All About Content

Context Is the Castle Vanguard

Posted by Melanie Phung on Friday, March 28, 2008 at 6:58 pm

If content is king, then context is the set of guards who protect the king’s castle. That’s a terribly tortured analogy, but my point is that one needs the other. What is content without context but just so much noise?

This week one of my coworkers wrote a post about another mutual colleague calling him a creepy old guy. [damn, there’s that word again]. The post enumerates reasons why the guy is creepy, including “he tries to be cool by writing a blog” and “He has been out of college for like 5 years”. I knew it was satire as soon as I glanced at it.

About half the commentators were outraged though. One writes “Is it really ethical to attack a fellow blogger without provocation?. He tries to be cool by writing a blog? Ummmm Does he really need your approval to write a blog? this is over the top.” Yes, it’s way over the top … clue #1. But the broader context in this case was the relationship between the people involved.

My office is a very friendly, laid back place and everyone enjoys joking, teasing and engaging in animated political arguments. Reading the post as an extension of their office interaction, I knew it was intended to be, and received as, a funny prank. (The author’s response to the first comment was another big clue.)

In a recent post on this very blog, I appear to berate a commentator for being a total hack Making fun of people who read your blog is a pretty dumb practice, and anyone who stumbles across that post without knowing the context would probably be less than impressed with my social skills. [ed. but he really does run the worst SEO blog ever, honest.]

The context in this case is a long-standing (well, long enough) history of being friendly snarky at each other on his blog. In fact, I remind him he’s a hack all over the internet like here and here, too. But there isn’t any hostility or malice behind it, and he knows that (I think, yes?). He’s even so kind as to find opportunities to link to me using really good anchor text, and I return the favor.

But understanding the context of a conversation, from which the content derives meaning, doesn’t have to be as difficult as researching everything about a person before leaving a comment on a blog. Sometimes you just need to pay attention or put your critical thinking cap on. A blog I’ve just started reading, has a warning label right across the top of the page and another one right below: “Best viewed at 1024×768 with a sense of humor.”

Lots of people pan stupid products and level large doses of sarcasm at their objects of scorn, but few go as far as the sucker who runs Take a look at the level of detail on that site/blog – that’s a PhotoShop license going to good use right there. If you spent just a few minutes looking around the site before leaving a comment, you wouldn’t make the mistake this commentator did:

Why are you such a loser dude? Seriously, if you think that Internet Marketing sucks then why do you blog about it in the first place? And just cause you have failed at Internet Marketing does that mean that everyone else should fail? I guess NOT! Why do you think conventions such as Affiliate Summit are organised? Because people are actually doing money off Internet Marketing! Duh! Bleh you and your blog suck!

So, the thing that all these examples have in common is … hm… that what you perceive as me being mean and nasty is actually me being very funny, so lighten up and get a sense of humor, will ya? … no, that wasn’t it. Ah, yes, what I mean is this: step back before you post a comment and make sure you actually understand what’s actually going on.

There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with leaving drive-by comments, but be aware that you are walking into someone else’s conversation. Unless you stop and listen for a minute, you might not have any idea what the conversation is really about*, and you risk making a fool of yourself.

I’ve done it plenty of times. New motto for this blog: I make mistakes so you don’t have to.

* Or you might understand the topic of the conversation perfectly fine, but not the people involved in it, leading to confusion, paranoia and possibly the need for restraining orders.


Comments (6)

Category: Social Media

10 Years of Viagra Spam

Posted by Melanie Phung on Thursday, March 27, 2008 at 9:26 am

Ten years ago today, the FDA approved the Pfizer-manufactured little blue pill, marketed under the trade name Viagra.

Sildenafil, the active drug in Viagra, was originally designed to lower blood pressure, but why lower blood pressure when you can raise… the amount of spam in people’s inboxes. Cheap magic manhood pills available anonymously online? That’s profit ready for the picking.

According to Wikipedia, Viagra has plenty of other uses too:

A low-concentration solution of sildenafil in water significantly prolongs the time before cut flowers wilt.

So next time you get get an email promising you your girlfriend’s eternal gratitude, and you’re ready to hit the delete button, think about the multitude of other uses Vyyiagr@ has.

Indirectly or directly, Pfizer is responsible for probably half of your email volume, so be sure to take a moment to reflect on the historic importance of this day. But remember, if your celebration of Viagra’s anniversary lasts more than three hours, please call a doctor.

Photo credit: Digital_Freak

Update: April 7
Oh look, what an honor: Aditya Mehta, on behalf of India Syndicate totally plagiarized my last paragraph and is republishing it on MSN. Classy.

Update: April 8
The plagiarized article has been removed from MSN. The URL now points to a different article.

Comments (5)

Category: Spam

Internal Search Box Displayed in Google Sitelinks

Posted by Melanie Phung on Wednesday, March 12, 2008 at 9:59 am

On Monday, while doing client research, I discovered that Google is now displaying a site search box underneath Google Sitelinks in results for some general queries.

Sitelinks for navigational searches are becoming more common and you’ve long had the option to see “more results from [domain]” if you had an indented result — the “more results” link would show you results from the query you had just conducted but limit them to just pages from that domain — but a search box within the results is much more interactive. A search box basically prompts you to refine your search, but do so only within the most authoritative site.

Site Search Inside Sitelinks

Even more fascinating to me, however, is that this internal site search is displayed not just on results where the search was clearly navigational — like a search on “Intel” might have been.

Doing searches on bible-related phrases (don’t ask, it was for a client), I saw the same thing for queries that seemed pretty general.

I ran queries on [online bible], [bible search], [bible passages] and even queries using advanced operators and still got not only Sitelinks but also a separate query box for searching that specific site.

Site Search Inside Google Sitelinks

Imagine how powerful this type of display would be if you’re an e-commerce retailer! It immediately gives your site an appearance of even more authority and people can search your site without even needing to click away from the SERP.

Queries conducted with this Sitelinks search box also get saved to the user’s Google Web History if they’re logged in. Something you wouldn’t get if they used the search box inside your site.

Neither of the two sites given in the examples use the Google Search Appliance – so whether you use the Google enterprise system for your internal search doesn’t appear to be a factor in getting this to show up for your results. (The Google Search Appliance is a horrible choice for site search, btw. Not at all suited for site owners looking to provide on-site search functionality.)

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Category: Google

"The Algorithm" Says Good-Bye

Posted by Melanie Phung on Wednesday, March 5, 2008 at 10:29 am

Lisa Barone says a bittersweet (or maybe just bitter) good-bye to the little search engine that could. After chugging along in 4th or 5th place for so long and one utterly confusing ad campaign, is giving up the ghost. Well, technically it is restructuring to “instead focus on a narrower market consisting of married women looking for help managing their lives” in the form of a Q&A site … but c’mon. That’s just sad. As Lisa says, there would be more dignity in just retiring the name.


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Category: Industry Buzz

Getting Ranked via Google Local …With No Content At All

Posted by Melanie Phung on Monday, March 3, 2008 at 9:02 pm

I did a search on [Washington DC SEO] in Google and found a local listing in the #1 spot. Not surprising with Universal Search and the inclusion of a city name clearly indicating that there’s a geographical component to the query.

(Actually, I used to have a first page ranking in Google for Washington DC SEO and a #1 spot for the same phrase in Yahoo and MSN.)

So if you’re a small business looking for SEO services, you might think, “wow, this guy must be good; he’s #1 in Google after all!”

Here’s the funny thing: There’s no there there. The site has no content on it. This is what you get when you click on the link:

Luckily for him, the OneBox listing includes a phone number, so the guy might still be getting clients (yeah, right!)

Is that all it took to be #1 for “Washington DC SEO” – registering an address with Google Local Search? I’d be all over that, but I don’t think I want to make it that easy for any old stalker to know my address. What a shame.

p.s. I’d upload a screen shot, but for the life of me I can’t figure out how to do screen grabs on my new Mac. 🙁

Comments (3)

Category: Google