Thanks Hackers for the extra Traffic

Back at the end of August, Linux.com got hacked, Kernel.org got hacked. The sites were compromised and the Linux foundation took the whole linux.com site down to make sure no visitors were getting infected. Kernel.org was also taken down where the site showed a note with the following text:

'Earlier this month, a number of servers in the kernel.org infrastructure were compromised. We discovered this August 28th. While we currently believe that the source code repositories were unaffected, we are in the process of verifying this and taking steps to enhance security across the kernel.org infrastructure.'

It was silent for more than a month, until finally on October 5th it was reported that Kernel.org was back up. During that month of the site being down, Google actually took the site out of the index. The right thing to do, as there was nothing on the domain. A search for the exact domain did not return the homepage of the site? Or should have been there a link at the top of the SERP for the Kernel.org website, where a note was displayed discussing the situation.

Google SERP, Kernel.org removed

The two top stories showing up in the SERP because Google removed the Kernel.org domain were from Slashdot, where a lively discussion about the situation was being held. I was just focussed on the extra traffic on the Kernel.org keyword we were getting, which is clearly displayed in the traffic graph below here. You can see when Google took out the domain Kernel.org, and when the site got fixed.

Slashdot traffic on Keyword Kernel.org

So many times I've been happy I had taken the effort to make a screenshot of the SERP when I saw a peak in Keyword traffic and found the reason after a little investigation. How many times does it happen to you that you would like to explain something weird in the SERP's, and you forgot to make a screenshot of what you just have witnessed. Hard to explain my story on the Kernel.org position 1 & 2 if you only have this screenshot in which Kernel.org dominates the top of the SERP (Although the fresher story from Slashdot of Kernel.org being back online does make it to the first page):

Kernel.org dominates the first results on Kernel.org

As I have done SEO for a large e-commerce site for so long, I gain new insights into the SEO for News sites, where the story  is only relevant a short period of time, and your traffic volume is highly dependent on the competition for the positions in the SERP's, the search volume and the quality or your content.

eBay SEO and Page Titles; it’s Complicated @tamebay

As it has only been one months since I left eBay for Geeknet, i’m still keeping track of the news on eBay through my social media, RSS reader and stock alerts. Today, two news items drew my attention. First of all the news eBay has hired a new president for Marketplaces, Devin Wenig, who will have big shoes to fill as he is following up Lorrie Norrington. Second, my eye fell on this article on TameBay: 80 Character titles now live on eBay.

eBay SEO & Item Titles

The title and the item description on eBay are written by the seller of the item, which makes eBay one of the largest User Generated Content (UGC) Sites in the world. It would be a huge task to optimize the page titles for all items live on the site, which is why these are being handled by a template editor, in which the template is the item title.I know my buddy Hugo Guzman would not approve would advice against optimizing page titles like this, but at a scale of 100 million items live on the site, it's just too much to optimize the titles separately. (read here Hugo's great post: Newsflash the mainstream still doesn't understand SEO).

The change eBay has rolled out to the Item Title field for sellers, going from 55 characters to 80 characters, might have a large impact on the SEO and Social Sharing for eBay. Let me explain:

SERP Snippets

Most SEO's can explain to you why Page Titles are important. These are not only important because these sit in the head section of the page, which can help to get the page a topical focus by optimizing the page title for your main keyword. The page titles are also used as the link in the SERP snippets, which allows any site owner to take control of how you communicate with your potential customer in the search engines.

However, the SERP snippet is only displaying a maximum number of characters in the link. This maximum is between 65-70, depending on the word around the 65e character. You can see in the image below here what happens when you go over the maximum number or have a long word around the 65e characters.

eBay SnippetThe former maximum number of characters actually were perfect from an SEO perspective. The 55 characters forced the seller to write short, to the point titles, and allowed the template to include the brand at the end of the title. Template:

[Item Title] | eBay

This way, a search snippet would still showcase the brand in the link:

eBay snippet

We will see how sellers are going to use the extra 15 characters in the item titles. My recommendation to all the sellers would be:

  • Keep the title short and to the point, so it fits in the SERP snippet
  • Where you put the most important keyword, usually the product name and brand, at the beginning of your item title

Social Media Sharing

eBay has Social media sharing buttons implemented on the item pages. This makes it really easy to share any item through eMail, Facebook or Twitter. However the number of Characters for Twitter are obviously limited to just 140! With 80 characters already in the title, and a short url spanning 25 characters (including the space) there is hardly any room for anybody to retweet the message without changing it.

 eBay tweet

Especially with targeted campaigns at subject matter experts, you would like to add your own message to the tweet, where the title of the item should speak for itself. For example, when I tweeted about a Canon 5200mm F14 DSLR Lens to Darren Rowse from Digital Photography School, I made sure I had enough space for him to easily retweet the message. (Below slide is taken out of my SEO for Bloggers presentation I did on EVO)

Short titles and Viral spreading through social media

Short titles and Viral spreading through social media

As you can see, I got a number of retweets because Darren spread the message through his DPS Twitter account. This can be powerful stuff to get more site traffic from Social, and get more links to your site just by getting the content in front of more people.

I believe I only got so many people to retweet this message because a) the message was targeted b) it was super easy to share and retweet

Conclusion

Although the expansion of the number of characters in item title on eBay seems like a great service to sellers, I can imagine some sellers will be confused or annoyed their titles are not being used by the search engines or the people on Twitter as they had crafted the title. So far, I doubt it that many sellers already have updated their listing templates or current live listings, so it will be hard to get evidence of a better or worse result on these items.

We will see, only the future knows and time will tell...

What I had encouraged to build, was a meta tag CMS for the sellers in the SYI (Sell Your Item) flow, similar to what Joost de Valk has built for his SEO for WordPress plugin. In this solution, the page title and meta description would need to be managed separately from the item title or item description, with a default fall back solution.Something like this:

Meta tag CMS

This way, the seller can take fully advantage over how the item will be marketed to their customers in search, while the actual item title can be longer and take up more space with the extra added characters.

Always ask yourself: What would Hugo Guzman do...?

Top Stories on Slashdot

Now that I have been able to look around behind the scenes and got my hands on the internal analytics for Slashdot, we are kicking around with the idea to expand the push of the most popular stories on Slashdot beyond the Popular page.

In Google Analytics you can easily put in a filter for the url of the individual stories, and see which ones were most popular in terms of page views for any given time. For instance, here are the top 10 most popular stories from last week (7-13 August)

1. Cancer Cured By HIV
2. Ask Slashdot Self Hosted Gmail Alternatives
3. 8 Grams of Thorium Could Replace Gasoline In Cars
4. S&P's $2 Trillion Math Mistake
5. New Drug Could Cure Nearly Any Viral Infection
6. Anonymous Vows To Destroy Facebook
7. Facebook We Have Proof Ceglias Contract Is Fake
8. Ask Slashdot Am I Too Old To Learn New Programming Languages
9. Science Fair Entry Shuts Down Airport Terminal
10. Macs More Vulnerable Than Windows For Enterprise

Or the most popular stories for the months of July

1. Zuckerberg Quits Google Over Privacy Concerns
2. Facebook Trapped In MySQL a Fate Worse Than Death
3. Microsoft Developer Made the Most Changes To Linux 30 Code
4. Why Your Dads 30 Year Old Stereo Sounds Better Than Yours
5. Watch Out Linux GNU Hurd Coming
6. Pastafarian Wins Right To Wear Colander In License Photo
7. Google Bid Pi Billion Dollars For Nortel Patents
8. Facebook Bans Google Ads
9. Dropbox TOS Includes Broad Copyright License
10. Chinese Officials Need a Better Photoshopper

These could include stories submitted in just the day before the time period started, as I only filter on the story URL. But as Slashdot does include the actual date of the submission in the URL, we can even do some more advanced filtering and only showcase those stories submitted in the period AND very popular. But I guess you would always favor the stories submitted at the beginning of the week this way.

 

Moving on, Leaving eBay

I wrote this post last Saturday, but as the financial results for Q2 for Geeknet were only announced today, I decided to wait with public posting until after these were announced.

Restless sleep, early wake ups and nervous moments. The last week was a tough one! Last Friday, after 9+ years, was my last day at eBay. Leaving a company where you worked for so long, feel like ending a long term relationship. And when the job was your first one fresh out of university, it feels like loosing your very first love…. But yes, it was my last day, and when I walked out of the office at Hamilton Ave in San Jose at 5.30pm, I felt empty and exhausted. When I got home, I crashed and slept from 8pm until 8am, 12 hours straight. I guess I had some recovery sleep to do after the 3 hours nights of the last couple of days!

The years I’ve spent at eBay have formed me in the way I work. Obviously my parents had more influence on my character, but 9 years with the same company will have a profound impact on your ways of working. I’ve been blessed to spent my first decade in the workforce with a great company like eBay. The internal values and behaviors the founder, Pierre Omidyar has set up in the early beginning make for a good work ethos. I will carry these values with me for the rest of my life.

I love eBay! The decision to leave such a great company, efficient business model, talented colleagues, endless amount of data and cutting edge technology was a hard one. But sometimes you have to cut the cord to move forward and grow into the new stages in life you have set out for yourself. But there is no doubt that I will miss every part of my former job!

My favorite highlights…

There are so many highlights, too many to list. Here are some of my favorite highlights of my 9 years at eBay

-          All in one year: meeting Fiona, moving from Amsterdam to San Francisco for a new job within eBay, getting married AND having my daughter, Bo-Jools born. Lesson learned: Moving fast will make for a SMART business model, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relative & Timely

-          Marketing college in San Jose, meeting David Knight, who brought me over to the US one year later. Lesson learned: Network! David is still a close friend of mine!

-          Organizing the ever growing IM summits in Tallinn Estonia (75 attendees), Dublin Ireland (150 attendees) and Prague Czech Republic (250 attendees), without any casualties or missing persons. Lesson learned: Don’t leave a man on the field, you leave the bar last if you’re responsible!

-          eBay Live in Las Vegas, Boston & Chicago. Lesson learned: the real value of eBay is in its community of buyers & sellers

-          Working on the Pietersberg Strategy, “How to beat Marktplaats”, which resulted in the acquisition of the leading Dutch classifieds site for $300M. Lesson learned: if you can’t beat them, buy them. Marktplaats is currently the biggest and most successful classifieds site in eBay's portfolio.

-          Bringing SEO back on the radar with Executive team and the whole company, after falling off. Lesson learned: read the book, The Dip, when to quit and when to stick

-          Representing eBay at 7 SEO conferences, eBay DevCon & Paypal X as a speaker. Lesson learned: Building your external brand accelerates your market value.

-          Hosting the Dutch Ambassador at the eBay campus with a welcome from John Donahue Lesson learned: don’t get intimidated

-          Submitting my first patent: “Method for Automatic Document generation based on Referral”. Lesson learned: you don’t have to be work in technology to file patents.

-             Traveling to 14 countries, on 5 continents. Lesson learned: pack light so you take all as carry on luggage

  • France, Germany, Belgium, UK, Sweden, Ireland, Italy, Switzerland, Estonia, China, Brazil, Australia, Canada, Czech Republic
  • Europe, North- & South America, Asia & Australia

-          The Usual… For those in the known, there is a lesson here as well…

Picture below is the team I worked with: eBay SEO team 2011

Where I’m going

In my search for a next challenge and opportunity, I decided to be on the look out for a smaller company with a large opportunity.  After 9 years at a large company, with all the good, the bad and the ugly that comes with it, I want to experience a different working environment, different challenges and new opportunities to grow and stretch myself. I found this in a 17 year old company, listed on the Nasdaq: Geeknet Inc.

Although not a startup, the company has big potential and advantages. Balance sheet very healthy, no debt and cash in the bank, a couple of old, focused internet brands, brand new executive team with big plans, and reasonable stock price, where the company did a reverse stock split last year.

As of August 1st, I will be joining Geeknet Inc. as Vice President of Internet Marketing Media. The Media group at Geeknet manages the websites Slashdot, Sourceforge and Freshmeat.

I’m very excited to start working with these websites. Especially Slashdot, as this is one of the old phenomenon websites out of the dotcom bubble age. Who doesn’t know the Slashdot effect…? If you don’t, you probably are not Geeky enough.. J. Before there was Digg, before there was Techmeme, there was, and still is: Slashdot; News for Nerds, Stuff that matters!

But also starting to understand, appreciate and use open source software in my own projects, makes this opportunity super exciting for me. I feel this is a new chapter in my life, in which I will learn so much new stuff. Over the last 2 years, with the TFNS Strategy and platform development and working on my own websites, my interest has grown into the field of open source software and application development.

In this position, I will be using the skills and learning’s from my tenure at eBay. I will focus on SEO, Social Media and email as free traffic drivers for the three sites, and I will conduct paid advertising as Paid search ads or deep partner relationships with other relevant websites.

Thank you!

I’m very thankful for what I’ve learned, the opportunities I’ve been given and more importantly, the people I’ve had the pleasure working with. You ALL ROCK!I'm sure I will miss a lot of eBay, but most I will miss is working with the great colleagues and friends I've made over the years!


Bottle of Chandon autographed by Meg Whitman

Buy Your Ugly Christmas Sweater on eBay!

Back in 2009 I wrote a post on the phenomenon Ugly Christmas Sweater on eBay. Around the holiday season, there are so many Ugly Christmas Sweater parties, that people flock to eBay to buy one. (if you want to buy an Ugly Christmas Sweater for the cheap, buy it off season, buy it now!)

I made it my mission back in 2009 to improve the rankings for eBay on Ugly Christmas Sweater, as there is a lot of money to be made selling these sweaters. Off course there might be more lucrative products to promote, but sometimes I just like to focus on one particular keyword or product to push the boundaries.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Campaign

During the year, I presented my findings, data and insights on industry conferences. When the Christmas season of 2010 was approaching, I started to pitch the story to the eBay PR team. At first, they had no interest, as the Ugly Christmas Sweater is not a really sexy product to talk about with main stream publications. However, when I showed the increase in number of searches on the site over the days running up to Christmas, suddenly we had a story.

Ugly Christmas Sweater banner

There were two main drivers in the campaign:

  1. We worked on a story: “How to sell your Ugly Holiday Sweater on eBay” which was posted by Fattwallet.
  2. We worked on a story around the internal eBay data. Search volume, number of sold sweaters and the value of these Ugly Christmas Sweaters. This story was pitched to mainstream journalist.

Story Pick-Up

The campaign was reasonable successful, as we got good pick up from a number of people who heard me speak about the yearly trend, and linked to the search page on eBay for Ugly Christmas Sweater. The blog post on Fattwallet had a clean link to this same search page, which obviously helped in the success.

The PR push was less successful. The Wall Street Journal ran a story regarding the Ugly Christmas Sweater parties and the rise in the demand for Ugly Sweaters. This sounds great, however, the WSJ linked within their story to their own eBay Tag page, showing how Black Hole SEO is done*! (I purposely don’t link to the WSJ here!). Instead, after providing the Christmas Sweater story, data and insights to the journalist, they ran with it, while linking to some mom- and pop site, but not to eBay.

Selling more Ugly Christmas Sweaters than ever

Christmas 2010 season, the Ugly Christmas Sweater was one hot item on eBay! Although the search volume on the site for the keyword: “Ugly Christmas Sweater” was lower than the year before (see graph below), there were actually more sweaters sold than ever!

Ugly Christmas Sweater searches on eBay

Moving up in Rankings

Months later, I just casually checked the rankings for Ugly Christmas Sweater, and guess what… our campaign has helped the eBay page to move up in rankings. On my SERP, the page was positioned at #2 :)

SERP for Ugly Christmas Sweater, eBay ranks #2

The red box shows the organic ranking for eBay page, the green boxes give the Google Product search and the Paid Product Ad listings for Ugly Christmas Sweaters on eBay.

Christmas 2011 Season

For the next Christmas Sweater season, organize a Sweater party yourself and remember, go to eBay to buy your Ugly Christmas Sweater!

* I wrote a post on how Engadget is doing black hole SEO as well…

Dune Buggy for Sale with Sexy Model

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