MovableBlog: How I Won the Xoduszero Contest
August 11, 2004
I won the Monsterhosting.ca Canadian Search Engine Optimization Contest, which was to become #1 for the made-up keyword Xoduszero. I'm writing this on my new, very pretty, 17-inch Flatron L1710S. Even though I don't believe in Him, it is now clear to me that the good Lord above did not intend man to surf the Internet on a flickering Dell 15-inch CRT monitor. Not that I'm going to throw away the old monitor: I'm seriously considering setting up a dual-monitor system, the one thing holding me back being the fact that I will never want to go to a single-monitor setup ever again.
The reason I won the contest is very simple: I had pre-existing Pagerank. I'm linked in the Open Directory, which, I understand, also matters. Oh, and I asked for (and received) a Google Bomb. I thank those that linked to me. To pre-emptively thank those that linked to me, I added to the Xoduszero article, in the "Extended Entry", a little PHP script that took the RSS feed of a Technorati watch for the permanent link (hypocrisy!) showing an unordered list of those who linked to that post. The code is very similar to the code to integrate del.iciou.us using PHP. I also linked to the entry from my other weblogs—with their own pre-existing Pagerank—and it was automatically syndicated in at least 4 places, 3 of which I have admin access to. (The one I knew about but don't have admin access to is the MT-Plugins syndication page.) Let the record reflect that the syndicating sites existed before I even heard of the contest.
Syndication helped increase my chances of winning. So did the bloggers who linked to me. I'm not entirely convinced that valid XHTML code really helps that much in one's ranking, but I'll be happy to delete this sentence and link to someone who can provide me with a concrete example. The reason, I think, people linked to me was because many had read this site previously, thought it a useful addition to the weblog community, and were nice enough to Google-bomb me to win a $500 monitor ($600 including taxes). Anil Dash wrote, when he linked to the page declaring him the winner of the search engine optimization contest he entered, "remember, bloggers, use your pagerank for good, not evil". Offering to donate to charity if I won was my way of doing good (same with automatically linking back to the weblogs that linked to the Xoduszero post, using Technorati, which, helpfully, also kept the entry automatically updated throughout the month).
A word about the other competitors. At the end of the competition, there were three weblogs in the top 10: mine, Roland's (he was not an entrant, and as disclosure, he is a colleague, but he linked me of his own volition), and the Xoduszero SEO Blog. I imagine that if that last one was updated a little more frequently—a lot more frequently, since it was updated twice—it had the best chance to win. The other "static" sites were all nonsense, one even making up a definition of Xoduszero to give an official air to it. The Xoduszero SEO Blog writer, though, even considered donating to the Vancouver Community Network, the non-profit ISP for low-income Vancouver residents, that I donated to, because the writer once worked for VCN. If it wasn't me who won (hey, I gotta look out for #1 here), I would have liked to see it win, because it would prove that actual, interesting content wins over keyword stuffing and link spamming.
Did I learn anything from it? Not really. I already knew weblogs and their individual pages had relatively high-ranking in search engines. The neat thing about search-engine ranking contests, though, is that there is material incentive for people other than search engine optimization experts to participate, and then when it's over, to go back and analyze what search engine optimization techniques work and which don't. So far, after Anil Dash's victory, weblogs are 2 for 3, his win coming in the second round of the Nigritude Ultramarine contest (and coming a close second in the first round). If there's ever a business case for blogging, showing that weblogs can get you high-ranking for specialized keywords is a pretty compelling one.