Web PRO News Videos from Search Conferences

Web Pro News have put together some really good videos together over at their site.

This link here entitled the do’s and dont’s of Digg is a great discussion on doing well in Digg as well as things to avoid. Its also a good general discussion around social media, tips for choosing an SEO, PPC and arbitrage, the future of search, trends in the industry and a few other related topics.

If you are interested in search and blogging and site monetisation and social media and all the other stuff that makes up this thing called the internet such an interesting space to play in, then go check them out, they are definitely worth a look!

Good stuff, well done Mike,Neil and Todd . ūüôā

Warning: Make sure you have some time on your hand as I spent like um…2 hours watching all sorts of interesting stuff over there!

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Pay to Blog what’s the big deal?

I was just over at tech crunch reading some of the broohah about some deal that fell through regarding performancing and payperpost and was kinda surpised at the level of snorting and derision being applied there. There is this guy named Ted, who like most people trying to get things off of the floor in life has managed to obtain $3 million dollars in funding for an idea, which he feels might just fly. So far he has managed to stir up a bit of controversy, with various high profile people like Matt Cutts coming out against the idea in general.

So ok, I can see why a search engine might have an issue with squillions of bloggers being paid to promote and talk about things using keyword rich anchor text to distort the search landscape¬†but thats just tough¬†I guess, they’ll find a way to deal with it, or mightn’t bother even, hardly the end of the world for mfa sites adsense now is it.¬†Besides what with all this talk about mature algos and whatnot, I doubt it’ll make a huge difference anyways, a storm in a teacup even?¬†Perhaps, or maybe some might see it as the thin end of a wedge. The lines get a little blurred when you think ahead and envisage a SERP full of results containing blogs that have been written on the basis of some monetary consideration. In those scenarios, where would the distinction between paid ads and¬†paid ads masquerading as free serps be drawn? Should the search engine be held accountable for its editorial decisions?

Google or any other search engine for that matter¬† wants their free SERPs to be full of stuff that is diverse and in some cases ‘untainted’ by the dirty grubby mits of commerce. Its probably why we haven’t yet seen paid inclusion rolled out yet, ¬†its full of issues pertaining to disclosure and ads. Y! for example once had a program that enabled you to appear in their results, provided you paid – it was soon dropped amid a wail of criticism.
A Washington Post article discussing word-of-mouth-marketing references a petition from Commercial Alert, an advertising and marketing watchdog group based in Portland Oregon and the response from the FTC associate director.

¬†“The petition to us did raise a question about compliance with the FTC act,” said Mary K. Engle, FTC associate director for advertising practices. “We wanted to make clear . . . if you’re being paid, you should disclose that.”

So ok, no harm done then, if you are going to blog and get paid for your posts then you should disclose that somewhere – isn’t that what tinytext and footers are for :D.

I haven’t looked too intently at either ReviewMe or PayPerPost so have no idea whether or not they enforce¬†disclosure in any toc’s. That said, the FTC¬†is just an¬†American governmental organisation with no jurasdiction or enforcement powers outide of the USA. The web is a big place full of¬†other people from different countries¬†¬†and nome de plumes, and aliases. Gambling is still alive and kicking on the net even after a ban¬†, some things just can’t be legislated away.

When people like  Guy Kawasaki talk about how he made a paltry $3k adsense revenue from 2,436,117 page views then its hardly surprising when people not half as financially astute   look for better earning opportunities. If you are one of these people who write about stuff daily on a topic close to your heart then goodluck to you if you can earn from it too.

The way I see it is that people will soon see through any posts that extol the virtues of some commercial lot of tosh. Try it yourself – try and get enthused on a daily basis for stuff that you don’t really believe in or want to talk about, see how long it takes people to switch off from what you are saying.

I think thats where reviewme could make a difference. I think they say to the bloggers, “here is so and so a company, they want you to write about them, they’ll pay you too, and you can say what you like as well” wheres the harm?

SE Reps to the back of the room please. ūüôā

Affiliate thoughts for 2007 – keeping ahead of the chop

Easy come easy go…¬†

It’s no news to say that the days of easy rankings with easy commissions¬†are long gone. With some search engines, it just no longer works. Anyone, and lots are, can whack up a DB or add a¬†feed from some central source. It’s child play, and from a search engine viewpoint its just not welcome. They’d be happy to kick yo ass as soon as look at ya, and who could reasonably blame them? You can have the most well linked, beautifully constructed site in the world full of some mythical kw density perfection, css’ed to the nth with elements positioned to the max, but if you aren’t saying anything new, then¬†the chances are that things¬†could get pretty serious pretty quickly. Search engine death could well become you.¬†Sure, you’ll get spidered, but expect to go supplemental pretty quickly, and if that don’t happen then you might get extra lucky and get lumbered with a nice fat -31 ranking penalty.

Fat or thin?

Over the years, there’s been quite a bit of discussion on what constitutes a thin or a fat affiliate. Lets look at travel. Fat boys like tripadvisor for example, are flying with lots of top spots on a range of travel related kw’s whereas others are floundering.

I recall a time when for like,¬†4 or¬†5 years a particular little travel network absolutely kicked arse on all of the big 3, Google, Msn and Yahoo. Be it ‘hotel in town‘ or ¬†‘town hotels’ these guys had top spots usually in the top 5 positions. They were nothing other than a well constructed, well linked network of affiliate feeds that did little other than pump out content that their suppliers provided. It really was an education to look at what these people had done. Their strategy was for the time, basically fab. They hosted a variety of big sites across a variety of IP’s. They mixed pages up with a mishmash of approaches doing things like varying page element factors, curtailing product description content, differing kw and kp densities, different navigational placement, text types, god you name it they’d factored it in one way or another, and it paid them big dividends. I guess really it was a day when it was all about getting as many pages into the search engine db’s as you possibly could. Their duplicate content filters were so underdeveloped that provided you did enough variation in the places that mattered, ie page naming, title tags,¬†H tags general kw peppering here and there in your content spread etc, then you’d be pretty ok. In fact you got massively rewarded and could do some great stuff with inward link creation too. You didn’t have to worry about going out and sourcing zillions of links from here there and everywhere, you’d just create your own and ensure that they were appropriately placed and hidden across a network of unidentifiables, albeit in the sense of what the spider saw and registered at least!

A different breed of engine

Today of course, these guys are nowhere to be seen, at least not in any recognisable guise. Their network was nuked and they don’t rank for jack no more. Things like the Google eval team have given people using that particular strategy a short sharp shock.

New generation networks, if they hope to have sustainable long term SERP viability have to be a whole lot smarter in 007. Content feeds and databases, particularly with regard to outputting their contents within a site needs special attention Рnoindex tags, robot exclusion protocols really are serious considerations, to not do so could really be a huge folly. Drastic?,Perhaps so, but what with duplication filters and all, the question is one of almost can you afford not to?

Sure, there will always be those who look to employ methods for circumvention, all that lovely content is just too good to pass up on after all, right? Not sure about you, but I’ve seen all manner of interesting adaptations; things like replacing keywords and phrases programmatically so that an aspect of a phrase like um…this hotel is decorated to a fine standard¬† is¬†changed to read… this fine placename hotel is adorned to a splendid configuration instead, or variations upon that¬†theme. I’ve seen sites that rank well by using contractions of¬†product descriptions, eg chopping the first 40 characters from the phrase and outputting the remainding 180 chars. Ive seen others that just hide them all together, via a document.write or iframe method. Some go as far as¬†employing people to write phantom reviews, and some even write programs that write reviews on the fly! It really is incredible to see the ingenuity and nous that people have with this stuff, it really is the most elegant of elegant of spamination. I think its fair to say that people do this because they realise that things may well be tenuous, they know that unless you are whitelisted then you need to tread very carefully as your income stream is very precarious.

As simple as adding value then…

Perhaps its simple though, isn’t it all about¬† thinking ¬†in terms of adding value, going above and beyond what your competitors are doing,¬†seriously asking yourself will you be able to pass¬†some random¬†manual inspection, which lets face it, if you are ranking in a competitive earning space, you are likely to receive sooner or later. You’d be an idiot for thinking that just because you managed to outwit the bot via some clever use of string functions,¬†or tag placement or link generation that a human wouldn’t pick up and notice something amiss.It isn’t unreasonable to assume they’d ask whether your site handles all the look up processes –¬†Does it check for availability – Are the payments handled insite, or do they go off elsewhere?-¬†¬†They’d see through a hidden¬†frame or¬† include or some obfuscated url redirect,¬†¬†you just will not be able to get away with what you once did, and if you think you will then, i wish i could share your complacency, as any serious examination of what you do would look at exactly some of these things.

On the positive, some of the better providers and networks do offer more advanced solutions of course, this helps insulate both them and their partners and is basic good business sense, but lots don’t too and for those who are getting hit via various penalties resulting, its a bit of a shame at best and a damn tragic waste at worst.

Should these guys be helping their income generators in this way?

If you are a search rep then you’d prolly say no, it sucks and doesn’t help in the goal of delivering varied unique content, but OTOH why would any big supplier expose themselves to the vagueries of singular url streams of income that could be cut off at the whim of a policy shift. I know what I’d say of course, I go with the majority scatter and seed approach. Watch the darwinian process evolve and reward my best performers. I’d also help nurture and protect¬† newcomers too, my future top performers. Give them tools to get their users interacting, enable the creation of communities,¬† feedback tools, make it all that little bit different, employ advisors to help steer and encourage and generally add value all round, but I guess i’m me, and not some multi layered corp that moves real slow.

I’ve used travel as its any easy example to flesh out and one that I’m at least familiar with. I do wonder whether other sectors face similar challenges; I expect they do no doubt to both lesser and greater extents, especially in some of the mass product markets. It would be great to read some inputs, feel free to call me out!

Google and People and 007

I was just over at Matt Cutts’s blog reading his thoughts on some of the challenges that he sees¬† Google generally¬†facing through 007. He talked about Googlers in general almost suggesting that they were of the same pod, well not directly perhaps, but it was a thought that occured to me; and kinda got me thinking on this whole corp structure and ethos thing. Why do some organisations flourish whilst others flounder? Great management really does matter, not just of business and ideas, but people too.

Its interesting how people who work for a large organisation can often split or diversify into different mindsets. A company that treats its workforce well, as in gives good reward, recognition and purpose can do exceptionally well and take on all comers. It really is possible to get groups of people all singing and dancing from the same collective hymn sheet. Iv’e never worked at Google, to my knowledge ive not even physically met a Google employee, but I have watched a bod or 2 over the years, Matt Cutts to be specific. Matt’s online persona is pretty cool. He enages and crosses swords with all sections of the web community and seems to have a knack for staying balanced and true to his core message. You’ll never read Matt slating anybody in a rude or disrespectful way; hell, even when he gets mad at people he manages to inject a little dryness and humour, just go look at his blog and see if you can pick out the odd ass or two! Ok, so im in danger of sounding like I’m a paid up memeber of the MC fan club , I’m not, there’s quite a bit I could say that would give a different opinion, but thats for another day of course and is more Google policy than direct Matt related. No, the point Im getting to is that corporations, organisations, teams, are lead from the front. People stand¬†to ¬†gain a great deal of benefit from those who have purpose and vision. Shared purpose and values are a formidable force in any sphere of life and can be the making or breaking of an organisation.

A few years back¬†I worked for a company; this company was locked in battle, split right down the middle. Workforce vs management. There existed 2 separate collective identities. Management were commited to winning. Great you’d say, ah but no, let me tell you. It was not so great at all.Management were commited all right, but for the wrong reasons. They were commited to trying to break the organisation of the workforce rather than growing any shared objective of the business and its values. They took great pains publically to paint a face of concilliation and shared objectives, yet their actions suggested that their motives were all together different.

The workforce representatives were just as bad. Most were locked into ideas of the past, ideas that had an inherent mistrust for the motives and pressures of business resisting change at every opportunity, lobbying intensley to ensure that public ownership was maintained and sustained. There was a complete lack of trust towards any idea that through shared objectives, shared vision, shared rewards the organisation could grow and prosper and move forward united, competing on the stage that rightly or wrongly is global capitalism.

God, when I think back to where it stood in say 1996 it really did have some massive opportunities to grab this whole internet thing by the balls. It had some 5000 outlets the length and breadth of the country,  a fantastic distribution system that accessed the rail, road and air networks. Some 200, 000 mouthpieces to help grow and spread the word of new products and initiatives. It could have diversified to become a world leader, an Amazon, an Ebay, anything it wanted to really, but was shackled, shackled by inertia and closed mindsets unwilling to either trust or dare to look beyond some point of conflict or dogma. it sat idley by relying on the patronage of governmental control and finance and years upon years of irrelevant industrial collective bargaining agreements.

Why was this? Well Im not going to go into too much detail about who did where and what and why, as a lotof it is just supposition and more opinion based thn anything else. I did know a fair few of the key movers and shakers and was involved in a lengthy dispute/resolution process or two, so lets just say that I came to recognise some of the almost impossible internal presures and hurdles they seemed to be faced with, on both sides of the divide, not to even touch on any idea of individual complacency!

So, what am I getting at? I guess Im saying that as organisations grow and get wealthier and are subject to new challenges and pressures then it can be pretty easy to lose track of where one is going. Reading what Matt wrote kinda made me think in terms of, well quite clearly matt is one of those people who knows how to push and prod and get things done within his sphere of influence. I think he may have been responsible for the appointment of Adam Lasnik. If you read Adam’s posts at the google blog or webmasterworld.com you’ll see that he seems to share some of the characterisitics that Matt tends to push out. Even keeled, considerate, user focused , as responsive as he feels he can be. Another firm hand on the tiller that is the tricky path of webmaster¬†public relations. How many Adam’s or Matt’s or Eric’s or Larry’s are there at Google? Probably an army of them. It sure seems to be an organisation that is pretty sorted, and with people like Matt Cutts questioning and responding to criticism of google, even disagreeing with things that he feels are either just wrong or removed from what he sees as the general shared purpose of making the best search engine they can for its users, then its pretty safe to say that for the foreseeable future¬†Google from a web search perspective,¬†will continue to be ok. OTOH of course, should the hawks be able to grab a hold though and the push for profit is put before the push for users, then it could well be a different story. Altavista¬†should be¬†a word that haunts many a Google stock holder. If¬†I ran Google, I’d stick up altavista is dead posters everywhere, just to act as a salutary reminder.

Happy new year, hope its a good one for you all. Im off to burn a few more calories on this cold English morning, thank god for bicycles ūüôā