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Beanstalk's Internet Marketing Blog

At Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization we know that knowledge is power. That's the reason we started this Internet marketing blog back in 2005. We know that the better informed our visitors are, the better the decisions they will make for their websites and their online businesses. We hope you enjoy your stay and find the news, tips and ideas contained within this blog useful.


March 1, 2012

Easy options for de-personalization

Today I saw the start of a graphical ad campaign by DuckDuckGo aimed at explaining how search personalization creates a ‘bubble’ that traps your search ability. Here is the link to the ad-site if you want to give your brain a wash.

Mark Zuckerberg has been quoted as saying,

“a squirrel dying in your front yard may be more relevant to your interests right now than people dying in Africa.”

The heart of the matter isn’t new, TED’s got a pretty decent presentation from a ‘user’ perspective dating back to May 2011:

So what’s DuckDuckGo squawking about?

I think it’s time to burst their bubble by taking a look at the options we have and why the suggestion of ‘try something new’ doesn’t really ‘fit the bill’. ;)

Bursting the Bubble Myth

It is very true that search engines know a lot of ways to customize search results based on information that the browser gives the sites you visit. You have some options depending on what you need to accomplish.

For every-day searches:

  • Use the browser you use the most often.
  • Your search results will be relevant to you if you use Google or Bing.
  • DDG results will be relevant to the way DDG thinks results should be filtered because they are avoiding personalization.

For research based searches in your location:

  • Use ‘incognito’ or ‘private browsing’ modes. (* see below for Google tip)
  • Your search results on major search engines will not be related to your personal tastes, just your location/language.
  • DDG won’t change search results according to their advertising.

For research that is not based on language or location:

  • Use a fresh browser, switch your language on a system level, and use a proxy to make your queries from multiple locations.
  • Search results will need to be combined and compared at this point because there will be differences each time.
  • From what we’ve seen, this level of unique information does elicit a variety of search results even from unbiased search engines because language and location are very large factors in search queries.

* When searching with Google you can add “&pws=0″ to the search URL to see the search without personalization. This only turns off the ‘personalized web search’ function so the results will still be in your language and relevant to your location.

You could also add a short-cut to your browser so that you can search with personalization turned off by default, change the default language, location, etc..

While changing the search parameters is only ‘mostly effective’ I will be doing a follow-up post, complete with video guides, on how to do this and how to make it simple with shortcuts in the address bar.

If you still want to guess at the macro images from last month you aren’t too late. We are accepting guesses until we announce the winner next week, so feel free to go back to the old posts from last month and let us know what your little eye spies.

PS: There have been two versions of Minecraft 1.2x released today so far, some features weren’t even in the public builds so there’s some fresh bugs and features to explore. We have been waiting for this version to release to announce a new contest based on Minecraft! Stay tuned for full details in a post to come very soon!

SEO news blog post by @ 11:50 am


 

 

February 22, 2012

Rick Mercer on Toews – Nailed it!

A brand new, previously undocumented, ranking signal that affects both Google and Bing would be a huge topic change for this blog. Sadly the search engine optimization world hasn’t been that exciting lately.

Heck, tech-news has pretty much been landing on two key-words, ‘censorship’ and ‘patents’, with folks amusing themselves over the similarities between Yoko Ono ruining the Beatles just like China is ruining Apple.

Lets face it, if you can’t ship your iPads over a trademark dispute in the country they are made, and you are getting international criticism over your decision to leverage cheap labour to make the rest of your wares, you are in big trouble no matter what business we’re talking about.

Speaking of nailing things, Rick Mercer just released a video sharing his take on the Vic Toews debate:


Beauty job eh?

The main goal of this post was to make sure I shared the video that should have been included with yesterday’s Vic Toews blog post.

On top of not catching the video as it came out, I didn’t post a Week 4 macro image to guess at. (Yeah, I know right?)

So here’s the final February macro image for guessers who want to hedge their chances at getting picked:

February Macro number 4Big Hint: This is relevant to the Vic Toews discussion.
If you think you know what this is, or where this is, send us your best guess via Twitter or G+

SEO news blog post by @ 11:46 am


 

 

February 21, 2012

Vikileaks – Oh Toews..

Let me just start this off with:

Not a Child Pornographer
While that seems like an odd preface, this is Vic Toews’ style of politics.

From the beginning of Vic Toews’ efforts to push bill C-30 onto Canadians he’s been mighty unpopular with technologists that understand what such a bill would require in terms of cost to implement and maintain. Further to the technologists complaining about the expense of such a proposal, there’s groups pointing to the missing evidence that the bill is needed, groups asking for evidence that the bill would have any positive effects, and finally there’s the groups of people who enjoy civil liberty without being called ‘child pornographers’

So when I heard this morning that ‘Anonymous’ was threatening Vic Toews with a leak of information it was an instant blog article.

Risky VicKeep in mind that since the last blog post I made on Vic (here), someone (allegedly within parliament) leaked his Twitter activity exposing the semi un-known rumour that he’d cheated on his then-wife with his under-age babysitter and still has an ongoing affair with the young girl.

Now, if that info is already on the wires, what does ‘Anonymous’ have that’s too private to share unless Vic gives them no choice?

Plus if folks want to defend the freedom to post pretty much anything on-line, why post threats that give merit to the efforts of Mr.Toews?

Don’t get me wrong, I totally get the hypocrisy of Mr.Toews putting forward a bill that seems more about his own personal evils than any honest need. I can see why Anonymous might feel they MUST get involved to save Canada from this man’s ill considered blind crusade. I just wish they would either give Mr.Toews both barrels or say nothing.

Perhaps Anonymous was going for a scare tactic because they don’t have any further dirt on Vic? Seems like the minister doesn’t have much fears and won’t be taking the threats seriously at least. In an open letter delivered on the weekend Vic’s crew seemed totally unconcerned about the threat chalking it up to the ‘usual politics’ saying the RCMP would be involved in this any future threats, with no plans to stop anything.

So while this incident has been a great spotlight on Bill C-30, it looks like a toothless threat to deter a man who’s willing to label people as ‘child pornographers’ simply for not agreeing with him. Anonymous should have seen that one coming.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:28 am


 

 

February 13, 2012

Canadians: Why are we hitting ourselves?

Remember when you were bullied as a kid with the old ‘hey why are you punching yourself?’ gag? Yeah it was sort of funny because you weren’t actually hitting yourself even if your own hands were getting sore slapping your own face.
Why are you hitting yourself

Yet here we are years later (well for most of us) and we are watching our Government pass legislation that will allow us to pay extra taxes for a black’end eye?

Without a shred of evidence to prove a need or direct correlation between monitoring and prevention, next week Canada will be facing a new law that not only requires ISPs to track subscribers, but also removes court involvement from the process giving police direct authority to seize information from ISPs.

The new Lawful Access legislation even goes further, allowing the Police to enable and monitor the tracking mechanisms built into modern cell phones for up to a year, without court involvement.

The Last Pepper Spray

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m an SEO and not a politician or a lawyer. This is my take from reading a few news articles on the pending law and the variety of details is a bit staggering, I just about spat my coffee on the screen reading this clip from the Montreal Gazette:

if the so-called Lawful Access law is passed, it would give police access to webbrowsing history and sensitive personal information, and would grant greater permission to track the cellular phones of suspects

“Webbrowsing history” seems a bit far fetched, but it’s not impossible to track this info at an ISP level and since the move itself seems a bit nuts, I can see why reporters might be going a bit overboard reacting to the details.

I know that my browsing history, especially when I am working on back-links/research for clients, is a confidential business asset. I cannot fathom how a court of law would suggest it’s fine for a police officer to have access to such info without warrant. Even if the officer obtaining the information is above suspect, are the people working with the officers above reproach to the point where court involvement is moot?

Obviously, with a week to go people are getting anxious about the possibility of this passing, so I urge folks to take some time to look it over. I know that if I was more skilled with law I’d be giving it a serious review as the prospects seem frightening and the motivation is questionable/lacking.

SEO news blog post by @ 11:31 am


 

 

January 31, 2012

Stacking up Google optimization efforts

We keep optimizing our meta tags, keywords, link structure, content densities, markup, etc.. etc.. But how does Google optimize itself for us? If this is any sort of ‘relationship’ what’s Google been doing for us lately?

Comparing work done

Anti-Spam DMARC Efforts

One of the big problems with promoting on-line is the folks who don’t care about courtesy or the rules and they just spam everyone/anyone. The best way to cope with this is to never buy products we have seen ‘spammed’; Yet this has been a nerd mantra for so long, and clearly the consumers never got the message because spammers still get paid.

Because of all the abuse, legit advertisers have a bad reputation even before they get started. This is why we have captchas, whitelists, RBLs, and many many other annoying services that some people actually pay to use.

This is why we can't have nice things

Major email providers like Google and Microsoft (including Yahoo!/Hotmail), are working to ally with major online sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, PayPal, and more to work on the DMARC system to cope with not only spam, but phishing, fraud, password scams, ID theft, etc..

In a nutshell DMARC is:

..a technical specification created by a group of organizations that want to help reduce the potential for email-based abuse by solving a couple of long-standing operational, deployment, and reporting issues related to email authentication protocols.

Essentially it’s going to make ‘authenticated’ mail much more commonplace in hopes of raising the global bar on email authentication to help eliminate the spam problem. Still too long winded with the explanation?
Here’s an illustration of DMARC:

This is why we can't have nice things

New Privacy Policy

I’ve witnessed a lot of complaining about this move, and yet I haven’t seen one logical complaint I could ally myself with. Personally, I’m a GMail user who has already invested the deepest amount of privacy I can into Google just by using GMail. Each time Google releases a new product, if I use the same Google account as I do with other Google services, I ‘expect‘ it to be smart and use what Google knows about me to the fullest.

If I wanted a privacy division between Google Maps and GMail, I’d make a separate account and use multiple logins so that if I am hunting for the closest guitar shop I won’t have to deal with Guitar adverts getting special preference when I am logged into GMail. In fact, if I was looking for a gift for someone and I really loved the focus Google has on ‘me’, I might just use a fresh browser instance to keep Google from getting confused.

Fresh browser instance?! I know, that’s jargon and we promised to explain ourselves, so a quick demo of this is to load Chrome (sorry Moz lovers) and then right click on a normal link. In the right click menu you should see this:Chrome Incognito Option

This will open a Chrome Incognito window :
Sites in this tab will not see browser history!
Try visiting your popular sites to test!

If all goes well, as long as you use the incognito window, you will be able to use Google services, and others, without them easily tying the info to a particular account.

Keep in mind that the alternative to a unified privacy policy is a system where the users have to read each privacy policy for every Google service to make sure they understand each service. Then, if you wanted your data to be shared between services you’d have to not only go and manually ‘share’ the information, but you’d also better be praying or something to find a way to motivate Google spend the time to enable the link between services because as we know already, Google doesn’t waste much resources on things that aren’t going to be popular. When you make something like this automatic it changes the entire functionality of that idea and what would otherwise be a ‘wasted effort’ suddenly becomes a ‘big win’.

Kicking Keister in Kenya


If you haven’t read about the Mocality debacle (link removed ), you really aren’t missing that much, it’s more of a ‘How the heck?’ than anything.

In a nutshell:

There was a Google contractor in Kenya using Google IPs and identifying themselves as a Google entity that had been ‘scraping’ the sign ups from Mocality and stealing them away with lies.

When Google first heard of the situation there was a “No freaking way, let us investigate and get back to you.” response from the powers within Google looking into the issue. As things unfolded it became clear that Mocality was indeed providing honest information and that something very bad was happening over in Kenya under Google’s name. Google’s own team leads were ‘mortified’ over the details of how the situation unfolded.

At this point the head of the Kenyan offices for Google, Ms. Olga Arara-Kimani, has resigned stating she felt personally that ‘the buck‘ stopped with her and she wanted to take full responsibility.

While no official statement has come from Google there are signs that the investigation is over and that Google is already implementing measures to prevent something like this from happening again. I expect we’ll hear a few more details as things unfold.

How’s Chia Bart? Well he’s in limbo, and I haven’t started the re-plant. Time for a vacation I think? :)

SEO news blog post by @ 12:23 pm


 

 

January 25, 2012

Google’s New (lack of) Privacy Policy

Google announced Tuesday that it will be combining more than 70 current privacy policies to make a blanket privacy canon that will allow Google to access and use a user’s information over any of the company’s platforms such as Gmail, Google+ and YouTube. Google users will not have the option of opting out of this new privacy policy.

Google's Privacy Policy

Google’s director of privacy, product, and engineering, Alma Whitten blogged to clarify the changes that will become effective March 1:

What does this mean in practice? The main change is for users with Google Accounts. Our new Privacy Policy makes clear that, if you’re signed in, we may combine information you’ve provided from one service with information from other services. In short, we’ll treat you as a single user across all our products, which will mean a simpler, more intuitive Google experience.

This is also part of an ongoing struggle between various search engines and social media sites that are directly competing with Google to collect user data. This information is like gold for advertising companies that target advertisements based upon consumer internet habits, trends and searches. Free speech advocates and analysts see this as a step towards users losing their anonymity.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:19 pm


 

 

January 5, 2012

Spain-full SOPA Politics

The Jan 2nd news that Spain has full implemented it’s anti-piracy ‘Sinde Law’ was a blow to the Anti-SOPA community. It was even more painful to learn today that there’s deep allegations of US involvement and threats geared towards passing the law.

Spainfull

If you’ve been on Reddit, or Torrentfreak, you’ve probably seen the following allegations:

In a leaked letter sent to Spain’s outgoing President, the US ambassador to the country warned that as punishment for not passing a SOPA-style file-sharing site blocking law, Spain risked being put on a United States trade blacklist . Inclusion would have left Spain open to a range of “retaliatory options” but already the US was working with the incoming government to reach its goals.

United States government interference in Spain’s intellectual property laws had long been suspected, but it was revelations from Wikileaks that finally confirmed the depth of its involvement.

More than 100 leaked cables showed that the US had helped draft new Spanish copyright legislation and had heavily influenced the decisions of both the government and opposition.

Okay, so then if we hop over to WikiLeaks (the same uber-political anti-American site that’s been caught multiple times sharing carefully doctored misinformation) this should be all over the front page right? Nope. Nothing posted to WikiLeaks since December 16th 2011. Apparently the only thing the Wikileaks folks are excited about is getting more donations to ‘fight the evil US’. :roll:

So if we look around we should be able to find the leaked cables right? Nope. (Please correct me here if I’m wrong.)

What’s more there’s conjecture that the ‘supposed’ US involvement was a ploy to put the blame for the bill on the US when the Spanish government had long term goals to put the bill into effect. Apparently the furore over further meddling by the US in Spanish politics might distract the majority of the voting public and save the current political parties from losing support over pushing through the bill?

Talk about confusing! I have a headache just thinking about all these people standing in a loose circle pointing at each other saying ‘blame them!’.

It will be interesting to see how this news unfolds and if the US administration will dispute the claims or just lump it since the Spanish anti-piracy bill clearly falls in-line with current direction of the US policy makers?

On a slightly different topic of heads, Chia Bart has sprouted:

Chai Bart week one
Sorta gross isn’t it?

It was a moisture issue, I had to put a bag over his head for the whole night to get the sprouting to happen. Now it should just need some light and regular water top-ups to get the green to start showing.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:00 pm


 

 

December 15, 2011

We’d feel dirty not posting about SOPA today..

This is the day folks, the bill is in Congress as I type and here’s some good spots to follow the proceedings closely:
Dirty Bar of Soap
EFF Twitter Feed
Video Webcast
Justin.tv re-broadcast of the live feed

Wondering what all the fuss is about?
Here’s a great read:
Wikipedia -> Stop Online Piracy Act

Who supports SOPA?
Domino Project’s SOPA Supporter List

What sort of organizations are opposed to SOPA?. It was such a bad move that Wikipedia was publicly contemplating a blackout of the service just to make it clear how bad the bill is!

There’s also a few very active/current discussions over on Reddit in the r/technology section that give a good ‘nerds eye view’ of the bill reading.

Wonder why Google was opposed to the bill? Here’s a humorous take on the essence of their fears:
Mockery of SOPAs effect on Google in 2012

If I had to personally sum everything up into a TL;DR I would have to go with:

“Artist and labour groups who don’t have a nerdy understanding of how the internet works and how to approach piracy are joining with other anti-piracy groups to fast-track an ill-considered and potentially dangerous bill.

While most folks don’t understand the internet enough to argue the bill as experts the general reaction today has been “we are rushing something we don’t understand and we can’t proceed”.

With any luck that’ exactly how bill H.R.3261 will end, some potential, but not ready. *fingers crossed*

SEO news blog post by @ 10:42 am


 

 

October 26, 2011

The Google, The FTC, and The News headlines

If anyone’s been looking at the tech headlines today, particularly the really big sites with very political writers, you may have read something about the FTC having Google in chains over outrageous privacy violations.

Some of that info is based on fact but most of what I’ve read is personal takes on the news with a heavy spin to sidetrack the facts and make a story.

Google behind bars

First, lets just get the elephant in the room to step into the light so we’re all looking at it:

Google’s bread and butter is handling trust and privacy properly.
If users can’t trust Google, we can’t use them.

This is why Google has repeatedly been it’s own whistle blower.

  • The web was programmed by humans..
  • Humans make mistakes..
  • The real measure of things is dealing with the mistakes!

When Google’s engineers came up with a shockingly brilliant method of ‘fingerprinting’ WiFi access points by sampling the data coming to/from the devices it wasn’t anyone outside the company that complained.

The fact is that many homes (and some businesses) have zero wireless security, so what was a brilliant plan to get a ‘fingerprint’ ended up becoming a nightmare of un-encrypted data that had to be destroyed properly.

Plus Google had to figure out what it could do to prevent this from happening again, so as part of the punishment Google helped devise for themselves, they setup a fund to create a privacy resource/knowledge base.

At the time many sites tried to make news from the issue and imply that Google was a privacy nightmare, stealing data from unsuspecting users, etc.., etc.., totally overlooking the fact that anyone could (and probably does) roam around in a vehicle and collect the exact same data Google collected.

The majority of the media coverage was almost insulting to the intellect of the readers, but I saw smart people drinking the cool-aid so don’t feel bad if you saw the headlines and got the wrong idea too.

This latest issue is no different at all in terms of Google acting responsibly and the news makers trying to generate headlines.

So here’s a factual take on the actual settlement, not some poorly considered opinion that I’m hoping will make this a headline:

“Google Inc. has agreed to settle an FTC complaint that it used deceptive tactics and violated its own privacy policy when it launched the Google Buzz social network last year. In addition to alleged FTC privacy violations, this is the first time the FTC has alleged violations of the substantive privacy requirements of the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Framework, a method for U.S. companies to transfer personal data lawfully from the European Union to the United States.

The settlement agreement bars the Google from future privacy misrepresentations, requires it to implement a comprehensive privacy program and includes regular, independent privacy audits for the next 20 years. This is the first time an FTC settlement order has required a company to implement a comprehensive privacy program to protect the privacy of consumers’ information.

According to the FTC complaint, on the day Buzz was launched through the Gmail service, users got a message announcing the new service and were given two options: “Sweet! Check out Buzz,” and “Nah, go to my inbox.” However, some Gmail users who clicked on “Nah…” were enrolled in certain features of the Google Buzz social network anyway. For those Gmail users who clicked on “Sweet!,” the FTC alleges that they were not adequately informed that the identity of individuals they emailed most frequently would be made public by default. Google also offered a “Turn Off Buzz” option that did not fully remove the user from the social network.

When Google launched Buzz, its privacy policy stated that “When you sign up for a particular service that requires registration, we ask you to provide personal information. If we use this information in a manner different than the purpose for which it was collected, then we will ask for your consent prior to such use.” The FTC complaint charges that Google violated its privacy policies by using information provided for Gmail for another purpose – social networking – without obtaining consumers’ permission in advance.

The agency also alleges that by offering options like “Nah, go to my inbox,” and “Turn Off Buzz,” Google misrepresented that consumers who clicked on these options would not be enrolled in Buzz. In fact, they were enrolled in certain features of Buzz.

The complaint further alleges that a screen that asked consumers enrolling in Buzz, “How do you want to appear to others?” indicated that consumers could exercise control over what personal information would be made public. The FTC charged that Google failed to disclose adequately that consumers’ frequent email contacts would become public by default.

Finally, the agency alleges that Google misrepresented that it was treating personal information from the European Union in accordance with the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor privacy framework. The framework is a voluntary program administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce in consultation with the European Commission. To participate, a company must self-certify annually to the Department of Commerce that it complies with a defined set of privacy principles. The complaint alleges that Google’s assertion that it adhered to the Safe Harbor principles was false because the company failed to give consumers notice and choice before using their information for a purpose different from that for which it was collected.”

SEO news blog post by @ 1:46 pm


 

 

October 20, 2011

Secure search service stirs SEOs slightly

Every once in a while there’s an announcement that makes a huge kerfuffle online only to be yesterdays news the next week. Yesterday’s news is that Google made the move towards secure searches for Google account holders that are logged in while searching. It was actually announced on the 18th, and I didn’t see anything until Kyle mentioned it on the afternoon of the 19th, so it’s actually worse than yesterday’s news!

Google secure search

Anyone following search engine news would be perfectly normal to feel a bit of déjà vu since Google’s had secure search options way back in early 2010. The latest announcement that is stirring up responses is the fact that they are now dropping header info that would normally be passed along to the destination site which could then be tracked and analyzed for SEO purposes.

Google has plenty of good reasons to make this move and only a few reasons against it. Here’s a quick breakdown of the pros/cons:

  • Most searchers are not logged in and won’t be effected
  • Estimates fall between %3-%7 of current search traffic is logged in
  • Tracking the “not provided” searches in Google Analytics will show the missing traffic
  • Mobile users connecting from public WiFi networks can search securely
  • Users of free internet services will have additional privacy
  • HTTPS Everywhere is crucial and backed by Google
  • Webmaster Central still provides search terms to registered owners

Cons:

  • Mobile searchers tend to be logged in
  • Traffic projections for mobile search are growing
  • Google has to make the data accessible to it’s paid users
  • SSL is now becoming a much larger ranking factor

Amy Chang over on the Google Analytics blog had the following point to make:

“When a signed in user visits your site from an organic Google search, all web analytics services, including Google Analytics, will continue to recognize the visit as Google ‘organic’ search, but will no longer report the query terms that the user searched on to reach your site..”
“Keep in mind that the change will affect only a minority of your traffic. You will continue to see aggregate query data with no change, including visits from users who aren’t signed in and visits from Google ‘cpc’.”

Thom Craver, Web and Database specialist for the Saunders College at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) was quoted on Search Engine Watch as noting:

“Analytics can already run over https if you tell it to in the JavaScript Code … There’s no reason why Google couldn’t make this work, if the site owners cooperated by offering their entire site via HTTPS.”

Personally, as you can tell from my lead-in, I feel like this is much ado about nothing. Unless competing search engines are willing to risk user privacy/safety to cater to SEOs in a short term bid for popularity, this isn’t going to be repealed. I don’t like to see the trend of money = access, but in this case I don’t see much choice and I’ll stand behind Google’s move for now.

SEO news blog post by @ 12:12 pm


 

 

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