Category Archives: Work


I’m helping Manta by giving tips and advice to their audience by way of a series of short videos. In the first one I talk about utilizing the keywords that are available for Manta customers who have a Premium Business Listing.

This one was posted to Youtube on Valentines Day, so free to Like the video, leave a comment and show me some love ;-)

While we already have some ideas for other videos, feel free to leave a comment here and request other topics. I can’t promise they’ll make the cut but they’ll definitely be considered.

How big is Manta?

Sometimes when working on a big site for a long time, you get used to the big numbers. It’s easy to talk about hundreds of thousands of these and millions of those and lose perspective of just how many companies are on Manta. For fun today I decided to do some simple math to try and put the volume of companies I work with into perspective by providing references to more familiar items.


A Dell 5130cdn laser printer [1], touted as one of the fastest laser printers, would take over 2.5 years of nonstop printing to print out all 64 million companies. You’d need 2,836 of these printers running non stop to print them all out during an 8 hour working day.


Once printed I could lay them end to end and form a line about half way around the world [2], about 423 marathon [3] runs end to end. If you ran all those marathons back to back at the fastest pace ever run[4] you would be running for over 36 days without a break.


I could stack them flat to reach a height of about 20,000 feet, which is higher than the maximum altitude of most helicopters. The Boeing Apache AH-64 gunship has a maximum service ceiling of 21,000 feet[5]. Most skydivers bail out between 3,000-13,000 feet [6].

If we took the papers and stood them up end to end, instead of going half way around the globe, they’d go up just over 11,000 miles, almost twice the thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere[7]. The space shuttle and space station orbit the Earth between 100-300 miles, while GPS satellites orbit the Earth between 6,000-12,000 miles[8].

The ~24M companies in the US arranged this way would create a line of paper about 22,000 feet high, or 17,600 Empire State buildings[9] stacked ontop of each other.


If we laid all the paper out and taped it all together into a rectangle it would have an area approx 1.5 square miles which would cover 722 football fields[10].


I would need 128,000 reams of office paper needed to print every company which would weigh about 1,280 tons[11], equivalent to about 640 SUVs[12], or a pod of 116 world record male orcas[13].


These reams of paper would take up 13,851 cubic feet, so I would need 34 shipping containers[14] to hold them all.


If each company was a dollar bill and if we used a money counting machine typically used by banks[15], it would take almost 27 days to count them all, not including time to load and unload the machine.


If each piece of paper was held by one person, I would need almost all the people in California, New York and Virginia[16].


  1. Dell 5130cdn laser printer prints at 47 pages per minute, single sided
  2. The circumference of the earth at the equator is 24,901.55 miles
  3. A marathon is 26 miles and 385 yards
  4. Fastest marathon ever run is by Geoffrey Mutai of Kenya in 2:03:02
  5. The Boeing Apache AH-64 has a service ceiling of 21,000 feet
  6. Skydivers jump between 3,000-13,000 feet
  7. The Exosphere is the outer layer of the atmosphere at ranges up to 6,213 miles (10,000 km)
  8. Satellite orbit altitudes
  9. The Empire State Building is 1,250 feet high
  10. An American Football field is 120 yards by 53.3 yards
  11. Calculations were done using 20lb paper.
  12. Assuming the average weight of an SUV is 4,000 lbs.
  13. The largest known Killer Whale was a male that weighed around 22,000 lbs and was 32 feet long
  14. The volume of a twenty-foot cargo container is 1,360 cubic feet
  15. The Tay-Chian TC-5500 desktop note counter can process 1500 to 1800 notes per hour, I used an average of 1650 notes/hr for the calculation
  16. List of populations by State taken from April 2010 census data

My Mustache Brings all the Girls to the Yard

This November I shaved my goatee and grew a mustache (aka mo) much to my wife’s disdain. It was part of a worldwide event known as Movember which aims to raise awareness of common male forms of cancers, such as testicular and prostate. Susan G. Komen does a great job of raising awareness for breast cancer, but to date I haven’t come across a male alternative that’s quite as prolific.

Mike Halvorsen suggested that the men in the office grow mustaches to help promote and further the cause. While some men were a little hesitant, I plowed full ahead into mustachery madness. When I announced to my wife that I was removing my goatee and starting to grow a mustache she was a little surprised. But when I put it to her that a man’s mustache is like a pink ribbon, she let it go, with the proviso that it also goes at the end of the month.

When I was growing up in the ’70s and ’80s manly men all wore mustaches, it was just something you had to do, there simply was no choice in your style of facial hair. It was a foregone conclusion that by the time you reached your teens you would stare at your top lip in the mirror for at least an hour each day trying to coax out a fine, whispy mustache, because only then would you be considered a real man.

So back to our mustachery endeavors in the office, we had about a dozen finely groomed Manta men touting all shapes, sizes and styles of masculinity. Our group raised $415 which was awesome, especially considering that our company matched that donation.

So on to next year and I hope we can entice more Manta staff and other organizations to grow a mustache in the name of promoting cancer awareness. It’s now December and I’m once again clean shaven. My wife is happy that my mustache is gone, even though it will be back again next year, to hopefully raise even mo money.

New Android Cupcake user-agent

It looks like the user-agent recently changed from:

Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 1.1; en-us; dream) AppleWebKit/525.10+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.0.4 Mobile Safari/523.12.2


Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; U; Android 1.5; en-us; T-Mobile G1 Build/CRB43) AppleWebKit/528.5+ (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/3.1.2 Mobile Safari/525.20.1

SEO is dead – if you give up

Over the past 2 years I’ve read countless articles and posts about how SEO is dead. Let me tell you, it’s very much alive and kicking. If you want to think that it’s dead, go right ahead and move on to do something else. Because that’s a defeatist attitude and you’re obviously on the verge of giving up.

I’ve been with my current employer for about 18 months now and since then I’ve done a lot of work to improve things in various areas. On one of our sites I’ve grown traffic approx 6 times. I’m not talking from 10 to 60 visitors a month, I’m talking in the scale of millions of visitors a month.

This is with whitehat, search engine friendly, long term, futureproof SEO techniques.

I can’t spell out everything I did, but I can tell you that what I did was pay attention to the direction of where the search engines strive to be. I went to conferences and heard first hand about the goals of the search engines and tried to look at the site through their eyes.

I worked closely with my development team, as well as managers and content people to ensure that they understood the big picture. Through educating my team members and showing results, I gained their trust and respect and because of that, the SEO function has now become an integral and top of mind consideration for almost everything we want to publish.

Next I worked with the development team to obtain some key reporting tools and custom reports from Omniture which let me analyze certain trends and statistics. By paying close attention to detail, I often uncovered problems which were most oftentimes quick and easy fixes. More importantly I also was able to discover areas of opportunity and put plans in place to exploit them.

Traffic is no where near peak, we still have a long way to go and are forging ahead with some great new site features and plans for content. The budget for 2009 is showing that organic search engine traffic is set to continue to grow to new record levels.

The other thing that’s surprising about this issue is that most often the issue of knowledge and analytical skills that most SEOs possess are completely overlooked. How many times on various forums do you see site owners panicking about lost rankings/traffic/pagerank, etc. When something goes wrong with a site, who do they turn to? SEOs, yeah, we’re also detectives.

But we’re also consultants. The other type of questions that are commonly overlooked are the ones about site redesigns. The site owner is on to a good thing but needs to freshen up their site. SEO consultants (external or internal) are the people who can guide a site redesign to ensure minimal loss in rankings/traffic. I just completed this process for one for one of our big sites. We radically redesigned our main product page, adding a lot of extra functionality and changing the page layout. It was a process which was quite involved and required 3 or 4 iterations before I gave it the green light for launch, but had I not worked on that project, site traffic would have tanked almost immediately, then the typical mad panic would have set in and then all kinds of rash decisions would have been made.

So when I sit back and think about the people that are blogging and writing about how “SEO is dead”, I can’t help but wonder if these people are actually doing any serious SEO, working hard at it and paying attention to detail.

As one of my college professors once told me: “Work hard, play hard”

Google PageRank Definition Pet Peeve

For some reason it really grates me when I read people’s definition of PageRank being “the quantity and quality of inbound links”. To me, “quality” is fairly subjective and doesn’t really accurately describe it. I prefer to use “value” instead of “quality” since PR is just a numerical value. See, there’s that word again, value.

The PageRank value assigned to a URL is just the result of a numerical calculation. A higher value does not necessarily signify importance or quality. It just means that it has a large amount of PageRank being passed to it. This could be from one high value link, or multiple low value links. Google uses other means to determine relevance, quality, importance, spam, trust, etc.

What do you think?

Google TrustRank Myth Busted!

Well since this post was written, it seems that Google has decided to release something else which it’s calling TrustRank. The original TrustRank confusion was related to detecting and filtering spam, while the latest iteration is to do with calculating the “trust” of users bnased on the quality of annotations, reviews and tags they provide. These signals may be used to reorder the ranks of pages in the results.

Bill Slawski, as usual, has a great rundown of what it is from the Google Trust Rank patent filings

Original Post:
If you search Google for TrustRank you will find many blogs and forums talking about it and giving advice and theories about what you can do to alter it, but the fact of the matter is that it just simply does not exist.

At pubcon 2007 Suresh Babu interviewed Matt Cutts and asked him specifically to define TrustRank. Below is the video of that interview.

For those of you not able to watch the video, here’s a transcript where Matt Cutts talks about its origins and confusion between a Yahoo intern’s project and an antiphishing filter Google was developing.

What is trustrank? everybody’s curious about that. It’s kinda nice you asked because it’s good to have a chance to debunk this a little bit. So it turns out there was a summer intern who was at Yahoo and Jan Pedersen and some other people at Yahoo, and they wrote a paper about something called TrustRank; and what it does is it tries to treat reputation like it’s physical mass and see how it flows around on the web and what physical properties does trust have; and it’s really interesting stuff. But it’s completely separate from Google. So a couple of years ago at like the exact same time, Google was working on an antiphishing filter, and as part of that we needed to come up with a name for it and so they filed for a trademark, and I think they used the name TrustRank, so it was a really weird coincidence. Yahoo had a TrustRank project and we had this TrustRank trademark, and so everybody talks about TrustRank, TrustRank, TrustRank and yet if you go and ask five different SEOs you’ll have five different opinions and definitions about exactly what TrustRank is.

If you go to the US Patent and Trademark website and do a trademark search you’ll find this result:

Goods and Services (ABANDONED) IC 042. US 100 101. G & S: Computer services, namely organizing information, sites and other resources available on computer networks
Standard Characters Claimed
Serial Number 78588592
Filing Date March 16, 2005
Current Filing Basis 1B
Original Filing Basis 1B
Published for Opposition December 6, 2005
Owner (APPLICANT) Google Inc. CORPORATION DELAWARE 1600 Amphitheatre Parkway Mountain View CALIFORNIA 94043
Live/Dead Indicator DEAD
Abandonment Date February 29, 2008

If you go to the advanced published applications search page on US Patent and Trademark website and search for Trustrank you will find these results. Notice that none of them are filed by or Assigned to Google, although there are references to Yahoo’s link-based spam detection patent application.

Inventors: Wolters; Timothy J.; (Superior, CO) ; Setayesh; Mehrshad; (Lafayette, CO)
Assignee Name and Adress: COLLECTIVE INTELLECT, INC. Boulder CO
Serial No.: 938691
Series Code: 11
Filed: November 12, 2007


Inventors: Drayer; Jay A.; (Houston, TX) ; Howe; Grant M.; (Cypress, TX)
Serial No.: 923366
Series Code: 11
Filed: October 24, 2007

Enhanced Detection of Search Engine Spam
Inventors: Caldwell; Larry Thomas; (Annandale, VA)
Assignee Name and Adress: Idalis Software, Inc. Annandale VA
Serial No.: 871539
Series Code: 11
Filed: October 12, 2007

System and method for characterizing a web page using multiple anchor sets of web pages
Inventors: Joshi; Amruta Sadanand; (Palo Alto, CA) ; Ravikumar; Shanmugasundaram; (Cupertino, CA) ; Reed; Benjamin Clay; (Morgan Hill, CA) ; Tomkins; Andrew; (San Jose, CA)
Assignee Name and Adress: Yahoo! Inc. Sunnyvale CA
Serial No.: 542079
Series Code: 11
Filed: October 3, 2006

Dynamic updating of display and ranking for search results

Inventors: Ferrenq; Isabelle; (Saint Lattier, FR) ; Chevalier; Pierre-Yves; (Biviers, FR)
Assignee Name and Adress: EMC Corporation
Serial No.: 522498
Series Code: 11
Filed: September 15, 2006

User-sensitive pagerank
Inventors: Berkhin; Pavel; (Sunnyvale, CA) ; Fayyad; Usama M.; (Sunnyvale, CA) ; Raghavan; Prabhakar; (Saratoga, CA) ; Tomkins; Andrew; (San Jose, CA)
Assignee Name and Adress: YAHOO! INC.
Serial No.: 474195
Series Code: 11
Filed: June 22, 2006

Providing a rating for a web site based on weighted user feedback

Inventors: Repasi; Rolf; (Sunrise Beach, AU) ; Clausen; Simon; (New South Wales, AU)
Serial No.: 803922
Series Code: 11
Filed: May 16, 2007

Search engine with augmented relevance ranking by community participation
Inventors: Xu; Zhichen; (San Jose, CA) ; Berkhin; Pavel; (Sunnyvale, CA) ; Rose; Daniel E.; (Cupertino, CA) ; Mao; Jianchang; (San Jose, CA) ; Ku; David; (Palo Alto, CA) ; Lu; Qi; (Saratoga, CA) ; Walther; Eckart; (Palo Alto, CA) ; Tam; Chung-Man; (San Francisco, CA)
Serial No.: 478291
Series Code: 11
Filed: June 28, 2006

Trust propagation through both explicit and implicit social networks
Inventors: Berkhim; Pavel; (Sunnyvale, CA) ; Xu; Zhichen; (San Jose, CA) ; Mao; Jianchang; (San Jose, CA) ; Rose; Daniel E.; (Cupertino, CA) ; Taha; Abe; (Sunnyvale, CA) ; Maghoul; Farzin; (Hayward, CA)
Assignee Name and Adress: Yahoo! Inc. Sunnyvale CA
Serial No.: 498637
Series Code: 11
Filed: August 2, 2006

Realtime indexing and search in large, rapidly changing document collections
Inventors: Rose; Daniel E.; (Cupertino, CA) ; Mao; Jianchang; (San Jose, CA) ; Walters; Chad; (San Francisco, CA)
Assignee Name and Adress: Yahoo! Inc. Sunnyvale CA
Serial No.: 498706
Series Code: 11
Filed: August 2, 2006

Using community annotations as anchortext
Inventors: Rose; Daniel E.; (Cupertino, CA) ; Mao; Jianchang; (San Jose, CA) ; Xu; Zhichen; (San Jose, CA) ; Ku; David; (Palo Alto, CA) ; Lu; Qi; (Saratoga, CA) ; Walther; Eckart; (Palo Alto, CA) ; Tam; Chung-Man; (San Francisco, CA)
Serial No.: 498682
Series Code: 11
Filed: August 2, 2006

Link-based spam detection
Inventors: Barkhin; Pavel; (Sunnyvale, CA) ; Gyongyi; Zoltan Istvan; (Stanford, CA) ; Pedersen; Jan; (Los Altos Hills, CA)
Assignee Name and Adress: Yahoo! Inc. Sunnyvale CA
Serial No.: 198471
Series Code: 11
Filed: August 4, 2005

So since Google has dropped the trademark, does not have any patent applications for it and Matt Cutts explained the confusion, I think I’d call this myth busted!

SEO Client Story

I used to work for an SEO agency in Pittsburgh and dealt with a number of interesting clients in a variety of industries, with large and small sites. There were a number of funny incidents that I encountered, which I’d like to recount here, although names will be withheld.

No Google Traffic
After taking on this client I gained access to their webtrends reports and it showed an astounding lack of Google organic traffic. I looked over the meta tags and page content and all seemed to be targeting the right set of keywords to some degree, although onpage could still use some improvement.

I knew they weren’t doing anything advanced like IP delivery so I used Firefox with the useragent switcher extension and confirmed that with my useragent set to googlebot, slurp or msnbot I could browse the site without any problems. After checking the robots.txt I found that googlebot had been disallowed! After asking the client’s developer why they decided to ban googlebot their response was: It was crawling the site too often and there were errors on some of the pages that were leading to open database connections and locking up the server.

Needless to say the developers got a quick lesson in why banning googlebot to mask their programming errors is not good business practice.

Want to hear more stories? Do you have any of your own you’d like to share?

Heading to Pubcon

Just a quick note to say that next week I’ll be at pubcon in Vegas soaking up the latest SEO/SEM issues and techniques.

If you want to meet, you can either post in the thread on seorefugee here, or call me using GrandCentral:

This marks almost one year since I started this blog, which was a direct result of having attended Pubcon in 2006.

Exciting News

I’m excited to announce that I’ve accepted a position at ECNext. I will be responsible for the SEO of some very large websites including Manta, AccessMyLibrary, Goliath and approx 40 other sites. Each contain many millions of pages so optimizing them is going to be fun and very rewarding. These sites have huge growth potential and I’m excited to be working alongside some very bright individuals.

Large scale website optimization is very different to regular SEO, although many of the same principals still apply. As time goes by, I hope to post about some of these issues here.

I’ve very much enjoyed working for Pittsburgh Internet Consulting and helping the company grow, but unfortunately this was an opportunity too good to miss. I wish them all the best in future, they’re a solid whitehat shop with a top notch crew.

This move also means that I will have to give up the badges for my Google AdWords Professional Qualification and the recent Microsoft adExcellence program, since they’re tied more to the client, than the person who took the test.

This also happens to be my one thousandth post on SEOrefugee, since my blog posts are also syndicated to the forum via RSS.

Over the next couple of weeks posts are going to be scarce as I wrap up things in Pittsburgh and move the family out to Columbus, OH.