In a Galaxy Far Far Away...

I have been interviewed and/or profiled and/or done some guest columns around the web that I have not yet mentioned here. Here is a short list of some such media worth checking out...

Guest Columns

Some recent columns I wrote for Search Engine Land: 5 Ways To Rise Above The Noise and Are You Sitting On A Good Idea? and Recovering from the Blue Screen of Death as an SEO.

Interviews

Here is a video interview by Dr. Ralph Wilson about some ways you can make money off of looking through your website analytics data

Here are text interviews from SEO Boy & Wildfire Marketing Group.

Other Additional Mentions & Contributions

My buddy Matt Siltala asked me a few questions for 8 Gurus that "get" Twitter Answer Questions.

ProspectMX featured a quote from me in their universal search guide.

Amazon Cans PPC Affiliates

Via an email to affiliates, Amazon.com announced they are scaling back their associates program in North America by disallowing direct linking from paid search results:

After careful review of how we are investing our advertising resources, we have made the decision to no longer pay referral fees to Associates who send users to www.amazon.com, www.amazon.ca, or www.endless.com through keyword bidding and other paid search on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other search engines, and their extended search networks. If you're not sure if this change affects you, please visit this page for FAQs.

As of May 1, 2009, Associates will not be paid referral fees for paid search traffic. Also, in connection with this change, as of May 1, 2009, Amazon will no longer make data feeds available to Associates for the purpose of sending users to the Amazon websites in the US or Canada via paid search.

As the paid search market has matured and competitive research tools have improved the value of using affiliates for discovering new keywords has been sharply reduced. Other merchants will follow Amazon's lead. Some might wait for the economy to pick up first, but the fact that Amazon is trimming this in a down market (recession/possible depression) shows how little they feel they benefit from affiliate arbitrage of paid search results.

Yet another reason to find SEO based affiliate work more stable than PPC affiliate efforts. Any PPC-based affiliate that is sick of having to rebuild from the ground up over and over again would be smart to (and is welcome to) taking the enlightened path :)

SEO & Marketing Links of Interest

I have been saving these links up since January 21st. Time to share about 50 of them. :)

Niche SEO Guides

The Rising Commoditization of Everything But Experience

Graywolf shared this great video about the ongoing process of commoditization.

  • materials get commoditized
  • due to competition products become materials
  • customized service and personalization help create sustained value

The Fear of Success in Creative Arts

This Elizabeth Gilbert TED video talks about how to live with knowing your best work is likely behind you, which is true for many popular artists and authors.

More Search News

Yahoo! Search makes it easy to embed videos & docs with SearchMonkey.

Amazon is trying to use DMCA to block other ebooks from getting onto Kindles. Sony and Google partnered up to make 500,000 ebooks freely available on the Sony ebook reader.

Yelp was accused of extortion. Pay us or that negative review stays at the top. Lovely mafia-styled business model :)

Bryan Todd shares a powerful story about how words are powerful:

There is no such thing as right language or wrong language, good grammar or bad grammar, correct English or incorrect English. There is only language that got you want you wanted, or didn't.

Perry Marshall highlights how Google considers some businesses to be illegitimate businesses. If only they would get to the government grant stimulus ad scams.

Gab Goldenberg offers tips on online branding. Lance Loveday wrote a great article about the overlap between search and branding. In our member forums I started a thread called branding in the search channel.

George Michie explains why budgeting search is a bad idea and offered some SEM RFP questions worth asking. Generally I have avoided clients that needed an RFP because I felt they were still in the shopping phase.

Searchers have been using longer search queries.

John Andrews explained how he thought Sphinn moved on from its roots.

CJ shares some ideas for how search engines can hunt for paid links.

Joel Spolsky highlighted why you should not use Google apps for anything important. I am really hoping they never screw up my email account!

Michael Gray took a look at the influence of article directories on organic rankings.

Debra Mastaler offers a link building stimulus plan.

Rob explains how some sales techniques, particularly in social settings, work well by hiding the upsells in the price. Online if you sell a non-commodity you can make the core price higher (to increase perceived value) and then let people de-select the pieces they do not want or need.

Back in January Robert Scoble highlighted that Facebook is studying sentiment behavior.

Andrew Goodman highlighted how dumb some clever nanotargeted marketing is. Funny :)

Marissa Mayer and Eric Schmidt were on the Charlie Rose show. A couple interesting quotes...

  • from Eric - Technology has brought us closer together, but makes us more stressed.
  • from Marissa - speech to text technology on Youtube that is searchable should be around in 5 to 10 years
  • from Marissa - credit card companies know if you are going to get divoriced with 98% certainty something like 2 years ahead of time.

Eric Schmidt also suggested that as netbooks get cheaper they may subsidize them to buy marketshare.

The Economist published a story about Brewster Kahle and the idea of an open library.

Tons of great free research from FutureLab.

Seth Godin

Seth Godin riffs on the purpose of schooling, including ideas like...Teach future citizens how to conform & Teach future consumers how to desire

Here he talks about the concept behind his new book Tribes.

Hyperlinks Subvert Hierarchy

One of the first books I read about the web which really helped me understand the culture of the web and the concept of the web as a social network was the Cluetrain Manifesto. In it, David Weinberger stated "hyperlinks subvert hierarchies," a concept that helps explain a lot of the chaos in the current world.

The staggering rate of change and seeing cracks in imperfect structures makes us more likely to question authority. Fear slows down economic activity but it also creates the conditions to help speed up change through creative destruction, as insolvent structures crumble and are replaced by thousands and millions of online experiments ran in parallel due to forced entrepreneurship. As Clay Shriky puts it:

That is what real revolutions are like. The old stuff gets broken faster than the new stuff is put in its place.

Each link creates a new opportunity, which in turn creates new opportunities, giving our social nervous system many senses. And the web is just getting started. Watch this Tim Berners-Lee video and try to predict the future of the web. You can't do it.

As the web grows (and grows smarter) two of the biggest risks are machines learning too much about us (through spying on our browsing habits) and proprietary databases that lock away pieces of our culture while surfacing other favorable pieces (the divisions could be nationalistic, idealistic, or commercially driven - like "brands" that we are apparently "hard wired" to). For both of those reasons, Google's market dominance scares me.

On the above video by Tim Berners-Lee, Ralph Tegtmeier wrote the following

As long as we don't seriously do something about protecting people from the very abuse of their personal data (more often than not linked without their express acquiescence), we're merrily lighting the fuse to a humungous collective powder keg. (And it's really not helpful at all shrugging such concerns off with pejorative epitheta such as "tin foil hat", "conspiracy theories" etc. as is so common across the board.

Let's never forget that all the major atrocities committed in "civilized" countries ever since the 19th century, ranging from genocide to mass destruction, ethnic cleansings, wars, the holocaust etc. were only as scalable as they eventually proved to be because of just that: "linked data" ruthlessly leveraged and deployed by those who could get their hands on it.

Think about how distributed (and targeted) ad based business models work in a republic / quasi-democracy. Buy ads that change the opinion of couple percent of people and you change the course of a country, and perhaps the course of civilization. Think about how well Google intends to know your flaws, and sell them off to the highest bidder in any medium they can:

users that spend a long time bartering instead of stealing in a game may suggests that they are interested in the best deals rather than the flashiest items so the system may show ads reflecting value. As another example, users that spend a lot of time exploring suggest that they maybe interested in vacations, so the system may show ads for vacations. As another example, users that spend a lot of time chatting instead of fighting or performing other activities in online games suggest that they like to chat, so the system may show ads for cell phones, ads for long distance plans, chat messengers, etc.
...
The dialogue could indicate that the player is aggressive, profane, polite, literate, illiterate, influenced by current culture or subculture, etc. Also decisions made by the players may provide more information such as whether the player is a risk taker, risk averse, aggressive, passive, intelligent, follower, leader, etc. This information may be used and analyzed in order to help select and deliver more relevant ads to users.

And while we are being profiled, pieces of our culture are being locked up via anti-competitive agreements. Richard Sarnoff, the chairman of the Association of American Publishers, noted how they were hoodwinked in a deal with the devil:

Sarnoff also speculated that … [l]egal hurdles may make it infeasible for any other firms to build a search engine comparable to Google Book Search.

Many power structures that are being killed off by the web are the walking wounded, making deals that are rational only when paired against death. And we are stuck living with the consequences of those decisions.

With Google being so profit driven they are leaving room for a pure search play, if only someone that got branding, marketing, and the web would step up. I hope Rich Skrenta (or anyone) provides real competition to Google soon, before spying is seen as respectable and too much of our culture gets locked up in exclusive deals.

How Much of YOUR PageRank Are You Wasting on Twitter?

Did you know that search.twitter.com/search?q=%23superbowl currently ranks #9 in Google for superbowl (it was #7 earlier today). Think how much PageRank & link equity is needed to rank for that keyword!!!

All that PageRank must come from somewhere. When people mention you on that silly network, you probably don't get anything of lasting value...it simply steals links that would have occurred on the real web, and replaces them with junk rel=nofollow links, surrounded by trivial bits of content.

Hyperlinks subvert hierarchies. rel=nofollows subvert that subversion (thanks Matt!)

Twitter is interesting and fun tool to play with for a while, and an easy story to hype, but it is just a tool.

Venture Beat says that Twitter made Dell a million dollars. That's nuts. Did the phone company make Dell a billion dollars? Just because people used the phone to order their Dell doesn't mean that the phone was a marketing medium. It was a connecting medium. Big difference.

How big will this black hole grow? How long until spammers start exploiting it?

Is a spam page ranking on Twitter somehow better than me getting credit for the work I actually did to build a following there? I would love to sit down with a search engineer and have them try to answer that questions with a straight face.

Life's not fair. Neither are search engines. Nor blog posts. ;)

The web of opportunity is phase - a brief moment in time. There is plenty of time for digital sharecropping and being someone else's user generated content after retirement. I am going to cut back on social media for the next year or two...its not worth the effort. It builds no real value. It wastes opportunity. It wastes links. It wastes life. :)

Webmaster Utilities We Dig

Here's a review of tools we use every day at SEOBook.

No affiliate stuff - we use and recommend these tools because, well, they rock!

Camtasia - Screen Recording Software

What it does: records on-screen demonstrations.

What we use it for: we use it for our training videos

Why we like it: creates high quality demonstrations, yet the file size remains small. Intuitive recorder function. You don't need to read the manual in order to start being productive with it.

Where you can get it: Here's the blurb. Here's the free demo. Here's the full version.

SmartDraw - Business Diagram Software

What it does: helps you create flowcharts, org charts, timelines, graphs etc

What we use it for: we draw a lot of flow charts

Why we like it: point and click simplicity. Once you get the hang of it, which doesn't take long, you can create professional flowcharts very quickly. Saves a lot of time.

Where can I get it: Here's the blurb. Here's the free demo. Here's the full version.

RoboForm

What it does: stores all your passwords securely, fills out forms, auto login to websites

What we use it for: password stuff

Why we like it: secure, allows fast logins to sites

Where can I get it: Here's the blurb. Here's the free trial. Here's the full version.

Carbonite

What it does: backs up your data, cheaply and securely, over the net

What we use it for: Backing stuff up

Why we like it: you install it, then forget about it. It's also pretty cheap.

Where can I get it: Here's the blurb. Here's the free trial. Here's the full version.

Fastone

What it does: screen capture.

What we use it for: manipulating the graphics at the top of the blog posts.

Why we like it: simple, elegant utility that is easy to use.

Where can I get it: Here's the blurb. Here's the free trial. Here's the full version.

Around the Web in 20 Links

Loren Baker is holding a 3 day spring break SEO get together in Deerfield Beach, Florida. There are only 200 tickets cheaply priced at $500 each (especially when you consider that there will only be 200 people attending and you have people like Loren Baker, Chris Winfield, Todd Malicoat, Brent Csutoras, Rae Hoffman, and more speaking).

David Harry has been publishing brilliant content, including finding Yahoo!'s patent for automating SEO and a wonderful post on SEO higher learning.

Todd Malicoat highlights some great social media marketing tips.

Conversion Rate Experts shared some tips on why to get obsessed with conversion rate optimization.

Fantomaster highlights how behavioral metrics would create many surfbot nets, and offers an insightful cynical comment about the dangers of trusting data mining outfits:

Conclusion #1: The more they know about you as an individual, the more likely they will be to try and track and, as required, exploit or manipulate you - be it as a consumer, as a citizen i.e. a polity member, as a (perceived) health hazard, as a (perceived) sociopath, as a (perceived) security risk, etc. etc.

Conclusion #2: The better they are able to categorize you (aka slap some generalized "profile" of theirs onto you), the easier it will be for the process to become self-perpetuating and auto-referential: anything you may do or avoid doing (as tracked and monitored by them) will actually only reinforce their hold on you - both as an individual and as a member of whichever societal group or subgroup you may belong to.

SugarRae highlights how you can rank well quickly, without focusing on SEO.

Dazzlin Donna is offering a mini-stimulus jump start plan.

Andrew Goodman and Aaron Goldman highlighted some shortfalls behind bid management software - namely that some of the rules are too concrete, give credit to the wrong spots, and don't provide a huge competitive advantage since there are sooo many services and in house technologies being built that commoditize most of the offerings. Time naturally commoditizes most software, especially in saturated fields. Just look at how Google Analytics ate the analytics market.

Michael VanDeMar shares some tips on how to find images.

And if you are into economics it sure looks ugly. The market casino is rough, debt to GDP is huge (and like bank credit is STILL GROWING). The ending isn't going to be pretty. I am trying to ignore the market and spend more time and effort investing in myself, but the carnage keeps attracting attention! I have lost faith in the US government and US dollar, but ponder where to invest.

What else of interest have I recently missed?

Internet Marketing's Words That Sound too Good to be True

Words that sound good are often used in marketing by those in dire need of credibility, or those promoting a warped view of reality needed to justify their own business models. Many catch words and phrases obtain an Orwellian opposite meaning, due to such usage. Some examples?

from SEOs...

  • below radar network = huge obvious footprint
  • ethical SEO = while the search engines are not our clients, we put them above our clients (or, we are lacking in creativity)
  • industry standards & certification = low paying job, little to no competitive advantage
  • cheap original content = recycled, machine translated, or obviously outsourced
  • blog links = comment spam
  • automated link building solution = bot driven spam
  • spam = sites positioned above mine (think this one came from Brett Tabke)

from search engines...

  • ad quality scores = price gouging algorithms
  • ethical links = links purchased through our ad network (including adultery links)
  • link spam = links bought through other networks, especially if they influence our rankings
  • quality content = content just like the stuff on your site, but published on a Fortune 500 website
  • thin affiliate = content just like on the Fortune 500 sites, but published on your website
  • organic growth = keep ranking on page 12. buy our ads if you want exposure. better luck next life.

from directories...

  • seo friendly directly = only for SEOs, not something Google wants to count
  • useful links = poor label for irrelevant spam
  • bidding directory = list of casino affiliate sites
  • high pagerank = recycled expired domain (or domain showing false pagerank from pointing the domain at a trusted domain and waiting for a Google toolbar update)
  • 100% spam free = free spam. and nothing but spam

from PPC marketers...

  • PPC is way better than SEO = speaker earns more charging a percent of spend than they would for delivering greater value through a more complex but less transparent process
  • SEO is luck = speaker is ignorant of the SEO field, and is too lazy to learn it

from affiliates...

  • high volume leads = massive cookie pushing
  • high quality leads = incentivised or automated
  • lead cleansing = hoping mixing in your fraud with the pool of others will conceal it

from email list internet marketers...

  • you're leaving money on the table = It's my money (on your table), and I need it now. (a shout out to J.G. Wentworth!)
  • cutting edge system = outdated advice (with a high affiliate payout)
  • buy today or miss out = if you buy you are probably being exploited by an offer that has no lasting value
  • life-changing event = you will be bombarded with spam for the rest of your life if you send in a single dollar

Your Turn

What are some of your favorite double meaning words and phrases?

Happy New Year!

Social Media Case Study

This Sphinn thread is a case study in social media...with lots of brilliant analysis / advice in it from SugarRae, John Andrews, and Fantomaster.

Microsoft Search = Tragic Fail

Danny Sullivan wrote in depth about why Microsoft Search has failed to take off. Not good for them considering mounting competition on the browser and OS fronts.

Search Police Disclaimer

Google, which invests millions into public relations and quirky attention-grabbing marketing, does not like people manipulating social media with artificial votes. And yet Google spends millions a year on public relations. How can one invest heavily in manipulating the press and then say manipulating social media is bad?

The Ultimate Salesman

The Industry Standard put together about a decade worth of Steve Jobs video clips. I wish I was 1% of the salesman that Steve Jobs is!!!

Ad Rates to Fall?

In 2006 Jakob Nielson wrote "Over the last several years, Yahoo! has made between 0.2 and 0.4 cents per non-search pageview. However, I believe that Internet advertising is over-hyped and that advertisers are deluding themselves into overpaying. In the long term, non-search advertising's value will drop to 0.1 cents or less per page."

If prices drop too low this year could be a great time to buy exposure to build links and an audience. There is always opportunity in the market...you just have to position yourself to take advantage of it.

Society as a Ponzi Scheme?

Tim O'Reilly offers this great quote "just maybe, we are getting the first signs that our society as a whole (and not just our financial system) is a kind of gigantic Ponzi scheme that will one day run out of room for growth, with disastrous consequences."

The U.S. is in a world of hurt, and that is putting a squeeze on China - reversing the flow of farmers to the cities back to the farms. Our leading export is debt, and some countries may be willing to take a loss on it. A Japanese credit rating agency is suggesting that Japan should write off some of its US debt!

The dollar may lose as much as 40 percent of its value to 50 yen or 60 yen from the current spot rate of 90.40 today in Tokyo unless Japan takes “drastic measures” to help bail out the U.S. economy, Mikuni said. Treasury yields, which are near record lows, may fall further without debt relief, making it difficult for the U.S. to borrow elsewhere, Mikuni said.

“It’s difficult for the U.S. to borrow its way out of this problem,” Mikuni, 69, said in an interview with Bloomberg Television broadcast today. “Japan can help by extending debt cancellations.”

The US stock market went up 3% today, but I think anything based in US Dollars is a bit scary after reading the above quote. What exactly is backing the dollar if those holding federal debt consider writing it down? How many more companies and industries can the US government bail out?

Paul Kedrosky offers his scenarios for the economy in 2009. What do you think will happen? What are you investing in and planning for this year?

Recent Links

While at Pubcon I did an interview with Ralph Wilson about link building. I have got wayyyyy too chubby, but I think the video turned out ok outside of that. And there is even a guest appearance of Abraham Lincoln in the video!!! :)

 

Invesp referenced me on a top marketers list. Classic ego-bait that worked great. I got so many Twitter followers this past week that I thought someone released a Twitter spam software program or something...and then I remembered the top 100 marketers list and knew it went well. ;) It was popular enough that even follow-up post about it got lots of exposure. If you don't understand egobait, then this is a great resource to study and emulate. People love awards and anything that strokes their ego or gives them a sense of purpose or sense of community and belonging.

Simplicity as a marketing strategy...it works! I am trying to create a few new features on this site (and off it) that should support simplicity and make SEO more accessible to the average webmaster.

Debra Mastaler offers a funny post about link building with elephants and link building tips for 2009.

The RIAA is now trying to go after ISP level filtering rather than suing their customers.

According to comScore, Youtube represents 25% of Google's US search volume. They may be losing money, but renegotiation with partners on payouts and improved ad technologies will eventually turn Youtube into a huge revenue stream. Youtube holds a lot of contests and could easily turn revenues up if they can figure out a way to make Youtube ads more social and interactive. Google has always been great at public relations...if they advance their ad network to offer such services they could make their unprofitable media highly profitable.

Digg is burning through cash, but may be working to create a social ad unit:

One experiment Digg is working on, says one source close to the company, is a self service advertising product that will be somewhat similar to Google Adwords, but with a twist. The product would insert advertisements into the Digg news stream (presumably clearly marked). Where those ads end up, and how much an advertiser pays per click, would be based on user feedback. So users would have the ability to vote on advertisements in the same way they vote on stories. The better ads, as determined by Digg users, will get more prominent placement and a lower cost-per-click.

That takes public relations and social media to the next level...allowing Digg to make revenue from their attention stream, and allowing advertisers to promote content that is well aligned with user interest...rather than having advertisers set up fake accounts to do guerilla marketing.

The WSJ shared social media marketing tips and Michael Gray shared examples of how social media links turn into rankings.

While the web might have some issues here and there, online commerce is still growing like a weed, with coupon sites and Amazon.com seeing sharp year on year rises in traffic.

Alan Rimm-Kaufman explains click volume vs profitability "to generate more total profit dollars by moving higher on the page, clicks have to rise faster than per-click profit falls." He also shared this 2004 Atlas image on Google click potential by rank:

Frank Watson highlights a start up gone bankrupt due to a botched deal with Google, and presumes that the Google/Yahoo! search deal was simply to stop Microsoft's advances in the search space. Most market makers actively manipulate the markets they manage...doing so is too profitable to ignore.

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