Matt Gemmell

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An action-thriller novel — book 2 in the KESTREL series.

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Cylon Paid Search

general 3 min read

People often ask me: “Matt,” they ask, “how do you manage to get a pretty decent google ranking for all your blog posts?”

“Well, Samantha,” I tend to reply, “it’s really just a matter of having a lot of textual content on pages whose title, headings, keywords and link anchor-text are all internally consistent and reflect the actual content of the page as a whole, and not trying to game the search engines in any way. Oh, and I don’t sell links.”

Historically, this response has occasionally met with confusion - of the “so you don’t try to cheat?” variety. I don’t use visually hidden superfluous keywords or link-spamming on other sites or absurdly long anchor-text or special content for spiders, or anything of that kind at all. Because left to do their job, the engines do a fair job of determining what my site’s various posts are about, and I’ve never had cause to complain about my visibility online. I’m also pretty sure that the only site I’ve submitted to is google itself.

For those reasons, it irritates me a lot when I search for something and find a result which appears to carry reasonable authority on my query, and click through only to find that the original site has been replaced with an ad-peppered shell, to which hundreds of similar domains no doubt point. Regardless of what the various engines’ policies might say (and they probably agree with me; I just haven’t checked), that’s cheating at the web. It engenders only negative feelings from the majority of web surfers, it pollutes the web with poor sites and relatively low-relevance links, and it reduces the ability of search engines to actually do their job, which hurts everyone’s visibility.

I’m not against advertising on the web per se; I often click on ads as long as they’re (1) silent, (2) relatively unobtrusive and (3) very relevant, all of which are readily attainable qualities at this time. I really like Gmail’s ads, and I click a lot of genre-specific ads like those on videogames sites. What I don’t appreciate is the careless brute-force approach, which is crass and offensive.

So, think carefully before using a web advertising company which simply acquires domain after domain (particularly those with a reasonable existing pagerank), and replaces their content with poorly-chosen ads of questionable relevance to the original site. We can do without such site-spams, and your advertising dollars can be far better spent on more diligently targeted and accurately delivered ads.

Thus, I know that I for one would not tend to use a company called Cylon for my online advertising (and not just because I once had a nightmare as a kid after watching Battlestar Galactica). I had an email from them today (two identical emails, in fact) enquiring in a rather form-letter way about buying this domain, ostensibly due to its high relevance for Canadians interested in cars, travel and finance. Yes, really.

I don’t think those topics are a particularly good match for the existing content of, nor do I think that most of you are looking for ads related to those topics when you come here, so I think that for now (if it’s ok with you, dear reader), we’ll keep this blog here for a while longer.

If on the other hand you do feel that you’d like to buy ads from a company which would characterise this site as being about travelling Canadians interested in obtaining financing for a new car, then lots of luck, Starbuck. Email and telephone contact details can be found below.

Oh, and as to why this post doesn’t have a more generic title related to the fascinating field of online advertising? Well, the intangible but valuable quality of search relevance works both ways.

To those who would infect my search results with irrelevant advertising: this is me unzipping my jeans, taking out my pagerank and slapping you in the face with it.

From: Robert Brown <bbrown> Date: Fri, 14 Dec 2007 02:51:31 -0500 Hi, We are looking to potentially immediately buy your website. It must meet the following criteria: Minimum Google PR: 3 Be in one of the following categories: - Canadian focus - finance - cars - telecommunications - travel Provable earnings history of some sort, even if its not a lot. Provable traffic record for the past 12 months. If you have one or more websites that meet this criteria, please email me and let me know the website address, the $ amount of earnings over the past 12 months, the average monthly unique visitors for the past 12 months, and your prefered payment method (generally paypal, check, or, and I will get back to you later today to confirm whether or not we can purchase your site for $1000. We have some amount of flexibility in our criteria, and if you are close we may be able to buy your site, but perhaps for less $. Feel free to email me with any questions you have. Thanks! Robert Brown (480) 368-2585 Also, I apologize if you receive this email more than once. Due to some data complications, I may have sent it out to you multiple times on accident. I apologize for any inconvenience.