All I Want For Christmas Is… – A Search Marketer’s Wish List

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” – uh oh you caught me singing Christmas melodies. It is that time of the year again – faith for some, the gathering of family as well and of course, gift giving. And with gift giving, there is gift getting (receiving). Have you made your wish list yet? I have, at least from a search marketing perspective. Allow me to share what I would like for Christmas this year.

All I want for Christmas is…

1. AOL to Offer DMOZ (Open Directory Project) Up for Sale

Really if you can’t operate it properly, then sell it for goodness sakes. It fascinates me that they have yet to monetize one of the Internet’s oldest and most trusted directories. Why did Netscape buy it in the first place? As a hobby? If so then I’d say they are now bored with it, especially after the recent issues with machine crashes and major data loss. As of yesterday, it seems that DMOZ is finally back online, this after being down since late October. But for how long and how efficiently? And still there is the dilemma of trying to get new sites included in the directory which has become next to impossible.

Until DMOZ is making money, whether that’s derived from employing Google AdSense, charging submission fees or some other means, there is no real motivation to run it like a business. I would venture to say that the vast majority of volunteer editors are there for self interest. I admit I was when I was an editor years back. It is obvious that AOL will never monetize it or they would have already. Therefore my wish is for them to put it on the auction block and offer it to the highest bidder. Sell it to someone who cares, to a company that will treat it like a business and run it properly.

All I want for Christmas is…

2. Search Engines To Be Up Front When Sites Are Banned or Penalized

You feel your site has been penalized or even banned. So you contact the engine in question to learn if this is indeed true and if so, why, only to get a canned response that reads something like this, “We have found that your web site has violated our guidelines…” You are then lead with no choice but to comb through their guidelines and try to figure out for yourself what you did wrong. True that many site owners already know what they did but there are cases that leave site owners guessing. This is especially true if you are a search marketer working on a new client site. It is difficult to know exactly what was done to the site before your hands touch it.

This is why I commend Microsoft’s recent action of informing a site owner exactly why they were banned. In this scenario, the site owner wrote Microsoft inquiring why their site had been banned and Microsoft offered the following response:

“Your site is acquiring links through posting to or exchanging links with sites unrelated to your site content. Techniques which attempt to acquire unrelated spam links in order to increase ranking are considered spam and your site has been excluded from our index as results. Please contact us once you’ve removed these links and we will reevaluate.”

Beautiful! That is the kind of information we need. Don’t keep us guessing. That is likened to me punishing one of my children, telling them to sit in the corner or worse, issuing a spanking. They of course will ask what they did. Do I simply tell them, “You broke one of our rules but I’m not telling you which one!” Of course not. That would be absurd. In the same manner, I wish search engines would just come right out and tell you why they are penalizing or banning your site. “You are buying links, you cloaked content, your site is crap, we simply don’t like you, etc.”

All I want for Christmas is…

3. A Google Policy Change on Buying Links

A recent post at Google’s Webmaster Central blog entitled “Building Link Based Popularity” spawned an interesting discussion on link buying practices over at SEOmoz. The issue mostly hotly debated is the proper use of the “nofollow” attribute tag. Many assume that the original idea behind this tag was that when added to any link, it would serve as a flag that the link has not been explicitly approved by the site owner. However in the discussion at SEOmoz, Matt Cutts add the following statement in the comments field: “I think I’ve been straightforward on Google’s behalf: paid links should have a nofollow attribute. Other choices run the risk of losing trust with Google in various ways.”

So it would appear that Google’s opinion is that all paid links should carry the nofollow attribute. This in turn will allow Google to easily identify them and very likely exclude them from passing any link love or voting power to the sites they are linking to. I’m sorry but that just sucks. Why? Because I buy links. I also sell links. It is great to get some direct traffic from links but the link love they can pass is an attractive feature as well.

I know, I know, in a pure “white hat” world, sites would just create great content that would naturally attract links. While I believe in great link worthy content, try selling argument that to an e-commerce site. Or how about the vast majority of sites that are simply trying to sell a product or service? Yes they can and should have good sales copy, product information, etc., but is it going to attract natural links? Most likely not. What are they do? What everyone else does – advertise. How do you advertise online (besides AdWords)? On web sites. And shouldn’t those sites link back to you? Yes they should. A final question – since Google pioneered the aspect of ranking sites not only for on page factors but with regards to who is linking to them, shouldn’t site owners be able to buy quality and relevant links that help them in that ranking process? Yes they should.

I wish Google would change their policy on paid links. I am aware that Google has quite a fight on their hands battling those who would abuse paid links in order to game the system. However there has to be a better way to battle this than to lump everyone into the same category. My wish is that Google would work diligently to come up with technology that identifies deceptive linking practices as opposed to demanding everyone who has a paid link to attach a nofollow attribute to it.

All I want for Christmas is…

4. SEOs/SEMs To Stop Promising What They Can’t Deliver

Number one positions, first page rankings, a million visitors a day and the list goes on. I am weary of dealing with the following type of question during sales pitches, “Can you guys guarantee me top rankings?” No we can’t! In fact nobody can. Well I take that back… I guess Google could guarantee you top rankings on their own engine, or even Yahoo!, MSN or Ask for that matter. That is if they were in the SEM business which they are not and furthermore if they allowed money to influence what are supposed to be editorial listings, which they do not. So it boils right down to the fact that no one can promise a first place or first page ranking or even a specific amount of traffic except the search engines themselves, which they are not going to do.

Therefore I wish SEOs and SEMs would stop promising what they cannot deliver. It makes for a great sales-pitch but at the same time creates difficulty for those of us who deal in reality. After presenting our services and providing an analysis of a potential customer’s marketing needs, we now have to educate them of the fact that no search marketing company has special privileges with search engines that allow them to control the SERPs. So please stop. Promising positions is so 1998. Rather promise what you can deliver such as experience, an impeccable attention to detail and superb customer service.

All I want for Christmas is…

5. Blog Comment and Form Submission Spammers To Get a Brain

Remember the straw man in The Wizard of Oz? He was lacking a brain and wanted to visit the great Wizard to beg him of one. I can recall some of the lyrics of the song, “I would not be just a nuffin’, My head all full of stuffin’ … If I only had a brain.” Also lacking a brain in our modern age are blog comment and form submission spammers.

I’m sure blog spammers have been around since the guestbook first made its appearance but form submission spam I have only seen this year. This is where some kind of program or person submits a bunch of garbage through a web contact form. I don’t see what purpose either has

As far as blog comments, I have never seen a blog that just allows anyone to comment without first moderating the comment before going live or requiring some kind of authentication. So why do I still get over 200 comment spams a day, which will never see the light of day, but still they come? Then there is form submission spam. What is the purpose? A bunch of garbage submitted through a form whose original goal is to allow email contact with a real person on the other side of the web site? Do they think that links are going to be automatically posted on the site hosting the form or that the recipient of the email will visit their site? Please!

At least with email spam, they get on average of a 6% return from what I hear. But blog comment spam and form submission spam serves absolutely no purpose whatsoever. It proves that these people are clueless and are in need of a brain. So I wish a brain for them this Christmas so they can spam in more useful ways, at least for themselves anyway.

Well there you have it, only five things. I’m sure I could think of some more and may add those later to this post. How about those of you reading this? What would you wish for Christmas, from a search marketing perspective that is?

David Wallace

David Wallace, co-founder and CEO of SearchRank, is a recognized expert in the industry of search and social media marketing. Since 1997, David has been involved in developing successful search engine and social media marketing campaigns for large and small businesses. Follow +David Wallace on Google + as well as Twitter.

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