Google’s Brilliant Pricing Scheme

Have you ever wondered how Google determines pricing for Adwords advertisers?

They use a very clever pricing scheme that rewards advertisers financially for providing highly relevant ads for search users. The more relevant the ad (as measured by click-through rate) and the more relevant the landing page (I assume measured by time on site, or bounce rate) the lower the cost to the advertiser. It is an elegant mechanism to lookout for the interests of three different stakeholders simultaneously – Google users, Google advertisers, and … Google. All business should seek such harmony.

This video, hosted by Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist, provides an excellent explanation of pricing mechanism and the concepts of quality score, and ad rank.

Originally published June 2011

NameBench: Ten Minutes to a 30% Boost in Network Speed


OK, so this question is just a little bit geeky for a cocktail party, but I’ll ask anyway: are you sure that you are using the right DNS servers?

For a couple of years I thought I was in the know by specifying Google’s public DNS servers, and They are fast and very reliable, but after a little research I found a pair of local (NYC) DNS servers hosted by my Time Warner, my ISP. They offered a noticeable improvement, but I kept the Google servers in spots three and four.

And then today I came across NameBench, Google’s open source DNS benchmark utility. It took about 2 minutes to download, and five minutes to run, and three minutes to update my DNS settings. (That comes to ten minutes right.)

Did I mention it’s FREEEE?

From the site:

Are you a power-user with 5 minutes to spare? Do you want a faster internet experience?

Try out namebench. It hunts down the fastest DNS servers available for your computer to use. namebench runs a fair and thorough benchmark using your web browser history, tcpdump output, or standardized datasets in order to provide an individualized recommendation. namebench is completely free and does not modify your system in any way. This project began as a 20% project at Google.

namebench runs on Mac OS X, Windows, and UNIX, and is available with a graphical user interface as well as a command-line interface.

So take ten minutes to give it a try, and post your results below. Good luck.



And the output of the test included this summary and the following performance graphs:




On-Page & Off-Page SEO Techniques

I recently started work for a client who has come to depend on his web site for 100% of new business. Whether it’s the economy, or increased competition, or other macro trends, his business is down about 25% from last year. The web site is simply not generating the leads it once did.

I saw that the site had recently been “optimized” by a dark hat firm with plenty of sparmy (spammy + smarmy) techniques. When asked, he told me how his efforts to increase traffic had been an experience akin to pushing a boulder up a hill. Lots of activity, and little to show for it.

Every web site I have worked on over the last ten plus years has had SEO squarely in mind during development. Most of my recent projects have used a content management system or ecommerce platform that is highly search-optimized structure out of the box. (WordPress and Magento are my respective favorites.)

I have learned that SEO is not about “tricking” search engines into giving you a high listing, but rather it’s about presenting yourself well, and adhering to a handful of best practices.

SEO can be sub categorized as on-page, and off-page. On-page is your internal page and site structure, and off page is gaining recognition (and almighty links) from every other site on the Internet.

On-Page SEO

Your on-page SEO strategy is all about presenting your company in bite sized chunks in a manner that is accurately and optimally indexed so as to directly address every conceivable customer search query.

Components of on-site and on-page strategy involves:

  • Site copy– content must be written first for human usability, and a close second for search engine algorithms. Keep an eye on length, concise subject scope, and keyword density.
  • Information architecture – subject matter silos with focused keyword sets
  • Navigational structure – internal text links that preserve and enhance page rank
  • Semantic structure – meaningful use of HTML markup tags
  • Landing pages – narrow topic, minimal distraction, clear call-to-action
  • Meta data – titles, description, keywords, alt text, titles, relationships, and micro formats are all critical elements to help effective indexing.

Off-Page SEO

Off-page SEO strategy is all about demonstrating relevance, and search engines recognize ones relevance by what other sites are saying about you as indicated by their linking to your site.

An inbound link building strategy should seek well-formed links from a quantity of significant sites pointing to a wide breadth of pages in your site.

I typically start with paid and unpaid directories, then follow up with member associations and strategic partners. In addition, inbound links are one of many benefits to an ongoing social media campaign. And lastly, good old PR can go a long way to gaining valuable inbound links.

SEO is a Journey

Above all, remember that effective SEO is a journey and not a destination. Do not try to manipulate search engines into giving you high relevance and therefore a high ranking, instead, present yourself in a organized and “consumable” manner, engage in the online discussion, and actually be relevant.

Be relevant, and discover how much easier it is to roll that boulder down the hill.