Never Underestimate the Power of Social Media

We’ve all seen the wave effect social media can cause when it comes to spreading breaking news stories such as Michael Jackson’s death and the Samoan tsunami.

But social media is also empowering regular citizens with the ability to break news stories as they take place or spread the word about events they consider to be newsworthy. The phenomenon is birthing a new wave of Citizen Journalism and it’s one of the major reasons news agencies are performing backflips trying to stay relevant.

A perfect example of online citizen journalism occurred in the UK this week, when blogger Jonathan MacDonald witnessed a London rail guard verbally abuse and physically intimidate an elderly passenger whose arm had become stuck in a train door. Midway through the incident, Jonathan had the foresight to whip out his video camera and film the exchange, during which the Transport for London (TFL) employee hurled insults at the passenger, swore loudly at him and threatened to “sling him under a train”.

When Jonathan expressed his distaste to another train guard and suggested that the abusive staffer would lose his job over it, she laughed at him. As a result, he felt compelled to blog the experience and tell as many people as possible as he believed the passenger was being bullied and an injustice had been done.

As well as blogging and tweeting about it, Jonathan posted the video on YouTube, filed an official complaint with TFL about the incident and sent emails to several members of the London press. Social media did the rest.

Outraged viewers of the video joined forces to spread the word, with Twitter users pushing the hashtag #TFL into the trending topics list. Bloggers linked to Jonathan’s post, shared the link on Facebook, MySpace and other social media networks. Within 24 hours the story made headlines on Sky, BBC, LBC, ITN and on the front page of the Evening Standard and the Telegraph. The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson became involved and at the time of this posting, Jonathan’s video has had nearly 145,000 views on YouTube.

As a result of Jonathan’s actions, the TFL employee has been suspended and is now the subject of an internal investigation.

The moral of this story? Never underestimate the power of social media.

From Jonathan’s blog:

“All I did was see something that shouldn’t be tolerated and used the ammunition we have in our hands – video/blogs/network… the main reason this story has flown is due to what happened on camera. We must remember that. It’s not me. I didn’t ‘invent the story’. I just blogged, like I do, and the Twitterverse powered the rest... The conversation may continue for a while and I hope that more citizens become aware of the power they already have to stop hatred, abuse and fear.”

Hats off to you Jonathan.

Q and A: Is it possible to get my site on the first page of Google in 24 hours without touching it?


Dear Kalena…

I have question on a service that somebody offered me, optimization for organic search results, 24-48 hours first page on Google.

They are a local company and he offerered me to come to his office to fill a form and to answer my questions, he also mentioned that he will not make any changes on my website just he will work to attract the engines to find us for specific key words.

Now, with all I learned so far SEO takes time so what is this guy doing to bring me to the top being so sure and giving me his office address?


P.S. He didn’t want to be specific on the technical part which I understand a little bit since that’s how he makes a living.

Hi Asher

Actually, he didn’t want to be specific on the technical part because he is a scammer trying to rip you off.

Be wary of anyone who won’t tell you the methodology they plan to use. There is absolutely NO reason for secrets in SEO, unless you’re doing something dodgy. Organic optimization is not possible without changing your web site. Let me repeat that. Organic search engine optimization is NOT POSSIBLE without changing your web site.

It sounds like this guy is talking about using Google AdWords to attract traffic to your site but not wanting to tell you this. Run far, far away from him. Or better still, ask him to email you a full technical breakdown of how he is going to place your site on the first page of Google within 24 hours and then forward it to me for giggles.

Q and A: Should I use regional qualifiers in PPC ads?


Dear Kalena…

There is still one thing that confuses me about Pay Per Click advertising. Whenever I use a geographic term in my ad at the very end google comes back and tells me the search value will be too low.

For instance *web site designers Southern Maryland*. If that term is in the ad then the results seem to be flagged by Google, while the original estimates it gives me look ok.

Should I avoid uses regional terms in my ads?  I left them because it didn’t tell me they were rejected and they seem to appear if I run a search for the terms at times.


Hi Debbie,

If you have your regional targeting set up accurately within the campaigns settings, there will generally be little need to use regional qualifying terms in your keywords/ads.

Google has determined that the number of people searching for your phrases that include *Southern Maryland* is very low so your ad is not likely to be shown. You should start by targeting more generic phrases such as *web design Maryland* and then if the search volume is too high you can reduce the click costs by adding *Southern* in later.

The other option is to set your regional target markets within your campaign settings and use Dynamic Keyword Insertion to determine your ad headlines.

Dumbass of the Week: Derek Powazek

DuhIt’s been a long time since we’ve had a candidate sitting on the Dumbass throne. But this month, we’ve had two. I couldn’t decide which to blog first, so I decided to go with the one who made me the angriest. That, my friends, was Derek Powazek who has decided that Search Engine Optimization ( SEO ) is worthless.

Let me start by saying that I’m familiar with Derek’s many years in the industry. I know he’s worked at Blogger and Technorati and has been on the web a year longer than me. I know he works with Internet start ups and big names like Hewlett Packard.  I also know that Derek was named one of the top 40 “Industry Influencers” of 2007.

I’ve even heard Derek speak at Webstock about community driven websites and live-blogged his crowd-sourcing wisdom so others could learn from it.

All this just makes his anti SEO rant this week all the more frightening in its ignorance. Derek claims:

“Search Engine Optimization is not a legitimate form of marketing. It should not be undertaken by people with brains or souls. If someone charges you for SEO, you have been conned.

In fact, Derek has some pretty strong opinions about those of us who practice SEO. Apart from calling us brainless, soul-less con-artists, he says:

  • we’re spammers
  • we’re evildoers
  • we’re opportunists
  • we’re scammers
  • we’re not to be trusted
  • we’re poisoning the web
  • what we do can result in a lifetime ban in Google (which doesn’t even exist BTW)
  • we’re cockroaches
  • we employ botnets, third-world labor, and zombie computers
  • we’re bastards
  • we’re hackers planting worm viruses
  • we create programs to grab expired domain names
  • we create web pages filled with content stolen from RSS feeds
  • we’re jerkwads with disreputable clients
  • we encourage people to dumb down their content for Google instead of for their readers

I’m not paraphrasing here, his post actually says this stuff.

When his rant was pointed out to me and I first read it, I was sure it was just link bait and I ignored it. But after a day or two of seeing his responses to industry commentators and his replies via comments, it became obvious he meant every single word.

The vitriol even spilled over into his Twitter feed:

“There is no such thing as honest SEO. There’s only making good websites.”

“The term “SEO” sounds inoffensive but it covers a spectrum of practices that are ineffective at best, and destructive at worst.”

“So I guess SEO creeps exist because bad web designers exist. Crap begets crap.”

“What a great rallying cry for an industry: SEO! We fix other people’s crap! Every ecosystem needs bottom-feeders, I guess.”

A few people have responded directly to Derek’s outburst, including Danny Sullivan, who wrote a restrained, intelligent response to the original post and a detailed deconstruction of Derek’s own follow up post.

Derek apparently thought Danny’s post was a personal attack and tweeted as such:

“I may have stirred up a hornets nest, but I didn’t attack anyone personally. too bad @dannysullivan can’t pay me the same respect.”

At this point my bullshit radar couldn’t take any more and I tweeted in response. Here’s the exchange that followed:

Me: @fraying I would say that calling SEOs bottom feeders qualifies as an attack.

Derek: @kalena I attacked an industry, not a person. There’s a difference.

Me: @fraying No, you attacked people who work in an industry. So a whole slew of people.

I’m not going to attempt my own deconstruction of Derek’s anti SEO rant, because Danny has done a great job of this already and Derek still doesn’t get it.  But I’m not going to stand by and let Derek’s ignorance go unchecked.

Yes, the SEO industry has a dodgy reputation. Yes, some SEO firms are trying to push silly ideas on clients. Yes, the industry has some scam artists. But I bet you’ll find many more SEO firms that are providing an honest, valuable service. Even Google agrees:

“If you’re thinking about hiring an SEO, the earlier the better. A great time to hire is when you’re considering a site redesign, or planning to launch a new site. That way, you and your SEO can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up. However, a good SEO can also help improve an existing site.”

What really yanks my chain is that unenlightened posts from someone as influential as Derek do even more damage to an already unfairly scorned industry. Making sweeping statements about all SEO’s being “snake oil salesmen” and “bottom feeders” just prove that you don’t understand SEO.

Search Engine College was born out of questions I was constantly bombarded with about SEO. Webmasters would write to me with the idea that SEO was black magic and beyond their ability. This is CRAP. Anyone can SEO a web site. I know some in this industry scorn us for providing non-technical courses in a subject that can be highly technical. But to me, that’s the God.Damn.Point. Taking what can be a highly complex subject and de-jargonizing it for the masses. Taking SEO back to basics and making it accessible.

In my experience, the only people claiming SEO is smoke and mirrors are the media or those who are trying to hide something from clients. I get the sense that Derek (and others) think that all SEOs are pretending to perform rocket science or trick clients into thinking as much. That’s ignorant. Any professional SEO will educate their client along the way and provide a fully transparent and quantifiable service. And there are plenty of them out there.

SEOs aren’t scam artists and SEO isn’t rocket science. Anyone telling clients what they do is magic is not an SEO. Just an asshole. And guess what Derek? Assholes aren’t limited to the SEO industry.

Update 1: Oh and Derek, you might like to know that your employer HP doesn’t think SEOs are scammers. At least they didn’t when they hired me to perform search engine optimization on their Asia Pacific sites some years back.

Update 2: Before I published this post, Derek had approved a comment I left on his follow up post but has since decided to remove it and many others that criticize his stance. Yet he claims SEOs are defensive? Pot, meet kettle.

For what it’s worth, here’s my comment:

Derek,  I heard you speak at Webstock earlier this year about the power of crowd sourcing and was inspired by your passion for building community driven websites. I’m bewildered that you would choose to isolate an entire community by attacking them with an ignorant and uninformed rant. Disappointed.

Update 3: In his original post, Derek boasted about ranking for his own name on Google. Now I can boast about the same thing. Still think SEO is ineffective?

Update 4: It seems Derek has had second thoughts about his rant and has posted an apology of sorts on his blog. This is to be commended and I’m pleased he finally seems to understand why he was wrong to isolate an industry. BUT, he kind of negates the apology by accusing us of being too defensive. I’ve submitted a comment to the thread, hopefully it will be published rather than deleted this time. The comment was rather long, so I’ve turned it into a blog post.

Q and A : Can Spiders Crawl Protected Content?


Dear Kalena…

For websites that are subscription based and require a password, does this prevent a spider from being able to crawl the protected content? If yes, what is the best way to get these pages indexed?


Hi Mary,

As a general rule if you can’t get to a particular page on a website without using your keyboard then there is a very good chance that search engine crawlers can’t either. This applies to password protected areas as well as many search based methods of accessing information.

If you have a subscription based or members only area on your site, it will not be crawled by search crawlers and therefore not indexed or displayed in search results. Here is what Google has to say on the topic – Can Google index my password-protected pages?

Depending on your reasons for password protecting the information – one approach you may like to consider would be to provide two versions of the information. One a summary, or abridged version which is available to everyone and the second – a long (complete) version which would require a login. This way the search engines can get to (and index) your “keyword rich” summary.

This type of system has been adopted by Experts Exchange – by making the question readily available to everyone (including search engines) – but requiring you to login as a member to access the answer – e.g. How do I get Rankings in Google.

Andy Henderson
Ireckon Web Marketing