Ryan Jones Blog – dotCULT.com Ryan Jones Blogs About Internet Culture, Marketing, SEO, & Social Media

May 31, 2007

My New Job

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 8:01 pm

I’m leaving for Toronto in about 12 hours, but I just wanted to write a quick update to say that I’ve accepted a new job.

I’m now the lead SEO/SEM specialist at Brand Labs.

If you’ve read “the four hour work week” you’ll know that the book advocates outsourcing all aspects of your business so that you can free up time. In a sense, I’m doing the opposite.

See, Brand Labs is the company you’d call to handle running your business for you. From warehousing, to fulfillment, to e-commerce site development, PR, and SEO… we do it all!

It’s a neat idea. Instead of hiring a development company, SEO company, marketing company, PR firm, and fulfillment company you can just hire us and we’ll do it all for you.

We let the creative people free up their time to come up with more products.

It’s a pretty big switch from me. I don’t write code anymore (and if I do, it’s in ASP – a language I don’t really know yet) While it’s different, I like that I’m not getting burned out in LAMP development. I might just finish some of my personal sites now that I’m not doing PHP and MySQL all day long.

On top of that, I’ve finally got dual screens, a corner desk with a window, and a flat screen TV to watch while I work. I even ended up with more vacation time than the last job. It’s a neat environment.

Speaking of vacation, I won’t be reachable until sometime Monday. I’ll be in Toronto all weekend for a hockey tournament. After that though, I don’t think I’m going anywhere else for the month of June. July is another story….

May 20, 2007

Search Engine Questions

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 12:51 pm

Over on SEOmoz, rand fishkin asks If You Could Ask the Search Engines Any Question and Get An Honest, Complete Answer… What Would it Be?

He then goes on to list about 14 questions he’d like answers to.

While I’m sure that the search engines will never answer his questions, I thought it would be interesting to guess at what the actual answers are.

So, here’s my guesses. ( Depālpur Important: These are just guesses, in no way can I verify if any of these answers are correct or not. They’re just what I think the answers are. I’m only a computer scientist, I do NOT work at any of the search engines or have inside information)

What role do search quality raters play in determining rankings? I don’t think that the quality raters affect rankings in any way. I think that quality raters are used to determine a valid result set in which various algorithm changes can be tested against each other. Another possibility is that they’re used to view the “reported” sites – however I doubt this.

How much impact do the other domains owned by / registered by a site owner have on the way a site is viewed/treated algorithmically? This depends. If the owner isn’t doing anything shady then they shouldn’t matter. I, for example, own several unrelated sites all on the same server. They don’t cross link and they don’t have problems. If the “other” sites I own are part of a network of spammy sites then it can have an effect. The last company I worked for had a network of hundreds of sites (all of which were thin affiliates for the same site) that just targeted different keywords. I can see this type of setup hurting your sites. If it’s a normal relationship though, I wouldn’t worry.

What is the purpose/motivation behind obfuscating accurate, precise link data? The most likely answer is that it’s probably easier and quicker to do it the way they’re doing it. Another possibility is that they don’t want people to try to reverse engineer the algorithm. There’s 2 main things that make a search engine unique: The sites it has indexed, and it’s algorithm. Everything that goes into making a ranking decision is public; that is to say that there’s nothing Google has access to that you can’t get. If they made the links public, it’d be possible (for a small subset of sites…. say 1 query 30 sites) to try to reverse engineer an algorithm and guess what’s getting more weight.

Additionally, I don’t think it would be a good idea. When they released PageRank, webmasters went crazy trying to raise it. If they give total number of links, I’m sure there will be a huge race to achieve more links than your competitors – whether relevant or not.

In less than 100 words, describe why you choose to rank Wikipedia above accurate sources? I think this answer is simple too. Google’s main factor is links. Since wikipedia is so broad, it has links from TONS of places. Since PageRank carries on across the domain, links to one article can help boost the PR of other articles.

Another reason is that Wikipedia is peer edited. It’s not the view of one person (when you look at any more credible site, it’s only edited by 1 person.) I think though, that it’s all to do with links.

Do companies/sites that spend a lot with your engine receive any SEO benefits (free consulting time, a few tricks from an engineer, etc) This one I can honestly answer: No! My old company maxed out 2 credit cards / month on Google Adwords. We got cool things like pens, a shirt, and a USB key in the mail, and a phone number to call in regards to our adwords account – but we still had sites banned from the index and get penalized.

I don’t think that Google plays preferences to people who spend more.

Does your engine ever use the predictive abilities of search keyword demands to profit outside the world of search? This one is interesting. I don’t think they do it directly, but I’m sure it has something to do with what types of companies they acquire. For example: If you looked at a trend for job search site queries, I’d bet that they’re up. Why? Because MS, Yahoo, and Google are all buying job search sites right now. Either they’re predicting a big down turn in the market, or they’re noticing that a lot of people are looking for and using those sites.

I think that’s enough for now. For the full list of questions please see Rand’s site (linked above). There’s some more good questions in his comments. Feel free to leave some possible answers to some of the questions in my comments if you like.

May 16, 2007

Summertime Schedule

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 4:14 pm

It’s going to be a busy next few weeks.

I’ve got an interview in the Troy area this Friday, then Monday I (95% chance here) leave for Buffalo for another job interview.

Then, next weekend I’m up north Thursday – Tuesday.

The weekend after that (June 1-3) I’ll be in Toronto for a hockey tournament. It’s our “league championships” Check out these stats. Not bad for a fat guy eh?

Looking at my weight on that page though, I realize I’ve lost almost 10 lbs since the season began!

On top of all this I’ve got my first (and second) ever softball game today. In about 3 hours actually. I’m a little bit nervous. Other than practicing with my friends for the last 3 weeks, I haven’t played baseball since I was 12. That’s a long time.

I’ve gotten a lot better though. I still can’t hit a home run to save my life, but I manage to drop it down right between 2nd base and center field… so at least I’ll have a good on base percentage.

Hmm, haven’t been to Texas in a while… maybe I should squeeze that in somewhere too. Either way, if you’re trying to get in touch with me over the next few weeks and I’m hard to get a hold of – this is why.

May 14, 2007

Emotional Opposites

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 4:40 pm

What is the opposite of love? Most of you are probably saying “Hate”, but you’re wrong.

The opposite of love is indifference – not giving a damn about the person either way. If I love you, I care. If I hate you, I care. If I’m indifferent, I don’t give a shit.

See love and hate are 2 sides of the same coin, but they’re not opposites. Either way you’re still obsessively thinking about the person.

In fact, if we measure your brain activity and body chemicals etc during times when you’re feeling love and hate they’ll be identical.

Chemically, love and hate are the same.

So what’s the opposite of happiness? You can probably gather that sadness is wrong, and you’re right. Happy and Sad are just like Love and Hate.

The opposite of happiness is boredom. Think about what would make you happy. Many of you might say something like winning the lottery, or having lots of money.

But is the money what makes you happy? Or is it the ability to have free time to do what you want when you want? I’ll bet a lot of it has to do with quitting that boring job of yours.

It’s just an interesting thought I came across today while reading some books. What do you think?

Early Adopter Woes

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 1:21 pm

I came across a job description today that I wanted to apply to, but I couldn’t. It seems that it requires resumes be sent in only by fax.

How many people own fax machines at home? EFax is a subscription (that I’m not about to pay for to send 1 fax) so that’s out.

I found some free software that came with my all in one printer that sends faxes, but sadly it requires that I plug it into a phone jack.

That’s my next question… how many people actually have land line phones? I don’t! There’s no need for it.

Is this company far behind the times, or am I just crazy to expect companies to have at least one newer way of receiving information?

May 11, 2007

Income Vs Richness

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 5:32 pm

I’ve been reading The 4 hour workweek by Timothy Ferriss and although I’m only through about 3 chapters I think I could do about 20 blog posts on some of the ideas he presents.

Right now I want to talk about a fallacy that many Americans hold. That is that income determines richness.

Let’s look at an example out of my life: In one of the first jobs I took out of college I made $36,000 / year but left my house at 8:30 and was home by 5:30. I worked from 9-5 Monday through Friday and took a 30 minute lunch.

A later job paid me $50,000 but I left my house at 7:50 and got home at 7:00. I worked from 8:30 until 6, and took a 30-45 minute lunch often at my desk.

Which me was richer? the $36,000 me made about $17/hour…. while the $50,000 me….also made about $17/hour.

At the end of the year, I had more money in the bank working the $50,000 job but I also gave up a lot more of my time.

Sure, money is good – but what good is money if you can’t spend it?

Think about why you want to make more money and you’ll probably list many things you want to do.

What if you could work less AND get those things done? That’s what this book is about. Check it out, it’s certainly been very interesting so far. I’m sure it’ll inspire me to write more in the future.

May 10, 2007

Recipe: Mini Chicken Burritos

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 2:03 pm

I haven’t gone grocery shopping in a while, so today’s lunch was more of a “this is what I have in the fridge, how can I turn that in to a meal?”

I have to say that I came up with some really awesome chicken burritos.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 2-3 cans of canned chicken meat (I usually buy this stuff for the cat, but it’s made for humans)
  • 1 package Lawry’s taco seasoning
  • 1 package of flour tortillas
  • a little bit of parsley
  • white rice
  • Colby and Monterey jack cheese – shredded (Kraft sells this in a bag)

First cook up some rice. Then add a little bit of parsley to the rice. This just adds some texture to the overall burrito (I stole this idea from Qdoba).

Next, grill up the chicken until it’s all stringy and falling apart. Then mix in water and the taco seasoning (I know this is for beef but trust me it tastes awesome on chicken… I stole this idea from that old Wendys southwest chicken salad) Let it boil until most of the water is gone. (you may want these to be a little juicy – your call)

I grilled the tortilla shells on my George Foreman grill, but you can just put them in the microwave too. The key here is to get them nice and hot so the shell sticks to itself when you fold it into a burrito.

Insert chicken, cheese, rice into burrito and fold it over. Enjoy!

That was my lunch today. It tasted good so I thought I’d share it.

May 7, 2007

The Best Job Search Sites

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 4:56 pm

If you don’t read my blog often, you might have missed the fact that I Need A Job. So before we get into it, if anybody needs a LAMP developer or SEO expert, please let me know.

Because of this, I’ve been looking at almost every place possible for a job. Some sites have been good, others not too good. Here’s the ones I’m going to review:

  1. Monster
  2. HotJobs
  3. CraigsList
  4. ComputerJobs
  5. Dice
  6. MichWorks
  7. MotorCityHelpWanted
  8. Hidden Network

Ok, On to the reviews:


When it comes to job sites, Monster is probably the first one people think of. Thanks to their advertising, a Monster ad seems to be everywhere you look.

PROS: Monster has TONS of jobs on it. By far, it has more jobs than any other site I’ve mentioned here. It also lets you upload your resume for employers to view and contact you.

CONS: The interstitial ads for university of phoenix and other online colleges are annoying. They’re also confusing. When clicking “Apply” for a job, you might see a form asking for basic information like name, address, etc. Only after filling it out and getting to the bottom do you realize it’s an ad for information about college – NOT the actual employment offer.

Monster also doesn’t seem to remember that I’ve click no to an ad. Over the past week I must have told it about 30 or 40 times that I’m NOT interested in getting an online degree – yet they still ask every time.

I’ve also noticed that some spammers are using the resume database for emails. I used a new email address for my job searching and I’m getting spam on it. While many of these emails I consider spam are actually job offers, they’re offers for ridiculous jobs like talent search agent, model scout, mystery shopper, etc. They’re nowhere related to my resume so I consider them spam.


HotJobs is Yahoo’s foray into the job search market.

PROS: The search feature is easy to use and the sub options on the left can prove helpful if you get a lot of results.

CONS: I’ve already did a post about this but the biggest problem with HotJobs is SPAM! Most of the jobs it returns for me are all the same “mystery shopper” job advertised for every city in Michigan – Every Day! See the post linked above for a screen shot.


Craigslist is perhaps one of the least known about job search sites out there – but it shouldn’t be. (I’ll get to this in the CONS section) In fact, if you clicked the link above you’ll notice that the Craigslist founder Craig Newmark even stopped in to talk about job spam. Hopefully he’ll stop back for this post too.

PROS: Craigslist offers a feature that no other job board offers – User flagging. It doesn’t have the spam problem that HotJobs has because users can flag a posting as spam and have it removed. I’m not sure how many flags it takes, but it does do a good job of removing spam. I’ve noticed by checking back that most things are caught within a day of being live.

Another pro is that everything is done by Email. If you want to apply, you’ve got a link to send the poster an email. It doesn’t make you jump through all the “create an account and password, upload your resume, login” hoops that some of the other sites require. That’s a big time saver.

Another thing I love is that there aren’t any ads at all on Craigslist. Craig makes enough money simply by charging to post jobs and it seems that he’s happy with that. It would seem that Craigslist cares more about user experience than maximizing profits – that’s a lesson that Monster could learn.

CONS: Not many people know about it. Before I got laid off my secretary asked me where a good place to post jobs are (little did I know she was posting a want ad for MY job). I ran through the usuals and when I got to Craigslist she said “what’s that?” Because of this there aren’t a lot of jobs posted. Take the Internet Engineer category for Detroit – only 6 jobs in 7 days this month.


Computerjobs.com is another little known job site. Instead of focusing on all jobs though, it tries to only focus on computer related jobs.

PROS: The narrow focus of computerjobs makes it great for IT professionals looking for jobs. Searching for HTML here as opposed to Amazon doesn’t return jobs like secretary, personal assistant, mystery shopper, or model talent scout. The search feature also offers tons of options, and there aren’t any annoying ads like Monster. The spam level appears to be non existent as well. The job descriptions are well organized making it easy for me to skim to the salary, requirements, or contact information.

CONS: While I like the way the search feature is laid out – it doesn’t work! Do a search for PHP Michigan and you’ll see results in Florida and Boston. After doing a search, the first thing I see is a list of 10 featured jobs that aren’t relevant to what I searched for. This is great for a front page feature – but it doesn’t fit after I’ve searched for specific jobs. I can see it confusing many users.


I Like Dice. Like ComputerJobs, Dice is also focused toward technology jobs. That saves time.

PROS: The layout of Dice is clean yet professional. The search box is right in the middle where it’s the first thing I see. It also offers what I think is the most crucial feature of an online job search: the ability to sort by date. When I click on a job description, the apply button is located both at the top and bottom. This makes it easy to find and saves me time if I’m coming back to a job I already viewed. As far as the amount of spam goes, I haven’t been able to find any yet on Dice.

CONS: There aren’t that many jobs jobs on DICE as compared to other sites. Also, the job descriptions aren’t standard. While the summary at the top seems to be the same, the various sections like requirements, about the company, etc aren’t standardized. This makes it hard to skim a job description for various information without reading the whole thing.


In order to get unemployment in Michigan you have to list your resume with Michworks.org. Since I had to do this anyway, I figured I’d review it.

PROS: Michworks is a state funded site so there aren’t any annoying ads like Monster has. They don’t have to worry about turning a profit and that’s a good thing. The distance from city in the search is useful too. It allows me to enter my home city and make sure it only returns jobs with a 25 mile commute or less.

CONS: The search needs work. Most notably, searching for PHP returns any job that links to a .php file. One of the first results I get is for a truck driver job because it has a link to http://www.driverfinder.net/jobads/job.php?cw=1&jid=1898 for people to apply.

The other big downer is that you have to have an account to apply. I don’t like that. I don’t like creating accounts anywhere.


I saw this site on a billboard in Detroit the other day so I figured I’d check it out.

PROS: Sadly, I couldn’t find any pros with this site

CONS: I can’t find the search box on the main page. It’s just not there. The “find a job” tab seems to be already highlighted – leading me not to click it – but it’s the only way to make the search box appear. It took me 3 visits to the site and about 20 minutes before I figured this out.

Aside from being very slow, the search just plain sucks. It has “sponsored listings” at the top that aren’t related to what I’m searching for, and some of the results aren’t relevant.

Worse, trying to apply for a job is like pulling teeth. Applying for this job took me to a list of more jobs on topusajobs.com. Clicking the “Apply” button there took me to a search page on employmentguide.com. Doing the same search there, I was unable to find the original job I tried applying for.

It seems this site just takes you in circles without actually letting you apply for a job. I’d avoid it at all costs. Looking at the setup, it would seem that they have similar sites around other metropolitan areas; I’m not going to list them though.


Hidden Network is that list of ads you’ll see on some blogs. Check out Worse Than Failure or Jeremy Zawodny’s Sidebar for an example.

PROS: The search results are great. No ads, no hoops to jump through, no hassles – just a clean table of results. I can change what I see, I can change keywords, locations, etc.

CONS: You have to find the ads on somebody’s website. If you go to the hiddennetwork.com homepage you can’t search for jobs. I don’t understand that. Also, the list of keywords is limited. I have to choose from a preset list instead of searching for specific words I’m interested in.

If you live in one of the technology hubs like the Bay Area you’ll find some interesting jobs here with startup companies. If you’re looking in a place like Detroit you won’t find anything.


The top 3 in terms of spam filtering or least spam:

  1. Dice.com
  2. Hidden Network
  3. Craigslist

Best Search Functionality

  1. Dice
  2. Monster
  3. HotJobs

Best User Experience (no annoying ads, registration, etc)

  1. CraigsList
  2. MichWorks
  3. Dice

Best Overall:

  1. Dice
  2. Craigslist
  3. Monster
  4. ComputerJobs
  5. Hidden Network

Other Observations

There’s one other thing I wanted to get off my mind. Another annoying thing I’ve found is companies that require registration before you can apply for a job. I applied for a job with one company today and they made me fill out 5 or 6 pages of web forms before I could even send in my resume. I had to create an account and a password and security questions and everything. To me, that’s just overkill.

Here’s a better example. In 2004 I applied with Quicken loans for a job. I didn’t get it, but I still had to create an account and everything. Now in 2007 I tried applying for a different job. I couldn’t remember my username or password and there wasn’t a feature to request it by email – so I had to create another account with them.


So there you have it. That’s my 2 cents on job seeking sites. I’ve learned a lot about how to improve a job website, but I haven’t found a job. The fact is, there just aren’t that many jobs in the Detroit area. I’m afraid I might have to move.

If anybody else knows of any jobs sites out there that I missed, please leave them in the comments and after I look for a job myself I’ll add my review.

Thoughts on Twitter

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 3:35 pm

I tried to avoid it as long as possible, but I don’t think I’d be able to call this a blog about Internet culture if I didn’t talk about twitter at least once.

I recently tried Twitter but had to quit using it because it was just way too slow to be usable. The AIM support rarely worked, and often I’d have to wait until FireFox timed out and retry logging in 2 or 3 times.

Scoble loves Twitter. But why do you use Twitter? What’s the point? What’s the benefit of sharing tiny little bits of information with people?

Sure, I understand that people said the same about Instant Messaging before it took over email, and then we all said the same thing about Blogs before they revolutionized the web. Is Twitter next?

Personally, I don’t think so. Let me explain.

It’s neat to see what your friends are doing in real time, but I could just text or IM them to find that out. There’s really no new features here that IM and text messages don’t offer.

More importantly, I can’t figure out the business advantage of using Twitter.

With IM, I could have conversations with people in real time. It helped me at work because I didn’t have to get up and walk to the office, or bother with email.

With blogs a business could share useful insights, articles, testimonials, and whatever else they needed to establish themselves as an expert in their field.

If there’s a way a company can harness twitter to its advantage, I just don’t see it. Anybody have any ideas here? What am I missing? Or is it really just a fad?

May 5, 2007

How To NOT Get Reciprocal Links

Filed under: Main — Ryan Jones @ 5:39 pm

If you run a website, you no doubt get several emails like the following:

Mr. Webmaster
Hello, my name is Mrs Website Owner; I work for www.keyword1-keyword2.co.uk/ and I saw your site http://www.txt2day.com/ and I would like to make a link trade with you.
Our policy is to only work with a 3-way link trade. If you are interested in become our link partner please reply me. I will be waiting for.
If you are in agreement to adding my link to your page
please add my link to the site with this specifications:
Link text: unlock nokia
URL: http://differenturl.co.uk/
Description: unlock nokia
Thanks for your time

Seems ordinary right? It’s a related link so many people would be inclined to accept but there’s a few problems:

  1. This is a very generic auto generated email. It tells me that you didn’t even look at my site and you have no idea what you may be linking to – that’s not very helpful to your users. Know how I know? Because txt2day.com doesn’t even have a links page! Also, please don’t call me Mr. Webmaster. Mr. Webmaster is my dad – I’m Ryan, or Mr. Jones.
  2. The 3 way link trade tells me you’re only interested in PageRank. Again, not very helpful to my users. This makes a flag go off in my head saying “I’m probably not going to get any traffic from this link.”
  3. Your link text and description don’t make any sense. A link that just says “unlock nokia” and nothing else doesn’t tell your potential visitors anything about the site they’re visiting. Remember visitors? Some of them don’t come from Google.

Now, let’s look at the actual websites you’re proposing I trade links with.

The first thing I see when clicking on the link in your email is this:

Cellular Unlocking | Unlock Nokia | Nokia Unlock | Unlock Cellular | Unlock Mobile | Unlocking Nokia Mobile | Unlocking Nokia Phone | Nokia Cellular | Nokia Unlocking

These aren’t links.. it’s just text at the top of the webpage. How is that helpful to anybody? It looks like keyword spam to me.

The biggest problem though is that there isn’t a links page. I clicked every link on your homepage and didn’t get to the links page. I searched some of your sub pages, but didn’t see a links page either. If I couldn’t find the links page what makes you think somebody who’s NOT looking for it might stumble upon it? Is it even connected to your site?

When I clicked the 2nd link I saw even bigger problems. Both sites are the exact same text with just different images. In fact, you seem to have 3 sites all with the same content. The content is so good though that Anna H. managed to write in to all 3 of them with the same testimonial!

If I were you I wouldn’t worry about trying to find more reciprocal links. The reason your sites aren’t showing up in Google is because of things like spammy keywords and duplicate content. Your service is something my users may be interested in, but there’s no way I’m going to give you a link until you clean up these other problems.

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