• http://www.youfoundjake.com youfoundjake

    Excellent post, the screenshot you have of forbes is exactly what i was referring to..

    15 years to find a business plan that deals with the digital world, nah, let’s just blame everyone else for our lack of planning and adaption.

  • http://shijualex.com shijualex

    Very good arguments. Nice post.

    But in the end, it still look likes a ‘Google fanboy’s’ post

    I particularly liked the analysis of ads on the ‘forbes’ search

  • http://www.keenerliving.com/ brucekeener

    Glad you took the time to really lay out the unsubstantiated whines of Forbes. Just another magazine that “doesn’t get it” and looks to blame someone else for its shortcomings.

  • http://www.andreas.com andreas-ramos

    Jim Spanfeller, the CEO of Forbes, has concerns that are widespread among CEOs of large companies. Their brands are under attack by domain name squatters, advertisers in search engines, SEOers, and so on.

    Regrettably, Google does very little to explain to these companies how Google’s search engine works. Google is not being helpful because they make a great deal of money from the advertising by third-party vendors. It is in Google’s interests for the current situation to continue.

    Danny Sullivan’s sarcastic rebuttal is not helpful. He ridicules Forbes, but doesn’t explain what Forbes (or any of the Fortune 500) can do. There is a solution, but Google won’t explain it, and from Danny’s article, he may not understand it either.

    I’ll give one example. Danny questions the value of Forbes’ brand. Corporate brands indeed have value; that’s precisely why the squatters and affiliates hijack the brands in order to sell copycat products. It is fairly easy to calculate the value of a brand on the web, but Danny doesn’t explain that.

    Forbes and CEOs need to understand how these search engines work so they can counter Google on equal footing.


  • http://www.wordstream.com/features srichardson

    Awesome article. I love the format of going back and forth with his point and yours, almost like a virtual debate!

    My first question was also if Forbes knows they dont have to advertise on their own brand. I like the visual of a horde of heavily armed Googlers coming to stake their claim.

    Keep ’em coming…

  • Matt McGee

    Andreas, for a couple years now, this site has been telling business owners big and small how to succeed online, how Google works, etc. It’s all here in the archives — knowledge and wisdom from dozens of the smartest online marketers (SEOers, PPCers, B2Bers, SMBers, you name it). Maybe Forbes should take out a membership…

    Forbes et al have had years to figure this out. They failed. And now instead of doing what any normal business owner would do — play catch up, learn, join the competition, etc. — they blame others for their problems and expect a free pass on the web?

    Not gonna happen. Entitlement doesn’t play well online.

  • http://www.usweb.com EdShull

    I have met Jim Spanfeller a few times. So this type of ignorance from him doesn’t surprise me. If Spanfeller woke up tomorrow with no Google ranking, he would be calling his lawyer. He is one of the worst people in our industry.

    Very good counterpoints Danny. Each of them entirely accurate. You don’t have to be a Google fanboy to understand that Google earns their money, and many of us do quite well on their coat tails, including Spanfeller. If he were a better CEO, they would be flourishing right now, instead of spurting sour grapes at those who are.

  • Winooski

    That sound you hear is search engine marketers around the world standing up and applauding this righteous refutation of Spanfeller’s desperate and, frankly, hypocritical claims. Danny: Job well done.

    Oh, and re Forbes’ infamous paid links, I don’t know about you, but I’m fixin’ to call that CEO by his real name: SPAMfeller.

  • http://searchengineland.com Aaron Wall

    — Regrettably, Google does very little to explain to these companies how Google’s search engine works. —

    Gotta disagree 100%. If they know enough about SEO to hire 3 SEO companies and be one of the biggest link sellers on the web then they should know enough to know how to get their fair share of search traffic. And Google does help these big brands out a lot of ways…but it is never enough unless the brand has 100% share of voice, even while they aggressively violate the webmaster guidelines.

    Great article Danny!

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Andreas, I agree, brand owners do have some serious concerns. But this article was purposely written in a sarcastic tone because the CEO of Forbes.com — a long-standing online site — shouldn’t be needing a search marketing 101 course at this point.

    I’d have had far more respect for his piece if he wanted to detail actual problems Google should solve rather than made-up ones in his mishmash of an article. His three recommendations?

    1) Better showcase professional content — which as I explained, Google already does (and he should know this already, which makes me distrust his article)

    2) Allow marketers to “own” their brand names in search results — he doesn’t get into further detail here. I’ve outlined just some of the difficulties in a brand owner thinking no one should be allowed to have an ad appear for their name. But Google could do more, perhaps a closer review of some brand-related ads to ensure relevancy. At the very least, as I pointed out, he missed the biggest gripe he could have put out there. If Google’s going to allow bids against branded terms, it shouldn’t prevent people from bidding on Google’s own name.

    3) Cease stepping over the line of fair use — he hardly documented how Google has done this, nor outside of a case in Belgium, has anyone shown that Google has violated fair use. Nor did he spend time really explaining how he presumes Google should operate in a way that wouldn’t violate his own definition of fair use, whatever that is.

    Google does a great deal to explain how they work to companies, most especially big brands. I believe they even have a corporate employee exchange program in place with Proctor & Gamble. Google’s long catered to the large brand holders with special attention and client reps that small businesses could only look upon with envy.

    No, I don’t explain how to calculate a brand value on the web. Please feel free to provide your own methodology. I’d be curious. What I do know is that Spanfeller himself put out a figure, but he gave nothing to back it up.

    In summary, Spanfeller made an ill-informed, poorly documented attack against Google. I expect a lot more from the CEO of a company than that, because whatever they say is going to be automatically highly regarded. I certainly don’t expect Forbes.com, with its history of earning money from those trying to game Google, to be getting on a high horse about web sewage. That pretty much influenced my tone.

  • Dale Harrison

    Absolutely brilliant piece !

    A lesson worth remembering is that at the turn of the 20th century, people had a transportation problem…and the solution turned out not to be a “faster horse”…but a Ford.

    And one should note that the Ford didn’t arise out of the “horse industry’s” R&D efforts, nor the “Horse Industry Revitalization Act” nor the horse industry’s attempts to experiment with new Business Models.

    I think the future of the media business will look as different as Ford and Toyota’s operations look from horse traders and blacksmiths.

    What’s historically given value to editorial content is the relative scarcity of distribution versus readers (not the Kindle kind). Newspapers have historically enjoyed natural localized economic monopolies that allowed each of them to exercise monopoly control over the amount of content (and advertising) they allowed into their local marketplace.

    Monopoly constraint of distribution and supply will always lead to prices (and profits) significantly above open market rates. Newspapers then built costly organizational structures commensurate with that stream of monopoly profits (think AT&T in the 1970’s).

    Unfortunately the Internet came along and changed all the rules!

    The dynamics of content replication and distribution on the Internet destroys this artificial constraint of distribution and re-aligns advertising (and subscription) prices back down to competitive open market rates. The often heard complaint of Internet ad rates being “too low” is inverted…the real issue is that traditional ad rates have been artificially boosted for enough decades for participants to assume this represents the long-term norm.

    An individual reader now has access to essentially an infinite amount of content on any given topic or story. All those silos of isolated editorial content have been dumped into the giant Internet bucket. Once there, any given piece of content can be infinitely replicated and re-distributed to thousands of sites at zero marginal costs. This breaks the back of old media’s monopoly control of distribution and supply.

    To paraphrase Nietzsche, “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him with the Internet…”

    The core problem for the newspapers is that in a world of infinite supply, the ability to monetize the value in any piece of editorial content will be driven to zero…infinite supply pushes price levels to zero!

    What this implies is that no one can marshal enough market power to monetize the value of content in the face of such an infinite supply and such massively fragmented distribution. Pay-walls, lawsuits and ill conceived legislation won’t allow the monopoly conditions to be re-constructed because only ONE VERSION each story has to leak out to start the cycle all over again.

    Another way to think about this is that once data becomes publicly visible on the Internet, its monetizable value rapidly dissipates to zero.

    This is at the core of why Google can extract $25B a year from the economy without creating ANY content…what they create is meta-data about content (which CAN be monetized)…and all that meta-data remains non-visible. Only the results of decisions based on that meta-data by their search and advertising platforms is made publicly visible.

    The lesson is that Google DOES NOT monetize other people’s content…it monetizes its OWN meta-data. This is certainly one path to making the news profitable…not search per se…but various other approaches to the monetization of meta-data that’s within the reach of publishers.

    So the exquisite irony is this:
    In the future, the only content that will have monetizable value is content that no one is ever allowed to read! (i.e. the meta-data)

    There are certainly ways to make online news profitable…and many of us are working to develop such approaches…but I can assure you they don’t involve inventing a “faster horse”…

    Dale Harrison