Natural Search Blog

MSN Live Shuts Down Info for SEO

I was quite disappointed to see that MSN Live announced yesterday that they were shutting off advanced syntax queries such as: link:, linkdomain:, and inurl:. Eytan Seidman, MSN Live’s Lead Program Manager stated that they could tell there was a large amount of automated datamining going on, so they’d unplugged the features completely.

MSN Live Bans Advanced Queries

 Now, I’m completely familiar with how impolite dataminers can impact service for real users — that’s something we police for as well here at But, I’m unhappy because Seidman’s announcement sounds more like it’s not just impolite datamining they’re after — it’s all automated usage of those specialized queries.

Microsoft is quite lite on features supporting the web community and optimizers, so I’m unhappy that they’re halting the very data that supports those folx. While I don’t use those queries much in my work (because their data hasn’t been all that useful to me, and because such a relatively small fragment of our users come through MSN), it seems like a backwards move for them to revoke the functionality.


Podcasts of Neil Patel, Eric Ward, and Vanessa Fox

I’ve been interviewing speakers of the AMA’s Hot Topic: Search Engine Marketing events taking place April 20th in San Francisco, May 25th in NYC, and June 22 in Chicago (all three of which I will be chairing). I had fascinating and insightful conversations with link builder extraordinaire Eric Ward, Googler Vanessa Fox, and social media marketing guru Neil Patel. There’s some real gold in those interviews.


More podcasts to come from other speakers, so be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed so you don’t miss them. Also be sure to register for the conference at one of the three cities, it’ll be great!

deca 300

In-House SEO vs. Out-House SEO

Not long ago I posted a list of some Top In-House SEOs I identified, and I touched on the subject of in-house development vs. outsourcing of natural search optimization work. As an “in-houser” myself (as one of my many roles, I perform SEO for’s sites), I thought I’d develop this out further and give my thoughts on the relative pros and cons of in-housing versus outsourcing, followed up by a list of the merits of doing either.

I should mention that my reference to “Out-House SEO” is firmly tongue-in-cheek. WebMama used that term in commenting on my previous post, and I couldn’t resist using it myself. (Coincidentally, I see that she’s just yesterday posted an article on the merits of outsourcing SEM work, “Does Hiring a Search Marketing Firm Cost or Save You Money?“)

Out-House vs. In-House

Read on for my commentary and lists of the relative advantages of each approach.


New Columnist for Search Engine Land

Locals OnlyI just became a new contributor for Search Engine Land with the publication of my first article today:
Google Builds Local Map Content in 3D“. As you may recall, Danny Sullivan launched back in December of last year after stepping down as editor-in-chief for which he’d originally founded. I’m contributing work under the Locals Only column that was earlier launched with their correspondent, Greg Sterling. As you may know, Greg Sterling was a former member of the Kelsey Group, and is widely respected as a top authority/commentator/analyst on marketing/business in the local search space.

I was really surprised and flattered to’ve been invited to contribute – I’ve long been a fan and devoted reader of the folx who worked upon and now I’ve also been a longtime reader of articles by Sterling, along with many others in my company, Idearc Media. I think I’m in really august company, and I know it’s going to challenge me to try to put forward work that’s worthy of appearing under their masthead along with others in the same space.


Upcoming Speaking Gigs

I have a few speaking gigs coming up for any of you who are interested. I’ll be speaking first in April at the Search Engine Strategies Conference in New York, on the Images & Search Engines panel on the topic of Optimization Through Image Sharing Sites:

Hear Me Speak Badge, SES NYC 07

The talk focuses primarily upon optimizing via Flickr, since my comparison research indicates that Flickr has the best potential for natural search optimization. You’ll notice that my postings here at Natural Search Blog increasingly have illustrations accompanying them, and I’ve typically hosted those through Flickr just for the SEO value in an effort to “practice what I preach”. 😉

AMA Hot Top Series on Search MarketingI’ll also be speaking at the American Marketing Association’s Hot Topic Series on Search Engine Marketing in April (San Francisco), May (New York), and June (Chicago) on the subject of “Organic Search is All About Content”. These one-day conferences will have some other great guests such as Stephan Spencer from Netconcepts, Amanda Camp and Vanessa Fox from Google, Eric Ward the link-building expert, Paul O’Brien from HP, and others.

I hope to see you there!

pregnyl hcg

Google Logo with Autographs

Google's Special Logo celebrating SpaceShipOne winning the X-Prize, Signed by Larry Page & Sergey BrinWhile I was vacationing in St. Louis last week, I stumbled across this curiosity — the Google logo with Larry Page’s and Sergey Brin’s signatures.

This is the Google logo from 2004, commemorating SpaceShipOne winning the Ansari X-Prize.


Could Nanotechnology Save Print Yellow Pages?

Technological evolution continues to change our everyday lives, and the speed of changes over the last two decades has caused an acceleration of impacts to traditional forms of business. Nowhere is this more evident than in the impact to usage of printed yellow pages directories. Once the mainstay for locating businesses, many consumers now treat the books as doorstops or fireplace kindling.

The Yellow Pages Association‘s annual report and other research indicates that consumer usage of print directories is on the decline while usage of online yellow pages and local search are increasing. The main divergence of opinion seems to be in how long it will be before print dies completely – ten years, fifty years, or a century? Simba research indicates that profits of core yellow pages are down while independent publishers are increasing at double-digit rates, indicating that advertisers continue to see value in print YP exposure. Even though the print biz still has lots of money and usage, those who have watched tech trends during the Information Age know that transitions of this sort can often reach a tipping point rapidly, perhaps rendering print YP irrelevant at the closer end of the timeline estimates.

In all the rush to sound the death-knell for print most folks are looking upon it as merely a dinosaur, soon to die as a result of the meteor-strike of internet search technology. But, could there be another future in store for print directories?

Nanotech and Yellow Pages

I’ve been watching developments in a number of converging lines of technology for a while now, and I foresee another potential fate for the print directories: nanotechnology. Read on and I’ll explain.


Travel by Amtrak – a bit rough

I mentioned earlier that my mother and I took my nephew for a train trip to St. Louis for Spring Break this past week. My nephew is a train fanatic (my former sister-in-law now refers to trains as “porn for eight-year-old boys”), so this was to be the trip of a lifetime for him — we arranged a destination which would ensure that we’d sleep overnight on the train, and we booked one of their first-class bedroom accommodations for the trip.

The trip was indeed a lot of fun for my nephew, and it was an intellectually interesting experience for my mother and I. But, it wasn’t nearly as comfortable as we sort of imagined before leaving.

Lounge Car, Amtrak Train

Read on for further description and for my tips for Amtrak train travel.


Book Review: Getting The Most From Your Yellow Pages Advertising

Last year, I criticised a press release promoting a book by Barry Maher titled “Getting the Most from Your Yellow Pages Advertising, saying the press release was self-serving and irresponsible. I disparaged Maher, referring to him as a “so-called expert” and calling the press release “self-serving”. Maher’s press release touted advertising in print yellow pages and questioned the value of advertising online in comparison, so I was highly critical of it since I believe there’s significant value in advertising online. At the time, I thought I was justified in my criticism, since I felt he was promoting his book at the expense of bad advice to small businesses.

However, others pointed out some irony in my criticism — after all, self-promotion is by nature supposed to be beneficial to one’s self, and it’s not at all unusual to emphasize a bit of controversy to make press releases more interesting to readers. Further, Maher’s responses and comments to my blog posting were well-written, wonderfully mild, and professional — leaving me to wonder if I’d been unreasonable in my attack of the press release.

Getting the Most from Your Yellow Pages AdvertisingSo, I bought the book before Christmas from Amazon and have now finished reading it. I find that I agree with Maher’s book far more often than not, and I feel I should now apologize for my attack. While I believe in the value of online advertising and still will defend its viability, Maher’s book doesn’t attack it in an unqualified manner, and my attack on the man versus his ideas or statements was unjustified and just low. I prefer debating ideas in a logical manner, and I can’t understand why I also stooped to attacking the person in my post. I’m sorry about that, Barry!

As for the book itself, I found it to be very valuable for small businesses, particularly newbies who’ve never done yellow pages advertising before. Even the business owner who thinks they already know it all ought to read this and check some of their assumptions. Read on for a further review of the book.


Dupe Content Penalty a Myth, but Negative Effects Are Not

I was interested to read a column by Jill Whalen this past week on “The Duplicate Content Penalty Myth” at Search Engine Land. While I agree with her assessment that there really isn’t a Duplicate Content Penalty per se, I think she perhaps failed to address one major issue affecting websites in relation to this.

Read on to see what I mean.


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