Sorry this site requires JavaScript to be enabled in your browser. See the following guide on How to enable JavaScript in Internet Explorer, Netscape, Firefox and Safari. Alternatively you may be blocking JavaScript with an advert-related or developer plugin. Please check your browser plugins.

The recent and seemingly ongoing brush ups with Google, Mahalo and SEO in general got me thinking about how hand edited search affects the new market entries and small businesses of the world.
Comments34 Comments  

Comments

Avatar
from jasoncalacanis 2521 Days ago #
Votes: 1

>> With the Mahalo model a given result is created by >> an editor. It is up to that editor, or group of >> editors, to be the sole decision maker in what >> businesses get exposure. Thanks for the post Terry. While you are correct that the *first* version of a SERP is created by an individual editor, the fact is that those SERPs are then: a) Quality controlled by two other editors and b) Quality controlled by the public We allow for public debate, on our message boards, of *every* single link on the page. Additionally we have made the promise to site owners that we will look at every single submitted link and give an answer as to why we are including it (i.e. it’s great), excluding it (i.e. it’s bad or spam), or leaving it in the "user recommend links" section (i.e. we want to get more public feedback on it). So, at the end of the day we’re MORE open than any other search engine out there because we are willing to have a 100% transparent discussion with our members--not just our editors--about what should be on the page. In our model we think we can get the pages to 60-80% complete, but we need the public to help finish the SERPs. We have no bias or agenda when building these SERPs with the exception of asking "does this link help the user." That’s it. Also, if we were to become biased and we started treating folks unfairly we would never build an audience... so, the whole concept is based on a transparent and fair debate about what should be on the page.... by REAL people (as opposed to Wikipedia in many cases). Mahalo again for thinking about these complex issues.... we’re VERY focused on your points and if you find anything you think is biased please call us out on it IMMEDIATELY! all the best, Jason

Avatar
from Harith 2521 Days ago #
Votes: 3

Jason, The inherited weakness of human edited directories and search engines is not which sites the first group of editors decide to include. Its rather what those editors decide to exclude under motto "its a bad site". Accordingly the second group of editors wouldn’t have a chance to see and evaluated those excluded sites. As such the first group of editors have an absolute power and absolute decision on which sites to be included.

Avatar
from TheRealTerry 2521 Days ago #
Votes: 2

I commented on my blog but I’ve said it before, either here or at Marketing Pilgrim to the same effect. SEOs should be welcomed, not outcast, in these ventures. It’s our jobs to improve the quality of our user experience while improving the exposure. Our goals are not merely rankings, but quality traffic and conversions. We do this not by tricks, but good quality navigational structure for both engines AND people. We do things like XML sitemaps and optimized title tags in order to make it easier for PEOPLE to find content they want, not search engines. Wikipedia and Mahalo and their ilk want to find these kinds of sites, but in the same breath they essentially say any site with SEO being employed is spam. This approach in my opinion damages your goals and attempts to besmirch a legitimate and growing industry that puts food on family’s tables. If you find people taking time out of their day to berate your efforts with a heavy tinge of anger, I’d ask that you just consider that.

Avatar
from jasoncalacanis 2520 Days ago #
Votes: 3

I’m not anti white hat SEO... if an SEO is trying to do PR (essentially) for a GREAT site we’re looking forward to hearing from them. That’s why we have a submission form on every page of Mahalo. I think the issue is that a lot of the folks drawn to SEO as a solution are the "bad" or weaker sites. So, like PR firms representing dorky clients who don’t deserve press, many SEOs are forced to represent lame websites. best j

Avatar
from vanessafox 2520 Days ago #
Votes: 5

I dunno Jason. I’ve seen really high quality sites benefit immensely from SEO. When I was at Google, I was contacted all the time by site owners with great sites who could just not understand why they were having trouble being listed. With a little digging, I would find out that everything was in Flash, or they were accidentally blocking bots with a meta tag or some other thing that they just had no idea would hurt them with search engines. There was only so much I could do to help these sites -- I couldn’t troubleshoot specific details for every site on the web so I would often suggest that they get a good SEO consultation to help them pinpoint these types of things.

Avatar
from lucia 2519 Days ago #
Votes: 2

Jason, I’m a confused, are you suggesting FAKE people are involved in Wikipedia? If so, how exactly are you going to get REAL ones involved in Mahalo? And how can you tell the "real" ones aren’t "fake"? What "real" person wants to get involved in an ongoing debate about whether or not that really, truly lame about.com page belongs in the crochet results. (I crochet, and let me assure you, both the pages the Mahalo guide picked are lame and one is horrifically lame.) What "real" person wants to join a discussion group to debate whether or not the Martha Stewart kielbasa recipe should be banned (rather than #2) because no recipes appear above the fold? Or point out that it makes no sense to specifically list the Art Institute as a place to go in Chicago but miss the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, the Adler Planetarium and Shedd’s Aquarium. (The last three are, btw, all right near to each other, plus you can have lunch sitting along the lake front, kind of nice.) Most "real" people will just turn to Google. Or their friends on yahoo groups email lists. Or ask a blogger. Or go to a forum, where they will ask. They aren’t going to spend their time explaining why the collection of Mahalo links aren’t exactly inspired.

Avatar
from jasoncalacanis 2519 Days ago #
Votes: 2

Lucia!!! We meet again! I put REAL in caps as a joke... could have been more clear guess! >> how exactly are you going to get REAL >> ones involved in Mahalo? And how can >> you tell the "real" ones aren’t "fake"? Unlike Wikipedia we require a) registration for basic use (i.e. to submit a link) and b) your real name, social security number, address, etc. in order to pay our deep contributors. As such we have a much higher level of certainty that we are dealing with a "real" person then something like DMOZ or Wikipedia. Can we be spoofed? Of course... I mean, the CIA, mafia, and FBI can get spoofed... but we have a very high benchmark. :-) >> What "real" person wants to get involved >> in an ongoing debate about whether or not >> that really, truly lame about.com page belongs >> in the crochet results. Actually, you would be surprised. People are very passionate about very specific things and they WILL get involved in debates over seemingly small items. We’ve had 1,000+ folks signup for the Greenhouse and hundreds have already had search results created. It’s going to take years to build out the team, but like DMOZ in its prime and Wikipedia today, the result should be more and more compelling. re: Lame About.com links I agree... much of their "content" is lame. We hear you and are having active debates about when we include them (i.e. the top 10% of their content, or when no other content is available). >> Most "real" people will just turn to Google. Or >> their friends on yahoo groups email lists. Or ask a >> blogger. Or go to a forum, where they will ask. They >> aren’t going to spend their time explaining why the >> collection of Mahalo links aren’t exactly inspired. You are correct, MOST folks will not take the time. Just like MOST folks don’t submit stories to digg/reddit/Netscape and MOST folks don’t contribute to Wikipedia, Flickr, or YouTube. HOWEVER, you don’t need MOST folks to contribute... you only need 1% to contribute to make it work. In fact, if everyone starts contributing it generates too much noise! Thanks for the deep thoughts on Mahalo and please keep kicking our butts until we get it right! :-) best jason

Avatar
from jasoncalacanis 2519 Days ago #
Votes: 1

VF: There are good SEOs for sure... but you have to admit that the bulk of the SEO work out there is by lame sites trying to get exceptional rankings. I’ve been contacted for over 10 years by SEOs wanting to grow out sites and it’s always the same line: get higher rankings than sites that deserve the rankings more than you do. I feel for the ~5-10% of SEOs (making that number up, feel free to make up your own :-) that are doing "good" work and get lumped into the blackhat SEO bucket. However, I was always told by Google folks to just build a great site with a clean design and don’t worry about it. Is Google’s position today that everyone with a website should hire an SEO now? Is that really sustainable? Doesn’t all this SEO just create a massive arms race between site owners? best j

Avatar
from TheRealTerry 2519 Days ago #
Votes: 2

Jason, I guess I have a hard time buying the sincerity of you saying you "feel for the 5-10%" when you are the one making blanket public statements to further the lumping. As far as should every site should hire an SEO, uh, yeah, or at least know good SEO practices. If you want your house to be free of termites, you call an inspector in, if you want your stock portfolio to perform better you call Charles Schwab or someone. If you want your site to index and rank well you call an SEO. Believe it or not, most people don’t know what "build a great site with a clean design" is and that’s an integral part of what SEO is. I almost think you don’t even know what SEO’s even do. When a consultant provides recommendations the top of the list would contain things that relate to cleaner code, cleaner navigation, implementation of relevant keywords within the copy and site elements to better inform both search engines and visitors of the page’s content and focus. You then could move on to ensuring a mechanism for fresh content is in place to keep providing value for the engines and visitors, etc... Good SEO that has lasting long term benefits is exactly creating a good site with clean design, inside and out. I don’t know, I get the feeling that you have this pre-2000 impression of what SEO is at it’s core and you make up a number like 90-95% of SEOs do that and then just perpetuate that idea. The ROI isn’t there to invest your skills into practices that the engines are actively working against. 90-95% of SEOs aren’t cloaking spam filled porn link content and comment spamming man, they just ain’t.

Avatar
from vanessafox 2519 Days ago #
Votes: 2

Nah, I don’t think Google’s position is that everyone should hire an SEO. And absolutely, their position is to have great content and not worry about it. However, there are a few things to consider there. One, lots of site owners just aren’t savvy about this kind of thing and have no clue what "clean design" is. And unfortunately, the engines still have technical obstacles in crawling certain types of content (frames, flash, and javascript come to mind -- although there are all kinds of other issues). So site owners who care about being found in search engines either need to educate themselves on these types of issues or hire someone to help them. Two, search engines don’t care about one site owner’s particular site. They care about overall quality and relevance of search results (as they should). So, lots of high quality sites may end up not being indexed or have low rankings and the search engines will still be doing a good job overall if the results have enough other high quality sites. It’s up to the individual site owner to care about their particular site and know how to make sure it can be found. A brick and mortar business might hire a real estate consultant to help determine where best to open the next store for the best traffic. An online business should know how to get traffic too -- and too many of them talk about "houses for sale" on their site when their potential customers are searching for "real estate". So, the arms race in that regard is not unlike physical stores making sure they’re nicely painted and lit. The other kinds of arms race you’re talking about is between spammers, which is a whole different thing. (I know, I know. You mostly think they’re the same group. Heh.)

Avatar
from lucia 2519 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Jason, Yes, hi again. I visit Sphinn regularly. :) I am very aware of the existence of rather amazing flame wars over knitting. Heavy moderation is required to prevent knitters on "registration only" sites from threatening to kill each other when discussing whether it’s better to knit socks using "magic loop" or double pointed needles. (Of course, magic loop is better.) That said, I’m just not quite sure how getting the people who *will* register to argue over the best crochet site is going to actually help you get the lame sites off and keep the good ones on. My guess is you’ll attract the noise generators, suck up a lot of time, and still end up with bad sites. But, I’ll admit, I could be wrong. I know you are expecting that tiers of review will help. But why should we expect it to? If I’m understanding you correctly, you are saying debate happened before *this* page appeared at Mahalo and that your team thought very carefully about including the About.com pages. So, I have to ask you: Why is #2 crochet page a wretched about.com page? That about.com is a disservice to people looking for crochet advice. For one thing, it sends people through 8 pages to learn how to chain. If people really were debating including about.com pages, why not just pick the #2 Google results for "how to crochet"? That’s the LionBrand page http://learntocrochet.lionbrand.com/ (Heck, one of their many easy to find links is to a 1 page tutorial on how to make a chain!) The Lion Brand page is actually decent, contains all the important information that appears at About.com, links to compact easy to follow results and that site has loads of free patterns. (Many of the patterns are ugly, but hey! They are free-- and Lion Brand has always had original content. ) And -- unlike the Martha Stewart page you include for kielbasa, the Lion Brand page shows orignal content *above* the fold. So I have to ask you: Is your process doing what you say it does? Are you discovering the good pages? And getting them on the results page? Because, right now, it looks like the answer is "no".

Avatar Moderator
from graywolf 2518 Days ago #
Votes: 2

C’mon JC you’re smarter than that. That’s like saying all roof repair men are scammers because of the ones who use telemarketers to call you at dinner every night are less than honest. Are all car mechanics thieves because you got over charged by one once? Are all barbers and hairdressers bad because 5% of them gave you a bad haircut? Are all venture capital funding corporations just in it for the money because a few cashed out early? You’re a big boy and you’ve been around the block long enough to know every profession from doctors to lawyers to school teachers has a few "bad apples", but you don’t tar and feather the whole group because of those few. So let’s leave the over generalizations behind okay?

Avatar
from vanessafox 2518 Days ago #
Votes: 2

That is a good point Michael. The SEO firms that are cold calling Jason aren’t necessarily a broad representation of SEO firms. The majority of them -- and most good ones -- probably aren’t cold calling at all. Those "we guarantee #1" firms that you see in spam email and direct mail and phone calls are a small slice of the industry and should be used to base a perception of the whole.

Avatar
from lucia 2518 Days ago #
Votes: 2

>>Wouldn’t it make the content better if a real NASA >>rocket cientist contributed to the page on rockets? Heck, you might not even need to go all out and find a NASA rocket scientist. Just getting someone who took once graduate level class in gas dynamics (i.e. compressible flow), and one in guidance & control would be a big step forward at Mahalo! I know the "crochet" issue picky, but the reason those links are weak is that quite often, Mahalo guides and volunteers seem to have zero relevant background for the links pages they are putting together.

Avatar Administrator
from dannysullivan 2518 Days ago #
Votes: 2

That’s it exactly. When Jason and I talked once, I realized finally he judges SEOs by those that have largely called him out of the blue. Well duh. Exactly, Vanessa -- the good ones aren’t calling him. And the XX% figure is just something that he has entirely made up. We don’t even know how many SEOs there are. You’ve got designers that say they do SEO - developers, link builders who don’t do on page optimization. Maybe SEMPO could survey their members to find out what percentage is bad :) Or good.

Avatar
from flyingrose 2518 Days ago #
Votes: 1

The search engine issue - whether hand-edited or selected using algorithms - is likely to be impacted very soon by blogging. Sites like Sphinn, social networking, and bloggers who really understand the power of networked blogging are going to contribute in a big way to solving this issue and reduce the importance of traditional search engines. When Internet users have a choice between picking a business from those found in a search engine or asking for recommendations from their social networking relationships or those recognized by their peers as experts, which do you think will have a stronger influence? Why should a recognized expert on any subject donate their time and work to a search engine project when they can benefit from having their own blog? A regular Web site or simple blog is like having a column in your local newspaper; knowing how to build a networked blog is the equivalent of syndicating that column with UPI and AP but even better because your "syndication" is specific to your niche market. You can be the Wall Street Journal of your niche.

Avatar
from jasoncalacanis 2518 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Danny: I can only speak from my experience. I’ve only met SEOs who are trying to game the system. I’ve never met any of these SEOs who say "oh, let’s try and make your content better and build a service that is better for your users." The people who do that brand themselves as website builder or digital agencies or something. Again, you hear SEO and hear one thing (and I know your events and podcasts are all sponsored by a lot of the "good SEOs") the rest of us in the world hear SEO and we think of the $5,000 a month contracts that overpromise some snakeoil solution that routes around Google’s systems. it’s a perspective thing for sure... I’ve been trying to label my comments whitehat and blackhat, but frankly i think most of the world thinks of SEO as spam... it’s only a small circle of good SEOs who think SEO is some great whitehat process. then again, what do I know. best j

Avatar
from flyingrose 2518 Days ago #
Votes: 1

The brilliant SEOs I know aren’t into gaming the search engines. They have specialized skills that ensure that a site can be found for relevant searches. They provide an important service not only to Internet users (who doesn’t want to find the best sites?) and to their clients but also to the Search Engines themselves. It is a mystery to me why their contributions are not recognized. Although I am not an SEO myself, what I have garnered by listening to them over the years and my own research is that they focus on ensuring a Web site is designed to be both search engine friendly and written for real humans to read. That includes explaining to Web designers and site owners that search engines index TEXT so what may LOOK like text that is actually an image doesn’t get indexed. They explain how page layout and where you put various information, navigation, and text on your pages affects how well the search engines can index them and what the perceived relative importance of each component of the page is. It means selecting the best search phrase which is NOT the easiest long tail phrase to rank for nor is it necessarily the highest traffic search phrase with the toughest competition. It is the phrases most important to reaching your target audience. Then they insure that those best search phrases have pages about them - and nothing else - only one specific phrase per page. The phrase should be in the title, in the text, in the name of the image, and ideally also in the url used on the page. (Look at the way WordPress handles that). [This may not be a complete list.] While it just appeared in the Top 10 Rumors about SEO I read, I believe it is best (and it certainly doesn’t hurt) to use header tags (H1, H2, etc.) for your titles. Humans see words in a larger size in bold print at the top of the page and know they’re the title. The header tag tells a computer those words are the title and that H1 is more important than H2. Perhaps there is another way the search engines have found to know that but if there is I don’t know what it is yet. (They’re also used by CSS to provide consistency in design.) The brilliant SEOs I know also know how to quickly determine what links a site has - both incoming and outgoing. They place a lot of emphasis on relevant links to and from quality sites. I’ve heard that .edu links are gold and the words used in the anchor text are important. (Anchor text is which words are hyper-linked.) That all gets very complicated in a hurry. The more complex your site the more challenging this can be. E-commerce sites using third party shopping carts and multiple domains require both SEO expertise and customized analytics configurations or the data they’re collecting will be so inaccurate that any decisions made based on it will definitely be reducing your ROI and profits. Most Web designers have limited awareness of any of the above. Web Analytics is so new that many do not even know how to set the options necessary to get any data into Google Analytics - much less how to ensure accurate tracking across multiple domains. Just because it is free and there is data in there does NOT mean it is ACCURATE data - far from it. Making business decisions based on invalid data is extremely unwise. I have worked nearly non-stop the last week on a very successful small business that was in serious jeopardy because someone focused on the wrong metric without understanding that specific business. I have a lot of Yahoo store accounts now because they require a third party tool (I use Monitus) to get revenue and ROI data into Google Analytics and as soon as the business owner sees the data it looks like their AdWords campaigns are bleeding red ink. The sharp ones contact Monitus to find out if their analytics are working or not and they refer them to me. Some actually have all their ads paused the data is so scary. I immediately turn them back on and explain how analytics works - and if they’re smart they get someone to configure their Google Analytics. (I recommend ROI Revolution.) SEO isn’t that easy, either. Every e-commerce platform is different. Yahoo stores are particularly challenging to SEO (although Yahoo is making continual improvements to their platform). I am convinced that most dissatisfaction with SEM companies is due to the challenge of setting realistic client expectations and getting the client to understand what the SEM company is doing. I often have to explain very important basic concepts multiple times even to brilliant clients because they have no background to understand them. The usual reaction of clients is to switch agencies which SEM companies try to prevent with contracts. Even if you switch between the two most brilliant consultants available it is detrimental to your short-term results and momentum to change who manages your SEO, PPC, etc. No two individuals think the same way. Much time is lost figuring out what the prior manager was doing and sometimes that is not even possible. Give careful consideration before making that decision and make sure you have a specific, important reason for doing so. I will be adding the type of information above along with recommendations and reviews of the best and brightest, and links to their sites/blogs/other resources as soon as possible in my own new blog at http://ppcThink.com. Anyone serious about their online business would do well to have many specialists who truly understand all this on their team or hire and develop some brilliant in-house talent. There are plenty of "white hat" SEOs who do the above. They’ve been taking undeserved heat for far too long. It is time they get recognized for their very important contributions.

Avatar
from lucia 2518 Days ago #
Votes: 2

Interstingly, somehow the subject has somehow managed to get changed. The subject introduced is: "Mahalo is bad for people." Frankly, Mahalo appears to be bad for people. By using human editors who down select search to provide only a tiny fraction of results to those who search, Mahalo will "insulate" searchers from a great number of web sites with valuable information. (Or it will do this if it is used. Frankly, I think it won’t for this very reason. In the end, people will discover they simply *cannot* find what they seek. That was a problem with Yahoo.) If you notice, Jason doesn’t seem to address these sorts of flaws. Instead, the subject gets been changed to "SEO’s are evil". Or "how I will keep the guides from actually taking monetary bribes". Ok... but even if SEO’s were evil or Jason succeeds in preventing guides from taking bribes, if Mahalo succeeds, it will still likely be bad for searchers, small businesses, medium businesses and people in general. So, why engage Jason’s utterly silly idea that SEO’s are evil? Isn’t the topic here: Is Mahalo useful? If it works, will it benefit or harm search? I think that human gatekeepers down selecting links would harm search. Yes, Mahalo is bad for people!

Avatar
from flyingrose 2517 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Hi Lucia, You are correct that the subject changed. Although perhaps staying strictly on topic would be best so as not to hi-jack someone else’s thread and to ensure maximum readership, I respond to what people ask and let conversations lead where they will. I apologize if that behavior is not in everyone’s best interest here. If others have a better way to do all of the above please send me your suggestions and I will modify by posting behavior accordingly. Thank you. And thank you, Lucia, for your input on the original topic of Mahalo and getting this thread back on topic.

Avatar
from jasoncalacanis 2517 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Lucia: We are not going to limit anyone because we are but one of thousands of services on the Internet. We will surface the 20-70 best links for a subject, but we know that is just one part of people’s process. We might be where people start but we realize we are not the ONLY service out there. Also, anyone can submit a link any time to Mahalo and those links are right there ABOVE THE FOLD for everyone to see. So, if we miss something public will vote it up and OVERRULE us. Look at Mahalo as a "best of" the web... like someone might write the "best 50 albums" of the year or "top 100 movies" of the year. These service do not keep people from finding album #51 or movie #178... do they? Of course not, it would be silly to think that. We think *some* folks might start with us for things like travel, hobbies, cars, entertainment, etc. but I’ve never said we will replace anyone or be the single source of information out there. Google, the most amazing service ever built, and Wikipedia (the second most amazing service ever built) don’t even replace everything... how could a three month old service do that!!!! Seriously, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Sure, Mahalo will have the BEST results on the planet for the top 25,000 searches... that’s kind of obvious. However, that doesn’t mean we replace or kill everything else out there. all the best, Jason

Avatar
from flyingrose 2516 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Since the title of this was "Mahalo is BAD for the people" and so far I haven’t seen anything that tells me why Terry thinks that, I’d like to ask two questions: 1. Why is bad? 2. For which people?

Avatar
from centernetworks 2516 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Jason - I am working on an updated review of your service as you have moved into beta and it’s time for an update. Some questions that will help aid me in updating my review: -- You had Neil Patel help you in the seo challenge - since you say that "I’ve only met SEOs who are trying to game the system.", are you suggesting that Neil was trying to game calacanis.com to get you better rankings? If so, please provide some proof as it would be hard for me to believe. -- how many of the links provided by "the public" have been accepted and are listed? Examples? -- how many actual links have been submitted by the public? -- can you provide 2-3 good examples of where the debate is happening on the message boards? I have clicked 40 so far and don’t see any chatter. -- if a page is about a person, why do you feel the need to repeat that person’s name over and over again in the subheaders? -- has your position changed on SEO over the past 8 months? Is it no longer the slimy business done by "desperate losers" that you mentioned on your podcast with Fast Company in August? Is Mahalo embracing the SEOs now? -- you’ve noted above that Mahalo will be the best for the top 25,000 results, which 25,000 are those? Today’s results or say the results over the past year? How do you determine these as it seems like pages are created for a hot topic for today but might not have been a hot search for say 3 months or longer. Thanks!

Avatar
from JesseC 2516 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I’ve been watching this debate go on for a week or so now, and never said anything. I’ve never worked with SEOs, hell I’ve never heard of them before all of this started. I AM an intelligent "member of the public" though. I know this thread is going in one direction, but I feel like many of you are getting so bogged down in the Silicon Valley side of things that you’re missing the whole point of what exactly Mahalo is trying to offer. Mahalo isn’t Google. It’s not exactly trying to be Google. If I’m trying to find out what time my local coffee shop closes, or if I’m looking for super-recent news about a tornado that just came through my county an hour ago, I’ll go to Google. And I have done just that within the past week. But I’ve also really started getting into checking what Mahalo has to offer on more general searches. Like Call of Duty 4, or Restless Leg Syndrome. In response to the crochet debate on this thread, it sucks that the links there weren’t what you would have liked. But even if some of the links might be subpar, I can, in most cases, find links particularly on the term that I’ve entered, and in a number of different categories. For example: I was looking around at Video Game pages on Mahalo a couple of weeks ago, glancing at game reviews and just surfing in general. I’d seen most of the sites, nothing too interesting. I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular, just seeing what they had on some different games. But then I saw a link that a guide had recommended as one of their favorites in the Online Retailers section to a site called Goozex that I’d never heard of before. I went and checked it out, found out it was a video game trading site that’s cheap/free to check out, so I signed up. I gathered up some games I don’t need, sent them out to people who do want them, and now I have 4 new games that I do want. And I wouldn’t have them without that Mahalo guide putting it on that page. A long diatribe, but think outside the box about what Mahalo is offering people that Google doesn’t. Not just individual links, but an organized collection of links.

Avatar
from jasoncalacanis 2516 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Allen: Wow... great questions. Many of your questions about message boards, suggested links, etc. can be answered by looking at our activity tracker here: http://www.mahalo.com/Special:MahaloActivity Since launch it looks like: Submitted Links: 3,547 Message Board Posts: 221 You can look at the more popular pages to find those suggested links (like iPhone). If you click on the "Top Submitted Links" box on the right hand side of the page you’ll go to a page like these: http://www.mahalo.com/Special:Mahalouserlinks?page_id=7451 http://www.mahalo.com/Special:Mahalouserlinks?page_id=1822 On those pages we try and answer two questions: 1. Is this a very important link we missed? If yes, move it over to the SERP. 2. Is this a horrible link or spam? If yes, remove it and/or block it from being resubmitted (remember: Mahalo is only for VERY GOOD, EXCELLENT or AMAZING links). If something doesn’t fall into those two categories then we let it sit in the recommend links box until it gets more "votes." (i.e. submissions). In terms of discussion boards they haven’t really taken off yet. I think this is a function of two things: 1. Folks don’t know about them/don’t expect us to have them (i.e. this doesn’t exist anywhere else in the search space). 2. There isn’t much to debate yet. There was one interesting discussion here you might want to highlight in your story: http://www.mahalo.com/Fluoxetine_(Prozac)/messageboard/ >> -- You had Neil Patel help you in the seo >> challenge - since you say that "I’ve only >> met SEOs who are trying to game the system.", >> are you suggesting that Neil was trying to >> game calacanis.com to get you better >> rankings? If so, please provide some proof >> as it would be hard for me to believe. I didn’t really have him "help me," he asked to show me first hand what he could do. he did like 20% of what he said he would do (you can check his blog), but we never got to finish the test. It felt like the stuff he was doing wasn’t really blackhat (i.e. he didn’t make link farms). >> -- how many of the links provided by >> "the public" have been accepted and >> are listed? Examples? You can look at the tracker and work backwards. >> -- if a page is about a person, why >> do you feel the need to repeat that >> person’s name over and over again >> in the subheaders? Great question with two answers: 1. We found in user testing that if you didn’t do that folks go confused. This was surprising to me, but true. 2. We name our subheads because we will send someone to a subhead if they search for that (i.e. Paris Hilton Photos sends you to hat section... if it was called Photos it would send you there). >> -- has your position changed on SEO over >> the past 8 months? Is it no longer the slimy >> business done by "desperate losers" that you >> mentioned on your podcast with Fast Company >> in August? Is Mahalo embracing the SEOs now? I think there is a portion of the business--a small portion--that do whitehat stuff. I do think the majority of it is blackhat and a waste of time in the longrun. best j

Avatar
from lucia 2516 Days ago #
Votes: 0

@Jason, you said. >Lucia: We are not going to limit anyone because we are but one of thousands of services on the Internet. We will surface the 20-70 best links for a subject, but we know that is just one part of people’s process. We might be where people start but we realize we are not the ONLY service out there. Jason, I agree with you when you say Mahalo will be but one of thousands of services on the internet. And yes, to the extent that Mahalo does *not* dominate search, but rather, is lightly used, the fact that it excludes results from the list of l links your guides ultimately do select will harm no one. However, I was under the impression that you thought Mahalo would become a dominant force people turn to first. If so, the fact that any current search result page is essentially a winner takes all list the of supposedly "20-70 "best" links will make it difficult for people to find what they are actually looking for. As it happens, I believe Mahalo won’t ultimately harm people anymore than About.com harms people. I think this because I believe you will find few will turn to Mahalo first -- for the very reason that they can’t find what they actually wish to find. About.com. Jason said: >Also, anyone can submit a link any time to Mahalo and those links are right there ABOVE THE FOLD for everyone to see. So, if we miss something public will vote it up and OVERRULE us. Oh? I don’t see h ow the public will overrule you unless you ultimately give those voting the power to push a link into the *main* results and off the sidebar. To call what the public will be permitted to do "over-ruling," you must give the public the right to promote links *whether or not the guides wish that link to appear.* Otherwise, the reality will be the guide over-rule the public. So, I have to ask you: do you truly intend for members of the public to over-rule the guides? Somehow I am under the impression that you don’t truly intend to let the public over-rule the guides. But, if you truly permit them the public to over-rule the guides, then Mahalo will become a spam-haven because it will be relatively easy for a relatively small team of determined people to collectively push a link into the main portion of the search pages. Jason said: >Sure, Mahalo will have the BEST results on the planet for the top 25,000 searches... that’s kind of obvious. Jason, I know I may be wrong, but I sincerely doubt Mahalo will have the best results on the planet. I’d more optimistic if the current results for areas that interest me good, but they simply aren’t. I’d be more optimistic if I hadn’t found 5 dead links on the climate change page *on a day when it was edited* by a guide. I’d be more optimistic if your disambiguation was anything other than simply hilarious. (Sorry, but *gay marriage* returned for a knitting search? Mango for "Tango"?) I know you say this is beta (or sometimes alpha) but it has been released to the public. Obviously, as a member of the public, I’m going to form my opinion on how it works know. Still, I know this is your baby, and I guess you are privy to future developments. It’s also nice to see that you have a dream and are optimistic about it. I honestly wish you the best of luck. I’m just not seeing something I can recommend to my 72 year old mother. (Well, actually, I showed her. She tried to find sites that showed women dancing the Tango because she wants me to look sartorially splendid when Jim and I perform. But, as I told you, her reaction was "What’s mango got to do with Tango? Please let me use Google!".) Sure, I think people will use Mahalo the way JesseC does. As a sort of alternate resource or list of links. People love lists of links and use lots of sites (including my hand knit sock pattern pages) this way. But that doesn’t transform Mahalo into a first-choice search engine. I predict it’s fate will be something like About.com. A site that attracts traffic because it is large. People stay there a while, but use something else when they need a *real* search engine. Final suggestion: Oh, by the way, if you do wish to draw on the public’s opinion, in addition to a "suggest a link" button, you should have a "suggest removal" button. After all, one of the problem with Mahalo crochet results are some of the truly awful pages in the results. If people think a link is bad, you might want to know that so you can search for a replacement. Lucia

Avatar
from flyingrose 2516 Days ago #
Votes: 0

The boiler room companies that claim to be SEOs are mostly black hatters and they get a lot of publicity because they create so much havoc online. The real SEOs I know - and I know a lot of them - are almost all white hatters and there are not nearly enough qualified to advise all the Web sites that need them - and make no doubt about it, EVERY Web site should at least have someone knowledgeable about SEO advising them and ideally no person would ever build a Website without at least basic knowledge of how design affects index-ability. One of the reason I know what I know about SEO is that I researched it before I built my very first site back in 1996! Here is is eleven years later and most Web designers still know next to nothing. I do not know the history of how SEOs came to be held in such a negative light and I don’t feel that is important; what IS important is that the truth be recognized now - and my version of the truth (everyone has their OWN truth) is that SEO skills are essential to every Web site - including Mahalo. I still don’t know what is meant by "Mahalo is BAD for the people" Who are "the people" and what is "BAD" about it? All of the comments I have read about it so far in both this and other Sphinns are complaints that it isn’t already better than Google. Talk about unrealistic expectations! Every great "invention" develops over time - even if you don’t see all that went into it before it became an "overnight" success. Just as new sites take time to really shine, quality SEO work takes time to become effective. Long term results are more important than instant results that do not last. (THAT is a key difference between black hatting and white; if people didn’t expect the unrealistic they wouldn’t feed the greed monster of snake oil salesmen.) The key to success is steady, continual improvement on a solid, original idea. Being able to communicate without alienating and knowing how to spread the word are also key. Some "inventions" soar, some lose momentum, and some crash - perhaps we could give them some time to show us whether they can morph into butterflies before we judge them to be failures.

Avatar
from lucia 2516 Days ago #
Votes: 0

@flyingrose: I think a more precise title for TheRealTerry’s post might be: "If a single human gatekeeper search becomes dominant -- as Jason dreams for Mahalo -- that will be bad for people. But titles generally need to be snappy and so never convey the full concept. TheRealTerry’s full post expounds on the idea and might explain his ideas more fully. In any case, it’s clear that if all Mahalo becomes is a big list of links for the top search terms, it will probably be lightly used. As such, it will hardly harm people because it will be more-or-less irrelevant. (Also, Jason’s investors may make less money than they hoped. They may even lose money.) Also, I’m not in the SEO business or anything near it. Honestly, I don’t think SEO has a poor reputation among people in general. Most people don’t have a clue what SEO is and if you describe most of what SEO’s do for small web sites, people think they provide a beneficial service. I think Jason is in a small minority who holds SEO in poor esteem. His opinion seems to be based on his own idiosyncratic and rather unusual sampling of the people in the SEO business.

Avatar
from jasoncalacanis 2516 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Lucia said: "If a single human gatekeeper search becomes dominant -- as Jason dreams for Mahalo -- that will be bad for people." Ummm... I never said that! In fact, I don’t dream of Mahalo becoming dominant. My hope for Mahalo is simply that it helps as many people as possible. That’s the goal: helping people. >> So, I have to ask you: do you truly intend for >> members of the public to over-rule the guides? Gosh, you’re so negative sometimes Lucia! I don’t see this as a power struggle... I don’t see one party dominating another.... I see groups of people working together to make the best search results possible through open discourse. This isn’t the middle-east peace process after all, this is curation of links.... it’s not that hard. Everyone will get an equal voice at Mahalo: users, fulltime guides, and part-time guides. Those voices will discuss what is best and make the best decision as a group that they can. I really don’t seeing it coming down to the wire and being some epic battle like you seem to... if the link is quality we should include it. If it’s not, we shouldn’t. We will get there as a community--not individuals. Looking at it another way, why would not list something that our community felt was important? We are here to serve the community after all! In terms of reporting bad links we have that feature in the right hand column already where it says "Report a problem." For example: http://www.mahalo.com/Special:Mahaloreportissue?returnto=Balls_of_Fury We get reports all day long... all the best Lucia and thanks for spending so much time (like 10,000+ words so far!) thinking about Mahalo and how to make it better.... if you keep this up we might have to put you on the payroll!!! :-) best, j

Avatar
from jasoncalacanis 2516 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Flyingrose, When folks say "Mahalo is BAD for the people" I think what they are saying is: "if Mahalo becomes the dominant search experience on the web AND Mahalo’s guides are left unchecked AND Mahalo’s guides decided to be biased that would be bad for people." That statement is so wrong on so many levels... let me break it down: 1. No service will be the dominant service--not even Google! There are tons of options out there and people use all different kinds of search engines, blogs, bookmarketing tools, and social networks to find information. It’s never going to be "winner take all." 2. Even if it did become "winner take all" it could only be "won" by someone who was user-centric, trusted and without bias. You simply couldn’t win a domainat position with a horrible product that was biased--users would leave! 3. Mahalo Guide behavior is 100% transparent and as such any Guide who does anything heavy handed will be exposed quickly, and as I’ve said over and over again dealt with INSTANTLY AND HARSHLY. In other words, anyone does anything biased or heavy handed they are GONE--as in fired. 4. Mahalo’s Guides are all really good people who buy into the Mahalo mission of helping people--I don’t see folks becoming "blackhats" any time soon. So, like many stories in the blogosphere this is a very hypothetical, link-baiting one with a LOT of jumps in logic... the truth is much more boring: we’re good people building a good service in a transparent fashion. That’s it. best j

Avatar
from lucia 2515 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Jason, I need to add 500 more words to those 10,000. (Surely, I’ve said more than 10,000?! I mean, common, I’m mostly Irish!) >>Jason said: "Everyone will get an equal voice at Mahalo: users, fulltime guides, and part-time guides. Those voices will discuss what is best and make the best decision as a group that they can. I really don’t seeing it coming down to the wire and being some epic battle like you seem to... if the link is quality we should include it. If it’s not, we shouldn’t. We will get there as a community--not individuals." I’m not suggesting it will be an epic battle. You previously said that the public can over-rule guides about links. I’m questioning if you really mean that. You have not answered but are trying to counter argue by doing things like suggesting I am "being negative". So, I’ll ask again: Suppose a link to a particular page gets a lot of votes from the public suggesting *they-- the public* think that sits has sufficient, great or outstanding quality, but the guides think that lacks sufficient quality.... does the link get put on the Mahalo page or not? The answer is either "yes" or "no". Not something like "I see groups of people working together to make the best search results possible through open discourse." If, after a period of open discourse, there remains a difference of opinion about the quality of a link, do the guides prevail? If so, then the guides over-rule the public. Otherwise, if the public’s opinion of quality trumps the guides, then the public over-rules the guides. This is a very simple question, Jason. You may think asking makes me "negative", but you know, I also say things like "No, a solid block of lead won’t float on water." Oh... and Jason...In your response to Flying Rose.... Who doesn’t enjoy watching you set up a strawman and then present the counter argument? What fun! On this: "if you keep this up we might have to put you on the payroll!!! :-)" Believe it or not, I have a job. :-) Lucia

Avatar
from jasoncalacanis 2515 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Lucia: ohhhhhh..... an Irish one are ya? God love ya! OK, you’ve backed me in a corner... i have no choice but to answer. if we got to the point where we had to take a vote we would take a vote and let the majority rule. So, YES the public would win. That being said, I can’t imagine a situation where our full-time team would vote 100% one way and the public would vote 100% the other way. If in fact there was a huge debate my guess is that the full-time guides, part-time Greenhouse guides, and public would all be split along different lines of thinking. The only exception i can think of where I wouldn’t allow the major vote to rule would be if it broke our terms of service/common sense (i.e. hate speech, breaking someone’s privacy by posting their home address and social security number, instruction on how to build a bomb, etc).

Avatar
from lucia 2514 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Jason, wasn’t just answering easy? ;-) And believe it or not, I also don’t imagine 100% for votes in one group with 100% against in the other. But, I’m expecting things like 2/3 of the guides "for" with 2/3 of the public "against" for a variety of reasons. I’ll give your "report problem" link a try on climate change. We’ll see if the PR0, very new (but looking laid out) news scaper site Mahalo lists vanishes. I’ve been watching to see if the guides would go over that page with a fine tooth come and find it themselve, but alas, no. ;-)

Avatar
from TheRealTerry 2513 Days ago #
Votes: 0

A couple clarity points: 1) Mahalo BAD for People was yes, a headline condensed version of the main concern of my original post which was that smaller businesses or new entries into the market would not get the same kind of quick exposure in Mahalo that they could in an existing traditional engine. With some strategic marketing you can launch a new business, generate a buzz, employ some "ethical" SEO to ensure indexing, maybe some releases and you can gain traction. With the Mahalo model you are up to the mercy of the in house editors or if the topic is popular enough then you might be lucky enough to have some other members of the public to help vote you up. That’s fine if you are launching in certain segments, but if it’s a blander topic albeit important you have less outside support. To me this are the failing of DMOZ and Wikipedia, which is essentially the parents of Mahalo from an ideological standpoint, in admittedly my own opinion. It is Jason’s baby so I can respect that it’s origins are his to claim. DMOZ suffers from slow updating which leaves out of date results for far too long, and Wikipedia solves this problem with the hive mind, but only for topics the hive mind deems kewl, like video games, hentai, and American sport politics. You can find every episode of Ninja Scroll discussed in depth, but try to find info on boring topics that actually make a difference on this planet and 9 times out of 10 you get an article stub. 2) That leads into a second point of clarity on my comments, and a big concession. So Jason is probably thinking, "So what the hell do you people care? I said I was only going for the top level of searches in terms of popularity and I never said I wanted to replace search!" And I will concede that Jason never himself says he wants to put Google or search out of business. However, just about every piece written on Mahalo by the press, and the press is something Jason is very well versed in, paints the David and Goliath picture. There has been plenty said on behalf of Mahalo about "ending" search as we know it and getting people to switch. And I know well that the media often knows where they want the story to go before they even set up the phone interviews, but man, even you have to admit you are not in any hurry to correct the Scoble’s and other writers of the media world ( http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/118/man-vs-machine.html ). So while you are claiming "helping people with daisies in hand and rainbow bursts of chocolate bunny fountains in the background" in one breath you are so obviously feeding this media fire of "traditional search is spam ridden porn infested sleaze bucket criminal SEOs out to rip you off" concept in the next. We call that link baiting and it usually falls at best in the "grey hat" arena, but it most certainly is SEO. Which is fine, good for you man, you are generating buzz for your product. But to toss a whole industry that helps a LOT of hard working small and large businesses make their online ventures profitable under the bus, and for what? To try and keep DMOZipedia in the news and your investors cutting checks? Man, that’s just sad. Just think about this. Your most vocal supporter is a crappy video podcast frothing at the mouth incoherent Scoble. That’s the type of support your approach as brought you.

Upcoming Conferences

Search Marketing ExpoSearch Engine Land produces SMX, the Search Marketing Expo conference series. SMX events deliver the most comprehensive educational and networking experiences - whether you're just starting in search marketing or you're a seasoned expert.



Join us at an upcoming SMX event: