Google Knol and SEO

I’m going to try an experiment. Google launched a new service called knol this past Wednesday. It’s been billed as the Wikipedia/Squidoo/HubPages alternative, though perhaps more akin to the latter two because of it’s monetization offerings to entry authors, via a Google AdSense revenue-sharing model.

Seeing this made me wonder: could knol be used for search engine optimization purposes?

I know, I know. It’s not the most altruistic thought. But I’ll bet others are thinking the same thing too. So with that in mind, I whipped up an entry on “Michael Lee“. To be fair and still offer hopefully useful community content (though, erm, I guess that’s debatable), I linked to a bunch of other Michael/Mike Lee’s as well.

That’s not too smart, SEO-wise, since I just gave link love to my “competitors” (and by competitors, I mean others who rank high for the name Mike Lee on a search engine). But then I also filled out my knol profile, which seemed to create another entry for “Mike Lee“. Both entries seem to have equal weight in a knol search, even though I thought one was just a profile page. Hmmm.

So will this give me any link love?

My guess is: probably not. I really doubt anyone’s going to be searching knol for the name “Mike Lee”. And since Google isn’t surfacing any of this content onto their search results (yet), I doubt many people are going to see it.

But will it help my search engine ranking to have a link from the domain? Perhaps? I’m not sure. I’ll revisit this little experiment to see if it’s had any impact in a week or so. Stay tuned!

The New Google Keyword Tool

Happy happy, joy joy! Google has updated their Keyword Tool. You can now get the exact number of searches on particular keywords.

That may sound pretty benign to you, unless you’re an internet marketer of some sort. In which case, it’s HUGE news. Enormous. In the past, you had to guesstimate the amount of traffic you could receive from each keyword. But without exact numbers, all you’d have were relative measures of effectiveness.

So why is knowing the number of searches on a keyword important?

You’ll know which keywords are important to your customers
Say you sell portable GPS units. If you use Google’s Keyword Tool, you’ll find that the phrases “navigation system” and “portable navigation” are typed into Google much more often than “portable GPS unit”. With this information, you can write product descriptions with those keyword phrases and bring in more traffic to your site.
You’ll be able to estimate customer demand
If you are thinking about a new section to your site, the number of keyword searches can give you an idea of customer demand. This can even apply to non-web businesses. In John Battelle’s book The Search, he calls search engines a “database of our intentions.” Want to find out if there’s existing customer demand for a new product line or service offering? Google’s Keyword Tool can give you an answer to that.
You’ll be able to estimate potential revenue for a new web niche
Affiliate marketers are always on the look out for new and untapped web niches. However, not all niches are created equal. Some generate more traffic than others. With Google’s updated Keyword Tool, exact searches can be determined. This can be plugged into a financial model used to estimate monthly revenue per keyword. With this data, you can know accurately which new niches to tap into.

Up till now, internet marketers have been using the handy keyword service Wordtracker. One of it’s more useful features was offering an estimated number of searches on particular keywords. Google’s update now trumps that, since Google is able to provide the exact number of searches.

This doesn’t mean Wordtracker is out of the game, however. They still offer other useful features, such as estimating the level of competition per keyword and a Keyword Effectiveness Index (KEI), which helps find untapped keyword niches within a general topic.

The internet marketing world is buzzing with this news right now. Ed Dale, internet entrepreneur and marketer extraordinaire, even provides some information on how to determine the exact number of searches from Google’s Keyword Tool.

And as Dale says, this is enormous! ENORMOUS!

What is Social Media Marketing?

My skin is tingly. It gets this way whenever something new is on the horizon, something big.

I remember feeling this way back in college. Something called the World Wide Web was creeping onto the scene. It was still in the domain of universities and geeks. Then a roommate told me the Web was going to be commercialized. When I heard that, I looked at the web site I had just built, imagined making a career out of this, and felt my skin go tingly.

The new thing making me tingly is Social Media Marketing (SMM). Okay, maybe it’s not such a new thing. Cutting-edge bloggers have been talking about it for a while now. There was even a conference on it back in April.

But I’m starting to see traditional companies peek into SMM. They’re lifting the curtain, poking their heads in, and wondering if they should join all the fun. In high-tech marketing speak, the Early Adopters are starting to buy into SMM. Maybe even some of the Early Majority too.

So what is Social Media Marketing?

I define it as: a specialization of marketing that involves using online social media channels to promote a business’s products, services, or brand.

So what is Social Media?

Good question. Chris Garrett describes it as the “tools, websites and software that allows people to connect and share.” Scott Monty points to a very amusing video called “Social Media in Plain English” that explains it in, well, plain english:

Can you give me some examples of Social Media Marketing?

Sure. Since this field is still so young, there are a very wide range of tactics, some more effective than others. Here are some examples of SMM tactics:

Create an online video

That video above is a sweet example. It was created by the husband and wife team at CommonCraft Productions. They created a few free videos like that and “Podcasting in Plain English” and “Twitter in Plain English“. These funny videos became viral and spread onto blogs like Scott Monty’s.

The intent? To promote the services of CommonCraft, who’ve created explanation videos for clients such as Google (GOOG), (CRM), H&R Block (HRB), and others.

Offer a free product/service to a blogger

The book publisher Kogan Page hired a marketing firm to send out free books to various bloggers (including me!) in the hopes that some of the bloggers would write favorable mentions or reviews. This can be tricky as some bloggers may write scathing reviews. I tried to be balanced in mine.

The intent? To generate more sales for Kogan Page’s books.

Get your website listed on a link aggregation site

The link aggregation site can be a massive traffic generator. If your website is featured on, you can get an onslaught of users visiting your site. A couple of years ago, Richard MacManus found a way to game and almost guarantee being featured.

The intent? To get a lot of visitors and new customers. However, the effectiveness of this tactic is debatable, as incoming visitors don’t always convert into customers. It can still give you SEO benefits, though. But be careful about gaming, as that can start a community backlash against you.

Create a common-interest group on a social network

Facebook allows you to create common-interest groups, such as the “Louis Vuitton” group or the “Chocolate = Love!” group. You could create one of your own, based around your brand, product, or service, and speak to your customers directly. It’s like an informal, ad hoc focus group, but much cheaper.

The intent? To speak and listen to your customers directly. “It’s like free market research” says one entrepreneur who’s tried this tactic.

Write catchy content

Some call this linkbait, others call this just plain catchy content. Last year, Johnny Virgil wrote a hilarious blog entry about the 1977 JC Penny Catalog he found in his wife’s grandfather’s attic. His entry was so catchy and viral that it spread like a really bad showtune that gets stuck in your head for hours.

The intent? Well, Virgil wasn’t trying to sell anything, though he’s placed Google ads and a PayPal donation button on his site since then. But as a marketer, such a tactic could generate significant pageviews on your site, and hopefully some sales too.

The SEO Rapping Poetic Prophet

Now for some Friday fun. If you work in the web industry and do web design, web development, SEO, affiliate marketing, and/or web standards, you’ve seen this by now. (If not, where have you been?)

Who’s behind this rhyme? Charles (Chuck) Lewis, the Houston, TX guy who’s background is as varied as a spin of the roulette wheel. He’s been rapping since his early teen years at his local church. His style of gospel rap earned him the moniker the Poetic Prophet. After a few false starts, he started a record label called Mo Serious Entertainment to promote himself and some other acts.

Somewhere along the line, he became a Project Coordinator/Marketing Specialist for Pop Labs, where, I’m guessing, he learned about the complicated world of search engines, web standards, and ever-changing web browsers.

One day, inspiration struck him, and he began applying his rapping skills to his new trade. He recorded a handful of YouTube videos that became viral. And now, he’s being mentioned on Valleywag, Compiler from, and ShoeMoney.

Looks like his SEO rap has been great for his SEO.

Internet Real Estate Fix & Flip Overview

The Dancing House in Prague Ah yes, the real estate fix and flip. What better way to make bank than by buying a cheap fixer-upper, fixing it, and selling it for a tidy profit?

But you know that already. What you may not know is that you can do this with web sites too. Yea. Web sites.

Here’s a quick overview. The formula is somewhat similar to fixing and flipping traditional real estate. The word “property” is interchangeable here; it could mean a house or a web site. Both are essentially real estate properties. One just exists on land while the other exists on the Internet.

  1. Evaluate the property

    Assess it’s current value (pageviews, unique visitors, search engine rankings, market strength, revenues, expenses, etc) and potential for growth (new market opportunities, ways to increase visitors, ways to increase search engine rankings, ways to increase revenue streams, etc). Unlike traditional real estate, there aren’t many fees involved in purchasing a web site. There are only transition costs, such as getting access to their servers and related accounts.

  2. Purchase the property

    Sites like the SitePoint Marketplace (the largest place for buying and selling websites currently) and VentureBoard allow you to browse what’s for sale and offer a bid. Just like in traditional real estate, hot properties get scooped up fast.

  3. Fix the property

    This can involve a wide range of activities, depending on your expertise and the property you purchased. Some may just need a boost in search engine rankings (which is where SEO and SEM come into play). Others need more innovative marketing techniques (like SMM or viral marketing). You can also do things to increase revenues (raise site fees, add additional revenue generators, etc), decrease expenses (lower server or content acquisition costs, etc), or increase quality traffic (better marketing, customer retention techniques, etc). Hopefully you had an idea of what to do before you purchased the property.

  4. Flip the property

    Put it right back on the SitePoint Marketplace or VentureBoard.

There’s a ton of stuff that goes into properly evaluating and fixing a web property. Similar to traditional real estate, there’s even a whole industry around teaching you how to do that. Mind boggling. And potentially quite profitable too, if you want to get into it. Even though the barriers to entry are low (any ole’ shmuck can do it, even you!), it’s still a relatively young industry and may have room for more players.

So what are you waiting for? Go fix and flip!

Online Business Incorporation Services

Briefcase Need to set up your business entity? Fortunately there are a number of online services to help you with this now. Quite a number, in fact.

How can you chose the right online business incorporation service then?

Here’s what I did. First, I found a bunch of them through simple Google (GOOG) searches. Then I decided to sort them by their Alexa rankings. (I also did a quick comparison against their Compete rankings.)

Why? Because I wasn’t able to find any articles comparing these services to help me make an informed decision. Therefore, I figured a basic popularity rating is better than nothing. Maybe a service that’s popular would have slightly better offerings and customer service—or at least have enough customers to teach them how to run a quality business.

Is that really true? Hardly, but eh, it was better than nothing.

The search results and rankings produced this list:

  2. MyCorporation
  3. BizFilings
  4. DirectIncorporation
  6. Active Filings
  9. Form-A-Corp
  10. The Incorporation Company

The top four sites ranked high on both Alexa and Compete. Below that and the rankings were quite different. This list is sorted by Alexa rankings only.

Then I looked at the top six. I originally examined just the top four, but decided to go +2 for more variety. Scientific? Hardly.
For a Delaware LLC, prices range from $99 – $199 with what appears to be a limited-time discount, or $149 – $399 normally.
Since this is owned by Intuit (INTU)—creator of Quicken, QuickBooks, and TurboTax—I assume they have a fair amount of business knowledge. For a Delaware LLC, prices range from $288 – $488.
Advertised heavily in entrepreneurial publications, they offer a lot of useful articles and tips on business incorporation. For a Delaware LLC, prices range from $99 – 329.
Though their site isn’t much to look at, they seem to have quite a few free extras. For any state and entity type, prices range from $139 – 288.
They also own the domain name, so they could be ranking high simply because of effective SEO. These guys only offer business incorporation services for Delaware. For any entity type, prices range from $189 – $598.
Active Filings
Also not much to look at, they seem to be on the more expensive side. For a Delaware LLC, prices range from $289 – $589.

It would seem to me that MyCorporation, BizFilings, or DirectIncorporation seem to be as good a pick as any. Disclaimer: I am involved with businesses that have used BizFilings and DirectIncorporation. Since MyCorporation is from Intuit, I’d consider using them too, though they’re a bit pricey. could be a fair budget choice as well.

Another disclaimer: There are obvious problems with this method of selecting an online business incorporation service. For one, this favors sites that have good SEO resources. There could be a great service that’s not listed on the Google search results. This also doesn’t compare actual quality factors—or define what those quality factors are. Unfortunately, business incorporation isn’t a common multiple-use service, so few people would be in a position to do an in-depth comparison. However, if anyone has any anecdotes or experiences about these services, I’d love to hear about them. Perhaps this could be the start of such a comparison.

UPDATE 3/14/2008: Corrected entries for and Removed my error in stating that redirects to; it actually redirects to Thanks for the correction, Frank!

SEO for Newspapers and Magazines

Long Bet Remember the long bet between Dave Winer and Martin Martin Nisenholtz of the New York Times?

In a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, weblogs will rank higher than the New York Times’ Web site.

Rogers Cadenhead of Workbench tallied the results and discovered that he was sorta right. For 2007’s top stories, some blogs did rank higher than newspapers in a Google search.

Read/WriteWeb took a look at this and correctly hinted that the test isn’t an accurate conclusion of the popularity of blogs vs newspapers—it’s really a test on the SEO effectiveness of the two groups of sites. And the blogs in these results are more search engine-friendly than the newspaper websites. (Also, this test doesn’t measure how many people read the actual printed newspapers.)

This made me wonder. What would the newspaper (and magazine) websites have to do to increase their SEO?

  • Use proper heading tags (H1, H2…) for article headlines and subtitles
  • Improve the URLs by replacing those cryptic numbers they oftentimes use the article headline
  • Don’t require user authentication, or create a non-signed-in blurb of the article, though that’s not as SEO-friendly
  • Archive all previous articles publically, perhaps with a disclaimer that it’s an old article (some news sites delete old stories)
  • Update the Google sitemap regularly (some do this already)
  • Encourage links to the article by adding related content or features to important articles that add value
  • Include a link back to the web article in the emailed version
  • Use web standards markup so search engines have less code to crawl and index
  • Create an RSS feed for all articles & articles by category (most do this already, though I’ve seen a few who don’t)

Optimizing Google for Google

Google Now for some Friday fun. You’ve heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), yea? That’s when you do things to your website to make it rank higher in a search engine’s search results. A whole industry has sprouted around knowing how to do these techniques well and consulting on such techniques.

Coincidentally, I’ve learned quite a bit of SEO myself too, after having worked at Yahoo! (YHOO), so if you need an SEO consultant, let me know!

All shameless plugging aside, optimizing for Google (GOOG) has become such a science that it just begs for a parody.

A parody, you say? Why, Here’s one!

This is the brainchild of the hilarious Gene McKenna of He built this about two weeks ago and it’s been tossed around the Web quite a bit since then (so if this is old news to you, my apologies). Props to Gene though, for much hilarity!