Search Engine Watch sat down recently with Sloof Lirpa, the reclusive founder and director of the Sloof Lirpa Center for the Study of Long Tail Profitability. Dr. Lirpa received his PhD from Cornell University, where he studied with Gerard Salton, a pioneer in the field of information retrieval, the academic discipline which forms the foundation of modern search.
Another graduate student who studied with Salton is Amit Singhal, the Google Fellow who has been especially focused on “helping people find high-quality sites in Google’s search results.” This includes the “Panda” changes that tackled the difficult task of algorithmically assessing website quality.
According to his profile on Google+, Singhal has worked in search for over 20 years – the first 10 as an academic and the last 10 at Google. He says, “I am a search geek. I love search.”
On May 6, 2011, Singhal posted what he called "guidance" to webmasters in the form of 23 questions they should ask themselves as they went about recovering from the Panda algorithm change and started to focus on “delivering the best possible experience for users.”
Of course, Singhal didn't disclose the actual ranking signals used in Google’s algorithms because he didn't want folks to game their search results. However, if you want to step into Singhal’s mindset, then analyzing Dr. Lirpa’s answers to the questions below will provide some guidance on how his former colleague at Cornell may also be looking at the issue.
The Sloof Lirpa Center (SLC) hasn’t been heard from since April 1, 2007, when it discovered a critical vulnerability in Google AdSense code and issued a security alert bulletin to all web site owners and bloggers. Previous warnings from the SLC included, “Long tail getting longer, bigger, AdSense not sharing.”
SEW’s exclusive interview with Dr. Lirpa covered a wide range of search engine industry issues, from search engine optimization (SEO) to pay-per-click advertising (PPC). You can watch the video interview that is embedded in this post or read the full transcript of the interview questions and answers below.
Q. How many link baiters does it take to change a light bulb?
A. None. All you have to do is get a bunch of high-powered people to point to the light bulb and Google will take care of the rest.
Q. What do black hat SEOs eat on Thanksgiving?
A. Keyword stuffing.
Q. What’s likely to get your ship sunk by pirates?
A. Canonical issues.
Q. What should you do if your site is ranking #1 in Google?
A. See what happens if you turn your personalized search off.
Q. I hear a couple at Google just had twins.
A. Yes, it was the first time they were happy with duplicate content.
Q. Why don’t SEOs ever play golf?
A. They’re afraid of the sandbox.
Q. Why do white hat SEOs always live in a good suburb?
A. To avoid a bad neighborhood.
Q. What does a web analytics evangelist drink out of when partying hard?
A. A conversion funnel.
Q. What do you call a dating service for chauvinist lesbians?
A. Broad match.
Q. What is the SEO definition of SPAM?
A. Site Positioned Above Mine.
Based in Washington, D.C., the Sloof Lirpa Center for the Study of Long Tail Profitability has 459 employees, including 458 with PhDs and 1 normal guy. There is also 1 in-house ATM.
The SLC is a member of the Presidential Commission for AdSense Alternatives and an advisor to the House Subcommittee on Transparency. It is also an Olympic Long Tail Judge.
Industry observers have recognized that Sloof Lirpa is "April Fools" spelled backwards, but the search engine industry issues covered in this exclusive interview aren’t jokes. This is a serious business.
Unlike site verification files for Webmaster Tools and Analytics, however, there will only be a limited supply of Bamboo at large for those threatened by the Big Panda update.
Due to the limited supply of Bamboo, Google's Webmaster Central team are now concerned with link farmers creating their own Bamboo files.
Google has always had loopholes. Black hat SEOs have made a living exploiting them, paying the price, and continue on repeating the process.
Google's spam team suggests that those using some kind of farmer routine to generate their own Bamboo files for multiple sites will eventually be caught by another future update, whose name is undisclosed at this time.