November 14, 2005

One Year Wait…

Most successful internet people I have talked with have had one thing in common: a one (or more) year wait.

Surely by freak accident or market timing some people stumble upon a good idea or business opportunity which is instantly profitable, but most web based business models require significant investment in time. You don’t need as much money on the web as you do off the web to get by, but you need to be willing to wait.

Many of the people making a packet off contextual advertising overnight also had sites that had built up trust in the search engines for a number of years. If your initial results are not amazing right off the start do not give up too early.

Also sometimes a site has much greater longterm value if you worry about making it as linkable as possible off the start, and then look to profit later.

It makes sense for people to sell how quick they done well because a story like that makes it easier to:

  • get press mentions (unfortunatley society seems a bit much focused on money and stating success in terms of dollars is newsworthy if the results are fast)
  • sell a system to help others be as successful as they are doing the same thing

If you are around long enough, and look at the patterns in the search results and press you will notice they often overlap. If you take it a step further you can see that perhaps the story being sold to the press sometimes sends some marginally profitable businesses into hypergrowth.

Seth Godin has a book called All Marketers Are Liars, which talks about story telling to consumers. Frequently the press likes the same types of stories as consumers do, because at the end of the day they have to compete on slimming margins due to the robust number of alternatives to mainstream press and the limitations to bias in mainstream news.

Post partially inspired by a chat with Andy Hagans.

Tail of Story

In fiercely competitive categories people fight to be first with the news, but after a story ages few people rarely go back and look at the surrounding information.

Of course if you are the first person out with a good story then you are going to get a ton of links, but sometimes reviving an old story with a new spin is a good way to get noticed.

Recently a friend of mine pointed me to the other side of the WordPress HotNacho content spam story, which shows less than 20 citations in Yahoo! or MSN (and zero in Google since they banned his domain and all other domains he owned).

After how much hatred was spewed at Hot Nacho it would be hard to undue it, so it would take an impressive article to get people to look at that subject from another angle, but surely there are thousands of other similar situations out there.

Sometimes the best new news is old news, especially when information mining is oh-so-easy.

November 11, 2005

Blog & Feed Search Engine For Sale

Chris Ridings’ Blogs Say, a blog and feed search engine, is for sale.

I mentioned this to some of my friends. If I had a bit more technical knowledge or flow I probably would nab it up myself. The three hardest problems I can think of are:

  • getting users to want to ping it and help market it
  • handling the server load from spam pings
  • filtering out the noise while still making quality sites accessible

I think one of the biggest problems with blog search is that spammers are totally dealed with in an adversarial way. Nobody in the blog space really wants to listen to them, although I think their feedback would help solve many of the common blog spam problems.

Chris also recently created a meta search site for feeds & RSS.

A service by the name of MonitorThis meshes up 15 different search feeds into a single ompl file. Surely a useful feature for blogging professionals who write on many different topics. What would be really cool would be a tool that would compress all those feeds into one feed. I am sure something like that has to exist, right?

MonitorThis link from Philipp

November 8, 2005

The Linkable Topics

SEO = typically not linkworthy / linkable by mainstream credible sources
search = very linkable

Sometimes by changing how you cover a topic it becomes far easier to become a credible source. That may mean:

  • being the first guy with the news
  • waiting to see what others have to say
  • changing the topic to be broader or more focused
  • trying to grab news from less traditional sources

To tell the truth, I like reading and learning a bunch. Had I realized how hard it would be to get people to want to link at a site focused on SEO which also sold an SEO information product I probably would have rather picked a broader topic or chose other topics to write and learn about. That is a large part of the reason this site exists.

I have gave many people crap for creating blog networks. I don’t think owning a network is bad, I usually think that the owners do not offer enough to get their share. A recent interview of a friend helped clear up the point a bit for me though:

It irks me that people feel their own countrymen “deserve” jobs anymore than their counterparts 13 timezones over. I am looking for the best person for the job, and the buck stops there. Frankly, all the whining and complaining Americans do makes me less likely to want to hire them!

In reference to pay rates: I do believe I pay a fair wage. Of course, when outsourcing, the point is to save money on wages. One of the things my partners and I routinely look at are average wage figures and purchasing power parity stats for whatever countries we outsource to — we want to make sure we’re paying well above average wages. Firstly, this helps you sleep better at night. More than that, though, better pay helps you get higher quality people.

Actually it’s more than just researching wages — we have to remember to give the Diwali bonus, for instance, rather than the standard Christmas bonus 🙂

Just because you hire others does not mean that you are taking advantage of them, and if you help teach people how to make more profit with their time there should be no guilt or shame in that.

When you look at the competition in any field you only have to compete with the top channels. Sure that sounds stupid, but if all the top results for your field are from more diverse sites and there are not many people covering your topic specifically it may mean the field is open for the taking. If hundreds or thousands of people already cover your topic but are usually overshadowed by broader sources then it might be time to look at if the site should be part of a network or if it needs to be broadened or changed in focus.

Nick’s linkbaiting post is very good on a post by post basis, but you also don’t want to constrain yourself to a topic. If you find yourself posting off topic too often that might be time to create another channel or site.

Having said all that, I think many times people mess up because they stay stuck on a topic or do not look at how to make news / stories / ideas / topics / tools more linkable / sharable. I have only dabbled in the market, but intend to try out a few more ideas down the road.

The Best Money Can Buy…

The best money can buy often have loyalty to nothing but money. Many of the best business models are based on monopolies or selling people scams or subscriptions others may not need.

I often get yelled at for lack of profit motive on some fronts, but until I got sued I had no need for money 🙂

I still think I am plenty fine though my friend reminds me that as a web person I am like an athlete (maybe a sumo wrestler with my current size) with a short career. I think as long as you are generally honest and interested in what you do that you don’t have to emphasize monetizing. If you wait a bit and build value more you can make more in the longrun (at least if you are really interested and really care about what you are doing). If you feel guilty about doing or not doing work then you are probably in the wrong field, no matter what people want to pay you.

Leveraging Authority

So the person who writes the Weblogs channel for recently created a blog network which she is mashing up with B5 media.

Whenever there is a new launch of any sorts it is bound to take some criticism from competitors and onlookers, but this is a way for mutual gain by leveraging authority and distribution. The fact that New York Times owns also grants more authority to those blogging there.

I think some people forget how new the web medium is. Beyond how new it is as a whole it has only recently got easy enough for just about anyone to be able to profit from it. Combine that with

  • the social nature of blogs
  • the tracking and feedback tools that come along with them
  • the ease of link acquisition with running a well read channel
  • search engines like Google getting smarter at looking at unnatural linkage paterns
  • search engines like Google tuning up the duplicant content filters to the point that it kills off the business model of many empty shell affiliate feed and product database type sites
  • the ability to leverage Google’s advertising base & other contextual programs like Chitika

and it starts to make a bit more sense why everyone and their dog is quickly trying to put themself atop some sort of channel driven network.

You don’t have to be a good salesman if you can get an audience. All you need is the audience and the targeting is moreless automated.

Recently NickW launched Performancing, which will surely be a stellar site about how to make money from blogs. This post by Andy really highlights how much profit potential there is on the web.

I spent most of today screwing with information architecture of a clients empty shell merchant site, knowing eventually it will lose marketshare and profitability to someone who makes their site social / a cause. I would much rather be out linkbaiting somewhere.

November 6, 2005

Attack Mode: Links and Controversy

When you call out large corporations it may get you sued, but that can also be a cheap form of marketing. When you call out smaller or newer competitors it can often backfire. During times of controversy it is almost always best to paint yourself as David vs Goliath. It is not good being Goliath.

Recently Jason Calcanis ranted about a similar looking blog network. By doing so he gave a lesser known competitor the podium to tell him to screw off.

The bigger issue at hand though is if people think you play dirty as TJ stated about Calacanis on his site, and as I thought of Jason on SXSW 2005 it makes it harder to spread ideas. Would you work together with Jason after he called you a thief? How would this cooperative advertising line sound?

This is a “rising tide lifts all boats” type project.

I don’t think TJ would call it honest, and I suspect other blog network owners would also be suspicious.

Short term controvercy is always surrounded in links. The thing you have to ask yourself before jumping too far into the fire is what do you have to gain by jumping in. Sometimes escalation makes no sense.

Example #1:
As a CEO with a flat trading / sinking stock Patrick Byrne talking about Sith Lord and other evil co conspiritors probably drives down the stock price, and has little purpose unless he is trying to consolidate his own shares before a good quarter.

Example #2:
Daniel Brandt claims to be a social activists, and worries about his own privacy asking questions like:

The proper question is whether publishing information on a person in a form that will be number one on the three major engines in a search for his name, is justifiable?

I have to wonder why THAT is the proper question. If you are a social activists largely using technology to cover technology companies shouldn’t you be able to ensure your message spreads? Isn’t that part of being a social activist?

Daniel included me in some of his recent rants, and so I asked of him:

If you are a social activist trying to spread information and ideas…who has done it for over 30 years… why be so anti technology? I mean, shouldn’t you learn how to get people to pass authority your way? Shouldn’t you be able to be the top result for your own name or have enough friends that help you make yourself so?

I have only been on the web less than 3 years and already I have the #1 and #4 result for your name.

I say that in a non mean manner. I am generally not a mean / mad person, and when you first contacted me you were nothing but rude when a kind email was all that was needed to get the desired result.

You forgot that when I mentioned you I was trying to help you. If you are always in attack mode you can be certain you are going to be working with limited authority.

Earlier it even sounded as though you ticked of Philipp, and I think that is kinda hard to do.

Philipp Lessen also pointed out an underlying problem with the argumentitive tone of some statements:

Maybe paranoia can truly cloud someone’s perception, even when people give that someone the benefit of a doubt. Then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; if someone accuses everyone of opposing one, then slowly people will indeed oppose one – because they don’t like to be wrongly accused.

If you wish something hard enough you can make it come true, but that does not help you much if the thesis is everyone sucks or everyone hates me.

And that is an important issue with the web. The web has a long memory. Today I messaged a past friend and got no response. If you piss off your friends or heavily limit your potential friend pool eventually it haunts and hurts you.

Stepping on a few toes is a good way to get noticed, but sometimes there are better ways, and you should evaluate the best, worst, and likely outcomes of telling people off or calling people out before you do so. At the end of the day you still need some people to like you / trust you / source you or your site or you have no authority. Adds Blogs, the algorithmic news engine, has recently added 15,000 weblogs to their topical news feeds and search results. Algorithmically the blogs are on equal footing with the traditional news sources at

Rich Skrenta also discussed how they arived at 15,000 blogs and compares the number of blog channels vs mainstream news channels on each topic. Interesting that few bloggers blog the local and sports themes as compared to the mainstream news. From the 15,000 blogs tech blogs outweigh tech mainstream sources by a factor of about 6 to 1.

My Mom: the Blogger!

So I had a weight loss blog that I intended to get going on, but I have been so lazy with the diet and exercise. I will probably get more serious on that front soon, but since my weight loss blog was doing nothing and my mom wanted to start a diet I took a day to try to teach her blogging and gave her the old site.

In a couple hours she learned Blogger, Bloglines, XML/RSS, a bit about social networks and the web, what AdSense spam sites look like, sourcing information, writing for the web, tracking news topics via things like custom Google News RSS feeds, etc etc etc.

She doesn’t remember how to make a link, so I have to help her on that front. I just called her and helped her out with making a link again. 🙂

The blog she started working on about a week ago made $11.71 last month in AdSense earnings. My goal is to help her get over $1,000 a month within a year without me having to help her too much. I didn’t tell her that goal, but I set it. 😉

Not trying to knock my mom (as I love her), but you don’t get much less tech savvy than my mom is, so if she is doing well with the whole blogging thing, and making $1,000 a month from blogging within a year I will be pretty convinced that I am ok at helping total newbies learn.

My mom seems so excited with the diet & blog that she wanted to read a book I was reading about AdWords. I told her it was not what she needed at this point, but it is cool to see my mom jumping on the web.

AdSense and other similar contextual advertising programs have made it far easier for webmasters to make a full time income playing with topics that interest them. I am not sure if it is arrogent of me to think my mom will be really successful, but I think it is cool to think that my mom recently knew nothing about the web (even recently having MySearch spyware redirects in her address bar), and she will soon be able to make decent money just playing around with a subject she is interested in.

It is not a hard framework to set up, and if you do it smartly it does not even require a ton of effort. She also told me she is concerned about how her voice sounds. She cares & is excited, which makes me pretty certain she will do well.

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