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.