EcomCrew PodcastSEO

Episode 28: SEO and Ecommerce, A History of Search – Part 1

Hi, this is Grant, on today’s episode I’m going to talk about a topic we’ve been asked to do for a while now. SEO, for those who don’t know SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. I have a long history with SEO and I think this will be a 2 or 3 part series. So bear with me if you are really well versed in the history and use of SEO, but I want to start at the beginning for those who are totally new to this subject.

Now back in the day Yahoo was king of the search engines, but slowly as the concept of search engines became more refined Google came in and changed the whole thing. SEO is the cornerstone of getting your business, service, or just name out there. It is a multi-layered thing that is much more complicated than a lot of people would let you believe. Hopefully today you will get a good foundation for SEO and we’ll work up to where it is going in the future eventually.

The topics we cover today are:

  • The history of Search Engine Optimization
  • What is “page rank”
  • Why you can’t pay for your ranking
  • A true link vs. a spam link
  • The 2 waves of linking farming
  • The beginning of “Trustrank”

This is part 1 of a 2 to 3 part series. So as we go deeper into this subject we’ll see where SEO started, move to where it is at the moment, and finally talk about where it will end up in the future.


If you have any questions or anything you’d like us to discuss on the podcast please go to and fill out the contact form. Also we would really appreciate if you would leave us a review on iTunes. Thanks for listening!

Full Audio Transcript


Grant:  Hello, everybody.  This is Grant from EcomCrew and I’m going to be doing a solo podcast as Mike is currently traveling at the moment, and I believe he’s going to the IRCE conference over in Miami and he’s going to be meeting up with a bunch of people over at the eCommFuel forums over there and doing his networking and I’ll be over here taking care of business and also doing this podcast.

So one of the topics that we’ve been requested to talk about is going to be about SEO.  And for those that don’t know, that’s going to be search engine optimization and it’s really going to be the fundamental building block of ecommerce and really just about everything that happens online is really based on SEO.  So it’s a very important topic and one that is very near and dear to me.  So to start off about SEO, it’s going to be a pretty big topic and one of the reasons that is, I think one of the best ways to put it is that it’s a vast field of work that encompasses everything from technical to networking to content development to even website programming.  And it’s not just a magic little tool that you can just kind of SEO your website.  And unfortunately, a lot of people have a very rudimentary understanding of SEO, so one of the things I’m going to try to do in this podcast is to really get you up to speed on what SEO is really all about, and then after that we’re going to talk about actual strategies.

I apologize if some of you are a little bit more up to speed on SEO and the various strategies and what it means, but just so that everyone can get onto the same page over here, we’re going to step back a little bit and go and do a bit of a 101 crash course on SEO, and before we even do that though, I’m going to just talk a little bit about my background in SEO and why I feel that I have any kind of authority to talk to you.  And I do think that’s a very important part of searches these days because everybody and their mom unfortunately gets some email and even phone calls, and I’m sure a lot of you ecommerce operators that have posted numbers get these type of calls all the time from some so-called SEO consultant that is trying to tell you an SEO service.  And without fail, 100% of those guys are just complete scam artists.  That’s the best way I can put it.  There’s no mincing or dicing of words over there.  Everybody that is calling you to offer SEO does not know what they’re doing and I can guarantee you that.  I would put all of my money on that kind of bet.  You could say that some cold-callers are just offering some kind of at least rudimentary service and I’m going to say no.  Absolutely not.  I’ll kind of go into why that is in this podcast.

Taking a step back, I’m going to talk about where I come from and my background in SEO.  So it all actually starts back into my college years and I actually graduated from a program at the University of Washington called informatics and that program was actually the study of data and information.  And it seems a little bit abstract when you think about it like, “Wow, why would anybody want to study data?  That’s about the most boring thing you can imagine.”  Well, in the current age of the internet, everything is really reliant on data and you’ve got really two main things that are going to be the things that everybody’s going to interface with.

One is going to be like a website, and two, there’s going to be a database behind that website.  There’s going to be a software layer like your kind of web application that interfaces to the database, but everything more or less is website, application, database.  That’s the entire internet in a nutshell.  And there’s obviously a lot more to that in terms of the nitty gritty, but that’s really what you get.  So knowing how to organize information was very, very important in the early days of the internet because, one, there’s limited hard drive space and two, speed was the main problem.  So you had these search engines that came around at the time and in the early days, you had people like Alta Vista, Lycos, Excite.  And that shows you how old I am because I remember these kind of guys and if you remember them too, you’re probably at least in your mid- or late-30s and if you haven’t heard of them before, well, it’s pretty much like Betamax.  I’ve probably just dated myself there because if you haven’t heard of Alta Vista, you probably haven’t heard of Betamax either.

Those were the search engines at the time that were around.  And Yahoo was one of the bigger ones, if not the biggest one at the time.  And Yahoo had also a service that indexed much of the pages on the internet and that kind of spun out eventually into almost like the open directory and people used to fight tooth and nail to get into a directory of internet sites if you can believe it or not.  So back in the day, Yahoo was really the big dog.  And then around 1999, the 2000 time, Google really came onto the scene.  And it was started by two guys, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, and they invented an algorithm that really took it to the next level because at the time, in the ’95 through ’99 era, a lot of people didn’t even really know about the concept of SEO because well, why would you optimize for a search engine?  You just put up a website, you submitted your website to Yahoo or whatever, you put it on their index, and somebody that was going to find you would find you.

Well, as it always is, some guy wants to try to make money and realizes that the internet’s going to turn into a great marketing channel.  And while the internet wasn’t at the adaption rate that it is now by any means, it was still rapidly adapting and you had a lot of early newcomers on there that were fairly technical, but a lot of people really weren’t using the internet for purchasing at the time.  That said, there was still a fair industry in terms of well, you know, adult content, other type of travel businesses on there that still wanted to learn how to optimize.  So you had a lot of people that would do what was called keyword stuffing, changing your metatags, and things like meta-titles and at the time, search engines were pretty naïve and the reason they were naïve was because it was a system of cooperation.  Nobody really needed to game each other because, I don’t know, I suppose it would be like going to camp with a bunch of friends that you knew from high school.  And you went over there and some guy’s saying, “Hey, here’s $2 for a beer,” and you’re like, “Okay.  $2 for a beer.”  You wouldn’t really assume some guy’s trying to like nickel and dime you with this beer because well, why would you?  Because the internet’s open and free, we’re among friends here, nobody’s going to try to take advantage of the situation.

Well, somebody always does try to take advantage of the situation so eventually some guy realizes, “Hey, I can charge the proverbial $3 for a beer and everyone’s none the wiser and I can make some money.”  So a lot of guys started doing that kind of optimizations to try to get on top of the Yahoo ranks at that time, and keyword manipulation was all the vogue.  So at the time, that’s how you had a lot of pornography websites that would end up coming up because those guys were the only ones that really were making any kind of money online because any kind of reputable business, they really weren’t online.  I mean some people were, but there were so few people that really trusted shopping online that they didn’t want to do it.  Obviously there were like big names at the time, like,, and all these other sites that eventually came up that helped make ecommerce a little more mainstream, but a lot of these guys really were just leading the way and showing that it was possible.

On the other hand, pornography, well, it’s an interesting industry because they always say that pornography kind of leads the way in terms of technical revolution, and pornography really was, at the time of the early internet, leading the way in terms of video compression and all this kind of stuff.  And what they were really leading the way to is, like I said, search engine optimization.  So that’s why all the results in the early days of the internet were just filled with porn.  Like no matter where you went, you would always find porn.  And when I was an 18-year-old male in college finding all the porn I wanted, it was not really something that I was unhappy with but unfortunately, when I was actually looking for something and I didn’t want to see boobs, I really didn’t want to find porn.

So it got to be a problem and that’s where Google really came in and cleaned up the act because they invented an algorithm that was based on what’s called page rank.  And what page rank does is that it is really a system of voting.  And what the voting means is that if you were in a proverbial room and you had let’s say 100 people in there and you asked everybody in the room, “Hey, who knows the most about geology?” and 20 people in the room point to Brad in the corner and they’re like, “Hey, there’s Brad.  He’s in his Indiana Jones hat and he’s got a big bag of rocks over there.  Brad’s all about geology.”  And Google kind of took it to almost like a peer to peer method of doing a validation where they would say, “Hey, we’re going to rely on you guys to figure out who’s right rather than us trying to figure out based on talking to you who’s right.”

Because Yahoo would really go up and instead of Brad, they would approach everybody in the room and say, “Hey, do you know about geology?”  And if I were a guy that was just having my kicks and Yahoo asked me, “Hey, Grant, do you know about geology?” I’d be like, “Oh yeah.  Of course I do.  I have a PhD in geology.  I took a Master’s in geology.  I studied rocks for jocks.  I juggle rocks.  I break rocks for fun.  I know all about rocks.  Rocks, rocks, rock.”  And Yahoo would be like, “Wow, this guy knows a lot about rocks.  I’m going to trust him.”

So Google really figured out how to get around the whole idea that people would actually try to game the system.  And so in a very, very short amount of years, Google ended up taking a massive market share away from Yahoo.  I think Google started around ’98, ’99 with maybe like a 5% to 10% market share and by the time I was out of college, they had jumped almost to about 30% to 40%, and then a few years after that, around 2005, 2006, I mean they had really gotten up to about 60%, almost 70% I think.  And nowadays, Google has more or less equalized out but I think they’re still a very big margin because when you add up everybody else, I think they add up to 30%.  So Bing and Yahoo ended up being around 30%.  Right now they’re both using the same search engine, so it’s really Google’s game at this moment.

So that’s a little bit of the history of how Google came to be and why, really, when everyone talks about SEO these days, they’re really talking about Google.  That’s not to say that Yahoo and Bing, which are both using the Bing search engine, are not in the running.  If you actually rank pretty well for Bing, you’ve got a 30% take on the market over there, more or less, which is not bad but everyone competes on Google, and to rank for the both of them, there are slight differences in each, but for the most part we’re going to talk about Google for the first part and then we’re going to talk about Bing and Yahoo on a later episode.  Like I said, search engine optimization is a very vast field so we’re going to be here for probably two to three episodes but I’ll try to make it interesting by talking a little bit about where things came about and where things are going and how to take action and execute where we are currently.

Going back to Google and why I’m talking to you about the history, I did study search engines when I was in college and I had a little bit of a leg up because I understood how search engines worked, I understand the page rank algorithm, I had flow charts that I would draw of different websites and how they ranked to each other, and back in the day, tools were really available just from the search engines themselves to figure out who was ranking for who and you could see things like page rank before it really got filtered out to the way that it is today.  But back in the day, page rank was almost like a very pure method of accounting.  You were ranked 4 out of 10 and that’s really your baseline level, or you’re 5 out of 10 or 6 out of 10.  And page rank worked on a logarithmic basis, which is what the Richter scale works on.  A logarithmic scale means that a page rank of 3 is 10 times bigger than a page rank of 2, a page rank of 4 is 10 times bigger than a page rank of 3 and so on and so forth so that by the time you got to page rank 8, I mean you were at exponential times bigger than a page rank 2.

So to jump from like a page rank 4 to a page rank 8 would be the equivalent of, say, being a high school president to being president of America.  It’s not a small jump.  It gets very difficult very fast.  And back in the day, I operated a page rank 7 website, which was pretty big and what it really comes down to, in terms of SEO theory, is trying to rank better than what you actually are.  And if I had to coalesce all SEO game theory and I always do call it a game because essentially the game is that you’re trying to punch outside of your weight class online all the time.  That’s really what SEO comes down to.  And the way that people get it wrong is that people always think that if you pay some guy $500, somehow, magically, you’re going to punch out of your weight class and you’re going to punch at the page rank 8 level or the presidential type of influence level.  And the reality is that’s simply not true because if everyone could simply pay some schmuck $500 to punch outside of your weight class, then everybody would be an Oscar De La Hoya and the reality is we’d all just be even.

So the reality is that it’s a curved system and you always have to do better than the next guy and if you think paying somebody to make you better than the next guy is actually going to be a legitimate strategy, it’s unfortunately going to be wrong.  So what I’ve done in my past is I’ve actually ranked for some of the most competitive keywords I would arguably say on the entire internet for a number of years, especially back in the 2003, 2005-2006 era.  And that industry was the gaming industry at the time, which was blowing up.  And that’s how me and Mike met and I was essentially just an SEO professional and that’s really all that I did.  I just understood the search engines.  I understood how to “game them” for better or for worse and there was a lot of different methodologies and a different mindset back then and it was really a cat and mouse game on how to keep ahead of the search engine.

I will say that I’ve modified a lot of my views these days.  I’m a lot more about cooperating with search engines and making a better overall user experience.  And it’s a change of heart for two reasons.  One, that’s really where things are going and it’s much better to not try to outsmart somebody.  Two is that, at some point, you really do have to try to make yourself better and your website better in order to appeal to the customer and really offer them a truly valuable service.  And what a lot of the old SEO guys that never really adapted to the new paradigm are doing is that they’re just putting very, very thing websites out that don’t have much content that are just really crap and they’re trying to make a lot of money off of it on affiliate links.  And the reality is that it’s not really providing a good value.  And going into ecommerce, Mike and I have really changed the way that we do business in that we’re always trying to provide value these days.  And it’s not that we haven’t done that in the past.  At least what I would hope other people would say about us is that we’ve been ethical people but the idea’s that we’ve always tried to do good by our customers.

One of the ways that I actually got very, very good in the SEO business back in the day is I really did understand that better than most people.  I would say that I probably did spend more time doing SEO than building extremely valuable content, but it was also a matter of efficiency.  I realized that I could simply get a lot more traffic working on SEO than building content, but at the same time, I still was trying to build pretty legitimate content.

So when I was doing my rankings and building my SEO value, what I was really doing at the time was manipulating or trying to increase my page rank.  And that really comes with getting more links at the end of the day.  Now, again, I’m just going to put a quick caveat over here: a lot of what I’m saying here is the old techniques and, again, I’m going to go through the history and giving everybody a solid fundamental base on where SEO was, where it is now, and then where it’s going.  Because in order to truly understand SEO, you really have to understand the history or where things came from in order to see where it’s going in the future.

You’ve got to really get in the Google mindset and that’s one of the things that I’ve always been talking to everybody that will listen to me about.  You’ve always got to be thinking seven to ten years ahead in order to really understand SEO and to get where it is.  Not to, again, toot my own horn or anything, but one of the reasons that our old company was very, very successful and, like I said, one of the most successful SEO affiliates online, period, at the time was because we were able to anticipate and make it through a lot of the various Google updates because we could just kind of understand where things were going in terms of the engineering on SEO.

So, that said, going back to what I was talking about.  Page rank and getting links was really the name of the game back in the day, and to an extent, it still is the name of the game.  Getting links is still going to be truly the engine that drives your website.  Now, what happened back in the day was that everybody knew, to a certain extent, that links were good.  But there were still a lot of people out there that were just building websites for the fun of it.  They didn’t really understand the whole SEO stuff, and the whole knowledge of SEO was not that common or popular as it is today.  So it was pretty easy for a lot of people that really wanted to abuse the system to do that.  They could go and they could put blog spam on various places.  They could spam forums and that kind of stuff, and unfortunately it worked and you could easily create about 2,000, 3,000 links at a time just spamming the hell out of people.  And when other people saw it working, then the crowd mentality happened and a lot of people did that.

And I had a lot of people ask me, “Hey, Grant, you know, I see a lot of other people doing this.  Should I do that?” and I’m like, “No way.  No way in hell.”  And the reason is an engineer’s going to take about a whole one minute before he realizes he’s got a problem there.  Google isn’t a stupid company and they obviously can fix it.  It’s going to take a few months or maybe even a year or may even two years to  release a patch to get it fixed, and Google eventually did and all that stuff doesn’t rank anymore.  So there’s always these kinds of games that people play but one of the things that is about solid link-building is really about getting links from sources that are truly in, one, your niche, and two, from authoritative places.  And what that does is it really counts as a true link, not some kind of garbage link that you got from some spam guy or some guy that’s just going to shove your links on a bunch of who knows what types of websites that you don’t even want to be associated with.

A lot of what I did was build links from other types of reputable sites that often wouldn’t even be willing to link to my competitors.  And I actually had a lot of competitors at the time that would even try to copy exactly what I did and it was actually a source of frustration for me because I had what I almost considered a trade secret in the way that I’d go about getting links.  And these days, it’s not so much a trade secret, it’s almost kind of common knowledge.  You just produce high quality content and try to like get people that would respect your content to link to you.  But at the time, it was more of a hidden technique.  And I would just go and approach a bunch of people and try to get links and say, “Hey, this is what I’ve got up on my site.  I’d like you to link to it.”  And a lot of those guys would say, “Yes.  Sure.  I really like your content.  I like what you did over here so we’ll link to you.”

And so my competitors would do that too and the guys would look at my competitors and say, “Well, you don’t have any good content.  Why would I link to you?”  And so a lot of them would just copy my content and go on to find other people so that was kind of an annoying thing but I could understand why they were doing it because they saw that it worked for me and so they were doing it for themselves.  And these days, it’s a lot harder to do that because Google tends to mask who you’re getting your links from but there are still a bunch of other sources out there like SEMrush, Ahrefs, that you can look at your competitors and get links from.  Now, should you do that?  No.

You can try to see who’s linking to your competitor to get an idea of their search profile but if you’re just going to copy them and get their links, then you obviously are not going to have learned anything.  You’re just going to be a copycat and you’ll never be good at SEO.  So I don’t really recommend it.  If you want a cheap way of trying to get some rankings, by all means, go ahead and knock yourself out but what we try to do here is really that whole thing about teaching a fisherman to fish type of deal.  So it’s not a great way to go about your life by copying the work of others.  And in terms of getting links, really what you should be going for are, again, good quality websites out there.  There’s a number of different ways that you can analyze a website in what type of quality it is.  And back in the day, you could really just go about to any website practically and just say, “Hey, I just want a link from you,” and it was pretty good because there were not a lot of filters from Google to try to determine if the website was good or bad.  It was just based on popularity.

So if you had a website, for example, and it had a PR of 8, again, which is very high ranking, and if you had a crazy cat website that linked to your website, let’s say it about selling horse saddles, Google wouldn’t really look at it as a bad thing.  They’d just say, “Oh, a very popular website linked to you.  That must be a very good thing for you. That must mean a popular website is vouching for you.”  And so that was the game back then.  You would just try to get all these very high, pure websites to link to you and a lot of people would actively seek out these kind of various PR sites and just find people that link to them.  Other people would approach random high PR sites and say, “Hey, we’ll offer you money to go ahead and link to these other people,” and there’s a whole creation of link farming that really came about.

So link farming had really two generations.  The first generation was a tit for tat trade, and what it means was that it was almost an old boy’s club where I say, “Hey, I’ll link to you if you link back to me,” and some guy says, “Sure, I’ll do that,” and then you just repeat that 1,000 times over.  So eventually you get a little page on your website that said Links or Resources or whatever and on that page would be thousands of links to all these other people and on them, they’d have thousands of links back to you too.  From the get-go, I knew that this was a horrible idea because, again, you can be detected from a mile away.  You know, it doesn’t take an engineer from Google to take one look at that and say, “Uh oh.  This is a terrible precedent because all that it does is it teaches the masses to like create these giant link farms and link to everybody.”  So Google eventually banned that.  Everybody that practiced that got knocked off the radar and of course they all screamed and said, “Why?  We were just doing something totally legitimate.  Why is linking to somebody else considered bad?  What’s not to say that I can decide who I want to link to?”

Well, that’s all nice and dandy but Google, at the end of the day, is not a public enterprise; they’re a private enterprise.  That means they can do whatever the hell they want.  And a lot of people don’t really understand that or it doesn’t really sink in that Google can just do anything that they want and you just have to live by it.  So the easiest way to really go and make SEO work for Google is just to try to play nice with them.  And it’s not about what’s fair, it’s not about what’s right, it’s about what Google thinks is right.  So before the second generation of link farming, there was a period (and it still even happens today unfortunately) of what I call black hat linking, and what that really means is that people are buying links for other people on purpose – bad links.

For example, like that cat website I told you about.  Let’s say instead of just like LOLCat website linking to your horse saddle website, you had a website that was about evil cats.  And this evil cat website would link to anybody.  They’re a PR 8 again, let’s say, and they got all that PR by having other people participate in link farms so they’re just a really terrible website.  Let’s say it just had viruses and Trojans on there, just essentially the shady alley of the internet, places that you don’t want to go.  And people just purposely buy a link on that website to your website just to know you out.  Because at some point, if they bought enough links, Google would look at you and say, “Oh, you must be the guy buying these links so you are a scumbag just like these guys,” and they knock you out.

And unfortunately it worked.  It was a pretty evil technique and people tried to use it on me and I could see that they were trying to at the time and unfortunately, there’s no defense against it.  Nowadays, there is.  You can do what’s called a disavow where you tell Google you don’t want to be linked to that anymore.  But somebody can still pull one of these attacks on you, which is a very unfortunate thing.  But the way that Google looks at it, it’s really just the price of doing business because there’s no way to not have it happen.  Now, you can say that’s completely unfair.  You know, what’s not to prevent your competitor from doing it?  And the reality is that, again, it’s Google’s game.  They can do what they want.  So it’s something to be aware of.  That was one of the backlashes from link farming from the first era.

Now, the second era of link farming, what happened over there is that you started getting a bunch of people that said, “Well, it’s no good to trade links.  Now we should just start buying links from people.”  So you had entire industries where people would actually go and – I remember vividly one of the big guys back in the day was a guy named Patrick Gavin and he ran a program called Text-Link-Ads and I thought it was genius because he actually approached a bunch of university newspapers, another type of very high PR websites because they’re related to academia, government, that type of stuff.  And these newspapers were all student-run newspapers, that kind of stuff, people that needed cash, so he just offered them an offer too good to refuse and said, “Hey, I’ll just buy up a little section on your website at the bottom footer over here for X amount of money and every month I’ll give you this amount of money and in exchange, I just want to update these links down there,” and he probably put about 12 or 20 links in there and resold those links for hundreds of dollars apiece.  And the newspapers would say, “Hey, yeah.  Great.  We’re just a student paper.  $3,000, $2,000 a month?  That sounds wonderful.  We’ll go ahead and take that for your internet advertising or whatever it is.”  But they never realized that what people like Text-Link-Ads were doing were just buying page rank and in reality, they were buying your reputation.  Unfortunately, people didn’t realize they were selling their reputation.

So what happened was a whole industry evolved about buying and selling links, which was really trading in reputation.  Now, Google, when you think about it, their entire algorithm is based on, like I mentioned, peer reputation.  It’s the analogy again of going into a room, asking 20 people out of 100, “Who’s the best geologist?” and everybody pointing to Brad in the corner, Brad and his box of rocks.  Okay, everyone likes Brad.  But now, what if one guy came into the room and his name’s let’s just say Tom.  And Tom goes and he talks to 20 people in the room and he says, “Hey, guess what, guys?  Google’s going to ask who’s going to be the best geologist in the room and here’s $50.  You guys need to say that Sarah’s the best geologist.”  And so Google goes, “Okay, who’s the best geologist?”  A bunch of people are now pointing at Sarah and going, “Oh, Sarah’s the best geologist.”  So now you go to Sarah, the geologist.  You go, “Hey, Sarah.  I’m looking to build my home on this concrete bed.  What do you think about it?”  And Sarah says, “Well, I think that’s a great idea.  Why don’t you give me $20,000 and I’ll do a consulting gig with you?”  And you pay Sarah for this consulting gig and you realize Sarah has no idea what she’s talking about.

To Google, this is a crisis of the greatest proportion because it is essentially an existential crisis for the whole purpose of having a search engine based on page rank because it’s about trust.  So what happened is that all these people that were selling reputation destroyed the trust of the search engine.  So Google started getting taken over by a lot of, again, porn and other types of non-reputable websites, affiliates websites, Viagra, male enhancement, all this kind of junk.  And for a long time, I would say almost for about two years, Google’s being hammered by these kinds of guys because unfortunately these types of website manipulators that were selling reputation were going after the heart of Google’s algorithm and the algorithm needed to get changed drastically in order to figure out, “Hey, how do we like stop these guys from gaming our system?”  I mean people were just having a free lunch at Google’s expense and at some point, it would really open the door to leave another competitor to come in that could have a better engine.

So there was a period of time where it almost seemed like everybody and their mother was just going around buying links, and especially in the industry at the time that I was in, it was quite frustrating because I’m not going to say that I didn’t buy links (I’m not going to say that I did either, but I’m just going to kind of leave that there) but what I did was that I was very selective about the type of people I would approach and the types of relationships that I’d cultivate.  And again, I would much more prefer to call them relationships because they’re more of an advertising symbiosis, not just an “I’m going to buy your reputation and then ruin it” type of deal.  It was very much a positive in my opinion for both parties.  Unfortunately, there are only so many positive relationships you can make, especially in a limited industry.

Now, I saw a bunch of my competitors go and just buy links from, again, crappy cat websites and they starting being able to buy links from, like I mentioned, university websites and these other kind of high-rank, high-authority websites and it was very disconcerting because they all started ranking very well doing everything and a bunch of people really were trying to say, “Hey, we’re playing by the rules but we’re being destroyed.  What’s going on here?”  It was a very trying time because Google was just not saying anything.  They were keeping very mum and the bad guys were essentially winning the game.  And then that’s when a major update happened around, I think it was – some of the SEO pros around there are probably going to just call me a newbie because I can’t remember at this point but around 2007, I think, or 2008, one of the big updates hit and it essentially crushed all of the people that were playing that game.

It came out with a whole new different set of filters that Google’s now using where they start determining a lot of things based on trust.  So there is a level of trust that goes around on top of page rank and I’ve always kind of called it trust rank.  Various people call it various other things, but generally trust rank I think is the term that most people throw around.  And way back in the early days when I was advising some of the larger clients I’d work with – and I worked for, I would say one of the largest companies online at the time that was in the space and they recently got sold for a very, very, very large valuation and I helped build them to a very good standing in the SEO field.  But one of the things I kind of told them from the very beginning what there there’s going to be a reckoning period where everybody that had low trust is going to get destroyed.  And that was just my belief because I try to think like an engineer.

I try to think, “Well, if I was Google, how would I take care of this situation?”  And really, that’s where reverse-engineering what Google does back in the day was how you stayed ahead of the game.  You try to figure out, “Well, what would a good search engine engineer try to do to stop the amount of damage that all the SEO are constantly trying to do?” and you would just try to front-run what they would do before they actually do it.  So trust was one of the big things that happened and everybody at the point started going, “Well, now we actually have to get links from people that are, one, relevant to us, and two, trustworthy.”  So the whole ability to sell and buy links suddenly kind of went aside.

Now, did that mean the industry went away forever?  Absolutely not.  It just got a little bit more under the table and it got a lot less effective at face value.  Obviously, if you knew what you were doing and you could actually buy a link or get a link or just get a reference from another website that was related to you that was a good PR, it was still a very good thing.

So we’re getting to I would say a good stopping point for part one of search engine optimization.  So far it’s been a coverage of kind of the history of Google and Yahoo, the under search engines, what things were like in the early days.  And so in part two, I’m going to talk about a little bit more actionable information and continue on about the various parts of where search engine optimization is coming from so that you can understand how to apply it going forward.  So again, thank you for sitting through my first solo-cast and I look forward to talking to you guys next week.  So take care and see you guys all soon.

Outro:  If you have any questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.  Head over to and sign up for the EcomCrew newsletter to get regular updates on what’s working in ecommerce today, and get the latest from our blog.  If you haven’t already, we’d really appreciate an honest review in iTunes.  These reviews help us make sure we’re delivering exactly the content you need to be successful.  And make sure you subscribe to the show for more tips to move you up in the business ladder and into success.  We’ll see you next week.


  1. Hi guys,

    I really have enjoyed your topics and find them very helpful. Looking forward to the next post.

  2. I really enjoy the podcast, love to hear the real experience from the real eCommerce store owners. I am going back to listen to all the podcast. Love the SEO section, email marketing episode and shopping cart comparison. Do you have experience with google shopping? Can you do a topic about Google shopping?

    1. We will try to work an episode about Google Shopping in later this year. I do use Google Shopping for IceWraps and it proves to be quite effective giving us 450-500% ROAS.

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