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Monday, December 14, 2009

Google Personalized Search Uses Negative Marketing Strategy

As some of you may already know, I am not a huge fan of Google and their business practices. Far too often the company will tell us one thing while secretly doing another. Take last June for example, during the SMX Advanced show in Seattle Matt Cutts stunned the attendees by informing us that Google now picks and chooses how it deals with the NoFollow tag.

While it is completely OK for the company to react to that or any other tags for that matter, what is not OK in a lot of people’s minds, is how long it took them to inform us about this change. I suppose they never really had to disclose this information but seeing as Google requested that webmasters adopt this tag in an effort to help them clean up link spam, they really should've been up front about their changing views regarding this tag, so we could make informed decisions on how to move forward with the NoFollows on our sites. So typically, webmasters were treated to another huge helping of “don’t do as we do; do as we say” from Google.

Now we find out that Google is once again up to some more shenanigans, this time regarding Personalized Search. PS has been around since about 2005 as an “opt in” service. As long as you were signed in to a Google account (in most cases from a Gmail or YouTube account) your search data and history was collected, then fed back to you in your future search results. To avoid this from happening, it was a simple matter of signing out of your Google account. That is no longer the case any more.

Recently, Google adopted a negative marketing strategy, whereby it forced personalized search results on every single user. Granted they do give us the option of “opting out” of the personalization search results, but seeing as most people are unaware that they are being force fed these types of results, why would they think they needed to “opt out” of anything. Negative marketing techniques don’t usually last very long, mainly because this tactic pisses people off, case in point Microsoft.

The Google Personalization works like this: if you do regular keyword searches for a specific topic that result in you frequently visiting the same site, that site quite possibly will now show at the top of your results. Now this may be fine for some people; however, for power users such as myself -- it blows. I don’t want to be force-fed results based upon a bunch of stranger’s social activities; I want some diversity in my results. But most importantly, I want to make my own decisions on the sites I visit based upon my mood at that moment, not what it was yesterday and or the day before.

Personalized Search is going to force some of the relevant results to page 2 and beyond. When you couple this with the so called “Universal Search," which is comprised of other Google products, one really has to wonder what the search giant’s true motives are here. To provide an unbiased service based upon relevancy -- or a service that forces us to see the Internet through Google-colored glasses.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Link Exchange Requests 2010 Style

It has been a while since I have posted anything in this here blog and seeing as we just uploaded our new redesign, I figure that it is about time I did a post. As I was sitting here thinking about what to blog on I got a rush of link trade requests so it only made sense to do a post on that topic, again.

Now I don’t know how any of you feel about link trading, whether you abandoned the practice when it became unfashionable or if you kept on attempting it in spite of the diminishing returns. Regardless, I am sure that you, like me, have continued to receive those types of emails.

Dear (Insert Name Here),

I recently came across your site and found the quality to be complimentary to my own and thought we could both benefit from exchanging links. If you agree please place our link (see below for our preferred linking code) and send the link location, and your preferred link code. Upon verification we will place your link in an appropriate location.

This is not a form letter I promise.

For me this is completely the wrong way to go about setting up any kind of link exchange relationship. First of all seeing as the requester is the one interested in exchanging links, I believe that it is up to them to offer a gesture of faith by placing your link first. This tells me that they are sincere in there attempts to develop a linking relationship. Also, it allows me to properly evaluate their offer before committing too much time.

The biggest problem with link exchanges is how inequitable the trades tend to be these days. If it is a 3 way link exchange the request usually completely favours the requester and it generally looks like this: If you place a link to my site on your home page I will give you a link back from one of my link farm sites or some super thin affiliate site that gets no traffic. Of course they don’t offer you any level of disclosure first and if you don’t verify the value of the sites involved, you end up with the dirty end of the chain.

Unfortunately exchanged links still carry some weight with certain search engines and likely will continue to do so into the foreseeable future. As such we are going to continue to receive link exchange requests and I, like most of you, will continue to delete them unopened unless some things changes in this old and tired SERP manipulation strategy.

To you people who still send out link exchange requests you need to stop being so bloody one sided. Quit asking for everybody to place your link first and place theirs prior to sending the request. Show that you are truly interested in helping both sites improve their link popularity instead of just paying it lip service.

Make sure that the offer you are making is of a benefit to the other site simply by offering something that you yourself would accept. If you wouldn’t accept the deal why would anybody else? Stop wasting your and their time by sending the one sided link exchange requests.

The days of trying to trick people into giving you a one way link through dishonest link exchanging practices is hopefully just about over. If everybody simply offered equitable value in their link exchange requests it might revive the practice and stop being a waste of everybody’s time.

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