BizRate.com & Google Break Up

Nov 13th

Google Checkout Makes Shopping Sites Undesirable

As Google Checkout ramps up, many thin arbitrage / shopping aggregator sites are going to see a significant love loss from Google. In September Andrew Goodman wrote a piece on how paid search and organic search quality criteria may play off each other, after coming across a post on Inside AdWords where Google stated that some types of sites are likely to merit a low quality score:

The following types of websites are likely to merit low landing page quality scores and may be difficult to advertise affordably. In addition, it's important for advertisers of these types of websites to adhere to our landing page quality guidelines regarding unique content.
  • eBook sites that show frequent ads
  • 'Get rich quick' sites
  • Comparison shopping sites
  • Travel aggregators
  • Affiliates that don't comply with our affiliate guidelines

Market Saturation

It does not help any of the shopping aggregators that there are about a dozen competitors (BizRate, Shopping.com, Shopzilla, MSN Shopping, NextTag, Epinions, DealTime, Pricegrabber, Pricerunner, Yahoo! Shopping, etc.). From a marketing standpoint almost all of them offer near identical user experience, so few of them are remarkable or linkworthy. The whole field (including Yahoo!) compete based on renting large swaths of links.

Everyone MUST Rent Links to Compete

Given Google's recent war cries against buying and selling links, and that there are so many shopping comparison sites, it is easy for Google to whack a few of them with it going unnoticed by anyone outside the companies. But if you are in the comparison shopping field and do not rent links, how can you compete with Yahoo! when they do? You can't.

The Fall of BizRate.com

I am uncertain if the drop in Google was algorithmic or editorial, but BizRate's Alexa ranking is off sharply over the past couple weeks, and if you look at top keywords they ranked for on Google (via Compete.com, SEO Digger, or SpyFu), their site is no longer ranking for many of them. In fact, I didn't even see the US site ranking for "biz rate". For that term bizrate.co.uk ranks #1. When I visit the UK site from a Google search result for "biz rate" the site asks if I want to view the US site or the UK site.

Here is a snapshot of the plunged BizRate traffic

And here is a running historical graph:

Google's Algorithmic Whitelists Are Not Carved in Stone

BizRate, which sold to the E.W. Scripps company for $525 million, used to be on Google's editorial white list.

Perceived Authenticity is Key to Profitable Niche Publishing Business Models

Via TC, I discovered IBM released a report on how the they think the $550 billion global ad market might change in the coming years. The predictions look bleak for most ad agencies and traditional media gatekeepers, but good for niche publishers who have a solid stream of attention:

The "voice" delivering a message, along with its perceived authenticity, will become as powerful perhaps as the message or offer.

As media gets more saturated, we get better at filtering out garbage. Jakob Nielson's article about writing articles instead of blog posts does a great job of explaining why writing fewer and more in depth articles is effective for gaining and keeping attention in a competitive marketplace.

On a related note, Frank just noticed a TV show skipping the TV and starting out on the web. There is no easier way to increased perceived authenticity than having a direct and open relationship with the audience.

IBM also offered research on the attention economy in a paper titled Vying for attention: the future of competing in media and entertainment. Rich Shefren recently created a mindmap of what he calls the Attention Age Doctrine, which shows why people are willing to pay larger premiums for great advice and nothing for decent advice.
attention age

How to Create & Unlock $100 of Value Per Word

Seth Godin referenced a Steven Berlin Johnson post analyzing the word usage of various authors. Writers using short words and short sentences tend to sell more.

It is easy to think that if you just do more and add more value that you will make more money, but sometimes doing more just means simplifying and clarifying your words, or publishing in a more friendly format. If you want people to take action, to believe they can afford it, making them feel confident and comfortable works. More does not always mean better.

Some of the posts I write about the macroeconomic trends of online publishing and the search economy take 5 hours to write, get few or no comments, get few or no citations, and probably scare off potential customers. Those posts do not cater to people looking to buy SEO information. The short SEO videos I recently made are easier to create and easy to consume. Daily sales are near my all time high.

But is Free Content Actually Free?

Oct 17th

Brian Clark just wrote a great free 22 page report about...

  • why you should ignore the trap of free content + ads as a business model
  • how creating and marketing free content and promotes information pollution
  • how to package and sell information
  • how you are not like a typical web user
  • why you need to take advantage of new trends and ignore trends of old
  • what brands actually sell
  • how primitive the web is

Many of the points he hits on are similar to my post titled Death of the Book: Publishers Will Become Interactive Media Artists with the exception that Brian is more eloquent and used much better formatting. If you only read one thing this week, make sure Brian's Teaching Sells report is on that short list.

The Beauty of Editorial Review Sites

Oct 15th

Once you have a trusted brand you can create low value white label brands that are given a free pass by search engine editors based on the trust of your core brand. These can feed back profits to your main site in many ways, including allowing you to:

  • filter link juice to your mother brand site, which is especially useful for temporal news or in categories where link building is tough
  • create additional ad inventory that sells at the premium CPM rate of your core brand (see also: Extending the Reach / Circulation of a Web Based Content Site & Ad Network)
  • extend to new markets without requiring you to risk tarnishing your main brand

There are many ways to extend, including

What tips to do you have for extending your reach while protecting your brand?

Radiohead Joins Google in Destroying Traditional Publishing & Media Companies

Radiohead announced that you can pay whatever you like for In Rainbows, the latest album from the best band in the world. A TIME article states:

Thom Yorke told TIME, "I like the people at our record company, but the time is at hand when you have to ask why anyone needs one. And, yes, it probably would give us some perverse pleasure to say 'F___ you' to this decaying business model."

And the record executives realize what is going on

"This feels like yet another death knell," emailed an A&R executive at a major European label. "If the best band in the world doesn't want a part of us, I'm not sure what's left for this business."

Artists will have to become publishers, and publishers will have to become artists. You don't need to sign a contract or jump on a plane to find customers. Anyone who has a blog with a following has no need for a publisher, outside of vanity.

Comcast Fined for Syndicating Fraudulent News

Sep 24th

Any time a big media company writes about publishing ethics, just remember how much fraud is baked into their business models. Comcast was fined by the FCC for displaying fake news about a sleeping pills. Direct to consumer drug marketing wrapped as fake news. Can a company get any sleezier?

New Seo Book Homepage: Need Your Feedback Please

In a recent post I stated that one of the biggest flaws from a conversion perspective with this site was that the homepage was a blog. I just made a new homepage that features more of the site's content. I think it is a bit text heavy still, but I wanted to get your feedback on what you think of the new homepage.

Death of the Book: Publishers Will Become Interactive Media Artists

Books Are Losing Relevancy

Google and Amazon are both pushing to sell ebooks directly aggressively. An article in the NYT mentions a new device Amazon will offer for reading ebooks, but I don't think the problem with books and ebooks is that they need a better reader.

Google now allows you to embed book pasages directly in web pages.

The big problem is that the web is quickly becoming more interactive and diverse and useful, making books irrelevant for all but true enthusiasts, desperate people seeking a manifesto for life change, or those who read as an escape.

Personal Relevancy

The larger a book becomes, the less likely it is to be relevant to any individual, and the less value each word has. People who may disagree with some concepts in your book may agree with pieces that they would be willing to cite if they could only find it. But they will never cite your information unless they can find it.

No matter what people believe, in almost every case someone has already shared the same belief. Format it in small sharable chunks with good findability and people will cite it.

A while ago I wrote a post about making information easy to consume. Recently Thomas Crampton interviewed Cory Doctorow about how to build blog readership, and that 6 minute interview is far more useful than my article was. See for yourself:

Attention Deficit Disorder

Most people with significant social and/or economic influence have (an equivalent of) attention deficit disorder, caused by an interruption-driven life cluttered with too much content and too little time.

People may want to consume relevant bits. Cognitive dissidents. Summaries that let us dive deeper if we want to. Little chunks of information that change how we perceive the world around us.

Rarely is something that is fully polished, comprehensive, and dated what we need. More likely it is easier to learn by stepping into a process and learning one piece at a time, starting with your interests, then expanding as we run into additional problems. Even with blog posts, people justifiably complain about my writing blog posts in spurts, and using links that are not descriptive enough to merit a click-through.

Leveraging the Web

Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. Writers should use the web for what it is worth. Break books into pieces, read and write daily, cite sources, go back and polish the best pieces and package them, but try to keep each idea as sharp as possible.

Knowing how to create a useful information product is not enough to maximize profits. A big flaw with my ebook is that it has soooo much information in it, but it is hard to show the value of it because it is a single item. You can't tell how much stuff was waded through to write it, that it is mentally and emotionally draining to revise, and it doesn't help that most Internet marketing ebooks are lead generation devices or affiliate marketing tools. Someone could sell much less and look like they were selling more, just by using better packaging.

The Inevitable Death of No & Low Value Networks

Just like chunks of content are getting broken down into smaller bits, so will content creation companies. Choice and technology are disintermediating most of the gatekeepers. You and I don't need publishers for distribution, and the fear associated with that is the real reason why the US DoJ recently whored itself out to telecom companies. Many people in positions of power abuse copyright and are afraid of open markets. From the Fake Steve blog:

[TV] was a wonderful system. For you [TV Networks] anyway. Except that it had one huge flaw. Which is that for you guys, the middlemen, to get rich, you needed to fuck over the people at both ends of the value chain -- the consumers who had no choice in what they watched and spent years being fed mountains of dog shit, and the producers of content who were at your mercy and had to negotiate with this tiny number of networks who operated, let's be honest here, as a kind of cartel.

Artists Become Publishers

If I target an idea to a market and people tell me it is garbage then so much for that idea. If early feedback looks promising then it is time to dig deeper, do more research, read more, and write more. Invest where your interests align with the interest of others.

John Andrews recently made another brilliant post talking about how artists need to become publishers:

You “artists” out there generating content will have to learn to publish if you want to participate in the Internet economy. Maybe that’s why Google spends so much trying to help the Internet advance… because it helps Google disintermediate the middlemen. When will Google bring us fast quantities of ISP-free, wireless bandwidth?

One day there will be no more middlemen. And then, Google will squeeze you for more profits. After all, growth needs to come from somewhere, right? When all the middlemen are gone, what’s left? You are. For every producer there are hundreds of consumers hungry for more. Will Google offer rewards for you to procreate? Of course it will. It has to. It’s Google’s destiny to manage the creative class.

Everyone is Selling

Bob Massa recently shot short videos of a thousand year old marketplace, showing locals in India trying to sell him a donkey

Contrary to popular belief, selling is not about tricking people into buying what they don't want. Yes, there are liars and thieves but that is not selling. That is lying and stealing.

Selling is about getting people to trust you enough to tell you their needs or desires and you satisfying those needs or desires. It is not always easy but it’s certainly not complicated.

The Key is to Not Look Like You are Selling

If markets keep getting more competitive and artists become publishers then I think publishers need to start becoming artists. Almost anything you want to consume has free samples available online. Some are copyright violations, others are free marketing, and some are both.

Here is Dane Cook on why it is so hard to win an argument against a woman:

Humor is one of the easiest ways to build links and recommendations.

You don't need to leave your computer to go to a concert, so if you do go you are going for the energy and the experience.

Even purely online things can look much richer than plain text. Here is Dan Thies's example of how to implement dynamic linking. Notice it includes graphics, and how those graphics enhance the value of his post. Want free research on how personalization and universal search change how we interact with search results? If people are giving away that kind of value for free how do you compete?

Becoming an Artist

I think publishers have to stop being publishers and start becoming artists, marketing their product as art, hitting the same touchpoints art hit.

When breaking news from a friend (or a friend of a friend) is freely available in real time and virtually everything is a commodity people buy

  • the buying experience and sense of connection the buyer has with the artist, including any sense of community or empathy offered
  • recommendations from friends or other trusted sources
  • the story behind the product or service
  • your experience and expertise
  • the trust and goodwill you built up through sharing information, personal interaction, and the above points

Even when we are not buying we are still paying with attention. Familiarity and attention are early steps in sales. The WSJ wrote about how Disney kept a low-fi feel to Marié Digby's YouTube videos. She mixes in a few of her own original songs with old classics that have been viewed MILLIONS of times prior to dropping her first album. It is much easier to launch if you start off with a large fanbase.

Why it Helps to View Marketing as an Art

People are lazy and selfish. Especially anonymous people. If you try to replicate the links of an older competitor using the same techniques, many of the webmasters who linked at them will ignore you, even if your content is better than the stuff they are already linking at.

In all honesty, profit margins come more from perception than reality. If you are going to stay profitable you have to see the wave coming in and stay out in front of it, especially because as marketing techniques get abused they stop working. I am doing things today that I know I would not be profitable in a few years if I didn't go out of my way to lay the foundation to make them look and feel exceptionally legitimate today. The only differences between legitimacy and illegitimacy are trust, familiarity, and perception.

The Short Side of Web Publishing

This post is not to suggest that the web is a utopia that is better than all other sources of information, but more that it is cheaper, faster, easier, and provides something that is good enough to satisfy most demands for free.

The web has downsides to it, like promoting hyped up information pollution as a form of marketing. But the reality of it is that everyone is short on time. And few deeply understand the publishing dynamics of search, so when people get screwed by finding bad information on the web or make bad decisions because of ideas they discovered over the web they will likely blame themselves for it.

Comment Spammer Hold Up Link Requests

Werty just sent me this. Pretty ruthless, sad, and funny:

hello , my name is Richard and I know you get a lot of spammy comments,

I can help you with this problem. I know a lot of spammers and I will ask them not to post on your site. It will reduce the volume of spam by 30-50% .In return Id like to ask you to put a link to my site on the index page of your site. The link will be small and your visitors will hardly notice it , its just done for higher rankings in search engines. Contact me icq _________ or write me _______(at)yahoo.com, i will give you my site url and you will give me yours if you are interested. thank you

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