Is there such a thing as "passive" income? Generally no. A person can cash out existing brand equity and exposure, but if they cash out too aggressively and/or do not reinvest enough then they are ultimately cashing out their market position and will eventually fade.
Does Google Make "Passive" Income?
Online there are some network effects that are hard to beat. MySpace had them over Facebook & only lost due to years of systematic incompetence & mismanagement. But if you are boastful about your business model competition will come and eat your lunch. Look at all the Groupon clones. And even Google has to claw and fight for every percent of search marketshare.
A person could say "well Google makes passive income" and I would counter that with "not really."
So far this month Google has made about a dozen search interface changes or tests & the underlying relevancy algorithms have likely had at least 3x or 4x as much change.
Keeping Google's Marketshare Costs Big Money
The propaganda Google spreads include statements like: "users keep coming back to Google even though they have a choice of a search engine every time they open a browser"
While Google maintains that their monopolist marketshare is due to user appreciation of superior technology, a ton of their exposure is paid for. I was helping a friend set up a new laptop and the amount of Google added to the machine made me feel like Google is the new Norton or Symantec.
If you use the Internet Explorer browser to access the web it comes with a Google Toolbar.
That toolbar defaults to enhanced features enabled.
Google not only pays to be the default search provider, but as part of that they also pay to have competition removed from the default options list!
Google also pays for Chrome to be installed in the laptop.
If you are curious enough to click on the pinned Chrome logo then when it opens they try to set it as your default browser.
Ads are also included within the interface of their online tools. For example, if you use Google Analytics they may recommend you try AdSense, AdWords, or their affiliate network.
The act of logging out of 1 Google service may trigger ads for another.
Google bundled chat into Google+ & they were fined by the FTC for bundling Google Buzz into Gmail, a violation of user's privacy.
Google's doodle drawings on their homepage may also promote their other offerings
Even if you don't use Chrome or the Google Toolbar in Internet Explorer then whenever you use Google they suggest setting it to your home page.
And even if you don't change your homepage, Google paid to be the default search box on Toshiba's default start page!
If you manage to somehow avoid all the above Google payola then they also pay other browsers (like Firefox) to be the default search service. Further, they then wait for those 3rd party browser plugins to have security issues & then do a bundled cross-promotion there, thus turning competing browsers into ads for more Google crap.
And when you go to update Flash, look where they tell you to search from
If your default search provider isn't Google when you install Chrome they use an option screen to help you change it, with Google being the first choice
Either Google is fibbing when they state how much of their existing marketshare is due to superior quality service, or they are hedging a risk of losing marketshare to Bing by buying placement everywhere they can. And to me this really highlights one of the big issues with truly "passive" online income. In spite of Google's success (& the great network effects they enjoy), even Google feels the need to spend hundreds of millions of Dollars a year buying exposure for their own browser, buying default search provider exposure in 3rd party browsers, and ensuring new computers are filled with promotional Google crapware.
Google also uses their browser's start screen to push beyond software into hardware...a cautionary tale for Android manufacturers after seeing Google acquire Motorola Mobility.
This sort of cross promotion is everywhere, from ads on Youtube promoting Chrome
to Gmail ads highlighting featured Youtube videos
and Google+ games having Chrome ads integrated as special items in the game
right on through to Google buying display ads promoting display ads.
Facebook realizes how powerful this cross-integration is & thus buys ads on Youtube as well.
But if you want to leave Google's ecosystem it takes a lot of effort, as Google is willing to advertise the Google alternative aggressively wherever they can.
Google recently extended their ecosystem of cross-referencing further by automatically adding Google Related to Google Chrome & the Google Toolbar, which recommends Google content within the browser no matter where you are on the web.
Google's bundling not only follows users around the web & personalizes ads, but it also bakes right into the core of their relevancy algorithms. Eric Schmidt stated "the internet would be better if we knew you were a real person rather than a dog or a fake person. Some people are just evil and we should be able to ID them and rank them downward."
Mr. Neronha said those efforts amounted to "window-dressing," allowing Google to continue earning revenues from the allegedly illicit ad sales even as it professed to be taking action against them. Google employees helped undercover Justice Department agents in the sting operation evade controls designed to stop companies from advertising illegally, he said.
"Suffice it to say that this is not two or three rogue employees at the customer service level doing this on their own," Mr. Neronha said in an interview. "This was a corporate decision to engage in this conduct."
Likewise, it costs Google a lot of money to deal with lawsuits that arise due to their business practices & lack of respect for copyright with photos, books & videos. They eventually had to develop an expensive video footprinting technology to adopt DRM features on Youtube.
likely violated Oracle patents (that will likely cost them in the B's)
had other patent issues which required Google to spend $12.5 billion buying Motorola (that is nearly 1/3 of the cash Google has built up through their IPO & saved profits in the 10-year history of the company)
Sneaky ISPs Redirecting Search Traffic
What is worse for Google, is in spite their default status, their huge ad budget, and being large enough to be sued regularly, even all that isn't enough to keep all the traffic they pay for, as there is widespread hijacking of search traffic by ISP providers.
Google Isn't Passive, but ___ Is
Google may have bit off more than they could chew & are certainly doing anything but being passive. But maybe some other companies that make great money are doing so passively. Offline that is certainly true in many instances, but online passive companies tend to disappear.
Look at all the work Yahoo! has done with their news box & their sports vertical, yet when you back out the cash on the books & the foreign investments the company isn't valued at much above $0. AOL has also cratered. In spite of their huge traffic streams they are not growing with the market due to search bypassing them & niche players picking them apart one vertical at a time. Running a portal profitably & sustainably is anything but passive.
Even deep into the long tail at the other end of the equation the profits may be every bit as scarce. Demand Media's accounting techniques show that they were far better at growing revenues than growing profits & the company may never be profitable.
The Limits of "Search"
Google & Bing keep eating more of the value chain through content scraping & a more interactive search experience that include new ad formats, like coupons & product ads with pictures.
In addition, search companies are challenging the boundaries of search by creating vertical media & ad networks that compete against a wide array of publisher websites.
The Huffington Post
Autonomy / Fast Search
MapQuest + TomTom
The Yellow Pages
Dell / HP
That "Shady" Competitor
When Google talks about "protecting users" one of the case studies / angles they push is the health angle:
The paid post at the top happens to be about brain tumors, which is a really serious subject. If you are searching for information about brain cancer or radiosurgery, you probably don’t want a company buying links in an attempt to show up higher in search engines. Other paid posts might not be as starkly life-or-death, but they can still pollute the ecology of the web.
While Google was using the life-or-death approach to policing link buying outside of their AdWords ad network, Google was knowingly selling search ads to Canadian "pharmacies" providing illicit drugs in the US. The official settlement document lists how Google insiders knew work-arounds to the automated systems & were working directly on managing the ad accounts associated with the illegal activities. Google had done so for over a half-decade & only changed their approach *after* they knew a sting operation was underway.
For those scoring at home, this has been Google's approach to the health vertical:
3rd parties buying links that *could* influence search results for important health topics = morally reprehensible
Google selling links *within* the search results for important health topics to criminal organizations = totally reasonable
Given the above investigation, it is not surprising that they shut down their health records initiative. They had already spent all their credibility.
Google may protect you from some third parties, but Google can not protect you from Google. :D
You can also do nothing wrong, but have your model undermined by looking too similar to a company that is exploiting Google's relevancy weaknesses & forces Google to apply retribution. A lot of small ecommerce sites were purged in the content farm update. What is so sad about that is that if not for accounting games & selling stock as a business model a lot of the biggest "success" stories in the content farm might not even exist.
While the above section focuses on Google, it could be about any competing business that touches the web...a bank which uses bogus accounting driving smaller banks out of business, a company that receives no bid government contracts associated with bribes & uses those "profits" to price dump in related fields, an ISP redirecting your traffic, etc. No matter how clean a business model looks at a glace, there is some gray area where businesses meet & exceed the numbers quarter after quarter.
Look, for example, at the sorts of links NetZero puts in some of their customer emails
And those links point at the illegal "fake news" styled $1 trials (with endless unstoppable recurring billing).
Look closely at any mainstream media site & you will run into those ads.
Are Passive Revenues Impossible?
It really comes down to how you define passive.
If your site doesn't evolve & isn't aggressively marketed then eventually a search engine or another competitor will pick away at your advantages until you are soon found ranking #2 then #3 then #7 then #20 then invisible. Or you might get clipped by an algorithm all at once in a sudden stop torch job that makes your site essentially invisible, or it may be a slow & painful debt by a thousand cuts.
This is one of the reasons I generally prefer to have a site with a 30% or 50% profit margin over one with a 90% or 95% profit margin. Sure high margins are great while they last, but if you don't reinvest enough over time an algorithm or a competitor will eventually torch some of those high margin projects.
When it comes to online income, passive and reliable are not synonyms.
If you saved the margins you made while they were there then you are lucky, whereas if you adjust your lifestyle to that level of income & don't save anything then dark times have appeared.
It turns out having passive frugal spending habits & active savings habits are crucial if your lifestyle relies on "passive" income. ;)
Being an ecommerce affiliate keeps getting harder & harder unless you have a strong brand and/or are selling things with a complex sales cycle.
Portable air conditioners is a pretty niche category, but when I look at it I simply don't see any opportunity on the SEO front unless you take on the significant risk of carrying inventory & drop hundreds of thousands to millions of Dollars on branding.
The Corporate, The Bad & The Ugly
Head keyword: note the brand navigation, the extended AdWords ads & the product search results that drive the traditional search results below the fold
Tail keywords are every bit as ugly, with Google product ads sometimes coming in inline, further driving down the organic search results.
And it is nastier when Google Instant is still extended. 10% of browsers can see a single organic search result!
Corporate, Corporate, Corporate
As ugly as that looks, not only do the larger merchants have an advantage in AdWords (getting their product ads on a CPA basis while smaller merchants have to pay on a CPC basis), Google product search (more reviews), inline search navigation options (featuring the same brands yet again), but most of the organic results (that are generally below the fold) are also the same big brands after the Panda update gave them a boost while torching their smaller competitors.
The Chicken vs Egg Problem of Scale
For online pure-plays (outside of Amazon.com, eBay & a few others) the "no opportunity anywhere" problem in search also harms the ability to be competitive on pricing because without the ability to rank you don't have the leverage over the supply chain the way that the big box stores do from winning everywhere in the SERP & having offline distribution. There is little opportunity to organically grow to scale over time unless you enter the market with some point of leverage (like going so far as creating the product right on through to marketing it to consumers), sell something totally different than what is already available in the market (and hope it doesn't get cloned), buy out an existing company that went bankrupt, and/or build significant non-search distribution channels first.
I suppose the last option on that front would be to promote your stuff on a large platform that is already doing well in Google (say eBay, Amazon, or Facebook), but doing that gives you limited control over the customer experience & forces you to keep chasing new one-off sales rather than building & deepening relationships with customers.
Killing Off Diversity
As Google collects more usage date (mobile is already 12% of search) these big box stores will have an even bigger moat between them & smaller competitors.
The "big box stores only" search results also create an experience that is bland & uniform. At first glance things may look different, but it is the same type of sites again and again: a lot of the brands cross hire, have similar "politically correct" cultures & have roughly similar customer experience sets. When you buy from Walmart you are not going to get that caring email from a founder offering hands on tips & advice. Scale requires homoginization, which generally kills of personality & differentiation.
Killing Off Innovation
The problem with the "be huge or die" approach to search is that most legitimate economic innovation comes from smaller players that challenge the existing power structure. Set the barrier to entry too high and you might have less spam to fight, but you certainly will have less economic innovation & more of the would-be innovators will be stuck working dead end job at dysfunctional corporations.
Now You See it, Now You Don't
Most people can't see what they are missing out on so they won't know, but (as Tim Wu put it so eloquently in The Master Switch) the same was true for AT&T when it held back innovations like the answering machine & what ultimately came to be the WWW. What sort of price do you put on email taking a decade longer to launch? How many other disruptive changes built off of incremental improvements will never appear because they simply weren't large & corporate enough to compete on Google's web?
The web was great because it offered something different. Unfortunately you have to search using something other than Google to find it.
Somebody, it seems, hired Burson-Marsteller, a top public-relations firm, to pitch anti-Google stories to newspapers, urging them to investigate claims that Google was invading people’s privacy. Burson even offered to help an influential blogger write a Google-bashing op-ed, which it promised it could place in outlets like The Washington Post, Politico, and The Huffington Post.
And why would Facebook run such a campaign?
Confronted with evidence, a Facebook spokesman last night confirmed that Facebook hired Burson, citing two reasons: First, because it believes Google is doing some things in social networking that raise privacy concerns; second, and perhaps more important, because Facebook resents Google’s attempts to use Facebook data in its own social-networking service.
So now Facebook is trying to position itself as an advocate of consumer privacy rights?
Google Inc. is close to settling a U.S. criminal investigation into allegations it made hundreds of millions of dollars by accepting ads from online pharmacies that break U.S. laws, according to people familiar with the matter.
The pharma corporations are powerful & are in bed with the government. In spite of repeated felonious behavior in marketing their drugs for illegal off label use (which has literally murdered millions of people) these companies can have the government step in and protect their property rights, by having the government enforce unto others the same laws that these same pharma corps regularly break (literally killing millions of people).
Maybe Google is Philosophically Opposed to Property Rights?
While Google tramples on the property rights of everyone else, the first sniff of someone operating anything like they do drives Google into black-ops mode & they conduct a smear campaign. Google launched Buzz without warning, but when their feared Facebook was collecting more personal information than they could Google went into black ops PR mode warning against security issues in Facebook.
Remember that bogus "Bing is copying our results" stuff Google engineers did earlier this year? Google later rolled out their content farm update & many of the sites which were torched by Google are now getting more traffic from Bing. What does that tell us? If Bing was putting *any* significant weight at all on Google rankings & traffic then why didn't that carry any weight when Google torched a bunch of websites?
Here is the Google traffic profile for a site that was torched by Panda
And that same website's Bing traffic
Google traffic fell through the floor, while Bing traffic kept climbing. Some sites that were hit by Panda are getting more visits from Bing or Yahoo! Search than from Google.
Conclusion? Once again Google distorts media to promote itself & its business interests, while bogusly smearing competitors with fabricated trash.
Part of why Microsoft's search marketshare is less than Google's is that Microsoft is willing to block sleazy traffic partners, unlike Google. But Google's treatment of their partners is inconsistent. Using "inside voices" Googlers openly explain in plain English how they treat their partners: "we are using compatibility as a club to make them do things we want" - Google's Dan Morrill.
Big Companies Hate Honest Market Innovation
Large companies are largely counter to honest innovation in the marketplace. They are comfortable atop the perch and want to lock down innovation to maintain their current dominance.
Sure the big banks welcomed CDOs, MERS, etc. ... but those were welcomed precisely because they were part of an elaborate scheme of dishonesty and fraud. But the same society which brings us CDOs built on fraud (that ultimately cost you your job, your house, your retirement savings, the value of the currency, etc.) is also a society where dirty corporate whores push to force smaller market competitors to be entirely transparent.
I have for years been telling you even if you have no interest in the new gTLD’s you had to pay close attention to the process as whatever rules come out of that process will be attempted to be applied to all existing TLD’s including .com, .net and .org.
This is especially troubling because as you know the new gTLD process has not even been approved yet since the .Net contract is up for renewal, trademark groups are going to push for this new system to take away domains, be imposed on .net
The very domain name of the front organization that is pushing to remove domain privacy is registered using a private registration. ipconstituency.org uses Domain Discreet!
When a consumer or small business owner gets caught (acting like a big business, and) doing something illegal they go to jail. When a big business repeatedly commits serious crimes the wost thing that could possibly happen is a shake up of management. A company has no soul. A corporation can't go to jail.
As market niches get saturated, the winners are typically those with the deepest pockets.
Up until the last few years, the little guy has been able to prosper with SEO. The little guy didn't face much competition from big companies, because the big companies didn't get SEO. However, Google's current algorithmns and corporate strategy often have the side effect of benefiting large companies.
According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the Internet is a "cesspool" where false information thrives....Brands, he said, are the way to rise above the cesspool
There is a danger in reading too much into Schmidt's words, however this statement mirrors a lot of what happens in the search results. A big company or brand, with a crawlable site, will find it easy to dominate the search results. A big company will be linked to, discussed in the media, and have established keyword query volume - all factors which Google rewards. All these factors are becoming increasingly difficult for the small guy to emulate.
Factor in Google's ongoing moves to "own" verticals, and many more little guys will be crushed underfoot. It doesn't matter if your site is white hat, grey or black, if your site competes directly with a big company, or with Google - who are now a big company themselves - you'll almost surely lose.
This isn't just true in the SERPs, of course. It's also true in Adwords, which essentially rewards those with deep pockets. It's true in print. It's true across all media. It's true in politics, in money markets, and in life.
Power is like that.
Even if you don't face competition from big operators, you'll face competition from a million other little guys, especially if there is no barrier to entry. This is often the case on the web. Check out this article by Tim O Shea, founder of the short lived UK group buying site Snippa. Snippa was similar to Groupon.
Due to the number of players, commission levels are being eroded far from the 40-50% that Groupon achieves down to 0% just to get the deal (at Snippa our deals averaged around 10-20%). Merchants are getting numerous phone calls from prospective group buying companies and the conversation with many is more about the commission level charged rather than how they could offer a great discount for a group of new customers. This will continue until a clear leader emerges that can demonstrate a large customer base allowing them to negotiate better deals and commission levels. Many companies chasing the same deal is counter productive for the end customer.
Too many competitors errode margins to zero. Eventually, the biggest operator wins.
How To Protect Yourself And Win
When you're looking for a niche to get into, how do you evaluate it?
Do you look at the search volumes and look to position a site top ten for that search volume? An ok strategy, and one used by many in the SEO business.
However, lets take it a step further.
If you're thinking long term, you need to consider other factors, especially competitive threats. Ask: is this niche likely to be so lucrative that it will attract big companies? If so, then you may need a strategy to become one, or be bought out by one. You may win such a fight for a while, but the big company will invariably win in the end through greater reach and purchasing power.
Are you the cheapest, or are you the best?
The little guy is almost always better off aiming to be the best at what they do. Being the cheapest requires volume, and is very difficult to sustain. Many companies, both big and small, get locked in a downward spiral of price cutting. Again, you'll last being the cheapest until a bigger company turns up. Bigger companies can get price advantage through volume. If the internet equivalent of Wal Mart is your competition, you're in trouble if you compete on price.
Zappos was a small company, that eventually became a big company, not by competing on price, but by competing on service. They aimed to be the best at service. Had they competed on price, they wouldn't have got anywhere. The big shoe and clothing chains would have crushed them.
Is SEO your only strategy to dominate a niche? If so, then you're vulnerable to the whims of Google. Instead, think about ways you can develop a brand. I use the term brand in the widest possible sense. Being the best guy in the world to talk to about, say, the eating preferences of neon tetra fish - is a brand. Whatever it is you do, if you're not competing on price, aim to be the very best. If you have to carve a niche even finer, do it, at least until the costs outweigh the benefits.
Think about ways you can lock in customers/visitors and keep them coming back. If you only ever have search volume, then you rely on people who haven't seen you before. Encourage visitors to bookmark you, or sign up for a newsletter. Hook them in some way. Above all, be memorable. Being memorable will create search volume out of nothing (how many people searched for Zappos years ago? Or SEOBook? ). Building an audience may not be enough to fend off big companies, but it will help you fend off other small companies and new entrants, especially if they only rely on SEO.
* If you think otherwise, do you care to debate the following video?
"Perhaps the only lessons learned by the banks in the crisis is that the rules don't apply to them." Ain't that the truth. The video is completely accurate:
Richard M. Bowen, former chief underwriter for Citigroup’s consumer-lending group, said he warned his superiors of concerns that some types of loans in securities didn’t conform with representations and warranties in 2006 and 2007.
“In mid-2006, I discovered that over 60 percent of these mortgages purchased and sold were defective,” Bowen testified on April 7 before the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission created by Congress. “Defective mortgages increased during 2007 to over 80 percent of production.”
Everyone else is forced to eat the socialized losses that mirror the "profits" generated by the banks in years past. We have a central bank holding rates at 0 while running the printing presses in overdrive. That is destroying pension accounts and the living standard of the elderly as their life savings is literally stolen from them to prop up a bunch of criminal thugs on Wall Street.
The goal is not to create value or stability, but rather to engineer instability, with sharp market moves which can be profited from on the way up AND on the way down:
Bubble, Crash, Bubble, Crash, Bubble ...
We will continue this cycle until we catch on. The problem isn't only that the Fed is treating the symptoms instead of the disease. Rather, by irresponsibly promoting reckless speculation, misallocation of capital, moral hazard (careless lending without repercussions), and illusory "wealth effects," the Fed has become the disease.
If you are in debt for consumption driven reasons it is worth noting that the game is rigged. These people have done, are doing, and will continue to act as criminals to rip you off. There is no reason to go out of your way to make yourself easy prey.
Are you anti-American? Do you have an axe to grind? Did you somehow fail at life? These are questions we are trained to think when anyone complains about scams embedded in the political economy.
Speaking for myself, I have never been as successful as I am today, and much of that success comes from the free market ideals that have been preached (and meeting my wonderful wife). The issue I have right now is that we still preach those free market ideals, but are doing nothing to follow them (and are actively undermining them). If I was born 5 years or 10 years later I might be a street beggar, simply because my opportunity to succeed had been marginalized by the market corruption of the bankers. Maybe I still would have done ok, but a lot of people are being driven to the margins and off a cliff. Many of them are even sadly conned into believing it is their own fault.
Certainly consumers are to blame for some stuff, but they had no idea how much fraud was embedded in the financial engineering going on beyond the headlines. They didn't know that the central banker believed that there was no reason police fraud. Most people are too busy to be macro-economic experts on the side, and yet if you made the mistake of trusting the bankers in some cases they may have destroyed your life savings or left you living a meager life as a debt serf.
The federal government sided with the criminals on the way up. And it is siding with the criminals on the way down. They would rather debase the currency and steal your savings than let their criminal buddies on Wall Street go bankrupt.
Society is nothing more than a system of laws and the culture they promote. Betray someone's trust and they become less trusting toward everyone else. That creates friction in the marketplace which shrinks the economy and living standards. Make heroes out of criminals & at some people a lot of people are going to say "screw it, the laws do not apply to me either." When that happens (as it will) then at some point there will be a sharp increase in violence.
This is not about promoting communism, or some other such label. What we have now in the capital markets is far worse than communism, as they have privatized profits AND socialized losses. If you believe in capitalism OR communism then what is happening now is broken.
And yet the people who just privatized the profits and socialized the losses are to be worshiped and followed. You should be thankful that the government bailed them out & you should just suck it up. The role of government is to protect the wealth of the opulent from the stupid majority. It has always been.
The stupid thing about it is that all (or at least most) of that pain & suffering is easily avoidable by letting the people who preach free market values to eat their losses and fail. By pushing those off onto everyone else, ultimately the government just creates uncertainty and makes people less trusting. And as society breaks down, the government won't be able to sort out the issues, as they already gave away all the money to a bunch of brigands on Wall Street.
"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies . . . If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around [the banks] . . . will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered . . . The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs." —Thomas Jefferson
Google knows this. Now you do as well. Easy always wins. Take a moment and picture your website or your blog or your product or service in your head right now. Now, think of Google’s. Which one is easier? No, you're not a search engine, you're probably a small business owner with a variety of products services, entrepreneur with a business idea, or blogger . But the comparison remains because regardless of what it is you do easy will always win.
So keep thinking about your Web business. Is what you’re selling easy to buy? By that I mean; when somebody comes to buy from you, or to simply get information from you like a phone number or to download a white paper… is it easy to do? Or are you making it too hard?
Picture Google.com again in your head. It's pretty darn easy, no? There's a logo and a big input box underneath it. You put in what you're looking to find, and hit search and boom, you find it. Easy. Google understands that customers use them for one reason, to have a problem solved, and therefore, that’s what they deliver, without all the frills that other search portals like Aol or Yahoo! try to offer.
Your opportunity right now is to figure out the main one or two reasons people visit your website, because despite what you might think, your customers probably have only those one or two things on their mind when they visit you.
If you visit the home page of Orbtiz.com, you’re probably there to do one of a few things only. Book a flight, find a car, or make a hotel reservation. Possibly all three at once. But honestly, that’s pretty much it, right? I would bet that 99% of their traffic is trying to do one of those things. The same goes for you and your website, blog, membership site or anything you produce online.
What exactly are your customers looking for? You need to find out and find out right now! Check your analytics (I recommend Google Analytics, it's free! www.Google.com/Analytics) to find out things like the most viewed pages of your website, as well as the most exited pages too. You may find out that 90% of your visitors are focusing on the free white paper download page and ignoring the other pages you thought were important. That’s great news! Now, you at least know what your customers want. And now you can make it easier for them to get it. You may also find out that a large percentage of your visitors always leave your website on one specific page, giving you the insight that perhaps they aren't finding what they're looking for, getting frustrated, and surfing away. That's bad.
So what should you do with that knowledge to make things easier for your visitor, and better for your business? If you're getting a lot of traffic to your free white paper download, go ahead and take that download information and make it stand out on your home page. If done right, you'll make it as easy as possible for your visitors to get what they were looking for, and you’ll see even more downloads, and happier visitors because you didn’t make them work so hard.
Now, you may also find out that the page you really wanted your visitors to see is not being viewed enough. This could be the specials page on your e-commerce site, or the packages page on your consulting site or maybe your customer support contact information page. Whatever it may be, once you know what it is, that page obviously needs to be viewed more, and while you can’t force it down your visitors digital throats, you can redesign your page so that it limits the other choices that can distract your visitor.
Make it easy and simple, then win!
For over 15-years, Jim Kukral has helped small businesses and large companies like Fedex, Sherwin Williams, Ernst & Young and Progressive Auto Insurance understand how find success on the Web. Jim is the author of the book, "Attention! This Book Will Make You Money", as well as a professional speaker, blogger and Web business consultant. Find out more by visiting www.JimKukral.com. You can also follow Jim on Twitter @JimKukral.
When you think of labor day what comes to mind? For me it is these 2 thoughts
lower earnings because few people are online today
since almost nobody is online, any hours worked today are me getting ahead of the market ;)
Working hard & working long hours can almost be a disease...the web makes it easy to be addicted.
But for every person who is putting in hard work trying to help people there is another person selling image.
The big issue with the image game is the risks. As the lies pile up they corner people into a bad situation, to where they can (and do) lose everything.
If I had to take a single point of reference to help a stranger judge the difference between a hack and someone who wants to honestly help people, I would say it is this: do they encourage you to take on debt.
If they do then there is a good chance they are the type of person who will go out of their way to screw you.
If they do not then they are likely not a maximizer type (because if they were then they would be encouraging you to go into debt to sell you more stuff).
It is not that all debt is evil (when I got started online I was naive enough to start on a credit card), but life and markets are unpredictable. If I wasn't smart enough to get a job to cover my 6 or so months of education before going full time online who knows where I would now be. What seems like a short term gain can lead to longterm failure. We are human, and so we are flawed. Wen you have debt/leverage you have no spare parts. So if something goes wrong you are done. Nassim Taleb spoke about the importance of savings and diversity of revenues as keys to survival, while noting that the very structure of our public markets encourages risk + leverage (options encourage short term performance & volatility rather than sustained growth, and you hope the guy on the next watch is stuck holding the Madoff ponzi bag).
Is the push toward homoginization to increase yield and chasing the lowest common denominator making people happier or more miserable?
I realize that reading the above can quickly make me sound like some ultra left-winged hippie, but the point of this post is not a political one ... rather one on the basic rule of law.
We justify (or downplay) harming ourselves, our environments, and the environments of other animals so we can have more and better. But to do this we often take on debt and leverage and put ourselves in precarious situations. Worse yet, we often have *others* decide to take on leverage for us, without our desire or permission.
If you believe in efficient market theory then banking should represent a small portion of the profit pool (since banks are all dealing in the same commodity of cash). And yet the banking class keeps representing a growing portion of the profits, while the bad sides of their trades (the losses) are passed on to tax payers.
These banks threatened tanks in the street if they didn't get their bailouts.
They went so far as to say even auditing the Federal Reserve would threaten the financial system. Sorry, um, but that is exactly what the banking class did. If they are not punished for committing crimes then the lawlessness will only grow more extreme, as it has.
Rather than having CDOs go unsold they engaged in self-dealing & kept mixing the bad chunks in, sorta like making new sausage out of old sausage. They knew what they were doing. They intended to commit fraud:
"On paper, the risky stuff was gone, held by new independent CDOs. In reality, however, the banks were buying their own otherwise unsellable assets."
"One rival investment banker says Merrill treated CDO managers the way Henry Ford treated his Model T customers: You can have any color you want, as long as it's black."
Its labor day. The criminal bankers who ripped you off in the past, who are currently ripping you off with more crimes, and who will rip your children off are stealing your labor. And since neither political party cares to stop it its up to you how much you want to give...there is no end to how much they would love to take. Time for me to take a break. ;)
The following is a guest post by Jim Kukral highlighting one of the most fundamental tips to succeeding online.
Have you ever really taken a step back from all the technical SEO stuff and thought about why Google wins? The real reasons why they have mass-market share and why they continue to dominate? It's time you should, because once you understand how to start thinking like Google, you can finally begin to go beyond just ranking better, but also how to be a master Internet marketer so you can get more sales, leads and publicity.
After all, once you've been found, you now have to convert. Otherwise, it's a waste of time.
So why does Google win? Because Google is the world's biggest, and best, problem solver. The truth is that there are only two reasons why we all go online, using Google or not. Those two reasons are:
1. To have a problem solved
2. To be entertained
That's it. Everything, and I mean everything you do online falls under one of those categories. For example, let's say you're planning on cooking your wife her favorite chicken marsala dish for your anniversary. You go online and do a search for "chicken marsala recipes". Boom, you now have recipes, and videos, and images and cookbooks and all kinds of information to help you solve your problem.
As another example, let's say you wanted to relax after work and watch your favorite musician play some of your favorite songs. You go to YouTube and do a search for "Rolling Stones Videos" and boom, you're now watching video content that entertains you.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, is already the number two most searched search engine on the Internet (behind Google of course). That means that today billions of people are actively searching the Internet for video content. That also means that because of the public's fast-growing massive hunger for content in video form, that regular people and businesses alike are now able to profit from the creation of that said video content.
The truth is, Google (and your business) has to solve problems for their (your) customers, the Internet searcher. If they (you) can't do that, they (you) lose customers. It's that black and white.
So I'll ask you again. Are you thinking like Google? Have you sat down and figured out what your target audience's biggest problems are? If you haven't done that you need to do it now. Anticipate what they need. Figure out their pain and then create products/services that take that pain away.
Just like Google.
For over 15-years, Jim Kukral has helped small businesses and large companies like Fedex, Sherwin Williams, Ernst & Young and Progressive Auto Insurance understand how find success on the Web. Jim is the author of the book, "Attention! This Book Will Make You Money", as well as a professional speaker, blogger and Web business consultant. Find out more by visiting www.JimKukral.com. You can also follow Jim on Twitter @JimKukral.
If you see yourself as a technologist, or marketer, then selling may not come easy to you. But we all need to sell something, even if it is just our opinion! If you're a consultant of any description, it comes with the territory.
So it pays to know a few techniques. Luckily, sales isn't something you have to be born to do - it does not require supernatural charm, charisma, a hide as thick as an elephant, and a superhuman drive.
Selling can be like a doctors consultation.
A Visit To The Doctor
When you go to the doctor, do you expect the doctor to just guess what is wrong with you?
A doctors consultation involves the doctor asking you a series of questions. This questioning is to help determine what the problem is, and how it can best be solved. At the end of the process, the feeling is probably one of relief and assurance i.e. that the doctor has your best interests at heart, and will cure what ails you.
It's the same in business.
Any client you encounter has a problem. Like a specialist doctor, it is your job to ask a series of questions to help nail down the problem and find a solution. The very act of questioning - known as consultative selling - helps build trust and rapport with the client in the same way you may experience with a doctor. This works especially well in the field of consulting, which is based on information sharing.
The emphasis is on clients needs, as opposed to getting a signature on the dotted line. You first establish a client's needs, then you provide a solution, if you have one. You're building a relationship, based on trust, by asking a series of questions.
Not so hard, really.
The Mechanics Of Consultative Selling
Ok, so how do you do it?
First, you need to understand the buyers buying process. You then match your selling process to their buy process.
All buyers go through a specific process. For example, if a company needs internet marketing services, do they go to their established provider - possibly the web design company who built their site - or do they go direct to the SEO market? Do they attend conferences? If so, which ones? Hint: they may not be SEO conferences. Do they ask other business people in their business network? Do they go with a known brand?
It's pretty simple to determine the buying process if the buyer comes straight to your website, fills out the contact form, and requests a call-back. But life often doesn't work that way.
A prospective client may ask their web design company. Their web design company may not have had a clue, had you not been in to see them a week earlier. You asked the web design people a few questions about whether they had an SEO capability in house, found out they didn't, and found out they had a lot of clients who quite possibly needed SEO. You proposed a joint deal whereas they would refer their clients to you, for a 10% commission.
Try to find out how your prospective clients buy SEO services, and position yourself accordingly. Think business associations and clubs, their existing providers in related areas, and the other companies they have an association with.
You need to get yourself positioned correctly in their buying process.
If you've managed to get in front of them, you then need to think about the questions you are going to ask. You should be asking about their business, where they see it going, what problems they are having, their place in the market, and their competitors. Business owners typically like doing this, and will welcome your interest, so long as you're seen as a "doctor" i.e someone they trust to help. You'll also need to make a presentation, which, depending on the context, need not be formal. It could consist of showing them case studies of how you've helped solve this problem before. Let's face it, most SEO/SEM problems and solutions are going to look pretty much the same.
It's all about trust relationships. It's a fact of life that people buy more readily from people they trust.
But how do you know if you can trust your prospective buyer?
Consultative selling is also a great way to screen out tire kickers. A person who is just pumping you for information will reveal very little about themselves. The conversation will be one sided.
If they are genuinely interested in your service, they are more likely to answer questions. They do have to trust you first in order to do this, so try to think like a doctor if you encounter resistance. i.e. "I want to help you get more traffic, but I can't do so if I don't know more about your business before I can devise an appropriate solution".
Be prepared to walk if they don't volunteer the information you need. Even if you did land the job, you may end providing a substandard solution to their problem, which will likely end in tears. Better to find clients who you can work with, rather than against.
Another method of screening is to pre-close the sale. When you are gathering needs, ask that if you can solve their problems to their complete satisfaction, as a result of this discussion, that they will buy your services.
This will sound to them like a fairly safe bet i.e. you have to propose something that solves their problem. However, it also creates an implied obligation on their part to do so. There is no risk on your side, as you can either solve the problem, in which case you'll likely get the business, or you can't, in which case you'll walk anyway.
If they are hesitant, it is either an opportunity to walk, and thus stop wasting your time, or an opportunity to find out something more about their buying process.
In short, when thinking about sales:
You are not a salesperson. You are a "doctor"
Focus on the needs of the client, not landing the job. Sale hucksters typically focus on the close too soon, which can destroy trust
It's ok to walk away. You won't be able to help some clients
Insist that the client engage in conversation. A client who asks you questions, and volunteers little information, might be pumping you for information
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics - Disreli
We get presented with graphs and statistics every day. "Most SEOs think keywords in the title tag is an important ranking factor." "Spending on search to rise by $10b". Ever get that feeling that what you're being presented with sounds plausible, but the conclusion just doesn't make sense?
Here are a few common ways people try to pull the wool over your eyes with statistics. Some you'll be familiar with. If you've got more, add 'em to the comments :)
1. Built In Bias
The sample data supports an obvious agenda. For example, a company is hardly likely to show a graph that shows their product has produced negative results. Try to determine the bias of the person or organisation presenting the data - "what would they want me to hear"? then ask yourself: "what data are they not showing me?"
2. The Average
The media loves to state "the average", then neglect to tell you which average they are talking about.
For example, the average house price for an area could both be 500K and 200K, depending on what type of average is being used. They could be referring to either the mean, the median or the mode. They often mix these up, depending on what conclusion they want you to reach.
3. Inadequate Sample Size
20% of web designers make over $1M. That may be true if the sample size consisted of ten highest earning people in the industry, and two people just happen to have had a great year. But what if the sample size is all those who practice web design for a living? The outcome may be somewhat different.
4. Meaningless Differences
A difference is only a difference if it makes a difference. Potential employee Jill may have an IQ of 120, and potential employee Jack may have an IQ of 118, but does that really mean anything? What if Jill has an attitude problem, and Jack is a great conversationalist? Who would be the better hire?
5. Oh My God!
Al Gore loves this one. The graph that shows some astonishing change in the status quo. The impression is one of significant movement and is meant to shock an audience.
However, if the chart appears in a different context - say, over a longer time period - the rise may not look all that unusual. You often see this in stock price quotes. You could also change the measurement into smaller units, thus making any movement in the graph look even more impressive.
6. What You Infer Is Up To You
If you can't prove what you want to prove, prove something else and pretend they are the same thing. Often used in the alternative medicine industry. They may not be able to prove that their natural products cure cancer, but they can say that the plant extract has been used by some remote tribe, and they have a proven historical low incidence of cancer.
7. Post Hoc
A study found students who smoked got lower grades. The fallacy of one thing not following the other i.e. smoking doesn't cause bad grades. Frequently, other factors are left out i.e. the students who smoked also tended to be party animals. Look out for correlations that happen by chance.
8. Data Precision
Quoting specific numbers, especially including decimals points, can look authoritative. "Real estate values up 4.95%" Why would someone be so precise if they didn't know their stuff? The numbers can be wild guesses, but accuracy gives an air of authority.
General Tips For Spotting The Lies
Ask "who says so?" Are they likely to be biased? If experts are cited, check to see if those experts actually agree with the conclusions. Often, they do not.
Ask "How do they know"? Is the sample size really large enough, or relevant enough, to draw conclusions?
Look To See If They Change The Subject. Look for a change between the raw data and the conclusion. Does one follow the other? For example, more reported incidences of crime do not necessarily mean there is more crime occurring.
Ask "Does this make sense?" - are they trying to blind you with numbers? If the conclusion just sounds wrong, look for a disconnect between the data and the conclusion
If you want to delve deeper in to How To Lie With Statistics, grab the little book of the same name. It's getting a bit dated now - it was written in 1954 - but the advice and examples are great :)