How to Redirect Outbound Affiliate Links

Nov 30th

Question: I wanted to link to your book from my site using an affiliate link, but will not be able to put affiliate links on my site, how do I link to pages on my site and have them jump to affiliate links?

Answer: Many affiliates link to theirdomain.com/recommended/product-name/ and then redirect that location either using .htaccess or a PHP jump script. Some affiliates also block the directory of affiliate links using a robots.txt file.

The advantages of doing this are:

  • getting around publishing requirements that prevent you from posting affiliate links to your site

  • potentially shield some of your affiliate footprints from some information retrieval systems (although likely many of them will be able to understand your link relationships to some level based on surfing habits of your visitors). Some affiliates may also cloak their links to show engines links to well trusted sites, but that could be considered shady by some search engines
  • making it harder for newbies to see how to access the affiliate program that you are recommending or that the link is an affiliate link (some people also use a JavaScript scroll-over event that shows the end site URL to further cloak the affiliate relationship)
  • easily change what merchant or what merchant offer is associated with affiliate links throughout a site by changing the one .htaccess or php redirect file

A while ago NotSleepy guest posted about using .htaccess and redirects. You may want to use 302 instead of 301 redirects if you are using .htaccess for your redirects. Here is an easy to use PHP jump script if you would prefer to use that over .htaccess.

The Stuntdubl Manifesto

Nov 30th

I always thought I would be the first SEO to suck a sweet card out of Hugh, but Todd beat me to the punch with this sweet post. Good stuff Todd.

Trusted Branded Sites Adding Interactive Features & Content

Nov 30th

Over the past year large brands have been extending their sites out, adding interactive features which leverage their brand value and trust against niche user generated content. Consider the following:

Many of these sites will rank easy with few external citations. As a marketer, the idea of leveraging the brands of MTV or large magazine sites to rank is quite appealing. Given that people are getting better at creating blended spam (ie: spam that doesn't look like spam) and how many authoritative content aggregation and mainstream media sites are allowing anyone to create content I am curious to see where Google's algorithms are headed next. They probably can't have more than a year left of placing so much trust on the core domain names before Google's SERPs start looking like Swiss spam cheese.

Bidding on Hot Products You Don't Carry

Why are companies that do not currently carry the Nintendo Wii or Sony Playstation 3 bidding on those terms to send customers to pages that do not have the product? Why is it that their landing pages do not offer the option to sign up for priority notification when they become available? How many 10's or 100's of thousands of dollars are these people wasting?

People are getting shot waiting for Playstation 3 systems, and then you have these huge retailers bidding on the associated keywords to throw the traffic away and remind potential customers that they are sold out of the product. Sorta bizzare at both ends, eh?

Designing and Marketing Quality Niche Content Websites

Nov 29th

Niche websites:

You can’t create a site about what’s going on in the plastic industry unless you learn how they think. You gotta pick up some trade papers. Talk to some people inside. So that when you do create you will be authentic and loved. So that you get it. You can’t be fucking pedestrian and set up a site and hope they will come. They may visit but they won’t come back. And if they don’t come back you have lost.

Danny Sullivan is launching Search Engine Land in 2 weeks. NickW is podcasting web dev stuff. Both will surely be great niche websites, although it remains to be seen what sort of brand strength and share of voice SearchEngineWatch.com will have without Danny Sullivan at the helm.

Videos (Google has a clear lead in packaging and aggregating that niche content): You are What You Say and All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Google are both interesting, via Rough Type.

Via Blogoscoped, Google has a clear lead in scanning books

Google, for instance, is digitizing some great libraries. But their contracts (which were actually secret contracts with libraries – which is bizarre, but anyway, they were secret until they got sued out of them by some governments) are under such restrictions that they’re pretty useless... the copies that go back to the libraries. Pretty much Google is trying to set themselves up as the only place to get to these materials; the only library; the only access. The idea of having only one company control the library of human knowledge is a nightmare. I mean this is 1984 – a book about how bad the world would be if this really came about, if a few governments’ control and corporations’ control on information goes too far.

Why Aggregation & Context and Not (Necessarily) Content are King in Entertainment [PDF] - a good piece of research showing why and how Google is gaining leverage daily. Key quote:

Value of aggregation and brands increases with exponential increase in content choice.

Which is another way of saying that it is going to be better off for small players to own a niche than to be a choice within a larger marketplace.

If you own a niche the aggregators NEED you. If you are just another player in a crowded market then it is going to be tough to build much of anything as quality algorithms suck the life out of your market.

Broken Technology

Nov 29th

I hate when technology or forms of communication break or are unreliable...yet as I try to do more faster it keeps happening more and more. Maybe it is just operator error. Recently...

I accidentally labeled a ton of emails as spam in Gmail and now real emails are mixed in about 30,000 + spam emails. In spite of clicking undo afterwords Google didn't undo it.

Google's Gmail spam filters must be using me as the test user who filters out all spam for everyone else. Thanks Google.

I haven't responded to a lot of email recently. I hope to catch up before the week is out. Not sure if I will ever dig through all the mislabeled spam though.

Some jerks have comment spammed some of my blogs so bad that I had to block letters of the alphabet on some of them.

Last weekend I threw my back out playing tennis with my new girlfriend. I have only ever played about a dozen times ever and was serving some serves at about 85 miles an hour with a cutting spin on them. I won, but I wasn't able to walk until today, and it still hurts. Who knew I was such a typical alpha male idiot when it comes to sports? :)

I am bad at talking to San Fransisco area realtors...sorta regret even wanting to rent a place instead of just waiting a year to buy one.. I don't understand how some of them have issues with your credit if your credit scores are nearly perfect, you have no debt, and can pay a whole year lease upfront on a one year lease (even if that is like $40,000). I hate moving when I know that I am just going to move again soon.

A friend of mine had a host that didn't support custom .htaccess. I moved her site and her email worked intermittently off the start. The next day it worked all the time.

I added a ReviewMe ad to Threadwatch yesterday, and it only showed up intermittently until randomly it started showing up all the time today (editing Drupal is not my skill).

I am almost done updating SEO Book. Hope to have a new version out today.

What have you broken recently? What has been broken for you? What do you wish was better or easier?

Finding Link Sources & Building Topical Authority Links

Nov 29th

SEO Question: Many people tell me to get authoritative links. How do I find authoritative links?

SEO Answer: It helps to get links directly from sources that would be considered trusted seed sites in algorithms like TrustRank or topical hub and authority sites in Topic Sensitive PageRank. As TrustRank, Topic Sensitive PageRank [PDF], and other similar trust / topical trust related algorithms flow around the web it also helps to get links from sites that are linked to from seed sites.

Sites like DMOZ, the Yahoo! Directory, and Wikipedia might be considered obvious authorities and trust seed sites, and there are numerous other ways you could find potential trusted seed sites.

One example of a way to find general high authority / high trust domain might be to look for sites that link to multiple trusted related resources in one field that also link to multiple trusted related resources in other fields. For example, you could do something like Yahoo! Search (linkdomain: a couple sites in field 1) AND (linkdomain: a couple sites in field 2).

Sites that you know the brand of even if they are outside your industry, or see ranking across a wide range of queries are also well trusted authoritative domains.

Some algorithms might transfer a lot of trust to anything listed in multiple seed sites. So if you wanted to find what sites were listed in DMOZ and the Yahoo! Directory that link at a competing site you could do a Live search for something like linkdomain:seobook.com linkfromdomain:dmoz.org linkfromdomain:yahoo.com.

Some algorithms may take the top x% of sites from each category of trusted seed sites and consider those as trusted sites as well. The Yahoo! Directory lists sites roughly in terms of authority, so viewing the top sites in a specific category is a good way to find the most authoritative sites in that category.

Yahoo! also paginates results in each category. If you are in need of co-citation in the Yahoo! Directory and your domain lacks adequate authority to be listed on the first page of your category you can buy a category sponsorship for about $100 a month without worrying about Google calling you a link buying spammer or removing your site from the results (even though you are buying an ad for distribution, link equity, and co-citation - typically with more indirect value than direct value).

The Google Directory is powered from DMOZ data, and sorts listings in order of PageRank, so that is another good way to find the top authorities in a specific category. Also when you search the Google Directory for a domain like seobook.com it will show pages listed in the Open Directory that mention that domain.

You could also create a Google Custom Search Engine which was seeded by a seed site such as the Open Directory Project's RDF dump, and then search that for domain mentions.

When looking for topical hubs you could also look at:

  • sites which link to many top ranked authority sites using a tool like hub finder.

  • top ranked sites for related fields broader than yours...for example, if you had an SEO site you can look for top ranked pages and sites about search
  • who links at industry standards and other important documents in your field
  • top ranked sites for your keywords + blog (helps if your topic is somewhat tech or web related in nature)
  • track mentions of competing sites using Google Blogsearch or Technorati
  • topical authority blogs in Technorati
  • once you find a few hubs or authorities use the Google related sites feature to find related sites related:searchenginewatch.com

Another way to get authoritative links is to see what social sites and people outside of your industry are talking about and linking to that is related to your industry or related industries. Think of ways to create related ideas and industry standards.

Yahoo! tends to sort backlinks roughly in terms of authority. In addition, Yahoo! allows you to search for .edu, .gov, .mil, .ac.uk or things with .k12 in the URL. Combine those types of ideas with a specific topic or a link search function to find a targeted link opportunity.

And, if you are into looking at competitive linkage data right in the search results SEO for Firefox is the extension for you.

Google Code Speak - do You Add Value?

Nov 28th

Google representatives often make statements like make sites that are good for users, but they don't tell you what specifically they are looking for to determine the quality of a site because if they did people would exploit it. When Google is using code speak to prevent people from reverse engineering organic search results then perhaps the ends justify the means, but recently it appears that Google has been looking at usage data and signs of trust which may relate to organic search and applying some of those to Google AdWords.

As Google obfuscates the field of SEO with bland double speak, and uses organic search signals as a sign of quality in PPC they are increasing the value of those who take the time to understand what Google is ACTUALLY looking at. They want an informational bias in organic results and a commercial bias in AdWords, but invariably Google is looking to separate signal from noise in organic results and AdWords.

Given how crafty us optimizers are, Google believes a healthy dose of misinformation is key to making that happen. Given how arrogant Google is and how much they believe in the raw power of data you wouldn't think they would need to do that with AdWords.

As Google owns a growing segment of the attention stream, uses vague guidelines that are selectively applied, and make backdoor deals with large publishers they are killing off many business models in aims of improving quality (also known as profit). How much leverage has Google accumulated? The NYT said that ~ 22% of their website visitors come from search engines. Think of how old some of the old media companies are and how long they have built their brands, and they are already that dependant on search. Think of how new web video is, and that there are already reports of it eroding television viewership.

As the web grows the increasing competition and increasing scope of the link graph means that content creators have to keep getting more innovative and give more away to be remarkable, gain mindshare, and build a brand.

Creators are not publishers, and putting the power to publish directly into their hands does not make them publishers. It makes them artists with printing presses. This matters because creative people crave attention in a way publishers do not. Prior to the internet, this didn't make much difference. The expense of publishing and distributing printed material is too great for it to be given away freely and in unlimited quantities -- even vanity press books come with a price tag. Now, however, a single individual can serve an audience in the hundreds of thousands, as a hobby, with nary a publisher in sight.

That is why I feel so strongly that most standards are arbitrary. As long as you reach to your market with passion eventually your market will find you. I am living proof that armatures don't need publishers. As everything moves toward free, attention, trust, and brand will be the only things that makes you a non-commodity. And as long as Google keeps separating signal from noise, and technology keeps making it easier to participate on the web, publishers are going to need to start adding value if they are going to stay relevant.

So sure, Google is right when they say you need to add value, but many businesses operate under the false pretense that they are not going to get marginalized.

Bad Advice That Sounds Good

Nov 25th

Many professional lies are passed off as good information because they are just part of an industry vernacular or learning curve. For example, many people say make quality content, but never attempt to define what quality content is, or even how certain types of quality content are being marginalized by scrapers, social sites, user generated content, automated news sites, and search engines. Bad advice is frequently given out as though it is good advice because

  • people talk in terms of ideals because...

    • they want to justify the time they spent learning what they know

    • they want to justify the career path they chose (which may become a large part of their identity)
    • they buy into white lies that put themselves or others at the top of social networks
    • they get paid more if only a few people can do what they teach (supply vs demand, etc.)
  • professionals want to make their profession seem more complex than it is...
    • to lock new competitors out of their market

    • to feel proud of themselves for the hard work they do and all they know
    • to justify the fees they charge
    • they get paid more if only a few people can do what they teach (supply vs demand, etc.)
  • many people with authority only consider their worldview...
    • because they are insecure or it is all they know

    • or they realize that if they (or the market) were less idealistic they might lose their authority / income / market position
    • they get paid more if only a few people can do what they teach (supply vs demand, etc.)

A few white lies I hate...

  • Create quality content. Why do I hate it? If you don't have much brand recognition higher quallity content will lose out to average content. Most people never talk about the social aspects of the web when saying to create quality content.

  • Don't buy or sell links. Why do I hate it? The major search engines are the largest link brokers. Their guidelines are based on them extracting as much value from the web as possible, and many of them buy and sell links with intent to manipulate their own indexes or pollute other search engines. Most quality links are in one way or another bought. If I package value and give it away and then people link at it then I bought those links. If I list my site in the Yahoo! Directory I bought a listing.
  • Create your website for users, not for search engines. Why do I hate it? Search is marginalizing many publishing business models. To pay for the costs of creating linkworthy content it makes sense to add a significant amount of lower cost highly monetized filler to a website.
  • Used variable width liquid design. Why do I hate it? Using a fixed width design allows you greater control of the readability and ad integration (and thus monetization) for most of your target market on most content sites.
  • Validate your site. Why do I hate it? Most successful sites do not validate.

What web design / web development / SEO white lies do you see most often? Which ones frustrate you?

Free $200 Microsoft AdCenter Ad Coupon! Rock on Live Search!

I just found this great offer for search advertisers. Well worth a look if you are trying to get traffic to your website. Here is a free $200 Microsoft Ad Center promotional code.

Update: It looks like Microsoft no longer offer the $100 or $200 coupons. I did find another great offer that still works though, offering a free $50 credit. Bing and Yahoo! Search expand the reach of your business to millions of monthly users.

Considering that Microsoft's ads are cheaper (because the ad network is newer than AdWords) and their traffic is so clean (they cut out on the dirty syndication partner stuff that Yahoo! once allowed) a free $50 coupon is just like setting up a printing machine for money. I hope they keep building marketshare because they have such high conversion rates and are offering some awesome tools for advertisers.

SEO & the Static vs Active Web

A while ago I made a bunch of posts about search (and the web as a whole) being about communication, but I think the posts were so verbose that nobody cared. :)

Since then I have been playing with social web stuff a good bit more and it is hard to grasp the full potential of it until after you see some of your marketing ideas spread like a weed. I have done well spreading ideas related to SEO, but I really was blown away by the potential when I had ideas not related to SEO that spread fast and far. In A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History Manuel De Landa highlighted that smaller businesses tend to act as research labs for larger ones. Nick Carr highlighted the erosion of blogs from the Technorati top 35 media sites over the past couple years, based on David Sifry's most recent state of the blogosphere post. The problem is not that blogs are less important than they were, it is just that big media is integrating blogging into what they are doing, and are leveraging their other assets to boost the blogs.

As more and more people write online the value of any singular algorithmic exploit is reduced, and the value of creating what people want or being able to influence decision makers and authorities directly goes up. If you are featured in TechCrunch the odds are good that thousands of people will see your product and hundreds of people will link at your site.

How much is a static link in a lower quality directory worth? It is hard to quantify, but as the static portions of the web represent a smaller and smaller portion of the whole, the value of being mentioned there goes down. If you create something that people are actively talking about which quickly spreads the marketing value of that exposure can be far greater than any marketing you could buy, especially if you value your time.

There are many ways to participate in the active web. If you build a finite amount of attention in the marketplace before you need to leverage it then you can use that asset over and over again.

Blogs & Forums: You can leave comments on blogs and forums, or if you are motivated you can create your own blog or community. If you have limited funds to invest you can invest by spending significant time learning your industry and freely linking out to other sites.

Feedback: Before launching an idea ask important members in your community what they think about your idea. Sometimes their feedback can make it far easier for your idea to spread. If they owe you a favor or feel emotionally attached to your idea they may even help you market it for free.

Social News & Social Bookmarking: You can learn a lot by seeing what stories are spreading on various social bookmarking and news sites. Pay attention to article titles, community bias, bias of the marketed content, format of the marketed content, how frequently certain topics appear, and how you can relate your site to topics these communities enjoy.

The Past: It used to be cheaper and easier to directly manipulate the engines by doing things like

  • focus on a highly profitable commercial niche

  • focus your anchor text
  • buy high PageRank links and build many low quality links
  • focus your link equity, pointing links at the page you want to market

But Google filters many obvious bought links, has added cost to low quality links (by making it harder to get in their index and not crawling some sites that have too many low quality links), has a -30 ranking penalty for sites with artificial profiles, and even MSN is getting more aggressive at filtering link spam.

The Present: In many markets it is getting cheaper and easier to manipulate the engines indirectly by participating in the active web, by dong things like

  • creating ideas and content people like and want (even if those ideas do not have a direct monetization model)

  • being willing to go exceptionally niche or exceptionally broad with some content to create an idea which people would be likely to vote for
  • not caring about anchor text
  • not caring about what page they link at (realizing that authoritative links to any page on your site will boost your site's authority and the rankings for all pages on your site, and thus will allow you to monetize your commercial pages from the authority of the linkworthy pages)

The Future: Imagine a day when

  • hardware, software, and bandwidth are free

  • Google and other engines have access to most web usage data
  • most people who use the web run websites
  • the web is a reflection of what most people think

If that happened would you still be able to compete in your vertical? No matter how good any of us are at manipulating engines, invariable for longterm brands and websites it is going to be cheaper to influence people.

Can New Domains Outrank Old Websites in Google?

Nov 21st

SEO Question: I have the same content as a top ranked competing site. Are they outranking me because of their domain age? What can I do to outrank them?

SEO Answer: Competing requires more than just replicating what a competing site has done. Back when search was less sophisticated people had to follow links to get where they wanted to go. Thus directories were more relevant and many sites listed any halfway decent sites in their vertical based on the fact that they were even in the same vertical. With search replacing links as the default navigational scheme you have to do more to be linkworthy.

A site like SeoToday would not get to the top of the search results if it were launched today, but because it was launched many years back and was easy to link at back then it has many authoritative industry related links that help keep it ranked well in Google.

Also think of the search business model as though you are a search engine. To them, being the first person to do something is a sign of quality because to be the first person in a market requires some market timing / knowledge / investment / luck. The people who bet on new markets are in essence rewarded if/when their market takes off, both by self-reinforcing market effects (people being more likely to find / experience / link to top ranked results) and by algorithmic weighting on domain age.

The biggest issue facing search engines is the quality of their results. By relying on old / stale results they require new content producers to do better things than old websites did to steal marketshare. Thus you have to be innovative / offer a better customer experience / be more remarkable to rise to the top of a marketplace.

If you want to outrank established websites you can't just replicate what they have done, you also have to do unique and linkworthy things that will help you overcome their early market lead and the self-reinforcing effects of search.

Overlapping Navigation

Nov 21st

In the past it made sense to cross reference categories and locations to make hundreds of thousands of pages, but with duplicate content filters improving that is a fast track to nowhere. In some cases though it still may make sense to make pages which will still rank for geolocal queries.

One way to do this is to create local pages as their own categories, but to make the page linking to the local pages a category page which shares navigation common to the rest of the section of your site. That will allow you to rank for many modifier rich keyword phrases without requiring you to generate 50 pages per topic.

Creative Process Flipped On Its Head

Nov 21st

Threadless is like a Digg for t-shirts. Tim O'Reilly thinks it is an important step in meshing the web with the physical world. I used to associate wealth with negative ideas until I read this Paul Graham article, which made me realize that you didn't have to be responsible for destroying Earth to be wealthy.

The fight for freedom from censorship is only going to grow as innovative business models undermine many unneeded authority structures. When old authorities try to mesh with new technologies they will create conflicts of interest that prevent them from maintaining their authority.

SEO Tool Updates

Nov 19th

I recently updated a number of my SEO tools, and a few other people recently launched some interesting new search engine marketing tools.

  • Google changed their SERPs so I updated SEO for Firefox.

  • My keyword research tool was endlessly looping when Overture failed. A friend helped me update it to stop doing that. :)
  • All major search engines came together to support an open xml sitemaps standard.
  • on SEM2.0 a PPC keyword research tool named Key Compete was mentioned. It shows you keywords competitors are bidding on by URL, and can be used for keyword ideas for arbitrage plays or authoritative content sites. You know if people are bidding on the keywords that there are going to be relevant ads. If you track your earnings and outbound ad clicks (if you do not want to buy a script for that use the free script here) then when you find an overpriced outbound click you can go buy the keyword list for that advertiser and start cranking out bids or content based on exploiting a great keyword basket or an idiot advertiser. As technology gets cheaper and people keep getting better at packaging highly relevant affordable market research the only thing that will prevent you from becoming commoditized is your brand.
  • In case you missed it, a week or two ago I posted about a few new competitive research tools.

How Do I Get Large Websites Indexed by Google & Other Search Engines?

Nov 19th

SEO Question: I have a 100,000+ page website. Is there any easy way to ensure all major search engines completely index my website?

SEO Answer: Search engines are constantly changing their crawl priorities. Crawl too deeply and get many low quality pages while increasing indexing time and costs. Crawl too shallow and you don't get down to the relevant pages. Crawl depth is a balancing act.

There is no way to ensure all pages get and stay indexed...they change their crawl priorities constantly. Having said that, you can set your site up to make it as crawler friendly as possible.

Five big things to look at are

  • content duplication - are your page titles or meta description tags nearly duplicate (for example thin content pages that are cross referenced by topic and location)? or do other sites publish the same content (for example an affiliate feed or a wikipedia article)? are search engines indexing many pages with similar content (for example different model color or splitting feedback for one item across many pages)?

  • link authority - does your site have real high quality links? how does your link profile compare with leading competing sites? what features or interactive elements are on your site that would make people desire to link to you instead of an older and more established competing site?
  • site growth rate - does your site grow at a rate consistent with its own history? how does your growth rate compare with the growth rate of competing sites in the same vertical?
  • internal link structure - is every valuable page on your site linked to from other pages on your site? do you force search engines to go through long loops rather than providing parallel navigation to similar priority pages? do you link to low value noisy pages (sometimes a search engine indexing less pages is better than more)?
  • technical issues - don't feed the search engines cookies or session IDs, and try to use clean descriptive URLs

Some signs of health are

  • you don't have pages you don't want getting indexed - wasting link equity on low quality pages means you have less authority to spread across your higher quality pages

  • most the pages you want indexed are getting indexed, actively crawled, and are not stuck in Google's supplemental index - supplemental problems and / or reduced indexing or crawl priority are common on sites with heavy content duplication, wonky link profiles, or many dead URLs
  • your site is building natural link equity over time and people are actively talking about your brand - if you have to request every link you get then you are losing market share to competitors who get free high quality editorial links
  • you see a growing traffic trend from search engines for relevant search queries - this is really what matters. this includes getting more traffic, higher quality traffic, and searchers landing on the appropriate page for their query.

things you can do if conditions are less than ideal

  • focus internal link equity at important high value pages (for example, on your internal sitemap consider featuring new product categories, new and seasonal items, or link to your most important categories sitewide)

  • trim the site depth (by placing multiple options on a single page instead of offering many near duplicate pages) or come up with ways to make the page level content more unique (such as user feedback)
  • cut out the fat - if many low value pages are getting indexed block their indexing by doing something like nuking them / not linking to them / integrating their information into other higher value pages
  • use descriptive page relevant URLs / page titles / meta descriptions - this helps ensure the right page ranks for the right query and that search engines will be more inclined to deeply crawl and index your site
  • restructure site to be more top / mid / bottom heavy - if a certain section of your site is overrepresented in the search results consider changing your internal link structure to place more weight on other sections. in addition you can add features or ideas which make the under-represented pages more attractive to link at
  • use Sitemaps - while you should link to all quality pages of your site from your site and use internal link structure to help them understand what pages are important you can also help search engines understand page relationships using the open sitemap standard

Embracing Your Quirkiness

Nov 19th

I recently read a blog post where I was referred to as a superstar, which to me an absurd classification given that I am me. But I do like to think of myself as being citation worthy in nature. Some people are citation worthy because they do great in depth research while others are citation worthy because they are creative or naturally quirky and then there are people who are citation worthy because they can relate complex ideas to easy to understand topics. Some people push buttons or are egotistical / insecure / shy / weird / uncultured / uncouth to the point of being citation worthy.

At times I am all or none of the above. Depending on mood, who I am with, where I am, how I feel, what song is playing, and what dance I am doing.

When I was in the military we had to wear these stupid straps on our glasses in bootcamp. The difference between me and most other people was that when I got to the boat I still wore those stupid straps, largely because glasses gave me a headache if they put pressure on my ears, and largely because I knew it annoyed certain people. At one point I also ate so much bacon that the boat got put on rations so that I personally forced the cooks to fix breakfast. Both of those things made me citation worthy.

I recently met a cool girl and we make up lots of fake words and tease each other for some of the silly things we say or do. In a couple of weeks of hanging out there are dozens of shared bizarre words and experiences. The connections associated with those tags we made up are easy to vividly share and remember because we made them up and only we know what they mean. I think great writing has the ability to make you think the writer was just writing for you.

I went to a Bob Dylan concert with a friend of mine last night, and on the ride home there was a dining place which had neon lights that said bakery and cocktails. And while that may have been dumb marketing for a restaurant to combine those two (who does that?), it also was citation worthy and memorable. And being memorable is about sharing connections. Our imperfections (also known as character) are what make life great.

I saw some people giving speeches at the conference which were well polished and were effective at making the audience yawn. I decided to not polish myself to the point of trying to make myself a perfect speaker. It is not who I am and is not who I want to be...at least not now. Instead I decided I would try to feel comfortable and just make people laugh. I am not sure how well my speech went (Powerpoint online here). If you saw it (or my Q&A Panel) feel free to let me know what you thought below.

If you give into who you are then you are less likely to get burned out and will be harder to replicate. If you have things you feel insecure about or areas where you feel insufficient or inexperienced one of the best things you can do is embrace your default character and let that carry you. If you are following someone else's path you are likely building their brand and reinforcing their market position while undermining or ignoring your core assets. What makes you a non-commodity is just as likely to be your flaws as your skills, so long as you are unafraid of appearing broken, which can go a long way on a network consisting mostly of various manipulative goals and chunks of scattered text.

Authorities, Language, Emotional Connection, and Relational Databases

Nov 18th

Why does Google sponsor spam and tell people to blend their AdSense ads, but try to control other link sales? It is the frame of thinking which allows them to make the most money (don't spam unless you do it with us and give us insider information on your business). If you are afraid of the consequences then you become risk adverse. But you are rarely going to do anything great if you let fear control your actions. It is an epiphany the day you realize that you created enough value that the search engines need you more than you need them. Why does the media like to paint a wall between editorial and content when there is none? Many movies are profitable only because product placement revenues. And many toll booths have ads on them. Think about the toll booths...there only to collect money and slow you down AND they still have ads on them.

Why is Matt Mullenweg so afraid of spam after he stepped his game up a level above anything I would consider doing? Because he feels he has to be for his credibility, especially after botching it up badly in the past.

As a recruiting technique the US government holds pizza parties with 13 year old children, getting them to play video games where the content is about killing people.

"We want kids to come into the Army and feel like they've already been there," said Col. Casey Wardynski, who as director of the Army's office of economic and manpower analysis came up with the idea. "A game is like a team effort, and the Army is very much a team effort. By playing an online, multiplayer game, you can get the feel of being in the Army." - The Washington Post

Yet politicians talk about protecting the children online. Do you notice a moral disconnect here?

If you look at a tag cloud of presidential speeches you won't just find issues that the population find important. You will find some of them scattered in to make the rest of the sales pitch sound legitimate, but you will also find ample amounts of bogus Orwellian language like death tax.

There is no need to repeat what is actually true and believed. Power sources only repeat things because

  • they are untrue or misrepresented

  • they set a frame of thinking to the benefit of the speaker
  • they pull focus from other issues

Why do authority sources hate the idea of openly selling authority? Because if they openly endorsed it then they might not be able to do it themselves, and people openly and honestly selling influence create more value in richer conversations.

Value systems only exist in our minds. The value of asking for feedback is not just in the chance that people give you a better idea, but also their experience and bonding with the idea which turns the feedback giver into a person who is emotionally connected to your brand... which is especially true if you listen to their feedback. The very ability to influence Digg and Wikipedia directly are what make their brands so powerful.

When language is a commodity that is targeted, bought, sold, and repositioned against ever-shifting arbitrary quality guidelines what could be more valuable than asking influential people what words / tags / ideas they relate you to and how you could do a better job of it?

When is Too Much Too Much?

Nov 13th

I feel a bit guilty about blogging with a bit less passion recently, and perhaps coming off as a bit infomercially, but that is largely a function of me taking on far too many things at once while also changing my life REALLY fast. So some of the things I am doing right now include...

  • rewriting my ebook (which has been tougher than expected...not so much due to market shifts, but due to how much I have learned about marketing recently...by playing on the social web and reading books about linguistics, history, markets, value / authority based systems, and business. when my book first was created it was moreless "here is how to spam google" but as time passes it is becoming "everything you need to know about internet marketing"

  • working on the ReviewMe launch (and reading endless streams of feedback that we need to integrate into improving the system)
  • working on Elite Retreat (check out the flames I got here)
  • speaking at Pubcon a couple times this week
  • answering about 100 or so emails every day
  • fighting off about 300 blog comment spams a day - how low is the person who comment spams about the Holocaust and doesn't even check if the links stick? WTF?
  • learning a lot about the social web
  • keeping up with search news (this is getting more difficult daily because Google wants to make any and every type of communication and advertising a free service which runs through Google)
  • helping run Threadwatch (thanks to the editors and community members over there for kicking ass)
  • working for larger corporate clients with the Caveman
  • working on about a half dozen large content websites (including implementing associated viral marketing ideas)
  • I mention some of the viral marketing ideas heavily on this site because to me showing examples really helps solidify what I am trying to say...some people learn much better by seeing or doing than just reading about a concept.

In addition to doing all of that online I have been doing quite a bit offline. And this is what presents the real pinch point because up until a couple months ago just about everything I did revolved around telling myself that it was OK for me to work on the web 18 hours a day. But out of that I was in terrible physical shape, depressed, and quite lonely. I was making comfortably over $1,000 a day, but in spite of sitting in a sweet Aeron chair and having a Tempurpedic bed my back was hurting... I was anything but comfortable, so I decided to start living again. In the last few months:

  • I decided I am moving to San Fransisco bay area before the year is out

  • I started eating healthy (cut the drinking, junk food, and sugar - did you know just how much sugar acts like a hardcore drug?) and started working out (about 3 hours a day) and lost 40 pounds
  • I went from always depressed self destructive guy to always happy guy (and it is really hard to balance how much you work when your motivation, outlook, and perspective on life suddenly and totally flip)
  • I met a kick ass kick ass girl (who played a large roll in all of the above items)

So sorry if I have been spotty with blogging or email responses and for the delay in updating my ebook. Am trying to do more offline in conjunction with doing way too much online. Thanks for reading this post and even reading my blog at all (especially after the recent uninspired / infomercially blogging). It is you who reads this site that makes all of my happiness and other opportunities available. If you see me in Vegas please do say hi and let me buy you a drink...but don't buy one for me...I usually drink too much and I am on a diet! :)

Value Disconnects

Nov 12th

On the web there is a meshing of a virtually unlimited number of value systems. If you can find ways to remove market friction or create things that will be relevant to many different value systems you stand to generate great profits. Search + advertising is one way to leverage others work into a value system of some sorts, but search is still in its infancy. That is why visual search is new and Google is trying so hard to shore up their other revenue streams. Money only has value because people push it hard and powerful organizations standardize it and require it to pay taxes. Value only exists in your mind. At the root of all value systems is a marketer and a belief.

The more your work resembles your own beliefs the easier it is to push it as being authentic because it is. The more time you spend figuring out your own value systems rather than accepting the ones others push the happier you will become and the more you will attract possitive influences in your life.

What things in your life caused the most abrupt changes in your beliefs or value systems? What knowledge or knowledge sources can help you bridge the gap to profit from value disconnects?

ReviewMe Launch a Home Run

Nov 12th

Well the ReviewMe launch has went far better than anticipated. Information Week covered the launch and we added FAQs to the site.

Rumor has it that Andy has been inspired by a recent Bank of America video and will be singing in Vegas next week. More to come soon :)

Review Me Launches

Nov 10th

We launched ReviewMe today. And reviews are coming in, including one from Tech Crunch. Yippie.

We are giving away $25,000 to help speed along the user adoption and quickly learn from reviews.

Failing Fast & Hard

Nov 10th

Anything worth investing into is usually worth taking big risks with, especially if you are beyond self sustaining from other revenue streams and investing in a project is taking time away from your other business ventures. So a friend and I were working on a project that started off slow. He was a bit of a mule off the start, but now he is doing great. Since I was funding it, off the start he was worried about spending too much, because he worried that it would take longer to break even and that earnings would have to climb much higher to break even.

After losing about $20,000 so far this year, last month was the first month the site more than broke even, but rather than allowing it to keep moving slowly toward profitability I decided to dump about another $20,000 into it so that the site would either sink or swim quickly. As more and more people invest into slowly growing their business market saturation will make it harder and harder to be profitable going slow and steady. But when you take big risks you are remarkable and have the potential to see big returns.

Slow and steady growth is nice, but if you are investing you can't be risk adverse. The site I just invested into recently doubled it's daily income, and I have to think that all of the latent effects of marketing still have not yet kicked in. If you are sitting on shaky ground it is ok to hide what you are doing or invest slowly, but if you believe in what you are doing, it is worth more than twice as much to fail or succeed quickly. If you are quick even if you fail at least you saved time in the process. If you succeed you should have more to reinvest sooner.

For the first year or two of owning a site you should be able to double its income every 3 months until you reach market saturation as long as you are an aggressive marketer and the category is in good health (and of course there is little to no reason to invest lots of effort into a dying category).

Recycling Successful Rankings

Nov 9th

TechCrunch recently posted about a new company called HitTail, which helps webmasters discover potential post titles they should write about based on past success.

HitTail is essentially log file mining made easy with an algorithm to determine what’s most valuable in the long tail of your search driven traffic. Search queries are considered valuable based on four factors - the number of words in the search, how many pages deep into search results the site visitor dug to find your site and two factors the company won’t disclose.

It is important to cast a fairly wide and deep net before placing too much weight on the feedback or else you can corner your site by letting the feedback keep feeding into itself.

What happens when most people have access to free tools which shows them why and where they are successful? And how they should write copy?

As everything that drives toward efficiency ultimately the channels that will remain successful in saturated markets will be those which have insider information, are able to cover topics others are not covering, have well established authority, or those which evoke emotional responses.

Congress Swings the Other Way

Nov 8th

What markets and companies does that bode well for? Which ones will do worse? What media companies will swing their bias to the party in power? Which ones will stay the same?

In other unrelated news, Rumsfeld is out. If he still supports the war in Iraq it would be nice to see his ass in uniform on the front line. Rumor has it the reserves are looking for a few fine men.

Microsoft Doesn't Get Marketing, Again

Nov 7th

In an attempt to be innovative on the mapping front Microsoft has created bird's eye view 3D images of numerous cities. Just like many websites that try to monetize to early, Microsoft has already placed test billboard images on top of buildings in the beta launch of their product.

By Microsoft placing the billboards in their images they change the focus of what people talk about from the quality of the product to the stupid billboards. If they have no users the billboards do not matter, and what is the point of going to that much effort to gather the data if you are going to put fake billboards on it right out of the gate?

New Free Competitive Research Tools

Nov 5th

Rand recently posted a comparison of traffic volumes and competitive research data for various SEO Blogs.

Here is a brief overview of a few of the other free competitive anaysis tools on the market. All I ever have to do to realize how Alexa is inaccurately skewed toward marketing and webmaster resources is look at my own graph. There is no chance in ___ that this is one of the top 1,000 sites on the web.

Recently there have been a couple launches of services which compete with Alexa, and appear to have quite a bit less webmaster skew to them.

Compete.com gives a snapshot of your site which includes average pageviews per visitor and average time on site.

Quantcast.com gives a snapshot of your site which includes demographic information (they think 90% of the readers here are guys), and breaks your site visitors and traffic volumes down into passers-by, regulars, and addicts. Sites which have highly engaged visitors are typically going to be much harder to compete against than sites which are entirely reliant on search.

There are also a number of tools which show you what keywords competitors rank for,

Spyfoo shows top ranking keywords, competing advertisers and organic competitors.

URL Trends shows historical link trends and some of the keywords a website ranks for.

I honestly do not use any of these tools much yet, but find them interesting. Do you find any of them or any similar tools useful for search marketing category analysis?

Quintura LSI Keyword Research Tool Updated

Nov 2nd

Quintura updated their website to allow you to use their keyword research tool right from there home page, without needing to download any software. It is exceptional for discovering keyword relationships and digging deeply through a category.

I added a link to Quintura results on my keyword research tool.

Announcing Clientside Search Engine Marketing

Nov 2nd

Recently I interviewed Scott Smith (aka: Caveman) and said to look out for an announcement sometime soon. Well now is sometime soon, and I am proud to announce that I have partnered with Scott to create Clientside Search Engine Marketing.

The focus of Clientside SEM will be in help mid size and larger size companies improve their organic search exposure.

Why Get Marginalized?

So the web is becoming far more social in nature. Many clients insist on owning a 6 page brochure site (or maybe 100 of them) and expect the SEO to rank them for crumbs. There are a few potential outcomes of working with clients like that:

  1. the client's website and marketing are so bad that you can never rank them

  2. the client's website and marketing are so bad that you can just get them a bit of exposure (but will later be marginalized by improving search technologies and competing companies that better understand the web)

If your marketing is dependant on a piece of software that is publicly available and your strategy is just to replicate what is already out there, then even if you find a way to compete (temporarily perhaps)... eventually you are going to get marginalized.

If a company with greater resources that is more receptive to the web hires a person half as competent as you they are probably still going to kick your ass, in the longrun.

Why fight the algorithms and the natural trends of the web? Doesn't it make more sense to leverage the trends to your benefit?

If you accept bad SEO clients all you are doing is pushing your services toward the commodity end of the market. And that a path to unhappiness.

Link Equity and Authority Consolidation

Nov 2nd

About 2 months ago Oilman posted about how Digg was wasting some of their authority by splitting their brand and link equity across at least 3 domains. Given the following conditions

It makes sense that Google would want to promote a site with 10 quality links much more than they would want to promote 2 sites with 5 quality links each. Consolidating and controlling your link authority is exceptionally important.

Many websites still make errors when doing authoritative things by not providing a focused linkpoint on their own site for an idea. A couple examples:

    Many book authors write a book and then never create a page on their own site which is the defining resource for their own book, and thus allow one of the larger bookstores or ecommerce platforms to take the default rankings for their brand.

  • Many people use SurveyMonkey or some other source for surveys. If their survey / contest gets popular then they throw away a bunch of their link equity by having it all point at an external source.
  • Many people blow their marketing by announcing too many things at once, instead of double or triple dipping on the plublicity.

People Read What They Want to

Nov 2nd

Not only do people select channels that appeal to them, but we all tend to read content with a bias that reinforces our worldview.

Stories mutate as they spread, and they typically mutate with a self interested bias. In response to voting for the blogging scholarship some people have stated self biased / inaccurate things like:

  • x has one of the few real academic blogs, which is what this scholarship is supposed to be for anyhow

  • why are there tech blogs on there, I thought this was only for science bloggers
  • help me win $20,000

When I pushed the blogging scholarship on Digg it was flagged for spam when it reached the homepage. When voting opened someone else submitted it to the wrong category, pushed it, and it made Digg's homepage. If a story was spam once then why was it remarkable and homepage worthy only a couple days later? People see what they want to see.

In some cases it may make sense to leave your messages vague such that they can be more applicable to a wider audience. In other cases it may make sense to be as specific as possible to control the messaging. Story mutation is also going to largley depend on where a story is seeded.

I think if it is generally related to your main brand you want to be specific, but if what you are doing is a one off or occasional marketing event it might make more sense to let people misinterpret it to help the story spread and help them tell you what they really wanted, such that you can refine it going forward. A lack of mutation and a lack of spreading are indications of bad marketing.

Announcing The Elite Retreat

Nov 1st

Elite Retreat.

On December 18th and 19th, in San Antonio, Texas I will be a facilitator at the Elite Retreat. Elite Retreat is a business conference focused on helping businesses integrate their business into the web and take their online business to the next level. I have had numerous people ask me why I haven't organized a small focused Internet marketing conference yet, so when Lee Dodd mentioned the idea of an Internet marketing conference that was focused on a small group of successful marketers providing personalized attention to attendees I thought it sounded interesting.

When I heard Lee also got Dave Taylor and Jeremy "Shoemoney" Shoemaker in on the conference I knew it was a great idea.

The conference will cover topics from blogging, forums, SEO / SEM, to just about any other type of online marketing you can think of.

I won't be pitching anything, and neither will the other facilitators. The goal of this conference is simply to help you grow your business. The cost of the conference is $4850.

The conference comes with many bonuses, including

  • Coupons for a free coaching call from all 4 facilitators

  • A free Ipod jammed full of content
  • Action plan follow-up

At launch there were only 35 slots available, and numerous attendees already signed up.

Want to learn more about Elite Retreat? Check out the agenda, and apply today at http://www.eliteretreat.info/.






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