There’s room to balance both ambition to do big things, and the simple practice of finding pennies.

You don’t have to be a crazy monk sitting in silence all day to enjoy your life. You should be able to enjoy it right now, with what’s around you.

Balancing seeing with being seen. Balancing striving with finding pennies. 

Applying love and understanding to ourselves and the people around us.


The most damaging thing you learned in school wasn’t something you learned in any specific class. It was learning to get good grades.

When I was in college, a particularly earnest philosophy grad student once told me that he never cared what grade he got in a class, only what he learned in it. This stuck in my mind because it was the only time I ever heard anyone say such a thing.

Brands vs Ads

My thesis was Google would need to increasingly promote some smaller niche sites to make general web search differentiated from other web channels & minimize the market power of vertical leading providers.

The reason my thesis was only half correct (and ultimately led to the absolutely wrong conclusion) is Google has the ability to provide the illusion of diversity while using sort of eye candy displacement efforts to shift an increasing share of searches from organic to paid results.

Aaron Wall

Wise words from the GOAT SEO.


That linear SERP pattern still exists today, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. Today, we find that people’s attention is distributed on the page and that they process results more nonlinearly than before. We observed so much bouncing between various elements across the page that we can safely define a new SERP-processing gaze pattern — the pinball pattern.
In a pinball pattern, the user scans a results page in a highly nonlinear path, bouncing around between results and SERP features.

A traditional pinball machine arcade game (left) is a glass-covered cabinet using an angled play field with various bumpers, obstacles, and targets. The player uses flippers to shoot and bounce a metal ball around the play field, receiving points for hitting different targets. In a pinball pattern (right), the user’s gaze similarly “bounces” around between visual elements and keywords in a SERP.

Would be interesting to study the efforts of optimizing for #1 in Google SERPs for medium difficulty keywords vs. optimizing for CTR/attention in SERPs using rich results for high difficulty keywords. It is easy to earn rich results with markup, rich media, etc.

the web i remember

The death of the personal website has been lamented by many but I’m going to do it again. It is the worst trend to hit the web in the last 10 years. As Google and Facebook (and lately Amazon) have centralized the web, personal websites are vanishing. Instead, people and bots yell at each other on sites that mine our data and watch what we do.

The web I remember was different.

Twitter and Facebook were once places where you shared links to your website, not the place where you shared the content yourself.

Google was the directory where you discovered new content to visit, not the destination for consuming hours of content per day.

There was something special about typing in a URL and going to a site that was maintained by the person writing on that site. Each website was unique. Some were ugly, even.

Those were the good ol’ days where the broader experience of the web wasn’t over-engineered to death to maximize engagement at every turn.

Fundamentally, the web is still driven by content created by individuals. But by giving all of our content to Google and Facebook, the power of the web has greatly shifted to 2 companies instead of being distributed among the people.

Ironically, it is easier than ever for people to create their own sites, host their own email server, host photos, etc. 1-click installs are ubiquitous, WordPress is easier than ever to customize. But more and more content is shifting away from personal sites.

The last few years have already revealed Google and Facebook shifting to a pay-to-play model. We give them the content and if we want anybody to see if we have to pay. This is digital sharecropping on steroids that Nicholas Carr has written about in the past on his personal blog.

Carr penned the term in 2006 and he was rightfully scared of where things were headed and they’ve turned out even worse than he could have imagined.

Another scary trend is the integration of Facebook, Google, and Amazon into the personal website. Through hosting, commenting platforms, codebases and by controlling 80% of the web’s referral traffic even going the personal website route is difficult to escape big tech’s grasp. Your choice is to either give in or get no traffic.

Unless you go to extremes , by using the web in 2019 = using Google. Your visits, clicks, photos, tweetstorms, et. al are funneling into the Big Three in one way or another. You can fight hard to limit your contribution but the Big Three’s ever expanding web will catch you sooner or later.

No, SEO is not like heroin

SEO can be difficult to explain to people. To really understand it on an in-depth level, you need a mixture of technical and marketing knowledge. That said, it’s not stoichiometry. Getting people to wrap their heads around SEO on a high level shouldn’t be _that_ hard:

People use search to find information. If you increase your visibility in search, more people will find out about your business.

SEOs fall into a trap where we think SEO is a lot harder to explain to people than it actually is. (Many agencies would be screwed if their clients knew SEO so maybe this is intentional)

Instead of really educating people about SEO, we fall into far-fetched and corny analogies that actually make SEO more difficult to comprehend. Why talk about revenue/lead generation when you can swoop in with the “SEO is like heroin” pitch, right? One of the reasons SEO is viewed with such mysticism is because of how we talk about it to other people.

Part of being a good SEO is educating others. Teaching people about SEO is the only thing that will repair our reputation. If you work in the industry part of that burden is on you.

Next time you are speaking or writing about SEO, take the time to properly explain it instead of spinning the noun wheel and landing on Why SEO Like A Clarinet.


5 Reasons Why SEO is like Training for the Olympics

Why SEO is Like Bodybuilding

Why SEO Is Like Investing

Why SEO Is Like An RTS Game

Why SEO is like the platypus

Why SEO is like The Biggest Loser

Why Search Engine Optimization is Like Courting a Lover

Why Search Engine Optimization is Like Courting a Lover

Here’s Why SEO Is Like Heroin

Why SEO is Like Weight Loss

5 Reasons Why Being an SEO is like Being an Airline Pilot

Why SEO is like buying a new house

Why SEO is like your high school child

Why SEO is like roller derby

Why SEO is like underwear

Why SEO is Like Underwear

How SEO can be like a horror movie

Google Capital & SEO

Note: My man Jacob just published an awesome post looking at the SEO efforts of these companies. We have been writing the same post apparently. My charts are a touch different so I hit publish shortly after his went live.


“Few companies have such an in-depth understanding of the Internet as Google,” said Lending Club CEO Renaud Laplanche. “We believe our relationship with Google will be very helpful in better serving our customers. We couldn’t be more excited to have them on board.” [via]

This is hardly scientific but with all of the chatter surrounding Thumbtack’s relationship with Google I thought it’d be interesting to look at organic search traffic for other Google Capital investments.

I pulled these estimates using SEMRush and dropped in a marker when Google-backed investment rounds were announced for each company.

First, some background on Google Capital:

Founded in 2013, it focuses on larger, growth stage technology companies, and invests for profit rather than strategically for Google. In addition to capital investment, Google Capital’s approach includes giving portfolio companies access to Google’s people, knowledge, and culture to support the companies’ growth and offer them guidance.

Survey Monkey – Online survey solutions
Google initially invested in Survey Monkey on Jan 16, 2013.



Glassdoor – Anonymous company reviews
Glassdoor reaped huge benefits and doubled traffic from the Panda 4.0 update. That was several months before Google completed their investment round, however. Glassdoor ranks on page 1 for seemingly every company’s brand name.


Lending Club – Peer-to-peer lending
There has been chatter for a little while that Lending Club is getting a helping hand from Big G in the search results. Google invested in them in May 2013.


Fresh Desk – Online customer support software
FreshDesk was added to Google Capital’s portfolio in June 2014.


Renaissance Learning – Learning analytics
Google Capital invested 40m in February 2014.

renaissancelearning – Online marketplace for real estate
Joined the Google capital fold in March 2014.



Credit Karma – Credit & financial management platform
Google Capital invested in another high competition industry when they led an 85m round in March 2014.


MapR – Enterprise software
MapR closed a 110m financing round led by Google in June 2014.


Thumbtack – Online marketplace for local services
Ahh, the infamous Thumbtack that shows up for nearly every local SERP in every city. Google Capital invested in August 2014. If you think they are good at sourcing local vendors….they apparently are even better at writing reconsideration requests.


Innolight – High speed optical transceiver supplier
Google capital invested in September 2014.


CommonFloor – Real estate in India
Google Capital’s first 2015 investment took place in January 2015.


ZenPayroll – Online payroll solution
A 60m round lead by Google Capital closed in April 2015.


DuoLingoApp that teaches new languages
Series D round in June 2015. Too soon to really analyze their search traffic.


Read into these amateur charts however you’d like.

No way to tell from this if Google’s SEO “advice” goes beyond emailing a link of the Webmaster Guidelines or not. Google’s investing in companies that are forecasted to grow regardless of SEO help or not…not to mention the huge influx of cash for these companies when the investment rounds hit.

Maybe they are all investing all of that new cash right into SEO.

Whether they are getting inside info or not, it is frustrating to know that the same company that controls the flow of traffic around the web has large financial interests in dozens of companies ranking extremely well in competitive verticals.

PS – Somebody could do a deep dive into the link building tactics or on-page optimization that these companies have employed. I would like to read that.

Five years

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 9.13.34 PM

Yesterday marked five years that I’ve been at WebpageFX.

It’s been an awesome ride so far and I can’t believe it has already been five whole years. The company has grown so much since I first started. I remember touring the decked-out but tiny offices in a business incubator and getting grilled by an Internet marketing team that consisted of two (!) people at the time.

I remember holding an iPad in my hands for the first time ever in the office while waiting for my interview to start. I remember stopping at Applebees in Altoona for a self-congratulatory dinner after accepting an offer. I ordered the most expensive item on the menu. I think it was a steak.

I remember moving furniture into new office space when our tiny offices were bursting at the seams. Our new space seemed so massive. I remember thinking that we couldn’t possibly need more space. Ever. Then a couple years later we ran out of space and did it all over again.

Most of all, I remember how wonderful all of the people are at WebpageFX. Especially my wife…who I met when she started working on the exact same day as me.

Here’s to the next five years…and maybe an even bigger office. 😀

Leaked: Thumbtack’s Reconsideration Request To Google

Dear Google Search Quality Team:

We are writing this to request reconsideration of our site in Google’s search results. We have received notice of unnatural links pointing to our domain. It is with great care that we have reviewed each backlink to our site.


It’s me Marco Zappacosta, CEO of Thumbtack…you know, the Thumbtack that Google Capital invested $100m into last year.

Anyway, the links….yes, those sketchy anchor text links you are probably looking at right now…you can disregard those. Our advisers at Google Capital assured us those are “brand citations.” We need to verify websites on our service somehow so what’s the harm in a backlink? I can assure this whole unnatural links thing is purely a byproduct of successful branding.

Let me paste in the message Dave at Google Capital sent us about this whole thing below:

<a href=””>Commercial Cleaning Louisville KY</a>

Ahh shoot. Don’t know how I copied that…I swear!!!!!

Let me try again:

Dear Thumbtack Community!

We have an exciting new opportunity for members of our community. While we can no longer offer you 20 points for linking back to our site anymore, if you add this line to your .htaccess file we can offer you 40 points! Just paste this in below and you’re good to go:

Redirect 301 /

Thanks for being a loyal Thumbtack Professional!

Errr…WTF. That’s not right! That’s a draft in my email inbox. Not sure what is going on here. Let me try one more time…

Yooo waddup! Here is how it works: If you have a dope post that you would like us to tweet out – get you MASSIVE traffic – then put this html (below) at the bottom of the post and send me the URL along with the EXACT text you want tweeted. I will send that shit out and it will bloooowwwww up

Wait! That’s from my buddy Mahbod Moghadam at Genius. We exchange link buildi…”branding” tips on occasion. This copy/paste thing just isn’t working out.

How about I just attach what you need? See the Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free.PDF file that I’ve included. This was included in our signed agreement with Google Capital (see page 35, section c).


We are committed to doing whatever it takes to meet the Google Search Quality guidelines. If you or your team still finds links that do not meet the guidelines, we would highly appreciate an example of the specific links that are outside the guidelines to help our efforts in removing these links.

Thank you for your time and your consideration.

PS – Kiss that $100m goodbye if you don’t approve this in 3 days.

On Mobilegeddon: Why Google’s Free & Open Web Kind Of Sucks


A free and open world depends on a free and open web.
The Internet empowers everyone to speak, create, learn, and share.
It is controlled by no single organization, individual, or government.
It connects the world, and we should protect it.


Heartwarming, Google. We’re actually on the same page for once.The Internet is best when it is free and open and accessible. I owe a lot to the Internet and the freely available information that can be found. I wouldn’t know how to hang heavy things on the wall or fix a leaky faucet. I wouldn’t know what books to add to my reading list or the best travel route for a vacation. I wouldn’t have a job without a free and open Internet. The Internet rules.

Google’s message hits home for me but it’s also awash with irony, especially this part:

It is controlled by no single organization

Well, not yet at least.
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