Archive for January, 2008

I Hate Shell Sites with No Content

January 30th, 2008 No comments

This kind of thing drives me insane:

Google Search Result

TripAdvisor link on Granada Public Transportation

The above link is the #1 search for “granada public transit” on Google, but the page has got zero useful content, it just has a highly search engine optimized shell. I see this all the time in search results, a page that could be helpful, but isn’t. Why doesn’t Google penalize for this? If you don’t have content, don’t have a live page. I find it a horrible user experience to click over on what looks like a quality result to find nothing there. I don’t have a problem with getting thrifty in your site architecture and having shells, just make sure there’s some meat in there!

Categories: Wag of My Finger Tags:

7 Tips for Scrappy SEO and Social Media

January 30th, 2008 No comments

I’m lucky to work at a company where everyone takes search engine marketing and social media pretty seriously, and everybody wants to pitch in on the efforts. While the enthusiasm is great, we don’t want people even inching towards the realm of sketchy tactics, so we try to offer up specific suggestions on what folks in customer service, finance, product, engineering, anyone not in a marketing/search job, who might have no idea how search works, can do to help out. And about every six months, everyone at Viator spends an hour doing something nice for search. I think of the effort as kind of like the long tail, individually no one is doing very much, but adding it up makes a big difference. We’re a pretty small company, and I can’t help but wonder if we’d did something similar when I was at IAC, with their staff contributing, what we might have accomplished.

In the vein of everybody pitching in and getting their hands just a little dirty, here’s the top search engine optimization and social media efforts that anyone and their brother (really, get your brother to do it too!) can do.

1. Post some links. In a nice non-spammy way, post a link from your personal blog or website or get a friend-relative-willing accomplice to post one from theirs. We sometimes suggest links for pages we want to promote more.

2. Write a blog post. The company always needs content, and everyone probably has one good post in them, so make some more good content.

3. Create a high quality trip planner on Yahoo!. See my other post on Yahoo! Trip Planners for why this is so great. Only relevant for companies in travel, but another industry might have something similar.

4. Vote. Your vote counts! Digg blog posts or articles about your company. Submit to Mixx,, and the like. But, only do this if you are a regular user of those sites. Don’t just show up and only submit/vote for your company. I also strongly encourage folks to do this from their home computers.

5. Make a friend. Join the company’s Facebook group, be a friend of your company’s photos on Flickr.

6. Write an honest review or give some honest advice. This one I reserve for the more advanced, its easy to get carried away. Google Local, TripAdvisor, the New York Times travel section, and other sites allow for review or forum posts. If you had a great time on a bike tour in Sydney with your company, no harm in posting that, but don’t lie and don’t go crazy. If someone is asking about where they can buy a great processor, suggest checking out your options, or reading your reviews, but again, a little goes a long way here. And, its always goo to already be active on the site, don’t only post about your company.

7. Add some off-site content. Got some great photos or video relevant to your company? Add it to Flickr or Youtube. I’ve noticed in particular that short educational videos on a topic can be really viral and popular (e.g., Matt Cutts’ recent videos), why not explain something related to your company?

That’s most of the easy as pie tactics I’ve been encouraging to date, there’s more advanced seo out there of course,but you’d be surprised what a difference the little things can make.

Categories: Tip of My Hat Tags:

Top Searches in 2007

January 25th, 2008 No comments

Sorry for not posting more, really I am, but I was in Vegas for work and had lots of catch up this week. In thought about a half-assed post, but then I decided it would be better to link to the fully baked post I wrote this week for Viator about our top travel searches in 2007. Viator had over 1.2 million searches on its website in ’07! Search data is fascinating, I love to look at it, you get to see some tiny slice of life, and some really bad spelling errors. Anyway, enjoy this post, along with my sincerest apologies for being so lazy.

Categories: Tip of My Hat, Wag of My Finger Tags:

Broad Match Can Be Really Annoying

January 17th, 2008 No comments

I’ll warn you now, this is a rant. It should be concise, but be prepared for some vitriol.

I’ve been running search query reports, and am getting really irritated by some of the broad matching on Google. For a group of keywords about Paris (and only Paris) a lot of queries about France that don’t contain the term Paris at all are matching, which is irritating, especially since I purchase these France keywords to go to a France ad and a France landing page separately. I bid higher for Paris terms, which convert better, and Google is trying to squeeze out a higher CPC by applying the France queries to Paris instead of the lower bid France adgroup. If I have specified a bid for a keyword outright, don’t you think I’d rather have the search query match there than to a more broadly extrapolated match? And isn’t that a better experience for users? The quality of my ad and landing page are more specific to the France keywords, and at a higher quality score, for the appropriate adgroup (France) as opposed to the less related one (Paris). I’m irritated that my quality score is potentially harmed by this broad matching, when I am actively breaking out dissimilar keywords to enhance my quality score, and frankly, provide a better experience for search engine users. Way to undo my work Google!

There is a solution to this problem, add negative matching to the Paris adgroup so the France keywords don’t match there (I’m using negative exact matching). Then they are compelled (fingers crossed) to match to the France adgroup. Le sigh.

Categories: Wag of My Finger Tags:

Zagat for Sale

January 14th, 2008 No comments

Rumor has it Zagat is for sale and that IAC might buy it. I’m intrigued, as it could mesh with CitySearch, another IAC property, in some really interesting ways. They could become the super site for restaurants. Also, I hate Yelp, so I’d like to see it go down to the old school sites, if they can get it together to provide some serious competition. I like that Zagat’s online site is cleaner looking than CitySearch, but the whole being a member subscription model is convoluted. Are they even making any money off that? Given that other sites are free I doubt it. Take Zagat content online and monetize it with local ads and reservations partnerships, stuff like that, and then you’re cooking. I am sure there’s plenty of synergy between them and CitySearch at any rate.

Categories: I Love the Interweb, Industry Tags:

Great Webcast today on Big Sites, Big Brands

January 11th, 2008 No comments

Chris Sherman did a great webcast today on big sites and big brands search engine marketing, I recommend checking it out if you manage some big azz SEM. Lots of in-house managers were in attendance, seems like the number of us is growing! As a marketer who’s been in the position of having to manage part or all of a portfolio of sites for a big company, I appreciate a lot of the challenges in competing departments or sites fighting for the same share of searches. Generally I think all the advice was good. The one thing I would have emphasized more is that ROI analysis is really key, in terms of bottom line profits for an e-commerce company, whichever site or department is making the most profit off the search term should be the owner (if multiple owners aren’t possible). This may require testing to determine, but ultimately it benefits the company to route keywords to the most efficient converting content. Likewise if its possible that two paid ads are running in competition, which is the higher bidder should be ROI driven.

In terms of the branding and search content, Chris touched on some of the themes that will be present in my SMX West presentation for the Search 4.0: Search Ads & Behavioral Targeting session. The interaction between other online ads like banners and search program performance will definitely be a part of the discussion for that session as well. It should be an interesting session, so if you are attending SMX West I encourage you to stop in and say hi. In the meantime Chris’ webcast will be available online sometime soon at Search Marketing Now, so check it out.

Categories: Industry, Tip of My Hat Tags:

And back from Japan.

January 11th, 2008 No comments

Back from Japan, you can check out my photos on flickr. Also I am posting on Viator’s travelblog about some of my experiences.

Categories: I Love the Interweb Tags: