Unequivocal Proof of Effective SEO & Marketing Techniques

I saw an email today with the subject line of PROVEN Adsense Templates, but given Google's recent change of TOS how can they be proven? And what are they proven to do? Are they optimized for earnings so much that they cut into the site's authority or linkworthiness? This template is probably proven
but also is useless to people visiting the site.

If your site design looks similar to designs of sites that were optimized for earnings first will people think lowly of your site because of the information quality of similar sites?

Yesterday one of my AdSense sites made about $500. The same site made $600 a month just over 6 months ago, and it is still growing quickly, does not look like an obvious AdSense site, and is still gets many organic citations. Is that proven? Well to me it is, but there would be no reason to put that URL out there as an example site unless I was trying to use that for self promotion. I probably could bump that same site to $700 a day if I maximized its current earning potential, but that would be at the expense of future earnings.

The idea of proof in marketing techniques is silly because invariably consumer habits and markets shift. Read some old articles about making money from banners and I bet the author will sound short-sighted.

SEO can change even quicker than content formatting strategies, and there is a sea of outdated facts to swim through on the path to learning SEO. In something like SEO a technique may only be effective because it is rarely used, and by the time everyone knows to do it the relative value of manipulating that variable is reduced to where the ROI is nowhere near as good as it once was, and if excessive manipulation of one variable becomes so important to your strategy

  • Might search engines discount sites with similar footprints if that footprint is generally associated with low information quality?

  • Might a former signal of quality be turned into a signal of low quality used for demotion?
  • Might pushing too far on some fronts cost you the ability to pick up other signs of quality?
  • Might you be missing easy opportunities to create legitimate value in your marketplace by filling market needs that have gone unserved if you spend too much time thinking about market manipulation from an algorithmic perspective?

Some people using outdated techniques will ask to know everything you do and call your stuff rubbish if you don't share it (some guy going by the name of DomainDrivers recently did this on my blog here and then pitched similar self-promotional stuff on LED Digest), but why be specific beyond the point of being useful? One of the biggest problems with Internet marketing in general is that we read one article at a time, and until you have some experience and a solid framework set up you think one idea is the key. And then you read the next article and suddenly that is the most important thing.

People like the idea of neutrality and the idea of proof, but ultimately beyond self promotional purposes those words rarely have much value. If you are too systematic in your marketing you miss understanding some of the synergistic opportunities created by your brand and market position. If you optimize for any one aspect too much then you increase short term earnings at the expense of your long-term profit potential. Effective optimization is realizing that there are many stakeholders in your site, and creating cost effective ways to as many of them as you can.

Unless someone is a great friend helping another friend you won't get told exactly where to do exactly what works at a set price. The reasons are many fold:

  • every market is unique

  • every site is unique
  • we all know markets shift
  • if there is an exact known cheap formula and it is exactly shared we reduce our work to the value of commodity workers in 3rd world countries, who we soon will be competing with... as an example, I have had offers for some of my high ranking domains from people who I was almost certain were low waged and in third world countries
  • how can we justify charging our clients some rate for our work then sharing everything we did together with all their competitors?
  • the whole reason many techniques work is that few people use or abuse them relative to how often they occur as natural parts of the web. share all your tricks and secrets and all you do is push yourself toward becoming a commodity.
  • the whole reason reciprocal links diminished in value and effectiveness because the technique has been abused and is generally associated with low information quality
  • any real website with a real brand should have some intrinsic value associated with it that is not easy for competitors to duplicate
  • you can push frameworks of thinking and observed general algorithmic trends, but there is never a point in giving exact details of everything you do on one specific site unless your goal is to get media coverage for your own brand and/or that site and use THAT as a competitive advantage.

The value of any web page or idea is next to nothing until you add marketing experience and context to it. The web is a series of incomplete thoughts. All information is biased. And almost all of it is self promotional in nature, especially if it is packaged as proven or formatted as facts.

Published: January 11, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing


January 11, 2007 - 3:26am

That is precisely why I think that ReviewMe and similar schemes will be unsuccessful in the long term.

Short term aside, creative white hats should be happy about improved algorithms, they'll make the job easier in the long run.

January 11, 2007 - 3:34am

Every business model, market, and marketing method is successful or unsuccessful based largely on market timing. ReviewMe may have actually been a bit ahead of the market, but those who are currently using it (well at least a couple friends I regularly talk to and I) know that the ROI can be quite nice.

If it gets abused it will turn to trash, but that is precisely why there are so many self-correcting feedback loops baked into preventing abusing the model:

  • you can't require positive posts - will prevent junky sites or business models from even wanting to be reviewed
  • publishers decide what they want to review - forces relevancy
  • no link requirement - such that people are buying reviews, not links
  • blog readers - if the reviews are too promotional flame comments will pour into the blog and the blog will lose readers
January 11, 2007 - 4:42am

blog readers - if the reviews are too promotional flame comments will pour into the blog and the blog will lose readers

That's certainly been a factor in my declining a recent review. I'm not sure I'll be doing paid a review again on my "personal" blog, even with the feedback loops. From a business point of view that's leaving money on the table, but everyone's got their own line in the sand especially when it comes to something like a personal blog.

On the other hand, if I decided to retarget/rebrand and monetise it properly, then I might find a way to make it work in a way I'd be happy with.

I think Joel says it very well:

These gifts reduce the public trust in blogs. Recently I wrote a nice article, for example, about Sonos. I bought the system with my own money, liked it, thought it had some great UI that programmers should pay attention to. Most people understood the article to be what it was: a positive review about a good product, influenced only by the fact that the product was good. But some people thought it was just a paid advertisement.

This is the most frustrating thing about the practice of giving bloggers free stuff: it pisses in the well, reducing the credibility of all blogs. I'm upset that people trust me less because of the behavior of other bloggers. Don't even get me started about PayPerPost.

Ref: joelonsoftware.com/items/2006/12/28.html

I don't want to piss in my own well, nevermind anyone elses.

Big John
January 11, 2007 - 6:03am

Yet another whiney post. Aaron, I sure wish you'd come up with blog post topics WITHOUT bitching about something you dislike.

January 11, 2007 - 6:08am

I think you have to piss in someone's well to gain wealth and influence. Some people would like you to believe that the best product wins, but people wouldn't spend so much money on advertising, marketing, and manipulating markets if this were true.

Think of how many people sent you off target junk mail and how many trees died for messages you discarded as junk.

Hi Big John
I didn't realize I was blogging for a troll commenter. I will consider your comments when writing future posts, especially if I write about useless comment trolls.

January 11, 2007 - 8:22am

Template based adsense mass produced crap will be filtered out in the future. It just a future version of duplicate content.

Credibility is where it is at if you can honestly say an essay article or website will be cited in 10 20 or perhaps even 100 years you have a winner.

I do not agree with your thought you have to piss in someones well to gain wealth and influence, actually provide them with clean sweet water and you will do much better.

January 11, 2007 - 8:50am

Hi Sam
But in the business world there are very few businesses based on pure clean water, and to get to the level where you can provide something pure and good you typically have to sell off a piece of yourself to investors who are not interested in the longterm health of the world.

For example, while Google does a great job with search they also pay for a large portion of the spam creation to be able to fund their search dominance and expansion into other markets.

January 11, 2007 - 8:58am

Well, for me, he proof of a successful SEO and a marketer has always been in his past projects. It is not the things he/she did on them, it is how successful the sites were at the time. As you said, market shifts, and real marketers/SEOs will always learn new things to deliver results. That's the type of a SEO I'd seek, if I were a client.

January 11, 2007 - 9:54am

ReviewMe is a cool idea. One company I liked and even used contacted me to write a review about them. I did that spent 15 minutes on that because I knew about them and got some money for a nice dinner.

I do some work in a "cool niche" and for that its even more important not to sell out and be picky what you promote. Too many people just see the money and sell their credibility.

January 11, 2007 - 2:01pm

There is nothing specifically wrong with using templates as a starting block for developing a site.

I am sure Chris uses a lot of his Cutline code base when developing custom themes for many sites.

Ultimately the right site design will fulfil 2 desired results.

1. SEO Friendly
2. Encourage the desired action

As an example, with themes designed for MFA sites, if you place your subscription box where you would normally place a box advert, you can totally change the desired action and look/feel of the site.

As for ReviewMe, pick and choose your opportunities. No one forces you to write about a particular site.

January 11, 2007 - 9:03pm

First, we don't yet have an official blog, but I do update on a regular basis with information relavent to our market. I have yet to post ads or ad-sense on our site and have just relied on providing a product that people want. Our SEO has taken about a year but we have grown from about 100 visits per day to over 500. I believe because we have taken the long-term approach our traffic will be sustainable.

January 11, 2007 - 9:38pm

I did a simple test using crazyegg heatmaps on a couple of my sites to see where people were clicking in Adsense.

The funny part is they click in areas that are clearly highlighted as Google Ads and ignore the blended areas.

Looks like those who click like Adsense to shop for products. That's right, consumers use Adsense to find stuff!


No comment on reviewme :)

January 11, 2007 - 10:16pm

Easy to draw conclusions from one site. But the conclusions may not be accurate.

January 12, 2007 - 2:34am

"If you optimize for any one aspect too much then you increase short term earnings at the expense of your long-term profit potential."

This is spot on and can be applied to so many things. Being strategic and using a wider footprint in methods (be it in specific SEO techniques or marketing or PR or whatever) creates a more stable foundation. It also can make it tougher for competitors to duplicate your efforts.

As for the comments re: reviewme -- I just think of it as another option for marketing. I wouldn't hesitate to use it given the right product / website / content and I'm sure it can be quite effective. It's unique and one of the killer aspects of the service is that it can open you to a totally new audience being that it's so different from other marketing opportunities. Add it to the linking / seo / social media / pr / relationship / branding toolkit.

January 12, 2007 - 4:52am

I said "I did a simple test using crazyegg heatmaps on a couple of my sites"

BUT I will run a test for a week long next to confirm what I believe is true.

A quality site with good content does not require trickery.

January 12, 2007 - 5:11am

Someone has a quality site (whatever that is) and tests to find results with a certain intent in mind. They find their results came out as expected and that trickery (whatever that is) is not required.

Adam Audette
January 12, 2007 - 5:56am

whoops - looks like i stepped in the middle of an aaron / Aaron stand off

*backs away from laptop*

January 12, 2007 - 6:43am

"But in the business world there are very few businesses based on pure clean water, and to get to the level where you can provide something pure and good you typically have to sell off a piece of yourself to investors who are not interested in the longterm health of the world."

I wish I could disagree with you on this but yes life is difficult and dirty at times.
Now that you have acheived this level of success what are you going to do to change this situation? You know what I support, what are your future plans? The bottom line is if we don't each do something to change the "sell part of yourself" then it will never change. Candidly I do not think some of my top ten list know how much they could help make the world better. I promise you they all will in 07.

January 12, 2007 - 7:22am

Adam Audette - No argument here, just giving an example of how you can prove something as "true" with a little crazyegg goodness. ;o)

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