The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about SEO and SEM titled In Search of Traffic. I belive you have to be a subscriber to read the whole article, but there is a free podcast interview Kelly Spors did with me about keyword stuff available here, which I think is also available on iTunes.
I am going to Coachella today.
So I should not be around for a few days.
I will be around sometime Monday or Tuesday. Or maybe a few days later.
My girlfriend loves golf and they have lots of it in Palm Springs. The trip could get extended.
Hope to finish an underway ebook update shortly after I return.
Lots to think about and sort through with search result re-ranking, editorial algorithmic results, etc.
And hope I do not peel too bad from sunburn.
Nice to see user generated content getting more political.
Have fun. I will. :)
So I am starting to be a bit more honest with myself about the lack of value of my current business model. My price point puts myself rather low on the value chain. As the field of SEO has grown and my share of voice has grown I have attracted far too many wankers. Many of my customers are amazing people (I have met, became friends with, and learned from many of them), but it only takes a few bad ones to sour my mood. And it isn't fair for my girlfriend to have to put up with me being pissed off at wankers. For example, in the last 5 minutes I just got the following:
Not the only SEO book on the planet, just check out Chapters. If your SEO book were so good, why would I have to drill down four pages in a Google search to find it? Crap
a phone call about from a customer (not my customer, someone else's) asking me about why her site designer and SEO were fighting and if there was some independent ethics verification body
a refund request complaining that my book was too good
and this comment from a prospective customer
if this book doesn't help me the way i want it (= dramatic increase in traffic as determined at my discretion --- what is my guarantee i'll get my money back?
This wanker exposure is not uncommon either. In spite of making my phone number and email address less accessible I typically get to enjoy about 10 to 20 wankers a day. Some I ignore, but even when I try to do that, these people still make my outlook on humanity and the human race a bit bleak.
The people buying PPC stuff are already looking to spend money, but many of the people who are attracted to SEO are attracted to it because they are lazy, want a free ride, and refuse to add any value to the world around them. This is exactly why the target market for a PPC book is so much nicer than the target market for an SEO Book.
As search gets more complex and changes faster (you could write a 500 page book on just AdWords, let alone organic search) my job is to push traditional marketing principals rather than SEO loopholes because that is less risky and delivers more real tangible long-term value. Also, it is hard to write a book that is fairly comprehensive, up to date, applicable to the spectrum of readers, and easy to understand. I am thinking I need to change my business model. Potential changes may include any of the following
selling nothing on this site (though I would still update my ebook for a while if I did this)
increasing price point to $299 to filter out many of the wankers
charging recurring fees to new customers
selling a recurring newsletter instead of an ebook
Not sure when I will change my business model, but the sooner the better. What would you do?
I took a while to post this because the AdWords data was too small of a sample set to trust as meaningful data, but from affiliate sales I now can say that the new SEO Book salesletter is a big success. Affilate conversion rates are up, last month I paid out twice as many affiliates as any prior month, and this month looks like it will be beating last month.
It is kinda weird when you build a decent amount of authority from scratch because eventually people start treating your errors much differently. There are ups and downs to exposure. The biggest ups are
You get far more credit than you deserve, so it is easy to maintain your market position. Some non-news is news because you mention it.
If you do something good it is probably going to spread.
You will get a lot of feedback.
You get opportunities that you would never expect, and get to learn a lot by partnering with great people to work on amazing projects.
You can help friends and family quit working for others and work for themselves to do things they are passionate about.
The biggest downs are
You get far more credit than you deserve - this causes many people to stagnate, trading off of past reputation.
You get used to doing well, so you have to learn something really cool or something amazing has to happen for you to get excited about work.
If you get addicted to reach or authority you can let yourself change to where you identity becomes more representative of what others want you to be - even if it is not who you are.
If you get bored and want to change what you do it is hard to change if you let your living costs scale with your income.
Your average client shifts from people who are passionate to include many people who are not.
It is impossible to write something that is interesting enough to be worth reading and accessible to everyone.
People look to pull you out of context any way possible, especially if doing so can improve their market position or sense of self worth.
You can get bogged down with menial tasks to where you stop learning unless you are aggressive at filtering out noise.
As far as my errors go, I can write a post about how important it is to write well, but at my core I am still a bad speller. About a year or so ago spelling errors started to matter much more than they did in the past. Many other errors have become more and more important as well.
More recently friends advise me to steer clear of controversy, stating things like things that got you where you are are not necessarily things you should continue to do. Largely they are probably correct, but it is a big shift in perspective to go from looking for cracks in statements and policies to being a person who just casually analyzes markets and is rewarded for their observations and ideas...especially if you like to view yourself as the underdog. :)
And now when I do anything risky I am guaranteed at least one sharp response. And everything you do is one more opportunity to look hypocritical. My sales letter claims that SEO is easy, and I think if you are passionate about your topic it is not hard to compete in just about any field. If you are passionate it is not hard to spread ideas because pure passion brings out creativity and it is easy to detect...people want to be associated with that. People want to feel important and want to associate with people who make them feel their ideas are important.
The issue with Dave Pasternack (which got me that response telling me that I need to grow up) is not that SEO is easy or hard, it is that it is hard to scale selling SEO services because most businesses need more than just SEO... they need overall business optimization. Most people are too arrogant or afraid or shortsighted or distrusting to consider that. What is worse is that many people intentionally commit fraud, and we have to be sheltered to protect our egos and livelihoods.
I just helped get a great friend's new site to the front page of Google's search results. Now their phone is ringing off the hook, but because they need to streamline their sales process and work on making more compelling offers that filter out bad prospects they are probably getting a bit more exposure than they want. Was it easy for them to rank? Absolutely. But now they need more. And they are learning quickly, but it is much easier to help them for free as a friend than to build their business as a client.
And then you know pieces of stories that you can't share. Some days multiple mainstream media outlets will contact you asking questions about how they can better optimize their sites. The same companies publish articles about how sketchy the entire field of SEO is, while cloaking links or content on their own sites, and few people see the absurdity of the claims. And if you say anything about it then people may see it as an unjust rant. And if you divulge too much you might end up costing someone their job. Everyone wants results, and accountability for risk and errors usually falls on someone who can't afford to bear the brunt of the outcome.
If you are profitable and show your results you are accused of showing off, all while closing market inefficiencies you found. If you do not show results then you are arrogant and talking out of your...
As a person who shares market inefficiencies you are going to offend some people. Right now I think many bloggers are getting paid crumbs compared to what they are worth, but if I post about that suddenly I am a chauvinistic pig that thinks mom bloggers are naive and stupid and blah blah blah.
I don't think it is bad to be naive. I still am about many things, and if you feel that saying some people may be naive is a bad thing then you need to grow up and stop viewing the world in a black and white picture that makes yourself feel important. Everyone is not equal. And if we were the world would be a terrible place to live.
My girlfriend actually likes how crass and kurt I am, but I am nowhere near as much so on this blog. Yet after reading what others say about me I often feel like I just pulled this move.
Everyone has cracks in their identities and egos. And if a person stands up for the rights of others sometimes they end up trampling others to maintain their own authority. It is an underlying theme in Animal Farm. From my Cliff notes style poem about that book:
what you fought against
is what you became
still, you kept fighting
to protect your name
People link at definitive statements. If your content is vanilla nobody cares. People link at definitive statements. People pull your words out of context and make them more definitive such that they create a self promotional controversy. But then sometimes I do the same thing. Everyone does. There are far more words typed each day than attention to consume them. Somebody has to lose.
As you get more authority you are expected to be less and less risky. I recently got one of my sites mentioned in authoritative political blogs and noticed that SEO Book typically sends link sites nearly as much traffic as many of the top political blogs. Should I take less risk? How do you balance self confidence and perceived arrogance? Should you worry about offending a few people so much that it changes your identity and how much you enjoy doing what you do?
What is the best way to let them know? Recently I read this charming review
all I can seem to think about is the distaste left in my mouth from my last ebook purchase. I bought this seo ebook and it pissed me off so bad I donâ€™t even want to give you an aff backlink for it. ... it took me two minuts on blogs and in the forums to learn just as much as I did in that stupid 385 page book
Hope those forums will teach you a lot about rewriting the content of those you flame, and pawning the content off as your own. You really need a bit more work on that front.
From my about page
Balancing answering emails, blogging, reading blogs and forums, buying and developing sites, working for a couple customers, and running Threadwatch is pretty hard - especially with zero employees. In the past SEO Book was more about posting search news, but since the market has got so saturated on that front and I acquired the Threadwatch community I have decided to keep Threadwatch focused on the latest search news and speculation, and to use SEO Book to answer customer questions and to offer online marketing strategy tips.
From his about page
Balancing answering emails, blogging, reading blogs and forums, buying and developing sites, working for a couple customers, and running my affiliate business is pretty hard - especially with zero employees.
In the past Nerdville was more about posting Affiliate product reviews, but since the market has got so saturated on that front and I have moved on to different industries I have decided to keep posting focused on the latest search and affiliate marketing news and speculation, answer customer questions and to offer online marketing strategy tips.
I guess emulation is a form of flattery.
Normally I wouldn't care much about a few people being jerks, but as my blog has got more popular the human to jerk ratio has drastically changed (especially over the past couple months), and I think the best way to curb it is to remind the jerks what they are from time to time. Coupled with moving across the country and working on some amazing projects I really don't have much time for these jerks, so from time to time I will just mention them that way I don't carry their words with me.
I am sure this is unconventional and against best practices, but if people are going to steal my content then flame me for my content quality I should remind them how lowly they think of themselves. At least they could steal content from a site they like.
So we finished up at Elite Retreat yesterday. It was a bunch of fun and I think it went amazingly well. Today I am flying out at 6 AM, and thus am sleeping on the plane flight (twice in 4 days). I am moving into my new place today, and will be trying to be as lazy as possible for the rest of the year, so this blog may go without any new posts. As a 16 year old kid it was not uncommon for me to make $150 to $200 a day selling baseball cards on the weekend. When I think of how small that marketplace was, how naive and ignorant to business and marketing I was back then, how much I have learned about search and marketing since then, and then compare my income to the size of opportunity the web offers, it seems silly that I don't put a bit more effort into blowing up a large bank account.
Next year I intend to heavily dip into the arbitrage and affiliate markets. I want to shy away from reading so much about search and put much more effort into manipulating many many many more search results.
I also intend to create a site or two which is the equivalent of this site, but in different marketplaces. I am getting somewhat burned out on this site because I get the same things over and over again, and part of that fault is that for many, the attraction of SEO is the idea of creating value out of nothing, but most of us who are making money from SEO do so because we couple it with other knowledge, and / or work hard. The other part of the problem is that if I am not learning fast I feel I am dying, and it is hard to answer hundreds of daily emails, track the markets, go to conferences, stay in decent shape, save time to read and learn, while still launching other sites and ideas.
Some of the more annoying things that make me cringe
random instant messages from people I don't know who immediately try to extract value from me or pitch me outsourcing services
the emails that start with something like bought your book and was too lazy to read it. teach me everything about SEO.
emails from people who got scammed by some packaged solution provider that starts there service calls by asking the all important question how much room do you have on your credit card
the emails that tell me that I must be a scammer and the only way I am not is if I give the emailer my ebook for free
the scumbags who buy my ebook and then do a chargeback (costing me their $10 more than their order price) when it is probably easier and quicker just to ask for a refund
the emails that start with something like bought your ebook. have not read it. want a consult RIGHT NOW. or can I schedule my 15 minute consult for 4 am Saturday 3 weeks out so I can ask you to wake weird hours, blow you off, and then ask you to schedule it again.
Emails from greedy business people who expect me to give them multi million dollar rankings for a couple thousand dollars. I love telling these people exactly what I think of them.
the automated blog comments that mention the Holocaust
politicians that try to undermine free markets and free speech under the guise of saving the children (while dropping bombs on thousands of them in other countries to try to gain control of their oil supplies)
a government that outsources the printing of its own currency and goes in debt just to issue it (allegedly to help maintain its value) which is compelled to try to legislate religious and moral values. If you can't be trusted to maintain the value of your own currency then what other values can you be trusted to maintain?
prentending that wealth is created independantly of poverty and inequality
politicians and media companies that lie about global warming and push us to live under blind faith or a love of material things at the expense of our future
being shallow and materialistic
realizing how far away I am from my potential and how the world deserves so much better from me
realizing that when I see deep faults in others, it is just a reflection of my own flaws that I am unhappy with
when I let little things or little people get to me and control my emotions and cause me to do stupid or self destructive things
If I can tell a person what I think of them in 3 words there is no reason to type 6 emails. I will do my best to be as happy as possible, and, where necessary, be more crass and curt to people who make me cringe.
People and things that make me smile
thinking of California and a snow free winter
Radiohead and other good music
partnering with many great business friends
thinking of all the cool things people have done to help me out
thinking of all the cool tips and tricks friends have taught me
reading feedback from and meeting people who say I have helped them
knowing that lots of cool people read this blog and leave comments that help teach me, in spite of me typing pure drivl from time to time