Phrases to Avoid in Translation

One of the hardest things about preparing a document for translation is looking for things that don't translate well. Many times, they make perfect sense to the writer, and it never occurs to them that someone else in another culture would not have the same shared references.

Unfortunately, shared references are part of what makes a culture, and therefore is the first thing that needs to be expunged from documents intended for multi-cultural audiences.

Off the top of my head, here is a list of regionalisms that should be avoided:

Any sports/game reference: "get your game on", "it's the bottom of the ninth", "hit a home run", "sticky wicket", "poker face" "checkmate" etc
Popular culture references: "re-gifting" ,"bizzaro", "Benny Hill" etc
Local News references: "____-gate", "bob's your uncle", etc
Local slang: "yob", "the pond", coke (when referring to drinks other than Coca-Cola)", "trailer trash" etc
Famous Sayings: "The only dumb question is the one that's never asked", "It's always in the last place you look", "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush", etc
Most acronyms: The list here is extremely long, ranging from tanstaafl to SERP.

The reason that famous sayings are on the list is because they take on special meaning (cultural shorthand) in their native language and can be used in ways that make little sense (and can sound pretentious or insulting) once translated. If you use them (and I recommend not) then make it clear that it's a saying, and not your own words.

Finally, try to avoid corporate jargon. That "professional sounding" phrase you use to describe an internal process or concept at your company probably just sounds stupid or pretentious once translated. It probably sounds stupid or pretentious to people outside your company in your native language, as well, but that's a post for another day.

I hope this has helped illustrate how easy it is to make yourself almost unintelligible to others without knowing it. A good translator can help with this, but only if the translator knows enough about your cultural references to know what you are trying to say in the first place.

The problem is, these shared concepts can be very powerful marketing and communication tools - they clearly convey both meaning and emotion quickly and easily to an audience that understands them.

This is why we use a minimum two step process for SEO translation at my company, first, we translate the document by someone in your country that understands your local culture. The resulting document is as devoid of cultural references as possible. Then we send it to a professional marketer in your target market, who then localizes and SEO's it to appeal to the target market. Many of our clients then request that we translate that final document back to English (round trip translation) to make sure that it says what they want it to say.


Sitemap - Embarrassment or Godsend?

I'm having a problem with a developer right now. Which developer isn't really the point - the point (unfortunately) is that it's common with a disturbing number of developers. If you happen to be (or know) a developer that is an exception to the rant below, please accept my thanks for your hard work and be sure that the following is not intended towards you personally.

The sitemap. It seems to me that traditionally developers have ignored sitemaps all together, or stuffed them at the bottom of webpages beside the other links no one ever clicks on - like the privacy policy and copyright notice.

Many times, they don't even do any design on them! It's a script that creates a link list and stuffed in a template (if it even warrants one).

I don't know why, but I can hazard a guess - it's likely because after the developer spends all this time (and client money) developing a cool, cutting edge navigation structure for the site, that the site map is a reminder that someone might not think it's as cool as the developer thinks it is - and we can't have that, now can we?

Next thing you know, they might actually start testing to see if that nifty all-Flash navigation structure is SEO or user friendly - horrors!

I've got a request for developers who automatically place the sitemap link (if one is even created in the first place) at the bottom of pages - STOP IT!

The reasons that a sitemap is important and should be at the top (or at least in a more prominent position) are many, but here are a few:

  • Users with limited browsers (including mobile browsers, screen readers, and search engines) like to skip all that navapolooza and just go straight to the information and content - you know, the stuff the website is supposed to be about?
  • Search engines tend to place more link weight on links at the top of a page - this then passes on more link weight to the links in the sitemap (ie - your site)
  • On a related note, search engines usually treat links in the footer of a site (especially if it's in a smaller font than the rest of the site) as less important - since when is your site's content "less important"?
  • Many people like to use the site map to find things quickly in large sites. Sometimes it's easier to figure out where information is likely to be if you can see the site structure.
  • Sitemaps can save your site. Sometimes navigation changes create orphaned pages, leaving the sitemap as the only way to find what the visitor was looking for.
  • The anchor text in a sitemap can be VERY helpful for SEO (it's usually the SEO'd page title) - you want it to be noticed.

Sometimes (if I can get away with it under the context) I'll even do link building for a site directly to the sitemap rather than the home page!

IMO, the sitemap should:

  • Be well thought out and organized - use second and nested sitemaps if necessary
  • Be part of your site! It should look and feel like your site.
  • Use keywords in the anchor text and descriptions wherever practical
  • Be one language only - if you have French and English on your site, you should have 2 sitemaps - one for each language.
  • Linked to from high up on the webpage as viewed in text only mode. I prefer the upper right corner area, myself. This is also where people tend to look for search and country/language choices, as well.

Developers have to stop treating sitemaps as an embarrassment or afterthought and start treating them like the SEO and usability godsend they actually are.

End Rant.

ADDED: While writing a reply to one of the (much appreciated and thoughtful) comments below, it occured to me that another annoyance of placing the sitemap at the bottom of the page is that if you decide to use it because you are lost (possibly because you arrived from a search, rather than the home page) you have to scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to use it. Ugg.


Name Change!

I've changed the name of this blog to McAnerin Muse, because, quite frankly, hardly anyone (including myself) could consistently spell or remember "McAnerin's Manic Meanderings". Plus, it was too long.

While I'm at it, I've also been thinking about changing the name of my company.

McAnerin Networks Inc was chosen because it's suitably vaque but still techy and unique. Back then, I was doing website design, hosting, SEO, network troubleshooting etc, so it made sense to keep in general.

The problem is that now that I do only international SEO (with a couple of hold out hosting and general SEO clients) and refuse to ever get into computer repair or website design ever again, it's not such a great descriptive name anymore.

I'm thinking of changing it to McAnerin International, in view of the fact that I specialize in international and multiligual search nowadays. Any thoughts?

Thanks to Michelle for bringing this to my attention. :)


Google in China, Part 2

This morning, I was interested to note an interview with Google that Barry over at Search Engine Land posted about.

In it Google says that they have no intention on forming a partnership in China. If you'll remember, yesterday I commented on exactly this probability and the fact that if they decided to go this route, it would not likely work the way they hoped.

Not a good trend for Google. Just because a method worked 10 years ago in a different country, doesn't mean it will work today. They are starting to remind me of that old saying "To a child with a hammer, everything looks like a nail".


Tagged! 5 Things You didn't know about me.

For those of you who don't know, there is a game of tag going on among search bloggers right now, and I've finally been tagged, courtesy of David Wallace (SearchRank).

The rules are, you have to tell 5 things about yourself that no one else knows, then tag 5 others.

5 things You Probably Didn't Know About Ian McAnerin

1. I'm a prolific reader - one summer for a reading contest at my local library in Coaldale, I won first prize. I actually read every single book in the Science Fiction and Fantasy (I'm a big Robert A Heinlein fan) and Western sections (Louis L'Amour a fav here).

Every. Single. Book.

I read very fast, and averaged about 3 books a day for an entire summer. I think it was over two hundred books. My sister Cindy came in a distant second with fifty or so, and third place was someone with about 15 books. We got our love of reading from mom.

2. I'm also a gamer. I played Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (the paper and dice version) during junior high and high school, and even today I relax by playing Command and Conquer: Generals and my latest favorite, Oblivion (possibly the best computer fantasy game ever).

3. I've been asked to STOP singing Karoke in no less than 5 countries so far (Canada, US, China, Japan and Korea). I'm very enthusiastic (when drunk) but couldn't carry a tune with a forklift and a very big bag.

As an example, in Jinan, China, we were singing to a Karoke machine that rated each singer automatically at the end. Being the honored guest, I went first. At the end of the song, the machine put out: 7. there was a pause, and my host (god bless 'em) shouted "Out of 10!" and everyone clapped and cheered. Then Joy sang (beautifully). I was thinking, "this has to be at least a 9 and should be a 10".

Her score was 98. Umm... so that means my score was really out of... oh, never mind.

4. I have dyslexia. In spite of the fact that I have a reputation for writing long posts (a new word was invented on the High Rankings forum: "mcanerinesque" for long posts) I actually hate writing. Especially reports. I'm very slow and spell almost everything wrong. Mostly because I mix up the order of letters.

It's frustrating and I almost failed law school because of it, until I was allowed extra time (I have an official piece of paper proving I have far above average intelligence but far below average writing - I should probably frame it...).

Oh, I also talk exactly how I write. Anyone who has met me will tell you this. That's probably why there is a difference between reports and blogs posts for me, since I don't talk like a report.

5. I have several famous (mostly very distant) relatives.

They include Sir Isaac Brock, Dr. Norman Bethune, and Wayne Gretzky. Canada being a small country in terms of population, and the fact that my family has been here since long before it even was a country, this isn't as special as it sounds - I'm related to a lot of Canadians, famous and infamous.

Also my name, McAnerin, is actually a misspelling. The McAnns of Ireland (Ireland in Irish = Erin), got turned into McAn of Erin, and finally McAnerin.

So there you go. :)

Let's see, now I have to tag someone else, who blogs, who isn't on that darn list already. This is actually hard, since most of the people I know online are on that list already.

I tag the following (in no particular order):

Marc Macalua
Inway Ni
Stephan Spencer
Dr. E. Garcia
Cindy Turrietta or Brooke Schumacher


China: MSN, Yahoo & eBay give up. Is Google Next?

I see that eBay has admitted it's lost the fight in China and is merging with Chinese auction site and portal Tom Online (eBay will have a 49% stake). More From David Temple.

In other news, Baidu, the Chinese Search juggernaut, will be supplying MSN Live with it's PPC ads in China. That's right Baidu is supplying MSN with the ad technology, not the other way around! David has more again (good stuff, David!)

This is an interesting trend. It's pretty well known that the best way to enter the Chinese market is the become part of it, rather than trying to sell to it as an outsiders. Actually, this is a good strategy anywhere in the world - it's just very pronounced in China due to the size of the market and the fairly protectionist attitude of the government.

Yahoo has also already merged with Alibaba in China, accepting the inevitable. Actually, Alibaba bought Yahoo!

This leaves Google as the lone outsider in search. Apparently Googles approach is (typically) different. They appear to be intending to join the market though PR, Guanxi (relationships and trust)and technology. This is hardly a new approach for them - it's the one they have used all along.

But will it work?

The case for: Usability, trust and technology go a long way for consumers. Although they may want to support local goods and companies, if the locals simply are not up to par, the consumers will tend to go elsewhere. You can see this in China with the focus on famous brands. For example, the Chinese love German engineering and will buy a BMW, Mercedes or Volkswagen in preference to local vehicles. If you let people know that the Volkswagen they are driving was actually built in China, that can help ease nationalistic concerns.

If you DON'T ease those concerns, then you can expect that as soon as a local competitor gets close to or beats your technology, people will switch. I suspect that's what happened in eBay's case - TOM is good, and offers a lot to the Chinese. Given that, it was a losing battle for eBay.

As an example personally, when Walmart moved into Canada there was a big uproar about Canadian jobs being lost, etc. Walmarts response was to aggressively announce that the vast majority of profits would stay in Canada, that the managers and staff would be Canadian, and that Canadian goods would be sold whenever possible. This went a long way to easing their entry. Toyota did the same when they built auto plants in the US.

So if Google marketed their Chinese connections and contributions (assuming they make them), they may be able to keep separate, assuming that they maintain a strong technological lead over Yahoo, Baidu and MSN. Hiring Kai-Fu Lee was a great start to this, as he's highly respected in China.

The case against: First, it's hard to maintain a technological lead. It takes a lot of work and money, and at a certain point you get to where you are only making incremental improvements, rather than huge leaps and bounds. At that point, your competitors only need to catch up, or get close enough that the average user can't tell the difference, or doesn't care. Unlike you, they know exactly what they have to do, since they have a specific target to analyze. If you are in the lead, you are always moving blind and taking chances.

Second, promotion and self-advertising has never been Googles strong suit. They got to where they are mostly via word of mouth and social networking buzz, not through PR campaigns. I'm not so sure that this will work in China, because unlike before, Google is no longer the talented underdog with roots close to home (which was it's status in Silicon Valley).

Now, it's the dominating foreign company that is sending Chinese money back to make 2 very rich Americans and a bunch of American stockholders even richer. That's a tougher public relations issue, I think. I'm not sure hiring a bunch of elite Chinese kids from exclusive universities will be enough to convince the average Chinese that they are becoming involved in the economy. More like helping the rich get richer.

During the keynote speeches at SES China last year, I was interested to note that Johnny Chou (Google) focussed on Googles intention to hire only the best and the elite in China. Jack Ma of Yahoo/Alibaba on the other hand, talked about generating thousands of jobs for ordinary Chinese.

Guess who got the standing ovation from the Chinese press and attendees, and who got the polite applause? Local boy makes good and comes home to help out the local folks is always good press.

Conclusion: Unless Google makes some significant changes to it's strategy and acknowledges that it's reputation has changed from the old days, I think I'll be writing about "Google Loses Chinese Market" in a future post here.

I hope for their sake that they correct their course and begin to actively support the countries they are in, rather than trying to make the Googleplex the center of the universe. Because history has shown that approach just doesn't last for long.


CSMT Update - Pricing & Hong Kong!

I have exciting news for the China Search Marketing Tour members - we were able to add Hong Kong to the trip, while keeping Shanghai! It's the best of both worlds. We also now have the pricing (just in time for your year end budget projections).

By moving Hong Kong to the end of the tour, we were able to avoid the administrative issues of a double entry visa, as well as allowing people on tight schedules to skip HK and head back home. If we had added it earlier while keeping Shanghai, then it would have been a huge rush to see everything and not nearly as much fun.

China Search Marketing Tour Itinerary - you will note that it's pretty close to all-inclusive. We take care of the hotels, transportation (including airfare between all the cities), guides, translators, most meals, attractions, you name it!

We have also figured out the cost of the tour: $2750 USD

This includes everything except airfare to China and your shopping. We can arrange for airfare, but too many people prefer to fly on points, or like/don't like certain carriers, or are flying in from Europe, etc for us to give a price for this.

The other thing that is not covered is the cost of the tickets for SES. We are working on getting you discounts on these tickets, though. The reason for this is quite simply that there are many types and levels of tickets, and some people will be getting free tickets because they are speakers, and others are going on the tour with a significant other but not interested in SES themselves, etc. It didn't seem fair to build in the cost of a ticket when you may not use it or want it.

We also are offering discounts! if you are a member of any chapter of the SMA or SEMPO, you get a $250 discount. Since you can join the SMA-NA for as little as $50, that's a pretty good deal (if you are a member of both, you can't double up the discount, sorry - nice try though ;) )

You also get a $250 discount if you are a speaker at SES! So if you happen to be a speaker AND a member of the SMA (or SEMPO) you can get up to a $500 discount!

You need to send a $300 deposit BEFORE January 20, 2007 to hold your place (there are only 35 places, and 19 are already gone as of this writing), and pay in total by March 20, 2007, for those of you who are organizing budgets.

I'm looking forward to meeting all of you in China.


Change to the China SEM Tour

David and I just finished finished a phone call and as a result have revised the itinerary for the CSMT. I know for some of you this will be a disappointment, but for others it's a welcome change.

Based on feedback from some of our tour members and other issues (like the fact that to go to Hong Kong from Beijing and then to Xiamen you'd need a double-entry visa, and other such administrative details that I prefer to not bet my luggage or sanity on...) we have decided to drop Hong Kong from the itinerary and add Shanghai, instead.

We certainly have nothing against Hong Kong (I'll be staying behind and visiting it on my own time anyway), but one of our jobs is to make double sure that everyone has a great time, encounters no problems, and experiences the most relevant places for business and search marketing in China.

So it will be Beijing, Shanghai, then Xiamen.

Although I was looking forward to Hong Kong, this is actually a better plan, in that Shanghai is an amazing place, and more representative of the "new China". Not to mention that there is a certain search related technology center nearby that we may get a chance to see ;)


Understatement of the Year - ODP "Technical Difficulties"

There was a post on SEOMOZ about DMOZ recently that resulted in some good information in the comments (I capitalized SEOmoz wrong because I like how they look together in a sentence - so sue me).

Here is the quote:

“On Oct. 20th, the editors machine crashed due to a hardware failure. During attempts by AOL Operations to restore the computer to normal operations, a disk re-image procedure resulted in the data on the editors machine to be overwritten. Attempts were made to restore the data but to no avail. Full backups to the editors machine were once automatic, but unbeknownst to us until after the hardware failure, this process was changed to a manual, on-demand process over a year ago. Only incremental backups were automatically produced.

To make matters worse, we were setting up an additional machine for failover to remove the editors machine as the single point of failure. This meant all the data on the editors machine were lost forever. In order to restore the ODP, it had to be reconstructed from various sources (i.e. tools from research, the RDF dump, etc.).

This rather extraordinary event was a bit like breaking a glass into a thousand pieces and being faced with gluing all the pieces back together. Richard (rpfuller) and David (ddrinan) assessed if the directory could be reconstructed at all by looking at pieces available in various places. There was no way for us to predict how long it would take to restore the ODP because this scenario never was supposed to be a possibility.

To add insult to fatal injury, the research server, which contained a lot of data needed to restore lost data, was taken off line due to security concerns. Richard and David were able to quickly amass the major parts of the directory. Within a week of the outage, scripts were being prepared to reload the latest RDF and incremental backups. The bulk of editor information was restored. By Nov. 8th, the editors server was back online and open to admins and technical editors for QA testing.

Between Nov. 8th and today, Nov. 29th, Richard and David have worked tirelessly to fix bugs and features reported by the testers, and to recover all data that’s possible to recover.”

It's not dead - just in intensive care...There may be some good news for it, however, as this quote from AOL to the ODP editors implies:

"Restoring the ODP to its previous state is the short-term goal, but keeping it in maintenance mode is not a long term strategy. If there is a silver lining in this outage it's a renewed interest in developing the ODP in a direction that is relevant to both the web community and AOL. Obviously, your input is pretty important to AOL in determining the ODP's future, and you guys have had conversations here and there about how you'd like to see the ODP evolve ... these conversations are not going unnoticed. As you sit here patiently waiting for the old system to come back online, perhaps you guys could begin a visioning discussion about what the ODP should become."

This is good because I think the consensus is that DMOZ as it was before it blew up really wasn't working or scalable anymore. Of course, whether or not it gets improved is up to the quality of the suggestions from the editors, and which ones (if any) get implemented by AOL.

In the meantime, I'm pretty much ignoring it. I like the idea of DMOZ/ODP, but I've been unhappy with the implementation for some time now (on an unrelated note, the same goes for, BTW).


Chinese Business Cards

A short while ago, a friend that I hardly ever get a chance to see nowadays, Rand Fishkin, of the SEOmoz fame, sent me an email. He's going on the China Search Marketing Tour this spring, and being the excellent marketer that he is, wondered about business cards, language and so forth.

Apparently my response was helpful, so (with his permission) I'm reprinting it here:

Hi Rand,

You will be in the PRC, so the best type of Chinese characters to use are simplified.

For spoken language, it gets a lot more complicated - In general, they speak Mandarin in the north (Beijing) and Cantonese in the south (Hong Kong and Xiamen).

They are totally different. For example, the simple act of saying "hello":

Written: 你好
Mandarin: ni hao
Cantonese: ho ma

And thank you:

Written: 谢谢
Mandarin: xie xie
Cantonese: dol jare

Of the 2 languages, Mandarin is probably the best to learn. It's the most widely known, the official language of business and government, and it considered to be the more sophisticated of the two in terms of how it sounds. Most business people you meet in the south will be at least conversant in Mandarin (and often English).

Even if you only come with a little bit of the language, they really appreciate you trying, so I do recommend at least knowing a few phrases. I also have a phrase book loaded on my PDA that I found very useful a few times ("where is the bathroom?", for example).

When hiring a tutor, try to get one that is actually from Beijing if available, otherwise you may end up learning a southern accent by accident. It's bad enough you'll have an American accent, don't make it worse by adding a southern Chinese one as well! The northern "Beijing" accent is considered the purest form of Mandarin. Even those from Shanghai tend to have a Shanghaianese accent when speaking Mandarin. People in Beijing can be real snobs about accents at times.

Some guidelines for your business cards:

1. Don't try to take a Chinese name. I know it's common for Chinese to take a name like "Tom" or "Bob" to make it easier on westerners, but unless you are fluent in Chinese and actually live there, having a Chinese name just seems like you are trying too hard.

2. However, it's perfectly OK to have your name spelled in Chinese characters phonetically, so they can pronounce it more easily. I do this myself on my card. Make sure you have a Mandarin speaker choose it for you, since the same characters may sound very different in Cantonese. Also, they will be able to tell if the characters that you use are appropriate. This is important, since when Coca Cola originally translated it's name, it ending up spelling out "bite the wax tadpole". Now, they have characters that sound pretty close, but they mean something like "makes mouth happy". Big difference. Let a native choose the characters - it's not just about the sound - it's also the meaning.

3. Hierarchy is very important to the Chinese. The whole "just call me Rand" thing doesn't go over well, and neither do cards with uncertain titles on them. CEO's talk to CEO's, Marketing Managers talk to marketing managers, etc. If they don't know what your rank is, they won't know who should be talking to you, and may decide to politely not talk to you at all, in some cases. Make sure your title is clear and "normal": Director, CEO, President, etc. Also, education is very important - if you have degrees, add them. If you have more than one company, it's OK to put them on the card (some Chinese have upwards of 10 companies they are directors of listed on their cards - it's normal).

4. The luckiest colors for cards are red, yellow and gold. Try to avoid pure black and white if you can. Mine are blue and white, and that's ok - I kept it for branding purposes. Just so you know, "8" is a very lucky number for business (it sounds like "profit") and "4" is a very unlucky number (sounds similar to "death"). If you have a contact number that has at least one 8 in it, that's a good thing. If you have lots of fours in your phone number, maybe just put down your email address ;)

5. Usually, you put English on one side and Chinese on the other. Remember that if you mix the two (for example, in a logo or something) then the Chinese characters should be more predominant than English for the Chinese side.

6. One good idea is to go down to your local ChinaTown and go see a printer there. That way, they will probably help you set up your card in Chinese for free or cheap, just as part of the print order. Just make sure you specify Simplified text, Mandarin pronunciation. Bring lots of cards to China - at least 50.

If you want to read a book that could help you, I recommend:

One Billion Customers - James McGregor
China Now - N. Mark Lam and John L. Graham

There are tons others, but these two are really good and current.



Ian McAnerin Business Card for Chinese Search Marketing

BTM - Blue Time Media (again)

I normally don't spend much time dealing with comments, but since my response to this one by someone claiming to be from BTM was so long, I felt it would be best if I turned it into a post for better legibility.

Here is the comment in full:

mcanerin networks inc( are the idiots since btm are school project and as you stated yourself, your company name was left on those pages to give the material the correct copy right. In the other hand, this so call lawyer that calls himself and his company SEO professionals, achieved ranking to their site by utilizing shady tactics and are only scratching the surface of true search engine optimization. That only a REAL SEO Professional knows this tactics are penalization in the major search engines. Trashing competitors on you own blog is patetic, it only makes you look unprofessional. For one Blue Time Media is and Hispanic Marketing Agency that develops strategic planning and implementation of Marketing and Advertising campaigns. So do your homework before embarrassing yourself putting you comparing to us, you lie to people for living we offer Field Marketing And Event Marketing.If you are as good as you claim, why trash on you own block, that is real stupid. You are using this blog for link building to bring traffic to you site on at same time to trash competitors that aren't really competitors.Good job lawyer, i bet you going to erase me fron this blog. Haha dare to leave it so people can read. HAH you can dish it out but you cant take it. Good luck dear, you seam deam desperate for
biz. You been figting with kids, we very proud you think we are good.

Apparently you are not very good students - You get an F Minus and get sent to stand in the corner with a dunce cap on your heads.

English 101: Let's see, you can't spell and have poor grammar. I'll allow that you may not have English as a first language and will not belabor the point. But it's unprofessional to not use a spellchecker while launching an incoherent diatribe against your victims for daring to stand up for their rights.

Logic 101: you've attributed several actions (including future ones) to me that are not true and without basis - that I would delete your post (it's too funny for that!), that I engage in shady tactics, and that I'm trashing a competitor (I'm trashing a criminal - BTM is not a competitor to me or any other competent SEO or marketer).

Law 101: My name was left to give the correct copyright? Huh? Do you actually believe that? So if I copy a bunch of CD's but also photocopy the label saying who the real artist is - it's OK?
Thanks for admitting you are a thief though - I appreciate that.

SEO 101 - "you lie to people for living" - well, although that may be what YOU think marketing is (and your actions seem to support this) it is not. My job is to provide the best results to the search engines and help them realize that.

BTW, I don't use this blog for link building, or at least, not in a directed manner. If I get links, I obviously don't mind. But not everything I do is about marketing and SEO. Sometimes I just want to talk about something and communicate with friends - you know, like most people with blogs.

"That only a REAL SEO Professional knows this tactics are penalization in the major search engines."

Really? Try to find those pages in MSN or Yahoo right now. Go ahead. I actually never got around to sending the one for Google (since it would cost me a stamp, and I didn't really think you were worth even that), but I think I will, now, just for fun.

Ethics 101: A student fails if they plagiarize. You fail.

Marketing 101: "Trashing competitors on you own blog is patetic, it only makes you look unprofessional."

Trashing people you steal from on THEIR blog (and doing it badly) is what's pathetic and unprofessional. And you did the trashing yourself, to yourself, through your actions and responses.

Let's see, would I hire a company to form a strategy for me if I knew that company didn't have enough talent or creativity to come up with it's own materials? Umm... no.

Would I hire them to do advertising for me if I knew they stole other people's advertising and may put my own company at risk as a result? No.

Would I hire a company that would would defend itself in such an unprofessional and unrepentant manner? No.

See, if you had said "sorry, an intern did it by accident, and we've removed it" I probably would not believe you, but I would have let it go. But to have the gall to defend your lawbreaking in such an illiterate and manifestly obtuse manner would be funny, if it wasn't so pathetic and hopeless.

"we very proud you think we are good"

Oops - wrong again - I don't. If that's your basis for feeling pride, then you must have some severe personal issues.

Good luck with your business. You'll need it. Please convey my sympathies to your clients for working with you.


China Search Marketing Tour Dates Announced!

Note: there have been some updates regarding the itinerary since this post was made. Please see the official China Search Marketing Tour site for the details.

The official date has been set for SES China – May 25-26, 2007 in the city of Xiamen.

Xiamen used to be called Amoy, and you will still occasionally see references to that name. It’s a very modern city with a strong banking system and is a very popular destination for investment from overseas. It was one of the first Special Economic Zones in China, and has been used as a trading port with the west since the 1500’s.

It’s very common for companies to start out working with China via Hong Kong (since Hong Kong uses the Common Law and English is an official there) and for the next stop into China to be in Xiamen, so this is a really good location for the conference. It’s a very clean city (recently voted the cleanest in China), and the shopping is amazing. It’s right across from Taiwan, physically, and if you follow the latitude line to North America you’d be somewhere between Miami and Key West – so it will be warmer than Beijing (latitude is closer to Chicago)!

Of course, that means that we now have the dates for the China Search Marketing Tour!

It will be from May 20-24. We expect something similar to this (though please note that this may change):

  1. Sat May 19 - People fly in from wherever.
  2. Sun May 20 - Beijing
  3. Monday May 21 - Beijing
  4. Tues May 22 - Hong Kong
  5. Wed May 23 - Hong Kong
  6. Thurs May 24 - Xiamen.
  7. Fri-Sat May 25-26 - SES China in Xiamen
  8. Sun May 27 - People fly out

We will be able to do sightseeing and shopping, of course! But there will be business-related activities in all the cities, for those of you wondering if this is a business trip or not.

I'm setting up meetings with trade officials in Beijing and Hong Kong already, and we will also be announcing other activities (and possibly tours) as we can verify them.

Having said that, we will also be organizing things so that for those of you who bring friends, family (David is bringing his wife) and significant others, we won't be boring them with a tour of some advanced search research facility - they will be able to check out the sights and do some shopping in the meantime.

Tour guides and interpreters will be provided every step of the way, and the fee (TBA) will cover all travel, accomodations, sites and most meals within China. You just have to worry about getting there, and our travel agent can help with that, as well.

We are not including the airfare in the price because people are flying in from everywhere, and some people will want to use points, and others have preferred airlines, etc. But we can help you arrange everything.

The tour will be limited to 50 people maximum, so that it's stays fun and informative, so sign up early!

Here are the blog posts from the trip last year:

Arrive In Beijing
Beijing: Hutong,Tea House, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and the Silk Factory
Beijing: Shopping, BeiHai Park and Belly Dancing
Beijing: Great Wall, Jade Factory, Traditional Village, Dinner Show
Shanghai: Fly in, Nanjing Road Shopping, Acrobats, Night Lights
Shanghai: Confucius Temple, Luggage Shopping, Business and Negotiations
Nanjing: Sun Yat Sen Memorial
Nanjing: SES Day 1, GoogleDance
Nanjing: SES Day 2, VIP Dinner
Posts from other Bloggers about the event.

And the Flickr Set for the tour:


Johnny Chou Leaves Google China

Johnny Chou has announced that he is leaving his post as Google China President shortly. That's too bad, since he's a great guy.
I certainly wish all the best. I met him at SES China in Nanjing last year and was impressed with both his professionalism while speaking and the fact that he's a nice guy in person.

Me, Johnny and Mike Grehan in SES China Nanjing 2006.

SiteMaps Now a Common Standard

Google, Yahoo & Microsoft have announced an effort to provide a commonly accepted standard for search engine inclusion via sitemaps.

The official site for the protocol can be found at

Google started the ball rolling last year with it's announcment of the first sitemap protocol - officially version 0.84. This latest version is .90 and is supported by all the main search engines.

For those of you wondering about the changes, there are none. The versioning change just reflects the fact that it's no longer a Google-only protocol.

So, the bottom line is, that Google sitemap you have made is now just a search engine sitemap and will work with MSN and Yahoo, as well. It's in the Commons, so any other search engine that wants to use it can, and is encouraged to do so.


RSS and the New Blogger

I've discovered a weird issue with Blogger. After upgrading, I was given the ability to add tags to my posts. This is great functionality, and I happily began to add tags to all my posts - in reverse order, which is how they are listed.

For some reason, Blogger thinks that adding a tag to an old post makes it a new post, as far as the RSS feed is concerned. So now all my old posts are showing up in the RSS feed as new ones.

I'm sorry about any confusion this may have caused - frankly, it's a surprise to me that it either wasn't tested, or that someone thought it was a good idea.


New Design

I've updated design of this blog, as part of an overall upgrade of Blogger. I must say that I like what I'm seeing so far in terms of ease of use and functionality.

The Tragedy of the Commons and SEO

"It doesn't matter how good or bad the site is, my job is to do what the client tells me."
"If my client wasn't there, then someone else would be"
"It's a free internet, and I can do what I want."
"Deciding if a site is good or bad isn't my job, SEO is"

I've heard all these statements through the years, and many others along the same theme. The common thread is that they are basically "washing their hands", so to speak. The problems of spam and bad results are not their problem.

Bull. If you are on the internet, and especially if you make your living on the internet, then promoting crappy sites is like peeing in your own well-water.

I'll take on clients who have crappy sites who are willing to make them better, and I will take on clients that are effectively indistinguishable from their competitors (ie they all sell the same product), but not clients who want me to get a crappy site to number one.

If I did that, one of two things would happen: 1) If the search engine was on the ball, the site would be removed or a filter would be tweaked to prevent it from being there, thus wasting my time; or 2) it would stay there and I will have been partially responsible for making search a worse experience.

I will give people the benefit of the doubt - I thought E-Bay was a dumb idea when it first started, so it's not like I can consider myself to be a final authority on what people want.

But the site, even back then, was well designed, well organized and was better than the competition, so I probably would have taken them as a client - I don't necessarily judge the business model, but I will judge whether it's a good response for the search terms.

I'm reminded of the classic "Tragedy of the Commons" essay by Garrett Harden. If you haven't read it, you should. Here is a quote:

The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons. Such an arrangement may work reasonably satisfactorily for centuries because tribal wars, poaching, and disease keep the numbers of both man and beast well below the carrying capacity of the land. Finally, however, comes the day of reckoning, that is, the day when the long-desired goal of social stability becomes a reality. At this point, the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy.

As a rational being, each herdsman seeks to maximize his gain. Explicitly or implicitly, more or less consciously, he asks, "What is the utility to me of adding one more animal to my herd?" This utility has one negative and one positive component.

1. The positive component is a function of the increment of one animal. Since the herdsman receives all the proceeds from the sale of the additional animal, the positive utility is nearly + 1.

2. The negative component is a function of the additional overgrazing created by one more animal. Since, however, the effects of overgrazing are shared by all the herdsmen, the negative utility for any particular decision making herdsman is only a fraction of - 1.

Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another.... But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit - in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

I've held for quite some time that the Internet is a Commons. The tragedy that can happen here is that the benefit to a website owner of getting a crappy site to number one is 100%. They benefit completely.

At the same time, the downside of getting one bad site to rank is actually quite small, to not only that webmaster, but to everyone. People will just ignore that one listing and continue on. No big deal.

So the benefit of promoting a bad site for an SEO is high (you get paid) and in most cases makes no real negative difference to the Internet experience for you or most other people. So there is little immediate drawback.

Following logically, you may decide as a result that you should promote crappy sites, since the benefits outweigh the drawbacks by a significant amount. This is common thinking for people using throwaway domains, etc.

And this would be true, if you were the only one doing it. But of course many other people will come to the same conclusion, and as a result, the Internet becomes poisoned and useless, especially because it's also easier to create a bad site than it is a good one.

Here is another issue - the standoff. Even if I know what I'm doing is wrong, the fact that everyone else around me is doing it too means that if I stop, then they will get a significant advantage over me and my longview stance just became my short term gravestone. Once I'm gone, the problem will still persist. Therefore I feel a need to continue doing what I'm doing, even though I'm not happy about it.

There are some ways out of all of this, of course.

1. Enlightened Self-Interest. Some people (like myself and many others) take a look at the big picture and refuse to go down that path. We realize that at the end of the day, we are just hurting ourselves.

Unfortunately, not everyone takes a long term view of things, and not everyone is in a strong enough position to ignore the immediate disadvantages of not using every tool you have right now, and to focus on the long term results, instead.

2. External Authority. This is the "Someone should pass a law" effect. Many times, this is actually welcomed. A bunch of competitors would all love to stop doing something, but no one wants to be the first to blink. In this case, a third party comes in and makes them, and everyone is happier for it because the playing field is still level. It deals with the standoff I mentioned earlier.

Examples of this include anti-spam and other fair trade practices laws, as well as the rules and guidelines used by search engines, etc.

This is not always welcomed by individualists who dislike any rules at all, and of course it's not welcomed by people with crappy websites who happen to be showing up well.

3. Self-Governance. This is a combination of the two, where a group of people/companies in the industry get together and mutually agree on some ground rules. This is my personal preference, but of course there is the issue of enforcement. Anything than consumer education and peer pressure can't be used, since there is no legislation to back it up.

Almost every single profession in the world has common statements of ethics, rules, guidelines and so forth - except SEO/SEM.

Personally, I believe that until this industry is mature enough to actually hold a common opinion on something other making money, it's not mature enough to be called a profession.


The SEO Crackpot Index

There have been a few funny posts and articles in SEO recently, that happened to be published right after I was doing some unrelated research into conspiracy theories (Did you know the world will end tomorrow? Wait, that was yesterday. Darn, I missed it...)

Anyway, the following is inspired by the original excellent Crackpot Index by John Baez - many thanks for the idea, John, and keep up the good work!

The SEO Crackpot Index

Begin with a -5 Point starting credit. We don't want to stifle new ideas, after all.

  • 1 point for every statement that is widely agreed on to be false.
  • 2 points for every statement that is clearly vacuous.
  • 3 points for every statement that is logically inconsistent.
  • 5 points for each such statement that is adhered to despite careful correction.
  • 5 points for using a thought experiment that contradicts the results of a widely accepted real experiment.
  • 5 points for each word in all capital letters (except for those with defective keyboards).
  • 5 points for each mention of "Matt Cuts", "Sullivan" or "Mike Greham".
  • 10 points for each claim that SEO is fundamentally misguided/delusional/fraudulent (without good evidence).
  • 10 points for pointing out that you have gone to school, as if this were evidence of sanity.
  • 10 points for beginning the description of your theory by saying how long you have been working on it. 10 additional points if you claim to have been doing SEO since 1994 or before.
  • 10 points for offering prize money to anyone who proves and/or finds any flaws in your theory.
  • 10 points for each use of "over-optimized", "over-SEO'd" and the like.
  • 10 points for each new term you invent and use without properly defining it.
  • 10 points for using an existing term in a manner that is clearly different from the accepted definition.
  • 10 points for arguing that a current well-established theory is "only a theory", as if this were somehow a point against it.
  • 10 points for claiming that your work is on the cutting edge of a "paradigm shift".
  • 20 points for suggesting that you deserve a Nobel prize.
  • 20 points for defending yourself by bringing up (real or imagined) ridicule accorded to your past theories.
  • 20 points for beginning the article or post by wondering how long it will take for you to get banned or the article pulled.
  • 20 points for talking about how great your theory is, but never actually explaining it.
  • 20 points for each use of the phrase "SEO Gurus" or "SEO Community" as a derogatory statement.
  • 20 points for suggesting a theory that, if true, would allow anyone to destroy anyone else's business or website rankings easily, instantly and without recourse, without clear evidence this is happening.
  • 30 points for suggesting that search engines are plotting against SEO's or webmasters in general. Another 10 for citing your own rankings drop as proof.
  • 30 points for insisting that if critics cannot disprove a theory, then it must of necessity be true
  • 30 points for showing (or admitting) no/little knowledge of other people's previous work on the subject.
  • 40 points for comparing those who argue against your ideas to Nazis, terrorists, or criminals.
  • 40 points for claiming that the "SEO community" is engaged in a "conspiracy" to prevent your work from gaining its well-deserved fame, or suchlike.
  • 40 points for comparing yourself to Galileo, suggesting that a modern-day Inquisition is hard at work on your case, and so on.
  • 50 points for claiming you have a revolutionary theory but giving no concrete testable predictions.

The higher your score, the more likely you are to be an SEO crackpot. Actually, if it's in the positive numbers at all, you should carefully reconsider your arguments.


Searching USA

Google just updated it's toolbar, and I was poking around and noticed something very interesting.

Under the Buttons tab, there is an option for "Search USA".

I've been messing around with this, and it really does work. Here is a REALLY interesting thing - I'm hosted in Canada and use a .com as my main domain.

When I search for "mcanerin" using Search USA, my .com site disappears, but my site shows up as #1.

So Google finally counts the .us TLD. Very interesting, and may have grave effects for many .com companies if this functionality moves into the mainstream.

Normal Google Search for "mcanerin":

Search USA for "mcanerin":,GGLD:2005-07,GGLD:en&q=mcanerin&meta=cr%3DcountryUS

I guess it's time to register a bunch of .us domains ;)


If You Market, They Will Come, If You Have Content, They Will Stay

The links VS content debate has been going on for a long time now, and I doubt it will go away anytime soon.

I was recently asked about which was the better method, by someone who clearly felt they should spend their time making content rather than pursing links. While I certainly sympathize with the philosophy, I had to disagree with it.

Now, I'm a big believer in the power of content. But that doesn't mean I don't understand the importance of links. You need both.

Let me give you an analogy I like to use. I used to do some work for a couple of record companies.

You are a music artist. What do you do to get people to listen to your music?

There are 3 basic approaches:

1) You can make the best damn music you can and let people find you and be amazed and delighted.
2) You market the hell out of yourself - interviews, videos, press releases, scandals, etc.
3) You combine the two methods.

Most artists start out preferring the first approach. It's the purest choice. They hope that by appearing at local clubs, the buzz will get out and they will naturally attract attention. It's also (not a coincidence - most artists are broke when they start out) the cheapest method.

While a commendable concept, it's also naive. The fact is that there are so many crap bands and wannabes doing the same circuit that it would be like winning a lottery to get noticed by the right people. Actually, I think your chances are better for winning the lottery.

Some of the best artists in the world are unknown right now, and will be unknown forever. This is a damn shame, but it's the way the numbers work. This is musics "long tail". They will often have a small but loyal following. Not many people come, but most that do, stay.

This is the equivalent of a content-only strategy.

The second approach is the pop-music approach. Build a huge buzz and push it like crazy. This can create one-hit wonders and the flavour of the week. Often the main talent of the "artist" is looking good, rather than their musical talents.

This can be very successful in the short term. It's also very expensive and behind the scenes is very time consuming.

The end result though, is that the flavor of the week disappears into obscurity next week. The people come, but do not stay.

This is the equivalent of a links-only strategy.

The third approach is the combination of the two. You create the best damn music you can and market like crazy. This is the hardest method, of course.

It's also the best. Think of the artists you were listening to 5 years ago, and still listen to today. I'll bet very one of them is a great artist, and also has great marketing (videos, concerts, news releases, website, etc).

These artists are the most successful. Their marketing gets people to come, and their talent convinces them to stay, and to tell others. In the first scenario, you have people telling others, as well, but since it's a small group, the word of mouth doesn't work very well, and tends to be local.

For the same artist with great marketing, there are more people visiting and therefore more people spreading word of mouth. Once it hits a certain critical level, it can actually be nearly self-sustaining. The people come, and they stay.

This is the equivalent of a content + links strategy.

In short, you can wish that people will just magically recognise your talent without marketing, but it's not likely to be very successful. This is fine if you are a hobbyist, but not so fine if you are a business.

"If you market, they will come, if you have content, they will stay."


China Search Marketing

I'm pleased to announce that the China Search Marketing Tour (which I'm a co-host of) is definately on. We will be releasing the dates, costs, etc as soon as the dates for the SEW China conference are announced.

In the meantime, here is the latest information I have on the 2006 Search Engine Market Share for China.

Go Daddy!!!

That was fast!

It's been less than 12 hours (I went to sleep and woke up with it fixed - on a Sunday, no less!)

GoDaddy has a reputation in the industry for excellent and professional customer service. They are also one of the few ISP's with a proper and formal DMCA process that is fair to all parties. If you are an ISP (especially one based in the US) you should have some sort of process like this - it helps stop you from being held partially responsible for the stolen information (it's on your servers, after all).

The Blue Time Media website no longer resolves to anything (screenshot below).

I've found that ISP's are often faster to respond to DMCA complaints than search engines, which is why it's part of my DMCA Complaint process. Blue Time Media has the opportunity to respond, of course, though it's really clear that this is not a grey issue (my name is actually on the pages they stole, and every page has a copyright notification on it, so they can't claim independent development, public domain, or anything like that).

I would like to thank GoDaddy for their response, and to take this opportunity to recommend them to my readers. If you are an honest webmaster, they are a great host to have!

Since I offer (limited) hosting myself, I'm technically a competitor, but that doesn't mean I don't appreciate professionalism and service when I see it. This is the second time I've dealt with an issue using GoDaddy. The first was not DMCA related - a client who hosted with them had some problems that were not GoDaddy's fault, but nonetheless the staff there solved for me quickly and efficiently.


Blue Time Media = Copyright Infringement!


It takes true gall (or true stupidity) to steal copyrighted materials from a lawyer. Especially one with a special interest in copyright law and the Internet.

The criminals of the day are Blue Time Media ( I was doing a routine copyright search and found that these thieves had stolen my copyrighted text. Stupidly, they had even posted it and left in my company name by accident at one point! That same page also listed my icons at the bottom, including the "Calgary Chamber of Commerce", "SEO Consultants" and "SMA-NA Board Member" icons, as well as the claim to be AdWords Professionals.

I know I qualify for all those claims, but they certainly don't. I think those organizations should know about those claims, don't you?

The Evidence compare to

The banner at the bottom they stole is the one I used up until I got my Yahoo Ambassador qualification and updated it, so this was stole sometime in March, which matches the claims they made. compare to

This really makes me wonder who else's work they have stolen. Are those templates they selling to clients actually theirs to sell? When you start stealing, it's difficult to know where the thief stops.

So, What to Do About Blue Time Media?

Well, getting the word out, and making sure that any current and future potential clients they approach can do due diligence before working with them is a start. If a webmaster puts stolen media or copy on your site, you can be found liable. Personally, I would never work with anyone who I knew was dishonest, particularly over the Internet.

Second, launch Digital Millennium Copyright Act Notifications (DMCA) about Blue Time Media. Here are some sample DMCA templates:

Google DMCA - MS Word Document (32k)
MSN DMCA - MS Word Document (32k)
Yahoo DMCA - MS Word Document (32k)
ISP DMCA - MS Word Document (38k)

Then, of course, contacting their clients and warning them they may have illegal content on their sites placed by their webmaster would seem prudent.

Finally, a lawsuit is in order. I'll have to do that Monday.


Added: MSN, Yahoo, and GoDaddy all allow emailed notifications, which have been sent. I'll be mailing Google on Monday, along with going ahead with legal action.

US Search Engine Share 2006

Well, it's that time of the year again. Every year at around this time (SES San Jose) there are lots of announcements and research released on the search engine landscape. What got me thinking this time was research from Hitwise that announced that Google had finally surpassed the 60% market share mark.

Back when they were feeding Yahoo and MSN, this was an easy thing to do (they were in the 85% range), but since all three now offer their own search services, it's been almost a 3 way split for a while now, with Google in the lead, but MSN and Yahoo catching up fast. Ask usually stays constant, with a small but very loyal following.

Lately, Google has been gaining more and more against it's competitors, with Yahoo and MSN actually losing a bit, according to Hitwise. Well, now that's very interesting.

I've been noticing the increase on a working level, but I hadn't actually charted it formally since Oct of 2005. After doing so, the results, especially side by side using the same methodology, are interesting. The information comes from both the Hitwise statistics and other information sources (my own log sources from several different industries).

It's apparent that the market is maturing - the niche engines are dying out and the mindshare is spreading out. If I may make a prediction, I would say that Google will have 66% (2/3) of the market by this time next year, with Yahoo, MSN and Ask fighting it out for the remaining 1/3. I also predict that the "Other" category will be permanently relegated to the less than 1% range.

Do I think that this will be it? No.

I think that "Other" category, which currently does not count for much in traditional internet search, will bloom as specialized search and social tagging. which is not measured in this chart, but will be as soon as I can figure how to do so reliably.

That's a prediction, not a guarantee, but I'll be watching that space, and I think you should, too.

Anyway, here is the side by side comparison:

US Search Engine Share Landscape - 2006

US Search Engine Share Landscape - 2005


The Long Tail

On the way back from Miami, I happened to come across a brand new book - "The Long Tail", by Chris Anderson. (ISBN 1-4013-0237-8).

Chris is the Editor in Chief of Wired, and penned an article a while ago, also called "The Long Tail" that make a huge splash in the search marketing world. This book is a huge expansion on the original article, and I found myself actually taking notes at times!

If you are a search marketer or sell things online, get it. It's worth it, and may change the way you look at marketing online forever. No, that's not hyperbole.


SES Latino 2006 - Miami

So, to get to the point of my talking about SES Latino, I'll talk about Miami first (it's only fair after the previous post).

Miami, as I think of it, is actually the Greater Miami Area (or South Florida metropolitan area if you are political), which is basically several cities/areas all in one fairly easy to drive, contiguous area. The 3 main areas I was in were Miami, South Beach (SoBe) and Bal Harbour (where one of my clients, Gray & Sons, is).

The conference was at the Miami Intercontinental, which was right on the beach, and had a cool lobby. It is also walking distance to the famous Bayside Market, where the shopping is very nice (if you like that sort of thing - and I admit I do...)

I arrived early, so I had some sightseeing time. I wanted to do a tour of the everglades, but that's pretty much a day trip, and I wanted to be fair and give Miami another chance. So I went to SoBe.

Now, I try to pride myself on being an experienced enough traveller that I always check the weather first, but I screwed myself up this trip. I duly checked the weather and noticed that it was going to be overcast with thunderstorms pretty much everyday during the conference, so i packed appropriately without doing the mental calculation of Fahrenheit to Celsius like I normally do. BIG MISTAKE.

See, in Canada, "overcast and thunderstorms" usually means cold, or at least, coolish. In Miami, it means "your sweat doesn't evaporate, the rain is hot, and you need to shower after about 20 minutes outside if you are wearing any clothing of significance."

I took a cab to Ocean Drive (the road that runs along South Beach) and stopped by the News Cafe for lunch and some people watching. People watching is a major sport in SoBe, due to the (lack of) clothing worn, the celebrities that hang out there, and the party/club atmosphere.

The meal was good, but I realized that I was way overdressed for the area and time. Not to mention I was soaked in sweat. Fortunately, there is shopping nearby on Washington Ave, and I was able to buy a pair of shorts, a lighter shirt, and thong sandals. After that, I was ready to actually see the darn beach.

The beach is really nice, with white sand and lots of people. It's an odd mixture of beach volleyball and joggers, thong bikini wearing sunbathers, and families with kids. It all blends in a natural manner.

Frankly, it was so hot that I didn't even notice that the picture I took of the crowd on the beach included several topless sunbathers until I was uploading it later. Honest. I know you don't believe me after the belly dancers in China and CanCan Dancers in the Yukon, but it's absolutely true. Really.

Anyway, after that I figured I'd go take a couple of pictures of alligators, which was a challenge since I didn't have time to do the everglades tour. So I went to the nearby (to the hotel) Parrot Jungle Island. Yup, they had them, including "Crocosaurus", a HUGE saltwater croc (born in Thailand, not natural to Florida) that is the largest in the world.

After this, I met up with my friends Christine Churchill and Mike Grehan, who introduced me to Frank Watson (aka AussieWebmaster), Jeffrey Eisenberg of Future Now (an excellent source of information on post-click conversion behaviour and methods - thanks Jeff!) and Erica Schmidt of iProspect.

I was then introduced to a wonderful Cuban drink, the mojito. Warning! This is a very, very dangerous drink! It's tasty, very refreshing and loaded with alcohol. You can find yourself drinking a lot of them if you are not careful.

We decided to go for dinner, with Mike (as usual) leading the way. He took us to Lincoln Road, an amazing pedestrian road lined with restaurants. This is definitely a great place to find food. Since Italy had just won the FIFA World Cup hours earlier, we decided to have Italian food in their honor.

The next day (Monday) SES Latino began.

The first thing I noticed was that this was very smooth and organized for a first time event/venue. I've been to a lot, and this one went very well. About 500 people attended.

I usually don't go to a lot of sessions, preferring to network with people in between, but the information presented here was simply not available easily anywhere else, and I found myself in a lot of the "Landscape and Tactics" tracks, which focused on Latin America, Spanish and Portuguese language and issues, and so forth. Fascinating and highly informative, even to a jaded conference goer.

That evening, I decided to go on a harbour tour with my friend Huiping Iler, the president of Huiping is the person I trust for many of my clients translations, and this is the first time we've met in person. She's also written a very nice white paper called Maximizing Visibility for Multilingual Web Sites that I recommend.

Anyway, I dragged her to a charter boat in the shape of a pirate ship (hey, we are in the Caribbean...) for a short tour of the harbour, including Millionaire Row, a bunch of homes of the rich and famous.

Shortly after leaving the dock, the sky started to get cloudy. A couple of minutes later, we were in a pretty intense storm. It was so bad I started humming the Gilligans Island theme song and wondering how far I could swim. the captain finally pulled into a nearby dock and we waited a while for the worst to pass.

After that, we finally got the tour. There were a lot of very nice homes, owned by people like Sharon Stone, Gloria Estevan, Sylvestor Stalone, Shaquille O'Neal, and Jackie Chan. For only 5 million, I could live there too...

After this, we went back to the hotel. The next day both of us had presentations to give, and neither of had completely finished ours. I always do mine at the last minute, since I try to customize it to the attendees at the conference.

The next morning, I had 2 major technical issues right in a row. First, I discovered that, in my second packing blunder of the trip, I had left both my USB drive and blank CD's at home, making it very difficult to get my (now finished) presentation onto the presentation computer!

Fortunately, although it's not obvious, the hotel is very close to a Walgreens and I was able to run (literally) over there and buy a new USB drive. Shaking from the heat and sudden exercise (yes, I'm out of shape - I'm working on it...), I walked into the bathroom to freshen up.

Then my cell phone rang. While grabbing at it, it slipped out of my (still shaking) hands and directly into the toilet! My scream of despair was still echoing in the room while I fished it out of the (fortunately unused) toilet bowl and over to a nearby hairdryer.

You have to realize that this is no ordinary phone. It's also my main business number, my mp3 player, backup camera, e-book reader and *gasp* day-timer. I had just managed to finally retire my old, heavy leatherbound paper-based day-timer only a few weeks before. Literally, it's my (business) life. Not a good development. BTW, water damage isn't covered by the warranty (imagine that!).

Anyway, distractions aside, I still needed to do my presentations which were immediately before and after lunch. Fortunately, they went well. You can see them (along with other presentations I've done) at

After this, I was exhausted and pretty much just went to sleep, since I had to be up at 4AM the next morning to catch my flight.

All in all, it was a very good trip, and I no longer hate Miami... As a matter of fact, I think I'll be back next year. Good job, Nacho!


Why I used to hate Miami

Well, I just got back from Miami, and in spite of the fact that it rained every day (summer is rainy season) I rather enjoyed it.

This is worth noting because up until now Miami has NOT been one of my favorite memories. The last time I was there, it was for a stopover on the way to TCI. Since we were concerned about petty theft, we decided to store our luggage at the airport luggage storage place.

They took our money, put the luggage through the X-Ray machine (and no doubt noticed the digital camera during the scan) and sent us on our way.

The next morning, I picked up my luggage and immediately noticed that the zippers were no longer at the top, where I left them. They were down at the bottom, where you could not see them when they give you your luggage. With a missing lock and broken loops where the lock used to go through.

Opening it, I found that my daytimer had been rummaged through, some small change had been stolen, and my digital camera was gone. The people I PAID to store my luggage safely stole it! Irate, I walked back (I had moved about 10 feet away from the counter in order to move out of the way of other people) and started to tell them what happened.

They then accused me of either lying, or stealing my own camera, then flatly refused to do anything about it. My advice to others - don't pay the official Miami airport luggage storage place to steal your stuff - there are lots of people who are willing to do it for free.

Apparently I'm not the only one whose had this issue and blogged about it. I'd be interested in hearing other stories.

Anyway, as you can imagine my opinion about Miami was not very high after this, and I've been avoiding the place ever since.

Until my friend Nacho sent me an email about SES Miami....

Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada

Well, I just got back from Whitehorse - it was great! Whitehorse is the capital city of the Yukon Territory of Canada, and the most north I've ever been.

For those of you more familiar with US geography, the Yukon is the Canadian Territory that is right beside Alaska. As a matter of fact, the Klondike (of the famous Klondike Goldrush fame) is roughly the area that is the border between the two. Goldrush history pretty much defines the area.

Since it's pretty far north, my general concept of the place before visiting was freezing snow in the winter, and mosquitoes in the summer. Well, I can vouch for the mosquitoes, at least. But there is more, of course.

The city is surprisingly small - you can walk from end to end in less than an hour. It's very much a government and tourist town. I was there giving a seminar on Web 2.0 for the government, but also took some time to act as a tourist.

Some Highlights and Observations:

North of 60 is also known as "The Land of the Midnight Sun" - and it's true. This is a pic of my watch (and the town) a few seconds after midnight, and below is a picture of me around roughly midnight. I was able to walk around town and take photos in the natural sunlight until I went to bed at around 2AM!

Food: I always try to eat locally whever I travel, so I made sure I tried some local stuff - I had Muskox and Halibut at the Klondike Rib and Salmon BBQ, Caribou at the Westmark, and Bannock (Indian bread) at the Talisman, a Native-owned eatery. But for the life of me, I could not find sourdough pancakes anywhere! Weird.

Housing: During the building of the Alaska Highway, they ran out of space for all the workers, and the Log Cabin Skyscraper was born. There is one of these in Whitehorse, and it's a very strange sight indeed. Another interesting site was the use of sod on many of the log buildings - yup, that's grass growing on that roof!

Entertainment: Well, although the most popular pastimes in the area appear to be hiking, fishing and partying until the sun goes down (about 6 months from now), I was tired, so I just took in a show - The Frantic Follies, as vaudeville review (including CanCan Dancers) based in the Westmark Hotel. One of my favorite parts was the rendition of the "Cremation of Sam McGee" by Robert Service (a famous writer of the Canadian north), and the very, very funny skits involving audience members.

You know, between the belly dancers in China and the CanCan dancers in the Klondike, I'm starting to notice a pattern in my travel entertainment. I sure hope my wife doesn't...

Shopping: I like to buy local souvenirs, of course. I got the kids some cool prospecting pans with real gold dust and my wife a necklace made from genuine mammoth ivory. For myself, I bought a soapstone card holder with an inukshuk on it, an ulu (traditional Inuit knife) and a nice shirt from The Main Man.

One thing that stood out clearly while shopping that that all the shop personnel were genuinely friendly and helpful, not only for their own wares, but in directing me to other shops when they didn't have what I was looking for. The salesgirl at the Main Man even phoned all over town on my behalf in order to help me in my (ultimately failed) quest of sourdough pancakes. She really went above and beyond, and it's appreciated.

History and Culture: Well, it's a small town, and fairly recent by global standards, so there isn't a huge history, but what there is, is wild and fascinating (kind of like a colder Las Vegas). The goldrush, cabin fever, ruthless criminal gangs, fearless NWMP (Canadian Mounties), etc.

They do have the orginal cabin the Sam McGee lived in - that's cool.

The poetry of Robert Service ("The Bard of the Yukon"), is a very interesting series of stories that tell about life back then. Read them - they are worth it. My favorites:

The Cremation of Sam McGee (funny)
The Law of the Yukon (tough)
The Men That Don't Fit In (my favorite - sad, though)
The Ballad of The Black Fox Skin (traditional myth)
My Friends (really good - another huge favorite)

Actually, I like almost everything he wrote (19 books of verse), but that's a good sampler. The actual book I bought was "The Best Of Robert Service".

Trivia: in the local parlance, if you are not native, you are either a "Sourdough"(tough and experienced local/prospector type) or a "Cheechako" (technically a foreigner, but generally just a spoiled, lily-livered, city-folk tourist type...).


Hello from whitehorse

I'm in Whitehorse right now :)

SES Latino 2006 - Miami

I've just been invited to speak at the very first SES Latino - which looks to be an amazing conference for anyone interested in international SEO (which is my primary focus).

If you have any interest whatsoever in marketing to the world outside your backyard, you should attend this one. Heck, if you are in the US, it even covers Hispanics IN your backyard.

Most importantly, since my clients include 2 major world governments, and they are VERY interested in the Hispanic (and Brazil/Portuguese) markets, I've done a bunch of research, testing and thinking about these topics, and I think I have some helpful information for you. Yes, you should show up - this really is one of those times when the government knows something you may not about future markets.

The seminars I'm speaking at are:

Landscape & Tactics Track - July 11, 11:00-12:30
Domain Issues
Language:English with live translation to Spanish

Going after Latin American or US Hispanics? What domain issues do you need to be aware of? Should you have a domain for each country you are targeting? Should you have a standalone subdomain of your .com site, like

Landscape & Tactics Track - July 11, 3-4:14 PM
SEO & Spanish Language Issues
Language: English with live translation to Spanish

The fact is that if your users search for a word with an accent mark and without it, you will get similar but different results. Should you optimize for right grammar or high traffic volume? What translation issues can you encounter? What about cultural issues, slang and jargons? This session looks to help you solve most of these language issues when optimizing your website.

See you there!


Canada Online Revealed

I speak and moderate at a fair number of conferences, so an engagment is nothing I normally blog about. However, I'm rather excited to facilitate at the Canada Online Revealed conference.

The Canadian Tourism Commission has invited the Canadian Federal Provinces for a CTC E-Marketing Summit to discuss how we can all work together to market Canada to the world by leveraging the Internet. This is by-invite only event.

Attendees may choose two from six topical tracks, which are a combination of short presentations and "speed-dating" interactions with the presenters.

It sounds like fun. I'll be a facilitator for a star studded panel:

Exploring the difference between Search Marketing and Online Advertising in Canada & USA

What is the difference between Search in Canada & the US and how can you effectively market your hotel or travel company on search verticals?

Facilitator: Ian McAnerin - President, Search Marketing Association of North America

Vince Chirico - Google
John Manning - Genie Knows
Jennifer Koo - West Jet
David Doucette - Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
Bryan Mavrow - Intrawest


China SES Nanjing Links

It's been a rough week for me, since I caught some sort of bug on my last day (I think it was the sauna) and have been laid up in bed, watching the emails and paperwork pile up. But I finally managed to get my blog and flickr items about the tour posted.

Of course, I'm not the only one who went on the tour or to SES China, so I'd like to salute the hard working bloggers that posted about it by providing my readers with some links (no particular order, and all good) :)
The official SES China Blog
Rand's blog is one of my favorites. CSMT Update 1, CSMT Update 2
Shak's blog is a must-read for those looking into China.
Miles Evans has a pretty useful blog here, and some nice SES China posts, incuding some video and the obligatory namedropping...
Marc Macalua (see below) posted numerous updates here - very well done.
Marc is a genuinely nice guy, and as soon as I do anything in the Philippines, He'll be the first person I call.
Mike's blog is always fun to read.
Description of SES Nanjing, along with a bunch of facts and figures she collected. Ahnee is a great person (in spite of being a die-hard SEMPO fan ;P )
I don't remember meeting Joel, but he certainly paid attention at SES.



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CSMT Day 8, SES Nanjing Day 2

SES Day 2 - I actually have stuff to do today. :)

First thing in the morning, I'm moderating a panel on Successful Site Architecture with Stephen Noton, Bill Li and David Temple, then later on (last panel of the day) I'm speaking about Global Search Marketing Case Studies with Bill Hunt, Koichiro Fukasawa and Jungmin Ricky Kwon.

In the middle, I spend a fair amount of time catching up with various people, including Mike Grehan, who has recovered quite well from last nights St Patricks Day celebrations and is actually quite lucid, entertaining, and incredibly informative (as usual, I must say).

For most of the day, the conference rooms are freezing, but then (just in time for MY speaking turn) the heat finally gets turned on - so high that most of the audience either fell asleep or attempted to escape out into the hall.

The good news (?) is that since the speakers ahead of us went waayy over time, we had the shortest session of all of them - I cut my slides from 30 to 12. Fortunately, I post my original slides up so the audience can download them afterward.

After the sessions, a bunch of us followed Mike on his quest for a steak in China. While this is usually a fruitless exercise, he actually managed to find a restaurant that served western fare, and off we went.

Since it was a pretty big gathering of some of the best known faces of the conference, I gave my camera to our hostess, who had enormous fun snapping away.

After the dinner, I was exhausted, so I went to check out the spa in the hotel. It was an interesting experience, to be sure (I'm hairy, and the spas are naked, and I was apparently an endless source of amusement for the staff) but relaxing. The only problem was that the sauna apparently didn't use filtered water, so not only did it smell bad, but the next day I had a nasty cough that turned into a full blown illness by the time I landed.

Oh, the joys of travel. Oh, by the way, at some point today Brooke actually managed to find some luggage. I've no idea how, and am actually afraid to ask...


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