Anonymity, Notoriety, Credibility and Authority

The Beginning

Elias carefully tucked his spiral notebook into his backpack, ensured he had a handful of extra pens and pencils and dutifully wrapped his Android tablet, first in its padded sleeve, then a sweater. Even though he still hadn’t gotten accustomed to using it, he certainly didn’t want anything to happen to it. After his girlfriend had saved for 6 months to buy it for him, he’d sooner die than have that happen.

The truth was, though, that he didn’t really care to be drug into the digital age. He’d heard enough horror stories about people whose identity had been stolen or their account hacked that he had no desire to change the way he’d always done things. Every time he typed his password when logging into that Facebook thing, he felt like he’d walked into a crowded room butt-naked.

Ever since his birthday, Ana had been badgering him about starting a blog and putting his marketing degree to good use. What in the world made her think he’d be willing to share what basically amounted to a diary with anyone that felt like reading it? What made her think he wanted to share his thoughts with anyone? For that matter, what made her think he had anything to say? Continue reading “Anonymity, Notoriety, Credibility and Authority”

Have you Defined your Relationships with Google?

Most business relationships involve some level of parasitism, wherein one party derives benefit from the resources of the other. Ideally, there is benefit to both sides, which would be described as symbiosis. Sometimes, however, one side is simply providing support to the other, getting nothing in return. The relationship that we have with Google can sometimes become a classic example of such a parasitic relationship.

Most of us recognise the potential for mutual benefit from our relationship with Google, but some feel that Google gives very little in exchange for what it takes. From a high altitude viewpoint, I think Google offers quite a lot… but not on a silver platter.

Furthermore, I think that site owners, users and marketers that look realistically at their interactions with Google will acknowledge that there are really several different relationships at play. Each of those relationships should be evaluated independently, even though they usually overlap.

Benefits Google Offers to Us


This can be somewhat vague, as it involves many factors. A site’s ranking for a specific search term can vary dramatically, due to relevance, personalisation, location, temporal issues and more. But all else being equal, Google offers the opportunity to have a page displayed in the SERPs. This is a very complex process and Google’s resources enable them to do for us what none of us could accomplish for ourselves on such a scale – open the door to targeted users. Continue reading “Have you Defined your Relationships with Google?”

Our Inaugural Meld Hangout with Rand Fishkin and Steve Gerencser

We’re doing our first Meld Hangout On Air tomorrow, April 9th, at 10:30AM, Pacific time. We’ll be discussing some of the recently highlighted issues with Google, specifically around linking practices and what is and isn’t recommended.

Come watch our first Hangout

Joining us will be Rand Fishkin of and Steve Gerencser of Unfortunately, this HOA won’t be open attendance, but you will be able to listen in live and offer questions and comments. Afterward, it will be available here for viewing, if you can’t make it.

We hope to see you there!

Note: You can view this HOA video here.

Are These Anti-Google Refrains True?

Recent penalties have had folks up in arms (again) over Google’s methods to control what it labels as “spammy”. Having fueled a bit of the ranting myself, I thought I’d try offering some observations that might help keep things in perspective.

To be fair, there are a lot of spammy practices in play, and most of them end up putting a lot of trash in the SERPs. And as a major frustration to a lot of site owners, those practices sometimes allow a spammy site to outrank a site that complies fully with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

So here are some of my observations on some of the often repeated statements that are floating around:

Anti-Google Complaint #1: Google Doesn’t Own the Internet

Google doesn’t pretend to own the Internet. They DO, however, own their search results. If you’re like me, with zero dependency on organic search, you can do whatever you please, without fear of it affecting your business.

But if you’re like the majority of my clients, dependent upon your visibility in search for a significant portion of your income, you don’t have that luxury. You need to play in the SERPs game, so you need to play by their rules. Fail to do so at your own peril.

Anti-Google Complaint #2: Google is Out to Get SEOs

Continue reading “Are These Anti-Google Refrains True?”

Another Open Letter: to Google

On 3-20, in the wake of Google’s recent Blogger Blitzkrieg, one of my sites received notification of a sitewide manual penalty for outbound links. Apparently, having links to a site that Google has decided violates guidelines that are, at best, vaguely related to the target site’s practices, is sufficient to justify accusations of link selling and link schemes.

I immediately added nofollow to all outbound links (even to Google properties… you have warned us to nofollow links to sites we don’t trust, after all) and submitted my reconsideration request. No response yet, but by the morning of the 24th, my site appeared for its own name again. Hard to imagine that it wouldn’t, really.

What is the goal?

I’ve already made my feelings known on Google’s heavy-handed, scattergun-style penalty distribution methods in a previous post, so I won’t bore you with repetition. In the off chance that you might have missed my original open letter, by all means, please read it.

This letter has a different purpose, however… I hope to appeal to your collective sense of reason. I could lay out dozens of examples of communication that could be advantageous for Google, its users and webmasters, but I’ll keep it simple.

Google wants to clean up the internet. That’s a given – I get it. Believe it or not, I even support it. I hate spam and spammers. I hate seeing crappy sites sitting at the top of the SERPs because of their crappy tactics, while sites that comply 100% with Google’s Guidelines sit a page or three deep. And I hate seeing those compliant sites hammered into oblivion for one mistake while their competitors continue to ride high with scores of violations. And many of my colleagues feel the same. Continue reading “Another Open Letter: to Google”

An Open Letter to Matt Cutts, Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, et al.

Why would I write an open letter to people I don’t know, have never met and will probably never share a beer with? How about this: because they need to hear this… not because it comes from me, but because it is coming from from a large portion of Google’s user base.

Call it hate-mail or call it whining, if you like, but it’s neither. Maybe it’s tough love, maybe its venting… or maybe it’s a wake-up call. However each of you decide to categorize it, recognize the fact that it is coming from a hell of a lot of people, each of whom holds a small portion of your company’s future in their hands.


At 5:20 pm PST, 3-20-14, I received a sitewide manual penalty for outbound links in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines on one of my sites, Google’s Spam Team decided that this site is guilty of “unnatural, artificial, deceptive, or manipulative outbound links” that “may be the result of selling links that pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.

Webmaster Tools - Manual Actions - http___docsheldon.com__2014-03-21_00-31-58

Continue reading “An Open Letter to Matt Cutts, Eric Schmidt, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, et al.”

Common Sense Isn’t Common Enough Today

I promised myself that I would stay away from this topic… that there were already enough regurgitated posts about guest blogging. But it proves to provide a perfect segue to a mini-rant. And those that know me are well aware of my weakness for such opportunities.


Hornets nestMatt Cutts seems to have stirred up a hornet’s nest the other day, when he blogged about The decay and fall of guest blogging. As someone that has stirred his share of hornet’s nests over the years, I can imagine him muttering as he did a classic facepalm and shook his head in dismay. Been there, done that, Matt!

One couldn’t help but get the impression that Matt may have been a little fed up when he penned that post. I’ve been following pretty much every word out his avatar’s mouth for several years, and he’s rarely been quite so explicit in his statements. The ‘tude was showing, man.

But then, if I was tasked with running Google’s spam team, I’m betting I’d totally redefine the term jaded.  And I’ve got a ‘tude on, even when I’m in good mood!

His blog,, hasn’t been starved for either views or comments for quite a while, but the velocity at which comments piled up in the wake of his statement was still notable. Some applauded his announcement that guest blogging would be getting some “special” attention (I’m in that camp). Some just jumped in to spew hate and others were wont to defend guest blogging. Continue reading “Common Sense Isn’t Common Enough Today”

Google Plus Comments are Dangerous!

A couple of friends and I started a new online venture right after the first of the year, and one of the features we implemented was to use Google Plus Comments. At the time, it seemed like a decent way to increase our reach. And to be fair, it might accomplish that.

But at what price?

Between the three of us, we had already tried both Disqus and Livefyre commenting and didn’t like the fact that they hijack much of the benefit of on-site engagement. G+, we thought, would be different.

A WTF Moment

So, a couple of hectic weeks later, we finally got a breather and noticed something interesting… and disturbing.

A colleague mentioned that she had left a comment on a post on our site. I happened to be in our backend at the time, and I noticed that her comment didn’t appear in our Comments section. At first, I thought that perhaps she had left her comment on G+, but she assured me that no, it was definitely on our site that she had commented.

So I went to the post itself and things got even more interesting. There were 11 comments displayed on the post, yet in the backend, not a single comment appeared for that post. WTF? I mentioned it to my mates and we decided that some testing was in order, but that if Google Plus Comments was acting just like Disqus and Livefyre, we’d go with the core commenting within WordPress. Continue reading “Google Plus Comments are Dangerous!”

Planning: Turning Barriers into Opportunities

Over the last few years, a lot of people have decided to stop working for others and try doing “their own thing” online. While there’s still a place for independent shops on High St., there are also many online opportunities for such adventuresome spirits, in affiliate marketing, consulting and ecommerce (not to mention the peripheral support services like website design and development).

If you find yourself looking enviously on, as others make the leap to independence, and have decided that you’re ready to embrace your entrepreneurial side, it’s important to set out on your journey as fully informed as possible.

The First Step

Ancient wallJust about anyone that has ever faced any sort of entrepreneurial undertaking knows that a lot of barriers can get in the way. Sometimes they’re even of our own making.

Some folks would have you believe that launching your own business is a simple by-the-numbers thing: get a product, make it known that you have a product, count your money. If only it were really that simple.

Maybe it can be, in some very rare instances (if you have the only water available in the desert, for instance), but in reality, it’s usually a lot more complex. Supply lines, manpower, logistics, regulation, competition, marketing (that lovely M-word), etc… the list can be imposing, particularly if you’re setting up an international operation with a tangible product.

A savvy business consultant will advise you to go through a comprehensive checklist, build a thorough business plan and objectively analyse your plan’s effectiveness when various stumbling blocks surface. The nature of the proposed business will determine which of those stumbling blocks can amount to a stubbed toe and which can effectively break your back.

Carefully analysing every possible contingency and its effect on your business, then formulating a solid “Plan B” for recovery from any exigencies that pop up is critical, in order to survive the inevitable problems that will occur as you develop your business.

Online is only slightly different from the brick & mortar world. The barrier to entry is lower, to be sure… but the barriers to success are much the same. And given the increased velocity of events, both negative and positive, finding the barriers that can get in our way and overcoming them can be just as critical… sometimes more so. Continue reading “Planning: Turning Barriers into Opportunities”

Marissa Mayer – Is She Yahoo!’s Wonder Woman?

01-grey-buisness_0146_COMP.JPGA year and a half ago, Marissa Mayer sat down behind the desk in the President’s office at Yahoo!, as its new rightful occupant. Listed by Fortune as one of the most powerful American businesswomen of 2013, she had already “made her bones” before sitting in that chair. Forbes considered her high on the list of the 100 most powerful women in the world that same year.

As employee #20 at Google, she was the first female engineer to join Google, and her MS in computer science was put to good use. Her creative bent and forward thinking style helped quite a lot, too.

She worked her way up from engineer to VP during her 13 year stint with the company, leading the search products and user experience group and later, the local, maps and location services group. She also became a prominent spokesperson for Google, demonstrating an ability to project herself as knowledgeable, capable and reliable.

While many consider her to be quite likeable and very attractive, nobody can claim she owes her achievements to those qualities. She is, by any measure, a woman to be reckoned with. She has been granted seats on the boards of Walmart and Jawbone, as well as the New York City Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the National Design Museum and Cooper-Hewitt. And, of course, she chairs the Yahoo! board of directors.

But what has she done lately?

Continue reading “Marissa Mayer – Is She Yahoo!’s Wonder Woman?”