Thursday, October 30, 2008

Teaching google to read

I just sent this is to Google. I'm trying to learn how to teach google what I mean.....

My spelling site is running many ads about wiccah and wizards and magic and such. There's a confusion around the word "spell".

While I personally think it is humorous that google's algorithms confuse magic "spells" with "spelling" (ie vocabulary, phonics) but many of my members, evangelical christians types, seem to find this offensive and are accusing me of all sorts of things.
Can you prompt your algorithms away from magic, mysticism, and wizardry?

BTW - I might be de-emphasizing this blog in favor of a new one about learning seo with me....

Halloween Party

(WOOPS - I Posted this on the wrong blog....For the full post, check out a Black Belt at 50)
Our dojo hosted a halloween party this past Saturday night. Since Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, I dressed like the undead and showed up. Fun Fun. Thanks. Here's a glimpse. Again, I wish I was more diligent about bringing my camera.

And stay tuned, I will be posting this week about my little daughter who is suddenly is in my advanced adult karate class (OK, I've had a long time to see this coming. It didn't exactly creep up on me. But still, for me, this is HUGE). Also, we've been doing some Muy Thai which means learning a different type of roundhouse kick. We've started a new type of kata derived from KungFu and Han Karate (yes, I do need help with my spelling). But today, it's halloween picture day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cash Parking - Setting up GoDaddy

I can't be the only one who is struggling to figure out how to use the GoDaddy cash parking. It's not that I can't get my domains into their system, it's that I have no idea how to use their system to optimize my earnings.

I initially left them on default. But, with 65 parked domains including names like these, how could I be making a few pennies a week?


So I've just been thru a process with their help line of understanding what their default settings are, what my choices are, and of changing and suggesting keywords for these domains. It was a pain. I had to set up folders, pick keywords, select industries and subindustries, and otherwise muck with a whole lot of configurations that I didn't really understand which I am convinced would be better handled algorithmetically.

We'll see.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More on whats a scam, whats legit?

I received this helpful email the other day. Since I had recently registered, I guess they figured I was a good candidate....

Subject: Re:
Hi, will expire within a few days, the previous owner has failed to renew it in time.If you are the previous owner then I am pleased to have brought this to your attention. We offer a no win no fee service whereby we will attempt to acquire this domain for you within less than 1 second of it being released to the general public.There is nothing to pay upfront and if we are not successful then you will not have to pay a penny.

There are 3 levels at which we can try to acquire the domain for you.

Level 1 - We try to register the domain up to 1000 times a second throughout the domains expiry window.We have a 90% (spprox) success rate in acquiring domains with this service. The cost (only if successul is £500 + vat (US$995)

Level 2 - We try to register the domain up to 500 times a second throughout the domains expiry window.We have a 70% (spprox) success rate in acquiring domains with this service.The cost (only if successul is £250 + vat (US$495)

Level 3 - We try to register the domain up to 250 times a second throughout the domains expiry window.We have a 50% (approx) success rate in acquiring domains with this service.The cost (only if successul is £125 + vat (US$250) If you would like us to try to acquire the domain on your behalf or if you have any questions at all, then please get back to me within the next 2 days.You can either reply by email or phone on the numbers below.

I look forward to hearing back from you. Kind Regards Gary

Since I did want the domain, I wasn't too sure what to do. I looked inside my Godaddy account and saw that for $18.95 (I'm a member of their more-than-100-domains-special-pricing-club), I could get them to try to get it for me when it expired. There were no details like Gary's about how many hundreds of times per second but I did like the price. Plus, they answer the phones and I've done A LOT of business with them.

Here it is - a week later - and the domain is now mine. With out paying any number of hundreds of dollars. While I don't think Gary was a scam, he was certainly the most expensive way to get the domain. I am grateful that he pointed it out to me. Thank Gary.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Recruiting thru Craigs List

Our curriculum development efforts for our Writing Courses and our course on getting started blogging would get a big jump forward if we had more expertise in Moodle. So I decided to post an advertisement for some help with Moodle. I mostly recruit thru Craigs List which is easy, effective, and used to be free. This time, for some reason, Craig charged me $25.

I was in San Francisco this summer and walked past this office. I thought it was cool to actually stumble upon the office of the little company that serves so many people so efficiently. And which has helped us so much. Thanks, Craigs List.
As a side note, I've heard that the founder, Craig Newmark, is local to us in South Florida. Wikipedia does not confirm it. Craig is the one who keeps Craigs list on its straight and narrow task of being useful, practically free, and not letting bellsnwhistles get in the way of a simple well-executed great idea.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More on the IP domainname SCAM/deal

I'm returning to my question of detecting what's a scam and what's something else.

Spellingcity-Notice Of Internet intellectual property right (To Principal )

was the title of the email. It read:

Dear President/CEO,We are the department which is in charge of registering Internet intellectual property of Asia. I have something need (sic) to confirm with you. We have received an application formally, one company named "QianKun Investment Limited" applies for The Internet Trademark: Spellingcity. The domain names: On Oct 6.2008. After our initial examination, we found that the internet brand applied for registration are the same as your company's name and trademark.These days we will deal with it, hope to get the affirmation from your company. If your company has not authorized the aforesaid company to register these, Please contact us as soon as possible.In addition, we hereby affirm that our time limit for dissent application is 10 workdays. If your company files no dissent within the time limit,we will unconditionally approve the application submitted by "QianKun Investment Limited.".Best Regards, Brian ----------------- This is a letter for confirmation.If you are not in charge of this please transfer this email to appropriate dept. Thanks for your cooperation.

Brian finally quoted me some costs after 6 emails: 32USD/Per Year 30USD/Per Year 76USD/Per Year 30USD/Per Year 32USD/Per Year

The Internet Trademark Keyword: domainname 165USD/Per Year

I'm not sure what an Internet Trademark keyword is so I have an email into Brian to ask him. In the meantime, I went into godaddy and tried to register the .info version of my domain name that Brian offered to get me for $30. It cost me $1.99 at Godaddy.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Keyword tools

There is only one good source of info on keywords. It's google. You can use the:

  1. The Adwords keyword tool which gives you gives you average searches for a keyword (I think over the last year), last month’s searches, and the keyword competition.
  2. Google trends which gives volumes of searches for a word or keyphrase for the last five years.
  3. Look at the bottom of a regular search on google where they recommend related searches. For instance, if you search for the word math, at the bottom of the page, Google will suggest: math games - multiplication match - math facts - math test - math formulas - math fractions - pre algebra
  4. The adwords keyword tool also can give you suggested of related terms.

Other tools that I use:

  1. - you can find out for which keywords your site (and your competitors) rank high enough to be in Google Top can find out for which keywords your site ranks high enough to be in Google Top 20.
  2. WordPot - It's new to me. It ranks related keywords like the old overture tool. It claims to compare different sources and produce a more refined set of data by filtering out bots and refining exact/near matches. To quote: We collect our data from a combination of the real time searches done on popular meta search engines (like Metacrawler and Dogpile) and results published by Google (zeitgeist), Yahoo and Msn. We are doing this 24/7 and have been collecting data and building our database for a number of years. We then aggregate the results together to come up with the numbers that you see on the site.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Who is legit, who is scamming?

Like everyone else, I'm trying to sort through my inbox and decide what's legitimate and what's a scam. Here's two that I received this week, you decide. As background, I run the cool new hit spelling website: I got approached twice this week about. Once by email with someone seeking to help me protect my Intellectual Property, another by a group that gave me an award and wanted me to pay $525. Read the surprising reality....

1. The subject line of the email that I received: Spellingcity-Notice Of Internet intellectual property right (To Principal )

Dear President/CEO,
We are the department which is in charge of registering Internet intellectual property of Asia. I have something need (sic) to confirm with you. We have received an application formally, one company named "QianKun Investment Limited" applies for The Internet Trademark: Spellingcity. The domain names: On Oct 6.2008. After our initial examination, we found that the internet brand applied for registration are the same as your company's name and trademark.These days we will deal with it, hope to get the affirmation from your company. If your company has not authorized the aforesaid company to register these, Please contact us as soon as possible.In addition, we hereby affirm that our time limit for dissent application is 10 workdays. If your company files no dissent within the time limit,we will unconditionally approve the application submitted by "QianKun Investment Limited.".
Best Regards, Brian ----------------- This is a letter for confirmation.If you are not in charge of this please transfer this email to appropriate dept. Thanks for your cooperation.

2. I also recieved a large envelope in the mail this week with this Parents Choice Award certificate and a request for $525 to use the Parents Choice seal on my website. The reason that I only scanned half the form is that I did not (as of yet) pay the $525 to use their logo. I had forgotten that I had applied for a Parents Choice award earlier this year. The award and organization are somewhat prestigious. Despite that, their communication to me about the award almost got thrown in the trash by accident.

Bottom line. The "intellectual property" email turns out to be an effort to sell me some domains closely related to mine. Sleezy but not a scam. The award with the $525 offer to buy the sticker is from a nationally recognized prestigious non-profit. Weird.

The Parent's Choice awards are awards given by a well-respected long-standing non-profit foundation.
Established in 1978, Parents’ Choice is the nation's oldest nonprofit guide to quality children's media and toys.

I feel that they are a little clumbsy in their approach to me and a little old-world in their marketing in general. Specifics.

1. Winning an award would feel a lot cooler if someone called me to tell me. Or if theymailed me a letter of congratulations and a copy of a press release. . .It's somehow underwhelming to get a certificate in the mail with just some license agreements and an offer to spend $525. Once I called them up and asked a lot of questions, I found that I had actually applied for this award (a fact that I had forgotten). I also found by talking to them that they had issued a press release and more importantly, were listing on their site in a number of great ways. They hadn't thought to mention the release of the listings in their communication to me even though it's great stuff for which I am very grateful. Take a look: award page and Homework Help Language Arts (this is great even though we are halfway down the page. I'd like it more if they built the page with a list of the recommendations at the top linked to the ones down below so I get more visibility.)

2. Their website could do more to show credibility. For instance, they are a "non-profit foundation" but they don't explain if they are a 501(c) 3 or what. They also don't post a copy of the IRS letter certifying their nonprofit status. They also don't list how to find out more information. They also don't post their Form 990. They also don't list a board of directors. Frankly, this is a lot of information that they are NOT posting. They do list two partners who "deliver Parents' Choice recommendations via the latest technology" with links to Satellite Radio and the TivoKidsZone.

3. Frankly, I'm sympathetic to Parents Choice. They are fighting the good fight for kids much the way that they've been doing for decades struggling along with small budgets. For a toy vendor or software vendor to put $525 out to get an impressive seal on their retail box is very sensible and a good strategy. For a free website to dish out $525 to put a seal on their website....the economics are very different. They probably don't know that I get approached daily to put seals on my website. They probably work with some major newspapers and organizations who know them well and so they don't worry about credibility so they don't think to list their board and documents publicly. They don't think about the unwashed masses showing up at their website trying to figure out who they are and what to do. They don't run a blog, they don't work closely with other major fast-moving children's protection groups (, ,, They probably don't even monitor online posts about themselves. I wonder if I should join get involved, join the board, pay them $525, or otherwise engage and contribute? I wonder if I should write this post as if someone were going to read it? Obviously, I'm being a little critical but being hidden in a little corner of the internet, it's like anybody is actually going to read this, right?

Oh, and back to the "intellectual property" email to buy some domains closely related to mine. It's an effort to sell domains dressed up as Intellectual Property protection. I don't feel that it's a scam, I think it's just a "creative" somewhat sleezy sales campaign. You could view it as a service that they have found some domains that they will offer to me to help me protect myself, making a nice profit in the meantime. It's not that different from the way Godaddy suggests that I take these domains when I signed up for other ones. But the pricing is different. Of course, you could see it as one step from blackmail in that they've taken domains which might get confused with mine and are suggesting that I buy them at ten times their cost or let some foreign group go imitate me with closely related names.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Merchant Account Vendors

I've been learning a lot about something that my business is entirely dependent on. And which constitutes about 3.5% of my costs. Credit Card processing. It's a research project. Credit Cards 101

Websites & Blogs
Credit Cards Online 101 - The newest and best

Visa info on merchant accounts - the center of info
American Express


Google Checkout
- Looking like the best deal in town for those of us who use Adsense. My biggest question is how long will this deal last?

Infomerchant - Many articles on relevant topics.
Payment Processing Services is a blogspot blog by Unibul
The Merchant Account Blog is another useful blog by Merchantequip.
Top ten credit card processing reviews - Great site
Lions site has a top vendor review.
100 Best Merchant Accounts

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Making more advertising money

I'm having some success with optimizing advertisements on the vocabulary word game site. It's doing 2x better in revenue than the old approach.

Current adsense/revenue questions:
- URL Channels - Making them work - I just created some new URL channels that I thought encompass an entire domain. For instance: Yet its volume is smaller than a pre-existing custom channel called vocabulary. Possibilities: Does a URL somehow double count ads? Might we have placed this code from the vocabulary channel on other sites?

- LCPC Adsense Ads - I need to get in there and eliminate the LCPC ads. How does this work?
- Multiple Google adblocks on a page - There's some reason that you want to limit the number of blocks on a page to less than the three that Google allows. Something about improving you CPC.

- I have some space on the page that is not producing much $$$s or even customers for my other business. For instance, the T4W or T4L block on the left. Would another PPC vendor (adbrite?) be a good test there? Should I play with one more affiliates? Would an appropriate Amazon page make make a decent return? Choices:
- make the 125 x 125 ultimate vocabulary add into a skycraper. Maybe get more clicks and sales.
- make the 125 x 250 under it into an affiliate (amazon?) or PPC (adbrite?) spot?

In other news. I can now show you again why non graphic artists with limited control over the tools should NOT be allowed to set up blogs. For the all time ugly blog (which hopefully will soon be fixed), check out my blog on learning fun. It's awful but I can't seem to find out how to put in a proper banner and get rid of the puke green and annoying orange.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Google Rank Checker

I've been looking for a new Google rank checker. In reading 4th Floor Marketing by James, a student in Binghamton NY, I learned about Google Rank Checker which I'll try until I find something better. I sure miss Jim Boykins Cool SEO Tool. Any opinions on whether I should sign up for their suite of free tools?

I don't fully understandone setting on the Google Rank Checker tool. Users get to choose which region they care about. But there isn't a US region, there's just World.

Any one to explain it?

This post was sponsored by the good Rhode Island homeschooling people, thanks!

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Adsense channels

Adsense can be confusing. I'm currently confused by channels and how to organize and use and interpret them. Confusions....
1- Do all clicks have to be assigned to a channel? If so, where do the blogger automatically added ads (like the ones on this site) appear?
2- Is there a "trace" tool to figure out where you have placed channels once my own records get screwed up?
3 - Is there some code in each ad (or inside adsense) that allows me to see which custom channel it is assigned to?

When you put adsense on your site, the revenue comes from three types of ads:
- adblocks
- adlinks
- search
The data on adblocks and adlinks can be viewed together or separately. The data on search is apart.

Channels - The channels are used to track the source of adsense revenue. There are two types of channels:

URL Channels - which are set up from within Adsense. You can use URL channels to track individual pages, or to track groups of pages based on the directory structure of your site. You don't have to change the code on your pages. Just login to adsense, Click the Channels link below the AdSense Setup tab, Choose the AdSense for content sub-tab, Click Add new URL channel, and in the resulting text box, and then enter the URL that you would like to track. The URL can be set to follow an entire domain, a subdomain, a folder, or any group of dynamically generated pages that you can write a rule for. Googles channel info.

Custom channels allow you to track the performance of specific ad units. By pasting channel-specific ad code into your pages, you can track a variety of metrics across a range of URLs. Use custom channels to track the performance of different ad formats, for example, or to compare different page topics to one another. To learn how to create and assign custom channels, please read How do I create custom channels? You can also turn any custom channel into an ad placement on which advertisers can choose to place their ads.

Note that since a single adblock can be counted in multiple channels (custom or URL). (Can an ad block be counted in two different custom channels?), the sum of individual set of stats might double count some clicks and revenue.

Monday, October 06, 2008

DMOZ doesn't count...says duh

Remember, you heard it here first. Long ago, I said that all those directories that only seem to get any attention for SEO purposes, are not worth wasting time on. (Lets retire DMOZ and DMOZ Yahoo Link Stupidity and others from further back...)

SEO geek insiders continued to tell me that directories were important. I said no. It's common sense. Google knows that nobody has used DMOZ since 2005, there's no reason that they would take that link seriously....

Google has just said about the same thing....

Google Devaluing DMOZ and Yahoo! Links? Chris Crum Staff Writer

Google is no longer suggesting that you should be listed in relevant directories. In fact, they've even removed the suggestion from their webmaster guidelines, as Brian Ussery noticed. The page used to have a bullet point for:
- Submit your site to relevant directories such as the Open Directory Project and Yahoo!, as well as to other industry-specific expert sites.

This point is now gone in what would appear to be a slap in the face of directories, but SEO folks are the ones really irritated. Google doesn't appear to see it as a slap in the face so much, but more of simply a non-needed guideline.

I think Google knows that these links and directories primarily exist and service the SEO industry. Their links do not provide any real guidance to Google on the real value of these sites. So they're not really counting them. And removing their old suggestion that people pay attention to them.

1and1 Internet Exchange Mail Server Service

We run a small (8 person) support organization which primarily operates through email. We outsourced the management of the Microsoft exchange server a few years ago to 1and1 internet. The service has been up and down but overall reasonable ....until this weekend.

This weekend. No more email. So our weekend crew calls them up, gives them our info, and is told that the server will be down for five days. What !!?!??? So, our supervisor gets into the discussion on Sunday and the 1and1 support people confirm that it'll be 5 days. So it elevates again and our CTO gets into the act. He manages to work his way up past the first level tech support people. Eventually, he's told that the server will be down for three days. Our CTO tells them this is unacceptable.

Now it's Monday afternoon and I've gotten into the act. I tried to do an end run on their tech support department and called their finance dept to see if they would, under the auspices of their contractual obligation, help us understand how they just take down a server with no prior notice. And when is the email going to be available again?

We learned this weekend that they did try to notify their customers in advance. But, since we only use them for mail service, not hosting, they might have overlooked this class of customer and could be the reason that we were not notified of the planned downtime.

BTW - we do run an entirely separate email system for backup (thru Gmail. Thanks Google) so our customers are still being take care of albeit, with a lot more effort.

I explained to their billing dept what the problem was and he said that he would pass me up to an Ian Morse. I then spent 23 minutes on hold before their system hung up on me.

Now, I'm pissed. I just rechecked with my CTO who said that what he learned this weekend is that this was a planned server upgrade. They planned for it to take "no more than 72 hours". And as far as the support people were concerned, there was no plan to tell the customers in advance that their mail servers were down.

I find 1and1 Internet and other vendors who behave like this to be hateful.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Google sitelinks not found and broken

I put my 9 year old son to work today testing The rationale was that we made some site optimizations this week to improve performance just to be sure, lets test to see if the site still works....

First thing my son D tried was to google the site to find it. I almost told him not to waste his time. I'm glad that I didn't. In Google, in addition to the main site link, there are a number of (what I just learned) are called: "Google Sitelinks". I've never paid much attention to them before (pictured above). But, son D clicked on one that produced a 404 error. hmmmm. So I started researching and learned from a Google forum that:

Sitelinks are created algorithmically to help users quickly navigate to the information they need on your site. To display sitelinks, Google must basically determine: 1) a relevant structure for your site conducive to sitelinks, and 2) that sitelinks will be helpful for the user's query.

What should I do if my sitelinks are not useful or, as in my case, going nowhere? BTW, I know the reason. One of our optimizations this week was to remove joomla's SEO-friendly feature since it turns out not to be high-performance-friendly. sigh.

The official google webmaster blog (quoted above) continues:
For your verified site in Webmaster Tools, you can view your available sitelinks.

But I can't seem to find this anywhere in my webmaster tools. More specifically, when I click thru to the option where it's supposed to list my sitelinks and allow me block any sitelinks, I get a message that no sitelinks exist (see the picture). Great. So I've asked google on their official blog for help. I admit that I have very low expectations for an answer but, we'll see. Stay tuned, maybe tomorrow, I might have answers on how to find and fix them..... Also, how to get a decent Jooma 404 page-not-found page up....See you tomorrow.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Best free seo tools

Google, as I've written before, is the best free SEO tool (analytics, webmaster tools, adwords, search etc). The second best is yahoo. And the plugins to Firefox are amazing. In terms of third party websites:

SEO Tools - Specifically:
Search Analytics Tools - establish your marketing goals and establish a baseline for where you are at right now.
Keyword Research Tools - discover the keywords your customers are searching for right now.
Competitive Research Tools - see what keywords your competitors are targeting.
PPC Tools - buy important keywords and track the results to understand how well they convert,which helps you focus you organic SEO strategy on the most profitable keywords. Save money using these free Yahoo! Search Marketing & Microsoft adCenter Coupons.
Link Analysis Tools - start building your link profile and track your progress compared to competing websites.
Search Engine Ranking Checkers - determine how effective your marketing is by watching your search engine rankings improve.

SEO Digger - Provides great info but you really need a premium account to go to work. -

Free Wordtracker - This is much like the old Yahoo/overture tool that we all liked - - I wonder where they get their data? Answer is from dogpile and metacrawler which accounts for .63% of the searches. But, their searches are not by typical or mainstream users. A big problem. I mean like what sort of person in 2008 uses dogpile? If you met someone who used dogpile to search with, what sort of person do you think it would be? Would it be someone like Joe Sixpack? Or someone really weird and fringy...Maybe from Hawaii or Alaska...

BTW - there is a decent thread on this at

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

adsense & advertising nitty gritty questions

Here's a few adsense questions that I'd love answered:

1 - When I use blogger to set up a blog and I click "add adsense", as I did on this blog, google automatically finds my adsense account and sets up the appropriate ads. Which is what I did when I went to the new blogger on this website. That's cool. But what channel does it put it under? I can't find an "other"category so I'm a little confused.

2 - If I have two google ads on the same page, as I do on this blog, and someone views a page, so that both ads are viewed, does that count as one or two page views? I've been told that it counts as one by adsense but I can't seem to find this info documented anywhere. ANSWER: It counts page impressions, not ad block impressions. But if you want ad block impressions, or even individual ad impressions, you can find this in adsense advanced settings.

3 - If a page has two or three types of adsense ads; such as adblock ads, menu ads, and a search function; will adsense count that page impression multiple times. I believe it counts it once per type of ad on the page, but I'm not sure.

The implication is that you need to be careful when you compare $ per thousand of adsense vs advertising statistics. My advertising statistics are kept as $ per thousand page impressions. A page with two ads would count each ad impression separately. So a single page impression produces two ad impressions. But, if google is counting page impressions (not per ad impression), then I need to adjust my calculations accordingly.

I can't be the only one struggling to understand these nitty gritty number issues. Am I?