Marketing, Branding, Feedback, & Network Stability

I went to Affiliate Summit this week. I probably could have went to more sessions than I did, but I had too much fun hanging out with the TLA crew.

I did see the keynote speech by Jim Bouton. His thesis for success was that you must be persistent and you must love the process of whatever you are doing. Jim made it to the majors twice, co-created Big League Chew, and wrote a groundbreaking book titled Ball Four, which in many ways changed the way baseball operated as a business. I have attended many conferences, and it seems like most everyone says the same thing, but with their spin on it (based largely on their own experiences). Go to SXSW and you will hear how important design, standards, and blogging are. And you will hear how you have to be persistent and work hard and keep learning, etc (that is generally the thing you hear everywhere, that and maybe if someone had good market timing they say they were lucky too).

At Affiliate Summit I also listened to Rosalind Gardner offer affiliate marketing tips. I think she is highly focused on getting email addresses to create large targeted mailing lists and use pay per click to protect your site from the engines. Her tips for success seemed similar to things Jim Bouton would say, I would post here, or things I have read on many SEO forums. The one downside I felt in her speech was that she really talked down on SEO as though it was not as reliable, predictable, and as safe as pay per click marketing.

While my position is largely biased by my own experiences, I never really understand when people say pay per click is going to be more reliable long-term than SEO is. All of the markets are growing increasingly more competitive. With PPC someone can overspend you out of the market, and the market makers weed noise from the market. Both of which result in many casualties.

People can also spam the heck out of email too, which may limit how effective email is. And what happens when the major email providers allow more targeted ad buys on their email products? Competitors to your business may subscribe to your newsletter and bid against its contents to show up wherever you are.

With SEO, if you have good market timing and can create better ideas than the competition you carve out a market position and then are sorta stuck there, with the help of reinforcing links. I recently launched that SEO for Firefox extension. Assuming I keep the software functional the download page will probably rank in the top 5 for SEO Firefox and Firefox SEO for years.

The best converting terms are typically brand related terms and search is about communication. As long as you build a brand and gain mindshare search engines will deliver an irrelevant user experience if your site is not showing up.

In some cases it makes sense to buy mindshare, even if it only barely pays for itself and lowers your overall margins. Why? Because it provides another lead source and strengthens your overall brand awareness and mindshare (and, of course, exposure leads to more exposure).

I spend about $1,000 a month on AdSense just breaking even on the ads because the additional 12 or so unit sales does not increase my customer service load by much, but the $1,000 ad cost provides millions of ad impressions and increased mindshare. If I ever need to cut that ad cost I can.

Once people see your brand enough they will assume you are successful and offer free honest feedback. Exposure not only leads to more exposure, but it seems the less you need help the more people are willing to help you. And they may offer you free help that is better than anything you could have paid for.

Using any single medium as your exclusive lead provider is going to be risky, but by using multiple you can make your business profile less risky.

Published: July 14, 2006 by Aaron Wall in marketing


July 14, 2006 - 5:02am

I never assume anything. :)

But you're right about the help thing... and it's not just because of perceived success. It's all wrapped up in the value proposition you deliver daily, and the desire for others to associate with it in an (almost) altruistic way.

July 14, 2006 - 6:07am

This post is very guerilla marketing of you. But it is also very true. People forget that impressions also matter. Nice post

July 14, 2006 - 9:53am

It is not so far-sighted to say that PPC is better than SEO, indeed. Great content can drive traffic, links and increase conversions greatly. Can PPC do that for free? Don't think so.

Nice review, too :)

July 14, 2006 - 8:33pm

The day I stopped focusing on just one traffic source (SEO) and started branching out, was the day my SEO efforts really seemed to start gaining traction - strangely enough.

July 15, 2006 - 5:24am

I always find it funny how you have to argue your point in nearly every blog post... Why don't you try giving some real advice without the agression towards others? Did you have a rough childhood? Did you get picked on as a kid? Your posts always seem to ooze a lack of self-confidence. Rosalind Gardner happens to have 10 times the success you have online, yet, the almighty Aaron Wall is "always" right.

July 15, 2006 - 7:49am

Hi Robin
Where did you get that 10X figure from?

I am not saying I am always right. I often admit that I screw things up, and even stated that I was stating my own bias in the above post (unless, of course, you chose to skip over that just to make your rude - and pointless - comment have purpose).

My point (as it was when I wrote the above post, if you read the whole thing) is that any and all channels are risky if only pursued by themselves. When you combine multiple channels you lower your risk profile.

If you had got the ~50 emails I received over the last two days about businesses being ruined due to the recent Google's AdWords algorithm change maybe you would see that pay per click is not more reliable than organic search. (Or maybe you would still ignore it to leave an arbitrary - and pointless - rude comment.)

I think Rosalind is smart. I would not have listened to her speech unless I thought she had valuable advice. I will probably buy her book and read it in a few weeks. And I have long ago stated that one of my bigger marketing weaknesses was that I did not use email enough. And I stated that I use pay per click marketing in the above post.

Apparently you do not believe in the concept of SEO, or are pissed that I do. So be it.

If you really care about my childhood you can read about it on my about page, which is linked to from every page of the site.

FYI: as a personality flaw, I tend to be more passive aggressive than straight up aggressive. What are your biggest flaws (outside of leaving ignorant - and pointless - blog comments)?

Please feel free to fill me in on your childhood Robin. I am totally interested in it. I value your input, and I want to learn how to leave rude - and pointless - comments on blogs I read.

July 15, 2006 - 10:46am

I used to think that success is a subjective measurement, but since I've come to realize that Google pretty much is in control of the New World Order, I'd say settle it with PageRank -- in which case you win a clean 6 to 5 victory as measured by toolbar Aaron ;-)

July 16, 2006 - 5:01am

Sometimes it pays more to focus on a single aspect of marketing like PPC. If a loss of either all your PPC or natural SE traffic means bankruptcy, thats a good signal you should be looking at alternative channels.

July 16, 2006 - 9:25pm

Aaron, 50 emails from people explaining their businesses had been ruined by Google's Adwords change... Can anyone say "exageration"?

July 16, 2006 - 9:33pm

I did not count the exact number, but it was well north of 20 messages and emails about the AdWords update.

You have to remember I run TW and this site and have thousands of customers. I get lots of email.

A shame you didn't chose to address any of the other points. My ~50 above is far more realistic than your b/s 10X figure.

Can anyone say "troll"?

July 16, 2006 - 9:56pm

Hey Robin, no need for anonymity, lets see the great sites you run!

July 25, 2006 - 7:23pm

Google is rolling out changes too fast too soon.

They should take their time and think twice, maybe conduct polls first before pushing major changes that upset the marketing models that have been working perfectly.

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