Submit Your Blog to Amazon.com & Become a Kindle Publisher

May 17th

Amazon.com opened up their Kindle publishing program to all bloggers. If you prefer to read blogs on your Kindle you can subscribe to SEO Book for the Kindle at Amazon.com.

Publishers get 60 cents per month per subscriber. It is unlikely that we will get enough Kindle subscribers to notice it as an income stream (as we would need about 50,000 Kindle subscribers for it to be a decent revenue stream), but as such distribution opportunities come about on authoritative domains like Amazon.com, they create a great opportunity for filling up branded organic search results with non-negative authoritative pages. And signing up takes less than 5 minutes. :)

'Professional' Content vs Content Actually Worth Reading

Mar 23rd

Some media executives are bitching about Google ranking blogs and sites not controlled by the mainstream media. Of course Google has been tilting their algorithms in the direction of brands, and even includes trusted news partners directly in the search results for recent news items. But that is not enough to make bloated media companies profitable.

"The original source, and the source with real access, should somehow be recognized as the most important in the delivery of results."

Google subsidizes these media companies with additional exposure by

  • weighting domain authority
  • giving them first mover advantage in the search rankings (through direct inclusion of recent news results in the organic search results)
  • featuring their content (yet again) in their news search product
  • favoring informational content over commercial content

If a big business has "real access" and yet loses out to people rewriting the story, it means the original source did one (or more) of the following

  • did a pretty crummy job of reporting
  • did a pretty crummy job of SEO
  • erected barriers that made them not linkworthy
  • fought off niche brands with a generic brand that does not resonate as well with the market

Google could give these media companies almost 100% of the search traffic and many would still go bankrupt because their business models simply do not fit the web. Online ad rates are lower, most of the media infrastructure is unneeded bloat, and individuals and brands are starting to create their own media.

When I click the publish button, 10's of thousands of people will read this post. Its not your fault or my fault that big media was too lazy to create niche brands offering relevant regularly updated content.

Ironically, the quote from AdAge, begging for coverage of the original source, did not have a name on it. You can quote it, but there is no source. These clowns whine about something and are not willing to put their names behind their own words. Maybe that has something to do with why people would rather read elsewhere.

This is the same media that pushed the bogus Iraq war, laughed and joked about those errors (while people were still dying), and missed the financial terrorism occurring back home. Why again is the original source more important than those who dig a bit deeper and add further context?

If the relevancy algorithms are your enemy, then maybe your work is no longer relevant.

Maybe they can work on stuff that matters.

John Dvorak - a Good Example of Why Many Media Companies Deserve to go Bankrupt

Feb 10th

John Dvorak wrote what is perhaps one of the more ignorant articles about SEO I have seen in quite a while.

Search engine optimization (SEO) has turned into a big business, and from what I can tell it's the modern version of snake oil. The unproven nonsense spewed by so-called "SEO experts" simply doesn't work. And worse, it's screwing up the elegance of the Web.

How did John come to these results? Well he changed his URLs based on "free" advice, and he got what he paid for. People who expect the world handed to them for free are always disappointed with the results, and expect a steady paycheck for bitching about and externalizing their own character flaws & ignorance.

A person can claim that SEO is ineffective if they are clueless about it, but if it were actually ineffective snake oil would...

  • Many of the media outlets that publicly dismiss SEO have an in house SEO team? (On multiple ocassions I have been called or emailed - the same day - with questions from an in house SEO at a publishing company that just published a piece denouncing SEO)
  • I still be writing this blog for over 5 years?
  • My income have doubled (or more) every year?
  • People have spent over $1,000,000 buying my ebook?
  • A headhunter working for Microsoft try to offer me a job paying 6 figures a year?
  • Google have hired more than 10,000 remote quality raters?
  • Google's Matt Cutts spend so much time going to SEO conferences?
  • Yahoo! have a patent for automating SEO based on their proprietary user data?

As I mentioned to Chris Crum from Web Pro News:

"It is not surprising that search engines know the value of SEO. The only thing I find surprising is them openly admitting it," Aaron Wall of SEOBook tells me. "Google always tries to shape, control, and minimize the scope of the field of SEO. And here Yahoo! is trying to expand it. Exciting stuff!"

Now SEO is constantly changing. Search engine crawlers are getting more sophisticated. Mechanical SEO is practiced by many people, and so it may not offer a sustainable competitive advantage. But SEO is not just a mechanical process as it draws upon market research, psychology, sociology, public relations, branding, advertising, and both online and offline marketing.

Outbound links show up in referral logs and act as a marketing tool. Plus they help establish & develop social relationships, such that when you have important news to share, some of those people might be willing to reference your works. There is a cumulative advantage effect.

Getting just an extra little bit of coverage on a few more channels leads to many additional citations (hey everyone is talking about this, so it must be important). For every publisher that is an original thinker there are dozens (maybe hundreds?) of followers. Many of those followers also write blogs, bookmark resources on Delicious, use Twitter, promote stories on social news sites. Some latent links come from ignorant journalists that are too lazy to do real research and just quote from whatever sources are easily accessible via a Google search.

When you get new links into key parts of your site, they not only pass PageRank, but also pass anchor text. Having inlinks from a variety of trusted domains with targeted anchor text pointing at relevant pages is MUCH more valuable than raw PageRank score.

When people link at you in editorial channels, they not only link, but in many cases leave behind an endorsement. Assuming they are writing to a relevant targeted audience then you just gained a bunch of social proof of value and reached a wider audience in a means that is much cheaper and more effective than traditional advertising.

Unlike John Dvorak, professional SEOs do not need to lie and pull sleazy tricks to get "hits"... we rank for high value keywords and turn that traffic stream into real business. His publishing strategy is so inauthentic and cheesy that he writes by number:

One Youtube comment on the above video says "What a clown. Journalist? Snake oil salesman more like." Funny, that sounds familiar.

Fresh Start For A New Year: Reduce Clutter

Jan 19th

“Practice not-doing and everything will fall into place.” - Lao Tzu

Did you take a vacation?

If you took a break, I hope you had a good one! I've just returned from a relaxing holiday - it is summer where I am, the weather is great, and life is lazy and fine.

Holidays provide a great opportunity to reflect and take a new perspective, so one thing I tried to do was to step away from the internet. I didn't take a laptop with me on holiday. Needless to say, I really missed it. After all these years, I suspect I may as well be hard-wired into the interweb.

However, out there amongst the isolated dunes, I was reminded that....

Most Stuff Doesn't Matter

Most blog posts don't matter. Most news doesn't matter. Most Tweets don't matter. Social networks don't matter. These things can quickly become a meaningless distraction.

What's worse, is that we often miss the important things going on, because there is too much irrelevant clutter fighting for our attention. When I returned, there was so much stuff l hadn't read.

But was I any worse off?

Not really. I quickly came up to speed again by selecting a few important sources, and reading those.

It didn't take me long.

With this in mind, it was time to do some weeding and make a fresh start. My feed reader had become ridiculously cluttered.

Hard To See The Wood For The Trees

How many feeds to you subscribe to? Do you have a lot of unread items?

I certainly did.

Using my RSS reader had become a chore, mainly because I'd subscribed to so many feeds over the years that I was never, in reality, going to read. All those unread items were just made me feel guilty. I needed to reduce the clutter.

So I took a chainsaw to it.

I asked myself - what are the one or two sites in any given vertical that provide me with genuine value? Could I name them without looking at them?

It was actually surprising easy, especially given the rather useful historical usage data. Once I answered this question, I kept the truly useful feeds, and deleted everything else.

My feed collection now feels very Zen. No more news re-writers or trivia about who is doing what to whom. It's simple, elegant and best of all, a lot more useful than it was before.

What Is Your Desert Island List?

Your list will probably differ significantly from mine, but I thought I'd share a few sites, and try to see if there was any pattern to my choices.

One pattern was a fondness of good aggregation. By subscribing to one good aggregation site, I pretty much know what is going on in the generalist tech world, but without the need to subscribe to numerous individual blogs. One such site is Techmeme. Techmeme does a good job of harnessing the wisdom of crowds, by being selective about who is a member of that crowd.

The other thing I noticed was that I chose blogs with a distinctive personality behind them, coupled with an established reputation. For example, I read pretty much everything Danny Sullivan writes, because what he writes about is important.

Finally, there are the "official" blogs from the big companies in search - those blogs that form the horses mouth. Most of Google's blogs appear in this folder.

Do you notice any patterns to your RSS selections?

Getting Noticed In Crowded Markets

One problem with my approach is that it tends to be elitist. I'm concerned I'm going to miss upcoming writers who don't yet appear on the establishment radar.

Were you planning to start a blog this year? Have you done so, but are having problems getting noticed?

This article is a good reminder on the essential factors you need when you plan to enter a crowded market:

You can choose to sell to different people, such as small businesses; you can find new distribution channels; you can stratify the industry's price points by introducing a luxury class; or, you can redefine your selling proposition," he says, noting how Starbucks (SBUX) revolutionized the coffee shop by selling an experience rather than just a beverage.....However you choose to be different, you must be great at the basics and exceptional at your defining factor

That last part is killer. If I look at my RSS choices, they all have those defining features.

Recommended Search Reading

By no means conclusive, but I guess that's the point :)

Please share your killer sources with the SEOBook community in the comments.

  • Search Engine Land - Great editorial. Also features some of the top search writers as columnists and feature contributors
  • SEOBook - How could this not be on anyone's list! ;) Aaron writes some of the most useful SEO instruction in this vertical.
  • Google Blogoscoped - Keeping an eye on Google, so you don't have to!
  • Matt Cutts - Google's resident (Anti) Spam Engineer. Be sure to read between the lines.
  • Official Google Blog - All Google's announcements come through here.
  • Sphinn - One good way to spot new search writers, although it can tend towards industry navel gazing. Numerous gems, especially under the Greatest Hits section
  • SEO By The Sea - Bill digs out obscure search patent filings and analyzes them. Don't let the tight niche fool you - this site can provide valuable insights into the future direction of search.
  • Search Engine Journal - Always on top of all things search.
  • Top Rank Big List - When you've just gotta have it all! Top Rank Online Marketing Blog is also a great read.

How To Start Writing

Dec 18th

"Be Remarkable"

"Write great content"

Everyone says that the secret to achieving great search rankings is to produce great content. People link to great content. So you sit down to write some great content.

....but the screen remains blank.....

.....the cursor blinks.....

Nothing.

Typing is easy. Rewriting news is easy. But putting together a unique killer post that attracts attention - that's difficult!

How do you get past writers block? How do you give your ideas form? How do write with a unique voice so your articles stand out from the crowd?

Here are a few ideas.

1. Write Often

There is only one way to learn how to write well and that is to write often.

People often talk about the traffic benefits of writing a blog, but they often overlook the personal benefits. A blog gives you the opportunity to write for an audience of one. Yourself. A blog gives you the opportunity to practice the craft of writing.

Start a blog on a topic you're interested in, and set a goal of writing one post a day for the next three months. At the end of three months, you'll be a lot better writer than when you started.

2. Write Like Crazy

The obvious way of getting around the blank page problem is to simply start writing.

Write as fast as you can, even if it's gibberish. Get your half formed thoughts down on the page. Write questions. Then write the answers to those questions. Make lists. Once you start, don't stop writing for five minutes. You aim is to shut off your internal editor, because your internal editor isn't the guy who gets writing onto the page.

At the end of five minutes, you don't have a blank page anymore.

You can then flesh out the good ideas, eliminate the bad ideas, and re-order your content. This is much easier than trying to write (invent) and edit (analyze) at the same time.

3. Use Software

  • The Google Toolbar and many content management systems have spell checkers built into them.
  • Paid software programs like StyleWriter take it to the next level - offering tips on tense usage/unity (which is discussed further in #6).
  • Using keyword research tools and looking at other related content (like Wikipedia pages and for Dummies books) can help you figure out how to best structure your content, and help you find some important keyword modifiers to add to your copy.

4. Keep It Simple

Ever read an insurance brochure? Or a police incident report? They are cluttered with unnecessary verbiage, because the writer uses ten words when one will do.

"The feather covered creature is currently proceeding in a westerly direction ambulating at a regular pace to the arforementioned side of the concourse"

The chicken crossed the road, in other words.

Good writing conveys meaning. Great writing does the same, but uses fewer words.

There's a great Mark Twain quote about simplicity: "I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead".

Anyone can be verbose.

Great writing is also about about rewriting. It's about honing down to the essentials. Use short words. Use short sentences. Use active verbs.

5. The Hook

If you've read this far, you've already passed the most important sentence in this article.

The most important sentence is the first sentence. If you don't hook people in the first sentence, then they won't read the second. The second most important sentence is the second sentence. That sentence gets people to the third sentence. And so on.

How long does the hook need to be?

Sometimes, it can be one sentence. Sometimes a paragraph. Sometimes the entire first page. Entice the reader. Make the first sentence a bit mysterious. Invoke an emotion. Appeal to their curiosity. Pose a question. Give the reader a concrete reason to keep reading. What benefit is there to the reader in reading through to the end?

6. Maintain Unity

Lack of unity can confuse readers. Decide on one unity, and stick to it.

For example, you might choose to write in the past tense. "We went to the beach last week". Or you might choose to wrote in the present. "I'm sitting in the car looking out over the bay". But don't mix the two tenses.

The type of unity you use will depend on the type of article you're writing. You've probably seen those long sales letters that convey a personal story about how the writer overcame some problem, and you can too if you buy their e-book? Those sales letters wouldn't work nearly as well if the writer switches mode, from the personal to the impersonal, half way through.

7. The Audience

In "On Writing Well", William Zinsser advises:

"....a question will occur to you: "Who am I writing for?" It's a fundamental question, and it has a fundamental answer: You are writing for yourself. Don't try to visualize the great mass audience. There is no such audience. Every reader is a different person".

This is not to say that you shouldn't consider the audience. In terms of the craft of writing, you need to provide structure and be interesting enough so people keep reading. But don't worry about whether your readers agree with you, or like what you say, or like how you're saying it.

Each reader is an individual, and they're going to respond to different things. Don't compromise your writing for the imagined, singular "audience".

8. Your Written Voice

Only you sound like you. No one writes like you. That is your in-built, unique point of difference.

One way to find your voice is to read your writing aloud. What bits sound wrong? What bits sound pretentious or condescending? What bits just don't sound like you. Eliminate them. Readers want to "hear" a distinctive voice that rings true.

A lot of blogs are starting to sound like mainstream media reporting, and that is a shame. The writers have forgotten what made blogs an attractive alternative in the first place - the use of the personalized voice.

9. Make One Point

Your article should have one overall point. Not two points, or five points, but one point. What do you want to convince people of? What is the one thing you want them to take away?

You don't need to have the last word on a given topic. It's not possible. You've probably seen examples of link bait entitled "The Ultimate Guide To...."

But they never are the ultimate. It isn't possible.

Instead, decide on the one point you want people to take away, and write towards that point. Once you've made that point, stop writing.

The point of this article is to encourage people to get writing :)

Further Reading:

Editorial Integrity & Publisher Control of Ads

Dec 14th

Chris Brogan and John Andrews both wrote great posts about how you do not lose your editorial integrity just because you exercise editorial control of your ads.

Lets look at the flip side of the equation. Most networks do not want full transparency because it would harm their profit potential. Google claims to want to police the cesspool that is the web, and yet it shows ads for black hat SEO and deceptive ads that contain misleading prices which hide the true cost of a transaction. Automation promotes whatever makes the most per impression. In many cases that means promoting fraud (legal, or otherwise).

In time web users may become blind of most text ads the same way they became banner blind. And then publishers will have to fight harder to make a living. Free buys distribution, but it doesn't put food on the table. Our other sites (which take much less time and effort than this site) earn way more money. If this site didn't have a revenue engine on it, do you think I would have worked 70 hours a week on it for over 5 years? I don't.

My point is not that ad networks are bad, but if bloggers and independent webmasters want to make a living online we are going to need to get better at mixing ads and editorial...and one of the lowest risk and highest value ways to do that is to promote the things we really believe in - either create your own product or promote affiliate offers for products that save you time and money.

People that promote garbage should be policed by their peers, like Jerry West did to The Arbitrage Conspiracy:

Don’t Buy The Arbitrage Conspiracy

Don’t get sucked into the hype. It isn’t real. I was there and I walked out after 40 minutes because the material was very basic. I even talked to many people (other solid CPA marketers) who stayed for the entire presentation and they said there wasn’t anything new, it was all recycled material from past systems.

People promoting hyped up junk should be rightfully flamed, but we shouldn't consider it a crime to share good relevant offers. What would be a crime is if many of the best sites went offline because they didn't pay for themselves.

Replacing the Media

Dec 10th

Web Growth

President elect Obama is looking to push web growth hard:

It is unacceptable that the United States ranks 15th in the world in broadband adoption,” Mr. Obama said. “Here, in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online.

But many of the leading media companies may not be around to see that growth.

Bankruptcy

The Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy and the New York Times is expecting that 2009 digital ad revenues might be below 2008 revenues.

Advertisers Becoming the Media

As the debt laden media companies die off, some advertisers are finding it cheaper to become the media rather than advertise on it and support its bloat:

one day cosmetics companies will perhaps start beefing up their own Web sites — with makeup videos and click-to-buy options — just as kraftfoods.com has done with its hugely trafficked recipe site and walmart.com has done with its popular blogs by mothers. When advertisers become content providers, magazines lose ads and finally drop off newsstands.

Advertisers are also investing in analyzing the potential for media to go viral. When they own their own distribution channels and build a large audience, the cost of real-time testing drops to zero.

Media Unbound

Some content creators are testing technologies that allow DVD watchers to chat with friends while watching the movie, perhaps creating yet another gathering spot for fans - like Buddy TV.

As Google brings archived magazine content online it seems the form of content containers is dying, and the media is becoming more aware of the link economy:

That currency is the hyperlink, a pointer to somewhere on the internet that holds some information that someone else might find useful. Like any currency, it can be debased, and lose its value. You've heard of the dollar/yen/pound/euro exchange rate, of course (and watched in amazement as they gyrate, and yet the price of American hardware and software never alters from a $1 = £1 translation). But in the link economy, when everyone's passing around links, every person is their own central bank, determining the value of their own currency.

The Blend

In an attempt to increase revenues some media sites (like CNN Money) are blending ads so aggressively that they look editorial. To me this ad looks more like editorial than an advertisement.

Many of the mainstream media sites will need to become much more like eHow.com, Mahalo.com, and About.com if they want to weather the storm...use the brand to attract readers, but have a lot of cheap backfill content monetized by affiliate ads and contextual ads to subsidize the editorial that builds the brand.

Recent Media Successes

Not all media based business models are in the hurt locker.

As many traditional media companies head toward bankruptcy they will have their staffs cut, making it easier to influence them through public relations.

uTest has built a functional business model out of crowd sourcing by selling pay for performance bug testing.

Andy Hagans explained how they grew Tip'd by hiring a well known star to run the brand, partnering with leading independent editorial sites, and pushing most of the value out to the editorially featured sites. As a result of those actions it looks like Kiplinger's might syndicate the Tip'd widget, which will offer Andy's site a lot of great brand exposure. Start small and keep building momentum...using each point of growth and each partnership as validation to reach the next level.

Information vs Noise

Oct 20th

If you love reading, JOHO has an interesting article about information...a bit beyond the scope of SEO, but interesting. :)

Noise is the sound of the world refusing abstraction, insisting on differences that are never the same as every other difference. If we are indeed exiting the age of information, perhaps we are entering — have entered — the age of noise.

Maki explains how noise appears in online publishing

Blogs that just repeat information already published elsewhere are providing value that can be substituted. To put it another way, these sites are completely dispensable. They lose out when a choice has to be made due to time/attention scarcity. These sites are usually the ones that just regurgitate content released on mainstream media or other larger blogs. Their identity is virtually unrecognizable. A great logo and design won’t save them.

If you want to avoid your work becoming "the commons" in The Tragedy of the Commons what is the solution for sustained distribution and profits?

Either you need a unique lens that adds enough value that makes people want to talk about you (Jon Stewart style)

or unique information sources (both TechCrunch and The Wall Street Journal benefits from news leaks)

or specialization and in depth knowledge, as recommended by Vannevar Bush in his As We May Think from 1945:

There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends. The investigator is staggered by the findings and conclusions of thousands of other workers—conclusions which he cannot find time to grasp, much less to remember, as they appear. Yet specialization becomes increasingly necessary for progress, and the effort to bridge between disciplines is correspondingly superficial.

Professionally our methods of transmitting and reviewing the results of research are generations old and by now are totally inadequate for their purpose.

Information in one market is noise in the next. The quality level needed to get to the top is determined by the competition. Summing up a competitive online marketing strategy in a saturated field can be done with 2 bits:

  • Are people talking about you?
  • Are they talking about you more than the competition?

In the long run search engines are just counting the bits.

Help Us Help You!

Now that Peter Da Vanzo has joined the site, we have another writer and can spend a bit more time on the blog. In the past some of my most popular blog posts came out of feedback from readers. What topics would you love to see us cover?

Nearly any SEO/PPC/blogging/internet marketing questions are fair game (although we won't do site reviews, or explain specifically why site X is ranking or why site Y does not rank).

Google Knol - Google's Latest Attack on Copyright

Knol Off to a Quick Start

One day after Knol publicly launched Wil Reynolds noticed that a Knol page was already ranking. Danny Sullivan did a further test showing that 33% of his test set of Knol pages were ranking in the first page of search results. Danny was also surprised that his Knol was ranking #28 after 1 day. After citing it on his blog now that Knol page ranks #1 in Google!

Google's House Advantage

From the above data (and the aggressive promotion of YouTube content after the roll out of universal search) it is fair to state that house content is favored by the Google algorithm.

Another Knol Test

Maybe we are being a bit biased and/or are rushing to judgement? Maybe a more scientific effort would compare how Knol content ranks to other content when it is essentially duplicate content? I did not want to mention that I was testing that when I created my SEO Basics Knol, but the content was essentially a duplicate of my Work.com Guide to Learning SEO (that was also syndicated to Business.com). Even Google shows this directly on the Knol page

Google Knows its Duplicate Content

Is Google the Most Authoritative Publisher?

Given that Google knows that Business.com is a many year old high authority directory and that the Business.com page with my content on it is a PageRank 5, which does Google prefer to rank? Searching for a string of text on the page I found that the Knol page ranks in the search results.

If I override some of Google's duplicate content filters (by adding &filter=0 to the search string) then I see that 2 copies of the Knol page outrank the Business.com page that was filtered out earlier.

Some may call this the Query Deserves Freshness algorithm, but one might equally decide to call it the copyright work deserves to be stolen algorithm. Google knows the content is duplicate (as proven by the notification they put on their page), and yet they prefer to rank their own house content over the originally published source.

Hijacking Your Rankings via Knol - Google Knoljacking

Where this becomes a big issue is if a person...

  • posts your content to Knol
  • and buys/rents/begs/steals/spams/borrows a couple decent inbound links

they can get you filtered out of the search results - even if your site is an authority site. Bad news for anyone publishing copyright work online.

Google Knol Undermines the Creative Commons Spirit

Some new publishers decide to license their work via Creative Commons (hoping to be paid back based on the links economy), but Google wants no part in that! All outbound links on Knol are nofollow, so even if a person wants to give you credit for your work Google makes it impossible to do so.

Google Voids YOUR Copyright

Why do I get enraged by this sort of activity? I remember when one of my sites was voted against, and Google paid someone to steal it and wrap it in AdSense. The person who stole my content outranked me for my own content because a Google engineer thought that was reasonable and fair.

To this day someone publishes seobookopen.blogspot.com, a site dedicated to stealing and sharing an old version of my ebook. As the opening post on that blog explains

www.seobook.com very famous book from Aaron Wall its really good but paying $79 its really sucks so yesterday, I think why not to share this book to my friends etc openly in text by decompling Acrobat files

Can a casual mention get it removed? Nope. Can flagging it as spam and highlighting that it is stolen copyright content get it removed? Nope. I need to file a DMCA request to get it removed. (Or maybe they will remove it out of embarrassment after I hit publish on this post...we shall see!)

Google Pays Thieves

Google doesn't like lonely cheating housewives, unless it favors their business objectives.

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