001: Bid on your own brand – Lost & Founder – SEO experiment vs Google

August 26, 2019

It’s always hard to start writing: “I don’t have enough time.” “This is not ready yet.” “I’m not sure about that.” So while longer pieces of content are being written (about general marketing *and* digital marketing), let’s just start.

In the last months, I’ve been watching from the bench at what some rockstar marketers do. It’s been a humbling experience and I’ve learned a lot, but then a lot of it got lost in the process. Of course bookmarking pages helps, but without making a mental / written note, it’s just another hyperlink. And once the notes are there, why not share them?

…So on to the show: here are my first notes, covering the Week 34 (Aug 19.-23.) of 2019 A.D.:

» August 19.: To bid or not to bid *on your own* brand name?
» August 20.: I got Rand’s book
» August 23.: Google picked on the wrong guy – and the guy fought back with an experiment

August 19.

To bid or not to bid *on your own* brand name?

On his Twitter feed, Tim Suolo (CMO & Product Advisor of ahrefs.com) tips his hat to “whoever at Google” made the clients to bid *in Google* for their own brand names.

From an ethical (philosophical?) point of view, Tim is right: “I’m not going to pay for my branded keywords“, because:
– if Google looks for relevance when delivering results to search users;
– and a company’s name is one of the most relevant parts about it;
– and no one else has that specific name;
– then when a user searches for the specific company name, they should be top of the list… right?

In theory, and in a perfect world, this should work. However, in highly competitive markets, it does not; therefore:

1. Bidding on your own keywords can be a defensive strategy

Some twitter users were quick to point out that bidding on your own keywords is a defensive strategy: “3 of your competitors are bidding on your brand name. And surprise surprise: suddenly you’re the 4th position in the SERPs for your own brand. Oh, you’re the first one organic. But who cares?

Of course, screenshots came up of ahrefs.com and its competitors (Moz, SEMrush) bidding on each other’ brand names; and even Microsoft topping Google for “google ads” searches. Whatever brings highest revenue for Google, I guess…

2. It can be a good deal

According to another opinion“Branded keyword bid is usually very low and with the best conversion rates.”

But also, “Your brand name and its variations […] will have high CTR and QS, all of which will boost your ad account“.

…So with a small cost you keep the competition away and increase your traffic quality.

3. You should always test for your own digital marketing context…

…and decide what works for you. (Which sounds a lot like “it depends”.)

August 20.

I got Rand’s book

One of the greatest people in digital marketing landscape is probably Rand Fishkin. Founder of Moz.com (SEO Software, Tools & Resources for Smarter Marketing), he then left to start SparkToro (A Search Engine for Audience Intelligence).

I don’t remember how I stumbled upon his Twitter account (well, the world of SEO is pretty small), but soon afterwards he started featuring into other people’s mentions, interviews, podcasts etc. So it was interesting to hear him talk about SparkToro (the challenges, the work, his partnering-up with his co-founder) – and that was probably the first time ever when entrepreneurship got de-glamourized (is this a word?).

Although aware that “Rand has a book“, I was never *that* curious to actually buy it – until my own “entrepreneurship thing” needed some redirecting. So finally, here it is: “Lost and Founder: A Painfully Honest Field Guide to the Startup World“. Wow! Being a (tech-)founder is actually painful by default? It’s not enough to have an idea and work hard? What more is there to it?


What is the book like?

Several days into the book, few things are apparent:

1. You are not alone, and you are not unique in feeling the pain of starting-up.

2. When talking to people with similar experiences, you can get a better sense of what others are going through, and learn from them.

3. Rand offers a set of “cheatcodes” to guide you through the process.


My favourite quote (15% into the book):

“In my third year as a first-time, what-the-hell-am-I-doing-CEO, I got an email from a Seattle entrepreneur I deeply respected, inviting me to join a local group of startup movers and shakers at a local bar. […] These were founders and technologists I’d read about but never thought I’d meet – basically the coolest nerds in my universe. […] These men and women were scared, just like me. They were uncertain. They struggled, they felt fear. They needed help. Those who’d been through an experience gave advice and offerred assistance to the first-timers. […] No one pretended to have all the answers, but when someone had insight, they opened up.”

Yay. Should I write a full review when done?

QUICK POLL: would you want to read a review of the book?

The poll will be open until October 1., 2019. I guess the book should be done by then 🙂

August 23.

Google picked on the wrong guy – and the guy fought back with an experiment

It all started with a tweet from Dejan: “Someone at Google just issued a manual action for the entire dejanseo.com.au domain for unnatural links. I haven’t built a single link in probably five years and if there was anything suspicious I added it to our disavow file. I am livid. 🤬”

It’s bad. Really bad. As per Google: “Pages affected by manual actions can see reduced display features, lower ranking or even removal from Google Search results.”

For a SEO consultant, this is professional-suicide bad. And knowing that Dejan is a master experimenter, everyone thought that maaaybe he screwed up something. But that’s not it, this time: “We did experiment a lot in the past. Nothing so bad that you can’t find me for the brand name.

Who is this guy?

DEJAN is an Australian search marketing company with worldwide recognition for marketing excellence and innovation. We specialise in technical and strategic SEO (search engine optimisation) solutions designed to drive traffic and sales to local business, e-Commerce and corporate websites.

Worldwide recognition? Many: from CBS and Forbes, to *the* Search Engine Journal, Moz (see above) and HubSpot.

In my ahrefs console, I can see they are (were) doing great:

What is the regular solution?

Google has a standard procedure for these cases: submit a request; get assessed; have your situation solved (or not). And even if people brought Google’s @JohnMu into it, DEJAN was pretty straightforward:

There should be no preferential treatment here. That said, you all know me, and this means there will be nothing ‘normal’ about what I do next.

What is Dejan’s solution?

I’m not playing their stupid game though. We’re dumping domain tonight and moving to a new one.

I always wanted to do this. It will be an amazing case study. Or a terrible one 🙂 We’ll learn from it one way or the other.

My biggest SEO experiment has just begun!
1. New domain: dejanmarketing.com
2. Will not 301 anything.
3. Will ask everyone to update links.
After this I expect maybe 20% of my previous link profile at least, up to 50% if I’m lucky.

Did he get results?

Now I stopped watching from the bench and promised to send him links: so here’s a second one, pointing to his link migration progress.

The SEO community started paying attention and migrating their links. As of my August 25.’s ahrefs dashboard, this is how it goes. It’s very early and far from great, but I’m sure it will get there soon:

Digital marketing with balls

Not everyone has @dejanseo’s expertise (nor the balls). So obviously “don’t try this at home”.

Then, I keep telling this to friends and clients (several of them only in the last week): be selective with your inbound links; make sure you only keep the healthy ones; disavow everything that has the slightest potential to bring your account quality down.

Do *you* need support? Just drop us an email. ✉