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Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Snowball Your Traffic... or Burn for All Eternity?

I got a nice little email from Cory Rudl tonight. Luckily, it didn't catch me with my defenses down, since it was addressed to "Albert." When I sign up for these kinds of things with a name like "Albert," or "schmuck," it reminds me later on that the email really isn't personalized and that the correspondent isn't really my friend. To say the least.

There's been a resurgence of lying liars lying about search engine traffic lately. I hear the phone lines crackling with hope as SEM newbies (often experienced in many other facets of business) tell me about so-and-so and his world-class Google-foolin' tool. Sigh. The fact that so-and-so made half a million bucks selling the tool is supposed to be all the validation the tool needs, and the cycle of ignorance and time-wasting continues.

Rudl's communique included this little gem of a come-on:

"So you can finally submit your web site to 150 search engines and directories automatically, and...

"Snowball your traffic and sales with top-ranking positions in search engine "Giants" -- like Yahoo!, Google, and AltaVista!"

It doesn't take a day-long seminar to show how wrong this all is - two minutes is all it would take. Let's just start with the obvious: AltaVista is not a "giant," it's a once-mighty fallen giant currently resembling a drunken fruit fly, and rarely shows up in your server logs, no matter what you do, because users don't use AltaVista anymore. Might be nice if they did, but wishing don't make it so.

In fact, there are fewer than five, and for my money, really one or two, non-paid web indexes of note today. For most businesses, Google is it. (I happen to love Teoma too, and its parent company Ask Jeeves has 3% or more of total search market share, so they're definitely worth a mention.) Both Google and Teoma do a good job of making life hard on optimizers. Type "the real thing" into Teoma and in the resources list on the right hand side, you get some surprising stuff: a critique of Coca-Cola from a labor perspective. Aren't search engines cool? They sure are, but they have to be pretty smart to be this useful, lest they be overrun by spam. So you're never going to see 150 or even 20 viable unpaid search indexes. It's hard to run a search engine. That seems pretty obvious given that arguably the #2 pure non-paid search index in the world (yes Teoma offers a paid guaranteed inclusion option but it seems worth ignoring this) has at best 3% market share.

The mighty portals, controllers of considerable search traffic, run either Google results, paid inclusion indexes, or pay-per-click (generally a mix of all three). So again, the old submission tool will do diddly to get you "into" AOL, MSN, and Yahoo. Repeat after me: there is no free lunch.

So to all the bamboozlers out there still trying to shovel those useless search engine submission tools out the door, remember Elaine's evocative words: "The worst place in the world! With devils and those caves and the ragged clothing! And the heat! My god, the heat!"

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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