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Mar 18, 2008

SEO or 'Flypaper Effect' for Attracting Readers

What draws more readers: search engine optimization or the 'flypaper effect'?

SEM and SEO Revisited

What is Search Engine Optimization (SEO)? Publishers are advised to create long lists of keyword phrases and include them on pages as META tags. This is also called natural or organic search clicks. 

Ranking of pages impact the order of search results. 'Black hat SEO' techniques spam the ranking system. When caught, those sites are banned.

You can also buy keywords to attract readers with that interest. This is paid search. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) attempts to manage hundreds to thousands of keywords; and identify those that have high returns.

Publishers have been intrigued by SEM, SEO as a means to draw users.
Stanford GSB Alums,

My firm recently invested in Sacramento’s largest plumbing company and we’re interested in increasing their internet presence, improving their website’s design, and performing an appropriate amount of Search Engine Optimization on the existing site.

I’m sure there are folks out there with a ton of knowledge about how to do this or whom we should contact for this. We have one quote for a 12-mo contract on just the search engine optimization piece, but we’d like a better idea of (a) the services that are available, (b) the cost/benefit of the various solutions, and (c) the price of said options.
When each page competes with trillions of pages, keywords don't work well.
  • Common words like 'economics' can be used by millions of pages. Thus, they don't differentiate your page.
  • Most keywords have synonyms. Thus, keyword lists become long.
When existing publishers examine the list of terms used by visitors to find your site, they find that it is not keywords, but the 'flypaper effect' described below.

What Is the 'Flypaper Effect'?

Newspaper publishers implicitly understand the 'flypaper effect'.


The basic idea is that people using search engines look first for themselves and then for the subjects nearest and dearest to them. Hence you can use a targeted approach or a general approach to attract the people you want to get in touch with.

With the targeted approach, to reach a particular person and/or particular company, create a simple Web page that mentions that person or company. Say good things about them. Say something about the things you could do to help them. Make a page that you'd really like them to see. Make sure the name is in the HTML title and the first couple lines of text. Then if they look for themselves, they are likely to find you. (There are no guarantees, but it's worth a try; and if they do contact you, the conversation starts on a very different level than if you had tried to contact them first.)

As an example of the general approach, at my Web site I have a list of every book I've read for the last 38 years. It's just a list. When I posted it, I doubted that anyone would be interested. I posted it as a lark, for the fun of it. But because of search engines it draws lots of traffic to my site. I've gotten email from authors, agents, and publishers who found the list either looking for themselves or looking for books they have been involved with. I've also gotten lots of good correspondence from other people who love to read.

And, yes, you can use this approach to try to find a job. Just post your resume at your Web site. But sure that the main characteristics that a potential employer would be looking for appear in the HTML title and the first couple lines of text. And to be sure it gets indexed promptly, go to AltaVista http://www.altavista.digital.com/ and at the bottom of the page click on ADD URL and enter the URL for that particular page.

My wife was recently looking for a job. Newspaper ads and job-focused Web sites didn't get her anywhere. Then she got a call from a headhunter who had found her resume at our little Web site...

-- Richard Seltzer


From: mailto:Shinnick@media-wave.comDate: Fri, 30 Aug 96 12:17 PDT

The flypaper observation is interesting. It is really what community newspapers have done for years to keep their circulation churning and make the paper valuable to the advertisers. In the sports sections they always carry every name of every little league player, teenage football player, etc, knowing that all the kids will look for their names, all the grandmothers and ants will look, as well as dad and his buddies.

I do it to a certain extent with my magazine. I figure there must be five hundred different names in each issue, and all of that is uploaded, eventually, to the web site. It might be one reason I have had reasonable hits since the beginning.

John Shinnick, Editor/Publisher, Media Wave Magazine

Silicon Alley, Techcrunch, and Venture Beat cover new digital media companies. Engadget and Gizmodo cover new gadgets. The steady stream of names draws like flypaper.

This blog's list of hundreds of AdNets is a top draw. Acronyms like AdNet, IChannel, and MaSP work well, especially when used in a compound search of many terms.


Unique lists of names, products, places, acronyms, trademarks, books, movies, music... are more likely to draw visitors than keywords.

What has been your experience?

(c) Dash Chang, 2008

 Fred / A VC:
Where My Traffic Comes From  —  Every once in a while I like to show some analytics about this blog.  —  I get the sense that the sources of traffic to this blog have been changing recently.  Let's start by comparing the high level sources of traffic to this blog in the first quarter of 2007 vs the first quarter of 2008


  1. Well, it turns out a lot of other people don’t know that Stearns has an “a” in it. Overnight, I started getting an avalanche of traffic because the post was ranking for searches with the keyword “Bear Sterns” — after I corrected the error, it started to rank for searches with with correct spelling.

  2. 50 Social Sites That Every Business Needs a Presence on
    Web sites to help your company network, advertise recruit and more.
    By Inside CRM Editors on January 28, 2008

    If your business limits its online presence to advertising banners and blogging, it's missing out. The Internet provides powerful networking opportunities that allow users to effectively target their audience by logging on to social sites like LinkedIn, Digg and more. Take advantage of these tools by asserting your company's presence online and reaching more potential customers, business partners and employees.


    Ed: More flypaper opportunities.


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