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Competitor Analysis Article Published

The latest article by Beanstalk’s Dave Davies (yours truly) has been published today. It delves into areas of competitor analysis and keyword research that more of our readers likely haven’t thought of and that a large percentage wouldn’t even consider doing now that they have.

The article, titled “Savvy Competitor Analysis and Keyword Research Your Competitors Aren’t Doing” recommends some fairly unconventional things – but if you’re in big business and you really want to know what everyone around you is doing – they’re effective.

Enjoy. :)

SEO news blog post by @ 3:49 pm on October 1, 2008



Google Shuffle?

When I launch my browser (Firefox) it starts with 4 tabs. The first three are the major engines with “seo services” in the query just so I can keep close tabs on how we’re doing. The 4th is another Google datacenter with the same information. Yes, I’m that obsessed. It also gives me a close watch on what’s going on at Google – I can constantly see any time a minor adjustment is underway.

When I walked in the door this morning, our Director of SEO Services Daryl Quenet asked me if I’d seen the results and who was up today. He was getting a different set of results than I had gotten just a short while earlier. After searching other phrases it became pretty clear – there’s a minor update underway. If fact, we have one client that in the duration of a call was in position 3, then 22, then 13 and then 6 (and it was about a 5 minute call).

In the results for the competition for “seo services” I’ve admittedly been a bit disheartened with who we’re competing against lately. As I’ve noted previously on our blog, there was once a time when we were up against WeBuildPages for the #1 spot. That isn’t the case anymore and unfortunately, a lot of the sites now beating WeBuild have what I would consider to be “less that ideal” link strategies. To me, I’d almost rather be #2 in a solid competition against worthy opponents than #1 in a competition against sites that have sloughs of footer links and blogrolls. Basically, I’d rather be up against “real” linking strategies.

Unfortunately, it appears that the newer algorithm (and it’s been this way for a while now) is favoring link strategies that go exactly against the best practices. I’m not going to name names here (you can check the backlinks of our competitors (and us too if you like) to find out who’s doing what – on maybe spend your time researching your own industry) but here’s some of what we’re seeing get results that they shouldn’t be:

Paid Links:
Ugh. There are numerous competitors out there who have bought links and are reaping the benefits. No matter what Matt and crew might say over at chez Google – they’re just not as good at devaluing them as we’re being told. One of the sites I was looking into has many paid links in obvious locations on irrelevant sites and is doing quite well with them. Now, I’m not saying go out and get yourself some paid links – it’s always a risky venture but this is definitely the area of biggest annoyance to me as we have no paid links simply because we’re not willing to risk our rankings and to watch sites climb into the top 10 with them, even after being reported, is annoying to those of us that have secured legitimate links with great effort and is hurting those that they beat out.

Links On Client Sites:
Alright, admittedly this is a tactic that I don’t love but I can’t really argue it. We tend not to put links on client sites. I personally find it to be in poor form to charge a client and then take a link from them HOWEVER there is a legitimate claim that this is advertising and giving credit where it’s due.

Regardless of what side of the equation you’re on in that debate though, should these really count as backlinks? They’re not links given by the site owner as a vote, they’re default links put there by the party that will benefit. Google needs to find a way to discount these links much better than they are right now.

Run Of Site Links:
This is an easy one. If a link appears on every page of a site – it shouldn’t count. If it’s there for traffic, great but I can’t think of a single reason why a run-of-site link, any run-of-site link, should be legitimately counted as a vote. Even if the link is to a parent company – the link is not so much a vote as a disclaimer and should be treated as such.

This one might come right after paid links in my list of annoying links that shouldn’t, but do, seem to be working right now. One of the sites I’ve found has that majority of their links coming from a counter that links with an image to their site. From what I can see, they don’t even offer the counter on their site and thus – they likely (though not necessarily) have paid to have their link put in by the counter creator as a “sponsor”.

In this case we have a paid link combined with a low quality, non-anchor text link (though the images to have alt tags) that it effective. This obviously shouldn’t be the case if what we’re trying to count are real, quality, vote-given links.

And So …
So what’s the purpose of this rant? Well, I know that people from Google visit our blog, I can see them in our stats and so my hope is that one of them will read this blog, take a look at how they’re counting backlinks and give credit where it’s due – to links worked for and earned by either providing valuable information, providing a valuable resource, or other such “tactics” that actually reflect a vote from one site to another rather than counting a default link with low value based on Google’s own guidelines and articulated philosophy towards the subject.

And just to help things along I’m going to give a link to WeBuildPages for SEO services just to give them a boost. Now they just need to get their onsite optimization in place and perhaps we’ll once again be up against companies that should be in the top ten. ;)

A Warning:
Now some of you may be thinking, “Hey, these tactics are working so let’s do it !!!” If that’s your mentality then I warn you to do so at your own risk. Google is trying to get a better value system in place for links and eventually they will succeed. If you’re looking to only rank briefly then you might stand a chance but if what you want it to build a quality site that will withstand the ebb-and-flow of the algorithm over time (and I hope you are) then these tactics will eventually get caught and downward your site will tumble.

We’re starting to see a very little bit of this in some cases (depending on which set of results we’re seeing right now Google settles on) but not enough. My hope is that Google will be able to pick these links up, give them the credit they deserve (none in most cases) and let the true links acquired in mine and other industries count as they should.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:40 pm on September 23, 2008



All I’m Going To Say Is …

I could write a long blog post, in fact – today it’s going to be over 1000 words. That includes the fact that it has an image and that image is, of course, worth 1000 words.

I happened to be looking through some news on Beanstalk (good to check how people are talking about you periodically) and found one that pointed to a past blog post I wrote on PageRank and a discussion I got into on Sphinn about it). But it’s not the discussion that I found humorous this evening – it’s the AdSense.

The full post (which you can read here if you’re so inclined) was on a PageRank debate. Here’s an image of what I saw as far as AdSense on the page.

Take a peek at those AdSense ads.

All I’m going to say is, relevancy anyone?

SEO news blog post by @ 11:42 pm on September 22, 2008



Give A Little – Get A Little

Alright, I’ve noticed that my friends in the SEO community are being overshadowed in their donations to our efforts to raise money for breast cancer research by our clients, friends and even (didn’t see this one coming) to the people who walk by our house, read our sign and drop a donation into our mailbox. Alright people – that is kind of sad BUT it’s a huge plus for our blog readers, clients and others. We’ve now crossed $1000 earned and that doesn’t even include the $500 Beanstalk will be adding to the total.

And so I’m going to try something a little different – I’ll try giving a little and in return, I’m hoping that breast cancer research will get a little something back.

Giving A Little:

I’ve been giving quite a bit of thought to what tid-bit of info to give so I’m going to leave that up to you to decide. We’re the #1 ranking site for “seo services” so ask away. Let me know what you want to know with the sole exception of “How did you get to be #1?” which would require a book of info but we’ll answer any one question. Send them in between now and the end of the week and the question with the highest number will get answered on our blog, even if it’s “a secret”. :)

Get A Little:

The goal of this trade will be to inspire our blog readers (AND SEO’s) to give back in the way of a donation to breast cancer research. The donation is tax deductable, gets you a listing forever on our Run For The Cure page and some other cool incentives.


So, send us your questions by this Friday we’ll answer the question that we received the most of. And then donate – or donate first, it’s good for the soul.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:43 pm on



What In The World Is Net Neutrality?

I had the great pleasure and privilege of speaking at Search Engine Strategies 2008 in San Jose. The topic? Net neutrality. This is the point where your eyes glaze over and the inevitable question, “What is net neutrality?” comes forth. And that’s the point of this article.

The session had very low turnout and Kevin Ryan, the organizer of SES, was there asking to all, “What could we do to increase awareness and attendance?” The issue is important to Kevin, important to me and in fact – it’s important to anyone who makes their living on or uses the Internet.

So What Is Net Neutrality?

Prior to speaking I would periodically get asked, “So, what panel are you on?” When I replied I would generally get a blank stare in return. It appears that the vast majority of the population, even the educated, Internet-savvy population, doesn’t understand the debate over net neutrality (or even know there is a debate to begin with). The fault in this is mine and others who do understand the importance of the issue but who have failed to be passionate about it to others.

The idea of net neutrality seems a simple one. It is the idea that all those little 1s and 0s that float around (let’s call them web pages, downloads, videos and emails) should be treated equally and that under no circumstances should the ISPs be allowed to adjust, degrade or otherwise affect them other than to pass them to the requesting party. Seems simple enough right? So what’s the debate?

The debate is hugely complicated with the providers claiming that they need to manage traffic to provide a solid experience to all and with net neutrality advocates claiming that the ISPs are destined to abuse the ability to manage traffic and that a huge array of issues will likely follow if we give them the ability. They claim that legislation is necessary to insure that all traffic is considered equal and no site, download or other traffic source is adversely affected based of its content type, origin or requesting user.

Again, on the surface it seems fairly simple. The “greedy ISPs” are looking to gouge users and degrade our service and we need the government to protect us. At first glance that’s how I saw it too.

Why Does It Matter?

Depending on which camp you’re in the reasons are different but the message is the same – the wrong decision is going to have wide-spread affects on how the Internet grows and how users and their 1s and 0s are treated. Basically – this issue will determine the health and growth of the Internet. To be sure, the Internet will survive regardless but the questions remain:

  • How will we access it?
  • How will it be charged?
  • How fast will it be?
  • How fast will it grow?
  • Who will have access?
  • What will we be able to access?

Basically, the entire future of the Internet is carried on the back of this issue. An issue that most people aren’t even aware of and even those who do know are having trouble determining which side is actually the correct one.

Those opposing net neutrality legislation could refer to it as a solution looking for a problem, showing clear examples of how issues are being dealt with under current legislation and asserting that any additional legislation will restrict future enhancement. The solution itself may become a problem if it is too broad-reaching.

Opposition would point out that the ISPs are self-serving corporations and that to that end, consumers need protection. That not taking action now will result in a scenario where the abuses will take place and there will be no institutionalized solution.

Here are the main points of both sides:

In The Debate …

My session at the conference was constructed as a debate with Cindy Krum from Blue Moon Works moderating. In the debate I was up against my good friend and the co-host on my radio show Webcology on, Jim Hedger of Markland Media. He took the side supporting net neutrality and I opposed it. In truth, we each see both sides of the argument – it’s that kind of issue.

Pro-Net Neutrality Legislation

Jim brought up many good points in his presentation. He illustrated the abuses that have take place recently including ComCast’s blocking of torrent seeding. For those of you unfamiliar with torrents, they are a peer-to-peer file sharing format. ComCast allowed for the download of the file however once downloaded they blocked the user from seeding it. ComCast claims this was in an effort to reduce the effect these users were having on the network.

In August 2008 the FCC stepped in and forced ComCast to cease these actions enforcing the idea that they could not discriminate based on the file type and degrade the service. Jim and other net neutrality advocates claim this as a victory.

In 2007 Verizon blocked pro-abortion text messages to a legitimate list of recipients. They didn’t require legislation or laws however; public outcry forced a reversal of this policy.

Jim painted a bleak future if net neutrality legislation is not passed. A future where ISPs degrade specific websites, provide preferential treatment of other sites based on a payment structure, and promote their own self-interests and web properties through degradation of the alternatives. He would assert that smaller businesses will suffer, unable to pay the fees required to compete with the “big boys”.

These are the common concerns among net neutrality advocates.

Anti-Net Neutrality Legislation

I presented the arguments opposing net neutrality legislation. It was a tougher stance with the room (albeit small) against me from the beginning but the points are legitimate nonetheless – there are solid concerns against net neutrality legislation. In the end however I isolated two main points that are clear.

The first point I brought up was that of the current legislation. As noted above regarding ComCast, there is existing legislation to protect consumers and this legislation works. That is where the argument, “Net neutrality is a solution looking for a problem,” comes from.

In fact, some might argue that even the current legislation is too much and we only need to view the ComCast decision to witness why this might be. ComCast is not allowed to block torrent traffic. Due to this they are looking at other ways to manage bandwidth. The solution they’ve come up with and that they’ll be toying with next year is to monitor all users and when traffic is high on their network – slow the speeds of those using the most.

What this boils down to is that if I was sitting at home downloading a site, chatting on Skype and maybe surfing a bit while doing this there’s a good chance my access would get slowed down just to protect those downloading movies illegally (and yes I am aware that torrents are used for legal downloads as well however I have a feeling that if their only use was legal, they wouldn’t be a problem to the ISPs).

Legitimate traffic may now well be affected negatively to protect “net neutrality”.

The second point (and probably the less popular of my arguments) was that capitalism and consumer choice in a non-monopolistic area is self-regulating. As we saw with Verizon’s blocking of pro-abortion text messages and reaction to the public outcry (which was to let them through) the consumer has enormous influence and when abuses occur, their reaction forces companies to adjust policy.

In the end we will get to choose our providers and the threat of losing business is an excellent motivator.

So Who’s Right?

The problem with asserting who’s right or wrong here is that there is key information missing. We’re trying to give an answer when we don’t really know the question. So far the debate is over net neutrality legislation. What is that? What does it cover? How does it read?

Without knowing this it’s difficult to really know what we’re for or against but the problem is, by the time there’s legislation it’ll likely be to late to back away from it.

It’s also difficult to look at the pro and against supporter lists without having it affect your decision unless you really think about why they’re there. On the pro side we’ve got companies like Google and Facebook (two friendly “little” companies) and on the against side we’ve got telco’s and business organizations (those evil people who just want to make money). In fact, both camps want to make money. Let’s not forget that they may be friendly companies – but both Google and Facebook both have billions of dollars and rely on the networks. This, and not some altruistic believe in a “free internet”, is the true motivation of these companies. They want to make sure their costs aren’t increased simply because they’re some of the biggest sources of Internet traffic, either directly or indirectly. Now, their main arguments may or may not be correct however one has to understand that each voice has its bias and we need to understand that bias rather than simply choosing sides based on which camp looks the nicest.

So What’s The Answer?

While I’d love to be able to give you my honest assessment of the situation, the fact is – the more I learn about the net neutrality issue the less clear the right decision becomes. In discussing this with Cindy and Jim after the debate we agreed that the biggest need right now is awareness and a clear definition of what both camps are seeking, what the legislation would look like and a third party evaluation of how this would impact the Internet as well as some real open dialogue, not just banner waving from both sides.

One thing we do know is that net neutrality legislation would significantly impact the state and future of the Internet – what isn’t terribly clear is how. That’s what we need to know.

The next step in the discussion is public awareness and a serious discussion with both sides and our politicians on the issue. We need to understand exactly what’s at stake, what legislation would look like and how it would impact the ISPs and the consumers. We need to look to the future, understand what is coming in the way of bandwidth requirements, and make sure that the average user will have access to the bandwidth they need and that the ISPs are motivated to insure that it’s there to be had.

My Opinion

When starting my preparation for the debate I leaned towards the net neutrality legislation camp. It seemed like the obvious choice however the more I learned, the more grey it became. Today I find my leanings favoring the anti-net neutrality side. I find that when I think of how the current legislation has protected consumers adequately thus far, how public opinion has forced complete 180’s in others and when I consider how lack-lusterly governments tend to create broad-sweeping laws in areas where the offenses are as-of-yet unknown – it seems prudent to support the current state of affairs, at least until a genuine need for specific net neutrality legislation arises that can’t be address with current legislation.

That said, Jim leans to the other side and he too understands the issue and the arguments on both sides.

Two people who have researched significantly the issue, viewing common concerns from both sides and who, in the end, land on different sides of the fence. Again, it’s that kind of an issue.

We Need

We need an open and honest debate on the issue. We need you involved with the discussion and we need those in government who support net neutrality legislation to stand up and explain what they believe it means and what the legislation would look like.

We need to hear all the points from the ISPs in regards to how the legislation would negatively impact services and future development on infrastructure and we need to hear from the pro-net neutrality camp on exactly what needs to be protected that isn’t already and why.

Until then I’ll continue to speak to less-than-packed rooms at conferences whose attendees are greatly affected by the issue – even if they’re not aware of it.

But at least you are now. Now it’s time to educate yourself further and find out for yourself why this issue is of paramount important and what you can do to insure that the Internet remains the highway of information and entertainment that it is, tomorrow and for years to come.

Additional Resources

Save The Internet – Save The Internet is a pro-net neutrality site dedicated to providing information supporting the idea of net neutrality legislation. It’s an excellent resource and required reading for anyone who wants to fully understand the issue.

Hands Off The Internet (formerly linked to:– Hands Off The Internet is an equally important website explaining the situation from the side of those opposing net neutrality legislation. As with Save The Internet, it is required reading for anyone who wants to fully understand the issues and what’s at stake.

I would warn all readers; this is not an issue to take sides on, on just face value. Read the two sites noted above and then go further and find blogs, news and other information sources. It’s easy to get a quick, biased opinion on either side but it’s important that we all understand all the issues and all the risks.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:16 pm on

Categories:Search Engine News


Some Peoples’ Children

As many of you may be aware, Mary Davies (Beanstalk’s President), Kathryn Robinson (One of our best link builders), and myself (Beanstalk’s CEO) along with some friends and family have formed Beanstalk’s Team Heather and on October 5th we’ll be participating in the CIBC Run For The Cure – an annual fund raising effort to help fund breast cancer research.

We’re doing MANY things to raise money for the effort as it’s an issue that’s close to our hearts since Mary’s cousin Heather (and thus the name Team Heather) was diagnosed with breast cancer.

One of those efforts was putting up a page on our site with some cool incentives for people to sponsor our team and help raise money for this worthwhile cause (note: it’s tax deductable as well).

Another effort, as we live right by the water in beautiful Victoria, BC, Canada was to put out a table with donation forms and information on our team and the charity. Those who made a donation or even just signed our guestbook with good wishes got to take a pink ribbon and tie it to our fence where it would stay until after the race.

Someone stole our table.

That’s right, they took the guestbook and ribbons off (thanks at least for that) and they actually stole the table of people using the table to raise money for charity.

Now fortunately we have extras and once again this morning the table is out where it’ll remain all day but seriously – who raises someone who steals tables that are there to raise money for charity? I wasn’t sure whether to be ticked off or just laugh. I chose to laugh and rant a bit on the blog. I seem to be doing that lately. :)

So, my thought is that there’s always some good with the bad. We had our misfortune last night – my hope is that this blog post will inspire our valued blog readers to visit our Breast Cancer Run page or our charity page and make a donation. And we’re not just asking for a free handout. We’re willing to give a little back. How much depends on the donation. Be sure to visit our Team Heather page for more info. You’ll be glad you did.

SEO news blog post by @ 2:22 pm on September 12, 2008



We Are Not Rock Stars !!!

For some time now I’ve bitten my tongue on an issue that’s driven me nuts for some time – the ego involved in the SEO industry. I have WAY too often heard some of the more noted SEO’s referred to as “rock stars”. And who makes the reference? Other SEO’s.

Let’s face facts shall we … If I ask my neighbor, my dad or my banker who even Matt Cutts is I’m going to get a blank stare. Even the most recognized person in our industry is, to those outside the industry and related industries, an unknown. Rock star? I think not.

Now this isn’t to say that Matt isn’t a good guy and important in the grand scheme of search. He’s a great spokesperson for Google and obviously a brilliant engineer but a rock star?

If we want to take a peek at brilliance in engineering perhaps I could ask a simple question, “The Large Hadron Collider successfully completed it’s first test today – who was the chief architect?” A development in technology that could well affect the way we view our universe and our understanding about how the building blocks of matter and existence function. But they’re not rock stars – no no, to be a rock star you have to optimize web pages and attend conferences.

How about Norman Borlaug? Norman who? That’s alright, he’s not a rock star – he’s only credited with saving over a billion people and won the Congressional Gold Medal, the Nobel Peace Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. You can read more about him on my blog post from July 25, 2007 if you’re interested but remember – he’s not a rock star. He didn’t get a site onto the first page of Google to flog a new acne medication.

As I’m sure you’ve all gathered – the term rock star itself is a bit of a point of contention to me. Let’s take for example Mick Jagger. Now, I’m not a big Rolling Stones fan but I know who Mick Jagger is. I’ll bet you do too. My dad does, my neighbor does and I’ll bet my banker does too. Why? Because he’s a rock star.

So what exactly got my blood boiling on this one (I could deal with the term rock star but …). San Jose. Now don’t get me wrong – SES San Jose was an awesome event, Kevin Ryan did an excellent job, and it was great to see Danny Sullivan there but one night after one of the many parties (if memory serves me correctly it was after Search Bash) a group of intoxicated SEO’s were heard staggering down the street shouting, “We control the Internet!”

* Sigh *

Alright, now it’s time for another lesson on how all those “tubes” work. We don’t control the Internet. The Internet is controlled by the guys that got picked on in high school. The Internet is controlled by engineers, caffeine and is held together with duct tape. True, we do have some influence over which specific websites appear in the results and thus do influence some decisions and consumer experiences HOWEVER do we control the Internet? Not a chance.

And so my friends it’s time for some of us (not all – there are some very normal down-to-Earth SEO/SEM’s out there) to find a hat big enough for their heads, a truck big enough to pack their egos in and come to terms with the fact that we play a role in Internet commerce and information exchange but we are NOT rock stars and we are not the end-all-be-all of the Internet.

But That’s Not To Say …

Now I can already predict that someone somewhere is going to twist this post into some smack on SEO/SEM (remember now – I’m an SEO), some rant about not being included in the rock star lists (I’ve made a couple) or some wish that I controlled the Internet (OK – you’d catch me on this one, it would be pretty sweet to actually control the Internet). The truth is, SEO is a solid job among many, it has some great rewards, and some excellent people but we’re not better than others and we’re not more notable than others. We don’t need the egos – we’ve got a good enough thing going as it is. SEO/SEM is a valuable service – let’s just be realistic about our roll in the world shall we?

And that’s my rant for the day.

SEO news blog post by @ 1:56 am on September 11, 2008



The Large Hadron Collider

For those of you who have popped by Google today (read: for all of you on our blog) you’ll may have noticed that their logo has a large ring around it. This isn’t a halo, it’s a celebration of the success of the first test of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) the worlds most powerful particle accelerator.

Now I’ve got to admit that my explanation of what it does would probably raise more questions than answers – I’ll provide links at the bottom of this post for those of you who want to read more.

In short however, the purpose of this collider is to find new particles and answer fundamental questions about how matter works, where antimatter is, and in fact – answer many questions about the very nature of the universe.

Based on some of the stuff Google’s been doing lately – I’m surprised there isn’t a bi colorful G on the side of it. :)

The test launches us into a new era of discovery and exploration. Hopefully we will get some new answers to age-old questions. The problem though is that every time we do, we seem to end up with twice as many new questions. How long until we need an XLHC? ;)

For more information check out:

Or for those of you too busy to read (and you know who you are) – here’s a surprisingly well done rap video:


SEO news blog post by @ 5:20 pm on September 10, 2008



Google: The Good With The Bad

I wanted to have time to write this blog post yesterday but wouldn’t you know it – work and clients had to come first. :)

Two interesting events occurred recently over at chez Google. The first, the good news – Google rockets into space. The second, the bad news – Google is involved with investors in United Air losing millions of dollars. As I said, the good with the bad.

Google Rockets Into Space

Google has exclusive access to the highest resolutions images of the Earth thanks to a deal that gives them exclusive access to the commercial used of images from the GeoEye-1 satellite launched last Saturday.

The satellite takes images at 5.5 feet resolution in color and 16 inches resolution in black and white. That said, due to government regulations only 1.64 feet resolution images can be made available to the general public.

I have to say, I’m honestly impressed. I’ve personally never used Google maps and thought, “darn – I just with I had 5.5 foot resolution,” but having your name on a satellite is just cool.

Add to this recent event the following:

And I (biased to be sure by my love of science fiction) am sure that Google not only wants to control all the information on Earth but will likely be setting up a base soon on the moon as they have previously indicated interest in.

A huge congratulations to Google on the successful launch.

And Now The Bad

But all was not rosy for Google on Monday though the bad news isn’t really their fault – they just happened to get caught in the middle.

An article on the 2002 Chapter 11 filing by United Air got picked up and published in the Florida Sun Sentinel. How the article got picked up when everything about it pretty clearly indicated that it was from 2002 is beyond me. That said, how investors could react as they did to a story that they should have read (and if they had – could have saved themselves millions of dollars).

At any rate, where it wen horribly wrong was when a reporter looking for information to post on Bloomberg Googled “bankruptcy 2008″ and found the Sentinel article as the #1 result. He took it for what it said and posted a link to it on Bloomberg. That was at 10:55am. At 10:56am the stock was trading at $11.51 and then plunged over a couple minutes down to $3/share before trading was halted. Trading resumed at 11:01am and had virtually recovered by 12:29pm when the stock sat at $11.30/share.

So Google was not at fault, but certainly involved and this incident if nothing else shows us the fragile nature of our information sources. We trust what we see based on a habit of finding reliable information on Google but unfortunately, when the wrong information ranks highly – we still trust it. In this case, millions of dollar were lost (though on the other side – millions of dollars were made).

SEO news blog post by @ 12:51 am on



Life Without Google

Alright, maybe not life entirely without Google but let’s face facts (and I’m sure even the folks over at Google would agree) there are lots of great minds out there and not all of them work at the Googleplex (shocking I know). I’ve recently been giving quite a bit of thought to all the different ways I search for things and decided to finally cover a couple of my favorite “Google Alternatives” in a blog post. The purpose is not to get you to stop using Google which would be:

a. pointless, and
b. hypocritical. I use Google as my primary engine but there is a time and a place for other choices.

So let’s get to it and hopefully you’ll end this article with a few new ways to search for information and perhaps even pass back a few of your own tips. :)

Genie Knows

When I first heard about the launch of GenieKnows soon-to-be-announced map embedding for webmasters back at SES San Jose it flooded back to me how great innovations are occurring among many of the lesser-known engines and unfortunately a lot of these great features are lost to all but those “in the know” (read: immersed enough in the Internet community to even hear about alternative and vertical search engines). Jim Hedger wrote a great piece on the new product launch by Genie Knows over on the Metamend blog so I won’t cover that here. What I will cover is the usefulness and innovation of this engine.

I suppose I should note, it’s their map functionality that completely won me over. If you haven’t checked it out yet I highly recommend doing so. Here’s an example of how I’ve used a non-Google function from another engines to make my life dramatically easier:

I go to a lot of conferences. The fact of the matter is, I spend VERY little time at the hotel and thus, can rarely justify the cost of staying at a hotel like the Hilton. Now I’m not a cheap person but seriously – If I can save $100/night that’s an extra $100 I have to either leave in the company or spend while I’m at the conference on more entertaining or useful endeavors. So the predicament becomes, how do I find a hotel that’s less expensive and yet still within an easy walking distance of the conference?

Once upon a time I would use Google maps and Expedia. I’d look up the various hotels on Expedia and map them out with directions on Google maps and one-by-one enter them in and see what I could get and for how much. And then I discovered GenieKnows. The joy of this engine is I enter a phrase such as “seattle hotel” and it shows me a map with a grid. In the middle of each cell is a number – that is the number of hotels in that area so all I have to do is find the conference area on the map and click that square and now I know the location of all the nearest hotels and can much more easily look them up without having to lookup hotels only to find out they’re 15 miles from where I need to be. A huge time saver every time I travel and it’s not restricted to hotels, it works for restaurants, etc. I can’t recommend enough testing it out next time you’re traveling or looking for something when location is an issue (and when isn’t it?) If you’ll take my advice you can head over to You won’t regret it.

Yahoo! Answers

I know I know – from one major engine to another. The point of listing Yahoo! Answers though isn’t specifically to tout this feature of Yahoo! though it is a good one. Rather, it’s to point out that within the major engines there are specific search capabilities and sources of information that you likely don’t know about.

I’m sure many of you, the readers here, have used Yahoo! Answers at some time or another or at the very least, a similar service – but most people haven’t. I have found answers in the search results on Google and I’ve even taken the time to answer a few questions but it was when I saw my 10-year-old boy looking up game clues and tips for Pokemon version 18-billion Red (in case you don’t know – this isn’t an actual game of Pokemon but with the number coming out, it probably will be soon) that it really hit home how useful this was for the average searcher. He got frustrated looking for information on Google and found that he could ask questions or often find others who had and get the answers quickly on Yahoo! Answers. The message was clear, when your query is really a question that requires an expert answer (even if that expert is just some kid who plays too many video games) then Google may well not be the first place to go for a fast and accurate answer.

As another plus (and this is as a parent) – if you’ve ever seen the ads on the gaming sites you too will be happy to find your son on Yahoo! Answers.

Take this as advice to check out the specific offerings of your favorite engine(s). Blog search, news search, advanced search options and MUCH MUCH more await and once you explore them you’ll find searching a far faster, more accurate and enjoyable experience. Even if it is on Google but you’ll have to forget I wrote that or the title loses some of it’s life. ;)


Alright, I had to show that I do have a sense of humor. I’m not even going to make this one a link as it’s not worth it. Cuil had a lot of promise with ex-Googlers on the dev team and money behind it but it didn’t live up to even half of what it attempted to be. Google-killer? Heck, it’s not even a Dogpile killer.

And A Few Good Lists

In the end what I’m hoping you’ll take from this is a solid belief that there is more out there than just Google or whatever your favorite engine is. Each job has the right tool and different engines offer different opportunities.

I can’t possibly list off all the great engines out there and what they do but here are a few useful lists of some of the better alternative engines out there so you don’t have to weed through the horrible ones to get to the good:

    • – Top Vertical Search Engines (page no longer exists – link removed)




  • Vertical Search – A search engine of vertical search sites. A good place to go if you don’t know where you’re going (link removed – resource no longer exists.)


In Short

In short and I think I’ve made it pretty clear, while about 95% of all my searching is done on Google – there’s a place and a time for alternatives. Knowing those alternatives can make your online experience infinitely more enjoyable. Explore, investigate and enjoy. There’s probably a lot more out there than you think, or at least – easier ways to find it.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:42 am on September 4, 2008



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