Competitive Webmastering

Google says it won't index content that isn't visible on page load. Sometimes. Other times, Google admits it does index "content hidden on load", but that it won't for mobile devices. Except, sometimes. Real SEOs know this confusion is reflective of the game of search -- you can't be a legitimate web search engine if you don't index web content, but if you index all web content on its visible merits, smart SEOs will be able to position their content in the search rankings.

The root of this "problem" is Google's perverted will. We explore that here, on this blog that is not only not-visible-on-page-load, but has been at times banned by Google, penalized by Google, deindexed, reindexed, indexed sans content, and purposefully excluded from Google (by formal request, by technical directive, by outright blocking, and other means -- none of which were 100% effective). In other news...(PDF)

Appreciate the opportunity to read this blog? Say so on your social media.... referencing John Andrews at johnon.com. Or even better, link to it from your own website. Your voice matters, and your public comment will be counted as a success metric, encouraging more (and more specific) writing.
I encourage those pursuing edge seo to reconsider such ruinous, disconnected SEO efforts.

The Great Blogging Reset

It's habbening.


Recently published to the Ample. substack:

In her book "Outsmarting the Sociopath Next Door", Dr. Stout notes 2 attributes of certain professions that are "extremely and specifically attractive to sociopaths". The first is "to have interpersonal power over a number of people who will seldom question you". The second is "privacy", defined as a "setting that is effectively closed to outside observers".

Doesn't this seem to apply to Google, where the search "algorithms" (and all components of the search engine conglomeration) represent a privileged position of power over people? Search is an interpersonal setting, because when the individual executes a search, Google uses privileged a-priori knowledge of the searcher's other online activities and behaviors to profile them, and to customize...

quote about sociopaths working at Google

Subscribe to Ample. on Substack if you want to follow along:

Future Posts:

  • There's a podcast show in the works, and it covers a lot of what modern "SEO people" consider to be SEO. And it'll be fun, based on what I've seen so far. Are you ready?
  • The local web training seminar series is expanding, and may get some publicity this time, as I need to fill the room for more complete feedback. Free seminars are odd in that they draw a strange crowd on the first day, but if meaningful, some very interesting characters show up the second session. It's just fun for me, but for reasons unstated, it's about to get a little more "interesting" ;-)
  • Bring back some classics like /fake-reviews-cesspool.html, wednesday-fun.html, seo-consulting-2.html, google-chrome-privacy.html, health-vault.html, google-agency.html, google-go-words.html, google-toolbar.html, free-seo-tools.html, panda-update-seo.html, trailing-slash-seo.html, seo-zend-framework.html, seo-correlations.html, nytimescom.html
  • Bring back "the Dawn of the Disinformation Age" from Feb 2017, which predicted where we are in 2020.

Where are the Old Posts? So many are missing..

Most old posts are deleted. They had value to me when current, but the value proposition changed when they aged, towards value gained by others (such as search engines and LinkedIn Professionals). Therefore, old essays are routinely deleted.

Also worth noting : my legal team pursues those who publish my copyrighted work elsewhere, and my reputation management team takes on all cases where those kind, legal efforts fail to get the content removed. After all, thieves only steal things if the gains exceed the costs of stealing them -- hence we make sure the costs associated with stealing are, shall we say, excessive.

About John Andrews

John Andrews and Johnon.com

Someone once told me that when they hear a conference speaker describe some SEO issue, they prioritize finding out "what would JA do..." as their next step. This blog was named "JohnOn" because it represents my opinions "on" a variety of topics (most related to entreprenuring using the web, in competition with other publishers).

A few selected references noted from a brief period when I was public with my SEO thoughts (a random few of many -- I see no reason to list them all here):

  • Guest on a segment of Webmaster Radio, where I was literally grilled by the host on a variety of SEO topics, as if he was capitalizing on his chance to get some free SEO consulting he could use for his own SEO consulting business. He admitted during the interview that, yes, I really did know a lot about SEO. LOL
  • Quoted in Bloomberg Business Week, on Google's and Demand Media's co-dependency
  • "John andrews is one of the smartest industry folks i've ever met", said the author of Killer Facebook Ads (in the book).
  • Cited as an essential resource in the book "111 SEO Tips" (published in German)
  • Cited for defining competitive website optimizing as an effective practice, in the book Website Visibility: The Theory and Practice of Improving Rankings
  • "John Andrews is one of the smartest, most perceptive people in search marketing", noted by search conference organizer, in a profile published in advance of a rare conference appearance.
  • A very kind reference passed along by a business owner looking for a trustworthy SEO consultant: "We have worked with John Andrews in Seattle for two years now, and are very pleased. He is very high-end as an SEO consultant, but for some reason he tolerates us bothering him month after month. He's very advanced, but still knows how to communicate (rare!)"
  • Invited and sponsored to attend/speak at numerous conferences, some of which I accepted and attended. These include TRAFFIC (several times), Search Engine Strategies (SES), Search Marketing Expo (SMX-Advanced), Domain Roundtable, Search Fest, and others.
  • Recommended as one of 3 resources for business people seeking top-tier insights into web publishing: "John Andrews.... you'll need to read between the lines a bit as he's not going to just lay out every tactic or shift in black and white. He'll suggest things to consider and in general he's way ahead of the curve. Read everything on his site and sign up for his newsletter."
  • I have known 2 former Rock Stars who became web marketers/SEOs, and this compliment was published by the one who went on to win a lot of web marketing awards: "Some writers have more guts than others...John is fearless and totally gets it. There was some buzz in 2010 about how effective certain SEO firms, known for correlation studies, are at reverse engineering Google’s algorithm. This post from John Andrews is the definitive one to our mind, and challenged other thought leaders in respectful and compelling ways."

Quoting My Self

"To an experimentalist, everything is an experiment. Observations are rarely what they appear to be."
"Confidently chase market share as an SEO success metric. Document your many assumptions (of course), but do boldly estimate market share based on real data you collect on queries, user distributions by intent, geo, and other factors. Always, always pursue higher market share."

MediaPost highlighted my "Healthcare Search Marketing" SEO notes, so I ranked myself into position #1

MediaPost highlighted a blog post of mine about healthcare search marketing consultants and agencies. I had noted that ranking for a healthcare search term was not always associated with servicing the searchers finding the top-ranking result. If you were good at SEO you could rank for a term, even if you didn't deserve to be top-ranked for that term (https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/68284/top-ranked-search-firms-all-aint-the-same.html).

After that, I decided to rank myself for "healthcare search marketing" and promptly earned the top #1 position. I held for over a year. During that time, I received emails from professionals in the health space, complaining that I had insulted them. Remember, this was back when people actually believed Google was a benefactor for the web. Some successful yet amazingly ignorant programmers back then were so sheltered, they openly hated on SEO (even technical SEO), preaching that you could rank for relevance by just-making-good-content (Cal Evans, "Just Say No to SEO", July 2007 updated Feb 2019).

On Censorship...quoted from an interview

Prior to Threadwatch I mostly stayed out of forums and the like, due to frustrations I felt dealing with those who quietly "managed the message" as moderators. People only see what gets published, and they want to believe it’s the whole story. If they are told "we only edit out obscenities" then they believe that what they see is what was written, perhaps sans obscenities. Sadly, that is far from the truth. Posts are edited and deleted as needed to manage discussions, and often there are strong agendas at work behind that process. Threadwatch started as a place that promised not to do that, and it didn’t. I was one of the first 3 editors of Threadwatch, and I didn’t even get any instructions for doing the job. It was simply assumed that we would only fix problems, delete obvious spam and bring questionable issues up for discussion. Everyone had a voice if they exercised it. If there were too many UFO posts the community complained to the posters before any moderators did.

On Helping Others with SEO as a Consultant, quoted from an interview

I follow the consultant model in my business, rather than an agency or practice model. That means I focus strategically on those aspects of search marketing (and competitive webmastering) that bring business success rather than simply SEO success. I believe that a business looking to succeed in search marketing is actually looking to succeed online in general, not just gain more search traffic. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t have that general online success model worked out yet, and their SEO efforts fail to perform cost-effectively even if they succeed based on SEO metrics alone.

Fortunately, the same knowledge an SEO needs to achieve SEO success can be used by the business itself to refine the online success portion of the overall Internet marketing equation. This can be done at the same time, and with relatively little incremental cost, via the consulting model. I hope to demonstrate that by showing how working effectively with an SEO at the strategy level can guide you towards overall online success, while simultaneously empowering you to effectively manage your SEO engagement and empowering your SEO to succeed on your behalf.

On Competitive Webmastering...quoted from an interview

Much of what we do as search optimizers is really just good web publishing, following proper technical and usability guidelines. But as search becomes the default access channel for Internet users, building for search (search friendly publishing, or SEO) is actually necessary.

And that is a self-reinforcing thing -- the more search works for people, the more they use search. If every webmaster optimizes, they all need to optimize further, in order to compete. So if you expect to be competitive today, you need to be search optimized. If tomorrow we have something new that is more important than search, we webmasters will need to accommodate that as well. In general, you are a competitive webmaster.

On Content

Content. That word is so important. And when you read it.... like when you read it above, you believed more than the type expressed. You projected into the typed word on my web site, your own committed belief of what it meant. And not just the meaning, but the pronunciation, as well.

Chances are very good that you read "CAHN-tent" as in the content of this web site post. But I wrote "content" pronounced "cunn-TENT", meaning at peace, pleased, satisfied, or perhaps some flavor of happy.

Stop projecting your own meaning into other people's words! Read what I wrote, not what you think I wrote. You look like an idiot when you do that.

*If there is a way to contact me, it is provided at the bottom of the page.

Asides

It's not Me, it's You.

My Word of the Day today is ostensibly. Do you know what it means? Or are you one of those moderns who say "I know what it means when I read it or hear it in a sentence, but I can't give you a formal definition". We get so much BS from those egotistical, ignorant moderns.

The title here is a twist of a phrase. During my lifetime experience, the phrase "It's not you, it's me" grew during the Friends generation. The Friends era was anchored temporally by the TV show "Friends", which showcased a culture quite different from my own post-Boomer, pre-Millenial culture. They tried to avoid conflict. They evolved a neo-pagan, self-deprecating culture which, due to inevitable aspects of human nature, fostered passive aggressive behaviors, all-in megalomania, and victimhood, all of which we now see quite commonly in our society today.

I'm of a more scientific background. I know that actually, in fact, it's usually not me, but you.

Humans tend to behave as they have before. You can bet on that. The era of "I'm OK, you're OK" was before my time. That age of Valium and relatively low THC marijuana paralleled cultural rot and hedonism:sex, drugs, acting out, and giving up. Boomers, but not all Boomers.

So, keep this in mind: if your past behavior (by my witness) was X or Y, then I (just me.. not necessarily anyone else) will expect that you are likely to behave the same way, in the future.

Reason is a human behavior essential for survival. And reason requires that consideration.

If you're now thinking to yourself that my position here is bigoted, or suggests that I think people can't change, or that I fail to provide allowances for people to recover or otherwise repent from past errors, then you're being stupid. And that is a fact.

Remember, this is for YOU. You have established a reputation, and a pattern of expected behaviors. Do you even know what they are? In context?

I am your context. How I recall you behaved, is how I expect you will behave. Have you changed? Are you different now? Well, that might be awesome! But how would I know? I don't... but I do know who you were before, and I will very reasonably expect more of the same from you.


The Proper Definition of a Rat

For all the GodFather fans out there (the original, not "II" lol), we now have an update on the proper definition of a rat.

"you give up people around you, to save yourself (from a prison sentence). The people that you were in bed with, the people that you trusted, that trusted you -- to save yourself, you bury them, whether they were your friend or not. That is not something that you're supposed to do" - Michael Franceze

Now you can debate whether the guy who violated his oath and left the life is a rat or not, but like everyone else you have to work within a proper definition of "rat" so here we are with one that not only works but seems to match the working definition defined by decades of street life.

Not everyone is courageous. No everyone is wise. Not everyone has the skills needed to manage every situation. But no one, ever, should be a rat. It's not just ugly, or disgusting, or wrong. It's quite simply inhumane. Which is why the rodent was chosen as the model.

Do whatever you can to not be a rat. There is nothing better for you to do.


Wearing Your Heart On Your Sleeve

In the current decade, the single most off-putting behavior exhibited by professional SEO/web publishing industry service providers is the voluntary public pronouncement of personal opinions unrelated to the work. I refer to mentions in their professional materials... like their profiles, company bios, and work-related social media posts.

Nothing -- I repeat: nothing is more suggestive of future problems than a service provider wearing her heart on her sleeve.

In Search Marketing, this started over a dozen years ago. By 2021 it had become common. Today it seems routine to discover right up front, in a professional profile or "about" intro, that someone is supportive of abortion (!), or advocates for this-or-that privilege group, and otherwise supports some specific political agenda.

Pronouns in the bio? Same issue. Except for a very small minority who feel they need to help you understand their abnormal status with their unusual perferred pronouns, the rest are just there to express some sort of allegiance, advocacy, or political statement. Right up front. Before their own professional identity. A man telling you his pronouns are "he" and "him" should raise red flags. He expressly prioritizes the virtue signaling over everything else. How is that going to work out over the course of a professional engagement?

Diversity people have skin in this game -- they get paid well to manipulate us. But a professional service provider? These signals should be reasons for you to pass over the provider, and simply keep looking for someone else (unless you, too, are simply looking to make a hire as a virtue signal). You definitely don't want to make a major character mistake right at the beginning of an engagement, only to pay the costs of that mistake later. The evidence is clear and voluntary -- this person will compromise professional performance if their own personal opinion or pet agenda desires such sacrifice.

I have my own opinions of why this is commonplace today. Until recently, it had more to do with the lack of merit in the rewards system than anything else. Recently, the "diversity money" has grown so rich that even that concept is corrupted. Which underlines the importance of protecting yourself at the beginning, when you know the least about what you actually need from a given provider.

Always remember: a scammer will sell you what they think you want to buy. They don't start out advertising a specific fraudulent thing, hoping to catch you while you're shopping. Instead, they advertise broad, generic offerings as bait, and then circle back in a communications loop with the you (the prospect, aka "the mark"), amplifyig only those parts that you show are meaningful to you. This crafts a virtual fit of what-they-offer to what-you-think-you-need.

With SEO or Digital Marketing service providers, by the time you make the first payment, their commitment is set : they will deliver only what is needed to comply with the literal contracted deal. Anything else will either support their own desires and agendas, or support upselling you to more money, for more of the same pseudo-relevant but profitable work for them.

If they want you to know that agenda X or Y is important to them, there are reasons why. For the typical underachieving service professional in the marketing and web publishing world, those personal decisions they have made in the past are the very reasons they underachieve -- and will underachivee for your project.

Don't hire them. Seriously. In time, they'll revert back to more reasonable norms of behavior, in order to get work.


Experimentation

I wonder how much, if any, effort today's SEO "professionals" put into experimentation.


Google Today - Pretty Sad, Actually?

I just Google'd "competitive webmaster" and they rank #1 a journal article from the Asssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM), published in 1995, by Merrill Warkentin. That's right... a formal journal article from the early days of the World Wide Web, by a "distinguished" member of the ACM. So distinguished, mind you, that his author profile page is... empty.

Well.. not technically "empty"... it has his photo, his name, and three links to universities. And there's a little badge icon that says he was a "distinguished" member of ACM.

I wonder why this ranks? I wonder if by now (27 years later) Marrill Warketin is actually extinguished? Update -- nope. he's quite distinguished, actually, and that ACM badge was only added in 2018.

The article Google ranked is nonsense. Back in 1995, literally nobody understood competing on the world wide web, but smart old professor Merrill crafted a title that positioned his thinking right up there in ACM on the topic of competing. And, due to Google's nearly insane desire to be correct even if irrelevant, that article now ranks #1 in Google, serving no one except Merrill and his host universities and publishers.

Those 3 links go to dedicated pages re-promoting the author and the author's contributions. They load painfully slowly... so slow you'd believe they were empty pages until they finally loaded their 95% spun content. But that doesn't matter -- they are "authoritative" to Google. With 125+ published research papers, an Amazon-endowed chair at the university, etc etc etc, this guy is authoritative. His stuff... even a beginner essay from 27 years ago, deserves to rank #1 for searches on Google.com, right?

The SEO work done by ACM to incorporate deeply cross-referencing inner pages of spun content doesn't hurt. It's programmatic -- database driven cross-referencing intended to drive authority signals improperly utilized by Google, to encourage high ranking for nonsense like Merrill's old article.

Let's be fair - is this article really "nonsense"? Perhaps there is at least a tiny bit of worthiness for the searcher, such that it deserves attention? Professor Merrill boasts of 9,438 citations on ResearchGate. Hey... did you notice that the ResearchGate web site looks remarkably similar in structure and SEO strategy to the ACM Digital Archive? Coincidence?

Come on, folks, even Merrill noted that this article was mostly a rewrite of an earlier "How to Make A Website" paper he had published as a Business & Management professor back when "we have to get a website" was all the rage. His article notes Netscape Navigator as the standard browser everyone uses, and he cautions that if you allow unrestricted Internet access at work, employees may spend as much as an hour a day on non-work internet browsing (!)

In 2022, Modern Google ranks this #1. And the URL Google sends searchers to isn't even the indexed article... it's a page that highlights this ancient technical article, offered as a "free access" PDF file, behind a click.

One could argue that the use of "web master" in this search query skewed the results. I think that idea fails quickly. Yes, "webmaster" is old school, but no, it's not so rare that it should shift the query to show 27 year old articles. There are plenty of indexed web URLs using that phrase even today.

Simply put, Google thinks it's safe to rank that article at the top. Further study would reveal Google's widespread abandonment of search quality in favor of safety, for this (and many, many other) queries today. After all, who would criticize ranking Merill's classic best-match paper from the ACM library (or the copy promoted on ResearchGate, or the copy promoted on any of the many near-duplicate aggregate sites like those)?

I would. But maybe only I would?

Maybe if Merrill isn't fully retired, he can take on a project? We need an essay that smartly investigates the cost of making database-driven, deeply cross-referenced site networks, utilizing numerous brands pretending to be independent just-enough-to-meet-Google's requirements, and compares the value proposition for publishing that vs. the value to searchers, and perhaps even Google's own long-term value propositions.

In other words, what sort of "academia" has more value since 1995 : actual scholarly work, or strategically directed tactical business communications that exploit Google's preferred strategies for managing perceived vulnerabilities in the internet's ad-driven marketplace?

I know, I know... Merill has no idea this is being done with his work. He's just an academic working hard to distinguish himself from his peers, with state-of-the-art work that may indeed be exploited by "those publishers". You know the ones... they hire expensive SEO experts, who study how Google works, and use thair secret knowledge to exploit the algorithm, and rank.

Contact

Need to reach me? Call me, or text me, or hit me up on Slack, Discord, Telegram, or other. I'm not active on Facebook, nor am I on LinkedIn.

If you need my contact details or phone number, just find someone you know who already has it, and ask them for it. #simple.

If you discover that you don't know anyone who knows me, well... sorry about that. Maybe you can you ask every SEO person you know "Do you know how to contact John Andrews?". That sometimes works well.

For everyone else, try emailing me at one of my domains, like johnandrews.org or johnandrews.com or this site JohnOn.com, or maybe andrews@ hey.com.

Latest Photo

Archive: The Dawn of the Information Age

The Dawn of the Disinformation Age

We can haggle about the exact month or quarter later, when we have historical hindsight, but as of right now I'm calling it: the Information Age has ended, and we are now in the Disinformation Age. Fake News is not the Reason

Chris Hedges did a good job describing the Fake News phenomenon:

The object of fake news is to shape public opinion by creating fictional personalities and emotional responses that overwhelm reality. Hillary Clinton, contrary to how she often was portrayed during the recent presidential campaign, never fought on behalf of women and children—she was an advocate for the destruction of a welfare system in which 70 percent of the recipients were children. She is a tool of the big banks, Wall Street and the war industry. Pseudo-events were created to maintain the fiction of her concern for women and children, her compassion and her connections to ordinary people. Trump never has been a great businessman. He has a long history of bankruptcies and shady business practices. But he played the fictional role of a titan of finance on his reality television show, "The Apprentice".

The rise of Fake News isn't responsible for the Dawn of the Disinformation Age. It's just one very obvious symptom of the establishment of the new age. Fake News has been around forever. When I was a kid, it was gossip, and rumor. The internet has amplified it, and made it more powerful. The corrupt press has adopted it as a tool.

We all saw that part coming... the rise of the "television Anchor Man" who wasn't a real journalist. The dawn of "cable news". The embedding of media and elimination of field journalists & photojournalists. The consolidation of newspapers. The success of tabloids in Britain, as newspapers struggled. The firing of news staff, replaced with new people charitably described as early-career "writers". The move from professional photography to "hey wanna-be celebrity news correspondant, don't forget to bring your iphone to get some pics".

Corrupted Information Distribution

Now we also have the corruption of information distribution, via agendas pursued behind the scenes by Facebook, Google, and Twitter, and others. Google has long hidden its manipulations behind a secret "algorithm". Facebook hid its manipulations behind the Timeline interfacess. And Twitter..well, I guess poor Twitter couldn't come up with anything better than the outright censorship they've implemented.

The Blogging Revolution didn't last long. The corrupt entities worked to kill it technically, while simultaneously shifting incentives away from independent reporting.

Google manipulated commenting, compartmentalized indexation & ranking of blog-published content, and killed non-Google distribution efforts. It raided the RSS world for virtually all the leadership talent, and then aggregating the feed users via its subsequent virtual monopoly on RSS feed reading and distribution. Then Google killed off its own popular feed reader abruptly.

Facebook's core agenda competes directly with blogging, so simply advancing with billions of IPO dollars worked to kill blogging. Similarly, Twitter's parasitic "microblogging platform" eagerly sickened the host.

Group Think and In-Group Preference

Probably the biggest colluding factor aiding the rise of the Age of Disinformation seems to be Group Think, also known as "in group preference". That part is YOU, dear reader. When you echo only sentiments you agree with, whether or not they are based in fact or even reasonable, you contribute to the group think that appears to be reality to so many who know even less than you.

All the Trump comments are perfect evidence of this. I won't go there in this article, but if you have a firm stance pro or against President Donald Trump, you are likely part of the problem.

Self-Medicating

In America, the common man has been abandoned by the press. As individuals permit their livelihoods and lives to be placed at risk, as a consequence of they themselves choosing not to investigate or reason through often inaccessible facts, they feel the vulnerability. In response, they are forced to cope with fear and uncertainty, even as they go about their regular business.

Fear and Loathing in America

Ambient fear and uncertainty takes a significant toll of the psyche.

Operating under fear, individuals do not think more reasonably, act more rationally, or listen more astutely. Nor do they react more appropriately.

On the contrary, manipulated by fear they over-react, shut down, deny threats, take drugs to manage anxiety, and sometimes scream out in anger, resentment, or despair.

Have you ever tried to console a 3 year old whose balloon has escape and is visibly soaring away, high in the sky? Nothing will ease the pain, except a promise of immediate attention to the task of getting another one, right now. And sometimes it needs to be a bigger, better one.

That promise is often a lie... unless the little tyrant has previously proven he really means to wreck the world unless he gets his balloon back, right, now.

Reference: I don't agree with a lot Chris Hedges writes these days. I see him as biased; swayed by disgust with his journalism peers, and perhaps disappointed to the point of depression, if not actually crippled, by his loss of access to quality information. But, within this essay I found the above commentary on Fake News http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46075.htm

— Originally published to https://johnon.com/1135/the-dawn-of-the-disinformation-age/, last revised Feb 21, 2019

Historical Reference on a John Andrews

From correspondance between a John Andrews and his brother, a very long time ago:

"However precarious our situation may be, yet such is the present calm composure of the people that a stranger would hardly think that ten thousand pounds sterling of the East India Company’s tea was destroy’d," Andrews wrote. And yet he called it "a serious truth" that Boston will feel "the whole weight of ministerial vengeance."

But, he pointed out, most people think Boston stands an equal chance of receiving troops whether they threw the tea in the harbor or not. "Had it been stored," wrote Andrews, "we should inevitably have had ’em, to enforce the sale of it."

He characterized the Tea Party as "transacted with the greatest regularity and despatch."

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