Changing the Perception of Content Quality of Amateur Products

I have seen some people write that they thought no ebook ever had any value, only to later see those same people say they found a video of mine (that had terrible formatting - when I get more time I will create more of these, but better), liked it, and then decided that the ebook must have value based on that.

In all honesty, in many ways, an ebook was probably not the most profitable way to format my knowledge. In the long run I could probably make more money by making that free and coming up with other miniature information products in other formats that are easier to sell and consume. I could create a new video every week for about a year straight, and always have new products to sell.

This example also shows the ease of distribution on vertical search and the importance of having oars in many lakes. While few people have watched that video so far (about 5 people a day), that has given me another channel to reach people and helps reinforce my brand. Also look at the economics of it - the distribution on Google Video is free. The only cost is time, but for a one time hour of work I get at least $1 worth of free exposure a day.

In many ways, for many content creators and small publishers, the Google brand, reach, and growing feedback mechanisms will make amateur or non-traditionally published content far easier to sell.

The web is also more about information than it is about shopping or selling. Google realizes the limits of content quality of free content in many verticals and they are eventually going to start pushing more people to pay for it (via micro payments, subscriptions, or other non straight ad models).

Content quality is probably the #1 limiting factor in search technology right now. The only way they are going to encourage more high quality content production is if they can create a framework that helps make it more profitable.

AdSense can only go so far until Google has a database of information products and purchase streams to recommend further products and information consumption habbits. And oddly enough, Eric Schmidt was recently talking about that.

"The quickest way to improve the quality of an ad is to have the ad instantaneously turn into a purchase that is 100 percent perfect," [Eric Schmidt] said. "We now have a solution that we believe enables advertisers to offer a digital product on the Web so that when people click on it, through a credit-card mechanism, it is automatically taken care of."

Why Goog is a Buy: Killer Value Per Inch / Pixel / Second

Mar 24th

Hehehe. So I know nothing about the stock market, but I recently revived the ads on a low profit site that is in a general and low profit category.

What ad unit that provided the most value per unit space? My AdSense search box. BY A LOT!

Moderate to high traffic publishers are probably screwing up if they litter their sites with ads and don't have a profit share search relationship with a major engine.

As search eats more of the web many publishing models are getting chewed up. Those who are good at monetizing usually do one or more of the following:

  • create content late in the buy cycle;

  • find uncovered niches that are easy to compete in;
  • leverage viral non commercial ideas to give their site an unfair authority advantage over competing sites;
  • are good at mixing in a few affiliate advertorials (if you can spend 12 hours creating a page that makes a few hundred a month for years on end that is a nice ROI and passive income stream);
  • use their market position to make money in other ways; or
    negotiate strong ad prices directly.

Those who lack every piece of that skill set may still make a decent living off the web by just making it easy for their visitors to search for more information.

If the next major OS and browser release gets people to view the web differently (ie: search is ALWAYS done from the browser) that may change, but for now the search box is the easiest loose money waiting to be collected by most content publishers. (Millions of dollars a day are waiting to be collected).

Also when advertisers opt out of contextual AdSense ads their ads usually still show up in publisher partner search ads, so that advertiser depth can still be rather appealing to publishers that do not fear losing their visitors (and typically the feel for the need to keep visitors misses what the web is about).

Another nice benefit of the Google search box on your site is that most people view it as a service instead of an ad, so it is an effective way of cramming another ad or two on your site without your site looking any spammier or ad cluttered. People also sense that THEY are in control when they search, so they find the ads there more acceptable. Provide search inline with content and you will be surprised at how many people use it.


The Mainstream Media Has Less Credibility than Bloggers

Feb 19th

As I read and learn more I come to appreciate just how dumb I am. And I mean that in a good way. The biggest reason I like blogs is coming across articles with simple lines like:

Hypocrisy abounds: Everyone supports the free speech they agree with.

In relationship to the US media's self censorship policies.

The problem with media censorship is that most forms of consumer driven media are largely based on mainstream media.

Telling half of the story is not honest. Having half of the story doesn't help anything other than corruption. But maybe that is what we want.

The nanny media, even more prudish since 9/11, covers our millions of eyes to protect us from our own icky deeds. In Afghanistan in 2001, while covering a war that had officially killed 12 civilians, I watched a colleague from a major television network collate footage of a B-52 bombing indiscriminately obliterating a civilian neighborhood. "If people saw what bombing looks like here on the ground," he observed as body parts and burning houses and screaming children filled the screen, "they would demand an end to it. Which is why this will never air on American television."

If you go to Alexa and Blogpulse to see how the article is spreading. You can help it spread by mentioning it on your site.

The hollowness of the whole US pro free speech stuff shows well when you notice that almost nobody is searching for it, and a dime a click is enough to be one of the top ads on the issue. It is an issue the media would rather not talk about, at least not honestly.

Conversation is Easy to Cite

Cory Doctorow covers a killer concept associated with Amazon's new author blogs:

Today there's the explosion of choice brought on by the Internet. All entertainments are approximately one click away. The search-cost of finding another artist whose music or books or movies are as interesting as yours is dropping through the floor, thanks to recommendation systems, search engines, and innumerable fan-recommendation sites like blogs and MySpaces. Your virtuosity is matched by someone else's, somewhere, and if you're to compete successfully with her, you need something more than charisma and virtuosity.

You need conversation. In practically every field of artistic endeavor, we see success stories grounded in artists who engage in some form of conversation with their audience.

It doesn't matter whether or not something is fair, it really only matters how the trends are changing and if you can adopt with how they change.

I sell a download-able ebook for $79. Is that too much to pay for a book? Maybe. It really depends on what you get out of it, but over the long haul the value is easier to justify and the sale is easier to make because there is topical engagement and conversation.

At times I absolutely screw things up, but mistakes usually teach me more than the things I do correctly. You have to try new things, and the more ways you allow your personality to be seen and connected with the easier it is to be successful being yourself.

Many people and companies fight the potential openness associated with some web based business models because they don't want the feedback or want to protect their rights and current business models.

My opinion is that if you consider markets as conversations and piracy a progressive taxation the way to have influence and create wealth is to spend far more time learning how to create additional value and distribution instead of focusing on how you are not getting your fair share.

The end goal is profit and satisfaction. While I am absolutely no good at many things I was stoked to see my site has been getting bookmarked in almost daily recently and I got this killer feedback there:

Without a doubt the most interesting blog on search engine optimization I've found. His book is excellent, and his writing is clear and transparent. You feel like you know Aaron when you read his posts.

Of course there will be readers of various skill levels and knowledge levels. You really don't want to read too much into your own reviews because you are more likely to get feedback from the biased edges while the people in the middle sit quietly.

Recently I started posting a few Q and As to create more content for the beginer level SEOs, but I will likely need to balance that with other types of post to keep the blog interesting to more advanced readers.

My mom has recently started blogging and reading some of my sites as well, so she should keep me on the straight and narrow if I am posting things that confuse her. My mom thinks we encrypt Threadwatch, but she thinks my blog about blogging makes good sense. I believe this site is typically somewhere in between the two. As far as making marketing concepts simple and easy I think Seth does a great job of posting things beginners can understand. To some extent I think I would rather post original beginner level stuff than posting about the same thing be posted about everywhere. If you can relate other old ideas and concepts to what everyone else is talking about right now then you are at least one step ahead of the me too posting crowd I frequently find myself falling into when I am bored and uninspired.

It is rather amazing how well this blog has done because when I originally created it I did not define a specific market audience or skill level I was writing for and I still have not. It may not matter if 90% of the readers are bored by 90% of the posts so long as they can identify with the remaining ones.

Google Killing the Press? The Press Fights Back?

Nov 22nd

Slate posts a worst case scenario for Google article:

It wasn't until Knight Ridder Inc.'s largest stockholder, Private Capital Management LP, called for the newspaper chain's breakup that the creative destruction of market forces turned on Google and began its rout.

Content Optimization Changes to Content Generation

A friend of mine mentioned how the noise level in SEO forums has gone from around 95% to about 99%. I think it is largely due to a shift from content optimization to content creation (and remember that this is a site selling a book on optimization, so me saying this is not in any way to my benefit).

Here is why there is a large shift from optimization to creation

  • The ease which content can be published: It took me less than 2 hours to teach my mom Blogger, Bloglines, rss, xml, etc. She now blogs every day.

  • the ease in which content can be commented on and improved in quality
  • the casual nature in which links flow toward real content
  • the massive increase in the number of channels and quantity of information makes us more inclined to look for topical guides to navigate the information space
  • the ease with which content can be monetized has greatly increased. AdSense, Yahoo! Publisher Network, Chitika, new Amazon Product Previews, affiliate programs, link selling, direct ads, donations, (soon enough Google Wallet for microcontent), etc.
  • contextual ad programs teach the content publishers to blend links, which has the net effect of...
    • short term increase in revenues for small publishers

    • until users trust links less
    • at which point in time users will be forced to go back to primary trusted sources (ie: one of the few names they trust in the field or a general search engine like Google)
  • it is getting increasingly expensive to find quality link inventory that works in Google to promote non content sites, and margins are slimming for many of those creating sites in hyper competitive fields
  • the algorithms are getting harder for people new to the field to manipulate
  • around half of all search queries are unique. most hollow spam sites focus on the top bits whereas natural published information easily captures the longer queries / tail of search
  • duplicate content filters are aggressively killing off many product catalog and empty shell affiliate sites
  • as more real / useful content is created those duplicate content and link filtering algorithms will only get better
  • general purpose ecommerce site owners will have the following options:
    • watching search referrals decrease until their AdWords spends increases

    • thickening up their sites to offer far more than a product catalog
    • switching to publishing content sites
  • and the market dynamics for Google follow popular human behavior, even for branded terms or keyword spaces primarily created by single individuals
    • the term SEO Book had 0 advertisers and about 0 search volume when I launched this site

    • this site got fairly popular
    • SEO Book is now one of my most expensive keyword phrases

As long as it is original, topical, and structured in a non wild card replace fashion content picks up search traffic and helps build an audience.

I am not trying to say that optimization is in any way dead, just that the optimization process places far more weight on content volume and social integration than it did a year or two ago.

The efficiencies Google are adding to the market will kill off many unbranded or inefficient businesses. One of my clients has an empty shell product site and does no follow up marketing with the buyers. I can't help but think that there needs to be some major changes in that business or in 3 to 6 months we won't be able to compete on the algorithmic or ppc front without me being very aggressive.

Google May Sell Ads for Chicago Newspaper Company

Nov 10th

UPDATE: Google Weighing Test Of Print Ads In Newspapers

Google Inc. (GOOG) is considering testing print advertisements in Chicago newspapers, in a sign that the Internet giant, to date seen primarily as a threat to traditional media, could also become an ally.

If Google could take the inefficienies out of offline media they probably could end up making the papers more revenue in the short run. Long run is anyone's guess.

When Getting Published...

Keep in mind that 93% of all ISBN's sold fewer than 1,000 units.

After selling a few thousand ebooks those numbers make getting published seem far less appealing, especially when you consider that my prospective publisher told me they still wanted me to do most the marketing.

What is even more nuts is that I guaranteed the publisher that I would be able to sell more than that in under a year as an add on to my current book (even offering to buy that many off the start) and they still considered that to be small volume and would want me to more prominently push the physical book over the current ebook offering.

I don't get why so many businesses think it is ok to shift nearly all the risk onto another successful business just because they are smaller or new to the market.

Broadcast Television 99 Cents a Show

Comcast Cuts VOD Deal For Four CBS Shows

CBS and Comcast have signed an agreement that, beginning in January 2006, will make four of the network's shows--CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Survivor, NCIS, and Amazing Race--available on a video-on-demand basis for 99 cents per 24-hour window for each show.

Eventually the content floodgates will open. The question is who will own the distribution rights and at what cost? Does anyone think the baby bells or cable companies will be less monopolistic or more efficient than Google?

Amazon to Sell Electronic Book Access

Amazon to Google: we own books...

From the Journal:

[Amazon] is introducing two new programs that allow consumers to buy online access to portions of a book or to the entire book, giving publishers and authors another way to generate revenue from their content.

Although Bezos does not come right out and say it, clearly this is a shot across the brow at Google, especially with the timing of their recent print offering.

While Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos wouldn't comment specifically on the Google Print controversy, he said, "It's really important to do this cooperatively with the copyright holders, with the publishing community, with the authors. We're going to keep working in that cooperative vein."

After Google develops their micropayment system I bet they also directly broker a large amount of media.


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