I’m a Top 50 Search Geek

Search by on March 14, 2010 at 12:25 pm

Marin Software and SMX ran their second annual ‘Biggest Search Geek’ contest a few weeks prior to SMX West.

While, I barely run AdWords campaigns (just BrandVerity’s in-house campaign which is frankly way under-optimized), I was mostly curious about what types of questions they asked and how much I knew (I was already speaking at SMX West so the prize had no value to me).

As it turns out, I must know more than I thought. I got an email over the week from Marin Software that out of 1200 testers, I placed in the top 50.

I even get my own linkbait badge =).

Google’s Bold Chinese Move

Search,Security by on January 12, 2010 at 10:17 pm

I’m both stunned and impressed by Google’s announcement that it will either end censorship in China or close google.cn following a “highly sophisticated and targeted attack on [Google’s] corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google.”


If Google follows through with its intentions, it will be one of the most public actions taken by any organization (corporate or government) in protest of China’s restrictions on free speech in the last few years. Even a Google-cynic such as myself can’t help but cheer their actions. The other search engines should follow Google’s lead.

Almost incredibly, Google is may actually be able to impact Chinese policy. We will see how the next few weeks unfold, but Google may well do more for free speech in China at this moment than any international organization has been able to do in the last decade. The constructivist view of international relations is becoming an increasingly stronger model.

Google was hacked!?

And possibly equally significantly, Google has had its intellectual property stolen by hackers. And we’re left to presume they were state-sponsored hackers. Sure, most organizations are a nudie video away from getting pwned, but if Google can be targeted successfully, what does that say about the rest of corporate America?

Be careful with Google Sitelinks (How I screwed myself)

Personal,Search,travel by on January 7, 2010 at 10:07 pm

While I’m generally a big fan of Google Sitelinks, I recently screwed myself by carelessly relying on them.

A few months back I planned travel for Affiliate Summit West. I began my process with a search for “Affiliate Summit West”. The search results today are below (which look pretty similar to what I recall seeing originally).

affiliate summit west - Google Search_1262889895341

I was already registered for the show, knew which day I was speaking (Monday) and since the show was in the same location last year all I needed were the dates.

I clicked on the ‘About the Show’ sitelink and booked travel based on the dates on that page. A few weeks later, my wife booked a trip to Hawaii based on my calendar availability.


While all of the sitelinks were for the 2010 version of the conference, the ‘About the Show’ sitelink took me to the 2009 details. I carelessly booked my travel plans based on the wrong dates… which now collide with our trip to Hawaii…

Clearly, the error is mine and mine alone. If I had gone directly to the Affiliate Summit website and used their navigation, I would have not been in a position to make the error.

So, be careful deep navigating with sitelinks. Trust site owners more than Google (sounds obvious right?).

Even the WSJ gets Google PSAs

Search by on April 28, 2008 at 3:55 pm

In the WSJ’s premium, above-the-fold image ad block (the only one):

That giant flushing sound is the WSJ’s ad revenue…

Google’s AppEngine – Comparisons to Django

brandverity,Search,Startups by on April 7, 2008 at 7:59 pm

I’ve long been a fan of Amazon’s E2, S3, FPS, SimpleDB, etc. These services are changing the way that early-stage startups make their platform decisions.

News outlets are quickly picking up that tonight Google is launching a hosted platform for web developers: App Engine.

I’m extremely excited about this for several reasons:

  • Google is one of a handful of companies that have truly understand Internet scale. In addition, they have regularly dealt with the challenge of taking a small application and scaling it very quickly (nearly all of Google’s acquisitions go through this)
  • By offering application hosting, Google is stitching together many of the components that Amazon’s services provide, making app development even quicker.
  • While Amazon has been doing a great job pushing itself, the competition will be great and will raise the bar.
  • It started off with Python support and is modeled after Django (which BrandVerity is built on and I’ve been very impressed with)

I look forward to seeing AppEngine develop further. I’m especially curious what it will take to launch an existing Django application on AppEngine.

I also learned for the first time that Google uses Python internally for its scripting. I guess that could explain all of the Google Python developer ads that keep popping up in my gmail account.

I took a look through the documentation and now have a better handle on how AppEngine operates. It definitely borrows a number of aspects from Django:

  • Django Templating Engine: The SDK provides Django’s templating engine (although it allows others to be used). The engine has been criticized by purists for allowing too much logic in the presentation layer, however I’ve found that the templates allow sufficient logic (if statements, for loops) to actually build webpages, while preventing the more complex view logic from making it to the front-end (variable assignment, method calls, etc.)
  • Similar modeling system: In Django, you define your model classes and the framework provides common object methods that handle the sql underneath. The AppEngine models look very similar although it looks like the similarities are only conceptual (they definitely don’t share the same code and are interacted with in different ways). I can easily see how frameworks like Django (or Rails) could be modified to treat App Engine as another storage backend.
  • Similar request and user frameworks: Django provides a few frameworks that are commonly used request.user (via contrib.auth) and its session middleware. These handle things like authentication, permissions, cookies, etc. Google’s APIs seem to function pretty similarly, although this isn’t exactly groundbreaking as these frameworks are fairly standard.

I don’t see a way to run python scripts that are independent of web requests. The O’Reilly article suggests that developers may utilize EC2 for batch operations. However, I have to believe that Google will support batch processing in some form as this forms a critical component of just about any web application (and I’m sure they don’t want to encourage people to write batch applications that are initiated by get statements)

Companies spamming Google Local

Local,Search,SEO by on December 28, 2007 at 6:22 am

I’ve written before about some of the many ways that local businesses spam the yellow pages.

Google Maps has now ‘arrived’. Local businesses are now spamming Google Local (Maps). Surprisingly, many of the techniques that are being used to spam Google, have been used for many years to spam the Yellow Pages.

Mike Blumenthal has several great examples, including my favorite example: 0 & 0 24 Hr Locksmith (and their 1699) listings for a locksmith in Philadelphia (why does the locksmith profession attract spammers?).


While local business spammers won’t have the sophistication of your typical web spammer, what they lack in sophistication, they make up for with sheer numbers.

‘Google Farts’ – Unexplained drops and subsequent rises in search traffic

Judy's Book,Search,SEO by on June 1, 2007 at 8:26 am

Yes, even Google has indigestion.

The graph below is a disconcerting sight to any website (this is from our deals subdomain). Organic search traffic from Google plummeted on Friday, and was down 90% on Saturday and Sunday. By Tuesday everything was normal. We had changed nothing. Throughout this ‘fart’, organic traffic to our www domain was unchanged.


My thought on Friday was that Google Analytics was having one of its all to frequent data update delays. I was out this weekend, and fortunately didn’t check the stats (If I had, I’d have spent most of the weekend trying to find a non-existent problem). On Tuesday when I got in, I shifted into troubleshooting mode. SEO troubleshooting small sites is difficult, but troubleshooting large sites can be very time consuming.

By midday Tuesday, the data looked normal so I stopped digging. I only burned a few hours on this non-existent problem, but could have easily burned a lot more (for example if the problem persisted for another day or two).

I can’t help but feel (wish?) that at some point Google will be held liable for crap like this.

Typos: Everyone has their hand in the till

Business,Search by on May 23, 2007 at 9:11 am

The Business 2.0 article about the .cm extension has been getting a lot of press recently. From Techcrunch:

Business 2.0’s Paul Sloan has been digging into the .CM domain name scam. A domain name broker managed to convince the government of Cameroon, which controls .cm, to do a deal where any mis-typed domain name, like Google.cm (instead of google.com), takes the visitor to an advertising-filled landing page (the ads are served by Yahoo).

While this is true, articles such as this (and the resulting firestorms), completely overlook the the fact that nearly every major company on the Internet is involved in similar practices:

  • Google & Yahoo: Both of these companies knowingly provide ads to domain parkers. Google offers AdSense for Domains, and in fact built AdSense off of its Applied Semantics acquisition (the original domain advertiser). Yahoo has been supplying ads to domain parkers since YSM was Overture. In fact, Applied Semantics was a top 10 Overture partner when Google bought it. You cannot opt out of showing your ads on domain park pages - Google considers them ‘search pages’.
  • Browsers (Microsoft & Firefox): If you’re running IE, type google.xom into the address bar. You’ll see Google Ads. Some estimates place their income at $600M from this practice. I’ve heard claims that Firefox does the same, but I haven’t been able to verify them.
  • PC Manufacturers (Dell & Gateway): They seize error pages by default and show Google ads by default. More at SearchEngineLand
  • OpenDNS: Perhaps the most disingenuous of the bunch. They are very vocal about all of the other organizations on this page, and are quick to promote their DNS servers as a solution. However, they do the exact same thing. When a nonexistent domain is typed, they show ads. In fact, their entire ‘free’ service is funded this way.
  • ISPs (Earthlink, Charter, AOL, etc.): They work similarly to OpenDNS. They’ve modified their DNS servers to show ads (‘search results’) on mistyped domains that don’t have a URL.
  • Hosting companies (1and1, etc.): I don’t know how widespread the problem is, but I noticed that the 404 pages at my old hosting company now display ads. See an example.
  • Domain parkers: There are plenty of typo domains registered and receiving traffic.
  • Verisign: Well, not at the moment. In 2003, Verisign tried to seize this market, but backed down under threat of lawsuit.

So please, if you’re going to get all huffy about any one of these entities and go write an article, please cover the issue fully. It is far more of a widespread practice than is initially obvious.

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