Reach Out


Google and ESPN Score Touchdown for Sports Fans…but what about True Organic Indexing?

With Mega giants of search and sports content having teamed up, that being Google and ESPN, the result of this handshake directly impacts two groups: on one hand, it’s great for sports enthusiasts, but on the other, it’s really an end-around for what is tantamount to paid placement for ESPN.

For anyone who has not heard about this new ‘arrangement,’ the new micro data deal between Google and ESPN allows for search results that includes scores, as well as team and player results to show up at the very top of Google ‘natural’ search results. These results offer summaries and information on upcoming games.

Currently, this has been applied for all football and baseball results, but will extend this to most other sports in the near future, most notably basketball, hockey and soccer.

But really, when looked at closer, this misdirect play has many negative implications for any search marketers, and brings into question what the true meaning of organic placement is purported to be.

And further, this brings up a couple of other issues. First off, when looking at these results, there will now be only two “true” organic search results above the fold, as the new ESPN results placement dominates the top of the page. And if you expand those results by clicking on the “Show more games” button, it then takes over the entire screen.

Another question that comes up is whether or not Google has some direct financial incentive for having these ESPN results show up in these top positions? Are there some backroom dealings going on between the two companies? I’m not saying…I’m just saying. And how do other groups such as CBS Sports, CNNSI or USA Today feel about this? These companies’ organic results now have been automatically pushed down — no matter what they do.

And how does this now extend to other business verticals? Is CNN next up to complete a deal with Google to show or highlight financial or news information at the same level? Does Oprah Winfrey’s “OWN” network do a deal with Google to highlight video results; therefore, these deals would then supersede any proper organic indexing other competing organizations would normally receive with their own organic results.

So while this seems like an innocuous enough deal, one that many, many sport enthusiasts should rightly smile about, it certainly does open up another can of worms, worms that just might be the bait for new, smelly “paid placement” deals coming down the Google pipeline.

The Search for Online Gambling

By Greg Taylor and Les Romhanyi

Five years ago, we thought of the Web as a new medium, not a new economy. ~ software engineer, Clement Mok (1999)

Now nearly 10 years later, we still can’t truly grasp the full potential of the Internet on business today. But we do know that the “trend” of online advertising has changed forever the way businesses and consumers interact. And we also know that the web is here to stay.

The clutter on the Internet is growing at a phenomenal rate, with 3.9 million more websites appearing on the web in the month of June alone. Today, there are over 178 million websites and 48.7 billion individual web pages, that number having increased by 50% in the past 12 months. *

This is why search engines have become so ubiquitous, and now are synonymous with web surfing, so much so that over 80% of all customers use search engines to find new websites. *

So the big question is: With all these websites, how are you to be found?

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the answer.

SEM is the form of Internet marketing that seeks to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine result pages (SERPs). And the two methods of SEM are organic search or search engine optimization (SEO), the other being sponsored links, or Pay Per Click (PPC).

Organic search refers to the main body of search results that a search engine will display when queried. Usually, and in the case of, there are 10 listings of results per page and they are lined up on the left side of the results page.

When a search engine spider crawls a website, it gathers information about that site and ranks it against all other sites for that particular topic. The search engine assigns certain values to specific properties of the webpage and the resulting score or algorithm, determines the sites ranking (SERP) for that topic, and displays the link in the organic listings.

Fortunately for website owners and those who practice the art of SEO, these rankings can be manipulated by applying some search engine optimization techniques.

The basic method is to provide meta content — the text contained within a web page’s Meta tags, which form part of the document head used to describe aspects of the document, such as title, description and keywords – inbound links and matching keywords on the page to the meta content. Further optimizing can be done with each website’s architecture and structure, which can either help or hinder how easily it’s indexed by search engines, as well as the use of content management systems (CMS) and other content feeds on the website.

PPC results refer to the listings on the search engines that are usually on the top, bottom, right hand or combination of the three, of the results page. These listings are ranked by bidding on the keywords with the highest bidder taking first place and so on.

However, the online gambling industry’s access to this lead generation channel was eliminated as a result of ongoing pressure applied from the U.S. government and the Department of Justice on the Big 3 search engines, Google, Yahoo and MSN.

All forms of government ultimately are not going to succeed in trying to control or censor the Internet ~ Rupert Murdoch

Since the spring of 2004, generating leads through PPC has not been an option for online gambling. The US government’s mandate of restricting this industry through various means, including access to US-based mainstream media, led to the elimination of buying paid listing for anything associated with online gambling.

Google, MSN and Yahoo were all forced to not only stop receiving any future revenues from the online gambling industry, but to also pay retroactive monies earned in the years going back to 1999. The trio agreed to pay a total of $31.5m to settle claims that they accepted online ads promoting gambling. None of the three firms ever accepted any wrongdoing as part of the civil settlement, which concluded an investigation dating back to 2000.

This is the same pressure the US government placed on on Pay Pal, Neteller and The Sporting News to name just a few.

So this push by US authorities to get a stranglehold on mainstream US advertising has now put a huge onus on search engine optimization for today’s online gambling marketers.

This focus and expectation for achieving top search results has created an ever-escalating battle among the top poker rooms, casinos and sportsbooks, each spending more every year to attain top results for a myriad of search terms, all in the name of fresh traffic and increased revenues.

Some online gambling operators have spent upwards of $1-million and more annually, employing as many as two dozen full time staff just to ensure they are “above the fold” on the first page for the top 200-300 keywords relevant to their specific vertical.

And with more websites going up each month, and the increased importance of search engines to drive new customers to various online gambling sites, the monies being spent on search engine optimization will only increase year over year.

But for the various online gambling operators who have focused resources and budget on this dynamic medium, search marketing has proved to be very profitable and will continue to be so for at least the foreseeable future.

Long live the web and SEO.

* (source Netcraft webserver survey).

Greg Taylor – President, Big Juice Media
Greg has worked in the online sports betting industry for over a decade, working in a marketing and communications capacity with some of the largest online sportsbooks such as Bodog, Bet365, Nine, betED, BetOnline and Sportingbet. In the past few years, Big Juice Media has focused on the Search Marketing channel for both online gambling and fantasy sports.

Les Romhanyi – Director of Search, Big Juice Media
Les has optimized websites for search engines before it was even called Search Engine Optimization, going back to 1995 while working on the Net Sheppard project. Since then, he has provided SEO services to the online adult, real estate and pharmaceutical verticals, as well as online gambling.

Google Two point Uh – oh

Recently Google released what is being called Google 2.0 or Universal Search. Through this release Google has added some of the other search engine results to the main web search results page. Things like Maps, Image, Video and Books search results are being displayed. While this might be a good thing for those times in which you are actually looking for a map and can’t seem to find the link to the Google Map search engine, however, when you are not looking for a map this feature just gets in the way.

The same thing can be said for the Image and Video results. What if I am just looking for a variety of information on a topic and I am not interested in where the topic is on a map or if some writer has written a book on the subject. Heaven forbid my search query be a popular topic for would be film makers who have posted some home movie on another of Google’s properties,

This morning I went to Google and typed in Vancouver Film School as I wanted to see what summer workshops they had available for teenagers. Suspecting that the Vancouver Film School used something other than as their web address, I knew that Google would be able to point me to the right address within the first few pages.

Under Google’s new Universal Search platform I have to say that I didn’t really like their new search results. First thing that I noticed was a big display for a Google map that pointed out 3 locations. Had I not known where the VFS was located this might have been helpful but seeing as I wasn’t requesting that information, I found it to be wasted space.

The next thing I noticed was that due to the amount of space required for the map layout there was only one website displayed above the fold. For those of you who do not know what above the fold means; this is the term used to describe what a web viewer sees prior to scrolling.

One website displayed above the fold in the organic search seems a little silly to me seeing as most eye tracking studies show that users generally only really view the top 3 results in search engines. With those 3 top results now going to other Google products, I have to wonder what the real point of this Universal Search is.

Remember the term I used earlier “above the fold”? Well with only 1 organic result displayed above the fold we have to take a look at what else is available above the fold. As I said earlier I was doing a search Vancouver Film School and have placed the link so you can take a look at the results.

In the organic results we now see the top links going to 5 references to Google maps and 1 link to the site which is also fortunate enough to carry site links. For those of you who do not know what site links are; site links are generated when a site ranks highly for a search term and that site generates significant traffic to a variety of the pages within the site. Site links are nice things to have but if your site doesn’t get a lot of targeted traffic, I wouldn’t bank on getting them any time soon.

Back to “above the fold” – Not a lot of choices as far as organic results go but luckily for me I knew what I was looking for and my query was answered without having to scroll. Being the curious sort I took a look around the whole page and noticed that while there was only 1 organic listing above the fold, there certainly was no shortage of sponsored listings. One sponsored ad at the top of the page and another five PPC ads on the right hand side of the page.

Now I can’t speak for anybody else but to me it certainly looks as though Google is now placing the emphasis on their own products such as Google Maps, Google Video and the Omni present Google Ads. No one can blame Google for wanting to make more money as they haven’t got all of it yet but, just don’t try to convince us that the reason behind Google 2.0 is to deliver us a better search experience.

Granted, if I was looking for maps and cheesy videos and I didn’t want to waste my time by concentrating on using specialized search tools then this would seem ideal. However, sometimes while doing searches I am looking for a wide variety of sites to see as many different opinions as I can and not just what Google thinks I should be looking for by force feeding me their sponsored ads.

About the Author
Les Romhanyi, Port Coquitlam, BC. Canada

Les Romhanyi is an SEO specialist with many years experience placing websites at the top of all major search engines. Big Juice Media is a Sports Betting Marketing company based in Canada.

We are not Spammers! You sure about that???

Well well well – what did I get in my inbox this morning? You guessed it, more emails from the same people I wrote about a few days ago. If you recall their email said that…

NOTE: We are not spammers and are against spamming of any kind.We are sending this mail with sole intention of link exchange for mutual benefit.If you are not intersted in Link Exchange then you can reply simply “NO”, We will never contact you again.

It seems that they do not live up to their claims regarding contact as I clearly sent them email say “NO”. Hell I even went a little further and included some other information in my request, might have been about “sex and travel” or it could have been something about “autonomous sexual relations”. Any way it really doesn’t matter as I clearly spelled out the word “NO” and clearly they do not understand the concept of NO.

These latest emails came with another invitation to be excluded from further contact.

NOTE: We are not spammers and are against spamming of any kind.We are sending this mail with sole intention of link exchange for mutual benefit.If you are not intersted in Link Exchange then you can reply simply “NO”, We will never contact you again and also if you have already added our link on your sites then please change our following link info(Title,Description) given as bellow.For this we give you a new link back from my other relevant and quality site.

Now it seems that I will have to go one step further and contact the company that hired this outsourced SEM service and let them know that while they may be saving some money by employing some India based SEM sweat shop, they are in fact hurting their reputation by using them. Does the money you save by outsourcing equal the potential loss of reputation? I highly doubt it.

We are not Spammers?

How often do you receive unsolicited email that starts off with the line “We are not spammers”? These types of email usually have something to do with a request for a link trade. The sad part is that they usually offer to do a 3 way link exchange where they offer to put your link on some useless domain that doesn’t offer a hope in being taken seriously as a directory, and request that you give them a link to their main site.

Here is an exact copy of the first part of the email;
NOTE: We are not spammers and are against spamming of any kind.We are sending this mail with sole intention of link exchange for mutual benefit.If you are not intersted in Link Exchange then you can reply simply “NO”, We will never contact you again.

I have once again requested that these dip shits stop sending me emails, I wonder what part of the word “NO” they don’t understand, perhaps the quotation marks are throwing them off?

Every once in a while I will have a little fun with these “outsourced” so called experts and respond with something like this;

“I would love to exchange links with you on this condition – you link to my site from your main site and I will link to your shitty site (site’s name left in on purpose) with some spammy, phoney, link directory site that I will develop specifically for you.”

Of course just to avoid any confusion I don’t use quotation marks. Perhaps what I will attempt next time is to translate the above mentioned response into a whole bunch of languages so that I can have a hope that these sweat shop “experts” might finally understand.

These websites that use outsourced SEO services, perhaps you need to take a look at what these companies are doing for your properties. Myself, when I get these spam emails from the same services over and over again I make note of the main website they are trying to build the link popularity for and I go out of my way to inform my counterparts for this industry to avoid that site like the plague.

Yahoo Directories Can Hurt Your Site!

About 1 year ago I contacted the fine people at Yahoo to find out why I could never get a client’s site indexed beyond the main index page. After checking to make sure that the site wasn’t in violation of any of their rules I sent an email to Yahoo to discuss my findings.

The only thing that I could discern was that the earliest information regarding this domain was still being listed in several of their directories. Normally this wouldn’t be a bad thing but seeing as the site changed ownership and focus back in 1996, the old directory listings are completely wrong.

Provided with this information it was fairly easy for someone at Yahoo to ascertain that this was the issue and I was told that they would address this issue soon. They even went so far as to extend to me an invitation to send in follow up questions to which I only received a standard form email, totally unacceptable! Well it has been a long time now and Yahoo doesn’t seem to want to address this issue.

After a few months of waiting I asked if it would be helpful if I were to resubmit my client’s site to the directories and paid for re-inclusion. Typically – I got the standard form response once again. With this kind of customer service is it any wonder that is losing market and search share?

My only hope now is that someone over a Yahoo might read this and become concerned enough about their product to try to improve it. While I can’t reveal the site here, as that would not be appropriate to this forum, I can assure those of you who might read this; the site is obviously an old site and probably one that predates Yahoo itself.

If the Yahoo directories are so flawed that it takes more than 11 years to update the information contained within, what good are they? If these old directories are having a negative effect on my client’s site and have been doing so for more than a decade, I can only suggest that if Yahoo refuses to fix this issue then I would strongly suggest caution to those webmasters who were thinking of including their sites within the Yahoo directories.

It would be cool if someone from Yahoo were to contact me through a private email in this forum and follow up on this issue.

Google VS. Hakia

Over the past few years we have been hearing more and more regarding Semantic search. As more and more companies try to break this barrier we will undoubtedly see a lot of new beta testing site pop up. For example one of the most recent ones I have heard of, and tried out, is

Hakia has released their beta version of “Meaning Based” search engine that is based upon proprietary semantic software. “Meaning based” search, an interesting concept and one that needed checking out so I went over to their site and performed some gambling industry related searches like sportsbook, sports betting and casino. What I received didn’t exactly thrill me.

The things I noticed right off of the bat were the results tended to be based upon having the search queries within the domain name and within the page titles. Also, I noticed a lot of low quality affiliate sites pop up which in my opinion is a step backwards in search.

Using single search phrases or queries was giving fairly standard results so I thought I would type my query in the form of a question so I asked, minus the quotation marks of course, “Which is the best sportsbook?” and again, the results were less than stellar. I received a whole host of sportsbook directory listings and gambling portal sportsbook pages. Seems to me that offering me a bunch of portal site’s opinions on what they think are the best sportsbooks falls a little short of offering me any kind of meaning. Granted, the same search on Google gives me similar results but at least I could find the occasional actual sportsbook within their results.

Bottom line here is that semantic search has a long way to go before it will threaten Google’s share of the search market. I am a firm believer in that the next evolution of search will be in the form of Semantic Search and that when this type of search is perfected it will be closely followed by a break through in true artificial intelligence.

Google + DoubleClick X Performics = Evil

When Google’s purchase of DoubleClick is finalized will Google do the right thing and close down or sell off the DoubleClick division of Performics? Myself I highly doubt it.

Will Google pass on insider information to their newly acquired SEO firm and give their client base an unfair advantage? Perhaps but I doubt it simply because it would be too easy for the new employees to distribute those secrets.

Does becoming a part of the Google family of services mean that Performics will be getting more opportunities with the larger SEO contracts? Probably… from a salesman’s perspective I would think this would be a great selling feature.

So does the purchase of an SEO company by a search engine constitute evil? Does anybody else smell brimstone?

Online News VS. Search Engines

Billionaire investor Sam Zell recently bought Tribune Corp. for 8.2 billion. Sorry – let’s give that number the respect it deserves – 8.2 Billion dollars. Seems like a lot of money to be spending on a medium that seems to allegedly lose money with every edition. Mr. Zell claims that the newspaper business is hemorrhaging money, in part, due to the bad deals newspapers negotiated with search engines.

At a speech at Stanford Law School Mr. Zell suggested that if Google wasn’t allowed to “steal” the newspaper’s content for nothing, Google wouldn’t be nearly as profitable. Now I can’t say anything about how much money Google makes off of freely distributed news content but from my perspective, I don’t go to Google to find my news and I suspect that might be the case for others too.

Google does offer a News Alert service that emails snippets of stories to people and those snippets contain links to the full stories. Most webmasters I know go out of their way to get included in the Google Alert system as it can be profitable in terms of traffic. Does this mean that Mr. Sam Zell wants to remove their websites from the Google Alert system? If he does then I can’t see how that would be helpful to the newspaper’s website’s bottom line. Further to that point I guess it is true… you can’t teach an old dog new tricks Mr. Zell and I hope that the 8.2 Billion you dropped on this venture wasn’t your last 8.2 Billion!

Article Syndication – Duplicate Content or Valuable Marketing

Do the links contained within article syndication carry the same weight as they once did? That is a tough one to answer due to the changing value of article syndication and who you are asking. For site owners who are looking for content to post on their sites so that their readers might get a chance to read some new content, then article syndication remains valuable. For search engines, article syndication is little more than duplicated content that quickly gets regulated to the Supplemental Results indexes.

From the perspective of the writer who syndicated their content the value is two fold.

  1. They get to brand their product or site by putting information on similarly themed sites and in front of readers who are keenly interested in the topic.
  2. The links are still crawled by the search engines regardless of which index they are listed and besides, with duplicated content, it is generally the site with the higher PR that gets credit for the content which means you are getting credited for those links from the higher value site.

The only real question on value here is how much link popularity is derived from links within the Supplemental Results index pages in Google, versus links from their regular indexes. The short answer is “Who Cares!” Seeing as your message is getting posted on other sites and regardless of whether or not Google wants to remain relevant, readers can still click through to your site if they like your message. Syndicate away!