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Tag: Landing Pages

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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My Summary of 2009


 
Originally I intended to write a summary of “my 2009″. But after reevaluating this, I decided to make it shorter.. or better phrased, easier to digest. Just share some of the lessons I learned this year. I’m mixing both the personal and the professional here, though items are generally grouped together.

 
Overall, 2009 was a great year. There were some rough moments, both personal and professional, but the positives far outweigh the negatives.

 
In 2009 I learned:

  • That as suspected, having no boss and being self employed would result in (easily) more than twice the amount of hours that I worked when I had a boss. Even when considering investment banking (notorious for demanding a lot of hours).

     

  • That even though I am smart, an excellent planner and a hard worker… I sometimes lack focus. And focus matters more than I realized. This one was a very valuable lesson.

     

  • That working insane hours but having much more time to spend with your family is SOOOOOOO worth it.

     

  • That working after 4am can cause you the equivalent of a hangover. Since then I try (and often fail) not to do so.

     

  • That “Do No Evil” is just something that Google says, but nothing more than that.
  • .. and that things can change in a way you’d never expect: Who knew I would ever be rooting for Microsoft?

     

  • That twitter is not just about sharing “what I just ate” (admittedly, I used to think so too) but rather a wonderful, albeit addictive, medium for meeting friends and making business connections.
  • …yet sharing “what I just ate” occasionally results in the most fascinating discussions.

     

  • That Twitter includes the entire range of the human spectrum: the best, kindest and most wonderful people you’ll ever meet, and also some of the worst. And that “Block” is a wonderful option for the latter.

     

  • That Twitter allows one to find many people who need help but don’t know how to ask for it.
  • … but also that it’s wise to draw lines, otherwise you may get pulled in and (at times) blamed for some of their troubles. A lesson I learned the hard way.

     

  • That some celebrities are extremely friendly, and yet other people at times act like the worst celebrities regardless of the fact they’re no different than you and I (often less, actually).

     

  • That being a Twitter ex-con makes you tougher… kind of. Okay, it just makes you less talkative which may make you appear tougher (see my blog post on Twitter Jail).

     

  • That blogging about “professional subjects” leaves enough room for humor and self expression (until this year I’ve only had personal blogs).

     

  • That some spammers have a well honed sense of humor (see my two posts on spammers: spammers types, and spammers jokes).

     

  • That a good affiliate manager is worth his/her weight in gold (and if we’re talking about a really thin one, then platinum).

     

  • That sometimes you really need to listen to your instincts, but other times you really need to ignore them. Both professionally (in this case, talking CPA offers/Landing pages/Ad copy), and personally.

     

  • That due to the secretive nature of affiliate marketing, the good ideas usually stay with you, while the bad ideas get rehashed, repackaged, and resold.
  • …and I wish I could say more about the former…

     

  • That PPV is just awesome.
  • … but other times it’s not fun watching your entire budget evaporate in 20 minutes without any positive results.

     

  • That the most successful people – at least in affiliate marketing – are usually the most modest ones (or the most silent ones – sometimes it’s easy to confuse the two).

     

  • That it’s hard finding people who truly want to collaborate as a team. But when you do… it’s the best thing.

     

  • That quotes are a great way of saying what you want to say without saying it. And that sometimes this is very important (yes, being cryptic is part of the point here ;-) )

     

  • That some friends don’t even give the tiniest of warnings before they decide this world is not for them. Kaya, I wish I got to know you better before you left us. I hope you are at peace, wherever you are. (I intended for this to be the last item, but I don’t want the last one to be sad… and the next one relates in a way Kaya would have found amusing, I think).

     

  • That being deprived of cupcakes is extremely dangerous (more about that in future posts).

     

  • That I can survive on my own cooking (who knew?).

     

  • That having a character named after you in a book is, like, the coolest gift ever.

 
Can you believe it’s already 2010? I feel it was just 2000 maybe 2 years ago… how did a whole decade pass so quickly? Personally, I think 2010 is going to be fantastic – I just know it.

 
Happy new year everyone!

 

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free online classes

I’ve taken my share of classes during my time. With 3 degrees it would be surprising if I didn’t, wouldn’t it?

 
When I started doing affiliate marketing, I realized there are many topics I need to learn how to tackle (PPC, Quality scores, CPA, SEO, SERPs, Traffic, Landing Pages, Keywords, Social media, Article directories, RSS feeds and the list goes on and on). None of it is rocket science, but there’s just a lot to know. I learned a lot of it on my own, but figured I may as take a shortcut in the form of a class or two – particularly since most of them have 30 to 60 day money back guarantees.

 
One thing I learned is that there is a great variation in the way the classes are being taught. I was expecting every class to be very similar in the approach taken, but it’s far from the case.

 
So here are 10 aspects I think every online class should have. If you’ve ever considering creating a class, pay attention. I classified them in three ways: Crucial (most classes actually do this), optional (can’t hurt to have), and subtle (many classes don’t do this, and yet it’s so important).

 

  1. (Crucial) Organization: Provide students a clear map of what you’re supposed to be doing every week, where you are headed, and what you’re supposed to learn. You’d be surprised how often this is not the case.

     

  2. (Crucial) Stored videos of classes: This is essential since it’s likely you’re going to miss some. I’ve actually never seen a class that doesn’t have this feature.

     

  3. (Crucial) Original content: many classes simply offer the same regurgitated content you can see elsewhere and present it as their own. Not only this is unethical, but it pretty much guarantees you’re never going to buy a class from that person again. People sometimes ask me: is affiliate marketing any good? This is one reason I sometimes find it hard to answer, because so many classes offer the same ol’ same ol’.

     

  4. (Optional) PDFs summaries of every lesson: At times, particularly a while after you’ve watched the class, it’s just easier to read a summary rather than go through an entire lecture again.

     

  5. (Optional) Bonuses: it’s nice to buy something and get a related piece material you have not paid for. Normally I would not mention this, but it almost feels standard nowadays since almost every class has this.

     

  6. (Optional) Forums: forums offer a way for you to interact with other course members who are going through the same process as you, and have similar interests. This is not crucial, but very important. Most classes I’ve participated in had a forum system.

     

  7. (Optional) Live webinars: not only the occasional live webinar gives the feeling it’s a “living” course (and not something that was created 2 years ago), but it also allows asking live questions, or examining students’ own work (such as websites).

     

  8. (Subtle) Standalone: Some classes expect you to have to buy another piece of software to successfully do the class. Sometimes this is unavoidable (like the need to register domains, etc – that’s part of the game), but other times it’s just not the case. For example, I’ve taken a class which was pretty cheap, but the lecturer kept using a software that – surprise surprise – costs more than $1,000. As far as I know, he also was involved with that piece of code as well. Since I couldn’t afford that software (nor did I want to buy it), and half the course depended on it, I ended up asking for a refund. This just feels like a cheap and dirty way to sell other items (give the course for not much, sell the tools for a lot).

     

  9. (Subtle) Availability for personal questions: When you take a university class, there are office hours, professor emails, and you can always physically approach them. Some online classes do their very best so that you will not be able to contact the lecturer. When you think about this, this is downright rude (particularly since some classes cost thousands of Dollars!) One class I took has several layers “protecting” the lecturer. I wanted to ask a personal question (inappropriate for the forums). So I had to ask support to get the lecturer’s email. They asked me to contact his personal assistant. Which I did. The assistant asked me what it’s about, so I sent my question to him – and he said he’ll relay it the lecturer. I assume he did – but after going to all this effort, I never even got a response. That’s unprofessional. Note that naturally, this was after the 30 day money back deadline passed. It makes class takers feel like the lecturer only cares for their money. In this specific case, the lecturer said in the sales pitch that he’s trying to build his brand, so he wants our testimonials once the class ends. Regardless of the quality of this content, I guarantee you this attitude would eliminate many of the positive testimonials he could’ve gotten.

     

  10. (Subtle) Availability for public questions: although this may sound identical to the previous item, it’s not. What I mean here is that there should be a way for students to post a question (to a forum or a mailing list) and for the lecturer, the authority figure, to give a definite answer. You’d think this is obvious, but many classes simply do not have this option. The lecturer is “somewhere up there”, and the people who answer comments are the other class members. Don’t forget: they’re students too and they are often wrong. This is irresponsible, and in this case the class does ill service to its students.

 
What do you think? Have you had similar experiences? Better? Worse? Please do let me know.

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