SEO Cold Calling: A Primer

I received a voice mail message on Tuesday. The person leaving the message indicated that they were interested in discussing my SEO services. Normally, I’d return such a call right away, but I didn’t have an opportunity to do so until Wednesday afternoon. As it turns out, it doesn’t look like they’re going to be becoming clients of mine, as they’re in the business themselves, but the call did get me thinking about advice for SEOs who seek out new business by cold calling other SEOs, so I’ve put together this little primer.

Leaving a Message

If you get my voice mail and want to leave a message, don’t tell me that you’d like to talk to me about my SEO services. A message like that is likely to make me think you’re interested in having me do some work on your site. If what you really want is for me to sign up as a reseller of your SEO services, then your best bet is to say that in your message. SEOs who are interested in something like that will return your call, and those of us who have no desire to sell someone else’s services — like me, for example — won’t bother, and a lot less time will be wasted by both of us.

Sure, it’s not exactly a lie to say that you want to talk about my SEO services, but it’s really not very accurate.

If I Say “No”

If I return your call because you failed to follow the advice indicated above and then tell you once I see what’s going on that I’m not interested in becoming a reseller of someone else’s services, you should probably just take “no” for an answer. On the other hand, if you truly believe you can change my mind, then when you take advantage of my polite nature and insist I take a look at what you have to offer, you’d better be prepared to really wow me with your services and your knowledge of the search industry.

SEO 2.0

You tell me that you call your services “SEO 2.0″ because it’s such an advance over old fashioned SEO. I’ve seen the term here and there, mostly to describe search marketing that concentrates on social media. But that’s not what you mean by “SEO 2.0.” Your “SEO 2.0″ involves advanced practices like these:

LSI

If you ask me if I’m familiar with the concept of Latent Semantic Indexing and I reply in the affirmative, it’s not necessary to read the definition from your script, especially if it’s wrong. My “yes” is your cue to skip that step in the process.

When you show me a page that demonstrates your use of LSI, it probably shouldn’t be a page that uses a phrase like “pest control” over and over. Sure, words like “mosquitoes,” “ants,” “cockroaches” and “insects” do show up on the page, but that’s to be expected on just about any page about pest control. I mean, just look at this:

some text about pest control

This is your idea of LSI?

Also, if I should raise the point that I don’t believe anyone’s conclusively demonstrated that any of the major search engines actually make use of LSI, it’s a good idea to have references to an article or two at the ready.

The Search Exchange

OK, so maybe I wasn’t all that impressed with your LSI example. It’s time to bring out the big guns if you’ve got any hope of changing my mind at this point. If your best idea is to talk to me about the “Search Exchange,” I think maybe you’re better off just thanking me for my time and saying goodbye.

But no, you really want me to see the Search Exchange, so you have me click the link anchored “Search Exchange” at the top of your wonderful LSI pest control page. I find myself on a page linking out to a real estate site, a house cleaning service site, a kitchen cabinet site, etc. It looks like a standard-issue link exchange page to me. I’m not impressed. Then you tell me that the great thing about the Search Exchange is that the links are all coming from your network of hundreds (or did you say “thousands”) of sites. Buddy, that’s not SEO 2.0. It’s a link farm. Time to say goodbye.

Do Your Research

This really ought to be step one in our primer, but for me, it’s an afterthought, so I’m throwing it in at the end.

It seems to me that if you’re looking for SEOs who’d be interested in becoming resellers of your kind of services, it’s not enough to just buy a list of the names and numbers of SEOs. Check these people out before you contact them. If their websites warn people to watch out for SEOs who try to get you to join link farms (me, for example), those are people you probably shouldn’t bother calling.

Of course, you could have done worse. It’s not like I’ve got thousands of people reading this modest blog post about you. And while I’ve commented on his blog three or four times, I’m not all buddy-buddy with Matt Cutts, so he’s probably not reading this post either. See, Matt has access to these cool insider-only Google tools, and all he’d need is one look at one of your clients’ pages to ban your whole network.

Then again, he probably doesn’t need my help, since all of the farm pages are linked to with anchor text of “Search Exchange,” and they all appear to be on pages named 0308.php, which makes them pretty easy to locate.

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Happy

eater

Eszter Balint

oyster

noreaster

otter

ether

jester

beastmaster

I may be an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a bad pun.

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Jewish History – A Clarification

matzohIt’s Passover (woo hoo!) and Jews (and US Presidents) all over the world are sitting down to seders to commemorate the liberation of the ancient Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

This is a tradition that’s been passed down for millennia, but certain aspects of Passover aren’t quite as old as you’ve probably been led to believe.

Take the Afikoman, for example. Wikipedia describes it this way:

Afikoman… meaning “that which comes after” or “dessert”) is a half-piece of matzo which is broken in the early stages of the Passover Seder and set aside to be eaten as a dessert after the meal.

Based on the Mishnah in Pesahim 119a, the afikoman is a substitute for the Korban Pesach, which was the last thing eaten at the Passover Seder during the eras of the First and Second Temples and during the period of the Mishkan. The Gemara states that it is forbidden to eat any other food after eating the afikoman, in order to keep the taste of matzo in our mouths.

In some families, the head of the household hides the afikoman for the children to find. In other families, the children “steal” it and ask for a reward for its return. Either way, there is usually a gift of money or candy made to the children at the table before the seder continues.

Wikipedia is quite correct about how it’s actually done, but the etymology and history… not so much. Believe it or not, the tradition of the Afikoman only dates back about a century.

It was March 30, 1915, or if you prefer, the 15th day of Nisan, 5675 — the first night of Passover that year. The Cohen family of Williamsburg, Brooklyn (Moshe and Miriam, with their daughter Esther and sons Samuel, Alfred, and William) had traveled all the way to Coney Island to participate in a seder to be held at the home of Rabbi Leo Bronfman, the husband of Moshe’s eldest sister, Yetta.

The family crowded into the Bronfmans’ dining room and began the ceremonial meal. After the four questions were asked by young Alfie (who had until this point embarrassed his parents by fidgeting throughout the ritual), he asked if he could be excused to go to the bathroom.

And so, the gathered crowd of Bronfmans and Cohens waited. And waited…

Nearly half an hour passed, and finally Rabbi Bronfman threw up his hands and announced that they’d waited long enough, and young Alfie would simply have to miss out on his share of the last piece of matzoh. He got up to fetch the unleavened bread, but quickly returned, saying that it was gone. Alfie had stolen the last piece of matzoh!

Moshe Cohen leaped to his feet and headed to the bathroom, saying something about teaching that spoiled little thief why this night was different from any other night, but he returned without Alfie. Apparently, the boy had slipped out the window and run off.

It wasn’t until two hours later that Esther Cohen found her little brother sitting on a bench on the boardwalk. Reportedly, when she asked him why he’d run away, the boy replied that “Tante Yetta’s house was smelly.”

It didn’t take long before, despite Rabbi Bronfman’s efforts to silence the embarrassing story, the tale of Alfie Cohen the Matzoh Thief was featured in the Daily Forward. A song about Alfie was even a hit in the Yiddish theatres of the Lower East Side. You think Burt Bacharach wrote Alfie? Nope. All he did was slow down the tempo and change the lyrics.

I can’t find the song anywhere now, either in Yiddish or English, but I still remember a few lines my grandmother used to sing:

What’s going on, little Alfie?
Are you just living for the moment?
Why did you run away with the last matzoh?
I didn’t mean to be cruel
I don’t want to be a fool
But my auntie’s house is smelly, smelly, smelly
And I can’t eat in a smelly house.

It’s all true. I wouldn’t lie about something like this.

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Well, Well, Wells Fargo

Ed Schultz“Big” Ed Schultz (personally, I prefer to call anyone with that moniker “Eddie Baby”), on his shiny new show on MSNBC, just welcomed Senator Chris Dodd (D – Troubled Assets) to kvell about the fact that Wells Fargo, a bank that received about 25 billion in bailout bucks, has announced a record quarterly profit of $3 billion.

Now, I don’t claim to be any sort of phynancial expert. When I hear the name of that bank, I think of that awful song we had to sing back in elementary school chorus… that song that harked back to a more innocent day in the life of capitalism:

O-ho the Wells Fargo Wagon is a-comin’ down the street,
Oh please let it be for me!
It could be curtains!
Or dishes!
Or a double boiler!
Or it could be
Somethin’ special
Just for meeeeeeee!

Wells Fargo logoAnyway, I’m not sure the bank’s profits are something to celebrate. Sure, I suppose it’s better than seeing them lose money. But what did Wells Fargo do with their share of the TARP funds?

For one thing, they bought Wachovia. (I’m going to miss that name. It always made me think of the axiom, “What do big banking corporations do? They Wachovia.”) We all know what happens when one bank buys another. This is from a November article in the Charlotte Observer, the paper in Wachovia’s erstwhile home town:

The San Francisco-based bank has started to lay out where it will get $5 billion in annual cost cuts, about 10 percent of combined expenses. High-level plans have been drafted for key businesses, and Wells is working to impose its own lending policies, according to a Wells presentation this week.

Wells is likely to cut jobs in Charlotte but hasn’t provided specifics. It signaled this week, however, that it will pare areas such as corporate and investment banking. For Wachovia employees, long in the driver’s seat during their bank’s decades of acquisitions, it’s an unfamiliar position – following another bank’s procedures for implementing a merger.

While much is still to be determined, Wells has roughly fleshed out where it plans to get its $5 billion in savings. About $3 billion will come from cuts in overlapping businesses such as general banking and investment banking. Another $1.4 billion will come from reductions in duplicative corporate functions, including jobs and expenses such as marketing and director fees. About $0.6 billion would come from office and branch closures and other cuts.

Yippee! Cost cutting! Job cutting!

And then there’s this piece from today’s Seattle Times:

The earnings news does not clearly signal a recovery of the banking sector. Even Wells risks projecting too much optimism — it hasn’t really absorbed the financial death star that is Wachovia. At that former banking giant, a great institution run into the ground on subprime gambles, most of the huge layoffs have yet to fall in its very vulnerable headquarters city of Charlotte. Crosstown rival Bank of America faces continued weakness across the board, especially from its misbegotten merger with Merrill Lynch (Marry in haste, repent at leisure). Wells is trumpeting its big mortgage share gain from Wachovia, but it will be interesting to see how it manages Wachovia’s troubles. (And Wells is a TARP recipient, $25 billion of your money).

Yippee.

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Sleepy Surfing

Dude, surfing is so totally mundane and tedious. If I didn’t guzzle a can or two of this speed-laced cough syrup every couple of hours, I’d probably fall asleep in the middle of a pipeline.

My life totally blows. I don’t know why I didn’t choose an interesting career, like quality control at an underwear plant, or accounting. Triple-checking the data on some enormous spreadsheet — now that’s a rush, my man. I bet those folks don’t have to worry about staying alert on the job. The sheer excitement of their work is enough to keep them totally pumped 24/7.

Totally.

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Wrestling With the Numbers

George the Animal SteeleI admit it. I used to watch professional wrestling on the eye of hell. But this was some twenty or twenty-five years ago, back when the WWE still had an F, when Hulk Hogan was a “real American,” who’d “fight for the right of every man,” when George the Animal Steele fell deep into puppy love with Miss Elizabeth, the “manager” of Macho Man Randy Savage. He loved her even more than he loved eating the foam inside turnbuckles.

At the time, I watched for the same reason I watched a couple of soap operas: for the sheer theatricality of it. I used to try to impress people with my theories about the connections between professional wrestling and Kabuki theatre. Did you know that Kabuki was created for the masses, who weren’t considered sophisticated enough to comprehend Noh drama? Did you know that the stage in wrestling is actually built over another stage with a space between them, so that when a character slams his foot down it reverberates, just like in Kabuki?

I lost interest when I felt that things had gone too far over the top. Even I have my limits. Similarly, I gave up on Days of Our Lives after Dr. Marlena Evans became demonically possessed and had to be exorcised by John Black, her lover who may have also been her former husband Roman Brady, but who apparently had at one time also been a Catholic priest.

So why, after all these years, am I writing about professional wrestling again? Well, I’ve seen the adverts for the upcoming Wrestlemania XXV on the eye of hell, and it seems the WWE is in dire need of a math and vocabulary lesson. Watch:

Here’s the text of the voice-over announcer:

In March of 1985, it began.

And every year thereafter, we celebrated the action, the amazement, the thrills.

Now, after 24 years, it all leads here.

On Sunday, April 5th, experience the 25th anniversary of Wrestlemania.

Live, Sunday, April 5th, on pay-per-view.

Assuming they’re correct in stating that Wrestlemania has taken place once each year since March 31, 1985, this is indeed the 25th annual event, and the moniker “Wrestlemania XXV” is perfectly fine.

But that doesn’t make this the 25th anniversary of Wrestlemania. Dictionary.com defines “anniversary” as the yearly recurrence of the date of a past event. And if you’re interested in the source of the word, the Online Etymology Dictionary provides this information:

anniversary
c.1230, from L. anniversarius “returning annually,” from annus “year” (see annual) + versus, pp. of vertere “to turn” (see versus). The adj. came to be used as a noun in Church L. as anniversaria (dies) in ref. to saints’ days.

Your wedding day is not your first anniversary. That comes a year later. Similarly, you’re not popped out of the womb on your first birthday. You’re born on your date of birth. Your first birthday is the first anniversary of your date of birth, one year later.

So Wrestlemania XXV, the 25th annual Wrestlemania, is not Wrestlemania’s 25th anniversary. That will occur on March 31, 2010, 25 years after the first event. And that means this isn’t even going to be the 24th anniversary. That’s six days from today.

Give Leapin’ Lanny Poffo a buzz. If he’s still in his “the Genius” persona, I’m sure he can answer any questions about this.

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Bachmann in Overdrive

Michele BachmannYou’ve just got to love Representative Michele Bachmann from Minnesota. She’s easily one of the most entertaining members of Congress I can think of. Remember when, right before the election she suggested that Obama is “un-American,” then denied saying it a day or two later?

Crooks and Liars has some video of Bachmann questioning Ben Bernanke and Tim Geithner today. They note her insistence that the two of them renounce any support of a “global currency,” which wasn’t difficult for either of them to do, since neither has ever expressed any support for the idea.

We know where she’s coming from, of course. A global currency is a big step along the path to a single global government, and a world government is a sure sign that we’re in the End of Days. Electing the anti-christ to the presidency isn’t helping, either.

But I thought her other big question was even more telling. She asked both men:

What provision in the Constitution could you point to to give authority to the Treasury for the extraordinary actions that have been taken?

They both tell her that they’re authorized to do what they’re doing because Congress passed legislation telling them to do it, and that doesn’t seem to satisfy her. Maybe she thinks that everything the government can do is spelled out in the Constitution — that every law we’ve got was written into the original document, so Geithner and Bernanke should have been able to recite the precise article and section that includes the bailout of AIG.

I think she needs to have a look at Article 1, Section 1, which should be pretty easy to locate:

All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Seems pretty straightforward to me.

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Holy Fodder

Pope in condom capAlternate Title: Pope-phylactic

Alternate Alternate Title: Habemus Scumbag

So, our pal Pope B-B-B-B-B-Benedict XVI made his first visit to Africa since becoming the Big Catholic Cheese recently (note to Governor Palin: that’s Africa the continent, not the country). While he was in Cameroon, he made a statement about the use of condoms in the effort to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS. From an AP article:

Condoms are not the answer to Africa’s fight against HIV, Pope Benedict XVI said Tuesday as he began a weeklong trip to the continent. It was the pope’s first explicit statement on an issue that has divided even clergy working with AIDS patients.

Benedict arrived in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital, and was greeted by a crowd of flag-waving faithful and snapping cameras. The visit is his first pilgrimage as pontiff to Africa.

In his four years as pope, Benedict had never directly addressed condom use, although his stance is not new. His predecessor, Pope John Paul II, often said that sexual abstinence was the best way to prevent the spread of the disease.

Benedict also said the Roman Catholic Church was at the forefront of the battle against AIDS.

“You can’t resolve it with the distribution of condoms,” the pope said en route to Yaounde. “On the contrary, it increases the problem.”

Huh? Wha? Let’s start off with a look at the first, and arguably lesser, of the two utterly nutso statements at the end: the claim that the church is “at the forefront of the battle against AIDS.” Just what it is it the church does in the battle against AIDS? As far as I know, it insists that people refrain from sex outside marriage. It’s abstinence training.

And how well does abstinence training work?

The number of teenagers having babies rose for the second straight year in 2007, at a slower pace than the previous 12 months, a U.S. government report showed.

The birth rate for teens increased about 1 percent in 2007 from 2006, following a 2.8 percent rise in 2006, according to the report from the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. The number of unmarried women having babies also rose, accounting for almost 40 percent of all births in 2007, the report said.

Babies born to teenage mothers are more likely to be premature and less healthy, according to the March of Dimes. Government and nonprofit programs work to provide education on contraception, encourage youth to postpone sexual relationships and promote abstinence to reduce the rate of teen births, which had declined for 14 years until 2006.

“It is clear here that one of the jobs at hand is to get back on track to where we were, and that is convincing more young people of the value of delaying sexual activity and convincing sexually active teens to use contraception consistently and carefully,” said Bill Albert, a spokesman for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy in Washington.

The reasons behind the increase in teen births are unclear. Some policy experts attributed the rising pregnancies to a lack of education about contraception as the U.S. government focused on abstinence-only programs under former President George W. Bush. Others cited an ill-advised confidence after years of progress.

Or how about this article from late last year:

Teens who take virginity pledges are just as likely to have sex as teens who don’t make such promises — and they’re less likely to practice safe sex to prevent disease or pregnancy, a new study finds.

“Previous studies found that pledgers were more likely to delay having sex than non-pledgers,” said study author Janet E. Rosenbaum, a post doctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “I used the same data as previous studies but a different statistical method.”

This method allowed Rosenbaum to compare those who had taken a virginity pledge with similar teens who hadn’t taken a pledge but were likely to delay having sex, she said. She added that she didn’t include teens who were unlikely to take a pledge.

“Virginity pledgers and similar non-pledgers don’t differ in the rates of vaginal, oral or anal sex or any other sexual behavior,” Rosenbaum said. “Strikingly, pledgers are less likely than similar non-pledgers to use condoms and also less likely to use any form of birth control.”

OK, so abstinence is clearly the answer.

And what can we say about Bennie’s claim that condom distribution “increases the problem” of HIV? I’m at a loss to respond with anything more than a simple “what the fuck.”

By the way, while we’re on the subject of wacky papal pronouncements, I don’t want to leave out this gem:

Benedict said that while the Catholic church in Africa is the fastest growing in the world, it faces competition from increasingly popular evangelical movements and “the growing influence of superstitious forms of religion.”

Superstitious forms of religion. As opposed to the religions that are based on the scientific method. Yeah, we’ve really got to watch out for that stuff.

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Viva Commerce! (#23)

Dear Chrysler,

Your current ads on the eye of hell feature the following proclamation:

We don’t want to be just any car company,
We want to be your car company.

Chrysler logo

That’s a lovely sentiment. It really is. But I have to tell you, you’re not going to be my car company. I haven’t owned a car since I gave my thirteen-year-old VW (“das Spiff”) to charity in the spring of 2000. I’d just paid about $500 for some repairs, brought it in for its annual inspection, and was told that it would need another $600 or so in repairs to pass. That was the end of the road for das Spiff. Since then, I’ve weaned myself from the need and I wouldn’t want a car now — not from you or anyone else. I’ve got no use for one.

True, if I were interested in buying a car, it probably wouldn’t be one of yours, but that’s hardly the point.

Personally, I’d advise just a little patience on your part, Chrysler.

Six months from now, the idea of being just any car company is probably going to seem like a real prize to you.

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The Florida Keys Have a Lousy Domain Name

Two posts in a day! (And they’re my first two posts all month.)

I was watching CNN this morning, and right after Howie Kurtz spanked Sports Illustrated for failing to be seriously journalistic about its bikini photography, they cut to an advertisement for the Florida Keys — perfectly normal tourism stuff. At the end of the advert, the announcer suggested checking out the tourism board’s website at “FLA Keys.com,” that is to say, what I heard was “eff ell ay keys dot com,” which one would expect would be written out as “flakeys.com.” Of course, one would probably read such a domain name as “flakeys dot com,” which is maybe not the image the Keys want to promote. That would explain why the domain name that appeared at the bottom of my screen was “fla-keys.com”. But the announcer had made no mention of the hyphen.

Naturally, that got me wondering. I was online at the time, and I might not have been looking at the eye of hell while the ad was running, so I would have thought the site was located at flakeys.com. What would happen if I tried to navigate to that address?

Sure enough, a request for flakeys.com redirects (via a 302 instead of a 301 — stupid IIS) to fla-keys.com, so those flakey Floridians at least have that covered.

But couldn’t they have gotten a domain name that would both allow them to easily say and spell the address the same way (that is, without the much-despised hyphen) and not require a redirect? That question led to some quick exploration:

  • Florida Keys logofloridakeys.com, which looks like it could be the official site of the local tourism board, complete with a “Florida Keys” logo, is owned by a company called Cooke Communications, which apparently publishes some local newspapers and magazines.
  • thefloridakeys.com is the home of “Best of the Florida Keys,” which is kind of archaic looking. Dig the animated gif of the hurricane on the home page!
  • flkeys.com is a local realtor.

    And what of the hyphenated variations?

  • florida-keys.com is apparently for sale and is currently hosting one of those parked made-for-AdSense “search” pages.
  • the-florida-keys.com is registered to some guy in New Jersey, but nothing is published there.
  • fl-keys.com contains a meta refresh that sends the user to fl-keys.com/floridakeys.htm, which then fires a script that redirects to fl-keys.com/search/load.php, which in turn fires another JS redirect to fl-keys.com/search/re.htm, where you’re hit with yet another script that send you off to fl-keys.com/search/index.htm (wheeeeeeeeee!), which is another sponsored search page.

It seems that unless they’re willing to buy what could be a pretty costly domain name, the folks at the official tourism council got beaten to the punch. Flakeys indeed.

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