Wednesday, June 30, 2004

My Blogger Bio

If you like something that I've posted and would like to reference it in a post of your own, please feel free to add my Blogger Bio to the end of your post so that your readers can get a better feel for who I am.

My Blogger Bio for this blog is this:


Mike Lauher's Blogger Bio: Mike uses his blog, Junk Drawer, to put aside useful, interesting things he finds on the internet. In his other life, Mike works for Soy Capital Ag Services which offers professional farm management and Illinois farms for sale.


Copy and paste the following html code for the above Blogger Bio:

<b>Mike Lauher's Blogger Bio:</b> Mike uses his blog, <a href="http://michaellauher.blogspot.com/">Junk Drawer</a>, to put aside useful, interesting things he finds on the internet. In his other life, Mike works for Soy Capital Ag Services which offers professional <a href="http://www.soycapitalag.com/">farm management</a> and <a href="http://www.soycapitalag.com/index.cfm?show=30&mid=16">Illinois farms for sale</a>.


Thank you.

Blogger Bios

Have you ever read a post that references another blogger and wondered, "Just who the heck is this guy/girl the writer's talking about?". Sometimes when I follow the link I have to hunt pretty hard to get an understanding of who this person is or what they do.

It leaves me thinking... Wouldn't it be nice, if in just a few short sentences, you could get a short summary or bio about the person that was mentioned?

Bloggers should offer a Blogger Bio that other bloggers can copy and paste to the end of their post. It should be something that gives readers a little more insight about you. But it can be more than that...

The added bonus, if you're someone like me and blogging isn't your primary occupation, is the chance to put in a plug for your business or company. By offering a Blogger Bio, you have the opportunity to get links to your business in addition to the one you get to your blog.

For example, my Blogger Bio would look like this:


Mike Lauher's Blogger Bio: Mike uses his blog, Junk Drawer, to put aside useful, interesting things he finds on the internet. In his other life, Mike works for Soy Capital Ag Services which offers professional farm management and Illinois farms for sale.


But of course, this doesn't copy and paste the way I want it to. So, following the instructions on this very useful blog that offers HTML tips and tricks, I can provide my Blogger Bio so that it looks like this:


<b>Mike Lauher's Blogger Bio:</b> Mike uses his blog, <a href="http://michaellauher.blogspot.com/">Junk Drawer</a>, to put aside useful, interesting things he finds on the internet. In his other life, Mike works for Soy Capital Ag Services which offers professional <a href="http://www.soycapitalag.com/">farm management</a> and <a href="http://www.soycapitalag.com/index.cfm?show=30&mid=16">Illinois farms for sale</a>.


This is something they can easily copy and paste to their post.

Offering a Blogger Bio is an easy way to obtain more links to your company or business website. Of course, it's up to each individual blogger how they want to reference your blog. Some may use it, others may not. But they definitely wont use it if its not available to them.

Blogging SEO Club

Peter Caputa over at pc4media has come up with an interesting idea for networking bloggers to help promote each other's businesses.

Peter has mentioned that he occasionally slips in terms like event promotion, event planning, and event marketing into his blog to help his company improve with search engine standings. Obviously, if you've been following this blog, this is something I think could be quite beneficial if you're angling for Google.

But, there is only so much a person can do with just one website/blog. Through the power of networking, bloggers can help promote those sites they believe benefit the community.

Peter's idea of an SEO Blogger Club, could be likened to a virtual Rotary or Lions Club. That is, businessmen/women getting together to strengthen their ties within a community.

It's a great idea and I hope it gets off the ground!

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Nigritude Ultramarine Experiment Update 2

Googlebot spidered Junk Drawer again yesterday.

I've rechecked the SERPs of the three blogs in the experiment. As of this morning, they rank as follows:

Nigritude Ultramarine News & Views: Not in top 1000
Nigritude Ultramarine Control A: 598
Nigritude Ultramarine Control B: 597

Why is News & Views in the top 1000? My guess is that the Control B blog tripped the duplication filter. I checked to see if the News & Views blog is even in the the total results and it is. But, it's relevance is very low.

So, I have rearranged the wording on the Control B blog to see if I can bypass the filter. We'll have to wait until Control B is spidered again before I expect to see any changes.

More waiting... science is an art for the patient.

Carnival of the Capitalists

Martin Lindeskog hosts this week's edition of Carnival of the Capitalists on his Ego blog. Interesting reading, to be sure. Check it out!

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Nigritude Ultramarine Experiment Update

Arrgh!!

Just when I think I might be getting some relevant data, I realize I contaminated my own experiment.

Arrgh!!

First, lets do a short refresher on my experiment. On an initial reading of the Hilltop paper, I hypothesized that the next best relevant return short of an authority page is an expert page. The theory was based on a common sense postulate that if I don't get good original source information about a particular subject, then the next best thing is to have a directory or resource that points me in the direction of good original source information.

So, based on this hypothesis, I created a blog that meets the criteria of what the hilltop paper describes as an expert page. This blog is Nigritude Ultramarine News & Views.

Shortly after I created this blog, I decided that the experiment would be more meaningful if I created control blogs that tested two different things.

Nigritude Ultramarine Control A contains all the same information and links as Nigritude Ultramarine News & Views, but I specifically excluded the term "nigritude ultramarine" from the anchor text of the outgoing links. I also rearranged the order of the different posts entries in order to avoid Google's duplication filter. The purpose of this control is to see if exclusion of the targeted search term from the anchor text made a difference in its ranking.

Nigritude Ultramarine Control B is an exact copy of Nigritude Ultramarine News & Views, but there are no outgoing links relevant to nigritude ultramarine. The purpose of this control is to make the page as close to the original as possible while at the same time not meet the definition of an expert page. This control should tell me if the ranking of the original blog is just due to its keyword density rather than the fact that it is a resource for the search term.

As of this morning the pages rank in Google as follows:

Nigritude Ultramarine News & Views: 535
Nigritude Ultramarine Control A: 595
Nigritude Ultramarine Control B: 596

At first glance, it looks as though this might be telling us something. But in fact it doesn't. I just realized this morning that the link I made to these blogs from Junk Drawer weren't equal. In the link to the first blog, I used the anchor text "Nigritude Ultramarine News & Views", but in the link to the other two blogs I only used the anchor text "Control A" and "Control B". Obviously this is a serious flaw since the original blog has the targeted search term in the anchor text while the other two do not.

So... as of this morning I have corrected the problem and will now have to wait until Google respiders Junk Drawer to see what the effect will be.

Sheesh... good thing I'm not a scientist...

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Blogs, Linking Strategies, & Google

All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others. George Orwell, "Animal Farm"


Are all links equal?

The obvious answer is no. With Google's patented PageRank technology, links from pages that have higher PR have greater value than links from pages with lower PR. That's been known for some time. But, is there more?

Search engine specialists speculate that Google has implemented an algorithm describe as Hilltop. The Hilltop paper describes how to develop more relevant returns for queries on broad topics by creating a separate index of 'expert' pages that help determine 'authority' pages.

According to the paper, an expert page links to many and diverse websites. The authors deem these pages created for the specific purpose of directing people towards resources. An authority page is determined when at least two or more non-affiliated expert pages link to it. More and relevant expert pages pointing to a particular page increases the target page's authoritativeness. This authoritative scoring boosts the page's relevancy for a particular search term and ultimately places it higher in search engine returns. I examine the particulars of how this is done in this post here.

How can we use this information for improving search engine placement of our websites?

Blogs are natural expert pages. Bloggers tend to link to many other websites without regard for reciprocity or self-linkage. Rather, they link to sites they think might benefit their readers, or those sites that catch their interest.

Blogs are 'more equal' than the vast majority of other websites out there, including many directories. Time spent obtaining links from blogs is time better spent than obtaining links from other pages.

The easiest way to obtain a bloglink is to create one yourself for your business. Make your blog useful and worth linking too. In addition to the expert vote you can develop for your website, it is also a good way to communicate to the public.

But you don't have to stop there. Do you have an interest or hobby that you enjoy? Blog about that. Experts don't have to be topic specific. Mix the link to your business in with the hobby links. As long as the anchor text of the link to your site matches a good keyword for that site, it is tallied just the same as if it were a blog on the subject.

And finally, network with other bloggers. Develop relationships within a blogger community. Help others with their business and they are much more likely to help you with yours. Find blogs that relate to your business and let them know about your website. Of course, the better a resource it is for your industry, the more likely they will be to link to it.

Any link to your website is a good link and shouldn't be discounted as a part of your strategy for search engine optimization. But, time is limited. There are only so many hours in a day. If some links are more equal than others, then it makes sense to work on links that count for more.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Expert Pages

What is an expert page?

According to the Hilltop Paper, an expert page must be objective and diverse. How is this determined?

1. Expert pages must meet an "out-degree" threshold. What is an out-degree threshold? In the paper, there isn't a definitave answer for this question. But it seems to indicate a percentage of out going links going to non affiliated web pages. The example used in the paper is '5' or 5 percent?

The paper goes on to state that if a broad classification is known for each page, then the expert pages can additionally be distinguished by those that fall into the search term classification. That helps to seperate resource directories from random collections of links. Regular maintenance of the page is also mentioned as a means of helping to determine relevance.


2. Expert pages point to "non-affiliated" hosts It is actually easier to define what makes up affiliated hosts. Affiliated hosts:

a. Share the same first 3 octets of the IP address.
b. Share the rightmost non-generic token in the hostname. (ex: ibm.com & ibm.co.mx are considered affiliated)



What's done with expert pages?

Expert pages are subgrouped into an inverted index apart from the general population of web pages. These are indexed to map 'key words' that match user queries found on expert pages' 'key phrases'. Key phrases are text within the title, heading, and anchor text of the page.

a. The Title qualifies all the urls found in the document.
b. The Heading qualifies all the urls found until the next heading is found.
c. The Anchor Text qualifies only the url it is associated with.


The index of expert pages is then organized as a list of 'match positions' within expert pages. In other words, where does the key word appear in a key phrase of an expert page.

There are two sets of scores given for placement of key words in key phrases.

A level score is given for the key word depending on which key phrase it is found in. For example, in the paper, if the key word was found in the Title, a score of 16 was given. If the key word was found in the heading, a score of 6 is given. And if the key word is found in the anchor text, a score of 1 is given.

A fullness score is subtracted based on how many additional terms (not included in the search query) that appear in the key phrase. In other words, how diluted is the key words within the key phrase.


How are expert pages used?

The "top" expert pages are reduced to a predetermined number. The example used for the paper is 200. All the "target" pages they point to are placed into a query subset, if and only if two or more experts point to it providing that the experts are not affiliated to each other or to the target page.

A target score (authority score) is computed based on the number and relevance of the expert pages pointing to it and the relevance of the phrases qualifying the links.



Conclusion: From this more detailed analysis of the Hilltop paper, I would say that my initial hypothisis that an expert page being the next best relevant page to authority pages doesn't have any support within the paper.

I will continue my experiment to see if there is a connection, but I'm beginning to have my doubts.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

The Nigritude Ultramarine Challenge (experts & authorities)

Well, I have decided to throw my hat into the Nigritude Ultramarine ring. For those of you who haven't heard of this before, the nigritude ultramarine challenge is a contest to see which websites can become most relevent to Google for the term nigritude ultramarine.

This contest was started last May by a company named Dark Blue and SearchGuild.com. The rules for the contest can be found on this page.

I am a late entrant. In fact, I've missed the date of the first leg, which was June 7th. The next date is July 7th, when they decide who is the best in Search Engine Optimization.

I really don't care about that.

My entry is to test a theory I have regarding "Expert" and "Authority" pages on the internet. These terms were first coined by the Hilltop Paper.

According to the Hilltop Paper, the most relevant returns for "broad search terms" are those sites deemed to be authorities by experts.

What is an expert in web terms? It is a page that consists of links to relevant sites. A list of "favorites" if you will. According to the Hilltop paper, the assumption is that these pages of links point to useful and relevant sites. The qualifying issue for expert pages is that it needs to point to many and different websites throughout the WWW.

An authority page is any page that has two or more "experts" pointing to it. Of course, the more experts that refer to it, the more "authoritative" it is.

So, what does this have to do with the SEO contest? Well, I suspect that everybody has been so busy optimizing thier own websites and getting thousands of links from many different people, that no one has yet developed an expert site.

Without any expert sites, none of these websites can be deemed as an authority site.

So, absent any authority sites, an expert site is the next best relevant return for Google.

My site is Nigritude Ultramarine Directory & News.

Edit: I have also added a Nigritude Ultramarine Control A, and Nigritude Ultramarine Control B

Saturday, June 12, 2004

The Magellan Files

Yeah, that's an over dramatic title, but hey, it sounds cool.

I've done a little more investigating and here is what I've come up with.

As with most things in life, when you think you've discovered something new, you'd better check around, because more likely than not, it's been discovered before.

Now, I did check to see if anybody had reported the fact that the url for Magellan had switched hands, and it hadn't. So, on that count, you heard it here first.

But, what this novice webmaster had thought was an anomaly maybe isn't such an anomaly after all. Of course, I had heard about expired domains getting into the hands of porn sites, but I really hadn't heard about expired domains getting into the hands of more legitimate businesses. Why I can't put 2 and 2 together, you'll have to figure that one out.

Now, without actually talking to the parties involved (hey, I'm not a reporter) here is what I have been able to piece together.

McKinley Associates, Inc. is not some po-dunk Real Estate shop located in a small city in Michigan. In fact, they are a sizable organization and state on their website that they can immediately purchase up to $50 million worth of properties (cash on the barrelhead, colorful cliche mine) at any given time. Definitely not chump change.

The company has actively contributed to the Republican party and the founder of the company, Ronald N. Weiser, is currently the ambassador to Slovakia, appointed by President Bush.

So, how did this Real Estate Company end up with a search engine url? I don't know the details, but my guess is they have a pretty sharp webmaster at work for them.

On the internet, there is an organization called Archive.org. This website exists to track the "history of the internet". According to Archive.org, the url http://www.mckinley.com showed the page for the search engine, Webcrawler (also owned by Excite) up until it was last checked on July 27, 2003 on their wayback machine.

McKinley Associates, Inc. also has a separate url for their website, http://www.emckinley.com/. According to the wayback machine, this site dates back to at least August 17, 2000 and to most recently as June 23, 2003. The thing that I've found interesting about the http://www.emckinley.com website is that it lists the same links pointing to it as the http://www.mckinley.com website. Something's kinda screwy there.

So, sometime between July 27, 2003 and June 9, 2004, McKinley Associates, Inc. acquired the domain from Ask Jeeves (parent company of Excite & Magellan) How did this happen? I can only speculate. Did Ask Jeeves forget to renew the domain? Unlikely. Did Ask Jeeves just let the domain expire, only to be picked up by a diligent webmaster? Again, nah... My guess is that Mckinley Associates, Inc. approached Ask Jeeves and bought it from them. What better way for Ask Jeeves to cash in on a redundant domain and at the same time, give a their rival (Google) a little red face over their growing irrelevant search returns. (that is, if this ever makes news)

Not that this isn't something that Google hasn't faced in the past. Google has been trying to filter out expired domains for over a year now. Sometimes with seeming success and other times not so successful.

In fact, if you do a Google search for the term web development, you will find that Stars Magazine comes in the top ten returns. Obviously an online magazine doesn't have much to do with web development. At least, I don't think so.

So, I still hold to my premise that "buying links" either in the form of expired domains or from straight out purchases is a fundamental relevance flaw in the way link popularity is currently tabulated by Google. And actually, in my opinion, the growing business of link brokerage is a much more malevolent threat to Google's ability to return relevant websites. They have their work cut out for them.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Fundamental flaw with Link Popularity

How can a Real Estate Company in Ann Arbor Michigan place in the top ten of a Google search on the term "Directory"? (a search with 230 million returns)

The answer is simple... acquire a domain previously held by a defunct search engine/directory.

Magellan, purchased by Excite, no longer exists. But the domain lives on. Beyond that, all the links pointing to the domain also live on because links once given have an extrordinarily long life.

That is the fundamental flaw with link popularity.

If links are "votes" that indicate the relevance and importance of web pages, then what happens when "votes" are bought? What happens when the site they were pointing to no longer exists in the form when the link was created?

If sites that were once productive, but now are reduced to urls that can be sold to the highest bidder, what does that mean for "link popularity"? We know what happens when money dominates politics... evil happens. Will the same now be true on the internet? Is relevance now just a function of how much money you have?

As the internet matures and no weight is given to the "age" of a link, those people who control urls that were once giants, control search engines that rely on link popularity. Those people who can purchase links, control search engines that rely on link popularity.

Buying votes produces a flawed political system. Does buying links produce flawed search engine returns?

Are the days of "Link Popularity" as a meaningful measure of relevance numbered?

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Buying "Votes"

The "experiment" I participated in earlier today has taken on a whole different meaning for me this afternoon.

If links on the web are "votes", then is buying links for a website the same as buying votes in a political race? Or... Is it the same as buying advertising space in a newspaper?

I think it is neither, and both.

Case in point. I did a search on Google using the word "directory" and I came up with a surprising result. In the top ten returns for this word, Google gave me the link to this site (http://www.mckinley.com). Now, if you go look at this site, we can obviously see that it is not a directory of any sort. So, why should it come up as a directory in a Google search?

Well, after a little investigating, I found out that this url used to be used/owned by a now defunct search engine named Magellan. Magellan failed was shut down after it was purchased by another search engine, Excite. All the links to the Magellan website used to be redirected to Excite. But I guess this is no longer true.

So, what happened?

Did Excite forget to renew it's ownership of the domain? Is Excite "leasing" out the domain to this new company? I don't know.

But the question I have is, is it "fair" or "accurate" that this new company should recieve the benefit of thousands of links pointing to a url that used to be the home of a search engine? Is this spam? Spam in the search engine world are those practices that deceptively alter the results of searches.

Does the fact that this company has thousands of links that are supposedly linking to a search engine alter how it appears in the results of searches? Absolutely. Is it a deceptive practice? I don't know.

If it's "votes" that determine the relevance of the results of search engines, then money corrupts the system. Relevance is then determined by who has the most money, not by what is actually relevant.

Should search engines discount paid links? Yeah, they should. Determining which ones are paid and which ones are "natural" is certainly a search engine programmer's nightmare.

Although, I still hope I win the 5 bucks...

Win 5 bucks

Can your link be bought? Are you a blogging purist, linking only to those things that tickle your fancy or are you a sell out? Willing to link for dough?

Obviously I think we know the answer to that question for this blog.

But on the other hand... it is an interesting experiment. And who is to say this isn't any different than google bombing? That is, linking for the sake of seeing your favorite antagonist presidential hopeful listed as an idiot in a google search for the word "idiot".

Google states that links are "votes" for other web pages. Can votes be bought? Absolutely. Should they be bought? That is the question worthy of debate.

Oh, and for the record, I came to this site via Blog Business World.

Friday, June 04, 2004

My Home Town

Here's a blast from the past... I just found a website for my home town of Kansas, Illinois. For less than 1,000 people, it's a pretty extensive website.

I'm listed as one of the missing alumni... not sure if I want to be found.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Life in France

Here is an interesting little blog about some guy's life in France. It caught my interest... I don't know why. I suppose I'm curious what it is like to live in other places or what life is like outside of my world.

I'm sticking it in here. Will check back to see if continues to post.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Mail Order Husbands

I'm debating applying to become a Mail Order Husband. I don't know, the competition looks pretty tough.

Name Change

Well, I've changed the name of this blog to better reflect what it looks like it's becoming. That is, a junk drawer... for my brain. This seems to be the place where I put things that I don't quite know what to do with, but I don't want to "throw out". I stick it in here so I don't have to think about it. But, I always know where to find it if I ever need it.

Find what?

Junk...