So it is a bit hard to navigate the internet marketing front without stepping on a few people's toes. Sometimes when other people step on your toes they do not realize it or do not care. Those people are usually the quickest and most easly offended people when you do things that invade their territory.
Truth be told I always wanted to create the ultimate link analysis tool. A while ago I thought ThreadWatch was going to do it, but that idea - for one reason or another - fell through. Later down the road a person contacted me with a pre beta type version of Backlink Analyzer, and offered to sell it to me for $1,200, which is not a lot of cash.
I had a few friends look at it, and they said it looked decent. Almost everyone noted how much quicker it was than other related software on the market.
I bought it and have been working with the programmers to add and remove features such that it would hopefully remain useful while being search engine friendly, which has costed me a few thousand more. By the time it is fully where it needs to be it may likely end up costing somewhere into 5 figures.
That is a lot to pay to develop free software that does not have a revenue stream, but my goal is to help new webmasters be able to compete with larger established players. A large part of that business model is going to be referencing cool stuff, creating cool stuff, & giving stuff away, and hoping that out of it good karma sorta comes back and helps me on the marketing front. In many ways it has - perhaps even more than I deserve.
I think the single most important part about creating stuff is that it gives you an excuse or reasoning to create original content around the tools or ideas. So many of the channels are just "blah said blah" and at times I often feel like I am letting myself do that. It is really easy to do too, especially when you got guys like Gary Price, NickW, and Danny Sullivan digging up so much good stuff.
The biggest cost in developing such software is time though, as you have to go back and forth a number of times to get exactly what you are looking for, and then if you get any serious distribution you have the potential customer support issues.
I remember when SEO Elite first started out. It went by the name of Link Proctor. I was one of the first people who gave Brad Callen a ton of feedback to make his software better, even telling him to change the name and features to add. Over time it got better, but the marketing got more and more aggressive.
His software essentially cloned OptiLink, but with a few added features and much more aggressive marketing.
I eventually wrote a mini guide for him, which I sold him the rights to package with his software. Later while looking at his sales letter I noticed that he put $79 as the suggested value of that bonus . Not so surprisingly that is the exact price I sell my full ebook for. He later changed that price after I told him how bad it pissed me off, but it was no accident that he marketed my free bonus as "newly released" and at "$79". He knew what he was doing. Stepping on my toes.
If people asked on a forum he would tell them that my ebook has broader coverage, but he was driving a ton of traffic at his sales letter, and it clearly led people to assume my ebook was a throw in.
I still get tons and tons of emails from people asking for free product support for his software or my ebook that comes with it. Even today I had some.
That is surely a valuable lesson in branding. Giving away a similar product to your main revenue stream on another channel for a one time fee or additional exposure can be an exceptionally bad call for branding purposes. Dumb dumb dumb.
Recently Brad sent me an email thanking me for "undercutting someone that's been more than kind to you. Anyway, just a little hurt that you would try to purposely undercut my means of earning a living."
I don't consider some of the marketing methods he was using as being more than kind to me.
What did he think he was doing to OptiLink when he cloned their software and marketed it aggressively? I bet that "undercut someone's means of earning a living."
What did he think he was doing when he put a $79 price point on the guide I wrote for him? I bet that "undercut someone's means of earning a living."
What did he think he was doing when he put a banner on SEO Chat offering a free SEO Book to all SEO Chat members? With the banner using similar colors to my site no less? I bet that "undercut someone's means of earning a living."
What did he think he was doing when he created a free SEO Book for affiliates which allowed them to insert their affiliate ID number into the book? When combined with the above I bet that "undercut someone's means of earning a living."
In the past he also wanted me to give his software home page advertising on my blog in exchange for higher affiliate comission or ads on more static websites he ownes.
The thing is, should I have been able to create faster software than that was on the market for only a few grand? Were the people selling the leading software holding up their end of the bargain?
Does the software automate your ability to cash checks? Some does, but most link analysis software just saves you time...it does not fully automate the process. Are the sales letter claims that the software creaters do not spend a dime on advertising true? Probably not. Especially if they sometimes complain about how expensive certain ads are. Are the claims to get hundreds of free links in under 10 minutes honest?
I could have launched the $1,200 version and it would have been better than many of the other programs, the only thing that stopped me from doing that is that I did not want to get banned by Google for scraping PageRank.
This is in no way a hate post toward Brad. He and I chatted a good bit in the past, and I think he generally is a smart marketer.
I always wanted to create killer free link software (see Link Harvester or Hub Finder), but the low cost of Backlink Analyzer combined with Brad's SEO Books should be free marketing made creating more and better link software a no brainer.
I know there isn't much point duplicating the existing webmaster
forums out there, but if you are going to offer tools, a support forum
is probably a good idea.
It may also be a good accompanyment to your blog, adding space for
discussion and creating a broarder landscape for your sites.
Anyway, I'm sure you would have considered it in the past... just a
prompt to consider it again today.
In the past I debated the idea of a forum, but many of my friends have told me bad call bad call bad call.
So do you think I should start a forum or not? What is the best way to efficiently answer questions related to the tools? Forums? Make an FAQ page? Both?
The problems with forums are:
even if they start off great eventually they lose their appeal to some extent.
the bigger they grow the more of a problem management is.
they are exceptionally time consuming & can cut into my ability to have time to learn other things.
I am not exceptionally even keeled. Sometimes I like to work hard and other times I like to take a break, plus I go away from home somewhat often now.
I really need to become more physically active, and I don't see running forums helping that any.
even if I started a small one just for tools I am sure it would eventually widen out, as that is what happened to Shawn, although he did it in a manner where he does not need to spend much time on moderation.
You can get sued for anonymous comments that occur on chat boards. More on that later today.
although sometimes I have grand ambitions I am not sure forums work profitably unless they have an amazingly huge reach, and I am not sure if I am that ambitious.
The positives of running a forum:
it would make it easy to launch new items / ideas / software projects.
it could help teach me more about social interaction
so far today I have probably answered about 200 emails. there is no archive of that information, although if it were on a forum all that information would be reusable and able to help more people.
If I was making enough money from advertising I could change my business model & potentially be able to afford giving my ebook away. But then again if I put a price of $0 on it that is exactly what some people would value it at: as being worthless.
I have learned a lot from SEO forums, but I have also got to do IM chat with people like Dan Thies and NFFC. The biggest complaints with forums are noise, and learning everything in such small chunks that you view them out of proportion. Getting to listen to guys like NFFC or Dan Thies in an IM conversation it really helps you step back and view things from a broader perspective.
So I get a ton of emails from people offering to rank my website for me. Usually I delete them, but sometimes I reply, asking if they also offer email spamming solutions.
I think the word solutions makes them think I am serious. Sometimes changing or adding one word makes a big difference. Most of them think I am serious and try to sell to the lead. Some manually follow up multiple times. Most of them use a phrase like high volume email deployers. Funny.
So I do not do the best affiliate program management here (I have not marketed it hard), but a friend of mine recently saw ads for his site that were so bad that he thought someone was trying to sabatoge his brand and business model.
It was one of his affiliates!
I guess it can happen to anyone, but if you are large and your affiliate program is going to be a small part of your business model you may want to make sure that you put out some fairly strict guidance on it until you can figure a way out to help grow it into significance.
Also to affiliate program companies, if you make links contain an affiliate id number it should be easy to search through affiliates.
Some people have rare or frustrating conditions which disable them or take significant focus away from living their lives. In the past these conditions would be nothing but a cost, in terms of: money, time, social energy, and emotional energy.
The worse a condition is, the greater value there is in a solution to the problem. The problem with the past is that you needed a large enough market and substantial marketing money to reach like minded people. The web allows searchers to define their targeting. This means that targeted websites, solutions, and personalities can create exceptional value for being news filters and creating useful targeted channels based upon the needs of similar people.
Contextual advertising such as Google AdSense can automate the ad sales to where all you have to do is pour your effort into learning about solutions to your problems and have income automatically deposited in your account.
Whatever sets you apart or makes you different can also be leveraged to make you wealthy if you have adequate interest in those topics. The web makes it possible for "small" people to start with nothing and work their way to notoriety or financial stability while avoiding the rat race that is corporate America.
Sometimes though if your productivity is driven out of hatred, or fear, or something negative it may be hard to shift those gears to positive motivation once you start to do well, and eventually you have to if you want to do well longterm. A friend of mine recently gave me a link to a killer poem, which is so much more than that.
There are always screwed up things going on in the world, but some of them are moreso than others. This story relates to search, because you really have to search hard to find any information about it...
Recently Andy Hagans mentioned to me that in northern Uganda there is a war where children are being abducted and trained to kill or abduct other children. For safety at night many children are forced to leave their homes and sleep in a pool of overlapping bodies hoping they are not abducted or killed, living in perpetual fear.
Invisible Children is a recent DVD which shows what is going on in Uganda. If you would like, I have a couple of them and I can send you one (just send me an email with address, etc).
The war has been going on for about 19 years and has got next to no legitimite media coverage here in the United States. Andy Hagans has been helping Uganda CAN do SEO, but the problem is nobody is going to be searching for it if nobody knows about it.
Recently some people from Uganda CAN got a bit of coverage on a few articles and on NPR. The online petition to stop the war was getting about 10 signatures an hour, but that number has started to drift back downward :( I think if blogs really got ahold of the story that number should be able to run well into the thousands / hour. With enough voices of concern the US government will hopefully be forced to help the Uganda government face and fix the problems.
Not too long ago, when Ian Turner was missing, search related bloggers helped spread his name to where it was the #1 search term on Technorati. Hopefully we can raise the war in Uganda to #1 as well.
If you do not like the idea of children being abuducted, murdered, and living in constant fear please help. A few options:
John Battelle tells the story about Bill Gross's arbitrage candy selling as a kid, and how he later came to form GoTo, which pioneered the underlying business model that currently powers search.
I heavily practiced arbitrage with baseball cards when I was young. Below is my arbitrage story.
When I was 10 I remember this one guy had a game where it costed 50 cents to roll dice and win the prize. I kept landing packs of the first run 1990 Donruss baseball cards with the Harold Baines reverse negative and other error cards. I kept selling the packs for $3 - $5 to other dealiers, to go back and do more rolling. By the time the day was done I had a Tony Gwynn rookie, a Brett Saberhagan rookie, and about a couple hundred dollars worth of other cards from $5 spent on the roll a dice game.
Around the same time I remember buying Score Dream Team cards in bulk near book price and selling them to a dealer two tables over for double book price.
In high school I started selling baseball cards. I would buy cards out of people's 3 for a dime and quarter boxes and sell the cards for $1 each. It was an easy sell to have a huge case full of cards worth 25 cents to $4 each and organize them by player and just price them all at $1 each. It allowed people who did not collect baseball cards to start buying their favorite player at my table.
Sorry for the tangent...arbitrage is such a yummy topic. I don't collect baseball cards much anymore, but those are some fond childhood memories :)
Some people are so annoying that they are comment worthy. Although some of my friends may like him, I absolutely can't stand Michael Martinez. This thread shows well how annoying he is.
He is one of the give me proof crowd, that always wants all your proof while he makes crap up and throws it out there as fact. A few months back I showed him some screenshots and he called it smoke and mirrors.
This is not some sort of retribution post or anything like that, just reminding people that sometimes being annoying can hurt or help build linkage data.
Sometimes people do not realize how annoying they are. Other times people know exactly how annoying they are and do it for attention or linkage data. For most people the annoying way is probably not the best way to build linkage data and brand, but Michael Martinez - as wrong as he may be - is still far more memorable than most people in the SEO market.
SearchEngineWatch, a decade in the making, sold along with ClickZ and the Search Engine Strategies conference for only $43 million.
IndustryBrains, a small rather obscure contextual network recently sold for $31 million. Sure they have a few good publishing partners, but their business model is absurdly easy to replicate.
Many advertising companies depend on large off the web media organizations being inept at selling online media. As time passes and consolidation continues many obscure businesses relying on market ineffiencies will watch their business models erode.
I find it mind boggling that IndustryBrains sold for about the same amount as SearchEngineWatch did, but many people have stated they think SEW was underpriced or there is something missing in the story, and Jupiter's stock was down sharply today on slower image sales growth.
The point of this post though was that the single most authoritative voice on search was priced at about the same amount as a third tier contextual ad seller, which goes to show how much money there is in search ads and contexual ads.
I don't blog to make money. I don't run ads on my site. I don't even blog to win awards. I blog because it pleases me to see my ideas spread. I like it when I see people talking about one of my ideas--without even mentioning where the idea came from. That means it's the idea that spread, not my brand. Which is the whole point.
For me, anyway. Not for you or for her or for him.
And that's the tricky part about marketing to ego. Everybody feeds their ego in a different way.
While I sell an ebook on this site I am sorta the same way on that front, entirely ego driven. I like helping people and I like links.
A friend of mine asked me how much money was my goal for the year and I said I will measure my success in HTML links. He told me I could get that with blogspam and FFA pages, but I believe those are only part of a well rounded link building campaign ;)
On a related note, congrats to Gurtie, who already owns 6 of the top 7 Google Gurtie results. She recently stopped targeting TheGurtster because, as she states, "it was too easy".
In a recent Fast Company article Sergey Brin stated that he thought Google still has the ability to attract the right kind of people because they have the ability to feed their ego:
"Here's the way I think of it," he says. "Is this the place I would want to work if I were graduating from a PhD program now?" Brin and Larry Page were pursuing doctorates at Stanford when they founded Google, which they now run together with Eric Schmidt, a veteran executive who had worked at Sun and Novell.
"Yes," he answers. Why? The key reason is that Google lets brilliant computer scientists work on "great technical problems" that provide the intellectual stimulation and challenge they crave. "Artificial intelligence, complex systems, user interface -- all the things I studied as a graduate student, we hit the limits of," he says.
What fills your ego? Do your offers fill the egos of those you want to do business with?