Google is neat

August/16/2007: I’ve installed WordPress 8 days ago on this brand new domain.
August/17/2007: I’ve submitted an XML sitemap to Google.
August/18/2007: I’ve (somewhat hidden) linked to this domain from my old blog.
August/23/2007: Ms. Googlebot has crawled 749 pages from this blog, 9 pages made it in the Web search index so far.
August/24/2007: I got the very first hit from a Google SERP for [Google is neat]:
Google is neat - my first SERP referrer
Considering the number of results for this search term I think my #4 spot is not too bad, although it’s purely based on BlitzIndexing and certainly not to stay for long. The same post from my old blog ranks #22 for this search, probably caused by its link (via a 301 redirect script) to the new URL.

Interestingly the search query URL in my referrer stats is too clean, it lacks all the gimmicks Google adds when one searches with a browser. So who did that to alert me on the indexing? Thanks for choosing such a neat search term! :)



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Welcome back at Sebastian’s Pamphlets!

Dear friends and loyal readers,

I didn’t post for a while because I was working on this blog in my spare time. Not a big loss by the way, since SES in San Jose floods the SEOsphere with enough tidbits from the Google Dance and other events like paid link sermons currently. Ok, back to the breaking news: a week ago I got sebastians-pamphlets.com (unfortunately the owner of sebastian.com was not willing to sell the domain, although he has no Web site and I promised to keep his email addresses intact and working) and started my Blogger exodus. Meanwile I’ve imported the old stuff from sebastianx.blogspot.com, and hopefully I’ve solved all the various issues breaking my layout here.

Actually, I’m launching a buggy blog, but I can’t stand my ugly free hosted outlet any more. So please save your comments before you hit submit, because the AJAXed comment script erases it if you forget to type in the spam protection stuff, or the answer is wrong, or whatnot. There are more open items on my to-do list, but nothing that critical.

Please update your blogrolls: http://sebastians-pamphlets.com/ (without the world wide wait prefix)
and your feed readers: http://feeds.sebastians-pamphlets.com/SebastiansPamphlets (I’ll redirect the old feed when my Blogger farewell post has hit most if not all feed readers). If you’d like to update your links to particular posts too, here is a tool to find the new URLs. ;)

WordPress is kinda plug ‘n play thingy, at least that’s how I’ve used it before. Installing and configuring WordPress for my personal blog was a completely other story. I looked at more details, and found many things I wanted to change or optimize. Now I’m the proud owner of the most hacked template ever. Some things weren’t doable with plugins and template-hacks, so I wrote a couple scripts too, producing enough fodder for a soon to write blog post or two. And of course I had to enhance the WordPress link structure.

At least temporarily I’ll get rid of all my search engine traffic, because I can’t redirect properly from Blogger and must noindex the old blog to avoid dupe issues. It would be nice when you dear readers could feed me with links until the engines rediscover me! ;)

I’m eager to get feedback on this blog, so please don’t hesitate to leave your dofollowed comments despite the AJAX pitfall mentioned above. I really hope you’ll like it, but I do appreciate your critiques very much because they’ll help me to improve things for your convenience.

Thank you and happy commenting!
Sebastian



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How to feed old WordPress posts with link love

WordPress phases old posts out. That’s fine with timely contents, but bloggers publishing persistent stuff suffer from a loss of traffic to evergreens by design. If you’re able to hack your template, you can enhance your link structure in a way that funnels visitors and link love to old posts.

For the sake of this case study, lets assume that the archives are uncrawlable, that is blocked in robots.txt and not linked anywhere in a way that search engine crawlers follow the links. To understand the problem, lets look at the standard link structure of WordPress blogs:
Standard WordPress link structure
Say your category archives display 10 posts per page. The first 10 posts gain a fair amount of visibility (for visitors and search engines), but the next 10 posts land on category archive page #2, which is linked solely from the archive pages #1 and #3. And so on, the freshest 10 posts per category are reachable, older posts phase out.

Lets count that in clicks from the main page. The freshest 10 posts are 2 clicks away. The next bunch of 10 posts is 3 clicks away. Posts on category archive page #3 are 4 clicks away. Consider a link level depth greater than 3 crap. Search engines may index these deeply buried posts on popular blogs, but most visitors don’t navigate that deep into the archives.

Now let me confuse you with another picture. This enhanced link structure should feed each and every post on your blog with links:
Standard WordPress link structure
The structure outlined in the picture is an additional layer, it does not replace the standard architecture.

You get one navigational path connecting any page via one hop (category index page #2 on the image) to any post. That’s two clicks from any page on your blog to any post, but such a mega hub (example) comes with disadvantages when you’ve large archives.

Hence we create more paths to deeply buried posts. Both new category index pages provide links to lean categorized links pages which list all post by category (”[category name] overview” in this example corresponding to category index page #1 on the image above). If both category index pages are linked in the sidebar of all pages, you get a couple two-hop-links to all posts from all pages. That means that via a category index page and a lean category links page (example) each and every post is 3 clicks away from any other page.

Now we’ve got a few shorter paths to old posts, but that’s not enough. We want to make use of the lean category links pages to create topical one-hop-links to related posts too. With most templates every post links to one or more category pages. We can’t replace these links because blog savvy readers clicking these category links expect a standard category page. I’ve added my links to the lean categorized links pages below the comments, and there are many more ways to put them, not only on single post pages.

It’s possible to tweak this concept by flooding pages with navigational links to swipe a click level here and there, but that can dilute topical relevancy because it leads to “every page links to every page” patterns which are not exactly effective nor useful. Also, ornate pages load awfully slow and that’s a sure fire way to lose visitors. By the way that’s the reason why I don’t put a category links widget onto my sidebar.

To implement this concept I hacked the template and wrote a PHP script to output the links lists which is embedded in a standard page (/links/categories/). At the moment this experiment is just food for thoughts, because this blog is quite new (I’ve registered the domain a few days ago). However, I expect it will work.



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Hello world!

Howdy! I’m in the process of moving my blog from blogspot to this domain. As long as you see a ToDo List here, I’m not yet ready. Ok, there’s no such thing as a blog that’s “ready”. Hence the ToDo list is here to stay. Probably forever. More on the bugs & flaws page.

    Unordered & unprioritized ToDo List

  • OK: dofollow plugin
  • OK: feedburner
  • OK: navigation in sidebar
  • OK: links + OK:blogroll
  • OK: remove “be the first …” on pages w/o comments
  • OK: Twitter and other gadgets
  • OK: configure titles (<title><?php wp_title(”",true); ?></title> (actually that’s more code coz wp_title(”",true) delivers nil for the home page)) and meta tags
  • tag old blogger posts
  • OK: 301 sebastian-x.com
  • OK: post background color too dark (blockquotes) and other CSS hacks
  • OK: XML sitemap
  • credits on links page
  • enhance site search when Google has indexed everything
  • links list blogspot commenters
  • OK: friendlier 404 page which actually sends a 404
  • contact page
  • edit blogspot links in imported posts and comments (when you get pings because I’ve edited an old post of mine, I’m sorry.)
  • OK: edit categories to enable nice categorized links lists feeding old posts with link juice
  • OK: Feed buttons
  • OK: Share/bookmark links
  • OK: change author links
  • OK: linking from blogspot posts to new URLs
  • OK: sitemaps/categories page with feed links/list of articles
  • fix the disabled button + text area after AJAXed comment submissions
  • advertising? Ynot.
  • OK: think about testing vs. launching early (Hi Marissa!)
  • OK: bait crawlers (Ms. Googlebot grabbed her milk & cookies a day after I’ve registered the domain, but is confused because I’ve changed the IP address a few days later)
  • OK: ask friends for href changes
  • wait for something unspecified
  • OK: push the red button, publish the moved-draft at blogger, redirect the blogger feeds to feedburner, and turn this thingy to public
  • FINALLY: redirect the blogspot url

I’ll write a post on a few technical aspects of the move in a few days.



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Google’s 5 sure-fire steps to safer indexing

Nofollow plagueAre you wondering why Gray Hat Search Engine News (GHN) is so quiet recently?

One reason may be that I’ve borrowed their Google savvy spy. I’ve sent him to Mountain View again to learn more about Google’s nofollow strategy.

He returned with a copy of Google’s recently revised mission statement, discovered in the wastebasket of a conference room near office 211 in building 43. Read the shocking and unbelievable head note printed in bold letters:

Google’s mission is to condomize the world’s information and make it universally uncrawlable and useless.

Read and reread it, then some weird facts begin to make sense. Now you’ll understand why:

  1. The rel-nofollow plague was designed to maximize collateral damage by devaluing all hyperlinked votes by honest users of nearly all platforms you’re using everyday, for example Twitter, Wikipedia, corporate blogs, GoogleGroups … ostensibly to nullify the efforts of a few spammers.
  2. Nobody bothers to comment on your nofollow’ed blog.
  3. Google invented the supplemental index (to store scraped resources suffering from too many condomized links) and why it grows faster than the main index.
  4. Google installed the Bigdaddy infrastructure (to prevent Ms. Googlebot from following nofollow’ed links).
  5. Google switched to BlitzCrawling (to list timely contents for a moment whilst fat resources from large archives get buried in the supplemental index). RIP deep crawler and freshbot.

Seriously, the deep crawler isn’t defunct, it’s called supplemental crawler nowadays, and the freshbot is still alive as Feedfetcher.

Disclaimer: All these hard facts were gathered by torturing sources close to Google, robbery and other unfair methods. If anyone bothers to debunk all that as bad joke, one question still remains: Why does Google next to nothing to stop the nofollow plague? I mean, ongoing mass abuse of rel-nofollow is obviously counterproductive with regard to their real mission.



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Ego food from John’s barbecue

JohnMu grilled me ;)

Check out his folks bin frequently for readable Webmaster interviews.

Thanks John, it was fun :)



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Just another victim of the nofollow plague

It’s evil, it sucks even more than the crappy tinyurl nonsense obfuscating link destinations, nobody outside some SEO cliques really cares about or noticed it, I’m not sure it’s newsworthy because it’s perfectly in line with rel-nofollow semantics, but it annoys me and others so here is the news of late last week: Twitter drank the nofollow kool-aid.

Folks, remove Twitter from your list of PageRank sources and drop links for fun and traffic only. I wonder whether particular people change their linking behavior on Twitter or not. I won’t.

Nofollow crap on TwitterFollowing Nofollow’s questionably tradition of maximizing collateral damage Twitter nofollows even links leading to Matt’s mom’s charity site. More PageRank power to you, Betty Cutts! Your son deserves a bold nofollow for inventing the beast ;)

Twitter should hire a SEO consultant because they totally fuck up on search engine friendliness.



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ɹǝɟɟıp oʇ bǝq ı

:sdıʇ ɹǝpısuı sʞ1oɟ ɹǝɥʇo ʇdʎɹɔuǝ oʇ unɟ s,ʇı ʇnq .sdɐɥɹǝd ¿uoɹoɯʎxo uɐ ʇɐɥʇ sı .ʎ1ɟʎɐp ɐ ǝʞı1 ʇsnظ ‘ǝɹnʇnɟ ɐ sɐɥ ɔıɟɟɐɹʇ 1ıɐʇ buo1 ǝsɹǝʌǝɹ buı11nd oǝs uʍopǝpısdn

Lyndon's insider tip

Ralph's insider tip

If you’re bored, give it a try. Mark did it.



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How to bait link baiters and attention whores properly

What a brilliant marketing stunt. Click here! Err… click: Brilliant. Marketing. Stunt.

Best of luck John :)



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Google manifested the axe on reciprocal link exchanges

Yesterday Fantomaster via Threadwatcher pointed me to this page of Google’s Webmaster help system. The cache was a few days old and didn’t show a difference, I don’t archive each and every change of the guidelines, so I asked and a friendly and helpful Googler told me that this item was around for a while now. Today this page made it on Sphinn and probably a few other Webmaster hangouts too.

So what the heck is the scandal all about? When you ask Google for help on “link exchange“, the help machine rattles for a second, sighs, coughs, clears its throat and then yells out the answer in bold letters: “Link schemes“, bah!

Ok, we already knew what Google thinks about artificial linkage: “Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank”. Honestly, what is the intent when I suggest that you link to me and concurrently I link to you? Yup, it means I boost your PageRank and you boost mine, also we chose some nice anchor text and that makes the link deal perfect. In the eyes of Google even such a tiny deal is a link scheme, because both links weren’t put up for users but for search engines.

Pre-Google this kind of link deal was business as usual and considered natural, but frankly back then the links were exchanged for traffic and not for search engine love. We can rant and argue as much as we want, that will not revert the changed character of link swaps nor Google’s take on manipulative links.

Consequently Google has devalued artificial reciprocal links for ages. Pretty much simplified these links nullify each other in Google’s search index. That goes for tiny sins. Folks raising the concept onto larger link networks got caught too but penalized or even banned for link farming.

Obviously all kinds of link swaps are easy to detect algorithmically, even triangular link deals, three way link exchanges and whatnot. I called that plain vanilla link ’swindles’, but only just recently Google has caught up with a scalable solution and seems to detect and penalize most if not all variants covering the whole search index, thanks to the search quality folks in Dublin and Zurich even overseas in whatever languages.

The knowledge that the days of free link trading are numbered was out for years before the exodus. Artificial reciprocal links as well as other linkage considered link spam by Google was and is a pet peeve of Matt’s team. Google sent lots of warnings, and many sane SEOs and Webmasters heard their traffic master’s voice and acted accordingly. Successful link trading just went underground leaving the great unwashed alone with their obsession about exchanging reciprocal links in the public.

Also old news is, that Google does not penalize reciprocal links in general. Google almost never penalizes a pattern or a technique. Instead they try to figure out the Webmaster’s intent and judge case by case based on their findings. And yes, that’s doable with algos, perhaps sometimes with a little help from humans to compile the seed, but we don’t know how perfect the algo is when it comes to evaluations of intent. Natural reciprocal links are perfectly fine with Google. That applies to well maintained blogrolls too, despite the often reciprocal character of these links. Reading the link schemes page completely should make that clear.

Google defines link scheme as “[…] Link exchange and reciprocal links schemes (’Link to me and I’ll link to you.’) […]”. The “I link to you and vice versa” part literally addresses link trading of any kind, not a situation where I link to your compelling contents because I like a particular page, and you return the favour later on because you find my stuff somewhat useful. As Perkiset puts it “linking is now supposed to be like that well known sex act, ‘68? - or, you do me and I’ll owe you one’” and there is truth in this analogy. Sometimes a favor will not be returned. That’s the way the cookie crumbles when you’re keen on Google traffic.

The fact that Google openly said that link exchange schemes designed “exclusively for the sake of cross-linking” of any kind violate their guidelines indicates that first they were sure to have invented the catchall algo, and second that they felt safe to launch it without too much collateral damage. Not everybody agrees, I quote Fantomaster’s critique not only because I like his inimitably parlance:

This is essentially a theological debate: Attempting to determine any given action’s (and by inference: actor’s) “intention” (as in “sinning”) is always bound to open a can of worms or two.

It will always have to work by conjecture, however plausible, which makes it a fundamentally tacky, unreliable and arbitrary process.

The delusion that such a task, error prone as it is even when you set the most intelligent and well informed human experts to it (vide e.g. criminal law where “intention” can make all the difference between an indictment for second or first degree murder…) can be handled definitively by mechanistic computer algorithms is arguably the most scary aspect of this inane orgy of technological hubris and naivety the likes of Google are pressing onto us.

I’ve seen some collateral damage already, but pragmatic Webmasters will find –respectively have found long ago– their way to build inbound links under Google’s regime.

And here is the context of Google’s definition link exchanges = link schemes which makes clear that not each and every reciprocal link is evil:

[…] However, some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results. Examples of link schemes can include:

• Links intended to manipulate PageRank
• Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web
• Link exchange and reciprocal links schemes (’Link to me and I’ll link to you.’)
• Buying or selling links […]

Again, please read the whole page.

Bear in mind that all this is Internet history, it just boiled up yesterday as the help page was discovered.

Related article: Eric Ward on reciprocal links, why they do good, and where they do bad.



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