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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.


May 11, 2011

Microskype? Skyprosoft? Microsoft Buys Skype

This is one of those cases where we get to see why rumors are just rumors. Last week we reported that a potential deal between Facebook and Skype was on the table. Today, Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft and Tony Bates of Skype have concluded a deal with Microsoft purchasing Skype for $8.5 billion. This would be the largest external purchase by the former IT behemoth Microsoft.

Skype has been up for sale for quite some time. Facebook and Google were thought to be the major contenders in a bid for the social networking site Skype with Microsoft entering in late into the game.

Google was not really considered a serious contender in the purchase of Skype as they already have established their Google Voice service which offers video, chat, social and voice. Many people are wondering what the sale of Skype will mean for Linux who frequently use the Skype VoIP platform.

Facebook was a major player in the purchase. The social giant has been coming under increasing pressure from its users to offer video and chat VoIP services for some time. If the company had to use conventional methods to offer voice and video service to its 600 million plus customers, the cost and overhead of operating the infrastructure would be prohibitive if not impossible.

Even though Microsoft is an investor in Facebook, the biggest boon comes to Microsoft by being able to utilize Skype’s assets. Of paramount importance is that they will able to keep the property away from their major competitor, Google.

Some speculations suggest that Skype was sold due to floundering sales revenues. Attempts at turning a bigger profit by charging more for their premium services seems to have backfired on the company and forced them to sell.

According to GIGAOM, some of the reasons as to why Microsoft needed to buy Skype were:

  • Skype gives Microsoft a boost in the enterprise collaboration market, thanks to Skype’s voice, video and sharing capabilities, especially when competing with Cisco and Google.
  • It gives Microsoft a working relationship with carriers, many of them looking to partner with Skype as they start to transition to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3GPP_Long_Term_Evolution LTE-based networks.
  • It would give them a must-have application/service that can help with the adoption of the future versions of Windows Mobile operating system.
  • However, the biggest reason for Microsoft to buy Skype is Windows Phone 7 (Mobile OS) and Nokia. The software giant needs a competitive offering to Google Voice and Apple’s emerging communication platform, Facetime.

Using the $8.5 billion price as the likely sale price, eBay gets $2.55 billion for its 30-percent stake in Skype. So in the end, eBay did make money on the Skype deal.

According to GIGAOM, the biggest winners of the sale were:

  • Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, the co-founders of Skype, with their 14-percent stake, take home about $1.19 billion. Damn, these guys know how to double-dip!
  • Silver Lake, Andreessen Horowitz and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) own 56 percent of the company, and that stake is worth $4.76 billion.
  • Andreessen Horowitz had three percent of the deal and made $205 million profit on their $50 million initial investment.
  • eBay gets $2.55 billion for its 30-percent stake in Skype. So in the end, eBay did make money on the Skype deal.

SEO news blog post by @ 7:18 pm


 

 

April 19, 2011

Panda Puts “Hit” on ciao.co.uk

In a follow up to the post I published yesterday on the Top 20 “Losers” from Google’s Panda UK Update, one of the worst hit companies was Ciao.co.uk, a Microsoft owned company that was leading an EU competition case against Google. Accusations from Microsoft state that Google is purposely using the Panda algorithm update to attack Ciao in an effort to reduce its rankings.

Ciao.co.uk was involved in initiating an EU investigation into Google in November 2010. Microsoft claims that Google has used its dominant position to limit rivals products. The Panda update was designed to lower the overall positioning of content-farms and other low-quality websites and is part of a larger effort to reduce the amount of webspam that has permeated the search results for years.

Google’s head of search evaluation, Scott Huffman, said the accusation was “almost absurd” to suggest that the results were rigged. Of course "almost absurd" is no quite the same as “completely absurd.” Google and Microsoft have a great deal of animosity towards each other and are no strangers to the enmity that has existed between the two corporations for years.

Looking at the list of site that have been negatively affected by the Panda appears to show that most site on the list have been legitimately penalized by Panda. Panda was specifically designed to attack product comparison sites, reviews sites and voucher code sites; and Ciao is no different.

After taking just a precursory look at the Ciao website, the site is found to publish duplicate reviews on multiple pages and sites. Ciao is continually regurgitating massive amounts of content. This is exactly what Panda was targeting site for. One of the reviews on the site that I checked was republished in its entirety on over 30 individual pages and on no less than 3 other websites.

Majestic SEO reports 23 200 000 backlinks coming from 63 000 unique domains, which is an average of 368 links from each domain. Even when looking at the single domain: http://www.ciao.co.uk/, there are 157 049 backlinks coming from 1027 unique domains.

That averages 153 (157 049/1027=153) links form each domain.

From the backlinks analyzed from Majestic, this was the data over 10 000 incoming backlinks grouped by IP block.

IP Block # of Links
92.122.217.* 109,721
94.245.123.* 45,810
65.55.17.* 45,588
69.175.60.* 32,634
66.216.1.* 28,385
207.218.202.* 21,540
212.227.159.* 13,800
178.79.137.* 11,100
95.154.211.* 10,428
69.163.188.* 10,266

One of the worst offenders was http://small-business-service.com/ which has over 10974 links pointing to ciao.co.uk from a single IP.

On the site, a visitor can see the huge proliferation of spammy, low-quality links that this site engages in. The total number of links to all pages on the ciao domain including sub domains and redirects was even more astonishing:

Pages Indexed: 19,174,884
# of Backlinks Links: 23,199,785
# of Unique Domains: 62,886

It would appear that the newest iteration of the Panda algorithm update form Google is doing a great job on catching the low-quality sites and dealing with them quite justly. The new algorithm certainly needs some tweaking as many quality sites took penalties as well.

As lesser quality sites are displaced, those sites that do offer a quality user experience, use legitimate linking strategies and can offer quality content will begin to see their potential rankings increase.

Beanstalk is currently in the process of testing organic vs. non-organic strategies in an attempt to challenge the effectiveness of Panda’s filtering capabilities. Watch for our 3 part blog series on this topic coming soon!

SEO news blog post by @ 10:16 pm


 

 

March 3, 2011

Bing Pulls Ahead of Yahoo

It looks as though Bing is finally starting to crawl up the search engine usage ladder. For the first time, Bing has outranked Yahoo in the global search engine market. StatCounter Global Stats finds that globally, Bing has attained a 4.37% share of the global market in February, ahead of Yahoo! at 3.93%. Both engines are far behind Google’s 89.94% of the global search engine market. In the United States, Yahoo! is still maintaining a marginal lead over Bing who has 9.03% of the market. Google still has the lion’s share of the market in the US at 76.63%.

StatsCounter bases their findings on aggregate data that is collected over a sampling of 15 billion across their network which carries approximately 3 million websites.

"It is significant that Bing overtook Yahoo! globally for the first time on a monthly basis but it remains a tough battle to claw back Google’s market share. Although Google dipped below the 90% mark in February worldwide for the first time since August 2009 it shows little sign of losing its global dominance any time soon." commented Aodhan Cullen, CEO, StatCounter.

Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Search Engine Market Share

In 2009, Microsoft announced that it would be powering the Yahoo search technology. So in essence they are effectively one company. If you add up the two totals as in a single corporate entity to compare against Google, the Bing-Yahoo conglomerate totals about 8.3% of the search engine market.

As an SEO, Google is the primary search engine that I use for statistics gathering and in our client ranking reports. The fact is that I rarely give more than a cursory glance at Bing or Yahoo on occasion. Having said that, I think that competition is healthy in every industry. One could speculate that the usage patterns have shifted due to the major upsets in the SERPs caused from major Google algorithm updates in January.

SEO news blog post by @ 7:06 pm


 

 

February 9, 2011

Bing Search Gains Ground on Google

If you’ve been reading the IT news you may have seen an article from Experian pushing out some statistics on Goole losing ground and effectiveness to Bing. Really, if you love statistics, head on over to Experian for the full scoop, they have a few clearly laid out images showing the data they have collected. What I’d like to do is discuss the interpretation of the data and some of the seemingly odd takes that people around the web have on the info at hand.

First, lets discuss what made the headlines, the 21 percent increase in Jan 2011. Google has been making all sorts of changes lately, instant search being one of them. On at least one browser I own, it’s now defaulting to Bing as the search engine because I do not want Google looking at everything I’m typing into the address bar on that browser and then trying to suggest something.

There are privacy and performance issues at play for my decision, and while I could hack at the browser to disable it and keep Google as the default, I personally didn’t have time for it, and I’m a nerd. This alone could account for a gain on Bing’s side of things. Lets also consider that Google has been shifting algorithms around and any savvy site owner/SEO would be wise to compare Bing results to the changing Google results. Again, Google is driving the trend, Bing’s been winning by default.

Finally, the end of January also saw the end of Yahoo Site Explorer. This meant that people wishing to gather info would either have to turn to another source, or run some searches of their own and manually pull all the data together. Google’s an ace at swatting automated attempts to grab data, so if I was pulling this data, I’d go over to Bing for it.

These are all factors "that I can see" and certainly in no way reflects all the factors at play, but clearly gives some better explanation for the 21 percent increase considering the unquestionable preference of core users with Google.

The next figure I want to talk about is the "Success Rate" statistics. Google has worked very hard to provide a results page that has the answer. Remember me saying I was a nerd? Well I play a nerd-approved video game called Minecraft, and last weekend I needed to know the decimal data value for an egg (I had to make a cake). By typing in a rough longtail search into Google I got the data value without even leaving the results page.

Bing tries to get the same result but it’s not nearly as consistent at getting the right answer at the top of the SERPs. What about when I ask Google to handle some metric to imperial conversions or do some math for me? Am I making Bing more successful? When the answer you need is on the results page and you don’t need to click anything, that’s a real "Success".

Experian seems to have really great statistics and I love pouring over the data they share, but take everything with a grain of salt. This is the same company that lists websites as the top search terms for 2 years running. Who the heck wants to know that? Pull all the site names out of the list, now it’s interesting.

SEO news blog post by @ 9:54 pm


 

 

February 8, 2011

The Google Honeypot Sting – Part 2

As a follow-up to my previous post regarding the accusations from Google that Bing is using click-through data as part of their ranking methodology. It is pretty certain that Google does as well and there is evidence to show that they both have been doing so for some time. Even Matt Cutts said in 2002 that "using toolbar data could help provide better SERPs." Although to this day, Google hasn’t officially disclosed if they use the click-stream data as a factor in their search ranking algorithm.

To try to prove their accusation, Google created some fake SERPs for "non-words" and sent clicks through to Bing to make sure they got hold of the data. Even though it was nonsense data, Bing still took it serious enough to use it in about 10% of their search results. Bing then accused Google of click-fraud, but because there was no PPC component it was immediately dismissed.

Bing was not forthcoming in their practices, stating: "We do not copy results from any of our competitors. Period. Full stop." Bing now reveals that they DO use 100% click stream data from sources like their IE toolbars and use this information as factors in their ranking algorithm.

In an additional statement from Bing they revealed that:

"We use over 1,000 different signals and features in our ranking algorithm. A small piece of that is click-stream data we get from some of our customers, who opt-in to sharing anonymous data as they navigate the web in order to help us improve the experience for all users."

I think the bigger story here is why this seems to be such a contentious issue for Google? Why the cloak and dagger routine between the two? I can understand that Bing may not want to divulge its practices, but it seems like adding insult to injury by denying the accusations and then admitting to them later. Both Google and Bing appear to behaving like temperamental juveniles in school yard.

What can we take away from this? Large corporations often behave like children. Even if clickstream data isn’t a leading factor in the ranking and probably never will be, it is part of the equation and as such cannot be ignored. As SEOs, we should be looking for ways to get URLs into the data stream of toolbar users.

SEO news blog post by @ 6:56 pm


 

 

February 5, 2011

The Google Honeypot Sting

Recent accusations from Google have accused Bing of using their MSN/Bing Search Toolbar to watch search picks on Google and then using them to strengthen MSN/Bing search results. In a classic “honeypot” string operation, it seems that Bing has been caught with their bot’s hand in the Google cookie jar.

In a “he said/she said” battle, the two companies have accused each other from employing similar strategies repeatedly in the past. Google has regularly copied innovations that first appeared on Bing, such as image search, personalized backgrounds and navigation schemes. To accuse Bing of doing such a thing seems a bit preposterous. Even worse is the fact that Bing is categorically denying any attempts to ever copy search results from Google.

In a heated discussion that is far from over, Yusef Mehdi (Senior Vice President of Online Services for Microsoft) stated that:

"We do not copy results from any of our competitors. Period. Full stop. We have some of the best minds in the world at work on search quality and relevance, and for a competitor to accuse any one of these people of such activity is just insulting."

"Google engaged in a "honeypot" attack to trick Bing. In simple terms, Google’s “experiment” was rigged to manipulate Bing search results through a type of attack also known as "click fraud. That’s right, the same type of attack employed by spammers on the web to trick consumers and produce bogus search results. What does all this cloak and dagger click fraud prove? Nothing anyone in the industry doesn’t already know.

As we have said before and again in this post, we use click stream optionally provided by consumers in an anonymous fashion as one of 1,000 signals to try and determine whether a site might make sense to be in our index."

Read Full Interview Here

On the Google front, it certainly did not take Matt Cutts long to refute Mehdi’s comments. In a post on the Google blog (along with a 40 minute video), Cutts stated that he is not necessarily accusing Bing of "piggybacking" Google, but refutes their claim that "we do not copy results from our competitors." He then shows that if you type in "ygyuuttuu hjhhiihhhu" in to Google and Bing, you will get the same results."

Certainly each other has at some point and (if not continually) been at fault for employing such tactics in the past. I think the bigger question here is why Google is trying to make this such a public issue? Is it an attempt to try and drag Bing through the mud in an attempt to capture a portion of their market? Or is it a diversionary tactic? Only time will tell. I am sure we shall see the comments flying back and forth between the two groups before this is over. But then, is not all fair in love, war and search engine monpolies?

SEO news blog post by @ 1:03 am


 

 

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