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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Social or SEO – Which is better?

There has been a lot of talk about social media and social book marking as taking over the tradition SEO industry. While it is true that some of the major social media sites are taking over the top listings in Google.

These days it isn’t unheard of to see multiple listings for the same content that has been linked to from the various sites like Digg and Boxxet. Sure these sites will help you get your content spread all over the search engines but is it the same as getting your page to rank high in the search engines? The short answer is no.

You see the reality is this; your content will rise to the top of the engines quite quickly but not for your site, it will be for the social sites that are hosting the snippets of content from your site. Good for the social site and if anybody actually visits those links, it could be good for your site as well.

Another way that this is different is in the amount of time that your content stays at the top of the search engines. At the time of this writing these social sites usually were ranking for about 2 weeks before they disappeared from any meaningful rankings. This is not too bad for content that has a short shelf life but what about content that has a longer shelf life… not so good.

Also, how long do you really think it will be before Google steps in to the fray to deal with what in essence is nothing more than duplicate content diluting their so called “quality results”? Does anybody truly need 20 or 30 listings to the same story spread over just as many social domains? I think not. Do I take advantage of it? I sure do!

Now what about SEO – is that going to disappear as a marketing tool? The quick answer is hell no. If you were given a choice on getting your site/pages to rank at the top of Google for years or weeks I am pretty sure which of way you would go.

Back in 2004 I obtained top 3 rankings for some fairly competitive gambling related terms in Google and those sites have had almost no updating or link building since then and yet they remain at the top of Google. You are not going to get that kind of sustained ranking with social book marking.

At this time the best thing one can do is to use the social book marking while it still works, to help your sites gain some ground in the search engines by combining it with solid SEO tactics.

Yesterday I wrote a quick little tongue in cheek article about the alleged Jessica Simpson Curse. Fairly topical these days given the NFL playoffs are quickly well underway. I added this to my sports betting blog and then I added the article to some social book marking sites. Within an hour not only was my blog ranking in Google but so was the social book marking listings.

When my blog got listed in Google there were a few sites that ranked higher for the search term “Jessica Simpson Curse” but not for long. Within 24 hours my blog page took over top spot in Google* for that term and the social book marking pages started to slide in the rankings. While it was good to have multiple page 1 rankings for my blog, I think I still prefer to have my actual page ranking in number 1 rather than somebody else’s social media site.

Social Media is the buzz right now but it can’t last as it is way too easy to exploit just like some of the other techniques of old – can you say keyword stuffing? Use it while it lasts but trust me – it ain’t going to replace solid SEO tactics. That will come later when there is a breakthrough in artificial intelligence brought on by semantic search but that is for another rant.

* results may vary depending upon datacenters

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Social Book Marking – The newest form of MLM harassment.

It wasn’t all that long ago that people started to question why old friends and acquaintances were looking them up.

You’d be sitting at home doing something solitary like reading the paper or doing the crossword when you’d get a phone call. Answering you are surprised to hear that it is that old buddy from the 9th or 10th grade calling to “Catch Up”. A few minutes go by and after you have run the gamut of pleasantries and platitudes you politely ask “So what do you do for work now?”

“So glad you asked” is the response. “I recently got involved with (insert whichever fits, Melaleuca, Amway, Avon, Mary Kay, PrePaid Legal, Reliv and far too many others to list), and man do you ever need to take a look at this.” Some seductive numbers are offered in an effort to win an invitation to your house so they can show you how much money you can make. “Great, how does Tuesday sound?”

Tuesday arrives and everything looks wonderful until they tell you that all you have to do to make some serious cash is to sign up hundreds of people under you and before you know it, you too are making some serious greenbacks. This always brings the question… “Where am I going to find all of these people to sign up under me?” “No problem, just ask all of your friends and the people at the office and before you know it, the people you sign up are signing up people too and they are all under you making you money”.

Sounds easy right? Wrong. People are resistant to old friends showing up out of the blue with get rich quick schemes. In fact if you want to be removed from your social network of friends join an MLM scheme and see if the invitations don’t stop coming soon after your first few attempts to con your buddies into signing up under you.

How the hell is this like Social book marking you are probably asking? Well it isn’t in terms of buying anything but it is similar in how these vast networks of old friends and acquaintances looking you up and then constantly asking you to Digg this and add that to Delicious or write on my Super Wall. The good ones will actually provide their own page profile to Digg before asking but others expect you to do this for them as well.

I don’t know about you but it is getting so bad that I don’t even like to look at email and instant messages from people from my past any more. Hell, I am even starting to question messages from current contacts.

Another thing, what if I don’t like the content you asked me to social bookmark, what is the etiquette on that, if I say no will it somehow ruin the friendship if there was one to begin with? Or how about this, are the people within your social book marking circle book marking equally or are they building up a vast social book marking deficit that they will never make good on?

I don’t know about you but I for one can’t wait until Google completely removes the value of social bookmark links. Really what value can these social bookmarks have as I don’t even know anyone who uses them to find content on the web. If people aren’t actually using these social bookmark sites why do we have them? Is it because some socially inept programmer types think social bookmark sites are cool because they afford them a social circle even if it is only a virtual one?

Bottom line for me is this… If you are contacting me after all these years because you found my profile on Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn and you thought you would ask me to social bookmark your content, stay in the woodwork, I am really not all that interested in making a positive public declaration regarding your spam content.

Just like the MLM pressure salespeople of old, I am not interested in your schemes to make you rich, more popular or socially acceptable. Similarly to multi level marketing, it doesn’t take much exposure to the social bookmark scheme to grow weary of the one sided nature of the old friend contacting you with the request to Digg my story.

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