Saturday, December 16, 2006

Google vs. Newspapers: What is the Real Issue?

Google recently settled a suit with at least some of the plaintiffs in a case involving news photographers and journalists in Belgium. This isn’t the first time that newspapers have been angry enough to sue Google, and it probably won’t be the last. But what is the real issue behind all the screaming?

In this article, I’m going to focus mainly on the Belgium case; please keep in mind that Google is being challenged on several legal fronts, on similar grounds. The plaintiffs tend to toss the word “copyright” around a lot, but the law surrounding copyright is somewhat complicated and, despite certain international treaties, not uniform from country to country (and certainly not uniformly enforced!). But I’m getting way ahead of myself here.

Let’s go back to March of this year. That’s when Copiepresse, a rights-management society for the publishers of the French- and German-language daily press, started legal proceedings against Google. Copiepresse objected to Google’s inclusion of Belgian news sources in its Google News without getting explicit permission first. Information about the case, and a summons, was sent to Google. Google didn’t make it to the first hearing (held September 5), at which the court ruled that Google must remove French and German language content from the publishers represented by Copiepresse from its Google Belgium web sites or pay a fine of one million euros a day. Google was also required to post the text of the judgment on its home page.

Google did in fact comply with the ruling – not immediately, but quickly enough that it did not have to pay any fines. It was granted an appeal, however. And somewhere along the line, several other Belgian groups joined in: Sofam, SCAM, SAJ, and Assucopie. Google reached separate settlements with Sofam and SCAM. Sofam is an organization representing Belgian photographers, while the SCAM organization is more geared toward journalists, and covers mostly audio/visual content. As of this writing, the other three groups are moving forward with the suit.

A Matter of Copyright?

It may be hard to imagine, but these publications are genuinely upset that Google is indexing them without their permission. Excuse me? Have these companies never heard of robots.txt? Danny Sullivan wondered about that, and spoke with Margaret Boribon, secretary general of Copiepresse, to get a better handle on the nature of their complaint.

Boribon seemed most concerned that Google wasn’t really playing by the rules of copyright, despite the search engine’s protestations that it respects these laws. Certainly one could use robots.txt; Google doesn’t index any sites against their wills. But “If you do so, you admit that Google does what they want, and if you don’t agree, you have to contact them. This is not the legal framework of copyright,” Boribon pointed out.

So does Boribon expect Google to say “Mother, may I?” to every site before sending out its spiders? The law might call for that, but it would be a logistical nightmare. Using robots.txt is the best way to automate the process. To Boribon, this is not good enough, because it is not legally endorsed. Danny Sullivan makes the point that this will probably change with time.

But there’s more going on here than that. If it was simply a matter of making sure that Google didn’t index the sites, robots.txt ought to be the right answer. Copiepresse is seeking for its members everything that copyright implies, not just being asked for explicit permission to use the item(s) in question. “Our purpose is not to be excluded. Of course, we want to be in the system, but on a legal basis,” Boribon explained. “We want to be remunerated.”

This inspires so many reactions, ranging from “are they nuts?!” to “yes, but…” that it’s hard to decide where to begin. I want to start with Copiepresse’s attitude, which is apparently shared by the World Association of Newspapers (another group that isn’t very thrilled with Google). But before I do that, let me see if I can provide a quick layman’s explanation of copyright. (The usual disclaimers apply: I am not a lawyer, etc.).

The whole idea behind copyright is that those who put the effort into creating something should receive compensation for their efforts. If somebody uses your work without your permission – for example, if they copy your article and post it somewhere else (especially if they use someone else’s name) – you can sue them. Usually people are nicer about these things (a good cease-and-desist letter or a phone call can often be enough to get them to take it down if it’s a question of posting online). But the point, and badly oversimplified at that, is that when someone steals your work in that manner, you aren’t receiving the compensation you deserve; you’re being exploited.

And that brings us back to Copiepresse. What Sullivan took away from his interview with Boribon is that her group and the World Association of Newspapers believe that Google is exploiting their members. As near as I can tell, they seem to think that Google is making money off of their content by including it in its index, and not giving them anything in return.

Who Needs Whom?

The Belgian publications will find out soon enough whether Google was giving them anything of value in return. The search engine interpreted the ruling in the case in which it was involved quite literally. Not only did it remove links to specific Belgian news sources from Google News; it also removed them from Google Belgium entirely. You can still reach the sites from other versions of Google. But their traffic may already be dropping off.

Getting search traffic doesn’t translate into remuneration in any traditional sense. But it can’t be discounted. Why do search marketers strive to increase their traffic from the search engines, after all? As Danny Sullivan put it, “It’s free, easy and converts well.”

And newspapers do get a significant amount of traffic from search engines. It varies tremendously depending on the paper, of course, and how much attention they devote to search engine optimization and search engine marketing. Some observers have said a newspaper’s website can expect to see anywhere between eight and 13 percent of its traffic arriving from the search engines. Sullivan quoted Marshal Simmons, chief search strategist for the New York Times Company as saying that “the NYT gets approximately 22% of its traffic from search engines. This number is very actively growing.”

Taking a wider view of the market, Sullivan also asked Bill Tancer at Hitwise about figures for news sites and search engine traffic. Hitwise tracks more than 3,000 sites in its News & Media – Print category. During one recent week, that category received 13.66 percent of its traffic from Google – and 22.44 percent of that category’s traffic as a whole came from the search engines. Somehow, that doesn’t sound like Google is exploiting newspapers and giving little or nothing in return, especially since many papers are struggling to find a new revenue model with huge drops in their print circulation.

Getting a Handle on the Issues

Let’s back up one more time to look at this issue of copyright. Sometimes you have to wonder if Google and these content producers are speaking the same language when they use that word, especially when Google insists that it respects copyright. Indexing a web page is not copying it. Arguably, caching might be considered copying, though whether that counts as an infringement is still legally debatable.

Even if you would argue that indexing a web page is the same as copying it, there’s another point to consider. Search engines do a job that hardly existed before the Internet, except for librarians. There is no question that they perform a much-needed service – but to do that service, they risk engaging in copyright violations. Has copyright law not kept up with our current needs? Should search engines be exempt from traditional copyright protections?

Google has made a number of arguments pertaining to how it treats copyright. It points out that the users of its service need to click through to read the entire article. This could arguably be called “fair use,” though again that’s a complicated point.

Clearly, Copiepresse and the other plaintiffs want some kind of deal. Google does strike certain deals when it needs to – for example, it came to an agreement with the Associated Press about listing the news agency’s content, for an undisclosed sum. Whether the search engine would be willing to pay for more content remains to be seen.

It’s not unusual for Google to make special publishing arrangements that don’t involve money, by the way; some sites have user subscriptions and are therefore difficult to index, but have content worth indexing (such as Le Monde and the New York Times). If the sites represented as plaintiffs want to negotiate a deal with Google, however, perhaps they should simply remove themselves from the index. They’ll find out whether Google and its users consider their content important enough to include by how quickly the search engine comes around asking for permission to include it.

[original post:]

Friday, December 8, 2006

Earning Money From Contextual Ads

Jennifer Slegg,, Jenstar, etc. is up first.
- Use titles effectively, a basic SEO principle, applies here
- Use meta tags, there is evidence that they influence your contextual ads (both keywords and description)
- Enable image ads on AdSense ads, use a secondary unit as an image only ad and you will get a lot of CPM ads, which is nice.
- Ensure the ad unit that has the highest CTR appears first in the HTML
- Sometimes borders on your ads are best, it depends, so try it out, test it.
- Give YPN a test
- Sometimes labeling ads as ads on the site help, sometimes not
- Enable AdSense for search, they add up
- Mix it up to prevent banner blindness (use ad rotation to use different styles and colors, use custom channels to test this stuff)
- Craft your inbound links carefully, the anchor text can influence the ads that show on your site (both external and internal links)
- Remove the page clutter, use external JavaScript and CSS calls, make cleaner html using CSS
- Monetize 404 and error pages
- Optimize your ad title colors
- Use your filter list with caution
- One ad unit on a page may earn you more
- Watch out for your syndicated content (PSA issues symbolize that, might trip sensitive content filters)
- To increase your CTR on forums, take advantage of color schemes rotation, change position and sizes and enable image ads.
- For blogs, use Yahoo's RSS ads
- For Blogs, avoid usage of common blog terms as (comments, trackbacks, etc.)
- For blogs, the front page of blog will often be mistargeted due to dynamic content (dont bother putting ads on those pages)
- Image and Flash sites don't have content for the ads to work off of, add on page text to help and use alt-tags for images and enable image ads for CPM payouts
- Business and Corporate sites, should they have contextual ads? It depends, approach it with caution, Jen said. Competitor ads will appear, these ads do not open in a new window, you will lose sales and clients.
- If you account is suspended... You might get warned first, and if you do, you have about three days to fix the issue. They may stop serving ads on the site. If you do not comply, they will take action. Difference offenses have different punishments. If you keep tallying up warnings, it might get you banned. Avoid bad traffic sources, do not tell people to click on your ads, do not write content that is against the TOS. Avoid talking about your CTR, impressions, etc. Keep your contact info up to date. Never ever ever click on your own ads.
- Yahoo Publisher Network Compliancy Manager shows you the issues you have with your site, shows you warnings, etc and tells you all the details. Google doesn't do this, so this is nice.
- If you get a suspension notice, check your logs and look for something out of the ordinary. Make sure the violation is on your site, do not get banned for third party sites. Any competitor issues? Keep copies of your raw logs.
- Formally appeal a suspension; make sure to come clean always. Always be polite.

Jeremy Schomaker is up first with his crew, Shoe starting March 2003 with AdSense, at about $4 a day. He said if you design a site with contextual ads in mind, your kinda doomed to fail right away. When do you stop using AdSense? When you get to a certain point, you will have people waiting in line to give you direct ads. When to stop takes care of itself. After you complete the functionality of the site, that is when he starts adding ads, and about 1,000 unique visitors per day is a good point. Positives contextual ads, it is super easy to implement, they take out all the hassles of finding advertisers, dealing with them, etc. Negatives are that there is a "one click and gone effect." Only way to get paid is for them to leave. The user experience is not controlled by you, you do not directly control the ads that come up on those sites.

The Gray Area of Contextual Ads:
There is good (white), there is bad (black) and there is a huge middle ground, with a lot of people making a lot of money (gray). He is one of those people in the middle ground. He feels those people are innovating the area. The innovative might be also named the "about to be banned" ATTB. Images near contextual ads is a really gray area. He said they are always updating their terms of service, so communication is really clear. He brings up a poll on the DP forums; will you use stop using image ads? The poll showed that there was a mix view on this. Some people are risk takers and some are not.

Contextual Arbitrage:
What is it? If you buy from Microsoft to sell to YPN, that profit is the arbitrage.
Why is it so profitable? Because the stats are right there for you, you know what your profit is right away. He shows examples of these type of pages.

He brings up the Bear Share, and when you install the Bear Share program. It asks you if you want to set your home page to Google Bear Share. You really dont have a choice, you kinda need to install it. was a Google AdSense for Search site. There was no way to stop them for getting this off your home page on your site. 86% of the traffic on is either Google.bearshare and He emailed Google about doing this on his site. Google said you can't do it due to TOS. So he thought to himself that he ruined's day. But is now using a different engine,'s PPC engine, which really pulls from Google's network.

Are people getting banned? Yes, tons of people, just check forums.

Who gets banned? It depends on who you are and how much your making. Etc. His dad got banned.

Tools for Contextual Ads:
- Analytics is awesome (new vs. recurring visitors is a big stat)
- has a cool to see where people click on your site

Make sure you know your CPC, the cost per click. YPN shows your CPC, AdSense you need to do the math your self. He said always go for the higher CPC, not matter of bottom in earnings.

Tips for Success:
- Test
- Don't sell out
- Analytics
- Heatmaps
- Communication
- Rotate ads, test them

[original post:]

Using SEO to Market a Search Engine or Platform

SEO Question: I recently set up a local search site, and was wondering if it made sense to use SEO to market it?

There are many types of ideas where using SEO to market them will not make much sense. I think you probably have one of them. If you have a platform website which aggregates information and displays it in a way that adds enough value that other search engines would want to index your results then you should look into duplicate content and other related issues, to ensure you are unique enough on a per page level, but generally if you are marketing a platform which has limited content I think you are better off looking into viral marketing instead of SEO.

Things worth looking at:

Things to consider:

  • Ideas spread through communities. Make it easy for a certain group of people or community to share your idea / product / service / offering / etc. If you can connect with their sense of identity that is great. For example, for a local product try to hit up the local media or other sources of power.
  • Read and track sites and communities you want exposure from. Become part of the conversation there. See what types of ideas make the Digg home page. See what type of search sites librarians are talking about right now.
  • If you can talk about search in a way that is interesting to novice SEOs and yet still provide relevant search results at the same time many people will want to read what you have to say. Quintura recently got mentioned by many SEOs because they offer a search service that acts as an interesting SEO tool.
  • Look how easy Google makes it for people to talk about them - from passionate people with health problems, to those fighting against inequality, and for the environment, right on through to people aligned with educational systems and other powerful longstanding institutions.
  • All those links from the last paragraph were announcements in the last week! If you are doing things that make people identify with you and feature you as content you don't have to buy too many ads. Google is the perfect case study for how to market a search engine.

Why SEO could potentially be useful to you:

Search is a link rich topic. Many librarians and other trusted sources freely link to search sites. If you can add enough value to make other engines want to index your pages, and can get enough high quality links, then your site should be able to get a bunch of exposure quickly. Just look at how many Technorati tag pages rank well in Google and other search engines.

You need people to care and share to build a platform:

But generally, people participate on platforms because there is some value they can get from there that they can't find elsewhere. That, and giving people a reason to talk about it, are the best ways to optimize your rankings in other engines.

[original post:]

Sunday, November 26, 2006


Today is "My SEO Universe" birthday!  

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