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Much Ado About (not provided)

Our motto is (not provided).

Our motto is (not provided).

As many of our readers may already know, earlier this week Google changed the way their URL functions in such a way that for those who monitor their analytics (which should be all of you), you’ll now only see (not provided) where once you would have seen your keyword. This move was met with disappointment and more than a bit of annoyance on the part of SEOs and website owners. The reason (so they say) is to protect the privacy of their users. The logic is, if keyword data passes then it can be picked up in the log files of the site being visited along with data such as the IP address that would allow the user to be pinpointed with some degree of accuracy. So, to make sure that the owner of the custom t-shirt site I visited last week can’t figure out it was me that searched “custom t-shirts canada” that data is now kept from the receiving site. Now, here’s the annoyance – to say that it’s a case of protecting privacy would work UNTIL we realize that the same can’t be said for paid traffic. If you purchase traffic though AdWords, the data is tracked. Now of course it has to be or we’d all just be paying for AdWords and trusting that we were getting the traffic we paid for and that the bids made sense but the hypocrisy is pretty obvious – why is a user that clicks on an organic result then more deserving of privacy than those who click on a paid result? They’re not obviously, and we’re not being told the truth BUT that’s not really the discussion to be had is it? The fact of the matter is, it’s Google and they can do what they want with their own website. I believe I should get to do with my site what I want (within the confines of the law of course) and so I won’t take that away from others. So what is the real discussion …

What Do We Do Now?

While we’re all spending time arguing about the hypocrisy and crying foul, the fact of the matter is that it is what it is and now we have to figure out what to do.  We no longer have keyword data from Google.  There are two routes forward, the short term patch and the long term changes.

Short Term

In the short term we can use Advanced Segments to at least get a good idea about what keywords are producing what effect.  Essentially we can use them to filter traffic that follows patters similar to what specific keywords or keyword groups behaved like.  This tends to only work well with large traffic groupings so unless you get huge traffic for single phrases that behave uniquely – you’ll probably have to group your traffic together.  Branded vs non-branded for example.  I’m not going to get into how this is gone here in this blog post simply because I wrote a lengthy piece on it for Search Engine Watch back when (not provided) was first becoming an issue.  You can read about it at

This will only work for a while however.  You’ll see new traffic coming in and won’t know how it’s behavior impacts the results.  Essentially – this will give you a decent idea until your traffic sources change, your site changes, or time passes.  So what do we do …

Long Term

In the long run we have no option but to make massive adjustments to the way we look at our sites.  We can no longer determine which keywords perform the best and try to caft the user experience for them.  Instead we have to look at our search traffic in a big bucket.  Or do we?

While this may be true for some traffic, we can still segment but the landing page (which will give you a good idea of the phrases) as well as look at groups of pages (all in a  single directory for example).  I know for example that this change comes right when we ourselves are redesigning our website and in light of this I will be changing the way our directory structure and page naming system work to allow for better grouping of landing pages by common URL elements.  I imagine I won’t be the last to consider this factor when building or redeveloping a website.

What will need to change is our reliance on specific pieces of data.  I know I like to see that phrase A produced X result and work to improve that.  We’ll not have to look at larger groupings of data.  A downside to this (and Google will have to address this or we as SEOs will) is that it’s going to be a lot easier to mask bad practices as specific phrase data won’t be available.  I know for example that in an audit I was part of, we found bot traffic in part based on common phrase elements.  Today we wouldn’t be able to do this and the violations would continue.

We’re All Still Learning

Through the next couple months we’ll all be adjusting our reporting practices to facilitate this change.  I know that some innovative techniques will likely be developed to report as accurately as possible what traffic is doing what.  I know I’ll be staying on top if it and we’ll keep you posted here in our blog and on our Facebook page.

SEO news blog post by @ 10:48 am on September 26, 2013



Erasing Your Embarrassments

The online social world has permanently altered the future. Young people are coming of age in an era where they can easily take and post photos online, share them with friends and family, and garner an audience of strangers. Teenagers — notoriously short in foresight, susceptible to “groupthink” and peer pressure, anxious to fit in and define themselves as individuals, exploring new aspects of adulthood — now have access to an infinite audience on the web. The combination often makes for toxic results, and sadly having a sloppy drunken photo on your Facebook page is often the best case scenario. There are already some infamous cases in which teenagers were persuaded or coerced into taking nude photos of themselves, only to find that their audience held them at ransom for years afterward, ruining their lives and threatening their futures. We all know that employers are going to check an interviewee’s social media to see what sort of person they are in their off time; can you imagine trying to apply for a job when you know that your boss could find your most humiliating secret at any time?

From abuse and exploitation of minors in social media circles is an area where the law has yet to catch up to reality. Due to the anonymous nature of the internet, it can be tough to track down a bully — or prove beyond reasonable doubt that the virtual abuse caused real-life harm. But a lot of the time a teen can be his or her own worst enemy. Take a look at any ‘Facebook Fails’ website and you’ll see hundreds of examples of poor judgment — of kids engaged in dumb, illegal, embarrassing, or self-incriminating behavior. They tweet before thinking and comment; all of which will come back to bite them when they find themselves on a major job search.

In this vein, it’s refreshing to read that California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a bill into law which requires websites to remove content when requested to do so by a minor. The bill allows minors to essentially push an “erase button” for digital content; while sites may not be required to completely eliminate the requested data, they have to remove it from the view of the public.

It’s important to note that this law doesn’t apply to content posted by a third party; it sadly can’t remove compromising photos posted by friends, enemies, or blackmailers. The bill doesn’t apply to sites which anonymize the content and/or their users, making it difficult to identify the minor individually. However, it does apply to social media sites, and even sites registered outside of California have to comply if a Californian teen requests the removal of content.

It’s tempting to scoff at this measure and chuckle at the hubris of adolescence. Many people argue that these digital records, however embarrassing or incriminating, are nonetheless important — and public — records of major prejudices, risk-taking behaviors, and other indicators of reliability and respect. But today’s teens are guinea pigs in an experiment which has no precedent; there has never been anything like Facebook before. Their mistakes aren’t unique to their generation; they are, however, far more widely recorded for public consumption. I think it’s a great step towards incorporating the social web into our lives and accepting that it is going to be a permanent part of how we interact with one another for the foreseeable future. If the California law gives teens a chance to clean up their act when those frontal lobe brain cells finally sprout, then they should have the same opportunity as their predecessors to put their best foot forward into young adulthood and beyond.

SEO news blog post by @ 4:40 pm on September 24, 2013


Social Media and The Art of Communication

Social media is your direct line of communication with the public. How we voice or thoughts in written form can make or break a relationship with whom we are communicating. Since we have no form of physical reference to make our emotional response, writing can be tough when trying to relate our thoughts. nonverbal communication is a skill that is used by many professionals when trying to predict potential outcomes in human reaction. In fact, nonverbal communication has been used to identify terrorist threats by decoding personalities on the internet. This method is used to determine potential threats in the matrix as a preventative measure of serious issues coming to pass. A focus on educating ourselves with online nonverbal communication may be the key to a better virtual world.

The social dynamic on any platform is not so different than the conversation you would bring up at the dinner table or communicate at a formal convention. Manners is what it boils down to, but at the same time every conversation needs to feel as if there is chemistry involved. Our minds subconsciously take subtle cues from who we are communicating with such as brow movement, blinking, pupil dilation and tone. We interpret internet communication the same way but without the physical analysis, that is unless you’re on visual hangout or Skype video conversation. I’ve seen many arguments started over misunderstanding the tone in a text message that could have been prevented.

Many media companies have seen this trend rise and with sometimes unfortunate events like suicide or death. Since this surge of misinterpreted information leading to unfortunate events social media platforms thought that adding emoticons would help with communicating an emotion with the text sent. Sadly enough, emoticons don’t cut it when trying to replicate a true emotion in a written conversation. If this is the case, how do we manage our communications so they don’t accidentally afflict anyone from a misunderstanding?

In social media we aren’t just targeting one particular audience we are communicating with a multitude of different personalities. Because of this we can’t cater our topics to one specific group, but have to place an emphasis on how we translate a message. The next big challenge would be how we correctly return communication based on what we perceive the information as.

A really good window into understanding this behavior is an article on a site called, “Skills You Need”. They give short but effective examples of categories of common communication barriers. Understanding how to apply written tone to insinuate our voice is a learned skill but is becoming more of an important daily skill when writing for social media. A fun simple reference to send you with would be from Julie Wildhabar from, “Quick and Dirty Tips”; The more we communicate via digital format we have to reformat the way we think and engage with people. Understanding communication barriers as well as applying tone to written word are all part of the nonverbal communication that can be used to how we can successfully engage with others on a digital scale.”

From digital marketing, content creation, social media as well as our own personal digital communication we will more likely to head toward learning these skills and focusing on written form as more of our social engagements occur on the internet.

SEO news blog post by @ 2:40 pm on September 20, 2013



Let’s talk about Spam!

Salt n Pepa

Don’t get me wrong.. Email was one of the cornerstones of the internet, some might even argue that replacing postal mail might have driven the early growth of the internet?

So email is a fundamental part of the internet, and yet.. Just because YOU can do something, like emailing wonderful offers, does it make it right? If everyone sat around all day doing that would it be sustainable?

So we come to the topic of email spam, it’s actual cost in terms of how it taxes our time/effort to dislodge from our inboxes, and what people can do about it.

- Never buy a service that’s spam-vertized.

This is a simple one. You wouldn’t donate money to someone who’s proposing to stand outside your house and scream offers at you through the window, so why would you invest your earnings in a product advertised to you via unsolicited means?

- Identify spam without wasting time.

We’re an SEO, so if you send across an offer to help the Beanstalk SEO website rank better, I’m pretty sure I can toss your email into the spam bin and forget about it. In fact anyone who just sends you an SEO email out of the blue must be pretty desperate and incapable of ranking their own sites in order to get the traffic they need to stay in business.

I personally keep a list of these domains, mostly to block them from using our contact forms, but also as a reference of companies to avoid when clients need referrals.

Heck even “” gets similar offers to improve their ‘conversions’ and ‘organic search results’!

Over on Matt Cutt’s blog he’s talking about a lot of email issues and he’s taken the time to laugh at SEO e-mail spam:

I was on your website and wanted to shoot you a quick note. I think I can make a few changes (aesthetically and/or SEO – wise) to make your site convert more visitors into leads and to get it placed higher in the organic search results, for a few of the select terms.

This is NOT like one of those foreign emails you probably get in your inbox every day. Just to be upfront I have 3 agents that work with me for development /SEO.

I would just need to know which (if not both) services you’re open to checking out information about, either web design or SEO. Would you be open to seeing more brief info / quote for what I would like to accomplish?

As Matt Cutts summarized on his blog:

“this person is offering help to convert visitors into leads.
Or, you know, to improve’s rankings in organic search results. Sigh.”


- Use Opt-In lists that are re-checked regularly.

When you give people a chance to ‘opt-in’ to a mail campaign you win all around…

  • reach people who are interested
  • annoy less potential clients
  • avoid getting flagged as a spammer
  • spend less time trying to sell your validity
  • make the online world a better place

Keep in mind that one of the largest (if not the largest) anti-spam providers is Postini, which is now run by Google and used by many organizations from GMail to WordPress.

If you run afoul of Postini then you can expect a VERY LARGE group of listeners, including GMail users/blog readers, to be filtering out your messages, spam or not.

So even if you have a great opt-in audience now, make sure to re-check that list before it gets stale and potentially starts to annoy folks that were previously interested.

I would NEVER forward spam to friends/associates, but if someone I know is interested in something well-maintained that I’ve opted into, I’ll recommend it to them for sure.

Food for thought.. to go along with that Salt n Pepa!

SEO news blog post by @ 1:38 pm on


Twitter’s Musical Magic

This weekend I attended a local music festival called Rifflandia. This epic four-day event featured over 170 artists, performing at fourteen venues all around the city—everyone from mainstage bigwigs like Courtney Love to beloved local acts that draw a small but dedicated crowd. On Thursday night, while watching the next band set up and do sound checks, I went to update Twitter on my phone and my new friend smirked. “You use Twitter?” he asked. “Why? I’ve never understood the appeal.”

©Rifflandia, 2013

©Rifflandia, 2013

It’s unfortunate for him, because events like Rifflandia are the exact place where Twitter shows its true strength. It takes those big moments—like a Courtney Love concert or a surprise encore performance of Bear Mountain—and makes everyone a part of the collective experience. We uploaded photos and video, made plans to meet with friends old and new, and got up-to-date information on which venues were at capacity. Through the network of thousands using the hashtag #Riff2013, we shared our collective experiences and were able to be many places at once.

One particularly poignant usage of social media to connect with fans was on display at the performance of the Montreal band Stars, who are a personal favourite of mine. In the hours leading up to their main stage set, they spread the word that the audience should film the band and themselves during the concert singing along to the song “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Give It”, and upload the video to their SwitchCam streaming video feed. The files will be used to create a crowd-sourced music video for the song, to be aired on CBC. Even though it was pouring rain, hundreds of us held up our smartphones and became videographers for a few minutes. It was an absolutely wonderful way to connect with fans, and we felt like part of the band’s family; our perspectives as music lovers were becoming a vital part of their newest album.

It’s not just the concert experience that’s enhanced by Twitter; it’s also been an invaluable tool for me as a radio host and aspiring journalist. I can attest to the fact that a personal outreach to someone on Twitter can make all the difference when it comes to getting an ‘in’ with that person elsewhere; I’ve made dozens of musician friends and connections on Twitter, and parlayed it into bringing a local musician into the radio station with me for a live show and cohosting event. It all happened because I saw them at a show, followed them, and sent a message praising their talent and asking if I could obtain their songs to play on my show. After some back-and-forth, a legitimate working relationship has emerged.

It was tough to explain all of this in just a short sentence to my friend, or anyone else who smirks at my heavy use of Twitter, but I wouldn’t trade it with anything. Becoming an SEO has only increased my knowledge of just how powerful the social network can be; it’s the best networking method for introverted oddballs like me, as well as people from all industries and demographic groups. I’m not surprised that Twitter has announced a new partnership with the advertisers of big television and live events, because live-tweeting the experience is half of the fun and it’s the perfect way to catch your audience in a direct, relateable manner.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:56 am on September 17, 2013



Hands Off My Internet!

If Net Neutrality was lost so too would the strongest platform to exercise freedom of speech. The internet would be no different than the cable industry with Fox News and CNN controlling how and what you see and hear for the sake of their own interests. It would be a left wing or right wing society with very little room for people to question either side. Our information would be neutrally cleansed and our evolving thoughts would once again be abated.

Yes, in fact most of the services that we use like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter could all determine what internet provider you use, but there is more of a serious issue. The subject of net neutrality is a First Amendment issue and should not be taken lightly. Voices from around the world are shaping its existence and forming the way governments as well as countries manage their people. If in fact neutrality is taken away our society would be moving one major step backward. I say this because control is a domino effect and the social instruments we use to voice our thoughts would have to be regulated in order for them to keep their ‘spot’ with the distributor. That means you will be socially herded into the category of group you best fit in. Fox people to the right, BBC to the left and CNN for everyone that hasn’t defined themselves yet.

It’s the mingling of thoughts and personal voice that makes change, not the ridged thinking of one side or the other. This is what the internet is to me – a mingling of thoughts; right wing Joe sitting at a table with left wing Larry and leaving middleman Bob to point out the in between. We should all be allowed to personally make the decision to walk away from the table as much as we are allowed to sit at the table and engage in the conversation.

I leave you with a little 2010 video of Al Franken who explains the true and only meaning of Net Neutrality.

SEO news blog post by @ 3:39 pm on September 13, 2013



Thank You Norman Borlaug

Norman Borlaug - the man who saved a billion people.

I bet if I told you about a man named Norman Borlaug you probably wouldn’t know who I was talking about. This Nobel Peace Prize winning man was a major factor for saving billions of people around the world through his work. He was deeply worried about the effects that an impending, yet quickly approaching, disaster of overpopulation was going to have on the food supply for many nations. Through his education and scientific research he created multigrain producing vines that were able to triple the amount of food that was produced on small amounts of agricultural land. Some may remember the 1985 celebrity packed bestselling album, “We Are the World” which helped create global awareness of Africa’s growing famine, causing thousands of deaths a day. If there was a theme song for Norman this would be it; without the implementation of his science this unfortunate reality would have continued to persist.

After his forestry studies at the University of Minnesota in 1942 he carried on to microbiology for the Du Pont Nemours Foundation. Agriculture was being hard hit at this time; maintaining a healthy crop was not easy due to different fungal and bacterial growths. He was the first to research a solution for this problem. Later, in 1944, he was asked to intensify his research and create a wheat strain that was resistant to disease. He moved down to Mexico to head the experimental program and shortly found success creating high-yielding disease free crops. This was a monumental breakthrough and was historically praised for this type of genetic technology. His personal goal in this research was to figure out how to create a way, using his findings, to help thwart the growing disaster of worldwide hunger.

His genetic science in agricultural development spread from the North and South American Continent to South East and West Asia. He was able to produce the same abundant growth for the rice industry – spawning what was known today as the green revolution. The already existing infrastructure had no idea how to handle the record amounts of wheat and rice being produced. In fact, so much was harvested that municipal buildings were being used as holding stalls for the immense, exploding inventory. Now most of the poorest countries were producing crops and feeding hungry nations.

This once inconceivable agricultural feat was now a reality. Norman’s creation was beyond what he ever thought he would accomplish and surpassed expectation. This breakthrough didn’t come without its challenges; in fact there was a huge protest to the development of genetically engineered crops. This protest unfortunately made hungry paranoid nations go hungrier. Propaganda from anti G.E. Parties created a fear in these nations, forcing them to resist what could have been for them a certain salvation. This was an upsetting dilemma for Norman Borlaug as his life work that was intended for the betterment of mankind was being heckled. Although there were protests from many leaders around the world, others agreed that his work was worthy of praise. In 1970 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and given the respect that he well deserved.

By the early eighties anti G.E. Crop organizers had convinced others to stop promoting their products in Africa. This hurt Africa’s economic stability badly and it quickly collapsed – creating a rise in poverty and hunger. The issue got so bad that many people worldwide were searching for a solution as the death toll rose by the hour. Celebrity musician got together and created what was one of history’s biggest musical events, “We Are the World,” raising an essential awareness to the dire situation in Africa. It was because of this, they were able to fund a solution for this deprived part of the world in conjunction with a plan created by Norman Borlaug himself. This effort brought the practice from Asia over to Africa – ultimately saving millions of lives.

Norman Borlaug is a man beyond the term “Hero,” he deserves the gratitude of every household as the man who saved the world. September 12, 2009 marks the day Norman left this earth. Undeniably, it is also a day that brings hope from one man’s strong compassion to keep civilizations from the brink of disaster and allowing it to continue to thrive. This day we celebrate a man who celebrated life; Thank You Norman Borlaug.

Norman Borlaug Congressional Gold Medal

SEO news blog post by @ 9:53 am on September 12, 2013



Liquid Galaxy: Science Fiction Becomes Fact

Google Earth is definitely one of the most fascinating playthings in the company’s toybox; it was impressive when it launched in 2001 (under the name ‘Keyhole Earthviewer’) and it remains impressive to this day. I remember logging on as a teenager at home and finding the Eiffel Tower in Paris; back then, the only option was a top-down view, and I was disappointed when I tried to change the angles so I could “stand” next to France’s most iconic building. But Google Earth has taken care of that problem; thanks to Street View being integrated into the program, you can zoom into practically anywhere on Earth and roam the streets, exploring cities you’ve never seen from the comfort of your desk.

That’s not all; Google Earth has added data to allow users to zoom in under the oceans, see the Lunar Lander on the surface of the Moon, and even view high-resolution images of Martian terrain scooped from the Mars Orbiter and Exploration Rovers. Google Earth users can even view historical images, traveling back in time to view what certain areas looked like many years ago. You can explore the Wieliczka Salt Mine in Poland and the Prado Museum in Madrid.

NGC_4414_(NASA-med)But one of Google Earth’s most incredible features is the one you probably won’t have heard of; it’s an open-source DIY-capable piece of code that takes one step closer to bringing science fiction tech to life. It’s called Liquid Galaxy, and its description—an ‘immersive Google Earth’—doesn’t do nearly enough justice to the possibilities it can create. You won’t find Liquid Galaxy as a major Google release; its official project page is full of technobabble and source code modifications from engineers all over the world. Part of the beauty of the product is that it can be whatever you want it to be. But when it comes down to it, Liquid Galaxy is a design concept that allows you to project Google Earth onto several screens at once, creating a unified surround view of the world. It was originally developed by some Google employees as an independent project; they wanted to recreate the experience of seeing their geo-product imagery in a more seamless way. Using a few extra Linux workstations, they built a big gazebo-style case that housed eight 55-inch LCD screens, and used a cluster of computers to project Google Earth seamlessly and simultaneously—a combination of the Holodeck and a huge flight simulator.

Liquid Galaxy presents an endless amount of potential for teaching everything from geography to climate change and urban planning; after taking Liquid Galaxy on the road and being met with overwhelming praise, in 2010 Google made their configuration, codes, and schematics public so that anyone could rig up their own version. This makes Liquid Galaxy a fasciatingly unique Google product; while it’s been available to the public for three years, very few people have had firsthand experience with one. Georgia State University has a 48-screen display wall using four Windows 7 machines; NASA has one at the Johnson Space Center. Some can be controlled using Xbox Kinect; others use head tracking software. Liquid Galaxy has been used to run the virtual reality game Second Life, allowing players to truly feel as if they’re stepping into Linden Labs’ simulated universe. One civilian user has even rigged a five-screen Liquid Galaxy to run a Quake 3 mod.

If you’re computer-savvy and itching for a new project, you can find the Liquid Galaxy project here. The site contains how-tos, a guide for where to buy pre-built componenets, and encourages users to post their new enhancements, any defects they find, and what they’ve built with the technology. Liquid Galaxy’s open source means that the possibilities really are endless; with a few high-quality computers and a creative imagination you could end up making your wildest science fiction dreams come true.

SEO news blog post by @ 9:35 am on September 9, 2013


Google Does What?

It’s not wrong to be worried over your privacy, but you can’t be upset when you’ve handed your privacy over voluntarily. I make this statement in regards to the class action lawsuit accusing Google of violating federal and state wiretapping laws. The lawsuit states that it is wrong for Google to be scanning e-mails for information to create relevant advertisement for the user.

Google’s argument was a direct quote from a 1979 Supreme Court case Smith v. Maryland, saying that once you’ve involved a third party in communication, you lose legally enforceable privacy rights. Yes, you can argue that this case was before a time when technology expanded into mobile media, but it does make sense when applying it to today’s standards. Our email use or even social media use is no different than a simple letter sent via the post office.

The fact that Google does this is nothing new and they’ve made this clear to all its users as a trade for a free e-mail account. It really shouldn’t be expected that any information placed on the internet is of private nature and completely secure. Funding for a free service doesn’t come from nowhere.

But the Data Points Out I’m right!

We’re all guilty of harnessing certain information that best suits our needs. In fact, we can have several types of data and somehow find some sort of correlation between the two, but does the causation actually fit or are we just relying on the simple coincidence that makes our point?

The fact is, with many of the statistics out there we can find a correlation between the most different of things. I enjoyed how Dave Davies displayed on Search Engine Watch a Google trend between Greece and ice cream. I know your scratching your head, but when you look at it they both follow a very similar pattern. Unfortunately, in some advertisement this kind of coincidental data is mixed with sleight of hand, manipulated to prove a point and make sale. I’m sure somehow we can find information somewhere that finds a coincidence between Coca-Cola consumption and Converse shoe purchases.

As it was said in the closing paragraph “to sincerely ponder correlation, causation, and even coincidence with each assumption about SEO we make. At best, it will save you time and energy; at worst, it’ll force you to fully understand all the angles of a situation before tackling it.”

I agree that this is not only something we should do as an SEO, but as well as a general consumer and our daily intake of information.


Picture from The City Desk

SEO news blog post by @ 11:37 am on September 6, 2013



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