Chocolate Truffles for non-Cooks

I'm not much of a cook. I can't make waffles without using every single utensil and pot in the house, and I occasionally go check my email in the middle of making something, only to lose track of time until the fire alarm goes off....

But every year I make chocolate truffles with the kids. Now, normally making proper chocolates requires special copper pans and candy thermometers and all sorts of patience, timing and skills. None of which I have. But I like to spend time with my kids, and chocolate is as good of an excuse as any (although, do you *really* need an excuse for chocolate? Or time with your kids? Ever?)

Anyway, I came across a recipe for chocolate truffles a long time ago that suits me just fine - it's easy, inexpensive and fun to do with kids. I just spent the last hour tearing apart my damn basement looking for it. I also tried all sorts of searches online. Nothing.

All the "truffle' recipes online seem to start out with "get a degree in culinary arts, buy a thousand dollars worth of copper cooking equipment, install a gas stove, and then buy large chunks of unsweetened chocolate, some cream cheese, etc...

Nope, not for me. I just found the recipe I use and it's dead simple. It's also tattered almost beyond recognition. I'm afraid I'll lose it again so I'm posting to my blog.

Yes, I'm abusing your time and attention for my own selfish reasons, bad memory and poor filing skills. I can only hope to make it up to you for this horrible abuse of your trust and time by offering some delicious, easy and simple holiday cheer - the McAnerin household recipe for easy chocolate truffles:

Easy Chocolate Truffles


  • 3 cups (3x250ml) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 (14oz/300ml) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) vanilla extract

Yup, that's it. No complicated recipes for THIS guy...

Coatings: Finely chopped toasted nuts, flaked coconut, chocolate sprinkles, colored sprinkles, unsweetened cocoa, confectioners' sugar or colored sugars.

Flavors: I also wrap the chocolate around maraschio cherries, though it's messy and doesn't turn out perfectly. Another thing I do is add rum, maple, banana and other flavors to the batches (1 tsp for each batch gives a nice light flavoring, one tablespoon is stronger). Yummy.


  1. In large saucepan, over low heat, melt chocolate chips with sweetened condensed milk.
  2. Remove from heat
  3. Stir in vanilla.
  4. Pour into medium bowl. If you are making different flavors this is where you separate into different batches and mix in the flavorings (rum, maple, butterscotch, etc).
  5. Cover and chill 2 to 3 hours or until firm.
  6. Shape into 1in(2.5cm) balls; roll in desired coating and/or decorate with frosting and candies. I use different coatings to tell the flavors apart.
  7. Chill 1 hour or until firm. Store leftovers covered in refrigerator.

Note 1: I use Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk, and as I was writing this, it occured to me that's probably where I got the original recipe from - a label on one of the cans. I just checked, and it was. Credits for the original version of the recipe to them.

Note 2: Yes, I know that 14oz is technically equal to 415ml, not 300ml, but that's the standard size can in Canada and this is an *easy* recipe. One can of sweetened condensed milk. It works just fine. Same goes for all other conversions - the focus is on easy and tasty, not chemistry...

LinkedIn and FaceBook

I like Linked In. It's a very handy little tool I recommend for almost everyone. This is actually saying something because normally I avoid social media like the plague.

Why would a search marketer avoid social media? Because sometimes I find that you can be too social. I'm finding this with Facebook - it's lot's of fun at first, but there are some people who simply never leave you alone to get any work done.

Worse, there are many Facebook applications that make it really, really easy to social spam people. I once accidentally sent a "present" (I think it was a picture of a chocolate sundae) to everyone connected to me because my sister had use the application to send me something and I was trying to reciprocate.

I didn't notice at the time that the application had automatically checked everyone on my list, even though the link I had clicked on clearly said something to the effect of "send Cindy a present back" which means to me exactly that - not, "spam everyone on my list, even people I barely know or only know professionally."

That's the problem with Facebook - it has lots of tools that professionals like, but at it's heart is aimed at groups of friends, not professionals.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, is all about professional networking. I never get sent presents via linked in, but I do know whenever anyone has left their job or whatever.

It's all well and good to be friends with coworkers and other people you work with, but I think it's important to not assume that everyone you know is either a close friend or a professional contact only. I'd like to see something that combines LinkIn with Facebook for people who are friendly with their professional contacts but not trying to sleep with them ;)


Admin Note: Changing Comment Policy

I've tried 3 types of comment moderation so far:

  1. No Comments Allowed. But that's no fun - hard to build a community or get feedback.
  2. All Comments Allowed. You guessed it - I got spammed. I hate so-called SEO's who spam.
  3. Only People with Blogger Accounts Can Post. Well, this was OK for a while, but it limits the people who will post. And for the last couple of days some spammer has been posting...get this.. requests to do link exchanges as part of his comment spam! Of course, he has a blogger account.

So now I'm trying something new. I'm letting anyone comment, but all comments are pre-moderated. Hopefully 4 times a charm.

Yes, I know I should move to Wordpress, yada, yada. But I had a sound SEO reason for using Blogger specifically in the first place, and now I find that I'm comfortable with it and really don't feel like losing all the PR, links, etc if I decided to move. Inertia wins.


Adwords Editor, Vista, and Error 2739

I've been having problems with the installation of Google Adwords on my Vista machine for a while now. I've been putting off fixing it because I hire people to do PPC for me on a day to day basis, so it's not a huge issue. But today I needed to fix something for a client ASAP, and it was enough of a job that I needed to do it personally, and I needed to use the Editor.

Well, it turns out that Googles installation package doesn't work on Vista. It won't install, it won't UNinstall, it won't repair. Nothing. It's very annoying. I'd blame Vista except nothing else gave me this problem, so it's Googles fault. Oh, heck, I'll blame Vista as well.

Anyway, courtesy of Brent Crouch, I found the fix:

  1. You need to make sure you are logged into Vista as an administrator.
  2. Open Command Prompt and change into the C:\Windows\System32 directory.
  3. Type: regsvr32 vbscript.dll
  4. NOW PRESS Enter (I got an error after this command, but it still worked.)
  5. Type: regsvr32 jscript.dll
  6. NOW PRESS Enter (I got another error after this command, but it still worked.)
  7. Now try the install again. It should work this time.
I didn't have to change directories - I just clicked on the "Run" choice in the start menu and typed in the 2 commands. It worked fine. I was able to uninstall a previous version of Adwords and install the latest with no problems.

Thanks Brent. And a big raspberry to both Vista and Google. Mostly Google.

Note to Google: the "eternal beta" trick only works online - you might want to test downloadable software from now on - just a thought. It makes you look silly when you can't even get your software to install properly and every other piece of software I've installed has no problem...


Yay! Patent Number Assigned.

I've already mentioned that I've applied for a search related patent recently.

Well, I finally got offical confirmation of the "Patent Pending" status and my very own USPTO Patent Application Number - 60/999,180. "System and Method for Website IP Address Based Geolocation"

Cool. Now I just have to finish up the control panel and it will be ready for public use.


SEMPO International Committees

Once I joined SEMPO, I also joined a couple of committees/working groups/SIGS that struck my fancy at the time.

Since I'm the "International SEO Guy", I joined SEMPO Canada, SEMPO Latin America, and SEMPO Asia. We've already begun having meetings, and although these local SEMPO focus areas are new, there is some nice momentum going.

It's nice to see some localization happening - running things in a centralized or US-centric manner for a global market like the Internet is a bad idea, and I'm glad SEMPO has seen that. I'd like to see more, but I guess that's partly my job now (bait, fish, or get the hell out of the boat!)


The 3 Pillars of SEO, SEM and their Relationship

I made these charts for a presentation recently. I hope you like them.


The 3 Pillars of SEO

3 Pillars of SEO

The 3 Pillars of SEM

3 Pillars of SEM

The Relationship Between SEO and SEM

The Relationship Between SEO and SEM

November 11: Lest We Forget

Flanders Fields PoemMy father drove a tank in Germany for NATO, my Great Uncle was Norman Bethune, who fought fascism as a doctor in China, and my many greats grandfather was General Sir Isaac Brock, who defended Canada during the war of 1812. There were many more, of lessor fame but not lessor valor.

My own military experience is far more limited - Air Cadets, militia and a civilian instructor for wilderness survival. Nonetheless, I feel a strong sense of duty to my countrymen and women, and every November 11 (Remembrance Day here in Canada) I reflect on the losses my family and my country have endured.

I don't like war, and would be more than happy to see it become extinct as a method of solving problems. Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same way, and in practice if you let bullies succeed, it just encourages more bullying. Same with warlords and warhawks.

In Canada (and the UK and Australia), we have a tradition where we wear a poppy on our lapel around Remembrance Day to symbolise our sympathies for those lost in battle, and to help support veterans, who use the money made from the poppy drive to help homeless and ill veterans. It's a really nice gesture, and one I'm astonished has not been picked up in the US.

After all, although the poppy drive gets it's symbolism from a poem written by a Canadian, it was an American schoolteacher who first started wearing them, followed by a French woman who used them to raise money for war orphans. It was only after this , in 1921, that Canadian veterans associations began to use it.

Regardless, I'm posting a poppy on this blog (below) and am virtually giving one to everyone I know - not in support of war, but in remembrance of those lost in war, and in the hope that one day the world will be a better place.

Lest We Forget - Poppy



Canada e-Connect Show

I just got back from speaking at the Canada e-Connect show, which was actually several events (and several firsts) all rolled into one. First, there was the inauguaral meeting of the Canada e-Tourism Council. Then there was the show itself, and then there was the Canadian e-Tourism Awards.

I'm not a member of the e-Tourism Council, and it was a closed session, so I can't report much on what happened there, other than everyone apparently was concerned about content - it's quality, availability and use.

The Canada e-Connect show was great. It was backed heavily by Yahoo! Canada and other sponsors, and was very informative. I was pretty humbled because one of the articles written by the Vancouver Sun about the conference mentioned me. I get mentioned a lot around the web, but when a newsreporter only quotes 3 people, including me, and the other two are Flight Centre vice-president Sean Sutherland and Expedia Canada managing director Sean Shannon, that's pretty lofty company.

As an aside, planning and organization for the event was almost flawless, not only was it the best inaugural conference on any topic I've ever been to, it was probably the best organized conference I've ever been to, period.

Jens Thraenhart, the mastermind behind all 3 events and Canada's rockstar of e-Tourism, did an amazing job putting it all together.

Canada e-Connect Awards

The e-Tourism Awards were incredible. They took place in Vancouvers Omnimax Theatre.

If you don't know what Omnimax is, it makes IMAX look small and malnourished. You are seated inside a large globe and the movie covers almost all of our field of vision.

It must be seen to be believed, and they played several clips that were absolutely breathtaking, including a small clip from an upcoming destination film starring a steam locomotive going through Canada's Rocky Mountains.

Speaking of breathtaking, both Miss Canada International 2008 Alesia Fieldberg and Miss Canada International 2003 Lorenza Sammarelli were on hand to help hand out the awards, and to help plug Teddy Bears of Hope.

During the after-event party at the Coast, I just *had* to get my picture taken sitting in Yahoo's purple Chair of Innovation.


Acts of Kindness

I somehow found myself on the Toronto Stars' "Acts of Kindness" page tonight, probably by surfing following some news story about something terrible happening to someone, though I don't remember exactly what.

As I read the page, I felt my chest tighten and eyes water a bit, as I'm kind of sentimental that way. The section of the site is little stories about acts of kindness from strangers that readers have contributed. It made me think of some of the acts of kindness from strangers in my own life.

There was the man who picked me up while I was walking from Coaldale to Lethbridge as a very young teenager. I wasn't hitchhiking, I was just tired and needed to get to town because I didn't have a car and my friend was hysterical and needed me.

There was the man who, as I was walking downtown in Toronto suddenly shot out his arm in front of me blocking me from taking a step off the curb into the street. As I stopped, confused, a city bus roared from behind me and turned right into my path. He saved my life. I don't even remember what he looked like.

There was the couple in Taiwan who overheard Jason and myself trying to figure out a map in Chinese while sitting in a food court. They came over, helped us with the map, then walked us over to where we needed to go. Thank you.

There was the staff at the Intercontinental Hotel in Miami, who, when I woke up one morning blind, called the house doctor, sent over the manager and even loaned me a staff member to escort me around the hotel so I could attend the SES Conference and make my speech. I was not billed for any of it, including the doctor or ambulance. Just the standard room rate like everyone else. That's above and beyond.

I can't count the number of times people have helped me in many other ways in my life. I can never repay them back directly, but I can pay it forward to the strangers who need help that I meet, and I promise to do so. How could I do anything else?

Have you ever had a stranger be kind to you? Have you tried to repay it forward by helping others?


Google Webmaster Tools Geotargeting Added

Google just unveiled a new tool in their Webmaster Tools - the ability to set geotargeting for sites, even down to the street level if necessary. Naturally this is very cool, and interesting to those of us that deal with geolocation issues all the time.

The tool will not allow you to override the ccTLD, so you can't declare your .ca site to be from the US, for example, but if you have a gTLD like .com, .net and so forth, then you can. For many people, this is an excellent method for accomplishing what they want.

If you want your site to have multiple countries, you would just create sub-domains -, for example, and then get geolocation for that sub-domain to France. You can do this with multiple sub-domains each to multiple countries. No site can be geolocated to more than one country, however.

Naturally, this will bring up the next question - "Hey Ian, since Google has this now, why would someone need your IPGeoTarget tool™ "?

Well, as long as you only cared about Google and used the Webmaster Tools, then you would not, and I would not in good faith recommend paying for any system as long as Google has a free tool that does the same thing.

However, since this only works for Google, you would not be able to geolocate for Yahoo, MSN, Ask, or other search engines, so that's certainly a limiting factor.

Second, this currently only works for entire sites (including sub-domains), but not directories or pages. Many companies have set up their sites like this: and Googles system would not help them in this case. This can cause big issues if your CMS doesn't support cross-site editing, or if you are looking at the possibility of 301'ing thousands of indexed pages (along with the related drop in traffic/rankings during the switchover).

Finally, not every company uses or likes to use the Webmaster Tools (though I admit they are pretty useful myself).

I admit the timing is a little annoying - I have no idea if it's a pure coincidence or if someone decided to speed up the announcement because of the interest in IPGeoLocate. Either way, it was just a matter of time before Google did this, since webmasters have been clamoring for it for some time, so I'm not worried.

My recommendation would be to use it right now if your site structure allows - Google does drive a fair amount of traffic, so it's not like it's a waste of time - and then add IPGeoLocate to the mix once it's available for your target country - hopefully next month.


A Patent Rant.

Andrew R H Girdwood is a very smart fellow. He's already posited that my new IPGeoTarget system is likely based on proxying, and of course he's correct - it really can't be done any other way.

Well, there is one other way - one could alter the geographic tag for an IP, either directly at the IP Mapping provider or after the fact, like a private database. Both of these have issues - mainly the problem of shared IP addresses. The real answer to the whole geolocation mess is to identify *domains* (or better yet, pages and directories) as geographically located using something additional to a ccTLD. I'm leaning towards either a metatag or an entry in a robots.txt file, myself.

Registering with Google would only help for Google, and not everyone wants to register everything they do with Google, particularly since they have been acting less and less like idealists, and more like a shareholder-owned corporation (unsurprisingly).

In particular, companies located outside of the US are hesitant to give additional information to companies (like Google) that are easily targeted by US laws that may not have their best privacy interests at heart. The feeling sometimes outside the US is that anything the Chinese government can order Google to do, so can the US government, and better, since that's where the head office is. It's not that they actively distrust them, it's just that international companies tend to not get to where they are by being blindly trusting with their data.

So until the search engines get together on this issue, it's going to continue to be an issue. Even afterward, it would still be nice to speed up connection times to visitors without having to physically move a site - there are reasons other than geolocation to use this type of technology.

Anyway, Andrew also posts a worry that I may be trying to patent a technique that's already been done, or that tries to lock down common internet technology. I'll directly address that, since it's a legitimate concern and he's right to bring it up.

1) To the best of my knowledge, it's not covered/prevented by prior art (though of course almost everything on the internet has some sort of prior art connection simply by being on the internet), and

2) I'm not trying to patent the concept of a proxy, IP address, "Click to buy" button or anything that basic or obvious. Though you'd be surprised what can be patented nowadays.

At least, I hope so on the second item - every patent applicant has either nagging doubts or is delusionally self-important. I think my teen-aged delusions of infallibility have been quashed out of me after years of being in flame wars on forums, working with non-profit organizations, and having a family. I guess it's up to the patent office to ultimately decide, and for now I'm leaving it to them. The point is that I'm acting in good faith and trying to make things better, not prevent competition or cash in on anyone else's hard work.

Beginning of Patent Rant

I'm changing topics now - this has nothing to do with Andrews post. I'm just on a role and am too lazy to start a new post. Besides, if you read this blog you are probably used to really long, wandering posts by now. It's because I type exactly like I talk.

I've been asked several times what I would do if the patent office said no to my poor pending patent proposal for pinpointing positioning (how's that for an alliteration?), and I'm drawing upon my previous experience as the patent manager for a company with 72 patents worldwide for the answer.

The answer is that it doesn't matter. Surprised? Then you don't know as much about patents as you think you do. Experienced patent lawyers would not be surprised by my attitude (though they may be dismayed at the thought of losing all that money made during the process), and I'll tell you why.

At the end of the day, a patent is simply protection for a business idea, so if you can't make a business work from it, you've wasted your time on what is basically an ego trip. So patents don't matter, business concepts do. There, I said it.

It's more important to have a legitimate and profitable business than a patent, and some people (notably inventors, dreamers and narcissists) never seem to really get that, which is too bad, because then they get screwed by businesses that may not be as creative, but have a stronger drive to succeed and profit.

It happened to the original inventor in my previous company - he's broke now and doesn't even own any shares in his own company anymore, which is still going strong. The last I heard he was in hiding. That's what happens when you trust venture capitalists to run your company for you while you hope to rake in the royalties.

I was part of the "cleanup crew" hired after his original company imploded when the VC's exercised their "exit strategy", and I learned a lot from the experience.

In particular, I learned 2 very important lessons from the whole mess:

1) You don't have control over the patent process - other people do. Lawyers, competing companies with their own patents, owners of prior art patents who think they also own everything even slightly related to their own patents,, law firms that buy vague patents and then make money suing people at the drop of a hat, "free spirits" who don't think anything should be patented/copyrighted/trademarked, naysayers who think everyone else's ideas are always wrong, friends who are worried you might be hurt, and, of course, the patent office. And not just the patent office, the particular patent examiner you get. Then the whole thing starts over in every single country in the world that you try to patent in. I'm surprised anyone bothers to even try anymore!

2) You DO have control over your business - unless you give it up. Too many people think that if they get a patent then they can sit back and let the royalties roll in while others do all the work. Well, it's not that easy in the real world, which is why usually the only patent holders you meet that are rich are those that are astute business people, and it was their business dealings that made them rich, not the patent. IBM makes tons of money on royalties from it's patents, but it's not because they sit around waiting for people to send them money - they work the angles and earn the royalties actively. The patent process itself can make you broke very quickly. Therefore, forget the patent, and focus on the idea. Is it a good idea? Great! Go make it work. Who cares if you don't have the patent yet? The fact that you are at "Patent Pending" generally scares off those that care about such things, and for those that don't, they don't care about whether the patent is granted or not.

I am personally aware of a well-known person in the SEO world with a patent that Google and Yahoo are both flagrantly in violation of. It didn't seem to stop them at all. This person knows if they sue it will likely be more trouble than it's worth. So really, what is the patent worth? Once again, it's not the patent, it's the business. Learn that lesson well before you decide to patent anything.

(I don't think this person is trying to keep this a secret, since otherwise they would not have done something as public as a patent, but I'll let them identify themselves or not as a courtesy, just in case.)

In the meantime, I'm going to proceed on the basis that even if the patent office disagrees with me, the usefulness of a company being able to open an account at, type in their URL or domain, choose a target country, and then be geolocated to that country with little other fuss or muss, will be a viable business model.

As a matter of fact, I'm about to spend a whole bunch of money on exactly that. The patent is icing on the cake and a nice angle in a sales pitch or press release. But a patent is not a business. Work on what you can actually control, and for the rest, do your best to set things up so they end up in your favor, then forget about it and deal with things as they come.

Bottom line: Thinking of applying for a patent? Make a detailed business plan first, because that's what it's really all about.


WINNER! - IPGeoTarget

That was fast - I already have a winner for the Name My Geo IP Service contest I just announced.

A big congratulations to Jill Whalen of for the winning entry of IPGeoTarget™.

A special thanks also to Barry Welford of Strategic Marketing Montreal for his close runner-up suggestion - much appreciated!

I guess now I'm gonna have to get the trademark registered and start making the darn website with the IPGeoTarget™ service launched. I wonder if it's possible to code HTML in Braille... ;)


Win $100, a nice link, and more!

OK, I'm having a problem here. I'm trying to figure out a trade name for my new patent pending service. I actually thought this would be the easy part, but it turns out it's harder than coming up with the darn patent in the first place!

It doesn't help that I'm mostly blind and can't look at a computer screen for more than a few minutes at a time.

The service basically allows you to "set" the IP of your website to any country in the world that you may wish it to be. Why would you want to do that? Because if you are a .com and are hosted in the US, but are trying to sell to people in the UK, Google and the other search engines will decide that you are a US site based on your US IP address and you will show up well in the US, but not in the UK.

Normally, the answers to this are to:

  • register a ccTLD (not popular due to branding issues)
  • host in the target country (not popular with head office, usually for political reasons)
  • park a ccTLD on the .com (complicated, slow, and easy to mess up)

Now, you can just say "I want my website to look like it's hosted in the UK (or any other country) but actually be hosted here on my preferred servers in my own country. I do some magic and bingo, that's what happens.

In answer to some of the more usual questions at this point: No, it's not a spam technique, and can't be used as one (at least no more than anything else on the web), no, it doesn't create a duplication issue, and yes, your website logs and analytics will continue to work perfectly.

If you want to see it in action, you can check, which is actually hosted in Toronto, On, Canada, but appears to be hosted in the USA. Yeah, the sites, ugly - it's a holder site until I get the new one up with a new name.

Which brings me to my problem - I CANT THINK OF A DAMN NAME!

Oh, I've thought of lots of names for the service/concept: geoswitch, geomirror, etc, but they have all been taken. Since I can barely see, this is a very painful process for me.

So I'm gonna try bribery...errr...a contest.

The rules are simple:

  1. the name has to be Trademarkable, and unusual enough that there are no websites with the name already.(this is the tough one - I really liked "geoswitch"!
  2. It should be easy for a non-tech marketing guy to explain to his/her boss and to reference in a PowerPoint presentation "Sub-directed geotargetted reverse proxy system" just doesn't cut it. Think catch-phrase, not technical description.

Send your suggestion to mcanerin(at) and I'll pick the winner from there. In case of identical suggestions, the first one submitted wins. There is no limit on suggestions, but PLEASE do a basic Google check before submitting it. The content ends when I find somethign I like and can use. I'm trying to get this done as quickly as possible.

The winner gets $100USD PayPal'ed to his/her account, Fame (and a link) and FREE lifetime small-medium website geolocation account to a country of your choice (as long as I have a server there) as soon as the system goes live. And my everlasting gratitude. :)


Blind (again) for a week or so...

Tomorrow (Monday Oct 22) I'm going in for eye surgery that should (hopefully) fix all my recent issues with my right eye. Since I'm in there anyway, I'm also going to get lasik correction on my left ('cause I'm a sucker for punishment).

So I'll be effectively blind (again) for at least a week or so. The left eye should be back to normal fairly quickly, but they have to completely remove the cornea from the right, so it will take a much longer time for that one to recover.

Ouch, it hurts just typing that...

Bottom line, I won't be around for at least a week, and maybe longer, depending.

Hopefully, I'll "see" you guys later,


Search China 2008 *Correction*


I mistakenly assumed that the Xiamen Conference was the same as last years without checking further, so I have a correction to make. The SES China conference (run as a partnership between TimeV and Incisive) is different from the China Search Engine Marketing Conference & Expo, Xiamen 2008, and has not been announced this year yet, and may not be. I'll find out and get back to you.

The Conference below is put on by TimeV alone and is the China Search Engine Marketing Conference & Expo, Xiamen 2008, NOT SES China. They have also done Search Marketing Conferences in Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong.


I just got an email from Inway Ni, and the location and dates for SES China China Search Engine Marketing Conference & Expo 2008 (Xiamen) have been announced:

Day 1: Friday, April 18, 2008 at 9:00am
Day 2: Saturday, April 19, 2008 at 5:00pm
Location: Xiamen International Conference & Exhibition Center

This means that the dates, times and details of the China Search Marketing Tour 2008 will be announced shortly. Nicole and I will be working on this ASAP and will update everyone as soon as we've firmed up the details.

Visiting China during the Olympic Year. It doesn't get much cooler than this. You get to take advantage of all the preparations and hospitality, but don't have to deal with the crowds.

This is your last chance see China before it changes forever. Don't miss out!


SEMPO has Ethics Requirement?

So, I'm logging into SEMPO today to finally join (I was a member years ago, but allowed the membership to lapse during my SMA-NA days) and noticed this clause as part of the signup process:

Business Conduct. In addition, the applicant agrees to engage
in Search Marketing practices which are not in direction violation of published guidelines from Google, Yahoo!, and other search engine providers.

Interesting. Not that I have any objection (I think it's great!) but I distinctly remember there being a fair amount of controversy about SEMPO not requiring it's members to agree to not be spammers. It was one of the main reasons I helped found the SMA-NA.

Heh - maybe I *can* work with these guys. It's certainly a step in the right direction. There is no indication of any kind of enforcement, so it's not perfect, but a couple of years ago you would not have seen this, and it would have created a huge controversy if you had. Maybe our little industry really is starting to grow up.

Sign me up.


Yak Shaving

Yak ShavingI was reading Seth's Blog tonight and he had an old post about yak shaving in it that really hit home to me.

"Yak shaving" is a term that was apparently invented in 2000 by Carlin Vieri, a student at MIT, referring to a "Ren and Stimpy" episode (Watch the Yak Shaving Episode). Yes, the show is very silly. It's Canadian humor, what can I say?

It refers to a seemingly pointless, unrelated activity that you find yourself engaged in that is really the result of a series of causal relations links intended to help with the activity you are really trying to do.

Here is an example: Let's say you want to make a blog post. So you sit down and begin typing up what no doubt will be a masterpiece, when you realize that you need to back up the main argument with a fact. So you go looking for third party proof.

Realizing that there isn't any easily available, you decide to do a quick test. So you need to upload a file to your friend's website. You catch him at work, and he says no problem, but he forgot the login and password, so could you stop in at his house to get it?

At his house, your friends wife reminds you that you promised to fix a treasured travel memento (a pillow stuffed with Yak hair) that you accidentally sat on the last time you were over, spilling the stuffing out everywhere. She is still giving you the evil eye over this.

So you go to the basement to get the sewing kit, and then realize that you don't have any yak hair to stuff the pillow with. Naturally normal hair will not do. You remember that there is a farm just outside of town that sells yak milk, and therefore probably has yaks, complete with hair.

So you drive out there, buy some yak milk to appease the owner, and then bring up your yak hair issue. After some hemming and hawing, the owner agrees to let you shave a little off one of his yaks.

So there you are, at a farm in the middle of nowhere, trying to shave an ornery looking yak - just so you can write a blog post!

That's yak shaving.

Have you ever found yourself in a yak shaving moment? It happens to me all the time. For example, tonight I found myself filling up the water level in a fountain in my home just so I could book a flight on the internet to Los Angeles.

Hey, it all made sense at the time...


TopRank Blog

Cool - I made the "BigList" for the TopRank Blog with the following description:

Long time search marketer and ex-attorney Ian McAnerin writes a mix of posts on
SEO, China, search marketing conferences, search engines and a bit of

I also get a badge :) Lee says the link back is totally optional, which is a good way to get me to give him one ;)

I usually don't pay much attention to blog lists, but this one came at a good time (I was feeling kind of down) and it lifted my spirits a bit.

Funny how sometimes little things happen at just the right time...

Big List - Search Marketing Blogs


Which Keywords on a Page?

The question of how many keywords you should optimize for on a page is nearly as old as the idea of keywords being on a page in the first place, and there still really isn't a perfect answer.

However, hopefully I can give you some guidance. First, I need to explain some concepts.

First, a keyword (or key phrase) is just that - a word or group of words that you type into a search engine with the expectation of obtaining a result. The generic word for both keyword and keyphrase is "search term". Some people also call this a query (and they are correct semantically) but I prefer to reserve the term query for search terms that explicit operators are applied to, such as "new +york" which looks for "new" but only if "york" is also on the page.

             / Keyword = "dog"
Search Term =
\ Keyphrase ="dog breeder"

Query (or search query) = "dog +breeder"

There is no final authority on how to use these terms but this is how I use them, at least formally. I've been known to get sloppy and use "keyword" as a catchall for everything you type into a search box, like most people. In this article I'll try to use them properly.

The second term that is important to know is Term Vector. I won't go into extreme detail here, but for simplicities sake I can describe term vectors as words that support search terms.

For example, let's say your search term is "java". A search engine has no idea if you are talking about Java the island, Java the programming language, or java as slang for coffee, so it will generally guess based on link popularity, which will result in mostly computer related references.

However, if you give it a hint, like "java travel", you will get sites related to travelling to java. Great. But how are the pages chosen in the first place?
Here are some term vectors for a few pages on java:

  • Java Page 1- programming, Sun, technology, developer
  • Java Page 2 - island, travel, beach, Indonesia, photos
  • Java Page 3 - coffee, mug, bitter, drink, aroma

Can you tell which Java s about what topic just from looking at the term vectors? Of course. So can search engines. This is one reason why search engines use term vectors as part of their algorithms. They can then use the combination of search terms and term vectors to assign an initial sorted result, before a final sorting using authority indicators like links, age, and so forth.

If you show up well in the initial result, then it's easier to do well during the final sorting, all other things being equal. This is why keywords and their placement are still necessary in this day and age of link authority. The link sorting can only act on results that have already been collected and sorted due to their content relevancy. Yes, content (keywords and term vectors) still matters.

Got that? Good. Now we can get to the meat of this overly long post.

For very competitive terms, often you will usually want to optimize only one term per page, in order to maintain focus. However, this is not always practical or desirable. If you have keywords that are highly related or variations of each other, it's hard to make a page for each without looking like a spammer. "Uh, let's see... I'll make one page each for "Buy Viagra", "Purchase Viagra". "Viagra Buy", "Buy Viagra Online"..." Yeah, right. Like that doesn't stick out like a sore thumb. And ruin any possible credibility. It looks so bad that the usual method of "fixing" this is to cloak these pages. But since two wrongs rarely make a right, this is generally a short term fix, if it works at all. I don't recommend it.

So, you have decided to combine a few terms on a page. Generally, the accepted number of keywords you can optimize for on one page is between 2-5. Any more than that and you simply lose focus. The actual number is bound by what you can use naturally on a page, rather than a specific formula. The actual "formula" are the rules of grammar and communication, not mathematics.

The search engine looks at tons of pages related to your keyword, and if they all use words, terms and term vectors one way and you are stuffing them in another, good things will not happen. In short, the search engine is comparing your page to other pages written by humans, not to some internal formula invented by a machine. Therefore, write like a human, not a machine.

So, what does this all imply? Here is the BIG IDEA from this.

What would happen if you tried to optimize a page for coffee, island hopping and programming all at once? Do you think you'd be successful for anything other than the longest of long tail terms? How would a search engine know that you were trying to do this? After all, you'd just be using "java" a lot. Isn't that enough? Isn't the page now optimized for "java"?

No. The reason is that you may be optimizing for "java" but you are hopelessly messing up the term vectors that the search engine uses to decide it's confident about what the topic of your page is. You've lost it.

Let's take this concept a bit further. We've established that term vectors or supporting words are important to the context of a search term and therefore the relevance of a page. So what?

So that means that you should only optimize for more than one keyword on a page if all the keywords have identical or highly similar term vectors, or they are actually term vectors for each other.

Never try to optimize for "lawyer" and "doctor" on the same page as two different keywords. If you are trying to optimize for "the doctor of a lawyer" long tail term, that's fine. But if you hope to stand a chance in hell of showing up for either ,they need to share term vectors. In old fashion terms, they need to be related.

But it's more than just being related. Lawyers and doctors are technically related terms because they are both professionals. You could probably find some sort of relationship between almost any two terms. That's not enough for a search engine to work with. A search engine will decide that terms are related using semantic co-occurrence, which means they keep showing up on the same pages/paragraphs together. Semantic co-occurrence is the basic building block of term vector analysis.

So you should not optimize for "related" search terms on a page, which is too vague. You should optimize for search terms that either very frequently show up together normally (i.e. each is a term vector for the other) or that have a nearly identical term vector space between them.


Search Friendly PDF

I've been asked several times about PDF files (like those made with Adobe Acrobat) and SEO.

My advice? Use MS Word (or Wordperfect) not Acrobat. For reasons that I can only describe as being stupid to the extreme, only the latest (and really expensive) versions of Acrobat save links within the PDF document. And not if you use the printer driver function (aka PDFMaker), which is what most people use. Only the latest Acrobat Distiller lets you do this, and it's slow. I've also had formatting and crashing issues with Distiller.

If you have no links in your document, it gets considered to be a dead end or honeypot by the search engines. Not good.

Also, if you take an image or scan and make it a PDF, then it's a PDF of an image or scan, so it's not spiderable except as a file name (just like an image).

You can test to see if a PDF is from an image or a text file if you can load it into Acrobat reader and highlight the text and copy it. If you can't, it's probably a picture of text, and is not spiderable.

There is another twist. If you make a document with links in it, then turn that document into a PDF using the PRINTER function (which is usually how Acrobat and other related PDF makers do things) then all the links are lost. They are lost as soon as the file prepared to be sent to the printer device.

Oh, they will show up in the Acrobat Reader as a clickable link if the whole link exists (but not if it has anchor text), but this is the reader turning it into the link, not an actual link in the document that a spider could follow.

The only way to create a PDF that is indexable as text and has real links with anchor text (in short, the only SEO-friendly method) is to use a method where the links are processed within the document, not on the way to the printer. This is usually the case where, for example, you create the PDF using the "Save as" feature rather than the "Print to" feature.

This is built into MS Word/Office 2007 and above (if you download the free PDF/XPS plugin) and in the WordPerfect Suite. There are a couple of other options, as well. But most are not SEO-friendly.

The following software WILL convert/keep MS Word links during PDF conversion:

  • Office 2007 (with plugin)
  • WordPerfect Office (version 9 and above)
  • Click2Convert
  • (but ONLY if you check "Create Tagged PDF" in the non-free version)


  • Adobe Acrobat (any version up to 7)
  • Primopdf
  • PDFConverter

Final Takeaway

  1. PDF from image = bad
  2. PDF from printer driver = bad
  3. PDF processed within the text editor and saved = good.

Geolocation - Your tool is probably wrong!

As you can tell from my most recent posts on IP Addresses and Geotargetting Adwords, I've been thinking a lot about geolocation recently. Up until recently, I've been suggesting that people use the tool IP2Location for checking geolocation, since there is free demo online and they have free/cheap API tools.

The problem is that I've been recently testing IP2Location, and it's database is not very accurate in my tests. Unfortunately, since it's easy to use and cheap/free, chances are any tools you use to check geolocation are likely using it.

For example, SEOMoz's Geotargetting Detection Tool uses what looks like IP2Location and as a result my website ( is apparently located in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, USA, rather than Toronto, ON, Canada.

Quite a difference. I can maybe see if you get the wrong city, but the whole country? It pretty much makes the tool useless.

SEOMoz Geotargetting Tool Screenshot for

It's nice that they provide the disclaimer at the bottom that the results may not be accurate, but it would be better to improve accuracy rather than work on more obvious disclaimers, so I'm not going to talk about the disclaimer and focus instead on the accuracy.

The thing is, that I doubt the fine folks at SEOMoz have any reason to suspect that these results are wrong, since it's not their database, and they are apparently pulling it from a very well known IP Geolocation database (IP2Location):

The problem is, that there is no point in providing a tool if it's wrong. Worse, what if you were using this database to deliver ads? Identify where a visitor is coming from? Look for click fraud by trying to cross reference IP's? Suddenly it gets more serious (and expensive) for this information to be wrong.

It's one thing for a free tool to be wrong, but when that same information is feeding your ad delivery software, wise marketers start asking questions and double checking results.

The Search Majors (Google, Yahoo, MSN, Ask, etc) use higher end IP Geolocation companies because the results are more accurate. This means that you probably should too.

The industry leaders in the commercial space are Digital Envoy (Google used to use them until DE sued them for more money), Quova, and MaxMind. Let's look at MaxMinds online tool results for "":

Finally! The right answer!. Fortunately for me and my site's geolocation, this is also the type of database that the search engine's use. The only problem is that this quality comes at a price.

There is a possible free option, however, IPligence also gets the location correct:

I haven't fully checked this one out, but so far the (free) results have been very accurate. Certainly better than IP2Locations.

This post isn't about coming down on anyone, but rather a warning about the dangers of assuming that just because something gives you results for your query, doesn't mean it's always accurate or up to date. Which you'd think us search marketers should know by now, including myself.

I apologise for recommending IP2Location up until now, and am now recommending either the Maxmind or IPligence online tools instead for a quick geolocation check.


IP Addresses, SEO and Your Site

I haven't talked about IP addresses for a while (and never in this blog). Since I've been asked several times recently about them, I think it's a good time to talk about them.

What is an IP Address?

Computers "think" in numbers, not words and letters. Humans tend to be the opposite. In order to deal with this, programmers and technicians have been creating technologies that translate between the two since shortly after computers were invented. Programming languages are an example of this.

Another example of this is DNS, or Domain Name Services. See, your website really can't be found at your domain name - it's found at an IP address. The domain name is just a human-friendly way of finding the IP Address. Think of it like a telephone number. It's much easier to remember someones name than a telephone number, but your telephone doesn't understand names, just phone numbers. So we invented phone books. You look up the name you remember in a phone book, which gives you a phone number that the phone system can understand. DNS is like a phone book for the internet.

If you type in into a browser, you don't go over to my company site right away. Instead, your browser looks up the name in a DNS server and the DNS server tells it an IP Address (in this case, that matches the domain name. Then the browser can go to the right website.

So the bottom line is that an IP address is your websites real address on the internet. Now, there are just so many IP Addresses in the world, so people have figured out ways that more than one website can share an IP Address. In this case, after the browser gets the IP Address, it goes to the webserver and also gives it the domain name it's looking for. The server then sends the requested site. This is like having one phone number for your home, rather than one phone number for each family member living at your home. You have to phone the house, then ask for who you want to talk to.

When you have each person with there very own phone number, it's more expensive, often unnecessary, but has some advantages, like your personal cell phone. The same applies online.

Dedicated IP Address VS Shared IP Address

A Dedicated IP (sometimes wrongly called a "static" IP by some web hosts) is an IP address that only points at one website. A Shared IP is an IP address that can be shared by more than 1 website.

Now, search engines don't usually care about IP addresses - they index you based on your domain name. That's why having more than one domain name for a site can confuse them.

Note on Dynamic and Static IP Addresess

When you use your ISP to connect to the internet, you will often get what is called a "dynamic" IP, which means basically that it changes. Most ISP's have a big pool of IP addresses and they just hand a random one out to you whenever you connect.

A static IP is simply an IP that you have each time you log in - it doesn't change. You really don't need a static IP for just surfing the net, but if you host your own server at your home or office then it's usually best to get a static IP address.

There are ways to host websites with a dynamic IP address. I hosted for years at home on a dynamic IP address and ranked very well, thankyouverymuch. I just ran a script that automatically checked my IP constantly, and when it changed, the script would update my DNS server with the new IP and my site was back up and running again, often within a minute or so. This is a good example of why IP really doesn't matter as much as some people think it does for search engines.

Keep this in mind when some tech tries to tell you that your website is doomed if you switch servers or IP's. Nonsense. I used to switch IP's as often as several times a day without any problems :)

Geolocation by IP

There are, however ways a search engine will use your IP Address. Neither are directly for ranking purposes. They are additional processes that Google applies to sites during the ranking process. The first is Geolocation.

Since IP addresses are assigned to webhosts, and then given to that webhosts clients, a search engine can lookup where that webhost is, and therefore know where, approximately, your website is hosted. This is one way that Google knows your site is from the US, Canada or China. Google will give websites that it knows are from the UK a boost in results shown to searchers from the UK, on the assumption that they would probably consider UK sites to be more relevant to them. This is almost always a good assumption.

The problem is that if you are a UK company but host your .com in the USA for some reason, you will be considered a US site, not a UK one. Dealing with issues like this is actually my specialty, and I assure you there can be some tricky aspects to it, especially if you have sites for different areas of the world but one CMS that controls them all. So it's important to know where your IP is Geolocated to.

IP Address and Spam.

The second problem is a little more insidious and difficult to pin down. IP Addresses, being known physical locations, are a better method of detecting search engine spam than domain names, which can be moved around very quickly and are cheaper than hosting. So search engines look at IP Addresses (among many other things) during spam checks. This can cause problems for some sites.

The thing is that if you have a hosting account and decide to use it to create a link networks of thousands of sites, then all of those sites will either have the same IP address, or will be withing the block of IP addresses that your website host has available. Website hosts are typically assigned a Class "C" or part of a Class "C" to use. I'll explain what this is in a moment.

What Google knows at this point, however, is that chances are that a whole bunch of sites on the same IP or within the same Class "C" IP Address space have something in common" At the very least, they are hosted by the same webhost in the same location together. This may mean nothing, or it may mean that they are all owned or controlled by the same person or persons. In short, if they start linking to each other, the links may not be independent.

There is no guarantee of this, of course. Some towns (and small countries) only have one host, and therefore they all share a Class "C".

What is a Class "C" IP Address Range?

What's a Class "C", you are still asking me? Ok, it's actually really easy.

A typical IP Address has 4 sets of 3 numbers. In cases where some of the numbers are 0, you can leave them out. So the IP address for is:, or it's sorter form, Since firewalls are usually used to block the long form in favor of the short form, it's usually a waste of time to try to use the long form.

Let's look at this IP address. If we replace the numbers with X's to symbolize a generic IP Address, it looks like this: XXX.XXX.XXX.XXX - now, each of these sets of three X's is a Class. If I now change the X's to the Class, it would look like this: AAA.BBB.CCC.XXX.

The X's at the end are correct, they are not the "D" class or anything like that. Now, do you see the "CCC" section? That's the Class "C" number. In my case ( the Class "C" address is 120. This means that other sites that have a 120 right there (XXX.XXX.120.XXX) would be considered related in some way.

Relationships Can be Good (or Very Bad)

By itself, a relationship means little. Linking or being linked to is a relationship, as well. So is being in the same country, having similar WHOIS contact information for your domains, and all sorts of other things.

The problem is that in general, the more relationships that are involved, the more likely a site will be considered directly related. Google really doesn't want to show more than one directly related site in any particular SERP - it's not really fair for have the same owner have 5 of the top 10 slots, for example. Additionally, links from sites that are related to you should (and usually do) count for less than links from total strangers.

This means that you should be aware of your Class "C", and of the Class "C"'s of other sites you may own. This sounds like I'm telling you how to spam better, but here is why I recommend this even for the most milky white of white hat sites.

Real Life Example of Why You should Care About Your Class "C"

I had a client, who had 2 sites. They were both in the same general topic range, and hosted on the same Class "C". One site was on the topic (for example) of "New York Lawyer", and the other was one the topic of (for example) "Lawyer Resources". There was no overlap in content, and the target audiences were completely different. Additionally, the keywords for each site were also different. Or so we thought.

It turns out that "New York Lawyer" and "Lawyer Resources" have something in common: the keyword "Lawyer", even though neither site was actually pursuing that term! Now what we had was 2 sites that were related (on the same Class "C") and, in Googles mind, relevant for the same keyword ("Lawyer"). One site dropped off the SERPS for almost everything except a few long tail terms, and the other lost rankings, as well. Why? Because multiple related sites on the same topic hit a spam filter. That's not a problem in theory, except Google assumed a keyword neither site was pursuing to be the issue.

The fix was to totally separate the sites. We moved them to 2 different Class "C" addresses, and just to be sure changed the WHOIS data to the second owner (NEVER fake WHOIS data - it's against the law). This fixed the problem, and both sites now rank well for their respective keywords. If you check the shared keyword, Googles duplication filter kicks in and only the site with the highest link pop shows up - which is exactly the type of behaviour I would expect, and have no problem with.

So keeping your sites on difference Class "C"'s is a good idea, even if you are not inclined to spam at all.

Why You Should Care About Other People's Class "C"'s

Here is another issue: what happens if you are on a shared IP with other sites that are going after your keyword? You now have 2 relationships with them, whether you know it or not. This can cause problems even if you are totally innocent. It's a good idea to check the other sites on shared IP addresses for this reason, and make sure none of them are competitors or otherwise related to your keywords. Same with Class "C"'s to a lessor degree.

Finally, what if you have sites on 2 different Class "C''s, but the same people link to both of your sites? Shows a relationship? Of course! But here is another scenario you may not have thought about. What if the people pointing at your site have relationships with each other?

What if you have 10 websites pointing to you, but they are all from the same IP? Or same Class "C"? Of course links from related sites won't pass on as much PR as unrelated ones. Geez, things just keep getting more complicated, don't they?

So What Do I Do?

Well, you have to host *somewhere*. And you can't really control the IP's of everyone who links to you. Even a link that passes on less than the full PR is still passing on PR. At some point you just have to decide to stop worrying and get on with marketing your website. Having the "perfect" IP address won't rank you for anything. It's just a technical detail that can bite you on occasion.

In general, people still rank well for all sorts of things, even if they don't even know what their IP address is, so this isn't the end of the world. I would personally only worry about it if:

  1. You have more than one site on a topic that could even be slightly related ( If so, consider merging them)
  2. You are considering begging/trading/buying links from groups of sites
  3. You have an inexpensive, popular host (spammers like cheap hosting)

If any one or more of the above are true, then you should to start paying attention to relationships, including links and IP Addresses. Relationships are the currency of the internet, and it's much better to have good relationships with others than bad or questionable ones.

Some tools to help you:



AdWords PPC Geotargetting / Language Setup

"When geo-targeting ads by a client's country, what is the best practice for language targeting?"

As a general rule of thumb, your ad should be in the same language as the SERP the searcher is looking at.

Let's say you target Korea, to use an example. If you are just beginning, then it would be best to geotarget Korea and also target the Korean language. Although many Koreans read/speak English, it' s jarring to see an English ad when the rest of the SERP is in Korean. It makes it stand out, but in the wrong way. Usually they decide that the company is clueless and "doesn' t understand Koreans". I've had many discussions with Koreans on this very topic. The same also applies to Chinese, and especially to Japanese.

If you wanted to be more accurate and do a really thorough job in the market, you could do the following (though it's more work and for some markets isn't worth it):

  1. Geotarget Korea (or whatever country you are looking at)
  2. Create a KeyWord list. Separate out the keywords that are the same in English and Korean ( i.e. " Samsung") from the pure Korean words.
  3. Anything that is pure Korean, target Korean language only.
  4. Anything that could be both (and would result in a SERP with both English and Korean in it) you would use as two different groups – one targeting English with English ads, and one targeting Korean with Korean ads.

Some other observations:

  1. A single English word ("Samsung" ) could be equally in either language, but multiple English words "Samsung office in Seoul " is usually (though not always) an indication that the target language should be English. This also works the other way – one English word in a Korean phrase is probably Korean.
  2. If in doubt, use the official national language of whatever country you are in, or the most common language of the region if there is more than one. For example, in Canada, you would default to English for western Canada and French for Quebec, unless someone indicates that they are looking for a language specific Keyword.
  3. Due to the different character sets between Asian languages and English, this might seem more complicated than it needs to be (you are normally safe in assuming any keyword written in Chinese characters has a preference for Chinese ads, for example) but as a best practice it 's a good idea to language target as well as geotarget, especially when you begin to work with multiple languages that share characters (English/Spanish/French or Chinese/Japanese/Korean).

Practical Final Answer: Start off with Korean language ads geotargeted to Korea and the Korean language keywords, including the dual-language Korean list. See how that goes. If it goes badly, you are unlikely to fix it by adding English to the mix , and it will just complicate things.

If it does well, then add the dual-language English list to the mix. In this case, you would just create a second campaign, but this one geotargetting Korea but only the English language , then use the dual-language English words. In this case, Google (for example) would not treat that as a duplicate, but would trigger the English ads for searchers that had indicated a preference for English, and Korean for those who indicated a preference for Korean.

This type of system is especially useful when you have products and numbers involved – for example, the "SGH-L760 " from Samsung is the same search term in any language – Korean, English, Chinese, Japanese, etc. You simply can' t just geotarget it – you have to also target the language in order to trigger the correct ad.

I hope that helps,


Microsoft FrontPage SEO? Say it isn't so!

I admit it. I've been using MS FrontPage since before it could even be called a proper website editor - a copy came free with Windows NT 4. Yes, it was crap. But up until then I'd been using a text editor (vi) and actually having a semi-WYSIWYG was a big improvement at the time.

Since then, I've used Dreamweaver, CoffeeCup, HTML Kit, Amaya, Homesite, and even Notepad. Of them I was most drawn to Homesite, but I can deal with almost any interface (eventually). But time and time again I ended up back with FrontPage - v2, v3, 98, 2000, and finally 2003.

I complained about it's proprietary features, code bloat, etc. But the fact that my clients are almost always from Windows shops and tend to send me things in MS Office format simply made it easier to use FP. Whatever it' s drawbacks, FrontPage has two things going for it - I was very familiar with the interface, and it handles MS Office files better than anyone else (no surprise, of course). Then one day Microsoft discontinued FrontPage.

That was an interesting day. At first, I was kind of shocked. After all, FP had been a comfortable if occasionally annoying tool for me for more than 12 years and I had finally figured out how to generate clean, compliant code with it quickly and easily. Yup, you could do it. It just wasn't it's out-of-the-box settings.

But then MS announced that it was replacing FP with Expression Web. Naturally, I figured this was just another name change. But EW really is different. It is actually designed for web professionals, instead of Office users who need to make a web page.

First, it starts with standards, then adds .NET functionality, rather than the other way around. It designs using XML and CSS rather than FP Templates. CSS support is really good, rather than being a clumsy add-on like in FP2003 or non-existent like in previous versions. It has built in checkers for W3C standards and usability. If you declare a doctype, it warns you when you use coding that strays from the doctype, even if you are hand coding. Speaking of which, the hand coding editor is really good. The list goes on, but it's a good list.

Anyway, Once I got used to the new interface, I was a very happy camper. If you use FP, dump it and get EW. Don't even wait. If you use DW, it's a tougher call. If you want to support standards, use EW. Yes, You heard me right. The MS product is better at supporting standards than DW! It's better at detecting issues, better with dealing with them (if you open old pages, for example) and better at creating compliant code.

On the other hand DW has tons more widgets, plugins and so forth. So if you are new to website design and need your hand held more, DW is the tool of choice.

Funny, not so long ago FP was for the newbs and DW was the pro choice, but now EW is the standards gorilla and I'm finding that newbs have embraced DW to the point that being a DW user doesn't say anything about your skill set. You could be a web god, or a total drag and drop drone. Weird. The world always changes and now the perceived roles have reversed.

I personally know a lot of so-called "professional" web developers using DW that can't understand raw HTML code for the life of them. Maybe I'm getting old, but I still think that a website designer should be able to read, understand and hand-edit HTML, regardless of the other tools they use. This applies to FP drones, as well, of course. It's just that the DW users are more likely to claim "pro" status, and I hold anyone claiming that status to a higher standard. Like knowing HTML. Anyway, I digress.

Even Adobe (DW's owner) has posted an article about how good EW is, and they were only looking at the beta at the time. I've no doubt they are planning upgrades to address EW. I understand that CS3 is pretty good.

No web tool is perfect, and EW is missing some things (no Mac support, etc). One thing that it was missing is SEO tools. Oh, the usability features like automatically bringing up the ALT attribute editor when you drop in an image certainly help with SEO, since SEO is 80% about usability when you get down to it. But some SEO friendly functionality was missing.

Today, I found a nifty site called Expression Extras and they have a plugin for EW that lets you:

  • Create an XML Sitemap (for Google, Yahoo, Ask, etc) at the push of a button, supporting EW's "Do Not Publish" tag for internal docs.
  • Create a Google Webmaster Tools compliant robots.txt that automatically creates and links to the xml sitemap autodiscovery directive.
  • Easily lets you track and edit the Title, Keywords and Description tags (EW lets you do this, of course, but the tool makes it way easier)
  • An ALT attribute checker to easily check and update all image ALT attributes on a page
  • A time tracker for people who design and bill by the minute/hour.
  • plus more...

I don't know this guy, have an affiliate link, or anything like that. I'm just sharing a cool tool. It only costs $16. Oh, and there are some FREE downloadable Web 2.0 style "glass" buttons and medals on the site, as well.

If you use FP, or are looking for a standards compliant but easy to use WYSIWYG website editor, get EW. If you have EW, I recommend you check out the Expression Extras Site.

There are some other EW plugins available from other sources, as well. I'm having fun.


SMA-NA Dissolved

It's with a very heavy heart that I was forced to dissolve the Search Marketing Association of North America (SMA-NA) today.

I'm the last man standing from the Board, and the only communications I've received from members recently have been requests to cancel their subscriptions. So that's it. I really wish it were different.

The History

The SMA-UK was started back in late 2004 as a response to several issues, notably concerns over SEMPO's teething problems. I had been contributing to SEMPO to this point but had grown disenchanted with some aspects of it as well, so, I flew to Stansted, England around Christmas 2004 to meet with them with the express idea of founding a North American chapter - the SMA-NA. Mike Grehan was instrumental was providing help and encouragement during this stage.

At first, there was a lot of interest and excitement about a new search marketing organization, and I remember the early meetings being full of lively conversation and lots of ideas. At this point a veritable "Who's Who" in SEO stood up to help out: Christine Churchill, Debra Mastaler, Andrew Goodman, Ben Pfeiffer, Fionn Downhill, Bill Slawski, Beth Abernathy, Karl Ribas, Ignacio (Nacho) Hernandez, Kim Krause Berg, Jeff Nelson, Barry Welford, Rand Fishkin, Eric Martin, Matt Service and too many others to list, but not to appreciate greatly! (Yes, I know that there are a couple of errors in the membership list - I'll fix them as soon as I can).

The Current Situation

The problem, I think, is that we started off with the idea that search marketing association should be readily available to everyone who wanted to join. This means low membership fees. The problem is, that means restricted access to resources due to a lack of money and a subsequently higher reliance on volunteers from an extremely busy industry. Worse, we didn't want to appear beholden to large money-rich sponsors (such as search engines, etc) that may attempt to control or direct the organization, so we were not very aggressive in looking for sponsors. This all combined into a significant cash crunch, even though we used as much volunteer time as possible, traded services (ie hosting) for memberships and hired a part-time employee to do updates rather than a full-time management staff.

The other members of the board held on for as long as they could, but there was just so long that they could try to run their own businesses as well as the SMA-NA. Myself, I've been getting very busy as well, and combining this with my recent health problems, it simply is not reasonable to continue attempting to run the organization. It's also unreasonable to expect members paying fees in return for few benefits outside of a nice link and some discounts, and very little communication.

In the meantime, SEMPO has hired professional managers and the initial concerns I had 2 years ago are no longer as valid as they once were. The remaining concerns can probably be addressed internally. In short, I'm fighting problem that really doesn't exist with an organization that in most practical aspects also doesn't exist. No matter how strongly I feel about the goals of the SMA, it's come to the point where I feel I can make more of a contribution to the industry using other methods and processes, and this is where I feel I should focus my efforts to promote and engage this industry I love and am so deeply a part of.

What's Next

From an administrative standpoint, I will maintain my position of President of the SMA-NA long enough to properly wind it down, pay it's remaining bills and so on, but I will not be actively engaged in anything else SMA-NA related.

On one hand, this is a very sad day for me, but on the other hand, I believe that the fact that we are at this stage means that this industry is growing and maturing, and that the issues of the past are no longer holding us back from dealing with the problems and challenges of the future.

Ian McAnerin

Google Proxy Hack - Part 3

Well, my client is now ranking again for negotiation training and the proxy has disappeared. The funny thing is that it was fixed before we were even able to start blocking IP's.

If you are from Google and brought this to the attention of those who fixed it - thanks :) Hopefully this is the start of this entire issue being fixed for everyone.


Google Proxy Hack - Part 2

As I mentioned in a previous post, Google is susceptible to a proxy hack that can wipe sites off the SERPs, and do all sorts of other nasty things, as well.

Naturally, my client is not the only one with this problem - it's a well known issue with Google and has been for almost a year. Based on how long it took them to address the 302 Hijack, I'm not holding my breath for a quick fix on Proxy Hijacking, either.

Dan Thies posted a great article on this issue, so I'll link to it rather than repeat the information in it. The takeaway is that it's a real issue, and it's not that easy to solve from a victims standpoint.

The easy fix is to block the IP of the proxy. This only works if the issue was accidental and only one proxy.

If it's a case of someone deliberately gunning for you, then don't expect any help from Google. In this case, you need to get a bit more fancy. There are several different methods, all of which could be countered, but Jaimie Sirovich wrote a nice script to do what is basically reverse cloaking, feeding the normal pages to search engines and putting noindex,nofollow on pages sent to everyone else (including, hopefully, proxies).

I hate proxy hackers. Proxies are a useful part of the internet, and people who abuse them in this way are NOT "pointing out flaws in Google to make them better", they are simply people who don't understand that pissing in your own well water is stupid, and they deserve nothing but contempt.


Exploiting Googles Proxy Weakness

I have a client. He does negotiation training and has clients like IBM. His website is He does the actual SEO on his site and phones me for help when needed, which is a business model I rather like.

Today, I got a phone call from him, and he told me he'd disappeared off of Google. Worse, his site seemed to have been hijacked. When you type in the search negotiation training, the result that used to be his now looks like this:
You will see that instead of the URL being, it's now a search result from a known Open Proxy called Naturally, efforts to contact these guys and tell them to put a damn robots.txt file in that would exclude the spidering of results has not been successful.

But wait! There's more! If you sign up now for the Google Proxy Hack we'll throw in the following for FREE:

First, Google will cache (and rank) your website (or that of a competitor you don't like):

BUT, when hapless searchers attempt to connect to the site, they are redirected to a domain reseller! Cool! Google R0X! (rolls eyes):

It's not that I blame Google for being gamed - that can happen to any company approaching the size and influence of a public resource. But I *do* blame Google 100% for indexing obvious and PUBLIC proxy results. It's sloppy programming and poor usability.

Proxies are all over the internet. Many are used for perfectly benign purposes. It's simple to identify them. The answer is not to pretend they don't exist, or to attempt to ban all of them. It's certainly not to try to find and kill proxy results one at a time by hand as they are reported, which apparently is Googles current method. The answer is much simpler.

Here is a thought: don't index URLs that have other URLs in them as a variable. Or is that too complicated? This could be done in like 20 minutes. But it hasn't been. For shame.


The Ultimate SEO Effectiveness Formula

I was thinking today about what makes a specific SEO tactic effective or not, and had an epiphany. I've discussed my opinions on marketing VS content before, but this time I came up with a very different angle.

You see, what really drives traffic to sites is not any one tactic, but rather a combination of factors that work together as an attractant. What are the combination of factors? Well, if you boil them down to their essence, all the details disappear and you are left with one basic universal concept:

The Effectiveness of an SEO tactic is based on a combination of Marketing and Content.

You need to have content people want, and those people must know about it and/or be able to find it easily.

Marketing gets the word out. It doesn't matter how great your content is if no one knows it exists. Exactly how you market can vary (and must vary based on your audience and the medium you are using), but you must market to be successful. Linking campaigns, social media promotion, paid advertising and linkbaiting tactics are all marketing. Even sending out print flyers can be an effective SEO tactic for local companies. The point is that you need marketing or your site (and business) will be at a standstill.

Content is also critical. Without a reason to visit (and return, and link) then marketing will only get you so far. You can become the internet equivalent of a one-hit wonder with marketing alone, but in order to be truly successful, your content must pick up and deliver on the implied promises your marketing makes. This makes content more important than marketing, but also reliant on it.

Additionally, your content helps your marketing, once a certain level of awareness is achieved. At a certain point, your direct marketing efforts stop driving the majority of traffic, and indirect and residual marketing - word of mouth, blogging, reviews, etc take over and propel your site to heights that are unattainable by your own efforts alone. Content is what creates this virtual (unpaid) army of marketers working for you. Content markets.

Therefore, content is extremely important, because it not only affects traffic by itself by virtue of it's own merits, but it also multiplies the efforts of your marketing.

Further, the more content you have, and the better it is, the more pronounced the effect will be. Rating content on a scale of 1 to 10, content rated a 1 would be far less effective than content rated a 5, for example. The content rated a 5 would be far more than 5 times effective, it would be several orders of magnitude more effective, since content tends to support other content as far as both real and perceived value is concerned.

A single paragraph is less impressive and useful than several paragraphs of content, assuming the quality is the same. The knowledge and background of the first paragraph influences and enhances the value of the following paragraphs, and the following paragraphs support the earlier ones.

Content quality is not just a linear progression - it's exponential.

For the purposes of this article, I'll square it. The actual exponential value might be more or less, but I think squaring is pretty close based on my own experiences.

So, where are we now?

Well, Marketing increases the Effectiveness of SEO, but only to a limited amount. The more and better the Content you have, the exponentially more it affects your Effectiveness.

Further, Marketing creates an initial impression of quality of content - a link to a topic with anchor text implies that the content linked to is relevant to the anchor text, and that the person who linked to it is recommending it. In the case of 2 equal pieces of content (such as 2 identical articles hosted on 2 different sites) the one that is better marketed will generally have the most traffic.

In this case, the Marketing affects the perception of the Content. Given a choice to read the same article from the Wall Street Journal and on a blog you've never heard of, you'll probably read the one printed by the WSJ. This is an example of Marketing affecting the perception of the quality of the Content.

However, that is just the beginning. A bad article in the WSJ is still a bad article. Content trumps. One of the reasons the WSJ is so well regarded is that it tends to have lots of great Content. This is Content affecting Marketing, since being regarded as having great Content is why people trust the WSJ more than some blog they've never heard of. It's name and reputation for quality Content are part of it's Marketing.

So Marketing affects Content, and Content affects Marketing, but of the two, Content has an exponentially stronger influence on the total Effectiveness of the relationship.

Therefore, in order to determine the Effectiveness of a particular SEO tactic or campaign, you can turn this all into a simple, easy to understand formula:

Effectiveness equals Marketing times the Content squared.



Remember this simple formula, and it will help guide you through your next SEO campaign. Simply judge the effectiveness of what you are doing by how you are marketing it, and what content you are using, keeping in mind the relationship between the two.


Eyesight Update - China Cancelled

Well, I just got back from the optometrist and she informs me my eye is getting worse, not better. What happened is the same thing that happened in Miami this year, but a lot worse. On Monday morning during Miami SES, I woke up blind - I could see light, but it was basically a bright white sheet of pain, rather than images.

The hotel doctor had me rushed by ambulance to the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, which fortunately is one of the best in the world. (Good thing I have travel insurance and credit cards. This insistence on American doctors for payment up front even when you are moaning in pain in front of them is annoying to us Canadians. But I digress...)

The Intercontinental hotel kindly lent me on of their staff to take me by the arm and walk me where I needed to go, and I was able to speak the next day, though giving presentations while unable to see was interesting. I had to wear what I called my Ray Charles glasses to keep out the light. It took about 3 weeks for me to get back to normal.

This time, apparently it's a lot worse. I guess I have dry eyes, coupled with tighter than normal eyelids, which is why I wear glasses instead of contacts (well, that and I'm probably the worlds worst eye patient. I can't handle anything getting near my eyes.) What happened is that sometime during the night the inside of my eyelid dried and stuck to the surface of my eyeball. In the morning, I woke up and ripped off a strip of the skin of my eyeball. If that sounds painful, you are right. Ouch!

But this type of thing should heal in a few days - the skin of your eye heals and grows back just like the skin on your arm. What's causing a problem with me right now is that I ripped the underlying layer of skin, too. So now every time I blink, the growing skin cells have nothing to stick to and get pulled off. More Ouch!

But wait, it gets better. Apparently the answer to this is to rub salt in my eyes. Really. I'm putting in salt water every 4 hours to deliberately irritate the eye for give the skin cells something to stick to. Yes, it hurts as much as it sounds like pouring salt into your injured eye sounds like it would hurt. This is why I sound like such a whiner right now, I'm getting practice whimpering every 4 hours...

Anyway. I found out today that apparently the oh-so-pleasant salt treatment isn't working, and I now have an emergency appointment with a specialist tomorrow morning.

I was also told at the same time that there was no way that I was going to be able to go to China next week to speak and moderate at SES Beijing. This was a blow because I really, really wanted to go (sorry Inway!). I just cancelled my hotel and airfare. I'm not having a good day. But when I cancel a trip to do my favorite thing in my favorite country, it's serious. If you know anyone who might be able to fill in for me on such short notice, please let me know.

Anyway, the long and short of all this is that I can see with one eye, but not for very long. This post has taken a couple of hours, off and on. I'll be AFK for the most part for at least a couple of weeks, I expect.

See you later...