Online Flowers

Another good example of a simple site playing a competitive market (online flowers) from a slightly different angle. Gets lots of free viral links. Much less risky than the shill blogger technique.

Although, if people say it's the thought that counts, and the system is automated, does it still count?

Google Reframes Size Debate

Google removed their you are searching 8 billion + pages and reframes the size debate, encouraging people to use Google more and search more specifically. :)

Framing is huge in marketing. If you control the language then you win the battle.

Danny wrote a great article about the history of the search database size wars, going back to the days of AltaVista & Excite page counting.

Also interesting to note that Danny loves the Lego Star Wars video game, and searched for the same piece I did. Finding the missing Star Wars lego pieces via search is no doubt a hard task, especially using UK spellings.

Danny recently turned 40. Happy Bday Danny.

Astute SEW fans may find the hidden Annie Williams paintings present suggestion in his latest article. :)

Original Idea vs Copycats...

So that Million Dollar Homepage idea is taking off so well that there is already a million penny homepage, another one charging a quarter per pixel, and one where you buy a guy beers.

It is so much harder to come up with an original idea than a meeee tooooo idea. Each additional copy cat only adds more value to the original as they crowd the marketplace and make it so that only the original stands out.

When Business Models do Not Fit Search...

Ebooks vs Physical Books:
Physical books have higher production costs, more middle men, and uber thin margins when compared to ebooks and downloadable software products. If you sell 1 to 2 % as many ebooks as you would physical books you can still make about the same amount of profit from it.

Getting on Amazon:
As stated by John T Reed, listing your book on other sites turns your unique market position into becoming another vendor of a commodity that people can get from many locations.

While some people consider books to have no credibility unless they are on Amazon, sometimes your book can get a reference even if you don't sell your book there. This list has had over 1,000 views, and a reader of my ebook told me they just bought my book from that list. I clicked the link to say I found the list helpful, as it helped me :)

Some authors also work their way up in Amazon by reviewing related books or make lists including their own books. There are so many reviewers that there are guides to becoming a top reviewer.

When Pay Per Click is Broke: Competing on Negative Margins:
Andrew Goodman talks about struggling writing AdWords ads for his new cheap book about Google AdWords:

As a result I can get very little search traffic on this term, so the paid search traffic for that book is mostly coming from the content targeting program, which I suspect isn't converting. We are talking about $1.20+ per click to generate content clicks; this is unlikely to pan out.

Yet ironically there are many ads for ebooks costing more (including mine), as well as services and other companies that work in the Google ecosystem, running on the same keywords, doing quite well. But advertising an inexpensive new book on the subject seems to run up against both editorial and quality score issues.

A long time ago I worked for a niche DVD selling company that did not have great consumer lock in and had a $75 cost per conversion using AdWords. I got their cost per conversion down to a few dollars, but sales dropped off sharply too, and their margins were razor thin.

Had they had a larger ad budget (or had they decided to throw a few thousand at SEO before dumping 5 figures into a functionally broken PPC campaign) I would have built them a ton of links and over time they would have ranked across thousands of titles making a bunch of sales from the free search results.

When Search is Broke: Nobody Cares:
Another customer wanted me to market an uber niche product in Australia. They wanted me to set up an AdWords campaign to help with that. I set up their Australia AdWords account, making it a bit broad to see what results they would get, and - as I suspected - they got nothing.

Recently that product started doing well in Japan, and when I asked them why and how they explained how hard they worked to market it offline and how hard they worked to contact related sites. Those social relationships led to word of mouth marketing, which later drove search volumes.

When Search is Broken: Overshaddowed Position:
I consulted a person who sold information about an open sourced project. There is so much link popularity in some of those fields that it is hard to break into the market selling an information product unless you can get some of the most well known people to help give you exposure.

Another common problem with overshaddowning is when words have multiple meanings and tons of people search for the other meaning. This can make it a bit hard to filter out the bad PPC leads, and if you show up when you are not relevant that hurts your overall CTR, which can drive up your click costs.

The Most Valuable Lead:
The most valuable lead is going to be a person looking specifically for you or your product by name.

Many businesses that work well offline are nearly impossible to make functional online using the largest ad networks. You can try to grab related traffic and traffic on peripherally related terms, but until people care or know about you or your product it is much harder to compete on margins.

When you run into the problem of advertising being unaffordable you can always dip a toe into the rich consumer feedback your marketplace offers to learn about the market and build social relations at the same time.

Also the more you can throw your name into what you do or offer the more that can help make up for a lack of ad budget.

How to Get Those Most Valuable Leads:
For people to want to search for you they have to have some type of initial exposure. Testimonials work great, but odds are most people are going to run into ads or affiliate marketing prior to seeing too many honest recommendations.

There are a ton of people who will blog on a wide variety of topics to earn a few bucks. It is not hard to do. When they blog about your topic ideally the profit margins are high enough that people see ads like this at the top of their site.

Some people find the algorithmic holes and fully automate the content generation process, and like it or not, as Dan Thies states, that content converts:

I learned enough in Econ classes to know that Google (through Adsense) is paying for a lot of the spam I see in search results. I've also learned enough from looking at Adsense reports to know that intercepted search traffic has a higher CTR and payout than ads that appear in real content.

Poor Matt... try as he might, he can't change the fact that his employer is paying for more R&D in how to do link spamming, than they are spending on R&D to stop it. This is Cathedral vs. Bazaar all over again, only this time the Cathedral is footing the bill.

I have been debating getting published, but it is going to require synergistic effects with selling updates or else I would lock myself out of the search marketplace due to poor margins.

Blog Overlords & Publishing Business Models

Not too long ago I read a book called How to Write, Publish, & Sell Your Own How-To Book. At that point I was already doing well with my current ebook, but was debating whether or not it was worth trying to get it physically published. Generally the How to Write... book was strongly biased against being published primarily due to profit margin related reasons, as well as a few other restrictions.

If you asked me to name off book publishers I know the names of I could do it on my hands with fingers left over. I got an email yesterday from one of the few I would have been able to name, asking me if I would be interested in having them publish & distribute SEO Book.

One of my friends also made the same offer, but offered to publish at cost because he wanted to get some titles for his new publish house.

Away from the web I think there is a huge gain with going with a publisher for at least one book, to help build your authority and credibility, but on the web I do not think there is a need for network publishers, etc.

Eeek, some authors are suing Google. What to do? Not suing here. I am still unsure on the publishing front though, but...

With blogs I do not think there is a need for additional blog networks. You can learn a lot from a blogger just by watching what they do. It is considered bad form to copy exactly, but you can learn the pieces that fit your style or see what pieces are working elsewhere, and why they work. Many of the blog network business models do not encourage the best kinds of postings. Many of the best bloggers read far more than the write, and that is just so much harder to do when it feels like writing the blog is your job and you are doing it for a boss.

Sometimes getting articles syndicated is as easy as writing them and submitting them. Also odds are fairly high that if you learn your topic well you should be able to build more high quality links into your site than a blog overlord would.

The blog networks don't directly pay you for participating in a community and if you ever need to jump ship from the network partnership that brand you helped them build the whole time may not carry with you.

Why I think blog networks suck:

  • Advertising: Most blog networks just publish AdSense for most of their advertisements. If they are going to cross promote the blogs and make them obviously known then it is easy to see how they place the ads for maximum profits. You do not need to be part of the network to learn from it. It is a transparent business model.

  • Link Selling: Some of the networks sell off topic links as if it is going out of style. That is the type of activity that leads to search engines placing limited or no trust on the linkage data from within the network. If they underpriced the ads a bit to entice a few on topic advertisers and then stayed on topic the ads would have greater longterm value and a lower risk profile.
  • Most People Make Nothing: As with the About.com network, or any group publishing network, a few topics are going to bring in the bulk of the cash. If you are in one of the lesser known topics then it is hard to make your blog well known and profitable unless you are actively marketing the heck out of it, which is much harder to do when you do not own the content and only get a meager percentage of the overall earnings.
  • Internal Links WILL Get Discounted: Being part of a blog network paid on comission is a good deal if you are the Poker blog riding off the link popularity of Engadget or Gizmodo, but inevitably as these networks spread you have to believe that search engines are going to deweight the internal linkage. Most of the blog network channels have limited linkage data outside of the link popularity which flows in from the few most popular channels. Jason Calcanis often brags about how much money his network is making with no money spent on marketing. How can spending no money on marketing be the optimal spend?
  • Stuck Business Models: I would guess that Gawker might make more per blog than I make on this blog, but most of the blog networks are stuck in their low paying business models. Some channels might make lots of money selling ebooks while others might be able to sell newsletters or software or other information products. The problem is that most of them are probably not willing to challenge what they know works. What happens if a channel really takes off and the author wants to go elsewhere where they can make more money?
  • You Still Need to Learn the Same Stuff: Using WordPress is free. Google AdSense optimization probably only takes a few days of tweaking to become decent at. Blog networks are not going to give you inside knowledge of your marketplace, and unless you are well cited within your topic only bad search algorithms are going to make your site relevant for it's network participation. The network that REALLY matters is the community that covers your topic.
  • Too Much Too Quick: Sometimes having few visitors off the start is a good thing. It gives you the opportunity to learn quickly without necissarily opening you up to the criticism of everyone in your community. I have got hate email from people who later gladly linked to my site. My guess is that if I had more exposure when I knew less about my topic, blogging, & the web I would have got a lot more hate mail, and it may have turned me off early.
  • Time Off: Sometimes I feel like crap, and if I posted while I felt that way it would only have a negative effect on my blog and the poor eyes reading my HateTypeTM. Blogging is about being timely, but it is also about posting more when you are thinking and feel like talking. It is also about keeping quiet when you don't feel like talking.
  • If You Really Care: If you are really going to go after something may as well make it your own. If you really don't care much a network might be cool, but I fail to see the point in doing anything you are only sorta interested in.

Inevitably blog quality will have to stand on it's own. Readers and citations come if people want to give you their attention. Being part of a network might be able to help you boost that a bit off the start, but it may also hold you back when you want to let out a rant or zig when others are zagging :)

The whole point of the web is you do not need an overlord.

Google Looking for SEM Managers?

Couldn't believe my ears. We just got a phone call from a recruitment consultant trying to head hunt for a European SEM Manager role for Google.

so says Teddie

A move which is a bit counter to client poaching claims of the past. That is, of course, unless Google wants to get better at poaching them.

Google has the ability to build and destroy many business models, but the more holistic your efforts are the less you need to worry.

Could You Started From Scratch Today

Do you think you could start from scratch today? was one of the more interesting discussions I listened to at SEO Roadshow.

Mainly people were talking in terms of money, but I think the biggest assets for most people who are doing well in terms of SEO are their friendships and what they have learned, and you can't really unlearn or unfriend (unless you really try hard or have a freak accident).

Google is significantly harder to manipulate today than it was when I started. If I were to start from scratch today I think I would still be able to do well. Google would take a bit longer to manipulate than it used to, but I know so much more about marketing than I did back then. When I first started I was in the negative in terms of cash, and can't imagine that it would take me longer to find a profitable business model today. As a form of payment I also prefer links and friendships to cash, as they don't get taxed.

Sometimes I think about sorta just making this site archived and trying to change how & why I post and do things, but it is so easy to assume that what worked in the past will continue working in the future. I realize that is not true though.

My 3 week old free SEO tools update list already has over 10% the number of subscribers as my nearly 2 year old free newsletter does (and I give stuff away in nearly every newsletter).

Knowing what I paid to create some of the tools, and seeing some of the ad rates around the web, I am willing to bet most SEOs pay more for leads than I paid per subscriber to my free tools update list.

I do not like spending tons on advertising because I think viral marketing works so much better. It kinda feels insulting to think of how little money and effort went into creating some of those tools and how much time they can help save in the SEO process, especially when compared to how unproductively I have spent large portions of time, and now I am over the hill...26 years old. :(

Could you start from scratch today?
What would be the hardest bits?

Think of the Kittens

Sometimes lawsuits are not enough. ;)

A while ago Edward Lewis (of SeoConsultants.com) found a rather unpleasant hate site about him which existed right up until around the time he pulled his news coverage of Traffic Power and 1P.com business practices.

I believe the fake SEO forums went down around the same time I was sent the paperwork to drop the lawsuit against me in agreement for me removing any and all content in any way related to Traffic Power from this website.

Due to feedback from friends I decided to fight the lawsuit. I still don't know how in the hell I could comply even if I wanted to since they have refused to give me ANY specifics and I do not know all the various names they operate under.

Holding predicably true to form, it took no time at all for an SEO Book smear campaign to start up. I even have my own hate group now!

If you find me leaving nasty comments on your blog realize that it is probably someone trying to help me out.

AMR Partners: Good & Bad PR Techniques / Good & Bad PR Firms

Good PR firms know how to tell stories that are at least slightly factually based:

PR is not dishonest. Not quite. In fact, the reason the best PR firms are so effective is precisely that they aren't dishonest. They give reporters genuinely valuable information.

Bad PR firms hand out spin and / or misinformation that eventually chips away at their credibility. Traffic Power's public relations firm is AMR Partners. I want to run through some of Danny Sullivan's questions to them and some of AMR's responses to highlight the honesty in the answers. I will then go through their quote that was in the Wall Street Journal and a strategic blog comment spammers comments.

Danny: The letter never actually says what it is he supposedly pirated or published. What exactly is it that's in contention here?

AMR Partners: Traffic Power tells me that in threads regarding Traffic-Power portions of private and confidential emails have been presented as well as links to proprietary company information as well as false claims against the company regard non-existing lawsuits and other potentially libelous claims.

"I just thought anyone should know, This is an interesting link to a law firm that is getting ready to file a class action against Traffic-Power.com http://www.girardgibbs.com/traffic-power.html"

Many of these links are no longer available and Mr. Wall's site - Blocked Wayback Machine with "Robots.txt Query Exclusion" (See robots.txt file at http://www.seobook.com/robots.txt)

http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://www.seobook.com/archives/000314.shtml

Aaron: I remember checking that the potential class action lawsuit was on a real site after seeing that post.

If you look at the Internet Archive you can see that at one point in fact that same law firm was gathering information to investigate the possibility of filing a class action against Traffic-Power.com. No false claim there on my comments page (and this is one of the few things - maybe the only thing so far as I know - they have specifically chose to point out as being knowingly false).

While the Internet Archive was blocked on my site clearly that is a poor idea to cluster it with that answer since the Internet Archive can be used to prove the rest of that particular AMR Partners answer sounds at best misinformed.

It is not like I have been posting AND DELETING lots of stuff about Traffic Power. If I did delete whatever they claimed was wrong then wouldn't I be complying with their desires anyhow?

As far as class action lawsuits go, another site (which goes by the name of Traffic Power Sucks) states they are currently working at putting a Traffic Power class action lawsuit together.

Score: Aaron: 1 AMR Partners: 0

Danny: How is he supposed to comply with a demand for source disclosure when you haven't cited what was allegedly published or pirated? Are you expecting a list of every person he's ever talked with?

AMR Partners: I have no idea what the legal team might expect in terms of disclosure of sources, but I have been told that any evidence will not be presented until it has been decided whether or not they need to file a lawsuit.

Aaron: If they are not going to disclose specifically what they want until well after they decide to sue me then how am I to comply without getting sued first?

Score: Aaron: 2 AMR Partners: 0

Danny: Are you suggesting everything on the SEO Book web site that might mention Traffic-Power is somehow pirated material? Doing a quick search, I see http://www.seobook.com/archives/000314.shtml, where he talks about being called by Traffic-Power. Is this the pirated communication? And if so, was he informed of this before the phone call began?

AMR Partners: I do not think the intent of the letter is to imply that everything on the site is pirated or in response to the two links you've posted, but rather to suggest that pirated material as well as material that could be considered libelous are present and that there are several issues on Mr. Wall's sites that are potentially actionable.

In conclusion, Traffic Power has assured me that they would much prefer a civil dialog with their critics instead of any legal action and that they at least, would be open to discussion.

Aaron: That in conclusion bit is sorta funny. They still have never told me specifically what was wrong, and - at least as I am aware of - outside the cease and desist they made no legitimate effort to contact me in any way about what is wrong prior to filing suit. So if they would prefer one thing then why did they do the exact opposite? Or was that "would much prefer a civil dialog" statement a blatent lie?

Score: Aaron: 3 AMR Partners: 0

On to the Wall Street Journal article:

Traffic Power Spokesman: Steve Pellegrino, a spokesman for Traffic-Power.com, said the company had asked Messrs. Wall and Baardsen to remove some material from their Web sites before filing the suits, and sued them after they refused. "We have let this go on a year and a half," Mr. Pellegrino said.

Aaron: Other than "everything" I was never told what specifically to remove (and I was also told that I may also need to give information for all sources). If a company operates under a variety of names or has a variety of affiliated sites how can I ensure I removed all information if I do not know the names of the various related entities?

As Danny Sullivan so eloquently put it:

He'd been served with a cease-and-desist letter from SEO company Traffic-Power.com that seemed impossible to comply with.

Also, if it has been going on for 1.5 years and there is something wrong with it why wait that long to do something about it? Also this JimWorld Traffic-Power.com thread started in 2002, so that puts us well over 1.5 years of Traffic-Power.com coverage.

Score: Aaron: 4 Traffic-Power.com: 0

Disturbing comment anonymously left on various search related blogs:
GET YOUR PRIORITIES STRAIGHT!

Donate to Aaron Wall’s legal fund? You must be kidding. Why so a spoiled little brat can rant and rage against things he doesn’t like. This is a sad and pathetic joke, in case it has escaped your attention there are people in New Orleans who are DYING, and could really use donations. Anyone who sent Aaron Wall any money should be ashamed of themselves, to support this and turn your back on people who are in real need is disgusting. Aarons right to bash a bunch of spammers, is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, if the Blogging Community want to rally behind something, raise money to help the people of New Orleans!
PLEASE DONATE TO A TRULEY WORTHY CAUSE, TO EASE THE SUFFERING IN NEW ORLEANS.
Comment by French Quarter

Another Comment on My Blog:
I bet three voodoo dolls French Quarter post guy is from Traffic Power

Loren Baker:
Aaron’s court case could stop companies and government entities from suing or issuing gag orders to the mini-press or public-press (bloggers). Imagine if the National Guard or Bush admin had the power to erase all tales of suffering and crimes against humanity stemming from the administrations lack of help during the evacuation and almost one week afterwards.

Funny you use the name French Quarter, as the Quarter is above sea level and apparently was the only target of organized evacuation due to the millions of dollars invested daily by tourists.

(someone spammed Loren's Search Engine Journal blog, SE Roundtable, Blog Herald, The Intuitive Life Business Blog, and Abakus SEO Blog with the same posts as the stuff they placed on my site. They also created a moderated Aaron Wall hate group in Google Groups.)

Why I have yet to mention Katrina on my site:
I am so pissed off about it that my thoughts on the topic would likely be a bit abrasive and likely piss off a large percentage of my readers.

I will post about it on my other blog. I think many blogs should mention it.

Did you know that prior to the storm FEMA could not finish some of their New Orleans hurricane walk throughs because their funding was cut, and that money to improve the levees and city pumps was cut in part to help fund the war on terrorism / Homeland Security?

Why I Have Yet to Donate to Support Katrina Survivors:
When the tsunami's happened I donated as much as I could. I gave a full month's income while I was still in debt and soon after had to pay off part of my taxes using credit cards.

I have yet to donate to support Katrina survivors because it is hard for me to ask friends to help support my case and then lower my financial stability by giving away money that might be needed to defended against Traffic-Power.com.

Score: Traffic-Power.com: 1 Katrina Victims: 0 :(

If you want to support Katrina victims please open your home up to extended family and friends and maybe even strangers if you are trusting, and you can donate cash at Amazon or donate ad space on your site.

The more I think about it the more I think this suit was intended as a big plublicity stunt by Traffic Power. I probably would not have made a post about the bad or inaccurate comments from their public relations firm, but I think:

  • PR is what the case is about

  • they should be kept honest, and any dishonestly or half truths should be shown exactly for being what they are (although Danny did a good job pointing out many of them already - thanks Danny)
  • if people help spread half truths or deception they are just as bad as the people who come up with the half truths
  • the strategic blog comment spammer about Hurricane Katrina was going way too far.

On Feedback & Multiple Meanings of Ideas & Words

Sometimes I mention something that seems exceptionally important to me that has absolutely no importance in the grand scheme of things (most of my important things probably fall into this category). Other times some things have far greater importance to others for other reasons.

I always learn alot when others change my perspective of why things are important or what words mean.

A while back I read one person explaining to another on a forum about something they learned from something I wrote, stating what they thought I was explaining and what I meant.

What they learned was, in my opinion, something exceptionally powerful, although I absolutely was not trying to convey the message they learned & I had not thought of what they were saying in the same way they did (at least until I read what they wrote).

I learned a ton from their interpretation of what I was trying to say :) The cool thing is, their feedback can be used to change how I think, write, & act; and it was available fast & free.

The most valuable thing anyone in any field can have is the attention and feedback of interested people. Sometimes I shoot myself in the foot by how I ask for it, but far more often I shoot myself in the foot by not asking frequently enough or not giving people reasons to want to give me feedback.

I search for my name and words semantically related to me or things I have done about once or twice a month and often find stuff that made me wish I was searching about twice as often.

Recently I asked my friend Mike to make another SEO related tool. When I initially did I thought it would be cool for feature X, but then I realized the tool would double greatly as a Y, which could potentially have much broader use, and appeal to a wider community for different reasons (which could cheaply net me a TON of high quality inbound links).

Before it launches I may ask a few friends for feedback about it's name. When the rough beta is up I will be sure to ask for feedback on this blog about it's functionality & the like.

Philipp Lenssen recently wrote a cool blog post about meeting a tribal linguist who changed his perspective of many simple words.

I snipped a bit of it and referenced it below, but it is well worth reading his whole post.

I don't think that after I met this man, I was ever the same again - not when it comes to certain simple words. Nowadays when I think gratefulness would be appropriate, I think back to our conversation, and how easy it is to just say "thanks." But how hard it is to act instead of talk; to be loyal in what you do, instead of reaffirming with words. How hard it is to change your way of living, to adjust your thinking, instead of saying "I'm sorry." How hard it is to carry someone in your mind instead of saying "hello" and "good bye." How hard it is to stick to someone for the rest of your life instead of uttering the words "I love you." And yet, how much more sincere and good-hearted it might be.

Thanks to all of the people who recently gave me feedback in one way or another.

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