Recovering from Penguin and a Lengthy Hiatus

Hello, friends! Nearly three years have passed since this blog was hacked. The security vulnerability was exploited because I failed to update to the most recent stable release of WordPress in a timely fashion. I was so discouraged that I didn’t even try restoring this blog… Until now. A project on which I am working was impacted heavily by Panda 4.0, Payday Loan 2.0, and Penguin 3.0. While identifying inbound links to disavow, we found myriad links from what appeared to be hacked WordPress blogs. That was the moment at which my anger level peaked while thinking back to someone hacking my personal blog for the purposes of using it to spam the world.

I have been neither promoter nor practitioner of blackhat SEO practices. As such, I have never had to scramble to recover from algorithmic penalties. Working through an action plan for recovery made me realize I have been doing it wrong all along. Similar to most things in real life, SEO hats should not be viewed as black or white. I made a conscious effort to avoid even learning about the blackhat side. That was a huge miscalculation. Strange as it may sound, I have a newfound respect for blackhat SEOs. I can now easily argue that blackhats have a deeper understanding of the blackbox ranking algorithms than their contemporary whitehats.

At the risk of generalizing, whitehats do what they’re directed to do. Blackhats reverse engineer the complex ranking algos to find exploits and then do what they think will produce the most immediate results. I am diametrically opposed to questionable tactics for the purposes of short-term organic growth, but I still am able to respect the unique capabilities of blackhats. There exists at least one commonality between blackhats and whitehats – The test and learn approach. Test and learn is foundational to so many professional disciplines. </soliloquy>

(pops a Ritalin…) ohai back to the WordPress hacking. During our toxic backlink analysis, we noticed a pattern of random TLDs with /wp-admin/includes/XYZ/*. They all resolved to the same payday loans site with some tricky behind the scenes routing. This particular client may or may not have engaged in questionable link building techniques, but disavowing these toxic links has resulted in 50% recovery from Google organic traffic declines which first appeared two weeks ago. Good progress, but we’re only halfway there.

I know what you’re thinking. The recent algorithm updates have made it even easier to conjure negative SEO campaigns against your competitors. You know what I think about that hypothesis? I think it’s an excellent topic for my next post…

Please Excuse Any Typographical Errors

You know what really grinds my gears? Virtual keyboards FTL! Since when have typos become acceptable in professional communiques? This isn’t just a knock against iOS devices – the same can be said for more Android devices. I don’t enjoy carrying around a Blackberry in lieu of the coolest new smartphone, but the BB allows me to compose emails without auto-correct telling me what I want to type (and the suggestions are almost always wrong). Along with character restrictions imposed on Twitter and text messages, this is the beginning of the end of proper grammar.

Thx 4 reading c u soon!

Web Analytics Consulting – You Get for What You Pay

Our site analytics tool sucks – Sincerely, <Insert your name here>. Unfortunately, we have all been there. In the interest of fairness, let’s take a step back to conduct root cause analysis. Ask yourself, “Is our web site analytics tool capable of providing what we need, or is our sub-par implementation the reason why we are not able to report on critical KPIs?”

In my experience (YMMV), sub-par implementation of analytics code is primarily responsible for the majority of web analytics challenges. Even the free tool Google Analytics (designed for the “common” person) requires custom variable/parameter declarations to take full advantage of granular metrics reporting. On the other end of the spectrum, fully customizable SaaS analytics solutions like WebTrends, Adobe/Omniture SiteCatalyst, Unica, et al require extensive time to plan/deploy custom reports, visitor segmentation, visit/hit filters, and so on.

There have been numerous reports published for US web analytics forecasts, like this one from reputable Forrester Research. I’ve seen broad spectrums for web analytics projected investment CAGR from 5-25% over the next five years. The problem is, most of website analytics investment is made in the service fees as opposed to implementation consulting.

Let’s assume you sign a contract with an analytics vendor to support your flagship, enterprise sites. Chances are if you commit to X number of hours of support bundled with your MSA, you should get more favorable rates. In my opinion, you would be a fool not to pay for professional implementation consulting services. It’s the old carpenter’s adage, “Measure twice and cut once.” Complications resultant from post-production changes are more costly/difficult to rectify than those addressed in DEV environments.

Net, net all of us pay premiums for numerous insurance policies and preventive maintenance services in an attempt to mitigate catastrophic risks. Consider your investment in analytics implementation consulting services (which is a one-time opportunity cost that keeps providing incremental benefit) in the same vein as pre-paid expenses like insurance/maintenance. Worst case scenario, your analytics page tagging could cause critical failure in content delivery from your production servers for several hours (or even several days depending upon the agility of your development teams in releasing hotfixes). Please take a minute to ponder :)

Of course the previous paragraph does not apply if you’re using a log file-based site analytics tool. However, these solutions are becoming defunct faster than analog televisions. My standard retort to advocates of log file analysis tools is, “Even though you’re not prone to javascript page tags causing critical failures, you’re still subject to lost revenues from poorly implemented log file-based analytics solutions subsequently resulting in the inability to report on KPI metrics that would have manifested actionable, data-driven decisions.”

If after reading all this nonsense you still firmly believe your web site analytics tool sucks (as opposed to your implementation), please reach out to me and to the extent I am able I will do my best to help address your pain points. That’s the least I can do reciprocate your patience in getting this far. In fact, throw any interactive/online marketing questions my way. Cheers, friends!


2009 British Open TV Schedule

Here’s a quick reference guide on television coverage of The British Open. Keep in mind the 5+ hour time difference will prevent live coverage of rounds from top players such as Tiger Woods who tees off his opening round at 4:09am EST, Thursday, July 16.

  • Weather permitting, 4 rounds of golf from July 16-19, 2009
  • Turnberry Ailsa Course, South Ayrshire, Scotland

Thursday, July 16:

7am-7pm EST on TNT

Friday, July 17:

7am-7pm EST on TNT

Saturday, July 18:

7am-9am EST on TNT

9am-2:30pm EST on ABC

Sunday, July 19:

6am-8am EST on TNT

8am-1:30pm EST on ABC

Apologies my first post in a very long time is regarding an eclectic, non-search marketing topic. Thanks again to my loyal readers :)

Find a Lawyer – How to Guide

How do I find an attorney/lawyer to represent my best interests and with whom I am able to speak freely? This question was posed to me recently by one of my best friends from college. If you don’t want to read this entire post, my executive summary was simple: Leverage the Internet as a decision-making tool.

  1. Use a broad-based, horizontal search engine (Google, Yahoo, MSN) to generate search results for sites that can be considered as subject matter experts. In this case, we are searching for local attorneys and lawyers.
  2. Search engines nowadays are intelligent enough to provide local results for broad queries such as “lawyers” or “attorney” in their search results pages. The same can be said for other verticals such as real estate and health/medical.
  3. On these search results pages, subject matter experts (aka vertical search engines) generally receive top placement.
  4. Intrinsically, broad-based horizontal search engines like Google are not designed to provide comprehensive, trustworthy content that they own… Being navigational in nature, search engines strive to provide search results listings to sites their algorithms consider most relevant to the search query entered.
  5. Personally, I like to use online search tools to evaluate and research both vertical directories as well as the end level service providers (individual real estate agents, doctors, or attorneys).
  6. Search for any reviews on the vertical search sites returned by your search on a broad engine – select one vertical search site with favorable reviews and use it to conduct a search on local attorneys who specialize in areas of law relating to your needs.
  7. Pick a couple attorney listings and save them in a spreadsheet.
  8. Conduct name searches for these lawyers/law firms on broad search engines like Google to see if they have any negative references.
  9. Rank attorneys on your spreadsheet using +/- scores for positive/negative references.
  10. Contact lawyer or law firm to set up a discovery call.
  11. Repeat #10 several times
  12. Select a lawyer/firm with whom you are most comfortable.

New Jersey Love – Tyshawn Taylor from THE University of Kansas Jayhawks

Having lived in Jersey City, NJ 07302 for 2+ years and being fortunate enough to be able to attend numerous St. Anthony games, I feel obligated to pimp my man Tyshawn Taylor. I was born and raised in Lawrence, KS (KU campus for those of you not familiar with the tradition that is James Naismith, Phog Allen, Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, Wilt Chamberlain, JoJo White, Danny Manning, Paul Pierce, Roy (Benedict) Williams, Mario Chalmers with “The Shot”, and most importantly, NCHC Bill “The f’in man” Self.

First of all, allow me to express the appreciation for Tyshawn Taylor on behalf of Jayhawk Nation. We were truly fortunate to be the beneficiaries of Crean to Marquette.

Announcement of Commitment to KU from LJW

Great Article on How Much This Young Man Has Overcome

Playing alongside at least 6 D1 teammates, it’s no surprise TT is averaging better numbers in college than he did in NJSIAA. Representing #15 he is often compared to Mario Chalmers. It’s not a fair comparison, as I think they are different players, but Taylor’s freshman year stats compare favorably to Chalmer’s. TT in my estimation has the potential to be a lottery pick after his sophomore year (Tyshawn, if you happen to read this, please stay four years, earn your degree, walk down Mt. Oread, and continue your success in The League).

I have to admit I am a Rutgers alum and have access to season tickets for RU home games. I wore my official Adidas Kansas #15 jersey to the last game I went to vs. West Virginia. Needless to say, everyone around me was confused as to why I kept chanting Rock Chalk Jayhawk. I believe FSNY has highlights of this game on their site and you can clearly hear all my banter.

PPC Traffic Projections Part Deux: Estimating Impact

To compensate for the extended hiatus, let’s dive right into ppc estimates and projections for a new campaign. I can not stress enough how important it is to conduct keyword research as the initial step. Keyword research is comprised of not only aggregating search impression volume from the search engines, but also of mining data from the most important data set available to you – site side keyword searches and top navigational paths.

Regardless of how optimized your UI/UX is, visitors to your site generally can be bucketed into several conversion funnels. Even if you feel your UI/UX leaves much room for improvement, visitor behavior on the current version of your site can be used for product enhancement decision-making in addition to surfacing areas of opportunity.

ppc-projectionsI have always been a proponent of launching new campaigns using exact match and a disproportionately high daily budget. A tight list of exact match search phrases will allow you to maximize your CTRs. A high daily budget will allow you to compile performance data more quickly. There is not much optimization that can be done without this data with a sample size large enough to allow for a high confidence level. CPCs will obviously vary greatly by vertical, but the benefit of high CTRs is manifested in higher quality scores and subsequently lower CPCs.

Again, this is just my opinion, but I have always presented paid search traffic projections using matrices. Two-dimensional variable axes for CPC and CTR is usually a great starting point. This will get you to the visitation impact. We’ve only just begun. From here, you should create another matrix using visits and conversion rate as the two dimensions. This will give you a confident estimate for conversions.

At this point you will be able to calculate ROAS. Although ROI and ROAS are used interchangeably, they are entirely different beasts. ROI factors in overhead such as development effort and all ancillary resource costs. ROAS is plain and simple. ROAS = (Revenue)/(Media Spend). This number is usually represented as a percentage. 100% ROAS means you generate $1 of revenue for every $1 of media spend. If your ROAS is less than 100% then you have some “splanin” to do.

I will try my best to draft the third part of this series in the near future, but my boss is a slave driver. <– This is just a test to determine whether or not he actually reads my blog :)

Green Jobs Definition and Background

OK, so maybe the title is a little misleading. It’s difficult to define a term like “Green jobs” that only became widely acknowledged (in the United States) a day ago. There is already a Wikipedia entry with a decent amount of content, but the fact it shows up third on Google natural search results for a “Green jobs definition” query should provide an indication on its relative search popularity. The Google External Keyword Tool shows 201K Broad Match searches for “Green jobs” in December 2008.

greenjobssearches

Not too much search activity. Considering Google has been able to determine flu trends in the US using their search data, this shows we are still in the infancy stages of mainstream awareness. A poll conducted by the NY Times in 2007 showed 52% of respondents were willing to make extraordinary efforts to help the environment (or at least hurt it less) at a personal expense. I read that in the print edition. I’ll try to find it online and post an update. I know for a fact two things have changed since then.

  1. The state of the economy has certainly decreased that 52%
  2. The NY Times print edition will not be around for much longer

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

I finally created an account on Twitter last Friday. I figured it was the right time since I recently entered myself into the blogosphere. My assumption was there are already many plugins for WordPress to integrate with Twitter. Seems like a match made in Heaven to me. Programmatic real-time Tweets generated for new blog posts. Programmatic real-time widget on my WordPress page for new Tweets. Content begetting content – a UGC dream.

My assumption was correct. There is an ample supply of well-executed plugins, widgets, and code snippets to elevate the symbiotic relationship between WordPress and Twitter. I’m going to try Twitter Tools developed by Alex King because it was the first organic result in my Google query for “wordpress twitter.” It is force of habit. I completely disregard paid search results for some queries such as this one, but focus exclusively on paid search results for other queries (for example, when I am searching for the best price on a specific model of a mainstream consumer electronics good). I digress, but search engine user behavior is fascinating to me and is worthy of a dedicated post.

Within hours of creating my Twitter account I was following nine other accounts and had three people following mine. Don’t know if there has ever been another form of self-expression that is able to generate unsolicited interest from total strangers. I have to admit I am currently addicted and have logged in to my Twitter account regularly (including from both my Treo and Blackberry) since its creation. However, I was addicted to the Nintendo Wii when I first purchased it. It now has a quarter inch layer of dust on it as well as its controllers.

Work/Life Balance – Reality or Unicorn?

Exactly a year after I left my previous company to join my current one, I met up with my old boss for happy hour tonight. If not for him, I would certainly not be where I am today from a career standpoint. Giving him my two weeks notice (which was actually three because I bypassed the week in between jobs to make sure the transition went smoothly) was one of the most difficult things I have ever done.

I had been there for three years and despite my allegiance to him, I knew it was time to move on to new challenges. It wouldn’t have been fair to the company, my beloved boss, or myself to stay there. I was burned out and simply couldn’t produce at the level I had sustained for the first 36 months of my tenure.

It turned out that the person to whom I would be reporting at the new job was a co-worker of my old boss and several other key players on his team. <!– Cliche Warning –> Small world!

This is certainly not an indictment against my former employer, but I am very grateful for where I am today professionally. Devoting one’s life to work can only last so long. It’s simply not sustainable. <!– Cliche Warning 2 –> Slow and steady wins the race. All work and no play makes Jack physically ill. Trust me on this one.

I used to say, “I’m still young and need to focus on my job while I am able.” At 32 years of age and rebounding from a 12+ year relationship that undoubtedly was undermined by my commitment to work, I am finally starting to realize there is more to life than to reaching the highest tax bracket. Besides, if I get there within the next 4 years, I will be hit with a luxury(federal income) tax of 40+%. Steinbrenner family: I feel your pain!