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Who’s been Naughty and Nice in Search for 2009?

We’ve Compiled Our List & Checked it Twice…

With Christmas only a few days away, those last minute acts of kindness probably aren’t going to be enough to get your name scratched off the naughty list and penciled into the nice one.  Sure, you might hope to slip by this year on some clerical error or a loophole in the revised 2009 Naughty and Nice Code of Ethics, but remember Santa is supposedly checking them twice (which makes me wonder if he has a Naughty & Nice app for his iPhone yet, or is still doing it by hand?). 

Yet whether your stocking this year will be filled with lumps of coal or gifts of joy, you are not alone.  We have sent out a request to our colleagues, associates and some talented search elves up north to come up with our First Annual Not Quite Definitive List of Who’s Been Naughty and Who’s Been Nice in Search for 2009.   

Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.

Nobody's walking out on this fun, old-fashioned family Christmas.


* Google gets lots of gifts for attempting to innovate search with real-time results, social search, and more.

* gets lots of gifts this Holiday season for leaving the hands off of eBay, listening to its community, and implementing changes around their desires.

– Jordan Kasteler

* Bing goes on this list for bringing more seriousness in competition to the search landscape. They’ve got a long way to go, but it’s the first positive step in a long, long time.

– Rand Fishkin

* Google Adwords new ad formats. This was a long-time coming in my opinion.  I am curious to see if Yahoo and MSN try to follow Google, or, wait until their platform merger.

* Google Analytics upgrades since October….specifically, more “Goals” and “Alert” system. 

* Google Webmaster Tools upgrades….specifically, their “Parameter Handling”.

– Clint Danks

“Google / Bing Street Level Maps…to me, nothing ranks higher on the cool meter.”

 – Todd Mintz 

“With so much progress and awesomeness developing throughout the world of search this year, it’s hard to narrow the choices down to a single worthy recipient of a “nice” mention.  That said – drum roll, please…my “nice” winner for 2009 is real-time search.  What?  Yeah, you read that right.  Real-time search.  There’s a lot of progress to be made, but real-time search has come a long way.  Even Google recently rolled out a test that included the incorporation of some real-time search results into their SERPs.  I must admit it amuses me to do a search for my name and watch my tweets scroll by atop the Google SERPs.  

Don’t get me wrong, Google has a long way to go to compete with the likes of Twitter Search. While it is somewhat problematic from an SEO standpoint to have to contend with yet another block of results that pushes the #1 organic result further down the page in Google, I commend their efforts to try to compete with the likes of Twitter Search.  Ah, Twitter search – the original and still atop the heap of real-time search as it applies to microblogging.  When used properly, Twitter Search is a great way to monitor and contribute to current conversations on an endless number of topics.  

Facebook and FriendFeed, as well as meta real-time search engines like Scoopler and Twingly are great real-time alternatives to traditional search engines when you’re looking for the most current results or wanting to monitor existing conversations about a particular keyword, topic or brand online.  Break out the good scotch this Christmas and toast the bright future of real-time search!”  

 – Alysson Fergison

* TwakeUp – Yes, I was a part of it. But really it wasn’t just that single event, but more how the search industry really does stand by charities. We have a good group of people here.

* Google Tiny Tweaks – the small stuff like allowing image searches to be restricted by size or type. The reports in AdWords that make every PPCer’s life easier. For all the little stuff, I love you Google.

* Bing parties – Sorry, have to give it to Bing. They throw nice parties. 

– Kate Morris 

“Facebook allows me to post to selected friends. Not everyone wants to know about how to save a cat, a dog or a forest.”

– Kathy Litt

“I swear that Google Analytics comes out with a nice new feature each week. My favorite this year dates way back in January when they rolled out Custom Reports. Having these details alone is great, but the ability to create these reports to a boss or client is golden. Numbers don’t lie.”

– Paul Jahn 

* Google Webmaster Central for introducing the canonical tag – and Yahoo and Microsoft for adopting it as well.  Thanks for playing nicely together!

* David Mihm for writing his instantly-usable series on local search marketing fundamentals for Search Engine Land.  Among my favorite series of the year!

* Todd Mintz for continuing to be my favorite conversationalist at every conference I attend.

* Everyone at SMX for hosting conferences where the food is actually edible.

* Michelle Robbins – she is just plain nice!

– Ruth Burr 

“Google implementing real-time search.  Way to go on giving me up-to-the-minute results and news.”

 –  Sarah Danks 

* Nick Gerner and the rest of the SEOmoz development team for building the Competitive Link Finder.  An incredibly useful link research and analysis tool that saves a tremendous amount of time on manual link building. 

* The Google Analytics team for their robust “More Powerful, Flexible And Intelligent” update in October.  GA may have a few quirks, but it is an amazing tool for small businesses who would otherwise probably never consider dipping into their internet marketing budget for a quality web analytics platform.

* Microsoft for taking search seriously enough not to give up on it.

 – James Svoboda 

“Bing gets on the nice list this year. First off, I like the new images they post on their home page each day. Yeah, sometimes it can distract you before you actual do a search, but I just don’t see those type of images anywhere else in my daily web travels, kind of refreshing, and you can learn something new every day. Second, I think their search results are better now, and I like the right side flyout panels next to the listings with More Info.

Google AdWords for the ability to run Search Query and Placement Performance reports in the Campaigns tab without having to go to the Reports tab to run the report there. The left navigation panel and inline editing functions are great timesavers. The new display ad builder tool is a good first step, a simple and easy to use tool that will allow individuals and smaller companies that don’t have graphic designers on staff to create banners to get more out of the Google content network. Needs more default templates to choose from though.”

  – Tony Svoboda 

* Google for waiting until after the holidays to get all caffeinated on our asses.  I guess they remember the holiday panic and despair e-commerce sites experienced with the Florida Update of November 2003. I still hear stories from clients that go something like this (in my best old man voice), “I remember the great Google update of 2003; we didn’t know what hit us.  One day our great site that featured home décor knick knacks, electronics, luggage, candles and anything else you could never want was on the first page, and then right before Christmas…poof…it was gone. We’ve been walking uphill to get it to ranked ever since.”

* Bing’s home page…what can I say, I’m a sucker for the unique photos they feature each day.  To be honest, I’m also a sucker for bright shiny things, which can make the holiday season a difficult time to be productive.

* Google Logo’s one week homage to Sesame Street’s 40th Anniversary.  I grew up with Grover, Big Bird, Bert, Ernie, Oscar and the rest of the gang and yes, I do know how to get to Sesame Street; if I could only find them on Google Maps. 

* TweetDeck for allowing me to update and stay up to date on the daily minutia of friends, people I barely remember from high school, and acquaintances I don’t really give a damn about.  Despite this apparent apathy, I still find myself reading with interest the daily updates regarding random Monday morning angst, problems with significant others, bathroom habits, food yearnings and need for others to join their Mafia family.

* for rewarding me with free food and lots of free alcohol on a regular basis this past year, just for writing outrageous Gonzo styled reviews that have little to do with the establishment, and mostly to do with me.  Google, you better keep your hands off my sugar daddy.  I like them just the way they are.

– Chris Lister

I don't know if I oughta go sailin' down no hill with nothin' between the ground and my brains but a piece of government plastic.

I don't know if I oughta go sailin' down no hill with nothin' between the ground and my brains but a piece of government plastic.


* gets a lump of coal for taking up the #3 position on the homepage with a sponsored add instead of a promoted story. Now content gets pushed below the fold even more quickly. 

* Bing gets a lump of coal for ending Yahoo’s paid inclusion (SSP) offering at the end of the year. They should have continued on with that.

– Jordan Kasteler

“News Corp. and its media brethren who believe that blocking search engines is a good way around their problems. We desperately need great reporting and great journalism, but the people who run these organizations are stuck in a cave on Mars. With their eyes shut. And their fingers in their ears.

Rather than thinking of great ways to monetize the millions of visitors the engines send their way each month for free, they’re trying to make the engines pay them to provide the content. It’s akin to worrying about how your free billboard in Times Square isn’t getting anyone to pay the $0.25 for a paper in the boxes below it and deciding that the building that gave you the free ad space now need to pay to run ads for you.”

 – Rand Fishkin

“I honestly can’t think of too many things that I would classify as “naughty”.  I will tell you that I am not a huge fan of the “new” Adwords platform.  Way too clunky.  It almost forces me to use the Adwords Editor full-time…sans some settings that aren’t in the Adwords Editor.”

– Clint Danks

“Twitter Spam…out of control and not nearly enough controls out there to deal with it.”

– Todd Mintz 

“This year it’s a tie between “Google’s New Ad Network” and “Twitter’s Dumb Down For The Masses”.  Let’s start with Google, shall we?  Earlier this year Google decided to make a big change to the way ads were served to search users. Rather than basing ads on the content of the page itself, ads are now based on visitor interests, even if those interests have nothing to do with the webpage being visited.  Google calls it “Interest-Based Advertising”.  I call it, “Uber-Creepy Stalker Advertising”.  Tomato, Tomahto…right?  Wrong.  Google gets coal in its stocking this year for this creeptastic invasion of privacy.

Google has done some suspicious and questionable things in the past, but in my opinion this one truly takes the cake. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the vast majority of Google users will never investigate enough to truly understand what “Interest-Based Advertising” really means.  Thus Google can continue mining an endless amount of data and tracking our every move online.  Ah, online anonymity…it was great while it lasted.  By the way, if you value your privacy and use Firefox there’s an add-on called “Targeted Advertising Cookie Opt-Out” (abbreviated TACO).  

Next on the naughty list for 2009 is Twitter.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love Twitter.  Some might say I’m a Twitter addict.  I have no evidence to support otherwise.  That said, Twitter did two things this year that really stuck in my craw.  The first was their decision to eliminate our control over which replies appear within our Twitterstreams and which don’t.  Originally we could choose to “see all @replies”, “see @replies only to others you follow” or “see no @replies”.  

Twitter, in its infinite wisdom decided that making such a choice was “too confusing” for new users and, as such, elected to make that decision for us by removing the option to choose.  The only @replies that appear within our Twitterstreams are those from someone we follow to someone else we follow.  Hoorah for making it even harder to find interesting people to follow!  It should be noted this wasn’t Twitter’s only dumb down of the year.  They recently butchered the retweet.  Lisa Barone from Outspoken Media pretty much sums it up in her post “Why Twitter’s New Retweet Feature Sucks“.  I still love Twitter, so they’re not off my Christmas list entirely…but instead of a cool geek gadget, they get socks.  Better luck next year…”

 – Alysson Fergison 

* Facebook Issues – Don’t get me started with the privacy issues and the fact that the advertising platform still isn’t *fantastic*. Facebook has a long way to go in terms of maturity.

* Google Wave – Sorry, this was a whole lot of hype for not much substance. I don’t need more time wasters here. Sorry Google.

* Twitter/Facebook Spammers – Yeah, I don’t need to see Britney like that. Clean it up guys. I am not saying the companies are at fault, but there needs to be something done about this new trend of spam.

* Bing Commercials – Stop the madness!!! Sorry, they bother me.

– Kate Morris

“Those who Tweet too much in one day. Enough a ya!”

– Kathy Litt

I heart local search, but in 2009 there are a number of companies who thrive on MapSpam and Google isn’t catching it. I really hope this changes is 2010.”

– Paul Jahn 

* Everyone who clogged up a Q & A session at any SMX or SES this year with repeated questions about nofollow and PageRank sculpting.  Get over it, people. 

* Facebook for selling out repeatedly – again.  The nice thing about FB to start was that it was a walled garden – now information is too accessible.  Considering the bottom line above users is a sure way to scuttle your own ship. 

– Ruth Burr 

“Google for implementing real-time search.  Just because it’s been Tweeted/Facebooked within the last 2 minutes (by people I don’t know, no less) doesn’t mean it’s relevant to me.

– Sarah Danks

“Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz for not taking search seriously enough and giving up on it.  The Microsoft-Yahoo search deal reminds me of when Yahoo changed search listing providers and started using the little-known-Stanford-alum-search-engine-that-could called Google. Replacing the search “content” that you already own and have spent years building, with a competitor’s, just does not make much sense to me.”

– James Svoboda 

“Yahoo, for giving up on search, well at least for 10 years anyways. When you have a corporate culture of people trying to create content there isn’t anyone left to work on the technical engineering side of their search engine. Makes all those search companies they bought years ago just a waste of money, those engineers probably left the company years ago which is why their search results have sucked.

Even their purchase of Overture has now been proven to be pointless. When you are the “Display Advertising King” why bother with paid search as an option for advertisers; that just takes money away from your display advertising programs. Google will soon be eating their lunch on Display as well with their vast content network.”

 – Tony Svoboda

* Yahoo for throwing in the towel on search.  The once undisputed king of the search engines has handed over the keys to Microsoft with nary a whimper or a fight.  It is a sad way to go out.  No Christmas cookies for you.

* MySpace & Google Adwords for constantly displaying sponsored ads for Alcohol rehab clinics when I’m logged into my MySpace account.  A few Hunter S Thompson quotes & references to my favorite beers and suddenly I’m a candidate for the TV show Intervention?  Luckily I rarely frequent my account…because really, all this talk of rehab could drive one to drink.

* And speaking of drinking, on the naughty list goes those who drink the Social Media Kool Aid and think it is a substitute for a solid organic and paid search strategy.  Yes, Social can improve your exposure and provide direct interaction with your clients, but for the vast majority it won’t replace the benefits of steady keyword triggered traffic.

– Chris Lister

All I Want is a Red Ryder BB Gun, Better Local Search, Analytics...

All I Want is a Red Ryder BB Gun, Better Local Search, Analytics...


“I’d like to see vertical search sites start taking market share from Google – traditional web search is likely too far for anyone but the cash-reserve-rich Microsoft. But perhaps someone could start taking share from travel search or reference search or other verticals that Google has historically under-served.”

 – Rand Fishkin


“Peace on Earth…..Goodwill towards men (and women)…..and an XML site map for the canonical tag.  This way, you don’t have to tag every single page….just create one “Canonical.XML” page.  Spiders can just reference that for rules.”

Clint Danks

* Bing to get a Good Algorithm – I’m not being mean. But for Bing to really compete, they have to make nice with us, and that means working on the spam and edu focus of their algo to name just 2 downsides.” 

* See Good use of social in search results – Yeah, what is there isn’t cutting it yet.

* Deals with Major Content providers – we are starting to see this with Twitter, but if that happens, then I’d like to see the newspapers ask why they don’t get anything from their content. Whole hornets nest here. 

 – Kate Morris

“Personalized Search was bad enough. I’m not anti SMM, but please take social media search out of the search game, and make it a different section, or a sidebar option. SEO’s are going to turn into SPAMMERS. Some people can NEVER be on Facebook (I know of one), and what will their search results be? Search Engines are setting us up for an ugly marketing war that will look more like an illegal dog fight. Besides, we have finally taught the world “What is SEO?”. Can’t we enjoy it? They will never buy into it, if the game becomes a bloody war.”

 –  Kathy Litt

 “Christmas Wish List – a nice blend of the above :)”

  – Sarah Danks

“On my wish list is a call tracking solution with tie-ins to web analytics, GA in particular, that is simple and affordable, and will appeal to businesses of all sizes.  And if it is able to track multiple sources, mediums and campaigns, then that would really bring holiday cheer to marketing boys and girls all around the web!”

– James Svoboda 

“A few wishes for the upcoming year…Yelp to not sell out to Google, Facebook to add a “dislike” button, Bing to grab more market share from Google, the leg lamp from A Christmas Story (I already have the Red Ryder BB Gun, and no I have not shot my eye out), and a happy and successful 2010 for all.” 

– Chris Lister


The Search Elves of 2009

The Search Elves of 2009

I would like to personally thank the following Search Marketing Elves for pulling themselves away from the Christmas cookies and Egg Nog in order to contribute to our first annual list of Naughty & Nice in Search for 2009.

 Jordan Kasteler a.k.a. Utah SEO Pro has been avidly involved in organic SEO since 2001. He is also a fore-runner in embracing social media. He has worked in-house at, for an SEO agency, but now is the co-founder of Search & Social.

Rand Fishkin is the CEO & Co-Founder of SEOmoz, a leader in the field of search engine optimization tools, resources & community. In 2009, he co-authored the Art of SEO book from O’Reilly Media and was named among the 30 Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs Under 30 by BusinessWeek. Rand has been written about it in The Seattle Times, Newsweek and the NY Times among others and keynoted conferences on search around the world. He’s particularly passionate about the SEOmoz blog, read by tens of thousands of search professionals each day. In his miniscule spare time, Rand enjoys the company of his amazing wife, Geraldine. 

Clint Danks is the owner/founder of  ThinkSEM Consulting, a Twin Cities-based SEM company. With over 6 years of Search Engine Marketing (SEM) experience, Clint is now a Google Adwords Certified Professional, MSN adExcellence Accredited and also passed the Google Analytics IQ Certification. While he got his start in Internet marketing solely by optimizing websites – he’s worked on over 1,500 – his great passion is the world of pay-per-click.

Todd Mintz ( is the Director of Internet Marketing / Search Engine Optimization for S.R. Clarke and is on the Board of Directors at SEMpdx. 

Alysson Fergison offers freelance SEO, including affordable SEO audits, and WordPress website/blog design services for small business.  She’s known throughout search marketing circles as “SEOAly” and publishes a woefully neglected blog by the same name.  She’s@Alysson on Twitter and you’re welcome to follow her often nonsensical, but frequently amusing, tweets.  

Kate Morris is an Independent Search Marketing Consultant with Marketing Demons. She regularly speaks at PubCon and SMX conferences on PPC, Social Media, Landing Page Optimization, and SEO topics.

Kathy Litt is a Search Engine Marketing Specialist.

Paul Jahn is the owner of Localmn Interactive Marketing based out of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Depending on client needs, Paul consults or help implements their Internet marketing initiatives. 

Ruth Burr is a client manager at Point It.  She has spent the last 4 years building her expertise in Search Engine Optimization, search engine marketing, pay per click management, landing page development and blog marketing.  She strongly believes in user education and data-driven decision making to encourage companies at all levels of search marketing experience to bring their websites to the next level.

Sarah Danks is co-owner of ThinkSEM Consulting. Sarah serendipitously fell into search marketing in 2005 and began learning all she could about SEO. She liked her main mentor – Clint – so much she decided to marry him (mainly so he wouldn’t become a competitor). Her search marketing experience includes PPC, a smattering of social media and optimization for both English and Spanish language sites.   

James Svoboda is the Director of Search for WebRanking and has been with the company since April 1999. James is responsible for designing custom search engine placement solutions, technology, research and maintenance, search engine analysis and overseeing all web design and development. He can be credited with developing the most of the processes that are currently employed in both the Search Engine Optimization and Marketing programs. 

Tony Svoboda is the President and Founder of Locology L.L.C. and WebRanking. Since January 1998, Tony has been the driving force behind the vision and direction of Responsible for the development of the company’s corporate strategy and overseeing its finances, Tony still finds time to take an active role in the day to day operations of the company, while continuing to look for new ways to offer clients world class services and programs at affordable prices.

Chris Lister has been the Director of Sales & Marketing for WebRanking since March of 2002. Chris offers clients over 14 years experience in marketing, sales, and communications. He is responsible for new business acquisitions, project consultation, client services, marketing and advertising. Stressing client advocacy and customer service, he lends a fresh and innovative approach to WebRanking’s Sales & Marketing department.  Chris is an avid writer, beer drinker, husband, social media addict and a brand new father.

Share your thoughts on our Naughty & Nice ListHave an opinion on who should have made the Naughty & Nice list for 2009? Feel free to add your comments below as we look forward to hearing from you.

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Reader Comments

  • Paul Jahn | December 25, 2009

    There are some really good insights here. My favorite “naughty list” goes to Kathy Litt who says “Those who Tweet too much in one day. Enough a ya!”.

    I totally agree with her. In my little world, there are those who “do” and there are those who Tweet about doing.

  • James | December 30, 2009

    My favorite is from Clint Danks @thinksem. A brilliant little solution to controlling chaotic canonical issues.

    “an XML site map for the canonical tag. This way, you don’t have to tag every single page….just create one “Canonical.XML” page. Spiders can just reference that for rules.”

  • sarah b danks | January 04, 2010

    thanks for the fun compilation, mister lister!

    guess we’d better start keeping track of a) how all of our ‘wish list’ items pan out (or not) and b) items for this year’s wrap-up 🙂

  • Stephen Douglas | January 06, 2010

    @ T-Mint

    I agree that street level camera view is cool except, there’s a person suspiciously similar to your countenance coming out of a *ahem* certain corner building where there are shades on the windows and neon lights flickering. When I looked closer, I saw another image of someone who looks like ME right behind you… GOOGLE – D*MN YOU!!!!

    @ For those who are disappointed with Twitter, you can read my indepth article on Twitter at:

    To my friends at SEMPDX — a seminar on PPC still? Just read the latest email for the next meeting, and was surprised you guys aren’t focused on CPA’s instead of PPC’s.. although Ron Jackson at DNJ is predicting a rise in PPC rev for 2010. I say cover both bases. One sale on a CPA can make 1000% profit on a domain name compared to efforts to get CTR’s through PPC.

    Please don’t dawg me on this, I love my SEMPDX.

  • Brad Wallace | January 07, 2010

    Well done, Chris! Liked this lighthearted article, even if I have no clue what half of the SEO stuff is.

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