Mr. Pratt Interviews Greg Boser
When writing up some ideas for an interview of Greg Boser I did the usual, find a few of his sites, study his backlinks, blog, and comments in forums. One thing that kept popping up is that people in the marketing community have a lot of respect for this guy. Greg is not afraid to step up to the plate and Google also takes him seriously. Matt Cutts from Google commented in Greg’s blog blog when he mentioned the word “click fraud” as if to try to deflate Greg’s tires. Didn’t you know Matt, Greg also has a new set of Armadillos! Here is my interview with Greg Boser.
Good afternoon Mr. Boser
Please. Call me Greg. When I hear Mr. Boser, I start looking around the room for my Father.
Sorry Greg, it is just part of seobuzzbox.com protocol.
I’m not sure about the popular part, but I’m a search engine marketing consultant.
I like the idea of probing Google’s ports to keep them honest. Michael Gray recently did a case study on outbound links and you have proposed a click fraud test, can you tell us more about click fraud in general and what you propose?
The click fraud audit we are going to conduct isn’t just about Google. It is going to be an audit of all the major ppc providers. Regarding click fraud in general, maybe it would be best if I backtracked a bit.
A few years ago, we were working with a client in a very competitive PPC space. Anytime we would jump up into the top 3, our spend rate would shoot through the roof. Obviously, it’s normal to spend more money when you occupy a higher position, but the amount of increase was so big, it immediately drew our attention. After looking into it, it became quite obvious to us that there was a significant amount of fraudulent clicking taking place.
Trying to get money refunded was nearly impossible. Even if you were successful for a particular billing period, the click activity continued, so you would have to repeat the whole process each month.
We got to a point where we had a very good idea who was doing the clicking, so we decided the best thing to do was to build our own bot and return the favor. During our testing phase, we were shocked by how poor the PPC engines were at detecting our clicks. We ran several tests against our own sites that we thought would certainly raise red flags and cause the engines to disallow the clicks. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen too often.
After we resolved the issue with our competitor, we retired the bot and moved on to other projects.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve had the opportunity to have some private discussions with various search engine reps about some of the things we found when we did our initial testing. All of them seemed genuinely interested in patching the holes. And I’ve been told that several specific items have indeed been fixed.
At this point, I feel that the PPC engines have had more than enough time to address the various flaws in their fraud detection systems. If they really have been working as hard as they say, we should come back with much different results when we run tests similar to the ones we ran in the past.
You have a way with words; I have been using some of your phrases like “litterbox” to describe the Google sandbox. Google technically does not call it a sandbox so it must not exist (yeah right!). Anyhow, you have also offered to take a look at websites that are believed to be litterboxed by Google, do you have the skills to pull them out or are you looking to probe Google’s ports again here?
It’s not about probing Google’s ports. And I’m certainly not claiming to have a magic solution that will fix everyone’s Google issues. But I do think we have a solid understanding of the filters that can have a negative impact on newer sites. We also do most of our SEO work on a rev share/performance based model. The combination of those two things creates potential opportunities. If someone has a quality site with a solid revenue model, but they haven’t been able to generate the type of search engine exposure it takes to make the site profitable, we might be able to help. If we’re successful, it’s a win-win situation. If we’re not, it’s just more R&D data. Either way, we come out a head.
You have pointed to a blog that describes this current ‘link absurdity” we are seeing, could you tie this in with what is going on with Matt Cutts verbal attack on Jeremy Zawodny, describe what this is all about?
I don’t think it’s fair to say that Matt is attacking Jeremy. (and I doubt Jeremy considered Matt’s comments an attack) I’m the one who started the whole mess. Matt’s just responding to it. His job is to defend and improve the quality of his database, and that is what he’s doing.
Matt is truly one of the most dedicated and passionate guys you will ever meet. And I have a ton of respect for what he has contributed to our industry as a whole. That said, there will obviously be times where Matt and I disagree. He’s the gate keeper and I’m the guy trying to scale the wall so I can show everyone a poster with my client’s 1-800 number on it. That fact creates two distinctively different viewpoints on many issues. And how Google is handling paid text links just happens to be one of them.
Regarding linking absurdity, the original post I referred to was from a SEO humor blog called Sem Antics The piece was poking fun at the predicament that many new webmasters find themselves in, which in a nutshell comes down to: “It takes links to rank well, but you need to rank well to get links.”
In the pre-millennium days, search was the primary method used to find quality sites to link to. And providing your visitors with a broad selection of good off-site links was the norm. Someone with fairly basic SEO skills could launch a new site with good content and have a good chance of being found by other webmasters looking for sites to link to.
My Father is a perfect example. He put up a little website in 1997. When the site first went up, there were probably less than 100k pages on the web that contained his keyword phrase. There are now close to 10 million. Yet despite the dramatic increase in competition, he has managed to stay in the top 3 across every engine that ever existed during that time. He survived Black Monday, Florida, and all three Jaggers without a scratch. And he doesn’t really know squat about SEO. (Other than how to write a title tag).
His survival is due in large part to the 2000 or so quality backlinks he managed to obtain over the years. The makeup of his backlinks includes everything we strive for as SEO’s. Links from large news agencies, major .edu’s as well as other authoritative sites in his space. And the best part is the fact that he never paid or bartered for a single link. All he did was write articles.
The problem we face today when it comes to Google is the fact that link structures similar to my Father’s have become the base model for what is considered the ideal “natural” link map. On the surface it’s a great idea because these types of sites do contain great content and for the most part put very little thought into SEO. However, their ability to grow “naturally” only existed because they didn’t need the links to gain visibility in algorithmic search engines.
Once you take away algorithmic visibility, that ideal model collapses pretty quick. It would be virtually impossible for my Father to replicate what he’s done online if he started from scratch today. Google has become so restrictive when in comes to new content showing up in SERPS that he would have no chance of ever being found.
If the people who control the important sites you are supposed to “earn” a link from can’t find you, then your only option is to go out and start pounding on doors trying to introduce yourself. Once you do that, everything changes. You instantly go from being a great resource that should be shared with the important site’s visitors, to a bum begging for a little juice.
I think that it is the frustration with Google’s unrealistic model that has led to the explosive growth in the text link market. New site owners are willing to do whatever it takes to gain the critical exposure they need to get over the hump. And the important sites that are supposed to be handing out all the link love for free aren’t willing to do it anymore. They understand the value their links have and they want to be compensated for them. So the easiest thing to do is write a check.
Have you always been a rebel Mr. Boser? Tell us about Greg the guy on a personal level.
I’m not sure rebel is a word I would use to describe myself. A rebel to me is someone who is consumed with fighting authority at every possible level. I’m far too lazy for that. Now issues that have a direct impact on my livelihood or my family are a whole different matter. When it comes to those types of things, I can always find the energy to voice an opinion even if no one really wants it.
My life away from search is probably much different than you would think. I’ve been happily married for 15 years and I have a 13 year old daughter and an 11 year old son. I manage and coach my daughter’s fastpitch softball travel team, and my son plays football, skateboards and snowboards. Almost all of my time away from search is spend doing something related to those activities.
You seem to have a tight group of friends, what are they like and do they all wear orange hair to conferences?
One of the greatest things about our industry is the number of incredible people that work in it. I’ve been very fortunate to develop many friendships over the years with people from all over the globe. Having the opportunity to get together and hang out with them 4 or 5 times a year at the various industry conferences is something I always look forward to.
As far as the hair thing goes, I think it depends on who you are talking about. If you are talking about Dana Todd, (Sempo President) I’d say that her hair color has been pretty constant over the years. (Although it’s more of a violent eggplant than it is Orange) If you are referring to Dax Herrera, it’s a different color every time. At the moment, it’s green.
I think I will stop asking people what color hats they wear in this interview, I checked out a few people who claimed they are white hats and it appears that there is no such thing.
Thank you. I’m so tired of the hat thing.
Can I new website succeed on it’s own without backlinks?
Sure it can. All you need is a large advertising budget.
If I follow all the golden rules of Matt Cutts Internet Marketing School can I succeed?
It depends a lot on what you would consider Matt’s golden rules. If by that you mean “build great content for humans and everything else will take care of itself” I would say that a couple of years ago, there was a lot of truth to that statement. Today, I think it’s a bit naive. There’s simply more to it than that.
I will leave you with these questions for now, I would like to have you drop in from time to time and answer some more, Mr. Boser, thanks for the interview.