Wow, I hit a nerve at Superpages

Search,SEO by on February 1, 2007 at 9:56 am

A fairly lengthy post by Chris Silver Smith at Superpages in response to my critical post of his ‘local SEO’ techniques.

I’ll respond to a few points he made:

First, they can limit this effect by requiring that listings in their directory might only display their legally-licensed business names. Second, if a business has legally created a name with the gobbledygook he so dislikes, what exactly do they propose to do - disallow the business from being listed under their legal name?!?

Uh, yes. Directories are for users, not businesses.

Google removes websites from their index all the time because the believe those sites degrade the quality of their user’s experience. I have no qualms in preventing “A A A A A A A A A A A A A A H Drains For Less”(yes, this is a real listing) from making it into our directory.

He also came down hard on the concept of getting a listing for each city in which your business provides service. I’d counter that if a plumber provides service in that city, he should be allowed to be listed in that directory, and I do not see that as any sort of a detractor for users. Users should be given the choice of all businesses that provide service for their area!

Yes, online directories should show all of the service providers that provide service in a particular area. However, there is no way that the user experience is improved by the plumber that makes up shell listings in each town within a 50 mile radius. The business that lists itself as ‘Newton Plumber’, ‘Wellesley Plumber’, ‘Belmont Plumber’ is spamming the directory.

‘Doorway pages’ is the term used to describe this activity online and can result in getting a website kicked out of Google’s index. These should probably be called ‘doorway listings’, and I would expect similar results in directories.

It’s doubly ironic that Dave would accuse me of causing “spamming”, since he actually has mentioned some SEO tactics that he apparently admired which are completely black-hat, and are terribly bad advice for any webmaster to pursue.

I love being quoted out of context ;). He’s referring to this post I wrote after finding bluehatseo’s site for the first time. I agree with Chris, that the techniques are terribly bad advice for legit webmasters to pursue, and I was fairly clear that the techniques weren’t appropriate in my post (I could have been more clear though and will clarify). I even joked around and suggested techniques to improve on bluehatseo’s ideas (I did the same thing for Chris’ techniques).

However, the author is a critical thinker, fairly humorous and well aware of the fact that he is operating on the black side of SEO. White hat webmasters need to know what the darker side is doing, so for example, they don’t fall into the trap of reporting the wrong site.

I was angry at Chris’ post, but not at bluehatseo? Chris works for Superpages and small businesses will listen to him. If he were at ‘yellow hat seo’ and not Superpages, I probably would have written a different post.

He apparently feels that some of these tips could result in “spamming” online directory listings. I beg to differ, of course. (Not to be too pedantic, but his use of the word, “spam”, is inaccurate because spam is the mass-mailing of unsolicited email notes of a commercial nature. My posting had nothing to do with email. Heh!)

Um, no. I think he might be joking in his comment above, but since I’m busy blockquoting and responding I’ll just include the Wikipedia link.

Chris, all of your techniques are clever. Some are amusing (in a bluehatseo kind of way). I just think you need to be more cautious about suggesting them given the company you work for. I worry that local businesses will take your advice thinking that they are operating entirely above board. And much like the taking the advice of a black hat seo they may find themselves dropped from directories.

My new favorite SEO blog

SEO by on January 30, 2007 at 6:40 pm

I just picked up Bluehatseo via the Lee Odden’s blog, and my only disappointment was that I’m just finding this blog now. Many of his techniques aren’t appropriate for Judy’s Book, but he is clearly a critical thinker and has a great tongue in cheek writing style. I found myself looking much more critically at a number of our approaches as a result. A few of my favorites:

  • Create link laundering sites. Create sites that consistently create inbound links to your ‘money’ domains. His example was a free software directory. He even suggests varying the sites that get links. I’d expand on that idea by varying the pages that you collect links to.
  • Create an army of free captcha typers. Create a service that gives something away for free, and place captchas that you want typed into that service. His example was a free proxy service. But why bother to create one, I see these things sold on Sitepoint all the time with traffic for a few hundred dollars.
  • Top SEO Secrets. This post is just downright funny - he fields a cold call from and SEO telemarketer and even engages the telemarketer in the comments.

SEOMoz is actually still my preferred SEO blog, but BlueHatSEO is a welcome addition to the mix.


I just wanted to clarify that I do not condone using the most of the techniques on bluehatseo’s blog. I do think every legit webmaster should be aware of them and their variants. And, I do think that webmasters should think critically about how they can gain advantages in search - just make sure that they would not be frowned upon by the search engines.

Interesting, Cool and Useful – Jan 29 07

Cool,Personal,SEO by on January 29, 2007 at 7:08 pm


  • Trying to Arbitrage Second Life - A thoughtful analysis done by several arbitrageurs that ultimately determined the Second Life Economy is really a Ponzi Scheme. The key takeaway is that there is no way to take money out of Second Life without severely impacting the exchange rate.
  • Fluid Dynamics Model saves Lives at Hajj - It seems that every year hundreds get trampled to death at Hajj. This year the Saudi government made changes to Jamarat Bridge based on recommendations derived from fluid dynamics. Dirk Helbing and Anders Johansson looked at surveillance imagery from the 2006 trampling incident as if every person was a particle in fluid-dynamical flow. The stampedes, they reasoned, happen when laminar flow smooth transitions to stop and go and turbulent.
  • Black Google page would save 3000 Megawatts annually. A simplified look at the energy that might be saved if Google changed their homepage from white to black.



  • Gaim. I’ve used Trillian for years and finally switched to the open source Gaim for my management of my multiple IM accounts. Trillian didn’t handle reconnection all that well. Plus, Gaim just feels less bloated.
  • Opt out. A great post on lifehacker summarizing a few easy ways to unsubscribe from and opt out of various solicitations. I’d highly recommend opting out of credit card offers - these offers are frequently used in identity theft and there are far better ways to pick your credit cards than through mail solicitations.
  • Building a Digg Funnel. How to build a website such that it funnels traffic to stories you are hoping to get Dugg.
  • 7 tips for linkbait success. A few good pointers on making linkbait successful.

How to spam the Yellow Pages

Judy's Book,SEO by on January 17, 2007 at 9:16 pm

It pissed me off to see this ‘extreme local SEO’ post by Chris Smith of (via Search Engine Land).

While some of his tips are good, others amount to spamming the yellow pages (and local search). This spam creates a mess for users, and especially publishers like JB that have to wade through the crap. Here are the most offending tips and why they amount to spam.

  • Use “A” in the first part of your business name, some local search engines list business alphabetically. Actually don’t use “A”, use “#”. Believe it or not, there are listings for “A Best locksmith”, “AAA Locksmith”. “A A A Locksmith” and “#1 A A A Locksmith” in the Yellow pages. Yes, local search sites should deal with this crap much like Google deals with search spam, and they will in time (this is largely not an issue at Judy’s Book because we rarely sort alphabetically).
  • Get a separate directory listing for every city in your area for which you provide services. In just about every yellow pages, you’ll find an equivalent to what we found in Boston. There are listings for “Newton Plumber”, “Brookline Plumber”, “Wellesley Plumber”, etc. They all have different numbers (local of course) & different names, but they all get answered by the same person.
  • Get people to improve your business ratings on the local search engines. This is actually a great tip (but customer’s shouldn’t be compensated). I would have liked to Chris to warn businesses not to review themselves. We have nuked more user accounts (and business listings) of business owners that reviewed their own business (or my favorite, negatively reviewing their competitor’s business) than any other reason. This is fairly easy to detect and we, like many other sites, take a stern position to the approach.

The Yellow Pages and Local search sites don’t appreciate being spammed (apparently Superpages does). Users like it even less. Don’t be surprised if you use these more ‘extreme’ optimization techniques and find your business removed from the results pages.

Search Engine Land vs. Search Engine Watch

SEM,SEO by on January 2, 2007 at 7:10 am


An editor at SEW pointed out that I wasn’t comparing apples to oranges. He’s absolutely right – I’ve had the wrong SEW RSS feed in my reader for some time now. Their blog is far better:

I hate posts that aren’t fully researched – this was a little embarrassing…


It is clearer than ever that Danny Sullivan was the driving force behind SEW – allowing him to leave (and start a competitor!) was a huge mistake. Here is an example of the last few headlines to float across my RSS reader since Jan 1:

Search Engine Land:

Now look at the single post since the New Year from Search Engine Watch:

There is just no competition.

Google, Yahoo and IP Geolocation

Geolocation,Search,SEM,SEO by on December 29, 2006 at 2:43 am

I continue to think about the fact that Google is in the Czech market before Yahoo. I wonder how many other countries this is true for?

Fundamentally, I believe this is due to the fact that search is core for Google, but it isn’t core for Yahoo – content is. Related to the “peanut butter” problem, the barriers for localizing all of Yahoo’s content are tremendous, but it is far easier for Google to make its core search and adwords available in a new language. Just imagine trying to transalate and You’ll quickly be able to see how much harder Yahoo’s job is.

Google began licensing IP geolocation technology over 6 years ago. The most visible use of this technology is the country level redirects they do (visitors to from the Czech Republic are automatically redirected to However, the technology enables a number of other critical components of Google’s business:

  • Search anywhere. Not only can you send users to a localized version, but you can figure out where servers are hosted, helping to match users with content relevant to them and their country.
  • Adwords anywhere. You can buy keywords in any country (and in most major cities). Since Google is easily able to customize search for any country they can also sell adds in any country (payment options obviously being one of the most major hurdles)
  • Adsense anywhere. Because Google can distinguish the country of visitors (and has ad inventory), Google can accept publishers that receive traffic from anywhere. Seriously, how absurd is it that YPN is only accepting publishers that receive US traffic?

Panama is Yahoo’s first step towards utilizing IP geolocation technologies, but this is all in the Overture division. I suspect that Yahoo is far from integrating these technologies into its search core. Yahoo had better get moving – 6 years is a lot of time to make up.

Dugg and then Buried

Digg,SEO by on December 10, 2006 at 6:12 pm

I had a blog post reach the front page of Digg, and then after 630 Diggs had it buried. At the time it was buried, it had the most votes on the front page (I should have taken a screenshot). The post hit the front page in under an hour, requiring only about 30 Diggs (it was a Saturday morning).

The post stirred some controversy as it implied non-altruistic motives of some Top Diggers. I didn’t think the post was that controversial, but it definitely hit a few nerves. I followed the buried post up with a profile of one Digger and the impact he had on a site that he Dugg 147 times over the last 60 days. That post was on its way to the front page (15 Diggs in 2 hours), but was also buried.

A few interesting tidbits:

  • 39 Diggs after the bury. After the post was buried, it received 39 Diggs in the subsequent 24 hours – enough to hit the first page (on a weekend). This truly speaks to the power of the friend effect. The only way that Diggers could find the story was through the profile pages of their friends.
  • 14,097 Unique users. No doubt would have been higher had the post not been buried – the traffic from Digg had mostly disappeared after the story was buried.
  • 630 new feed subscribers recorded by Feedburner. These don’t seem to actually represent subscribers though. We’ll see how that number looks several days later.
  • 32 new inbound blog links were picked up by Technorati. I’m sure the actual number of inbound links is higher. I’ll check that number in the search engines in a few weeks.
  • 4 new Digg friends. I’m just understanding the social side of Digg and I have to admit it is pretty cool. I love that Digg stands alone without the social side, but it becomes even more compelling as you get sucked in.

My biggest takeaway is that controversy may work in the blogosphere, but it doesn’t work on Digg.

Update 1:
Technorati inbound links updated from 20 to 32.

Bad Profits and Seductive SEO

Business,SEO by on December 7, 2006 at 10:11 pm

Fred Reichheld, Author of “Loyalty Rules” & “The Ultimate Question”, warns about bad profits: those profits that result from actions that create unhappy customers. The classic example is consumer banking industry. An increasing share of their profits stem from the hidden fees that just piss off their customers. Obviously, this puts businesses in a bad position - they make money by creating unhappy customers, yet they need new customers to grow.

So, why am I linking bad profits and SEO? We’re getting a decent amount of search traffic on all of our deal pages. Our best performing page is a Blue Nile Deal page. Here’s the rub: the deal is expired. Users that find this page through search buy from blue nile, expecting that they’ll save money. They don’t, but we make money. Bad Profits.

SEO can seem like a silver bullet, and once you start making money from search traffic, the first question you ask is “how do I make more money from SEO”? The first answer is frequently “Create more pages”, without a careful understanding of whether the visitor’s experience was a good one or not. Creating more bad experiences does not equate to long term success.

We don’t want to kill the pages of expired deals (search traffic goes away, we don’t make money), but we certainly can’t let new users use expired deals (shitty experience, but we make money). We’re exploring ways to make changes to these pages to offer equivalent deals and to clearly indicate the deal as expired.

I’m still a little uncomfortable with this - the success of the approach entirely depends on how equivalent the deals are that we can offer. In some cases, they will truly be equivalent (like a save 10% offer). In other cases, they will be poor substitutes. I’m sure we’ll need to iterate.

« Previous PageNext Page »
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. | Dave Naffziger's BlogDave & Iva Naffziger