepare for the worst then you will die a speedy death when the inevitable happens.

What is your technical preference, in terms of platform, hardware etc. I know you like perl (grrrrrr) but what else do you use. Tell us about your ideal box.

I love Perl. I always have and with Perl6 coming out I think it will continue. For me, there is not a more flexible and robust language for rapid development. We generally code in Perl, prove the systems and processes and if necessary for speed we recode in C.

Our platforms are 100% Linux with our own clustered distribution, employing hundreds of nodes, that we have number & data crunching all day long. We keep saying that Widget Nix will be released to the world but so many things get in the way and enhancements occur to the OS that it hasn’t happened yet. Watch this space

What is the biggest seo/coding type mistake you have made and what lessons were learned.

I have never made an SEO mistake, I simply have SEO learning experiences that the engines deliver to me! LOL

My biggest coding mistake was the Church of Heil fiasco and what I learnt is there are times to shut up rather than respond.

I asked DaveN if he looked for flaws in the search engines. So I feel it is only fair to ask you the same thing. Being a good SEO is about being aware of changes, even trying to predict. Pushing the boundaries it about taking it that step further, do you go out looking for flaws, do you share them with mates, do you experiment, what is your angle?

I try as many different scenarios as I can hypothetically cover (which is quite a few thousand at any one time). I try to look at what might be happening and pre-empt the engines deploying it. I look for problems, because once I understand that, the system simply has to be deployed to counter it.

When there is an algo change, I go back to my previous work and hope the answer is there. So far it always has been, though not always perfect, but what many of us forget is we don’t need to beat the engines. We simply need to beat the guy at #2
I share quite a bit with mates but not everything and the main reason is a spark of inspiration can come back (and often does) in return. I know some amazing guys n gals in this industry (You’re one of them Rich) and sometimes a question someone else has, for totally obscure reasons, can start a chain of events that lead to some great ideas. Only yesterday someone said something that has my mind racing with possibilities. Because of that, unrelated question, I have new software that is being built right now that will dramatically change one area of my work – Thank you Adam!

My overall angle is actually quite simple 1.61803399 degrees

My parting comment will have to be if you want to learn about search engines then build one and make it one that has to encounter the same problems as the big boys. You may choice to keep your search engine in house only, but once you’ve seen the shit the likes of Matt and Tim have to deal with algorithmically then you’ll respect the problems they have to deliver answers to and learn how to deal with their answers yourself.

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Jason, thanks for taking the time to do this little Q&A, I know I found it interesting and it was appreciated.

Any interested in finding out more about JasonD, can go to his site StrangeLogic or catch him around the forums.

ukgimp out

Why oh why do people insist on making you login to a site to make a purchase? Well if that is not bad enough I came across a site that makes you sign up and login just to view the products!

force login

So as I really want to spend some of my hard earned and I have bought from these guys catalogue before so I decide to give it ago and fanny around with the signup. The signup involves a double opt in scenario, which is cool I suppose, but I am losing my patience, remember this is just to look at the products at this stage.

Just a side note here, the menus don’t work if you have JS turned off:

javascript menus

So now comes the real beef, the clickpath down to a product to get the item in the basket is lengthy.

1. Click designer wear from JS dropdown menu
2. Pick a brand type (not ideal because I am after shirts and I don’t know which ones have shirts)
3. Click item from list
4. Click to choose size
5. Click to choose colour
6. “This item is out of stock”, in a light colour, that does not draw my eye. So I find myself looking for an add to cart button, then I notice this out of stock BS!

There is an option to add to wishlist, but what I really wish for is the ability to tell the owner of the site that they need to cut down the number of clicks to add a product to the cart, but above all, don’t allow me to go down a fruitless path.

OK they have tried a little, there is a drop down box to choose between “show all items” and “show only in stock” but I did not notice this until my third attempt so I got the hump and left the site, no idea how good the checkout is, but who cares.

I had my debit card out and I was about to buy £2-500 worth of clobba, but was thawted early on.

So the major lessons:

1. Dont force a login just to view the products.
2. Tell me before I try and buy the product, select sizes and the like etc if the product is out of stock.

Footnote:

I was not sure if I should link to the sites that I generally will be criticising, but I decided it cant be that bad, hell they might even take action. So the link is:

Brandswear.com

(also have a word with someone about the redirect, that be doing you no favours chief!)

OK, not strictly a web usability issue but kind of related in a little way and will make me feel better when I offload the issue.

To cut a long story short, I needed a German IP for hosting, so after realising that the British education system sucks as well, because I can’t speak any other language I find out that lycos.co.uk do hosting and supposedly with German data centres.

Double Bonus!

Now I don’t want go through all this malarkey just to get hosting, like I did last week only to find out they don’t do .de domains. So I thought I would call the UK helpline number.

0870 730 1135 (12p per minute)

30 minutes later I get through, to an automated system, only problem is that the lady is speaking German. So I hold on in the hope that I will get through to a real person that can forgive my poor language skills.

They now cut me off and a recorded voice from BT chimes in saying that “The other party has terminated the call”. WTF!

So the usability issue here is, if you are going to add a UK number for which you charge to call, at least have a British speaking automated system. Then to allow pissed off people like me, to have a way of actually contacting someone to either flag similar issues or suggest they have a good look at their support.

Dean Bloomfield, AKA DigitalGhost has agreed to answer a few of my questions and as ever comes back with some interesting points. And I am even going to claim that this was the real reason he came out of retirement 🙂

So once again read on…..

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Retirement clearly didn’t agree with you, as it looks like about six months and you gave up! So what is on the cards for DigitalGhost in 2006 and beyond?

Work, work and more work. Seriously, with a start-up launch, (Actually Marketing) client demands, research, testing and application development I see 2006 as a year of challenges. I also think that in 2006 search engines and SEOs will work more closely together than ever before.

The industry has become more sophisticated and the level of sophistication will continue to increase in the future. As a result of that sophistication, the relationship between search engines and SEOs will become less adversarial because the goals become increasingly similar. So for the future I see more research into IR and search technologies than reverse engineering algos. Just makes much more sense to anticipate than to react.

You are known for your loquacious, very eloquent, but loquacious posting on forums. With that in mind, are we going to see a return of DG on the boards and what subjects are going to get your juices flowing?

I’d be filling fora with vowel movements now if I had more time. Well, time and the inclination to repeat myself every time someone new came along with a question that has been asked and answered many times. I think the reason many of the ‘old-timers’ don’t post as frequently as they once did is simple weariness. It’s all good though; the new generation of SEOs can serve some time answering questions.

There are several subjects that excite me. Digital rights, which has been mainstream news for almost all of ’05, social media and marketing, search technologies, education in the Information Age, why all the hype about Web 2.0, etc.

Algo’s and language seem to be a keen interest of yours so what evidence have you seen, if any, that the engines may be adopting techniques like LSI/hilltop/semantics etc?

If ‘java’ is returned as a result for a query on ‘coffee’, semantics are involved. The only question is to what extent are semantics incorporated into the algorithm? I don’t think any of the search engine reps will be mentioning LSI as it is patented by Telcordia. Are they using something similar? I certainly think so.

What was the last search related technical paper / patent that you read and do you care to share your thoughts on it?

Google’s Dupe Content patent.

My first thought is that it remains remarkably easy to smudge ‘fingerprints’ to the extent that Google’s dupe filter is duped. In reality, I think Google manages to find a lot of smudged and partial prints, which are of little use. As for SEOs and SEMs that want to duplicate content and use it, well, they learned to wear gloves and they don’t leave any prints.

You’ll know when Google perfects their dupe content filter when you can no longer find your stolen content in their results.

If you had to write a simple recipe for an SEO success what would the main ingredients be?

A. Forced me into a cliché huh? Start with good content. Then acquire quality links. Yes, it is that easy. And no, it is not that easy. Rather than a recipe, how about some qualities?

All the successful SEOs are curious. They exhibit perseverance. They are competitive. They’re confident. They aren’t afraid to fail. They hate to fail. They don’t mind being the underdog. They constantly educate themselves. But most importantly, they try a lot of recipes. A simple recipe is fine, for that simple success. But there are thousands of ways to succeed, several ways for each site, so why limit that recipe book to a single, simple recipe? Instead, cook something new every day. Throw out the recipes that leave a bad taste in your mouth.

So what did you manage to achieve with that Google Mini of yours. Although it would not have the latest algo on it I reckon it could be used on large-scale auto generated stuff to see what work and a whole host of other things, so what did you find out?

That little experiment was intended solely to find out what Google thought about word relationships. Is job related to employment? Is Job related to work or trials? Everyone keeps saying, ‘think outside the box’, well, I wanted to know what the box was thinking.

How do you rate the current search providers and what could they do better?

I think they’ve done a fantastic job of making information easy to find and a mediocre job of rating it. Until an algo is created that can differentiate between popular and important, we’re left with SERPs that display popularity contest winners.

What could they do better? Well for starters, they could solve the ‘AND Circuit” query problem. Go ahead, search for AND Circuit, with quotes and without, and let me know how useful the results are.

You have a solid and longstanding background I search, but six months is a long time. How long will it take for you to get up to a standard you are happy with and do you think it is possible for people new to search to get going quickly on a new site for instance?

I stopped working in the industry for six months, but I didn’t stop researching or reading industry news for six months. As for a standard I’m happy with? That doesn’t exist, there’s no room for complacency in this industry.

Is it possible for someone new to search to get going quickly? Sure. Will they rank well? I don’t know. Depends on the individual. The basics are well agreed upon, so an inquisitive business owner could start with the proper foundation and avoid a lot of mistakes. In competitive arenas though you need more than a couple of weeks of trial an error. I still find new ‘Link and a Promise’ sites in the SERPs though and they typically remain there until they hit someone’s radar. Getting to the top isn’t a measure of success though; it’s getting back to the top after you’ve fallen and managing to stay there that counts.

Without giving us the findings (unless you want to) can you tell us what sort of tests you are conducting right now to reverse engineer search engine algo’s and would you consider yourself a algo chaser?

A. I’ve never been a reverse engineer. I’ve always worked with prediction modeling. I want to be able to predict, within reason, where a site will place in the SERPs on various engines given a known set of variables. It’s much more valuable to have your own algo than it is to tear someone else’s apart.

Building your own search engine forces you to anticipate the same problems the search engines deal with. Issues like RLA, (Rapid Link Acquisition) are much more noticeable when you have your own set of patterns to work with than they are when you’re forced to borrow someone else’s patterns.

You may not know, but in the UK we had a marketing campaign for a mobile phone company that was based around whom you would have a one to one with. So dead or alive, who would you like to have a one to one with and why?

Nikola Tesla. I’ve always been fascinated by his inventions, his intellect, and his quirks. And I’d really like to know the truth about his ambient light with no apparent source…

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Dean, thanks for your time and your insight, some interesting thought provoking ideas you have there and I wish you lots of luck and reward with your new venture.

If you want to read more from DigitalGhost I would recommend firing up his Blog…. DigitalGhost’s Desk.

ukgimp out.

Well folks, it is time to get this mutha off the ground. Judging by the big fat text that say’s DaveN Interview you will have guessed that Mr N has agreed to answer a few questions related to search and anything else that seems pertinent.

So without further ado I invite you to read on and see what is going on right now in the world of DaveN.

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I remember when it was easy, throw up a page, throw in some links and away you go, but now things seem much harder for new builds. So how can the ordinary bloke with a website compete with aged sites and resource driven people. It’s a case of the richer getting richer no?

It certainly seems that way at the moment but I still believe that it is still easy to throw up a page and push some links to it and away you go. It’s all about knowing where to host, what’s on the page, the content of the page etc.

If you remember the old days of SEO when there were 8 Golden Rules to follow, now it is the case that there are 8 Golden Rules for each Golden Rule to follow… do you follow. More like 3D SEO rather than 2D.

There is though so much information on the web these days about SEO techniques. When I started it was all very secretive and not really understood what the true value of it was. If an ordinary person has enough time on their hands to sift through the forums they will get a head start.

Have you ever been wiped out of Google, what was it for, did you get it back and what lessons did you learn from receiving a good kicking?

Yep, I have had many sites penalised and hand removed from Google. But this was because I was lazy and stupid and didn’t keep 2 steps ahead of the game. They didn’t get back in and I opened up a fish and chip shop and retired. No, seriously we tend to run 3 or 4 different techniques at a time and if certain sites do get burnt we just walk away. We know for next time what works and what doesn’t.

I know that you do client sites that would be considered uber clean and you do outright, pushing the boundaries stuff, but are you ever tempted to push it a little to get client sites cooking that little bit more?

Not anymore. For the first time in my life about a year ago we took a clients’ site a little too far. We offered up advise which was like giving a child a gun with bullets. Basically the client went overboard on link acquisition and failed to stick within the boundaries of the Golden Rules.

You wake up one morning and you have no resources, no programmers, no full rack of servers, do you think it is possible for a non “resourced up” person to make it big in the search world. Could you do it again and how would you tackle it?

To be honest if I woke up one morning with no resources, no programmers, and no rack of servers it would probably be because I was on a yacht somewhere anchored off a tropical island in the sun, retired from the game.

I could do it again and I’d tackle it head on. I’d wake up the next morning and buy new resources and start again. I still have the knowledge that I will never lose and a great deal of motivation when something interests me.

A good friend of mine, NFFC, ran a thread on one of the forums a while ago and there was one thing that really hit home about how I work within the industry, which was the classic quote from The Godfather.

“Someday – and that day may never come – I’ll call upon you to do a service for me”.

Being a good SEO is about being aware of changes, even trying to predict. Pushing the boundaries it about taking it that step further, do you go out looking for flaws, do you share them with mates, do you experiment, what is your angle?

I do go out looking for the flaws in the search engines, which I suppose is the same as a good accountant who will try to find the loop holes on the tax system for instance. This enables me to keep a few steps ahead.

I do tend to share ideas with friends when it is advisable to. I have been caught out though in the past where ideas that I have shared in private forums have been abused. Not in the sense of being offered up to the search engines, but in the sense that if you find something that could make you £50k a month if implemented slowly and carefully and will live for 8-10months then great. But if this is implemented aggressively it may net £100k and only live for a month. The scraper sites were a classic example of this, even though I still believe that Google is still struggling with them.

When I see “golden nuggets” appear of forums, I think to myself, “there ain’t much time left on that one” and I have seen things that I have been privy to “outed” and then killed, so would you say there is a large amount of secrecy and funny hand shakes in this game?

Not too sure about the funny hand shakes mate, but there are certainly “funny” instant messages flying around the web these days. Small groups of SEO’s who are part of small private forums openly discuss ideas and new techniques.

You have a fairly large infrastructure, so you clearly believe in this business long term. So as a pie in the sky exercise, where is search going to be in 2, 5 and 10 years and will you still be able to make cold hard cash from it?

Predicting the future of the search engines is a very hard thing to do, but one thing for certain is that you will always be able to make cold hard cash from it if you manage to keep up with the changes. The word that is in the back of my mind more and more these days is “community”.

There will be more personalised search, like DaveN likes football, drinks beer and has an unnatural obsession with reading blogs. The search engines with then deliver ads related to my profile and not keyword related.
Also I feel that Google, Yahoo and MSN seem to be all focusing more on releasing new products like video download, photo libraries and software than on their own core search product.

I may be a cynical old bastard but when you take that 99% of all Googles revenue comes from adwords delivered by keyword search it’s hard to make sense that the natural listings are irrelevant, spam filled or informational.

In term of search what are the craziest things that Google / MSN / Yahoo are doing right now and how could they fix that?

I would say that for Google it would be that in an attempt to fix the 302 issues they seem to have caused some 301 dupe content issues now.

For Yahoo it will be MyWeb2. There is a funky thing that Greg Boser pointed out today that if you search for Threadwatch you get every listing from threadwatch.org, but if you search for David Naylor you get clusters of results from many sites including mine.

And MSN, it still seems that if you have the keyword in the URL and title that you can rank for anything.

How to fix these… that’s their problem… why should I tell them how to fix their problems.

You are a self proclaimed blog spammer or were, do you still do that, if not why and any plans to unleash the evil in the future?

Lol, I stopped blog spamming when everyone else started it, before it became a mainstream technique. That’s probably about the time when I started RSS scraper type sites.

The mighty blog spammer is still in my arsenal of tools and maybe one day I may dust it off and let it loose again. But as you well know I run a lot of blogs now and I know that it pisses people off a lot. Adding to that WordPress and other blog companies do a much better job at blocking blog spam. So perhaps a project for the future will be to build a new one that will break through this extra blog protection.

Now time for a question that is like one of those quirky “end of news bulletin” stories (remember Butch and Sundance the escapee pigs). Well, what, to date has been your biggest SEO / programming faux pas, go on give us a laugh, have you ever sent 25K visitors to an aff, thought their conversion was cack then realised you left your aff code off for example?

I’ve done worse than that mate. I have built networks of sites and then when they started to pop in the plan was to monetarise them. I built one such network then forgot about half of it, so basically we were getting about 100,000 uniques a day that saw total garbage and no monetarisation at all. In fact I think there are still pages out there somewhere.

Another crazy one was that I was sat in the office with a guest while I watched with untold belief the conversation between a UK spammer and a Russian programmer. I can’t believe people actually use Russian programmers. 😉

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Well Dave, I would like to thank you for taking the time out to answer a few questions, most appreciated.

If anyone does not know they can catch up with Dave on his Blog or talking random seemingly, unplanned stuff, on his explicit radio show with Mikkel on StrikePoint!. Enjoy.

ukgimp out.

Well hopefully this can be made to be a little different, different in that I am going to make the focus interview type sessions with prominent people in the search world. I have a few in the offing already so watch this space.

Another avenue I am going to pursue here at some point will be usability, I always find myself thinking “what ignoramus designed the processes on this site, they are shite”. So as I travel around the web and come across something I reckon I could do better I will make a note and hopefully put the details up here. A glorified moaning spot really.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy what I have planned, if not there is always SEO Blogs List

Cheers

ukgimp