“You can think of us as your website’s cosmetic surgery team.” – Baran Golocy, Norcal Internet Services

Norcal Internet Services

At first I thought this guy’s site design was just terrible, end of story.  Then I saw a few people tweeting his link, and blogging about how its the worst website ever, etc.  So then I thought… social media genius!  Just think of all the link bait he’s getting!  But then I checked out his other websites (below), and now I’m back to thinking that his stuff really is just that ugly and perhaps the fantastic buzz he’s getting is indeed unintentional.




So let’s think on this a bit more.  I’m not designer myself.  I have zippy art / design skills.  I can’t even match my clothes for goodness sake.  But pretty sites don’t necessarily sell products and services online.  Think of the most successful online retailers.  Hardly a list of nicest site designs.  For most businesses, the focus should be on the product or service itself, and not the site’s layout and design which is simply the structure used to communicate the message.  Amazon’s site design won’t impress anyone.  Nor does 1800petmeds.com.  But those guys make good money.  As an SEO/SEM guy, I fully understand that while we’d prefer to have a visually-appealing site, the “is it attractive?” component takes a back seat to “does it generate traffic?” and “does it convert?” questions.

So back to our guys at Norcal Internet Services…

Success: He’s getting a ton of buzz, and a nicely done professional design would not.  It would be boring, expected, or whatever and people would not be tweeting about it.  And I think he does intend, at least a little bit, to be “just a little bit different” as he puts it.

Failure: Are you going to hire him to design your website?  Your flash banner?  Your walk-out video?  Perhaps you might if you wanted the cheesey feel for your own social media campaign, but otherwise most of us would probably move on to the next guy.  The quality of the video itself on some of the sites is pretty weak.  If it was nice and clear and high-resolution – but just cheesey in nature – then sure I’d hire him.  But only for a viral comedy piece.

So what’s the net here?  I have to think that even though he’s probably not getting a high conversion rate, he’s getting more total conversions than he was before getting this buzz…  But would he be better served to use a more professional, higher-quality design and presumably convert more (and/or better) prospects, albeit on a lesser traffic level?

Your thoughts?

Note: There are apparently at least two companies named NorCal Internet Services.  They do not appear to be related.  The one discussed above does walk-out video, email advertising, web design, etc.  The other is an ISP.  This post is only referring to the former, not the ISP.

Update 03/11/2010: I removed the link to the above site b/c apparently since I posted this someone apparently swiped this poor guy’s domain and put a not-so-family-friendly website there.

Just got an email from a client about this, and in fact have gotten several lately.  Since Google is a huge deal, anything and everything they do is a huge deal.  The fact that Twitter is a huge deal too makes this story quite a big one.  That said, I think there is more hype and excitement about the deal, change, etc. than there will be in terms of actual, tangible, meaningful change to search.  Granted though, I do think this will an impact.  It just won’t be the earth-shattering deal people expect it to be.  My thoughts to my client (copied from my email reply):

Yup. I still think this is not going to be implemented in the way people think it will though.  Years ago everyone was all optimistic on Froogle (Google’s shopping search) and Google Video search.  While they are very nice, they are like 1% or less of search volume.

I stand by the notion that Twitter is very easy to spam, and if Google gives prominent billing to Twitter feed text weighted on recency than that is the easiest thing to spam.  The spammers will have a field day.  They’ll just write scripts to post new tweets every 5 minutes.  In fact, they are already doing that.

Instead, I think what you will see is the “buzz” impact here… Google will see what links people are sharing with each other that hour, that day, etc. and those sites will get a boost in the SERPs.  In fact, this is basically how Bing is already starting to incorporate the results.  This is much harder to spam and fits in line with Google’s philosophy on search, validation from varied masses, etc.

It also fixes a big weakness they have in that is takes them weeks and months to update their link index.  Take the example of Michael Jackson’s death.  The day he died if you did a Google search on his name you didn’t see anything related to his death.  You saw sites about him, his bio, etc. that had built up their “reputation” scores over many years.  The new articles could not compete.  Leveraging data from social media in real time, in combination with Google Caffeine, can help them bridge that gap and make search now something that can be helpful for current events whereas to this point it has failed in that area.

Summation: I think this story is a 10 out of 10 in terms of hype, interest, etc.  I think 2 years from now we’ll say its a 7 out of 10 in terms of how it impacted search, SEO, etc.  7 is still pretty special, but with a 7 you should still be able to go to sleep tonight instead of staying up and analyzing this.

Twitter’s new homepage seems to be trying to position them as a search engine solution for “real time information”.

It looks like you can rank so long as your post is very recent.  A search on “keyword xyz” (removed for privacy) which is our #1 keyword for Clientwebsite.com shows roughly 5 to 10 tweets per day.  If we were to post a Tweet 2-3 times per day with “keyword xyz” somewhere in it, we would pretty much always be in the top few results all the time.  I know there are Tweet Scheduling applications that could automate this, but that feels reasonably spammy to me and not something I’d want to do with a client’s main profile.  Not really something I think we should do at all.  Now for higher-volume keywords the frequency would need to be very high, for lesser-volume and lesser-competition keywords you could maybe post once a day or even just a few times per week and stay in the top few results.  This will probably change quite a bit as Twitter grows, etc.

The algo doesn’t look very sophisticated – it doesn’t seem to give any weight to how trusted (popular) as user is.  In fact it doesn’t even seem to give weight to keyword proximity.  I searched on “network support” and the top 3 posts have both words “network” and “support” but not the phrase.  They are poor results – not talking about “network support”.  The fourth result has that phrase and is a good result.  The only determining factor in ranking here seems to be how recently the Tweet was posted.  So long as you have the words included you are in the game.

Additional verification – I just posted a question about an HDTV and I’m now ranked #3 for that search on Twitter’s homepage.  The two above me were posted more recently (I posted 7 minutes ago, they posted 3 and 4 minutes ago).

I can’t help but feel that all this is going to do is encourage a high volume of spammy Tweets from people who want to stay at the top of Twitter search results and know that frequency is really the only requirement?  Hopefully they add in some things to account for spam versus trusted users, etc.

Its clear the spammers are already hitting this hard.  How should higher-end SEO people and new media consultants approach this?

Down on Twitter

February 26, 2009

Okay I’m back to being down on Twitter.  Its like me email and instant messaging.  Too all-consuming.  I’ve basically spent all morning doing nothing plowing through my email and Twitter account.

A whole lot of talking and communicating.  Not a whole lot of “doing”.

Or maybe its not the tool (Twitter), but rather me and my lack of attention discipline that is the problem here?


This is just a beautiful thing.

I’ve somehow started using Twitter again after our recent SEO Meetup about social media.  At the event, @george_murphy and @timstaines convinced me (@jonpayne) there was a business benefit – a way to leverage it for traffic and leads.

Anyhow, today I was looking for a good URL shortener that also does 301 redirects.  Why?  Well let’s suppose I post a URL of a page on one of my sites – like this blog post for example.  In Twitter, since I’m limited to 140 characters I need to use some sort of URL shortener or I might not have enough room for the long URLs typically associated with blogs.  Until recently, I had been using is.gd, mainly b/c I just liked the “is good” reference.


So what if – by rare occurance – someone who visits my page actually likes it and wants to link to it?  If they copy the URL in their browser post-rediret than I’m fine, they’ll link straight to my site.  But what if they copy the URL shortener version and then they post that in their blog or elsewhere?  I’ll get the traffic, but no link juice… and those are the perfect, real, natural “editorial” type links Google is really looking for.  I should get that credit…

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Twitter – the popular microblogging and social media site – recently decided to be proactive and modify their own TOS since all the other cool social media kids are doing it.

Some people are saying they went almost as far in over-reaching their claims as did Facebook, who updated their TOS just the other day.   I’m not sure.  Here are the stipulations they added in.  You be the judge.

17a) All your tweets are belong to us.
17b) Forever. And ever.

18a) If you link to a website from one of your tweets, all associated ad revenue generated on that website becomes Twitter’s property (aka “Twoperty”).
18b) The website itself also becomes Twoperty.
18c) Any websites it links to become Twoperty as well.
18d) Even if its not your website.
18e) Seriously, try it. We dare you.

19a) All images or photos you post to TwitPics also become Twitter’s Twoperty.
19b) As does any revenue attributable to the photos.
19c) As do any all people who appear in the photos. They’re ours.
19d) As do all wages and salaries made by any of the people in the photo.
19e) Forever.
19f) If the people in the photos are deceased, their estate and legacy become Twoperty.

20a) If you tweet while working, your gross wages become Twoperty.
20b) You remain responsible for paying the associated taxes.

21a) If you use a third-party software product such as Twirhl, Twitterific or Twitterfeed to view tweets, then the software, computer that runs the software (or phone), and all intellectual property on the computer becomes Twoperty.

22a) If you fail to replace the stock avatar with a custom one, Twitter will assume ownership of your likeness and your identity.
22b) Unless of course you have Lifelock, in which case we’ll assume Todd Davis’ identity instead.
22c) All Todd’s stuff becomes Twoperty too.
22d) Is that really his social security number?
22e) Todd’s house, salary and bonus structure? Twoperty.
22f) His cars, stock portfolio and other assets? Twoperty.
22g) His wife? Depends… Hot or Not?
22h) Whoa, too far there.
22i) Remember if you do post an avatar its subject to stipulation @19a

23) RT @17a All your tweets are belong to us.

I’m not sure why that have so many B and C sub-items, but I think it has something to do with the 140 character limit or something.  Apparently #21 is a loophole.  Oh well, which TOS do you think reaches too far? Who “should” own the content on Facebook and Twitter?

So by now just about everyone is aware of the revisions that Facebook made to their terms of service (TOS). Many people are outraged, stating that Facebook has overreached and is being too aggressive with their claims of ownership of all content created by all users.

Sounds like a double standard.

This raises a question…

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