Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Cuil, is it Cool?

As I'm sure you've read, is the new search engine on the block. It's main claim to fame is that it supposedly has by far the largest search index of any search engine. However, on the basis of my review of, I suspect it will be a short-lived flash in the pan.

Here's what I think is uncool about Cuil:

  1. Limited functionality: compared to Google, for example, the functionality of the site is just too limited. I have become so used to being able to search the Web, images, news, etc. with a single additional click that I could never switch to another search engine that doesn't offer that functionality.
  2. Search results format: I really hate the 2- or 3-column result layout and from this layout I cannot obviously tell the ranking of the results. I also don't like the images inserted into the results
  3. Actual search results: for several of the searches that I have run on, I just didn't think the results they provided were always the best results for my search terms.
However, on the plus side, the main thing I do like about Cuil, is the tabs that appear along the top for certain searches, which allow you to "drill down" into specific topics related to your initial search.

For example, when I searched for "elivs presley" the following tabs appeared: Elvis Presley Lyrics, Elvis Presley Enterprises, Elvis Presley Pictures, as well as a "More" tab, containing a list of, perhaps, more obscure categories.

All in all, I think has a long way to go before Google and Yahoo will start worrying.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Google/DoubleClick Deal Being Challenged over Privacy Concerns

A complaint has been filed with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) that challenges Google's proposed purchase of DoubleClick.

The complaint has been filed by consumer protection groups the Electronic Privacy Information Center (“EPIC”), the Center for Digital Democracy (“CDD”), and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (“U.S. PIRG”). Their main concern is that

the increasing collection of personal information of Internet users by Internet advertisers poses far-reaching privacy concerns that the Commission should address. Neither Google nor DoubleClick have taken adequate steps to safeguard the personal data that is collected. Moreover, the proposed acquisition will create unique risks to privacy and will violate previously agreed standards for the conduct of online advertising.
It is interest to note that their main concern is in the area of privacy rather than any concerns regarding monopolization of the industry.

Red the entire complaint, which outlines their privacy concerns in great detail and makes for an interesting read!

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Google Introduces Account Snapshot Page for AdWords

Google has a released a Beta version of its new Account Snapshot page for summarizing the information from your AdWords account. The snapshot page looks something like this:

The page is divided into 3 main sections.

  1. The top-left portion is for Alerts, Status Notifications and Announcements
  2. The bottom-left portion contains links to Help and Tips
  3. The right-hand side contains configurable campaign performance summaries and an interactive graph illustrating either Cost, Clicks, Impressions, or CTR data
You can also select whether to make this page your starting page when logging in, or the familiar Campaign Summary page.

Personally, although the Snapshot page does contain some useful information, I don't see it being of any real benefit to serious AdWords users. The data it contains is too general and I shall be surprised if I ever use it as everything I need is on the Campaign Summary page.

Having said that, it's good to see that Google is continually seeking to improve the AdWords experience by its ongoing efforts to add new functionality, services and an improved interface.


Thursday, 19 April 2007

My Comments on "Lost Rankings Due to Site Redesign or Spam?"

Jill Whalen has just published an interesting Q&A in her well-known "High Rankings Advisor" newsletter entitled "Lost Rankings Due to Site Redesign or Spam?" This article, which I recommend you read in its entirety, contains some very interesting and provocative points worthy of discussion.


To briefly summarize the scenario Jill described, Company X had their web site redesigned and, afterwards, their Google rankings went way down. Jill discovered that the SEO company they had hired was using some pretty questionable SEO practices.

Jill made two statements in particular that I would like to look at further.

"I don’t believe in relying on search engine rankings in order to successfully run your business"

Thank you Jill for reaffirming what I have written about previously (see under the heading "Don't Put All Your Eggs in One Basket" in my article "A Holistic Approach to Internet Marketing"), that any business that is dependent on being found in organic search results is being built on shaky ground. As I also mentioned in a recent post regarding Paid Links,

Google owes site owners nothing when it comes to organic search results and is free to rank its search results however it sees fit.
Now, I certainly don't condone the practices employed by the SEO company that Jill mentioned in her article. However, I also think Company X was wrong in making its business dependent on achieving certain rankings from Google and it is sad that someone had to be laid off as a result of their rankings dropping.

It needs to be remembered that Google's mission is "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful," not to provide free marketing avenues to the world's businesses. It is generally recognized that Google has been actively trying to devalue commercial web pages in its search results so that informational pages are ranked higher. This is so that users of its search engine actually get information rather than commerical promotion when they search but it's also a way to encourage businesses to use the tool that Google has supplied for marketing via search, AdWords.

If you are building your business on Google's (or Yahoo's, or anyone else's) search results, think again because it is very shaky ground and not good business sense.

I’m quite sure that . . . there will be lawsuits based on this kind of bad SEO

Well, as you'll know if you're a regular reader of this blog, legal issues are a particular love of mine so this comment was just too provocative for me to ignore.

So, is this a realistic possibility and, if so, what would someone need to establish in order to successfully file such a lawsuit (in the U.S., that is)?

Well, I'll try to avoid getting too "legalesey" on you. In order to win such a lawsuit the action would probably be one based on negligence and one of the key elements you would need to establish (among several others) is as follows:
If the defendant undertakes to render any service in a recognized profession or trade . . . she is held, at a minimum, to the standard of care customarily exercised by members of that profession or trade--whether or not she personally possesses such skills. (Emphasis in original.)
(Quoted from Heath v. Swift Wings, Inc, 1979 in Gilbert's Law Summaries: Torts).

What this means in practice is that you would need to establish that your SEO company engaged in (bad) practices that would not generally be engaged in by members of the SEO profession. However, there are 2 key points here.

1. Is SEO a "Recognized Profession or Trade?"

Without engaging in some full-blown legal research to discover whether any court has ever held that SEO is a recognized profession, this really is an open-ended question. However, in my opinion, given the vast number of SEO professionals and SEO companies that exist around the world, I would find it hard to imagine that this profession wouldn't be recognized.

Do you think SEO is a recognized profession? Why? Why not?

2. Is there a set of practices that are generally held to be acceptable and unacceptable among SEO professionals?

This point is really where the rubber hits the road. In order to establish a set of "generally acceptable SEO practices" you would probably need to consult some expert witnesses that were leading lights in the SEO field, such as Jill Whalen herself! However, do the well-known names in SEO agree as to what are and are not "generally acceptable SEO practices?" Another pretty open-ended question.

Personally, I think there are some generally recognized "good practices" and some generally recognized "bad practices." Between those extremes is a gray area or practices that may be categorized more as "personal preferences" or practices that some people believe work, perhaps even with good reason, but that others believe are merely SEO superstitions.

It certainly will be an interesting day in court when an SEO company is being sued for losing a company business due to its bad SEO practices and I can't wait to see what happens! Also, as Jill indicates, it really is just a matter of time before this happens, so if you're working for an SEO company or are an SEO professional yourself, make sure that you find out which practices are acceptable in your profession and make sure you use them, and only them, or you could eventually find yourself on the wrong end of a negligence lawsuit.

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Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Most Popular Posts in February-March

This blog's most popular posts in February-March were as follows:

  1. What Every AdWords Advertiser Should Know About AdSense - A slightly tongue-in-cheek look at the seamier side of AdSense

  2. Joel Comm or Joel Con? - Questions Joel Comm's integrity with specific reference to a hyperlink on his blog to

  3. H1 – What Role, If Any, Does the H1 Tag Play in Effective SEO? - An overview of the use of the Hn tags and what role the H1 tag plays in SEO, if any.

  4. Google PPA Ads: Pros and Cons - The pros and cons of Google's new Pay-Per-Action advertising.

  5. AdWords & Checkout Icons - My view of the repercussions of the Google Checkout icon appearing alongside AdWords ads.
Again, these were the 5 most popular "regular" posts. The 5th most popular page, apart from the home page, was my "About Me" page!

Yahoo Is Such a Copycat

Is it just me, or does Yahoo just seem to be copying everything Google does these days?

Here are some examples of things Yahoo has been copying in the online marketing world:

  1. Yahoo Search Marketing (YSM) has copied Google's terminology for the structure of its advertising campaigns
  2. It is adding quality score functionality
  3. It is making available its own equivalent of Google Analytics
  4. It is going to be limiting ad descriptions to 70 characters (the same as AdWords 2 x 35 character limit fields)
  5. And now, it has announced that PayPal buttons are going to appear on it's sponsored search listings in just the same way that Google Checkout buttons appear alongside AdWords ads.
Come on Yahoo!, how about doing something original!

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