My dad just emailed me as he is helping a friend who had a website that was ranking for a given keyword, but the friend’s sketchy web host is now holding the domain hostage. I imagine this is not the first time this has happened to someone, which is a shame. I thought it would be worthwhile to share my response, hoping it will benefit another person or two in a similar situation. I’ve left out a name or two, and also added a few sentences to my response versus what I sent via email, but its pretty much the same deal.


…Helping out a friend with a problem. Her website was suspended by an unethical webhost and they are holding her domain name for ransom. (name removed – google them, lots of issues) I set her up with .info and .org and we are going to try and work with ICAAN to get .net back.

She was well ranked in a google search on her name. Are there any [tactics] I can employ to get a search on her name to quickly offer up the .info and .org (points to .info) web pages?

Thanks for any advice you can offer.

My Response:

The domain is everything. If the web host is holding her domain for ransom than that tells me they probably technically own the domain, which means they have all the power unless she has something that can legally dispute that. ICANN is probably who you’d need to go through.

The only way to “get your rankings back” completely is to 301 redirect the old domain to the new domain. You’d need either be able to log in to the registrar or access the website via FTP (using the .htaccess file) to implement this. If they have the hosting account and domain on lockdown then you are basically helpless. Technically they control (own) the website… or at least the domain which is what Google uses as your unique ID.

Think of it as your website’s Social Security Number. You can dye your hair, buy new clothes, get a tan and change your accent to make yourself appear different – but you are still the same person with the same SSN. Once you change your SSN then you have no credit history, etc. You are basically a new person and start again from scratch. Such it is with domains.

How competitive of a search was she ranking for? If its just her name or her company’s name than its probably not very hard to rank for that search phrase even with a brand new site. I would definitely go with a .com, .net or .org version of the domain and avoid using a .info like the plague. .info is often associated with spam, and those domains fight an uphill battle in Google. This won’t help you rank for all sorts of other keywords, but the company or personal name shouldn’t be that tough. You can also try creating accounts on some other sites such as LinkedIn to get rankings for your name fairly quickly.

Example – Google search on “jon payne“. I am the guy featured on sites ranking #1, 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, and 15 out of the top 20. That changes all the time just a bit, in fact most days I have 3 or 4 in the top 5. My associate “tim staines” has sites 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, and 8 from the top 10. I’m bitter about that, so I’ll argue that his name is a bit less common and there isn’t a PhD at Stanford sharing his name.

Note: there are a few “black hat” types of tactics that could be implemented here, such as 302 domain hijacking. I’m a little too “white hat” in my approach to actually recommend that, and probably couldn’t even provide details on how to successfully execute that if I wanted to since I never have (I swear!). In this case though, if the objective is ranking for a person’s name that isn’t terribly common I think some basic white hat SEO techniques on a handful of sites should be able to meet the objective here without much difficulty. If the friend’s name happens to be something like “Sarah Palin” or “Britney Spears” or something than this could prove more difficult.


We had an initial question via the SEO Meetup group mailing list today about Web CEO, which has spurred quite a discussion of that and many other tools. Perhaps a good topic for an upcoming meetup would be a discussion and quick tour of a number of tools.

Interest? How about interest in any of the following topics?  Edit: Please choose ONE or two of the topics you’d most like to discuss and whatever is the most popular choice will be our topic.  We’ll then discuss other topics at future meetups.

a) SEO software, tools and plugins
b) pricing, sales and contracts SEO projects
c) project management, tracking results and reporting to clients
d) link building show & tell
e) site review panel
f) understanding black hat tips and tactics
g) overviews and opinions of SEO conferences
h) social networking and social media
i) blogging and SEO
j) comparison of various analytics services

Maybe 60-90 minutes of interaction discussion about the above… and then over to a nearby bar to have a drink, network and casual small group conversation as per usual. Thoughts?

Please let me know your opinions or preferences. Now is the time to “voice your vote” otherwise you have no right to complain about next meeting’s topic 🙂 You can either email me or post a comment below with your thoughts.

I’m thinking maybe first or second week of November.

Edit: So far I’m getting mostly emails rather than blog comments as replies… but I’ll share an update later on about what the topic will be for the next event and also what the top requests were.

So this is pretty cool. My internet marketing firm’s website is ranking # 3 for “marketing” in Google India. Go check it out. Its not even for the “pages from India” selection but just from the entire web, when searched through Google India.

Google India SERPs

Yeah pretty cool… I didn’t even really target that one-word keyword, although it is in our name (Ephricon Web Marketing) and naturally its completely intertwined with all of our services… but I have to think that is also true for every other online marketing and SEO firm out there, right?

The funny thing is that we’ve been there for at least a few weeks, maybe months. I’m too lazy to dig through the analytics right now to check. I actually noticed a ton of traffic for this keyword in our Google Analytics account, but then I checked and right now we’re ranked #199 in “regular” Google. I assumed maybe something funny was going on with the tracking, or perhaps it was some crazy bot traffic… didn’t really give it much thought.

It wasn’t until I logged into my HitsLink account (which I haven’t done for months) that I noticed it. By default, HitsLink shows you micro-level data like each visitor to the site… it shows the last 50 visitors and what they searched on, where they came from etc and I noticed a ton were “marketing” and from I then logged back into Google Analytics and clicked on traffic sources > keywords > “marketing” (my kw) and then selected “country / territory” from the “dimension” dropdown.

I had 94 visits from people searching on “marketing” using a Google property in the last 30 days. 93 of them used Google India.

So wow, pretty cool. But on second thought, why only 93 visitors? That’s only 3 people a day from a pretty popular 1-word keyword phrase. Sure, is not the default Google… but I have to think it has a pretty good volume. I believe its not drawing more traffic for a number of reasons:

  1. My title and description both specify that we’re in “Baltimore, MD”. If I’m a guy in India, I’m not nearly as likely to click on this site in the SERPs.
  2. gets only a small slice of Google’s total search volume. I have no data to back this up. I’m guessing.
  3. Like reason #1 above, my title and description both refer to internet marketing and SEO. If you are searching on marketing you are likely searching for something more broad or strategic, and thus not as likely to click on my site.

There are probably many more reasons too. If you can think of any, please share them with me.

So of those 3 items above, I can change #1 and #3, but cannot change #2. Here’s a case study – should I change the title and description to tweak it to bring in a higher clickthrough rate for a generic term like “marketing”? I could do this to see what effect it would have on clickthroughs and traffic for this keyword. Might be a cool mini-case-study of sorts.

If I did that, I’d probably change it back before too long. Truth is that the lower volumes of more highly qualified traffic is what produces my conversions and business objectives… so that generic traffic is pretty useless to me.

I’m not really sure why likes the site so much more than the rest of Google, perhaps there are a bunch of SEO companies in India linking to my site? Even if that’s the case, again I can’t see how that would be stronger for us than say any other internet marketing or SEO firm out there.

Any other thoughts, ideas, comments? Has anyone seen something like this for other country-specific Google domains?

Fun post here, nothing that will make you any money. Okay scratch that, some smart-ass will lobby me otherwise… but that’s not the point here. The point is to screw with your SEO friends.

I wanted to see how closely one of my employees was monitoring his Google Analytics for a particular website, and also have a little fun at the same time. This particular site doesn’t have much content on it, and nothing “fun” per se. Thus, I decided I’d do a search and rig it to be one of those people who search on something like 10 words long that make you scratch your head how they found your site.

My search:

abc brand -“hi tim lets see how closely you monitor your analytics”

What’s above is exactly what shows up in his Google Analytics or referral logs. By using the “-” command you are telling Google to exclude whatever follows that. Thus, so long as I put something I know he doesn’t have on the website I can ensure that text will come through into the stats. You could put anything. I choose not to get too crass. To be sure, the minus search command is rigging things here, almost like cheating really. Its not quite as pure as how George ranks for something like catchy professional photographers company’s names. Not sure how well that one converts??? Can we get a search volume estimate in the Google External Keyword Tool for that?

Read the rest of this entry »

“Meet the Baltimore Internet Marketers” was the theme of last night’s Meetup event held at the ETC in Canton, thanks the kind donation of space from R2i (thanks Page!).

This is the first event I’ve organized in roughly six months for this group, which was way overdue (I’ve been busy) but better late than never, right? Anyhow, we should get that back on track now.

We had a great turnout. I didn’t count exactly, but we were in the 25 to 30 attendee range. I think it was 3 ladies and the rest were a bunch of scruffly guys (myself included)… which was actually more gender-diverse than previous meetups. Poor Lori and Kathleen.

Read the rest of this entry »

If you are outside of the Baltimore / DC metro area than this post will be of no interest to you. If you are in the area then consider checking out the next SEO Meetup we are having. Its been like 6 months since our last one, but prior to that we had been getting together roughly once every month to six weeks or so. I’ve been swamped finishing up grad school and getting things with work running a little more efficiently. That’s my excuse.

The agenda will consist of roughly 45-60 minutes of “who the heck are you” type introductions, where each attendee has maybe 2 minutes to share who they are, what type of work they do, if they are hiring or looking for partners, etc. Then – if time allows – we may have a little link building tips discussion followed by a few drinks and perhaps a bite to eat at the Austin Grill located in the same building as where we are having the event, the Emerging Technologies Center in Canton.

So far in attendance will be myself and approximately 20 other local internet marketing people (skewed heavily towards SEOs).

Disclaimer: I blatantly stole the idea for the “meet the local internet marketers” from Keith and Corey. Oh well fellas, that’s how the web works 🙂

Question from an associate…

Off the wall google question for you. How do you get listings like the #1 slot here.

google sitelinks

google sitelinks

My response:

You mean the sublistings aka “sitelinks” underneath of the #1? They are context-specific. They will show when Google thinks you are looking for a specific company and the #1 result is that company. Thus, you can have a #1 ranking and they won’t show up, unless the keywords show a direct match for what that site actually is.


search on “shoes” and you’ll see is #1, but with no sitelinks

search on “” and you’ll see is #1, this time with sitelinks b/c Google thinks you are looking specifically for their site / company, not just “shoes” in general

This all said, you’ll only get the sitelinks when you site has a decent level of authority. That is, you’ll need to have a site with a little “link juice” that is on Google’s radar, not just a crappy little site with two inbound links. The links they show are generally their interpretation of the most important pages on your site. If your site architecture is good this might match up with your main navigation. That said, it could feature other pages too if they have a lot of inbound link juice or internal link juice to those specific pages.

I believe there also may be a feature too in Google Webmaster Tools to tweak these, but have not yet played around with it.

Also, here is Google’s commentary on sitelinks (aka sublinks).

FYI – since I took a few minutes on this I’m going to recycle on my blog…