Stealing Passion to Create a Unique Sales Proposition

Nov 30th

So far this year I have probably come up with at least 4 multi-million dollar ideas. But I am uncertain if the market timing is right and I have the business acumen and finances to make them soar, but I will try. And, to be honest, some of the ideas were not even mine. They were simply extensions of other's ideas and/or flaws to current market leading models...just like what Google was founded upon (though my ideas are far less ambitious than their idea is).

If you are entering a saturated marketplace and do not have a strong USP read rants or research from long time industry purists that are angry with the current marketplace. You don't have to buy everything they say, just take one of their best ideas, give it a touch of framing, make it relevant to your business, and base your marketing and public relations campaign on it.

If they are viewed as a nutcase and written off by the market then competitors will not realize the brilliance of your brand and the strength of the purist angle until you start cutting into the market in a big way. By then it will be too late for them to react, and if they do copy you, then you can use that to further affirm your market leading position. Google said "don't be evil" and everyone thought they were cute and cuddly until they were too reliant on Google to say otherwise. See the goog. Be the goog. :)

[Video] How Aggressive Ad Placement Kills Websites

Nov 30th

When I did a recent Q&A thread one of the recurring themes with sites that were struggling was AdSense ads positioned above their content. Many websites are never given the chance to grow because they monetize too aggressively and look to spammy to enjoy the benefits of organic growth and community building.

Mentioned in this video:

Link Buying Crimes vs Sponsored Scientific Research

Nov 30th

A friend of mine sent me a link to The Kept University, a great article about how corporations are increasingly turning universities into cheap biased research labs.

Companies give researchers stock options for conducting research on product development, censor negative reviews, and see a much higher rate of positive reviews. They then use this research to try to push new products into the market. That is about a million times worse than something like PayPerPost, which recently saw many of their bloggers get their PageRank axed by Google.

In one way it makes Google's position seem absurd because many of the "best links" are simply a reflection of these hidden business deals by publishers and the advertisers with the largest profit margins. But you could also think of these types of relationships as a low risk source of clean links, and the type of relationship and reputation building tools needed to sustain profit margins in competitive marketplaces.

When you are new and small you can't afford to sponsor a school, but you can still offer to take a professor out to lunch or offer them free stuff to help build your credibility and push you into a market leading position.

You don't have to own the world to do well, just be a leader in a growing market and ride that growth curve. And if your field does not relate to a school it probably relates to some community or industry organization. And if those do not exist you could create one and build from there.

I am not suggesting that anyone pay people to lie about you, but that if Google doesn't like paid links maybe we should try to emulate how market leaders get and keep their leading market positions offline: pay to get your products in the hands of market leaders and (when possible) don't disclose the sponsored editorial transactions!

Excerpts from The Kept University:

In higher education today corporations not only sponsor a growing amount of research -- they frequently dictate the terms under which it is conducted. Professors, their image as unbiased truth-seekers notwithstanding, often own stock in the companies that fund their work. ...

In the summer of 1996 four researchers working on a study of calcium channel blockers -- frequently prescribed for high blood pressure -- quit in protest after their sponsor, Sandoz, removed passages from a draft manuscript highlighting the drugs' potential dangers, which include stroke and heart failure. ...

In 1996, while serving as a consultant to Microfibres, a Rhode Island company that produces nylon flock, Kern discovered evidence of a serious new lung disease among the company's employees. Upon learning that he planned to publish his findings, the company threatened to sue, citing a confidentiality agreement that forbade Kern to expose "trade secrets." ...

The New England Journal of Medicine warning that drugs like fen-phen could have potentially fatal side effects. But the same issue contained a commentary from two academic researchers that downplayed the health dangers of fen-phen . Both authors had served as paid consultants to the manufacturers and distributors of similar drugs -- connections that were not mentioned.

If everything becomes free then hidden costs will pop up everywhere. It is so much cleaner if it is all out in the open, but some people don't think of the alternative before trying to force their view of the world upon it. Cheers to the rise of paid content as free content becomes more polluted.

In a few years search engines will wish their problems were as simple as spotting paid links.

Todd Malicoat Joins Clientside SEM

Nov 30th

In addition to working with Caveman, I am proud to announce the newest member to Clientside SEM is a great friend by the name of Todd Malicoat.

Lowbrow Frugal Web Design Tips: How to Create a $10 Logo You Can Be Proud of

Nov 28th

When launching new tools or information products it helps to create a professional logo that people can spread around. But sometimes you are short on time or just want to get the idea out the door. Even if you don't have a lot of time or money you can still get a logo that looks good.

When launching the Blogger's Guide to SEO and the Website Health Check Tools my designers were busy, so I went to Istockphoto to buy a few illustrations, resized them, and then added text to them. 10 minutes work with Photoshop (download a free trial version here) and I had decent looking logos. Even the little widget pictures on my homepage were part of a $10 image set.

There is a lot of text on the web, but most of it is not branded with imagry that helps people remember it. When many people are pitching / selling / spreading the same stories and ideas, it helps to create something that is easy to remember. Naming is a large part of that, but creating a logo that reinforces helps too.

Guest Post By Rich Schefren - Are You the Interruptible Type

Nov 28th

Rich Schefren launched his Attention Age Doctrine II today, and as part of the announcement he asked if he could write a guest post on SEO Book. Here it is. Make sure to download the Attention Age Doctrine II if you enjoy this post!

Are You the ‘Interruptible’ Type?

There’s an old time management adage that I particularly enjoy.

“Take control of your minutes and the hours will look after themselves.”

This sound advice can be quite an education for online entrepreneurs. For many ambitious business owners, those minutes of productivity can be slippery because of interruptions and distractions. Once lost, these minutes are tough to find again.

According to recent statistics, the typical office worker is interrupted every three minutes by a phone call, e-mail, instant message or other distraction. That’s 20 times per hour: 160 times every business day.

Add to those stats the seemingly endless ability for creative thinkers to be distracted while working, and you’ll soon discover a big problem – Productivity plummets and anxiety increases. Not a good combination.

So, is it any wonder why people feel the stress of “not getting anything done?”

As they say in the TV infomercials, “there has to be a better way.”

If we take control of the time we spend working – and the time we spend away from work – we will be less distracted during times when peak production is essential to our success.

This means limiting interruptions – all types of interruptions. These include visits from friends and family, unsolicited conversations with co-workers, random e-mails, instant messages, phone calls… the list goes on.

In a 24/7 total access world of communication, it appears that some people are more “interruptible” than others simply because they allow themselves to be.

Are you the “interruptible” type? Do you invite distraction by letting your mind wander?

It requires a powerful and determined mind to beat back the habit of succumbing to distraction. Without building up the ability to focus your attention on your business, you’ll never be fully satisfied with your results.

Maybe you are in a rut and you find yourself easily distracted. Perhaps you have experienced and are tentative because of past business failure. Maybe you are indecisive about what you need to succeed, and you just can’t pull the trigger on “the next big thing” for your business.

Setbacks, interruptions and distractions are all around us, but we don’t have to let them disable us from achieving our goals.

You have to get beyond distraction and back on track toward success. The only person who can remedy this situation is you.

So, what are you going to do about it?

My coaching clients often wonder why they feel so inefficient, even in the face of many accomplished tasks. They earn a lot of money, appear to be quite successful, yet there is something that is nagging them about their own productivity.

Why are so many energetic entrepreneurs so insecure about their own inability to focus when faced with distractions? I think it’s because we are human.

Despite the superhero image we may promote and project on ourselves, for even the most experienced entrepreneur, this is often a façade. It’s all just bluster and bravado.

But what makes you so “interruptible?” Why are you so easily taken off course?

The answer is certainly a personal one, but there could be a clue to your problem.

Are you really doing what makes you happy? Have you discovered your passion in life?

If not, perhaps you are searching for ways to discover passion elsewhere. Maybe your distractions are just diversions from the important tasks in front of you. Despite your financial success, it is possible that you are not happy with the path you are presently following.

This was the central point in The Final Chapter, part of my Internet Business Manifesto trilogy of reports. You must determine your strengths and passions and build your business upon them.

Anything else, especially during times of struggle, may seem like a tiresome diversion. Your attention is better suited when focused on what you love most.

Publicize Your Publicity to Create Successful Viral Marketing Campaigns

Nov 28th

Older Marketing Techniques

When the Google Florida update happened in 2003 I read about 5,000 forum posts, tested a few of my sites, and wrote an article based on what I saw. That article got to be quite popular, but that popularity faded over a month or so, but I wanted my 15 seconds of fame to last.

When that article started spreading I went around asking high authority sites which linked to competing sites if they would be willing to link to my site. Some of the most effective techniques used were

  • using hub finder to find sites linking at multiple competing websites, and suggesting listing a few more sites (in a list including my site)
  • contacting people who were still linking at a competing site that was moved, letting them know that the site had moved

Site's like the HTML Writer's Guild would generally say no to a link request from a guy like me back then, but because of that surge in popularity they were like "oh you are that Aaron...we will get you link up today". As soon as that happened once I decided to go on a link request binge. The great links rolled in and I was like SWEET.


Image from southpark-world.net

While some SEO sites never recovered, mine grew in authority due to the flood of high quality links, and within a few months my rankings were better than ever, and I had high authority recommendations from trusted organizations.

Ageless Marketing Techniques

If you are featured on Oprah or have the chance to interview Oprah make sure that is featured on your site. The same is true if you are featured in the mainstream media.

Newer Marketing Techniques

When I recently published the Blogger's Guide to SEO I launched a multi-pronged marketing campaign.

  • The idea was tailored to a specific audience.
  • I created a custom logo for it so it was easier for people to have something to share and to make dedicated posts about it.
  • I blogged about it on SEO Book and asked about a half dozen friends if they could mention it on their blogs.
  • I linked out to Lee Odden's list of blogs. Without even asking him for a link, he decided to reference it on his blog and spread it to his network of over 400 Facebook users.
  • I had a ready made AdWords campaign set to target blog related stuff. The same day the article was released someone searched Google for blog, clicked on my ad, read the article, then bought SEO Book. And that ad campaign is also seen on many blogs.
  • I guest blogged on Compete.com about making money from blogs.
  • A great friend of mine submitted the story to StumbleUpon. Social media is no longer an every man for himself game.

What you really want to do when launching a good idea is to saturate the market with your idea as fast and hard as you possibly can such that it looks organic, yet gains the benefits of push marketing from years past. The story got to #1 on the Del.icio.us popular list, made the Sphinn homepage, and had Digg not deleted it the story would have made the Digg homepage. Hundreds of links are still rolling in.

Marketing Deficiencies

What could I have done better?

  • I did not make the idea community oriented enough by asking x bloggers to give their top tip for doing SEO for blogs. Asking for data from a bunch of people to help them feel affinity toward and ownership of the idea to make them more likely to help market it.
  • I could have done a few more guest posts on other sites.
  • I could have built up the launch by writing relevant related entries on SEO Book asking for what people wanted.
  • I could have embedded a bit of controversy in it.
  • I forgot to email people subscribed to my old newsletter. Sending those thousands of people that update could have helped get it a bit more of a bump in traffic.
  • I could have participated on some well known forums to have them help market the site.

By Far, The Worst Gmail Ad I've Ever Seen

Nov 27th
posted in

Post by Giovanna Wall

I really like Google's Gmail program. It's truly my favorite email service. They also do a great job scanning through my emails for relevant keywords and phrases that they match with their advertisers. However, recently they have fouled and have gone out of bounds. In my recent emails to friends and family, I've used the terms "wife", "husband" and "happily married" a lot referring to my recent marriage.

This was Google's response:

google promtes infidelity

Perhaps I'm a little sensitive or maybe it's because I was raised as a conservative Catholic. But regardless of anyone's background, why would Google, with their "Do No Evil" policy promote cheating and infidelity? It's also ironic that the Google founders recently got married (I think one will wed next month).

It is an issue of money vs. morality when exposing disturbing ads to married people for ad revenue.

Google P2P Network? (or, Its Easy to Score Relevancy When You OWN the Network)

Nov 27th

Google, already has a near infinite number of data points to compute relevancy for the active parts of the web, and is looking to gather even more user data information. The WSJ has background on the story:

Google is preparing a service that would let users store on its computers essentially all of the files they might keep on their personal-computer hard drives -- such as word-processing documents, digital music, video clips and images, say people familiar with the matter. The service could let users access their files via the Internet from different computers and mobile devices when they sign on with a password, and share them online with friends.

They also mentioned the C word:

Google will likely have to address copyright issues. Allowing consumers to share different types of files such as music with other users could trigger the sort of copyright complaints the company already faces over videos on its YouTube video sharing site. One person familiar with the matter says Google is discussing with copyright holders how to approach the issue and has some preliminary solutions.

This is going to move Google up the value system by

  • giving them a unique data source
  • giving them unique relevancy signals
  • keeping users locked into their services and using their services longer
  • shift power from copyright holders to Google
  • eventually allow Google to sell content (if they want to - the Google Video trial did not work too well)

But there will also be a big upside, especially to marketers and content creators who are willing to give away high value content to gain mindshare and marketshare. By creating content that people would want to store and share on Google, you get cheap or free exposure for your business interests.

As DaveN said, Google eventually has to move away from links because links are too polluted. What better relevancy signals can they come up with than attention data and how often people cite and share data ON THEIR NETWORK? Feedburner, Google Reader, iGoogle, Gmail, and Youtube are already part of the Google network. Soon your hard drive will be too.

Free Guide to Optimizing Your Blog for Google

Nov 26th

Giovanna recently said that it would be a good idea for us to create a guide to doing SEO for blogs, so we did just that. Please give us feedback on what you think of The Blogger's Guide to SEO.
The Blogger's Guide to SEO.

If you like it please Stumble it, Sphinn it, and Del.icio.us it.

Update: #2 on the Del.icio.us popular list! Thank you. :)

Buy Compete.com Credits For Half Price - Today Only

Nov 26th

I have been giving Compete.com a lot of coverage, but that is because they offer a great service. Today they are offering credits for half price.

Do You Design Banner Ads?

Nov 25th

A couple years ago a friend of mine who sold ad inventory for premium publishers told me the key to making his banner ads work was to not make them look like banners, unlike the below tongue in cheek effort:

For how many years was the banner the standard format for online advertising? As the web evolves and each of us learn better business practices many standards become irrelevant relics of the past. Every business person is a creature of laziness. Sometimes laziness prevents us from changing, and sometimes it helps us make ourselves more efficient. If a macros can do the job then why not let it?

What ideas have you held on to for far too long? What information and productivity tools convinced you to break those habits?

The SEO Book Blog is Now Creative Commons Licensed

Nov 22nd

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

When I published the SEO glossary I made it creative commons licensed. I wanted to do that with all the blog posts on SEO Book too, but just got around to doing so. If you like any of the blog posts here feel free to do what you like with them.

I also made the how search engines work article CC licensed too.

Download Camtasia For Free

Nov 22nd

Via Dan Thies, I noticed you can download and register Camtasia 3 for free. Camtasia is the screen capture software I use when I make SEO videos.

When Will Wikipedia Rank for Everything?

Nov 20th

The Wikipedia ranks for a lot of competitive keywords because they are cited everywhere while acquiring the back links to be envious of. They also keep most of their link juice by linking to their internal pages and placing no-follows on external links.

I found out recently that they rank for competitive key phrases on Google such as:

  • Loan - #1 and 2
  • Mortgage - #3
  • Insurance - #4 and #5

The chart below is from the RankPulse list of top websites ranking in the top ten results for their 1,000 keywords sample database.

But when I added high traffic classifiers to the phrases above, Wikipedia’s rankings dropped significantly.

  • Insurance Quotes – Not found in top 1000 Google results
  • Mortgage Rates – Not found in top 1000 Google results
  • Loan Consolidation - #36
My explanations for the results are:
  1. Although Wikipedia ranks well for competitive phrases, they don’t belong to the associated topical communities. They rank primarily on site authority.
  2. While they have enough content to rank for said terms, they don't have pages targeting those terms. In many cases the relevant content for the phrase is compressed as part of a broader related page.
  3. Their title tags target core keywords and lacks modifiers needed to rank well for popular terms that Wikipedia did not dedicate unique pages to.

By fixing the above issues, they may very well rank for the remaining 11 keywords.

Giovanna Wall, the New Writer for SEO Book

Nov 20th

My wife and I do just about everything together, including...

  • eating
  • sleeping
  • playing
  • domaining
  • site design
  • content creation
  • link building

and so I begged her to start blogging. She should be publishing her first post here in the next couple minutes. Please give her a friendly welcome. :)

Q & A Open Thread

Nov 17th

Feel free to ask any SEO or internet marketing related questions and I will try to answer them below.

I prefer to answer broader industry questions than site specific questions. It can take a day to do a strong site review, and I could miss a lot of things that are wrong if I give your site a 5 minute once over.

Questions like "I have a new site and want to know where to start with link building" are better than comments "please review everything about my site". Also I can't guarantee that I can do anything to get your site unpenalized by Google if you were recently penalized.

[Update: I just closed this thread after a few hundred comments, so I have time to write more new posts.]

Helping Charities is a Form of Spam? Or Just Great Marketing?

Nov 17th

Donating to a charity or sponsoring an event is one of the safest ways to buy a link, but getting them to use and recommend your product is a far more effective approach to marketing. Why? Passion is more important than PageRank.

Charities Can Help You Market Your Stuff Cheaply

Email Spam Problem.
  • Some charities want to change the world, but they are trying to do so on a few thousand dollars a month. To them every cent helps.
  • Many charities are blatant spammers. Just donate to a dozen and see how many of them harass you for more money. The percentage will be well north of 50%.
  • People who come across the charity typically already have an affinity to it, or were recommended to the charity by a person with an affinity to it. Connecting to a quality non-profit connects you to that affinity and passion.
  • The people who think negatively about the charity have so many other (real or imaginary) things to complain about that they likely won't even have time to rant about you working with them.
  • The incremental cost of manufacturing many products (especially software or information) is dropping to ~ $0.
  • The cost of marketing such products and services is rising exponentially as markets saturate.

Recent Examples of Donations

Today I got an email about an SEO firm providing free SEO services to charities, Search Engine Land posted about Google giving charities free Google Checkout buttons on their Google ads, Google is giving away $10,000,000 to push Android, and Google recently pushed Gmail through a Threadless contest. Google uses contests and charities to market their services, are you?

Personal Relevancy

Types of Spam Varieties.

To the end consumer, a commercial message is not considered spam if the offer is relevant to their desires. Targeting is why search is so profitable.

Even pages that Google engineers classify as spam may have a 20% + conversion rate for the right search queries. Some of the spam pages have better conversion rates than the "quality" pages do.

How Long Can You Keep Selling Your Current Product?

The key to making your message relevant is forging the right partnerships to get the mindshare and distribution needed to become a category default.

Markets evolve. Eventually Google or Yahoo or eBay or someone who makes money from another part of the value chain will give away something similar to what you sell. When they do, do you have enough mindshare to keep charging for it?

Increasing Content Quality

Carnival Copy.

Google is starting to push for higher content quality, and they are willing to lose revenue to do so. Some people fight decreasing relevancy by throwing more ads in the content - only to become more irrelevant. Carnival copy is no way to win.

The solution is better information quality, better formatting, and better partnerships. And this giving does not have to be to a large charity or rock star. You can do it everyday with the people you interact with and get the same effect. A few links, comments, mentions, and emails add up over time. Give and thou shalt receive.

Anti Vote Baiting (Beta)

Nov 15th

Matt Cutts recently offered a public voting for my lynching, but we just talked things over, and there will be no lynching - at least not yet. I think Matt is a great guy, but his job is tough as a public face of THE company dominating the web.

It is easy to take a series of events as being personal, but sometimes they are just a series of events and no personal damage is meant, and/or the person doing the damage is an anonymous third party. Also, priorities and goals and reasoning inside a large company can seem vastly different than how they appear outside of the same company, especially when the company has 13,000 employees and keeps doubling in size about every other year.

I still believe that many of my Google criticisms and concerns are valid, but there is only so much Matt can do, and he is doing the best he feels he can, and probably far better than I could do if I had his job. The keyboard is mightier than the pen.

Why SEOs Should Use the Meta Keywords Tag On Their Homepage

Nov 14th

Should the MarketingSherpa's guide to landing pages use an effective landing page? Should a company touting the value of statistics use statistically relevant datasets?

Every day someone is getting called out for being a liar, a thief, or a charlatan douchebag. You can't track it all, but simply following your own guidelines and ideals lessens the odds that people will wrongfully call you out.

A few years back a friend of mine bolded one of the keywords in the content on the homepage of his SEO services site, and I told him I thought it made his homepage look slightly worse. He then replied "perhaps, but it looks optimized". That line of thinking made sense to me.

The State of the SEO Market in 2007

Nov 13th

Philipp Lessen recently asked me to guest post on Blogoscoped about the state of the world of SEO in 2007. I talked about recent events, editorial considerations, industry consolidation, and all sorts of other goodies.

I also did a mini interview with Web Pro News at the Blog World Expo. I pulled my wonderful wife into the interview, and she was kinda shy. :) Today is her birthday so we are about to go out soon.

Understanding Google's Mindset on Classifying Spam

Nov 13th

If...

  • people would not notice it when Google removes your site from the search results
  • Google can clone your business model without paying writers to produce content or carrying physical inventory

... then your site is spam. Maybe not by today's standards, but eventually.

As the web evolves, a once whitelisted site can become a site that is easy to penalize. Evolve with the web, or grow irrelevant by the day.

This could sound like a scaremongering post, or it could be taken as a sign of the importance of connecting with people on an emotional level, and offering an experience worth sharing.

BizRate.com & Google Break Up

Nov 13th

Google Checkout Makes Shopping Sites Undesirable

As Google Checkout ramps up, many thin arbitrage / shopping aggregator sites are going to see a significant love loss from Google. In September Andrew Goodman wrote a piece on how paid search and organic search quality criteria may play off each other, after coming across a post on Inside AdWords where Google stated that some types of sites are likely to merit a low quality score:

The following types of websites are likely to merit low landing page quality scores and may be difficult to advertise affordably. In addition, it's important for advertisers of these types of websites to adhere to our landing page quality guidelines regarding unique content.
  • eBook sites that show frequent ads
  • 'Get rich quick' sites
  • Comparison shopping sites
  • Travel aggregators
  • Affiliates that don't comply with our affiliate guidelines

Market Saturation

It does not help any of the shopping aggregators that there are about a dozen competitors (BizRate, Shopping.com, Shopzilla, MSN Shopping, NextTag, Epinions, DealTime, Pricegrabber, Pricerunner, Yahoo! Shopping, etc.). From a marketing standpoint almost all of them offer near identical user experience, so few of them are remarkable or linkworthy. The whole field (including Yahoo!) compete based on renting large swaths of links.

Everyone MUST Rent Links to Compete

Given Google's recent war cries against buying and selling links, and that there are so many shopping comparison sites, it is easy for Google to whack a few of them with it going unnoticed by anyone outside the companies. But if you are in the comparison shopping field and do not rent links, how can you compete with Yahoo! when they do? You can't.

The Fall of BizRate.com

I am uncertain if the drop in Google was algorithmic or editorial, but BizRate's Alexa ranking is off sharply over the past couple weeks, and if you look at top keywords they ranked for on Google (via Compete.com, SEO Digger, or SpyFu), their site is no longer ranking for many of them. In fact, I didn't even see the US site ranking for "biz rate". For that term bizrate.co.uk ranks #1. When I visit the UK site from a Google search result for "biz rate" the site asks if I want to view the US site or the UK site.

Here is a snapshot of the plunged BizRate traffic

And here is a running historical graph:

Google's Algorithmic Whitelists Are Not Carved in Stone

BizRate, which sold to the E.W. Scripps company for $525 million, used to be on Google's editorial white list.

Perceived Authenticity is Key to Profitable Niche Publishing Business Models

Via TC, I discovered IBM released a report on how the they think the $550 billion global ad market might change in the coming years. The predictions look bleak for most ad agencies and traditional media gatekeepers, but good for niche publishers who have a solid stream of attention:

The "voice" delivering a message, along with its perceived authenticity, will become as powerful perhaps as the message or offer.

As media gets more saturated, we get better at filtering out garbage. Jakob Nielson's article about writing articles instead of blog posts does a great job of explaining why writing fewer and more in depth articles is effective for gaining and keeping attention in a competitive marketplace.

On a related note, Frank just noticed a TV show skipping the TV and starting out on the web. There is no easier way to increased perceived authenticity than having a direct and open relationship with the audience.

IBM also offered research on the attention economy in a paper titled Vying for attention: the future of competing in media and entertainment. Rich Shefren recently created a mindmap of what he calls the Attention Age Doctrine, which shows why people are willing to pay larger premiums for great advice and nothing for decent advice.
attention age

The Value of Consumer Generated Media & Editorializing Commercial Offers

Nov 12th

Looking for Christmas oriented keyword research? You would be hard press to find a better list of hot toys this year than to look at Amazon.com's holiday toy list. Google also offers their Google Trends product, which will likely confirm the validity of Amazon's list as the holiday season draws near. Both of these lists work to reinforce the market leading position of the associated companies, and editorialize their content based on user feedback.

Amazon.com not only offers stuff like the holiday toy list, but they

  • offer video samples of products in use
  • allow you to find out what is new, what recently got hot, and their best sellers by category
  • list the highest rated consumer reviews near each product
  • allow users to comment on the reviews
  • tell you what other consumers who viewed the item you are looking at eventually bought

All of that editorialized information makes people more likely to talk about their site (free marketing), makes people more comfortable buying (higher conversion rates), and thus increases how much Amazon can afford to pay for traffic (through search or affiliate channels).

But you don't have to have that sort of scale to editorialize your content. Many niche sites would do well to integrate user feedback. How hard is it for your content management system to create a most popular list which links to your highest traffic pages or most frequently sold items? After setting it up, it requires almost no effort to maintain, but provides social validation for what is already popular.

If you sell something expensive and want to avoid being replaced by improved technology and consumer feedback aggregation you should look to sell an experience instead of an object. One of the easiest ways to do that is by editorializing the offer and following up with the customer throughout the purchase process.

Manufacturers are going to foot the bill for some new types of product information packaging, but by the time they do everyone will have the same information and it will no longer be an advantage. Those who are quickest to adopt the new information formats and new types of interactivity will have fatter profit margins.

How Efficient is the Web at Selling High Priced Items?

Nov 11th

I wanted to get my wife something cool for her birthday, but the gift I wanted to buy proved nearly impossible to find from a trustworthy source. I was going to get her a high end autographed item, but who should I buy it from?

  1. The not for profit site that is down, requiring you to buy through the payment link inside of Google's cache
  2. The site with Google Checkout and Google AdSense on their home page
  3. The site with a sleazy Clickbank affiliate ad for how to steal stuff
  4. The site with no money back guarantee
  5. The site with a design that looks like I created it in January 2003 (my first month on the web)
  6. The eBay member with 0 reputation
  7. The eBay member that takes a month and a half to ship
  8. The eBay member selling authentic lithographs
  9. The eBay member selling the item used

While I listed the above faults as though each was a different site, many of the sites actually suffered from multiple trust eating offenses. I consider myself a savvy searcher and yet these were the best sites I could find for what I wanted to buy. Because of the price-point I was unwilling to trust any of them enough to buy.

At lower price points we are more likely to let little things slide, but almost every site undermines conversion rates. A year from now I will probably look back on this post and laugh at some of the things I was screwing up today.

Linkbait is the New Reciprocal Links Page

Nov 10th

[Update: it appears a friend wrote a spot on article using the same title about 6 months ago. Here is some link love for him.]

I have been a big fan of linkbait, but for all its upsides it does have many potential risks that are rarely discussed by most marketers. Outside of those risks, most people coming to your site from linkbait have a fly-like memory. One visit, one pageview, and they are gone forever. If you are selling branded CPM ads good news for you, but otherwise there is no value.

The potential upside of a linkbait driven marketing campaign is growing smaller by the day. In the third video here, DaveN hinted that he believed that Google is looking at how natural a site's link growth profile looks like, and discounting many of the rapid growth spikes if they are not followed up by an increased baseline link growth rate. Which ultimately means linkbait only creates significant value if you can keep launching one right after another.

Given that Google hand edits some hyper-successful linkbaits, is it any surprise that they aim to minimize the upside potential of random one off linkbaits? A couple of my better friends who are a bit cynical went so far as stating that linkbait is only promoted by search engineers because it is so easy to detect and devalue. Linkbait is the new reciprocal links page.

Compare linkbait to developing a real brand. Developing a real brand is slower and more expensive, but search is intrinsically tied to branding. If your brand is the keyword, it is hard for search engineers to take it away from you. They are irrelevant if they do not show you at the top of the results. They can show at most a few ads before they list your site, or they degrade their user experience. And, as you build brand awareness, it causes a smooth natural link growth profile, which helps you rank better for the generic phrases. Brand building is nothing they could ever really penalize, as they have no reason to want to penalize companies for creating real brands.

You don't have to be a brand guru to learn how to build a brand. Simply discover a couple legitimate channels, track why people talk about them with Google alerts, and replicate the best ideas while ditching the bad ones.

View the Presentation From My Speech at Blogworld Expo

Nov 8th

This is was a document about how optimizing a blog is largely a game of competing for attention, with tips on how to win attention and marketshare.

BTW, I am going to WebmasterWorld Las Vegas Pubcon next month. I think I am speaking on two or three different panels.

[Video] Planning & Preparing for Success Online

Nov 6th

I am by no means a standard for success (I have many flaws that need fixed), but this 5 minute and 25 second video highlights some of the things I did right that helped me do well on the web.

I am off to the blogging conference tomorrow, so no videos for a few days, but please let me know what you think of this one. If you will be at the Blog World Expo I am speaking there Tuesday about SEO. Feel free to stop by and say hi. :)

  • Register Domains Early & Often: As soon as you have a good idea go register the related domain. The registration and re-registration fee is negligible compared to the potential rewards of executing on a good idea.
  • Built At Least a Few Links: Search engines and web users have a limited number of ways to gauge trust and credibility. Setting up at least a basic site and building a few links for it costs next to nothing compared to the potential rewards of owning a good idea. Throw out a shingle, get it a few links, sit on it for a year and come back to it.
  • Ride Successful Trends: You don't have to be first, but it doesn't hurt to be. Also look to duplicate some of the best ideas from the past, while looking for ways to modernize them.
  • Reinvest in Your Best Channels: If something is a success reinvest in improving the design, the layout, and the offering. If you are beyond self sustaining you are not far from making relatively large profits. A few months of learning, testing, and tracking can lead to a ten fold increase in income.
  • Don't Wait Until Tomorrow: Google is mapping out your psychological flaws. Tomorrow the web is going to be dirtier and more competitive. Skipping one hour of work today might mean 3 hours of work next year or 12 hours of work the following year.

New SEO Tool: Website Health Check Tool

Nov 6th

The Website Health Check tool aims to provide a simple and intuitive interface to seeing if your site has any major SEO issues. The site queries Google to grab pages you have indexed in Google, and looks for issues amongst the first 1,000 results.

If your site is exceptionally large, you can use the date based filters to view a sample of recently indexed pages in Google to see if there are any duplication issues amongst those pages.

Questions Answered by the Website Health Check Tool

  • Is Google indexing your site? Are they quickly indexing your new pages?
  • Do you have duplicate content pages getting indexed in Google?
  • Do you have canonical URL issues?
  • Are any of your pages in Google missing page titles?
  • Does your server send correct error messages?

Feedback Needed

This tool is in beta. Please leave feedback below.

I sent the programmer this URL and he would love to get your feedback on what you think of it. We are looking to have version two out before the end of the month.

Features We Are Looking to Add

  • Allow you to search for not just a site, but a site and a keyword, like [seobook.com seo]
  • Add indexed page counts from all major global search engines (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Ask)
  • Allow webmasters to grab results from any of the above 4 engines, or mix and match
  • Make each data point we collect link to the source

What other features would you like to see?

Video About How to Use the Website Health Check Tool

Try the Website Health Check tool today.

How Natural is Your Site's Growth? Check Your Google Indexing Profile

Nov 5th

Michael Jenson from Solo SEO recently emailed me about a cool new free SEO tool he created called Index Rank. After seeing my post about Google date based filters, Michael created the Index Rank tool, which allows you to see the growth of a site's profile in Google based on the number of pages indexed over different periods of time. The tool also allows you to compare multiple sites against each other.

Why is this data useful?

  • Since Google removed the supplemental results label, the next best thing we have to test site trust for lower end longtail pages is how quickly new pages are getting indexed.
  • If you see a rapid increase in indexing you know that is caused by an increase in domain trust due to better inlinks, an increase in content creation that leveraged unused authority the site was sitting on, solving a crawling issue, improving internal site architecture, or some technical issue that might be associated with creating duplicate content pages.
  • If everything you create is getting indexed you may consider creating content at a faster rate, perhaps using sub-brands off subdomains.
  • If you keep pumping out content but are not seeing your indexing stats go up, that is a cue to build links.

[Video] Intro. to PPC Marketing Using Google AdWords, Yahoo & Microsoft

Nov 5th

This 9 minute and 37 second video offers basic tips for starting with pay per click marketing.

General Tips for Starting With PPC Advertising

  • Start advertising on the major search engines. Google, Yahoo, and MSN give you faster feedback and better traffic quality than smaller search engines typically do. The size and scope of the large ad networks means that the #5 market is going to have almost no clean syndication partners because 60% of Google is more than 90% of smaller networks. Yahoo and MSN often have cheaper clicks than Google due to fewer competitors and less sophisticated price gouging ad quality algorithms.
  • Use different match types. Understand the differences between broad, phrase, and exact match. If you use broad or phrase match, make sure to use search query performance reports to find more keywords you should be advertising on and keywords you should be blocking via negative keywords tools.
  • Should you use ad syndication? Off the start, opt out of contextual ad syndication and test your campaigns via Google search ads, such that you can get a clean signal of click value, ad position, and ad CTR. After you know what it takes to compete in search you may want to re-enable ad syndication. If you enable ad syndication, set it up with its own ad groups or bid differently for contextual ads than you do for search.
  • Track conversion. This will teach you what keywords actually lead to commercial events. Sometimes if you are priced out of common market related keywords you can still find some high value lower search volume keywords that other competitors have not yet found. If you are managing large and complex campaigns you may want to use a third party conversion tracking tool, but if you only sell one product and/or run smaller accounts then you can use the free conversion tracking tools built into the search ad networks.
  • Use PPC to guide SEO. It is cheaper to use keyword research tools and use PPC to find out what terms convert right when you start an SEO campaign than it is to spend months targeting the wrong keywords.
  • A/B split test. Use the built in Google AdWords a/b split test tool to test different ad copy, and use their Website Optimizer tool to test different landing pages.
  • Be relevant. Use tight ad groups and send traffic to a landing page catered toward that basket of keywords. These tips increase ad clickthrough rate, ad quality scores, and conversion rates while lowering cost per click. Set brand related keywords in their own ad group. Dynamic keyword insertion can help improve your perceived ad relevancy by matching the ads up against keywords from the search query. Google's offline AdWords editor can help you create tight ad groups.
  • Set advertising goals. Some advertisers are looking for direct ROI, while others are looking to build their brand while making meager profits. If your brand related keywords are highly profitable, you might want to use those profits to help subsidize the cost of keywords earlier in the sales cycle or keywords that help increase brand awareness. If you have no search advertising experience and no brand awareness you can't be afraid of losing money off the start.
  • Use PPC to build links. If you create linkworthy content and buy the related keywords you can get mainstream media exposure for next to nothing.
  • Learn from the search engines. Google AdWords offers free online training videos which teach you how to use their ad network. One note of caution is that when they talk about Google tools that optimize something, many of those tools optimize eating your ad budget and increasing Google's revenues at your expense.

[Video] How to Spam Google Without Being Viewed as a Spammer

Nov 4th

This 7 minute and 50 second video is one of the first SEO videos I made. After reviewing it I realize I could have moved the screen around to show a few more examples of the stuff I was talking about. Rather than discussing one topic this video moves around to offer a wide array of marketing optimization ideas.

  • Domain name & site design: using a strong domain name helps you look more credible and helps you rank better. An original high quality site design also makes content appear more trustworthy.
  • Logo & homepage page title: place your keywords in your logo. Instead of using Paypal as your logo, use something like Paypal payment solutions or Paypal online payments. You can still emphasize the Paypal name while benefiting from enhanced inbound anchor text due to keyword proximity, and some people perceiving your official name as containing the associated keywords.
  • Title of articles & filenames: use at least one keyword phrase in your page title and make your filenames descriptive. Doing so will help you build descriptive inbound links. Some people link using your page title as the anchor text, this is especially true if your page title is short and memorable. Many authoritative websites cite sources using the full URL with filename in the anchor text.
  • Minimize duplication: mixing up your on page seo, page titles, and meta descriptions helps you rank for a wider net of keywords and makes your rankings more stable
  • Leverage your authority: add useful descriptive background text below the fold on high authority pages. Also consider adding more internal links on high authority pages.
  • Buying links: when buying them, consider buying links indirectly through payment schemes involving community participation and discussion, such as contests and affiliate programs.
  • Syndication: if your content is published on other sites, make sure to reference older posts on your site to drive that traffic stream and link equity back to your site.
  • Drunken spelling: if you have a community aspect to your site, don't correct misspellings. In fact, some publishers might even place fake reviews and comments on their sites to help capture misspelled keywords without raising their risk profiles.
  • Spammy examples: find reasons to discuss spammy high margin topics on high authority websites by relating them to your core business. If your relation is a bit of a stretch, consider backdating it or finding another way to place the story on a part of your site that does not have thousands of people reading every word.

[Video] An Example of What Not to do if Your Site Ranks Well

Nov 3rd

This 3 minutes and 29 second video was one of my first. It is not as clear and fluid as some of the more recent videos. It talks about how many websites ranking for years got killed by a Google engineer within days of being mentioned on a popular SEO blog.

The Role of Editorial Decisions at Google in Determining Relevancy

  • Almost every commercial site ranking for a wide array of commercial terms is doing something outside Google's ever-changing webmaster guidelines. SEO guidelines are set up such that you are not allowed to rank for anything worth ranking for.
  • Dictating search relevancy is as much about mind control as it is about determining what is considered relevant.
  • Some really spammy stuff gets a free pass because it is owned by a major corporation, or an expert that is actually misleading people and giving advice that sets up obvious footprints that are easy to detect and discount. Relevancy and hand edits are not applied justly or evenly.
  • When sites are new they tend to have less natural link profiles because push marketing is not as clean as pull marketing. After sites get significant exposure they can rely more on pull marketing and pretend that they were always clean. If a search engineer wants to they can start your site at 0 because years ago you did something they did not like, or simply because the site is associated with you. Relevancy and hand edits are not applied justly or evenly.
  • If an SEO blog provides information that is too good with specific examples of how to apply the techniques someone at a search engine might hand edit the site on principal.

Too Smart For Your Own Good

Nov 3rd
A few days ago Andy Hagans sent me a link to a 1924 article titled Why I Never Hire Brilliant Men, which has a couple killer quotes in it. The first is how to succeed in business:
That criticism may be justifiable, fo I am mediocre. But the point I have in mind is this: Business and life are built upon successful mediocrity; and victory comes to companies, not through the employment of brilliant men, but through knowing how to get the most out of ordinary folks.
And the second killer quote covers how some people fail to live in reality:
You conceive a big idea, get the whole organization on tiptoes to carry it out, and then you lose interest and go off on a new tangent. You think everybody else's mind ought to function as swiftly as your own, so you are alternately overenthusiastic and over-depressed. One day you carry some poor devil up into a high mountain and make him think he has a chance to become general manager. The next day you blow him up for not doing something which you think you told him, but which you actually forgot. You are always living, in imagination, about six jumps ahead.

That second quote applies to anyone in publishing. Businesses may not need many employees to have reach, but as marketing gets more insidious you need your customers to do your selling for you.

Without clearly communicating ideas designed to spread, few common people will talk about a business, and that business will stay stuck in a niche. That is unfortunate for those business owners, because in many fields the perceived topical authority (and person getting paid well) is determined outside of the niche. Creating value is not about writing knowledge on a page. Value is determined by the actual transfer of knowledge to others.

The web is speeding up communications. As companies and politicians continue to get caught lying and abusing language, we will be more willing to forgive those who make small errors while clarifying topics and making them more accessible to us.

Even if you are a doctor or scientist you can still communicate clearly using small words. Fields dominated by complex words and prose are full of opportunity for common folks to learn them, simplify them, and share them with other common folk. Most people are common in most ways.

[Video] Creating Your Site's Internal Link Structure for Google and Searchers

Nov 2nd

This video is a bit longer than some of the earlier videos, clocking in at 9 minutes and 39 seconds.

  • The Dual Roles of Navigation: Navigation needs to be user friendly and search engine friendly. If you want a user to pay attention to an offer you have to link to it with a call to action in the content area of the page. If you want search engines to pay attention to a page you have to link to it on important pages and/or from many pages. In general it is also better usability and better for your rankings to use descriptive (or keyword rich) text links over image links for your primary navigation, and in most in content links on your site.
  • Navigation Should Parallel Keyword Strategy: Your primary site navigation should be aligned with keyword categories, structured in related groups that capture keywords along the entire purchase cycle. If you have navigation that is not aligned with your keywords (like date based archives or an about page) you can use nofollow on it to prevent passing link equity through that portion of your site. You may also want to demote sections of your site that convert exceptionally poor relative to the better performing options.
  • Examples of Channeling Link Equity: Some websites, such as Target.com, show Google more navigation than they show end users to promote seasonally hot items. Other sites, like Chocolate.com, chose to use nofollow on unimportant internal links to de-emphasize unimportant options. You can view the nofollowed links on Chocolate.com by viewing their site with SEO for Firefox turned on. In some cases it also makes sense to use nofollow on user generated content to lessen the incentive for driveby spamming.
  • Clean & Clear Structure: If you author many pages about the same topic it is important to link to the most important articles in order to emphasize them, and use breadcrumb navigation to help structure the site and show what pages are most important.
  • Duplicate content: Google likes webmasters to believe that Google has duplicate content figured out, but if they have multiple similar pages indexed you are splitting your PageRank and they may rank the wrong version. Make sure you do not place the same (or exceptionally similar) content on multiple pages. Stuntdubl has a good list of resources for dealing with duplicate content.
  • Subdomains: If you have logical breaks in your content you may want to use subdomains to create smaller focused mini sites. If you have a strong brand you can get a bit more aggressive with subdomains, like eBay is.
  • More: Here are some more internal linking tips from a prior post on the topic.

The SEOBook Free SEO & SEM Job Boards

Nov 2nd

The Excessive Demand Problem

About 5 people a day ask me to recommend an SEO or link builder or site designer, but many of the people I have traditionally recommended

  • have either quit providing services to work exclusively on their own sites, or
  • have long wait lists.

Add that to the increasing complexity of SEO and increasing rates commanded by top experts, and it is hard for me to recommend any specific service provider to readers of this site. There are people offering to pay me good money to do some jobs and I simply do not have enough time to do everything I want...to the point where I probably even accidentally come off as rude to some people, just because it is so hard to keep up with 100 emails every day.

Job Boards Are Your Friend

I recently hired a blogger from the ProBlogger job boards. I was shocked by the quality of worker I was able to find (and some of the potentially great ones that I had to turn away). I also started placing help wanted ads in the SEO Book feed for things like gadget developers and link builders and got great results, but placing job ads in the main feed is a bit selfish.

With that in mind I decided to place an SEO jobs board on SEO Book.com. Currently I am not looking for people to submit advertisements offering services (the web is already full of that) but I am hoping to help people in need find someone to help them out with SEO, link building, site design, PPC, programming, etc.

Warnings

Of course due diligence is necessary when choosing who to work with, but sometimes good things start with a hello, and some of the newer hungry workers do sell their services for less than what they are worth. Don't take risks you can't afford to and never bet against your gut.

Currently the job boards here do not have a feedback module in them, but if the feature becomes popular you can expect me to add many features to help the marketplace get more efficient.

A True Story About Me

I met my second SEO customer ever on a jobs board at an SEO forum. I only charged him $300 back then to rank his site. That customer ranked #1 in Google, sold hundreds of thousands of dollars of merchandise, sent me a large Christmas bonus, became a great friend, and was the first person to review the first copy of SEO Book. He has since sold that top ranked website, but he and I have started working together on other projects. Hopefully others meet and have cool stories to share from the job boards on this site.

[Video] Keyword Research 101: Basic Keyword Strategy & Tips

Nov 1st

Keyword Research Tips

  • If you have an old site you should use analytics to track what keywords you are getting traffic for. For most webmasters it is easier to rank for more related keywords than it is to discover and dominate new areas.
  • When you start a new site make sure you use keyword modifiers in your page titles, meta descriptions, and page copy. It is easier to rank for long tail terms than shorter search queries.
  • You can find many keyword modifier types in this free XLS spreadsheet.
  • When you start doing keyword research, you can start with a seed list of broad keywords to power a keyword tool and keep digging deeper. Then repeat the process with related keywords and other keyword tools. No tool is perfect. Think of them more as qualitative than quantitative. I like Wordtracker and my keyword tool.
  • Organize your keywords into relevant baskets of keywords and modifiers that should be covered in different sections of your site and on different pages from your site.
  • I listed many bonus keyword research ideas in a recent Wordtracker article.
  • Some of my favorite follow up keyword tools to use when optimizing a page are

Selling Commodity Services: Controlling Cost vs Adding Value

Nov 1st

One theory of web marketing starts off with controlling cost. Where you try to find what works right now, and do exactly what is needed to get to the level of success you want to reach. The theory sounds valid, but...

  • By the time something is common knowledge, its value and effectiveness has decreased and is heading lower.
  • The markets are shifting. Tomorrow's marketplace is uglier and more competitive than today's marketplace. And it has lower margins for average players too!
  • Those who invest in building real assets are going to eventually beat you. And their success is self reinforcing.

Investing & Adding Value is Better Than Being Cheap

Rather than thinking of how to control costs while growing a web business, it is better to spend that same time, energy, and focus learning how to create value and how to get people talking about how valuable your widget is. When I was new to the web I kept my reported income far lower than it should have been because I kept reinvesting in learning and marketing, even when I was heavily in debt. Some of the spend was a waste, but I know enough to compete in many markets with minimal investment.

How to be Cheap

Two months ago my mom told me she wanted to create a new blog about Diverticulitis, a topic effecting my grandma. With no warning, that afternoon I...

  • learned how to spell the word Diverticulitis (2 minutes)
  • used WordTracker's free keyword research tool (2 minutes)
  • bought my mom a $6 domain at GoDaddy (2 minutes)
  • spent 5 minutes aligning the DNS, hosting her site at Dreamhost, which allows unlimited sites to a $7 a month account. I recently created a 5 year account for a friend and only spent $300 for 5 years of hosting!
  • set my mom up with a default Blogger template (5 minutes)
  • created a cheesy logo (that took me 5 minutes to make using low end $50 logo design software I bought years ago)
  • modified the CSS file to match the logo (5 minutes)

My mom wrote 10 blog posts that took her ~ 5 to 10 minutes each, and a week later I spent 5 minutes and ~ $80 submitting it to a couple directories.

A few months ago I bought a domain name for $2,500. Last month I was offered $17,500 for the domain, and not too long ago the same guy paid over twice that for a similar but worse name. If he offered me that much I might have sold, but unsolicited offers are typically on the low side.

Today I was sent an unsolicited $500 offer for my mom's new site. Why? Because the site already ranks in Yahoo and Microsoft. If I spend a few hundred more the site will likely compete in Google too. My marketing knowledge was expensive to acquire, but everything else was good enough to compete for cheap or free (at least in that market at this moment in time).

The reason this story is remarkable is because people were willing to buy such a small site when it was so new. In two months the site was conceived, created, competing, ranked, and someone already made an offer on it. Two months ago that same domain name was $6.

Everything is Becoming a Commodity

It started with the average travel broker, then it hit classified ads and regional monopolies like newspapers, and it is working its way toward your industry. Just look at all the above web industries listed that are free or nearly free. Due to more efficient markets, automation, outsourcing, and the need to compete on an open marketplace, the margins for almost everything needed to compete on the web are heading toward zero.

My mom's new site competes on about $100 of investment, but in a year or two that domain name might have cost $500, and a couple more competitors entering the field might have pushed the marketing costs to $1,000. A year or two later the domain name might have been $2,000 and the marketing costs might be $10,000.

Don't Become a Commodity

The three solutions to the commodity issue are

  • use new technologies to create and publish the DIY tools and information that will commoditize other businesses competing in your space
  • build your knowledge in related fields that interest you, such that you can add value to multiple points on the value chain. Google is search + ads + documents + hosting + syndication + etc etc etc. I know a bit about SEO + SEM + marketing + branding + conversion + domaining + etc etc etc.
  • Invest to build your awareness and brand (build mindshare and distribution) to where you are not considered a commodity. Create enough of an abundance of demand that you chose who you work with.

Unless somebody is talking about you or consuming your stuff right now you are becoming a commodity, although you may not realize it yet.






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