The Faults of Human Review

May 31st

Danny Sullivan's recently made a post highlighting the downside of human review for search engines:

[Tim] Mayer reminded that what's relevant for a query can often change over time. Google's Udi Manber, vice president of engineering, made similar remarks when I spoke with him about human-crafted results when I was visiting at Google yesterday.

One example he pointed out was how Google's human quality reviewers -- people that Google pays to provide a human double-check on the quality of its results, so they can then better tune the search algorithm -- started to downgrade results for [cars] when information about the movie Cars started turning up. The algorithm had picked up that the movie was important to that term before some of the human reviewers were aware of it.

Obviously human review is used at all major search engines, but even when outsourcing reviews humans have limits just like with producing content. Even if Google has 10,000 quality raters those people can only be trained to find and rate certain things.

Why Nobody Clicks Your AdSense Ads

May 31st

I don't understand why Will Wheaton considers both Google AdSense and Federated Media as jokes for not being able to sell his ad space for more than a couple hundred a month. Consider his ads were

  • laregly irrelevant due to the nature of his site

  • tucked away in the right side bar
  • on a tech blog where nobody clicks

If you want to sell brand ads sell them yourself, or create your own product to sell. If you are selling anything else you have to integrate them into your site. I have seen a CTR in excess of 10% off a single Google AdLinks unit. Those ads were targeted, aggressively integrated, and commercially oriented. That ad unit suffered from none of the faults of Will's ad model.

You need to do more than get free subscribers to create a business model. There are always new things to talk about in the tech, gadgets, and my life categories, but most of them probably have little commercial value.

Dan Thies New SEO Fast Start 2007 Out

May 31st

Dan Thies recently launched his new SEO Fast Start book. You can download the PDF here, or sign up for his updates and join his community here. His guide is 100 pages long and aimed mostly at beginners, but it also covers a bit more, and as his community develops he will continue to give away more content in more formats. His book is generally quite straightforward and easy to understand. He wrote it in a way that is big picture oriented such that it won't need to be updated too frequently. His section on dynamic linking is worth a read. It mentions that by creating an internal navigational structure that places more PageRank deeper into a site, typically most sites will get more traffic than a site with a link navigation scheme that is top heavy (I have been reviewing a number of sites recently and this is a large recurring issue). He recommended using GSiteCrawler to generate sitemaps, and OptiSpider to view the internal link structure of larger sites.

You can see how OptiSpider compares a page's topic to what the internal links say the page is about by looking at the below picture.
OptiSpider.

Probably the only part of Dan's book that I don't agree with is on is his advice on how to use nofollow. Some of the advice, like add nofollow on all of the links that point to other sites, unless you have agreed to a direct link for some reason seems a bit aggressive to me. A web that consisted only of paid or nepotistic links would not be a web worth being on.

I don't like using nofollow on most (or all) outbound links for three major reasons

  • If something is worth mentioning then I think it is worth mentioning to both people and search bots.

  • I think excessive use of nofollow carves up the web, leaving scars in it and making it more wounded for those who use it.
  • What was once white hat became gray then black. There is nothing saying that search engines won't eventually penalize sites for excessive or manipulative use of no follow. Just how nofollow magically made paid links evil one day, so might excessive use of nofollow the day Google realizes how damaging it is to the web.

Update: Dan describes what he meant about the use of Nofollow in a comment below, and further clarified his take on nofollow here.

Mind Mapping & Internal Link Equity

May 30th

Bill Slawski recently made a post about using mind mapping to think of types of people who would be interested in a site and types of content one would want to create to appeal to them.

Effective navigation acts as a visual cue and guides people through your site. If your site was rendered without graphics or CSS would people still be able to understand what your site was about? Today I spoke with the owner of Saffron Marigold. While the site has been featured on HGTV and in the NYT it is still only converting to a portion of its potential because the top level navigation consists of about, products, policies, shopping bag, my account. That navigation could not possibly be any more generic.

Effective navigation is descriptive and places the most important / common / profitable needs first.

I just looked at my navigation, and it wrongfully assumes the reader already knows what search engine optimization is. This site would be more effective and profitable if there was a page linked to about What is SEO?, or some other general introductory post.

Efficent Web Design & Development: Hacks to Save Time & Money

May 28th

I have been writing too many in theory type posts, so here is a post offering many practical tips to increase productivity and lower your site development costs.

Site Ideas

If you have a deep interest in a particular market or understand some general macro-trends (online or offline) that gives you a big advantage over others in choosing what to make a site about.

You can track memes. See what is hot on blogs, on Google's hot keywords, or the Yahoo! Buzz Index. You can track retail. See what is hot on Amazon or eBay. You can track advertising. Look at top performers inside ad networks or affiliate networks like CJ, Linkshare, ClickBank, Azoogle Ads, or Performics. Also, if you see ads that are highly off target (like auto ads on a site about recipes) it probably means that ad buyers in that industry are hungry for ad inventory.

I also like to look at sites like Elance or ScriptLance to see what kinds of projects other people are creating. Also look at some of the past projects from some of the better service providers to find rich markets.

Buying a Domain Name

Go to PsychicWhois to look for names in related fields. If you can get an exact match keyword .net or .org domain for $8 it might be worth registering it. If you are aiming for a local market your local .co.uk or .ca might be a nice buy too.

Beyond that, there are some free tools that try to generate name permutations, like NameBoy, and a couple (fairly inexpensive) firms that do this were recently mentioned in the comments section on my interview of Frank Schilling. GrabaGoodDomain and PickyDomains cost from $50 to $100 (as of writing this).

Sites like Afternic, BuyDomains, Sedo, and Fabulous offer domains for sale for set prices, while SnapNames, Pool, TDNam, and Sedo (again) sell domains at auction. A couple years ago Mike Davidson wrote an article about buying expiring domain names.

At domain auctions the domains tend to typically go for fairly affordable prices. The .net and .org prices are fairly reasonable because many of the top auctions are based on some multiple of type in value. If the .com names seem a bit more mainstream they can get really expensive unless you have a strong monetization model or a large passive revenue stream. Frank Schilling mentioned that he paid 140x yearly earnings for SnoringCure.com, (over $8,000). Prices can vary widely though. A .net or .org or a URL with keywords in an alternate order may go way cheaper.

If you are creating a new word or brand it is best to get the .com of it, but if the .com is already registered and not much is being done with it yet you might be better off going with a .org or .net and using the price differential for site design, content development, and marketing.

Remember that once you start developing a name many of the associated costs (site design, content, market, etc.) are the same if you have a good name or a bad one. Eventually a good name should be able to pay for itself through lower recurring marketing costs.

Website Design

Some people are graphically inclined while being bad at coding. Working with a bad site design wastes time and may kill your interest in a project. Requiring the designer to produce quality workable code or turning design into a 2 step process might make it more manageable. You can pay one person to create the graphics and use a company like psd2html.com to convert the design into code can keep design costs low while keeping the code usable.

Themespress is a $10 service that can convert your code into a Wordpress blog template.

Another great design option is to just get a free blog template or free site template, then buy a logo from an affordable source. You can buy the logos from logo designers like The Logo Company or Logo Design Works, contests in design forums, or outsourcing sites like Elance or Scriptlance.

Content Development

Cloak Affiliate Links

By cloaking affiliate links through your .htaccess file or a PHP jump script it makes it easy to change affiliate partners if merchants change networks or payout levels.

Dynamic Development

I like using dynamic programing or server side includes to make it easy to change sections of a site without having to edit pages one page at a time. For example, many of my new sites have blank server side includes where the ads go. When the site gets some good traction ads magically appear.

Track Your Progress

Install a tracking script to track your progress to see what keywords you are ranking for and where you need to do more work. If certain sections of your site are more profitable than others make sure to over-represent them in your internal link profile.

How to Write Content:

You can find writers from sites like Craigslist, popular industry forums, look for local college students, or people who are already blogging about your topic. Six keys to profitable content development

  • use content as a marketing strategy: as noted here

  • segregate content quality: make sure features rock. make the other content good enough to pass a hand check and lead to conversions
  • grow your content in proportion to your link equity
  • don't display ads so aggressively that people will never link at your site
  • focus the content pages on inbound links and subscriber acquisition...show few ads on them
  • focus the conversion oriented pages on conversion :)

Email

Use Gmail or some other service that makes it easy to tag, archive, and search your email. I have been a bit behind on email recently, but hope to be catching up in the next couple weeks.

BizJournals.com Spamming Google

May 28th

It is no secret that Forbes.com and many other major news sites publish advert / lead generation sections (get your meso help at Forbes), but a newer trend is that trusted publishers are creating these types of pages without even placing links or lead generation forms in them.

Check out this BizJournals page titled Apply For A Credit Card Online, complete with interesting backlinks and quality copywriting:

Not only can you comparison shop for credit card offers online, but you can also apply for a credit card online. This is rather convenient. In one fell swoop, you can tour through all kinds of credit cards, then apply for the one that best suits you.

How does that type of content end up published on that site?

Second Tier Search Engines & Clean Traffic Sources

May 28th

WatchMojo recently posted about their experiences with GoClick:

Looking at Google Analytics, I saw that initially [GoClick's] traffic came from sources such as searchportal.information.com and landing.domainsponsor.com, but that progressively it included sites like myspace-junk.info. By the time you read this, myspace-junk.info is long gone into the annals of web history, which is fitting because these sites stink and the intermediaries that profit from them like GoClick - or their parent Marchex - are full of shit.

The problem when you leave the major ad networks is that monetization is so much less efficient that it is hard for them to have any legitimate CLEAN traffic partners other than media they own. Google bows down and caters to adult traffic sources. Why would any clean traffic sources be part of second tier networks if the top ad networks are willing to pay out nearly 100 percent?

As Spam Evolves...

May 27th

Today my girlfriend checked her mail at the office and had an official notice / final notice piece of mail. She opened it up and inside it had a cheesy contest form. In the mailbox it is hard to tell the difference between information and spam. As the rules of the web change I think it will be even harder to know the difference between real websites and fake ones. AdSense Advisor said in a WebmasterWorld thread that

This decision was a long time in the making, and your thoughts and feedback are quite valuable to us.

Yet the policy change came without warning, and Google gave out no information as to what specifically changed. The one thing they did is cause many spammers to make their spam look more legitimate:

MFA2.0 is already underway. What seemed odd to me when I got banned was why they gave me until the end of the month – and not just cut me off in 48 hours. I could have stopped my Adwords campaign in under a few hours. Two weeks give you enough time to test out your new model get your ducks in a row and begin MFA2.0. The thing about lazy arbitragers is that they made money – enough money to hire people to do the hard work and still make dough. You can hire a freelance editor a good freelance content writer and a part time project manager for under 50K a year. If you can get back to making 50K a month clear it is worth while doing as you diversify your portfolio.

As the lines between real and spam blur it is going to be harder to have a stable income without adding extras to your website. So now I am going to start making my spam look more legitimate as well too, perhaps by doing the some or all of the following:

  • unique designs that look much more expensive than their price

  • author profile pages
  • better domain names
  • stock photography on many articles, and perhaps a few videos too
  • more socially oriented linkbait
  • more ad buys for anchor content articles
  • longer articles with more in content links
  • blogs, software / tools, or other community aspects

Get Paid in .edu Links to Post Help Wanted Ads

May 25th

Joe Whyte offers tips on how to get free .edu links - just ask students to work for you on campus websites in the help wanted section.

Students = under-priced workers.
Free or cheap .edu links = under-priced links.
Nice

Starting From Scratch, on Under $100

May 25th

SEOish offers 7 different views on how to become successful in the search game starting with next to nothing.

Information Architecture is the Most Underrated Component of Effective Search Marketing

May 23rd

Information architecture is probably the single most important and most under-rated aspect of the search marketing strategy for large websites.

A Recurring Error

I have been reviewing some client sites that could use work on the information architecture front. Some of them want to rank for keywords that they do not actively target. The key to ranking is to create meaningful navigation schemes that reinforce the goals of your site and your target keyword phrases. In addition, a site which is improperly categorized due to poor internal navigation does not flow PageRank properly through the site, which means your ranking data and market feedback will be irrelevant / broken and not show your true potential.

Conversion oriented structure is a type of content. It is one of the biggest advantages smaller players have over large players that operate in many fields, and adds to the bottom line of any site that takes it seriously.

Compare the following...

What Happenst to a Site With Bad Internal Navigation?

A piece meal site with hacked up internal navigation exhibits the following characteristics

  • navigation is inconsistent and confusing, thus it is hard for spiders to know what pages are important and it is hard for humans to work their way through the conversion process

  • if the spiders do not rank the correct pages odds are pretty good that the visitors will come into the site on the wrong page (and have a hard time working their way through the conversion process if they start out at the wrong spot)
  • hard to buy broad keywords using PPC because competing sites are better at funneling visitors through the conversion process
  • hard to buy category level keywords using PPC because it is hard to place people on meaningful content if it does not exist. category pages should be more than a link list or groups of irrelevant chunks of content
  • what should be category pages do not add context, build trust, and build credibility - they are essentially placeholders gluing together various unrelated content
  • if you do not have well defined and reinforced category pages the site is not structured to rank for the mid level category related keywords
  • much of the site's PageRank is wasted on unimportant pages such as photo galleries or other low content pages
  • since PageRank is distributed improperly, the market feedback is largely irrelevant
  • has many similar pages that duplicate each other, cleaning up the errors leads to broken links and other problems
  • the site is hard to grow or market because as your category gets more competitive and efficient you first have to restructure the site and undue the errors before you can compete

What Are the Benefits of Good Navigation?

A site with strong internal navigation exhibits the following characteristics

  • properly flows PageRank throughout the site

  • search engines are likely to rank the most relevant page
  • easier to convert
  • is easy for users to move around
  • builds user trust
  • more likely to be referenced in a positive light than a site with broken navigation (gets free editorial links)
  • converts better, so it can afford to pay a higher lead price for traffic (and thus maintain market leadership even as the market gets more competitive)
  • category pages add context and target different relevant word sets than lower level pages
  • folder and filenames are logical so they aid relevancy and clickthrough rate and the site is easy to build out / extend
  • if you ever make errors they are typically far easier to correct
  • easy to promote seasonal specials or currently hot items

Many website owners with unorganized websites think that they just need more of the same, but in a game of market efficiency sometimes less is more, especially if it is better organized.

Every Rich Jerk Sells Snake Oil

May 23rd

Shoemoney pointed out that the Rick Jerk website is for sale, alleging that the sale is required to avoid bankruptcy. Was the Rich Jerk just a marketing scheme?

I have been seeing numerous others claiming the selling of snake oil recently. Dr Garcia flamed a whole slew of honest SEOs because we incorrectly refer to semantics as latent semantic stuff or call tools that show word co-occurrence as LSI like:

In an effort to save face and avoid litigation from consumers, some of these purveyors of falsehood as other crooks and their friends play with words and call theirs "LSI-like", "LSI-based", "LSI-driven" technology or use similar snaky phrases.

Odds are most of the people using words like LSI-like probably mistakenly referred to co-occurrence stuff as though it was LSI. To an SEO it really doesn't matter if search engines use LSI or something that acts similar...we only need to understand roughly what it takes to rank.

And I am fairly certain Dr Garcia was flamed in the past in SEO forums....I think it was in Cre8asite forums a few years back by an SEO who has been a big name since 1999.

Today Michael Arrington referred to domainers in a negative light

This is actually one of the cleaner scams occurring in the extremely dirty domain name business.

On that same post Frank Schilling dropped by to offer a comment

I agree with a few others here Michael. You make yourself look foolish when you unfairly and inequitably malign an entire industry because of the actions of some.

A few short years ago you made your living in the dirty domain industry. While I understand that your employment tenure in the industry may have shown some unsavory facets and your exit from the Canadian company you worked for may not have been to your satisfaction, calling the entire industry ‘dirty’ makes you no friends and garners you no respect by those trying to shape it in a positive way.

I look at all the worthless bags of smoke that you pump on this forum, all the investors you sell down the river in these Web 2.0 jokes. Who’s dirty Michael?

I do think much of the conflict between various web personalities is ego and envy driven, but I also think it is just a reflection of the business world as a whole.

Today a friend of mine explained that he thought it was dirty that in a game of basketball that if a ball goes out of bounds that both players will point at each other even if they know it was out on them. Business (offline or online) is the same way. Everyone spins for distribution and authority. Just look at how spammy and full of false promises many of the headlines are in some mainstream media outlets. How are we going to drum up support, gain a fan base, and further our industries if we are not evangelical about them? How can we steal marketshare from Google if we don't promise to know what people are thinking?

What makes the web seem so dirty at times?

  • It is unfiltered by corporate communications policies.

  • Language without body language is not as clear as some would like to believe.
  • Messages spread so quickly.
  • Everyone has a platform to spread their message.

Nobody knows what the web will become, but everyone is vying for attention hoping to stay relevant for another day. Some are better positioned than others, but everyone is selling.

Arbitrage & Macro-Trends

May 22nd

As an entrepreneur the biggest advantage you have over big businesses is that you can spot trends early and invest in them before they have a chance to tamper with the market. I got on the web in 2003 and launched this blog about SEO before the end of that year. That was great timing both for the SEO market and for seeing the blogging trend. While Google is killing a lot of the made for AdSense spam, the next big trend trend is probably going to be web video. But you have to act quickly to lock in large gains. Within days of Google integrating video into their search results, many of BuyDomains.com's video related domains were gone. Overnight the price of some of those domains probably increased 10x. Lots of people are investing in everything social...I think that trend is over-hyped and already on the decline. Nearly daily PR firms send me emails promoting social content stuff from people who clearly are writing about a topic they have no real knowledge of. By the time people who don't care about a market are drawn to it you know it is time to look elsewhere.

But as big business jumps into a wide variety of markets, you look at the information pollution created and realize that many people will be unable to tell the difference between information and what may as well amount to machine generated content.

Search is over-hyped too, but Google is making the search results more interactive in an attempt to re-accelerate that growth. They are evolving search with the web. The fact that they are pushing video means that it wouldn't be a bad idea to do so too. But you probably are not going to make much of a dent in the market as a YouTube or MetaCafe clone. There are a ton of markets where the top ranked organic results are of low quality and will soon be replaced. I think the next big trend on the web is remarkable micro-brands and high quality original editorial channels...video and text.

Beautiful Political Marketing

May 22nd

Andy Hagans made a great post about how the Ron Paul brand is being built online. Robert Greenwald recently launched another new film at ImpeachGonzales.org, where the headline could not be better:

President Bush won't fire Attorney General Alberto Gonzales... but YOU can! Most lead generation forms are probably less than 10% as effective as the Impeach Gonzalez site is. The introductory email was amazing as well, starting with

The Gonzales hearings made plain for all to see that the highest law enforcement officer in the land is unwilling to tell the truth under oath.

and ending with

Don't just be angry, don't just be annoyed, don't yell at the ones you love. IMPEACH GONZALES.

Let's get to work! Watch the video and send it to everyone you know.

Democracy is a beautiful thing.

A domain with resonance, a relevant story, content in small easy to digest chunks, background links, a prominent call to action, viral elements, strong framing, and emotional appeal... everything you could want in a political marketing campaign designed to spread.

Whether you agree with the messages, both are already successful marketing campaigns given their budget.

Google Trends Adds Hot Keywords

May 22nd

Google Trends now shows the top 100 fastest growing keywords by date. Each keyword shows peak search time, search profile by hour, related keywords, top web results, news results, and blog results.

The Mass Amateurization of Everything

May 22nd

Dave Winer, a popular blogger, gave a speech about blogging. The video is here and a reviewer said this:

Dave started by noting that it’s easier for the user to become a manufacturer than a manufacturer to become a user. What’s wrong with the manufacturers of the world? They come down from the mountain with their product for you to buy and worship, and then maybe two years later they return with the next product for you to buy and worship. Dave then asked the audience to think about how things have changed over the past ten, fifteen, twenty years, especially around travel and dealing with travel agents.

When it comes to making money, Dave dismissed ads on websites. Instead, the websites should be ads for ourselves and we should learn who shares common interests. An example he provided is Engadget: how long until Engadget is providing feedback to manufacturers around exactly what they & gadget lovers want? This would make manufacturers fulfillment houses for visionary users.

The Value of Blogging

Top bloggers offer blogging tips, and now some are packaged as a free Firefox extension. With each word we write we are selling ourselves. In some cases a blog post is worth over a billion dollars.

Faster Communication & Feedback

What is important is not blogging itself, but communication. Everywhere you look communication is getting faster and cheaper. You can test an idea and see market response in near real time.

Why is that important? If you care about something it is easy to talk about it in a meaningful way and create ideas that will spread far and fast. The faster they spread the more profitable they are and the further you can spread your next idea. If you mess up packaging your message you can repackage it and launch it again.

Success & Emulation

When I do not read much my writing gets bad. When I read my writing quickly improves.

Some people spread ideas directly, while others chose to emulate them. One of the biggest historical drivers of innovation has been the rate of substitution. When another person replicates what you do in their community you then need to do something else to keep providing value. On the web one only stays original if they are willing to take big risks or constantly change. The worst ideas die and the best stick around, spread, are emulated, spread, are emulated, etc etc etc.

Every day there is a new list of ideas.

Copyright is Irrelevant

The Internet crosses all borders, touches people at every moral and socioeconomic background, and is largely controlled by amoral profit driven machines, thus it has no respect for copyright. The end result is that you either actively participate in the database of content, conversation, and idea sharing, or attempt to lock out your content and ideas, only to see others claim / repackage / profit from them.

Does journalism cost too much? Too bad. Nobody is at fault. Is my price point too high? Someone in China is probably selling my ebook for $10 (or less). It is probably on some torrent websites too. Can I stop them? Probably not.

Packaging is Virtually Free

It costs almost nothing to record videos. YouTube has beta features which allows consumers to swap out audio with officially licensed audio files, show others what you are watching, and comment with others watching the same thing you are. By and large the paid video market died before it was even created.

Others leverage distribution and add features to add value to your content. The shared experience becomes the content, and unless you opt out you are in the network, hoping to keep getting paid for offering up the scraps of original content, hoping to stay relevant.

Online Substitution

Increased communication and information sharing leads to more of the same. You either submit your content to the machine, or they will grab as much as they can for free, then point off to those who are borrowing it and running ads against it.

If Google had rights to music lyrics, they would let you go from here to reading them here. But if you do not give Google rights they just link off to the top free sources sharing your lyrics. The same is true with your videos and stories...content in any format. If you do not share your stuff then whoever talks about it and represents it best online gets credit for it as though they created it.

So either you put the official video online, or someone records a concert, or people see a cover / alternate rendition. If you somehow manage to block all that then it is as though you don't exist, and you are losing marketshare to those who are being talked about.

While YouTube is only a couple years old, The Wall Street Journal already published an article about how to be a YouTube star and it being too easy to game most viewed stats. No surprise those articles were free samples. Even the journal has to give away content to keep their relevancy in a market of mass amateurization.

Bonus

Just search for typos like amature and amatuer to see porn webmasters working the dictionary. There are so many misspelled results that Google doesn't even try to correct the misspellings. :)

Loooooooooooooooooong Tail Keywords

May 22nd

Eric Enge noted that at the Searchology event that Google's Udi Manber stated that 20 to 25% of the queries that Google sees in any given day are queries that they have never seen before.

Sweet PPC Ads

Two chocolate companies advertised similar products via pay per click ads. One wasted thousands of dollars while the other grew their business.

Google Kills Low End AdSense Arbitrage & MFA Spam

May 22nd

eBay recently banned search arbitrage, and Google is also trying to clean up their network. eWhisper posted that he thought the recent clean up may be an attempt to make the network look more appealing before showing advertisers what URLs their ads appear on. A neverending Webmasterworld thread highlights that many thin AdSense publishers got emails from Google stating that "our specialists found that your business model is not a good fit for the AdSense program".

The hard part is both judging intent and forcing quality. On one front Google offers a heat map showing you that your ads should go in the middle of your content, then they tell you to use AdWords to drive traffic to AdSense sites, and in their guidelines they state:

No Google ad may be placed on pages published specifically for the purpose of showing ads, whether or not the page content is relevant

In a market where virtually every business arbitrages other markets what is an improper business model? SEO is a form of arbitrage. I even had one engine call me up and ask to pay me to spam arbitraging Google's search results. That engine may even be one of Google's largest syndication partners! As ShoeMoney pointed out, many large arbitragers will continue arbitraging. Companies like Business.com or the 100s of shopping search engines are not going to get booted out of syndicating ads.

I think the big long-term distinction between what Google considers low quality and of quality is going to be brand equity. Do people visit your site from channels other than Google? Large brands get more return out of buzz marketing, while smaller businesses lean hard on search. inbound made a great post in that WMW thread about the arbitrage and MFA changes, which notes that Google is getting better at coming up with proxies for visitor value.

Based on Google's authority-centric relevancy algorithms and this move it is clear that Google wants to trust the larger businesses so they have less work to do policing the web. The way around getting forked by Google is to create something that does not need Google to exist. Create the type of site that people would link at if Google did not exist, and the type of site that they would want to advertise on directly. I have a large AdSense site that needs a re-brand and some serious work on content quality if it is going to stay viable in years to come.

For those who just got the death letter here are a few options:

  • Buy old trusted sites with a clean core and real value add. do arbitrage stuff off of them

  • Look to other related programs like YPN, Searchfeed, and Ask.com's feed.
  • If your site is of low value consider showing fewer ads short term...to make up for non arbitrage ads and to lower your risk profile.
  • Create a new corporation, open up a new AdSense account and figure out ways to get your sites approved.
  • Publish fewer and higher quality sites with fewer ad units on each page.

From a risk management perspective, I think every web publisher should own at least one real branded site, even if it offers low returns for the amount of work required to maintain it.

How do You Measure Success?

May 19th

Almost any broadly accepted measure of productivity contains self serving holes. GDP grows every year because it incorrectly account for costs as productivity. For example, GDP shows a gain when there is a natural disaster, when we deplete resources, or when we replace healthy social relationships with destructive chemical ones. Any financial activity is treated as a good thing with GDP, even if we are destroying the planet or replacing natural supplements with expensive drugs, manufacturing diseases that need to be treated, or treating people for abusing drugs.

You can save up a lot of money, but what happens when there are fundamental shifts in energy supplies? You can print more money, but you can't create energy from nothing.

It Doesn't Take Much to Be Remarkable...

May 19th

If the people you are talking to gain by sharing your story.

For example, right now Google is desperate to show the value of video so they can turn that huge copyright nightmare into a revenue stream.

Attention & User Acceptance Data

May 19th

There is a rumor that Google may buy Feedburner for roughly $100 million dollars. If they do so, they have another way to understand if blogs are real or not. Few people subscribe to or link at a fake blog or unoriginal blog. Owning the leading reader, the leading feed provider, the leading analytics product, and the leading ad platform should give them a pretty good idea of what is real.

Links flow easily across blogs, so Google may eventually judge that portion of the web looking for other signs of quality that require more commitment than a quick mention. As they get better at determining real from fake they can surface the best few blogs and submerge the rest, all while displaying more content from other verticals, like books. Ranking at about #120 in the search results I just saw a book about a topic I did a link bait for. It was freely available online and over 300 pages in length. Luckily my link bait is more aesthetically pleasing, modern, and was linked to from major newspapers. If I launched the same link bait a year or two later that book probably would have beat me. I am not sure if I would have been able to buy enough exposure to override Google's desire to make the organic results overtly informational and from editorially trusted sources.

The Consolidation of Traffic, Web Communities, & Promotion of Fringe Publishing

May 18th

Nick Carr recently published an article about how page views are consolidating:

He found that between the end of 2001 and the end of last year, the number of Internet domains expanded by more than 75%, from 2.9m to 5.1m. At the same time, however, the dominance of the most popular domains grew substantially. At the end of 2001, the top 10 websites accounted for 31% of all the pages viewed on the net. By the end of last year, the top 10 accounted for fully 40% of page views. There are more destinations online, but we eem to be visiting fewer of them.

Now that you can play music in Google's search results you have to think that consolidation is only going to get worse.

The cited research also notes that social sites are playing a role in the consolidation of traffic. Andrew Goodman recently published an article about why people would want to contribute to online communities. He noted that much of the community giving spirit is based on a common thread of a shared sense of justice in society. It then makes sense that political blogs, religious sites, deep niche sites, and things built on heavily biased/warped worldviews are typically stronger communities that are likely easier to maintain than those based on broad interests.

Add to that the following, and a clear trend emerges:

  • people pay more attention to and believe what resonates with them

  • people are more likely to share with those that resonate with them
  • fringe biased content is typically more remarkable than vanilla unbiased content
  • controversies spread far

As the big players keep taking verticals away from smaller players, back-filling their databases with partner licensed content, and personalizing results to match our worldviews, the profitable (and thus sustainable) communities will move more toward the fringe edges.

Unless there is some other change to modern relevancy algorithms, the top ranked results will be watered down vanilla content from editorially trusted sources or heavily biased content from the fringe. A mixture of various biases will also allow people to believe in whatever they thought was right before the consulted the oracle. There will be a reasonable accessible source for every lie. Thus we will think the information is of greater value, while it turns out to be low value entertainment leading to self fulfilling prophecies...but at least the ads will be targeted. :)

PPC Advertising & Building Relationships

May 18th

John Scott compares the quality of AdWords leads to leads from word of mouth:

Running an Adwords campaign has brought in a few customers, but the number is minuscule in comparison to our #1 source of new customers: Referral by existing customers.

It’s a hard fact to accept. You see all that search engine traffic, and it looks like a pot of gold, but it isn’t. A lot of window shopping, even for those uber relevant terms like “buy links“.

AdWords is good for gaining mindshare and building links, but many of the AdWords clickers are of the one off variety. You keep paying for the traffic but do not build much momentum for the price (unless you create content tailored for links). Many business models reliant on AdWords will die if those ad buys don't convert into more meaningful relationships.

I have one client that outranks his main supplier for their name on MSN, ranks just below them on Google and Yahoo!, and yet is wondering why sales are not higher. Our site also outranks most competing sites for long tail keywords. What happened to sales? Yahoo! puts many ads above the fold, and Google gives the main supplier an extended sitelinks enhanced listing. That drives down the organic listings for the core search terms, which makes the ads more important.

Some competing businesses sell a wider array of products from more manufacturers, and gain many repeat purchases due to their branding and wide array of product selection. Service businesses do not scale as well as ad based businesses and other easy to automate businesses, but if there is no relationship building in the transaction it is hard to compete with businesses that sell their commodity products as a tailored personalized service.

Interview of Frank Schilling, the World Famous Domain Investor

May 18th

Having coined the term domain investor, Frank Schilling is a recognized leader in the domaining field. He talks about domaining on his blog at Seven Mile.com

I recently asked Frank Schilling if he would be up for an interview and he said sure.

What makes domain names so powerful from an investment standpoint?

Several things.. When you build on a domain name you are the master of your destiny because you are not beholden to anyone else's platform. It's the Internet comparison to owning the building vs. leasing from a landlord. Internet law is new and undefined. Google and Ebay can be brutal landlords changing rules or algorithms that put you back out on the street without notice. If you own a powerful generic name or name phrase; you will get internet traffic independent of what the search engines and auction marketplaces try to do to you.

Why are [secondary market] .com's typically so much more expensive than other extensions?

Dot com's are the most readily understood domain extension. They are so powerful even my daughter knows what they are (she's 3) .. Many people will simply append the subject matter they seek with '.com' in their address bar, expecting to find products and services that match the generic keywords they entered. That world-wide mindshare has been reinforced since the very beginnings of the Internet via trillions of dollars in collective global marketing and serve to create a premium value for the extension. The marketing that you, I and others have done, has served to make .com the first extension most of us try in the browser's address bar.

Have you ever sold a domain name for a loss?

No. Even names where folks scoffed saying I overpaid at the time, look cheap in hindsight.

What is the best domain you regret not purchasing?

Cameras.com sold for 1.5 million.. That was a really tasty one.. I chickened out over a million. Wish I could get in the Delorean and go back in time on that one. Also Food.com sold to the food network in a San Francisco bankruptcy court in 2003. it went for $300,000 ish .. I should have bid 500k back then.

Is it too late to get into domaining? If you were starting today which model would you go after? Would you try to buy a few strong domains or try to own a much larger portfolio of weaker ones?

I think there are so many untapped opportunities here.. Within a few years, hundreds of thousands globally are going to be directly employed in this industry. It is early not late. This is like California in the 1960's. -- yes, it's not the 1920's anymore, but there are still mountains of untapped opportunity. I would probably focus on buying and selling, flipping up and bootstrapping profits back into the business if I had to start today. Also SEO and PPC keyword arbitrage.

Are new heavily marketed extensions like .tv or .mobi a good opportunity?

Only to flip.. If you can get something good cheaply and sell it to somebody else then do it, but I am avoiding those extensions completely. I like .com, .net, .org and the CCtld of the Country you are in because the name spaces are established, the renewal fees are certain (consistent/predictable) and because that's where the organic, generic intent type-in traffic is.

What are your favorite cities to visit? How does real estate there compare with domain name prices?

I like Los Angles and Las Vegas a lot. It's funny because those cities real estate histories have parallels to the domain industry. In Southern California you have Irvine where one man basically acquired millions of acres through the early 1900's and then sold to a large corporation in the later 1900's. Today the seller looks like a fool because he sold so cheap when viewed against the development which has occurred in the surrounding area. Yet had he not sold, none of the roads, utilities, infrastructure would be there, so the area would not really be as valuable. So if there is a comparison between domains and real estate, I think "development naturally follows acquiring the land" and "prices increase as the people come in" are the two over-riding factors.

If I am planning on developing a site, and am working with a small budget, do you think it is better to buy the .com, or to buy a .net or .org and spend the difference on more marketing and development? What about country level domains?

I like Country Code domains in Countries that have even-handed registration rules which allow all all sorts registrants to invest and develop there. Country codes I like include .CA (Canada), .co.uk (UK), .de (Germany), .br (Brazil), .cn (China), .in (India). In many circumstances Country Codes are stronger than .com. There are a host of reasons for this including currency issues, language, nationalism. I would always try to get the .com because it helps you to build traffic outside of the search-engines (everybody winds up at the .com eventually). I do like .nets and .orgs when they are priced low enough.

Years down the road when all the best names are gone and many of them are beyond the budgets of individuals and small businesses do you see outlier names like .info, .biz, or .cc getting any traction?

I do not.. I think it will be .com, .net, .org and the CC TLD of the Country Code you live in, ten years from now. If the Web extension gets approved, it could eventually unseat .net but it would take time to catch on. That forecast is assuming names get rolled out in their current way. The only other thing that could change destiny is the wholesale addition of hundreds of new extensions such as .GOOG, .MSN, .IBM, .YHOO, where every company got its own extension. It's problematic because corporate jealousy precludes adding just one or two.. and companies can barely manage their names, let alone an entire GTLD. It would take a generation to roll out and would ultimately strengthen .com relating to generic words such as Maps, Books, Shopping etc.. So while I find that kind of wholesale change revolutionary (ICANN and Verisign would resist it), it still 'could' happen.. and that would change to weaken .net and .org.

If I'm planning on developing a site when is it best to buy the core related keyword domain? When does it make more sense to create a unique word or add a common word like "hub" or "community" to the name to get an $8 domain name instead of spending thousands more for the exact match domain?

You can focus on building a great company without a great name. I like generic word + 'hub' or 'web' or 'world' style domain names. But if you build the world's biggest ceiling fan company at fanhub.com and then you want to acquire ceilingfans.com .. it is going to get much more expensive as time goes by. Names like those are going to be worth millions one day, so the time to acquire them is when they seem cheapest and unimportant to you. That's always the best time to acquire great names btw.

Are there any good $8 domain names available right now?

Yes.. but mining for them is getting harder. I don't buy anything in the available space anymore.. haven't in a long time. Too time intensive and "domain tasting" has creamed off most of the generic defensible undiscovered names.

How many ways do you categorize domains? What types of domains are the best from an investment perspective?

We have 60 main categories such as 'cars' and then 1600 subcategories including 'car accessories', 'towing', 'insurance'. etc. The best domain-names are generic defensible keyword-style (one two and three word) phrases which get some trickle of organic generic-intent type-in traffic; for nothing more than the keyword-weight, gravity and resonance of the generic words that make up the domain name.

What are your favorite spots for buying domains right now? Which auction do you like the best? What changes would you like to see to how domain names are auctioned off?

We are going through a seasonal dry-spell at the moment.. There is still an annual echo effect of expiring domain names which results from the dot-com bust where millions of folks in 2001,2,3 let their domain names expire.. the expiring name echo-period runs from November through April, so we are in the quiet season at the moment. I like Snapnames, Enom, BuyDomains, Godaddy. The auctions are presently run by for-profit clearing houses which inject themselves between expiring names and bidder registrants. One day ICANN will probably get involved auctioning new names like the FCC does with reissued airwave licenses.

What percent of domain sales do you estimate are publicly known?

About 5%.. maybe less. I was at my daughter's friend's birthday party recently and the father of one of the children confided that he sold a terrible made up brand-like sounding name for $23,000 (it was either 23 or 33k.. can't quite recall) This guy was not a domainer.. you would never hear about the sale. I get folks from regular walks of life coming up to me all the time confiding that they are part time domainers.. These are folks who have never visited a domain chat room, have never visited another domain site. Their only connection to the industry is through their registrar. It is a billion dollar business.

Many domains tend to sell for a multiple of PPC earnings. In 10 years time do you think the baseline will move to some other metric?

It already has.. No good domain portfolio has changed hands since BuyDomains and that business would have sold for considerably more than the rumored amount had the company's former owner been engaged in selling advertising alone, vs selling his names. Prior to that there was Name Development's sale to Marchex (Yun Ye transaction). No large, high-quality portfolios have changed hands since. Other sales have been smaller or split-portfolios consisting of good names interspersed with trademark issues. Individual names often sell for 100 years PPC.. No high quality domainer would dream of selling a portfolio worth potential billions to a third party for 10-12X PPC revenues. PPC is a flawed multiple because it works off a rev-share. If you buy a portfolio for 10X and it is on a 50/50 rev share (after 'cost of services' through Google Adsense) that means you sold your portfolio for 5X what Google could make with it. Maybe 3X if you exclude the amount Google shaves for smart pricing. That is so insanely cheap. Only a fool would give names away like that. If I were selling I would pick a walk away number (the youtube style multiple) or I would sell names individually. The breakup value of large portfolios will be in the billions if they aren't already.

You have mentioned that you thought search was promoting too many anchor stores vs smaller boutique websites. Do you think this creates an opportunity for other search players or adds value to topical community resources? Do you see it becoming more or less profitable to make niche websites and domain names?

I think of every domain name as an alternative search engine under the keyword embodied within the name. Search-engines by their nature can only display 5 to 10 results above the fold. As markets get more competitive that 11th result will become a different website, with a greater frequency. It's always getting harder for search engines to rank the top results.. as that competition intensifies as domain implementations get better, the domain name becomes a more viable alternative browsing experience. It's going to become much more profitable to run boutiques that sell things in the years ahead because software, fulfillment, products are all becoming cheaper as marketing costs go up. A good domain name reduces your lifetime marketing costs and increases marketing opportunities.

Are you concerned with large web companies claiming certain websites and types of websites as being unsafe to end users?

It depends how far they take it. Clearly I'd be concerned if browsers incorrectly claimed that advertising was bad and tried to block all sites with ppc ads.. While that wouldn't impact my lifestyle it would stymie newcomers and limit folks abilities to browse the web. I think the browsers are already on thin ice with a lot of the error search stealing to the right of the dot.. type your favorite website with .xom or .con watch where you go, think about where you were intending to go. That's stealing in the browser. It's unseemly to see that kind of conduct coming from a major US Corporation. I think in time there will be more freedom of navigation not less. Users (by their nature) want to be free. So to answer your question, there are probably too many sites with advertising on them for the browsers to do something draconian or to limit browsing freedoms. People would type in a website and say the internet's broken, my browser won't let me go anywhere .. too many sites would be impacted.

As the web gets more competitive, I believe any single sign of quality will likely have less of an overall effect on a website's position on the web. Do you believe that is true for domain names as well, or will everything being so gamed only increase the value of domain names?

I think probably the later.. Mark Twain said: "History doesn't repeat but it rhymes" .. The past may not be a true indication of the future, but domain names 'are the Internet'. You need a domain for email, in fact the only constant since the dawn of the commercial internet in 1993 (Netscape 1) has been the domain name. If you feel comfortable investing in anything related to the Internet it should be a generic domain name.

What makes Riesling so good?

I was picking up dinner at www.pappagallo.ky they have this new house wine from Germany.. very light refreshing.. good lunch wine. Darn, can't remember the name - Maybe if it ended in .com! :)

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Thanks Frank. Check out Frank's blog to read his latest insights on the domain market.

Helpful Robots Txt Tip

May 17th

When creating a robots.txt file, if you specify something for all bots (using a *) and then later specify something for a specific bot (like Googlebot) then search engines tend to ignore the broad rules and follow the ones you defined specifically for them. From Matt Cutts:

If there's a weak specification and a specific specification for Googlebot, we'll go with the one for Googlebot. If you include specific directions for Googlebot and also want Googlebot to obey the "generic" directives, you'd need to include allows/disallows from the generic section in the Googlebot section.

I believe most/all search engines interpret robots.txt this way--a more specific directive takes precedence over a weaker one.

Using Google to Target Bloggers & the Mainstream Media with Search Queries

May 17th

Just how one does market research to see how competitive a marketplace is, you can also do market research to view how important some ideas have been historically.

Google Trends shows historical search trends and Google's experimental history search will show published pages based on associated reference time. Google News also allows you to search by timeframe.

Services such as the Yahoo! Buzz Index show what is hot right now. Social bookmarking sites, social news sites, and meme trackers show what stories are hot right now, and were hot in the recent past. When you want to gain access to the media, use the above sources to research what they thought was important in the past. Either look at your exact field, or look to a more mature market to predict what issues will become important in your market. You are basically going to target an idea to create what some people term as link bait. Link baiting background available here.

Once you get an idea, spend whatever is necessary to create a piece of content (text, video, whatever) that is the best piece of content on that topic. It can be history of x, don't get scammed by y, or z do it yourself tips. Heavily integrate that content into your site's internal link structure, and make no attempt to directly profit from it...simply make it easy to link at or want to reference. Consider this content as a cheap marketing cost.

Ask a few friends what they think of your content's title. Ensure it sounds authoritative and/or buzz-worthy (one or both, depending on your target market and story idea). Promote your article to friends, email a few popular bloggers who might like the story, and if you know someone with powerful social media accounts ping them too.

Ensure your site appears credible.

If you are in a new field or have a trusted domain doing all the above might be enough to garner top rankings. If you have a new site in an old field there still is hope, but you may need to create video content that you can post on sites like YouTube or venture into PPC ads. :)

If you buy PPC ads use my keyword list generator or a similar tool to generate a list of various permutations of the targeted phrase. Create an ad campaign with ad groups and ad copy for each relevant keyword basket.

I did this for an affiliate site that is less than a year old, and bid 50 cents a click on AdWords. I was the only advertiser for most of the targeted keywords, got a 25% ctr for high volume search terms at 8 cents a click.

AdWords Bids.

Some members of the media also contacted us wanting face time for television and national radio exposure. As the site ages and gets more exposure we will get a lot more of that.

One could use the same idea to target key bloggers by using AdSense's site targeting function on their blogs.

Market Timing and Search Results

May 17th

You can learn a lot about how the search results will change based on recent changes that have been made and by seeing what tests the engines are running. As SEOs we track the algorithms quite intensively, but the search result display is just as important. Google allows webmasters to see what search tests they are currently performing via Google Experimental Search.

SEO Digger

May 17th

A friend pointed me to SEO Digger, which is another site which shows what keywords a particular page ranks for.

Other similar sites that do this are SpyFu (AdWords & Organic), KeyCompete (AdWords), and URL Trends (Organic).

Publishing Video Content is Easy Money

Google bought YouTube, but is struggling with ironing out ad revenue shares and advertising. What is the easiest way for Google to fix these issues? Integrate YouTube and Google Video directly into Google's search results.

Using what legal loopholes they may and something they call universal search, you can now listen to music videos directly from Google.com search results. This creates a marketplace that many businesses will need to be in to stay relevant, destroys a whole vertical of web spam, AND allows Google to monetize the organic search results (via YouTube). If you think video is a passing fad you bet wrong, but if you are doing it you are best off branding your videos to be associated with your domain name and uploading them to YouTube. Eli offered tips on how to make $1,000 a month re-purposing video, but now the number is more like $20,000.

Sure Google has done many YouTube users wrong, but if you need exposure, Google turned back the clock on SEO. Top ranking have never been easier. All you need to succeed is to format your content in video and upload it to YouTube.

Tim O'Reilly compares Google and Amazon to offline companies:

If Google or Amazon were your bank or credit card, they'd let you know which merchants had the best prices for the same products, so you'd be a smarter shopper next time. They'd let merchants know what products were popular with people who also bought related products. They'd help merchants stock the right products by zip code. They'd let you know when you were spending more on dining out than you have set in your family budget. They'd let you know when you were approaching your credit limit, with a real-time fuel gauge, not just a "Sorry, your card has been declined."

Universal search mixes videos and news in the organic search results and recommends other verticals at the top of the search results. And Google is testing a broader array of layouts.

By making search richer you have less reason to leave Google. Google started with targeted text ads, but it is even better if they can combine their targeting with trusted brands and offers while making their ads look like a useful piece of content in any format.

Search Engines as Affiliates

May 17th

How long until search engines are the biggest affiliates on the web? And when they do that, will affiliate marketing still be looked down upon the way SEO and domaining are? Better yet, will we have any way to know who is buying the ad or how it is priced?

Social Search and Personalization

May 16th

Gord Hotchkiss recently posted about how he thought personalization was Google's trump card in social search. DigitalGhost noticed that Yahoo! hired some of the best sociology professors in the world, including Duncan J. Watts.

Bill Slawski recently highlighted that the original goal of PageRank was to:

...be useful for estimating the amount of attention any document receives on the web since it models human behavior when surfing the web

Google has a personalized home page, recommends gadgets, added many verticals to their organic search results, and biases the search results to your interests. With Google and other engines adding more content types directly to the search results, and adding more ways to search through it, the need for many of the niche communities diminishes. The social communities built on strong brands or bias will want central editors. Communities built on other weaker commonalities will wither.

Many of the smaller social search plays will get buried under their own weight. At this point, their page count will increase faster than their authority does, and as their outbound traffic drops so will their interest and authority. In other words, I think most of the social search plays are at best a fad.

When Marketing is Too Successful

May 16th

A friend recently launched a new site and promptly crafted a great linkbait award idea that got so many links that over 95% of the website's inbound links were reciprocal links. The award program worked so well that traditional PR firms used our list of award winners to seed their list of people they wanted to contact to talk about a client.

The site did not rank anywhere near as well as it should have because there were too many reciprocal links gained far too quickly when you consider the rest of the site's link profile.

One of the reasons that it is so important to mix link types is such that if any of your marketing really takes off you want some semblance of balance to your link profile.

Outbound Links Matter: Google's Recent Paid Link War

May 16th

DaveN offers his recovery plan for a recent Google algorithm which has affected the rankings of many sites engaged in buying and selling links.

Key points from Dave's post and comments:

  • DaveN focuses on the importance of building topical and trusted links before reaching into the outlier parts of the web. Older and more trusted sites can then loop back to buying lower quality links to shore up their rankings for important keywords.

  • Links from high quality trusted blogs are a more effective way to buy / build links than links that have obvious footprints associated with being bought in a group of other links.
  • Dave also noted that in the past people who bought links may have got hit, and link sellers might have got their outbound link passing ability blocked, but this is the first time Google actively lowered the rankings of link sellers.

Is Your Field Tarnished?

May 16th

Frank Schilling and Andy Hagans both wrote posts about the bogus worldview of the role of SEOs. Frank also highlighted that most every industry gets this treatment:

It seems to me that the only groups "incapable of doing wrong" on the Internet are either the browser, operating systems or Google. Even when these groups are clearly doing wrong they are incapable of doing wrong in the media's and public's eyes. Everyone else eventually gets maligned as a dark-hearted "neer do well" or "rounder".

Yet in spite of this treatment, people like Rand give tips on things like segmenting search intent nearly every day, Blue Hat SEO shares real world SEO examples, Shoemoney shares his designer, Eric Enge interviews search engineers, and DaveN is even willing to tell you when new link buying algorithms roll in.

Don't forget that the people telling stories about fighting spam or fighting for good are often full of crap. Take Collactive, for example. Here we have a company backed by Seqouia (which also backed Google) which is creating a marketplace for spamming social media sites. The same company behind Collactive was originally behind Blue Frog, which aimed to stop email spam. Why did they shift for being against spam to promoting it? Money. That is all most businesses are interested in anyhow.

Google doesn't care about spam if it is through AdSense. The lines between signal vs noise, ethical vs unethical, and friend vs foe change depending on where the stack of money is largest. Anytime you read a business drone on about ethics make sure to think about the self serving nature of their advice.

The Three Things You Need to Succeed Online...

May 16th

are market timing, passion, and a unique data source. If you have none of those you are screwed. Of course you can get by well with only one of them for a long time, but the more of them you have the more sustainable your business model will be.

Helping Make Information Accessible

May 16th

On one front the military is creating a war channel on YouTube, while on the other they are censoring soldiers. Pretty screwed up.

Censorship in China is bad. Why is it any better when the US government does it?

Why the Mainstream Media is Still Important

Google is willing to give sites like Forbes a top ranking for keywords like SEO just because they published a recent article mentioning the topic. In a world where Google is closing more holes, them opening up the organic results to news sites is a treat to public relations firms.

Digg is similar, they don't think it is spam if it comes from ABC. But, if you have access to a media outlet, you can gather up a couple anonymous sources and publish garbage that would easily make Digg's home page.

You can think of old media as acting like directories for new media. New media is heavily reliant on old media for understanding the structure and importance of ideas. Those who know this are willing to pay a premium for the top channels. That is why Sam Zell bought The Tribune Company, News Corp. wants to buy Dow Jones, and why Thomson is buying Reuters. I recently spoke at a well known PR firm, and on their walls they hung dozens of newspaper articles written for their clients. It is the equivalent of how an SEO might look at the top rankings they have got for their clients and their own sites.

As time passes, marketing will get more expensive, and larger businesses will continue to be able to abuse the flow of information to knock down smaller and newer competitors and competing business models while smaller players have to tell more authentic, better researched, or more emotional stories to get the same level of exposure.

If you haven't thought much about how PR is integrated into the news, consider reading Paul Graham's The Submarine. It will make you realize how much every successful large scale business relies on some form of spam to build their brand, create demand, thicken their margins, and keep newer players out of their business.

I got thinking about that speech I gave at that PR firm. I have no idea if they will use my tips to push good ideas, or if they will use them to push inventions that reduce quality of life or kill people. When you get as much exposure as I have been lucky enough to get you just don't know what will happen with what you do...you can't see the outcome, but will probably see more of what you chose to see. I generally have a strong belief in strength of humanity, but also think capitalism is shortsighted, destructive, and sleazy. So which do I chose to see as benefiting more from my existence?

The biggest reason I do not blindly support capitalism is that I think as governments and countries age their law codes and markets get so complex that it is hard to know what is real or true, especially when people are rushed, live in debt, and the leading information agents are focused on profit, personalization, automation, promoting strong biases, and blending ads into content.

The media, like all businesses, operates with some level of collusion. If you are not in their spotlight you are at a distinct disadvantage to those who are. How do we get media coverage? Well that is another post. :)

Matt Cutts Does a Rewrite on Link Advice

May 14th

Matt Cutts posted a series of anti-link buying posts on his blog then quickly moved on to cat blogging. One of his posts gained a lot of attention because it was controversial. After the post got hundreds of comments and inbound links he updated that post to show more information

Nothing wrong with doing a rewrite to add to your messaging after you garnered attention...it is probably better from a marketing / SEO / usability standpoint, as noted by Massa:

The way to alter perception is exactly the way Google does it and the way Aaron has been trying to do it. Historical reference.

If you notice in posts by engines reps, there is always statements pointing to past documented events. If there is no one to counter those statements with different views or contradictory events, it makes it easier to have the first persons FUD appear to be factual and historically correct and beyond reproach.

And the Winner Is...

May 14th

I picked Pat / feedthebot as the winner of the free pass to Search Marketing Expo. Thanks to everyone who entered the contest.

Making Information More Credibile

May 12th

Site design, site theme, and domain name play a critical role in information credibility. In staying with that theme, I decided to republish my article about the history of search engines at SearchEngineHistory.com. I redirected the old URL to the new location about 2 minutes ago by placing the following in the .htaccess file of the old site:
redirect 301 /search-engine-history/ http://www.searchenginehistory.com/

Compare the new site to the old design. Same content, but one is far easier to link at than the other.

Of course creating an about page with contact information will also make that site far more credible, and will make librarians more likely to link at it and the press more likely to contact me.

Free Pass to Attend Danny Sullivan's Seattle Search Marketing Expo

May 10th

You must pay for travel costs, but I have a free pass to attend SMX Advanced in Seattle on June 4th and 5th. I bought a pass but found out that I was invited to speak. If you want the free pass leave a comment about why I should give it to you and I will select the winner Monday.

For Profit Websites Have No Value Until They Rank

May 10th

If you are passionate, a site can have value without ranking, as rankings are a lagging indication of site quality, market timing, and/or marketing savvy. If you are offering something that is substantially similar to competing sites, it has virtually no value until it ranks at the top of the results. In the quest to build value, mindshare, and rankings it is easy to focus on unimportant things that eat time and provide little return. For example, you could write a 3000 page website that is the encyclopedia for your topic or you could try to create the ultimate branded property, but if nobody sees it then the content or brand it doesn't flourish. You need the site to look good enough to compete, but there is little value is trying to make it perfect right out of the gate.

Brand Developement and Market Leverage

While one is writing page after page or tweaking away building a perfect new site, the competitors are leveraging Indian copywriters who write thin informational pieces wrapped in AdSense. Those same low quality sites garner self reinforcing links because they are already ranking, and most people are lazy, just linking to whatever they can easily find.

Premature Testing

The results of any tests to monetize a low traffic site are going to provide inadequate and inconclusive results, which also likely feed into your biases and expected outcomes. If you build authority first and then come back and test later you will receive a greater ROI for the amount of effort required to perform the tests.

To put into perspective the testing errors that small samples can create, a friend of mine has a site which makes virtually the same amount from AdSense every day. The same site sells leads. Some days it generates 6 conversions and other days it does 21, all while the traffic flow and AdSense earnings are fairly constant. If you compared one revenue stream to the other, the obvious winner would look different based on what day you chose.

Everything on the Web is Broken

If you try to look really polished that might not be remarkable. You are not cutting edge if you have to be perfect before you are willing to be seen. If I wasn't willing to release my first ebook prior to when I should have you probably would not be reading these words right now.

Everything on the Web is Biased

I believe people have more of a tendency to talk about and share things that are unpolished. Google gets talked about by getting sued, Digg gets talked about by getting gamed, Fox news gets talked about by entertainment sold as news, etc etc etc.

When you try to come out of the gate perfect, it is hard to relate to your end audience without spending thousands of dollars on marketing. It is far more remarkable to come out of the gate slightly broken and biased and appeal to the overt biases of those who can give you authority. I am not suggesting to be racist or sexist or anything like that, but people are generally more receptive to (and thus likely to share) things that reinforce their worldview. Appeal to a known bias, market that story, then create another story that works another group. Do it over and over until you have enough authority to clean up the site and become the market leader.

Rough edges appealing to deep niches is a far better approach to marketing than broad and polished to a fine dull.

In Summary...

Get authority by appealing to smaller groups of your audience, grab marketshare, THEN try to look authoritative. Most people don't know HOW you acquired your authority...it is not something most think to question, and if they do you can always change your look and feel as needed to accommodate the market.

You don't have to do anything deceptive to gain authority, but if you think perfect content is the answer you are only deceiving yourself.

The Power of a Generic Domain Name

May 10th

Recently I have been getting A LOT of queries asking about how my book compared to a newsletter service from a competing company. I guess the reason why is they formatted their salesletter to promote my site. I love my domain mame! :)

SEO Book membership.

The SEO Bubble

I was just interviewed about SEO for articles by Forbes and the Wall Street Journal last week. This week Forbes, which hosts doorway mesothelioma pages, has another one titled "Should You Hire a Search Engine Consultant?" Due to Google's push of their news vertical, the Forbes article quickly ranked #4 in Google for "seo", which helps push me down another spot. Arg ;)

The WSJ also published another article about SEO, which includes news of a mom naming her child after a toilet bowl company because the name is rare.

As if the news coverage wasn't bad enough for heating up market competition, some SEO firms are investing heavily in automation technology and are sharing that story publicly, while Google is emphasizing old authority sites, (killing small new sites both in organic search and on ad quality scores).

By the time something is widely talked about the easy ROI is already on the downward slope. Buying domains was really profitable about 5 years ago when the first web bubble burst, but some of the sharpest domainers are buying domains for 140 years revenues. If you are new to a market how can you compete with that?

And since search is almost as old as the web is, and search engines collect so much usage data it is hard to compete without a serious budget or an original marketing angle. Many of the sharpest minds in SEO have moved beyond just doing SEO, because if you only do SEO you will only make a fraction of what you would if you spent that same amount of time doing things that are becoming relatively easier for real SEOs, like folding SEO into a holistic marketing mix and creating real brands. But if one's core profession was not SEO how would there be enough time? Who has time to be a subject matter expert, provide customer service, while learning branding, marketing, monetization, etc etc etc on the side?

Worse yet, the window of opportunity for each new opportunity gets shorter and shorter. Social media is already too hyped to be of any value for most webmasters. People buy votes from top contributors and PR firms are sending out iPods for publishers to keep if they are willing to review it and associate it with a specific merchant. Everyone is buying links one way or another, and if you don't have a budget or some serious creativity you are screwed as a would be SEO.

eBay Subdomain Spam

May 10th

23 out of the top 32 Google search results for titleist provx golf balls are ebay.com, subdomain.ebay.com, spam.subdomain.ebay.com, popular.spam.subdomain.ebay.com, etc.

Maybe they didn't intend to use the subdomains so aggressively. Maybe it is not search spam. But even if that is the case, it is a display of pathetic relevancy algorithms by Google. Time to move away from core domain authority or put a cap on the subdomains Google.

Google is the Ad Agency

May 10th

Google is further commoditizing the role of the ad agency. They are signing up advertisers interested in trying their new Ad Creation Marketplace:

In the Ad Creation Marketplace, you'll find industry professionals who can provide script writing, editing, production, and voice-over talent at an affordable package cost. It's free to search for and send project bids to specialists, and you aren't under any obligation to work with them until you accept a bid.

Google's great value has been in targeting and tracking, but text and image ads are not as emotionally appealing as video ads. As they try to move up the value chain to caputre branding ad dollars they are trying to create a support ecosystem that helps the market grow quickly and keeps the market as efficient as possible.

How much does Google expect ad production to cost? Crumbs:

Once you accept a specialist's bid, you might expect to spend anywhere between $100 and $1000 for your ad.

Warning: This Site May Distribute Spyware & Adware

May 9th

Nick Carr posted about Google's plans to police the web. Imagine if you give Google your data that they certify you with some symbol of trust. And if you don't, you are less likely to be certified unless you have a preponderance of other quality signals. Guilty until proven innocent is the way of the relevancy algorithms. Why would the safety algorithms be any different?

What happens to your sites rankings and sales if it is unrated or deemed potentially risky? Fear is a compelling marketing mechanism. AOL has used it for how many years?

Associated Press Considers Selling News Ala Carte

From a story about AP by AP:

As newspapers focus increasingly on locally relevant news, Curley said the AP is proposing changes that would allow members to subscribe to a core package of breaking news and then add other news packages. Currently, it offers broader packages of news defined mainly by the volume of news delivered -- small, medium or large.

So a near monopoly is breaking up how it sells content to other news agencies? I think that more than anything else shows the effect search and the internet are having on news agencies.
The media is addicted to search, and Google is keeping them addicted by giving them a bit more traffic. The NYT is already republishing old stories to spam Google. Eventually I wouldn't be surprised to see the AP sell chunks of stories that local papers can chose to wrap their own content around, to get past duplicate content filters.

Microsoft just launched AdWriter (a free tool to write ad copy), and Thomson Financial already admits to using robots to automatically write some of their stories:

Thomson Financial has been using automatic computer programs to generate news stories for almost six months. The machines can spit out wire-ready copy based on financial reports a mere 0.3 seconds after receiving the data.

This movement toward efficiency and recycling is the exact opposite of what the papers need to do if they want to stay relevant, but the machines are already in motion, doing everything from writing the news to trading stocks:

Quants seek to strip human emotions such as fear and greed out of investing. Today, their brand of computer-guided trading has reached levels undreamed of a decade ago. A third of all U.S. stock trades in 2006 were driven by automatic programs, or algorithms, according to Boston-based consulting firm Aite Group LLC. By 2010, that figure will reach 50 percent, according to Aite.

As established trusted authorities and rich power sources move toward automation and efficiency who could beat them? Probably Google, but then whats left to trust but robots?

Search Engines Giving You the Tools to Kill Yourself

May 7th

Many publishers hide additional information sections that they want people to be able to select viewing if they show interest in the topic. For example, each of Think Progress's navigational sections are expandable, and some publishers have more information or other informational cues to make additional page content visible. These can be used deceptively, but if you have a strong brand and are trying to use them with the end user in mind, I doubt search engines will think the intent is bad.

AdSense Section Targeting:

As search has taken a larger and larger piece of the web search engines have given us ways to mark up our pages to suit their needs. AdSense section targeting made it easier for Google to target content ads to your site. That sounds like a good idea, but they also offer tags that offer publishers no value.

Google's NoFollow:

Nofollow was originally recommended to stop blog comment spam, but it has morphed into a tag that Matt Cutts wants you to use on any paid or unnatural link. What makes a link unnatural? In one form or another almost everything is paid for, by giving away value, exchanging currency, or nepotism.

Do You Trust Yourself?

If a page has many nofollow tags on it isn't that another way of saying that the publisher does not trust their own content? If a publisher says that they don't trust their own content or their own advertisers then why would search engines (or savvy webmasters) want to trust them?

The Machine is Broken:

Bob Massa recently highlighted how absurd the current use of the nofollow attribute is:

Mr. Cutts, speaking on behalf of Google presumably, made the comment, "if you want to buy links just for traffic, totally fine just don’t do it so they affect search engines".

This concept is completely flawed. This self serving philosophy is also at the very core of the problem. When the machine attempts to modify the behavior of people to satisfy it’s own ends, the machine is broken. What people do should not be seen as affecting the search engine. What people do should be the very reason for the engine to exist in the first place. If the search engine is being affected by the actions of people, is any logical person going to honestly assume that it is the people that are broken? That is exactly what is happening here.

Yahoo!'s Robots-Nocontent Attribute:

Search engines have got better at identifying duplicate content. Some search engines may boilerplate strip obvious navigational elements from pages. Some may place pages with too much duplicate content in supplemental results. Some may sites with too much duplicate content in reduced crawling status.

There are all of these ways to fight off content duplication and Yahoo! offers a robots-nocontent tag. One of the first people to comment on the news was Google's Matt Cutts, who said:

Danny, can you ask how Yahoo intends to treat links in the "robots-nocontent" section?

Don't Use the Robots-Nocontent Attribute:

It might be easy to add class="robots-nocontent" to some of your divs, but should you? I think it has little value. Sure you could use it in a sneaky way, as suggested by Jay Westerdal, but the problems with that are:

  • it looks sneaky

  • you are removing content from your pages (and will thus rank for fewer phrases)
  • there are easier and more effective ways of changing the meaning of a page without looking so sneaky...like just rewriting an article, adding a spammy comment that looks like it came from a third party, or adding a few additional words here or there.

Yahoo! is the top network of sites on the web. Internally they have publishing teams and an SEO team. If their search engineers can't figure out how to use their own internal traffic stats and other relevancy measurements to refine their duplicate detection algorithms they deserve to bleed marketshare until they no longer have relevancy in the marketplace.

How to Change the Focus of a Page Without Using Robots-Nocontent:

If you want to change the focus of your pages here are some of the best ways to do it

  • Ensure your page title and meta description are unique. Do not place the same words at the start of every page title on all the pages of a new website.

  • Make your h1 headings and subheadings target a slightly different word set than your page title.
  • If your page is thin on content, add more additional relevant unique content to the page. The solution to not getting killed by duplicate content filters is adding more unique content, not stripping out obvious required duplication (such as navigation and advertisements) that search engines should be able to figure out.
  • If your site has comments or consumer feedback you can post or encourage feedback that targets other keywords. Comments offer free text. A 500 word page with an additional 1,000 words in the comment section may rank for 2 or 3 times as many search queries. Don't throw away the free content.
  • For those who are really aggressive and have crusty links that will never be removed, consider placing your commercial messages on one of your highly trusted high ranking pages. People buy and sell websites, who is to say that the contents of a URL can't change?

Conversion Opportunity Pie

May 7th

When looking at the potential upside of conversion improvements we tend to overestimate the opportunity. Avinash Kaushik looks at filtering bounce rates, bots, and user intent to see your true conversion opportunity.

Avinash recently did a podcast interview with Simon Chen.

Castles Made of Sand

May 6th

The .TV relaunch was not very successful because the premium domain name prices are yearly recurring fees (which may increase beyond that price buy some unknown amount). People who would create great content and later stumble into a business model are not likely to do so on a premium .tv name...which means most of those domain names won't have high quality content on them. Those that do may see thin profit margins because they have no control over their domain names...as they make them more valuable the registrar can increase prices without mercy, and when the registrant can no longer afford the domain names the registry gets to keep or sell any brand value the registrant built up. John Scott had a great post about people feeling guilty for buying links:

If you feel guilty about buying links, you’re probably feeling guilty for a reason. Perhaps your guilt comes from the fact that you are trying to rank a site for a keyword it doesn’t deserve ranking for. If that’s the case, stop trying to rank it for that keyword, and get you’re business in order. Get the site and your business to the place where you can honestly say that your site deserves to rank #1 for that keyword, and your business deserves to be #1 based on the merits of your business.

Yesterday at a market I bought this terrific soap with my girlfriend. The problem is that the packaging has a URL on it. No need to go to the vendor again. It is hard for the end vendor to get any traction as the supplier sells directly, has pricing control, and is more convenient to order from.

If you are too dependant on any one supplier or any one source of leads then you need to re-evaluate your position to decrease your risk profile and come up with ways to build your brand value.

The Overton Window & Shifting Trends in Public Policy

May 6th

Social policy (and profitable business models) shift over time. Swords Crossed describes the Overton Window

The mission of a think tank is to introduce ideas into public discourse and normalize them within the public discourse. ...

One useful tool is the Overton window. Named after the former vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy who developed the model, it's a means of visualizing where to go, and how to assess progress. ...

If you're of an analytic bent, and want to figure out where a legislative or policy strategy is heading, try constructing the scale of possibilities and the Overton window for the subject at hand. Change can happen by accident, true: but it is just as often the product of deliberation and intent, and it does all of us well to understand the mechanisms by which it occurs.

Increasingly, bogus advertisements are being packaged and distributed as content. If you watch how people like Frank Luntz or Glenn Beck aim to manipulate public perception and language you can predict trends quicker than competitors do. Even if you do not agree with their message, you can still profit from the trend while undermining their goals.

Why I Love the Google's Supplemental Index

May 6th

Forbes recently wrote an article about Google's supplemental results, painting it as webpage hell. The article states that pages in Google's Supplemental index is trusted less than pages in the regular index:

Google's programmers appear to have created the supplemental index with the best intentions. It's designed to lighten the workload of Google's "spider," the algorithm that constantly combs and categorizes the Web's pages. Google uses the index as a holding pen for pages it deems to be of low quality or designed to appear artificially high in search results.

Matt Cutts was quick to state that supplemental results are not a big deal, as Rand did here too, but supplemental results ARE a big deal. They are an indication of the health of a website.

I have worked on some of the largest sites and network of sites on the web (hundreds of millions+ pages). When looking for duplicate content or information architecture related issues, the search engines do not allow you to view deep enough to see all indexing problems, so one of the first things I do is use this search to find low quality pages (ie: things that suck PageRank and do not add much unique content to their site). After you find some of the major issues you can dig deeper by filtering out some of the core issues that showed up on your first supplemental searches. For example, here are threadwatch.org supplemental results that do not contain the word node in the URL.

If you have duplicate content issues, at best you are splitting your PageRank, but you might also affect your crawl priorities. If Google thinks 90% of a site is garbage (or not worth trusting much) I am willing to bet that they also trust anything else on that domain a bit less than they otherwise would, and are more restrictive with their willingness to crawl the rest of the site. As noted in Wasting Link Authority on Ineffective Internal Link Structure, ShoeMoney increased his search traffic 1400% after blocking some of his supplemental pages.

Google Promoting the Hell Out of YouTube

May 5th

YouTube is taking over the organic search results, and they are buying a ton of AdWords ads. Google doesn't even take the time to write relevant ads when promoting YouTube. Their second ranked ad for the word music doesn't even contain the word music.

Clearly with an ad so irrelevant they are not factoring in quality score into YouTube's ad position, or if they are they are paying themselves over $5 a click for the word music. How is a competing service to compete when they are forced to write relevant ads to be able to afford the click, and Google serves itself sloppy targeted broad reaching branded ads?

As Google arbitrages itself one vertical at a time the only businesses that are safe are:

  • those that get traffic AROUND Google

  • those that provide Google with the high quality content that Google is forced to rely on to keep spam out of their SERPs
  • those that Google does not have enough data or brand strength to compete with, or have some important offline component
  • those that are so small that Google doesn't want to compete

Paid Inclusion & Conference Speakers

May 5th

Nearly anything that is trustworthy and profitable has cheesy scammy alternatives that follow the path they created. In many trades the associated conferences bring in more ad revenues than print adshttp://blogs.mediapost.com/research_brief/?p=1422:

According to a report from American Business Media president & CEO, Gordon T. Hughes, the face-to-face events industry is a rapidly growing, critical part of today's integrated business media environment. Face-to-face revenue has surpassed that of its print counterpart for the first time: In 2006, business media trade shows accounted for 36% ($11.3 billion) of industry revenue; magazines accounted for 35%. Events are the third-fastest growing segment of business media, surpassed only by digital and custom media.

Simon Chen recently posted about how unimpressed he was with the pich fest that was the first day of Ken McCarthy's 2007 seminar:

You see, when you come to “trade shows” like these, the speakers (or Faculty) are featured and marketed as leading practitioners in their field. You would like to think that if folks are forking out good money on the actual tuition or entry fee, airfares, hotel accommodation, average coffee and time away from their family, that the seminar organiser would insist that his faculty deliver content.

But this is where the basic model of these events is flawed. You see, the speakers all need (or want) to be compensated. So their sessions are platforms whereby they are supposed to deliver content to the audience and then gently mention that there are options for investing with them - by either buying their product or service.

In true US capitalistic fashion, some presenters get carried away. Instead of following the creed Content Is King, they get out of the gate quickly and go straight into sales mode. Hard. Pushy. Aggro. All the things that are old sell.

That conference is well known and Simon said the second day was better, but even amongst good content providers there are people who sell without mercy and without intent to provide any value, which is sad.

As bad as that may be, some people take it one step further by creating conferences that actually charge the speakers to speak. Talk about guaranteed sketchy content!

Scams emulate the format and structure of things that are real. Any format has its associated ups and downs, but anything that is wildly successful will also have outlier questionable versions pop up.

Realtor Loves South Park Real Estate

Bit of Friday humor, but I couldn't help but laugh at the AdSense ads on 4spark.com.

Some real estate broker has an ad which is just his face smiling. It probably gets a lot of curiosity clicks, but I bet that smile wears off the day he starts tracking his ad spend.

Everything is a Bubble

May 3rd

Paul Kedrosky recently mentioned a report about how all markets are a bubble. In the report it states that the two conditions that cause a bubble are strong liquidity and a great outlook. The report also talks about how success kills itself

There is nothing that suppresses the success of a brilliant new idea more completely than having 12 nearly identical start-ups.

Everything is a bubble. If you are successful people will emulate it. If you create and aggressively market a half dozen sites in the same vertical you not only compete with yourself, but you also create a new type / system / format / category of spam that others will emulate and authority systems (such as search engines) will work to reduce.

Just how people learn to ignore ads, they also learn to ignore abused content formats. Andy Hagans destroyed Digg.

What keeps Google strong is not their search relevancy, it is their ad formats and their ability to shape public perception.

Search engines also redefine what they are looking for by benchmarking information quality. Do search engines really want to promote a bunch of thin content sites that are easy to spam? Not likely. These sites act as testbeds for features that search engines clone, but eventually most of them will die.

Content and advertisement formats are not the only types of information bubbles. All of this rides on how people use language, from spam filters, to ad targeting, to the perception of fair use, to syndication guidelines, to deceptive offers:

Stanford Group this week issued its own bulletin, stating "we believe the FTC is investigating deceptive Internet advertising by several companies, particularly relating to offers claiming or implying "free" products."

right on through to general public deception, ala Frank Luntz:

Luntz was quizzed on his prior advocacy of the term, 'climate change' as opposed to 'global warming', given the emotional nuance of the latter term.

You'll see that both terms are used by Australian Internet users, but 'global warming' is by far more referenced. Further search analysis is telling, revealing that searches for 'climate change' are more likely to result in visits to News & Media and Government websites; while users more commonly visit Education and Environment online industries when they search for 'global warming'. Could it be that 'climate change' is in fact now the more emotional term, given its prominence in the media?

If you know everything is a bubble, and are building for the long-term, it might make sense to look beyond the current fashion.

Stock market was BIG... everyone became a broker trainee... it crashed.... real estate was BIG...everyone was a realtor/trainee/mortgage broker... it's crashing....what's next?

What is out of favor now will likely come back in fashion at some point, as noted by Alan Meckler:

I still contend (even with the heavy push for user generated content) that high quality, wholly owned content still has a major role to play on the Web. When you own content as we do, then opportunities continuously present themselves. Great content also provides an environment to create new lines of related business.

People Don't Look Beyond the Page

May 3rd

I once saw a college professor cite a page about caffiene on a low quality site about pornography, gambling, and drugs on his official profile page. Many people never look beyond the page when linking to a story.

This is not to say that one should put a story on a bad website, but that one should make the story page they are currently marketing as clean as possible so it is easy to link at. And you are probably better off placing your marketing stories on your key site if you think they will still spread.

Over time people will become more aware of using content bait on a crappy site, but for now most people don't look beyond the page when referencing a story.

Leverage - Why Most Web2.0 Companies Fail

May 2nd

If you improve the value of another service based largely on their infrastructure or data, it usually doesn't take much for them to roll your offering into their well known brand, and kill your market position. Alexaholic was praised by Alexa for being innovative, right up until they sued when the creator failed to sell them the domain name. It took a year for Alexa to clone Alexaholic.

AuctionAds created an easy way to syndicate auction listings. Frank Schillng mentioned eBay to Go offers a similar interactive service. eBay to Go came out within months of the AuctionAds launch.

I helped launch ReviewMe. ReviewMe extended its model to include allowing advertisers to create a marketplace of review requests that bloggers can chose to accept. Text Link Ads also recently announced post level text links as a product under their flagship TLA brand, which is sold using a more profitable business model (since it has recurring ad costs). Patrick Gavin ensured I got a good deal, but without his dedication to making ReviewMe a success it could have just become a test platform for TLA that didn't make much money.

Tim O'Reilly wrote data is the new Intel inside. If your success is based entirely on another network's reach / brand / information / platform it is hard to have enough of a core asset to be profitable or a purchase target. It is hard to stay ahead of the value curve since the core brand has inertia and fatter margins. The reason most Web2.0 companies will fail is that they are creating entire companies based around a feature to another product, while having no market leverage.

John Reese on the Competitive Nature of Internet Marketing

I recently read John Reese's PDF announcing the launch of his new Income.com site. In the PDF he talks about how competitive internet marketing will become in the coming 5 years, and stated what are the two main ingredients to large sustainable profit in that type of marketplace. The first is on the concept of optimization:

The key to dominating any market online (now or in the future) is simple. It comes down to who has the highest average visitor value and who has the most traffic.

That is part of the reason I need to increase the price point of my ebook. There are only so many times you can see other marketers repackage and resell your information at a higher price point using aggressive affiliate marketing before you change your price point to more accurately reflect value.

I recently started a site with a friend of mine. Off the start it was frustrating doing all the tweaking needed to learn, but my friend so broadly believes in the concept of optimization that our site will probably out-earn older versions of its format by 400%. 4x the earnings on the same number of pages gives you serious capital for marketing investments and content production.

John's other tip is that when people land on your sites "Are you truly making someone's life better?"

I think that second point is one that is easy to miss if one is too shortsighted. Creating sites that are helpful / of significant value is something I want to work hard on, and has been core to the brand ideas behind my last couple major domain purchases.






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