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Category: Search Engines

The wisdom of the crowds

 

This post is based on the excellent session, “Crowdsource Your Success”, that was given in Affiliate Summit East 2010 though I expanded it and added my own perspective.

 
Crowdsourcing is becoming increasingly popular these days. According to Wikipedia, Crowdsourcing “is the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to a large group of people or community (a crowd), through an open call“.

 

Using Crowdsourcing, you can submit a job description and get multiple bids each already satisfying the specifications you desire. Since you get multiple people trying to create what you want, the results are potentially diverse and can be surprisingly creative. Of course, this is usually more expensive than just using regular outsourcing sites such as oDesk or Elance – but the disadvantage of those is that no matter how good your contractor, you are ’stuck’ with a single design.

 
Crowdsourcing works because of the ‘wisdom of the crowds’ principle: the idea that a crowd – a collection of individuals – is much more likely to get the right answer than a single individual.

 
A good example is the game show “Who wants to be a millionaire?”. Asking the audience for the answer is more likely to result in the right answer than asking your friend or Regis Philbin.

 
This principle has been adopted by computer science as well (and probably other fields). In my academic career I used to create multiple artificial neural – instead of a single one – networks that solved a problem. The right solution was determined by taking the solution that the largest number of networks ‘voted’ would work best.

 
Here are some suggestions given at the talk to get the maximum from crowdsourcing:

  1. You reap what you sow: define your project properly or you may get something very different from what you had in mind.
  2. Tight deadlines are very effective as people like discovering quickly whether they’ve won a bid.
  3. Don’t be a jerk: Designers thrive on feedback, give feedback and recognition.
  4. The project has to require your involvement: a crowdsourcing project is not ’set and forget’.
  5. Keep it simple: be realistic in your expectations and ask for what is reasonable.
  6. Don’t be too cheap: most people aren’t going to be paid, so keep this in mind.
  7. Announce there will be multiple winners to boost designer participation (assuming that is the case!)

Until the talk in Affiliate Summit, I (naively) thought crowdsourcing is limited to graphic design/web design and 1-2 other types of applications. I was mainly familiar with 99design.

 
The following is a list of crowdsourcing resources given at the talk. I had no idea there were so many! When I’ve done a Google search I found even more though it’s hard to tell which are good. If you are familiar with anything that is not included and is a good resource, please let me know and I’ll add it.

 
Note that I’m still looking for a place to crowdsource copywriting (sadly, not my strength!) – so if you are familiar with a good site for that purpose, suggestions would be welcome.

 
Banner, landing page and graphic design
99designs: the most well known resource for Crowdsourcing.

 
Landing page optimization:
FiveSecondTest: allows you to get quick feedback on landing page designs.

  • Are your calls to action standing out? Get people clicking on hot spots
  • Can visitors understand what the site is about?
  • Give viewers a memory test: what can they remember about the landing page?

 
PPC management
Trada: Allows you to turn over PPC management to a group of AdWords qualified professionals.

 
Ad copy
BoostCTR: allows you to outsource your ad copy so that your CTR is boosted. Guaranteed improvement!

 
Videos
GeniusRocket: professional videos and animations.

 
Product development
Quirky: submit new ideas for products or influence products currently in production (and earn cash)

 
Feature Requests
UserVoice: a giant suggestion box. You get a lot of comments which are prioritized. Best ideas are voted to the top.

SuggestionBox

 
Software development
TopCoder: an excellent resource for software developers.

 
Find JV partners
Jigsaw: a massive crowsourced database of contact information

 
Content writing
Spudaroo: useful for web content as well as resumes, leases, etc.

 
Beta Testing
UserTesting: usability testing for your website.

CrowdFlower

 
Ideas/Names
Amazon Mturk: Although the Amazon Mechanical Turk is not exactly a crowdsourcing resource, by offering to pay a small amount for ideas, you can effectively crowdsource names. An example was given of a person who paid $27.50 to get name ideas for his iPhone app (the result was iReadFast). Note that there used to be a site (which I vaguely remember) that was used for this purpose but has been apparently closed.

 

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The second day of Affiliate Summit East 2010 started with a great keynote speech by Frank Luntz, a well known political consultant (according to Wikipedia it’s actually Dr. Frank Luntz). Frank’s specialty is “testing language and finding words that help his clients sell their product or turn public opinion on an issue or a candidate”

 
Frank wrote a book called Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear (yes, this is an affiliate link :) ) and his talk was very much about the same topic. Specifically, how people say one thing, but the words they use harm, even completely sabotage their goal. He suggested using certain words that in this day and age evoke responses. Put simply, by merely rephrasing what you say you can make a world of difference! Frank showed many videos that demonstrated how people become more attentive or tune off when certain words are used.

 

 

I thought Frank’s talk was very insightful and some of the tips he gave can be immediately applied (or perhaps I should say “fiercely insightful” – he said that “very” no longer means anything because it’s been so overused, and gave ‘fiercely’ as an example used by one political candidate to replace ‘very’).

 
Using Social Media For SEO
After the keynote speech I went to this talk. I was particularly interested in this considering much of what I do is social media. The focus of this talk was on leveraging social media platforms and users to get backlinks (the building blocks of SEO).

 

Several useful tips:

  1. Build links to your site using Twitter, Facebook, etc (I share a list of the platforms he gave below).
  2. Incentivize people to tweet your link (for example, give them a special discount)
  3. When using forums, people an opportunity to tweet about the post with a link to your website.

The speaker said that there is evidence that in the near future Google will determine how important/authoritative a profile is (for example, using follower/following ratio) and assign a greater weight to links tweeted from that account. Note that as far as I know, to a very limited degree this is already happening.

 
Surprisingly, a few things which I experienced firsthand and expected to be in this talk were not mentioned. Huh. Maybe I should suggest a talk about these for Affiliate Summit West?

 
Social Media link building opportunities

  1. Youtube: one way DoFollow
  2. Google profile: one way DoFollow
  3. Yahoo answers: NoFollow links. (though these could still bring traffic).
  4. Facebook profile: one way DoFollow as long as the profile is public (this was the only thing that surprised me – need to check).
  5. Urbanspoon, Yelp, etc – most are followed

 
Afterwards I went to a talk titled “Android Affiliate Mobile Marketing” which was so good I intend to dedicate a separate post to it. This session focused on using Google Android phones for advertising/promoting CPA offers, etc. More soon.

 
Similarly, the next talk I went to “Crowdsource Your Success” is worthy of a separate post. I didn’t expect to learn anything new (isn’t Crowdsourcing only 99designs?) but was very fiercely surprised.

 

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Making money using Twitter

 

I continue my discussion on ways to make money using Twitter. Previously I covered what I considered are bad (ineffective) methods, now I’ll cover the rest.

 
The ugly (misleading):

Promoting users/lists: Certain users with a large number of followers (though only slightly more than I have) started doing personal shoutouts and including users in their lists for small sums of money. I assume the people who buy these services do so to get followers. To a limited degree, this will probably work. Moreover, if the people who promote these offers have multiple accounts as many people do, I would imagine all their accounts would suddenly follow the paying users (this could easily be 20-50 accounts – to some this is a lot of followers!).

 
With that being said, this has to be one of the most inefficient ways of getting followers. If these were celebrities who offered these services, fine (it would probably be pretty effective being in Conan O’Brien’s list! Just think of @LovelyButton), but we’re not talking celebrities here. I would never consider charging people to be in one of my lists because I think doing so would imply that this bestows some value, and let’s face it, it does not. Note that I have to say, it’s very easy getting followers, at least when talking about a small number (100-200) and I don’t think paying users expect more than that from a single tweet.

 
An additional issue is that I would expect this practice to stop at some point. Personally – and I know many others feel the same way – I treat the shoutouts as noise/spam. These are (personal) ads after all, and my comment from the previous post applies – most Twitter users do not like any tweet that feels commercial in nature. I predict that eventually enough users would have these ‘offending’ advertisers be blocked & reported for spam and this will lead to their suspension.

 
The Good (effective)

 
I’ve written about this in multiple separate posts. I believe that Twitter’s strength lies in creating relationships, networking, doing PR for yourself/your company, so most of this section deals with these. However, the first method is unrelated.

  1. Advertising: Using companies such as Ad.ly and SponsoredTweets it is possible to tweet something and get paid for it. This actually does work. But: (a) You’re dependent on being offered to tweet these and there aren’t a ton of those and (b) unless you have a lot of followers, the sums involved tend to be pretty low.

     

  2. Getting clients: by being active on Twitter, it is possible to get clients. Although pushing yourself and being interactive helps, by just having a good bio, descriptive background and including a link to your website it’s quite possible to draw attention. Personally I’ve had success with this. I have to emphasize that I believe this strongly depends on the industry: i.e. I doubt dentists can gain clients this way.

     

  3. Building relationships: I’ve written about this before. By networking you are likely to meet like-minded people who, by knowing them, in the long run, will result in monetary gain. I’ve met quite a lot of people who got me involved in conferences (i.e. Social Media 201), started collaborations, and introduced other people and clients to me. This does require effort though.

     

  4. PR: I’m probably the millionth person to say this, but in this day and age, companies need to be able to engage their clients. By having an active Twitter account that listens to complaints/issues and addresses them, a company can greatly improve their reputation. This is a topic that we discussed quite heavily at Social Media 201.

     

  5. Twitter services: basically, by offering the previous methods to other people or companies, you can make money. There’s in fact a new course that trains people to become social media managers.

    This is definitely a way that works. Again, talking from personal experience here. You can get paid far more doing this than from paid tweets or trying to push affiliate links. I believe this is the most effective way to monetize Twitter. Note that in many ways the method I included under ‘ugly’ can be said to fall under this category – true – however, I think it’s the choice of which services to offer that makes the difference. Implying someone will get a lot of followers if someone tweets your bio is misleading.

 
Not sure

 
I’ll include this one last category as well.

  1. Niche accounts: I’ve actually dabbled with this but it’s a variation of the methods I previously mentioned. Basically, it’s an account that declares in advance that it will provide information and deals. This can be done using affiliate links or point to your business site.

    Does it work? Maybe. Personally I’ve not tried it long enough to be able to tell. However, I CAN tell say that many users still consider this to be spam despite the user “announcing” in advance what it is all about.

     

  2. Trending topics: I included this but I will admit I don’t know it well enough to elaborate. The goal is to create accounts that tap into Google’s real time indexing of trending topics. I don’t fully know how this works, just that by doing so, it is possible to get an affiliate link into the top of the search of Google. I would imagine this involves creating quite a lot of users. I heard this worked for some but don’t know how successful it was and, as you can guess, I never tried it myself. I figured I should still mention it.

     

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I haven’t written about blogging for a while. Since I follow quite a few blogs every day, not to mention, monitor the activity of my own blogs, it’s interesting to see what works and what doesn’t work – sometimes it’s just plain obvious, other times I had to learn certain lessons the hard way. Here are six suggestions that may be useful to anyone who’s blogging.

 

  1. Avoid ads (at first, at least): when you just start a blog and even when it’s quite a bit more established, it’s best to avoid putting ads. First, you’re not going to make any serious amount of money: if you place AdSense code, you may get the occasional click which would probably amount to ~10 cents. However, you will cause – and this is particularly important at the beginning – your potential audience to reconsider visiting your blog.

     
    Here is a personal example: I have a niche site which provies book and movie reviews. When it first launched I got quite a few people very involved because it’s dealing with a specific topic that apparently many people find interesting. About a month after I launched it I added ads: this drove my two most loyal readers away – they never came back! I even wrote one emails and she never responded. After two months during which I made a whopping $4 I took the ads off. I think these people’s response was extreme but some people are turned off by ads or anything that can be viewed as trying to make money (if you’ve been on Twitter for a while, you know that people on Twitter – tweeps – are very hostile to ads). Note that I don’t think there’s anything wrong with placing ads – you spend time and effort, get a domain, a hosting account – why not get compensated, at least a bit, for your efforts?

     
    Another consideration is that a blog is a personal thing and ads take away from that intimacy. I think when you have an established audience, most (if not all) will understand it if you put ads, but at first it will turn people off.

     
    If and when you do place ads, it’s a good idea to put them in a place that doesn’t ruin the “visitor experience”. Some blogs are so crammed with ads it’s just a turn off even for me.

     

  2. Give your posts proper titles – the search engine perspective: Try to incorporate phrases that people search for in your titles. It’s not really hard to do, a quick visit to the Google keyword tool will show that. For example: Six Blogging Tips and Tricks (the title of this post).

     

  3. Give your posts proper titles – aim to go viral. If you can come up with a good catchy title it will certainly draw attention. And if it’s a good post, people will want to share it, retweet it and send it to their friends. My recent blog post “Gaining A Million Followers In Less Than 30 Days” – got the fastest numbers of visitors from the moment I tweeted a link to it from all of my other blog posts.

     

  4. Use video properly: using video is a great idea which is highly recommended. Search engines love it and people respond better to videos than to text – after all, it’s easier to listen than to read. However, videos can’t replace your blog post completely.

     
    There are blogs that only rely on a video to convey their message. No description of the content nor a meaningful title. Not only this is bad from an SEO perspective since there is no way for the search engines to figure what the post is all about, and so, index it properly, but this is also true for people too. Often I can’t turn on my speakers from various reasons and consequently, can’t listen to the video – so there are some blog posts I literally have no clue what they are about as much as I’d like to know.

     

  5. Use a correct permalink structure: meaning, the path to the post should not use Wordpress’ default structure (which looks something like this: www.domain.com/?p=1234. Instead, use /%category%/%postname%. This is good for three reasons.

     
    First, it helps with search engine optimization, as the path has a definite impact on SEO.

     
    Second, it helps humans know what the post is about if they just see the link. For example, even without reading this blog post, by looking at the link (which is: http://www.industryreview.org/search-engines/six-blogging-tips-and-tricks), people can get a pretty good idea what the post is about.

     
    Finally, it helps you when you check for rankings. One of my oldest sites – coincidentally, the one I mentioned in #1 – has multiple pages that rank well in Google (and Bing and Yahoo) for various phrases. However, I made the mistake of using the default permalink structure – so unless I manually check, I have no idea which pages rank! All I see is a www.domain.com/?p=1237.

     

  6. Beware of spammer comments: Although I’ve written a post about this before, some comments are really quite devious in the sense you may be tricked into approving them.

     
    Not only they may have hidden links – and this has happened to me – a space between two words had a link to some nasty site, and I couldn’t see it until I actually viewed the code. But additionally, even if they are harmless, and you approve them, they make your site look amateurish to anyone who has seen these comments a million times before.

     
    In other words: avoid any comment that sounds generic – like they could fit any post – particularly if they sound flattering, i.e. “Thank you for the great post”, “Can I use parts of your post in my own blog?”, “Darn, I left a comment but it didn’t work.. do you see it?”, “Your design is fantastic – can I ask where you got that theme from?” and that sort of thing. All these are similar to comments I get every single day.

 
That’s it for now. I hope this has been useful.

 

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Pulling hair

 

If there’s a simple solution to the problem I describe below then (a) I will be very happy and (b) I will think that this post might make me look like a fool – BUT I’ll take that risk :)

 
I probably mentioned this in the blog somewhere but I like creating sites. At the moment I have around 70 and keep creating more all the time – some for specific niches, some personal, some for hobbies, some for lead generation, some for.. other… purposes.

 
Putting the necessary effort in keyword research using tools like Micro Niche Finder and Market Samurai (both are superb tools!) in order to create sites that have a good chance in appearing in high positions in search engines is fun and creates a nice income (if done consistently!). Even though this does require effort, and more importantly, patience, it’s generally a very good method.

 
Some of these sites I can truly set and forget. Of course, I track the search rankings of all my sites and know that some eventually drop unless I continuously add new content. It really depends on the niche and its competitiveness. Usually if it’s a successful site or a site I put a lot of effort into, I continue building it, but at times I prefer to spend my time creating new sites rather than tweaking and retweaking old ones.

 
A large portion of these sites, naturally, have affiliate links. When I first started I spent months finding the “perfect” links, hunting down exotic offers from specific vendors, it all had to be just right. Didn’t take very long for me to realize that this is a very inefficient usage of my time.

 
Last week I happened to visit one of my older sites which seems to be getting a lot of traffic again. I clicked on one of the affiliate links: broken! I clicked on another: Internal Server error! I clicked on a third – took me to an unrelated offer. Then I started going through my old sites and many, many links were broken or switched to another, irrelevant offer. God knows how many conversions I lost.

 
Almost always these were CPA offers – the product offers/eBooks (Clickbank) mostly still worked. And of course, AdSense (in those sites that include it) continued to work. That is why I never explored this in depth – as the sites that performed continued to perform.

 
I continued checking and even a site I recently updated – only two months ago – had all broken links!

 
This is extremely frustrating! The only affiliate network I am aware of that updates you about broken links is Commission Junction, and unsurprisingly, my CJ links work properly as I always fixed them (actually, Lidango too, but I don’t really use them anymore – and they just send you emails “you have a broken link” which isn’t helpful). Then again, all my Shareasale, Linkshare, Linkconnector and Amazon links seemed to be working properly, maybe they update you as well.

 
I’m thinking of creating a massive list of links and periodically running through all of them either using a script or even manually. It will take some effort but it’s worth it. Though even this is a partial solution: it’ll show me the broken links but not when the links have been switched to different offers. I could factor the landing page into that though, I guess.

 
I’m also thinking of limiting the networks I take links from. This is actually something I have been doing for quite a while… whereas in the past I used to pick the ‘best’ links from many different networks, now I feel it’s easier to stick with a handful of networks. Easier to keep track of, and often that extra bump in commission isn’t worth the hassle.

 
Any suggestions as to how to monitor this? Are there any tools available? I’ve discussed this with several friends and it seems I’m not the only one facing this problem. I’m just angry at myself for allowing it to go on for far too long.

 

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Resources for Affiliate Marketing

This Wednesday I’m giving a two hour introductory talk about affiliate marketing. This is following my plan to start doing more speaking engagements which I enjoy (as mentioned in my post about my talk at Social Media 201).

 
Preparing my Powerpoint deck was fun although it was somewhat time consuming. I also prepared a resource page for the audience.

 
I don’t know exactly the demographics of this blog’s visitors (clearly Alexa is untrustworthy, as I’ve joked about): I would estimate that at least a quarter are seasoned affiliate marketers, another quarter is friends, and the rest are people I meet through Twitter or people who Google for certain topics I’ve written about – Twitter Jail being the most popular (of course, it’s possible to be both a friend, an affiliate marketer, and know me from Twitter :) ).

 
Since I took the time to make this resource list, I figured, why not share it? If you’re an affiliate marketer, you can stop now because at least 95% are things you know, and know well (however, I AM sure most marketers aren’t familiar with the Mobile CPA Network I joined, for example). But if you’re not… proceed.

 
I think I will make more of these introductory posts, explaining resources for building links and other things new affiliate marketers require. But that’s for another time.

 

“Standard” Affiliate networks

These are networks dedicated to physical products or eBooks.
Clickbank Sign up page – eBooks, eCourses
ShareASale sign up page – physical products
Linkshare sign up page – physical products
Linkconnector sign up page – physical products
Commission Junction sign up page – physical products

 

CPA networks

Here are some of my favorite CPA networks: harder to get into than other networks, and normally require a brief phone interview before being approved.
Neverblue sign up page
Marketleverage sign up page
Azoogleads sign page
Clickbooth sign up page
Copeac sign up page

 

Mobile CPA networks

This is a CPA affiliate network dedicated to mobile offers. I am aware of two more such networks, but since I have not used them myself (yet), I’m not listing them.
Sponsormob sign up page

 

Offer directory

An excellent resource for finding offers and comparing commissions across networks.
Offervault

 

PPC: Keyword spying tools

If you’re doing any PPC at all, you really need a keyword spying tool. I used PPCBully 2.0 and thought it’s great.
PPCBully 2.0
Affportal – has a lot of useful tools for PPC campaigns

 

SEO/Blogging: Keyword research tools

If you’re creating search engine optimized niche sites you must do your keyword research.
Micro Niche Finder: superb tool, and even has a ‘brainstorming’ function which just finds good niches for you on its own.
Market Samurai: superb tool which just gets better.
Google Keyword Tool: a good place to start

 

SEO: Link building

eZArticleLink: If you need links, this is a good resource – there’s even a free version!

 

Pay Per View Networks

I included only some of the PPV networks I use.. since this is an introductory talk, I’m not sure I would recommend on PPV being the starting point. However, I didn’t want to leave this out.
DirectCPV
AdOn Network
MediaTraffic

 

Pay Per View Resources

If one does do PPV then Affportal is a must. An absolutely fantastic – and mandatory – resource for PPV which just gets better.
Affportal

 

Email marketing Resources

Here too I only mentioned the one tool I use. Yes, there are others, but this one is the best.
Aweber – best email marketing tool

 

Twitter resources

This is probably better phrased as ‘Twitter monetization resources’.
Ad.ly
SponsoredTweets

 

Media Buying resources

This is useful for anyone doing demographics research for the purpose of media buying. Most definitely not for new or even intermediate affiliates!
Alexa
Quantcast
Compete

 

Domain registration

I registered more than 60 domains with Namecheap and don’t have a single complaint. They’re also the cheapest. In fact, I’m going to register one, possibly two, domains right after I finish this blog post…
Namecheap

 

Domain hosting

Unlike domain registration, I’ve had my share of hosting accounts and was very unhappy with most. However, Hostgator is excellent: very good service, high reliability, quick and friend customer support. Definitely better than the other accounts I used. Even their pricing is competitive!
Hostgator

 

Facebook advertising resources

Since it’s hard to do split-testing with Facebook because there is no way for the average user to get a bulk upload tool, the Facebook Ad Manager is a must in order to do any serious Facebook advertising.
FB Ad Manager

 

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Social Media 201


 
Before I begin, I’ll diverge a tiny bit: Years ago I used to get quite nervous when I had to do any form of public speaking. While I can’t say this is second nature to me even now, a simple advice given to me by my Ph.D. adviser has really made a big difference. His advice was very (very) simple: “try to enjoy it”. After years of public speaking, I can say: it’s true.

 
I give the same advice to people who are interviewing for jobs. It might sound a bit surprising, but when I used to interview for positions myself (before becoming self employed) 95% of the time I genuinely enjoyed my job interviews – after all, it gives an opportunity to speak about myself and my accomplishments – so what’s not to like? Probably as a result, I used to be very good at job interviews. I believe the same kind of logic applies for public speaking. When one talks about a subject he or she is an expert about and likes it, the passion comes through and people get it.

 
Ok, back on track. Social Media 201: What a blast! Hard to summarize these three+ intense days.

 
This conference originated from the mastermind calls of a group I’m a member of. We have weekly calls, though since we work on joint projects, sometimes we form subgroups and talk twice or even three times a week. We’re a pretty big group and we’re spread out all over the US. As you may imagine, speaking so often with a group of people whom you share both your professional and technical experiences as well as personal lives brought us together, and we have all become close friends even though most of us have never met in person.

 

From left to right: Bille Baty, Darren Williger, Udi Schlessinger (me), Mike Whitmore and Eric Weaver

From left to right: Bille Baty, Darren Williger, Udi Schlessinger (me), Mike Whitmore and Eric Weaver



 
Social Media 201 included several of us: myself, Darren Williger, Bille Baty and Mike Whitmore, who co-organized the event with Joe Kennedy. It was more than exciting to finally meet my close friends in person – and in fact, it felt like we already know each other. Even “fate” made it more excited: Mike picked me and Bille, we came out of the elevator exactly when Joe and Darren came out of another elevator… the timing could not have been better.

 
So, to me, and I believe everyone else, the speakers dinner on the first day was fantastic. Even though the food was great, it was the company that really mattered.

 
The next day we rented a recording studio. Our goal was to create professional videos that can be used in group projects as well as by each of us for his/her own products. Since I’ve never been in a professional studio (green screen and all), and in fact, kind of avoid doing videos since I never like the way I come off, to me this was a very new experience. However, this was a LOT of fun.

 
A professional recording studio

A professional recording studio



 
Darren and me

Darren and me



 
Darren and Kris talk about dating (in Social Media!)

Darren and Kris talk about dating (in Social Media!)



 
We took turns interviewing each other. Not sure which background I want for my interview with Darren – which was as serious as we get (we never get serious!) – perhaps the Matrix’s scrolling green code. Trust me, it’ll fit well with what we discussed (the future of advertising in the context of the increase in mobile devices: Smartphones, iPads, etc).

 
Social Media 201 at Microsoft Headquarters

Social Media 201 at Microsoft Headquarters



 
The next day was the main event: Social Media 201. The conference was sponsored by Microsoft and Comcast in addition to several other companies, and took place at Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond. Since I’ve known Microsoft and used their products since the mid 80s, it was exhilarating visiting MS HQ. I certainly hope it’s not the last time!

 
The conference itself was superb. Obviously, the main theme was social media and how small to medium businesses can leverage it to their advantage, and do so correctly. Eric Weaver gave a fantastic keynote speech. Jeff Dance, Kris Ruby and Bille Baty shared their expertise on various aspects of this process. Darren Williger gave an amazing keynote speech about the future of social media (check out the site he made for this topic).

 
My talk about SEO for Small Businesses

My talk about SEO for Small Businesses


My talk was about SEO for small businesses: how small businesses can improve their positioning on all search engines. Although this is not exactly Social Media, considering the target audience, we felt this fit right in – and in fact, someone tweeted at some point “how come no one mentioned SEO so far? – only to have me talk afterwards.

 
I think it went very well: many people approached me during the break, quoted me in tweets, and sent email to let me know they liked it. In addition, I really enjoyed giving my talk, which might be a reason why it went so well. My favorite tweet about my talk was “Dude’s hip hop” – since I used the phrase “it’s all about the Benjamins” as a reference to getting more business :)

 
SeattleWineGal and Kris

SeattleWineGal and Kris


After this was done, we went to a tweetup organized by SeattleWineGal, Seattle’s female answer to Gary V :) This was great, and I got to meet a lot of great people.

 
And then it was all done. After a few days of bonding with good friends who became much closer in this time, I have to say I was quite sad to say goodbye. Darren Williger is a walking, amazingly funny, personification of energy. Bille Baty is a legend – just being next to him makes a person wiser. I didn’t know Kris Ruby until before but she’s fun, smart – and our group will be much enhanced by her joining.

 
This may sound a bit melodramatic, but that’s how it feels. Fantastic 3 1/2 days.

 
Here are a number of websites and blogs that mentioned Social Media 201. It got rave reviews!

http://www.techflash.com/seattle/2010/04/guest_post_social_media_201.html

http://seattledesigner.blogspot.com/2010/04/business-card-is-still-currency-in.html

http://eco-maven.com/2010/04/20/a-social-media-freshman-in-the-sophomore-trenches%E2%80%A6-sm201-conference/

 

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Alexa is not accurate

Click on the image to see the full stats

 

I’ve already written before that I doubt Alexa’s accuracy. But this is just comical. When I go to the Alexa stats for this blog, it gives me the demographics of my visitors. For crying out loud, where are they getting this information from? I have the Alexa toolbar installed as well and I don’t recall ever giving them any information, let alone specific details such as education.

 
So you can imagine my surprise when I found out that my blog is vastly popular with guys between ages 45 and 54, and quite shocked to discover no one over 55 reads my blog – and very few in the age group 18 to 24 as well. I’ll try harder, I promise.

 
Also, it seems the number one query for my blog is “chinese affiliate” (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click on the image above to see the full stats). This is very interesting. Yes, the phrase is mentioned once in this blog, but with all due respect to Alexa, I look at my stats every day (usually a few times), and “chinese affiliate” is not my #1 source of traffic, nor is it second, third, fourth or fifth.

 
Neither is “affiliate network”, which is probably a very competitive phrase. I think it would be quite cool if I did rank high in Google for “affiliate network” – I’d probably get tons of traffic. But that’s not the case.

 
This is comical, but it also raises serious questions. Recently I did a small media buy based on demographics I obtained from Alexa. How can I trust these results at all? I think the stats for my own blog are complete nonsense.

 

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Social Media 201


I want to announce that I’m going to be participating in Social Media 201: a social media conference which will be held in Seattle next month.

 
This conference, which is sponsored by Microsoft, Comcast, Fresh Consulting, Regillo consulting group as well as other companies is geared towards small business owners.

 
I will be giving a talk titled “SEO for Small Businesses” in which I’ll discuss the benefits small business owners have to gain by optimizing their websites to rank in search engines for phrases related to their business and their local area. In addition I’ll also be participating in the “monetizing social media” panel.

 
As far as I know a recording of the conference will be sold later: though I may be wrong on this.

 
For more information, go to the conference website or view its agenda. You can also follow its hashtag on twitter: #sm201

 
Note that to get a $50 discount, enter code ULABS (this is not an affiliate coupon – I’m not personally gaining anything from it).

 

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SEO Traffic in 2000

I haven’t blogged in a while. Some people have asked me whether I decided to quit blogging. “Of course not” I responded “I’m just too busy”. Which is true (as I briefly elaborated in my last post).

 
The frustrating thing is that, as mentioned before, I already have three posts just waiting to be finalized and published. One of them I’m not going to do anymore. It describes my experiences at Affiliate Summit West (ASW10) and it would feel quite silly to publish it almost two months after the fact. So I won’t. I’ll just say: ASW was great!

 
Earlier today I was lying in bed and suddenly realized it’s been exactly ten years since I began my first job in the US (had others elsewhere. Curious? Check my LinkedIn profile).

 
In my first job I worked as a software developer for a dotcom called iAnalyst. This was before the dotcom bubble burst, so we were all reaching for the stars, ready to work crazy hours, and mentally preparing to become millionaires. The sad fact is, we kind of knew we won’t become millionaires, many of the crazy hours were spent starting at the PC and chatting – it was more of a “morale” thing, we all stay at work regardless of whether it’s actually necessary. So there were whole weekends I spent at the office doing nothing. With that being said, I don’t regret even a single second – it was a fantastic experience even when the company went down.

 
I had three projects in iAnalyst, with the most important one being the creation of the company’s production system. Basically, it allowed our producers to enter content, which would miraculously be transformed and transferred to our website. Sounds familiar? I bet it does: Wordpress does just that. More than that, Wordpress does it 1,000 times better than my creation did. Then again, we’re talking a full decade ago – that’s centuries from a technological perspective. Literally the stone age.

 
Why am I mentioning all this? I was lying in my bed and thinking why the company failed. It failed because we didn’t get almost any paid clients. This despite the fact the company got a massive amount of media attention: we were featured in many articles as “a hot new startup”, and our CEO was even interviewed on CNN – NOT the website – the television channel. Yes, we were on our way to greatness.

 
Prior to the CNN interview, we had a company bet: how many new people would register immediately afterwards. There was even a reward promised to the person who will be the closest. I remember increasing my bet to more than what I thought it would really be, for company morale. One of my colleagues was a financial analyst: he came up with a complicated calculation that derived a number. This was the lowest estimate, by far, of everyone. What happened was that he was the closest – the real figure was roughly half of what he projected. There was such a gloomy atmosphere after this he never got his reward. We just didn’t talk about this anymore.

 
So why did we not succeed? Basically, we just waited for people to register to our services, counting on the media attention and word of mouth. Considering I was a prominent member of the technical team (which consisted of only several people), I don’t remember a single conversation about advertising online, making ourselves available for people who search for certain terms. We didn’t even consider this. Yes, these were prehistoric times in terms of internet advertising and SEO, but it still existed back then in its primordial form.

 
We just sat and waited for the traffic to arrive, and it never did. Then we ran out of money. And then we shut down.

 
What we should’ve done is used paid advertising. As far as I know, PPC didn’t exist back then, but there were ways to pay per impression (I’ve heard many stories about the “good old times”, how easy it was back then to profit from advertising because there were no accurate measures or pay per click). I don’t know exactly how Google ranked sites back then (yes, even then Google was #1), but considering I was involved in generating the site, I don’t remember a single conversation about how we should optimize it to appear higher in search rankings. The whole concept never occurred to any of us.

 
I’m wondering what would’ve happened had we been able to optimize our online presence using all the knowledge we now have, even with the tools that existed in 2000. I’m sure we could’ve increased our traffic a hundredfold if not a thousandfold. We did have money. Whether this would’ve saved the company? Probably not, but I guess we’ll never know. There were talks of eTrade buying us (they didn’t) – it certainly could’ve made the difference in that case.

 
It doesn’t feel that long ago, yet in so many levels, it’s light years away.

 
Note that exactly one year later (2001) I was working as a lead developer/team lead for a small firm. That is when I was first introduced to SEO. We had a guy do a bunch of what I thought was pretty comical: he hid a lot of keywords in white text on our site’s main page so they would be invisible to everyone but the search engines, also put tons of links in tiny fonts. Of course, these are very rudimentary SEO tactics and now search engines will punish you if you use such tricks, but in 2001 this still worked.

 

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